Commentary: Can Davis Get Out of Its Own Way?

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Mace Ranch Innovation Center
MRIC is the last, best, and final hope for economic development in Davis?

Last month when the council was postponing putting the soda tax measure on the ballot, Councilmember Rochelle Swanson made a comment that intrigued, stating, “I was very inspired by the Raise the Wage conversations earlier.” She cited the conversation that will emerge and go forward and argued, “Frankly, that is more the Davis way, we don’t have someone at public comment two weeks ago and suddenly we have it on the ballot.”

She continued, “Twenty-three years for Nishi, 36 years for the water project. We did half of what we wanted for parks tax because we wanted it to be a success.”

The comment reminded me of a comment in an op-ed last year by James Zanetto and Judy Corbett, which argued we should “[b]oost our economy, but do it the Davis way.”

Back in 2014, I would argue that we could do economic development that was relatively small, dense and environmentally sustainable, while adhering to the growth control measures like Measure R.

Unfortunately, the Davis Way appears to be delays, endless debating, and overall policy paralysis. It has been nearly two years since the city issued RFEIs (Requests for Expressions of Interest) for innovation centers. It received three responses.

To date, one of those proposals never got off the ground. A second, after facing opposition from non-Davis residents in the Binning Tract, suspended its application and has now apparently moved up the road to Road 25A and Highway 113 (more on that tomorrow). And the third is slowly moving towards a November 2016 Measure R vote – it has had a number of hiccups along the way and it is very much in doubt as to whether the voters will approve the measure.

So in two years, the city of Davis has only made marginal progress toward approving one of the three proposals for innovation parks.

Meanwhile, in Woodland yesterday, the Woodland City Council “approved a $10.5 million, 81-room, five-story Hilton2 Suites hotel located at what is now the Budget Inn and immediately adjacent to Freeman Park on the north side of Main Street west of Sixth Street, immediately north of the new Courthouse,” according to the Woodland Daily Democrat.

According to the Woodland paper, “The project has been proposed by Jivan Patel and Ramilaben Patel. It would be an extended-stay facility and is part of a series of hotels either completed or under construction in Yolo County by Royal Guest Hotels, including one in Winters, called Hotel Winters; and an Embassy Suites in Davis. The Patel’s also have five locations in Sacramento.”

Meanwhile in Davis, the long planned Hotel Conference Center by the same company remains on hold, bogged down in litigation put forth by former City Councilmember Michael Harrington. The six-floor, 132-room project that was expected to break ground this spring remains on hold, the hundreds of thousands in TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) shelved by concerns about the adequacy of traffic analysis.

As Rochelle Swanson put it last summer, “We tend to do this. We have everything lined up, but wait, but wait, but wait.”

Call it the Davis Way.

If you look at polls of residents of Davis, they consistently rate the quality of life in Davis as high, and they tend to believe that the finances of the city are good and things are going well. To me, there is a disconnect between the views expressed by the typical citizen and the realities I see in following the politics and governance of the city on a day to day basis.

The reality is we are in a good deal of trouble. As we pointed out this past weekend, the city is facing somewhere in the neighborhood of $655 million in unfunded liabilities.

We have focused heavily on roads for the last six or seven years, mainly because it took that long to get the council to put real resources into it, but at this point we are spending $4 million and need to be spending at least $8 million a year on roads.

We have a parks tax that pays for about a quarter of our parks needs. We have several hundred million in unfunded city infrastructure needs above and beyond parks and roads.

Costs continue to expand. I think the stunning statistic is that, despite the city council’s efforts to rein in spending in 2009 and 2013, and despite the fact that personnel was reduced through attrition by about 100 employees in the last seven years, we are actually spending much more per employee now than we did in 2008.

Our budget is balanced primarily because we passed a sales tax measure in 2014 and, when that goes away, so too will our balanced budget.

As a community we take pride in our parks, greenbelts, bike paths, pools and other amenities. We like our fire department (although some of us are concerned about compensation costs) and our police. The budgetary threat we face is huge and long-term. We can supplement things with taxes, but in the longer term if we do not find ways to diversify and increase our revenue from business, Davis will be more unaffordable and those vital services will be threatened.

This was one reason a lot of people, many of whom are ordinarily against peripheral growth, were willing to support the idea of innovation parks and economic development.

Davis had opportunities in the spring of 2014, with momentum and even excitement on its side. But already these opportunities are drying up. Already, MRIC (Mace Ranch Innovation Center) seems like the last, best, and final hope to have a revenue generating economic development project and, even that, and even if approved, is years away from reality. And, that is, if the project passes – as opposition seems to be mounting.

In the meantime, Davis will continue to struggle to find ways to pave its roads, keep its parks operational, its swimming pools running, and its bike paths paved.

The Davis Way no longer seems like a strength, instead it seems like a path to paralysis as others in the region capitalize on our inability to get out of our way.

—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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88 thoughts on “Commentary: Can Davis Get Out of Its Own Way?”

  1. Barack Palin

    Our budget is balanced primarily because we passed a sales tax measure in 2014 and, when that goes away, so too will our balanced budget.

    The County is currently looking at up to a 1/2 percent sales tax for preschool for all and transportation.  Will Davis residents vote to extend any local sales tax when/if they get hit with more county sales taxes?  We already pay the highest sales tax in the county.

  2. Alan Pryor

    The “Davis Way” of holding every peripheral project up to a very close lens of inspection has prevented the decay of our core downtown such as occurred in virtually every single Valley town which has experienced substantial growth in the past 30 years. One only has to drive down Main St in Woodland to see how excessive peripheral growth can wreck a once vibrant downtown.

      1. CalAg

        “The “Davis Way” of holding every peripheral project up to a very close lens of inspection has prevented the decay of our core downtown …” Alan Pryor

        This is, of course, is not true.

        The only thing that hurts the downtown is peripheral retail. Peripheral residential and non-retail commercial are a big help to downtown. There is zero downside for the downtown from creating more jobs and homes. To the contrary, there is a large upside.

    1. Frankly

      I think you are missing a lot in this. First, you live downtown and so you have a natural selfish interest to keep the downtown to your liking.  Second, I disagree that our busy-body tendency on development has led to so many positives about our downtown.  For example, you yourself complain about the bars at night.  The downtown is becoming more an entertainment zone for students. The reason is the lack of alternative retail locations and high rents from low supply.

      I think David nails it here and you demonstrate exactly the points he is making.

        1. Alan Miller

          Michelle, please note that I’m not an activist, just an asshole.

          Frank Lee – a middle finger to you for casting personal aspersions upon people while not even citing the right person.  Plus, you continually blanket traits upon groups that do not reflect the whole of the membership, even when repeatedly pointed out to you.  As well, you mix up the core area — which includes downtown and the historic neighborhoods of Old East, Old North, and University — and the downtown itself.  These are defined, and you can’t place the historic neighborhoods in downtown just because you don’t live there and don’t have a local perspective.   That’s like a west coaster thinking Washington D.C. is near Boston.  And lastly, for God’s sake, get your Alan’s straight (though truth be told, I can’t even keep all the damn Alan’s straight).

        2. Frankly

          Hey, I think using the middle finger reference breaks the VG rules!

          Near core area, core area… same, same.

          If you haven’t noticed I am calling out those that oppose core-area density while also opposing peripheral gowth.

          So if you are not in the group, what the h e double-middle-fingers are you doing hanging out with them?

    2. Mark West

      No, the ‘Davis Way’ is to protect downtown property owners from competition, padding their pockets at the expense of everyone else in town, then crying about all of the sales tax money gushing (not leaking) to neighboring communities.  We are seeing this play out again today with the two local hotel owners crying about potential new competition while we watch the TOT monies and visitor’s dollars go to UCD, Woodland, Dixon and beyond.  In short, the ‘Davis Way’ is protecting the people who want to live in the past while ignoring the needs of those who will be our future.

      1. CalAg

        The downtown property owners have a financial interest in MRIC success. Their two major concerns are probably excessive “project serving retail” and the possibility of future upzoning mischief (e.g. Ramos’ Target project was upzoned from industrial to retail). Both can be addressed with strict zoning and baseline project feature controls. It would be a smart move for the planning staff to lock these two issues down immediately (in a way that is both robust and public), so that the downtown property owners can be fully comfortable cheerleading for the project.

        The proposal to upzone the light industrial/business park land on Fermi Place (which I assume is still Ramos land) to an extended stay hotel is probably not a good idea if you want to build consensus with downtown.

        1. Mark West

          Why should the City continue to subsidize the downtown property owners?  We did it originally to protect the downtown as a retail center (which is what you are suggesting we continue) but the downtown is now an entertainment center, with retail being a small part of the footprint.  The only thing we have accomplished with this protectionist approach is to make the downtown property owners richer and force consumers to go elsewhere for their shopping. We should be expanding retail throughout the town, not restricting it.

          Putting a hotel on Fermi is a great plan, as is the other proposed hotel project.  We are short of quality hotel space in town and are losing tax money and visitor dollars because of it, just as we previously lost sales tax revenues. We need to stop protecting/subsidizing existing businesses and property owners and expand our economy in every way possible.

        2. The Pugilist

          Mark: your focus is distracting from a larger point.  It’s not about protectin it’s about the inability for the council and community to act to save itself.

    3. South of Davis

      Alan wrote:

      > The “Davis Way” of holding every peripheral project up to a very close lens

      > of inspection has prevented the decay of our core downtown such as occurred

      > in virtually every single Valley town which has experienced substantial

      > growth in the past 30 years. 

      The Woodland downtown borders a bunch of run down homes and apartments full of mostly poor people and gang members while the Davis downtown borders a world renowned University full of mostly kids  from wealthy families.  That fact has a lot more to do with the “prevention of decay” than the “Davis way”…

        1. Barack Palin

          Alan Miller, you and Hpierce asked me if I wanted to go together and draft a letter on the Vanguard comment policy.  I think a good way to go about it is for the David and the Vanguard to write a column on its comment policy and allow for a forum of open discussion so everyone can air their views.  I emailed David with such a request and we’ll see where that goes.

        2. Barack Palin

          I think now is a good time to revisit as there have been many complaints as of late.  I know if you open a forum where we can speak without getting edited there will be many contributions.  How about it?

          Does anyone else want to air their concerns?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Look I don’t have a problem with people airing their concerns, but I really don’t have the time right now to revisit the policy.

        3. Barack Palin

          Okay great, how about opening a forum where we can at least discuss the policy?  You don’t have to revisit or change the policy now, in fact I think most people are okay with the current policy as long as it’s implemented fairly across the board.  I know many of us feel that’s not happening right now.

          Everytime I try to bring up policy on here I usually get deleted so therefore the need for an open forum.

        4. Alan Miller

          Might be a good idea to revisit it this summer after the elections.

          That’ll give lots of time for anonymous people to personally insult not anonymous people from the safety of their shadow of anonymity.

          Nope, not interested.  Was interested in a three-way letter with Barack and hpierce, but that takes all parties being interested in the same approach.

  3. Barack Palin

    One only has to drive down Main St in Woodland to see how excessive peripheral growth can wreck a once vibrant downtown.

    Good point Alan Pryor.  I don’t want Davis to be like Woodland, Elk Grove or Natomas.  That’s why property values are high here, we’re a coveted destination precisely because we as citizens have kept  good stewardship on our city.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I don’t want Davis to be any of those places either, but there has to be a sweet spot between unconstrained growth and total paralysis.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          Part of my concern is whether we will get MRIC and whether it can be successful if businesses have an easier time moving in four miles up the road.

    2. Mark West

      “because we as citizens have kept  good stewardship on our city.”

      The City has in excess of $650 million in unfunded obligations, with a General Fund budget of only $50 million.  That is not “good stewardship.”

      1. Sam

        $650 million is no big deal. All we need is about a $2,400 parcel tax for ten years to cover all of the employee expenses up to today that the city has not yet paid for. No problems here, no need to change anything.

        Any update on the city building a turkey crossing? I think we need to form a committee.

  4. Anon

    From my own personal view, Davis isn’t that special.  Every town has its own ethos, its own identity, things to like and dislike about it.  The reality is, as the VG points out quite well, the city of Davis has serious budgetary problems.  Take a look at our roads, city pools and buildings – they are falling into decay from insufficient maintenance and repair.  Look at the new high school building and Community/Senior Center in Woodland versus the high school building and Senior Center in Davis.  The buildings in Davis are pretty dilapidated.

    Davis also has certain obstructionist citizens who will stop at nothing (including disrupting public meetings, filing frivolous lawsuits and putting obstructionist propositions on the ballot) to stop growth, and do not represent the majority of citizens, yet are taking over.  The only solution, in my mind, is for citizens to be less apathetic and more involved, which I know is a tall order, since most folks are busy raising their families and don’t have the time to participate in local governance.  But if citizens fail to engage politically, citizens in the majority give the obstructionists sway to control the message and the process.

    1. The Pugilist

      Davis is special in a lot of ways, but if we don’t take care of it, it will decline.  I see a lot of cracks in the foundation and not enough will to fix them.

    2. Tia Will

      Anon

      I think that you are making a huge assumption about what the “majority” of citizens want. If they do not make time ( and I am including my own children now in college as well as those raising families) to participate and have their voices heard, then we really cannot know what they would prefer. My son, for example would not be part of your “silent majority”. At age 22 he moved back to Davis specifically because he liked the small city atmosphere better than he liked Berkeley. He does not desire to see more growth in Davis and is probably less in favor of growth than I am.  So if large numbers of folks like my son were to come out and express their views, would you then be complaining about the “large number of obstructionists”. My point is not that I know what the majority think, my point is that I do not believe that either of us know because they are just that….namely silent.

       

      1. Anon

        Tia, I am talking about those who would obstruct even improvement of utilities, any economic growth whatever, any residential growth whatever.  I vehemently disagree that such obstructionists would represent a majority viewpoint, because this absolutely no growth view is so extreme.  They represent a small minority, I have absolutely no doubt – that is why they resort to the tactics they do – because they cannot get their way using legitimate tactics.

        1. Tia Will

          Anon

          Thanks for the clarification. I agree with you that there is a very small group who would act to block essentially any change that might even enable future growth with the water project being the prime example. I actually did speak with a couple of individuals who were adamantly opposed to the project, not because of cost, feasibility, genuine belief that the wells were adequate…..but specifically as a means to end growth. This kind of thinking, I agree is an extreme minority position.

          However, myself having been painted repeatedly, and erroneously, as opposed to any change it is hard to differentiate where any particular poster is drawing their line. I think in the past that hpierce has made the correct observation that the population of Davis probably lies along a spectrum with only a very few favoring no growth, only a very few favoring “grow as fast as we can” and the majority somewhere in between. As is usual that majority, not being passionate about their point of view, remain silent. It is quite common for people listing to one side or the other to tend to feel that the majority favor their point of view while this may or may not be the case.

    3. Matt Williams

      Regarding Anon’s points, my personal belief is that a whole lot of what he/she describes falls under the category of “self inflicted wounds.”  Instead of proactively avoiding trouble, we more often find ourselves reacting to trouble that we ourselves have created.  That is not an unusual pattern.  The Information Technology industry even has a saying for it . . . Most of Today’s Problems are due to Yesterday’s Solutions.

      The Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Hotel/Conference Center is a good example.  It opened the door to the lawsuit that was filed, and just as importantly put the City in a position where the burden of proof was on the defendant (the City) rather than the plaintiff.  If they had done a Focused EIR then the burden of proof would have been on the plaintiff rather than the City.  The legal leverage that the plaintiff got as a result was huge.

      Another example is that the Sterling Fifth Street Apartments haven’t proactively avoided trouble in their application.  Davis has a strong commitment to its Climate Action Plan goals, and designing a project that has 0.75 parking spaces per bed effectively guts those goals . . . and for no discernible design or fiscal reason.  545 parking spaces for an apartment targeted 95% (or more) at students is inconsistent with a carbon footprint that has the students using UNITRANS and/or bicycles to get to and from campus and grocery stores and downtown . . . and ZipCar for the occasional automobile travel.  75 spaces would be a 0.1 parking spaces per bed ratio, and would support the onsite ZipCar depot as well as visitors to the students.  As Einstein said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  The Climate Action Plan impacts are not alone.  The full quality of life impacts of a 0.1 cars per bed apartment are much much lower than a 0.75 cars per bed apartment.

      Self inflicted wounds.

      1. CalAg

        Dropping the parking from 0.75 to 0.1 would make the Sterling project immensely profitable, and they certainly know this.

        I’m sure the ratio is 0.75 to be complaint with City codes. Characterizing this as a self-inflicted wound is really not fair to the applicant.

        1. Matt Williams

          A couple of questions

          Why would it make the project any more profitable than it already is slated to be?

          Your point really depends on which City Code you look at.  0.75 parking spaces per bed is definitely out of step with the City’s Climate Action Plan goals.  The self inflicted wound is partly the City’s (conflicting codes) and partly the applicant’s (not going with the highest and best use vis-a-vis the conflicting codes).  Their self-inflicted wound is that they haven’t proactively attempted to get a resolution on the conflict. If they had done that proactively they would have a much easier time getting to zero-net energy (ZNE) for their project.  Getting to ZNE would reduce the amount of pushback from the GHG/Carbon Footprint portion of the community.

          JMHO

           

        2. Mark West

          Parking is expensive.  Get rid of the parking reduces the cost of the project making it more profitable.

          The City demands a certain amount of off-street parking for all residential developments. This demand is one of the factors making redevelopment downtown so extraordinarily expensive.  I am willing to bet that the amount of parking was specified by the City in the zoning/planning requirements. The fact that those requirements are ‘out of touch’ with the environmental goals shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

        3. Alan Miller

          Get rid of the parking reduces the cost of the project making it more profitable.

          And magic unicorns will hover people’s cars in the sky until they need them again.

