The Cannery series
Part 1: The history and final design
Part 2: Impact on surrounding neighborhoods
Part 3: Senior housing
Part 4: Sustainability
Part 5: Cannery Farm
Part 6: Business park vs. residential
This is Part 3 of an ongoing series discussing the various aspects of The Cannery project.
The City Council will consider the final design of the residential development over two meetings in October, after the city’s Planning Commission reviews it over two meetings in September. The project is not subject to Measure J/R, which requires voter approval of any proposal to convert county farmland into residential use in the city.
In the eyes of some, ConAgra has not included enough senior housing in the design of The Cannery project.
Others believe, however, that because each of the 547 units proposed in the development would be equipped with universal design, it actually features an abundance of housing that could accommodate senior citizens.
It appears to be a matter of opinion.
In March, the city’s Senior Citizen Commission received the full project proposal by the ConAgra team, a 547-unit housing development with low-, medium- and high-density housing slated for a 100-acre plot of land on the northeast corner of East Covell Boulevard and F Street, where the Hunt-Wesson tomato canning plant operated until its closure in 1999.
In addition to the housing, the proposed development also features 15 acres of business park and flex-office space, a 7.4-acre community farm on the east side of the neighborhood called Cannery Farm, two miles of bike paths and a variety of parks and greenbelts.
All other neighborhood features aside, the senior commission was more than excited by the idea of incorporating universal design into each one of the housing types.
“We basically gave them a standing ovation because they had included universal design,” said Elaine Roberts Musser, who chairs the commission. “We were thrilled.”
Universal design allows residents to easily add or include amenities to their homes that cater specifically to their access and mobility needs.
The New Home Company, the Roseville-based home builder than ConAgra has hired to complete the project, will utilize a company called Eskaton to ensure universal design in its homes at The Cannery through its Livable Design program.
Livable Design homes always feature stepless entry, multiple-height work surfaces and wider hallways and stairways, according to Bonnie Chiu, project manager for The New Home Company. In addition, more features to accommodate varying needs can be added as desired.
The senior commission would vote unanimously to approve a motion that said, “The project proposal is generally consistent with the guidelines for housing that serves seniors and persons with disabilities. … The project’s location, configuration and amenities appropriately meet the city objective of providing an inclusive multigenerational approach to residential development.”
What seniors prefer
But there are some in the community who believe universal design isn’t enough.
Mary Jo Bryan, spokeswoman for Choices for Healthy Aging, an organization in Davis that has lobbied for more senior housing in the community, says the project does not include enough single-story, for-sale houses, the very type of housing she says seniors most prefer.
Of the 463 ownership units offered in The Cannery, 19 would fit into the single-family detached, single-story for-sale category.
“That’s all we’re asking for — single-story homes, with a livable design, which they’re doing anyway,” Bryan said last week. “A different variety of sizes; they don’t have to be 2,200 square feet. They can be anywhere from 950 to 1,500 to 2,000 (square feet).”
The average single-family, single-story homes in the proposal cover about 2,100 square feet, and the single-story stacked flats that the ConAgra project team believes also can serve seniors range from 1,600 to 1,800 square feet.
Rather than targeting seniors for the stacked flats, which would include elevators, CHA has proposed carving out a block of parcels in the northeast corner of the development where a micro-neighborhood with smaller homes could be built for seniors, similar to the Glacier Circle development in West Davis.
“The problem is, in my estimation, we need to disperse our housing, we need to help us get out of these nice homes in the neighborhoods that are near schools, near recreational facilities, near downtown, near shopping, and help us get to someplace that is more conducive to what we need in our later years,” Bryan said.
Some Realtors appear to agree with Bryan that seniors prefer single-story homes.
Murre Traverso, an agent with First Street Real Estate in Davis, said 90 to 95 percent of seniors “would not consider a two-story house” when looking for a new home. Traverso added that while a two-story home could be something seniors could navigate today, five years down the road, regardless of the design, the second story would be useless.
“It’s like a ticking time bomb,” he said. “(At some point) they’re not going to be able to use that second floor.”
Traverso also said he often works with families that are looking for new homes in which their parents could downsize, but that it’s “challenging to find something with no stairs, wider doorways, low counters” in Davis.
Jason Taormino, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker-Doug Arnold Real Estate, said that because of the lack of single-story houses in Davis, those looking to downsize simply must settle for the next best option. Meaning, they’d prefer the single-story set-up, but if they can’t find that, they’ll look for, at least, the master bedroom and master bathroom to be on the first floor.
At the very least, they’d prefer the master bathroom on the first floor.
“(Home buyers) walk in the front door (of an open house) and if there’s no downstairs bathroom they say ‘thank you very much’ and walk right out,” Taormino said.
If residents are willing to move into two-story homes, however, it does appear that The Cannery has options.
According to Chiu, while there are only 19 single-story homes, about 75 percent of all house plans feature a bedroom and full bathroom, or an optional bedroom/bathroom, on the first floor.
Those homes without that first floor bed/bathroom would feature wider stairways to accommodate electric chair access to the second floor or stacked closets that can be converted into elevators.
In addition to the 19 single-story detached homes, The Cannery also will feature 96 single-story stacked flat units that would be reached via elevator.
Chiu adds that out of the 463 for-sale options in the project, 115 units, or 25 percent of all homes, will feature one-story living.
And while there aren’t too many examples of stacked flats in the community to draw from, Taormino believes the units could adequately accommodate seniors.
“I think people will buy those,” Taormino said. “I think seniors will buy them; it’s a type of home that many people would want to live in.”
Bryan said, however, that while the organization is supportive of multigenerational housing, seniors don’t want to live in the stacked flat units.
And she might have support on that front from members of the City Council.
“You have quite a few folks in town who are empty-nesters, or who are older with relatively large homes, who have large lots and are interested in downsizing and would like to do that in Davis,” said Councilman Lucas Frerichs. “… Yes, there are some stacked flats proposed for the project, but a lot of folks don’t want to live in (that style of housing).”
Councilman Brett Lee, meanwhile, said he believes The Cannery doesn’t include enough options for seniors.
“I would like to see a more robust senior component in the development,” Lee said. “I think there are some nice things there, but I probably am on the same page as Mary Jo Bryan. I think there’s an opportunity to do much more.”
That sentiment isn’t necessarily unanimous on the council.
Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk said last week that he believes the proposal ConAgra has submitted meets the needs of the community, highlighting specifically the idea of the multigenerational approach to the housing development.
“My vision has always been that the housing should be multigenerational, accommodating both young families, which has been a declining demographic in our community, and seniors, which has been the fastest growing demographic in our community,” Wolk said.
“It’s important at least for me that this project be multigenerational, which means accommodating not just seniors but young families and other groups.”
All three council members appear to agree there’s a need for housing for younger families, such as more affordable starter homes.
But only Wolk seems confident that the project, as proposed, will provide for that housing.
“I don’t really want to micromanage their project,” Lee said. “But what I’m going to base my criteria on when it comes time to vote yes or vote no is ‘how does it meet the needs of the community?’ I think the community definitely has some unmet needs and one of the unmet needs is less-expensive for-sale units.”
However, Chiu and the ConAgra team believe the project does, in fact, provide opportunities for home buyers of all income levels.
“The neighborhood was designed to include a range of housing that will reach different affordability levels, including first-time homeowners,” she said in an email.
“The Cannery Row Homes and the Court Homes will offer entry-level homeownership opportunities in Davis. Additionally, the stacked flats provide a great move-down opportunity for city residents looking to downsize. There are 72 Row Homes, 72 Court Homes and 96 University Flats.”
In the past, ConAgra has declined to provide price ranges.
— Reach Tom Sakash at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash