Commentary: Housing and UC Davis

West Village has been underutilized for student housing thus far
West Village has been underutilized for student housing thus far

It is clear, as UC Davis embarks on their LRDP, that they are, in effect, the 800-pound gorilla in the room. In essence they can do whatever they want. They don’t answer to the city. If the city wishes to partner with the university on innovation and tech transfer, great, but if not, UC Davis is perfectly happy to expand into downtown Sacramento.

So if the university wishes to expand by 5000 to 7000 students in the next 15 years and not provide enough housing, there is nothing Davis can do about it.

At the same time, I want to believe and hope that UC Davis doesn’t want to be the bully on the block and does want to work with the city to resolve mutual issues such as student rental housing. However, by acknowledging, “Even in our highest on-campus housing scenario, we’re going to study some very high on-campus housing scenarios, we don’t anticipate being able to house every single new student. That’s something we’ll have to work through in terms of the implications of that,” the university is setting the stage for potential conflict.

On Sunday, Eileen Samitz provided some excellent analysis on the subject.

As she noted, the MOU between the university and city acknowledged that providing high density apartment housing on-campus had some keen advantages.

First, they can be legally dedicated to UC Davis students. Housing in the city cannot be dedicated for students – on the other hand, designing the units as small apartments close to campus will likely create student housing de facto, even if others can technically move in there.

Second, and probably most importantly, “It can better absorb fluctuations in the number of student admissions.” This is critical, because if there are empty housing units on campus, the campus does not have to worry about the market conditions like a private landlord or property manager would have to.

There are other factors such as the reductions in transportation and parking issues that are created by commuting students and the fact that the university has the space to accommodate these students.

However, as Ms. Samitz points out, “It is important to note that UCD has also promised to provide more faculty and staff housing as well, but it has yet to accomplish that. It has provided only 2,000 of the 3,000 beds promised for students in its West Village project, and no faculty or staff housing yet.”

But she also offers a devastating critique of the Nishi proposal, that UC Davis has promoted with some enthusiasm (albeit somewhat diminished in the last year).

She writes, “It is more evident now that it is the 650 apartment units that the University is most interested in. However, since these apartments would be in the City, not on-campus, they cannot be legally reserved, nor rent controlled for students to be affordable long term. Only the University can legally dedicate and control the affordability of student housing built on their land, so the long term solution to student housing need is for it to be built on University land, not in the City.”

She argues that “the Nishi proposal is not a good solution for long term affordable student housing, plus its recent fiscal analysis has revealed that the Nishi project is a fiscal loser for the City even with its small innovation park portion.”

Ms. Samitz adds, “These deficiencies together with the significant access issues make the Nishi project a losing proposition for the community, bringing major impacts, rather than real solutions. One consolation is that at least our community gets to weigh in on Nishi since it is subject to a Measure J/R vote. (Note: the Nishi Draft EIR mentions that the UCD LRDP adds another 7,000 students between 2025 and 2030).”

I offer a somewhat different assessment of Nishi. The city holds the cards on Nishi, and if it wants to provide a place for students to have rental housing, it could push for the project to densify greatly. Housing 2000 to 3000 students would have a marked impact on the student housing crunch, even if it does not completely solve the problems.

While I understand there is fear that non-students could move in there, let us be realistic. Small, dormitory-styled apartment units right next to campus can really appeal to students and is not going to appeal to a huge number of non-students.

The city can resolve some of the access issues by discouraging cars in Nishi. While there is a sizable student population without cars (probably half my interns at any one time do not have cars), there are also some innovative ideas on storing cars for infrequent use off site and on the campus itself.

And while there is no rent control, rental pricing has leveled off greatly in the last decade, and the availability of more units would help out as well.

While I firmly believe that UC Davis needs to step up more during the LRDP process to provide more student housing, I also believe that the city should not sit back and wait for the crisis to develop before acting. Nishi is a golden opportunity that could quickly turn into a lost opportunity if city leaders cannot act in time.

—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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85 Comments

  1. zaqzaq

    My understanding is that West Village’s apartments are not cheap, and in fact cost more than those in the city.  Thus UCD has not increased the level of truly affordable housing, instead increasing the pressure on the city to provide low cost housing creating a pinch for non-student residents of Davis.  The bigger community question is what is the effect of UCD’s decisions on the low income members of the Davis community.  How does the city and the surrounding areas address low income housing in order to reduce homelessness?  What kind of ripple effect does increased pressure on low income housing in Davis have on surrounding communities.  What obligation does UCD have to house low income members of the greater Davis community?  How does the city protect the most vulnerable members of the community concerning housing?  When UCD builds it has no obligation to provide any number of affordable units.

    Take a drive through the west village parking lot and check out all those nice cars.  Many of those students drive vehicles much nicer than the one I use.  That sends a message that the new housing recently  constructed by UCD is high end and not affordable.  What will be the cost to married students with families for any housing constructed to replace Solano Park and Orchard Park?

    1. Matt Williams

      zaqzaq said … “That sends a message that the new housing recently constructed by UCD is high end and not affordable. What will be the cost to married students with families for any housing constructed to replace Solano Park and Orchard Park?”

      The question zaqzaq asks is the core reason that the current residents of Solano Park actively protested the University’s decision to “upgrade” that portion of the campus. There was/is also a question whether the existing Solano Park student housing will be replaced with non-housing research buildings.

  2. Tia Will

    zaqzaq

    What obligation does UCD have to house low income members of the greater Davis community?”

    I think that the obvious answer to this question….”None”… is emblematic of what the university has become. UCD is no longer the land grant university with a mission to educate the youth of our state for the betterment of the state and its communities. Rather, the current model is to convert the university into an entity run by and for the benefit of private corporations. When we see this as the major drive behind the World Food Center with its partnership with the Mars company, whose mission statement centers not on the provision of food, but rather “food products” and behind the exclusive profit motive behind the high tech ventures at the cost of undergraduate education, would we expect the University to accept the responsibility of providing affordable housing for either the greater Davis community or even for their own students ?

