If the county really felt the need to grow in the Northwest Quadrant and other areas on the Davis periphery it should have started with talks with the city of Davis. I understand full well that one of the things that Supervisor Mariko Yamada wanted to do was have a Yolo County Council of Governments along the same lines as SACOG (Sacramento Area Council of Governments). However that proposal was rejected. Short of creating a formal mechanism, the existing structure exists at the two-by-two level to engage in those talks. It seems to me that the bigger problem here is less the lack of communication and more the fear that they would not like answer.
However, the need for these talks was underscored for me last night by some of the discussion of developing the Northwest Quadrant. Even some of the more development friendly members of the committee felt that given the time frame that the committee was charged with, looking ahead seven years, there is no way that the city should be developing there.
Several other issues also came up–lack of commercial development on the west side of town, distance from the city core, lack of adherence to smart growth principles, etc. The idea here is that this development is far from downtown, meaning people would have to drive a good distance just to get to the center of town. That forces people to drive more in order to shop and eat, which leads to traffic, congestions, pollution, more carbon emissions, more infrastructure problems.
In fact the feeling seemed to be as they considered four separate parcels in the area that the city needs to look at this area as a whole rather than piecemail and needs to plan commercial development alongside residential.
That seems like a very reasonable approach. All of which underscores why the county had no business talking about developing in this part of town because frankly the county was not considering any of these factors. And that is the problem in general, the county was thinking in terms of generating revenue (a dubious notion at best) and the county was not thinking about what growth in these areas would do to the city in terms of infrastructure, commerce, transportation, and even future development. Again, if this was something the county really desired they should have discussed it in advance in great detail, well before it came before them in terms of their General Plan update.
Two other issues to broach, one was the notion discussed by the public, which included some developers and non-developers about how the northwest quadrant should be developed. One of the ideas that came forward was that the citizens of Davis allow growth in these areas in order to gain permanent agricultural mitigation. In theory, that sounds like an intriguing possibility. However, we are essentially talking about development up to road 27 and as far west as Pedrick Road and County Road 98. In other words, a huge swath of development.
The logic here was that we parcel and piecemail this development in order to avoid huge developments at any one time. The idea being that pressure is building for development and if we do not act as a spigot, we will get flooded. This analogy makes little sense to me. First of all we are talking about allowing a tremendous amount of growth to reach that point. Second, who is to say that the pressure would not continue to build even when there is land in permanent mitigation to change that land use status. I think we have to be careful about leaning too heavily toward mitigation as the solution to development pressures. I also think the amount of growth we are talking about might be over 50 years, not the next 7.
The other point that gets raised here is senior housing. What we now are seeing are several separate proposals for senior housing. The city of Davis has a Senior Citizens commission and part of their purview ought to be direct community discussion about the need for senior housing. I think one of the good things that came from last night’s discussion was the acknowledgment from the Housing Element Steering Committee members that their job was one of looking at land use not approving specific projects. I agree with that approach. Just as I agreed in July that talk about a stem cell facility was premature, the question then was whether land use designations should be changed and whether land should be included for future development in the general plan. That is precisely the question here as well.
Discussion about whether and to what extent senior housing needs to be developed should take place in the Senior Citizens Commission. I think it would behoove the council and the steering committee even to have that kind of community dialogue occurring while housing is considered–particularly in the controversial Covell Village area.
One of the issues that has to be resolved at the council level and probably will not be resolved until after the new council elections is whether we should be planning for RHNA mandated growth or whether we should be planning for 1 percent growth that was developed and implemented by the city council. That conversation started to occur two weeks ago but needs to continue. The Council Majority seemed to want to postpone it until they got a report from the Housing Element Steering Committee but it seemed last night that the steering committee really needs to have direction from council in deciding what property to include in their plan.
At the end of the day, I think there needs to be more broad-based discussion in the community about where, when, and what type of growth ought to take place.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting