Sunday Commentary: The Future of Growth Is the Future of Davis

Students listen to public comments at Tuesday's meeting
Students listen to public comments at Tuesday’s meeting

The narrative offered right now about growth is easy, straightforward and easy to follow. It pits the university as the proverbial bad guy that is generating the growth pressures on the city of Davis.

According to this narrative, the university continues to grow in size over the last few decades, bringing in thousands of new students without fulfilling its agreed-upon commitments to provide housing for these new students. The result is increasing pressure on the city, the neighborhoods and the community to accommodate these new students.

Eileen Samitz argued in a comment on Wednesday night, just as she did in a December column, “UCD’s negligence in providing this on-campus student housing is a main driver of any housing demand that exists in Davis. It is gross negligence, and simply unfair to the UCD students, that the university is not providing them with long-term, affordable, on-campus student housing.”

For her, the simple answer is to pressure the university into accommodating additional growth. She writes, “UCD owns more than 5,000 acres, so there is no excuse why it has not provided the student-only housing it has promised.”

But the university continues to claim that, while they are looking at ways to develop more housing on campus, they cannot provide enough housing to accommodate all new students. Some of the areas where the university might look at new housing are likely to clash with existing residents.

While the expansion of West Village might be seen as a potential solution, recall that there were protracted battles between nearby residents and the university. The prospect of tearing down existing homes at Solano and Orchard Park led to protests from students, with the university, at least for the moment, backing down.

There are those who increasingly believe that the city cannot wait for the university to complete its Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) and begin building housing. They are looking at Nishi, which promised to provide about 1500 beds, and Sterling Apartments as a way to reduce the pressure for growth.

Ms. Samitz recognizes the consequence of the current situation, writing that “a large, disproportionate amount of housing in the city is being occupied by students, and our city housing supply is increasingly not available for non-students.”

Discussions about mini-dorms has become an increasing theme in planning and land use battles in the interior. Homes that are intentionally designed at five or six bedrooms and six bathrooms are coming under increased scrutiny. But at the same time, more and more homes are being converted from single-family to multi-student use.

For students, packing them in at 10 for a five-bedroom house is a way to reduce costs of rent. But for the neighbors it means parking issues and noise.

With the Davis periphery relatively locked down due to Measure R restrictions and vote requirements, this fight is increasingly between students and existing neighbors over infill sites.

Ms. Samitz warns about the over-densification of the new infill sites, under pressure and with financial incentives to pack in as many beds as possible, as the ramification of university policy.

The problem that we face, however, is that the university is not accountable to the city of Davis. Some would argue that, as the city benefits from the university, it has an obligation to provide housing to the students who live here. Others argue that this demand is being artificially generated by the university and that the citizens are under no obligation to provide additional housing.

Personally I think we need to have a more pragmatic assessment of the current situation. It is easy to point fingers at the university – and for sure they bear some of the blame here as their policies are generating some of the growth pressure. The problem that we face is what if the university simply refuses to alter their plans and house more students?

There are some real consequences coming down the pike – something is going to have to give.

First, the mini-dorm problem is real and it is only going to escalate. There is tremendous financial incentive for property owners to convert single-family residences into mini-dorms. Certainly the council can continue to crack down on the phenomena by limiting the number of bedrooms, but even if they do, little is going to prevent 10 students from packing into five-bedroom houses if the owners have the incentive to bend the rules and the students are desperate for a bed.

The mini-dorm situation is a game-changer, because it puts ordinary residents into conflict with students – not just in terms of noise and parties and parking, but also in competition for housing.

Given those stresses, residents in the core and other areas of conflict might start re-thinking city land use policies.

Second, we are already starting to see it. The largest group of people at the recent discussion on Nishi was students. Some suggested that the students were being paid by developers to support the project. I found no evidence of that.

Some argued that the students will be long-gone before Nishi comes on line.

However, to dismiss this phenomena is a huge mistake. The students are well aware of the housing shortage. They are well aware of problems of affordability. We saw a little of this in the piece by Jerika this weekend, but this is actually, in my belief, a coming tsunami that is likely to overwhelm our system if not properly managed.

Don Shor has been pounding this issue for years – the low vacancy rate, currently at 0.2%. Don Shor, who is not a resident, but owns a business here, sees this issue first hand with his employees.

I have noted that Nishi’s best friend is Bernie Sanders, because, between a Sanders presidential campaign that is bringing out young voters in droves and a housing shortage for students, the students are going to come out and vote in large numbers.

In 2006, the long-time residents of Davis were split, probably leaning against Target, but it was student voters in November 2006 who pushed Target over the top. For residents this was a battle between those of us who were opposed to big box, and fearful that Target would drive out local commerce, against people looking at Target as a source of revenue.

For students, this was a matter of survival – a place to get cheap food and clothing without having to drive to Woodland or West Sacramento. The students won.

I am not here offering a solution to this brewing crisis, but I will offer this analysis. If we do not find a solution, increasingly frustrated residents will overcome their slow growth tendencies and join with increasing numbers of students to either approve peripheral housing through Measure R votes or overturn Measure R itself.

Obviously, that is not going to happen overnight. But something has to give. Davis’ history has not been uniformly slow growth, in fact, it might be better characterized as punctuated equilibrium, where periods of slow growth are punctuated by periods of very rapid growth.

Measure J came out of a huge period of expansion over the course of the previous 15 years. But now Measure J and its successor Measure R have largely capped growth, putting the genie in the bottle. If enough pressure builds – and I can see cracks starting to form – the whole system will explode.

UC Davis providing housing might be a start, but the community needs to act sooner rather than later to figure out where and how we accommodate growth, or that decision could be taken away from us.

—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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76 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    David

    Measure J and its successor Measure R have largely capped growth, putting the genie in the bottle. If enough pressure builds – and I can see cracks starting to form – the whole system will explode.”

