Sacramento Developer Proposes Dorms for Capitol Staffers, Another Alternative Living Concept


Back in March, the Vanguard reported on the rise of dorm-living and co-living spaces for professions (see: Analysis: Dorm Living for Professionals).  The article came at a time when critics of various apartment complex proposals around town have claimed that these are “mega-dorms” and their structure makes them poorly suited for workers or families.

At the time, we reported that the critics were ignoring changes that have occurred in the structure of housing, as changes have emerged in a number of markets to accommodate the unaffordability of rent in many locations.

A March 4 article in the New York Times notes: “In search of reasonable rent, the middle-class backbone of San Francisco — maitre d’s, teachers, bookstore managers, lounge musicians, copywriters and merchandise planners — are engaging in an unusual experiment in communal living: They are moving into dorms.”

Today’s Sacramento Bee reports a development that would have dorm-like housing for young Capitol dome workers.  (See: Developer proposes dorm-like downtown housing for young Capitol dome workers).

The Bee reports: “A Sacramento developer noted for risk-taking said this week she plans to build a high-rise apartment and hotel project a block from the Capitol with an unusual twist: One floor of the proposed 15-story structure at 10th and K streets would consist of dorm-like housing units.”

The units would potentially house about 64 or more Capitol staffers and student legislative fellowship program participants, people that “typically doesn’t make enough money to afford Sacramento’s soaring downtown rents.”

Nikky Mohanna said that her project, which she calls 10K, would also add about 186 regular apartments.  These would be separate from the co-living floor.  The project would also include a four-star hotel with 200 rooms and ground-floor retail.

The Bee reports that this is her second “unconventional downtown development” project.  She is currently constructing an 11-story apartment building at 19th and J that has “micro” studio units which are aimed at millennials with rents at less than $1000 per month.

She told the paper that “the co-living portion of the 10th and K project is a work in progress, making it too early to say what rents will go for. The design likely will involve group apartments that can house two to four young workers in private rooms; they would share a kitchen and bathroom. The floor would have group lounge areas that can act as communal living rooms.

“We want to make it a fun environment that students and young professionals are going to appreciate,” she said. “We have a difficult situation in Sacramento where people can’t afford housing, and we need to come up with innovative ideas to solve that.”

The Bee article notes that similar co-living projects have been launched in other major cities like San Francisco, Seattle and New York, but this would be the first in Sacramento.

The project as a whole offers “multifunctional urban density and inclusive growth we need in the core of our city,” she wrote in a press statement.

The Bee said Capitol spokesperson Kevin Liao noted that this is something much needed by other young staffers, many of whom are making only $30,000 to $40,000 a year.

He said, “Promoting these units as affordable for fellows and young staffers is one thing; for them to actually to make financial sense for a staffer making $30,000 or 40,000 a year is much more difficult to achieve.”

The need for alternative living space has been made repeatedly on the Vanguard over the last few years.  Many have criticized the student apartment proposals and developments as focusing too much on students with their four- and five-bedroom apartment configuration.

But many experts have pointed out there is no reason even a four-bedroom/four-bathroom apartment couldn’t be re-configured to serve families if need be.

For workers, a dorm-structured housing arrangement could work quite well.

This was a point that Sean Raycraft attempted to make in his December Vanguard article, “What’s So Bad About Shared Housing.”

Mr. Raycraft argued, “Recent efforts and rhetoric by some in town would have you believe the interests of students are divergent from those of young families, working poor folks and other groups of renters. It’s a divide and conquer strategy, that I hope fails. Renters are at the end of the day… renters. Improving the rental market as a whole will improve conditions for everyone who rents in town.”

As he pointed out, “Who is to say that a 25-year-old retail worker could not rent one of those rooms in a four-bedroom suite with a common living area?”

He argued, “The point is that while a shared space style of living isn’t exactly traditional, it by no means is exclusionary by design. In fact, similar communal living situations are happening right now, all over Davis. When four or five friends get together and sign the lease on a rental house for a year, they will usually get their own room, often with a lock on it, obviously with shared living spaces.

“While the living situation was not always perfect, it was a way for us to share space, and thrive in Davis,” he said.

As the New York Times article from earlier this year points out, these professional dorms are not just serving people in their twenties.  The reality is that the cost of housing is pushing many people out of these locations.  Co-living spaces are a way to make some of them pencil out financially.

The Sacramento examples are only the latest.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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8 thoughts on “Sacramento Developer Proposes Dorms for Capitol Staffers, Another Alternative Living Concept”

  1. Ken A

    It is important to remember that this is not a “new” concept since the majority of female college grads that were not married or living with family lived in “boarding houses” (since “living in sin” was not as popular as it is today) and even in the 1960’s a lot of men lived in boarding houses that would cook for them (until they got married and had a wife to cook for them).  When the place on the link below hit the market a while back a friend told me that his Dad lived there with a bunch of other Stanford Law grads in the 60’s when it was a boarding house called the “Pink Palace” (and was a little run down and looked nothing like the photos in the link).

    1. Howard P

      Well, my grandparents lived across the street (literally) from Penn State… when my aunt went to college, they took in a couple of boarders (old house, large rooms)… just before WWII… when Dad went off to WWII, they added the third.  Included students from India, Pakistan, and US, over the years… helped with their income, and kept the house from feeling ’empty’… Dad and my grandparents became long-time friends with a few of the boarders… some were allowed to do chores to reduce boarding costs… “barter” if you will…

      That old concept could also help with some of the senior empty-nesters referred to in yesterday’s thread…

      In Davis, could go towards solving two problems… affordable housing for students, income and connections (company) with folk (and possible help around the house) for seniors… not an “answer”,but possibly an important “piece” of an answer…


  2. Tia Will

    I think Howard has this right about a piece of an answer. My generation seems to have taken a narrow view of the “American Dream” as invariably meaning that “a better life than your parents had” had to be comprised of a nuclear family living in a single home surrounded by a “white picket fence”.  Unfortunately, we also created a financial structure in which this was not possible for all, or even most. What we seem to have left out of our equation is flexibility and the acceptance that one can live one’s own “American Dream” which may take many shapes and forms and still be completely fulfilling.

    Thanks for sharing, Howard.

    1. Howard P

      The other thing that has changed is the litiginous (sp?) nature of society, and the overplayed fears of having ‘strangers’ (even if somewhat vetted, like any landlord would do with a prospective tenant)[except a homeowner would not have to worry as much about financial creds] come into your home…

      We’d seriously it, but our “nest” isn’t quite empty yet… one still @ home, two others visiting somewhat regularly… maybe in a few years…

      No problem, Tia… thanks for your affirmation..

  3. Matt Williams

    David Greenwald said . . . “For workers, a dorm-structured housing arrangement could work quite well.”

    Yet in the student housing discussions, dorm-structured housing arrangements for Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors at UCD has been summarily dismissed as an option.  Strange.

    1. Howard P

      Indeed… curiouser and curiouser…

      Never occurred to me that I was “entitled” to my own room in college.

      Let’s hope the military (particularly boot camp) doesn’t pick up on the trend…

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