In reading an op-ed on the proposed Trackside development, legitimate concerns are raised regarding the impacts on nearby residents both in terms of loss of view and blocking the sun, as well as the daily trips in and out of the alleyway.
However, one raised point seemed questionable at best, “Due to the proposal’s proximity to restaurants and bars and due to the lack of downtown and on-campus student housing, this proposed multi-story apartment building next to the railroad tracks is more likely to become, in effect, another ‘dorm’ for UC Davis students.”
There are many legitimate concerns that the adjacent neighborhood has about the project, which they will have to work through with the applicants and the city, but the project becoming, in effect, a dormitory for students is not one of them.
When the Vanguard met with project representatives Kemble Pope and Steve Greenfield in July, they made it clear that this project will not become a mini-dorm situation. They see it as targeting empty nesters that live in Davis, or young professionals coming to the university or to work at one of the startups or high-tech companies, who want a more urban lifestyle.
A few of the units, they explained, would target executive residences and possibly visiting professors here for a year or two, who just want to live in Davis for a short time.
They explained that, while they cannot prevent students from living there, there are ways to make it less likely, such as requiring that all residents to pass a credit history test in order to live there. That will prevent wealthy parents from being able to rent the unit for their child to live there, since the residents themselves would have to pass the credit check.
On the other hand, while it is clear that the intentions of the developers is to avoid the site becoming a mini-dorm (and it appears at this time that we are talking about under 50 units), given that Davis is a college town – why is it wrong to provide student housing?
One of the biggest problems we face as a community is the low vacancy rate. But the other problem is the opposition to apartment projects in the city.
The Vanguard has questioned whether the city should allow the current EMQ FamiliesFirst facility to fall out of current usage due to the likely future need for residential treatment in light of Propostion 47. But nearby residents are concerned that the proposed Sterling Apartments, a five-story, 270-unit project, is too big for the existing site.
The current proposal at Nishi calls for roughly 600 units that could go to student housing. Residents and the council are concerned about access issues on that. Sources have told the Vanguard that densities are unlikely to be increased given the costs of going higher in terms of floor level and open space considerations.
Many believe that the university is a large part of the problem. In October, Bob Segar, UC Davis Assistant Vice Chancellor for Campus Planning and Community Resources, in his report to council admitted that “even in our highest on-campus housing scenario, we do not anticipate being able to house every new student.”
Bob Segar did commit to the notion that they would house all first-year students who want to be housed, in the heart of campus. He said, “Common to all scenarios, housing all first-year students inside the heart of campus.”
Mr. Segar noted that the West Village project “has been kind of stalled with the economic downturn.” He said that the project is going to re-start with the plan “to house a very similar number of people to the original plan on a smaller footprint.”
But, as Eileen Samitz points out, the bottom line is that, as the university commits to expanding the size of their enrollment, they have not committed to provide the housing for the increased number of students.
She writes, “Adding yet another 5,000 students, many of which will be from outside of the state and outside of the country (for higher tuition fees) will clearly need housing, yet the University has been silent on where these students are to live.”
She argues, “It is unfair to our community and particularly unfair to UCD students, for whom the University is not providing the needed dedicated, long term affordable housing on campus, which would also reduce commuting impacts.”
Students have become a proverbial beach ball punted back and forth from the university to the city to the neighborhoods.
Clearly, Ms. Samitz has a point when she cites language that was adopted by the city council in an MOU with UC Davis to make “all efforts to provide the UC system wide goal of 42% student housing. The housing should consist primarily of core-campus, high-density student apartments that are able to accommodate individual and family student-households for the average term of student population at UC Davis.”
It seems to me that Nishi is an ideal location as it is walking distance from campus, biking distance from downtown, and, if we eliminate or greatly reduce the amount of parking on the site, we can minimize the impact on Richards Boulevard.
We need to figure out a way for Nishi to at least provide 2000 to 3000 students with a place to live.
At the same time, residents in Davis need to understand that this is a college town and that means, somehow, we need to provide appropriate living spaces for students. I don’t wish to minimize the concerns of the residents at Rancho Yolo, but perhaps we can take steps to reduce the number of parking places for residents at Sterling to encourage students to hop on the bus or bike rather than drive to campus.
The bottom line, though, is we cannot have a college town that does not have places for students to live either on campus or in town – and that, in my view, is on all of us.
—David M. Greenwald reporting