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Response to UCD Chancellor’s Housing Task Force, “Turning the Curve on Affordable Student Housing”

Affordable-housing-task-forceAs a followup to Greg Rowe's letter concerning UCD's seeming failure to follow the recommendations of its own Affordable Housing Task Force, below is a memo sent by Rowe on September 15 to Mayor Brett Lee, Councilmember Lucas Frerichs, City Manager Mike Webb Yolo County Supervisors Jim Provenza and Don Saylor, giving a more detailed response to the recommendations of the Task Force. The report of the Task Force can be found here.

This memo is a revised version of a memo sent to the City’s Social Services Commission, which received a presentation on the UCD Chancellor’s Housing Task Force (“Task Force”) on October 15, 2018.[1]  The comments are keyed to specific text in the Executive Summary and other pages of the Task Force report, indicated by bold font.

  • Page 4, paragraph 2: “A dramatic 47% upsurge in Davis campus enrollment programs between 2000 and 2017 has outpaced local housing affordability, helping drive up rents in the City of Davis by over 31% (in inflation adjusted dollars).”
    • Comment: This tremendous enrollment spurt was arguably the single greatest factor responsible for the sharp upsurge in Davis rents.
  • Page 4, paragraph 3: “Far too often, housing costs and unsettled and even abusive housing circumstances undermine students’ educational experiences while they attend… Bold action is needed.”
    • Comment: Again, this is a problem brought on by UCD's failure to moderate admissions and build on-campus housing on pace with growth in the student population.
  • Page 4, last paragraph: “Over the long-term, assertive steps are needed to increase the supply of affordable housing. We are encouraged by recent commitments made by the campus and the City of Davis to build new housing.”
    • Comment: Bold action would be a commitment by UCD to house far more than 48% of the LRDP forecast enrollment of 39,000 students in 2030-31, which based on past experience will no doubt be exceeded far before the 2020-31 conclusion of the LRDP.  The City has taken assertive steps to increase student housing, since April 2017 having approved 4 large purpose-built student housing projects amounting to 1,061 units comprising 3,880 beds (Sterling, Lincoln40, Nishi2 and Davis Live). Meanwhile, UCD continued to resist requests by the public and the City of Davis to set more aggressive on-campus housing construction goals.
  • Overarching Priority 2, page 6: “We recommend that the Chancellor invite leaders from the City of Davis and nearby municipalities to participate in an ongoing forum that would address shared interests in affordable housing, sustainable transportation and related issues. ...We envision quarterly gatherings that might include informal opportunities to develop relationships, informational presentations to spark partnership ideas, and spin-off working groups to pursue specific collaborative opportunities.”
    • On its face, this appears to be a good recommendation, but dialog in the absence of firm commitments to concrete action by UCD is of limited use.
  • Overarching Priority 3, pages 6 and 23-24: “Identify funds to support student housing…” including philanthropic sources...
    • Comment: Contributions by alumni and other donors specifically targeted to on-campus housing should be vigorously pursued. UCD reportedly has more than a $1 billion endowment but allocates none of it to badly needed on-campus housing. The university should aggressively solicit donations to fund on-campus student housing. Representatives of Citizens for Responsible Planning meet on August 31, 2017 with UCD planners Bob Segar and Matt Dulcich. During that meeting it was pointed out that the University of Southern California (USC) would soon open its new USC village, which was largely funded through alumni donations. It was suggested that UCD should similarly solicit alumni funding for on-campus student housing; the UCD planners said they would pass along this suggestion. 
  • Short-to-medium Action Priority I.5, pages 7 and 25: “Limit future enrollment increases. The time has come for an era of much slower, incremental growth in the student population, enabling the campus to catch up with infrastructure needs, including housing, classroom space, and student support services.”
    • This measure is absolutely essential, and is one which has been strongly advocated for at least the past 4 years by segments of the Davis community.
  • Short-to-medium Action Priority I.6, pages 7 and 25-26: “Increase the campus housing supply by building more units. We welcome the Chancellor’s recent decision to increase the target of new housing units to be built on campus to include 9,050 beds, but our analysis of the available data suggests that number needs to be higher in order to reverse the trend toward increasingly unaffordable housing.”
    • Comment: UCD’s housing construction goal must be much higher than 9,050 beds, and should be accelerated. As noted below, UCD by a wide margin missed the student housing goals set forth in the student housing report issued in November 2002 by the Board of Regents (UC Housing for the 21st Century) and in the 2003 UCD Long Range Development Plan.  The causal factors were enrollment that exceeded projections combined with unmet housing construction targets; see details below. While the Chancellor’s pledge to provide 9,050 new beds appears impressive, it does nothing to address the backlog of beds that UCD has failed to provide since 2002 – 2003.   
  • Short-to-Medium Action Priority I.7, page 7 and 26: Design for Affordability and Prioritize Affordable Designs in New Campus Housing: This section emphasizes offering students essential features while avoiding extra features and amenities that drive up prices, and siting as much housing as possible in the central campus to lessen the need for cars.
    • Comment: This priority recommendation mirrors suggestions made by local citizens between 2015 and 2018 for higher density housing on the core campus.
  • Pursue Innovation, IV.18, pages 9 – 10: “Provide better transportation options for students, faculty and staff living outside of Davis. Many students, staff and faculty live outside of Davis in search of cheaper housing or for other reasons. One way to increase student affordable housing options, which would also benefit faculty and staff, would be to provide frequent, accessible, and sustainable transportation options to campus from nearby municipalities.”
    • This recommendation on its own is not bad, and it would be of great assistance to students who commute from locales such as Dixon, Woodland, Winters and beyond, but a more practical and meaningful approach would be for UCD to simply build much more on-campus housing.

Background Information: UCD’s Failure to Meet Past Student Housing Goals


As shown below, UCD missed the housing goals set for it in November 2002 by the Board of Regents by an estimated 1,825 beds, and the housing goals in the 2003 LRDP by 1,400 beds.[2]  By any measure, therefore, UCD has consistently fallen short of past on-campus housing goals, which UCD should have attempted to compensate for in the 2018 LRDP. As noted on Table 3.13-12 on page 3.13-13 of the Draft EIR (DEIR) for UCD’s LRDP, it is projected that 18,868 students will eventually live on campus under the 2018 LRDP. The target established in the new LRDP, however, should have legitimately been at least 1,400 more than this number (the unmet goal of 1,400 beds in the 2003 LRDP) to compensate for UCD’s failure to meet past housing goals. And, ideally, the LRDP target should have taken into account the unmet goat of 1,825 beds articulated in the 2002 Regent’s report.  This would mean that UCD should in reality be striving to establish on-campus housing capacity of at least 20,268 (the 18,868 beds in the 2018 LRDP + 1,400), or perhaps as many as 20,693 (the 18,868 total beds identified in the 2018 LRDP + the 1,825 beds that were to be provided according to the Regents’ report).   


Background: How the Missing Beds Were Calculated

 (1) UC Housing for the 21st Century. This report, issued by the Board of Regents in November 2002, stated that UCD would build 5,500 new students by 2011-12, bringing the percentage of students housed on campus to 38%, with a goal of reaching 40%. (The 2011-12 three-quarter average enrollment was 29,324, meaning that if the Regents’ goal had been met, 11,143 students would have lived on campus.) However, according to the LRDP’s NOP issued in January 2017, by 2014-15 only 29% of the 32,130 enrolled students lived on campus, equating to an on-campus housing capacity of just 9,318 beds, or 1,825 less than the target set by the Regents for 2011-12. According to the January 2017 NOP, at the former 2015-16 baseline only 9,400 students (29%) of the total student population lived on campus; this percentage remained at 29% for the new 2016-17 baseline.

(2) UC Davis Failed to Meet the Campus Housing Goals of the 2003 LRDP:  The 2003 UCD Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) stated that “Historically the campus has aimed to provide housing for approximately 25 percent of Davis-based students.”[3] However, the Final EIR (FEIR) for the UCD 2003 LRDP indicated that during spring 2002 UCD provided housing for only 23 percent of the three-quarter average, on-campus population of enrolled students, two percentage points less than the target.[4] The 2003 LRDP identified that the three-quarter average head count was about 24,870 students in 2001-02 and would increase to 30,000 in 2015-16, translating to a 2.2 percent annual average growth rate (page 4). 

The 30,000 3-quarter average enrollment projection for 2015-16 was actually reached in 2012-13, or 3 years earlier than anticipated in the 2003 LRDP, an occurrence that makes it appear likely that the 2018 LRDP’s projection of 39,000 students by 2030-31 will in fact occur well before 2030.  The 2003 LRDP went on to state that “Total on-campus Student Housing is planned to accommodate approximately 36 percent of the student population through 2015-16 if financially feasible.  This would equate to housing 97 percent of the Davis-based student enrollment between 2001-02 and 2015-16” (2003 LRDP, page 64).

However, the NOP issued on January 4, 2017 for the draft 2017 LRDP (Table 2, page A-8), notes that the 2015-16 three-quarter average Davis enrollment was 32,663, meaning that enrollment growth overshot the 2003 LRDP’s projections by 2,663 students or 8.87 percent.  As disclosed in the NOP, “Altogether, about 29 percent of the Davis-based students lived on campus in 2015-16, with approximately 63 percent of students residing in the City of Davis and approximately 8 percent living in nearby communities such as Sacramento, Woodland, Dixon and West Sacramento.”[5] 

Most significant is the fact that while the 2003 LRDP expected that 36 percent of 30,000 students would be housed on campus by 2015-16 (or 10,800 on-campus residents), the actual outcome was that UCD had the capacity to house merely 29 percent of 32,663 students (or 9,400), most of which was comprised of one-year freshman dorms.  By housing only 9,400 students on campus, instead of the 10,800 projected in the 2003 LRDP, UCD’s on-campus student bed capacity was deficient by 1,400.  


[1] Agenda item 6.b. The 47-page report was attached to the staff report.

[2] Please note that the 1,400 and 1,825 numbers were calculated by different methods, and are not additive. 

[3] 2003 Long Range Development Plan, page 63.

[4] 2003 Long Range Development Plan Final EIR. Section 4.11 – Population and Housing, page 4.11-15.

[5] Notice of Preparation, January 4, 2017. Attachment A – Detailed Project Information, page A-8.


Eileen Samitz

Great articles by the Davisite yesterday and today on this important issue which continues to be a problem. UCD will continue to drag its heels on providing far more and higher density housing if the City allows it.

UCD's negligence to provide enough on-campus student housing for decades is causing major impacts on Davis. UCD's irresponsibility toward its students needs is shameful and its incompetence to produce the solution of far more on-campus student housing that is affordable is reprehensible.

UCD likes to brag about all of its fundraising and vanity projects like an art museum, an additional music recital center and now an enormous sports performance complex that they artfully find millions of dollars for, yet they have refused to even offer a donation fund for student housing (which they have been asked to do multiple times over the past 5 years.)

This past year UCD raised $234 million in fundraising (the second best year historically), yet they continue to neglect the continue need for much more on-campus student housing on its enormous 5,300 acre campus which has a 900-acre core campus which is plenty of land and free to build much higher density housing. The fact the land is free automatically makes the housing far cheaper to build on-campus than in the City.

UCD needs to be a much better neighbor to Davis than it currently is and it needs to stop their continued delay tactics on project like Orchard Park, closed now over 5 years, and start building the massive amount of on-campus housing needed for its accelerated growth.

On a closing note , much thanks to Greg Rowe for pulling together such important information and getting it out to the public.

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