Analysis: The First Nishi Op-Ed

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It has been a quiet start to the Measure R campaign for Nishi so far.  Proponents of the student housing development will likely see this as a good sign.  Two years ago, there were already controversies erupting over the affordable housing and, to a lesser extent, traffic issues – issues that figure to have been put to rest by changes to the project.

That is not to say that a Measure R project will have an easy time – this is Davis, after all.

The first op-ed came out this weekend from Kevin Wolf.  Not a huge surprise, as he was a strong proponent of Covell Village back in 2005 and the previous Nishi proposal.

As Mr. Wolf points out, “In 2016, Davisites narrowly voted against the Nishi Gateway Innovation Park because many wanted more affordable housing and less traffic impacts on Richards Blvd. The applicants clearly refined the project based on voter feedback and now have a new proposal that addresses these concerns.”

Mr. Wolf raises four critical issues in his piece.

First, he notes the affordable housing proposal.  Here he writes that the affordable component includes “privately subsidized housing for students.”  Mr. Wolf notes, “Rather than pay a one-time fee, they will contribute $40 million-plus over the project’s 50-year lifetime to help financially challenged UC Davis students.”

He adds, “Fifteen percent of the units will be affordable, with a third of those available for students with extremely low income. This meets the city’s new interim affordable housing ordinance and
ensures that the subsidies last 50 years, which historically hasn’t happened with all of the city’s affordable housing.”

Second, he makes the case about traffic impacts in several ways.

He writes, “With the restriction against cars exiting via Olive Drive and Richards Blvd and with 2,200 students living there, we should realize a reduction in vehicles coming into town.”

One of the key points here is that, “More and more students are forced to rent in Woodland, Dixon and West Sacramento and commute into town every day, often through the Richards Tunnel. With Nishi, fewer students will be commuting through town.”

Location is also a critical issue.

Mr. Wolf argues that the reduction in drive will reduce greenhouse gases “because Nishi residents are more likely to walk or ride bikes to campus, the downtown, grocery stores, the Farmers Market, etc.”  Further he notes that Nishi will be built “close to our transportation hubs at the train station and UCD” and within walking distance of the downtown.

Finally, he writes, “With higher rents, many houses that would be bought by young families have been converted to absentee-owned rentals who need 4 to 6-plus students to share the expensive rents they charge to cover their mortgage and relatively high property taxes, etc.”

He believes, “The more student housing we permit, the less competition there is for single-family homes by speculators and landlords.”

He argues, “It’s well past time to provide more housing, especially student housing. in Davis. The Nishi project will be a big step towards accomplishing that.”

In short, he believes, “The Nishi property is one of the best sites for high-density housing near the campus and downtown. The other properties our committee talked about, of which we rated two, were the Civic Park near Fifth and B streets, the Susan B. Anthony school administration offices directly to the east, and Toomey Field. High-density housing on those sites will create opposition by neighbors and others including those who don’t like seeing changes to the way Davis looks.”

He added, “When we consider converting open space around our city’s perimeter to housing, we should require these developments to result in new affordable housing especially on site, create permanent buffers of habitat/farmland near the City borders at 2-to-1 ratios, be designed for the future of self-driving cars and lower car ownership rates, and produce significant amounts of renewable energy.”

Mr. Wolf did a good job of addressing some of the key issues on traffic impacts, affordable housing, and the conversion of single family homes into mini-dorms.

What he did not address was air quality concerns or in any great detail the student housing crisis, other than a general need for housing.  He also did not discuss issues of sustainability or fiscal impact.  But of course, not every piece can address every issue.

In the coming weeks, these issues are expected to be more thoroughly vetted and discussed in this community.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


Upcoming event: Vanguard to Host Student Housing Townhall Meeting

Join us on April 18 for a discussion on the student housing crisis. We will take comments from students and other community members on the housing crisis and our panel will respond to comments and questions.

Location: Fellowship Hall at Davis Community Church
Date: April 18
Time: 7 to 9 pm

(This is a free event)

Panel:

1. Mayor Robb Davis
2. Matt Dulcich, UC Davis
3. Michael Gofman, ASUCD President
4. Sean Raycraft
5. TBD



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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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14 thoughts on “Analysis: The First Nishi Op-Ed”

  1. Tia Will

    I am in agreement with the first three of Kevin Wolf’s major points. The last, “The more student housing we permit, the less competition there is for single-family homes by speculators and landlords.” I feel this is speculative at best as it implies they will be available to locals in need of housing. My experience and the statistics regarding Sacramento ( and Davis by proximity) as the fastest growing region in the country largely fueled by the exodus from the Bay area/Silicon Valley cast doubt on this premise. 

    Although there are certainly some drawbacks and uncertainties about the Nishi location, this will be true of any prospective site.  I feel strongly that the developer has worked to address the major issues and that Nishi 2 is a project that we should adopt.

     

    1. Jeff M

      Do you have any data to back up this claim other than “your experience”?, because with all due respect it does not count for very much related to this topic.  Maybe you can talk to some realtors in the Davis housing market and ask them about the larger trends.  Certainly there is always going to be competition for available housing from people living outside the area that want to move to Davis, but I think you are inflating the value that Bay Area residents would put on Davis with its relatively crappy supply of food, shopping and entertainment venues for adults.   An increase in supply of single-family Davis homes is ultimately likely to help UCD employees live in Davis.

      By the way, have you noted the price of homes around Davis?  Dixon especially has seen a drastic increase in price.  No doubt some of that is from people working in the Bay Area having pushed their housing search further east.  However, it is mostly from Davis pushing UCD employees out of the Davis housing market due to the lack of supply.   That I have confirmed with Dixon realtors.

      Good to see you are supporting Nishi again.  It helps repair your credibility as an advocate for increased density and eliminating the need for cars after your opposition to Trackside.

      1. Alan Miller

        It helps repair your credibility as an advocate for increased density and eliminating the need for cars after your opposition to Trackside.

        Totally different issues.  One is across the alley from single family homes in a historic neighborhood — Trackside was a pr0ject we supported, had it stayed within existing guidelines — and been three stories instead of four.  Those who think this is a small difference are being insincere.  If your next-door neighbor in Safe Davis Suburbs has a one-story house and is zoned for two story but decides to build three stories, is that a minor difference?

        The other is in a field completely apart from all Davis neighborhoods. The impact on the town may be spread out and cumulative — but it is not direct, such as towering over single family homes and setting a precedent that will change forever how central Davis grows.

        There is no “credibility” issue here, other than — “does it conform to your personal philosophy?”.

        Some of us take things on a case-by-case basis.  This infuriates simple-minded ideologues on both sides.  Franky, because you are, I find both the “all growth” and “no growth” extreme advocates in this town insufferable.

        1. Howard P

          Some of us take things on a case-by-case basis.  This infuriates simple-minded ideologues on both sides.  Franky… I find both the “all growth” and “no growth” extreme advocates in this town insufferable.

          AMEN!! To all, but particularly the bolded portion…

          And those who would support growth only with an eye dropper, are, in fact, “no growth”…

        2. David Greenwald Post author

          My only question would be: who are the “all growth” folks?  I don’t think there is a large segment of the population falling into that camp.

        3. Howard P

          “All growth” would be those who never have seen a proposal they haven’t liked… not ‘recruiters’, nor necessarily cheerleaders… see eye-dropper ref earlier…

          Alan’s main point (my interpretation), that I concur strongly with,

          Some of us take things on a case-by-case basis.  This infuriates simple-minded ideologues on both sides.

          You must admit should acknowledge there are some posting here that are at least 1 ‘deviation’ from the bell curve median…

          BTW, probably almost no developers who are for “all growth”… that would screw up their ‘bottom line’… there appear to be many (not all) who think anything other than no/eyedropper growth cuts into THEIR bottom line…

        4. David Greenwald

          Kind of my thought too.  But I do think there is a difference between supporting known projects and supporting the removal of Measure R.  In fact, I think it’s a rather huge difference.

  2. Alan Miller

    High-density housing on those sites will create opposition by neighbors and others including those who don’t like seeing changes to the way Davis looks.”

    Funny comment, as worded.

  3. Todd Edelman

    There are some good arguments here, but when an attempt at being comprehensive leaves out the air quality issues that the Draft EIR’s mitgations won’t resolve because it’s not possible unless Nishinks keep their windows closed and energy-intensive air filtration on high whenever the air is not moving much outside… well, it just seems like he hoped we wouldn’t notice, yes?

    Development at Civic Park, Susan B. and Toomey has to be dense and have a very minimum of owned-car parking – the latter will be acceptable because residents will be students, elders (who will hopefully vote overwhelmingly against WDAAC) and selfdrivesexuals*… eventually. The former will be acceptable because it will have an objective-as-possible formula for determining where anything taller than three stories can be built, taking into account the position of the sun more than people who “… don’t like seeing changes…”, which is bizarre in any community, and even more so in a community’s center which has to be shared.

    * Reducing parking will have strong and beneficial effects long before The Age of Self-Driving Aquarius envelopes us all as we sleep in congested traffic on the way to work.

    1. David Greenwald

      “it’s not possible unless Nishinks keep their windows closed and energy-intensive air filtration on high whenever the air is not moving much outside… well, it just seems like he hoped we wouldn’t notice, yes?”

      My understanding is that’s not completely true.  There are reasons y0u have multiple barriers.  But under certain wind conditions we don’t open our windows anyway because there is too much crap flying in the air

      1. Todd Edelman

        When the air moves it disperses and dilutes the poisons coming out of the motor vehicles on I-80; when it’s still – especially in winter – the pollution stays more concentrated and hangs around longer… when it’s moderately breezy the area will be best… that’s only part of the time.
        People will also close windows because of the noise from the I-80 – and for some, the UPRR. Windows are for opening… that’s why they open. People who live in Downtown – at least not right on 5th – will be able to open their windows a lot more than will Nishinks.

        1. Don Shor

          when it’s still – especially in winter – the pollution stays more concentrated and hangs around longer…

          At low air speeds, such as during atmospheric inversions, the efficacy of the vegetative barrier close to the freeway source is very high.

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