Some Davis residents have publicly questioned the planning commission’s May 27 unanimous rejection of the University Commons redevelopment proposal. After carefully evaluating this project for 18 months, I suggest that decision reflects the community’s expectation that the commission will uphold good land use practices and support neighborhood integrity.
Instead of simply modernizing University Mall, the owner (Brixmor) wants to convert it to a large student housing complex with retail, offices and other features to purportedly serve community needs. Brixmor’s March 2018 application included 174 housing units comprising 552 bedrooms within 208,606 square feet (sf). But 8 months later when the city issued an EIR “Notice of Preparation” (NOP), the apartments had increased by 90 units and almost doubled in area to 412,000 sf with 894 beds. There was no explanation for this increase.
The NOP said the 264 apartments would consist of 66 one-bedroom units, 104 two-bedrooms, 28 three-bedrooms, and 66 four-bedroom units (25%), focused on student bed rentals. But as I explained at the May hearing, a 2019 survey of Davis apartment complexes revealed that 76% of surveyed units have only 1 or 2 bedrooms. Units with 4 or more bedrooms comprise just 6% of surveyed apartments, compared to the 25% sought for University Commons. These factors clearly reveal Brixmor’s intent to exclusively cater to student renters because families are better served by conventional apartments.