A Further Look at the MRIC Housing Option

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Live-Work Housing

When the concept of innovation centers were introduced to the community, they were billed as research centers focused on R&D (research and development) work by startups and other companies like Schilling Robotics, who are looking to expand their operations, and, in order to remain in Davis, need additional land.

The loss of Bayer/Agraquest, a homegrown company, to West Sacramento in 2013 punctuated the need to look for additional space.

In addition to space, the city is looking to take advantage of enhanced property taxes, along with point of sales taxes, to fund growing revenue needs.

As the Final EIR (Environmental Impact Report) notes, “Housing was not recommended for inclusion in project(s) during the Request For Expressions of Interest (RFEI) process, nor did the applicant propose housing as part of their application.”

So why the need for a mixed-use housing alternative? “CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act] requires that the lead agency consider alternatives that could reasonably reduce significant impacts of the project. Staff anticipated that the project EIR might identify significant impacts related to vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. A growing field of study demonstrates that mixed uses can lower the traffic, air quality, greenhouse gas, energy, and related impacts of separated land uses.”

Staff therefore “concluded that a Mixed-Use Alternative would satisfy CEQA’s requirements for the development of a reasonable range of alternatives. The alternative was intended to test the possibility that a mix of innovation center uses and residential uses would generate lowered amounts of regional traffic, vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and greenhouse gas emissions as compared to the business-only proposals. The City Council confirmed the inclusion of the Mixed-Use Alternative as part of the range of alternatives proposed for evaluation in the MRIC Draft EIR on December 16, 2014.”

None of that means that housing will be included in the proposal. At the MRIC Forum Discussion, we saw numerous citizens push back against the mixed-use alternative.

In addition, some councilmembers and candidates have, as well.

Last summer, Councilmember Brett Lee said he is against the idea of including a housing component to the innovation parks. He writes, “I am against such an idea. If we lived in an ideal world, then yes, it might make sense from a design perspective. Who would argue with the idea that it would be wonderful for the new job holders to be able to live and work in the same neighborhood.”

The councilmember argued that “there are some real problems with this concept. Unless the residents in such a housing component are required to be employees in the tech park, the vast majority of these people are likely to commute to jobs outside the area.”

This week, Lucas Frerichs also said he opposes housing on the Mace Ranch Innovation Center site. Having said that, he noted, “I feel somewhat conflicted on that.” He cited that smart growth principles suggest “mixed use is the way to go.” But he said, “This proposal was brought forward as a strictly commercial R&D proposal without housing.” He added, “I think that housing at that site will actually really hurt its chances for approval.”

He added, “There is definitely a need for housing in Davis and definitely a need for affordable housing, but I’m not sure intermixing it in that site is the way to go.” He added, “It really harms its chances of success.”

Council Candidate Will Arnold said that “the main argument for having housing at the Mace Ranch Innovation Center is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” He said, “It’s my opinion that putting housing as part of the Mace Ranch project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it will reduce them to zero because there will be no project.”

One of the concerns that people have expressed is how to ensure, if you do housing, that it ends up that the people working at the innovation center are the ones living there.

According to the Final EIR (see page 4-7), “Employee occupancy could be ensured through a development agreement with the applicant. Commitments similar to the following could accomplish this:

  • The housing stock would be owned and/or controlled by the applicant or a controlling entity (e.g. an MRIC Housing Authority) associated with the operation and maintenance of the MRIC.
  • The applicant would have enforceable agreements with some or all of the MRIC employers to offer on-site housing to employees as a benefit or possibly a term of employment.
  • The employee contract would stipulate on-site residency as a mandatory term or alternatively the housing agreement would stipulate on-site employment as a mandatory requirement.
  • Appropriate housing packages would be developed to address ownership, lease, and/or rental relationships, and to identify eviction terms, etc.

The EIR notes, “If the City Council chooses to consider the Mixed Use Alternative they will deliberate the policy implications of this alternative. They will consider whether and how much employee occupancy should be guaranteed and appropriate mechanisms to do so. The Council will balance these considerations with other relevant factors including housing policy, economic feasibility, market influences, etc.”

However, the developer indicated that this arrangement was not their preferred option. Rather they would like not to restrict who can live on the site, but instead takes steps that would give existing employees a priority. That means bring jobs on board first. The MRIC developers do not want to put housing early in the process as they believe that sets the wrong signal.

Housing could come after businesses were established and that would give existing employees first priority to live on site if they choose.

The Vanguard’s read of the political tea leaves suggests that it would be a long shot for council to approve a housing option and the developers, while doing their due diligence, should be mindful of the number of people willing to support an innovation center without a housing option but oppose one with a housing option included.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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86 thoughts on “A Further Look at the MRIC Housing Option”

  1. Barack Palin

    The Vanguard’s read of the political tea leaves suggests that it would be a long shot for council to approve a housing option and the developers while doing their due diligence should be mindful of the number of people willing to support an innovation center without a housing option but oppose one with a housing option included.

    Well said, I agree.

  2. Tia Will

    The loss of Bayer/Agraquest, a homegrown company, to West Sacramento in 2013 punctuated the need to look for additional space.”

    I would like to step back to basic assumptions for a moment. In this case the words chosen are critical. In the above quote, the relocation of Bayer/Agraquest is seen as a “loss”. What if this exact same relocation had been described in this way ?

    Bayer/Agraquest, a homegrown company, has been so successful as to need to relocate to a more appropriate, larger space in West Sacramento. Our congratulations to this fine company and to our local community which has fostered its development to this level of success. May we continue to be able to foster similar success to many new start up  companies in the future through our proximity to UCD and our encouragement of their students and researchers.

    I believe that we are acting in a very short sighted way when we pit ourselves in a competitive fashion against adjacent communities. I believe that we should be focusing on regional well being rather than who can capture the most revenue regardless of whether the company has outgrown our ability to meet their needs.

