For all of the debate and discussion over the last nearly two years over Lincoln40, the only real question on Tuesday night was whether the council would end up changing the mix on the affordable housing package to 15 percent from the proposed 12 percent and how much the developer would end up paying for the overcrossing.
In the end, the council decided to stick with the 12 percent affordable housing number, opting to go “deeper” by way of a deeper subsidy, rather than “wider” as in more beds. The council got the developer to agree to go up to a $1 million contribution on the overcrossing.
Council then minutes before midnight voted 5-0 to pass Lincoln40 on a motion made by Lucas Frerichs and seconded by Rochelle Swanson.
There were a number of public comments, and during the actual item 32 people spoke, with only Rhonda Reed, Linda Deos, Donna Russell, Nancy Price and Eileen Samitz speaking out against the project and with no opposition coming from the neighborhood.
Robert Canning, speaking on behalf of the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association, which remains neutral, thanked the applicants for their extensive and early outreach efforts – a sentiment echoed by the council, which showed that effective early outreach can allay neighborhood concerns if done in a proactive manner.
Councilmember Will Arnold raised the issue that his preference would be to go to 15 percent affordable, saying “even if it means an even split” in the low versus very low units. He argued, “The more beds the better.”
He also argued for the contribution from the developer for the overcrossing to be $1 million rather than $865 thousand.
However, Rochelle Swanson pushed back on the affordable housing. She argued, “I would like us to preserve (the 12 percent very low affordable housing plan).
“This being so cutting edge, and that we finally have a program and a company with a philosophy to understand and really listen to the fact that students who don’t qualify magically for a ‘A’ affordable housing get left in the lurch and that’s really disappointing,” she said praising their proposal as “really progressive.”
Mayor Robb Davis echoed her concerns, stating, “My preference is we stick with the plan and we go deeper.”
Deep matters,” he said. “I think we want to go deeper because I’m afraid we’re going to miss the population that’s really in bad shape.”
“We need units,” he said. “Our capital ‘A’ affordable programs in the city exclude students.”
He added speaking to the developer who had originally proposed in-lieu fees, but listened to council and community concerns: “I’m glad you took up the challenge, I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Ultimately the council stuck with the 12 percent plan, allowing for more very low affordable beds. In addition, the developer agreed to the additional contribution to the overcrossing.
The breakdown of those costs are that the ATP (Active Transportation Program) Grant will fund $3.335 million of the $6.67 million overall costs. The developer will now contribute a flat million up from $867,500 previously. Then $442,000 will come from Roadway Development Impacts Fees. Finally, $2 million less $133,000 or so picked up by the developer will come from the city, also from Roadway Development Impact Fees that
have been collected into a fund.
Perhaps the most interesting portion of the discussion came when Mayor Pro Tem Brett Lee pushed his colleagues to pledge that, after this project, they need to look at a broader range of housing options.
“There are a variety of needs for housing,” he said. “Some relate to students specifically, some are workforce housing needs, some are retirees, some relate to for sale, some relate to rental.”
He said they have approved around 3000 to 3500 beds in the city in projects geared toward students. He suggested that his colleagues pledge to reconsider future student housing projects.
“I think we’ve done our fair share toward addressing student housing needs,” he said. “I think it’s now time to move toward workforce housing.” He suggested going toward housing “that by design does not sort of preclude certain uses.”
“This is not meant to exclude students,” he clarified.
Councilmember Will Arnold seemed to agree, “My appetite for this type of project has reached its satiation point.” He added, “Absent a geographic circumstance, such as spitting distance from campus, then I am inclined to support something like what you said.”
He said while he felt like the size of the apartments would be appropriate for his family, the structure might not. “Dougie needs not, nor should he have his own bathroom,” he said, referring to his young son.
Rochelle Swanson added, “I think it’s time to do a pivot.” At the same time, “We can’t expect it all to be across the street, we have a benefit from having students (in the city).” But she said, “I think being able to have a mix for the workforce… We begin to build new diversity into our housing, to mirror the old diversity that we had at one point.”
In her more general comments, however, she pointed out the New York Times article on shared housing for professionals and the changing nature of housing for people who are older than just the typical student population.
However, it is unclear as to how much agreement there was in this regard. Rochelle Swanson pointed out, “There could be times where it makes a lot of sense (to have student housing).”
Lucas Frerichs stated, “I’m not willing to sign the Grover Norquist ‘no new taxes pledge.’” He said, “I think that making blanket statements that we shall or shall not do something, I’m not sure that’s something that either I or our colleagues should be doing.”
He added that part of this is “the need for the university to be doing what they should have been doing all along which is building a bunch of housing on campus.” But he added, “It’s not a zero sum game, where you only wait for the university to do what they should have been doing all along.”
Councilmember Frerichs pointed out that the sad part of the university not doing their share is that “as much as we’re hearing about the mega-dorms issue, we’re also on the flip side hearing equally about the mini-dorms issues” where many students are living in large numbers in single-family homes intended for families.
“If the location is right, I’ll go for dense, and student housing makes sense,” Mayor Robb Davis said during his comments.
Earlier in his more general comments, Councilmember Lucas Frerichs pointed out that “Lincoln40 provides density where we need it.”
He said, “A wide range of housing is needed.”
He added, “Is it student oriented? Yes. I don’t think that’s the worst thing ever.” He made it clear however, that it wasn’t the only thing we need.
“Housing is a shared responsibility,” Councilmember Frerichs said. “UC Davis needs to do more housing… It’s frankly not a zero sum game.” He added, “I think we ought to do our sharing of building some housing.”
Councilmember Will Arnold said, “Folks are begging us for roofs over their heads.”
“In terms of the four and five bedrooms, I completely understand the concern that we ought to have a diversity of housing types in town, it’s a concern that I share,” he said.
He related a conversation where the person said, “We should build housing including affordable housing for our residents, and not possible future residents.”
He found that odd. He said, “My response was, no matter how long you’ve lived in Davis, the college student as a cohort of folks has lived here longer. The names and faces may change, but the college student is and always has been and God willing always will be an essential part of this community long after we’re gone.
“We’re not serving this essential part of the population,” he said. “And we can do better.”
Mayor Robb Davis addressed the role of the university in providing housing. He said that in addition to the resolution on housing on campus passed by this council, “My very first meeting with the new chancellor was about this issue, at his request.”
He wanted to know what the city was asking for and what the city is doing. Mayor Davis said, “To be able to put my foot forward and say, these are the types of projects we’re working on… I’m going to say was critical to saying to the university that this is a serious community that wants to be a partner in solving the problem.”
Mayor Davis pointed out, “The result is that the university hasn’t backed off its agreement to give more.”
The council vote was 5-0, and council has now approved its third student housing project in the last year, with Nishi once again pending a Measure R vote in June.
—David M. Greenwald reporting