In the early 1970s a revolution hit Davis, which transformed it from a conservative, agricultural town, to a progressive stronghold. Davis politics were transformed by the election of Bob Black, Dick Holdstock and Joan Poulos to the Davis City Council, backed by students and representing progressive change.
Davis would change over the years, and by the time I moved to Davis twenty years ago – and throughout much of the ten years of the Vanguard – Davis’ political landscape would become polarized between two camps: one supporting growth at least to some degree and the other opposing peripheral growth and limiting other forms of growth as well.
Right now I would argue that we are at an interesting crossroads. Looking at the four council candidates, it appears all of them back some measure of growth – all are supporters of Measure A. As we noted last week, the opposition to growth is strong enough to block Nishi potentially, but they are not strong enough to field a candidate in support of their position or get a majority elected to council opposing new growth.
One thing that we see on the city council is a shift in the demographics of who is on the council. In 2006, the council was composed of three retirees or people not working full time – Don Saylor, Ruth Asmundson and Sue Greenwald. Stephen Souza owned his own business, and Lamar Heystek, in his 20s, was just starting his career.
In the elections since 2010, we have seen people elected who are working full-time, and are quite a bit younger – Joe Krovoza, Brett Lee and Rochelle Swanson were elected in their 40s, with Dan Wolk, Lucas Frerichs and soon-to-be Will Arnold in their 30s.
These are people in my peer group age-wise, not the older generation, for the most part. Of that group, four of them have school age kids – Joe Krovoza’s kids were either graduated or about to graduate.
There are still progressives in this community, but people my age who live in Davis have had to make sacrifices to live here. We either rent houses or we own far smaller homes than we would have if we moved to Woodland or Dixon. Schools are important, in fact, they are a key reason many of us continue to live here.
From my perspective, I love living in Davis because it is a small, vibrant, well-educated college town. It has great amenities. But I see all of those things as being in peril if we are not willing to accept small incremental changes to the community.
First, I remain strongly opposed to peripheral subdivision and retail. I was opposed to Cannery because the type of housing we are building there is unaffordable to young families. I’m not going to support large new subdivisions on the periphery of town. I don’t want to see the outskirts of Davis filled with big box retail and other strip mall chain stores. I don’t want Davis to look like Everytown, USA.
However, I will support an innovation center at Mace or in the NW Quadrant. Why? Because we in fiscal trouble. $655 million is not only a big number, I think it’s a very real number. If you want to see us have roads in disrepair, parks having to close, swimming pools that are empty, greenbelts that are brown, then continue the way we are going. My children play in those parks, use those pools, go to Davis Diamonds, etc.
Having a series of huge tax increases is not the answer. It makes our community less affordable. It puts pressure on the schools which rely on local taxes. It puts pressure on the middle class and the working class.
Davis is no longer the same community it was only two decades ago. Look at our school age demographics – 46% minority ethnic and racial populations and 25% Title One. Our students are diverse and they are increasingly from working class backgrounds.
A progressive community is not one that is exclusively upper-middle class, with advanced college degrees, and racially and ethnically homogenous. We need to find a way to preserve the great aspects of our community while allowing us to provide young families with the housing they need to live here, and to take advantage of our great schools and great city amenities.
Finding innovative and environmentally sustainable ways to add housing without building over the great assets we have of world class farmland will be a key challenge for the next generation of progressive leadership in this community.
Key also will be finding a way to provide housing for the 9000 additional students, faculty, and staff UC Davis plans to add in the next ten years. I agree with those who ask UC Davis take on a fair share of the housing needs – but I disagree with those who believe that providing housing to those students, faculty and staff is not our problem.
As one example: Nishi, Sterling, and Lincoln40 could provide for 3000 beds. That’s one-third of the existing additional need. I understand that there are concerns about all three sites, but that suggests one possible path forward. If not Nishi, then we need to think about where we can build housing to accommodate 1500 beds elsewhere in the city.
A while ago I suggested that if we do not solve the student housing problem, we are going to be faced with more crises. Students will increasingly pack into mini-dorms, putting them at odds with families and existing residences.
Those who believe that students would never rise up and assert their numbers should read Chapter 2 of Mike Fitch’s book, “Growing Pains: Thirty Years in the History of Davis,” where he showed the role of students in the changing of the guard in 1972. I believe that time is coming here too.
I believe that in order to preserve Davis as a great community, we have to be willing to solve some of these problems through the development of peripheral innovation park sites that can raise revenue while tapping into existing university’s high tech and ag tech strengths. And I believe we need to figure out a way to take on some of those student and rental housing needs in order to free up housing for single families with children.
I believe if this is done the right way, we can preserve the great things about our community while avoiding the pitfalls of the worst things of our community. However, what concerns me is that many people who are arguing that we don’t need more housing or more jobs, are people who own homes and either have a job or are now retired.
The next generation taking seats on the council come from a very different perspective, one that I share – we worry about jobs and we worry about where we are going to live and how we can afford it.
The question that I keep pondering more and more is what will Davis look like in 12 years when my daughter graduates from high school and will we even still be able to live here at this time? That’s a very different time horizon than many others have.
—David M. Greenwald reporting