By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – This may well be THE dividing line between those who are more slow growth and those who are more pro-housing. In fact, I think both sides have some of this right.
When I started looking hard at this problem back in 2015, it was pretty obvious that UC Davis was negligent in providing sufficient housing on campus for students. Critics could rightly point to the fact that UC Davis had either the lowest or second lowest rate of on-campus housing in the system.
In fairness to UC Davis, there was probably good reason for that – Davis was one of the more affordable host cities in the system (and on campus housing was markedly less affordable) and the two for decades were able to kind of grow in sync with each other. Problems started to occur when Davis enacted Measure J.
And you could argue that UC Davis tried to respond to Measure J with West Village – but that entire process was sidetracked and delayed by West Davis neighbors who fought the process.
On the other hand, Davis is a host city for a major university. UC Davis is THE major employer of residents in Davis. It is heavily responsible for our high standard of living and our status as one of the most highly educated communities in the nation.
Where I differ with some of the slow-growthers is that while I can see the role that UC Davis has contributed to the housing crisis for students, but also the encroachment of students into single-family homes, I can also see the complicity of city residents.
Not only have we effectively locked in the current borders – with two exceptions in the last decade – but from 2002 to this year, we had not opened a market rate, multi-family student housing complex (Sterling opened in the fall of 2020).
While some of that time, the city can be excused for not looking at new student housing – housing pressure declined for a five or six year period during the Great Recession, it was slow to act to respond to the crisis.
I have long supported Measure J as a growth management tool. But it has swung the balance too heavily against peripheral growth. That means it is incumbent on the residents to make a decision – do we continue to densify – which is going to only get more expensive or do we find ways and places to develop on the periphery.
I continue to believe that both the city and university can do more here. The city is going to have to address housing needs for families and employees of UC Davis. The university is going to have to get to 50 percent, the LRDP gets them I think to 48 percent of all students on campus and all new students.
Matt Williams analysis shows the university largely in compliance with the MOU.
He wrote earlier this week: “So the four years reported by UCD have deficits of 343 and 759, and surpluses of 117 and 751. Slightly more deficit than surplus, but to be fair, the 2017 figures UCD included really predated the MOU. If you exclude that first year, then UCD is actually providing beds for 100% of its incremental enrollment since the MOU was agreed to.”
Matt Williams also believes that housing a is a community problem and “should be solved by a collaborative effort by all three jurisdictions.”
I don’t have a problem with that in principle. However, one thing I worry about, those in the community whose answer to housing problems is for UC Davis to build more housing.
I continue to support a 100/50 plan – that means the university accommodate all of the student enrollment increases this LRDP with housing on campus and getting up to half of the overall housing.
I could see it going past 50 percent to accommodate international students. I definitely support students having on campus housing their first two years, in part because it avoids the 18 year old student, three months after arriving on campus having to find off-campus housing in the community.
But to start creating on-campus housing for third and fourth year (and beyond) students is a bridge further than most students want to go.
I even more have problems with the notion of extensive faculty and staff housing on campus rather than in town. We run the risk of creating a whole city next to our city. That is a city that has the potential to have impacts without receiving tax benefits for them. It also creates communities that are effectively disenfranchised from city decisions. I don’t see that as a viable long-term solution.
There some interesting views in this community on students. During the Housing Element Discussion on Tuesday, a public commenter argued that students being temporary residents should not have their views considered on equal ground with long term residents.
One resident stated: “I must say that I find it nonsensical and abhorrent that the voices of students are given as much weight as those of city residents in these matters. Students are here for a short, limited time. Whereas those of us who live in Davis have a much greater stake in determining the future of our city and our voices should consequently be given greater weight.”
Another view: “it also depends upon whether or not you think that attending college away from home is a “necessity” or “right” – especially for all 4 years, and whether or not you think someone else (or some community) should pay for that.”
The problem with this view of course is that addressing it goes WAY beyond the scope of Davis or even UC Davis. We are not set up to allow all or even most students to attend college at or near their homes.
If we were going to have people attend college at home we would have to completely restructure how colleges operate and make them more like high schools.
We would create this huge upheaval simply because people want to avoid additional growth in places like Davis?
Bottom line here: I am okay with UC Davis being part of a solution to housing, but at some point, the city is going to figure out how it can grow into the future. We cannot simply create a 50,000 person city outside of our borders and go about our business.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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