Analysis: Can We Elevate the Level of Dialogue?

Yesterday one of our readers sent me a note asking if there was “any reason we can’t elevate the level of the dialogue to one which transcends the petty squabbling with which your readers seem content?”

He sent a link to a Wall Street Journal article, “Why Cities Need to Create Their Own Global Brands.

In it is an interesting premise: “A quarter-century ago, cities sought to promote a positive image mainly because they wanted to attract tourists and foreign investment.

“Today, metro areas from San Diego to São Paulo have come to a new realization: If they want to compete against other global population centers, they need to position themselves as attractive places for knowledge workers, institutions, cultural and sporting events, and even film shoots.”

The article interviews Greg Clark from the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program who talked about “why a strong urban identity can’t be forced and when positioning a city on the global stage is essential.”

I have two levels of responses here that interrelate but get to the core problem that the reader identified.

We just have to go back to the innovation park discussion to see Davis’ identity and brand.  Davis is the host city of a world class university and, in many ways, it is a typical college town – it has a highly-education population, they are very engaged in local community issues, the town is of modest size, and it is fairly affluent with relatively low levels of crime.

Over the last decade, discussions on economic development have pointed away from peripheral retail malls and toward high tech and R&D – looking at UC Davis as a hub of economic activity that can both attract capital investment and spin research at the university into private sector start ups.

While Davis missed out on the dot.com boom, it has a chance to jump on to the new wave.  With the top agricultural school in the world and a town surrounded by farmland, Davis has a chance to jump onto Ag Tech – whether it is traditional agriculture, or related to the World Food Center and the need to develop technology to help feed the world.

Other areas where Davis is well positioned is on green technology and medical technology.

But the Studio 30 report identified the critical shortfalls in the Davis community – which is lack of available commercial space.  While the big vision pictures of 200-acre peripheral innovation park proposals have largely failed, the city has a second chance for a more modest spaced R&D at Area 52 and the University Research Park.

It is somewhat ironic that this real push by some in the community to establish Davis as an R&D/tech center identity has exposed the shortcoming of that community vision and really represents the second level of why these conversations devolve into petty squabbling and a perpetual rut.

The reality is that, in the abstract these ideas might sound great, however, Davis continues to be driven by the specific.

Maybe the city voters would have been willing to approve an innovation center without housing, but the reality is that the financing for such centers appears more tricky than for a more traditional development where upfront costs of infrastructure can be offset by more immediate returns on investment.

Both major innovation park proposals got bogged down when they came to believe that some housing was necessary to make the return on investment more assured, and the community balked at the idea of including workforce housing in the proposals.

The limitations of this community appear with the idea of housing and growth.

I don’t think we should blame the citizens for seeking to protect what they see as the greatness of this community.  We all came here because Davis was a small, safe, and attractive community.  I stayed in Davis largely because of the engaged environment, combined with quality public schools.

Many citizens see proposals for peripheral development as a threat to that core character of the town.  They see the drive for innovation parks as a potential threat to the core of the community as well.

And so what this community bogs down on is the specifics of project proposals – we saw this with Cannery, we saw it with Nishi, and now we are seeing it with MRIC (Mace Ranch Innovation Center), Trackside, Sterling, Lincoln40, etc.

We cannot transcend these discussions because, in most ways, they are core discussions.  As I wrote today, Sterling, which is a 160-unit, 540-bed apartment proposal with a small affordable component, is really a proxy fight for a much bigger battle over whether the city should add student housing and how much, in response to or to accommodate increased enrollment at the university.

That fight is seen by many at the core of what the future of Davis will look like.

My concern is that I worry, as I have now for ten years, how Davis can remain that community that people love without some sort of incremental and small-scale growth.

We are already seeing the effects of 0.2 percent vacancy.  And, for those who believe putting huge amounts of student housing on campus will solve this problem, I think they are very mistaken.  Adding huge numbers of students will require commercial development on campus as well, and this community might start resembling Chico, where a huge amount of growth is in the unincorporated areas.

At the same time, we have pushed for commercial and economic development because right now the city lags behind other communities in a tax base.  And without more tax revenue, the city will have to raise taxes and will continue to price out families and others of modest means.

