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Davis, California

Friday, June 21, 2024

Downtown brings together town and gown

In close proximity to restaurants, entertainment and campus, Downtown Davis, among other areas of the city, attracts both students and non-students to its quaint and convenient housing.

Cristy Jensen was a student at UC Davis in the 1960s and lives in a house downtown surrounded by both students and permanent Davis residents. Most years, she and her husband make an effort to get to know the students living nearby.

“It goes in cycles,” she said. “Some years it’s harder when a group gets together to rent a house and it becomes a central gathering point. It can work if you have good relationships, but sometimes we’ve heard students say, ‘If you don’t like living in a student neighborhood, then you can move.’ But I’ve lived in this house for almost 35 years. This is our house.”

Across the street, neighbor Jenny Broome agreed that the cyclical nature of student living makes it difficult to form relationships with students.

“I can’t say we always walk across the street to introduce ourselves,” she said, “but it’s too often that people are coming and going. We are [at] different times in our lives that make it hard to connect.”

Broome recalls last year’s Picnic Day, during which a student threw up in her yard in front of her nine-year old daughter.

“They threw up near her hamster’s grave. It’s a sad message to give to young children and have them under the impression that that’s what college is about,” she said.

Despite their complaints, Broome and Jensen said that, in general, students and residents live together in harmony.

Mac Walker, a senior communication major, said that living near Davis residents is not an issue in his personal life. He contrasted Davis residential areas with Santa Barbara’s Isla Vista (IV), a student-dominated neighborhood near the UC Santa Barbara campus.

“I don’t mind [living near residents] because the neighborhood is nice looking and IV is a dump hole,” he said. “The streets here look nice and a lot of the residents help out with community planning. But, at the same time, it would be kind of tight to have an all student community.”

Walker also noted, however, that as a member of the Picnic Day committee, he has heard of conflicts between neighbors before. He recalled one woman who complained to the committee that, ‘Picnic Day has happened every day for the last 10 years.’

Junior economics and political science double major, Danny Brawer, said that he also has not encountered problems with Davis residents.

“I think most people are pretty knowledgeable of the fact that it’s a college town. We were having a party downtown and we told the neighbor to call us before they called the police and they actually did. People seem pretty respectful,” he said.

However, not all students agree. Pippa Whishaw, an exchange student from Australia, currently lives downtown. She said students and residents would be better off separate.

“I would prefer to live an area with just students because residents call the cops on you for parties,” she said. “I get the feeling that they don’t like living near undergrads or near students. I mean, if I was a resident with a family I wouldn’t want to live next to students. It doesn’t encroach on my life, but I think it would be ideal if students and residents just lived in different places.”

Having gone to high school in Davis, sophomore environmental science and management major Deanna Seil has experienced both perspectives.

“I feel like I never saw college students a lot,” she said. “Sometimes we would try to find college parties. We would lie about our age and say we were different majors. My mom thinks it’s kind of cool living near college students. She definitely enjoyed her college years so she likes having students in the area.”

Hannah Levien, a senior at Davis High School, said she doesn’t mind living across the street from a group of club water polo players.

“Sometimes they’re loud, but when they moved in I was like, ‘Oh college boys!'” she said. “Living close to students made me more excited about the college lifestyle and even more likely to want to go to college.”

In the end, said Captain Darren Pytel of the Davis Police Department, the issue goes beyond simply students and non-students.

“A lot of the students think that the issue is because they’re students, but a lot of the complaints are for noise, parties, dogs and yards not being kept up,” he said. “I think that whether it’s a resident or student or renter – it doesn’t really matter about the status – neighbors need to interact with each other and know what the other is looking for out of a neighbor.”

MELISSA FREEMAN can be reached at city@theaggie.org.


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