Special My View: Roads Crises Will Not Be Easily Solved


road-repairThe Davis City Council effectively has until July 15 or so to decide whether or not to put a tax measure on the ballot to fund roads. I will make this statement again at the outset: the Davis Enterprise was completely irresponsible to criticize the council for discussing tax options when they effectively had only six weeks to make an informed decision.

Right now the council is scheduled to make a decision on July 1 – maybe they can do so, but at least this time they are not waiting until the last possible second before making the decision.

One idea we have heard floated is a $50 parcel tax that would allow the city to bond and receive about $25 million up front and fund roads ongoing at between $3 and $4 million per year. That scenario would require the city to look at other revenue measures for parks and building infrastructure – for instance, a utility tax.

As staff laid it out in 2013, “It will entail front loading the pavement maintenance budget roughly as follows: $15 million in Fiscal Year 13/14, $10 million in Fiscal Year 14/15 and $3 million/year thereafter. The current pavement management strategy encompasses a 20 year period so the $3 million per year is tracked to the year 2032.”

The years obviously change as we would be looking to start this in 15/16 rather than 13/14.

On the one hand, that scenario has the advantage of being feasible and practical. The voters would likely be willing to support a relatively small $50 per year tax on each parcel, even at a two-thirds vote requirement, and the council could put off other decisions until 2016 where they could put a general tax on the ballot, once again requiring a simple majority vote.

Yesterday in the comments there were some alternative tax ideas floated. I want to be clear – I support a tax that allows the city to utilize revenue bonds at lower yields than general obligation bonds. I am not partial as to one tax or another as long as they meet my time and revenue requirements.

The problem is that $25 million does not appear to be nearly enough to cover the city’s upfront needs.



These were the six scenarios laid out by staff in May of 2013.

The city analysis underlies the problem. While Scenario A is “heavily front-loaded with $55 million in funding over the first 6 years; the annual average cost is relatively low and the resultant backlog in 2032 is low. The City would have difficulty meeting the $55 million over 6 years.”

However, the $25 million scenario “doesn’t provide enough up-front improvement to the streets.”

But it is actually a lot worse than that.

An email from Associate Civil Engineer Jennifer Border in February 2014 illustrates the real problem here.

She writes, “The budgetary projection completed in 2012, by our consultant Nichols Consulting Engineering, estimated that our backlog for street maintenance would be $41 million in 2014. In addition, due to a new interpretation by the Department of Justice, the City would be required TO upgrade corner ramps. Since this is a new requirement, we are not certain how this will impact our budgets but expect the additional work would cost $8 to $13 million. The total would then be in the range of $49 to $54 million.”

Even assuming the city could come up with this magnitude of funding – which Bob Clarke a year prior argued was not realistic – “the constraining factor for time required to complete the repairs is the City’s tolerance for having roads under construction.”

Ms. Borders argues, “Realistically, the City would not be able to tolerate the entire work being done in a single construction season (assuming work can be done over 6 months, from April through September, in any year) even if we could get a contractor(s) to work on this scale and schedule.”


Instead she argued, “Due to the number of streets that would be under repair under this scope of project, we anticipate that a minimum of three construction seasons would be required to perform the work and that even splitting the work over THREE SEASONS would be a burden on the community. Realistically, the work could take from three to ten seasons.”

As Bob Clarke noted, “If cost was not a constraint, the governing factor would be community tolerance of the construction inconvenience. If the City decided to charge ahead full speed and simply tell the community there would be short-term pain to quickly get through the work, that would be one timeline, but if we were to schedule work to some level of ‘reasonableness’ regarding community impacts, that would likely be a longer timeline.”

The consequence of this is that $25 million upfront is not going to do as much as council might have originally believed.

Borrowing money upfront would probably have to be in the $85 to $100 million range in order to be spent over five to ten years.

Based on this information, the council needs to clearly assess what a $50 parcel tax and $25 million will actually do in the city. It needs to determine how much of the backlog would be addressed, and what would $3 to $4 million do going forward, when the council initially considered something closer to $5 to $8 million – only to be paired down in May 2013 to the current scenario.

The question we must answer is whether that is sufficient and if not, what is.

—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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29 thoughts on “Special My View: Roads Crises Will Not Be Easily Solved”

    1. Don Shor

      The successful placement of Mace 391 into a conservation easement has helped move business parks forward on other sites. I expect we’ll be hearing from Rob White soon about those possible projects. Otherwise, we’d be fighting a long battle about annexing Mace 391, which would certainly have lost at the polls, and we’d be that much further behind. We’ve established a firm urban limit line on the East and now have council members and city staff engaged on developing other, much more politically plausible sites.
      But I’m sorry you lost your investment in Mace 391. That is the only thing that could possibly explain your obsessive posting on the topic.

      1. Davis Progressive

        as far as i know, mace 391 was publicly owned. there was no investmentment and frankly’s company was not one of the contributors to techdavis.

        1. Frankly

          Correct. I have no skin in the game other than my care and concern about the city and the general impacts and benefits to local humanity resulting from too little or just enough economic development.

          As a business person I bristle at the political-excuse BS. As in “we cannot make a certain decision or do the right thing because of politics.” Politics is not an excuse for having to accept the wrong thing… it is a common potential roadblock that has to be overcome. There are politics in every decision that has multiple stakeholders.

          The CC messed up big time in their Mace 391 decision. They pissed away $50-$100 million of needed city revenue for political reasons. They did not do the right thing for the city residents only because of a minority of rabid land preservation activists and no-growth extremists.

          I will make sure this giant mistake gets pinned to the forehead of everyone involved. Only because it can NEVER happen again. And because people need to know what was pissed away by the CC that is now causing them to have to demand another tax increase.

          1. Don Shor

            Mace 391 was an outstanding decision. I also, by the way, “have no skin in the game” in spite of your insinuation on three separate occasions that I have some hidden motivation. Which, I note, you have never retracted.
            I support conservation of our best soils, and a balanced and well-planned economic development process. I don’t favor developing on any land that happens to be available, which evidently you do. We now have a firm urban limit line to the east. We need one along our south border at some point. And suitable properties for economic development have been identified and the process is going forward.
            They did exactly the right thing. It is leading to faster progress on business park projects than we would have otherwise. We would have wasted at least a year or more on a protracted, bitter political battle, which you would surely have lost.
            You and a couple of others here refuse to accept the very likely rejection of Mace 391 in a Measure R vote. You should embrace the process that is underway now, and just quit whining that you didn’t get your pet project.

      1. Frankly

        I cannot come up with anything else in response other than to comment that you appear very dense with respect to this topic.

        Do you not understand that the city OWNED the land. The city owned the title to the land and could sell it. The land was purchased from a bank resulting from a foreclosure. It was purchased as ag land. If the city would have redesignated the land as a business park, the value per acre would have increased to $150k per acre for wholesale to a developer, or $500 per acre if the city developed the park and sold the lots to individual businesses.

        Rob White has commented that the 200 acre Ramos-Bruner parcel should return $12 million in ten years… that is just the tax revenue from the business that would locate there. Mace 391 is almost twice the size so that estimate is $20 million.

        Considering 200 acres of develop-able land out of 391, the sale value would be $30 million at wholesale to a developer, and $100 million if the park was developed to ready-to-build lots and sold to individual business owners… but at a cost of about $20 million to the city…. or net $80 million.

        So compare the Ramos-Bruner $12 million to the Mace 391 $50-$100 million.

        Why is this so hard for you to understand?

        1. Don Shor

          It was purchased as ag land.

          It was purchased as ag land with the intention of keeping it as ag land. The conservation process was underway for months before some guy came in out of the blue and proposed a complicated land-swap scheme based on unvetted finances, which would have turned the City of Davis into a land speculator and/or land developer. Private enterprise can certainly do the job of economic development projects better than the city can.
          Why is this so hard for you to understand?
          Your “Mace 391 $50-100 million” is pure fantasy.

          1. Frankly

            What is fantasy is to keep spending and pissing away revenue in ways that are completely irresponsible and expect that tax payers will continue to bail you out.

            You are in fact demanding that we prioritize your worldview of farmland preservation over the responsibility to acquire and retain the funds required to maintain our roads.

            What is really asinine about this is that we already have preserved 5000 acres in and around Davis before your manufactured “crisis” of farmland loss should Mace 391 be developed.

            But to hell with the rest of us because as we know Don, your views are always superior.

          2. Don Shor

            …fantasy …pissing away … completely irresponsible … demanding …asinine … manufactured “crisis” …as we know Don, your views are always superior.

            You need to get over yourself. It’s long past time for you to stop complaining about Mace 391. I won’t apply the adjectives and insults in kind that you have just lobbed at me. Just get over yourself.

          3. Frankly

            No need to be upset. The only adjective I actually directed at you personally is “superior”.

            I won’t drop this. Most Davis people I talk to about this that were not aware of it are pretty pissed off about it.

          4. Don Shor

            Then I’d be delighted to explain to them why it was a great action to take, protecting some of the best farmland in Yolo County from development. I’d be happy to explain that we’ve opened the discussion for other sites for economic development. I’ll happily tell them that our current economic development sites include several hundred acres for possible development that could lead to good, stable tax revenues for the city.