          No, your thinking is sick.  Reminds me of the consultants whose jobs it is to work with developers to reduce city parking requirements so they can built a maximum profit building, effect on the community and traffic be-damned.

          Lack of parking does not create people without cars, it creates traffic, and people circling to find a parking space, not exactly an environmental goal.

        4. CalAg

          “Your point really depends on which City Code you look at.”

          There is only one “City Code” – it’s the Municipal Code.

          This is a perfect example of Davis not being able to get out of it’s own way.

          Here’s the relevant section of the Municipal Code:
          http://qcode.us/codes/davis/view.php?topic=40-40_25-40_25_090&frames=on

          (h)    Dwellings, multiple, one for each efficiency apartment, one for each one bedroom apartment, one and three-fourths for each two bedroom apartment and two for each three or more bedroom apartment. Where the total number of spaces required by this subsection calls for a fraction of a space of one-half or greater, it shall require the provision of one full space.

          Without doing the calculation, the 0.75 ratio sounds about right.

          Apparently, the developer has somehow screwed up for putting forward an application with parking that is compliant with the Davis Municipal Code. The criticism appears to be that they should have met with the activists behind the Climate Action Plan to determine what parts of the code to ignore in their application.

          The irony is that they would almost certainly be more than willing to reduce the parking as low as possible. That cost savings goes straight to the bottom line.

        5. CalAg

          AM: I agree with you re: parking.

          “Reminds me of the consultants whose jobs it is to work with developers to reduce city parking requirements so they can built a maximum profit building, effect on the community and traffic be-damned.” Alan Miller

          This is a very curious statement.

          Nishi went through the exact same exercise – to the point that parking was reduced so low that the developer actually pushed back and said no mas.

        6. Matt Williams

          Mark West said . . . “I am willing to bet that the amount of parking was specified by the City in the zoning/planning requirements. The fact that those requirements are ‘out of touch’ with the environmental goals shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.”

          Agreed

          CalAg said . . . “There is only one “City Code” – it’s the Municipal Code.”

          So, if I hear you correctly, the City’s Climate Action Plan is not part of the Municipal Code?  If that is indeed what you are saying, are you also saying it isn’t worth the paper it is written on?

        7. Matt Williams

          Alan Miller said . . .  “And magic unicorns will hover people’s cars in the sky until they need them again.

          No, your thinking is sick.  Reminds me of the consultants whose jobs it is to work with developers to reduce city parking requirements so they can built a maximum profit building, effect on the community and traffic be-damned.

          Lack of parking does not create people without cars, it creates traffic, and people circling to find a parking space, not exactly an environmental goal.”

          Alan, most of the dormitories on campus are full of people without cars.  Why does the student housing at Sterling have to be any different from the student housing on campus?

           

  5. Barack Palin

    Davis also has certain obstructionist citizens who will stop at nothing (including disrupting public meetings, filing frivolous lawsuits and putting obstructionist propositions on the ballot) to stop growth, and do not represent the majority of citizens

    We have to remember that the last two Measure R votes were 60% and 75% against the projects.  Though I don’t condone lawsuits and disrupting public meetings I would have to say that the no to slow growth activists do at least represent the overall wants of the citizenry.

    1. Mark West

       “I would have to say that the no to slow growth activists do at least represent the overall wants of the citizenry.”

      I agree with this comment, however, I would say that many would change their tune if the CCs and CMs had been honest about the City’s fiscal situation over the past 20 years. The combination of no or slow growth and unbridled spending on compensation is fiscally unsustainable, as we are seeing play out today. We can continue down this path of denial and fiscal failure, or we can open our eyes and demand a new approach.

      1. Barack Palin

        Totally agree with your post.  I have advocated for the business parks and fiscal restraint on the part of our city hall.  I just don’t want unbridled growth in the form of sprawl.

      2. 2 cents

        There are many people who seem to talk about compensation of City employees as being way out of whack with society. Outside of the fire department I do not think that wages have increased with “unbridled” enthusiasm. The defined benefit through PERS is an issue and does not have a simple fix but we are looking at a legacy issue here and not one that is a recent problem.  Poor leadership and short thinking by CalPERS and former City Councils have helped to make this problem.  I don’t think it is appropriate to fault current employees who are having their total compensation increasing at alarming rates due to past under representing of true costs.  If you eat into real wages of City employees you will inevitably make those jobs undesirable and the quality of the workforce will suffer.

        1. Mark West

           “I don’t think it is appropriate to fault current employees” 

          I think it is perfectly appropriate to fault the current City Manager for his inept handling of the fiscal situation, but the simple reality is that there are at least three members of City Council who are equally inept, otherwise we would have a different City Manager.

