Student Voice on Housing Comes Through on Tuesday


Since UC Davis announced the start of their LRDP (Long Range Development Plan) process in late 2015, the biggest issue in the community, bar none, has been student housing and how to accommodate expected UC Davis enrollment growth.

While many have argued that student housing is an issue for UC Davis, and while the council to a person on Tuesday argued that the university needed to do more on housing, as Will Arnold put it, the city had to do more.

He said that “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.”

Students have come out in favor of housing projects before, as they did with Nishi, but, as one councilmember told the Vanguard following the meeting, this time it was different – the voices were stronger, they were more desperate and the council, hearing those voices, felt compelled to act even on what they acknowledge to be an imperfect project.

As Mayor Pro Tem Brett Lee put it, “You can sense the desperation.”

Cindy, a Davis renter, said, “Students and other Davis renters suffer from a severe housing shortage.  This shortage causes a lot of rent increases and low to non-existent vacancy rates.  I struggle from April to August to find a place to live in Davis and I had to prepare myself to be homeless if I could not find a place.”

She said that she finished up in December and, because of the lack of vacancy rates in Davis, “it was impossible to find a landlord to rent from month to month, so I will be responsible for lease payments until August.”  She added that “while we all want the university to provide more housing on campus, any opportunity that the city has to increase the supply of rental and high density, the city should do so.”

Sara Williams, a fourth-year student at UC Davis and Chair of the ASUCD External Affairs commission, noted that she has four jobs to pay her rent.  “Students are half the population here, we think that this project is good not just because it offers housing but because they were responsive to other members of the community,” she said.  “This is challenging with any community – you have issues that you have to weigh.  Students are here and need housing – it’s in the benefit of all residents to do so.”

Don Gibson, representing the Graduate Student Association, said they are in favor of this project for three basic numbers.  First, the 0.2 percent vacancy rate.  “That’s less apartment space to even fill half of the speakers in this room.”  He continued, “Next number 13 percent, 13 percent was the approximate increase in rent from this time last year because landlords have all of the power in the city of Davis.

“Last number, 540, 540 beds for students that is desperately needed for our growing student population,” he said.  “When choosing to support this project or not, think of what you do if you choose to turn down this project.  Where will those 540 students go.  Woodland, Sacramento, Dixon, they won’t be living here in Davis.  That’ll be forcing far more commuters and think about the environmental cost when you have people forced to drive every day.”

Victoria Morin, a sustainable environmental student at UC Davis, said, “We have learned specifically that planning needs to meet the needs of the community without comprising the needs of future generations or the ecology system.”

She said, “I have been appointed by the ASUCD as an undergraduate student representative to speak on behalf of the students and advocate for the needs of the crisis they are facing.”  She noted she is one of 30 students who live at an affordable rate on the UC Davis campus and they get many applications daily for students to do so.  “The campus population is increasing at a tremendous rate and I urge the city council to recognize the needs of the students.”

Emily Goo, a third year at UC Davis, is studying sustainable environmental design as well as economics.  She said, “I’m part of a very vulnerable demographic in the city of Davis, it is easy for people to exploit students as we come into this housing climate, as there is not enough housing and many students of my age do not know how to deal with housing.”

Daniel Nagey, an ASUCD Senator, said, “Not only does (Sterling) provide affordable housing, it’s in a good location for students with lots of bus lines.  It alleviates a lot of tension and stress on the housing market right now.”  He said, “Renters (landlords he meant) can capitalize on the fact that there aren’t a lot of housing spaces – so they can charge double or triple the amount that they should be charging.”  He argued this would reduce that “tension” and work toward “affordable housing in Davis which is a really big need.”

Part of making education affordable, he said, is making housing affordable because “without affordable housing, students will spend all of their hours working and not studying to afford their house.  Then the whole point of attending college is moot.”

Josh Delavai, President of ASUCD, noted the sustainability boost from students not having to commute from out of town.  He noted that the university has not carried their weight in this discussion.  “I wanted to assure everyone that student pressure is not focused solely on the council and the city level, but with campus housing and their obligation to provide housing as well.  It’s a multifaceted approach.”

Georgia Savage, with ASUCD Office of Advocacy, said housing was voted the most presenting issue in the UC System.  “We are in the process of urging the university as well as you all to build more housing.  We are still in the process of negotiating our LRDP with the university.”  She argued that “from a student perspective, not passing this project is risking homelessness for students, which I would argue is a significantly more present issue.”

She called the 0.2 percent vacancy rate “not only really ridiculous to students, but also really scary.”  She noted that community members “do have secure housing and a guaranteed place to sleep next year.”  The vacancy rate does not allow some students to live here next year.

Samantha Chiang, ASUCD Senate President Pro Tem, noted that students comprise half the residents in Davis, “yet we are consistently left out of housing conversations that concern us  due to the difficulty of getting involved with city council as a student.  Despite this obstacle, many students have turned out today taking time amid midterms to support this crucial housing initiative.”

She also noted their work on pushing the university on the LRDP.  “I want to assure (you) that ASUCD has done its best, we authored Senate Resolution 7 earlier this year to encourage the university.”

“THEREFORE LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, the ASUCD believes both the City of Davis and UC Davis should plan and/or prioritize projects that provide affordable housing options to students, staff, and community members in order to combat this housing crisis and its current and future repercussions,” she read from the resolution.  “THEREFORE LET IT BE FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, the ASUCD joins with Davis City Council in strongly suggesting UC Davis include an equal weight ’50/100′ housing plan in the EIR.”

However, she said, “The university alone cannot bear the burden of housing.  Students are not issues, we are a vibrant part of this community.  I’ve heard so much rhetoric that this would profit the university, but in the meantime, students are being used as pawns.  Each day that we wait for the perfect project and the perfect time is another day that our students suffer from housing and security.  We are the ones (who) truly feel the brunt of the 0.2 percent vacancy rate.”

She said that many students are “forced to start their housing search in November of their first year, only to not find a house and be forced to couch surf in the following year.  We cannot be pawns in the game between the city and the university – we are consistently advocating on both ends to increase housing.”

Samuel Kennedy, representing ASUCD’s External Affairs Commission, once again highlighted the 0.2 percent vacancy rate in Davis.  “That is a symptom of a very unhealthy housing market and it creates a visceral reality for students who need housing and who are striving to pursue their education, but are in danger of being homeless soon.”

There were many more speakers from the student community, but these give a flavor to their concerns and the problems that they face.  Many have attempted to put this issue on the university, but from the student perspective, they view themselves as pawns in a struggle between the city and university – which leaves them vulnerable to exploitative rents, lengthy commutes and, yes, even homelessness as mentioned by several speakers.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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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35 thoughts on “Student Voice on Housing Comes Through on Tuesday”

  1. Keith O

    Are these same students speaking out and making signs demanding UCD’s administration build more  housing on campus?  The campus is the best and most logical location for student housing.  I fear that UCD will just play it coy, sit back and let the city fill the needs and take on all of the costs associated with more student apartments.  Why should UCD step up when they know the city will acquiesce?

  2. Tia Will

    I favored Nishi and most likely will favor the Lincoln 40. I have remained neutral on the Sterling project which I see as a reasonable distance from campus, but with a number of problems. I understand the need for more student housing. However, I think that the students, through no fault of there own overlook a point that matters very much to other members of the community.

    So let’s add one more number to those cited by Don Gibson. That number is 4. Four is the number of years that most of these students will be spending in Davis. So while their need is imminent and urgent, it is not long term. Their viewpoint is time limited as most of them will move away. This is not true for the neighbors, many of whom have their largest investment in their homes. For most, this is not a financial investment, but where they intend to live the rest of their lives. For the general environment of their home to be permanently, irreversibly changed to accommodate the short term needs of students is the other side of this equation. Many of us can see both sides, having been on both sides. While the students are not wrong, they are also not seeing the problem comprehensively.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I really disagree with you Tia on that point.  The individual student is only here for a short time – correct – but students are omnipresent and so in a way, their case is magnified by the fact that there will always be a student in their spot and the situation we have is completely untenable and frankly much worse than I thought.  More stuff coming out.

      1. Tia Will


        When you say you disagree, what are you disagreeing with. I stated that the students are not wrong in their acknowledgement of a serious housing issue for them. However, do you believe that they have the life experience to understand the needs and fears of the people who have worked their whole lives, are now on fixed incomes and live in Rancho Yolo ?  Really ?

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          What I was disagreeing with was the notion that students are a transient and temporary population.

          Do students have the life experience to understand the needs and fears of those at Rancho Yolo – no. But them again, the folks at Rancho Yolo probably weren’t cognizant of the challenges that students were facing on housing.

          That’s why the council as a body ultimately weighs both views and I think did right by both groups to the extent possible.

    2. Mark West

      “So while their need is imminent and urgent, it is not long term.”

      The students who are residents of Davis have all of the same rights, benefits, and responsibilities of every non-student resident, whether we are talking about someone who was born here, or who moved into an existing development later in life. Yes, some students will only be here four years, but as they leave, others will come and take their place, just as is true when long-term residents leave and are replaced by someone else. The need for appropriate housing is long-term, regardless of the individuals involved or the time-frame they will be living here.

      “For the general environment of their home to be permanently, irreversibly changed to accommodate the short term needs of students is the other side of this equation.”

      The general environment changed permanently and irreversibly when you moved here too, why do you believe that you and your needs deserve special attention? The ‘side of the equation’ that you are defending, and which you say the students are not seeing comprehensively, is nothing more than simple selfishness. The ‘haves’ telling the ‘have nots’ to go away (and don’t let the door hit you when you leave).


    3. Eric Gelber

      So while their need is imminent and urgent, it is not long term.

      I disagree for reasons others have stated. We don’t weigh people’s housing needs and concerns based on likely length of residency. Moreover, I’m not sure the premise is accurate. I found data–albeit from 2004–that only 54% of UCD entering freshman get their degrees in 4 years. Only 38% of those who switch fields. And many may go on to get graduate degrees. Also, I’d ask how many Davis non-student residents attended UCD at some point. I’m guessing the number is pretty high–so, their status as students may be short term, but their stake in the community may continue.


    4. Michael Bisch

      Hmm.  I do not know Tia’s mind on this.  Perhaps she misspoke, but the following definitions come to mind:





      making or showing an unfair or prejudicial distinction between different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.
      “discriminatory employment practices”

      prejudicialbiasedprejudicedpreferentialunfairunjustinvidiousinequitable, weighted, one-sidedpartisan;

      sexistchauvinisticchauvinistracist, racialist, anti-Semitic, ageist, classist


      Class discrimination

      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      Class discrimination, also known as classism, is prejudice or discrimination on the basis of social class. It includes individual attitudes, behaviors, systems of policies, and practices that are set up to benefit the upper class at the expense of the lower class or vice versa.

      1. Michael Bisch

        Again I do not know Tia’s mind on this. Perhaps she will retract, modify or clarify her comment once she has read how some of us are interpreting her comment as written.  On the other hand she has provided an opportunity to examine a phenomenon, which I find rather widespread in Davis.  My observation is that there are a fair number of residents who consider renters and/or students to be 2nd class residents having fewer political rights or input into community affairs than the property-owning class. I find this attitude really, really troubling and not at all helpful in fostering an inclusive and welcoming, socially and economically diverse community.

      2. Michael Bisch

        Sanctuary city

        From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

        In the United States and Canada, a sanctuary city is a city that limits its cooperation with the national government in order to help people who are in the country illegally avoid deportation. Such people are frequently described as illegal immigrants or undocumented immigrants. Always knows as a trailblazer, the progressive community of Davis has modified these cooperation limits by providing sanctuary to only those immigrants not actually requiring housing. This unique sanctuary city policy is known as the “Davis Way”.

    5. Matt Palm

      Tia– how much income do you make yearly off of student tenants?  Have you told the students you rent to that their opinions should be discounted–to their faces (that is the argument you are making here, essentially, that their opinions should be ignored because they are not property owners)?

      So should they be banned from voting on local issues?  How about state–some of them are from out of state?  Should they be banned from voting on state issues?

