Dear Chair Kevin Wolf and Members of the Housing Element Steering Committee:
At your recent meeting the issue of whether or not the Covell Village site should be considered for future development came up. By a large margin, the committee agreed that it was an appropriate location for future housing development.
The voters of the city of Davis disagree with that assessment. In 2005 there was a heated Measure J vote, this vote divided the city. Several of the members of the subcommittee worked to pass Measure X. However, the measure was defeated. It was not defeated by a narrow margin. It was not a close vote. It was defeated by a massive margin of nearly 60-40. It was not merely defeated by the citizens who lived next to the project. It was defeated in every precinct in Davis but one. It was a complete and resounding defeat.
It is my opinion that the steering committee did not give this vote by the citizens of this city enough credence when they discussed the issue a few weeks back.
Perhaps the committee will argue that in fact this is a different proposal. That people rejected Measure X because it had some flaws that will be fixed. Or perhaps they will suggest as then Mayor Ruth Asmundson did that we really did not understand the issues involved–a notion that is an utter slap in the face of the second most educated city in Davis.
No, we understood the issues just fine–building on prime agricultural land, building on a location that does not have the infrastructure to handle the increased traffic flow, now building on a road that will have more traffic due to development up the way in Woodland, the prospect of increased noise and air pollution from the traffic, no we understand the issues just fine.
The idea as put forth by the Chair that evening–building, developing that parcel of land in hopes that it will give the city of Davis the incentive to upgrade the Poleline and Covell intersection–is irresponsible and lies in the realm of wishful thinking, particularly in a city with a very limited budget that is slow to react to problems of infrastructure.
Moreover, as many have suggested the new idea put forward by John Whitcombe, the developer for the property, to have senior housing there is the worst of all possible outcomes. It does not solve the need for low income housing for families. It is not a great location for senior housing. And as many involved with the issue of senior housing have already suggested, Davis has enough senior housing already to meet its needs in the foreseeable future. In fact, at Eleanor Roosevelt Circle for example, a great and innovative project, the developers had to look outside of Davis in order to fill its spots. The idea that this would open other spots for affordable family housing is a non-starter.
Nevertheless, the case can be made that the voters rejected the previous development proposal rather than development at this location. Personally, I think the Housing Element Steering Committee should not make that assumption, but should rather prove that there is some kind of community support for development at this location prior to considering the spot for future development. Elections of the Measure X sort are too expensive and too divisive to repeat unless there is good evidence–rather than simple conjecture–that there is community-wide support for such future development.
Last week, the People’s Vanguard of Davis conducted a straw poll on this site and among those who frequent the blog, the measure failed by well over a 2:1 margin. Some will suggest that this blog caters to the more progressive elements of the city, but anyone who reads the comments, will realize quickly that there is a fairly good cross-range of views. Indeed a number of people I have spoken too who favored the original Covell Village, were surprised that the committee was considering a Senior Housing proposal there.
In summary, it is our opinion that the voters of Davis spoke in November of 2005 about their views on Covell Village. This vote should at least be respected to a far greater extent than it has been by the Council Majority and the steering committee that is comprised in its majority of members selected by the Council Majority. Finally that we should not have a repeat of this vote unless absolutely necessary.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting