Sunday Commentary: What’s a Mega-Dorm Anyway?

A recent post shows the extent of the rhetorical device and 13 different mentions of “mega-dorm”

As a rental crunch that has the city at a 0.2 percent vacancy pushes forward a slew of new housing projects – notably the already approved Sterling Apartments, along with the proposed Lincoln40, Plaza 2555, and most recently a revised student-housing only Nishi project, the opposition has pushed back calling them “mega-dorms” and arguing if we are to develop housing in town, it should be housing for a range of needs.

A letter sent out by a local activist last week captures some of this rhetoric, notably: “I am writing with concern regarding the many mega-dorm project proposals including hundreds of apartments designed specifically for adding 4,500 – 5,000 or more students in the City, but would not help with the market-rate housing needs for our community’s families and workers. These projects including Lincoln40, Plaza 2555 in South Davis, and now Nishi would be predominately 4- and 5- bedroom enormous apartment suites. Generally, each bedroom has an individual bathroom.

“Since these mega-dorms use a rent-by-the-bed format targeting students, this is not a design that works for families and local workers. This design also does not encourage water conservation as it does not charge by water usage and would put enormous impacts on our water and waste water facilities. These 3 new multi-family projects in the City need to be inclusively designed with 1,2, and 3- bedroom traditional apartments so that anyone can rent them, families, or workers, or students. I urge Council to direct City Staff to clarify that new multi-family projects need to be predominately, if not entirely 1,2, and 3- bedroom traditional apartments offering market rental housing for all.”

While the term “mega-dorm” does not appear to have a formal meaning, it is clearly being used as a rhetorical device to attack the projects.  The screen-shot here shows the sheer volume of usage.

We have questioned the appropriateness of the term in general for describing off-campus but predominantly student-oriented housing apartments that generally are between 500 and 1000 beds.

But, as we can see with the Plaza 2555 project, the label itself seems to be evolving to fit the projects – even in cases where the fit is less than ideal.

The key aspects of the mega-dorm appear to be predominantly large apartments – four or five bedrooms, but also with individual bathrooms for each bedroom and a rent-by-bed format.

As Eileen Samitz at one point described (inaccurately) when referring to Lincoln40, Sterling, Nishi and Plaza 2555, “these are all mega-dorms because they are all predominately 4- and 5- bedroom suites
each bedroom with an individual bathroom and rented-by-the-bed.”

Instead, she has advocated, “The format of 1-, 2- and 3- bedroom traditional apartments is needed for families and workers.”  She said, “The traditional 1-, 2-, and 3- bedrooms apartment formats can be rented by students or non-students, so these apartments serve all, not just some.”

So you would think that Plaza 2555 would be a better fit for Eileen Samitz, right?

After all, there are 200 total units.  Of these, 130 are admittedly designed as student housing.  But you also have 70 units which range in size from micro-units up to three beds.  Before, she said that we need “traditional” one-, two- and three-bedroom apartment formats.  That is what Plaza 2555 offers.

Not only that, but Plaza 2555 will not have individual bathrooms and they will rent by unit rather than by the bed.  You would think this would be something she could support, but no.

But not only does she not support it (which is her right), but she continues to insist that it is a mega-dorm.

She writes that “yes, Plaza 2555 is a mega-dorm too for heavens sake. 130 of the units are 4- and 5- bedroom. It is absurd for anyone to say that these mega-apartments in the mega-dorms would be rented by families even if they are not rented by-the-bed. I mean come on… 554 students beds? Seriously, you need to question if Plaza 2555 is a mega-dorm just because it has some smaller units and some affordable units?”

I kind of thought the definition of mega-dorm was it would be like a dorm, not with townhouses, and micro-units, and row houses and all sorts of other features for a range of families.

But when I pointed this out, she responded, “Don’t try to assume you know how I am defining mega-dorm.”

Shouldn’t it be evident how she is defining a term?  If she hasn’t made her definition clear, isn’t that a problem with her argument?  Especially when she specifically writes that “these are all mega-dorms because they are all predominately 4- and 5- bedroom suites each bedroom with an individual bathroom and rented-by-the-bed.”

Apparently not.  Instead, now she argues: “It is the 4- and 5- bedroom mega- apartment format that makes these mega-dorms, and the overwhelming predominance of that exclusionary design of units in these mega-dorms.These mega-apartments (1,500 sq. ft. and bigger which is bigger than most smaller-medium sizes houses in Davis) they are specifically designed for students whether or not they have individual bathrooms. The ones that do have individual bathrooms, such as Sterling, makes that mega-dorm format even worse due to the impacts.”

So basically even if you have a project that caters to families and workers in addition to students, if the mix is 65 percent student-oriented and 35 percent other, regardless of the actual format of the apartments, it is a mega-dorm.

I’m glad we cleared that up.  I now find the term even less usefully descriptive than before.

By the way, Eileen Samitz then asserts, “This ‘mix’ is not at all a proportional ‘mix.’”

What is a proportional mix?  For example, when we used the 2010 census, we learned that we had 25,869 housing units in Davis.  Of those, approximately 57 percent were rental units – 14,745.  Of them, 12,949 were rented either by students or non-family households, and that comes to 88 percent.

In other words, while we cannot quite come up with an exact percentage of rental properties occupied by students, we know that 88 percent were rented by students or groups of people who were not in family units.

So Ms. Samitz is correct that the mix is not proportional, but she’s wrong about the direction of the proportionality.

It has also been pointed out to me by many in the community that lumping family housing in with workforce housing is problematic.  There are workers who have families, who have different needs than workers who are young people without families. It was pointed out that many of the latter group may well fit in just as well with student housing, where they can save costs by sharing rent.

The bottom line here is that the rental market in Davis is dominated by student housing and therefore any new project needs to keep that in mind.  If you want to argue that we need housing for a range of needs, it seems like Plaza 2555 is actually a very good mix rather than a problematic one.

But I think something different is going on here.

The reality is it would be much more honest for the opposition to simply state that they oppose all student housing that is not on campus, but they have chosen to attack the form of that housing, which has made for inconsistent statements and a moving target – at best.

It is a reasonable position, but then we would be able to have a debate that I want to be able to have, which is how much of the housing should be provided on-campus versus off-campus.

The Vanguard has long supported a 100/50 mix for UC Davis.  But UC Davis thus far has only been willing to supply 6200 of the 10,000 needed new beds.  That leaves us with a choice – we can fight UC Davis and hope they add to the 6200, or we can plan to accommodate as many students as we reasonably can here in town so that they don’t end up getting the short end of the stick.

To me it is entirely reasonable to build additional student-oriented housing in town and preferably close to campus where students will bike or take the bus to school rather than drive.  And I still believe building more capacity for students, at places like Lincoln40 and the like, means that families will have a better chance to get the single-family housing in the neighborhoods – and speaking as one of these families, that would be my hope.

—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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96 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: What’s a Mega-Dorm Anyway?”

  1. Tia Will

    David

    means that families will have a better chance to get the single-family housing in the neighborhoods – and speaking as one of these families, that would be my hope.”

    I truly appreciate your phrasing this as a “better chance” and “my hope”. Previous articles have suggested that this will be the outcome, and I am not so sure that it will be given regional pressures. I think it is equally likely that these freed up homes will be purchased by rich families for their single student who then rents out rooms, or by those with cash in hand fleeing the increasingly expensive Bay Area. I sincerely hope that you are right, but am not sure that what we are seeing is not a “grow our way out of trouble” strategy in which I am not invested, not because I am a “no growth” advocate, but rather because I am a pragmatist who does not believe this will turn out the way many hope.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Tia: You are correct, as they say, the best laid plans… But I think I know with certainty what happens if we continue down the current path and I don’t think the answer is the university will build more in the next ten years.

    2. Michael Bisch

      Like it or not, you cannot meaningfully address a housing crisis without building more housing. Can’t wait for the next economic downturn where some of these folks will surely be arguing that the way to address high unemployment is to prohibit job creation.

      1. Ron

        There tends to be less developer interest in residential OR commercial development, during downturns.  (Even less than now, when there’s no visible interest in a commercial-only innovation center – despite the economic recovery.)

        Fortunately, many in Davis have stable employment. Even if there was interest, an innovation center would likely provide employment for those commuting to Davis.

      2. Michael Bisch

        Come to think of it, this type of reasoning for addressing community challenges is not uncommon here. “Don’t provide services for those community members in need. It will only attract more of those needing such services (e.g. homeless community members & those suffering from mental illnesses). Instead, let’s create artificial scarcity so that these undesirables all go away.”

        1. Ron

          Not likely that many of those folks would be able to compete for jobs at an innovation center, compared to those commuting in from other areas.  (At least, not without additional help.)

          Although you didn’t come right out and say it, I’m assuming that support for an innovation center underlies your arguments (e.g., “job creation”).

          By the way, we originally had an “innovation center”, at Nishi.

        2. Ron

          The basic argument is whether or not the city must continue accommodating UCD’s needs and associated costs (while negating the city’s own needs and plans).

          Strange, how some claim to be concerned about economic development (with “nary a peep”, when sites are converted from commercial zoning to accommodate UCD’s needs).

        3. David Greenwald

          The basic argument is whether the city should count on UC Davis to increase their housing alotment beyond the 6200 beds they’ve committed to and what the consequences will be if the city doesn’t add their own housing.

        4. Ron

          David:  “The basic argument is whether the city should count on UC Davis to increase their housing alotment beyond the 6200 beds they’ve committed to and what the consequences will be if the city doesn’t add their own housing.’

          No – the basic argument is, “what should the city do about that”.  If this isn’t permanently addressed, then this problem will continue into the future, and will overwhelm the city’s own planning efforts and needs (including the needs of non-student renters). It will also ensure that the city’s financial challenges become pronounced. 

          For that matter, there’s no guarantee that UCD will even follow-through on its “40/90” plan – especially if the city continues to blindly accommodate UCD’s needs.

        5. David Greenwald

          There is no way to permanently address that question.  This problem has continued in the past and will continue in the future.

          I found a quote from the 1972 City Council election from Dick Holdstock very telling:  “My highest priority will be for providing decent housing for those people who work in Davis and want to live here,” he told a March 8 forum at UCD, decrying a lack of low-cost housing in town.

          Any idea that you’re going to find a permanent solution is fantasy.

          Another point that hasn’t been considered is that UC Davis has committed to going from 29% on-campus housing to 40% in the next ten years.  Perhaps the long-range answer is that it was too much of a lift to go up to 50% in just ten years, in a way that’s nearly doubling the oncampus housing.  It’s probably more realistic to get there in 20 years, rather than ten.

      3. Tia Will

        Michael

        At this point in time, I do not know of anyone who is advocating not building any housing. The current debate seems to me to be centering around which type of housing will best meet our needs. Do you know of anyone who is, at least publicly arguing for “no growth” ?

        1. Michael Bisch

          You’re mistaken, Tia. Numerous individuals have advocated against more housing. The sum total of too tall, too short, too dense, not dense enough, not here, over there, not enough Affordable Housing, too much Affordable Housing, too many bathrooms, not enough bathrooms, evil developers = NO HOUSING.

           

          Sean Raycraft has done an excellent job of pointing this out in two recent op eds.

  2. Don Shor

     I urge Council to direct City Staff to clarify that new multi-family projects need to be predominately, if not entirely 1,2, and 3- bedroom traditional apartments offering market rental housing for all.

    This is an extraordinary and actually rather radical proposal. Is it to be codified? What basis does it have in law or any current planning document?

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Good question.

      I still question why you would build housing that doesn’t maximize available space and primarily serve the majority clientele (students and non-familial rentals).

  3. Don Shor

    People who live in McMansions in McNeighborhoods are upset about McMansions turning into Mini-dorms, but they oppose MegaDorms that have MegaApartments with MegaBathrooms. This is MaxiRhetoric being employed at MaxiVolume on behalf of MiniGrowth policies designed to keep Davis MaxiCompact in the face of MegaEnrollment increases by the MegaCampus. A MetaAnalysis would show that MaxiUsers of the MegaRhetoric are predominately ProtoProgressives arguing with NeoLiberals. It’s an alliance of PaleoEnvironmentalists against DeveloperDemocrats.

  4. Ron

    Still waiting for an article with truthful analyses, regarding the financial and non-financial costs of continuing to accommodate UCD’s plans without challenge.  (In other words, the actual reasons that folks are concerned.)

    Instead, we now have an entire article regarding the definition of “megadorm”. Not exactly investigative journalism, here.

      1. Ron

        Don:  It’s already been discussed (to some degree), in previous articles.  (Not by David, though.  He seems to disregard basic accounting principles, even though he runs his own business – the Vanguard itself.)

        Again, I’d like to see a full and complete analysis, regarding the financial and non-financial impacts of these megadorms. (Including the sacrifice of sites that are zoned for other uses.)

        1. Ron

          Don:  I’m not running a journalistic enterprise, but  I’m aware that I can submit an article.

          I’m just stating that a Vanguard article that focuses on the actual impacts would be more useful than arguing about the definition of the word “megadorm”.  However, it’s up to the Vanguard, to make those decisions.

          A short list of the impacts include direct and indirect costs to the city (both short-term and long-term), shortchanging the Affordable housing program, loss of space that’s zoned for other uses, elimination of sites that might be used for housing suitable for a broader range of population, etc. (In other words, real topics.)

        2. Ron

          John:  I’d suggest that phrase could apply to the Vanguard. (That is, unless one wants to continue arguing about the term “megadorm”, instead of actual issues.)

  5. Eileen Samitz

    Here we go again with the Vanguard trying to desperately cheer on mega-dorms. The bottom line is these mega-dorm proposals with predominantly 4- and 5- bedroom apartments do nothing to help provide the needed rental housing for local workers and families whom the Vanguard apparently does not care about. The overwhelming number of these 4- and 5- bedroom apartments in Plaza 2555 means it has even more of these 1,500 to 1,700 sq. ft. mega-apartments (bigger than many homes  Davis) than are in the Sterling Fifth Street apartments. These apartments would clearly be unaffordable to families. In fact, the unwarranted assumption that the Vanguard is making here is that any of these apartments would be “affordable” to students.

    Also, what about the economic development that the Vanguard has been so concerned about?   What about both Nishi and Plaza 2555  removing commercial options at those sites? Let’s not forget Nishi was supposed to have an innovation park to bring economic development and revenue to the City. But now, economic development development is being kicked to the curb by the Vanguard. Interesting.

    So here we go again on the Vanguard merry-go-round of nothing more than advocacy for bad City planning.

    1. David Greenwald

      Actually the bottom line is that you want the university to build more housing than they have committed to building and are trying to find excuses to try to stop the city from adding housing.

      1. Ron

        David:  If you honestly explored the actual costs and impacts of these proposed megadorms, then you’d see why some are concerned.  (As a side note, you already know that Eileen is not necessarily opposed to housing, in a manner which meets the city’s own needs. Normally, I don’t try to speak for others, but felt compelled to point out the inaccuracy of your statement.)

        1. Ron

          David: Some of the actual costs and impacts were discussed in previous articles (e.g., direct and indirect costs to the city, which rise more quickly than revenues collected).  I can find that discussion, if needed.

          Other costs include shortchanging of the Affordable housing program (compared to “traditional” apartment developments), inadequate impact fees, loss of space zoned for commercial activities (or for housing that’s suitable for a broader population).

          In general, UCD’s needs will overwhelm the city’s planning efforts, if the situation is not resolved.

          As John pointed out above, these issues have been briefly discussed “ad nauseum”.  However, you never followed-up when your “financial analysis” was debunked, for example (e.g., the one that Matt described as built on a “foundation of sand”).

          Don: I realize that the vacancy rate is your only consideration regarding planning. However, it’s strange that you can’t see that continuing to blindly accommodate UCD’s needs will not address your concern. (Again, there’s no guarantee that UCD will even follow-through on its “40/90” plan.)

           

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I don’t need you to find a discussion, what I need you to do is answer a question.

            You stated: “If you honestly explored the actual costs and impacts of these proposed megadorms”

            I asked what the actually costs and impacts were (as you see them)

            Your answer: “Other costs include shortchanging of the Affordable housing program (compared to “traditional” apartment developments), inadequate impact fees, loss of space zoned for commercial activities (or for housing that’s suitable for a broader population).”

            Why are you assuming that any of these are going to be a problem by the time the next project gets approved? The council has already raised the issue of fees and has asked that it be by the room or bed rather than by the unit. They don’t have to wait until they formally do a new ordinance, they can include that in the approvals. Since the projects other than Sterling have not come before council yet, we have no way of knowing whether these will be an issue and if they are, we can address them in the approvals.

            “you never followed-up when your “financial analysis” was debunked, for example (e.g., the one that Matt described as built on a “foundation of sand”).”

            Actually I did, I talked with Matt, I agree with Matt, his point doesn’t support your position. In fact, his point WAS my point. My whole point in laying out the numbers was to demonstrate that the notion that these projects are fiscal losers are in real terms flawed because the assumptions are wrong, the cost-estimates are off, and the impact fees are not included.

          2. Don Shor

            Don: I realize that the vacancy rate is your only consideration regarding planning.

            False.

            However, it’s strange that you can’t see that continuing to blindly accommodate UCD’s needs will not address your concern.

            Ignoring the pointless adverbs, I will say this is also false. Building housing for renters will address my concern about the apartment vacancy rate. Econ 1.

            (Again, there’s no guarantee that UCD will even follow-through on its “40/90” plan.)

            Third time you’ve said this. What guarantee would you like?

        2. Ron

          David: Here is a portion of what Matt actually stated, in the previous article:

          “— Portray the estimated costs of city services on both a cash and an accrual basis – for example indicating more specifically in the cash version when specific City costs reflected in the fair-share accrual basis have actually been prepaid by the City.  For example, the accrual of a proportional share of Fire Station construction costs would be reflected in the fair-share accrual basis, but if that Fire Station has already been constructed by the City, those construction costs would not be included in the cash basis.”

          “Bottom-line, the model David is using is missing so many elements (both good and bad) that it is effectively useless. Therefore the points he is making in this article have to be taken with a grain of sand, because building on the model is building on a foundation of sand.”

          http://www.davisvanguard.org/2017/10/sunday-commentary-housing-developments-net-fiscal-losers-city/#comment-369753

        3. Ron

          Don:  “Ignoring the pointless adverbs, I will say this is also false. Building housing for renters will address my concern about the apartment vacancy rate. Econ 1.”

          Not if it causes UCD to scale back/drag its feet, regarding its plans.  (Thereby displacing non-student renters, as well as other potential uses of remaining sites within the city.)

          The LRDP isn’t even finalized, nor is the city’s possible response/options.

          1. Don Shor

            Not if it causes UCD to scale back/drag its feet, regarding its plans.

            Econ 1A still works, regardless of what UCD does. We needed more apartments ten years ago. We need more apartments today. The demand has increased much faster than the supply. Econ 1A.

            You also have no evidence to suggest that they are going to slow down the pace of the housing they’ve committed to in the current LRDP. I think it’s safe to say they aren’t going to reduce the commitment.

            nor is the city’s possible response/options.

            Still pinning all your hopes on that lawsuit, Ron?

        4. David Greenwald

          “Not if it causes UCD to scale back/drag its feet, regarding its plans.  ”

          So you’d like to have a 4000 bed shortfall because you are afraid UC Davis won’t build what they’ve promised to build?

        5. Ron

          David:  I’d suggest that the city protect its own planning process (which likely necessitates the need for a formal agreement, with UCD).

          As a side note, traditional apartments can also house students, while simultaneously appealing to a broader population.  (That is, if that’s determined to be the best use of a given, remaining site within the city, for example.)

        6. Ron

          Don:  “Still pinning all your hopes on that lawsuit, Ron?”

          Ultimately, I would think that this might be something you’d consider exploring (even more than me), given your single-minded concern.  But, it seems like you’re too stubbornly focused on sacrificing the city’s own planning efforts, instead.

          If you did take the time to “explore” that option, I’m pretty sure it would be for the purpose of debunking it, rather than honestly looking at it. Much like you do for anything that you believe interferes with your single-minded focus.

          I am so glad that you’re not directly involved with city planning. Your comments on the Vanguard are harmful enough, on their own.

          1. Don Shor

            Ultimately, I would think that this might be something you’d consider exploring (even more than me), given your single-minded concern.

            I have read the lawsuits and settlements in the UCSC and UCB cases. Neither, in my opinion, have much applicability to Davis because of the different nature of the entities and the infrastructure here. Moreover, I suggest you read the settlement in the UCB case and explain how that one would be of any particular benefit to Davis.
            A lawsuit might become useful leverage to prevent similar problems going forward. It won’t deal with the issues we have now in any way that I can discern. If you have another view on this, please enlighten us. If someone is telling you a lawsuit would be useful right now to help with the current housing shortfall, please present their arguments. Otherwise, I suggest you stop with the ad hominems.

        7. David Greenwald

          So Ron the bottom line is that your expressed concerns about the costs are legitimate, however, the council is aware of the issues you raised, and will likely address them when they assess the impact fees when Lincoln40 is approved.  If they don’t – then you have a legitimate beef.

        8. David Greenwald

          Ron: The city is protecting its planning process by approving needed student housing so that the current situation does not get worse.  You’re alternative is to not approve the housing and create even more of a shortfall than we already have.  I️ don’t see that as practical.

        9. Ron

          Don:  “You also have no evidence to suggest that they are going to slow down the pace of the housing they’ve committed to in the current LRDP.  I think it’s safe to say they aren’t going to reduce the commitment.”

          Right, it’s not as though they’ve done something like that in the past.  🙂

          There’s a difference between putting something on paper, vs. following-through. (If I’m not mistaken, you’ve previously noted this, as well.)

        10. Ron

          David:  “So Ron the bottom line is that your expressed concerns about the costs are legitimate, however, the council is aware of the issues you raised, and will likely address them when they assess the impact fees when Lincoln40 is approved.  If they don’t – then you have a legitimate beef.”

          Thank you for acknowledging that. (However, I’m not convinced that they will do so, prior to considering approval of Lincoln 40.)

          More importantly, impact fees are only one small part of the equation.  Long-term costs will still exceed revenue (which is a far more serious, permanent, and ongoing concern).

          Makes one wonder if this is the underlying/primary reason that UCD doesn’t want to assume the responsibility for the need it is creating.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “I’m not convinced that they will do so, prior to considering approval of Lincoln 40.”

            The beauty of it, is we’ll know.

            “Long-term costs will still exceed revenue”

            That’s the part we disagree on.

        11. Ron

          Ron:  “Long-term costs will still exceed revenue”

          David:  “That’s the part we disagree on.”

          That’s the part where you disagree with basic accounting principles, regarding allocation of costs.  (Actually, even though you’ve ignored those costs, your own analysis still showed costs exceeding revenues, over time.)

          It would be interesting to see an actual/complete analysis.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            First of all, it wasn’t my analysis, it was the city’s. Second, I demonstrated that the assumption on the cost inflation was out of line with the city consultant analysis. And third, I pointed out that in a lot of cases, those aren’t real costs. Moreover, if you have a 15 year window and the project moves slightly negative in year 15, I think that’s pretty revenue neutral (a point that you have continuously failed to acknowledge). At what point is it the development that’s not revenue neutral and at what point would it be just the city itself that isn’t revenue neutral? (At some point it has nothing to do with the development itself, it’s simply a function of the fact that the city costs increase more rapidly than revenues – assuming they do). 15 years out is a long time to take these calculations out. Anyway, you want it to be what you want it to be. So be it.

        12. Ron

          David:  First of all, it wasn’t my analysis, it was the city’s.’

          Actually, the source of the numbers used in that article were not provided in your article.  Did it include the types of direct and indirect expenses discussed in the article, below?   (For example, funded and unfunded medical and pension benefits?)  Other examples include building, facilities and vehicle maintenance, park maintenance, roadway maintenance, bike path maintenance, insurance . . .)

          http://leg.mt.gov/content/publications/research/past_interim/fullcost.pdf

          David:  “Second, I demonstrated that the assumption on the cost inflation was out of line with the city consultant analysis.”

          Not explained.

          David:  “And third, I pointed out that in a lot of cases, those aren’t real costs.”

          No idea what you’re talking about.

          And again, if you’re going to argue that those costs shouldn’t be allocated (because a given development might not require hiring an additional staff person), then the same argument could be used by anyone with a property, to avoid paying taxes.

          David: Moreover, if you have a 15 year window and the project moves slightly negative in year 15, I think that’s pretty revenue neutral (a point that you have continuously failed to acknowledge).”

          Even if all costs were included (which has not been determined), this demonstrates that starting in year 15, costs will exceed revenue (and that this deficit will INCREASE every year, thereafter).

           

           

        13. David Greenwald

          Actually it was: “To illustrate the issue I have pulled a recent project fiscal analysis for Sterling Apartments. ” “The above chart is derived from the city’s fiscal analysis.”. I didn’t link it, but it was explained.

        14. David Greenwald

          “if you’re going to argue that those costs shouldn’t be allocated (because a given development might not require hiring an additional staff person), then the same argument could be used by anyone with a property, to avoid paying taxes.”

          I’m not following you.  If the actual cost to the city doesn’t exist, then the project isn’t a revenue loser.

        15. Ron

          Dong:  regarding the possibility of a lawsuit/settlement agreement:

          1) You consistently assume that you have more legal knowledge than you actually have, and 2) discount anything that interferes with your motto of “build, baby, build”.  (As a side note, you’re also apparently an air quality expert.)  Now, if only you’d advocate for a sustainable wage.

          Don:  “A lawsuit might become useful leverage to prevent similar problems going forward.”

          Well, at least you acknowledge that.

           

          1. Don Shor

            1) You consistently assume that you have more legal knowledge than you actually have

            Not at all. I presented my opinion. You replied with insults. I suggest you stop doing that.

        16. David Greenwald

          “Even if all costs were included (which has not been determined), this demonstrates that starting in year 15, costs will exceed revenue (and that this deficit will INCREASE every year, thereafter).”

          My question is, at what point is it no longer costs for a development?  It’s okay, you’re not prepared to answer this question.  It’s a discussion I’ve had with people like Matt and Dan Carson.

        17. Ron

          David:  “I’m not following you.  If the actual cost to the city doesn’t exist, then the project isn’t a revenue loser.”

          The costs exist, otherwise there would be no taxes (or fiscal challenges).  (Really?  You’re not “following this”?)

           

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Still not following you. The taxes are a source of revenue, not a mechanism of compensation for direct costs – those would be fees (impact fees for example).

        18. Ron

          David:  “My question is, at what point is it no longer costs for a development?”

          When it simultaneously doesn’t cost the city anything.  (In other words, definitely not starting in “year 15”, when it “inconveniently” shows an ever-expanding deficit.)  (Assuming that costs were properly allocated in the first place, which hasn’t been established in the example described above.)

          I would hope that anyone in an advisory position to the city doesn’t try to argue otherwise. That would be a real disservice.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            So where do you cut it off? 50 years out there is still an impact from the development? The only unreimbursed costs at this point are marginal additions to staff. It’s not an actual cost of the development. This is the point I keep trying to make to you and you keep wanting to insist that there are real costs for the development.

        19. Ron

          David:  So where do you cut it off? 50 years out there is still an impact from the development?

          I would ask that question of you.  Should it be year 15, 16, 17, . . .?

          David:  “The only unreimbursed costs at this point are marginal additions to staff. It’s not an actual cost of the development.”

          Again, this argument could be made for each and every development, until such time that a new staff member is needed.  (Then, the “last” development would presumably have to pay the full cost of an additional staff person.)

          Does any given development depend upon police, fire, parks, roads, bike paths, city government, etc.?  Should only prior (or future) developments pay for these costs?

          By the way, I’m pretty sure that my house didn’t “create” a need for an additional staff person, either.  However, my taxes were (hopefully) properly allocated to account for the fact that I use and depend upon these services, directly and indirectly.

          You might want to read the article (attached again, below).  It mentions that governments are using full-cost accounting methods (rather than “cash flow” accounting), to properly account for costs.

          (I suspect that previous “cash flow” accounting methods had a role in the current fiscal challenges, in cities throughout California.)

          http://leg.mt.gov/content/publications/research/past_interim/fullcost.pdf

           

           

        20. Ron

          David:  “Still not following you. The taxes are a source of revenue, not a mechanism of compensation for direct costs – those would be fees (impact fees for example).”

          You seem to be misunderstanding the purpose of impact fees, even though this was discussed at length (more than once), in the Vanguard:
           
          From article, below: “Development Impact Fees are one time charges applied to new developments. Their goal is to raise revenue for the construction or expansion of capital facilities located outside the boundaries of the new development that benefit the contributing development (Nicholas, et al., 1991). Impact fees are assessed and dedicated principally for the provision of additional water and sewer systems, roads, schools, libraries and parks and recreation facilities made necessary by the presence of new residents in the area. The funds collected cannot be used for operation, maintenance, repair, alteration or replacement of capital facilities.”
           http://www.impactfees.com/publications%20pdf/dif.pdf
           

  6. Howard P

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dormitory

    Dormitories typically (aka, residence halls) provide rooms for sleeping/studying/’hanging out’.

    Typically, dorms have communal restroom/bath facilities, typically a location per 30 – 40 students students (generally, 1/floor)… they typically have dining commons, serving several buildings, and maybe one small kitchen per building.

    Apartments typically have one bathroom per bedroom (1 ba for 2 bdr, max)… older student apartments typically had 2 students per room accommodated.  1 ba for every two people.  Apartments typically have full kitchens.  I think the first in Davis to market one bedroom/student was Greystone Apartments — years ago.  Think they called them ‘suites’.

  7. Howard P

    Your cited source is untrue and/or false, Ron.  As it applies to Davis.  Let’s say an additional fire station is needed in Davis, 2/3 due to existing development,1/3 due to future development.  Impact fees are to catch new development up to the monies the existing development is responsible for, and is paying/saving for..

    In Davis impact fees in Davis is to offset additional burdens not additional benefits!

    Otherwise I can see where folk (like you?) may already have an obligation for improvements/benefits, but you appear want new development to pay to “take existing development off the hook”, for what is already the obligation/burden of existing.

    Impact fees are meant to put existing development on the same ‘par’ as new, so it is fair, proportionally.  At least s it was conceived in Davis, and how it has been administered, in the main.

    1. Ron

      Howard:  Not seeing any discrepancy, between what you’re stating and the article I’ve cited. (That’s the same article that you and Mark discussed at length, previously.)

      I made no statement regarding a desire to have new development “take existing development off the hook”.

      Hopefully, prior impact fees were sufficient to ultimately pay a proportional share of the additional infrastructure that will eventually be needed.  (However, that brings up another point:  If impact fees aren’t immediately used, would they be insufficient to cover costs when the infrastructure is actually built, in the future?  Or, would inflation eat into those funds, if they’re not invested in some manner?)

      I wonder where impact fees that aren’t immediately used are “stored”.

      By the way, I thought you said that you weren’t communicating with me, anymore? (Due to the use of the “M” word.) 🙂

  8. Howard P

    Ron… you brought up an issue of FACT.  It is for the others I respond…

    For everyone (and not just you, so don’t feel special), it is important the understand “burden” vs. “benefit”… an extension of the greenbelt system due to new development is a “burden” of the new development… it also “benefits” the existing City, yet new development pays for the design, review, construction, etc. without any existing City contribution.  Once it is built, the new development and existing city share the costs of maintaining/repairing/replacing the new improvements as well as all the existing greenbelts.  Equally.

    New development does not (and should not) have the obligation to “reimburse” older development for the capital costs incurred by previous improvements, even though the new development “benefits” from those previously constructed.

    By the same token, it would be wrong to assess impact fees for the existing deficiencies of the roadway system as to maintenance, reconstruction.  Those ‘obligations’ remain whether new development occurs or not… on the existing City.

    When the City decided to built the surface water project and treatment plant upgrades (sewer), any additional capacity due to new development should be their obligation… but not to reduce the costs for the existing City for those facilities for the capacity… both benefit, but they have different burdens.

    Not seeing any discrepancy, between what you’re stating and the article I’ve cited.

    Then you’re not looking!  Their assumption is that new improvements are related ONLY to the new development.

    Not true as to me.  First time I’ve read that article.  Would have called it out as partially false at that time.

    I have spoken of “burden” vs. “benefit” before, but not in the context of that writing.

    I wonder where impact fees that aren’t immediately used are “stored”.

    Readily available from the city… they are set up as ‘sorta’ trust funds, in both the enterprise funds, AND GF, and show up in fund balances, but not in operating budgets… the authors got that part right, that the funds can only go to Capital Improvements, but not O & M.
     

  9. Ron

    Howard:  “Not true as to me.  First time I’ve read that article.  Would have called it out as partially false at that time.”

    You responded to Mark, when he posted this article (in which he referenced he same section that I referenced, above).  So, you’ve certainly seen it, before:

    http://www.davisvanguard.org/2017/03/sterling-comes-back-revised-proposal/#comment-354921

    I’ve also subsequently cited the same section in other Vanguard articles, not just today.

    Howard:  “Their assumption is that new improvements are related ONLY to the new development.”

    I’m not seeing that assumption in the referenced section, nor do I know what you’ve decided to “disagree with” this particular time.

     

    1. Howard P

      I responded to Mark’s words… did not drill down into the cite (taking your word for it that it was there… not sure I should, but I will as I can’t be bothered to go back and look…).  You make an erroneous assumption or you misread.

      1. Ron

        The same cited section is located immediately above your earlier comments to Mark (as follows):

        “Howard to Mark:  “You are welcome… yours is a very reasonable voice… very welcome…

        I have strong opinions, but my basis is (usually) facts.  If I helped to inform you, that’s just what I feel called to do.

        Nuance… if new development puts additional ‘strains’ or shortens service life of capital improvements, replacement can indeed be funded. Proportionally.”

        http://www.davisvanguard.org/2017/03/sterling-comes-back-revised-proposal/#comment-354921

        (As a side note, what a difference in tone – compared to how you communicate with some others whom you disagree with, on the Vanguard.)

        1. Ron

          Howard:  “Not true as to me.  First time I’ve read that article.  Would have called it out as partially false at that time.”

          Note that I included the EXACT SAME QUOTE and link that Mark did (which you responded to)!  Nothing more, nothing less.

          What are you arguing about, exactly?

        2. Howard P

          Would say the same to you… I made no reference to the cite.  I did not read the cite at the time.  If you wish to accuse me of lying, feel free to do so…

          You misdirect or lie, take you pick.  I feel free to say so, as I have honesty on my side…

          No surprises there.  Done.

        3. Ron

          Not going to let you off the hook, this time.  Sure seems like you were responding to Mark’s statement, which was included immediately below the exact same citation:

          Mark (to Howard): “I agree that your assessment is correct. Thank you.”

          The citation speaks for itself.  For some reason (and only this particular time), you “read into it” more than what was there (including an incorrect assumption regarding what I “wanted” it to state.)

          Perhaps you should go back to “not responding” to me, unless you have something useful to say.

        4. Mark West

          Dear Ron…You don’t know what you are talking about.

          I posted the cited article as the source of my education that allowed me to agree with Howard’s position. Nothing more, nothing less. Howard never indicated that he had read the cite, nor was there any reason for him to do so. It was simply a source of information for anyone else who wanted to understand the topic better. It is a shame you didn’t take advantage of the opportunity.

           

        5. Ron

          Mark:  Howard responded to you, regarding your post which included the quoted section.  Seems pretty unlikely that he could respond to a post which he hadn’t seen. (But, stranger things have sometimes been argued on the Vanguard.) The only other plausible explanation is that he somehow “only” saw your comment, which was included in your same post, directly below the quoted section.

          I did learn from the post, and citation.  Thanks for sharing it.

           

  10. Ron

    Howard:  New development does not (and should not) have the obligation to “reimburse” older development for the capital costs incurred by previous improvements, even though the new development “benefits” from those previously constructed.

    By the same token, older development should not be paying capital costs for planned new developments.  New developments are still responsible for paying their share of capital improvements that will (cumulatively) be needed, as a result of their presence.

      1. Howard P

        That is to say, existing is not paying for new, new is not paying for existing, in the main… despite your repeated implications to the contrary.

        Based on property taxes, new is subsidizing existing to a certain extent… if you contend that after 15 years, development is not paying for itself, what does that say about you? Hmmm….

        1. Ron

          Incorrect assumptions being made, here.  For one thing, we haven’t even established that the example in question (Sterling) included all costs, properly allocated. Even if it does, the deficit will continue and expand, beyond that point. (Even if the costs were properly allocated in the example, most developments “last longer” than 15 years, regardless.)

          In any case, this says “nothing” about me.  The city’s ongoing fiscal challenge says it all.  Some want to add to that challenge, by unquestioningly continuing to accommodate UCD’s plans, at the expense of the city’s own plans and needs.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “Even if it does, the deficit will continue and expand, beyond that point.”

            That may well be a false assumption. As I have tried to point out, at some point you are no longer talking about costs from development.

        2. Howard P

          Same is true where you live, Ron… your point?  Unless you have been a part of the Community, paying your fair share for say, 35 years, you are in a glass house… even with a stucco exterior.

          Have you fully paid for your and/or your residence’s impact? We have yet to establish that.

        3. Ron

          David:  “As I have tried to point out, at some point you are no longer talking about costs from development.”

          Yes we are.  If you try to argue otherwise, then you’ll be creating an arbitrary “line” (e.g., at 10 years, 15 years, 20 years . . .)  Perhaps ironically, creating larger and larger deficits, as time goes on.

          It really all goes back to Proposition 13, which limits revenues (but not expenditures).  That’s why it’s a problem throughout California. It also encourages homeowners to stay put, especially if they’ve been in one place, for awhile. (In that sense, it’s kind of similar to rent control.)

          Same thing for apartment complexes, if the owners don’t sell them. (In fact, I’ve heard that there’s even less turnover regarding ownership of apartment complexes, but I haven’t researched or verified this independently.)

        4. Ron

          Not only would you be creating an “arbitrary line” (at an arbitrary point in time), you’d also be creating an “arbitrary category”, in which to assign those costs (which would nevertheless still the responsibility of the owner of a given property, as it had been to begin with).

          That “arbitrary category” (to assign costs, presumably after creating an “arbitrary line”) doesn’t even exist.  (Man, that’s some “creative accounting” that you’re apparently advocating for.)

          Wondering if I’ve used the word “arbitrary” enough times, here.  🙂

  11. Ron

    Well, another day shot, arguing with the same “usual suspects” who have no apparent interest in honest presentations or arguments.

    Probably better to just not read the Vanguard, in the first place.  (Or, at least not start commenting, and then allowing oneself to get dragged into the same nonsensical arguments with the same folks, day-after-day.)

    So, unless someone wants to fight with me more (and I feel compelled to respond), I’ll just say “megadorm”, and leave it at that.

    1. Howard P

      Ron, I call you out as either blind or an untruth teller… Mark points out, he appended a link to a cite he found, to check on me as a truth-teller or not…

      It did not appear in my original post, nor did I read it (the cite he appended) when I responded to his posting that he was convinced I was truth-telling.

      The truth will set you free.

      As you say,

      Not going to let you off the hook, this time.

      Try cognition… works well for most.

      Also pre-cognition… will give 5-1 odds you will make damn sure you get in ‘the last word’ on this micro-issue… go for it!

       

      1. Ron

        Howard:  “It did not appear in my original post, nor did I read it (the cite he appended) when I responded to his posting that he was convinced I was truth-telling.”

        And yet, you responded to his posting which included the citation.  Truly magical.

        And, you must have also missed the other times I posted the same quote. (Even though you scrutinize my postings.)

        Not worth discussing this further.  You guys can spin this nonsense however you want.

  12. Howard P

    David…

    Think I have the answer to the “what is a Megadorm?” question…

    Am pretty convinced that it is,

    1) what anyone who wants to use it as an epithet, rallying point, or talking point, wants it to be (and you dare not question them! They ‘know’, the unwashed masses should not question!)
    2) it is “frangible” as to time, place, project
    3) hopefully not a term that creeps into general acceptance, given 1 and 2.

  13. Eileen Samitz

    David:  “But I think something different is going on here.

    The reality is it would be much more honest for the opposition to simply state that they oppose all student housing that is not on campus, but they have chosen to attack the form of that housing, which has made for inconsistent statements and a moving target – at best.”

    David,

    I have had no time to deal with the Vanguard today after the comment I posted earlier. It is really disappointing to see this article which is a pathetic attempt to completely spin and misrepresent.

    For example, you are completely wrong with this ridiculous statement above.  So, please don’t waste any more time dreaming up more fictitious theories to try to convince readers about complete nonsense like this. Give them more credit.

    So, let me just reiterate the issue, which is not hard to understand, although you continue to try to complicate it.  

    The City needs rental housing which is inclusive by design of 1-, 2- and 3- bedroom traditional apartments, not mega-dorms which have predominantly 4- and 5- bedroom apartments which are exclusionary by design, targeting students only. There are over 5,000 of these mega-dorm beds are being proposed in the City which does nothing to help provide housing for our families and local workers. 1-,2-, and 3-bedroom traditional apartments are needed instead of mega-dorm because they allow families, workers, and students to live in them, unlike mega-dorms.

    Finally, here’s a suggestion for the Vanguard. Why not try just a little honesty yourself and simply report information as it is, instead of trying to manufacture it to fit your spin?

     

    1. Sean Raycraft

      I find the entirety of this comment quite ironic, in fact its something that Steve Bannon or Karl Rove might dream up. Instead of actually addressing the topic, you attack the legitimacy of the publishing author, in an ad hominem way, the simply deflect and pivot to your pre determined, narrative building talking points, leaving the substantive discourse in the rear view mirror. So. About those issues. Can we have that discussion without the Ad Hominem Trumpian tactics? That would be great, thanks.

      1. Keith O

        LOL, we need to come up with a term for how every Internet conversation on the Vanguard that goes long enough sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Donald Trump.

        Maybe we can call it ‘Barack Palin’s Law’?

  14. Eileen Samitz

    Sean,

    I understand your defensive attitude since you are a Vanguard Board member, but your rhetoric is off the charts. My comments are responding to spin and nonsensical accusations made by the Vanguard regarding my concerns about mega-dorms.

    Also, I think you need to take your own advice that you posted. That would be great.

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