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