My View: Students Growing Frustrated over Housing Holdups

There have been developments that have looked like progress this year on student housing issues.  Now in 2018, Sterling Apartments broke ground in the last few weeks, putting it on track for a projected September 2020 opening, which would make it the first market rate student housing to open in roughly 17 years.

The city council approved additional student housing in 2018 at Lincoln40, Nishi and Davis Live apartments.  The voters for the first time in June ratified a Measure R vote, when they overwhelmingly approved Nishi.

The university, through its Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) process, agreed to increase student housing on campus from the current 28 percent of students with on-campus housing to 48 percent by 2030.  That is an increase of 9050 beds on campus.

The university and city cleared the way – it seemed at the time – for that housing to be built when they agreed to an MOU whereby 5200 beds would have to be built by 2023 or the university faced clear consequences.  That not only avoided a prolonged confrontation between the two neighbors, but seemed to clear the way for a known time table that was enforceable.

Finally, the university released its findings from the Affordable Housing Task Force and agreed to take several clear steps to address the housing crisis.

As Don Gibson, a representative of the Graduate Student Association, said last week, “With the release of the new MOU on housing and this report UC Davis is taking a strong step in the right direction to begin to solve the housing crisis.”

He noted, “I am most pleased that the ASUCD-GSA Housing Survey is to be taken up by UC Davis and continued annually to further provide accountability for the community.

“Notably, with potential updates to the city of Davis renters rights ordinance, coordination between UC Davis and the recommended creation of an ombudsperson goes hand-in-hand of the critical need of much stronger renter protections and enforcement as a way to address the worst landlords in Davis,” he said.

Despite this seeming progress, student leaders are growing frustrated.  While they have a receptive and supportive audience right now, in both the city leadership and it seems the university administration, there are barriers to progress.

Litigation has forestalled the development at both Nishi and Lincoln40.  Right there, that’s 3000 of the approved units.  If the Sacramento-based firm of Soluri Meserve files against Davis Live as well, that will mean only Sterling Apartments could go forward in the foreseeable future.

A more stunning blow is the litigation filed against the LRDP by AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees).  That CEQA litigation seems aimed at putting leverage on UC to stop their practice of outsourcing jobs, but has the byproduct of making students more vulnerable in the short-term as well.

ASUCD put out a statement noting, “As leaders of ASUCD, one of our main priorities is eliminating student homelessness and student housing insecurities. We believe that construction of more housing is the primary way of ensuring this, and we believe that by building close to and on campus, we can reduce our environmental footprint by lessening our dependence on cars.”

The students pushed back against the LRDP litigation.

Here there is a feeling by students that they have stood next to AFSCME and played a critical role in helping them over the years.  They state: “We the students have marched with you during your strikes, lobbied to increase your wages and benefits, even at the expense of our own tuition, and paid in time and money to go to your conferences to learn more about labor organizing. We state this to reiterate the commitment students have made to you time and time again.”

Students, they write, “are facing the worst housing crisis in Davis’ history.”  They note: “Davis’s vacancy rate of 0.2% will likely further shrink. It is appalling and disheartening that (at) a dire time like this, one of ASUCD’s coalition partners would take an active stance against more housing for students, and we urge AFSCME to drop this lawsuit and support the students that have supported them.”

The litigation is a clear source of concern.  The city of Davis and the university did the hard part – they approved up to 13,000 beds of new housing.  But, while the housing crisis is now, the building of that housing was not going to come overnight, even under the best of circumstances.

The best case scenario was going to be that by the fall of 2020 – that’s two years from this quarter – there might be some housing opening, both in the city and on campus.  That is now delayed – indefinitely.

The immediate impact of the litigation is that between 3000-3500 beds in the city and 5200 beds at the university are now on hold.  Will that delay them opening for another year or two?  Does that mean students are going to have to struggle for the next three or four years as a result?

The UC Davis Housing Affordability and Insecurity Survey found some shocking numbers.  They found that nearly seven percent of UC Davis students surveyed were homeless for a period of time – that number projects to 2500 students.  About two percent spent time living in their cars or other places not intended as housing – that number projects to about 640 students.  And almost 18 percent experienced some other form of housing insecurity, “such as making only partial rent or utility payments, doubling up in rooms without a lease, moving in with others because of financial problems, or moving more than twice during the year.”

As a university release states: “The bottom line for students is deeply troubling: Far too often, housing costs and unsettled or even abusive housing circumstances undermine students’ educational experiences while they attend UC Davis. These burdens exacerbate related problems with food insecurity and mental health, often following students into adulthood in the form of debt.”

The students note: “Students are homeless, students are sleeping in their cars, students are struggling to find their next meal, students are being taken advantage of by landlords, and students understand that the University has a large role to play in fixing this.

“So we again urge all parties to understand the real and acute consequences we the students would feel in any delay, and the relief to student homelessness and skyrocketing rental prices in the city that this project will provide.”

—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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    1. Jim Hoch

      Let me give you a summary of the series. Unions are holding students hostage. David’s solution is to increase taxes on people not named “David Greenwald”.

    2. Alan Miller

      Ha!  I didn’t read it either for the same reason and skipped down and read your comment this morning.  Out of a sick curiosity I went back and read it.  Well, there’s five minutes of my life that I’m not going to get back.

  1. Matt Williams

    Putting Keith’s “crying wolf” comment together with the housing delay situation David describes in this latest article, I find myself asking two questions,

    “What steps does David propose for resolving this impasse?” and 

    “Are the articles always going to be focused on the problem , and never on possible solutions to the problem?

    1. Matt Williams

      My own personal perspective is to let the formal community/governmental/legal processes work themselves out.  Those processes vary from project to project, so there isn’t a homogeneous set of steps that fits all.

      I’m surprised that you say that all your recommendations have been done.  If that is the case, then why is this still an issue that gets recurring coverage.  Also, what are your recommendations that have already been done?

        1. Matt Williams

          You have lost me … What is there that is “new news” about the lawsuits, and how does your article illuminate that new news?

          Also, you did not answer my question so I will ask it again.  What are your recommendations that have already been done?

  2. Ron

    Regardless of any litigation involved, my understanding is that UCD has delayed plans to redevelop Orchard Park (on campus) for at least a year.  I’m wondering if the students have focused any of their attention on this.

    1. Ken A

      It is painful for me how long taxpayer supported property owners (like UCD and the City of Davis) let valuable real estate sit empty year after year.

      Orchard Park was half empty long time before they moved “everyone” out (and put the fence around it) in 2014 and it has been OVER ten years since the city owned Pacificio  property has been more than half full.

      I’m not a real estate developer or efficiency expert but I can’t figure out why anyone would not want to keep a property full of renters paying over $500K a year for Pacifico and about $2.5 MILLION a year for Orchard Park until they were “ready” to start working on a redevelopment project.

      1. Howard P

        You know, Ken, that the City cannot/should not be a landlord for Pacifico, right?

        But what I believe to be your main point, should the City “put it on the auction block” so someone can rent it out, maintain it, etc. is definitely valid.

        The Orchard Park thing, the City has no control over.

    2. Matt Williams

      If that is true Ron, then that is indeed “new news.”

      David, what do you know about UCD delaying plans to redevelop Orchard Park (on campus) for at least a year?

  3. Alan Miller

    “Are the articles always going to be focused on the problem , and never on possible solutions to the problem?

    Sometimes it meets one’s purposes more to have an “issue”, than a solution.



      1. Ron

        Some on here apparently don’t want to focus on solutions that haven’t been impacted by lawsuits (e.g., Orchard Park, Pacifico). Such solutions undermine their advocacy.

        1. Ken A

          I read a while back that the (NJ based developer) of  the new Orchard Park plans to have 700 beds and with “double up” rooms Pacifico could have 224 beds with 112 rooms so we are talking about close to 1,000 potential beds at the two properties (not 8,000, but not a “drop in the bucket”)…

        2. David Greenwald

          But Ron said: “don’t want to focus on solutions”. It’s not a solution.  And Orchard is still blocked by litigation- so I don’t see his point.

        3. Ron

          Before there was any lawsuit, UCD delayed Orchard Park for at least another year.  I understand that the plans and design for it are still not completed.  As noted by Ken, it’s been closed for 4 years already.

        4. David Greenwald

          Then why this comment: “Some on here apparently don’t want to focus on solutions that haven’t been impacted by lawsuits (e.g., Orchard Park, Pacifico). Such solutions undermine their advocacy.”?  You called it a solution.  How?

        5. Ron

          Why aren’t the plans/design for Orchard Park finalized? If the lawsuit is settled soon, it’s still not ready to proceed. Why hasn’t there been more apparent/visible concern on the part of the Vanguard and students regarding this?

        6. Howard P


          In response to your 3:26 post… ask your questions or the Chancellor, the Regents, your Assembly/State legislators, or the Gov.

          Pointless to ask those type of questions here, unless it’s a venting thing to make you feel better…

        7. Ron

          Howard (to me):  “In response to your 3:26 post… ask your questions or the Chancellor, the Regents, your Assembly/State legislators, or the Gov.”

          Perhaps those impacted by the delay regarding Orchard Park should consider your suggestion.  And, maybe the Vanguard can assist in broadcasting such concerns – especially since David asked about “solutions”.

          But, I suspect that the David would actually prefer to avoid discussing this point. It does not fit in well with the story that he’s attempting to sell on here. (Similar to the manner in which he doesn’t want to discuss the lack of proposals for years, prior to the most recent ones.)

          1. Don Shor

            Orchard Park went through a long, collaborative planning process with a student advisory committee (the Student Family Housing Redevelopment Committee), and then got included in the LRDP. That was the cause of the delay.
            With the completion of the LRDP, they put out a request for proposals and I believe a contractor has been selected. They expected, per a press release, to be ready for occupancy in 2020.

          1. Don Shor

            It’s still listed as a fall 2020 opening as of March 2018 press releases, so I see no reason to assume it’s being delayed any further.

      2. Matt Williams

        Don, since the focus of David’s article is the “growing frustration” of the students over housing holdups, which of your two possible “solutions” to a lawsuit do you think those students would support?  Settle or fight?

  4. Craig Ross

    At some point it seems we need some legislative tools to kill these lawsuits.  The state has a housing crisis.  Despite the state of denial by people living housing secure, this community does as well.  A single person shouldn’t be able to hold up building housing for thousands.  That’s undemocratic.  Where is Cecilia Aguiar-curry and Bill Dodd on this one.

    1. Matt Williams

      Craig, such tools would violate the basic “three branches of government” principle of the US Constitution.

      With that said, tools do already exist in large part. Specifically, if a lawsuit is deemed by the c ourts to be frivolous and/or without merit, the judge has the ability to make the plaintiff cover all the costs of all the parties and the court itself.  That is very costly … and a significant disincentive for people looking to simply use the courts as a delaying mechanism.

      1. Jim Hoch


        The ability to file CEQA suits was created by the legislature and could be closed by the legislature. In another state the union would not have standing to sue.

  5. Ross Peabody

    Couldn’t the Vangaurd, the students and everyone that hates this lawsuit maybe just consider lobbying the university to not outsource labor and abide by it’s it’s responsibilities to those it employs?  That sounds like a more direct solution than complaining about a legitimate piece of litigation and would get things back on schedule more quickly than complaining about the lawsuit and quoting the same student letter every 2 days.

    1. Jim Hoch

      Ross, your idea is that if UCD pays off the union it will never file another CEQA suit? Maybe I’m just cynical but that sounds like a path that will guarantee a continuing series of suits.

      1. Howard P

        Not cynical, Jim… reality… you got it nailed.

        The AFSCME suit is a blatant form of blackmail.  Why I hate almost all unions.

        And strongly dislike all those who use CEQA for non-related purposes…

      2. Ross Peabody

        pays off the union?  that’s not near what I said.  I said that the university should not outsource labor in order to avoid their employee and union commitments.  If they honored those commitments, the lawsuits would not happen.

        The University’s statement on this is classic in its diversionary language.  The University is blaming their own resistance to honoring their commitments on those people that they’re not honoring the commitments to. Then they blame the union for the pain caused when the union takes action in an attempt to get the university to honor commitments.

        The problem here is the University, not the Union, if you need someone to blame.

        1. Howard P

          Direct questions, so I can give credibility, in my own mind, to your 5:54 post…

          Are you now a member of a union?  Which affiliation?  Have you been in the past?

          I’d give more credibility if all three answers are an honest “no”.

        2. Jim Hoch

          “pays off the union” is exactly what you said. The union is holding the student housing hostage to try to obtain demands they could not get through negotiation. Whether you agree with the current demands or not does not change the fact this is a hostage situation. 

          The building program will offer numerous opportunities for additional suits and I have no doubt that there are unions on campus with long wish lists.

          There is a reason we don’t pay ransom, even to groups with some level of political support.

        3. Ross Peabody

          I’m a little confused about how the union is the bad guy here and not the university.

          The union represents people in order to ensure that they get treated fairly and that they’re protected against a much larger entity that they otherwise would have very little power against.  How is that a bad thing? By siding with the University here, you’re essentially throwing the workers to the wolves.

          Howard, not that it affects things at all, but no, I’m not presently a member of a union – I’m a consultant and freelancer that would LOVE have a union representing my interests, but that’s less and less an option in this day and age.  I have been a member of a union in the past, and it supplied a level of stability that, at that time in my life, I never could have imagined.  Why would you take me more seriously if I hadn’t ever been part of a union?  That’s not prerequisite to believe that people should be treated fairly and paid appropriately for their labor.

