Analysis: Is On-Campus Housing Low-Hanging Fruit?

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For all of the complaining about the confining nature of Davis’ Measure R, which requires the conversion of agricultural land outside the city to go through a public vote, it is not all that clear that developing inside the city without a Measure R vote would be less constraining.

A few months ago Nishi went down to electoral defeat by about 600 votes, marking the third time in the last 12 years that a Measure J/R project was defeated at the ballot box.

But even without Measure R, development is difficult in Davis.  Cannery went through several iterations and even a number of different developers before the project was ultimately approved in 2013.  In the last few years we saw pushback on Paso Fino, resulting in that project’s reduced size and we have seen this year pushback against Trackside (resulting in reductions) and Sterling Apartments (outcome still unknown), not to mention strong pushback on the Hyatt House hotel.

For those who believe the problem here is simply the nature of infill – that is not clear either.  Nishi, which really had limited numbers of neighbors, was defeated at the polls.  The Davis Innovation Center, which was a peripheral project, was pulled after the residents of the Binning Tract started to mount opposition against that project. And Mace Ranch Innovation Center (MRIC), if it were to include housing, had folks starting to line up to oppose that – leading to the council keeping it commercial only and MRIC being pulled.

Against this backdrop the city is facing a mounting shortage of rental housing.  Last fall, surveys found a 0.2 percent vacancy rate for rental housing.  With the university expecting to add another 1000 students this fall, that shortage could become more pronounced with students forced to pack even more tightly into existing housing and further impacting the supply of single-family housing for families and other older residents.

What is the solution?

One approach from the city’s perspective has been to find some spots in town to develop apartment and other rental units.  That has been, at best, a slow process.  Nishi would have provided around 1500 beds, but was narrowly defeated in June at the polls.  Sterling Apartments could provide 1000 beds or more, but there has been strong opposition, particularly from Rancho Yolo.  Lincoln40 along Olive Drive might provide some beds, but it still needs to go through the public process.

The Vanguard has this year suggested that the city find somewhere between 3000 and 4000 beds in the short term to help alleviate the shortfall of housing, but even that somewhat modest proposal has been met with strong pushback.

Others have suggested putting pressure on the university to fill their housing obligations.  While the city does not have direct authority to compel UC Davis to build housing on campus, there are a number of reasons to suggest that UC Davis might be the better location, especially given the lack of on-campus housing that they have provided.

However, even here there are signs of difficulty.

First, UC Davis seems just as susceptible to pressure as the city.  A plan to tear down and densify Solano Park was scrapped, at least temporarily, in the face of protests from existing students.  Second, a plan to consider building housing along Russell Boulevard has been met with opposition, and the plan might be scrapped.

Third, the plans for building at West Village were delayed, first by lawsuit and then by the economic downturn.

This spring, the university, through its Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) process, announced a plan to provide up to 90 percent of new student housing.  The question is whether they will follow through, as twice in the past they have made similar promises but failed to follow through.

In 1989 UC Davis agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that committed to providing 25 percent of its existing student population and 35 percent of incoming students with on-campus housing.  However, they never followed through with that.

Thirteen years later, in 2012, the university produced a report, “UC Housing for the 21st Century,” which acknowledged the need for more on-campus housing UC-wide and established a 42 percent goal for all campuses.  UC Davis was to provide at least 38 percent by 2012.

However, as Eileen Samitz reported last year, “This plan for UCD student housing never materialized. UCD has one of the nation’s largest campuses with over 5,000 acres,” and yet has failed to hit the critical 30 percent mark let alone 38 percent.

UC Davis makes a lot of sense for supplying much needed rental housing, but it does not appear to represent low-hanging fruit.  There are cost considerations that go with prevailing wage and other requirements.  They appear just as susceptible to land use issues and neighbor concerns as the city.

Finally, while the university is driving a lot of the housing demand, the city has little ability to force UC to act.

The next few months will be critical in determining how far the university is willing to go in terms of supplying housing for its students and alleviating the current housing crunch.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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101 thoughts on “Analysis: Is On-Campus Housing Low-Hanging Fruit?”

      1. South of Davis

        Alan wrote:

        > One thing is for sure, we’ll read it 15 more (by the end of the month).

        Since there are 23 days until the end of the month I wonder what David will write on the other 8 days?

        I’m thinking either different versions of “Racist Cops Shoot People of Color with Hands Up” or “Davis has a bad school district with not enough People of Color in AIM/GATE”…

  1. South of Davis

    David wrote:

    > UC Davis makes a lot of sense for supplying much needed rental

    > housing,  but it does not appear to represent low-hanging fruit. 

    The real “low hanging fruit” is the city owned Symphony/Pacifico property that has been MORE than half empty for OVER TEN (10) YEARS.

    I took some time to ride around the place just yesterday on my way downtown.  The two north buildings have never had even one resident since I moved South of Davis in 2010 (a former Sharps & Flats manager told me the place went to over half empty after they stopped managing it in 2006).

    It looks like only a handfull of people are living in the two south buildings.  A sign in the (closed) office window said rent for a bed was $455 (it has been over $400 since at least 2010).

    Since the place has 112 beds keeping it MORE than half empty has resulted in MORE than $300K year in lost rent a year (or MORE than $3 MILLION over the past decade).  It seems to me that we should fix this problem first (before we go after the former election office people who were buying iPads and traveling with their government credit cards).

  2. Edison

    As the “host city” of a major university, Davis certainly has a number of challenges to housing a growing number of students–one that has been exacerbated by UCD’s seemingly inability or unwillingness to adequately plan and construct on-campus housing.  The situation at UCD is not totally unique, however.  Many other universities have faced a variety of challenges, including limited or constrained on-campus sites, insufficient funding, off-campus sites that are already fully developed, resistance by the local populace, etc.  But those challenges and constraints have been met and successfully overcome by partnering with an experienced and creative nationally recognized and experienced that has been widely praised for its work: American Campus Communities. Vanguard readers are strongly encouraged to look at ACC’s website and see for themselves the great success ACC has had in partnering with universities all over the country to build attractive, well managed on-campus apartments in which students enjoy living. Take the time to look at the video testimonials by university administrators who have solved their housing challenges while simultaneously freeing up scarce capital funds for academic investments.  UCD does not have to “go it alone.” Both UCD and Davis would benefit from such a progressive partnership.

    1. quielo

      I’m starting to get the rhythm of the DV now. Everyday there is at least one article about housing at UCD and then Edison will shill for ACC at least once.

    2. Matt Williams

      Edison, it sounds like you have personal experience dealing with American Campus Communities.  It would be helpful if you shared that experience.

      Thanks for your contributions.

  3. Frankly

    edited
    [Davis residents] so desperately want Davis to stay their little retirement hamlet that they ignore the reality of organic change happening.  They ignore the math.  edited

    Where they screwed up is picking a city that has a large and growing university.

    Check this out.

    Out of all the UC and CSU campuses, Davis has the fifth largest enrollment.   But note something about this list:

    UC LA – 42.2k

    CSU Northridge – 41.6k

    CSU Fullerton – 39k

    UC Berkeley – 37.6K

    UC Davis – 35.4k

    CSU San Diego – 34k

    CSU San Jose – 32.8K

    UC San Diego – 31.5k

    UC Irvine – 30.8k

    CSU Sacramento – 30.3k

    CSU San Francisco – 30.3k

    CSU LA – 27.7k

    All of these campuses, except Davis (arguably) are located in urban areas.

    It is just completely unreasonable to keep blocking growth in the city of Davis.  I feel bad for those that expected to be living in a small college town, but change happens.  They either need to accept the change or if their anxiety is too much, they should move somewhere where there is less change.  There are a lot of places in the US where there is little to no change… Where the the town remains small.

    But it is edited wrong to keep fighting the growth that is a natural and organic result of UCD growth and also regional economic growth.

    Davis must grow.  The opportunity is for SMART growth, not no-growth.

    [moderator] edited to remove insults. Please edit yourself in the future.

      1. South of Davis

        HF wrote:

        > you make interesting points but I do not understand

        > why you choose to deliver it in such a jerky way.

        Frankly’s post would be easier to read if he would avoid the use of (in order of appearance in the last post) NIMBY, fools, idiot, screwed, ascinine [sic]…

        1. Frankly

          I have spent many hours and gallons of ink debating these points of logic and facts.  In fact, what I posted I have posted before.  I have come to the conclusion that the opponents are irrational and cannot be convinced.  Therefore they need to be branded as people not qualified to be listened to.  I lost respect for them because of their tactics used to defeat Measure A.  I don’t trust them.  They lie.  They use any means possible and then sit in smug righteousness that they are somehow respectable and powerful.

          Powerful in Davis because of Measure R.  In any other reasonable and successful community in the state they would be the weird people that must be dealt with.  It is like having a nursery with the children running the business and driving the bus.

          It is asinine that we even need this debate.

          Davis is freakin’ broke and broken.  There is no other community that comes close to our situation.  Yet the fiscal problems, the housing problems, the decay of the downtown problems, the retailers closing and leaving problems, the traffic problems, the congestion problems, the lack of shopping and (good) entertainment option problems, the poorly maintained road problems, the poorly maintained park problems, the unfunded liability problems… they all get swept under the rug by the NIMBYs because there is nothing more important than soothing their anxiety over change.

          That is the essence of foolishness.

          The cooperation we should be seeing is for SMART development, not a fight to just get a single development approved.

          Measure R is a giant mistake.

        2. Alan Miller

          In fact, what I posted I have posted before.

          Well, you and D.G. have something in common:  He wrote this article before!

          Maybe the date on the Vanguard header should always be: Groundhog Day

      2. HouseFlipper

        Please note my earlier post were I criticized frankly’s post is now out of context. It appears the moderator has removed a large portion of Frankly’s post.

  4. HouseFlipper

    Frankly, I can understand how frustrating it must be to feel like you are not being listened to. It is clear that you have some strongly held personal beliefs as to what smart growth is.

    You say that the real break for you during the measure A campaign and that the No side used any means necessary and was willing to lie. Would it surprise you to learn that I have heard the samethings from those that worked on the No side about the Yes side?

    Considering how recently you have come to the conclusion that “the opponents” are irrational and weird please consider the possibility that there could again be positive dialog if both sides stopped thinking of each other as adversaries.

    What would positive dialog look like to you?

    What would positive progress look like to you?

    1. Matt Williams

      HouseFlipper said . . .“please consider the possibility that there could again be positive dialog if both sides stopped thinking of each other as adversaries.

      What would positive dialog look like to you?

      What would positive progress look like to you?”

      I heartily support HouseFlipper’s positive dialogue sentiments.

    2. Frankly

      My business neighbor is Mike Harrington.  I see any attempt at positive dialog a waste of time while we have Measure R and a weak-kneed CC.

      Positive progress would be engaged civic and city leadership working with the city planners and developers to ensure we get world-class developments.   Positive progress would be actions to address the list of problems I included above.  Positive progress would be a change in the general city attitude about growth… from severe opposition to an acceptance and corresponding demand that it be smart.

      Davis is 10 square miles small with a tiny downtown and tiny local economy with 72,000 people milling about.  Meanwhile there are almost endless open lands on three sides of us.  We could build 1000 peripheral acres and we would only be 11.5 square miles.  And we would still be the most population dense little city hosting a major university (I think) in the country.  Progress would include understanding and acknowledgment of this.

      Progress would be acceptance that Davis is broken and broke and needs to expand its local economy to a reasonable level in order to sustain the population.

      Progress would be acceptance of impacts from rental housing growth… regardless if it is on UCD land or other land.

      Progress would be an acknowledgment that traffic and congestion and population growth is already here and will continue to expand and refusal to build is not a rational response to it… and it will lead to even greater problems.

      In general, progress will require that those able to call the shots on the direction of Davis change from being the growth opposition people to the smart-growth advocates.

      However, the no-growther power is only effective because we have a lot of foolish voters.  I used the example of this… a friend that is a business owner downtown that voted No on Measure A because she said she was mad at what the developers were doing to Redrum burger.   Even though she never eats there because, as she said, it is too hard to get too, they take too long, it is not an attractive place to eat, and she did not think the food was that good.   And when I said that Nishi would provide more customers to the downtown that would help her business, she said… but how do we know that?

      So what do you do about people like that?  There are a lot of them.  They are entertaining and cute except when it comes to having a vote that can prevent progress.

        1. Frankly

          Slow-growth is fine.  I am slow-growth believe it or not.  I have said, I would never support a big new housing development just to attract more people to Davis.  We should grow at the average birth rate after playing catch-up for the last 20+ years of limited growth.  But we need to about double our commercial space.  Because by every comparison we have about half of what we should have even without a world-class research university in our lap… one that has been slow to adopt tech transfer and needs to get moving on it.

          Slow growth and smart growth should be our themes.  In fact, I would just do away with slow-growth as a label and replace it with “smart growth”… because then we would chase out those that claim they are slow-growth advocates when they are actually complete growth opposition people.

          I get the emotional hit from something being built next door.  I had it happen with my first house I purchased in Davis.  The developer changed the plans and the neighbors fought it.  This was before Measure R.  Nobody every thought we were entitled to tell the developer he could not develop the project.  It was apartments and a senior center.  The city needed both.  All we wanted was some mitigation.  We got a compromise.  It was what we expected going in.  Where there are competing interests people have to compromise.

          But the current no-growers are just like spoiled children.  They have Measure R and so they have developed an expectation that they can throw a tantrum and get their way.  But they do so in a nasty and unethical way.  They inflame the emotions of the foolish followers.

          The no-growers do not have anything valuable to offer.  They are destructive to the future of the town.  They lack vision.  They are selfish.  They are overly anxious.  They have no business being given such power to dictate the development direction of the town given the situation.  They are a tyranny of the majority when they are teamed up with landlords and property owners blocking development to keep their rents high and the foolish followers that will vote no if a bug gets injured.

      1. Alan Miller

        it is too hard to get too, they take too long, it is not an attractive place to eat, and she did not think the food was that good.

        Wow.  Way to trash a local business.

        1. Frankly

          That was her critique.  I would not know because I have never done any business with that establishment.   Have you?  If so what do you say?  Maybe I will check it out.

        2. Alan Miller

          Redrum is slower than In-Out.  They have a sign saying they are not fast food.  So it takes 10 minutes.  It’s an old building, it isn’t fancy at all, and the employees all have tattoos.    That was as true 25 years ago when few had tattoos as it is today.  The food is what you expect:  huge quantities, a bit greasy, hearty.  Being a healthy eater and vegetarian, I eat there less than I did back in the day.  However, when the mood strikes, they now have have several veggie burger options:  black bean patty, garden, the mushroom burger is great.  It’s not for the play-it-safe-by-going-to-Appleby’s crowd.  But when the feeling’s right, a Murder Burger really hits the spot.

          And I’m pro-Nishi project and wish the owner of MB and developers of N had been able to work something out, because it could have made the difference.

          (Way to prop up a business)

      2. Grok

        In regards to Murder burger, it makes perfect sense to me that a local business owner would sympathize with another local business owner who was receiving rough treatment from the leaders on a major new development.

        1. Grok

          It is interesting to hear what some of the perceived lies are that changed your opinion of Davis so profoundly.

          Personally I read about and heard about the rough treatment directly from Jim Edlund the owner of Redrum. He posted about it on his own Facebook page. Admittedly it is his perspective, but that is very different than coming from the No on A campaign.

  5. 2cowherd

    David has written about this problem many times, but what I find missing is any comments from students affected by the shortage of housing. What is the perspective of students who have difficulty finding housing? Could their views be helpful here?

    1. South of Davis

      2cowherd wote:

      > What is the perspective of students who have difficulty

      > finding housing? Could their views be helpful here?

      Not many students post to the Vanguard, and other than a tiny percentage of kids who wait to the last minute to look for a place to live not many have any problem “finding housing”.  A bigger group of students (and non students) are having difficulty “paying” for housing as the price of housing has been going up due to the limited supply and increased demand (and parcel taxes and rapidly increasing water and trash rates)…

      P.S. Remember even at 0.02% vacancy after school starts that means that a couple dozen apartments are still available (below is a link to some of the stuff available today):

      https://sacramento.craigslist.org/search/hhh?query=davis

      1. Matt Williams

        SoD said . . . “other than a tiny percentage of kids who wait to the last minute to look for a place to live not many have any problem “finding housing”.  A bigger group of students (and non students) are having difficulty “paying” for housing as the price of housing has been going up due to the limited supply and increased demand (and parcel taxes and rapidly increasing water and trash rates)…”

        I don’t agree with SoD’s bolded statement.

        Two weeks ago a room came free in our house and we placed a 24-hour advertisement for the room-for-rent in Craigslist.  To try and reduce the number of, and increase the quality of, the responses we listed the monthly rent in the ad at 125% of its actual monthly value. The 24-hour ad generated over 100 responses, approximately 55% of which were from UCD students (half and half undergrad and grad) and 45% from non-students.  We actively interviewed 25 of the 100+ and every one of the 25 said that just finding a room was very difficult, and that the listed price (with the 25% premium) was not a deterrent.  Just having something available trumped the cost.  The person who we ultimately selected was very surprised that the actual rent he was going to have to pay each month did not include the 25% premium.

