In our time of covering Davis politics, the Davis Enterprise editorial staff has never opposed a development project – so it comes as little surprise that they would endorse Measure L. While they make some solid points in favor of the project, there are inexplicable comments in the editorial that boggle the imagination and, rather than dousing a controversy, they throw gasoline on the fire.
It makes sense that the editorial wants to address the lawsuit – although I think they might be better served with separate pieces attacking the lawsuit and then supporting the project. But that is more matter of a taste.
The editorial, along these lines, notes that “WDAAC must also deal with a lawsuit filed by Sacramento attorney Mark Merin alleging project is inherently discriminatory because its ‘Taking Care of Our Own’ component reserves 90 percent of the homes to people with ties to Davis and Davis has a relatively low population of certain ethnic groups.”
They respond, “We disagree with the premise, but that’s for the courts to decide.”
Instead, they argue that “what does concern us is the prospect of the lawsuit itself keeping people from voting for the project.” They write, “We urge Davis voters to examine the project’s merits for themselves. If you think it’s a good development, and you think that it’s not discriminatory, then vote on Nov. 6 and make your voice heard.”
The strongest point they make in the editorial is here: “If Davis demographics worry you, the absolute best way to guarantee they never change is to build nothing.”
But then it gets weird.
The next line: “If WDAAC gets built and all the white Davis seniors move into it, then it will give more opportunity for minorities from out of town to move into the single-family houses the seniors vacate.”
This is an absurd argument. It doesn’t help the community. It certainly doesn’t help the developers. It’s like say, hey we can have an all-white country club at El Macero (hypothetically) because it will free up the one at Wildhorse (again hypothetically) for minorities to attend.
This is just not a responsible argument. As much as the Vanguard used to disagree with Debbie Davis, the former editor, on some of her editorials, she would never have fallen into this trap.
The Enterprise goes from making a strong point that the lack of building new housing is contributing to the problem of demographics to make a horrible point that concedes the questionable premise of the opposition.
Compare that to Gloria Partida’s point: “One of the reasons Davis’ racial diversity has remained low is that Davis’ sensible growth practices have essentially priced people of color out. The irony of this lawsuit is that it brings forward many of the ways our slow growth policies, which are really at the crux of why people are protesting this development, perpetuate segregation and impact members of protected classes.”
From there the editorial shifts back onto stronger (and safer) ground, pushing back on the issue of “guarantee” that the low-income portion of the project will be completed. The Enterprise writes: “We find that it’s barely worth answering.”
They note the record of Davis Thompson of Neighborhood Partners, who they say “has proven time and again his commitment to building affordable housing. It’s what he does. He’s earned the right to be taken at his word when he says he will get the project done.”
Maybe they could have bolstered it by pointing out they just secured funding for Creekside, the work they did on Eleanor Roosevelt and the similar project in Dixon, both of which this project is modeled after.
“You want a sure thing?” the editorial asks. “The only guarantee is that if Measure L fails, then those 150 affordable senior apartments definitely will not be built.”
This is their strongest point, and it is the point that Gloria Partida made time and time again – preserving the status quo is not going to fix racial disparities in town and denying the largest affordable housing project in the history of Davis is not going to bring equity.
They hammer this point home well at the end: “Once again, the opponents of the plan would, if they succeed, ensure the outcome they claim to be objecting to. If you want to change Davis’ racial makeup, voting yes on Measure L provides more change than voting no. If you want more affordable housing in town, voting yes on Measure L provides a way to get that; voting no gets us zero.”
The question is whether the entirety of the editorial will be overlooked based on one very poorly chosen sentence that seems not only misplaced but also, in itself, to excuse racist behavior – if not in this project, then theoretically.
At some point, inexperience of the editor is no longer an excuse.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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