Opposing Sides Clash on Nishi during Forum

Sunday afternoon featured a forum on each of the three measures on the ballot this June.  This marked the first time the Yes and No sides squared off against each other on Nishi, and they did not disappoint.  The forum was held at the Community Chambers and was sponsored by CivEnergy.

Each side was given about five minutes for opening remarks and then there was a back and forth conversation, with the session wrapping up with audience questions.  The Yes side was represented by Sandy Whitcombe and Mayor Robb Davis, with the No side represented by Colin Walsh and Matt Williams.

The Yes side led off talking about the housing crisis.  Ms. Whitcombe said, “We all know about the housing crisis.  We are learning just how bad it is.  It affects everyone, not just the students.”

With UC Davis projecting an additional 6000 to 7000 students over the next decade, “students are facing extreme financial stress and housing insecurity.”

She noted that students line up out the door at meetings, telling “their nightmare stories.  They just can’t find a place to live in many cases.”  She added, “There are thousands now commuting into our cities just to go to school.  It’s causing more traffic and its not healthy for the commuters or the environment.

“We’re turning into a town of students and seniors,” she said, noting that neighborhoods like the one she grew up in are disappearing.  “A walking and biking community is what students have really been calling for.  They want to live here.”

She talked about the downtown parking problem, and “one of the answers to that is to build higher density housing near town centers.”

Matt Williams explained that, two years ago, “I took a position of yes on Nishi because we did certain fiscal steps in order to make a good project.  I’m unfortunately, from my perspective, a no on Nishi this time.”

“We voted on Measure A two years ago, and the city rejected it,” Colin Walsh stated.  “This is a similar project in the same location and yet the council has brought it on us to bring it back.  And when they did, every single member of city council agreed that this project was inferior to the project that was voted against two years ago.”

He listed two specific concerns. “There are real environmental concerns about this site.  Prominent air quality experts have put forth a lot of evidence that this isn’t a healthy place to live.”

Mr. Walsh argued, “There has never been onsite testing.  There has been testing done nearby.”  He said that “with no testing, I don’t see how we move forward with this project.”

His second objection was the financial component to the project, which Matt Williams would take up.

Matt Williams also addressed Sandy Whitcombe’s point that we need higher density downtown, arguing that the 2016 project “had a density of 66 units per acre,” while this project “has 27 units per acre.”  “How is going from 66 units per acre down to 27 units per acre a commitment to higher density housing next to downtown?  I have a hard time figuring that out.”

He called this “a squandered opportunity.”  He said that they should have the same density as the prior project, which would generate 5000 to 7000 students rather than 2200 students for the current project.  “That would mean we would have 5000 less demand for mini-dorm space,” he argued.  “It would solve much more of the problem that exists.”

Two years ago the Finance and Budget Commission projected a $1.4 million surplus.  “This year, 90 cents on the dollar has evaporated of that $1.4 million,” he said.  The current projection is for it to be a $140,000 surplus.

Mr. Williams explained that the Finance and Budget Commission in 2016 had helped the city set up $900,000 as a means to cover replacement of infrastructure and other needs.  “There is nothing, there is not a single dollar being saved for that capital infrastructure (in the current project),” he said.  Therefore, he argues that the project generates a $750,000 deficit for the city.

“We are $8 million in the hole and we’re adding $750,000 on top of it,” he said.  “That’s insanity.  That’s not fiscally responsible.”

Sandy Whitcombe explained that something new for this project is affordable housing, where the last project didn’t have any affordable housing.

“There was no affordable housing, now there’s a groundbreaking affordable housing program for students,” she said.  “Students don’t typically qualify for big ‘A’ affordable housing and now we’re going to offer 110 beds at Yolo County’s extremely low income rates, 220 at the very low income rates that are tied to Yolo County incomes for the life of the project and will help students for generations to come.”

Robb Davis explained, “The Finance and Budget Commission gave to us one motion, and that is that the project is net fiscally positive.  Matt is talking about things that he had hoped that the commission would vote on, but they did not, because they did not see the value in the method that Matt is putting forward.”

He added, “In the developer agreement it is required that the developer pays for all cost of infrastructure on the site.”

Matt Williams countered that, in 2016, staff in consultation with EPS presented to council the information on both the full life cycle costs and the pay as you go cash accounting.  “Responsible reporting now to the council would have allowed them to make a more informed decision.”

Colin Walsh argued in terms of the housing crisis, “Let’s remember Nishi is five years away from being built.  This is not a short quick fix to our housing situation.”

He argued, “There are things that can be done.”  He noted the Pacifico co-ops have two buildings that have been vacant for ten years.  “This is something that the city can do now,” he said.

“There are reports of students having no place to sleep at night, yet the city has done nothing about that.  They could be allowing students to park in the lot here, and allow students to use the showers as a short-term fix until housing can be built,” he said.

He argued for the densification of existing apartments, many of which are owned by Tandem, the same owners as Nishi, “without a Measure J vote.”  Walsh argued Tandem could densify its 13 existing apartment complexes in Davis, some of which are over 40 years old and have never had an apartment added to them.

