Commentary: What We Learned from the Trackside Debate and the Emerging Generational Gap in Davis

The vote on Trackside was 4-1 with the council siding with the developer’s four-story proposal.  The neighbors argued and have continued to argue that this project is precedent-setting.  I don’t see it that way, and I think most of the community did not as well.  What I do see is that the discussion on Tuesday set up for the next debate and I’ll explain why shortly.

Take 1: This always remained an Old East debate

It was not for a lack of effort on the part of the neighborhood association.  They came to Farmer’s Market, they had advertising, they went door to door and flyered adjacent neighborhoods.  Their efforts did not bear fruit.

Old North Davis was leafleted to urge turnout for the Trackside hearing – the result was there were three people from ONDNA speaking and all three probably would have spoken regardless.

Beyond the neighborhood, the small number of speakers against the proposal from outside of the neighborhood amounted to less than a handful of people and they too were “usual suspects.”

As Linda Deos put it, no one outside of Old East Davis really cared about Trackside.  There were over 50 commenters, they were pretty much by my count split down the middle, and they amounted to three groups primarily: (1) the neighbors, (2) the investors, and (3) young students and recent graduates.

Take 2: Design guidelines was not a winning issue

The strategy undertaken by the neighborhood did not work to bring in the general population.  They warned in their flyer that there “are forces in town that wish to greatly densify all our neighborhoods” and they lamented the violation of the design guidelines and zoning.

As expected, this issue did not resonate for the council and it did not resonate for the folks outside of the immediate neighborhood.  Part of that relates to the nature of other current proposals which do not appear to have the same dynamics as Trackside.  Part of that relates to kind of the unique nature of this location.

Take 3: The neighbors in a lot of ways overplayed their hand

My sense in Tuesday’s column that the neighborhood opposition overplayed their hand I think was borne out in some of the council comments.  Councilmember Will Arnold took exception to what he called “the rhetorical gap.”  He took exception to the notion that the design guidelines were being wiped out and “Davis was losing its soul.”

I was more sympathetic to the neighbors’ concerns here, given the small impact of 27 units on the overall housing crisis, but the rhetoric was overblown and over the top, especially considering the difference between three and four stories.

It is one thing when this was a six-story proposal – I think most everyone saw that clearly as an overreach, especially when coupled with poor outreach.  The developers made a lot of early mistakes and they definitely poisoned the well with that, especially with the neighborhood.

But once they came down to four stories, the neighborhood continued with almost the same level of discouragement.  That didn’t play well with the council especially, who saw the developers offering four stories (a reduction from the original six) and the neighbors countering with three stories and 12 fewer units.

By then, the difference in size did not seem to match the rhetoric, which is what Councilmember Arnold called “the rhetorical gap.”  Other councilmembers did not articulate it but told me they felt the same way.

Most people in the end didn’t see a huge difference between the impact of three versus four, and, given the concern about housing and the current under-utilized space at Trackside, the council without a really strong case was simply going to approve it.

Take 4: The emerging generational gap in Davis

I saved this point until last, but this is probably the most important point and it is probably the only precedent-setting point that we have.

Councilmember Rochelle Swanson made the comment that “no one is talking about the fact that this is about the haves and have-nots.”

In a way this battle is almost misplaced with Trackside, because it will not have student housing by design and structure.  It will be housing that leans away from affordable and toward luxury.  And yet, what we saw on Tuesday was a very clear and extremely stark generational gap.

I think, with one exception, everyone who came to speak who was under the age of 40 spoke in favor of the proposed project.  Whereas, most of the folks speaking who were over the age of 50 were opposed to the proposed project.

The contrast between the students and recent graduates who were speaking and decrying the lack of affordable housing in Davis, and the older (with one exception) members of the neighborhood who were housing-secure and settled in their lives is the story of Davis for the next few years.

The recent graduate who is working for a start up and wants to live in Davis but can’t afford the rent, and those who want to live in Davis and can’t find a place to live, were reminders that the discussions we have been having here on the Vanguard have real people.  People have questioned if there are people who work in Davis and live elsewhere who want to move here – well, we saw some of them on Tuesday night.

Again, Trackside with 27 units, as everyone acknowledges, doesn’t solve the housing crisis or even put a dent in it.  But more important than that, what we saw is a glimpse of the coming policy debate.

This is an emerging issue and you ignore it at extreme risk.  Davis is rapidly becoming a bifurcated community of people over 65 and under 25.  The neighbors talked about the missing middle in planning, but failed to note the missing middle in demographics.

There has been a lot of talk that we need more one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments in Davis for families.  Well, if those apartments rent for $1600 a month to $2300 a month, what family can afford to live there?

The reality is that, while the students and young professionals are lacking places to live in Davis, there is little place for people my age – with young families and who make at or slightly above median income – to live in Davis.

None of this is solved by Trackside, but the people who came forward and matched the neighbors in numbers and intensity are a sign of what is to come.

How this ends up playing out remains to be seen.  We will see in the coming months with Lincoln40, with Plaza 2555, and eventually with Nishi whether the generational shift has real traction, but ignore this trend at your own peril is the lesson I take away from Tuesday.

—David M. Greenwald reporting



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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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125 thoughts on “Commentary: What We Learned from the Trackside Debate and the Emerging Generational Gap in Davis”

  1. Keith O

    Another lesson learned:

    Start out with a monstrous development that has no way of ever getting approved then compromise down to a project that is still outside of the neighborhood design guidelines that results in a “rhetorical gap” thereby ending in the project’s approval.

  2. Robert Canning

    The notion that this was just about Old East Davis because no one else showed up at the City Council meeting is a very narrow view and doesn’t take into account a number of things:

    1) It is probably true that only the most loyal partisans on any issue bother to show up at city chambers. It’s hard to gauge these things by who shows up.

    2) As Rochelle Swanson noted from the dais the council had received many, many emails about the issue.  I heard a number of weeks ago that council members were being peppered with emails about the issue. (Although it’s hard to know the geographic spread of the email senders.)

