Sunday Commentary: Infill Housing, Close to the University – Two Projects Meet Those Critical Needs

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I caught the most recent column by Rich Rifkin, noting that Davis “talks a good game when it comes to environmental policy.”  But the reality is that those environmental policies are undermined by the failure of the city not only to grow, but not to build high density infill close to the university where people can walk and bike to school and work.

As Mr. Rifkin puts it, “any good Davis has done the past 20 years has been more than undone by anti-growth housing policies.”

He continues: “Thousands of single-family homes and apartments have not been built in Davis this century. Those residences instead were constructed in Woodland, Winters, Dixon and West Sacramento. The people priced out of our city drive to work in Davis and on the UCD campus.

“Their greenhouse gas-emitting cars clog Road 31 every morning on the way to Davis from Winters and every afternoon on the way back; they fill Road 102 and Highway 113 from and to Woodland; they choke I-80 from West Sacramento and Dixon; and they spew exhaust while stuck in the Richards Boulevard nightmare.”

The crux of his point: “No one project will solve the housing shortage that drives the traffic mess that our ‘brown’ anti-growth policies have created. But it would certainly help if we permitted workforce housing projects like the one Reed Youmans wants to build on Olive Drive — next to Design House Furniture.”

We can add the University Commons Project to that.

Both of these projects are exactly what we should be encouraging here in Davis.

The current usages are underutilized – low density, dilapidated.  This would help, along with Lincoln40, to revitalize the Olive Drive corridor that will soon be cut off from I-80, becoming a residential street rather than a mis-configured arterial.

The advantage of the Olive Drive project is first: location.  They are on Olive Drive – an easy walk or bike ride to either the university or downtown.

These are small units.  As Rich Rifkin argues, “[T]hese are not luxury apartments. They will be affordable for Davis workers who make modest money.”

If you own a car and plan to drive it, this is not the place for you to live.  But there are plenty of people who don’t have a car these days.  They take the bus to work from out of town.  They walk or bike in town.

Likewise, the University Commons project seems to be a great idea.  The University Mall has had some success with Trader Joe’s and the Graduate, but for the most part – a predominantly single-level and spread-out mall – it seems underutilized, with many of the businesses coming and going.

The proposal will slightly expand the commercial footprint, while at the same time bringing in over 800 people to live across the street from the university.  That means they will bike or walk to campus rather than drive.

In yesterday’s article, I noted the comments by the BTSSC (Bicycling, Transportation, and Street Safety Commission) which noted support at their November 14 meeting for “the low parking alternative as part of a city goal to reduce GHG emissions and vehicle use.”  They expressed concern about “insufficient involvement by UC Davis,” and argued that “more housing should be built instead of parking.”

Here I would agree with the comments of Todd Edelman, one of the commissioners.  According to the most recent travel studies to the university, only around 30 percent of students drive to the university and only about half have vehicles.  That really suggests that the students living in a place across the street from the university could survive without places to store their vehicle.

Mr. Edelman suggests that the low parking alternative should look into what “what would happen if there were more housing in the same footprint, replacing not only residential parking but also retail parking in both structures and at surface.”

He argues: “This would result in hundreds more people living closer to their destination then they currently do. This would decrease VMT, an argument familiar to those that supported the ‘Nishi 2.0’ project and others. Decreasing VMT is a topic mentioned throughout the DEIR.”

He adds, “Less parking should mean more housing. Parking is a convenience, housing is a necessity. We have a responsibility to both the City and to our regional partner SACOG to take reasonable measures to decrease VMT, and we can decrease it if hundreds more people can live a short and safe distance by foot, bike or bus to the UC Davis campus, and to the other destinations in the area.”

I completely agree – especially at this location.

At this point, the need for student housing has lost a bit of urgency.  The city has approved 4000 or so beds while the university is building another 9500 or so.  That will eventually take the heat off the student housing crisis.

On the other hand, you can argue that Davis will always eventually need more student housing.  One of the nice things with this project is that it is perhaps more flexible than other projects that will be, by design, for students.

I can see the need for good workforce housing here as well as student housing.  And the structure of this design will enable that to happen.

But the biggest draw here is location.  Put as much housing and as high density as reasonable near the university.

Both projects from that standpoint are exactly what we need to do in this community – more high density housing in walking and biking distance from the university.  This is the answer to reducing congestion and reducing our VMT.

That said, I am not suggesting to approve either project sight unseen.  There are certainly some tweaks that can and should occur.  In concept, these projects are what we need.

—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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74 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Infill Housing, Close to the University – Two Projects Meet Those Critical Needs”

  1. Rik Keller

    Let’s talk about housing affordability:

    Here is where things stood a year ago (11/30/2018) on the University Commons project when the developers were stating they wouldn’t build any at all.

    “Brixmor representatives have said given the high cost of vertical mixed-use construction, an affordable component would not be financially feasible and under the city’s current affordable housing rules, such projects are exempt from providing affordable beds or units.”

    These will be luxury student apartments. Furthermore, the development is proposing a new ad hoc land use designation for the site that, as they are implementing it, ends up providing less development capacity for commercial/retail uses than the capacity that exists even under current zoning. This infill development as proposed actually reduces the City’s ability to enhance its sales tax base/revenue. 

    As far as Olive Drive, Rifkin claims that “these are not luxury apartments. They will be affordable for Davis workers who make modest money.” But he provides zero evidence to support this claim—no pricing levels, nothing. The scant information provided by the developer actually shows that the intention is to not even meet the City’s highly-reduced “interim” affordable housing requirements. 

    It will not be affordable to those who “make modest money”. Given the location and configuration if the proposal, it is unlikely to be “workforce“ housing at all.

    Pushing infill housing development that does not actually have strong affordability requirements and merely extends exclusionary pricing levels is exactly what Richard Rothstein (“The Color of Money”) warned against in his talk in town a couple of weeks ago. The Vanguard saw fit to write two articles about that talk, but seems to have forgotten that lesson already.

    Meanwhile, in this article, the Vanguard is also completely ignoring the decidedly anti-infill strategy it has been pushing for months—the peripheral highway-oriented commercial and housing development of MRIC/iARC. If we are looking at economic development opportunities for the City for the next 25 years, a thorough accounting of the vacant, underutilized, and redevelopable commercial/industrial land  within City limits has the capacity to more than meet that need.

     

     

    1. Craig Ross

      Let’s talking about Rik Keller.

      He claims to be a land use expert and then yesterday he criticizes the article for not discussing affordable housing even though there is nothing in the EIR about affordable housing.  We should talk about affordable housing – when the plan comes before the Social Services commission and when it goes before the Council.

      In this comment, he criticizes Rich Rifkin for providing no evidence to support the claim that the housing will be affordable – even though common sense tells us a 415 SF apartment is going to be fairly cheap by Davis standards.  That’s the whole purpose of the design.

      And yet in the same breath seemingly that he criticizes Rifkin, he claims without evidence that the Brixmor apartments will be luxury.

      [Moderator: edited]

    2. Don Shor

      a thorough accounting of the vacant, underutilized, and redevelopable commercial/industrial land within City limits has the capacity to more than meet that need.

      When we were looking for a site for our garden center in 1980, those lots existed. There was no development interest for them then, and there isn’t now. None of the commercial sites in your inventory are slated for any kind of development that I’m aware of. The owners aren’t interested, and the sites are too scattered or awkwardly located to be viable in some cases. So your capacity, as you call it, is not a reality in terms of actual project proposals.

      These will be luxury student apartments.

      They’ll have granite countertops and concierges? I think you are using “luxury” a bit inappropriately here. Newly constructed apartments will not be low cost. I think that’s a given. But I don’t think the builder is planning to build luxury apartments in any common usage of that term.

      1. Rik Keller

        Don Shor said “ These will be luxury student apartments.
        “They’ll have granite countertops and concierges? I think you are using “luxury” a bit inappropriately here. Newly constructed apartments will not be low cost. I think that’s a given. But I don’t think the builder is planning to build luxury apartments in any common usage of that term.”
        Don: the developer told us a year ago that they will not build any affordable units. Pricing levels will likely be at the high end of the local housing market rates. You don’t think a prime location across the street from campus is going to carry a premium price tag?

        In economics a luxury good is an upmarket high-priced good for which demand is directly related to income. Bingo. What sort of “common usage of that term” are you referring to? Would you just prefer to call them “expensive” instead?

        1. Don Shor

          “Luxury” is a marketing term. You are intentionally using it to disparage the project. And you know that. It’s inaccurate.
          Any new apartments of normal size are going to be priced at the high end of the housing market for those units, with prices reflecting what prevails at the time they open. People don’t build apartments to rent them at low cost.
          If you want cheaper apartments, they need to be smaller or you need to mandate that they be cheaper. If you mandate too much of it, the builders won’t build. They’ll invest their money in some other project or some other place.

      2. Ron Oertel

         

        Don:  “There was no development interest for them then, and there isn’t now. None of the commercial sites in your inventory are slated for any kind of development that I’m aware of. So your capacity, as you call it, is not a reality in terms of actual project proposals.”

        Hence, the interest in residential development on prime farmland, outside of city limits.  Including single-family housing, at ARC.

        With 4,340 parking spaces, to serve the freeway-oriented development.

        The truth is that commercial development can’t stand on its own merits, from the developers’ point of view. All evidence points to that.

        1. Rik Keller

          Ron O. stated

          “The truth is that commercial development can’t stand on its own merits, from the developers’ point of view. All evidence points to that.”

          That evidence includes Ramos and the other MRIC developers pulling their project immediately on the release of the fiscal analysis showing the project was not financially feasible.

          They then have returned a couple years later this ARC proposal adding substantially to the residential acreage (and the single family housing component thereof) in a ploy to try to make the project feasible.

          They have also tried to sneak in a huge reduction in parkland/open space at only about 1/3 of City development standards/requirements.

          Also, despite no further plans to address alternative transportation modes, they are proposing a massive reduction in the parking spaces required, far below City standards and the needs of the car traffic the project will generate.

          Don Shor  and the Vanguard are trying to walk a path that states that we need this proposal to meet demand for commercial space. Yet that demand is not sufficient to make the research/office park feasible without adding in a huge residential component and a hotel.  At the same time, as Don admits, viable vacant, underutilized, and redevelopable  property within the city already doesn’t have sufficient demand for development either: “None of the commercial sites in your inventory are slated for any kind of development that I’m aware of.”

           

          1. Don Shor

            At the same time, as Don admits, viable vacant, underutilized, and redevelopable property within the city already doesn’t have sufficient demand for development either: “None of the commercial sites in your inventory are slated for any kind of development that I’m aware of.”

            That is a false characterization of my statement. I don’t consider those sites viable.

        2. Craig Ross

          “ That evidence includes Ramos and the other MRIC developers pulling their project immediately on the release of the fiscal analysis showing the project was not financially feasible.”

          That’s not an accurate statement in so many ways.

        3. Ron Oertel

          Rik:  Yeap.

          At a certain point, the arguments become so ludicrous that even supporters have to throw in the towel.  Especially when they’re providing their own evidence which contradicts what they claim.

        4. Rik Keller

          Ron O.: and as the literature and studies show, from a national perspective these types of research/office parks massively underperform the economic development benefits they promise.

          It’s been done before, and what we are seeing here is return of the Ramos bait-and-switch playbook.

           

        5. Rik Keller

          Ron O:

          Even the Vanguard covered it this way back in April 2016:

          “As explained in the press release, the 212-acre proposed project at the northeast corner of Mace Boulevard and Interstate 80, with its anticipated 5900 jobs and $2.2 million to $6 million in ongoing revenue, was put on hold based on the new EPS (Economic & Planning Systems, Inc.) report which concluded that “the project might not be feasible…”

          And Ramos is described as saying “ that the major concern was the fiscal viability of the project…”

          And also “ Through this process we’ve concluded that one way to make the center more feasible is to include workforce housing…”

          It is very clear that there isn’t sufficient commercial demand for the project to make it feasible. Instead they are adding in housing  (and trying to boost the single family housing percentage), and using a marketing term “workforce” when there  are no affordability provisions or anything else that would target it to the research/office park workers. It is simply a ploy to try to fool the gullible.

           

           

           

        6. Rik Keller

          Don Shor stated “I don’t consider those sites viable.” 

          It is clear from the analysis done to date that the ARC site is not viable for the research/office park uses proposed. There is simply not sufficient market demand.

          This is the reason that the developer is adding in residential, hotel, and retail uses. Classic Ramos bait-and switch strategy.

        7. Mark West

          “Don admits, viable vacant, underutilized, and redevelopable  property within the city already doesn’t have sufficient demand for development”

          No, he said the owners of the properties had no interest in developing their land. He said nothing about demand or interest.

          Last I checked, you cannot force landowners to develop their properties unless the City uses an eminent domain claim which isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

           

        8. Rik Keller

          Mark West said: “No, he said the owners of the properties had no interest in developing their land. He said nothing about demand or interest.”

          Really? All the owners? Of all of the dozens of vacant/underutilized/redevelopable parcels in town? For the next 25 years? This sounds like just more anecdotal stories rather than actual data.

      3. Richard McCann

        I agree, Don. Based on the study I posted last year, the cost of aggregating small lots to get to a larger developable lot will increase the land 15% to 40% (to say nothing of the delay from multiple transactions that further adds to the cost of money.)

        1. Rik Keller

          McCann stated “Based on the study I posted last year, the cost of aggregating small lots to get to a larger developable lot will increase the land 15% to 40% ”

          Yet the infrastructure costs are so large for the ARC site that it makes it infeasible and not viable to develop for research/office park uses.

          Until the City  actually does a feasibility study for its existing vacant, redevelopable/underutilized commercial/industrial sites, you are just guessing. And making bad ones at that.

        2. Mark West

          “Until the City  actually does a feasibility study for its existing vacant, redevelopable/underutilized commercial/industrial sites, you are just guessing.”

          Why should the City do a feasibility study on land it does not control? What a complete waste of time and resources. Unless, of course, Rik Keller is proposing that the City use Eminent Domain to “expropriate private property for public use.” I’ll await his reply with bated breath.

        3. Rik Keller

          Mark West stated “Why should the City do a feasibility study on land it does not control? What a complete waste of time and resources.”

          One reason is that the City stated that is the next step after conducting a basic inventory. Another is that is is the standard thing to do if the city is truly serious about pursuing a scattered-site infill strategy, which it has stated it is. It is good, smart public policy process because it would provide actual real information rather than the falsehoods that you like to spread. I can see why you would be so opposed.

        4. Rik Keller

          Mark West: when the City completed an initial vacant commercial land inventory in January, there were about 125 acres identified. While the Vanguard immediately set to work conducting an amateur-level crossing-out of as many of those properties as possible in order to push the same line that you are pushing that we don’t have adequate land available for the next 20-25 years for economic development purposes, it immediately forgot some key information including that the inventory “does not include city owned property, commercially viable property outside of the city limits, or those properties that may be zoned commercially but underutilized and therefore pose potential redevelopment opportunities like the PG&E corporation yard for example.” As someone who has conducted dozens of long-term buildable land inventories for cities and counties, in order to conduct a realistic appraisal, you have to look not only at vacant land, but also underutilized, and redevelopable land as well. And you don’t just look at what is available now, but look down the road 10- 20- years and develop sensitivity models for the likelihood of development given changing economic conditions and demographics.

          As opposed to your myopic head-in-the-sand approach, the City stated that the inventory completed in January was “the starting point for preparing analysis of what vacant commercially designated lands offer in potential commercial square footage available for economic development. Staff would like to return to Council with an in-depth discussion of this vacant commercial land inventory in the context of the City and the region, the potential uses and theoretic commercial square footage capacity of the undeveloped land, and recommendations for next steps on using this and other key information to build an economic development strategy that aligns with the goals of the Council.

          That’s all a good public policy direction and the City should push forward on completing this as soon as possible. But of course, you just characterized it as “a complete waste of time and resources.”

          So Mark, if you actually want real information, why don’t you join me in pushing for this analysis to be completed? Unless you are scared about what it might conclude…

        5. Mark West

          Rik baby, you still haven’t told me what “what ‘falsehoods” have I spread.”

          The City has no reason to do a feasibility study on land it does not control. If the property owner does not want to develop their land it is functionally ‘off the table.’ There are City-owned lands that I believe should be considered for redevelopment, but that is a policy decision that I have little influence over and not what you are advocating.

          Once again, please, oh please, Rik Keller, tell me what falsehoods have I spread?

           

           

           

        6. Rik Keller

          Oh Mark, you have been spreading all sorts of falsehoods about how much land there is available to develop. And we now have you down on record as opposing further analysis of the information we do have to get a better handle on actual development capacity to support the City’s economic development strategies. Heaven forbid, we have real vetted information to work with rather than whatever you are telling us!

          I don’t know why you are opposing the following, but you are. Let it never be said about you that you want the City to have better information in order to build a viable economic development strategy!

          “…the starting point for preparing analysis of what vacant commercially designated lands offer in potential commercial square footage available for economic development. Staff would like to return to Council with an in-depth discussion of this vacant commercial land inventory in the context of the City and the region, the potential uses and theoretic commercial square footage capacity of the undeveloped land, and recommendations for next steps on using this and other key information to build an economic development strategy that aligns with the goals of the Council.

    3. Rik Keller

      Rifkin and Greenwald both claim without evidence that the Olive Lane project will be affordable. Greenwald went as far as to claim in a previous article that the rents would likely be $4oo for the affordable units and $500 for the market rare units.

      Lets talk about that based on the information that the developer has actually provided.
      For one, the project is not even correctly described in the City’s Staff Report. The application itself stamp-dated August 7 states states 20 of the units will be Low and Moderate Income (28% of 72 units, or 26% of 76 units. However, the Staff Report deceptively doesn’t even mention the Moderate Income units and instead states that they are all Low Income units.
      A casual observer would think that this project is geared to providing a large amount of affordable housing, but the project application is likewise being deceptive when it states that it  is providing “almost double the current number of affordable units required.” It isn’t. Assuming it is a 50/50 split, then the 10 Low-Income units (13% of 76 units total) would not even meet the City’s highly-weakened interim affordable housing requirement of 15%. And it proposes not to have any Extremely Low Income (ELI) or Very Low-Income (VLI) units which are required at 5% each as part of the 15%.The City has no current requirement for moderate-income units.
      Given that the actual 2019 Low-Income rent level cap for a 1-bedroom unit (up to 80% of Area Median Income(AMI)) in Yolo County is $1,320, and that the developer states that only 13-14% of the units will reach this target, there is a strong indication that projected rents for the market-rate will be well in excess of that.
      The small percentage of  “moderate-income” units the developer proposes, for example, could have rents as high as $1,650.
      As a comparison to the Nishi project, because the project leases by the bed, the projected lease rates in 2018 for a double-occupancy ‘market’ rate bedroom were $1,700. It would not be surprising to see this new project try to approach Nishi levels at $1,700 per bedroom. In comparison, the BAE Urban Economics 2018 Apartment Vacancy and Rental Rate Survey states that average rents in Davis for 1-bedroom units in 2018 was $1,367. The proposed Olive Lane project looks like it will be far from the affordable “workforce” housing that its developer is claiming and will instead be at the high-end of rental rates in the City. 

       
       

      1. Rik Keller

        As detailed by the evidence in the above, the developer of the Olive Lane project is not planning price-points anywhere close to the fantasyland $400-500 rents that Greenwald has projected. The developer has thus far proposed an “affordable” housing breakdown where only 13-14% of the units would be below the moderate-income threshold for a 1-bedroom unit of $1,650.

        As for vague arguments that the Vanguard and Rifkin have put forth that they would be “affordable by design,” this ignores the reality that, by and large, smaller units are much more expensive on a per-area basis than larger units. 

        The reasons for this include the fact that kitchens and bathrooms are the most costly rooms in a dwelling to construct, and, combined with the increased costs of infrastructure such as HVAC as well as access stairways and so forth, small 1-bedroom and studio/efficiency apartments with their own kitchens are the most expensive apartment type to produce on a per-floor-area basis.

         
        Even reducing apartment floor area by a large percentage typically results in minimal overall cost per unit savings. “Affordability by design” is a false promise.

        If the developer of Olive Lane was able to achieve cost-savings and affordability through “design,” the project would have already announced them. Instead, the project proposes to not not even meet the City’s weakened “interim” affordability requirements. Ipso facto.

        1. Craig Ross

          That sounds convincing.  The problem is it doesn’t factor in the real world.  Who is going to rent a 415 sf apartment when they can get one twice the size for not much more – unless it’s a lot cheaper?  That’s the problem that Rik is avoiding here.  Unlike Rik, the developers here have to cost this out, have to have investors and such examine their proposal and they have to make it pencil out.

      1. Rik Keller

        McCann stated: “you’ve taken the wrong message away from Rothstein”

        You are completely incorrect. In its second article on the talk, the Vanguard  included one of Rothstein’s primary policy prescriptions: combining eliminating exclusionary large-lot single family zoning with strong inclusionary requirements so that increased housing and density is actually affordable. Here’s a direct quote ” Combine that with inclusionary requirements to make sure that we don’t simply increase density for the benefit of the middle class…”

        You should probably update your blog. Have you even read the links you assembled? In the very first one, the abstract itself  concludes with “Government intervention is critical to ensure that supply is added at prices affordable to a range of incomes.” This is exactly the point that Rothstein made and that I support, and that you have decided to argue against.

  2. Ron Glick

    “I can see the need for good workforce housing here as well as student housing.  And the structure of this design will enable that to happen.”

    Why? It is already congested with student housing with another 13000 units in the pipeline. Workforce housing doesn’t need to be in such close proximity to UCD except for UCD employees.

    What makes me sad is what we have lost through densification. We have lost a suburban-rural lifestyle of single family homes with gardens. The days of bragging about your tomatoes, oranges or figs and sharing produce with your neighbors is being lost except for the few who live in the older parts of town that were built when Davis would build as needed without all the hoopla.

    Meanwhile, if you drive around the periphery of Davis you see all these great estates, built on 40 acre parcels for the most wealthy, that we are protecting supposedly for agriculture commodity production. Then beyond the estates, in leapfrog development, the single family homes for the young, married, well educated, employed, taxpaying, children bearing people any normal community considers the foundation of a healthy society.

    A friend just moved the family to a brand new home in Spring Lake right near a beautiful new elementary school after living in Davis since arriving more than a decade ago as a student and earning a doctorate from UCD. We will see how long she keeps her 3 beautiful kids in the Davis schools. The unintended consequences of Davis’ housing policies make me sad.

    Vote no on Measure R’s renewal.

    1. Rik Keller

      Ron G.: what we are seeing is the result of years of UCD dramatically increasing enrollment rates while not adequately providing on-campus housing for its students. This exogenous demand then gets pushed to the city of Davis, making it less and less able to provide for its most critical internal housing need as identified in its planning policy documents: workforce housing.

      Combine that dynamic with the projects that get pushed by developers and championed by the Vanguard—most recently Nishi and WDAAC, that are luxury student and luxury senior housing, respectively—and we get further and further from providing needed affordable workforce and family housing. These are all lost opportunities. And the Vanguard is pushing for more of the same.

    2. Don Shor

      A friend just moved the family to a brand new home in Spring Lake right near a beautiful new elementary school after living in Davis since arriving more than a decade ago as a student and earning a doctorate from UCD. We will see how long she keeps her 3 beautiful kids in the Davis schools.

      I have lots of customers coming from Spring Lake these days, and demographically they are the same sort of folks who were buying homes in Mace Ranch twenty years ago. If you have a young family and want a yard, you’re not buying in Davis because there is no housing inventory for you even if you could afford it. So they’re moving to Woodland. Meanwhile, Davis homeowners are getting older and the renters are getting younger, and there is less of the middle. It’s not sustainable for the city’s schools or finances.

      1. Ron Oertel

        The truth is that nothing that Davis approves would stop Woodland from growing right up to their voter-approved, overly-generous urban limit line.

        Ultimately, one can only make a difference if one has some ability to do so.  In most valley cities, this ability simply does not exist.  Woodland pretty much “qualifies” as a place where those who prefer slow growth are (for the most part) ignored.

        Some folks in Woodland even want the government to pay for levee improvements, so that the deep-water floodplain on the east side of town (toward Sacramento) can be developed. (And, this has nothing to do with “overflow” of Davis growth.)

        I believe, however, that Spring Lake is (also) “freeing up” single-family housing in Davis, as some older folks vacate Davis for Spring Lake.  (The same concept as WDAAC.)

        It’s unfortunate (for both Woodland and Davis – as well as the environment) that Davis schools encourage attendance of those living in Woodland – and without paying their fair share to do so.

        1. Ron Oertel

          I was responding to Don’s comment (who was in turn) responding to Ron G.’s comment.  Both of whom were responding to David’s article, in which he cited Rich Rifkin.  All of whom made comments regarding surrounding communities.

          I would agree that this particular proposal (regarding the University Mall housing project) doesn’t have much to do with Woodland (or any other surrounding community).  Therefore, your comment might be better-directed at David’s article, for bringing it up in the first place.

      2. Rik Keller

        Don Shor stated “ Meanwhile, Davis homeowners are getting older and the renters are getting younger, and there is less of the middle. It’s not sustainable for the city’s schools or finances.”

        Agreed! And recent developments championed by the Vanguard—Nishi and WDAAC, expensive/luxury student and senior housing, respectively—only exacerbate this situation.

  3. Ron Oertel

    Although we’re not privy to the developers’ analysis, it seems to me (on the face of it) that a large-scale development such as University Mall ought to be able to (at least) meet the minimal Affordable housing standards that Davis recently implemented. And that they do so without resorting to the “shell-game” that seems to predominate such proposals, these days.

    Especially if there’s any claims that this would house “workers”.  (Who, by the way, are limited in their employment opportunities if they don’t have vehicles.)

    Here’s an opportunity to meet SACOG requirements (for Affordable housing), as well. Isn’t that a “critical need” for Davis?

  4. Tia Will

    Things may have changed since the initial outreach to the public regarding the Cannery. However, I doubt it. At that time I attended the first large public outreach meeting. I asked what I thought was a simple question. I wanted an estimate of the range of prices that would be charged for the single-family units that the developers/investors were using in their proposal. Obviously they must have had some idea or they would have had no numbers to see what “penciled out”. A phrase they love to use. First they denied having such estimates. Then, when I persisted, said they would not want to “mislead”me. They did not budge from this position, despite others in the audience saying they would like to hear those numbers as well. Getting no response, I pulled out some numbers I had brought from the then-current prices of comparable structures in town and presented the range. After a bit of hemming and hawing, the city manager admitted they had seen some preliminary numbers and mine were probably close.

    Why am I bothering to write this? Because in reading the article and posted comments, no numbers are in play. The words “affordable” and “workforce” are bandied about without anyone presenting any ( even speculative) numbers.  Honestly, I do not even know if we are talking about the same thing. And cannot know without some agreed-upon range. Which in my mind is not the fault of the commenters. It is built into the way projects are presented. When you go to buy a plant from Don, you know what the price is. Now he may be willing to bargain a bit but you at least have his estimate of cost. Developers are unwilling to make public any estimate, at least to the public, until a project is well along the path to city approval leaving those who will be affected by the project unable to make a decision with regard to a project that will, not might, affect their lives significantly.

    1. Craig Ross

      Think about it this way.  The Cannery was approved in 2013.  So that means your meeting was likely in 2011 or 2012.  If that’s the case, even if they had estimated the cost of apartments in 2011 or 2012, it would have no bearing on current costs.  That’s why they don’t do it.

      1. Alan Miller

        Think about it this way.  The Cannery was approved in 2013.  So that means your meeting was likely in 2011 or 2012.  If that’s the case, even if they had estimated the cost of apartments in 2011 or 2012, it would have no bearing on current costs.  That’s why they don’t do it.

        I take it you didn’t major in business or economics.

    2. Rik Keller

      Tia: I strongly agree with your comment. And we are seeing the same process play out with the current round of proposals.

      The University Commons developers have claimed that providing any affordable housing in their project would not be financially feasible, yet provide no evidence to support these claims.

      The Olive Lane developer has stated the target is affordable workforce housing, yet the project is proposing to not even meet the minimal weakened City affordability requirements. In another comment on this thread I have provided data about what the affordability thresholds actually are in terms of rent levels for the unit size. These clearly demonstrate that the project will not be doing what it claims it is doing. And it goes a long way in explaining why the developer has not released actual projected rent levels.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Rik:  The University Commons developers have claimed that providing any affordable housing in their project would not be financially feasible, yet provide no evidence to support these claims.

        The Olive Lane developer has stated the target is affordable workforce housing, yet the project is proposing to not even meet the minimal weakened City affordability requirements.

        Both of these developments are already saving a ton of money (and simultaneously maximizing revenue from rental units) by shifting impacts of their own parking needs onto surrounding neighborhoods.

        And now, they (also) don’t want to provide Affordable housing – needed to meet SACOG requirements, for one thing. 

        (And, David apparently supports that plan.)

        Other than the straight-out development activists, does anyone actually think this is a good plan? And if so, where are they proposing Affordable housing? (Perhaps on some prime farmland adjacent to a freeway – outside of city limits?)

    3. Mark West

      Financial projections for prospective projects such as these are proprietary and subject to non-disclosure agreements. For the life of me, I don’t understand how you (or anyone) can believe that you have a right to know the information in advance unless you are putting your own money on the line and have signed the NDA.

      Your analogy using Don’s business is wanting. The best estimate that Don could have given you for the future price of one of his products in advance of his project being approved by the City was the current market rate for that product. A rational approach to assessing a new housing development would do the same, assume market rates per square foot, biased towards new construction being at the high-end simply because it is new.

    1. Ron Oertel

      That’s for a bed “time-share”.

      (Hope I didn’t just inadvertently provide another “idea” regarding how to address Affordable housing requirements.)

      1. Rik Keller

        Ron O. said:

        That’s for a bed “time-share”.

        (Hope I didn’t just inadvertently provide another “idea” regarding how to address Affordable housing requirements.)

        You probably did! The developers have figured out they can make a lot more per room if they lease by the bed rather than leasing the unit as a whole. So, I would assume that a “timeshare” bed arrangement with an equally steep premium is the next frontier to skirt affordable housing requirements while increasing profit margins.

  5. Alan Miller

    At this point, the need for student housing has lost a bit of urgency.  The city has approved 4000 or so beds while the university is building another 9500 or so.  That will eventually take the heat off the student housing crisis.

    I’ll believe that when the vacancy rate hits 5%.

  6. Ron Oertel

    I suspect that there will come a point in time in which enrollment at UCD is no longer growing (and might even shrink).  Here’s an article that immediately popped-up, as the first item in an Internet search: 

    College enrollment in the U.S. has decreased for the eighth consecutive year, according to new data released Thursday by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The report covers 97 percent of enrollments at degree-granting postsecondary institutions that are eligible to receive federal financial aid.

    States with the largest decrease in student enrollment numbers were Florida, California, Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to the center, in that order.

    https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2019/05/30/college-enrollment-declines-continue

    1. Don Shor

      Freshman and transfer enrollment dropped this year, but UCD filled in with graduate and professional student enrollment. I suggest not counting on UCD enrollment dropping any time in the near future. The one thing they’ve been very good at is meeting their enrollment goals.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Looks like the situation (on a much broader/deeper level) is changing.  It remains to be seen how it will impact UCD.

        Perhaps it will at least result in a leveling-off of enrollment. And as you noted, freshman and transfer enrollments have already dropped.

        In a sense, it’s not unlike the situation with Davis grade schools (where some refuse to accept reality – to the point of damaging the city itself).

  7. Ron Oertel

    Actually, it turns out that there’s quite a few articles regarding the expected decline in college students, based upon demographics alone.

    “College students predicted to fall by more than 15% after the year 2025.”

    “Students are going to be a hot commodity, a scarce resource,” said Grawe.” 

    https://hechingerreport.org/college-students-predicted-to-fall-by-more-than-15-after-the-year-2025/

    Looks like the decline is expected to be less at top-rated schools, but that they still will be impacted.

    I’d call this “good news” for students, as well as those who are concerned about uncontrolled growth. But, not-so-good-news, for development interests (and perhaps even universities, themselves).

    Maybe, just maybe – we’re moving toward a sustainable future?

    1. Richard McCann

      Enrollment may decline at the lower tier schools and the expensive liberal arts colleges (we already saw this story in the 1980s and 90s). UCD will not be particularly impacted, as they were not back then.

  8. Ron Oertel

    I really like this quote, as well:

    “The basic problem is that colleges actually impart directly employable skills for only a very modest portion of the college population (such as engineering and accounting majors) and that employers hiring high paid workers feel they need someone with more than a degree from the College of Last Resort.”

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardvedder/2018/07/05/academic-deserted-villages/#7031f3885121

    Maybe folks are finally catching on regarding the value of degrees – in addition to the declining birthrate.

    1. Richard McCann

      That part is probably true. I work with a program focused on career tech education (CTE) and I see the value if students are technically trained in high school. But again, this will not affect the top tier colleges and their enrollment will remain high, which includes UCD.

  9. Todd Edelman

    Well, it’s nice to be extensively quoted and all about “University Commons” – and sorry to get to this late – but I want to be clear that my arguments presented above do not intend to discount affordability issues. I appreciate primarily Rik’s position. I like to be holistic in my thinking and would say that environmental sustainability without equity is nothing more than a real estate marketing slogan. While housing only for wealthier people is an obvious issue, so is putting adults in shared rooms.

    This is a great location for mixed use… and mixed housing. It could be a kind of Downtown West etc LOL to use a marketing slogan. Obviously it’s a great location for single UCD students, but it’s also good for UCD students, faculty or staff who have kids: Cesar Chavez is 5 min away by bike, DHS a little further. Downtown close by transit or bicycle, or a nice long walk through campus.

    My full response prepared for the BTSSC meeting actually was edited a bit for my comments to the Planning Commission, and it questions the whole formal structure for the EIR. Leaping off that into scare-the-unimaginative territory: This is functionally a part of campus, so UC Davis should help fund it! This would dramatically increase their responsibility and would further integrate UC Davis students into the real world, in appropriate housing and other structures (in more than one sense of the term). Most university students in most cities around the planet do not live in dorms.

    But I truly think that the whole design is inherently bad and old school. The whole block between the main streets and the residential neighborhood should be torn down, with the exception of Trader Joe’s BUT only if something can be built above it. The gas station has no place here — it needs to be relocated next to 113.

    In it’s place, a kind of rectangular ring with businesses fronting the noisy streets and residences inside and around a central courtyard that provides both adult conviviality opportunities connecting to dining establishments etc. and a play space for children. Five or six stories, with direct sunlight for all residences. Housing with small bedrooms in large apartments, and smaller apartments with master bedrooms and two to three small bedrooms designed in a way for neighbors to share children.

    The crazy demand for housing and proximity to most things adds up to the conclusion that with very few exceptions no one will be allowed a private car here… and that is okay. Lots of businesses, lots of diverse housing. The current design is backwards about half-way in time from the 1950’s original until now. A 1980’s design is inappropriate. This project needs to be stopped – that should be the common opinion about this aggregate wreck of ideas.

    1. Rik Keller

      Todd E. stated “But I truly think that the whole design is inherently bad and old school.”

      I fully agree with this. The developers haven’t taken the time to re-imagine what the site could be, and in both the uses and configuration they are ending up with a similar setup as before, just with a bunch of student housing slapped on top. For example, the frontage along Russell is still more parking lot than anything else–it looks like it just retains a retrograde stripmall auto-oriented vibe.

      Your design concept sounds more more appealing aesthetically and functionally.

      1. Richard McCann

        Rik, I’ll ask again–what is your vision for this site and other sites that is financially viable and achieves increased housing affordability for thousands (not hundreds) of residents? You still haven’t answered the question which I’ve asked for more than a year. You’re playing the game “Bring me a rock. Oh, not that rock. Bring me another rock.” At least from Todd we see a vision (which I think could be viable so long as not too many property restrictions are imposed.)

        BTW, where do you propose that Affordable housing funding come from since redevelopment agencies were dissolved?

        1. Ron Oertel

          Developers would need to “open their books”, to know the answers to that. Some of them are among the richest people on the face of the earth. (And, they didn’t get that way from attending college and working for a living.)

          Our president is one of them.

          There’s others (locally) who are apparently quite wealthy, as well. (At least one of whom is pretty well-known.)

        2. Ron Oertel

          By the way, wasn’t there a situation a few years back in which one of the local developers claimed that their small proposal wouldn’t “pencil out” unless a city-owned greenbelt was included in the development?

          And lo and behold, this turned out to be “not-so-accurate”, as the development was ultimately built without the inclusion of the city-owned site?

          (Basing this on memory, about the time I started reading this blog.)

        3. Rik Keller

          McCann: typical rock-banging strawman argument from you.

          Did you not see where I stated that I agreed both with Todd’s assessment that it is a retrograde development lacking affordability and where I liked his vision for it? Did you not see where I provided an assessment of the amount more of retail (and tax base) that could be provided if they weren’t taking away commercial potential in order to house the students that UC Davis won’t. Did you not see where I provided an assessment of the economic development potential of the site if the City went that route? Do you have anything to offer the discussion other than links to your own blog where you unwittingly provide links to authors that contradict you?

           

  10. Rik Keller

    Did anyone else notice the irony that this article uses a bunch of photos of bicycle parking equipment to illustrate it, but the Olive Drive proposal is not proposing providing anything more than the bare minimum of bicycle parking required by City Code, which is hugely deficient for a project that is supposedly reliant on alternative transportation modes.

    1. Todd Edelman

      Rik Keller wrote

      bunch of photos of bicycle parking equipment

      Indeed. I noticed this before the BTSSC meeting and it seems like it was just slapped together by a well-meaning intern following orders or a boring dog right before the deadline – I didn’t comment on it then as there were important issues. The plan has long-term residential bike parking on every residential level, i.e. aside from ground level.  (I did mention the elevator will need to be very large for this, which can mean as a result 20 less square feet on every level than they were planning.)

      It’s convenient if one needs to on- or off-load cargo or kids onto a bike to have it on the same floor, plus it might make it at least feel more secure, but the majority of bike rides do not involve cargo and for some it might be preferred to have a bike at street level so that one can just use stairs, and not be dependent on the elevator. But there’s no residential bike parking planned for street level, only short-term parking. It’s really annoying to have the only secure parking for multiple trips per day to be elevator-independent, (OK, sporty bikes can go up and down the stairs easily… if the parking as easy-to-use stairs!)

      Conclusion: These people* have little-to-no clue, though some upper level parking might be cool.  Bonus realpolitik conclusion: If I suggested all those details at a BTSSC meeting it would likely be seen as “too prescriptive”.

      * Come to think of it, the developers present were mostly silent at our BTSSC encounter; only Eric Lee and Greg Behrens from Fehr & Peers spoke, I think..

  11. Ron Glick

    “Ron G.: what we are seeing is the result of years of UCD dramatically increasing enrollment rates while not adequately providing on-campus housing for its students. This exogenous demand then gets pushed to the city of Davis, making it less and less able to provide for its most critical internal housing need as identified in its planning policy documents: workforce housing.”

    Not the entire story. After Davis told UC it didn’t want to grow around 2000, by passing Measure J and electing a no growth council, UC hired away John Meyer from the city to start building the housing on campus. The residents of West Davis, including Dan Carson, objected and sued UC over West Village impeding construction on campus for many years.

    Laying the shortage of housing at the feet of UC alone leaves out a lot of history.

  12. Rik Keller

    Ron G, stated “After Davis told UC it didn’t want to grow around 2000, by passing Measure J and electing a no growth council…”
    That’s interesting, but not the entire story either.
    – from 200o to 201o, the city of Davis population grew at an annual average (compound) rate of 0.85%
    – From 2000-2010, California’s population grew at an annual rate of 0.96% per year, and the U.S population grew at 0.93% per year

    What really happened is that Davis closely tracked state and national growth trends (and continued to do so from 2010 to the present). If you want to look at housing units growth instead, see this article I wrote: https://www.davisvanguard.org/2018/10/comparison-regional-housing-growth-housing-cost-increases/

    As shown in Table 1:

    – from 2010 to 2017, city of Davis housing  grew at an annual average (compound) rate of 0.48%
    – From 2010-2017, California’s population grew at an annual rate of 0.50% per year, and the U.S population grew at 0.59% per year
    – of the selection of areas in the region listed, there were only two jurisdictions (Rancho Cordova and Roseville) that had annual housing growth rates higher than 1% from 2010-2017.

    Meanwhile UC Davis enrollment rate skyrocketed such that from 2010-2017 the enrollment growth rate was about 4 times the statewide (and Davis’s ) population growth rate and 6 times the statewide (and Davis’s) housing growth rate.

    To place that in context, UC Davis broke ground on West Village in 2009.

    Caution: if you go into the comments of that article, you will people like Don Shor and Richard McCann in post after post desperately arguing against the validity of the dataset I used (which is s standard in the industry for housing price/cost analysis) because they didn’t like what the data shows.

     

    1. Richard McCann

      I would hope that the UC enrollment grows as multiples of the state population growth rate! That means that we are better educating our youth and better ensuring our economic future. I don’t want to deny young people that same educational benefit that you and I have gained. Do you want to deny them that opportunity? That’s exactly how I interpret your statements–you just want to keep your privilege.

      BTW, you cherry pick your data which is why Don and I call you on your subterfuge. And Don and I have shown exactly why your interpretation is wrong with quantitative analysis. We are not just blowing smoke making speculative statements. That both Don and I find these problems is telling.

      1. Ron Oertel

        The U.S. birthrate fell again in 2018, to 3,788,235 births — representing a 2% drop from 2017. It’s the lowest number of births in 32 years, according to a new federal report. The numbers also sank the U.S. fertility rate to a record low.

        https://www.npr.org/2019/05/15/723518379/u-s-births-fell-to-a-32-year-low-in-2018-cdc-says-birthrate-is-at-record-level

        There’s certainly a lot of articles on the Internet regarding the impact this will have on college enrollments.  However, it does seem likely that it will have a greater impact on less-prestigious schools, first.

      2. Rik Keller

        Richard McCann stated: “I don’t want to deny young people that same educational benefit that you and I have gained. Do you want to deny them that opportunity”

        Typical strawman argument from McCann. Par for the course.

        “you cherry pick your data…”

        Typical baseless accusation from McCann with any supporting evidence. True to form. It’s funny that you think population and housing data straight from the Census is “cherry picked”.

        (P.S. Don Shor thought the source of my housing cost data itself was faulty, so you can’t even get his accusations straight)

         

  13. Jim Frame

    We interrupt our regularly scheduled bickering for a bit of pedantry:

    Greenwald quoting Rifkin:  But it would certainly help if we permitted workforce housing projects like the one Reed Youmans wants to build on Olive Drive — next to Design House Furniture.

    Well, *almost* next to Design House.  Davis Mobile Estates has a 35′ entrance/exit drive separating the two.

    We now return you to our regularly scheduled catfight.

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