Commentary: Are We Fiddling While Rome Burns?

The greenbelt along Cowell Blvd
The greenbelt along Cowell Blvd

On Monday it was interesting to note that the Vanguard article on land use, which attempted to fact-check some of the neighbors’ concerns regarding the proposed Hyatt House, generated over 250 comments and counting.  Meanwhile, Matt William’s fiscal analysis generated just six at the time of my writing this column.

Matt Williams ironically opens  his piece by noting, “In all of the Vanguard dialogue about the Hyatt House project, to date there has been very little discussion about the fiscal viability/sustainability of the project.”  Indeed, there still has not been.

He summarizes Dan Carson’s fiscal analysis as, “The Hyatt House project would financially benefit the city and local agencies. For example, it would likely result in a net fiscal benefit to the City of Davis of almost $700,000 annually.”

It is here that I think the more fruitful and necessary discussion needs to occur.  While some may disagree, my tour of the location convinced me that the land use objections of the neighbors and others are largely unfounded.  Given the existing conditions, greenbelt, trees and distance from the road, the hotel is simply not going to, in my view, have a huge impact on the quality of life of neighbors.

Ironically, what could have a much larger impact on their quality of life is the failure of the city to generate revenue in order to meet basic municipal service needs.  Right now, there is a greenbelt highly dependent on park funding along with play equipment and a nearby park.  The residents have roads that are being stressed due to lack of funding.  They rely on police and fire protection, the former of which at the very least needs more funding for protection of this community.

Ten years ago, the city put forth the Davis Target as a means to generate roughly $600,000 in badly needed sales tax revenue.  It was a measure that I opposed, as I believed at the time that a big box store would undercut local commerce and retail and do more harm than good.  While it is difficult to analyze the impact of Target (one study attempted to at least in terms of VMT), the hotel is projected to provide roughly $700,000 in TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) – on a smaller footprint.

Is a new hotel a magic bullet?  No.  In fact, when the Vanguard met some existing hoteliers in town, they greatly disputed the PKF report on which the $700,000 is based.  They believe the occupancy and hotel revenue projections – which would nearly double in the PKF study – with no new demand generators is far too optimistic.

Whether the PKF projection of $700,000 in revenue or the existing hoteliers’ belief that the annual growth will more resemble five percent per year is correct should be the real question and real debate that we are having.

20 Year Deficit Chart

This chart which the Vanguard constructed, with the consultation of some members of the Finance and Budget Commission, represents the real future challenge of Davis.

While the city has presented a balanced budget on paper, the revenue projections are modest in terms of growth and, once the sales tax falls off (if not renewed), the city falls back into the red on paper.

But the reality is that we have ongoing unfunded needs.  The Vanguard has identified five of them, that flip a modest $1 million surplus for the current fiscal year into a massive $13 million shortfall.

Looking at roads and parks in particular demonstrates the challenge.  Right now the city is funding about $4 million per year in ongoing, general fund money for roads.  That covers roads, bike paths and sidewalks, to be precise.  And, while that represents a huge step forward from where we started in 2009 and 2010 when the Vanguard first covered this issue, it is still about $6 million per year short of what we need.

We really have not begun to deal with the parks shortfall and, again, that includes things ranging from park capital equipment replacement to greenbelts to swimming pools.

The scary part is that, while we have identified an ongoing gap of between $9.6 million and $18 million over the next ten fiscal years, that doesn’t including the bulk of the cost for the 20-year period – much of which is in capital infrastructure for parks.

While the annual $700,000 projected revenue represents a drop in the bucket compared to $600 million plus in unfunded needs (and that might be a low number depending on what happens with CalPERS, as the figure represents a deficit based on 7.5 percent return in a fund that generated less than 1 percent revenue this year), it forms a starting place for an ongoing revenue strategy.

The debate that we need to be having as a community is how to start bridging these scary numbers.  They are not going away and the longer we defer maintenance on things like roads, parks, greenbelts, bike paths, swimming pools, etc. – the higher the eventual costs.

As I argued in Sunday’s column – something is going to have to give here.  People are going to have to give things up or they will face a community in just ten years that does not really resemble what we all appreciate about Davis.

We all want to appreciate our quiet and secluded neighborhoods, but the reality is that, without the financing, the things that we appreciate are going to deteriorate.  It may be our roads.  It may be our bike paths.  It may be our parks or swimming pools.  It may be our greenbelts.

Without presupposing an answer, the debate needs to shift from the exact height of a building to how do we put together a comprehensive plan to address our community needs before it is too late.

—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.

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127 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

    the debate needs to shift from the exact height of a building to how do we put together a comprehensive plan to address our community needs before it is too late

    What needs to happen is our city council needs to grow a pair and stand up to the detractors and say yes to this project without gutting it.

     

    1. Biddlin

      Post at 6:06 pm and let’s see if you are right, again. The huge clue, that ought to be obvious to everyone, is the number of operatives who have joined for no other purpose than to scuttle this project. Was the last measure A vote to close for comfort, Mike?

      1. Tia Will

        Biddlin

        the number of operatives who have joined for no other purpose than to scuttle this project”

        Who are these “operatives” of whom you speak with regard to this project ? Now, perhaps you are correct, and a number of “operatives” will appear on Wednesday. But so far, I have seen only a coupe of folks who seem determined to “scuttle” the project so far.

        This is nearly the same number, by my count, who seem to be promoting the project regardless of its particular merits.

        1. Biddlin

          Tell me you’re not really that naive, good doctor!

          I see no one ” promoting the project regardless of its particular merits.” though, several who will denigrate it, in spite of them. When I say no one,  frankly, there may be one exception…..

           

        2. Grok

          I would argue that there was no one on here yesterday who argued to scuttle the project. Personally I repeatedly called for consideration of ways to mitigate impacts on the neighborhood, but I was met with outright hostility and even attempts at intimidation.

           

        3. Chamber Fan

          Grok: “I would argue that there was no one on here yesterday who argued to scuttle the project.”

          Rosecreek: “we are against the rezoning of the land. We are not open to mitigation.”

           

        4. Barack Palin

          but I was met with outright hostility and even attempts at intimidation.

          Who intimidated you?  I read almost all of the posts yesterday and didn’t see any evidence of that.

