In theory, Measure R allows for the citizens to have the final say on development projects that involve the conversion of peripheral farmland into urban uses. But that process only works if we can have an informed discussion on the merits of the project. In order to do that, the voters have to have the relevant facts before them and decide for themselves whether the project merits support.
My problem so far: the facts are being at best misconstrued and that has occurred both with the ballot statement and comments made by project opponents.
For example: “West Davis Active Adult Community will not build ANY low-income housing itself like every other major development in Davis has done in recent years.”
This is simply not true. There have been numerous projects that use a land dedication model, including Sterling.
There is also the argument that the developer is “donating less than 10% of the total project land on which low-income housing MAY be built – but only IF another non-profit can raise the millions of grant monies needed for construction.”
While none of this is outright false, it is highly misleading. First of all, there is no requirement for a developer to set aside a specific percentage of the land. The requirement is that they set aside sufficient land to build the required affordable units. Second, land dedication works by donating land to an affordable housing developer, who then applies for grants and other funding.
The opponents added: “In this time of shrinking government budgets, there is no assurance these funds will EVER be available to build this required low-income housing.”
David Thompson and Luke Watkins, who have been doing this for over 40 years, told the Vanguard this week that there are many sources for money these days and, contrary to the claims made by Mr. Pryor and the other opponents, “we are in the most funding rich era for affordable housing despite the loss of redevelopment money.”
They explained that funding is a process, that you keep applying for different grants until you have enough funding to do the project. Mr. Watkins said that he believes it will probably take about seven sources of funding by the time they are done. The first money will probably be from the Multi-Family Housing Program (MHP).
The developers point out that, in 40 years of this work, they have never not been able to build the housing.
Case in point, this project is modeled after the very successful Eleanor Roosevelt Circle (ERC). They are just completing a similar project in Dixon. So why do we expect that funding and building this project will be a problem now?
With Sterling, they did not provide enough units with the on-site affordable, and so they added an in-lieu fee to make up the difference.
However, Mr. Pryor argues, “The amount of money actually provided by the WDAAC developer toward his low income housing obligation at WDAAC is $0.”
The problem is, as we have pointed out, he is ignoring that the fact they are donating around four acres for the affordable site for the building of 150 units. Those four acres are worth approximately $4 million. As another reader points out, you can legitimately debate over the value of those acres, but what you cannot do is claim that their value is $0.
In the rebuttal, I think the opponents do a better job of focusing on core issues and not making factually questionable or false statements. But there are still some problems.
Still I’m not sure I would want to lead with this comment: “Regionally, Davis has been the least racially diverse city for many decades.”
I would agree with them that Davis is among the least diverse cities. However, Davis has become much more diverse than it once was.
Davis has become increasingly diverse over the the last 20 years, moving from about 70 percent white in 2000 to about 65 percent in 2010 and, by the time the 2020 census comes out, that number could be down town 60 percent. It is worth noting that the schools reflect about a 54 percent white student population.
This is not Woodland yet, but it is far different from the Davis of 20 years ago.
On the other hand, they make a more problematic argument: “Our population is also the ‘oldest’ and the most ‘wealthy’ in terms of income but the City has very limited affordable housing for working families. West Davis Active Adult Community exacerbates ALL of these demographic imbalances in Davis. By limiting almost all home purchases in perpetuity to seniors, the project will continue to rob the City of the vitality of young families.”
What is striking is to consider the data provided by David Thompson and Luke Watkins in our interview. Here we learn that there is a current waiting list of about 441 for low income seniors to move into four existing affordable senior housing facilities.
Most notably, this project would model after ERC which serves low to extremely low income seniors. These, they say, are residents on average earning less than $13,000 per year or $800 per month.
While this project is notably a senior housing project, it actually addresses a good deal of the problems facing low income seniors in the community. The opponents are correct that this affordable housing is limited to seniors, but, in fairness, it does address a large and demonstrable need.
Therefore, the idea that this project would perpetuate and exacerbate all of the demographic imbalances is at best subjective.
On the other hand, the opponents ignore where I think this project is far more vulnerable. They attack the Davis-Based Buyers Program as exclusive, but not as impractical and legally in question.
A big problem I see with the proposal is the developers theorize that there is a large population of seniors who are wishing to downsize, and that will free up their housing stock for younger families to move in. They attempt to ensure that with the Davis-Based Buyers Program.
One problem with that view is who is likely to move into the existing housing stock?
The housing that these seniors are theoretically moving out of is probably already far too large and too expensive for young families with children to move into. So the people most likely to move in are wealthier people from outside of the community, or the children of those who already own the land.
Bottom line, even if they can get the kind of generational shift they theorize, it is not clear to me that it solves the problem of providing housing to younger families with children.
To me, this is the discussion that should take place. Instead, we have in the initial ballot argument a bunch of vague land use claims and unsupportable affordable housing claim, and in the rebuttal, we have largely an argument that this project is exclusive, elitist and discriminatory.
That is a highly inflammatory argument that seems unlikely to win the day.
—David M. Greenwald reporting