Monday Morning Thoughts: UCD As the Behemoth, but Can It Viably Solve Our Housing Problems?

West Village

By David M. Greenwald

Davis, CA – Sometimes I feel like we are living in the land of the Lilliputians attempting to overcome the behemoth when we are dealing with UC Davis.  Under the leadership of Gary May, UC Davis has shown it will come to the table when it’s in their interest to do so, and collaborate with its Davis neighbors.

It makes a lot of sense for UC Davis to have been asked during the LRDP to put a lot more housing on campus, and to be able to accommodate more student housing growth and provide housing for all first- and second-year students.

But going much beyond that, I start questioning whether  relying on the campus to further address housing is the best long-term course of action for this community.

For one thing, when we get to the point where we start questioning UCD because they are admitting more students because we don’t want to have to deal with building more apartments, I think we have to start questioning our priorities.  After all, a UC Davis education is the path to prosperity for an increasing number of Black and Brown students in California.  I am certainly not about to question or push back against the opportunities because it interferes with local land use.

I completely agree that UC Davis should be housing more than 29 percent of students on campus, but when the current housing gets built out, the LRDP should take that number up to 45 percent.

I am comfortable with UC Davis accommodating most first- and second-year students with housing on campus.  That seems in line with what most students I have spoken to desire.  Many see it as an advantage to have housing on campus for their second year, in part because the current system requires them to arrive on campus in September, and four months later find housing in town.

However, most students I have spoken to also want to get off campus after two years.  They want to be part of the community.  They want to be adults rather than living under university rules.

When we start moving beyond students to faculty and staff housing on campus, I think we need to start reevaluating things.

First of all, I don’t see a huge advantage to building on university experimental fields versus private agricultural lands.  We are still converting ag land to urban use.  It doesn’t really matter if it’s UC Davis property or private green fields.

Second, we end up creating urban impacts without revenue to accommodate them.  Presumably if UC Davis builds faculty and staff housing, they might also build food and other services.  That could create a drain on city establishments.

On the other hand, it would be akin to building a number of El Maceros next to town—a large number of people living outside of town, not paying city taxes, but relying on city services, using the downtown, etc.

Do we then say, UC Davis, are you going to build housing on campus and pay us for impacts in town?  That would probably not go over well.  Students alone coming into town on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights are likely to have public safety—both police and fire—impacts that are not funded.

But there is another factor as well.  We are creating a huge class of people who essentially live in our community, but are unable to vote in municipal elections.  So we have disenfranchised a huge number of residents through our land use policies.

But none of these downsides are really being discussed.  Some want the city to pressure UC Davis to build more on campus, but then will likely turn around and demand UC Davis help mitigate impacts like added costs for parking in the downtown and public safety that are caused by the very policies people are advocating.

Those who argue that housing is a financial loser are actually creating the worst of both worlds—cost impacts without tax revenue to offset it.

And yes, I agree that some of the growth pressures in Davis are being caused by university growth. But UC Davis is not the only growth pressure on Davis.

Moreover, the city could probably more readily accommodate those growth pressures, but for self-inflicted restrictions on housing growth.

Again, I don’t have a problem asking UC Davis to do more. Certainly only 29 percent of students living on campus was not sustainable and unacceptable.  But, at the same time, I also believe we should not be relying on campus solutions to housing.

I think Matt Williams is essentially correct in his description.  They have largely not collaborated with other regional players—other than Sacramento on Aggie Square.

A large part of that is their experience dealing with Davis residents on West Village—where, in effect, UC Davis, during a time when the community was completely adverse to housing, did attempt to step up and accommodate more student, faculty and staff housing, and ended up with a gigantic headache as a result of it.

Those who argue that UC Davis should build more housing on campus need to recall what happened with West Village—lawsuits and a community that is cut off from Davis because the neighbors opposed a Russell Blvd. access point.

Why would UC Davis want to get involved in land use issues and create more headaches for themselves?

So yes, Matt Williams is correct: “They have essentially kept the community at arm’s length.  That is true in housing.  That is true in economic development.  Remember what they wrote about DISC … ‘We don’t oppose it.’  That is a far cry from, ‘We support it.’”

Demanding more housing on campus is probably not a good way to change that.

I see UC Davis as part of a potential larger housing solution—especially if they have the ability to subsidize low income housing.  But we have not given enough attention to revenue issues and disenfranchisement when it comes to larger scale housing for permanent residents.

—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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30 Comments

  1. Ron Glick

    “After all, a UC Davis education is the path to prosperity for an increasing number of Black and Brown students in California.”

    ” We are creating a huge class of people who essentially live in our community, but are unable to vote in municipal elections.  So we have disenfranchised a huge number of residents through our land use policies.”

    Put these two separate ideas together and Davis is looking more like Texas, Georgia and Arizona on voting rights all the time.

    “It doesn’t really matter if it’s UC Davis property or private green fields.”

    Actually it does matter. Building on research land has a much worse long term impact on world food productivity than building on commodity production land.

    “Those who argue that housing is a financial loser are actually creating the worst of both worlds – cost impacts without tax revenue to offset it.”

    Many of the people who are most outspoken on this point about taxes on new construction not paying for itself are long time residents with a relatively low Prop 13 property tax base, or, in some cases don’t pay property taxes in the city at all. So while they oppose new construction that would have a much higher tax base, because it supposedly doesn’t pay for costs imputed way into the future, these same people haven’t been paying taxes that come close to the deferred maintenance costs of their own impacts that have accumulated over decades.

  2. Edgar Wai

    We are creating a huge class of people who essentially live in our community, but are unable to vote in municipal elections.  So we have disenfranchised a huge number of residents through our land use policies.

    Applying principle of reciprocation:

    If UCD impacts you but don’t let you vote, then you don’t need to let UCD or their students vote.

    If x% of Davis proper population is UCD affiliates, Davis proper should have x% voting power on housing development decisions of UCD.

    This is the essence of justice that a community can’t really get around by trying to unilaterally accommodate or outsmart each other.

  3. Matt Williams

    For one thing when we get to the point where we start questioning UCD because they are admitting more students because we don’t want to have to deal with building more apartments, I think we have to start questioning our priorities.  After all, a UC Davis education is the path to prosperity for an increasing number of Black and Brown students in California.  I am certainly not about to question or push back against the opportunities because it interferes with local land use.

    I agree with your point David.  UCD has a business model that produces a whole lot of good for our society at large, and is indeed a major path to prosperity for all students regardless of color.

    The challenge that comes with adding more students is having the facilities for them.  That means classrooms and faculty and staff and the other amenities necessary for the students to attend class.  In 2021 thanks to COVID some of those amenities are electronic.  Adding students who attend classes via ZOOM (or its equivalent) reduces the incremental need for two other amenities … housing and on-campus dining.  However, the future of electronic classes at UCD is uncertain, so let’s set that aside.

    Housing for students is a challenge.  One solution lots of campuses across the US use is catering to commuter students.  Given UCD’s international reputation, that approach has limited application for UCD. So housing on, or near, the UCD campus is definitely needed.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of on-campus versus off-campus housing.

    On-campus housing is by definition the closest alternative.  Students can walk to class.  There is abundant on-campus transportation.  They don’t need to incur the burden of the added expense of a car or truck. One other advantage that people miss is that on-campus housing is guaranteed to go to the people who really need it (students, staff, faculty).  On-campus housing is not going to go to Bay Area folks whose post-COVID lifestyle allows them to work from home rather than go into an office.  The last 12 months (and before that here in Davis at The Cannery) buyers who are not from Davis and not connected to UCD are buying up the new real-estate when it comes on the market.  They are armed with much more cash than Davis residents and/or UCD students.  Bottom-line, on-campus housing is less subject to market forces that the students, faculty and staff cannot control, or even affect.
    One of the challenges that Davis faces is to ensure that we don’t build a lot of off-campus housing that does not end up solving the problems we are trying to solve … where the new housing doesn’t bring prices down and it doesn’t house the additional enrollment (students, faculty and staff) that UCD has added.

    FWIW, I personally think most students are better off living on campus during all four years of their undergraduate career, but that’s another conversation.

  4. Ron Glick

    “where the new housing doesn’t bring prices down and it doesn’t house the additional enrollment (students, faculty and staff) that UCD has added”

    New housing supply tends to lower rents in surrounding existing supply. Adding supply by definition mitigates demand thus limiting upward pressure on prices.

    1. Matt Williams

      New housing supply tends to lower rents in surrounding existing supply. Adding supply by definition mitigates demand thus limiting upward pressure on prices.

      That is only true in a closed market Ron.  Even before COVID, Davis was not a closed market in housing.  Now with the work from home migration away from the Bay Area and other metropolitan areas, Davis is even less of a closed market.  Boulder, a state university town like Davis, saw the average home price jump 55.7% in the last 12 months because so many University of Colorado graduates with six figure jobs that now can be work from home chose to go back to the scene of their college exploits, and have a pile of cash to outbid the highest offer on available housing.

      Prices are not going to go down in Davis.  That is a fantasy of yours.  Davis is a housing market with local supply and regional demand (dare I say supra-regional demand).

      1. Alan Miller

        Prices are not going to go down in Davis.  That is a fantasy of yours.

        C’mon MW, that’s not what he said.  He said:

        Adding supply by definition mitigates demand thus limiting upward pressure on prices.

        Limiting upward pressure on prices.  Without more supply, rents will continue to insanely spike.  No one is expecting prices to go down.  What is possible is to reduce the pressure to continue the yearly insanely spiking rents by increasing supply.

        Or, subsidize everyone’s rent with magic Biden money under the guise of #cough# “A-ffordable Housing”

        After all, ‘Everyone should be able to afford to live in Davis’, to paraphrase what one student said.

        1. Matt Williams

          C’mon MW, that’s not what he said.  He said:

          .

          New housing supply tends to lower rents in surrounding existing supply.

          Alan, what is it about the words “lower rents” that is ambiguous or hard to understand?

          With that said, I strongly support the creation of additional housing supply that is matched to the creation to additional housing demand.

          My argument is that UC Davis should be (1) an active participant in the discussion of the problem, (2) an active participant in the formulation of solutions to the problem, (3) actively contribute a level of added housing supply that matches their contribution to added housing demand, and (4) tapping into its funding source, the State of California, to come up with the massive amounts of dollars needed to make student housing affordable.

  5. Matt Williams

    However, most students I have spoken to also want to get off campus after two years.  They want to be part of the community.  They want to be adults rather than living under university rules.

    All adults live under rules.  The rules of our employers being the biggest one.  During their four years of academic life, the “job” of a UCD student is to complete their educational requirements so that they can move on out into working society.  That “job” is provided by the University they attend.  Why is living under the University’s rules so onerous.  Living off-campus simply adds distractions that get in the way of completing the “job” they came to Davis to perform to the best of their ability. Channeling The Graduate …

    Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.

    Benjamin: Yes, sir.

    Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?

    Benjamin: Yes, I am.

    Mr. McGuire: Focus.

    Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

    Mr. McGuire: You will get the most value out of your education if you focus on it 100% of the time.

    1. David Greenwald

      My takeaway is the bar scene in Good Willing Hunting: “you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on an education you coulda’ picked up for a dollar fifty in late charges at the Public Library.”

      That’s been my life. What I learned most in college was from the people I met and the experiences I had, not the classes I took so much.

      1. Matt Williams

        I once met one of your professors and we talked about your start up venture, The Vanguard.  The professor smiled and said, “David was always more interested in politics than in getting his education.”  So your statement above appears to be consistent with that assessment.

      2. Alan Miller

        What I learned most in college was from the people I met and the experiences I had, not the classes I took so much.

        What about the experiences you would have had for free during that time had you not gone to college.  The lost opportunity cost of experiences that will never be?  College ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, and it’s insanely expensive.  Down with college!  Down with college!

  6. Matt Williams

    And yes, I agree that some of the growth pressures in Davis are being caused by university growth. But UC Davis is not the only growth pressure on Davis.

    What are the other growth pressures David?  Davis is clearly becoming more and more of a retirement destination.  So growth in the supply of retirement housing is a pressure.  Davis is also a preferred destination for newly-minted work from home folks who want to flee their current high cost housing in places like the Bay Area.  That is particularly true when one or both of the people converting to work from home are UCD alumni.

    What are the other non-university growth pressures that Davis currently faces?

    1. Bill Marshall

      Davis is clearly becoming more and more of a retirement destination.

      I think not… almost ALL of the retired folk I know in Davis, are ‘retiring in place’ here, having been employed in Davis, @ UCD, and/or who raised their families here… have met a very few who moved to Davis, because that’s where the grandkids are… maybe a half dozen individuals…

      Davis is no ‘Mecca’ for retirees… but it’s a good place to live, retired…

      Your other points were spot on…

      1. Matt Williams

        Bill, the numbers from the US Census tell a different story.

        From 2000 to 2010 the population of Davis aged 55 and older rose 58% during a period when the overall population of Davis rose a bit less than 9%.  The proportion of the retirement age population grew from 12.0% to 17.5%.  8.5% were 65 and over and 9.0% were between 56 and 65 in 2010.

        In the July 1, 2019 Census numbers the 8.5% who were 65 and over has grown to 11.3%, an over 32% increase during a period where the overall population of Davis grew only 5.8%.  Numbers for the 56 to 65 population cohort in the 2019 Census figures are not available.

        Dave and Jason Taormino can attest to the fact that Davis is a retirement destination.  Some are arriving and some are staying, but the numbers continue to shoot up.

         

         

         

        1. Bill Marshall

          From 2000 to 2010 the population of Davis aged 55 and older rose 58% during a period when the overall population of Davis rose a bit less than 9%.

          Duh!  Spouse and I turned 55 in 2009… as did many in the existing ‘Davis cohort’, many of whom attended UCD and decided to stay/return after a brief time, or never left, living and working in the community we either grew up in, studied in, and/or raised our family in including many long-term residents of our street!   Called “aging”… [better (in my mind) to “not aging”]…

          Your comparison is apples to pineapples… technically correct (both are fruits and have apple in their name), to a degree, but highly suspect as to ‘causation’, as in ‘immigration’ of an age group as opposed to ‘aging’…

          Hope the finance and budget folk don’t cherry pick #’s to come to conclusions about ‘trend-lines’, or causation…

          Now if you had considered a variable like “folk who turned 55 while a resident”, or the ‘growth of outsiders’ 55 or older, your observation would be more credible… as it stands now, with your assertions, not credible… this was very troubling coming from an analytical, numbers guy…

          the population of Davis aged 55 and older rose 58%

          From what %-age to what?  From 5 %, 10%, 15%, 20%…  of Davis population in 2000?  Big %-ages of big numbers is significant… big %-ages of small numbers is de minimus… if the numbers in 2000 of 55+ was 15% (just picking a number, for illustrative purposes, giving you the benefit of a doubt) and 58 % of those existing residents under 55 in 2000, aged to 55+ in a decade, I’d say “duh” and still opine your assertion is likely false.

          “Nuff said” on that…

          You assert that the 55+ group grew by 58% in a decade… 58% of WHAT?… your assertion of ‘senior migration’ to Davis lacks any semblance of rationality as to causative reasons/justifications…

        1. Ron Oertel

          One thing for sure is that demographics will always be in flux.

          Especially in regard to the 65+ category.  Care to guess what category is eventually beyond that?  🙂

          And unless old people are “replaced” by other old people, existing housing will eventually be occupied by younger people, or at least those who aren’t dead. 

          (Except in those cases where it’s “required” to be older.)

          I believe that the entire state is “aging”.

        2. Ron Oertel

          You’re reading Generation X

          By far, the “coolest” moniker for a generation.

          But populated in the comment section by those dreaded boomers, no doubt.

          (Probably no one from the “Greatest Generation”, though.)

          By the way, why do some claim it’s the “Greatest Generation” (e.g., in reference to Tom Brokaw’s book), while others claim that they were chock-full of racists?

          And why do some generations receive a label, while others only receive a letter?

          I might wait for Model T to roll-around again, before I come back.  A classic – durable, with a long life. And, easy on the pocketbook. Not sure where I can hang out in the meantime, though.

        3. Matt Williams

          Don’s population numbers are correct.  What they don’t show is the proportion of the Total Population that each cohort is.  For 2000 those proportions were:

          Total = 100% (60,308 souls)
          <20 = 26.8% (16,184 souls)
          21-24 =  22.7% (13,698 souls)
          25-54 = 38.4% (23,170 souls)
          55-64 = 5.4% (3,252 souls)
          65 and over = 6.6% (4,004 souls)

          For 2010 those proportions were:

          Total = 100% (65,622 souls)
          <20 = 23.3% (15,317 souls)
          21-24 =  26.2% (17,200 souls)
          25-54 = 33.0% (21,630 souls)
          55-64 = 9.0% (5,878 souls)
          65 and over = 8.5% (5,597 souls)

          The proportion of the Davis population that was “retired” (55 and over) in 2000 was 12.0% (7,256 souls) and in 2010 was 17.5% (11,475 souls).  The 17.5% proportion is 45.3% higher than the 12.0% proportion. (my apologies for the spreadsheet cell reference error in the 58%)

          When two data sets have different total amounts, proportions of the respective totals are often more illuminating.

          Regarding your “Davis cohort” point, when it came to making a retirement decision, current Davis residents have lots of possibilities.  Because of the natural magnetism that exists between parents and their children, as well as grandparents and their grandchildren, many of the retirees in Davis are here because one or more of their children/grandchildren are here.  Most current Davis residents who reach retirement  have a similar option when they retire … move closer to their offspring.  Some move away from Davis to do so.  But many choose not to.  They choose Davis as their retirement destination.

           

  7. Alan Miller

    I am certainly not about to question or push back against the opportunities because it interferes with local land use.

    Pat on the back ‘ol boy for not pushing back against opportunities!  😐

    Do we then say, UC Davis, are you going to build housing on campus and pay us for impacts in town?  That would probably not go over well.

    None of this is going over well now, from any perspective.

    Students alone coming into town on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights are likely to have public safety—both police and fire—impacts that are not funded.

    Thanks for the warning.  I hadn’t realized students were so dangerous.

    We are creating a huge class of people who essentially live in our community, but are unable to vote in municipal elections.

    We aren’t creating that.  It’s always been the way.  Therefore, it should either be or not be that way, not ‘a bit more is worse’ as some argument.  Fix it or forget it.

    So we have disenfranchised a huge number of residents through our land use policies.

    As it is today.

    Those who argue that housing is a financial loser are actually creating the worst of both worlds—cost impacts without tax revenue to offset it.

    As it is today.

    And yes, I agree that some of the growth pressures in Davis are being caused by university growth.

    That’s not exactly in question here.

    But UC Davis is not the only growth pressure on Davis.

    That’s not exactly in question here.

    Moreover, the city could probably more readily accommodate those growth pressures, but for self-inflicted restrictions on housing growth.

    Um . . . you mean like because of Measure JeRkeD?  Say it DG, just say it!!!  “I, David Greenwald, think Measure J/R/D is bad for Davis”  Say it!  Say it!  Why do you act like a City Councilmember up for re-election on this matter?   SAY IT.

    Those who argue that UC Davis should build more housing on campus need to recall what happened with West Village—lawsuits and a community that is cut off from Davis because the neighbors opposed a Russell Blvd. access point.

    Dåmn West Davis.   We should kick everything and everyone West of 113 out of Davis and annex the UC Davis campus.  Problems solved.

    Why would UC Davis want to get involved in land use issues and create more headaches for themselves?

    Because it’s the correct and moral thing to do?

    Remember what they wrote about DISC … ‘We don’t oppose it.’  That is a far cry from, ‘We support it.’”  Demanding more housing on campus is probably not a good way to change that.

    The implication being, your audience is in favor of UC Davis supporting DISC, and therefore shouldn’t demand more housing on campus ?   That’s a mighty twisted argument there, DG.  But you are forgiven, because logic is white supremacy 😐

    I see UC Davis as part of a potential larger housing solution—especially if they have the ability to subsidize low income housing.

    If they do have that ability to subsidize, they sure aren’t showing it in the cost of on-campus housing.

    And – how does one define ‘low income’ among students, who don’t have career-level jobs or any jobs at all?

    But we have not given enough attention to revenue issues and disenfranchisement . . .

    Revenue issues and disinfranchisement?  Do explain.

    . . . when it comes to larger scale housing for permanent residents.

    And where will this ‘larger scale housing’ for ‘permanent residents’ be built?  And care to define those two phrases?

    1. Bill Marshall

      But we have not given enough attention to revenue issues and disenfranchisement . . .

      Revenue issues and disinfranchisement?  Do explain.

      First, students are enfranchised… they can vote wherever they are registered… some grew up in Davis… they can still vote on local measures… others can vote in their ‘home’ area… this is a recurring BS argument… during the elections when I was a UCD student, even on campus, I voted every election… just not on City matters… never figured I’d be 40+ year resident of the City (silly me, in 20-20 hindsight), and felt I had a moral/ethical obligation not to help decide the trajectory of a community I had (then) no intention to live in… had I and others like me, voted as students, perhaps the Richards OH would be 4+ lanes now, with the State picking up 83% of the cost!

      Second… as to revenue issues… annexation of UCD housing would not change that… UCD, like DJUSD, is exempt from property tax (including bonds, MR, other assessments), TOT, possibly City sales tax increment, etc.

      The main point of ‘enfranchising’ on-campus students by annexing the housing, was, and still is, trying to push the political agendas of those in town… under the guise of ‘fairness’…

        1. Bill Marshall

          What “city services”?   Meant as a ‘fair question’… City and UCD have separate utilities, although water has interconnections, for emergencies… you must have some “services” in mind… please share… meant as a ‘fair request’… County services, definitely…

           

      1. Alan Miller

        had I and others like me, voted as students, perhaps the Richards OH would be 4+ lanes now, with the State picking up 83% of the cost!

        You talk about that like it’s a good thing ;-(

        The main point of ‘enfranchising’ on-campus students by annexing the housing, was, and still is, trying to push the political agendas of those in town… under the guise of ‘fairness’…

        Won’t matter . . . what was also, and still is also, is most students don’t vote.  The activists reading this don’t agree and do vote . . . but that’s the reality.

        The city could negotiate an MOU with the campus to pay a fair share for city services.

        Nope.  There has to be incentive.  I work in gov’t and we once tried to re-negotiate a bad deal someone had made with a local entity that basically just fed them money.  So basically we’d offer a more balanced deal where we weren’t just handing them money, and they’d come back and say, “no thank you, we’re fine with how things are!”.   I was tasked with working on that for several years, and . . . funny thing . . . they’d never agreed to have us give them less money!

  8. Bill Marshall

    Thank you Matt, for your 6:o2 P post… very good, for clarifying… and correcting…wish more posters and authors did the same.

    Still, an increase of 12% to 17.5 % over a decade is NOT indicative of migration… it is an indication of ageing.  Still, there is some migration, but likely de minimus… very many folk who have lived in Davis 20-30-40-50 years… who have aged… your numbers are not convincing… despite Don S’s ‘help’… am still skeptical (very!) that Davis is a “go to” place for retirees…

    Show me more credible #’s, and comparisons, and my view might change… yes, Davis is getting ‘greyer’, older, but not from an influx of retirees… still called ageing, a hopefully good thing, at least for the individual… kids moving on to other locales… but not seeing Davis as a “go to” place for retirees…

  9. Ron Glick

    Bill: “What “city services”?” 

    Alan: “Nope.  There has to be incentive.”

    When West Village was being built the university was interested in annexing the project and negotiating an MOU with the city for services.

    The City was hung up on whether the housing would then count towards our sago requirement with Sue Greenwald in favor if the housing counted and Don Saylor opposed. I’m not sure what services they were intersted in  were on the table, it has been over a decade.

    Anyway my main point is that the people who advocate for more on campus housing also don’t want those same people to be able to vote in city elections thereby excluding them from Measure D elections.

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