Monday Morning Thoughts: Is a General Plan Update in the Works During This Next Council Session?

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Yesterday we noted in our preview article on incoming Mayor Robb Davis that there seems to be a push to have an update to the General Plan.  Robb Davis in fact becomes the third councilmember to publicly state support for a General Plan update, following support from Lucas Frerichs and Will Arnold during their council campaigns.

Robb Davis told the Vanguard that he wants to “put into place a clear process that we will use to update to the General Plan. This will include defining the scope of the General Plan update (parameters/areas that will be covered/areas that will not be covered), a clear time-frame and guidelines for community engagement.”

This does not have to be and should not be a major undertaking, he explained.  The push will be for infill and efficiency of space as well as considering climate change.

He explained, “I do not believe a multi-year process is feasible or needed and I would argue that the focus should be on how we can accomplish more efficient use of space in the city first and foremost.”

He added, “Secondarily, it should focus on updating our climate action efforts as they relate to housing and transportation.”

There is not clear agreement at this point on the form of a potential General Plan.  Will Arnold, in answering a question about the future of Davis, noted, “By not having an updated General Plan, we are at the whim of planning by exception. In the best case, we have an opportunity to embrace something that honors our community. At worst, it leads to division, supposition and acrimony.”

He continued, “We need a community where everyone is welcome to participate, and we cannot afford to backslide to the days of uncivil discourse and unproductive belligerence.”

Unlike Robb Davis, he supports a full new General Plan. “Beginning in the goal setting session of Fall 2016, I will propose a comprehensive course for a new General Plan. Not an update. Not an amendment.”

“I will propose that we broaden our engagement beyond the small group of activists and volunteers to which all reading this belong. For a new General Plan to be relied upon, it must reflect the needs of all who rely upon it,” he explained.  “With timely action, achievable metrics, and focused participants, this can be addressed with the immediacy it demands. A lengthy process is itself a disincentive to participate.”

He added, “Our goal is to create a new map, reflective of current realities, which does not simply protects us from pitfalls, but leads us somewhere we want to be.”

During his announcement, Lucas Frerichs said that one of the loftier issues he supports “is an updated General Plan. I think that the General Plan currently, there are aspects to it that are very strong and there are several elements within the General Plan, the transportation element, the housing element, that have (been) updated within just the last year or so… but overall the General Plan really serves as the blueprint for how the community wants to grow, or where it should grow, or if it should grow… I think it’s time for it to be updated.”

Lucas Frerichs told the Enterprise in an interview, “It is absolutely time for the city to update its General Plan.”

The Enterprise noted, “While drafting a new plan for city development would take significant amounts of time and money, Frerichs said the current plan, which was approved in 2001, has become outdated.  The current General Plan doesn’t include several changes to state law and should include new sections surrounding the city’s adaptation to climate change, he explained.  A new General Plan would create a strong foundation as the city truly moves into the 21st century, Frerichs said.”

The current citizen-based General Plan was approved in 2001 and updated in 2007.  The General Plan as updated was designed  to guide Davis’ growth through January 1, 2010.

In the intro it notes, “A general plan articulates a community’s vision of its long-term physical form and development. The general plan is comprehensive in scope and represents the city’s expression of quality of life and community values; it should include social and economic concerns, as well.”

This isn’t the first time the issue of the General Plan has come up during the ten years of coverage by the Vanguard.  Back in 2009, there was discussion about how the city would embark on a new General Plan.

At that time there was the belief that it would be a whole new General Plan.  But there was considerable difference on the council at that time as to how the council should proceed.  A huge issue was cost – during the height of the recession, a $1 to $3 million General Plan was seen as impractical.

In February 2009, Councilmembers Sue Greenwald and Lamar Heystek argued the need to hold off on any major changes.  Then-Mayor Pro Tem Don Saylor believed that this current General Plan no longer can guide us and we now need a new one. Others, such Mayor Ruth Asmundson and Councilmember Stephen Souza, seemed to want some sort of middle ground where there is some update, but on the cheap and perhaps not full blown.

At the time, the Vanguard’s analysis was that this effort to revamp the General Plan fell flat for two critical reasons.

While city staff wrote at the time, “Staff recommends that the Council determine what kind of a General Plan update is wanted/needed while being sensitive to the difficult budget conditions the City faces,” the price tag they put on the effort that would have been led by professional consultants ranged from $1 million to $4 million, with the expectation that a “typical cost” would be between $1.5 and $2.5 million.

Given the decline of the city’s economy at that time, that was a tall task and it would only get worse.  Ultimately, the cost was probably the chief reason that the process was dropped by the city.

But there is a secondary reason.  Many citizens who worked on the previous General Plan looked upon their work with pride.  It was a citizen-based General Plan.

However, the staff report denigrated that work.  While the strengths included the fact that it was comprehensive, addressed and contained “smart growth principles,” and was citizen-based, city staff criticized the previous General Plan as being long and unfocused.

They wrote, “The lengthy document of almost 400 pages and 1,000 goals, policies and standards is difficult to use and focus on overall themes, key issues and trade-offs. The connections between the plan’s general visions and principles and more specific implementing actions are not always clear. Policies related to sustainability are not well coordinated.”

Moreover, they added that it was “not clear in its guidance of how the community should evolve in the long term, particularly in terms of residential and non-residential growth.”

Bottom line, staff’s approach here offended many that worked hard on the previous plan and looked upon it with pride.

Former Councilmember Sue Greenwald would argue, “Personally I think there’s no reason to spend 1-2 million dollars that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel when the wheel that we already have is a Michelin. Yes, it would cost 1-3 million dollars to do a comprehensive General Plan. Sometimes discretion is the better form of valor.”

She added, “We have an extremely high quality advance General Plan, we don’t need a new General Plan right now. Our General Plan is what other cities are trying to do. When you hear other cities are doing a General Plan, they are trying to do one similar to the one that we have now.”

And cost was a critical factor, as well, she said.  “We can save 1 to 3 million dollars by re-adopting our current plan in essentially similar form. The Housing Element Update which is our legal requirement is good until 2013.”

Meanwhile, Don Saylor followed or perhaps directed staff’s criticism of the citizen-based General Plan.

“I think the General Plan is, as our staff has said, long and unfocused. It is not clear in its guidance. It does not provide for reliable projects for financial and infrastructure planning,” he said. “It requires us to have constitutional crisis over any project that comes before us. It has a lack of coordination with UC Davis plans and is not in sync with the state requirements, some of them are still shaping on climate change, water supply, environmental justice and other issues.”

In the end, the idea of a new General Plan at that time was ultimately scrapped.

But we are now seven years later, we are at a different time and a different place for the city.  Three seem to be three councilmembers at least who support the idea of some sort of new General Plan.

The problem I still see is that this community remains divided – in fact it may be more divided than it was in 2009 – on growth and so, while there are good reasons to think about a new General Plan, there is a lot of uncertainty about what a unified vision of Davis might look like, or if it is even possible to achieve.

—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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152 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts: Is a General Plan Update in the Works During This Next Council Session?”

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      On the cost issue there are many variables. Are you going to do an update or a full new plan? Are you going to do it in-house or hire a consultant? How much of a citizens-based process will we have? Cost can’t be answered in isolation from those factors. Three years ago I was told we could easily do it in house for far less, but I’m not sure we have the planning expertise in-house that we did then.

      1. Edison

        I’ve been involved in several general plan updates, including the Sacramento  County update completed several years ago.  From my experience, general plan updates are not accomplished quickly or cheaply. The expertise of a consulting firm is typically needed, which can be costly.  In addition, the City Council, as a “lead agency” pursuant to CEQA, cannot approve a general plan update without first completing a CEQA document that examines the potential effects of the plan.  This also usually requires separate, specialized consulting services–another added cost.  (It’s also been my observation at City Council meetings that not all of the Council members have an adequate–let alone thorough–understanding of CEQA requirements.) These are not necessarily arguments for or against a general plan update, but just a cautionary note that the potential impact on the City’s strained fiscal resources needs to be considered before embarking down this path.

  1. Fred

    Considering every member of the new council campaigned for Measure A, but Measure A had an even split in an election with a very large turnout, I worry that this council may not be in touch with the planning priorities of a large part of the Davis community, but at this point, I will keep an open mind. Any effort to move towards a new general plan process would need to have better support, and the process would need to have broad participation, perhaps even being adopted in a general election.

      1. The Pugilist

        The new general plan cannot add growth, but it can plan where we would want growth, how much, how quickly.  The current general plan is out of date and that forces every process to go through a general plan exception, which is not a very efficient process.

        1. Matt Williams

          The Pugilist said . . . “The current general plan is out of date and that forces every process to go through a general plan exception, which is not a very efficient process.”

          It is more than an efficiency issue.  In effect, in the current situation we have no formal, legal population expectations, and further there is virtually no consideration of how an individual General Plan Exception application/project affects the city/community as a whole.  The application/project is placed into its own isolated evaluation process and, more often than not, evaluated by a “checks in the boxes” methodology.

          That is much, much more than an efficiency challenge.

  2. Marina Kalugin

    If developers and realtors think the general plan needs an update, then they can pay for the cost.

    Don’t waste the money, and fix the damn problems that the current council majority has been approving….

    It will likely cost even way more than that, because many citizens are not happy with the decisions made so far.

    Stop wasting money on useless projects, like the water project and so on.

    There was no real need for that project either, if not pushed by developers since the “current wells” were not adequate for the fast growth including the Cannery.

    Dixon, on the other hand, just put in a new well to handle their new developments.

    Instead, the citizens and future residents are now on the hook for many times the cost of handling the issues and the developers of large developments, such as the Cannery, could and should have been asked to foot the bill for a new well.

    Instead, the Cannery got a $10 million “pass” and so it goes…

    And, we have to move out of town as the costs are too high for us soon to be retirees, and we are only on the second tier, correct?   out of 5?

    Any council member, who is in the development/real estate businesses, should recuse from such decisions as conflicts of interest.

    That includes the newest and youngest member of the “new council”.

    Also, I would appreciate seeing the lists of “donations” for all current council members…and people can then make their own inference from that data also.

     

    1. ryankelly

      Marina, the plan we have was to take us to 2010.   I don’t think you understand what a General Plan is.  It is our plan for our city – zoning, design, etc.  It is what we would like to see.  It guides City planning.  You have your own version of a general plan, which seems to be to move out of town, because Davis has become too expensive for you.  What if you had no plan and only went day by day with no direction and just had to live with the ever increasing cost of living in Davis?  Obviously, the General Plan is no longer working for you, so I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to consider a new plan for Davis.

  3. Tia Will

    “A general plan articulates a community’s vision of its long-term physical form and development. The general plan is comprehensive in scope and represents the city’s expression of quality of life and community values; it should include social and economic concerns, as well.” General Plan

    This does not have to be and should not be a major undertaking, he explained.  The push will be for infill and efficiency of space as well as climate change.” Robb Davis

    I am not clear on your meaning. There are several possibilities. Do you mean that you believe that the push should be for infill, efficiency of space and climate change ? Do you mean that your personal push will be for infill, efficiency of space as well as climate change.” ? Or do you mean that you believe that the community push will be to address only these three items ?

    If the latter, I believe that you may be underestimating the differences of priorities within the community. I for one would not limit my list of priorities to these three, but would place in my top list the health and wellness of our community members as the foundation of a thriving community. I am sure that many, many others who would like to participate would include different priorities in  their  “top” three.

  4. Ron

    Marina:  “If developers and realtors think the general plan needs an update, then they can pay for the cost.”

    Exactly what I was thinking.  Doesn’t the city already have enough financial challenges?  It seems that the effort derives (primarily) from those who want to accommodate more development.

     

    1. Adam Smith

      Doesn’t the city already have enough financial challenges?

      Davis has significant financial challenges that have the potential to cripple it unless we find ways to increase revenue, or significantly decrease expenses.      Economic development, for the right type of businesses, will increase revenue for the city.      We will also likely have to increase taxes.      While some will say they would rather simply increase taxes in amounts sufficient to cover the financial gaps, it seems unlikely that the majority of the population will support that.

      I do think the general plan is dated.  The resistance to peripheral development means that we will need to complete infill development and increase density.   I don’t believe the current general plan adequately contemplates such, and therefore requires  modifications from the planning commission and the city council.    Some, including you, have decried such requests for modifications, as  development without planning.     Therefore, an updated general plan will provide an opportunity for broad based community input.

      It’s not clear to me whether the appropriate changes require an update or a completely new plan.

       

    2. Matt Williams

      Marina and Ron, while I understand your logic, I personally believe that average citizens like you and me need a General Plan update much more than the developers and realtors do.  Under the provisions of California Law the current planning process (given the outdated nature of the specifics of the current General Plan), any land use application that could impact Davis’ population MUST be handled as a General Plan Exception (GPE).  The GPE process is the antithesis of open, transparent and inclusive.  It is also NOT planning.  What it is is tick-the-box application processing.  It is also the epitome of “make work” forcing relatively minor applications/proposals to complete a litany of bureaucratic steps associated with the State regulations regarding GPEs.

      As a result, average citizens like you and me are regularly blindsided by meetings with short notice to all the participants (Commission members and the public alike), which means the following bastardized description “Failure to plan on your part regularly creates an emergency on my part.

      One of the key reasons for this kind of siloed approach is that under State of California Law (§65358) with some limited exceptions, “local governments may not amend any one of the mandatory elements of the general plan more than four times in one calendar year.”  The practical reality of that constraint is that all the various land use applications submitted to the City are competing with one another for one of those four annual general plan amendments.  In that environment, individual applicants do not want to see their siloed application held captive to the activities that are happening in another different silo … and they want to get their silo to the finish line ahead of all the other silos competing for one of the four annual amendments.

      ———

      I believe there are a number of short term and longer term steps that the City can implement to address this significant transparency, openness and inclusiveness problem.  Those steps are

      Short Term steps

      (1) In the short-term Council should pass an Ordinance amending the population cap in the General Plan (currently 64,000) to a value slightly above the official population (65,622 in the 2010 Census). Adjusting General Plan Policy LU 1.1.e so that the General Plan is in compliance would mean our Department of Community Development & Sustainability could actually do some planning with the whole community in mind, rather than simply processing individual applications.  Smaller infill projects would be much more efficiently and effectively handled in an open, transparent, inclusive ministerial process rather than as General Plan Exceptions.

      (2) Work to change the planning process so that it promotes proactive thinking rather than reactive thinking.  Sustainable Planning means we balance four key components, Social Sustainability, Economic/Financial Sustainability, Environmental Sustainability and Cultural Sustainability.   Engage those four components with reliable, transparent, repeatable processes that engage the public, set clear expectations and then deliver on those expectations.

      (3) Expand the 3-day (72 hour) notice period for public meetings mandated by the Brown Act to 10 days (240 hours) to ensure more open, transparent and inclusive processes.  Staff Report material would be made available in full at the time of the meeting notice.

      (4) Establish process standards for CEQA determinations, with, at a minimum, a focused EIR on any CEQA process that uses an outside expert/consultant to review a component of the environmental impact of the proposed project.

      (5) Establish process standards whereby all zoning variance requests must be declared at the time the project pre-application is filed.  A public hearing on the declared zoning variance must be convened to get city-wide input regarding whether the zoning variance is in the best interests of the community.

      Longer Term steps

      (1) We have to assess the current status of our General Plan. My belief is that approximately 90% of our current citizen-based General Plan is still just as good as it was when it was adopted.  The remaining 10% of the General Plan is causing 100% of our planning process problems, and there is no reason to tamper with the parts of the current General Plan that are still working well.  We don’t need a “from scratch” citizens effort to recreate what is already good. We do need an inclusive citizen-driven update of the portions of the Plan that are not working well.  That starts by decide how the various parts of the current Plan fall into the two categories … working or not working. Having an independent expert take a first pass at that categorization, and then share his/her assessment with the Davis community for discussion, adjustment and ratification will put us on the fast track to having the citizens weigh in on how the out-of-date portions should be updated … inclusively, transparently and openly.

      I believe the greatest threat to achieving any agreed upon Vision for Davis is the current shortage of reliable, transparent, repeatable public processes that engage the public, set clear expectations and then deliver on those expectations.  In the short term we face a situation where in our current Planning By Exception environment (which is really not planning at all, but rather only application processing) our processes are not consistently reliable or repeatable, and to the typical Davis resident are not transparent.  To fix that, we need to start by engaging the public, setting clear expectations and then delivering on those expectations.  Further, public engagement is the foundation step of the exploration of what “Fighting for a Sustainable, Resilient Davis 2030-2040-2050” actually means.

  5. Tia Will

    Ron

    It seems that the effort derives from those who want to accommodate more development.”

    It may be that this is the derivation, but there are those of us who favor at least revision in order to gain more transparency and and perhaps work towards a more collaborative rather than adversarial community development process.

    1. Ron

      Tia:

      I thought more about your point from yesterday.

      I’m not convinced that we need changes, even if the process “seems” more collaborative.  I suspect that this is being pushed by those who think that more development is needed.

      If not more development, what other “problem” are they trying to address?

      1. Tia Will

        Ron

        I am sorry that I was not clear. I think that the objections that I have to the current process are articulated better by Matt Williams in his post of 11:02 than I have ever managed.

         

  6. Barack Palin

    Is anyone else feeling that this push to update the general plan might be a result of the council not being happy with recent development setbacks so now it’s time to change the rules?

    1. Ron

      B.P.:  Is anyone else feeling that this push to update the general plan might be a result of the council not being happy with recent development setbacks so now it’s time to change the rules?

      How wonderfully cynical!  🙂

       

      1. Robb Davis

        I guess I don’t consider this level of cynicism wonderful.  I have been asking for a GP update since the earliest days of my time on the CC because I saw that decision after decision related to land use required exceptions to the GP.  For me, when nearly every decision requires a GP amendment (exception), that indicates that the GP is not meeting our needs.

        So, this has nothing to do with the recent setbacks.  Absolutely zero.

        We face difficult choices about housing and commercial development.  I ran stating a clear conviction that we should focus on infill for new housing, look to provide more multi-family housing, and only carefully expand the borders for very specific ends because we need to protect the natural resource of farmland around us.

        One of the things we could do with a GP update is to define more clearly what we will and will not tolerate with infill and put the neighborhood infill guidelines (which have never been finalized) into the GP.  As the article states, certain elements, notably transportation, have received recent updates and are very solid.  We do not need an update to them.  I noted to David in my responses that I personally feel (just my single opinion) that including our CAAP goals in the GP is appropriate because they are linked to housing, commercial development and transportation.

        No “interests” that I am aware of are pushing for a GP update.  I believe it needs to be done for the reasons stated.  It is very true that our community remains divided on many issues and so I am not sure a full consensus can be reached.  The question is whether we can find ground for compromise to deal with the very real challenges we face around housing in particular.

        1. Ron

          Robb Davis:  “For me, when nearly every decision requires a GP amendment (exception), that indicates that the GP is not meeting our needs.”

          For me, this indicates that the council is not willing to use the word “no” (regarding drastic changes to existing zoning/planning), often enough.  (Unless one’s primary goal is to meet market demand.)

          We have zoning, and a plan.  The primary reason to change it is to accommodate more development than what’s currently allowed.  The “cynicism” arises because the council keeps entertaining drastic changes (e.g., housing at MRIC, a massive rent-by-the-room “dormitory”, far from campus) despite significant opposition. (You’ve already seen how that tears the community apart.)

          Not saying that changes are (sometimes) needed.  But, I suspect that far more changes will be made, than are warranted.

        2. Robb Davis

          Ron:

          Not saying that changes are (sometimes) needed.  But, I suspect that far more changes will be made, than are warranted.

          This statement encapsulates the challenge we on CC face.  What is “warranted change” and how does a CC assess it?  I would argue that the tolerance for change is a “hyper-local” affair.  Case in point: In the Paso Fino discussion there was pushback to allow 6 units to go into the site.  A member of the neighborhood said: we should push the University to build out more aggressively in West Davis.  My response was: Have you talked to your neighbors in West Davis about that plan?

          The point is, there IS a tolerance for infill and allowing projects to go forward to address housing.  The rub is, where?  Recently some community members opposing the Sterling Apartment proposal stated it is a good and necessary project, but that it should be built somewhere else.  The question is “where is any development appropriate?”  This question is not about development qua development but development that addresses critical issues in the community.  For me, as has been the case since I launched my campaign, housing is one of the biggest challenges we and our region face.  It is also among the most contentious.

        3. Ron

          Robb:

          Although I suspect that you are far more accommodating of development than I would prefer, your responses are generally thoughtful.

          Regarding Paso Fino, it seems like this was resolved, successfully.  (After a lot of effort/opposition to the initial plan, from neighbors.)  To be frank, it seemed that it took too much effort for the city to do preserve the existing greenbelt (and to stick with something closer to the original plan, regarding the number of units).  (In other words, to leave things that are fine, alone.)

          I strongly agree that unwanted development should not be “pushed” to other neighborhoods.  (I would not advocate this.)  However, I understand that in the case of Sterling, Rochelle has already eliminated one of the “alternative/comparison” locations (on campus) for the EIR.  I realize that there may be legitimate reasons for doing so.  She also essentially stated that there was no market for the existing facility. However, I have significant doubts regarding the process used to justify that statement. In any case, large dormitory-type structures belong on campus.

          I appreciate your previous (and planned) efforts to engage the University, to provide more housing for students (and perhaps staff/faculty?) on campus.

          As you go forward, please remember that existing zoning/planning does not always need “fixing”, and that the council can probably expect consequences/pushback each time that it attempts to do so.

           

        4. Ron

          Robb:

          Forgot to add:

          My understanding is that much of the concern regarding building on the western part of campus was resolved, by not connecting to Russell.  I also understand that there is more than one location to build housing, on the 5,000 acres that the University owns.

          Overall, building on campus has the fewest negative impacts on the city, and is far better and safer for students, as well.  (No commute through the city, etc.)

          Regarding Rochelle, I still do question her motive to eliminate one of the alternative locations (on campus) for the EIR (and replace it with an alternative in another city, outside of Davis). It seems that she’s out to “prove a point” that the only other alternative is outside of Davis (requiring a commute). (Note that the city has no direct control over either location. However, we do have an opportunity to further influence the University, as you’re attempting to do.)

           

        5. MAli

          Building on campus has a huge drawback. It is undemocratic as the people who occupy that housing don’t get to vote in city elections. The advocates of more campus housing are saying that we should build housing where the residents are not allowed to participate in the decision making of the city. There may be financial arguments for or against campus housing but the arguments for housing on campus are truly anti-democratic when it comes to the governance of the city and participation in Measure R votes.

        6. Ron

          Mali:

          Not sure why you think that those who live on campus (and don’t receive or pay for city services) should be voting on city issues.  (Those on campus can still vote, regarding non-city issues.)  Also, I understand that there are avenues available to students (to provide input to the University), that are (appropriately) not available to city residents.

          Seems like a pretty weak argument, to state that housing on campus shouldn’t be built for the reason you’ve presented.  (Seems like an argument that a developer might make.)

    2. Fred

      No doubt about it, there is a trust gap. Had I been the reporter interviewing Mayor Davis for the story yesterday, that is certainly something I would have asked Davis’s mayor Davis about. Perhaps it was and it just didn’t make the cut for yesterdays story and David will share it with us today.

      While I am optimistic for Mayor Davis, he and the new council have a particular trust problem when it comes to new development after the measure A vote showed how the new council was out of sync with the Davis community before the new council even started. They can overcome it though if they work hard to bring in other voices and really listen to the community. I would like to be optimistic.

      1. Robb Davis

        Ask your trust question Fred.  I will try to answer at some point today.  I am intrigued that you say we are “out of sync” when about half of the voters supported Measure A.  Do we have a divided community on these matters?  Yes.  Is there a way to bring everyone to a full alignment on these matters?  I doubt it.  Can we craft compromises that work for the community, meet critical needs and deal with concerns?  I think so.

        In particular, I would be happy to discuss my views on the Nishi process, walk people through the approach we took, and then ask what should have been done differently.  I have my own views on that process but continue to hear some voices of discontent.  I would like to understand them better.

        1. Barack Palin

          51% of the community voted against Nishi.

          100% of the council voted for Nishi

          Yes, one could say the council is somewhat out of sync with the community.

          I say this as someone who voted yes on Nishi.

        2. Nancy Price

          When the City Council tries to ram Trackside into Old East Davis and Sterling is given a pass on the EIR and. then, you’re right….there is a trust problem.  The fact that the affordably housing requirement for Nishi, as just one example, was waived with little discussion…then, you’re right….there is a trust problem.   As for process overall, maybe some of the trust problem is that the cart was/is before the horse, and a general plan update was necessary before 2014 when the RFEIs  for the innovation parks were announced.  There are other examples. Seems to me that to call those who have legitimate questions or concerns about process as “voices of discontent,” doesn’t get us off to a very good start.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            What evidence do you have that council attempted to ram Trackside in? Or even that Sterling has been given a pass? In neither case has the project even reached council.

        3. ryankelly

          Great point, David.  Complaints about process seems to be standard, but people, such as Nancy, aren’t saying what they want the process to be.  I suggest that Nancy take Robb’s offer to go through the process that Nishi went through and identify what she feels was done incorrectly, should be changed or should be added.

        4. Ron

          ryankelly:  “I suggest that Nancy take Robb’s offer to go through the process that Nishi went through and identify what she feels was done incorrectly, should be changed or should be added.”

          The problem with this statement is that there’s an underlying assumption that we agree, regarding the “problem” to be solved.  For those who prefer a lot more development/changes, the “process” to achieve this goal would be the next logical step.

        5. ryankelly

          Ron,  Nancy has repeated her complaint from yesterday about a flawed process that doesn’t allow the community to participate in the planning of a parcel/development.  She needs to describe what it would look like – when, where and how this would be inserted into the existing process.  Now you seem to be saying that improving the process would only facilitate development, so you wouldn’t want the process improved or changed?  Is this the same reason that people are not so excited about the idea of a new general plan?  Planning = development, so resist all planning of any kind?

           

        6. Fred

          Thank you Rob, I appreciate your openness and truly am optimistic for your tenure as mayor. This is a 2 part question.
           
          The Davis vanguard published articles on June 12th and June 19th pointing to a range of trust issues they saw the City Council facing while the articles were primarily directed at the MRIC project the questions raised regarding trust were broader. Others have pointed to the difference between the unanimous Council support for Measure A and the clearly divided election results as raising questions of trust, particularly in relation to new development. Going forward, what do you see as key places where there may be a trust gap between the Davis community and the City Council? What positive steps would you like to take individually and with the Council to include other voices and work to build broad community agreement and trust, particularly when approaching new development issues?

        7. Ron

          ryankelly:  “Planning = development, so resist all planning of any kind?”

          Two questions you’ve asked:

          1)  Does planning = development?  In this case, I think it largely does.  (We have a plan.  Any changes will likely allow more development, not less.)

          2)  Resist all planning of any kind?  No – that’s too simplistic of a response.  But, the “motive” to change the current plan is primarily to allow more development.

        8. Matt Williams

          Ron said . . . “Does planning = development?  In this case, I think it largely does.  (We have a plan.  Any changes will likely allow more development, not less.)”

          I respectfully disagree Ron.  The current Planning By Exception environment tilts the playing field toward the developers.  They are the ones with the financial resources and experience needed to successfully navigate the General Plan Exception process.  The citizens are excluded from that process and only find out about key planning decisions after the decision about those decisions has been made behind closed doors.  An updated General Plan will open the doors so the public can know what is going on.

          Transparency is an end to itself. It does not need to be growth inducing.

        9. Robb Davis

          Fred – I am a bit brain dead right now.  Will commit to writing a short piece on “trust” in the coming weeks for the VG.  Will try to address your questions.

        10. Fred

          Fair enough Rob. I look forward to reading your article. I well written and reflective article on building trust after a divisive vote that found all of the Counsel vocally on one side and a majority of the voters on the other could be a good place to start rebuilding trust.

          1. Don Shor

            that found all of the Counsel vocally on one side and a majority of the voters on the other

            … and those voters promptly returned two of those council members to office, one with a record vote tally. I see no reason to believe that the public has no trust in the current council members.

        11. Barack Palin

          To be fair all of the council candidates were for Nishi so it’s not like the voters had a choice of a candidate who wasn’t.  It would’ve been interesting to see how the vote might have been different if one candidate had come out against Nishi.

        12. Matt Williams

          BP, your premise doesn’t hold water.  If one looks at all the Council Elections since 2000, this year’s election stands out as markedly different from all the others. The 40% proportion of voters who chose not to vote for the full measure of candidates was more double the historical average of 18%.

          2000
          23.2%
          voted for less than three

          2002
          14.2%
          voted for less than two

          2004
          17.8%
          voted for less than three

          2006
          13.4%
          voted for less than two

          2008
          12.7%
          voted for less than three

          2010
          21.3%
          voted for less than two

          2012
          21.3%
          voted for less than three

          2014
          20.8%
          voted for less than three

          2016
          39.9%
          voted for less than two

        13. Fred

          Don, I disagree on several points.

          First, While Brett Lee was in favor of Measure A, he has had a history of casting slow growth votes and worked against Covell Village and Measure X before he was on City Council. I would go so far as to say Brett, the slowest growth Council Candidate, got by far the most votes.

          Further there are clearly a huge number of city council votes not cast. For whatever, reason a large number of voters decided there were no 3 candidates that they wanted to support for the council. All though there were 4 Council candidates and everyone could vote for 3, only Brett Lee received more than 50% of the vote. The other 3 candidates also got fewer votes that there were no votes on Measure A.

          Actually the top vote getter in the City Council election was to not use a council vote. With 23,909 voters, there was potential for 71,727 City Council candidate votes, but only 54,804 were cast that means there were 16,923 Potential votes not cast for City Council.

          No Council vote                16,923
          Brett Lee                            13,409   56.1%
          No on A                               11,702   51.5%
          Lucas Frerichs                    11,401   47.7%
          Will Arnold                         11,135   46.6%
          Matt Williams, Jr.             7,157     29.9%

          This is a little unfair in that there are likely many people who didn’t use 2 or even 3 of their votes so it’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison, but it proves a point none the less. This most recent election, even with its huge turnout is hardly a roaring vote of confidence in the new Council Candidates, with the possible exception of Brett, the slowest growth candidate.
           

        14. Matt Williams

          Fred, your numbers are not correct.  In fact there were 28,625 Council votes that were not cast.  The total Council votes cast were 43,102 from 23,909 actual participating voters (the 11,702 Measure A votes are not part of the calculation).  As you noted, three times 23,909 is 71,727.  71,727 less 43,102 equals 28,625.

          So, the decision not to use all three votes actually beat Brett by a factor of 2:1 (and beat me by a factor of 4:1).

        15. Fred

          Thanks Matt, you are of course correct thanks for updating that. Pretty amazing situation really. One wonders how a candidate opposed Measure A would have done.

        16. Matt Williams

          Don Shor said . . .  “and those voters promptly returned two of those council members to office, one with a record vote tally. I see no reason to believe that the public has no trust in the current council members.”

          BP said . . . “To be fair all of the council candidates were for Nishi so it’s not like the voters had a choice of a candidate who wasn’t.”

          That premise.

          The election records show that 40% of the votes went to a choice other than a candidate who was for Nishi.

    3. Tia Will

      BP

      No. For the simple reason that there has been discussion of a desire to update the general plan which occurred long before the withdrawal of the DIC project, the defeat of Nishi, and the withdrawal of the Mace project.

  7. Robb Davis

    The problem with that logic BP is that I cannot “split” my own vote.  I expressed, the night we voted to put this on the ballot, my uncertainty about the decision.  That is the best I can do.  The uncertainty was a function of the pushback of some community members.  Would you have preferred that I simply take the application and send it to the voters with “no opinion?”

    I reject completely the notion that we are “out of sync.”  We listen, we try to accommodate various needs, we try to do what is right for the community.  Some agree, others do not.  There are a number of issues, land use chief among them, where our community is simply divided.

    Can we work harder to build consensus?  I think that may be possible.

    1. Adam Smith

      I also think the CC probably understands the gravity of the financial circumstances of the city better than most of the voting population, and therefore is making  a more informed decision than the general population.

  8. davisite4

    I have a different sort of cynical worry.  I see us spending a lot of money and effort on a new plan and then we continue to make decisions based on what is immediately in front of us, making exception after exception.  Is there any history of adhering to such plans?  Do they really have a function?

    1. hpierce

      Will try to answer that… no plan is chaos/blowing in the wind… a plan that does not reflect reality is dangerous/stifling… you can’t hit a target unless you can define and see the target.

      There are those who think the GP is a hoax… to be ignored at any time… others view it as something inviolate, not subject to recognizing error, not recognizing changes in circumstances [outside factors, changes in economy, new conflicts in values, etc.].  It is neither.

      Mr Davis is right… if nearly every decision needs a GP amendment, there is something amiss with the GP.  The flip side is that perhaps the need for amendment is a problem with the decision.  Truth is somewhere in between… that’s where the struggle is.

      I believe that the Housing element (that, by law, needs to be re-visited periodically) needs to be examined, debated, and either affirmed or changed.  I also believe that some of the non-required elements (the “feel good” ones that need to be ‘amended’ from time to time for specific projects) should be deleted in their entirety, or have deletions.

      The GP should be a “power-suit” (guidance towards community goals, that all can understand), not a straight-jacket.

  9. nameless

    Robb Davis: “This does not have to be and should not be a major undertaking, he explained.  The push will be for infill and efficiency of space as well as considering climate change.
    He explained, “I do not believe a multi-year process is feasible or needed and I would argue that the focus should be on how we can accomplish more efficient use of space in the city first and foremost.
    He added, “Secondarily, it should focus on updating our climate action efforts as they relate to housing and transportation.
    I would contend that Robb Davis’s view of infill, efficiency of space, and updating climate action efforts are not necessarily something that has majority community consensus.  As attempts at infill have come forward, it has become increasingly clear citizens are not necessarily in favor of it – despite SACOG’s push to go that direction.  Thus far, in any infill project in so far as I am aware, the NIMBYs come out in force to oppose infill.  It is okay elsewhere, just not next to us.
    Will Arnold, in answering a question about the future of Davis, noted, “By not having an updated General Plan, we are at the whim of planning by exception. In the best case, we have an opportunity to embrace something that honors our community. At worst, it leads to division, supposition and acrimony.”
    Will has this exactly right.  What the city is forced to do now is plan by zoning exception, which is a terrible way to do business. It is not fair to developers, citizens or the City Council.  Such a planning process becomes arbitrary and unfair to all concerned, and always the developer is faced with the accusation that the project is nothing more than the “camel’s nose under the tent” for further exceptions to zoning laws.  But the zoning laws are so outdated that it cannot accommodate the new realities of this city – it is so constricted for development that the only way to build is up rather than out.
    Will Arnold: “We need a community where everyone is welcome to participate, and we cannot afford to backslide to the days of uncivil discourse and unproductive belligerence.”
    Not if the city wants to remain economically viable and not be accused by SACOG of taking on its fair share of growth.  Right now, those who oppose growth are in the ascendancy, but as the roads and other city infrastructure further deteriorate, citizens are going to need a way forward to do what is necessary to get the city back on a solid financial footing and build its fair share of regional housing.
    Will Arnold: Unlike Robb Davis, he supports a full new General Plan. “Beginning in the goal setting session of Fall 2016, I will propose a comprehensive course for a new General Plan. Not an update. Not an amendment.”
    “I will propose that we broaden our engagement beyond the small group of activists and volunteers to which all reading this belong. For a new General Plan to be relied upon, IT MUST REFLECT THE NEEDS OF ALL WHO RELY ON IT” he explained.  “With timely action, achievable metrics, and focused participants, this can be addressed with the immediacy it demands. A lengthy process is itself a disincentive to participate.”
    He added, “Our goal is to create a new map, reflective of current realities, which does not simply protects us from pitfalls, but leads us somewhere we want to be.”
    A new general plan “MUST REFLECT THE NEEDS OF ALL WHO RELY ON IT”, REFLECT CURRENT REALITIES, LEADING US SOMEWHERE that will fiscally sustain the city so that it can remain a vibrant, desirable community with decent roads and infrastructure as well as offer the services we have come to relay on.  If the city continues to plan by zoning exception, well planned economic growth is halted, we are in danger of becoming a crumbling retirement community that cannot economically sustain itself.

  10. Marina Kalugin

    Matt, if we had people like you on the council, I would not be so against it…of course, even along with Brett, you would still be a minority..

    Have little faith in the others….and even Brett sometimes doesn’t see the whole picture, though he is my fave still on the current council.

    For a few years, I represented the silent majority…and then when I noticed the Nishi, I got to all my neighbors very quickly and would bet our neighborhood came out enforce on the No side..why?

    see my many comments over the many threads for the many weeks since April 27…cannot believe how much time I wasted online on that horse nonsense

     

     

    1. Alan Miller

      see my many comments over the many threads for the many weeks since April 27…cannot believe how much time I wasted online on that horse nonsense

      Neither can we.

  11. Eileen Samitz

    Unless you have participated in the last General Plan update I think it may be difficult to understand how much time and work when into it with over 200 Davis citizens meeting weekly for around a two-year process. It cost $2.3 million dollars and then took another 6 more years to finalize since there was so much information to organize, condense and to have consistent with the language of the policies developed by the 14 General Plan citizen committees. In fact, it has been used as a model by other cities as a reference.

    Like the name implies, it is a General Plan with general principals, and to think that we need to eliminate it and start all over is absurd.  There are always going to be exceptions and adaptations to any guidelines so it concerns me that Robb and Will seem to think it needs major revisions. The principals in it are basic and still reflect the ideals of our community.  The approach should be what needs to be added such as sustainability, and there may some language that needs to be updated, but to consider discarding the entire General Plan document would be ridiculous for many reasons including the enormous waste of all the time, money, and public participation invested by our community to create it.

    1. ryankelly

      The City of Davis has changed in 16 years – new residents, new economy, new environmental concerns, new best practices in city planning.  The general plan was supposed to be a 10 year plan.  I find it absurd that you would think that the creation of a new general plan would start by scrapping the earlier general plan and completely starting over.  I also find it absurd that you think that this plan should be extended into the 2020’s and beyond.  Like you said, it is a good reference, but the community needs to develop a new plan to deal with the new times.

      1. Matt Williams

        ryan, based on your knowledge of the current General Plan, given the 16 years of time that has passed, approximately what proportion of it do you think is out of date (no longer valid)?

        1. ryankelly

          I’m not sure.  But I think it is well-worth a thorough look to see where it fails to address current issues re: sustainability, problems with infill including the growth of the downtown and height.  On one hand there is the idea of identifying areas that are underutilized and could be redeveloped and the other hand there is the idea of neighborhood design and livability – “Multi-family development design should be compatible with adjoining single family areas.”  This doesn’t address where the downtown meets Old East or where mixed use commercial/residential moves into residential areas.  This needs a plan, since the downtown could be denser and higher and the underutilized commercial areas are lots along the railroad tracks.

          The graphs/tables stop at 2010.  The plan doesn’t account for University growth past that point.  The commercial/R&D/manufacturing lots are nearly built out.  So what’s next?

    2. hpierce

      Eileen, I participated in the 1986 GP, and all of the updates since then… I find it ironic that you use the words “principals” vs “principles”  … in the updates, it was the “principals”, those ‘public’ activists wishing to impose their wills on the entire City, demanding professional staff stay quiet, who came up with the current “principles”.  Worked out great, right?

      “Public participation”?  Yeah, the one 1% vocal activists… was the GP or any updates approved by a vote of the people?  Hell NO!  Hypocrites?

  12. The Pugilist

    I think this is a key point: “I reject completely the notion that we are “out of sync.”  We listen, we try to accommodate various needs, we try to do what is right for the community.  Some agree, others do not.  There are a number of issues, land use chief among them, where our community is simply divided.
    Can we work harder to build consensus?  I think that may be possible.”

    The community is split on growth.  Nishi was almost split 50-50.  So in what way is the council “out of sync”?  The no side put up no candidates who were opposed to Nishi.  So why is it the council’s fault?

    I don’t know that we can build consensus when the community is so divided.  I want to see what that process looks like and I trust that Robb Davis will do everything in his power to do it, but I am skeptical.

  13. Alan Miller

    Maybe this fits better in this thread:

    The General Plan update for Davis is kind of like immigration reform is for the U.S.:  it’s great to talk about how it has to be done, but actually doing it is political suicide and community upheaval.  So both languish, forever to be fixed in the not-too-distant future.

     

  14. 2cowherd

    Well-Robb said from the get go that he was only serving one term. so political suicide is a non-issue.  And i think the community will get on board a General Plan update. They really don’t have much choice. I say we move forward with the update. What we are using right now as our guideline for growth isn’t working.

     

     

     

    Plan updat

    1. The Pugilist

      I also don’t understand the political suicide thing – the three people who got elected all supported Nishi.  Lucas supported Covell Village and still won twice.  Don Saylor and Stephen Souza got slapped on CV and then overwhelmingly won reelection.  What evidence is there of political suicide?

      1. Alan Miller

        What evidence is there of political suicide?

        Aw . . . none.  I really meant any council that takes this on is going to be wrestling with a bear.

      2. ryankelly

        I’m sure that if someone had run that vehemently opposed Nishi, they would have gotten a lot of votes.  That’s how Harrington won his election.

    2. Barack Palin

      I guess I don’t get the objection to updating the general plan.

      Oh I don’t know, but maybe the millions of dollars it might cost an already cash strapped city?

      1. Eileen Samitz

        ryankelly,

        MRIC could offer R and D space for Shilling or anyone else, as long as they don’t try to add in housing on the innovation center project as well. The MRIC developers can come back with that project anytime which was asked for since the beginning…an innovation center without housing. We have lot’s of housing in progress now with the Cannery, Grande Village, Chiles Ranch and now the BerryBridge project.

        1. ryankelly

          MRIC is not moving forward right now and Shilling is looking at West Sac.  If you envision MRIC to resolve this, maybe waiting around for the developers to submit a plan that would satisfy you and your friends is not a good strategy.

          Extend the charts and graphs with regards housing and see if your list is sufficient. The general plan described the vacancy rate as a low of 7.5% and rising housing costs. The rate is now almost non-existent and prices are rising out of reach of young adults and families. We import children to maintain enrollment in our elementary schools.  We continue to have to raise taxes to support minimum programming. We have no solution to resolve our lack of funds to maintain roads and bike paths.  The picture has changed since 2001.  Maybe the base ideals in the General Plan won’t change, but the nuts and bolts certainly need to be reconsidered.

  15. Eileen Samitz

    Puglist,

    So we may not agree on the Cannery project, but whether you like it or not it has gotten national awards and for good reasons such as the urban farm and universal design.

      1. Ron

        The Pugilist:

        Regarding the Cannery, it’s kind of unfortunate that the problems are repeatedly emphasized by some, while ignoring the fact that (at least in principal), it was apparently supported by some who are often categorized as “slow” (or even “no”) growth.  (In other words, even those who are slow growth do not oppose all development, despite statements by some which imply this.)  At least, that’s how I see it.

        I believe that without the Cannery, there probably would have been more pressure to develop Covell Village (a much more massive and destructive development). However, I realize that there are probably lessons to be learned with the Cannery, regarding the problems that arose.

        In any case, I certainly prefer and appreciate the farmland that comprises the site of the (formerly-proposed) Covell Village.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          The Cannery was supported by Eileen Samitz, but opposed by Michael Harrington and most of the rest of the No on A coalition.

  16. MAli

    Cannery and Covell Village should have been planned and developed together. The piecemeal approach necessitated by one parcel already annexed and the other not ended up not building enough housing to correct our housing imbalance nor address the transportation issues. Had it not been for Measure R a much better plan could have been devised that included both parcels.

    1. Ron

      MAli:

      There’s an assumption in your statement that the site of the formerly-proposed Covell Village should be developed.  I’m not making that assumption.

      The Cannery was an abandoned cannery site within city limits, while the site of the fomerly-proposed Covell Village is mostly prime ag land outside city limits (with at least half in a floodplain).

      Sites within city limits (such as the Cannery) provide the city with a majority of property taxes collected, vs. sites that are annexed (due to tax-sharing requirements with the county).

       

       

      1. hpierce

        It should have been planned for… even if development was deferred in time… at a minimum, all the property south of channel A.  In not doing so, we have only made things worse.  Look at a map… connect the dots… the CV property, and the area under the “Mace Curve”, from a utility/drainage/transportation perspective makes much more sense than the west of 113 proposal, which is a more serious flood plain… but, I fully realize you value your “viewscape”… made possible by shutting off the viewscapes of others…

        1. Ron

          hpierce:

          Sounds like you’ve already made up your mind, regarding the “fate” of the site of the formerly-proposed Covell Village site.  (Fortunately, still correctly referred to as an active farm.)

          Sorry if you find my “point of view” (not “viewscape”) objectionable.

        2. Alan Miller

          When the Covell Village tree fell over, it said to Davis:  “I would have fallen over anyway, you should have voted for Measure X”.

          That’s what the tree said.

        3. Alan Miller

          Let’s give it a rest.

          Yes, let’s give regional population growth and growth in University enrollment a rest.  Let’s also give the need for City budget money a rest, let’s give those roads and bike paths a rest.  Give it a rest, and all our problems in Davis will go away.

          Now, if you’ll pardon me, I have to find some sand to compliment my long neck.

        4. Barack Palin

          I’ve wondered about that tree too, and the removal of the barn.  It’s my point of view that they both added so much to the viewscape.

        5. Ron

          🙂  The timing of the death of that tree (shortly after the election) was really something.  (I always viewed it as a “soldier”, and the final casualty of the “war”.)

          Regarding enrollment growth, let’s continue to work with the University to improve the housing commitment that they’ve made.  Also, there’s already a lot of infill occurring within the city, under the existing plan (e.g., the Cannery, Chiles Ranch, Grande, etc.)

          Regarding economic development – agreed, for the most part.  But, that’s an entirely different issue than residential development.  Increasing residential development without having a sufficient corresponding source of revenue (to pay for city services) is what led to the financial problems, in the first place.  (Pretty difficult to dig our way out of a hole, by digging deeper.)

        6. Alan Miller

          Skyrocketing rental rates are a problem.  Not for large property owners, not for homeowners.  For students and those without large incomes.  And for greeny gases as if people can’t live in town but do work or school in Davis, many’ll drive — increasing traffic & gaseous outputs.  It’s not really OK (morally, IMO) to deny growth.  Yes, the U should contribute.  Yes, we should do infill.  The problem is, we are about a decade behind, the U will enroll fast and build snail slow, and we just rejected a large project that would have provided housing and short commutes.  Boo Davis.  And even it was five years out.  No solutions on the horizon.  The vacancy rate will remain at essentially zero for years.  This will increase economic pressure to build not just infill, but stupid way-too-big infill.  We are already seeing that you may have noticed.  Infill should happen, even Trackside (in some form) should happen.  The problem is, we are so far over the cliff that Davis is Wiley Coyote over the canyon looking down and then at the camera, waiting for the inevitable pull of gravity.  So now the wars with the neighborhoods.  It’s not that everyone is a no-growthing NIMBY scum, it’s that we are so far gone that instead of sane infill, everything that is proposed is so out-of-scale with what is around it, and so out-of-sync with the old general plan, that of course people are going to fight.

          Should the general plan revision, in any form, go through this council, expect the fights we’ve seen over Trackside, Paso, Sterling, Nishi, MRIC, B Street, to grow to explosive force and everyone stands their ground on the same issues but in the framework of the general plan.  It will be glorious.

        7. Ron

          Alan M:

          I understand some of the points you’ve made.

          I suspect that any (realistic) amount of development in Davis won’t have any meaningful effect on rental rates (or home prices).

          Regarding commuters, it’s difficult to say where new residents would work.  (I happily commuted via public transportation to Sacramento, for years.  So did many of my neighbors. I never even thought about looking for a job in Davis, at that point.)

          I understand your point regarding Nishi, but it did have some legitimate concerns (including, but not limited to the 1,732 parking spaces and unplanned motor vehicle access to the University).

          Yes – we’ll have to continue our efforts to ensure that the University follows through (and improves upon their commitment).

          I’m not sure why all of the development that is already underway (or about to start) isn’t enough.  (The Cannery, Chiles Ranch, Grande, Trackside, etc.) We’re already meeting/exceeding SACOG “fair share” growth guidelines. (Some pro-development types have argued that those guidelines are meaningless, anyway.)

          I agree that if developers and the city try to push massive infill developments, they will face significant opposition.

          I think some of this comes down to a fundamental difference, regarding views on development in general.  Some view limits on development (in some manner) as a worthwhile goal, and some do not (and focus instead on market demand).  (Unfortunately, I think we know which side of the argument that developers and their interests will push.)

           

           

           

           

           

          1. Don Shor

            I’m not sure why all of the development that is already underway (or about to start) isn’t enough. (The Cannery, Chiles Ranch, Grande, Trackside, etc.)

            How many apartments are included in those?

        8. Ron

          Don:  “How many apartments are included in those?”

          I don’t know.  I think the Cannery has some units (not necessarily apartment complexes) that are suitable for rentals.  Not sure about some of the other developments.

          Off the top of my head, perhaps some other questions might include:

          How many apartment complexes does Davis already have?

          How many apartment complexes have been built over some specified period of time?

          Should the city have a goal, to facilitate the construction of more apartment complexes?  If so, should that goal be based upon the vacancy rate, or the ratio of apartment complexes vs. single-family homes (or some other metric)?

          If a goal to construct more apartment complexes is based upon the vacancy rate, should we take a measurement each year (or some other period of time), and adjust building plans accordingly?  What would be the effect upon the neighborhoods and the city, if such a policy was implemented?

          If the city decides that more apartment complexes should be built, why wasn’t that already planned for, in the developments that are underway or planned?

          If the city decides that more apartment complexes should be constructed, should the buildings be configured in a manner that encourages student rentals (e.g, “rent-by-the-room”)?  If so, how far away from campus should such buildings be constructed?  And, what effect would that have on existing neighborhoods and adjacent streets?  (And, in the case of Sterling, what is the long-term impact of allowing the destruction of a relatively new community-oriented facility, that was built by an organization that receives tax dollars?  Will there be a need for such a facility in the future – if not now)?

          Should apartment complexes include large numbers of parking spaces?  If not, will students park in adjacent neighborhoods?

          How do we best coordinate any potential plans with the University’s plans? 

           

           

          1. Don Shor

            This is way too many questions for me to even try to begin to answer them individually. Usually when someone floods a conversation with open-ended questions, the intention is to simply come to the conclusion that “it isn’t the city’s job to make sure that apartments get built.” Maybe you should just say that.
            When the university announces enrollment increases, it affects the city. Those plans need to become part of the city’s planning process. That’s one of the things about being a host city for a major university: it grows, you grow. I don’t know what brought you to Davis, but in my case it was UCD.
            When the chancellor announced the 2020 Initiative in about 2010, my very first question was ‘where are they all going to live?’. We already had a tight rental housing market. So the short answer to your many questions is as follows:
            We need apartments. We have a 0.2% apartment vacancy rate. Between the university and the city, the goal should be to get that rate up somewhat. It is already measured annually. If we don’t it has a very adverse impact on those who can least afford it.
            We should build apartments wherever they can fit. Neighborhood concerns should be addressed in the planning process. As much parking as seems reasonable should be provided to prevent parking from spilling over into nearby neighborhoods. Any assumptions about people not having cars should be considered unrealistic. Some of the housing will be close to campus, some further away. Not everyone who needs a rental unit here needs or wants to be close to campus. The Sterling site is a great opportunity which should not be squandered.
            A planning process that bogs down in unlimited questions is not a planning process.
            The university is not going to solve our rental housing shortage. It’s going to take housing both on campus and in town. When the university grows, the town grows.

        9. Ron

          Don:  “Usually when someone floods a conversation with open-ended questions, the intention is to simply come to the conclusion that “it isn’t the city’s job to make sure that apartments get built.” Maybe you should just say that.”

          I wasn’t attempting to say that no apartment complexes should ever be built.  However, there are consequences regarding every decision that is made.  To disregard that is the very essence of poor planning, and would create problems for all residents (including new residents).

          Don:  “We should build apartments wherever they can fit.  Neighborhood concerns should be addressed in the planning process.  As much parking as seems reasonable should be provided to prevent parking from spilling over into nearby neighborhoods.

          What does that mean, to you?

          Don:  “Any assumptions about people not having cars should be considered unrealistic.”

          Agreed.  What are the consequences on nearby streets (and throughout the city) of accommodating large numbers of cars?

          Don:  “Between the university and the city, the goal should be to get that (vacancy) rate up somewhat.”

          Again, what does that mean to you?  Should we continue to change plans in the future, if (for example) the vacancy rate remains stubbornly low?  Is there a “one-to-one” relationship, regarding the amount of units constructed, vs. a corresponding decrease in the vacancy rate?  Should we disregard other metrics, such as the overall ratio of single-family homes vs. apartment complexes in Davis?  If so, what are the consequences of that approach? (And, where will such complexes be placed?)

          Don:  “A planning process that bogs down in unlimited questions is not a planning process.”

          A bad planning process is often worse.  (Really, those were just a few questions off the top of my head.  Hopefully, city officials will consider all consequences.)

        10. Matt Williams

          Ron said . . . “I wasn’t attempting to say that no apartment complexes should ever be built.  However, there are consequences regarding every decision that is made.  To disregard that is the very essence of poor planning, and would create problems for all residents (including new residents).”

          Ron, I agree with your sentiments above.  In fact, the exact same thing can be said about the single family residences that have been built over the past 18 years.  Many people argued that Cannery should have been 100% apartments oriented toward public transportation and bicycles, but that argument fell on deaf ears.

      2. Matt Williams

        Ron’s Questions and my answers

        How many apartment complexes does Davis already have?  According to the City website (see LINK) there are 258 apartment complexes in Davis

         

        How many apartment complexes have been built over some specified period of time? What specified time?

         

        Should the city have a goal, to facilitate the construction of more apartment complexes?  If so, should that goal be based upon the vacancy rate, or the ratio of apartment complexes vs. single-family homes (or some other metric)? Yes.  Vacancy rate.  I believe ratio of apartment complexes to single family homes is an arbitrary statistic, at best.

         

        If a goal to construct more apartment complexes is based upon the vacancy rate, should we take a measurement each year (or some other period of time), and adjust building plans accordingly?  What would be the effect upon the neighborhoods and the city, if such a policy was implemented? An important part of the General Plan Update process would be to conduct community dialogue sessions on this topic to get a sense of what the Davis residents desire.

         

        If the city decides that more apartment complexes should be built, why wasn’t that already planned for, in the developments that are underway or planned?  Good question.  My suspicion is that the parcel owners who have applied for approval of development projects preferred building single family homes.  Judging by the fact that New Home Company is advertising on billboards in Marin County and elsewhere in order to sell Cannery homes, it may be that the local demand for the kind of single family homes they are building is soft in Davis.

         

        If the city decides that more apartment complexes should be constructed, should the buildings be configured in a manner that encourages student rentals (e.g, “rent-by-the-room”)?  If so, how far away from campus should such buildings be constructed?  And, what effect would that have on existing neighborhoods and adjacent streets?  (And, in the case of Sterling, what is the long-term impact of allowing the destruction of a relatively new community-oriented facility, that was built by an organization that receives tax dollars?  Will there be a need for such a facility in the future – if not now)?  I believe that is a market dynamic that should play out in the market.  The demographic cohort trends in the period from the 2000 Census to the 2010 Census very clearly show the demand for apartment housing is stronger in the student demographic group (20-24) than it is in the non-student demographic groups (25+).

         

        Should apartment complexes include large numbers of parking spaces?  If not, will students park in adjacent neighborhoods? No and No.  Student apartments should be robustly serviced by public transportation.  Sterling and Lincoln 40 are excellent examples of locations where the distance to the nearest parking in adjacent neighborhoods is far enough away to make cannibalization of neighborhood parking spaces impractical.  Further, the impending upgrade the City of Davis parking technology to include license plate recognition cameras can make enforcement of neighborhood parking much easier and very expensive for repeat violators (which student cars cannibalizing neighborhood parking spaces would be).  I would like to see UCD TAPS and the City’s parking enforcement department collaborate to ensure that the City has the license plates of all UCD student automobiles in the license plate recognition database.   

         

        How do we best coordinate any potential plans with the University’s plans?  I believe that for the moment the ball is in UCD’s court.  UCD’s latest LRDP draft has been more forthcoming about their intentions regarding added housing, but until they move from the talk-the-talk stage to the walk-the-walk stage (actually putting real dollars in their budget) the jury is out on whether their latest round of good intentions will follow in the footsteps of the MOU and/or the 2002 Housing in the 21st Century commitment.  Interestingly, it is worth knowing that a group of Davis citizens has already begun a signature gathering effort to block UCD from placing any housing on the intramural fields south of Russell Boulevard.  Time will tell how that effort plays out.

    2. Fred

      There should be no assumption that the city is going to build on the ag land north of Covell and west of Poline. If it were not for Measure R that site would have been built on against the will of 75% of the Davis voters.

      1. hpierce

        75% of the then voters, many years ago… what does that have to do with today?  Should we bring back slavery, male-white-property owner voters only?  There were strong majority votes for those!

        1. hpierce

          sorry, one “over the top” seemed to deserve another… you’re correct… but to say 75% many years ago binds thoughts NOW?  Do you really support that?

      2. Barack Palin

        Fred, you’re correct.  Without Measure R you can bet that Covell and the Pole Line corner would be fully developed against the wishes of the electorate.

        1. Ron

          hpierce:  “So, you would oppose a new vote of the electorate on that?”

          I realize that you directed this question to BP, but I’d like to respond.

          I’m frankly hoping that we don’t see another Measure R-type vote, anytime soon.  (Especially regarding proposed residential housing developments, located well beyond our downtown and University.)  Too much unnecessary divisiveness.  There’s a lot of infill occurring, already.  And, a significant effort to encourage the University to build even more housing (than the 90% increased enrollment that they’ve already agreed to house, thanks to efforts made by some city officials and residents).

          But, if developers and others insist on pushing this, I suspect that they’ll have quite a battle, a lot of expense, and an uncertain outcome (to say the least).

          Let’s give it a rest.

           

        2. The Pugilist

          Ron:

          I’m sorry that this is divisive, but we can’t make change without breaking eggs.  This is in’t about developers – they are simply a means to the end of building more housing, rental units, R&D space.

        3. Ron

          The Pugilist:  “I’m sorry that this is divisive, but we can’t make change without breaking eggs.”

          I’m sorry, as well.  But, I will continue to respond (perhaps not always on the Vanguard), especially if others continue to push for large-scale housing developments outside of our current boundaries, far from downtown and the University.  (I view this as something worse than “breaking eggs”, and is not the “change” that I’m seeking.)

        4. The Pugilist

          You’re misreading what’s happening.  It’s not $$$.  Don’t get me wrong, there are $$$ involved at some level, but for people like me it’s about having enough student housing and allowing the city to have enough revenue.  I don’t have any personal stake in the matter.  I don’t think more than a small percentage of people do.

        5. Ron

          The Pugilist:

          I believe you (regarding your own interests).  However, I strongly disagree regarding the influence of $$$, even though the actual number of developers may not be that large.

          The enormous stakes in the outcome (combined with the enormous resources that developers have) often skew the results.  If you doubt this, take a look at most election processes in this country. (Davis is somewhat of an exception.  However, this also makes the potential financial reward all the more appealing, for developers.)

          $$$ also has a way of facilitating “friendships” within influential circles.

          Given your interest in student housing, I hope that you join Eileen and others in their efforts, to encourage follow-through and improve the University’s housing commitments.

          And again, economic concerns are an entirely different matter than residential development.

    1. hpierce

      Do you mean any major revision/re-do to the GP itself, or are you proposing a vote on ANY amendment/interpretation?  Huge difference…

      BTW, no GP or ‘major-amendments’ have gone to vote, but they could have, via referendum process…

      Perhaps your current offices, on the ashes of a SF residence (with a tragic death), should have gone to a “vote of the people”…

  17. Ron

    (A portion of my original questions from above):

    “Should the city have a goal, to facilitate the construction of more apartment complexes?  If so, should that goal be based upon the vacancy rate, or the ratio of apartment complexes vs. single-family homes (or some other metric)?

    Matt’s response:  Yes.  Vacancy rate. 

    “If a goal to construct more apartment complexes is based upon the vacancy rate, should we take a measurement each year (or some other period of time), and adjust building plans accordingly?  What would be the effect upon the neighborhoods and the city, if such a policy was implemented?”

    Matt’s response:  “An important part of the General Plan Update process would be to conduct community dialogue sessions on this topic to get a sense of what the Davis residents desire.”

    Just wondering how you might reconcile the two statements, above.  (For example, would you force residents to accept apartment complexes in their neighborhoods, if the vacancy rate remained low?)

     

      1. Ron

        Don:  “What would you do about the 0.2% apartment vacancy rate, Ron?”

        As a citizen, I would encourage the University to follow-through and improve upon their housing commitment.

        If I were on the council, I would try to consider a variety of concerns/impacts, regarding any proposed changes to existing zoning/planning.  I would not base planning decisions primarily upon the vacancy rate.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          As a city, I don’t think you plan can be – let them do it. As we know the university has been promising increased housing for 30 years without really delivering.

        2. Ron

          I don’t think the University has experienced this type of sustained pressure, previously.  (I’d suggest joining the effort, rather than repeatedly stating that it can’t be done.) We’ve already seems some drastic changes regarding the University’s level of commitment.

          Decisions based primarily upon the vacancy rate will lead to poor planning, and a lot of justified protests from current residents.

    1. Matt Williams

      Ron said . . . “Should we continue to change plans in the future, if (for example) the vacancy rate remains stubbornly low?  Is there a “one-to-one” relationship, regarding the amount of units constructed, vs. a corresponding decrease in the vacancy rate? “

      As I noted in my earlier comment to your original questions, the decision about a core planning principle like this one should be informed by the public dialogue during the General Plan Update process.

      With that said, for me personally your question gets to the heart of why I say to Eileen Samitz that The Cannery has become a very bad development.  What all developments should do, and the billboard ads in Marin County for The Cannery are graphic evidence that The Cannery is not doing, is provide reasonably priced housing for people who are residents of, or employed workers in, the immediate City of Davis planning area and/or UCD.

      How this principle applies to planning for an appropriate level of apartments in Davis pretty straightforward.  The apartment vacancy rate is a direct reflection of the demand for rental housing in Davis.  With very few exceptions, Davis apartment dwellers are going to work in Davis or UCD.  Employees of Sacramento businesses (like the State government) who are willing to commute to their jobs across the Causeway will be predominantly (almost exclusively?) single family residence owners (either homes or condos).  If apartment living is their desire (or requirement) then they are much more likely to rent that apartment across the Causeway.  The same can be said for those who commute to jobs in the Bay Area . . . they will be predominantly home owners rather than home renters.

      If that premise of mine is accurate, then the vacancy rate is a direct reflection of whether the supply and demand of apartments in Davis (serving Davis-connected people) are in balance.  If the vacancy rate remains at its current low levels then the demand for rental housing continues to exceed the combined city-based and UCD-based supply.  Further, if the vacancy rate continues at its current levels then the upward price pressure on rental rates will continue and rental housing in Davis will continue to get more and more unaffordable.

      Ron said . . . “ Should we disregard other metrics, such as the overall ratio of single-family homes vs. apartment complexes in Davis?  If so, what are the consequences of that approach? (And, where will such complexes be placed?)”

      You have referred to the ratio of single-family homes vs. apartment complexes in several comments in several threads.  The implication in those comments of yours is that there is a range of “good” ratio values and a range of “bad” ration values.  Have I understood you correctly in that implication?  If so, can you elaborate on why you believe there are “good” and “bad” ratio ranges?  Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.

    2. Matt Williams

      Ron said . . . “Just wondering how you might reconcile the two statements, above.  (For example, would you force residents to accept apartment complexes in their neighborhoods, if the vacancy rate remained low?)”

      The public process that updates the General Plan would wrestle with (in an open, transparent, inclusive process) issues like the one you raise here.  Land Use is the area of the current General Plan that is most severely out of compliance with State Law, and zoning is the detail drill down into the flesh and bone and sinew of how the Land Use policies of a General Plan are implemented.  To answer your question directly, if the collaborative process arrives at a majority result that supports a specific pattern of infill densification, then the updated zoning code would reflect that collaborative result.

      To draw a specific example using our current zoning, the Trackside parcel had its site-specific zoning updated to M-U in an open, transparent, iterative public process in 2005.  The proposal presented to the City by the Trackside partnership did not comply with the provisions of that updated M-U zoning. I firmly believe the principles I posted yesterday at 11:02 AM apply both to current zoning and to any future zoning (especially principle #5).  Those principles are:

      (2) Work to change the planning process so that it promotes proactive thinking rather than reactive thinking.  Sustainable Planning means we balance four key components, Social Sustainability, Economic/Financial Sustainability, Environmental Sustainability and Cultural Sustainability.   Engage those four components with reliable, transparent, repeatable processes that engage the public, set clear expectations and then deliver on those expectations.

      (3) Expand the 3-day (72 hour) notice period for public meetings mandated by the Brown Act to 10 days (240 hours) to ensure more open, transparent and inclusive processes.  Staff Report material would be made available in full at the time of the meeting notice.

      (4) Establish process standards for CEQA determinations, with, at a minimum, a focused EIR on any CEQA process that uses an outside expert/consultant to review a component of the environmental impact of the proposed project.

      (5) Establish process standards whereby all zoning variance requests must be declared at the time the project pre-application is filed.  A public hearing on the declared zoning variance must be convened to get city-wide input regarding whether the zoning variance is in the best interests of the community.

      1. Ron

        Matt:  “To answer your question directly, if the collaborative process arrives at a majority result that supports a specific pattern of infill densification, then the updated zoning code would reflect that collaborative result.”

        I just skimmed your responses, for tonight.  But, I don’t think that you actually did answer the question directly.  I’ll word it slightly differently.

        If one’s primary planning goal is to increase the vacancy rate, how would you do this if the “collaborative process” that you describe repeatedly shows that neighbors don’t want plans/zoning changed to accommodate large-scale apartment complexes in existing neighborhoods?  Would you ultimately “force” neighborhoods to accept changes to zoning/plans, or would you “abandon” (or modify) the goal?

        1. Ron

          Don:  “What would you do, Ron?”

          I’ve already said that I wouldn’t use the vacancy rate as a primary planning goal.

          I would first explore and understand the reason/justification for the current zoning. I wouldn’t automatically assume that it can be improved upon, to meet some other goal.

          If I entertained a change, I’d carefully consider the benefits and drawbacks of doing so, with a focus on current residents and businesses – including yours.

        2. Matt Williams

          Ron, I cited an explicit example using Trackside.  Zoning exists for good reason.  Both the neighborhoods and the people proposing the project should abide by the existing zoning, unless and until an open, transparent, inclusive community-wide process is initiated to deal with a proposed/contemplated change in the zoning.  The General Plan Update process would fall into that community-wide process category.  Coming out of that collaborative process the community would have set each neighborhood’s zoning in a manner consistent with achieving the community-wide goal.

          Said another way, if at the end of a community-wide process, the community wants to change the zoning for an existing neighborhood, then the answer would be yes.  If at the end of a community-wide process, the community wants leave the zoning for an existing neighborhood unchanged, then the answer would be no.

           

           

        3. Ron

          Matt:  If at the end of a community-wide process, the community wants to leave the zoning for an existing neighborhood unchanged, then the answer would be no.”

          That’s pretty clear, and would be my overall approach as well.  However, some have seemed to suggest that the vacancy rate should take precedence over all other planning concerns.  (And, I think such an approach would lead to a great deal of conflict and bad planning decisions, in general.  That was my primary point.)

          1. Don Shor

            The goal is to provide more rental housing. The vacancy rate is simply a metric as to the state of the market.

        4. Ron

          Matt:  “Ron, when you say “That’s pretty clear …” what are you referring to as being clear?”

          I understood this as (for the most part), prioritizing what the community wants, (probably with a focus on nearby neighbors/neighborhood).  Sometimes, this would mean that the vacancy rate would not be the highest priority, regarding decisions to change existing zoning/plans. (And that you would probably consider other concerns that require technical expertise to analyze – such as traffic flow).

          Is that what you meant?

        5. Matt Williams

          Close enough Ron.

          Your answer illuminates one of the challenges that I believe exist when the topic of apartment complexes are discussed here on the Vanguard and elsewhere . . . the commentary always starts in mid stream, instead of starting with the root cause challenges our community faces.  As a result those conversations end up being more confrontational rather than collaborative.

          As I noted in my comment to Don and David, is an increase in rental housing capacity truly a goal of the community, or is it really a byproduct of the goal that is much closer to the root cause of our community concerns . . . the unsustainable trajectory we are currently on?

          As I noted in an earlier comment, planning for sustainability includes a balance of the four components, Social Sustainability, Economic/Financial Sustainability, Environmental Sustainability and Cultural Sustainability.  I often feel the positions you take pay lip service to the economic/financial sustainability component, and with respect to social and cultural sustainability your libertarian (personal rights) message appears to discount consideration of the greater good of the community as a whole.

          With the above said, if your preference for very limited expansion of the number of apartments in Davis becomes the City’s policy going forward, how do you believe we should address the root causes of our community’s economic/financial sustainability challenges?

          For me, the General Plan Update process (when/if it happens) needs to start with a robust citizen dialogue about those root causes.  In effect asking (and answering through the dialogue), “What does Davis want to be when it grows up?”  The recent history of our community is very much like that of a young man/woman who has just completed his/her academic career and the economic support of mom and dad of the academic years has come to an end.  In Davis’ case, the parallel is that Federal and State (Dad and Mom) funding that has sustained us to date has been withdrawn.  We can hope that that financial support will be coming back, but the chances of that happening are very slim

          During the campaign forums both Brett and Lucas tried to explain away the $655 million of unfunded liabilities by citing the pull-back of Federal and State road maintenance funding.  That pull-back is indeed real, but assigning “blame” doesn’t change the fundamental reality that Davis has roads that need $10 million of repairs/maintenance/replacement each year for 20 years, and virtually the only funding source for those repairs is ourselves.  Accurately assigning blame doesn’t put any dollars in the City’s bank account.  It is only a distraction from the sustainability/resiliency task we have before us   Similarly, discussing detail issues of rental housing capacity doesn’t help us pay our bills either.

          JMHO

          1. Don Shor

            is an increase in rental housing capacity truly a goal of the community

            The point I have been making for nearly a decade on the Vanguard is that it should be a goal of the community. It never has been. That is harmful to those who can least afford it. Making more rental housing available would reduce the affordable housing problem as well, since rental housing is affordable housing.
            What that means is that housing projects need higher densities, preferably not as for-sale units but as rental units. That was one of the colossal failings of the Cannery.
            The city can control zoning, densities, and can demand affordable units (least effective option, IMO). That’s pretty much all they can do. The property owners control the how and where. The voters control the whether or not.

        6. Matt Williams

          Don Shor said . . . “The point I have been making for nearly a decade on the Vanguard is that it should be a goal of the community. It never has been.”

          Agreed Don, and like you I strongly believe that is an issue that needs to be actively engaged in a General Plan update process.

        7. Ron

          Matt:  “If your preference for very limited expansion of the number of apartments in Davis becomes the City’s policy going forward, how do you believe we should address the root causes of our community’s economic/financial sustainability challenges?”

          Without addressing my preferences, I’m not sure why you’re connecting apartment expansion with economic/financial sustainability challenges.

        8. Ron

          Don:  “The property owners control the how and where.”

          The city and residents also have a say in “where” and “how much” (via zoning).

        9. Matt Williams

          Agreed Ron, which is why an inclusive community-wide dialogue (as opposed to a exclusive neighborhood-centric dialogue) in the form of a General Plan Update process, is so essential.

      2. Matt Williams

        Ron said . . . “Without addressing my preferences, I’m not sure why you’re connecting apartment expansion with economic/financial sustainability challenges.”

        One of the significant contributors to our community’s sustainability is the changing demographics of the community, which has been driven in large part by the displacement of over 2,300 Davis residents from the 25-54 and 0-19 year-old demographic cohorts by over 3,500 Davis residents from the 20-24 year-old demographic cohort.  That demographic shift affects three of the four Sustainability components, social sustainability, economic/financial sustainability, and cultural sustainability.  They are intertwined and interlocking.  The 850 residents in the 0-19 year-old demographic means a smaller supply of DJUSD students, and since DJUSD is paid by the head by the State, that reduced head count means less revenues for the schools and potential school closings, with a likely diminishing of the perceived quality value of the DJUSD schools.

        The reduction of 1,500 residents in the 25-54 age cohort means diminished business per capita for Davis retail establishments, which are already finding it hard to cover Davis rental rates. Increasing rental rates in a marketplace where the supply of key retail customers is shrinking, is a very bad combination of economic and financial factors.

        In addition, a shortage of apartment rental supply means the continued conversion of single family residences from owner-occupation to rental-occupation.  The consequences of those conversions are also financial/economic.  Conversion of a residence into a revenue-producing business essentially freezes the Prop 13 assessed value of the property.  Rental properties are “cash cows” and there is no shortage of property management firms in Davis ready, willing and able to service the absentee landlord’s cash cow in perpetuity.

