Sunday Commentary: Let’s Stop Trying to Find Excuses Not to Build Student Housing

On Wednesday of this week, the Vanguard ran an article, without commentary, presenting the public comment of nine individuals who came to speak out against so-called “mega-dorms.”  This weekend, ASUCD President Josh Dalavai presented his view of the student housing issue, Lincoln40 and “mega-dorms.”  The Vanguard offered some commentary on his op-ed.

In a comment in response, Eileen Samitz, who organized the speakers on Tuesday night, writes: “Here we go again with another round of a Vanguard article again advocating for mega-dorms which are exclusionary housing which do nothing to help with the housing needs of local workers and families. Also, how interesting it is that David’s ‘view’ always coincides with the best interests of the mega-dorm developers and not the Davis community at large.”

She accuses the Vanguard of “repeatedly (trying) to diminish and invalidate public comment by specifying that there were nine community speakers” and “pit students against non-students in the Davis community.”

She suggests instead that “rather than continuing to divide the community it would be more productive if the Vanguard would try for once being objective on this issue of the need of more rental housing for all including workers, families and students rather than pitting students against non-students and ‘carrying the water’ for the mega-dorm developers.”

I don’t have a problem with robust public discussion – in fact, I believe that the Vanguard serves well as a vehicle for such discussion.  However, I believe that my position has been thoroughly misrepresented repeatedly in comments by Ms. Samitz.

Yesterday she suggested: “[H]ow interesting it is that David’s ‘view’ always coincides with the best interests of the mega-dorm developers and not the Davis community at large,” as though her view were the only valid view in this community.

She continued, accusing the Vanguard of “’carrying the water’ for the mega-dorm developers” and suggesting without evidence that we have become “the Vanguard now and it has become more and more pro-developer driven where the money is at, and has abandoned balanced discussion regarding good City planning which is in the best interests of Davis as a whole including workers, families, and students.”

All of this because I dare to believe that we need more housing for students – and, while I believe the university should do more to provide housing on campus, the city has also not done its part over the last 15 years to provide enough student housing.

At the Vanguard Conclave in September, Josh Dalavai likened the situation to a kid caught between fighting parents and, at the housing discussion over Sterling, students expressed frustration that they have been caught in the middle.

Thus, while I have consistently pushed for the university to increase its housing on campus, I do not believe that the strategy should be all or nothing.  Having the city provide around 4000 beds to students with infill development in my view will not harm this community in terms of its overall character and charm, and on the contrary will reduce the need for additional growth in the future while alleviating the pressure to convert single-family homes to mini-dorms.

The Vanguard is not developer driven – the Vanguard continues to support housing policies that help those who are weak and vulnerable, with students and low income people prime among them.

This is not the first interchange this week with Ms. Samitz.

On Saturday, December 2, we ran a column entitled: “Apartments for All is Just Rhetoric for Justifying Not Building Student Housing in Town.”

My column and my overall position has been distorted into the accusation that I am advocating for “students only housing” – with the statement, “so as far as you are concerned…no apartments should be built for families or workers. This is pretty important for everyone to understand your position on this issue.”

As Sean Raycraft pointed out in a comment: “You’re literally gaslighting David here. you’re deliberately misrepresenting David’s stated position, over and over again, then quite publicly simultaneously denouncing the made up position, then opposing it yourself.

“Moreover, this is disingenuous coming from you. you’re already opposing 2555 Cowell, which has a variety of housing types, from condos, to small homes to standard apartments and yes units you would describe as mega dorms.”

My view on student housing is quite simple and straightforward.  First, I believe that the vast majority of our rental housing needs are for students.

Second, I believe that market rate apartments do not meet the needs of families because of affordability and other concerns.

I know Ms. Samitz does not agree with me here, but look at what the costs of renting a two-bedroom apartment are: $1500 to $1800.  The cost for renting a three-bedroom is over $2100 and up to $2300.

Students have the advantage of splitting the rent, while families do not.

Ms. Samitz believes that we need to build one-, two-, three-bedroom apartments in order to accommodate families.  But I believe her position is largely based on the erroneous concept that families can afford those.  The reality is that, whatever rental housing is built, most of it will be filled with students.

That being the case, we might as well maximize the density, maximize the capacity, and structure them so that they are as affordable as possible.

Moreover, as Sean points out later: “Can someone explain to me why in a city where over a third of the population are students, [it’s] somehow bad to build rentals that cater to them?”

We have limited space for housing in Davis due to Measure R and other constraints, we have a 0.2 percent vacancy rate, and we have a group of people opposing high density housing for students, something we desperately need at every turn.

But my favorite is a comment by a young woman who describes herself as a former student. For her: “The biggest problem is that there isn’t enough housing in Davis, period. Building more housing that is appropriate for everyone is important. However, housing for students is the first and most important task, because they are the overwhelming majority of the Davis rental market, and will continue to be, regardless of how much complaining and arguing goes on.

“Until there is enough housing for students, the rental market here will continue to be awful for everyone but landlords.”

But Eileen Samitz proceeds to tell the young graduate what kind of housing she would like: “Since [you] have graduated, I imagine that you may be moving toward employment I think that you may be less likely to want to live in a mega-dorm yourself, particularly for instance, if let’s say you were married. The reason I say this is because it is the format of so many mega-dorms, rent-by-the-bed situation is the problem due to its exclusionary design.”

As Sean Raycraft pushes back: “How are these ‘mega dorms’ exclusionary? How does the ‘mega dorm’ format exclude workers? (I know this to be factually incorrect, as many of my members live in these kinds of places).”

He adds: “I’m not even super pro ‘mega dorm,’ frankly I am somewhat ambivalent about them, but what I do object to is this narrative [you’re] trying to build that is patently and provably false. Primarily that these projects are inherently exclusionary to working poor people and young professionals, because they aren’t.”

The bottom line is that we are in desperate need for student housing as Josh Dalavai argues this week.  I believe if we allow a few of these projects to go forward, we can get the vacancy rate up to a more ideal five percent and that will allow the rest of the market to adjust.

Should we find ways to provide more housing for families and other demographics in Davis?  Absolutely.  I believe we can attack this biggest problem first and then figure out ways to build more affordable housing for families.  We don’t have to fix every problem with one project – on the contrary, when we try, we often end up with projects that do not do a lot to fix our current needs.

—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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87 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Let’s Stop Trying to Find Excuses Not to Build Student Housing”

  1. Howard P

    Perhaps we should consider another term for the housing “on the table”… instead of “mega-dorm”, it could be defined as “co-housing”… private spaces, with a ‘commons’ where folk can cook, eat, socialize with one another.

      1. Howard P

        Or, maybe not… depends on perspective.

        You have certainly had some “interesting” ones…

        I am unaware of “co-housing” being a patented or copyrighted term… “mega-dorm” is a term in search of a definition… I’ll be referring to co-housing rather than mega-dorm…

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Howard – it doesn’t really matter, there is a group of people who want the university to build all the new student housing. We could build a whole bunch of three bedroom apartments, and there would be a different cry of opposition. At some point the worst possible outcome is not doing anything and we’re there as far as I’m concerned.

      1. Howard P

        You missed one of my ‘intended’ points… definition of terms, and the lack of understanding that units proposed are NOT actually only useable by students… that is an ‘untruth’… it needs to be called out as an untruth.

        Think about this… think “Matrix”… where Neo comes to realize that what he believed, because it was what he was told, was not real… I don’t want to see some, for their own motivations, to “define reality” for the rest of us to ‘accept’ by using the M-D term.

        The topic is housing.  It is sorely needed for many segments of the community, present and future… on or off-campus… focus on that demonstrable need, is my suggestion.

    2. Tia Will

      Howard

      I would see “co-housing” as a less loaded term than mega dorm. I would also see “off campus dormitory” as a realistic descriptor as these units are clearly designed for and most appealing to students even if they will technically be available to others.

      1. Don Shor

        Muir Commons is co-housing.
        They’re not dormitories in any real sense of the word. No meal plans, no resident advisers, not owned or managed by the college.
        They’re just apartments.

  2. Howard P

    Thinking about it more, we began our family in a 2 bed/1.5 ba townhouse (rental)… we raised our family in a 3 bed/2 ba house, then a 4 bed/3 bath house.

    Not much different from the proposals for new projects on the table… maybe the marketing is oriented to students, but not inconsistent with families… or young workers.

    I smell some bovine excrement from those panicking about co-housing/family/student housing (which they term “mega-dorm” [inaccurately])… but they are actually, perhaps more concerned with additional housing for people… wierd…

    1. Tia Will

      but they are actually, perhaps more concerned with additional housing for people… weird…”

      Although I know that this was not directed at me, I prefer a conversation in which we do not try to describe what is in the minds and hearts of others. Heck, I sometimes have difficulty accurately expressing  what is in my own.

  3. dan cornford

    Thanks David for bringing up “something completely different,” yet again.  Some of us have other things to do in our lives and I don’t mean leisure!!!

        1. Keith O

          If I wrote an article on this subject it would be my first, not the 74th (a somewhat educated guess).

          You really seem to want to drum your opinion in on this topic.

          Though it is good to know “The Vanguard is not developer driven”.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            74 is a low number. I think it is one of the three most important issues facing Davis. And it also has a ton of interest right now.

        2. Mark West

          “Though it is good to know “The Vanguard is not developer driven”.”

          The desire to see all residents have an opportunity to find appropriate housing is as much a social justice issue as a development one. That said, all housing in town, including your own, was the result of development and required the action of a developer. Seems to me anyone who already has appropriate housing was at one time the beneficiary of a ‘developer driven’ approach, making your pejorative use of the term akin to throwing stones in glass houses.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            The students are an often exploited and vulnerable class of people. I indeed see this as a social justice issue, just as I see affordable housing as one.

        3. Keith O

          Mark West

          all housing in town, including your own, was the result of development and required the action of a developer. Seems to me anyone who already has appropriate housing was at one time the beneficiary of a ‘developer driven’ approach, making your pejorative use of the term akin to throwing stones in glass houses.

          When I moved to Davis I looked at many different communities but chose to move here because of the quaintness and small town atmosphere.  I found a house I could afford and decided to move here, I didn’t demand that Davis build more housing and make them affordable for me.  If I couldn’t afford a house in Davis I would’ve moved elsewhere.  There are many places I would like to live but can’t afford, should I demand that those communities build me affordable housing?  Many people have bought houses here in the last few years, do you think they now want the market saturated so their investment goes down the tubes?  Is it wrong for people to want to keep Davis a small quaint town and not end up like Natomas or Elk Grove?

        4. Mark West

          “Is it wrong for people to want to keep Davis a small quaint town and not end up like Natomas or Elk Grove?”

          Why are those the only options? The problem here is binary thinking. We have the ability to expand housing without sprawl by utilizing land more efficiently, yet you seem to oppose efforts to do so.

          “If I couldn’t afford a house in Davis I would’ve moved elsewhere.”

          That is a choice that everyone has the option to make, but if they work in town or attend the University, that choice may not be the best one for the community or the environment. If you notice, however, I said nothing about affordability in my comments. The definition of appropriate housing is something that every individual has to determine for themselves. It is the lack of viable options for places to live (not their cost) that is the overriding issue in Davis and why high-density MF construction is the appropriate answer for where we start addressing the problem. I don’t want to live in Natomas or Elk Grove either, but I do want all residents to have an option to find appropriate shelter in town, which is something we should all be working towards. To me, that is what it means to be a community.