    While it is true that many here on the Vanguard have stated that they would support MRIC only if it did not include a housing component, I do not think that we can ignore others who may not support the project without a housing component. I heard this idea first expressed at a public forum for the previously proposed project near the hospital so I know that the idea is out there although it has not gotten much press here.  I am not sure that I would support MRIC in either form but I do not think that either should be accepted or rejected without a full weighing of the pros and cons.

     

  3. Barack Palin

    I believe that we should be focusing on regional well being rather than who can capture the most revenue regardless of whether the company has outgrown our ability to meet their needs.

    Regional well being because of our local companies moving out doesn’t pay for our roads.

    1. Tia Will

      BP

      Regional well being because of our local companies moving out doesn’t pay for our roads”

      True. However, I have already stated my preference for alternative means for funding our local infrastructure. I know that it is not your preferred means, but I am not ignoring the issue, just proposing alternatives to this “growth for dollars” scheme which seems to me to be never ending.

      1. Frankly

        Utopia does not need roads because it does not need cars, nor plentiful businesses in town with good paying jobs… oh wait… Utopia requires a high percentage of well-off people to pay those extra high taxes… but without the businesses and jobs, there are not enough people working in Utopia to pay those high taxes… oh wait… they work in other communities because the Utopian nogrowthers refused to allow the use of the land for them to locate their Utopia… so they actually need cars and roads to get to and from work… oh wait… the design of this nogrowther’s Utopia is where all people are paid the same rate for their work… so we really don’t have any well-off people to pay those extra high taxes.

        But this Utopian nogrowther will stick to this vision regardless of these obvious flaws.  It is like a religion and people don’t give up their religion.

  4. Jim Frame

    Scenario 1:  The CC allows the developer to build housing at MRIC according to the plan that puts the FAR at 0.82 (as opposed to the R&D-only plan at 0.5 FAR).  However, the CC restricts the housing — via the development agreement, not as a Measure R baseline feature — to on-site employees only.  Super, VMT problem solved!  But then it turns out that not too many employees really want to live there, and many of the units sit empty.  The developer comes to the council and says, “This is a hardship, you’re preventing me from renting these units when there’s plenty of demand for them city-wide,” and the CC says, “Gee, this doesn’t seem fair, okay, we’ll amend the DA, you can now rent to anyone you choose.”  Whereupon miscellaneous students and other citizens, having a tough time finding housing elsewhere in Davis, move into MRIC and drive daily to their disparate classes and jobs.

    Scenario 2:  The CC says “We don’t want housing at MRIC, but we’d like you to increase the density of the R&D space to a FAR of 0.82.”  And the developer says, “But…but…okay.”

    I’ll take Scenario 2.

    1. Matt Williams

      Jim, according to Alan Hirsch, who attended the NRC’s deliberations on the MRIC Final EIR, the developer discussed a model that had housing units owned by the companies locating their company’s facility at MRIC.  That would appear to be Scenario 1.5.

      I chose to attend the Social Services Commission hearing about Affordable Housing in the Sterling 5th Street Apartments project, so I did not hear the discussion of housing in the NRC MRIC Fianl EIR Review.

      1. Jim Frame

        the developer discussed a model that had housing units owned by the companies locating their company’s facility at MRIC.  That would appear to be Scenario 1.5.

        So now we complicate the marketing of the R&D spaces by burdening them with mandatory residential units, forcing the R&D companies who don’t have a burning need for on-site employee lodgings to either act as landlords or outsource (with yet another markup) the management of their mandated residential rental property (aka albatross).  And the units are still available to any and all takers.

        Scenario 1.5 might be worse than Scenario 1.

        1. Matt Williams

          The developer is responsible for the marketing, so any complication in that marketing is not a burden for the City.

          Your “don’t have a burning need” concerns have more gravitas.

          With that said, companies that “have a burning need” for housing will find the Davis housing market challenging as it exists now.

          Bottom-line we are making a choice between a group of flawed alternatives.  The goal is to choose the one with the least flaws,

        2. Jim Frame

          The developer is responsible for the marketing, so any complication in that marketing is not a burden for the City

          It’s a burden for the city if the MRIC development underperforms because the R&D units are hard to fill.

        3. Matt Williams

          If the MRIC development underperforms because the R&D units are hard to fill, the developer will feel the burden much sooner and much more acutely than the City will.  I doubt they are going to propose a solution that is going to do fiscal damage their project.

        4. Barack Palin

          Jim Frame, do you get the feeling that there’s a lot of churning going on trying to figure out how housing might be able to get squeezed into MRIC?

        5. Matt Williams

          BP, although I wouldn’t use the word “churning” I would definitely agree that there is a lot of due diligence that is being done on that subject by a lot of people from a lot of different perspectives.

          That is what evidence-based decision making is all about . . . test the hypotheses against the evidence, and where the evidence is incomplete, take steps to improve the quality of the evidence.

          For me the UCD enrollment growth data I posted the other day (see below) is an important challenge that the City faces when looking at the housing vs no housing scenarios for MRIC.

           

          2012-2013 was an enrollment increase of 654 over the base year 2011-2012

           

          2013-2014 was an enrollment increase of 1,402 over the base year 2011-2012 (748 + 654)

           

          2014-2015 was an enrollment increase of 2,686 over the base year 2011-2012 (1,284 + 1.402)

           

          2015-2016 was an enrollment increase of 5,362  over the base year 2011-2012 (2,676 + 2,686)

           

          Said another way, from an enrollment in 2011-2012 of 30,742, the UCD enrollment has gone to 31,396, then 32,144, then 33,428, then 36,104.

        6. Barack Palin

          I see it differently Matt, imo it seems like many housing scenarios are being floated out there in hopes that one will stick to the wall (pardon the pun, but I did tone it down).