          Jim – What would you have the workers do when the much larger, more powerful university won’t negotiate?  Just throw in the towel?   Why is the university so much more important than the workers that keep it running?

          The University is the one holding this hostage. They could fix the problem simply by negotiating in good faith and not outsourcing labor.  Why is this the workers fault?  This isn’t about “having political support” at all.  I understand that you buy that myth, but I’m afraid the union isn’t nearly as monolithic as some people and organizations would have you believe.

          Similarly, the university would love for you to believe that this is some kind of nefarious blackmail, hostage situation.  That suits their PR.  I’m always amazed that so many people are willing to read into the supposed dark intentions of workers trying to support themselves and build a life, and simultaneously so willing to buy-in completely to the 3 paragraphs put out by the University PR department blaming this all on the union.

        4. Jim Hoch

          Ross, I’m not sure why you think the suit is pressuring the university. UCD has been resistant to building for a long time and this delay by the union just gives them another reason to avoid their recent commitment. They likely welcome the suit.

          The losers here are the students.

        5. Ross Peabody

          Jim – isn’t the MOU between the city and the University legally binding?  This is likely the first opportunity that something like this would put pressure on the University, which is likely why it didn’t happen a year ago.

          you’re right, the students are the losers.  so are the workers.  the University could solve both problems immediately, and now that the MOU is in place, they have incentive to do so.  It’s not the union’s fault the student’s are hurt, it’s the University’s.


        6. Jim Hoch

          “it’s not the union’s fault the student’s are hurt, it’s the University’s.” I don’t believe that will be the general view.

          Regardless its educational for the students.

        7. Jim Hoch

          Ross the “fact” here is that the union is holding the student housing hostage to their parochial demands. Your “opinion” is that it is justified. That will not be the opinion of many people, particularity the students. My “opinion” is that this is a good lesson for the students.

        8. Ross Peabody

          “parochial demands” like insisting on a living wage and that a large organization abides by its existing agreements?

          I’m unclear on why you’re so intent on defending the University here.  Like I said in my very first post, there’s a very fast and direct fix to this “hostage situation” as you call it, and that fix is for the University to act appropriately.


        9. Jim Hoch

          “there’s a very fast and direct fix” it is called “spend more money on whatever anybody asks for”.  

          You are in the right venue, lot’s of “spend more money on whatever anybody asks for” here on The People’s Vanguard.

        10. Ken A

          I’m wondering if Ross will tell us what he considers a “living wage” and if the “living wage” includes a pension (if yes how much of a pension e.g. 2.5%/year at 60 or 3%/year at 50)…

        11. Ross Peabody

          ken – I’m not getting goaded into playing that stupid game.  if you want to understand the concept of a living wage, there are plenty of places you can easily access that information and other places that can explain the details of it to you – I have no doubt that my idea of what is appropriate is FAR higher than what yours is.

          That being said, there are also easily accessible places  that can even supply some of the basics of this specific issue, or, if you’re not into contracts, news reports that break it down for a slightly easier read.

          The union lowest minimum request seems to be, in this situation, $15 per hour – higher for higher skilled labor.

          The primary issue here is that the university is hiring outside labor (in contradiction to their agreements) at lower wages (NOT livable) that suppress the mean wage for the region that the University then uses when negotiating with the union in order to then suppress what the “regular guys (and gals)” can make per hour.

          I’ve said it several different ways already, but if you really have an issue with taking money out the pockets of working men and women (to be clear, I don’t think you do), why don’t you tell me how this is the union’s fault and not the fault of the University.

      3. Ross Peabody

        you say ‘spend more money on whatever anybody asks for” and I say don’t build your castles on the backs of other people.  I personally believe that making sure people are paid a living wage and that they have affordable housing near they work is as important as solving the housing problem for students.  and shockingly, there’s one player in this scenario that can (and should) do both.  this isn’t about throwing money at a problem as you describe, and to say otherwise is disingenuous, and I think you know that.  it’s not a bunch of babies screaming for candy, it’s people simply asking to ensure a level of parity with the agreements that are ALREADY IN PLACE.

        If you’re against the union, fine, just say so clearly and bluntly – Howard did and it was a completely civil exchange. but please don’t pretend that you care about one set of people (students) in this situation and to help them, it requires everyone to not care about another (the workers).  Pitting the groups with the most to lose in the situation against each other is not the way out of this. That’s just silly

  6. Jeff M


    The union represents people in order to ensure that they get treated fairly and that they’re protected against a much larger entity that they otherwise would have very little power against.

    There was a time when employees were not treated fairly and had to work in unsafe conditions.  That time is long gone.  There are so many protections for workers now that employers are the ones not treated fairly.

    Unions are unnecessary except to extort higher compensation than their members are worth in the labor market.


    1. Ken A

      Unions also put a cap on what high performers can make assuring that unlike at a private sector job the DMV never have a single employee say “I’ll work twice as hard as my co-workers moving through my line so I get a raise”…

      I think it is great that some people get to live in $500/month apartments and some union guys (like my best friend) make over $250K/year (working 10-12 days a week) and can retire after 30 years with a $200K+ pension but we need to remember that someone has to pay for the subsidized apartments and high union salaries and pensions.

      I’m at a pretty good place in life so the higher taxes are not a big deal for me but for the majority of working class people in the state I know the increasing costs are killing them making it harder and harder to get ahead and save and invest in anything…

      1. Ross Peabody

        jeff – cute, but removed from reality

        ken – nice try, but I’m not convinced that you understand what unions do, or how little power they actually have.


        1. Ken A

          Ross may think unions don’t have much power, but ANY person, company or group that gives hundreds of millions of dollars (and/or helps get votes) to politicians has a LOT of power…

          In my dream world anyone would be free to give whatever they wanted to a politician, but after getting even $1 the politician would not be able to vote on anything that had a financial impact on the people, companies or groups they took money from.

          If Billionaires, Defence Contractors and Unions liked a politician they could donate anything they wanted but the person took the donations could not vote on tax cuts for the rich, new fighter jet contracts for the defense contractors or unfunded increases in union pensions…

        2. Jeff M

          90 percent of labor in this country is non union.  The remaining 10% are only left-over relics of the past that corrupt politics and destroy their employers.

        3. Ross Peabody

          ken, nice feint, but we deal with the world we live in.  come back to me when you’re ready to support laws to end the Citizen’s United precedent, ban Koch money and reform lobbying.

          re: unions – I’m also not even talking about political power, I’m talking about the kind of pull that they have in negotiations on behalf of their membership.  They’re not nearly as monolithic as you seem to think.

          jeff – your unsubstantiated opinions and general quotation of statistics aren’t arguments, they’re regurgitated rhetoric and talking points.  just sayin.

        4. Ken A

          I don’t want to stop the Koch Brothers or unions from their first amendment right so support the politicians they like I just want to change the laws to prevent the people they give money to from allowing Koch industries to dump toxic sludge in a national park or forcing a mom that takes care of her disabled kid to pay union dues.  Unions (or the Koch Brothers) are not “monolithic” but unlike Ross I would not say they have “little power”…

        5. Ross Peabody

          ken – you should talk to me and not at me.  this “unlike” so and so thing you do is just bizarre.  you’re not ceding the floor to the gentleman from green meadows, you’re in a conversation.

          to the point, technically, the laws that you dream of exist.  Quid pro quo is expressly illegal.  I’d like to hear what kind of government action beyond lobbying reform and campaign finance reform would achieve what you’re describing.

          also, I’m still not convinced that you actually understand what unions do.  Without union support and negotiations, your mom-with-a-disabled-kid character would likely be in a much worse situation than being on the hook for a few hundred dollars a year in union dues, likely not having health insurance for her special needs kid, for instance, while more like than not, working a second job – making her union dues pale in comparison to the effects of your compassion for her dire union situation.

        6. Ken A

          I am aware that “Quid pro quo is expressly illegal” but I am also aware that politicians that get millions of dollars from unions for the most part work to get more money from the pockets of taxpayers and in to the pockets of union members and union bosses “and” the politicians that get millions from oil, gas and defense companies for the most part work to get more money from the pockets of taxpayers in to the pockets of oil, gas and defense workers and oil, gas and defense stockholders.  I think it is sad that more and more “regular guys” (and gals) are having a tough time as the politically connected (on BOTH the “red team” and “blue team”) work to get rich at the expense of the non connected…

        7. Ross Peabody

          the union members that you seem to think are some sort of monied politically connected elite ARE the regular taxpaying folks that you’re talking about.  you’re making an argument based on abstractions and assumptions, most of which are at best unfounded, but frankly, just wrong.  You can’t separate your broad opinions about the union as political force and the actual work that the union does on behalf of its members (and these days, in many places, on behalf of those that aren’t members).  You can keep talking, but it’s becoming clearer and clearer that your very muddy arguments are enough for you and that you have no interest in the subtleties (or really, the basic details) of what you’re talking about.

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