Monday Morning Thoughts: Just How Affordable Is Nishi?

Share:

Affordable Apartments, Davis CA Davis Vanguard

The opposition to Nishi landed strong blows early on by alleging that the project and the city council’s decision to exempt the proposed project for affordable housing requirements violated the city’s own ordinance.

Ultimately, as the Vanguard thoroughly examined those allegations, it appears that the city did not violate the affordable housing ordinance, first because vertical mixed use is explicitly exempted in the ordinance and second because it appears that it is permissible for the council to simply change the requirements in the development agreement.

However, I believe that this does not get the project, the council and the developers completely off the hook.  As Nancy Price points out in her op-ed this week, whether this is legal or illegal, the housing exemption could still be morally wrong.

She writes, “I believe it is fundamentally wrong for the city to completely waive the requirement for any developer to build 154 units of affordable housing as is minimally required at Nishi by the Davis affordable housing ordinance based on the project’s massive size. Nor are the multi-millionaire developers otherwise required to pay equivalent in-lieu fees of $11.55 million ($75,000 per unit times 154 units).”

She adds, “And what also bothers me is the complete lack of proper public process by which this exemption was granted by the city to the developers.”

This ultimately comes down to a value judgment by the voters – a political calculation.  Is the $1 million that Nishi is giving the city better than the $0 the city would get if Nishi does not pass and remains a vacant field?  Again, this is a political judgment.

But the affordable housing requirement is not the only vulnerability that Nishi suffers from. The charge that opponents have made is that the project is ultimately unaffordable, in the small “a” sense.

In their ballot argument they argue, “Nishi’s housing will all be luxury rental apartments and for-sale condominiums. Independent analysis projects rent for an average 1,100 sq. ft. 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment at over $2400 a month!”

The developers have disagreed with this characterization, but only now have agreed to put some numbers behind the assessment.

Tim Ruff told the Vanguard, “The average rent for a 2 bedroom unit in Davis according to 2015 UC Housing survey was $1,462.  Since our units will be newer and more expensive to build we are anticipating rents at $1800 for a 2 bedroom.”

That is certainly significantly lower (by 25%) than the opposition’s estimate for rent.  However, that is still a lot of money.  But the developers point out that, with students likely to double up, two to a room, the cost to them effectively would be $450.

They point out that with brand new apartments and great amenities, the costs will be quite affordable.  Plus students would be living across the way from campus, meaning easy foot and bike access – that reduces the other costs of living including car trips, gas, and traffic hassle.

The whole affordability argument has been kind of strange from the start, particularly since most of the people who are making the point are homeowners, long removed from the days of having to rent apartments and figure out how to make it all pencil out.

On the other hand, back in February, the ASUCD Senate voted 11-1 to endorse the project.  A strong point for them was the ability to create more student housing at a time when vacancy rates are dwindling, forcing more and more students to commute out of town.

ASCUD Senator Ana Tresh, a third-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, said, “They’re going to be taking this land and making something useful out of it by doing many things like adding 1,500 beds for students such as myself who struggle to find housing due to how little vacancy there is and how much demand there is.”

Rosy Martinez, a second-year human development student, said, “This means there will be less competition and more listing for apartments, which is a personal issue that I’ve had to deal with before.”

Students are definitely worried about the issue of housing.  The issue of affordability of that housing, they seem less concerned about.  Many tell me that they often spend $500 to $600 for older housing anyway.  They view Nishi as not only adding housing stock, but doing so in a place where they don’t need to drive to campus and therefore can save in other ways.

Tim Ruff, in his press release, argued, “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.”

That seems like a very high number, but even with potentially a $100 more in rent per month than other places, that only amounts to $900 during the course of a school year – a number that probably is easily offset by a reduction in other costs.

I have seen student activists oppose Nishi due to the lack of big “A” affordable housing requirements, but I have yet to see a student argue against Nishi because it is not affordable.  What should that tell the homeowning residents in the community?

There are a lot of other factors to consider when deciding on whether to vote about Nishi. As Nancy Price points out at the conclusion of her article, “The courts will determine whether the exemption of Nishi from the city’s affordable housing ordinance is legal or illegal. But I think all the other evidence points to the fact that is an economically bad deal for the city.

“And it just seems morally wrong to me that our supposedly cash-strapped city is making an $11.5 million giveaway of affordable housing money to multi-millionaire developers so they can construct luxury rental housing.”

Ultimately, as I have argued previously, I would be very surprised if the courts are the determining factor here.  More likely the voters will have to decide whether the project holds to its obligations regarding the Affordable Housing Ordinance and whether the apartments are affordable to students and a benefit overall to the community.

The voters will decide whether Nishi is affordable enough.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Share:

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.

Related posts

39 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts: Just How Affordable Is Nishi?”

  1. Michael Harrington

    David:  your conclusions are incorrect. The City violated the AHO.  It’s obvious in the record.

     

    Besides, as Nancy Price wrote Sunday, it’s not morally defensible to waive the ordinance.

    Among other arguments, she pointed out that ALL other projects for many years had to transfer those benefits in order to gain the city’s discretionary approval of the developments.  There is zero reason for Ruff and Whitcomb to get $11.5 million of free public funds other than a political power grab of the money by CC members indebted to those two.

    My mother had six kids and she treated all of us fairly and equally.

     

    1. The Pugilist

      “The City violated the AHO.  It’s obvious in the record.”

      Mike – you haven’t taken part in the conversation on this.  You like to make assertions and leave.  The fact is that if you look at the revised affordable housing ordinance, it makes an exemption for vertical mixed use.  While people like Ron and CalAg have attempted to argue that this doesn’t qualify under VMU, at best, it appears to be a close call and seems unlikely a court would rule otherwise.  No one has provided me case law on the other problem – perhaps you as an attorney will – but it seems that the state gives the council discretion in these matters to simply write changes into the development agreement rather than go through the exercise of changing the ordinance (which requires the same three votes).  From a common sense stand point, given the three vote requirement, it seems logical that they could make a simply exception through a DA, and no one has provided evidence to the contrary.  So unless you are going to make a legal case on here, I reject your assertion.

  2. Jim Frame

    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.” That seems like a very high number

     

    Maybe not so high.  With a kid getting ready to head off to college, I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation on the annual cost of owning, maintaining and driving a modest used car and came up with $4k.  Whether you can find another $3k in lower utility bills is an open question, but as a magnitude number the $7k estimate doesn’t seem out of line to me.

    P.S.  If the kid is going to get a car, he’s going to have to pay for it himself, because I’m not going to.

  3. nameless

    “And it just seems morally wrong to me that our supposedly cash-strapped city is making an $11.5 million giveaway of affordable housing money to multi-millionaire developers so they can construct luxury rental housing.”

    The $1 million donation to the affordable housing fund is not a “giveaway” if the developer is not required to build affordable housing.

    Michael Harrington: “Among other arguments, she pointed out that ALL other projects for many years had to transfer those benefits in order to gain the city’s discretionary approval of the developments.

    That is comparing apples to oranges.  Residential developments are not the same as an innovation park.

    I would also note that more student housing at Nishi frees up more rental space all over town. Those 1,500 students at Nishi is 1,500 fewer students renting elsewhere in town.

  4. ryankelly

    Nancy Price and Mike Harrington are now trying to make it immoral to vote Yes on Measure A.   They are waging a campaign based on lies and now this.

     

    1. hpierce

      An amusing situation… was leaning strongly against Nishi, due to vehicular access to W Olive… but given certain individuals strong opposition, might even get reluctantly in favor… a “hold my nose” thing…

      1. Ron

        hpierce:  “. . . but given certain individuals strong opposition, might even get reluctantly in favor… a “hold my nose” thing . . .”

        I think we’ll all be holding our noses from the effect of traffic gridlock fumes (and in the case of Nishi residents, fumes from the freeway).

        If I knew how to insert a “smiley face” here, I’d do it.

        1. Alan Miller

          (and in the case of Nishi residents, fumes from the freeway).

          How about the effect of traffic gridlock fumes on The Lexington, Ceasar Chavez, Olive Drive Mobile Home Park, Rocknasium, Murder Burger, etc. . . . ?

        2. Alan Miller

          If I knew how to insert a “smiley face” here, I’d do it.

          I’m gonna guess a colon followed by a left parenthesis:

          🙂

          Yup, that worked.

  5. dlemongello

    Students paying $500-$600 are not SHARING a room.  And why do people end up sharing a room?  Because they are left with little choice as to trying to get the price down.  So now it will cost at least $450 to share a room, I guess maybe tripling up will come next for those of lesser means. Essentially we are saying we are so desperate for housing we’ll just ream people who have to rent.

    As for being unaffected myself, I don’t think that would  really be a reason to not care, as implied in this piece by “The whole affordability argument has been kind of strange from the start, particularly since most of the people who are making the point are homeowners, long removed from the days of having to rent apartments and figure out how to make it all pencil out.”

    1. The Pugilist

      Donna: Unless the city is willing to build several more apartment complexes, students across the city will continue to share rooms.  That’s what they’re doing now.

    2. Widjet

      Looking at listings on Dowling Properties website this morning I see that 2B/1BA apartments in older buildings within a reasonable distance of campus go for between $1500 and $1600 a month.  $1800 for a 2B/2BA brand new unit that is right next door to campus seems to align with market rates. If anything it might be under market.

    3. ryankelly

      Donna,  As of last year, Harrington is charging $750 per room in a rooming house with the only common area being the shared kitchen. He converted all of the living room spaces into bedrooms, thereby increasing the numbers of rooms he could rent.  You don’t think that he won’t increase the price over time?  This is happening all over town already, with landlords promoting 4 and 5 bedrooms in neighborhoods with standard 3 bed/2 bath homes?  The real issue is that people, including students are having difficulty locating housing  here and the numbers of students, staff and faculty having to commute to Davis from Woodland, Sac and other cities in the region is growing.  Additional housing is needed here in Davis and Nishi is right next to campus.

  6. 2cowherd

    It is not clear to me why the City Council completely exempted “stacked” units from the affordable requirements instead of just reducing the percentage of units required. Can anyone explain the thinking here?

     

  7. Frankly

    Mike, Nancy – I am guessing that both of you voted for Jerry Brown seven years ago.  And assuming I am correct the both of you need to look in the mirror for being responsible for the death of RDA which was the primary tool for building affordable housing.

    Today developments are mostly 100 financed by private capital.  And with all the demanded amenities and the crushing code requirements that have built up… there is really no way to build new housing that is affordable.  Costs are costs and rents reflect the costs.

    But citywide rents are a supply and demand factor.  By building new and more expensive rentals, it will increase the citywide supply and begin to put downward pressure on the older supply of rentals.  And eventually the newly-built rentals begin to age and become more affordable than would newer units built.

    If you want to see the housing be more affordable, then stop voting for politicians that raid the tools to pay off their public-sector union buddies that contribute to their campaigns, and start advocating for a reduction in the number and scope of demanded amenities and expensive code requirements.

    But your platform to defeat Measure A over the lack of affordable housing is a crock of crap.

  8. The Pugilist

    Why do the opponents keep repeating the $11 million figure on the give away?  That might be the figure if the units were full sized houses, but they aren’t.

    1. Mark West

      They keep repeating their misinformation because they believe it has ‘traction’ with the uninformed.

      I believe that the activists who willfully spread misinformation and those who willfully ignore data that contradicts their beliefs are both damaging the quality of life in Davis. In order to maintain Davis as a great place to live, we need to nullify the influence of both groups in local politics.

  9. Michael Harrington

    Alan. Most people love having the right to vote on major changes in their communities.  What’s better than that ? The back room deals of old on 3/2 votes of the CC at 1 am?

    Alan: have you ever drafted qualified and won ballot initiatives or referenda ? It’s a total pain.  It’s the only way to reverse those old back room deals.

    I really don’t get your point.

        1. Matt Williams

          Pugilist, I agree with Jim.  The Cannery CFD definitely followed a very different trajectory than the Mace Ranch CFD or the CFD approved as part of the Wildhorse process.  In both those situations the CFD was very openly and transparently discussed at the same time that approval of the entitlements were publicly discussed.  In the case of the Cannery there wasn’t public discussion until a year after the entitlements had already been granted by the Council, and when it was brought out into the light of day, Joe Krovoza had been marginalized and the votes for it had been aligned. I am not aware of a single Commission being informed that a CFD was planned.  Definitely not the NRC.  Definitely not the FBC.

          Why was a different, less open, less transparent process used in the case of the Cannery CFD?  Perhaps it was Krovoza’s insistence on a better deal for the City.  I really don’t know.  If you go back to the May 5th Council Meeting video, Council member Frerichs states, “It [the CFD] absolutely was a part of the Development Agreement.  It was a part of the conversations all along with the entire Council and the subcommittee of [himself] and Joe Krovoza who were in conversations both with the staff and the developer.”  Yet when you look at the staff report for the November 12, 2013 Council meeting where The Cannery was approved by a 3-2 vote, a member of the public can not find any mention of a CFD.

          Item 6

          7:10 Public Hearing: The Cannery Project / 1111 Covell Boulevard, at J Street (former location of the Hunt-Wesson tomato cannery); Planning Application #11-20 (Community Development & Sustainability Director Mike Webb/Community Development Administrator Katherine Hess)

          Item will include the following:

          a. Brief presentation by staff team, including presentations by Ben Ritchie (CEQA consultant) and Adrian Engel (Covell Corridor Plan consultant)

          b. Public testimony

          c. Additional City Council questions, if any

          Staff recommends that City Council continue deliberations and approve the project applications, including certification of the EIR, adoption of findings of overriding circumstances and adoption of the Mitigation Monitoring plan at its meeting of November 19,2013.

