Guest Commentary: Was the ASUCD Used by the Nishi Developers?

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Nishi-Forum-11Did Students Endorse A Project That Is Good For Profits But Bad For Students?

By Skylar Johnson

On June 7th, Davis voters will have the opportunity to vote on Measure A regarding  development of the 43-acre Nishi property that is now ag land sandwiched between I-80 and the railroad tracks on the south side of campus. If approved by voters, the Nishi property could be developed into 440 rental units and 210 for-sale condos, as well as 325,000 square feet of office/R&D space and 20,000 square feet of commercial/retail space.

This project is supported by almost all the local politicians, real estate developers, and business groups in Davis who claim it will provide sorely needed economic stimulus and rental housing in Davis of the type that will be desired by and suitable for students. This massive development project is being opposed by an underfunded, small coalition of progressive Davis voters who claim the project is illegally avoiding normal affordable housing requirements and is actually building luxury-type student apartments affordable only to upper income students.

The No on Nishi campaign also claims there are numerous financial give-aways from the City to the developers and that the project will result in traffic grid-lock through downtown Davis and the University on Old Davis Rd. They also allege the project is green-washed and not nearly as sustainable as represented, or should be, and that the air quality of the development will be the worst in the region because the site sits in a bowl crammed between the elevated grid-locked I-80 freeway and the railroad tracks.

BACKROOM SHENANIGANS WERE USED BY ASUCD TO ENDORSE THIS PROJECT

In addition to asking how this project’s features really benefit students, this article questions the wisdom and the rushed, almost secretive process by which this endorsement occurred to make it appear that the campus as a whole supported the project.

In reality, the ASUCD Senate urgently introduced and rapidly passed Senate Resolution #13 unanimously without any outreach to the student body.

While student input on such massive developments such as Nishi is crucial, but completely lacking in this case, it is also clear that there was not even any informed discussion addressing both the pros and cons of the development. Instead, the ASUCD only heard developer-driven talking-point arguments.  When asked to speak about the opposition to the project, there was no detailed information presented, but instead it was only stated “there are people who are no-growthers,” clearly aiming to characterize opponents as selfish NIMBYs.

Important questions were raised by Gender and Sexualities Commission Chair Ivon Garcia specifically regarding whether the development was going to be really affordable for students. This was met with a response of “not having a lot of that information” (Tommy, line xi Senate Meeting Minutes 2/4/16), but that the “development is geared for students” and they have been “keeping in mind the needs of the students” (Hiba, line viii Senate Meeting Minutes 2/4/16).

Let’s be clear, incredibly, the ASUCD Senate voted to endorse this project in early February, almost 2 full weeks before the final details of the project were worked out and approved by the City of Davis on 2/16/16. Has this ever happened before in the ASUCD? Unfortunately, it now appears that the rental units for the project will be completely priced out of range of all but the most well-to-do students.

It is apparent from the record that our Senate should have been more informed when this endorsement resolution was discussed and passed, It was clearly outside of the proper process for the Senate to urgently introduce and pass such a resolution for which they didn’t have adequate information. Because of this flawed process, I am also strongly against the ASUCD representing that the  student body as a whole supported this development so that now “Yes on A”  has featured this ASUCD endorsement prominently on their campaign literature, newspaper ads, and at public forums.

It appears the ASUCD has been used as a pawn by the developer to extract an endorsement of a project for which they did not have all of the necessary information and that that mostly benefits the developer with little to offer the student of average means.

THE TYPE OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING STUDENTS REALLY NEED

If the developers truly were keeping student interests in mind, they would really take a look at the true economic needs of the student population.

As stated on the UC Davis website “Student Profile,” 63% of Fall 2014 undergraduates were awarded family income-based grants and scholarships. Additionally, 41% of 2014/2015 undergraduates were designated low income by the federal government. On a city-level, the most up-to-date information from the City of Davis Affordable Housing Program website estimates 46% of all Davis households experienced some level of excessive housing-cost burden, and of these, 71.5%  were very-low income households. Does this appear to be a demographic that will be well served by expensive Nishi units that are huge and high-priced? I certainly don’t think so!  I could never afford to live there.

And what is even more disturbing to me is that the Nishi development provides no affordable housing set-aside units which have been required in every other large development in Davis . The Nishi development will only be providing more housing for upper income students or renters  who already have home security. What is being provided for the average student of limited means who is struggling stay in school and buy books, let alone pay for housing?

Whether or not it was illegal for the City of Davis to exempt the developers from the City’s Affordable Housing Ordinance  (currently under litigation), it is immoral to not responsibly serve the needs of all in our community. This development is showing the lack of city values in providing affordable housing by not investing in it. It furthers the commodification of the housing process and divides the markets by saying if you can afford it, you get it!  And if you can’t, too bad!

Furthermore, it is a joke to justify this by claiming the housing is “affordable by design,” as proponents of Measure A have claimed when I have questioned their lack of affordability. What does “affordable by design” actually mean, and who sets these standards?  The developers say 176 of the 440 total units (40%) are 850 square feet or smaller. But it is also true that 264 of the 440 units (60%) are greater than 1,100 sq. ft and going up to 1,600 sq. ft!  These apartments are larger than a lot of the houses in Davis.

And not only are these apartments large but they are going to be expensive! According to an independent study commissioned by the City of Davis, average rent for a 1,100 sq. ft, 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment will be over $2,400/month. That’s hardly what I would call “affordable by design” for the average student.

You may refute this by saying, “But Nishi has promised to contribute $1 million dollars in donation to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund!”  Well whoopee!  If the developers were, instead, required to pay the full equivalent in-lieu fees, they would have to pay $11,550,000 ($75,000/unit x 154 units). I agree with the “No on Nishi” campaign that this is a blatant give-away to the developer. And even more so, because that donation to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund will only be paid proportionately when each of the parcels (residential AND commercial) are actually occupied. That means that no money will actually begin to be seen for at least five years and some may never materialize. Students deserve a better promise of affordable housing.

While this development does add much needed beds to the Davis housing stock to accommodate the growth in UCD’s student population, the University’s recent dramatic shift in emphasis in its draft Long-Range Development Plan proposes to provides 90% of new students and Staff with on-campus housing. Thus there is not the urgent need to take whatever a developer offers Davis. If the ASUCD endorses a project like this, they should demand a project that really fits our students’ needs. For instance, because the property is not on University land, there is simply no way to guarantee these units will go to students. For all we know these expensive units will fill up those commuting to Sacramento or the Bay Area every day. Great for the developer  who can charge Bay Area-like rents…not so good for students looking for affordable housing.

NISHI IS GREEN-WASHED AND NOT NEARLY AS SUSTAINABLE AS PROMISED

In terms of environmental sustainability, this development also falls short. The Environmental Impact Report, as required by California law, highlights “significant and unavoidable” air quality impacts even with mitigation. Its location is sandwiched between the freeway and railroad tracks which puts residents at high risk for poor air quality, especially from particulate air pollution from diesel trucks which is listed as one of California’s worst contaminants in terms of harmful health impacts. This makes it unsafe for residents according to Dr. Ton Cahill, who is Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Science at UC Davis and an acknowledged expert on San Joaquin Valley human health impacts from air pollution. I realize that the developer is touting an urban forest buffer designed to filter the air. But, this buffer is only going to be 50 ft wide and who knows how long it will take to establish the buffer or how much pollution it will actually filter from the air because there is no quantifiable data. It is a complete guess that this will remove any significant pollution for decades until the tree growth and canopy are fully established.

What is even more disturbing is that this Environmental Impact Report has no legal bearings– it is simply a disclosure document. It is up to the public to hold the developer accountable for its findings. Even with its purported sustainable technologies, there is no plan set in place to help educate residents on living sustainably and using its sustainable features. I think there is a high probability that this development will just turn into another West Village with unaffordable units and higher than projected energy and auto use, virtually destroying its intentions of being a zero net energy community.

In fact, the project’s Environmental Impact Report states that even with mitigation, the project will still produce over 24,000,000 lbs per year of greenhouse gases. This is hardly what I call a model of sustainability. And the developer has even managed to turn the large photovoltaic system planned for the site to his advantage. Originally it was stated that the solar energy output would be used to offset energy usage by students (like at West Villages) thus lowering student costs to live there. Now I find out that the developer is selling the solar electricity and pocketing the money so the student renters do not receive any of the benefit of the solar energy system.  What’s up with that?  Seems like it was a “bait and switch” to me.

We need to find housing solutions that meet the simple needs of average students and  not the wealthiest among us. I want to see responsible development that focuses on sustainability in social, economic, and environmental realms. I want Davis to be a model for change in California and the greater United States, as it has been with previous developments.  The Nishi project does not come close to meeting these goals but instead relies on slick advertising and paid student minions to spread its false gospel.

With this, I ask you to join me in voting No on Measure A to demand a more  fair and greener future for Davis.

Students can learn more at NoOnNishi.com and Facebook.com/NoOnNishiDavis/. The website has the hard data while the Facebook link is the more light-hearted discussion.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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95 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: Was the ASUCD Used by the Nishi Developers?”

  1. ryankelly

    I am perplexed why a student would oppose the building of new housing in Davis.  Does the author not understand that there is no do over here, no redesign, no later vote?  It’s this project or non-irrigated ag land. Pick one.

    1. Fred

      Just go on campus and look – some people have even put up No on A signs even though they can’t vote. There are tons of students that oppose this. After having to deal with Katehi, you know a bad deal when we see it.

      1. ryankelly

        Doesn’t explain why they would oppose the building of new housing in Davis.  I guess they support people living in Woodland, Dixon and Sacramento and commuting to school every day.

  2. Rob White

    Admittedly, I don’t know Skylar Johnson… but the writing style and major points of this article seem strangely familiar… almost as if Alan or Eileen may have ghost-written this. I’m not opposed to them doing so (if they did), but to use a student as your messenger would seem pretty basic to me.

    In fact, as I compare this article to the NO on Nishi propaganda, it appears that this article almost tracks exactly with the ballot arguments. Now why would a student do that?

    I was interested to read about the intrigue of potentially rushing to the vote at ASUCD, but then I also briefed through the actual minutes and realized that this article lifts quotes out of context. And one fact left our is that it was sitting ASUCD senators that wanted to hear the project on February 4th and encouraged the discussion then so that their views could be part of the City Council meeting record on February 11th.

    As someone involved in several community-based orgs, I can attest that this happens pretty often because we want to have a voice in the City Council hearings and the timeline is short.

    Anyway, take it for what it’s worth…

    1. Alan Pryor

      In fact, as I compare this article to the NO on Nishi propaganda, it appears that this article almost tracks exactly with the ballot arguments. Now why would a student do that?

      In fact, as I compare the propaganda of DavisforNishiGateway’s posts below, it appears that those posts almost tracks exactly with the Yes on Nishi ballot arguments. Now why would a student do that?

        1. South of Davis

          The Pugilist wrote:

          > Stick to the arguments or the facts as you put

          > them – they’re on your side.

          I know for a FACT that BOTH sides of the Measure A campaign have paid students…

        2. Michael Harrington

          SOD:  please don’t criticize these Yes on A student workers.  They seem to be bright, hard working, and just doing their jobs with cheer and good spirit.  Working for some good cash, fun, and a resume line.  All good.

    2. Frankly

      Thinking the same thing Rob.  This does not sound like the original thoughts and opinions of a UCD student except those that are a mouthpiece … for the … people that come out against almost any type of housing growth and economic development that threatens to change their privileged lifestyle.  But then again, a lot of these students will certainly be out today at 5 PM at the Bernie Sanders rally (by the way folks, don’t plan to drive down Russel Blvd today after about 4 PM.) so it is apparent that UCD students don’t always support the politics that are in their best interests.

      [moderator] edited. Please review and adhere to the Vanguard Comment Policy, specifically:

      Pejorative references to any general class of people are strongly discouraged. The Editorial Board asks commenters to understand that general insults discourage the participation of others. They contribute to a negative tone and strongly suggest disrespect for the views of others. In some cases, general insults oversimplify the positions of others, which is detrimental to informed and respectful debate. General insults that are provocative are especially discouraged.

    3. Alan Pryor

       

      Admittedly, I don’t know Skylar Johnson… but the writing style and major points of this article seem strangely familiar…almost as if Alan or Eileen may have ghost-written this

      I would suggest that the similarity is because Ms. Johnson uses a writing technique employed both by Ms. Samitz and myself. It’s called “facts”.
       

       

      1. South of Davis

        Alan wrote:

        > It’s called “facts”

        How do you (and Skylar) know for a “fact” that the two bedroom units will rent for $2,400/month?

        Is a “backroom shenanigan” now defined as any vote at UCD that does not have the blessing of the Gender and Sexualities Commission Chair?

  3. Jim Leonard

    To ryankelley:

    Why are you an expert on whether develop will or won’t take place on this piece of land if Measure A doesn’t pass. Who are you? Please present your credentials. As for me, if Measure A loses, I see the possibility of the university buying and developing the Nishi land. It’s an appropriate site for U.C.D. with it proximity to the core campus, even as it’s an inappropriate site, with its massive traffic jam generating potential on Richards Blvd.

        1. ryankelly

          But what about the “toxic soup” and the lack of affordable housing, and Skylar’s assertion that tenants should benefit financially from having solar energy systems installed?

    1. Matt Williams

      Jim, all of us are speculating when projecting what will happen after the votes are counted.

      For what it is worth, my personal speculation is that the 2020 renewal of Measure R/J comes into play if the Measure A vote ends up being a “No.”  I would expect the Nishi developer to put any redesign/reconfiguration of the Nishi site on hold until the outcome of that 2020 vote on the future of Measure R/J has been determined.  If the Davis voters decide not to renew Measure R/J then the developer will no longer have to go out to a vote of the Davis citizens in order to get approval.  They will find themselves in a situation similar to the one ConAgra faced vis-a-vis the Cannery, where all they need is 3 votes from the Council.  Killing the Measure R/J extension is, in my opinion, the next step for the Nishi developers if the Measure A vote is “No.”  Additionally, I believe they will have a lot of allies in that fight.

      JMHO

       

      1. Michael Harrington

        Matt: so the sky will fall on the J/R era if poor Nishi goes  down ?  Now I’ve heard it all!

        John Whitcomb’s first project was Covell Village and we heard that the sky will fall and Davis will collapse refrain.  Same tune, same developers, different site.  Probably same result.  Voters say NO to a junky project and the town then redoubled its investments in the existing development and people who live here.

         

        Vote No on Nishi!

    1. Rob White

      Manipulation process? On what?

      Mike as you of all people are aware, I haven’t worked at the City of Davis for 12 months now, and I was moved to the side of the discussions as far back as April 2015. So I guess I couldn’t logistically be involved in whatever “manipulations” you are insinuating… but I suspect you know that.

      This really just tracks with all of the No campaign’s daily prestidigitation when it comes to facts, following the rules (like with sign placement), or sticking with issues instead of attacking people.

      This was demonstrated today by the magical removal of all of the comments I made on the ‘No on Nishi’ Facebook page this morning… all gone. Presto! Like magic. I suspect the comments were a little to close to the truth to let them stand on the page, you know dealing with facts and all… and we wouldn’t want to let those 250 people that liked the page see what I had to say.

      I guess this is also as good a time as any to send an open response to Colin Walsh who responded to one of my comments on Facebook before they were deleted… He said I should:

      1) Disclose my financial interest in the Nishi Development = As I have said several times (and was reported in the Vanguard), I am employed by Sierra Energy and garner a salary, but I reap no equity position if Nishi passes… already noted, so not a secret. And even if the measure doesn’t pass, I have plenty of things to work on for Sierra Energy (on a global level), so I am coming from the view of someone who probably has the simplest of motivations.

      2) I don’t live in Davis = Again, true. But I do work here. And if I had a place to live that adhered to sustainability principles of compact/dense development in walking distance of work and downtown, like the Nishi Gateway project, then I could live here!

      3) I can’t vote on Measure A = Yes, true. And this makes it all the more valuable to be engaged… because no business person that comes to Davis each day can vote, but we will all still pay the same taxes/fees for property, use, retail sales, hotel occupancy, and permits. So that is like the ultimate taxation without representation! Thanks for bring it up!

      (Of course I would have responded directly to Colin Walsh, but again, my Facebook post was removed from the No site and Colin didn’t leave me an email address… but I am sure that Mike Harrington or Alan Pryor will make sure he gets this!)

      SO… YES ON MEASURE A! 🙂

      1. Michael Harrington

        There are several hard working youngsters working on the web site and FB pages.  Look at them:  no on over 25 could think of those crazy creative ways to take serious issues and poke fun at the other side!  No idea which one would edit.  Our policy is everyone has fun and facilitates the conversations!

        The Yes folks (young and old) are welcome at our election night party.  430 D St.  Hey, it’s a small town and let’s get along?   (Alan Pryor and Eileen were on the opposite side on the water project, and now we work together.  All good.)

        Rob:  working for Sierra Energy?? A major contractor and tenant with Nishi?  CONFLICTED.  You are IN THE MONEY if it passes.  Why’d this Colin guy have to out you on that? Should have been in your disclosures. Maybe I just missed it.

  4. Topcat

    We need to find housing solutions that meet the simple needs of average students and  not the wealthiest among us. I want to see responsible development that focuses on sustainability in social, economic, and environmental realms.

    Yes, we need to see UCD move to redevelop the Orchard Park site, build a lot more housing in West Village, and redevelop the Solano Park site.  Perhaps ASUCD should be pushing a lot harder for these options.

  5. DavisforNishiGateway

    This piece from the No side is once again misleading and full of erroneous statements. While the author of this piece has asserts that there is a conspiracy afoot, the truth of the matter is that Nishi was endorsed by ASUCD by adhering to the rules and undergoing the same process that any organization would undergo.

    The Nishi Campaign approached ASUCD to submit a resolution for their support for Nishi. This is a procedure any organization can initiate. We then presented to the External Affairs Committee which approved our resolution unanimously after a question and answer session with some of our campaign staff members. After this committee had approved our resolution, we were approached by the Vice President of ASUCD, Gareth Smythe, who told us that we could make our resolution urgent and have it go before ASUCD sooner instead of having to go through the Environmental Policy and Planning Commission of ASUCD first (really second of three possible bodies in this process). This was done precisely because Mr. Smythe wanted students had a voice and so that ASUCD could signal their support or opposition to the resolution before the City Council made the decision to put Nishi on the ballot in June or not. What’s more, the Senate voted whether or not to hear our resolution, and they voted yes.  This allowed ASUCD, who represents the students, to offer their input. There is no reasonable or plausible way to claim that there was no “student input.” We went through a vetting committee and were heard by the elected student representatives. I don’t know what the author of this piece wants. A campus-wide plebiscite?

    What’s more the process was neither “rushed” nor “almost secretive.” We presented to the External Affairs Committee and then presented to ASUCD following procedure. These were public forums. If the author didn’t bother to attend them, that doesn’t mean the process was anything but transparent. In fact, I would argue that is precisely why representative government exists–because the entire student body can’t be expected to go to every public meeting of ASUCD and its subcommittees.

    The author of this piece also erroneously claims “that there was no detailed information” presented regarding the project’s opposition. If the author had bothered to look at the meeting’s minutes, however, they would have seen that our campaign did bring up the concerns about traffic and air quality which were circulating in this comments section at the time. After presenting the concerns, we talked about the improvements to Richards which were identified in the EIR as well as the substantial mitigation measures the project is undertaking with regards to air quality. We also discussed the project’s affordability while mentioning the $1 million dollars the project will contribute to the City’s Affordable Housing Fund in addition to features that make Nishi more affordable; these include its energy efficient design to reduce utility bills and the fact that students can live car-free by easily biking and walking to downtown or campus.

    The author says that they are against ASUCD representing the student body. Unfortunately, that is precisely why ASUCD was formed, and is the underpinning of representative democracy. Just because you disagree with the result doesn’t give you the right to impugn the process. The fact of the matter is that the Nishi Campaign followed the rules and went through the correct process of receiving the endorsement of ASUCD–in an 11-1-0 vote. There is no conspiracy here, despite the theory that is being posited in this article.

    Along with the usual litany of misleading and erroneous claims the opposition likes to throw out, the author claims that Nishi has “little to offer the student of average means.” I don’t know what defines a student of average means, but the fact is that students will be able to split a double at Nishi for $450 per month. That is affordable to the vast majority of students. Given that there is a 0.2% vacancy rate–one of the lowest in the nation–Nishi helps alleviate the already strained rental housing market in Davis which is set to experience even more pressure as UC Davis adds more students and employees for which it cannot provide enough housing. Nishi also creates more than 1500 jobs across the knowledge and skills spectra. These are good things for students.

    1. Alan Pryor

      We also discussed the project’s affordability while mentioning the $1 million dollars the project will contribute to the City’s Affordable Housing Fund

      DavisforNishiGateway claimed that the $1,000,000 donation to the City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund was mentioned to the ASUCD when they met on February 4th. However, that $1,000,000 figure was not even discussed at Council until February 16 at Council, 12 days after this exchange supposedly took place at ASUCD.

      Unless DavisforNishiGateway is a time-traveler, this is a misrepresentaion of what was said at the meeting.

      1. Frankly

        Mr. Pryor – Do you live downtown in the core or near core area?

        I think the “failed extortion of affordable housing dollars from the developer” argument is a proxy platform for your general no-growth group membership.

        First, the developer has agreed to contribute more money to roadway and infrastructure improvements that will drastically improve bicycle and pedestrian safety through the Richards corridor.  Why do you ignore that trade-off of community benefit?

        Second, primarily because of the No-Grower group you appear to have membership in, and the other group that tends to elect politicians that do things like kill RDA to give away more money to their teacher union benefactors, there is no way to actually build any truly affordable housing in this city other than to just increase the supply of housing… something that Nishi does.  I think you must know this.

    2. Michael Harrington

      How unsurprising:  attack the poor student who had the spine to stand up and offer insight into the gross manipulation of ASUCD

      How normal for the privileged super rich families behind Covell Village and now Nishi

       

      1. Rob White

        Hi Mike… I feel like today we can just have a back and forth exchange, since you seem to be slinging some really outlandish ones today.

        I question the article’s actual author (which I will note, none of the No campaign have denied, yet). This is not an attack on Skylar. But it does question who is behind the comments. If these are Skylar’s original thoughts (and again, she has not claimed them to be), she can easily come on and state so.

        Ghost-writing is not new… You should know this first hand, right Mike? Like you did for your ‘expert witnesses’ when you sued the city over water rates? Ring a bell? 🙂

        1. ryankelly

          Odin, These weren’t original thoughts.  The writing is straight out of No on A literature.  She seems to have worked her way through a set of talking points and likely had someone from the campaign edit it for her.

        2. Odin

          My god, are all the Yes folks (mean)?  Where do you think all the Yes people get their info?  Your saying all the Yes folks did extensive research, attended forums, were involved in the planning process and all us No folks just got our info off No literature?  Think before you type next time and give credit to this student who didn’t know she was wasting her time posting an article on here .

      2. Tia Will

        Michael

        attack the poor student who had the spine to stand up and offer insight”

        I did not see any attack on the student unless you consider an accusation of lack of originality as an attack. There was a refutation of the accuracy and validity of the comments and the interpretation that Skylar expressed concerning the process. However, the “attack” was not on the individual student but rather on the ideas being expressed. I believe that this is fair game in an open conversation.

         

  6. Topcat

    I’ve had three groups of students coming by campaigning for measure A.  When the third group came by I told them it looked too much like big money from the developers pushing the project because they stand to reap a huge profit.  I told them that if any more students came by campaigning, that I would vote “No” for sure.

    1. ryankelly

      Well, that’s about as logical as Dunning’s tactic of weighing campaign material to guide his support/non-support, but everyone has their own strategy for how they vote.

  7. Jim Leonard

    The student, Skylar Johnson, most interesting point has to do with the P.R., politics, and the basic dishonesty of the Measure A team.

    The would-be Nishi developers have employed outside mercenaries (the P.R. group out of Sacramento), intimidated shop owners throughout the downtown into either supporting the project or keeping silent, and have outspent the opposition by 17 to 1. Skylar also shows the developers’ unethical manipulation of the ASUCD senate for the sake of making an impression rather than promoting a discussion which could have gone either way were the subject presented in an open and honest manner.

    If the developers of Nishi really had consciences, they would now feel ashamed and guilty about what they have put Davis through with this nasty Nishi “process”. I suspect, however, that they don’t have consciences and believe it’s OK to do whatever it takes to win–such as smear good people’s names, intimidate and seduce people into either supporting the project or remaining silent about their true feelings, put many signs in the public right of ways illegally, and have their salespeople make false statements to illicit support.

    Unfortunately, what the Nishi developers have done to Davis politics, even if Measure A loses, likely sets a trend. Where open, community minded, discussion should be taking place, instead, fear driven, intimidation laden, and money managed will take its place.

    Shame on these morally corrupt developers. I doubt, however, they’ll understand what I’m here. Sad for them as well as us.

    1. DavisforNishiGateway

      Here we go with more unfounded aspersions and accusations being tossed around willy-nilly. Nishi has been endorsed by more than 1,000 Davis businesses and voters. We have pursued an extensive community outreach program to showcase the broad community support for a project that brings much-needed jobs, R&D space, student housing, and monies for infrastructure, DJUSD, and the City’s budget. We are proud of the our network of supporters that runs throughout the community. This is further reflected in the fact that Nishi was unanimously approved by the City Council, and every candidate running for City Council has endorsed Nishi. No one was “intimidated” into supporting Nishi. As I explained earlier, Nishi received ASUCD’s endorsement after going through the proper process. How long will the No side continue to concoct these half-baked conspiracy theories and outright lies?

      1. Alan Pryor

        Nishi has been endorsed by more than 1,000 Davis businesses and voters

        But about half of those 1,000 supporters “endorsed” the project even before the details of the project were finalized – much as ASUCD did. I know a number of those supporters have privately confided in me that they do not now support the project because either they did not know of the lack of affordable housing or the extent of the give-aways to the developers by the City or they did not have the same sense of the traffic mess that will develop as they do now. But kudos to the Yes on A team for getting out there early and locking down as much support as possible even before the project details are finalized.

        1. Michael Harrington

          There are a heck of alot of silent NO voted out in the precincts

          I know specifically of one significant downtown business that had NO signs up then they were threatened and the property owner forced them to remove the signs. No names because I don’t want to embarrass anyone.  That owner can go rot and I will personally convey that message after June 7

        2. Rob White

          Great point, Alan! I guess that just means the project as a concept was already great… and then the details came out and the skeptics also endorsed. What a glorious world of free will and democracy we live in. People can actually make choices based on the facts in front of them… and sometimes its just a good idea that gets them on board! YES on Measure A!

        3. Rob White

          Mike, you are killing me! I am telling you… you gotta open a comedy show in Vegas. Second calling, perhaps?

          Using the fear tactic of “someone” and “I can’t reveal” holds no water. I learned  this from you… Remember, you wouldn’t take my word that there are businesses in Davis that need more room? And now they speak for themselves, and more are getting bolder each day.

          So please either produce the “people”, or just stop using the great “unseen” as a a scare tactic. It’s getting so Illuminati in here…

      2. Michael Harrington

        Too bad a significant number of those precious 1,000 endorsers are quietly voting NO.  And so are many of their friends and families.  Quietly.  It’s all over the commercial communities.  Put the stupid YES sign up, keep relations on the level with Whitcomb and Ruff, and then go slam them on the ballot.  Or actually, allow Yes Campaign to put the sign up.  Their hands get dirty, not the shop keeper.  Felt this in the No on X in November 2005, and it feels stronger now.  There is a NO wave coming on Tuesday.

        1. ryankelly

          Maybe it’s the other way around.  Could be that they are telling you that the Yes on A sign out in front means nothing because they don’t want to deal with you and this is the easiest way to end the conversation.

    2. Rob White

      Oh Jim, this is almost comical in the way it reads.

      Remember that parable about getting the log out of your own eye? I suggest its more like a redwood (old growth) at this point.

      As for facts, the “PR” firm you reference is actually staffed mostly by Davisites and/or those that have worked in Davis for some time. No mystery here, no hidden agenda. One of them is Daniel Parella (he said I could use his name), who is not only a Davis resident, but also ran for city council. Can’t get much more Davis than that.

      I would so love if the No group could just stop making things up… unless the facts you are purporting just don’t support your position, so you must instead are using innuendo and misdirection?

    3. Tia Will

      Jim Leonard

      intimidated shop owners throughout the downtown into either supporting the project or keeping silent”
      I have two questions for you.

      1) How would the developers go about intimidating shop owners throughout downtown ?

      2) Even if you can provide a proposed mechanism for this, what is your evidence that it has actually  occurred ?

  8. Tia Will

    “I could never afford to live there.”

    “And what is even more disturbing to me is that the Nishi development provides no affordable housing set-aside units which have been required in every other large development in Davis”

    I believe that these two statements summarize how most voters will think about any project. How much would I like living there and could I ever afford it ?  Unfortunately these view points are lacking in two respects. They fail to consider that others may not share the authors priorities and values as was exemplified by one of Dr. Cahill’s questions “Who would even want to live there”….to which my response was “I would if I did not already live in close proximity to downtown.”

    The second deficiency of these viewpoints is they do not consider the alternatives to the proposal. In this case the forced travel time and inherent dangers for those not able to find housing on or close to campus.

    This is a much more complicated issue than what “I” would prefer or can afford, and while these may be valid observations about the author’s status, should not be seen as free standing compelling arguments in my opinion.

  9. The Pugilist

    Speculating on who wrote this doesn’t seem to be that fruitful.  Better to debate the points made rather than who wrote it, it would seem.

  10. Frankly

    Skylar Johnson claims:

    When asked to speak about the opposition to the project, there was no detailed information presented, but instead it was only stated “there are people who are no-growthers,” clearly aiming to characterize opponents as selfish NIMBYs.

    Yet from the actual minutes of the meeting:

    Tommy: Accessibility was the biggest opposition. Also location. What they’ve done is put a lot of money to move the residences as far away from freeway and railroads as possible. Also, a very high-grade HAVAC systems.

    Tommy also addressed the affordable housing argument from the No people:

    Thomas: Would this affect the prices of houses?
    Tommy: Our hope is that if we can increase the supply, we won’t see rent increasing every year.

    So Skylar leaves things out in her criticism of Tommy for leaving things out.

    I think we can call that even.  Next up, did anyone lie?

    I can’t see any falsehood in the minutes of the ASUCD meeting related to this topic.  However, Skylar writes:

    NISHI IS GREEN-WASHED AND NOT NEARLY AS SUSTAINABLE AS PROMISED

    Well…

    The Nishi Gateway Innovation Center is ranked #1 in California in sustainability goals, winning prestigious statewide recognition for community-focused development.

    It dedicates more than 50% of the site to open space, solar energy, and food production.

    It exceeds 2013 Cal Green Tier 1 Standards by 30%.

    It advances a 4.9 megawatt solar energy facility, representing a $14.7 million investment in greenhouse gas reduction goals.

    It ensures that at least 85% of on-site energy consumption is generated from on-site solar energy facilities.

    It includes a 12 acre urban forest on the southwestern apex of the site, closest to the freeway.

    It includes a dense forest buffer and advanced air filtration systems that reduce 95% of air particulates…  that will be planted before the developers complete the required infrastructure improvements around Olive/Richards before construction.

    The Nishi Gateway would be the first development in Davis history to exceed our city’s Beyond Platinum Bicycle Action Plan.

    Seems like Skylar did lie.

  11. nameless

    Unfortunately, it now appears that the rental units for the project will be completely priced out of range of all but the most well-to-do students.

    This ridiculous claim completely undercuts the credibility of the author.  The projected rents for a 2 bedroom apartment are between $1,500 – $1,800 a month.  If 4 students share a 2 bedroom apt, which is quite normal in this town, each student would be paying between $375 and $450 a month in rent, which is quite manageable for most students.

    Secondly, why should any developer be expected to provide rents at below market rates?  Developers are not a charity, but a business.

     

    1. ryankelly

      There are landlords in town that are currently charging $750 per room with the only common area being the kitchen and one bathroom (after the living room was converted into a bedroom).  Paying $750 to get a room in a new space with a living room, dining area and kitchen is an improvement.

  12. ecotect

    The spin by the yes side indicates this article has touched a nerve.  The truth hurts.  It is an excellent article written with astute observations and questions.  The fact remains that Nishi is NOT an ideal project or location for habitation.  Building a 1700+ space parking lot is NOT moving into the new way.

    The blatant push to call cheap, non sustainable, business as usual construction “high end” is what appalling.  The author brings up a good point, that only the wealthy students will be able afford to live there.  Yet that is what is so mistaken in the development team’s thinking.

    People are much more aware of health issues.  Leading edge sustainability is about healthy air quality, views, operable windows, limited noise pollution, non-toxic building materials.  Savvy wealthy students are not going to choose to live, trapped between a major freeway and a crude oil & coal carrying train, with high power lines. The business premiss seems flawed.  Even the R&D scientists are not going to want to work there.

    When I asked a person running for city council if he would let his child or mother live there, he became very nervous, didn’t answer me and said it’s only for students who won’t live there very long.

    This whole issue is really about the leadership in Davis.  What is going on with the planning department?  Where is a master plan for future growth in Davis? Where is a commitment to sustainable, resilient planning?

    The Nishi sliver of land would be excellent for a sun-tracking solar array that moves with the sun.  This would allow the vegetation, water, and living beings there to remain.  This mega array could then be a community solar farm that is part of the portfolio for Davis Community Choice Aggregate.

    When all is said and done on this issue, I will be advocating for Davis to take the Living Community Challenge.

    1. nameless

      The author brings up a good point, that only the wealthy students will be able afford to live there.  Yet that is what is so mistaken in the development team’s thinking.

      This point by the “no” side keeps getting repeated, even tho it is blatantly false.  Refer to my previous post: “This ridiculous claim completely undercuts the credibility of the author.  The projected rents for a 2 bedroom apartment are between $1,500 – $1,800 a month.  If 4 students share a 2 bedroom apt, which is quite normal in this town, each student would be paying between $375 and $450 a month in rent, which is quite manageable for most students.

      I assume the “no” side is convinced that if they spread misinformation often enough, people will start to believe it.  This is the type of unsavory tactic that the “no” side has engaged in, which is completely inappropriate.

      If the “no” side wants to keep any credibility whatsoever, please explain how monthly rent of $375 is “unaffordable” for most students in this town, when in fact many, many students pay more than this for rent.

      1. South of Davis

        nameless wrote:

        > This point by the “no” side keeps getting repeated,

        > even tho it is blatantly false.

        I don’t care if Nishi is developed, and I just want to be fair.  Just like EVERY fancy new apartment complex Nishi rents will be higher than average (if it opened today the rents would be above the Yes sides $1,800/month, but below the No sides $2,400/month).  Also like EVERY fancy brand new apartment they would have a lot of rich kids that want to move in and like every landlord will fill the place with rich kids who don’t want to share a room and only if they need to would they lease any units to students that want to share rooms and split the rent.

         

      2. dlemongello

        The rent amounts are speculation from both sides.  2 BR split 4 ways is the only way it’s affordable if the rent range is close, but usually this amount buys your own room, NOT shared. I’ll give you this, most 2 BR units are lower total square footage, so unless the common areas are large in proportion, the BRs would be larger than most.

        The solar farm is the best idea I’ve heard.

      3. Matt Williams

        nameless said . . . ”

        This point by the “no” side keeps getting repeated, even tho it is blatantly false.  Refer to my previous post: “This ridiculous claim completely undercuts the credibility of the author.  The projected rents for a 2 bedroom apartment are between $1,500 – $1,800 a month.  If 4 students share a 2 bedroom apt, which is quite normal in this town, each student would be paying between $375 and $450 a month in rent, which is quite manageable for most students.

         
        nameless, the 2015 UC Davis Apartment Vacancy and Rental Rate Survey shows the following rents for Davis apartments.

        https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2015-vacancy-report.jpg

        That puts the $1,500 $1,800 a month range above the $1,462 weighted average for a 2 bedroom and well above the $925 low for a 2 bedroom. $925 divided by 4 yields a per person per month rent of $231.25, which is substantially more affordable than your $375 $450 per person per month projected at Nishi.  Even you will have to admit that is the case.
         

         

  13. ryankelly

    Skylar is just repeating the original arguments by the No on Nishi campaign.  It is as though she plagiarized heavily from a form letter or list of talking points, which is why the article sounds like Eileen Samitz wrote it.   A real article would address where we are currently in the campaign and appear to give her own opinion – what is important to her.  Possibly the cost of renting there is her issue, but she will never have an opportunity to do that while she is a student anyway.    Except for her serious allegations that the ASUCD violated parliamentary procedure in voting to endorse Measure A, there is nothing new here.

    I believe that ASUCD should take her allegations seriously and look into whether they did things correctly and answer Skylar’s accusations.  To do otherwise will mean that the No on A campaign is just using Skylar and ASUCD to attempt to discredit the Yes on A campaign and get people to vote No on A.

        1. hpierce

          Not best, but Unitrans routes serve both Pole Line and Covell… Covell Village had, as I recall, made a commitment to extend service to CV  (minor adjustment)… a several year subsidy… that, in and of itself was not a valid argument/justification for CV, but was a darn good mitigation, had the other elements been adequately addressed…

        2. ryankelly

          The things Nishi has going for it is its proximity to campus and downtown, the improvements to Richards Blvd and the tax benefits to schools and the City.

          Covell would have been much easier, but the same people who are opposing Nishi opposed Covell.  There is no good place to put housing for that crowd.

      1. Michael Harrington

        Covell Village is a better site.  Glad to agree with RyanKelly.  Nishi is by far the worst project I have ever seen in this town.  It’s far worse than any existing neighborhood, other than the old housing on East Olive Drive

    1. DavisforNishiGateway

      80% of trips to campus and downtown will be by biking or walking. Nishi will be the first project in history to exceed the Beyond Platinum Bicycle Action Plan in Davis. This is entirely due to its location.

    2. hpierce

      Put all of the existing Davis footprint in that category… most on prime ag, much on soils that are not fit for plants nor housing.  Perhaps we should raze the entire city to accomplish a “do-over”…

  14. skeptical

    The best place for student housing is on campus.  The next best place is as close to campus as possible.  Before housing is placed at Nishi, it needs to be fully vetted/mitigated by the community… not by city staff and developers.

      1. hpierce

        No… it is a vote of those who choose to vote, whether they have “vetted” it or not (implies thoughtful, informed consideration, by each voter, which is patently untrue), and whether or not they are a part of the community for 1-5 years, with no intention of remaining in the community, or have lived here as a choice for 40+ years (and plan to stay at least another 20…).  It is what it is, but it surely is NOT “fully vetted/mitigated by the community”.

         

    1. DavisforNishiGateway

      Nishi the culmination of eight years of planning and outreach to the community, the City, UC Davis, and hundreds of other stakeholders. Claiming or insinuating that the community was not involved is simply not true. There were years of meeting where the property owners solicited, incorporated, and resolved issues brought forth by community members. The result is a project that helps address some of the most pressing issues currently confronting Davis–student housing, R&D space for start-ups, more than 1500 jobs, and funding for DJUSD, the City budget, and transportation infrastructure.

  15. nameless

    skeptical: “Before housing is placed at Nishi, it needs to be fully vetted/mitigated by the community… not by city staff and developers.”

    What do you mean by “fully vetted/mitigated by the community”?  Are you trying to imply the city has not given citizens ample opportunity for input on Nishi?  If yes, how so?  Please note there is a phenomenon called “paralysis by analysis” that is used by no-growthers to kill any housing or economic development project. At what point are citizens to be held responsible for lack of participation in the process? Shall we hold up a project indefinitely until we have the opinion of every single citizen? Or how many citizens must weigh in to meet your threshold of “fully vetted”?

  16. Yes on A Fan

    How many of the dozens of public hearings has the author attended?  My guess is ZERO.  This is how the land-planning process is set up in Davis.  You can attend NO meetings and just launch or sue at the end;

  17. Tia Will

    nameless

    Please note there is a phenomenon called “paralysis by analysis” that is used by no-growthers to kill any housing or economic development project”

    I agree that this phrase exists. I am not sure that it is a real phenomenon. It seem to me that it is used most frequently be project proponents who are tired of hearing objects to a proposal and simply want to expedite it. Not all people process information at the same speed.

    Having said that, I do believe that eight years in the planning, and months of public debate including plenty of forums, articles, op-eds, tabling, posts ……have probably provided ample opportunity for “vetting” whether or not people have availed themselves of the opportunity.

    1. Mark West

      “I agree that this phrase exists. I am not sure that it is a real phenomenon.”

      Up until about a month or so ago, if you had ‘Googled’ the phrase, the top result would have been the picture of a local OB/GYN. They are now scrambling to find a replacement definition given the fact that said doctor now supports the Nishi development…

      1. Frankly

        Big LOL!

        Not all people process information at the same speed.

        Now come on.  We are talking about multi-month information sharing,  It isn’t the processing of information, it is just reluctance

  18. Marina Kalugin

    well DUH…..

    students are gullible and used routinely….like the union paid protestors causing havoc for Chancellor Katehi…..

    and who were reviving ancient (for students) history from 5 years ago….lemme see…..that pepper spray incident was 5 years ago…  and how old were some of the current student crop back then?

    12 or 13……   of course no one was “remembering” it….even students I knew very well attending UCD during the days of the pepper spray didn’t even know it happened…

    not kidding and not exaggerating……truly – many didn’t even notice it….they were studying and not on those areas of capmus…

    UCD had moved along…and many things are way better under Chancellor Katehi….

    PS>   do the folks here understand that the CX union contract, the RX and TX contracts are ending within months and that is when the unions become most active and try to take down good people.?….

    as well as support unneeded and overpriced and likely faulty projects…..just look at the principals on this project and compare to Woodbridge for example…

  19. nameless

    Tia Will: “I agree that this phrase exists. I am not sure that it is a real phenomenon. It seem to me that it is used most frequently be project proponents who are tired of hearing objects to a proposal and simply want to expedite it. Not all people process information at the same speed.

    Having said that, I do believe that eight years in the planning, and months of public debate including plenty of forums, articles, op-eds, tabling, posts ……have probably provided ample opportunity for “vetting” whether or not people have availed themselves of the opportunity.

    You are not sure the phenomenon of paralysis by analysis exists, but then concede Nishi has been 8 yrs in the planning?  Additionally, how many public meetings have you been to?  I know you have been to quite a few City Council meetings, but how many commission meetings, public forums?  Because if you had, you would have seen paralysis by analysis in full swing.  The typical tactic of no growthers and environmentalists is to stall the process.  See: http://www.dailybulletin.com/opinion/20160129/its-time-for-the-legislature-to-tackle-ceqa-reform-glenn-duncan

    From the article: “Fast-forward to 2016 and CEQA, while originally signed into law with good intentions, has morphed into a tool used by special interest groups to stall development — dramatically inhibiting our state’s rate of economic growth. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the law’s unintended consequences have greatly contributed to the weakening of California’s middle class, Sacramento has refused to implement meaningful and commonsense reform for reasons I will explain below.

    Here’s how a typical CEQA shakedown occurs. A special interest group decides they don’t like a development project for whatever reason. Rather than work through the established channels to make their voice heard and sway the opinion of the community’s leaders, they simply drown the developer in environmental lawsuits and paperwork, delaying projects and dramatically driving up costs.

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