Newly elected Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry sat down with Leanna Sweha of the Davis Vanguard for an interview on a variety of topics. The former Mayor of Winters discussed a variety of issues of interest to Vanguard readers ranging protection of agricultural land and sprawl to housing to economic development, and even a push to keep the World Food Center in Davis. This is part one of a two part interview by Leanna Sweha.
You describe yourself as hands on and as a promoter of public-private partnerships. How will this play out in your representation of AD4?
I believe we need to think outside the box and move to 21st century solutions. It’s important to acknowledge that public-private partnerships work. We saw this in the establishment of Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument.
Take the issue of water clarity at Clear Lake, on which I’ve been engaging all interests – UC Davis, the California Resources Agency, local agencies, local area business, and investors in local tourism.
You have said a top issue for AD4 is the “housing/jobs balance.” Please explain.
Balance means being able to provide housing to local workers to avoid the long commutes so many people face. For example, most of Napa’s workforce commutes into the city. People should be able to live where they work. In Winters, PG&E is building a training center, and we have built enough housing for new employees.
Winters is a refuge for many who work in Davis, because we have kept up with housing needs. We also are building with Domus Development a new senior center in Winters with associated senior housing.
I have met with housing groups in the region and everyone agrees that all types of housing is needed – single family, affordable, senior. But are we really willing to build affordable housing? When I bring this up in a meeting, you can hear a pin drop.
I have worked with Yolo County Housing Authority, CHOC, and Mercy Housing to keep current affordable housing stock under good condition. In other towns, this has not happened.
You have said that you also want to protect farmland and open space from suburban sprawl.
We know we must build infill if we want to preserve open space and agriculture and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I’m for green technology, but we need to be careful of unintended consequences. For instance, with the updated state new building code going into effect in January, the number of permits pulled in 2016 have gone up substantially, because builders want to avoid the increased costs imposed by the new rules. How will this affect housing starts next year?
Your campaign promoted technology and small business incubators as ways to spur business and job growth, in particular for agtech. How should this be done?
A lot of data suggests we are not effectively tapping the expertise at UCD. I have been approached by investors who want to invest in agriculture in this district. I will be opening a district office in Davis because I want to engage the knowledge base at UCD. I know a lot of farmers in the region who are ready and willing to work towards solutions to production issues. I know how to engage them. We simply need frank discussions on how to reduce costs and increase profits for farmers using better technology. Profit is not a bad thing.
Former UC Davis Chancellor Katehi was pushing for a World Food Center in Sacramento, but recent press suggests that it seems more likely to be on campus or in Yolo County. Is this something you will actively work on?
I need to have a discussions with UC Davis leadership to see where they are on this. I want to see Yolo County as a hub for ag-tech, including value added product manufacturing. AgPlus (Central Valley Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium) is one initiative I’m involved with that is a good model here.
UC Davis could consider building on its land and there are other parcels like the (on-hold) Mace Ranch Innovation Center proposal.