Numbers are important to understand. Right now the university is planning on adding somewhere around 7000 students to campus over the next decade, while providing housing for between 6200 and 6300. That gap doesn’t seem huge, but it means the city would have to build an additional apartment complex of a size larger than Sterling and around the size of Lincoln40 to accommodate those new students.
But the more important number may be 40. Forty is the percentage of overall students that UC Davis plans to accommodate by the end of 2027. That comes to about 16,000 of the nearly 40,000 students projected for that time.
Don’t get me wrong – 40 percent is an improvement over the current 28 percent figure, but in real terms it is not very good.
Consider that 40 percent is barely above the systemwide average of 38 percent that the UCs CURRENTLY house, but most of UC Davis’ counterparts are planning to go above 50 percent, and UC Davis’ CSU counterpart Cal Poly is planning to go to 65 percent.
Consider also that twice in the last 30 years, UC Davis has made commitments – even going so far as to sign an MOU – to house around 38 percent of the students and has never gotten close to living up to those commitments.
Consider that, while UC Davis is saying it is committing to take on 40 percent of all students, as many have pointed out, the number of students residing outside of the campus actually increases under this plan.
On the other hand, the city is pushing for UC Davis to take on 50 percent of all students on campus. That is a big difference. It is the difference between housing 16,000 students at 40 percent and 20,000 students at 50 percent.
Would that solve the housing crisis? People differ on that. But 4000 students would make a huge difference in the trajectory of policy discussions.
As I noted in my Saturday column, the UC Davis housing policy is frankly mindboggling. Perhaps none more so than on Orchard Park, which UC Davis is redeveloping. It is a 12-acre site that until 2014 housed about 200 two-bedroom apartments. Current plans are to take it from two to three stories and increase the number of beds to 900, more than doubling its capacity.
Rich Rifkin points out in his column, “While 900 new beds on campus is nice, I think the university’s plan is not ambitious enough. It won’t make a dent in our community’s demand-supply imbalance. UCD now has about 36,000 students. Nine hundred beds is enough for just 2.5 percent of matriculates.”
If you project the population to 40,000, that percentage is even less.
Those who want to put this on UC Davis have a point – but it’s not the complete picture. The city of Davis’ policies bear responsibility as well. I’m not just talking about Measure R. The city, until it approved Sterling, had not added a single market-rate student rental housing project in over 15 years.
The city has watched the vacancy rate – never hugely robust – shrink to a 0.2 percent rate.
In his column, Mr. Rifkin points out that “it will have been five years for the process to go from conception to completion (of Sterling).” Mr. Rifkin is projecting when the project finally gets built. He continues, saying “the cost of living for low-income renters and students has continually gone up and up.”
While the university is driving the student enrollment increase, the city has been slow to react and I very much disagree with those who will argue that we have no obligation to do so. What has happened to students is nearly quite criminal. When you have students talking about homelessness, holding multiple jobs, having to search in November for fall housing, etc., you have a problem – and, while the city council took some ownership of that problem, many residents have not.
As I pointed out on Saturday, this is on the university, but we own it too. As some students pointed out, they feel stuck in a power struggle between the city and the university as to who will take responsibility and step up to the plate.
The bottom line is this: I have been pushing for a number from the city, so I will now put a number forward myself.
There need to be between 10,000 and 11,000 new beds provided between the city and university in the next ten years.
So far, UC Davis has committed to 6300 of those.
That leaves somewhere around 4000 – give or take – that need to be addressed.
Is there a way forward? Four thousand in Davis is probably not feasible without a Measure R vote – or three. UC Davis is showing no inclination to step up either.
That is 4000 kids who will have to drive to Davis, clog our roadways, pollute our air. That is a continuation of the 0.2 percent vacancy rate – the abusive rental conditions and relentless pressure on our kids.
Somehow we all have to step up and figure out a workable solution. It can’t be all on the university, but it also can’t be all on the city and the status quo IS NOT WORKING.
What will it be?
—David M. Greenwald reporting