In the end, the city is going to change in the next 20 years and we have a chance to determine whether this is positive or negative change. Change will occur.

Can we have the discussion at a higher level and transcend the instant issues?  It doesn’t seem that abstract conversations engage community passions.  For that, we need to fight inch by inch on the issues of the day.

—David M. Greenwald reporting



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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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51 Comments

  1. PhilColeman

    To the question at the very top, yes we can. The more apt question is, “Will we?”

    Most blogs and public discussion venues exist and are fueled by negativity. An issue is posed and the controversy potential is detailed and even embellished with the specific intent to provoke.

    Provoke, not inspire. To inspire one must speak positively.

    And within any culture we have a small percentage who thrive in such settings, folks who are contentious by nature, their “glass half empty,” is empty. They find solace and comfort in always seeing the dark side. They feast on issues where can show negativity. Pick any person and try to remember the last time you saw them smile. Somehow, they’ve come to rule almost all public policy discussion.

    Supposing we were to return to the Golden Era of Davis, the 70’s, and we had then what we have now, with forums like this that give such a wide audience for naysayers. Does anybody think we’d have a Village Homes or dedicated bike lanes?

  2. Sharla C.

    I agree that reading this blog tends to give the reader a narrow image of Davis as a bickering, ultra conservative community.  We have people who will fight tooth and nail to protect the City from all expansion, but actively campaign for massive development on ag land owned by UCD, creating a whole new city right next to Davis.  We have turned away opportunities for commercial growth and the land that we have zoned for commercial/industrial has been peppered with day care centers, housing and non-profit groups, which are then used to place limits on industrial activities.  We have people who advocate for multi-story, high density housing for students, but work against this happening anywhere in the City – even in the most peripheral locations near major arteries or unsuitable for any other kind of housing. We have commercial expansion, but in the form of regional growth in Woodland or West Sacramento – cities that have clearer industrial areas – something that Davis does not have and seems to not want to provide.  We have commercially zoned areas that people campaign against being used for commercial activity.     Then when something does manage to be approved, there are the now expected lawsuits that seem to be, at most, a way to interfere and stop the community’s planning process or, at least, a form of extortion.  It is tiresome to read the continuous flow of opposition and outrage for every idea, plan or proposal.

  3. Ron

    Sharla:  “We have turned away opportunities for commercial growth and the land that we have zoned for commercial/industrial has been peppered with day care centers, housing and non-profit groups, which are then used to place limits on industrial activities.”

    And, we have an approximately 6-acre industrial site, which is now proposed for a zoning change to accommodate high-density, student-oriented housing (which is better-suited for campus). And yet, hardly a peep from anyone, regarding this.

    “Bickering” is in the eye of the beholder.  For those who constantly advocate for more development, Michael Bisch’s comments were “amusing”.  One person’s “insurgent” is another person’s “freedom fighter”.

    Regarding your reference to “ultra conservative”, I do not know what this refers to.  Those who support slow-growth (generally) tend to be more “liberal”. Developers (and their supporters) tend to be more “conservative”. In truth, there is nothing “wrong” with being either.

    However, the person who wrote the letter to David is correct.  In another article, I had already noted that this person (whom I might describe as “pro-development”) seems to present his arguments in a more reasonable and measured manner, compared to some others on the Vanguard.

    Again, there seems to be “extreme reluctance” (to put it politely) on the part of some to accept the fact that Davis is a slow-growth community.

    1. Matt Williams

      Ron said . . . “there seems to be “extreme reluctance” (to put it politely) on the part of some to accept the fact that Davis is a slow-growth community.”

      Ron, you will find many, many variations in opinions across Davis.  Further, based on Yolo County historical voting records, on average over the 22 elections since 2000, only 29.1% of Davis residents express their opinions when an Election Day rolls around.   The highest percentage is 54.5% and the lowest is 16.5%.  What that means is that more than 7 out of every 10 Davis residents haven’t told us what their opinion is.

      Setting that deafening silence at the voting booth aside for a moment, for many people in the community slow-growth is an outcome that is “nice to have,” but it only is worth having if the community pays its bills in an efficient, effective and timely manner.  The serious question that we collectively face as a community (regardless of our personal preferences) is whether Davis can afford to be a slow-growth community.

      So the corollary to your statement is “there seems to be “extreme reluctance” (to put it politely) on the part of some to accept the fact that Davis is not paying its bills in an efficient, effective and timely manner, and is failing to maintain its community infrastructure.”

      http://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Election-2016.jpg

      1. Ron

        Matt:

        I agree that there is a range of opinions.  However, in city-after-city (across the entire region), I would argue that city councils are generally more pro-development than the “average” citizenry.  (As “evidence” of that hypothesis within Davis, I would point to the results of elections, neighborhood resistance to development proposals, etc.)  If residents aren’t going to vote or participate, at what point should we conclude that they don’t care enough to make their desires known?

        Regarding “paying bills”, many proposals would likely create long-term costs, outweighing short-term financial benefits (as you have previously acknowledged).

        In the case of Sterling, we have an approximately 6-acre site that’s zoned for industrial uses (with a potential to generate revenue), with a proposal to convert it to high-density residential uses (in which long-term costs may exceed short-term revenues).

         

         

        1. Howard P

          Give me a break, Ron!  Where the F were you when they approved Families First to take up that ‘industrial’ space?  Do you really think the Rancho Yolo folk would accept an Industrial use at that site?  C’mon!

          Families First generated very little revenue compared to impacts to City services they generated, particularly “calls for service” to PD or FD…

          Your ‘arguments’ wear very thin…

           

        2. Ron

          Howard:  “Where the F were you when they approved Families First to take up that ‘industrial’ space?”

          Gee, Howard.  Thanks for “elevating” the conversation. (“Mirror time”?)

          To be honest, I stopped paying much attention to many local issues for a period of time.  (At one point, I was quite busy with work and school, simultaneously.)  Also, I was not fully aware of financial issues that the city was facing.  I cannot speak for Rancho Yolo. (Of course, it can be argued that use of the site for non-profit purposes can serve the community in other ways. I recall that you’ve made arguments that such services are needed, and that sites should be available for such purposes.) (Frankly, you make a lot of conflicting statements, at times.)

          My comment regarding re-use of the space for its currently-zoned industrial zoning had nothing to do with the prior use of the site, by Families First.

          I’d suggest that your questions would be better-directed at those who frequently raise concerns regarding the financial state of the city.  Perhaps ask them why they think it’s a “good idea” to lose a 6-acre industrial site.

          1. Don Shor

            Perhaps ask them why they think it’s a “good idea” to lose a 6-acre industrial site.

            Because there are very few industrial uses that would be acceptable there.

        3. Ron

          Don:  How do you know that?  Was it an “accident” that it was zoned that way in the first place?

          Also, might other types of commercial zoning be considered?

          Of course, such questions assume that there was an honest attempt to sell the site at its currently-zoned (or similar zoning) value.

          1. Don Shor

            The zoning of the east end of Fifth Street preceded all of the housing in Mace Ranch by decades. Zoning on Fifth between L and Poleline was ambiguous when we started our planning. Uses around that section changed but the zoning didn’t. Families First was a zoning anomaly.

            Of course, such questions assume that there was an honest attempt to sell the site at its currently-zoned (or similar zoning) value.

            It was on the market. Are you saying the brokers were dishonest?

        4. Matt Williams

          Ron, as I pointed out in my prior comment, elections in Davis on average only show what 29.1% of the Davis populace is interested in.  If you pull out the Presidential Election years the percentage drops to 25.9%.  So elections are selected snapshots not universal movies.  Neighborhood resistance is even more narrow than election results.  Is there any such thing as an “average” Davis neighborhood?

          I agree with you that proposals create long-term costs, and as long as the City doesn’t take steps to contain those costs the inflation rate of costs in Davis (reported in 2008 to the HESC as an average of 4%) will exceed the inflation rate of revenues (reported in 2008 to the HESC as an average of 2%.

          Bob Leland’s update of those costs presented to the Council on April 4th and the FBC on March 13th showed that the City has made some progress on Cost Containment.  The graph below which shows the Average Annual Real Pay trend since 2001 is the reason.  The green line is the historical trend from 2001-2009 (the same trend reported to the HESC  in 2008).  The blue line is the year-by-year actuals.

          http://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Slide07a.jpg

          Bob Leland also updated the Revenues trend, and he found that even including the 2008 Recession, the average revenue growth has risen from the 2008 trend of 2%, up to almost 3% (2.93% to be exact).

          http://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Slide04a.jpg

          As a result, the 2008 cost/revenue calculation presented to the HESC, would appear to no longer be as clear cut as it used to be.  Continued attention by the Council to Cost Containment is absolutely necessary in order to keep the Leland numbers at the same level.  Ideally, further Cost Containment will result in even more improvements over 2008.

          Finally, in the case of Sterling, what revenues do you think the current EMQ ownership is generating for the City?  I suspect it could be as low as $0, depending whether the corporate structure of Families First is non-profit.

        5. Ron

          Matt:  No one is arguing that the site of Families First should not be “re-used”, in some manner.  Each possibility has its own goals and consequences (financial, and otherwise).

        6. Matt Williams

          Ron said . . . “No one is arguing that the site of Families First should not be “re-used”, in some manner.  Each possibility has its own goals and consequences (financial, and otherwise).”

          That is 100% correct Ron.  No one is arguing that the site should not be reused.  No one.

          With that said, in the close to four years since June 3, 2013 (when Davis Police Department squad cars rolled up to the Families First facility) what “possibilities” other than Sterling have been put forward so that their goals and consequences can be evaluated?

          Ron also said . . . “Of course, such questions assume that there was an honest attempt to sell the site at its currently-zoned (or similar zoning) value.”

          Ron, how do you define/describe “an honest attempt”? What steps would you have taken if you were EMQ Families First management in that “honest attempt”? Where was EMQ Families First’s efforts sub-standard?

        7. Ron

          Matt:  Perhaps you can tell me how much “trust” you have, and/or other impacts of these problems on the process.

          “A Sacramento County jury on Friday awarded a former resident of a troubled Davis children’s group home $7.5 million in punitive damages, three days after awarding another $4.55 million for severe neglect the child endured by the home’s caregivers.”

          https://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/crime-fire-courts/emq-familiesfirst-hit-with-4-5m-award-in-neglect-case/

        8. Matt Williams

          Ron, you are focused solely on the “supply” side, which has always been openly and transparently on display since shortly after June 3, 2013.  The half of a real estate transaction that has been conspicuously missing throughout the close to four years since June 2013 has been any “demand” for the property.  Do you know of any interested buyer who has stepped forward with anything close to a offer to purchase the property?  Whether or not EMQ is “trustworthy” in providing social services to its patients has absolutely no bearing on the real estate realities of 2950 Fifth Street.  The reason that Title Insurance companies exist is to eliminate any such “trust” issues.  Title Insurance isolates the seller from the property, and provides a prospective buyer with an agnostic, third-party assurance that “trust” is a non-issue.

          When you last bought a property (house or otherwise), did you (the buyer) deal directly with the seller?  In the overwhelming majority of cases, any transaction is consummated by the agent for the buyer and the agent for the seller.  Buyer and seller relay offer and price specifics to one another through their respective agents.  I sincerely doubt (but do not know for a fact) that EMQ acted as its own agent during the 2+ years the property was on the market.

        9. Ron

          Matt:

          What you’re basically acknowledging is that the owner was unwilling to sell the property at the price that the market dictated, based upon current zoning (and probable allowed uses).  (If it was priced accordingly, it would sell.  Unless there’s absolutely zero demand for the site as currently zoned and allowed, within the city.) Hell, I’d buy it, if I could somehow afford it at a dirt-cheap price. Wouldn’t you, or anyone?

          It’s naïve to believe that the owner wasn’t waiting for an opportunity such as that presented by Sterling (or was otherwise “distracted” by it’s problems, which led to the loss of the ability to operate the site, and the $12 million verdict).

