The Vanguard met up with Mary Jo Bryan at Konditorei where she discussed why, at the age of 75, she is running for the Davis City Council. She explained that she had been retired when, ten years ago, she started getting involved with Choices For Healthy Aging and the issue about senior housing. “It just progressed with the whole issue about the Cannery and finding absolutely no results.
“What we were trying to propose was a qualified senior housing area in the Cannery project,” she explained. She said she went to the commissions and she “felt very rebuked by them that they would even consider anything that even smacked of exclusiveness of being just seniors.”
New Homes, she said, had considered senior housing but in stacked flats. She said, “We said, no we don’t want stacked flats, we want smaller homes… We did reconcile that with Ashley Feeney, because he came forward said, Mary Jo, what do you guys want?”
They sat down with him for a few hours and they brought forth an idea – one that he found feasible. While they agreed to it, New Homes never built the houses. “They were going to do a model (home) but they didn’t do it because it was too expensive,” she said. “Then it was too expensive because the land was too expensive. No one wanted a single-story home because it costs just as much as a two-story home that was twice its size.”
“Nothing ever did get built on that scale – the larger homes did get built,” she explained.
Mary Jo Bryan downsized from her home on 12th Street where she had lived for 40 years, and purchased a home at Rancho Yolo. “Nice community, “ she said. “That was the kind of community that many of us were looking for. Not exclusive. But where you knew your neighbors right from the beginning and that’s what happened. It’s just like an amazing community over there.”
She moved into a 1400-square foot home, two bedrooms, two baths. More than enough room for her needs. She was able to fix it up with the money from her home sale.
But, a year after her move, the Sterling Student Apartments issue came up. She explained that her objection was not so much the student apartments portion. Her objection was “the demolition of FamiliesFirst.
“I became very involved in trying to save that,” she explained. “I got no kind of response really from the city council members nor from any commission either. They just needed student housing.
It had an affordable housing component on it. Those two things made it a done deal.”
They ended up meeting with the city and the developers – Dinnerstein – who reduced it by one-quarter of the size. “But I think the city would have done the same thing,” she said. “They weren’t going to let that large of a project go through.”
Mary Jo Bryan said, “We watched the demolition of FamiliesFirst, a perfectly wonderful facility that could have been used for city functions. It’s gone now.
Ms. Bryan talked about the Taormino project – West Davis Active Adult Center. He asked her from the start to put some focus groups together to talk about the project. “I like the process,” she said. “I liked that he went around to 30 different groups to ask them what they would like in the housing project.”
From there she decided maybe it was time for her to be on the other side of the podium and work on housing issues and ways to do affordable and market rate homes for people.
“I think we can do something,” she said.
She realized, “I just turned 75. If I do this, I’ll be 80 years old when it’s over with. But I’m blessed with good health. Physical ability to maintain a schedule that is five hours of sleep at night.”
“I love doing this,” she said. “I love meeting people. I love reconnecting with old friends, meeting new friends, talking about the issues.”
She said she is looking forward to helping to plan the next 20 years and work on the downtown.
Mary Jo Bryan acknowledged: “I don’t know everything. I admit I don’t know everything. I’m on a quick learning curve. Commission meetings, council meetings, as much as I can.”
She explained, “I’ve been really impressed with the commissions. I think the people that are on the commissions should be listened to more. ”
She is also favorable to the staff, and believes that playing the intermediary role between the council and commissions must be difficult. “I’ve really come to respect a lot of what goes on in the city,” Ms. Bryan stated. “If I get elected, I will not be sitting up there by myself. I”ll be sitting up there with a lot of other people that I’ll be reaching out to to help me understand the issues and not to take a position just for myself.”
She said that she is not sure she would run for a second term, but she pledges to serve four full years – Lord willing.
Mary Jo Bryan has walked quite a few precincts. She said that her response has been “unbelievably positive.
“Either they know me and they’re voting for me,” she said. “Or they’re interested because I’m the first one that’s come to their door because I’m doing East Davis.”
She said, “I’m a walker.” She walks an hour, hour and a half at least three days a week. She does up to four miles at a time.
The issue people are most interested in, she said, is “potholes.”
While that sounds like they might be in favor of the parcel tax, she explained, “they’re not real gung-ho on trusting the city to do what they say they’re going to do. SO you have to say, I will monitor the parcel tax if I’m elected.”
Overall, for Mary Jo Bryan, she has enjoyed her experience running for office and looks forward to serving the people of Davis.
—David M. Greenwald reporting