by Jim Gray
Just a quick word of thanks for hosting the “Measure A Nishi Forum” last night. I hope that your readers and Davis Voters take the opportunity to read the account of the meeting or see a replay of the forum. The forum made clear to me the choices that the Voter’s have. Here are a few of my recollections and thoughts from attending.
Tim Ruff, the Nishi Developer/Proponent and Mike Corbett, former Mayor of Davis and developer of Village Homes and solar and smart growth pioneer speak and answer questions in support of Measure A. Alan Pryor, Davis Resident and an Opponent of the project, speaks against the proposal. The forum and resulting discussion is well prepared and the participants and the audience get to ask tough questions.
The proponents make their positive points. A vote for Nishi is going to:
• Lead to traffic improvements and needed infrastructure at Richards Boulevard and I-80. A new off-ramp design and traffic configuration with enhanced bicycle safety will be built and it will create a safer, and better circulation for cars, bikes, and pedestrians. The plan Includes an enhancement of West Olive Drive with a bridge over Putah Creek south of the Arboretum and then a tunnel under the railroad tracks leading to campus close to the Mondavi Center. The proponents show detailed plans and answer questions about this creative configuration.
• An architecturally pleasing, compact mixed use community is planned that will provide a mix of housing, both for sale condominiums and multi-family rentals as well as the infrastructure/foundation for 300,000 square feet of office/innovation/Incubator buildings. This will create a supply of desperately needed housing and it will create office and lab infrastructure for companies starting or growing who are attracted by the research and talent at the University. The project will create more than 1500 jobs, and contribute to economic development, and long term tax revenue to support the City and the School District.
• The proponents clearly outline the features and attributes that will make for an enhanced/compact neighborhood that makes walking, biking, and public transit to the university and downtown Davis easier and thereby reduces car trips and related emissions/pollution/and greenhouse gases.
• Ruff and Corbett point out that the project has been being planned and vetted for more than 8 years. The proponents have gone through an exhaustive and burdensome process that gained unanimous City Council approval. They detail all of the public and committee hearings that they have participated in 35-40 meetings. They show thousands of pages or studies and reports.
• They present facts, show detailed drawings and plans, and answer questions directly while presenting their case.
The opponents make their case for no project. The reason to stop Nishi are:
• We have bad traffic at Richards and the Tunnel into town/Olive Drive is congested. So “let’s do nothing” because it will be better than this development and change.
• Pryor opines that we don’t need student housing at this site because there are plenty of other places for student housing. Then he points out “other options”; on the other side of Olive Drive –the old Calori Court Site – (same impacts on traffic at clearly an inferior site with greater impacts) or at the former Family First Site near the Post Office – which itself is controversial, embroiled in its own environmental review and controversy and of course on 5,000 acres of farm land owned by the University. He states that the University should be the developer of our housing. In my opinion his alternative sites are “alternative non solutions”.
• Pryor then shocks me and the audience by saying that “Davis doesn’t need jobs.” “The University provides us with more than our fair share of jobs.” No, I’m not kidding read the transcript or watch the replay. Vanguard readers should listen to Pryor’s negative rant – not once –but many times he states that we don’t need jobs here! He continues students should come to Davis, get an education, and then quickly leave town. His messages are delivered in such a selfish and mean spirited way. Absolutely nothing progressive about his thinking and argument in this regards.
• He makes his case that the Housing isn’t affordable to the low and very low income … so let’s not build any housing at all. Pryor and the opponents argue that the principles of supply and demand have been repealed and that what we need is an additional $11 million tax so we can claim that we are supporting the poor. I listened closely and I believe that his remarks in this regard were insincere, I heard a rationalization, a politically correct effort to not be discriminatory or exclusionary. Pryor and his colleagues are not really advocates for low and very low income residents. They are desperately looking for arguments.
• They argue that putting the housing here will defeat Davis efforts to reduce Greenhouse Gases. They argue that we should force the students, staff, and faculty to drive from distant communities and fill the entire region’s air basin with thousands of longer and additional trips with more cars spewing millions of additional tons of Carbon into the region. Gosh that is progressive and scientific thinking.
The forum was fairly well attended. The format and the dialogue was interesting. The choices were clear. Vote Yes for positive change and in support of good environmentally responsible planning. Vote No because you are grumpy, have yours already, and make false environmental and social arguments not supported by the facts!
Thank you Vanguard for hosting the Forum. I believe the presentation and debate make the choices that Davis voters face very clear. Good Planning vs Head in the Sand Selfishness.