Commentary: Can We Grow Our Way out of Our Problems?

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live-work-housing

I got the idea for this column from a number of conversations I have had over the last few days.  Part of the problem that I think we face in this community is that most people really do not know the extent of the problem we have.

I keep hearing, particularly from the opposition to Nishi, that there is a lot of anger toward the project and they believe that the project will be voted down.  It is hard to assess those claims – I don’t see a tremendous amount of evidence for it overall.

In 2009, it was obvious that Measure P was in trouble – the whole political landscape seemed heavily tilted against the project.  I don’t see that level of discord now – granted, Measure P went down with three-quarters of the voters opposing it.

The problems of the community are very real – we have a housing crisis, we have a funding crisis.  Will Nishi solve those?  No.  Will Nishi help in either respect?  I think so.  Are there trade-offs?  Yes.  You can argue that Nishi is not dense enough and some argue it is too dense.  You can argue that Nishi is in a bad location with regard to air quality and traffic.  You can argue that Nishi is in a perfect spot next to the university and walking distance from downtown.

In the end, the voters will decide whether they are willing to bring in 1500 jobs potentially and provide 1500 beds for students in exchange for potential drawbacks on an imperfect project.

However, pass or fail, we will be dealing with these same problems in July that we are now.

I think the first step is that we have to understand the nature of the problem.  Some object to re-hashing old issues, but old issues are what are at the core of current problems.  Starting in 1999 and 2000, the city, like most cities in the state of California, expanded salaries and post-employment benefits – pensions, retiree health care, etc.

We were able to survive the early period due to the real estate boom.  But once the recession hit, the double digit revenue shut down and, while the city of Davis was more resilient to the downturn than other communities, the end result was Davis fell into a deep hole with regard to infrastructure.

How deep?  Hundreds of millions of dollars.  The number that has been used recently is $655 million over a 20-year period, roughly $32 million a year.  That is a hole on roads, which we were are currently funding at $4 million but on which we should be spending $8 million.  We have parks maintenance.  Currently we have a $49 a year parcel tax, and when that was passed we knew that was about a quarter of what we needed.

There are other infrastructure needs like recreational facilities and city buildings, and we also still have a hole for unfunded liabilities – pensions and retiree health care.

Our city leaders have spent a large amount of time talking about the improving economy, the shrinking deficit, and some have used the term “Davis Renaissance.”  The problem is that right now those $655 million are considered off-budget and so, while costs mount, it doesn’t affect the current year’s general fund.

Part of what concerns me is that the leadership in this town, for the most part, is not talking about these core issues.  The populace is not mobilized to this threat.

There was an interesting comment from earlier this week that the council candidates seem to have very little separating them on issues.  One of the candidates argued that the apparent agreement on issues had more to do with the question format than the reality of agreement – they argued that more open ended questions drew out differences better.

But one thing I see on council is that from 2006 when the Vanguard was launched until 2010 or even 2012, there was a high degree of acrimony on the council.  Discourse was accusatory and uncivil.  The councilmembers who have been elected since 2010 have reflected a kinder, gentler approach to governance.

Sometimes I wonder if we haven’t learned the wrong lesson from those councils.  While civility is important, a consensus model for moving forward seems to be leaving us short on key issues.  It leaves underlying problems unresolved.  It fails to mobilize the community.

While I think the community clearly grew tired of petty bickering, robust exchanges on big ideas are not necessarily occurring.

The title of this column is whether we can grow our way out of our problems.  That is a tricky question, but I think the answer is no, we cannot simply grow our way out of our problems.  I think we need a multifaceted approach.

Rental Housing Crisis:  The problem here is simple – we have a 0.2 percent vacancy rate right now.  The university is planning to add 9000 students, faculty and staff in the next ten years.  The university is not planning to house all of them.  The city has some options for housing some of them: Nishi, Sterling, Lincoln40.  They could add 3000 beds if approved, but two of them are controversial at best.

Some believe we should put the housing on the university.  The university is clearly going to have to add housing, but is clearly not going to add enough housing to accommodate 9000 new bodies in the next ten years.

We ask this question of the council candidates tomorrow, but some will argue we will meet and work with them, some argue we should pressure them, others argue we need to fix this problem ourselves by growing.

Personally, I think pressuring the university and even the regents isn’t going to bear a lot of fruit.  I don’t see a lot of sympathy in the region for Davis’ plight.  Most in the region are critical if not resentful of Davis’ growth control policies.  I don’t think we will get a lot help from the regents on this either.

I know others disagree, but I think any resolution is going to come from a combination of building a few apartment housing projects, and working with the university on good locations to put housing on campus.

I do agree with those who wonder why it is okay to build on prime farmland that UC Davis owns, but not build on our own periphery.  At the same time, I also believe that we cannot simply grow our way out of this problem.  Simply adding housing is not going to resolve the issue.  Careful planning and collaboration will go a long way.

I still think at some point there is a danger that students will mobilize and change our land use policies if we do not figure out how to create release valves.

Fiscal crisis: Yes, we have a fiscal crisis and it is growing worse, not better.  It is important to understand that our unmet needs are $655 million.  That means we would need to spend $32 additional million per year to meet the current level of needs.

How big a number is that?  It’s more than 60 percent of our General Fund.  This isn’t take a haircut time, this is carpet bomb whole departments and eliminate swaths of city services.

There are plenty of examples of communities that have a much higher percentage of sales tax revenue than Davis, but a lot of those cities are struggling because they failed to control costs.

I think the blueprint that was laid out back in 2013 and 2014 still applies.

First, hold the line of expenditures.  For reasons that still baffle me, the city gave out $1 million in COLAs (Cost of Living Adjustments) last fall.  Will $1 million kill us?  No.  But any increase in expenditures will make this much more difficult.  We have to discipline ourselves that we don’t have money and we are actually in the red – we have simply moved the red off-budget.

Second, we need tax revenue.  Taxes alone are not going to solve this problem.  We would be talking about a $1500 to $2000 a year parcel tax to reach $32 million.  But a smaller parcel tax could fund things like roads and parks while we keep the sales tax.

Third, just as we are not going to grow ourselves out of this hole, we also are not going to be able to tax ourselves out of this hole. We developed a plan for economic development that in my view matched Davis values – a focus not on massive peripheral development or peripheral retail.  But rather the idea was to utilize the university’s technology transfer and invest in space for high tech – agricultural technology, medical technology, and environmental technology – to create a revenue stream for the city.

We would be able to capitalize on the number one ag school in the nation, the proximity to the world class agricultural area we live in, the number one veterinary medicine school in the country, a world class UC Davis Medical center, a top STEM program, etc.

It is not going to have immediate payoff.  It has risk.  But long term this seemed the most logical way to go.

The Studio 30 report showed us a road map – utilize existing space, add space through Nishi, add space through a peripheral site to be able to retain larger existing companies or attract new ones.  But this is Davis and land use issues are hotly contested.

Is there a way forward with this plan?  Or do we simply cede economic development to Woodland, which is now going to build the Davis Innovation Center on their soil, to West Sacramento, which now houses the Davis-born company Bayer-AgraQuest, and to Sacramento, with their innovative Railyards Redevelopment Project that may house the UC Davis World Food Center?

What is the future of Davis going to look like?  Is Davis going to remain a top class college town or is it going to price students and faculty into alternative living arrangements?  Is Davis going to capitalize on some of the top notch research and technology emerging from the university or will it get passed by Woodland, West Sacramento and Sacramento?

I agree Davis cannot grow its way out of its problems, but it also cannot forestall dealing with these issues.

—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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70 thoughts on “Commentary: Can We Grow Our Way out of Our Problems?”

  1. Tia Will

    Is Davis going to remain a top class college town or is it going to price students and faculty into alternative living arrangements?  Is Davis going to capitalize on some of the top notch research and technology emerging from the university or will it get passed by Woodland, West Sacramento and Sacramento?”

    For me, these are not either/or questions. The answer to the first is “yes”. Davis will remain a major college town ( altered because I do not know what “top class” means). And some students and faculty will have to live either on campus or in adjacent communities. From the numbers that you have posted, if the University does not step up to provide a higher percentage of housing, Davis will not be able to absorb all of the need without merging into other communities or building 7 story student dorms as UCSB chose to do in Isla Vista.

    The answer to the second for me is that Davis does capitalize on “some” of the top notch research and technology emerging from the university. However, it should not aspire to capture all of the top notch facilities. The character of Davis is best suited to incorporating small start ups, not major manufacturing. I think that we should be encouraging small start ups and companies as much as possible and encouraging large operations to locate in other cities in the area thus strengthening the region in ways that each community is best equipped to absorb.

    I have a very straightforward question for our readers. In which of our surrounding communities would you prefer to live than in Davis ?  Why ?

    1. nameless

      Tia Will: “I think that we should be encouraging small start ups and companies as much as possible and encouraging large operations to locate in other cities in the area thus strengthening the region in ways that each community is best equipped to absorb.

      Davis is too good for large operations?  Large operations should be located in lesser communities?  I’m not sure that is what you meant (don’t want to put words in your mouth), but that is the way it comes off.  Reminds me of the MRAP discussion.  It is not “appropriate” for the Davis PD to house the MRAP, but it is okay for Woodland to house the MRAP so Davis can borrow it when necessary.  Davis can be so full of itself…

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        So Tia, in your view, we should allowed Agraquest, Marrone, Shilling, etc. to leave Davis with their jobs and revenue?

        1. nameless

          Apparently Davis is too good for large manufacturing or large business, is what it sounds like Tia is saying.  Hope she clarifies…

        2. Tia Will

          David

          we should allowed Agraquest, Marrone, Shilling, etc. to leave Davis with their jobs and revenue?”

          My view is that we cannot “allow” or “force” them to do anything. These companies will choose to stay or go based on any number of factors. That is their right. I believe that companies that are the best fits for Davis will choose to stay without us essentially bribing them to stay with more an more concessions gradually giving away a lifestyle that many of us, young as well as old prefer.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I disagree with you on this when you say “we cannot “allow” or “force” them to do anything. These companies will choose to stay or go based on any number of factors. ” When we don’t have facilities for them, we are in effect making that determination for them.

    2. ryankelly

      Tia, The tax revenue that we miss out on is business to business sales tax when we force businesses to relocate to other communities.  Just when small start-ups begin to generate revenue, you would have them move out of town?  Why would businesses put down roots here, with a plan to move to another community as soon as they begin to succeed?

       

      1. Tia Will

        ryankelly

        Just when small start-ups begin to generate revenue, you would have them move out of town?”

        I would have them choose to do whatever they deem is in their best interest. Some will stay. Some will go and be replaced by new endeavors. Some will fail. Is that not just the way our system works.

        Now if you are asking me would this be my preferred economic system. The answer to that is a resounding “no”. But that is so far off topic as to be irrelevant.

        1. ryankelly

          I think that we should be encouraging small start ups and companies as much as possible and encouraging large operations to locate in other cities in the area thus strengthening the region in ways that each community is best equipped to absorb.

          If you think that this discussion is off-topic, why the heck did you bring it up?  It seems to me that this is the economic system that you are encouraging, if not supporting.

        2. The Pugilist

          I guess I don’t understand where you are coming from here Tia – we need revenue.  At the end of the day, of course it is the business’ prerogative, but we still need revenue.

        3. Frankly

          So Tia, say your son gets married and has five children but Davis only builds smallish 1000 sq ft homes with 2 bedrooms.

          Apparently you would be find sending the message that your son needs to go away with a larger family.

           

    3. Ron

      I have a very straightforward question for our readers. In which of our surrounding communities would you prefer to live than in Davis ?

      Natomas, West Sacramento, Elk Grove? 🙂

      From some of the comments here, I’m starting to see the “camel (already) trying to push through the tent flap”!

       

    4. ryankelly

      I have a very straightforward question for our readers. In which of our surrounding communities would you prefer to live than in Davis ?  Why ?

      Where my job is, so I don’t have a long commute.

       

      1. Tia Will

        ryan

        Thanks for your response. Would you prefer a different living setting with a larger population if you could make that choice without having to commute ?

  2. Mark West

     “Davis will not be able to absorb all of the need without merging into other communities”

    Wow, exaggerate much?

    Davis currently has a population of roughly 66,000 on 10.5 square miles for a density of 6300 people per square mile.  If we added housing for 9000 new people while maintaining the same density, we would need to add 1.5 square miles of new housing.  If most of the new housing is apartments, we would require much less ground to accommodate them.

    There are roughly 5 miles between the north end of Davis and the south end of Woodland, and 2 miles between Road 102 and Hw 113 – or 10 square miles.  If all of our expansion was restricted to this area, we would still need to double the size of Davis before we would merge with our closest neighbor.

    1. Tia Will

      Mark

      If all of our expansion was restricted to this area, we would still need to double the size of Davis before we would merge with our closest neighbor.”

      And… this is exactly the same argument that was used by the developers in Orange County 40 some years ago. Please note that I did not include a time frame in my comment. Only that I feel that this is the inevitable outcome of a “grow our way out of trouble” approach.

       

      1. Mark West

        ” this is exactly the same argument that was used by the developers in Orange County 40 some years ago.”

        What exactly do you see in Davis and Yolo County that will create the same growth pressure that was found in Orange County 40 years ago? Is it our 80F summers and 70F winters? The beach? The film industry? Our military bases? Our rapid growth in industry and jobs as part of the post-war expansion? The lure of living the ‘good life’ in southern California? What?

        The situation that exists in Davis and Yolo County today is not comparable to Orange County of 40-50 years ago any more than it is comparable to Orange County today. Yolo County has fairly strict restrictions against rural development, with the bulk of population, commercial and retail growth being restricted to the existing cities. Orange County did not have the same. If your goal truly is to prevent rapid development of farmland, then your position should be to support Yolo County’s efforts to restrict population growth and development to the Cities.  If you don’t want Yolo County to end up looking like Orange County, then building more housing in Davis is what you should be supporting.

        That does not mean, however,  sprawling outward, as we can just as easily build upwards. We can become more efficient with our use of land, moving away from single floor bungalows and ranch-style houses on large lots to a wider use of apartments, townhouses and condominiums. Infill projects, especially near the City’s center and the campus should be a primary focus, including projects in our older neighborhoods. That means changing some of our zoning regulations to allow for greater land use efficiency.  Smart, rational growth (and not succumbing to irrational fears) is the way forward.

        1. Tia Will

          Mark

          What exactly do you see in Davis and Yolo County that will create the same growth pressure that was found in Orange County 40 years ago?”

          Not “the same” but another growth pressure. UCD and the drive for ever more rapidly developing technology. I could not have said it better than Peter Bell did in the article posted this morning. His call is for us to prevent graduating students from leaving Davis with no numbers attached.

          You and I have had this conversation before. You have stated that you think it is ridiculous to think in terms of future numbers. I have stated that I do not believe that “smart growth” is possible without some concept of how many people you are planning for. On this point, it would appear that we will not reach agreement.

  3. Tia Will

    nameless

    Davis is too good for large operations?  Large operations should be located in lesser communities? “

    If you didn’t intend to put words in my mouth, then why did you ?  You could have skipped the snide comment and simply requested clarification.

    For me, it is not about “too good” for, or “lesser”. It is about the best fit. There are communities in our area that strongly desire large manufacturing firms. It is not eat all clear that the majority of the citizens of Davis do desire this kind of growth. I have no problem letting the majority decide.

    I think of this in terms of best fit. I make enough money to live in a much larger house, newer, flashier home than I choose to live in. Many people would see these as preferable places to live. I do not. Does that make me “too good” for a more ostentatious home ?  Does it  make them “too good” to live in more modest accommodations ?  I think not. It is a matter of taste, priorities, values and personal preference.

     

    1. nameless

      Why is large manufacturing not a good fit for Davis, but somehow a good fit for Woodland?  Schilling has been in Davis a while, hasn’t seemed to cause the community any particular problems, has contributed to the community fiscally, so where is the problem?

      I did not put words in your mouth but noted what your words sounded like to me, so asked for clarification.

      1. The Pugilist

        I have the same question.  Why is it so bad to have space for startups and growing space where we can get tax revenue and provide people with jobs?

        1. Tia Will

          Mark

          What exactly do you see in Davis and Yolo County that will create the same growth pressure that was found in Orange County 40 years ago?”

          Not “the same” but another growth pressure. UCD and the drive for ever more rapidly developing technology. I could not have said it better than Peter Bell did in the article posted this morning. His call is for us to prevent graduating students from leaving Davis with no numbers attached.

          You and I have had this conversation before. You have stated that you think it is ridiculous to think in terms of future numbers. I have stated that I do not believe that “smart growth” is possible without some concept of how many people you are planning for. On this point, it would appear that we will not reach agreement.

        2. Tia Will

          Why is it so bad to have space for startups and growing space where we can get tax revenue and provide people with jobs?”

          I do not believe that it is “so bad”. I believe that what we have is a difference of values. I chose to live in Davis because I preferred a small city with university environment over living in a large city with major manufacturing. I have lived in both. I much prefer the former and believe that many citizens of Davis agree as evidenced by our relatively “slow growth” policies.