  5. Tia Will

    Jim

    You forgot Scenario 3

    The community decides that MRIC is not the best project for our community and it simply does not pass. I am thinking that given what I see as the “non innovative” nature of this Innovation Center, this may be the outcome in any event.

    1. Matt Williams

      Tia said . . . “given what I see as the “non innovative” nature of this Innovation Center …”

      Isn’t it a leap of faith to predetermine what the makeup of the intellectual capital will be in the companies that decide to locate in MRIC?  What is it about those human minds that leads you to believe they will not be innovative?  Are you saying that the human intellectual capital that currently works at DMG Mori is “non innovative”?  Are you saying that the human intellectual capital that currently works at HM Clause is “non innovative”? Are you saying that the human intellectual capital that works at Arcadia Biosciences is “non innovative”?  From everything I have read about Innovation Centers, the innovation comes from the daily intellectual activities of the human beings who work there.

  6. Misanthrop

    “While it is true that many here on the Vanguard have stated that they would support MRIC only if it did not include a housing component, I do not think that we can ignore others who may not support the project without a housing component.”

    Now you are starting to articulate one of the main problems with Measure R, it makes the primary driver of the decision making not what is the best plan but instead what can pass at the ballot box. Worse still, in the case of destroying the Families First facility or building Cannery with the only access by car to Covell, avoiding a Measure R vote becomes the paramount motivation for a project, not whether the project is a good idea, is the best design or whether its in the best interest of the community.

      1. Misanthrop

        You are being too simplistic. It doesn’t simply shift it also alters the political dynamics by putting the referendum cart before the elected representative horse. Deciding is what we elect representatives to do while the referendum is a check on their authority. Measure R changes that dynamic from what is the best decision to what can pass at the ballot box. We can see it in almost every utterance of the Davis City Council from putting two projects on the same ballot to whether housing can pass at MRIC. What we end up with is not good planning but instead ballot box planning with the political calculus altered to pass muster instead of design of the best project. Not only that it increases the risk to investors by making them pay huge up front costs of project design before the voters can give them a thumbs up or thumbs down. This is why we see investors bringing forward flawed plans rather than do something that would trigger a Measure R vote. In the case of the Families First site its fair to speculate on whether the redevelopment would even be considered if not for the difficulties presented annexing land into the city by Measure R. Measure R is the 800 pound gorilla of Davis politics, it is not simply a shift in who gets to decide.

        1. Davis Progressive

          “Deciding is what we elect representatives to do while the referendum is a check on their authority. Measure R changes that dynamic from what is the best decision to what can pass at the ballot box.”

          so are you afraid of letting the people have a direct say?

        2. Barack Palin

          so are you afraid of letting the people have a direct say?

          I was thinking the same thing.  The elitists know what’s best for us so why should we have a say?

          Hey DP, we agree two days in a row.  We better stop, people will start talking.

      2. hpierce

        There is another HUGE difference… the Commissions and CC get volumes of staff reports, public testimony, etc.  And in general, they actually read/’digest’ them.

        The majority of the electorate will form their opinions from rhetoric and ‘sound bites’ (or, in the case of the VG, bytes).  I know what “system” I feel more comfortable with, making [truly] sound decisions…

         

    1. Tia Will

      Matt

      I am claiming none of the above. However, I would like to point out that while we say we want to provide space for innovation, we are being offered a model that is somewhere in the range of 20-25 years old. We have many, many truly innovative minds at the university, so why is it that the proposed center itself could not be cutting edge ?

      I am reminded of the “green washing” that was done by Target by pretending that planting trees in the parking lot was going to make it a green project and thus more acceptable to Davis residents. Just doing windows dressing on a parking lot does not make it green. Likewise, calling something an Innovation Center, does not make it anything more than an industrial space.

      1. Matt Williams

        Tia said . . .  “we are being offered a model that is somewhere in the range of 20-25 years old.”

        You really are losing me Tia.  If I understand you correctly, you appear to be saying that the innovative minds of the newly-minted PhD’s coming out of UCD (who will fill the lions share of the intellectual capital jobs that will make the Innovation Center innovative) are mired in an intellectual inovation “model that is somewhere in the range of 20-25 years old.”  If that is the case, how is it that UCD’s research programs minting those new PhDs are ranked at the top of their fields?

        Everything that I have read indicates that the “innovation” associated with Innovation Centers happens between the ears, not on the outside of the buildings.

  7. Misanthrop

    No, the people can have a direct say they simply must have enough support to petition to put something on the ballot. The difference is that Measure R makes the referendum automatic. The problem is that we are now getting policy decisions not being made on the basis of what is the best plan but instead based on what people think can pass a Measure R vote. At the same time we are getting projects being brought inside the city limit and designed to avoid a Measure R vote rather than if those projects make any sense or have the best design. They are only being proposed in order to evade a Measure R vote.

    1. Davis Progressive

      That puts a humongous burden on the citizens – who has time to get the 7000 signatures needed?  I look forward to watching your effort to repeal measure r through initiative process.

      1. Misanthrop

        Why would I bother trying to repeal it when it is so popular? But just because its popular doesn’t mean its not flawed or that it is a good way to run the city.

    2. Jim Frame

      The problem is that we are now getting policy decisions not being made on the basis of what is the best plan but instead based on what people think can pass a Measure R vote.

      In my opinion, that problem is preferable to the problem we had before:  the complex intersection of developer profit motive, heavy-handed career politician maneuvering, and staff calculation regarding whether or not a battle that might jeopardize one’s job is really worth fighting.

  8. Davis Progressive

    I find it interesting that a number of people ASSERTED that there was no way to reserve residential units for employees.  The reality is that they were wrong.  No blinks, no one apologizes for the false claim, they simply shift their arguments.  There is a level of dishonesty here in the arguments against these projects.  and there is no accountability.

    1. hpierce

      There is a difference between “for sale”, or “rental” units as to being able to control who gets those units… try being a 20 year old student trying to rent a space in Rancho Yolo, URCAD, or a 60+ retiree trying to move into any of the UCD owned apartments in town.

  9. Alan Miller

    According to the Final EIR (see page 4-7), “Employee occupancy could be ensured through a development agreement with the applicant. Commitments similar to the following could accomplish this:

    All that is really oogy.  I’m so-so on this project, am more likely to vote for it with a housing component, though that will be the opposite of the majority of Davis.  The above restrictions on the housing will only go bad.  Such requirements are too restrictive and ultimately will fail due to an inability to enforce.  (wink-wink subletting, etc.)
    I agree with “misanthrop” on Measure R.  The Utopian idea is great; the (un?)-intended consequences, fatal to Davis.
     

  10. Robb Davis

    I appreciate the conversation about Measure R.  I am in the middle of my first experience with it as an elected official and I will note just two things:

    1. There is no doubt that Measure R changes the entire conversation related to a project.  It leads to much more engagement by the proponent, much more time spent in discussion with Commissions and interest groups, and more deliberation time by the City Council to try to address community concerns. I see this as a positive but there are places it can go awry–especially if the project proponent somehow tries to directly appease every interest group that comes forward.  (I don’t think this is happening with the Nishi project.)  In one sense, given the high level of community engagement in our town, I think this dynamic is a good thing.  From where I sit, it is exhausting, but that is what I signed up for.

    2. Measure R is direct democracy at a local level and it has all the risks of direct democracy at any level.  These are complex projects by any measure with lots of moving parts, inevitable trade-offs, and existing in that space where it is impossible to please everyone.  To fully understand all the issues and make an informed decision requires a huge commitment by citizens: a commitment I am not sure most or even many are willing to make.  This leaves the process open to misinformation, too narrow focus on a single issue, lack of understanding about the inherent trade-offs and the potential that people are voting without full understanding. That is not unique to Measure R but a challenge of any direct measure with an element of complexity (which most do).

    But Measure R is what we have and so I think it is incumbent upon the Council and staff to try to get the best information out, provide responses to concerns, connect concerned parties to the proponent and move it forward as transparently as possible. Thus the fatigue…

    I will say that I am surprised (I know, I know, I shouldn’t be) about how deep the lack of trust goes towards elected officials.  It is something that I simply was not prepared for in this job, and one I guess I will never get used to.  Measure R is born out of that mistrust but also out of a genuine desire (I believe) to take popular control of  THE MOST contentious issue in local politics anywhere in the world: land use decisions.  I am happy to live with it even as I see how challenging it is.

  11. Misanthrop

    Robb as an elected official you must operate under the rules as they exist as a non-elected private citizen I have the luxury of being able to speculate about how the world might operate better.

    Still you don’t address how Measure R could bring imperfect proposals that would be better without its influence. I cited two examples. First the Cannery where improved access could have been built if the site had been planned along with the neighbors property. This wasn’t done because the neighbors property is subject to a Measure R vote. As a result we end up with greater traffic impacts on Covell.

    My second example is the Families First site where we are facing tearing down a perfectly good facility and replacing it with apartments, in part, I suspect, because doing so would not be subject to a Measure R vote. Certainly as someone who cares so deeply about helping the most needy among us you can see the benefit of putting the Families First site into some use in its current configuration. Sadly, the risks associated with investing the large amounts of capital needed for a project that might be turned down by the voters under Measure R have made the added costs of redevelopment of a perfectly good facility economically competitive or even favorable compared to the costs and risks associated with peripheral development. This is an unintended negative consequence of Measure R. If we are going to be honest with ourselves we must recognize that Measure R is imperfect as we look at the cost and benefits of its impact on the community.

  12. Robb Davis

    Misanthrope – There is a lot going on in your last comment…  Let me try to tease it out:

    1. Could Measure R result in inferior projects?  Yes, but so could one for which the City Council has full control.  Process matters in both cases and responsiveness to communities needs is always important. I am not sure Measure R, a priori, leads to lower quality projects.  The example of what might happen at MRIC is useful but does it represent the norm? I think Nishi is moving in the right direction (though  people will always feel X, Y or Z could be better).

    2. Families First… Kind of confused there.  If you argument is that we are “forced” to place denser-than-desired housing there due to Measure R I can understand your point.  However, I am not sure what you are suggesting I do with a private property?  Should I simply deny all projects until I get the kind of social service-focused one I want there?  In the case of Families First I have done exactly what you suggest in your first paragraph I should do: I have taken a constraint–the fact that this is a private transaction–and tried to derive a social benefit from it.  See Monday evening’s Social Services Commission agenda item to see what I have tried to do there.  I did not try that before attempting to see how we might figure out a way to preserve the site for something akin to Families First.  Trust me, no one could come up with the money, though many were interested.

    The bottom line for all of this is that MANY decisions I help make (most?) are constrained by one factor or another.  Most local decisions are made in the context of state, federal or other regulatory constraints (look at our wastewater treatment, water treatment, street design, etc., etc.).  That is actually one reason I decided to run for office: decision making in a constrained environment is something that I think has value.  Trying to make the most of a situation in the face of constraints is what I always understood true leadership to be about (my dad told me that).  I am NOT saying I am succeeding at it, only that it is a worthy job.

    1. Misanthrop

      Robb, you are starting somewhere in the middle of the game. If not for Measure R the Families First site might not have been attractive for housing in the first place. Of course you shouldn’t tell private property owners what they can do unless of course they need something from the city in which case the city should have a say.