Robb Davis responded on Pacifico, saying that “we are housing people who are in imminent risk of homelessness.”

He quoted Charles Salocks, “There is no scientific basis for concluding that air quality at the Nishi site, as influenced by freeway traffic, is any different than at other residential locations, existing and proposed, along the Interstate 80 corridor in Davis.

“The no side,” Robb Davis said, “wants you to believe there is something unique about Nishi, there is not.”

He said, “We are dealing with the housing crisis in our city in multi-faceted ways, we have not been sitting still.  We have entitled two project for students – pushback by the community on both of them.  One reason we cannot do more with this property is that we were told by voters that commercial was going to cause too many impacts, so we’ve gone to housing only as a priority.”

Matt Williams said that the developers have advertised car-free living.  He asked, “Why is there five acres of parking if that’s what we’re going to do?”

Colin Walsh responded, “No independent expert has ever been hired by the city to look at this and there has been no onsite testing at any time.  Without onsite testing we don’t even have the inputs to put into the equations to know what we’re talking about.”

He noted that the developer will cover the costs of the roads, but said, “These are going to be private roads.  What’s the oversight that the city will have for maintenance of these roads long term?”

That wrapped up the conversation portion of the forum and they then took questions from the audience via note cards.

On affordable housing, Robb Davis disputed the notion that this is a “unique and different way than the city has done affordable housing in the past.”  He said, “That’s not true.”

He explained, “We have affordable housing in market rate units all over the city.  In each case, the city monitors those units.”

He said that the city has done this type of monitoring of those establishments for 30 years.  “There’s nothing new here,” he said.  “It is true that we’ve reduced the requirement from 35 percent.”

He said that they no longer believe that 35 percent is practical.  “Fifteen percent, based on the fiscal analysis that was done by an outside expert, is reasonable for this project.”

The mayor pointed out that this is the first student affordable housing that the city will have developed.  “This is the true story of affordable housing in this project,” he said.

Colin Walsh pointed out that “the affordable housing agreement is only referenced in the baseline features and only appears in the affordable housing agreement – which may or may not be changeable by a city vote.”

Walsh read from the Nishi Ordinance that “…the city may on its own or at the request of Developer, consider and make modifications to this Affordable Housing Plan…including but not limited to expanding the availability of Affordable Beds to non-students…”

He said, “The mayor just made an argument that 15 percent is better than 35 percent, and yet the very document that he’s arguing for allows for a great deal of flexibility in the future for the city to change the affordable housing plan.  There is no guarantee that this affordable housing plan will be there in perpetuity.”

Robb Davis, after some debate over format, offered in response, “It’s the clear legal opinion of the city… that changes to the affordable would trigger a new vote.”  He said, “The fact that there’s a legal opinion on the table, makes it actionable now in a court of law – if any changes are attempted.”

Changes, he said, “would require a new vote on the affordable housing on Nishi.”

Colin Walsh responded that “there are specific instances where the affordable housing can be changed.”

Robb Davis said, “That concerns the question of students.  That’s a question that’s on the table, can it be limited to students.  We believe it can be.”

He explained that statement “allows it to be modified so that current housing law can be followed while maintaining the 15 percent.”

What happens if the access to the university does not happen?

Robb Davis responded, “That’s in the baseline features, if that doesn’t happen, no site can be occupied.”

Matt Williams asked, “If the underpass doesn’t go forward, are we stuck with a property that has been changed – the zoning has been changed from its current agricultural subject to its projected new use?”

Robb Davis said that “the answer is yes.”  He said, “Nothing can go on that property unless there is an undercrossing.  We understand that.”  If the university does not allow the crossing, “then no development can house people on that property.”

Colin Walsh pointed out, “There is no requirement that there be approval before construction begins – there is no definition for what ‘construction begins’ means.”

Colin Walsh added, “So the site could get built out and no one could live there.”

He continued: “An election where the project was already developed and sitting there ready for occupancy, if that went out to the public…”  Walsh argued that the city could be forced to connect the project to Olive Drive under these circumstances.

Sandy Whitcombe scoffed at the notion, “There’s no way to get financing for a $100 million project telling the bank, oh and by the way, we don’t know how people are going to get here.”

She then said, “We need to focus on reality and the need and the merits of the project and not all these weird red herrings.  This is serious, let’s get rational.  People need housing.  This is good for everybody.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for

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.

Related posts


  1. Don Shor

    We need to focus on reality and the need and the merits of the project and not all these weird red herrings.

    Best line of the whole Nishi debate.

    1. Alan Miller


      Unfortunately, these “weird red herrings”, saturating social-media days before the last election, turned those inclined to vote but not read up on the issue, killing Nishi 1.0.  Expect a similar tactic in the last days before this election.

  2. Michael Bisch

    Housing, nutrition, healthcare, education, jobs to provide for oneself, these are basic human needs. The artificial-scarcity policies of the project opponents are harmful to human beings particularly those most vulnerable. Their values are certainly not mine.

    1. Matt Williams

      Michael, proposing this project at 27 units per acre rather than 66 units per acre means adding 3,000 beds to the REAL scarcity.  Neither Sandy nor Robb chose to address that very real problem.  Instead of reducing the scarcity by 2,200 beds, they should be reducing that scarcity by 5,200 beds.

