Commentary: The Student Housing Mega-Dorm Narrative Is Wrong

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In December, Eileen Samitz in an op-ed wrote: “Davis needs more apartments designed for all, not just mega-dorms.”  In it, she argues: “An alarming consequence of UCD’s irresponsible behavior and delay tactics regarding providing on-campus housing is that many mega-dorms, with all of their impacts and costs, are being proposed by private developers in the city.”

In her comment this week, she pushed away from larger apartments and for more one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.  She wrote that “since you are advocating for 5,000-6,000 more ‘beds’ in Davis that would be ok, as long as they are 1-, 2- and 3- bedroom apartments so that our families and local workers can live in them too. Then you also get the affordability in rental housing for everyone including students, families, and local workers.

“So, the solution to affordability and more rental housing is simply eliminating the mega-dorm format of  4- and 5- bedroom apartments, and replace them with 1-, 2- and 3- bedroom apartments for all.”

Ms. Samitz is not alone in this push – although it is fair to say that she is leading the way here.  The problem is that people are not examining the data appropriately and therefore coming up with faulty conclusions.

There are two practical problems with Ms. Samitz’ comment from earlier this week.  The first problem is that the rental market for students is so tight, regardless of the structure of rental housing in Davis, that the vast majority of rental units are going to be soaked up by students.  Somewhere between two-thirds and 85 percent of all rentals right now are rented by students, and that number figures to go up higher as the new demand generator is the need for more housing for students.

The second problem is even if you do create a bunch of housing that structurally fits families’ needs, the cost of rental housing is prohibitive for families.  The average two-bedroom apartment, which would be the minimum size for a “family,” is somewhere between $1600 and $1800 a month, and the cost goes upward to $2200 to $2400 per month for the average three-bedroom.

As much as Nishi is reasonably priced at around $800 per bed, a three-bedroom apartment is going to be around $2400 a month at Nishi.  Given that a family would buy a house and make less in the way of mortgage payments in Woodland and Dixon, how is that a practical solution for most families in Davis?

So the idea that you can configure market rate rental housing that is reasonable for most families in Davis is questionable at best.

But there is a third and more fundamental problem with the narrative, aside from misplaced market realities – it’s simply wrong in structure.

Ms. Samitz argues for a variety of housing types, but, taken in totality, the four current proposals for housing that have either already been approved by council or are close – Sterling and Nishi (Nishi pending a Measure R vote in June) along with Lincoln40 (March 13) and Plaza 2555 (May) – present a much greater variability than critics have suggested.

Taken as a whole, the four proposals project to about 1175 (1205 if you count the 30 micro units at Plaza 2555).  The breakdown of the proposed units is far more diverse than the rhetoric would suggest.

In fact, contrary to the narrative, just 28.8 percent of the units are expected to be four- and five-bedroom apartments.  In fact, five-bedroom apartments comprise just 6.2 percent of all the projected units in the four projects.

By far the vast majority of the units are expected to be one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments – 71.2 percent.

Does that fit the mega-dorm narrative?

It is true that Nishi somewhat alters the data picture as it is figures to be a project that is entirely two- and three-bedroom apartments.  But that is actually a huge part of the point.  Each of these projects has very different specific details – which I will lay out shortly.

It is true that if you take out Nishi, the picture changes considerably in terms of the mix of units.  But, then again, Nishi accounts for nearly 60 percent of the overall units anyway, 700 of the 1175.  So we would expect that the configuration of Nishi would substantially alter the picture.

One of the big complaints are the bed leases.  While that has always seemed like a strange complaint for people to make – after all, there are some key efficiency advantages in a tight market to the ability to rent by the room, it turns out only Sterling and Lincoln40 rent by the bedroom.  Both Nishi and Plaza 2555 will have standard unit leases.

In Claudia Krich’s letter, she writes: “Families don’t live in $3,750-per-month five-bedroom, five-bathroom units, period.”

She is probably correct.  Fortunately, there are only 73 of the 1175 units that are expected to have five bedrooms in the four proposals.  Of those, only 34 of the 73 figure to be five-bedroom and five-bathroom units.

Nishi’s configuration is not primarily one-bedroom, one-bathroom.  They figure to have three-bedroom/two-bathroom and two-bedroom/one-bathroom configurations.  Plaza 2555 likewise is not expected to have the one-bedroom, one-bathroom configuration.

Again some of the complaints here don’t make a lot of sense.  For instance, Ms. Krich recently wrote, asking “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 is no evidence that having a private bathroom increases water usage.  In fact, the biggest indoor usages for water figure to be washing clothes and dishes, not bathroom activities like showers and toilets.  By far the biggest use of water is exterior uses, of which apartments generate lower usage per capita than single family homes.

There is also the issue of occupancy per room.  Sterling has a single occupancy requirement, Lincoln40 will have some double-occupancy rooms and some single-occupancy rooms, as will Nishi.  Plaza 2555 remains to be seen.

The bottom line for these projects is that they have less in common than you would think.  Some have bed leases, some unit leases, some have private bathrooms, others do not.  The size of the complexes varies a lot as well.

Sterling has 160 approved market rate units with 38 units that are affordable and designed specifically for families.  Lincoln40 has 130 units that are primarily geared toward students.  Plaza 2555 has 200 units, but 130 of them are geared toward students.

Nishi has 700 units that could be geared toward students due to location of the project, but there is nothing to prevent campus employees from living there as well.

The market realities at this time, including cost, likely mean all four are heavily for students, but for the most part not exclusively so.

Does Davis need more housing for families?  Absolutely.  But market rate, multi-family housing is not generally going to be affordable or practical in Davis for families.

—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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67 thoughts on “Commentary: The Student Housing Mega-Dorm Narrative Is Wrong”

  1. Tia Will

    When this issue arises, it is almost always presented as an either or.  I simply do not see it that way.  I do not believe that every project has to be everything for every group. The true differential that I see is “little a” affordability vs “luxury”. “Little a “affordable housing is needed by students, by non student singles, by non student groups, by nuclear families, by extended families, by downsizing senior couples and individuals. What I believe is that the city should be making allowances for developers that are willing to provide little a affordable housing. Where there is genuine need ( not wouldn’t it be nice to have) the city should be encouraging to the point of incentivizing if need be. I see no need to make special allowances for those who planned their developments poorly ( The Cannery) and then come asking for exceptions. Nor do I see a city need to make special allowances for small luxury projects that will benefit only those who are affluent enough to afford luxury accommodations and their investors. They are already doing fine and have no need to come to the city “hat in hand” as it were.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      ” The true differential that I see is “little a” affordability vs “luxury”. ”

      That’s an issue I have addressed earlier – these projects are all basically market rate, market average projects. Nishi is projected at $800 or so, that’s slightly below the market average. Lincoln40 is projected slight above the market average, but are projected to be within one standard deviation of market average. That’s not any definition of luxury. The people yelling luxury, I’m afraid have no real sense of the market.

      1. Howard P

        The size and “amenities” of current apartment construction is what is “luxury”… not price…

        If new construction was more “basic”, it would be more affordable, IMO…

        Basic housing keeps one dry, warm/cool, etc.

        1. Mark West

          “If new construction was more “basic”, it would be more affordable, IMO…”

          More affordable than it could be, but still not necessarily affordable for many.

          It is an issue of size and amenities, but it also is an issue of the demands the City places on the development. We could go a long way towards reducing the costs of housing by rethinking many of the requirements that the City and community continue to add in an effort to ‘boost revenues’ from residential projects. This is true for both single-family and multi-family housing options.

          Housing is a service that the City provides to residents, so when the only housing that is being proposed is large and filled with amenities in order to justify the sales or rental prices necessary to recoup the costs demanded by the community, we know what sorts of residents we are trying to serve.

          If we want more affordable housing then the City needs to act to reduce the costs of development, not increase it, as many posters here demand.

        2. David Greenwald

          One of the next shoes that fall in this discussion on the affordability of housing is going to be the point that Mark raises here: “the demands the City places on the development.”

        3. Ron

          David (from above):  “One of the next shoes that fall in this discussion on the affordability of housing is going to be the point that Mark raises here: “the demands the City places on the development.”

          David (from below):   ” . . . (2) Create an affordable housing plan in the city aimed at housing for families.”

          No comment. 🙂

        4. Howard P

          I do not disagree with your “other” points, Mark…

          Affordable housing has many variables… I chose two, but included “etc.”  It is ‘rocket science’ to provide affordable housing in Davis… but I sincerely hope you are not denying I identified two of the variables…

          And, I believe they are significant ones…

        5. Ron

          One of the problems with “seeking to reduce developers’ costs” is that there is no way to know if those supposed cost savings would actually be passed on to consumers (home buyers or renters).  It’s entirely possible that such an effort would simply increase developers’ profits, without bringing any benefit to the city, renters, or buyers.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            It’s also entirely possible that it allows for them to more comfortably operate within the current parameters. For instance if Nishi is intending on $800 rents per bedroom, and that means they are right on the edge of viability – any additional costs are immediately going to be tacked onto rent. If they had more comfortable margins, it probably doesn’t lower the rent any, but it means they can better absorb unanticipated costs.

          2. David Greenwald Post author

            And btw, there are no such things as guarantees in this. You simply have to make the best assessment available and hope for the best.

        6. Ron

          And, if the “solution” involves cramming families into situations such as stacked flats, it’s likely that they’ll look elsewhere.

          Regarding the $800 figure for Nishi, it appears to be entirely meaningless at this point. Who’s to say that it won’t be significantly more than that, if it’s built? Why would anyone even cite this figure, except for boosters of the proposal?

          Given the costs (that we generally know of) to develop Nishi, it seems unlikely that it would be less expensive than the Sterling or Lincoln 40 megadorms.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            It’s “meaningless” – it’s an estimate. The market plays a big factor here.

            “Given the costs (that we generally know of) to develop Nishi, it seems unlikely that it would be less expensive than the Sterling or Lincoln 40 megadorms.”

            Neither of us are in a position to evaluate that. I would however expect that in the end, the costs will be comparable.

        7. Ron

          The bottom line is that there are “costs” involved, with continuing to blindly accommodate UCD’s plans.  Those costs include fiscal costs, opportunity costs, unreimbursed impacts on infrastructure, and displacement of non-student renters.

          Eileen is one of the few folks who clearly see this.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “continuing to blindly accommodate UCD’s plans.”

            I would argue that we are in no sense of the word, blindly accommodating UCD’s plans. We asked UC Davis to provide more housing on campus, they have agreed to do and we are approving housing in the community to accommodate market demands and needs for additional housing. That’s not acting blindly.

        8. Ron

          There is no “agreement” with UCD.  However, the city is certainly responding to their plans (which are primarily based upon pursuit of students who pay $42,000 per year in tuition).

          There is nothing in place to ensure that UCD builds anything. In fact, they even want to be “reimbursed” for Nishi’s “use of their land”, per the draft MOU. (Unfortunately, the city is not actually insisting upon the same type of “deal” with Nishi.)

          The city is a sucker in the “non-arrangement” with UCD. “Holding the bag”, once again.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            You went from one invective “blindly” to another “sucker” in neither case is your invective substantiated.

        9. Howard P

          Mark… you posted,

          Housing is a service that the City provides to residents,

          Do you truly mean it, as you posted it?  Think litmus test… particularly if you are seeking a CC seat…

        10. Ron

          Did we ever find out how much the city itself has to contribute toward the two bicycle/pedestrian overpasses, needed for Lincoln40?  (Assuming that the grants come through, as well.) Also, is there a separate city contribution needed for the intersection improvements that will be required (at Richards/Olive)?

          Also, does the money (for the overpasses or intersection improvements) come out of the same “pot” as the unbuilt Cannery overpass? How big is that pot, anyway?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            That’s not a knowable quantity until we find out how much L40 contributes to it and how much the grant will be.

        11. Ron

          Really?  The city is considering approving the Lincoln40 megadorm soon (which is clearly intended to accommodate UCD’s plans), without even knowing how much it has to contribute toward needed improvements to serve the development?

          I’m thinking that the word “sucker” applies quite well. With all of the smart people in Davis, they can’t see this?

          Probably best to not get into the long-term costs, or impact fees here. Especially since those type of shortcomings have already been noted.

        12. Mark West

          “if the “solution” involves cramming families into situations such as stacked flats, it’s likely that they’ll look elsewhere.”

          I find it very interesting how those who already have appropriate housing are so quick to declare what the types of housing will be desired by those dealing with housing insecurity.

          Stacked-flats and townhouses (or rowhouses) provide very comfortable and often affordable living especially for those needing a ‘starter’ home. I lived in an 1800 sq. ft. two story 3br/2ba rowhouse (with a walk-out basement) in Baltimore with my wife and two young kids and thought it was an excellent situation. I would not want to live in that same home today with the four teens we have now, but it worked great when we were starting out. It is a form of housing that provides very efficient use of land and other resources.

          The homes in my neighborhood here in Davis were originally built as 950 Sq. Ft. single-story detached homes with a garage. We easily could have accommodated > 50% more housing, twice the sq. ft. of the existing, had we built rowhouses instead. They would have been much more energy efficient as well.