        5. South of Davis

          Grok wrote:

          > I would argue that there was no one on here yesterday

          > who argued to scuttle the project.

          Who would think that requiring that they build a single story windowless no smoking hotel without a bar would “scuttle the project”…

        6. Grok

          Fair enough Chamber, towards the end of the day after hundreds of posts a large number were very nasty and unproductive attacks at any attempt to discuss mitigation considerations a Rosecreek neighbor posted. Prior to that I don’t believe anyone argued to scuttle the project.

           

        7. Grok

          SOD – you are completely mis-characterizing the conversation that was on here yesterday, but I appreciate your comment. your comment is a perfect example

          Who would think that requiring that they build a single story windowless no smoking hotel without a bar would “scuttle the project”…

          Your comment is entirely hostile to any conversation on the actual issues at hand. This type of comment on a blog is generally defined as trolling.

      2. Grok

        “Was the last measure A vote to close for comfort, Mike”

        Interesting that you want to involve Mike. Now I am not inviting a lawsuit, but isn’t the traffic study used for the EIR on the Hyatt House the same traffic study he has already sued on twice? Maybe someone can enlighten me, I honestly don’t know.

        1. South of Davis

          Grok wrote:

          > Now I am not inviting a lawsuit

          You are just posting 50 times in a single day on the Vanguard on a single topic trying to stop a hotel that you say you don’t even live near.

          P.S. I don’t think that even Tia and Frankly have ever posted 50 times in a single day on a single topic…

        2. Frankly

          Went back to read what I have written in response to your posts and I cannot see much of anything I can identify as “hostility”.  I think there are several including myself that are irritated with what you write and the fact that you don’t seem capable of conceding a single point in opposition to your opposition.

          I value your posts even as I am irritated with them.

        3. Grok

          Frankly, ironically, if you look at the thread immediately above this thread you will see that I conceded that ChamberFan was right on a point.before you made the comment above.

  2. Tia Will

    David

    I agree that it is a problem that the focus of comments on the Vanguard is on concerns of neighbors rather than on the overall economic benefits/or lack thereof of the project. However, I see it a little differently.

    1. The posters on the Vanguard typically do not have the requisite expertise and experience to adequately address the numbers. Even those who are essentially numbers and policy wonks, and those whose profession is the development and management of hotels do not seem to be in agreement about the interpretation of the facts as presented by Matt and what they actually mean for the community.

    2. Fact of current demand is not necessarily a good predictor of outcome. We saw this with the Target in which ( although we did not obtain the exact numbers) the actual revenues from its opening apparently did not meet the anticipated projection. So one valid question is “How much variance from the anticipated $700,000 in revenue are we likely to be looking at ?  What is the best and worst case scenario which is what I had suggested be presented as opposed to just the more favorable number. I suggest that only the developers or perhaps someone with experience such as Dan Carson might be willing to provide not only the most optimistic view, but rather a realistic range that also reflects the concerns of others in the business who do not happen to post here.

    3. The very fact that there is talk about “mitigation” confirms that there is anticipated harm to the adjacent neighbors. If not, no “mitigation would be necessary. So the real question for me is where is the appropriate balance between anticipated good for the city and potential ongoing harm to the neighbors. I would suggest that one thing that should be considered is the actual loss of resale value of the property should an owner decide to sell for whatever reason. I have seen no factual discussion of this issue.  Also all mitigations are likely to be precisely that, partial compensation for an anticipated harm or at least annoyance. An annoyance which is ongoing may seem minimal to those not impacted, and thus viewed as trivial , but may be major to those undergoing the “annoyance” daily.

    4. A final point which I have never heard discussed and applies to all developments, not just this hotel. Since it is the immediate neighbors that are most likely to be negatively affected, why do they not seem to be consulted prior to land acquisition for their thoughts about projects?  Why do they not seem to be included when the investor groups are being formed thus giving them an opportunity to have the long term benefits as well as the long term disadvantages of the development ?

    1. quielo

      “why do they not seem to be consulted prior to land acquisition for their thoughts about projects?” Because that could potentially raise the cost of the land.

        1. Tia Will

          David

          Just because something is not required does not mean it is not an idea worth considering. Obviously I am not referring to cases in which there is no land acquisition, but I can name a number in which there has been acquisition, as I am sure that you are well aware.

          Rather than the ongoing complaints about those who will obstruct any project, why not try to work with them proactively and see if that works out better. We all know how to characterize doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. Why not try something different ?

      1. Tia Will

        quielo

        Because that could potentially raise the cost of the land.”

        It could. But it could also possibly save them money in terms of less need for project revisions, less delays, less mitigations, less need for lengthy negotiations ( which I have told waste time and money) and potential less expensive law suits.

    2. David Greenwald

      A few points in response. The target of this column was not just the comments on the Vanguard. But we have plenty of discussions about numbers and such.

      I also wanted to address this: “The very fact that there is talk about “mitigation” confirms that there is anticipated harm to the adjacent neighbors. If not, no “mitigation would be necessary.” You’ve chosen to use “harm” rather than “impact.” I have a second story bedroom window that looks into the window of the people across the ally from us (far closer than this project). I would never know it since I have blinds and I assume they have something as well. That’s not a harm to me. I might be impacted if a new building were put in, but that impact can be mitigated. Sometimes the mitigations mean that they reduce the effect and sometimes the effect is dropped to zero.

      But once again here we are addressing land use issues rather than the fiscal impact on the city.

      1. Tia Will

        David

        I would never know it since I have blinds and I assume they have something as well. That’s not a harm to me”

        Here you are making the assumption that because you do not find something burdensome, neither will anyone else. I guarantee you that with my physiologic need for lots of light ( a bad case of seasonal affective disorder….which is yes, a real condition), I would find the need to keep a shade down for privacy a major issue. So much so that this is why I live in California instead of my home state of Washington, and why I always choose houses with many windows and an open feeling.

        Now if I had bought a home based on the availability of these conditions only to have them blocked by a nearby new construction, this would be a major problem for me even if you viewed it as trivial. The fact that this new construction was based on a zoning change, when I had specifically made my purchase based on the current zoning would be adding insult ( from the city no less) to injury.

        Sometimes the mitigations mean that they reduce the effect and sometimes the effect is dropped to zero.”

        You left out a third possibility. Sometimes they simply do not address the concern at all but a project may be approved anyway because of the perceived “greater good”. I agree that this may be inevitable, but then the “greater good” should be almost a certainty rather than debatable since otherwise we are accepting real harm for little in return. As a city, we may be able to say “oops,that didn’t turn out as well as expected”, and move on. The neighbors may not have that option and may simply be stuck with their losses.

        But once again here we are addressing land use issues rather than the fiscal impact on the city.”

        Surely we are addressing both as they are intimately intertwined.

        Again, I am speaking generally, not about the merits of this specific project.

        1. Barack Palin

          I would find the need to keep a shade down for privacy a major issue

          I have windows in which my neighbors can look into my house.   I have blinds on them and when adjusted I get plenty of light while at the same time keeping my privacy.  As David said, there are ways one can mitigate.

        2. Adam Smith

          And you have been saying this for almost as long as I have been on the editorial board. And you are still saying it using the same dramatic terms such as “before it is too late” and “while Rome burns” despite your admission that the more recent councils have been moving to address the issue.

          What I see at times is an over dramatization of issues and an under appreciation for a steady but gradual approach to change. If everything is a “crisis” then there are only reactionary responses which leave little room for a more deliberate, reasoned and steady approach to acknowledged problems.

          And Tia, what would you say the trend in the quality and quantity of city services has been over the last 10 years or so?      Quality of infrastructure such as roads,  parks, etc?

           

        3. South of Davis

          Tia wrote:

          >  when I had specifically made my purchase based on the current

          > zoning would be adding insult ( from the city no less) to injury.

          Is a 50 foot office building with three floors of windows (the current zoning) really that different than 48 foot hotel with four floors of windows (what they are asking for)?

          P.S. Some friends in Palo Alto actually filed a complaint with the city when the “office building” across the street from their condo was more like a “frat house” (with “tech bros” making noise and drinking 24 hours a day).  I could not find it on line but I did find this story:

          http://bestthenews.com/article/when-it-comes-age-bias-tech-companies-dont-even-bother-lie-tue-04052016-1439.html

      2. SODA

        I agree with your first sentence. When I read Matt’s article yesterday I fully expected to comment, but after reading it, it made sense (!) so I didn’t. I questioned the $700K and kind of expected Matt to disagree but when he didn’t, I was impressed both Dan and Matt agreed. I am a moderately far neighbor (SODA), but travel Cowell most every time I go downtown or to Richards.  I was against the New Harmony for its sheer mass and traffic, but it has not lived up to these negative predictions and I am getting used to its mass and I think it is a handsome building. With 69 units, is its footprint larger or smaller than the proposed 120 room Hyatt? Has that been compared? I will say that the traffic is more congested since Davis Diamonds and there is a curve on each side of the proposed Hyatt. Turning left out of the Hyatt will be problematic. Turning left from the western exit of New Harmony is illegal I believe because there is a double double line, but it happens and because of the curve and the speed, it can be edgy.

    3. Mark West

      Tia Will: “The posters on the Vanguard typically do not have the requisite expertise and experience to adequately address the numbers.”

      Which is why it might behoove them to pay attention when someone who does have that expertise comments.

      “Even those who are essentially numbers and policy wonks, and those whose profession is the development and management of hotels do not seem to be in agreement about the interpretation of the facts.”

      Projections are estimates based on the best information available and the author’s background and expertise. There are no guarantees and you should expect some divergence in those estimates even from similarly trained experts. When the author of the estimate has a vested interest, say the owner of a competing enterprise, you need to take that aspect into account. It should not be surprising that Matt and Dan will have a different take on the numbers regarding a proposed new hotel than will the owners of the existing hotels in town.

      “We saw this with the Target in which ( although we did not obtain the exact numbers) the actual revenues from its opening apparently did not meet the anticipated projection.

      You like to repeat this assertion, but we have no way to prove or disprove it, and it really isn’t relevant to the discussion of the hotel.

      “How much variance from the anticipated $700,000 in revenue are we likely to be looking at ?

      You can best answer that question by looking at the range of answers coming from the experts making the estimates. I have seen no one dispute the projected millions in one-time fees from construction, and the ranges for annual net revenues are all in the multiple hundreds of thousands. The year-to-year actuals revenues will vary based on the economy and other uncontrollable issues but will likely remain within the same range of multiple hundreds of thousands.

      “I would suggest that one thing that should be considered is the actual loss of resale value of the property should an owner decide to sell for whatever reason.”

      On what basis do you assume there will be a loss of resale value? The home values are currently discounted by the market because of proximity to the freeway (noise) and the vacant commercial property to the north (uncertainty). The proposed project will reduce the traffic noise problem for the immediate neighbors, and remove the uncertainty. No change or an increase in value for those homes appears more likely than would a decrease. By the way, if the property values of those homes go up after project construction do you think the homeowners should pay a fraction of that increase to the City (or the Developer) as compensation?

      “Since it is the immediate neighbors that are most likely to be negatively affected, why do they not seem to be consulted prior to land acquisition for their thoughts about projects?”

      They do not own the land so there is no basis by which they should be consulted. If you want to control what happens on the land next door to your home, buy it.

      “Why do they not seem to be included when the investor groups are being formed thus giving them an opportunity to have the long term benefits as well as the long term disadvantages of the development?”

      Nothing precludes them from being included, but such groups typically come from the developer’s friends and business associates. If you want to be included in investment groups it is your responsibility to make your interests known to the people in your area developing those sorts of projects.

      A developer would be failing in their fiduciary responsibility to their investors if they announced their plans in advance of securing control of the land for a proposed project. That is why all prospective investors interested in evaluating a given project have to sign a non-disclosure agreement (which includes not telling their next door neighbor about a potential project over their back fence). If you have developed a reputation for opposing development projects in your neighborhood, you should not expect to be contacted about investing in the next one.

       

      1. Tia Will

        MW

        Which is why it might behoove them to pay attention when someone who does have that expertise comments.”

