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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Motion to hold an appeal hearing for the University Mall redevelopment plan fails at city council meeting

The council voted against hearing the appeal in a 2-1 vote 


By MADELEINE YOUNG city@theaggie.org


On April 4, the Davis city council held its first meeting of the month. During the meeting, the council discussed an appeal filed by Councilmember Bapu Vaitla in regard to the new development plan for the University Mall in March. 

Though the redevelopment motion was approved in 2020, a new design was not approved until March 8, 2023. This new design includes a new 101,000-square-foot commercial shopping center called the “Davis Collection” which would require the demolition of the existing 96,000-square-foot enclosed mall, tree removal and redevelopment of the site, according to the project narrative.

Newly inaugurated Councilmember Bapu Vaitla invoked his right as a councilmember to appeal the final design of the project at the April 4 meeting. He said that the project was not consistent with the vision of the city’s “General Plan” because it lacked new housing of housing, among other reasons. 

“A single-story commercial mall doesn’t meet Davis’s principles of compact design, environmental innovation and the prioritization of pedestrians and cyclists,” Vaitla said. “This parcel is critical to the city’s long-term growth plans. It is in many ways, [it is] the ideal parcel for mixed-use commercial-residential development, given its location on a key corridor as well as its proximity to the university, regardless of the outcome of this process. I believe that Davis would greatly benefit from city council hearing the arguments for and against the current designs, consistent with our community’s vision for both affordable housing and economic development.” 

Bill Brown of Brixmor Property Group also spoke during public comments, expressing concern that drawing out the approval process would take additional time and money. 

“Our $45 million investment will modernize an underutilized project and underutilized material assets,” Brown said. “Our project will strengthen pedestrian connectivity and create community gathering areas. Our approvals are conditioned upon enhancing offsite transit, transit stops and construct dedicated bike lanes on Russell and upon completion, will contribute a [considerable] number to the sales tax revenue of the city. Over the last 30 days, three banks have failed. The Fed has continued to raise the prime lending rate. We have secured and continued to negotiate with tenants’ leases for the site. And our investment committee has approved the $45 million investment. My question of concern is what will happen if this gets agendized in 45 days?”

Dave McGlocklin, a longtime resident of Davis, also urged the council to reject the appeal.

“The University Mall has been declining and has been vacant for many years,” McGlocklin said. “Our community needs more retail to shop in, and our city desperately needs the tax dollars. We need to be grateful to those developers that are willing to invest in expensive renovations and rebuilding after all of these delays. The city of Davis needs to let the developers move forward with building it now. Davis has been getting a reputation of being anti-business and this appeal would only reinforce that reputation.”

Councilmember Gloria Partida, who cast the vote that ultimately rejected Vaitla’s motion to appeal, weighed in on the repercussions of continuing to delay beginning to work on the development project.

“I don’t see that hearing this appeal is going to move us further,” Partida said. “It’s not going to give us housing. When I hear that this appeal is appealing the project that is before us, if that’s upheld, then no project goes forward. It’s not like we’re going to get a different project. It means that no project will happen.”

The retail-only redevelopment of the University Mall by Brixmor Property Group will continue as planned.


Written By: Madeleine Young city@theaggie.org