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.”