Commentary: The Rising Importance of Student Housing Issue Could Lead Us to Nishi

When I studied political science my work centered on public opinion and mass communications.  From the body of literature comes the notion of agenda setting, which argues that the media’s coverage has the ability to elevate the public perception of the importance (or salience) of a given topic or subject area.

However, the media lacks the ability, under modern agenda-setting theory, to influence the direction of the public’s view.

I have to believe that the notion of agenda setting applies not just to the media but to all political actors.  The power of activists is to raise the importance of an issue in the public sector with elected officials, the media, and voters.  But while they can raise the perceived importance of the issue – the direction of the public’s support for an issue may be uninfluenced by activists.

In September  2015, Eileen Samitz wrote a guest piece in both the Enterprise and Vanguard entitled, “UCD needs to build more student housing now.”  In it, she noted the beginning of the LRDP process and argued that “UCD has not taken enough action on building on-campus housing for its own rapid student population growth for more than two decades.”

Over the course of the next two years, Eileen Samitz led the way on arguing that UC Davis has the primary responsibility to build on-campus housing to accommodate their growth.

In most ways, she has been successful at elevating the importance of the issue of student housing.  UC Davis eventually announced they would be willing to go up to 6200 new housing units, accommodating 90 percent of the new student enrollment growth and 40 percent of the overall student population with on-campus housing.

But that, she argued, was not good enough.  She pushed for 100 percent of all new housing on-campus and 50 percent of the overall student population housed on campus.  The city of Davis would send multiple letters to UC Davis to that effect.

In addition to gaining the support of the city of Davis and later Yolo County to push for 100/50, the university has modestly shifted from an initial position of “even in our highest on-campus
housing scenario, we do not anticipate being able to house every new student,” to a hard number of 6200 beds, to a softer commitment to attempt to add additional height and density on a project by project basis.

At the same time we have seen the limits of pressure on UC Davis.  The university is a few months away from issuing its draft EIR and it will not commit to building more than 6200 beds and certainly has balked at committing to get to 10,000 new beds or the 50 percent of all student enrollment housed on campus.

Moreover, Ms. Samitz and others have taken the position that any attempt by the city to build housing in town is simply subsidizing UC Davis’ irresponsibility.

In this respect, Ms. Samitz has been far less successful.  While she has succeeded in elevating the importance of student housing in segments of the community, many have not gone down the line with her and have argued that the city is probably going to need to add their own student housing to accommodate the 0.2 percent vacancy rate.

As a result, the council last spring, over her objection, passed the Sterling project.  This fall, they are expected to consider the Lincoln40 project, which she also opposes.

Here she has argued that we are being presented with mega-dorms that should be housed on campus.  She argues that the structure is such that they are not serving families and other populations beside students.  However, here she has been less successful.

While the council can simply vote to approve projects like Sterling and Lincoln40, projects like Nishi require a Measure R vote.  Last spring, Nishi fell just over 600 votes shy of passage.  Segments of the community balked at the project based on its lack of affordable housing and traffic impacts.

But Nishi is now back with a project that addresses both of those concerns while adding about 2600 beds.  As we argued last weekend, doing the math, Nishi plus Lincoln40 and Sterling gets the city to about 4100 new beds and if you combine that with the 6200 UC Davis has committed to building in the next ten years – you get to the 10,000 bed mark which the Vanguard and others believe is needed to alleviate the housing crunch.

On Tuesday, Eileen Samitz pushed back during public comment, arguing among other things that the city would be subsidizing UC Davis’ irresponsible growth practices.

But, while the council clearly agrees with Ms. Samitz on some issues, they are not in lock step.

As Will Arnold put it, “It’s absolutely critical that we continue to put pressure on UC Davis to do their part and to fulfill the obligations that they’ve already made as well as respond to what the city has requested of them with regards to increasing their share of students that are housed on campus that is more in line with the rest of the university of California system.”

He added, “I also believe there is value to an all-hands-on-deck approach here too.” He said, “I’m unfortunately not convinced that the university is listening to us in any way.

“No matter what we do – whether we build enough to address our vacancy and to address the affordability for students,” he said. “There’s a worry – and I share that – that by doing this we’re somehow letting them off the hook. But at the same time, whether we did it or not, UC Davis has proven one thing, they’re going to do whatever they want regardless of what the city does.”

Robb Davis had similar comments, noting people’s concern “that if we do this, we’re somehow letting UC Davis off the hook.”

The mayor argued, “I don’t see it that way. I see what we’re doing as being responsible.”

“We’re trying to be responsible people and say, whether you fulfill your responsibility or not, we’re going to try to fulfill ours,” he said. “I think that’s what this community has always done with students – it’s tried to fulfill its responsibilities.”

In the end it is hard to know if Nishi will pass, but given that the project has addressed the two biggest causes for the project’s June 2016 downfall, it seems much more likely that it would pass this time.  But if it does, it may be because Nishi will address a huge chunk of the remaining student housing problem – and part of the reason that has gained resonance has been the dogged determination of Eileen Samitz.

In the end, while she was able to put the issue on the radar of many in this community and to raise the profile of the student housing issue to a top issue throughout the community, she may not be able to control the direction that policy importance takes us.

—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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100 thoughts on “Commentary: The Rising Importance of Student Housing Issue Could Lead Us to Nishi”

  1. Ron

    From article:  “Moreover, Ms. Samitz and others have taken the position that any attempt by the city to build housing in town is simply subsidizing UC Davis’ irresponsibility.”

    That is not true (and it seems highly unlikely that you wouldn’t know that).  Eileen has noted that building housing that’s only suitable for students prevents construction of housing that would be suitable for (and reflect the needs of) Davis’ broader population (including, but not limited to students, workers, families, . . .).  Eileen has noted that UCD has plenty of land and capability to build housing that’s can legally be reserved for students.

    Eileen is also noting that the planned multi-bedroom, double-occupancy apartments in particular are not paying an adequate share of impact fees.

    Others (including me) have noted that apartment complexes are not paying their fair share of parcel taxes for schools, and possibly for parks, roads, and social services (if the tax measure next June is approved by voters).  In addition, there’s concern regarding the conversion of the limited number of commercial/industrial-zoned spaces for housing. 

    (As noted, I have taken the liberty of repeating my understanding of Eileen’s position.)

    Day-after-day, the Vanguard engages in one-sided and misleading “information”.

      1. Ron

        Eileen has consistently argued that new apartments in the city should be designed in a manner that is suitable for a broad range of population.  I don’t recall her EVER stating that such housing should never be built.

        There seems to be an impression on the Vanguard that Eileen is anti-growth. From what I know, she is not. She does, however, point out concerns that are glossed over by the Vanguard.

        (Actually, some of those same “concerns” ultimately arise elsewhere on the Vanguard, in the form of advocacy for increased parcel taxes, for example.)

        1. Ron

          Again – from article:

          “Moreover, Ms. Samitz and others have taken the position that any attempt by the city to build housing in town is simply subsidizing UC Davis’ irresponsibility.”

          (If you had clarified this to note that Eileen has argued specifically against the megadorms, then your statement would be more accurate.)

  2. Eileen Samitz

    David,

    This article completely misses and /or avoids the real issues here that I have been concerned about. A major problem happening is that virtually all of the new the multifamily housing projects are being designed with 4- and 5- bedroom apartments suites which are all mega-dorms, which are designed for single -room-occupancy specifically for students. None of this mega-dorm style mega-apartments help to provide housing for our families and workforce.

    Also, the new multifamily are mega-dorm proposals without offering housing in a format that can be used by non-students like families and local workers which are also needing rental housing. Why are not the non-student multifamily housing needs being provided with traditional 1, 2, and 3 bedrooms multi-family proposals that are needed?

    The first mega-dorm which has been approved is Sterling Apartments. Although there is an affordable housing component for people of incomes who qualify, all of the market rate apartments are targeting students with the predominately 4- and 5- bedroom apartment suites. Each bedroom has a bathroom and they are apartments within apartments renting by the bed. This does not help provide housing for our non-students, like families and local workers. The vast majority of the apartments are 1,500+ sq. ft. mega-apartment suites where it will be very difficult to motivate conservation of water and energy because the beds are rented at a flat rate and the 4- and 5- bedroom suites only have one water meter since there is no easy way to identify which resident would be wasting water per suite.

     Second, the Lincoln40 student apartment complex is proposing predominately the same 4- and 5- bedroom apartment suites bedroom with an individual bathroom and even doubling up on at least half of the bedrooms will be double occupancy. This means shoe-horning 708 students onto what will be a cul-de-sac at Olive Drive which would be a safety concern, in addition to the toxic plume headed towards Lincoln40 which needs to be addressed. These are important health welfare and safety issues.

    Now, third is the Plaza 2555 apartment complex in South Davis also targeting student also being planned to be predominately mega-dorm 4- and 5- bedroom suites. Again, these enormous 1,500+ sq. ft. apartments with a bathroom per bedroom are not suitable as housing option for non-students and are only targeting students. These developers want a re-zoning from commercial to multifamily residential and somewhere between 600-1000 or more students would need to cross I-80. This site makes no sense for student housing and would create even more access problems. Also, arent we supposed to be conserving our commercial land for revenue generating businesses rather than re-zoning?

    On top of this is now a new Nishi proposal where there is not even a design proposed, yet it is being rushed through to a June vote.  While this is an odd “process” since we don’t know yet what the project is but there still remains the main issues regarding UCD access, no City-tax sharing agreement, no agreement yet for access over or under the railroad tracks, and the documented air-quality issues which exceeded know air quality standards. None of these substantial issues have been resolved, among others.

    So, the general issue that needs to be addressed here is that new multifamily housing being proposed in the City should be designed to be inclusive for all to be able to rent, meaning families and local workers as well as students. Instead, all of these multifamily housing projects are being designed exclusively for students with mega-dorm 4- and 5- bedroom suites which are of no help to the needs of rental housing by non-students.  Another impact is that the City’s infrastructure is getting hard hit for waste-water and water and City service for literally thousands of students in these mega-dorms. The City needs new multi-family housing to the designed to be traditional 1,2, and 3 bedrooms, not just the mega-dorm multifamily apartment complex formats which are designed exclusively for students.

    In addition, are the unresolved issues of determining the correct allocation of parcel taxes and impacts fees, particularly since most of these 4- and 5- bedroom apartment suites have double occupancy resulting in even more financial and infrastructure impacts. The City’s allocation systems for taxes, impact fees, and affordable housing programs and have not even caught up with these mega-dorm proposals, yet the applications are being processed.  
     

    1. Eric Gelber

      Very informative, Eileen. I particularly agree with the following:

      So, the general issue that needs to be addressed here is that new multifamily housing being proposed in the City should be designed to be inclusive for all to be able to rent, meaning families and local workers as well as students.

      And I can’t help noting the similar issue raised by the accompanying “article” in today’s Vanguard touting the purported need to develop additional non-inclusive housing that likewise would exclude families, local workers, and others most in need of affordable housing. I’m sensing a trend here. I don’t believe segregated enclaves is the way we should be going to meet local housing needs.

    2. Matt Williams

      Eileen Samitz said . . . “Now, third is the Plaza 2555 apartment complex in South Davis also targeting student also being planned to be predominately mega-dorm 4- and 5- bedroom suites. Again, these enormous 1,500+ sq. ft. apartments with a bathroom per bedroom are not suitable as housing option for non-students and are only targeting students. These developers want a re-zoning from commercial to multifamily residential and somewhere between 600-1000 or more students would need to cross I-80. This site makes no sense for student housing and would create even more access problems. Also, arent we supposed to be conserving our commercial land for revenue generating businesses rather than re-zoning?”

      Although I have never heard the name “Plaza 2555” prior to Eileen’s use of it here, the description she includes appears to describe the 3820 Chiles Road Apartments project application.  The materials for that project can be accessed at http://cityofdavis.org/city-hall/community-development-and-sustainability/development-projects/3820-chiles-road-apartments

      The Project Description dated July 10, 2017 describes the project as follows:

      As 30 plus year residents of Davis, who have built our careers, companies, and families here, we wanted to design a project that enhances and fills a need in this City which we deeply value. In response to our extensive market research including a comprehensive market study, a survey of people who are employed by companies in Davis, and a neighborhood workshop, we envision a contemporary rental community designed and operated to support the lifestyles of a diverse spectrum of Davis households. Examples of these households include professionals working at local businesses and in public service; mature adults and couples looking to downsize; small families; university faculty and staff and visiting scholars; and others who simply prefer to need to rent. We listened closely and subsequently learned that these households are not well-served by our current rental housing options. Through our project, we strive to meet that need in our community.

      Proposed Project

      Our goal for the multi-family portion of the project has been to approach a density of 30 units per acre. Our current preliminary site planning is meeting that objective, with mostly one and two bedroom units, and a handful of studios and three bedroom units.  A total of between 200 and 220 apartments are proposed over the 7.2 (net) acre site.

      It is worth repeating several sentences from the application.

      We envision a contemporary rental community designed and operated to support the lifestyles of a diverse spectrum of Davis households. Examples of these households include:

      — professionals working at local businesses and in public service;

      — mature adults and couples looking to downsize;

      — small families;

      — university faculty and staff and visiting scholars;

      — and others who simply prefer to need to rent.

      We listened closely and subsequently learned that these households are not well-served by our current rental housing options.

      Our current preliminary site planning is meeting that objective, with mostly one and two bedroom units, and a handful of studios and three bedroom units.

  3. Sharla C.

    My son lives in a house in East Davis with 3 other guys.  He is 29 years old.  Non-UCD student, singles and couples, even with children, are already living in group settings.  I think the continuous discussion around building housing for students has focused much development on meeting this need.  The Adult Living development people are trying to get everyone to focus on the need to build senior housing and support a whole development for seniors.  This is also is not providing family housing, but I haven’t heard much opposition from people here or complaints about no low income family housing being included.  Instead of appearing to oppose all development in the City where students would likely live, why not identify locations and advocate for multi-family housing that you feel would be more appropriate for families.  Maybe look (god forbid) Covell Village is an option – center of town, close to schools, shopping, and parks, easy bike access, with a safer location than areas bordering freeways – and building something like Covell Commons or Dos Pinos that would be better for families than cramped apartments near busy streets and intersections.  Nishi, without access to Olive Drive, is not an appropriate for anything, but student focused housing.

     

  4. Eileen Samitz

    Sharla,

     You are not understanding the main point that I am making. The issue is that all the new multi-family housing being proposed in the City (i.e. which I identified in my previous post) needs to be inclusive and should not be designed exclusively for students.  The mega-dorm 4- and 5-bedroom enormous apartment “suites”  (over 1,500 sq. ft.) effectively exclude non-students by design, being rented-by-the bed.

    These mega-dorms effectively discriminate against families and local workers who so need rental housing as well. Yet, all the new multi-family housing proposals in the City have predominately the 4- and 5- bedrooms apartment “suites” which have individual bathrooms per bedroom. This escalates the cost of the whole 4- to  5- bedroom apartment as an entire “unit” making it unaffordable to families.  Even houses do not have an individual bathroom per bedroom. This mega-dorm design is of no help to families and workers. New multi-family rental housing needs to be for
    everyone, not just students.

     

    1. Howard P

      If you want no 4-5 bedroom apartments, with their own bathrooms, change the ordinances, not by (what amounts to) fiat!  Until then, play on!

      You don’t like the rules, change them… otherwise sit down and…

      Planning by whim, or vox populi is never good… and it is inherently unfair… and probably illegal…

        1. Howard P

          Then join with Eileen and work to change the ordinances… this vox populi, or clairvoyantly knowing “what is in the best interest of the community” is bull crap.  [except in rare, emergency situatuions, and then, specific to the event]

          Craft something and put it up to a vote. If you have the intestinal fortitude, other ‘organs’.

          Governance by fiat is WRONG, at least in the USA. Particularly in the area of land use…

        2. Ron

          Howard:

          Developers are proposing CHANGES to what’s allowed, which I would agree are not in the best interest of the community.  Eileen has outlined the reasons for her concerns pretty well.

          (By the way, I recall that you’ve used similar phrases in some of your own posts – sometimes without even providing reasons.)

           

          .

          1. Don Shor

            which I would agree are not in the best interest of the community.

            Developers and the city council are acting to reduce the serious shortage of rental housing.

          1. Don Shor

            Suggest you re-read Eileen’s postings

            Not necessary, but thanks for the suggestion. I know what they’re doing. I’ve been discussing this issue for over a decade on the Vanguard. You?

          1. Don Shor

            I am aware of the impacts of high-density infill projects. I have watched over many years as the rental market in Davis has gone from bad to worse from the standpoint of those trying to rent here. In my opinion, the costs of these infill project are outweighed by the beneficial impact on the rental market.
            If we had the luxury of lots of land on which to build housing, we could debate the merits of different densities and designs that might appeal to more types of residents. As it is, anything that gets built is going to be filled up with young adults renting by the room, crowding into units and single-family homes. The last opportunity we had to apportion housing by category was The Cannery, which was a huge missed opportunity for increased density. Unless we’re going to revisit Covell Village or add land on the periphery, we’re stuck with big infill projects. In order to reach the numbers that will maintain the meager current status quo, we need Sterling, Lincoln 40, and Nishi in their current iterations. Those would help make things not get worse. They won’t make things better in terms of the vacancy rate. So we also need additional rental housing on top of that, but those are a good start.
            If any one of those proposals gets blocked, the rental market gets worse. So impacts should be mitigated to the greatest extent possible, but the issues Eileen has raised should not be used to block the projects.

        3. Ron

          Don:

          If the city adheres to your single-minded focus, it virtually ensures a “cascading series” of (financial and non/financial) problems, which you apparently don’t think are important.  Eileen has outlined some of them, including the sacrifice of locations that would better-address your concern (e.g., housing for workers, families).

          If you believe that all of the locations discussed should be used exclusively for student housing, where do you propose locating housing for workers and families?  (Are you advocating for the annexation of land outside of the city’s borders for non-student housing?)

           

          1. Don Shor

            Would you support projects at Lincoln 40, Sterling, and Nishi if they were designed in the traditional manner?

      1. Matt Williams

        Howard, the term “what is in the best interest of the community” is highly subjective.  Mike Harrington’s definition of that is different from Sue Greenwald’s, and both are different from Eileen Samitz’s.  Brett Lee’s definition is different from Robb Davis’, and both are different from Will Arnold’s.  Mark West’s definition is different from Jeff Boone’s, and both are different from Tia Will’s. Silence Dogood’s is different from Polly Baker’s, which is different from Anthony Afterwit’s, and they all are different from Richard Saunders’.

        Anyone who believes that they have their finger on the pulse of what is in the best interest of the community is smoking too much whacky weed.

         

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      We went from a facility that was serving a few dozen people (badly) to a facility that services several hundred people including low income people. I don’t see that as a tragedy.

      1. Ron

        I recall that you previously noted that it’s a different type and level of need.  A strict numbers comparison is not applicable.  (Especially since the facility was already there, and student dormitories can be built on campus.)

        Once a facility like this is gone, it’s not likely to be replaced. (Even if other suitable locations weren’t also being sacrificed for student housing.)

        I guess you don’t care.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          I find it interesting that after the fact the loss of this facility has become a cause celeb for some of the slow growth elements who sure as hell didn’t do much to support it or others like it when it was actually in existence.  We have many needs in the community, this served a small segment, they attempted to find another buyer for the existing facility over a number of years, none emerged.  We have additional needs in the community and the site now serves those needs.

        2. Ron

          Not sure who you are referring to with those statements. (I recall that even Tia regrets it, having witnessed the destruction. And, despite her self-description, I don’t view her as particularly “slow-growth”.)

          There’s no reason to believe that the underlying government funding (amounting to at least $9,000 per month/resident, I understand) has suddenly “dried up”. (Certainly provided some well-paying local jobs, as well.)

          The needs that you’re referring to could have been met elsewhere, as discussed. But, the Vanguard is a “one-trick pony”, at this point. And, damn the consequences.

        3. Ron

          Clarification:  Actually, a “two-trick pony”:

          1.  Megadorms (which shift costs/impacts to single-family dwellers, and the city as a whole).

          2.  Economic development (increasingly needed as a result of the pursuit of #1, above).  (Ironically, with megadorms displacing sites that could be used for economic development.)  A “double-whammy”, if you will.

          All in all, a “perfect balance” between the two goals. (That is, until the city runs out of room for both.) But hey, we already know what the Vanguard will advocate, then. (Already some hints being dropped by you, and your moderator.)

          1. Don Shor

            High-density infill will require repurposing sites that have older buildings on them. If there was no buyer for that property, it is reasonable to sell it for redevelopment and to use the site to get as many rental units on it as possible. That’s going to keep happening because we need the rental housing.

            Would you support projects at Lincoln 40, Sterling, and Nishi if they were designed in the traditional manner?

        4. Ron

          Don:

          I asked you a question, first.  (Which remains unanswered.)  If you answer it, I’ll respond to yours:

          If you believe that all of the locations discussed should be used exclusively for student housing, where do you propose locating housing for workers and families?  Are you advocating for the annexation of land outside of the city’s borders for non-student housing?

          1. Don Shor

            If you believe that all of the locations discussed should be used exclusively for student housing, where do you propose locating housing for workers and families? Are you advocating for the annexation of land outside of the city’s borders for non-student housing?

            Workers can live in the rental housing being proposed if they so choose, and I suspect some will do so. The last opportunity for family housing was developed at the cannery site. We have no more sites in the city limits big enough to develop for significant amounts of family-oriented housing. The infill projects that are underway right now will provide some. I think the sites being proposed for high-density infill are better suited to that purpose than to single-family homes.
            I am not proposing annexation of land outside the city’s borders for non-student housing at this time. I do think a reasonable proposal for the Covell Village site or the Northwest quadrant could be considered, but I think neither is very unlikely to occur any time within the next few years at least. I guess we’ll see with Taormino’s senior housing proposal whether the voters are willing to begin bringing more land into the city limits.
            Would you support projects at Lincoln 40, Sterling, and Nishi if they were designed in the traditional manner?

        5. David Greenwald

          “Not sure who you are referring to with those statements.”

          I’m referring to you.  What was your level of involvement with that facility prior to 2012?

          Which groups stepped forward to run the facility following the string of abuse that arose under Families First?

          I find it ironic that poeple who lived near that facility would be pining for the “good old days” when the facilities was resulting in 50 calls per month for service from DPD – at least.

          You call me a one-trick pony and yet, I’ll bet you don’t even read 20 percent of the articles we run, much of which deal with the kinds of issues that arose at the FF site.

        6. David Greenwald

          “If you believe that all of the locations discussed should be used exclusively for student housing, where do you propose locating housing for workers and families? ”

          I think there is another way to look at it.  If you have a proposal on the table that deals with the most urgent and highest need, you take it (if it otherwise works) and then figure our the rest later.

        7. Ron

          David:  “I’m referring to you.  What was your level of involvement with that facility prior to 2012?”

          I had no “involvement”, either way.  What would you like it to be, in order to note its loss?

  5. Ron

    Don:  “We have no more sites in the city limits big enough to develop for significant amounts of family-oriented housing.”

    Don:  “I am not proposing annexation of land outside the city’s borders for non-student housing at this time.”

    Thank you for the response.  However, how do you reconcile those two statements, in light of the fact that there are several proposals to build student dormitory-type structures (which aren’t designed to house families/non-students) on the city’s limited number of remaining sites?

     

      1. Ron

        I’ll assume you don’t want to answer my follow-up question, above. (Your statements conflict.)

        Regarding your question, I’ll respond regarding a couple of the developments.

        Regarding Sterling, I’m not convinced that an organization could not be found to operate the facility in a similar manner.  (As an example, I presume that the underlying, significant government-sponsored funding which allowed Families First to operate is still in place.)  If, for some reason that wasn’t the case, then I would examine possibilities related (or close) to its original (industrial) “revenue-generating” zoning.  (Possibly even allowing re-use of the existing buildings.)  If those weren’t viable options, then yes – a traditional apartment complex (suitable for workers, families, and students) could be fine (assuming that taxes and fees were set at an appropriate level, to ensure that the city isn’t subsidizing the development).

        Regarding Lincoln 40, perhaps.  However, Olive Drive has always seemed more suitable for revenue-generating commercial development, to me.  Regardless of the type of development, there are impacts to the “worst intersection in town”.  If Lincoln 40 was required to pay the full cost of a bicycle/pedestrian overpass, it would help.  (But again, it appears that the city’s system of allocating costs and fees may need adjusting – even for traditional apartments.)

        In any case, if the city plans to allocate the bulk of the cost of parcel taxes on single-family dwellings (instead of in a more equitable manner), then I wouldn’t support any development which magnifies this discrepancy.

      1. Ron

        You don’t think that the student-oriented developments (e.g., Sterling, Lincoln 40, and Plaza 2555 – as discussed by Eileen above) are “significant”?

        I guess you’re hoping to house workers and families in miscellaneous “insignificant” and undetermined proposals.

        Also, I’ll assume that you’re not concerned about the loss of the commercial zoning/potential of the sites discussed above, either.

        Must be o.k. in your world, since the city can just “annex some land” to take care of those oversights.

        1. David Greenwald

          “You don’t think that the student-oriented developments (e.g., Sterling, Lincoln 40, and Plaza 2555 – as discussed by Eileen above) are “significant”?”

          They wouldn’t be significant as family-oriented developments.

        2. Ron

          Not sure what you mean.  Either way, they’re significant.  In general, “megadorms” (4-5 bedroom, each with its own lease, some “double-occupied”, each with its own bathroom) have more impacts (but provide essentially no housing for non-students). And, it appears that the tax and fee allocation systems administered by the city have not caught up to this new reality (and are proposed to become even worse).

          The “significance” of the loss of commercial zoning/development has not been addressed, under either option.

        3. David Greenwald

          What do you mean you’re not sure what I mean?  The structure that you are calling a megadorm is what makes it a significant development.  As family housing, it would be far smaller in scale.

        4. Ron

          I’m not sure why that’s the case, but it certainly sounds like it would have fewer impacts that way (and would better-address the needs of a broader range of population, including students who don’t want to live in an expensive dormitory-type structure).

          As a side note:  “Yuck” – living in an expensive, multi-bedroom dormitory long-term, in a shared bedroom (with someone other than a “significant other”).  Oh, well, as long as I get to pay for parking, as well.  (Just trying to envision this.)

          Difficult to believe that this is what students are “fighting for”. (Perhaps they don’t really know the reality of these types of proposals, yet.)

          Personally, I’d rather commute from ANYWHERE, to avoid this. (Not that this is a good option, either.) Really, it would be nice if UCD took better care of these folks. Seems like they have the resources to do so.

        5. Ron

          Sure.  Although I’d question the “goal” of having a Sterling-sized development as family-oriented housing, if it does not lend itself to that.  What’s wrong with making it (and other proposals) a suitable size (other than failing to accommodate UCD’s plans)?

          Or, is the goal to cram in as many as possible, regardless of consequences (and ultimately “justifying” an expansion of the city’s borders, to escape the diminishing “quality of life” that you mentioned in the other article)?

        6. David Greenwald

          That’s the whole point of this exercise.  Don said that we don’t have space left in town for significant family-oriented housing and you responded ^you don’t consider Sterling (et al) significant?^ The problem is that you can’t put significant family-oriented housing at Sterling.

          With student housing you can go up to four/ five stories, you can put five bed rooms, you can pack it in.

          With family housing, you’re not creating 800 or so beds.  You’re not going to realistically go up to five stories, so you wouldn’t even have the 130 or so units.  A three bedroom apartment in Davis is going to rent for at least 1800-2100.  And of course, a family with kids isn’t going to move in at that price to places without a yard.  Heck, you can rent a house for $2100 with three bedrooms with a yard.

        7. Ron

          So, I guess you and Don are stating that apartments realistically can’t be built to accommodate families, and non-students. (Therefore, I guess you’ll both stop arguing for that?)

          Seems strange. (Not trying to criticize, here.)

          If the city stopped accommodating UCD’s plans, does that mean that these parcels would remain undeveloped? (Again, difficult to believe.)

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I’ve never argued that the Sterling and Lincoln40 were anything but student apartments.

        8. Ron

          P.S. – don’t tell all of the “traditional” apartment owners and their residents that their structure is no longer viable.  (Must have been built in an alternative universe.)

          (Sorry about the return to sarcasm.)  🙂

        9. Ron

          David:  Here’s the questions again, with further clarification:

          “So, I guess you and Don are stating that apartments realistically can’t be built to accommodate families, and non-students. (Therefore, I guess you’ll both stop arguing for that?)”

          “If the city stopped accommodating UCD’s plans (and only approved traditional apartment complexes, primarily designed to accommodate “internal needs”), does that mean that these parcels would remain undeveloped? (Again, difficult to believe, given the demand for housing.)”

  6. David Greenwald

     

    The initial comment referred to “significant” housing.  I maintain that at this point there are no vacant parcels in town that would accommodate significant housing for families.

    1. Ron

      This has started to drift.

      The point being that Sterling, Lincoln 40, and Plaza 2555 are relatively large parcels.  (For example, I recall that the Sterling site is about 6 acres.) If they’re used for megadorms, then there apparently are no other vacant parcels for families and non-student rental housing – as you noted.

      One of the consequences of your advocacy, and what appears to be the city’s direction. (One of the things that you’ll “deal with later”, as you essentially put it.) (Actually, you’re dropping hints of your direction, already. But, you might not convince voters of that. Especially if they aren’t exactly happy with the direction that the city has taken, regarding infill.)

      1. Ron

        In the meantime, I’ll assume that you, Don, and Sharla will stop arguing for more rental housing for families and non-students.  (Apparently, a “non-issue” in your view from this point forward.) After all, a 6-acre site located away from UCD couldn’t possibly be used for that purpose, for example. We’ll just wait until voters approve a large-scale annexation, instead.

        Good to know, even if it doesn’t make much sense.

        1. Don Shor

          In the meantime, I’ll assume that you, Don, and Sharla will stop arguing for more rental housing for families and non-students. (Apparently, a “non-issue” in your view from this point forward.) Good to know.

          My reply to your question stands. Pretty much everything you’ve said since is either patently absurd or a distortion, so I won’t be replying any further.

