An item about the formation of a council subcommittee on UC Davis’ Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) spawned a broad community discussion, which prompted the council to consider a City-UC Davis standing subcommittee as well.
As the staff report notes, “Before UC Davis embarks on the next steps in the development of the LRDP (including formal ‘scoping’ of the plan options and preparation of an Environmental Impact Report which is expected to be initiated in mid-October), it is critical for the City to engage campus leadership on key policy areas of interest between the City and UC Davis.”
It continues, “A key component of the UC Davis LRDP will be focused on campus plans for accommodating student housing on campus. How the campus accommodates student housing into the future will have profound impacts on the Davis community and our own long range land use planning efforts.”
The council will appoint two members to serve as a subcommittee, and, given the potential for overlap between the LRDP and city innovation center efforts including how Nishi is analyzed, the recommendation from staff was to mirror the LRDP subcommittee membership with that of an innovation center subcommittee.
Alan Hirsch pointed out that, as the city looks to potentially blend the Innovation Park Task Force with the LRDP, there is confusion between economic development and community development. He sees economic development, the building of jobs and employment, as a smaller and more narrow issue.
He argued, “The benefits have not trickled down to the community, so people are very cynical about economic development.” Instead, he argued, “I think we ought to focus on community development.”
Colin Walsh commended the city’s focus on the creation of a subcommittee. He said that “it is critical for the city to engage campus leaders on policy areas of interest between the city and UC Davis.” He expressed optimism that the university would be open to the city’s input.
Mr. Walsh saw three key issues. First, encouraging the university to increase the supply of “reasonably priced student housing on campus.” Second, “assuring that there is a clear and well noticed communication, community interaction with the LRDP process.” Finally, “the choices that the university makes on land adjacent to the city best promote the relationship between the university and the city.”
He questioned the need to include the innovation center efforts in the LRDP process. He suggested separate subcommittees for those two processes.
Eileen Samitz added her support for the subcommittee. She again pushed for the need for significantly more student housing on campus. She noted that current policies accommodate first-year students, which means students then get pushed out of the dorms “and then the university’s housing needs wind up being deflected to the community and that is basically pushing our workforce (and) our families out of our own rental housing and it’s not only unfair to the community, it’s unfair to the students.”
This need for on-campus housing “is seriously and negatively impacting our city planning in a big way, including our sustainability goals.” “Nothing would reduce more of our carbon footprint than for UC Davis to build more on-campus housing to reduce the traffic, parking and all of the other commuting that students have to do.”
Sunny Shine expressed concern about the development of the apartments on Russell Fields. She noted that she just started organizing her neighborhood on this issue, and most people are unaware of the plans and are opposed to them. She said in the last week she has gotten 150 people to respond and commit to doing whatever they need to oppose such a development.
“That’s just in a week,” she said. “Let’s just do what’s right for the community that’s already here and the neighborhoods that are already here. They’re precious, they’re historic and they’re working.”
Elaine Roberts Musser said, “I think that economic development should very much be part of the discussion between the university and the city. To leave that out, I think would be foolish.”
She added, “The university is looking to partner with the city on startups and things like that – why would we want to cut off that discussion?”
Mayor Pro Tem Brett Lee pointed out the lack of overall coordination between the university and the city. He said that while the LRDP process gives the council something specific to sink its teeth into, other entities and the city have a two-by-two where they can meet regularly and coordinate in a public process. “Where’s the two-by-two with the university in general?” he asked. “They’re the most important entity in close proximity to the city of Davis.”
He said while there is overlap between the innovation parks planning and the LRDP, there is a more fundamental need for a more general coordinated planning that could be done with a two-by-two.
Rochelle Swanson said a two-by-two makes sense, but she called the LRDP “an overarching issue.” She mentioned that a huge focus of UC Davis as well as the city of Davis is economic development – she lamented the loss of Nishi, MRIC and other potential projects but believes that a broader discussion on economic development and the need for the city and university to partner has actually grown out of the LRDP process.
“It has to be a conversation more about student housing within that document,” she said.
The council passed the staff recommendation to appoint Rochelle Swanson and Robb Davis to the LRDP subcommittee, with the caveat that they would consider longer term the idea of a permanent subcommittee for a potential two-by-two.
The council gave direction to bring the item back at a future meeting about such a two-by-two with the university.
—David M. Greenwald reporting