Op-ed on Student Housing Updates

UC Davis Housing

Full steam ahead on 8,500 new beds for students on campus


We all know that housing is a pressing issue in our city, in the Sacramento region and across California. It’s an issue we need to address at all levels in our state, city and campus.

In my first months as chancellor, I have identified housing and transportation as key challenges for UC Davis. I am particularly concerned with making sure our students have access to housing so they can focus on their studies.

Last year, we requested proposals for new campus housing at Orchard Park and West Village, and in October we selected a developer — University Student Living — and we are moving quickly to finalize terms for those projects. I’m pleased to announce that thanks to hard work and innovative thinking by the developers and UC Davis staff, we now believe that these sites can house substantially more students than originally planned.

Plans for Orchard Park now include an extra 500 beds for students over the 900 in our request for proposals, and new housing at West Village would now include 3,800 beds, almost 2,000 more than we requested.

As a result, we are raising our goal for new on-campus student housing in the Long Range Development Plan from 6,200 to 8,500 beds. We recognize the importance of affordable housing and are striving to make new options as affordable as possible through increased density, efficient design and a variety of unit types.

This housing plan significantly exceeds our planned enrollment growth and could provide many options for future students to live on campus with close access to our academic resources.

I want to be very clear that many factors, not all of which can be anticipated, avoided or mitigated, could affect housing developments — from economic factors to policies at the state and federal levels. Much can happen, and many challenges remain, as we strive to implement these initial projects and anticipate future projects through 2030.

The Long Range Development Plan provides the framework within which these and other projects are considered. Over the past two years, our planning efforts have benefited from careful listening during extensive consultation with and input from the community — and that input will continue as we enter the last stages of creating this plan.

We believe the previous plan revisions and our current revised housing projections provide another example of UC Davis going beyond the basic requirements for considering public input and then finding creative options to align campus planning with the desires of the local community.

We expect that the environmental impact report for the LRDP will be available for public comment in March and go to the UC Regents for approval in July. Through implementation of the LRDP, we will continue to explore options for even greater density and building heights.

Encouraging smart development

While we are planning the most ambitious student housing construction campaign in campus history, housing market changes cannot be resolved by UC Davis alone. We want to continue to work cooperatively with the Davis community, City Council and other local communities to encourage smart and responsible development drawing on the careful and innovative history of planning in the city of Davis.

I am excited about the potential development of housing on the Nishi site adjacent to campus. We are working with city staff to understand the details of the revised proposal. We will work positively with the developers to consider an agreement for direct access to the campus from Nishi so that if the city of Davis approves the project, these additional housing units will be oriented toward students and priced appropriately.

I am also very encouraged by the City Council’s recent approval of housing developments in Davis. Providing a greater abundance and diversity of housing should help ease some pressure on the Davis housing market.

I view higher education as an opportunity for all, and I see providing that opportunity as an obligation and challenge we all must meet. I’m looking forward to working with you to keep our shared community a vibrant place to learn, work and live into the future.

— Gary S. May is the chancellor of UC Davis.