LRDP Removes Russell Fields from Housing Consideration, Heads to EIR Phase

Bob Segar makes his presentation to council on Tuesday
Bob Segar makes his presentation to council on Tuesday

Before Assistant Vice Chancellor Bob Segar could present his update on Tuesday night, the cat was out of the bag.  UC Davis sent out a release noting that they had updated the 2017 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) and removed housing “from Russell Field while preserving capacity to accommodate 90% of enrollment growth in campus housing and 40% of the Davis-based students in campus housing.”

The plan continues to provide capacity to accommodate an additional 6,200 students, as well as an additional 475 faculty and staff in campus housing.

Russell Fields had become the focal point of community push-back.  A group that formed in opposition to the proposal that was placed into the LRDP last spring is Friends of Russell Blvd. Fields.

They issued a statement late Tuesday, indicating appreciation for UC Davis’ “decision to not build on Toomey, Howard, or Russell Fields and to instead build housing elsewhere on campus.”

In the statement, they indicate, “UC Davis has come to understand that the IM fields on Russell Blvd. are greatly valued by the broad community. The fields are an important heritage shared by both the City and campus worthy of saving in their current lively and much loved state. We look forward to many more years of rugby, frisbee, lacrosse, soccer, dog walking, Picnic Day, Special Olympics, golf, and all of the many other activities on these gracious level playing fields. We hope this is the first step in building an ongoing win-win collaboration joining the City of Davis, UC Davis, students and city residents.”

They continue, “Going forward it is imperative that this progress of saving Russell Field is not undone by creating a storm water detention basin that would severely restrict or prohibit current uses of the field.”

However, there are points of opposition in the LRDP that remain.

During his presentation, Bob Segar indicated that “the overriding issue of community concern is housing.”  The projected student enrollment by 2027 is 39,000.  He called that number “a snapshot of the future that says, ‘what if we grew to that size, what does it take?’”

“We are withdrawing all housing proposals from the Russell Field area as a part of this plan,” he indicated.  That statement drew applause from the audience.

LRDP-Dec-2016-Map

One of the points he made is that the plan is really a redevelopment plan where they are taking existing low-density housing, tearing it down to build higher density housing.  The map shows there are about five key areas where the university is building additional housing.

At Orchard Park, the plan calls for 900 additional students.  At Cuarto, about 300 additional students.  At Segundo about 800 additional students.  At Tercero about 700 additional students.  And at Solano Park, about 500 additional students at the apartments and 600 at Solano field.

Mr. Segar indicated that only at West Village are they actually proposing to build on open fields now.  The West Village plan calls for an additional 2250 in students with another 475 units for faculty and staff.

Bob Segar also addressed some other controversial issues.  He indicated that the current plan retains capacity to address 90 percent of enrollment growth projected in the draft plan.  “That is a much more ambitious housing target than the campus has ever projected before,” he said, with almost 7000 students being added in the next decade to bring the campus population to 39,000 by 2027.

Sixty-two hundred of those new students would be housed on campus if the university adheres to the plan.  “The result would be 40 percent of the student housing for the total student enrollment at the Davis campus compared to an on-campus housing today of about 29 percent.”

The city document calls for the number to be 100 percent of all new growth and 50 percent of all students to be housed on campus.

Colin Walsh, representing Friends of Russell Blvd. Fields, states to the Vanguard, as indicated above, “Friends of Russell Blvd. Fields appreciates UCD’s decision to not build on Toomey, Howard, or Russell Fields and to instead build housing elsewhere on campus. He continues, “The preservation of the Toomey, Howard and Russell Fields is a huge victory for the people of Davis.

The statement continues, “We are however disappointed to learn the campus continues to resist building student housing on par with most other UC Campuses. The proposed ‘40% of the Davis-based students’ to be housed on campus pales in comparison to the 50% most other UCs are striving for.

“There is a backlog of on-campus housing need that has not been provided yet by UCD, significantly impacting the Davis community,” Mr. Walsh said. “Even Interim Chancellor Hexter recently admitted to the UC Regents that UC Davis has ‘completely saturated’ the Davis housing market, leading to extremely low vacancy rates. Davis is the largest UC at 5,300 acres and unquestionably has room for both the Russell Blvd. fields and more student housing.”

Bob Segar explained where their figures come from.  He said that their data shows that only 90 percent of all students live either on campus or in the Davis community.  “So if that holds and about 10 percent live outside of Davis for whatever reason they choose, we are essentially housing our enrollment growth on campus in this plan.”

Critics contend that this is a false argument.  The 10 percent is not necessarily a fixed number and represents the capacity of housing that is not currently addressed by campus and community supplies, or represents the unaffordability and unavailability of housing on the campus and in the Davis market.

Mr. Segar stated, “This on-campus housing goal also assumes that the university would no longer be relying on master leases of apartment buildings in the city which would return those properties to the open market.”

The university previously had leased part or all of some apartments in town as they waited for the construction of new housing. This was a point of concern raised by the city, concerned that the master lease system cost the city property tax revenue.

The intent now is to “vacate those master leases and return those properties to the market,” he said.

Mr. Segar also clarified the approach they would take toward the Nishi property.  He indicated their past participation in the Nishi planning process, which also included a location for a roadway and bikeway campus connection.

“The draft LRDP will analyze the Nishi project as a component of the expected cumulative growth, because it would be deemed to be a foreseeable project because of the city approval,” he said.   This would “preserve the opportunity for a roadway, bikeway and open space connection between the Nishi property and the campus.”

This was, again, something that the city asked for.

In sum, the current draft of the LRDP accommodated community-expressed concerns about the development of the Russell Fields and addressed concerns by the subcommittee about the master leases and the Nishi connection.

Robb Davis, in his comments, noted his desire to see a housing project at Nishi – obviously, that will be a controversial item for the community as the project was narrowly rejected in June, and this LRDP keeps that door open for a potential campus connection.

By the end of the discussion, council members restated many points made by the public, which included the desire for a binding stipulation that no building of any kind would happen on the Russell Blvd. fields, and that the university densify its new housing as much as possible, pointing out that providing housing for 100 percent of new students still leaves Davis with virtually a non-existent vacancy rate.

Council also expressed the need to make the council subcommittee a permanent liason to the LRDP process, and for the city to seek future collaborative agreements with the university.

The review period begins on January 4 and runs to February 3.  There is a scoping meeting scheduled for January 25.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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40 Comments

    1. Misanthrop

      “How long before this new plan starts getting backlash?”

      Today December 7, a day that will live in infamy, UC Davis was suddenly and deliberately attacked  by commenters and residents of the bastion of the City of Davis…

      1. Tia Will

        Misanthrop

        Today December 7, a day that will live in infamy, UC Davis was suddenly and deliberately…..”

        Cute, but not quite accurate given that there was nothing at all sudden or surprising about these “attacks” which have been going on for a long time.

  1. South of Davis

    David wrote:

    > One of the points he made is that the plan is really a redevelopment

    > plan where they are taking existing low density housing, tearing it

    > down to build higher density housing.

    With so much vacant land I don’t get why UCD needs to tear down existing housing (after leaving it fenced off and empty for years) BEFORE building new housing.

    When most people have a third or fourth kid they buy a minivan FIRST then sell the compact car.  I wonder if the people at UCD fenced off their Honda for years before crushing it and building a new minivan when they needed a vehicle with more seats…

    1. Tia Will

      SOD

      Analogy inconsistency alert. Apartments that cannot be occupied for whatever reason are not analogous to a compact car which can certainly still be used while awaiting the purchase of a mini van ( albeit not by all members of the family at the same time).

      I see it is entirely reasonable to tear down existing structures that are unusable and “build up” before new land ( also of potential value for other purposes ) has new building on it. For that matter, I believe that this should have been done years ago when the goals of large increases in the number of students became clear. Now, through a lack of foresight which now appears to be being addressed, the university is years behind in providing sufficient housing and now sees the need to play catchup.

      1. South of Davis

        Tia wrote:

        > Analogy inconsistency alert. Apartments that cannot be occupied for whatever

        > reason are not analogous to a compact car which can certainly still be used

        I have not read the entire report but I am not aware of any vacant apartments (other than the 200 unit Orchard Park I mentioned that has been sitting vacant and fenced off for over two YEARS).  Most of the apartment/dorms they talk about (Cuarto, Segundo, Tercero and Solano) are occupied.  I knew a guy that lived in Orchard Park when it was ~75% empty in early 2014 and most of the empty units had nothing major wrong with them (like the MORE than 50 units at city owned Symphony/Pacifico apartments on Drew Circle that have been sitting vacant for MORE than 10 years)…

        P.S. To David I have been told that most of the land around the West Village apartments has been designated for housing, why not build that out FIRST (and any other vacant land designated for housing) before fencing off (for years) and tearing down Cuarto, Segundo, Tercero and Solano?

        1. Tia Will

          SOD

          other than the 200 unit Orchard Park I mentioned that has been sitting vacant and fenced off for over two YEARS”

          That was my point. And I find the fact that they have been sitting vacant for two years to be a point of irresponsibility on the part of the university given the known planned increasing demand.

  2. Frankly

    UCD folds and the NIMBY-NOE crusade continues its path of Davis economic destruction and hostility to students and low income people that need affordable housing.

    1. Chamber Fan

      Frankly: UC Davis didn’t fold.  If you see what they stuffed into this, I’m surprised the NIMBY crowd isn’t up in arms – UCD re-opened the door for Nishi, the city is pushing for infill within two miles of the campus.  Yeah, they pulled Russell Fields, but that might have been a diversionary tactic anyway in my view.

      1. Mark West

        “but that might have been a diversionary tactic anyway in my view.”

        Seems that about the only significant change from the original draft, after the pontificating on this site and elsewhere, is that some grass was spared. Woohoo! Once the EIR is completed the University will have the right to build (or not) whenever it is convenient to do so. To date, not one new bed has been added to alleviate the current housing shortage, and all we have gained is another round of promises.

        If we want to address the housing shortage in Davis, we need to build more housing in Davis. That is where our focus should be, not on this city-wide diversionary tactic of blaming someone else for our problems.

      2. Tia Will

        Chamber Fan

         UC Davis didn’t fold……”

        Agreed. And as someone who favored the Nishi project specifically because it did provide housing and innovation space in very close proximity to the university, I would favor a reopening of this possibility, perhaps with some better studies to allay genuine concerns of the opponents.

      3. Highbeam

        I may be mistaken, but from people I know personally, most were indeed against developing anything on the playing fields, but the same people were NOT against anything ever at Nishi – only against that particular project at Nishi, and for a variety of reasons …

    2. South of Davis

      Frankly wrote:

      >  continues its path of Davis economic destruction

      I would not call in increase in home values of ~50% and an increase in rents of ~25% over the past 5 years “economic destruction” I would call it “going according to plan” (if I was an aging boomer planning to retire to SF, Carmel or Mexico after I retire from UCD and want top dollar when I sell or rent my Davis home)…

        1. South of Davis

          Misanthrop wrote:

          > More like economic impoverishment of the young

          > have nots to the benefit of the old haves.

          Over the years I have seen mostly “old haves” protesting new housing (not many poor young have nots out holding signs that say “No New Housing we can add a Third Futon to our Bedrooms” or “Who Needs New Housing RV Living is Great”.

          P.S. UCD could also build more “Domes” on small vacant plots of land around  campus.

  3. Ron

    Based on comments by city officials at last night’s hearing, I understand that the city’s response is not settled, and that some areas of concern remain. For example, council members expressed concern regarding the amount/percentage of student housing planned for the campus.  Here is what I recall from the hearing:

    Lucas specifically mentioned increased density, and the types of companies that specialize in high-density housing for campuses (e.g., as UC Irvine is already doing).  (Strangely, Bob Segar admitted that he hadn’t fully checked into such arrangements.)

    Will referenced a video (from the university, I believe) in which UC Davis officials (inappropriately) blamed the city’s slow-growth preferences.  Will noted that the city is meeting SACOG requirements, and that UC Davis hasn’t even lived up to prior agreements.  (I recall Will using the term, “throwing the city under the bus”.)  Will’s comments were quite forceful and clear.  There was a comment from someone which noted that the same video showed a very different response from UC Irvine officials.  (I have not seen the video.)

    One of the council members stated that given the city’s slow-growth preferences, one might think that the university would respond by building more housing on campus, rather than blaming the city.  There was also a comment which noted that some universities embark on adequate housing programs on their own (unilaterally), without requiring “prodding” from city officials.  (My apologies for not fully keeping track of who said what.)

    Overall, it seemed that city officials were not satisfied with the university’s plans, and that they planned to continue providing input.

     

    1. Chamber Fan

      The city actually got most of what they wanted.  The problem here is what you and some others keep avoiding – once the LRDP is over, how do you ensure they do what they put in the LRDP.  Segar last night indicated this is just a plan, there is no funding and it’s not binding on UCD.

      1. Ron

        Chamber Fan:

        I was simply reporting on what I observed, regarding the response from city officials.  It’s appropriate for the city to focus on its own goals, as Will Arnold alluded to.

        However, I recall some council discussion of a more formal, “binding” agreement, as well.  Again, the city’s response was not fully settled.

        It does seem that the university has a lot of “funds”, since they were apparently in a position to submit a $60-70 million bid for Interland, as welll as museum projects, etc. Also, as has been repeatedly pointed out, there are apparently companies that are willing to build housing projects for the university at no cost, to the university. (Strange that Mr. Segar admitted that he hadn’t fully checked this out, at this point.)

        1. Ron

          Also – don’t forget that the regents have apparently set a goal of (14,000?) housing units, allocated among the universities.  (Not sure if that number is accurate.) Presumably, such a plan would include some consideration of funding, if there are costs involved for the universities.

          FYI: I have made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t get involved in long, drawn-out (and ultimately off-topic) arguments on the Vanguard anymore. Let’s see if I can keep that promise.

      2. Tia Will

        Chamber Fan

        Segar last night indicated this is just a plan, there is no funding and it’s not binding on UCD.”

        And in this respect, it seems to me very much like previous agreements that have been made by the university and then not adhered to.

        1. Don Shor

          I think that reflects how housing is planned/funded/built on campus. It basically has to pay for itself. As I’ve noted before, it is likely that the enrollment increase will continue to precede the housing. This doesn’t solve our rental housing problem, it just keeps it from getting worse as quickly.

  4. Edison

    Although I have much respect for Bob Segar and fully empathize with the difficulties in planning 11-12 years out in a dynamic environment, I found it disappointing when he said the goals and themes of the LRDP remain the same. That is, keeping the campus compact and facilitating connectivity.  I continue having a problem understanding how a plan that would disperse 60% of the students off campus (with 10% commuting from Woodland, Winters, Dixon, Sacramento, West Sac and beyond) can in any way be logically regarded as enhancing “connectivity” among students, faculty and staff. There’s a lot less time for a student to “connect” with others if they’re forced to spend a significant part of their time commuting to and from campus, grocery shopping, etc.

    That being said, it was gratifying to learn that UCD will discontinue master leases.  That practice simply did nothing but constrict the rental housing stock available to families, in addition to reducing the City’s badly needed property tax revenue.

    On the other hand, it was frustrating to again hear that UCD, while proclaiming its commitment to higher density, is continuing to insist that it’s infeasible to build student apartment buildings any higher than 3-4 stories.  I’ve been told by experienced apartment developers that it is in fact quite feasible and cost effective to construct wood frame apartment buildings of 5 or even 6 floors; so why can’t UCD “get with the program”?   Taller campus apartment buildings are being successfully and economically built and managed at other college campuses in California and elsewhere.  As one of the speakers last night mentioned, UC Berkeley had high rise residence halls on campus when she was there in the 1970s.  Again, what’s the problem at UCD?  While other campuses such as UC Irvine are executing highly successful public private partnerships to provide conveniently located on-campus student housing villages, UCD continues lagging behind.

    As one of the speakers urged at last night’s meeting, I looked at the video of the Regents meeting last month. The presentation by UCD Interim Chancellor Hexter and Vice Chancellor Ratliff was lame at best, whereas the housing overview by the UC Irvine administrators that followed was  detailed, enlightening and optimistic.

    1. Don Shor

      it was gratifying to learn that UCD will discontinue master leases.

      That is actually some of the most important news to come out of this. How soon, I wonder, will they implement this? Because that alone could make an immediate difference in the local rental market.
      As to the rest, I think we now know exactly what numbers UCD is committed to. I don’t see anything that is going to change that. I do hope those who have been leading the charge about this issue will now acknowledge that we know what we have to work with in the planning process.
      I also hope that some mechanism can be put in place for monitoring UCD’s adherence to these commitments. Their past record really necessitates a formal compliance tracking process.

