By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – We received a lot of interesting feedback both on and offline on Saturday’s column, suggesting that the city work with the university to pursue housing south of Russell.
From my perspective there were several advantages to it:
First, the city is in need of housing and, as I have explained this week, I don’t believe the downtown will be able to provide the housing opportunities—certainly not in the short-term—that the city is hoping for.
Second, the city has a lack of internal vacant land that could accommodate large scale housing.
Third, Measure J makes planning for housing on the periphery at best problematic. Moreover, from a planning perspective, putting housing closer to campus is ideal anyway.
Fourth, many in the slow growth community have pushed for more housing on campus anyway.
Fifth, you could largely do it without a Measure J approval vote.
There are of course a lot of complexities to doing this kind of planning, and there would need to be all sorts of agreements with the county, city and university. Figuring out the revenue and cost sharing would be complex.
I mentioned a need to connect it through Russell and that clearly still causes problems for some in West Davis.
One of the more interesting responses I received noted that “the argument for housing south of Russell makes sense from a planning perspective due to its location.”
The person noted, “Actually faculty/staff housing has been planned between the student apartments and Russell Blvd for years.”
But, “because it has (been) interpreted that any housing project on UC land must pay prevailing wages (something not a common practice in residential construction) it (is) difficult to deliver in a manner that is ‘affordable.’”
They continued, “Unless the university can provide housing within reach of faculty/staff salaries there is no policy support for building it on UC land. Also any tax revenue generated from the student housing and faculty/staff housing out there goes to the county.”
Thus, “the county (and university) would have to agree to annex any property to the city. So while the site makes sense, the constraint of construction being subject to prevailing wage and other UC requirements would likely be a nonstarter for any builder/developer.”
To me that’s probably not a deal breaker. Instead, it would probably require additional subsidies—finding ways to tap into monies that will help to develop housing next to transit and workforce opportunities, and subsidizing affordable housing through monies available for such features would be a requirement.
There is a high degree of complexity here that someone would need to navigate, which is likely the reason one response was that “Ockham’s principle argues that simplicity supersedes complexity. If you have two competing alternatives, then the simpler explanation/alternative is to be preferred.”
Then again it seems like land use necessitates navigating through complexity in order to find solutions. In this case, you would have to weigh the advantages of location against the complexities of making such a project pencil out and navigating through the minefield of three overlapping jurisdictions.