In what has likely been the most discussed topic in the second part of 2016 (although there is competition), the Davis City Council unanimously approved a letter asking the university for changes to its LRDP.
Among the biggest is “the City requests that UC Davis provide for a minimum of 100 percent of the projected enrollment of all new incoming students starting with the 2017 academic year and at least 50 percent of total UC Davis campus student population in the LRDP.”
However, perhaps as important is the request “that UC Davis develop an accompanying construction and financing implementation strategy to ensure the delivery of these units and facilities in a timely manner.”
Councilmember Rochelle Swanson noted that “this isn’t some enforceable document” but rather this is “two groups working together and they are their jurisdiction and we are ours.” She said, “That’s the spirit in which we are moving forward so that we maintain our partnership.”
Mayor Robb Davis added, “We use the term partnership, and we want to have a healthy partnership between the city and the university. The boundaries are not real in one sense, because people move between them constantly and yet, they are real in that we have – we live with different realities and managing that partnership in the face of challenges should not be easy.”
The mayor noted the challenging real estate environment that impacts both the city and university as we both “figure out how to conserve the valuable farmland around us which is the reason the land grant university is here to begin with.
“We both aspire to conserve that precious resource and yet deal with the growth that we’re all facing because of the reality of needing to educate students but also the reality of needing to house people that work across this entire region,” the mayor added.
In their letter, the council noted, “We do not make the above LRDP requests without a sound recognition that the City has responsibilities in this partnership as well. The City has been and remains committed to doing its part to provide for the full and diverse breadth of housing needs in our community…”
They add, “While the City understands the campus perspective in putting forward the current ’90/40′ LRDP housing proposal, the City must evaluate it in the context of our commitment to provide for the full range of community housing needs. With the City’s continuous consideration of proposals to meet the wide range of community housing needs, it is crucial to recognize that the role of the City in the provision of housing fundamentally differs from that of the University. Where the City reviews proposals for development of private property and does not ultimately control where and when those proposals will be made to the City, the University of California controls its own fate of on-campus growth, construction, funding, and timing.”
For the city, they believe that UC Davis, which did not speak at this meeting, “has a responsibility to both plan and deliver the infrastructure, units, and facilities necessary to support its anticipated growth and to do so with creativity and adherence to sound land use planning and sustainability principles.”
The council’s efforts drew an overwhelming amount of support from the community, including vast portions of it that are normally quite critical of the council and its land use policies.
Greg Rowe praised the council for being able to pull this all together in less than two weeks. “It’s just absolutely fantastic work,” he said. “It’s proper that the council ask for the CEQA process to be postponed so that hopefully the project description can be revised by UC Davis to reflect the city’s desires.”
Dave McGlocklin said, “I find it difficult to understand why the university has been so reluctant to build housing.” From his perspective, “they’ve got the land. They certainly have the money and here we’re having to provide the community of Davis to provide housing for quite a long time.”
Eileen Samitz praised council and staff for the work that went into the letter. She stated that “there is no reason why UC Davis cannot do at least as much on-campus housing as other UCs.” She noted, “UC Davis is the largest UC in the (system), yet has historically provided the least amount of on-campus housing.”
She added it is important that UC Davis “provide that housing in pace with how quickly it is trying to bring on all this growth – it’s choosing to do.” She stated, “The UCD 2020 initiative is not mandatory, it is a self-directed program for revenue.”
She said that they have brought in 4500 non-resident students, “yet UCD is not willing to build the housing on campus in time.”
UC Irvine was a good example, she said, of a university that has provided 44 percent of all housing on-campus and they will have 46 percent by 2019. “If UC Irvine can do this, and it’s such a popular and successful program, that the students are demanding more and more of the housing on campus, the parents love it, it has hit affordability targets and it just begs the question: if UC Irvine can do this, why can’t UC Davis?”
Nancy Price said that she has lived here since 1973, and “this seems to be one of the first times that I’ve been impressed – by one of the few evidences of many members of the city working on this issue collaboratively, listening to each other, that the city council has really taken in a lot of the information that we’ve presented to you and dealt with it seriously and thoughtfully.”
She also said that staff “has also responded to much of what we in the community have brought forward.”
But not everyone was happy with this decision. Jim Gray was the one vocal critic of the letter and the council’s objective. He said, “I find myself in a unique position of coming before the council and asking you to not do what you’re prepared to do this evening.”
He argued that “the findings of your letter need major revisions.” He asked, “What’s the rush to get this out?”
Mr. Gray cited in their letter the 1150 units that the council has identified as in the works, but he argued, “[Y]ou have not itemized how many if any of those units are student rentals that are actually scheduled to be delivered.”
He believes “you are dramatically overstating in what share the community of Davis is bringing to address the student housing need.”
Jim Gray noted a May 2016 report that outlined that every campus is struggling to get to 40 to 50 percent of housing on campus. “It points out that we currently have a crisis of student housing throughout the state,” he said. “We have more than 15,000 students throughout the state on a waiting list.”
He added that, across the system, UC provides 33 percent of students with on campus, compared to what he believes is closer to 27 percent (rather than 29 percent) for UC Davis. He said, “While UC Davis doesn’t deserve an ‘A’, it provides the fourth greatest number of housing units on campus within the system.”
Councilmember Will Arnold said, “It does send a very strong message, it is important that we send a very strong message. Although we do have options beyond message sending.” He added, “I implore the university to pause the process to incorporate these desires that the community has.”
Councilmember Lucas Frerichs added, “The timing is important to get it in now, before the EIR process starts.” He cited the importance of the 100/50 split as well as timing the building of those units with student population growth.
The university had some representatives at the meeting but they did not respond or otherwise participate in the discussion.
—David M. Greenwald reporting