Solutions on how and where UCD can provide far more on-campus housing

14) What can be done to remedy UCD’s on-campus student housing deficit and how have other universities solved this problem?  Plus, UCD has plenty of good locations for more on-campus housing

UCD’s LRDP update invited public input from our community when it started last fall, but what was done with that input? Numerous letters by our citizens group, Citizens for Responsible Planning, were submitted throughout the LRDP process, and also forwarded to the Chancellor, UC President Napolitano, our Governor and the Regents, Stage legislators involved with State Education Committees, and of course our City Council and City staff.  More than 100 letters were sent documenting the serious lack of UCD on-campus student housing and the impacts it was causing to UCD students, our community, and neighboring communities.

In addition, recommendations were made, including identifying more than 100 acres of sites on or near the core campus where much more high density student housing could be accommodated. Much higher density housing, over 4-stories belongs on the UCD campus where it is needed and works best for the UCD students, our community, neighboring communities and our environment. This solution would greatly reduce the impacts from UCD on our City and neighboring cities while greatly reducing our carbon footprint for sustainable planning. The list of the sites (website link) and the map for these sites (website link) are listed on this website to view. We specifically recommended against any housing being built on the Russell and Howard recreational greenfields (website link), which would impose more traffic on the already impacted Russell Blvd., particularly since it has recently been narrowed and traffic congestion is already bad. Furthermore, these beautiful fields are used so much for recreation by so many students, and building high rises in that location would result in a “tunnel” effect down Russell Blvd, along with ruining the transitional area of where the City meets UCD.

Yet, what came back from UCD’s planners was exactly what we recommended against, due to the impacts on the students and our community. The UCD planners instead proposed building high-rises on the beautiful Russell and Howard recreational greenfields, but also proposed building far fewer on-campus housing units with far-lower densities than what could have been built. Furthermore, the public’s recommendations for more than 100 acres other of on-campus sites on, or near the core campus, have been ignored so far. So while other universities have been, and continue to build high-density housing, UCD has persisted in planning for only low density housing, thereby wasting land and vastly reducing the number of student beds that can be accommodated on campus. The obvious question is why has UCD asked for input from the Davis community, when it is only to be ignored and discarded? Also, why is UCD not keeping up with what other California universities are doing with efficient, sustainable, high-density on-campus housing?

15) UCD needs to build on-campus housing as other California universities are currently accomplishing

UCD has used the preservation of its capital funds as an excuse for not building urgently needed on-campus student housing. Yet, the university has assigned high priority to building non-essential structures such as a new multi-million-dollar art center, another multi-million-dollar music recital center, and an International Student Center, all under construction or nearing construction. UCD has proudly announced in recent years now that it has surpassed more than $1 BILLION dollars in its endowment fund, an enormous fund which less than 100 universities have in the United States. Yet, UCD is only planning to provide 500 one-year freshmen dorm beds, which will not be completed until sometime in 2017. Meanwhile, UCD has accepted at least 9,500 new undergrads for the fall quarter of 2016. UCD claims to prioritize the needs of its students, however that is clearly not the case regarding the desperate need for on-campus housing that has existed for many years, particularly taking into consideration the aggressive UCD 2020 Initiative announced by the Chancellor in 2011. Instead, UCD continues to try to defer its housing needs onto Davis and neighboring cities.

While UCD is apparently playing a “shell game” on how they are trying to avoid funding the building of on-campus housing, other campuses have built the on-campus housing without using university capital funds. This has been accomplished by arranging “land leases” with companies like American Campus Communities (ACC), which is a hugely successful company that has been constructing and managing campus housing for over 24 years.  ACC will provide the capital funding to build on-campus housing in exchange for long-term land leases on the campus. UCD has done this using smaller local companies to build “The Colleges at La Rue” and West Village. However, these smaller companies only build lower density projects limited to 4 stories or less, which greatly diminishes the number of on-campus beds that could have been provided at those sites. This is not efficient, sustainable planning. This trend needs to change to much higher density housing on the campus where it can be easily accommodated without the impacts that much higher densities would impose on our City’s neighborhoods.

UC Irvine and UC Berkeley are good examples of campuses which in recent years have successfully partnered with ACC to build a significant amount of student housing without incurring any university capital investment campuses.) Housing for over 125,000 student beds have been built by ACC in over 100 projects throughout the United States.  For more information, see:

Many of these projects have been high density construction, far more than the 3-4 story structures that UCD has been limiting itself to because it is cheaper to build wood-framed housing (but which only allows a maximum of four stories). UC Irvine’s success in providing on campus housing was accomplished by ACC, and now UC Berkeley and other California universities are working with ACC. Steel framing is needed beyond four floors, and UCD certainly has already built plenty of taller administration and other buildings on campus with steel framing, so why have they not done so to provide more student housing?

Some additional helpful UC LRDP data to compare where other UC’s with far less land than UCD are committed to providing at least 50% housing for their entire student population, yet UCD has not “stepped-up” to do so itself. UCD comparatively is proposing to provide only 40% of the housing needed for its student population. This is inexcusable, since UCD is the largest UC campus with over 5,300 acres yet is the campus which has provided the least amount of on-campus housing historically.

Here is the LRDP data from other UC’s which are providing at least 50% housing for all of their student population:

UC Santa Barbara projects providing 50 percent of total student housing and 100% of all new incoming student housing needs

UC Irvine’s LRDP projects providing over 50% of total student housing

UC Riverside projects providing housing for over 50% of total student housing

UC San Diego projects housing over 50% of total student housing

UC Merced plans on housing 50% of total student housing

UC Santa Cruz plans to house 50% of undergrads, 25% of grads, 25% of faculty, 3% of staff

Other California universities have been on the cutting edge of building plenty of on-campus student housing, without even needing to invest university capital funding. So why not UCD?

For instance, CSU Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has built a huge amount of student housing and has committed to housing 65% of their total student population on-campus “as soon as possible” and 100% of all incoming students. Meanwhile, UCD, the largest UC campus, is targeting to house only 40% if its student population and only 90% of incoming students. So UCD has an enormous backlog of promised on-housing that they have still not delivered on and needs to catch-up.

UCD claims to have provided on-campus housing to 27% of its students, however this percentage is falsely inflated because it is based upon an averaged campus population, rather than the actual fall quarter campus student population. For instance, thisaveraging manipulation falsely reduces last year’s on-campus student population from 34,000 to 32,000 students, so when divided by the number of beds, this inflates the actual percentage. The student population needs to be based upon the actual fall enrollment when the most students are present who need housing, not theoretical “averaging” which lowers the actual number of beds that are actually needed to house the UCD students.

UC Santa Cruz has also built a significant amount of on-campus housing over the years and is continuing to build high density housing on-campus to accommodate its students. UC Santa Cruz also has committed to continuing to provide more on-campus housing and has even implemented creative housing such as having an on-campus recreational vehicle park. This creative housing option has been so successful that the university is now slowly replacing the student’s private units with campus-owned units to continue this type of housing for the students. UCD could also offer this type of housing for RVs, small mobile homes, and perhaps even “tiny houses” on the massive amount of under-utilized campus land just south of I-80 near the UCD (Old Davis Road) exit leading onto campus. This type of housing could be temporary until UCD catches up with building permanent high density student housing, or long- term if it works out well as it has at UC Santa Cruz.

Compounding the problem is the fact that UCD does not reveal that approximately 60% of what housing is on campus consists of freshman dorms, housing the students for only one year as opposed the 4-5 years that it takes most students to achieve graduation from UCD.  In the 1989 MOU between UCD and the City, UCD promised to provide on-campus housing for 25% of the entire student population as well as 35% of any additional students added to the total student population annually. None of this materialized because the compounding of more students every year would have increased the number of on-campus housing units significantly over the past 27 years. In addition, the UC’s own plan for UCD to provide at least 38% on campus housing by 2012 never happened, no less the target of 40% or the UC systemwide goal of 42% on all the campuses.

Yet, so many UC’s including UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, UC Riverside, UC Merced, and UC Santa Cruz have all committed to building 50% of all of their student population housing needs on campus, while UCD, the largest UC campus, is targeting only 40%. UCD has announced that it is willing to house 90% of only its new students, however both UC Santa Barbara and CSU Cal Poly San Luis Obispo are planning and committed to housing 100% of all of their new students.

So why isn’t UCD stepping up like the other UC’s? With UCD having over 5,300 acres, so much more land than any other UC, there is no excuse why it cannot meet and exceed the on-campus housing commitments that these other California universities are providing. UC Davis needs to bring its housing commitments up to par with these other California universities particularly since UCD has the most land, yet is providing the least on-campus student housing.

So how is it that all of these other campuses are capable of planning and actually building significant amounts of student housing except while UCD continues lagging behind? UCD claims to embrace “sustainable” planning, yet it has not done nearly enough in 27 years to build the on-campus housing needed for their now escalated student population.  UCD expects to enroll 9,500 new undergrad students for the fall 2016 term, and yet UCD did not do the planning and implementation to provide the on-campus housing needed by the new enrollees.  Instead, UCD has had the audacity to complain that the City has a low vacancy rate of 0.2%, for which UCD is primarily responsible. The low vacancy rate in Davis is a significant problem due to the lack of on-campus housing commensurate with UCD’s self-directed, accelerated growth and the subsequent disproportionate number of UCD students forced off campus after freshman year to find housing in Davis and neighboring communities. At this point, Woodland, Winters and even Dixon are starting to complain about the influx of UCD students using a significant amount of their rental housing, thereby reducing the availability of that housing for local workforce families.