Guest Commentary: Nishi Provides for Housing Needs

Nishi-where-isBy Charlie Persson

I think most Davis residents, in our hearts, want to see everyone in our community with a roof overhead. We know our city and our state are facing a housing shortage that is unprecedented. Davis today has 0.2% vacancy rate in rental units, making our housing market one of the most constricted in the nation.

This drives up rents, and compels many Davis students and workers to commute from other cities, often through Richards Boulevard. This is the backdrop for which we consider the fate of Measure A, a ballot initiative to approve the Nishi Gateway innovation park that will appear this Tuesday. If voters approve Measure A, Nishi will construct 650 units, including 210 compact condominiums and 440 units for students.

The 1,500 beds for students at Nishi are sufficient to prepare our city for 35% of the influx of new students expected by 2020. Of all units at Nishi, 239 will be under 850 square feet and most will be under 1,110 square feet. These are modern buildings, with state of the art energy efficient climate control and easy access for seniors and the disabled, providing an in demand niche of housing that is almost completely unavailable in Davis.

Situated directly between the campus and downtown, with miles of walk and bike paths built into and surrounding Nishi, Measure A is designed to make car-free living a preferred way of life. Monthly fees to store cars and caps on car travel during peak hours contribute to this goal.  With a Unitrans stop on site and an Amtrak station practically within eyesight, Nishi encourages public transit. With the campus, Arboretum, and a vibrant downtown as next door neighbors, Nishi is positioned to attract people who love both the City of Davis and the University of California at Davis.

In addition to housing, Measure A authorizes construction of 325,000 square feet of research and development space, which our city desperately needs to retain small businesses that emerge from technological discoveries on campus.

All units at Nishi are dense infill with stacked flat condominiums and vertical mixed-use, providing our city with housing otherwise unavailable to us. City Council unanimously approved  an affordable housing waiver for projects similar to Nishi. To further fulfill city housing needs, in the final binding agreement, the city and developers agreed that Nishi would privately contribute $1 million to the city’s affordable housing fund. This is on top of more than $23 million going to infrastructure projects mostly geared toward improving traffic and almost $2 million annually going to support city services and Davis Joint Unified School District. If voters approve Measure A, $9 million in fees will immediately be provided to the city before a single shovel breaks ground.

Nishi provides types of housing our city doesn’t have, and it frees up housing in family neighborhoods. Housing for students at Nishi is at a price point comparable to existing dorms, and with the affordable housing funded by Nishi, future housing will be created where it’s needed most.

We are blessed to live in a city that includes a walkable downtown with ample restaurants, shops, cafes, and nightlife. Our city has a fair number of employment opportunities, and with one of the world’s greatest research universities at our doorstep, opportunities for additional employment are ours for the taking with smart public policy. Measure A creates between 1,500 to 1,800 new permanent local jobs, helping even more existing Davis residents to live here.

For all these reasons, voters concerned about widening gaps in access to housing should vote Yes on Measure A.

Charlie Persson is a ten year Davis resident with a background in renewable energy, green building and  energy efficiency. Currently self employed and at UC Davis Craft Center.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Eric Gelber

    “Nishi Provides for Housing Needs” — except for those priced out of the housing market who are the intended beneficiaries of the Affordable Housing Ordinance.

    “City Council unanimously approved an affordable housing waiver for projects similar to Nishi.” Actually, the waiver was enacted to incentivize small infill projects–not projects similar to Nishi. Unfortunately, it was written in a way that large peripheral projects like Nishi   were also exempted.

    Nishi Provides for Some Housing Needs. I hope the Council will revisit the issue of the Nishi exemption regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s vote.

  2. Alan Pryor

    When built-out, Nish will make the Davis housing crunch even worse. Let’s do the math.

    The Nishi developers claim the new “Innovation Center” business park will bring 1,800 new jobs. The people in the new jobs and their families will need housing. The Nishi condos and apartments include only 1,432 bedrooms.

    1,432 bedrooms minus
    1,800 new employees and family who need housing
    Equals net loss in housing availability

    1. nameless

      If Nishi is not built, NO tax revenue to the city, NO traffic improvements, NO new R&D space, NO money towards affordable housing fund, NO new jobs, NO new economic activity for the downtown.

    2. Dan Carson

      Alan, Your math disregards the fact that Nishi Gateway will create jobs for persons living in the Davis housing market today. Part of the strategy behind building an innovation center was to match up high-quality, high-education jobs with Davis’ unusually highly educated workforce.  The independent economic experts hired by the city to review the innovation center strategy say our well-educated workforce and the proximity to UC Davis are key factors in why the city’s economic development strategy, including the Nishi project, will succeed. SACOG is holding up this project as a model for the region because it will improve the jobs-housing balance. I disagree with you: Davis does need new jobs. We don’t have all the jobs we need.

