Letter: We Need Nishi

By Maynard Skinner

When I was first elected to City Council in 1966, Davis was an entirely different place. We saw the city more than double from around 3,500 to almost 9,000. During my time as Mayor in the ’70s, I saw the biggest population increase in Davis’ history — an increase of 160 percent over just one decade.

It was during these times that Davis faced many existential issues; contrary to belief at the time, tackling those issues made Davis the wonderful town it is today. It was then I worked with the city council and former Chancellor Mrak to create and implement the first bike lanes in our country, promoting car-free living, and making Davis the bike capital of the United States.

What Davis has done better than any other town in the region and the state, historically, is grow sustainably and grow efficiently. While our town has grown to over 65,000 people, I still recognize the small town charm from when there were only 3,500 people. Through the many changes, our city has been able to grow in tandem with UC Davis. If it weren’t for the university, Davis would not be the world-renowned city it is. The university has fueled our growth by providing jobs and education for our residents. And without the city, the university would not have the great minds and workforce that fuel its success.

Yet even with these past successes, we now see ourselves at a crossroads. The university continues to grow, while our city’s growth has stagnated for the past 10 years. This is not to say that we have done so irresponsibly. As I mentioned earlier, what makes Davis a leading innovator is its smart and responsible planning. But as we’ve done in the past, we must now grow with the university. And it is at this time that we are presented a proposal that is smart, responsible, and meets our needs.

Student Housing at Nishi reminds me of how Davis became so great. Unlike many proposals in the past, this project is mindful of not only our current needs, but also our future needs. The sustainability goals are well beyond current housing standards in Davis. The affordable housing is the most innovative housing option incorporated in the last 30 years. This is the only project that exceeds the 50-percent bike mode share goal of the Beyond Platinum Bicycle Action Plan, a goal that I personally appreciate greatly.

Over the last 10 years the populations of seniors (like me!) and young people have increased greatly, but those looking to start families have been pushed away. We no longer have enough children to support our distinguished school system. Every year we have to rely on more and more students from outlying communities to fill our classrooms. Student Housing at Nishi helps alleviate our housing crisis — both for students and for families.

Our single family homes are being bought by out-of-town investors and rented to UC Davis students desperate for housing. These absentee investors pay all cash and make it very difficult for families looking to purchase their first home to compete. These investors frequently do not maintain their properties, degrading the quality of our neighborhoods while profiting from a 0.2-percent vacancy rate. Housing at Nishi will give these students a place to live, close to campus while providing them with affordable housing. At the same time, it will free up housing stock for those looking to start a family in Davis.

Within the last 30 years I have seen my own neighborhood slowly transition from a family oriented neighborhood into student mini-dorms. This is not by choice of the students, but by necessity, because of the lack of appropriate housing choices. Student Housing at Nishi will provide students housing next to campus, while opening up single family homes for families. Additionally, by putting students so close to campus, we can help continue Davis’ excellence of bike mode share and reduce traffic.

Student Housing at Nishi solves the most critical issue in our community, by alleviating immediate needs while still being mindful for the future. It sets a standard for how housing should be built, not just in Davis, but in California and beyond. Student Housing at Nishi has the innovation and sustainability that reminds me of the projects that helped grow Davis to the world-renowned town it is, while keeping our small-town charm.

Nishi sends a clear signal that we are open to everyone in our community and we are willing to approve projects that can keep supporting our families. We set the precedent for bike lanes, and now we can set the precedent for housing. I urge you to vote in favor of Student Housing at Nishi this June. Yes on J.

Maynard Skinner was a Mayor of Davis in the 1970s and 1980s.

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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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