Last week, we covered the candidate’s portion of the forum except for one question, which deal with Measure R. Today we are going to cover that question and then the discussion between Mark Spencer who represented the Yes on R side and former Davis Mayor Jerry Adler who was opposing the renewal of Measure J in Measure R.
The candidates forum question was, “If Measure R passes, what effect positive or negative would it have on the schools?”
Jon Li went first. “Basically the consequence is that we discontinue growing in Davis in terms of our land inside the city limits. The consequence of that is (A) our population expansion and our school age population is disappearing.” So he said, “the demographic that we’re seeing is an increase in population of people over fifty and people over 75. Those have direct consequences in the kinds of services we provide in the city and consequences on the school district.” He continued that we have fewer students in school and this has led to problems with ADA and funding. He added, “Given the results of the Measure J votes we’ve had so far, I don’t think a Measure J type vote in the future will be successful and so the challenge now is to actually either (A) either live with the consequences of that reality… or (B) try to figure out the kind of project that could actually pass.” His answer is infill, densification, and going to more stories on existing buildings to increase the population without requiring Measure J votes.
Daniel Watts, “I support Measure J not because I’m anti-growth but because I think the people of Davis should have maximum possible impact in the way that their city grows and the way that it develops. Not that I’m against it being developed but I think that you should have input in the way it develops. I think that the city of Davis is rational enough so that if a developer comes with a project that you approve of – that’s green enough, has the kind of housing that you want, that’s affordable, that’s connected to public transportation, that’s dense, that’s near downtown, that’s walkable to supermarkets and other entertainment areas – that you will approve of it.” Then he discussed the issue of young people 18-22 who come here while in college but they do not stay here. He argues that one reason is their treatment and the lack of friendliness they encounter while they are here leads them to leave Davis.
Joe Krovoza said, “The positives of Measure J are very real for this community. We have been able to preserve large swaths of open space and that’s a value that we hold dear in this community.” He said that Measure J “forces us to think about developing closer, using the land that we have. There’s a whole new paradigm to development that will happen now in the face of climate change. The closer we put people to where they work, to school, where they shop, it’s going to shorten trips, that’s also good for biking and pedestrians in this town. So it has a lot of positives to offer.” He continued, “Sometimes on the dais you have to lead and sometimes you have to kind of respect where the populace is. It’s been very clear from the P and X folks that the people of this town want slower growth… It’s been a little bit out of sync with city council.” He said, he wants to the development in the community to be as driven by staff and community needs as possible. He wants to focus on workforce housing and keeping the people who work in Davis, living in Davis. He also talked about the need for greater density.
Rochelle Swanson, “I did support Measure J because I believe in the prioritization of ag land. I don’t think that that results in there being a ban of projects, but I think it makes us think about smart and good projects. And I do support Measure R.” She continued, “I think the consequences are positive in that it gives our community time to really think about how we want to have projects. I think that we need to think about quality growth, if we’re having to grow that it’s based on guidelines and design review that reflects our values. I think it’s unfortunate all the efforts that have been put forth on the last two projects… I think that’s an indication that we are not ready to have an open ended process.” She said she believes that a very good, quality project could pass a Measure R vote. “But I think it’s important that we have it there so that we have time as a community working with council and working with staff to really have those guidelines.”
Sydney Vergis said, “Well I came out in support of Measure J in 2008, not much has changed. I’m supporting Measure R because I see it as an opportunity to get involved in something that affects all of us.” She continued, “I would like to point out that we are in a recession. A couple of hundred housing units have been approved, but are not yet built. West Village is coming in, that’s certainly going to have an impact on our housing market.” She continued, “Right now we should take a deep breath and start talking about how do we preserve our values in Davis. Certainly we do live in wonderful bubble, but we’re not really exempt from what’s going on in the rest of the country.” She said, “During this recession, we should take a deep breath and talk about whether we are providing a range of housing that our young families need in Davis.” She concluded, “I think now in the slowdown is a good opportunity for those conversations.”
Mark Spencer represented the Yes on Measure R side during the issues debate. Each side was given six minutes and then three minutes in rebuttal.
“Measure R” he said, “is the renewal of Measure J which is the citizen’s right to vote on open space and agricultural lands. It’s main component is the right for citizens to vote once the regular planning process has run its course. It’s one additional step at the end, where the citizens get to look at the project… and weigh whether or not the subdivision which is being proposed is appropriate for the city in a number of different areas – is it the right size? is it too excessive? is it located appropriately? Are the larger market forces such that it would not be a burden on city services and fiscal stability? Is it sustainable? Does it have the components that make it a good development?”
He continued, “If citizens want to continue to have a say on the ag-urban boundary, then it’s really important for Measure J to be renewed.”
