A seven-story, 71-unit student housing project near UC Davis was approved Tuesday by the City Council, passing unanimously and without much apparent fuss or controversy.
The new apartment building, Davis Live on Oxford Circle, is planned for Russell Boulevard, north of the UC Davis main campus, at a site formerly occupied by a frat house. The apartments will each have three to five bedrooms, with the complex housing a total of 440 students.
The complex will also offer indoor bike parking, a fitness center, a club room and other amenities, according to a staff report.
While new student housing projects can often stir opposition from the public or the city, neither seemed to have much of a problem with Davis Live this time around, due mainly to the prime location of the planned site.
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“I think it represents a model infill project for Davis,” Councilman Lucas Frerichs said. “It’s a prime site for students or anybody who lives there to both walk or bike to neighborhood shopping as well as the campus itself.”
Frerichs also said there are not many single-family homes in the vicinity. He noted that many students showed up at Tuesday’s meeting to give vocal support for the Davis Live project, and air concerns about their housing situations. Many were grad students, Frerichs said.
California’s housing crisis has hit Davis hard, Frerichs said.
“There’s ostensibly almost a 0 percent vacancy rate in Davis, so at any one time there are fewer than 30 apartments available in the entire city,” he said, which “shows an imbalance in the market” that projects like Davis Live aim to address.
Fellow council members and Mayor Brett Lee agreed with these sentiments, approving the project 5-0.
Previously, in May, the Davis Planning Commission rejected the Davis Live project by a 6-1 vote, citing concerns including traffic impact, parking plans and the density of students, the Davis Vanguard reported at the time.
But the Planning Commission supported the project in principle, and this time around, it appears the hurdles have been sufficiently cleared from the city’s perspective.
The complex even has support from Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.
A potential obstacle for its passage, the council ruled that the housing complex is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, a broad law that allows state government agencies to regulate public and private projects on the basis of their potential environmental impact.
The just-approved Davis housing project has been ruled exempt from CEQA on the grounds of SB 375, a bill authored by then-state Sen. Steinberg back in 2008.
SB 375, aka the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, aims to reduce emissions and allows for CEQA exemptions for projects that align with the state’s green transit goals.
Steinberg lauded Davis Live as environmentally friendly in a recent letter to Davis City Council.
“The Davis Live Project will provide critically needed housing across the street from the university and within walking distance of retail amenities and downtown Davis,” Steinberg wrote. “... Projects like Davis Live are essential to assisting the state in reaching its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.”
Opposition is not nonexistent, though. Sacramento-based law firm Soluri Meserve has introduced lawsuits that have delayed the construction of two other Davis student-centered apartment projects, as David Greenwald noted in a recent column in the Davis Vanguard, and the firm could potentially file another suit that could delay Davis Live.
Davis Live is one of a few student-facing housing projects getting the green light in recent weeks, including Nishi and Lincoln40, the subject of Soluri Meserve’s litigation.
According to Frerichs, the city has a three-pronged approach to address Davis’ housing situation: First, protect existing housing stock; second, protect renters’ rights; and third, ensure there’s a sufficient supply of housing.
Frerichs also said UC Davis must work with the city to alleviate the local effects of the housing crisis on students, and that building more on-campus options will be necessary as the student population grows.
“We have been in conversation with UC Davis about the need ... We’re hopeful that the university will do the same.”
In March, the Regents Committee approved an “ambitious” design and replacement for the Emerson residence hall. The Emerson Replacement Project’s goal is to add more than 5,000 beds over six years.