UC Davis announced that it will re-engage with its plan to build housing units for faculty and staff in West Village, a planned zero-net-energy community that sits on university property. The project is designed to help recruit and retain employees faced with the high cost of housing in the Davis area while meeting ambitious energy saving and sustainability goals, Acting Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter said.
“There is a great need for housing for our work force that is within walking or biking distance of campus,” Hexter said. “It’s an ongoing recruitment challenge, especially for junior faculty, that we can solve right here on our land.”
The project will make homes available at prices below the general market. The university, which reacquired the development rights in late 2015, expects to sell the single-family homes at about 80 percent of the cost of comparable Davis homes. The phased, $80 million venture will be developed as a university capital project.
“These homes are intended for people who want to live closer to campus, but are currently priced out of the Davis market,” said Mark Rutheiser, associate director of UC Davis Real Estate Services and manager of the West Village project.
Realtor.com’s 2015 list of “America’s Most and Least Expensive College Towns” put Davis at No. 8 on the expensive end, based on the area’s $579,000 median home price, just behind other college towns like Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Cambridge, Massachusetts. UC Davis conducts a housing survey annually, and for 2015 the survey calculated a 0.2 percent apartment rental vacancy rate in Davis — evidence of why housing availability continues to be a significant concern for university officials.
In addition to single-family houses, later phases of the West Village project may include rental homes for faculty and staff who are transitioning to the Davis area.
60 acres revert to university’s control
Last fall, the university terminated its master ground lease with West Village Community Partnership LLC, putting about 60 acres back under the university’s control. The original site plan has been reimagined to modify the number of single-family homes in order to provide additional capacity for student housing.
Under its existing Long-Range Development Plan, or LRDP, the university has the authority to build up to 475 homes. The first 50 are due to go on sale in 2018. Siegel & Strain Architects, based in Emeryville, has been selected to design the single-family homes. The firm is now working with the university, as well as faculty and staff representatives, to develop initial design concepts.
To inform the design process, the university is asking faculty and staff to answer a survey addressing such topics as household composition, home design and energy efficiency, and transportation and commute patterns.
The only other housing specifically designed for faculty and staff is Aggie Village, off First Street next to downtown Davis. Today, about 200 people are on the waiting list for Aggie Village, where only about one residence turns over, on average, every one to two years.
“We believe there is strong demand for housing in Davis that will allow us to fully build-out the faculty and staff housing project at West Village,” Rutheiser said.
LRDP update calls for increased housing capacity
Concurrent with the development of faculty and staff housing, UC Davis is drawing up a new LRDP that will guide campus development through 2027-28 as the institution seeks to accommodate its growth. If approved by the UC Board of Regents, it will increase housing capacity at West Village. The project as proposed is part of a broader plan to accommodate 90 percent of enrollment growth on campus over the next decade. The university plans to present the proposed plan to the regents in 2017.
“This new iteration of housing at West Village is all part of the university’s goal to keep people connected to one another, the university and the Davis community,” said Bob Segar, assistant vice chancellor for Campus Planning and Community Resources.
Planning for West Village originally began as a way to provide more-affordable home ownership opportunities for faculty and staff and additional housing for students. At the groundbreaking in 2009, then-Chancellor Larry N. Vanderhoef said, “My motivation was to keep UC Davis a place where faculty, staff and students can continue to live locally and benefit from everything our campus has to offer.”
The community will continue to pursue aggressive sustainability goals — with the intent to design for zero-net energy by incorporating deep energy efficiency measures and renewable resources to meet the community’s annual energy demand.
The original project, conceived as part of the 2003 Long-Range Development Plan, included not only the 475 single-family homes, but capacity for 3,000 students, approximately 42,000 square feet of commercial space and a community college center with about 60,000 square feet of space.
Through a public-private partnership with West Village Community Partnership LLC, the student housing and commercial space has already been completed and was initially occupied in 2011. The Los Rios Community College District has completed its first phase of construction on the Sacramento City College Davis Center — making UC Davis the first UC campus to host a community college on its property. The second phase of construction is already underway to expand capacity for community college students.
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