He also said that Measure J has a number of requirements that are not simply about the final vote. He talked about the baseline projects requirement feature, “which is the feature of the project that goes before voters to identify key elements – design features, elements of phasing – important elements that the project is being sold to voters under. Those particular features cannot be changed significantly without the project going back to the voters again. What it effectively does is that it ensures that the promises that are made as part of the planning process but also as part of the approval campaign that’s part of the public vote process, are going to be kept.”
Not only does this lead to an assurance that promises are kept Mr Spencer argued, but “it also leads to greater transparency throughout the entire planning process.”
He also mentioned exemption for parks and schools that do not have to go to a Measure J vote. He also said that there is a sunset provision, “So I guess Jerry [Adler] and I will be back here in 2020 to discuss the issue again.”
Mr. Spencer added, “I think it’s the sense that it’s a moderate insurance that the citizens of Davis will be able to retain a measure of control over a community defining area that is the ag-urban boundary.”
“Measure J did not come out of nowhere,” he said, it came out of a context that is national, state, and regional in addition to local. “The ag-urban boundary is a place where there is such a differential in land use values where the land on one side of the boundary which has no urban entitlements is measured in its value by the acre, when that entitlement is granted, it is measured by the square foot.”
Mr. Spencer argued, “The enormous development pressure distorts the planning process. This is why it is particularly important that there is an additional procedural step at the end of the planning process which is the public vote.” He continued, “Citizens, unlike the planning professionals, even the council to some extent, are not part of the day-to-day process of negotiation of the project as it moves through the planning process.” As the project moves through the planning process, he said, it gains a certain amount of momentum. He sees Measure J as a final step that allows the public to view the entire planning process in its entirety.
The local history of Measure J is born out of the 1990s where there was an enormous amount of growth that Mr. spencer claimed, “didn’t really become apparent to voters until the end of that decade.” Citizens brought this ordinance forward and he argues that it has worked in the last ten years, where two projects were brought forward where “there was obviously a disconnect between what the planning professionals and planning process produced and what the citizens thought was consistent with their vision of a safe, small town surrounded by ag and open space land.”
The magnitude of the votes, and differential from that of council’s vote, embodies that disconnect. “This particular ordinance is really necessary to protect Davis’ sense of community.”
Jerry Adler made the opposition argument. “Measure J as adopted was both unnecessary and unwise. Measure J and other city planning processes have changed this community for the worse.”
He continued, “This city was at one point an uncontrolled growth community. The 1965 General Plan called for the city of Davis to have 90,000 people by 1995. Under normal processes, the Planning Commission and then the City Council changed that projection because it made no sense. When we changed it at that time, we said we would have a new paradigm for the community. The new paradigm would provide for the internal needs of the city of Davis.”
In the process, he said, the city adopted new restrictions on land use policy that restricted growth so that instead of projecting 90,000 by 1995, we projected 50,000 by 1995. “We met it,” he said, “and we continued on that road of smart growth and smart planning until Measure J surfaced in 1999. It surfaced because there was a glut of housing that had been approved for large developments with development agreements that had not been built for a multitude of reasons. And all of sudden they came and were built. The folks in the community were concerned and properly so.”
Mr. Adler continued, “So folks in this community who had been opposed to growth, since I started on this issue in 1970, the people who called for growth no more than 35,000 by 1990, the people who said in 1986 that we should only grow as slow as is legally permissible. The people who surfaced with referenda against council approved Mace Ranch and council approved Wildhorse, and others, joined together and we had Measure J.”
He said that in 1999 he was in the chambers until 1 am, the only other person there was Sue Greenwald, they were on opposite sides. He said he told the council, “if you do this, you will be worried about growth on your perimeter, you will be worried about growth on campus, and you will be worried about growth in the county. Well by golly, now thanks to Measure J and some other planning policies in the city, we have growth on the campus and we have impacts from the campus all coming up in West Village because we told the university basically, do your own thing.”
Mentioned the pass-through agreement enacted in 1987, said that we thought we had protection against county growth, but that protection is about to go away with the governor’s raid on redevelopment money. “The redevelopment money will go to the state. The city will have nothing to pass through to the county. The county has nothing to gain by not developing in the city.”
“There will not be any successful Measure R vote or Measure J vote in the future. Not when it costs millions of dollars to go forward with the processing.”
That is the basic arguments of both sides. In the rebuttal, Jerry Adler would emphasize the point that there would not be successful Measur R votes in the future. I think this is somewhat disengenuous. A point I would have made up there is that we have already had successful Measure R / J votes prior to Measure J being passed. The citizens attetmpted to call for a vote against Wildhorse, that campaign did not succeed and the people voted to approve the project. Given the current housing market, that is unlikely in the next five to even ten years. But at some point the market may change and the voters may be open to a project. If the people do not want a project, should that not be their right? Should they not have the right to decide what gets approved? If the people do not want a project, why does Jerry Adler believe that he knows better?
That is just a quick thought. Tomorrow we will discuss the debate on Measure Q.
—David M. Greenwald reporting