           

           

        13. Ron

          Mark:  The “problem” with your logic is that Davis is not an island.  Families will leave for surrounding communities with more “traditional” single-family options, at a much lower cost. (Especially since many are “allowed” to send their kids to Davis schools, without even paying the parcel tax!)

          Actually, this has been (and will continue) to occur regardless of what is built in Davis (based upon price difference, alone).  But, at least “regular” apartments are suitable for singles, couples, and small families – especially those starting out in life.  (That is, unless students displace all other renters.) For sure, megadorms won’t be appealing to anyone but students.

        14. Mark West

          Howard: “Do you truly mean it, as you posted it?  Think litmus test… particularly if you are seeking a CC seat…”

          The primary purpose of cities and towns is to efficiently provide services to area residents, including the service of appropriate housing. That doesn’t mean that the City owes you a million dollar home, but it does mean allowing for the construction of sufficient quantity and mixture of housing types to provide appropriate housing opportunities for all those who choose to live, work, or go to school here.

          If it is not already obvious that I don’t care about your (or anyone else’s) litmus test, I just affirmed it.

        15. Howard P

          Mark… huge difference between “allowing”, “permitting”, and “providing” a service… we’ll all judge by your words… and, of course, mine…

          I do reject the concept that a legitimate purpose of a municipality is to “provide” housing, except in the events of emergency, or similar crisis situations, like for the homeless in bad winter weather.  But “allowing”, and “permitting”, yes, no question…

          A municipality IS charged with providing basic services to those occupying housing that exists within its limits.

          Had you said “allow, encourage, and/or support the provision of housing”, I would not have posted on this.

        16. Jim Frame

          We could go a long way towards reducing the costs of housing by rethinking many of the requirements that the City and community continue to add in an effort to ‘boost revenues’ from residential projects. This is true for both single-family and multi-family housing options.

          I’d be interested in learning, in particular, what revenue-boosting requirements are imposed upon multi-family projects that add substantially to the cost.

           

        17. Mark West

          “I’d be interested in learning, in particular, what revenue-boosting requirements are imposed upon multi-family projects that add substantially to the cost.”

          That would be incredibly useful information if the City was willing to share it. I have seen rough estimates, but nothing more specific. I would like to see the Staff Report list the requirements imposed by the City on a project and an itemized estimate for the additional costs (per project square foot) of each. That information would help everyone understand why our rent and purchase prices are so high relative to the region, and also provide an incentive to reconsider some of those requirements.

    2. Ken A

      I would love to ride downtown and spend a couple dollars for a (“little a” affordable) bean burrito or a dollar for a cup of drip coffee but all we have are places selling “luxury” burritos like the ones at Tres Hermans for over $10 and the “luxury” coffee at Philz for $4-$7 a cup.  I’m not a fan of Indian food, but I don’t complain about the restaurants that “will benefit only those who like curry”.  I think the city should plan for the type of use for each property and let the people that develop or lease the sites decide what to build and if all we get a bunch of new places with expensive “bubble tea” on sites zoned for food service or expensive apartments on sites zoned for multifamily housing remember that there is nothing stopping anyone of us from buying or leasing a site to build a soup kitchen or SRO building to provide (“little a” affordable) food or housing in town.

  2. Ken A

    I’m waiting for the people that want to stop development (in order to keep their rents and home values high) to start on “plan B” where they work to ban 4 and 5 bedroom “megahomes” and argue that residents of a “college town” should not have to live near college students (who annoy us playing beer pong at night) “or”college professors (who annoy us by working the fact that they have a degree from Harvard or Stanford into every conversation).  Since UCD has a lot of land it should build housing for everyone that works there from the Chancellor (who needs to move out of the home in on College Circle) to the night janitorial crew that cleans classrooms at night.

     

  3. Matt Williams

    David Greenwald said … “The second problem is even if you do create a bunch of housing that structurally fit families’ needs, the cost of rental housing is prohibitive for families.  The average two bedroom apartment, which would be the minimum size for a “family” is somewhere between $1600 and $1800 a month, the cost goes upwards to $2200 to $2400 per month for the average three bedroom.”

    David, you have made this point numerous times in several different forms, and each time you have made it my response has been the same … “What solution do you propose to that problem?”  If you eliminate apartments from the possible places for a “family” to live because of affordability, what options are left?  If a family can’t afford to rent an apartment, they certainly can’t afford to buy a home … the mortgage and the maintenance costs and insurance and property taxes would exceed $2,400 per month.  What alternative do you propose?

    David Greenwald said … “Does Davis need more housing for families? Absolutely. But market rate, multi-family housing is not generally going to be affordable or practical in Davis for families.”

    What kind of housing for families do you believe should be built?

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Solution is not a word I would recommend. I would attempt to address the issue as follows: (1) build for student housing capacity in hopes that it will free up single family homes in town. (2) Create an affordable housing plan in the city aimed at housing for families. (3) Come up with a long term strategy for developing “affordable” (small a this time) housing for families.

      1. Eileen Samitz

        David,
         You conveniently include Nishi in your numbers because it has no 4- and 5-bedroom apartments, which dilutes the numbers and does not explain the real problem. However, Nishi is a mega-dorm anyway, because it is targeting students only.

        So, let’s look at the real problem on a project by project basis. Sterling, Lincoln40 and Plaza 2555 are all predominantly 4- and 5- bedroom mega-dorms.

        Percentages of 4- and 5- bedroom apartments per mega-dorm project:
        Sterling has 108/ of 160 total apts.  = 68 %  4- and 5- bedroom apts.

        Lincoln40 has 92 /of 130 total apts. = 71%  4- and 5- bedroom apts.

        Original Plaza 2555 proposal had 130 /of 200 total apts. = 65% 4- and 5- bedroom apts.

        Newest Plaza 2555 proposal is for 135 /of 200 total apts. = 68% 4- and 5- bedroom apts.

         So, as others and I have pointed out, you continue to exclude the need for multifamily housing for families and local workers. Your proposal for over-building mega-dorms only “in the hope” of freeing up existing apartments is a pipe-dream. UCD will continue to add more students to it total student population annually while continuing to drag its heels on actually producing the needed on-campus housing that is affordable long-term. For the City to plan to build mega-dorms only does nothing to help our families and local workers short-term or long-term while demotivating UCD to produce the needed on-campus student housing.

        Any new multi-family housing built now in the City needs to be 1-, 2- and 3- bedroom apartments, which is inclusionary by design and available to families, local workers, and students. That is the strategy that needs to be used now, not “later”.

        It is disappointing that you continue to try to make rental housing for our families and local workers such a secondary issue. Also, hard to believe that you try to use duplicitous arguments, that building more mega-dorms will bring down the price of that format of rental housing, however, you try to argue that that same mechanism would not work for traditional 1-,2- and 3- bedroom apartments.
         

        1. Howard P

          As respectfully as possible, your untiring, unrelenting reference to any apartment (even a 4-5 br/4-5 ba) as a “mega-dorm” is uncastrated male bovine manure.  In any sense of the word “dorm” generally accepted by sentient adults.
          [moderator] Please stop with the invective.

        2. Don Shor

          However, Nishi is a mega-dorm anyway, because it is targeting students only.

          Anybody can live there, including UC staff if they so desire. “Mega-dorm” has no actual meaning, but if it means “student-oriented housing” then it applies to any apartment in Davis — because that is who they are marketed for. In a rental market with a 0.2% apartment vacancy rate in a town dominated by the university, it’s pretty obvious who any developer of multi-family housing is going to be building for. Any rental unit of any kind is going to have a majority of student tenants.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            In fact the term mega-dorm is a made up word which you use at your convenience even as I show you (Eileen) time and again structural flaws in the defition.

        3. David Greenwald Post author

          I include Nishi because it’s relevant, it has been passed by council and subject to a vote of the people. Totality of the circumstances.

          “It is disappointing that you continue to try to make rental housing for our families and local workers such a secondary issue. ”

          You mean disappointing that I put the needs of students ahead of the needs of my own family. Only I don’t see it that, I see the two as linked. But you keep ignoring me – 1, 2, 3 bedroom apartments are too expensive for families. I have suggested here and elsewhere alternatives, you fail to address them.

      2. Ken A

        I’m wondering why Eillen is not “happy” that over 30% of the proposed new units are the kind of units she wants.  If someone was a vegetarian they would probably be happy to hear that three new restaurants were opening in town and they had 30% vegetarian items items on their menu.  Only someone with some strange control issues would complain that the restaurants were all just “mega dining halls” (since they had tables for up to five people)  and demand that the city block the new restaurants from opening until EVERY item on the menu was acceptable to them.

        P.S. I’m still waiting to hear from Eileen what member of the Nishi development team told her they will be (illegally) “targeting students only” (if we don’t get a name I think we can assume that the chance anyone said this is as likely as the “toxic soup” killing dozens of kids who move to the Nishi apartments after they open)…

        1. Eileen Samitz

          Gee, looks like you boys have been busy while I have have some other things to tend to.

          So let me see how I can try to deal with this apparent  “pile-on” of postings:

          Don:

          How come you never mention the 22% vacancy rate at West Village on campus, as compared to the now 0.4% vacancy rate in town (well, that’s at least an improvement over 0.2% previously). And by the way, why doesn’t UCD have an annual on-campus vacancy rate reported? Instead, UCD just hires BAE to do this study of the vacancy rate in Davis to try to blame Davis for UCD’s irresponsibility to provide the needed on-campus student housing needed? Seriously…

          There is no excuse why UCD has any vacancy on campus, particularly since they have the audacity to complain about about the vacancy rate in Davis that UCD is primarily responsible for causing.

          This UCD mis-management issue has been pointed out a number of times and UCD needs to need to correct this problem by adjusting the rent cost for these beds, rather than allowing these beds to remain empty.  Look at how many students could be using these beds and how much revenue UCD is losing by UCD allowing so many UCD bedsto remain empty!  UCD needs to straighten out their serious management and planning problems on campus.

          This issue is particularly interesting since UCD is primarily responsible for causing the low vacancy rate in town for non-students, as well as students due to UCD’s negligence to provide the needed on-campus student housing for its own growth. This situation is especially inexcusable since UCD is over 5,300 acres, the largest UC in the system, which has plenty of land to provide the needed on-campus student housing.

          David,

          Frankly, it is you that keeps on trying to re-define “mega-dorm” David, not me.  It really gets a bit wearisome going over this over and over again. And on the cost of 1-,2- and 3- bedroom apartments, I am not ignoring you and I have responded to this.

          You are complaining that student housing is too expensive in town, yet you are advocating with building a  lot more mega-dorm beds to bring down the expensive  $1,000 per student bed price tag like at Lincoln40.

          So using your same concept, instead of the mega-dorms we need to build more of the the 1-.2- and 3- bedroom apartments to help lower and stabilize the price of these traditional type apartments which serve everyone, families, workers and students.

          Ken,

          Your comments, clearly, are not really intended to discuss the issue, and frankly, are over-the-top.

           

          1. Don Shor

            looks like you boys have been busy

            I suggest we all avoid using terms like this. Imagine if any of us did it.

            Don:
            How come you never mention the 22% vacancy rate at West Village on campus, as compared to the now 0.4% vacancy rate in town (well, that’s at least an improvement over 0.2% previously).

            The apartment vacancy rate in Davis, which is the term I use consistently, is 0.2%. The blended vacancy rate is a little higher. I assume I don’t have to explain the difference.
            The vacancy rate at West Village provides an opportunity for UCD to reduce the number of master leases it is using in town, and I urge the councilmembers to press for UCD to utilize those sites as they phase out master leasing. With a total population of about 2600, a 22% vacancy rate represents at most a few hundred beds. So while it could help reduce the current market pressure, it’s not a significant amount of beds when we need thousands.

            And by the way, why doesn’t UCD have an annual on-campus vacancy rate reported? Instead, UCD just hires BAE to do this study of the vacancy rate in Davis to try to blame Davis for UCD’s irresponsibility to provide the needed on-campus student housing needed? Seriously…

            ASUCD initiated the apartment vacancy study in the 1970’s, long before there was significant on-campus non-dorm housing. BAE took it over a few years ago. I have no evidence of anyone at UCD ever “try[ing] to blame Davis” for anything. I do hope they will add figures for West Village, which is technically considered off-campus housing by the campus in their transportation studies, in future surveys. But the advantage of the current format is that it gives us an apples to apples comparison year to year of the specific situation in the private housing market. That is why I cite the 0.4% apartment vacancy rate rather than the 0.4% blended vacancy rate: it is a more accurate barometer of the trend over time. The bed leases are a new wrinkle but it’s more useful to know if we are making progress toward a healthier vacancy rate (5% being the aspirational goal).

            There is no excuse why UCD has any vacancy on campus, particularly since they have the audacity to complain about about the vacancy rate in Davis that UCD is primarily responsible for causing.

            When has UCD complained about the vacancy rate in Davis?

            This issue is particularly interesting since UCD is primarily responsible for causing the low vacancy rate in town for non-students, as well as students due to UCD’s negligence to provide the needed on-campus student housing for its own growth.