    1. Misanthrop

      How long have you been around here Tia? Maybe you were so immersed in your studies and later your practice that you never noticed that UCD has always supported corporate agriculture while paying lip service to family farms. They even got sued over it in the 80’s. Mars has a long standing relationship with UCD and UCD is a major chocolate research center. I don’t know when it began but its at least 20 years since I first heard about it.

      Zaq, new construction at UCD is more expensive. Because of building code regulations put in place in the wake of a deadly dorm fire at Georgetown University a few years ago. As a result student housing construction must include current state of the art safety features like indoor sprinklers so the idea that UCD is going to be able to build affordable housing for students is a fairytale unless you think UCD should subsidize housing for those students who you describe as having “nice cars.” On top of that prevailing wage laws that UCD is subject to means additional expense for new UCD housing. If you want cheaper student housing then you should advocate for off campus construction. What many don’t seem to understand is that the economics of student housing are one of the factors that is driving UCD to try to lay some of the construction off onto the city.

  3. Don Shor

    Curious comments by both Eileen and David reflect a particular myopia that I find consistently in the discussion of rental housing in Davis.

    Nishi proposal is not a good solution for long term affordable student housing

    While I understand there is fear that non-students could move in there

    Students aren’t the only people who need rental housing in Davis. The people most adversely affected by the lack of rental housing in Davis are young adults who live and work here who are NOT UC Davis students. Like, say, all of my employees, and the people who work at our other local businesses, and my children. What we might call the forgotten renters in Davis.

    1. Misanthrop

      One of the greatest curiosities is the advocation of restrictive housing policies that drive the children of this area away. As a longtime supporter of ag land preservation I wonder if you take any responsibility for the hardship you express your own children face finding adequate housing?

        1. Frankly

          Of course you don’t.  There are of course no negative consequences for your demands to prevent development on the periphery of Davis.  There are of course no consequences for demanding that the city give away Mace 397 for a $500k loss.

          1. Don Shor

            your demands to prevent development on the periphery of Davis.

            My goal is the conservation of prime agricultural land. I support development projects that have been proposed for the periphery of Davis. So you are, again, lying about my position. You do this so consistently that it is very tedious. You should stop lying about my position.
            Mace 395 was not slated for housing, so that is irrelevant.

      1. Tia Will

        Misanthrop

        I am not Don, but I have a different take on your question.

        I have never made the assumption that my children had a “special right” to housing here over anyone else. I myself could not afford this area when I graduated. It took a long time to earn my way back. For those of you who have special allegiance to our economic system, is that not the way it is supposed to work ? You work hard for your goals and if you are successful in our competitive system, the reward is getting what you want within the realm of whatever economic success you have had. Where in this model does it say that we are obliged to provide for any given set of people above another in our capitalist model ?

    2. Matt Williams

      Don is 100% correct. The most negatively impacted demographic group is young adults who live and work here who are NOT UC Davis students. Students can pool their fiscal resources when pursuing rental housing. Young adults, especially young adults with children, have much less ability to share apartment space and/or the fiscal resources needed to pay the higher and higher rental fees that housing commands in a less than 1% vacancy market.

      The second most negatively impacted demographic group are the DJUSD-aged children of those young adults. In the period from 2000 to 2010 we saw the young adults Census decline by over 1,500 people at the same time that the City as a whole grew 5,500 people. The school aged children group declined by over 800.

      Those declines are only going to get worse in the next 10-year Census period from 2010 to 2020.

      NOTE: to show how little the UCD student cohort is affected by the housing crisis, the 20-24 year-old population grew by over 3,500 people in that same 10 year period.

    3. Davis Progressive

      okay but you yourself have pointed out that the students are the primary people in need of rental housing, so no matter how you address the issue, providing rental housing provides a fix.

      1. Don Shor

        The students are, by sheer numbers, the ones creating the demand that is driving single-family homes in to rental and crowding out the other renters. Providing rental housing is the solution, but focusing on student rental housing solely ignores the forgotten renters.

        1. Matt Williams

          Once again Don has it right. The approach needs to be one that addresses all the Davis rental housing market segments. We can’t simply assume that addressing one segment will fix the problems of the other segments. We need a comprehensive approach.

  4. CalAg

    So many fallacious arguments – so little time.

    “In essence they can do whatever they want. They don’t answer to the city. If the city wishes to partner with the university on innovation and tech transfer, great, but if not, UC Davis is perfectly happy to expand into downtown Sacramento.”

    The amount of UCD tech transfer is minimal. What does occur is under the control of the startup and/or licensee, not UCD. Katehi is going to expand into downtown Sacrament regardless of whether or not Whitcombe, et al build another student housing project at Nishi. The “innovation hub” component of Nishi is not credible. UCD needs Davis as much as Davis needs UCD. The implied threat of losing a partner is false.

    1. UnclearColt

      “UCD needs Davis as much as Davis needs UCD.”

       

      I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement.  This city would be and is nothing without the University, more like Woodland or Dixon.

      1. CalAg

        UnclearCut: Without UCD, Davis would be like Dixon and Woodland would be much more prosperous.

        But you miss my point. Going forward, UCD needs a collaborative relationship with the City of Davis or Katehi’s ambition to rise to be one of the top-ranking public universities will probably fail. The host community is an important size of bigger puzzle.

  5. Anon

    Nishi is a golden opportunity that could quickly turn into a lost opportunity if city leaders cannot act in time.”

    Is Nishi a “golden opportunity” for the city?  Or is it a money loser, no matter how much student housing is squeezed onto that site?  After all, it is clear from the Economic Impact Report on Nishi/MRIC that Nishi is a money loser for the city BECAUSE OF THE HOUSING.  So I think the city has to ask itself how much more cost is going to be incurred from having housing on Nishi (whatever that amount of housing is), and can the city afford to absorb that cost?

  6. CalAg

    So many fallacious arguments – so little time (part 2).

