Analysis: A Lot of Heat Generated by Measure A Campaign

View of Richards
View of Richards Boulevard

As a strong supporter of the idea of citizen-based planning, I am dismayed by the amount of heat and at times hyperbolic claims generated during this campaign, and, I am sorry to the No on Measure A side, but much of that is coming from the No side of the ledger.  While I remain neutral and truly on the fence as to which way I am going – I have been much more critical of the No side, in part because I believe they have made more unsupportable claims than the Yes side at this point.

I still think there are legitimate concerns raised about the project that need to be addressed. I will get into these issues shortly.

Comments like these do not help an enlightened understanding of the issue: “Shameful that our ‘progressive’ city is seeking to create a ghetto for young people in an area famous for  its toxic air.  Shameful.  And that Yes on A mailer had photos of families and babies playing in that murky soup, without one word about the location of the project ?”

That is from former councilmember Michael Harrington, a leader of the No on A campaign.  It would be irresponsible for the Vanguard not to call the campaign to task for such rhetoric.  When the opposition states that the Vanguard has not called the Yes side to task for similar rhetoric, they seem to miss the fact that the Yes side is simply not making those kinds of bombastic claims.

Nevertheless, the Vanguard gets accused of writing “pro-Nishi arguments.”  Eileen Samitz on Monday writes, “So much for the Vanguard’s ‘objectivity.’”  She adds, “However, I am sure you will come up with more of these pro-Nishi arguments to promote Nishi on a daily basis. So much for the Vanguard ‘objective’ articles by you. By the way, it is interesting that the placement of  ‘Yes on Measure A’ campaign ‘banner’ ad on the very top of the Vanguard daily. To many readers it would certainly seem to imply that the Vanguard is officially endorsing Nishi. Also, has the ‘Yes in Measure A’ campaign donated any money for the Vanguard’s fundraising efforts?”

As I noted on Monday, the Nishi ad at the top is there because the campaign purchased ad space, just as the No on A side purchased ad space.  Neither Nishi Gateway nor Yes on Measure A has made any donation to the Vanguard other than the ads that it has purchased.

I understand that the No side has to raise critical issues to get people to vote no – although Michael Harrington has pointed out to me that the voters may be more or less primed to vote no on projects unless given reasons to vote yes.  His campaign tactics do not seem to bear that out.

Despite this rhetoric, I remain of the belief that there are three legitimate battle line issues that should define the remaining two weeks of the campaign.  At the end of the day, our job is to ferret out facts, but the voter’s job is to weigh competing benefits against their costs.


On Monday we offered that the city faces a housing crisis.  As the commenter Ron pushes back, the Vanguard column is “not objective.”  He writes, “Using terminology such as ‘crisis’, and concluding “if Nishi doesn’t pass, Davis must add ‘3000 to 5000 beds’ is not a fact-based statement.  It’s an argument – nothing more, nothing less.  But, it seems to demonstrate David’s support for the development.”

I agree with Ron that it was an argument put forward.  However, I disagree that it demonstrates support for the development.  Rather, I believe it demonstrates support for the need for housing with or without the development.  The voters can decide if Nishi is the correct time and place for that housing.

Here are the facts that back up my view.  First, UC Davis has stated it has the plan of adding 9000 students, faculty and staff in ten years.  It appears around 6200 of them are students.  It has a tentative and preliminary plan where it has agreed to housing 90 percent of new students.

The No side has argued from the start that UC Davis needs to take on more housing.  I think everyone agrees with that view.  The question has been how much and over what period.

The problem with the city not building any housing is that it is completely at the mercy of UC Davis.  We currently do not have enough housing to meet current needs.  0.2 percent vacancy is effectively zero and as we discussed puts students at the mercy of landlords.  So even if UC Davis added no students and built no housing, we need more housing for students.

I pointed out on Monday, that UC Davis has pledged to build housing in the past – West Village, Solano Park – and has had hang ups.  Others have pointed out that UC Davis has committed to levels of housing in an MOU and failed to produce.

Nishi provides 1500 beds.  I believe the city should plan on providing at least 3000 to 5000 beds in the next decade to help meet current and projected demand.  Yes, that’s my view, but it is backed by the analysis provided above.  Nishi could be 1500 of those, however, if the voters decide Nishi is too problematic, we still need to find a place to add those beds somewhere.

That’s not an argument for Nishi, if you believe Nishi causes more problems with traffic and air quality than it solves with housing.

Air quality

In an article that didn’t generate near enough discussion, I painstakingly laid out the evidence on the air quality issue on Monday.  Please read it for yourself and come to your own conclusion.

On the one hand, the EIR concludes there is a serious health risk to residents.  But as Robb Davis and others point out, the added health risk in the neighborhood of 800 to 1200 per million residents is far lower than the overall cancer risk and overall respiratory cancer risk.

The EIR notes that, according to the American Cancer Society, “the lifetime probability of contracting/dying from cancer in the United States is 43.3%/22.8% among males and 37.8%/19.3% among females.  In other words there is a lifetime probability that over 430,000 per 1 million males and over 370,000 per 1 million females will develop cancer over their lifetime.”

Page 62 of the final EIR explains that the consultants compared air pollution health risks within other areas of the state.  They write, “South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) conducted a district-wide evaluation of air pollution health risks in 2014, finalized in May 2015. The average air pollution health risk was estimated to be 1,025 per 1,000,000 residents (SCAQMD 2015). The report also estimates that diesel particulate matter represents approximately 80 percent of the total air pollution health risk or 820 per 1,000,000 residents.”

Here they find that the DPM (Diesel Particulate Matter) health risk, in the unmitigated form, “at the Nishi site was determined to be approximately one-fourth of that.”

Thomas Cahill told the Vanguard in an email that “the regulations have fallen way behind the medical and air quality research, and do not take into account the stunning advances of the past 15 years.”  He would add that “a group of 30 health and environmental scientists” that he works with argue that “existing regulations do not protect people within 1,000 ft of freeways where braking and acceleration occur, and especially downwind of an elevated section.”

The bottom line for him is quite simple: we do not have the data to support what he believes the actual risk is.  But he wants to err on a side of caution.

He said, “After getting all the scientific information possible I would have to make my judgement with the ‘Precautionary Principle.’ This requires that in the face of uncertainty, I would have to choose on the basis of the most conservative estimate of the impact, which is almost always lower than  the scientist’s bottom number. In Davis, this means that (if) there is any reasonable chance that I and my colleagues are right, I would have to reject residential use and maximize protection of workers in commercial or research facilities. The best way to solve this is to have better data, covering at last a year and including all the most toxic components. This is what I recommended in  Jan 2015.”

Some people have attacked or criticized Dr. Cahill, but I find his view quite reasonable – he simply wants to err on the side of precaution.

At the end of the day, the best data we have suggests that, while air particulate matter is a concern and a health risk, it is a fairly low risk that we hope to further mitigate through the urban forest and air filtration systems.

If that’s enough for you, then you should vote yes.  If you believe that the problem may be more serious than this, as Dr. Cahill believes, then you should err on the side of caution and vote no.  That’s a judgment call, but let’s avoid unsupportable rhetoric like “student ghetto” or “toxic soup.”  Current evidence suggests a very small elevation of overall risk of respiratory cancer or other health impacts.


Those who attended the Measure A forum saw Alan Pryor present slides showing current traffic conditions on Richards Blvd.  To me, this is the best argument that the No Side has against the project – Richards is already heavily impacted particularly at peak hours, and adding residents and businesses to Nishi in my view, COULD, make things worse.

The truth is that this stretch of road is a problem now.  The city has some plans to fix these problems through better light sequencing and perhaps routing traffic headed to the university to access the university through Old Davis Road.

We also should give the developers credit here – they are going to be pumping about $23 million into fixing the traffic situation including the underpass to the university which will give us another route for traffic to use.  The corridor study and redoing the interchange will be of great help and it is not clear that the city could do that without this project.

The Draft EIR gives fodder to both sides here.  The EIR (Table 4.14-11) finds that the existing conditions plus Project Access Scenario 1 will worsen conditions in some cases dramatically.  Access Scenario 1 is the university access.

However, at the same time, the EIR believes that the interchange improvements will reduce the impacts greatly but since they cannot be assured, the impact remains significant and unavoidable

The EIR writes this on page 4.14-46: “Significance after Mitigation.”

“The City is in the process of implementing improvements at the Richards Boulevard/Research Park Drive intersection that include the addition of a second southbound through lane, and this improvement was taken into consideration as part of the mitigated condition. With that improvement and implementation of the mitigation shown above, LOS E would be restored to the impacted intersections and impacts would be reduced to less than significant. Figure 4.14-9 illustrates the intersection of Richards Boulevard/West Olive Drive with implementation of Mitigation Measure 4.14-2. Refer to Section 4.5, ‘Cultural Resources’ for a discussion of potential impacts to the underpass, which is considered a historic resource, as a result of implementation of this mitigation.

“Modification of the I-80/Richards Boulevard interchange, including off-ramps, would require approval by Caltrans and is outside the purview of the City as lead agency. Further, Caltrans is currently considering improvements to the I-80/Richards Boulevard Interchange, which may or may not coincide with improvements necessary to reduce impacts of the project to less than significant levels. Because the approval of interchange improvements by Caltrans cannot be assured, the impact would remain significant and unavoidable.”

Where does that leave us?  That again leaves us with a weighing of evidence that does not guarantee us that the traffic area will be improved or worsened.

I have been on record both here and at council believing that we can simply route traffic that heads through the tunnel before either heading up B Street and then to campus or heading towards campus on the Eastern Entrance directly, onto Old Davis Road and potentially Hutchison Drive as a way to alleviate traffic through the tunnel.

As such, adding another bypass for the tunnel could improve things, but there are those who believe that directing traffic that way will lead to traffic backups on Old Davis Road itself.

While Nishi developers have attempted to do their best to mitigate these impacts, it is a reasonable potential criticism of the project.

To summarize, I think the No Side has over-hyped their opposition to the project, but there are enough reasonable concerns about traffic, air quality and housing needs to have a good discussion in the last two weeks.  My list is not exhaustive either – affordability, West Olive impacts, and other issues could and should be discussed as well.

I hope we go that direction rather than to more and more extreme rhetoric and baseless accusations.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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118 thoughts on “Analysis: A Lot of Heat Generated by Measure A Campaign”

  1. SODA

    David, I think your articles and comments have been objective and you are sincere in being undecided, I am too. However, the placement of the ads for Yes and No on A give the perception that the Vanguard might be endorsing Measure A. Why not place them side by side.  “New” DV readers may well see the Yes on A at the top and not realize it is not an endoresement or not an ad. Perception is ……

    1. HouseFlipper

      Exactly. When I saw the Vangaurd with that Yes on A Banner add on the top I thought it was a campaign website. How much do they pay for that space?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            You raise a point – on the right side, it’s clearly identified as advertisement. That’s not the case at the top and needs to be corrected.

        1. HouseFlipper

          David, my compliments to you for recognizing the problem. May I suggest that you not sell space in your banner to avoid confusion? The Vanguard would be better for it. This would be a good time to write a piece identifying the banner ad appearance of endorsement problem, restate the Vanguard endorsement policy, and  apologize for appearing to have endorsed Measure A for the last several months.


  2. Roberta Millstein

    You seem to suggest that it is just the “no” side who has engaged in hype.  Is “hype” just a matter of certain types of language, or is “hype” any exaggerated or over-inflated claim?  How does Rob White’s hit piece on Dr. Cahill, stretching to find bias in his principled stance, not count as hype?  How does the “Yes” presentation at the Vanguard debate, beginning with its 5 minutes of glossy pictures about road enhancements (you’d think the whole project was to fix Richards) not count as hype?  How does Tim Ruff’s repeated statement of “9000 students, 9000 students” at the same event, as though Nishi would house them all, not count as hype?  How do  their personal attacks against Pryor, rather than responses to questions, not count as hype?  How do those glossy brochures of children and their families, and inflated claims about gains to the City, all of which are speculative, not count as hype?

    Your failure to acknowledge these things as hype is one of the things that reveals your bias, David.  I get that you think this project is important for Davis.  But you have to decide whether first priority is to have a community outlet for discussion or to have an outlet for you to push what you think Davis needs.

    1. HouseFlipper

      Roberta has it exactly right. While I would hesitate to suggest that the Vangaurd has drifted into full throated advocacy,  it does seem to be listing that way like a ship with a stuck rudder. Its really a shame because it is going to put the Vangaurd’s reputation on the rocks.

    2. Yes on A Fan

      Roberta, I was in the audience at the Vanguard event and was told Davis doesn’t need jobs. I grew up here and need a job.  And the road enhancement pictures had a matte finish if I recall.

    3. ryankelly

      Harrington’s relentless comments about Nishi being a “toxic soup” is nothing but hype.  Roberta, your insertion of the air causing children to be born with autism was right up there.  This was unethical.  Yes, you also posted links to studies about this, but the vast majority of Vanguard readers are not going to read through very technical research data to figure out the level of risk or if there actually is any risk at Nishi.  I think the Vanguard is correct to point out the inaccuracy of statements coming from both sides, but more flagrantly from the No on Nishi side.   I find your criticism of David personally is unwarranted.   Most voters are going to take glossy campaign promotional materials with a grain of salt, but promotion hidden in scientific analysis is a real attempt to sway.

      1. tj

        ASTHMA  —  There’s no way to get around the fact that the air at Nishi will exacerbate asthma,

        and the urban forest’s pollen will add hugely to the problem.    All this stuff about cancer rates avoids discussion of the terrible effects on those with asthma and allergies.

        The Nishi property is a white elephant which developers are trying to turn into a highly profitable venture.  There are lots of better places to build housing.

        1. ryankelly

          and the urban forest’s pollen will add hugely to the problem.    All this stuff about cancer rates avoids discussion of the terrible effects on those with asthma and allergies.

          Really???? Are you kidding here?

      2. Roberta Millstein

        ryankelly, I said, “86 percent increased chances for having an autistic baby.”  That is what the study showed.  You misread/misunderstood what I wrote, there was a discussion about it on the Vanguard, and your misunderstanding was cleared up quickly.  My failure to anticipate your misreading doesn’t make me unethical.  I agree that “toxic soup” is hyperbole and I have never used that phrase.  My point was only that the “Yes” side has used plenty of hype.  The fact that we are used to hype from developers doesn’t make it any less hype.  If we’re going to point out hype, let’s point out all of the hype.

        1. The Pugilist

          “said, “86 percent increased chances for having an autistic baby.”  That is what the study showed. ”

          But going from 1 in one million to 2 in a million is a 100% increase but it still takes an likely event to an unlikely event

        2. Roberta Millstein

          Pugilist, what makes you think the incidence of autism is 1 in one million??  According to the CDC (, it’s 1 in 68.  Doubling that would be 2 in 86.  Whether you think that is a large increase or a small increase is a matter of opinion; one of my points in the op-ed ( was that it is a large enough risk that some might, if they knew about it, choose not to take the risk.  Yet prospective tenants (again, remember the glossy brochures with families riding bicycles) would not be informed of those risks prior to signing and so not be given that choice.

          1. Don Shor

            So far as I know, the cause of autism is unknown and it’s been correlated with all kinds of things (see autism and glyphosate, for example). This particular argument is very weak and seriously undermines the credibility of the other risk arguments.

        3. The Pugilist

          I was using an easy example to demonstrate that simply using the percentage increase could be misleading.  I believe that Tia expressed extreme skepticism on that efficacy of that study.

        4. Roberta Millstein

          Pugilist: She did.  But there is actually another study with similar findings.  So, my question (to you, to her, Don Shor, to everyone): we’ve got a red flag here.  You can do more research or you can plow on ahead.  How can you justify plowing on ahead, when it isn’t you who is taking the risks but rather some unsuspecting person?

          And yes, percentage increase can be misleading in some cases. In this case, however, I’d say an increase from 1 in 68 to 2 in 68 is quite significant. You’re the one who has been asking for numbers. Now you seem to be saying that the numbers don’t matter.

          1. Don Shor

            It would be extremely unsound public policy to base land-use and planning decisions on a single correlation study, particularly when the cause of autism is unknown.

            There is no known single cause for autism spectrum disorder, but it is generally accepted that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function. Brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in children with autism compared to in neurotypical children. Researchers do not know the exact cause of autism but are investigating a number of theories, including the links among heredity, genetics and medical problems.

            In many families, there appears to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities, further supporting the theory that the disorder has a genetic basis. While no one gene has been identified as causing autism, researchers are searching for irregular segments of genetic code that children with autism may have inherited. It also appears that some children are born with a susceptibility to autism, but researchers have not yet identified a single “trigger” that causes autism to develop.

            Other researchers are investigating the possibility that under certain conditions, a cluster of unstable genes may interfere with brain development, resulting in autism. Still other researchers are investigating problems during pregnancy or delivery as well as environmental factors such as viral infections, metabolic imbalances and exposure to chemicals.

            I don’t think we are anywhere near asserting with any confidence that living near a freeway leads to a specific percentage increase in autism.

        5. ryankelly

          It is unethical to state a large percentage of increased chances without also stating what the starting point is for children not living at Nishi – say near City Hall, since that seems to be the location to measure everything against.  What are the true numbers that you are referring to?   I misread/misunderstood what you wrote, you say.  So it is my fault that I didn’t understand you – stupid me.  I believe it is your responsibility to be very clear when you are telling parents that their future children are at risk.   Your intention was to scare people, especially who cannot understand due or do not take the time to examine what you base your analysis on.  That is unethical,  Extremely unethical, in my mind and a disservice to the community.

        6. Roberta Millstein

          ryankelly, I don’t think anyone knows the chance of autism from proximity to City Hall (that would be virtually impossible to detect), but as I noted elsewhere on this page, the incidence of autism is thought to be 1 out of 68 (CDC’s numbers).  So, roughly double that is 2 out of 68.  I am not trying to scare anyone.  I have no secret agenda here, as in, I’m talking about health concerns but I’m really against Nishi for some other reason.  Truly, the health concerns are my only serious concerns.  I thought I was being clear.  I am not a mind reader and I cannot imagine all of the possible ways in which people will misread/misinterpret what I say.

        7. ryankelly

          Roberta,  So you are saying that the CDC reports that there is a 1.4% chance that children will be born with autism and you are then saying that this increases to 2.6% chance of children being born with autism if living at Nishi.  But the actual cause of autism is not determined and you have no actual data from the Nishi site, so this is really just a guess.


    4. Tia Will

      Hi Roberta

      How does Tim Ruff’s repeated statement of “9000 students, 9000 students” at the same event, as though Nishi would house them all, not count as hype?  How do  their personal attacks against Pryor, rather than responses to questions, not count as hype?”

      I was with you until this part of your post. Tim Ruff never made the statement that Nishi was going to house all of these students. He has actually said repeatedly that Nishi is not a panacea for student housing. He made a similar statement at that event.

      Secondly, I would urge not to hold against David  the comments made by any of the posters, authors, or editorial board members. I am quite sure that at times he wishes he could shut me up…..but alas… such luck.

      I made several statements calling out Alan’s tactics of which I do not approve. You have been very honest about your intent with standing by the arguments that you see as valid and acknowledging  the erroneous interpretations that some may derive from some of the data. Alan has been in the past, and is now during this campaign, willing to let false or exaggerated claims stand as long as they appear  to support his point of view. He knows this is so because he has told me so. I have no problem calling out issues of which I have direct knowledge.

      1. Roberta Millstein

        Tia, I don’t have the tape to review the debate, so I am just reporting my impression.  My impression was that Tim Ruff kept repeating that 9000 student number, over and over, what will we do about it, Nishi is the solution.  Of course, that is hyperbole, but that’s my point.  Of course, if you asked him, he would give the 1500 figure.  That does not stop him from using hyperbole.

        I agree that in general that David should not be held responsible for what people post.  However, I do hold him responsible for posting that Rob White piece, which I thought was over the top, and I hold David responsible for not calling that out as hype in the article above, since the whole point of the article is to call out hype.

        Again, if you could rewatch the debate, I’d just ask you to note how many times the “yes on A” side attacked Alan rather than answering the question asked.

        1. Tia Will


          Nishi is the solution”

          I also do not have the tape. However, I was watching closely and have no recollection of Tim Ruff ever using the words “Nishi is the solution”. He did say, as on many other occasions that Nishi would provide housing specifically targeting the student population but that is fact, not hyperbole. Did he and Mike Corbett attempt to present the project in the best possible light…..of course.

          While I agree with you that there were many times when the “yes on A”, presenters did attack Alan’s presentation, I would be remiss to not point out that almost the entirety of Alan’s presentation was an attack on the Nishi proposal.

