By Matt Williams
On Tuesday, October 2nd I posted a comment that described the circumstances that caused City Council to modify the Affordable Housing Ordinance in February earlier this year. That comment can be accessed HERE.
In response to my posting of the AB 1505 information in that comment, I received two interesting responses, one was from Rik Keller here in the Vanguard about the Council decision to lower the Affordable percentage to the State’s new 15% benchmark. You can read my response to Rik’s question HERE. The second response was an e-mail from a Davis resident, who raised very important issues, which I believe we as a community need to be discussing. The e-mail read as follows:
Matt, I read your Vanguard comment about the State’s passage of AB 1505 with considerable interest. Given your history as a Vanguard commenter, Chair of the Finance and Budget Commission and past City Council candidate, the fact that your comment was thought provoking did not surprise me. As follow-up to your comment — and the Vanguard dialogue with Rik, David and Ron that followed it — I believe all citizens of Davis and their elected representatives should seriously consider that the largest part of our city’s affordable housing problem has been caused by the State and the Regents.
When the Governor and our legislators were drafting AB 1505, did they ever give any thought to or worry about “affordable housing” for California’s university students? The available evidence says “no they did not” — and that is just the latest example of a long series of actions by the State and (to a lesser extent) the Regents that have had serious consequences for Davis.
- First our state legislators mandate that its universities MUST enroll increasing numbers of students,
- Then it dumps the planning and land use impacts on the universities and their local host communities to resolve — resulting in decades of corresponding, unmitigated consequences for any of those communities that are seeking financially – as well as environmentally – sustainable, long term development strategies.
- Then, in 2000, the legislature decided that all projects involving state subsidies must be constructed with prevailing wages – with no exemptions made for schools and universities — thereby insuring the highest possible construction costs to house such mandated growth. Achieving housing affordability while incurring the highest possible construction costs is a daunting task.
- And, then we are told these actions and resulting consequences for local host communities categorically cannot be considered CEQA triggers resulting from the mandated growth targets.
Sure as the sun will rise, the WDAAC development — along with our declining trends in local K12 school enrollment at the other end of the spectrum — are the clear and direct outgrowth of consequences and attendant results, such as the following:
- Given the land use constraints mandated by the Davis community, this city — and particularly following the most recent series of multi-family housing approvals — may very well have one of the highest ratios of “affordable by design” living options of any city in the state.
- Take a close look at the absolute number of university student residents housed in the city of Davis. Clearly, this important and growing category of Davis residents must be considered a target demographic for “affordable housing”. And, importantly, over the decades – this city has responded.
- In responding, however, the community has been forced to take on significant responsibilities — not the least of which is the financial responsibility resulting from having such a large percentage of non-working residents of modest means.
Under such circumstances, should a local host community — interested in supporting and encouraging both fiscally and environmentally sustainable growth — not have any rights in determining responsive strategies, or not be allowed the tools necessary to address the very real challenges presented by actions of this same legislature-based-upon policies it seems helpless to revisit or amend?
If not new developments like WDAAC, responding directly to internally generated needs resulting directly from sustained local enrollment pressures from the university, what exactly are the legislators willing to accommodate in their quest to encourage more affordable housing construction in California — not to mention more affordable schools and housing for its students?
When I finished reading the e-mail I went back and read it again just to be sure I had read it correctly. The points made are powerful, and thus far they have not been part of our community dialogue about either affordable housing or community sustainability. They are points that are also very clearly made. I will be very interested in hearing the community dialogue that they provoke.