        FWIW, many of the 25 we interviewed said they were seriously hoping to avoid having to commute from Fairfield each day like many of their classmates/workmates were having to do. Dixon and Woodland are apparently experiencing very low vacancy rates like Davis is . . . thanks to the UCD enrollment increases.

        1. South of Davis

          Matt wrote:

          > I don’t agree with SoD’s bolded statement.

          If you don’t agree with my statement than you probably don’t agree with the dictionary definition of “find”.

          I bet every UCD student could not “find” aka “locate” something for rent in town if I gave them $1,000 to “find” me an apartment or room for rent.

          If you define “find” as “locate a place with cool roommates in a nice neighborhood at a cheap rent” than yes many students have a hard time “finding” a rental.

          P.S. If you list something for sale and get 100+ people interested in it you have listed it BELOW market value not a “25% premium”…

        2. Matt Williams

          SoD, my interpretation of “find” is to locate a room with a lease that can be signed to establish a term of rental.

          While I understand what you are trying to say in your final point, depending on what you believe the current market value is for a single bedroom in a 4-bedroom house with a shared bathroom and shared kitchen.  Once you let me know what you think that is, I will know if the price in the ad was below market. My suspicion is that it isn’t.

        3. Barack Palin

          That was my first thought too, that your rental was way undervalued.  It’s hard to come up with a price without knowing location or any other amenities that might be included. For instance, pool, laundry facilities, park setting, etc.  Is the place real nice, just ok?

          It could go for anywhere from $500 to $8 or $900 in my estimation.

        4. South of Davis

          Matt wrote:

          > SoD, my interpretation of “find” is to locate a room

          > with a lease that can be signed to establish a term

          > of rental.

          Do you think EVERY ONE of the 20+ homes apartments and rooms for rent posted to Craig’s List (in just the past couple days) are no longer “available” and/or “ready to lease”?

          >  depending on what you believe the current market

          > value is for a single bedroom in a 4-bedroom house

          I don’t want to to learn enough about your home and personal life to give you what I think the “market rent” is but there is a HUGE range in “market rent” between a tiny room in a 1,200 sf 4br above downtown (with a family that loves Trump, NASCAR and Pro Wrestling) and a big room with a deck in a 3,500 sf 4br on Lake Alhambra (with a single roommate that travels for business and is out of town half the time).

          > My suspicion is that it isn’t.

          If you really think the place was listed at “above market” than you are saying that there are 100+ naive people out there (including your new roommate) that did not know they could get a similar room (aka a room at “market value”) for 25% less…

  6. Roberta Millstein

    In the spirit of the “low hanging fruit” that this article seeks, and also in the spirit of finding a positive tone as discussed above, perhaps we should think about whether there are any areas of agreement.

    Should UCD build more on-campus housing?  It seems like most people think the answer is “yes.”  (The disagreement is over how much the City of Davis should do).

    Are there places on campus where it would be good to build more housing?  West Village was controversial at first, but now that it’s been built, is it controversial to build more housing there?  Orchard and Solano have also been mentioned as sites for additional housing.  Others?

    Should UCD housing be built more densely than it has been?  Again, I don’t see much genuine controversy here.

    So, perhaps many of us can agree that it would be good if UCD were to build more housing on sites such as West Village, Solano, and Orchard, and to build more densely than it has in the past.  Perhaps, then, we can focus on that positive and let the campus know what we would like, setting aside points of disagreement for now, and, especially, setting aside personal attacks.  Maybe then we can get something positive out of this discussion.

    Suggestions for my positive proposal are very welcome, as long as they don’t involve personal attacks.  Disagreements with my positive proposal are also welcome, as long as they are genuine and not disagreeing just to try to win an argument against those you have disagreed with in the past.

    1. Frankly

      I think UCD should build a big research park with lots of student and faculty housing and retail and a hotel and a giant parking lot and put it in Yolo County between Davis and Woodland or Davis and Dixon… Closer to Davis… and include a tax-revenue sharing deal with the county.  Did I mention the giant parking lot?

    2. Don Shor

      I agree that UCD should build more on-campus housing and would love to see them commit to and implement the goal they recently announced with our city leaders.
      I think they can build more densely than they have planned. I hope they will at least look at the options for privately-developed sites that Eileen and others have put forward, with taller buildings and larger numbers than they are currently planning. I hope our council members will press for this in their meetings with UC planning staff.
      I hope they will move quickly on Orchard and Solano Park sites, and perhaps increase the densities there.
      I hope that a broad base of support for the points above can be expressed to the city council members and the university planning staff, and to the new chancellor when appropriate. It’s always useful to look for the points of agreement and move forward expeditiously with those. The housing shortage is real and is a serious and costly problem.

      I suspect Russell Field site could be developed aesthetically and I doubt the traffic impacts are unresolvable, but I know many of the people who live in College Park and am sympathetic to their concerns. So long as UC can still provide the same amount of housing by building elsewhere, I accept reluctantly that site might be off the table.

      My major point of disagreement with many who post on this is the idea that private rental housing should not be developed in town. I strongly feel that we need to increase our stock of private rental housing. And, of course, I supported and continue to support housing on Nishi.

      1. Roberta Millstein

        Thanks, Don, especially for this:

        I hope that a broad base of support for the points above can be expressed to the city council members and the university planning staff, and to the new chancellor when appropriate. It’s always useful to look for the points of agreement and move forward expeditiously with those. The housing shortage is real and is a serious and costly problem.

        Agreed.

    3. Mark West

      In the end, the University is going to do what it wants, regardless of the community’s input and there is absolutely nothing any of us can do about it. On the other hand, if we focus our attention on the problems in the City, we can have a direct and significant impact on the results. So why is the discussion focused on the University? Simply because many of the posters here do not want the City to address the problems because any effort to do so will require a compromise from their firmly held convictions. It is easier to avoid the problem than to make the concessions required to find a solution.

      Efforts to find common ground on a problem you have no influence on is worse than a waste of effort. If you want to do something worthwhile, find common ground on where the City can build more apartments to address the City’s rental housing shortage. The University will take care of its own problems without our help. It is time we start taking care of our own.

      1. Roberta Millstein

        I disagree.   The University has solicited our input, and while it can do what it wants, I think in general it doesn’t want to act in a way that many are unhappy with.  Conversely, I think if many of us can come together and stand behind a positive proposal, I think they will listen.  This is not an avoidance of our problems.  People like Eileen Samitz, as well as members of Council, have spent many hours working on this.  This is a joint problem and we can and should work on it jointly.

        1. Mark West

          “This is not an avoidance of our problems.”

          It is avoidance when the discussion about the University is used as an excuse not to address the City’s problems.  Some of the main players here won’t even admit that the city has a housing shortage, blaming the problem entirely on the University.

          We need to focus on our own problems, first.

           

        2. ryankelly

          I think input is wanted, but I don’t think the University wants community members to drive the process.  I don’t see that there has been a positive proposal here.  I don’t know if proposals were given in a positive way at meetings they have held.  I don’t know if Eileen has spent hours working on this.  I see that she has spent hours repetitively telling people her view of what should be done.  You have to understand that, passionate that she is, she doesn’t always get it right.  There have been examples where she has passionately advocated for her position and her recommendations have been off the mark.  So I’m saying that there needs to be a conversation, rather than just repeating the same thing, only slower and louder, over and over.  It seems that we all agree that UCD could build housing.  I don’t agree that somehow ag land owned by UCD is less valuable than ag land northeast or west of Davis.  I look at UCD and the City as one, not two municipalities bordering on each other.   There are some basic disagreements like that that are really frustrating to me.

        3. Roberta Millstein

          Mark West, Frankly, ryankelly, let me ask you this – do you agree with my positive proposal?  That is, do you agree (to quote myself):

          “that it would be good if UCD were to build more housing on sites such as West Village, Solano, and Orchard, and to build more densely than it has in the past”

          ?

           

        4. Mark West

          Roberta:

          I don’t care where the University builds housing, how much it builds or when it builds it. I think your efforts to push the issue are a waste of time and simply a method of avoiding facing up to the serious problems in the City.

          We need to address the housing shortage in the City and start developing solutions to our $30+ million annual deficit. Talking about the University does nothing to address these issues.

        5. Roberta Millstein

          Mark West:

          Setting aside your accusations of me and my efforts, is it correct to say that you do agree that it would be good if UCD were to build more housing on sites such as West Village, Solano, and Orchard, and to build more densely than it has in the past?   I understand that you think our efforts would be better spent elsewhere, but I would appreciate if you would would answer my question with a “yes” or a “no.”

        6. Frankly

          “that it would be good if UCD were to build more housing on sites such as West Village, Solano, and Orchard, and to build more densely than it has in the past”

          Where do you get off telling UCD where to build and what to build?

          I am sure happy you are not MY neighbor.  I am guessing that you are quite a busy-body paying attention to what everyone else is doing and the first to file a complaint if you don’t like it.

          Am I wrong?

          My positive contribution is that we (the City of Davis) take care of our own problems, and UCD gets to take care of their own problems.

          The City of Davis has not built enough housing over the last 20 years.  We need to play catch up and then stick to a 1-2% per year housing growth rate.

          The City of Davis has not built enough commercial over the last 40 years.  We need to play catch up and build 1000 acres of commercial over the next 20-30 years.

          UCD can plan accordingly.

        7. Roberta Millstein

          Frankly, setting aside your speculations about me and your views about whether we should be telling the University what to do (when they have asked our opinion), I am just curious about your own opinion – do you agree that it would be good if UCD were to build more housing on sites such as West Village, Solano, and Orchard, and to build more densely than it has in the past?  Yes or no?

        8. ryankelly

          Roberta,  Do I agree with your entire statement? Sort of.  If your talking about the extreme density that some have suggested, then I am not so sure.  The greater the density, the greater need for open space to maintain the health of the residents and prevent the development from behaving like a tenement.  So the resulting acreage used may not provide the efficiency some are looking for.  I worry about putting students in high rise building for various reason – health, safety, etc.  The intention of rebuilding Solano and Orchard is to increase the number of units, so again I agree, but again not as dense as some have suggested. I don’t believe that families with young children should live in high-rise buildings, especially when we don’t have to do that.

        9. Frankly

          would be good if UCD were to build more housing on sites such as West Village, Solano, and Orchard, and to build more densely than it has in the past?  Yes or no?

          I don’t know.

          I posted some questions yesterday on another related thread about some of what I thought was UCD housing being not qualified for student financial aid.  That does not sound like a good solution if the housing would not qualify for student financial aid.

          I don’t know what it costs UCD to build housing rather than Davis allowing a private developer to do it… and what that impact will be to UCD capital budgets relative to other things… and what that would mean for student costs.

          I value UCD farmland and open space around Davis the same as I value all farmland and open space around Davis.

          UCD students living anywhere will create traffic patterns.

          Building on UCD land means no tax revenue for Davis and probably costly impacts.

          Building on UCD land means no Davis infrastructure improvements.

          I don’t share this myopic and specific view of yours that UCD-built housing is gloriously better than Davis-built housing… and I do not know enough to say that this location is better than that location.  Neither do you, IMO.

          Making a bunch of huge assumptions, I would like to see UCD build more student housing… take a load off the demand of Davis’s housing supply.  But building more housing in general will take a load off the demand for Davis’s housing supply.  It appears that UCD can just lease entire apartment complexes in town and make them off-campus student housing.   I would prefer that over the mini-dorm problem.

          I have no problem with high-rise housing, but with enough common open space.  It is stupid to be so puckered up about land preservation or the purpose of peripheral aesthetics and use only to shove people into confined and stacked living quarters.  At some point the fear of sprawl causes other unhealthy design choices.