          I do hold him responsible for posting that Rob White piece”

          With regard to Rob White’s piece, the Vanguard has a policy that it will print all articles from individuals submitting pieces that fall within the Vanguard guidelines which are available for review. David frequently is not personally in agreement with these pieces but chooses to post them in the interest of  public conversation. He posted your article and my article and Alan’s articles. There is a rich history of “not approving” of other people’s articles and posts either because they are felt to be biased or hyperbolic. I believe that your interpretation of “over the top” might fall into this category while other readers might have merely interpreted it as an honest expression of opinion. I was roundly scolded by some for remarks by Rochelle Swanson that I felt were “over the top” and divisive which others found to be “spot on”.  I simply see it as another day on the Vanguard.

        2. Roberta Millstein

          Tia, that was not meant to be a direct quote.  I don’t have a direct quote. But he did keep repeating that 9000 number, without qualifying it.

          Yes, Alan attacked the Nishi proposal.  Tim attacked Alan.  That’s the difference.  They were supposed to critique each others proposals, but Tim (and the other person – sorry, I forget his name) got personal.  Ad hominem attacks on the person are what people do when they lack a real argument, and they just serve to distract from the real issues.  Had they focused only on critiquing the “No” sides arguments, I would have been fine with that.

          My objection to Rob White’s piece is the same.  It was a personal attack, and in this case, a really spurious one.  I don’t think that those are ever appropriate, and I think that David should have asked him to remove that part of the article (the rest of it was OK, even as I disagreed with it).

          Another day on the Vanguard: Yes, personal attacks are common here.  It’s one of the things that I really don’t like about it (in spite of other things that I do like).

        3. Matt Williams

          Roberta and Tia, I attended both the recent Vanguard Measure A forum and today’s Rancho Yolo sponsored Measure A forum.  Based on what I saw and heard today, both sides of the debate (Alan for No and Tim and Mike Corbett for Yes) saw reason to de-escalate from the personal contentiousness that was in evidence at the Vanguard forum.  There was no shortage of forcefully made points both pro and con, but the personal rancor did not appear.  I personally applaud all three participants for that approach.  I believe it made it a much more constructive event.  The Rancho Yolo audience was considerably less polarized than the Vanguard audience was.  Fewer already made up minds, and many more votes truly up for grabs.

          Roberta, as a former member of the Vanguard Editorial Board, the issue of publishing (or not publishing) submitted articles is one we consistently tried to approach with a spirit of inclusiveness.  I can guarantee you that David has been beaten from pillar to post for allowing Mike Harrington to express his thoughts/ideas on a number of subjects.  I can only remember two articles ever being turned away.  One was a non-stop, wall-to-wall example of  personal screed.  The other was so incoherent that we wondered if the writer had a blood alcohol level in excess of 0.25.

          With that said, I’ve become very comfortable that the Vanguard will actively (and sometimes aggressively) call an author to task when/if an article is off the rails.  There is clearly no bashfulness here.



        4. Roberta Millstein

          Matt, I am very glad to hear that there were no personal attacks tonight.  Sorry I couldn’t be there.  Sounds like it was a good event.

          You’ll notice that I haven’t complained about any of the other “Yes on Nishi” articles.  And I wouldn’t have complained about White’s except for the completely spurious allegations that Cahill was biased and just trying to get money for his lab.  That was out of line – a clumsy and rather pathetic attempt to discredit Cahill, but some were sucked in by it – and David should have asked him to remove or change that part.

          Again, there should be no place for such personal attacks on the Vanguard.

        5. Matt Williams

          It was refreshing Roberta.  In fact there were two really good forums today.  Davis downtown hosted a City Council Candidates forum at Pence Gallery from 12:00 to 2:00 and Rancho Yolo hosted the Measure A forum. Engaged audiences at both venues.   Davis at its best.

  3. HouseFlipper

    Another day, another slanted vanguard article.
    When are you going to take on the Spafford & Lincoln PR machine working for Measure A?
    When are you going to address Former Council member Souza and other’s  paid roles in pushing for the project?

      1. HouseFlipper

        You could start by investigating this. Look at Souza’s Linkedin page, he lists his job with Spafford & Lincoln right at the top. Why don’t you call him as a member of the press and ask him what his compensation is?

        “so what if he did?” Souza has been identified as a former city council member and involved Davis Citizen in every article I have seen. Not a single one has mentioned that he has a financial interest in the project. It is a very different thing to be a paid advocate.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          The campaign tells me that he was paid $500 for helping to organize their kickoff event and hasn’t been paid or worked on the campaign since.

        2. HouseFlipper

          Now that’s news! That addresses DIRECT compensation from the Yes on A Campaign.

          Thanks David.

          That only scratches the surface though. What other compensation does Souza get as “Vice President of Board of Directors” for Spafford & Lincoln? How much are the developers spending at Spafford & Lincoln to have them run the Yes on A campaign?

          Next you should look into the paid “Field Operatives” with positions at ASUCD and the Spafford Designer who also just happens to be a director at the Aggie. There is a story here if your willing to do the research work and write it.

        3. The Pugilist

          I think you want there to be a story but there isn’t.   You never answered why it’s a big deal if Souza gets $500 (which is nothing) to organize an event?

        4. HouseFlipper

          We actually don’t know how much money Souza will make off of this. We only know that David reports the Yes on A campaign told him that he was paid $500 directly.

          As “Vice President of Board of Directors” for Spafford & Lincoln he likely stands to make much more. Hopefully some one will investigate this further.

          Paid spokespeople have an inherently different interest in a campaign.

          Why have all of the press failed to identify Souza’s paid role?

        5. HouseFlipper

          Pugilist you crack me up.

          Souza is just one of the people being paid advocate for measure A and we have no idea how much he is making. Look, I hear Souza is a nice guy, and he is probably just doing what he thinks is best, but as soon as you start getting paid to push a position it changes things, and the honest thing to do is reveal that you are a paid spokesperson – that has not happened here. Souza has an executive level position at a PR firm that is hired to influence voters, the people of Davis deserve to know. We can make our minds up for ourselves as to the weight Souza’s advocacy should carry.

        6. HouseFlipper

          Hi Matt,

          The Cannery money story is very interesting, and I would love to learn more. I think you and Pugilist are right to link it to what is happening with Measure A.

          We have yet to learn how much Souza is making, we only know that David Greenwald broke the news in the comments section of this very story just a few lines above that “The campaign tells me [David] that he [Souza] was paid $500 for helping to organize their kickoff event.” There has been no reporting thus far on what Souza’s executive compensation package is with Spafford & Lincoln – the PR firm contracted to run the Yes on A campaign. Nor do we know how much Spafford & Lincoln is billing.

          Matt, are you willing to stand with the people of Davis and state that paid spokespeople should identify themselves when campaigning in city elections?

        7. HouseFlipper

          Matt there was a post from you immediately above this but it has since disappeared. As I recall your post basically said it didn’t matter if Souza was paid to advocate for Measure A, and that we should all be very interested to learn about who got parts of the $2 million mentioned in a Vanguard story – please feel free to clarify since the post is no longer there for me to reference. What happened to your post?
          So, as a city council candidate are you willing to stand with the people of Davis and state that paid spokespeople should identify themselves when campaigning in city elections?

        8. Matt Williams

          HouseFlipper said . . . “So, as a city council candidate are you willing to stand with the people of Davis and state that paid spokespeople should identify themselves when campaigning in city elections?”

          Your answer to my question went off on a tangent HouseFlipper.  So at the risk of repeating myself, you asked that question for a reason.  Can you explain your reason?

        9. HouseFlipper

          It looks like your earlier post that I was responding too was removed by the Vangaurd – possibly for its slanderous $2 Million accusation.

        10. HouseFlipper

          Matt to answer your question directly I have heard many good things about you as a city council candidate and to your credit you have been more skeptical of the Nishi development than most. Davis is faced with a particular problem in this Measure A campaign where the developers have hired a PR firm with paid staff that work at the Aggie, hold positions in ASUCD, work in Congressional offices and are former city council candidates. There are repeated instances of people who have a financial interest in the project or are being paid to support the project failing to identify themselves as paid advocates. This deception seems to be aimed at intentionally misleading the citizens of Davis to generate support for the new development. The Vanguard broke the news today in this very forum that yes on A reports that they paid Steven Souza $500 to put on the Yes on A kick off party. you have an opportunity here to gain my vote, and the votes of many others by affirming that as a city council candidate you stand with the people of Davis and believe that paid spokespeople and paid campaign operatives should identify themselves as such when campaigning in city elections.

        11. Matt Williams

          HouseFlipper said . . . “Davis is faced with a particular problem in this Measure A campaign where the developers have hired a PR firm with paid staff […] You have an opportunity here to gain my vote, and the votes of many others by affirming that as a city council candidate you stand with the people of Davis and believe that paid spokespeople and paid campaign operatives should identify themselves as such when campaigning in city elections.”

          Thank you for that explanation HouseFlipper.  I have no problem whatsoever affirming that I believe that paid spokespeople and paid campaign operatives should identify themselves as such when campaigning in city elections.

          My experience thus far when tabling at the Farmers Market, where I have been frequently located adjacent to the Yes On Measure A table is that the students working there have been very forthcoming that they are interns employed by the campaign.  I also attended a Yes on Measure A “house party” on Sunday, May 1, at the home of Steve Greenfield, and Andrew Truman Kim went into great detail transparently explaining the roles of the Yes On Measure A team members.  A similar transparent discussion of roles happened at the open attendance dinner hosted by Mark Braly on May 15th .

          So, I have not personally been exposed to instances of people who have a financial interest in the project or are being paid to support the project failing to identify themselves as paid advocates.

          With that said, in one of your comments you said “Paid spokespeople have an inherently different interest in a campaign.”  My observations of the members of the two campaign teams confirms your point.  The biggest difference between the two teams is that the No On A team members appear to have significantly greater interest in the campaign than the Yes On A team members do.

          Hopefully that addresses your questions.  

        12. Matt Williams

          HouseFlipper said . . . “It looks like your earlier post that I was responding too was removed by the Vanguard – possibly for its slanderous $2 Million accusation.

          You have me very confused HouseFlipper.  The fact that ConAgra committed to a $2 Million Charitable Contribution to David Morris’ Venture Capital Fund, Capitol Corridor Ventures, was straight-forward news reported by both the Enterprise (see LINK) and the Vanguard (see LINK).  How could reference to that news story be slanderous?

          Disclaimer:  I posted several comments in the Vanguard story comment thread.

      2. HouseFlipper

        We have no idea how much Souza will make on this as an executive at Spafford & Lincoln. I doubt he is going to make 2 million but at this point there is no knowing what Spafford & Lincoln is billing and what Souza gets for his executive compensation. All we know for sure is that there has been no transparency.

        So what is the magic number for you? What amount of money does some one need to receive before it is worth mentioning?

      1. HouseFlipper

        Hard to know, but I doubt it. there is very little official information about them out there. their website is particularly vacuous and doesn’t include a single name of a person who works there. its pretty shady really. My best guess is that the name is chosen rather than inherited.


  4. Barack Palin

    David, as a long time reader and commenter on the “V” I have no doubt in my mind that you’re for Nishi getting built.  You might not come right out and say it but it’s apparant to me in your articles and comments.  So you can keep up with what I feel is a facade that you’re neutral but I and looking at the comments “many” others see through it.

  5. Frankly

    I find this piece a bit laughable.

    What does the VG want to be when it grows up?

    I about spit out my milk hearing Arianna Huffington say that she wanted to the Huffington Post to be a reliable news source.

    In an age where bias – usually the liberal kinds – overtly and boldly drips from the pens, pages and cameras of the reporters (makers?) of news, why is David seeming to feel the need to defend a neutral pose?  This is a blog.  Blogs are places for opinion.

    Another point… bias in “news” reporting ALWAYS tends to anger those with opposing views.  When those with power over the words written or said… and sometimes with just the right mix and emphasis to give the writer or speaker cover (Obama is a master at this)… it is a form of bullying.

    And everyone hates a bully… except other bullies of the same ilk.

    So, here is my recommendation.  Come clean.  Be direct.  Be frank (no Frankly… because then you would be me and there is only room for one me).  State your beliefs and your bias and your opinion (and realize that everyone always has one on every topic even if they don’t want to admit it).  Then debate honestly.   And grow some thick skin for giving and taking.  Be an American and not a hypersensitive European or Canadian that can’t seem to handle conflict.

    And when you are proven wrong about something, admit it and accept it and move on to the next thing.  Because what we all know or think we know does not amount to much of anything.   All that matters is what gets done.

    1. Ron

      Frankly:  “Another point… bias in “news” reporting ALWAYS tends to anger those with opposing views.”

      When bias is not acknowledged, that’s when it angers (or at least frustrates) those with opposing views.  (Not necessarily the view, itself.)

    2. Tia Will


      why is David seeming to feel the need to defend a neutral pose?”

      There is a problem with this position. Sometimes people really remain uncertain long past the point where you feel that they should have made up their mind. If you are not going to believe people ( myself included) when they come out and tell their truth, then what is the point in trying to convince you ? David has said he is unsure. What is it about that you find so unbelievable ?

      HPierce has shared with us that he voted no despite reservations right up until the ballot was cast. Why do you not believe that David could also just be conflicted ?


      1. Frankly

        He might be conflicted, but I venture a guess that he knows how he will vote or how he has already voted.

        But that point is really irrelevant to my point of just reporting opinions… even those that you might not agree with.  Why try to keep everyone happy claiming you are neutral?  Just write opinions.

        1. Tia Will


          He might be conflicted, but I venture a guess….”

          But why “venture a guess”?  Why not just ask him and then believe what he says ?

  6. Misanthrop

    “As a strong supporter of the idea of citizen-based planning,…:

    Is that the same as ballot box planning? If so that is a terrible concept as we can see from how it plays out in Davis.

    House Flipper your handle says it all. I wonder are you risk off in case Nishi passes and added supply hurts your ability to turn a quick buck?

    1. HouseFlipper

      I can understand how you would think I am in the real estate business from my handle. I am not, I just like the handle better than HouseCleaner.

        1. Frankly

          Ok.  Just wondering if you knew that a house flipper is some one that buys real estate under market value (usually distressed or bank REO property) and fixes it up and then sells it for a profit (possibly after renting it for a while). Generally a house flipper relies on housing cost inflation and constrained new inventory (why buy a fixed-up old place where there are new places to buy or rent).  Therefore a house flipper would tend to be against adding new housing inventory.

  7. nameless

    The No side has argued from the start that UC Davis needs to take on more housing…

    The No side has argued for no housing at Nishi, all housing at Nishi, more affordable housing at Nishi – positions that are inconsistent with each other.  These inconsistent positions go to the heart of the No sides lack of credibility on this issue.

    If you believe that the problem may be more serious than this, as Dr. Cahill believes, then you should err on the side of caution and vote no.

    The No side has argued for more affordable housing and all housing on the Nishi site at the same time it has argued there should be no housing because of pollution problems.  These inconsistent positions go to the heart of the No sides lack of credibility on this issue.  Dr. Cahill himself concedes he does not have enough data to prove his “unacceptable levels of pollution” theory, and has asked for money to fund a study on the issue.  In addition, Dr. Cahill had no problem with the New Harmony project for low income folks being located right next to the freeway.

    Those who attended the Measure A forum saw Alan Pryor present slides showing current traffic conditions on Richards Blvd.”

    If Nishi is approved, it will result in $23 million worth of traffic IMPROVEMENTS to the Richards underpass problem.  Without Nishi, it is not likely any traffic improvements will be coming.  SACOG has endorsed the Nishi project and believes it will improve traffic.  Alan Pryer is not a traffic expert, and the traffic expert paid for by the No on A lawsuit concedes he did not do a formal study, just “observed”.

    The reason the No on A side has had to resort to less than savory tactics, e.g. toxic soup, ghetto, city giveaways no need new jobs needed, more housing/no housing/more affordable housing, is because logic is not working for them.  Their arguments do not stand up to scrutiny.  Expect the No on A’s rhetoric to continue to intensify all the way up until the election.


    1. Roberta Millstein

      You do understand that different people might want to vote “no” on Measure A for different reasons, right?  It’s not that complicated.

      1. South of Davis

        Roberta wrote:

        > You do understand that different people might want

        > to vote “no” on Measure A for different reasons, right?

        So No on A is made up of two groups:

        1. People that think the site is a “toxic soup” that will kill anyone that lives there.

        2. People that think the site is 100% safe and needs all low income housing.



        1. Roberta Millstein

          South of Davis, No, those who want to vote “no” on A are made up of many groups:

          1. Those who think the air quality is too poor to have any housing there (this is my group)

          2. Those who think the air quality is too poor to have sensitive groups living there, but OK for the young and healthy (Pryor)

          3. Those who think the traffic will get much worse, even with the proposed modifications to Richards

          4. Those who think that the City cut a bad deal and should have gotten more money for waiving the requirement for affordable housing

          5. Those who think it’s too much growth, or that it will lead to more growth.

          6. Those who think an all R&D project will be more beneficial to the City

          7. Those who think an all housing project would to more to help with the housing situation.

          Etc., etc.  I imagine there are similarly many different reasons why one might be in favor of A.  Why is it surprising that people would hold the same view for different reasons?  It seems like you are going out of your way to find a flaw when there is none, by oversimplifying what is a complicated issue. But of course, when you say things like “People that think the site is a “toxic soup” that will kill anyone that lives there,” it’s obvious you’re not interested in reasonable, rational debate.

        2. South of Davis

          Roberta wrote:

          > it’s obvious you’re not interested in reasonable,

          > rational debate.

          You seem to forget it was the No on A people that came up with the term “Toxic Soup”…

        3. Roberta Millstein

          South of Davis: So, because some other people are being unreasonable, you are too?  How does that help anything?  Here is an alternative: call out other people when they are unreasonable, and then focus on the issues in your own responses.

    2. HouseFlipper

      “If Nishi is approved, it will result in $23 million worth of traffic IMPROVEMENTS to the Richards underpass problem.”

      This is flat out false. There is NO CHANGE to the Richards underpass in any of the current proposal. The city is proposing to spend $11 minion on the I80 and Richards olive interchanges – of that the developers are only planning on contributing $3 Million. The other $20 Million will be spent on road infrastructure for the new development including the Putah bridge and Railroad tunnel.

      1. Yes on A Fan

        Flipper- the problem IS the Richards underpass- these improvements address the Richards underpass problem by building a new 2nd underpass with access to campus, completely paid for by the developer, AND the developer pays for $3m on Richards corridor improvements as well. This is to divert traffic away from the problem….the Richards underpass- that’s what nameless posted. People living and working on Nishi can use the new underpass to access I-80 via Old Davis Road and the traffic model included analysis in the EIR for this. Through traffic benefits from the new Olive connection as well as expanded Unitrans service.

        1. HouseFlipper

          The Richards tunnel is not being widened.

          The new olive drive underpass is almost half way to the Old Davis Road/UCD off ramp that already exists. Are you  suggesting that people who currently use the Richards tunnel will get off the freeway at Richards turn left across traffic to drive twice as far to get to where they are going. If that’s true, those left turns are going to back up traffic onto the freeway.

          Then add the 1,500+ new residents and all of the people who will work at the new office park to the mix. Some of those people will hopefully use the UCD exit, but some wont, and if they want to drive downtown, they are going to head for the Richards tunnel.

  8. Yes on A Fan

    The prevailing wind always blows where most convenient.  Leaf blowers & farm dust particulates, and commuting, are more dangerous than air quality from the roadway.

    Jobs. No on A says we don’t need any, especially if you are retired.

    No on A has stated there are better student housing locations in other neighborhoods in West Davis (on campus) , Sterling, and Lincoln40 for 9000 new arrivals.

    No on A feels revenue should come from new taxes for schools, traffic improvements, and for existing broken infrastructure.

    No on A will lead to unaffordable housing as rents rise and neighborhood’s are impacted

    1. Widjet

      … farm dust particulates … are more dangerous than air quality from the roadway

      That is an interesting point.  My family was considering a home adjacent to Davis farmland.  I found a CA government website where you can find out what chemicals are applied to those fields.  Below are two rather toxic examples.  We opted against living there.

