UCD Says During Vanguard Discussion on Student Housing that It Wants to Increase Density and Units

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The Vanguard held its September conclave on Wednesday night at Sophia’s with a vigorous discussion on housing, with a variety of different perspectives.  The university got pushback from a variety of different sources, both on the panel and in the community.

Matt Dulcich was pressed on the university increasing housing from 40 percent of students on campus to 50 percent.  He did not commit to changes, but did indicate they would try.

Councilmember Lucas Frerichs told the crowd, “The city provides an immense amount of student housing, it is well past time for the university to step up and do much much more.”

Councilmember Frerichs said the council has been advocating a 50/100 for student housing, 50 of overall students, 100 percent of new enrollment.

“Building more supply certainly is key,” he said, “I don’t think we’re going to build our way out of this.”

He added, “I think one of the keys is also affordability by design,” and he briefly discussed the proposed project on Chiles Road which will have small micro units that will allow for more affordability.

“We should consider rent control,” he said.  “I don’t know if the council is going to act on that, but there is definitely a drumbeat in the community for rent control.

“UC Davis needs to increase density.  These projects such as Orchard Park that are currently two stories that have been fenced off for a while now, the proposal is to increase it to three stories maybe four stories.  I see no reason at all why the university cannot be building 6 or 7 or 8 stories or more,” he said.  “I understand there are financing issues (but) many cities across the world have figured out how to build taller buildings and universities as well.”

He noted that both UC Irvine and UC San Diego are building new student housing with a minimum of eight stories.  “That’s something they should consider,” he said.

Davis Chamber President Jason Taormino said “fiscal vibrancy is the number one pressing issue and the biggest long-term issue the city of Davis faces.  Every time we talk about a new subject, it should be going through the filter of is this positive, is this neutral, is this negative?”

He said that we can do things that are neutral and negative, but “we have to have that conversation.”

He added, “Our failure to plan over the last twenty years, I personally believe, is not the university’s emergency.”  He called the issue of student housing “the stop sign at the end of the street that keeps sneaking up on you.”

Matt Dulcich broke the news that the Draft EIR will not be published until January now.

He explained that they started two years ago on the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) and received public feedback.  They had proposed housing on some of the athletic fields, but got feedback both on-campus and off-campus that the community’s preference was to leave those sites for recreational use.

As a result, he explained, they opted to increase the density on existing sites.

They are currently preparing their draft EIR and looking at the environmental impacts.  The feedback that they are currently getting is “could you do more?

“Instead of the 6200 units that you are proposing, could UC Davis come up with a plan that instead had more like 10,000 beds?” he said.  “Our response has been – yeah, we will study that, let us look at it, it’s a lot of conjecture on our part to try to promise that we would be able to deliver that many extra beds in this ten year period but let us look at that.

“Could we increase from 6200?” he asked rhetorically.  “Absolutely.

“Will it get to 10,000?” he asked.  “We don’t know yet.”

He said they want it to be affordable – something that the students can afford to live in, “but we also want it to be viable.  We don’t want to create a plan that has a big number and does not in our own mind have a dignity that it could actually be delivered.”

He said a key point for us is “more is better… as long as we’re shooting for viability.”

ASUCD President Josh Dalavai said he’s a big fan of expanded education “and I’m never going to oppose proliferated student growth at the UC level.

“The primary logistical hurdle, housing, to that enhanced student growth is not something that we as students asked for.  Rather it is something that has been thrust upon us,” he explained.

He likened their situation to children being caught in between two parents who are fighting.  “When you got two parents that are fighting a lot, the kid never wins in that situation,” he said.  “Sometimes I think on a certain level that’s akin to the situation that we’re in.”

He said that he hears on campus “that the city often overlooks the impact of the campus on its operation, growth and opportunities.  There’s some truth there, that’s not the whole story.

“Sometimes what I hear in the council chambers and from the community is that the campus is deflecting its responsibility in catering to the growth that its taken on itself.  There’s some truth there, that’s not the whole picture.

“In that game, the people it most affects, the students, lose out on that,” he said.

Greg Rowe made some of the following points.  First, he noted that “Davis has very little land left for development.”  On the other hand, “UC Davis has over 5300 acres, the largest of all the UCs.”  He pointed out, “Over 100 acres of land on or near the core campus for housing was identified by public input during the LRDP comment period” and that “this land could be used for thousands of beds.”

He argued that UC Davis “should not impose its housing needs on Davis and other cities.”  He said, “The obvious solution is that UCD needs to build on campus housing for at least 50 percent of its student population like the other UCs are striving for.”

He noted, “City, County, Sierra Club and ASUCD Senate Resolutions all unanimously urge UCD to amend the LRDP to increase the percentage of students living on campus in 2027 from 40 percent to 50 percent, and from 90 percent of new admissions to 100 percent.”