      Without Measure R Davis might not have the intense housing shortage that has driven up property values to the point that Families First became so valuable as a teardown and perhaps another operator could have made it work financially as some type of assisted living facility if they could have bought it for less money because an increased supply of houses would have tempered the market. We are 15 years into Measure J/R. The world didn’t begin with your watch on the CC. Yes, you are constrained by the reality of the world as it is today but my point is that we are now dealing with consequences of a much longer process and those consequences are not all good so perhaps we should start to evaluate the process to see if we could make it better going forward.

      1. Ron

        Misanhrop:

        If the city denies the application/rezoning of the Families First site to allow high-density apartments, perhaps one of the organizations that is interested in the facility “as-is”, would be able to afford it.

  13. Robert Milbrodt

     
    Misanthrop,
     
    Measure J/R was meant to encourage a change in the planning process from City driven to Community driven.  Your objections to the City planning process are only relevant because the City has neglected to make this transformation.  The City is indeed engaged in ballot box posturing and trying to guess what will garner voter support. 
     
    This is a poor model, and it helps explain why the City has failed on every Measure J/R ballot attempt.  A community driven process would have rejected Covell Village and the Parlin project at the outset, before developers had sunk their resources.  That is not the fault of Measure J/R.  It is the fault of the City for leading the developers down the primrose path.   
     
    If the voters are going to be asked to ratify a development project, then the voters should be included from the very beginning through to the end of the planning process.  Citizens know better than City staff what will garner voter support.  Furthermore, this community is loaded with talent, and there are countless examples where this talent has produced better results, Central Park is the most obvious example.
     
    Community based planning is a better model.  It would have produced a better project at Cannery and it would also minimize conflicts over Trackside, cell towers, Paso Fino, basketball hoops in our streets…
     

    1. hpierce

      Historical note:  prior to Measure J/R, when Wildhorse was approved, a citizen initiative qualified as a referendum to overturn those approvals… significant failure… when Mace Ranch was approved, same, on both counts.

      IMO the folk who got J/R passed learned the lesson that most folk vote “no”, unless they feel they fully understand and then are inclined to vote “yes”… but it was easy enough to get a positive vote on a measure that guaranteed a vote…

    2. Misanthrop

      Bob you are saying that J/R have failed but its not the fault of J/R but rather the fault of the city. But J/R have been in place for 15 years across 8 different councils and at least 5 City Managers that I can think of so in my mind it doesn’t really matter where the fault lies. In my mind it only matters that the process isn’t working as you claim it was intended. The question is how does the city move forward in addressing its needs and if Measure R needs to be amended so that we get better projects or should it be allowed to expire.

  14. hpierce

    For those “true believers” who believe in direct ‘democracy’ over representational government, I’m pretty damn sure the following would have not been enacted [at least anywhere near when they were enacted] if they had been subject to a popular vote:

    Declaration of Independence; US Constitution; Emancipation Proclamation; most amendments to the Constitution;  Civil Rights Act; etc., etc., etc.

    Folk have indicated it is time to update the City’s General Plan… shouldn’t that update, once formulated, be subject to a “vote of the people”?

  15. ruralknight

    I just don’t get why so many people are anti-housing yet pro innovation park development – especially one that’s going to be huge and change the footprint of the city regardless if housing is there or not.  Not just for the high wage workers but those who are going to be working the low-wage jobs?  I just don’t get it…shouldn’t we be considering the impacts this development is going to have on Davis for next few decades?  Who wants some big development sitting out in the green pastures all by itself? What about Davis wanting to be the leader in environmental sustainability? Wouldn’t the most sustainable project include housing, small business, grocery stores – a true mixed use and mixed income community that’s bikable and connected to the great bike lanes here? If the project is approved, wouldn’t that be the best way to lesson the impact on the environment?

    Plus the City’s housing market is broken – it’s very unhealthy for the community – unless you’re one of the landlords benefiting from such a tight rental market or a homeowner trying to get as much equity built up as possible.  We have a .03% vacancy rate – people have nowhere to live in this town.  So what do we see happening? Houses being converted into mini-dorms, legally and illegally.  Secondary dwelling units popping up in front yards throughout many neighborhoods.  We’re losing young families just starting out, to places in South Sac where they can afford to buy a home (what kind of impact is this going to have on our schools?).

    This broken housing market is drastically increasing our ecological footprint – have you seen the traffic coming in to Davis in the morning and out in the evening?

    I’ve yet to hear an articulate argument as to why MRIC shouldn’t have housing – it seems mostly a bunch of nimbys or fear mongers…I think a majority of Council actually supports more housing (both market and below market) but they’re afraid it’s the 3rd rail of politics here – it will kill the project and it will kill their chances of being re-elected if they stand up for it.  Why not push for doing the right thing?

    Apparently I’m a minority here – I’m actually voting against the project unless it includes housing…

    1. Don Shor

      I’ve yet to hear an articulate argument as to why MRIC shouldn’t have housing

      Because it’s intended to generate revenue for the city and provide sites for move-up businesses to expand. Housing takes away space and reduces the revenues, so it detracts from those goals.

      1. Jim Frame

        I agree with Don, but I’ll take it a step farther:  the only housing I want Davis to add beyond our SACOG fair share is apartments for the glut of students that UCD is bringing in, and I’m not real wild about that.  We have a city policy to grow as slowly as legally permissible, and I want the city to adhere to it. 

        If there were a way to add housing that only accommodates internally-generated growth I’d be willing to entertain the notion, but as far as I know there’s no way to do that.  Davis is “oversubscribed,” it’s been that way since before I got here and will continue that way for the foreseeable future.  Adding new subdivisions won’t change that, it’ll only make the city bigger.

        Expanding the city’s footprint in response to outside housing demand is like adding lanes to a freeway — you go from 2 jammed lanes to 4 jammed lanes to 6 jammed lanes — all you end up with is more jammed lanes.  “Build it and they will come.”

