New private housing development will bring more CSUS students to neighborhood

A new off-campus apartment complex for California State University, Sacramento, students is slated for construction next year after the Sacramento City Council last week declined to overturn its approval despite protests from Tahoe Park residents.

Developer Campus Crest, a Charlotte, N.C., company that owns and manages more than 50 student housing projects nationwide, plans to build a 200-unit development on the east side of Redding Avenue, south of Fourth Avenue, by mid-to-late 2015. The structure will be privately owned and unaffiliated with the university, but will market largely to students.

The initial proposal, which was approved by the city’s Planning and Design Commission on Aug. 15, called for a 224-unit structure that would house 600 people on the 13-acre property. The approval was appealed by Isaac Gonzalez, president of the Tahoe Park Neighborhood Association, on Aug. 23. The council voted 7-1 to approve the plan last Tuesday – but not until it added a variety of conditions designed to lessen the project’s impact on the surrounding neighborhood.

“It wasn’t without controversy, the final plan,” said Councilman Kevin McCarty. “Change is always hard. But the area is zoned for higher density housing. I wanted to bridge that with the fact that it’s right in the middle of an existing neighborhood.”

The project is in line with the 65th Street/University Transit Village Plan passed in 2010, which aims to increase ridership at the 65th Street light-rail station and increase connections between the university and the east Sacramento neighborhood, said Senior City Planner Lindsey Alagozian.

Gonzalez argued that given the location of the Campus Crest complex, a mile from campus, most students will drive, bike, take shuttles or walk to class. “Only a small portion of this parcel is in that area, and they’re not using the light rail,” he said. “It’s taking advantage of the conditions of the transit plan, but it’s not staying in the intention of the transit plan.”

After two hours of debate last week, the City Council imposed a number of conditions intended to satisfy both the developer and opponents. For instance, the developer agreed to reduce the number of parking spots from 604 to 460 and double the frequency of Crest-operated campus shuttles in an effort to deter student vehicle use. The city also required the developer to reduce the number of units, each of which has two or three bedrooms, to 200 and required 2 acres of property to be developed into family-style town houses. Under the new agreement, a licensed security guard is required in the building every night, as opposed to just weeknights.

Mitigation fees will provide $635,000 for the improvement of Mae Fong Park and $1.5 million for walking and biking improvements in the area.

Tiffany Wilson, a member of the watchdog organization Responsible Development for Tahoe Park, which has kept an eye on Campus Crest for the past two years, said she is happy about the potential for pedestrian improvements, as traffic is a concern for the nearly 400 Tahoe Park residents who signed a petition against the project.

“The city keeps resting on the fact that cars aren’t going to be an issue because students will just walk and bike,” she said. “But there’s this freeway in between the development and the campus and there aren’t good facilities to do that.”

Tahoe Park residents said they are hesitant about another high-density housing unit after negative experiences with another student apartment complex, Jefferson Commons, which opened in the same area in 2004. David Temblador, the attorney who represented the developer at the City Council’s meeting, said the firm has made a point of taking neighborhood concerns into account.

“Campus Crest can do better, has done better,” he said at the meeting. “Their diligent efforts to address issues are reflected in your planning commission’s approval of this project, and I think that’s important.”

Temblador wasn’t available for comment; neither was Campus Crest.

Some residents said they worry that noise and partying by students will hurt the atmosphere in the surrounding Tahoe Park neighborhood. Some cited the fact that on its Facebook page, Campus Crest uses a giant red disposable cup wearing white gloves and a smile as a mascot for some of its properties.

“Campus Crest, because of its scale and design, undermines the positive things that I’ve seen grow in the neighborhood over the years,” said Tahoe Park resident JoAnn Anglin at the meeting. “I feel like this is going to degrade the quality of life for residents both now and in the future.”

The university remained neutral on the project, but sent a letter to the planning commission noting that it was working on plans for additional on-campus housing that could compete with the new complex.

In addition to the university affiliated off-campus housing complex Upper Eastside Lofts, the privately owned Jefferson Commons and the five existing on-campus residence halls, the university will soon release a master plan that will likely include more on-campus housing, according to Kim Nava, director of news services at CSUS.

U.S. News’ Most Campus Commuters rankings from 2012 report that 94 percent of CSUS students live off campus. Senior Yesenia Campos, who lives at her family’s home, said most students either stay home or live in the midtown area and refers to her university as a commuter school.

“If you’re going to live that close to campus, you’ll live on it,” she said.