Sunday Commentary: Doing Things the Davis Way, The Hard Way

PayPal-Campus

On Friday, we went to the PayPal Campus in San Jose for a seminar on internet marketing. What amazed me was the size of the facility. It had the look and layout more of a college campus than what you would think of as a standard business park.

As we were escorted through the main building to the back, there was an open space courtyard surrounded by other buildings, including what they call a town hall. LEED Certified buildings, cafés, and more.

It reminded me of a more compact version of what we already have emerging at the West Village campus. It would fit right in with Davis. I’m not suggesting that Davis needs to bring PayPal or even a similar company, but I am suggesting there are ways to build business parks that are very innovative and would fit in well with what Davis has and wants to become in terms of a place for high-tech university spinoffs.

At the end of the seminar we headed back for Davis making a quick on Mission Blvd off I-680 for lunch. We made a quick stop at Safeway and I realized, hey, they don’t have plastic bags here. There was no fuss, no drama, no turmoil, just the way it was.

Taco-Bell-paper-bag

Funny thing is that, in advance of Tuesday, I stopped off a Taco Bell for a quick bite and received, instead of the standard plastic bag, a small, lightweight, paper bag. No fuss, no drama, no big deal.

Except that the Davis road to both a business park and a plastic bag ban have been nothing but drama so far. And we have not even really entered the critical time for the business parks.

On Tuesday, Davis will join 110 other jurisdictions that have enacted bans against single-use, carry out bags. There was an article in today’s Sacramento Bee which noted that “Davis becomes the first city in the four-county region to curtail the use of disposable plastic bags by grocery stores, markets and retailers within city limits.” Most of the rest are left-leaning coastal communities.

But still, this isn’t exactly a novel idea, even if we are first in the four-county region. And yet, we still have drama. Bob Dunning notes, “As we move ever closer to our toughest-in-the-nation plastic bag ban (if we’re not No. 1, why do it?), the city is sending out conflicting messages in an apparent attempt to ‘educate’ the unwashed masses of this town.”

Not sure exactly why Mr. Dunning believes ours is the toughest in the nation – it was modeled after others like San Luis Obispo County and has most of the same provisions.

He notes, “It explained that even restaurants are not exempt from the July 1 start date for the ordinance,” although “plastic bags can still be provided for soups and other foods that may spill or drip.”

He adds, “I can see a confrontation brewing when an unsuspecting Davis diner encounters an officer from the DPBBFP (Davis Plastic Bag Ban Food Police) as the diner heads home from his favorite downtown restaurant.”

While I recognize he’s trying to be humorous, there is no law against the public using a single-use carry-out bag, but rather against merchants from handing them out. And while there has been much made about the consistency in the ordinance, the basic premise was the reduction of usage and reduction of waste and that, the city staff noted, could have been done by simply applying the ordinance to grocery bags, which constitute something on order of 98 percent of the plastic bags.

Turtles sun themselves in an artificial pond in the court yard of the PayPal Campus.
Turtles sun themselves in an artificial pond in the court yard of the PayPal Campus.

For an educated city, we seem to have a lot of drama implementing policies that are not a big deal in other communities. It is not as though we are first in the nation here, we are 111th. And it’s not as though we are reinventing the wheel.

Unfortunately, there is the Davis Way which, with all due respect, is in fact the hard and, maybe we should add, painful way. Look no further than the water debacle, which after nearly three years since the infamous September 6, 2011 meeting, we have not seemed to have resolved yet either. We are rapidly approaching the time when there will be no one left on staff or council since that original decision.

Will we pass a motion to have a Prop 218 hearing at this meeting? We will see. What the end game is, we don’t know.

And speaking of trials and tribulations, yesterday we argued that failure was not an option for the business park proposal. However, we seem to be heading down the road of destruction. Will cooler and wiser heads prevail and recognize that pushing for a November election that somewhat circumvents Measure R is a recipe for disaster?

Can we accept that we can make a few small, incremental changes in this community as a way forward? Don’t hold your breath. This is Davis, we know no other way other than the hard way.

—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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53 Comments

    1. Davis Progressive

      my take is david believes that by attempting to fast track, it will create a whole new crisis and end up derailing the entire thing. whereas there seems to a critical mass of people – people like me – who voted against target, whr, and covell village, but are willing to support a GOOD project at mace and even at sutter-davis.

      1. Tia Will

        DP

        I agree almost completely. My only difference would be to change the order of acceptance with Sutter-Davis area being my current first choice based on ag land quality as I currently understand it and subject to change based on further information.

    2. Frankly

      I was thinking the same thing. There is a lot incongruity in this VG piece.

      Here is the problem…

      The design of representative democracy was in large part to prevent the significant decision paralysis problem that derives from pure democracy… which is always just a few steps away from anarchy.

      But once that cat is out of the bag, it is impossible to get back in. Once people develop an expectation of a higher level of influence and participation in decisions, they don’t easily let go.

      There is a principle in project managed decision making that the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. But for this to be true there has to be process and expertise.

      And here is both our opportunity and our downfall with respect to progress.

      We lack sufficient process and expertise in bottom-up, project managed, decision making. Committees and commissions don’t get it done because the Davis expectation for voice and influence goes down to the individual voter up to the last minute of decision.

      And politics does not get it done either. Politics can help push the simple decisions (ban bags, increase a tax, etc.); but for a new development, there are a myriad of criteria that go into the final decision.

      My preference is that we don’t have so much citizen control of complex decisions, because it frankly does not work very well (as the WAC and Measure P demonstrate). Good work gets done, but then the enemies of progress step in at the last minute and motivate the professional critic in all of us, and derail all the good work. For the enemies of progress to have failed we would have needed a more inclusive bottom-up process where more citizens felt they contributed to the design of the final proposal and hence would see it as “their” proposal and not something being imposed on them against their will. But people are busy, and we don’t have time to put so much of our limited brain power into all these complex city issues.

      But here’s the thing. My sense is that David and other liberals in this community support a representative decision process when it suits their views. For example, plastic bag bans. The mindset is that a good liberal knows what is better for the rest of us and therefore a mandate from top-down is the means that justifies their desired end. But then David and others flip-flop when it comes to a new development. In this case they don’t value a top-down decision from representative government.

      And it is this representation vs. direct incongruity that is screwing up the general decision process of government at all levels.

      A good Davis liberal spent more time in liberal arts and humanities classes and less in econ, finance and business. And it is very clear to me that they screw up economics and finance and are motivated to interrupt and derail business because they don’t know enough about these subjects. But instead of letting the experts of these things drive the decision process, they demand a direct democracy approach.

      Since Davis is 80% liberal, and because the direct democracy cat is out of the bag, there is not a solution in just telling them to sit down and quiet down while those that know better tackle this work and make the decisions.

      What we need is a new fangled technology-enabled process that collects bottom-up feedback from the population that gets rolled into the requirements and design for the proposed project and final decision. This process is going to require a large amount of education, because there are topics that voters just don’t know enough about.

      But the final thing we will require is a stop to the incongruity of demanding for a top-down decision process for some things and then a bottom-up for others. Either we are representative or we are direct.

      I prefer representative. I want to pat my political leaders on the back and give them campaign money when they do the right things for the community, and hang them by their toes when they do the wrong things.

      But then that requires all the cats to go back in the bag… and it is not likely to happen in Davis.

      1. Tia Will

        Frankly

        “My sense is that David and other liberals in this community support a representative decision process when it suits their views. ”

        As do we all. Remember your position on fluoride ?

        1. Frankly

          Yes I do. I supported the council making the decision, not a measure to vote on it.

          I hope you understand the distinction.

          If the council had voted to include fluoride, I would have supported their decision but I would have let it be known that I thought it was a mistake and I would have been less apt to support them as politicians. That is how representative democracy is supposed to work.

          1. Tia Will

            Frankly

            I certainly understand the distinction just as I understand and accepted being on the losing side of the 52% to 49% vote on Target. And I accepted it when the council made the decision of fluoride although I felt they were making a mistake. I accept those things that we have decided are the council’s to decide and those things we have chosen to put to a city vote regardless of the means by which we have made this decision.
            So we do exactly the same thing, advocate for our positions and accept the results when things do not go our way. I do not see how you can portray this as a liberal vs conservative issue.

      2. Alan Miller

        “A good Davis liberal spent more time in liberal arts and humanities classes and less in econ, finance and business.”

        I assume you are not recommending they get their econ education at UC Davis. More than one student at UC Davis has told me of an economics professor who says that a $15 minimum wage would be good for Davis because people would have more money to spend, increasing economic activity.

        In a related story, the Transportation Studies Department is working on a car that is fueled by water and unicorn glitter.

        1. Frankly

          Which begs the questions…

          Should we allow leftists to be economists?

          And should unicorns be protected from glitter harvesting since they are obviously endangered?

