The Planning Commission on Wednesday evening unanimously recommended approval of the Lincoln40 student housing project. The project will now move forward to the city council.
Lincoln40 is a proposed off-campus student-housing complex with 130 rental units that result in 708 beds, with the majority of units being four-bedroom/four-bathroom units.
Josh Dalavai, ASUCD President, spoke to the commission in support of the project. He said there is a shared agreement “that the university does need to increase their level of support for student housing. This has been no secret between the students and the administration of the university.”
He said, “It’s not something we’d like to let them off the hook for.
“That’s a change that we see reflected in some of the administration’s recent actions,” he said. “I’m sure you’ve all heard many horror stories of landlord abuse… those are the types of conditions that students are subjected to in the realm of inexperience when it comes to renting and signing leases for the first time. I very much support Lincoln40 to try to alleviate that problem.”
Nicole, a PhD student at UC Davis, said that she was renting a room with another individual and that individual had a mental break. She realized she was not safe and left.
For two months she submitted over 100 applications for housing and with only five days remaining was she able to find a place before becoming homeless. “Whether it is an issue like that, or an issue with their landlord… or if they have an infestation… it leaves them in the same position where it left me which is effectively homeless because of how few housing options there are in this city,” she said.
Alice, a renter in Davis, spoke to the rental situation in Davis. She’s another PhD student. “I started to look for a place to live after my previous landlord sent me a renewal notice on February 1 for a lease starting September 1. I wanted to leave because that landlord hired a very unqualified man to be our maintenance man.”
When she found the place she wanted to rent, there were four other people there interested in the same space. She had five minutes to decide, which she said “wasn’t long enough to determine that the house has a crack in the foundation or ancient plumbing that would result in a trench in our backyard for six months making our backyard unusable.”
She also said that her landlord was convicted of a felony related to real estate fraud, which she had not had the time to discover.
She ended up renewing that place and was immediately hit after the fact with an eight percent rent increase. She said she valued living Davis and that’s why she chose to live there despite all of the problems.
For these reasons, she said, “I support Lincoln40 despite it not being perfect. It will alleviate some of the housing problems in Davis.”
Connor Gorman, a graduate student at UC Davis, said, “I do think that both Davis and the university need a lot more housing and they need a lot of dense housing. This project is very dense which is definitely a good thing. It is also nice that the developer included a provision around affordability and specifically it’s known that the standard affordability doesn’t apply to students, so having affordability that does apply to students is also beneficial.”
He did note that the goal of the developer is to make money, while the goal of the community is to sustain itself and to do things that benefit the community.
Adam, a student at UC Davis, said, “We are in fact a part of the Davis Community. It is the responsibility of any community to make sure that its members have the opportunity and ability to live safely and comfortably. That is not happening in Davis.”
He noted a number of criticisms of Lincoln40, ranging from lack of affordability , the university is not building, etc.
“We are fighting the university, we are asking the university to build more,” he said. “Today, the university approved 2000 new units that add up to 8500 new beds so the university builds when the city builds.”
He said he understands the concerns about the project, but said, “We have to start somewhere and that somewhere has to be this.”
Elli White and Emily Frankel, graduate students, came up to speak together. They both live in Solano Park. “With the shutting down of Orchard Park a couple of years ago, Solano Park is the only affordable student housing at UC Davis. It’s only meeting one-third of the demand.”
They said their demands of the university have been ignored as the university repeatedly attempts to replace these units with “luxury units” that don’t meet the demands of low income students.
However, they said that Lincoln40 with the four-bedroom configuration is a “for profit model that doesn’t meet the needs of low income students.” They said, instead, “we want to see an income-based affordable model for housing at the university and in the city.”
They noted that lecturer salaries are $1900 and TA (teaching assistant) salaries are $1400 per month. At one-third their take, that puts affordable rent for them at $570 – “are the rents going to be that low? If they’re not, they’re not affordable.” She added, “An income-based model gets you closer to affordability than a market-based one.”
She added, “We’re not saying don’t build. We want more housing in Davis. And the fact that we’re talking about affordability is a great thing.”
Another student, Miowa, a graduate student at Davis and president of the Black Graduate’s Student Association at Davis, said, “I cannot stress the difficulty in finding affordable housing in Davis or basically finding any option of housing at all.
“Even just finding a place over your head has become a huge task,” she said. “Living in Davis has reached the breaking point for a lot of the students I work with, and for me myself.
“The reason that I’m supporting the Lincoln40 project is I believe we have to start somewhere,” she said. “I would be happy to fight for the 35 percent affordability for students. I am happy to fight for lower cost of housing for student.” She said this is a for-profit model and at this point “demanding things of them seems a little futile considering many of next year are trying to sign leases and some of us may not even have a place to go to.”
A Phd. student named Ronda Thompson said that “we are beggars and beggars don’t get to be choosers when it comes to housing.” She said that she came here in the previous year from New York City and said, “I want to make it abundantly clear that it was much easier to find housing in New York City in any of the boroughs than it is to find housing in this little small town. I find that unimaginable to me still.”
She went on to say that the rent is similar, and there is less transportation. “It’s not competitive, speaking as a millennial,” she said.
To offer the counter message, Eileen Samitz spoke blaming the current rental housing shortage on “UCD’s negligence for decades and abstinence over the last few years.
“Other campuses are providing 50 percent on-campus housing,” she said. “Why can’t UCD do it?
“Mega-dorms are not a good model because they don’t provide housing for everyone,” she said. “That’s the problem.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting