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Support our local Religious Leaders Recommendation for Reconsideration of the University Commons project

Community input to the Council majority of Partida, Lee and Carson is needed now

By Eileen M. Samitz

Many thanks to the Davis religious leaders for the excellent article published August 22 in the Davisite.

This incredible and sincere outreach by so many local religious leaders to the City Council majority is impressive and their recommended action is so needed to be taken by Council majority now.  So everyone’s input to the Council is needed now, to support the recommendation to reconsider approval of the University Commons project, before this Tuesday’s August 25th meeting when the Council is scheduled to finalize approval of the project.

The Davis religious leaders group recommendation for the Council majority is to “take a pause and reconsider their approval votes” and to reject it. This terrible project does not offer any housing that is affordable. So, urging the Council to reconsider its approval is clearly the right thing to do for the sake of the UCD students, as well as the rest of the community needing housing that is affordable. The University Commons “affordable units” are affordable in name only, and it is an insult to even classify them as “affordable” with the rental prices they are projecting.

The University Commons market rate units are clearly astronomical in price, and the claimed “affordable units” cost more than the on-campus housing for the same-sized market rate apartments in the City now. How can anyone try to claim that any of these University Commons Units are “affordable”? Clearly, they are not!

Here again is the evidence from the City’s last Staff report included in a recent Davisite Op-ed I wrote, addressing the need to reject this project and send it back to the drawing board.

The supplemental City Staff report reveals just how unaffordable the University Commons mega-dorm apartments would be. The Staff report quotes that their market rate studio apartments would be an estimated $2,229 monthly and their 2-bedroom apartments would be $2,898 per month!

Screen Shot 2020-08-24 at 9.29.15 AM

This is anything but affordable student housing!  The studio apartments are 19% higher than the most expensive studio apartments in the UC Davis annual Apartment Survey, and almost twice as expensive as the average studio apartment in the survey data (see below).

Screen Shot 2020-08-24 at 9.30.17 AM

All of these University Commons market rate units, as well as the units claimed to be “affordable” units are all more expensive than on-campus housing as well as the average equivalent-sized units in Davis per the most recent data provided by the BAE UCD rental housing vacancy report.

I strongly encourage everyone to please send an email to the City Council and focusing on the Council majority of Mayor Partida, Council member Carson and particularly Former Mayor Lee who previously publicly stated that the City should not approved any more mega-dorms. To reconsider their approval votes, and deny the application for the University Commons project.

 The new project proposal, due to Mayor Lee’s requirement to lower it only 8 feet, makes no sense particularly since lowering it a mere 8 feet from 80 feet to 72 feet does not diminish the projects monolithic stature. Further, this 8-foot loss comes at the cost of losing an entire floor of retail, therefore losing significant sales tax revenue long-term for the City. NONE of this makes any sense.

The token height reduction that Brett Lee required to approve the project was a token change which does not help to diminish this mega-dorm’s monolithic size, and actually winds up being counter-productive due to major sales tax loss. Plus, we have no idea what the project looks like. What was this project pushed though without the Council knowing what it looks like? Why make such a critical decision “on-the-fly” of such an important project? More discussion and review are needed first, before making major changes to see what the project actually is going to be.

The Planning Commission voted 7:0 unanimously to deny this project, and there are many reasons why covered in a recent article.

Further, it is disappointing that Former Mayor Lee would break his word to the community from two years ago that the City should not approve any more mega-dorms since 3,888 mega-dorm beds were already approved in the City. Yet, it was his swing vote which was the deciding vote to approve this detrimental mega-dorm project. Here are Brett Lee’s own words from two years ago:

“I just have a problem with the layout of these proposals,” Lee said

“I think it’s now time to move toward workforce housing, housing that can be used by a variety of folks,” Lee said, noting that between Lincoln40, Sterling and Nishi, the council has approved (or in the case of Nishi, placed on the ballot) housing projects providing more than 3,000 beds aimed at students.

“I think we’ve done our fair share in addressing student-housing needs,” he said. “So, I would ask my colleagues, that going forward, that we sort of move away from this.”

His colleagues largely agreed.

So, I encourage folks to please email the City Council at CityCouncilMembers@cityofdavis.org to support our Davis religious leaders appeal to the Council and asking the Council majority to please reconsider their approval votes. The University Commons project needs to be denied since it is now an even worse project proposal which offers nothing but unaffordable housing. This expensive housing is primarily “rent-by-the-bed: and exclusionary by design with at least 45% (increased from 25%) of the project being 4-bedroom “group housing”, which does nothing to help our workforce and families.

Approving 894 more group housing beds when the City has already approved 3,888 of these same unaffordable mega-dorm beds designed only for students makes no sense due to the COVID-19 pandemic, plus the fact is that it is clear that far fewer UCD students will be coming back to the UCD campus.

This project was rushed through this last Council meeting on August 18 with a spontaneous decision to completely change the project design without even knowing what the project would look like or the consequences like potentially losing sales tax revenue from eliminating an entire floor of commercial which may include retail. The changes made did not improve the project, since at 72 feet high it will still be massive and having a plethora of unaffordable, group housing which is exclusionary by design for students, and does nothing to help provide housing for our workforce and families. The only difference is that this disastrous proposal is 8 feet lower and would produce less revenue for the City long-term.

Please email the City Council now, or before the Council meeting this Tuesday, August 25th , when the project is scheduled to be finalized at CityCouncilmembers@cityfdavis.org. Please urge the Council majority members (Partida, Carson and Lee) to reconsider their University Commons approval vote.

Also, please call in your public comment voice mail before 12 noon tomorrow Tuesday August 25th for General Public comment to ensure it is heard before this issue comes up, which is on the Consent Calendar as item 4A. The City phone number for taking your recorded public comment is (530) 757-5693 nd please mention that it is for the University Commons issue Consent item 4A when you record your public comment.

Here is the staff report.

Please ask the Council majority to reconsider their approval of this project, and instead reject this terrible University Commons mega-dorm and send it back to the developers for a re-design. The project needs to be much more down-sized as well as compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods and cause fewer impacts.  It also needs to provide traditional, smaller apartments which our workforce and families can reside in as well as UCD students, that are actually affordable.

 If you have any questions for feedback please contact me at (530) 756-5165.


Nancy Price

Thank you, Eileen, for this good analysis and data.
I am glad to have this before me today before communicating with the
City Council members.

Eileen Samitz


Thanks much for your much appreciated feedback.

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