        Those are just a few of the fiscal/economic sustainability issues.  I could list a lot more, but I believe you get my point.

        1. Ron

          Matt:

          I think you’re truly venturing into theory, regarding the financial benefit of changing existing zoning to allow more apartment construction.  Without endlessly debating this, a couple of things stood out:

          Regarding Proposition 13, wouldn’t that apply to long-term apartment owners, as well?

          Regarding conversion of existing zoning to allow apartments, might that include some currently-zoned commercial / industrial parcels (leading to a potential loss of businesses)?

          Regarding retail in general, I recall that you made an argument (regarding Nishi) that the “mixed use” businesses (which presumably would include some retail) were not expected to be a significant revenue-generating component, for the city.

          Regarding your earlier statement that I have “Liberterian” views, I’m not sure why you think that.  Most of the views that I express on the Vanguard are related to slow-growth.

          Regarding paying “lip service” about the economic problems the city faces, I realize the importance of dealing with that situation.  (That’s why I reluctantly supported a commercial-only MRIC.)  Also, by supporting slow/limited residential development, I’m not “adding to the problem”.

          Although I reluctantly supported a commercial-only MRIC, I think it’s unfortunate that cities throughout California have gotten themselves into such a financial predicament, and cannot deal directly with the problem (unfunded liabilities, caused by failing to limit the escalation of costs above the amount collected in taxes) in an easier, more straightforward manner.

          Although I reluctantly supported a commercial-only MRIC, I recall that the president/CEO of one of the companies (Mike Hart, from Sierra Energy?) that might have occupied some of the commercial space at Nishi recently stated (on the Vanguard) that we shouldn’t expect “innovation centers” to solve the city’s self-inflicted financial problems (something to that effect). I found that rather refreshing and amusing.

          Not sure if I want to keep commenting on this thread.

        2. Matt Williams

          Ron, we as human beings are always venturing into the realm of theory.  UCD’s toying with the idea of increasing its commitment to housing on campus is theory (hope) until they actually make it real by funding it.  The benefits at Nishi were theory until a positive Measure R vote was achieved.

          Further, all the points you have raised should be front and center in the community-wide dialogue about any update of the General Plan.

          With that said, to answer your many questions:

          Yes Prop 13 would apply to long-term apartment owners.  Their apartment complexes would add to the tax rolls as well.

          I’m not sure what your second point is.  Could you clarify?  If a vacant parcel is generating vacant parcel income for the City and the count of our retail businesses is shrinking due to the shrinking 25-54 year-old demographic cohort, what commercial businesses would we be losing?  I can’t see any industrial sites being used for apartments.

          I’m not sure what your third point is.  Creating living space for 25-54 year olds and their children was never part of the Nishi model.  One of the arguments for more apartments is that it would arrest the cannibalization of existing apartments and SFRs by UCD students.

          Slow-growth is libertarian.  Its foundational principles are linked to preserving the value of the existing homeowners in Davis.

          Regarding your final three paragraphs, if you understand the importance of the economic problems the city faces, why don’t you talk about them and/or their possible solutions?

        3. Ron

          Matt:  “Regarding your final three paragraphs, if you understand the importance of the economic problems the city faces, why don’t you talk about them and/or their possible solutions?”

          I thought I did, to some degree.  (Possible commercial-only development, encouraging the idea of Davis as a “fork-the-farm” movement, bird-watching center, etc.)  Don’t keep raising salaries and benefits above the amount of taxes collected (especially for high-paid public safety employees), don’t approve new residential development that ends up making the problem worse, etc.  Possible targeted, modest tax increase.

          However, since the city (and other cities throughout California) still do not have a mechanism in place to prevent costs from exceeding taxes collected, I think that’s the first place to start.  (It’s still difficult for me to believe that this was allowed to occur repeatedly, throughout California.  I’m wondering what the expectation was.)  It does anger me when city officials essentially allowed the problem to occur (over a long period of time), and then ask residents “what should we do about it?”  (I realize that it’s not always the same individuals in government, today.)

          If cities were run more like a business, they’d probably use bankruptcy protection more often (when running a permanent deficit/loss).  That would allow them to “start over”, with a clean slate.  (However, for many reasons, I wouldn’t recommend this, even if it’s possible.)

          In the end, I think that residents may have to “witness” a decrease in services, before they’ll take it seriously.  (Perhaps not even then.)  But, the world (and even Davis) won’t come to an end.  (Perhaps direct users of some services will have to pay higher fees, at that point.)

          I think that the city does have to consider “opportunity cost” that might be lost as a result of rezoning.

           

           

           

           

        4. Matt Williams

          Ron, you have occasionally made those points, but the ratio of your growth comments to your fiscal challenges comments is heavily weighted toward the former.  Just as you asked me to avoid talking about the history of UCD’s unwillingness to provide on-campus housing because you feel any such discussion undermines Eileen’s efforts, I am asking you to give equal time to discussion of the community’s economic/fiscal challenges as you give to your discussion of growth issues.

          With that said here is a question for you.  “In Davis, which do you think is a greater threat to the ongoing resiliency/stability of the community, population growth or our fiscal/economic situation?”

          While you are pondering that question, please take a moment to answer one of my earlier questions which you haven’t as yet answered.  That unanswered question was/is as follows, “You have referred to the ratio of single-family homes vs. apartment complexes in several comments in several threads.  The implication in those comments of yours is that there is a range of “good” ratio values and a range of “bad” ration values.  Have I understood you correctly in that implication?  If so, can you elaborate on why you believe there are “good” and “bad” ratio ranges?  Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.”

        5. Ron

          Matt:  “Just as you asked me to avoid talking about the history of UCD’s unwillingness to provide on-campus housing because you feel any such discussion undermines Eileen’s efforts . . .”

          I don’t think I worded it in that manner.  However, I have been encouraging those who are concerned about rental housing (particularly for students) to join in Eileen’s efforts.  (I understand that Robb Davis is also making an effort.)  Overall, I firmly believe that the campus is the best place (for both students and residents) to build student housing.  I also believe that it harms the effort to continually suggest that it will fail, and disregards the significant progress that has been made regarding the University’s commitment.  (I’d suggest that it’s much better to become involved in the effort, vs. trying to analyze/predict the outcome in a negative manner.)  However, I don’t want to infringe upon your (first amendment) right to express your opinion.  (That’s what the Vanguard is for, really.)

          Matt:  “In Davis, which do you think is a greater threat to the ongoing resiliency/stability of the community, population growth or our fiscal/economic situation?”

          I don’t mean to sound like Bill Clinton, but I think that “resiliency/stability” might have more than one meaning.  In any case, I don’t think that either of those concerns is an immediate threat to the “resiliency/stability” of the community.  However, I would state that residential development (without a sufficient source of revenue, to offset costs over the long term) actually combines both of these “threats”, together.

          Matt:  “You have referred to the ratio of single-family homes vs. apartment complexes in several comments in several threads.  The implication in those comments of yours is that there is a range of “good” ratio values and a range of “bad” ration values.  Have I understood you correctly in that implication?  If so, can you elaborate on why you believe there are “good” and “bad” ratio ranges?  Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.”

          Actually, it was more of a question, than an “implication”.  I suppose that in general, those living in apartments have a different set of concerns, vs. those who live in single-family dwellings.  I’ve heard arguments which state that in general, renters are less “invested” (literally, and figuratively) in the property in which they live, and in the community at large.  If this is generally true, it may have impacts on the neighborhood/city, as well as the need for and type of city policy/services.  (And, there may be impacts, for example, if apartment complexes are placed in neighborhoods dominated by single family dwellings.)

          You’ve asked me quite a few questions, today.  (I’ll interpret your interest as a complement!)  🙂

          If I don’t respond further, please don’t interpret this as a sign that I’m “out of” responses.  However, at some point, I’d like this thread/conversation to run its course.

           

           

        6. Ron

          Matt:

          Regarding your invitation, thank you.  I would like to meet you.  (I suspect that I’ll see you sometime during an upcoming meeting, and will make an effort to introduce myself.)

  18. Ron

    David Greenwald:  “What do you base that on?”

    In general, if your primary planning goal is to increase the vacancy rate, then other possible concerns (e.g., current zoning, size/type of building compared to other structures and uses within a particular neighborhood/area, parking, traffic flow) would become secondary concerns.  So would any other possible uses of a given site.  If a structure also requires a zoning change to accommodate it, then other similar structures could also then be built, depending upon how far/wide the zoning change applies (with other concerns remaining secondary).  Presumably, this would occur repeatedly/periodically throughout the city, to maintain a desired goal in the vacancy rate, if that’s your primary planning goal.

    I don’t think I need to explain further, regarding the probable impact on the city and current residents/businesses, from using the vacancy rate as a primary planning tool. (Seems kind of obvious.)

    1. Matt Williams

      Ron, you are painting the situation you describe in stark/absolute black and white terms.  The reality is that the vast majority of life exists in shades of grey.

      With that said, and at the risk of repeating myself, the problems you describe are much less likely to happen if we work to change the planning process so that it promotes proactive thinking rather than reactive thinking.  Sustainable Planning means we balance four key components, Social Sustainability, Economic/Financial Sustainability, Environmental Sustainability and Cultural Sustainability.   We need to engage those four components with reliable, transparent, repeatable processes that engage the public, set clear expectations and then deliver on those expectations.

    2. David Greenwald Post author

      I think the planning goal is to increase capacity and a byproduct of that goal would be to increase the vacancy rate, but that’s not the goal itself. But that wasn’t actually my question, but that’s my fault for failing to articulate. My question was on the first part of the question: “I don’t think the University has experienced this type of sustained pressure, previously.” First of all, I think there was pressure previously. Second, I’m not sure we have sustained pressure now. What we have had is a Measure R campaign coupled with an LRDP process. The problem will be once they move LRDP to a final form, the public input phase ends and the university will have to move plan to action which is where pressure subsides and abstract becomes concrete and that’s where we have seen with several big housing projects, UCD get bogged down. Bottom line, we have little control over UCD and planning around their development plans is problematic in my book.

  19. Matt Williams

    Don Shor said . . . “The goal is to provide more rental housing. The vacancy rate is simply a metric as to the state of the market.”

    David Greenwald said . . . “I think the planning goal is to increase capacity and a byproduct of that goal would be to increase the vacancy rate, but that’s not the goal itself.”

    Is the increase in rental housing capacity at the core of your respective statements above truly a goal of the community?  Or is is really also a byproduct of the larger goal of  of achieving a Sustainable, Resilient Davis 2030-2040-2050?

     

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