Yesterday, in a column, I argued that UC Davis basically traded their proposed housing on Russell Fields for a more substantial win on the issue of providing housing for 90 percent of new students and 40 percent of all students, rather than the 100 percent and 50 percent that the city and other leaders preferred.
Today, I will argue that the council has signaled its intent to prioritize new housing, not just on the campus, but in the community.
While the council renewed its priority regarding the value of open space, conservation of agricultural land, and reduction of carbon footprint, the LRDP response is perhaps the most pro-housing document we have seen from a recent Davis City Council.
While the city did push for the university to accommodate 100 percent of new growth and expand its on-campus housing to 50 percent of all students, the city objective is, “Promote diversification of housing stock to accommodate full breadth of community needs (workforce, affordability, seniors, students),” while moving “towards healthier vacancy rate (currently 0.2%).”
While the city requests “UC Davis commit to more aggressive accommodation of on campus housing commensurate with anticipated growth and to balance community-wide housing needs (such as: 100% of first year students and 50% of student population, or more desirable vacancy rate of X% translates to Y units),” the city pledges “to continue to pursue consideration of all infill and apartment housing proposals within the City (with emphasis on student oriented housing proposals within 2 miles of campus in order to facilitate ease of access).”
One of the biggest pieces of news that has been obscured by the focus on Russell Fields has been the city’s renewed push on Nishi.
The city wants “to revisit Nishi proposal with consideration of increasing housing option onsite.” This may mean an all-housing component for Nishi as opposed to the more mixed-use project that the voters rejected back in June.
In order to do this, the city is going to have to fix the Richards Boulevard-Olive Drive corridor and fix the I-80 interchange.
Along those lines, the city is going “to pursue next steps for prioritization and implementation of the Richards/Olive Drive Corridor Plan, including pursuit of funding.”
Once again, they want to push – following the suggestions of the Vanguard and others – UC Davis to “evaluate full range of circulation assumptions and analyses related to flow of traffic from I-80 and City to campus for both existing and proposed campus growth.” That includes evaluating “options to route vehicle trips to and from campus away from Richards/Olive and to alternatives such as Old Davis Road and Hutchison.”
The city successfully pushed UC Davis to “include evaluation of potential future bicycle/ped/transit/vehicle connection to the Nishi site in the LRDP and EIR.” On Tuesday, Bob Segar indicated that the university had agreed to this.
None of this of course means that the city is going to add a lot of housing. On Nishi, what they have basically done is keep the option of a new proposal open and they have signaled to the developers that they want to see a proposal with more housing.
As we have said elsewhere, it makes a lot of sense in that the 300,000 square feet of R&D space, that was included in the June 2016 ballot measure, can be accommodated with the expanded plans for Area 52 and the University Research Park.
The university, for a variety of reasons, decided to draw the line at 90 percent of new student growth and 40 percent of all students. That leaves a host of housing needs for not only existing and new students, but also additional faculty and staff.
As we noted yesterday, the university argument that 10 percent of students simply want to live outside of the area is unconvincing.
The Vanguard has always believed that the city would need to accommodate some of the student growth with infill opportunities. While projects like Lincoln40 and Sterling will likely undergo changes as they go through the planning process, the ultimate approvals will provide for at least some of the needed city housing.
Clearly, the city sees the need for more housing than that, which is why they will push for Nishi again. That, of course, is somewhat outside of their control – needing a citizens’ vote. However, we would again suggest that, if the city really is convinced that Nishi should be a housing fix, they do two key steps.
First, they make progress on the Richards/Olive Drive corridor plan. Clearly, concerns about traffic impacts were probably fatal to the Nishi project, particularly given how narrow the vote was.
Second, the city partner on a study of the air quality concerns laid out by Thomas Cahill. In a close election, air quality might have been a turning point as well, and it would be best to get that issue off the table.
Finally, the city needs to do a third thing, and that is to identify housing needs and project locations, preferably on infill sites, which it can use to address their belief that housing stock needs diversification to accommodate needs for workforce housing, affordable housing, senior housing and student housing.
—David M. Greenwald reporting