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Campus builds a community bridge

By Clifton B. Parker on October 12, 2007 in University

As a college town, Davis is a mix of students and families. While about 20 percent of the more than 30,000 students at UC Davis live on campus, the rest live off campus — and that is where problems with parties, loud noise, parking and litter sometimes arise.

Thanks to several programs and initiatives the past several years, relationships have improved between students and family residents, said Gary Sandy, director of local government relations for UC Davis.

"We've been gratified by the amount of student support we've had — they're stepping forward to be part of the solution," Sandy said.

Approximately 40 percent of Davis homes serve as rentals, creating a dynamic of students streaming into neighborhoods designed for single families, which can lead to conflict. Communication is key to working out these issues before they escalate.

Each year, the university joins with the city of Davis and the student body government to encourage all community members to participate in Davis Neighbors' Night Out ( block parties held throughout the city to help neighbors to get better acquainted. More than 60 neighborhoods participated last year, and this year's events will be on Saturday, Oct. 20.

Kareem Salem, president of the Associated Students of UC Davis, also credits the City-UCD Student Liaison Commission ( as an important part of the solution. It is charged with addressing mutual concerns such as noise, lighting and safety, parking, housing and neighborhood relations.

"As problems do arise, the commission takes care of them early before they escalate," said Salem, a senior from San Diego who is majoring in international relations. "Over the years, student involvement in the community has grown and as a direct result, we're seeing more collaboration with the city that results in a stronger relationship."

Salem said one of the biggest complaints he hears from students is about the lack of night-time entertainment in Davis. So he helped form the new ASUCD/City of Davis Entertainment Partnership that will hold a quarterly concert or music event in the downtown's Central Park. Trial events last year were quite successful, Salem said.

Parties are perhaps one of the biggest sources of conflict between students and Davis residents. For the past three years, UC Davis has worked to get the word out that students can have parties that are safe, fun and respectful of neighbors through the Safe Party Initiative (

Michelle Johnston, health promotion supervisor at the Cowell Student Health Center, said the program gives students guidelines that help create respectful, caring communities. Tips for students include:

  • giving neighbors advance notice of an event;
  • providing a phone number at which the student host can be reached;
  • not allowing strangers into the party;
  • keeping the noise level reasonable and asking guests to be quiet as they leave; and
  • checking nearby lawns in the morning for any trash.

"It's not a good use of public safety resources for a neighbor to call the police to ask someone to turn the music down," Johnston said. "We encourage students and non-student neighbors to get to know each other before any problems occur so they can communicate concerns directly and avoid bad feelings."

Lt. Darren Pytel of the city of Davis Police Department said the efforts of the Safe Party Initiative have been quite successful. He works with fraternities and sororities to help them set up safe party environments and assists them with obtaining the necessary permits for large gatherings.

"We do get some complaints still, but we feel we're way ahead of where we were a few years ago in terms of alcohol and drug abuse in the student population," Pytel said.

In spite of some ups and down through the years, the relationship between the university and town has been good, said Sue Greenwald, mayor of the city of Davis. "The block parties for Davis Neighbors' Night Out were much more successful than anticipated. To keep those relations positive, we need to continue to work on building an atmosphere of cooperation and consideration."

Trina Wood is a freelance writer for University Commun-ications.

Media contact(s)

Clifton B. Parker, Dateline, (530) 752-1932,