Monday Morning Thoughts: The Looming Issue of UC Davis Growth

UCD Long Range Development Plan
UCD Long Range Development Plan

If this were the end of the year and we were Time Magazine, our inclination would be to name “UC Davis” as the person of the year.  The university is certainly dominating regional headlines and even getting national attention in ways it would just as soon not.

While the chancellor and her apparent demise get a lot of the headlines, from our local perspective, the bigger story may have less to do with the chancellor and more to do with the confluence of UC policy and UC Davis policy.

As some are aware, UC Davis has been undertaking its Long-Range Development Plan (LRDP), which is akin to a city open space plan.  The University of California made its own unfortunate headlines when an audit report showed that it was increasing enrollment of non-resident students in an effort to increase tuition revenue, and at the expense of California residents.

In an effort to rectify the situation, the California legislature reached a deal whereby UC would receive $25 million from the legislature in exchange for taking on another 5000 California residents annually.

This has a trickle-down effect locally, where UC Davis has been expanding more rapidly than it can supply housing.  The city of Davis, with strong growth control measures, has not built a lot of student housing recently to accommodate that growth, and as a result has a vacancy rate of 0.2 percent.

The city is looking at potentially 1500 beds at Nishi, somewhere around 700 to 750 at Sterling and Lincoln40 is potentially looking to supply some student housing.

However, the numbers we see are frankly staggering.

At the April 4 Open Space and Habitat presentation and discussion of the LRDP, Lucas Griffith, a campus planner for UC Davis, and Andrew Fulks, the manager of UC Davis’ Putah Creek Riparian Reserve, made the presentation.

“The UC Davis LRDP is a comprehensive land-use plan that will guide physical development of the campus to support its teaching, research, and public service mission into the future. The 2017 – 2027 LRDP is an update of the 2003 – 2015 LRDP. The LRDP update attempts to accommodate sizeable growth in the university’s student, faculty and staff populations while at the same time promoting compact growth, creating desirable places for people to learn and interact, and advancing the university’s sustainability goals, socially, academically, financially and environmentally. “

The bottom line: “The university expects 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,”

The latter part we had heard last fall when Bob Segar made a presentation to council stating that UC Davis would not be able to provide housing for all new students.  But the 9000 number is staggering.

There are those who believe that UC Davis needs to take on all of that growth and provide housing.  There are those who would like to see the university at least get up to the percentage that they agreed to house.

The reality is, as we have seen, the university really doesn’t answer to anyone.  The chancellor’s saga saw eight legislators call for resignation and it was only when President Napolitano decided that the facts supported action that she moved. The state audit showed the university advantaging non-residents at the expense of residents, and yet the legislature had to effectively bribe UC with $25 million in order to get them to take on just 5000 more students.

Some have suggested there are ways that the city can pressure the university – I remain skeptical.  One of the biggest challenges for the next council will be to figure out how to meet growth demands within the framework of growth control policies in the city.


One place where the university is contemplating growth is the Solano Park area.  Right now Solano Park has low density student housing.  Originally, the plan was to work concurrently with Nishi to co-develop Solano Park with Nishi.  However, student protests and pushbacks slowed the progress.

The LDRP map above, however, shows clearly that the university is planning to densify Solano Park and provide more student housing in a perfect location near the downtown and also next to campus.

An additional point is that, while UC Davis has probably been slower than city leaders and developers would like, it appears that they have plans in their LDRP for the undercrossing from Nishi to the UC Davis campus.

While opponents of Nishi have pointed out that UC Davis is not at the table,  proponents have noted conditions in the baseline project features that require the undercrossing as a condition for moving forward.

In contrast to the view of UC Davis not being at the table, however, is the fact that they have a placeholder on their LDRP map for the Nishi connection, as shown on their website.

The bottom line, however, is that with plans for 9000 additional students, staff and faculty over the next decade – UC Davis and Davis have to figure out how to accommodate 1000 more people a year, essentially in a rental market that is already saturated.

That is just one of the looming crises and hopefully the next UC Davis Chancellor will be more understanding of this impact on the Davis community, and work with city leadership in a way that is collaborative and in the best interests of both entities.

—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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  1. Barack Palin

    Solano Park would be a great parcel to put up dense student housing.  The apartments they have there now are older dilapidated looking buildings that are spread far apart.  If the current residents are put out they’ll just have to deal with it because modernizing densifying and modernizing that piece of land would go a long way in solving the student housing problem.

    1. South of Davis

      BP wrote:

      > Solano Park would be a great parcel to put up dense student housing.

      I did the “Loopalooza” dide yesterday with a bunch of kids yesterday and as we rode down Russell looking across the vacant land at the big West Village apartments I was wondering why they don’t just build a couple thousand more apartments (vs. the planned SFHs) on the fields around the West Village?  Does anyone know if UCD still plans to close Solano Park this year (and probably let it sit empty for years like the city of Davis has done with Pacifico/Symphony and UCD has done with Orchard Park).

      P.S. I think I saw Robb Davis working at the stop behind the (abandoned and fenced off) Orchard Park apartments but had to get going to catch up to the kids before I had a chance to say hi.

  2. Misanthrop

    “hopefully the next UC Davis Chancellor will be more understanding of this impact on the Davis community and work with city leadership in a way that is collaborative”

    So while Davis remains steadfastly opposed to growing UC Davis is supposed to be more collaborative. Seriously? UC Davis is an economic powerhouse with increasing demand for its educational and research opportunities from both foreign and domestic sources. It isn’t going to wait around while Davis spends ten years building a hotel or a subdivision. The next Chancellor will pick up right where Katehi left off on growing the University. If Davis wants to grow with UCD it can prosper and benefit more than ever from its proximity to UCD but if not UCD will go around the city developing its thousands of acres and working with Solano County, Woodland and Sacramento to provide the infrastructure needed to accomplish its mission. A decade from now Davis will still be arguing about how to balance its budget, fill its potholes, how many sections of gate classes to have and pay its police while the World Food Center in Sacramento will be feeding a world with nearly eight billion people. The big dog is done with being wagged by its tail. The question isn’t when will UCD start working better with the city its when will the city start working better with UCD? Probably when the people who learned about limits to growth in the 60’s from Ehrlich and Revelle pass on but with their homes, pensions, social security and medicare that is unlikely to happen for another decade or two.

    1. David Greenwald

      I don’t think this crisis is solved either by putting all the growth on UCD or Davis.

      There is a reason why the WFC talks have kind of stalled in Sacramento.

  3. Ron

    Misanthrop:  “. . . if not UCD will go around the city developing its thousands of acres . . .”

    Agreed, and that’s what many of us have been saying that UCD should/will eventually do, regardless of the city’s response.

    Or – as someone else once pointed out on the Vanguard, when the University says “jump”, we’ll ask “how high?”  (And then, UCD will still build their own housing, as well.)


    1. Ron

      Also – if they’re already showing a connection to Nishi, perhaps they do have their own tentative plans to incorporate that property into the University, if Measure A fails.  (Presumably, they wouldn’t be able to gain motor vehcile access to Olive Drive without the city’s cooperation.)

      It’s always fun to try to “guess” what our partner (UCD) might/might not do.

    2. Matt Williams

      Ron (and everyone), when you look at West Village and think about how well it fits the definition of sprawl, what thoughts come to your mind?   Same question for Nishi.  Same question for MRIC.

      1. Ron

        Matt:  “Ron (and everyone), when you look at West Village and think about how well it fits the definition of sprawl, what thoughts come to your mind?   Same question for Nishi.  Same question for MRIC.”

        Good question.  Personally, I have less concern if any given development is on University land.  (I outlined some reasons, below.)  This would go for Nishi, as well (e.g., if it’s ultimately purchased by the University, and does not provide vehicular access to Olive Drive).

        MRIC was a tougher call, for me.  It’s outside of a logical city boundary (Mace Boulevard), which brings to mind the word “sprawl”.  However, due to the city’s financial challenges, I probably would have supported it as a commercial-only development.  (Even more so, if “quality” mitigation land was included in the proposal.)  If MRIC reappears with housing, I will actively oppose it.

        Regarding large-scale “infill” developments, I’d hope that the city will consider neighborhood input, without deriding such input as “NIMBYism”.  (Whether it’s Trackside, Sterling, or any other large-scale infill development.)  I’d prefer that the city entertain proposals that adhere to current zoning, prior to considering any changes to such zoning.

        Overall, I think that the city should focus on its own goals, without over-reacting to the “crisis” created by the University.  (Hey – I think I just came up with a good campaign slogan for you!)

        I realize that there are others who have different views.


    3. Misanthrop

      In my opinion the cost vs benefit of UCD going around Davis is bad because we won’t be able to fund the amenities and services a thriving community should have. Why do you think its good?

      1. Ron


        I think we’ve established that housing generally doesn’t pay for the cost of city services that it generates.  Developers, on the other hand, ensure profit for themselves.

        If there’s any profit to be made, I’d rather see the University receive it, vs. a developer.  (Plus, the land remains in public hands.)  I’d also rather have the University take responsibility for the long-term cost of providing services (which is the cause of the city’s financial challenges).

        Students living on campus will still help support the local economy, without generating much cost for the city.

        But, perhaps most importantly (as you pointed out), the University will ultimately act unilaterally, regardless of what the city does.

        1. hpierce

          Uh, Ron… you realize that UCD used a developer for West Village, right?  They got little/no more “profit” than the City would have…

        2. Mark West

          Uh, hpierce… don’t you know, only private developers harm the environment and create sprawl. If the public sector builds it, everything is guaranteed to be ‘green’ and safe for the planet. Public sector concrete doesn’t harm farmland after all.

        3. hpierce

          Actually, Mark, people have been trying to convince me of that for years… kinda’ like those who say their fecal matter has no odor…  still not buying either theory, though…

        4. Ron


          I’m somewhat reluctant to tell you this, but I (kind of) count you as one of “our own”.  (Against Nishi, somewhat supportive of Measure R.)

          Welcome to the family! 🙂 (From your earlier responses, it seems that you’re of the “right age” to be in the club, at least.)

          (Or, at least not an automatic supporter of all development proposals.)

      2. Ron

        Mark:  “Uh, hpierce… don’t you know, only private developers harm the environment and create sprawl. If the public sector builds it, everything is guaranteed to be ‘green’ and safe for the planet. Public sector concrete doesn’t harm farmland after all.”

        I apparently view campus development somewhat differently than you.  It seems that you’d prefer to over-develop the city (and expand beyond our borders), instead.  I expect that you’ll continue to advocate for this.

        1. hpierce

          Well, my take of what Mark was saying was either the current urban footprint of Davis changes, or the urban footprint of UCD.  Either way, ag-land will be given over to development.

          One of the questions might be what is the least productive ag-land that would be the least “intrusive”…

        2. Ron

          hpierce:  “One of the questions might be what is the least productive ag-land that would be the least “intrusive”…”

          Good point.  (Frankly also made a similar point.)

          One primary difference is that we can’t directly control what the University does, anyway.  (We can try to influence them.)  If University decisions were subject to a vote, my response might be different.  (Of course, I’m only speaking for myself.)

          Also, there’s other benefits of University development, vs. development in the city.  (On-campus development usually ensures proximity, public ownership, University responsibility for costs, potential gains for the University that might otherwise go to a developer.  (I saw your point regarding West Village.) There’s also (at least the potential of) University involvement to ensure that costs for students are controlled. (Yeah, I know that this hasn’t worked too well for student fees, so far.) There’s probably other benefits that I’m not thinking of, off the top of my head.

          Public ownership provides at least some degree of public control regarding future potential uses of land, as well.  (Once private farmland is lost to development, it’s permanent.)

          And, there’s much more space on the University, to accommodate development (compared to the city).


        3. Misanthrop

          I could be wrong but my understanding is that UC housing is often done in public/private partnerships where UC owns the land but the developer owns the rentals. Can anyone clarify this for me? Also UC must pay prevailing wages making new housing on campus more expensive and less competitive with housing off campus.

    1. Ron

      The Pugilist:

      “9000.  Where is Ron proposing we put those students?”

      I’d put that question back to you.  Do you propose accommodating that many, within the city?  Or, do you think that the University has more room (and capability) to do so?  (Perhaps another reason that the University will ultimately acquire Nishi, if Measure A fails.)

      When the University says “jump”, how high are you willing to go?

      1. Matt Williams

        Ron (and anyone else who cares to engage this question), when you look at West Village and think about how well it fits or does not fit the definition of sprawl, what thoughts come to your mind?   Same question for sites “within the city.”

  4. Eileen Samitz


    I disagree with your statement that the “University really doesn’t answer to anyone.” The University does answer to the Regents, and the Regents answers to the public, particularly since legislators are on the Board of Regents as well, and they answer to the public. And that has become pretty darn apparent with the emergence of AB1711, which we have our legislators to thank for, which is calling UC “on the carpet” in a big way with legislation to address UC’s terrible misbehavior on accepting more and more non-resident students for the higher tuition extracted from them, and accepting fewer and fewer California resident students. This policy has been outrageous.

    The next thing that needs to happen is that UC’s autonomy privelage needs to be removed since it is not really needed anymore, and it has become a way for UCD to not be accountable on how they conduct themselves, and particularly how they mismanage their funding. EVERY other public education system in California is accountable on their policies and for how they spend their funding, but not UC and that has got to end.

    Also, our California legislators are quite fed up with the University due to their significant mismanagement issues (which have become apparent in the media), and they are particularly fed up with UC Davis and its mismanagement issues which we read about almost daily in the media.

    So since there is quite a bit of attention on UC Davis and how poorly it prioritizes its spending and its lack of planning, particularly regarding the lack of on-campus housing, this is an excellent time for the public to join in our citizens groups efforts to get your letters into UCD addressing this issue. I would send your letters to Ass’t. Chancellor Bob Segar (campus planning) at, and the Provost and Vice-Chancellor Hexter at (taking over for Chancellor Katehi for now) to urge them to prioritize addressing the many problems that UCD is causing their students, and our community due to UCD’s chronic lack of on-campus apartments.   These UCD administrators need to prioritize the building of the massive number of  on-campus apartments needed now, to provide the promised on-campus housing that UCD has neglected to deliver for over two decades.

    Also, please fill out the survey on line for the UCD LRDP update and submit your comments clarifying the need for the on-campus apartments at

    I also welcome those of you with thee same concerns we have about the lack of on-campus housing negatively impacting our community to join us by emailing us at

    1. Jerry Waszczuk

      Also, our California legislators are quite fed up with the University due to their significant mismanagement issues (which have become apparent in the media), and they are particularly fed up with UC Davis and its mismanagement issues which we read about almost daily in the media.

      How many ? Names please .

    2. The Pugilist

      Eileen: I disagree.  I have not seen much evidence that the Regents are responsive to public opinion.  I especially doubt they are responsive on Davis growth issues when most of the region is amused by Davis.  No one is going to step out on a limb to protect the regressive growth policies of Davis.  It’s a point of a ridicule.

  5. skeptical

    Pug list

    “regressive” “a point of ridicule”

    Regressive means to become less developed.  Where is the evidence to support such a ridiculous charge???

    Davis housing prices are at a premium to the entire region, that is hardly an expression of ridicule.

    It’s fine to have a different view, but your wildly ill informed rhetoric is tiresome.  Put forth support for your own view and stop the name calling of those views you oppose.

  6. Misanthrop

    “Regressive means to become less developed.  Where is the evidence to support such a ridiculous charge???”

    In the street outside of my house. No that isn’t a meteorite its a chunk of asphalt from our crumbling streets.

    At Rainbow City, in our shrinking city staff, our leaky pools, contaminated wells, the horrendous bike path on Russell. The decline is obvious everywhere you look.

    The high housing prices are a product of a growing University and lack of additional supply. People  outside Davis think we are nuts. If you don’t know it you need to get out more. Woodland thinks we are nuts spending years bickering over how to pay for our water system, a problem they solved in short order. Why? They took an off the shelf system while we tried to reinvent the wheel. Growth limits like J/R are getting voted down all over place. Woodland also is saying thank you to our craziness on housing development and adding thousands of homes at much lower prices to poach the benefits of our foolishness. They are also going to build one of our innovation parks for us and gain all of the revenue. I’m speculating but I think they shake their heads and say okay let’s take advantage of Davis’ foolishness. We will build on our side of the Davis periphery if they won’t build on theirs. Its just a few miles and a little more carbon in the air.

    West Sac is trying to poach Schilling’s new factory. Sacramento is after the World Food Center. I just saw where Folsom was rated one of the best suburbs in the nation.

    You don’t think these other jurisdictions don’t think we are silly? You really do live in a bubble.

    1. hpierce

      I, for one, don’t care about what other communities think… I care about what I think…and I think we’re being silly (or foolish, etc, pick your adjective)…

      But then again, I don’t believe the existing community should expect to BENEFIT from new development… just made whole… a sorta’ “no harm no foul” kharma… if we happen to come out ahead, that’s great, and something to be sought… but not a litmus test.

  7. Marina Kalugin

    Once again, lots of food for thought….and of course, opinions and stories to be shared   LOL

    Back in the 70s for a while I lived in this amazing farmhouse in a communal situation with at least 10-12 students of life on the border of the UCD campus.

    I LOVED it…for those around at THOSE days, it was the old NISHI property farmhouse…  Heaven on earth here in Davis, CA…

    A fire completely demolished that lovely historic house…

    Back in the 60s, my father , Nicolai N. Kalugin, GFDS Engineers, was the STRUCTURAL Engineer for Orchard Park….  Now it is to be demolished.  THAT was a lovely spot with gardens and space and CHEAP rent for the many friends with families…

    And, now Solano Park is the ONLY such residence for student families….they have their own organic gardens and so forth…and it is CHEAP and quaint and low cost and maintenance…

    UCD started WEST VILLAGE and is doing it’s part to house students, but not so much to house faculty and staff.

    Due to the OVERBUILDING going on right now in OTHER areas of Davis,  UCD is not willing to spend the money to build for faculty and staff right now…it is NOT needed.

    NISHI is NOT needed either…

    Solano Park does NOT need to be removed.

    We may NEED more light industrial…aka Apple or other high tech companies.

    But, that location is NOT it…

    Nishi is, or has been,  a thriving excellent soil farm….

    Just because some developer bought it at a bargain and now is trying to offload HIS investment and to make a fortune,  DAVIS and UCD does NOT need it…

    There should NOT be ANY housing and there should NOT be any traffic allowed in and out of the area…

    It should STAY a FARM AND be protected by a conservation easement.

    PS>  It is TOO close to the freeway and the toxins which the freeway generate are HEALTH hazards…

    For ANY humans….and other animals also.

    It could be a test side for offgassing from cars and also other testing based on the toxins being spewed from the freeway….

    NO ON NISHI>>>>VOTE NO ON A>>>>>and wake up people…

    Marina Kalugin (Rumiansev)

  8. Marina Kalugin

    Right now the DEMAND is not in the HIGH priced houses…

    Those who live HERE and work HERE cannot afford the Cannery and etc..

    But, most of the new people buying and coming IN to Davis… are fleeing from the BAy Area…THEY are working THERE and clogging up 80 EVEN more.

    THEY are able to sell THEIR mulimillion dollar houses and buy for a fraction HERE..

    Affordable housing?  Give ME a break.

    When the city started demanding 25% affordable, and the giant housing complexes and low income apartments were built, there was NOT enough people in town who could buy or rent or move in.

    My sons could NOT afford the houses and they didn’t need the rentals.

    The developers started advertising in OAKLAND<  and in OAK PARK…and they started getting the low income, minority and health challenged in droves into our town…

    Back when the Enterprise used to advertise the Police Blotter  – guess which streets started showing up regularly on the blotter…

    Yes, THOSE streets adjacent to these new complexes of low income families, some with gang members and others with other problems that are related to POVERTY>…

    That was NOT a solution to the problems in DAVIS…and it only brought in others who became a strain on the school districts and so forth.

    I truly believe in giving a hand up to those who need it.

    But, THAT was not the way to do it either.

    Neither is NISHI>>.and neither are so many of the other “ideas” that are forced upon the masses in this town.

    Again,  FOLLOW the money…… vote for what you KNOW is the TRUTH..

    Support people who are NOT beholden to the developers and the media and the ENTERPRISE especially.

    Follow the VANGUARD>…

    Support our CHANCELLOR…

    Thank you!

    Marina Kalugin (Rumiansev)

  9. Marina Kalugin

    “hopefully the next UC Davis Chancellor will be more understanding of this impact on the Davis community and work with city leadership in a way that is collaborative”

    REALLY>>>>> UCD even hired JOHN MEYER to grease the wheels of collaboration.

    Truly, one can make ones point without OBVIOUS lies…

    Read my other comments on what is happening with WEST VILLAGE and WHY….. jeez people..

    Stop blaming the Chancellor on imaginary wrongs…

  10. Marina Kalugin

    PS>  If there are ANY engineers on this thread, one will understand that the apartments which are Orchard Park were at jeapordy of being SUED due to lack of ADA compliance….

    Because those apartments are UCD owned, that means UCD would be sued.

    The DESIGN of the buildings would make the cost of updating to ADA compliance PROHIBITIVE>>..

    Thus, although my DAD (RIP) was the Structural engineer and managing Partner of that project, I have to acknowledge that it was needed to close it down.

    Those units were NOT needed to fill the need at that moment in time.

    I still enjoy, while giving tours around town to new hires, to mention that was my uncle’s job…

    That development was not nearly as exciting as the BART, the Sutro Tower, the Stanford Children’s Hospital, the HOOVER institute, the Oakland Children’s Hospital, Jack London Square and so much more…. bridges on the way to BIG SUR, the UNION and Camponile at UCSB and so forth….

    Not forgetting, other projects like the SF Ferry Building, and high-rises and bridges in China and Brazil….

    That, my friends is the truth and THAT is why Orchard Park had to be closed down..

    It is NOT worth the cost YET to tear it down and clean up and so forth, while there are SO many new apartments on campus now and nearby off campus, where UCD HAS been putting investment into.

    Marina Kalugin (Rumiansev)







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