Touring Poly Canyon Village

Foggy August morning in San Luis Obispo
Foggy August morning in San Luis Obispo

This weekend I drove around Poly Canyon Village getting an appreciation for the scope and the immensity of the student housing project comprised of nine 5-story residential housing buildings that hold about 2700 students on 30 acres.  (Please see Tuesday’s story for those photos).

On Wednesday I was able to arrange a small tour of the interior of the project.  Obviously the details of the interior can change depending on need, but it enabled me to get a sense for how Cal Poly chose to use the facility.

As we noted, Cal Poly wants to house about 65 percent of its students on campus “as soon as possible.”

A January article in the San Luis Obispo newspaper quotes a Cal Poly spokesperson, Matt Lazier, stating that “in the coming months the university intends to begin the process of developing another student housing complex with the goal of housing all freshmen and sophomores on campus by 2020.”

On the tour I learned that Poly Canyon Village (PCV) is mostly a sophomore living area.  There is one building dedicated to transfer students, but for the most part it houses second-year students.  According to my tour guide, about half of the campus’ sophomores live in this facility.

Cal Poly is in the process of adding additional student housing.  The entire swath on the west side of the former Grand Avenue entrance has been torn up and there will be additional housing there, it appears as soon as 2020.

On the tour, we got to see a model unit.  Again, the specifics of how another location would situate living space and accommodations would be subject to change.  Basically these are modeled as halfway between a dormitory and an apartment.  The corridor looks like a hotel hallway.

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The guide told us that most of the students do not use a meal plan when they live a PCV.  The units have a kitchen with a stove, refrigerator, microwave and sink.  The place settings, dishes and pots are not included.  She explained that most students buy their own food – Trader Joe’s is a popular destination for students – and prepare their own meals.

The living space has a small living room or common area with a couch and easy chair.  There is a mounting for a TV, but the trend for most students seems to be away from purchasing TVs and toward using laptops and tablets to watch streaming shows on Hulu and Netflix.  However, she had a friend who lived in a location where they hooked up two TVs and used it to show movies.

Each of these units have four or five single-occupancy rooms where the student has living quarters which are furnished with a bed, storage beneath the bed, a closet and a desk.

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While it is an independent living space, it is not entirely like apartment life.  The students do not have to do their own cleaning – at least of the two restrooms that the unit shares.  They look kind of like hospital restrooms, but a cleaning service comes in to clean and supply the bathroom, and vacuum at least the common areas.  They can also order bedding and bath items through the university store.

They don’t have to pay for utilities.  In San Luis Obispo, with a coastal climate, they don’t have air conditioning the rooms.

The retail area was closed at this time, but it includes a post office, some small restaurants including a Jamba Juice, coffee, bagels and other small eating facilities. The guide noted that there is a store, but said that unless students are on some sort of plan, the cost is expensive.

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The entire facility has some common areas, as well, including a study lounge, complete with a variety of high-tech hook ups for computers and other communications devices.

There is also an more entertainment-focused common area that has TV, a piano, a pool table and ping pong table, a rudimentary exercise room, a swimming pool, and a volleyball area.

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That was the extent of our tour. Obviously the living quarters are the bulk of PCV and most of those are similar to what we see on this tour.

And again, the specifics of what such an area could hold would depend on the university and developers.

—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. Tia Will

    Thanks for the tour David. This looks to me like a nice transitional option from  dorm life as I knew it at Francisco Torres, the off campus dorm at Isla Vista where I lived prior to starting medical school in 1979 and living in a “mini-dorm” here in Davis in the present. As a re-entry student, significantly older than many of the dorm inhabitants, I appreciated the relative privacy of the spaces reserved for the “older students” ( they attempted to age match us) while still having meal plans and laundry and cleaning available. I believe that there is a market for these kinds of living spaces for some older students as well as just for the freshmen and think this is a model worthy of consideration

  2. Marina Kalugin

    this model is also being done on campus and has for over a decade, when my son lived in such an option in his 2nd year.  I agree, more is needed and welcomed.


  3. South of Davis

    Tia wrote:

    > This looks to me like a nice transitional option from  dorm life as I knew

    > it at Francisco Torres, the off campus dorm at Isla Vista where I lived prior

    > to starting medical school in 1979

    In 1980 I was still in High School and drove down to UCSB with a friend (with our surfboards on top of his 2002tii) to spend the weekend in his sister’s dorm room at FT.  His sister got mad that we were telling the girls we went to Cal (and lived in the Deke house on Piedmont Avenue).  My friend was a good looking water polo player and didn’t make it back to his sisters room on Friday or Saturday night.  It is funny to think that if we drove down just one year earlier I might have been hearing stories about a pre-med student named Tia as we drove home…

    P.S. to David did they tell you what the dorms rent for per bed and apartments rent for per unit at PCV?



  4. ryankelly

    The Tercero dorms look a lot like this.  If you said that you were touring housing at UCD I wouldn’t have known the difference, except for the surrounding view.  Same furniture, size of rooms, look of the lounge areas, etc.  They must source their furniture from the same company.  Davis is doing this, but the dorms are dedicated to freshman students at this point.   The buildings have study areas, lounges with TVs and laundry mats, but students go to the ARC and the Rec Pool for exercise and swimming.  There is the Dining Commons for meals and a little store.  It is the intention that West Village will have the apartments for Sophomore and upper division students, I believe.

    David, Do you know how many beds West Village will have once it is built out?

        1. David Greenwald

          But remember, Cal Poly has half the students of UC Davis. It also has a goal of 65% on-campus housing. UC Davis has 25% on-campus housing and is planning to add about 7000 in the next decade. That’s the challenge that Davis has.