    “So if the university wishes to expand by 5000 to 7000 students in the next 15 years and not provide enough housing, there is nothing Davis can do about it.” @ David Greenwald

    There’s plenty the City of Davis can do:
    1. Publicly engage with the UCD administration (suggest taped workshops in Council Chambers)
    2. Formally engage with student groups
    3. Get serious about ordinances and legal remedies to crack down on mini-dorms
    4. Open discussions with the UC Office of the President
    5. Cooperate with UCD/City infrastructure connections
    6. Encourage local developers and UCD to do more joint ventures on campus (a system-wide goal)
    7. Lobby the state government for legislative relief
    8. Encourage the politically active members of the community (via the City Council) to be supportive as UCD tries to self-correct

    This is just 5 min of off-the-cuff brainstorming. Image what we might do if the City decided to actually make this a priority.

    Katehi is very sensitive to UCD’s reputation and ranking. UCD and Davis both benefit by a healthy student housing ecosystem.

     

    1. Frankly

      Yikes!   Too much risk of change contained within those ideas.  I would rather sit back and wait until someone proposes something and then oppose it strongly and maybe even file some law suits against it.

      I moved here to stay stuck in a time warp.  Don’t mess with my time warp!

    2. Anon

      To CalAg: I like your suggestions.  I really hate it when individuals take the “we can’t do anything about it” approach.  It is self-defeating, and just not true.  Santa Cruz went through much the same thing with the UC there, and were actually quite successful at getting UC to agree to quite a bit that was in the city’s favor.

          1. Matt Williams

            Thank you Anon. It appears that the words of Walt Kelly’s beloved character apply in this situation.

            “We are confronted by insurmountable opportunities.” — Pogo

          2. Matt Williams

            I took the time to go back to the 2002 UC Housing in the 21st Century report. When one looks at the information provided by/about UC Santa Cruz it quickly becomes clear that UC Santa Cruz has been committed to housing its students for well over 20 years. The following information is from page 30 of that report. It speaks for itself.

            The Plan for New Housing at Santa Cruz

            The University of California, Santa Cruz expects a significant increase in enrollment over the next decade. Santa Cruz has recognized the importance of housing for its students and the limited availability of development options within the community and plans to significantly increase the percentage of students housed. The campus currently has plans to build an additional 5,200 beds by 2011-12, bringing the projected percentage of students housed to 60 percent. Santa Cruz’s focus will be to develop additional housing on campus, but will also explore private development near campus.

            FALL 1996 UC SANTA CRUZ ACTUAL
            Headcount Enrollment 10,215
            Total Housing Supply 4,393
            Percent of Enrollment housed on campus 43.0%

            Compare that 1996 attainment of 43% by UC Santa Cruz to the system-wide goals for attainment by 2011-2012. UC Santa Cruz’s 1996 attainment exceeded the aggregate 2011-2012 UC System goal.

            FIGURE 3
            UC STUDENT HOUSING GOALS BY CAMPUS (set in 2001-2002 to be attained by 2011-2012)
            Berkeley 29%
            Davis 40%
            Irvine 40%
            Los Angeles 37%
            Riverside 35%
            San Diego 50%
            San Francisco 25%
            Santa Barbara 31%
            Santa Cruz 64%
            ALL CAMPUSES 39%

            Now compare UC Santa Cruz 1996 to UC Davis 1996.

            FALL 1996 UC DAVIS ACTUAL
            Headcount Enrollment 23,235
            Total Housing Supply 4,332
            Percent of Enrollment housed on campus 18.6%

            Comparing UCD to UCSC is a non sequitur.

  7. Eileen Samitz

    I am sorry David, but trying to jam in 2,000-3,000 students on the Nishi site is not a solution, but would be a catastrophe. First of all, no matter what the density would be, you can not reserve the apartments for students and there is no way that the apartments could be forced to be kept affordable if they are in the City. At the risk of repeating myself from the Op-ed, only using UCD land (they have over 5,000 acres) is the only legal way to reserve the housing for the students and to keep it affordable long term. Also, healthwise, due to it being adjacent to I-80 and the  subsequent significant air quality impacts on residents, it is not a good site for residential. Retired UCD Professor Cahill has documented this in detail in his recent comments to the Planning Commission on Nishi. Nishi’s infrastructure costs are going to be enormous due to the access issues. That will be  pushed onto the housing costs. So I would not try to kid myself that Nishi is going to be affordable for anyone, students or non-students.

    I want to remind everyone that the original reason for even looking at Nishi was because of its “innovation park” aspect and how nit was supposed to help the City for revenue. So what happened to that discussion, particularity now that we know that Nishi is a fiscal loser? It seems clear now that the real objective from the beginning was for these developers to create a housing project, not an invocation park. They knew the UCD did not want to build any housing so the “bait” was  to imply that Nishi would save UCD the trouble of building its own housing. But it simply is not an answer for student housing for the many reasons that I and other folks have posted.

    If approved, Nishi would be nothing more than an albatross to the City because of all of its location and access problems and it does not bring any golden opportunity, but instead nothing but impacts and financial liability to the City and therefore to the citizens of Davis.

    And Don, regarding your comment on “housing myopia” that you fear I have, the reality is the insufficient on campus student housing for over two decades is playing a major role  for the lack of availability of non-student rental housing. This issue was brought to UCD’s attention formally a  number of times including the 2001 General Plan Update, the 2008 General Plan Update by the  Housing Element Steering committee and also in UCD’s LRDP update in 2003. Yet, the University continued to kick-the-can-down-the-road to see if they could get the City to continue dealing with their UCD housing problems.

    UCD should have taken action a long time ago and they can not use lack of finances as an excuse when they have been boosting about their $1 BILLION dollar endowment fund being reached recently. As I said in my Op-ed, UCD can find funding when they want to. They obviously have not been motivated in the past and they have brought on all of these UCD housing needs problems on themselves. It is time they stop being so irresponsible in their planning and it is time that they stop dumping their housing needs on our community. It is causing havoc with our own City Planning and that also needs to stop now.