          1. Alan Miller

            I hate to break it to you Frank Lee, unicorns are already extinct . . . . .

            . . . . . hmmmmmmmm.

  1. Tia Will

    David

    I appreciate your perspective and have two observations.

    1) Having not lived and reported on the process in the communities that have adopted these ordinances earlier
    than has Davis,
    you have not had the opportunity to assess how much push back there was from the community prior to
    adoption of the rule. Thus you are comparing the “no fuss” after the policy is enacted with the Davis process
    for enactment. This is not an apples to apples comparison. I fully expect that once we are used to the new rule,
    there will be “no fuss” here also.
    2 My second quibble is that you have presented lovely pictures and a description of the benefits of a possible
    innovation park model complete with “glossies” of an entry way that some will consider aesthetically pleasing
    and cute little turtles. I think this is a wonderful illustration of what developers are likely to do. Present the pros
    in graphic and attractive form designed to warm the heart, with no counterbalancing discussion of the potential
    downsides in terms of long term costs and needs generated by this innovation, but ultimately born by the
    citizens.
    Please again note that I do not oppose an innovation park. I simply feel that it, like any proposal, will have its unique pros and cons and that you have exemplified a completely one sided picture.

    1. Barack Palin

      One could also say that once an innovation park is in place there will be “no fuss” here either or does that only apply to things that you are for like the plastic bag ban?

        1. Frankly

          You too… but then there are both your comments that specifically indicate otherwise.

          I would suggest more people with views like Tia’s actually go visit some of these business parks like David did. She is brining up nebulous and unspecific concerns… .which demonstrates that she is mostly just fearing impacts of the unknown.

          1. Don Shor

            As it presently stands I support Nishi, support Mace 200, probably support NWQ, and am neutral about South Davis pending further information.
            I’m very familiar with how business parks developed around UCSD. They can be very attractive. They also tend to generate development nearby for service businesses that are not so attractive.
            There may be some validity to the concern about increased city services such as police and fire. Probably that should be addressed (cost, mitigation, etc.) before the proposals get to the ballot.

          2. Barack Palin

            A business park just east of El Macero I’m sure will run into a huge headwind from the Country Club bunch living in the high priced community. That would be interesting……

          3. Frankly

            It is actually quite a ways from the border of El Macero… but one thing for sure… it will increase the property value of El Macero homes.

            I have a friend that just purchased in El Macero. The country club is in trouble, and there is no Internet service.

            There may be opposition, but I think it would be tempered with a view of improvement.

          4. Tia Will

            Frankly

            “I would suggest more people with views like Tia’s actually go visit some of these business parks like David did. She is brining up nebulous and unspecific concerns… .which demonstrates that she is mostly just fearing impacts of the unknown.”

            Once again it is so refreshing to know that someone else is better acquainted with my motivations than I am. I listed some specific concerns this morning which you choose to ignore, or decide are not specific enough to suit you, but are certainly specific enough for me.

          5. Barack Palin

            Frankly, I’ve actually been looking at homes in El Macero. If the business park gets built there many homes in the east part will have a view of wharehouse buildings instead of just farms and the Sacramento skyline in the distance. I don’t think that’s going to help their property values.

          6. Mark West

            “As it presently stands I support…”

            And there is the rub. As long as the project fits your preconditions, you will support it. You probably could have said the same thing about Cannery and every other development project in Davis that you have actively opposed.

            In my opinion, “I would have supported it if they had done exactly what I wanted” could be your personal mantra when it comes to life in Davis. The problem is that when you live and work in a community, choices and options all come with compromises, so your dictates are not support, but just another form of opposition.

            When you have a ‘my way or the highway’ approach to your support, you really aren’t supporting anything but your own personal agenda. Unfortunately, what is good for one is not generally what is best for the City as a whole.

          7. Don Shor

            “As it presently stands I support…”

            And there is the rub. As long as the project fits your preconditions, you will support it. You probably could have said the same thing about Cannery and every other development project in Davis that you have actively opposed.

            My position on Cannery was it should have been developed as a business park. Barring that, we needed higher density housing, and still need high density housing. My position on Mace 391 was pretty clear. What other development projects have I actively opposed? What were your positions on them?

            When you have a ‘my way or the highway’ approach to your support, you really aren’t supporting anything but your own personal agenda.

            You are becoming predictable and tiresome.

          8. Alan Miller

            “don’t it alwyas seem to go, that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.”