      The developer made a conscious choice not to expand the 66 units per acre design of the 2016 project to the full 25.8 acres of the current project.  The technical update of the 2016 EIR to cover that expanded design would have taken no more than 6 months, and we could have had a 5,200 bed project on the November ballot. Failure to take those straightforward steps has made its own very real contribution to your artificial scarcity. Those 3,000 students who won’t have a bed on this Nishi each year are humans too.

      1. David Greenwald

        That ship has sailed Matt.  If Nishi goes down, it’s not going to be replaced by a denser project proposal, it will probably lie barren for another 20 years.  So the choice is between 2200 and 0 and you have to decide which is better.

        1. Matt Williams

          David, there comes a time when one has to stand up and be counted.  The process for handling this 2018 version of Nishi is symptomatic of how our City processes have become consistently unreliable and inconsistent. That is a huge problem. The zoning map of the City under the plexiglass on the counter in the Community Development is living proof of that problem.  Davis has 6,130 acres within its City Limits and in over 61% of those acres the zoning designation is not one of the standard R or C or I or MU designations (residential, commercial, industrial or mixed use), but rather PD (planned development) which means the provisions of the standard zoning for those parcels/acres has been negotiated away. Bottom-line, not a sigle Davis citizen can rely on our City’s land use policies. They are built on a foundation of quicksand.

          As I have said before, Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

          That same definition applies to adding a $750,000 per year budget shortfall to our well-documented already existing $8 million annual budget shortfall.  That is not only insanity, it is fiscal irresponsibility.

        2. David Greenwald

          You can stand up and be counted, but you have to recognize that the end result is going to be zero rather than 2200 units on Nishi.

        3. Ron

          David:  I recall statements similar to yours, the last time (2 years ago). It certainly wasn’t true then, and there’s no reason to believe it’s true now.

          It’s still not too late to get a better proposal, including a way to offset its costs (and reduce pressure to grow/develop, elsewhere).


        4. David Greenwald

          I don’t.

          BUT, let’s look at Matt’s point with respect to that.  Matt argued on Sunday that density decreased from 2016 to 2018.  Matt and others have pointed out that we went from a commercial segment in 2016 to no commercial segment.

          So my point stands either way.  I don’t believe they will come back for a third bite at the apple and if they do, I certainly do not believe they will move in the direction of greater density.

        5. Ron

          I see an opportunity to pursue a development with UCD, which includes an innovation center component.  (With access remaining as currently proposed.)

          Allowing time to figure out the air quality issue, as well. Perhaps it could actually be more densely-developed, if it’s determined to be safe/adequately mitigated.

          And really, there’s no justification to provide 700 parking spaces for potential residents.

        6. David Greenwald

          UCD prefers to locate housing at that site as “it aligns better with their needs” and meets common objectives of both UCD and City.  UCD did not want the traffic from R&D and thus prefer the current plan.  Like Matt, I think the choice is between the current proposal and nothing.  Unlike Matt, I think you prefer nothing.

        7. Ron

          I haven’t seen anything to support what you’re stating, regarding UCD’s preferences.  Nor do I see any difference regarding providing motor vehicle access to residents, vs. an innovation center component.

          However, we have seen the stipulation that UCD wants to be reimbursed for use of their land.  (Presumably, nothing is finalized regarding that.) I understand that UCD is making no contribution toward the current proposal, to house their students. Seems like they should have some “skin in the game”, if they’re going to start commenting about their preferences.

          An agreement with (both) the railroad and UCD needs to be in place, before this goes to voters and is approved for development.  Still not sure if the developer can sue the city (for access to Olive), if one (or both) of the parties does not agree to (or revokes access) through UCD.

        8. David Greenwald

          “I haven’t seen anything to support what you’re stating, regarding UCD’s preferences.”

          You just did.  Comes from a good source.

          “ Nor do I see any difference regarding providing motor vehicle access to residents, vs. and innovation center component.”

          There is a tremendous difference between the traffic at an innovation center versus a student housing apartment with only 700 parking spaces next to campus.  Suggest you look at the difference in the amount of parking and traffic projects from Nishi 1 to Nishi 2.

        9. Ron

          When UCD starts to contribute toward developments that benefit and accommodate them, instead of demanding reimbursements (and foisting costs and impacts upon the city), please let us know. At the very least, they should be offering a binding agreement at this point, regarding access.

          And, no word regarding access underneath the railroad tracks.

          Also, one cannot compare the “need” for residential parking, vs. innovation center parking. The 700 planned spaces appear to have no particular basis.

        10. David Greenwald

          “I see an opportunity to pursue a development with UCD, which includes an innovation center component.”

          “When UCD starts to contribute toward developments that benefit them, instead of demanding reimbursements (and foisting costs and impacts upon the city), please let us know.”

          So which is it?

        11. David Greenwald

          Robb Davis said, “Nothing can go on that property unless there is an undercrossing.  We understand that.”  If the university does not allow the crossing, “then no development can house people on that property.”

        12. Ron

          David: “Which is it”?

