Davis Downtown Holds Latest Candidates Forum – Round 2

On Wednesday evening, the Davis Downtown held their candidates’ forum, attended by all nine candidates.  The forum was held at the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame.

They had four rounds of questions where the candidates answered for two minutes each, and these included one opportunity for rebuttal.  Each candidate was once again asked a different question.

The Vanguard has broken these up by round.

Dan Carson – Downtown has been experiencing higher levels of property crime, and the Davis Police are at times stretched thin covering all of Davis. How can the city of Davis work with our businesses for the safety of downtown?

First, I don’t dispute that there are the type of problems you describe undoubtedly happening downtown.  But if you look at the crime statistics for this city, we are at near historic lows both for violent crime and for property crime.  I think we’re at 30 or 40 percent of the crime levels, for example, back in 1995.  So you have to start with an understanding, we’re actually at a much better situation than we used to be.

But our department is having some real problems and some stresses.  We’re a force that has 61 sworn officers and the last data I heard from the police chief, to the Chamber meeting, was that we are down six officers.  So that’s ten percent of your force.  They are stretched thin and even if they fill one or two of those spots by now, I don’t know, that’s a real challenge for that entire operation and unfortunately they are going to have a great deal of difficulty recruiting for those spots because throughout California, there’s an incredible competition to get good police officers hired.

Folks are less interested, for whatever reason, to go into that field right now and it’s creating a problem.  We may need to consider some tradeoffs.  We may have to consider paying more for officers in order to be competitive in that situation so that we can ensure our public safety.

I also think a lot of the things we do most effectively in this town are partnerships with our businesses, partnerships with non-profit organizations – I think there’s an opportunity here as well and partly dealing effectively with the homelessness issue that we’ve been discussing will assist with part of the problem.  I don’t want to stigmatize anyone but there are problems that do divert police detention, dealing with homeless camps and other issues.  We need to be able to focus on the things that keep us all safe.

Eric Gudz – Downtown has been suffering on deferred maintenance on its infrastructure, cracked sidewalks and streets, poor lighting, and ailing trees. With the city already facing an estimated $8 million shortfall, how will you prioritize the infrastructure needs of downtown?

One of the big things that we have to contend with within our city is that we have a lot of our roadways, our streetscapes, and otherwise our transportation infrastructure network – it was reaching some of its life cycle end.  We’ve got 30, 40, 50 years in a lot of these roads and pathways and the time’s come for them to be wholesale replaced or very much renovated

One of the things that hasn’t really taken into consideration too much with our city is that the way we’ve been evaluating the conditions of our roadways has been using a PCI.  Without going into too much jargon, one of the big faults of this particular index to evaluate roadway is that you’re not able to determine the difference between a structural versus a surface damage in the roadway and so there’s a lot of instances in Davis where we’ve been doing a lot of surface treatment over and over, and meanwhile we’ve got structural integrity issues in our roadway.

So if we’re not properly assessing that difference, we end up costing, 5, 10, 20 times more than we actually need to with our roadway.

Here’s how we fix that – what we do is we start pioneering a performance based model, we’re rolling out our transportation tax and we vote on that, we vote yes in June.  So we start rolling our performance based measures that’s taking into consideration the differences between surface and structural damage to our roads.  While we’re digging up those roads, we should be laying down PVC pipe for our community broadband and fiber optic network so we can get a little bit more independent as a city and control our own destiny with our internet.

Third, we need to look at ways we can streamline our contracts – talking about electricity, taking about water, talking about septic, talking about all thee different options here, maybe starting to streamline our utilities and streamline our contracts within our networks of transportation.  This thing saves a whole lot of money, something that I learned in Afghanistan when I was working on contracts, working on infrastructure vitalization…  We saved a whole lot of money, we started bundling, so it’s something we’ve got to look at as a city.

Gloria Partida – The city of Davis has begun the process upgrading the general plan starting with the downtown core area – what are three changes to the downtown that you feel are needed?

We need to partner with the university.  I work on campus and whenever they let me out, and head out and see that there are a lot of people on campus who are having lunch there and if you talk to anybody, they have no idea what’s going on in our city.  I think that we’re missing out on a huge opportunity to have people come down here and shop and eat.

There used to be a shuttle, that’s a lunchtime shuttle that went from campus and it circled downtown and it brought people in.  We don’t have that anymore.  I think that we need to partner with the university trying to make more connections.

There’s Mondavi, there are people who stay after work because they’re going to go to some theater offering at Mondavi, they could come to have dinner before they were there.  Again we could use some transportation to shuttle people back and forth.

I’m really excited to be going to the planning with the consultants that has been going on, there’s great visioning that’s been happening, but I think we have to move beyond just the visioning.  We get together and we have great ideas and we talk about all the wonderful ideas but we never implement them.

I am great at implementing.  I have a lot of experience in looking at problems and figuring out what has to be done.  We have to get people who are living closer to downtown.

Larry Guenther – You are on record saying that the city council should strictly adhere to the CASP, GP, and Design Guidelines when considering projects.  If previous councils hadn’t provided variances, projects such as the Chen Building, the Lofts, Mishka’s Café and Crepeville would not have been built.  While staying within the current guidelines how would you support projects such as these?

The Trackside building was proposed, our neighborhood, the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association put forward a proposal that fit the zoning.  I don’t even know if it would have had to go to the Planning Commission, it could have been a counter permit because it fit the zoning.  That would have put 40 people in a place that currently has none.  Half acre site, it would have had three stories, it would have had 9000 square feet of retail – which the current project has.

And the building here on 200 C Street, it did need a conditional use permit for the third floor, which is one of the issues.  Having a requirement that three stories in a downtown just seems to me unnecessary.  I don’t think we should have to plead special cases to go to three stories.  It’s mixed use, they have lab space, they have office space, they got residential.  Didn’t even go to city council.  Didn’t cause any problems because it fit within the zoning.  Sticking to the plan is a good idea – that’s why we have a plan.

There are instances where you don’t want to.  I think the Chen Building is a good building, it’s next to the train station, it’s not impacting historic buildings.  In Old East Davis, we’ve got a planned development, it went outside of guidelines because of the way things were written.  But the neighborhood got behind it, the designer worked with us.  The developer worked with the neighborhood – it worked.  There are times when you need to make exceptions.  But not all the time.

Linda Deos – In January, you spoke at the Davis City Council meeting and stated that we don’t come downtown, we can’t park down here, we stay away, we don’t come and, until you find a solution, we are just not coming here.  What solutions do you propose that would encourage you and others to come to the downtown?

I do shop downtown.  My shoes are from downtown.  I eat downtown.  I see movies downtown.  I am downtown, but I am concerned, and we do stay away usually on Thursday and Friday nights.  That’s when it’s a difficult time for us to come here.  But I think some of the discussion that we’ve been having on parking management – I think that’s fabulous.  I’m all behind that.  I’m one of those people that support integrating meeting into areas of downtown.

I support looking at these private lots – for example the bank parking lots that we’re not allowed to park in certain hours like the busy times after 5 o’clock.  I would like to be working with them to see, is it a liability issue?  Is there a reason why we can’t park on those lots?  If it is a liability issue, let’s enter into some sort of an agreement with those businesses that we can use those spaces.

Those are 900 spaces that are underutilized.  Imagine if those 900 opened up, we might not be circling around all the time looking for that parking.

Part of it too is that the businesses that are here, I totally recognize why we do have what is here because of the student population.  So the businesses that are here are going to be catering to that demographic.  Makes total sense to me.

But what will bring my wife and I here, on a more consistent basis, are going to be other types of entertainment venues and food venues that would be attractive to us to come down for a date night for example.  We don’t have as many options as perhaps we’d like to see – a sit down place where we could order off the menu that’s consistently open at the times we want to be here, and I think again that circles back around to having people living downtown that will attract these different businesses as I’ve said before.  That could be young professionals, seniors, and others.

Luis RiosThere are frequent complaints from businesses and customers about the adverse effects that panhandling has on the environment downtown. Some communities have had success with campaigns encouraging people to give to community programs rather than directly to panhandlers – do you think such a campaign is a good model for Davis?

I think we need to do a survey of our social services, our budget at city hall, what we’re actually doing.  Sometimes we have different programs working in silos.  I’m a state contractor, I monitor statewide projects, I know how they’re supposed to work, I know about programs.  Monitoring regulations, terms and conditions, we need to really look at it closely.  I do many budget fiduciary responsibilities as a state official.

I’m really concerned about social services and how that’s funneling out to actual services on the street.  We need to really look at this if we want to make an impact.

I hope that when my daughter graduates from high school we’ll be in a better place – that’s why I’m running and trying to do something.  We need public support.  There’s talks of public bathrooms, storage lockers, short-term solutions.  I’ve heard of vending machines that dispense energy bars, socks, what not in key locations.  Maybe owners, maybe young families with young children don’t want to come here, because when I talk to them at the parks – I go to all the city parks with my preschool daughter – they say sometimes there’s people yelling, saying profanity, I don’t feel comfortable doing that.  That’s not why I moved and bought a home in Davis and go to good schools.  We need to do better – a lot better.  We need to do something, not just talk about it.

What fits for Davis is we need a shelter, and Paul’s house, we need something.

Mark West – You have advocated for policies that encourage redevelopment and densification and we have also discussed at length the positive impacts redevelopment and densification will have on downtown. Yet you are now advocating to allow Measure R to expire which will encourage peripheral development – explain how allowing Measure R to expire will enhance redevelopment, densification and a more vibrant downtown.

It won’t.  Measure R isn’t really the issue in terms of densification.  Densification is a choice that we make as a community.  It’s what is in our general plan.  All of our population growth is supposed to come from the infill projects.  That’s what we said 20 years ago.  The choice for densification is something that we make that has absolutely nothing to do with whether we have the Measure R in place or not.

What Measure R does – unfortunately – it’s a great concept.  Protect farmland.  Prevent sprawl.  But the practice of Measure R is that we have no growth at all and it prevents us from addressing our serious challenges.

The two biggest challenges that the city has are the revenue issues and housing.  If we don’t take some land and use it to address those two places, we’re not going to be able to address those problems.  What Measure R, getting rid of it, would allow us to do, is honestly address the revenue issues and our housing issues and stop taking advantage of our renters – whether they are renters for housing or renters for jobs.

We need more opportunities for people to be able to create place for themselves to live or places to do business.  We’re not going to be able to do that without us starting to expand what we use for those purposes.

Mary Jo Bryan – Please address organizations that are soliciting donations at every corner in the downtown.

I haven’t really experienced that very much downtown so I’m not sure exactly how I would do that.  I don’t usually donate to people that are in that situation.  Except for firemen – for some reason firemen with a fire boot always makes you want to give something.  I guess maybe it starts from 9/11.

We really need to find out what they’re doing.  I just didn’t think that that was really a problem downtown.

In other cities it’s a bigger problem, almost every intersection.  I just can’t address this – I don’t really know that that’s a problem.

Linda Deos – rebuttal

With regards to canvassers downtown, I encounter more of that than I do with what we’re talking about with the homeless situation.  Most of the time when I try to get into my bank at River City – that is going on.  They are right there at the door and I can’t get by.

I was a canvasser.  I made a living canvassing door to door for about six months when I was between jobs.  I know that’s a hard thing to do.  I was a canvasser for various groups.  I appreciate what they’re doing, but I had to get permitted to do that.  My organization had to pay a permit for me to be there and to cover a license to cover any liabilities issues.

I would like to see the same thing happen here.  Obviously I’m a very strong supporter of the First Amendment and our constitutional rights around that but there’s nothing wrong with doing some type of permitting process for the folks who are there.

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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. Craig Ross

    Here are my latest critiques.

    Gloria Partida is asked to identify three changes to the downtown.  I think she named a shuttle.  Can she count to three?  Shouldn’t that be a requirement for being on council?

  2. Craig Ross

    “I think the Chen Building is a good building, it’s next to the train station, it’s not impacting historic buildings.”

    Larry has apparently never seen the plaque in front of the Chen building signifying that they tore down an historic building to build it.

    1. Don Shor

      He may be unaware of how controversial that was. John Lofland wrote a great book about the Aggie Hotel. It is a classic example of downtown renovation where an older building was replaced with a newer building — over strong local opposition.

  3. Craig Ross

    “I haven’t really experienced that very much downtown so I’m not sure exactly how I would do that. ”

    Mary Jo Bryan has apparently never gone to the downtown, at least not during the day.  She also can’t operate parking meters.

  4. Michael Bisch

    Craig, you’re not the only one following the candidate responses to these various forum questions. And you are definitely not the only one finding these answers incredibly bad. But what to do? Most of these candidates have a core group of supporters that appear not to care that their candidates have very little knowledge of the core issues that they CC will be grappling with over the next 4 years (housing crises, CASP/GP update, fiscal challenges, etc.). It’s all ideological, single-issue or in a couple of instances, not even about Davis (think state and national politics).


    FACT CHECK: The lunch time shuttle that Gloria referred to was an ill-conceived bust. It never got any traction, so was quickly killed off. Larry didn’t even respond to his question, which rightly points out that most of the great improvements to the downtown over the past 20-30 years would not have happened had Larry been on the council at the time (“The CC must adhere to the planning documents like mindless robots”).  And as Craig rightly points out, in not responding to his question, Larry manages to jam his foot down his mouth regarding the Terminal Hotel / Chen Building (which was an extremely controversial council decision at the time).

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