Local News

Council approves student-oriented housing development

This article has been updated from its original version.

City Council approved a six-story student-oriented housing development (called HUB) with ground floor commercial space, at the northeast corner of Chapman and Commonwealth Avenues, near CSUF, next to the 57 freeway.

Project site from a city staff report.

The site currently has four two-story office buildings and a parking lot.

Council had previously voted on November 2 to send the project back to the Planning Commission for review, citing concerns over inadequate parking.

The originally-proposed project consisted of 420 units (1,251 beds, which are all individually leased) and a parking structure with 376 parking spaces. This was approximately 600 fewer parking spaces than Fullerton normally requires for a project of this size. Fullerton’s standard method for reducing parking requirements is to require the inclusion of 5 or 10% of the units as affordable at the Low or Very Low income level.

The justification for the lower parking number was the idea that some students would not use cars, and that HUB projects in dozens of other cities had been allowed to build fewer parking spaces.  The project uses an innovative technique called parking “unbundling” or parking “cash-out,” that structures leases based on housing only, with no accompanying parking space. If a tenant wants a parking space, it’s at an additional cost, so it’s thought to serve as a more market-based method of reducing car use.  One benefit is that if a tenant doesn’t require a parking space, it doesn’t sit unused, but is “shared” with someone else.

Artist rendering of proposed development from a city staff report.

The developer then proposed a revised alternative project consisting of 377 units (1,108 beds; 143 fewer) and 630 parking spaces (1.58 per unit or .54 per bed), plus additional off-site parking negotiated with CSUF to bring the ratio to .7 per bed. This, along with other small concessions and improvements, such as increased green landscaping, was supported by both the Planning Commission and City Council, although, in the end, the Council approved the project without the CSUF contract available in the agenda packet.

The project’s Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND), a lower-level environmental document, identified impacts related to air quality  (which will be mitigated by the use of low VOC paint and off-road construction equipment meeting the highest EPA standards for emission reductions) and geology/soils (which will be mitigated by complying with recommendations from a geotechnical study to address the unusual subsidence issues).

During public comment, Katie Savant, director of Local Community Relations with CSUF, said that the University supports the project.

Members of local trade unions, Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters and Laborers’ International Union of North America, spoke in favor of the project.

Fullerton resident Susan Petrella said that if the main entrance to the housing development is on Chapman, it will add to the already-existing congestion there from the freeway. She also cited potential health impacts from having housing next to a freeway.

Jane Rands suggested bringing the project before the Active Transportation Committee for their input.

Jane Reifer said she would like to see affordable housing units included in the project, a missing traffic analysis, and filtration to mitigate cancer-causing air pollution from the nearby freeway.

She noted that despite a substantial (9.2%) increase in trip generation due to parking credit reductions, only a new environmental (CEQA) analysis was performed, but not an “Effects on Transportation” or “Level of Service (LOS)” analysis. While cities no longer use LOS analyses for environmental impacts or mitigations, LOS is still used to determine “fair share” developer funding so cities aren’t on the hook for the total costs of development-induced traffic improvements that exceed the standard fees. She felt the missing analysis should have been done since the original one showed travel delays at the intersection of State College and Chapman in the PM peak at only .4 seconds shy of the “Effect on Transportation” threshold and a review of the new numbers could have indicated an overlooked “Effect”.

Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Whitaker said he would like to see a longer-term contract with CSUF for parking.

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4 replies »

  1. Yay! Let’s pour TONS of money into a dead intersection, DEHYDRATED neighborhood for “commuter university” student housing. Sounds absolutely brilliant. Omg Hahahahahaha….those running Fullerton never cease to amaze me. Anyone old enough to remember what happened in the city” Bell” ? Wow, just wow. Who’s palm got greased this time?

  2. Theater. Did anybody bother to delve into the ratio of “students” living in the student-oriented monster across the street?

    • The truth is that most CSUF can’t afford an apartment of any kind. Since that’s not going to change it’s pretty obvious that non-students will be the majority of tenants. Did they say they would limit tenancy to just students? Bet not. Bet the closest they came to that was to call it student-oriented, a term so vague as to let in anybody. Of course one again the Observer fails to ask the tough questions.

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