My View: Always No? I’m Afraid So

Nishi-Forum-11

Colin Walsh, one of the leaders of the No on Measure A campaign, responds to the Davis Enterprise editorial from last Sunday, “What Next For Nishi?” He argues that it “makes a number of over-reaching assumptions that I don’t agree with.”  He writes that the worst of these is the claim that there is a “corps of Davisites who simply will vote no on every project.”

Instead, he argues, “Davis voters carefully consider every project individually and make careful thoughtful choices. The real problem (which is not mentioned) is the lack of trust that the community has in our city planning.”

He writes, “There is simply a lack of confidence that developers and the city can bring forward an innovative project that benefits the city, more than it financially benefits the developers.”

While Mr. Walsh makes a good point here, he also pushes his argument too far when he writes: “Suggesting that there is a ‘no’ attitude in Davis, or that Davis is ‘closed for business’ does more harm by introducing these fallacies. Davis obviously does not always say ‘no,’ which is evident by all the projects in progress, including The Cannery, Chiles Ranch, Grande Village and the newly approved BerryBridge project. Davis is open for business, and our community just wants good planning.”

He adds, “It is also unfair for The Enterprise to chronically villainize Davis residents who just want to see decent projects proposed. Claiming that Davis is ‘closed for business’ or the answer is always no is not only untrue, but it hurts the city’s image and discourages good, innovative, new projects from being brought forward.”

The first problem that we have is that Mr. Walsh makes a rhetorical sleight of hand.  The Enterprise wrote regarding the outcome of Nishi: “Ultimately, concerns about traffic, pollution and affordable housing — along with existing landlords wanting to keep rents up and the ever-present corps of Davisites who simply will vote no on every project that comes along — kept the measure from succeeding.”

Mr. Walsh not only pulls that accurate quote out of its context, but the counter narrative he offers is false.  When he writes, “Davis obviously does not always say ‘no,’ which is evident by all the projects in progress,” he cites only infill projects that are approved by council rather than the voters.  The difference with Cannery, Chiles Ranch and Grande Village, as opposed to Nishi, is that there was no Measure R vote in those cited projects.

The Enterprise is claiming that there are a group of citizens that always say no to Measure R projects, and they have a point that is unrefuted by Mr. Walsh’s comment.

That point aside, while Colin Walsh doesn’t offer an exhaustive list, one point he fails to acknowledge is that these projects – along with a few others like Verona and Willowbank Park – are the sum total of all projects approved in the last 15 years.  Cannery at just over 550 units, Chiles at 118 units, Grande Village at 41 units, along with a few others, represent the sum total of all approved units since the passage of Measure J in 2000.

While there is the affordable housing at New Harmony and the affordable senior housing at Carlton Plaza, for the most part these subdivisions are single-family homes.  Moreover, for the most part, they represent the available sizable infill space left in the city.

What we do not have in these projects are sizable numbers of rental units that would accommodate the demand for student housing in Davis.  The other thing we do not have is space for research and development, that would have been provided at Nishi or the now-withdrawn Mace Ranch and Davis Innovation Centers.

While I think Mr. Walsh does his argument a disservice by conflating Measure R projects with those within the city limits that do not require votes, I think he makes other important points which highlight that the Enterprise, in its frustration, has made statements exacerbating the situation.

Some of the most notable leaders of the No on Measure A campaign have not – in fact – always said no.  Eileen Samitz was a supporter of both the water project and the Cannery, while Alan Prior was a leader supporting the water project and also a supporter of Wild Horse Ranch.  And, while Michael Harrington has been notably a city opponent on a number of recent issues, he too supported Wild Horse Ranch in 2009.

Labeling people is a good way to get them to dig in – rather than a way to bring the community together.

The Enterprise had an opportunity to acknowledge that some of the problems with Nishi were self-inflicted.  Avoiding the pitfalls of the affordable housing, making the sustainability component more assured, addressing traffic and perhaps concerns about air quality could have easily pushed this project into the Yes camp.

As Mr. Walsh notes, the trust issue is huge.  The current council bears the baggage of those who came before them and attempted to ram through projects like Covell Village.  But the current council also bears primary responsibility for the Cannery.  Three members voted to approve the development agreement in late 2013, and those same three voted to approve a CFD (Community Facilities District).

By itself, Cannery did not sink the Nishi project, but it did tell a bunch of people on the fence that council might not be trusted to see that the city gets the best deal possible.  That is why the affordable housing issue surprisingly resonated so much.

It is not that the public holds the issue of affordable housing in such high importance, it is rather that they can see when the city is entitled to a certain benefit and gets a far less benefit, so the council again looks as though it is not looking out for the best interests of the city.

It is a big failure by the Enterprise op-ed to fail to acknowledge the shortcomings of the project and the legitimate lack of trust by some voters.

However, it is a significant failure by Mr. Walsh and the No on A people to fail to acknowledge that the city’s current trajectory is unsustainable.

Here we agree with the Enterprise when they write: “Davis needs to add more student-friendly housing and diversify its revenue base.  Our streets and parks need attention, and the city budget is under severe strain from unfunded liabilities.”

We agree with the Enterprise that, while Nishi wouldn’t have fixed these problems, it would have been a significant first step.

However, we also agree with Mr. Walsh, “Rather than create division, let’s move forward by encouraging truly well-designed and sustainable projects that embrace the values of our community.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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.

Related posts

63 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    I think that when we discuss sustainability, or growth, or economic viability in Davis there is a tendency to allow the conversation to become very imprecise and this leads to misunderstandings and subsequently to unfounded accusations and even to charges such as “sleight of hand”.

    What I frequently see thrown into the same conversation are very different issues which while related are still quite distinct. The most commonly conflated issues seem to be:

    1. Need for more economic responsibility ( more wise or prudent use of available money, increased taxes, new revenue from business development)

    2. Need for more housing ( affordable, student, market rate single family, luxury)

    3. Need for more “businesses”. Placed in quotes by me because we then further make sweeping claims such as “closed for business” without designating what types of business. I do not know anyone who opposes more small business start ups. I do know a number of folks who do not think that major manufacturing whether more centrally or more peripherally located is the best option for Davis. I also know a number who oppose “big box stores”. I know some people who were opposed to nightclubs downtown.

    While it may be easier to paint with a very broad brush and claim that all of those who are on the opposite side of a specific issue are either greedy, obstructionist or both, the reality is much more nuanced as David has pointed out with specific examples. To his points, I would add that precision in our speech would probably lead to less unfounded assumptions, less accusations, less hostility and overall more collaborative and efficient processes in our attempts to design a truly sustainable community.

      1. Tia Will

        nameless

        Both pro growth and no growth camps use this same imprecise and deceptive wording. Although I landed squarely in the “yes” camp on Nishi, there is no doubt that their glossy Nirvana like ads and their willingness to falsely portray this as about greed on the “no” side, while pretending that there was only altruism ( housing needy students) and solving community problems on the other. Neither group was addressing both the pros and cons in an open and honest manner.

  2. Michael Harrington

    David, you know well what gets favorable interest from us.  Where’s the mitigation land? What’s the quality? How many acres?  Etc etc

    Whitcomb and Ruff own very valuable land on the city’s borders that would make any new project even more interesting.  But they refused to disclose it.  So our conclusion was, right or wrong, that they planned to use the usual junk land out in the county that city staff lets these exterior developers use.

  3. SODA

    David, your reasons rebuffing the DE article are valid however I (and think you too) agree with the author that those of us that have been against one or more projects (whether Measure R votes or not) have not been against all of them and those of us who have been against a project, often are for different reasons. Nishi is a good example that has been discussed in your post-Nishi vote articles. The DE’s intended or unintended ‘shaming’ of those who voted no was not productive.

    Agree with your last paragraph most of all.

    1. David Greenwald

      That’s why I pointed out that the leadership of No on Measure A has actually supported other projects. My purpose here is to point that it’s not effective to accuse everyone of opposing everything – it doesn’t advance the conversation.

  4. Ron

    From the article:  “Some of the most notable leaders of the No on Measure A campaign have not – in fact – always said no.”

    That’s correct.  There’s also active support among slow-growth leaders to encourage the University to build housing for students, faculty and staff on campus. It has apparently already made a difference regarding the University’s plans (which, according to yesterday’s article in the Enterprise, appear to be moving forward).

    http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/new-home-construction-is-on-the-upswing-in-davis/

  5. Roberta Millstein

    David, you suggest that Colin hasn’t given good evidence for the claim that there are people in town who will always vote note.  The title of your piece, “My View: Always No? I’m Afraid So” suggests that you think that there are such people.  But what is your evidence for that claim?  You rightly point out several people who are not “always no,” and then also rightly point out that such claims are harmful and create division.  Yet you seem to want to make it anyway, without evidence.  Why?

    If I say, “there are people who always vote ‘yes’ for any new development, regardless of its flaws,” is that true?  Is it as true as the claim that there are people who always vote ‘no’?  Is it helpful?

    1. David Greenwald

      Actually I charge the Enterprise of lacking that evidence, not Colin. The title refers to the Measure R projects all going down, but I can see the confusion.

      1. Roberta Millstein

        David, you wrote:

        Mr. Walsh not only pulls that accurate quote out of its context, but the counter narrative he offers is false.  When he writes, “Davis obviously does not always say ‘no,’ which is evident by all the projects in progress,” he cites only infill projects that are approved by council rather than the voters.  The difference with Cannery, Chiles Ranch and Grande Village, as opposed to Nishi, is that there was no Measure R vote in those cited projects.

        That sounds to me like you are saying that his claim lacks evidence.

        It’s a bit of a stretch for me to read the title the way you are suggesting, but I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.  I am glad to hear that you are not claiming that there is a substantial block of people in town who will just vote ‘no’ on everything.

  6. Eileen Samitz

    Sorry David, but I really don’t agree with your analysis of Colin Walsh’s letter. The point of the letter seems pretty clear, and that is that most Davis residents just want good planning. Walsh makes that crystal clear in the point you end on and agree with. I agree with that, but that is not what has been the before the public in Measure J or R project proposals so far. Each of the three projects that went to  Measure J or R ballot had a number of significant flaws which is why they failed.

    To mention just of few or the many problems, Covell Village did not address traffic issues and would have exacerbated the circulation problems along Covell and Pole Line, was too large (over 1,800 units) with too many impacts, and at least half of its 386 acres was flood plain. Wildhorse Ranch was over-densified and its design was incompatible with the adjacent neighborhoods, plus had its own access and egress issues. Nishi had significant traffic access and circulation issues, significant air quality issues, significant costs to the community, and no affordable housing. All of these projects as proposed brought more problems, than benefits to Davis, so they were voted down. And let’s not forget that the public gave each of these projects plenty of input from our community to let them know before they went on the ballot that the problems with the projects as proposed were not acceptable. So no developer got blindsided, but instead of working out the issues, they placed the projects on the ballot and tried to force them through. Hopefully, they are learning that this strategy does not work and that it is better to work out the problems first.

    So no matter how much you continue to try to beat this subject to death try to convince readers that nothing will pass a Measure J/ R vote, it is simply not true. The bottom line is when a project comes forward which does not bring more problems than benefits and embraces good planning principles, I am confident that it will pass a Measure J/R vote. Our community just has not had such a project offered to them yet.

    1. The Pugilist

      Actually if you read David’s article carefully, you will notice that while he takes exception to Colin listing non-Measure R projects, he more agrees with Colin than the Enterprise.  David has never argued that nothing will pass a Measure R vote and in fact has repeatedly argued that small tweaks to Measure A could gain passage – something that Harrington has disputed.  So I’m where you get “no matter how much you continue to try to beat this subject to death try to convince readers that nothing will pass a Measure J/R vote…” Is coming from.  He’s never once argued that and I challenge you to show me a single quote where he has.  It goes counter to what he’s argued all along.

      1. Ron

        The Pugilist:  “So I’m where you get “no matter how much you continue to try to beat this subject to death try to convince readers that nothing will pass a Measure J/R vote…” is coming from.”

        For one thing, it seems to be strongly suggested from the title of this article, as Roberta pointed out (e.g., “I’m afraid so”).  And, the title is “repeated” in the comments section, each time someone makes a comment.  (Not sure if this is “by design”.)

      2. Eileen Samitz

        Pugilist,

        Thanks for sharing your view on this article, and in re-reading it I don’t see David directly criticizing Measure J/R, but the title of the article seems to imply that this was the message. If I have misinterpreted this, then my apologies if I have mistakenly thought that David was bashing Measure J/R. That appears to be a theme amongst a few people posting lately who seem to be willing to support any project no matter how many problems or impacts it would bring.  

        Measure J/R was designed to simply give the community the ability to accept well planned projects and reject badly planned projects. For example, Covell Village was a disastrous proposal but thanks to Measure J, Davis voters had the ability to reject it. Measure J/R protects our community from badly designed projects which would otherwise would likely be built against the will of the community. At the same time, Measure J/R puts pressure on the developers to bring forward better designed projects which bring more benefits than impacts, which the community would be supportive of.

  7. MAli

    There are people who have voted no on every project and even before Measure J, they voted no on Wildhorse. There are enough of these people that it makes it impossible to win anything at the ballot box when they are combined with those who oppose any particular project for varying and often opposing reasons like those who said Nishi had too many houses while others said it didn’t have enough. This is why Measure R doesn’t work. Colin Walsh’s argument that we simply haven’t seen a good project is like believing in Bigfoot. Its out there but we are never going to find it.

    Davis is full of people who are against everything. In addition to the projects sited above that lost Measure J/R  votes some were also against the water project because they are so anti-growth that they were willing to sacrifice improving water quality in an effort to keep Davis from having the water to grow. They don’t like the Cannery. They were against West Village too but had to settle for no easy access to the city. They are against more people using our public streets or students in their neighborhoods.They think Davis doesn’t need more students. They think Davis doesn’t need jobs, a head scratcher for many, or that startups are okay but when these companies get big enough to start throwing off enough cash to make a difference they should take their companies elsewhere. There are so many things so many people are against like both peripheral development and infill and big box stores like Target or changing the pad footprint on the stores next to Target that its easy to get discouraged by the fact that there is likely someone who is opposed to every one of these things mentioned.

    1. Roberta Millstein

      “There are people who will vote ‘yes’ for any project, no matter how flawed.  They don’t care if people are subject to health problems or if it will increase traffic or if it includes big developer giveaways.  They claim that growth is the solution to every problem that Davis has.  They focus entirely on business and ignore any other considerations.  There is no growth they have met that they don’t like.”

      MAli, I’d venture that what I wrote above is as true as what you wrote and as equally unhelpful.

      1. MAli

        Depends on one’s goal. If your goal is like mine, to make the case against Measure R renewal and see the tide starting to turn, my rant may be helpful.

        1. MAli

          On the other hand if your goal is to make Davis more affordable for rent gouged students and young families and are frustrated by those who are unwilling to lift a finger to help, stinging like a bee is much better than ropeadoping those who are opposed to everything. A question for those who deny the existence of those opposed to everything the city tries to do, what are you for? Anything that helps newcomers? Please disabuse me with examples that will make a difference.

        2. Roberta Millstein

          MAli, to give one example, I am in support of Eileen Samitz’s proposals to build more housing on campus, and, importantly, more densely than has been proposed.  That would help “make Davis more affordable for rent gouged students and young families.”

        3. Roberta Millstein

          MAli, so you want to defeat those unreasonable people by… being unreasonable?  How does that make sense?  How will that lead to good decision making?

        4. MAli

          Great to see you favor peripheral development on Class I soil at West Village and along Russell and other places but there are so many problems with your solution that its hard to know where to start.

          First, lets start with the reality that Davis has little influence and no control over what UCD does so you aren’t really offering anything that Davis can impact. Its always easy to say someone else should solve your problems instead of solving them yourself.

          Then I wonder why its okay to build peripheral development on campus where it doesn’t contribute to our tax base but not in the city? How will this housing pave our streets and bike paths, pay for our cops or maintain our parks?

          Next let us move on to the fact that UCD can’t even keep up with its housing needs for new students so how will this help with the deficit in housing that has built up in the city over the last decades?

          But for me the big thing is how do these new residents participate in our municipal life. Its simply adding more people who can’t vote in Measure R elections who might want something different than the current residents of the city or fight back with a vote in municipal elections against the refusal to allow them direct access to our streets like on Russell at West Village. Keeping new housing construction outside of the Davis city limit is as undemocratic as anything you would find in Texas or North Carolina where a student I.D. isn’t allowed for voting only its worse because even if someone who lives on campus does get to vote they aren’t allowed to participate in Measure R or city elections even though the outcomes of those elections have a significant impact on their lives. Keeping students separate by sequestering them on campus in huge numbers is “inherently unequal “as Earl Warren said in the unanimous Brown V Board of Education decision in 1954. I guess my mid-century modern home is more progressive than the build on UC land only movement.

           

        5. Roberta Millstein

          MAli,

          Great to see you favor peripheral development on Class I soil at West Village and along Russell and other places

          I don’t have the specifics of Eileen Samitz’s proposal in front of me, and so I am going on my memory (which is faulty), but I believe she has proposed not building on Russell at all and increasing density so as to minimize any new land use.  The university’s current proposal is not very efficient with its land use.  Hopefully she or someone else who has the details can chime in.

          First, lets start with the reality that Davis has little influence and no control over what UCD does so you aren’t really offering anything that Davis can impact. Its always easy to say someone else should solve your problems instead of solving them yourself.

          This has been shown to be false.  The university has already changed its mind about how much student housing it will build, in large part because of the work of people like Eileen as well as members of Council.  We can work with them for an even better proposal.

          Then I wonder why its okay to build peripheral development on campus where it doesn’t contribute to our tax base but not in the city? How will this housing pave our streets and bike paths, pay for our cops or maintain our parks?

          You’ve got this exactly backward.  Building housing is a net loss for the city, not a net gain, because of the services necessary for all of the new housing.

          Next let us move on to the fact that UCD can’t even keep up with its housing needs for new students so how will this help with the deficit in housing that has built up in the city over the last decades?

          Again, the point is to urge UCD to do more than it has promised to do thus far.

          But for me the big thing is how do these new residents participate in our municipal life.

          I do think that this is an unfortunate consequence, but it has to do with decisions made long ago, and it doesn’t outweigh other considerations.  Here I quote the 2008 General Plan Update Housing Element Steering Committee:

          Substantially more core-campus, high-density student apartments are needed to provide permanent affordable housing for the entire average student term, as compared with dorms which only provide one year of housing for freshmen.

          The reasons for high-density apartment housing on campus include:

          1) It can be legally dedicated to UC Davis students (Note: as opposed to housing for students in the city).

          2) It can better absorb fluctuations in the number of student admissions.

          3) It would provide significant reductions in transportation and parking issues created by the commuting of thousands of students.

          4) It can be accommodated on campus as UC Davis is the largest UC campus with over 5,000 acres, and has had a goal of providing 40 percent student housing from 2001, yet has not provided more than 23 percent student housing.

          5) Davis is a relatively small city and should not be expected to house a disproportionately large number of students for a city its size.

           

           

          1. Don Shor

            t I believe she has proposed not building on Russell at all

            It seems like a serious over-reach to push hard for increased housing on campus and then to try to control where exactly that housing goes. Russell is a very logical place for UCD to build dorms and other housing.

        6. MAli

          The economics of housing construction are very much an open question depending on many assumptions. It is clear that those opposing construction have trotted out this argument enough that they have convinced themselves. Still one thing is certain there are many communities that have lower home prices yet seem to have managed to build homes and whose budgets are in much better shape than ours. Folsom comes to mind.

          Matt Williams has pointed out that it isn’t that home construction is a loser its that the city’s finances are so upside down that building new homes won’t bail the city out. Even the city’s Budget and Finance commission was split on whether or not new housing at Nishi was a net positive or not for the city. So I simply don’t buy your argument although its a great “big lie” for propaganda purposes.

          UCD isn’t building more because of lobbying. It is building more because the city refuses. Still it can’t build enough so relying on UC to build won’t do anything for the city and its housing shortage or fiscal problems.

          Finally dismissing the disenfranchisement of campus residents as an archaic anachronism doesn’t get anyone off the hook for advocating policies that make Davis less democratic by arguing for building where people can’t participate in Measure R votes while they demand a voter veto of future projects. If you believe voters should have the final say than you should allow all the voters to participate. Otherwise its a sham and a shame. “Oh well, too bad, that’s the way it is” isn’t an argument for fairness. Its an argument for vote rigging.

        7. Ron

          Mali:  “. . . the city’s finances are so upside down that building new homes won’t bail the city out.”

          Are you suggesting that residential development will (under “normal” circumstances) “bail the city out”?

    2. hpierce

      Clarification… Wildhorse did not require a vote to be approved… a referendum arose to reverse that approval… that FAILED… Wildhorse Ranch (opposite Monarch Lane) did indeed go to a vote, for approval, and that FAILED.

      Clue… if folk aren’t sure on a ballot prop, they generally vote NO… the genius of Measure R/J is that the proponents of the measure knew that.  They were certain that folk wanted to vote (general principle), but unless they ‘liked/loved’ a development, it would be defeated… pure genius!

      PolySci applied!

    3. Tia Will

      MAli

      Pardon me for singling out your comment, but it does represent exactly what I was talking about when I stated that I believe that imprecise language is part of the problem.

      Davis is full of people who are against everything.”

      I simply doubt that this is true. And even you seem to have backed off this somewhat grandiose claim with your last sentence “there is likely someone who is opposed to every one of these things mentioned.”, that first sentence with its implication that Davis is “full” of people who oppose “everything” remains and is unnecessarily polarizing. 

  8. nameless

    I agree that Mr. Walsh conflated housing within the city with housing outside the city limits, which gave his opinion zero credibility.  However the Vanguard is doing the same thing with its statement: “Some of the most notable leaders of the No on Measure A campaign have not – in fact – always said no.  Eileen Samitz was a supporter of both the water project and the Cannery, while Alan Prior was a leader supporting the water project and also a supporter of Wild Horse Ranch.“, conflating the surface water project with housing.  It is perfectly understandable for someone opposed to growth to support the surface water project because the two issues are entirely different.  

    The Enterprise had an opportunity to acknowledge that some of the problems with Nishi were self-inflicted.  Avoiding the pitfalls of the affordable housing, making the sustainability component more assured, addressing traffic and perhaps concerns about air quality could have easily pushed this project into the Yes camp.”

