UCD is still trying to side-step more needed higher density campus housing
By Colin Walsh
Interim Chancellor Hexter seems to be exaggerating how much new housing the University plans on building. A lack of enough new housing construction on campus will exacerbate the student housing shortage and is likely to damage the relationship between the City and the University and create additional hardship for UC Davis students.
The University of California Davis’s proposed Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) currently proposes building new housing, to create a “capacity to accommodate more than 90% of enrollment growth in campus housing and 40% of the Davis-based students in campus housing by 2027-28.” This falls well short of the housing that is being provided on other UC campuses. Most UC campuses are well on their way to reaching their goals of providing housing for 50% of their students.
On December 21st, the Davis City Council sent a letter to Interim Chancellor Hexter, accompanied by a resolution. Both called on UC Davis to, “incorporate into the LRDP substantial additional on-campus housing units and housing density”. The City asked that “UC Davis provide for a minimum of 100 percent of the projected student enrollment growth, including 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.”This is a very reasonable request on the City’s part, and would bring UCD housing in line with the rest of the UC system
The City pointed out that, “the scope of what has been proposed to date in the LRDP is not sufficient to meet the projected growth of the university and, if left unchanged, will have substantial negative impacts on the community we share.”
It took the University over a month to respond the City’s December 21st letter, and now that they have, their response is lack luster.
The University’s response came in in a letter from Interim Chancellor Hexter to the City of Davis dated January 25th (that became public on February 2nd). The letter continues to cap student housing at only 40% of student enrollment despite the City of Davis’s requests to do better.
UCD will be growing at a rapid pace in the next 10 years adding, over 6,000 new UCD students and over 1,000 new students to the Los Rios Community College in West Village. If UCD doesn’t increase its housing, it will leave many more students looking for housing in the city of Davis’s already tight housing market. UCD will also need much more faculty and staff to provide education and other services for the increased enrollment. These faculty and staff will need housing too, and will likely look to the City of Davis first.
Under the current plan, UCD is expecting the City of Davis to absorb thousands of more residents while the University is unwilling to increase its capacity goals despite reasonable requests from the Davis City Council, UC Davis Students and Davis residents.
The Universities perspective on “Upcoming UC Davis On-Campus Housing Projects” is spelled out quite clearly in Attachment 1 that accompanies the Interim Chancellors January 25th letter and it is inadequate. The 8 points from this attachment follow:
“1) We reached an agreement with the owners of the West Village student apartments to allow increased occupancy within existing units, adding capacity for over 600 students,”
This increase is accomplished solely by having students double up in existing rooms. There is zero added capacity or services, only increased density, without increased facilities to make it more palatable to students.
“2) We are revising our assessment of on-campus housing capacity to treat the doubling and tripling of a certain percentage of bedrooms as an ongoing rather than a short-term measure to add capacity,”
This strategy continues an emergency overcrowding policy on a permanent basis and is simply not good planning. It does not actually add any structurally capacity and it is detrimental to student on campus living conditions. Forcing students to live 3 to a room with inadequate bathrooms and study lounges, laundry rooms and dining halls creates overcrowding and unneeded hardships for students. It also makes living on campus far less desirable and motivates students to look for housing off campus.
“3) We have a new residence hall, Tercero 4, under construction to add 500 students to the Tercero complex on campus, after demolishing an older, low-rise housing complex. The Tercero 4 residence hall will open fall of 2017.”
This new building at Tercero is a goal set in a previous UCD LRDP and is years behind schedule.
“4) We will be demolishing the existing buildings at Orchard Park this summer and will replace it with a new, higher density project for 800 students, intended to serve students with families and graduate students.”
The current buildings have been shuttered for over 2 years and redevelopment is also years behind schedule. This project was also included in the last LRDP. The Interim Chancellor’s claim that this is a higher density project is only partly true. This project also nearly doubles the land used for the Orchard Park complex. The new construction will include the currently unused land between the existing Orchard Park buildings and the freeway and displaces greenhouses East of the Domes. The new Orchard Park plan will use about 21 acres to house 800 students. If this development were taller it would provide a higher density which would accommodate many more students. By comparison, at the January 25th UC Regents meeting, UC San Diego unveiled plans to build 8 story tall buildings, and were urged by the UC Regents to build taller to house more students and make the most efficient use of the land.
“5) We are planning to demolish Webster Hall in the summer of 2017 and replace the existing 260 student complex with a new residence hall serving 360 students. The new Webster Hall will open in the fall of 2019. In addition to serving 100 more students, the building design will allow for the tripling of rooms if needed.”
In November, Interim Chancellor Hexter testified to the Regents that the University was simply adding a floor to the two Cuarto buildings (Webster and Emerson Halls) to achieve these fairly small capacity increases. Apparently this information was incorrect and it has now been made clear that the entire buildings will be torn down and replaced. One impact is that it will significantly reduce the amount of on-campus housing for the several years long demolition and re-construction process. While this will help to provide some additional housing when completed, it is a significant amount of effort and expense for such a marginal increase. These buildings should be rebuilt at 6 stories tall, on par with other new apartment complexes being proposed in Davis. In fact, this is a much more appropriate place to build taller buildings, since the immediate neighbors are all more student housing.
“6) Emerson Hall is planned for demolition in the summer of 2019. That 500-student complex will be replaced with a new residence hall serving 700 students. The new Emerson Hall is targeted to open for the fall of 2021. In addition to serving 200 more students, the building design will allow for the tripling of rooms if needed.”
This redevelopment has all of the same problems as the Webster hall increase. It too was announced to the Regents as simply adding a floor, but now is going to be torn down and completely rebuilt to add a marginal increase in housing. This too should be built taller, and to not do so is a missed opportunity.
“7) We will begin construction on a new dining facility within the Tercero area which will allow for further densification of Tercero and a new Tercero phase 5 residence hall. Construction on the Tercero Dining Commons 2 project will begin summer of 2017 and will be completed fall of 2019.”
This dining hall expansion is trailing behind the expansion of the Tercero 4 by two years.
“8) We are incorporating environmental review for a new West Village apartment project to house 1,600 -1,800 students into the draft LRDP and draft LRDP EIR documents, so that this project can move forward as soon as the LRDP and its EIR are approved. This project will serve incoming transfer students and will allow for the university to conclude the leasing of apartments within the city of Davis.”
This is the only significant increase in housing capacity on campus referenced in the Interim Chancellor’s attachment 1, but this project is years away from completion and once it is completed, it will not house any part of the increase in enrollment. This new development will replace apartments master-leased by the University in the City of Davis.
Taken as a whole, the Interim Chancellors attachment 1 significantly fails to provide anywhere close to even the 40% ceiling promised in the LRDP.
So, although Interim Chancellors Hexter was quoted on February 1st in the Davis Enterprise as saying, “Together, we must find a path forward that addresses the inevitable changes that the coming decades will bring. Careful planning, discussion, analysis and decisions must be part of that path” it is far from clear how the University will work with the City considering the lack luster response to the City’s letter.
Hexter is further quoted as saying “Both UC Davis and the city of Davis bring different ideas and perspectives about how we grow and what impact decisions about growth might bring.” But what perspective should the city have after receiving such an inadequate proposal for building more housing?
Interim Chancellor Hextor was also quoted in the Davis Enterprise as stating, “Our town-gown relationship is strong.” One has to wonder how strong it is when the University is unwilling to provide enough campus housing despite the City’s repeated requests to do so.