Council Approves Letter to University on Changes to LRDP

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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

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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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33 thoughts on “Council Approves Letter to University on Changes to LRDP”

  1. quielo

    ““We use the term partnership, and we want to have a healthy partnership between the city and the university.”

    So the City asked UCD to commit to certain targets but offered no action items of our own. Is this right? In the spirit of “partnership”?

  2. Misanthrop

    Yes, you have that right. Furthermore the letter states:

     “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…”

    A statement that is in denial about the resistance of the electorate to allow the city to do its part by voting down every Measure J/R vote put on the ballot.

  3. Tia Will

    One point that is being missed with regard to the establishment of a “partnership” is the attempt to forge collaboration between two very differently organized entities.

    The university is a very top down organization. The leadership positions of the Chancellor and his/her management team are not determined thorough a democratic process. They are selected and may or may not represent the perceived interest of those under their purview namely the students, staff and support personnel who have a most nominal input into the selection process. The leadership of the City of Davis on the other hand is elected by the voters of Davis and thus would seem to represent the will of the the majority, at least of those who choose to vote. To further the disparity, we have a weak mayor system and so simply do not have the equivalent “strongman” system that the university has.

    While I know that there are those in our community who dislike Measure J/R, it would seem highly disingenuous to suggest that this is a measure that is being forced on the community by its leadership in the same way that processes on campus are determined for the students by their leadership.

    It would seem to me that one major problem in establishing a true partnership is that we are trying to fuse the philosophy and operating assumptions of a very paternalistic organization with those of a very democratic institution which has the possibility for not only intentional differences in transparency and strategy, but also in just plain misunderstanding and miscommunication caused by arguing from different premises.

    1. Matt Williams

      I don’t disagree with Tia’s assessment of the two decision-making structures.  That structural difference has existed for many, many decades, with no apparent disfunction in the working relationship between the two organizations.

      What has changed that makes that structural difference more meaningful now than it has been in the past?

      1. Misanthrop

        What is different is Measures J/R. They altered the balance and now the council can only offer lip service to working collaboratively with the university on housing issues. As we saw with Nishi the city council doesn’t have the authority to get its part done.

        1. Chamber Fan

          I’m not a big fan of Measure R, but I think you underestimate the community’s ability to block non-Measure R projects.  I mean Lincoln40 and Sterling could fix our problems somewhat and yet it’s not a Measure R that can stop them, but rather the overall landuse climate.

        2. Misanthrop

          “I mean Lincoln40 and Sterling could fix our problems somewhat and yet it’s not a Measure R that can stop them, but rather the overall landuse climate.”

          Its more complicated than that. The inability to build on the periphery drives the desire to build big projects as infill but infill then draws resistance from the neighbors.

        3. Misanthrop

          Robb Davis has believed in not building on farmland and advocated for infill since he ran. I have disagreed with him on this but at least he has been consistent. I do wonder if the intense opposition to infill surprised him. Last night it seems from what he said about preserving farmland it seems he hasn’t changed. It is disappointing but I am not surprised. Its doubtful that the elected leaders of Davis are going to lead on opposing the renewal of Measure R. The only hope is that there is an organized grass roots opposition to the renewal and that the people of Davis realize that not going out means going up and increasing density.

      2. Mark West

        Matt W. “That structural difference has existed for many, many decades, with no apparent disfunction in the working relationship between the two organizations.”

        There has been a great deal of dysfunction between the two organizations over the years,  driven by the anti-student bias in the local community as is now being expressed by those fighting to prevent more students from living in town.  More recently we can add those who, despite their utter lack of knowledge and experience, believe they should be able to dictate to the University how it should function.

        The University of California is first and foremost a research institution that also functions as the premier public University in the State. Providing housing is not a core function of the University as that is the core responsibility and function of each campus’ host city. The basic problem today is that local residents and politicians in Davis fail to understand (or refuse to accept) this core function as a host city for a world-class University.

      3. Tia Will

        Matt

        That structural difference has existed for many, many decades, with no apparent disfunction in the working relationship between the two organizations.

        What has changed that makes that structural difference more meaningful now than it has been in the past?

        I honestly cannot tell if you are serious or joking.

        Two issues come immediately to mind :

        1) The previous controversy over placement of additional housing in West Davis with access to Russell.

        2) The controversy over the joint management of the Fire Department entailed quite a bit of controversy and what I would consider dysfunction.

        I am sure that there have been others but I was not following issues as closely while working full time and raising my kids.

        1. Matt Williams

          Tia, both the examples you have provided are very recent in the timeline of UCD – City relations … the first in 2005 and the second in 2013.

          — The 51 year period prior to the Regents designation of UC Davis as a general campus is not marked by reports of town-gown dysfunction.

          — The eleven years with Emil Mrak as Chancellor are not marked by reports of town-gown dysfunction.  Both organizations grew substantially.  UCD from 2,000 to 13,000 and the City from 8,000 to 23,000.

          — Similarly, the eighteen years with James Meyer as Chancellor are not marked by reports of town-gown dysfunction.  Both the City’s population and UCD’s enrollment doubled and UCD transitioned the ownership and operation of the Sacramento Medical Center from the town into the gown.

          — Following Meyer, the seven years with Theodore Hullar as Chancellor are not marked by reports of town-gown dysfunction. The Hullar period was marked by the creation of UC Davis Principles of Community … a shared set of principles between the University and the City, which acknowledges that the University and the City—and those who make up the two—constitute one community.

          — The fifteen year tenure of Larry Vanderhoef as Chancellor from 1994 to 2009 continued and built on the work of his predecessors, expanding student population, faculty, rankings, facilities, stature, research funding, philanthropic donations, and world-class performing arts.  The result was that the university began to take a place on the world stage.  One could argue that the last half of this 1994 to 2009 period, when UCD came into world prominence, was when the seeds of the current dysfunction between town and gown were sown.

          Tangible evidence of the seeds of the current dysfunction was evident in the build up to the 2000 Measure J vote when UCD officials actively spoke out against Measure J as being bad for the University. The Sacramento Bee quoted Chancellor Vanderhoef as saying “Measure J does not meet the mutual needs of the city and the university, which must ensure adequate housing for students and faculty. The cost of housing will go up, and that hurts us, because we have to recruit people from all over the country into this community.  Stanford (University) lost their college town. Nobody at Stanford can afford to live in Palo Alto anymore.”

          The first of your two examples was a direct result of Chancellor Vanderhoef’s response to the City’s passage of Measure J … the presentation by UCD of the the West Village Master Plan to the UC Regents and subsequent approval by the Regents in November, 2003.  It was the portent of more dysfunction to come, and stood in stark contrast to the 1959 through 2000 period and its predecessor 1908 through 1959 pre-Chancellor period.

          I would argue that your second example is actually a very good example of the City and University working well together in the face of organized opposition by a special interest group subset within the city.  I categorize that as function rather than dysfunction.

  4. Chamber Fan

    I find it interesting to watch everyone yell pound the university and then wanting them to be our partners.  I see education as a joint venture and the city benefits greatly from the university and yet wants to push growth on them as though growth is not growth.

    1. Grok

      “and yet wants to push growth on them [the University] as though growth is not growth.”

      This is just ridiculous. The University is expanding its enrollment, that is where the growth is coming from. The real question, and balance is how much of the University’s growth will be on campus, and how much will be in the City of Davis or other places.

      1. Chamber Fan

        Grok – Isn’t it a good thing that the university is expanding their enrollment?  It means more people will get an excellent education.  Shouldn’t we be asking what we can do to help?  Rather than point the finger at them?

        1. Grok

          Isn’t it a good thing that the university is expanding their enrollment?

          I appreciate that there are more opportunities for higher education in California. I see that there are may ways to accomplish it, and rapidly expanding the enrollment at UCD is just one. All I have argued for is that if that is the avenue to increase educational resources in California then the University should provide more student housing.

      2. Mark West

        “The University is expanding its enrollment, that is where the growth is coming from.”

        The population of Yolo County has expanded by roughly 2% per year for the past four decades. That is where the growth is coming from.

        1. Grok

          Mark, that might be a relevant comment if the City Council had asked UCD to house the expanding population of Yolo County, but they did not. The Council asked the university to house only a small subset of that – the expanding enrollment of the University itself.

        2. Mark West

          It is completely relevant to anyone other than those looking for a justification for keeping students out of the City. The demand for housing in Davis is directly due to the increased population of the region as expressed in the population growth of the County, and the fact that Davis has not grown accordingly. UCD is really only a secondary demand driver for the overall housing need in town.

          In my opinion, the City Council erred in their decision to ask UCD for more housing as housing is the City’s core function, not the Univerisity’s. The decision was a political one to appease the noisy faction in town and has no rational purpose.

        3. Misanthrop

          It will likely be discounted by the University as such anyway. Perhaps UC will build even more but that still won’t fix the supply shortage in the city.

