Some of the strongest proponents for the Nishi project have been students concerned with the lack of student housing options in the city of Davis. Students have been writing in for some time in support of Nishi.
Back in November, former ASUCD President Carly Sandstrom wrote, “The scarcity of housing dedicated for students is harming the quality of life in many Davis neighborhoods while leaving too many students with no other option than to crowd into mini-dorms or commute from outlying cities.”
She added, “The Nishi Gateway is the type of project permanent residents and students alike should get behind — a housing and work space that is designed to make car-free living possible with easy bike and pedestrian access to campus.”
On Thursday evening, the Associated Students of the University of California at Davis (ASUCD), UC Davis’ student government, voted to endorse the Nishi Gateway project by an 11-1 vote. According to a press release from the project developer, they were swayed by the Nishi project’s ability to ease the student housing crisis, commitment to sustainability, collaboration with UC Davis, and creation of job opportunities for UC Davis students.
“I thank the ASUCD for their careful consideration and endorsement of the Nishi Gateway project,” said Tim Ruff, managing partner of Nishi Gateway. “The Senators that represent UC Davis students understand that Nishi provides a lot of opportunities for students. Their endorsement, coming on the heels of the Davis Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement, demonstrates broad support in our community for Nishi.”
The vote comes as Bae Urban Economics, Inc., a private real estate consulting firm located in downtown Davis, issued a report for 2015 that showed a 0.2 percent vacancy rate for apartments in Davis. These low vacancy rates come as the university continues to plan for increased student enrollment.
“The availability of student housing is a concern both for myself and many of my fellow students. With the university planning on adding 5,000 students by 2020, I have growing concerns about how low-income students, who are already struggling to pay their bills, will be impacted,” Marcela Alvarez wrote in December.
The developers note that Nishi would provide 1,500 beds for UC Davis students, enough to cover 35 percent of UC Davis’ projected new student population. With its close proximity to campus and downtown, and easy access to public transit, it makes car-free living possible for Davis students.
“By providing housing that will serve roughly 1,500 students, the Nishi Gateway will help to reduce the pressure on the housing market that surely will arise as UC Davis expands. Campus and downtown will be extremely accessible to the 1,500 students who are lucky enough to live at Nishi,” Ms. Alvarez wrote. “The project will even be beneficial for those students who aren’t able to live at the Nishi site. Providing housing to meet the growing demand should maintain price stability throughout the city. Without necessary housing, affording an education will become nearly impossible for the students I work with and the many others in similar circumstances.”
However, others like resident Eileen Samitz believe that the onus is on the university to provide the majority of the housing to accommodate new student growth.
Ms. Samitz argues, “UCD recently announced that it wants to add 5,000 more students, yet it has not even provided sufficient student housing on campus for its current population. This is why it is important that our community give input now to urge the university to step up and actually produce the student housing it’s promised for so long.”
In their release, the developers argue, “Built on land next to the Davis Bike Loop, Nishi will fund substantial road and bike improvements and include an access point to campus. The Nishi Gateway will be the first project ever to exceed the City of Davis’ Beyond Platinum Bicycle Action Plan. That’s because studies show nearly 80% of trips made by student residents will be through biking, walking, and transit.”
They add that between 1,500 and 1,800 permanent jobs are expected to be created by Nishi, including part-time jobs for students, and research positions that will actively seek students as they advance in their education.
Moreover, they argue that energy efficiency will enable students to save money, saying, “Estimates show that students and other residents can reduce their cost of living by approximately $7,000 annually by reducing or eliminating car expenses and through lower utility bills with energy efficient buildings.”
The developers conclude, “With 325,000 square feet of research and development space, Nishi is specifically designed to convert the ideas hatched by creative minds at UC Davis into businesses that can thrive in the City of Davis. Nishi provides a convenient location for professors, researchers, and students to move seamlessly to and from campus.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting