Sunday Commentary: Addressing Core Housing Issues in Davis

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At the Vanguard’s recent conclave on student housing, ASUCD President Josh Dalavai likened the student 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.

When the Vanguard met with three students heavily involved in housing issues, the students we talked to made it clear that “we want to see at least 50 (percent of the students on campus) if not more.”

Sara Williams explained that they have been in multiple meetings with campus planning officials who are working on the LRDP (Long Range Development Plan). “We’ve had discussions about these things but it’s never come with any actionable items.

“They do give us a sense that they’re listening – it’s just that we never see anything come of those conversations,” Sara said. “We’ve been talking about this since fall.”

ASUCD has authored some resolutions that have pushed for both the city and university to step up, and asked for the university to provide 50 percent of students with on-campus housing options.

Ms. Williams also scoffed at the notion that the students could partake in sit-ins: “I see a lot of people saying, why don’t they sit-in on Mrak… People seem to forget that we have lives – like we can spend our labor hosting sit-ins every day.” She called the notion “hilarious” and said, “We can’t.”

She pointed out that she has four jobs, but others have multiple jobs in addition to being full-time students. “We don’t have the time to host sit-ins all the time, but what we can do is spend a Tuesday night at city council,” she pointed out.

Don Shor’s comments yesterday were helpful as well.  He said, “David probably interacts with the activist students and the student body leaders, but I know that when I was a student at UCD the political end of things was completely dominated by people from the humanities.”

He said, “Students are significantly impacted by the lack of rental housing and the lack of affordable housing. I doubt that motivates them to activism, since it wouldn’t yield results within their time here. Rent control, on the other hand, would provide immediate and tangible benefits to them, irrespective of what it might do to the market in the long run.”

He later noted, “It’s a desperate market for renters. It’s been bad for years, and has gotten progressively worse. I know of no other community with an apartment vacancy rate this low. So when I hear blasé dismissals of this situation or completely naive, unrealistic expectations for how the university is going to solve the problem, I begin to wonder how completely out of touch some people are.”

At this point here are my views on issues related to student housing – subject to change, as circumstances do.

First, I continue to support the 100/50 plan.  However, I do not believe that UC Davis will go to 50 percent of overall students housed on campus.

As we wrote on September 30, Matt Dulcich made it very clear during the Vanguard Conclave that they will not commit to a higher number (of housing on campus). His response to more density and heights was “we’ll try.” So they will allow builders to go to higher densities and build more units. They won’t constrain planning. But they will not add to the locations of growth and they will not commit to increase the number of units in the planning document.

Second, I remain supportive of efforts for the city to add additional student housing in town.  I believe by doing so it will improve the vacancy rate and alleviate pressure on single-family homes and neighborhoods.

Third, I believe that we should have a full discussion on the idea of rent control.  I want to be clear that I have not taken a position in support of rent control at this point and probably will not support it in the long run, except as a way to leverage other concessions from landlords and the community.

Fourth, I believe that the city does have an affordability crisis and, while “big A” affordable housing is one approach to that, increasing the supply of affordability by design is probably a better long-term route to affordability.

Fifth, we need to acknowledge that there is a problem right now in this community.  Students, working people, teachers, even professors are being priced out of being able to live here and something needs to change.  There are a lot of fingers being pointed toward UC Davis – and some of that is certainly justified – but the problem goes beyond UC Davis and aims at our land use policies.

Davis is and will remain a slow-growth community.  It will be extremely difficult to get approval for peripheral housing.  There is an extremely limited supply available for infill housing.

It is incumbent on our leaders to identify the core housing needs in this community and to make sure that new projects going forward meet those needs.  I was opposed to Cannery, for example, precisely because the housing it provided was largely not what we needed most.  I am critical of Trackside for the same reason.  We should take a long hard look at the latest peripheral proposals with an eye toward understanding where our current needs reside and use the leverage that we have to push developers to provide that housing.

—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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9 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Addressing Core Housing Issues in Davis”

  1. Ron

    David:  “Third, I believe that we should have a full discussion on the idea of rent control.  I want to be clear that I have not taken a position in support of rent control at this point and probably will not support it in the long run, except as a way to leverage other concessions from landlords and the community.”

    What do you mean by this (italicized and bolded section)? What “concessions” do you want?

  2. Ron

    David:  ” . . . increasing the supply of affordability by design is probably a better long-term route to affordability.”

    You’re apparently referring to increased density, with all of the resulting impacts.  If the city pursues this, I sure hope that they reconsider development fees to offset the resulting increased costs.

    I can envision the cubicle-sized units, even now. (Like sleeping on a train car.) Don’t they have something like that in Japan?

    1. David Greenwald

      If you read today’s article, the council is indeed in favor of changing the formula for fees based on beds or bedroom rather than doors (to use Brett Lee’s terminology)

      1. Ron

        The other article referred to Affordable housing requirements. Are you referring to that, or are you referring to development impact fees? (My comment above was related to development impact fees.)

        1. Ron

          Thank you.  “Beds” is definitely different than “bedrooms”, especially for those developments intended for double-occupancy per bedroom from the start.

          Development impact fees are based upon the costs/impacts of new residents.  (I can post the information regarding that again, if needed.)

  3. Jim Hoch

    Starting paragraphs with “He said” or “He later noted” leads to confusion. Since a paragraph represents a discrete thought it should not refer back to an earlier paragraph with a subjective reference.

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