Commentary: Why Can’t UC Davis Go to 50 Percent?

In Sunday’s column we noted that last week the Yolo County Board of Supervisors became the latest governmental body to push for UC Davis to do what every other UC except for Berkeley has done – push their on-campus housing to 50 percent of overall enrollment.

We now know that the difference between going to 40 percent like the university is planning and 50 percent like the city of Davis, Yolo County and others are pushing for is 3900 beds.

We closed with a question – “Explain to me, Marj Dickinson and Matt Dulcich, exactly why it is that the university cannot build one more student housing project on campus in the next ten years to house those 3900 beds?”

So on Monday we posed the question to Matt Dulcich, UC Davis’ Director of Environmental Planning and Local Government Relations Manager, who was kind enough to indulge us.

He told the Vanguard, “As we have shared in multiple communications with the City of Davis, we are continuing to examine opportunities for additional housing within our draft LRDP land use plan during the first stages of the environmental analysis which is currently underway.”

He continued, “We will include as much additional housing capacity as is realistically achievable in the LRDP timeframe, once we have completed our examination of those opportunities later this year.

“That effort may result in a revised LRDP housing projection that would proceed as the proposed project through the environmental analysis process,” he wrote.  “And, through implementation of each new project, we will continue to re-examine the density question and attempt to provide as much housing as possible at each specific site.”

Mr. Dulcich further added, “Even after adoption of the new LRDP, if we are successful with new housing projects achieving higher densities than we are currently anticipating, we may eventually see a realistic option to building more than the total LRDP projection.

“If so, our options for adding more housing to the LRDP would be fairly simple.  We could expand the amount of anticipated housing with an updated LRDP and updated environmental analysis.”

What I still don’t really understand from this answer is why the university cannot simply set the LRDP at 50 percent and then figure out a way to get that capacity.  Instead, they have set the LRDP at 40 percent and are looking for ways to increase it.

On the one hand that means that the university is not going to pledge or commit to a higher number.

At the same time, he holds open the possibility of having an updated LRDP with an updated EIR.  That seems to go a little further than they went even last week where they pledged to find options to build more housing, telling the Board of Supervisors regarding the housing of new students, “We are trying to refine that to get beyond 90 to 100 percent.”

Still it doesn’t answer the question I posed, which is why would UC Davis not simply go to housing 50 percent of overall students on campus in the LRDP?  Something is preventing them from doing so, but Mr. Dulcich does not illuminate for us what that is.

As we have pointed out, UC Davis is the one that has to solve this problem – because no one else can.

The city recently approved Sterling Apartments.  They will likely in the fall approve Lincoln40.  But those are not projects that are going to provide huge capacity for student enrollment growth.

Instead, those projects are designed to alleviate the city’s immediate housing crunch by providing a little bit more in the way of margin.

The city has no other sizable student apartment projects on the horizon.  It has little in the way of land available for such projects and the community has been reluctant to pass a Measure R vote.

Moreover, looking at the numbers, the current course of action by the university is extremely problematic.

Right now the plan calls for 2775 beds by 2020.  But UC Davis will have added about 3000 new students between 2015 and 2020.

Will the new housing come on line on time?  That seems questionable at best.  We believe that it is more realistic to project an opening of 2021 or even 2022.  What that means is that there will be 3000 additional students with no new university housing projected for four or five years.

Think about that, the students who enter this fall will be graduated by the time the new housing likely will come on line.  With a 0.2 percent vacancy rate in Davis, where are those students projected to live?

Either doubled and tripled up in rooms in Davis or commuting from nearby communities, apparently.

Davis cannot solve the housing crisis.  Everyone involved agrees this is a crisis.

My take now is that UC Davis kind of recognizes this reality, but there is something holding them back from jumping in and committing to go to 100/50.  Maybe a bit more pressure from surrounding communities and the city will still gain movement.

—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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  1. Matt Williams

    “In Sunday’s column we noted that last week the Yolo County Board of Supervisors became the latest governmental body to push for UC Davis to do what every other UC except for Berkeley has done – push their on-campus housing to 50 percent.

    David, have the other UCs actually achieved 50 percent, or have they only established plans (LRDPs) to achieve 50 percent at some time in the future?

  2. Greg Rowe

    I can give a partial answer to Matt’s question. The LRDPs for UC Irvine and UCSD have a goal of housing a minimum of 50% of their student population on campus.  According to a presentation given to the Board of Regents’ Finance and Capital Strategies Committee on November 16, 2016, UCSD now houses 44% of its students on campus and plans on housing 46% by 2020.  Further, in a presentation to the same Regents’ committee on January 25, 2017 (which I attended), UCSD’s chancellor said that he is pushing to provide a 4-year on-campus housing guarantee by the 2024-25 academic year.

    In contrast, Interim UCD Chancellor Hexter made the ludicrous statement to the Regents on November 16, 2016 that he hopes the City of Davis is pleased that UCD is the city’s largest supplier of renters!  Actually, I personally would prefer that UCD was NOT the largest supplier of renters. According to the Notice of Preparation (NOP) issued in January by UCD for the pending draft EIR on the LRDP, 63% of UCD students resided in the City of Davis during the LRDP’s base year of 2015-16, and 8% live in other cities (the NOP cited, as examples, Sacramento, Woodland, Vacaville).  If more students lived on campus, more working families could potentially live in some of the rental housing that in which UCD students are now forced to reside due to the lack of on-campus apartments. And, as my analysis has demonstrated several times in recent months, the 40% figure in the draft LRDP is simply a by-product of UCD’s goal of providing housing to 90% of the expected increase of 6,337 students during the next 10 years.  It will do nothing to reduce the number of students living off campus in Davis and surrounding cities.

    I was struck by the statements made by Mr. Dulich at last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting.  He argued that the 100 and 50% student housing goals of the City and County resolutions “really conflict,” and lamented that getting to housing 50% of the 39,000 students expected in 2027-28 would amount to adding another 3,900 beds to the 6,200 the LRDP proposes to provide during the next 10 years. He essentially repeated the same statement during the monthly City-County “2×2” meeting yesterday (June 14), stating that UCD is trying to obtain a better understanding of the rationale behind the 50% goal.  (The meeting was attended by Mayor Davis, Councilmember Frerichs, Supervisor Provenza, and was chaired by Supervisor Saylor.)

    The explanation I gave during the “2×2” public comment period was as follows.  The UCD “2020 Initiative” plans to boost UCD enrollment by 5,000 students over the 7 years between the 2013-14 academic year and 2020.  As noted in a report addressed “To The UC Davis Community” dated June 16, 2014, then-Provost Ralph Hexter noted that the envisioned growth would represent a 20% increase in undergraduate over the 7-year period.  The report noted that the 2011-12  three-quarter undergraduate enrollment was roughly 23,850 and would increase to 28,850 under the 2020 Initiative. The campus enrollment growth enrollment envisioned by the 2020 Initiative is over and above any UCD enrollment goals assigned by the Regents or UCOP.

    As I stated at the “2×2” meeting, a variety of “2020” task force reports, implementation plans and updates were issued by UCD between 2012 and 2014.  In all of those reports, only one even briefly mentioned housing in any manner; a set of three general recommendations appearing in the “Joint Report of the 2020 Task Forces,” issued November 1, 2012.  So, as I said to the “2×2,”  adding 3,900 more beds to the LRDP does not even close to matching the 5,000 additional students that will arrive on campus as a result of the 2020 Initiative.  In reality, UCD should be aiming to go far beyond adding a total of 10,100 more beds on campus between now and 2027-28 to offset the impact of the 2020 Initiative and the huge deficit in housing caused by its tradition of boosting enrollment far beyond the pace of campus apartment construction during the past decade or more.

  3. Eileen Samitz


    Good article and you are raising a question which keeps being asked of UCD, but is being side-stepped and ignored. Basically, it the short answer is that UCD has been getting away with pushing a huge majority (now up to 71%) of its students off campus after their freshman year, and they want to try to continue getting away with that.

    Meanwhile, other UC campuses like UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, and UC Merced are all committed to building 50% on-campus housing for their entire student population.Yet, UCD continues to try to find excuses out of simply adding the 50/100 alternative for on-campus housing to be analyzed in their EIR. That simple action is needed now, rather than UCD trying to push it off with some bandaid approach proposing to supplement the EIR later. Now is the time when it this EIR alternative is needed since the on-campus student housing need is now, and will only get worse if the planning is not done now.

    UCD’s inaction is especially egregious since UCD is the largest UC campus with over 5,300 acres so it has plenty of land to provide this housing. If all of these other UC campuses can do it, there is no excuse why UCD can’t.

    The impacts due to UCD’s years of negligence to provide on-campus apartment for their freshman has come-to-a-head particularly with their over-ambitious plans to want to add yet another 5,000 students (4,500 of which are non-residents) to the campus to gain triple tuition from  them. Yet, UCD does not even have the infrastructure in place of the classrooms, faculty or staffing, on top of not having the on-campus housing in place for so much growth in such a short time.

    None of what UCD is doing makes good planning sense and it is a disservice to their own students as well as irresponsible that they are trying to continue pushing off their own housing needs off campus impacting Davis and surrounding communities. UCD has plenty of resources and claims to embrace sustainability, yet, so far UCD’S planning proposals on student housing are not implementing sustainable planning towards a solution.

    UCD needs to step-up like the other UC’s are doing and stop saying that they can’t do what all of these other campus can, and are accomplishing. That is, UCD needs to provide the needed on-campus housing for their own growth which is the long-term solution. Far more on-campus housing is the only long-term way to: 1)  control the cost of student housing, 2) to ensure student housing availability, 3) to reduce the commuting needs of the students, which in turn, 4) reduce the impacts on Davis and other surrounding cities, and on the environment by implementing truly sustainable planning .


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