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Davis, California

Sunday, May 26, 2024

UC Davis looks to expand campus under “Campus Tomorrow” plan


Planned campus expansion in result of increasing enrollment, growing research.

Over the course of the next one and a half years, UC Davis’ Campus Planning Committee will develop and solidify “Campus Tomorrow,” the university’s next Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) that will provide a framework for efficient land use, renovation and building projects from 2017 to 2027. The committee will host several public community events in order to update the community on the current planning stage, as well as to provide a space for the public to offer their input.

“This plan is not actually about specific buildings,” said Robert Segar, assistant vice chancellor and campus planner. “It’s really more of a big land-use development pattern; so where is housing going to go, where [are] academics going to go? But with this as a backdrop, we use specific planning for every building project. We project forward and we say we’re going to need this much housing, this much academic space, this much recreational space — everything.”

The first of these events took place during open houses at Nelson Gallery from Oct. 22 to Oct. 29. At the open houses, poster boards displayed the initial scenario plans, while committee members walked around answering questions and requesting attendees’ to provide their opinions on what they wanted the future campus to look like.

All the poster boards presented at the open house are available on the Campus Tomorrow website, where members of the UC Davis community can learn more about the development plans and submit questions via email. The campus planners strongly encourage students to take the website’s survey, submit comments on what is important to them and participate in the campus planning decisions.

“The Campus Tomorrow exhibit illustrates our initial planning concepts for the next LRDP here on campus,” said Campus Planner Lucas Griffith, in an email. “We designed the exhibit to demonstrate the complexity of issues when attempting to create a more sustainable future and to engage our community in that process. We included a wealth of information in the exhibit to provide more context for key planning issues and more clarity in the planning process.”

Out of the previous LRDPs that spanned from 2003 to 2015 came the Mondavi Center, the West Village Apartments and the Student Community Center, among other projects.

The next open house public event, “Develop Preliminary Planning Scenario,” is scheduled to take place in February 2016. The resulting campus plans will go through an environmental review and public comment period before finally being submitted to the UC Davis Regents for consideration in April 2017. At each stage of the process, the planning committee asks for the Davis community’s engagement and participation in making key-planning decisions.

“People getting involved is key to this,” Segal said. “[I]f you’re in a place where no one is involved, then nothing is going to happen.”

The main needs for a development plan for UC Davis are the university’s increasing student enrollment and growing research. According to Campus Tomorrow’s website, UC Davis has plans to increase student enrollment from the present 31,500 to 39,000 and faculty and staff from 13,000 to 14,500 by 2027 in order to “broaden international reach, boost regional economic development, and provide a stable financial foundation for UC Davis.” This in turn creates a need for more housing and classrooms to accommodate students, and more labs and offices for faculty to do their research.

The development of the future of the campus depends on three goals: supporting academic enterprise (which includes labs, classrooms and academic spaces), enriching community life (housing, student activity, etc.) and creating a sustainable future (energy, transportation, etc.). Each of the three goals is strongly interrelated, each with a domino effect on the others.

“Let’s say we don’t build much student housing and there isn’t much student housing in the city,” Segal said. “That means a lot of students are going to have to commute. So then there’s going to be all those commute miles, all those greenhouse gases. If we provide a lot of student housing, we make all that go away, […] but then we have to think about how to supply all that student housing with energy, water and all the resources it takes to host it. So there’s always these trade-offs. We try to put building a strong community of people first, so people want to be here. We try to make that scenario happen.”

Although current building constructions do have budgets, Griffith explained that since the LRDP is a land-use plan rather than a proposal for specific buildings, no concrete budget has been set for it yet.

“The people in our budget office really value numbers,” Griffith said, “But this is so far out that it’s really hard to associate a budget, so there is no budget. This is like a city’s general plan. It is basically saying, how many square feet are you going to anticipate?”

The overall map divides the campus into sections, each with prospective planning concepts. Examples of this include proposed student apartments on Russell Fields and additional classroom spaces on campus marked as the Civic Core. The development plans balance the three goals — academic enterprise, sustainability and community life — by utilizing what Segal calls compact growth. He defines compact growth as building in ways that keep the campus within a small area.

Segal explains that compact growth means replacing sites in the middle of campus like parking lots and short buildings with taller buildings to prevent a widespread campus and to keep people close together as programs and classrooms grow.

“[Compact growth means] basically a ten-minute walk of the library,” Segal said. “That helps two things. [It] helps create places where people can interact more successfully, and it also helps conserve resources and mitigate against greenhouse gas emissions. So compact growth is the message of this project.”

The implications of not having a campus development to accommodate the growing student population and research can already be felt presently.

“They are using the multi-purpose room in the ARC as a lecture hall right now because they don’t have enough lecture halls,” said Leslie Mancebo, a campus planner specializing in transportation services. “So even now we’re seeing some of the effects of this [population] growth happening, without there being a plan for new development.”

Segal hopes that the effects of the LRDP will fulfill his visions for the future UC Davis campus.

“If you were to see a long line of buildings in a row [or] a single tall, high-rise building, would you say that is a campus? Probably not,” said Segal. “A campus is where we assemble buildings around these public spaces where public life happens and student events happen and people can run into each other and you can hold events […] that allow people to have a different kind of experience. That’s what’s special about a campus.”


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