As fate would have it, the city of Davis released the UC Davis April 14 LRDP Response Letter from Interim Chancellor Ralph Hexter just two days after the entire community heard from the student leadership at UC Davis about the dire conditions of housing.
Students eloquently spoke about the difficulties of dedicating themselves to their studies amid housing insecurity, the need to work multiple jobs, preparing themselves for homelessness and steep rental increases, among other tangible impacts of a 0.2 percent vacancy rate.
While the Vanguard has been adamant that the city of Davis needed 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.
To date, they have refused to go to the requested “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, their commitment has topped out at 90 percent of new students and only 40 percent of the total UC Davis campus population.
The Vanguard received reassurances this week that UC Davis was aware of the gravity of the situation and looking to accelerate new housing – but the response from UC Davis in the letter from Ralph Hexter is tone deaf at best, and demonstrates less than full commitment to solving the problem.
As the Vanguard has previously noted, UC Davis must overcome a history that is replete with failed promises and unmet commitments. In 2002, the stated goal was that, by 2012, UC Davis would house 38 percent of its students on campus with an ultimate goal of 40 percent.
That goal has not been remotely met. Indeed, the current figure stands at just 29 percent of students living on campus. Other UCs have committed to well over 50 percent, with Cal Poly, a CSU in a similar community, now pledging that 65 percent of its students will be housed on campus.
While a new chancellor brings the opportunity of a fresh perspective, and renewed community and council pressure, along with the dramatic increase in student population, will undoubtedly put more pressure on UC Davis – the bottom line is their track record here engenders skepticism and not confidence.
The letter from Interim Chancellor Hexter merely exacerbates that mistrust.
The city of Davis pushed in their December letter and its follow up for UC Davis to commit to a “timing and sequence of campus delivery of net new residential and non-residential space vis-à-vis the timing of expected campus enrollment growth.”
The response from the Interim Chancellor is dismissive at best. He notes the document that summarizes “the timing and sequence of the first 3800-4000 of the 6200 new on-campus beds that are included in the current draft LRDP.”
However, then he adds, “Please note that many factors could affect the timing and sequence of individual residential projects, including but not limited to financial, weather, and/or construction delays. However, the single most critical factor for assuring that all 6200 beds are completed in a timely manner is the approval of the LRDP in March 2018 as called for in our current schedule. Delay in the LRDP approval will result in a delay of the EIR for the 1600-1800 beds at West Village that is included in the draft LRDP and draft LRDP documents. In turn, that would result in delayed delivery of future campus housing projects. We look forward to your support of timely approval of the LRDP next March.”
In other words, do not interfere with the implementation of the LRDP that you think is inadequate, otherwise you will further delay the building of housing units.
The interim chancellor then turns the issue back toward the city, writing that “since December, we have encountered greater difficulty in finding creative ways to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes on shared issues.”
The response by UC Davis to the city’s responses can best be summarized as, “Our response remains unchanged.”
While he pays lipservice to collaboration, it is not true collaboration.
In the meantime, it is the chancellor and not the city who has turned a deaf ear to the cries of the students. What has the university done in the last few years to ensure that students have housing security?
The normally cautious staff could hardly hide their anger and frustration with the university response.
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.”
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.”
Staff writes that “one key area of potential transportation impact includes the Russell Boulevard and Richards/First Street corridors where it will be important to understand how city traffic operations would be impacted if key campus access points, such as First and A, were to be altered. Such studies would also serve as a basis to formulate suggested mitigations and potential impact fee agreements between the City and UC Davis to account for the associated impacts of campus enrollment growth.”
Interesting that once again it sounds like the city needs to study our housing needs in order to gauge the impact of the university LRDP on city services and planning.
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.
—David M. Greenwald reporting