        Yes, but which experts do you pick. It would seem that with the case of Nishi, people on both sides of the issue choose the “expert opinion” that best matched their preconceived ideas. I would consider both the developers and the hotel owners to be “experts” in the area of hotel development and management. They are not in agreement. Alan made the point that perhaps the current hotel owners allowed their profit motive to influence their opinions. I would say the same is likely true on both sides as I doubt anyone would be promoting the development if they did not feel that there was money to be made. So which expert’s opinion should we believe ?  The one closest to your position ?

        but we have no way to prove or disprove it”

        With regard to Target, you are right that I have no way to prove or disprove it, however, I clearly remember an article that stated that it did not meet the projected goal. Perhaps David or Matt could be of some help with this issue.

        They do not own the land so there is no basis by which they should be consulted. If you want to control what happens on the land next door to your home, buy it.”

        A developer would be failing in their fiduciary responsibility to their investors if they announced their plans in advance of securing control of the land for a proposed project.”

        Well you can hardly do that if you do not even know that it is for sale, now can you. And I know that it is common practice for investor groups to be comprised of the wealth, the well connected and their friends. I hardly see this as promoting good community processes. What this results in is the investors acquire still more wealth while those who are “impacted” feel the negative impacts often without significant compensation for their perceived and/or real loss. As for the assertion that if one is interested in investing one should make their desire known to a developer, again, how do you suggest that one do that if you are unaware that any investment is going on or project planned until the news is announced in the local newspaper ?

        1. Mark West

          Sometimes I wonder Tia…

          1. I suggested you look at the range of estimates and make your best judgement. If you have one ‘expert’ who’s opinion you trust and value, bias your reading towards that answer. None of the answers will be absolutely correct so you are going to have to make your own decision of balance.

          2. The Target story isn’t accurate. Time for it to be retired.

          3. I explained that investor groups generally come from friends and associates of the developers. If you want to be an investor in projects, get to know the local developers and let them know you are interested. If they want you on their team, they will contact you when they have a project they think you will be interested in. It is their choice, however, so there is no way that you can force them to take your money. My late business partner’s approach was “never take money from someone you don’t want to have at your parties.”

          4. You are just going to have to accept that you won’t know about most of the projects until after the land has been acquired and the proposal has been submitted to the City. That is a simple reality of life and there is nothing anybody can or should do about it.

        2. quielo

          There is a big difference between an “expert opinion” and an ‘expert with an opinion”. During the Nishi there was much of the latter and not much of the former. If an expert does not have any data and just makes a “WAG” then it’s an “expert with an opinion” not an “expert opinion”

    4. Frankly

      Tia – the more I read from you on the topic of development the more I am disappointed with you.

      Your agenda is clearly anti-growth.  You say you are for keeping communities small and dense and car-less, yet it takes a monumental effort for you to support any development.   Nishi has been the ONLY significant development that you have claimed to support, but you made it clear that you were ready to turn to opposition if anybody said anything that inflamed your sensitivities.

      You clearly want Davis to stay your retirement bedroom community.  Why don’t you just admit it since you end up telegraphing that agenda in the end?

      By the way, I am going to add PATS (People Afraid of Tall Structures) to the list of identifiers that included NIMBY.   When is the last time you have traveled to old Europe walking around the walk-able and beautiful city centers and neighborhoods where the buildings area all 5 stories and higher?   Have you noted all the hotels mixed in amount the residential properties?

      The arguments from those opposed to this project are mostly silly.

      1. Tia Will

        Frankly

        Tia – the more I read from you on the topic of development the more I am disappointed with you.”

        Stop. You are breaking my heart.

        Nishi has been the ONLY significant development that you have claimed to support, but you made it clear that you were ready to turn to opposition if anybody said anything that inflamed your sensitivities.”

        First, this is untrue. I would likely have supported the DIC and would even have considered MRIC if the housing component had been included. Also I would likely have considered a similar smaller project for the Cannery site had that been proposed. Secondly, you clearly passed over what I did say in favor of what you think I must believe. I said quite the opposite about my Nishi vote. I stated clearly that the vitriolic language did not change my vote, but that I feel that kind of language has the ability to change the minds of others from my tabling and canvassing activities.

        Why don’t you just admit it “

        Because it isn’t true. You don’t want me to start lying do you ?

        When is the last time you have traveled to old Europe walking around the walk-able and beautiful city centers and neighborhoods where the buildings area all 5 stories and higher? “

        The last time I was in Europe was last summer. I was in several beautiful old cities and towns where the central buildings were two to three stories.  So unless there has been an unprecedented building boom, I do not believe that your European story holds.

         

  3. Delia .

    David,

    For your work on Court watch I love you and your wife and your entire staff.

    I do not love you telling me what the real questions should be. As a I’ve stated before, I left your beautiful village for a number of very complex reasons. One of them was gentrification.

    Peace,

    Delia

    1. David Greenwald

      Unfortunately in ten years this community is likely not going to resemble the one you left because we failed to generate revenues to sustain it.

      1. Odin

        How so?  How will it look different?  You keep claiming somehow Davis will fall into ruin yet don’t explain how.  You obviously haven’t been to a lot of third world countries.  This community is wealthier than the majority of the surrounding area yet you make it sound like we’ll look like Detroit in a few years.  Some of us aren’t buying it.  All I see is overpaid bureaucrats, firefighters and policeman in a town swarming with wealthy people unwilling to pay the taxes to keep Davis the way it is.  I keep reading on here how unwilling Davisites are to new growth, but do little to argue against the fact that you don’t want to see tax increases.  You see the solution as development but where has that gotten surrounding communities?  Unsustainable sprawl and strip malls at every corner.  If you want to live in a place like Elk Growth with unfettered growth as a means to fund their government, then by all means move there, but don’t make it sound like this town will fall into ruin if we don’t meet our financial obligations (mostly created by our city council).

        1. David Greenwald

          “How so? How will it look different? You keep claiming somehow Davis will fall into ruin yet don’t explain how”

          Really? I think I’ve been quite explicit. In ability to maintain roads, closure of parks, greenbelts, pools, other amenities. Reduction of city services.

        2. Odin

          So the solution is continued unfettered growth??  How is this sustainable??  How does it create a better, more cohesive community?  More growth puts a greater impact on parks, and roads requiring even more funds to maintain them.   It’s an unsustainable model for growth that resembles a ponzi scheme.

