Applicant Proposes to the County A Solar Farm For Davis Periphery


SolarSaylor Names Vergis to County Planning Commission –

Yolo County has its own planning commission which consists of seven members.  Each Board member gets to appoint one Commissioner from their district to the board and there are two at-large commissioners that are voted in by all Board Members.

Earlier this month, Supervisor Don Saylor used his appointment to name two-time, former Davis City Council Candidate Sydney Vergis to the planning commission.

While Ms. Vergis likes to tout herself as a land use expert, she was particularly unimpressive as she ran for council a second time.  She did not show an impressive grasp of the issues – instead pushing a superficial understanding and explanation of complex items.  She ran an utterly lackluster, moribund campaign and got passed up for the second spot by a relatively unknown, late-starting Rochelle Swanson.

She pretty much shot her wad in terms of the potential for future political runs.  So, why would Mr. Saylor use his only appointment to appoint her, when there are so many more worthy candidates that agree with him just as much on land use issues.

Without completely beating the dead horse here, it is more than a bit perplexing that Mr. Saylor would keep bringing Ms. Vergis back into the fold.  It would seem like he had a large number of alternatives to choose from who could represent his views just as well.

This is not just a novel concern however, as the planning commission is in the process of evaluating, among other things, a solar farm that might be constructed on county land outside of the Davis City limits, east of El Macero and south of I-80.

The land is owned by developr Angelo Tsakopoulos, raising all sorts of questions about prospects for future development and potential consequences of the water deal, as well.  The proposal has come forward from a private applicant.  While our source did not indicate who, it seems like it would be from Tsakopoulos himself or some holding company affiliated with Mr. Tsakopoulos.

Davis-Ranch-1There are a number of concerns here with this proposal.  There was a piece by Melanie Turner in the Sacramento Business Journal at the end of January that laid out some of the issues with a Davis proposal for solar farms, where the City of Davis is weighing the idea of leasing out land it owns for solar farms. 

While this is a county-based proposal, it raises the same issues.

Writes the Sacramento Business Journal, ” ‘While the city aims to encourage and support alternative forms of energy production, Davis also is committed to preserving farmland. The city boasts a strong farmland protection program, which was the first city-based program in the state, said Mitch Sears, the city’s sustainability program manager.’ “

Davis-Ranch-2The article continues, “Davis’ greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan, meanwhile, sets a goal of producing 5 percent of the community’s electricity with local, renewable sources in the next five years. At the same time, each of the properties under consideration for renewable energy is currently farmed.”

“Davis has been very, very good at supporting farmland,” Yolo County Agricultural Commissioner John Young said. “Now they’re left with this kind of conflict.”

“According to Young, building solar power plants on farmland could degrade the soil and make it difficult to farm in the future,” the article continues.

“It’s a very noble cause. I think we can all agree that solar’s a good thing,” he said. “However, it just needs to be sited on the right location. We want to stay away from Class I and Class II soils, capable of producing our food supply.”

“Putting solar facilities on such top-quality soils could actually increase the county’s carbon footprint since it pushes farming further away from residents, he said,” reports the Sacramento Business Journal.

I think John Young raises the point very well.  Solar energy production will be critical to our future and to reducing our reliance on carbon-based forms of energy.  But not at the expense of prime agricultural land.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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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21 thoughts on “Applicant Proposes to the County A Solar Farm For Davis Periphery”

  1. Mr.Toad

    ” So why would Mr. Saylor use his only appointment to appoint her, when there are so many more worthy candidates that agree with him just as much on land use issues.”

    Why don’t you ask him?

  2. hpierce

    [quote]Because I would either get ignored, yelled at, or given a non-answer. [/quote]Sounds like you have a self esteem issue… or, cowardice? I was always taught, ‘it never hurts to ask… the worst someone can do is say no’.

  3. Ryan Kelly

    You are right in saying that Sydney Vergis is not the best politician, but her expertise regarding land planning issues should not be discounted. She is a good person to appoint to the commission, because she understands the science behind sustainable planning and is NOT a politician.

  4. hpierce

    Ok… “experiential”… you are correct if your experience is similar to banging your head into a “brick wall”… my apologies for any inappropriately negative characterizations…

  5. Justin Kudo

    David, given the number of times you’ve sharply criticized Sydney and Don (and on occasion with less than credible information), it’s not surprising they’re reluctant to talk with you. Still, it seems like the responsible and more journalistic thing to do to at least attempt to ask.

    Personally, I think former or current planners often make fantastic Planning Commissioners. Hopefully she will excel in her new position. I believe she’s someone with the appropriate expertise who does have similar attitudes towards land use to Don, so is probably a good choice.

  6. Mr.Toad

    “Because I would either get ignored, yelled at, or given a non-answer.”

