Commentary: City Has More Than One Crisis

It remains to be seen if the new version of Nishi proves to be less of a flashpoint issue than the original one.  However, it would be helpful if people understood that the city has more than one “crisis” it is facing simultaneously.

A recent letter illustrates that the public may not recognize that, while the city faces a crisis in terms of finding revenue to fund basic city services, it also faces a massive shortfall in housing.

The letter notes, “The city is overdue on infrastructure repairs and is facing looming employee compensation bills. We probably will be voting on several tax measures in the spring to help pay for both.”

It continues: “Some say a business park would help bring the needed money to the city. Originally, Nishi was supposed to be used for that purpose.

“But now, Nishi, the largest infill area we have in a town with limited space, is to go for student housing only, meaning a loss of potential revenue for the city — when the university has ample space of its own for student housing and when the site has poor air quality and living there risks negative health impacts,” the letter says.

Finally the writer asks, “This makes sense how?”

The tricky issue is that the city does face massive amounts of infrastructure repairs and looming employee compensation bills.  We will likely have several tax measures in the spring to help pay
for these.  These points are accurate.

I also believe that a business park would bring in needed money to the city.  Originally Nishi would have provided about 300,000 square feet of innovation space.

But here is where I start differing with the author.  First of all, the original proposal contained the innovation space and I don’t believe the author supported Nishi at that time.  I’m sure they had a number of reasons and some of them likely had to do with air quality and other concerns, but the original proposal did not pass.

As I have stated previously, I believe that as a result of the failure of Nishi, we actually have had infill innovation space created.  Sierra Energy had partnered with Nishi last year but Rob White made it clear that if Nishi went down, Sierra was ready to develop the R&D space elsewhere – and they have moved forward on that.

The other new development has been the purchase of Interland by Mark Friedman of Fulcrum Property, who has taken that underutilized space in the University Research Park, and the plan there will be to redevelop and densify the single-story facilities which have vast amounts of underutilized space.

Finally, MRIC (Mace Ranch Innovation Center) is looking at a potential November 2018 date for going on the ballot with a revised proposal after their EIR was certified.  While Nishi was going to provide 300,000 square feet of R&D space, MRIC would provide over 2 million.

In short, while Nishi circa 2016 would have added some space to the Davis ecosystem, the combination of Area 52, the University Research Park and MRIC will bring far more.

In the meantime, it is not as though we only have one crisis and I think this is the worst problem with the letter.  It completely ignores the 0.2 percent vacancy rate and the fact that Nishi would be able to bridge the gap between what the community needs in student housing and what the university is willing to build.

So here is the math – yet again.  The university is willing to build around 6200 beds over the next ten years.  By our calculation, getting to 50 percent on-campus housing would take us to 10,000 new beds.  That leaves about a 3800-bed gap between what we need and what was promised.

Between the already-passed Sterling and the soon-to-be-voted-on Lincoln40, that could be around 1500 beds.

Nishi is proposing building 2600 beds, which would then take us to about the 3800 mark.

Hey, I get it.  Some people want UC Davis to build all 10,000 beds on campus.  The city has requested UC Davis got to 100/50.  The Yolo County Board of Supervisors has voted likewise.  So has ASUCD.

But at this point, I don’t see it happening.  The response from some is we can convince them otherwise.  Keep trying.  Before Nishi goes on the ballot the formal EIR will be released which will show how many the university is planning to accommodate.

However, I believe that the community has done what it can do at this point to ask the university to do more.  The city really doesn’t have any more leverage and it is hard to know exactly who the university decision-maker is, but I suspect the decision-maker is probably not local.

In any case, Nishi clearly fills a pressing need.  The voters will eventually make the determination as to whether to approve the project – and they may well reject it again.  However, given the numbers and the needs, I think the developers are in fact addressing a critical need and it is not clear to me at this point that revenue outstrips housing – in fact, I would rate them as priorities 1 and 1a of co-equal importance.

Could we do more on the Nishi property?  Yes, I still hold out a faint bit of hope we could do the USC Village-type proposal which does both housing and retail.  I suspect the letter writer would not like that proposal either, and I also believe that at some point you are letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

At this point the good is filling a community need – and student housing is a critical need.  Now the question is whether the voters will agree.  Stay tuned.

—David M. Greenwald reporting



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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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86 thoughts on “Commentary: City Has More Than One Crisis”

  1. John D

    David,

    Whether it’s this land use conflict decision, or our challenge addressing the homeless/mental health problem – until the community is willing to address WHY we are lacking in resources and WHAT are our options to energize our economic future – it all remains so much handwriting.

    Cutting services and raising taxes are simply bandaids for the real issues facing the community.

    You simply don’t go from 10 decades of a growth oriented/prosperitty-based economy and attitude – to a no-growth/no remaining land/no-talking-about the likely consequences of thar new policy the attitude – in the span of 15 years – without tangible and predictable consequences.  That nobody seems to want to acknowledge or discuss.

    1. Howard P

      It hasn’t been ten decades… it is cyclic, like a pendulum… late 70’s mid-80’s… a bust cycle… residential SF units were tea-spooned out… Arden-Mayfair as a commercial site was rejected, in favor of more than doubling Central Park… then there were indeed the boom years… cyclic.

      1. Tia Will

        I think that Howard has this right. I do not think that we will see a healthy pattern of sustainable growth until we overcome the idea that boom/bust cycles are inevitable. We obviously will not solve this problem in Davis as our entire economy encompasses this pattern. I do not have the vaguest idea how to solve this problem, but I do know that we will not have an impact on it until we stop thinking of it as inevitable and start thinking of it as a human made problem, not a law of nature, and how we can ameliorate it.