           

        5. Keith O

          Mark West, I have stated several times that I’m all for Nishi II, I voted for the first Nishi, and am all for the current student apartment projects on tap.  But I do want and I think we should demand that UCD steps up and does more.

          My response above was to your comment about developers and how I shouldn’t throw stones.

        6. Matt Williams

          Keith O said . . .  “When I moved to Davis I looked at many different communities but chose to move here because of the quaintness and small town atmosphere.  I found a house I could afford and decided to move here, I didn’t demand that Davis build more housing and make them affordable for me.  If I couldn’t afford a house in Davis I would’ve moved elsewhere.  There are many places I would like to live but can’t afford, should I demand that those communities build me affordable housing?  Many people have bought houses here in the last few years, do you think they now want the market saturated so their investment goes down the tubes?  Is it wrong for people to want to keep Davis a small quaint town and not end up like Natomas or Elk Grove?”

          The decision process Keith has described and the post purchase events are a familiar refrain in Davis.  For a myriad of reasons Davis has been, and continues to be, a wonderful place to live.  There are two principle reasons that is true (1) is the presence of UCD, and (2) is the overall quality of life the whole State of California enjoys.

          The challenge that Davis’ “quaintness and small town atmosphere” faces is that both factor (1) and factor (2) are out of our control.  The University (both as an individual institution and as part of the larger UC system) has experienced consistent and continual growth since 1970 that is anything but “quaint” and the City and the University have grown in virtual lock step with one another since 1970, with the University enrollment being very close to 50% of the total City of Davis population.  The State’s population growth since Keith bought his home, has almost surely been greater than the City’s population growth over the same period.

          When a  community’s quality of life is affected by external factors out of its control it isn’t a surprise that that quality of life will, and does, evolve.

        7. Keith O

          When a  community’s quality of life is affected by external factors out of its control it isn’t a surprise that that quality of life will, and does, evolve.

          Evolve for the better or worse?

        8. Matt Williams

          Matt Williams said . . . “When a  community’s quality of life is affected by external factors out of its control it isn’t a surprise that that quality of life will, and does, evolve.”

          Keith O responded . . . “Evolve for the better or worse?”

          The answer to that question varies from individual to individual, and from group to group.

          In the case of the Davis community the 40-year history of steady co-evolution with the University from 1970 to 2010 (as evidenced in the table below) has produced local economic prosperity, a steady increase in UCD Faculty and Staff employment, and the quality of life that brought thousands and thousands of people like me here to Davis (in my case toward the middle of that 40-year period).  I don’t know when you came to Davis, but at the time you came it is pretty clear that your answer to your own question was “For the better.”

          That 40-year co-evolution (essentially in lock step) split into two different streams when the City unilaterally passed Measure J.  The result was a massive reduction in the percentage Population growth in the City, while the percentage Enrollment at UCD continued at a rate consistent with the percentage growth during the 40-year period.

          Circling back to your “for the better or worse” question, for the Davis families whose employment or education comes in whole or in part from UCD, the answer continues to be “for the better”

          http://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Davis-Population-and-UCD-Enrollment-1970-2016-.jpg

        9. Richard McCann

          Keith O

          You wrote ” Is it wrong for people to want to keep Davis a small quaint town and not end up like Natomas or Elk Grove?”

          There is an important difference between Natomas or Elk Grove and Davis. Neither of the first communities were fueled by billions (yes, billions) of dollars of investment by our state’s citizens, most of whom have never been to Davis, much less lived here. As a result we have a vibrant community. This “small quaint town” is largely unique, and its truly desirable traits are the same ones it shares with other college towns in California, many of which share the same growth pressures. If you want a small town without those growth pressures, you can move to Dixon, Woodland or Winters. (And your investment is well protected if you leave now.)  In return for that investment, the state’s residents expect that we will responsibly accept the students they send to us and for us to care for their children while they live among us. That means that demands that we preserve our “small town feel” at the expense of reducing education opportunities and resulting economic well being for everyone else in the state ignores what we owe for the benefits we derive from UCD.  (BTW, note that I have no connection with UCD whatsoever other than hiring some UCD grads for my business.)

  4. Todd Edelman

    Market Shmarket

    Build some one… two…. three bedrooms!
    The students will take it
    Families can’t compete
    and we can’t fake it
    Perhaps not our brains
    But our hearts
    Are as small as a mouse’s
    When The Market’s more important
    Than appropriate houses

    I share but I’ve got my own bathroom
    But that’s not the point
    As surely as after New Year’s Day
    We’ll have sanctioned joints
    Stoned, low-income students: two or three in a room
    Territorial marking
    We’d have 25% more beds
    if we got rid of parking

    The air’s not so bad
    For only three years, you’ll see
    As if the rest of their lives
    They’ll live by the sea
    Families? Dynamic!
    My roommate’s your daughter
    But the bottom line is that we should save water
    and we should save space and we can’t save money
    We can’t have our cake and eat it, too
    Grow your heart – for a change! – and you’ll know what to do

  5. Roberta Millstein

    I love the way that David Greenwald complains about having his views misrepresented and yet titles this piece, “Let’s Stop Trying to Find Excuses Not to Build Student Housing,” as those opponents to the current proposals are only trying to find excuses and are not genuine in the reasons they present.  Well, David, perhaps one does not get respect for one’s own views unless one extends it to others.  In any case, you might try it.  Otherwise, expect to have people give back what they get.  There are not many Michelle Obamas amongst us.

  6. Roberta Millstein

    “The Vanguard is not developer driven – the Vanguard continues to support housing policies that help those who are weak and vulnerable, with students and low income people prime among them.”

    “The students are an often exploited and vulnerable class of people. I indeed see this as a social justice issue, just as I see affordable housing as one.”

