UCR North District Plan Unveiling!

UCR is working on a major campus project in the North District (between Blaine, Canyon Crest, Watkins, MLK).  The plan is provide student housing in the now defunct Canyon Crest Student Housing along with activity fields, retail, food, and other collective space.  An article from Inside UCR overviews the project and invites the community to a meeting to hear the three developer proposals.

I’d encourage you to go if you’re available though.  The meeting is: 

Tuesday, Oct. 10 in Highlander Union Building (HUB) 302, 11 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Doors will open at 10:30 a.m

There are some things in the project scope,  as University Neighbors, we should keep eye on.

Athletic Fields

The inclusion of a NCAA Div 1 soccer field with seating for 5000.  While chancellor Wilcox claimed to have given up the dream of an arena in the North District this looks like a good (sneaky) way to reserve space for an arena.  

A 5000 seat arena would have dramatic traffic impacts to our neighborhood.  As far as I”m aware, there are no venues even close in size on UCR campus, on this side of town, or even in Riverside as a whole.  We need to proactively manage and plan for the surges in traffic that accompany such a huge venue.  

As we’ve learned from the athletic fields along Watkins, UCR’s lighting consultants likely worked with Las Vegas developers. They don’t know how to keep the lighting low key.  Up at my house we endure stray light from the Watkins fields almost every evening and it’s much worse if you live along Watkins, Campus View (should we call it Light View?), and that general area.

Dark Skies
The city is working on a dark skies ordinance that could help with stray light, but let’s not hold our collective breath hoping that the ordinance is useful, functional, or enforceable.  Even if it were, the city is terrified of holding UCR to any reasonable conditions of development.  It’s up to us to preserve our night skies, hills and sanity.

On Campus Housing

UCR has ambitious plans for expanded on-campus housing.  My naturally skeptical side leaves me wondering where they’ll get the money.  Skepticism aside, UCR wants to put 6000 more beds on campus.  2250 of those beds are intended to be completed by 2020.  In the scope of a project like this, 2020 is practically tomorrow!

The impact on our neighborhood from those 2250 new beds may be dramatic and catastrophic.  We currently house some undefined number of students in our 2000 or so University homes.  It is a near certainty that more beds on campus will result in fewer students renting in our neighborhood.  Many University Neighbors would welcome that, but I remain concerned about the prospects of a sudden decrease in student rental demand on the University Neighborhood.

  • Absentee owner/landlords might become desperate leading to all kinds of bizarre arrangements to keep the cash flow for a property making ends meet.
  • Neighbors that are dependant on renting a room out to students might also be hurt.
  • Many original or long term owners here that might like to cash out in coming retirement years.  Like it or not, rentals provide a price support and more than a baseline value for properties in the neighborhood. A massive decrease in rental demand could be very painful to us because of house value losses.
  • Preserve certain large pieces of property around the neighborhood, making them even less viable for development of higher density apartments.
  • Lose neighborhood vitality and vibrance.  I know that when you are awakened at 2 am by a loud party you aren’t treasuring the vibrance that students bring to our neighborhood.  In spite of some bad actors, the students are positive and energetic presence.
  • Impact the apartment buildings around the neighborhood.  If occupancy rates drop too much expect desperate, unneighborly actions from the LLCs that control those buildings.  In fact, with this project coming, it wouldn’t surprise me to see these buildings start changing hands as current holding LLCs take profits and move on leaving new owners holding the bag in a declining rental market.

This is our time to work with UCR and Riverside to our voices are heard and that the North District Project actually benefits our little neighborhood.

Remember, it’s our neighborhood.


Lack of Funding puts Wilcox’s North District Arena on the Skids

UCR chancellor Kim Wilcox has finally come to Jesus.  He has given up the idea of a North District Arena.  The state doesn’t have enough money for essential educational services. The city of Riverside doesn’t have money to donate to UCR, and UCR alumni aren’t going to pony up $300 million to build a sports arena either.

From my view, living in the University Neighborhood, I say forget about fancy sports arenas until UCR gets their house in order.  They need teaching buildings, student housing, a realistic plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and an open campus that welcomes the city.

The traffic impact, with the existing road system, on our neighborhood from an 6 or 8000 seat arena would be catastrophic.  If arena access were along Blaine St. the section from the freeway to Rustin would need major attention.  Access from the Watkins side also presents significant challenges.  I would want to see a little out of the box thinking, perhaps a reversible lane system on Blaine or MLK to move traffic out and onto the 91/60/215 as quickly as possible.  Or use the Ghost Train as a shuttle.

It would be an interesting and challenging project.  For now we don’t have to worry about it!




UCR North District Arena (our neighborhood)

After a series of meetings with the City and Community Working Group with UCR officials on the North District project, I see that Chancellor Wilcox continues to believe in an arena in the north district area.

From my prospective living in the University Neighborhood, the north district comprises the married and graduate housing located at Blaine and Canyon Crest.  To my surprise I’ve learned that parcel is 250 acres!  UCR intends to develop it into some combination of dorms, activity areas, an arena, and restaurants.  It’s a little frightening to think that UCR may try to house 6000 students along with their cars on that parcel.

I would like to see commercial redevelopment along Blaine between Canyon Crest and Watkins but the usefulness of development on the UCR campus to our neighborhood is lost on me.  The campus, from our side, is a long, unfriendly fence.  Impermeable. We should expect more from a major research university.

What is UCR trying to keep from escaping the campus?

PE interview with UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox..