Given it is a location surrounded by other student housing, even a seven-story proposed project drew no outright opposition at the council meeting on Tuesday – unless of course you are Soluri Meserve, representing, once again, Susan Rainier, wishing to sue.
As the council prepared to support the project, students pushed for more student housing, and pushed back against the litigation holding up the construction of 3000 student units.
Aaron Latta, one of the student housing leaders, said on Tuesday, “We are not there yet, but we are definitely on our way. We have been able to break through the barrier of enabling actual projects to start to get built this town as well as ensuring that developers see Davis as a possible option to build.”
He said, “So we have places to actually live in this town, and not be stuck living in a lawsuit.”
Mr. Latta concluded, “Finally by approving this project, you continue the standard of ignoring the threats thrown out by legal challenges against these projects that we have seen time and time again. Now is not the time to surrender to terrorist lawyers.”
Jonathan Minnick, President of the Graduate Student Association, noted that the GSA adopted a resolution supporting the Davis Live Project. “We view this project as a major step forward in terms of having affordable housing for graduate students,” he said – students who have struggled with housing over the last several years.
Don Gibson, also from GSA, added that, in 2000, about 2.3 people lived in a unit in Davis. “That has now gone to almost three,” he said. “Even though the total number of units in the city hasn’t increased, you’re having greater and greater density. Now it’s regular for students to double up in rooms because of high demand.”
Through the Affordable Housing Task Force’s survey, “we estimate that 19 percent of students have some form of housing insecurity. This includes not being able to pay rent on time, having to move twice within a year, or having to double up rooms because of financial reasons.”
They also estimate that somewhere between seven and nine percent “face some form of homelessness.”
“That doesn’t mean that nine percent of campus is forced to live in tents,” he explained. “That means that they were forced to be evicted from a room, they were forced to live in shelter, approximately two percent reported living at some point within the last year in a tent, a car, or a building not made for housing.”
Homelessness, he said, is an issue “we can only solve by building more homes.”
Finally, he said they estimate about 460 mini-dorms exist in the city of Davis. That’s about 2000 students living in mini-dorms that could be better served with new apartments like this project, he argued.
Jake Sedgley, ASUCD Senator, said, “Whoever is doing all the litigation for these projects, you’re hurting a lot of students. I do not appreciate that. I would very much like to meet with you to talk about this.”
While the students clearly put the blame on the litigators for holding up construction of the project, Eileen Samitz supports the project, calling it a unique location near campus and surrounded by amenities. Nevertheless, she put most of the blame on the university for the housing crisis.
“The main reason (for the lack of housing) is that the UC Davis campus has not provided enough on-campus housing,” Ms. Samitz said on Tuesday.
“I would urge them to be as diligent as well as forthcoming with speaking to the Chancellor and the other administrators about the need for the university to create more on-campus housing as quickly as possible,” she said. “This is not just the city’s responsibility.”
The council would end up supporting the project – quickly and unanimously.
“I’ve long thought that this had the potential for being a model project in Davis,” Councilmember Will Arnold said. “Geographic considerations are important and this is the perfect place for something like this… I am incredibly pleased with what’s in front of us today.”
Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Partida said, “I’m glad that we’re doing affordability the way that we are, but I worry a little bit about doing it per bed rather per unit. I know that this is very helpful for the projects we are currently doing. But I wonder what this is going to look like when we start doing housing that is more workforce housing and we’re not able to do that that per bed or it doesn’t make sense to do that per bed.”
City Manager Mike Webb interjected, “We are trying to conclude our analysis and study that we had done on our affordable housing policy. We are currently operating under an interim policy – which is through the end of this calendar year.”
He said that, this fall, they anticipate coming back to council with the range of affordability analyses.
Councilmember Lucas Frerichs called it “a perfect site for infill.” He noted, “One of the primary reasons we’re not seeing a lot of opposition to a project like this is because of its location.”
He noted, “It’s directly across from campus. There’s other student housing directly adjacent to it.” He added, “It serves as a model for the type of infill project that we want to see in Davis, but it also serves as a model for the university. If there is an opportunity to do a project like this along Russell Boulevard, particularly that is in this case seven stories, that is proposed by the private sector, I think that the university is able to do a project of this density on campus.”
Councilmember Frerichs said that “the issues of housing insecurity are real, they’re real not just in this community, and not just for students.”
Councilmember Dan Carson added, “I think this is one more opportunity for us to not only support a great project, but to again send a signal to UC Davis that we are willing to be a collaborative partner in trying to address the serious needs of student housing in this town. I hope that they will reciprocate as we work through the issues together on the land plan.”
The council passed the project in two motions that were both unanimous. Now the question is whether this project becomes the latest in a string of projects to face delays due to litigation.
—David M. Greenwald reporting