Commentary: The University’s LRDP and Russell Fields Conundrum

Russell-Field-Map

UC Davis, pressured by some in the community to provide more housing, made an unfortunate decision to propose housing along Russell Boulevard as a way to help meet that housing demand.  In some respects, the decision makes some sense – you are putting housing in a central location.

Those who believe this is going to add significant traffic to town simply are not looking at trends in student automobile drivership.

At the same time, from my standpoint it doesn’t make a lot of sense to put student housing there.  As it stands now, the fields provide a nice buffer between community and university along a main thoroughfare.  It allows the university to have a transition point and it provides a space that neighbors and non-neighbors alike can share and appreciate.

At the same time, I think the rhetoric here is a bit troubling.  There was a comment that, because people do not want the fields turned into mid-rise apartments and dorms, they are somehow anti-student.  Someone suggested that housing was being sidelined, someone else suggested that the implication is that “the students are not welcome here.”

This notion is a little absurd, given that people have chosen to live near fraternity and sorority houses, university bands and stadiums with lights – somehow these people are anti-student?

The bottom line for me is that there are other places to put student housing.  One spot clearly is West Village, which has available land and capacity.  The students housed there are not sidelined, they have easy access to the university on bike and by walking.

The Vanguard is still trying to get documents and correspondence on the issue of Nishi and campus housing, but clearly that is another location that the university could add housing.

While the Vanguard was not in attendance at the final open house on Thursday, the understanding from people there is that the university officials got an earful from residents on this issue.  For the most part, the university has taken the path of least resistance.

When the community pushed back to ask the university to take on more housing – the university stepped up and said they would take on 90 percent of new student housing.  They are now planning to house 40 percent of overall students on campus.

When the university proposed housing at the Russell Boulevard fields, the community pushed back strongly.  The university came back with a pared-down plan, but that plan, reducing the number of units by 60 percent, is clearly not sufficient.  We would expect that the next proposal would eliminate Russell Fields altogether.

That being said, I still think we need to be realistic about what the university will and will not do.

First, the university has promised more housing before.  I think we need to be very realistic that an LRDP (Long Range Development Plan) is only a planning document.  That does not mean that housing will be built to accommodate student needs.  Several times prior the university has pledged to increase housing and that housing has failed to materialize.

Some have suggested that there is more pressure now than there was then.  Pressure is fluid – it builds when there is an immediate threat and it abates as people go back to their normal lives.  The LRDP process focuses that pressure, but this is a long range plan, and  it will be interesting to see if the university sticks with it.

Even when the university has looked into new housing, it has been much slower than expected.  Look no further than the history of West Village, Solano Park and Orchard Park. I don’t think the university is being disingenuous when it makes these commitments, but in ten years, do you believe the university is building capacity for 6200 beds?

Second, there are those who believe that the university should provide for all of the housing growth.  I simply don’t agree that that is practical.  I think it is going to end up being a challenge just to get to 6200 in the next decade.

As the Vanguard has noted in the past, 6200 doesn’t fix the shortages that currently exist.  First, the 6200 is only 90 percent of the total expected student growth, so that means there are another 600 to 800 students that will not have on-campus housing.  Second, we have a very low vacancy rate and so, even if the university added zero students in the next decade, we would need more housing.  Third, that doesn’t account for what will be another 2000 university faculty and staff in a plan that only houses 500 of them on campus.

Some argue that UCD is simply continuing to push off its housing needs onto the city.  Others believe that UC Davis is growing faster than it can accommodate their student population and want the city to pick up that slack.  That’s of course a very difficult process in this community.

The Vanguard has been characterized as pro-growth on this issue, even if what we have repeatedly called for is a middle course – the university should provide the bulk of housing as they have promised, and the belief is that it will not take radical change in the city to provide more student apartments that can ease the pressure on neighborhoods and single-family homes to accommodate increasing student populations.

The real question is whether this community is willing to even try to reach some sort of consensus over what our obligation is.  I reject the notion that this is simply a university problem, just as I rejected the notion that people are being unreasonable in asking the university to find another location for housing other than along Russell.

—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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13 Comments

  1. Grok

    2 details I would like to add to the story above that I think are in keeping with the overall theme and tone of the article.

    1) I generally agree with the assessment that student automobile drivership is decreasing, and I suspect car ownership is too. In August the UCD planners stated there would be limited private car parking at the Russell fields apartments. It sounds like they are moving to possibly allow no car parking in the most recent plans. I don’t think 400 apartments in the Russell Field Neighborhood would ad significantly to car traffic on Russell, and to the extent it did, it would not be during morning rush hour at the very least because students would be headed in to campus and not out. I would however point out that although there is no mention of it in the LRDP, the UCD planners have orally stated at several meetings, going back to August 3rd that there will be parking for car share cars, possibly Zip cars at the Russell fields location.  It is important to consider that this rental car facility would likely serve more than just the new apartments. This rental car option is at the center of town, at the center of campus and near the buss terminal. this central location certainly suggests it could be a popular place to pick up a Zip car. Any traffic impact from that would be different from apartments alone.

    2) The map associated with the story is from the boards presented at the 3 LRDP open houses this week. There is one small part of it that is different from the online maps that is mildly misleading. The online maps indicate that the 400 students that will be housed in the Russell neighborhood includes the Cowel building across California from the Russell field. In the map associated with this story the Cowell building is indicated as part of the Segundo neighborhood. UCD planners have confirmed the Cowel building is included as part of the Russell Fields 400 bedrooms. The significance of this is that the planners have also confirmed that there are only about 200 bedrooms in the buildings being proposed actually on Russell fields. At least 200 bedrooms will likely be located at the Cowell building site and parking lot 14. So neighbors athletes and others who are asking to save the field are asking to move 200 bedrooms to another location, not the 400 that might be suggested by the map attached with this story.

