Everyone joked as to how long the process took, but the planning began back in the 1990s as a means to provide affordable housing for faculty and staff while supplying additional housing for some 3000 UC Davis students.
The project will be a showpiece of the university’s commitment to sustainability and help advance energy solutions… Those who are helping to create West Village, those who will call it home, all of us — we can take great pride in how West Village will demonstrate the best in community living and stewardship of the environment… My motivation was to keep UC Davis a place where faculty, staff and students can continue to live locally and benefit from everything our campus has to offer.
West Village is slated to be built in two separate phases. In all, it will provide housing for roughly 4,350 people which includes 475 below market rate homes for faculty and staff and housing for roughly 3000 students. Apartments for 600 students will be available for occupancy by the fall of 2011.
Affordable Workforce Housing
The 475 below market rate homes will utilize various equity models that will allow for full equity for the home owners while at the same time, the university will retain a measure of control. Nolan Zail, senior vice president of development for Carmel Partners, while short on specifics, told the Vanguard yesterday, that they believe the homes will sell for less than market rate however, he could not get into specifics about how the mechanism worked.
In the press release from the UC Davis News Service, they write:
“West Village plans to sell homes at a starting price of about $400,000, below the market for comparable homes in Davis. The homes will be used as a major tool for recruiting and retaining top faculty and staff. Already, more than 1,500 people have expressed interest.
Homes will be allocated by lottery to four pools of employees, with 50 percent for recently recruited faculty and staff members and an additional 20 percent for employees with the lowest incomes.”
There will also be a substantial buffer from Russell. According to Nolan Zail, that buffer is around 150 feet along Russell. The project will be nestled into the northeast corner of the fields to the west of campus.
When asked if the issue of Russell Blvd access would be revisited, no one had a direct answer. However, it was pointed out that the issue of access was a heated issue for neighbors and the result of a long negotiated process. Nevertheless, as someone who lives in that area and utilizes that road network, it makes little sense to have a neighborhood that is cut off from the rest of the community and the new store in West Davis would be helped greatly by access to the rest of West Davis near Lake.
One of the other features of the project will be the Davis Center of the Sacramento City College in the Los Rios Community College District. This will be the first of its kind on a UC Campus.
Energy Efficiency and Alternative Energy Use
The project has received a $2 million grant from the California Energy Commission.
According to the release:
The planners for West Village, now under construction just west of the Davis campus, are now analyzing how to combine energy-saving measures with a sophisticated “smart grid” or network for generating, storing and distributing energy. The goal of the project is to create a great place to live and a “zero net energy” community with aggressive energy efficiency measures and on-site renewable resources to meet the community’s annual energy demand.
“We are thrilled to be supporting this project with a university so committed to teaching, research and public service,” Karen Douglas, chairman of the energy commission, said at a news conference on campus today (Aug. 10). “West Village promises to lead us toward a new state of the art for community-based energy strategy.”
Douglas said the energy commission is dedicated to improving the quality of life for Californians through energy research, development and demonstration projects. The $1,994,322 grant, made through the commission’s Public Interest Energy Research Program, will help the university to analyze and design energy technologies and the smart grid that will integrate them.
The Vanguard spoke to UC Davis Director of Environmental Planning Sid England and Jim Davis, president of Chevron Energy Solutions who is leading up the energy team along with the local consulting firm Davis Energy Group.
The Vanguard learned that the project is expected to exceed 30% improvement over Title 24 requirements in terms energy efficiency standards. The rest of the project’s reduction of energy usage will be done through photovoltaics that will be on-site but off-building. The plan is to use them on top of parking areas and also along greenbelts according to Sid England.
There will also be the use of passive building design in terms of orientation, taking advantage of sun patterns and also wind patterns to reduce energy use.
According to the release:
“Planners estimate the baseline energy use for the first phase would be about 16,500 megawatt hours, including 11,100 for gas and 5,400 for electric. The new energy commission grant will fund analysis and design to minimize energy use by facilities and to offset demand with renewable power generated on site. One of the renewable energy technologies that will be evaluated is the biodigester developed at UC Davis.”
During the conversation with Sid England, it was asked about the Davis’ project’s 50% improvement over Title 24, Mr. England got defensive and said he was not aware of that and more importantly that they had affordability requirements and had to balance the environmental features with the need to bring the units at below market prices.
The Vanguard overall was disappointed that we did not get more specific in terms of the energy reductions/ energy efficiency features or the financing. The university is obviously not in a position where it really needs to sell the development at this stage, they are simply going to build the project. There was some speculation that given the economy and market, this project would be put on hold. However, that is not the case. The infrastructure has already gone in, in terms of water and electrical lines and ground is being broken now.
—David M. Greenwald reporting