    1. Matt Williams

      Eileen said … “First of all, no matter what the density would be, you can not reserve the apartments for students and there is no way that the apartments could be forced to be kept affordable if they are in the City.”

      Eileen, you are correct that there is no legal way to reserve the apartments for students; however, there are significant market forces that will produce a de facto equivalent to the de jure solution you propose. If we start with your statement “XXX students on the Nishi site” as the target, and primary demographic for any Nishi apartments, it is interesting to speculate what additional demographic groups are likely to displace any of those students as renters.

      — Non-student employees of the innovation incubation businesses on the Nishi site are one such demographic group because of their proximity to the location of their jobs.

      — A second possible group are young single (or married empty nest) UCD employees, again because of the close proximity to the location of their jobs.

      — A third possible group are young UCD employee couples with children, and my belief is that the vast majority of that group will say that they do not want to raise their young children in an overwhelmingly college student milieu.

      — A fourth possible group are young professionals (without children) who commute to Sacramento to work. I suspect that having to exit Nishi through the UPRR underpass, navigate to the west to get to the Old Davis Road exit of I-80 is going to be a significant disincentive for this group … as will having to live in an overwhelmingly college student milieu.

      — A fifth group are seniors looking to downsize. Not likely

      — Sixth and seventh groups are the same as the second and third groups with the employment not being UCD, but rather Downtown businesses.

      Bottom-line, there is really a very small portion of the Davis rental housing market demand that will have any incentive to displace student renters on Nishi.

      That is just my opinion based on the demographic evidence, and I’m interested to hear your thoughts on what non-student groups of renters will want to displace the student renters on Nishi.

      Addressing your point on affordability, I do not expect any new student housing built anywhere in Davis to be any more affordable than West Village currently is … and I would hope that any housing on Nishi does not come with access to an automobile parking space as part of the lease. Anyone who wants to have a car on Nish should have to rent that parking space in an agreement that is separate from and additional to the housing rental rate. A logical monthly parking space rental amount would be equal to or greater than 30 days of parking at the Mondavi lot ($9 x 30 = $270 per month).

  8. CalAg

    So many fallacious arguments – so little time (part 3).

    “… on the other hand, designing the units as small apartments close to campus will likely create student housing de facto, even if others can technically move in there.” @ David Greenwald

    There are no facts to support this claim. Show us the data. I think Don Shor is correct re: the notion of “forgotten renters.” It is just as likely that a significant fraction of the apartments will fill up with childless non-students that want to be close to downtown, an I-80 interchange (commuters), UCD, and/or the Nishi R&D/office space.

    There is a steady stream of press coverage from the Bay Area about employed millennials and genXers sharing apartments to adapt to scarcity, rents, and commutes. If you take the Nishi proposal at face value (i.e. that an R&D/office component really gets built), I would assume that the employees on site would out-compete all but the wealthiest students and displace them to less desirable complexes.

    If your agenda is to promote housing on Nishi, it would be more effective to either (1) make the case for workforce, or (2) drop the R&D/office (and the innovation hub charade).

  9. Michael Harrington

    Interesting seeing the political coalitions now developing …. Nishi a traffic nightmare;  Nishi air is polluted by the nearby freeway and train tracks, harming the lungs of our young students; Nishi is a fiscal disaster; Nishi has no emergency evacuation strategy if a crude oil train derails and blows up, incinerating the nearby student dorms and the kids.

    I think the Nishi developer-driven project is toast in the Measure R election, and I wish they would pull their application and come up with something better.

      1. Davis Progressive

        part of the problem here is that there is no consensus – some people want more density, others less, some want no housing, some think it needs to be housing.  how do they reconcile that?

        1. Mark West

           “how do they reconcile that?”

          That is why we have a City Council.  It is their job to consider all of the conflicting views and decide what is in the best interests of the City as a whole. You will never find consensus if you are looking on the Vanguard.

        1. Anon

          Either they will find space in Davis, from current housing stock, or they will find housing stock in Woodland, West Sac, Dixon, Winters, etc.  There is nothing sacrosanct about housing having to be located where one works.

          1. Matt Williams

            Agreed there is nothing sacrosanct about having housing located where one works, but it makes the revenue to the City from those remotely located workers significantly smaller than it would be if their residence were in Davis.

            Further, it is arguable that if those workers live in Woodland, West Sac, Dixon, Winters, etc. then the 200-2010 erosion of the 0-19 year-old age cohort that fuels DJUSD will continue in the 2010-2020 period. Davis lost 867 residents in that 0-19 age cohort in the 2010-2020 period, at the same time as the population of Davis as a whole grew by 5,314. If those trends continue DJUSD will be faced with the closure of another elementary school. Those trends present our community with questions … questions that it would be good to seek evidence about in order to make informed decisions.

  10. Frankly

    First point…

    Don’t expect any increase in new apartments to reduce rents.  The reason?  The cost of land and the cost of construction with the ongoing layering on of more construction code and regulatory requirements keeps driving up the per sq. ft. cost of development.

    Second… there is pent-up demand from a significant under-supply of rental units and so it will take a lot of building to impact the vacancy rate.

    In 2011-12, Madison WI was freaking out concerned about a sub-2% rental vacancy rate.  Then in 2012-2014 the city built 2,170 additional rental units downtown.

    Here is the list of benefits reported:

    – More options, better service, similar rates.
    – More amenities, better service.
    – Neighborhoods will matter more.
    – Old properties will get a face-lift.
    – Owners will change their management style.
    – Madison becomes more dynamic.

    I think many people that oppose development in Davis would not even consider this list of benefits worthy of valuation.  And that is a very telling point, IMO.

    1. Matt Williams

      Frankly said … Don’t expect any increase in new apartments to reduce rents. The reason? The cost of land and the cost of construction with the ongoing layering on of more construction code and regulatory requirements keeps driving up the per sq. ft. cost of development.”

      Absolutely correct Frankly.

