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UCD teaches sustainable planning, but does not practice it

If UC Irvine can produce affordable on-campus student housing, so can UCD

Mesa Towers, UC Irvine: three 6-story buildings, opened Fall 2016, houses 800+ students

By Eileen Samitz

As a follow up to the recent excellent article by Roberta Millstein on the need for UCD to build far more on- campus student housing, I wanted to add to this subject and a few more points which were raised at the Oct. 22 City Council meeting regarding the UC finance overview presentation.

To begin with, I completely agree with Roberta’s key message that our community needs to keep pressing UCD to build far more on-campus housing than the City-UCD MOU is trying to get away with, 2) much higher density housing on campus needs to be built than UCD is building, and 3) the projects need to be built sooner than later and not dragged out until 2033 as the MOU allows for at least 3,000 of the 6,000 beds to be provided by UCD.

With UCD having 5,300 acres with a 900-acre campus. UCD is the largest UC in the system. However, UCD is unwilling to provide at least 50% on-campus housing like the other UCs have committed to. Why not?

Further, UCD had its second biggest fundraising ever this past year, raising $234 million dollars. Yet, why isn’t any of it going towards helping to building far more, and higher density housing on-campus as it is fully capable of?

 While a 6-story student housing project is being built now in the City on Oxford Circle in the City by a private developer who had to buy the expensive land and is completely financing the project, UCD has not even proposed any 6-story high student housing project at all!

It is also notable, that the Orchard Park student housing project has been closed and demolished for over 5 years now, and UCD does not even have a plan for it yet! The first proposal was objected to by the UCD graduate students because UCD was trying to get the single graduate student housing to significantly subsidize the family graduate student housing, which was completly unfair and unaffordable to them. This proposal was for only 2 -story with possibly some 3-story housing which is ridiculous. Other campuses like UC San Diego are building a 15-story student housing project. The more units you build vertically helps to bring down the cost of each unit, particularly when the land is free as it is on the UCD campus.

21stC-PlanI wanted to also mention that I was at the October 22nd Council meeting and asked why UC did not implement its 2002 “UC Housing for the 21st Century Task Force” plan to provide plenty of on-campus housing throughout the UC system on ll the campuses?  At that time, UC knew that they would be getting a significant student population instead over the coming year and subsequently a much higher student housing demand.  They were to supposed to deal with providing the housing needs in time for this increase of students on the campuses, but they didn’t. Why not? We got no response from the UC rep. One other question I raised, which was not revealed on their PowerPoint slide demonstrating the large increase of their student population, was what percent of this student population increase was non-resident students attributing to this huge growth in UC student population and its needs?

For instance, UCD launched its self-determined “UCD 2020 Initiative” rapidly recruiting 5,000 more students by 2020, 4,500 of which would be non-residents. The purpose of this was for UCD to extract triple tuition from the non-resident students. This additional enormous influx of non-resident student further exacerbated the already serious student housing shortage due to UCD’s decades of negligence to build the needed on-campus housing it was rapidly growing its student population. Also, what happened to that enormous influx of triple tuition money to UCD, and why and why wasn’t it used to rapidly build the additional needed on campus housing which UCD deliberately brought on with its poorly planned “UCD 2020 Initiative”?

I also explained to the UC finance representatives that while UCD was the largest UC campus with 5,300 aces and a 900- acre campus, yet UCD is not even providing as much (50%) on-campus housing as the other UCs. I added that, in fact, UCD has been pushing 71% of its student housing needs off. Basically, UCD teaches sustainable planning, but does not practice it.

As Roberta’s article hinted at, UC Irvine is a model of that UCD needs to be doing regarding affordable on-campus student housing. Unlike UCD, UC Irvine has committed to providing 50% on-campus student housing within a few years UC Irvine’s student housing project built are a huge success and more are currently in progress. They are beautiful and well-designed and the students and the parents love them. Further, they are more affordable than off campus housing being 10% below market rate. Studies have demonstrated that students do significantly better academically if they reside on-campus compared to living off-campus and UC Irvine can testify to this.

So simply put, if UC Irvine has been able to achieve building all of this successful and affordable on--campus student housing, so can UCD. UCD simply needs to hire competent people to get the job done like UC Irvine has, and then rather than “reinvent the wheel”, simply ask UC Irvine, how can UCD accomplish what UC Irvine has done so successfully?

Finally, Greg Rowe also asked them, why UCD had not started a student housing donation fund like some other universities have successfully done to produce student housing? Our community has been asking for that for 3 years now and UCD has continued to refuse to do so. Instead, UCD has prioritized building vanity projects like an art museum, a new music recital center, and now $40 million sports performance center instead of prioritizing the critical UCD student housing needs on campus. The UC’s response was a complete side-stepping of the question with no excuse of why they had not done it on any of the UC campuses.

In short, our community needs to continue the pressure on UCD to build far more on-campus housing that the inadequate City-UCD MOU has in it, and to also build far higher density than the mere 2-, 3- and some 4- story housing projects UCD are planning and to build them much faster than the slow pace that UCD is  dragging out these projects to come on-line. UCD built the new art museum and the new music center in virtually no time, while UCD continues to drag its heels on producing the needed-on campus student housing.

For more information or if you have questions regarding the UCD student housing impacts on Davis, please feel free to contact me at citizens@dcn.org or call me at (530) 756-5165.



Sure, UCD should do more to house students on-campus, but how is it more 'sustainable' to house students on campus than in the city of Davis? Seems like high-density developments in the city a la Oxford Circle would be just as sustainable as building on campus itself.

Eileen Samitz


Actually no. On campus housing removed the need for students commuting on and off campus, further impacts our carbon footprint while reeking havoc with the city's traffic and circulation.

Furthermore, this enormous addition of cars, then creates an enormous impact on parking need in the community.

So, I tried to explain in the article, UCD is not producing nearly enough high density housing for the students to help with the student housing shortage that UCD has caused.

Instead, UCD continues to focus only on planning for lower density on-campus housing , like 2-,3- and 4- stories (and maybe a rare 5 story residential building proposed?) but UCD has not even proposed 6 stories, or more, despite the fact that UCD is completely capable of providing much higher density housing.

UCD has over 5,300 acres with a 900-acre core campus, and ALL of this land is free for the University to build on. Since land is the most expensive component of producing housing, and in particular, affordable student housing, it is obvious that UCD can produce plenty of on-campus affordable student housing.

So in short, UCD is completely capable of producing more affordable on-campus housing like UC Irvine has. But, UCD will stall on this until the UCD students, as well as the public, pressure UCD enough to do it.

If UC Irvine and other UCs can produce a plethora of affordable on-campus housing, there is NO reason what UCD can't do the same.

Jeremy Higgins

I was not in the closed door meeting with UCD and the city regarding the MOU and therefore don't know how the negotiations were handled. I have faith our city representatives did their best and received the best results they could.

Our city officials have what I consider an impossible job. They have heard our many many many complaints. They see the effects of the increased enrollment in our community first hand. I'm confident they did everything they could to encourage UCD to increase housing.

The reality is that it is very difficult to negotiate with an entity who doesn't have to negotiate with you. UCD is a powerful entity. They have few mandates to please our community. They are focused on growing and providing the highest level of education possible so they can compete with other Universities. We can certainly argue providing (affordable) housing would be an effective way to attract additional students and yet they clearly see it another way. They have chosen to invest their dollars into the vanity projects you discuss in your well written article. I can only assume they have hedged their bets that those vanity projects will allow them to recruit more students and provide a higher level of education. I'd also suspect they have directives from the UC system as a whole. The UC system has the ultimate power over UC Davis, not the City of Davis. The state of California has the ultimate power over the UC system.

I'll be the first to admit I have not performed a lot of research on this subject. I simply see the devastating effect this has had on our incredible community and think in obvious terms. This path we are on is not sustainable. The MOU might help absorb some of the increase in student enrollment and yet as far as I know it does not address the increased staffing levels which must exceed at least 1000 people. In Davis there are approximately 500 homes that sell year over year. Adding 1000 potential buyers to the mix is not sustainable.

So what is the city to do? On one hand they are getting pressured by many of their constituents to place pressure on UC Davis to increase on campus housing. On the other hand they are attempting to work with an entity who doesn't have to work with them.

It's clear we are not the only University of California community experiencing these challenges. Many other communities who are home to a University of California campus are experiencing the same challenges.

I think the only answer is to go above the heads of UC Davis and instead place pressure on our elected state officials, whom actually have power over the UC System.

It was suggested in the last city counsel meeting by Mr. Trost (I believe) that our city officials should combine forces with the other eight University of California communities and place pressure on our elected state officials. I can't agree more. Together we have much more power than as an individual community. If each community banded together and encouraged their community members to reach out to our elected state officials I'm confident we can make a difference!

We are a strong and brilliant community. Let's make this happen!

Todd Edelman

"Studies have demonstrated that students do significantly better academically if they reside on-campus compared to living off-campus"? References, please.

Eileen Samitz


Here are a few:




Eileen Samitz


Thank you for your comments and I agree we need to go above the UCD administrative heads, but that does still mean that we need the community raising its concerns to our local leaders like the City Council members, our Yolo Supervisors as well as our Assembly member Aguiar-Curry and CA Senator Dodd.

It is likely to take State legislation to help with requiring UCD and the other UCs to be required to provide adequate on-campus housing. This can be done, but it will take getting all of these leaders getting public input pressing for this to get done.

The short version on the MOU is that it is woefully inadequate and the community needs to continue giving the City Council and UCD input in this to motivate the critical improvements that are needed.

This including UCD committing to a timeline for 3,000 of the 9,000 beds planned by 2033, which has not been established yet by UCD. Further, these 3,000 beds need to be built sooner than later. Also, UCD needs to build far higher densities on-campus housing on it enormous 900-acre core campus. That issue needs to be addressed now before UCD continues moving forward with their inadequate lower density plans minimizing the number of beds being produced on-campus.

Meanwhile, other campuses like UC Irvine and UC San Diego are building 6-story and even 15-story student housing projects on-campus, while UCD continues to flounder at 2-, 3- and 4-stories. Even a private developer group is building a 6-story student housing project on Oxford Circle in the city and they had to buy the expensive land. UCD planning is grossly inadequate and inferior compared to all the campus and even compared to the City.

While ALL the other UC campus are committed to 50% on-campus housing EXCEPT UCD which is the largest campus geographically with over 5,300 acres. This is inexcusable.

UCD has no business teaching good sustainable planning when UCD refuses to practice it themselves.

It is shameful that UCD teaches sustainability, yet it clearly is not implementing it for its own planning. This, in turn, is creating enormous negative impact on our city of Davis, and surrounding communities like Woodland and even Dixon.

So in short, while I agree with you and Jon on joining forces with the other UC cities, our community needs to continue to give our local leaders and UCD input that UCD’s current plans are completely inadequate.

UCD needs to provide far more on-campus housing to back-fill three decades of negligence of UC not building adequate on-campus housing for its own growth, which has cause the serious negative impacts on Davis pushing our workforce and families out of our City’s rental housing.

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