University Commons proposal heads to City Council

A rendering shows the proposed University Commons project superimposed on a photo of the neighborhood. Courtesy graphic

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University Commons proposal heads to City Council

Nearly two months after a unanimous Davis Planning Commission opposed the proposed redevelopment of University Mall, the mall’s owners will head to the City Council on Tuesday seeking a different outcome.

This go round, mall owner Brixmor has sweetened the pot with commitments that include adding affordable housing on-site and eliminating five-bedroom units geared toward students.

Those changes are intended to alleviate some of the primary concerns expressed by planning commissioners, as well as some members of the public, during the commission’s May 27 meeting.

At that meeting, the commission voted 7-0 to recommend that the City Council not certify the environmental impact report, amend the General Plan or take other steps towards approving the University Commons mixed-use project.

The proposal would entail demolishing all of the existing mall located on Russell between Anderson Road and Sycamore Lane — except for Trader Joe’s — and replacing it with a mixed-use development of up to 264 apartment units above 136,000 square feet of retail and office space.

Neighbors of the site have objected to a potentially seven-story building in their midst, as well as the increased traffic and congested parking they believe would ensue, while planning commissioners were particularly critical of the affordable housing plan — an in-lieu payment, which one commissioner called “a slap in the face” — and the focus on building more student-oriented housing off campus, which another commissioner referred to as “tone deaf.”

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Brixmor representatives will present modifications to the original plan that are “a positive response to the primary issues identified by the Planning Commission,” according to a letter to the council signed by Brixmor’s vice president of development, Andrew Gracey.

The modifications include:

* Eliminating five-bedroom units but keeping four-bedroom units;

* Allocating 5 percent of onsite beds to renters with 80 percent of the area median income; and

* Limiting the residential housing to four stories over retail.

As modified, the residential component consists of three to four residential levels containing 264 units with approximately 622 bedrooms and up to 894 beds in a mix of unit types, including studios and one-, two-, three- and four-bedrooms.

The commercial retail component consists of 150,000 square feet of total retail space, including 136,800 square feet of new redeveloped space and 13,200 square feet in the existing Trader Joe’s building, which will be retained.

Brixmor, which purchased University Mall in 2004, began the redevelopment process two years ago.

The existing mall, built in 1966, was outdated and in need of refurbishment, Brixmor representatives said at the time, and that was the original plan — to spruce up the city’s oldest mall.

Over the years, University Mall has been 凯发体育官方sporthome to a wide range of department stores like Gottschalk’s, grocery stores like Harvest Market and Safeway, and numerous specialty stores and restaurants, including the now closed Graduate sports bar. Trader Joe’s was added to the southwest corner of the property in 2010.

It was city representatives, Brixmor staff said, who urged mall owners to consider not just renovating the mall but thinking bigger by adding housing.

The proposal has moved through the city’s approval process since then, including with the preparation of the EIR and multiple city commission meetings. All of that could well culminate with a decision by the council on Tuesday.

In his letter to council members outlining the new modifications, Brixmor’s Gracey said, “the positive economic annual sales and property tax benefit, future potential job creation and inclusion of affordable housing component provides the city of Davis the unique opportunity to revitalize a property that does not meet the needs of today’s rapidly evolving retail environment into a positive model of urban re-investment.”

The council will consider the proposal during what is likely to be another lengthy Zoom meeting on Tuesday. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. with a ceremonial presentation celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The final item on the agenda is a discussion on how to select future mayors under the by-district election system.

Tuesday’s council meeting is the last before the August recess with the next meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 25.

The meeting is accessible several ways:

* Televised live on city of Davis Government Channel 16 (available to those who subscribe to cable television)

* Livestreamed online at

* Via Zoom at

Public comment may be provided remotely via email or voice mail.

Submit written public comments to [email protected] To ensure council members and staff have the opportunity to review information prior to the meeting, send emails by 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

Submit comments by voice mail prior to or during the meeting by calling the city’s dedicated phone line 530-757-5693. Staff will play comments during the appropriate agenda item. Speakers will be limited to no more than two minutes.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy. 



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