    Apart from an attention grabbing final phrase, it is unclear to me what you intend with this last sentence. What does “explode” mean to you ?

    Does it mean the end of Measure R ?

    Does it mean a period of very rapid growth with or without Measure R ?

    Does it mean a very different means of working with the University to achieve housing goals ?

    Barring a large amount of C4 planted at the city planning offices, I am not sure what “explosive” danger you are envisioning. Can you elaborate ?

     

    1. David Greenwald

      It’s a metaphoric explosion. I don’t know yet what it means. It could mean the end of Measure R. It could mean a period of more rapid growth. It could mean something else.

      1. Ron

        It could mean that the University will respond more fully, if the city doesn’t do so.  It could also mean that students will find housing in nearby areas (e.g., Woodland, about 6 miles away), at least until the University responds.  Nearby communities will always be much less expensive (and therefore more appealing for some students), regardless of any development that is approved in Davis.

        No one is going to be homeless, as a result of Davis’ slow growth policies.

        The University has more than 5,000 “free” acres, and can dedicate housing for students only.  Perhaps they need to feel the pressure from their own students, before they fully respond.

        In the meantime, Davis will also continue to grow and densify.  The Cannery (which is nowhere near completion) includes some “granny units” that will no doubt be rented out.  Scaled-down versions of proposed residential/apartment complexes (that are acceptable to neighbors, and fit in with the surrounding neighborhood) will also probably be built.

        O.K. – I’m ready for the pro-growth contingency to attack me, now!  (Not sure if I’ll respond any further.)

         

        1. hpierce

          No one is going to be homeless, as a result of Davis’ slow growth policies.

          True enough, as written and highlighted… yet, are you saying that ‘the homeless’ don’t exist in Davis, and/or that we shouldn’t ‘grow’ places to shelter, feed, and try to ‘mainstream’/help/assist them?

        2. Ron

          HPierce:

          True enough, as written and highlighted… yet, are you saying that ‘the homeless’ don’t exist in Davis, and/or that we shouldn’t ‘grow’ places to shelter, feed, and try to ‘mainstream’/help/assist them?

          No – that’s not what I’m saying.  However, I don’t think that any of the current proposals (e.g., Nishi, or MRIC with housing) do much to address it (or for the problem/example that Matt mentioned).

      2. Matt Williams

        Ron said . . . “It could also mean that students will find housing in nearby areas (e.g., Woodland, about 6 miles away), at least until the University responds.  Nearby communities will always be much less expensive (and therefore more appealing for some students), regardless of any development that is approved in Davis. No one is going to be homeless, as a result of Davis’ slow growth policies.

        Ron is mostly right in his statement above.  If he had said “No UCD student is going to be homeless as a result of Davis’ slow growth policies.” he would have been even more right.

        At a recent Senior Services Commission, long-time Davis resident Rita Montes-Martin told the Commission and Council Liaison Brett Lee that her current lease was coming to an end, and she had been unable to find housing in Davis, so she was moving to senior housing Willows.  Ron misses that kind of homelessness in his statement.

    2. Alan Miller

      Barring a large amount of C4 planted at the city planning offices,

      Careful, Tia, lest you gain a manila folder with you name on it in D.C.  The FBI doesn’t have a sense of humor, nor possibly understand metaphors.  (But that was up there with your coke addict joke).

      1. Tia Will

        Alan

        Since I had to look up C4 on Wikipedia to make sure that was actually the name of an explosive and not just something I heard in a movie, I think I will take my chances with the FBI . I have been aware since the highly reliable source movie MIB  that the FBI has “no sense of humor of which we are aware”. They could easily confirm the search when they confiscate my lap top.

  2. Frankly

    The enemies of change in Davis are attempting to constrain the walls of the balloon while pressure continues to build inside the balloon.  I think the explosion metaphor is apt.  As the number of UCD students increases their voting power will begin to overwhelm the existing enemies of change population that is dying off from old age.  I think a failed Measure R renewal is in the cards… unless the voters of Davis begin to act responsible about growth.

    What the enemies of change need to do instead of milking Measure R to prevent growth is to start focusing on the source of the growth pressure to attempt to relieve it.    That means appealing to state politicians to put a leash on UCD’s growth plans.  It is a long-shot but there is a compelling case to be made with respect to the environmental impacts of aggressive UCD student growth.

    The problem as I see it is that Davis has already spent so many extreme no-growth chips that we lack the credibility to get empathy for fighting back against UCD.   The Measure O farmland moat project is seen by most in the state as being the epitome of a pampered and selfish elite pursuit.  We have all this land around us…. and California has much, much more prime farmland than we have the water to farm… so the claim that we need to preserve all this peripheral land as farmland (including the consideration that most of the existing city is already situated on prime farmland) is dubious at best.  It is clear to those outside the small community of open space preservation extremists that the Measure O farmland moat project is simply a tool of Davisites to satiate their change-aversion and no-growth impulses, and also protect their artificially high property values.

    At least that is the prevailing perception.

    State politicians are not going to be too sympathetic IMO.

    I think the best we can do is allow the balloon to expand but in a well-controlled fashion.

    My thinking is that we need to push for building 1000 acres of peripheral business/innovation parks over the next 20 years that combine with farmland and open space so that we have a commercial/open space moat around the city.

    1000 acres of business/innovation parks should bring in a net $25 million in revenue to our city general fund to add to the existing measly $50 million of which $47 million is already taken up by city employee compensation and is increasing faster than our revenue is increasing.  We also need to drive down the $150,000 per employee cost of city labor, but that is a separate but related discussion.

    Meanwhile we should continue to develop more rental housing to not exceed a 1 or 2% growth rate in aggregate in concert with UCD development more student housing on UCD land to supplement that growth rate so that the total aggregate growth rate of new rental housing slightly exceeds the rate of UCD expansion so that over time we would reach some equilibrium.  We need to front-load some of this rental development to get our vacancy rates up to at least 2 or 3%.

    What about the new employees of the new business parks?

    First understand that we are talking 20-30 years of build out.  The City should work in passing ordinance and zoning changes over time that put more single-family housing back into the single-family housing market as new rentals are built.

    But housing will turn-0ver in Davis and more employees of these new business will acquire them.  Note that Davis is largely a bedroom community today as residents commute outside of Davis to their jobs.

    And we don’t need to fool ourselves that Davis all the employees of these new businesses will want to live in Davis.   Many will choose to live in surrounding communities where housing is more plentiful and affordable.

    If you look at Davis as a city without UCD, with 1000 acres of new commercial space we would still barely reach parity with comparable cities in terms of the size of our local economy.  And we would have more than enough housing to meet our needs even with all these new employees.  UCD student housing need is the main pressure factor here.   The city should not shoulder all the responsibility for new housing and we should reject that pressure flowing to corrupting the design of the business/innovation parks to waste precious peripheral land and cause residential sprawl. UCD brass needs to be the main feelers of the pressure to house more of their students arriving from their aggressive growth plans.

    It seems to me that the no-growthers should get behind this plan or else risk seeing their precious Measure R tool explode and then say good by growth control.   All tools need to be used responsibly.

     

    1. Don Shor

      That means appealing to state politicians to put a leash on UCD’s growth plans. It is a long-shot but there is a compelling case to be made with respect to the environmental impacts of aggressive UCD student growth.

      I think it is reasonable to press for a moratorium on enrollment growth at the end of the 2020 Initiative until such time as UCD has brought enough housing on line (actually built and ready for occupancy) to provide for the deficiency in housing that they have created over the last 10 – 15 years. They are causing harm to the environment and harm to the local housing market. That should be the focus of local no-growth activists.

      My thinking is that we need to push for building 1000 acres of peripheral business/innovation parks over the next 20 years

      Well, maybe we could focus on just getting the north Davis business park project back on track. We seem to be losing ground on the goals of the Innovation Park Task Force. So talking about 1000 acres, accurate as that may be over the next 20 – 30 years in terms of economic need, is probably a bit much when we can’t even get 500 acres underway.

      Meanwhile we should continue to develop more rental housing to not exceed a 1 or 2% growth rate in aggregate in concert with UCD development more student housing on UCD land to supplement that growth rate so that the total aggregate growth rate of new rental housing slightly exceeds the rate of UCD expansion so that over time we would reach some equilibrium. We need to front-load some of this rental development to get our vacancy rates up to at least 2 or 3%.

      Exactly.

      1. Matt Williams

        Don Shor said . . . “I think it is reasonable to press for a moratorium on enrollment growth at the end of the 2020 Initiative until such time as UCD has brought enough housing on line (actually built and ready for occupancy) to provide for the deficiency in housing that they have created over the last 10 – 15 years.”

        Don’s statement here is in alignment with Eileen Samitz’ arguments.  The challenge that a press for a moratorium on enrollment growth at UCD is that it isn’t just UCD that is looking to grow as a result of its own local campus policies/initiatives, the Board of Regents also wants UCD (and all the UC system campuses) to grow in order to increase systemwide revenues.  When the 2020 Initiative was announced in March 2013, here is an excerpt from that announcement.

        Planning models developed for the Joint Report of the 2020 Task Forces project that when the initiative is fully phased in, net revenues from additional tuition and fees might range from $38 to $50 million a year. These funds in turn will be deployed to high-priority campus needs.

        “This initiative is not a panacea for all of the budget ills that ail the university, but among the many possible courses of action available to us to address this crisis, it is perhaps the one that will have the longest-lasting impact,” University Provost Ralph J. Hexter said.

         

        It is proposed under this plan that the three-quarter average enrollment of undergraduates at UC Davis be increased to approximately 28,850 students, which represents a growth of 5000 students above the number enrolled in 2011-2012.

        It is worth noting that for the 5,000 student growth in enrollment UC planned 300 hiring additional faculty and hiring 400-600 additional staff.

         

        Current estimates indicate that maintaining the faculty-student ratio would require approximately 300 new FTE to support 5000 additional undergraduate students. Based on current campus practices for FTE utilization, which differ between colleges, this would include hiring of approximately 220 research faculty, with remaining funds used for hiring lecturers or for supporting other academic activities.  In additional to faculty, we estimate approximately 400 to 600 non-faculty hires would be needed to maintain current levels of staffing for academic and other support services (not including additional staff supporting externally funded research programs).

         

        A quick look at the UCD Enrollment figures shows that the 2011-2012 undergraduate enrollment was 23,979, and in 2015-2016 it is 28,384.  So UCD is only 50% of the way through the Initiative and it has already achieved 94% of its goal, adding 4,708 undergraduates.  It is reasonable to assume they have also added a substantial portion of the 300 added faculty and 400-600 additional non-faculty hires.

        All that begs the question, “Pressure for a moratorium on enrollment growth is absolutely essential, but will it actually cause either UCD or the Regents to change their plans?”

         

        1. CalAg

          “It is reasonable to assume they have also added a substantial portion of the 300 added faculty and 400-600 additional non-faculty hires.” MW

          I would be very surprised if the faculty and staff increases are keeping pace. That wave will roll in more slowly (i.e. the growth pressure from the 2020 plan has not peaked).

        2. Matt Williams

          It is an interesting question, one that should be pretty easy to get a handle on.  4,416 additional undergraduates is an 18% increase.  If faculty and staff hires have lagged then the average number of students per professor will have jumped.

    2. Alan Miller

      start focusing on the source of the growth pressure to attempt to relieve it.

