We have heard a lot from residents in this community – many of them long-time residents, who already own homes – but we have not heard nearly enough from students.
While this is once again a student housing discussion that took place during finals week, when students were preoccupied, it was nice to watch the planning commission meeting and see a mix of comments, including quite a few from people who are not the “usual suspects.”
I wish to highlight two, ASUCD President Alex Lee and GSA Representative Don Gibson, for the purpose of adding to this discussion.
As Alex Lee put it, “I’m very proud to say that the student government got both the university and the city council to say, it’s a joint responsibility. That’s what many students believe – it’s a shared responsibility.”
Alex Lee, student body president, and a fourth year senior, spoke during the planning commission meeting.
I served as the ASUCD president this year and I wanted to give you a face for the many thousands of students depending upon the housing situation within Davis. You’re going to hear that notion brought up a lot about students, but I want to give you a face of what one looked like. One who for three, four years, struggled to find housing each year. It got harder and harder to the point where I have to compete in the market at that rate.
It’s also finals week so there aren’t as many students out here as we’d like – I need to go back to studying right after public comment. But we’ve had a petition circulating since last night and we have 65 signatures so far and its growing still amongst the students – the grads and undergrads.
The Sterling Student Apartments are within the larger context of the housing crisis in Davis. You can’t not talk about that. But having this unique proposal that has affordable housing which provides for a lot of the community members that want to live there, that are not just students, and student oriented housing is tremendous to lift the pressure off.
We’ve heard a lot about the hot-potato type issue, between the city and the university going ‘it’s your problem’ ‘no, it’s your problem.’ They go back and forth. But this year I’m very proud to say that the student government got both the university and the city council to say, it’s a joint responsibility. That’s what many students believe – it’s a shared responsibility.
The Sterling Fifth Apartments go a small way of the dent of the increasing student population, it is an unnatural population growth but in many ways it is the lifeblood of this community. Many of the business and restaurants are sprawling because the students are coming with different tastes and different metropolan lifestyles and they want to contribute back to society.
I have been very proud to live in the city of Davis for three years and I very much enjoy it. Whether the campus should have more students or the city should have more students, I think it’s a shared responsibility. But having that option for students – the thousands that come through every four or five years and contribute to the identity of this very campus, is so pivotal.
Because if there isn’t enough housing, and we’re seeing this already, students will be migrating to the surrounding cities and thus driving more, and our parking as a corollary effect as you can see, is already impacted. So if there’s more cars coming in, there will be more traffic and more congestion. But if there’s students living in apartments in Davis, they can take Unitrans which is funded by students primarily, and they can also bike to campus and that will relieve some of the traffic congestion concerns.
Don Gibson, from the Graduate Student Association, spoke during the Planning Commission Meeting and submitted his statement to the Vanguard:
Hello my name is Don Gibson, I am a PhD candidate at UC Davis and have been a member of the UC Davis community for the last 10 years. I’m coming here as the chair of the graduate student Association and ASUCD joint Housing Task Force. The Joint ASUCD-GSA Housing Task Force stands in strong support of the Sterling Project.
The housing crisis facing the UC Davis Community both students and staff continues to get worse every day. The university is planning on adding thousands of new students and staff while the City of Davis has not increased the housing supply in the same time.
Our support for this project is highlighted by three big numbers: 0.2%, 0.2% is the vacancy rate for Davis apartments. Meaning for every 1000 apartments only 2 stand vacant today. 13%, 13% is the approximant increase in annual rent last year because of this shockingly low supply, landlords have no incentive to provide quality or affordable housing in Davis. 540 beds, the number of bed added will be incredibly helpful for students in dire need of finding a quality place within the city of Davis.
When deciding upon whether to approve this project can we call upon the Planning Commission to consider the effects of rejecting housing that can fit approximately 540 additional beds. Additional housing in the city of Davis is by far the most sustainable solution for our environment, the City of Davis, and those who work or study at the university. If this housing does not get built that would be an additional 540 people who would most likely drive by car every day. That’s an additional 540 cars clogging our freeways, our roads, our parking garages. To continue Davis’s ethos of sustainability, having additional housing in the city of Davis is by far the best way to save our environment. Housing in the City of Davis allows these residents to use far more sustainable for their transportation options such as biking or Unitrans which studies have shown that 72% will take either of those options from this side of town.
The Sterling project has some unique adventives. Being an infill project provides a significant number of beds without the need without removing agricultural lands. Next, having a significant percentage of housing units be single rooms is a great way to attract young professional like myself to the city of Davis. Single rooms are important for young professionals because it facilities meeting new people without the struggle to find a roommate.
Lets be clear, both the City of Davis and UC Davis have the responsibility to share the need to build student housing. Recently the university has begun taken steps to relive the housing crisis. However, the City of Davis has not held up its end of the bargain in the last decade to support the college town environment. By restricting housing growth for its student population more and more students are forced to live in apartments beyond intended capacity and forcing many to commute by car from outside of Davis. We call upon the planning commission and the elected leaders in Davis to support housing designed for the student population.
Lastly, here in the middle of a Finals week, the city of Davis should do its fair share in the housing crisis and approve desperately needed housing. If it was not for the students in the university the city of Davis would not be the city many of us here love today. If Davis continues down the path of rejecting housing in the city center, it will go against the core values many of us hold of sustainable environmental practices by forcing hundreds of more people to drive from far away every day.
Please support the Sterling project.