Tuesday, February 07, 2006

UCD Clears Hurdle to Build Complex to House 4,350

UCD Clears Hurdle to Build Complex to House 4,350
Kathy Robertson
Staff Writer

A legal fight over whether UC Davis can build faculty and student housing on farmland west of its main campus is over, at least for now.

A local group, West Davis Neighbors, had challenged the big project, contending that University of California Davis officials had not adequately reviewed a report on its environmental effects. But the clock on legal action in that case quietly ran out on Jan. 17.

West Davis Neighbors will not file a further appeal.

UC Davis could begin preparing the site of the 224-acre housing development late this year and start building houses in 2007, said project manager Karl Mohr. The project, west of Highway 113 and south of Russell Boulevard, could ultimately house about 4,350 residents when the final phase is completed by 2016.

West Davis Neighbors filed a lawsuit in 2003, after the UC Regents approved a long-range development plan that includes the west Davis project. They argued that the project was too big and poorly planned and would destroy prime farmland.

An Alameda County Superior Court judge tossed the lawsuit in mid-2004, ruling that the university had adequately studied alternatives to the project and proposed ways to mitigate its effects on the environment. The neighbors appealed, but the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco upheld the ruling in early December.

A shift in strategy
The group had until Jan. 17 to appeal the case to the California Supreme Court and didn't.

"The steering committee decided it wasn't worthwhile to pursue further court action on the environmental aspect," said Mary Alice Coleman, a spokeswoman for West Davis Neighbors. "We are now considering other options."

UC Davis is moving ahead with Phase I of the project, Mohr said this week.

University officials hope to wrap up negotiations with their development partners on the project in the next few months and begin work on infrastructure by late 2006, he said. The site is mostly a green field and it will take at least a year of earth-moving and putting in streets and various pipes and wiring before walls can go up, he said.

The first phase of the West Village project -- slated to cost about $225 million -- includes about 290 rental and for-sale housing units for faculty and staff, apartments for about 1,200 students, a community college center, commercial development and parks.

At build-out, the project would have beds for 3,000 students and include 500 units for faculty and staff.

"Phase I is slightly more than half the units, and build-out will depend on market conditions over time," Mohr said. The 500 units for faculty and staff presumes building 50 units a year for 10 years.

"We now have a list of more than 1,000 people who have expressed interest in the project," he said.

The university selected West Village Community Partnership LLC as its development partner last March. The partnership is a joint venture of Urban Villages in Denver and Carmel Partners Inc. of San Francisco. It's led by Will Fleissig, a former planning director for the city of Boulder, Colo.

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