Davis To Retain Two BOS Seats – But at a Cost of Ag Preservation

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Under a plan approved on Tuesday, the City of Davis most likely will retain two representatives on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, but that result comes at a cost of the district that is traditionally reserved for rural Yolo County.

The move drew protests from advocates of farmland preservation and rural interests.

The controversial plan, passed 3-2, incorporated the plan of Craig Reynolds, Chief of Staff to Lois Wolk (and before that, Helen Thomson), who was Supervisor Don Saylor’s appointee to the redistricting committee.

This marks the first time that the county will not have a rural seat on the board.

The plan calls for Winters going into a district with West Davis, the seat currently held by Don Saylor.

The Fifth District, currently represented by Duane Chamberlain, traditionally reserved for rural voters, will be dominated by Woodland, which accounts for roughly 70% of the population.

Winters Mayor Pro Tem Cecilia Aguiar-Curry expressed to the board of supervisors on Tuesday that Winters residents were angry at being lumped into a district with Davis.  She argued that the rural areas should be kept together in one district.

Former Supervisor Frank Sieferman also expressed concerns about the loss of the rural district.

Supervisor Chamberlain, who is in jeopardy of losing his seat under the new arrangement, indicated that his priority would be to keep all of Winters in the 5th District.

He joined Supervisor Jim Provenza in opposing the vote.

They backed a plan that would have kept Winters in the rural district and paired part of West Sacramento with Woodland.

The vote came down to two factors – self-interest and politics.

It is no surprise that the split on the votes follows the general split on development issues, with Supervisors Chamberlain and Provenza being the strongest advocates for farmland preservation and thus limiting growth and development in the county.

Don Saylor and Mike McGowan represent the strongest pro-growth contingency on the board.

It was Craig Reynolds who drafted the plan.  It gave Mr. Saylor a safe seat, and expanded the likely number of pro-growth votes from 3 to 4.

As is typical of Mr. Saylor, he couched the debate in terms of drawing district boundaries to be roughly of even population, arguing that it is about one person, one vote.

It sounds like a compelling argument.  After all, the county’s population has increased, and shifted toward West Sacramento with residential growth centered in Southport.

But the vote is more easily explained in terms of philosophy and politics.

Mike McGowan represents District 1, which remains largely in West Sacramento, and that means he retains his district.  Some of West Sacramento, under this plan, ends up in a district with Woodland.

Don Saylor backs this plan, as it keeps two seats for Davis, meaning he would not have to go head to head with Jim Provenza over a single Davis district.  By including the more conservative Winters, Mr. Saylor likely attempts to avoid a serious challenge from the left.

The key swing vote was obviously Matt Rexroad, who can go either way on growth and development issues.  For him, the key was that Woodland was not divided into three different districts.  In fact, under this plan, Woodland likely has two seats, his own third district seat and the fifth district seat currently held by Supervisor Chamberlain.

The losers in this are the rural voters and the more progressive, anti-growth, farmland protection progressives.  That puts Supervisor Chamberlain and Supervisor Provenza on the short end of the stick, along with the city of Winters, angry at having to be in a district with “liberal” Davis.

In so doing, the county has bucked a 100-year tradition of having a rural supervisor to protect the interests of the rural areas of the county, a county known for ag-land preservation.

Is this the beginning of the end of rural and agricultural Yolo County?  When Mr. Chamberlain’s seat comes up, it likely marks the end of his tenure as protector of rural ag-land.  The enigmatic and at times outspoken Duane Chamberlain seems a poor fit for a district to be dominated by Woodland.

Does that mean that traditional protectionist policies for farmland go with it?  We shall see.

In the end, the rural district, Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Provenza lost out on a powerplay by Mr. Saylor, in which he induced his colleagues Mr. McGowan and Mr. Rexroad to join him.

—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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26 thoughts on “Davis To Retain Two BOS Seats – But at a Cost of Ag Preservation”

  1. Neutral

    Draw the lines with three districts contained within West Sac, Woodland, and Davis urban limit lines, create two districts – say, North & South – from the remainder of the county. But that would be too simple for people that like to think too damn hard.

  2. David M. Greenwald

    Then you would have you’d have about 160,000 people in three districts and 40,000 people in the other two combined. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

  3. E Roberts Musser

    Okay, let me get this straight. Winters was lumped in with Davis in Don Saylor’s district (how does this help Saylor if Winters doesn’t like being lumped in with Davis?). The other Davis district of Jim Provenza essentially stays the same. Mike McGowan’s West Sac district remains essentially the same. Woodland is divided into two seats that include the rural parts of Yolo so there is no separate seat for just rural Yolo County as there was before? Do I have that right? Is the map the old plan (which is what it looks like) or the new plan (I cannot read the fine print)? So why can’t Duane Chamberlain run for the other Woodland/rural country district? He is well respected in so far as I am aware. I don’t follow county politics, so am a bit confused here. Also, why would Lois Wolk propose this plan if it is so terrible as this article seems to imply? What was the rationale behind it – to give Woodland 2 seats just like Davis has 2 seats?

  4. David M. Greenwald

    Elaine:

    It’s not terrible for the more pro-growth people, it’s terrible for rural and farmland preservation supporters as well as slow growthers.

    Davis was thought to get one seat because it has not grown in the last decade and the rest of the county has. Had it been reduced to one seat that would have put Provenza and Saylor as competitors. That would not have been good for Saylor, so he avoiding creating that scenario (it wouldn’t have been good Provenza either).

    Chamberlain is a free spirit who opposes the Board majority often. He could win in the Woodland district, I just think he’s unlikely to beat someone from Woodland.

  5. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Too many “facts” in this article are wrong to even really get started. [/quote]

    Actually it would be very helpful to get your perspective… what “facts” has dmg gotten wrong…

  6. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Chamberlain is a free spirit who opposes the Board majority often. He could win in the Woodland district, I just think he’s unlikely to beat someone from Woodland.[/quote]

    So I’ll take it to mean that nothing much has changed, other than the rural areas being lumped in with either Davis/Woodland, and Woodland essentially getting two seats. I know Duane Chamberlain is a respected County Supervisor, so I don’t see why he couldn’t run again and win… unless for some reason his interests are very averse to those of Woodland. Perhaps Matt Rexroad can speak to that issue…

  7. David M. Greenwald

    What do you mean nothing has changed? Chamberlain went from having a rural district with Winters to having an urban district with Woodland. I disagree with you on whether he can win in Woodland, his mindset is very rural.

  8. Frankly

    What are the rational arguments for protecting ag land at all costs? I have been thinking about this question as of late, and I believe it is a worthy challenge.

    For one, farming is a government subsidized industry. There are fewer small famers these days, and more often the land is controlled by big agricultural corporations. Few people in Davis have views from the property into the surrounding farm land. Most farm land is private and cannot be accessed or used by the general public. A 1993 Agricultural Health study showed farming communities have higher rates of leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and soft tissue sarcoma, as well as cancers of the skin, lip, stomach, brain, and prostate. There is a lot of dust and the smell of rotting tomatoes all around us. Livestock attract flies and fill the air with unpleasant smells. Our local economy in Davis is not agriculturally-dependent. The land we would protect in Yolo County is a small fraction of the total farm land in the valley, and developing more of this land would not put a dent in food production. Smart periphery development would include green-space and mixed use development that could be environmentally friendly. We could even require some of the space to be returned to natural, pre-farming habitat.

    Is this pro-ag land sentiment just another NIMBY tool, or are there really enough tangible reasons to keep pushing this extreme view that Davis should be a small urban island surrounded by farm land.

  9. Rifkin

    [i]”That puts Supervisor Chamberlain and Supervisor Provenza on the short end of the stick, along with the city of Winters, angry at having to be [b]in a district with ‘liberal’ Davis[/b].”[/i]

    Davis may be more liberal than other Yolo County communities. However , all of the cities in Yolo County are plurality Democratic in party registration, including Winters:

    City —– Total —- Dem —- Rep —– Other
    Davis — 100.0% — 54.6% — 15.7% — 29.7%
    W.Sac — 100.0% — 47.0% — 25.6% — 27.4%
    Winte — 100.0% — 45.3% — 28.9% — 25.7%
    Wood — 100.0% — 44.8% — 31.5% — 23.7%

    It is also the case that Democrats have large registration advantages in all five of the the current supervisorial districts, including Chamberlain’s 5th district:

    # — Total —— Dem —- Rep —– Other
    1 — 100.0% — 46.5% — 26.4% — 27.1%
    2 — 100.0% — 55.3% — 13.3% — 31.3%
    3 — 100.0% — 45.8% — 29.8% — 24.4%
    4 — 100.0% — 52.5% — 18.9% — 28.7%
    5 — 100.0% — 41.6% — 36.0% — 22.4%

    Source ([url]http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ror/ror-pages/154day-prim-10/political-sub.pdf[/url]).

  10. Sue Greenwald

    This is very bad for Davis growth control. It is no surprise to me that Don Saylor and Craig Reynolds have arranged it.

    Duane Chamberlin was always key to Davis growth control. He always voted for self determination for Davis’ boundaries and surrounding land.

    Traditionally, pro-growth county supervisors from Davis could vote against growth on Davis boundaries, and claim that they were just outnumbered by the other three supervisors. Very convenient.

    With Chamberlin on the Board, at least one of the Davis supervisors would have to vote for growth in the county that affects Davis, and that is politically inconvenient.

    With Chamberlin off the board, both Davis supervisors can vote against growth in the county that affects Davis and will more likely be able to count on the other three supervisors to provide the votes.

    Expect to hear a lot more: “I tried to stop it but couldn’t” in the future.

    And remember who created the “but I couldn’t” condition.

  11. Rifkin

    [i]”both Davis supervisors can vote against growth in the county that affects Davis and will more likely be able to count on [b]the other three[/b] supervisors to provide the votes.”[/i]

    Matt Rexroad has a very strong record of not allowing growth in unincorporated Yolo County to impinge on the four cities. Matt also has a publicly announced position, which he has lived up to as a supervisor, that he favors allowing each of the cities to control their own peripheral growth from their borders to out one mile.

    Further, the county has long held a position as a body that urban growth should be restricted to the four urban centers.

    So put together, the agricultural nature of most of Yolo County is not under any threat, even with this change in supervisorial districts and even if Don Saylor is considering building a new 14,300 house subdivision northwest of Davis dedicated to the heroic donors to his campaigns from California Professional Firefighters, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and the California Teachers Association.

    [img]http://lh5.ggpht.com/-wdAu-VdTSCw/Th8x9xdWATI/AAAAAAAAAAA/eOudlQQzwHE/s400/Firefighters.jpg[/img]

  12. Rifkin

    My own view is that the citizens of Yolo County need to pass the Rifkin referendum, which would make two changes whenever the question of changing zoning on county land is at issue:

    1. If the Board of Supervisors passes a zoning change on any land within 1 mile of an incorporated city in Yolo County, the city council of the affected city must approve the zoning change for the zoning change to take effect; and

    2. If the Board of Supervisors passes a zoning change on any land more than 1 mile from all four incorporated cities in Yolo County, the zoning change must be approved by the voters in a referendum at the next regularly scheduled election.

    Doing this would prevent the county from imposing growth on the periphery of any cities which did not want it; and it would stop the conversion of rural ag land into housing or industry in remote parts of the county, unless a majority of residents of the county want it and see the conversion as beneficial.

  13. Don Shor

    Yolo County voters could just pass a copy of Solano County’s Orderly Growth Initiative, and all growth issues would become moot. Each city would determine its own growth. [url]http://www.co.solano.ca.us/depts/rm/planning/zoning_information/orderly_growth_initiative.asp[/url]

  14. Frankly

    2. If the Board of Supervisors passes a zoning change on any land more than 1 mile from all four incorporated cities in Yolo County, the zoning change must be approved by the voters in a referendum at the next regularly scheduled election. [/i]

    I don’t get this. You mean all cities would vote on it? So, Winters, Woodland, Davis, West Sacramento would vote on a zoning change 1.1 miles outside of Davis’s city limits?

  15. Matt Rexroad

    Please tell me what vote on land use issues other than the re-entry facility that is a difference between Supervisor Chamberlain and me.

    Several real facts to consider —

    1) The 5th District has more than half the “voters” come from Woodland currently. The status change you fear happened ten years ago.

    2) If the people of Davis think it is so important to have a rural Supervisor then one way to do that would be to split Davis into thirds. I did not want that for Woodland and I did not want it for Davis. It would have been easy to split the University away from Davis but the City and the University are a community of interest that is important to keep together. If the City Council wants to pass a resolution asking that the City be split into thirds at the very next meeting I would be happy to reconsider my position on this issue. Please David and gang — don’t ask Woodland to be split in thirds when you are not willing to do the same.