          I want all development to be SMART.  Sustainable energy designs.  Copious bike and pedestrian connection.  Neighborhood shopping.  Open space.  If we are going to use the land then use the land smartly.

          My biggest interest is for Davis to build more commercial space.  More retail.  More tech and office space.  And I think some food and ag-tech manufacturing would fit nicely here.  The tax revenue.  The jobs.  The growing of the missing middle demographic… young professionals and young families.   The assist to UCD for tech transfer.  All of this benefits the human condition.  It will even benefit NIMBYs after they get over their fits and realize that Davis just got better.

        10. Mark West

          I answered your question, Roberta. What part of ‘I don’t care’ are you having difficulty with?

          If the University builds all the housing that Eileen says they have promised, it will still not be sufficient to address the rental housing shortage in Davis. We need to build apartments in Davis regardless of what the University decides to do and the sooner we start that process the better off we will all be.

          When you are ready to talk about building apartments in the City I will be happy to work to find common ground with you. As long as your focus is on the University and what you think it should do, you are only interfering with our ability to address the real problem.

        11. Roberta Millstein

          Do I agree with your entire statement? Sort of.  If your talking about the extreme density that some have suggested, then I am not so sure.  The greater the density, the greater need for open space to maintain the health of the residents and prevent the development from behaving like a tenement.  So the resulting acreage used may not provide the efficiency some are looking for.  I worry about putting students in high rise building for various reason – health, safety, etc.  The intention of rebuilding Solano and Orchard is to increase the number of units, so again I agree, but again not as dense as some have suggested. I don’t believe that families with young children should live in high-rise buildings, especially when we don’t have to do that.

          ryankelly, thanks for this productive reply.  I deliberately left “density” vague so that we could talk about the pros and cons of different amounts and types of density.  I see the point you are making and think it’s worth discussing.

        12. Roberta Millstein

          Frankly, well, you almost got through that without insulting anyone… but “I don’t know,” a consideration of the pros and cons and unknowns… that’s an answer I understand.  Thank you for that.

        13. Roberta Millstein

          I answered your question, Roberta. What part of ‘I don’t care’ are you having difficulty with?

          If the University builds all the housing that Eileen says they have promised, it will still not be sufficient to address the rental housing shortage in Davis. We need to build apartments in Davis regardless of what the University decides to do and the sooner we start that process the better off we will all be.

          When you are ready to talk about building apartments in the City I will be happy to work to find common ground with you. As long as your focus is on the University and what you think it should do, you are only interfering with our ability to address the real problem.

          This actually doesn’t sound like an “I don’t care” answer.  This sounds more like a “this isn’t enough” answer.  And maybe it isn’t enough, but it could go a long way.  The point is to try to make some progress toward solving the problem.   That doesn’t interfere with making progress on other fronts.  We can also – but more productively on another post – talk about building apartments in the City.  I say another post because there’s no point in talking about apartments in the City in the abstract – we need to talk about where and what, and for that we need details.  By all means, post something to the Vanguard so that the community can have (or rather continue to have) that conversation.  I’m sure they would take your article.

        14. Mark West

          “We can also – but more productively on another post – talk about building apartments in the City.”

          David posted an article to address that issue a few months back and the response from the ‘NO’ crowd was that it was the University’s problem to fix. As long as you are focused on this fake issue of telling the University what to do, I will assume that you have no interest in solving the real issues facing the City.

  7. South of Davis

    Roberta wrote:

    > Should UCD build more on-campus housing?  It seems like

    > most people think the answer is “yes.”

    True “most” people think UCD should build more housing just like “most” people think we should close Guantanamo Bay.

    The big question is what do do when the will of “most” people is ignored by the people in power.

      1. Barack Palin

        A united front as long as it’s what you and the other don’t want to build on Russell Fields group want.  That was very clever how you did that.  Not an attack, actually a compliment for the college try.

        1. Roberta Millstein

          I’m not trying to maneuver.  I’m actually trying to do something positive.  The question is, are you?  Do you agree with my positive proposal?

        2. Roberta Millstein

          This isn’t about who wins and who loses.  This is just me trying to do some common sense problem solving in the face of some acrimonious disagreement.  If there is something that most of us agree on, why not move forward on that rather than continuing to fight?  So far no one has stepped up to say they are against UCD building more densely on those sites, and I think that’s because we all recognize it’s a good idea.  Why not focus on what we agree on, at least to start?  Don’t we all win then, because we all get something that we want and that is good for the city?

        3. Grok

          Hi Barack – Please offer some suggestions for positive solutions. Having some ideas of what solutions you propose would be the first step towards compromise. Or even better working together toward shared goals.

        4. Grok

          BaP, I agree with UCD building housing for sure. I also agree that all sites proposed in the LRDP are good sites with the exception of Russell fields. So we are actually pretty close.

          Would you agree that UCD should build more housing than is proposed in the LRDP?

           

        5. Roberta Millstein

          Okay, let UCD build where they deem it best.

          But maybe part of what UCD deems “best” is to build housing in a location that is acceptable to the majority of Davis’s citizens.  They have, in fact, solicited our input.

  8. Eileen Samitz

    I agree with Roberta and want to reiterate that the solutions for building significantly more on-campus housing are many.  A significant number of us have been posting on the Vanguard with these solution’s repeatedly and submitted them to UCD’s LRDP public input process.

    The only site of disagreement is the last minute attempt for UCD to proposed building on Russell and Howard fields, which I would like to point out were not on the table when UCD releases its maps and sites of where they planned to develop last fall in 2015. The Russell and Howard fields concept was not released until the Spring of this year (2016), and everyone I knew following this issue was shocked when they saw this really bad idea (for many reasons) that our comunity was now being broad-sided with.

    Since SO many other sites were recommended by myself and others as we initiated our citizens group seeing how the inadequate planning of the UCD LRDP was emerging, that more action was clearly needed by our community to give more feedback to UCD’s new proposal.  Paving over the beautiful and needed Russell and Howard fields was clearly a terrible idea for many reasons including the traffic impacts on an already narrowed and impacted Russell Blvd.

