The population in Davis ticked up about 1 percent from 2018 to 2019, according to an article that appeared over the weekend in the local paper – about an increase of 762 people, taking the population to the brink of 70,000.
Perhaps more surprising is that rate was faster than either Woodland or West Sacramento and more than double the rate of California, which at .47 percent from 2018 to 2019 marked the slowest growth rate in state’s history.
The growth rate was a bit surprising for Davis, given that the recent wave of approved developments have not been built and inhabited – Sterling, Lincoln40, Nishi, Davis Living Housing, Chiles Road Apartments and West Davis Active Adult Community.
The article attributed the growth to the increase of enrollment at UC Davis, along with homes at places like the Cannery and Grande Village.
Some have suggested that the growth rates and especially their comparisons to other communities are “inconvenient facts” for those who want to push for more development in Davis.
I have a different view, both of the comparisons and what we need in terms of additional housing.
My first point here would be that likely either the fact of the housing crisis or its perception has likely helped to lead to the slow down in growth. Some have argued that that slow down will alleviate the housing crisis – but that’s not entirely clear.
That said, most of my focus will be on local housing policies. I will say this – in general, I don’t favor a lot of new housing. I especially do not favor additional single-family homes on the periphery at this point.
However, I do think that this city continues to have several housing needs.
For several years the Vanguard supported additional student-oriented housing. That was true for a number of reasons – first, the continuation of the university’s historical growth. Second, from 2002 until Sterling Apartments opens probably in 2020, there will not have been a single market rate apartment complex opening in Davis. That marked an 18-year gap.
As a result, we saw vacancy rates dwindle, we saw housing prices go up, but mostly what we saw was more students crowding into existing facilities, pushing them beyond their ordinary capacity.
Regardless of state and regional housing growth rates, the city of Davis has been in need of adding capacity. Through the approval at Sterling, Lincoln40, Davis Live and Nishi, the city largely has filled those needs, along with 9050 that UC Davis has committed to building over the next decade.
While there are clearly additional housing proposals – most of that either infill or redevelopment – I do believe that we have filled the major student housing needs for the next decade.
Do we have other housing needs?
A number of people pushed back against recent development proposals, arguing that what we need is more housing for families, for the workforce, and affordable housing. I don’t believe that it is an either/or situation. I still believe that the most immediate housing need in this community has been for student housing.
That doesn’t mean we don’t need workforce housing. We have already seen housing approved at Chiles Road that would fit that niche, we will see some at the University Research Park and, while it is unclear at this point where Plaza 2555 stands, that could fill the niche as well.
In addition, I had a good discussion recently with some city planners who are working on the downtown plan – as the city looks at where the next wave of housing will be built, one of the answers is likely to be in the Davis Downtown.
It makes sense if you think about it. There is a decreasing likelihood that we will see more peripheral housing. In fact, it is unclear where the next such project would be. The idea of adding more single-family detached housing to the city doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Infill spaces where there are vacant parcels zoned for residential seem to be dwindling, so where do you go? One answer is redevelopment of the downtown – densification and building up. That could help meet the needs of workforce housing – those people who have recently graduated from UC Davis looking to find jobs in the emerging high tech industry.
From my vantage point that would be a local housing need that exists irrespective of state or even regional housing trends.
The other area of need would be for those people who work at UC Davis or even in the city of Davis, but cannot find or afford housing here. Generating housing that enables those folks to live here and not have to commute from, say, Elk Grove makes not only planning sense but environmental sense.
I also agree with those who believe we need more housing for families, but think we are probably going to have to build more affordable or subsidized housing to accommodate young families with children. That would seem to be a longer term need and it is not immediately clear where such housing could be developed.
Bottom line, I see Davis as having specific housing needs – in part due to the growth of the university – which will exist independently of state housing trends. Moreover, I am not envisioning a period of huge housing growth. At this point the community seems focused on finding infill and redevelopment sites rather than building outward.
—David M. Greenwald reporting