    3) People are what counts in redistricting. It is not dirt clods.

    4) David is all about process. I see it all the time. I would encourage a more careful examination of the maps considered here and the process that was used to get them to the Board yesterday. Seems to me that this is a key piece of the analysis on this issue that is missing.

    5) As to the comments on ag land preservation — this really has nothing to do with redistricting. The Yolo County General Plan was supported by all five Supervisors when it was passed. I don’t see much difference between the five is us on this issue.

    6) We have plenty of farmers that live in Woodland and Davis. We also have thousands of non-farmers that live in the unincorporated areas of proposed 5th district. Maybe we should simply require people to be farmers to vote?

    7) The biggest problem with the article is that somehow the current residents of the 5th district are progressive. Whatever.

    Finally — this situation is the result of our land use policies. The ones that Davis says are in danger sue to this policy decision. If you would like to change this outcome then the best way to do that is to reverse course for redistricting in 2021 by pushing development into the unincorporated areas of the county. We could allow endless lot splits and become more like East Sacramento. Then we would be able to have a 5th district of unincorporated residents that claim to be from the country. This is not what we need.

    Meanwhile I will be looking forward to seeing Greenwald standing in front of the Davis City Council asking for the City of Davis to be split into thirds or even quarters so that this wrong can be corrected.

    Holding his breath in Woodland,

    Matt Rexroad
    662-5184

  16. Rifkin

    [i]”I don’t get this. You mean all cities would vote on it?”[/i]

    No. It would be a referendum decided by all the voters in the county, if the zoning change passed by the Board of Supes were more than a mile from all four cities.

    The reason to go to the voters on such changes is that developing remote rural farmland into industry or housing is against the long-held position of the people of Yolo County. All the remote rural land in Yolo County is zoned A for agriculture.

    So any such decision by the Supes would be a serious departure from what the people have long said they wanted and thus (in my view) needs the imprimatur of the voters.

    A case in point would be something like the decision to build a prison near Madison on farmland. That would have been a major change and would have benefitted from having the approval of the voters. Another is the idea which has been floated to build a new urban center around Dunnigan.

    Rather than letting five people make such a major change for Yolo County–each of whom is likely going to be influenced by his campaign donors–I favor letting the Supervisors approve it first and then ask permission of the people, much like we do with Measure J in Davis.

    If the Supes voted to change the zoning on county land a mile or less from the borders of Davis, the Davis City Council would have to approve of it for it to take effect.

    If the Supes changed the zoning on county land a mile or less from the borders of Winters, the Winters City Council would have to approve of it for it to take effect.

    If the Supes changed the zoning on county land a mile or less from the borders of Woodland, the Woodland City Council would have to approve of it for it to take effect.

    If the Supes changed the zoning on county land a mile or less from the borders of West Sacramento, the W. Sack City Council would have to approve of it for it to take effect.

  17. Frankly

    Rich, thanks for the clarification. Measure “J” for the county helps me understand.

    Seems like a reasonable idea… although I would expect some of our non-Davis county residents to jump at the change to approving a zoning change allowing new development close to Davis. Our non-growth tendencies migh put us in the crosshairs of a few voters. Working politics at the county supe level might make Davis NIMBYs feel more secure.

  18. Rifkin

    [i]”I would expect some of our non-Davis county residents to jump at the change to approving a zoning change allowing new development close to Davis.”[/i]

    Perhaps, but that does not increase the likelihood of development 1+ miles from the borders of Davis. Under current laws, as I understand them, three of the five Supes can change the zoning of any land proximate to Davis or a mile from Davis or more than a mile from Davis, as long as it is in the county. My idea is simply to put a check the Supes with a vote of the people if the Supes violate their long-held policy of building in or around the cities. If the voters want remote development approved by the Supes, they can have it. Also, by placing the vote on a regular ballot, we won’t suffer the costs of a special election.

