Guest Commentary: Near Unanimity Is Hard To Achieve, but It Exists with Measure A

City HallBy Dan Carson

Unanimity – or close to it – is hard to achieve in politics and local government. It’s a world focused on accumulating supporters, and when people group together in this or that camp, the impulse to look for strategic openings is high and the risk to staying silent is low.

That’s why I’ve been impressed by the overwhelming number of local leaders who are supporting yes on Measure A. They represent different constituencies, and they’ve advocated different things in the past, but all of them understood how important the Nishi Gateway is to solving ongoing problems in Davis.

Our current representatives in the state Legislature support Measure A: Senator Lois Wolk and Assemblymember Bill Dodd. So too do former Assemblymember Mariko Yamada and former Assemblymember Helen Thomson. Taken together (Wolk served in the Assembly), our local Assembly representation for the past 20 years supports Measure A.

Our current City Council voted 5-0 to put Measure A on the ballot, and each of them (Robb Davis, Lucas Frerichs, Brett Lee, Rochelle Swanson, and Dan Wolk) supports Measure A. Those running for re-election this year (Frerichs and Lee, as well as council hopefuls Will Arnold and Matt Williams, Jr.) also support Measure A. Former council members supporting Measure A total 11, and they include Jerry Adler, Ruth Asmundson, Bob Black, Mike Corbett, Bill Kopper, Joe Krovoza, Deborah Nichols-Poulos, Ted Puntillo, Maynard Skinner, Stephen Souza, and Ken Wagstaff. A few of the above served as Yolo County supervisors, and you can add to those voices Betsy Marchand.

Can anyone recall the last time the student government and business community were aligned on an item on the ballot? I can’t, but here we are, with the ASUCD, Graduate Students Association, Downtown Business Association, and Davis Chamber of Commerce in lockstep. Throw in the two major newspapers in our city, the Enterprise and the Bee, and you have a shockingly large consensus.

Why are all these voices on the same page? There isn’t a single answer. Conceived over eight years of negotiations, the Nishi Gateway project that would be authorized by a yes vote on Measure A has evolved and improved over time to build overwhelming consensus.

The schools get $450,000 a year plus $1.4 million in school impact fees. City services get up to $1.4 million a year plus millions in one-time benefits. The biking community gets a new route along Richards that will protect them cars and trucks. Environmentalists get solar panels at Nishi that will supply 85% of the power needed. The business community gets new customers downtown and R&D space at Nishi that will help establish new and growing companies. The campus community gets needed housing for students, job opportunities for students and faculty, and new routes to campus paid for at private expense. People in Davis concerned about traffic get the most significant solutions to traffic gridlock on Richards that we have ever seen, including the new bypass road to campus. People focused on the preservation of Davis neighborhoods get the first major relief to mini-dorms that we’ve seen in years. People concerned about the city’s debt get all of this without any new taxes.

We may not see this coalition emerge again in Davis politics, but for now our local leaders are overwhelmingly speaking with one voice in support of Measure A.

Dan Carson worked for 17 years in the Legislative Analyst’s Office, a nonpartisan fiscal and policy adviser to the California Legislature, retiring in 2012 as deputy legislative analyst. He now serves as vice chair of the city’s Finance and Budget Commission. This commentary reflects his views only and does not represent the position of the commission on this issue.

About The Author

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

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  1. Alan Pryor

    When built-out, Nishi will make the Davis housing crunch even worse. Let’s do the math.

    The Nishi developers claim the new “Innovation Center” business park will bring 1,800 new jobs. The people in the new jobs and their families will need housing. The Nishi condos and apartments include only 1,432 bedrooms.

    1,432 bedrooms minus
    1,800 new employees and family who need housing
    Equals net loss in housing availability

    It appears that we have near unanimity of leaders who cannot do simple math.

    1. Marina Kalugin

      true that Alan…and since the apartments and condos are NOT needed, more non locals will show up in Davis….and it will fill RIGHT away…kinda like all the other massive developments of both the low income and the high income…….and that is why we still have no vacancy and we have tons of not so bright new people on the school board and the city council……


    2. Dan Carson

      [Note: Since Alan Pryor has posted the identical comments on different threads, I will do the same.]
      Alan, Your math disregards the fact that Nishi Gateway will create jobs for persons living in the Davis housing market today. Part of the strategy behind building an innovation center was to match up high-quality, high-education jobs with Davis’ unusually highly educated workforce.  The independent economic experts hired by the city to review the innovation center strategy say our well-educated workforce and the proximity to UC Davis are key factors in why the city’s economic development strategy, including the Nishi project, will succeed. SACOG is holding up this project as a model for the region because it will improve the jobs-housing balance. I disagree with you: Davis does need new jobs. We don’t have all the jobs we need.
      And, as this campaign winds down, I want to thank you and your No on A colleagues. I think we are all better off as Davis citizens for having had this robust discussion. It’s why I supported Measure J and its renewal. This debate has of course reaffirmed my support for Measure A.

  2. The Pugilist

    I don’t get the point of this piece.  First, there isn’t near unanimity, the community is fairly divided, but the elected officials don’t represent the cleavages in the community.  Second, even if it were, it’s an appeal to authority which is fallacious reasoning.

  3. Marina Kalugin

    You mean NO on A, right?   NO on NISHI>>>.that is what my friends who live around the old Ricci farm….aka Woodbridge are voting…

    those of us who don’t trust the same engineering firm and the same developers and the same realtors and the same….well just fill in the blanks…….

    PS>  If you voted yes by mistake, I believe you can still revote……not sure, but there used to be a way..

    NO ON NISHI>>>   VOTE MARIKO>>>>.yeah, I know…but she is STILL way better than Dodo….

    Vote Matt Williams….  yeah I get it…..but heck one cannot agree on everything…can one??????

  4. ecotect

    Better Planning Needed in Davis

    Those who oppose Measure A are not nimbys, just opposing development outright.  Opposition to Measure A is opposition to very poor, irresponsible planning.  Opposition is resisting bad growth, not no growth.

    Opposition folks are opposed to a lack of sensible master planning for the growth that is needed.

    With so many sites available within the City limits it is glaringly obvious that pushing an ill-fated piece of land that was left after I-80 was placed there is only for the proximity of the University but not for the health of those who would be there.  
    Here is another recent study – in addition to white papers on the opposition website:
    To knowingly put homes and businesses in harms way by being so close to a gridlocked freeway and a railroad with high power lines seems irresponsible. There is no way this can be called a healthy living location even though Yes people seem to just brush this off as silly. 
    Having attended the Cool Davis Community Solar Campaign yesterday it inspired me once again to state that the best use of the Ruff property is a mega solar farm.  It sits in unobstructed sun with an optimal southerly exposure.  The movie “Catching The Sun” showed a gigantic solar panel the size of this property that showed a great possibility for us.  
    Even more inspiration was the announcement that Yolo County is now partnering with Davis for Community Choice Energy. Let’s pause, take a deep breath and re-think the best use of this unusual parcel.  Being so close to a major electrical line it may be a good place to tie into the grid and being between a freeway and a railroad will secure the array from vandalism.  A mega solar array on this long slender property would be a fabulous impression for Davis and the University and it could be part of the Community Choice Energy portfolio for renewable energy. 
    Land planning and use needs to take into consider much more than a proximity location.  It needs to fit logically into a well thought out master plan for neighborhoods, pedestrians, bicycles, cars, trucks, heath and safety.  This site with only 2 ways to get out is not safe and it is not resilient.  How can it be said to be a bike community yet have a 1,700+ parking lot? 
    This is a plea for Davis Residents to vote No for this Measure, yet commit to engagement for Living Community Master Planning for the growth that does need to happen.  Let us define affordable housing.  Let us define sustainable and resiliency. Let us define healthy living and beauty for our City. 

  5. tribeUSA

    Ecotect–I like your idea for a mega solar array for this property! Has anyone done initial feasibility studies for such a land use? I would envision perhaps half of the land for solar and half as a nature reserve.

    Seems like cramming the Nishi proposal into this wedge of land will lead to congestion and too much of a large urbanized area that will start to shift the character of Davis, not in a good way. To further alleviate the student housing problem; further pressure the university to build more dorms (at least 1000-2000 more beds)  in addition to what was in the latest proposal released a few weeks ago. Having the university build dorms ensures the new housing is for students, and won’t grow Davis with additional out-of-towners.

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