  11. Eileen Samitz

    Matt, first I am not certain that you understood my post. I think you are making an argument for something that you want to talk about which has nothing to do with my posted comments.  Students being displaced by non-students at Nishi is not what I am talking about. I am saying that I don’t think that if Nishi was approved, and if housing was built, that the massive infrastructure costs would drive up the costs of the housing that neither student nor average income non-students could afford it. Your proposal for jacking up the price per unit of at least $270 per month per car of residents would make the units even more out of reach to afford.  

    Also, what about the health issues from air quality problems being adjacent to I-80, the access and traffic problems, the massive infrastructures costs and their long term costs to the City (road maintenance, using our water reserves, sewer capacity etc.) and how the project as whole is not of financial benefit to the City? I would like to hear your thoughts on these issues.

    1. Matt Williams

      Eileen, I understood your point. You said, “First of all, no matter what the density would be, you can not reserve the apartments for students. I simply showed you how free market for rental housing in Davis is going to make it unnecessary to “reserve the apartments for students.” Studentswill be the only population cohort that will consistently be interested in living in an apartment on that site.

      Regarding affordability. If they are priced at a level equal to the apartments in West Village then they will be just as affordable as the apartments in West Village.

      Regarding separate rental amounts for a parking space, that only costs a renting student more if he/she makes the discretionary decision to have a car in Davis. Given the Nishi location, most students will find bicycle and pedestrian modalities preferable to automobile travel to their classes.

      I’ll answer your questions about the health issues with a return multi-part question. Is the air quality on Nishi going to be any worse than Aggie Village or Kaiser Permanente’s Medical Offices or Davis Diamonds or Hanlees Toyota or Caffe Italia or Hyatt Place or the Mondavi Center or the new Shrem Museum or the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science? I agree with you that air quality is a consideration that needs to be dealt with, just as it was dealt with at all those other locations, as well as thousands of other locations along I-80.

    2. Don Shor

      With regard to air quality: I assume that the project meets Air Resource Board guidelines with respect to the siting of housing and implements active mitigation measures for both housing and businesses. Perhaps you could ask Tom Cahill if they are taking sufficient measures.

      I believe these will not be, nor are they intended to be, inexpensive rentals. It will provide some housing, some of which will be occupied by students and some perhaps by employees of the businesses that will locate there. When my son was living in apartments in South Davis a few years ago, one of his neighboring units was occupied by an older couple from Germany, and another was occupied by a senior citizen. People will live where they can find housing. When the young men who work for me were looking for housing earlier this year, there were something like two dozen apartment units available in the entire city, period.

      We need apartments on Fifth Street, we need apartments at Nishi, we need apartments anywhere else the land is zoned for it. We need several more of the types of units that Tandem has built and operates in South Davis. And of course, UC needs to build dormitories. We need all of that.

  12. Mark West

    Waiting for the University to act on student housing is foolish.  If we have a housing crisis in Davis (which I believe we do), then it is the responsibility of the City of Davis to act, not sit around waiting for someone else to solve the problem for us.

    Housing on campus brings more people to town looking for services, but little or no new tax dollars to pay for them. We are all better off with the new housing being in the City, not on campus. The only reason this would not be true is if these new residents start voting in local elections and dilute out the power of the ‘old, gray head-in-the-mud no growth contingent…oh wait! That would be a good thing.

    We have a narrative that is popular here on the Vanguard that residential development is a net negative for the City.  That may be true for the McMansions that seem to be popular in town (but even then only because it assumes that the City is unable to control costs) but it is absolutely not true for high density residential (otherwise known as apartments).

    The proposed Nishi development is a missed opportunity not because it proposes a residential component, but because it doesn’t propose a high enough density one.  Make those buildings 6-8 stories tall and pack them in tighter and the development really starts to make fiscal sense. The development density guidelines that were used for the design are outdated and do not recognize the need to maximize value to the City.

    Eileen’s feared health hazards are just that, Eileen’s fears.  There is nothing associated with building near a freeway that cannot be mitigated. We should not allow unreasonable fears to block development.

    We should not worry about or try to prevent non-students from living in the housing even if it is originally intended for students. We should just build the new housing and let the market adjust to the new reality.

     

    1. Anon

      Please explain how building student housing in the city is going to financially benefit the city?  Any housing is usually a net fiscal negative to the city, because of all the services the city must provide.  So I am not understanding your point…

      1. Matt Williams

        Anon, one of the issues that has recently been discussed in the Finance and Budget Commission (F&BC) meetings is that the modeling of expenses is being done using the City-wide average costs per unit. We individually have wondered whether housing (such as the Castilian Redevelopment Project now known as 8th & Wake – Elevated Graduate Living) that has a relatively low percentage of residents who have an automobile, contribute to road deterioration and maintenance costs at the city-wide average. Other City Services have similar demographic group variations.

        In addition, since the 25-54 year-old demographic cohort is the engine that drives the retail economy in local jurisdictions, the economic impact of displacement by UCD students of renters in the 25-54 year-old demographic group is arguably damaging to the sustainability of the Davis economy, as well as direct cause of reduced City revenues from Sales Taxes.

      2. Mark West

        Anon:

        Paragraph three directly answers your question.

        We are going to have to supply many of those services regardless of where the housing is located, with residents cars on the streets and their bodies downtown dancing to thumpa-thumpa music.

        In the case of housing on campus we will receive no new property taxes to pay for those services, so it is almost entirely new expenses with no new revenue.  Apartments in town on the other hand will have very high tax value per square foot of land used, resulting in higher revenues than any expected increase in costs. As I said before, the preferred narrative of the anti-development faction is false.

        1. Anon

          Sorry, but paragraph three of WHAT directly answers my question?  Your response above?  You blanketly state cost savings of residential housing to the city may not be true for MacMansions, but don’t explain why it wouldn’t also be true for apartments.  Any time you provide residential housing, there are mandatory services that have to be supplied by the city that cost big bucks.  If you look at the Economic Impact Report for Nishi and MRIC, it is clear that the provision of housing results in a net fiscal negative for Nishi and less tax revenue generated for MRIC.  Are you disagreeing with the conclusions of the Economic Impact Report?  If yes, please explain…

        2. Mark West

          Matt explained the problems with the models a few days ago.  Basically, the reason that residential development becomes net negative is because there is an assumption that the City will not control runaway compensation costs, but that is really only true for single family homes. High density apartments are net positive regardless of the City’s mismanagement.  More importantly however is that we will be paying those increased service costs whether the development is in the City or on campus.  The difference is that we will receive no new revenues for developments on campus.

