Students Worried About the Loss of Affordable, Low Income Graduate Housing


On Thursday, the Vanguard ran a story on a petition delivered on behalf of 51 Orchard Park residents. The petition asks Student Housing “to extend Orchard Park leases, in light of the fact that they have not yet made any guarantee of the plans for Orchard Park.”

“We are writing to you as the voice of Orchard and Solano Park residents who believe that the July evictions from Orchard Park and the planned Solano Park termination are unjust. To voice our concerns, we send you a petition with 51 signatures of residents at Orchard Park (titled the ‘Orchard Park Petition’),” the group said in an email forwarded to the Vanguard.

The university has forwarded a June 3 letter from Dean Jeffery Gibeling to graduate and professional students, which explains, “The campus has been planning for several years to redevelop student family housing in Orchard and Solano Parks. These apartments were opened in the early 1960’s and are in great need of being upgraded.”

One spokesperson for the students, however, disputes this claim, arguing that the units were in great condition until the university decided to replace the units with newer and higher density units but at a far greater cost with rents increasing from $900 to $1400 a month.

The spokesperson explained that many graduate students are precluded from outside work and thus have their incomes capped at $17,000 a year, which is about what a $1400 a month rent comes to.

The letter from Dean Gibeling continued, “Because of increasing maintenance costs and expectations of significant costs to renew major utilities and amenities, a decision was made five years ago to close Orchard Park in July 2014 and redevelop the site for family and graduate student housing that would open in Fall 2016. Solano Park would close at the same time as the new Orchard Park came online, but no specific plans were outlined for its redevelopment.”

While perhaps true in the strictest sense, both Bob Segar from the university and Perkosh Pinto, the developer, have since January laid out conceptual plans which lays out the Nishi-Gateway project and presents the idea of high density housing both on the Nishi portion as well as the university portion of the site.

The university presentation talks about UC Davis East Village and 42 acres, part of which currently houses Solano Park.

Dean Gibeling explained, “To keep everyone aware of these plans, Student Housing began notifying residents about the closure and future of The Parks in May 2009, continuing to do so for the next several years. Information about the planned closures was also sent through mailed letters, emails and community newsletters beginning in January 2012.”

He continued, “Planning for Orchard Park’s redevelopment was undertaken by a committee that included two graduate student representatives. The committee’s work was also informed by several surveys of graduate students that looked at the types of amenities and costs that were desired as well as the income and rents for the current residents.”

There was a survey of the local housing market and the selection of an experienced third-party developer.

He explained, “On March 13th and 15th of this year, results of this planning process were presented to the community at two information sessions. Information was shared at the meetings regarding the proposed building configuration at the current Orchard Park site, types and sizes of units, project amenities and proposed rents. Information was also provided regarding a rent subsidy program for financially needy student families and single graduate students.”

“It was through feedback from the information sessions and additional email from the community that specific concerns with the redevelopment process surfaced. Those included concerns about proposed rents as well as the number and size of the apartments,” he continued. “As a result of those concerns, a decision was made by Chancellor Katehi to stop the current redevelopment plans and embark on a new planning approach that focuses on those concerns as much as possible and reevaluates how best to proceed. A new and more inclusive strategy for planning and consultation will help move the project forward in a more acceptable manner as a new committee with significant student representation is created.”

He added, “Although planning has stopped, Orchard Park will close on July 31st as originally scheduled and Solano Park will remain open.”

The Graduate Student Association had a few concerns.

First, “Though the administration has packaged this plan as a replacement of a current student resource with a more up-to-date version of the same, the plan is actually an opportunity for the administration to phase out lower-income housing and repurpose grad student housing space for more profitable university developments.”

Second, they claim that the community is considered to have a housing crisis when rent rises above 30% of income. They argue, “Rent is already too high, and these plans push it beyond affordability.”

Third, “They believe this move shows further shifts by the UC-Davis administration toward privatization and decreased attention to student resources. As the recent UAW 2865 report attests, grad student salaries and resources are being cut while administrator salaries are skyrocketing. They cite in that report that, “UC’s upper-level administrative strata has grown 251% . . . while other strata have grown 51% over 21 years between 2008 and 2011, people receiving more than $200,000 in base pay grew by 44%.”

The Davis Faculty Association Board wrote Chancellor Katehi and Dean Gibeling, “We are writing to express our concern over the proposed redevelopment plans for Solano and Orchard Park Student-Family Housing. These units are scheduled for demolition and will not be replaced with subsidized housing.”

