Anyone who has followed politics in Davis knows that the Davis Enterprise has long been far more supportive of development than the general population. They have probably endorsed each of the previous three Measure J/Measure R votes. However, this marks an interesting milestone as it is the first in the post-Debbie Davis era.
The longtime editor and assistant publisher retired earlier this year after more than two decades in charge of the paper. So it is interesting to see how and if the paper will shift its positions.
So far – not much, if at all.
The paper comes down on the side that “student-housing proposal is just what Davis needs.”
But it also makes some pointed remarks aimed at the opposition to growth.
They write: “Davis is a university town. This is often forgotten by the anti-growth folks around here. We should be thankful and supportive of all the things the university adds to our life; academics, arts, sports and economic vitality. In June, voters have an opportunity to support an innovative student-housing project right next door to UC Davis.”
After making that biting comment aimed at the opposition to growth, the editorial emphasizes the positive in the project calling it “a remarkable effort to meet the biggest need in Davis, the thousands of UC Davis students who cram into single-family homes all around town.”
The paper argues that “the Nishi project would provide a much-needed increase in student-friendly housing right next-door to the university. Renting by the bed (a feature praised by the UCD students who’ve shown up at planning meetings) would relieve students and parents of the headache of rounding up multiple roommates and making sure everyone keeps up with the payments. Renting by the bed means each student is only on the hook for his or her own situation.”
They also focus on proximity to the university: “And getting the students to live within walking distance of campus means they won’t be crowded into residential neighbors, living six-to-a-house, each with a car parked outside. They won’t be on Davis city streets, clogging the roads and polluting the air. Or worse, living in Woodland or Dixon and driving to class every day.”
They qualify their point, arguing that “even 2,200 beds won’t solve the problem of overcrowding.”
The paper notes: “At this point, we’re so far behind the curve that no one project can be the solution. More students are coming, and we have an obligation to help meet the housing needs we share with the university.”
But there are obstacles. They note that Measure R, which requires a vote of the people to annex and approve new projects, represents a huge obstacle.
“No project has ever survived that gantlet, but the first Nishi project came close, and there are reasons to believe this one will make the breakthrough,” they note.
One is that the biggest objection to the previous project, traffic, “has been dealt with.” They write: “With no commercial component, nobody will be driving there for work during rush hour and, most importantly, there will be no access for residents from Richards Boulevard.”
They continue: “The idea of adding more cars to the perennially backed-up Richards offramp and railroad underpass turned off a lot of voters last time around. Now, that has been eliminated. Emergency vehicles and Unitrans buses will go in from the north, but regular traffic will enter the new Nishi project via an underpass from Old Davis Road. This is a huge change and one we feel will make the project attractive to voters from all over town.”
They also cite support from UC Davis as a “radical change.” They write here: “The previous administration ignored anything going on in town, but under Chancellor Gary May, the university has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the city (ratified by the City Council at Tuesday’s meeting) and the developer to help get this project along.”
They argue: “We can’t overstate how important this is.”
The editorial adds: “Because the project is on city land (and unlike the cases where the university rents property in town), all the property taxes will flow into city coffers. Students who don’t qualify for Section 8 housing will be able to take advantage of 330 low-income and extremely-low-income beds. It amounts to an $830,000 subsidy, and would be integrated throughout the project rather than separating out the low-income residents as most projects do.”
They conclude: “It’s about as close to an ideal project as we’ve seen. Join us in voting yes on Measure J in June.”
The editorial does not address probably the biggest issue this time around: air quality.
This is a point that Roberta Millstein makes in a comment: “Yet another pro-Nishi piece that conveniently fails to mention the air quality issue — conveniently failing to mention that residents will be at a higher risk for heart disease, lung damage, cancer, and developmental problems.”
She is correct here – the paper should have addressed that point. We certainly have addressed the point enough times. And happy to do it again.
—David M. Greenwald reporting