University Commons project approved by Davis City council by a 3-2 vote

University Commons project approved by Davis City council by a 3-2 vote

Photo Credits: AGGIE FILE

Despite concern over building height, increased traffic patterns, city council moves forward with project

On Tuesday Aug. 18, the Davis City Council held a meeting to discuss the University Commons Project, which would lead to the redevelopment of the site where the University Mall is currently located. This would “entail reconfiguration and replacement of the existing site and buildings to create a new mixed-use development,” according to the web page for this project. 

The redevelopment of University Mall by Brixmor Property Group is intended “to enhance existing retail uses and add residential units to create a vibrant mixed-use development,” according to the project’s description

During the meeting, changes to the number of beds and units were shown.

“We do point out that it’s not unusual for projects to change as they go through our review process,” said Eric Lee, planner in the community development and sustainable department. 

In the March 2018 submission, there were originally meant to be four residential stories with 912 beds, 552 bedrooms and 174 units, according to a presentation shown during the meeting. In October 2018, this was revised to 894 beds, 622 bedrooms and 264 units. In a more recent revision on Oct. 19, however, although the number of units, beds and bedrooms stayed the same, changes were made to the percentage of one, two, three and four bedroom units. 

Of the total number of units, a minimum of 55% are intended to be one, two or three bedroom units, as of October 2019. In addition, a maximum of 45% of the total units can be four bedroom. 

During the meeting, it was expressed that the bicycle facilities at the Sycamore intersection and La Rue and Anderson would be affected, which is discussed in the Environmental Sustainability Report. Potential traffic jams were also discussed.

The project’s height is one of the concerns that was brought up during the meeting. 

“I believe we could cut the height from 80 feet to 72, take 10% of height right off of it, and still have the same cross-section, still meet the one level of retail, still meet the four levels of residential,” said Bill Brown, executive vice president of development for Brixmor Property Group. 

Some of the discussion that revolved around this was the number of floors, however, rather than the height of the project. 

“We’re also focusing a lot on pure height, which I think is part of but not the entirety of this size and scope of concern that’s been expressed by a number of folks in our community,” Councilmember Will Arnold said. “I think the size and volume of people, traffic—everything—is also what we’re talking about here. So when we say ‘scaling it back’—at least when I say ‘scaling it back’—I don’t purely mean just shaving off feet from the sky.”

“I mean there’s obviously some maturation that’ll happen as we go through the design, but that program still fits within the EIR box of what’s allowed, and certainly all of the impacts that go along with that […],” Brown said. 

Arnold further explained his perspective on the project. 

“I still have these major concerns about affordability, or lack thereof, as well as with regard to the availability for all renters to take advantage of this project,” Arnold said. 

Arnold stated that he did not want there to be any four bedroom units, according to the Davis Enterprise.

“People have said that every project serves a purpose, and they think that this particular project is serving the purpose of opening up housing in other parts of our community and moving the students to where they are less impactful on our community as a whole,” Mayor Gloria Partida said. “I think that it’d be great if we could get every single thing out of every single project, but every project serves a purpose […].”

A project that was farther away from campus would have less four bedroom units and be more affordable, as more families would want to be there, according to Mayor Partida. 

Ultimately, the project was approved by a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Partida, former Mayor Brett Lee, Councilmember Dan Carson voting for the project and Councilmember Will Arnold and Vice Mayor Lucas Frerichs voting against it, according to the Davis Enterprise. 

Written by: Shraddha Jhingan — city@theaggie.org