    Robb Davis’ comments at the end disappointed me (and others) because I believe they are shortsighted.  He noted that one of the goals of infill and densification in the Core is to maintain the vitality of downtown Davis and that Trackside is a contributor to bringing people downtown.  The other point he made was that in his judgment the project will not harm the Old East Davis neighborhood.

    I think both points deserve some rebuttal. The difference between the neighbors’ proposal and the developers is not really about 27 vs 15 units – it’s really somewhere in the middle – the compromise point. So in the end we are talking about 15-20 people, really.  And at what cost? I think that the harm to the neighborhood is that there will be increased pressure on other parts of Old East and the other neighborhoods surrounding downtown.  In Old East the property owned by Jennifer Anderson has long been thought to be in play for further development.  In addition there has been talk about someone wanting to develop on the corner of 3rd and L. Old North can expect more pressure to develop on it’s edge. I think Robb is correct in his comment that the most contentious issues are about the transition zones. Unfortunately, I believe the council just threw their weight behind more development on the edges rather than where I believe it should be – directly in the core.

    On another note, this issue of the students really bugs me. As far as I can tell, they were very carefully used by the Tracksdie folks to shift the sympathies in the room.  Every councilmember made mention of them.  Not one of them will be able to afford a Trackside apartment yet there they were urging passage of the project – as if it will alleviate the shortage of student housing. Developers, even local ones, are willing to use all sorts of tactics to sway opinion in favor of their bottom line.

    1. Keith O

      On another note, this issue of the students really bugs me. As far as I can tell, they were very carefully used by the Tracksdie folks to shift the sympathies in the room.

      I totally agree.  It looked orchestrated to me, “YES” stickers and all.

    2. Robert Canning

      I forgot to provide the information that I live in Old East Davis, am on the board of the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association, and that the opinions expressed in my post above are mine alone and not that of the board or any other neighbor (except maybe Tia Will who always agree with all my opinions).

      1. Tia Will

        except maybe Tia Will who always agree with all my opinions)”.

        Prompting out loud laughter and sincere gratitude that I had already finished my coffee.

         

         

    3. David Greenwald Post author

      2) As Rochelle Swanson noted from the dais the council had received many, many emails about the issue.  I heard a number of weeks ago that council members were being peppered with emails about the issue. (Although it’s hard to know the geographic spread of the email senders.)

      I was told a lot of it was form letter however

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          You understand that part of what I do all day is have conversations with people about what is going on. I’m having five right now simultaneously over text message.

      1. Howard P

        As to “form e-mail”, have you heard whether it was one-sided, or both sides?  Gets to contention that the students were ‘recruited’ by one side rather than ‘spontaneous’… the pampletting in Old North seems to have been one-sided, but “anonymous”… something about goose and gander…

        1. Howard P

          Thank you for that.

          Very telling about the contentions,

          this issue of the students really bugs me. As far as I can tell, they were very carefully used by the Tracksdie(sic) folks to shift the sympathies in the room.   and,

          I have no idea if any of Tuesdays(sic) speakers received any kind of compensation for being there, 

          Goose and gander, again… plus innuendo (subtle, but evident) as to ‘compensation’… to bring that issue up is about as close to an ‘accusation’ than one can get, retaining the ability to deny an accusation. Good job.

        2. Keith O

          the students were largely self-organized

          What does that mean?  Largely as in by and large?  As in mostly?  Generally?  On the whole?  To me that word means they weren’t completely self organized, maybe had some outside help or a nudge?

        3. David Greenwald

          It means I do not believe there was an organized effort to bring in students to speak, but that doesn’t mean that someone didn’t ask an individual student to come.

      1. Keith O

        I think the OEDNA might think there was also a large gap in the rhetoric presented by the students to approve this project when in fact it will do nothing for their housing needs.

    1. Howard P

      aka, a “mega-fib”… in this case a fib that has a big kernel of truth, wrapped in words/tone meant to exaggerate, and scare/intimidate/persuade others.

  3. Tia Will

    It is interesting to me that one of the objections that was brought up with regard to Nishi was that students and possibly other young people were paid advocates for the project. While tabling for Nishi, I found that many of them did not have a good command of many of the issues involved and were merely quoting developer talking points. Since I was in favor of Nishi, I took the time to give them the background and pros and cons behind some of those talking points in order to help them hone their message.

    I have no idea if any of Tuesdays speakers received any kind of compensation for being there, but I do know that although many of them spoke eloquently about their personal need for housing, none explained how a small, expensive, luxury apartment building with no affordable component was going to help them. I also know that none of our council members chose to address this issue head on.

    1. Mark West

      “none explained how a small, expensive, luxury apartment building with no affordable component was going to help them”

      The housing crisis isn’t going to be solved with one or two large projects. Meeting the challenge will require the construction of many projects, some large, some small, some in-between, in order to replace the housing that should have been built over the past decade to match the expanding demand. No one project will solve all of the issues, but every project that adds high-density housing in town will help relieve some of that pent-up demand.

       

       

      1. Howard P

        True story… it’s not “build it and they will come”… it’s “they came”, or “they are coming”… “so build it”.

        Am actually a strong supporter of UC stepping up and doing the 100/50 thing.  Truly.

        But, based on their documents, and past experience, the City doesn’t have any control, and to say we freeze City housing development to accomplish that (‘leverage” UC to deal with housing) is a ‘fool’s errand’.

        Assertions to the contrary are truly “Quixotic”… tilting at windmills, as it were…

      2. Tia Will

        Mark

        I agree with your comment as written. However, I do not believe that the city should be making exceptions for projects that do not fill a basic and identifiable “need” for housing.

        I have no objection to infill projects that are within existing zoning and guidelines whether luxury or not. I have no objection to infill projects outside guidelines that meet a “crisis” ( to borrow a term from Lucas) need such as student housing, affordable housing, or special needs housing for vulnerable populations.I do object to projects that do neither of the above as exemplified by Trackside.

  4. David Greenwald Post author

    A few additional thoughts…

    Some more of the investors have reached out to me to confirm that the investors knew going in that the returns on their investment would be very modest and in most cases would not see a return for many years.

    A big motivation was investing in the community.  That doesn’t mean that they didn’t see it as a way to make money down the line for their kids, but immediate return on investment was not a prime motivator.

