Back in December, the Davis City Council earned a lot of praise from normally critical corners, and rightly so with their strong effort to push back against UC Davis in the LRDP process and to articulate the community’s position.
The city gained a number of concessions on key issues – in particular, the removal of housing proposals from the athletic fields on the south side of Russell Boulevard, agreements by UC Davis to end the use of master leases, and an agreement to allow the city to have determinations for Nishi and a potential university access point.
However, the city, while acknowledging their own responsibilities for building infill housing and student apartments, pushed harder on UC Davis to go further in providing housing on campus.
In December the city council sent a letter to Acting Chancellor Ralph Hexter on the Long Range Development Plan, requesting “that UC Davis incorporate into the LRDP substantial additional on-campus housing units and housing density, and provide clear definition of non-residential space increase needs and how those increases will be accommodated on-campus.”
Specifically, the council requested 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.”
The city council was rightly mindful of past interactions with the university where the university in the past has promised to increase the percentage of students living on campus – and has not delivered.
While the council pushed hard, clearly their document was a middle ground document. Many in the community have maintained the position that the university and its growth plans are driving the demand for student housing and they alone need to solve that problem.
The council drew a middle point there, arguing that, while UC Davis should provide for 100 percent of the enrollment of new students and half the total UC Davis campus student population, the city has its own obligations to provide housing.
It is not surprising that UC Davis has stuck with its 90/40 plan. At the meeting in December, Bob Segar tried to reason that there is always a 10 percent residual of students who will live outside of the Davis planning area, and therefore 90 percent is effectively all the new students that would live in town.
UC Davis has stuck with their timeline and proceeded to issue a Notice of Preparation (NOP), moving forward with the environmental review phase.
As one of our commenters noted, the city should probably resubmit the letter to campus as part of the scoping process.
But it seems clear at this point that UC Davis intends to move forward with their plan and will likely not alter 90/40. My comments here shouldn’t be interpreted to suggest that the city shouldn’t continue to press for 100/50, but I would really focus on the second part of the city’s ask – that UC Davis commit to a timetable to develop those promised 6200 beds for new students.
While the UCD position was expected, the comments of UC President Janet Napolitano were not. Some have attempted to argue that enrollment pressures were a UC Davis policy, rather than a UC policy. I think it is now clear that the UC President is driving the boat. And she is going to use the reluctance of the city of Davis to accommodate more housing and grow as a rationale for expanding UC Davis’ presence into Sacramento.
Janet Napolitano pitched the idea of a third campus, telling the Bee this week that Sacramento “could relieve the shortage of space on the Davis campus, especially as the university population continues to grow.”
In other words, UC is now saying, fine, we will put additional students on the UC Davis campus, but that means we have less room for new programs.
We have constantly heard from some in the community that UC Davis has 5300 acres of land and therefore they easily can accommodate more student housing. In discussions on the Vanguard, there are questions as to how much of that land is actually land that can be developed.
For example, we know from some communications that there was a real tension with regard to West Village as to how far west the university could expand, because that land was used for experimental agricultural research.
It would behoove the community to get a better handle over what land UC Davis believes it can develop and what land they are compelled to set aside for other uses.
That is not to say that the activists are wrong, but rather to suggest that we not argue in a vacuum here.
UC is clearly operating as though there were considerably less available land than the 5300 acres cited by community members.
Is that just an excuse to start creating a Sacramento presence or an indication that a lot of that 5300 acres is not developable?
In yesterday’s commentary, we cited other statements by President Napolitano suggesting that UC views Sacramento as the ideal location for a third campus and potentially the World Food Center.
This fall the Vanguard, noting the change in chancellors at UC Davis, pushed for the idea of the World Food Center staying at Davis as a driver for technology transfer from the university, startups and other companies coming to Davis.
Earlier this week, it appeared there was good news, with newly-elected Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry stating that she would support a UC Davis consideration for building the World Food Center “on its land and there are other parcels like the (on-hold) Mace Ranch Innovation Center proposal.”
She told the Vanguard, “I want to see Yolo County as a hub for ag-tech, including value added product manufacturing. AgPlus (Central Valley Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium) is one initiative I’m involved with that is a good model here.”
But UC President Janet Napolitano appears to have other plans. She told the Sacramento Bee on Wednesday that “she hopes whoever gets picked as the new chancellor of UC Davis can pull off an expansion of the campus into Sacramento.”
That would appear to include the World Food Center.
The World Food Center would be a boon for the city of Davis and a potential anchor for an innovation center that could help alleviate revenue problems for the city.
Yesterday, a reader noted that, in San Diego, UC San Diego is expanding greatly, but much of that expansion is no closer to downtown San Diego than UC Davis is to the Capitol, as far as driving time.
Whether UC Davis and UC are using pressure by the community as an excuse to move to Sacramento or whether they have legitimate reasons for doing so, we maintain that the city council did the right thing to push for UC Davis to accommodate more of their student growth on council.
The rest is going to take a lot of work behind the scenes by the council to assure UC Davis that this is a partnership and that both the city and university benefit from cooperation.
But anyone who thought this would be easy, and that the war was won here, was badly mistaken.
—David M. Greenwald reporting