The city council has already approved Sterling and Nishi (pending the Measure R ratification) in hopes of addressing the student housing crisis. They will get a third opportunity on Tuesday when Lincoln40 comes before them, following a long two-year public discussion over the need for student housing versus the size and scope of the project.
Lincoln40 is a 130-unit student-oriented apartment building on 5.92 acres, located along Olive Drive and Hickory Lane just south of the Union Pacific Railroad Tracks and the Davis Amtrak station. The project will contain 708 beds, a bike barn, parking areas, swimming pool, and various amenities. The building includes 473 bedrooms, of which 235 would be designed as double-occupancy rooms.
It contains a mix of two- to five-bedroom fully furnished units, ranging from approximately 1024 to 1797 square feet in size.
There will be 204 surface parking spaces and 725 bicycle parking spaces.
According to staff, “The development is primarily designed as an off-campus student-housing complex, but the applicant’s project narrative states that the project would be available to qualified students and non-students.
“Unlike traditional apartments, the proposed project would be leased by the bed and not by the unit,” staff writes. “For each lease, the tenant would be assigned a unit and the tenant’s specific bedroom, and given personalized access rights to the common areas, which are pool area, clubhouse, study rooms, secured bike areas and main apartment building.”
The project was reviewed by the Planning Commission in early January and the commission unanimously recommended that the council certify the project’s EIR and approve the planning applications.
Staff writes that it believes “the proposed project is approvable as it meets many policy goals of the city, is of a high-quality design and is an appropriate land use for the location.”
The staff report addresses a number of issues and concerns brought up during the public comment process.
First, there are noted traffic conflicts at the intersection of Richards Boulevard and Olive Drive. Staff believes that the EIR has adequately addressed the issue. They write: “No new evidence has been provided to refute the expert analysis and mitigation measures in the EIR to support the claim that this project would exacerbate the traffic and circulation situation at the Richards Blvd and Olive Drive intersection if the proposed project applications were approved. An unsubstantiated assumption is not adequate to refute the analysis performed by trained experts.”
Second, there is the view that the overcrossing should be constructed prior to the development of the project. The staff writes: “the construction of the overcrossing is a separate City decision… It is not part of the proposed project. It cannot legally be required of the proposed project to bear the full cost of the overcrossing construction.”
Staff notes that “this project will also pay its fair share.” The applicant has agreed through the Development Agreement “to contribute additional funds to the improvement of the overcrossing.”
Third, there is the notion that UC Davis should provide student housing rather than the city. Staff notes the passage of the resolution on December 20, 2016, which “requested that UCD provide housing for a minimum of 100 percent of the projected student enrollment growth, and at least 50 percent of the total UC Davis campus student population in the Long Range Development Plan.”
As staff points out, “This project will not prevent UC Davis from providing additional student housing.”
Fourth, staff points out that the applicant has revised the affordable housing plan to include onsite affordable rental units, therefore “affordable housing in-lieu fees payment is not part of the revised plan.”
Fifth, there are complaints that the land use is too dense. Staff counters, “City has policies supporting infill and densification. The current proposal is consistent with the City infill and densification goals and policies. Staff does not share the belief that 22 units to the acre is too dense in a RMHD [residential medium high density] designation that permits up (to) 24.99 units to the acre.”
There are also complaints about building height, parking, and energy efficient.
Staff points out that 240 parking spaces is 16 fewer than the minimum required by city code. However, they point out there have been recent efforts to reduce automobile usage and promote multi-modal transportation. Therefore, they argue the availability of alternative transportation justifies “a favorable consideration of the proposal.”
On the other hand, “staff does not believe that (zero parking) is a reasonable option since it may impose parking hardship in the area.” They view the current plans as “an acceptable compromise.”
On the building height, they write, “The proposed building height is acceptable given the tiered height nature of the proposal and the fact that the 5th floor portion will be adjacent to the railroad, thus having a beneficial effect on the neighborhood and site; noise screening.” Staff adds that “there are no known adverse effects due to the 5-story portion of the building.”
On energy efficiency: “The applicant states that the project will implement strategies necessary to achieve LEED Gold equivalent standards similar to Sterling.”
Staff is supporting the project, arguing that the “critical need for rental housing is evidenced by apartment vacancy rates in the city.” They cite the UC Davis 2017 Vacancy and Rental Rate Survey which found that the blended vacancy rate was 0.4 percent, essentially unchanged from the 0.3 percent in the fall of 2016.
Staff writes that it believes the project provides community benefits. These include the need for affordable student housing, efficient use of the underutilized parcels, being well-served by facilities and services, being compatible with the noise environment and air quality, being compatible with surrounding uses, and providing for “the opportunity to complete the city and specific plan goal of connecting Olive drive neighborhood directly to the downtown.”
Staff further believes that the proposed project is consistent with General Plan policies for infill development and “contributes to the variety of housing types, densities, prices and rents, and designs in the neighborhood.”
Staff also addresses the need for student-oriented housing, writing, “The demand for university student housing affects all of the housing types; thus the City as a whole. To the extent that the demand for student housing may have a negative effect on all housing types and residential neighborhoods not originally intended for that use, the development of student-oriented housing necessary.”
Staff believes without this type of housing, “students are more likely to be dispersed throughout the city.” And, while this may reduce some problems, it “spreads the problems over a larger area of the city, especially in single-family residential neighborhoods.”
Lincoln40’s location and plan “are intended to address the potential concerns associated with concentration of student housing.” The site is within walking distance from campus, with bike access and a bus line. “The benefits of this site include multi-modal transportation, including relatively easy travel to UCD campus unlike dispersed student housing in single-family residential neighborhoods.”
They point out with the low vacancy rate that “it is evidence that the market is able to absorb student-oriented apartments” and “foreseeable that all units can be occupied.” They hope it will contribute “to a shift of students out of single family homes” and “thereby freeing up those units for families and the general workforce.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting