By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA -It is inevitable that a conversation about Davis housing needs will result in segments of the community attempting to turn the gaze to UC Davis.
We saw this on Monday of this week, when in response to an article on the presentation to Davis CAN by Jonathan London and Catherine Brinkley from the UC Davis Center for Regional Change, one commenter argued, “I find it particularly interesting that this UC Davis Center For Regional Change director, is silent on how UCD can and should be producing far more high-density on campus housing for UCD not only for students but for UCD faculty and Staff.“
The argument included the fact that “UC is pressuring UC’s to admit even more students, clearly, UCD is going to exceed 39,000 well before 2031.”
And added, “Regarding the MOU, it is completely inadequate because it does not address the many years that UCD neglected to build the needed on- campus student housing as it accelerated it student population growth. This resulted in the huge backlog of on-campus student housing needed now. There is still, a huge deficit of UCD on-campus housing.”
In 2015, I definitely agreed that UC Davis needed to do more of its share to address particularly student housing. Initially not willing to address the full impact of its enrollment growth, under pressure from the community and the city, UC Davis expanded their on-campus housing commitment to 48 percent of enrollment, up from 29 percent which was the worst in the UC system.
Not only did they sign an MOU with the city, but they have so far added more than 6000 ne3w beds on campus.
In December, UC Davis reported that “under a memorandum of understanding with the city of Davis and Yolo County, and is “on-track to hit its 2023 commitment of 15,000 beds on campus.”
Should it be more? Perhaps. But to be honest at this point, I don’t think it’s the university that’s the problem.
I have had people point out that had the university kept up with its commitment over the years for student housing – it would not have led to the encroachment of students into single-family homes in town.
It’s an accurate statement – but it ignores a second 800 pound gorilla in the room.
Davis has not done nearly enough to build housing in town. I’m not talking about student housing. I’m talking about family housing.
According to the figures provided by the city, since 2009, the city has built a total of 700 units of single family housing – that comes to less than 50 per year.
In my view, the city can’t build just 700 units of single family housing over the last decade and a half and then credibly blame the university for the housing problems in town.
Along similar lines, individuals who have been instrumental in blocking housing projects over the last few decades can’t then turn around and point the finger at UC Davis.
Again, UC Davis has earned its share of the blame – but they have done a lot more than the city to rectify the situation.
UC Davis has added 6000 beds in the last few years, the city of Davis has added a total of 2208 in the last 14 years. A good percentage of that is student housing which will help to address student housing issues, but is not going to address housing for families with children.
When we drill down into the Davis Demographics Presentation from February and March to the City Council, we can see the problem faced by the city.
Here is the five year development forecast used by the school district to project student enrollment.
The district concluded, “902 city approved residential units planned within the next 5 years.”
But they warn, “81% are multi-family that typically do not house school age children.”
So you basically have a situation where the city has only developed 700 single family homes in the last 14 years, and most of the expected and approved housing in the next five years, will also not meet the needs for family housing.
Can the university do more to provide for faculty and staff housing on campus? Sure. But that should not alleviate the city from the responsibility to build housing for the missing middle demographics that includes young families with children.
In response to the discussion on Wednesday, one commenter asked, “how much more prime agricultural land do you want to see sacrificed for single-family houses?”
“Davis has a long history of wanting to preserve farmland, not growing out, but also sadly, not growing up,” Catherine Brinkley pointed out last week.
Jonathan London noted, the “discourse on climate justice” is being “co-opted by folks who don’t want any kind of new housing because, for an environmental basis,” he said, “But if we’re not going to have housing in town, that’s going to mean some density, because people are going to live somewhere.”
He said, “So they’ll be commuting in from other places across the causeway from north to south. And that’s going to be adding to climate change and air pollution.”
This is exactly the problem with the whole discussion. Blocking housing on farm land near Davis doesn’t protect farmland, it protects farmland near Davis – possibly.
This is the point I keep making – people have to live somewhere. By building housing, you are not adding people and thus you are not adding environmental impacts, you are moving people from one place to another – and hopefully you are moving people closer to the university where they are less likely to have to drive to work and if they do, you’ve at least reduced their VMT.
Again, I don’t have a particular problem with asking the university to build more housing – but I do think it’s hypocritical to demand more housing on campus while blocking housing in Davis.
The numbers show in my view, Davis has not done near enough to provide the housing we need in this community.