      Exactly!  That’s why we should focus on engineering a bird flu that is resistent to inoculations.

    3. Tia Will

      Frankly

      1000 acres of business/innovation parks should bring in a net $25 million in revenue to our city general fund to add to the existing measly $50 million of which $47 million is already taken up by city employee compensation and is increasing faster than our revenue is increasing.  We also need to drive down the $150,000 per employee cost of city labor, but that is a separate but related discussion.

      Meanwhile we should continue to develop more rental housing to not exceed a 1 or 2% growth rate in aggregate in concert with UCD development more student housing on UCD land to supplement that growth rate so that the total aggregate growth rate of new rental housing slightly exceeds the rate of UCD expansion so that over time we would reach some equilibrium.  We need to front-load some of this rental development to get our vacancy rates up to at least 2 or 3%.”

      Kudos to you for being willing to hang some actual numbers and goals on your oft stated desire for growth. I have no idea how you derived your numbers and whether or not they reflect realistic goals, but I am so very tired of “rapid growth promoters” saying that there is no value in defining goals for future growth. Of course maximum targets can be arrived at. The university has done so in the numeric increase in students they are hoping to admit. Developers do so all the time when they plan the number of units they intend to build on a given site. Builders do it when they plan for maximal capacity of a given room or space. It is completely untrue that a city cannot or should not have some kind of economic and population goals in mind when they do planning. This was a very refreshing post and you have my thanks.

  3. Misanthrop

    “The Measure O farmland moat project is seen by most in the state as being the epitome of a pampered and selfish elite pursuit.”

    Do you have any evidence to support this assertion? Locking up land to protect it from development is popular in California. It is also contributing to high housing costs and high poverty rates but most of California hasn’t figured that out yet. 

  4. Misanthrop

    “That means appealing to state politicians to put a leash on UCD’s growth plans.  It is a long-shot but there is a compelling case to be made with respect to the environmental impacts of aggressive UCD student growth.”

    Long-shot is understated by a magnitude of infinity to one.

    1. CalAg

      Nope. There is legislation pending that will do precisely that – AB 1711.

      It will cap non-resident enrollment at current levels. This would bring Katehi’s 2020 plan to a screeching halt faster than you can say “pepper spray.”

      Katehi is bringing in more non-resident students in order to use their out-of-state tuition to help run the university. I previously posted the annual cash flow from this strategy and it is enormous.

      If the legislature shuts this scheme down, the UCD student population will quickly stabilize and only grow if mandated by the Office of the President. UCD can’t afford to properly educate California residents, and Katehi will not bring in any more than she has to.

      1. CalAg

        http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB1711

        AB 1711, as introduced, McCarty.
        University of California: nonresident student enrollment.
        Existing law expresses the intent of the Legislature that the University of California establish nonresident student tuition policies that are consistent with their resident student fee policies. The provisions are applicable to the University of California only if the Regents of the University of California act, by resolution, to make them applicable. This bill would require the University of California, as a condition of receipt of funds appropriated in the annual Budget Act, to limit the percentage of undergraduate nonresident students enrolled at the University of California systemwide to 15.5% of total undergraduate student enrollment, and, until July 1, 2021, would prohibit any campus of the University of California where undergraduate nonresident student enrollment exceeds 15.5% from enrolling new undergraduate nonresident students. The bill would require a certain percentage of revenue generated from undergraduate nonresident enrollment to be directed to fund increased enrollment of undergraduate resident students, and would require the University of California to annually publish a report with specified information relating to undergraduate nonresident tuition and revenue.

      2. CalAg

        I don’t know how much support this bill has in the legislature, but this is a pretty potent issue. Acceptance rates at UC campuses continue to fall, and frustrated California parents are starting to push back hard on the system-wide trend of bringing in more non-residents.

        1. Matt Williams

          Thanks for posting that information CalAg.  It helps flesh out the picture.  I’ve been wondering why the 2020 Initiative has been proceeding at double the anticipated pace of 550 additional undergraduates per year pace.  AB 1770 may well be the reason.  In order to both add the high revenue non-resident students and comply with the 15.5% cap, one approach would be to simply add more enrollment slots.

      3. Misanthrop

        AB 1711 seems to me to be more about a backlash to bringing in more out of state students at the expense of space for in state students. The program of balancing the books with out of state tuition generated a great deal of anger from those who feel California students should have the first shot at spaces at UC. One response from UC has been to add 10,000 more in state students over the next few years. My point here is that AB 1711 isn’t about limiting the growth of UC. It is more about who should get the spaces available. It isn’t about limiting the growth in demand for UC, its about allocating that demand.

        1. CalAg

          You are both missing the point. The tuition for California residents doesn’t cover costs. Most campuses don’t want more in-state students. The discussion between the campuses regarding the newly mandated 10,000 student increase for California residents will not be about how many new CA students a campus “gets” but rather about how many new CA students a campus “has to take.”

          If AB 1711 passes, enrollments will quickly stabilize. That should be good news for Davis.

        2. Misanthrop

          So if you are correct, something I’m not sure of, the question arises if limiting UC growth is a good thing or a bad thing? I guess I’m in the limiting the number of people who want a good education to get one at UC is a bad thing camp. I’ve always thought educating people was a noble pursuit, providing people with the opportunity to improve their lives through their own effort a worthy endeavor. The opposition to helping UC achieve this mission by the locals in Davis has always puzzled me. Especially since so many of them have benefitted in one way or another by an association with UC.

        3. CalAg

          “So if you are correct, something I’m not sure of, the question arises if limiting UC growth is a good thing or a bad thing? I guess I’m in the limiting the number of people who want a good education to get one at UC is a bad thing camp.”

          Misanthrop: It’s more complicated than that. UCD is now struggling with the consequences of overpopulating the campus with students. These include:
          (1) impacted majors that are only available to incoming freshmen
          (2) over-sized classes
          (3) more classes being taught by graduate students and lecturers instead of professors
          (4) massive competition for classes and delayed graduations
          (5) a major strain on services
          (6) etc.

          Although it would be really great if more kids could get a UCD education, the campus barely has the resources and infrastructure to handle the size of the current student population.

        1. Misanthrop

          Not like they held the purse strings in the past when the state funded a much greater part of the UC budget. Ran across an interesting article today on the largest employer in each state. In 20 states its Walmart but in California its UC.

  5. Jim Leonard

    David Greenwald: “In 2006, the long-time residents of Davis were split, probably leaning against Target, but it was student voters in November 2006 who pushed Target over the top.” I worked intensively against Target and do not remember the active student turnout for Target. David, where did you get this fact? It seems, from my point of view, that you pulled in out of thin air.

    Also, Measure J/R has been under attack for a long time. With the passage of Measure I supporting the creation of a water treatment plant for Woodland/Davis, Davis citizens unknowingly opened up the possibility of a complete grow-out of housing throughout much of Yolo County. Housing developments of over 600 units must prove water sources to support such growth. Measure I supplies that proof. It is not surprising that Angelo Tsakopoulos, Sacramento County’s largest housing developer and co-owner of Conaway Rance, made an agreement to sell water rights to the City of Davis–with passage of Measure I. He has stated that he intends to develop 22,000 houses in the El Macero area but, before the passage of Measure I, could not argue that he could support such a development from the groundwater alone (which has arsenic contamination). Now such a development is good to go–with or without Davis’ approval. Measure J/R was breached with the Passage of Measure I.

    The City of Davis has not been standing up to the university in protecting Davis citizens access to housing AND the university has been consistently increasing its student population while not supplying housing for that increased population (even tearing down campus housing). Thus there has been a dance between City Hall and university to produce a housing supply vacuum within Davis–thereby making Measure J/R less effective.

    The City’s interest in Measure J becoming less effective and (maybe) failing altogether is financial and political. However, it is NOT ethical since Measure J/R expresses the will of Davis citizens to have unforced, citizen-controlled growth of Davis. The City gains income through increases in the amount of money it gets through: 1) more development fees, 2) more property tax, 3) more sales tax, and 4) tech parks as the population of Davis increases and the cost of properties and rent go up (because of supply and demand). So, when the university puts City Hall in a place where it “must” advocate for housing, it readily goes along with whatever the university wants.

    If City Hall were an honest broker of the values of the its members who actually LIVE here, Davis citizens would not be in the situation they are in now where they must choose either abandoning their controlled growth values or having adequate housing.

    If City Hall were honest, it would have (and could have) come up with an alternative to building a growth exploding water treatment plant. Or at least brought the issue to its citizens.

    If City Hall were honest, it would have challenged the university in the State legislature and demanded that the university build and pay for housing for its increasing student population.

    However, City Hall is NOT honest. In its greed, City Hall pushes the Nishi initiative which will bring more pollution, maybe no revenue, and more traffic to the already crowded Richards Boulevard if passed. Only if the initiative fails is Davis not out the cost of advocating for it which blackmails voters who wouldn’t otherwise vote for the initiative into voting for it.

    This situation gives those of us (who are frustrated by the false and harmful direction City Hall is taking us) further motivation to fight against the passage of the Nishi initiative since, if it goes down, the loss would be a de facto recognition of City Hall’s fraudulent representation of the citizens is is supposed to represent.

    And, the game the university is playing with Davis would be challenged as well.

    Hopefully, our city council people would then wake up to their responsibility to advocate for Measure J/R (and stop undermining its intent) and to call the university to task.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. noname

      I agree Jim. I’d like to see David’s proof that students swung the vote for Target. I’m not sure it exists.

      Speaking of like to see, I’d like to see the students pressing the university to proved more on-campus housing.

      1. David Greenwald

        I ran an analysis back in November 2006 on it, I’ll try to find it.

        BTW, I don’t get the impression that most students want to press the university to prove more on-campus housing. A lot of students prefer not to live on campus.

        1. David Greenwald

          I would direct you to watch the 21:30 mark for the student comment in the second video (posted yesterday on Wednesday’s forum) for some insight into why students prefer off-campus.

        1. skeptical

          It’s standard practice in a close campaign to target low information voters.  Nothing new in that.  The Target campaign was too close, and the student turnout too small, to speculate students made the difference.  If you look at the linked election map, it is a mixed bag based on predominantly student precincts.  Absent reliable exit polls, students should not be blamed or credited with the result.

    2. Tia Will

      Jim

      I agree with many of your points. However, I am confused about one statement.

      If City Hall were honest, it would have (and could have) come up with an alternative to building a growth exploding water treatment plant. Or at least brought the issue to its citizens. Although I do not know if it was the city that brought it up, I seem to remember some very animated comments within chambers and before the WAC around the issue of the facilitation of increased growth.

    3. Matt Williams

      Jim Leonard said . . . “If City Hall were honest, it would have (and could have) come up with an alternative to building a growth exploding water treatment plant. Or at least brought the issue to its citizens.”

      One of the many things that I learned about water in Davis while serving on the Water Advisory Committee was that in October 2004 The City noticed a Draft EIR for its planned addition of as many as ten (10) new deep aquifer wells in order to obtain approximately 9,250 gallons per minute of additional groundwater supply in anticipation of near future well capacity removal due to changes in the State Wastewater discharge regulations. Under the provisions of California Water Law (Article X of the California Constitution) the project was scaled down from the original proposal because of well interference and long-term aquifer depletion concerns of UC Davis.

      The City of Davis’ rights to water in the deep aquifer are inferior to UCD’s under two key provisions of California Water Law.  The first is that UCD is the direct landowner of thousands of acres of land above the aquifer. The City, on the other hand, only owns a small fraction of land above the aquifer.  The City’s desire to service the water needs of its citizens requires those citizens to use the “appropriative rights” provisions of California Water Law to transfer those rights to the City.  The Law states that appropriative rights have to stand in line behind the kind of overlying rights that UCD has as a landowner.  If that weren’t leverage enough, the Water Law has a “First In Time” provision that grants seniority to the wells that entered an aquifer earliest.  UCD drilled its first wells into the deep aquifer more than a decade before the City drilled its first well into that aquifer.

      Jim has told me in past personal conversations that he believes the City should have fought to overturn California Water Law in 2005 rather than negotiating a reduced access agreement with UCD.  That would have been a very costly fight, with no certain outcome.  Overturning the State Constitution is not something that the California Supreme Court (or any of the lower courts) takes lightly.  It is a judgment call, and the City’s judgment was that there were other, less costly, alternatives, and they successfully pursued those alternatives.

      Bottom-line, I don’t see dishonesty there.

  6. Eileen Samitz

    I appreciate that the article mentions the issues I have been stating publicly regarding UCD being primary responsible for any growth pressures or shortage of housing in Davis. This is due to their negligence in providing the on-campus housing they have promised the City over two decades. Further, it is primarily on-campus student apartments needed for the full four year term, rather than just one year freshman dorms. But any claims that nothing can be done about UCD’s irresponsibility, is simply not true.

    First, public outcry to or State Legislature of California taxpayers outraged with UCD’s policy of admitting an enormous number of out-of-state students and out-of -country students to extract 2.5 times the tuition has resulted in our State legislature swiftly writing a bill saying that UC had to cap those admissions at 15.5%  and reinvest half of the tuition proceeds from this extra tuition to go towards the in-state student population needs.  Feeling the heat of the complaints from the public, UC. Pres. Napolitano then added 10,000 more in-state-resident students to be admitted  to UC, and UCD will now get another 1,000 California in-state-students. This make it clear that the public needs to demand now from UC and the legislature the lack of on-campus housing particularity at UCD is the REAL crisis.

    Second, there have been enough public outcry and complaints getting back to UC President Napolitano (thank you to folks who have written in to her like I have) that she announced that UC was planning to add 14,000 more UC beds for student housing. The only problem is that this is a drop in the bucket since UCD alone could use 14,000 student beds on campus. So public outcry and objecting at the Legislature and UC level DOES work and that is what we need to do more of as well as let our City Council and Staff know how we feel.

    The key is that if there is no public outcry and no complaints getting to the UC system, well then UCD is not going to do a damn thing but coast and see what they can get away with by continuing to defer the existing AND additional 12,000-13,000 students to find housing in our community.

    When Bob Segar (head of UCD planning)  was asked the other night at the Vanguard growth forum “Where are the additional 1,000 beds that have not been built yet at West Village? ” And where are the enormous number of new students supposed to live?” His response was blaming the “economic downturn”. Well , the stock market has been soaring with a bull market for years in case he had not heard. So now that the stock market is entering a down cycle is that going to be the excuse again? I am sure that the UCD excuse list is long, but UCD certainly has gotten plenty of new buildings on campus but during this same period like the art center and the music center.

    So my point is, the worst thing you can ever do in an opportunist situation is to continue the enable the opportunist. One thing that UCD can do, rather than continue to make situation worse, is simply slow down their accelerated population growth until they have solutions for the housing deficit problem that UCD is causing. The worst thing that our community can do its to do nothing. This allows UCD to neglect their own students on-campus housing needs and allows UCD to continue overtake all of our rental housing (now via “master leases”) and driving their growth needs onto our community. It is unfair to their students, unfair to our community, and it is the antithesis of “green and sustainable” planning they they claim to practice. UCD needs to practice what they preach and help reduce Davis’ carbon footprint by building the long promised on-campus student housing to reduce the need for students to commute, therefore reducing the traffic, circulation, and parking problems that UCD is imposing on our community.

    So anyone who believes that enabling UCD to continue deferring this enormous amount of student housing on Davis is naive if they think this will ever end if we just keep building the UCD housing needs in our community. Let’s not forget that we residents are paying for the infrastructure for all of this UCD housing in the City, such as the water, waste water treatment and City services. Yet, UCD has 5,000 acres to accommodate all the on-campus housing they needs If our community does not object and push back now. Our City population is around 67,000. UCD last fall was 36,000 and adding at least another 12,000 – 13,000 as UCD plans would be 49,000, so the student population will out number the non-student City residents.

    This is an integrity issue at this point where our community needs to let UCD know that we expect them to keep their commitments to the City. Otherwise, how can we have a positive town-gown relationship? How can we trust any agreement with UCD if they don’t solve the housing problem that they are creating for our City.

    Finally the time to be able to give input to the UCD LRDP Update is coming to an end so, so it is now or never to give your objections to UCD’s lack of on-campus student apartments. The website is campustomorrow.ucdavis.edu where it shows the maps you need to see and a survey. Please take a moment to look of the info and fill in the survey (it does not takes long). Finally, if you are concerned about this issue also you are welcome to join our growing Citizens for Responsible Planning group by emailing me at citizens@dcn.org.

    1. Misanthrop

      “I appreciate that the article mentions the issues I have been stating publicly regarding UCD being primary responsible for any growth pressures or shortage of housing in Davis.”

      Well duh. Imagine Davis without the growth pressure provided by UC over the last 100 years.