      2. John D

        Howard & Tia,

        Feel free to do the math:

        1960         8,910

        1970      23,488

        1980     36,640

        1990     46,209

        2000     60,308

        If these rates of local population growth didn’t help to increase hiring/promotions and financially sustain your respective employers, that would be surprising.

  2. Don Shor

    To cite the toxicity of the site for residential use, despite extensive mitigation and the short-term nature of the housing, and then advocate for a business park there is rather inconsistent reasoning.

  3. Ron

    From article:  “The tricky issue is that the city does face massive amounts of infrastructure repairs and looming employee compensation bills.  We will likely have several tax measures in the spring to help pay for these.”

    And ironically, apartment complexes don’t pay their fair share of taxes or fees, thereby shifting these costs onto single family homeowners.  Nishi is no exception.

    One example of this can be seen in the structure of the taxes that will be voted on this coming Spring, as David noted. (ENTIRE apartment complexes will pay the same amount as a single family dwelling.)

    From article:  “As I have stated previously, I believe that as a result of the failure of Nishi, we actually have had infill innovation space created.”

    David is apparently referring to University Research Park, which will be more than one story.  (Not sure if the ground floor is going to include housing.)  In any case, multi-floor commercial space is not a “replacement” for property that is zoned commercial, but is subsequently changed to residential.  Not all commercial development is viable, in a multi-floor facility.  (Especially if it includes housing on the first floor.)

    From article:  “Finally, MRIC (Mace Ranch Innovation Center) is looking at a potential November 2018 date for going on the ballot with a revised proposal after their EIR was certified.”

    This is exactly what I predicted.  The loss of commercial space at Nishi will help “justify” MRIC, in the minds of some.  Look for MRIC to include housing as well. (I believe it will face quite a battle, though.)

     

    1. Ron

      Actually, “megadorm” proposals such as Sterling, Lincoln 40, Nishi, and Plaza 2555 are even worse than traditional apartment complexes, for the city.  (In terms of unavoidable and/or unreimbursed impacts to the city, resulting from their multi-bedroom, double-occupancy designs.)

        1. Ron

          A megadorm (multi-bedroom, each with its own lease and bathroom, double-occupied) has to be over 1,000 beds?

          I suspect that many on-campus dormitories across the country are much smaller than that.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “I suspect that many on-campus dormitories across the country are much smaller than that”

            But they wouldn’t be “mega” then, would they?

          2. Don Shor

            A megadorm (multi-bedroom, each with its own lease and bathroom, double-occupied)

            “Megadorm” is actually a misrepresentation of these housing developments. They are apartment complexes. They don’t have meal plans, they aren’t provided by the university, anybody who wishes to can rent there. They are very high density apartment complexes.
            If we don’t want these larger units with these high densities, and the university is not going to provide for 100% of new enrollment, we will need more lower-density apartment complexes.

    2. Howard P

      Why do you believe non-res pays their ‘full share’?  I am aware of how those were done, and “discounts” given (in the past, perhaps currently) to non-res projects (case by case)… would be interested to know why you believe MF don’t pay ‘full share’, but non-res does.

      Honest question.

      1. Ron

        Howard:  You are asking about a different topic, regarding the difference between residential and non-residential development.

        You are also attributing a statement to me which I didn’t make. (Not looking for a fight with you, but this makes me wonder if you really intended to ask an “honest question”, as you stated.)

      2. John D

        Howard,

        Most residents of Davis live in a residential property – whether their employer is located in Davis, Yolo County (UCD), Sacramento (UCD), or elsewhere.   Of those who are employed and living in Davis, a great many – particularly of the higher earners – do spend their working as hours in some other tax jurisdiction, often 8-10 hours a day, 5 days a week.

        As for the math, consider that those employers who are located in Davis (and are not a public agency or a not-for-profit operator) are subject to “commercial property tax” for the privelege, help pay for their parcel-based share of public services, and annually pay something called personal property tax on all the photocopy machines, imaging devices, trucks and other equipment they own.   These local employers also pay a local sales tax every time they purchase office supplies, a new computer, imaging device, new truck – you get the picture.   On top of that, for those 8-10 a day that employees are present, these very employees are often contributing additional, personal sales tax for the latte and lunches they consume, for the gasoline they purchase (in town in many cases), and sundry other items they may pick up at Target or the shoe store.  And, then, of course there are those pop-up events like having drinks with fellow workers after work is out.  Bottom line, all of these transaction are as the result of these employers being “locally situated”.

        The math works in complete reverse if the employer is located in Sacramento, or Vacaville, Woodland, West Sac or elsewhere outside the city.   In those instances, our local residents (who sleep in Davis) are spending their workdays in some other tax district where their employer is contributing to the revenues of some other tax district and all that sales tax is being paid to some other tax district.

        Why does this all make a difference?   Well, at the end of the year, you might want to add up all those additional taxes that are generated by local employers and their employees – to the benefit of the local community – and then divide that total by the number of local residents living in the local city.   All of those incremental, additional tax revenues can then be view in context of their contributions to the “per capita” revenues generated by the city.

        And, that my friend, represents the primary difference between the tax revenue effects of having proximate, local employers – not to mention the greenhouse gases saved and reduced VMT  if they are of any interest in your equation.

         

         

         

         

    3. David Greenwald Post author

      I have a lot of problems with comments you have made here…

      First, “apartment complexes don’t pay their fair share of taxes or fees” – you are stating an opinion as fact. I don’t think that’s been established. I know people have strong opinions on it, but it hasn’t even been established the structure of the spring taxes yet. They may be structured quite a bit differently from the school parcel taxes. Which would negate your point, “entire apartment complexes will pay pay the same amount…” At this point, you would be only be safe stating “may” rather than “will.” NONE OF THIS HAS BEEN DETERMINED (caps for emphasis not screaming).

