Commentary: Who Doesn’t Want Off-Campus Housing?

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The title of the letter definitely caught my attention: “We don’t want off-campus dormitories.”  Was there a student group that was opposed to one of the apartment projects?  I looked at the author.  Nope.  Longtime resident Claudia Krich was the author.

There are a lot of factual problems with her letter that need to be sorted out.

She writes: “Now that the precedent has been set by Davis City Council of building a one-bathroom-per-bedroom off-campus student dormitory, that project is, as predicted, used to justify building more off-campus dormitories.

“Obviously, dormitories should be on campus. Off-campus housing should be apartments, not dormitories. It seems to be a matter of who blinks first, the city or the university, and the city keeps blinking.”

She continues, “Only students live in dormitories, even when developers euphemistically call them apartments. ‘Student housing’ is dormitories. Families don’t live in $3,750-per-month five-bedroom, five-bathroom units, period. Apartments are a completely different consideration. Anyone can live in apartments.”

Sigh.  Deep breath.  I understand there are a lot of different proposals, but if you are going to write to the newspaper on one of them, perhaps you should make sure you have the details correct.

There are a lot of subjective points here.  Student housing is not a synonym for dormitories.  In fact, even on campus they distinguish between student dormitories which do not have kitchens or independent eating facilities and student apartments which do.

Second, why should student housing not be located off campus?  Nishi is right next to campus.   Students will be able to literally walk or bike through the underpass and be on campus without clogging roadways or having to drive.  Lincoln40 is across the street.

In addition, Nishi is going to be two- and three-bedroom apartments.  They are rented by the unit.  In other words, there is nothing to stop a family from moving in, I suppose, if they want to live next to a bunch of students.

“Families don’t live in $3,750-per-month five-bedroom, five-bathroom units, period.”

She is probably correct.  But here’s the problem – a family is not likely to live in a $2300 to $2800 market rate three-bedroom apartment either.  Davis is not really affordable to families – and not solving the student housing crisis is not going to fix that problem.

Ms. Krich continues: “The council expresses concern about low-income students having to live in other towns… Low-income students will not be living at Sterling or the other dormitories because the rents per bed are from $750 to $1,300, and almost certainly higher, since Sterling will immediately sell the finished dormitory to another company that is free to raise those numbers that were presented to the Planning Department and to the council to sell the project.”

The good news is that low income students are starting to have some options.  The affordable housing plan at Lincoln40 will allow for rents around $670 to $800.  It is slightly better at Nishi with rents between $404 and $670.

The market rate units at Nishi are projected at roughly $800 per bed.

Ms. Krich continues: “Low-income students do not need or want to pay for private bathrooms. It’s cheaper to double up in a house off-campus. And how indeed does Davis justify letting any developer build one bathroom (for 18- to 21-year-olds) per bedroom in drought-prone California when the rest of us make every effort to conserve water?”

There are all sorts of problems with this comment.  First of all, there are not necessarily private bathrooms, especially in shared rooms.  Second, it is not clear that bathrooms are increasing the cost of infrastructure.  Third, it has been thoroughly debunked that the inclusion of more bathrooms increases water use.

She concludes: “Let’s consider Nishi. Many of us will vote for apartments, will vote for retail, will vote for housing, but will not vote for off-campus, unregulated, expensive dormitories.”

It is unclear if Nishi is the target of her post, but it is the only project on the ballot and Nishi does not include many of the things Ms. Krich is complaining about.  The community needs to understand how bad things are for students right now and, by building some student housing in town, we can alleviate the current housing crisis.

—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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28 thoughts on “Commentary: Who Doesn’t Want Off-Campus Housing?”

  1. Tia Will

    A few thoughts regarding precision in expression of concerns.

    “We don’t want off-campus dormitories.”  

    I would have appreciated a definition of “we” for this assertion. I am also a long time resident of Davis and have no philosophic objection to off-campus dormitories. I was a resident of one many years ago while attending UCSB and found it an acceptable living arrangement. Granted location is another matter in terms of optimal land usage, but this would seem to be a strong argument in favor of Nishi because of its proximity to the university and distance from other close neighbors who could be disturbed by its presence.

    Obviously, dormitories should be on campus. Off-campus housing should be apartments, not dormitories”

    I see nothing at all “obvious” about this assertion other than the author’s strong belief. Personal experience tells me that an off campus dorm can be quite advantageous to both residents and community members.

     Student housing is not a synonym for dormitories.”

    Correct, both across the UC system and here in Davis. My daughter, during her tenure at UCB lived one year in an off campus dormitory and then with six friends rented a Victorian converted  to student housing. Although there were six students sharing, it was not a dormitory but was exclusively student housing. On my street here in Davis, we have three houses serving as student cooperative housing. This is off campus, exclusively student housing which no one would confuse with a dormitory.

    What I do not see addressed in this article is the cost of commuting and car ownership. As a student who lived car less for many years, I can vouch for the savings provided by not having to purchase gas, upkeep and insurance on a car. I don’t know how that factors with today’s dollars, but doubt it has become insignificant as an expense in the last 40 years.

  2. Ken A

    It would be interesting for David to reach out to the authors of letters like this and ask:

    1. Do you own property near the project you are against (can you see if from your backyard)?

    2. Do you own other other rental property in town (are you worried a drop in rents will reduce your cash flow)?

    3. How much more water would you personally use each day if you didn’t have to share a bathroom (do you think a typical student will use more or less than you).

    4, Can you tell us the names of the “low income” students who do not want their own bathrooms.

    5. If you are concerned about water use in “drought-prone California” tell us what other projects around the state that you have opposed due to water use issues?

    P.S. To David I think you have a typo when you write: “The market rate units at Nishi are projected at roughly $800 a unit”

     

  3. Todd Edelman

    I’ve lived in four major cities – SF, NYC, Prague and Berlin, in that order – where, by and large, university students were  integrated in the general housing provision. Students – even in mobility-lopsided Davis – don’t need their own car, whether or not they can afford it. They don’t need meal plans, they need to know to cook (though a super-affordable dining option on or near any major campus is important… but it should be accessible to the general public.). Eliminating parking from new developments – in Slinecam (Students! Living next to campus?) – all the surface parking costs 3.5 to 7 million, provides an average of one car per apartment which I believe will still result in lots of car journeys through and off-campus, reduces the potential size of the Urfor (Urban Forest?) by about 100%, and is not clearly under any Unbpro (un-bundling provision) nor Nopcamgoi (No permit for campus, get over it) – reduces housing construction costs by about 15% on average. If it’s very close to campus it’s ideal, and that’s it, no matter where it is, and in normal apartments these students require little to no special infrastructure and pay different forms of nourishing taxes.  Nishi can thus be a great family community-oriented housing facility – because also there are probably huge, perhaps largely-unresearched benefits of children living within a university milieu – if only we make it safe in the long-term for all.

    So: The I-80 can be changed. A lot. Which City Council candidate will explain why this is the case, and convince us to help them to make it happen?

    1. Richard McCann

      I-80 isn’t going to be changed by the City Council. Just look at how long and how much effort it took to just simply correct the miles to the Davis exit sign! That’s not a viable option for some time until overall state transportation policy really begins to change.

      1. Todd Edelman

        until overall state transportation policy really begins to change.

        Certainly, but can it be more localized? Consider the Freeway Revolt in San Francisco. And recently in this forum I challenged someone – implicitly anyone in the state – to “join our class action” against USDOT and Caltrans… not only state policy. And last week I initiated the successful formation of a sub-committee in the City’s Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission focused specifically on the proposed bus/HOV lane project for I-80 – for example, its seeming lack of specific goals for reduction of noise, particle and gaseous pollution or increase of transit modal share or carpooling – and more generally to see how other communities across the state and country deal effectively with their highway infrastructure partners in terms of environmental and social sustainability.

  4. Eileen Samitz

    David,

    The author is simply making clear that the design of all of the new multi-family housing is dorm style and for students only, and not offering a rental housing design that can be used by all. That is a legitimate complaint. The new multi-family housing should be inclusively design with 1-, 2- and 3- bedrooms formats of offer rental housing to all, not only students shoe-horned into mega-dorms with predominately 4- and 5- bedroom apartment suites. The mega-dorm design offers nothing for our families and local workers needing rental housing.

    And again, you cherry-pick mentioning the low and very low income proposed beds costs for Lincoln40 and continue to avoid admitting that the market rate units will average $1,000 per bed at Lincoln40.  Plus, the Nishi bed “estimated” costs of around $800 is not locked-in in any way. The developers are simply going to raise that cost of market-rate beds to subsidize the lower income beds (which you love to continue featuring as if the entire project will be charging the low income costs per bed).

    Instead of the Vanguard advertising for these mega-dorms and advocating for “build anything” no matter what the outcome or impacts, you need cover these subjects more honestly and objectively.

     

    1. Ken A

      Anyone that writes: “all of the new multi-family housing is dorm style” has no idea of the definition of “dorm” or “dormitory” is (and had probably not walked by the new Del Rio Live Work Apartments just down from the Police Station and the Sterling site)…

    2. David Greenwald

      There are a lot of problems with the facts in both her letter and your comment.

      The author is expressing her opinion as though it were fact and as though she were speaking for a large group of people.  As I have shown here and elsewhere, Nishi is not going to have four and five bedroom apartments.

      I mentioned here the affordable housing programs at Lincoln and Nishi.  As I have pointed out, even if Lincoln40 is $1000, it is still less than the cost on campus.  As I have also pointed out, by having market rate apartment, you cannot (by definition) lock in rates.  But the proposed rates are quite reasonable at Nishi for new apartments (they are actually projected for below average) whereas Lincoln40 might be slightly above average (but again we don’t have a final project).

      You’ve insisted on calling everything that has student oriented apartments mega-dorms whether the definition fits or not.

    3. Don Shor

      The new multi-family housing should be inclusively design with 1-, 2- and 3- bedrooms formats of offer rental housing to all, not only students shoe-horned into mega-dorms with predominately 4- and 5- bedroom apartment suites.

      From the project description: “The Nishi project includes 2,200 residential “beds” in approximately 700 two- and three-bedroom multifamily rental units.”

    4. Howard P

      Eileen… consider chilling in your rhetoric… you are losing credibility with many… even with folk who have no “advocacy”… your rhetoric is pushing me to vote towards “all development at any time, any cost” from a much more moderate position… which is currently, situational based.

      The “mega-dorm” thing (inaccurate on many levels), accusing anyone who disagrees with your ‘slant’, corrects your factual errors, as “advocates for development”, or against pressuring UCD to do more, does not serve you, the issue, or this forum well, IMHO.

      Yeah, I know I’ll be ‘attacked’ now as being for “any development/anytime”… wrong, but so be it…

      I’d rather have said this off-line, but don’t appear to have a choice.

      95% sure this comment will be subject to either deletion, or a ‘moderator’ chastisement…

      Whatever… meant the “chilling” thing (as to rhetoric) as a friendly suggestion…

  5. Tia Will

    Howard

    95% sure this comment will be subject to either deletion, or a ‘moderator’ chastisement…”

    Is that part of your goal ?  With a 95% estimate, the fact that you submitted it suggests that it might be.

  6. Howard P

    Too much BS here…

    As recently as 3 years ago several 3 Br-2Ba HOUSES in E Davis were rented for a TOTAL of $1,900 (plus utilities, City and other)… often to students, or others so, figuring 1 bed/BR, $700/bed (inc. utilities)… market rate… 45  year old house, in reasonable condition, on a 1/6 acre of land… and the owners were paying mortgages, and taxes… one owner sold such a house @ ~ $315/sf of house.

    Compared to the late 70’s, apartments have much more SF/unit/bed, whatever, today… as do “dorms” as I understand it… do students/families require more living space today?  If so, why?

    I grew up in a 850 sf house house that two adults and a child (1-23) shared [less than 300 SF/person]… never felt deprived… 2Br/1Ba… no marble countertops (tile), no AC, and a single two-sided heater (Bay Area, so no problems… opened up windows at night when hot, kept them closed when cold).

