Analysis: Nishi Gains the Endorsement of the Enterprise

Print Newspapers

Anyone who has followed politics in Davis knows that the Davis Enterprise has long been far more supportive of development than the general population.  They have probably endorsed each of the previous three Measure J/Measure R votes.  However, this marks an interesting milestone as it is the first in the post-Debbie Davis era.

The longtime editor and assistant publisher retired earlier this year after more than two decades in charge of the paper.  So it is interesting to see how and if the paper will shift its positions.

So far – not much, if at all.

The paper comes down on the side that “student-housing proposal is just what Davis needs.”

But it also makes some pointed remarks aimed at the opposition to growth.

They write: “Davis is a university town. This is often forgotten by the anti-growth folks around here. We should be thankful and supportive of all the things the university adds to our life; academics, arts, sports and economic vitality. In June, voters have an opportunity to support an innovative student-housing project right next door to UC Davis.”

After making that biting comment aimed at the opposition to growth, the editorial emphasizes the positive in the project calling it “a remarkable effort to meet the biggest need in Davis, the thousands of UC Davis students who cram into single-family homes all around town.”

The paper argues that “the Nishi project would provide a much-needed increase in student-friendly housing right next-door to the university. Renting by the bed (a feature praised by the UCD students who’ve shown up at planning meetings) would relieve students and parents of the headache of rounding up multiple roommates and making sure everyone keeps up with the payments. Renting by the bed means each student is only on the hook for his or her own situation.”

They also focus on proximity to the university: “And getting the students to live within walking distance of campus means they won’t be crowded into residential neighbors, living six-to-a-house, each with a car parked outside. They won’t be on Davis city streets, clogging the roads and polluting the air. Or worse, living in Woodland or Dixon and driving to class every day.”

They qualify their point, arguing that “even 2,200 beds won’t solve the problem of overcrowding.”

The paper notes: “At this point, we’re so far behind the curve that no one project can be the solution. More students are coming, and we have an obligation to help meet the housing needs we share with the university.”

But there are obstacles.  They note that Measure R, which requires a vote of the people to annex and approve new projects, represents a huge obstacle.

“No project has ever survived that gantlet, but the first Nishi project came close, and there are reasons to believe this one will make the breakthrough,” they note.

One is that the biggest objection to the previous project, traffic, “has been dealt with.”  They write: “With no commercial component, nobody will be driving there for work during rush hour and, most importantly, there will be no access for residents from Richards Boulevard.”

They continue: “The idea of adding more cars to the perennially backed-up Richards offramp and railroad underpass turned off a lot of voters last time around. Now, that has been eliminated. Emergency vehicles and Unitrans buses will go in from the north, but regular traffic will enter the new Nishi project via an underpass from Old Davis Road. This is a huge change and one we feel will make the project attractive to voters from all over town.”

They also cite support from UC Davis as a “radical change.”  They write here: “The previous administration ignored anything going on in town, but under Chancellor Gary May, the university has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the city (ratified by the City Council at Tuesday’s meeting) and the developer to help get this project along.”

They argue: “We can’t overstate how important this is.”

The editorial adds: “Because the project is on city land (and unlike the cases where the university rents property in town), all the property taxes will flow into city coffers. Students who don’t qualify for Section 8 housing will be able to take advantage of 330 low-income and extremely-low-income beds. It amounts to an $830,000 subsidy, and would be integrated throughout the project rather than separating out the low-income residents as most projects do.”

They conclude: “It’s about as close to an ideal project as we’ve seen. Join us in voting yes on Measure J in June.”

The editorial does not address probably the biggest issue this time around: air quality.

This is a point that Roberta Millstein makes in a comment: “Yet another pro-Nishi piece that conveniently fails to mention the air quality issue — conveniently failing to mention that residents will be at a higher risk for heart disease, lung damage, cancer, and developmental problems.”

She is correct here – the paper should have addressed that point.    We certainly have addressed the point enough times.  And happy to do it again.

—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. Tia Will

    The paper’s position is anything but objective.

    This is often forgotten by the anti-growth folks around here.:

    I don’t know anyone who is “anti-growth” as in all growth. This title is frequently bestowed on me although I supported Nishi 1&2, and Lincoln 40 while opposing Trackside and the Cannery & on Eileen Samitz who supported the Cannery but opposed Nishi and Lincoln 40. It seems forgotten by the Enterprise that individuals evaluate projects by their merits and may favor one while opposing others.

    conveniently failing to mention that residents will be at a higher risk for heart disease, lung damage, cancer, and developmental problems.”

