Biking around town, it seems the only type of building more popular in Davis than Thai food restaurants is apartment complexes. But two years from now, two whole complexes will be gone — Solano Park Apartments in July 2016, and Orchard Park Apartments on July 31 of this year.
With this move, UC Davis is displacing families, disadvantaging student parents and reducing affordable housing options.
Orchard Park and Solano Park, respectively located northwest and southeast of campus, are affordable housing complexes designated for graduate students and students with families. Benefits for residents of both complexes include campus proximity, safe spaces away from traffic for children to play, a community network of other student parents and families and a relatively low rent that is manageable under their student-worker salaries.
According to Student Housing, the buildings are being torn down because they are old and need to be improved, and repairs are more expensive than renovations. We’re all for making sure that buildings are safe and comfortable for their residents, but the end product of these renovations is questionable at best.
While the University has not yet announced its plans for Solano Park, the ones it has for Orchard Park make it seem as if it is trying to build West Village 2.0. The 476 one- and two-bedroom units will be converted to 69 two-bedroom units in a complex equipped with unnecessarily extravagant amenities, like a fitness center and tanning salon. Each unit will be priced at $1,400/month, a $500 monthly increase from the current rate. What this means for the UC Davis TAs and Graduate Student Researchers living in Orchard Park is that their rent would cost 95 percent of their salary.
The University has given residents few options and little say in the matter, barely taking into account their needs or their pleas to stop the demolition, and not giving residents a complete detail of their plan until January 2014. Student Housing stated that it “encourages” residents to move from Orchard Park to Solano Park before the closure this summer, and told them to take out loans, use credit cards or apply for financial aid if they were having difficulty paying for other housing. This is an unacceptable response.
Other ways in which the University has claimed they are facilitating the displacement of Orchard and Solano Park residents is by providing 8th and Wake, the former Castilian dorm building that was closed in June 2011, as a replacement option. 8th and Wake is set to open in Fall Quarter 2014. However, 8th and Wake only provides 59 four-bedroom units, not to mention the fact that the closest green area is a park surrounded by fraternities and freshman dorms, and often reeks of weed. Not a very suitable atmosphere for children.
The renovations also go against proposed goals of the 2020 initiative, which not only needs more housing units to hold the 5,000-plus students it plans to take on, but also claims, in a March 7, 2013 press release, that its goals include “significant increase in graduate student enrollment” and “‘investing in graduate education.’” Taking away their housing doesn’t seem the best way to do that. But, as we’ve seen by the UC Student-Workers Union UAW 2865’s demands and their recent TA and graduate student strike, the University’s support for its graduate students hasn’t been as strong as we would like it to be.
Many have been working hard to stop the Orchard Park and Solano Park renovations, such as the group Save the Parks Now. Theirs and others’ objections led the University to state that they will halt Orchard Park redevelopment plans, but will still demolish the buildings in July; other outcry led to the lowering of the rents for proposed units to $1,026, but that is still 65 percent of a grad student’s salary.
If the University is concerned in any way for the well-being of its student body, it would not demolish the Orchard Park and Solano Park Apartments, and it would use alternative funding sources to repair the complexes without further cost to their residents.