Why the City Cannot Compel University Mall to Build Housing

The following was a communication from Jenny Tan, Director of Community Engagement for the City explaining the purview of the City.

To help provide some context around the proposal and the City’s role, here is some information you may find helpful.

  • A property owner has the right to build or improve their property, within the regulations of the local zoning code, which in this instance allows retail-only or mixed-use. City staff have been in multiple conversations with the property owner at University Mall regarding building a residential mixed-use project and to ascertain what, if any, City support would assist in bringing the housing portion of the project to fruition. The property owner at University Mall has consistently told the City that they will not build mixed-use and they will pursue retail-only. The City does not have the authority to force the property owner at University Mall to build mixed-use apartments or housing if they are proposing development that is within the current zoning requirements and standards. The zoning of the property allows retail-only use of the property with an option to include residential use, but does not mandate residential. There is no legal basis for the City to impose such a mandate.
  • The current proposal by the property owner is for design review of a retail-only project, and will go to the Planning Commission on March 8, 2023. Final approval of the project design rests with the Planning Commission, unless the Planning Commission decision is appealed to the City Council. It should be noted that both the Planning Commission and the City Council only have legal authority to act on the design of the proposed retail-only project, and do not have the authority to deny the proposal due to lack of a housing component.

Housing is a priority for the City and we have been working on multiple fronts to support the health and well-being of our residents by increasing housing with projects such as Nishi apartments, Olive Drive mixed-use, Ryder on Olive Drive apartments, 3820 Chiles Road apartments, Plaza 2555 apartments, Identity Davis apartments, Sterling apartments, Cannery apartments, and others. You can see the variety of development projects for commercial, mixed-use and residential at: https://www.cityofdavis.org/developmentprojects.  I hope this information helps you to better understand the responsibilities and limitations of the City and local property owners.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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