    Second, I’m hearing that the students were not organized.  In most cases the students are coming out because the housing situation is that bad.  And in most cases they also knew that Trackside wouldn’t be affordable for them, but creating additional housing stock would help them.

    1. David Greenwald

      Here’s a quote: “We invested in trackside because we firmly believe in infill and we believe in our community.   Not because of the potential returns.”

       

      1. Tia Will

        I accept the comments of the investors at face value. I do not doubt their sincerity. But I would like to pose a few questions :

        1. Did they consider the impact that such a change would have on the adjacent community ?Although two investors did call me to apologize for not discussing the project prior to the Enterprise article and subsequent push back, not even those I consider to be friends thought to have a conversation about it in advance.

        2. If their primary motivation was community good, why not invest in a project that targeted truly needy populations in our community as opposed to those who can afford luxury housing ?

        3. If their primary motivation was infill, why not develop a project in the downtown as opposed to in a transitional area ?

         

        1. Alan Miller

          I accept the comments of the investors at face value. I do not doubt their sincerity.

          I do not accept the comments of the investors at face value. I doubt their sincerity.

  5. Roberta Millstein

    I’m trying to understand what appropriate protest is according to the Vanguard.  You need to show up at Council — but don’t show up too often or you’ll be branded a “regular” and have your opinion dismissed.  You need to send email — but better not make it a form letter or your opinion doesn’t count.  Is that about right?

    For what it’s worth, I consider myself someone who doesn’t live in East Davis and is not particularly happy about this result, even if I wasn’t able to engage in the discussion.  I’m sure there are others of us out here.

    1. David Greenwald

      I think you’re confusing “appropriate protest” with “effective protest.” One of the tactics by the neighbors was to make the issue about more than just this project and their neighborhood.  To that goal, they spent week after week at Farmer’s Market, they took out ads, they leafletted the adjacent neighborhoods.

      What was the fruit of their actions? Looks like not much.

      Should we discount the views of the neighbors?  By no means.

      But should we evaluate how effective their efforts were at engaging the rest of the community?  I think so.

    2. Alan Miller

      I’m trying to understand what appropriate protest is according to the Vanguard.  You need to show up at Council — but don’t show up too often or you’ll be branded a “regular” and have your opinion dismissed.  You need to send email — but better not make it a form letter or your opinion doesn’t count.  Is that about right?

      You got it.  And the opinions of people who don’t communicate their opinions are the most important opinions of all.

    3. Roberta Millstein

      David, but that is your judgment about what is effective, and your words that dismiss efforts that you don’t consider to be effective. You’ve placd the bar very high. Engage others, but be sure not to engage others who typically engage!  And get them to show up at Council – a form letter is not enough!  You would do well not to contribute to the disparaging of ways that citizens choose to engage and can engage – a disparagement I have seen from some members of Council as well.

      1. Keith O

        I agree.  David even made this statement:

        Beyond the neighborhood, the small number of speakers against the proposal from outside of the neighborhood amounted to less than a handful of people and they too were “usual suspects.”

        I can’t ever remember David calling people who often show up to council meetings the “usual suspects” when it comes to them advocating for causes he pushes and believes in.

        1. Roberta Millstein

          If I don’t say it, I certainly think it.

          You do understand the difference, yes?  That saying it in one type of case but not the other shows a bias?  That when you do say it, it disparages those who sacrifice their evenings to participate and downplays their contributions?  That when you don’t say it and just talk about the commenters without calling them “usual suspects,” you give those commenters more weight as compared to the commenters you disagree with?

  6. Richard McCann

    David

    You’ve repeated ” the small impact of 27 units on the overall housing crisis” and “In a way this battle is almost misplaced with Trackside, because it will not have student housing by design and structure.  It will be housing that leans away from affordable and toward luxury.” These statements fail to acknowledge that the housing market is highly interconnected. This project has important implications in two ways that you should be acknowledging in this story line.

    The first is that approval of this project sets a precedent for future projects near the Core Area. Robert Canning is correct on this point–the debate is whether this is a good or bad policy direction, but the you, David, should be acknowledging that in your columns. 

    The second is that added housing, whether luxury or affordable, creates an increase in the supply of housing stock. That will lead to a decrease in housing prices, making the overall stock less costly. You need look no further than the massive overbuilding of housing by 2006 (especially in Las Vegas, Phoenix and Stockton) that led to the real estate crash starting in 2007 to see this law of supply in action. 27 units means that there is likely 27 single family homes opening up elsewhere in Davis to the housing market (including to the rental market).

    Combining these two implications points toward how this policy decision is one path toward mitigating the current housing crisis in Davis, and why younger people were supportive of the project. The debate should revolve around whether this is the appropriate path.

    1. Tia Will

      Richard

      The second is that added housing, whether luxury or affordable, creates an increase in the supply of housing stock. That will lead to a decrease in housing prices, making the overall stock less costly”

      27 units means that there is likely 27 single family homes opening up elsewhere in Davis to the housing market (including to the rental market).”

      Unless of course, as I have pointed out previously these apartments are occupied by people who do not currently own a home in Davis. I do not pretend to know about the dynamics behind the housing situations in Las Vegas, Phoenix, or Stockton. But what I do know very well from recent house searches in Sacramento is that a large part of the market is being driven by people currently living in the Bay area with large amounts of cash on hand and a desire to live in a less costly region. Davis has another special circumstance which is the presence of an elite university with parents able to buy or help their student obtain highly priced rentals and purchases. I would like to believe that your statement will prove correct, but am quite skeptical given my recent real estate adventures which I have recently documented on the Vanguard and thus will not repeat.

      1. Richard McCann

        First, as an economist, I am familiar with the housing situations in those cities, and saw the housing bubble bursting back in 2007. We sold our house then rather than turn it into a rental in 2007 for that reason.

        Davis will never build enough “affordable” housing to meet the overall demand for new rental housing, in large part because such housing does not generate sufficient return alone to draw the required investment amounts. The only way to produce enough housing is to build housing that meets more than just a narrow housing market that is already challenged to be financially viable.

        And what we have in Davis now is that wealthier residents are occupying housing that would be considered below par in other communities, and students are crowded into single-family housing converted to mini-dorms. Buy building higher end housing, we open up other single family housing units. Yes, Bay Area demand will leak into Davis, but there’s nothing we can do about that. We have to develop our own solutions that follow economic principles, which includes the need to expand the overall housing market to solve our problems.

        It may not seem to be a solution to not directly address the perceived problem, but often economic problems require solutions that travel a more complex path than what is readily visible. And too many times, “simple” solutions turn out to create even more problems than the original one.

    2. Howard P

      Richard… two pieces of advice…

      First, NEVER, EVER tell people how they should FEEL… pisses me off big time when someone does that to me, and I immediately want to go to a 180 degree different position… think that applies to a lot of folk, perhaps a majority… borders on ‘fighting words’…

      Second,

      … that you should be acknowledging…

      … (you) should be acknowledging that in your columns. 

      (see point one)

      Feel very free to share your opinion… but, unless you want folk telling you what your opinion, or even ‘reporting’ “should be”, think long and hard about if the roles were reversed…

       

        1. Howard P

          Alan… we are in total agreement on that, except perhaps when it comes to something like leaking fixture, a bad electrical outlet, something like that… or, if you are dealing with a child that you are directly responsible for (literally, not figuratively)

          But as it relates to the main topic, am in total agreement… one of the old commercials makes this point… “try it, you’ll like it”… funny on one hand, patronizing/offensive on the other…

          I hate brussel sprouts… they make me gag… old Alan King comedy routine… kid says, “I hate brussel sprouts”… dad says “eat your brussel sprouts, they’re good for you”… it degenerates from there…

      1. Richard McCann

        Howard P, “acknowledging” has nothing to do with “feeling”–its about journalistic professional practice. I’m  pointing out that David should be including a larger perspective that is factually-based–that this single project has a larger implication for the city’s housing policy.

  7. Ron

    Roberta:  “David, but that is your judgment about what is effective, and your words that dismiss efforts that you don’t consider to be effective.”

    If you look at the results, David is correct. 

    (And, it’s by no means the first time this has occurred. Nor is it likely to be the last.)

    Perhaps that’s the lesson to be learned, e.g., regarding the next election.

    1. Roberta Millstein

      So, what, we have to set up some sort of “come to the Council rotation” so that the same people aren’t seen too often?  Can we really not just have basic respect for each other as citizens and listen to what each of our citizens has to say, whether it is there first time at Council or their one hundredth?

      1. Ron

        Roberta:  I think you’ve misunderstood my point.

        In the case of Trackside and Sterling, for example, it didn’t really matter what arguments that neighbors put forth.  The council (as a whole) decided that those concerns weren’t sufficient to derail whatever goals they had in mind.

        Overall, the current council seems to favor development more than its own citizens (a “disconnect”, if you will).  (One need look no farther than Nishi, to see that.)

        If the same types of folks (or worse) get elected in June, expect more of the same.

         

        1. Mark West

          “Overall, the current council seems to favor development more than its own citizens”

          Perhaps that is because they have a more thorough understanding and appreciation of the seriousness of our housing and fiscal shortages.

        2. Ron

          Ron:  “If the same types of folks (or worse) get elected in June, expect more of the same.”

          Perhaps someone who derides “noisy neighbors”, for example.

          Mark:  “Perhaps that is because they have a more thorough understanding and appreciation of the seriousness of our housing and fiscal shortages.”

          Two different (and oftentimes opposing) issues.  Megadorms (and most housing) is a permanent money-loser, for the city.  Even the recent analysis presented on the Vanguard (which may not have included all costs) shows that.

          In addition, remaining industrial/commercial sites are being lost, to housing. Even Nishi (which started out as an innovation center) no longer includes commercial.

           

           

        3. Alan Miller

          Ron    November 16, 2017 at 7:21 pm

          If the same types of folks (or worse) get elected in June, expect more of the same.

           

          Mark West    November 16, 2017 at 7:29 pm

          Perhaps that is because they have a more thorough understanding and appreciation of the seriousness of our housing and fiscal shortages.

          Speak of the Devil, Ron!

        4. Mark West

          Megadorms (and most housing) is a permanent money-loser, for the city”

          You keep saying that, but so far you have yet to provide any proof. In fact, if you stop and think about it for a second or two you might see that it is completely wrong for infill projects. Let’s take Trackside as an example since that is the topic of the day.

          Since there are existing buildings on the site, the City is receiving revenues and providing services at some rate. When the property changed ownership it would have been reassessed, increasing the property tax revenues, with no change to the cost of services, so a net positive for the City. When the new project is built, the property will be reassessed yet again to account for the new building, with the addition of one-time construction taxes and fees adding to the net positive return. There will be little or no increase in the cost of services since the new building will be replacing the existing ones. There will not be enough new residents to demand additional City employees, and the increased cost of water, sewer and trash service will be billed based on usage. The result is that the new building will bring in more revenues to the City than the existing one currently is, with little or no new costs associated. While it is true that if we fail to contain costs going forward, eventually, costs will outstrip the revenues, the City, however, will always be receiving more revenue from the new construction than it would have had that redevelopment not occurred. The exact same situation is true for Sterling (your mega-dorm). These infill redevelopment projects will bring in greater revenues to the City, with little increase in associated costs when compared to the existing situation.

        5. Howard P

          Mark… save your energy… talking about mega-dorms and their effects, when the term is incorrect in many respects, and is squishy/frangible.  Like half-solidified jello.  Push on one side, it grows on another.

          Dorms, by accepted definitions, do not include kitchens within a living unit.

          Whatever…

           

        6. Mark West

          Howard –

          I have no illusions of changing certain people’s minds, but there are a number of readers here who might benefit, so the energy is well spent. I appreciate your efforts at education for the same reason.

           

        7. Ron

          Mark:  “There will be little or no increase in the cost of services since the new building will be replacing the existing ones.”

          That is a flat-out incorrect statement.

        8. Ron

          Mark:  “While it is true that if we fail to contain costs going forward, eventually, costs will outstrip the revenues, the City, however, will always be receiving more revenue from the new construction than it would have had that redevelopment not occurred.”