      Trifluralin: has been banned in the European Union since 20 March 2008, primarily due to its high toxicity to fish and other aquatic life.[4]

      Carbaryl:  Although approved for more than 100 crops in the US, carbaryl is illegal in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Iran, Germany, and Angola.[6]

      1. Roberta Millstein

        Widjet: It is an interesting point, but I note two things: One, you had the information to make a choice.  Residents of Nishi may not be so lucky, especially since the issue isn’t just “proximity to a freeway,” it’s a more complicated “proximity to an elevated freeway near a place where it often backs up, with proximity to a train as well, where there train is accelerating, and where there are inversions in winter.”  Much harder to research on your own, assuming you even think to research it.  Two, the fact that people already expose themselves to harms (again, many probably unknowingly) does not justify subjecting them to more harms.  (I’m not saying you were drawing this conclusion, but some do draw that conclusion).

        1. Frankly

          So Nishi residents will not have a choice?  We are going to force certain people to live there?

          One positive result from the tirades of the No people… we will have copious “sky is falling… the air will kill you” information out there for people to use to make their own informed decisions.

        2. Widjet

          To me it highlights that there are any number of risks present at any given time and people do not appreciate them and do not bother to learn about them.  I see some posts that praise surrounding farmland as if it is an inherent good, capable of no harm.  These are not organic, chemical free farm operations that surround Davis and living too close to it can be just as bad for your health as living next to a freeway or many other more obvious pollution sources.

          To follow-up on a post I made a few days ago, one neighbor whose No on A yard signs were removed now has the signs back up.  In fairness I would have to conclude the original signs were stolen.

        3. Yes on A Fan

          The prevailing wind phenomenon again…the wind blows the highway stuff in one direction and 1000′ away the wind is blowing in another direction from the trains…my goodness.   Widjet-the part re: leaf blowers and farm particulates was shared with me from someone who has worked in a Dr. Cahill lab for quite sometime.

        4. Roberta Millstein

          Frankly, they will most likely not have an informed choice.  I go back to my own experience that I mentioned in my op-ed.  There was plenty of information in the newspaper about the TCE in the groundwater, air, and soil at the apartment I was going to rent, once my friend told me that I should look into it.  But it never occurred to me that I should look into that.  Yes, this is all in the news now, but fast forward several years and this will all be archived internet stuff that people will only find if they happen to think to seek it out.

          Widjet, I agree with you that the potential hazards of living near farmland when certain chemicals are in use are underappreciated.  Again, I suspect that people don’t research it because they assume that all is well, that if there was a significant hazard that the local/state/U.S. government would do something about it.  As you point out, though, the U.S. seems to lag behind Europe in these things.

          1. Don Shor

            The US and EU have been at odds over precautionary principle vs precautionary approach for years with respect to pesticides, food additives, cosmetics, and industrial chemicals. It’s not a matter of ‘lagging behind’. It’s a different approach to assessing hazards vs. risks, and a fundamental disagreement about the importance of using costs vs. benefits as part of the regulatory process.

        5. Frankly

          Yes – a risk-free world does not exist.  And often de minimis risks are counted while bigger risks get ignored.   And then sometimes we are forced to accept some really big risks because of politics and symbolism.

          In terms of real harm, I think the chronic No people present the biggest risk to our community and the people that live here.

        6. Tia Will


          Two, the fact that people already expose themselves to harms (again, many probably unknowingly) does not justify subjecting them to more harms”

          This is possible as written, however, you have yet to acknowledge for some, it may lessen their risk of other harms such as being exposed to a lower risk of collisions or hours spent directly exposed to these same emissions while themselves commuting. These are potential trade offs that I have not seen anyone on the “No” side willing to acknowledge.

      2. Roberta Millstein

        Tia, as I have said before, whether the residents really are driving less will depend very much on their personal circumstances.  And risks of driving are well known, while the risks of the Nishi site (a confluence of a number of risk factors) very much less so.

  9. Frankly

    Frankly, they will most likely not have an informed choice.  I go back to my own experience that I mentioned in my op-ed.

    I have the solution.

    Since the city has already decided to better govern rental agreements, why not just require a warning/disclaimer and a place to sign acknowledgement for the scientifically known and vetted air quality risks at Nishi.

    Problem solved.

    Queue the music from the game show Jeopardy while Roberta thinks…

    1. Roberta Millstein

      There is nothing to think about.  I’ve addressed this in other threads, several times, e.g., “I invite the developers to write a clear, one page fact sheet describing the known studies, and see how many people want to live there.  See if the developer is willing to make that a condition of people living at Nishi – that they have to be given a clear fact sheet and be giving an opportunity to ask questions about it from a neutral party.  I highly doubt the developers would agree to that.”

      1. South of Davis

        Roberta wrote:

        > I invite the developers to write a clear, one page fact

        > sheet describing the known studies, and see how many

        > people want to live there. 

        Will you sign on as a Yes on A supporter if the developers agree to this?

        1. Roberta Millstein

          South of Davis: What sort of guarantee would I have that it would happen?  It is too late to be part of the baseline features.

          If you’re asking “would I otherwise support A if it weren’t for the issue of air quality,” I’d need to think about that some more.  I was on the fence before I started looking into the air quality issues.

      2. Frankly

        Roberta – I think the city should require it in the city-standard lease agreement for all rental units within a certain proximity of the freeway or train tracks.  Then we can protect those other renters not covered in your proxy cause.  Have you talked to anyone at the city to see if these can be done?

        1. Roberta Millstein

          Frankly, first, it’s not clear to me that other locations are nearly the same risk as Nishi (as I have been over many times before), and second, I am looking for something more substantial than a brief line on a form.  Again, it would require someone being available to explain risks and pointers to relevant studies.  If it’s just another thing like the ubiquitous Prop 65 signs, then it would be useless and not true informed consent.

        2. Frankly

          Roberta – I think you are dancing on the head of a pin here and showing yourself to be opposed to the development in general and using the air quality “issue” as your proxy reason.

        3. Roberta Millstein

          Frankly, you can make all the accusations you like, but you’re simply mistaken.  I am not opposed to the development in general.  As I said elsewhere on this page, I was on the fence about it until I started researching the air quality issues.  The issue here is that true informed consent isn’t easy – it’s not just a line on form or a sign on a wall.  That’s not dancing on the head of a pin.

        4. Matt Williams

          Frankly, my experience with Roberta tells me that her self assessment is correct.  My sense is that she weighs the evidence when making as informed as possible decision.  I don’t always agree with her bottom-line … she and I have both butted heads in the past and agreed in the past.

  10. HouseFlipper

    David, How about investigating what is going on with the nishigateway website. It is being reported as a dangerous verified fraud source by Trend Micro.

    1. Matt Williams

      The site was/is a City of Davis created and maintained site during the application process.  It went into dormancy when the Council approved the project for the June election.  I know that because I had the same problem you just reported last week.  The City hasn’t had a chance to shut that old domain down.

  11. Biddlin

    So do you think Seth Rollins will win the title back at the “Money in the Bank” match?

    Oh sorry for a moment, I thought I was on the WWE forum! I think you’ll be better off if A passes, but don’t be nasty and hateful over it, win or lose.

  12. HouseFlipper

    I love how all of the Yes on A people in this forum have demonstrated exactly the behavior David railed against in the article. So much hyperbole and over the top blah blah blah. Thanks yes on A supporters.