He said, “As the Vanguard has pointed out, this would increase the number of students living on campus in 2027-28 from 15,600 to 19,500 (almost 4,000 beds over the number assumed in the draft LRDP).”

And in response UC Davis “has merely stated that they are conducting studies and looking for opportunities.”

During the Q&A period, Matt Dulcich explained about the development process, that they have designed it to try to maximize density.  They have, for example, eliminated height limitations to allow the developers to propose something taller that can accommodate more students.  He also said that they have eliminated parking requirements on-site and have pledged to provide that parking so that the developer can focus on maximizing units rather than trying to fit parking on-site and “so that the developments aren’t needing to pay for those.”

He’s hoping that the proposals can respond “with as much density and as much bed count as possible.”

Later Matt Dulcich noted many people have made the point “that there’s an amazing developer out there named ACC –American Campus Communities – and if you could get them on board, ACC would solve all of our problems.”

He explained, “ACC was one of the respondents.”  He said, without revealing private details, “The firm that we’ve chosen has the highest bed count and the best prices for students.  In some ways, ACC was out-competed and I don’t think there’s a need to allege that an ACC type team could have done a better job.”

Gerg Rowe later made a point, assuming the city approves Lincoln40, “that in combination with Sterling is 1250 students approximately, that’s 19.5 percent of the total number of students that UC is projecting that will be added to the campus between 2017 and 2027 in the Long Range Development Plan.”

He said, “If that’s not the city doing its part, I don’t know what is.”  He noted that UC Davis is saying that they aren’t trying to dictate to the city what it does in its planning process, but Mr. Rowe argued, “They are already doing that now by virtue of the fact that they essentially evict students after their freshman year.”

Students go from living in dorms in their first year, he said, and after that “they are effectively shoved out into the community.  That’s why over 20,000 of them, 63 percent, live in this town, and that’s why there’s a scarcity of housing.”



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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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47 thoughts on “UCD Says During Vanguard Discussion on Student Housing that It Wants to Increase Density and Units”

      1. David Greenwald

        Trust me it’s not one drum, there are 20,000 students in town wanting rent control. At least one council candidate is going to make it a major part of his platform.

        1. Jim Hoch

          Hard to imagine anything worse for students than rent control so only stupid students want it. Rent control favors long term renters over transient renters. The net effect of rent control will be to significantly reduce the number of units available to students and raise the prices.

          The old “Santa Monica” style rent control was struck down and landlords have the ability to raise rents on vacancy. With students rarely in a particular unit more than 2-3 years how do you think rent control will help them? Non-students who may stay in a place 10 years will see some benefit but that will come at the cost of reducing the number of rental units available to students and therefore raising the prices. If you look at any other jurisdiction that has rent control the defining feature is greatly reduced supply and higher prices for the few available units.

        2. Keith O

          there are 20,000 students in town wanting rent control

          Everyone wants less expensive cars too, more affordable groceries, cheaper clothing. etc….I could go on forever.  Does that mean we have a drumbeat of 65,000 residents in our city for controls on those products?

        3. Don Shor

          there are 20,000 students in town wanting rent control.

          That’s not true. There may be a large number of students who want lower rents. That doesn’t mean they support rent control.

        4. Alan Miller

          there are 20,000 students in town wanting rent control

          That’s a ridiculous statement and you know it.

          Government control of rents.  That can’t go wrong.

          You end up with under-capitalized rental units.  A lack of rental investment in town.  The lowest of the low quality landlords.  Landlords finding ways around the law looking for any opportunity to evict long-term tenants. Vastly varying rental rates between adjacent tenants.  Tenants lying about who is actually living there to keep rents low.  We’ve seen it all before in San Francisco and Santa Monica.   A very, very bad idea.

          Educate those 20,000 students who answered your poll about the realities of rent control, including the fact that the rent goes up even higher when the units turn over, which is what students being here short-term experience, and you’ll get a vastly different answer.

          What all renters want is lower rents.  Good luck with that.  It’s either subsidized, on a vastly differential two-tier scale, or market rate.

           

        5. Richard McCann

          Sorry I had to miss the event. (Conflicted with the VCEA Advisory Committee meeting, which is flying under the radar for everyone.)

          Rent control is a bad idea. Studies repeatedly show the only beneficiaries are middle and high income earners who reside for a long time in a community. It also suppresses construction of new housing as developers see that they are unlikely to gain sufficient returns on investment.

          State law requires vacancy decontrol, which means that rent control will largely be meaningless for students who are constantly moving.

           

        6. John D

          David,

          The problem is we are victims of a tautology.   The university must grow, but it doesn’t want to house its students, and the town has declared itself a no growth zone.

          As such, there is no additional room for new housing inventory that might otherwise relieve pricing pressure on apartment/housing inventory.

          IF you will NOTICE, the only projects we find coming before the planning commission and city council ARE HOUSING PROJECTS.  It’s not like the marketplace isn’t willing to respond – if it were not otherwise policy constrained.

          New Housing Development has been the key metric in Davis “development” history since forever.   What does everybody expect to happen when you run out of developable land?

          Rent control in response to the consequences of a deliberate no-growth policy philosophy would appear to pit public policy priorities with private property owners rights – not to mention market forces.

  1. Alan Miller

    He called the issue of student housing “the stop sign at the end of the street that keeps sneaking up on you.”

    I saw that episode of  “The Twilight Zone”

  2. Richard McCann

    Greg Rowe is quoted:

    Students go from living in dorms in their first year, he said, and after that “they are effectively shoved out into the community.  That’s why over 20,000 of them, 63 percent, live in this town, and that’s why there’s a scarcity of housing.”

    I’m afraid Mr. Rowe has it backwards. Most students anticipate leaving the dorms and living on their own as part of their own personal growth. UCD is not “evicting” them. And students shouldn’t reside in the dorms for their entire educational career. They would be living in a bubble among only other students, with their only adult contacts with professors. Instead, they learn how to manage their lives by living off campus. And our community is part of that education process. We must look at this holistically.

    And again, what about housing for added staff? And what about all of the staff that is now commuting from other cities? Many claim that they support a sustainable Davis, but the very first step is to reduce the GHG emissions from those commuters by housing them here.

    1. David Greenwald

      The students I talked to told me a lot of students would like to stay on campus a second year but most they felt wouldn’t want to stay all four years on campus.

    2. Roberta Millstein

      I lived all four years on campus and I don’t think it stunted my personal growth any.  Rather, it allowed me to focus on my studies and to participate easily in campus activities.  Believe me, there was plenty of time after graduation to learn how to live among other “adults” (although, actually, I had been living among adults the whole time, since an 18-year old is an adult) and take on the added responsibilities of being a renter (which I did for the next ~20 years of my life).

  3. Alan Miller

    “I think one of the keys is also affordability by design,”

    I had a friend who had a closet in Santa Cruz.  His twin bed fit side-to-side exactly, and at the end was a hutch with a TV.  Clothes hung from ropes in the ceiling.  The closet opened onto the living room.  Now THAT is affordability by design.  Which was $500/month, a bargain in Santa Cruz 15 years ago.  The situation there is worse now.

  4. Jim Hoch

    It will be interesting to see who is ignorant and/or venal enough to propose rent control as good for students. However given that an arrogant billionaire can present himself as the savior of the blue collar class anything is possible. I’ll keep an eye out for our local Tumpette.

    1. Keith O

      Now that’s funny, referring to anyone who advocates for rent control even one of our future council candidates who David said is going to make rent control part of his platform as Trumpettes.  That’s going to go over well.

  5. Jim Frame

    We should consider rent control

    I find it hard to believe that any responsible leader can make that statement.

     

    At least one council candidate is going to make it a major part of his platform.

    That candidacy is DOA, in my opinion.  Unless he/she has figured out what no CC candidate has yet figured out — how to get students to vote in quantity and against their own long-term interests — the rent-control candidate is wasting his/her time.

     

     

  6. Don Shor

    So the main news out of this conclave was that the draft EIR will not be published until winter, so it is not likely to be taken up by the regents until spring.

    Matt was as clear as he could be in his answers without being explicit. He spoke about the issue first, and the replied to direct questioning from Eileen Samitz that was pretty much the language she has used on her posts here on the Vanguard.

    They’ll allow the builders to go for higher densities and higher numbers of units.

    They won’t put specific constraints on that would inhibit that.

    But it is clear they won’t increase the number of units they commit to in the planning document. If they haven’t pencilled out higher numbers now, they aren’t going to.

    Asked specifically about higher numbers by Eileen, Matt replied “we’ll try.” And he chose not to say anything more.

    From the city’s planning perspective, this is almost worse than before. UCD will not commit to higher numbers, but might build them in as projects go forward. So from the standpoint of planning for housing, it will be on a project by project basis and might increase from the 40% of total enrollment a little bit. Or more. But not 50%. There will be a shortfall of hundreds to thousands of beds in any case, in the absence of a specific commitment from UC for higher numbers. Why? Because logic tells us that it will cost more to build higher densities. They can eke out some more units, but not what the city, county, ASUCD, and citizens have been asking them to do.

    It’s pretty clear where all this is going in terms of the current and future vacancy rates, costs of housing, and impact on nearby communities. In the absence of any new subdivision, there is no way that enough housing can be built in town to make up the whole difference between what is needed and what they’re providing.

    1. Ron

      Behind all this, of course, are assumptions that enrollment growth (largely based upon pursuit of International students who can pay $42K in tuition) is “beyond” UC’s (and UCD’s) control.  And, that the city should absorb the costs and impacts of UCD’s decisions. UCD apparently gets to say “how high” the city needs to jump – today, and probably into the future.

