This 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.
One of the more telling exchanges on Tuesday was when Marj Dickinson was attempting to correct the record or defend the university – she quoted the ninth “whereas” where it states, “UCD has the largest amount of land in the UC in the system with 5,300 acres, yet has historically provided the least amount of on-campus housing.”
She said the chart that was shown earlier in the presentation “shows that’s not true. Berkeley has less on-campus housing by percentage. There are four campuses that have less on-campus housing by number.”
The problem of course is that Berkeley is an urban campus that is basically land-locked and unable to expand. UC Davis is surrounded on two sides with open land and has ample space to develop additional housing.
As we noted in a commentary earlier this week, Matt Dulcich, UC Davis Director of Environmental Planning, seemed to be softening the university’s opposition to go from a 90/40 plan (where they would accommodate 90 percent of new enrollment with on-campus housing and 40 percent overall) to a 100/50 plan (where they would accommodate all new enrollment with on-campus housing and go up to 50 percent of total enrollment housed on campus).
Matt Dulcich told the board, “There are different options that are flexible as we seek to address a bigger number. We are trying to refine that to get beyond 90 to 100 percent.”
All of this sounds good and it certainly demonstrates that UC Davis is probably starting to recognize the reality of the situation. Their enrollment policies are already impacting Davis with a 0.2 percent vacancy rate, and now threaten to impact neighboring communities as well.
But if UC Davis is serious about going beyond the 90 percent of new student enrollment on campus, they need to explicitly put it into the EIR and the LRDP. Instead, it was implied that they had some fudge factors on the EIR.
Generally speaking, however, the only way that UC Davis could exceed their housing projection would be to have a new EIR.
The question is why are they being so stubborn? Why can the university not find a way to house an additional 3900 students?
Everyone in the region realizes now that this is a problem. It is a problem for the city of Davis because Davis has a 0.2 percent vacancy rate. It is a problem for the students who came to a council meeting earlier this year talking about the hardships that the lack of available and affordable housing have caused them.
It is clearly a problem for the county, and indeed the region, as it forces students into communities that have not designed housing for a large student population and forces them onto roads that are not designed for the heavy commuter traffic.
It was helpful that Matt Dulcich confirmed the numbers we are talking about The difference between 40 percent and 50 percent of students housed on campus is 3900.
There is no way you can exceed your EIR by more than 50 percent, going from 6200 beds to 10,000-plus beds, without having a new EIR.
In effect, UC Davis appears to be attempting to alleviate the political pressure without committing to a new course of action.
But the reality is that UC Davis has to solve this problem – because no one else can. The city recently approved Sterling Apartments. They will likely in the fall approved 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.
As Jim Provenza put it, “It’s a very desperate housing situation, where students are being pushed further and further from campus.”
“There is a housing crisis in Davis,” Marj Dickinson admitted.
She added, “It did not happen overnight and it didn’t happen because of one single dorm. There is a challenge – the university is going to grow, we are under very strong encouragement from the legislature – a kind word – to increase our total enrollment of students.”
So the real question that we should all be asking is if the university acknowledges that there is a housing crisis, if they are being forced or are even choosing to grow, shouldn’t they provide housing on campus to accommodate that growth?
I just don’t get it. What they are doing right now makes no sense. 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?
That is the part that has never been explained publicly.
—David M. Greenwald reporting