Commentary: Once Again City Eyes Should Turn to MRIC Tonight

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The discussion over the last week and a half about teacher salaries comes with a sharp and thus far unspoken reminder – it is a reminder that, while we have put off the inevitable, the city and school district are ultimately dipping into the same pot for additional resources and money and may at some point in the near future go head to head for that money.

I keep hearing from the old guard that the specter of growth in any sort of real quantity would almost certainly destroy our small city.  And, while that undoubtedly may be true, the sight has been lost that our city faces threatened destruction from inaction.

Right now we lack the funding to fund basic infrastructure needs.  Right now we lack the housing to house our current residents and provide for a reasonable rental housing market.  Right now the cost of housing is prohibitive for people wishing to move into the community in which they work.  And right now we lack the ability to pay our teachers a competitive raise.

These problems only figure to get worse through time and inaction, they will not solve themselves.  To keep doing what we are doing and expect different results is the mark of insanity.

When faced with the real specter of a compensation gap, the commenters turned to tilting at windmills, talking about closing schools or cutting programs.  We can certainly talk about the idea of going from seven periods to six periods.  But is that really the direction we want to go?

We need to be real and understand that another increase to the parcel tax is coming from the schools just as the city believes it is their turn to take a bite of the apple.  The city and school district may well go to war over the scarce parcel tax resources that will still be available – but it is a war that we will all lose if we fight.

We can talk about utopian visions and alternative tax schemes, but the reality is that there is one pot of money and it is a small, scarce and shrinking pot.

This city is facing a monumental crossroads because we can no longer afford to pave our roads, build our homes or pay our teachers.

If we do nothing, the small city that we know and love – with the vast expanse of greenbelts and bike paths, the working streets, the parks and amenities, the schools and the future – will all be gone.

But it doesn’t have to end that way and it doesn’t have to be that way.

We need to think of a new path forward.  Not a path that ends with the destruction of our small city through sprawl and development, but one that allows us to have some things – to have some growth, some housing, and some economic development so that the future of this city isn’t stagnation, high taxes and declining services.

It was that vision that first emerged during the height of the great recession.  It was a recognition that we needed to find a new source of revenue.  That we needed to diversify our economic portfolio.  And that we could do so without completely blowing out our borders or building peripheral strip malls that have become the gray wastelands in so many other communities.

This is not a quick fix.  It is not approve it today, build it tomorrow, see revenue on Thursday type of fix.  We are not going to solve this problem overnight, nor did we get into this problem overnight.

Back in 2014, the city of Davis was hopeful that they could help solve the long-term fiscal challenges of the city through the development of one or two modest sized innovation centers.

The application for MRIC (Mace Ranch Innovation Center) was originally filed September 25, 2014. The city, around the same time, received an application for the Davis Innovation Center.  MRIC was originally planned on 212 acres with a mix of industrial, commercial and retail uses totaling 2.7 million square feet.

However, reality quickly gave way and two of the applications that came in have ceased their planning.

But, while Davis Innovation Center is gone and has been morphed into a larger project in Woodland, MRIC has circled back asking the city to certify its EIR.

When we talked to project manager Dan Ramos in July, he told the Vanguard following the Planning Commission meeting that it is their intention to bring forward a project.

“We’re very much interested.”  He said, “We wanted to see if we can at least get to this milestone and then sit down with the council and see what’s going to be on the horizon in 2018, what kind of project they would like, and keep working on it.”

When asked if he anticipated significant enough changes to warrant a new EIR, he responded, “Who knows?”  He added, “Obviously there will be something that we have to go study.”

He stated, “We are going to take significant efforts once this gets to market to find an anchor tenant.”  Finding an anchor tenant now is crucial to allow the project to move forward, he said.

Mr. Ramos said he is looking to get in touch with the university and talk to the new chancellor about his plans and how they might be able to work together.

“We have a lot of work to do,” he said.

The process, of course, has generated a lot of criticism.  There are those who have questioned whether the city should move forward with certifying a project that in their eyes does not exist.  That is despite the fact there are a number of protections in place to prevent real abuse.

During public comments at the Planning Commission meeting, Eileen Samitz argued, “There is no project defined so far from the project developers.  There is an application on hold with a number of alternative projects and two equal weights.”

She also cited “serious flaws in the EIR, particularly the false assumptions that you have to have 60 percent of the units – 850 units – (that) would have to be occupied by at least one employee.  It’s ridiculous to assume that that [can] happen when it can’t be reinforced legally.”

Ms. Samitz is referring to the equal weight alternative, that the staff concluded is the environmentally superior alternative, “assuming (that) the addition of a legally enforceable mechanism to ensure that at least 60 percent of the on-site units would be occupied by at least one MRIC employee can be provided.”

The developer needs to decide if they are going to go forward with a project.  Dan Ramos clearly has an eye toward 2018, but to do that he would need to really move quickly here to get an anchor tenant and move on a project by early February.

That seems rather ambitious at this point.  A November vote would require the project to be ready by this time next year, and that might be more realistic.

But the council vote and then the public vote are two huge hurdles – even after EIR certification and if the project finds the kind of anchor tenant it needs to go forward.

The bottom line is that the city needs to find additional sources for revenue – right now it has the short-term options of cuts and taxes, probably a combination of the two.  But, as the school district’s compensation gap shows, the city cannot necessarily count on additional tax revenue and instead must find ways to increase revenue through economic development.

No, it won’t  be a short-term fix, but it is a realistic way forward and the city can take the first step in that direction, tonight.

—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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98 thoughts on “Commentary: Once Again City Eyes Should Turn to MRIC Tonight”

      1. Matt Williams

        David, there really isn’t any way to accomplish what you are looking to do. The parents of DJUSD students need to realize that if they do not take an interest in the City of Davis’ fiscal situation, the quality of the education their children will be getting from the school district will deteriorate … either due to funding shortfalls, or due to loss of good teachers because DJUSD can not afford to pay the teachers for the value they bring to the classrooms, or both.

        If they care about the future of their children’s education, every PTA in the School District should be actively discussing both the DJUSD fiscal situation and the City of Davis fiscal situation.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          I don’t know what I’m looking to do other than create a mechanism to generate revenue for the city that doesn’t require additional tax increases. I acknowledge that in the short term that is not possible.

        2. Howard P

          Matt… with all due respect, that ain’t a happening thing… the district and its supporters will go for a bigger/better parcel tax… “it’s for the kids”, after all… the City will postpone any parcel tax of its own (happened 2-3 times already, in deference to DJUSD)… DJUSD will get their’s, particularly if the passage bar is lowered by it being an ‘initiative’, and with Keith and others, the City will have no chance… the taxpayers will be “tapped out”, according to Keith… prediction with a 90% certainty level…

          It is what it is…

        3. Matt Williams

          David Greenwald said . . . “I’m looking to […] create a mechanism to generate revenue for the city that doesn’t require additional tax increases. I acknowledge that in the short term that is not possible.”

          Well said David.  In the short term that is not possible.  How long is “the short term”?  Five years?  Ten years?  Less?  More?

        4. Matt Williams

          Howard, the $13.44 million annual shortfall in the City’s Budget says that the City doesn’t have the luxury of postponing any parcel tax of its own.

          Co-opting the language of your comment, CalPERS and its pension requirements will go for a bigger/better slice of the City’s annual Budget.  The Firefighters have just been given a bigger/better slice of the City’s annual Budget.  Keeping the City’s roads and bike/greenbelt pathways in their current condition requires a bigger/better slice of the City’s annual Budget.

          http://www.khonkaenretirement.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/We-Have-Met-The-Enemy-And-He-Is-us-Pogo-Walt-Kelly.gif

        5. Howard P

          City couldn’t “afford” to either when they backed off City parcel taxes to let the schools do their parcel taxes… but, they did…

          The City ratcheted back a $99/year existing levy to $49 one due to this ‘preference’… and desperately needing ‘something’…

        6. Howard P

          The parents don’t “need” to do anything except ‘protecting their kids’… and they will… for any dollar that the City adds they will either want that dollar, and/or insist on a 2-3-fold increase of those same dollars for the schools… trust me on this… when the district thought the City was flush, they “partnered” with the City, which meant their ‘partner’ provided more services, so the district had less costs… Eva Long and Murphy were very successful in those efforts…

          As to DJUSD, the only questions are precisely when, how much, and how it is distributed to staff.

           

        7. Keith O

          DJUSD will get their’s, particularly if the passage bar is lowered by it being an ‘initiative’, and with Keith and others, the City will have no chance… the taxpayers will be “tapped out”, according to Keith… prediction with a 90% certainty level…

          Howard, make your additional donation check out to the DJUSD, earmark it for “teacher compensation”.  I’ll make a 100% prediction that they will gladly accept your check.

        8. Keith O

          Howard, you know what’s ironic?  Next year I’ll turn 65 and won’t have to pay most (if any) school parcel taxes.  You can bet your sweet bippy that I’m going to apply for the exemption.  So here I’m arguing against more school parcel taxes that I won’t even have to pay because I believe in an already average revenue school district that they should be able to compensate their staff at an average rate in comparison to other local schools.  Obviously our school system needs a better finance model.  Until we finally fight back homeowners will be continually used as an ATM machine.

           

        9. Howard P

          You truly have no clue, Keith… as usual… I am not advocating for additional compensation for school staff… are you?  I am not advocating for additional DJUSD parcel taxes… are you (and just being sly about it)?

          I find it disingenuous that folk feel differently about the DJUSD, and the City as to attracting and retaining staff… DJUSD educates the children… the City provides the roadways/pathways for them to get to school, and supplies the water/sewer and drainage to serve the schools.  So, in other words, the City does nothing…

           

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            How is it disingenuous for people to make value judgments are to what’s more important to them? You may disagree with my value judgments, but there is nothing disingenuous about me holding them.

        10. Matt Williams

          David, there is nothing “disingenuous” about burying your head in the sand.  Perhaps the better word for the point Howard is making is “myopic.”

          Howard, I understand the point you are making, but that approach does come with a cost.  As the roads and pathways (bicycle and greenbelt) continue to deteriorate that is going to have an impact on home values.  If your prognostication is correct, the schools become Peter in a “borrowing from Peter to pay Paul” scenario.

          Further “Paul’s” fiscal situation is going to get considerably worse when the Woodland School District starts denying interdistrict transfers because they want the student head count in their new Springlake Elementary School.

      1. Keith O

        Drop 7th period, if parents want the ‘nice to have’ extracurricular courses for their children they pay an extra fee.  These extra courses can be taught in the 7th period time slot.

        When I went to school we were offered Spanish and French only.  It seems now we are trying to teach many languages from all over the world, problem is we can no longer afford it.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Consolidating King would completely defeat its purpose. The principal has invited you to take a tour, I suggest if you persist on this point you owe her the courtesy of taking her up on that offer

        1. Keith O

          David, you ask for proposals then shoot down every suggestion given.  Do you really want to consider possible cost saving ideas or are we just going to advocate for yet another parcel tax?

           

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I’m going to advocate for another parcel tax unless I see something that I don’t think harms education. Really the only real alternative to a parcel tax is getting rid of 7th period, but I think that’s a bad idea educationally.

        2. Jim Hoch

          “The principal has invited you” I’m not aware of any such invitation. While I am only speculating about costs it seems from first glance that King has a one staff for each six students while other facilities are one staff for ~20 students. As a matter of equity King would be the first place to look for savings. 

          As they appear to have only two or sometimes three full classes having a dedicated building seems wasteful.

        3. Jim Hoch

          “Really the only real alternative to a parcel tax is getting rid of 7th period, but I think that’s a bad idea educationally.”

           

          That is absurd. There are plenty of options, especially consolidating King with another school. Maybe we should ask every family in the district whether they would like to have the same level of resources that King Students have?

        4. Jim Hoch

          What possible difference could it make. Do you think I am going to walk away thinking, “these kids deserve 4X the resources that all other kids get”?

           

          It’s simply an equity issue. BTW why do you care?

        5. David Greenwald

          I consider it basic courtesy that if you are going waste people’s professional time by posting this stuff (which is never going to happen) that you take your time to educate yourself on why the school is set up the way it is.

        6. Jim Hoch

          “which is never going to happen”

          Who knows what the future holds? If it is the equitable thing to do than I am going to advocate for it regardless of your prognostication.

          We seem to disagree about the phrase “waste people’s professional time”. Going to take a tour would be wasting her time. Posting on the Vanguard is NOT wasting her time. Unless you are saying that the overstaffed school has so little to do that giving tours to random parents breaks their tedium?

          1. Don Shor

            overstaffed school

            Please let us know your credentials for making this assertion about correct staffing ratios for continuation schools vs. regular schools.
            If none, please retract your inaccurate characterization.
            Attacking King is a non-starter in the discussion of school parcel taxes.

        7. Jim Hoch

          “Plus why are you going to mess with a successful continuation school that graduates in excess of 90% of its students?”

          What’s wrong with my kids that they don’t deserve a school with a 6:1 staffing ratio?

           

          Don, Why would someone who is mooching off my parcel taxes have standing to even enter this discussion?

          1. Don Shor

            Don, Why would someone who is mooching off my parcel taxes have standing to even enter this discussion?

            Excuse me?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            You’re saving some money but probably not as much as you think at the expense of a program that is working very well for kids who would otherwise be at risk of not graduating from high school.

        8. Jim Hoch

          “You’re saving some money but probably not as much as you think”

          You have a point here. I don’t know how much as I am not aware of a detailed DJU budget I can access. So yes, it is a guess. However I have been through numerous budgeting exercises in my life and reducing the number of facilities and the associated overhead is the only way to see significant savings. Great Schools gives the census as 47 students. Maintaining a freestanding school for 47 students, or even 60 as the website says, seems very wasteful . If King and Independent study were combined you would still have a school with less than 200 students and it would still be the smallest in the district. There would a reduction, or more likely, a re-positioning of at least 4-6 FTEs.

          “at the expense of a program that is working very well for kids who would otherwise be at risk of not graduating from high school”

          Your assumption seems to be that my children are not worth investing in as they will never amount to anything. Would you recommend I send them to Indonesia to work in a Nike factory sewing the little swoosh logos on while their fingers are still nimble so at least they will gain some skills?

           

          1. Don Shor

            Martin Luther King High School (King) serves between 65 and 80 students at any given time but enrolls approximately 140 students over the course of the year.

            continued:
            King has six teachers (plus a Resource Teacher who is, I believe, also at the high school). The California Department of Education recommended student:teacher ratio is 15:1. King serves 65 to 140 students in any given year.

        9. Jim Hoch

          So how many students are there at King? 47 is the number reported by all third party sites. I expect this comes from the ADA reimbursement as the “Average Daily Attendance” but I do not know that for a fact. The website says 65-80 which likely means the number enrolled but not the number actually attending school. The throughput number is useless as all schools have students coming and going.

          The actual, real number of students that need to be taught and physically accommodated is 47 with normal daily variation so say 60 students maximum on any given day.

          That is two classes at the other DJU schools.

        10. Jim Hoch

          The king website lists 12 employees. I have listed them below though as I have previously noted they may not all be FTEs there.

          They have 47 students show up on any given day. Even if one of the people are part time that gives a student/staff ratio of 4 students in school per full time employee on any given day.

          Davis senior High has 1715 students who show up everyday. Are there 425 teachers and staff at Davis Senior High?

          If not why are the kids at one school deserving of so much more money than the kids at another school?

          1. Don Shor

            There are 6 teachers and your 47 number is not accurate.
            I don’t really understand why you single out the most vulnerable populations in Davis for your constant attacks. It’s just plain weird. Fortunately, I’ve been here long enough that I think you won’t get any traction attacking King in order to try to prevent a parcel tax.

        11. Jim Hoch

           

          If 47 is not the average number of students in attendance then is that the number they report to the state? Maybe you should call them and ask that they report to the state whatever number you have in mind because they are clearly doing something wrong.

          There are, as far as I can tell, 12 employees and a building to maintain for 47 students.  Even if we just use the six teachers that means that they have one teacher for every 6 students. Maybe you could ask other parents if they would like to have their children in a class with only five other kids? Try it sometime…

          “vulnerable populations” Is this the SJW kryptonite attack? Well my kids are also a “vulnerable population” as well and they would like resources too…

           

  1. Ron

    The Vanguard has abandoned all pretense regarding any “slow-growth” claims.  (In fact, it’s failing to support the concerns of at least one member of its own board, regarding Trackside.)

    Not worth arguing each point (in the article above), again.

    Despite what David recently stated, it appears that MRIC will try to include housing in an upcoming proposal.  Regardless of what happens with the EIR, I’m reasonably certain that it faces an uphill battle.

    I suspect that even with the Vanguard’s support, it will fail.  Growth/development battles in Davis pre-date the Vanguard.

    In some ways, I’m glad to see the Vanguard drop its pretense.

        1. Ron

          David:  It appears from what evidence that MRIC will try to include housing? Prove it.

          From article:  “Ms. Samitz is referring to the equal weight alternative, that the staff concluded is the environmentally superior alternative, “assuming (that) the addition of a legally enforceable mechanism to ensure that at least 60 percent of the on-site units would be occupied by at least one MRIC employee can be provided.”

          You think that the city and development interests won’t try to use the “environmentally superior” argument? (Along with you?) In other words, the “greenwash” argument. (Perhaps blended with the “socially responsible” argument.)

          P.S. – You’re the one who stated that the council won’t approve a proposal (for voter consideration) if it includes housing.  YOU prove it.

          As long as those two (your friend Robb Davis and Rochelle Swanson) are on the council (or similar replacements), we pretty much already know the goal – throughout the city and beyond its borders. (Which is very similar to your goal.)

           

        2. Ron

          David:  “The council voted down that equal weight alternative in March 2016.”

          And – what will they do in 2017, 2018 . . . ?  (Perhaps depends on whether or not the Vanguard can help ensure “similar replacements” for Robb and Rochelle.)

          I’m not sure that (even) a commercial-only development would “fly”, at this point. (Let alone be “viable”.)

          Of course, we never really know if a commercial-only development is “viable”, since we’re depending upon the developer to “tell us” that.

        3. David Greenwald

          So you’ve gone from “it appears that MRIC will try to include housing” to acknowledging that that statement is based on pure speculation on your part and that no one has given any indication of that whatsoever.

        4. Ron

          David:  Again, YOU’RE the one who made the statement that they would not include housing.  (In another recent article.)  That’s speculation.

          Sure, it’s possible that they won’t.  But, given all the circumstances (e.g., inclusion in the EIR, fake green arguments, a friendly council, a friendly Vanguard, probable excuses that it’s not “viable” without housing, etc.), it seems likely that housing will make its way back into a future proposal.  That appears to be where the real money (and market demand) is.

          We’ve all experienced the “reassuring” statements that there will be plenty of opportunities to voice your concerns regarding (“insert proposal here”), as the proposal inevitably moves forward. Seen it many times, now. (I think I’m ready for it, this time. We shall see.)

           

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Did you or did you not write: “it appears that MRIC will try to include housing in an upcoming proposal.”? In subsequent posts you’ve done a fine job of walking back that comment without actually acknowledging that you are.

          2. David Greenwald Post author

            Also perhaps you can explain why supporting a single 200 acre innovation center with a 30 to 50 year build out engenders this: “The Vanguard has abandoned all pretense regarding any “slow-growth” claims.”

    1. Tia Will

      Ron

      Two points:

      1. I do not believe that “the Vanguard” aka, opinions held by David, has ever made a “pretense” of slow growth advocacy. David has always had a more “pro growth stance” than some members of our community, say Eileen Samitz, Sue Greenwald, or myself to name a few. He has never tried to “hide” his views or have a “pretense” to drop.

      2. “it’s failing to support the concerns of at least one member of its own board, regarding Trackside.) 

      This lack of support for my concerns is not a “failing”. It is a legitimate difference of opinion regarding the issues around one proposed project. Why would you think that either of us has a duty of support for the opinion of  the other because I participate in the operation of the Vanguard ?

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        “Why would you think that either of us has a duty of support for the opinion of the other because I participate in the operation of the Vanguard ?”

        Exactly. The other weird thing is that he assumes he knows where I stand on Trackside.

        I guess I don’t really know what slow growth is. Because I don’t think supporting a single project that has a 30 to 50 year shelf-life is particularly fast growth. I’ve always taken a project by project approach and it has often been extremely nuanced.

        1. Ron

          David:  I’ve responded to Tia, below.  (I have to re-paste her responses, because I’m still not able to see them when logged in.)

          Regarding your support for a “single project” – did you support Hyatt? a conference center at Embassy? Sterling?  B Street?  Lincoln 40?  Nishi?  (Or, do you just lay the “groundwork” for such support?)  (I acknowledge that you’ve made conflicting statements regarding Trackside.)

        2. David Greenwald

          You wrote: “The Vanguard has abandoned all pretense regarding any “slow-growth” claims. ”

          My response was to question whether supportin this particular project abandoned all pretense regarding any slow growth claims.

          It’s a single project with a 30 to 50 year build out.  I did not say nor claim to have only supported a single project.

          Of the projects you have listed most I took no position, some I have supported, others I have opposed.

          Trackside is actually a good example of my approach.  For example, I believe that if you are going to build a project there, we should first have a completed CASP so that we are not simply developing Willy-nilly.  I am not opposed on principle to four stories.  However, I do question whether the type of housing provided is a clear community need.

          So does that mean I support or oppose Trackside?

          Nishi is another example.  I thought much of the Measure A campaign on both sides was problematic.  I questioned before and after the election whether the project itself was as good as it could have been.  I was troubled by the punt on affordable housing.  And believe the city sunk itself by failing to address traffic impacts in advance.

          Does that mean I supported or opposed Nishi?  Add to that, I never took a public position either way.

          I don’t generally view it as my role to endorse a project.  I have come out against a lot of projects: Covell Village, Cannery, Mission Residence, Chiles Ranch, Paso Fino, etc.

          MRIC is one of the few projects that I have said I would support because I believe we have a clear need for economic development and it is locked in between Mace Curve and the conservation easement, and it is a 30 to 50 year build out of relatively limited size.

          In fact that is the only true peripheral development I support at this time.  I remain a staunch supporter of Measure R.

          So does that mean I’m not slow growth because I support MRIC?  I find this all very subjective.  What does slow growth mean to you?  No growth?  No peripheral growth? Limited growth?

  2. Ron

    David:  Not “walking back” anything.  Yes – it appears that MRIC will include housing in a future proposal. Yes, it appears that you’re abandoning the pretense of being “slow growth” (at least from a “Davis” standard). (Perhaps not, e.g., from an “Elk Grove” standard.)