            I completely agree. UCD has the majority of responsibility for the low vacancy rate. The complete lack of private rental housing construction over the past 15 years is the other factor.

            This situation is especially inexcusable since UCD is over 5,300 acres, the largest UC in the system, which has plenty of land to provide the needed on-campus student housing.

            This is actually the 57th time you have cited that figure on the Vanguard. What’s funny about it is that it is not actually accurate. Nor does it accurately reflect the number of acres on which UCD could actually build. That’s probably about 1500 – 1700 acres.

          2. Don Shor

            If you want to compare apples to apples, the blended vacancy rate has been:
            2017: 0.4%
            2016: 0.3%
            2015: 0.6%
            The apartment vacancy rate each of those years has been 0.2%.

        2. Ken A

          Eileen:

          I really want to know if the Nishi developers are  “targeting students only” or if there is a  “22% vacancy rate at West Village” (or if you are just making stuff up and posting it).  If you can’t even be bothered to address where you are getting your information I think that most people will assume you are just making it up.

  4. Todd Edelman

    We should be cautious about Plaza 2555: The California Air Resources Board suggests building housing at least 500 ft. from major roadways. They also suggest that what we now call an “urban forest” in the Nishi-context can help mitigate problems — this seems to lead to 300 ft. being considered by some an acceptable distance from I-80, also because it is projected that most people will not live there for a long time and thus be less at risk due to ultrafine particulate matter that enters one’s bloodstream.
    Perhaps 2/3 of Plaza 2555 – Plaza 2.5, hope you get the joke – is within 300 ft. of I-80 and – as mentioned above – it is not as student-focused as Nishi.  A Davis Urban Forest (DUF; TM) would encroach a small distance into this relatively-small property, too. So, anyone who says that Nishi is acceptable is also saying that Plaza 2555 is not, right? (I’ve seen zero discussion about Plaza 2555 and air quality…)
    Which City Council candidate will declare Plaza 2555 non-viable?
    Which candidate who supports Nishi will propose that there is zero new housing within 300 ft. of I-80, a plan to eventually remove housing within 300 ft. of I-80 and a DUF for the entire route of I-80?

    1. Eileen Samitz

      Todd,

      I agree that Plaza 2555 is not appropriate for a mega-dorm (they have made clear they are primarily targeting students and the project is predominantly 4- and 5 bedrooms units) for a number of reasons including it is a commercial site where the developers applying for a re-zone

      So when when the Vanguard and the City are advocating for more “economic development” in the City to help with its budgetary issues, why is Plaza 2555 even being considered? This would cause the City to lose more of the limited commercial land left in the City.

       

      1. David Greenwald

        Because Plaza 2555 isn’t where anyone is advocating for economic development.  BTW, how is Plaza 2555 a mega dorm when 40 percent of the housing is not even apartments?

    2. Todd Edelman

      It’s simply a very bad place for ANY housing. Davis needs to charge a toll for driving on I-80 through the City. A $5 toll in one direction for only 250 days a year would generate 125 million dollars annually, increasing the City’s gross income – before expenses – by 60%. Solar panels on a sound barrier the entire length of I-80 in the City could supply 25% of our electricity needs.  We need to build the sound barrier, the pollution barrier, and relocate everyone who lives within at least 500 feet of I-80. Then build housing over most of the below grade part of CA-113. #davisstrong.

      1. Howard P

        Only a couple of impediments to that concept of tolls, Ron… the State, not the City, owns the fee title to I-80… the City has no control…

        Where would you put the facilities to detect vehicles subject to tolls?   Then you have the billing system to collect them…

  5. David Greenwald Post author

    To answer Jim Frame’s question – I don’t have exact costs, but here are four key cost drivers for projects:

    1.  Affordable housing requirements – part of the change is the 35% ordinance was crafted with a mind toward Land Dedication sites and the availability of RDA

    2. Construction costs – that’s driven mainly by the high demand from the Bay Area and obviously not a Davis-controllable factor

    3. Environmental regulations – Davis generally is requiring LEED Gold equivalent projects which is over and above state regs.

    4. Added infrastructure costs – the overpass would be a clear example.

    I did ask city staff what the biggest driver of rental costs – cost to build or scarcity in the market and the feeling is that scarcity in the market is by far the biggest factor driving costs in the Davis rental market.

    Hope that helps

    1. Jim Frame

      It helps, but without a $/SF figure it’s hard to justify Mark’s implication that Davis has gold-plated requirements that are pricing people out of the housing market.

