This week we have been discussing the issue of rental housing – how much housing the university should provide, and how much the city should supply at this point. Clearly, there are disagreements in the community over this issue.
As I stated in yesterday’s column, “There is an overwhelming sentiment that UC Davis needs to put a much larger percentage of housing on campus than they currently provide. “
As one commenter put it, “UCD needs to get their priorities straightened out and (provide) much more housing on-campus, as the other UC’s and other teaching institutions have.”
I don’t think there is a question that UC Davis has not prioritized this. As Eileen Samitz has noted, at least twice in recent years UC Davis has agreed to increase their on-campus housing, but have failed to do so.
I do not think that most people would disagree with any of this. The question as I put it is what can we reasonably do to change their actions. The city has created their own subcommittee of Mayor Robb Davis and Councilmember Rochelle Swanson to work with the university on issues related to their Long Range Development Plan (LRDP).
Mayor Davis has already worked behind the scenes with UC Davis to convince them – for the time being, successfully – to increase plans to expand student housing.
Still – I think we have a problem here. UC Davis has shown, not just now but in the past, that they are willing to promise to increase on-campus housing options. The problem is that they haven’t followed through.
Is creating a subcommittee on LRDP or having an ongoing two-by-two, assuming that’s even possible, the answer? Maybe. But I do think we are being a bit overly optimistic here. After all, words are cheap and promises fall prey to difficult planning realities.
But there is more than that. UC Davis might be pressured into changing their policies, but at least looking at their history, I’m not sure why one would count on that. The legislature, which has a heckuva lot more power than local residents, had to bribe UC to change their admissions policies to admit more in-state students – and yes, that will have a trickle-down effect on us as well.
But my point here is that I think we’re being a bit naïve to think in the end a little pressure from council and the citizens is going to compel UC Davis to do something it doesn’t want to do.
And even if they do agree – as they have – there is no guarantee they will follow through in the long term.
That was part of the point of yesterday’s exercise demonstrating that UC Davis has a lot of problems with getting development proposals underway and completed. We have seen West Village, a logical location for additional housing, and yet it has been a 15-year process already.
As Don Shor pointed out, while UC Davis does have a lot of land, the amount of developable land is probably far less. Clearly, as we have suggested, the possibility exists for a high-density student housing location. As we noted, Cal Poly was able to house 2700 students on just 30 acres. UC Davis could find twice that to house 5400 or more students.
Still, the history of this suggests that UC Davis is not going to be able to move fast to address this issue and, with 6800 new students set to arrive in the next decade, the clock is ticking.
I am not supportive of an all on-campus approach here. I do believe that UC Davis needs to figure out a way to house that 90 percent, but that still leaves probably 3000 to 4000 beds that the city must provide or force students to commute from out of town – and, despite people’s ability to pull up available units on websites, the math from the last few years suggests that 10,000 people commute and there is not room for them or the expected increase in student population.
One poster asks quite reasonably: “Should Davis be forced to jump to building more housing every time the University plans to expand enrollment?”
This is actually a far more interesting and complex question than was perhaps intended. First of all, Davis doesn’t jump to do anything, especially build new housing. Part of why our vacancy rate is so low is that we haven’t done a lot of building, even as UC Davis has rapidly increased in size.
Second, I have problem with the implicit notion that this is an us against them world. In a lot of ways, we are UC Davis. A huge percentage of our community works for UC Davis and, therefore, our livelihood depends on the livelihood of UC Davis. I don’t see how we can separate that.
Our city brand and our core identity are inextricably linked to the university. While UC Davis itself is not calling all of the shots here, some of the growth is coming from above, some of the growth is at the core of trying to make a UC education more accessible and affordable for students.
Think of this as a critical company that is attempting to expand – they want to bring in more jobs and customers and we want to balk at providing at least some of the housing? That doesn’t sound like being a good partner.
On the other hand, I readily agree that UC Davis hasn’t been the best of partners either – they have not lived up to their agreements to provide for their share of housing.
I still think the key question is what is the fair share of housing that each side should provide? Some people seem to believe that Davis, the city, has no obligation whatsoever to provide for any of that housing. Given our relationship and the benefits a large portion of our community gains from UC Davis, I cannot go there.
Bottom line and perhaps where I part ways with some – I believe that both UC Davis and the city of Davis have an obligation to provide more housing than they are currently. For the university, I would look toward a small footprint, but dense project, toward the south end of campus. For Davis, I would look at small infill spots or places like Nishi close to campus, which can accommodate apartments and rental housing.
—David M. Greenwald reporting