        1. Frankly

          And that more people live in similar-sized communities having more local business and no plastic bag ban and those people like their community just as strongly as Davisites like their community.

          1. Frankly

            You understand national pride, tribalism, etc.?

            My point is that people like their communities generally.

            Humanity will not end, and we will still like Davis after the policy and change from Development.

          2. Tia Will

            Frankly

            ‘And that more people live in similar-sized communities having more local business and no plastic bag ban and those people like their community just as strongly as Davisites like their community.”

            But I am not advocating they change their preferences. You are advocating that Davis emulate them.

  2. davisite4

    San Jose has no “community” per se. It has struggled to have a decent downtown scene but never really manages. San Jose, and Silicon Valley more generally, is suburban sprawl dotted with business parks.

    1. Frankly

      Disagree with this. San Jose has a nice downtown. When is the last time you went there?

      I think you are demonstrating some troubling Davis elitism that we are known for.

      Davis is different… in some good ways and some bad ways.

      San Jose is different… in some good ways and some bad ways.

      1. Tia Will

        Frankly

        “we will still like Davis after the policy and change from Development.”

        You will. I will not, just as I do not like my hometown as much now at 60,000 as I did when it was much smaller and I do not like Davis as much as I did 23 years ago. You prefer growth while I prefer a smaller size and yet you continue to use “we” as though you speak for everyone in Davis.

        1. Mr. Toad

          Probably you liked the world better when there was only 3 billion people in it but that is not the world we live in. Perhaps you liked Davis better 23 years ago when it educated far fewer people. The rest of the world thanks you for all your sacrifice in helping Davis feed so many people. Why just this last week a UC science team announced a wheat gene discovery that will result in much more wheat being grown at higher latitudes thus adding much more food for human consumption. The people of the world want to thank the people of Davis for their sacrifices of open space in the pursuit of the betterment of all mankind.

          1. DavisBurns

            On a finite planet with finite resources, most of which have already been highly exploited, feeding a few more people or even a lot more people isn’t going to make a lot of difference in the long run. We have 7 billion people and we can’t feed all of them now. We are projecting 10 billion and we won’t be able to feed even more of them. No green revolution is going to change the basic biological fact that we cannot support the number of people alive today much less another 3 billion. Did you notice they found a gene that responds to light so the plant knows when it’s springtime and time to flower. Maybe that works with climate change, if climate change was just global warming. If we continue on our quest to end darkness, maybe we can also genetically end all circadian rhythm responses for all living things. It’s a brave new world.

          2. Mr. Toad

            Why that is just the gene I’m talking about and this research is going to lead to producing food in more places to feed more people. Actually we can feed all the people in the world today. Our problem isn’t production its distribution. As for feeding more people Davis is going to be the place where the world looks for solutions. Why do you think the World Food Center is such a big deal. We are the worlds most important ag research university despite every effort by the locals to keep UCD from growing. Why do you think the WFC is looking at Sacreamento? Its because there are people here who recognize the challenges of the 21st century, our ability and moral responsibility to take them on. Perhaps your vision is one of Davis immolating. Mine is of a place that does great things to help billions of people have more, better, healthier food and educates others to have the skills to have richer, healthier, happier lives.

          1. Tia Will

            BP

            “Comeon Tia Will, once you get see to it I’m sure there will be “no fuss”.

            Now, BP, I am reserving my right and the right of all citizens to “fuss” to their hearts content. Frankly has continued to assert his right by “fussing” about the Mace 391 decision on nearly every conceivable occasion. As a matter of fact, he has far exceeded my “fussing” about the Target and fluoride decisions combined. It would seem that the right to “fuss” must be carefully nurtured in Davis. At least I tend to “front load” my “fussing”
            while Frankly is equally adept at “fussing” long after the decision has been made ; )

  3. Tia Will

    Frankly

    “Davis is different… in some good ways and some bad ways.”

    I agree with this sentiment. And I am sure that we would not always agree on which are the “good” and which are the “bad”. Sound to me like these are fairly nebulous terms.

  4. Tia Will

    Frankly

    “You understand national pride, tribalism, etc.?”

    I understand that they exist. I do not subscribe to them as positives in human experience. I simply do not believe that our society is inherently better than all others simply because we are American. I do not understand how an individual will not accept that all societies have had their strong points and their weaknesses. I do not understand how one can have “national pride” but not be willing to “own” the harmful things that their society has done.