          Perhaps both (a contribution, and innovation center component).  They are not mutually exclusive.

          Regarding what Robb said, that does not address the possibility that the developer will subsequently sue the city, for access to Olive. However, no one on this blog has full knowledge of the laws, regarding land-locked properties that are subsequently approved for development. It’s unchartered territory.

        13. David Greenwald

          As I read your comments, they are mutually exclusive on the one hand you suggest a path forward that you basically preclude in a second comment a few minutes later.

          On a lawsuit – as I think about it more – there is no possibility that they can sue for access on Olive Drive because they voluntarily agreed to not have the access.

        14. Matt Williams

          David, you are talking politics.  If you want to sanction the massive amount of manipulation that has brought us to this point, then that is your prerogative.

          Given the lack of balance and transparency of the Nishi 2018 fiscal analysis when compared to the Nishi 2016 fiscal analysis, coupled with the clear problems with the ballot statement, and the density issues discussed herein, anyone who believes in honesty can cast an honest “No” vote on Nishi.

          Nishi 2016 had its flaws, but at least it was an honest project.  That is why in 2016 I stated publicly “I support the democratic process that has created Measure A, and overall I support the project. […] My personal vote on Measure A will be “Yes.”


        15. David Greenwald

          That’s an argument against Measure R.  As soon as you have to take a project to a vote, the measure is as much about what can pass as it is about land use and good planning.

        16. Howard P

          David, and Matt… to be clear, and to be consistent with other points you’ve made… (David’s 9:15 post)

          Density has not gone down since 2016… was zero units/acre then, zero units/acre now.  No change.

          Proposed density in 2016 was higher than the proposed density now.  Gee, what happened in the vote in 2016?  Density is surely not the only factor, but it is one of them.

          Those who want to demand what density a project is built at, what its ‘amenities’ are (project and community), affordability, etc., I have a few suggestions for you:  buy land and be a developer; get appointed to a Commission, particularly Planning; run for CC; play SimCity, or Forge of Empires (less risk with that)… get involved with a Gen Plan revision/update…  may be some others…

          That might be an interesting exercise… open SimCity, input existing uses, and calibrate… then add any proposed projects, and see what happens…

        17. Mark West

          “That’s an argument against Measure R.  As soon as you have to take a project to a vote, the measure is as much about what can pass as it is about land use and good planning.”

          This is exactly right. As long as Measure R is the law of the land, this is the sort of political machinations and suboptimal projects, that we should expect. Putting land use decisions in the hands of an uninterested and underinformed electorate is a prescription for poor planning. There is a reason our society is built around the concept of elected representation instead of direct democracy.

        18. Matt Williams

          However, they do not have to be mutually exclusive.  A good plan that optimizes its contribution to the welfare of the community will pass a Measure R vote.  A Nishi project that removes 5,000 students from the demand for mini-dorm conversions, and contributes fiscally to the City at the same level as Cannery and Nishi 2016 would win the political battle in a runaway.


        19. David Greenwald

          That point is debatable at best.  What’s not debatable – at least in my view – is that the realistic choice is between 2200 and 0.

        20. Howard P

          Another couple of uniformed statements/untruths Ron… consider sticking to what you know… @ 9:32, you wrote:

          Still not sure if the developer can sue the city (for access to Olive)

          The answer is a qualified “no”, but not inclined to point out why… @ 9:50, you wrote,

           However, no one on this blog has full knowledge of the laws, regarding land-locked properties that are subsequently approved for development. It’s unchartered territory.

          Wrong on three counts… it is not a land-locked property; I’m participating on this bog, and I know (the laws) why it is not [pretty sure there are one or two others who do, as well], but am so tired of your pasta throwing, do not wish to educate, except perhaps at my fee rate; it is not “uncharted territory”. Same reason why I’ll not elaborate further on that.

        21. David Greenwald

          Howard: Ron is missing a key point – the baseline features state that they have to have university access in order to occupy the residences.  That means to change it would require another vote.  Even if they sue and won (which they most likely can’t given that they are the ones who stated no Olive Drive access at the outset), they can’t change the baseline features without a new vote.

        22. Howard P

          BTW, Ron, there is a very good reason why UP (and, for different reasons, UCD) would approve a crossing, as proposed… I actually gave you a clue as to “land-locked”, which it isn’t… far from…

        23. Howard P

          David… you just raised a fourth point, that actually trumps the non-land-locked status… thanks… was looking at the other legalities, and didn’t think of that one… good catch…

        24. David Greenwald

          Also the baseline feature includes: “There will be no vehicular traffic access allowed to West Olive Drive except for emergency vehicles, & public transit.”

          So I don’t think they can sue and get around the project baseline features.


          1. Don Shor

            Measure R

            41.01.020 Voter approval.
            (a) Voter approval of changes to land use designations on the Land Use Map from agricultural or urban reserve to urban land use designations or from agricultural to urban reserve land use designations.
            (1) Each and every proposed amendment or modification of the land use map to modify the land use designation of lands designated for agricultural, open space or urban reserve use on the land use map to an urban or urban reserve designation is a significant change that affects the city and its ability to maintain its vision for a compact urban form surrounded by farmlands and open space. Any such proposal, therefore, requires public participation in the decision, including, but not limited to, voter approval of the proposed amendment or modification of the land use map.
            (2) Any application for an amendment or modification of the land use map that proposes changing the land use map land use designation for any property from an agricultural, open space, or urban reserve land use designation (e.g., agricultural, open space, agricultural reserve, urban reserve, environmentally sensitive habitat, Davis greenbelt) to an urban land use designation or from an agricultural designation to an urban reserve designation shall require:
            (A) Establishment of baseline project features and requirements such as recreation facilities, public facilities, significant project design features, sequencing or phasing, or similar features and requirements as shown on project exhibits and plans submitted for voter approval, which cannot be eliminated, significantly modified or reduced without subsequent voter approval;

            That herring isn’t just red, it’s dead.

        25. Ron


          Sorry, but I’m not interested in engaging in extensive legal arguments, especially with non-attorneys who are obvious supporters of the proposal.  Laws, and their subsequent interpretation can be even more complex and unpredictable than air quality factors. (And, we’ve already witnessed quite a bit of political “spin” from non-experts, regarding air quality.)

          It will be interesting to see what happens, if UCD or the railroad don’t agree to provide access, or subsequently revoke it.  It might even be more interesting, if the current owner decides to sell the property – if approved by the city for development/zoning change (but without access underneath the railroad tracks and through UCD).

          Here’s a brief article, regarding landlocked properties.  Even if the property is not currently completely landlocked, I wonder if laws regarding access come into play, if/when the zoning (and type of access) is changed.  Especially if the railroad and UCD does not agree to, or subsequently revokes access.


          1. Don Shor

            I wonder if laws regarding access come into play, if/when the zoning (and type of access) is changed.

            Doesn’t matter. You’d need another vote.

        26. David Greenwald

          Ron: You’re doing the same thing as Colin, inventing weird red herrings to attempt to avoid the main issues.

          As Sandy Whitcombe stated: “ “We need to focus on reality and the need and the merits of the project and not all these weird red herrings.”

          You don’t need to be able to argue legalities to understand that if the project baseline features has requirements that the developer agreed to, they can’t sue their way out of them otherwise Measure R would be useless.

        27. Ron

          David:  I’m not “inventing” anything.  In general, development interests will look to any method at their disposal (including legal options).  And, they also have more access to professional advice regarding possible pursuit of those options, compared to what’s found on a blog. In general, uncovering and objectively examining all possible options is not likely to occur, on a blog. (Especially on one that’s dominated by supporters of a given proposal.)

          What’s “weird” here is the city deciding to pursue this, prior to agreements regarding access, air quality concerns, and fiscal concerns.  And, without an innovation center component (as originally envisioned, for that property).

          I understand that the developers are using the same EIR (with whatever amendment they believe is required), presumably to avoid further costs.  (But, that approach is not necessarily what’s best for the city, as a whole.)

        28. David Greenwald

          My objection is that you are posing a possible scenario – lawsuit – that is precluded by the rules of Measure R itself because the project baseline features require the university access and prohibit Olive Drive access.  So even if they successfully sued, the quit itself would trigger a new vote.  So why would they sue?

        29. Ron

          David:  Again, you’re attempting to engage in a legal argument, for which you may be making incorrect assumptions, and not accounting for all of the ways in which challenges can occur (e.g. the “rules” regarding Measure R, as you put it).

          And (unlike what’s found on this blog), developers have the resources to fully explore this.



        30. Ron

          For that matter, I wonder if this fiasco (approving a development in which access has not been agreed to) will ultimately threaten Measure R, itself.

          In general, I’m sure that there’s interest in doing so.

          By the way, doesn’t Whitcombe own both sites (Nishi, and the site of the failed Covell Village)? Do they own both properties, outright?

        31. David Greenwald

          There is no approval.  the project is approved when the voters vote it.  instruction cannot commence until approval of the undercrossing.

          What’s going to destroy Measure R is all these weird red herring arguments that have no factual basis.  You’ve pushed this lawsuit thing against all evidence.

      2. Richard McCann

        Matt, your cost accounting is incorrect because you would have current residents pay for infrastructure twice–once for the new through debt repayment,  and again through a sinking fund for the replacement. “Pay as you go” is an accounting fiction that is not applicable to large infrastructure projects that are debt financed. Future residents should incur those replacement costs and there should be no sinking fund.

        1. Matt Williams

          Richard, every home/property owner pays for infrastructure that way.  When they purchase their residence or business a portion of the valuation that goes into establishing the purchase/sale price is the public infrastructure that supports the property.  The better the condition and quality of the public infrastructure the higher the purchase/sale price.  What happens beginning the day after ownership takes place is that (A) the public infrastructure delivers day-in, day-out value to the resident/business, and (B) the public infrastructure depreciates in value and deteriorates in condition.

