New on-line petition urging more UCD on-campus housing
By Eileen Samitz
In 2013 Chancellor Katehi launched her “UCD 2020 Initiative”, a non-mandated UCD campus plan to add 5,000 more students by 2020, of which 4,500 will be non-residents (out-of-state and international) who pay threefold tuition to increase its revenue. A November 2012 UCD task force report expressed concerns about the initiative’s many challenges including new facilities, 300 faculty, 400-600 more staff, and other services. Little emphasis was placed on the need for more on-campus housing.
State Legislation demands UC “catch-up” on resident admissions
Meanwhile, UCD and other UCs had already been admitting a steady stream of non-resident students for the higher tuition while denying admission to many qualified California students. Complaints to State legislators resulted in a state audit ordered by the legislature revealed that not only were qualified California students being denied, but that lower standards were often being used to admit non-residents. To correct this problem, the governor and the UC president struck a deal whereby UC systemwide would add 10,000 California resident students over 3 years starting in 2016 (UCD gets 1,100 this year), to obtain $25 million in state funding.
UCD’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) Update not proposing enough housing
UCD is updating its LRDP for the next 10 years. The latest draft LRDP expects enrollment to surge from 32,000 in 2015 to 39,000 in 2027, an almost 22% increase. UCD is proposing to only provide 40% of total student population and only 90% of new incoming students. Yet UCD, with 5,300 acres, the largest UC in the system, has historically provided the least amount of on-campus housing.
A number of Davis residents responded to UCD’s invitation for public input on the LRDP by asking for much more on-campus student housing. This input included identifying more than 100 acres on or near the core campus land that could be used for the high-density, multi-story student apartments could be located. Also made clear was that Russell Fields greenspace did not need to be used for housing, and should not be developed.
UCD claims to have 29% on-campus housing, however the majority of it is freshman dorms, housing them for only one year. They are then forced off campus to find housing elsewhere, primarily in Davis but increasingly in other surrounding cities like Woodland, Dixon and Winters.
The combination of an over-ambitious “UCD 2020 Initiative” and deficient housing provisions in the LRDP draft will bring long-term impacts on Davis and UCD students if UCD does not revise its LRDP update to plan for the expeditious construction of much more on-campus housing. It also needs to re-evaluate its accelerated student population growth assumptions due to the massive infrastructure required. Overcrowded classrooms and a shortage of course offerings have contributed to a dismal 55% four-year graduation rate, resulting in “super seniors” who incur additional debt paying tuition and rent beyond costs. The students are feeling the strain as, a recent UCD Aggie article pointed out, UCD “…is woefully unequipped to handle this influx of students.”
The impacts of UCD’s inaction
The lack of housing provisions in the “UCD 2020 Initiative” and the LRDP is nothing new. The 1989 Memorandum of Understanding between UCD and the City of Davis expected UCD to provide housing for at least 25% of its students and 35% of new students on campus. This was followed by a 2002 UC Regents report “UC Housing for the 21st Century” that set a housing goal for each UC campus. It stated that UCD was to provide on-campus housing for 38% – 40% of its students on campus by 2012, but UCD failed to meet these targets. Further, the 2008 Davis Housing Element General Plan Update included policies directing UCD to provide significantly more permanent affordable on-campus student housing.
UCD’s failure to provide this housing commensurate with its growth has caused years of competition between students and workforce families for rental housing in the City, and the emergence of neighborhood “mini-dorms.” Instead of building more on-campus housing rapidly, UCD is now using “master leases” to reserve apartment buildings exclusively for students, thereby lowering the vacancy rate even further. In addition, UCD exacerbated the situation by closing the Orchard Park apartments on-campus over two years ago and West Village student housing remains unfinished.
As a consequence of UCD’s negligence, “mega-dorm” projects which should be located on the campus are being proposed in the City (i.e., Sterling Apartments, Lincoln40). These projects propose enormous 4 and 5 bedroom units, each with its own bathroom. These student-specific designed apartments would be rented by-the-bed and are not marketable to our workforce and families.
In turn, UCD’s failure to provide sufficient on-campus housing for its own growth is creating community division as neighborhoods battle against these enormous out-of-scale projects due to impacts they would bring. Furthermore, UCD’s long-term neglect of its housing responsibilities has led to pitting students and Davis residents against each other. However, even if more housing were built now, it would not be credited toward meeting the City’s SACOG regional fair share beginning in 2021; more housing would be needed then.
Other Universities Are Providing More On-Campus Housing; Why Not UCD?
Meanwhile, other UCs (Irvine, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Diego, Riverside, Merced) are updating their LRDPs to provide on-campus housing for at least 50% of their students, significantly surpassing UCD’s 40% target. Some universities (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Santa Barbara) are planning to provide housing for 100% of their new incoming students while UCD is only offering 90%. UCD has over 5,300 acres (more than any other UC campus), and could therefore easily absorb the number of higher-density apartments needed to match its growth plans.
UCD has historically provided the least amount of on-campus housing, but continues to resist high-rise apartments beyond 4 floors which costs more for steel framing. However, other universities nationwide are providing such housing using land leases (which do not use university funds) and arrangements with companies that specialize in building on-campus housing. American Campus Communities is highly rated and have built over 100 projects nationwide, including recent projects at UC Irvine and is working with other California campuses. Incredibly, UCD has one of the largest endowments in the country ($1 billion), yet chose to build yet another music recital center and an art museum rather than needed student housing.
Action needed, write letters and sign the new on-line petition for more on-campus housing
The LRDP will be finalized in November, followed by an EIR analysis inviting “scoping” comments soon. You can help by signing our on-line petition at citizensplanningdavis.org, which urges UCD greatly accelerate the construction of on-campus housing and build at least as much as other UC campuses.
Please help by joining our citizens group at email@example.com. For more information call 530-756-5165. Also please submit your concerns to the media and to UCD at firstname.lastname@example.org, Interim Chancellor Ralph Hexter at email@example.com, the Regents at firstname.lastname@example.org, UC President Janet Napolitano at President@ucop.edu, and our City Council at CityCouncilmembers@cityofdavis.org.
— Eileen Samitz is a Davis resident and former member of the Davis Planning Commission, the 2001 General Plan Update Committee and the 2008 General Plan Update Housing Element Steering Committee, and co-coordinator of Citizens for Responsible Planning.