    So the bottom line is that plenty of other sites on the 5,300+ acre UCD campus have been recommended to the UCD LRDP process and that is where solutions can, and should be able to emerge from.

    So I agree we need to focus on the positive to move forward with solutions that work for all, and adding more high density student apartments at West Village (which was never finished) and getting a solid plan of higher density housing at Orchard Park (laying dormant for 2 years now) and planning towards when  Solano Park can be phased in and redeveloped into much higher density housing. Let’s not forget that UCD can’t really close Solano Park until they actually redevelop Orchard Park which also need to become high density apartments.

    The problem is Orchard Park was prematurely vacated before UCD had their act together to have a good, high-density apartment complex plan in place to immediately replace it. This just reduced UCD’s on-campus housing to have even less housing available and pushed those housing needs onto our City and neighboring cities. Talk about poor planning… it was a lack of planning. Plus think of the revenue that UCD has lost over these 2 years and however longer it will take to redevelop Orchard Park.

    On the prevailing wage subject, Jim Frame has pointed out many times that that issue has been resolved regarding West Village. And frankly, prevailing wage does not seem to be an inhibition at all for “pet” projects that UCD wants to build, like yet another music recital center and a new art center (now under construction).

    UCD needs to get its house in order and provide the needed on-campus housing which other California universities are accomplishing, and which makes clear that UCD needs to catch-up with using these same solutions that they have. That’s what university planning departments are meant to do. Plan ahead to provide the infrastructure needed in time before the impact is here, not after the impacts hit and then try to defer the problem to our community.

    UCD was well aware about their student population growth for more than a decade, yet continued to drag-their-heels on providing the promised and needed on-campus housing for their own growth. Good planning meant UCD  getting the on-campus housing built in time for when it was needed, not waiting until they had the need, and instead trying to defer it onto our community, which is clearly what UCD is trying to do. Putting the “cart before the horse” has never worked, nor is it working now for UCD.

    1. hpierce

      Ok… a newly densified Orchard Park will have no effect on Russell traffic, but the other proposals will have disastrous impacts… got it… right… not…

      Oh, and Solano park densification won’t expose residents to anywhere near the air quality exposure levels predicted for Nishi… got it,.. right… not…

      1. Grok

        HP why are you compelled to launch into an attack? Eileen is trying to offer positive solutions. But here are some answers for you:

        – Traffic is currently very different by orchard Park than it is by the Russell fields.

        – Dr. Cahill was specific that the problem on the Nishi property was exacerbated by the berm of the railroad trapping air on the Nishi property. Solano Park is on the other side of the berm.

        1. South of Davis

          Grok wrote:

          > Traffic is currently very different by orchard

          > Park than it is by the Russell fields.

          Orchard Park is 500 yards west of the Russell fields (I just measured using the Google measure distance feature) and traffic in front of the fields won’t be impacted development of the Orchard site as long as everyone going to Downtown or the City Hall pool just takes 113 to 80 and and gets off at Richards to go through the tunnel (that is flowing freely since Nishi is still vacant).

          > Dr. Cahill was specific that the problem on the Nishi property was

          > exacerbated by the berm of the railroad trapping air on the Nishi

          > property. Solano Park is on the other side of the berm.

          The berm and train tracks form a “force field” that keeps the “toxic soup” inside the Nishi site and the air at Solano Park is as clean as a mountain forest (as of today when UCD is not proposing to tear it down, but if the ever do decide to tear it down someone will find that the bigger building encroaches on endangered ground squirrel habitat and find that some of the “toxic soup” from Nishi is flowing under the berm through the rodent tunnels making the site unsuitable for children)…

        2. Grok

          Hi SOD,

          I recognize its 500 feet, but I also drive past there all the time and the traffic backs up closer to B street and not by 113.

          I am no expert on the air quality at Nishi, all I can do is tell you what Dr. Cahill has said.

          “as of today when UCD is not proposing to tear it [Solano] down” – actually it is proposed in the Draft LRDP

        3. South of Davis

          Grok:

          UCD first announced that the old Solano and Orchard Park apartments were going to be torn down and rebuilt almost 10 years ago.  Orchard has been sitting empty for more than two years and is still not town down so my guess is it will be at least 5 years bofore people even need to think up a reason to protest the redevelopment of the Solano site (I’m sure someone will come up with a report that says exhaust fumes from Russel stop at the berm north of the tracks making the site unsafe)…

        4. Grok

          SOD, I am telling you what is in the LRDP, and what Bob Segar told the group on August 3. Orchard will probably happen much sooner than Russell fields because it was already approved in the previous LRDP. The rest of the stuff you are throwing in about air quality etc. is clearly offered out of hostility so I wont address it.

          i think people are generally trying to offer positive solutions here and I think you should join in commenting in that spirit.

    2. ryankelly

      Eileen, Why do you have to include a sometimes lengthy criticism of UCD or others in every post?  It may have been important to say once or, maybe, a few times, but now it is just repetitive and tiresome.

      1. Eileen Samitz

        ryankelly,

        Perhaps it is tiresome to you, but what is tiresome to me to see any postings trying to imply, in any way, that our City is responsible for UCD’s lack of on-campus housing for its own growth. That is simply not true.  Particularly since UCD knew about its housing needs for over a decade and did not provide the on-campus housing necessary in time to address their own housing needs on the more than 5,300 acres that they have to do so.

        Do you have any affiliation with UCD or any local developers for any kind of advocacy for them? Since, if so, I understand better why you would be compelled to bring up this question. Your question is very odd and interesting.

    3. Adam Smith

      Finding areas of agreement is sometimes very important, but not in this case.  UCD is going to make its decision based on what is best for the university.  The group that doesn’t want Russell Field built upon has informed UCD, and I along with others (I suppose) have had conversations with UCD planning to let them know that Russell Field is a perfectly appropriate high density building site.    Now UCD  gets to finalize the LRDP and send it off to UCOP for an ultimate decision.

      But there is something much more important topic on which  we need to find some common ground – how to resolve the city’s $30 million annual deficit.   That is is a much more critical issue than where UCD builds student housing, yet we spend countless  hours debating Russell Field as a building site.

      1. HouseFlipper

        Hi Adam, this article is about building housing. Do you see building more housing as part of the way to “resolve the city’s $30 million annual deficit?”

        1. Adam Smith

          Building housing on UCD is certainly not part of solving our deficit.    I commented because of the energy and time spent trying to come to agreement on this issue is wasted.  We don’t have to come to agreement about this.  UCD and UCOP are the “deciders”.

      2. Roberta Millstein

        Adam Smith: UCD and UCOP are indeed the deciders, but they will be able to take our input better if we send them a clearer message.  It sounds like you think that the time for us to give our feedback is over.  Why do you think that?

        1. Adam Smith

          Because I think making the same point repetitiously is boring and non-productive.  There are multiple, very legitimate viewpoints on this topic.   All of those points have been made known.   Consensus is difficult, and not meaningful or important when we don’t “control” the decision.

  9. HouseFlipper

    Frankly and others. For the most part vanguard posters seem to passionately care about Davis. Frankly has demonstrated that today for sure. What are the positive things you see about Davis? What are the ways Davis works?

  10. Edison

    In response to questions asked by quielo and Matt Williams, I have no financial, contractual or other linkage to American Campus Communities.  I simply found the company’s website while researching ways in which UCD might do a better job providing on-campus student housing.  I’ve spent a great deal of time studying the company’s success in providing housing at many other university campuses throughout the country, and listening to the testimonials by administrators at those institutions.  There may be other companies that offer the same services; UCD should explore all of them.  Given that UCD seemingly has been unable thus far to meet the challenge of matching new on-campus housing construction with enrollment growth, it seems logical to me that it would be prudent for UCD to reach out for help from a firm with a proven track record.  This is a common practice among many public institutions; they solicit and execute contracts with a variety of consultants (architects, planners, construction companies, etc.) when specialized expertise is needed.   Examples would include the County of Sacramento’s construction of the new Terminal B at Sac International, and the City of Sacramento’s pending completion of the new Golden One Center.  Neither of these jurisdictions accomplished these achievements on their own; they assembled private sector teams to do the heavy lifting.

    In terms of Davis expanding its geographic footprint and increasing its population, I concur with many of the comments made today about the need for well-planned “smart growth.” I know that some people don’t like the Cannery, but having worked 6 years in redevelopment, I view it as an excellent example of beneficial reuse of a property contiguous to the town. It will also help Davis meet its share of the regional housing goals required by SACOG. (It is my understanding that at some point in the future, Davis will need to approve additional housing to meet the next round of SACOG housing goals.)

    While some will obviously disagree, I supported the first iteration of the Mace Ranch Innovation Center. It would have provided an opportunity for a tax-revenue generating tech center that would have meshed well with the research taking place at UCD.  (I guess that perhaps means I’m not a NIMBY.) One of the things I also liked about it was that the developer did not overtly promote the site as housing for UCD students, which I firmly believe is the university’s responsibility. I know from speaking with the MRIC developer that one of the most vexing problems he was wrestling with was how to achieve the level of Swainson’s hawk (SWHA) foraging mitigation that would have been required by the CA Dept of Fish and Wildlife (formerly Fish and Game).  From my experience in another former profession, I know that habitat mitigation can be difficult and costly, with no guarantee of success.

    From a big picture perspective, it appears that UCD is currently housing somewhere between 27 and 29% of the current enrollment. It has been reported that this year’s autumn quarter enrollment will be 37,000, and the LRDP forecast is for 39,000 students in the 2027-28 school year. In studying the LRDP website, it appears that UCD hopes to house about 40% of the students on campus by then, or about 15,600.  That means the other 60% (23,400) will need to find housing elsewhere. If one assumes that the population of Davis might grow to 75,000 by 2027 (which would not be a bad thing), that means a group of students equaling almost one-third the entire population of our town will be seeking off-campus housing. No matter how you look at it, that’s a huge number.  As others have pointed out, this many students can probably be easily absorbed in an urban areas like Alameda, Orange, LA and Riverside counties.   Expecting the same thing in a small town such as Davis (and in an agricultural county such as Yolo) would be a tall order.  It really is time for UCD to step up and aim higher when it comes to taking care of its students.

     

    1. tj

      I wonder whether UCDavis would become more motivated to develop student housing if there was an incentive.  Perhaps if all Davis residents boycotted the Mondavi, the university would pay attention.

      Surely there are other actions that could be taken to light a fire under campus housing staff.

    2. Matt Williams

      Edison, I believe you read way, way more into my question that was there.  I did not ask whether you had financial, contractual or other linkage to American Campus Communities.  What I asked was whether you had/have personal experience dealing with American Campus Communities, and that it would be helpful if you shared that experience.  Over the years I have found that direct experience is an outstanding teacher.

      Thank you again for your contributions.

  11. Jim Leonard

    So, has anyone explored why other U.C.s supply more on campus housing than U.C.D.? Maybe we could learn some lessons? Also, U.C.D. has a relationship with the California legislature; have you heard of the City talking to the legislature about controlling the impact of U.C.D. growth?

    I think it’s too early and somewhat lazy to conclude Davis can do nothing about U.C.D. growth. Let’s stand up to the bully and defend ourselves!

    1. Jim Frame

      Let’s stand up to the bully and defend ourselves!

      I think that characterizing UCD as a bully is not only inaccurate, but puts those of us who want to have a positive influence on UCD’s development policies at a psychological disadvantage.  Working toward partnership seems like a much more productive approach to me.

       

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