    I guess I could best be described as a humanist. I do not believe that Americans are inherently any better than any other society and that we should be willing to look at all societies to adopt the positives while not incorporating those aspects with negative outcomes understanding that their will be pros and cons to any policy. So before Don, upbraids me, I want to tie this back into the topic of this thread.
    It makes no sense for Davis to claim that we are universally better than other communities. ( Elitism )
    It makes no sense for Davis to decry its state with regard to the development of other communities. ( Envy )
    What does make sense to me is to vision what we want for the future of Davis and then borrow those practices that will best promote our vision.

      1. Biddlin

        We really need a “like” button, so I don’t have to formally agree with Frankly. I am reminded of a friend’s description of his college town:”Despite the concerted efforts of the elect, Oxford is being pulled and kicked into the 20th century….”
        ;>)/

  5. TrueBlueDevil

    How will all this hand wringing work with a city of 120,000? That was the number I read per the new wastewater treatment plant / upgrade in Davis. Davis has enough problems at roughly 60,000.

    1. Mr. Toad

      Perhaps Davis will be twice as nice with twice as many hard working well educated taxpayers. Our individual tax burden will likely be lower for roads and school and parks and pools. Maybe we will be more diverse drawing the best minds here from all over the world. We will certainly be richer with more jobs and less poverty.

      1. Frankly

        Why do you think the World Food Center is such a big deal. We are the worlds most important ag research university despite every effort by the locals to keep UCD from growing. Why do you think the WFC is looking at Sacreamento? Its because there are people here who recognize the challenges of the 21st century, our ability and moral responsibility to take them on. Perhaps your vision is one of Davis immolating. Mine is of a place that does great things to help billions of people have more, better, healthier food and educates others to have the skills to have richer, healthier, happier lives.

        Mr. Toad gets it.

        Davis residents have a moral responsibility to support what the university needs to do the most good for humanity. Otherwise why not UC Sacramento?

        1. Don Shor

          It seems that this is Chancellor Katehi’s decision and is not based on anything about Davis. If she wanted it here, there’s loads of space on campus for it. She obviously has other reasons for wanting it closer to the Capitol.

  6. Tia Will

    “And there is the rub. As long as the project fits your preconditions, you will support it”

    I am not following your point here. Of course this is true. Do you expect anyone to support a project that they do not feel meets their preconditions, or goals or values ? Would you buy a product that did not meet your needs ?
    Would you buy an article of clothing that you did not believe was a good fit either for your body or for its intended
    purposes ?

    This is not a criticism, but a statement of one process that human beings use to make decisions.

    1. Mark West

      Tia:

      Everyone comes to a discussion with their initial position. Some learn from people with different views and modify their own position, others stick with their preconceived ideas and never adapt. Finding solutions requires compromise, and what is best for the community will never match perfectly with one’s preconceived position, so anyone who is only satisfied by a project matching their initial position is really someone who is looking to block progress.

  7. South of Davis

    David wrote:

    > We made a quick stop at Safeway and I realized, hey, they
    > don’t have plastic bags here. There was no fuss, no drama,
    > no turmoil, just the way it was.

    Thanks for reporting on how there was “no fuss” for the 5 minutes you were in the store.

    In San Mateo county I hear someone pissed off every time I go to any grocery store (and when I tell the clerk I don’t want to buy a $0.10 bag they often tell me how much they hate the law).

    A Tahoe local a friend told me a “trick” to get “free” bags where you go to the Safeway “self checkout” and push the “I brought my own bag” button. Last time we were in Truckee the lady at the self checkout said they are not allowed to “trust” people any more and you need to show your receipt to her to “prove” that you paid the $0.10 per bag to get a bag (I’m guessing the retail clerks had something to do with this since they hate the self checkouts).

    P.S. The retail clerks union was behind the bill making it illegal to sell beer at the self checkouts in CA (even if the lady watching the four self checkouts is a retail clerks union member and personally checks the IDs)…

  8. Frankly

    Frankly, I’ve actually been looking at homes in El Macero. If the business park gets built there many homes in the east part will have a view of wharehouse buildings instead of just farms and the Sacramento skyline in the distance. I don’t think that’s going to help their property values.

    BP – couple points.

    First, that business park is not adjacent to any El Macero home… It is at least a couple of football fields away. How much buffer do you require? You may want to look out in the country if your desire is to look at at amber waves of grain.

    Second, the demand for housing with 1000-2000 new workers will increase, and these will be higher paying jobs and they will like living in El Macero. I think your property values will be more than fine.

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