In yesterday’s column the Vanguard reiterated its position on campus housing – while the Vanguard has been adamant that the city of Davis needs to step up to help resolve their end of the crisis, the bulk of the work falls to the university. The city can help solve the current situation by providing more housing, but UC Davis must accommodate new student housing demands.
The city’s position, as expressed in a December letter to Interim Chancellor Ralph Hexter, is that UC Davis needs to accommodate 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.”
Instead, UCD’s commitment has topped out at 90 percent of new students and only 40 percent of the total UC Davis campus population.
This may seem like a small deal but the reality is that the university’s commitment level matters a great deal for future planning in the community.
The university has committed to building 6200 new on-campus beds in the current draft LRDP (Long Range Development Plan). But if UC Davis is planning to accommodate 90 percent of new beds, that number means there are around 6900 to 7000 total students coming in the next decade. That 700 or so bed gap means that the city will need to build an additional apartment complex somewhere between the size of the approved Sterling and the proposed Lincoln40.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg. The real numbers are in the second figure. Currently about 28 or 29 percent of students live on campus. The current plan would raise that to about 40 percent by 2027-29.
The city has pushed for half of all students to be housed on campus by 2027-28.
That difference is actually rather sizable. UC Davis projects that by 2027-28, there will be just under 40,000 students enrolled at the university. If the university housed half, that would be around 20,000 students housed on campus. At 40 percent the number would be around 16,000.
That is a whopping 4000 student difference. To put those numbers into perspective, the city would need to have between seven and eight additional Sterling-sized apartment buildings to accommodate 4000 students.
Fifty percent is not a ridiculous pipe dream either, as many of the UC Campuses project to go over 50 percent – and, again, Cal Poly, in the CSU system, is planning to take on 65 percent of students with on-campus housing in their most recent plan.
UC Davis, in response to these reasonable requests by council, has offered nothing in the way of new commitments. Their response letter can best be summarized as, “Our response remains unchanged.”
“UC Davis is not doing enough to house its students on campus, that’s not just my opinion, it’s a fact based on their own previous commitments to the city,” Councilmember Will Arnold said.
He noted, “But even in the best case scenario in which UCD tomorrow agrees to our request which they’ve given no indication that they plan to do, and then they keep their word on that promise which they’ve never done before, the best case scenario is that the current dismal state of housing stays exactly the same for the next ten years and beyond. That is unacceptable.”
Sending the message to UC Davis, he said that “should we approve this proposal tonight, we are stepping up to the challenge you have created. It’s time for you to do the same.”
In the meantime, the normally cautious city staff in their report fired back, “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.”
Staff writes, “Having such studies in hand would enable the City to gain a better understanding of the potential LRDP impacts associated with the Draft EIR once released, allowing for a more thorough analysis and comments.”
This is the biggest issue facing both the city and university. The bad news is that the current administration has dragged their heels in carrying out the planning process while students are suffering. The good news is that, within four months, a new chancellor will have an opportunity to look at this situation anew and hopefully rise to the challenge.
However, as these numbers show, this is not a small difference – 4000 students must be housed somehow. They either cram into Davis or they commute, if we do not find a way to push the university toward more action.
—David M. Greenwald reporting