City Puts Out Draft EIR of University Commons Project

This week the city announced the comment period for the Draft EIR of the University Commons Redevelopment Project.  The public has until December 20 to comment on the Draft EIR of the proposed project, which includes the demolition of the existing University Mall building with the creation of a seven-story mixed-use development that includes 264 new multi-family residential units along with 136,800 square feet of retail space.

The project will not impact the existing Trader Joe’s building, but the notice states, “The addition of 136,800 sf of retail uses would accommodate shops, restaurants, and other uses.”

The new project would have a three-level parking structure, beneath a portion of the residential development.  That would provide parking for both residents and retail.

The U-Mall itself would include four levels of residential uses above the three levels of parking.  At buildout, the building would be seven stories – roughly 80 feet in height.

In addition to the current footprint, “Two new pad buildings, identified as Retail 7 and Retail 8, would be added to the site adjacent to Russell Boulevard and would consist of approximately 34,000 sf of new retail space. The existing 13,200-sf Trader Joe’s grocery store building, located on the southwestern portion of the site, would remain unchanged at project buildout.”

The 264 multi-family residential buildings include a total of 622 bedrooms and 894 beds.

The applicants continue to see this as primarily student housing.  They write, “Due to the immediate proximity of the project site to the UC Davis campus and the demand for student housing, the proposed residential development would be focused on student use, but would be available for non-students as well. The residential units would be arranged around three separate courtyards, one of which would contain outdoor amenities such as an outdoor lounge area and potentially a pool.”

The project, according to staff, “ qualifies as a Transit Priority Project under CEQA” and the “the environmental analysis within the Draft EIR reflects the streamlining benefits afforded to Transit Priority Projects by the California State Legislature.”

The EIR finds that the No Project Alternative “would be considered the environmentally superior alternative” as “[a]ll of the significant impacts identified for the proposed project would not occur or would be fewer under the No Project Alternative.”

However, “The No Project Alternative would not be considered to meet any of the project objectives.”

Finding that, they find that “the Retail Project Only Alternative would be considered the environmentally superior alternative to the proposed project.”

Areas of known controversy include: parking, tree removal, impacts to bicycle and pedestrian paths, aesthetic impacts, increased traffic, noise generation, water quality and “[i]mpacts associated with concurrent development within the City.”

Parking figures to be a concern.  The total number of parking spaces is 693 – that includes 264 spaces for residential use and 429 for retail use – 518 of those spaces will be in the new three-story parking garage.

According to Davis Municipal Code, the city parking requirement for community shopping centers is one space per 350 square feet of non-residential use plus one space per dwelling unit.  Thus there would be 693 required under that formula.  But while those will be one space per dwelling unit, there will only be 264 for the 622 bedrooms and 894 beds.

However, given the proposed use primarily for students and the location across the street from campus, clearly the city can get away with fewer parking spots.  The site is also along a “high quality transit corridor” served by Unitrans as well as Yolobus.

Also a total “of 1,018 bicycle parking spaces would be included as part of the proposed project, including on each level of the proposed parking structure. More specifically, bicycle parking would include 335 short-term spaces (32 percent of total) and 683 long-term spaces (68 percent of total).

“The majority of long-term bicycle parking (536 long-term spaces) would be provided on various levels within the proposed parking structure, with access provided via elevator. These spaces would be primarily utilized by project residents.”

Another area of controversy figures to be the type of housing.  At a recent joint city council and Planning Commission meeting, discussion focused on finding other types of housing other than student housing.  The city has already approved over 4000 beds of student housing and commissioners were concerned with the lack of flexibility of existing approved housing.

The city clearly is moving away from approving more student housing.

At the same time, as stated above, given the proximity to UC Davis and surrounding housing uses, “the proposed residential development would be focused on student use, but would be available for non-students as well.”

According to the draft, the 264 units would consist of 66 one-bedroom, 104 two bedroom, 28 three-bedroom and 66 four-bedroom units – which means that in a considerable number of the units, students and non-students could presumably reside.

The plan is that 430 of the rooms would be single-occupancy, but 232 would be double-occupancy.

The comment period will be open until late December.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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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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16 Comments

  1. Matt Williams

    In CEQA parlance EIR means “Environmental Impact Report” which is a legally narrow perspective.  In my personal opinion, this project should also have an Economic Impact Report.

    One of the key components of such an economically-focused EIR would be an analysis of what the economic impact would be of moving the Amazon Fulfillment Center to the University Commons from the MU on Howard Drive on the UCD Campus. A traffic impact of such a relocation would also be a good idea.

    Speaking of traffic impact, I would like to see the traffic impact of a project alternative that acknowledges the reality that (like the neighboring Davis Live project) the residents of University Commons are likely to be 100% students. Providing no embedded parking for those residents, but rather bicycle parking is an EIR alternative that the City would be wise to analyze.

    1. Alan Miller

       the economic impact would be of moving the Amazon Fulfillment Center to the University Commons from the MU

      This just doesn’t seem like a big thing.  Not sure why you brought it up.

      I would like to see the traffic impact of a project alternative that acknowledges the reality that (like the neighboring Davis Live project) the residents of University Commons are likely to be 100% students. Providing no embedded parking for those residents, but rather bicycle parking is an EIR alternative that the City would be wise to analyze.

      Yeah, I agree with this.  While I am generally an opponent of requiring a ‘type’ of person to live in particular housing, this is going to be right across the street from campus, from dorms.  Dorms where students can’t have a car on campus anymore.  It would seem you could find 600 students willing to live without a car and live here, thus not requiring the parking structure, and thus a lower cost leading to slightly lower rents.  And/Or super-premium cost to store a car as dis-incentive.

      1. Matt Williams

        Alan said … “This just doesn’t seem like a big thing.  Not sure why you brought it up.”

        The reason is simple.  Currently every delivery to the Fulfillment Center is charged 7.25% Sales Tax.  1.0% of that 7.25% is the Bradley-Burns component, which is shared by the County and City governments of the sales tax jurisdiction.  For on-campus deliveries to the Fulfillment Center, all of that 1% goes to Yolo County and none to the City.  If the Fulfillment Center were relocated to the redeveloped mall, the 1.0% would be split by the County and City.  In addition the collected amount of the City’s 1.0% Measure O “district tax” on all Fulfillment Center deliveries is $0.00 because the Fulfillment Center isn’t in the City.  If the Fulfillment Center were relocated to the redeveloped mall, the 1.0% Measure O district tax would apply.
        https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Screen-Shot-2019-11-07-at-4.48.43-PM.png

        To put that into dollars and cents, for each $1 million of deliveries to the Fulfillment Center, the City would receive an additional $15,000.  If the aggregate value of the purchases is $100 million, the City would receive an additional $1,500,000.  $200 million would yield $3,000,000.  $300 million would yield $4,500,000.

        I don’t know what the value of the Amazon deliveries is, but it would not surprise me at all if it were in the vicinity of $300 million per year.

        $4.5 million of incremental revenue is a terrible thing to waste.

        1. Mark West

          Why would Amazon want to move? They obviously put the fulfillment center on campus because that was where they perceived the need/value. They had leased space in the City near to campus that they could have used and chose not to, and doing so would add a 1% tax ‘penalty’ on their customers due to the City’s additional sales tax. There simply is no basis for including Matt’s dream in the economic evaluation of the project unless the developer (or Amazon) proposes it.

        2. Matt Williams

          Good questions Mark.  The cul-de-sac nature of Howard Way produces access issues and paid parking costs at the MU that are a negative for both Amazon and UCD at the MU location.  That is not an issue for students who live in the on-campus dorms, but that is only a small portion of the total UCD population.  For students, faculty and staff living off-campus, a University Commons location would not have either access issues or paid parking costs.  Access for on-campus residents of West Village would be just as good, or better, than the MU.  Access for both Cuarto dorms and Segundo would be better at University Commons than the MU.

          There is no question that there was a perceived need when Amazon and UCD pursued the idea.  Chances are that no one from the City took the initiative.  Further, the redevelopment of University Commons presents a new opportunity.  The Graduate has departed.  Time will tell whether the existing tenants will return to University Commons after the redevelopment.  Amazon represents a solid anchor tenant.

          I’m unaware of pre-existing Amazon leased space.  Where was that?  I agree that such a location would add a 1% “delivery charge” but anyone who is currently driving to the MU location pays for parking at the Howard Way garage.  I suspect they would be glad to replace that parking fee with a 1% delivery charge.

          JMO

        3. Rik Keller

          It’s not a “Fulfillment Center” at the MU. It’s a “Hub Locker+”. Basically, a larger version of their other lockers around town, with an attendant and drop-off/returns/mailing capability.

          I don’t know where that $300 million figure came from. I’d be shocked if they deliver more than a few million $ of merchandise annually.

    2. David Takemoto-Weerts

      Don’t you mean the “Amazon Hub Locker” location at the MU? I believe an Amazon Fullfilment Center is a large distribution warehouse. In fact, there are several Hub Lockers in town off campus.

       

  2. Alan Miller

    clearly the city can get away with fewer parking spots.

    The City ‘getting away with’ things is the wise path of government.

    The site is also along a “high quality transit corridor” served by Unitrans as well as Yolobus.

    One may want to ask those using the service if they consider an hourly bus line that takes 45 minutes to get to Sacramento, as it has been for decades, as a ‘high quality transit corridor’.

    Well, they get to check the box on the government form, so that’s all that matters.

    1. Bill Marshall

      it includes a Nation’s Giant Hamburgers.

      AMEN, bro… their grilled cheese-sandwiches, with onions, tomatoes, lettuce (w/wo ham) were a great treat… I sometimes dream of those… comfort food to the max…  as were their burgers…

      Now, I have to visit my bro-in-law in San Ramon to get them… as a student living in the dorms, 5- minute walk/bike in the 70’s…

      Learned to love U-Mall… NGH, Fluffy’s, Larwence’s, the drug store (name eludes me), grocery store (Safeway?)

      They need to retain “Fluffy’s donuts” as well… a community and political ‘institution’… and a good sugar rush…

      1. Alan Miller

        There’s a Nation’s in Vacaville right off I-80

        Aside: I have the honor of buying the very last Nation’s burger ever sold in Davis — and the (highly faded) receipt to prove it. (And yes, it was veggie burger — “Harvester” as they call it.)

        1. Alan Miller

          I tried to do this at Murder Burger, too — but they closed earlier than advertised on the last day, so some other schmoe got the honor — and probably doesn’t even know it.

  3. Todd Edelman

    Like what people are saying about eliminating most parking for residents. But to go further this could have a lot more housing in the footprint used for surface parking. Surface parking across the street from this university and in view of the community’s housing problems is an insult to the Universe.

    But then also why so much retail parking? A lot more shopping can be done by other means. A lot about this project is retro in a bad way.

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