“Current rents at Solano and Orchard Park are $900/month, but at the new, privately managed, development, unit cost will increase to $1,400/month. Under this proposed change, ninety-five percent of a TA/GSR salary will go to rent,” the DFA Board writes. “Not only is the rent increase enormous, but the number of units will be greatly reduced.”

“The destruction of affordable housing has the greatest impact on students the university should especially be striving to protect — those with families and those whose financial ability to pay for education is limited,” they add.

In the petition, dated June 10, 2014, the students indicate that the university has “paused” the planned demolition of Orchard Park, and claims the July 31, 2014 closure of the facility will be “delayed to accommodate the needs of the community’s current residents.”

However, the chancellor’s new “Redevelopment Committee” has yet to meet with or even contact Park residents to begin documenting the concerns of the student body displaced by the Park closure, and has likewise not begun work on the “’finalized proposal’ which we would expect to see prior to the buildings’ destruction.”

Some Orchard Park leases have been extended through August 2014.

The students are proposing, “We propose that the July 31 move-out date be extended at minimum, to Dec 31, 2014.” They reference a statement by Dean Gibeling in a May 23, 2014 Davis Enterprise editorial that “nobody is being evicted.”

They write, “In accordance with these conditions, we find it completely reasonable that Orchard Park remain open, accept new resident applicants, and extend all current leases until Dec 31, 2014.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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    1. David Greenwald

      What they were made aware of was the proposal to demolish and redevelop. Where I think the problems are coming from is the more than 50% increase in rents, especially considering that the rent will be 95% or more of their current salary. That I don’t think they knew in 2009.

  1. David Greenwald

    I’m not sure that really matters. The bottom linee is they get paid around $17,000 a year and the rent at $1400 per month is just less than $17000 per year.

    1. Barack Palin

      But if they are getting subsidized through Section 8 or whatever other handouts then your figures aren’t correct that their $17,000 of ouside allowable income is getting all taken away by rent. Am I missing something?

        1. Barack Palin

          Here’s some more info on what’s being offered these students, rent is to be offered at 85% of the Davis prevailing rates. Sounds like a good deal because the $1400 figure sounds way high to me. My kids rented a nice 2 bedroom apt. in Davis for $995 last year and currently live in a very nice and roomy duplex for $1200.

          1. David Greenwald

            This is where the $1400 figure comes from:


            “Student Housing is working with Real Estate Services through a “Request for Proposal” process to identify a developer for the Orchard Park redevelopment. University Student Living (USL), is in exclusive negotiations for the ground lease, and in this process has contracted with a third party marketing firm by the name of Danter Company to assess the Davis rental market. This market study is necessary to confirm that the project will be financial sustainable in meeting the goal of below market rents, with new construction, in the Davis rental market. That study was released in early January with proposed rents in the family units at $1350 to $1400 for a two bedroom unit, including gas and electrical utilities (which Orchard and Solano Park residents currently pay gas and electric separately). This preliminary information was shared by representatives of USL at the Town Meeting they held on campus on January 25. Several grad students were in attendance, and they shared their concern that these rents were too expensive considering the current salaries paid to TA’s and GSR’s at UC Davis.”

  2. dlemongello

    This story replays itself over and over, “maintenance has become more expensive than demolition”. BS, that is what that is. These modest housing projects, Orchard and Solano Park serve a much needed purpose. The point is not to make a profit but to provide housing that is below market rent and break even. Building something NEW with all the associated costs wipes out the possibility of providing this affordable housing. And gee, if it is less expensive to rebuild than to maintain, why will rents rise. It is a ridiculous cycle based on lies and incompetence and I am so very tired of hearing it.
    Extending leases ’til December accomplishes next to nothing. Realizing the WASTE involved here and maintaining these units so they can continue to house families at a reasonable rent is the only thing that makes sense to me. Unfortunately, writing that was most likely just a waste of my time.

  3. TrueBlueDevil

    I thought I read in an earlier memo that the concern was safety? Now I read the issues are “utilities” and “amenities”. My understanding is that the grad students aren’t after “amenities”, they are after affordable rents. If I were a grad student or campus leader, I’d want these specific items listed out.

    I can understand the complex next to the Nishi property – I can understand the university wanting that to mesh with the new development. So I’m open to learning more about that.

    However, the same doesn’t hold true for the housing on Russell. Adding “numbers” to these discussions would be helpful! Are they really going to increase the number of housing units? Was there an increase or decrease in housing units when the campus rebuilt the Castillion? Is this another part of the push to be “Net Zero”? If so, don’t they know that new construction requires a tremendous amount of energy?

    If the campus is after new housing units, why not shelve some of the homes planned for West Village, and add more grad housing with “amenities” out there?

    These complexes don’t appear to be the crumbling.

  4. TrueBlueDevil

    The link to the FAQs about these complexes was helpful, and a few things jumped out from my first glance.

    1. The new Castillion complex – “The new project with 59 four-bedroom/two-bath units is scheduled to open in fall 2014, with individual bed leases available to single graduate students.”

    Isn’t this a reduction in what was previously here? And is it common for grad students to sleep 4 to a suite? (I’m surprised they didn’t go for 2 bedroom / 1 bath units for more privacy.)

    2. The FAQs state that having to rehab the units would cost too much, but …

    a) One of the costs they list are new roofs, but they just replaced the roofs in 2009! (It’s in the same FAQ document.) I’m used to roofs having a 30-year warranty. What is the warranty here?

    b) Appliances probably have to be replaced every 10 years anyway, so that is a “sunk cost”. If the units there already work, no need to replace them until their useful life ends. (A new complex won’t change the need to change out appliances every 10 years or so.)

    c) Since the AC units were just replaced, those are other items that won’t have to be replaced.

  5. tribeUSA

    David–good article; glad you posted this; example of value of Vanguard!

    Good research BlueDevil. And I concur with dlemongello’s comments re: maintenance.
    Must admit I too am pessimistic about slowing the development behometh–the lunches and friendly reasonable sounding selling points to admins have been served, understanding of traded favors has been passed, and the technocratic molds of the minds of the current crop of admins is validated by strategies designed to address this mindset; any opposition will likely be steamrolled.

    I suspect the next steps of university admins, if forced by negative publicity to actually address grad student concerns (beyond patronization and dismissal or obfuscation; and additional marketing points made that they are actually doing them a favor despite 50% increase in rents) will be to deluge them with truckloads of information; usuallyan effective strategy used routinely in legal and political disputes, particularly where the opposition has limited resources to review this info. But I hope they keep up the fight and maybe expose some of the machinations going on in university administration–would be nice for the Davis Enterprise to interview some of the spokesman on the grad student side of this.

  6. TrueBlueDevil

    Oh no, they also mention the cost of new floor coverings and paint *cough*. These are typical ‘finish’ items, not structural issues. Hence, these older units then save money with the new metal fences, new walkways, new AC units, etc.

    Yes, plumbing and electrical may need a remodel, but that’s far less costly than a whole new complex.

    1. South of Davis

      TBD wrote:

      > Yes, plumbing and electrical may need a remodel,
      > but that’s far less costly than a whole new complex.

      It is important to understand that the goal of the people running UCD (and the city of Davis and the State of California) is not to find a “less costly” solution but to find a way to give a lot of money to their friends so they can kick a portion of it back in the form of “perfectly legal” campaign (and PAC) contributions.

      A $10K/unit “remodel” off all 200 units at Orchard park could be done for ~$2 million and would not have a ton of excess cash left over while the planned “$80 million redevelopment” (as reported in the Bee last week) has $78 million more money with plenty of cash left over “grease the wheels” of the political process.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        SoD, interesting point. I can see a “developer” getting the $80 Million deal, and then there are jobs to dispense, and then legal donations back to the University.

        Another potential angle is the current obsession with making projects “net zero”.

          1. South of Davis

            DP wrote:

            > i don’t think it’s a current obsession so much as
            > the way things will be done for now on.

            I was up in Tahoe this weekend and the True Value Hardware store in Tahoe City was out of standard incandescent reflector bulbs for the recessed lighting in the cabin kitchen.

            The guy at the hardware store told me that I could buy a ($59.99) 10W LED bulb and “save money” since it used less electricity than the (~$2.50 at Home Depot) standard incandescent 65W bulbs.

            I didn’t do the math but I’m guessing I’ll be long dead before we ever “save money” if I were to spend almost $400 (including sales tax) to replace the six bulbs in kitchen cabin with the “green” LEDs.

            I agree that “the way things will be done for now on” will be to “spend” $80 million so we can “save” $4 million on electric bills and be proud that we are “green” (and our contractor buddies and “green” suppliers are “rich”)…

            P.S. I am not exaggerating the price of the bulbs and I just looked at the photo I took of the bulbs on the shelf with the price on my iPhone that I took after being blown away at the cost of “going green”…

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