Guest Commentary: Nishi’s Close Proximity to Campus Makes It Ideal for Student Housing

By Mike Corbett

In my 40 years as a planner in this town I have seen a lot of projects come and go, but this June we have the opportunity to pass what may be the most needed project yet, student housing at Nishi.

This project will help solve our community’s most pressing need — housing. The Nishi property is perfectly situated between downtown and the university, meaning residents will be within easy biking (or walking) distance to classes, food and entertainment. This property has been included in the most recent Housing Element Steering Committee, as well as every planning document since I was Mayor. It is an underutilized piece of land with untapped potential. Our community has never needed to utilize this land as much as it does now.

There have been concerns whether the location is the best place to add new housing, and I can confidently say that this is the best property to add student housing. If UC Davis were to build all new student housing developments moving forward, then we would be forced to push further out from West Village. This location is far enough from town to warrant the need for a 1-1 parking ratio, thus adding more traffic.

Additionally, on-campus construction is far more expensive to build than in the city, causing the affordability of the units to suffer and making it more difficult for students to afford. Furthermore, instead of the city bearing the burden of impacts from University construction without any benefits from taxes or fees, Student Housing at Nishi would provide the city with more than $15 million in revenue.

My support comes not only as a planner, but as a homeowner in Central Davis. I see the impact from the lack of student housing. Lack of construction by the city and the university has resulted in a surge of absentee landlords profiting off of student rentals in our core area. Our most affordable neighborhoods, where young families fueled our world-class school district, are becoming too competitive for starter homes.

When I starting building Village Homes more than 40 years ago, I was building for a sustainable future. Sustainable technology has come miles since then and it is time to set a new paradigm of sustainability. The layout for Nishi allows for enough solar panels to power the entire project. The project applicants plan on partnering with our new Community Choice Aggregation to create the first truly, locally powered development. It will be the largest source of renewable energy within city limits. With its net zero goals and LEED Gold standards, Nishi can set the standard for sustainability moving forward.

In the same light as sustainability, this project also helps to get students out of cars and onto bikes. This project has reduced the number of parking spaces by 1,225, meaning that over two-thirds of the residents won’t even have cars. Additionally, studies have shown that approximately 95 percent of students who live within a mile of campus do not use their cars to get to and from the campus.

Given Nishi’s close proximity to campus and downtown it would help reduce carbon emissions plus help alleviate traffic in the area. Students living on the site will have easy access to education,
shopping, and entertainment needs, something no other project or housing complex can offer. There are no other locations remaining in Davis that meet the criteria to pull-off a bike mode share that exceeds our beyond platinum plan.

Student Housing at Nishi also breaks stride from other housing projects in its innovative affordable housing. This project will allocate 330 affordable beds that low-income students would be able to qualify for, giving those who cannot find affordable housing otherwise an opportunity to find housing. For all these aforementioned reasons, we need Student Housing at Nishi.

This project is worthy to be the first project to pass a Measure R vote in the city of Davis. Please join me in voting Yes on Student Housing at Nishi. Yes on Measure J.

— Mike Corbett is a former Davis mayor and a longtime city planner

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About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Tia Will

    It is an underutilized piece of land with untapped potential. Our community has never needed to utilize this land as much as it does now.”

    While I agree with all of Mike’s points, this one stood out for me in particular. Not having a background in land use or city planning, I have been learning a lot from participating in the Opticos presentations. This has allowed me to appreciate the idea of having a “holding space” for future land use. Nishi has had that role for many years. We are now at a point where housing students is a critical need for our community and this space is available to meet this clearly identified city need.

    I am strongly in favor of the Nishi project, will be voting yes, and hope others will be so inclined.

  2. John Hobbs

    Mike- isn’t being a “city planner” in Davis like being a hydrologist in the Atacama desert?

    “I am strongly in favor of the Nishi project, will be voting yes, and hope others will be so inclined.”

    Wow, a real endorsement instead of lukewarm acknowledgement. I’m a little shocked.


    1. Howard P

      Beats admitting to being a “developer”… [need to point out that Corbett does not seem to have any personal/financial interests in Nishi]

      All developers should recharacterize themselves as “city/urban planner”… will increase credibility, and decrease negative connotations…

    2. Alan Miller

      > Mike- isn’t being a “city planner” in Davis like being a hydrologist in the Atacama desert?

      If this is supposed to be a clever metaphor, you’d best explain it.

    1. Tia Will


      Now I am shocked. I would have understood if you didn’t read my posts, but I know you do since you frequently comment on them I was vocally in favor of NIshi 1. I wrote multiple opinions on why I would not take the air quality concerns at face value. I spoke about this in public. I have, on multiple occasions come out publicly in favor of Nishi 2. It’s all in print. And yet you express “shock”. Really ?


    2. Tia Will


      There’s nothing new here or real insight”

      That may be true for those who have been following the issue. However, I think it was a clear and thoughtful article for those who are just starting to engage now that the election is approaching. Good reminder, for me at least, that just because I am aware of something, doesn’t mean that others have the same knowledge.

    3. Alan Miller

      Couldn’t he sum up his letter in one line: “I support Nishi”

      There’s nothing new here or real insight .

      I’ll sum up the worth of your comment in zero words:  ” “.

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