Public Commenters Speak Out Against Mega-Dorms

There wasn’t a lot on the agenda on Tuesday night, but the public comments made up for it as nine people came forward during public comment to speak out against the construction of so-called mega-dorms, a loose term that seemingly is defined by large, predominantly four- to five-bedroom apartments that are student oriented.

Susan Rainier, a UC Davis architect, told the council that the conservation of water is critical, as it is tied to greenhouse gas emissions.  She said, “The four- to five-bedroom mega-dorms that are being plopped around town kind of haphazardly, without the studies that need to be done to see if there’s capacity in the pipes of the city or at the plant, are not sustainable.”

She added, “It also is going to cause gentrification with the high prices for these closet-like rooms that the students will have with what happens in the city itself with people renting rooms in their homes.  There’s going to be a glut on that high price stuff.”

Ms. Rainier said she was touched by a young mother who came forward a few weeks ago to say that she and her husband with their two children are have trouble finding a place to live.  She said, “Why aren’t we just making housing for students and families?  And making it more reasonable in that respect.  The city needs to be providing for non-students as well.

“I haven’t seen what these mega-dorms are doing for water conservation as well,” she added.

David McGlocklin briefly added his voice against the mega-dorms.  “I feel like the whole process is going against what Davis stands for.  The way the configuration is doing damage to the fees for the city – something that we should give some definite serious thought to.”

A former planning commissioner said, “I’m here to talk to you about mega-dorms.  I don’t know what’s going on lately.  Either the council is directing staff or demand is forcing staff.  We are spending too much time on these mega-dorms.”

M.E. Gladis argued that “environmental sustainability is important.”  She said, “I have met young adults with children who want to live in Davis and can’t afford housing.

“Long commutes do not support environmental sustainability,” she said.  “And where are the families with children going to live in the future, that will enroll their children in Davis schools – perhaps not in Davis?

“Approving housing developments with flat rates of likely high rent to include utility services from the city, does not support environmental sustainability.  Allowing developers to be charged per unit for their student-only housing… does not promote financial stability for Davis citizens.  In addition, the addition of hundreds of bicycles along Fifth (Street) and Russell Boulevard does not bode well for safety sustainability.”

She said, “Davis citizens deserve a city council with a vision of a sustainable future for the environment, safety and finances.  Start first with standing up to UCD…  Sue them to give back the citizens of Davis the money spent on infrastructure and ongoing utilities.”

Carrie-Ann Hunt, a single mother who went through the experience of trying to find a two-bedroom apartment in Davis, said,  “It was a very long and frustrating experience.”  She said there were a lot of vacancy signs, but when she went to the office, “there was no vacancy in up to probably 50 places I looked for.”

She said what was available were individually rented rooms but not whole units.  “It wasn’t an appropriate place for my son and I to live together,” she explained.  “I ended up with a three-bedroom apartment which was out of my price range, but was the only thing I could end up affording.”

Colin Walsh noted, “There seems to be a shift in the projects that are coming before the city.  These projects that are four, five, six students, residents, even more if they double up, are a new and different beast.  Some of them have already been approved, more are coming.

“These are really single-use buildings and not easily repurposed in the future,” he said.  “Not places that are welcoming to families, not welcoming to working people, not welcoming to single parents. The very people who are being squeezed out of the market by students who can afford quite a bit of rent by people when they break up the houses into quite a bit of people.

“I see what’s happening with the university,” he said.  “You guys did a great thing by passing the resolution last year to put some pressure on the university to build more housing.  But what’s happened since then?  I hear people backing away from that pressure.  The university still has not increased the amount of housing they’re building on campus and until they do – it’s going to be a problem for the working folks, the single parents in this town.”

He said we can’t give in and allow these four-, five-, six-bedroom projects to be built in as student-only.  “If they do, they won’t be able to be repurposed later and they’re not inclusive now.”

Nancy Price reminded the council that “the university has been asked to implement this 50/100 plan on four resolutions and a community petition.  The resolutions have been from the Davis City Council, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, the ASUCD Student Senate, and the Sierra Club Yolano Group.”

She said, “I think it’s time you slow down the mega-dorm approval process and don’t consider projects before you until the UCD LRDP is released and until we really see that they’re taking seriously these requests for the 50/100 plan.

“I think if you approve projects before then that you’ll be sending the wrong message that they really don’t need to meet this implementation and they can proceed as they wish,” she concluded.

Eileen Samitz noted that she wrote an op-ed on the mega-dorm issue, “I wanted to alert the community that there are at least five to seven of these mega-dorms being processed by the city.  These mega-dorm projects are exclusionary housing – they’re specifically designed for students, they’re enormous four- or five-bedroom apartment suites, each one has a bathroom, the bedroom has a lock so it’s an apartment within an apartment.

“None of this is appropriate for families that need rental housing within the city,” she said.  “This rent-by-the-bed situation is not going to help students either, because it’s going to be very expensive – it’s going to be very luxury type student housing, so it’s not going to be affordable.”

She added, “The issue is the design of these units, the fact that what instead the city should be looking at is any of the multi-family housing coming forward with … every other multi-family project coming forward needs to be one-, two-, three-bedroom apartments so that everyone can live in it.”

Ron Ortel said, “Seems like we are getting these unprecedented designs – these four- or five-bedroom suites – some of them larger than a house.”

He said the problem “seems to be UCD.  The city hasn’t found a method yet to deal with them.”  He suggested a few examples of UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley “where they’ve come to an agreement first.”

He added, “Here we’re jumping the gun.  We’re not done with the LRDP yet and we’re already responding to UCD’s needs here.  There’s a cost to that.  There’s a cost to other people who need housing.  There’s a cost to commercial sites.  There’s a cost to affordable housing and a cost to the impact fees (they’re based on the number of units rather than the size).

“I don’t think you know the cost financially of these things yet,” he said.  He asked how property tax pays for this kind of thing.

The city council approved the first of these projects last spring and Lincoln40 is expected to go to the Planning Commission next Wednesday.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

We Are Twenty Percent to Our December Fundraising Goal



Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$
USD
Sign up for

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.

Related posts

54 thoughts on “Public Commenters Speak Out Against Mega-Dorms”

  1. Michael Bisch

    Yikes! More of that awful, screeching, brain-damaging, scratching-chalk-boards sound. “Don’t build this. Don’t build that. Don’t build. Don’t build. Don’t build. The fact that we have many thousands of community members who are housing insecure is not my problem. I simply do not care.”

    1. Tia Will

      Michael

      I think perhaps that you are not listening carefully. I do not hear anyone saying “don’t build”. I do hear people saying “build thoughtfully and in ways which will benefit all not just a select group”. These are two very different messages and to try to portray them as though they are identical does not credit you. I know from private conversations that you are better than this.

        1. Tia Will

          Michael

          Absolutely not. I am telling my truth, just as you are apparently telling yours. It is so hard to believe that we simply do not see things the same way ?

  2. Don Shor

    With reference to the lawsuits mentioned in public comment:

    UC Berkeley lawsuit settled in 2005

    https://www.cityofberkeley.info/City_Manager/Home/Manager__Agreement_on_University_s_Growth_Plan.aspx


    Additional joint initiatives include a “First Source” hiring agreement for Berkeley residents; a local purchasing program to encourage the Campus’ purchase of local goods and services; an effort to establish an employee release time program for UC staff volunteers to work with at-risk youth in Berkeley; an effort to encourage spin-off businesses to locate in Berkeley; and an initiative to explore the development of public-private research facilities in the City.

    • Beginning July, 2006, the University will double its annual direct payment to the City. The increase from the $500,000 currently paid each year will exceed $1.2 million, adjusted upwards by 3% per year, and forecasts new revenue in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from a Use Tax program.
    • The University reduced the number of new parking spaces from 2,300 to 1,270, a reduction of over 1,000 spaces, contingent upon the new AC Transit “Rapid bus” system route on improved regional transit. The Campus will prioritize locations if new parking is developed to benefit both the Campus and community.
    • The City and University will coordinate together to develop a Downtown Area Plan. Relevant commissions and the City Council will have direct involvement in the revitalization of the City’s downtown, the protection of historic resources, and transit-friendly development.

    UC Santa Cruz lawsuit settled in 2008

    http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/article/zz/20080809/NEWS/808099896

     UC Santa Cruz can continue its plans to grow the campus by 4,500 students as part of an agreement reached with the city, county and neighbors who had sued the university over its anticipated growth.

    In return, university leaders agreed to submit building plans for planned north campus expansion to local government scrutiny, house 67 percent of the additional students on campus and pay development and water fees that UC officials previously said they were exempt from, among other concessions.

     

    Details of the agreement include:

    * Total UCSC enrollment will not exceed 19,500 students, with no more than 17,500 undergraduates, by 2020. The campus now has 15,000 students and originally had planned to grow to 21,000 students.

    * UCSC will house 67 percent of the additional students on campus. Fifty percent of all undergraduates and 25 percent of graduate students also will live on campus. Originally, the school had a goal of housing 50 percent of its students.

    * The university will submit plans to build in the forested north campus to the Santa Cruz Local Agency Formation Commission, which regulates the boundaries of cities and special districts, for approval before construction can begin. However, if the application is denied or a legal challenge is made to an approval, the city’s requirement to house more students on campus will be suspended until the issue is resolved.

    * University leaders will pay normal city fees for new water hookups, and honor any moratoriums the city might place on development if water runs low. Originally, UC officials had said it was not responsible for those impacts.

    * University leaders will pay normal city fees on new development to offset the expected increase in traffic. UC officials had said the city was responsible for traffic. The consensus comes after eight months and “thousands of hours” of negotiation, some lasting until 2 a.m., said Santa Cruz Mayor Ryan Coonerty.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      “In return, university leaders agreed to submit building plans for planned north campus expansion to local government scrutiny, house 67 percent of the additional students on campus and pay development and water fees that UC officials previously said they were exempt from, among other concessions.”

      So if I’m understanding this agreement correctly, UC Davis has already agreed to house 90 percent of new students on campus without a law suit.

      1. Don Shor

        Correct. And the water and development fees don’t pertain here, nor does any oversight of campus expansion. The UCB suit generated almost nothing of relevance to our situation.

  3. Richard McCann

    More misinformation from housing opponents:

    – Regardless of how much housing UCD puts on campus, the City will still need thousands of housing spaces to relieve demand pressures. It’s foolish to pretend that somehow withholding these projects will hasten negotiations. It’s like saying “we’ll hold our breath until you give in.”

    – The City water system has more than sufficient capacity to supply these projects. And since UCD has joined the Woodland-Davis project, moving housing to campus will not relieve any demand constraints.

    – Housing is fungible. Building housing for students will move them out of single-family housing, freeing that supply up for families.

    – No one has produced evidence that increased bike traffic will cause massive safety problems. In fact, that position is completely antithetical to the City’s policy to promote increased bike commuting. That means that the City wants MORE cyclists coming from East Davis along 5th.

    I do see two issues that need to be addressed. First, apartments should be separately metered for electricity, and if feasible, natural gas and water. However, for  the latter two, separate metering may not be feasible for the volumes, or may not even be desirable in the case of gas to provide hot water. Second, City fees need to be adjusted to reflect the number of tenants or beds rather than just units. But both of these issues can be addressed as part of the approval and should not stand in the way of the projects.

     

    1. Ron

      Richard:  “First, apartments should be separately metered for electricity, and if feasible, natural gas and water.”

      In the case of megadorms (in which each bed is leased separately, with water and electricity included as a flat rate – and included in the rent), separate meters (per unit) for water and electricity is rather pointless.  (That’s one of the problems with the megadorm format.)

      1. Don Shor

        They could sub-meter each unit, and the bed lessees can work it out among themselves as to cost-sharing, just as they do when people share houses or apartments anywhere else. It’s not perfect, but not insurmountable.

      2. Howard P

        So Ron… do you monitor every GPM/CCF, every kilowatt, every therm for every bedroom/bed in your house?  If not, why not?  Perhaps you should… better for conservation of resources…

        Think… might be a good exercise.

        Megavigilance, Megavigilance, Megavigilance.  Seems like i heard that type of response before, from a certain poster…

        1. Ron

          Howard:  I’m aware that I’m charged for electricity and water usage, and I act accordingly.  If I wasn’t charged based upon usage, I’ll admit that I might not be as careful. (And, I suspect that some people might not be careful at all, if not charged based upon usage.)

        2. Ron

          David:  I understand that’s changing, for new developments.  However, even if meters are installed on a per-unit basis, there are apparently no plans to charge for usage within the “rent-by-the-bed” structure of the proposed megadorms.  Instead, a flat rate is proposed, included within the rent for each bed.

          In contrast, a “traditional” apartment is leased by the unit, thereby providing an opportunity to charge for usage (for each leased unit). Much like a single-family household.

        3. Mark West

          What are the added costs of installing individual meters and monitoring/billing for usage? Is there any evidence that doing so will lead to a significant reduction in usage across the entire project? How much will those changes add to the monthly rent?

          If we are truly concerned about affordability, would it not make more sense to look at ways to reduce costs for renters rather than add to them?

        4. Ron

          Mark:  New apartments throughout California will be required to install meters on a per-unit basis, starting in 2018.  Therefore, individual communities have no choice but to comply (even if one were to “object” to the goal of saving water). Estimates regarding costs and water savings are discussed in the article, below.

          The issue with the “rent-by-the-bed” megadorms is that there are no plans to bill based upon usage, thereby providing no financial incentive to conserve.

          https://www.newsdeeply.com/water/community/2016/10/13/submeters-a-new-incentive-for-california-tenants-to-save-water

           

        5. Howard P

          As usual, Ron, unresponsive… I asked,

          do you monitor every GPM/CCF, every kilowatt, every therm for every bedroom/bed in your house?  If not, why not?

          Yet, you seem to expect that for every MF unit.  Whatever…

           

        6. Ron

          Howard:  That’s a pretty ridiculous question.

          Why would anyone “require” meters for each room in a single-family dwelling, when the owner/occupant is already responsible for the entire bill (based upon usage)?

          In a “rent-by-the-bed” megdorm, no single person (or family) is responsible for the unit’s usage, or bill.  The plan is to charge a flat rate per bed, included with the rent (regardless of usage).

           

        7. Howard P

          David… the Roe Building was plumbed so that there could be individual metering for each condo unit.  Such metering was not required and any such metering would be done by the HOA.  There are little alcoves in the hallways to facilitate that.

        8. Howard P

          Ron.. what it it between MF/SF that you do not understand?  But if you insist that each bedroom/bathroom in a so-called ‘megadorm’ be separately metered, why not SF?  My grandparents rented rooms in the SF house they lived in, to ‘boarders’.  [A concept that should also

        9. Ron

          Howard:  I’ve answered your question (twice now, I believe).  And, I did not suggest installing meters for each bedroom/bathroom.

          I understand the difference between MF/SF structures, so I’m not sure why you’re even bringing that up.

          In the case of megadorms, I understand that it hasn’t even been decided if a “unit” will be charged for its usage, and subsequently allocated for each leased bed.  They might just charge the same flat rate for all of the occupants of the entire multi-unit building (regardless of what their “unit” used).

          Also – regarding your grandparents, they had the ability to “kick someone out” if they ended up costing your grandparents an excessive amount. Not so, with megadorms.

    2. Eric Gelber

      Richard: “Housing is fungible. Building housing for students will move them out of single-family housing, freeing that supply up for families.”

      Housing is not fungible. Apartments are not equivalent to or interchangeable with single-family housing. Students can afford very high rent single-family homes by pooling resources. When they move, the single-family home is freed up but not for individuals or families who cannot afford them. Building so-called megadorms exclusively suitable for students does not increase the housing stock for lower income workers or families with children and, because the new construction is not suitable for most non-students, does not increase the supply of affordable rental units for those households.

    3. Tia Will

      Richard

      Building housing for students will move them out of single-family housing, freeing that supply up for families.”

      This would be true if we lived in a closed system. We do not. The issue that you have never addressed though I have posed it to you several times is : What is to stop this supply of homes from being snapped up by wealthy parents for their UCD student, who will then rent out rooms to other students as I have done for my children ?  What is to stop these homes from being purchased by Bay area individuals or couples who can just hop on the train to get to their Bay area job the way several of my competitors for homes in Sacramento had done ? I think that we both know that this happens especially frequently here in Davis. I would appreciate your thoughts about this aspect of the housing market.

        1. Mark West

          “None of us should be speaking in absolutes.”

          Adding apartments for students will, over time, tend to shift the balance of housing in town with the effect of freeing up some SFHs for young families. You are absolutely correct though that some of those same houses will be purchased by wealthy people (from in town or not) for their children’s benefit, as you yourself have demonstrated. Whether the system is open or closed or the buyers local or distant, is mostly irrelevant to that process. What matters is the overall demand and the available supply. Constrain the supply, as we have done, and you create a number of new problems that are difficult to correct. With a system as badly out of balance as our’s is, it will take a number of years and several projects large and small, to adjust the balance back to a more normal state. No absolutes, just evolution.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Yep. Housing is expensive. It’s even more expensive in Davis. Remember that when you complain that these housing projects are “luxury” or that that they are “unaffordable.”

        2. Ron

          David:  “Yep. Housing is expensive. It’s even more expensive in Davis. Remember that when you complain that these housing projects are “luxury” or that that they are “unaffordable.”

          Not sure that I’ve made that exact argument.  However, I have stated that developments should include an adequate supply of Affordable housing for that reason.

          Many on this blog argue that we can “build our way to affordability”.  However, surrounding communities (where there are not the same level of “growth controls”) demonstrate that there are other factors causing prices to rise.

          The bottom line is that it’s difficult to fully support oneself while living on your own and attending school full-time, prior to starting a career.  Always has been, actually.

          Of course, tuition costs have significantly risen, as well.

          1. Don Shor

            Many on this blog argue that we can “build our way to affordability”.

            Who has made that argument?

        3. Howard P

          Don is being too charitable…

          Ron, grow up… get real… your canned rhetoric is getting tiresome…

          Many on this blog argue that we can “build our way to affordability”. 

          Untrue, as you stated it .

          There is a future for you… in the current federal administration… facts don’t matter there.

  4. Ron

    Richard:  “That means that the City wants MORE cyclists coming from East Davis along 5th.”

    This is an example of backward logic.  There is no “city goal” to add more commuters, traveling through the city (regardless of mode of transportation).  Housing on-campus ensures that student commuters DON’T have to travel through the city to reach campus in the first place.

    1. Howard P

      You are now defining “commuters” as folk who don’t work/study in their own homes?

      There is no “city goal” to add more commuters, traveling through the city (regardless of mode of transportation).  Housing on-campus ensures that student commuters DON’T have to travel through the city to reach campus in the first place.

      Fascinating.  Weird.  Telling.

      Many levels.

       

      1. Ron

        Howard:  “Fascinating.  Weird.  Telling.”

        As with  your water usage comment above, I have no idea what point you’re trying to make, in response to my comment.

        At times, you argue without any actual point to make.  That’s what is “weird” and “telling” (but not really very “fascinating”). Your bias shows quite clearly, in regard to such comments.

      2. Howard P

        Let me explain… someone who lives in the city, works/studies in the City or UCD does not meet any generally accepted definition of a “commuter”…

  5. John D

    Don,

    I’m certainly no advocate of suing the university in order to achieve constructive and mutually beneficial outcomes.  It’s sad even to think about that as a necessary tactic.

    In your comments, and those of David in particular, you both appear singularly focused on the issue of student housing impacts.   If I read your post correctly,

    “The UCB suit generated almost nothing of relevance to our situation.”,

    then it would appear that you and David assign virtually no value or consideration to:

    – A first source hiring agreement for Berkeley residents
    – A local purchasing program to encourage the campus purchase of local goods and services
    – An effort to encourage spin off businesses to locate in Berkeley
    – An initiative to explore the development of public-private research facilities in the City
    – A doubling of the university’s annual direct payment to the City and forecasts of new revenue in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from a Use Tax program
    – Prioritize locations of new parking, if developed, to benefit both the Campus and the community
    – City and University will coordinate together to develop a Downtown Area Plan with relevant commissions and the City Council having direct involvement in the revitalization of the City’s downtown, the protection of historic resources, and transit friendly development

    Did I miss something in your comments, or do all of these elements already form an integral part of our joint City and University working agreements?

