The Vanguard has received through its anonymous submission system, Yolo Leaks, an undated letter from John Whitcombe, one of the owners of the Nishi Property, to Mary Hayakawa, Executive Director of UC Davis Real Estate Services, asking the university to consider a title transfer of a portion of the Nishi project.
While the Vanguard has requested follow up documentation from the university, given the content of the letter, it is believed to have been sometime between the time that the Nishi vote was finalized and August 3. He calls the letter “an unsolicited proposal” which he says outlines “partial solutions to the myriad complexities now facing the campus.”
Moreover, he represents, “This conceptual proposal is brought to you on behalf of Nishi Gateway LLC which owns, free and clear, the approximate 45 acres on the South edge of the UCD core known as the Nishi property.”
On August 3, UC Davis and Bob Segar held an outreach meeting on the Russell Fields issue at the Senior Center. At that time, Mr. Segar is reported to have stated that the university has no interest in developing Nishi, reportedly due to infrastructure costs for a campus connection as well as concerns about air quality.
In his six-page letter, Mr. Whitcombe, who also owns Tandem Properties, a large series of apartments throughout town, notes, “On a more comprehensive level, costs of building new housing on campus have escalated and the failure of the City of Davis to effectively plan has limited the supply of off campus housing further worsening the hardship to a growing student and staff population.”
Mr. Whitcombe continues, “The ability to rectify shortages in supply and affordability is further complicated, even on campus, by a scarcity of available land to relocate existing, but important, low intensity uses to make way for more efficient uses which might provide better located housing supply opportunities.”
“Lastly, the acceleration of campus growth increases the demands for new teaching and research facilities. On campus alternatives are sometimes constrained by legacy infrastructure that has a long and broad community, campus and alumni affinity,” he writes.
In June, the voters narrowly defeated a proposal that would have annexed the property into Davis and brought in 1,500 student beds, 210 units of condominiums, and a business/research park accommodating 325,000 square feet of buildings.
Mr. Whitcombe writes, “Because access for West Olive Drive was deemed part of a Richard’s Blvd. traffic solution Nishi Gateway LLC is acquiring rights for an easement to widen that segment of Olive Drive connecting to our property. The values which would have been created by the city project adequately funded the infrastructure requirements of the site.”
“Although voters rejected the ballot measure despite strong support from an unprecedented and broad spectrum of community leaders, the Nishi Partners remain convinced that sustaining the values (and value) of our Davis community is dependent upon continuing our historical role as an accommodating host to the university. Meeting university needs was the foundational goal of the Nishi conceptual plan,” the letter continues.
The letter notes that the stakeholders spent three years working with the university, including consideration of master planning Nishi in conjunction with Solano Gateway and other university lands.
He writes, “To further this cooperation, we would favorably consider a title transfer of a portion or all of the Nishi property to the University of California in order to proceed with this project. Under that scenario, we envision utilizing an inclusion model, with planning and development of uses focused on meeting university needs.”
Some of the many opportunities might include:
- Working together to develop internally subsidized student housing;
- Conveniently located midrise housing for faculty and staff;
- Space for the relocation of current uses, thereby liberating campus land for higher-purpose use;
- Facility opportunities to enable UC Davis to avoid competing for existing off-campus locations.
Mr. Whitcombe closes: “We truly believe formal collaboration between the Nishi Partners and the University is in everyone’s best interest. Although we were disappointed that our efforts to include the city, narrowly missed approval, we, now with this approach, may have more flexibility in addressing specific UCD priorities on a site rated #1 by the Strategic Growth Council of the State of California for sustainability opportunities.
“I know our proposal requires a stage one level of campus review. My associates and I would welcome an opportunity to discuss the conceptual basis for this plan. We await your reply, and would appreciate the courtesy of updates about campus administrators’ consideration of our proposal.”
The Vanguard,as indicated above, has requested follow up information from the university.
—David M. Greenwald reporting