          Let us assume your contention that student housing is a net negative.  To make it simple, let’s put the cost for service for every new resident at $10 regardless of location of their apartment. We will receive $0 for every new resident on campus (no new property taxes) and $5 for every one in the City (these are made up numbers used solely as an example).  Both are net negative, but we lose $10 per resident on campus, and only $5 for those in the City.

          The reality is that we will likely make money on new apartments in the City, especially if we learn to control City payroll costs, but we will always lose money on those built on campus.  Why would anyone prefer the guaranteed loss from on-campus housing?

  13. Eileen Samitz

    The City’s economic and fiscal analysis has been done on the Nishi project and it clearly shows that the residential component is review negative.  I would like to see the data from Matt and Mark that prove their assertion that “High density apartments are net positive regardless of the City’s mismanagement.”  Furthermore, I have no idea where Matt’s conclusion of “Students will be the only population cohort that will consistently be interested in living in an apartment on that site”.  However, on the contrary, Matt’s earlier posting seemed to be arguing that the “market demand “ of non-students  (including his perceived demographics categories) would likely inhabit the Nishi apartments. Is there data to support any of these conclusions?

    Also, regarding Matt’s last post, I do not see any response to my request for his thoughts on the Nishi projects impacts including the massive infrastructures costs and their long term costs to the City (road maintenance, using our water reserves, sewer capacity etc.) and how the project as whole is not of financial benefit to the City. On his comments regarding parking, I think it is wishful thinking that people will not want to own a car, despite any disincentives that Nishi may try to have as barriers. Furthermore, adding high residential parking space costs at Nishi would be much more of a disincentive to anyone to live at Nishi.

    Finally, regarding the air quality issues, there is a recent letter (Oct. 14, 2015) to the Planning Commission from Dr. Thomas Cahill (UCD Professor Emeritus of Physics and Atmospheric Sciences) on the Nishi project regarding the gravity of “significant and unavoidable” mitigations for the significant air quality issues in the Nishi Draft EIR. Dr. Cahill considers the Nishi project as proposed as the “Perfect Storm” of air quality impacts. His letter is very clear in his analysis and conclusions.

     Additionally, his (verbatim) recommendation, specifically stated in his letter to the Planning Commission was:
    “If the Planning Commission should decide to support the Nishi proposal, the threats from air pollution are so grave that it should be modified to eliminate all residential housing”.

    1. Don Shor

      Furthermore, I have no idea where Matt’s conclusion of “Students will be the only population cohort that will consistently be interested in living in an apartment on that site”. However, on the contrary, Matt’s earlier posting seemed to be arguing that the “market demand “ of non-students (including his perceived demographics categories) would likely inhabit the Nishi apartments.

      I think we can reasonably speculate that mostly students would live at Nishi, but some non-students would also live there because of the limited availability of rental housing in Davis. And some people would live there because it would be close to their jobs, perhaps. Again, we’re speculating. There would be no data to support any conclusions about it. But I don’t see why it matters. We need rental housing for students and for non-students. That’s the point I keep making.

    2. Matt Williams

      Eileen, since you pose multiple questions, in the interests of clarity, I will address each of them in a separate response.

      When you say, “The City’s economic and fiscal analysis has been done on the Nishi project and it clearly shows that the residential component is review negative.” you appear to be accepting the City’s analysis without question. Is that the case?

      When the Finance and Budget Commission (FBC), of which I am a member, recently conducted its public hearing on the City’s analysis, the members of FBC did not follow your lead and accept the analysis without question. FBC submitted a long list of formal questions about the analysis to both city staff and the consultants who produced the analysis.

      A good way to characterize those FBC questions would be to paraphrase your question above to read, “We, the FBC, would like to see additional evidence from the analysis consultants that clarify their assertion that “High density apartments are net negative regardless of the City’s mismanagement.”

      Bottom-line, you appear to be wanting a decision about Nishi based on a political calculation rather than doing further due diligence in order to make an evidence-based decision once the questions about the evidence are clarified.

      1. Matt Williams

        Eileen’s second question above is “Furthermore, I have no idea where Matt’s conclusion of “Students will be the only population cohort that will consistently be interested in living in an apartment on that site”. However, on the contrary, Matt’s earlier posting seemed to be arguing that the “market demand “ of non-students (including his perceived demographics categories) would likely inhabit the Nishi apartments. Is there data to support any of these conclusions?”

        I addressed that question in my earlier comment earlier comment and here is a summary of that comment.

        There are eight demographic groups that theoretically could have interest in rental housing at Nishi.

        — UCD students is the first group. They clearly will be interested because of the walking and bicycling proximity to the UCD campus through the tunnels under the UPRR.

        — Two more groups are UCD employee couples with children and Downtown employee couples with children. I believe both those groups will not want to raise their young children in a rental complex that is overwhelmingly inhabited by college students. The recent incident at Ket Mo Ree will make that reluctance even stronger.

        — One more group is seniors looking to downsize. They also will not want to live in a rental complex that is overwhelmingly inhabited by college students.

        — One more group are young professionals (without children) who commute to Sacramento to work. As I said before, I think this group will not want to rent housing at Nishi because there will be no automobile access to Nishi other than through the UPRR underpass to campus.

        — The two groups that might produce some measurable demand are young single (or married empty nest) UCD employees and Davis Downtown business employees, because of the close proximity to the location of their jobs. With that said, those two groups will have competitive disadvantage in the marketplace when competing with student renters because it is easier for multiple students to aggregate together into tenant groupings than it is for employee renters. Having “roommates” is definitely more a student thing than a post-college employee thing.

