Historical Cooperative Student Housing Scheduled To Close

The_Domesby Jacqueline Dufresne –

As fees to attend the University of California continue to rise, funding and support for affordable student housing have noticeably gone down. In recent weeks at UC Davis, this trend has been revealed and is facing much resistance.

Built in 1972, the historical cooperative living community known as the Domes received a letter from Student Housing on January 24th announcing that not one of its leases would be extended. By August of this year, the Domes will be empty.

As a staple of Davis counter-culture, the Domes not only provide affordable student housing to twenty-four students, but also engage in community-involved activities such as sustainability workshops, organic gardening, and local entertainment.

The decision to effect the close of this community came after months of negotiations between Student Housing and Domes residents regarding basic but necessary renovations of the decades-old structures. Constructed from polyurethane foam and fiberglass, the domes are admirably sustainable yet require repairs.

In the Domes’ lease, it is stated that residents are not just permitted, but required to do most of the maintenance on the structures. This includes large scale projects such as fiberglass repair, foam patching, and any other work that does not require a license. When it became evident that the renovations for Dome 10 were outside of their repair abilities, the “domies” went to Student Housing in an effort to receive assistance.

A team of students drew together a plan that combined projects they themselves could accomplish along with the projects that would require outside help to complete. With estimates from Central Coating Company, the original installers of the Domes, residents expressed to Student Housing that renovations could be fairly reasonable.

The administration took over the project and, as one resident claims, saw it as “an opportunity to shut us down.” The residents’ plan was not implemented and Student Housing’s growing concerns about liability turned into rigid opposition against the amount of work that residents could perform on their structures.

Due to this refusal of lease-approved resident involvement in repairs, Student Housing’s overhaul of the project meant an outsourcing of renovation. The estimates for these construction companies to renovate Dome 10, the structure in most dire need, came to an astonishing $43,000. Student Housing later came to the decision that each dome, regardless of good condition, would also require the same repairs resulting in a bill of half a million dollars.

Inspections also raised questions about “fire safety, environmental health and safety, structural safety, and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance.” The estimates for making the Domes wheelchair accessible adds another $70-80,000 to the bill despite the claim from one resident that “community members could finish that project with mostly recyclable materials for several thousand at the most.” On top of these costs are additional electrical requirements for Building Code 88, putting renovations at a final cost of around $1 million.

Emily Galindo in her letter from Student Housing concluded that “it would not be appropriate nor financially prudent to continue to utilize these facilities for residential living following the lease period which ends July 31, 2011,” ultimately stating that no funding would be given to assist renovations.

“They seemed to have found the most expensive solutions they could,” says one resident, resulting in a cost threshold that Student Housing claims is past their budget.

Residents declare that closing the Domes, referred to fondly as Baggins End, would be a death blow not only to the low-income students who reside there, but also to the history, reputable sustainability, and diverse community of the City of Davis.

Built in 1972 by a group of students who demanded lower-cost, sustainable student housing on campus, the Domes marked a historic step in the City of Davis and its reputation as a leader in environmentally-conscious legislation.

Along with its inherently “green” structures, the Domes as a community was largely founded with the goal of being an educational resource for both the University and the City of Davis in regards to ecological issues. 

Along with its admirable experiment in sustainable living, the Domes are a working model of communal living and consensus-based decision making. “The biggest cost to the Davis community is that of opportunity,” the opportunity to engage with and experience an alternative lifestyle. Other important “domie” contributions to the City of Davis include extensive involvement in the founding of the Davis Food Co-Op, Davis People’s Free School, the Davis sector of Food Not Bombs, Critical Mass bike races, the Bike Church, and much more.

The Domes collective is asking its larger Davis community for help from local legal advisers and licensed electricians; if they can receive assistance in these areas as well as regain the ability to complete their own projects, there may still be hope for these structures to stand.

Learn more and offer your support and opinions by joining the Facebook group, Save the Domes.

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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5 Comments

  1. E Roberts Musser

    I admire these students for taking the time and trouble to actually come up w a working plan to save this housing model. However, it may be an outdated idea whose time has come to an end. One thing though, I am wondering – is there alternative affordable housing for these low-income students, especially in light of all the recent funding cuts? For me, that should be the real issue…

  2. J.R.

    This is really a shame, but it points out the effect of regulations on the decline of California. We mean well with each set of regulations we put in place – fire, earthquake, electrical code, ADA compliance, etc etc. And each regulation has good justification. But at the end of the day we can no longer do what was easily done a generation ago.

    This will end in tears.

  3. indigorocks

    I’m so outraged. This community is what has made UCDAVIS unique and enjoyable. The administration is just tyring to turn ucdavis into a right wing nazi school where only “scientists” and economists are allowed to study here. I hate this school for coming up with a bunch of excuses to shut it down. IMO the school should pay for the repairs, because culturally, Baggins end is an asset to the community and historically significant in so many ways. I’m DISGUSTED WITH UCDAVIS. THIS IS TOTALLY OUTRAGEOUS!! THIS HAS GOT TO STOP!

  4. indigorocks

    MR TOAD! You hit the nail on the head. UCDAVIS wants to clear the way for a higher grossing complex. It’s not about regulations, it’s about MONEY! They got rid of the turtle house..what’s next. ..Davis is on the decline. ppl are fleeing left right and center. it’s being taken over by monsanto and the corporate mafia. fuck this place..i can’t wait to leave this polluted pile of republican infested shithole

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