If Tuesday was supposed to be a show of force of community outrage, the council ought to be far more concerned with complaints about the Pacifico property in south Davis than West Davis Active Adult Community (WDAAC). Civil rights Attorney Mark Merin was caught in traffic and never appeared, and the push back was less than a handful of citizens, with a few also coming to support the project.
Alan Pryor noted that Mark Merin, a very prominent civil rights attorney, filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Davis and David Taormino, the developer. “This lawsuit alleges that the proposed restrictive West Davis Active Community on the city of Davis on the November 6 ballot, which advertises its purpose as a planned community, taking care of our own, is being challenged in federal court, because it will perpetuate racial imbalance and discriminate against minorities by restricting sales to people in Davis or have a connection to people in Davis.”
He referenced the Vanguard article entitled, “How White Is Davis” and said, “the answer is very very white indeed.” He said, “It showed that over 80 percent of the 55 and older population is white Caucasian and only four percent were Hispanic. Compared to Woodland where less than 65 of the over 55 population is white and over 30 percent are Latino.
“This disparity is also evident in home ownership rates. Overall Hispanics were less than six percent of all home owners in Davis in 2010 – a rate less than four times that in California… and more than five times less than Woodland,” he said.
He said, “This raises the obvious question, does the taking care of our own, Davis-based buyer program, constitute implicit, exclusionary, racism because buyer preferences are extended to pre-existing, predominantly white Davis residents while denying buying opportunities to other ethnic minorities residing elsewhere?”
Don Lotter, born and raised in Davis, came with his wife to support the project. He explained that he recently worked overseas for six years in Tanzania, where he met his wife, who is from Tanzania.
“I really want to stay in Davis,” he said. He noted that many of his peers from high school live in Woodland and Vacaville because they can’t find or afford housing in town.
Juliette Beck, a member of the Sierra Club, spoke out against the project.
She said, “It is a real dismay to be looking at a development project that replicates the worst types of suburban sprawl in our community. In this day and age, this project does not belong in a place like Davis. If we’re going to meet our carbon reduction goals, we cannot afford a project like (WDAAC) that is sequestering people in a quadrant (of) currently undeveloped land, away from the downtown core, with very little connectivity to our downtown facilities and our downtown core, where we can have walkable communities.”
But Ron Glick pushed back, “I keep hearing about how if you built the senior thing downtown it would be better, but you know, Jason’s (Taormino) project is really close to the hospital, it’s really close to Safeway, it’s close to a lot of amenities. Depending on where you put this thing, in this fantasy place downtown where it’s going to be housed, it might be greater distances to all of these amenities than a project here past the hospital.”
Mr. Glick also noted that if there is a problem with the language of West Davis that is discriminatory, the problem is in the language of Measure R itself.
“This idea that there is some sort of problem with the project because they are trying to meet the internal needs for housing in Davis, as stated in Measure R,” Mr. Glick stated and pointed out, “If there is a problem with the language coming out of Measure R that makes the proposal discriminatory, then doesn’t Measure R discriminate? That is what is the crux of the issue here.”
He added that he hoped the plaintiff and his attorney amend the complaint to take on Measure R itself “because it is discriminatory.”
Jason Taormino, representing the developers, said that the “theme of our development is that taking care of seniors is a worthy endeavor.”
He said that the project will bring housing to Davis, 80 percent of which would be for seniors. “We’ve heard for decades that seniors have needed specific housing and that’s what we’re aiming to provide.”
Mr. Taormino stated, “To suggest that we have created a program to exclude people from our community, I wanted to come down tonight and say that’s not the case. We know that we can’t create a program based on the zip code, so we came up with the broad outline of a program that said if you’ve ever been to a Davis public school – you’re in.
“If you work in Davis – we have about ten thousand people that come to Davis and don’t live here every day, you’re part of the preference program. If you’ve ever gone to UC Davis or work at UC Davis, you’re part of this program,” he said.
He said that they were asked “can you create something based on the community need – and that’s what we came up with.”
He responded, “To call us racists and to say that we’re trying to block people’s civil rights, is a step too far here.
“We have a community value that we want to take care of people in our community – and seniors are an important part of our community,” he said.
Vince McLaughlin, who is interested in downsizing in a residence at WDAAC, explained that he was a career attorney for 35 years as well. He said, after reading the complaint, he believes the complaint “is bogus.”
He explained, “The reason it is bogus (is) it’s based on the assumption that because there were restrictive covenants in this town in 1924 and 1950 – relating to transactions 70 and 100 years ago – that it necessarily follows that we have a disproportionate number of white people, that our planning decisions are based on racist principles and then therefore you jump to the conclusion that this project discriminates against minorities and perpetuates segregation.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “It’s a non-sequitur.”
David Thompson from Neighborhood Partners said, “All our professional lives have been committed to inclusivity.”
He argued that a no vote on L because of this would have “harmful impacts on low to extremely low-income Davis seniors – a number of whom are racial minorities.”
He noted that social security usually pays about $12,000 per year. “The rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Davis is $1270 (a month). Most of our seniors cannot afford to live in town once they retire.”
Mr. Thompson pointed out that 27 percent of the total units at the project are set aside for low or extremely low income seniors.
He further pointed out that this is the largest plot of land set aside in Davis for low income housing and the largest number of units in a single project for low income housing in Davis.
Finally Rik Keller, a project opponent, spoke.
He said that the project is based on the Measure R provision of “an adequate housing supply of internal city needs. It seems like the definition of internal city needs has somehow gotten lost.”
He noted that the term was mentioned in the 2007 General Plan update as a means to “provide housing needs for the local workforce.” He said it addresses policies for moderate and low income housing for the local workforce.
Mr. Keller said, “Measure R is a very inclusive ordinance.”
He said, “I think of myself as for more inclusive affordable housing. That’s what I want to see developed when we move into our agricultural land.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting
(Editor’s note: This article incorrectly referred to the Pacifico complex with its original name, Pacifico Student Cooperative Housing. Pacifico is not a cooperative, and we apologize for any confusion or incorrect association with local housing cooperatives.)