  2. Chamber Fan

    I’m fine with the idea of not having housing on Russell Fields.  My objection is to a UCD only solution when I think the city shares in the duty to provide housing for students.

  3. Matthew

    Pushing the students as far away from the campus and town is anti student IMHO. Wealthy home owner preferences are taking priority over where it is best to locate an 18 year old living on their own for the first time. As a parent of a first year, would you want your kid way out at West Village (where there was a physical assault last year).

    From a perspective of planning for student welfare this was in incredibly wise move on the part of the university. It’s a close walk to resources the car free students will depend on to retain themselves, especially international students and Muslim students. The international center is literally right there, and it’s close to academic, social and religious spaces that student for whom Davis feels very foreign at first rely on to transition.

    That nobody in this town including you, David Greenwald, have even mentioned this illustrates what I mean by anti-student. I’m not saying you dislike students. I’m saying you don’t even bother thinking through the total ramifications for student welfare of locating students there beyond what serves advocating for your own interest or ideology.

    1. Chamber Fan

      You’re using the wrong implement here.  You’re beating up the wrong people.  And you’re doing so on the wrong issue.  You’re not going to win on this one.  You’re better off fighting to bring back Nishi and for more housing at West Village.  You fight this one you’re going to lose but you’re also going to turn off potential allies.

    2. Grok

      Lets get real here Matt D.P.

      Pushing the students as far away from the campus and town is anti student

      We are talking about 200 students. And the farthest on campus housing is about 1.5 miles from the Coffee House. By comparison there are several major student oriented apartment complexes in Davis that are further.

      Wealthy home owner preferences are taking priority over where it is best to locate an 18 year old living on their own for the first time. 

      First year students live in the the dorms on campus. No dorms are being proposed for the fields so your argument has a false premise. Secondly if you read the article yesterday, or attended the LRDP meeting last night you would learn that students are also advocating to save the fields. Are there wealthy community members advocating to save the Fields? There are people that I suspect you would call wealthy advocating for the fields. They are the same people who donate to KDVS, the arboretum, Mondavi Center, the Tennis Courts, the Whole Earth Festival and many other things with both time and money.

      As a parent of a first year, would you want your kid way out at West Village…?

      No, I would want them in the dorms with the other first year students. There are no dorms being proposed for Russell fields so again your statement has a false premise.

      (where there was a physical assault last year).

      How many places where there physical assaults last year? I know there was a stabbing downtown, should that be off limits for students? There have been several murders in and around University Commons historically, should the Quarto dorms be closed? Look the  real reason you bring this up is to attribute a false sense of danger to a very safe neighborhood. A single incident is not a pattern.

      From a perspective of planning for student welfare this was in incredibly wise move on the part of the university.

      Health is a component of student welfare and places to exercise like the fields are a component of that. Playing games is part of a mental wellbeing and the fields are used for that too. Taking away this opportunity for thousands of students to provide 200 bedrooms is not good planning.

      It’s a close walk to resources the car free students will depend on to retain themselves, especially international students and Muslim students

      All of that is fine and good and can be accomplished without building on Russel Fields especially now that the Cowell building will be redeveloped for housing. It does seem like it would also be true of Mormon, Christian and Jewish students too and probably others, it’s not clear why you would omit them. In any case, if anything it seems like a good argument to rebuild much taller at Regan and at the Cowel building. In fact more students could be housed just by going taller at these other sites already planned near the core of campus.

      That nobody in this town including you, David Greenwald, have even mentioned this illustrates what I mean by anti-student

      Nobody is mentioning it because it is not true.

      I’m not saying you dislike students. 

      Do you mean David? I am pretty sure that he likes students so its good you don’t say that.  David has been known to associate with students and has been known to even be nice to them. Maybe it is all a front for a darker purpose, but I don’t think so.

      I’m saying you don’t even bother thinking through the total ramifications for student welfare of locating students there beyond what serves

      Do you mean that the off campus student housing that is farther away than West Village is a problem? If so Davis has a big problem because there are thousands of students that live further out, all the way on Alvarado and Sycamore, for example, that will have to be relocated somewhere.

      …advocating for your own interest or ideology.

      What interest or ideology do you think that David is advocating for?

    3. Tia Will

      Matthew

      would you want your kid way out at West Village (where there was a physical assault last year).”

      I would as soon have my kid in West Village as near Ket Mo Ree where a murder occurred, or near the tracks ( where off and on there is heavy drug use going on ) and where there was an alleged sexual assault a few years ago as the Lincoln40 will be. I simply do not think that safety is a reasonable standard to use with regard to criminal activity, which can occur anywhere.

    4. hpierce

      Ahhh… Matthew… been a while since I heard an argument about the concept of “how many children must die”… thanks for the nostalgia… young people get attacked, and rarely, killed, in Downtown, West Davis (Aspen), etc.

      Great argument (NOT) against West Village.  Please get real.

  4. Frankly

    Come on UCD and the Davis CC.  Work to build this student housing on Russel Fields.  Show those Davis NIMBYs what they can expect as consequences for their voting down Measure A and opposing every significant peripheral and infill development.   These NIMBYs are just a bunch of petulant children throwing tantrums.

    You know building the housing is the right thing to do.  You know it is… so do the right thing.  It would be different if the NIMBYs had given us any indication they are reasonable and objective.  They are not.  They oppose everything.  So please shut them down.

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