The University Commons Project will go before the Planning Commission on Wednesday, December 11, at their regular meeting next week to review the Draft EIR for the project located on Russell Blvd. at the location known as the University Mall.
The project would demolish the existing building to create a new mixed-use development. Staff notes, “Buildout of the proposed project would result in the addition of 264 new multi-family residential units and approximately 136,800 square feet of retail space, not including the existing Trader Joe’s building, which would be retained as-is.”
The proposed 264 multi-family units would include a mix of sizes and result in a total of 622 bedrooms with 894 beds.
Staff notes: “The redeveloped University Mall building would include four levels of residential uses over three levels of parking and four levels of residential uses over retail uses. At buildout, the redeveloped University Mall building would be seven stories and approximately 80 feet in height, with the northeast portion along Anderson Road stepping down to three stories and 44 feet in height. Two new pad buildings would be added to the site.”
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, “[t]he 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 Draft EIR prepared for this period has been released for a 45-day public comment period – ending on December 20. As part of that public review, the Draft EIR will be presented next week to the Planning Commission for comment.
Staff notes that the Draft EIR “impacts were reduced to a less-than-significant level through the implementation of mitigation measures. The Draft EIR that impacts related to Transportation and Circulation would remain significant and unavoidable even after implementation of feasible mitigation measures.”
Following the public comment period and review of the comments, a Final EIR will be prepared.
Staff anticipates that subsequent public hearings by the Planning Commission and City Council will be held in order to consider the Final EIR and project entitlements. These will be publicly noticed when they are scheduled.
—David M. Greenwald reporting