Measure L Forum Part III

Alan Pryor (center) makes a point with Moderator Linda Deos (right) and Rik Keller (left)

CivEnergy hosted a forum on Measure L on Sunday at the Community Chambers in Davis.  Representing the Yes on L side was developer Jason Taormino, affordable housing Developer David Thompson, and Councilmember Dan Carson.  On the No side was Alan Pryor and Rik Keller.  Linda Deos served as moderator.

Each side got five minutes to do an introduction, and there were four questions from CivEnergy and concluding remarks.  They also took two additional audience questions after the concluding remarks.

Question 3: Discuss the “Taking Care of Our Own” or the “Davis Buyers Elements” of this Project

Rik Keller

Rik Keller (No)

Recently I published a series of articles on the history of housing discrimination – based in part on recent research on the subject from a number of authors, and specific assistance I got from Dr. Jesus Hernandez, in the Sociology Department at UC Davis, who looked at things like subprime lending and exclusionary zoning that consists of development patterns that focus on low density, single family houses.

Those kinds of things have continued discriminatory patterns once even things like redlining and racially restrictive covenants were outlawed in Davis.  In 1970, the Hispanic/Latino population had a very small representation in Davis.  Less than one-third the statewide share.   We can look forward to now and these disparities have continued, such that persons of Hispanic origin only count for an estimated 14 percent of the total Davis population, compared to about 39 percent in California, 46 percent in Woodland.

Latinos only make up about 4 percent of the total population in the 55 plus age group in Davis.  More than three times less than their overall share in the Davis population.

Now we have a textbook example of an exclusionary housing program with locational restrictions, with clear, on the face of it, disparate impacts.  That is, these aren’t necessarily discriminatory by intent, but they are discriminatory effects.

The developers themselves have said that discriminating by zip code would be illegal – and their legal team agreed.  A lawsuit has been filed alleging discrimination and Fair Housing violations by one of the most prominent civil rights attorneys in Northern California.

There’s an op-ed recently in the Davis Enterprise that rightfully called out the terrible language used as the tag line for the project, taking care of our own, as ‘ringing with a distinctly Trumpian tenor that effectively delineates us from them.’

Jason Taormino

Jason Taormino (Yes)

I love Rik’s statistics, I’ve got some of my own that I’ve made up.  I think if you take his 800 square foot house, on his more than 8000 square foot lot, and you invert and multiply it by the co-efficient of the water content of bologna – you’ll find out one thing, they just don’t want to take care of Davis seniors.

They’re fighting this project because it’s a sport to them.  They’re not thinking about the people that will move into this development.  They’re not thinking about the little old ladies who currently live at Eleanor Roosevelt and currently have a safe home to live in.  They’re not thinking about the Davis seniors who have raised their families here, who are living in big houses and would like to downsize into something that’s new and safe and doesn’t have stairs.

We have to think about people who will be living in these houses, sitting on their back patios with a walking path that goes right by.  They’ll be able to sit there and talk to their neighbors.  That’s especially important as you get into your eighties and you’re less mobile.  You’ll be able to sit there and see 100 people walk by during the day and chat with them, perhaps you’ll be able to say I’m not doing that well – as a friend of mine once told me when he investigated elder abuse cases.

One of the biggest challenges they face is that, when people are isolated and they didn’t have people checking on them on a daily basis, they were susceptible to abuse.  One of the things that we’re trying to do here is create a safe space for Davis citizens to be (in).

We created a preference program because people complained about the advertising for the Cannery.  They were advertising in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and they were not focused on what Davis needs.  This is a Davis-needs project, and it all started one night when my parents were out to dinner and there was a lady at a bus stop who was distraught and needed a ride home.  She got a ride home to Eleanor Roosevelt – David’s project – my dad called David (Thompson) and said let’s talk about this.

What’s the need for seniors in town?  That’s where this development started – focusing on the needs of Davis.

Rik Keller (No)

I would note about the tag line, taking care of our own, and actually your father (David Taormino) has now written an op-ed in the Enterprise, apologizing for the use of that, how insensitive it was and the marketing.

I would actually say, as insensitive and offensive as that is, as your father has said, that the actual results and the actual impact of the program is even worse.  I would note that you are running away from this language in the project as fast as you can, with that editorial.

But just now, in your opening statements, Mr. Taormino, he used the same language.  Taking care of our community’s seniors.  He just substituted a word in there.  So they’re trying to apologize for this but they’re continuing the program itself.

As a community, we need to examine projects that would have the effect of continuing these exclusionary patterns.  We need to look at how we enact policies and programs to avoid continuing these past patterns and make the community more inclusive.

Jason Taormino (Yes)

Taking care of people is important, it’s part of our community values.  I’m certain that the voters in Davis believe that’s part of it.  Our General Plan says that we should take care of seniors.  It also says that we should take care of students and we should provide workforce housing.  I also believe we have a need to build housing for adults who have mental challenges.  There are lots of needs and this one is a great one – if you vote yes on Measure L and this gets built, people will live there and they will be happy and they will be well taken care of.

Rik Keller (No)

More generally, regarding the project, the needs of seniors can be met without excluding other households and without the specific exclusionary Fair Housing violations that this program is admitting to.  You can take care of non-seniors with disabilities, first time homebuyers, local workers, and particularly families with children.  I would note that the General Plan itself regards the primary internal housing needs of the city of Davis as workforce housing.  That is something that we have not addressed.

Question 4: discuss why you think the city of Davis would be better or not to have this project built at this location.

Jason Taormino (Yes)

This is a great location for a senior-focused neighborhood.  It is right across from the Sutter-Davis emergency room.  As of yesterday, I have been there five times in the last five years.  It is right across the street from Sutter-Davis’ medical offices and CommuniCare, which cares for lower income people in our county.  It’s down the street from Dignity Health Care.  It’s down the street from UC Davis Health Care where I go and my wife goes and my parents go – they’ve got a great lab there.

It is also about a quarter of a mile to a half mile away from the Marketplace where Peet’s Coffee is, where there’s a pharmacy, where there’s a Safeway.  Where there’s a nice wide walking-biking path to get there.

You could walk there, you could go on your electric tricycle, your electric bike, or you could drive there.

People have asked us about what is the traffic going to be like, it’s going to increase in the peak hours – five seconds in the morning, seven seconds in the afternoon – for the one peak hour each time.  It’s not a big impact, but this is a great location for seniors and we are also building an activity and wellness center there, with a health club, a swimming pool and a restaurant.  All of those are open to everybody in town.  Of course you have to pay, but those are three amenities that people in the area would be able to access.  They’ll be able to walk there, they’ll be able to bike there, they’ll be able to drive there.

I can’t think of a better location in town near health care for a senior development to be located.

Rik Keller (No)

(First part inaudible)… proposal are evaluated based on whether proposed conversion of agricultural land to other uses is necessary and whether it meets the directive addressing the city’s internal housing needs.  The phrase, internal housing need… has a specific meaning in the city of Davis policy frameworks, documents and studies starting in 2002, and leading up through the General Plan update in 2007, and the adoption of Measure R in 2010.

There’s a whole section titled that in the 2007 General Plan Update.  Despite that, there are some who have either forgotten this recent history or are hoping that we forget this recent history as they seek citizen approval to convert agricultural lands right at this location on the periphery of the city.

Workforce housing is so central to the council’s conception of this city’s internal housing needs.  Along with the one percent growth rate guidelines that were adopted in 2005, they adopted the middle income ordinance in 2005 as one of the primary ways to address increasing workforce housing supply for households who had incomes above the low income affordable housing thresholds, but still couldn’t afford market rate housing.

There’s a real irony that the same project developers who are trying to use a really broad, nebulous definition of internal housing need applied to Measure R, which means apparently whatever they want it to mean, were actually involved in efforts to kill one of the main policies in Davis – that addressed the primary internal housing need in Davis which is the middle income ordinance.

David Taormino spoke in opposition to the passage of that in 2005, the Davis Chamber of Commerce worked on behalf of a coalition of developers and other business interests and brags about killing middle income ordinance provisions in 2009.

David Thompson

David Thompson (Yes)

Let’s deal with some of these issues here.  For us, having 150 units of (affordable) senior housing at that site is an incredibly great site for us to be with.  CommuniCare is the element providing health care to the low-income seniors in this town.  Robin Affrime, who is recently retiring, told me that 19 percent of the visits to CommuniCare are seniors.  The highest majority group that visits hospitals and the urgent care and the emergency ward at Sutter are seniors.  This is a great place for people to be in – it’s very comforting for them to know that.

We have 400 people on the waiting list for these places in Davis, this would be able to accommodate a great number of those people.  There are 15,000 seniors that are going to be living in Davis, according to Sheila Allen, in 2025… So this is a great location, it will serve many of the low income seniors better than anything else we have in town and we are glad to be able to be here.

Rik Keller (No)

The talk we had about stats, there was a 50 percent increase in senior households that Dan (Carson) mentioned.  I would say that shows that senior housing has actually been met to a large degree.  There are not similar studies that show that our greatest internal housing need after workforce housing was identified, that we have met even a tiny portion of that.

Dan Carson

Dan Carson (Yes)

Our internal need for senior housing has not remotely been met.  At the top of this entire discussion, I quoted to you the census data that showed that the number of senior households in this community had increased by 2500 in ten years.  There’s every reason to believe that it’s still growing dramatically.  That’s 250 a year – if this project was built out, it meets two years of that pent up need that’s gone on for years.  It’s city policy in our General Plan that goes out, to address the housing needs of seniors.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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.

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  1. Eric Gelber

    Jason Taormino:

    Our General Plan says that we should take care of seniors.  It also says that we should take care of students and we should provide workforce housing.  I also believe we have a need to build housing for adults who have mental challenges.  There are lots of needs and this one is a great one –

    So, can we expect the next Taormino proposal will be a segregated enclave for people with mental challenges?

    Jason Taormino:

    … if you vote yes on Measure L and this gets built, people will live there and they will be happy and they will be well taken care of.

    Will they not be happy if there’s a family with children next door? WDAAC is not assisted living, so if they’re “well taken care of,” it will have nothing to do with the fact that they live in an age-restricted neighborhood.

  2. Rik Keller

    This is all you need to know about Jason Taormino: his immediate response to statistics about massive historic and ongoing disparities representation of  Hispanics/Latinos in Davis as well as some of the reasons for that was to condescendingly treat it as an unserious issue,  make an awkward attempt at a joke that fell completely flat, and to make broad unsubstantiated accusations about the No on Measure L campaign being against seniors.

    “I love Rik’s statistics, I’ve got some of my own that I’ve made up.  I think if you take his 800 square foot house, on his more than 8000 square foot lot, and you invert and multiply it by the co-efficient of the water content of bologna – you’ll find out one thing, they just don’t want to take care of Davis seniors. They’re fighting this project because it’s a sport to them.”

    This is exactly what Tia Will was referring to when she wrote:

    ”Despite the requests from introducing speaker CivEnergy’s Bob Fung, and the moderator Linda Deo’s specific requests to stick to the facts and issues avoiding personal attacks, Mr. Taoromino ignored this request completely. His statement found above accused the opponents of lying and using Trumpian tactics. Later he made multiple charges that they “do not care about the seniors of Davis”.  He does not seem to realize that one of Trumps repeated tactics has been to accuse opponents of that which he himself is doing. He did this with a dismissive, argumentative, and arrogant manner that I found more in line with Trumpian tactics and/or a recent Supreme Court confirmation hearing than anything stated by the opposition. I do not like bullying tactics and I certainly did not appreciate this aggressive approach.”





    1. David Greenwald

      As I pointed out yesterday, Rik is right to call out Jason Taormino, who I think was over the top in his response. However, he fails to acknowledge his own role in this.

      For instance, in the next exchange Rik derides them for being “insensitive and offensive” as he derides them for either desperate impacts where you say, “That is these aren͛t necessarily discriminatory by intent, but they are discriminatory effects.” So he’s trying to have it both ways on the one hand saying, this isn’t necessarily discriminatory while at the same time not ruling out discriminatory intent.

      Later Rik adds, “the needs of seniors can be met without excluding other households and without the specific exclusionary Fair Housing violations that this program is admitting to.” Of course they haven’t admitted to any Fair Housing violations. But hey, he took the shot anyway.

      Rik was perhaps a bit more artful in the construction of his criticism, but at the core here, there are a bunch of ugly accusations flying and Rik lands his share of punches. Jason deserves to be called out on the bologna comment here, but he’s not the only culprit.

      1. Rik Keller

        David Greenwald: the Fair Housing Act principle is “disparate impacts,” not “desperate impacts” as you said. Words matter. Meanwhile,  you are desperately trying to spin what I said into some sort of false “both sides” equivalency.

        You are getting really confused about the difference between the general, baseless and unsubstantiated accusations and insults of the kind that Jason Taormino engaged in vs. specific substantiated allegations backed up by supporting evidence in the record.

        Let’s break this down:

        1) In his “apology” op-ed for the use of  the “Taking Care Of Our Own” motto, David Taormino stated (my emphasis): “we may have offended valued members of our community. My characterization of it as “offensive” derives directly from that. It should be noted that the project continues to use close variations of that motto and continues to post social media photos of campaign promo material showing that motto, despite Taormino pledging “The West Davis Active Adult Community/Yes on Measure L will no longer use the tagline in future materials.”

        Mayor Pro-Tem Gloria Partida wrote the following in her op-ed about that motto (my emphasis): “Reading the tagline for the West Davis Active Adult Community development, “Davis Taking care of our own,” caused me to begin the familiar but annoying exercise of sorting where on the spectrum of cultural myopia. Should I speak up? Sigh and chalk it up to people being clueless? Hold a community forum on cultural competency? It is an unfortunate choice at best. In the current political climate, it rings with a distinctly Trumpian tenor that effectively delineates “us” from “them.” My characterization of it as “insensitive” derives directly from that.


        2) Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens famously stated “The line between discriminatory purpose and discriminatory impact is not nearly as bright, and perhaps not quite as critical, as the reader of the Court’s opinion might assume.” The concept of disparate impact is that it does not matter if there is discriminatory intent (and indeed discriminatory intent is very difficult to prove), it is just whether there is discriminatory effect. There could obviously be both in some situations.

        3) I had earlier stated in the forum that “The developers themselves said that discriminating “by zip code” would be illegal and their legal team agreed. ” Later in the forum referring back to this, I said “…specific exclusionary Fair Housing violations that this program is admitting to…” The CivEnergy forum has extremely limited time frames to provide supporting evidence. Here is the evidence to back up those statements:

        Jason Taormino [9/14/2018; Davis Vanguard]: “…I did not see any methodology to provide preferences based upon being a current Davis resident or being related to a current Davis resident because the demographics of Davis are not reflective of the regional averages.  Our legal counsel agreed with this opinion.”

        Jason Taormino (10/9/2017 Project FAQs document on the City of Davis project website: “…we all recognize that the legality of discriminating based upon zip code is questionable…”

        It should be noted additionally however that the Taorminos do not appear to have a firm grasp of the legal issues surrounding the project and the concept of disparate impact. David Taormino stated the following:

        David Taormino [9/19/2019; Davis Vanguard]: (my emphasis): “Local preferences are legal as long as the underlying policy is not intended to discriminate against a protected group

        And after the lawsuit was announced:

        David Taormino [9/25/2018, Sacramento Bee] (my emphasis): “Taorino [sic] said buyer restrictions for the proposed project are merely “preferences,” which in general are legal. “Preferences are given in all kinds of situations,” he said, citing college admissions as an example. “They’re fine, as long as the intent is not to discriminate, or unless discrimination occurs by accident.”

        1. Eric Gelber

          Gloria Partida, referring to the use of Taking Care of Our Own:

          It is an unfortunate choice at best. In the current political climate, it rings with a distinctly Trumpian tenor that effectively delineates “us” from “them.”

          Council Member Partida was right to point out that the phrase “Taking Care of Our Own” has a Trumpian ring to it. But she missed the point that it’s not just the tagline that is Trumpian; it’s the policy itself. The Davis-Based Buyers Program is explicitly intended to prohibit those deemed to be outsiders from purchasing 90% of the homes in WDAAC. Intended or not, because of the demographics of Davis vs. the more diverse population of the region and the state, excluding outsiders would have the effect of perpetuating Davis’ comparative racial imbalance. The policy, not just the tagline, is the philosophical equivalent of “America First” and it is the functional equivalent of Trump’s proposed border wall.

        2. Rik Keller

          Eric: Yes, well-said. As the article transcribes my comments in the forum “I would actually say, as insensitive and offensive as that [language] is–as your [Jason Taormino’s] father has said–that the actual results and the actual impact of the program is even worse.”

          Last night I addressed Mayor Pro-Tem Partida and the rest of the City Council in the citizen comment period. My theme for my 3-minute slot was that “Land Use Policy Is A Civil Rights Issue.”

          This was in response to Partida taking a dismissive attitude in her op-ed toward the lawsuit filed against WDAAC  saying it is “an appropriation of civil rights issues for a land use dispute.” Perhaps her worst line is when she said conflating civil rights marches with “walkable communities is nauseatingly wrong”. That’s what the Mayor Pro Tem thinks this is all about? (Note that walkable communities are themselves a key issue for accommodating persons with disabilities, so it seems she is being doubly dismissive with that statement).

          An except from my comments last night follows. I plan to follow up with an article with the complete comments shortly:

          “Land use policy is a civil rights issue. Land use decisions are who gets to build what where, who is affected by that, who benefits, who is excluded. When you are buying or renting a home in a community, you are not just getting a roof over your head. You are purchasing opportunity for you and your family: opportunity for schools, for cultural enrichment, job opportunities, economic advancement. Quote Land use disputes unquote are at the center of that! We need to stop thinking about discrimination as solely individual attitudes and actions, and start thinking about systemic and systematic discrimination and exclusion that is ongoing in our land use development patterns and in our in our distribution of resources.”

      2. Tia Will

        So he’s trying to have it both ways on the one hand saying, this isn’t necessarily discriminatory while at the same time not ruling out discriminatory intent.”

        David and I have differing perspectives on this statement. I do not believe this is an accusation of deliberate racism. Nor do I believe it is even implied. How one interprets this statement hinges on how one interprets the word “necessarily”. David seems to see it as implying that there is deliberate racism, while I see it as a statement of uncertainty about what the motivation may be.

        Anyone who has read a substantial number of my posts will know that it is of major importance to me not to pretend that we know someone else’s intent as we are unable to know the content of another’s mind and heart. When we make assumptions about the motives of others, we often confuse our assumptions of motive with their true motives by believing that they must see the world as we do.

        My sincere wish is that we would approach further discussion of this project in the way described by both Bob and Linda at the forum focusing on the issues and not our personality biases and possibly erroneous motivation assumptions.


        1. Tia Will

          civil rights issues for a land use dispute”

          I believe that Rik has this portion of the discussion right. I do not believe it is possible to separate the issues of civil rights from land use. In American history since the arrival of white settlers, there has been an inextricable intertwining of land disputes and civil rights with minority groups almost always getting the worst end of whatever arrangement is ultimately settled upon. The issues of civil rights and land use have taken differing forms through the decades, but they have always been closely associated.

        2. Craig Ross

          Tia, how is it that you can argue that Measure L is racist and not argue that Measure R, which is the chief mechanism keeping housing prices up and inducing scarcity, isn’t?

        3. Eric Gelber

          I take the Taorminos at their word that the local buyers’ preference program was intended to respond to their interpretation of the intent of Measure K–that is, to address “internal” housing needs. I believe there was no discriminatory intent. But the Davis-Based Buyers’ Program was a naive and misguided effort to address internal housing needs by simplistically saying, OK, we’ll just limit 90% of purchases to people connected to Davis. Then, in the face of evidence of how the local preference program as proposed would have a disparate impact (discriminatory effect) by disadvantaging non-white purchasers, rather than dropping the proposal, they dug in, and defended the program anyway. They subsequently gave mere lip service to the unfortunate phrasing of their promotional slogan–Taking Care of Our Own.

          At some point, the continued promotion of a policy in the face of evidence of its inevitable adverse discriminatory impacts–even if initially unintended–can no longer be deemed innocent or unintentional. At some point, motivational assumptions become justified.

        4. Craig Ross

          “Then, in the face of evidence of how the local preference program as proposed would have a disparate impact ”

          Eric, with all due respect, what evidence?  I have seen a lot of conjecture about how it might have disparate impacts, but is that evidence?  Davis is a white community.  People of color, myself included, cannot afford to live here.  Measure R, forced scarcity, is a huge factor in that.  But no one wants to talk about that.  You think a lot of people of color are going to buy single family homes in Davis anyway?  Does that make any project suspect?  Is conjecture evidence?  Or do we have to let this play out and then see what happens?  Honest question there.

        5. Eric Gelber

          Craig – It is not necessary to wait for an alleged discriminatory land use policy to be implemented to challenge it as violating fair housing law. By the time it plays out, it would be too late to do anything about it. Similar buyers preferences have been found to violate fair housing law based on statistical evidence of racial imbalances. (Rik has summarized case law in this area on several occasions.)

          (PS: Typo in my original post. Should be Measure J, not K.)

          1. Don Shor

            At some point, the continued promotion of a policy in the face of evidence of its inevitable adverse discriminatory impacts–even if initially unintended–can no longer be deemed innocent or unintentional. At some point, motivational assumptions become justified.

            So, why would that not also apply to Measure R? Genuine question, not rhetorical. Similarly, if Measure R causes scarcity and the outcome is disparate with regard to ethnicity and race, why would we not hold it to an outcome-based standard of discrimination?

        6. Eric Gelber

          So, why would that not also apply to Measure R?

          By being an impediment to building additional relatively affordable housing, Measure R may, in fact, be a factor in preserving Davis’ lack of diversity. But that’s different from affirmatively adopting a policy that knowingly favors a largely white demographic and thereby statistically disadvantages non-white buyers, which will not only fail to improve the current racial imbalance but, by design, will most likely exacerbate it.

        7. Eric Gelber

          And by the way–if the courts were to find that Measure R has a disparate impact on one or more protected classes in violation of state or federal fair housing laws, so be it. That’s no argument in favor of WDAAC’s Davis-based buyers’ program.

      1. Rik Keller

        Who said anything about “racial engineering”? What does that even mean?

        What is Taormino’s business is condescendingly dismissing statistics pointing to these disparities as “baloney.” What is also his business is being sued for the discriminatory impacts of his project in the context of these disparities based on a long history of case law/court decisions with the Inclusive Communities decision by the Supreme Court in 2015 upholding applying disparate impact analysis to the Fair Housing Act. People such as David Greenwald said back then that if precedent has been overturned, it would spell the “end of fair housing” and would represent “further dismantling of the dream” of MLK.

        See also Department of Justice and HUD actions such as this one against Darien, CT…

        “In May 2010, DOJ’s Civil Rights Division initiated an investigation of Darien, Connecticut, over concerns that the town’s zoning regulations included several residency preferences that could have had the effect of discriminating against minorities. Darien has a very small minority community, as white residents comprise over 94% of the town’s total population. The town had adopted zoning regulations requiring certain developers to build affordable, below-market housing units for sale or rent whereby individuals within six so-called “priority populations” would have the opportunity to obtain this affordable housing before the general public. The six “priority populations” included residents who provided volunteer emergency services; employees of the town of Darien or the Darien school system; residents who worked in Darien; town residents; nonresidents who worked in the town; and former residents who had previously lived in the town tor at least one year. In its letter to Darien announcing the initiation of its investigation, DOJ expressed particular interest in the rationale behind adopting the preferences for priority populations. The town’s planning and zoning commission voted in fall 2010 to remove the priority population provision from the zoning regulations, thus ending the residency preference.”

        ….And this one against Dubuque, Iowa:

        “On April 15, 2014, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it had reached an agreement with the City of Dubuque, Iowa, to settle allegations that the City discriminated against African Americans in the administration of its Housing Choice (“Section 8”) Voucher Program.

        In a 2011 review, HUD had found that Dubuque imposed policies that discriminated against housing choice voucher applicants based on their race through adoption of a residency preference system that put individuals from predominantly African American areas at a disadvantage.”

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