      Second, “David is apparently referring to University Research Park, which will be more than one story.” Actually I directly reference URP. “Not sure if the ground floor is going to include housing” It won’t. “In any case, multi-floor commercial space is not a “replacement” for property that is zoned commercial, but is subsequently changed to residential.” Incorrect. Added space is added space. “Not all commercial development is viable, in a multi-floor facility.” Irrelevant point. Subterfuge. Misdirection. And you once again reference housing which has never been contemplated on URP and will not be.

      Third, “The loss of commercial space at Nishi will help “justify” MRIC, in the minds of some.” Whatever. That’s just nonsensical statement. Not even remotely accurate. NOT EVEN REMOTELY. (Shouting now). MRIC is a 2 million square foot site. Nishi was 300K. They were separately planned and conceived of. My only point is if you are worried about the 300K which should be made up by Area 52 and URP, you shouldn’t be.

      1. Ron

        First, “apartment complexes don’t pay their fair share of taxes or fees” – you are stating an opinion as fact. I don’t think that’s been established.

        I recall that you previously confirmed that apartment complexes would pay the same amount for proposed parcel taxes as single-family dwellings.  If that hasn’t been settled, then I will start referring to this as “may”, as you suggest.

        Regardless, it HAS been established that apartment complexes don’t pay a fair share of fees or taxes.  It’s even worse for multi-bedroom, double-occupied megadorms.  Again, YOUR OWN ANALYSIS showed this, regarding property taxes for Sterling.  And, it appeared that your analysis UNDERESTIMATED costs associated with Sterling (e.g., medical/retirement benefits for employees who provide services to residents).  This was all discussed in a recent Vanguard article, and you did not dispute it. Even Matt pointed out some serious problems in your analysis.

        David:  “They were separately planned and conceived of.”

        That is factually incorrect.  In fact, even the financial analysis was performed together, for Nishi and MRIC.  Nishi is essentially adjacent to UCD, and could facilitate commercial activities (in a low-impact, low-traffic manner) between UCD and Nishi.

        Nishi could also be a good “test case”, to determine what the actual demand is, for commercial development.

        David:  “Added space is added space.”

        What a foolish statement.  When commercial property is rezoned for residential purposes, it is lost for that purpose, pure and simple.  Multi-floor commercial development is more costly, and is not viable for many types of commercial activities.

         

         

        1. David Greenwald

          “I recall that YOU (shouting) previously confirmed that apartment complexes would pay the same amount as single-family dwellings. ”

          I did not confirm that.  I was unaware that current city parcel taxes worked differently from school parcel taxes and mistook Brett’s comment about not wanting to do something unusual…

        2. David Greenwald

          “Regardless, it HAS been established that apartment complexes don’t pay a fair share of fees or taxes.  It’s even worse for multi-bedroom, double-occupied megadorms.  Again, YOUR OWN ANALYSIS showed this, regarding property taxes for Sterling.”

          It has not been confirmed.  There are opinions however, my analysis showed nothing of the sort.

        3. Ron

          Your own analysis (from an article a few days ago) showed this, around the 15th year.  I can find it, if needed.  That conversation also included comments which showed that you underestimated the costs.

          Have you really gone so far off the deep end that you won’t even acknowledge basic facts (including those contained in your OWN ARTICLES, from a few days ago)?

          Are you just trying to waste my time, hoping that I’ll give up pointing out these constant discrepancies?

        4. Ron

          Well, I guess we have to “re-establish” the earlier conversation:

          http://www.davisvanguard.org/2017/10/sunday-commentary-housing-developments-net-fiscal-losers-city/#comment-369820

          It’s extremely difficult to believe that you “forgot” about this article, as well as the subsequent comments. (Including those from Matt.)

          Again, even if total cost increases are held to 4.11% (which is questionable), this is more than DOUBLE the amount of property taxes collected.

           

        5. David Greenwald

          What my analysis showed is that if you believe that costs increase at 4.1% annually and you believe that the city actually adds staff based on an 800 person apartment complex, then revenues are passed by costs in year 15.  It does not confirm what you are saying which is something completely different.

        6. Ron

          David:  Again, I’d like to see a breakdown regarding what the estimated 4.11% (which actually varies by year) includes.  For example, if it doesn’t include pension and medical cost increases, then it’s likely underestimated (meaning that apartment complexes such as Sterling are a “money-loser” even sooner than expected).

          And of course, this doesn’t even address the inequitable structure of impact fees, which favor multi-bedroom, double-occupied units.

          And again, whether or not a staff person is added has no impact on how service costs should be allocated. Matt also touched upon this.

          You’re really doing a disservice to yourself (and your readers), by repeatedly posting false information.

  4. Ron

    Don:  “To cite the toxicity of the site for residential use, despite extensive mitigation and the short-term nature of the housing, and then advocate for a business park there is rather inconsistent reasoning.”

    I believe that Dr. Cahill had fewer concerns about commercial development.  Perhaps you should address your “perceived inconsistency”, with him.

    1. Don Shor

      Rather than call Dr. Cahill inconsistent, I will simply say that he has not fully explained the quantitative differences between the sites he has considered acceptable and those he hasn’t. People without training, such as the letter author, who make the assertion are being inconsistent. Mitigated housing lived in for a small number of years is too toxic, but it’s ok for someone to work there for perhaps many years? Obviously there is no rational basis for that range of risk tolerances.

  5. Ron

    David:  “There does need to be discussion about the alternatives and the consequences.”

    A rare point of agreement.  (Probably not regarding the same topics, though.)

  6. Roberta Millstein

    It remains to be seen if the new version of Nishi proves to be less of a flashpoint issue than the original one.  However, it would be helpful if people understood that the city has more than one “crisis” it is facing simultaneously.
    A recent letter illustrates that the public may not recognize that, while the city faces a crisis in terms of finding revenue to fund basic city services, it also faces a massive shortfall in housing.

    On the contrary, the letter explicitly mentions and recognizes the need for student housing.  The question at hand is how best to fulfill that need.  The letter states that housing on campus would be better than housing with poor air quality.

    The tricky issue is that the city does face massive amounts of infrastructure repairs and looming employee compensation bills.  We will likely have several tax measures in the spring to help pay for these.  These points are accurate.

    Indeed.  You yourself have been hammering on these the extreme seriousness of these points for some time, but you seem a bit selective about when they are important and when they are not.

    I also believe that a business park would bring in needed money to the city.  Originally Nishi would have provided about 300,000 square feet of innovation space.

    Indeed.

    But here is where I start differing with the author.  First of all, the original proposal contained the innovation space and I don’t believe the author supported Nishi at that time.  I’m sure they had a number of reasons and some of them likely had to do with air quality and other concerns, but the original proposal did not pass.

    If only there were some way to determine what the author’s reasons were!  Did they have to do with air quality?  Did they have to do with housing and air quality in particular?  It’s a mystery!

    As I have stated previously, I believe that as a result of the failure of Nishi, we actually have had infill innovation space created.  Sierra Energy had partnered with Nishi last year but Rob White made it clear that if Nishi went down, Sierra was ready to develop the R&D space elsewhere – and they have moved forward on that.
    The other new development has been the purchase of Interland by Mark Friedman of Fulcrum Property, who has taken that underutilized space in the University Research Park, and the plan there will be to redevelop and densify the single-story facilities which have vast amounts of underutilized space.
    Finally, MRIC (Mace Ranch Innovation Center) is looking at a potential November 2018 date for going on the ballot with a revised proposal after their EIR was certified.  While Nishi was going to provide 300,000 square feet of R&D space, MRIC would provide over 2 million.

    So, the question here is about best use.  If we have had this other innovation space already built, and if Nishi were being used for commercial purposes, and if students were being housed on campus (healthier, better for them overall), then maybe we wouldn’t need to use prime farmland and open space for a large, speculative boondoggle.

    In the meantime, it is not as though we only have one crisis and I think this is the worst problem with the letter.  It completely ignores the 0.2 percent vacancy rate and the fact that Nishi would be able to bridge the gap between what the community needs in student housing and what the university is willing to build.

    As noted already, the letter does not ignore the vacancy rate.  The author of the letter thinks that the vacancy rate would be better addressed with housing on campus.

    Hey, I get it.  Some people want UC Davis to build all 10,000 beds on campus.  The city has requested UC Davis got to 100/50.  The Yolo County Board of Supervisors has voted likewise.  So has ASUCD.
    But at this point, I don’t see it happening.  The response from some is we can convince them otherwise.  Keep trying.  Before Nishi goes on the ballot the formal EIR will be released which will show how many the university is planning to accommodate.
    However, I believe that the community has done what it can do at this point to ask the university to do more.  The city really doesn’t have any more leverage and it is hard to know exactly who the university decision-maker is, but I suspect the decision-maker is probably not local.

    And a “no” vote on Nishi will send a clear message to the university that they are going to have to take responsibility for their own unilateral decision to bring thousands more students to campus.  They are going to have to act in the students’ best interests and build on campus.

    Could we do more on the Nishi property?  Yes, I still hold out a faint bit of hope we could do the USC Village-type proposal which does both housing and retail.  I suspect the letter writer would not like that proposal either, and I also believe that at some point you are letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    Living quarters with poor air quality, where one must keep their windows closed all the time, not exercise all the time — except, oops, you don’t even know those things because you don’t know about the poor air quality at the site — that’s not “the good” in any reasonable sense of the term.

    1. Don Shor

      And a “no” vote on Nishi will send a clear message to the university that they are going to have to take responsibility for their own unilateral decision to bring thousands more students to campus.

      No, actually, it’s just a way of shrugging and walking away from the problem. The university has told us what they are willing to do.

    2. Don Shor

      Living quarters with poor air quality, where one must keep their windows closed all the time, not exercise all the time — except, oops, you don’t even know those things because you don’t know about the poor air quality at the site — that’s not “the good” in any reasonable sense of the term.

      Then why would it be ok for people to work there?

      1. Roberta Millstein

        As I noted to you above, I am not “advocating” for a business park.  What I am saying is that at least I can understand the reasoning for a business park more readily — for one, the big push by David and others for business parks as drivers of needed money for the City.

        But two, I think the way that people live and the way that they work is very different.  I am sure that pretty much all of us open our windows at night to let in the cool air and keep our windows open for the many days that are temperate.  It would be quite energy inefficient to have the windows closed all of the time.  And what is the plan with respect to the windows?  Will there be windows that don’t open?  Or, as I suspect, will residents simply not know about the poor air quality and keep their windows open like the rest of us?  On the other hand, it is more common than not to have windows that open in one’s workplace.  No one would feel that loss or even see it as surprising.

        I also think that the number of hours that residents spend at home, weekdays and weekends, could turn out to be quite high.  They are leaving open space that is an encouragement to be outside — normally a good thing but not a good thing in this context.  And I don’t buy the claim that people won’t live here very long.  As has been noted by others, even you, this kind of housing can be attractive to single people as well.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          “What I am saying is that at least I can understand the reasoning for a business park more readily — for one, the big push by David and others for business parks as drivers of needed money for the City.”

          And the point I’m really making is that the need for money for the city is only one of the problems that the city faces. The other is housing. And I understand you believe that UC Davis should put more housing on campus. The reality is that while they have agreed to 6200, that’s not enough and so we can either wait for UC Davis to build that housing or we can do some of it ourselves. I get it – that is the battle line this time around. But to me I guess I think you’re making the wrong argument here. It has nothing to do with an innovation park at Nishi, it has to do with you don’t want housing there and prefer it on campus.

        2. Roberta Millstein

          And the point I’m really making is that the need for money for the city is only one of the problems that the city faces. The other is housing. And I understand you believe that UC Davis should put more housing on campus. The reality is that while they have agreed to 6200, that’s not enough and so we can either wait for UC Davis to build that housing or we can do some of it ourselves. I get it – that is the battle line this time around. But to me I guess I think you’re making the wrong argument here. It has nothing to do with an innovation park at Nishi, it has to do with you don’t want housing there and prefer it on campus.

          My main argument is and always has been concerns over the air quality for residents.  It’s not that I don’t “want” housing there.  Secondarily, yes, I think students would be better housed on campus.

          The point I am making in the Enterprise letter to the editor is that by removing the commerical element of the project a major reason to support the project has been undercut.  I truly find the whole proposal baffling, thus my letter.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “The point I am making in the Enterprise letter to the editor is that by removing the commerical element of the project a major reason to support the project has been undercut.”

            And the point I’m making is you’re basically trading one need for another. It’s not that baffling in my view. I understand your opposition to the project, but there really is nothing baffling about trading one need for another and assessing which one might be the most simple to resolve.

        3. Roberta Millstein

          but there really is nothing baffling about trading one need for another and assessing which one might be the most simple to resolve.

          I think your advocacy of the current Nishi project undercuts your claims about the urgency of the need for a business park, especially when there is another and better way to house students.  Maybe you don’t want it to undercut your claims of fiscal urgency, but that’s how it comes off.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I’ll again point out that my preference is MRIC in addition to the current projects at Sierra Energy and the University Research Park. I also question that there is another or better way to house students at least in the near term.

        4. Roberta Millstein

          MRIC in addition to the current projects at Sierra Energy and the University Research Park. I also question that there is another or better way to house students at least in the near term.

          MRIC is further off, and, as I said, comes along with other significant problems.  Also, it seems if you really wanted us to do “everything we can” to address our fiscal problems, you’d want commercial at Nishi.  I guess we don’t need to do “everything we can.”  I guess maybe our fiscal problems are not as bad as you have portrayed them.

          And I don’t see that housing at Nishi is any closer to being built than housing on campus.

  7. Eileen Samitz

    David,

    Nice try but the letter raises very valid issues including pointing out the air quality issues which the developers refuse to address. The developers clearly need to do the needed air quality studies based upon the preliminary information in the Nishi EIR data stating that the I-80 diesel ultra-fine particulate matter at Nishi was a “significant impact”. A year of data is needed and the developers have had plenty to time to do the sampling. Yet, the Nishi developers keep on trying to ignore this critical issue which involves the health, welfare and safety issue.  Dr. Cahill PH.D, a  world renowned UCD expert on health impacts from ultrafine particulate matter has reiterated that the site is not good for residential, and has asked for the studies to be at Nishi for several years now. Why don’t they just do the air quality studies?

    Furthermore, your math is off on student-only beds proposed in the City, since it is over 5,000 student-only beds being considered by the City designed specifically for students. The latest is Plaza 2555 in South Davis is now applying as another mega-dorm. For starters it makes no sense to locate hundreds of UCD students across I-80 needing to get across the highway daily to get to UCD.  So all of these mega-dorms do nothing to help provide rental housing for non-students including families and local workers. Plus, the vast majority of these mega-dorm student beds will each have an individual bathroom. Imaging the impact on our City’s infrastructure including City services? This is not good City planning, it is the antithesis of it.

    All new multi-family housing needs to be built for everyone to be able to live in it, families, workers, and students. Instead, the City is processing a plethora of exclusively designed student housing building and over-load of 4- and 5- bedroom suites which do nothing to help provide housing for non-students. The mega-dorms also bring enormous impacts including traffic, circulation while also putting an enormous drain on our infrastructure, particularly water and waste-water due to the bathroom-per bedroom design in these enormous 4- and 5- bedroom “suites” (1,500 sq.ft. and larger) which predominate all of the new multi-family housing projects being proposed. Water conservation cannot be effectively implemented since the 4- and 5- bedroom suites only have one meter for the entire suite, and the rent is a flat charge by-the-bed regardless of how much water is used.

    The City needs more 1-, 2-, and 3- bedroom traditional apartments which is an inclusive design, not a deluge of mega-dorms which are exclusively designed for students, and which impose far more impacts on our infrastructure. The current mega-dorm only design of almost every new market rate multi-family housing apartment complex proposal in the City is complete overkill.

    Mega-dorms, by design, discriminate against our families and local workers needing rental housing now, and into the future. This is due to the mega-dorm rent-by-the-bed format with each segregated bedroom having an individual bathroom, and a lock on each bedroom door within the 4- or 5- bedroom apartment “suite”. This is not a design for  families or local worker who need rental housing as well in Davis.

     

     

     

    1. David Greenwald

      I find it interesting, that you keep using the term mega-dorm and yet, there is no indication that any of the apartments built would qualify as mega-dorms.  So please cite me a valid definition of one.

      Secondly, I find it interesting that you say the letter raises valid points, and then you immediately go off on your talking points without addressing the main point of the letter that I was responding to or my points.

