City, County, UC Davis Hold First Townhall, Brief Update on Housing

By Danielle Silva

DAVIS — The Annual Public Meeting of the City of Davis, UC Davis and Yolo County focused on the housing issue, especially in relation to students.

This Annual Public Meeting was hosted at the UC Davis Genome Center Auditorium on Oct. 17, 2019. The representatives for UC Davis included Chancellor Gary May, Vice-Chancellor of Finance, Operations and Administrations Kelly Ratliff, and Associate Chancellor Karl Engelbach. The Yolo County Representatives included Supervisor Jim Provenza and Chair of the Board of Supervisors Don Saylor. The members of the Davis City Council present included Mayor Brett Lee, Dan Carson, and Lucas Frerichs.

The welcome address was presented by Vice-Chancellor Kelly Ratliff. She stated meetings like this were done to recommit to partnership and participation and they’ve reached excellent progress through several 2x2x2 meetings. New opportunities have reportedly emerged, including new traffic projects, a resource program, and the opening of new beds for student housing. She announced that on November 1 a joint report will be released.

Mayor Brett Lee opened the floor to public comments, reminding the public that, as the meeting was on campus, the statements should not be seen as the official policy of the City of Davis but rather a look into progress between the three entities.

One person expressed concern for the Yolo Land Trust and preserving the agricultural land in Yolo County, arguing that the land’s value could not be replaced by student housing.

Another noted his thankfulness for the collaboration between the City of Davis, Yolo County, and UC Davis, stating the effects of any university on its host city affect everyone in the community. He requested the three groups meet more than once every six months to encourage collaboration, but also recommended the City of Davis look into moving the Amazon Center from Memorial Union to the to-be-redeveloped University Mall which would have more room for traffic, including free parking.

Eileen Samitz delivers her public comments with the Davis contingent looking on

One commenter requested the groups look into providing a timeline for the beds UC Davis agreed to create for new students, especially considering Orchard Park closed five years ago. He requested they look into commercial properties in the City of Davis.

One resident shared the community should see UC Davis as an opportunity, stating the population has grown more than 25 percent between the years of 1970 and 2000. He argued that land use should be connected to future discussions of housing, especially in UC Davis looking for support for future housing.

Another commenter called the lack of beds “negligence,” stating many out-of-state or international students should be given the option to live on campus. She stated that UC Davis has space and by pushing students off of campus, they would continue adding to traffic issues that affect everyone. She also asked why there wasn’t a clarified fund for student housing, despite $200 million from fundraising going to aesthetic projects. The commenter emphasized addressing a crisis with those funds.

One individual noted he had long advocated for more housing and requested the student dormitory halls be a story or two higher for more space. He also stated that transportation and housing are incredibly linked, since Davis will not be able to house everyone in the community.

Another resident had been living in Davis since 1973 and has seen the increase in traffic and the housing deficiency over time. She asked why the core campus, with 900 acres, could not house the students and ask the groups to consider that “the city residents cannot bear the responsibility and impact.”

Presentations from UC Davis, the City of Davis, and Yolo County followed public comments.

Chancellor Gary May gives his presentation

Chancellor Gary May shared about the growth of UC Davis, stating this as a “new era of partnership” between UC Davis, the City of Davis, and Yolo County. He noted the long term benefits of their meetings, including “A New Gateway,” which was the new construction of 3rd and A Streets which are enjoyed by everyone. He noted the traffic improvements cost about $2.3 million dollars.

Chancellor May also pointed to UC Davis’s ranking as #4 of the best public colleges in Money Magazine, and the success of the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. He also noted the success of athletes including Keelan Doss, a football player who appeared in the series “Hard Knocks,” and the success of the women’s basketball team, including Morgan Bertsch’s draft to the WNBA.

He stated the campus was meeting basic student needs such as food security, affordable housing, and mental health through programs like the Pantry, which provides free food and toiletries to students, and the Mental Health Task Force which brings mental health awareness to students.

The chancellor stated there would be 6,000 more beds available by 2025 due to the biggest housing initiative in UC Davis. He shared that West Village currently underwent further construction and Walker Hall was reopened. Yosemite Hall, formerly Shasta Hall, now hosts twice as many students as before, at 800 beds. Orchard Park is also undergoing renovations, with 1,200 beds for students and 200 2-bedroom units for students with families.

Mayor Brett Lee gives his remarks

Mayor Brett Lee stated that the progress over the last year has far surpassed the progress of the past ten years, thanks to the dialogue and collaboration between UC Davis, the City of Davis, and Yolo County. He presented the issue of a rental housing shortage in the city, and suggested tackling it by looking at the number of sizable projects.

The green chart provided shows pending construction. Two of the green chart’s projects had legal challenges and, thankfully, the judge ruled in favor of the city. In total, the green chart estimated planned 3,928 beds/bedrooms, or 1,376 units, in sometime between one to three years.

The blue section noted completed construction or projects under construction. He noted the Sterling 5th Street Apartments had been approved two years ago and will be opened next summer or fall. The beds noted would be an additional 639 beds/bedrooms, or 982 units.

Both totaled to 4,567 beds/bedrooms, or 2,358 units. He noted this would be a substantial addition to UC Davis’s 6,000 beds.

He stated this was a dramatic improvement and this could lead to other areas of development, considering this is the end of their first year working together. Within the next five years, Mayor Lee sees the three organizations attaining substantial improvement. In an address to a previous public comment, he noted that they have been keeping open communication with each other and have met more than once every six months. Overall, he is optimistic in their partnership and hopes one of their future issues will address further mental health housing in Davis.

Supervisor Don Saylor

Yolo County Chair of the Board of Supervisors Don Saylor shared his presentation, focusing on the basic needs, transportation and projects Yolo County has been working on. He pointed out Aggie Compass on the UC Davis campus currently has CalFresh applicant assistance now, helping an estimated 3,800 students.

He did note, however, that the university and city should consider developing more mental health client housing, such as the Pine Tree Gardens.

Chair Saylor also announced plans for the “Causeway Connection,” which would “use fully electric buses to connect UC Davis Main Campus with the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, with limited stops in Davis and Sacramento.” This would increase the trips from 15 to 24 times a day. He estimated the targeted launch date would be in April 2020.

For further projects in traffic, he noted the “I-80 Corridor Improvement Project” which would be to “improve multimodal mobility on the I-80 corridor in Solano, Yolo, and Sacramento Counties,” and the County Road 98 Bike and Safety Project, which would improve increasingly unsafe travel on County Road 98 south of Covell Boulevard.

He also wanted to bring awareness of the 2020 Census, where students need to be informed they should be counted where they live during the school year. Some direct aid from the government is reliant on the numbers from the census. Chair Saylor wanted to encourage participation, especially in a time where some are afraid to participate because of the political environment.

Vice-Chancellor Ratliff closed the meeting, thanking everyone for joining them during the event and asking the representatives present their final comments.

Councilmembers Dan Carson speaks

City Council Member Dan Carson noted “the mindful impact of the neighborhood and its connection to a long-range development plan.” He enjoyed seeing the specifics of the planning and where they were going with it.

Councilmember Lucas Frerichs

City Council Member Lucas Frerichs thanked UC Davis for the radical change. He noted there was more work to be done, especially in terms of new housing and trying to specify the terminology in the law to see if it needed to be updated, but also how to best suit the needs of the community.

Supervisor Jim Provenza

Supervisor Jim Provenza thanked everyone for the progress and the increase of housing on campus, but noted a desire for affordable and accessible housing, even if they were not there yet. He expressed that traffic was a serious concern. Supervisor Provenza looks forward to future projects they would do.

The meeting adjourned with Vice-Chancellor Ratliff noting that next week at the council meeting they will have a presentation on UC Davis’s finances.

(Photos by David M. Greenwald)

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  1. Ron Oertel

    Suggestion:  Next time, announce these meetings in advance on the Vanguard.  (As another blog did, via Eileen’s article.)

    Any idea how many students showed up?

      1. Ron Oertel

        Wow – have to wonder why they either weren’t interested, or were unaware of the opportunity to hear of how campus housing plans are proceeding – and to provide input (with top UCD officials in attendance):

        “DAVIS — The Annual Public Meeting of the City of Davis, UC Davis and Yolo County focused on the housing issue, especially in relation to students.”


        1. Ron Oertel

          The “bonus” column?  😉

          Your theory may be true regarding the total number of units planned, but not necessarily the timing of construction on campus. I understand that there’s still some concern regarding that.

          1. David Greenwald

            But 5 0r 60000 beds by 2021 or so. Seems like the issue has run out of juice. The only people who spoke on this last night were Eileen, Colin and Nancy Price

        2. Ron Oertel

          Three who regularly advocate what’s best for all, in my opinion.

          I believe that Greg Rowe recently wrote an article (on the other blog) regarding that concern, as well.

          But personally, I figure it’s primarily up to students at this point – if they’re concerned about the timing. Seems that they aren’t, or weren’t aware of this meeting.

          1. David Greenwald

            My point is – I don’t think there’s much to do at this point. UCD has finished their LRDP, the lawsuit is over. The city has approved 4000 beds, their lawsuits are basically over. At this point, it is a matter of making sure the housing gets built which the university seems at this point committed to do.

        3. Rik Keller

          “Zero students showed up.”

          Because–unlike the last City Council meeting–they weren’t coordinated by the ARC/MRIC developer and given glossy fliers to hold?

        4. Alan Miller

          I theorized in the bonus column today that it is because the student housing issue has largely been addressed by the city and university.

          I theorized that most students are here to study, drink beer and get out of Davis.

  2. Todd Edelman

    Sort of embarrassing to ask, but how did I miss this? I’m a Commissioner and don’t receive notices you’d think I would – and I’ve complained.

    A gathering of so many elected folk from “Greater Davis”… how many were in attendance and did you recognize most faces?

    Another demand for “free parking”!

    Very recently – at the September meeting of the BTSSC – I mentioned something which I’d already tried to address through letters to various town & gown entities: The re-paving of the bi-directional bike lane next to A St. on the east end of campus between 3rd and 5th was done with zero pre-notification of anyone in the City of Davis. The lack of signage overall and totally missing signage on the City side – aside from a “Share the Road” sign on A St. placed by the contractors without the City’s knowledge – resulted in people riding bikes against traffic on A St. south of Russell. TAPS staff responded about the situation, but no one from the UC Davis side apologized for a situation would could have gotten someone killed.

    Moreover, the real problem here was that it was a missed opportunity to re-imagine this corridor: We now have a re-paved multi-function path paralleling a door-zone bike lane on a one-way street, which according to Davis municipal code should be allow bikes to ride against traffic on one section (intentionally).

    Worse by far is the new intersection solution at Hutchinson and LaRue

    There are parts of this that are clearly better than they were before, though there are still important aspects missing.

    Perhaps UCD didn’t have or didn’t want to spend the money on creating something better for this busy intersection.

    I am particularly concerned with the intended turning functionalities and their instructions for use, specifically with one option to start in the bike lane, merge across vehicles in their travel lane, and then to do a vehicular left, but if that doesn’t work out to go sit in the turning box, OR alternatively if coming from  the mixed use path, dismount then walk across the crosswalk and then to the turning box and re-mount one’s bike.

    Compare it with this, in the same general context as far as available room,  which is pulled from here.

    This particular Dutch design gives priority to people on bikes, but there are studies that show it can be safer to give people in motor vehicles priority with only seconds different in transit time – people on bikes can more easily adjust speed and sight lines are clear, so they only have to slightly adjust in speed and rarely have to stop. There are also no expensive traffic signals. The Dutch solution is used by all people on all bikes transiting the intersection.

    The Hutchinson-La Rue design makes things faster for less fearful cyclists, if they are also lucky or skilled enough to make it into the left turn lane. It is intended to be slower for more fearful cyclists. Simply put, that’s wrong… no other street users are treated this way. I reject this strategy for future designs in the City.

    It is crucial for me to acknowledge and activate on the fact that some trips that start and end in Davis go through the UC Davis campus, which means that as a member of the BTSSC I am obligated to protect Davis residents and guests – UCD students or not – that use these routes.  Yes, they are different jurisdictions but this is a special case, just as much as border areas such as A St. at the east end of campus where the City and UC Davis have parallel infrastructure adjacent to each other, and perhaps not quite intuitive functionalities.

    All the more reason to work closely and positively together in the future, yes?  To be clear, I think that “Greater Davis” needs a fully-integrated mobility system and road network!

    1. David Greenwald

      I would suggest to Todd and others to sign up for the city’s email agenda alert system which sends out an email any time there is a new meeting agenda posted on the city website, you can sign up for the council and also various commissions.

      1. Todd Edelman

        I am very definitely signed up as a citizen! My point is that if (perhaps especially a quorum of) City Council members speak  within “Greater Davis” communication should be both more specific and robust. Seriously, no students were present.

        1. David Greenwald

          Students seem to have moved on from the issue.  They are mobilizing more around district elections and ARC.

          The city’s housing focus is moving away from student housing and towards affordable and workforce.

        2. Ron Oertel

          “They are mobilizing more around district elections and ARC.”

          In reference to ARC, are these the students that were reportedly (by another commenter) paid by a local development consulting firm?

          By the way, have you done any research to investigate this reported arrangement? And if so, does it extend beyond advocacy for ARC?

          Wouldn’t such an issue normally fall within the scope of the Vanguard’s interest?

          What interest would “normal” students have in ARC?

        3. Ron Oertel

          “To your knowledge”.

          So, I take it you haven’t checked into this.

          Also, what does “mobilized” mean to you?

          As a side note, it’s difficult for me to believe that most students would support a freeway-oriented peripheral development with 4,340 parking spaces, given their concern regarding global warming.

          Doesn’t this seem rather unusual, to you? At least, enough to warrant investigation?

          1. David Greenwald

            I did not audit their books… if that’s what you mean.

            I think you look at things in a very narrow sense… the parking spaces represent a below required allotment of parking. A lot of the technology that will come out will not only provide students with jobs but they are likely to be instrumental in combatting climate change – green technology, new agricultural techniques to feed the world, medical technology that could save people’s lives. You don’t think that appeals to students coming out of the STEM field and looking for jobs out of college.

        4. Ron Oertel

          “I did not audit their books… if that’s what you mean.”

          No – that’s not what I mean.

          As a journalist, the first thing you could probably do is ask the firm.  But, this would assume that you have any interest in confirming this, and if true – the extent of it.  (For example, does it extend beyond ARC, as well?)

          In all honesty, that’s the type of investigative journalism one would normally expect of a non-profit, community watchdog. Especially if that journalist is going to cite examples of “student activism” in support of development proposals as valid.

          1. David Greenwald

            I love how this works – you guys fire around blind accusations in the dark, you have no idea what’s going on or how stuff works, and then you make demands that other people do additional work to confirm that something is not happening. I gave you the answer, I’m not going to tell you what I know, but I will tell you to a reasonable certainty that this isn’t happening. At some point if a Measure R campaign happens, there probably will be paid workers, but that day has not come yet.

        5. Rik Keller

          It’s not suspicious at all that the students who showed up to the last City Council meeting and spoke in favor of ARC/MRIC all had glossy color fliers from the developer that no one else had? [edited]

          It’s weird to describe this developer-coordinated and directed effort as “student mobilization”.

        6. Ron Oertel

          David: “I love how this works – you guys fire around blind accusations in the dark, you have no idea what’s going on or how stuff works, and then you make demands that other people do additional work to confirm that something is not happening.”

          None of which is true.  I just asked some questions, regarding the student support that you cited.  Especially for a freeway-oriented development that supposedly won’t even include student housing, won’t open for years even if it’s approved, and has 4,340 parking spaces.

          Global warming seems to be a particular concern of most students, these days.


        7. Rik Keller

          Yes, the students who <just happened> to show up for a mere consent calendar item all <happened> to be carrying a one-page flier handed to them by the ARC/MRIC developer.

        8. Craig Ross

          This is why a little information is dangerous.

          The students came because of the district election issue

          The developers for ARC came because their items were on the agenda

          The developers had materials that they handed the students when they came

          No one was paid.

          Deep conspiracy.  Rik Keller is reckless.

        9. Ron Oertel

          Craig:  “The students came because of the district election issue.”

          The developers for ARC came because their items were on the agenda.

          The developers had materials that they handed the students when they came.”

          To clarify, the students (who were there for a different issue) were handed materials by the developers, and then decided on-the-spot to express support for the development, based upon the information in the flyer?  And, had no prior contact with the developer or related interests, such as a consulting firm?

          Is this what you’re claiming?

          Did the developers single-out students, or were the flyers handed out to everyone?

          Craig:  “No one was paid.”

          So far, no hard evidence has been provided either way.

        10. Rik Keller

          Ron O.: you rightly point out the ludicrousness of the idea that it was just an amazing coincidence that the students were speaking in favor of ARC in front of Council while clutching glossy fliers from the developer.

          There is already an established pipeline to funnel money from developer interests and their political consulting firms directly to organizations like the UC Davis College Democrats. That is what happened with Nishi. It is a “astroturf” strategy that then leads the more credulous among us to claim that students are “mobilizing” behind a certain issue.

        11. Alan Miller

          It is a “astroturf” strategy that then leads the more credulous among us to claim that students are “mobilizing” behind a certain issue.

          CR:  You guys are too much, you act like you’ve discovered the deep state.

          I’m no anti-build, but these guys are right about this student mobilization via the College Democrats.  Deep state.

        12. Alan Miller

          Craig:  “No one was paid.”

          So far, no hard evidence has been provided either way.

          Y’all know how this works, right?  No one is paid, but the organization of activists is given a donation — at least with non-profits receiving there is no need to report.  Even if not given to College Democrats, could be a donation to a coveted non-profit they work with.  I’m not saying that’s what happened here, I’m saying that’s how it happens.  Learned these tricks when lobbying in Sacramento.  Whatever you thought about politics and money, it’s worse that you thought.  How do I know what you thought?  Good question.

        13. Ron Oertel

          Alan M. – Thanks for the clarification.

          You are correct, in that I didn’t fully understand how it works.

          Alan M.   “Whatever you thought about politics and money, it’s worse that you thought.”

          It might be even worse than we all think.  But, no one seems to be fully checking into it.  Rik has come the closest.

          I’m not sure if individuals have also received compensation, for example. I have heard claims to that effect.

          If only there was a “non-profit community watchdog” to look into such issues.

          In any case, I no longer view student activists as “legitimate;y” as I (honestly) once did. Same thing regarding the Davis College Democrats, as well. (I believe this might be the last comment I’m allowed, in this particular article.)

    1. Bill Marshall

      Perhaps violating,

      “don’t bash the VG”,

      When does/did the 5 comment list go into place?  Text implies starting @ 10:52 today, so everyone gets 5 MORE…  today…

      My memory may be failing, but wasn’t that announced two days ago?  For purposes of inquiry, not criticism…

        1. Bill Marshall

          A distinction without a difference… ok.

           If it isn’t posted on a thread, it doesn’t apply. Yet.

          Will wait for “yet”… in the meantime, …

          “Open season” if there is no admonition, right?

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