It was not that long ago that land use battles were dominated by longtime residents and project proponents – but that landscape is changing and changing rapidly. Students have been coming out in large numbers over the last year for student housing projects and even Trackside.
What we saw on Tuesday was extraordinary though, where project opponents were greatly outnumbered by project proponents for Lincoln40. The student voices led the way, but were not exclusive to the effort.
In this article, we present the views of four student leaders: Outgoing ASUCD President Josh Dalavai, incoming ASUCD President Michael Gofman (who will be installed today), incoming ASUCD Senator Alisha Hacker, and Aaron Latta, who has emerged as one of the biggest leaders in the student housing movement.
Josh Dalavai said that one of the biggest issues during his tenure and over the last four years has been the housing crisis. He said the two problems he has tried to address “are prevalent concerns”: affordability and responsibility.
“The student perspective is that it is a shared responsibility between the city and the campus to construct housing for additional student growth and our additional students,” he explained. “We have not let the campus off the hook in our advocacy for student housing. We’ve tried to avoid solely lobbying the city and developers to fill that need. We believe that it is a primary responsibility of the UC Davis administration as well.
“That has been reflected in some of the chancellor’s new announcements for new beds, on-campus housing. It’s not where we want it to be, and it’s not exactly as affordable as we’d like it to be, but it’s been happening nonetheless,” he said.
He said he supports Lincoln40 because “it’s not a luxury item but rather a necessity. We are looking forward to the market rate going down.”
Michael Gofman said, “This is a need. We can’t see our vacancy rate go up, we can’t see our prices go down unless we have more supply.”
He said he “fully supports this project.” He added, “During my term, I plan to keep the pressure on the administration to fulfill their end of the deal. Good enough isn’t good enough. We need more. We need more from the city. We need more from the developers. And we need more from the administration.”
He said, “I plan to push on all of those avenues to make sure that students and the students get everything that they need.”
Alisha Hacker, incoming ASUCD Senator and freshman at UC Davis, added her voice to the chorus of students speaking out for student housing – many of whom came out despite the fact that next week is finals week.
“This project is made and designed for students,” she said. “It will make a dent in the housing crisis. I don’t think we can reiterate enough, this is an issue directly affecting students.”
She said as someone who currently lives on campus, “I’ve been lucky that I haven’t been someone that’s experienced the fact of who was going to pay the rent this month… but I know it’s going to be something that I experience in the future. Having more rent by bed options is just going to be more beneficial to students.”
She pointed out that Lincoln40’s proximity to campus means “students don’t have to worry about driving.” She said, “It can alleviate some of the parking challenges that are already facing the university campus.”
Aaron Latta is with the Davis College Democrats and he also heads up an emerging group called the Davis Housing Brigade that focuses on issues of student housing. He thanked the council “for the support you have given for addressing this crisis.”
He pointed out that the council has “taken stances that have earned you quite a bit of ire from the community. Personally I think that takes a lot of willpower.”
He spoke to the issue of rent by the bed, which has been one of the flashpoints of concern within the community.
He said “that would have helped me in my first rental situation.” He said, in 2013 he rented his first apartment. It was he and two other guys, but the third person “stopped paying rent after three months.
“We were all on the same lease, it was all co-signed by my dad, and when he stopped paying rent, and he ended up leaving the lease before we were ready, it ended up making all of us responsible for his mistake and his irresponsibility,” Mr. Latta explained.
“On top of that it put my father into financial jeopardy as well,” he said. “The point is that the traditional rent by the unit system puts an undue liability and risk on the students.”
He said, “Had I been in a scenario where I had been just able to pay and be liable for my own bed, then I wouldn’t have had to deal with that risk. I could have focused on my studies and not whether I had a place to live that year.”
He called Lincoln40 “trendsetting,” stating, “It is the first ever affordable housing program aimed at students. When this gets approved, it will enable Davis to once again be the center and at the forefront of housing policy across the nation. I’ve looked, there are no other programs like it.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting