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 – On the LRDP, you said you’d like to see us go down a collaborative path this time. And hopefully avoid the litigation we had in 2003 – in our view the university provides huge benefits – you’ve left the door open to another lawsuit if the university does not participate collaboratively. Explain how you would lead a collaborative process if you are elected.
First of all, the campus released its long range plan a week ago Friday. It calls, they have told us, for a 24 percent increase in the campus population over the next 13 years. I’ve read that document, I’ve read the EIR relating to that document, and my assessment is it will pose at growth, significant challenges for us for housing, parking, traffic and the city budget.
But our starting point shouldn’t be talking about lawsuits. To me that is always the last resort as it was in 2003.
I think we have a new chancellor with a different approach. We have seen more progress under this chancellor in the last year than I’ve seen in my personal effort to follow this issue in the last 15 years. It means that what we did in Berkeley to reach a good effective two-way working agreement is the Mayor of Berkeley pursued every opportunity and avenue for discussion with the Berkeley chancellor. They reached agreement that gave that city a $2 million a year revenue stream from the Berkeley campus.
Not fun money, but money they used to mitigate the impacts of traffic and other impacts on neighborhoods near Berkeley. The regents signed off on it, they similarly signed off on a great agreement for Santa Cruz – that provides benefits to that city, but also benefits that university.
There are ways to have a collaborative relationship. There’s so much we can do to work together, for example to help the innovation economy – it would provide jobs for graduate students. We need to work together on those economic and housing issues.
Eric Gudz – There has been a lot of conversation around tenant rights – how do tenant rights and rent control fit into the redevelopment goals of the downtown?
This is a hot topic – we’ve got various measures happening at the state level. At the regional level, there is all eyes on this primary topic, of what to do with the rents that are climbing out of control. I know as somebody who’s a renter, who lives within the realities of the rental market today, who is somebody who has had to endure a rental increase of over $300 a month, someone who has had to pay a security deposit of $4000 to have a two-bedroom in this town, yeah, it’s a problem.
It’s really driving out a whole generation of folks who otherwise could be spending their dollars here in downtown living in downtown and building the future of Davis.
So what can we do about that?
There are a couple of things we can do. Before we even start talking about rent control, before we start talking about rent stabilization. There are a few things that have to happen at the state level first. A repeal of Costa-Hawkins is on the chopping block here. I do support the repeal of Costa-Hawkins. I think that’s a good first step for us to begin to open up the conversation and a bit more productive dialog.
I don’t think a San Francisco style rent control is going to work here. A couple reasons for that, one is because of Costa-Hawkins. But second because we have a very active turnover within our population. We have a lot of students that are coming in and out, as we all know.
What that does create is a lot of friction and tension when folks are coming in and out of housing. The cost of the increase in that rent is going to be born through that changeover. While it does benefit greatly a lot of folks that are here for the long haul in the community, it does kind of present an acute issue especially in the short term, especially when our vacancy rate is 0.4 percent.
I think discussions need to happen with our rent stabilization. Discussions need to happen with ways in which we can incentivize the additional buildout of our supply, with our stock and university housing. I think there are a lot of things we can do to incentivize affordable by design units and units that are more accessible for folks who need a place to live in Davis.
Ezra Beeman – You said, “A strong case can be made that the behavior of the council has materially hurt the people of the city.” Please make that case.
I think the context of that comment was in the amount of planned developments that the council has approved over the last 12 to 24 months. If you look at a history of growth in Davis, the census over the last 20 years, now with all the approvals, we’ve actually caught up to the long-term trend already.
At the same time, the infrastructure spending is just sort of going out there flat. If we get some more money, it might pick up a little bit. But how we damage the existing community is by over-developing and adding people without adding the infrastructure to support them. Creating more congestion, more of the challenges that we’re facing.
With respect to the downtown, if we have development that is poorly planned, and we don’t have the infrastructure to keep up and we’re not charging the right fees for new developments as they come on stream, we’re essentially fostering a Ponzi scheme where we’ve got short-term payments and over the long term we don’t have the money to pay for them. This leads to things like $8 million gaps in our fiscal position.
My comment was, we need to do better in our analysis of actual impacts, we need to be more transparent in terms of how these calculations are made and we need to not grow without considering what those impacts are on the existing community. I guess that’s one the things that I really want to champion is those of us who live here, made sacrifices to be here.
Davis has always been a more expensive place to live than Woodland, Dixon, etc. and one of the reasons is it’s a terrific quality of life. I think we can grow in a way that’s consistent with our principles of sustainability and equity.
The following are candidate submitted questions…
From Dan to Larry – describe in detail how you personally provided leadership to solve a problem involving a government agency.
Personally provided leadership involving a government agency… well the Trackside issue was involving a government agency because at the end of the day it’s the city that makes the choice. Working with my neighbors, we put together a proposal working backward from the existing zoning, we built a building that fit the zoning and was acceptable to the neighbors.
We took that forward – it turned out it was not chosen by the city. We talked to every city councilmember. We talked to the developers – they didn’t like it. But we tried. We reached out.
That’s the key to trying to solve any problem. Reaching out and making a relationship. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But collaboration in my worldview, is better than antagonism. That’s what I do in my job all the time is work with people. And if you wonder about antagonism, try to do a kitchen remodel with a husband and wife who have a different view.
But I have made that happen – but that’s not a government agency. So working with the city on that issue was one example.
From Larry to Linda – if you had to create one city commission – what would it be and why?
I am not thinking of a city commission that I would want to have removed at this point. What I want to do is bolster our city commissions so that they are more involved in the process.
For example if it comes down to development issues, often times, what I observed is an idea or what was presented as an idea – hey we’d like to build x.
Hey Social Services commission, tell us what you think about our project x. Social Services that deals with affordable housing goes, I don’t know, what’s your project? They go why don’t you tell us what you want it to be. Then something works out and it moves on and the project might be more developed, but it never goes back to social services to talk about the affordable housing issue.
I use that as an example. I would like to see more robust involvement on the commissions. I want to know that our volunteers, who are sitting on those commissions, are heard. That those volunteers feel that the time they put into it means something.
It came up again in the whole DWR-Recology deal. When it was about, do we buy those resources from DWR to take that in and have ownership for ourselves. My goodness, I’ll tell you the rate commission, they got on board with that issue and came up with all these ideas, they were told.. you just don’t understand. It’s too hard for you. It’s confidential. We can’t share that with you.
Where’s the transparency there? Where is that process, I think that created a lot of animosity and frustration with folks.
So, sorry Larry, I don’t want to do away with any and I certainly don’t want to add any at this point. But I would like to see a more robust involvement of commissions and allow those volunteers voice to come out.
From Eric to Luis – give an example of a policy process from conception to implementation and what your role was for that cause.
I work for the state, so at the state level, I work with early education programs statewide issues involving low income families, vulnerable families and urban areas, rural areas, central valley, from South Central LA all the way to Alpine County. I work on statewide projects. I started seven years ago. It’s called the Early Care in Education Workforce Registry. It’s about economic development, workforce development and it serves minimum wage workers, child care givers, providers who work in subsidized state preschool programs.
We talk about minimum wage – so I’m doing my part at the state level by establishing a statewide registry. Resume workshops, resume on-line coursework. We started with 20,000 participants registered. Now we’re up to 40. In a couple of years, our goal is to reach 100,000 folks statewide. That’s just a small portion of what I do every day at the state level in public services.
If I get elected, I will apply all my expertise and experience on workforce development and bring jobs to this community.
From Linda to Mark – what is your vision for Davis Commons?
My vision for the Davis Commons is no different from my vision for all of Davis and the downtown area. Actually all our retail area to start to incorporate the idea of mixed use with retail on the bottom and housing/ residential on top. Moving people into the areas where our retail centers are so we have more people living close by and going downstairs to do their shopping instead of having to drive around downtown to do so.
So I would like to see all of our retail centers – the downtown, the neighbor centers, the shopping centers and Davis Commons, look at redevelopment in terms of how can we bring people to live here as well as the shopping trip. We combine the two together – I think that’s the pathway forward in terms of the city.
We want to house the people who are already here while not sprawling out all over the county. That’s how we do it, by maintaining the high density but making the urban life a more vibrant and more excellent place to live for the people who want to live in that condition.
From Mark to Mary Jo – do you believe that the city’s slow growth policies have had a positive or negative impact on the health of our local business sector?
Obviously Measure R and Measure J restricts the growth in Davis. It probably does have an indirect effect on it. I feel like housing is such an important issue in this community, because it is the foundation of growth in regards to both economic growth and also growth of families that will be part of this community. SO yes it is, it came about at a time when we were experiencing a great amount of growth back in the early 2000s and late 1900s.
It served a purpose to bring ourselves together a little bit – but 20 years later now, we are feeling a much different situation where were finding restricted space and we’re finding that were bursting at the seams and trying to do something in regards to that. So I would say yes it did restrain growth and we’re feeling the effects right now.
I think its very very imperative that we do this in a way that makes us understand the reason why Measure R is in place, respect it, but let’s make it work to help Davis grow in a managed and balanced way. Because we are way out of balance right now and the people that provide the economic growth in Davis are not really here any longer. Because that’s us, and we’re here 20 – 30 years ago. We’re the ones that produced the growth in the city and now we’re the elders in the city and we need that next group to come up and help out.
Ezra – Rebuttal
The first thing I want to challenge is the notion that our growth policies have damaged businesses here. I think we’ve had a structural change in the nature of what people buy in retail and I know through my personal example, I was attracted to Davis. I could have moved to Woodland, I could have moved to Dixon, I could have moved to a lot of other places but I came back to Davis because of the smart growth policies that focus on sustainability, things like Village Homes, bike lanes, and these are all controls that we have put on our city, which I think make it a better place.
I actually think by careful management we add value. Had we given up these policies ten years ago – so let’s say ten years into the future, or ten years back and we were maybe a city of 140,000 or 200,000 – would that still be the same city that we’re living in today? Would we still have the same quality of life? I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. Fundamentally I believe just that it has to be demonstrated that it’s going to improve our quality of life rather than just take that on face value.
The other thing I think is people have to realize that we’ve already approved something like 1500 new units, these just haven’t been built. We haven’t even built out the Cannery. These are going to be placed on Fifth Street, over on Covell – once those things get built out we’re going to have a different sort of discussion about what we want for the future because we haven’t really thought it through.