Letter: Appeal the University Mall Redevelopment Project

By Darryl Rutherford

Dear Councilmembers Partida, Chapman, and Arnold,

I am writing to express my strong opposition to the Brixmor proposal to rebuild University Mall as commercial-only. I believe that Councilmember Vaitla’s appeal request, which cites relevant findings, warrants further discussion on this issue. During the March 8th Planning Commission meeting, it became apparent that Brixmor leaders failed to seek input from local and regional leaders who could have helped to develop a proposal that included housing, garnered support from the larger community, and was financially feasible.

If our community is truly committed to promoting environmental sustainability, we must prioritize well-planned mixed-use developments like this one. Despite the vocal opposition from some individuals who are against any development in our community, I firmly believe that there is much more support in our community for a mixed-use development. We cannot allow the voices of a few individuals to dictate the future of our community and create an exclusionary environment where only the wealthy and privileged can afford to live.

I implore you to support the appeal and reopen the conversation on the University Mall project. Let’s work together to create a vibrant and inclusive community that benefits all of its residents.

Darryl Rutherford is a member of the Davis Planning Commission

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6 Comments

  1. Tim Keller

    I love this appeal.  This project is SUCH a failure of planning, that I am encouraged that someone like Darryl thinks that there MIGHT be some path to reconsideration.

    I dont think that anyone involved would have listened to the handful of people complaining about height if we knew THIS would be the result of a height reduction, and I think that we need to be changing our thinking about height overall anyway.

    We cant be a community that wants to limit peripheral growth AND a community that doesn’t want dense infill at the same time.   Something has to give.   I enthusisatically support reconsideration of this proposal as well and encourage the city to pack as much height / housing in at this site as possible.

    While we are at it… lets up-zone the apartment complex behind it as well!

    1. Tim Keller

      I just read the link that Don posted… and I agree with him…   The planning comission seems to be pretty fickle in this case… I’d be interested to hear an explanation.

  2. Darryl Rutherford

    Tim and Don – it’s been a while since we had the first conversation at the PC re University Mall but my main issues were (1) not having an updated General Plan that would’ve more than likely identified a new use/zoning for that property (mixed-use/high density residential) and (2) the residential component was rent-by-the bed versus traditional multi-family housing.

    (1) If the City would’ve used it’s minimal precious resources to do planning right and created a general plan with land use element using form based codes to implement it, then UMall redevelopment would’ve looked a lot different when it first came to us. Instead, they spent way too much time, energy, and money on updating a downtown plan neglecting the land use/zoning of every other community in town. This was a huge frustration of another commissioner and myself but supported by many others on the commission.

    (2) I can’t recall the specifics of the residential component but what we on the commission were tired of seeing were Rent-by-the-Bed projects…no more of these were going to get approved by the commission seated at that time (and I will continue to oppose any project in town that comes to us with that model). There is no reason to accommodate one specific population in town when our housing needs are so much greater than that. How do you house a 5 person household in a rent by the bed model? How many families would actually want to live there? Do you really think an individual who is just recovering from experiencing homelessness would be able to have their special needs met to be able to function there or even feel welcomed there by the population that these kind of developments attract?

    So those are just two reasons why there was so much opposition from the PC on that project. However, we all stood up and were willing to work with Brixmor to re-design a project that would be feasible, meet the needs of the community, and not be just an old outdated economic model strip mall. Brixmor was lazy – they didn’t do their local research, didn’t attempt to work with local/regional nonprofit affordable housing developers to design an affordable housing component, didn’t bring the whole community together to design a project that would’ve met the needs of the many vs just a few, etc.

    1. Keith Y Echols

      If the City would’ve used it’s minimal precious resources to do planning right and created a general plan with land use element using form based codes to implement it,

      Well yeah, it would be nice if the city could get all of it’s ducks in a row and get all of these nice urban plans finished.  But as is usual with this kind of thing it doesn’t work out nice and neatly with the project that is “up to bat”.  Should the city update it’s General Plan and finish the downtown specific plan?  Absolutely.  But in the meantime….what’s it been a decade or so since they’ve been working on these things?   The city can not keep denying projects because it doesn’t meet the super-duper special (and undefined) plan that some have envisioned.  It freezes up progress and growth.  It also continues to give Davis a reputation of being a no fly zone for development and economic growth.  You want more types, variations to proposed projects?  Then you need to have multiple developers who are willing to develop a project in Davis.  Right now there aren’t a lot of options.

       but what we on the commission were tired of seeing were Rent-by-the-Bed projects…no more of these were going to get approved by the commission seated at that time (and I will continue to oppose any project in town that comes to us with that model). There is no reason to accommodate one specific population in town when our housing needs are so much greater than that. 

      So keep in mind when you read my reply that I’ve been vilified on this blog in the past for my hyperbolic statements about students in Davis.  I’ve taken hardlines about how the city of Davis does not owe UCD anything in terms of the planning of housing…..EXCEPT….IT WHEN PROVIDING HOUSING FOR UCD MAKES SENSE FOR THE CITY OF DAVIS.  I have stated before that I am in favor of creating a “Student Quarter” in Davis….not because I feel some irrational need to support UCD.  No, I believe that a student quarter of mixed use retail can better capture sales tax revenue for the city.  Ideally it could be destination retail which would include student oriented entertainment (music, bars…etc…) with the idea of drawing other young adults to socialize with UCD students and spend their beer money here;  but at this point we’ll take what we can get (coffee shops..etc..).  So, I would be adamantly opposed to any type of student housing oriented project in the city….EXCEPT…for very close to or in this case right across the street to UCD as long as it had a retail component that could better capture sales tax generated by students.

       

    2. Tim Keller

      Darryl, I appreciate the response.

      Yet another victim of the city’s lack of a general plan I suppose… I agree that if we HAD a good vision for the community at large, then the zoning would have been changed to multi-family, mixed use up front and the proposal would have originally come in in a different way.   Seems like what happened instead is the worst scenario for everyone.

      That said, Its still not clear to me why rent-by-the-bed is such a bad thing.   Certainly its not being built for families as you say, but we are existing in a city where a LOT of single family homes are being occupied by student renters…  Isn’t an increase in student-oriented housing just something that might free up availability of single family units?    For a site like this, students as a rental target makes a lot of sense.

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