City government

Council to rule on STEAC building

By From page A1 | April 23, 2013

What: Davis City Council meeting

When: Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Community Chambers of City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd.

Broadcast: The meeting will be broadcast live on Comcast Channel 16 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99. It will stream live on the city’s website at www.cityofdavis.org/media.

Regular agenda items of note: 

* CDBG HOME grant funding recommendations
* Wastewater treatment plant project update
* Countywide Renewable BioGreen Digester Project presentation

Several issues are entangled within the appeal hearing that the City Council will host Tuesday regarding the Short Term Emergency Aid Committee proposal to build a new modular building on Fifth and D streets.

STEAC has applied to the city to build a larger modular building in place of the food closet structure and garage at 504 Fifth St. to accommodate more food storage capabilities, refrigerators, additional space for clothes storage, a washer and dryer and a bathroom for volunteers. The site is owned by the city.

The volunteer-run operation, which provides short-term or immediate assistance to low-income individuals and families in Yolo County, has operated a food closet on the site for more than 20 years.

The proposed 80-by-24-foot building would provide for 1,920 square feet of space compared to the 1,000 feet STEAC has now.

But as the building, at that size, would require the city to remove one oak tree, one walnut tree and three palm trees — several of which may be home to barn owls that historically nest there — community development staff will recommend denial of the appeal to build the 80-foot structure and instead recommend limiting the size to 60 feet in order to preserve the trees and owl roost.

Staff is also concerned that a larger building, coupled with removing the large trees, would look awkward on the site.

“The loss of the trees and open space on the property combined with the increased size of the modular building would result in the new building being more visually prominent on the site,” staff added in its report to the council regarding why the appeal should be denied. “The modular would be nearly twice the size of the existing house on the property.”

In an effort to accommodate STEAC and its spacial needs, staff recently sought out other potential sites throughout the city where the organization could construct a new, larger building.

But STEAC leadership has rejected the idea of moving the building from its current location, so as not to be “less integrated with the community” in addition to avoiding several operational inefficiencies.

Instead, according to the city’s staff report, STEAC prefers to work out a compromise on the Fifth and D location.

STEAC members could not be reached for comment on this matter before press time.

Barn owls

If the City Council elects to grant STEAC the larger, 80-foot facility and the trees and the accompanying barn owl nesting site are removed from the property, staff members will offer substitute recommendations they hope would minimize the impact on the wildlife.

Staff had John McNerney, the city’s wildlife resource specialist, conduct preliminary surveys prior to construction to determine whether there was an active nest present.

McNerney said Monday that the palm trees have historically served as a roost for barn owls, but after a day and evening survey completed recently, he did not see any signs of barn owls.

However, if barn owls are eventually found, construction would be delayed until any young had “fledged” or until the nest had failed, staff recommends.

Then, if the trees were removed, STEAC would be responsible for building a barn owl box near the site of the original roost, which McNerney says is a suitable habitat for the birds.

“Ideally (they roost in) natural cavities in the trunks of dead trees,” McNerney said. “But they’re capable of adapting fairly well to urban environments and utilizing artificial nest structures, such as barns (and owl boxes).”

Design concerns

The barn owls aren’t the only issue the City Council must contend with when hearing the appeal Tuesday. The Old North Davis Neighborhood Association has concurrently filed an appeal to the design of the structure.

Steve Tracy, president of Old North Davis, has submitted to the city a letter that outlines more than half a dozen “Downtown Davis and Traditional Residential Neighborhood Guidelines” that are broken by the proposal, including those provisions that require the city to take into account trees, hiding parking, building location and mass and scale of the structure, among others.

Tracy is also concerned about the perception of why the association has decided to appeal the plan, considering the type of organization that is proposing the structure.

But he and some of his neighbors feel strongly about upholding the design guidelines that “the city went through a great deal of expense and efforts” to create.

“This is not about the organization (STEAC) or the people they serve,” Tracy said Monday. “Everybody on our board supports STEAC … we’re not trying to chase those organizations out of here. It’s about good planning.”

Added Tracy: “We agree that their services should be located downtown. It’s ideally located: there’s a bus stop right there at the end of the property, their client service and outreach and distribution service and can take place there. Certainly we’ve never had an objection … but if their storage needs require them to do this they need a better design.”

Several North Davis residents have offered their services to help STEAC design the building in order to address some of the neighborhood’s concerns.

STEAC leaders have said that the organization plans to work with the building’s manufacturer to improve the design. It appears city staff support this idea, as they will also recommend to the council to deny the Old North Davis appeal as well.

“Staff believes that many of ONDNA comments regarding design detail could be met when the structure has been fully designed,” the report states. “STEAC has indicated that the building exterior can be designed with any number of design features and exterior materials.”

The proposal calls for a pitched roof, raised foundation, roll-up doors, exterior stairs and accessible ramp. The exterior materials would include siding with a “medium buff” or tan paint color.

Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected], (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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