University Commons Draws Comments from Public and Council

By David M. Greenwald

Usually the second reading of a project—even a controversial one like University Commons—is routine.  But University Commons was anything but, drawing an hour’s worth of comments from the public and several council members as they reaffirmed their 3-2 vote on the consent item, with Arnold and Frerichs voting against and Partida, Lee and Carson voting for proceeding with the project.

Councilmember Brett Lee made some extended comments, noting that he is “not a big fan of rent by the bed.”  He noted in a discussion on Lincoln40 a few years ago that Lucas Frerichs and Will Arnold “correctly pointed out that location matters.”

Lee argued, “I don’t (see) this (project) as a mega-dorm because (there are) both options for renters for the market rate units—either rent by the bed if that’s your preference or rent by the unit, if that’s your preference.”

He noted by allowing both rent by the bed and unit rentals “allows for faculty or staff or retirees or anyone who wants to be located by the university—it will be a university-oriented apartment because it will cost a premium to be so close.”

Lee also addressed the modest change in height from 80 feet to 72 feet.

“I think what that misses is the very real change of what was on paper, a seven-story development being limited to five stories,” he said.  “That’s a dramatic change.

“The thing that we voted on was very different from what was presented to the planning commission some weeks ago,” he said.  “These are not the same proposals.”

He also noted the difference between big “A” affordable and “colloquial” affordable.  He noted that West Village apartments rent at $2500 for a two bedroom, so “this idea that the market rates are so out of step with the market—I don’t believe is borne out by what we see for the Sterling Units and also for the West Village units.

“Obviously these are more expensive than the average, but this would be just like West Village and just like Sterling, this would be one of the brand new fancy apartments,” he added.

Mayor Gloria Partida pushed back as well.  She responded to the faith leaders, noting that “the city should pledge to building affordable housing.  That should be one of the key motivators when we look at our housing policies.”

She noted that the community as whole “has a hard time understanding why we can’t just build what’s desired, what fits, what’s in keeping with what’s charming, and placing a price on it that we all feel good about.”

Partida said building this project “as hard as it is to accept” is “part of the concentrated strategy to provide people with places to live and create a community that offers affordability.  We are not saying that every door will be affordable, what we are saying is that every project will contribute to affordability in the city.”

She noted that “some of these more expensive rents offset affordable rents in our community.”

Citing a report from the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley, she noted that a barrier to affordable housing “is that many communities are hostile to apartments.”  She noted policies “intended to limit the development of multi-family buildings” and “local governments often restrict building heights or apartment densities to a degree that makes financial development infeasible.”

She said that what we have right now “is children sleeping in families’ living rooms” and us “losing our middle class and young families.”

The public comments were a mix between those who urged the council to reconsider and reject the proposal and those who urged the council to stay the course.

Dan Berman noted that University Commons was “already on a downward slide” and will “just become a crowded mess whose only virtue is to line the pockets of its owners.”  He said making a profit “should not be at the expense of beauty and proportionality.

He concluded his public comment by saying, “Why UC Davis which has the largest footprint in the University of California system, cannot figure out how to build student housing and other facilities on campus is beyond me.”

Mark Estremera strongly urged the three members of council who voted last week to approve the project “to reconsider based on the objections of the Planning Commission and the Davis residents who have voiced opposition to a project that doesn’t meet the needs of Davis residents and the Davis plan.”

Allison Olson, on the other hand, urged the approval of the project.  She noted that she has lived in Woodland since 2017, having moved there when they adopted a daughter from China—needing a bigger home, they moved from Davis.

“We realized that remaining in Davis was not within our reach with so few homes at this level of price range for families like mine,” she said.  She thought that with two incomes they could afford to live in Davis, but “instead we just put miles on our cars from Woodland to Davis to spend time with family and friends.”  She said, “This is not our preference both for costs and impacts and climate change.”

Cory Koehler from the Davis Chamber said, “The project is needed to address the demand for housing, jobs and the additional tax revenue that the city would receive from the project.”

Kyle Krueger, ASUCD President, appreciated the support “of more student housing right at the doorstep of the UC Davis campus.”  He said students have the opinion that “we need more housing in the city of Davis, we need it now.”