          It will also generate more costs, which (as you noted) will eventually outstrip the revenues.  A permanent money-loser, for the city (apparently, with more such developments to come).

        9. Ron

          Howard:  “Mark… am thinking we should meet… Matt W has suggested this in the past.  If interested, contact Matt…”

          A “strategy session”? (Not needed anyway, with the current council in place.)

          Trying to help Mark with his chances?

        10. Mark West

          Howard –

          I am happy to meet and have said as much to Matt before. If you want to cut out the middleman you are welcome to send me a note directly.  markpewest (at) gmail.com

           

      2. Robb Davis

        Overall, the current council seems to favor development more than its own citizens

        I agree with what you say here.

        The City Council is tasked with identifying solutions to City challenges and advancing goals laid out by the citizens.  I have found that there is little disagreement about the problems nor the broad goals.  Disagreements emerge as to the best way to solve the problems and advance the goals.  On any given issue there is a divergence of opinions about the MEANS to achieve the ENDS. The disagreements are often quite pointed.

        I feel it is reasonable to state disagreements with the policy decisions we use to address the challenges and to propose alternatives.  This is how we improve our decision making processes.

        I think it is another thing altogether to suggest that we care more about our chosen policy course than we care about the citizens of the City.  I find the comments here dishonorable and useless in advancing a meaningful dialogue on how best to proceed.

        1. Tia Will

          I agree with Robb’s point. I believe that all of the members of our current city council are well intentioned and do not believe that they are choosing a preset goal( the need for more infill and density)over citizens. Unfortunately, although I believe in their sincerity, I believe for reasons outlined in the article I submitted today, that the majority was shortsighted ( not cognizant of undesirable long term consequences) and misguided in choosing a winner take all approach over a collaborative model.

        2. Ron

          Robb:  “I think it is another thing altogether to suggest that we care more about our chosen policy course than we care about the citizens of the City.  I find the comments here dishonorable and useless in advancing a meaningful dialogue on how best to proceed.”

          You are way too sensitive and defensive to be a public official.  Noticed this on other occasions, as well.

          I fully stand by my comment.  There’s a disconnect between the council and the city (regarding growth/development), as a whole.  That’s not a character attack, as you seem to take it.

          It is, however, a fundamental difference.

           

        3. Ron

          I will say, however, that I don’t trust the city’s process regarding air quality at Nishi.  (Now, that might be viewed as a character attack.) The reason I don’t trust it is because further testing was recommended (e.g., at the site itself). And yet, some seem to want to jump ahead of that process. There isn’t much time left to conduct studies, if the proposal appears on the June ballot.

        4. David Greenwald

          “You are way too sensitive and defensive to be a public official.  Noticed this on other occasions, as well.”

          Just appalling the things you ay sometimes.  In my view his sensitivity is what has made him a great public official and I fear the void he leaves behind.

        5. Ron

          David:  “In my view his sensitivity is what has made him a great public official and I fear the void he leaves behind.”

          Robb’s sensitivity is often self-focused (as demonstrated by defensiveness). That is not a quality to be admired.

          He’s not so sensitive regarding other viewpoints, at times. (That’s where “sensitivity” actually means something more positive.)

          Yeah, it’s unfortunate that the personalities of public officials is so visible. We all have strengths and weaknesses, but they’re not usually on public display. It goes with the territory of the job.

           

        6. Ron

          And, it’s even more “visible” when a public official engages in online blogs. (It does take a certain level of conviction to do so, however. Robb definitely has conviction, regarding his views.)

        7. Ron

          Robb (regarding comments by me and another commenter):

          “I find the comments here dishonorable and useless in advancing a meaningful dialogue on how best to proceed.”

          David (regarding my response to Robb):

          “Just appalling the things you say sometimes.”

          I’ll let the irony speak for itself, here.

           

           

        8. Ron

          This one should be dug deeper, or at least honestly acknowledged by the “protectors of Robb” (who somehow have no problem when he accuses someone else of being “dishonorable”).

          It’s not a “weakness” to acknowledge “weaknesses”.

        9. Ron

          Howard:  My views are less important than a council member’s view.  And I maintain that some on the council (including Robb) generally do not represent the majority’s view, regarding growth/development.

          Trackside is only the most recent example.

        10. Robb Davis

          You are correct Ron, I am sensitive.  I feel pain for  my colleagues and myself when people write such things.  You may suggest that I need to grow thicker skin but I decided some time ago that that would only lead to bitterness and cynicism.

          I will leave it to others to determine whether the sensitivity I show is a sign of poor leadership.  Personally, I cannot function in any other way and maintain a sense of compassion.

          The action was dishonorable.  I feel it is absolutely fair game to debate policy and to disagree.  I feel it is something altogether different to suggest you (or anyone) knows the motives and the hearts of CC members.  You do not.  Debate the policy, do not denigrate the policy makers.

        11. Roberta Millstein

          Overall, the current council seems to favor development more than its own citizens

          I think it is another thing altogether to suggest that we care more about our chosen policy course than we care about the citizens of the City.

          I don’t take the first quote to imply the second.  Some people think that development trumps (because they think it is a benefit to the city) the opinions of the citizens most affected.  That’s what I took the quote to say.

          I find the comments here dishonorable and useless in advancing a meaningful dialogue on how best to proceed.

          I find that it is usually better to ask for clarification than to assume the worst possible intent.

        12. Ron

          Robb:  “The action was dishonorable.”

          What “action”?

          Robb:  “I feel it is something altogether different to suggest you (or anyone) knows the motives and the hearts of CC members.”

          I said nothing about motivation, and noted that you had conviction regarding your views.  And yet, you stated that my comments were “dishonorable” for no apparent reason.

          I did, however, subsequently question the process that the city is using to determine if Dr. Cahill’s recommendations (regarding testing the air quality at Nishi) are to be ignored.

        13. John Hobbs

          “Just appalling the things you (s)ay sometimes.”