      1. Don Shor

        Behind all this, of course, are assumptions that enrollment growth …. is “beyond” UC’s (and UCD’s) control.

        I don’t assume that at all. This is entirely UCD’s decision, going back to the start of the 2020 Initiative. That was the time planning should have started to meet this housing shortage.

        And, that the city should absorb the costs and impacts of UCD’s decisions.

        The city residents, neighboring cities, students, and people who work here will bear the costs and impacts of UCD’s decisions one way or another.

        UCD apparently gets to say “how high” the city needs to jump – today, and probably into the future.

        UCD gets to decide how much it is going to increase enrollment, yes. What the city does is up to the residents.

        1. Ron

          UCD gets to decide how much it is going to increase enrollment, yes.

          I believe that one of the “settlement agreements” (between a UC host city and its university) includes the stipulation that enrollment increases cannot occur without the university providing sufficient housing.

          1. Don Shor

            I believe that one of the “settlement agreements” (between a UC host city and its university) includes the stipulation that enrollment increases cannot occur without the university providing sufficient housing.

            Most of the 2020 Initiative growth has already occurred. No lawsuit is going to undo that.

        2. Ron

          (Neglected to put quotation marks around the first sentence, above.)

          I’ve forgotten which of the two lawsuits (in two different UC host cities) included this stipulation. (Perhaps both?)

          Sure – just keep lettin’ it slide. Maybe next time (in future years), UCD will be “kinder” to Davis.

    2. David Greenwald

      Don: With the caveat it might not be as bad as you think.  The difference between 40 and 50 is 3800 units.  The city if it approves Lincoln40, gets to 1500 beds with L40 and Sterling.  That leaves 2300.  I don’t see 2300 as insurmountable over ten years between UCD and the city.  We’ll see.

      1. Don Shor

        I don’t see 2300 as insurmountable over ten years between UCD and the city. We’ll see.

        Which would leave us about where we are now. And enrollment growth will almost certainly precede UC’s provision of housing, so in the short run renters will be even worse off.

    3. Eileen Samitz

      Don,

      I know that you tend towards the pessimistic aspect of this issue regarding the critical need for UCD to provide additional on-campus housing to support its many students needing housing. However, it is very clear that the City cannot provide the 4,000 additional student beds that UCD needs to provide for their own aggressive  growth.

      UCD has an obligation, like the other UC’s, to provide the needed on-campus for their students. Since the other UC’s can and are providing housing for at least 50% of their student population, there is no reason why UCD cannot accomplish what all the other UC’s are, particularly when is has over 5,300 acres, the largest UC in the system.

      Since UCD is saying they are “working on it”, well let’s just let them do that, but my point was that they can and need to be making more progress on a faster and more realistic timeline since it is UCD exacerbating the need for student housing now.

      1. David Greenwald

        “UCD has an obligation”

        In what sense is their obligation?  It’s not a legal obligation.  It might be a moral obligation, but that’s a bit squishy too.  So I’m unclear as to where the obligation is derived from and how it’s enforceable.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          Sure, but the city has different structures and considerations than a university.  UC ends up being insulated and autocratic while the city is at least quasi-democratically constructed.  Much more difficult for a city to ignore housing shortages and low vacancy rates than the university.

        2. Ron

          David:  “Much more difficult for a city to ignore housing shortages and low vacancy rates than the university.”

          Certainly true, if UCD’s “customers” (students) focus almost all of their energy on the city, instead of UCD.

          It’s also difficult for some to ignore the costs and impacts of mega-dorms within the city (e.g., commutes to classes through the “worst intersection in town”, unfunded bicycle/pedestrian overpasses, inadequate development fees, using up space that might be more suitable for worker housing or commercial activities, etc.). 

          But, I suspect that the city will ultimately “take it in the shorts”, again. Especially with students primarily pressuring the city (instead of UCD), without much concern for the consequences. (My impression, at least.)

  7. Ellie White

    UCD students are pressuring the university. It may look like we’re not because we’re not moving them. But that just means you either haven’t been paying attention or are taking out your frustrations on the students.

    We can’t move an undemocratic, un-transparent organization without numbers. The louder we are the easier it will be to move what right now feels like an unmovable thing. And we NEED concrete help and support from residents. We don’t need pep-talks. We certainly don’t need your criticism.

    We need people to attend our rallies, crash meetings with us, do sit-ins at Mrak hall, yell at admin at town halls, force their way into closed meetings on housing, donate money for food and printing materials for our events, help us trigger an audit of student housing, give us legal advise, help us design our action plans, write op-eds, get others to join the movement, etc. etc.

    Last think I want to hear Ron: “students should x, while we sit on our asses.”

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