He lamented that “a small but vocal group continues to use anti-student retorts and take every opportunity to stop more housing for students.”  He noted, “In the meantime, there are thousands of students who are trapped in unaffordable leases and forced to live far away from campus.”

The Vice President of UAW 5810, which represents 1500 researchers at UC Davis, was also in favor of the project.  He said they supported it “because there isn’t an adequate housing supply in Davis” and “people have to drive from far away and it’s really expensive.”

However, a 25-year resident said, “I’m appalled by the plans for a tall monstrosity.  It will be a huge eyesore and lead to parking and traffic nightmares.”

Eileen Samitz reiterated “there is no real effective affordable housing in this project.”  She said, “None of this is affordable if you look at the numbers.”  She said, “The project is primarily rent by the bed.”  She added that “the city has already approved 3,888 new beds, which are also rent by the bed, which does nothing to help our workforce and families.”

Greg Rowe, a planning commissioner, said, “I would like the council to think about the demographics involved with approving a fifth large student housing project.  2019 saw the lowest number of births in the United States in the last 35 years.  It’s a trend that’s been continuing for the last four or five years.”

He argued, in 20 to 25 years, “[t]here’s going to be a very small cohort of young people entering college.”  He argued, therefore, that the city has approved five large rent by the bed housing projects “for which there may not be very much demand.”

Adam Hatefi, a UC Davis student, said, “The level of anti-student rhetoric that has been said, and the things that have been said, are incredibly offensive and frankly unexpected from the people who live in the city with students.”

He called it “cheap,” “offensive” and “I wish we could be there in person so these things could be said to our faces.”

—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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36 Comments

  1. Bill Marshall

    either rent by the bed if that’s your preference or rent by the unit, if that’s your preference.

    That, I like.  That should be ‘the new normal’… flexibility…

      1. Bill Marshall

        You’re both saying the same thing… a second reading and vote are ‘perfunctory’ for ordinances, (and zoning is by ordinance, not resolution)… but necessary… and obviously no one in the majority called for reconsideration…

    1. Bill Marshall

      The project goes forward.

      Well, it is now ‘entitled’… whether it moves forward remains to be seen… there can always be litigation, and for economic/other reasons, the applicant gets to decide if/when to ‘move forward’… the applicant is not obliged to move forward…

  2. Matt Williams

    I have two questions that are based on observing the dialogue over the past several years here in the Vanguard about Sterling, Lincoln 40, and University Commons.  The two questions are:

    Did the Vanguard introduce the Davis community to the term “anti-student rhetoric”?  … and  “If one goes back to the initial introduction of the term in the community, has the Vanguard been using that term as a dog whistle to fan the flames of polarization in the Davis community.”

    I ask those two questions because I see a significant ramp up of polarization in the Davis community that did not exist in the community as recently as three years ago.  It has an eerie parallel to the ramped up polarization that we see nationally.

    ========================

    On a separate subject, I believe we can completely eliminate the rent-by-the-bed controversy by passing an ordinance/resolution (I’ll let Bill Marshall tell us which is the right term) that does two things.  (1) It would standardize all leases in the City as rent-by-the-unit, and (2) it would allow landlords to offer, for as monthly fee, insurance to each individual tenant that protects that tenant from the fiscal consequences of having one of the residents of the unit move out.  From the students’ perspective what they are looking for is fiscal/budgetary certainty throughout the term of the lease.  The proposed insurance policy would provide that.  Doing that would mean that the rental housing “market” would be simplified from its current situation of two different rent realities that can’t be directly compared.

    1. David Greenwald

      I have talked with a lot of students in the last week or two, and to a person they all believe there is an anti-student strand running through this debate. Look at Adam’s comment. That didn’t come from the vanguard.

      On the proposal, why not simply allow the renters to decide if they want to rent by the bed or the unit as this project does?

      1. Bill Marshall

        why not simply allow the renters to decide if they want to rent by the bed or the unit as this project does?

        Good suggestion David!

        Gee… wish I had thought about that when I posted @ 6:49 A… clearly, you are ‘visionary’…

      2. Bill Marshall

        BTW, at different points in my life, I would have opted for renting a bed(room), or up to a 2 bdrm unit, single occupancy.  As it was, I rented in apts with 2 bdrm, two beds/room, split 4 ways between my roommates…

        The rent by bed(room) also makes sense… you might start out with 4 folk in a 2 bdrm apt, and someone moves out, due to academic changes, or love interest, then the rent is only split 3 ways… I think the option, and the OPTION (not mandatory!) of insurance (as Matt W suggested) are good ideas for both tenant and landlord… more flexibility, less risk…

    2. Eric Gelber

      Re Matt’s proposal: There’s nothing prohibiting the landlord and tenant from negotiating early termination agreements; so, an ordinance “allowing” for such terms isn’t necessary. Such agreements may include penalties short of liability for the entire term of the lease.

      Ultimately, the solution may be with the state Legislature. California law specifies conditions justifying early termination of a lease—e.g., for persons starting active military duty, for victims of domestic violence, or due to unsafe or unhealthy conditions of the unit, or for landlord violations of tenant rights or privacy. Other states may allow early termination for other reasons—e.g., due to age or health conditions requiring a move.

      I don’t know if Davis still has a model lease. But, if so, it could be modified to include early termination provisions that would cover the current situation. It wouldn’t be binding but would at least provide a template tenants could use in negotiating lease terms.

      1. David Greenwald

        Here’s a question for Eric and anyone else: is this an actual problem? Because like the issue of the unaffordable rents at new apartments, the only people I hear complaining about this are people who aren’t renters?

        1. Eric Gelber

          Is this an actual problem?

          I believe so, but not really a University Commons issue. More appropriate for yesterday’s article on students stuck in leases.

      2. Ron Glick

        Joe Krovoza talked about rewriting the Davis Standard lease about a decade ago but never lifted a finger to do so. The current model lease is about three decades out of date and needs a bunch of addendum to be in legal compliance with current law. It also favored landlords economic certainty by obligating students to lease for 12 months when they might only be here for 10 months of the year.

        The political and economic dynamics of Davis has favored the rentier class over the renter class for as long as I have been here. This will continue as long as students don’t organize politically. Of course the drive to build on campus instead of the city perpetuates the current disequilibrium because those living on campus are excluded from the civic life of the city at the ballot box.

        1. Eric Gelber

          The current model lease is about three decades out of date

          Hah! I remember it from my law school days, four decades ago, when I was a renter. Use of the model lease was a selling point for landlords.

  3. Richard McCann

    I see public comments here that still reflect a misunderstanding for how the real estate market works and of UCD’s position.

    – Most new construction if more expensive than existing housing. This seems so obvious but apparently many people can’t seem to grasp this concept. Older housing is depreciating–when there’s a price premium on existing housing its from location, location, location. For this reason, new housing will ALWAYS aim for a higher price point than the average existing comparable unit unless that new housing is SUBSIDIZED from an outside source, which leads to the second misunderstanding.

    – Until 2012, most subsidized Affordable housing got its funds from local redevelopment agencies. That method was abolished in 2012 and now the funding stream has dried up for new Affordable projects. So the only readily available to increase (a)ffordable housing is by increasing supply and reducing price pressures. Further, asking developers for internal subsidies beyond what is supportable from price premiums above those expected in national investment returns just means that the developer will walk away and NO new housing will be built, so all housing becomes less affordable. (BTW, the same goes for demanding aesthetic changes that significantly increase project costs.)

    – UCD has the largest UC campus because it is a world leading agricultural research institution. This means that it needs land for research plots. Its truly amazing to me when the same people who demand that we not build on prime agricultural land surrounding the City turn around and demand that UCD wipe out some of its prime research land just so that they won’t be inconvenienced by accommodating UCD students in town. The surrounding prime land just supplies output from that acreage, while the UCD land is leveraged hundreds, maybe thousands, of times from research results that improve productivity around the globe. The trade off is quite obvious if we’re truly thinking globally and acting locally.

    1. Ron Glick

      I’ve been pointing this out for years that Measure J/R seeks to preserve commodity production land but results in the conversion of research land instead. The irony is that research production land provides a huge delta increase ROI when compared to commodity production land ROI.

    2. David Greenwald

      I think there is a serious factual problem with the whole notion of unaffordable student housing – you can’t really have unaffordable student housing IF you have sufficient supply. Because students won’t rent from housing they can’t afford and then the rental place will lower the costs until they can fill their units. Where the market breaks down is if you lack supply. That’s why you see students pushing supply, supply, supply, and you never hear them complain about off-campus costs.

      1. Ron Glick

        You are missing the student loan elephant in the room. The easy to acquire but hard to discharge debt obligations that fuel the ability of the rentier class  to exploit students never seems to get any attention locally.

        When I was in college (back when dinosaurs ruled the world) student loan debt was a government not for profit business and public service salaries at the University were not in competition with the private sector. The state believed in funding UC and didn’t see students as a revenue source. It all adds up, rent included, to leave many graduates with a mountain of debt that stymies one’s ability to form families and buy houses. The locals and the big money from outside the area laugh all the way to the bank while the students encumber themselves for decades.

        1. Doby Fleeman

          Ron,

          You hit the nail on the head.

          Then, combine that with the actions implemented under Governor Gray Davis which effectively mandated that all major, publicly funded/subsidized construction projects be subject to Project Labor Agreements – essentially mandating 100% union labor for every trade – and the on-campus costs of construction immediately jumped roughly 25% versus conventional commercial and residential construction rates.

          At a minimum, I’ve never understood why the legislature didn’t simple waive the PLA Union wage rate agreement for all university construction projects to help keep facility and housing construction costs (and hence tuition and campus housing costs) more in line with actual, regional, market-rate construction costs.

          It’s not just that the costs are higher, it’s the reality that often time the successful contractors for these projects boom in from out of state due to the magnitude of the union labor force required – sending their paychecks back home to Texas or Oklahoma – meanwhile strong, regional, open-shop specialty subcontractors are deprived from the opportunity to even bid on the work.

        2. Ron Glick

          Makes you wonder about the antipathy towards local developers, who provide a wellspring of goodwill and capital, funding everything from the new high school football field to the new homeless shelter, Paul’s Place. The locals who whine about UC housing more students never realize that housing on campus is built by out of area developers who have no emotional investment in the community.

          Why didn’t the legislature exempt UC from prevailing wages. You need to ask?

    3. Bill Marshall

      Its truly amazing to me when the same people who demand that we not build on prime agricultural land surrounding the City turn around and demand that UCD wipe out some of its prime research land just so that they won’t be inconvenienced by accommodating UCD students in town.

      Agreed…

  4. Alan Miller

    Adam Hatefi, a UC Davis student, said, “The level of anti-student rhetoric that has been said, and the things that have been said, are incredibly offensive and frankly unexpected from the people who live in the city with students.”  He called it “cheap,” “offensive” and “I wish we could be there in person so these things could be said to our faces.”

    Divisive rhetorical bullsh*t.  Name the place and time.  I’ll be glad to meet y’all today and I’ll say 12 feet from your face (extreme social distancing) – well nothing, because I never said any of that.    H0wever, your (and the Vanguard and the City Council) claims of “anti-student” rhetoric are themselves the actual source of divisive rhetoric and increasing divisiveness, to fan the flames for the purpose of perceived political gain.

    I’m not against the project, nor do I have a comment along the lines of “those things” — (um, what things?)  Me?  I’m anti-students-who-claim-anti-student-rhetoric, anti-blogs-that-claim-anti-student-rhetoric, and anti-City-Councilmembers-who-claim-anti-student-rhetoric.   I’m also anti-ANTI, so I’m actually not anti not not any of these things.  The rest of the students are OK with me – except of course the drunk idiots who do stupid sh*t.

    Sure there’s a few rude people who criticize the project – let it go – don’t make it an issue paralleling anti-race-x rhetoric, and then finding racism or anti-student under every rock.  Anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti-anti!  Blah blah f*cking blah!  Is it fun being the “V” generation – Generation Victim?  And yes, I coined that and am using it from now on — “Generation V”.

    Did the Vanguard introduce the Davis community to the term “anti-student rhetoric”?  … and  “If one goes back to the initial introduction of the term in the community, has the Vanguard been using that term as a dog whistle to fan the flames of polarization in the Davis community.”

    I won’t ask it as a question MW, I’ll state your question as clear fact, as an accusation.  Whoever said it first – doesn’t matter!  If you bury the body, you’re in league with the murderer.

    I see a significant ramp up of polarization in the Davis community that did not exist in the community as recently as three years ago.  It has an eerie parallel to the ramped up polarization that we see nationally.

    Yes it does, MW, yes it does . . .

    1. David Greenwald

      I don’t think this is an accurate rendition of history. As I recall, in 2015, there were concerns about UCD and it’s LRDP and not taking on enough student housing – they weren’t. At the same time, students started getting organized because there wasn’t enough housing on campus and the city hadn’t built any since 2002. However, some in the community didn’t like the structure or location of the proposed housing and that is really what ramped up the friction over time and over the course of a few infills and two versions of Nishi.

      1. Robb Davis

        Those who say that anti-student rhetoric is a concept of recent vintage “created” by the VG or created by students and fanned by the VG were not reading my inbox in 2016 when Sterling came up.  The vitriol heaped on students was shocking.

        But you’re right, before that it was pretty quiet.  Of course, no one had brought forth any multi-housing projects (except explicitly non-student land-dedication affordable housing) for a dozen years before Sterling.

        So, yeah, it was all quiet then and people apparently loved students back in those quieter times.

        1. Mark West

          Anti-student rhetoric has been a significant part of the Davis political scene since at least the mid 70’s when I started paying attention to the Davis political scene. There has been considerable variability over the years as to the prominence of the point of view, but for one to imply that it is a recently derived concept, or that it was created/stoked by David, is beyond silly.

        2. Matt Williams

          Anti-student rhetoric has been a significant part of the Davis political scene since at least the mid 70’s when I started paying attention to the Davis political scene.

          Mark, I only arrived here in 1998, so I can’t reflect on any time prior to that, but given your richer knowledge base than mine, I’m curious how that anti-student rhetoric manifested itself (was expressed) in those early years.

          For my first 18 years here I really never heard any explicit anti-student rhetoric.  Picnic Day had increased dialogue with it thanks to public urinations and G Street stabbings and the like, but even there the dialogue was just as much about out-of-town “visitors” as it was about students.

          Robb Davis hits the nail on the head when he cites the high volume of opposition to Sterling but I wonder if there would have been any reduction in the number and vehemence of e-mails he received if Sterling had jettisoned its all-student “branding” and brought forward to the community a mixed families, workforce and students proposal.  The number of stories would have been the same, the height and mass of the buildings would have been the same, the number of residents would have been the same, and the vehicle traffic in and out of the complex would probably have been greater.  I suspect all those factors would have generated just as much, if not even more opposition.

          Bottom-line, I believe the opposition to Sterling was more anti-infill-multi-fasmily-housing than it was anti-student.

           

        3. Mark West

          “Bottom-line, I believe the opposition to Sterling was more anti-infill-multi-fasmily-housing than it was anti-student.”

          The two primary aspects of the opposition to sterling that I heard was first, anti-student (all the bicycles heading to campus disrupting traffic at 5th and Pole Line) and second, fear that the mobile home park would be redeveloped next.

          Sterling should have been at least seven stories tall, but you are right, the opposition would have been there even if they had proposed only one.

          As to your history question…keeping students disenfranchised has long been a prime concern.

        4. Matt Williams

          Mark, the lion’s share of the volume of opposition to Sterling came from Rancho Yolo residents … not all, but well over 50%.  In addition the Rancho Yolo opposition began as much as 12 months before any of the wider community opposition emerged.  The Rancho Yolo opposition wasn’t anti-student.  The early messages were targeted at the social services loss that demolishing Families Fist would bring.  I personally did not agree with that perspective, but I heard it every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in the 4-mile walks of the Brisssk Walkers walking group, many of whom are Rancho Yolo residents.

          Those early Save Families First messages were supplemented with “destruction of privacy, peace and quiet” messages that the then much larger Sterling was going to bring as it was perceived to loom over the single-story mobile homes in Rancho Yolo.  That “looming over” a single story dwelling was a key theme of the OEDNA opposition to Trackside … which was also not “anti-student.”

          You are right about Rancho Yolo’s concerns about traffic safety … the burdens of added traffic is a common refrain for any and all large infill apartment complexes.  The fact that the added traffic was students was immaterial.  Added vehicles were a seen as problem no matter what.

          ===============

          Disenfranchising students is an interesting concept.  How do you do that?  Change their birth date so they aren’t at least 18 years old on Election Day?

          Or are you referring to not annexing the UCD campus into the City?  If that is the point you are making, I suspect the UCD Administration has been a much more potent force in blocking annexation than any City of Davis residents have been.  UCD does not want to lose its autonomy, which would be the bottom-line result if the campus were annexed.

          FWIW, I’m a strong supporter of such an annexation.  El Macero and Willowbank and Patwin should also be annexed in my opinion.

        5. Doby Fleeman

          Matt,

          And, pay another 1% in local City of Davis sales taxes for the privilege of such annexation?

          Why, oh why, would the university want to fall prey to the same burdens as its other, sister campus operations around the state?

          It is surprising, however, that Davis is not more inclined to pursue this conversation, given the state of our city’s finances.

        6. Bill Marshall

          Relax, Doby… all the past proposals for annexation of UCD lands, was only for the residential portions of UCD… so students on-campus could vote on City matters… and even then the proposals would provide for tax exempt status for the land… no property tax, etc.

        7. Doby Fleeman

          Bill,

          Perhaps you miss my point, I’m talking about sales tax on UC campus purchases as is the case in most UC host cities.  I’m betting it’s not an insignificant distinction.

        8. Doby Fleeman

          Bill,

          And then you add seven (7), on-campus Amazon locker locations since 2017 – making UCD landlord to the largest retailer in the Davis community – and still you claim its not worth discussing?

           

           

  5. Eileen Samitz

     
    I have been out all day and just getting to email seeing message asking me to see this article. However, the article with some quotes by Partida and Lee at Council are not really fully discussed.

    First, Mayor Partida said that the community needed more affordable housing and then went on to criticize citizens opposing the University Commons proposal. It was disappointing to hear her misrepresentation of the issue to be something to the effect, “the community needs to stop resisting development to keep the town ‘charming’.”

    However, quite the contrary, the actual issues for the many citizens opposing the University Commons project have always been:
    1) the unaffordability of the housing (for students or non-students),
    2) the mega-dorm format of primarily groups housing renting by the bed which does nothing to help provide housing or our workers and families,
    3) the size and mass of the project which is completely out of scale with its surroundings,
    4) the massive traffic it would bring and gross lack of parking which will wind up with overflow parking to the surrounding neighborhoods,
    5) 3,888 of these exclusionary mega-dorm beds, predominantly “rent-by-the-bed” group-housing have already been approved in the city,
    6) with the COVID-19 pandemic, approving more group housing makes no sense, particularly since far fewer UCD students are returning to the campus, and on-line classes will be in demand into the future,
    7) the mega-dorm group housing format which does nothing to help provide housing for our workforce and families,
    8) UCD has over 5,300 acre and a 900-acre campus, and it can build far more student housing on campus at much higher-densities than they have been building.

    Further, Partida did not address the real issue of how this project was unaffordable, including the market rate and the so-called “affordable units”. These facts have been in several publications regarding this issue (below) demonstrating that average apartments in the City are far less expensive than University Commons or Sterling, the other mega-dorm which is almost complete.

    So, Partida’s statements that we needed affordable housing and complaining our families needed housing, is inconsistent with her action approving a very expensive and exclusionary group housing mega-dorm. University Commons housing is not affordable to students or workers or families, and the majority of the project is group housing which does not help with the housing needs of our workers or families.

    Brett Lee’s statements were also disappointing and misleading. Lee tried to claim that University Commons housing was really not unaffordable just a “bit” more expensive simply because they are newer, and that they are not luxury housing. But this is not the case.

    Lee went on to try to diminish his public commitment to the community of not approving any more mega-dorms two years ago.
    However, this is what Brett Lee said then for the record:

    https://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/city-council-oks-lincoln40-project/

    “I just have a problem with the layout of these proposals,” Lee said

    “I think it’s now time to move toward workforce housing, housing that can be used by a variety of folks,” Lee said, noting that between Lincoln40, Sterling and Nishi, the council has approved (or in the case of Nishi, placed on the ballot) housing projects providing more than 3,000 beds aimed at students.

    “I think we’ve done our fair share in addressing student-housing needs,” he said. “So, I would ask my colleagues, that going forward, that we sort of move away from this.”

    His colleagues largely agreed.

    At the last Council meeting Lee also had made the on-the-fly motion (which passed last meeting by Partida, Carson and Lee) to simply reduce the project 80’ height by only 8 feet. This does nothing to effectively reduce the mass of the project which is also 8 acres wide. Also, this new 72-foot project is somehow is supposed to limit the project to 5 floors per his request. If project is 72 feet, that means that each floor would average over 14 feet which does not make any sense. Or how does an 80’ 7-story building reduced by 8’ become a 5-story building?

    Apparently, this token change, for the Brixmor developers to achieve Lee’s swing vote, eliminates an entire floor of commercial, which will result with less revenue for the City including less property tax at the very least. While I supported a much lower height of the project, reducing it 8 feet is not a significant improvement, but more importantly, here are the plethora of problems regarding the City Council majority’s rushed approval of a new version of the University Commons project:

    1) we have no idea what the new spontaneous “changed-on-the-fly” University Commons project looks like (why not a Planning Commission review of his new version?)
     2) we have no information about the fiscal analysis of this “approve-on-the-fly” project which will stills significantly negatively impact the entire community,
     3) NO affordable housing is effectively being provided for students or non-students,
     4) the University Commons project was opposed 7:0 unanimously by the Planning Commission, however apparently the Council is not interested in the expertise of their citizen-commissions unless it is an approval of a project.

    Bottom line: How could the City Council majority of Partida, Lee and Carson approve a project that we have no idea what it looks like or what its fiscal analysis is? Of great concern, why didn’t Dan Carson ask for a new fiscal analysis before approving this new version of the project?

    Finally, it is inexcusable that the Council majority rushed this spontaneous new version of the University Commons project forward and did not reconsider their YES votes, and send the project back to the developers for re-design and downsizing for a compatible project. In additional the University Commons project should have been housing for all instead of the mega-dorm format since they indication being receptive to this after the 7:0 unanimous Planning Commission vote to deny of University Commons project.

     I do not recall ever over the last 25 years a 7:0 unanimous Planning Commission rejection vote of a project ever being approved by a City Council. Yet, this Council chose to disregard this resounding recommendation by a commission which includes planning experts.

    Sadly, last night was a travesty of process due to the last-minute project change requiring re-design, and which we have no idea of what it looks like. Yet, without any review, it was rushed through an approval of a still monolithic project with no real affordable housing for the students, or our local workers or families.

    I have posted this information before regarding the unaffordability of the University Commons housing but here it is again [edited: see reply below]

    The supplemental City Staff report reveals just how unaffordable the University Commons mega-dorm apartments would be. The Staff report quotes that their market rate studio apartments would be an estimated $2,229 monthly and their 2-bedroom apartments would be $2,898 per month!

    This is anything but affordable student housing! The studio apartments are 19% higher than the most expensive studio apartments in the UC Davis annual Apartment Survey, and almost twice as expensive as the average studio apartment in the survey data (see below).

  6. Ron Glick

    “I suspect the UCD Administration has been a much more potent force in blocking annexation than any City of Davis residents have been.”

    This is incorrect Matt. When this came up as West Village was coming on line it was Don Saylor, then on the City Council, who objected. Ironically his current Supervisor colleague  Gary Sandy, then representing the University as the community liaison, was willing to go along and work out the needed MOU issues about paying for services. One of the issues complicating annexation was whether West Village would be included in Davis’ SACOG mandate with Sue Greenwald favoring West Village being included thus reducing the over all amount of housing construction in Davis.

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