FAQs on Student Housing West

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Student Housing West is a housing project that will deliver 3,000 new beds to UC Santa Cruz (~2100 net new beds). The project includes graduate student housing and continuing undergraduate housing, which will be built on a site off of Heller Drive. The project also includes a new family student housing community and child care facility, which will be open to students and employees, on a site near the intersection of Hagar and Coolidge Drives.

Student Housing West is critical in addressing the demand for housing and helps to support student success. It uses a public-private partnership (P3) model, where the facilities will be financed using tax exempt bonds. The student experience will be seamless with that of current campus housing. The residence life program will be provided by the same campus team that supports existing housing on campus. The first beds at the Hagar site are scheduled to come online in fall 2019, with the entire project slated for completion in fall 2022.

The FAQ below addresses some of the questions that exist about the project among constituents. It is intended to provide clarity about some of the most critical elements of Student Housing West.

  1. What was the origin of the Student Housing West project?
  2. How has student input been incorporated in the Student Housing West project?
  3. Is it true that the developer will own the facilities?
  4. Is the developer financing the project?
  5. Won't the developer retain all the rental profits from the housing, and therefore don’t they have an incentive to escalate rental rates?
  6. What is to prevent the developer from increasing rental rates in an effort to increase their profit?
  7. How can you ensure quality in the buildings being constructed?
  8. Will the facilities be sustainable and support the campus’s aggressive sustainability goals?
  9. 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?
  10. Did the developers pick the Hagar site?
  11. Did you seek any feedback on the Hagar and Coolidge site and who made the decision to select this site?
  12. Are you building towers in the meadow?
  13. Are you developing in protected landscape?
  14. Why is current family student housing being replaced and was that a last minute decision?
  15. How have you communicated information about the project?
  16. How did you communicate about the change in siting to Hagar and Coolidge?

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.

(More information on this study is available online.)

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.

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.

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 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.

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 Platinum.

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.)

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 sitings 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. These options compromised the appropriate scale and adjacencies for different student populations. Therefore, 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 and Executive Vice Chancellor Marlene Tromp made the decision to move forward with siting family student housing and child care at the intersection of Hagar and Coolidge Drives. Before their decision was final, 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 and executive vice 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.

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.

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. It was envisioned that 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).

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.

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.