On Tuesday, Mayor Brett Lee announced out of closed session that the city and university have agreed on an extension to the deadline over the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) and the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) until September 19. They have agreed to a mediation process.
The question is, what does that mean? The Vanguard has not received a copy of the agreement despite several requests to the city.
On Tuesday, the mayor read the following statement: “The City, the County and UC Davis have entered into an agreement which extends the time for the City or County to file litigation on the LRDP and its EIR to September 19th. The City, the County and UC Davis have agreed to participate in a confidential mediation to see if the City’s and county’s concerns can be resolved without litigation. This was approved by the City Council by a unanimous vote of the Council.”
The good news is that the city of Davis will now get a choice to attempt to get their issues addressed with mediation rather than litigation. But that still means the two sides are apart.
The city of Davis remains concerned that UC Davis has not offered a concrete enough timeline to ensure that the housing they have promised to build will get built.
Mayor Brett Lee, in an interview with the Vanguard last week, expressed concerns about the ability of the university to meet its stated housing goals, to address the unmet student housing needs of this community.
“The university, in terms of what we’ve asked for, they’ve committed to the lion’s share of that,” he said. “But the commitment is probably not in the form that we’re comfortable with, given the fact that previous MOUs, there have been goals… in many instances we ended up nowhere near the goals we have set.”
He said, “We need something a little more tangible for the nature of the agreement.”
The university fired back late last week, showing their timeline.
They write: “UC Davis is well positioned to complete this housing. Housing for 6,115 students is well underway and either in construction, final design, or poised for approval.”
They state: “We expect and are committing with this letter that these housing projects for 6,115 students will all be completed by 2023, with over 4,700 beds online by 2021.”
They continue: “To reach the 9,050 housing number, we are forecasting that the additional projects for 2,935 students would occur in construction phases beginning at different times between 2023 and 2028.”
That is good news, because any prolonged conflict between the city and university will be, in our view, detrimental to both sides with students caught in the middle.
The university, in committing to housing over 6000 additional students over the next five years, has not offered language to the city that the city is comfortable with.
As we noted earlier this week, we tend to side with the city on this point – the university does not have a good track record here, although they may have plans and have paper commitments. But, as we have seen in the past, paper is just that – there is nothing concrete to ensure that the university will build what they say they will build.
But a lawsuit not only damages city-university relations, which are already frayed, it also threatens to delay any construction of new housing.
If history is any guide, we would expect a lawsuit to delay the start of construction by at least two years. That would push the completion of 4700 beds to 2023 at the earliest. Moreover, we feel that their timeline for completion is a bit ambitious anyway, and so we could be looking more reasonably at 2024 or 2025 before those 4700 beds are done.
Given the current state of things, that seems problematic. After all, we have students in large numbers living in housing insecurity. We have a dramatic increase in the number of students living in double occupancy, and it’s unclear what happens when our ability to fill existing housing with even more students will exhaust itself.
Besides, right now we have similar problems in the city. We have a total of 3600 beds approved so far at Lincoln40, Sterling and Nishi. Of those, 3000 are delayed by pending CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) litigation. That means that what might have come on line by 2020 is probably delayed until 2022 at the earliest.
In total, the city may approve somewhere between 4500 and 5000 beds. That could, at least in theory, accommodate maybe 80 to 90 percent of the new student growth, but the reason the university was pushed to go to 9000 and get to 50 percent of total enrollment on campus was not only to accommodate the 5100 or so new students, but also to make adequate space for current student populations.
Is the mediation process an acknowledgement by both sides that we have more to lose by continuing this dispute than we have to gain? We hope so. Any long and protracted legal battle figures to hurt the very people who are in need of help right now – the students.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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