CHANCELL-ING: A Town-Gown Partnership Like No Other

People walk on Third Street in Davis
The relationship between the university and city is on full display on Davis’ Third Street. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

This month, I’ve invited a special guest to join me in writing this column. Josh Chapman was appointed as the mayor of Davis in January 2024, but I’ve known him for years through his service on the Davis City Council. In the spirit of partnership, we wanted to express our commitment to maintaining the strongest possible town-gown relationship between UC Davis and the city, along with sharing what you can expect in the upcoming months.

Blue graphic of Chancellor Gary S. May with text: Gary May Chancell-ing. A town-gown newspaper column.

Davis is California’s ultimate college town and known for many things, including bikes and Eggheads. But it’s our shared commitment to a strong partnership, along with our shared belief in the strength of community, especially in the face of adversity, which truly sets us apart. We are proud that for more than a century, the City of Davis and UC Davis remain so well connected. Today, we reflect on recent milestones and prospective possibilities.

Continued progress

In August, we celebrated a student-housing milestone with the grand opening of Orchard Park. The $330 million project is part of the most ambitious housing construction program in UC Davis history. This was all made possible by the 2018 agreement that UC Davis signed with the city and Yolo County to make real progress on shared goals and continue to improve our partnership and collaboration.

That agreement set the wheels in motion for even more progress. In February, the city and UC Davis celebrated the 100 millionth Unitrans rider since the inception of this service 56 years ago. Unitrans is essential not only to transport UC Davis students but to connect the campus and city communities together. With more than 48 buses across 18 routes, Unitrans transported more than 3 million riders, including residents and families, in 2023. This service exemplifies the strength of our enduring partnership as the ultimate town-gown city.

Speaking of wheels in motion, last fall UC Davis and the City of Davis launched a shared e-bike and e-scooter program called Spin to improve connections between the campus, downtown Davis and the rest of the city. The program aims to reduce vehicle trips in our community and offer affordable transportation to reach jobs, classes, health care and other essential services.

Additionally, the Putah Creek restoration project is a joint effort to restore 32 acres of wetland habitat. The proposed plan is to create an off-channel wetland area, expand the riparian forest, revegetate with native plants and provide a walking loop for visitors. This project highlights the dedication of our organizations towards environmental protection, quality of life and preservation of local heritage and habitat.

A growing partnership to combat hate

On tougher societal issues, it's a priority for us to continue our joint efforts to combat hate and cultivate change. This mission is especially urgent given recent vandalism, intolerance and examples of hate speech both in the city and on campus.

Hate-Free Together logo with logos for city of Davis, Yolo County and UC Davis

In March, we launched our website for Hate-Free Together, or HFT. This is a testament to our shared dedication to combat discrimination, inspire acceptance and promote inclusion. The website is a clearinghouse of information that will only grow and improve as services are added, programs are shared and opportunities arise.

In addition to the Hate-Free Together website, there are plans to add more events, outreach and trainings to the online calendar, host listening sessions with key communities and neighborhoods in Davis and develop a potential safe space program. More details are coming as this initiative develops and grows.

As founders of this initiative along with Yolo County, we’ve seen the support and partnership for HFT grow tremendously, including having the Davis Joint Unified School District and the Yolo County Office of Education join the initiative. This website is one step of many to come. Everyone deserves to feel welcome and valued in a community that celebrates differences.

The past year also included moments of crisis where community members and organizations rose with strength and resilience to protect, shield and encourage one another. This collective force is part of what makes Davis so special and will continue to bring potency and power to the projects and possibilities on the horizon between the city and the university.

Mental health

As we embark on another year working, breathing and living together, we also take into consideration the mental health of our community. Often, we go from one predicament to another without stopping to check in or processing the impacts. For college students, there is Health 34 service, reducing crisis through compassion and kindness and for community members, there is the Crisis Now hotline, a 24/7 mobile call center to help people access mental health services.

In both challenging times and in moments of celebration, the city and university remain dedicated to working on our shared goals. We are invested in the growth, vibrancy and spirit of Davis. We are spurring economic development, improving quality of life, deepening educational opportunities and creating unique paths forward for our dynamic and amazing home, the one we call Davis.

Chancellor Gary S. May’s monthly column is published in The Davis Enterprise and Dateline UC Davis.

Primary Category

Secondary Categories