Next week, UC Davis will hold more public hearings on its Long Range Development Plan (LRDP). On the Vanguard, we have discussed many of these issues at length, but I find the discussion fascinating in a lot of ways. The slow growth community has made it its revived raison d’être to push UC Davis to put more housing on campus.
There are a number of legitimate reasons to agree with this approach. UC Davis expansion policies, for one, have put additional pressure regionally and in this community to provide student housing. UC Davis, with a large swath of available land – despite years of promises – has among the lowest percentages of on-campus student housing in the UC system, above only land-locked UC Berkeley.
There are good land use issues for this as well. Students living on campus will be more likely to walk or bike rather than drive – although the percentage of students driving is continuing to drop, even among those who live in the city but off-campus.
UC Davis should be commended for expanding the number of students that they plan to house on-campus. If they follow through with their commitments, they will house 90 percent of all new students on campus and increase their overall percentage to 40 percent. As commenters have noted, however, that still lags behind the plans for many of the other UCs.
Where I start disagreeing with this push is on several issues.
First, I believe that, while UC Davis should increase the number of students it houses on campus, their 90 percent goal is probably a reasonable goal. Some want to push UC Davis to take on more housing, but I don’t think that’s realistic.
Second, I believe that even the 90 percent target is optimistic. Is UC Davis going to follow through on this commitment? They haven’t met their goals for on-campus housing over the last 30 years. Having watched the slow progress of West Village – I’m not sure how you can count on them to build for 6200 students in the next 10 years.
Along the same lines, even if they do make that commitment, we still need more student housing. It’s not just the 800 students that will be added without new housing, but the current state of the rental market, the lack of available housing for the current students, that needs to be addressed.
I have spoken with landlords and apartment managers this week who have told me that they have no vacancies and that they have uncovered some scams where tenants are subleasing their rooms with a considerable markup, without the permission of the landlord.
Last spring we heard complaints about the living conditions that some rental housing owners have been able to get away with, due to the scarcity of available housing.
I believe Davis as the host city benefits from the university and does have obligations to house students. I am not moved by arguments that the university’s growth policies abrogate the city’s obligations here. Moreover, I think we can add housing in the form of a few apartment complexes to alleviate the crunch. We have identified some locations and probably need to identify a few more, but I fail to see how adding four apartment complexes to town is going to harm this community greatly.
At the same time, I am troubled by some of the rhetoric starting to emerge. Some have made a point that we are accommodating foreign students. For me, the policies of UC with regards to admissions should be immaterial to the issue of providing housing.
There was a comment on the Enterprise site, “U.C.D. is producing damaging effects when it displaces its problems to Davis. Time for U.C.D. to be morally responsible and provide housing and other amenities for its new students rather than making its problems Davis’.”
That’s pretty harsh rhetoric – what damaging effects have occurred? UC Davis and Davis should have a symbiotic relationship. Each one has had policies that have benefited the other and each one has policies that have worked in detriment.
I found Rich Rifkin’s response to that comment interesting, “What about housing on campus for faculty? And staff? And why shouldn’t UC Davis, under your plan, build all of its own shopping centers, including a big box hardware store, its own Wal-Mart, its own Target, its own Nordstrom’s, restaurant district, art galleries, beauty shops, banks, insurance agencies and so on? Why should they stop at just building housing for students, Jim, if your ‘logic’ is that growth at the university signifies ‘damaging effects’ to people in Davis?”
The point here is – is it the goal of slow growth advocates to force UC Davis to have its own city right next to Davis? How does that really help our community?
In the end, I think UC Davis is moving in the right direction with its targets. I think Davis needs to be realistic about the chance of UC Davis hitting those targets and should plan accordingly. I’m not advocating massive new housing on the periphery, but I think we would benefit as a community by adding more housing in the city to alleviate some of the pressures and the impacts on neighborhoods caused by the scarcity of housing.
Davis adding housing is not going to cause UC Davis to suddenly abandon its plans to provide for 90 percent of new students.
—David M. Greenwald reporting