        3. Frankly

          So the solution is continued unfettered growth??

          Hyperbole

          Davis has less that 50% of the commercial space than any comparable city.  Davis gets less that 50% of sales tax revenue as does the lowest of any comparable community.

          The only thing unfettered in Davis is the opposition to any and all development.

        4. Odin

          See, here is where you and I differ.  You look at this map: http://cityofdavis.org/city-hall/community-development-and-sustainability/test-development-projects

          and want to see more growth and I look at it and think “what are they complaining about?”  It’s all a matter of perspective.  Like I said above, Davis is a far, far way off from resembling Detroit, but some of you want the rest of us to think it someday will so keep thinking in your half-filled glass way and I’ll keep thinking mine.

      1. South of Davis

        BP wrote:

        > What does this project have to do with gentrification?

        From Dictionary.com gentrification is:

        “the buying and renovation of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods by upper- or middle-income families or individuals, thus improving property values but often displacing low-income families and small businesses.”

        1. Is there a house or store on the site?  NO

        2. Is it in a “deteriorated urban neighborhood”? NO

        3. Will the upper income people building the hotel improve property values? YES (and they will also improve city business tax revenue, property tax revenue, sales tax revenue and TOT tax revenue, and income tax revenue)…

        4. Will any “low-income families and small businesses” be displaced? NO

  4. Doby Fleeman

    David,

    Vert interesting article because it points out the fundamental difference a council and community which can intellectually appreciate that we have a problem, yet can be bound up in terms of meaningful progress owing to a lack of concensus on a path forward combined with an underappreciation of the overt leadership and advocacy to move forward.

    1. Misanthrop

      Democracy can fail for this very reason. It was a big worry for the founders of this great nation. It is one of the reasons they chose to be a Republic.

  5. Tia Will

    Unfortunately in ten years this community is likely not going to resemble the one you left because we failed to generate revenues to sustain it.”

    And you have been saying this for almost as long as I have been on the editorial board. And you are still saying it using the same dramatic terms such as “before it is too late” and “while Rome burns” despite your admission that the more recent councils have been moving to address the issue.

    What I see at times is an over dramatization of issues and an under appreciation for a steady but gradual approach to change. If everything is a “crisis” then there are only reactionary responses which leave little room for a more deliberate, reasoned and steady approach to acknowledged problems.

    1. Biddlin

      “moving to address the issue.”

      At glacial speed, too. Tia, it’s like the old algebra question about one train catching up to the other. The rate of decay is outrunning the actions of the council.

      1. Tia Will

        David

        I posted the numbers – which of them do you dispute?”

        I don’t dispute any of the numbers. It is your ongoing interpretation of the numbers as representing “crisis” that I dispute.

        We have had this conversation before. Because of my profession, I have a very high threshold for the use of the word “crisis”. Hyperbole tends to raise adrenaline levels at times when what are needed are cool heads and steady hands. A nurse who comes to me with the report stating that patient X is actively bleeding, and has already lost 500 cc of blood does not need to say in addition “oh my God, if we don’t  something right now she is going to bleed out and will be dead…..I tell you doctor….dead ! Think of her poor motherless children ! ” The first part of the messaging is objective and helpful. The second part is only going to be an unwelcome emotion driven distraction from what I need to do to save the patient.

        We have serious problems that need addressing. It is possible to present accurate numbers without the embellishments. Matt and Don Shor are individuals who do so here on a regular basis.  I do not believe that phrases such as “before it is too late” without providing a specific time table for what you see as “too late” does anything except amp up emotions and certainly does not promote calm and steady evaluation and action.

      2. Tia Will

        Biddlin

        I agree. The progress is way too slow. Since the short term portion of the comprehensive solution is to raise taxes, I would have encouraged that step years ago. I would have like to see Nishi go forward.

        But again, I do not believe that hyperbole, which promotes over reaction and oppositional attitudes ( the phrase the sky is not falling comes to mind) helps to move us forward faster. I see it as polarizing and easily dismissed in much the same way as posters here have dismissed sincere concerns as “trivial” or “silly”. I see part of our problem with making progress is a failure to listen to each others concerns and reasoning seriously. This is true on both sides of the growth issue. I see “toxic soup” and “while Rome burns” as two sides of the same emotional manipulation coin.

    2. Delia .

      And now the number crunchers will smile patronizingly and chuckle and tell me we are hysterical women who cannot understand a business model. We let our emotions rule. We are illogical.

      Guilty as charged and damn proud, too.

      Peace.

  6. Sam

    It would be interesting to find out if people don’t understand or if they just don’t care that the City does not have a balanced budget* and almost insurmountable unfunded liabilities.

     

    *Governmental accounting does not reflect the financial strength of a government. Using generally accepted accounting principles the City is not doing well.

      1. Sam

        Yes, the fact that someone is still willing to loan you money does not indicate great financial strength.

        As long as people think like Tia does above nothing is going to change and people are not going to realize that the City is spending way more than it collects in taxes and fees.

        1. Doby Fleeman

          My favorite analogy would be a new government-backed credit card for parents and requiring interest-only payments with the accumulated principal balance passing on to their surviving kids for repayment over the next 30 years.

        2. Doby Fleeman

          OK – so that one was too subtle.  How about the same interest-only credit card for the current generation with responsibilty for principal repayment deferring to the next generation?

        3. Mark West

          “OK – so that one was too subtle.”

          Not too subtle, the problem is that most here would rather argue about the theoretical impacts of development instead of the actual impacts of not paying our obligations.

      2. South of Davis

        Doby wrote:

        > Many would like say why not issue pension obligation

        > and infrastructure bonds and let the kids worry about it.

        Just like most Americans don’t realize that carrying a credit card balance is a bad idea most American’s don’t realize that letting a city float bonds to pay bills is a bad idea. Most American’s know who Kim Kardashian is but have no idea that almost every pension (public and private) in America is drastically under funded.

        http://www.pensiontsunami.com/

        I find it funny that my conservative friends (who don’t get government pensions) worry about the cuts that are certain to come more than my liberal friends (many who have pensions of over $150K/year + medical+dental and vision for the whole family worth at least $25K/year)…

         

         

    1. Topcat

      It would be interesting to find out if people don’t understand or if they just don’t care that the City does not have a balanced budget* and almost insurmountable unfunded liabilities.

      Most people don’t follow city politics or budget issues.  They are mostly concerned with their own lives and families and don’t have time or energy to learn about the intricacies of city finance.

  7. Ron

    From article:  “While it is difficult to analyze the impact of Target . . .”

    Why is it difficult to analyze the impact of a development that was completed years ago?  And, what that might say about the accuracy of analyzing any unbuilt development?

     

      1. Mark West

        “Why is it difficult to analyze the impact of a development that was completed years ago?”

        The City has sales tax data on a store by store basis, but it is illegal to share that information with the public. That makes it impossible for the public to accurately analyze the impacts of adding a single development project other than by seeing the overall change in sales tax revenues.

        I believe that the property tax generated by a parcel is public information, so we can more accurately assess the benefits of increased property taxes due to a development project (such as an innovation park or hotel). In the case of the target development, I am willing to bet that the increase in property taxes generated from the parcels have been significant, though rarely discussed.

        “And, what that might say about the accuracy of analyzing any unbuilt development?”

        They are estimates, using the best available data, but they should not be viewed as guarantees. The ‘Target didn’t live up to projections’ story line is popular in Davis (and with David), but not really very useful. First, because it helps create the mindset that projections are guarantees, and second because the public does not have access to the data to prove or disprove the assertion.

      2. South of Davis

        Chamber Fan wrote:

        > Probably because individual sales tax information

        > is confidential and highly guarded.

        Public companies almost all release average sales per store and average stores per sf.  It is hard to believe that the Davis Target is not well above average (if anyone has ever been to the place in late September when thousands of kids are buying stuff for their dorm rooms) .  Unless someone knows a retail analyst who has some reason to believe the Davis Target is “below average” it seems like taking the average sales/sf for that type of store (- % average non taxable food for that type of store) should give a good ball park idea of the sales tax revenue from the store.  The property tax number is public record and you can call the assessor and get it to the penny (and multiply x 1.02% to get next years property tax)…

        1. Mark West

          CA Target stores average sales per square foot > $300 (2016). At 137000 square feet, that comes to an estimated $41 million in sales for the Davis store. Don’t know the fraction of non-taxable sales, but 8.5% of $41 million is $3.5 million. To complete the back of the envelope calculation you need to know what fraction of those taxes pass through to Davis.

          1. Don Shor

            Local tax is 1.5%. About $617,000, except that 10% of Target floor space is supposedly grocery of which some percentage is non-taxable. We don’t know what percent is actually grocery sales, and not all grocery sales are non-taxable.
            Some of that $600K came at the expense of other retailers.

        2. Mark West

          “Local tax is 1.5%. About $617,000, except that 10% of Target floor space is supposedly grocery of which some percentage is non-taxable. We don’t know what percent is actually grocery sales, and not all grocery sales are non-taxable.Some of that $600K came at the expense of other retailers.”

          Unfortunately, the details are mostly unknowable to the public so all we have to work with is this rough estimate. We can see however that the estimate is in the ballpark of what was projected so perhaps we can now retire the ‘not living up to projections’ line in our discussions for the future.

  8. Jim Leonard

    Perhaps the bigger City’s financial picture should be looked at before evaluating the need for projects. The bike museum building is leased out to the bike museum at a charge of $1.00 per year. The fair market value for that space is $96,000.00 per year. The City’s loss is $95,999.00 each year it has this contract.

    I am not opposed to the City raising money through approving the building of hotels and getting a transient occupancy tax. With U.C.D. expanding its population, more hotel rooms are probably reasonable.

    I am opposed to the rationalizations and panic over revenues that the City is engaged with, particulary when neighborhoods’ needs are ignored and violated with the justification of the “greater good”.

    I don’t think the City has the moral high ground here. Rosecreek deserves to be listened to. And, if necessary, the project needs to be denied.

    The City, for once, should act to bring everyone into conversations about local projects because: 1) we’re all Davisites and we deserve it, and 2) local projects have the potential to affect any one of our particular neighborhoods.

     

     

      1. hpierce

        Wonder what the City’s expenses are for maintenance, depreciation, admin., etc.  Hope the City could cover all those costs, and at least $1.00 to boot.

        1. South of Davis

          hpierce wrote:

          > Wonder what the City’s expenses are for maintenance, depreciation,

          I know hpierce has worked in government and I’m surprised to read the word “depreciation” from anyone in government since over the years it seems like the public sector totally ignores “depreciation” and “reserves for replacement”.  The private sector reserves for things like roofs, HVAC systems and parking lots based on the average live of the items while the public sector (more often than not) spends the reserve funds and then floats a bond (that out kids will pay for) to “help the schools fix leaky roofs, cold classrooms and cracked playgrounds”…

        2. hpierce

          Why surprised?  Departments often fought for reserves and capital replacement funding, only to be rebuffed by CC for ‘feel good’ things.

          Staff warned about inadequate funds being set aside for street maintenance, for example, since the late 80’s…

      2. South of Davis

        Biddlin wrote:

        > So you think the bike museum should pony up $96K/year?

        My question would be “who besides the bike museum is going to pay $8K/month to rent that site (a farm tractor museum or art gallery)?

        With that said I think the city should work with the bike museum to find some additional sources of revenue (maybe rent it out for holiday parties or small wedding receptions)?

        1. South of Davis

          David wrote:

          > And here we are, once again focused on $96K minutiae

          > when we face a hole of $600 million.

          When you combine the “$96K minutiae” with the TCOE of nine other employees that we don’t need you get to $10 million ($100 million over 10 years)…

          1. David Greenwald

            I don’t think the numbers bear that out. If we could have tackled this through cutting minutiae, we would’ve.

        2. Mark West

          “I don’t think the numbers bear that out. If we could have tackled this through cutting minutiae, we would’ve.”

          A comprehensive approach includes cutting the minutiae. It won’t be sufficient, but it is an important component. We don’t need one big step, we need lots of little ones.

        3. Barack Palin

          When you combine the “$96K minutiae” with the TCOE of nine other employees that we don’t need you get to $10 million ($100 million over 10 years)…

          I can think of 3 city employees right now whose jobs could be cut and as a city we would hardly notice with a savings of @ $500,000/year

    1. Ron

      Jim:  “2) local projects have the potential to affect any one of our particular neighborhoods.”

      That’s what I’ve been trying to point out, as well.  (In general), I wonder if all the comments would be the same, if all commenters lived next to a given proposed development.

    2. Topcat

      Perhaps the bigger City’s financial picture should be looked at before evaluating the need for projects.

      And perhaps the Council should be looking at ways to reduce expenditures.  I know that many people will object and say “We’ve already cut back”.  Given the very generous employee salary and benefits that city employees get I find it hard to believe that there aren’t ways to achieve some more savings.

      1. Frankly

        This is a pipe dream except for the long-term by cutting off the defined benefit pensions for all new hires and converting them to defined contribution plans.

        The problem with expecting greater efficiency and lower costs from Davis is that Davis city management rises to a fraction of the competency of other cities that have tried the same and mostly failed.

        Here is what we could attempt if we had greater management competency:

        http://www.olatheks.org/Finance/Budget/BalancedScorecard

        And this…

        http://icma.org/en/icma/knowledge_network/documents/kn/Document/100050/Using_the_Balanced_Scorecard_to_Improve_the_Performance_of_City_and_County_Councils

    3. Frankly

      Jim – the bike museum attracts visitors to Davis that spend money keeping our merchants in business providing jobs to young people and providing sales tax revenue to the city.  You need to work all the parts of your calculator if you are going to jump into the money arguments.

        1. ryankelly

          If the City is renting 3rd & B for $1.00 per year, why did they evict the teen center for this?  I don’t know of any jobs for young people created by the Bike Museum.  I’d be curious how much sales tax revenue it generates.  This was a building specifically built to house programs for teens and it was given away.  It is such a shame.

        2. ryankelly

          You think a teen center is for troubled teens? So, the Senior Center is for troubled seniors?  The City of Davis had a teen center – a facility devoted to that age group – for decades starting in the 1970’s.  That is until it was given to a non-profit to house a museum.  Maybe it does draw people to the City.  I’m not sure.  I’d like to see how many visitors it receives each year and how much sales tax it generates.

        3. Misanthrop

          “Davis is not a troubled teen town.”

          You have no idea how many troubled teens there are here. There are many. Ask any middle or high school counselor.

          1. Don Shor

            The teen center was very helpful for many teens in Davis. My son used it along with a lot of his friends. It was a good, safe place for them to hang out. It’s water under the bridge now, but I was definitely not happy about the way that whole changeover occurred, and still feel that a similar facility would be helpful. It’s a demographic that doesn’t get much attention from our city leaders.

          1. Don Shor

            Actually, I’d be curious. I always had the impression this was more for the prestige than for the revenues.

        4. Frankly

          Possibly.  I do agree that the bike museum was a city biker ego shrine more than any money-making endeavor.   My point though was that there is bound to be some economic benefit to the city… certainly more than the teen center… and so Jim should at least acknowledge that point.

          Anyone from outside Davis visiting the bike museum or the Amgem tour would at least likely get breakfast, lunch or dinner in Davis.

        5. South of Davis

          Frankly wrote:

          > I am sure that the Amgen tours generated enough

          > to make up for the cost in those years.

          I have not seen the numbers for Davis but when I lived in SF (where almost every cop and firefighter has a TCOE of over $100K) the cost of firefighter and cop overtime for the Amgen tour were mind boggling…

        6. Delia .

          The teen center was a somewhat safe haven for teens. What I appreciated was its niche for middle school. It was one of the first places my kids were allowed to go, unsupervised. I believe homeless teens were welcomed there, also. Older teens did not consider it cool enough. The only slightly worrisome aspect of the teen center was college students supervising teens, which could pose potential problems. I really appreciated the teen center.

          It even had a quiet area to study. It was a real shame when it disappeared without much of an explanation.

  9. Frankly

    Here you are making the assumption that because you do not find something burdensome, neither will anyone else.

    This is the “I feel thus my feeling must be validated as justified in cause” song.

    But it is wrong.

    There is the measure of reasonableness that is the standard for conflict.

    When people become unreasonable in conflict they need to be challenged as being unreasonable.  And when they continue after being challenged, they need to be dismissed as incapable of anything resembling productive debate.

    Unfortunately Davis has a high percentage of people unreasonable in their feelings and unreasonable in their demands to have their feelings considered in the final outcome.

    We are fools to set the bar so low that the most easily upset call the shots.  The appropriate response would be to direct these people to get cognitive behavior therapy.

    1. Tia Will

      Frankly

      When people become unreasonable in conflict they need to be challenged as being unreasonable.”

      Again, I do not believe that you have been declared the arbiter of what is reasonable. I happen to feel that your approach to growing at a more rapid pace than I would like is “unreasonable”. That does not me make me right. It simply means I have a different perspective. So you can call “unreasonable” all you like. But what matters is what the majority vote of either the council or the voters think depending on the issue. Not what either of us sees as “reasonable”.

  10. Alan Miller

    “those whose profession is the development and management of hotels do not seem to be in agreement about the interpretation of the facts”

    Simply put, they are concerned about losing money if a new hotel is put in, so that’s how they interpret the facts.  The neighbors are concerned about the quality of life.  If we step back and stop arguing so-called ‘facts’ and at least admit everyone is and will look out for their own interests, it all becomes a bit simpler.

    But Vanguard commenters want to argue so-called facts into the ground rather than present their view from their particular self-interest and LET IT BE.  Vanguard commenters are like dogs fighting over a fresh cut of meat.

    All of which can be rather entertaining . . . until it isn’t.  (See: over 250 comments yesterday)

  11. Biddlin

    “This is the “I feel thus my feeling must be validated as justified in cause” song.”

    join in,you know the words.

    “Unfortunately Davis has a high percentage of people unreasonable in their feelings and unreasonable in their demands to have their feelings considered in the final outcome.”

    Yeah, some never got over the 2008 election.

    ”  The appropriate response would be to direct these people to get cognitive behavior therapy.”

    I did, but you seemed so resistant. Glad you’re working through it!

    http://www.thegearpage.net/board/smilies/crazyguy.gif

  12. Tia Will

    Tia, what would you say the trend in the quality and quantity of city services has been over the last 10 years or so?      Quality of infrastructure such as roads,  parks, etc?”

    I would say that there has been some deterioration. However, one has to take a couple of other points into consideration.

    1. Why they deteriorated. Factors that were involved were the recession, the decision to increase some workers compensation unreasonably and probably a number of other factors some of which involved the city directly and some of which did not. You can all chime in with your favorite factor.

    2. Your posts ignores the current improvements underway. Rainbow City is currently being rebuilt. The area around the Oak Tree is being renovated. During the same time interval the central park playground was put in. We currently have road repairs occurring in multiple areas of town. The 5th street redesign was put in during this time period. It is much easier to complain and worry about our deficits than it is to celebrate our successes.

    I see a pattern of deterioration and renewal much as I have seen in many cities that I have lived in. I see us as having significant problems that need to be addressed. I do not see our situation as a “crisis”. And I certainly do not believe in the strategy of “growing our way out of trouble”.

    1. Mark West

      “Rainbow City is currently being rebuilt. The area around the Oak Tree is being renovated.”

      Have you ever heard the term “lipstick on a pig?”

      “I do not see our situation as a “crisis”.”

      Well…you have said (repeatedly) that you don’t really understand the numbers, so I guess no one should be surprised with that opinion.

      I realize that I am cherry picking in order to poke fun at you a bit, but the real point is that you are doing a great job of ignoring the reality of our fiscal condition. We have roughly a $30 million annual hole in our budget (and growing) and no realistic prospects for fixing the problem. That is in large part because there are many others in town that share your desire to ignore reality. Until that changes, we are only fooling ourselves when we state that ‘things are getting better’ or that we are ‘moving in the right direction.’

      1. Tia Will

        David

        I think I’ve been quite explicit. In ability to maintain roads, closure of parks, greenbelts, pools, other amenities. Reduction of city services.”

        You have been explicit. But you have also explicitly failed to mention the improvements that have been and are now being made. You have not mentioned the recent playground added to central park, the work being done to restore the area around the Oak Tree or Rainbow City. You have not mentioned the 5th St. upgrade or the road work currently being done on Second street or the work that was done near the intersection of Pole Line and Covell of which I am acutely aware because they impact me directly. I am sure that there are other road projects of which I am unaware because I do not see them.

        Again, I see the maintenance of the amenities that we want as being our responsibility to pay for. Unfortunately we do not want to pay for these things ourselves. We want newcomers to town to pay our bills for us. And then, we have the audacity to brand as selfish those who are willing to pay, and would be more than willing to help subsidize those who are truly unable to pay more.

         

      2. Tia Will

        MW

        I realize that I am cherry picking in order to poke fun at you a bit, but the real point is that you are doing a great job of ignoring the reality of our fiscal condition.”

        I am fine with the poking fun at me.

        I take exception to your assertion that I am ignoring the reality of our fiscal situation.

        I have on many occasions stated that I think that we face serious problems. I do not think that we are in “crisis”. I have also stated a number of times that I believe that we need a comprehensive strategy which will include 1) increased taxes 2) Some prudent business development  – I favor smaller projects such as Nishi ( both housing and business in the same development and small start ups linked to university research and programs. I will probably favor the hotel but have not done my due diligence.  3) Best practices in the use of available funds. I believe that our current city council has acted much more responsibly than some former councils…. so that seems to be in the implementation rather than the lamentation stage.

        1. Mark West

          “I believe that our current city council has acted much more responsibly than some former councils…. so that seems to be in the implementation rather than the lamentation stage.”

          The current CC has not really acted yet so I don’t know how you can assess their actions. The previous CC made the fiscal situation worse by increasing total compensation yet again. Nishi failed, MRIC has gone into hiatus and so far there has been no action on either reducing costs or increasing taxes, so I don’t know where you are getting the conclusion that things are getting better. We have at best been spinning our wheels while we slide further into the hole.

  13. Tia Will

    David

    The problem is that you’re counting small victories off a $300 million tab that has no funding stream.”

    And I have stated repeatedly how I would approach the problem. It does not include “grow as fast as we can” and it does not include stasis. I also do not see the problem with  being inclusive in our explicitness.

    I decided that if Mark West could “poke a little fun”, I could too.

  14. Tia Will

    MW

    You are just going to have to accept that you won’t know about most of the projects until after the land has been acquired and the proposal has been submitted to the City. That is a simple reality of life and there is nothing anybody can or should do about it.”

    I completely agree that this is the way things are done now. I do not agree that it is necessarily the best approach or that we could not devise anything better. As for the story about your former partner, I see this as nothing more than a way to guarantee that only those who are well connected are likely to prosper. While you may like and support this arrangement, I disagree. I also disagree with your last statement. I find that there are very few “realities of life” that human beings cannot change with sufficient motivation an enterprise. We make the world that we live in. If this were not so, we would still have slavery, be riding horses instead of driving cars, and many,many women would be dying in childbirth instead of having effective means of contraception if they were too ill to consider having a child since birth control was not available until someone saw a need and devised it.

     

    1. Mark West

      Tia: “As for the story about your former partner, I see this as nothing more than a way to guarantee that only those who are well connected are likely to prosper.

      Then you misunderstood the purpose of the story. When you are putting together an investor group, the first thing you need to realize is that you are going to be spending a great deal of time with your investors. Someone with a lot of money and a toxic personality may not be your best choice. A less obvious issue could be the well-intentioned individual with a little bit of money and no experience investing, who requires a great deal of extra ‘hand holding’ through the process, creating a drag on your own productivity. Depending on the situation you may choose to take on both of these characters, but you likely would not if you had a reasonable alternative. It isn’t just a function of lining up the money, but one of getting the money you need and a group of investors (co-owners) who you can effectively work with. Those who will be supportive of your efforts, provide access to their expertise if needed and (for the most part) stay out of your way so that you can focus your energies on getting the project accomplished. Developers do not owe you the opportunity to invest in their projects. If they do not need your money, or do not see you as a good addition to their team, there is simply nothing you can do about it, no matter how much you wish the world to change.

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