City Council Candidates Meet for CivEnergy Forum – Question 1

It was a packed house on Sunday afternoon to get the first big chance to see all nine of the council candidates in action.  The forum at Davis Community Church was hosted by CivEnergy and moderated by former Davis Mayor Ann Evans.

Each candidate was allowed to give an opening and closing comment and then was asked three two-minute questions.  The Vanguard will break up those answers into three separate articles.

The first question was: “Economic development is key to the future of Davis being able to provide community services to its population.  Sacramento has declared itself the Farm to Fork capital of America.  Within that context, of Farm to Fork capital of America, Woodland has chosen to create food front on its Main Street and invest in infrastructure related to attracting food processors.  Winters has become known for its innovative restaurants and redeveloped the downtown to feature them.  West Sacramento is attracting brew pubs and is investing in a vision of becoming a global food hub.  And UC Davis is a powerhouse of knowledge on food and agriculture.  What are your thoughts for ways in which the city of Davis can develop a unique food identity which contributes both culturally and economically to the city?”

Linda Deos

She said we need to focus on a few things and one of them is building a community downtown.  She wants to have a downtown that attracts herself and others to eat, play, drink coffee, drink wine in the downtown.  “That’s lacking now,” she said.  When she wants to go out to dinner, “More often than not, I’m driving across the causeway to Sacramento.  I’m going to Winters.  I’m going to other places because we don’t have what all of us can have downtown here.”

She said we have a lot of great places to eat fast and leave.  “What we don’t have are a lot of sit down restaurants,” she said.  “I would like to encourage more of that downtown.”

She wants to “foster” a different feeling downtown – “wider sidewalks, more pedestrian friendly.”  She mentioned Tim Spencer Ally going through renovation – “I’m envisioning bistros there.  I’m envisioning small tables sitting out with trees, having a canopy going over.”

Second she said, “I want to be looking at building our relationship with UC Davis.  It is the No.1 (school) in agriculture.  Number 1 in plant sciences and veterinary medicine.  We have the Robert Mondavi Institute for wine and food science.”  She said, “Let’s see more of that cooperative relationship between the city and UC.”

Eric Gudz

Eric Gudz said, “One of the biggest issues with why we are seeing a significant barrier in this being an impediment to us being able to foster more of our culinary and our creative scene downtown, is very simply because the young professionals in our community and the creative class in our community are simply not able to afford to live in Davis.”

He explained that they’re moving to West Sacramento, Winters, Sacramento, Woodland and even the Bay to start their food establishments in those locations.

“I can’t tell you how many hundreds and even thousands of my friends have moved out of this community, and are not coming back.  These are the kinds of folks that we need to be able to retain in Davis and need to able to keep them employed and keep them working in our communities.”

He said when he talks to downtown restaurants, what he’s hearing “is they’re feeling the pinch.”  Part of that problem is that the people who work at their restaurants “have to commute out of Davis.”  He said, “That’s putting a strain on our customer base.  We’re not bringing enough dollars downtown and all of that is affecting our ability to be the next Food to Fork Capital.”

Larry Guenther

He said that UC Davis has got “the food thing all wrapped up regionally.”  He said, “Coordinating with them and expanding on what we already have – the advantages that we already have – it’s been done.”  He said, “If it did happen, it can happen.”

He continued, “We’ve got a Farmer’s Market that is literally world famous.”  He said people come for all over the country and even out of the country “and they’re coming to the Farmer’s Market.

“So we’ve already got a lot of the infrastructure that we need to do this,” he said.  “The thing we can focus on, that again that Davis has in excess… is our international configuration.  We’ve got the university.  We have people who come to Davis for a variety of reasons and stay for one reason… it’s a really great place to live.”

Mr. Guenther said, “Capitalizing on that – Capitalizing on the creativity,   the problem solving and the international aspect of the people who come here can go a long to cooperating – the university to the city, the city businesses to people…”

He added, “We’ve got a lot of restaurant businesses that could take a menu from an individual and try it out.”

Gloria Partida

Gloria Partida said at work there was an advertisement for the bike-bus and the bike-bus pushed the idea of taking it with friends to do wine tasting.  “We thought, where would you go?” she said.  “Because I can’t think of too many places that are geared towards wine tasting.

“The problem that we have is that we don’t have a cohesiveness.  We have a lot of great places to eat,” she said but not a lot of places to sit down and have the order taken.  “There are a lot of older people who feel that the restaurants are geared towards the young people in town.”

She attributed that to the fact that business people know that the college-aged crowd “is a large demographic.”  She said, “There is other opportunity that I think we are missing.”

She believes a great deal of the effort should be downtown, “because we want to continue the vibrancy we have there.”  She also believes, “There are other places that people live in Davis and there are other centers that we have…  There are places that people can get to close to their neighborhoods and I think we miss the opportunity to invest in those spaces where people can go.”

Ms. Partida noted that the bike-bus gives us an opportunity to meld two identities, the identity to food and wine through the Mondavi Center and Farmer’s Market, and the identity for bikes.

Luis Rios

Luis Rios said, “The Davis downtown area has a lot of potential.”  He said he took his son last year for his birthday and they went to Woodstock’s, then ice cream, and then he took the kids to see the movie, “Captain Underpants.”

“That was one of my first encounters with downtown more closely,” he said.  “There’s empty store fronts, there’s so much potential in downtown Davis, I could definitely see that it’s resurfaced as the heart of Davis.”

He sees the Varsity Theater and the old City Hall building that he believes can be used as anchors to build and develop.

Mr. Rios said he met with Gary May “to work on partnerships and building relationships.  It starts from there.  That’s how you get things done.”

He also suggested that “we can definitely market a product mutually in partnership to begin with.”

Mark West

Mark West explained, “Davis already has a pretty vibrant downtown, if you walk around out there, there’s a lot of things going on.  The challenge that we have is that there’s not a lot of good restaurants that we can sit down and have a fine meal at.  The primary reason for that is because the community doesn’t have enough people who appreciate fine restaurants to go out and support those places.”

He said one or two come in, they survive a few years, and then they close down.

“We need to be, as a community, more supportive of our downtown food environment,” he said.  “We also need to bring more people living downtown so they can walk downstairs and their next door to the restaurant rather than having to drive in from the outskirts and try to find a place to park and all the other challenges.”

He suggested taking a look at what our neighbors are successfully doing.  They are bringing in new restaurants and redeveloping.  He said, “We need to do the same thing.”  He said, “Our redevelopment needs to be mixed use construction with apartments over the top of commercial in our downtown, so that we have people living in the downtown and part of our community.”

Ezra Beeman

“Business development is what I do professionally, and I help businesses identify growth opportunities, position themselves and establish plans to move into that space and operate successfully.  I would tackle this question by first of all, like any good marketer understanding what the nature of demand is,” he said.  “What do people want to eat?  And then I would look at where is the competition positioning – that helps to identify what are the gaps in the market.”

He said, “The next thing we need to think about is what is our strategic or competitive advantage.”

For him UC Davis is a big example.  “We’re also a very sustainable agriculture-focused community.  That brings to mind, a focus on organic food or focus on things like wine.”

Mr. Beeman stated, “The role for the city is similar to a country and developing their strategic industries.  That’s where the city could look to remove the barriers for the businesses to establish themselves and to also promote on a common basis the uniquely Davis food offerings.”

He added, “I would say though, Davis has got some phenomenal food right now.”  He said they go to fine dining in Davis all the time.  “When I’m overseas I miss Davis.  It’s one of a few places where I can eat close to a vegan diet and I can’t do that in Sydney, or Paris or other places.”

Mary Jo Bryan

Mary Jo Bryan said her thoughts come from a discussion with a professor emeritus at UC Davis Extension.  She said he tells the history of the agricultural communities “that have made California agriculture what it is today.  He wants to bring these stories to the UC Davis community.  I want to share my thoughts on how to use his ideas to bring the stories of UC Davis agricultural heritage into the city of Davis.”

She suggested using historical panels to capture the many contributions of agricultural communities that have been major players in the development of our agricultural system.

“I thought this project could extend into the downtown,” she said.  It could be placed throughout the city and placed not only by students and faculty but also the citizens of Davis and out of town visitors – revealing the agricultural history of the city.

“The city and university could collaborate to become a destination point by foretelling these stories,” she said.

“In order to contribute to the economic growth of our city, the Chamber of Commerce, could enlist local restaurants to develop menu items that reflect the cultural and ethnic communities and develop a unique food identity to go along with the stories of California and Davis agriculture.”

She said, “This is a concept and not a reality.”

Dan Carson

Mr. Carson said, “We have a lot of innovation and food to be proud of in our city.”  He said that “our Farmer’s Market and our Food Co-op have blazed a trail that many other communities are still following.

“The start of work on a new plan for downtown Davis I believe provides a great opportunity for us to both improve our economy and provide better and more interesting food choices for people in Davis and visitors,” he continued.

“Both the Farmer’s Market and Food Co-op are both within the boundaries of the downtown planning area,” he said, noting that both draw a large number of out of town visitors to Davis.  He suggested that the city take some steps to have those people linger a bit and hang around in the downtown.

“How exactly can we do this?” he asked.  “We have some real experts from the farmer’s market, the visitor’s bureau, UC Davis and the co-op.”

He presented two ideas.

The first was “integrating a café or restaurant into the Third and B building perhaps in partnership with the Bicycle Hall of Fame,” he said.  “Now that the state’s said we get to keep the building, I think it’s time to explore the option of creating a farm to fork restaurant there.”

He said he was intrigued by the Upper Crust Bakery move into the Radio Shack storefront.

“It strikes me that this could be the start of a ‘foody’ community where we could encourage other businesses to spin off their operations to other locations in the city or downtown,” he said.

He presented one last idea, noting that we will go to a General Plan update following the Downtown Plan.  He noted other communities have developed health community elements to the general plan that could talk about things like physical activity.

But it could also encourage “more community gardens and healthful eating.”

—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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  1. Dianne C Tobias

    It certainly was a packed house, with extra chairs needed!  Very well run especially with such a large candidate list.

    Kudos to CivEnergy. Hope they might offer additional forums for other races and/or as we get closer to June for C.C.

    It was refreshing to see democracy alive and well.

    1. Matt Williams

      It was indeed a packed house.  My estimate was 275-300 attendees.  It appeared to be 60-70% women and 30-40% men.  There was also a conspicuous absence of UCD students … perhaps only 10 total, mostly associated with Luis Rios.

      That prompts some interesting questions.

      Where were the men?
      Are men less engaged in the local political process than women?
      Council Chambers have been packed with UCD students recently, but they chose not to attend the candidates forum.  Is there a reason for that contrast?

      1. Cindy Pickett

        They men could just be dead (sorry to be indelicate). Based on census data, as you get past the age of 50, the ratio of women to men goes up. Given the age of the audience at the forum, one would expect more women than men based on statistics alone.

  2. Sharla C.

    I watch the video of the forum last night.  I wish that there was more of a discussion and candidates challenging each other – a debate, rather than a forum.   I thought at least one of the questions was a waste of time and felt that a more pointed question about what is going wrong with Davis in terms of fiscal sustainability and housing woes and challenging the candidates to give more of an explanation of what they would bring to the council in terms of specific ideas and interests, including the proposed impact or real benefit of those ideas.  Mark West was the only person that really answered that with any specifics.  I thought more time should be spent on whether these candidates have the knowledge and experience to take this on.   I think too much time was spent focused on the downtown as the solution to our fiscal woes, which has been going on since as long as I can remember (I’m talking about since the 1960’s).

    1. Mark West

      A debate would probably have been more entertaining in theory, but it would have been a nightmare with nine people all wanting to talk at the same time. I found the forum to be quite informative and heard some new ideas that I agreed with, and others that I would have enjoyed debating. I don’t expect to see an opportunity for a public in-person debate, which is why I continue to engage here, something I wish other candidates would consider. Whether you agree with my positions or not, at least you know where I stand on these issues, and I believe that level of clarity is valuable in our public discourse.

    2. Howard P

      I wish that there was more of a discussion and candidates challenging each other – a debate, rather than a forum.

      I think there is a place for each… starting out with a ‘forum’ (so far sounds like no audience interaction) makes sense… a debate can build on challenging statements at forums that might be ‘all things to all people’… vague and ‘safe’.

      Yes, would like to see debates, that would include questions/topics from the audience (instead of just the organizer or moderator… c’mon, first question from Ann Evans on food?) where candidates have to answer for, or clarify, pablum they may have spouted at forums.

  3. Don Shor

    What are your thoughts for ways in which the city of Davis can develop a unique food identity…”

    Really? I’m sorry, but this isn’t real high up on the list of pressing issues facing the city council.

      1. Jim Frame

        Bring back Tuco’s!…Note:  Never ate there.

        You missed a bet — it was my favorite place for good eclectic food served in a cozy atmosphere.  (It was too expensive for everyday fare, but that’s what Crepeville is for.)

      1. Mark West

        I’m not going to debate the relative value of the question, but it did point out that our neighbors are actually implementing economic development efforts while we are still stuck repeating the buzzwords.

        If you go back and read our foundation documents, starting with the ’61 CASP and including the latest GP, you will see that expanding business in town has been a focus throughout. We even formed an Economic Development Task Force in the early ’90s that produced a detailed approach to expanding business in town, which like most of our other great plans, was never implemented and is now mostly forgotten. Three or four years ago I heard a lot of crowing on these pages about how Davis ‘saved’ its downtown, while our neighbors allowed theirs to die. If you go to downtown Winters, Woodland or West Sacramento today you will find more examples of evolution/redevelopment/rebirth there then we have seen in Davis in decades. What the question really was asking is why there and not here?

        1. David Greenwald

          “I’m not going to debate the relative value of the question, but it did point out that our neighbors are actually implementing economic development efforts while we are still stuck repeating the buzzwords.”

          “What the question really was asking is why there and not here?”

          I actually believe this is an important question. And I will debate anyone who is game 😉

        2. Sharla C.

          But we have done a lot with the downtown – redesign of city streets, creation of sidewalk eating, lighting, art, parklets, music, etc.  But none of this matters when you have business owners who can’t even be troubled to sweep the leaves and trash away or wash down the sidewalk in the morning in front of their businesses before they open their doors.  Winters consists of 4 restaurants on one corner and that is considered evolution?

          But the question was about how Davis could develop a food identity. Mark and David are hearing a different question.

        3. David Greenwald

          She framed the question with a mention of economic development and a reference to what other communities are doing.  That’s clearly the backdrop.  I don’t see this as a question about restaurants at all.  I see it more along the lines of what UCD was trying to do with the World Trade Center, what West Sac is doing with Farm to Fork, and what we could have done with the MRIC had we developed it along the lines of AgTech.

        4. Ron

          “World Trade Center”.

          (Clearly, UCD is venturing well-beyond its original role.)  🙂

          Actually, isn’t it the “Freedom Tower” now, or something like that?

          As a side note, what exactly is West Sacramento doing with “fork the farm”? (Serious question – despite that comment.)

        5. Mark West

          “Winters consists of 4 restaurants on one corner and that is considered evolution?”

          Downtown Winters today is completely changed from what it was 15 years ago, not so much in downtown architecture and general appearance, but in the health of its business community. Their downtown is also continuing to expand and be revitalized along Railroad Avenue, both to the North and South.  In addition, they have already implemented form-based codes for their zoning (something we are only now talking about) allowing for greater flexibility during that redevelopment. They are years ahead of us in their evolution, and in creating an environment that is welcoming to new business and opportunities.

        6. Sharla C.

          The candidates clearly did not respond to the question with all that it implied.  Linda Deos talked about more and better restaurants that would be attractive to herself – sit down restaurants, bistros and plazas with food vendors along alley ways. Eric talked about the affordability of Davis driving young professionals to neighboring communities and taking their disposable income with them.   Larry talked about collaboration with UCD to expand things like the Master Brewer program at Sudwerk and highlighted what we were doing well, like the Farmers Market.  Gloria pointed out innovative ideas like the bike bus that had no where to go and that we needed to develop a more cohesive offerings, such as multiple wine tasting rooms,  She also mentioned the opportunity to redevelop neighborhood shopping centers into more of a destination than just serving the neighborhood.  Luis talked about the great downtown restaurants. Ezra mentioned removing barriers to business owners who wanted to open restaurants.  Mary Jo proposed a public education campaign in collaboration with UCD and have the Chamber of Commerce work with restaurants to develop menu offerings to connect with these efforts.  Dan talked about opening a cafe at Third & U and noted the store front opening of a commercial baker as an idea to encourage these kinds of spin offs.  He also talked about the General Plan update with a focus on the creation of healthy communities with things like more community gardens.

          None talked of attracting food production or research.  Most focused on the variety and attractiveness of restaurants in downtown. None talked about any strategy or creation of zones within the downtown or in neighborhood centers that would create destination for visitors.

        7. Sharla C.

          Mark: In addition, they have already implemented form-based codes for their zoning (something we are only now talking about) allowing for greater flexibility during that redevelopment.

          That is interesting.  Talk about that –  what is it, how could it be implemented and what would the result look like?

        8. Ron

          David:  ” . . . what West Sac is doing with Farm to Fork . ..”

          Which is . . . ? (Also, is it “easier” for them to do so, due to the city’s immediate proximity to Sacramento?)

          In any case, this “movement” should really belong to Davis. (Organic farms, for example, are not the first thing I think of when it comes to West Sacramento.)

          The question (from a candidate’s perspective) is how the city can facilitate it.

        9. Ron

          An article below, regarding the “farm-to-fork” movement, in Sacramento.  Note the reference to the “Center for Land-Based Learning”, in Winters.  (The same organization that runs the mini-farm at the Cannery.)

          We also have the proximity of Capay Valley, which sells organic produce in the Bay Area.

          Personally, I think there’s a desire to actually see/visit farms, where food comes from.  (Not just “hear” about it, at some disconnected restaurant.)  The original Nut Tree comes to mind.

          At times, I periodically visit a popular restaurant in Pescadero, which grows artichokes next door for use in its outstanding soups.  In Sonoma county, I sometimes visit a very popular bakery, which has a large garden that you can stroll through (and picnic in), from which I believe they gather some ingredients for their products.

          Both the restaurant and bakery that I’m referring to draw folks in from MILES away – including San Francisco.  It is almost a strange site, to see such large crowds frequenting a business in (otherwise) very small towns.

          In Davis, there are (already) large numbers of travelers between the Bay Area and Sierra. I know folks who stop in Davis now, to eat and take a break from the freeway. (Really, there aren’t a lot of other pleasant little towns to stop and stroll around in, along the way.)

        10. Ron

          I would add that in Pescadero, there are also some antique shops and stores that likely benefit from traffic generated by the restaurant.  (I can personally attest to the fact that they received some of my money.  And, I’m kind of a tightwad.)

          Same situation with the “bakery town”.

          The businesses seem to feed on each others’ visitors.

        11. Ron

          Here’s a reference to the bakery, in a VERY small town, surrounded by open space/farmland.  Again, there’s almost “city-style” traffic jams, whenever I go there.  It is an odd sight to see.

          There’s another business across the street, which features “enzyme” baths. (I suspect that some of the same visitors go there.) Maybe a couple of other stores also catering to visitors.

          Before those businesses arrived, the town had few visitors (from my memory).

        12. Mark West

           “Talk about that –  what is it, how could it be implemented and what would the result look like?”

          This will give you a far better explanation that I could.

          I appreciate this quote in particular:

          “This approach contrasts with conventional zoning’s focus on the micromanagement and segregation of land uses, and the control of development intensity through abstract and uncoordinated parameters (e.g., FAR, dwellings per acre, setbacks, parking ratios, traffic LOS), to the neglect of an integrated built form.” [emphasis added]

          There are other sources that you may find on Google, but I want to limit this comment to one link.


        13. Ron

          Not sure how why the conversation has drifted from the topic/question in the article above:

          “What are your thoughts for ways in which the city of Davis can develop a unique food identity which contributes both culturally and economically to the city?”

    1. Howard P

      There is the old saying… there are those who eat to live, and those who live to eat… the first group, we as a community should care about… the second, right or wrong, might be the ones to ‘fund’ the first, at high-end (and high $).

  4. Alan Miller

    I attended and yes, packed, with older people.

    Either the students are going to do a “Bernie” (go to rallies, but not actually vote), or they’ve made up their mind on the youngest candidate.

    Great to have this forum.  However, I did not hear a lot of substance.

    Mostly talk about things that sound great in sound bites, but that the City Council has little to no control over.

    On Measure R, saying being “in favor of Measure R with changes” means nothing if you don’t say what those changes are.  They could be anything from building a wall around Davis similar to Trump’s border wall, to setting off a small nuclear device in a mass civic-pride suicide to eliminate the looming structural debt from pension obligations.  (Note:  I favor neither)

          1. David Greenwald

            I don’t think you’re always seeing the same dozen or so students doing the championing. Last week there were a number of students who had never been to one of these things before.

  5. R Fung

    David,  Thanks for posting the text from our first question.  Our attendance estimate is close to Matt’s –  more than 250.  We were very pleased with the turnout.  As I said in my opening remarks, the questions were designed not to address the most pressing issues in town but to give a chance for voters to see the candidates’ ability to think on their feet – something I see city council members do all the time.  We received 35 audience questions and will be making those available to the candidates soon.  You can find the forum video at this link.

    This election season, CivEnergy is working to have a balanced approach of online content and real world engagement.  Perhaps our online content will be easier to access for younger voters.



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