Last night the Davis City Council voted 5-0 to support extending the moratorium for 10 months and 15 days. However, the discussion has shifted slightly in the wake of the still unresolved rape of a woman two weeks ago in a Davis park.
Heidy Kellison, speaking as a member of the Sexual Assault Advisory Committee of the California Emergency Management Agency, and a former member of WEAVE, “no one should have to witness what I have witnessed.”
She said this is her first time speaking during public comment at the city council meeting. She told the council, “The extreme acts of violence we’re experiencing are not isolated incidents – they are harbingers of things to come. As a community, we reject Davis’ designation as a regional destination for the mal-intended. We will not become a 365-day a year Picnic Day.”
She called on businesses to be partners in the solution. She said that, while some businesses are responsible, others are not. “To those who do not, I say this, we are watching and we will not tolerate your blind eye any longer.”
She called out businesses who objectify women, calling them “extraordinarily out of touch if you believe you will be welcomed here.”
Ms. Kellison added, “This issue is just beginning to be vetted” and added, “I abhor the notion that the door is currently wide open to businesses serving as breeding grounds for felonious behavior.”
Emily Henderson said, “We know that sexual assault is under-reported and I feel like, while I absolutely hold the individuals responsible for their actions in those headlines, I do [know] that we as a community are a part of that. We set a tone as to what is acceptable in our downtown and you as our leaders have an opportunity to guide us.”
She added, “I have really grave concerns about the trends. I know we are responding to two very pronounced incidents but I think there [are] a lot of incidents that we just never hear about – particularly when it comes to sexual assault.”
Salina Alvarez, Associated Director of Empower Yolo, a Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center that serves Yolo County survivors of violence, spoke. She said, “Violence is an issue that needs to addressed not just by reducing risk but I think it’s important for the city to figure out ways to respond.”
Ms. Alvarez said she was gratified that the city was taking this issue seriously and urged people to shift blame away from the victims of this violence and toward the perpetrators. “This is a community and societal issue that needs to be addressed,” she said.
It was just under two weeks ago that the police reported that “a female UC Davis student, in her early twenties, met three males at Bistro 33 on Thursday night. She was subsequently taken to a park in Davis where all three suspects sexually assaulted her. Investigators believe the attack occurred in the vicinity of Community Park.”
The three suspects in their late 20s or early 30s remain at large and Assistant Police Chief Darren Pytel told the Vanguard this morning that there is no new information in this case.
The rape in Davis Community Park reportedly occurred nearly a month after the stabbing death of Peter Gonzales first led to community concerns and a moratorium on new late night establishments larger than 2500 square feet – that has now been extended by 10 months.
In their comments, Councilmember Rochelle Swanson expressed a real concern that they are just going to clamp down on the drinking “and magically sexual assault is going to be curbed.”
She noted that crime statistics really haven’t changed for sexual assault over the years. Eighty percent of the victims don’t report sexual assault. One in four women can expect to be raped during their college career.
“The lack of reporting is of course a big concern,” she said. “It’s also about the environment.”
“I have a real concern that if we pass an ordinance, we’re done, yay. We’ve cured it and we’ve walked on,” she continued, asking staff to start looking into statistics of where sexual assaults are occurring in our community. She expressed the same concern on the issue of alcohol, and about the belief that cutting off an hour or two of drinking will present us with a cure to the overall problem.
“Folks forget that prior to all of this, we had a lot of problems in our fraternities and our sorority houses that aren’t regulated,” she said.
Councilmember Swanson cautioned that we not just “check the box” and say, “we did something strong and now we’re going to move on” and “then just wait for another tragedy to be able to address this.”
She added, “It’s sad it took a tragedy, the police department has tried for a number of years to have this kind of dialogue.”
Ms. Swanson further added, “I guess this is my plea, don’t let this just be about some loudness and some inconvenience and downtown looking like the kind of town it used to – I think it was more hidden and now it’s more out there.” She urged us to really address some of the underlying issues here.
Mayor Dan Wolk quickly would add, “Just reminding why we’re here, talking about this moratorium, is that we’ve had these two horrific acts of violence in or related to our downtown between the murder that took place at KetMoRee and the rape that occurred.”
He called sexual assault “a very real part of our community” and “a very real part of what we’re talking about here.”
Previously, Mayor Dan Wolk told CBS 13 in Sacramento, “Enough is enough. We have a real problem here.” The news station reported that Mayor Wolk said that “he’s sick of hearing about crime increasing in Downtown, mostly after dark.”
The mayor sees this as an extension of the downtown party scene, a party destination in the region. He told CBS 13, “Our downtown is a certain way until around 10, 11, and then it becomes this different place.” He added, “I think everyone recognizes that we have an issue here and we have to address it.”
Toward the broader issue, Councilmember Brett Lee called this, the moratorium, “a very small step,” saying that “the real step is when we change the regulations concerning the existing bars.” The moratorium just impacts those that want to expand or move to Davis. The current bars are “operating the same today as they were three months ago.”
This time, the council passed the moratorium extension unanimously, with Mike Webb pledging that permanent regulations will be in place long before it expires.
—David M. Greenwald reporting