by Mary Martinez
My name is, Maria Martinez, and am the External Vice President of ASUCD. Davis is in a desperate housing shortage, making it difficult for students to afford college, find a safe,comfortable place to study, and makes us vulnerable to bad faith landlords. I urge the Davis City Council to approve the University Commons proposal since it will help alleviate the housing shortage.
I was born to Salvadoran refugees in DC and later grew up in the Central Valley. They worked hard for me to grow and become a first-generation college student. UC Davis has allowed me to further my education and plan out a future career.
My story is not unique. The UC Davis student community is a majority of students of color. First-generation college students now account for 40% of our undergraduate population. However, many of us, including myself, struggle to find housing. Worse so, those with economically disadvantaged backgrounds are often forced to live in cramped conditions because there are so few options.
Just last week, my friend was complaining about how they would fit seven girls into a 3-bedroom apartment. For the longest time, I did not know anyone who had a single room. For all of the discussion around “mini-dorms,” it’s not that we want to live packed into these conditions, there simply are not enough places to live. This fact is often lost, including by members of the City’s Planning Commission.
Back in May, many student leaders were saddened to find out that the Planning Commission rejected recommending the University Commons proposal 7-0. In response, ASCUD studied the project, and had it evaluated by our internal commission, the Environmental Policy and Planning Commission (EPPC). EPPC’s analysis made it abundantly evident that the project was in a perfect location for new housing by being adjacent to campus with multiple bus lanes and reducing dependence on cars. ASUCD officially endorsed the proposal at our last meeting of the year in June.
As someone with my identity, I notice when there is a lack of representation on governing bodies. Furthermore, when a body is making decisions, those most impacted should be put at center stage in the discussion; in this case, potential renters not homeowners who are housing secure.
The Davis School District is currently undergoing the reckoning of a lack of broad based representation.. With a school district comprised of almost 50% of students of color, having someone from that community is essential to serve on their board. In the same vein, the Planning Commission does not reflect the full diversity of Davis, especially the diverse student body at UCD.
Worst of all, I read language that acts as if students are a burden. Some say all students should just live on campus, as if Davis would be better off with no students.
Davis students are the lifeblood of a prosperous Davis. Our dollars support retail throughout the town, and students would help revitalize the University Mall area if we lived on site.
During our unprecedented shutdown, many friends of mine left Davis for Spring Quarter. Without our shopping dollars, Davis businesses are suffering. If the campus is mostly online in Fall Quarter, even more students will forgo coming to Davis. This unfortunate time is just another reminder that successful local businesses and a vibrant university all need the students.
UC Davis students are just as much of the community as those who may have lived here all their lives. However, the housing shortage hits us students the hardest, yet we are not the decision-makers in this process.
I do not have every answer to solving the housing crisis, but I do know that to reject dense housing next to campus is the wrong answer. Less housing only increases the risk of housing insecurity and student homelessness. Please Davis City Council, support the University Commons proposal.
Mary Martinez is the External Vice President of ASUCD. Davis