      1. Misanthrop

        One would think so but with all the nonsense from David and other locals about how UCD should delay enrollment increases until the housing gets built it makes you wonder. Of course outside the Davis bubble students parents and their representatives in Sacramento want UCD to admit more and more people. The other irony is that  people have opposed all sorts of plans to accommodate needed growth and now want UCD to slow down without taking any ownership of the housing shortage they have helped to create.

  5. Jerry Waszczuk

    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.”

    It  must a  be reason why the UC  Regents and  the UCOP  do not support the idea to  have more on- campus housing and more students live on  UC Davis  campus as other UC’s have .

    More housing on-campus requires more security , more police , more maintenance personnel   and more energy which converts to higher cost to keep the larger  students population on campus .  The UC Davis campus is  has lot of land to build but scattering students outside the the campus is a lot convenient , cost less and worry free. Beside the above UC  Davis has specific agriculture character and most likely the regents and UCOP likes to keep the  ” Wild West and Cowboys    ”  in Davis  as it was one Century ago.  I thing that the good comparison to  the UC Davis would be Texas A&M (Texas Aggies )University  Campus in College Station , TX with 5300 acres of the land area and 60,000  enrolled students  of  which only 11,000 lives  on-campus .  The Texas A&M University campus in College Station  infrastructure with  the own  energy sources , oil fields  and lot  money  most likely would have no problem to build the town for  60, 000 students on campus but if it would affect the unique character of the Agriculture and Wild West of the  Texas A&M  which is a great University like UC Davis is.  I worked for Texas A&M for several years  and for UC Davis for 13 years .

    https://www.tamu.edu/about/at-a-glance.html

    http://reslife.tamu.edu/apply/rates/

  6. Edison

    Some comments in response to previous posts today.

    Student housing as a UC responsibility and core business: The UC Board of Regents and President have in fact recognized on-campus housing as a UC responsibility. Just take a look at the report, “UC Housing for the 21st Century,” issued by the Regents in November 2002.  Quotes from the report are included in the Resolution (Reso) adopted by Council last night, reflecting the realization by the Regents that housing built to meet the needs of students, faculty and staff alleviates the need for the community to provide housing for these groups and also adds to the state’s housing stock; see the Reso for additional quotes.

    The 2002 report clearly articulated the responsibility of UC campuses to provide housing, and set goals for each campus. In the case of UCD, those goals did not even come close to attainment.  That’s why the Council’s revised letter to Interim Chancellor wisely requested that UC develop a housing construction and financing implementation strategy to ensure delivery of new housing units and facilities in a timely manner commensurate with student population growth. This will hopefully prevent a recurrence of actions such as the previous Chancellor’s “2020 Initiative” to boost enrollment by 5,000 students over a brief span with no accompanying plan as to where the sudden surge of students would reside.

    Early this year President Napolitano launched the “President’s Student Housing Initiative,” which reiterated the UC system’s realization that providing on-campus student housing is indeed an inherent “core responsibility.” The goal was to add 14,000 beds among the UC campuses. The Regents received an update report on this initiative in the spring. This effort seems to me evidence of a continuing conviction on the part of the President and Regents that student housing is indeed among the responsibilities of the UC system and the individual campuses.

    UC alone can’t solve the Davis housing shortage:  Yes, a vigorous and expeditious program of on-campus housing construction by UCD will not by itself fix the housing supply shortage, and the Council’s action last night explicitly recognizes this. The Council’s Reso transmittal letter recognizes this by forthrightly stating the City is committed to doing its part to provide for the full and diverse breadth of housing needs in the community, and is committed to reviewing new high density apartment proposals such as Lincoln40 and Sterling as they come forward.  From this perspective, I believe that Council addressed the desires and convictions held on all sides of this issue; they want UCD to do its fair share, but have likewise said they’ll open to a variety of projects within the city.  The Council also indicated its willingness to initiate discussions with UCD regarding potential future options for the Nishi property.

    I’ve read the Council’s Reso and transmittal letter many times. Each time I become increasingly impressed by how well those documents “touch all the bases,” especially the revised documents distributed in the Council chambers last night. I’ve worked in and with local government bodies for many years, and I’ve seen few efforts as well conceived and executed as the documents approved by the Council on Tuesday night. There are provisions in both documents that should resonate with and garner at least  nodding approval from those both in favor of more on-campus housing and those who believe more should be done by the City. By any measure, that means to me that the City Council and staff “hit a home run.”

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