          Yet you are his enabler. does this fictious name even live in Davis? you know him and I assume you will guarantee that ue is not a shill or a sock puppet for vested interests, right? I am regularly censored for completely impersonal comments and cannot help but wonder why an anonymous poster is given such leeway.

          [moderator: Ron is not a shill or a sock puppet.]

  8. Matt Williams

    Some thoughts:

    David’s Take 1:  I don’t agree with David that, This always remained an Old East debate.”  I believe there were plenty of people like myself who felt that this multi-step, convoluted series of events illuminated just how dysfunctional and internally contradictory/inconsistent the City’s General Plan, Traditional Neighborhood Guidelines, Zoning Code, and planning process were, are, and continue to be.   

    Linda Deos’ Take 1: Linda is right when she says, “No one outside of Old East Davis really cared about Trackside.”  The reason that is true is in large part because the average person found/finds the byzantine and arcane General Plan/Guidelines/Zoning Code/Planning Process realities too hard to understand, and people are not going to care about (or protect) something they don’t understand.

    David’s Take 2: There were/are two reasons that design guidelines was not a winning issue.  First, the Design Guidelines have really been untested since their creation, and second, this first real test of those Guidelines illuminated the internal inconsistencies/contradictions/ambiguities that they contain.  As a result discussions of the Guidelines devolved down into a highly subjective “He said, She Said” shouting match.  Here too, for the people not directly involved, it was very hard to care about (or protect) something they don’t understand.

    David’s Take 3:  I don’t buy this argument for a number of reasons.  If OEDNA actually did overplay its hand, the project would have been approved for 6 stories as originally proposed. During the final days and hours it became clear that we had entered the realm of Kabuki Theater.  Alan Miller simply countered one form of theater with another.  As they say in basketball, “Never up, never in.”  Alan and OEDNA fought the good fight right up to the point where the Mayor said, “I call the question.”

    David’s Take 4: David argues that Trackside illuminates an emerging generational gap in Davis.  I don’t buy that argument.  The gap David describes is not one of generation vs. generation.  The gap described is one between Haves and Have Nots. 

    For me the most important take away is that until we have a functioning, coherent continuum of City General Plan, Guidelines, Zoning Code, and planning process … a continuum that the citizens can understand, trust and rely on … we will continue to have narrowly-defined battles that the bulk of the Davis populace find it difficult to understand, and that have very little to do with community planning and end with an evening of theater.

    JMO

    1. Mark West

      “this first real test of those Guidelines …”

      The first real test of the design guidelines occurred with the ACE project, where they were completely ignored by Staff, and the PC and CC majorities.

      There is value in comparing the list of individuals and associations that actively supported the ACE project and those most stridently opposed to Trackside. It is also worth noting the comments made from the Dais during the CC’s discussion of the ACE project appeal, as the inconsistencies in the arguments were clearly recognized.

       

      1. Matt Williams

        Mark, that is a difference in name only.  Whether the Davis Ace project or Trackside you still have the following timeline since the adoption of the Guidelines in July 2001.

        2001 = No test
        2002 = No test
        2003 = No test
        2004 = No test
        2005 = No test
        2006 = No test
        2007 = No test
        2008 = No test
        2009 = No test
        2010 = No test
        2011 = No test
        2012 = No test
        2013 = No test
        2014 = No test
        2015 = No test
        2016 = No test
        2017 = First test

        1. Ron

          Seems to me that the Cannery, Chiles Ranch, Paso Fino, Hyatt, Nishi 1.0, Sterling, Mission Residence, B Street, and Trackside all “tested” existing zoning or guidelines, with various outcomes. (Probably missing some other examples, here.)

          So will Lincoln 40, Plaza 2555, Nishi 2.0 . . .

        2. Howard P

          The current proposal is Nishi 3.0.

          Nishi was first considered, even at a tentative map level, even before Measure J/R.

          Had two major problems then… no vehicular access to UCD… only access to W Olive.

           

        3. Michael Bisch

          Matt, what is your timeline meant to portray? ATT Bldg., Chen Bldg, McCormick, the Lofts, YFCU, Helmus, Roe Bldg., Mishka’s, Park View Place, Central Park West, the new project on C Street, Ace and many more projects were subject to the Design Guidelines and were developed during your timeframe.

        4. Matt Williams

          Michael. looking at your list:

          ATT Building = no test of the Traditional Neighborhood Guidelines. That single-story project sailed through without any invocation of any provisions of the Guidelines by anyone.

          Chen Building = I know of no test of the Traditional Neighborhood Guidelines associated with the Chen Building.  It was approved by the Planning Commission in September 2001 only 60 days after the Guidelines were adopted.  The entire application was processed in a pre-Guidelines timeframe

          McCormick Building = no test of the Traditional Neighborhood Guidelines. To the best of my knowledge, that three-story project sailed through without any invocation of any provisions of the Guidelines by anyone.

          The Lofts = no test of the Traditional Neighborhood Guidelines. To the best of my knowledge, that three-story project sailed through without any invocation of any provisions of the Guidelines by anyone.

          YFCU = no test of the Traditional Neighborhood Guidelines. To the best of my knowledge, that two-story project sailed through without any invocation of any provisions of the Guidelines by anyone.

          Helmus = no test of the Traditional Neighborhood Guidelines. To the best of my knowledge, that two-story project sailed through without any invocation of any provisions of the Guidelines by anyone.

          Roe Building = no test of the Traditional Neighborhood Guidelines. To the best of my knowledge, that three-story project sailed through without any invocation of any provisions of the Guidelines by anyone.

          Mishka’s = no test of the Traditional Neighborhood Guidelines. To the best of my knowledge, that two-story project sailed through without any invocation of any provisions of the Guidelines by anyone.

          Park View Place = no test of the Traditional Neighborhood Guidelines. To the best of my knowledge, that three-story project sailed through without any invocation of any provisions of the Guidelines by anyone.

          Central Park West = It is possible that compliance/non-compliance with Neighborhood Guidelines provisions may have come up in the processing of the application for the Central Park West project.  If there actually were issues with that project driven by the provisions of the Guidelines, any discussion/resolution of those issues was insufficient to identify and illuminate the internal inconsistency issues within the Guidelines.