    When I wrote about housing at Nishi being an environmental injustice, some complained that students were not a vulnerable class.  Well, on this we agree, David — students are a vulnerable class that is often exploited.  This is why we should not take advantage of their situation by offering them the choice of no housing or housing with poor air quality at Nishi.  (Poor air quality, as best we know, with further testing needed).

  7. Eric Gelber

    My view on student housing is quite simple and straightforward.  First, I believe that the vast majority of our rental housing needs are for students.

    Question: If the supply of rental housing increases, will that not help address this need whether or not the housing model is student-specific? As is often pointed out, because of the ability to split rent, students can take advantage of a wide range of rental options, including standard apartments and single-family homes.

    Second, I believe that market rate apartments do not meet the needs of families because of affordability and other concerns.

    Question: What more affordable alternative do you have in mind?

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      First, I’m not arguing for any specific model – although I did note some advantages to the proposed model in Thursday’s column.

      Second, I think the city needs to look at two ideas more townhouses that are affordable by design and subsidized housing. The funding for such projects can come from: (A) new state legislation; (B) a potential revenue measure; (C) in lieu fees (although they want to phase them out); and (D) the replacement of the old RDA (clearly would have to wait until the next governor at least)

      1. Keith O

         a potential revenue measure

        Really, we’re being told the city needs more revenue for roads, schools, teacher salaries, parks homelessness and now affordable housing?  And with the new GOP tax bill it’s looking like these taxes will no longer be deductible either through dictate or with the fact that a new increased $24,000 standard deduction will stop most homeowners from being able to use that writeoff.

        1. Keith O

          The idea has been floated.  I did say potential.  I don’t know how likely it is, but it would be contained in the $50 parcel tax potentially.

          Being that every married couple is now going to get a $24,000 standard deduction whether they own a home or rent is all the more reason why the city needs to come up with a more equitable way to tax its citizens other than parcel taxes where the homeowners bear the brunt of it all.

      2. Ron

        David:  “The funding for such projects can come from: (A) new state legislation; (B) a potential revenue measure; (C) in lieu fees (although they want to phase them out); and (D) the replacement of the old RDA (clearly would have to wait until the next governor at least)”

        Funding for Affordable housing can’t necessarily depend upon measures that are subject to the approval of voters (statewide, or locally).  Nor can it depend upon the hoped-for actions of a future governor.

        In the meantime, megadorms are shortchanging the Affordable housing program, since the program is based upon the number of units, not the size of the units. 

        Larger, but fewer units = less contribution to the Affordable housing program. (There’s a similar problem regarding impact fees.)

        And then there’s the issue of inadequate long-term property tax contributions – as demonstrated by your “analysis” of Sterling (in which the costs and “revenues” were never actually defined).  Not to mention unreasonable allocations of parcel taxes for schools (and perhaps other taxes), in which single-family dwellers pay a disproportionate share of costs.

         

        1. David Greenwald

          “Funding for Affordable housing can’t necessarily depend upon measures that are subject to the approval of voters (statewide, or locally).  Nor can it depend upon the hoped-for actions of a future governor.”

          Why not?  I just floated those as possible funding mechanisms.

          “Larger, but fewer units = less contribution to Affordable housing program”

          More housing developments = more contribution to Affordable housing programs.  Less housing developments = less contribution to Affordable housing programs.  See how this works?

      3. Rebecca Young

        I would love for Davis to build town houses or similar housing for families that is dense and affordable. The problem is that everytime Davis attempts to build ‘work force’ housing it ends up being $650,000 and out of range for university staff and other middle class incomes.

        1. Tia Will

          Rebecca,

          I completely agree with you and do not have any idea how to address this issue. Our city council recently signaled to developers that projects coming before it would not need to address the issue of affordability nor any needs based consideration in a decision that Councilmember Swanson called precedent setting. This does not give me hope for affordable mid level housing at any time in the near future as there does not seem to be much incentive for developers with a CC majority open to non needs based housing.

        2. Howard P

          Davis doesn’t build housing… developers do… Davis only (sometimes) permit them to do so.

          They don’t build housing for charitable write-offs.  There is the cost of land acquisition, permitting fees, impact fees (which some opine are way too low), construction costs, financing costs, etc.

        3. Richard McCann

          Tia,

          You write: “I completely agree with you and do not have any idea how to address this issue.” 

          You are being presented with the solution: Build much more student-focused housing that will move those students out of existing apartments and single-family housing. That increase in space will relieve price pressures on the housing market through the laws of supply and demand.

          I’ll pose this as a medical question as an example: Is it better to treat Type II diabetes indirectly through improved diet and exercise, that happens to have ancillary benefits as well, or through direct intervention of insulin? The relationship in the first case is complex in how it works its way through the body, while the second hits the problem directly. I expect most doctors prefer the first solution if the patient is willing to do what it takes. Building more housing for students works in the same way as adding diet and exercise–the solution doesn’t seem to relate directly to the problem, but experts find that its the preferred solution.

  8. Ron

    Ron:  “Funding for Affordable housing can’t necessarily depend upon measures that are subject to the approval of voters (statewide, or locally).  Nor can it depend upon the hoped-for actions of a future governor.”

    David:  “Why not?  I just floated those as possible funding mechanisms.”

    O.K. – it’s “possible”. We can speculate regarding how likely those would be.

    David:  “More housing developments = more contribution to Affordable housing programs.  Less housing developments = less contribution to Affordable housing programs.  See how this works?”

    I said nothing about the amount of housing:

    Ron:  “Larger, but fewer units = less contribution to Affordable housing program.” (Also, there’s a similar problem regarding impact fees.)

    I recall that the “Lincoln Lift” program proposed about 10% of it’s beds (in shared bedrooms) as “Affordable”.
     

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      “I said nothing about the amount of housing”

      Of course. But if we want to maximize affordable housing, then what we should propose is a 2000 unit housing development on the outskirts of town, that would be large enough to trigger a land dedication site. But that’s not in the best interest of the community even if it would provide a lot of affordable housing. So clearly neither of us are going to support maximizing affordable housing at all costs.

      “I recall that the “Lincoln Lift” program proposed about 10% of it’s beds (in shared bedrooms) as “Affordable”.”

      That’s true and LincolnLift provides needed student affordable housing, but doesn’t address affordable housing for families, but that’s okay, because affordable student housing is also a need.

      1. Ron

        David:  “That’s true and LincolnLift provides needed student affordable housing, but doesn’t address affordable housing for families, but that’s okay, because affordable student housing is also a need.”

        10% of beds in shared rooms reserved as “Affordable” is not very impressive.  Also, we don’t know about the legality of reserving those for students.

        In any case, not sure that I would agree that it’s “o.k.” to make no contribution toward Affordable housing intended for a broader range of populations.

        In all honesty, the only entity that could reserve sufficient affordable housing for students is UCD – if it chose to do so.

  9. Tia Will

    David

    ” Let’s Stop Trying to Find Excuses Not to Build Student Housing”

    I also take exception to the title and adherence to this phrase in the body of your article. I know that this is commentary, but I find it just as biased & unhelpful as any of Eileens writings you have called out on this subject. I do not believe that anyone had to go “trying to find excuses not to build” student, or “exclusionary by design ” housing. The reasons ( not excuses) exist. Eileen did not “make up” the circumstances she describes anymore than you have. She is simply presenting them from her perspective just as you are.

    1. Student only housing can and does exist on campus which limits the amount of housing available to just anyone in the geographic area encompassing the main campus and city. Since it already exists on campus, I am hesitant to also accept large exclusionary by design housing projects in the city where there is effectively no worker/family only by design housing to provide balance.

    2. The off campus dorms are not legally exclusionary, but they are clearly exclusionary by design.

    3. Their design does lead to different patterns of water, utility use and parking than are found in other housing models. Some may see that as meaningful ( as I do) with pros and cons. You have stated that ( for example) the water pattern usage is insignificant. From my experience it is highly significant. This is a difference of opinion and perspective, not “looking for excuses”. The traffic pattern can also be seen as highly significant vs trivial depending on one’s point of view.

    4. I think it is a shame that some are choosing to wrap themselves in the “social justice” mantel without considering that the other side may feel that their concerns are equally geared towards social concerns. I for example would much rather seen “little a ” affordable housing geared to all who qualify financially than to the already affluent be they students using parental funding or those who can otherwise afford luxury accommodations. That certainly does not mean that I am the only one with social concerns.

    Maybe we need a few more Michelle Obamas in our midst to counter the willingness to deride the views of others that seems to predominate when we discuss land use and housing.

    1. Rebecca Young

      I for example would much rather seen “little a ” affordable housing geared to all who qualify financially than to the already affluent be they students using parental funding or those who can otherwise afford luxury accommodations

      I think that with this point of view you are missing the majority of the young Davis workforce who are neither wealthy enough to afford the market price for housing, or have low enough incomes to qualify for the affordable housing programs. A family in Davis who makes the median income can definitely not afford the rent of the median 2 or 3 bedroom apartment. But, they also can’t qualify for low income housing.

      1. Tia Will

        Rebecca

        I agree that little a affordable housing does not meet all needs. As long as I have been involved with Davis, there has always been a group that have too much for affordable housing, but are not affluent enough to afford to live here. At one point, I left Davis for a few years, bought elsewhere more affordable to build enough equity to move back. It was not optimal, but worked for us at the time. Other solutions would have been to have moved in with my in laws or to start our family in a much smaller than desired space.

        However, like every other strategy that has been considered, little a affordable housing does meet the needs of many of the most vulnerable. My general philosophy is that those in the most need should be the recipients of the most help. I know that this is not a generally agreed upon principle, but it is a core value for me.

    2. Richard McCann

      Tia,

      You wrote “You have stated that ( for example) the water pattern usage is insignificant. From my experience it is highly significant.” What is that experience?

  10. Rebecca Young

    I agree with this article. Housing for students is so needed. And any student who is living in a dorm is not competing with families for the very small supply of affordable family rentals.

    My dorm in college was a 140 square foot cinderblock rectangle, with a roommate and a bathroom down the hall shared by the entire hallway. I am sure that this is similar to where many other people lived in college. And, I honestly didn’t mind because it was affordable and it was my first time not living in my parents house.  Could we please build a true dorm and not luxury apartments?

    1. Mark West

      Your dorm also had a meal plan and dining hall associated with it, which I think is a prerequisite for calling something a dorm (mega- or otherwise). That is the predominant form of housing that belongs on campus, with room and board.

    2. Howard P

      Reminds me of Beckett/Hughes, and Struve/Titus [built about the time I was born]… Mark is “on spot” about meal plan…

      Done both, have the t-shirts…  (tho’ they are a tad faded…)

    3. Tia Will

      Rebecca

      Could we please build a true dorm and not luxury apartments?”

      I think this depends upon who you are referring to with the word “we”. The university is the only entity that is likely to build a true dorm. I have specifically addressed this issue with developers in town and been told that it “does not pencil out”.Since developers have no obligation to define “penciling out” we never really know what that means. Can they genuinely not capitalize their project ?  Are they simply not going to make as much money as they want ? “We”, as in the people of Davis, simply do not and will never know. The “we” cannot be the city as we are not set up to build public housing.

  11. Ron

    As long as the city resists dealing with UCD in a more direct manner (e.g., legal action – as two other cities have done with their respective UC’s), then these battles (as well as costs to the city, and compromised city planning) will continue.

    And, developers will take advantage of the situation – including pitting citizens against each other.

    Ultimately, the city as a whole will lose. And, UCD will remain ever-silent, while it continues to pursue non-resident students who pay triple the tuition costs, compared to California residents.

    A perfect storm.

      1. Ron

        Don did no such thing, nor does he have sufficient expertise to do so. (However, as a side note, even Don believed that there could be some advantages, going forward.)

        One of Don’s oversights is that he presented the two examples as the only possible advantages/outcomes, of such an action. Even the differences between the two lawsuits/settlements shows that no two actions are necessarily the same. Therefore, one cannot use those as examples of “limitations”, regarding such actions.

        But, I don’t have the time (nor expertise) to fully debate this, today.

         

        1. Howard P

          Your last sentence, Ron is so true, on so many levels… but I choose not to take the time to elucidate… the concept in the last sentence is irrefutable.  Thank you for that…

        2. Don Shor

          So here’s how it goes with you, Ron. You cited those two examples over and over and over again without apparently ever learning anything about them. I found the settlements and posted the salient parts. You can find news articles about each and links to the case information online. It clearly showed that neither is particularly relevant to our situation in Davis.
          And now you cite them again as examples.
          Dan C posted information about the lawsuit against San Diego State. I am very familiar with SDSU. It was a commuter campus for decades with very little on-campus housing. The traffic jams during the first week of each quarter were legendary. The lawsuit was settled for $15 million. Is that what you’re seeking? Do you think a financial settlement for the City of Davis from UCD would (1) have any merit, and (2) resolve the issues?
          I have little doubt that you’ll continue to cite these lawsuits, and continue to press for the City to sue UCD. But you won’t ever present the goals of that lawsuit, the reasons you think it might work, or what possible basis you think it might have. It’s just another talking point you won’t let go of, regardless of the facts and lack of relevance.

        3. Ron

          Don:  Yes, I mentioned that option as a possibility.  And, as expected, you tend to look at such options in order to criticize them, rather than keeping an open mind.  You do the same thing regarding SACOG requirements in a similar manner, as well.

          Essentially, you look for ways to discount possibilities, other than “build, baby, build”.

          It is true that I haven’t had time to dig into the details of these lawsuits.  One of the reasons I’ve been reluctant is because I don’t want to waste time arguing with folks who have no expertise, and have already made up their minds regarding the possibilities.  However, I might dive into the details, at some point.

          In the meantime, you, David, and others have kept me plenty busy arguing the same points (not related to a lawsuit), day-after-day.

          I did take a very quick look at one of the lawsuits, and found that it resulted in an agreement in which the university is agreeing to ultimately house more than 50% of total students.  It also included some enrollment caps.

          Regarding financial benefits for the city (perhaps needed as a result of a university’s impacts), that’s something I hadn’t thought of.

           

           

           

           

    1. Don Shor

      Ron:

      while it continues to pursue non-resident students who pay triple the tuition costs, compared to California residents.

      Actually, the state mandated otherwise. I have little doubt they would have continued on that trajectory that you describe, but the legislature raised a ruckus. Pardon the press release stylings on this from July 2017: https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/uc-davis-admits-nearly-41300-makes-gains-diversity

      California residents and transfer students
      With this year’s admitted class, UC Davis is on track to do its part to help the university enroll 10,000 more new California resident undergraduates systemwide by the 2018-19 academic year. Last year, UC Davis enrolled approximately 1,100 more California residents in its entering class than it did in fall 2015.

      This year, California residents account for 18,480, or 59.7 percent, of admitted freshmen. A total of 9,636, or about 93 percent, of the admitted transfer students are from California Community Colleges.

      In fact, UC Davis has enrolled the most California resident undergraduates of all UC campuses since 2010, and the enrollment of nonresident undergraduates — new and continuing — will remain under the 18 percent cap that the UC board of regents established for UC Davis and four other campuses in May.

      UC Davis has already surpassed the systemwide goal of enrolling one new California resident transfer student for every two new California resident freshmen. Last fall, more than 40 percent were transfer students.

      So you can retire that talking point now. It’s obsolete.

      1. Ron

        Don:  “So you can retire that talking point now. It’s obsolete.”

        If I’m not mistaken, 4,500 of the 5,000-6,000 additional students that UCD is pursuing on its own are non-resident students, who pay triple the amount of tuition.

        Don:  “Actually, the state mandated otherwise.”

        The state provided additional money, to slightly increase the amount of California residents attending UC.  (It apparently had been dropping.)

        I can re-post the state audits which criticized UC’s enrollment practices (regarding its pursuit of International students, while failing to reign in costs), if you’d like.  But, I’ve already done so perhaps a half-dozen times, at least.

        I can also post articles which discussed lawmakers’ concerns regarding UC’s interference in state audits. If I have time to find them, I will do so later today, if you’d like.

        But again, there comes a point where I just don’t have time to engage in the Vanguard’s repetitive nonsense.  (Today is one of those times.)

         

      2. Roberta Millstein

        In the last round, the number of admitted international and out-of-state students increased and the number of admitted in-state students decreased (albeit by a small amount).

        1. Roberta Millstein

          More precisely:

          It admitted 24.5% *more* international freshmen, 11.8% *more* out-of-state freshmen, and -0.6% (i.e., FEWER) CA freshmen. (Data from http://ucop.edu/institutional-research-academic-planning/_files/factsheets/2017/fall-2017-admissions-table1.pdf )

  12. Eileen Samitz

    David,

    As others have commented today, and previously, what has become wearisome is the Vanguard’s daily articles on the student housing issue and with your point of view that the City needs to fix the problem with a massive number (more then 5,000) mega-dorm beds.  On top of this has been the series of inflammatory Vanguard article title’s including today’s.

    There is no balance of discussion in these Vanguard articles, but seemingly more and more provocation. Vanguard use to advocate for on-campus student housing and the “50/100” plan, but that certainly has not happened for quite a while. In fact, quite the contrary, the Vanguard articles have been a steady diminishing of the need for on-campus student housing, and a steady increase of how you want the City to build at least 4,000 – 5,000 or more mega-dorm student specific beds. What happened to your 15%:85% concept of the City picking up 1,500 beds the UCD picks up the 2,500 or more?

    Contrary to your claim in this article, it is my position on this issue, that you continue to misrepresent. I have not said don’t build any rental housing that students can live in, but what I have said consistently is build more inclusively designed rental housing that either workers, families or students can live in. The mega-dorms are exclusionary and they are a rent-by-the-bed scenario that does nothing to help the need for rental housing by our community’s workers and families. There is nothing unreasonable about this position. Yet, you continue to try to make it appear unreasonable by claiming we need to prioritize student housing and build luxury student specific mega-dorms which exclude workers and families.

    I took issue with your article yesterday because it was becoming apparent that you have been meeting with the UCD students and it seems to be no coincidence that the students feedback has been more and more negative towards the community on a very reasonable position towards a solution. The position is to build more apartments designed so anyone can live in them, including workers, families and students such as traditional 1-,2- and 3- bedroom apartments.

    Also, while you seem to be encouraging the students to lobby the City to fix the UCD student housing problem, I do not see you even suggesting any type of encouragement for the students to lobby the UCD administration to significantly increase the on-campus housing far beyond their proposed “40/90” plan.

    You try to imply that these mega-dorm apartments would be more affordable than traditional apartments, yet that certainly does not seem to be the case since a low income or very low income legally qualified student who would live at Lincoln40 would need to pay $670-$800 for a bed in a double-occupancy room. That does not sound particularly affordable to me for a student who is a very, low income or low-income status. The market-rate rental cost for these mega-dorm luxury bedrooms is certain to be far higher than this of at least $900-$1,000 or more for renting a bed in a double-occupancy room. Yet, you continue to try to assert that the mega-dorms will be more affordable.

    This article today is yet more evidence of the Vanguard, rather than trying to find solutions to this problem that work for the community and the students, it instead continues to divide.  Again, an obvious solution is building more apartments, but design them so that anyone can live in them. It is not appreciated that you via the Vanguard continue to either intentionally, or unintentionally, pit the students against the community. It is not only counter-productive but it really is rather hypocritical given that you are trying to make this a social-justice issue.

    It would be more productive if the Vanguard would make clear what the problem is here, which is fundamental UCD’s negligence and irresponsibility of not producing the on-campus student housing needed that all the other UC’s are producing on-campus.  Instead you are consistently distracting the issue from that this fundamental problem and essentially then blaming it on Davis, which is housing more than 20,000 students Davis (population of only  68,000) is housing least 63% of UCD’s total student population, when UCD is only housing 29% on-campus.  It is inexcusable that UCD with its enormous 5,300-acre campus is pushing 71% of its student population off campus. UCD can and needs to provide housing for at least 50% of its student population like the other much smaller UC campuses are.

    Finally, you really have been beating this subject to death to a point where everyone is tired of having to hear your same position over and over again, which then requires those of us who do not agree with a massive mega-dorm only solution, to respond daily. You need to give it a rest. Everyone is trying to enjoy the holidays and I am sure have had enough of this, including me. This Vanguard daily re-hash of this issue is just divisive rather than focusing on finding solutions we can agree on.

    1. Ron

      Eileen:  “The market-rate rental cost for these mega-dorm luxury bedrooms is certain to be far higher than this of at least $900-$1,000 or more for renting a bed in a double-occupancy room.”

      Just a quick note:  I believe that the article from yesterday referenced an estimate of $1,000 (not $900).

      Knowing how “estimates” often work (coupled with inflation, if the proposals are actually approved and subsequently built), I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being more than that.

    2. Richard McCann

      Eileen,

      You wrote “It would be more productive if the Vanguard would make clear what the problem is here, which is fundamental UCD’s negligence and irresponsibility of not producing the on-campus student housing needed that all the other UC’s areproducing on-campus.” Yet you seem to ignore the facts that 1) even if UCD builds what’s being requested by some in the community, that the town still needs another 4,000 beds for students and 2) the town still needs another 3,000 housing units for added staff and faculty, before we even address the shortage of housing for current staff and faculty who are forced to commute to Davis with attendant environmental impacts. When you acknowledge these needs and accept the need for what looks like a minimum  of 5,000 more housing units, then we can have a rational discussion going forward. Until then, you will face constant resistance to your points.

      1. Eileen Samitz

        Richard,

        I think you are not quite understanding the issue. The community is asking for 4,000 more student beds on-campus beyond the 40/90 plan which would bring it to a 50/100 plan. So, the campus accomplishing the 50/100 plan would allow the City to be in a better position to deal with other non-student growth such as your faculty and staff concerns. So no matter how you look at it, the more student housing you allow UCD to deflect off campus to Davis (especially since Davis has limited vacant land left) the less ability it allows the City to provide housing for non-students (including workers and families) needing housing.

        Plus, since at least six other UC’s are committing to providing at least 50% on-campus student housing, so what is UCD’s excuse to not do the same? Particularly since UCD is the largest UC with over 5,300 acres, and it has well over $1 BILLION in endowment funding which is not all ear-tagged.

        So the relevant questions are: 1) How is it that all of these other UC’s can accomplish 50% on-campus housing, but UCD, which claims to excel in so many ways, can’t? 2) Why can’t UCD come up to par with all the other UC’s to provide the on-campus housing needed for its own growth with the enormous amount of land and resources it has? 3) What is wrong with the administration and planning at UCD?

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          “The community is asking for 4,000 more student beds on-campus beyond the 40/90 plan which would bring it to a 50/100 plan.”

          The reason “the community” is doing that is the need for additional beds above and beyond the 6200 promised by the campus, no?

        2. Richard McCann

          Eileen,

          I perfectly understand the issue–even if UCD meets a 50/100 plan target, we still need upwards of 5,000 housing units in town to meet current and future demand. The reason why we are debating the amount of on campus housing UCD should provide is because that decision impacts the amount of in town housing we need to add. More simply it’s not an “either/or” issue–we need more in-town housing regardless.

          Instead, you’re trying to deflect the issue here. If you’re pushing UCD to have more on campus housing, then you should be agnostic on what type of housing is constructed in town so long as it meets the remaining need after UCD meets your desired target. Instead, you appear to oppose any type of new project development, and somehow imply that UCD should be 120/120 (because we apparently shouldn’t house new staff either.) On one hand, you appear to argue that having UCD provide the new student-only housing target will solve our housing crisis, but then when student-focused housing is proposed off campus, that housing won’t solve our problem. I am confused by your inconsistency.

          (I am a skeptic of UCD’s ability to manage well on campus housing given the problems with West Campus that I noted back in 2005. UC is an educational institution, not a housing agency, but I am open to the idea of increased on campus housing.)

        3. Eric Gelber

          UC is an educational institution, not a housing agency …

          UC’s missions are teaching, research, and public service. But with 25% of UCD students living in university-owned, -operated, or -affiliated housing it is wrong to say it does not also function as a housing agency.

        4. Eileen Samitz

          Richard,

          First of all it is not true that I am against all projects. I supported Cannery, Wildhorse and the Eleanor Roosevelt project.

          Second, I am not sure where you get 5,000 more units are needed in the City beyond the 50/100 plan at UCD, but let’s just say that sounds like a very high number. Also, since much of it is being driven by UCD, why isn’t UCD providing even more than they are proposing for faculty and staff?  Also, if you feel that the City needs to build 5,000 more units, where would they be located since the City has such limited land left?

          Third, I am not deflecting anything, but what is being deflected is UCD trying to continue pushing far too much of its student housing needs off-campus. The only way to control student housing costs long term is on-campus which is why all the other UC’s are building at least 50% on-campus student housing. But speaking of deflection, I haven’t see you respond to the issue of how all these other UC’s are producing all this on campus student housing, yet UCD with over 5,300 acres can’t seem to figure out what all of these other UC’s have figured out.

          Finally, I have other things to do besides posting on the Vanguard all day today, so I am done and moving on to holiday stuff. I wish everyone would try to get into a more positive spirit with the holidays at hand, and give this subject a break.

          1. Don Shor

            First of all it is not true that I am against all projects. I supported Cannery, Wildhorse and the Eleanor Roosevelt project.

            Wildhorse opened almost 20 years ago and has, I think, 3 apartment complexes of which two are very small. ERC is a tiny seniors-only project. At least The Cannery will provide some apartments (looks like about 150 overall).
            So your record is not -no- growth, but it is certainly very, very, very slow growth.

        5. David Greenwald

          “I wish everyone would try to get into a more positive spirit with the holidays at hand, and give this subject a break”

          I find this comment highly ironic – as they say, you opened the door here – twice in the last week.

  13. Tia Will

    Matt

    the Davis families whose employment or education comes in whole or in part from UCD, the answer continues to be “for the better”

    True when seen only from one perspective. I would like to provide another. I graduated from UCDMC, so my family has a clear connection with the university. However, approximately 3-4 years (? ) ago, my qualified son was denied acceptance to UCD due to the policy of preferentially accepting lesser qualified students from out of state/country for their increased tuition. All benefits cannot be measured economically as your post seems to imply.

    1. Mark West

      “my qualified son was denied acceptance to UCD due to the policy of preferentially accepting lesser qualified students from out of state/country for their increased tuition.”

      You have restated that assertion a number of times so I’m assuming he received a letter from the University stating that was the reason he was denied admission to Davis.

      The UC system guarantees a place for all qualified candidates at one of the UC campuses, but to my knowledge has never guaranteed spots at a specific campus. Qualified candidates get turned away from the more popular campuses every year for a wide variety of reasons, so I expect that your reasoning for his denial while convenient, is false.

    2. Cindy Pickett

      With the 2020 plan, the number of in-state students increased (along with the number of out-of-state students), so your son would have had a better chance of getting into UC Davis compared to previous years because of the plan.

      1. Eileen Samitz

        Cindy,

        Actually, not really. The “UCD 2020 Initiative plan” is for 4,500 non-resident students, and only 500 California in-state students by 2020. So, therefore the “UCD 2020 Initiative Plan” is for 9X more non-resident students (international and out-of-state) being admitted to UCD (for UCD to extract triple tuition from them) compared to the additional California in-state students. So any increase in California in-state-students is relatively (9 times) much smaller compared to the non-resident students being added with the “UCD 2020 Initiative”.

        So while UCD is recruiting all of these non-resident students for revenue for itself (even though it does not have the housing for all of these students) UCD is, at the same time, trying to continue their “tradition” to push all these additional students off campus year-after-year to find housing off-campus.  After three decades of UCD negligence to provide the needed on-campus housing for its own growth, the result is that this has saturated the Davis rental market of over 11,000 City  apartments with UCD housing impacts…leaving little for Davis workers and families. Yet, UCD is trying to push even more students off-campus now with their inadequate “40/90” LRDP plan.

        So basically, it is irresponsible of UCD to neglect their responsibilities to provide the on-campus student housing for its own growth, while other UC’s are providing at least 50% on-campus housing to accommodate their student population growth.  UCD is the largest UC in the system with over 5,300 acres, so it has no excuse why it is not providing the on-campus housing needed by its students.

         

      2. Cindy Pickett

        Eileen – You’ll get no argument from me regarding the need for UCD to provide more on-campus housing for students.

        And yes, the 2020 plan resulted in a large influx of international students as it was designed to do. I do see Tia’s point. I was just making the macro-point that the 2020 plan is allowing UCD to serve more in-state students compared to previous years (albeit a modest number).

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