The city of Davis has stepped up with support for some additional student housing, but UC Davis continues to drag their heels and now the city council has authorized $100,000 for the city to take the next steps.
In response to a letter from Interim Chancellor Ralph Hexter dated April 14, in which he basically summarizes the university position as “our response remains unchanged,” staff has recommended a new study.
Staff, following review of the letter, “believes this letter highlights the need for the City to pursue a number of actions to further illustrate and reinforce the prior questions, clarifications, concerns and requests that the City Council has put forward to UC Davis in the last several months regarding the LRDP [Long Range Development Plan], which remain largely unanswered.”
Staff recommends a response prepared by both staff and legal counsel that would come back on May 16.
Staff writes, “In light of the response received to the City’s correspondence to date, coupled with the continued forward progression and expected Fall 2017 release of the LRDP Draft EIR, staff believes it is prudent to begin preparation of our own series of analyses of potential impacts of the LRDP on the City. These areas of study and potential impacts include transportation, parks, greenbelts, and City services, as outlined in the City EIR scoping comment letter to UC Davis.”
Mayor Pro Tem Brett Lee said, “I think that UC Davis is making an effort to increase on-campus housing, they’ve talked about tearing down some two story complexes and turning them into three story and four stories – predominantly three stories – and they’ve also talked about taking rooms and, instead of two people in the room, tripling them up.”
He said, “I just find it noteworthy that for an existing place that they plan to tear down and then rebuild, I find it somewhat surprising that they would tear down a two story complex and replace it with a three story complex.” He added that “with a great shortage of on-campus housing it seems a lost opportunity.”
Lucas Frerichs said the RFQ (Request for Quotation) is going out this summer for the replacement of Orchard Park. He said, “The plan for the replacement of Orchard Park contains three-story replacement for the existing two stories that are there.”
He pled with the university to “consider a higher density replacement for Orchard Park on that site. There are very few neighbors nearby.” He said, “I think if there is any place on the campus that is rife for a higher density replacement for existing student housing it is absolutely the Orchard Park site.”
During public comment, Jean Jackman noted, “It greatly puzzles me, how the university can invest and thoughtfully and beautifully develop these two new buildings (International Center and the Scrubs Café in the new Vet Med Administration building) and yet – with UC Davis owning more land than all other UC campuses, they provide the least amount of student housing when it is so badly needed.”
She noted, “Rents are going up, mini-dorms with many cars are ruining neighborhoods and causing bad feelings, students have to live in other towns and drive long distances, polluting the air to get to campus.
“Perhaps it is time for tough love for UC Davis. Because we do love our university, but we need their demonstration of love for maintaining the quality in our town,” she said.
Dan Carson pointed out that when the council asked for the timing of new housing, Interim Chancellor Hexter, in his letter, “gave you a list of campus projects that doesn’t quite line up with the UC System capital improvement plan he also told you to read. He provided no information at all about when thousands of new students they plan to admit are going to show up.”
He said, “I guess we are left to assume that the housing will show up years later, if at all, after enrollment is increased. Most of the new housing beds, curiously, are proposed for the very last year of the plan, raising doubts about the campus commitment to actually deliver them, given all the broken promises in the past.
“You asked him about the density of the on-campus housing they are proposing. No answer,” he said. “You asked him what reasons they have for not building more housing than they are proposing. No answer.”
Mr. Carson continued, “The constructive dialogue Chancellor Hexter calls for in his letter just isn’t possible if campus officials are going to bob and weave and duck legitimate inquiries by our city representatives into their plans to increase the campus population – including students, staff, and others – by 24 percent over the next ten years. That’s their numbers, not mine.”
Greg Rowe said the LRDP “is going to do absolutely nothing to address (the housing needs), all they’re going to do is house 90 percent of the incoming students.” He added, “By my calculations the number of students living off campus in the city will actually increase over time between 2017 and 2027 under the LRDP. So they’re doing nothing to really solve the current crisis for all those students cited last week.
“UC is proposing to simply tread water and do nothing for additional housing between the 20-21 academic year and the end of the LRDP in 2027-28,” he said. “That’s just simply unacceptable.”
Alan Pryor pointed out, “UC Davis has stopped being a good neighbor years ago when they knowingly violated the terms of our joint Memorandum of Understanding re: adding student housing on campus. Their behavior has gotten worse in recent years as they have gobbled up whole apartment complexes with Master leases and small industrial park space for office use. Now they even want to start exporting their research laboratories to the City with all the attendant problems associated with them.”
He added, “The reason is very simple…money!! It is cheaper to lease an entire apartment house or office complex in town than build one on campus because of prevailing wage clauses and construction standards and maintenance costs.”
Robb Davis said, “What we ask for (in the December letter) is we ask for an understanding for why greater density, greater height in particular, are not possible. But we also said, if they’re not, please help us understand your business model.”
He said they want to “deepen our understanding of the constraints faced by the university and the opportunities.” The mayor said, “My disappointment is that we’re no closer to understanding some of the reasons why than we were previously.”
Mayor Davis said that a respectable partnership is what the city wants, but they need to understand the university’s rationale and the university has refused to explain it.
“We are not seeking to be in an adversarial relationship,” he said.
—David M. Greenwald reporting