    Just imagine if Woodward and Bernstein stopped calling John Mitchell because he cussed at them and threatened to put Katherine Graham’s you know what in the ringer.

    You call and you say I am running this piece and that says whatever and you allow them to comment. Its pretty basic stuff.

  7. brassrat

    Mr. Toad, I think that you forget that this is just DMG’s Blog, and that he doesn’t always comply with some of the “pretty basic” journalistic practices and standards that I suspect real news organizations are at least ethically required to meet. DMG’s pieces should best be viewed as opinion pieces, not reporting, so maybe we should cut DMG a little slack for not meeting standards he never sought to meet. I don’t believe that DMG is seeking to provide “balanced” reporting, he seeks to convince others to agree with his opinion, much as the rest of us are doing in trying to get others to agree with our own opinoins on his blog. Because of that, he can “sharply criticize” anyone he wants or “applaud” anyonehe wants. That’s just the nature of this beast…

  8. David M. Greenwald

    That’s partly true, but for the most part I do try to get the other side of the story. For instance, yesterday, I had Paul Navazio respond on the water issue, Maryo Krovoza had a chance as well but declined.

    There are basically right now two entities in this county that have proven not to be worth my time. I have sent countless requests to the DA’s office for responses, they don’t respond. The only time Jonathan Raven ever responded was by mistake and then he had to talk call me (8 am on a Saturday morning – our first and only conversation). I utilize the DA’s press releases and their in court arguments to at least cover some of their point of view when I can.

    And Don Saylor is the other.

    So it is what it is. If it is so important to him, he could write on the Vanguard, something that every other member of the current council has done at one point or another.

    I spend anywhere from 12 to 18 hours a day gathering information, a lot of it never makes it to print, I simply do not have time to try to get every subject of every article to comment. If I hire staff, then I can do more, Supervisor Saylor did not respond to calls or emails asking for comment.

  9. JustSaying

    Must be discouraging to get such treatment from subjects, David, but I think the reaction of the public figure about whom you’re writing is an important part of the report. A published report seems very incomplete with no reference to reaction from the subject and without “the rest of the story.”

    Maybe Supr. Saylor would agree to a fresh start now that he’s moving on up. It would be helpful to know in each Vanguard story whether the person being criticized has failed to return your calls/emails, yelled obscenities at you or is quoted with his thoughtful explanations or his non-answer gobbledegook.

    Providing opportunity for a response is a pretty basic fairness factor–and might even result in some enlightening information. A short note reflecting the attempts certainly lends credibility to the report, at the very least.

    Your good-faith efforts still might not be successful in eliciting informative responses. Sometime ago–when you used to note that you tried for comment from DDAs–I talked with the DA’s office, unsuccessfully recommending that they be more responsive to your calls. They’d apparently concluded that communicating with the [u]Vanguard[/u] wouldn’t make any difference in the reporting, except for the likelihood that anything they said would be twisted and added to what they see as unfair ridicule.

    [b]brassrat:[/b] I disagree. David tries to label his reporting and his commentary, sometimes with success. Although there are obviously different approaches to the Judicial Watch and the other [u]Vanguard[/u] topics, I don’t think he’s trying to cherry pick facts the same way Fox, MSNBC and Rush L. do (to the point of unrelenting distortion).

    In my opinion, “always comply(ing) with some of the ‘pretty basic’ journalistic practices and standards” makes for a more effective approach to changing others’ opinions. The other way just reinforces opinions already firmly held by readers.

  10. brassrat

    just saying: David does use a mix of reporting and commentary, but because there is regularly, if not nearly always, commentary, it is hard for someone to look at his “reporting” as meeting the standard of being unbiased. I don’t disagree that there are many other places that also mix opinion or commentary with their reporting, as you so accurately pointed out. Fox and MSNBC should not mixing the two in my opinion, but it is perfectly fine for Rush to do so, since I don’t think anyone would ever mistake his talk radio or any talk radio for providing unbiased reporting, even though I’m sure that Rush would just tell you he is reporting the facts. David is like Rush in that there is more than a minor dose of inadvertant commentary. It would be extremely difficult for David to differentiate those portions that are “reporting” from others that represent “commentary”. Also, cherry picking isn’t necessarily a bad thing. David picks the topics that he thinks are important and makes the points that he believes will best support his argument. He is trying to convince others to agree with his opinions. Nothing wrong with that. We all do it every day…

  11. David M. Greenwald

    Just Saying: I think there is fair criticism here and it was a structural problem in the way I did this story. I really should have reversed this story – the part about the solar fields, then Vergis’ appointment, then my commentary on Vergis’ appointment. It would have been a lot cleaner. I also could have put the Vergis’ commentary at the end under commentary and put the solar farm in the middle.

    The ideal structure is going to be more like the Judicial Watch story: one side, the other side, the verdict, then commentary. At some point commentary will be lopped off from the story altogether and there will be separate commentary from story.

    Considering I have no training formally as a journalist, I think I have done okay and learned well on the fly.

  12. Justin Kudo

    It is a little weird of a structure as they’re essentially two different stories. Vergis’ appointment does not likely have a significant effect on the attitude towards a solar proposal.

  13. JustSaying

    David, don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with this story. I just was offering a suggestion about your response that you write off attempts to contact a subject if he’s been like Saylor in the past. Knowing that you’ve at least tried adds an important element the story and improves credibility of the [u]Vanguard[/u] site if we know it’s your general policy.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the structure of your stories. I simply was telling brassrat that I’d observed higher journalistic standards in the [u]Vanguard[/u] than the typical rant blog. I certainly wouldn’t suggest tailoring the rest of the [u]Vanguard[/u] after Judicial Watch. Content and logic are far more important to influencing a community than structure.

    Apparently, you and I were posting at the same time, almost agreeing on most things. The only point I’d now add is that each story should reflect your efforts to connect with the subjects. ( And, if an “entity” is worth your time to criticize, it’s worth at least an email requesting comment.)

  14. Justin Kudo

    Actually, I’d love and would have tremendously more respect for the Vanguard if it was modeled after Judicial Watch, and let the community do the opine-ing. I think the blog would be much more reputable and could be a unifying force in the community, instead of being home for only a certain constituency and disregarded (or even looked down upon) by others.

    But it’s David’s blog – he’s certainly entitled to run it however he wants. While I’d rather it be more journalistic, I certainly enjoy seeing a contrarian perspective.

  15. JustSaying

    [b]Justin,[/b] your description of the Judicial Watch approach mystifies me. David expresses at least as much opinion there as here. Much more, as i see it. I have more respect for the [u]Vanguard[/u] side of the blog because I think it’s better researched and generates participation from varied (and intimate) participants in the action (instead of only “one side,” like JW). Finally, the opining here sometimes results in David and others adjusting their initial opinions.

    I wouldn’t describe JW as “a unifying force in the community”–but more of a “home for only a certain constituency and disregarded (or even looked down upon) by others.” The difficulties may be insurmountable at JW because “one side” won’t respond in any manner, either to David’s communications while writing or later via posting on JW.

    But, guess everyone sees things differently. So, why do I agree with your comments on this story (an odd combo of two stories and that Sydney should be evaluated on her planning commission skills rather than that her past campaigning record). In addition, although I feel David has more room for improvement on the JW side, continuing his efforts to be “more journalistic” will only benefit both projects.

    Finally, I’m in full agreement with you that David gets to do anything he wants to do on his own blog. And he seems to have had no problem attracting contrarian views with his approach.

  16. Justin Kudo

    Hrm, I think we’re misunderstanding each other.

    I’ve felt like JW articles have done a much better job of detailing both sides of each case and working to present every available related fact, and then covering the history, with opining taking a backseat to all of that. Of course, as it’s something that could just be a matter of having the luxury of something thoroughly recorded.

    I wouldn’t describe JW that way either. I meant that having an “alternate news” community like Vanguard which approached controversies and issues of interest to the public objectively, rather than with strong opinions, could be an invaluable public resource.

    How can I put it… lets put it in the scope of fictional villains. JW is like Magneto; it’s fairly clear what side he’s on, but you can understand different parts that go into the character and from person-to-person, he will be judged differently. Many other Vanguard stories feel like Dr. No, who was a one-dimensional villain that you never really saw into besides that he was evil and wrong.

    I’ve just really liked this blog better when I’ve seen the former. Take this story for example. It could have gone into summarizing Sydney’s experience or land use ideals, but it was about how “bad” she would be. Or the solar project issue, talking about it being in the periphery (which is a stretch, actually looks like about 1.5 miles out of El Macero), and points at the concerns of the Ag Commissioner over prime farmlands. I wish it said if that’s an issue here, it could be class 1 soil, or it could be class 4 for all I know. It just seems like at times the goal is to criticize the agendas of “bad guys” rather than actually report on and critically examine projects.

    I’m sure these things take a lot of time, and it’s really easy for me to armchair quarterback. But I genuinely do think this blog could be so much more if it was made more objective and focused on reporting the details and perspectives than giving a limited number of details and one opinion.

    I’m not really as negative on the Vanguard as this is all probably sounding like, I’m just trying to explain a point.

    Or maybe I’m just being contrarian, which is quite possible.

  17. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “Considering I have no training formally as a journalist, I think I have done okay and learned well on the fly.”

    Yes you have. The blog has grown and flourished, and provides a wonderful community service. One of its strongest points, IMHO, is that all feel welcome to comment, whether liberal, conservative, businessman, homemaker, whatever. And it often provides information and insight we do not get from other news sources…

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