City Council Candidate Question 5: UC Davis and Growth

Candidates Forum on March 12/ Photo by Eunah Cho of Davis Media Access
Candidates Forum on March 12/ Photo by Eunah Cho of Davis Media Access

For the next eight weeks, the Vanguard will be sending the Davis City Council candidates weekly questions.  They have 250 to 350 words.

Question #1: Do you support Measure A (Nishi) – why or why not?

Question #2: While the city’s budget picture has improved, the city is still in need of funding for things like roads, parks, greenbelts, pools, buildings, as well as some unfunded retirement needs – what measures would you support to increase city revenue and why?

Question #3: What is your reaction to MRIC being paused and as a council member what would you do to move us forward on economic development?

Question #4: In September a murder at KetMoRee caused the community to reflect on its downtown policies. But Davis overall is changing in terms of crime and types of crime and related challenges. What is your view of policing in Davis? You can discuss issues such as staffing, resource priorities, community outreach, police oversight, and transparency like body worn cameras.

Question #5: In light of the demise of the UC Davis Chancellor it is important to remember that there are critical issues that the city and university need to work together in cooperation.  One of the biggest has been housing where UC Davis is planning to add 9,000 staff, students and faculty to its population over the 10-year planning period, and the university will not be able to house them all on campus. 

How would you as councilmember take the lead on this issue: explain your plan both in terms of working with the university and in terms of planning for Davis’ future in terms of what portion of this growth, the city is prepared to take on and how?

WillArnold2016Will Arnold:

UC Davis predates our City. A century later, the University remains our most important neighbor, largest employer, and a critical partner for nearly anything our community hopes to achieve. We owe the University a tremendous amount for offering countless assets – of cultural opportunity, educational advancement, and economic vitality, to name a few – that no city can provide on its own, and which make us the envy of our region.

Many communities claim they are the home of UC Davis by proximity. We are its home by fact.

But with these assets also come responsibilities. Our community is impacted in ways we cannot influence, by forces beyond even the control of UC Davis itself. This is a common burden of college towns, that decisions made far away directly impact our community. I take seriously the responsibility to represent our community’s needs and to ensure a strong partnership with our University. This requires a commitment to work collaboratively where possible, and respectful when there is not agreement – that is, if we want a seat at the table.

There are many decisions the University and the Regents make that does not require the City of Davis to be included. We are fortunate that current and recent leaders have worked to make our relationship inclusionary.

Housing pressure is but one of many issues in Davis – a crisis at 0.2% rental vacancy – that arises from the University. But when we choose to live in a college town, we choose both the benefits and the responsibilities. The agreement between the City and the University has 25% of students to be housed on campus. Whether the University lives up to its promise or not, that means the City side of the agreement is 75%. If the projections of new students enrolled is 10,000, the City of Davis needs to have the capacity to house an additional 7,500.

While we need the University to meet its numbers, so too must the City. Should I be elected, I will request to be part of the subcommittee dedicated to addressing the issues looming on both sides of Russell Boulevard. 

Frerichs-Announce-2016-5Lucas Frerichs:

The growth of UC Davis is one of the most important issues facing our community.

The result of this growth is playing a huge role in the local debates in Davis.  With UC Davis adding students, the city of Davis is facing a rental housing crisis that only figures to get worse, particularly since the vacancy rate is hovering close to zero percent.

I believe that we have a responsibility to assume some of the increased housing needs, and think we should also build some additional apartments in the city.We have several proposals before us – most of the problems I see with them deal with design, scale and neighborhood compatibility. There are ways to remedy all of these issues, while still seeing them built. There hasn’t been any market rate apartment complexes built in Davis in quite some time.

UCD’s growth has local & regional implications and has thus far the campus hasn’t been willing to accommodate the increased enrollment with additional on-campus housing options. UCD has built some housing over the past decade, but there is a need for the university to take on more on-campus housing.

The question is how the city can convince UC Davis to step up in this respect, and what the City of Davis will do on our own end, in the meantime. We have pretty good relations currently. Collaboration with UCD is essential, and I’m hopeful that with a new Chancellor, the new Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) and our work on an updated General Plan, we can sync these concurrent processes, bolster our working town/gown relationships, and get results that benefit the university, the City, and our residents.

Lastly, while not an option that I, or anyone on the Council, take lightly, there are a variety of legal remedies that we could pursue if other options are not producing results and/or are exhausted. I hesitate to bring this last point up, especially since we have a consistent pattern of litigation against the city. This is a worst-case scenario type of option, but it is nevertheless an option, should all else fail.

Lee-Brett-HSBrett Lee:

The University is its own sovereign entity in terms of what it chooses to do or not do within its borders. We as the City of Davis are not able to “tell” UCD what they can and cannot do.

So, whatever we are going to accomplish will be done through negotiation, partnership and mutual self-interest.

UCD and the City of Davis are tightly connected through employment, housing, and geographical adjacency – it is essential that we have a solid working relationship – the actions of each of us can greatly impact the other.

In the past, the University has not had a good partner with which to negotiate with on the city’s side – the city councils have been fractured and split and in just my three years on the council we have had 3 city managers.  In order to have a negotiation, each party must at some level represent their “side”.  The city councils of not too long ago were dramatically split and it was not clear which piece of the city council represented the “will” of the people.  Today, the council is able to come together and be a unified, single voice when negotiating with the University.

Hopefully, the new chancellor will be an open and willing to work with the “City”, because we are now ready and able to work with the University.

We need to focus on traffic issues, housing issues, and the costs associated with students’ off campus behaviors.

The University should work on improving the Old Davis Road access point to the university to alleviate the traffic congestion on Richards Boulevard.

The University should live up to its public and prior commitments to house a greater percentage of students on campus.  This commitment should apply to the current number of students as well as in the future when UCD has increased enrollment.

The University should help assist us in the costs of maintaining the safety of the “downtown bar scene”, as well as the costs associated with the increased “mini-dorms” within our residential neighborhoods.

And from the perspective of the University what should we be doing?  (in order to negotiate, both sides must want something).

The City needs to maintain Davis as a safe, attractive community that is a selling point for prospective students and faculty.

The City needs to help encourage businesses and venues that are fun and enjoyable for all ages and do not revolve around alcohol.

IMG-23Matt Williams:

The key to this question lies in the first sentence “the city and university need to work together in cooperation.”

In the near term the University is consumed with its own turmoil, and aggressive attempts by the City government to force the housing issue will only complicate and already complicated situation.  Davis citizens and others from around California have carried a very clear message to the Regents and the UC Office of the President about housing and enrollment.  The issue is on the table, but much more important issues (like the decision about the future of the UCD Chancellor) dwarf it.

If one operates under the assumption that Chancellor Katehi will not return, the City needs to reach out to the Regents as a stakeholder in selection process for the new chancellor.  We need to outline the basis for a more constructive and collaborative relationship with the University.  That relationship certainly includes housing, but it goes far beyond housing. Working more collaboratively with UCD, ideally on mutual timetables, is essential to making progress in building the innovation economy in Davis.

Engagement between UCD and the City will only happen when/if the parties see “value” in such participation.  Until we do that, the University will not see any “Win-Win” in working with the City and will continue to go its own way.

While the current turmoil works itself out, on a timetable controlled by the Regents, the housing crisis continues for the City.  Engaging the issues of how the Sterling and Lincoln 40 apartment applications fit into the existing Zoning Code of the City needs to happen in an open and transparent process that engages the public, sets clear expectations and then delivers on those expectations.

We also need to hire an independent general plan expert to assess our existing General Plan and Zoning Code to determine which parts of it are still just as solid as they were when adopted in May 2001 and updated in January 2007.  My suspicions are that those “solid” portions comprise 90% or more of the plan.  Then with the problematic 10% (the Land Use section and Zoning fall into this 10%) identified, the City should embark on a focused public process that produces updates to those problematic portions.  I believe that public process should engage the idea of a Sustainable Resilient Davis 2030-2040-2050.

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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  1. The Pugilist

    I think this is the key: “The University is its own sovereign entity in terms of what it chooses to do or not do within its borders. We as the City of Davis are not able to “tell” UCD what they can and cannot do.”

    Those of you who think we can pressure the university into building more housing – I don’t see it.  That doesn’t mean they won’t or shouldn’t.  But we have to accept that they aren’t and make our own plans.

    1. hpierce

      You volunteering, Mr H, or just stirring the pot?  Kinda’ like apples and dolphins…

      Oh, and by UC policy and state law, any non-student is subject to trespassing charges for an occupation of Mrak… but of course you and Mr Mooney will defend them ‘pro-bono’, right?

  2. Eileen Samitz

    Of all the responses, I agree with Lucas’ the most. He clearly understands the problem and is addressing it.  In short, as I have said many times before, it needs to be made clear to UCD that the City can no longer be an “enabler” to allowing the continuation of UCD’s irresponsibility regarding their need to build their own needed on-campus housing. Particularly since UCD owns well over 5,000 acres.  UCD has been grossly neglecting their responsibility to build on-campus student apartments (not just one-year freshman dorms) for over two decades and this has caused significant impacts on their own students, and on our community. In turn, UCD’s negligence has been unfair and disgraceful behavior towards their own students, as well as our community.

    But,  Matt regarding your comments. What on earth are you talking about with “solid” and “problematic” portions and 90% and 10% of what regarding our General Plan?  And  “independent” General Plan  experts? I can not interpret what you are trying say.

    Perhaps this is the way you communicated in El Macero politics before you moved to Davis this past year. But since you are running for Davis City Council, and you are making comments about our City’s current citizen-based General Plan which took over 100 citizens and years to create, please try to keep your postings more clear.  I for one, have no idea what you are trying to say in the last part of your response to this question.


    1. Matt Williams

      Eileen, let me try and net it down for you. My belief is that approximately 90% of our City’s current citizen-based General Plan is still just as good as it was when it was adopted after all that citizen effort.  That means approximately 10% is no longer as good as the day it was adopted.

      I see no reason to tamper with the parts of the current General Plan that are still working well.  We don’t need a “from scratch” citizens effort to recreate what is already good (“solid’). We do need a citizens effort in order to update the portions of the Plan that are not working well (“problematic”).

      One of the challenges we face is how to quickly decide how the various parts of the current Plan fall into the two categories.  Having an independent expert take a first pass at that categorization, and then share his/her assessment with the Davis community for discussion, adjustment and ratification will put us on the fast track to having the citizens weigh in on how the out-of-date portions should be updated … inclusively, transparently and openly.

      I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

  3. Eileen Samitz


    Thanks for the clarification. I can not say what percentage needs to be updated but I think we have City Staff who were very involved in the current citizen-based General Plan, and who would do a better job than hiring in an outside “expert” who would not really have a grasp of the background, nor the issues. Plus, why spend yet more money the City does not have on yet another consultant for a job that our City staff can certainly handle? These consultants are very, very expensive.

    1. Don Shor

      The purpose of the consultants for at least some portion of the process is that they have methods for getting input from all sectors of the community — not just those who are more active participants. They have methods for surveying and analyzing that are more balanced than what you’ll get from community meetings and commissions. I posted the link to the Portland process on another thread, but here is the link again:
      I don’t know that staff has the skill sets, or time, to implement something like this. Yes, it’s expensive, but it provides better and broader-based community input.

    2. Matt Williams

      I would be very pleased to find the City has the available expertise (emphasize available) to do the assessment … and I agree with you that their day-in, day-out familiarity with the background would be incredibly valuable, but based on my discussions with various members of the Community Development Department staff, I believe that they are going flat-out just trying to keep up with the pace of the current General Plan-related activity, and coming up with the incremental time needed to complete the assessment document would be a bridge too far.

      With that said one alternative that would achieve your desired outcome, would be to hire contract planners to do the job of the current employees who are being reassigned to the General Plan assessment project.  The challenge there would be that the transition from employee planner to contract planner, and then back to employee planner could be very inefficient.

      With that said, in your estimation, haow long do you think it would take to complete the assessment of the General Plan and produce the “first pass” report of the portions of the Plan that are not creating process challenges versus the portions of the Plan that are creating process challenges?


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