Monday Morning Thoughts: The Apology

Jason Taormino

In a letter over the weekend, WDAAC (West Davis Active Adult Community) developer David Taormino apologizes for the use of the tagline, “Taking Care of Our Own.”

In the letter, he cites Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Partida’s guest commentary, first published in the Vanguard, who he noted “accurately conveys our intent in proposing a local preference program: to build housing that serves the dire needs of all people with an existing connection to the City of Davis.”

At the same time, the mayor pro tem was critical of the tagline, writing: “This tag line is an unfortunate choice at best. In the current political climate, it rings with a distinctly Trumpian tenor that effectively delineates ‘us’ from ‘them.’”

Writes Mr. Taormino, “In our efforts to convey the intent of this program through the use of a tagline, we may have offended valued members of our community. The tagline could be interpreted as an ‘us versus them’ message associated with racial discrimination. That message was the furthest from our intent, and we sincerely apologize to any community member that was made uncomfortable by its use.”

As such, he writes, “The West Davis Active Adult Community/Yes on Measure L will no longer use the tagline in future materials.”

He quickly adds, “Furthermore, we have always been committed to principles of diversity and will continue to ensure that the West Davis Active Adult project welcomes and embraces diversity.

“Davis needs housing,” he said. “We are proposing to build homes not to attract a new contingent of retirees from the Bay Area but to serve the local existing aging population and provide the right-sized homes for gracefully aging in place. In turn, existing Davis homes will become available and the overall housing stock will increase.”

The No side, for their part, points out that while the exact words have changed – slightly – the modified language is not much different and, more important for them, the core of the Davis-Based Buyers Program, which they believe is discriminatory, remains intact.

Rik Keller

During the forum yesterday, Rik Keller called it “a textbook example of an exclusionary housing program with locational restrictions with clear, on the face of it, disparate impacts.”  He said, “These aren’t necessarily discriminatory by intent, but they are discriminatory effects.”

Mr. Keller continued, “A lawsuit has been filed alleging discrimination and Fair Housing violations by one of the most prominent civil rights attorneys in Northern California.”

He noted the “terrible tagline taking care of our own,” and the criticism that it read “with a distinctly Trumpian tenor that effectively delineates us from them.”

In his response Jason Taormino explained, “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 focusing on what Davis needs.  This is a Davis-needs project.”

He explained that they started the project when they gave a woman a ride home to Eleanor Roosevelt Circle one night, David Thompson’s previous affordable senior housing project, and out of that came a conversation about what the needs of Davis were in terms of senior housing.

“That’s what this project is about – focusing on the needs of Davis,” he explained.

Rik Keller in his rebuttal time pointed out that, with respect to the “taking care of our own” tagline, he said, “As insensitive and offensive as that is… that the actual results and the actual impact of the program is even worse.”

He continued: “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 statement, Mr. Taormino here, used the same language – ‘taking care of our community’s seniors.’

“He just substituted a word in there,” he said.  “They’re trying to apologize for this but they’re continuing the program itself.”

My thoughts here largely echo that of Gloria Partida.  I think she struck the right balance in her comments first published here.  When I first saw the tagline, I cringed.  It is interesting that my first thought was also “Trumpian” and those were the words used by Gloria Partida.

I also listened to the developer and understand that what was meant by that line was not an attempt to divide people in this community, but rather to address a problem with previous projects.  Jason Taormino is exactly right, the criticism of the Cannery was that they built expensive homes that, instead of meeting the needs of this community, were marketed to people in the Bay Area.

It is not that we do not want people in the Bay Area to move to this community, rather that we recognize the challenges faced within our own community which need to be addressed – the tricky part is to find a way to do that creatively and within the law.

I’m skeptical that the concept of the Davis-Based Buyers Program will pass legal challenges.  I am also skeptical of the theory presented by the developers about downsizing and move ups.

But I do believe that their intent here is actually an important one – figuring out a way to address our community’s needs for housing.

As Gloria Partida points out in the part of her piece not cited by the developer or the opposition, she noted that she spent eight months campaigning “and listening to citizen after citizen complain about how people from outside of Davis were gobbling up real estate and turning it into rental property, how no one from Davis could actually afford to live here and how the high level of non-owner occupied properties was changing the social community investment.”

She writes that “the people moving into Davis were predominantly white upper class and that the people complaining were not protesting people of color moving in.”

This is the most important part of this conversation that is missing – the call for taking care of Davis housing needs is much more complex than what either side is articulating and I think Gloria Partida, above all else, captured this.

I maintain there are good reasons to question this project.  But I also believe we are having a disservice to this community by stepping into this bucket time after time.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

CORRECTION: The article originally reported that the lawsuit has not been filed. That is incorrect.  It was filed on September but has not been served

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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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29 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts: The Apology”

    1. Tia Will


      I thought that Lucas also would have had to be careful about advocacy with regard to business before the council. That did not prompt him to recuse himself from issues in which he clearly had interest, even if it was no longer monetary interest.

  1. Eric Gelber

    Regardless of the tagline, the Buyers’ Program is intended to restrict purchases by those deemed to be outsiders. The Buyers’ Program is the virtual equivalent of Donald Trump’s border wall. In fact, it is less justified because there are no laws governing immigration to Davis.

