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 (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.
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 (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 (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 (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