    When, some years ago, the Supes spent $2.4 million on $1,000 per hour shyster water lawyers who provided, in my opinion, no value whatsoever* to the taxpayers, in order to start an eminent domain proceeding against the Conaway Ranch, I heard rampant rumors that Mariko Yamada, Helen Thomson, Frank Sieferman Junior** (who may not have understood what was going on) and Mike Magowan had plans, once they bought the ranch, to change the zoning of the ranch land which abuts I-5 from the Sacramento River to Woodland from ag to industrial commercial. Doing so would have greatly increased the value of that portion of the ranch. The Supes would then have sold it to their donors in order to recoup the millions of dollars they were spending on shyster lawyers.

    The fact that the Supes thought it was perfectly okay to pay these shyster water lawyers–let me repeat this, those guys brought no value whatsoever to the taxpayers for all they billed us–$1,000 per hour let me know that we should not automatically trust the Board of Supervisors. That group pays themselves a full-time salary and no one knows if they even show up to work. They also give themselves a $20,000 per year medical benefit with a full cash-out. They also employ 2 full-time staffers and they charge the taxpayers for two offices.

    Let me restate this: I think there is good reason to not trust whatever decisions the Board of Supervisors makes. I may like and tend to agree with one or two of them. But let me repeat this: I don’t trust the Board of Supervisors. They have mismanaged the county’s money 10 times worse than the [s]idiots[/s] [s]bought off by firefighters[/s] good people on the Davis City Council.

    *The genius attorneys–so-called water experts–that Helen Thomson and the other [s]idiots[/s] on the BoS hired and paid $2.4 million to could not win in court. (Don’t tell Frank Sieferman, Jr. that.) They had wamboozled Helen and her crowd into thinking that they could buy the ranch and not pay $1 for its water rights. Great plan, boys. What saddens me is that in a county with a world class university, we keep electing a bunch of people to the Board of Supervisors (other than the man who replaced Frank Sieferman) who are, if not stupid, then at least easily duped. How else to explain hiring that shyster law firm which did no work and billed us $2.4 million? The very idiocy of that eminent domain plan still pisses me off. (And worse, now one of those geniuses is screwing us over in the state Assembly.)

    **Not sure if Frank ever understood anything.

  19. David M. Greenwald

    Matt:

    I spoke with one of your colleagues last night, according to him, the 5th District goes from 40% to 70% Woodland, I expect Mr. Chamberlain will not be representing the 5th in four years.

    Second, if it made sense for Davis to have the east and the west with a small portion of the northern part with Woodland, I would not have a problem with that.

    THird, agreed.

    Fourth, I’d like to hear an explanation of that.

    Fifth, just a concern. I think there are differences among the supervisors on development.

    Sixth, not really.

    Seventh, I don’t think the residents in the fifth are progressive. I see it more as a confluence of interests between rural and progressive on land use.

  20. E Roberts Musser

    I think there is a huge assumption here that Duane Chamberlain would not win an election in the new redistricting, a well respected Supervisor. Secondly, I can hardly blame Woodland for wanting 2 reps just as Davis has 2 reps on the County Bd of Sups, in terms of population. If the worry is growth on the periphery, I think history has shown the citizenry will turn out in droves to fight anything they think is out of line. And I suspect much of this has to do with the whole move afoot to redistrict that already took place bc of the Governator, or am I missing something here?

  21. Rifkin

    Medwoman, I am happy to personally give you my specific sources for those rumors about the I-5 zoning changes being floated. I won’t give up their names on a public message board.

    However, I can tell you where they were coming from, and hence where they heard what the cabal of Supes who were blowing $2.4 million of taxpayer money on shyster lawyers had in mind:

    One of them worked for Steve Gidaro, so you can discount that source if you like. One worked for the county, in a high position, though this person left county employment before the final water-lawyer bill was expressed. And the third person worked then and still works for a major Sacramento developer who may or may not have an interest in that property right now. I also spoke with others who tend to be in the know about these things and when I asked them if the Supes were planning on changing the zoning on Conaway to pay their lawyers, I was told “that’s what I am hearing.” So in every circumstance, I think you need not be wowed. The rumors were rampant.

  22. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]I spoke with one of your colleagues last night, according to him, the 5th District goes from 40% to 70% Woodland, I expect Mr. Chamberlain will not be representing the 5th in four years. [/quote]

    You can suspect all you want. In fact he may not even run. Or he may run and win. I don’t think that sort of pure speculation is very helpful…

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