By the Numbers: Sterling Versus the Greens

(Editor’s Note: this is a new periodic column that will look at data and the numbers in a more objective way.  No commentary, just numbers).

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor


  • Greens is a 9 month rental
  • Sterling is a 12 month rental

  • There are no shared rooms at Sterling – unlike the proposed Lincoln40, Davis Live Housing and Nishi
  • Shared housing at Greens is $1019 per month
  • Sterling has other options that are not directly comparable to Greens
  • A single apartment (as opposed to a studio) is $2309 per month
  • A single bedroom in a four person apartment is $1309 per month
  • A single bedroom in a five person apartment is $1249 per month
  • Thus a shared apartment at Sterling ranges from $1249 to $1469 per month

  • Sterling has sold out on the most expensive options but still has four and five bedroom spaces available

Not an Apples to Apples Comparison

  • Greens provides a nine month option, Sterling is a full year lease
  • Rent at Sterling excludes water, electricity, and expanded cable – (That differs from others new apartments which are going to include all utilities)
  • On the hand, a meal plan at Greens, even the modest 9 meal a week plan adds another $450 to $700 per month

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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  1. Matt Williams

    Not an Apples to Apples Comparison

    • Greens provides a nine month option, Sterling is a full year lease
    • Rent at Sterling excludes water, electricity, and expanded cable – (That differs from others new apartments which are going to include all utilities)
    • On the hand, a meal plan at Greens, even the modest 9 meal a week plan adds another $450 to $700 per month

    The third of those apples/oranges is indeed a difference, but any student in an off-campus apartment does have to feed themselves, so the money gets spent in both the apples scenario and the oranges scenario.  It just gets spent differently.  I have kept a complete budget for every month of my 23 years here in Davis, and my individual spending on groceries and the electricity and water and wastewater needed to store and cook my meals has consistently fallen in the range of between $450 to $700 per month. Further, at the Greens choosing as meal plan is an option, not a requirement. (see

    The second of those apples/oranges is indeed a difference, and according to “In the US, people who rent apartments should plan to spend at least $240 per month for utilities, 1 and we’ve found that homeowners should budget closer to $400 a month. Of course, climate and energy costs vary from one state to another, so utility bills do too.   The national average for utilities is probably significantly lower than the California cost of utilities, so adding $300 a month to Sterling’s monthly rental cost is not unreasonable.

    Saving the best for last, the first of those apples/oranges is actually not a difference at all.  Whenever anyoned buys something on payments, the total cost of the item is always the number of payments times the Payment amount.  So a $900 a month item that has 12 monthly payments costs $10,800, while a $1,000 a month item that has 9 monthly payments costs $9,000.   The $900 and $1,000 monthly amounts are cash flow considerations, not cost considerations.  If you are tight on cash and don’t mind spending 20% more to obtain the item, then you will choose the $900 per month plan, but with the full knowledge that at the end of the 12 months that will mean the item has cost you an extra $1,800.

      1. Bill Marshall

        To further complicate, meal plans include cooking by others, serving, energy/utilities expended to prepare the food, clean up, time (to cook/clean on your own) value, etc.

        So, a lot more variables than apples and oranges… so even ‘food’ plans vs, self-acquisition/preparation, has many imbedded differences/variables… so, for a renter’s bottom line as to “costs” is not simple comparisons at all… to try to make it so, may well be “straining at gnats” as it relates to any policy issues…


        1. Matt Williams

          I agree with Bill 100%.  It is impossible to make any kind of like-to-like comparison of  the costs of eating under a meal plan to the costs of cooking for oneself at home.  It is a lick the thumb and hold it up in the air exercise.

        2. Bill Marshall

          When I was in college, dorm living was a good choice for me and my parents… even with meal plan… was it the ‘best deal’, financially?  Probably not, but given everything, it ‘worked’, and between my work income, and what my parents were able/willing to contribute, it was a financial ‘stretch’… but it worked… same for my two years off-campus, in an apartment… both years, 2 bdrm/2 ba, 2 guys to a room.

          Might not have been ‘optimal’ choices, but it worked.  All the time, we had, and made. choices.  Current and future students have the same… do you ‘need a car’, or do you walk/bike/use transit?  How often, how much do you spend on a ‘date’, and/or entertainment?  Very many variables… as to ‘affordability’…

      2. Matt Williams

        My sense has been that students don’t have much in the way of disposable money.  That they make up for paying more than half of their take home money on rent each month by skimping on other spending, including food.

        The above quote is from the article that David provided the link for.   One logical conclusion from what David has said is that that quote identifies one of the primary reasons why a high number of students are food insecure.

        However, Davi’d quote, and the analysis in the linked article, looks at the student population as a whole.  One of the points David has made in his comments, as well as his Vanguard e-mail today is that there are at least two segments of the UCD student population … the ones who come from families that have an abundance of money (who can afford the high rents at Sterling and The Greens) and those who come from less affluent families.  I agree with that point of David’s. I too believe there is a segment of the UCD population for whom cost is irrelevant.  Many of those students drive Volvos, BMWs, Mercedes’ and even Masseratis to see and be seen.

        Why is that affluence point important/meaningful? Because the cost of a meal plan, or food cooked at home, or food eaten out at restaurants is just as easily afforded by the affluent students as their monthly payment for their Volvo, BMW, Mercedes or Masserati.

        Bottom-line, the point David has made about meal plan costs is irrelevant with respect to a comparison of Sterling to the Greens.

        Further, David’s meal plan cost point is even more irrelevant when the fact that choosing to have a meala plan at the Greens is an option not a requirement (see

      3. Ron Glick

        400-700/month for food is much more than you get food stamps even with Biden’s new increases in monthly amounts. These student are either well off or deeply in debt. I’m sure there are some of both.

        Remembering those days of yesteryear when I had roommates in college in a rural part of the state we would take turns cooking big pots of beans and rice. We would hit the grocery store early to get day old bread and other left over items at reduced prices. We had a veggie garden. At times there were chickens and at one house with a pasture there were goats that we took turns milking. There was also ramen noodles that were quite cheap.

        The world was different back then but I’m sure there are kids in college today living on much less than 700/month for food who are not food insecure.

  2. Don Shor

    Here’s what the UCOP has to say about it all:

    My comment the other day was that it is more expensive to live on campus than off. Some seemed to think I was saying ‘the most expensive new housing on campus is more expensive than the most expensive new housing in town’. Nope. There are more options in town that are lower cost.

    RE: HUD data:

    “University of California Office of the President used the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 2021 Small Area Fair Market Rent and calculated the average for zip codes within a 5-mile radius of each campus location. Source: HUD Housing Data”.

    1. Matt Williams


      1) No one has said that the cost of living in “legacy” rental housing isn’t less expensive than “new” housing on campus.  The above comment appears to assume that someone has said that.  No one has.

      2) No one is arguing that any of the exiting inventory of “legacy” rental housing should be diminished. The above comment appears to assume that someone has said that.  No one has.

      3) I believe everyone (except the developers) is in support of having “new” housing built that costs the tenants the same low amount per month as existing “legacy” housing.

      4) In many (most?) cases existing “legacy” rental housing qualifies as “affordable.”

      5) Almost everyone in Davis supports the idea of better housing affordability in our community.

  3. David Greenwald

    I’ll probably have 40 to 50 interns on a Zoom this evening from across the state, I could poll them on how much they spend a week on food, when I did it three years ago most were between 25 and 40 a week.$400 is like a 100 per week and that’s just for 9 meals.

    1. Bill Marshall

      I could poll them on how much they spend a week on food

      Darn good idea… suggest it be worded to differentiate between daily basic consumption vs. ‘fast-food’/restaurant/discretionary “food”… more variables… when I was in college, we ate well, but not fancy, almost all in our residences… we never felt “food insecure”… ‘eating out’ was a treat, not ‘basic’…

      And, a good second variable, is, what is their financial resources… my and that of my ‘roomies’ was limited, but more than sufficient… none of us came from ‘affluent’ environments… we made our choices accordingly… but we never felt ‘food insecure’, and yes, maybe once a month, we could take a young lady out to a good lunch or dinner, without ‘going Dutch’… more often those of us dating would take ‘each other out’ to alternate ‘home-cooked meals’… inexpensive, more intimate, priceless…

      None of us felt “entitled” to anything more…

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