        As far as the “homeowner trying to get as much equity built up as possible” charge goes, I really wonder how many homeowners think in those terms.  My home equity is just an estate planning placeholder, it’s not something I figure to cash in on.  I like my house just fine, and hope to be carried out on a gurney when the time comes.

         

        1. ruralknight

          Jim, I appreciate your honesty. The argument that it won’t pay for itself doesn’t really resonate with me.

          But the project isn’t about adding a huge subdivision. If I remember correctly, the housing being discussed wouldn’t add to the size of the project nor would it take any significant amount of sq ft away from the commercial space.

        2. Misanthrop

          My friend is the original owner of his home and has lived there for around 50 years. Yet he always keeps the value of his investment in the back of his mind. He isn’t going anywhere but he is concerned about the value of his investment.

          When prices are up we get this you can build enough argument and when prices are down we get the we don’t want to hurt existing home owners argument. So the real argument is that many like Jim simply are opposed to growing. Its a sad argument. A growing community is an economically healthy community. Our community is economically healthy because we are the host community for UCD an institution that brings billions of dollars a year into this community. The pushback from this community by its refusal to do more than its required to do under the law simply says that we want the benefits the university brings but we don’t want to do our part. In the words of the conservatives the anti-growth contingency are takers, giving back or adapting as little as possible to help the next generation develop its human capital.

        3. Mark West

          Jim:  “If there were a way to add housing that only accommodates internally-generated growth I’d be willing to entertain the notion…”, but as far as I know there’s no way to do that.  Davis is “oversubscribed,” it’s been that way since before I got here and will continue that way for the foreseeable future.  Adding new subdivisions won’t change that, it’ll only make the city bigger.

          “Davis is “oversubscribed,” it’s been that way since before I got here and will continue that way for the foreseeable future.” 

          You describe Davis as being ‘over-subscribed’ and admit it was that way before you arrived. You also say you would prefer to limit Davis’ growth to match that which is ‘internally generated.’  If we had that policy in place before your arrival, you wouldn’t have been allowed in, but now that you are here, you jump on the bandwagon to lock the gates behind you. The amazing thing to me is that so many people in town are proud to express this sort of arrogance.

          When I started paying attention to such things, Davis had roughly 50,000 fewer people than are living here now. The city has changed in that time, but it is still Davis, and still provides for a similarly high ‘quality of life’ as it did then.  Just as it will when there are 50,000 more people living here than there are now.

          The biggest difference between a Davis of 18,000 and today is we now have many more people thinking we need to keep Davis the same size as it was when they themselves moved here (making the town bigger).

           

           

           

        4. Ron

          I always wonder about those who don’t support any type of limitations on growth (in Davis, or anywhere else).  I suppose that some don’t mind seeing one city spreading into surrounding cities (which has already occurred in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Sacramento/Natomas/Roseville/Folsom/Elk Grove, etc., Vacaville/Fairfield, and beyond). Large tracts of unbroken development, with inadequate highways to support it.

          Some apparently wouldn’t mind Davis extending toward Woodland and Dixon (and vice-versa).  (Perhaps a thin strip of farmland might remain, between Road 27 and Road 29.)

          Of course, this is happening everywhere.  And, some apparently think this is good planning.

           

        5. Mark West

          Tell me Ron, where did I advocate any of the ‘horror’ scenarios you are pushing? I am disappointed by the quality of your response.

          What makes Davis unique are the people who live here, working together to build a community.  It is not the absolute number of people, it is their qualities.  Davis is a richer place now that Jim Frame lives here. It would be a much poorer place had Don Shor not opened his business here. It is even a better place with Frankly living here (though I may not have said the same back when he was singing for a living). Our quality of life comes from a diversity of people working together to build a community and improves when there are more hands bringing new ideas and doing the work.

          We don’t need urban sprawl; we are smarter than that. We also don’t need to lock the doors and say no one else may come. The smart approach is to find a way to accommodate those who want to live and help build a rich and diverse community, but doing so in a manner that respects our region, environment, and economy.  All we get from closing the gates is to cut ourselves off from our greatest resource for innovation and improvement; people.

        6. Davis Progressive

          “If we had that policy in place before your arrival, you wouldn’t have been allowed in, but now that you are here, you jump on the bandwagon to lock the gates behind you. The amazing thing to me is that so many people in town are proud to express this sort of arrogance.”

          you’re making a lot of assumptions here.  for instance, when i moved to davis, i moved into an existing home and the person who sold it to me was moving out of town.  i don’t believe i’m entitled to live here – it happened to work out.  i prefer to live in a smaller city to the urban experience like sac.  on the other hand, davis has always been a mixed bag.  in some ways, things would have been better had i not moved here, but i’m here now and not planning to leave.

        7. Mark West

          DP: “you’re making a lot of assumptions here.  for instance, when i moved to davis, i moved into an existing home and the person who sold it to me was moving out of town.”

          What does that prove DP? We didn’t add 50,000 people by simply replacing those who wanted to move away. The specific story for each individual in not really relevant as it is a population-wide issue. Had we acted to keep the population at 18,000, that home of yours likely would not have been available when you wanted to move here, and we would have lost the benefit of your point of view.

        8. Davis Progressive

          it’s not meant to prove anything.  but my world’s not going to end if i didn’t get to live in davis.  we should make our land use decisions now based on our sense for what’s best for our community into the future, not based on what decisions someone else made 50 years ago.

        9. Jim Frame

          All we get from closing the gates is to cut ourselves off from our greatest resource for innovation and improvement; people.

          I haven’t heard anyone suggest closing the gates.  SACOG has assigned Davis a fair-share growth figure, and that’s what we’ve agreed to meet.  What part of our fair share isn’t fair?

        10. Mark West

          Jim Frame:  “I haven’t heard anyone suggest closing the gates.”

          Then perhaps I misunderstood the intent in your previous comment…

          “If there were a way to add housing that only accommodates internally-generated growth I’d be willing to entertain the notion.”

           

           

        11. Jim Frame

          Then perhaps I misunderstood the intent in your previous comment

          Probably because I wasn’t clear enough:  I’d be okay with the concept of providing for internally-generated growth *in addition to* the SACOG fair-share assignment.  But it’s probably a moot point, because I don’t think there’s a legal way of getting there.

  16. Ron

    hpierce:

    Not sure what you’re asking.  I provided more local examples, as well.  Again, I’m wondering about those who (apparently) don’t support any type of limitations on growth/development. Some apparently think this is good planning.

    1. Ron

      Mark:

      Thought I’d reply directly below my last comment.

      Again, I didn’t single anyone out in particular.  But, it seems that some don’t support any type of limitations on growth/development.

        1. hpierce

          Well, unless we have mass sterilization/fully cut off immigration (legal AND illegal) to exactly match deaths, ex-migrations, something has to grow… existing cities/towns? New “satellite” cities/towns?  Anywhere but Davis?

        2. Ron

          Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of.  It will always be “just one more development”, unless the population stabilizes.

          Outside of Davis, it will be “just 10 more”, or something like that.

          “Frankly” is right.  I do see a world that is unsustainable, in the long run.  (Or at least, undesirable.)

        3. Mark West

          Ron:

          Why is it OK for you to move here and take advantage of the development that preceded you, but it is bad for someone else to want to do the same?

          Population growth in a region is neither good nor bad, it just is a part of reality that we have to address. We have a choice of how we want to accommodate that growth, and the results of those choices could well be viewed as causing good or bad outcomes. Not the growth itself, but how we choose to manage it.  Locking the gates, sticking our head in the sand and screaming ‘go away’ is not an example of good management.

          You have laid out several examples of what you think are bad planning decisions.  What, besides the construction of your own home, do you see as examples of good planning?

        4. Ron

          Mark:

          I don’t see Davis as that much more “desirable” than the surrounding area.  (Although I don’t think it really matters, I did purchase my house from someone leaving the area.) In any case, Davis is the ONLY local city that allows residents to have a say, regarding development outside of city limits.  (That alone, makes it somewhat more desirable.) I wish that other cities would follow Davis’ lead.

          I don’t believe that continued development can (consistently) be “managed” to provide a positive outcome.  Development requires space – either upward, or outward.  Upward development is expensive, increases congestion, and negatively impacts existing infrastructure.  Outward development requires vast amounts of undeveloped land and new infrastructure.   The last time I checked, no new land was being created.

          All environmental problems/challenges can ultimately be traced to continued development/growth.

          Do you believe that it’s best to simply allow development to continue, unabated?  Do you prefer vast, unbroken chains of development (with little/no separation between cities – as has already occurred nearby)?  If so, I don’t think there’s any opportunity for agreement.

        5. Mark West

          Ron:  “Do you believe that it’s best to simply allow development to continue, unabated?  Do you prefer vast, unbroken chains of development (with little/no separation between cities – as has already occurred nearby)?  If so, I don’t think there’s any opportunity for agreement.”

          I have never advocated for such though I have had commentators on here (in addition to you) try to put those words in my mouth. There is a middle ground between sprawl and no-growth with an approach that is respectful of the environment. It gets my ire up however when I hear those who have moved here recently proclaim that we need to protect their way of life and stop others from coming.

          By attempting to cut off development, we are forcing large numbers of young people to live, crowded, into homes designed for small families. As one example, the 1000 sf 3br, 1ba house two doors up the street from me once had eight unrelated adults living in it, plus two more in an old school bus parked on the street. I believe this is an unhealthy situation for our city, and inappropriate for any part of town. What you are advocating will make these sorts of situations more prevalent and in the end, and will ruin the character of the City. We are already seeing the impact with the demographic shift that Matt has pointed out.

          I am sure there are many innovative ideas available to us if we only look for them, but what I know is that neither the extremes of pro-sprawl or no-growth are the appropriate answers.

      1. Ron

        Mark:

        I’m glad to hear that you agree that some type of limitation on development is desirable.  (I wasn’t sure what you thought.)  We probably disagree on the type/amount of limitation, etc.

        It also sort of gets my “ire up” when anyone accuses those who care about the issue as being “selfish”, or only interested in protecting their own “way of life”.  However, it probably is true that limiting development increases the value of existing properties.  (Assuming that there’s continued external pressure to grow/develop.)  Some may take advantage of that, I suppose.

        The repercussions of uncontrolled development are a concern that reaches far beyond Davis.  It’s unfortunate that Davis is the only city (that I know of) that allows residents to make decisions regarding development (beyond city limits).

        I have heard of problems such as the ones you’re describing.  I would think/hope that such problems could be controlled, via enforcement of city ordinances.  Fortunately, in my neighborhood, no one (that I know of) is experiencing such problems.

         

         

         

        1. ruralknight

          That’sounds one horrible example and, unfortunately, there are many more in our cozy little town.  Sounds like folks are advocating for a proactive rental housing inspection program. Sac has a model ordinance  communities throughout the country duplicate: http://www.cityofsacramento.org/Community-Development/Code-Compliance/Programs/Rental-Housing.

          Looking like Davis will have something similar…soon. Hope to see you all supporting it when it comes to Council.

        2. Mark West

          “It also sort of gets my “ire up” when anyone accuses those who care about the issue as being “selfish”, or only interested in protecting their own “way of life””

          self·ish

          ˈselfiSH/

          adjective

          (of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.

          When someone specifically states that they oppose a project due to their expectation of a negative impact on their own ‘way of life’ and I call that position ‘selfish’ I am using the word correctly.

        3. Jim Frame

          When someone specifically states that they oppose a project due to their expectation of a negative impact on their own ‘way of life’ and I call that position ‘selfish’ I am using the word correctly.

          Technically correct, but “selfish” is generally used as a derogation.

          But sticking with the literal definition, all considered human actions (as opposed to pathologically impulsive ones) are selfish.  We balance the projected effects of our actions on ourselves and others and choose the one that we perceive will leave us in better stead, whether the metric be physical, emotional or financial (and there are probably others that don’t come to mind at the moment).

          When Mark promotes his vision for the city, he’s acting selfishly, because he believes he’ll feel better if his vision is realized.  In my view, Mark is just as selfish as Ron (and as me).

  17. ruralknight

    Awesome Mark! We need to do our fair share given the guidelines the community has adopted (prior to me arriving but greatly benefitting as a home owner). We must grow but in the right ways.  The RHNA numbers passed down by SACOG considers our growth policies…and yes, they’re only targets and we only have to plan for accommodating the projections – seldom do cities actually meet those targets.

    I don’t think any of us want to see a sprawling community creep into Woodland. We want and need smart growth. If we’re going to push for something like an innovation park on the fringe of town, do it right. Do it smart.  Be sustainable! Include housing for a mix of income levels and force the developers to invest in conserving open space that allows for urban development but creates ag/open space buffers.  I’m not advocating for  small strip of land but real buffers near our borders. We need more space for urban growth. We need more homes for our struggling work force – those who serve you coffee, those who take care of children when we’re unable to, the nurses assistance taking care of our elders…I’m not saying build it so they will come…they’re already here.

    The smart thing would be to accommodate these folks so they won’t contribute to more GHG emissions traveling from Woodland, We. Sacramento or south Sac.  We’re better than this…brighter than this. It’s about doing growth the right way…not just the popular way of no residential growth.

    1. Don Shor

      If you build housing at Mace Ranch, the residents would not have the amenities they need and expect. Second Street Crossing was not intended as a neighborhood shopping center. Target is constrained by the development agreement to limit grocery space to 10%; Target is not a grocery store. The overwhelming factor distorting the Davis housing market is the lack of apartments due to UCD enrollment growing much faster than they are providing beds. Putting a residential component in MRIC will not alleviate that. Sterling Apartments will help. Nishi will help. Forcing developers to add ‘affordable housing’ units doesn’t solve the problem. And they already provide open space via the 2:1 mitigation.
      This has been presented to the public as an innovation park. There may be a few like yourself who will vote against it due to that lack of housing. I would be willing to wager that you are vastly outnumbered by those who would vote against it if there is any significant housing component included.
      Given the constraints forced on the Davis housing market by UCD’s enrollment increases, the best thing you could do is advocate for better transportation into Davis from Dixon and Woodland. That’s where the affordable housing is, and will be until UCD builds more housing and more apartments get built in town.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          And is in fact closer than where I live to So Davis Nugget which is also the closest grocery store. That said, I do agree with Don’s point re: transportation as an alternative solution.

  18. Tia Will

    Why is it OK for you to move here and take advantage of the development that preceded you, but it is bad for someone else to want to do the same?”

    I see this issue quite differently. I have lived in Davis at two different times. I lived here as a student while in medical school. Upon graduation, I could not have afforded to live in Davis. I did not resent the fact that I could not afford Davis. I did not feel that anyone living here should be obliged to either move out of their home nor build a new development so that I could afford a place here. I chose to move to areas that I could afford until such a time as I had saved and was earning enough to move back into a home that was acceptable and affordable to me at that time. It took years, and that was ok.

    Since moving back, I have lived in two different homes. The first was new in North Star, a development I did not like, but was the best that we could afford and still live in Davis. I have now downsized into a a small 1950 bungalow which has needed extensive upgrading. It took me years of looking to find a home that was being vacated by its previous owners that was desirable in style in location to me. At no time did I feel that anyone was obligated to provide more housing just for me.

    I truly do not understand the feeling of entitlement of a place to live in a certain location. People make their housing selections based on various different priorities. Some people will want a larger home for less money and they will chose one of the surrounding communities. Others will value living in Davis more and will rent or live elsewhere as I did until they can afford to move back.

    Where Mark and I agree is that the value in our community is in its people. However, I do not believe that more necessarily equates to better. Since not growing is not a legal option, I am in agreement with Jim that we should grow as slowly as we are legally able to. I do not see this as stagnation. I see slow growth as responsible allowing for time and planning to absorb new members into our community in a way that respects both their needs, and the needs of those of us who are already here.

    1. Barack Palin

      I did not feel that anyone living here should be obliged to either move out of their home nor build a new development so that I could afford a place here. I chose to move to areas that I could afford until such a time as I had saved and was earning enough to move back into a home that was acceptable and affordable to me at that time. It took years, and that was ok.

      Damn, I can’t believe it, I totally agree.  If I wanted to live in Hillsborough Ca where the homes are in the several millions of dollars should I be able to demand that Hillsborough build me affordable housing?  No, you live where you can afford.

      Unless of course I could invoke my white privelege. Does it work for things like that?

      1. hpierce

        You do realize that Hillsborough is ‘land-locked’, right?  The only way they could add more housing is to tear-down/rebuild, or “granny-flat” the heck out of that town… your comparison falls flat… flatter than Davis…

  19. Tia Will

    BP

    Actually, I didn’t mean to scare you. I doubt that we actually agree on this at all.

    I do believe that Davis, as a community should help to house those who are in actual need of help securing housing. But I am talking about helping to house the needy, not subsidizing those who need no help because their choice is whether to buy a much larger house in a surrounding community vs renting or buying a tiny starter home in Davis until they have achieved enough career and financial stability to move up to their dream home if that happens to be in Davis. I simply do not think that there is an obligation to fundamentally change the nature of Davis in order to “help” those who are in no need, whether it was me, or my children, or anyone else who is already affluent or well on their way to being so.

    Does that help to take the sting away from agreeing with me ; )

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