The University Commons Redevelopment Project is heading to a Planning Commission hearing on May 27, where the commission will determine whether to recommend council certification of the EIR. The final EIR (available here) is now available online.
The proposed project will demolish the majority of the existing University Mall building for redevelopment as a dense, mixed-use project.
The project includes 264 new multi-family residential units and around 136 thousand square feet of retail space—about 50 percent larger than the existing commercial footprint. This does not include the separate 13,000-foot Trader Joe’s building which will remain untouched.
There will also be a three-level parking structure that contains 533 parking spaces and which would be situated on the west portion of the site with an additional 160 surface parking spaces.
The main structure will be five to seven levels, approximately 80 feet in height, with two small pads being proposed.
The description notes: “The 136,800 sq. ft. of retail space would accommodate shops, restaurants, offices, and other associated uses on the ground floor and second floor areas. There would be eight retail areas constructed generally within the footprint of the existing University Mall and underneath the proposed residential units and two new, free-standing, two-story retail buildings.”
The 264 residential units would have 622 bedrooms and up to 894 beds in a mix of unit types.
The residential portion of the project consists of four residential levels over three levels of parking.
Since the release of the Draft EIR, “the project applicant has made minor changes to the proposed site plan in response to modifications required by Mitigation Measure 4.6-8(b) of the Draft EIR.”
Among these changes are the elimination of proposed parking stalls along the drive aisle north of Trader Joe’s; outbound left- and right-turn lanes now proposed at the southern Sycamore Lane driveway; parking stalls in front of retail have been angled; and Russell Blvd. driveways have been aligned with garage entry.
Despite these changes, the total amount of parking remains the same, at 693 parking stalls consisting of 493 retail spaces and 264 residential spaces. The 264 residential spaces would still be located in the third garage level. The 493 retail spaces would be adjusted with 269 garage spaces and 160 surface spaces, and residential levels extend further east across the two retail levels toward Anderson.
Among the criticisms include the height of the building, which is at 80 feet and seven stories.
The initial study says “the proposed 80-foot-tall structures would be set back approximately 215 feet from the project frontage at Russell Boulevard.” The EIR notes “the Initial Study concluded that the proposed project would not substantially degrade the existing visual character or quality of the site and its surroundings. Furthermore, the proposed project would not be the first seven-story structure along Russell Boulevard.”
The Davis Live Student Housing Project, “which is currently under construction to the west of the project site, would consist of seven stories totaling 85 feet in height.”
Parking is another complaint. However, the EIR notes that “the Draft EIR is not required to include an analysis of potential issues related to parking availability.”
The EIR further notes, “Parking management for the structured parking and surface level parking included in the proposed project would be actively supervised by on-site property management and regulated by access control technology.”
The EIR notes that there will be enforcement—as there is now: “The project would have an on-site property management team to enforce all retail and residential parking rules and regulations. Currently, the property has a non-customer tow policy for vehicles parked over one hour.”
In addition, for retail employee parking, they note, “The project applicant (Brixmor) has substantial experience enforcing retail employee parking to ensure preferred parking locations are available for retail customers. In most cases, retail tenants self-regulate, but Brixmor also utilizes language within the lease documents that designates the quantity and location of employee parking.”
They will also have controlled garage access and surface level parking would be “free to retail customers only and would not be permitted for residential parking, residential guest parking or student parking during business hours.”
Furthermore, “The residential neighborhoods surrounding the University Commons Project are located in preferential parking permit required areas H, P, Q, S, & U. The EIR notes, “These required parking permit areas restrict on-street parking to residents holding valid City permit. Vehicles parked without a permit would be fined by the City of Davis Parking Patrol. University Commons would support these permit programs through tenant education curricula and on-site.”
The city received a number of community responses to the project.
Ron Oertel, for example, wrote, “I am sorry that the city is (once again) moving away from commercial development, to a semi‐residential focus. That, combined with the additional congestion and lack of adequate parking will create a situation in which the mall will no longer serve existing residents of the city.”
He added, “It’s difficult to believe any claims put forth regarding the “lack of commercial space” within the city, as it continues to allow conversions for semi‐residential use ‐ rather than maximizing commercial potential.”
Greg Rowe was critical on a number of fronts. He wrote, “It is my observation and that of others that a high number of existing U-Mail surface parking spaces are used by UCD students who park and walk across Russell Blvd to class.” He argued, “This problem will increase over time because UCD student enrollment continues growing but on-campus housing construction has not caught up.”
He also noted that “Retail Only” was deemed the environmentally superior alternative, and that “the city should give strong consideration to specifying that it will only consider the retail only alternative, or perhaps the Existing Mixed Use Build Out Alternative.”
Later he noted that “the reality is that most non-students would not want to live in close proximity to noisy, unruly and partying students. The residential component will surely end up being almost completely occupied by students, unless it is reoriented toward a different demographic and aggressively marketed to that demographic.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting