By David M. Greenwald
While it has taken a few years, a project that figures to serve the University Research Park and provide Davis with critically needed workforce housing is going to the Planning Commission next week. It was has taken nearly two years since they first introduced the concept to get to the Planning Commission.
The project is located in a vacant lot along Research Park Drive to the south of I-80. The proposal will consist of four buildings—each just under 30,000 square feet with four floors of residential apartment units over one floor of office/open plan tech space.
The project proposed a total of 160 dwelling units, including 32 studio units, 96 one-bedroom units, and 32 two-bedroom units.
The project is planned to provide a total of 138,431 square feet of residential space and 26,912 square feet of office/open plan tech space. The proposed building’s height is 60 feet.
The four buildings will surround a common open space area that would allow for landscaping and public gathering spaces for residents, customers and employees.
A 214-space parking lot surrounding the buildings would be fully landscaped by 76 trees.
The project is exempt from CEQA as a transit priority project. The project must meet locational criteria, such as being within a quarter-mile of an existing or proposed transit corridor. The project must be predominantly residential and above density thresholds. In this case, the proposed project qualifies for two statutory exemptions under CEQA.
Under an Infill Streamlining provision, “a project site must either be in an urban area that has been previously developed or the project site must have qualifying urban development, defined as any one, or a combination of, residential, commercial, public institutional, transit or transportation passenger facility, or retail use on at least 75 percent of the site perimeter. The project site is located within an urbanized area of the City and meets all applicable criteria.”
Under a Transit Priority Project, the project must “include a mix of residential and nonresidential uses, have a minimum net density of 20 dwelling units per acre, area located within 0.5 mile from a major transit stop or high-quality transit corridor, and are consistent with the land use designations, density, building intensity, and applicable policies of a Sustainable Community Strategy.1
“The proposed project is located on an infill site within a Center/Corridor Community type category as designated in the SACOG MTP/SCS. On October 11, 2018, SACOG determined that the proposed land use, density, and building intensity are consistent with the assumptions of the MTP/SCS for such communities.”
Here a letter from SACOG (Sacramento Area Council of Governments) “acknowledges that the entire project site is located within one-half mile of a high-quality transit corridor, and that the proposed project would develop 26,912 square feet of tech space and 160 apartments units in mixed use buildings.”
On Affordable Housing, the city made the determination that the project “qualifies for the Vertical Mixed Use Exemption pursuant to Section 18.05.080 of the City’s Municipal Code that was in effect for this project at the time of the application submittal in March 2018.”
“Although the City’s Affordable Housing Ordinance was amended in January 2019 with current requirements which included revisions to the exemptions, the proposed project was submitted prior to the amendments,” the city staff reasons, but they will require under the Sustainable Communities Project guidelines that “the provision of affordable housing be included as part of the project, regardless of local waivers. Therefore, the applicant has proposed that the payment of in-lieu fees to satisfy the requirement for affordable housing.”
The total amount of in-lieu fees proposed by the project is $600,000 which represents in-lieu fees for eight units (or 5%) at $75,000 per unit.
The Social Services Commission has already discussed this and “the Commission favored the inclusion of at least some on-site affordable units as opposed to in-lieu fees or increasing the in-lieu fee amount.” On a 6-1 vote they recommended 8 low-income onsite units in addition to $600,000 in in-lieu fees.
Dave Nystrom, the project manager, told the Vanguard back in October 2018 “one of the challenges (businesses in the park) face is hiring people because it’s so difficult to find housing in Davis. People I think have an expectation that if they’re going to work in Davis, they’re going to live in Dixon or Woodland or West Sacramento because the housing market is just so tight.”
This residential project is aimed at addressing some of those needs.
Jim Gray, who represents Fulcrum’s commercial interests, said, “We believe there’s an opportunity to enhance the park, serve those tenants, and continue to grow the commercial activities there as well.”
Mr. Nystrom added, “The goal of this is to have something integrated, so that people can stay as much as possible on site rather than getting in their cars and going other places throughout the community.”
The project, as indicated, features 32 units of studios, 96 units of one-bedroom apartments and 32 units of two-bedroom apartments.
“This is not student housing, it’s worker housing,” Nystrom stated. “They’re very different animals. We feel like it’s workers in our business park that need the housing. We’re not targeting students at all in this project.”
But Jim Gray added, “We’re not going to discriminate.” The project will be open to anyone who wishes to live there. “But our primary focus is on providing housing for people who work in Davis. Rental housing.”
He explained they are going to achieve workforce housing “by building a great project, that’s well-designed with a good amenity mix. Priced at a place where people see it as a good choice for them. We’re going to be responsive to what we perceive as a real market need.”
Gray explained, “We’re trying through design, through deliberate marketing, through management practices to attract professionals and workers. We don’t think that you need to impose all kinds of government restrictions and standards.”
He added, “We’re going to let the market respond. I know that that’s a little different in Davis, but it’s been tried and true throughout the region as well as in the community in the past. We believe that because of the location, and the effort we’re going to make, that we’re going to have a good mix of residents… our targeted market is workforce.
“We’re not doing dormitories. We’re not doing four bedroom units,” he said.
Dave Nystrom added, “We’re not doing bed leases. We’re not creating roommate programs.”
Jim Gray said, “The limited supply (of housing) is known to all of us and there’s not one solution for the community.”
He added, “Our job is responding to the marketplace and the demand for commercial space in an attractive building.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting