Though the future of the UC Davis Domes cooperative housing remains uncertain after its closure last week, the Solar Community Housing Association (SCHA) has begun negotiations to lease the property and reopen the co-ops.
At the end of January, UC Davis Student Housing announced they would no longer be offering new leases for Domes residents on the grounds of the buildings’ structural instability.
The on-campus co-op housing, located in an area known as Baggins End, is on Orchard Park Drive and is owned by Student Housing. Established in 1972, there are currently 14 vacated domes, which housed 28 residents.
SCHA, which owns three co-op properties in Davis, including the J Street and Sunwise co-ops, is working with the university to establish a five-year ground lease for the Domes property, according to the housing group’s Community Director Ben Pearl.
If the contract with the university goes through, SCHA plans to initially renovate at least three domes, so that students can move in as soon as possible.
Pearl is hoping the agreement is signed within the next several weeks. The current anticipated lease completion date is Sept. 15, which would be in time to offer leases for Fall quarter 2011.
“We have three co-op properties in Davis already and we’re interested in maintaining and expanding opportunities for co-op communities,” Pearl said. “The university has definitely done a diligent job in this process and we’re happy they value unique co-op learning and living opportunities on campus.”
Veronica Pardo, who lived at the Domes, is a graduate student in community development and student liaison with Student Housing. In addition, she sat on the Sustainable Living/Learning Task Force, which submitted recommendations for the future of the site, including renovations and replacements of the Domes.
She said she felt the Domes’ closure was a quiet one because former residents believed it would be temporary. She added that 17 of the 28 residents graduated in June, so there were not too many students displaced by the closure.
Pardo is also a part of the group Friends of Baggins End, which is dedicated to saving the Domes. She said the ultimate goal of her group is to eventually replace the Domes with newer eco-efficient buildings and leave one renovated as a welcome center.
“If SCHA becomes the management, it will be interesting to see the changes to the Domes,” Pardo said. “The relationship with Student Housing has broken down over the years. Student Housing is not really designed to deal with smaller residencies such as the Domes.”
UCD Student Housing Associate Director Ramona Hernandez said Student Housing is also working on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), so that Friends of Baggins End can have access to common areas during the interim period, until new leases can be offered. Access would allow for the group to make sure that chickens are fed, trees are watered and gardens are maintained. Student Housing intends to sign the MOU sometime this week if university officials, such as Vice Chancellor Fred Wood, approve of the plan.
“The goal was to have the MOU ready for signing last Friday, but there are still questions of if allowing Friends of Baggins End to use the space is fair and equal,” Hernandez said. “We just want to make sure it doesn’t create a problem for other groups and that could be interested in the area. We are still committed to working out a MOU, it’s just taking longer than expected.”
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.