      Let’s apply this logic to construction workers and others whose jobs are seasonal and shift across space/are not permanent: should they be denied a voice since they’re never really permanent residents?  Do seasonal farm-workers only get 1/2 of a say for the half of the year they are around?

      Let’s further apply this to the chronically homeless: should their needs be ignored because they don’t know where they are going to spend the rest of their lives?  You know for them it probably matters more, seeing as being homeless means “the rest of their lives” is going to be a lot shorter than those with homes (at great cost to Medicare…).

      You are angry the UC isn’t addressing student housing? The UC could just say “well the students are only here four years, and the faculty for the rest of their lives… so we will prioritize building lab space over student housing.”

      Two sides of the same coin! Pot, meet kettle!



      1. Tia Will


        The students who are residents of Davis have all of the same rights, benefits, and responsibilities of every non-student resident”

        Of course they do and I do not believe that anyone has ever said anything to the contrary.

        The general environment changed permanently and irreversibly when you moved here too, why do you believe that you and your needs deserve special attention?”

        No, and no.

        When I moved here, I moved into an apartment complex that had already been here for many, many years. I did not demand that anyone else’s life style change for me.

        Second no. I do not believe that anyone’s needs deserve “special attention”. But I do believe that everyone’s needs do deserve attention, the residents of Rancho Yolo just as much as the students.

        And again, I am not opposing Sterling, just the idea that we should ignore the concerns of longstanding residents in favor of another group, students.  

        1. Mark West

          “When I moved here, I moved into an apartment complex that had already been here for many, many years. 

          Exactly. Someone else made room for you, just as we should be making room for those who need appropriate housing now.

          “I did not demand that anyone else’s life style change for me.”

          No? You certainly are demanding it now when you proclaim that students needs are not ‘long-term.’ Or don’t you think students have a life that is worth preserving?

          “I am not opposing Sterling, just the idea that we should ignore the concerns of longstanding residents in favor of another group, students.”

          Who is proposing that we “ignore the concerns of longstanding residents?” You are the one here proposing that we ignore the concerns of one class of residents.

      2. Tia Will


        Wow, I am not sure where the hostility is coming from but let’s take it one by one.

        1. I make no money off the rental. The house is owned outright and I rent at under market rate but enough to pay the taxes.

        2. I never said that their opinions should be discounted. And yes, during the Nishi campaign, which I favored, I informed many of the students that while their point was valid, they were presenting only one side of the picture. To their faces, in a very friendly manner.

        3. “that is the argument you are making here, essentially, that their opinions should be ignored because they are not property owners)”

        No. Because it isn’t. When I have felt that property owners were not seeing both sides of the issue, I have said that to their faces. Again in a friendly manner.

        4. “should they be denied a voice since they’re never really permanent residents? “

        I have never recommended that anyone be denied a voice. I have encouraged many to try seeing an issue from both sides prior to expressing their view.

        5. “You are angry the UC isn’t addressing student housing”

        I am not angry at anyone. Not UC, not developers, not the students, not the long term residents.

        But there are several things that I find frustrating.

        1. First my own apparent failure to communicate. I agree with the students point about their lack of housing. I strongly defend their right to voice their opinions.  I also agree with some of the concerns of the residents of Rancho Yolo. At no point did I say that the concerns of either side were invalid or that their opinions should be discounted. Although I would point out that a number of you have stated that the current residents should just shut up and frequently discount the slow growth concerns as nonsense or greed.

        2. I fail to see how seeing both sides of the issue and stating the obvious life experience truth that the inhabitants of Rancho Yolo have more of life experience than the students somehow morphed into me being a greedy, selfish, exploitative landlord.

        3. I also fail to see how any adult, except the inexperienced students, sees only one side of an issue in which there are obviously some valid points on each side. Their job is to learn how to see both sides of issues. Most of us should already have mastered that skill.

  3. Mark West

    For every person who lives in Davis today, when we arrived, someone else had to make room for us. Why is it so hard to treat other new residents with the same respect that you were shown when you arrived?