    Oh, also, how many of you are paid to comment here? I note that identifiable Spafford & Lincoln staff often have English and writing backgrounds.

  13. skeptical


    It should come as no surprise that Yes on A attacks the messengers, because they can’t attack the message.  Nishi was designed by the city not by the community and not by a community process.  Nishi makes a lot of money for the developer, and based on the only hard numbers in the record, a financial loss for the city.  Nishi will only make the traffic worse, and there is not enough space here to present a legitimate traffic analysis.

    What is truly bizarre are the number of people “Trumping” up the notion that someone claims this community doesn’t need jobs.  This is a false, reckless and irresponsible charge… yet cheered by the Yes on A crowd.  Mr. Pryor’s comments indicated any imbalance in local jobs/housing was due to a lack of housing rather than a lack of jobs.  He did not claim the community does not need jobs.  The obvious political puffery of “toxic soup” pales in comparison.


  14. Tia Will

    And often de minimis risks are counted while bigger risks get ignored. ”

    It is a rare event when I want to underscore one of Frankly’s points, but this is an appropriate point in time. Recently we saw millions of dollars spent fairly indiscriminately on Ebola precautions, gear and trainings across the US for a condition that is not easy to spread in our social and economic circumstances and for which there was no outbreak identified. This was money that could have been much more productively spent on developing a vaccine, or devoted to any number of health threats that actually are relevant to our citizens.

    We are now seeing the reverse, the unwillingness to devote sufficient funds to a disease that actually is currently threatening and will increasingly threaten our own citizens…..the Zika virus.

    With these two examples we see the “precautionary principle” run amok in the case of Ebola while relatively little is being done about the much larger looming threat of Zika.

    I think that continuing to stress the potential harm of living on the Nishi site while deliberately ignoring the real and known, risks of commuting by automobile is a good illustration of Frankly’s point.


    1. Roberta Millstein

      Tia, isn’t your example rather a case of precautionary principle that we are failing to adhere to (in the case of Zika)?  Of course, we can always make a mistake in either direction (be too cautious, not be cautious enough).  The principle is supposed to be used when the consequences of not being cautious enough are quite bad.

      You keep talking about commuting… I keep saying that we don’t know what the driving habits of the residents will be… but I haven’t seen you respond.

        1. Roberta Millstein

          DavisForNishiGateway: Really?  How will that be enforced?  Are you only going to allow students or people working on campus to live there?  How can you enforce that?  (Hint: you can’t).  Are you going to restrict their ability to own a car?  I seem to recall that there are a good number of parking spaces in the project.  What is the basis for that number?

  15. WesC

    If the air quality will be such an unacceptable risk then why as I think an earlier reader stated was New Harmony allowed to be constructed and why are we not evacuating all of those who live along Olive Drive?

    The average person in America will move once every 5 years and will have moved 11.4 times during their lifetime.  Anyone who chooses to live in the Nishi properties can therefore be expected to be exposed the the alleged less than pristine air quality for a relatively short time.

  16. Tia Will


    In fairness to the “no on A” folks who believe there is an unacceptable risk at the Nishi site, but not at New Harmony, they have provided a reasonable ( I don’t speak for the accuracy) explanation for the difference. The elevation of the two sites is different with regard to the freeway. This may, or may not be adequate to explain differences in risk at the two sites. I believe that this is one of Dr. Cahill’s points.

  17. Roberta Millstein

    WesC, Tia, yes, this has been addressed numerous times.  It’s not just that Nishi is near a freeway.  It’s that it’s near an elevated freeway.  In an area with a lot of braking (because that’s where the number of lanes is reduced – braking releases very fine metals into the air).  It is also close to the train tracks, in an area where the train is braking and accelerating.  With prevailing winds from the north and the south, so you are often getting it either from the train tracks or from the freeway.  With air inversions in the winter, so that the air pollutants linger low and do not blow away.  So, there are good reasons to think that this site is worse than other sites that are near freeways.

    It seems to me that Davis folks tend to move much less than the average.  But they will be students, some will say, to which I say, we don’t know that – they could be anyone.

    1. ryankelly

      Which is why Nishi is positioning residences away from the freeway, planting many, many trees and installing air filtration systems – none of which was done for New Harmony or apartments along Olive Dri

        1. ryankelly

          But it should lower the risk. When you are talking about health risk in the single digits – 1-2% – then it does make a difference.  There is nowhere in Davis that has zero risk.

    2. WesC

      If you think Davis folks tend to move much less than the average than I think perhaps  you do not get out much.  I would like to invite you to get out during the months of August and September and walk/ride by any apartment complex and observe the massive numbers of renters moving in and out.  I think it is pretty safe to say that in Davis like all other small college towns,  the turnover of renters is significantly above the national average.

  18. Tia Will


    Your use of the term “informed consent” brought a common scenario in my line of work to mind. You are correct that adequate informed consent is not easy. There is no way that I am able to provide every single circumstance that could occur during a major surgery to one of my patients. We have lengthy forms that enumerated all of the most common risks. I would also add in any specific risks that were particularly common with the planned operation. But I was also careful to add every single time applicable, “the bottom line is that with this kind of surgery, you could die or become permanently disabled…..but when appropriate, I would also add, “of course that could also occur if we do not do the surgery”.

    I am usually much less stark in discussing options with my patient’s and am entirely open to any approach the patient prefers as long as they are not putting themselves at unnecessary risk. Where real risk is involved, I am just that blunt. I fully agree with your position that potential residents of Nishi should be fully informed. I am not in agreement that people should be deprived of the right to make their own decision when there is well known risk associated with not having housing available, vs speculation that there might be unacceptable ( and again….to whom) risk if the project is built. To me, with the numbers that I have seen as the “worst case scenario” from the available data, to not offering a patient a potentially very beneficial option because of a very speculative possibility of risk.

    Patients are frequently very highly influenced by events that have occurred to them or to people close to them. This seems to be true for you regarding your previous housing choice since you have mentioned it repeatedly. I wonder if you might not have been similarly impacted and felt very strongly about housing proximity had you almost been killed in a commute related collision.

    In any event, as you pointed out, risk assessment is very tricky. It is also  often very subjective, and should be based on best available evidence.

    1. Roberta Millstein

      Tia, I spent 10 years commuting 35 miles each way from the south Bay to Hayward – up I-880 which is not a fun road to drive.  Let’s just say I am well familiar with the risks of commuting and have the accidents to prove it.  That doesn’t change my assessment of Nishi…. again, I invite you to tell me why you think that the people living at Nishi won’t be commuting.

  19. Tia Will

    To me, with the numbers that I have seen as the “worst case scenario” from the available data, to not offering a patient a potentially very beneficial option because of a very speculative possibility of risk.”

    Oops…. it would appear that I deleted a phrase leading to the above nonsensical sentence. This should have read.

    “To me, with the numbers that I have seen as the “worse case scenario” from the available data, not building Nishi would be the equivalent of not offering a patient a potentially very beneficial option because of a very speculative possibility of risk.”

    Sorry for any confusion.

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