    1. Michael Bisch

      I’m sorry, but this is just a weird comment. UC Davis is already ACTIVELY DOING most of these things. It’s not their fault we’re too lazy to take sufficient advantage of what they’re providing. As for 1 & 2, why would they commit to something not even the city will commit to let alone actually actively carry out?

      1. Tia Will

        Michael

        Lack of fulfilling commitments has not been a one way street as regards interactions between UCD and the City of Davis. You are choosing to only state one side, namely the city’s obligation.

        1. Michael Bisch

          Your comment is directed at me even though I didn’t comment at all on commitments made or not made between UC Davis & the city. My comment pointed out the obvious. UC Davis is already DOING many of the things that JD is asking for commitments for. For those non-goal-oriented posters, “doing” is superior to “committing”. I went on to point out another very obvious fact…the city itself has not even made commitments 1 & 2 to the community. So why would UC Davis make a commitment to the community that our own city won’t even make to us? After all, it’s our city.

  6. Nancy Price

    I am just astonished at the reporting on this topic today on the Vanguard. Those speaking last night were making the case for a much needed democratic community-based process on approving housing projects and the speakers from the Old East Davis Neighborhood spoke truthfully and eloquently.  Statements last night were not about ending development or projects or needed housing, they were about the need for community due-process rather than jamming projects in, the failure to work in true collaboration with neighborhoods (the B-Street Residences were jammed in and neighbors were insulted when speaking at the Planning Commission as being afraid or or  against change or not “liking” modern architecture.” What’s “modern” about the box being build there? ), and about ignoring already established process, guidelines and regulations to push through a project.

    The speakers were pleading for housing for all..affordable housing for those in need that we rarely see speak at the Planning Commission or City Council, housing for a diverse workforce at the university and within the city so we can slow-down commuting from elsewhere, housing for those young graduates who want to stay in Davis and young professionals, as well as housing for students with good design and planning.  The case was made for why UCD must meet their obligation to provide housing.  The fact that developers, investors and the City Council are jumping onto this one housing need and solution at the “expense” of also other needs was questioned.

    What’s more the case for sustainable and resiliant design was made strongly ….that we do need individual metering in the student housing for water conservation. Anyone who thinks we are out of the drought or we don’t need metering that rewards conservation and is steeply priced for excessive use, just has their head in the sand! Recent data, still being analyzed, seems to indicate that with the melting Arctic ice there will actually be less moisture to contribute to rainfall in CA and that our state will continue to be under threat of severe and continued drought.

    am sure we’ll hear a great deal in the coming months from City Council candidates about their views as well to add to this discussion –  several are regulars at recent meetings and are no doubt keeping track of all this on TV…just like the rest of us.  The more discussion the better.

     

     

     

     

    1. Mark West

      “Those speaking last night were making the case for a much needed democratic community-based process on approving housing projects”

      We already have that, it is called representative democracy and as a General Plan City, following the State laws defining the processes for planning, zoning, and development. No need for Davis to reinvent the wheel.

      1. Howard P

        Technically, Mark, we’re  General Law City… a Municipal Corporation… as opposed to a Charter City.  Having a GP is not relevant to our status… except for that nuance, your points are valid.

        1. Howard P

          Perhaps it is time to explore being a Charter City… there are pros and cons… Jon Li advocated for that years ago… the wax build-up in my ears, at the time, might well have kept me from supporting that notion.  Without taking a position, I’m “all ears” now.

          Charter City status would permit (but not require) district elections, local income tax (now we are limited to parcel taxes), and other benefits and risks…

        2. Mark West

          “Perhaps it is time to explore being a Charter City”

          There are a number of potential advantages available through Charter City status, but with our current level of community dysfunction regarding housing and economic development, and the ongoing fiscal mismanagement of the City, I don’t see this as an opportune time for considering it.

    2. David Greenwald Post author

      “I am just astonished at the reporting on this topic today on the Vanguard. ”

      Unless I’m mistaken, you’re referring to the commenting not the reporting.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for