The city received a response on January 25 from Interim Chancellor Ralph Hexter on the LRDP (Long Range Development Plan). Will Arnold noted that Mike Webb had attended the UC Board of Regents meeting on behalf of the city, and that that participation was both unusual and well received by the Board of Regents.
Councilmember Will Arnold, who pulled the item, suggested looking at ways to engage the Board of Regents more directly, bypassing the local university which the council and community increasingly see as non-responsive to their city’s concerns and unwilling to work with the city.
Councilmember Arnold said, “I’m very discouraged at the responses that we keep getting from the university and frankly, if any of them are listening, I’m losing a little bit of faith that they’re acting as good faith partners right now because all we seem to get back from them right now is thanks, but no thanks.”
Councilmember Lucas Frerichs said, while he is not close to thinking about legal action, “but I do think it would be nice to see what other communities have done. It goes to that issue of being prepared.”
There were several public commenters on the item on Tuesday. Greg Rowe, a resident, indicated that he had attended the UC Board of Regents meeting as well. He called the Interim Chancellor letter, “Totally unresponsive to the legitimate concerns the city has expressed. It merely suggests, let’s have more discussion and dialogue.
“It implies that it’s up to the city to solve the university’s growth problems,” he said. “They appear to completely reject your suggestion that the campus house up to 50 percent of the future students on campus.”
Mr. Rowe indicated that the chancellor complained, saying “that would mean we would have to house 3900 more students on the campus.” Mr. Rowe responded, “yeah, well they’re your students, not ours.”
He added that would be equivalent to the city approving five Sterling-sized projects or more than five Lincoln40 projects. “Both of which,” he said, “ironically are proposed at 5 stories, something that UCD is reluctant to do.” He asked, “Why should you be asked to approve something at five stories that the campus won’t build?”
Mr. Rowe went a step further, stating, “You might want to ask the regents to intervene in this LRDP and have them instruct UCD to go back to the drawing boards…” He suggested either go to the 50/100 as the city has requested or keep it at 40/90 but make sure the 50/100 is an equal weight alternative in the EIR.
“I think now is the time to look at alternative legal remedies that the city might have,” he said looking at a settlement agreement between the city of Santa Cruz and UC Santa Cruz.
Mike Webb noted that one problem that the city has with engaging the regents is that they don’t have another meeting scheduled for several months.
Will Arnold asked about “be prepared for legal remedies,” and asked the city attorney to address what that might mean.
Harriet Steiner noted that right now they are looking at the most appropriate ways “to preserve our legal rights.” She said, “There really isn’t a litigation issue at the moment because we’re just at the very beginning of the process.
“We’re also looking at what the other campuses have done to address the same issues,” she added.
The full letter from Interim Chancellor Ralph Hexter, dated January 25, 2017
Dear Mayor Davis:
I am in receipt of your letter of December 20, 2016 and the accompanying City of Davis Resolution No. 16-175, Series 2016 regarding the UC Davis Long Range Development Plan (LRDP). I was pleased that Ken Burtis, Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor was able to discuss your letter in person on January 3, 2017 and provide a preliminary written response on January 9, 2017. And I understand and appreciate that Bob Segar and Marj Dickinson continue to be in communication with you, other councilmembers and staff about the issues you raised. In the spirit of shared problem solving and partnership, I offer these more detailed responses and observations.
I have many of the same concerns as you about the availability and affordability of housing supply in our shared community. That is why our draft LRDP includes capacity to house 90% of enrollment growth on campus. Our data shows that approximately 90% of students have historically lived on campus or in the city of Davis, with 10% living outside of our community. The draft LRDP would provide capacity for the campus to house 6,200 additional students—1,800 students in new residence halls and 4,400 students in new apartment-style campus housing. These numbers have been widely shared since May of 2016, including open houses cohosted by the city and the campus at locations in the city, and the draft LRDP has been well informed by campus and community input over the past 15 months. I thank the city staff, councilmembers and community members for working with us and informing our process every step of the way. Please be assured that we are committed to continuing to examine opportunities for additional housing capacity within our draft LRDP land-use plan during the first stages of the environmental analysis.
As Interim Provost Burtis discussed with you in person, and shared in writing with you, we did not believe it was necessary to delay the formal start of the environmental review process in order to continue to study increased housing capacity on campus. Stopping the process would delay the completion of the draft LRDP and its draft EIR, with a corresponding delay in the delivery of housing projects envisioned in the draft LRDP. Such delays will only serve to exacerbate the existing pressures on our housing and academic-space inventories.
As you know, the UC Davis campus has a number of housing projects underway. I have attached a list that details those projects and their timing. While those projects and housing proposed in the LRDP will address planned campus growth, the campus and the city must work together to evaluate planning for additional housing, and I have attached a proposal for collaborative problem solving to address the availability and affordability of housing in our shared community. These concrete efforts and ideas demonstrate our commitment to creating a healthier housing situation through both our plans and our actions.
Regarding campus plans for ‘non-residential’ space within the city of Davis, an issue you raised in your letter, we added land into the draft LRDP, south of Interstate 80 at Old Davis Road, to potentially accommodate such needs, dependent upon demand and financial feasibility. Campus LRDPs account for land owned by The Regents, not leased properties, but we certainly will engage with city staff and Council members further on this topic.
Thank you again for the clarification of Council goals, and for continuing the open dialogue with campus staff and leadership that has characterized this process from the beginning.
Ralph J. Hexter