What is CEQA and an Environmental Impact Report (EIR)?
The California Environmental Quality Act requires state and local government agencies to inform decision makers and the public about potential environmental impacts of proposed projects, and to reduce those environmental impacts to the extent feasible. If the project may cause adverse environmental impacts, a detailed study called an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is required. An EIR contains in-depth studies of potential impacts; measures to reduce or avoid those impacts; and analysis of alternatives to the project. The Student Housing West EIR analysis considers the impacts of the Student Housing West Project (as tiered from the 2005- 2020 Long Range Development Plan EIR), the impacts of the Rachel Carson/Porter Dining Hall Expansion (a related project but not yet proposed for approval by the Regents), and provided supplemental analysis for population/housing and water supply for the 2005- 2020 Long Range Development Plan EIR.
What process has the University followed for CEQA and the EIR?
The University has followed the requirements of the CEQA process starting with its publication of the Notice of Preparation in September 2017. Following publication, the University conducted a scoping period through October 2017. Due to changes in the project, the University issued a Revised Notice of Preparation in November 2017 and conducted a scoping period during that month. The draft EIR was originally issued in late March 2018 with the initial public comment period concluding in mid-May 2018. During this time, the University conducted two public hearings on the project. Based on the level of interest from the public, the University extended the public comment period through late June 2018. During this time, the University conducted two public information sessions as well as two additional public hearings. In response to the comments received, the University directed a variety of changes to the project as well as further analyzed additional alternatives suggested by the public. This resulted in the University issuing a Revised Draft EIR in mid-September 2018. During the public comment period, the University conducted two additional public hearings. The Revised Draft EIR public comment period is scheduled to close on November 1, 2018. Following this time, the University will review all comments and work to prepare the project’s final EIR and intends to present the project to the UC Regents at their January 2019 meeting.
What will happen to comments I previously submitted on the Draft EIR now that you have issued a Revised Draft EIR?
UC Santa Cruz issued a revised draft environmental impact report [here] for Student Housing West on September 17. The new Revised Draft EIR fully replaces the previously draft and incorporates changes in response to CEQA-related comments received on the previous draft EIR. In many cases, we summarized and combined similar comments together, and made changes and provided explanations related to these comments in their respective sections of the Revised Draft EIR.
Although part of the administrative record, comments on our previously issued draft EIR do not require a written response in the final EIR under the Guidelines for Implementation for CEQA. New comments must be submitted for the revised Draft EIR no later than November 1, 2018 at: University of California Santa Cruz, Attn: EIR Comment, 1156 High Street, Mailstop: PPDO, Santa Cruz, CA 95064. Comments may also be submitted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the close of the current period, we will respond to new CEQA-related comments received during the Revised Draft EIR public comment period.
Once the comment period closes, what are the next steps in the CEQA/EIR and project approval process?
Once the comment period closes, the University will begin review and develop responses for all comments while working to prepare the Final EIR. The final EIR will also include a mitigation monitoring and reporting program as well as findings under CEQA.
The Final EIR will be prepared by January. The University will seek UC Regent approval of the project design, including CEQA, at its January 16- 17 Meeting being held at the UCSF Mission Bay campus. At this meeting, the UC Regents will consider approval including certification of the EIR, adoption of a Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program, adoption of Findings including a Statement of Overriding Considerations, and approval of the project itself.
Is it true that the developer will own the facilities?
The developer will not own the facilities and does not serve as the landlord for the development. The facilities will be owned by a third-party non-profit, Collegiate Housing Foundation. At the end of the agreement, ownership of the buildings will revert from the non-profit back to the campus.
Is the developer financing the project?
The developer is not financing the project. The project is financed by using tax exempt bonds.
Won't the developer retain all the rental profits from the housing, and therefore don’t they have an incentive to escalate rental rates?
Capstone Development Partners receives a set fee to develop the project. This fee is equivalent to what developers would earn in more traditional delivery models, such as design-build (the same contractor is responsible for design and construction) or design-bid-build (one contractor designs the project and produces the bid documents and another contractor is responsible for the construction). Capstone Management Partners, will operate and maintain the facilities and will receive a fee to do so. Once the project opens, revenues remaining after all fixed costs flow back to the campus and not the developer or operator.
What is to prevent the developer from increasing rental rates in an effort to increase their profit?
As part of the model being used, the rental rates are set in conjunction with the campus and will not be higher than campus rates. Annual rental rates will be set between the campus and the non-profit owner, Collegiate Housing Foundation.
How is the partnership with Capstone Development Partners?
From the appointment of Capstone, we had an immediate challenge to rethink the location of the FSH development because of environmental challenges; Capstone took the challenge and worked hard with the campus to develop alternatives and a pathway forward.
We think the partnership is in a very strong place, we have had productive negotiations on contract terms and are confident that we can get to a deal with Capstone. They see this project in the same transformative frame that we do.
These are Capstone values for the project:
We will approach every decision focused on the student, the alignment of interests between parties, and the collective, as opposed to individual good. With this philosophy guiding us, we will collaborate with UCSC to achieve a project that:
● Improves the quality of life and student experience for each resident-undergraduate, graduate and family.
● Meets or exceeds UCSC stated affordability goals-long and short term.
● Is highly sensitive to and focused on the preservation of the unique geography, geology, climate and landscape of UCSC.
● Is designed and constructed to convey and enhance the unique qualities of UCSC and in a manner worthy of its gateway location and transformational scale.
● Is planned to integrate into the fabric of the existing campus while maintaining an identity as a unique community.
● Sets a new P3 standard for its approach to sustainability and resource management.
● Provides spaces and programs that embrace, embody, and enhance the UCSC culture.
● Supports the current and future strategic and administrative goals of UCSC.
What was the origin of the Student Housing West project?
The Student Housing West project originated from the West Campus Planning Study conducted in 2014–15. The planning committee, which consisted of faculty, staff and students, for this study was charged with examining housing west of Heller Drive to determine feasible projects that could add beds, address facility needs at Kresge College, and address the facility renewal needs of family student housing and child care. However, projects designed to add the number of beds needed by the campus under the existing 2005 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) and also address family student housing renewal were not financially feasible due to debt capacity limitations of the campus.
When UC President Janet Napolitano launched the new systemwide student housing initiative in 2016, a feasible path forward emerged. UC Santa Cruz was able to benefit from a public-private partnership model that would provide the number of beds needed while also providing a financially feasible model to accomplish the project. An additional housing project – Kresge College renewal and expansion – is also underway, though it will not be delivered using a public-private partnership model.
If the project was originally envisioned to be developed in the west, then why is part of the program now being sited at the intersection of Hagar and Coolidge?
At the outset of the project, the campus initially reviewed sites west of Heller Drive, examining different configurations and locations for the project. As a result of the current 2005 Long Range Development Plan and subsequent Comprehensive Settlement Agreement, the campus agreed that housing development in the area west of Porter College would be initiated before development of new bed spaces in the North Campus Area. Over the years the campus carried out its due diligence on environmental and ecological conditions on the potential sites west of Porter College. After the original project boundary was established, the need to sensitively manage species habitats resulted in a smaller developable footprint.
As a result, the campus had to examine different configurations and site locations on the western side of campus. In doing so, the campus needed to examine options for breaking up the development on other sites. Campus planners considered many factors in evaluating alternate options, including the feasibility of the options from a programmatic, cost, environmental, and schedule framework. Moving the family student housing units and the child care facility to the eastern portion of campus near the entry and close to employee housing emerged as the best solution. It ensures the scale of development is appropriate for students with families, addresses the environmental sensitivities at the Heller site, co-locates child care with family student housing, provides access to child care near the entrance of campus, and places child care close to employee housing to provide access for those employees who have children enrolled in the center. It also builds upon prior studies done by the campus that suggested locating child care near the intersection of Hagar and Coolidge Drives would be beneficial for access.
Did the developers pick the Hagar site?
During the request for proposals (RFP) selection process Capstone Development Partners proposed an option to site Family Student Housing and Child Care at the intersection of Hagar and Coolidge Drives in order to address the issues that could arise with a smaller site boundary for development in the west. While this site was suggested due to its designation as Campus Resource Land in the 2005 LRDP, the developer did not select the site. Site selection was made by the campus after exploring several alternate options.
Did you seek any feedback on the Hagar and Coolidge site and who made the decision to select this site?
After reviewing site alternatives identified by the campus planners including that suggested by the development team, Chancellor George Blumenthal made the decision to move forward with siting family student housing and child care at the intersection of Hagar and Coolidge Drives. Prior to this decision, presentations were made to the Administrative Leadership Team, Senate Leadership, the Academic Senate Committee of Planning and Budget, and the Committee on Campus Planning and Stewardship. Their feedback, as well as the feedback from those who had served on the developer evaluation team, was shared with the chancellor. In addition, feedback from current residents in Family Student Housing, who reviewed the programmatic impact of siting their units at the west site versus an alternative site were also shared with campus leadership.
Why is current family student housing being replaced and was that a last minute decision?
Replacement of family student housing was always part of the program for Student Housing West. Current facilities are past their useful age and the current site can accommodate a much higher density. Higher density development minimizes building footprints which leaves more land in its natural state.
These are a lot of new beds in a short amount of time. What evidence do you have that there is sufficient demand?
Brailsford and Dunleavy updated study. Demand study currently shows 3,650 additional bed demand.
Why is the density of FSH so low?
● Density is appropriate for family occupancy, with the majority of FSH residents students with children
● It is more dense than nearby faculty and staff for sale housing as is appropriate for containing rental costs across our syndicated system
● Provides direct line of sight supervision to outside areas for parents/children
● Nature of the site–meadow–needs to conform with the Physical Design Framework guidelines and the surrounding campus landscape
Why aren’t we building on more of each site?
● We are focused on building on areas we have already built on in the past on the western site in response to sensitive ecological issues identified in environmental planning of the project
● We want to use land responsibly creating higher densities where appropriate to each site while maintaining livable communities.
● We are working with the topography of the campus on each site, with the relatively low-lying meadow site with less dense development. For the western Heller site, we are draping the buildings across the topography, taking advantage of that for creating density.
● The western Heller site will create a welcoming gateway experience for the west side of campus
How has student input been incorporated in the Student Housing West project?
Students were included on the original 2014–15 Student Housing West study. In addition, when the project expanded and evolved after the P3 model was selected, the campus used student surveys and student panels to guide initial planning. Each development team vying to be selected to partner with the campus on the project used the survey results and the panels in developing their initial proposals. Students were also included in the developer review committee that conducted charrettes over the summer of 2017 and interviewed developers for Student Housing West. Since the developer, Capstone Development Partners, was selected in September 2017, the campus has utilized a variety of student forums and a student advisory committee to provide feedback as plans develop.
How have you communicated information about the project?
The campus has communicated information about the project through multiple open forums, a website, Tuesday Newsday, notices from Public Affairs, and social media.
How did you communicate about the change in siting to Hagar and Coolidge?
The siting adjustment was shared in late October 2017 at stakeholder sessions for Family Student Housing, graduate students, undergraduate students, and residents living in employee housing. It was also communicated in Tuesday Newsday, the weekly newsletter sent to faculty, staff, and students. It was also communicated through Public Affairs with the release of a revised notice of preparation for a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) scoping session announcement. In addition, the campus held open forums for the entire campus community where the change was mapped out in the presentation. The campus also held two Alumni Forums, which were accessible in person or online to accommodate alums who were out of the area. The mechanisms used to advertise forums and stakeholder sessions ranged from email, Public Affairs notices, social media, table tents in dining facilities, and announcements in the City on the Hill newspaper and the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Since October, campus representatives have also made presentations in the community outlining the siting and the evolution to two sites. The project was also the focus of a front-page story in the Santa Cruz Sentinel in December.
How can you ensure quality in the buildings being constructed?
The campus developed a set of performance specifications that the developer must abide by to ensure quality. In addition, the campus architect remains the building official for the construction and compliance with California Codes, and campus technical staff review the project at given milestones for compliance with technical requirements, performance specifications and campus policies.
Are you building towers in the meadow?
No, the facilities being developed at the intersection of Hagar and Coolidge are designed to support the programmatic needs of students with families and the child care needs of students and employees. No building is higher than two stories, and the buildings are being designed as four apartments in a grouping.
Even if the project is constructed well, what is to prevent it from not being maintained at an adequate level? If the buildings are not maintained well, then the campus will get back buildings that have no useful life left.
The campus has developed a set of key performance indicators that the operator must meet. If those performance goals are not met, then their fee is deducted. In addition, capital reserves are put aside every year to address building major maintenance.
Will the facilities be sustainable and support the campus’s aggressive sustainability goals?
The goal of the Student Housing West project is to deliver buildings that are LEED certified at one or two levels above that required by UC sustainability practices.
The facilities must comply with the UC Sustainable Practices Policy Section IIIA, which includes outperforming the California Building Code energy-efficiency standards by at least 20 percent or meeting aggressive whole-building energy performance targets, as well as achieving a minimum of LEED Silver certification.
(More information on the UC Sustainable Practices policy can be found online.)
Are you developing in protected landscape?
The proposed development is not being built on land designated as Protected Landscape in the 2005 Long Range Development Plan. The project is sited on land designated as Campus Resource Land (CRL). Campus Resource Land is a land-use designation assigned to lands that are not planned for development under the 2005 LRDP. Under the 2005 LRDP, these lands would be maintained in their natural state to serve as long-term reserve lands for future use but that, if development was desired by the campus, proposed projects would seek an LRDP amendment and conduct additional environmental reviews. Based on the decision to site the Family Student Housing portion of the project at this location, the campus is conducting additional environmental reviews and will seek an LRDP amendment to change the designation from CRL to Colleges Student Housing (CSH).