  6. Eileen Samitz

    David: “You mean disappointing that I put the needs of students ahead of the needs of my own family.”

    Seriously David? You are fortunate to have an affordable housing rental house in Davis, so please don’t infer personal sacrifice for the students or anyone else.

    The concern I have is that you clearly, are making the the rental housing needs for families and local workers secondary (or beyond secondary), and instead prioritizing student only mega-dorms (like Lincoln40 at $1,000 per bed monthly).

    1. David Greenwald

      The hope is that by creating new rental housing near campus, we free up single family homes in the core for families.  What you’re advocating for doesn’t work for families with children.

      1. David Greenwald

        Right now, even if you build a bunch of 1, 2, 3 room apartments (like we already are), they’ll be filled with students because student housing is so scarce.

        1. Eileen Samitz

          What you also avoid talking about is the use and re-use of the design of new multi-family housing built now.

          Mega-dorms cannot be used now or later for families and local workers, but 1-, 2- and 3- bedroom apartments can be used now and later by families, locals workers and students.

        2. David Greenwald

          I had an interesting discussion about that.  There is nothing that would preclude re-use of most of the apartments for other purposes now or in the future.

      2. Eileen Samitz

        David,

        Also “the hope is” you talk about is absurd. What you are advocating will lose more single-family housing to become mini-dorms because it would be cheaper for student to rent a house then paying $1,000 per bed at Lincoln40.

        Why do you keep avoiding talking about the $1,000 per bed monthly rent at Lincoln40?

        1. David Greenwald

          “What you are advocating will lose more single-family housing to become mini-dorms because it would be cheaper for student to rent a house then paying $1,000 per bed at Lincoln40.”

          For a variety of reasons that is unlikely. The biggest being that that would go counter to how a market works. If you end up with a surplus of housing on the market, then prices go down.

    2. Howard P

      OK… please be clear, as you have used both the terms “mini-dorm” and “mega-dorm”, Eileen…

      How do you define each? How are either similar to traditional ‘dorms’ characterized by semi-private sleeping/studying spaces, with common bathrooms, (often serving 30 plus folk), no private cooking areas, but a common dining hall? And maybe a cooking area for 60 folk?  How do those compare to apartments?  1-2-3-4-5 br… clarity is sought…

  7. Eileen Samitz

    Ken,

    Apparently, you do not understand where this information including the 22% West Village vacancy rate came from. That was not from me, that information is from the Vanguard, and the data is from UCD.

    So, now are you going to take this same concern up with the Vanguard?

     

    1. Ron

      Eileen:  Why would he?  Even the Vanguard is not interested in finding out the reason for the 22% vacancy rate (which appears to have nothing to do with “prevailing wage”, “shortage of student housing”, Affordable housing requirements, or “Donald Trump’s hair”).

  8. Ken A

    I missed that you were not the first to post the 22% West Village vacancy rate.  If David got the number I would be interested where he got it.

    The link below says that there are 663 apartments in the West Village:

    https://westvillage.ucdavis.edu/

    A 22% vacancy rate would mean that almost 146 units are sitting vacant.

    With an average rent per unit of over $3K/month that means that means that almost a half million a MONTH (~$6 MILLION a year on an annualized basis) is not coming in due to vacancy.

    I’m no management genius, but it seems like in a town with a vacancy rate of under 1% they would figure a way to at least get the vacancy in to the single digits.

    P.S. I hope Eileen can see why I am confused when at 5:29 she writes “why doesn’t UCD have an annual on-campus vacancy rate reported?” then (less than an hour later) at 6:18 she writes she the on campus vacancy rate she is posting is based data that “is from UCD”…

    P.P.S. Eileen still has not mentioned who told her that Nishi is “targeting students only” (or the “family” with three kids would rather cram into a three bedroom then rent a four bedroom apartment aka “megadorm”)…

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I’m still waiting on the 2017 data to come in. But the data I have is not based on apartment units, but rather capacity versus occupancy. the 2016-17 capacity was 2579 with 2026 occupied.

      1. Don Shor

        In that case the 22% vacancy rate probably reflects their change in policy to allow doubling and tripling of rooms on campus. They announced that change for the 2016-17 school year in response to the systemwide increase mandated by the legislature. Basically they just increased “capacity” by changing policy. The answer will come when you get the unit vacancy vs the bed vacancy. How did they define “capacity” for 2015-16?

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