by Greg Rowe
In early March UCD planners gave a presentation to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors on the draft 2017 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP). Among the LRDP’s supposed achievements is the proposal to increase the percent of students residing on-campus from 29% to 40% over the next decade.
That initially appears impressive, but further examination reveals that a decade from now even more UCD students will live off campus in Davis and other cities in the Sacramento region. The UCD draft Long Range Development (LRDP) baseline of year 2015-16 shows enrollment was 32,663, of which 9,472 students lived on campus. 20,578 (or 63%) lived off-campus in Davis and 2,613 (8%) lived in other cities throughout Yolo County and the Sacramento region.
The LRDP expects enrollment will grow by 6,337, reaching 39,000 in 2027-28. If 40% live on campus that equals a total of 15,600 beds. But, that means 23,400 students will still live off campus in Davis and other cities. And, it is not even the intent of the LRDP to house 40% on campus. That percent is simply a by-product of providing beds for 90% of the expected enrollment growth. Under the draft 2017 LRDP, students will basically continue to be left “on their own” to find housing after leaving freshman dorms.
Further, the draft LRDP states that the campus will house “up to 40%” of future students, so it is in reality an upper limit. UCD’s refusal to include a higher cap in the LRDP demonstrates its unwillingness to even remotely match the student housing goals being pursued by other UC campuses such as UC Irvine and UC San Diego (UCSD), both of which have a goal of housing 50% of total future enrollment on campus. In fact, UCSD’s Chancellor is pushing to provide a 4-year on-campus housing guarantee to all students by 2024-25.
Understanding that the LRDP’s goals are far too modest to reduce the number of students living off campus in Davis, West Sacramento, Winters, Woodland and other locales, on June 6 the Yolo County Board of Supervisors wisely adopted a resolution supporting the position taken last December by the Davis City Council. On a unanimous vote, the Board urged that the LRDP goal should be to house at least 50 percent of the 2027-2028 student population on campus, and 100 percent of the anticipated growth between 2017 and the 2027-28 school year.
During the Board’s June 6 discussion, UCD Assistant Director of Environmental Planning, Matt Dulcich, questioned the resolution’s intent and purpose. He argued that the 100 and 50 percentages “really conflict,” adding that “100 percent is really beds for 6200 students. Getting to 50 percent would be another 3,900 (over and above the 6,200 beds). “In some ways, the 100 and 50 really don’t go together. If we wanted to, we could say that getting to 50 percent would be the equivalent of providing housing for not 100 percent of our growth but more like 150 percent of our growth,” he said.
Well, that’s precisely the point. UCD needs to build much more on-campus housing than provided for in the draft 2017 LRDP to offset the deficit resulting from too little construction in previous years and the overly ambitious enrollment goals of the “2020 Initiative,” which aims to boost enrollment by 5,000 students above the targets set by the Board of Regents, and with no provisions for where the additional surge of students will live. The 2003 LRDP assumed that the student population would grow by 5,130, increasing from the 2001-02 three-quarter average of 24,870 students to 30,000 in 2015-16. However, higher than expected enrollment growth and deficient housing production during the period covered by the 2003 LRDP meant that UCD was providing 1,400 fewer on-campus beds during 2015-16 than expected, and housed only 29 percent enrollment on campus instead of the 36 percent hoped for in the 2003 LRDP. The “2020 Initiative,” combined with the backlog of unbuilt on-campus housing that was envisioned in the 2003 LRDP, will precipitate a further housing shortage that the draft 2017 LRDP does not address. The new LRDP as written proposes to add just 6,200 beds to accommodate the anticipated addition of 6,337 students, thereby increasing the number of on-campus beds from the current 9,400 to just 15,600.
UCD needs to get this plan right, rather than rigidly continuing with a formula that will fail to achieve a long-term solution to the on-campus student housing shortage. Low-rise, low density residential structures built to conform to the draft LRDP’s current assumptions will have a lifetime of 50+ years, but will come nowhere close to matching current and future needs. UCD can and should do better. The County is right to expect more.