        2. ryankelly

          Yes, that is a concern.  However, we can’t completely ignore the housing on campus that the University already provides.  All the existing dorms and apartments, the coop housing, etc.  Also, we would also have to take into account all of the student focused housing that already exists in the City of Davis.  Apartments, mini-dorms that are now inappropriate for housing for families and professionals, etc.

          David, Has anyone completed a complete inventory of all of the beds in Davis?

        3. Grok

          But remember, Cal Poly has half the students of UC Davis. It also has a goal of 65% on-campus housing. UC Davis has 25% on-campus housing and is planning to add about 7000 in the next decade. That’s the challenge that Davis has. -DG

          The immediate challenge Davis has is convincing UCD that being the second largest UC by enrollment, but housing the fewest students is going to have to change as they project such large enrollment growth. UCD is in the middle of its long range planning process now, and just recently increased its planed housing. Now is the time to do everything we can to convince the University they need to put in more housing.

        4. Eileen Samitz

          David Greenwald
          August 11, 2016 at 10:33 am

          But remember, Cal Poly has half the students of UC Davis. It also has a goal of 65% on-campus housing. UC Davis has 25% on-campus housing and is planning to add about 7000 in the next decade. That’s the challenge that Davis has.

          David, please remember that UC Irvine has over 31,500 students yet is providing 50% of all of their student housing. UCD Irvine has no where near the 5,300 acres that UCD has, however, UC Irvine clearly has a capable planning department who know how to plan and care enough about their students to provide the on-campus housing that they need on their campus.

          If UC Irvine can do it, there is no excuse why UC Davis can’t do it. If not, then UCD really needs to look into hiring more capable planners for the job of planning the future of UCD for the sake of UCD’s students, the UCD campus, and our community.

    1. David Greenwald

      They have two parking garages but apparently overbuilt capacity so they are trying to figure out what to do with the extra spaces. Student driving is way down across the board.

      1. South of Davis

        David wrote:

        > Student driving is way down across the board.

        Today it costs about $1K/month for a college kid to have a car when you add up ALL the costs (including insurance, gas, tires, maintenance, repairs and depreciation).

        With Uber and Zipcar you don’t really need a car anymore.  We are driving our own cars less and less since we now take Uber when we go to dinner in Downtown Davis or Sacramento and I recently took a (BMW X3) Zipcar from Davis to Tahoe to meet with a contractor.  Even with the more expensive per hour BMW and the add on for going over 180 miles in a day it was HALF the cost of taking my own car (using the AAA estimated cost per mile).

        1. Topcat

          With Uber and Zipcar you don’t really need a car anymore.

          Despite this, there are a lot of residences in Davis that have lots of vehicles.  My next door neighbors are an “empty nester” couple and they have 3 vehicles.  A childless couple across the street also have three vehicles (and they have a one car garage full of junk so they park their cars on the street).  A rental house in the neighborhood has 4 vehicles for three post doc and graduate students plus one girlfriend.

          It’s unrealistic to think that we are going to have car free living any time soon; especially with the cheap gas we have now.

  5. Marina Kalugin

    the look, feel, colors, even furniture is very similar to what UCD was building starting over a dozen years ago….Miller dorm complex is an example –  more recently, the various new buildings of Tercero…and if one tours the off-campus redo of Castilian, that and the developer built apartments in West Village, one will see where this model started.

    the “village” concept of  a Poly Canyon, and then emulated by other newer UCs, like Irvine, was conceived and initiated by UCSC in the 60s…..and built out to achieve the look it has now…

    for those interested more about  that, which was initially discussed on the other Poly Canyon thread,  a slideshow by the UCSC Campus Architect Emeritus is at this link:

    this slideshow will explain much of the vision of aesthetics and design and such on why certain things are done to create a “pleasing ” environment   – because UCD is flat, not all of that can work when one doesn’t have a “canyon” landscape, but I found that presentation quite fascinating and some may also see it and understand what UCD has been doing…

    (PS>   on that same website, there are other presentations on other topics, which some who are interested in topics related to UC may also find illuminating…I especially recommend the Genome presentation by Haussler, UCSC’s only HHMI Sr. Investigator…..I understand some my state this is offtopic, however, that was the last ABOG I was able to attend…was too ill this year to make it…..although the audience for these slideshows was restricted to UCD senior managers and UC leaders and so on….I have always believed in sharing such with my faculty and staff and students and anyone else interested.

    Information and knowledge is power, and I am a firm believer in sharing information and knowledge, in more recent months and years, been taken to task for doing that “too much” and “with those who didn’t need to know”…

    It is too bad that Regent Ruiz’s talk was not taped nor shared….but I would bet he would welcome the DV to interview him.  Truly, his message was critical to understanding some of what I brought up on other threads, for which I was also taken to task……As  a very long-time Regent, who is one of the most successful Latino businessmen in CA, and who was leaving the Regents, he shared how appalled he is about some of the actions by newer, younger Regent appointees and his concern that the UC is under attack inappropriately…as well as his concerns about the President of UC and the current Gov of CA) Since that was his last term, he was extremely candid!!! )



  6. Marina Kalugin

    my “empty nest” has three cars…. and we use all of them regularly …and so do my kids and their friends…and our neighbors at times….the AWD Sienna, with run flat tires, goes here and there hauling people and things around….between the many places I am required to be…and so on…. a week and a half ago I put on over 2400 miles trying to get away for a vacation in Baja and having to come back across the border  several times in less than a total 6 day  “vacation”   and on I -5 gas was an average of nearly $4/gallon at most Chevrons along the way…- how is that cheap???

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