          There are many other communities in the area that share the preference for rapid growth as is apparent by how they have chosen to develop. There is only one Davis. So my question for those of you who want to turn Davis into one of these other communities is “Why are you choosing to continue to live in Davis when your preference is for a more economically dynamic community ?  Why the drive for homogenization of our area ?

        3. ryankelly

          Tia, You apparently weren’t living here when we had large manufacturing – Hunt’s cannery churning away at the corner of J & Covell. The cannery was completely compatible with Davis, until the City grew around it, but we could have made it work.  There have been manufacturing companies in East Davis along the railroad tracks and along 2nd street and locations in South Davis.  I know this because the fathers of my friends either worked there or owned these companies.  You’re image of Davis is a more recent version and, as we now know, unsustainable.

  4. nameless

    In 2009, it was obvious that Measure P was in trouble – the whole political landscape seemed heavily tilted against the project.  I don’t see that level of discord now – granted, Measure P went down with three-quarters of the voters opposing it.

    Huh?  Measure P was about the water rates, and was successful at torpedoing CBFR.

    Our city leaders have spent a large amount of time talking about the improving economy, the shrinking deficit, and some have used the term “Davis Renaissance.”  The problem is that right now those $655 million are considered off-budget and so, while costs mount, it doesn’t affect the current year’s general fund.
    Part of what concerns me is that the leadership in this town, for the most part, is not talking about these core issues.  The populace is not mobilized to this threat.”
    The populace is not mobilized to this threat because the City Council and City Manager have painted a rosier picture than reality.  While it is nice to say the city is in better shape than it was in 2009, the picture that was painted is that the budget was “balanced” – even though much of the unfunded liabilities were placed off budget.  Conveniently parking the inconvenient truth is not helpful.
    While I think the community clearly grew tired of petty bickering, robust exchanges on big ideas are not necessarily occurring [on the City Council].
    That is not true.  Look at the Cannery CFD discussion – it was a split 3-2 vote.  Often Councilmember Lee and Mayor Pro-Tem Davis disagree on issues.  Council member Swanson was the lone voice on the City Council in trying to get her fellow Council members to institute the transparency suggestions of the Finance & Budget Commission.  I don’t think a good number of the Council agreed with Mayor Wolk’s attempt to paint a rosy economic picture of the city’s fiscal situation.  There was some disagreement on the City Council in regard to what extent to support MRIC or whether to support it at all (Councilmember Lee did not seem inclined to favor the project).
    I know others disagree, but I think any resolution is going to come from a combination of building a few apartment housing projects, and working with the university on good locations to put housing on campus.
    I agree with this assessment.  The University is not required to provide housing for its students.  West Village is at a standstill because the University has determined it is too expensive to continue.  Nevertheless the University is planning on inviting more students to campus – 10,000 more over the next 10 years, with no plans to house them all.  The city can opt to work with the University on the problem, or just whine about how unfair the University is being.  The University is just going to turn a deaf ear to whining.  Better to collaborate with the University as much as possible, as well as try to facilitate more apartments for students that will fit well within the city.
    Third, just as we are not going to grow ourselves out of this hole, we also are not going to be able to tax ourselves out of this hole. We developed a plan for economic development that in my view matched Davis values – a focus not on massive peripheral development or peripheral retail.  But rather the idea was to utilize the university’s technology transfer and invest in space for high tech – agricultural technology, medical technology, and environmental technology – to create a revenue stream for the city.
    We would be able to capitalize on the number one ag school in the nation, the proximity to the world class agricultural area we live in, the number one veterinary medicine school in the country, a world class UC Davis Medical center, a top STEM program, etc.
    It is not going to have immediate payoff.  It has risk.  But long term this seemed the most logical way to go.
    Spot on!  If citizens don’t want their taxes to be prohibitively high, then more economic development is necessary.  If citizens don’t want big box retail, then the well planned tech park is the only way to go, in so far as I am aware.  Opponents to the tech park idea have as yet to offer any other viable plan for the city to get itself out of its current fiscal mess.  Look at the state of the roads in Davis – they are awful!  Just look up by the post office as just one of many examples of seriously deteriorating roads.

  5. Frankly

    Sometimes I wonder if we haven’t learned the wrong lesson from those councils.  While civility is important, a consensus model for moving forward seems to be leaving us short on key issues.  It leaves underlying problems unresolved.  It fails to mobilize the community.
    While I think the community clearly grew tired of petty bickering, robust exchanges on big ideas are not necessarily occurring.

    A big reason why I am Frankly, and I post frankly.  I really dislike perpetually smiling politicians ignoring the fires raging in the community they were elected to oversee.  But more than that, I dislike the sheep voters that elect them and follow them and throw up sensitivity fences to prevent meaningful discourse.

    There is bullying.  There is incivility.  There is vitriol and person attack.  And then there is denying and lying.

    None of them are qualities I want to see in my politicians, but I will take the first three over the last one any day.  A denying and lying politician is a hazard to us all.

  6. 2 cents

    There are a lot of issues facing most local governments in the country.  David is correct to look to the pension and other benefit increases that were granted to employees at the beginning of the 2000’s as a major factor in the pressure on total compensation costs. At this point we are on the hook for these costs that are now unfortunately difficult to unwind.  The pension reform bill that Governor Brown signed 2012 will at least provide some relief in the future. One big problem that I have had for a while is attacking current employees total compensation rates as somehow indicating that they are over paid.  Much of the increase in total compensation of current employees is paying for the unfunded previous liabilities of retired employees as well as future costs.

    Covering the costs of other unfunded liabilities regarding infrastructure is something that can be managed in a variety of ways but they all require improvement in revenue streams to the City. It is exactly the thinking of citizens like Tia that have hampered Davis’ ability to expand the revenue base wisely and in line with the core values of many of our population. Saying that successful companies will do what they need to as they grow is short sighted and detrimental to a healthy economy.  We need successful companies to be able to grow and succeed here.

    A lot could be accomplished regarding improving streets and rebuilding aging infrastructure in the City if people would be willing to fund debt through a parcel tax. Lending rates are currently very low which the City cannot take advantage of because there is an unwillingness to accept additional taxes.  I understand this considering the lack of effective leadership we have had on the Council for a long time. Past poor decisions still effect the public’s faith that our City leadership will be effective stewards of our funds.  We have to confront the issues that are facing us in the coming years with resolve, courage, a willingness to take some risks. Davis cannot continue to bumble along on the same path it has taken for the past several decades.  We need to foster development that will spur economic health while at the same time leveraging the advantages that we do have more effectively. The Cannery was fine for the City but the Cannery CFD was an example of weak leadership on the part of the City. We as citizens need to continue to work to influence the City to not give away things it shouldn’t but at the same time we need to not be so obstinate that we drive development away. It’s a difficult road but smart, economically vibrant development should happen and needs to happen in Davis.

    1. larryguenther

      Very well stated, but I think this step 2.  In my opinion, the first step needs to be achieving some consensus on how and where to grow (or develop, or re-develop).  Currently, development seems to be by exception to existing zoning with no coherent plan and with developers getting better deals than the City.  This creates push-back from the citizens.  We need to update the general plan and we need to have the discussion about what we want the downtown and neighborhoods to look like.  Will this be messy?  Yes.  Will this take time?  Yes, at the front end, but it will make future development go MUCH faster.  Developers will know where they stand with a given parcel, the city council will know the citizens’ minds BEFORE they vote on a project.  If I might quote you out of context, “It’s a difficult road, but smart.”

  7. The Pugilist

    Tia:  Simple question trying to understand where you’re coming from – is it view that all revenue should be generated by taxes?

    1. Frankly

      Since most revenue is generated directly and indirectly by taxes (as apposed to fees),  I think what you mean is her view that all NEW tax revenue be generated by taxes.

      Here is what I understand her position to be (from years of reading her non-committal posts)

      1. She supports people of means paying higher taxes… much higher taxes.  Although she does not share any practical ideas for how this would be done.   Just kinda’ puts it out there.

      2. She supports cutting back on spending… but only for those highly-compensated city employees.  Not sure about where she stands on the retirement benefits.  She has defended them in the past.  And so her numbers do not add up for saving enough to compensate for her refusal to accept significant economic development to bring in more tax revenue.

      3. She says we can live within our means if we stop being so materialistic.   Again, no concrete ideas for what this means for city finances, and how it would even be done.  Just puts it out there.

      4. She has a bit of a “too bad, so sad” opinion for people that cannot find a place to live, or that cannot find a job here.   But she does not own up to the fact that this then causes more traffic and air pollution.  Does not own up to that.

      5. She says we should just all squeeze in together… making use of the existing space so we don’t build on the periphery.  But then Trackside comes along and she adamantly opposes it.

      And she will correct me on these things by writing a long response… but that will do nothing to refute these points.

  8. Tia Will

    Frankly

    So Tia, say your son gets married and has five children but Davis only builds smallish 1000 sq ft homes with 2 bedrooms.”

    What I would say is that if my son did not have the money or space to accommodate his family, then he should not have chosen to have 5 children. If he knows that Davis only has 2 bedroom homes, he has two logical options. He can have less children, or he can choose to live elsewhere. I certainly would not expect anyone else to change their preferred living arrangement to support my son’s desire to reproduce irresponsibly. As an Ob/Gyn with a special interest in family planning, I believe that it is completely irresponsible to have more children than you can support in your community of choice.

    I see the situation of our city very similarly. If you do not have enough to support the population that you already have, the right answer is not to keep deliberately bringing in more in the hopes that their efforts will bail you out at some point in the future.

    1. Ron

      Tia:  “I see the situation of our city very similarly.  If you do not have enough to support the population that you already have, the right answer is not to keep deliberately bringing in more in the hopes that their efforts will bail you out at some point in the future.”

      I’m impressed by your statements (including the one that I highlighted, above).  Especially coming from an Ob/Gyn.

      To answer your (other) question in a straightforward manner, the only other desirable community that I see nearby is Winters. (Near the mountains/public land, small historic town, etc.) Doesn’t seem to be growing out of control, so far. Sort of a hidden gem. (And, many bicyclists from Davis ride over to it.)

       

      1. Tia Will

        Hi Ron,

        I agree that Winter’s is a “hidden gem”. Davis also has a “gem” like character about it, and has the university as well. I would like to see it remain a “gem” rather than an imitation of our surrounding communities.

        And, a point of curiosity. Why “Especially coming from an Ob/Gyn.” ?

         

        1. Ron

          Tia:  “And, a point of curiosity. Why “Especially coming from an Ob/Gyn.” ?

          It had to do with your statement that your son (or anyone else) shouldn’t be bringing more children into the world, unless he (and the community) can support them.  (This is actually a somewhat conservative view, and should appeal to those who hold such views.) And, that an ever-increasing population is not a solution to economic (or environmental) challenges.  (It hasn’t worked real well so far.  Residential development is a money-loser.)

          It seems astonishing (in a good way) to hear this coming from someone who helped bring more children into the world (among other related functions).  I probably overlooked the other functions, such as family planning.

          Of course, this can easily drift off into another topic.

        2. Matt Williams

          Ron said . . . “Residential development is a money-loser.”

          Ron, you use the above sound byte repeatedly, but never with a recognition of the  context that has made it so in Davis.  Your statement falls into an abyss between

          “Supporting any and all new and existing residences is a money-loser”

          and

          “If/when The City of Davis stops spending money in a profligate manner, supporting any and all new and existing residences will no longer be a money-loser”

          It is all about controlling (or not controlling costs).  The history of cost growth in Davis is that it has met or exceeded 4% growth per year.  That growth rate exceeds the growth rate of revenues.  When we bring the cost growth rate down to a level that is equal to, or less than, the growth rate of revenues, then your statement will no longer be accurate.

          One of the biggest challenges that Davis faces is to arrest its cost growth rate.  If we don’t do that then the statement “Supporting any and all new and existing residences is a money-loser” will erode the quality of life in Davis.

        3. Ron

          Matt:  “Ron, you use the above sound byte repeatedly, but never with a recognition of the  context that has made it so in Davis.”

          You seem to be implying that this problem is uniquie to Davis. If it was merely a “sound byte”, it wouldn’t be true throughout California. You’re apparently proposing to permanently fix a problem that has eluded an easy solution throughout California, so far.

          I realize that you’re proposing to reign in cost escalation.  I agree that this is an admirable goal, and I do wish you luck in that endeavor.  (If you’re somehow able to do this on a permanent basis, I’m sure that other cities throughout California will be seeking your advice.) You’d be considered a “hero”, no doubt!

          Perhaps the more important point is that even if costs are (somehow) permanently contained, housing won’t be a “money-maker” for cities, either.  (This probably shouldn’t be the goal, regardless.)

          My primary point is that some (on the Vanguard) seem to (purposefully?) suggest that housing development will “solve” the city’s financial problems (when it’s been proven so far to have the opposite effect).

           

  9. Tia Will

    Some of you have presented a number of questions for me which I have done my best to address.

    None of you has chosen to address my question.

    I have a very straightforward question for our readers. In which of our surrounding communities would you prefer to live than in Davis ?  Why ?”

    1. hpierce

      I gave you my answer before, Tia, but this time I’ll be more personal… there is no surrounding community that I’d prefer to live in… otherwise, I’d be living there… is that such a difficult concept to grasp?

      That said, it doesn’t mean I think Davis is perfect… there are some changes I’d like to see and/or be open to…

    2. Doby Fleeman

      Tia,

      Cutting to the chase, you have done a fine job of distilling the issue to a single, compelling and very important question for many of us living here in Davis.

      Given the nature of this article, however, I’m wondering if perhaps there should be a second, corollary question as follows:

      “I have a very straightforward question for our readers. In which of our surrounding communities would you prefer to invest than in Davis ?  Why ?”

       

    3. Matt Williams

      Tia, for me your question is rhetorical.  Moving to one of the surrounding communities is so easy to do that if anyone actually preferred to live in one of them they would simply act on that desire and move there.

      Davis may be the community that we can at times complain bitterly about, but for all our complaints, there isn’t a community that is better.

  10. Tia Will

    hpierce

    is that such a difficult concept to grasp?”

    No, it is a very easy concept to grasp. I also live here because I prefer Davis. So now, what we apparently have is that our visions for Davis’ future are not identical. We both have things that we think could be improved. They are just different things at times. Does that make one of us “greedy”, or any of the other pejoratives that some like to throw around casually. I don’t think so. I believe that we both have the right to promote our own vision.

    Is that such a difficult concept to grasp ?

    1. hpierce

      I haven’t called anyone greedy, Tia… I have seldom used pejoratives, except when provoked by those who would use them at me.  Am thinking you have chosen the wrong target…

      Do you understand the concept of collateral  damages?

      1. Tia Will

        hpierce

        Do you understand the concept of collateral  damages?”

        Probably better than most given my profession. Since I have seen much collateral damage in my career I think that I understand it very well. And I do not believe that any of the misplaced possessiveness over words used rises to the level of “collateral damage” as I know it. My feeling about this is if a word that is used does not apply to you, don’t own it and don’t become emotional over it. I did not point you out as someone who had used the expression “greedy” so why the need to disclaim.

  11. Biddlin

    “I have a very straightforward question for our readers. In which of our surrounding communities would you prefer to live than in Davis ?  Why ?”

    Dixon. Real small town with real small town “values”, as Frankly would say. Much higher percentage of owner occupied homes, more of a family feel.

    1. Tia Will

      ryan

       You apparently weren’t living here when we had large manufacturing – Hunt’s cannery churning away at the corner of J & Covell.”

      Incorrect. I did live here when the cannery was functional. It had been here long before I arrived and so was part of the environment in which I chose to live. I see this as a very different situation from neighborhoods in which people who have lived in, built communities,raised families and contributed to our community for 30 or 40 or 50 years are being asked to give up either their business or essential aspects of their way of life ( may not that you consider essential, but that they do) in order to make way for others who want to move in or whose activities may push these folks out. I see a huge difference between a newcomer acclimating themselves to a pre existing condition, agreement, or plan ( think zoning and planning regulations) and a newcomer or developer who is asking for concessions which will be disruptive to the existing businesses and residents.

      1. ryankelly

        So it is change that you oppose.  If it was here before you, then that’s OK, but if it comes after you, then it is not.  I’m afraid that we will always have newcomers in an unending stream who will then want the status quo, which is why it is so difficult to ever get anything done in this town and is responsible for most, if not all, the angst in the community.  We might as well shut down all city planning and just resign ourselves to only repairing what we have or, maybe, just allow it to slowly deteriorate.  Never mind that earlier residents were responsible for creating the greenbelt system, the expansion of downtown, Central Park and the Farmer’s market, and on and on.  If these earlier residents had the same attitude as you, we would have none of these aspects of our community. So try to stop everything, until you die.  That’s your vision for the community, but not mine.

        1. Tia Will

          ryankelly

          So it is change that you oppose.”

          No, it is not change that I oppose. I am favoring Nishi.  I would be very much behind some major changes. I would  like to see a downtown walking mall as is in Boulder. I would love to see the rejuvenation of many of our buildings which have become decrepit over time. I would love to see rejuvenation of our parks and green belts and pools. I would love to add to our open and recreational spaces. I would probably like to see much more change than either you or many rapid growths would like to see…..just of a different kind.

          It is displacement or disruption of the lives of others in order to build a community more to one’s own liking while disregarding the previously established zoning and planning that I oppose. I oppose the eviction of current residents and or businesses to make more profit for developers and investors who are better connected politically.

  12. Frankly

    “I have a very straightforward question for our readers. In which of our surrounding communities would you prefer to live than in Davis ?  Why ?”

    I am going to respond a bit differently.

    What I like about Davis compared to the alternatives:

    – Home of UCD and all the things that UCD brings to the community.

    – Higher percentage of intelligent, educated and socially-sophisticated people (mostly due to #1 above).

    – Higher percentage of young people helping me feel younger just hanging with them (mostly due to the #1 above).

    – Higher percentage of liberals that help make sure we are a socially caring community (mostly due to #1 above).

    – Higher percentage of artistic people.

    – Higher percentage of people that are in shape… live healthier lives.

    – Lower crime rate.

    – My great neighbors and my great neighborhood (e.g., nobody parking cars on their front lawns).

    – Reasonable percentage of parks and higher percentage of bike paths.   It is a walk-able city.

    – Perception of great public schools.

    – My high property value.

    What I DON’T like about Davis compared to the alternatives:

    – All the traffic and congestion caused by UCD being here.

    – Higher percentage of stuck-up and egotistical people (mostly due to #1 above).

    – Higher percentage of young people that run stop signs, make too much noise, get drunk, get in fights, and urinate/puke around town… and that basically get in my way and irritate me (mostly due to #1 above).

    – Higher percentage of liberals that means we have too few business-minded voters and a lot of homeless people (mostly due to #1 above).

    – Too few artistic people that make a good living with their art.

    – Too many people trying to control the lives of others based on what THEY think is a healthy lifestyle.

    – Too few cops and too much property crime.

    – My neighborhood having too many 50-something retired government workers with not enough to do and wasting my precious time with too much idle chit-chat.

    – Not enough parks and bike-paths, and those that we do have are in poor shape.  Traffic congestion from high population density and limited shopping choice is causing it to be less walk-able.

    – Public schools that cater to the well-off and academically privileged to the detriment of others.

    – Inflated housing costs that prevent young families from moving here.

    And what I REALLY DON’T LIKE about Davis

    – Crumbling roads and poorly maintained parks and green spaces.

    – Not enough apartments for students.

    – Hundreds of millions of unfunded liabilities.

    – Too few good jobs.

    – Too few good restaurants and too little shopping choice… and the crappy parking options for the little choice that does exist.

    – Too little support of a progressive vision to leverage our opportunity being connected with a world-class research university that is #1 in food and ag science, and to support everything we can to improve the human condition.

    All for now.

  13. Biddlin

    “Higher percentage of artistic people.”

    Reality check. Refer to your ” Higher percentage of stuck-up and egotistical people (mostly due to #1 above).” and “– Too few artistic people that make a good living (or any living, at all)with their art.”

    I will allow that there are many artistic people from Davisville, but they leave, for whatever reason(s).

    I am with you on the “ REALLY DON’T LIKE” list. I have given up any thought of relocating to Davis, because of the inflated prices, poorly maintained roads and parks and the dearth of amenities for handicapped access.

     

      1. Biddlin

        The problem for musicians in Davis is not just too few venues, the ones that exist are limited in variety and in my experience at least, claim that they can’t afford me and the musicians I work with. Our typical patrons are having a wedding reception, retirement party, an anniversary party or a corporate event at a country club or in a large hall. I can’t afford to play for $25 a night, anymore. There is one saloon left in Sacramento, where I take my notebook, a small PA and my guitar and play jazz with backing tracks. The only time I take out a full band anymore is for fun, because the money just isn’t there anymore. Less true in some parts of the country, but in general, since cabs are ungodly expensive and two drinks are the legal limit for most, who’s gonna go to a bar and pay a big enough cover to see 5 or 6 people play blues or jazz? My bassist and I are now going to have a Hennessy and eat diner, before taking a political promoter’s money for playing vamps and 70s pop music as she fleeces the crowd.

    1. Barack Palin

      I am with you on the “ REALLY DON’T LIKE” list. I have given up any thought of relocating to Davis, because of the inflated prices, poorly maintained roads and parks and the dearth of amenities for handicapped access.

      Oh darn it!!!!!

  14. Tia Will

    Frankly

    Yeah – Davis should have a bigger live music scene.  There are plenty of customers, just no enough venues.”

    Ok, so why are those who want the industrial parks not arguing for the building of a major music venue?  Maybe a few modest spaces like the Palms using a dispersed model, or maybe a concert hall for a Davis Philharmonic Orchestra, or like a the music center in Seattle ?  Wait, I know the answer…..we are not a large city or a major music hub. Well with the “just build it and they will come” approach that we are using for “innovation parks” why not take this approach to other endeavors ?  Has it not occurred to anyone that we are not a large city, and perhaps as such should not be aspiring to have large manufacturing any more than we are aspiring to have Dan Wolks sports center, or any of the other amenities that I would prefer ?

    I am sure that we have many very talented authors in town and on the campus. Why not a huge venue for writing seminars, public readings, poetry competitions ? Maybe more of these folks would stay in town if they had increased connections, person to person with their fellow authors.

    We have a design department on campus. Why not encourage these young creative students to remain in town by building a major design studio intended to attract people from all over Northern California?

    I guess I take exception to a few points here. 1) I dislike the political selection of winners and losers by category of endeavor.  2) I dislike the “give away” of public valuables whether tangible or less tangible but all “material” to some to those who are already affluent. I feel that if we are going to be “helping’ by suspension of rules, it should be for those who have an actual need, not those who are already doing just fine. 3) A word about those who are already running successful businesses on their own property in town. Why are these individuals not “building up” as is frequently mentioned as the alternative to building out ?  If the answer is “because they don’t want to, or because it “doesn’t pencil out” then I question whether other residents and businesses should be pressured to meet their supposed “needs” when they will not fully utilize the resources they already have.