    2. Ron

      You’re right, Eileen:  I just took the UC Davis (planning) survey.  It took me about 2 minutes, and includes sections for comments.  (You can also skip questions, if desired.)

      campustomorrow.ucdavis.edu

  7. Eileen Samitz

    David,

    UC accountability in spending taxpayer money has been a sore subject for a many years. Too much of it going upstream to administration, and not enough going to staff, students, and the real educational needs.  Kudo’s to Governor Brown for initiating the “one on one” meetings to discuss what UC would get from the State with Pres. Napolitano and not subbing this important job to anyone else, but taking it on himself.

    So Davis, sorry, but yeah, State Legislature IS a great place to appeal to particularly in a BIG election year like this year.

    1. David Greenwald

      Certainly not trying to defend UC, but a lot of the growth pressure is actually coming from the legislature. I am skeptical about a legislative solution, but could be wrong

      1. David Greenwald

        It’s disappointing the UC continues their trend to grow its nonresident population and displace many of California’s students and families,” said Assemblymember McCarty. “This measure will refocus the UC’s commitment to ensure access for California’s students.”

        “As Chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, I believe it is of the utmost importance to support access for California students,” said Assemblymember Medina. “This bill will ensure that all UC campuses maintain an appropriate balance of nonresident students and will use funding from nonresident enrollments to increase access for California students.

        “Out-of-state and international students enhance college campuses by bringing a diversity of experiences and perspectives,” said Medina. “However, enrollment of nonresident students cannot come at the expense of access for Californians. Unfortunately, despite a strong directive and additional funding from the Legislature, recently released data shows that UC continued to grow its nonresident population while serving fewer California students. It is clear that additional statutory guidance is necessary to ensure all qualified California students have a fair chance at a world class UC education.”

  8. Eileen Samitz

    I would direct you to watch the 21:30 mark for the student comment in the second video (posted yesterday on Wednesday’s forum) for some insight into why students prefer off-campus.

    David,

    Yes, I was present and actually spoke to that student after the meeting. What he said he live on-campus and liked it but he could not afford to stay there. UCD is charging high rents on campus. Plus UCD will not allow students to share one bedroom apartments to reduce the cost of the apartment per student. Well why not? THIS is why he said students wind up living in the City. Not because they don’t want to live on campus, but because UCD is charging them such high rents for on-campus housing.

    Meanwhile, UCD is gouging the students for tuition for that matter as well. I have interviewed plenty of students with the same complaint. Plenty would prefer to live on the campus to be closer to classes, but all complained about UCD charging them high rents, and not being allowed to reduce that cost by sharing an apartment in the one bedroom apartments.

    The UCD opportunism is astonishing. And since UCD prohibits more then one student per bedroom, cutting their housing availability by one half, whereas the City cannot enforce this policy like UCD and then we wind up with 2-3 students desperate enough to live in the City per bedroom and the subsequent  commuting  needs, travel, circulation and parking problems. THEN UCD builds no on-campus housing, and in fact CLOSES DOWN on-campus hsuing like Orchard Park (vacant for how many years now?) while they “think” about the housing shortage.

    Then, to boot, UCD then complains that out City has a low rental vacancy rate. But they neglect to mention that UCD is directly responsible for that situation and will continue to do nothing if they can get away with it, and drag this out and hope that they will out of providing sufficient promised on-campus student housing. So UCD is providing even less housing and then they will be closing Solano Park on-campus housing before even getting Orchard park rebuilt. So they are exacerbating the problem that they are causing with the hope of getting our community to respond to fix it, while stalling and side-stepping the issue.

    Please understand, that I see that UCD students are the victims in this as well as our community. It is UCD who is the opportunist with no good excuses for why they have not fulfilled their commitments to the City for over two decades, particularly since they have over 5,000 acres.

    If UCD expects to have any credibility with our community, they need to show that they have integrity and step up to take responsibility to fulfill their commitments to the City to build the needed on-campus student housing NOW.

    1. Ron

      Eileen:

      Agreed.  And for those who haven’t already done so, take 2 minutes and respond to the UC Davis survey.  Here’s your opportunity to let them know what you think!

      campustomorrow.ucdavis.edu

    2. hpierce

      This is so weird… lived on campus for 3 years in the early 70’s… “dorm” room… always shared the room with another student…  now it’s one per room? Is this because they’re now calling them “apartments”?
      Is the square footage different?

          1. Don Shor

            The dorms range from single to triple occupancy. More bathrooms per floor, but they are shared (“single-gender bathrooms are located along main interior hallways at an interval of every 4-6 bedrooms”).
            It’s possible this is a semantical thing. “UCD will not allow students to share one bedroom apartments” but there are double-occupancy apartments: “The cost for each apartment area is the same; the only factors that affect fee rates are room occupancy (single-occupancy bedroom, double-occupancy bedroom, or single-occupancy studio).”

        1. ucdavisstudent

          West Village isn’t a dorm per say, but it is exclusively student housing (I think the Viridian allows grad students and faculty/staff as well).

          Good to see they’re allowing some doubles as they didn’t when I lived there. Still, it’s more expensive to have a roommate there as to have a single room in many other complexes. The amenities are nice but the management is notoriously poor, largely because they have far more staff devoted to advertising than to dealing with current residents. The only good thing about its poor reputation is that it’s actually possible to find a place to live there still, unlike the popular apartment complexes that have already filled up for new leases starting in September.

          Dorms are even more price-about 1400 a month for a triple occupancy room (see here: http://housing.ucdavis.edu/_pdf/s/2015-residence-hall-fee-schedule.pdf). More dorms were just recently added to campus although some of the older ones were torn down.

    3. Don Shor

      UCD is charging them such high rents for on-campus housing.

      And they always will. I expect their construction costs per unit are very high. They are all LEED/green/sustainable/solar etc., they pay prevailing wage, etc. I have heard that the turnover at West Village is very high, largely because of the costs. But that doesn’t really matter to UC, because they know their market and they are pricing these units at the highest end of the rental market locally. It is very important to get UC to build more housing however possible, but they won’t be the ones providing lower-cost housing.

