Last week the Vanguard, following up on reader feedback, attempted to determine if there was an agreement that formally precluded the university from developing to the west from West Village.
According to Andy Fell, Associate Director of the UC Davis News and Media Relations, there is no formal agreement. He said, “The university prevailed in the lawsuit filed by residents at the time — there was no settlement agreement.”
He reiterated that there is “no legal restriction.” He said, “Land use planning for West Village is included in the current Long Range Development Plan, until the new LRDP takes effect.”
Others, however, have told the Vanguard that the agreement was informal and that UC Davis has made representations in both its plan and CEQA analysis that it would not develop further west.
With the pushback against the proposed development at the fields along Russell Boulevard, there would likely be a rekindling of the battle that occurred a decade ago over West Village, which led to the lawsuit in the first place. In addition, research faculty utilize the fields to the west of the current development and they would have serious objections.
A decade ago there were concerns with residents of West Davis that a development would increase traffic and lead to the loss of vistas.
Ultimately, the university agreed not to have vehicular access onto Russell Boulevard, which was to help allay concerns about traffic impacts.
The current plan for West Village shows an increase of capacity but a reduced footprint.
On its “Campus Tomorrow” page, UC Davis notes that in 2014-15 West Village accommodated about 2,000 people. They write, “The LRDP Draft Planning Scenario for West Village provides capacity for more residents than previous[ly] planned in the 2003 LRDP while accommodating an additional 1,125 students on a smaller footprint than previously planned.”
The new LRDP (Long Range Development Plan) is providing capacity “for an additional 2,250 students in West Village, when compared to 2014-15 capacity.”
They write, “By agreement with the master-lease holder for West Village student apartments, the number of students living in existing West Village apartments may increase by 624 in 2016-17. This increase is accomplished through a ‘double-up’ where large bedrooms, previously leased as individual rooms, may be leased as shared bedrooms.”
They continue, “In addition to the double-up, the Plan also includes capacity for another 1,626 students.”
The university notes, “The Plan accommodates more students on less land while retaining a gracious greenbelt along Russell Boulevard, an agricultural buffer along the western edge and an 8-acre recreational complex along Hutchison Avenue. The more compact development pattern preserves more than 20 acres of agricultural land, previously included within the plans for West Village and designated for development in the 2003 LRDP.”
All of this is very relevant to the current LRDP discussions. Two things have happened during the last year. First, UC Davis has agreed to provide housing for about 90 percent of new students – estimated to be roughly 7000 over the next decade. However, that not only fails to provide housing for current students in the saturated Davis housing market, but also fails to provide housing for around 700 additional students, plus faculty and staff.
Second, UC Davis proposed, as one location for new housing, to build on the athletic fields on the south side of Russell Blvd. After pushback from neighbors and other residents, as well as student groups, UC Davis has reduced the number of housing units to 400 from 1000. This is still unacceptable to many.
Eileen Samitz has noted that UC Davis has the largest UC campus, with over 5300 acres of land, and yet “has the least amount of on-campus housing.”
Last month, Eileen Samitz pushed for “UC Davis [to] provide at least as much housing on the campus as other UCs are. Which is instead of providing only 40 percent of the student population – all the other UCs are providing 50 percent.”
She noted that UC Davis is planning to provide only 90 percent of incoming students with on-campus housing, where other UC schools are providing 100 percent of additional students with on-campus housing.
Ms. Samitz said, “Since UC Davis is going to be bringing in 5000 students within a few years – this is significant.”
“UCD has over 5300 acres, yet historically has provided the least amount of on-campus housing, and that has to change,” she said.
However, the Vanguard does not believe there is a true amount of 5300 acres of developable land. The issue of how far to the west they can go is one factor that may ultimately drive UC Davis back toward available land along Russell Blvd.
—David M. Greenwald reporting