    1. Don Shor

      so why are those who want the industrial parks not arguing for the building of a major music venue? Maybe a few modest spaces like the Palms using a dispersed model, or maybe a concert hall for a Davis Philharmonic Orchestra, or like a the music center in Seattle ?

      Mondavi’s not big enough? Oh, maybe they mean some other kind of music.

      1. Tia Will

        Don

        “Mondavis’ not big enough ?”

        Well, as best I know Monday is not located in Davis. And to my knowledge there is manufacturing in adjacent communities with more proposed and in planning. So why exactly must we follow suit and promote the same thing that can be found in Woodland, or Vacaville or West Sac……when we have what clearly cannot be duplicated…..the presence of the university.

    2. Frankly

      You can easily make the case that the Mondavi Center is too large for this smaller vision of Davis you live with.

      But you are clearly missing something here.

      The reason that we don’t have more businesses opening up in Davis regardless if they are for the arts, for manufacturing, for R&D, for paper-pushing, for retail, for home business that expand from their garage, etc… is really simple.

      WE DON’T HAVE ANY COMMERCIAL PROPERTY THAT SUITS THEIR BUSINESS NEEDS BECAUSE PEOPLE LIKE YOU REFUSE TO LET ANY BE BUILT.

      Let’s use an example of artist that wants a studio.  They need 2000 square foot and some natural light.  They are going to run a kiln so it will need to be zoned industrial given all the fire and safety code.  And it will need natural gas because your fanciful land of everything running off of sunlight, wind and batteries has not yet connected with kiln power.

      In Davis there are no 2000 square foot industrial studios like this available.   And if there were, they would be at least twice as expensive than in every other community in the region.  And it is not like we are a major metropolitan area with the high incomes and consumer density to justify this higher rent.  A NNN rent plus utilities in Woodland for this type of space might run $1000-1200 per month.  In Davis (again if it even existed) would be $2000 – 2400 per month.  And there would likely be more expensive TIs to make sure we get all those Davis-demanded environmental and code requirements checked off the list.   And now the artist’s business plan does not pencil out.

      But again, the space does not even exist.

      An award-winning young chef from Davis just won an award in Portland and he opined that he would have loved to open his restaurant in Davis but there was no space available to do so.

      You are all puckered up about allowing land to be used for business types other than farming.

      Space is the opportunity to actually start and grown a business.  Without it there is no business.  That is why there is not enough venues for musicians in town… not because we lack musicians.

      1. Don Shor

        WE DON’T HAVE ANY COMMERCIAL PROPERTY THAT SUITS THEIR BUSINESS NEEDS BECAUSE PEOPLE LIKE YOU REFUSE TO LET ANY BE BUILT.

        Seems like a weird thing to blame Tia for. Has anybody ever proposed an industrial/commercial development in or next to Davis in the years you and I have been here? We have self-storage yards, we have open spaces along Chiles, we had the Cannery site. At the moment there are some empty buildings along Fifth Street that could readily be redeveloped for various purposes. There have been places suitable. So there was presumably some reason the landowners and developers chose to do other things on those sites than industrial/commercial projects.
        My guess is that landowners and developers have been looking for projects with higher return.

        You are all puckered up about allowing land to be used for business types other than farming.

        We have three sites suitable for commercial development that have moved forward and could still, with some effort, be developed. Two are farmland. Your farmland-pucker argument became irrelevant months ago.

        1. Frankly

          I think the reason that we don’t have any newer smaller industrial condos in and around Davis is for two reaons.  One – folks like Tia and BP don’t like them… think they are ugly… invite the wrong type of business… AND… the land is too expensive to develop this type of property given the rents that would be feasible for the types of tenants.

          But there is another more ubiquitous reason.  The codes, fees and taxes on development have caused the cost of development to be too high to build these types of properties.  There ist too low a supply throughout the state.  The only area there is significant development is Inland Empire and City of Industry.  Most of that though is larger and being purchased by cash and some bank loans by Chinese in the US connected with manufacturers in China.

          And without RDA there is no help to build then on cheaper redeveloped land.

          1. Don Shor

            RDA’s will be back for some parts of the state. I doubt Davis meets the criteria. I don’t think Davis ever met any reasonable definition of ‘blight’ either. But the governor signed three bills that will recreate similar financing mechanisms. http://www.bondbuyer.com/news/regionalnews/redevelopment-inches-back-in-california-1085301-1.html
            Generally, I’d say in Davis the land is too valuable for anyone to want to develop it for the types of purposes you’ve described. And they wouldn’t generate as much revenue for the city budget, either.

        2. hpierce

          And, Frankly, what is the population of the City of Industry (less than 450)? Their payroll for City staff (http://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/2014/city-of-industry/), including benefits (pension and PREB)  [http://transparentcalifornia.com/pensions/2014/calpers/?e=CITY%20OF%20INDUSTRY]?  You want to hold that up as a “shining light”?  Had an epiphany?  “Bad trip”? Completely unhinged from your previous posts related to Davis total comp?

  15. nameless

    Tia Will: “Ok, so why are those who want the industrial parks not arguing for the building of a major music venue?

    DIC was going to offer an outdoor amphitheater for musical events as part of their vision for a very community oriented innovation park. But because of the city’s missteps, opposition of the Binning Tract folks who don’t even live in Davis or pay Davis taxes so can’t even vote in a Measure R election, and the no-growthers/change averse citizens, now Woodland will enjoy all the nice amenities Davis could have had. Davis will now suffer impacts from the innovation park that moved up the road, without getting any of the benefits. How stupid was that?

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