Is the push for more on-campus housing a land use necessity, or is it an embodiment of an anti-student sentiment?
While I strongly believe that the university has been lagging in its responsibility to build housing for students, I am also concerned with some of the arguments coming from the slower growth side of the room in this regard.
Put simply, there are many reasons why the university should put more housing on campus, and I think both the city and residents have articulated these points well. Chief among them is more students on campus reduces our carbon footprint and alleviates traffic issues.
While the university probably has greater ability to add more housing than the city does – there is a caveat there. The development of West Village actually produced many of the same land use concerns in Davis that city developments do. There was negotiation and there was lawsuit. The project was delayed.
We also have seen delays in the redevelopment of Solano and Orchard Parks.
So for those who believe that building on campus is a panacea – I think you are mistaken. And as we know from the past, even when the university has committed in writing to increasing on-campus housing percentages, they have not followed through.
As I have stated many times, I support the 100/50 proposal. I believe that we will be quite fortunate if the university follows through on the 90/40 commitment that they have made.
Regardless, the 0.2 percent vacancy rate virtually necessitates that the city build housing capacity in the city itself. And I still believe it would be the city’s best interest to figure out how much housing it needs in the next ten years and look at ways to accommodate that.
While I am supportive of the university housing half of the students on campus, I believe that is probably an upper threshold. I don’t know that we can go much further than 50 percent – particularly in a town like Davis where students are so integrated into our neighborhoods.
When I toured Poly Canyon Village last year – I think a type of development that the UC Davis campus should entertain – it was notable that that housing is largely for sophomores.
Are you going to get a lot of students to stay on campus past their sophomore year? Probably not. Even with student apartments, you still have students wanting more independence – living on their own, able to have and consume alcohol in their residences (by the third year most are turning 21 at some point).
That is why it concerns me when I hear blanket comments that suggest that the best place for student housing is on campus. I believe that the campus must provide more student housing, but at the same time I am supportive of students living in our community and believe that to be an asset.
A portion of the Sterling staff report caught my attention as I did the write up on next week’s council meeting.
There was an issue raised about “the potential conflict of multi-family housing or student housing in close proximity to senior housing. Concerns included density issues as well as lifestyle differences.”
Staff counters with a city-wide map that shows senior housing and apartments are often in close proximity, with staff concluding that “the situation is not uncommon and has not resulted in any obvious conflict between residential uses.”
This gets to a larger issue I have had regarding those who maintain that the most suitable location for housing is on campus.
The Vanguard fully supports the notion of 100/50 rather than 90/40, as noted above, and is critical that the university has in the past failed to live up to commitments to increase the number of students residing on campus. But this is a university town and, while students bring with them noise and nuisance at times, they also bring innovation and vitality.
I don’t see students as a nuisance or the mix of students with families and seniors something we should avoid – rather I see it as something we need to embrace. Are there challenges? Sure. But for the most part, students are a strength in our community and I’m not supportive of sequestering them to campus.
That again leads me to wonder how much of this push for students living on campus is due to the seeming convenience of it for land use purposes, and how much of it is related to an underlying anti-student sentiment?
These are complex issues and, again, I think we are better off having some guidance on the amount of student housing we must add in this community.
—David M. Greenwald reporting