      And, as this campaign winds down, I want to thank you and your No on A colleagues. I think we are all better off as Davis citizens for having had this robust discussion. It’s why I supported Measure J and its renewal. This debate has of course reaffirmed my support for Measure A.

      1. Fred

        The vast majority of people who are in the housing market in Davis today have jobs or are students. Jobs are how people can afford to live in Davis. If they leave their old jobs to take new jobs in the Nishi development, someone else will fill their old jobs and you still have the pressure on the housing market.

        I also think its great that students graduating from UCD might have a better chance of finding professional jobs in Davis and staying in the city with an innovation park. But we have to consider that those students are replaced at the university every year by new incoming students, so if more students find jobs and stay that too will increase the housing crunch.

        Don’t get me wrong, I think more and better jobs is great, but this project has been sold (to students in particular) as relieving the housing crunch and it just does not do that. It actually makes it worse.
        I do appreciate your endorsement of the Measure J process and on that we agree.

        1. The Pugilist

          Myself and most people I know live in Davis and commute to Sacramento.  Part of the problem in Davis is unless you work for the university, you most likely commute out of town.  That’s not healthy.  And now most people who work at the university, live out of town and most people who live in town commute to work.

  3. CalAg

    Magical thinking from the Nishi proponents:

    (1) The commercial space will only have employees that live in Davis
    (2) The multifamily will only house UCD students
    (3) Construction of new commercial space “creates” jobs

    I could go on, but it’s a waste of time.


      1. CalAg

        Yep. I don’t care where the employees live. Nishi was an economic development opportunity site. Now it’s on track to be little more than another piece in the Tandem/Whitcombe apartment empire.

    1. Frankly

      Magical thinking by the Nishi opponents:

      (1) The city does not need more commercial space.

      (2) We don’t need to build more rental housing.

      (3) The city does not need more jobs.

      I could go on but it is a waste of time.

      1. CalAg

        Frankly, your parallel construction falls flat on it’s face. Pretty lame. Why not discuss the issues like the professional that you are?

        Please explain how building more commercial space “creates” jobs. Why is our existing vacant space not “creating” those jobs?

        1. Frankly

          Pretty lame.

          As was your post.

          Please explain how building more commercial space “creates” jobs.

          Simple.  If you are a business that would locate here and there is not suitable space available you would not locate here and the jobs you would otherwise provide the community would not materialize.

          However, if you are a business looking for space and have a desire for your business to be located in Davis and there is suitable space available in Davis, then you would locate here and create jobs for the community.

          Is isn’t the existence of space that CalAg can see driving around town, it is the inventory of suitable space.  And before you try and tell me you know better, I am in the process of launching a business and there is only ONE space in town that is suitable, but with a lot of compromise.  But there are several spaces in Woodland.

          Is this really that hard to understand?

          1. Don Shor

            In some cases it helps entrepreneurs create jobs. Frankly wants to start a business, finds space, creates the business, that creates jobs.
            In some cases it helps keep jobs here that would go elsewhere. I think if Schilling could make use of one of the vacant lots in town, his company would be in negotiations already with the property owner. Lack of willing property owners is, I’m told, a factor in why some of those apparently-available lots haven’t been developed. They’re holding onto the land for something else, or simply to let it appreciate in value.
            Some companies don’t want to negotiate and wait for raw land to be developed. They need to move up now, they want space now. Price is obviously a consideration, but if it’s the only consideration then they’re already going to move to Dixon or West Sac. But some wish to be closer to UCD for one reason or another. If all they see around is raw land, they’re not going to wait around for it to become buildings. ‘Build to suit’ is a different market than ‘move right in’.

        2. CalAg

          The “unsuitable” space argument is complete horse (manure). The poster child for this argument was the old Monsanto space.

          From Jim Gray’s 2015 Mid-Year Review …

          It has a “functional obsolescence” that makes backfilling it with a modern company very problematic, if not impossible.

          This functionally obsolete space that was considered impossible to backfill, is now home to the Davis facility of the publicly traded company Intrexon. This link gives some insights into their plans for the Davis site::

          The same people that are whining about our current inventory of commercial space will still be whining if the proposed Nishi space is ever built.

    2. Fred

      1) I am sure that some employees at the new business park will be commuters form other cities. There are lots of people who commute to Davis now because they cant afford housing here. Building a project like this with more jobs than housing will undoubtedly mean more commuters.

      2) With a business park right there, freeway and train access with nice luxury apartments and condos. seems like some young professionals might be interested to me. I have seen people post on hear about how rowdy the students are an how no one wants to live near them. Sure some students are like that, but as a whole UCD students are a driven and hard working bunch and perfectly pleasant to have as neighbors.

      3) Constriction of commercial space creates temporary construction jobs, after that anything could happen.


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