          Recommendation:

          1. Approve Resolution Adopting CEQA Findings of Fact; Adopting A Statement of Overriding Considerations; Adopting a Mitigation Monitoring Plan; and Certifying the Final Environmental Impact Report (SCH#2012032022)

          2. Approve Resolution to Amend the General Plan of the City of Davis for the Cannery Development Project (GP Amendment #01-11)

          3. Introduce Ordinance Amending Section 40.01.090 of Chapter 40 of the Davis Municipal Code by Rezoning the Cannery Property (APN #035-970-034, 035-970-035, 035-97-037, 035-970-051 and 035-970-052) Located North of East Covell Boulevard and East of the Union Pacific Railroad and F Street Open Drainage Channel, of Approximately 100.1+ Acres, from PD-1-00 (Planned Development – Light Industrial) to Planned Development #1-11 (Rezoning/Preliminary PD #01-11)

          4. Introduce Ordinance Adopting the Development Agreement (DA #01-11) by and between the City of Davis, ConAgra Food Packaged Foods, LLC and TNHC Land Company, LLC Relating to the Development of the Property Commonly Known as The Cannery.

          5. Approve the following entitlement applications:

          a. Final Planned Development #03-11

          b. Tentative Subdivision Map #01-11

          c. Affordable Housing Plan #01-11

          d. Site Plan and Architectural Review #05-11 (by accepting the Design Guidelines)

    1. hpierce

      Most people love having the right to vote on major changes in their communities…

      True enough… and most people love (and would really like to vote on) telling others how to live, how to use their property, how to think, how to feel, how they should spend their money/resources, what they eat/drink, etc.  Fortunately, they only get to vote on some of those… for now…

      Wish we could have put the expansion of STEAC food closet, next to your property, Mr H, to a vote… but you found back-door ways to keep that (expansion, as a vote was not in the calculus) from happening with the assistance of Mr T…  nice work…

  10. Michael Harrington

    Pug list: You are right I come and go here. I rarely can stop long enough for a back and forth decent conversation. I’m sorry for that.  My iPhone keys are really small and it’s slow.    I know what you want on the AHO analysis and I’ll post it soon for your review.   We are very comfortable with our analysis and believe that although Robb Davis was well intentioned his legal advisers inadvertently omitted certain key points when they fed him the basics for the article.

    1. The Pugilist

      Of course you say that.  But the reality is that when a judge has granted a decision, you have lost every time on local matters.  You only won water because the city was trying to make that go away.  Big mistake.

      1. Misanthrop

        In fairness, Harrington won on a single cause of action, that the city wasn’t paying for its own water use. In the end it amounted to a ledger shift but it was enough that when the city wanted to settle to tap the bond market they had to pay Mike off first. If they had fought they could have gotten away for paying only the relevant part of the legal fees but doing so kept them out of the bond market until the case was settled. So it wasn’t a mistake to settle and saved the city much more money in interest.

        The mistake the city has made has been in not assuming Mike would turn around and now sue the city every chance he got. The city needs to live by the letter of the law to keep Mike from having any issue to litigate. The Hotel Conference Center Negative Declaration is a perfect example. The city should have seen that lawsuit coming and acted accordingly to prevent it from having any merit based on the Negative Declaration being insufficient.

  11. Misanthrop

    “Most people love having the right to vote on major changes in their communities.”

    Sadly many people who are directly effected don’t get to vote. I was talking to some kids who live in West Village and are in favor of Measure A. But they don’t live in the city so they don’t get to vote. It occurred to me that the whole direct democracy Measure R thing excludes many of the people who  are next years renters but currently live on campus. So if you want to talk about the will of the people don’t try to argue that Measure R is an accurate picture of the will of the community. Its a skewed sample based on a model that disenfranchises thousands of people who live just outside the city limit but who are directly effected by an election they are not allowed to vote in.

    1. Jim Frame

      Its a skewed sample based on a model that disenfranchises thousands of people who live just outside the city limit but who are directly effected by an election they are not allowed to vote in.

      Those same people are also “disenfranchised” by every election that installs the City Council members who make decisions on behalf of the city’s residents.  Want to try annexing UCD and see how well that goes over with the Regents?

  12. dlemongello

    Let me begin by saying I understand a new apartment will not rent for little money, it can’t, it costs too much to build.  However, I think there are other extremes as well in what people charge.  Since transparency seems to be a big thing here, people outing Harrington and such, I’m going to tell you what my tenants pay.  We have one rental property, a 4BR (4th is the garage conversion huge room with its own bath) 2 Bath 1950s simple but well maintained house. The 3 tenants who share a bath pay from small BR to large $280, $320, $360, the 4th with own bath $590.  They also pay their own w/s/g.  It’s just NE of 5th and L, so pretty close to campus.  And I resent when anyone calls me a slumlord or running a mini dorm.

    1. Alan Miller

      Being transparent on the Vanguard comment’s section leads to no rewards for moral fortitude.  But do expect to be forever attacked by anonymous people as a reward for your forthrightness.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for