      1. Edison

        Dear South of Davis: I received this information from a representative of a national company that builds and manages apartment buildings in urban areas throughout the entire country. I am not aware of any developments that company currently owns or manages in the Sacramento area.  They built some developments in the Sacramento area in the past, but have since sold them.

        1. Edison

          SOD:  Also, one of the speakers at the Tuesday night Council meeting pointed out that the Sterling proposal includes 5-story apartments. I subsequently checked the City’s website for the Sterling project, and found that indeed the developer is proposing 5-floors with 2 x 6″ wood framing.

    2. South of Davis

      Edison wrote:

      > I’ve been told by experienced apartment developers that

      > it is in fact quite feasible and cost effective to construct

      > wood frame apartment buildings of 5 or even 6 floors

      Can you give us the address of even one of these 5-6 floor apartment buildings that have been built anywhere around Davis and/or Sacramento (or anywhere else in the country with rents and building costs similar to Davis and/or Sacramento?)  If these type of apartments are both “feasible and cost effective to construct” there should be lots of them.

      1. hpierce

        Until relatively recently, UCD was the only local FD that had ‘hook and ladder’ equipment… now that UCD/Davis FD’s are functionally/operationally joined, and with fairly recent changes on the Building Code re:  fire suppression sprinklers, as it relates to “feasible and cost effective to construct”, past performance is no guarantee of future results…

        But there is still the “community opposition” (aka, not in my neighborhood) piece…

  5. Roberta Millstein

    I’m really pleased to hear that UCD and the City Council listened to citizen concerns about building on the athletic fields.  Thanks to all involved for their spirit of cooperation and collaboration. Special thanks to Eileen Samitz, Colin Walsh, and others for spearheading the effort.  I hope this is a positive sign for more such exchanges in the future.

    I’m also very pleased to hear that the Council and citizens are continuing to press UCD to house more students.  I hope that they listen.  I think it would be beneficial to students, the campus, and the city to have a higher percentage students living on campus than is currently planned.  Again, thanks to all for their hard work.

    Finally, if we want to consider putting Nishi back on the table, why don’t we take the time to do the air quality students that Dr. Cahill recommended?  Jan-Feb would be the perfect time, as (iirc) those were the months of greatest concern.  Even better, the studies could be continued into the spring, or perhaps even summer months, to get a sense of the range of pollutants at the site.

    1. Mark West

      Yes, congratulations to all those Roberta named for once again ignoring the critical problems facing the City of Davis and instead, spending their time blaming the University, all in order to save a lawn. Such an impressive accomplishment!

      1. Roberta Millstein

        Mark, I look forward to seeing the collaborative spirit you display in working to solve what you see as the critical problems facing the City.  Or, you can continue to unproductively carp at people here on the Vanguard.

        You may not have seen the fields as important.  Obviously, many disagreed.  Community leaders work with the people in the communities; they don’t attack them.

    2. Tia Will

      Roberta

      I agree with you about the need for more extensive studies. I think that these should also include an assessment of the actual epidemiology of the areas that are similar in proximity and configuration to this site. If they do not demonstrate that there are increased health problems on these sites, I do not believe that this information should be ignored based on one set of information that conforms with one’s preconceived idea, no matter which direction the information points.

  6. Edison

    Millstein is right on target. The Nishi EIR found that the human health impacts from ultrafine particulates and diesel emissions would be, in CEQA parlance, “significant and unavoidable.” If the City of Davis and UCD have a continued desire to press ahead with developing Nishi–despite the fact that the voters have spoken–then they should hire a qualified air quality consultant to conduct 12 months of ambient air quality monitoring at the site and then write a report describing once and for all what the air quality implications would be for residential development at the site.  Until such action occurs, I believe it would be irresponsible for residential development to occur there. If 12 months of scientifically valid air quality studies conclude the exposure levels would be well within acceptable standards, then perhaps renewed discussion of residential development would be warranted.  However, I believe the site has far too much potential value for 100% R&D development complementary to UCD research activities to sacrifice it for residential purposes.   Just think of the freeway visibility a high-tech firm would get from having its signage visible from the freeway.

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