    The perceived problems with Nishi were NOT self-inflicted.  For instance, the no camp demanded more affordable housing at Nishi at the same time they argued for no housing at Nishi – completely contradicting themselves.  Some no growthers have come right out and admitted they believe Nishi should not be built, period, which gives a pretty clear message that nothing will satisfy these people except NO GROWTH, no matter what concessions the developers make.  Secondly, the demands of the no camp would have literally bankrupted the developer – which again shows that no middle ground is acceptable to these people.  The no growthers have theirs, Measure R has built a moat around Davis, and no one else is allowed in.  If you disagree with the no growthers, they will disrupt public meetings, spread misinformation whatever way is necessary (including conflating completely disparate issues) to get the project defeated, file frivolous lawsuits, no holds barred.

  9. Ron

    I’m wondering why the argument has apparently shifted, to an assumption that we “must” approve some type of peripheral residential development at this point (before we’re even done with the Cannery and all of the other developments in the pipeline, and – most importantly, the substantial number of units (including rentals) for students, faculty and staff that will be built on campus.)  Not to mention the fact that we’re already meeting/exceeding SACOG growth guidelines – the closest thing that we have to a growth “requirement”.

    I’d suggest that the “pro-development” types have successfully shifted the argument.

    .

    1. Matt Williams

      Ron said . . . “and – most importantly, the substantial number of units (including rentals) for students, faculty and staff that will be built on campus.)”

      Ron, you are twisting UCD’s words when you use the verbal auxiliary “will.”  The word “will” denotes certainty . . . a certainty that UCD’s Planning Department would be quick to refute if asked to go on record.  Using the word “might” in your sentence rather than the word “will” is closer to reality.

      1. Adam Smith

        Yes Matt.   The Board of Regents must approve building on campus.  What Ron refers to is a draft preliminary plan that has been developed by UCD.  That plan will not be finalized until at least 2017.  I am unaware of the timetable in which the Board of Regents will review and consider for approval or ask for changes.

        The recent  Enterprise article on construction in Davis provides is  insightful  about how long building sometimes takes on campus – for West Village, it was approximately  8 years from Regents approval to first phases opened in 2011.    From the article:  West Village was approved by the University of California Board of Regents in 2003. In 2005, UCD partnered with Carmel Partners Inc. of San Francisco to build the student housing portion of the neighborhood, including apartment complexes known as The Ramble, Viridian and Solstice. They opened in phases starting in 2011 and are home now to 2,000 students.

         

  10. Edison

     
    Recent Vanguard articles have hypothesized that a lack of trust in Davis City Council is responsible for the defeat of Measure A and other Measure J/R votes.  Based on the experience in my neighborhood, which lies well outside the central core, there may be different dynamics at work.  Most of my neighbors probably could not even identify the five council members, let alone cite issues that have spawned trust or mistrust.  As noted recently by one council member, these people are too busy commuting to their jobs outside Davis, taking part in the activities of their children, and simply dealing with the demands of busy daily life.
     
    If anything, the demands on the time and energy of city council members are simply overwhelming. They don’t have staff and the city staff in some cases also lacks depth of personnel.  Case in point is Section 9 of the 1989 MOU between the City and UCD, in which UCD and the city agreed that representatives of the city and UCD would meet and confer on a regular basis, and engage in “front-end” dialogue regarding the UCD Long Range Development Plan, the city General Plan, and would convene a major “review and prospectus” meeting at least annually to discuss activities of mutual interest and concern.  I would venture to guess that neither the city council of the past decade or the staff have been aware of this clause, and that such regular meetings have not occurred.  If they had, perhaps the City would have been in a better position to question UCD administrators on what they were doing to provide post-freshman year housing for the flood of new students, and to challenge those same administrators to devote more funds and energy on planning on-campus apartments instead of the $50 million Mondavi Center, the $30 million art museum and the International Student center now under construction.    This situation demonstrates not that council can’t be trusted, but that that there is probably a lack of institutional memory on the part of both city council and staff.
     
    Regarding Measure A, it’s my impression that the Nishi project would have been approved if it had adhered to the Guiding Principles for Innovation Centers adopted by City Council in December 2014.  That document mentioned nothing about combining housing with innovation centers, nor providing housing for students.  In fact, one of the goals cites was to “…focus on research, technology and advanced manufacturing jobs, and revenue generating uses.”  In the same manner, the Request for Expressions of Interest for innovation center developers released by the City in May 2014 included 12 “Desirable Guiding Attributes,” which included an acknowledgement of the community’s current desire for no residential to be included—yet the Nishi project was allowed to include housing.
     
    As indicated by the Vanguard, another contributor to the defeat of Measure could be the “out clause” in Article 18.05 of the Davis Municipal Code – Affordable Housing.    Vertical mixed use developments that include vertically integrated residential units above ground floors with unrelated non-residential uses are basically exempt from the city’s affordable housing requirements.  If Davis wants more affordable housing for students and non-students alike, eliminating this loophole in the Affordable Housing ordinance should be one of the first tasks of the new city council.
     
    Finally, it is unfortunate that the original MRIC project was “paused” in March. I have a feeling that even though the site is outside the “Mace Curve,” many Davis voters would have approved a ballot measure that included an innovation park that did not include student housing.  After all, it is fundamentally the responsibility of UCD to house its students.  Perhaps another effort of the City Council should be to explore to what extent the cities in which other UC campuses are located are having a similar housing crunch because of students.  Perhaps Davis could join with Berkeley, Irvine, San Diego, Los Angeles, etc., to sponsor state legislation requiring UC to house a much higher percentage of students on campus.   
     

  11. Edison

    Some commenters have argued that building more housing on campus won’t help the housing shortage situation in Davis. However, the UC system has in in fact recognized the negative community impacts of inadequate on-campus housing. In 2002 the UC Regents appointed a Housing Task Force that issued a report titled “UC Housing for the 21st Century.” Salient conclusions of that report include:

    o “Housing that is built to meet student, faculty or staff housing needs also alleviates the need to provide housing to the community for these same groups.  In other words, adding housing in support of the educational mission of UC also adds to the state’s housing stock” (page 2). This basically means that if UCD had been constructing housing apartments commensurate with enrollment growth, more of the apartments in Davis would be available for rental by working families.

    o “Added demand for housing in communities surrounding UC campuses results in rising rental and home prices. Where University affiliated housing is in short supply, the only choice for students, faculty, and staff is to compete in these nearby markets or make decisions to live considerable distances from the campus” (page 2). In other words, UCD–not necessarily Measure J/R–is a large contributor to the housing shortage in Davis because it has ignored the conclusions of the UC system’s own housing task force.

    o “Finally, the construction and financing costs of new housing will need to be integrated into total campus growth plans in such a way as to ensure that each campus has assessed all needs and developed a coherent strategy to satisfy the multiple demands being faced by the University” (page 10).  It seems pretty clear that UCD has not done this.  Instead, the administrators have focused on big ticket projects like the Mondavi, Shrem and international student center, along with the Chancellor’s goal of a Sacramento satellite campus.  UCD’s negligence to provide for its students is the city’s loss.

     

  12. MAli

    You left out the part where UCD got sued over West Village setting back the entire program that UCD tried to implement when Davis elected a no growth city council. Prior to that UCD had a model where they housed the freshmen and let the locals prosper by growing the community to accommodate the housing needs of UC. So its not as simple as its all UCD’s fault. Of course without UCD, Davis would be like Dixon, just another aggie town along the interstate. Its not so much negligence as opposition from the community to build housing reaching onto the campus itself and interfering with the University when it says it wants to grow. More recently demand for growth at UC has accelerated and both opposition to growth on campus and off has impaired bot the city and UCD’s ability to keep up with the statewide demands placed upon UC and the broader community. What you say is only true if viewed in isolation from the perspective of no growth Davis residents but not from the broader perspective of UCD as having the most land available for development by the UC system. UC will play catch up but it won’t be able to meet the needs of the broader community by itself.

  13. Tia Will

    MAli

    I have a question for you. I am asking as someone who would be fine with the students having a vote on city matters. However, I believe that students who live on the UCD campus technically do not live within the City of Davis. If this is true, then they are also not fully contributing to the cost burdens of the city through property taxes. So, my question is, should everyone else who lives in an adjacent community outside of the city also get a vote in city matters?  How far would you extend this ?  What geographic parameters are you setting for who would qualify as a Davis voter and who would not ?

    We have long held to the principle of no taxation without representation. Are you now advocating for representation with no taxation ?  And more importantly in my mind, representation with no responsibility or potential long term interest in outcome as many of these students will be here for a maximum of 4 years and then move on. Many of them will have only their short term financial and social interests in mind and will give no thought to the impact of their decisions on any other aspect of the community such as traffic, roads, infrastructure, health and wellness, safety, elementary, middle and high schools not because they are selfish or greedy but for the very simple reason that most will not be here beyond their 4 year stay. What looks good to them as college freshmen may not look so good to those planning and raising a family or the sandwich generation or seniors. If I could determine this, I would say, let them vote. But be aware that this change, like every other would have unintended consequences if they were to vote in significant numbers.

    1. MAli

      While “taxation without representation” is as old a rallying cry as the republic I have never heard of “no representation without taxation” outside of Davis, where people try to rationalize the voter suppression of students in municipal elections. This suppression has been maintained since the passage of the 26th Amendment in 1971 through the refusal to annex the campus into the city thereby diluting the student vote.

      Of course back in the day only white males that owned property were allowed to vote something that I’m sure you don’t agree should be the rule today. Throughout the United States millions of voters pay little or no taxes, at least 47% according to Mitt Romney, but they still are allowed to vote. As for students only being here for a few years does not make them second class citizens. Also when they leave they will be replaced by other students so there will always be a student cohort of voters here whose collective voice should be included at the ballot box. Allowing them to participate allows a better approximation of the totality of opinions in the community.

      The easiest and fairest thing to do would be to annex the campus into the city but there has been a lot of opposition to doing this over the years.  I think that if you allowed anyone living in the Davis planning area to vote in a measure R election you would get a fairer more democratic process that would better reflect the will of the people who are directly effected by what is or isn’t annexed into the city. If you believe in direct democracy then you should want full participation. Otherwise you are doing the same thing Republicans have been doing trying to suppress voter participation of groups they think will vote against them by enacting barriers to participation uinder the guise of nonexistent voter fraud.

  14. Eileen Samitz

    MAli,

    Had UCD backed down on trying to connect West Village with Russell Blvd. in the beginning, there would probably been no law suit. Russell is the main access to West Davis (other then Covell) and it would have placed way too much traffic on Russell which was entirely unnecessary. Fortunately, UCD finally agreed to not connect West Village with Russell, but not without a great deal of strife they caused the west Davis neighbors. I think the key here is for UCD to work with the City and our community and not ignore the concerns of Davis citizens when they are doing planning that impacts our community.

    1. MAli

      “Had UCD backed down on trying to connect West Village with Russell Blvd. in the beginning, there would probably been no law suit.”

      Speculative and without foundation.

      Anyway why should people who live in West Village not have direct access to public streets? Its not like UCD is landlocked there and needed an easement from the neighbors who sued. I’m sure the people who sued are protective of their own property rights but in this case their property rights were not being violated. Instead they sought to interfere with the property rights of their neighbor UCD. Shameful and disgusting in my opinion.

      1. Eileen Samitz

        MAli,

        Any UCD growth that impacts our community needs to be analyzed, discussed, and agreed upon by our City and community as residents. The other side of your argument, which you do not acknowledge, is that our City and our community as residents, have property rights as well, relative to UCD.  So depending on one’s perspective, it would seem to make sense to work out these impacts issues before proceeding forward with a development that would impact the City. I find it interesting that your point of view would appear to be from the prospective of a developer, or someone involved with real estate, or someone involved with UCD. Is that the case?

         

        1. MAli

          I was recently visiting Village Homes. They have signs posted all over the place protecting their own property rights. Why should UC Davis be any different? Why should Village Homes residents have any more rights to access Russell Blvd. than residents of West Village. It is outrageous. Public roads are not like water rights. There are not senior rights to public streets.The only reason UC settled was so they could get on about their business of trying to build housing for their students. Just imagine if they fought to protect their rights to access Russell, they would be farther behind than they are now. On the one hand you say UCD needs to build more. On the other hand you say they should first consult with the city. Well, which is it? I think I know what it is, you don’t want any growth at all, certainly not on the scale Davis and UCD need and are willing to cling to any argument even one that contradicts your previous position.

        2. Ron

          Mali:  “I think I know what it is, you don’t want any growth at all, certainly not on the scale Davis and UCD need and are willing to cling to any argument even one that contradicts your previous position.”

          I know that you directed this comment to Eileen, but I’d like to respond.

          Eileen is spearheading the effort to encourage the University to build more housing, and has already indicated that she will continue her efforts.  (She has repeatedly invited others to join her in those efforts, as well.) I understand that Eileen has also actively supported other developments (e.g., building on the site of the former cannery, and a commercial-only MRIC).  It’s simply not accurate to state she’s against all growth/development.  (I tend to listen to Eileen, since it seems that she has the best ideas overall regarding the appropriate type/location of development.)  She is not, however, a “no-growther”.

          I also agree with Eileen regarding the need to integrate campus development with existing neighborhoods/streets, to minimize impacts (e.g., in this particular case by not connecting West Village with Russell).  There is no inherent conflict in this approach, nor will it create any delays in construction going forward at West Village.

           

        3. MAli

          No further delays but it already set them back years on the project. Then people attack UC for not doing enough. Damned if you do damned if you don’t.

  15. nameless

    Tia Will: “Both pro growth and no growth camps use this same imprecise and deceptive wording. Although I landed squarely in the “yes” camp on Nishi, there is no doubt that their glossy Nirvana like ads and their willingness to falsely portray this as about greed on the “no” side, while pretending that there was only altruism ( housing needy students) and solving community problems on the other. Neither group was addressing both the pros and cons in an open and honest manner.”

    I have to disagree with you here.  There is a huge difference between advertising “puffery” (Nirvana like ads) versus charges of “toxic soup”, “city giveaway”, “traffic gridlock”, as well as downright lies such as “no ag mitigation”.

    1. Matt Williams

      nameless, you are venturing in the realm of subjectivity. Working backward:

      — What evidence do any of us have of the specific steps that Nishi was taking to satisfy the ag mitigation requirement?

      — Traffic gridlock already exists even without the addition of any incremental volume that Nishi might add.

      — The issue of the city giveaway is in the hands of the Yolo County Superior Court.  Until the Court rules on that issue, we do not know whether there was a violation of the provisions of the Affordable Housing Ordinance.

      Bottom-line, the No On Measure A team took control of the message during the electoral period, and even though the Yes On A team had the ability to address those message control steps, they chose not to do so. Specifically,

      — We all could have KNOWN the specifics of the inevitable ag mitigation steps the Nishi team was going to take, but they chose not to give anyone that knowledge.  They chose, no one else chose.

      — The traffic gridlock issues could have been addressed by the Measure A team with some video simulation/interactive modeling videos, but they chose not to take that step.  They ceded the traffic playing field to the No on A messaging team.

      — Measure A could have very clearly let the voters know that determination of whether there was any give away  was/is in the hands of the courts.  Instead they said “trust us” in a community that has an abundance of mistrust.

      — “Toxic Soup” was advertising puffery.  Very effective advertising puffery.

      Bottom-line, your disagreement with Tia is in large part because you are seeing the world through one-way glasses.  With that said, reasonable people can agree to disagree reasonably.  I suspect you will disagree with this assessment, just as you have disagreed with Tia’s assessment.  I’m cool with that.

      1. nameless

        I completely disagree with your assessment that the Yes on Measure A team did not choose to address the No sides nonsense – IMO the Yes side was drowned out by a drumbeat of constant distribution of misinformation and wrongful interference by the No side.  If you can’t see the difference between advertising puffery versus bogus charges of corruption, I can’t help you.

        1. Matt Williams

          Your disagreement was/is predictable.  You are the one who has introduced the term “charges of corruption.”  The No side referred to it as a give away in violation of the provisions of the City’s Affordable Housing Ordinance.  They backed up that reference by filing that claim as part of their lawsuit.  The Yolo County Superior Court will determine whether the actions of the Council were in compliance with the Ordinance.  Until that precedent setting legal decision is rendered by the Court, all we as the voters/citizens have is a variety of opinions.  You are a lawyer.  You understand legal precedence better than most Vanguard readers.  Yet you choose to ignore your own training?  That sounds like you are using political positioning and political rhetoric to trump the legal process.

        2. Matt Williams

          You say that the Yes side was drowned out by the No side’s drumbeats.  What Yes on A message about Ag Mitigation was drowned out?  What Yes on A message about Traffic Gridlock was drowned out?  What Yes on A message about the Ordinance lawsuit was drowned out?

          I will agree with you that the No on A message about air quality did drown out the Yes on A message about air quality.

  16. Eileen Samitz

    Nameless,

    While it is clear that you were a solid ‘Yes on Measure A” please do not exaggerate what the “No on Nishi” campaign stated. I do not recall “toxic soup” being in our literature nor that there was no ag mitigation. The issue was that the ag mitigation was not identified not even suggested of where it would be. The project was given special privileges like no affordable housing so that was a “giveaway” and the traffic gridlock, well that is simply true, even though you may still be in denial.

      1. Matt Williams

        Don, the disclosure of the specific Ag Mitigation was real, and the Yes on A principals chose to sweep it under the rug rather than addressing it.  That was their choice. As long as they chose to do that they were handing Mike Harrington a loaded weapon to use in their messaging. In my opinion that was a significant miscalculation by the Yes on A team.

        The air quality issues fell much more into the realm of opinion; however, the expert opinion the No on A side put forward was infinitely more qualified that the expert opinion they put forward with respect to traffic.  As I said to nameless, introducing the term “toxic” into the dialogue about air was political puffery.

    1. nameless

      To distance the No campaign from poisonous proxies is disingenuous – to say the least.  Did the No side disavow charges of “toxic soup” and “city giveaway” as well as “no ag mitigation” during the campaign?  I think not.

      1. Don Shor

        “Shameful that our ‘progressive’ city is seeking to create a ghetto for young people in an area famous for its toxic air. Shameful. And that Yes on A mailer had photos of families and babies playing in that murky soup, without one word about the location of the project ?”
        — Mike Harrington

        1. Ron

          Don (quoting Mike Harrington):  “And that Yes on A mailer had photos of families and babies playing in that murky soup, without one word about the location of the project ?”

          And, your point is that the Yes On A literature showing Nishi as a “good place” for raising families (including young children) is o.k.?  (With no consideration of Dr. Cahill’s concerns – a UC Davis atmospheric scientist and an expert in air quality issues impacting health?) 🙂

        2. nameless

          To Ron: There is a huge difference between:

          1. the statement “creating a ghetto for young people in an area famous for its toxic are.  Shameful. And that Yes on A mailer had photos of families and babies playing in that murky soup, without one word about the location of the project ?”  

          2. and a photo of a happy family.

          If you cannot see the difference, then IMO it shows that you have absolutely zero objectivity/credibility on this issue.

        3. Ron

          nameless (or, should we call you “endless”?):

          I can see the difference, but not in the manner you’re suggesting.  There is a big difference between using overstatements, vs. creating imagery which strongly suggests that air quality was not an issue for susceptible populations (including young children participating in outdoor activities) at the Nishi site.

          Seems like you’re viewing the outcome of the vote in a personal manner.

  17. Eileen Samitz

    My point here is that the “No on Nishi” campaign had a variety of folks working on it and while I will take responsibility for what I say, I don’t take responsibility for what others may say. I can tell you that given how the campaign season progressed and destructive actions like the fact that more and more “No on Nishi” lawn signs were being stolen, on top of “Yes on Measure A” signs started appearing uninvited on properties who were “No on Nishi”, things can tend to get a little “heated” to say the least and reaction can be expected. But also as we can see on this blog, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I saw equally heated statements made by anonymous posters who were clearly “Yes on Measure A”. So let’s just say that each side had it’s shot at making their opinions be heard.

    1. nameless

      Pardon, but IMO this statement is pure hogwash. First of all, where is the proof any signs were stolen? Second, where is the proof more No signs were stolen than Yes signs? I saw no comments from the Yes on A people that equalled the nonsense of the No side. And the No side got more than heated – they attempted to disrupt, spread disinformation, interfere, etc.

      1. Eileen Samitz

        Nameless,

        Pardon, but none of this is “hogwash” and I have first hand knowledge of this problem and personally had to replace at least 50 signs over the course of the campaign. Other volunteers in the campaign had to replace well over 70 more No on Nishi lawn signs. Most of these “No” lawn sign replacements were due to the continuous complaints from residents who’s “No on Nishi” lawn signs were stolen, and were angry about it and wanted replacement signs as soon as possible.There were even letters to the editor about the significant theft of “No on Nishi” lawn signs in case you missed reading those letters.

        The “Yes on Measure A” campaign had far less of a problem with lawn sign theft because for one thing they had far fewer signs displayed on residences, and also people on the “No” side of the Measure A issue respected the right for anyone supporting Measure A to display their opinion. Theft of lawn signs is despicable and no one should do it on any campaign.

        Regarding your other accusations, that’s where the real “hogwash” comes in.

  18. Edison

    Regarding air quality, it seems that the word “toxic” is being used in a pejorative and imprecise manner. “Toxic Air Contaminants” (TACs) refer to a particular class of air pollutants, which are measured and regulated by air pollution control agencies such as the Yol0 Solano Air Quality Management District, California Air Resources Board and USEPA.  TACs are emitted by  stationary sources (i.e., factories, power plants) and mobile sources such as diesel truck engines.   The  Nishi Draft EIR evaluated the potential exposure of the site to nearby TAC emissions (I-80, UP railroad tracks) and Ultra Fine Particulates (UFPs).  For anyone interested, go to the City website and look at chapter 4 of the DEIR, pages 4.3-1 through 4.3-33.  The DEIR states that the analysis conducted “…assumes that resultant levels of UFP exposure and diesel particulate matter (PM) on the project site could be potentially be associated with substantial increases in health risks.  Therefore,  this impact would be significant and unavoidable” (emphasis added).  This conclusion is in the City’s own EIR, which I assume was paid for by the Nishi proponent/ developer.  It’s therefore not hyperbole or propaganda; such statements simply have no place in an EIR.   While some Nishi opponents may have gone a little overboard in labeling the site as a “toxic soup,” the City’s own decision-making document (i.e., the EIR) clearly concluded that the potential impact on human health would be significant and incapable of being mitigated.  To the best of my recollection, this is a finding that the Nishi developer never addressed in any of its campaign literature.  The issue was ignored.  Only those who read the EIR or attended Council meetings would be in a position to know about it.

    1. nameless

      IMO, more hogwash being disseminated.  The Nishi developer did provide mitigations to the “toxic soup” by providing a tree buffer, as well as indoor filters.  To say that the Nishi developer never addressed the EIR finding is completely incorrect.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for