          Your argument is not really with me. It is with David Zehnder of EPS and Dave Freudenberger of Goodwin Consultants, and Andy Plescia of A. Plescia and Company.  When Dan Carson and other FBC members including myself expressed interest in a “Cash Accounting” approach that would significantly reduce the annual City costs in the EPS fiscal analysis, EPS went back to Chief of Police, Darren Pytel and Assistant Fire Chief, Rick Martinez to discuss the FBC concerns.  Here is the formal Technical Memorandum that David Zehnder and Amy Lapin of EPS provided to the City on that subject.


          Public Service Costs

          EPS utilized standard industry methods to compute the expenditures for both the Annual Fire and Police expenditures. In response to concerns over the level of public service cost associated with the project, EPS conducted interviews the Chief of Police, Darren Pytel and Assistant Fire Chief, Rick Martinez.

          Chief Pytel indicated that the estimates made by EPS were reasonable and appropriate particularly given concerns of difficulties in enforcement within the area due to constrained access. Similarly, Assistant Chief Martinez advised against running any scenarios with reduced Fire Department costs due to a need for increased labor resulting from the population and employment growth attributed to the project. Based on these interviews, EPS did not construct any additional sensitivity scenarios to reflect lower public service costs.

          One final point worth mentioning, the contributions do not go into a sinking fund because many of the end-of-useful-life capital repair/replacement costs come due in staggered time lines.  For example police cruisers, fire engines, fire stations, computer systems, etc.  The City’s accounting system has a number of “Special Funds” where they put periodic contributions to replenish the funds available for those repair/replacement costs.



  3. Tia Will

    “so the site could get built out and no one could live there.”

    that they are anti-human beings”

    Welcome to the hyperbole from all sides campaign. Could we potentially just discuss the merits of the case for Nishi rather than race for the bottom of absurd accusations ? Please ?

    1. Matt Williams

      Hyperbole has become the rule rather than the exception Tia.  Robb calling me a liar in the forum was another example of the rise of hyperbole.  To his credit he announced to the audience that he might be wrong in his facts and would issue an update once he has checked those facts.


      1. Robb Davis

        I never, ever called Matt a liar in the forum.  Untrue.  I said that I requested an opportunity to respond to falsehoods that were being put out but this was not in relation to anything Matt said but rather in direct response to statements being made about the affordable component. Matt spoke no untruths but I do not share his perspective of what is necessary for the Nishi fiscal analysis and I said so.  I disagree with his entire op-ed analysis and statements he made about impact fees and property taxes.

        In hindsight, I regret saying what I said.  I should have said “I would like to respond to potentially ‘misleading statements’ being put out…”  I was wrong to use the word “falsehood” and wish I had not said it.  As Michael Harrington said, that is beneath me.  I was wrong.  I have said other things in the four years I have been on Council that I regret and that were wrong.  I have tried to correct them but once a word is spoken it cannot really be taken back.

        I did not call Matt a liar.


        1. Matt Williams

          Robb, you sound like Bill Clinton.

          It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If the–if he–if ‘is’ means is and never has been, that is not–that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement….Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true.

        2. Ken A

          Other than Matt I don’t think a single person has ever (or will ever) compare Robb to Bill Clinton.  Robb is a classy honest guy who like all of us is not perfect  while Clinton is a politician who lies all the time and blames others when he is caught lying…

        3. Matt Williams

          Robb said . . . ” I do not share his perspective of what is necessary for the Nishi fiscal analysis and I said so.  I disagree with his entire op-ed analysis and statements he made about impact fees and property taxes.”

          Reasonable people can agree to disagree reasonably.  You and I have been able to do so in the past.  We should be able to so here as well.

          With that said, do you also disagree with the entire EPS/Goodwin/Plescia fiscal analysis of Nishi 2016?

        4. Matt Williams

          Ken, the comparison was not of Robb to Bill, but rather to reliance on semantics. The semantic difference between lie and falsehood is no thicker that a strand of silk in a spider’s web.

    1. Tia Will

      I may have hallucinated. But I pulled it by copy and paste from Michael Bisch and his post of 6:56 does not have it.  Now I am very confused. Perhaps Michael or Highbeam have an explanation. If this was my error, I apologize.

      1. Howard P

        The reality is sometimes one composes a thought/post, hits the “post comment” button, and has second thoughts… self-moderates during the 5 minute ‘window’ to do so… better than having it “stand”… know I’ve done that… perhaps others have…

  4. Tia Will


    I have a feeling that this was an honest error, perhaps on both our parts. I frequently edit what I have written and would not appreciate being “outed” as having said something that I regretted and changed. Whatever the cause, I apologize and stand by my call to return to the issues and leave the hyperbole aside regardless of source.

  5. Matt Williams

    One of the key issues is illuminated by the following exchange:

    Matt Williams asked, “If the underpass doesn’t go forward, are we stuck with a property that has been changed – the zoning has been changed from its current agricultural subject to its projected new use?”

    Robb Davis said that “the answer is yes.”  He said, “Nothing can go on that property unless there is an undercrossing.  We understand that.”  If the university does not allow the crossing, “then no development can house people on that property.”

    Rob’s answer is important.  If this project is approved by the voters, but then subsequently does not go forward, the baseline features document/agreement becomes moot, but the annexation and zoning change do not change.  When/if Whitcombe and Ruff sell the property to new owners and those new owners bring forward an entirely different project, in compliance with the City zoning in place, are the new owners bound by the constraints of Measure R/J?