    Regarding your support for a “single 200-acre innovation center”, this might be the first time that you’ve actually acknowledged supporting a specific proposal.  (Not sure.)  In any case, every day you present a string of one-sided arguments regarding the need for more development.  Although the one-sided nature of your articles has been repeatedly pointed out, you just continue to march along the path that you’re presenting.

    Today, we have these “gems”:

    “This city is facing a monumental crossroads because we can no longer afford to pave our roads, build our homes or pay our teachers.

    If we do nothing, the small city that we know and love – with the vast expanse of greenbelts and bike paths, the working streets, the parks and amenities, the schools and the future – will all be gone.

    But it doesn’t have to end that way and it doesn’t have to be that way.”

    To quote “Mr. Bill” from Saturday Night Live, “Oh noooh”.

     

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      When you read these you might take a note at the top the title: “Commentary.” That means it is an opinion piece. As opposed to news articles which are more balanced and less filled with opinion. So when you talk about the “one-sided” nature of my “articles” you need to distinguish between “commentary” and article.

  3. Ron

    Why would you think that either of us has a duty of support for the opinion of the other because I participate in the operation of the Vanguard ?

    You are correct – it doesn’t.  (In fact, it’s more “honest” that way.)

    Just looking at it from my personal perspective – I can’t imagine wanting to be part of an organization that is working against my beliefs (and in your case, against your own battle to some degree). But, that’s just my perspective. We each make our own decisions, for lots of different reasons.

    From my perspective, the Vanguard is causing more harm, than good. Local development issues are one of the few things that the city actually has some say in. (And, such decisions are essentially permanent.)

  4. Tia Will

    I can’t imagine wanting to be part of an organization that is working against my beliefs”

    Wow. What an opportunity to share a different perspective. I see this entirely differently. I see the Vanguard as a conversation space for anyone in the community who chooses to participate. The “belief” of relevance to me in regard to working with the Vanguard is my belief in the value of open communication and a format for the sharing of differing views. If we all felt the same way, there would be zero value in participating.

    David and I agree on some matters and differ on others. Which “belief” should take precedence?  We share many perspectives on social justice and legal issues. We differ on city growth. What is of value to me is not agreement on issues, but a forum for discussion.

  5. Matt Williams

    David Greenwald said . . . “while we have put off the inevitable, the city and school district are ultimately dipping into the same pot for additional resources and money and may at some point in the near future go head to head for that money.”

    I think you can eliminate the word “may” from what David has said.  Page 4.9 of Chapter 4 of the City of Davis Budget clearly states “The average annual shortfall in funding is $7.8 million” and illuminates that shortfall with the following two charts.
    https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Screen-Shot-2017-09-19-at-10.16.39-AM.png

    https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Screen-Shot-2017-09-19-at-10.59.13-AM.png

    In addition, the Budget is clear that the $7.8 million is only that low if the 1% Measure O Sales Tax is not renewed in its entirety.  Page 4.13 of that same Budget shows an additional $170 million shortfall by 2035 if the Sales Tax is not renewed, and provides the following chart illuminating the accumulation of that $170 million shortfall.

    https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Screen-Shot-2017-09-19-at-11.01.27-AM.png

    Further, Page 4.6 of that same Budget shows the annual CalPERS pension cost rising from $5.64 million per year in 2016/17 to $10.98 million per year in 2022/23 … another $5.34 million per year shortfall.

    https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Screen-Shot-2017-09-19-at-10.59.48-AM.png

    That is the scope of the problem … $13,44 million per year plus an additional $170 million if the Sales tax is not renewed.  How is the City proposing we address this problem?  Through a combination of (1) economic development, (2) cost containment, and (3) additional taxes.

    How is the economic development part going so far?  So far other than cannabis, we have voted down the economic development measures that have come before us.  Some here in the Vanguard have even argued that that there isn’t sufficient demand for economic development to justify either new buildings for businesses or new homes for workers.

    How is the cost containment part going so far?  Mayor Davis can’t even get a second from his fellow Council members to discuss cost containment.  He has also not been able to get any support for his proposed Cost Containment Task Force.  Page 4.4 of the Budget states “the forecast grows the baseline personnel expense by 2% for 18/19 and future year calculations” However, the Council and Staff recently negotiated a 6% one-year increase in Firefighter base salary, with increased employee contributions to pension and retiree medical, and the Staff Report shows that the total package increases City expenses for Firefighter personnel by $170,000 a year.

    Bottom-line, the City only two choices to address the $13.44 million shortfall … (A) let the roads deteriorate even more, or (B) raise taxes.

    So, a graphical depiction of David’s statement looks like this.

    https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/CombinedTaxGrab.jpg

  6. Ron

    Tia:  “What is of value to me is not agreement on issues, but a forum for discussion.”

    The “problem” is that some misrepresent the issues, day-after-day.  It’s not really a “discussion”.  It’s a one-sided “presentation”.

    Look at Matt’s cartoon above, if you doubt that.  It appears to be designed to instill fear.  (Never mind that the state just passed a gas tax which will help with road maintenance, for example.  Also, never mind that virtually every city in the state is facing the same issue with unfunded liabilities – which will probably necessitate a systemic solution, at some point.) Also, never mind that any parcel tax increase requires voter approval.

    Never mind that the city hasn’t even completed a re-examination of development fees, to ensure that development offsets the costs it creates.  And, never mind that some types of development don’t contribute sufficiently schools (due to the structure of parcel taxes, in which apartment complexes pay the same fee as a single-family dwelling).

    Very little “discussion” regarding any of the points that I’ve outlined, above. (Lots of graphs and cartoons, though.)

    If you don’t think that some are purposefully focusing upon (and making misleading statements) regarding financial issues as a “justification” for development, than we probably do view the Vanguard differently.

    1. Keith O

      Don’t forget that a bill is floating through right now to raise all bridge fees to $9 to be used for transportation purposes.

      Don’t forget that on top of higher gas taxes there’s also going to be higher car registration fees.

       

      1. Keith O

        Let’s not forget the county too, it looks like they’re moving forward with at least a 1/4% sales tax increase for roads with also an early learning childcare and homeless tax in their scope

    2. Tia Will

      Ron

      Just like with social media, just like with any human interaction not engaged in under oath, their is no guarantee of truthfulness. I work under the general assumption that people are telling their own “truth” as they see it, whether in words or illustrations. Sometimes we read “between the lines” to arrive at the “truth” of their statements. Some of us tend to be very forthright and still people look for our “hidden agenda”. I have been told many times to “tell the truth” or “be honest” after I have written exactly what I see as true. I try very hard to take people at their word and not tell someone else what they must think.

      1. Matt Williams

        Tia, judging by the first word in your post, you are responding to Ron.  Mercifully the Vanguard technology prevents me from seeing his comments.  If he is true to form (based on the posts of his I read lo these many months ago), Ron is suggesting that our best course of action is to be ostriches and keep our heads firmly buried in the sand.  The “forthright” information from Chapter 4 of the City Budget, objectively prepared by Bob Leland, says we have (at a minimum) a $13.44 million a year shortfall. Even ostrich eyes buried in the sand can tell that is a significant problem.

        Economic Development isn’t going to make a dent in that for at least 10 years (David’s estimate earlier today, which I agree with), and cost containment isn’t making any impact, our community is left with only 2 options (unless Ron has a miracle that he wishes to propose).  The first is to do nothing and watch our infrastructure and services continue to crumble.  The second is to raise taxes, which means competing with the School District for limited taxpayer resources.  Actually it means competing with both the School District and the State for taxpayer largesse.  The State clearly has its eye on our pocketbooks, and their words thus far are that for every $1 they tax us, they will give back 50 cents of value.  50 cents on the dollar is not a good deal no matter how you slice it.

    3. David Greenwald

      “f you don’t think that some are purposefully focusing upon (and making misleading statements) regarding financial issues as a “justification” for development, than we probably do view the Vanguard differently”

      You have this backwards, many grudgingly accept the need for some development due to financial issues that we have grappled with for years and have not improved much with a vastly improved overall economy.

  7. Roberta Millstein

    David writes, “No, it won’t  be a short-term fix, but it is a realistic way forward and the city can take the first step in that direction, tonight.”

    First: The decision to certify the EIR should not be based on whether people think that Davis needs the project or not.  The decision to certify the EIR should be based on whether the EIR analysis is sufficient.  

    Second: There is no guarantee that the MRIC would succeed.  It could end up being an empty shell sitting on top of prime farmland.  Or, it could succeed in the sense that it earns the developers money, but costs the City in other ways, from the additonal services needed to be provided to deal with all the additional people and buildings in town.  The MRIC is not a free lunch.

      1. Roberta Millstein

        By that logic, we could never do anything since there are no guarantees in life.

        Ok, let me put the point more strongly.  We are in a boom economy right now.  Everyone expects a correction in the near future.  A big business park is ripe for failure under those circumstances and if that happens, will hurt the City and be a loss of farmland for nothing.

        (And what Tia says below, which I also agree with).

        1. Roberta Millstein

          So we should never add business space because there will be times over the course of the build out that the economy will be in downturn?

          No — I neither said nor implied that.  Rather, we should never count on something that risky to “save” our City, as you seem to do in this article.  And it would be more prudent to expend our efforts promoting Davis-sized business space instead of outsized business space.  MRIC is taking up all the oxygen in the room.

        2. David Greenwald

          So now we have gone from “there are no guarantees” to “boom” cycle to “risky.”  I don’t think you’ve established that it’s risky.  Nor do I think you can argue that this is the only step to “save” the city.

        3. Roberta Millstein

          So now we have gone from “there are no guarantees” to “boom” cycle to “risky.”  I don’t think you’ve established that it’s risky.  Nor do I think you can argue that this is the only step to “save” the city.

          The real issue, which you are dodging by trying to toss the ball my way, is that you are relying on something that is either very uncertain or downright risky to make your argument.  I don’t think I need to choose between those two, since either raises a problem for your claim that this is the way out.  I actually don’t think that the MRIC is the way to “save” the city, at all.  That’s exactly my point — that your continuing to harp on this uncertain and/or risky proposition means that we don’t do some of the other things that would be less uncertain and less risky. MRIC is a hot button issue.  Why not work on something that is less of a lightning rod?

        4. David Greenwald

          First of all, I’m not convinced by the argument that it is risky.

          Second, I don’t think there’s anything in this community that would be big enough to generate real revenue that wouldn’t be a hot button issue.

          Ironically I once thought MRIC wouldn’t be that controversial given its location in between Mace and the conservation easement, but obviously that’s not the case.

        5. Roberta Millstein

          Ok, then, what’s your evidence that MRIC is likely to be successful enough to “save” the City, given the likely economic correction that we will be facing, and given the fact that other nearby cities have built or are building business parks recently?  Also, in your argument, please take into account the costs to the City of having such a large business park on its edge.

          It’s controversial because people don’t want their open space and ag land thrown away on a developer’s speculation that could signficantly change the City for the worse.

        6. Matt Williams

          Roberta, the straightforward answer to your question is, “We don’t know.”  The reason is that the MRIC team did not show up at the Finance and Budget Commission meeting on April 11, 2016.

          Item 5c of that meeting was a Mace Ranch Innovation Center Land Economics Analysis completed by Economic and Planning Systems, Inc (EPS).  Without the MRIC team there to answer the FBC members’ questions those questions went unanswered.

        7. Roberta Millstein

          Roberta, the straightforward answer to your question is, “We don’t know.” 

          If that’s right, then David should not be using the supposed financial benefits of the City of the MRIC as a reason to proceed, which was my original point.

          I’m sure you are frustrated, as I am, that we continue to talk about a project that was still in the process of being analyzed by the commissions before it was (sort of) put on “hold.”

  8. Tia Will

    “There is no guarantee that the MRIC would succeed”

    By that logic, we could never do anything since there are no guarantees in life.”

    Disagree. I think it is quite logical when an idea is being sold as a route to success, that one make the realization that it is not a guarantee no matter how strongly it is being pushed by the any interest group be that a developer, city leaders, media, businessmen, political party….

    It is easy to be overwhelmed by tales of gloom and doom and to see a project, or a candidate as a “savior”. Look at the outcome of recent elections to see the results of this type of fear based thinking. A reminder that there is no savior or panacea is often timely.

    1. David Greenwald

      You’re disagreement looks a lot more like an expansion of the issue.  There are no guarantees for success.  You simply make the best decision you can at the time with available evidence.

    2. Keith O

       Look at the outcome of recent elections to see the results of this type of fear based thinking. 

      What election would that be Tia?  Being an alternate moderator you wouldn’t be trying to introduce presidential politics into a thread about the MRIC and school funding would you?

      I mean we can go there if it’s allowed.

    1. Keith O

      Ron: Will, Brett and Lucas have all said TONIGHT they are against housing on the site.  Care to amend your comment?

      Ron never said that those three were for housing.  Reread his comment.

        1. Keith O

          Plus, what’s to stop a council member from changing their mind?

          Or a more developer friendly council elected down the road?

          David, you act like it’s set in stone.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            It’s not set in stone, but it was a pretty strong statement and btw, it wasn’t the first time for any of the three, they’ve held that view at least two years now. And they’ll each be on the council together for another three years. Can a more developer friendly council get elected in 2020? Sure, although it’s hard to imagine that given where Will and Lucas stand.

        1. Howard P

          You miss the nuance… specific people, vs. # of people… whatever…

          And if specific votes are locked in stone on a given topic, before it comes up officially, we are in deep “doo-doo”

  9. Alan Miller

    If we do nothing, the small city that we know and love – with the vast expanse of greenbelts and bike paths, the working streets, the parks and amenities, the schools and the future – will all be gone.

    So, let me get this straight:  If we do nothing, there will be no greenbelts or bike paths, the streets won’t work, and the parks, amenities, schools and the future . . . will all be gone.

    I can live with that.

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