          1. Don Shor

            I think usually the first step in selling a commercial property is getting it appraised. edited

        10. Matt Williams

          No Ron, I am simply acknowledging that (to the best of my knowledge) not one potential buyer stepped up to make (consider making?) an offer on the property.  How would you have wanted EMQ to magically create prospective buyers?

          Imagine that you are EMQ’s expert real estate consultant/agent.  What industry/business cluster do you think would find that site interesting in a community where retail is dying due to demographic changes and the internet?

        11. Matt Williams

          Ron said . . . “Just saw your response above, which didn’t actually address my point.”

          Perhaps you should explain your point again more thoroughly.   I addressed the point I read.

          Alternatively, feel free to address your point as you would like t see it addressed.

  4. David Greenwald

    Part of the issue is that most people in Davis consider themselves slow growth in some form or another, the question is what does it mean to be a slow growth community and does that preclude incremental changes.

  5. Tia Will

    At the risk of deflecting from the main topic of the article, I have a comment on one particular mode of thinking that I believe also holds us back.

    While Davis missed out on the dot.com boom, it has a chance to jump on to the new wave.”

    Our economy seems to be caught in endless boom and bust cycles, which we seem to accept as inevitable. This was put forward in graphic form by Jim Gray, a developer who I like and respect  He showed a graphic meant to represent the future of Davis presenting either growth or decay as the only inevitable outcomes. But this is not correct. There is a third possibility which is sustainability with very slow gradual change with time for absorption of each change. Rapid growth or decay are not the only two options and we should not settle for two opposing perspectives endlessly sniping at each other. I favor an incrementalist approach.

    I would argue that a process designed specifically to avoid the pitfalls of “boom and bust” or “catching the next wave”  would be a better approach. I agree with David’s previous comments about using an evidence based approach to how much housing we actually need and where. Recent data regarding location of residence and mode of transportation, while not perfect, are the type of information that should help to guide our decision making. I do not see “grow as fast as we can” or “no growth” as either viable nor healthy ways of thinking. I do believe that there must be some middle ground that allows for a collaborative approach rather than the competitive, winner take all, approach that both sides seem to be locked into.

    1. Ron

      Tia:

      As I’ve previously stated, yours is one of the more “reasonable” voices on the Vanguard.

      However, there is a dishonesty in the argument which states that there is “no growth” occurring, or that anyone believes this is a realistic outcome at this time.

      Some are pushing for more than what’s already occurring.  And some are pushing for specific developments (often requiring a zoning change) that are not in the best interests of particular neighborhoods (and more importantly, to the city as a whole).

      Unfortunately, since $$$ is at stake, this will always be an ongoing battle.  It will never be entirely “cooperative”, as long as that’s the case.  And, those with the most concentrated financial interests (with the most to gain) will continue to push for more development, even when it’s not in the best interests of the city.  And sorry to say, but that’s generally developers and their supporters. It’s naïve to think otherwise.

      You and other citizens already have opportunities to “cooperate” in general plan updates, etc.  That has always been the case.  Not sure what exactly you have in mind, beyond that.

      Other than that, what you’re witnessing is “planning by exception”. In general, I’d suggest that such proposals are not a good “starting point” for “cooperation”.

    2. Howard P

      I do not see “grow as fast as we can” or “no growth” as either viable nor healthy ways of thinking

      I agree…

      Yet, too often, ‘collaborative’ is seen as deal-making, extortion, “negotiation”… it should not be public policy… have no problem with problem-solving… “collaborative” has picked up some baggage as a word… usually, when it is used, it does not mean ‘win-win’…

      Have seen no evidence of “grow as fast as we can” behavior… far from it… so, ANY proposed growth has to be ratcheted down to ‘collaborate’ with the zero growth folk… used to be 2%/year was the goal/upper limit (depends who you talk to)… now, those who would ‘collaborate’ from the no growth side, might be persuaded to accept 0.2%… oh! that’s our vacancy rate! [res]. We’re good to go!

      The vacancy rate for income producing retail/commercial/industrial (non-res)?

      1. Don Shor

        I think that in the late 1980’s Davis was actually the fastest growing city in Yolo County. Then came the Mace Ranch battle, and the Covell Village battle, and Measure J, and housing growth came to a grinding halt. I think a chart showing the housing starts in Davis over the last 15 years would be very instructive. For rental housing, it would be a flat line.

    3. Mark West

      “There is a third possibility which is sustainability with very slow gradual change with time for absorption of each change.”

      Do you have a real-world example of where this has happened? Evolution certainly doesn’t work that way, instead, you have long periods of gradual change, that are interspersed with short, rapid, sometimes catastrophic change events. “Slow gradual change with time” to adjust to the new reality doesn’t really happen in nature (or economics), and I doubt that you will find an example of it in any human endeavor. I would be happy to be wrong, but unless you have examples to support your hypothesis, the real options are the two Jim suggested.

      When it comes to the basic rules of economics, Davis is not unique. If your ‘solution’ requires changing those basic economic assumptions, it won’t work. If we want to raise the level of the conversation about finding solutions, we need to focus on real-world options and not waste time questioning from which direction the sun will rise tomorrow.

  6. John Hobbs

    “most people in Davis consider themselves slow growth”

    A .02% vacancy rate, in a world where 5-6% is generally accepted as optimal, is not “slow growth” it is morbidity.

    1. Ron

      John:  In general, “planning via vacancy rate” has its own consequences. (In addition, have you examined the vacancy rate in surrounding communities? Do you think it’s 5-6%, and that those cities have a “policy” to maintain that rate?) Do you think that the housing crash might have impacted the vacancy rate in those communities, as well?

      Regarding housing that’s clearly designed for students, did someone mention that this might be better suited on say, a 5,300 acre adjacent site?

      1. John Hobbs

        I didn’t use the word “policy’ and have no idea what you intended to imply by that.

        “Regarding housing that’s clearly designed for students,”

        Chumming the waters with a red herring. You know, for one of David’s chosen, you come off a lot like a troll.

        1. Ron

          John:  The issue is that such designs belong on campus.  As noted repeatedly, there wouldn’t be nearly as much concern, if this was a more traditional, somewhat smaller proposal designed to appeal to a broader range of populations.

          This proposal is simply letting UCD off the hook, once again.  (All they have to do is sit back in silence, and let others argue for them.)

        2. Matt Williams

          Ron said . . . “This proposal is simply letting UCD off the hook, once again.  (All they have to do is sit back in silence, and let others argue for them.)”

          That is your opinion Ron.  You don’t know if that opinion is factually accurate.  The only way that UCD is “let off the hook” is if at some time in the future UCD does not build units that they have promised to build, and at this point in time that takes a crystal ball.  We can all speculate, but all it is is speculation.

      1. Ron

        Don:  Again, UCD is driving that rate.  You know it, I know it, everyone knows it.

        And again, changing pre-existing plans and zoning in response to the vacancy rate has its own consequences for the 67,000 residents who already live in Davis.

        I understand that the city already houses about 65% of UCD’s students. Do you advocate 70%? 80%? 90% . . .? What would be the impact of that goal? (Or, do you only examine three factors – vacancy rate, vacancy rate, and vacancy rate?)

        1. Don Shor

          Private apartment buildings were built in town at rates that roughly paralleled the rate of UCD growth for many years. UCD continued to grow, but built insufficient housing for their own students and staff. But private apartment construction in town almost completely ceased about 15 years ago. So neither the university nor private developers in town are keeping pace with the growth of the population of the campus or the city of Davis. Both need to step up and provide more housing.

        2. Don Shor

          I advocate building housing for renters to reduce the impact of our extremely tight vacancy rate. I don’t care what percentage of UCD’s students lives in the city. I consider 0.2% vacancy rate a relevant statistic. I consider “the city houses 65% of UCD’s students” an irrelevant statistic.

        3. Ron

          Well, I’d suggest that you’re not considering the impacts of that approach.  I don’t know what all of the impacts would be, but we’re getting ready to lose a 6-acre site that might otherwise be used for activities such as industrial, commercial, non-profit, or “workforce” rental housing, as a result (and example) of such an approach.

          And, I’d suggest that we don’t know what the costs (financial, or otherwise) really are of such an approach.

          In addition, your approach could essentially cause UCD to continue to avoid building such housing on campus, simultaneously losing the site for other uses, incurring costs, AND not making a difference in the vacancy rate.

          1. Don Shor

            Of course I’m “considering the impacts of that approach.” What I have been arguing for, for the better part of a decade now, would obviate the impact of extreme rental housing scarcity on those who can least afford the impacts of that scarcity.

            In addition, your approach could essentially cause UCD to continue to avoid building such housing on campus,

            Nope.

            simultaneously losing the site for other uses,

            Nope.

            AND not making a difference in the vacancy rate.

            Increase the supply to get closer to the demand, and the vacancy rate will increase. Do nothing and it will get even lower.

        4. Ron

          Don:

          I overlooked something.  If UCD continues to avoid building student housing on campus (as a result of student-oriented proposals such as Sterling and Lincoln 40), the vacancy rate might become “lower”, since those sites would then not be available for “workforce” rental housing that cannot be duplicated on campus.

          Should I go ahead and provide your carefully-thought out response? (“Nope”) 🙂

          In all seriousness, I admire your tenacity, at times. And, I respect your sincerity and arguments (more than I’m showing, here).

    1. Ron

      John:  No one, other than myself.  Been making the same argument for years, that we (as a society) have to come to terms with the fact that continual growth/development is not a worthwhile “goal” (nor is it even possible, in the long run).  What you’re seeing in communities such as Davis is a reaction to the failure to address this on a higher level.

      Regarding UCD, they’re ultimately going to have to take responsibility for their own plans (one way, or another). People let them “off the hook”, even though they operate much like a private company, in some ways.

  7. Don Shor

    I read the article in the WSJ with interest, and found myself wondering as usual what a self-described urbanist would think about a little city of 70,000 attempting to brand and position itself as a stand-alone idea. When I took urban planning classes as a student at UCD (Seymour Gold was the prof) I noted that the focus was on large metropolitan areas. This author’s examples are of cities of 400K, half a million, etc. I remember Dr. Gold drawing circles on the chalkboard and identifying urban core, suburbs, and exurbs. Davis would be a suburb in that context, just a part of the Sacramento Metropolitan area along with Woodland and West Sac and Folsom.

    So Davis has many assets, almost all of which are derived from the presence of UCD. Growth is driven by UC enrollment and expansion. Yet almost all of the planning, such as it has been over the years, has been with little apparent planning between the city and the campus.  A significant faction in town seems to wish to blame UCD for all the impacts and require that the campus mitigate all of them. I don’t know how you scale Mr. Clark’s concepts down to a small city level. And I don’t know how we’re going to overcome the outright resentment I sense in these discussions about the role of UCD in this community.

    Planning is not supposed to be so completely reactive. The update of the General Plan may give us an opportunity for some visioning workshops, with outreach for public input. I don’t know. Watching a multi-year process of identifying sites for business parks basically collapse makes me pretty dubious about how well that’s going to work.

    1. Ron

      Don:  “Davis would be a suburb in that context, just a part of the Sacramento Metropolitan area along with Woodland and West Sac and Folsom.”

      Davis essentially was for me (and many of my neighbors), while working in Sacramento.  Perhaps that’s why I’m able to view Davis and UCD with a little more “separation” between them, than some other folks.  I never had a (direct) connection to UCD.  However, it’s certainly the “elephant in the room”.

  8. Don Shor

    So Davis is a small city with a small town atmosphere. It has great schools, thanks largely to the presence of the university. It has nice neighborhoods and a busy downtown. There is one very large employer and a few smaller ones.

    The large employer announces it is expanding. What is the best way for the city to accommodate that growth while simultaneously preserving the small-town atmosphere?

    1. Ron

      Don:  If it was any other “employer”, citizens would probably be “up in arms” regarding plans to expand on their OWN land!  (In this case, some are encouraging them to assume the responsibility, and are still getting attacked as “no growth”.)

      Go figure.

      1. Howard P

        So, since UCD is the ‘big employer’,

        citizens would probably be “up in arms” regarding plans to expand on their OWN land! 

        So, you are against UCD adding housing for employees on their own land… interesting… very interesting… [yeah, Arte Johnson… “Laugh In”]

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