    Said another way, does Robb’s “nothing” only apply to the current owners?

    1. Howard P

      Not 100% sure, but suspect the provisions of Dev Agree and Zoning ordinance are X-referenced… that is usually the case… in any event, the DA has a life of its own, and ‘runs with the land’…

  6. Matt Williams

    David Greenwald said . . . “That point is debatable at best.  What’s not debatable – at least in my view – is that the realistic choice is between 2200 and 0.”

    What you are doing with that statement David is attempting to create a “crisis” mentality.  Earlier this year I heard the following Perspective segment on KQED, which resonated for me at the time and continues to resonate now.  I just replaced the name of the original issue with […] and it applies to our current housing situation in Davis.

    It has become customary to speak of […] as a “crisis.”  But is it?  To my ears the word “crisis” implies a critical point in time … a moment when a shift in circumstances forces people to make decisions of consequence.  By this definition […] is not a crisis.

    It is serious, but is has also been a problem for decades.  It is the opposite of a crisis.  Is the status quo.  And that actually makes it something far worse.  It is the brutal reflection of who we are as a society.  We draw attention to a situation by calling it a crisis, but the problem with this label isn’t just its lack of an expiration date.

    Although the word “crisis” conveys urgency, it can also mask the entrenched nature of a problem’s underlying causes.  The forces that have pushed so many out onto the street have been at work for years. Furthermore, calling something a crisis invokes a sense of immediacy that places a priority on responding, instead of addressing the root causes.  We mobilize to find beds with roofs over them, but there are never enough to meet a never-ending tide.

    Of course when I comes to public policy there’s nothing easier and more obvious than stating that a problem can be solved only by addressing it’s underlying causes, and nothing more difficult to do in practice.

    With a perspective, this is Paul Staley.

    1. David Greenwald

      “What you are doing with that statement David is attempting to create a “crisis” mentality.“

      There is a crisis.  It is unfortunate you didn’t come to the townhall meeting to hear some of the horror stories.

    2. Neil Ruud

      A crisis is not defined by your own personal experience, but by the experiences of many. No one person has created a crisis mentality– the unprecedented increase in rents and general lack of availability has.

      1. Ken A

        Most of the aging boomers in town that log to Zillow every few months to see how much their home has increased in value don’t see much of a housing “crisis” (just hundreds of thousands of new home equity since 2012).  Most UCD kids don’t see much of a “crisis” either since right now (in May) there are plenty of places still available to lease starting in September.  The people that experience a “crisis” are  someone that starts a job in Davis in February or the poor planners that roll in to town three days before the fall semester starts looking for nice cheap place close to campus.

        In addition to the crisis of childhood obesity in America there is an even bigger math crisis when a kid is smart enough to get in to UCD but not smart enough to realize that paying over $1,000/month (and spending over 40 hours a month commuting) is not a good idea financially (or socially or academically) …

        “Dylan Musgrove commuted 47 miles from El Dorado County for class, band practice and social outings. “There’d be times where I commuted back and forth between my home in Rescue every single day for weeks on end,” Musgrove said. “I made virtually no friends my first year. I essentially missed out on two hours of studying each day.”


        1. Alan Miller

          >Most of the aging boomers in town that log to Zillow every few months to see how much their home has increased in value don’t see much of a housing “crisis”

          How to continue that rising home/investment valuation:  Vote Yes to renew Measure R in 2020.


      2. Matt Williams

        Neil, the increase in rents being experienced in Davis are the exact opposite of unprecedented.  Similar rent increases are happening all throughout California (an much of the United States).  As Paul Staley said in his contribution to KQED’s Perspectives, “It is the opposite of a crisis.  Is the status quo.” 

        Much the same can be said about the lack of availability, although that problem is more acute in Davis, which is why I began my forum comments by addressing Sandy Whitcombe’s point that we need higher density … specifically, “the 2016 project had a density of 66 units per acre, while this project has only 27 units per acre.  How is going from 66 units per acre down to 27 units per acre a commitment to higher density housing next to downtown?  I have a hard time figuring that out.”  When the Yes side got to its first Rebuttal period, Sandy chose not to answer that key availability question, and chose rather to continue with her canned description of the project.  At no time in the forum did either Sandy or Robb explain why the project had reduced the availability per acre by 60%. 

        1. Matt Williams

          If you are looking only at an individual project in isolation total units or total beds are interchangeable.

          What is more meaningful is square feet per unit and two different dollars per square foot numbers … monthly rent charged per square foot to the tenants and total cost of creation (land, improvements, entitlements, etc.) per square foot.

          As Rob Hoffman said from the dais in a Planning Commission meeting last year, “Affordability by Design” is a myth, the only way we are going to achieve affordability is by pursuing “Affordability by Size.”  Construction costs per square foot over a smaller footprint will produce more affordable units and beds.

          With that said Density measurements (units per acre and/or beds per acre) are the only realistic way to compare projects that have significantly different acreages. Nishi 2016 had only 9.8 acres devoted to residential and 650 units (or 780 units with the 20% override allowed in the development Agreement), while Nishi 2018 has 700 units. Comparing those units numbers is problematic.

