Monday Morning Thoughts: No Small Stakes in Battle Over Housing


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

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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15 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts: No Small Stakes in Battle Over Housing”

  1. Mark West

    “they either cram into Davis or they commute if we do not find a way to push the university towards more action.”

    Your conclusion ignores the obvious answer, and the only one we have direct control over, which is Davis acts to meet the housing needs of all of its residents by building more apartments, condominiums, and townhouses. Instead, your choices are to either force someone else to solve our problems for us or to refuse to act and leave people in suboptimal (even substandard) housing situations. Whatever happened to the concepts of personal and community responsibility?

    1. Howard P

      Again, remember Niebuhr… the City has no direct control over UCD/UC, and little in the way of indirect control/influence…

      Remarkably, some of those who might (as they work for the UC system), seem to have spent little/no efforts to influence their employer… although they becry the actions/inactions of their employer… I think the technical term is “whining”…

      What we appear to lack is the wisdom to differentiate what we can control/effectively influence, and what we can’t…

      I have little/no patience with those associated with UC, concerned about student housing, who criticize the City attempts to meet housing needs for all those working/studying/living here, laying it off on UC as the ‘responsible party’, then doing nothing about it (influencing UC) themselves, and adamantly opposing any City efforts to ‘pick up the slack’.

      I believe UCD/UC needs to put serious skin in the game, sooner than later, but even if they don’t, we (City) need to deal with the housing needs for all… sooner than later, as opportunities arise…

      Apologize in advance for offending…

      To be clear, Mark, am agreeing with you… perhaps this should have been a separate post and not a ‘reply’…

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        “What we appear to lack is the wisdom to differentiate what we can control/effectively influence, and what we can’t…”

        I disagree here. That we don’t control UC Davis doesn’t mean we cannot influence them. That’s especially the case since we have a new chancellor coming in from outside the system with a fresh perspective.

        “I believe UCD/UC needs to put serious skin in the game, sooner than later, but even if they don’t, we (City) need to deal with the housing needs for all… sooner than later, as opportunities arise…”

        This one I do agree with.

    2. David Greenwald Post author

      I disagree with you on what the obvious answer is – if the answer were obvious, we would have done it by now. The problem with the obvious answer is that a sizable portion of the community is not impacted by a housing shortage (perhaps even advantaged by it) and therefore are not willing to do what you call obvious.

      1. Mark West

        Just because an answer is unpopular does not make it any less obvious. We have known for at least 30 years that we needed to expand our commercial base in town in order to pay for City services, yet we haven’t done it. That does not make that answer less obvious, it just proves that even in a City as highly educated as Davis, the majority slept through Econ I. The same issue follows here as well. The obvious answer is to face up to our community’s responsibility and build more housing, yet you continue to push this notion that it is the University’s responsibility to save us. Your solution is to not act and instead wait for someone else to solve our problems for us, presumably because we are all too incompetent to do it ourselves.


        1. David Greenwald

          Maybe this is semantics, but to me an obvious answer has to be possible and right now, it’s not.  Unpopular means can’t happen under the existing rules of the game, therefore by definition, not obvious.

        2. Howard P

          Being “obvious” is not incongruent with “difficult”, “unobtainable”, “unchosen”, or “ignored”…

          The root of the word is from latin, ‘in the way’… as in ‘as you travel, you see/observe’, and experience.  Action upon what you see/observe/experience is another matter entirely.

          Mark used the word correctly, from what he has seen/observed/experienced.

          If his ‘reality’ differs from yours, your correct response would have been “it isn’t obvious to ME”, or “it isn’t necessarily obvious to others”, etc.

          And, I agree with him as to the long-time need for commercial expansion… in an appropriate way… boutique stores, bars, etc., was not the ‘expansion’ we should have had, which had it been different, more diverse and meeting local/regional needs/desires, we might well not be in the fiscal situation we are in.

          To pun, “you missed the Mark”… big time…

          [Sidebar… saw this post of yours, David, but am batting around 60% when logged in… ]

        3. David Greenwald

          It appears that you ignored one of my accounts for not both that’s why you can see some but not others. I will need to log back into your account to fix that but I’m not gonna have time until at least Wednesday and probably not even then

  2. Howard P

    David… I still can’t “see” you all the time, so have to toggle to a non-logged-in browser… can we fix that?

    I said “effectively influence”. I stand by that.  you picked up on “influence”… so, I’ll put it back on you… how can we EFFECTIVELY influence?  Am all ears…

    You also chose to ignore the idea, which I believe to be valid, that the employees, particularly those on the academic side, are in a BETTER position to influence… yet they seem to be silent as to actions/persuasion within their own environment.

    Some (UCD folk) cite the problem, don’t act internally, and then assail any City responses to pick up the slack… that’s not a very honest position.


    1. John Hobbs

      ” can we fix that?”

      I’m doubtful. This version of the Vanguard seems very software inflexible. I can’t unignore someone put there by mistake. David, of course blames that on me. Another case of the DDV? (Davis Deflection Virus)


      1. Howard P

        Haven’t seen the “dashboard” available since early January… not sure of the infectious vector, but I guess we are seeing the same symptoms… am somewhat encouraged that I’m not alone…

        Am “bugging” out to get some brunch/lunch…

  3. Eileen Samitz

    UCD can and needs to provide far more on-campus housing. There is no excuse why they can’t. They have over 5,300 acres and plenty of funding. They don’t even need to use that funding with the public-private-parterships (P3) arrangement that all the other UC’s are using. UC Irvine is a model with at least 44% housing now and will have 46% within 2 years.

    UCD needs better leadership which hopefully is coming with a new Chancellor on the way. The current leadership is part of the former Chancellor Katehi regime which was a disaster in so many ways, including its gross negligence to produce adequate on-campus housing. UCD inaction to step-up to provide high-density housing on multiple options of sites on-campus is a disservice to their students and significantly impacting not only Davis, which is already housing over 63% of the students but impacting surrounding cities like Woodland, Winters, Dixon and West Sac.

    As has been explained multiple times by Greg Rowe here and in other communications to the City and UCD, the paltry “40/90” plan that UCD is trying to get away with results in the City losing ground and at least 185 more student beds would be needed in the City, and at least 23 more beds would be needed outside the City. So the UCD 40/90 plan simply does not work and is unacceptable. UCD has a huge backlog of beds to provide on-campus due to years of negligence, not just offering an inadequate number of beds to try to address just their additional growth surge proposed. Also, they need to catch up on building far more on-campus apartments for freshman to be able to transition into, rather then just focusing on building freshman dorms which only house the students their first year at UCD.

    1. Howard P

      Agree with your main points… not seeing how we can get there with UCD/UC…

      Katehi was not the only problem… far from… UCD chancellors, going back to Jimmy Myers are/were also responsible, no exceptions… a ‘cultural’ thing, enhanced by inbreeding (UC politics)… clearly, Katehi was/is deeply flawed as a Chancellor… yet, putting it (housing) on her is to belie ~ 40 years of chancellors’ responsibilities (or their lack of dealing with housing)…

      And you accuse me of “pile-ons”… whatever…

      Bottom line… UCD/UC needs to/should come to the plate… if they don’t, the fact is we need to deal with that… to insist on no additional housing opportunities in the City, to meet the needs of all those who choose to live in Davis, student or otherwise, until UCD/UC acts, is petty, stupid, perhaps selfish, and has the likelihood of major “collateral damages”… we cannot “black-mail” them… the ‘nuclear option’ (no housing growth) is not a viable threat, and we’ll destroy ‘civilians’.  Period.

    2. Eileen Samitz


      You missed the point. The point is that UCD’s 40% on-campus housing proposal does not help move the needle of the need for student housing. It is just part of UCD’s shell-game.

      Howard P,
      On Katehi, she was not the only Chancellor responsible but she exacerbated the problem with her “UCD 2020 Initiative” to bring 5,000 more students by 2020 without building enough on-campus housing.

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