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