          As far as the other City employees are concerned, while it is not their fault, the simple reality is we cannot afford to continue spending $150,000 per employee in total compensation or continue to sustain the rate of inflation of that compensation. If stopping that unbridled increase in total compensation results in good employees leaving for other jobs, so be it.

        2. Sam

          If you compare total compensation of any Davis employee to a comparable private sector employee you will see that the city employee’s compensation is drastically higher. That is why people think the wages are out of whack.

        3. The Pugilist

          I do think you have to be careful here.  A comparison of private to public is somewhat apples to oranges.  It would be interesting to see what someone like Ashley Feeney got as a private sector employee.  But there is also the public to public comparison that I think weighs against finding adequate replacements for less money.  Perhaps I’m wrong here.

        4. Sam

          Every company has an HR department. An HR Assistant costs the city about $83,000 per year. Can you find any companies in the Sacramento area looking for an entry level HR employee offering that much in pay and benefits? Does that company offer 3 weeks vacation, 12 sick days and 14 1/2 holidays to new employees?

        5. Frankly

          You are wrong in a couple of ways.  For one, it is absolutely not true that public and private labor cannot be compared.  And you are also wrong that so many public sector employees are deserving of any compensation premium.  In fact it should be the opposite in many cases… because private sector workers tend to be experienced with the principles of constant improvement… doing more with less… faster, better, cheaper.  In that respect, the average private sector worker would be more productive per unit of labor and hence would be worth more in compensation.

        6. South of Davis

          The Pugilist wrote:

          > A comparison of private to public is somewhat apples to oranges.

          True, those in the private sector rarely have the same job security or pensions as the public sector and should get paid less (like they did for generations).

          Both of my grandfathers were (active) public sector union guys and thought my Dad was crazy to risk the security of a union job and pension to get a little more money working in the private sector (and later for himself).

          The current system where the people who set public sector pay and benefits get to hide what things cost by borrowing and underfunding pensions is not going to end well.

    2. Anon

      Barack Palin: “We have to remember that the last two Measure R votes were 60% and 75% against the projects.  Though I don’t condone lawsuits and disrupting public meetings I would have to say that the no to slow growth activists do at least represent the overall wants of the citizenry.

      I wasn’t thinking so much of residential development, as I was about economic growth and the infrastructure to support our city, e.g. surface water project; sewer plant upgrade, innovation parks.  I am a huge supporter of Measure R – it is direct democracy in action.  I believe Measure R was a very real response to the overbuilding and poor planning of Mace Ranch and the proposal for Covell Village.  But when obstructionists try to stop any project, including improving utilities, well planned economic development, etc., then I believe we have a serious problem with the process.

    3. CalAg

      “I would have to say that the no to slow growth activists do at least represent the overall wants of the citizenry.” BP

      There’s also a solid argument out there that the agenda of the no/slow growth activists intersects with the much larger property value agenda; and that the no/slow growth activists simply get/take credit for what is effectively a largely silent majority voting their pocket books and maximizing the value of their personal real estate.

  6. noname

    From the city manager:

    “The city has yet to fully address unfunded liabilities for retiree health and pension costs, as well as considerable shortfalls for resolving issues with aging and damaged facilities, timely equipment replacement and dealing the aging infrastructure.”

    Those are comments written last year by the city manager … of Vacaville. It appears that a very developer friendly city that’s home to — ahhh, can you hear the angels singing? — a Genentech facility has the same type of fiscal problems as ‘ol obstructionist Davis.

    The things is, I’m fairly certain MIRC will be approved by voters. Ramco will spend tons convincing west Davis voters that the project will be a budget, job-creating panacea and that all that traffic congestion and visual pollution will be an east-side problem, and they never go there, right? But when David goes all hyperbolic — “MRIC is the last, best, and final hope for economic development in Davis?” EVER!! — and Rochelle Swanson threatens huge parcel taxes if we don’t approve it (even though she won’t pull city compensation costs from the consent agenda) then I wonder if the project cheerleaders aren’t their own biggest enemies sometimes.

     

    1. The Pugilist

      Vacaville hasn’t controlled the cost side of their equation and while they probably get more revenue from sales tax, they probably get less from property tax.

    2. Anon

      To noname: This city can either work on approving a well planned innovation center, or have it go right up the road north of us or east – so that Davis suffers the impacts and gains none of the tax benefits… think about it.

  7. The Pugilist

    ““MRIC is the last, best, and final hope for economic development in Davis?” EVER!!”