          The new project on C Street = no test of the Traditional Neighborhood Guidelines. To the best of my knowledge, that three-story project sailed through without any invocation of any provisions of the Guidelines by anyone.

          Ace and Trackside were the first projects where the internal inconsistency issues within the Guidelines were identified and illuminated and discussed.

          Bottom-line, developing a project in the geographical area covered by the Guidelines does not produce a test of those Guidelines.  If the Guidelines had been actually tested by any of those projects the clear internal inconsistency issues within the Guidelines would have been identified and illuminated and discussed, as they have been in 2017.

        5. Michael Bisch

          Matt, I don’t know why you are persisting in these inaccurate statements. Communication received this morning from city staff:

           

          “Don’t understand why Matt is saying the design guidelines weren’t “invoked” on all these downtown projects. They were.”

           

          All projects in the Core Area are required to be reviewed.  The review process is described in detail in the Design Guidelines beginning on page 120.

           

          “Design Review Process  – The design review process strives to reflect the community’s objectives for guiding new investment in Davis’ traditional neighborhoods and downtown. It uses a tiered system of review to reflect the scale and context of new projects. The process supports the design guidelines with a simple three-step design review process for major projects and historic landmarks. A one-step process is required for small projects.”

           

          Councilmember Lee misspoke Tuesday evening when he said the mere fact that Trackside was before the CC for design review shows that the project is inconsistent with the Design Guidelines. The project was required to undergo a Tier 3 review, which triggered an automatic CC hearing. The CC review had nothing to do with whether the project was consistent or inconsistent with the Design Guidelines.

           

          And Matt, despite your assertions to the contrary, many of the projects in your list were controversial and were opposed.  Park View Place, for instance, was opposed by OND, the neighbor to the south and by former mayor, Bill Kopper. It was rejected by the Planning Commission, then appealed to the CC.  YFCU was very controversial.  It was opposed by OND.  Ruebner’s project was subjected to push back by the PC on Design Guidelines grounds, which resulted in a modest redesign and a fair amount of lobbying.

           

          Between your comments here, Brett’s comments Tuesday evening and those of commissioner Robertson at the PC hearing as well as the those of the general public, it is clear that there is a general misunderstanding of the purpose of the Design Guidelines and how they have been utilized since adoption in 2001 (this is equally true of zoning standards). This tells me further community conversation around this subject is needed. Design Guidelines are not a pass/fail test. They provide guidance for decision-makers to assist them

        6. Matt Williams

          Michael, let’s start with your final paragraph.  I agree wholeheartedly that further community conversation about the content and use of the Guidelines is needed … a lot of further community conversation.

          There is a huge difference between internal “use” of selected provisions of the design guidelines by staff and a community “test” of the guidelines.  A parallel can be drawn to laws put in place and subsequently used/invoked by government.  The use of a law doesn’t test it.  The use of a law doesn’t establish precedent when the provisions of the law are actually challenged.

          Brett, Dave Robertson and I have all in our individual (and somewhat different) ways said the same thing.  When a due diligence test of the provisions of the Design Guidelines is performed (as Brett and Dave and I and you and others have done), it becomes crystal clear that some of the provisions of the Guidelines conflict with, and in some cases directly contradict, other provisions of the Guidelines.

          Therefore, different readers of the Guidelines can come to substantially different conclusions when reading them.  The bottom-line of all the conversation about the Guidelines over the past 24 months shows that Staff has had a clear understanding of how to “invoke” the Guidelines provisions, but that for the most part the community has not had a similarly clear understanding. That disconnect between Staff and community understanding is what Dave Robertson illuminated in his comments from the Planning Commission dias.

          Regarding the individual projects, my recollection of the Park View Place controversy was that the historical significance of the existing structure was the core of the controversy.  My recollection (which could be wrong) of the additional argument of the neighbor to the south was based on aesthetics rather than “testing” a violation of any provision(s) of the Guidelines.  I do not remember any Guidelines controversy for the Yolo Federal Credit Union project.  What provisions of the Guidelines were tested by the community in that project?

          Circling back to our mutually shared first point, further community conversation about the content and use of the Guidelines is needed … a lot of further community conversation.  The good news is that the Core Area Plan Update process should include that kind of community conversation … and as a result avoid situations like the 2005 rezoning of the East Transition Zone to M-U, which conditionally allows more than three stories, which clearly conflicts with specific provisions of the Design Guidelines. That community conversation will also (hopefully) resolve the internal inconsistencies/contradictions of the Design Review document itself.

        7. Michael Bisch

          Matt,
          Almost every sentence in your post is inaccurate. I wouldn’t care if it was just you that didn’t have your facts straight. What does concern me is you are feeding into this narrative that the city is taking actions that are at odds with community goals. The narrative simply isn’t accurate.

          I confess, I am too lazy to pick apart every one of your misstatements. I’ll focus on just three of them. If you want to take the time to prove the accuracy of your assertions, knock yourself out.

          “There is a huge difference between internal “use” of selected provisions of the design guidelines by staff and a community “test” of the guidelines.”
           
          This one is easily refuted.  The project design review process utilizing the Design Guidelines is certainly not an internal “use” as you assert. It is a public process. The Design Guidelines review is in the staff reports, which are then reviewed by the Planning Commission and in some instances the HRMC. And then for Tier 3 projects or appeals of Tier 1 & 2 projects the CC also performs a review. This is an entirely public process. Why you would assert anything to the contrary is rather baffeling.

          “Regarding the individual projects, my recollection of the Park View Place controversy was that the historical significance of the existing structure was the core of the controversy.”

          Your recollection is inaccurate. I didn’t say anything about the historic issues because your assertions pertained to the Design Guidelines review process. Park View Place was denied by the PC and opposed by the neighbor, Kopper and OND because of use and design. None of that had anything to do with the historic issues.

          “I do not remember any Guidelines controversy for the Yolo Federal Credit Union project.  What provisions of the Guidelines were tested by the community in that project?”

          OND opposed the project based on the Design Guidelines (height, mass, architectural design).

           
          Rather than doubling down on your inaccurate assertions, you might want to pull the public documents.