    Affordable housing has a limitation… what are the expectations for “amenities”, rather than a reasonable, comfortable space to live?  I actually had a much bigger SF/person apt when I lived in two in the mid 70’s… it was affordable… even for my parents of limited means, and my summer jobs… 4 occupants, 2 Ba…

     

    1. Ken A

      The “affordable” apartments in Davis are nicer than the “average” apartments in Davis.  In 2016 the management of the Owendale affordable apartments on Albany Ave. (behind the New Harmony) actually “forced” a lot of residents  (including a friend’s grandmother) to move to the Days Inn (and take $600/month food allowance”) so they could totally renovate the inside of every apartment (even though most residents were completely happy with their only 13 year old apartments).  More people need to learn that the “real” goal of “affordable housing is to funnel money to the politically connected and provide patronage jobs, since if we just gave money to the poor to help with rent we could help at least twice as many poor people have lower rent with the same amount of money we are currently spending.

      P.S. After moving to Davis I thought “Tuscany Villas” was a “high end” apartment not an “affordable’ complex (since it is nicer looking than any apartment I have ever lived in)…

      https://www.walkscore.com/score/spacious-two-and-three-story-townhome-style-apa-davis

       

      1. Don Shor

        More people need to learn that the “real” goal of “affordable housing is to funnel money to the politically connected and provide patronage jobs, since if we just gave money to the poor to help with rent we could help at least twice as many poor people have lower rent with the same amount of money we are currently spending.

        I do not believe that is the motivation of any of the current council members in seeking to get more affordable housing in Davis. I do agree that directly providing housing vouchers would likely be more efficient, but only if there are actual places where they could use them. We currently have a crisis-level shortage of rental housing. So getting more units overall is the first priority, IMO.

        1. Ken A

          The politically connected that make money from “affordable” housing don’t let the politicians know how much they are making and “sell” the projects based on “helping people” (just like defense contractors rarely mention the $400/hammer cost and “sell” each project based on “protecting America”).  The politicians don’t really want to know the details just that they are “helping people” (and what politician does not like to get some new patronage jobs to give to friends and the slaker kids of big donors).

          The elected officials in Davis know that most people (at least the ones who vote) don’t really want any more housing in Davis so they have not really been doing much (when they could easily tell Tandem and other big owners in town that they can add units to every property they own in town if a percentage of them are “affordable” and get hundreds of new units (and thousands of new property tax money) in a couple years.

  7. Darryl Rutherford

    These discussions related to affordable housing are really becoming pretty disheartening to read/hear…we all should educate ourselves on affordable housing development, policy, and financing before throwing out blanket statements on those who are attempting to provide a healthy, affordable home for those living on modest means.  There are varying types of affordable housing developers – mostly this field consists of non-profit, mission based affordable housing developers and for-profit affordable housing developers (some market rate developers help to address this crisis as well) – having the ability to receive subsidies from various gov’t programs.  When it comes to the cost of developing affordable homes (whether rental or single-family homes) one needs to consider the requirements placed on them by state and federal programs including other services to help better the lives of those living there such as mental health services, job training programs, and opportunities to develop their leadership skills.  A few years ago, the state’s treasurer office and other state public agencies published an affordable housing cost study found here… http://www.treasurer.ca.gov/ctcac/affordable_housing.pdf.

    Yes, affordable homes are high quality and well maintained but they strengthen thousands of urban, suburban, and rural communities. Other benefits provided by developers such as Mutual Housing CA, a non-profit AH developer, also provide a variety of wrap-around services, provide resident leadership programs (including a Community Building program which fosters relationships among their residents and a Community Organizing program that help residents identify areas of common interest and helps them develop skills to work together to address those issues)…and my favorite the “Culture of College Initiative” – http://www.mutualhousing.com/mutual-housing-newsletter-october-2016/#Article-2.

    So please, let’s stop this attack on our working poor, seniors living on modest means, those living on SSI, and people experiencing homelessness due to mental health issues, drug & alcohol addiction, etc. Let’s not attack those advocating for more affordable homes and those who have found a niche in providing those homes.  We should be better than this…let’s show compassion and understanding and work together to create a healthy, sustainable, and affordable community for all who live, work, and strive to educate themselves in this beautiful community.

    1. Howard P

      I saw no

      attack(s) on our working poor, seniors living on modest means, those living on SSI, and people experiencing homelessness due to mental health issues, drug & alcohol addiction, etc. 

      Just saying…

       

      1. David Greenwald

        But Ken’s comment is factually challenged at best and ignorant of where the majority of affordable housing comes from in Davis.  It is true that about 20 years ago there was an affordable housing scandal as the city failed to preserve affordable housing stock, but that’s not reflective of the modern program.

        1. Howard P

          So is Darryl’s, ‘factually challenged’…

          So please, let’s stop this attack on our working poor, seniors living on modest means, those living on SSI, and people experiencing homelessness due to mental health issues, drug & alcohol addiction, etc. 

          And he does not disclose the “facts” of his affiliations, which I disclosed, and that info is ‘awaiting moderation’… and all I posted were demonstrable ‘facts’… whatever…  I give up on this thread, where only one view is tolerated, and where some are accountable for ‘facts’ and others are not…

           

      2. Ken A

        With the current system we let a small number of “lucky” poor people live in super well maintained luxury apartments while we pay an army of people to “help” them with  “leadership skills” and other programs like the “Culture of College Initiative”.

        This works out well for the people that build, manage and maintain (and find other ways to get paid from)  the “affordable” housing but (as someone who worked with underprivileged kids weekly for over a decade) does not work out well for most (but not all) the people stuck in a building with only other poor people (most who have other issues).

        In my experience a program where we not only help twice as many poor people with rent, but let them choose where to live and have their kids play with other kids with parents who went to college will do more to help kids learn about “real life” and go to college than a any “Culture of College Initiative”.

        P.S. This is not an “attack” on anyone who is doing what they feel is best to help the poor, just pointing out what I see works the best to really help a lot of poor people (and their kids)…

         

      3. Ken A

        If David feels anything I said is “factually challenged” I’m hoping he can post some “facts” that “challenge” anything I have posted.  Like anyone I am not perfect and might make a “mistake” (like typing “units” when I meant to type “beds”) but he should post an actual mistake I made before posting I am “ignorant”…

        1. Darryl Rutherford

          Again…do your homework – the programs listed that you blast aren’t funded by public subsidies but by grants/donations…through their own fundraising…from the article I posted the link to “… with the support of key funding from Sierra Health Foundation and Teichert Foundation, we are set to launch a College Ambassadors program as a key element in this new initiative”.

        2. Ken A

          I didn’t “blast” any programs (or state the finding source of the programs)…

          As a volunteer for years working in affordable housing side by side with people paid by both private and public money my opinion (based on what I have seen in my life)  is that putting a poor kid with parents who didn’t go to college in a housing “project” (I know that word has fallen out of favor) increases the chance that they will get in trouble and go down the wrong path where putting them in an market rate apartment complex with a wider income range will decrease the chance that they will get in trouble an drop out of school…

      4. David Greenwald

        “More people need to learn that the “real” goal of “affordable housing is to funnel money to the politically connected and provide patronage jobs, since if we just gave money to the poor to help with rent we could help at least twice as many poor people have lower rent with the same amount of money we are currently spending.”

        Why would I bother?  Why don’t you instead prove your comment, you’re the one that made it.

        1. Ken A

          I won’t mention any specifics from San Francisco that is really really bad, but here in town the New Harmony Apartment cost about 100% more to build than a similar “market rate” apartment (using almost all politically connected vendors) and New Harmony costs about 100% more to manage and maintain every year (using the politically connected) than Tanden pays to manage and maintain similar units in town.

          P.S. I won’t even go into the DACHA money pit that paid so much to help so few:

          https://patch.com/california/davis/city-makes-settlement-offer-to-resolve-dacha-related-litigation

      5. Howard P

        For transparency… and for folk to understand your background, affiliations, and ‘creds’…(you perhaps accidentally did not offer those)

        https://regionalchange.ucdavis.edu/people/darryl-rutherford

        http://www.sachousingalliance.org/about/board-of-directors-staff/

        Darryl… for transparency, will you share the amount of your compensation?  To put “affordable” in context?

        [moderator: Since Darryl has been courteous enough to reply, I’ve left it. But please don’t do this again.

        1. Darryl Rutherford

          And don’t forget…a City of Davis resident and Planning Commissioner.  My organization is funded through fundraising, grants, and donations – no public funds…do your own homework if you want to see how much I’m compensated.  But I won’t get further into this kind of debate especially with someone unwilling to be public with who they are and since it’s a technique to distract others from the point of the post

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