By Don Gibson
By moving to district elections, Davis has a real opportunity to ensure greater integration and representation for all voices of the Davis community on the City Council. This is particularly crucial for students. It has been 13 years since a UC Davis student or recent graduate has been elected to council, although undergraduate and graduate students represent 32% of all residents or approximately 21,000 individuals in the City of Davis. The student population is more diverse than the average population of Davis thus a student district is likely to be a majority minority district. Below I am proposing a seven-member council with two districts. I’ve designed these districts with underrepresented, renter heavy neighborhoods in mind, thus likely creating majority minority, renter, and student districts.
Although each individual student may not live in Davis beyond their few years as an undergraduate, other students will sit in those very same classroom seats, rent the same apartments, and face the same if not worse problems, if nothing changes.
Traditionally engagement from the undergraduate population in City Council elections has been relatively minor. This is not from a lack of caring for their community or fellow students; just look at the hundreds of clubs and support networks formal and informal students develop. But unfortunately, voting and learning about the community can be difficult. Many of the steps required to cast your ballot are still new to many students because college is often the first chance for many of us to cast a vote. Developing districts focused on the student community can help cultivate leaders, including current and recent graduates, to focus on developing support from this underserved community.
Students need a voice on council. I have personally been supportive of many of the recent actions by the council and happy to see it function productively. However, there is still a clear disconnect between some members of the community and students, whose experience in Davis is different.
After the approval of three student designed apartment complexes in 2018, a City Councilmember said, in essence, “we have done enough for student housing”. Yet due to litigation, two of the three projects have been delayed, and Davis is still expected to have a major housing deficit for years to come.
The renter’s rights ordinances are another example of progress for the City of Davis, but they still do not solve the problem renter’s face. Weak enforcement measures, limited staff support, and no additional protections beyond what state law requires have made this ordinance something that will have a minor impact, preventing some of the worst abuses. A council member with recent experiences as a student renter would be able to share and advocate for specific issues, such as the need to renew leases at times 8 months before the expiration, Craigslist scammers, and the sheer difficulty of finding a room on last minute notice.
Using data provided by the districting vendor, I drafted 7 districts including 2 which are likely to be majority minority, renter, and student.
|Color||District||Estimated 2010 Pop|
|Lime Green||West Davis||9,780|
|Yellow||113 Corridor Minority – Renters – Student||9,330|
|Pink||J Street – Downtown – Minority – Renters – Student||9,760|
|Olive||East Davis – Mace||9,370|
|Orange||South Davis – El Macero||9,730|
For a seven-member district, the mean population should be 9,374 with a 10% deviation being acceptable. Noting the numbers for the estimated population of Cannery was 0 in 2010, the real population will likely be within this acceptable range.
Davis is a wonderful city in large part because of the integration of the University community and all of Davis. Spreading apartments all over the city allowed for the mixing of different parts of our community, longtime residents, new residents, and students. This is in contrast to other communities that are home to a UC campus. One can look at UC Santa Barbara to see how the segregation of their student population led to the creation of Isla Vista, and students not being welcome in the main part of the city of Santa Barbara.
Let’s embrace a progressive attitude that supports all voices of our community being represented on council. We should design our districts so that our student community can have the opportunity to share their issues at the highest level as peers. The student population is an important part of the City of Davis and deserves to be represented within City Council.
Don Gibson is a PhD Candidate in Integrative Genetics & Genomics at UC Davis and Chair of the Joint ASUCD-GSA Housing Task Force