    The Enterprise should have addressed the issue of air quality as it remains an area of dispute. However, here Roberta Millstein overplays her hand. It is inaccurate to say “residents will be at a higher risk for heart disease, lung damage, cancer, and developmental issues”. The correct statement is “may be…” which also includes the possibility that they may not be, especially if decreased automobile commuting to and from campus lessens exposure to particulates over time. There is simply not enough evidence to know and this should not be portrayed as fact.

    1. Jeff M

      “I don’t know anyone who is “anti-growth” as in all growth.”

      This is almost too silly to warrant a comment… but I cannot let it go.

      Someone who is anti-growth demonstrates a propensity to oppose projects that result in growth.  You my friend are well entrenched in that camp.  You have written plenty on the topic… including that you would prefer a Davis of 40 years ago.

      The easiest way to make a case that you are not deserving of certain labels is to stop doing what the label means.

        1. Jeff M

          A distinction without meaning.

          Just because you are pro-growth does not mean you are in support of all growth.

          It isn’t just a measure of which projects you support or not, it is a label for owning a certain mindset related to growth.  Someone that opines that they reject a project because they want to preserve the character of the city or neighborhood is demonstrating an anti-growth mindset that is derived from a position of general change aversion.  The opposite of the that would be someone opining that they support the project because it advances the character of the city.

          Preserving vs. advancing with respect to land use and property development.

          Look at Winters for example.



      1. Tia Will


        So in your mind, my very open, and very public endorsement of Nishi 1 & 2, neutrality on Sterling ( only because I would have preferred to repurpose the existing usable buildings) and of Lincoln 40 are completely meaningless to you?  The fact that I have stepped up publicly to present facts that I think are relevant but not in alignment with those who oppose Nishi means nothing to you? The fact that I worked in conjunction with some developers to foster a more collaborative process with neighbors is meaningless to you? If I don’t agree with you on every single development, then I am by your definition, anti growth. Again, so much for your claim to objectivity.

        My stated preference for the Davis of a century ago, or a size of a half century ago, is a preference for atmosphere & architecture, not a desire to take us back in time. But then, from our private conversations you know that.

        It is not me, but the individual who said in public comment that I was trying to poison ( with fluoride)the children of Davis, and then when the cameras were off, told me of course they knew I wasn’t and that I was being honest. Remember that person? That person was willing to lie in public to support their own position. I have never done that.

        1. Howard P

          Fluoridation is an interesting topic, but not pursuing, as I think your main point has to do with “positions” and “mis-representations” of the positions of others.

          As to Fl, another topic, another day…

    1. Todd Edelman

      Don, do you know how the EIR-required 95%-ish air filtration will be evaluated? Will it be necessary to achieve prior to the issue of a certificate of occupancy? As I’ve mentioned repeatedly in this space the planned filtration technology that complements other mitigation features such as the tree and shrub barrier cannot do that level of filtration. Yes on J mentions the “state-of-the-art” filters but it’s not what is planned (Salocks’s “MERV 13”, never disputed by anyone as what’s planned). I’ve looked into and it’s possible that the solar on the roofs of buildings at Nishi can fully power a more hospital-grade-ish filtration system for the building interiors, but this will be loud, and will require closed windows.
      Also, I recently visited the Nishi space again and – from the non-I-80 side at least – noticed how nearly all of the highway noise comes from the elevated section of I-80 that can be seen. At least for the first few buildings at the west end of the project, this will likely be significant, even with a tree buffer, since sound and particles travel differently than each other.

    2. Tia Will

      I agree Don.

      I would also like to point out that in private conversations, some of the individuals who are continuing to frame the air pollution issue as if it were a known risk will freely admit that there is not strong evidence to back some of their claims. They will then claim all they are seeking is additional study. But then return to unfounded claims repeatedly. I find this a disingenuous, although not unexpected, attempt to influence votes as the election draws nearer.

      1. Ron

        If you’re going to make a statement like this, it really requires the other person’s direct input/response.  Otherwise, it’s just hearsay, filtered through your point of view. Especially when you describe it as “disingenuous”, and an “attempt to influence votes”.

        There are folks who honestly believe there are concerns regarding this issue, backed up by recommendations from the only expert who has weighed in on the subject. Legitimate comments can even be found on this page.


        1. David Greenwald

          “backed up by recommendations from the only expert who has weighed in on the subject.”

          This is just a demonstrable falsehood, many experts have weighed in on the subject.  Cahill is neither a toxicologist nor an epidemiologist.

        2. Ron

          David:  “This is just a demonstrable falsehood, many experts have weighed in on the subject.”

          This is a demonstrable falsehood.  No other air quality experts have weighed in on the subject. And, he recommended an onsite study, long ago.

          I am sorry to see this turned into a political football, prior to an adequate scientific process. But, that’s pretty much what the Vanguard does, regarding issues in general. Creating an ugly environment in which to post comments and legitimate concerns.

          1. Don Shor

            No other air quality experts have weighed in on the subject.

            Larry F. Greene, who presented on the subject to the Planning Commission and whose presentation was provided to the city council, was Executive Director of the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District (2004–2017) and the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District (1995–2004). 

        3. David Greenwald

          First of all, you didn’t state “air quality” in your initial post you said expert.  Second, that’s false anyway. Salocks and Greene both qualify as experts.

        4. Ron

          I’m not going down this repetitive path, again.

          But, I will be watching periodically, to ensure that the trolls aren’t encouraged and allowed to jump in (unchallenged and unreported), as usual. I truly am starting to hate this publication (and the manner in which it is run), but will not allow unnecessary and unsupported attacks to go unchallenged.

          Time for some self-reflection, on the Vanguard. (As noted in another article today, by another commenter as well.)

          There are ways to support your values, without resorting to the methods used on here.

        5. Ron


          Regarding Larry Greene, I’ve previously noted that he does not appear to be a Ph.D., and therefore (I assume) has not conducted any air quality studies.

          In addition, his statements to the council did not discuss the specifics of air quality at the Nishi site, and instead focused on “smart growth”, in general.

          Again, I’ve noted all of this previously.

          In this article, I had only intended to respond to Tia’s comment.


          1. Don Shor

            Ah. So what you meant was that “Tom Cahill is the only person with Tom Cahill’s exact credentials who has weighed in on the very narrow topic of ‘air quality'” — even though other experts have, in fact, weighed in on the accuracy of Dr. Cahill’s assertions and about the general concern about air quality on the Nishi site. Yes, within the newly-defined extremely narrow focus of your response to Tia, you are correct. But that is narrow to the point of losing any meaning.
            It seems that the only people who strongly support continued testing at Nishi are people who are strongly against developing it, and my comment was simply that I don’t think the air quality issue has much traction now. The major opposition point last time was the traffic issue. That is solved. The air quality discussion is very abstract, there are experts who disagree about the extent of the risk, and it is notable that every possible mitigation has been implemented in the project. I seriously doubt that air quality on the site is going to be the deciding factor in this election.

        6. Tia Will


          will not allow unnecessary and unsupported attacks to go unchallenged.”

          I respond only to what I consider “necessary” or desirable to respond to. I found the quote that I posted that said ““residents will be at a higher risk for heart disease, lung damage, cancer, and developmental issues”. met the criteria of “necessary to respond”.

          Note the assertion “will be”. Not might be. “Will be”. This is plainly in error. If we “knew” they “would be” at increased risk,  there would be no need for any further study. It would be established. It is not. And thus the desirability of further study. I have consulted with multiple MDs in various fields including internal medicine, pediatrics, and perinatology with regard to these claims and although none were willing to come forth ( for precisely the same reasons as I was reluctant to potentially expose my partners and their practice into question by commenting under my own name years ago). Sure you can claim that is nothing but hearsay, however, you cannot say that about my own field. The evidence is not clear at all with regard to autism nor other potential in utero effects and yet it is being presented as though it were fact.

          There are folks who honestly believe there are concerns regarding this issue”
          I know there 
          are. And if they expressed those concerns as concerns, and not fact, I would not have responded. But after I have had private conversations in which it was admitted that they knew these were concerns and not facts, and then present them yet again as knowns at this point in an election cycle it is hard not to feel ( not know) that it just may have something to do with the upcoming election.

          I also clearly sort out what is my area of expertise, what is someone else’s opinion even if I can not name them, and what is merely my opinion ( often including my relative level of knowledge including when it is zero). That is not the very current practice of some who are currently opposing Nishi.

      2. Ron

        Tia  ” . . . there is not strong evidence to back some of their claims.”

        Perhaps it’s the claims that you didn’t mention, which cause them the most concern.

        But again, this would require their direct response to clarify.  (And, I suspect that they’ve already done so repeatedly, in the past.) (Possibly on “the other” blog/Website, as well.)

        Really, the entire issue belongs in the scientific, rather than political realm. (At least until the science has been completed.)

      3. Ron

        Tia:  To be clear, the quote regarding “unnecessary attacks and unsupported” attacks was not directed at you (or anyone in particular).  I was anticipating an unpleasant “pile-on”, which fortunately did not really occur this time.  (Unlike the other day, in which some commenters piled on Eileen first, and then me to a lesser degree.) However, my initial comments were directed toward you, to which David and Don responded.

        Regarding Don’s comment, again I’m not seeing where Larry Greene disputed Dr. Cahill’s recommendation. Mr. Greene’s brief presentation at the council discussed “smart growth”, in general. I also haven’t seen any response from Mr. Greene regarding the preliminary testing that was done, in which the preliminary results exceeded the standards established by the agency that Mr. Greene worked for (according to an earlier post, by David).

        Regarding Don’s opinion regarding “political traction”, it’s unfortunate that this has entered the political realm, before the recommended on-site testing and scientific analysis has even been done (which I assume would include peer reviews).

        1. Howard P

          I have been known to place bets… my first bet is that if things had been done, to require additional testing, on site, including peer review and toxicology and epidemiologic analysis, it would have required a lot of time delay, and money lost to the project proponent… my second bet is even if all those things were done, and it was negative or statistically infinitesimal, as to risk, some including some who have posted on air quality issues on the site would question Dr Cahill’s methodolgy, the equipment functionality, ‘unusual atmosphetic conditions’, duration of the testing, the peer and T&E analyses… and still urge a NO vote… unless a “re-do” was done, and/or additional studies undertaken… think the odds are heavily in my favor…

          Just saying… vote on June 5.  Time to call the question…

        2. Ron


          Well, the recommendation was first made well-before the current proposal arose.  So, I’m not seeing how it would have delayed things, had the recommendation been heeded.  (Assuming that results would have showed that the site is safe, and/or that mitigations would be sufficient.)

          As a side note, I have yet to see anyone respond to Todd’s comments (both today, and previously), regarding the apparent inadequacy of the planned filters.

          Regarding the “what-if” – had Dr. Cahill’s recommendation been heeded, the results would presumably first go through a scientific, peer-reviewed process.  If it withstood that, then political arguments would not have much influence.

          On the “other” local blog, there was some comparison regarding the amount spent on the current developer-sponsored political campaign, vs. the amount that the recommended testing would have cost.  (Can you guess which one apparently had a higher cost – and which is also the option that the developer has chosen to fund?)

          1. Don Shor

            had Dr. Cahill’s recommendation been heeded, the results would presumably first go through a scientific, peer-reviewed process

            No they wouldn’t. It would just be a contract for a research team to do testing and provide the results to whoever paid for it. Just as was done in 2015. This wouldn’t be a scientific experiment submitted to a journal for publication, which is the only place peer review would apply.

            there was some comparison regarding the amount spent on the current developer-sponsored political campaign, vs. the amount that the recommended testing would have cost.

            That isn’t relevant, and is just more politicking — which I seem to recall you decrying just moments ago. The only people who want more testing done are people who oppose the project, want to delay it, have sought through back channels to have the Chancellor scuttle it, or have filed lawsuits against it.

        3. Howard P

          Not playing the game… which is what you appear to be doing with your conjectures… I simply made two bets…

          The die is cast… suggest you vote on June 5… a point I made to all, before, but you brushed aside… time to call the question…

        4. Ron

          Regarding this brief exchange, I wasn’t the one who initiated a conjecture.

          I don’t view any of this as a game. But, my primary concern remains fiscal, including the approximate range between the two models presented (e.g., between a negative $750,000, to a positive $144,000 per year).

        5. Howard P

          Fine… vote you conscience…

          I feel no need to convince you (or others) either way, but I question the “what if’s” from those who don’t know jack about air quality, toxicology, and/or epidemilogy…

          As to the financial piece, there is a wide range of estimates, all from folk who do know jack, and they pretty much all admit it is based on their assumptions, and estimates… we all need to figure out ‘risk’ on that… they are likely to all be proved wrong, to one degree or another… stuff happens… things change…

          I’d say “get a clue”, but that would probably be reported and possibly moderated… so I didn’t say that…

        6. Ron

          Don:  “The only people who want more testing done are people who oppose the project, want to delay it, have sought through back channels to have the Chancellor scuttle it, or have filed lawsuits against it.”

          This is an example of the type of truly unfortunate statements that’s facilitated by the Vanguard.  And, in this case, put forth by the moderator of the Vanguard / acknowledged member of the development team.  This type of comment is (no doubt) what’s led some others to abandon the Vanguard, entirely.  (Including one commenter who I believe was involved in the creation of another, alternative site.  And, who repeatedly noted the recommendation to conduct a study on-site, and did so prior to the current proposal. While simultaneously expressing concern regarding the lack of moderation, on the Vanguard.)

          There are also examples of questions from “objective” sources on this very page, which haven’t been responded to. (Including the apparent inadequacy of planned filters.)

          1. Don Shor

            This is an example of the type of truly unfortunate statements that’s facilitated by the Vanguard.

