In the end, with all of the strangeness of having to count 6000 to 7000 additional votes, the outcomes really did not change. If anything, the final count bolstered the trend from Election Day, where Measure A went from 300 ahead in the initial count to 300 behind after the Election Day count was completed, and it ended up losing 51.5 to 48.5 percent, with a 693-point spread.
The No on Measure A team issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon, “We are grateful to Davis voters including UCD students who, after carefully considering the issues, voted No on the Nishi project. We appreciate that Measure J/R gave Davis residents the opportunity to decide for themselves if this project was what the community wanted. We continue to be concerned about the lack of well-planned housing in Davis and at UCD, however, and will continue to work hard towards the goal of increasing affordable housing availability.”
The Yes on Measure A campaign has not yet issued a statement on the results. Nor have they publicly declared whether they would seek a new election with a modified project.
Here are some thoughts on the Measure A election and also the council election which has been finalized…
First, the final vote count showed 66.1 percent voter turnout. That means 23,909 of 36,196 registered voters voted. November’s vote count, depending on how competitive the presidential election race is, figures to top 80 percent.
That voter turnout pushed the council vote figures into record territory. On June 5, 2002, Dan Wolk received 10,212 votes, finishing first in every precinct. This year’s election has now seen Brett Lee finish first in every precinct. He received a whopping 13,409 votes – shattering Dan Wolk’s record by over 3000 votes, or over 33 percent.
In fact, Lucas Frerichs finished second with 11,401 and Will Arnold finished third with 11,135 – also breaking Dan Wolk’s previous record by over 1000. In 2012, 14,928 people voted. In 2016, that number was nearly 9000 higher.
How big was the turnout? We calculated, based on previous elections, that it would take about 9000 to win Measure A. It turns out that number was quite low, and 11,702 voted against it while 11,009 voted for it. We thought the high number of identified voters, 7000, might be decisive but the final vote totals dwarfed it.
The numbers suggest a strong trend moving away from Measure A on Election Day. Early on we believed that a strong Sanders push would get students out, students who were concerned about housing and costs. It seems that may have actually worked against the project.
First, the typical Sanders voter in the city of Davis is probably less inclined to support growth. Second, social justice supporters turned against the project with the lack of Affordable Housing and the apparent giveaway by the city.
The Sanders rally the week before, Yes on A officials believed, hurt them. Hurting them as well were concerns about Redrum Burger, which they tried to alleviate. Also there was a strong social media pushback against the project.
Still, I think it is hard to draw a lot of hard conclusions from a close election with an unusually high turnout. Michael Harrington once again proclaimed this “the single worst proposed development – ever…” And the city council as “totally out of touch with the voters.”
In our view, the electorate for the first time was truly split on this measure, with 11,000 voters supporting it. That doesn’t suggest a council that is “totally out of touch with the voters.” You could argue that point a lot higher in 2005, when 80 percent of the council voted for Measure X and 60 percent of the voters opposed it in the polls. In 2009, 60 percent of the split council voted for Measure P but 75 percent of the voters opposed it.
No doubt the developers spent a lot of money to get the measure passed, but that is not unusual and, in fact, Measure A’s development team spent far less than the Measure X team to try to get the matter passed.
The measure was no doubt hurt by a number of factors we already laid out. The Affordable Housing deal may have surprisingly been the key issue – turning off potential student and activist supporters. As we mentioned previously, failure by the council to deal with some of the issues on Richards prior to the vote probably played a role. Not nailing down key details on connectivity to campus, sustainability, and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification certainly hurt.
There are those who believed that not getting the measure on the November ballot was fatal as well, although the huge turnout may belie that point.
Going forward, there is a question as to whether Nishi, having come as close as it did, could come back. A similar project might not require a new EIR, saving the team some of the expense of a total redesign. On the other hand, several have told the Vanguard that they have some ideas for a truly progressive project at Nishi that would pass easily, and they seem discouraged that the development team did not take this to heart earlier.
There are those who believe that Nishi needs to go on a November ballot to win. That would likely require November 2018. It is not clear that the development team would want to wait that long.
The prevailing wisdom is that pushing it onto a special election – like Covell Village in 2005 and Wild Horse Ranch in 2009 – would be fatal, as the bulk of the committed voters are opposed to new projects.
The Vanguard believes that, regardless of what projects are needed, the 0.2 percent vacancy rate coupled with the continued campus growth are only going to increase the need for more student housing and, while UC Davis has agreed to supply more housing – as we argued on Monday – the devil will be in the details.
—David M. Greenwald reporting