        1. Howard P

          True.  Your children are more likely to be “have nots” than you and your spouse.

          Out of our three, one is well on the way to being a ‘have’, one a ‘have not’ (on their own), and one a “‘tweener” (could go either way).  They are all in their 30’s…

          By the time I was 25, it was pretty clear I’d be a ‘have’ at least on basics. Food, shelter, financial security.

        2. Matt Williams

          David the student-driven Maserati I passed this morning coming out of Greystone Apartments would argue differently.  The majority of UCD students have been raised in households of “haves,” they have been raised to be “haves,” they are getting an education in order to be “haves,” and they soon will be “haves” in their own right.

          There are plenty of students whose personal life trajectory is different from the one described above, especially the first two criteria; however, very, very few UCD students do not fall under the third criteria, and time will tell what proportion will fail to fall under the fourth criteria.

          Bottom-line, you are labeling a Generation with a broad brush that draws its characteristics from a minority of that Generation.

          JMO

        3. David Greenwald Post author

          “Bottom-line, you are labeling a Generation with a broad brush that draws its characteristics from a minority of that Generation.”

          Completely disagree.  The problem that we have at this point is that so many people even from middle class backgrounds are going to end up making far less than their parents and while their parents make money on paper, most don’t have vast resources.  The middle class is getting squeezed and it is no more evident than at the college level where many don’t get assistance but don’t have the resources to overcome that lack of assistance.

    2. Tia Will

      Matt

      David argues that Trackside illuminates an emerging generational gap in Davis.  I don’t buy that argument.  The gap David describes is not one of generation vs. generation.  The gap described is one between Haves and Have Nots. “

      I could not agree more with this statement. As for the generational component, I once walked in the shoes of those students who were living out of a vehicle or couch surfing. I have certainly not forgotten what that felt like and for that reason offered my Davis rental property for below market value. Although the numbers are statistically tighter now, the bottom line is the same. If you do not have enough money, you cannot afford a place to live, whether you are a senior, a family with small children, or a senior with fixed income and high medical costs.

      My problem with Trackside besides some safety and environmental ( noise, smells, lighting) and privacy issues has always been one of the haves vs the have nots. The Trackside project clearly comes down firmly on the side of the haves. It will benefit investors, developers, and the affluent with no guarantee of any benefit to any resident of Davis or student at UCD who is in actual need of affordable housing.

      1. John Hobbs

         

        Chauvinism at its worst!

        ” It will benefit investors, developers, and the affluent”

        And the construction workers and service providers and vendors  and the people who can now occupy the dwellings vacated by those who move into trackside …….all of whom are deserving , no Dr Tia?

      2. John Hobbs

        “Am truly starting to think “collaborative” = “I get my way…

        Antitheses of good government.

        Let’s just dispense of “rule of law”, and also do the same in both civil and criminal matters as well… somebody kills 2-3 others, let’s collaborate with them, and if that fails, negotiate with them to seek justice.”

        Howard, your aim is true.

        1. Ron

          John:  “And the construction workers and service providers and vendors  and the people who can now occupy the dwellings vacated by those who move into trackside . . .”

          Sure sounds like a developer’s point of view.

           

        2. Howard P

          No, Ron, it is a view that empathizes with “construction workers and service providers and vendors  and the people who can now occupy the dwellings vacated by those who move”

          Most developers don’t empathize with those, much.

          Neither, apparently, do you… are you a “closet developer”?

  9. Ron

    David:  “Generations are imbedded in haves/ have not.”

    “News flash” – younger people have generally accumulated less wealth than older people. And students (who haven’t even started careers) have difficulty paying rent, without assistance.

    Who knew?

  10. Howard P

    Am truly starting to think “collaborative” = “I get my way”

    Negotiation on zoning = spot zoning…. fully dependent on the negotiators…

    Antitheses of good government.

    Let’s just dispense of “rule of law”, and also do the same in both civil and criminal matters as well… somebody kills 2-3 others, let’s collaborate with them, and if that fails, negotiate with them to seek justice.

  11. John Hobbs

     

    To Ron, whoever you really are, I have been absolutely transparent throughout my time on the Vanguard. I am a retired civil servant with years of experience in forestry, urban infrastructure and hazardous waste containment. I retired fromthe City of Sacramento ‘s Public works department in 2010. I have been a working musician since I was 14 years old and have been a luthiery technician. I’m currently a member of a jazz trio.

    Now, how about you, buddy? Who the heck are you?

    1. Ron

      John:  I’ve shared all the information I’m going to, regarding my identity.  Every time I do so, someone looks for things to pick apart.

      Given your stated background, it’s not clear where all of your hostility toward me (and a few others) is originating from.

      In any case, it might be a good time to refer to this answer, given his recent health problems:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2oZWpqtNi4

       

  12. John Hobbs

    “John:  I’ve shared all the information I’m going to, regarding my identity. ”

    None, so I guess it is fair to say you lack the courage of your alleged convictions and are what I always assumed.

    “hostility toward me (and a few others) …”

    No hostility what so ever. I just think you’re rude, disingenuous and ignorant in the extreme.

    You regularly reliably reinforce that opinion. Your reticence to be identified is understandable.
    Do you identify with Manson or are you saying you’re nobody?

    1. Ron

      John:  Anytime you want to put forth actual arguments (instead of personal attacks), I’ll try to respond. (Ironic, given that you accused me of acting like a sixth-grader.)

      Oh, well.

      1. John Hobbs

        Ron, anytime you want to meet face to face, I’ll be glad to engage you in an honest debate, but hiding under your yellowing cloak of anonymity I doubt you have the fortitude or moral currency.

        1. Ron

          There’s nothing preventing you from engaging in honest debate on the Vanguard now.  That’s the purpose of it. And yet, I’ve seen nothing but attacks toward others, from you (regardless of their identity).

          As you said, this appears to be “sport” for you.

          Still no coherent argument, regarding whatever your position is.

           

        2. Ron

          Moderator:  I was done with it before it started.  Been trying to steer it back toward actual debate. But, if you get poked enough times, you start poking back at some point. (Especially since a moderator is not always available, to keep things on track.)

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