            My statement is accurate to the best of my knowledge. But if you will, please find for me one example of an individual calling for further testing on Nishi who doesn’t meet my description. I could be wrong.

        7. Ron

          It’s difficult, if not impossible to speak for others.  However, based upon prior comments, this is what I recall:

          The individual I referred to above had no concerns, other than air quality.  Not sure if she’s changed her mind, since then.

          The other individual (who commented in this article) generally supports dense housing proposals, and is not someone that can be labeled by anyone as “no growth”.  In addition, he’s put forth a question that no one has yet answered, regarding the inadequacy of filters.  However, I believe that he also has concerns regarding the 700 parking spaces, so I’m not entirely sure if he would meet your description.

          In general, it’s possible that an individual would have more than one concern, but one concern stands out above all others. (For me, that’s the potential fiscal impact on the city, without an innovation center component. For others, it might be air quality.)


          1. Don Shor

            If Dr. Millstein is your example, she clearly meets at least one of my criteria and likely two of them. If Todd Edelman is your other example, I don’t know if he’s called for further testing. I don’t even know if he opposes Nishi. His comments are often a little opaque.

  2. Todd Edelman

    making sure everyone keeps up with the payments. Renting by the bed means each student is only on the hook for his or her own situation.

    Not presently, I’ve lived in shared leased housing for at least 12 years of my life – with roommates from all age groups and backgrounds. Some of this time I was the leaseholder (or one of them) and roommates were technically subletting from us; sometimes I was a subletter. Rent was more or less never a major issue because the leaseholder had a month’s deposit (not last month’s rent), and if there was ever a problem with someone getting a paycheck late etc, the landlord was usually gracious about it. This is early-period gentrification San Francisco, by the way.

    More problematic was the issue of keeping things clean, and that was much more subjective. When a problem it required a lot of negotiation; this is character-building. I don’t recall issues with utility bills, either. Also never ever did anyone lock their doors, or even have door locks.  I’m pretty sure that roommates in SF and other big cities still don’t do this. The connection between separate leases and locked doors might not be direct, but if so it’s an interesting phenomenon since roommates share so many other things. If there’s an emergency a first responder can kick down a door, but do I need to do that to make sure someone’s home in an evacuation? I would support research into the benefits of restrictions of use on interior door locks (not privacy locks, like on bathrooms).

    1. Tia Will


      Also never ever did anyone lock their doors, or even have door locks.”

      You made me smile. Although this was also true for me, it did not mean that there were not times at which I wished I had had a lock on my door. I remember vividly my favorite scarf ruined by a roommate who decided it would be ok if she “borrowed” it since I was not there to ask and then had an unfortunate accident which left it in shreds.

  3. Todd Edelman

    >>They won’t be on Davis city streets, clogging the roads and polluting the air.

    LOL, seriously? No, my chuckles are not directed at the obvious not-to-campus travel by Nishi-niks, perhaps not to paid parking parts of Downtown , but definitely to the proximate bits of the Free Parking Zone all across our great nation, plus spontaneous group trips which dull-minded Amtrak ticketing policy does not account for. My giggling is referring to this “I’m not traffic, other people are traffic” sensibility of this editorial. We have met the enemy and it is us. Providing 700 parking spaces at Nishi is not as bad as it could be, but it’s still bad, an – seriously, I repeat, duh – not nearly as bad as the parking to bed ratio across much of the City, over-represented to some extent by non-student housing. Do all students who live away from campus but in town and who live in “family housing” have their own cars? Of course not. Do campus-travelers – and middle school students – essentially make Davis the “cycling capitol” it is a bit over-sold as? Of course!! These two groups carry the lion’s share of the bike-to-work-or-school mode in town. Look around town outside of the university and middle school commute by bike: The majority who are not in buses are in private cars. Everyone else has free parking outside of Downtown. Middle school students can’t drive themselves and UC Davis students, etc. have to pay for parking. The bike-to-shop modal share is terrible, and unfortunately the excellent campus travel survey doesn’t look into this, or other trips, for students.

    The 700 spaces of parking proposed for Nishi – no matter how solar roofed or greened-up a bit – is not necessary. The highly-regarded proposed “urban forest” at Nishi will have benefits for more people and must be extended to this area.  (If things go well with the comprehensive parking analysis I’ve initiated in the Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission, surface car parking will have to compete with greening, just as parking-in-structure will have to compete with beds-in-structure — i.e. with housing for people instead of cars within the same footprint of a building.)

    All this said, I have other serious issues with Nishi, much of it related to other sloptorialization and Yes and No arguments arriving daily in the mailbox I share with my roommates.

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