To date, a Change.org petition that calls “upon the University of California Davis to keep the Russell, Howard, Toomey and A-Street fields permanently as open playing fields in their current (2016) configuration” has received more than 1400 signatures.
The proposal to put student housing on the fields bordering the south side of Russell Boulevard has received near unanimous and strong opposition from the Davis and campus communities alike, and yet, according to our latest information, while the university has reduced the potential development in that location, they have not pulled it yet.
As the petition notes, “recent versions of the UCD Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) called for building housing, academic, or administrative buildings on the sites of two or more of above mentioned fields. This would greatly diminish athletic space at the core of campus and open space between campus and the city.”
It adds, “These intramural (IM) fields provide valuable space for IM and club sports and other activities important to health and physical and mental well-being of students and other Davis residents and are central to student life because of their central location.”
The key question we have to ask is why? It would seem only logical that the university would follow the path of least resistance here.
I have a few thoughts on the entire process.
While opinions are divided within the Davis community on the issue of how much and where to put additional housing in the city, most everyone agrees that UC Davis’ growth policies have driven a lot of the new demand for housing in the city. Further, over the course of the last several decades, UC Davis has not put their share of housing on campus and has not honored commitments to increase their share of on-campus housing.
When they have built new housing on campus, it has often been slow to come, expensive and delayed. That was the case, for instance, with West Village.
During their Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) process, the university has been pushed by city leaders and members of the community to agree to provide more housing on campus. After initially issuing a vague statement that they would be unable to provide housing to accommodate all of the projected student growth, they eventually put a number on that and said they would house 90 percent of new students.
While 90 percent of new students is better than they were initially promising, it does not accommodate all new students, it does not accommodate new faculty and staff who will be hired to accommodate somewhere between 6000 and 7000 new students in the next decade, and it does not accommodate current housing shortfalls – that have driven the vacancy rate under one percent and stressed housing prices and the availability of single-family housing in Davis.
At the same time, UC Davis is not suffering for lack of available land. The most obvious location would be to build around West Village where land is available and infrastructure is there.
So why did the university throw out Russell, Howard and Toomey fields as potential spots for housing? That is not clear. Even less clear is why they would continue to leave something as an option out there in the face of pushback and near unanimous opposition.
Do they see it as a bargaining chip? Are they thinking they can trade it for something they want from the community? None of it makes a lot of sense.
In our view, when Helen Thomson comes out in opposition to a project, as she did back in August, it makes sense to re-think it.
Why the university seems to be dragging its heels on removing the proposal completely is perplexing, at best.
—David M. Greenwald reporting