       

       

      1. CalAg

        “And they always will. I expect their construction costs per unit are very high. They are all LEED/green/sustainable/solar etc., they pay prevailing wage, etc.” DS

        Why isn’t this same logic applied to the housing at Nishi? The project has to adsorb public infrastructure costs of roughly $25M.

      2. Jim Frame

        they pay prevailing wage

        It’s been some months since I’ve heard anything about this, but my last contact on the matter was with someone close to the situation who said that the Regents were challenging the Department of Industrial Relations in court on the prevailing wage ruling.  My understanding is that UC based its West Village budget on the project not being subject to prevailing wage, and doesn’t plan to accept the DIR ruling without a fight.

        1. Jim Frame

          I just did a web search and found a document dated February 8 of this year vacating the DIR ruling.  It’s here for those interested:  http://www.dir.ca.gov/OPRL/coverage/year2013/2010-024.pdf

          My recollection is that the original ruling was based on the specific funding mix used in the project; some funds were arguably subject to prevailing wage rules, and some weren’t.  I’m sure UCD will make certain not to use questionable sources of money in the future in order to avoid the PW threat.

          1. Don Shor

            Here’s a rather pithy comment in the ‘campus tomorrow’ link that’s been posted a couple of times:

            WEST VILLAGE
            Currently West Village houses about 2,000 people, a satellite campus for Sacramento City Community College and a collection of UC Davis Energy Efficiency and Transportation Innovation Hub.

            The 2003-2015 LRDP, as amended by the Regents, includes housing for another 1,000 students and 475 faculty and staff. Based on our negotiations with the developer, we are hopeful about the future and confident that we’ll realize the community open space as planned and accommodate the housing on a smaller footprint than originally planned.

      3. tj

        Making the profits higher on this housing, is the fact that prevailing wages were not paid by some contractors.  Instead they paid undocumented workers a set amount per day no matter how many hours a day were worked, and it was all cash, no benefits, and not much money per day.

    4. Misanthrop

      Building codes and prevailing wage requirements make new housing built on campus noncompetitive for people looking for cheap housing to rent. The idea that UCD should build new housing that is affordable is simply not possible under the current constraints that UCD must obey unless UC decides its going to lose a ton of money on new student housing. In other words the demands of those arguing for a massive new building program and cheap rents for on campus housing are not being realistic.

  9. Eileen Samitz

    Yes, David. Thanks for this, but you help make my point that this legislation came from public outcry. Now the legislation just needs to hear that the follow-up issue is that UC needs to build the on-campus housing for all of these students. Particularly UCD.

    Again folks, this is a big election year so not is the time to get your letters to all these folks.

    Here are two Op-ed links which may help with talking points that I wrote and the contact info of where to send your letters:

    UCD needs to build more housing, NOW  Davis Vanguard Oct. 25, 2015:
    http://www.davisvanguard.org/2015/10/guest-commentary-ucd-needs-to-build-more-student-housing-now/

    Over-densification is not the answer Davis Vanguard Dec. 27, 2015
    http://www.davisvanguard.org/2015/12/over-densification-is-not-the-answer/

    To email the City Council and Staff
    City Council email addresses:
    Mayor Dan Wolk = dwolk@cityofdavis.org
    Mayor Pro tem Robb Davis = rdavis@cityofdavis.org
    Council member Lucas Frerichs  =  lucasf@cityofdavis.org
    Council Member Rochelle Swanson = rswanson@cityofdavis.org
    Council member Brett Lee = blee@cityofdavis.org
    Please also send your email to:
    City Staff:
    Assistant City Manager and Community Development and Sustainability Director =
    Mike Webb = mwebb@cityofdavis.org

    To Email UCD and their UCD LRDP plan which needs to build the on-campus student housing that UCD has stated they would in the 1989 MOU with the City of Davis and the 2002 UC document “UC Housing for the 21st Century” please send your email to:
    Contact info for UCD administration and UCD LRDP website:
    The web address for the UCD LRDP update is:  campustomorrow.ucdavis.edu (Note: see the UCD LRDP proposed UCD map and fill in the survey, let UCD know they need to provide the needed on-campus student housing now.)
    UC President Janet Napolitano   President@ucop.edu and advocacy@ucop.edu
    Chancellor Katehi   http://chancellor.ucdavis.edu/contact.php
    UC Regents   regentsoffice@ucop.edu

    AND your State Government representatives due to UCD wanting more State funding for UC which has NOT been building the PROMISED on-campus student housing:
    Gov. Jerry Brown   http://gov.cagov/gov39mail/mail.php
    Rep. John Garamendi   http://garamendihouse.gov/contact-me
    Sen. Lois Wolk  senator.wolk@senate.ca.gov 
    Assemblyman Bill Dodd   assemblymember.dodd@assembly.ca.gov

  10. Eileen Samitz

    Thanks Ron. It is really important that you and there rest of our community let UCD through the LRDP update that they need to build the needed on-campus housing NOW and stop deferring it to our community. It’s time for UCD to stop dragging their heels as they have for over two decades, and start getting the student housing built on-campus now as they promised our City.

    Also, as Ron mentioned, it does not take long to do the survey at:
    campustomorrow.ucdavis.edu

  11. Tia Will

    In 20 states its Walmart but in California its UC.”

    Would you mind posting your source.

    If accurate this seems to fly in the face of the concept that small businesses are the largest generators of jobs, at least in these 21 states and that the government does not generate jobs, at least in California.

    This information builds a stronger case in my mind for Eillen’s assertion that the UC system is not fulfilling its mission for the students of California not only by not housing them, but not even admitting those ( such as my son)  with the same GPA that got me in 30 + years ago.

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