        2. Ron

          Don: When you figure out where rental housing for families and non-students would be located, please let us know.  (You’ve already noted that you’re not advocating for annexation at this time.)

          There’s an internal absurdity in your own position.

    2. Matt Williams

      David, I respectfully disagree with you.  The 3820 Chiles Road parcel in South Davis is a 7.2 acre site (net).  it is being proposed for “professionals working at local businesses and in public service; mature adults and couples looking to downsize; small families; university faculty and staff and visiting scholars; and others who simply prefer to need to rent.  The project application on the City website say the project is mostly one and two bedroom units, and a handful of studios and three bedroom units.  A total of between 200 and 220 apartments are proposed.
       
      That describes a “significant” housing project for families.

    1. Ron

      Howard:

      From Eileen’s post, above:

      “Now, third is the Plaza 2555 apartment complex in South Davis also targeting student also being planned to be predominately mega-dorm 4- and 5- bedroom suites.  Again, these enormous 1,500+ sq. ft. apartments with a bathroom per bedroom are not suitable as housing option for non-students and are only targeting students.  These developers want a re-zoning from commercial to multifamily residential and somewhere between 600-1000 or more students would need to cross I-80.  This site makes no sense for student housing and would create even more access problems.  Also, aren’t we supposed to be conserving our commercial land for revenue generating businesses rather than re-zoning?”

      1. Matt Williams

        Howard, the term “Plaza 2555” is a mystery to me too. However, Eileen’s description appears to be pointing to the 3820 Chiles Road Apartments project application. The materials for that project can be accessed at http://cityofdavis.org/city-hall/community-development-and-sustainability/development-projects/3820-chiles-road-apartments

        The Project Description dated July 10, 2017 describes the project as follows:

        As 30 plus year residents of Davis, who have built our careers, companies, and families here, we wanted to design a project that enhances and fills a need in this City which we deeply value. In response to our extensive market research including a comprehensive market study, a survey of people who are employed by companies in Davis, and a neighborhood workshop, we envision a contemporary rental community designed and operated to support the lifestyles of a diverse spectrum of Davis households. Examples of these households include professionals working at local businesses and in public service; mature adults and couples looking to downsize; small families; university faculty and staff and visiting scholars; and others who simply prefer to need to rent. We listened closely and subsequently learned that these households are not well-served by our current rental housing options. Through our project, we strive to meet that need in our community.

        Proposed Project

        Our goal for the multi-family portion of the project has been to approach a density of 30 units per acre. Our current preliminary site planning is meeting that objective, with mostly one and two bedroom units, and a handful of studios and three bedroom units. A total of between 200 and 220 apartments are proposed over the 7.2 (net) acre site.

        .
        It is worth repeating several sentences from the application.

        We envision a contemporary rental community designed and operated to support the lifestyles of a diverse spectrum of Davis households. Examples of these households include:

        — professionals working at local businesses and in public service;

        — mature adults and couples looking to downsize;

        — small families;

        — university faculty and staff and visiting scholars;

        — and others who simply prefer to need to rent.

        We listened closely and subsequently learned that these households are not well-served by our current rental housing options.

        Our current preliminary site planning is meeting that objective, with mostly one and two bedroom units, and a handful of studios and three bedroom units.

  7. Eileen Samitz

    Matt,

    No, you are confused. Let me help with clearing up this “mystery” to you. First, just to further clarify, my comments were specifically on Plaza 2555.  Here is the link to the Staff report to the Social Services Commission I attended on Oct. 16, 2017 on the Plaza 2555 project proposal where the developers seeking a re-zoning from commercial to multi-family residential (200 units) and an “individualized affordable housing plan” including trying to get 15 affordable housing “credits” from another project. Here is the link and the part on this project starts around page 6:

    http://documents.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/Social-Services-Commission/Packet-Items/2017-10-16/2017-10-16-SSC-Agenda-and-Packet.pdf

    Here is the project description:

    “The proposal is to allow the development of 6.5 acres, located at 2555 Research Park Drive with up-to 200 apartment units of varying sizes. The preliminary development concept envisions both row-house style buildings and stacked apartment units, separated by landscaping, a parking garage, additional surface parking, and a vegetative barrier along I-80. The project vision is a mix of micro flat, 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom, 3-bedroom, 4-bedroom, and 5-bedroom apartment units (up to 200 units). The smaller apartments will typically be flats, and the larger apartments will be constructed in both flat and townhouse configurations. The project will include a leasing office of up to about 3,300 square feet, an approximately 1,000 square foot café, multiple indoor activity areas, pedestrian pathways, landscaped courtyards, common open space areas, about 520 vehicle parking spaces, and
    approximately 656 bicycle parking spaces. Other site amenities include a swimming pool, sporting activities area, a transit plaza, large interconnected landscaping between the row houses, mail and package pickup/drop-off, and a car share/hail area.”

    Also, when the Plaza 2555 developer was asked about the number of the 4- and 5- bedroom apartments he was very clear that they would be the predominate apartment format in the project (like Sterling and Lincoln40.)”

    So Matt, I am not confused about these two projects, but I hope this helps clear up your confusion about them. The Plaza 2555 project and 3820 Chiles Road project are completely different projects, but they are both in South Davis.

    1. Howard P

      Thank you Eileen for the link… now I see what the project is… when I asked the question before, someone ‘limply’ referred to your earlier referent, with no clue of the actual location.

      Now I can review, and, if appropriate, respond… but thank you for the background info… genuinely appreciate that…

      1. Ron

        Howard:  I started to provide the information to you, but you apparently deleted (and subsequently reposted your question).  (I deleted my response, before going to bed.)

        Wasn’t even sure if you saw Eileen’s initial comments.

    2. Don Shor

      Looks like:
      22 “flats” (one bedroom studio 15 x 25)
      10 1 BR
      7 2 BR
      85 4 BR
      30 5 BR
      That doesn’t quite add up to the total # shown, but it’s hard to read the plans.

    3. Matt Williams

      Eileen Samitz said . . . No, you are confused. Let me help with clearing up this “mystery” to you.”  […] So Matt, I am not confused about these two projects, but I hope this helps clear up your confusion about them. The Plaza 2555 project and 3820 Chiles Road project are completely different projects, but they are both in South Davis.”

