Monday Morning Thoughts: Paso Fino Reemerges, The Inevitability of Kamala Harris

Plan D was approved by the Planning Commission but considered a non-starter by the developers
Plan D was approved by the Planning Commission but considered a non-starter by the developers

With no city council meeting this week, we can note that the long range council calendar lists three critical discussions for February 3 – Mace 25, the Cannery CFD (Community Facilities District), and Paso Fino. While it appears that Mace and Cannery will be pushed back to February 17, Paso Fino seems likely to go forward a week from Tuesday.

Paso Fino is a proposed infill project along Covell Blvd. that drew controversy when the city was considering selling or swapping a portion of an undeveloped greenbelt and allowing for the removal of Canary Pine trees in a portion of open space.

When we last saw Paso Fino, the Planning Commission voted 3-2 to ask the developers to consider Plan D which would allow for six homes, despite developer Jason Taormino’s statement that the plan did not work and would not allow the developer to build on three of the lots.

Plan D would preserve the greenbelt, reduce the number of lots from eight to six, and preserve all nine Canary Pine trees in public ownership.

This will be the first time the city council has weighed in on the project that drew protests from around the community for allowing the development of greenbelt. We will have more on the specific proposal later this week. At this point Plan A, Plan B and a new plan will be on the table.

ADU-1Amendments to Secondary Dwelling Unit Ordinance

Recently the council passed a revision to the affordable housing ordinance that removed secondary dwelling units (Accessory Dwelling Units, ADUs, or Granny Flats) as being able to be counted toward affordable housing requirements. One of the concerns is the inability to ensure that such units would be affordable.

An ADU “is a self-contained living unit accessory to the primary residential unit on a single family lot. It may be attached or detached from the primary unit.”

Staff uses the term “secondary dwelling unit” in “the proposed ordinance because it is the most frequently used term in the current zoning ordinance. The meaning of this term is interchangeable with “accessory dwelling unit” and “second unit.””

One of the current goals is: “Promote and facilitate accessory dwelling units – Consider appropriate and effective ways to promote and streamline the processing of ADUs while ensuring compatibility with neighborhoods.”

An average of six accessory dwelling units have been approved per year over the last ten years. Approximately two thirds have required a conditional use permit. Approximately 80 percent of the approved units have been built.

The proposed amendments will simplify standards such as maximum floor area and height, “making them easier to explain.” They intend to reduce cost and time of city discretionary reviews and enhance findings for discretionary reviews.

The amendment will change the maximum floor area to 10 percent of the total lot size, and standardize maximum height to 30 feet for both attached and detached secondary dwelling units. It will change the setbacks on the side and rear to three feet if the site adjoins an alley or a non-single family zone. It adds “three new findings related to compatibility with adjacent properties, measures to protect privacy, and adequate open space and landscaping.”

Finally, it streamlines the process from requiring a conditional use permit to an administrative use permit, which will allow staff rather than the Planning Commission to have the ability to approve an ADU.

Attorney General Kamala Harris has decided to run for Senate.

Kamala Harris Inevitable For US Senate?

It has been a few weeks since Barbara Boxer announced she would retire in 2016 after 24 years in the US Senate. Since then, Gavin Newsom announced he would not run for the Senate. Last week, billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, a 57-year-old Democrat from San Francisco, announced he will not run either.

All eyes are now on Attorney General Kamala Harris, who has jumped into the race, and anyone who might possibly be able to challenge her.

Politico reported on Friday that internal polling puts Ms. Harris well ahead for the Senate seat. We might question how much weight to put on the survey conducted by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic robo-polling firm, which shows Ms. Harris leading former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa 41-16 in a head-to-head match-up. Forty-three percent were undecided.

That lead closes when other Democrats and Republicans are added to the race. Politico reports, “Thirty-four percent of those surveyed said they would vote for Harris. Meanwhile, Rep. Xavier Becerra received 3 percent of support, Villaraigosa received 9 percent and Rep. Loretta Sanchez received 4 percent.”

“Republicans Rocky Chavez, a state legislator, received 2 percent and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice polled just behind Harris at 33 percent.”

According to Politico, “Republicans have floated Rice’s name as a dream candidate, but those close to her have said she has no interest in running for Boxer’s seat. Democrats are heavily favored in the race.”

The survey is of 627 likely primary voters and was conducted last Thursday.

The biggest controversy is the feeling of anointment of Kamala Harris, which has many Latinos upset.

Pouring fuel on the fire was Willie Brown last week, who suggested that Antonio Villaraigosa should not run.

“His loyalty and his relationship with her should be so valuable, and he should, in my opinion, see it as an opportunity to demonstrate that,” Brown told The Bee last week. Villaraigosa’s campaign refused to comment.

The Bee noted, “Several top Democrats have rallied behind her, prompting some Latino leaders to complain that Harris backers were not respecting the state’s ethnic and regional diversity.”

The Bee quoted John Burton, the state Democratic Party chair, who they said “was decidedly more blunt when asked if party leaders are trying to clear the field for Harris.”

“Bull—-,” said Mr. Burton in typical fashion.

“When I ran – whatever the hell I ran for – I got (into the races) early,” he said. “And getting out early is good, but it doesn’t guarantee anything.”

Ms. Harris has generated early support from national Democratic figures like Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

Antonio Villaraigosa’s entry, in the meantime, would introduce new dynamics. In addition to adding a Latino candidate, it would also pit Los Angeles against San Francisco and northern California.

—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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  1. Davis Progressive

    i guess i can’t comment on kamla harris even under the cloak of anonymity.  i don’t see villaraigosa being able to defeat her, it would be better if he works toward governor in 2018.


  2. Davis Progressive

    i think the paso fino controversy has been way overblown in terms of the greenbelt issue but i can’t help but wonder about how badly it has been mismanaged by both the city and developer in allowing it to get to this point.

      1. Davis Progressive

        they allowed the greenbelt charge to take on a life of its own.  they enabled an eight unit project to be effectively blocked by a few neighbors.

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