    If MRIC goes down, who is going to want to invest $10 million in a Measure R project in Davis when they can do it automatically in Woodland? You want to criticize hyperbole, but you’re also dismissing real concerns.

    1. noname

      I can’t control what Woodland does, but I sure don’t want Davis to copy its sprawl or similarly kill its downtown. And I’m pretty sure that city has a pile ‘o unfunded liabilities, too.

      1. The Pugilist

        I feel like there is a false dichotomy here and perhaps a strawman.  I don’t want Davis to become Woodland.  But I think we need to do more than we are now to produce revenue or we will end up with a city that cannot provide the services and amenities that we have come to expect.  OTOH, I think Woodland does impact Davis.  They have already put a huge housing development in response to our lack of housing.  They even market it as North Davis, much to the chagrin of the residents there.  Now if they build an innovation center at road 25A, we will be impacted as well – negatively without the revenue upside and maybe to the detriment of MRIC.

        1. South of Davis

          The Pugilist wrote:

          > much to the chagrin of the residents there.

          I have met more than one person from “South Woodland” that told me they live in “North Davis” so I think it is more to the chagrin of the residents “here”…

        2. Barack Palin

          Agree, my son lives in Spring Lake and I’ve met many residents there who like to call it North Davis.  In fact most of them moved there from Davis.

        3. noname

          And then Woodland can deal with all the traffic congestion, unfulfilled promises by developers and associated ill-effects, too. And they’ll still have a giant unfunded liabilities problem.

      2. South of Davis

        noname wrote:

        > I sure don’t want Davis to copy its sprawl or similarly kill its downtown.

        Unless Davis pulls a “Trump” and builds a wall around downtown, (and makes UCD pay for it) or yields grumpy old folks in Old East Davis and makes all business close at 6:00pm (so they won’t have any noise from downtown while watching Wheel of Fortune)  to the  we won’t have a problem with downtown “dying” (especially with even more students coming over the next few years)…

        1. Alan Miller

          yields grumpy old folks in Old East Davis

          What?!?!!  You are so un-original that you have to recycle Frank Lee’s insults?

          A) I don’t know anyone in Old East who watches “Wheel of Fortune”.
          B) As I have stated repeatedly, the noise from downtown was from 11pm to 2am, Thursday through Saturday, that was it. Strange, almost all the crime, including the murder, took/takes place in that window!

          6pm my ass! Hyperbole such as this hurts your case.

  8. Tia Will

    Frankly

    Yolo County is pushing hard for countywide economic development.”

    As well they should be. I think it is extremely short sighted to protect our own little fiefdoms at the expense of regional development. One very strong point made by Anon was that each community has its own strengths and weaknesses. Davis has the main campus of UCD. We now have an increasingly strong core of off shoot small companies and innovation start ups. These are major strengths of Davis. I think we should strongly encourage small innovative companies which are an excellent fit for our community. I am not in favor of decades old forms of manufacturing facilities even if particular local companies desire this. I do not think these very large manufacturing plants ( regardless of what we call them) are a good fit for Davis, but are perhaps a very good fit for some of our surrounding neighbors.

    we can open our eyes and demand a new approach.”

    With this, I agree. However, I do not believe that MRIC as currently configured represents “a new approach”. I see this as a decades old approach with some window dressing that is supposed to convince us that this is new. When there was discussion of a housing component, I started to get the idea that perhaps we were considering a newer model….but that was not to be and now we appear to be back to decades old model by a fancy name.

    the people who want to live in the past while ignoring the needs of those who will be our future.”

    I have seen this comment occur over and over. I do not believe that it is an adequate representations of anyone’s goals. It presents time as a dichotomy rather than as a continuum and what it leaves out is the present. There are many of us who value the past, but do not care to relive it. However, the bigger issue for me is there are some who favor rapid change who believe that their vision of the future should supersede not only the vision of others for the future, but also the present of those who happen to reside in or near the spot that they would like to revise. I see the present as a transition between the past and the future and believe that all three time frames have their own value and are worthy of consideration.

    1. Mark West

      Tia: “I see the present as a transition between the past and the future and believe that all three time frames have their own value and are worthy of consideration.”

      The planning decisions we make today will have little or no impact on the present, but will instead impact the future, five, ten or even 50 years out. For that reason, when considering planning policies and decisions, the only value of looking at the ‘present’ is to understand the impact of the decisions that were made five, ten or fifty years ago.

      Tia likes her present lifestyle and wants to see it continue.  Consequently, she argues for the continuation of past policies restricting commercial and retail development, blocking construction of new housing, and protecting the ‘character of the neighborhoods’ (among others). The City’s nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in unfunded obligations, the severe housing shortage, deteriorated infrastructure, and the significant loss of 25-55 demographic, all point to the conclusion that those past policies have failed to prepare the City for the needs of today, let alone those in the future. Tia’s ‘present’ might be great for her, but not so great for the City as a whole.

       

      The purpose of City planning is to address the needs of the future, not to enshrine the failed policies of the past or protect one person’s vision of the present. Our decisions should not be based on the ‘wants’ of current residents (otherwise known as ‘living in the past’) but rather on the needs of those who will be living here in the years to come.

  9. Misanthrop

    First we must not confuse the citizenry with the voters. There is a large number of people who do not participate in local elections for a variety of reasons and the people who do tend to be older and development averse. Representative government offers those who vote  the advantages of being heard but direct democracy through Measure R skews the decision making even more to a slice of the population that may not be representative of the community in general but turns out at election time.

     

  10. Misanthrop

    “At age 22 he moved back to Davis specifically because he liked the small city atmosphere better than he liked Berkeley. He does not desire to see more growth in Davis and is probably less in favor of growth than I am”

    Of course like many who grow up here or inherit wealth and therefore aren’t forced to compete with the general population for housing his interests might be different from the usual 20 something college graduates who are trying to make ends meet. I wonder do you ever ask him to check his privilege?

  11. Tia Will

    I see this issue differently now….and I saw it differently when I was the one who could not afford to live here. I did not resent those whose work had allowed them to afford to live here. I made the choice to live elsewhere until I could afford to return. I know others who have done the same We did not ask anyone to “check their privilege”. I would prefer to live nearer the coast. But I cannot afford it and still meet all my financial obligations. Should I ask someone who loves closer to the coast to “check their privilege” to make room for me ?

  12. South of Davis

    Tia wrote:

    > I saw it differently when I was the one who could not afford to live here.

    Was there really a time when you really “could not afford to live here” (be honest)?

    In the 70’s Davis homes were under $50K (and apartment rents were under $250/month).

    In the 80’s Davis homes were under $100K (and apartment rents were under $500/month).

    > I would prefer to live nearer the coast. But I cannot afford it and still meet all my financial obligations. 

    You may not be able to live in Malibu or Seadrift, but you can buy quite a few California homes that are walking distance to the coast for HALF of what you would get selling your smallest Davis home.  If you just want to get “nearer” to the coast you can buy a bigger home for less money in Vacaville, Fairfield or Vallejo (that actually gets coastal fog).

    > Should I ask someone who loves closer to the coast to “check their privilege”

    No need to tell the people in Fairfield to “check their privilege” but telling people who want their kids to live here that we don’t need any more homes since they can just buy their kids an $800K home in Northstar may rub some people (like Misanthrop) the wrong way…

  13. Tia Will

    Matt

    most of the dormitories on campus are full of people without cars.  Why does the student housing at Sterling have to be any different from the student housing on campus?”

    Because Sterling is apartments, not dormitories.

    Think of this as an answer to your question, not as an argument for or against either model. On campus dormitories usually provide meal plans at the cafeteria and sometimes vouchers which can be used at various food concessions and the like on campus. Being on campus also provides for very convenient access to such amenities as the MU ( when operational), lectures, concerts and the like. My understanding of the Sterling proposal is the it is apartments, not a basically full service “home away from home” with all daily routine needs being able to be met by walking or biking very short distances.

    Now it is possible to live entirely car free in Davis as I did for my first two years of medical school and as Robb Davis does now. But I would bet that the majority of students living in apartments are going to feel the need ( or at least desire) for a car much more often than those living on campus.

     

    1. Matt Williams

      Thoughtful answer Tia.  The one part of it that needs some additional teasing out is your final sentence, “But I would bet that the majority of students living in apartments are going to feel the need ( or at least desire) for a car much more often than those living on campus.”  With respect to that statement, is there any reason that a ZipCar depot on the Sterling site can’t address that need/desire?

      Hopefully Alan and CalAg and others will jump in with his thoughts as well.

  14. Misanthrop

    You weren’t writing about “anyone” you were writing about your own child who although he has reached the age of maturity has embraced your values, it seems, without nearly as much personal struggle as yourself. So while you hold him up as an example of the attitudes held by some of his generation I was just wondering if you or he ever have any self reflection about his inherited privilege?

    I wonder because Davis is full of trustifarians who inherited wealth or homes that allowed them to get in while doing everything they can to keep others out. It is an interesting and under appreciated demographic of Davis.

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