Is a Picture Worth 1000 Words?
At the council meeting on Tuesday, I wanted to capture some of the key moments of the CFD discussion in photos. So I snapped off my typical 20 photos of Robb Davis during his impassioned speech and discovered something interesting – in every one it appeared that his colleagues Dan Wolk and Rochelle Swanson were smirking or laughing.
Given the angle I was at, it would have been awkward to attempt to cut them out of the photo – so I left it in. Some people commented on the photo, both in public and in private. Are they laughing at him? I don’t know. Are they making side-jokes and laughing at something else? Again, I don’t know.
Either way is troubling in its own way. This was during the core part of his speech, where he is trying to convince his colleagues to change their mind, so it stands to reason they are either mocking his efforts or they are not listening at all and having their own side conversation.
The Davis City Council has a number of very critical decisions ahead, but I feel like the council itself is at crossroads. Tuesday night felt like 2010 again. As I stated in Thursday’s column, for the first time since 2010, it felt like old times on the Davis City Council, in that the vote was 3-2, and it never felt like there was a reasonable chance to swing the vote.
When I first started covering the Davis City Council in 2006, the council’s atmosphere was completely toxic. I started for reasons that had little to do with the divide that had emerged in Davis City politics. But the fray I jumped into was one of bitter dissension and open hostility.
We termed it the Council Majority because, on the critical issues, there was almost invariably and with very rare exceptions a 3-2 majority – indeed the same 3-2 majority of Don Saylor, Ruth Asmundson and Stephen Souza against then-Mayor Sue Greenwald and Councilmember Lamar Heystek.
Whatever hopes of accord were destroyed early on as the Council Majority weighed the idea of denying Sue Greenwald the mayorship despite her finishing first in 2004, and as Councilmember Don Saylor openly mocked and lectured Lamar Heystek’s first venture at establishing a living wage in Davis.
For four years we had a 3-2 stranglehold on the council, controlled by the Council Majority. It was four years of frustration for the minority members. It was to the point where, ultimately, Lamar Heystek would leave after one term in 2010 and Sue Greenwald would often be baited into mistakes.
However, things began to change in 2010. The community grew tired of the toxic atmosphere and, over the course of the next two years, two members would not seek reelection. Don Saylor would move up to the Board of Supervisors and, in 2012, incumbents Sue Greenwald and Stephen Souza would be defeated.
Beginning in 2011 when Don Saylor left the council, it began a new era – one of the reform on key budget issues, one of peace and respect on the dais, and one of overt work for consensus.
This new council is a little different from the councils from 2011 to 2014. I spoke to several of the members of council and there are some clear and developing personality conflicts. There is also no real clear consensus on a lot of policy issues. While on most issues there are not huge differences, the personality conflicts may make it much more difficult to form consensus and coherent policy.
The council needs to figure out a way to work together for the betterment of the community. The council is probably at a critical crossroads in that respect. We don’t want to go back to the days of the 3-2 council where there was no possibility of forming a consensus – that is what happened on Tuesday and that is not for the benefit of the community.
CFD: Former Mayor Joe Krovoza Speaks Out
Usually, following a big vote like the one on CFD, a relatively clear picture emerges as to what happened and how it transpired. This one is different – I am getting a very different story depending on whom I talk to.
Former Mayor Joe Krovoza, really for the first time since he left office last July, has spoken up – in a Vanguard column. He writes, “How recognition of a CFD [Community Facilities District] was handled in the DA [Development Agreement] is now in question. From my perspective, as staff and the sub-committee assessed dollars for use in the DA, funds from a possible CFD simply weren’t discussed. “
Mr. Krovoza adds, “I was clear to staff that I wasn’t interested in a CFD because it looked like we could fund the amenities without one. Perhaps staff never really considered a CFD, or perhaps they were considering such but never raised the issue with me. All I know is that I was never involved in any discussion with staff, Lucas (the only councilmember I could speak with due to the Brown Act) or publicly. It just didn’t come up. “
Some I have talked to have been incredulous about this claim. However, I am convinced by one key consideration – if the CFD were a real option at the time, Mayor Krovoza would have leveraged his support for at least a smaller CFD ‒ for assurances about a second grade-separated crossing. The fact that this discussion never entered the public realm, even at the 11th hour when Mayor Krovoza was still attempting to push for more amenities, suggests that Mr. Krovoza’s recollection is accurate.
The pro forma suggests that the developer has ample revenue to make this project work with, without or with a reduced CFD.
Joe Krovoza writes, “What did the pro forma conclude might come from the developer for the DA? The staff concluded in the November 12 staff report that ‘the Development Agreement could accommodate $4 – $4.5 million in benefits to the City under current assumptions.’”
He said, “It was very hard for me to accept this.” Indeed, “everything in the pro forma seemed very conservative to me. Most notable was the assumption of $270/sq.ft. for the houses. If that went to $300/sq.ft., which was the price at the time, there would be another $21 million in revenue.”
He added, “And the pro forma assumed a 10 percent contingency, which on $250 million (conservative) in revenue would be $25 million. So very superficially, it seemed to me there was a $25-46 million dollar question about TNHC revenue. Given this, I was very skeptical of the staff’s assessment of $4 – $4.5 million from TNHC for the DA, and there just wasn’t any reason for a CFD.”
Part of the question is how the CFD came back up in late 2014 and this year. There was a staff presentation on the possibility of a CFD back in November, but there did not seem to be great staff support for it.
In fact, I was told that Interim City Manager Gene Rogers never weighed in on anything except the CFD, which he thought was an exceedingly bad idea. It was only when Dirk Brazil was hired as the city manager that the idea of a CFD gained traction.
It is worth noting that the motion that the council passed 3-2 was not necessarily to support the CFD that the staff report laid out. Instead, council directed staff to negotiate down the CFD to fund the essential parts of the DA. No one knows exactly what that means – will it reduce the CFD down to $500 or $600 a year which would gain four or five votes, or will it be a token reduction?
Finally, there is the issue of the two grade-separated crossings. Mr. Krovoza writes, “When the DA came out in the November 19, 2013 staff report, the guarantees for two good, grade separated bike and pedestrian crossings seemed very weak. The November 12, 2013 staff report made clear reference twice to transportation dollars funding a SE crossing, but the November 19, 2013 staff report and DA didn’t guarantee good crossings.”
“I saw this as backpedaling,” he said. He writes, “At the November 19 meeting, I sought more dollars in the DA to guarantee both crossings, and a commitment that the poor alternative at the SW would be removed as an option. The council majority for the project didn’t adopt my request, and the Cannery development was approved 3-2. Brett Lee and I were the dissenting votes.”
He concludes, “Today, it’s very disappointing to me that the SE grade separated crossing has been abandoned by TNHC and the city. I believe that’s bad faith. At the SW, the decent option of using the H Street tunnel is moving slowly, and might still happen, but if not, the truly mediocre option of using the south side of Covell may become the only bikeway into town that doesn’t have to coexist with cars on Covell Blvd.”
Given that council has agreed to providing The New Homes Company with a CFD, it would seem reasonable that we could at least be assured of the two grade-separated crossings. To my knowledge, there has been no public discussion or vote backing off that commitment.
Today, my grandmother turns 100 years old. So late on Wednesday, my family and I are going to leave town and go to Florida for a Friday birthday party. I will be gone from the 26th of March until late on March 30. This is the first real vacation we have taken in several years. The Vanguard will continue its publication and hopefully the interruptions will not be noticeable.
—David M. Greenwald reporting