    1. Tia Will


      I agree that for someone to come in to a community, room must be made. What you are failing to see is that many times that room is made voluntarily, without asking concessions of anyone else. For example by some one graduating and choosing to leave as was the case in every one of my student moves. It is also true that many times when someone obtains a home, it is because someone else chose to sell or rent theirs. This is true of my having downsized renting out my  much larger home at below market rates, I am providing housing for  more people than were previously occupying the house.

      When you decide to use “discriminatory” as applied to given groups, I would suggest that you also apply that to groups, usually seniors who are subject to fixed incomes. These also are our neighbors in need of appropriate housing just as much as are the students. I am not concerned for myself in any of this as I am now, and likely will be comfortable for the rest of my life. However, I have two friends who live in Rancho Yolo. Both live on meager fixed incomes, one in early 70’s still having to work. Both are concerned about the adverse effects of this large project so near their homes. Should their voices not also be heard ? My only point in writing what I did that has drawn so much fire, is that the students are not the only members of our community in need and that their viewpoint is welcome but should be evaluated as appropriately limited by their lack of experience and one sided view of the issue.

  4. Ron

    Mark West, from yesterday, regarding the need for more industrial space.  (The 6-acre Sterling site had been zoned industrial, but will now be changed to high-density residential.)

    “In February 1996, the City of Davis retained Economics Research Associates to provide three economic analyses to inform land use decisions for the General Plan update:
    industrial market
    retail acreage demand and downtown strategies; and
    grocery store demand versus supply by subarea

    Industrial market. The study concluded that there is existing unmet demand for new industrial space in Davis and that Davis could accommodate 200 to 250 gross acres of industrial growth through 2010. [emphasis added]
    The sector for which Davis offers advantages –high tech startups, R&D and manufacturing — demand either more affordable space, larger lots than Davis [has] in its inventory, or lots located away from residential uses. Without resolving this dilemma, Davis is not in a position to absorb the amount of industrial development assumed in the Major Projects Financing Plan, creating public facility financing cash flow problems for the City. [emphasis added]”

    Mark West, April 19th at 7:37 p.m.


    1. Howard P

      So, Ron, Families First was ‘industrial’?

      OK… let’s go with that thought… let’s make the site a nuclear power plant (small scale)… will that satisfy you and Rancho Yolo?  How about a beef rendering facility?  What ‘industrial use’ would you suggest/support?

      1. Ron


        As always, a “measured and thoughtful” response.  So “unexpected”, on the Vanguard.

        We’ve had this conversation, previously.  I am not sure how Families First was able to occupy a site zoned for industrial, but that’s beside the point, now.

        I’d suggest actually reading what Mark posted, before asking me (e.g., high tech startups, R&D, possibly manufacturing, etc.)

        Or, do you think this would have been out of place with the adjacent tire shop. post office, and other nearby businesses?,%20davis,%20ca&boundingBox=45.058001435398296,-115.48828125000001,31.27855085894653,-80.5078125&page=0

        My point is actually more general (and not related to this specific site, anymore – since a decision has been made).

        The point is that there are consequences when decisions are made to change zoning and land use.  A single-minded focus on the vacancy rate (driven almost entirely by UC Davis) will have consequences, for the city as a whole.






        1. Ron

          To clarify, the link in my comment above shows the location of the tire shop.  (I assume that most folks know where the post office is, etc.)

          Again, though – my point is more general, in nature. (Especially since a decision has been made, regarding Sterling.)

        2. Matt Williams

          Ron said . . . “Again, though – my point is more general, in nature.”

          One of the challenges of going from the general to the specific is that the devil is in the details (see  It is worth noting that the original long-term tenant of the specific site on Spafford that UCD wants to use for its lab, was Z-World, Inc, a pioneer in the high-performance embedded controls industry. Their business activities on the site included use of a high proportion of the same hazardous materials UCD expects to use. The opposition to the proposed UCD usage has discounted and/or ignored that site usage precedent.

          Bottom-line, any site that is currently zoned Industrial, but is anywhere near non-industrial uses, will almost surely be challenged . . . existing zoning not withstanding. 

        3. Jim Frame

          I don’t believe that zoning should be changed on a whim.  For example, I think the decision to change zoning on the East Chiles Road auto parcel in order to accommodate Davis Diamonds — simply because DD was having trouble making a more appropriate site work with its business model — was deeply flawed and just plain bad policy.  But to enforce the industrial zoning on the FF site in the face of

          1) the absence of a buyer for use under the existing zoning; and

          2) absence of a buyer for use under the previous non-conforming use; and

          3) the presence of a motivated buyer for a different zoning that is reasonably consistent with surrounding uses and that addresses a dire community need;

          is similarly bad policy.

          I think the CC made the right call.

  5. Carson Wilcox

    Rancho Yolo will fight anything that goes there.  That is a fact.  Office-> cars.  apartments-> cars and noise.  its fix the issue somewhere else nimby ism.

    1. Ron

      Carson:  “That is a fact.”

      Based upon what others have told me, your statement is not correct.  In fact, I suspect that everyone understood that the site would be re-used, in some manner. And, that it was desirable for (both) the neighborhood and for the city as a whole, for that to occur.

    2. Liz Miller

      Carson obviously does not live in Rancho Yolo or the surrounding neighborhood and does not know or understand the issues and consequences of demolishing everything on the site and building an overly dense and poorly designed rooming house.

      No one has objected to a reasonably sized project that is not exclusionary, except for the climate/environmental aspects of demolishing perfectly good buildings which could be re-purposed except for greed getting in the way of that.


      1. Ron


        I know it’s too late now, but was thinking that it would be interesting if someone posted photos of the existing, multi-building facility before it’s demolished.  (And, perhaps during the demolition process.)

        For those who haven’t actually been on the site, they may not understand what’s actually there.  (I was shocked, regarding how many attractive buildings are actually on the site, which still appear to be in good condition.)  Extremely difficult to believe that there was “no market” for them as is (and with current or similar zoning and allowed uses).  (For example, reference my “repost” of Mark’s posting, above.)

        Having said that, again, I do hope that students feel some satisfaction (and ultimately, relief) as a result of this decision. No one is suggesting that students are “second class citizens”, and I don’t suggest responding to trolls who suggest that some view students in that manner. (However, as a “group”, students do have different interests than those who make a permanent home in Davis.)





        1. Tia Will

          I don’t suggest responding to trolls who suggest that some view students in that manner. “

          Wow !  That never even occurred to me. I have a tendency to take whatever anyone posts here as their true opinion. I wonder how many times I have been lured into a defense of something that I have said that was being deliberately distorted as bait.

  6. Todd Edelman

    At the meeting an elder woman – suppose most likely from RY – told me “good idea” about my “We must prioritize housing over parking” argument.  I would like to see more students take this position and push for the “Aggressive…” option in the EIR for Lincoln 40… which allows only 50 parking spaces onsite… hmm… perhaps a minor “Ah ha!” moment right now… thus:

    I’d love it if I could be convinced that the “Aggressive…” option is not designed to fail:
    * For Sterling it was determined that everyone would just park offsite so it would just have the same impacts. This is odd to say the least as the City has tools such as parking permits to make this rather difficult.
    * In those Lincoln 40 initial EIR documents there is no housing benefit to losing parking in the Aggressive option. Why – oh why – is that space not used for more space for apartments? It would not increase the profile, nor the height. I dongettit.

    For some reason the Draft EIR for Sterling on the City of Davis website now consists of cover pages only – four pages in total – otherwise I’d be able look further into the process…

    I really hope I’m missing something here…

  7. Tia Will

    On a somewhat different note. I regret that perfectly usable structures that could have met other community and county needs are being demolished in favor of another community need. These buildings could have had many years of productive life. Some uses that could have been considered would be :  Safety shelter for individuals fleeing domestic violence or human trafficking of which their is not adequate supply in our county. Housing first space for the homeless. Adult rehab or re-entry space for non violent prisoners attempting to reintegrate into society.

    I do not know if efforts were made to establish such uses either as a city or partnering with other communities in Yolo County to help meet costs. If not, I would say that we have lost the opportunity to serve another segment of our society which may not appear so sympathetic to some as are the students, but whose needs may be even greater.

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