            I’ll be more than happy to contradict Sue Greenwald’s common assertion that these new sites won’t actually lead to tax revenues, but more likely I’ll refer them to Rob White to give them the information about what kind of revenues we can expect from the two (three, if you include Nishi) sites under discussion.

            You can have your friends contact me so I can explain why we conserve farmland. I’ll be more than happy to discuss where their Measure O money goes, how sites for conservation are ranked for quality and why Mace 391 was a prime site to conserve. The people you talk to are pissed about it, if that is actually true, because they’re only hearing your side of the story.

            Here’s a good starting point. http://casoilresource.lawr.ucdavis.edu/soilweb_gmap/

          5. Don Shor

            Here is something I posted in our October 2013 thread on Mace 391. It reflects my values. The positions I take reflect my values, just as yours reflect your values. You frequently denigrate my values as you argue with me, which is neither respectful nor productive.

            If you want to conserve farmland, wildlife habitat, and open space, you don’t implement the policy piecemeal. You don’t vote on it one parcel at a time. I would be more than happy to have the public vote on a broad package of land use and management principles and policies:
            — renewal of Measure O;
            — commitment to an urban growth limit and a greenbelt system;
            — reaffirmation of the right to farm ordinance;
            — recommitment to the broad principle of conserving prime agricultural land as part of our general plan;
            — specific language establishing the primacy of land conservation in assessing annexation proposals.

          6. Davis Progressive

            that’s not a huge issue there. the south side of covell is pretty well buffered, plus it’s a busy street. you already have commercial on the west. and it’s not a traditional development north.

          7. Frankly

            Properties east of Mace and north of I-80 are an A+ for business park development.

            The north west quadrant is a C+ or maybe a B- at best.

            Given this, why push for the north west quadrant?

            Disclosure about where you live? I suspect Don Shor is protective of Mace traffic flows given his likely home-work travel.

          8. Don Shor

            Disclosure about where you live? I suspect Don Shor is protective of Mace traffic flows given his likely home-work travel.

            Nope. I take Richards and use the overpass on Poleline.

        2. David Greenwald Post author

          Double the Ramos-Bruner property with the West Innovation District and using those metrics, you have about $24 million in tax revenue.

          1. Frankly

            Still coming up quite short. And the west parcel is DOA… trucks driving on so many surface streets will not be accepted by voters and it will increase our road maintenance nut.

          2. Don Shor

            Would you be opposed to a business park near the hospital? Why do you assume that trucks would be driving “on so many surface streets” when Highway 113 is right there for entrance and exit? What traffic would go into or near any residential areas? Presumably we are talking about the area immediately west and north of Sutter Davis hospital. There is already commercial development in the area with wide roads and traffic lights. Trucks would have no reason to go west and little reason to go south from the site. It would be a highway-focused development adjacent to 113.

          3. Frankly

            If the only access is 113 then I think it would be more agreeable to the residents in that area. But are you talking about a new exit/onramp, or are you assuming Covell?

            Interesting though that the 80-113 ramps are constantly needing repair.

          4. Davis Progressive

            funny so the west is doa, but 391 wasn’t? seems like you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth.

          5. Frankly

            I support it. I’m saying the residents over there will not support it if there is much surface street traffic. University Retirement Center is right there. Those people are connected.

          6. Jim Frame

            But are you talking about a new exit/onramp, or are you assuming Covell?

            I don’t think a new interchange is envisioned, as it would conflict with the Caltrans “1 mile” policy. However, the Northwest Quadrant is a mere 1,000 feet from the SR113 offramp at Covell, a major arterial. Even if they put the project entrance at Denali, that’s still only a bit over half a mile of mostly 45 mph city street.

            I don’t see street access as a problem for the Northwest Quadrant. I think its appeal is lessened mostly by the fact that SR113 is sort of a freeway to nowhere. I-80 is much sexier from an industrial transportation corridor standpoint, and Mace/Bruner is practically right on top of it. That’s where I expect to see the most interest, at least in the near term.

            The Northwest Quadrant may get developed as a good bang-for-the-buck site, while Mace-Bruner attracts the firms willing to pay top dollar for high exposure.

          7. Jim Frame

            P.S. to the site admins: Most of the entries on this page don’t have a Reply button, and it’s hard to tell where a post is going to end up.

          8. Frankly

            The problem with Covell-113 versus Mace-80 is that the Covell interchange is surrounded by on three sides by residential development, and the Mace-80 interchange is surrounded on three sides with commercial development.

            I live in west Davis and so would be impacted by the Covell traffic if a business park is developed. But I would put up with it because the city needs the revenue. However, I think many of my neighbors over there would scream and block a development because of the impacts.

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