      1. Sharla C.

        I don’t think that a site that is purposely cut off from the City and convenient access to grocery stores, schools and jobs, and with remote parking is an appropriate place to put family housing.  The University is building apartments for family housing at Solano Park and Orchard Park that is specifically designed for and restricted to married students and families that will be affordable.  I don’t see how a 4 bedroom apartment is any worse than a house with a yard, when it comes to water conservation.  I don’t think that this is a good reason to build two bedroom apartments instead.  Should we no longer build any houses with more than two bedrooms, because they might use water?  Water conservation can be achieve through the use of water efficient toilets and shower heads, water efficient appliances (washers, dish washers), low or no water landscaping, rain and grey water reclamation systems – mitigations that are likely easier to implement in new construction than older apartments or homes.

      2. Eileen Samitz

        David,

        I thought I had clarified many times that a mega-dorm is a multi-family housing project with apartments designed exclusively for students. All of these projects are going to be predominately 4- and 5- bedroom apartment suites renting by-the-bed  with an enormous number of bathrooms (an individual bathroom per bedroom) in  enormous 1,500 sq. ft.  and larger apartment “suites”. They are charging a flat rent by-the-bed no matter how much water or electricity used, since they are not being charged by usage. This is not an apartment format that works for families and workers and invites enormous water usage like the problems they are dealing with in West Village. Yet, the City is duplicating the same utility waste problem  as West Village with these mega-dorms

        Second, I did address valid points in the letter including the air quality issue and the apartments exclusively designed for students issue, so I am not sure what you are talking about. But it sure will be interesting to see the fiscal analysis on this Nishi mondo-mega-dorm with 2,600 apartments designed specifically for students (no housing for non-students) and no commercial component to be located in the City using all City infrastructure. Sounds like another major City subsidy to UCD into the future. And let’s not forget that the City wants to put three more taxes on the ballot in June.

        Gotta sign-off for now.

      3. Roberta Millstein

        Secondly, I find it interesting that you say the letter raises valid points, and then you immediately go off on your talking points without addressing the main point of the letter that I was responding to or my points.

        I find it interesting that I did respond to the “points” that you made, but once again you don’t respond to mine.

    2. Don Shor

      All new multi-family housing needs to be built for everyone to be able to live in it, families, workers, and students.

      Nothing like that has ever been policy here or elsewhere. It would simply not be practical.

      Mega-dorms, by design, discriminate against our families and local workers needing rental housing now, and into the future.

      Senior housing discriminates against young people. URC, Atria, Eleanor Roosevelt Circle have all been built for a specific age group. I’m sure the folks at URC would balk at being required to live with college students.
      Building housing that is targeted to a particular demographic is not inappropriate and it is the fastest, most efficient way for us to address the serious shortage of housing in the rental market in Davis.
      If you want lower-density housing, we need to talk about annexing land for development. I don’t think that’s likely to succeed. So very high-density housing on high-traffic corridors is the most feasible option.

  8. Sharla C.

    And a “no” vote on Nishi will send a clear message to the university that they are going to have to take responsibility for their own unilateral decision to bring thousands more students to campus.  They are going to have to act in the students’ best interests and build on campus.

    This clearly states the strategy of the upcoming “No on Nishi 2” campaign.  So a “No” vote is for sending a message to the University – a punishment of sorts (though the only people impacted are renters who are having difficulty finding housing in Davis, not the University).   People can talk about air quality, traffic, fairness of taxes, lack of affordable family housing, CEQA, etc. but the above statement seems to be the underlying driving force for people who have come out in opposition to this new plan for Nishi.   So No = smite the University.  Yes = build rental housing close to the University that doesn’t change the landscape for existing residents.

    1. Keith O

      People can talk about air quality, traffic, fairness of taxes, lack of affordable family housing, CEQA, etc. but the above statement seems to be the underlying driving force for people who have come out in opposition to this new plan for Nishi.

      First off, I voted for Nishi I and will most likely vote for Nishi II even though I’m disappointed in the loss of the small research park.  But most of the concerns above are valid points, especially for me the fairness of taxes issue.

      Secondly, is UCD ever going to build what they need to if we continually cave in?  All they have to do is sit back and wait.

      1. Ron

        Keith:  “But most of the concerns above are valid points, especially for me the fairness of taxes issue.”

        In addition to the “fairness” issue, I wonder how much more the TOTAL amount of taxes collected for the city would be, if apartment complexes (especially megadorms) paid a “fair share”.  (Perhaps enough to solve the a significant portion of the entire fiscal “crisis” for the city?)

        The same could be said, regarding the constant shortfall for the school district.

        Don’t look for the Vanguard to come up with those calculations, though.

         

        1. Sharla C.

          Apartment complexes were originally taxed differently in an effort to create fairness, but a Davis citizen (who ran for City Council, BTW) sued and won a lawsuit that changed the way parcels with apartments are taxed so they are treated the same as single-family properties.  It would be great if you could come up with a solution that could get around that Court decision.

        2. Ron

          Sharla:

          Well, one solution is to put megadorms on campus.  (And, avoid developments which exacerbate the problem in the city.)

          Otherwise, perhaps it’s up to those who constantly advocate for megadorms in the city, to “come up with a solution”.

        3. Ron

          Sharla and David:

          You’re free to use your own terminology, regarding developments that are largely 4-5 bedrooms, leased by the bedroom, double-occupied, each with its own bathroom.

          Maybe “sardine cans”, that won’t even appeal to students in the long run (e.g., when they find out what they’re actually are, and how much the rent will be)?

          Wonder if they’ll have to pay for parking, as well.

          My guess is that many won’t stay, beyond their first year at school. (Similar to dormitories on campus.) And then, they’ll be competing for the remaining traditional apartment complexes and single-family rentals, both within and outside of Davis.

      2. David Greenwald

        Keith:

        I’m a bit confused here, hope you can explain this to me.  We need about 10,000 new beds, the university has promised 6200.  Your view is we should allow the housing situation to get worse and hope the university does something?

    2. Roberta Millstein

      This clearly states the strategy of the upcoming “No on Nishi 2” campaign.

      I am not part of any “strategy”.  I am expressing my viewpoint.

      So a “No” vote is for sending a message to the University – a punishment of sorts (though the only people impacted are renters who are having difficulty finding housing in Davis, not the University). People can talk about air quality, traffic, fairness of taxes, lack of affordable family housing, CEQA, etc. but the above statement seems to be the underlying driving force for people who have come out in opposition to this new plan for Nishi.

      No, that is not my underlying driving force.  I have been talking about concerns over air quality since the last Nishi campaign.  Please don’t put words in my mouth.

       So No = smite the University.

      This amuses me.  That would be biting the hand that feeds me.  I am not trying to “punish” the university, only trying to get it to do the right thing.  Although it might not make some people happy, I see it as part of my job as a professor to advocate for what I see as being in the best interests of the students and the university — that is one of the things that academic freedom is for.  I think it would be better for students to have on campus housing and not have themselves subjected to the poor air quality at the site.

       

      1. Sharla C.

        I didn’t put words in your mouth.  The words were a direct quote.  Just thinking that something else would or might be better does not usually inspire the intensity of opposition to every student oriented development in the City.  Nishi is closer to campus and academic buildings than West Village or apartments in the City of Davis.  It is nearly on campus.  Solano Park is only 100’s of feet away.

        1. Roberta Millstein

          Excuse me, where did you quote me?

          It has been explained many times how the particular geographical configuration of Nishi is a problem, sandwiched between the highway and the traintracks, near a place where there is braking, subject to inversions.  And yes, distance does make a difference.

          And, I have not expressed opposition to every student oriented development in the City. Just this one.

           

  9. Todd Edelman

    Drivers pay tolls to cross bridges; without these bridges journeys would be difficult to impossible by car. They are paying to – in a sense – defying the physical. But the same drivers can cross a city on a freeway or highway, deny the physical – i.e. the physical health of people in that city, especially close to that road infrastructure, in our case the I-80.

    Shouldn’t these people be able to have a “bridge” against this denial? How is that one bridge and toll is justified and another is not?

    How ’bout we build a huge air-filtration and oxygen-generating station at Nishi? Or a roof over the section going through the City to mitigate noise and possibly some gas and particles, too. Or both. Drivers going past pay a fee to do so, via FasTrak. They pay for the facility and beyond that for the highway’s effects that the facility cannot mitigate.

    Propose to build a freeway through town like the current 80 this these days? Ha! It would be impossible, at least in most of California and other more enlightened places. It would also be difficult to do it at our City’s periphery, through farmland. It may be allowed with a tunnel, right?… and with significant mitigation, yes? So based on those principles let’s implement something like I suggest above.

    Use the successful lawsuit against UC Davis that forces them to create more housing much faster and/or reduce enrollment as a warm up for our legal staff to take necessary measures that will dramatically-reduce the negative health effects of the I-80. Let’s not try to solve this with over pressure, but with pressure. Over.

    Internalization of Costs Capitol of the USA.

  10. Ron

    Todd:  “How ’bout we build a huge air-filtration and oxygen-generating station at Nishi? Or a roof over the section going through the City to mitigate noise and possibly some gas and particles, too. Or both.”

    I suggest a giant dome, over the entire property.  🙂

    1. Todd Edelman

      The air-filtration etc. gizmo is mentioned because that’s what many of us do in our homes. It refers also to the oxygen-producing machines used on Mars in Total Recall, or – going back a few years – to the oxygen bars which were briefly popular in San Francisco during first Dot Com bubble in the late 1990’s.
      On the other hand the sound-reducing cover is nothing new and is used in highways all  over – I first learned of them when travelling on the Autobahn east of Frankfurt, Germany about ten years ago. Very clearly citizens demanded them as a condition for building or perhaps only widening the highway in that area. (No, there’s no specific toll because energy for individual motor transport is priced more equitably in Germany, compared to here).
      As anyone from ITS at UC Davis studied some concepts for implementation in Davis? I assume someone already has done something about quietening the tire-road surface disharmony? (Again, about ten years ago – in an experiment down the wide arterial near where I lived in Berlin – a large section of road surface had a substantial decrease in db due to use of a new type of surface material.)

      1. Howard P

        Todd… are you familiar with the concept of cost/benefit?

        What would be the source of money that would be required to implement your idea(l)?

        If any comes from the City, what should be shed to cover the cost?

        1. Todd Edelman

          This all starts with American society growing up and taking responsibility for transportation infrastructure in this country: What kills and gives people joy, and what heals and makes fake patriots cower at their assumed lack of choice but which is, in fact, precisely the opposite.  And everything in between.

          The “people” – in this case via the Federal government – needs to end the suffering caused by Eisenhower’s unidentified industrial complex: The Interstate Highway System. There are several solutions, all of which should be used: Create alternatives on existing infrastructure (e.g dedicated bus lanes and more tire-surface harmony) or require – much sooner than later – all road vehicles to have a sweet tailpipe, or cover up the noise or develop a renewables powered rail-based/bus feeder/bike last-mile as if we’re at war.

          I assume that no one’s happy about the sonic, gaseous and micro-particle attacks on their bodies and those of their children. So we need ideas. All I hear about 80 (and Nishi) is “tight diamond” or “just around for a few years” or “plants absorb stuff” or “wind direction” and on and on. I don’t know the costs of our world-class contra-Eisenhowerian infrastructure solution. I think we can get help with sorting it out, as long as we reign in the eviscerating wave of condescension, dismission, and patronization.

  11. David Greenwald Post author

    Response to Robert’s 11 am post:

    “On the contrary, the letter explicitly mentions and recognizes the need for student housing. The question at hand is how best to fulfill that need. The letter states that housing on campus would be better than housing with poor air quality.”

    The original letter questioned the rationale for housing given the city’s fiscal crisis.  Again to me, the university is not going to fill all of the housing and that still leaves a crisis.  I am really skeptical of the air quality concerns given the short duration.

    “you seem a bit selective about when they are important and when they are not.”

    I don’t agree on this point.

    “the question here is about best use.”

    In my view, we don’t get to determine best use.  At best we can decide if we are filling a need.

    “If we have had this other innovation space already built, and if Nishi were being used for commercial purposes, and if students were being housed on campus (healthier, better for them overall), then maybe we wouldn’t need to use prime farmland and open space for a large, speculative boondoggle.”

    That’s a lot of “ifs” and I fundamentally don’t agree.  The reason for MRIC is the 2 million square feet of R&D space, none of this comes close to that and the need to provide space for larger companies – the type of companies with many employees.

    “As noted already, the letter does not ignore the vacancy rate. The author of the letter thinks that the vacancy rate would be better addressed with housing on campus.”

    We’re still short of the housing needed.  Less and less agree that vacancy would be better addressed with housing on campus.  I see the emergence of other issues.

    1. Roberta Millstein

      The original letter questioned the rationale for housing given the city’s fiscal crisis.  Again to me, the university is not going to fill all of the housing and that still leaves a crisis.  I am really skeptical of the air quality concerns given the short duration.

      I don’t think your skepticism is scientifically or ethically justifiable.

      “you seem a bit selective about when they are important and when they are not.”
      I don’t agree on this point.

      Well, you might not agree.  But you have been relentless about talking about the City’s fiscal problems — article after article for many years now.  Now all of the sudden I learn that we can let go of an opportunity for commerical property very easily.  That’s what I mean about your being selective.

      In my view, we don’t get to determine best use.  At best we can decide if we are filling a need.

      Well, Measure R says that we do get to determine best use.  This kind of land is a very limited resource.  If we don’t feel that it is being used for the best purpose, we should vote against the project.

      That’s a lot of “ifs” and I fundamentally don’t agree.  The reason for MRIC is the 2 million square feet of R&D space, none of this comes close to that and the need to provide space for larger companies – the type of companies with many employees.

      Yes, MRIC would be bigger — and with that, riskier and with more impact, less clear that the benefits would outweigh the harms.

      “As noted already, the letter does not ignore the vacancy rate. The author of the letter thinks that the vacancy rate would be better addressed with housing on campus.”
      We’re still short of the housing needed.  Less and less agree that vacancy would be better addressed with housing on campus.  I see the emergence of other issues.

      The point remains that you accused me of ignoring something that I very clearly did not ignore.  You and I just disagree about the best way of dealing with it.
       

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        “I don’t think your skepticism is scientifically or ethically justifiable.”

        I’m sorry but there is a math problem here that Cahill simply is not acknowledging. Not only is the risk low, but by supporting workplace over short-term housing, there is a glaring logical problem. The math very clearly says that you get more exposure working on the site for ten years than you would living there as a student, so why would Cahill be arguing for work-only arrangements? It makes no sense.

        1. Roberta Millstein

          I’ve given some reasons above in my reply to Don Shor for thinking that workplace and residential exposure are different.  However, if it does turn out that exposure for workers would be just as bad as exposure for residents, then I would object to it as well.

          If you don’t understand his math, then again, I suggest you just ask him.

      2. David Greenwald Post author

        Sorry I am cherry picking some of this…

        “Well, Measure R says that we do get to determine best use.”

        Actually Measure R says you can vote yay or nay on the project before you. It doesn’t allow you to determine best use.

        1. Roberta Millstein

          It allows us to vote on the basis of whatever reasons we find relevant.  We can choose to vote “no” if we think that the scarce resource is not being put to its best use.  And we can advocate as citizens that the land be put toward its best use.

        2. Howard P

          David… your point is one of the reasons why I really don’t like (just short of ‘detest’) Measure J/R.

          It’s kinda’ like, “I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 50… guess wrong and you lose”.  With 10’s of thousands of individuals applying their own metrics.

          If J/R were amended, to limit the review to GP or Zoning approvals, that would be better… as it stands, it gets into so much detail, there are too many variables, as to what folk like or don’t like about a specific project.

          If there is a DA, project specific, that should either be a referendum, or a separate vote, in my view.  Separate out the policy issues from the details.

  12. Eileen Samitz

    Howard,

    Sorry but your suggestion just would not work. The baseline features are critical to define the project so that the developer does not put one thing on the ballot to try to get it through a vote, and then change the development to something else after the vote (if it were approved). What you are suggesting would just provide a “bait and switch” opportunity for developers, which is the last thing we would want. Measure J and R were vetted with plenty of legal counsel, so no, your suggestion would not work. The voters need and deserve to know what they are voting on, so the details are critical.

    1. Howard P

      And yet, the next two CC members can be elected by as little as 13% of the vote for each position. [assuming the field is 8]

      What do you mean as “baseline”?  If a GP amendment and zoning was passed, any project would be compliant, if it met that.  Need help to understand what you mean as “baseline”…

      Je ne compris pas your point [Franglish]

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