      Eileen, thank you for shedding light on the mystery.  That is very helpful.  The mystery does persist however, in that a query on the City website and a query using Google returns absolutely nothing related to the project, or to the Social Services Commission meeting.  Thank you for being on top of this nascent proposal.

      No one said you were confused.  The only person who used the word “confused” was/is you.  I freely admitted that the development you referred to was a “mystery” to me. Howard did as well … and he thanked you for sharing the information and the link.  Hopefully the City will update its website soon so that no mystery continues to exist.

    4. Matt Williams

      Eileen, you may want to consider writing a Vanguard article about what you know about the Plaza 2555 application.  Anything you write will be more than the City is providing on the City website.  I’m sure David will be glad to publish anything you write.

  8. Howard P

    Actually, the project takes a semi-worthless piece of land (size, configuration, and utility constraints) to a productive use.

    It (the site) was created due to the influence of M Corbett, et al., to try to nix Mace Ranch development, as part of the South Davis Specific Plan in the 80’s…

    The site is close (relatively) to recreational and open space, an elementary school, and definitely on an existing public transit (Unitrans) route.

    Absent resolving details on density, type of housing considerations (not within my ken), this looks like a great project.  Much better than only using the land for weeds.

  9. Eileen Samitz

    Howard,

    I thought that the City was supposed to be not rezoning commercial land any more due to the shortage of land left and the revenue needed from commercial?

    Also, the issue I have been raising is that all of these new multi-family mega-dorm projects are proposing the massive over-building of 4- and 5-bedroom apartment suites which does not help to provide rental housing for our families and average workers.

    Also, the City is getting screwed on developer impact fees on these 4- and 5- bedroom apartment suites as well as the affordable housing ratio of “units” is also getting screwed. Then there is the added issue of how are parcel taxes going to be charged to the 4- and 5- bedroom mega-apartment suites? Is one 4- or 5- bedroom apartment “suite (over 1,500 sq. ft., often townhouses) being counted as one apartment “unit”, for instance like a one bedroom studio apartment?  The impacts are 4X – 5X more per mega-apartment suite, so the City is on the losing end big-time in so many ways with these mega-dorm’s which are predominately 4- and 5- bedroom suites. Plus this student specific 4- and 5- bedroom suite format would not be serving our families and workers rental housing needs.

    Worse yet, is the whole apartment complex being counted as one parcel” for taxes?  There seems to be debate about how the parcel taxes would be charged, by the “parcel” or the “apartment unit”.

    None of this has been resolved by City Staff, the City is getting incredibly short-changed, and non-students are being seriously under-served by this plethora of 4- and 5- bedroom apartments dominating all of the new multi-family housing projects coming forth.

    Yet, despite all of these issues and problems, these projects continue to be processed by the City. The City needs to include accommodating the rental housing needs of its non-student residents, not only students. These mega-dorm project proposals are not doing that.Plus the City needs to get its act together now of how it is doing is planning and straighten out all of these disparities in the costs to the community and to the type of rental housing being proposed.

    The developers can obviously do math of these mega-dorms which will rake in literally 4X – 5X more money for them long-term into the future. The developers are taking full advantage of imposing 4X-5X more impacts on the City while getting enormously discounted developer impact fees, while also not providing nearly enough affordable housing proportionally. The City now needs to do the math and correct the fee schedule as well as correct the affordable housing requirements to be more proportional.

    The City also needs to be making sure that 1-,2-, and 3- bedroom apartments are being built as the predominant model to be inclusive to allow all to live in them, families, workers and students. Not just these 4- and 5- bedroom mega-dorm apartment suites which do not serve our communities non-students rental housing needs, while they also bring on enormous impacts and costs to our infrastructure and City services. The 4- and 5- bedroom mega-apartments suites exclusively designed for students belong on campus, not in the City.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      “I thought that the City was supposed to be not rezoning commercial land any more due to the shortage of land left and the revenue needed from commercial?”

      Who said that? Is that a council policy?

      1. Ron

        Well, if not – shouldn’t it be? Aren’t you CONSTANTLY mentioning the need for commercial development? Or, are you reserving your argument for (only) large-scale developments beyond the city’s borders (which would likely include housing)? (And, in the case of Nishi, have completely eliminated the commercial component.)

        The “money” is in residential development (for developers, that is).

        1. David Greenwald

          My preference is for a 200-acre innovation center as the location for commercial development.  The rest is weighing one need against another.  Both are needed.

        2. Ron

          David:  Well, you can’t count on that.  (Especially if housing is included.)  Not every commercial development requires 200 acres, outside of town.

          On a related note, “mixed use” is largely a “fake” category in my opinion (which limits the type of commercial development that can occur), but allows developers to bypass Affordable housing requirements.  It’s only appropriate downtown.  Not sure if the “other” site that Matt is referring to (at 3820 Chiles Road) converts an entirely commercial site to “mixed use” (primarily consisting of somewhere between 200-220 apartment units on 7.2 acres).  For some reason, you “overlooked” that development (regarding “significant” traditional apartment complexes), in our earlier communications, above.  

          I understand that the Del Rio site (at Fifth and Pena) was also converted from commercial, to mixed use.

          Sterling was converted from industrial to high-density residential.

          No commercial development at Nishi in the latest proposal.

           

           

           

  10. Ron

    Howard:  “Actually, the project takes a semi-worthless piece of land (size, configuration, and utility constraints) to a productive use.”

    Well, it certainly makes it more valuable to the developers/owners (to convert yet another commercial site for student housing).  Probably less valuable to the city, though.

      1. Ron

        Really, David?  Look at your own comments, regarding the need for economic development.

        In contrast, look at Eileen’s comments, regarding the costs and impacts to the city for megadorms.

        1. Ron

          To put it simply, commercial development generally creates net revenue for a city, while residential development (especially megadorms) are a net loser for the city.  In addition, megadorms are displacing sites that might be used to house a broader range of populations, as evidenced throughout this thread.

          But, you already know that, so I’m not sure why you’re asking. It would probably be better (and waste less time) for both of us, if you don’t ask me to go back and point out some of your own comments, for example, regarding these issues.

        2. David Greenwald

          That’s an awfully thin analysis Ron.  I agree with you that commercial development generates more net revenue than housing, but that’s not the only consideration or value.  Also be mindful that while this project eliminated the 300,000 square feet of R&D space, there have been two new innovation centers at Area 52 and URP that have stepped up between Measure A and now.

        3. Ron

          Well, I see that you can’t leave it at that, and would rather waste time and energy arguing about things that you know are incorrect.

          Here’s your statement from yesterday’s article:

          “What we found when we looked at the Sterling Apartments fiscal analysis is that revenue was projected to increase about 1.9 percent per year, but costs were projected to increase at a rate of 4.1 percent, more than twice the rate of revenue increase.”

          Worse still, this apparently doesn’t account for the rising costs of medical/retirement benefits of employees who provide services, including those who provide services for developments such as Sterling.  (I previously pointed this out to you.)

          Regarding the two commercial developments that “popped up” recently, I’m going to assume that the land was already zoned to accommodate those developments. (It does not “offset” the loss of other commercial sites.)

          I’ve got other stuff to do, for now.

        4. David Greenwald

          You’re once again missing the point here by only looking at value narrowly.  Value is not just monetary.  It is also the filling of needs for the city.

          But aside from that, you clearly are not understanding the implications of those numbers I have provided for you.

        5. Roberta Millstein

          You’re once again missing the point here by only looking at value narrowly.  Value is not just monetary.

          Right.  It also includes:

          The value of open space and ag land
          The value of human health, with special consideration for sensitive individuals
          The value of a community where people know each other and have shared goals
          The value of a quality of life in a non-urban environment
          The value of making small changes that allow for future flexibility and adjustment

          These values have all gotten tossed to the wayside in what you’re advocating for, especially when considering there are better ways to provide student housing (better ways to satisfy that value that are better for students and better for the City).

        6. Ron

          David:

          Back online, for a moment.

          Not sure what you mean by “failing to understand” the numbers you provided, but we discussed this at length, the other day.  I recall discussing the estimated 4.1% increase in annual costs, regarding whether or not that included both salaries and benefits.  (But really, this should be clarified, including the impacts of any recent CALPERS decisions.)

          I also recall you arguing that only salary increases should be considered (and not benefits), and that (somehow) a development such as Sterling would essentially have no cost associated with services. (Something to that effect.) If have time later, I’ll try to look up that conversation.

        7. David Greenwald

          Roberta:  How about the value of providing housing for students?  The value of slowing the increase in mini-dorms in neighborhoods?

          Ron: There are several problems with the fiscal model.  One is that in a very real way there is not going to be any staff added to the city as the result of Sterling (in this case) and if that’s true, then are any of the numbers anything more than theoretical.  That’s a start to understanding the implication of those numbers.

        8. Ron

          David:  As even Matt pointed out (when he described your analysis as being built upon a “foundation of sand”), you don’t seem to understand basic accounting principles.

          Staff time has a “cost”, even if additional staff are not added.  If those costs are not properly allocated, then those costs would be improperly allocated somewhere else (e.g, either prior, or future) developments.

          Another way of looking at is that we either had “too much capacity” before (meaning that staff were previously sitting around wasting time, and that new developments essentially get a “free ride” as a result), or a future development will have to pay ALL of the additional cost (e.g., when an additional staff person is finally needed).  (At least, this gives you an idea of the complications, when staff time is not properly allocated.)

          Matt explained this to you (in probably a more concise manner) in that same article, a few days ago.

          Bottom line is that you cannot “wait” until an additional staff person is needed, to properly allocate costs. (The same principle is true for impact fees, regarding infrastructure.)

        9. Roberta Millstein

          Roberta:  How about the value of providing housing for students?  The value of slowing the increase in mini-dorms in neighborhoods?

          As I said, that value is better achieved by housing students on campus.

          1. Don Shor

            that value is better achieved by housing students on campus.

            And for those that the university doesn’t plan to house?

        10. Roberta Millstein

          And for those that the university doesn’t plan to house?

          I think we need to keep pressing the University to do the right thing.  Building housing at Nishi is the opposite of pressing.

          1. Don Shor

            I think we need to keep pressing the University to do the right thing.

            And when the numbers they propose don’t meet the need for the increased enrollment? Or the current shortfall?
            At what stage of this process do you acknowledge that UC won’t be providing 10,000 beds?

      2. Matt Williams

        David and Roberta, I was at a meeting yesterday and one of the people in the meeting talked about the September 3rd story on PBS, “Are you older than 60 and paying off student loans? Tell us your story.” (see https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/retired-paying-off-student-loans-tell-us-story).  The discussion drew a parallel between the unfunded liabilities of the City and student loan debt.  The common thread was seen as the actions of the parents of the person with the student loan.  Specifically, that the student loan would (in many cases) have been paid off long ago if the student’s parents had helped their child more financially.  The parallel that was drawn in the discussion was that the current generation of parents in Davis are handing the responsibility for the unfunded liabilities to the members of the next generation.  The argument went on to say that the current generation of Davisites has no problem reaping the value of the benefits, but a huge problem paying the bill for those benefits.

        It was a thought-provoking discussion.

        1. Roberta Millstein

          I would say that we have allowed university tuitions to balloon out of hand, and allowed burdensome loan policies to be foisted on students.  To me, the bigger picture is one that Bernie Sanders painted: we have a major problem with income inequality, and we need to solve it with a higher minimum wage, tuition-free public colleges, health care for all, investment in infrastructure that provides jobs for Americans (especially green energy, but also basic infrastructure, etc.). And so, if we want to take care of that bigger picture, we should be focusing on candidates in local, state, and national races who will fight for Bernie’s vision.

          (Of course, there have been a number of local and state fiscal mistakes in the past, and we are all now trying to grapple with those as well.  That’s not so much a failure to help as it is spending unwisely).

  11. Ron

    By the way, the Vanguard might consider asking Eileen if she could be a “reporter” regarding development proposals, since no one else here seems to know about them (or even their existence).  (Some on the Vanguard go further than that, and incorrectly assume that she’s “wrong”.) Some also seem to purposefully “downplay” or “overlook” concerns that don’t fit their agenda.

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