  7. Richard McCann

    Matt’s objection seems to be that we don’t have an updated General Plan in place. I agree that is a problem, but we can’t delay addressing our housing crisis to get our legal house in order. We have to act now with the proposal that is before us. If we’ve annexed the land and the project does not go forward, we can rezone it in the new General Plan that will be forthcoming. All of this gives us renewed urgency to move forward on the GP.

    1. Matt Williams

      Richard, my objections are much less about an updated General Plan than they are about (A) a compromised and rushed process at all levels, and (B) by the lack of balance and transparency of the Nishi 2018 fiscal analysis when compared to the Nishi 2016 fiscal analysis.
      The process problems with Nishi are similar to the process problems that plagued the recent Davis Waste Removal sale.   The issues of density were brought to the forefront at the October 17, 2017 City Council meeting … the very first public meeting after the October 6, 2017 submission by the developer of a preliminary conceptual site plan for a residential-only development on the Nishi property.  Unfortunately staff chose to ignore those concerns.

      As staff said in their October 17, 2017 Staff Report, time was of the essence.

      Fiscal Impact

      Costs of the Planning review process, including preparation of the Addendum to the Environmental Impact Report, will be borne by the project applicant. Analysis of fiscal impacts of the proposed project will be prepared and brought forward for Finance and Budget Commission and City Council consideration.

      Proposed Timeline

      The applicants have requested that the proposal be placed on the June 2018 ballot. The schedule would entail action by the current City Council, who are familiar with the site and its planninghistory. There are no other “Measure R” proposals anticipated at that election.

      A June ballot would require City Council action in early February. Planning Commission hearingand recommendation, and City Council hearing andaction, could be scheduled in early 2018.

  8. Todd Edelman

    I don’t see a formal or existential issue in examining a “Nishi 3.0”, now that we’re all so much more informed about the issues! Right?

    Going back nearly a year I proposed satellite parking directly connected to I-80 and refined it further in recent months. My screeds on this appeared in the Vanguard and in letters to City Council. This solution would provide car access to Nishi with minimal impacts to surface streets. It would be connected to Nishi, Downtown, the Depot etc via an automated shuttle on a fixed route.

    Well, in the recent Downtown charrette the parking consultant suggested “intercept” parking on the I-80 side of the rail tracks. And UC Davis is trying to fund an automated shuttle for campus to Depot trips (and a fully-functional system is operating in one town on the west side of the Bay-Delta Megaregion.)

    700 cars is about one per unit. These cars will be used for many trips outside campus. I am making a similar argument about the Davis Live project which the BTSSC will review this Thursday. Quoting myself: “This means that it will be easy for roommates to coordinate use of a car to accomplish some heavy tasks which would otherwise could be solved via other means, including carshare, or the proposed shared cargo bikes . It means that if four to six roommates want to go somewhere together, but one doesn’t feel like going by bicycle or transit – with buses running every 30 minutes does one blame them? –  they’ll use a car, and there’s still a lot of free parking Downtown, and every commercial parking lot around town is free. My point is that you can’t just give people everything and hope that they will make the choice which supports the City’s policy and the BTSSC’s mandate to give active transportation – and this includes the walking part of a bus journey – a preference.”

    Finally, it’s unfortunate that Mayor Davis referenced Dr. Salocks for support on the air pollution issue. Salocks said that Nishi residences will have the “state of the art”, MERV 13-level filters. A system with these does not approach the efficacy needed that’s part of the EIR-required mitigation. I’ve referenced this many times in the Vanguard. No one’s ever refuted it because it cannot be refuted (assuming one believes in industry ratings for air filters). It’s also not clear how the impossibility of the 95% filtration of 0.1 micron particles determined by a third-party (this is or will be in the development agreement, right?) test will affect the certificate of occupancy. 

    1. Don Shor

      Responsibility for monitoring compliance with the air filtration is by the City of Davis and must be done “prior to issuance of
      certificate of occupancy with annual review of maintenance reports.” See reference Mitigation Measure 4.3-5c in the EIR. Here’s a screen capture, if you can magnify it sufficiently to read it. Presumably the builders and city staff don’t agree with you that it will be impossible.

      1. Todd Edelman

        Thanks, Don. If I recall correctly, Dr. Cahill has indicated on numerous occasions that (his) Delta system described as above only works in laboratory conditions in a sealed room.

        As I am sure you can suss from the information in that screen grab, they haven’t quite worked out how they intend to achieve their micro-holey grail.

        How will this work in practice? They will build and complete the HVAC on the Nishi residential structure closest to I-80 and/or the railway tracks, and then test it (possibly three times, to compute an average?) during the period of generally-greatest outside pollution, also pumping in a bunch of aerosol-ized dust mite droppings originating as human skin, running the oven slightly burning a quesadilla and adding some marijuana smoke for good measure, since that’s likely to be present? Then if and when the first building passes, they will do a similar test on each for its own certificate? Or is there batch certification to see if the filtration is kosher, by some kind of airabbi?

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for