        With all the above said, the free market for housing will operate according to the whims and desires of the participants, and we can only project what will happen. Data will tell us the patterns from the past, but can’t with any certainty tell us the future.

    3. Matt Williams

      Eileen said … “On his comments regarding parking, I think it is wishful thinking that people will not want to own a car, despite any disincentives that Nishi may try to have as barriers. Furthermore, adding high residential parking space costs at Nishi would be much more of a disincentive to anyone to live at Nishi.”

      Eileen, when you were a freshman in college did you have a car? When you were a sophomore in college did you have a car? When you were a junior in college did you have a car?

      My personal experience was that it wasn’t until my senior year at Cornell that I had a car … and the hills in Ithaca New York are nowhere near as bicycle or pedestrian friendly as our flat lands are here in Davis.

      Bottom-line, your point about the desire for and need for cars is closely tied to the issue of whether Nishi will be overwhelmingly populated with student residents. The locus of the daily life activities of students will be the campus and the place they sleep at night. If we want to collect data about the proportion of a complex’s residents with no car, then doing a professional survey of (A) the apartment complexes northwest of Trader Joes, and (B) the Tercero dormitory complex at UCD would be wise … and informative.

  14. CalAg

    So many fallacious arguments – so little time (part 4).

    “… if it [the City] wants to provide a place for students to have rental housing, it could push for the project to densify greatly. Housing 2000 to 3000 students would have a marked impact on the student housing crunch, even if it does not completely solve the problems.

    While I understand there is fear that non-students could move in there, let us be realistic. Small, dormitory-styled apartment units right next to campus can really appeal to students and is not going to appeal to a huge number of non-students.” @ David Greenwald

    If the proposed multifamily housing is sincerely intended for students, then it will need to be affordable to at least some segment of the student market. This means cheaper construction, particularly because the project has to adsorb the high cost of an underpass to UCD.

    So the “vision” is for a large complex of cheaper apartments with 2,000 to 3,000 beds comprised of small, dormitory-styled units that are so unappealing that nobody but students will want to rent them.

    Seriously?

    What does that look like from a density perspective? The Nishi site is 46.9 acres. With 2,000 to 3,000 residents, that equates to a population density of 27,000 to 41,000 residents per sq mi. That’s 4 to 6 times the density of the rest of the City. The best comp I’m aware of is the “inside the box” region of Isla Vista surrounded by UCSB and the Pacific Ocean, which has a population density similar to the low end of the range proposed for Nishi (27,000 residents per sq mi).

    Not a very appealing idea … building our own student ghetto next to downtown. And it won’t even have a beach. I won’t be voting yes on that one.

    1. Don Shor

      David seems to be proposing that they should build dormitories on Nishi. No — they should build dormitories on campus, where that density is expected, normal, and functions well. The proposal for a smaller number of units on Nishi is appropriate to the site. It isn’t intended to solve the city or campus housing problems, it is part of a broader housing effort that needs to be made both privately and by UC.

      1. David Greenwald

        No, I’m proposing high density housing, although I’m not sure what the true difference would be between high density rental housing and “dormitories.”

        1. CalAg

          From the Nishi DEIR –

          Of the rental units, approximately 85 percent or 1,275 of residents within the rental units are anticipated to be occupied by UC Davis students.

          The current proposal for Nishi is:
          (1) 440 rental units with 1,500 residents (beds)
          (2) 210 for sale units

          I can’t find an estimate for the number of residents in the for sale units, but it’s safe to assume that the total population of the proposed Nishi residential component will be roughly 1,800 to 2,000. Not much different from the low end of Greenwald’s densification “proposal.”

          So the baseline population density of the proposal from the applicant and analyzed in the DEIR is roughly a population density of 25,000 residents per sq mi – which is very close to that of the high density core of Isla Vista.

          My personal opinion is that the project as proposed (1) will only have a minor impact on the student housing deficit, (2) has a residential density that is grossly inappropriate for the site, and (3) destroys the economic development potential of our best opportunity site. This leads me to the conclusion that the land should be entitled for 100% R&D/office (assuming that the Richards corridor problems can be solved) consistent with Katehi’s original innovation hub solicitation – a land use that will maximize the tax benefits to the General Fund.

          There is plenty of land at the Solano Park redevelopment site to provide 2,000 to 3,000 beds of true student housing, and the Orchard Park redevelopment site can be expanded to the south to provide additional married student housing if that is a priority for the campus. Both sites are already in the UCD pipeline, and the repeated claims that the campus can’t/won’t build housing are false (e.g. Tercero Student Housing Phase IV is currently under construction).

          1. Don Shor

            There is plenty of land at the Solano Park redevelopment site to provide 2,000 to 3,000 beds of true student housing

            I’ll just keep saying this over and over. We need those too. We need 10,000 beds. 1500 at Nishi is good. More on 5th Street is good. Solano Park will be good, too. We need them all.

        2. CalAg

          To be clear, the density calculations are done across the entire 46.9 mixed use project. If you look at densities of individual housing complexes, the density of the proposed Nishi residential complex would be >50,000 residents/sq mi.

    2. Matt Williams

      CalAg, what is the density of the Tercero housing complex on campus? What is the density of the newly renovated 8th and Wake complex north of Russell and west of Sycamore?

  15. Anon

    Matt Williams: “A good way to characterize those FBC questions would be to paraphrase your question above to read, “We, the FBC, would like to see additional evidence from the analysis consultants that clarify their assertion that “High density apartments are net negative regardless of the City’s mismanagement.”

    Please let us know when you get the answer to that question.

    1. CalAg

      City financial modeling since the days of Navazio have shown that multifamily is revenue negative.

      The Nishi fiscal analysis shows that the proposed residential is revenue negative even when it gets included with the adjacent R&D/office + retail (both revenue positive). Isn’t it curious that the fiscal analysis of Nishi and MRIC were combined? Makes no sense except to whitewash the fiscal burden of the proposed Nishi mixed use project on the community.

      It smells like some folks on F&B now want to “fine tune” the model so that the fiscals on Nishi don’t look so bad. If this is the case, then the Council should delay certification of the DEIR until the appropriate technical studies are amended. This is the sort of process SNAFU that opens the door for a lawsuit.

      1. Matt Williams

        No CalAg the FBC simply asked pertinent fiscal questions.  Many of those questions had to do with the assumptions used in the models.  Those assumptions were in place in Paul’s models, so if the FBC could get into a time machine they would have asked Paul the same questions.

        Evidence-based decision making, not political calculation.

  16. CalAg

    I’ll just keep saying this over and over. @ Don Shor

    There’s no need to keep trolling me on this. From my perspective you are dead wrong on Nishi. You sound like Frankly on Mace 391.

    1. Don Shor

      I’m not trolling you. You can look up what “trolling” means on the internet. The housing policies you advocate would result in no new housing being built. You seem to advocate having all 10,000 beds be built on campus, and all developable private land be dedicated to commercial development. That would seriously exacerbate our already-severe rental housing shortage. That is the logical outcome of everything that you have said on the Vanguard. You keep saying it, I’ll keep replying to it. That’s not trolling.

      Edit: I’ll save you the trouble.

      Troll: make a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.

        1. Frankly

          You mean that near 400 acre piece of land that the city owned and could have developed into a tax-revenue providing innovation park with plenty of open-space mitigation while controlling the development because we would own the land… but instead peed it away for a $500k loss to the Yolo Land Trust to add another notch in their Davis farmland moat project?

        2. CalAg

          Frankly: My apologies. No disrespect intended. I was trying to make a point to DS that was too subtle by half, and shouldn’t have invoked your name. Sorry.

          FWIW, we are probably 90% in agreement on Mace 391 – probably one of the top 5 Davis screw-ups in the last 50 years.

          I now relinquish the floor to the trolls for rebuttal.

          1. Don Shor

            Apparently you don’t know what an internet troll is or what trolling behavior is. I urge you to look it up. Trolling behavior is sometimes displayed on the Vanguard. What Matt and I and others are doing is not trolling; we are replying to your comments. Blogs and forums are intended for discussions.

  17. Eileen Samitz

    Just to clarify how the term “dorms” has been used in the past, dorms typically on-campus do not have kitchen or kitchen facilities because the intention is for the freshmen students to eat in the on-campus cafeterias. This is primarily for their freshmen students. In contrast, student apartments do have kitchen facilities which allow complete flexibility on who would be able to live there, as opposed to one year dorms where typically freshmen (with some exceptions) are expected to leave after their freshman year and live somewhere else.

    This distinction of “dorms” versus “apartments” is why the 2008 General Plan Update Housing Element Steering Committee addressed the UCD on-campus student housing needs with the policy which was later adopted by City Council, for more on-campus apartments, as opposed to dorms, since the dorms basically only housing the freshman for one year.

    It is pretty clear that UCD  should have been building at least one student apartment  for every dorm room they built for the transition of students to have an on-campus place to live after their freshmen year, but they chose not to, and instead to deflect their sizable and ever increasing student housing needs onto the Davis community.

      1. Matt Williams

        pierce, when Anon pointed me to the UC Santa Cruz information yesterday, it was very interesting. Their 7,758 on campus beds are filled as follows:

        3,414 _ 2,017 _ 1,396 ___ 931 ____ 78 ___ 7,758
        Frosh _ Soph _ Junior _ Senior _ Grad _ TOTAL

  18. Eileen Samitz

    I am sorry to say Don that I cannot agree with you. If UCD would build the apartments needed and they were permanently affordable, the students living in mini-dorms and apartments in the City would vacate to live in on-campus housing that was cheaper.

    I have asked a multitude of UCD students over the years on this subject and they are consistent in their answer. They would be happy to live on campus if the housing were available to them (which it is not), and if it was affordable. This, in turn, would free up a huge amount of rental housing in the City, including the “mini dorms’ and apartments in the City and it would also reduce student commuting impacts. It is not hard to understand why the enormous lack of on-campus affordable housing is the major problem for any lack of rental housing in the City.

    (Note: I accidentally posted this after the article today, so I am re-posting here where I intended it to be posted.)

  19. Eileen Samitz

    CalAg, it is my understanding that neither Solano Park nor Orchard Park redevelopment are not “in the pipeline” until the LRDP process is completed and UCD has a “final” plan on what they are going to do regarding their student housing and all of her other planning.

    Also, Tercero is a dorm, not student apartments so it is only for incoming freshman for one year. It is not an answer to the 4-5 year student housing needs for the entire time that a UCD needs to live in the Davis vicinity to attain their degree and leave Davis. Furthermore, the renovation of Tercero and other dorms on campus (i.e. Cuarto, Segundo) was done simply because since they needed to be compliant with seismic and other code regulations. Tercero and the other dorms worked on are not new dorms, just old dorms that had to be updated to protect the University from liability.

    1. Matt Williams

      Another good post Eileen.

      With that said, CalAg’s point was about density, or should I say the evils of density. Regardless of how it is labeled Tercero is an example piece of evidence of housing density here in Davis.

      If we have more evidence-based decision making and less political calculation, we will make wiser decisions.

    2. CalAg

      ES: Whether it’s in the pipeline or not is a just matter of semantics. The occupants have been given notice (I believe Orchard Park is now empty and Solano Park will be emptied next year). Both sites have been identified by the administration as redevelopment opportunities, and there is some level of internal planning that we are not privy to. The LRDP will harmonize with the planning for these two sites as the process goes forward.

      Tercero is new construction, currently in Phase IV.

  20. Eileen Samitz

    My apologies and just to clarify, regarding my 4:06pm posting, in my last sentence I left out the word “Trackside” referring to that Vanguard article today. What I was trying to say is:

    (Note: I accidentally posted this after the “Trackside” article today, so I am re-posting here regarding the “Housing and UCD”  article where I intended it to be posted.)

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