    “… it is false to say that a lawsuit has been filed.” This is blatantly false. Federal rules provide for 90 days to serve a complaint after it is filed. The Ignacio lawsuit was filed on September 24th. Do the math.

      1. Rik Keller

        David Greenwald: you got major basic facts wrong in this article and need to publish a major correction/apology.

        I would also note that a Fair Housing complaint like this is quite different in type and kind than other legal actions against other development projects. Why do you lump them all in together?


        1. Rik Keller

          You repeatedly said it and draw other conclusions from your false assertion. It speaks to terrible journalistic sloppiness.


          “It is worth noting, perhaps, that at several points in time both Mr. Keller and Alan Pryor referenced that a lawsuit had been filed.  Technically, at this point, that is not accurate.  The lawsuit has not been filed and neither the city nor the developers have been served at this point in time.  At some point, we must ask why that is the case and whether a lawsuit will be filed at all.”


    1. Tia Will


      I agree.

      That message was the furthest from our intent, and we sincerely apologize to any community member that was made uncomfortable by its “

      An apology because of how one’s error might have made someone uncomfortable is really not an apology for one’s action at all, but merely an acknowledgement that someone was made uncomfortable.

  2. Ron

    Regarding the proposed site of WDAAC, it appears to include a portion of the site that was previously proposed for the Davis Innovation Center.  Specifically, the “lower” portion of the T-shaped property, in the link below.

    Strangely enough, some implied that the “slow-growth” views of some residents of Davis “scared off” the Davis Innovation Center.  And yet, it hasn’t scared off the WDAAC developers. In fact, they seem as combative as ever. (See the “other” Davis blog, for a different perspective regarding the forum/debate.)

    In any case, one might conclude that this provides additional evidence that the only thing that developers really want to build (and fight for) are housing developments. This seems to be where the money is, for them at least.

    1. Don Shor

      additional evidence that the only thing that developers really want to build (and fight for) are housing developments.

      Not all developers are the same. Some build housing, some build commercial, some do both. I suggest people stop lumping “developers” into one category.

      1. Ron

        You can also include the developers of the proposed site of Plaza 2555 (which is currently zoned commercial, but is proposed for high-density housing).

        Same with 3820 Chiles Road, Sterling (formerly industrial), etc.  At this rate, there won’t be any commercial sites in the city.  Not to mention the conversion of downtown to semi-residential.

        Any peripheral development proposals will also include housing.

        It’s not a matter of “lumping” all developers together in some personal manner. It’s just showing where the money is, for them. Residents and the city will have to decide if their interests correspond with those of developers.

        1. Ron

          It seems like some on here only care about student housing, and not about any of the city’s other needs (including commercial development, housing for other populations in need, etc.).

          It also seems that some students aren’t focusing much energy on campus housing (which can be reserved exclusively for them), including Orchard Park. (Still apparently no final/approved plans for that, even when the lawsuit is settled.)

        2. Craig Ross

          It’s a weird comment as many students have supported Measure L as well as Trackside and some of the other housing proposals.  You seem to like just throwing stuff out there to get a reaction.

        3. Ron

          I’m sure that there are some students who care about broader issues.  It might be nice to hear from them.

          I’d suggest that it’s you who have repeatedly “thrown stuff out there”, to get a reaction.  Including today, when you initiated/responded to this thread (without actually addressing the point brought up, either).

          Going back to that, all evidence shows that the money (for developers) is in residential development, not commercial development.

    2. David Greenwald Post author

      “it appears to include a portion of the site that was previously proposed for the Davis Innovation Center. Specifically, the “lower” portion of the T-shaped property, in the link below.”

      I don’t know if it does or doesn’t, but it is worth noting – ALTHOUGH WAY OFF TOPIC – that the objections from the neighbors were the fact that the innovation center abutted their southern boundary and the backyards of some and that it would add traffic to the county road and that it was proposing (supposedly) a six story hotel that would block some people’s view. None of those issues exist with the current project and I have not heard anything from the Binning Track residents on this project.

      1. Ron

        David:  “I don’t know if it does or doesn’t . . .”

        I would think that you would know, given your consistent focus on a desire for an innovation center.  And, the fact that you consistently complained about the withdrawal of the Davis Innovation Center proposal, apparently from the same site.

        Look at how the developers are willing to stick it out for a housing development (instead), on the same site. (Again, the “other” Davis blog provides a different perspective regarding what happened in this forum/debate.)

        Housing – the developers are willing to fight for. Commercial development – duck and run (while blaming the “slow growthers”, aided by the Vanguard)!

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          I don’t think it matters that much. The innovation center was pushed against Binning to the north. I didn’t agree with their decision to pull out, the people complaining were not even Davis residents. But they pulled out and they are gone and not coming back.

          The issues involving WDAAC are very different in part because where the project is situated is very different and the profile of the project is very different.

          “Look at how the developers are willing to stick it out for a housing development (instead), on the same site. ”

          It’s not on the same site. If there is overlap, it’s very small.

          However, you are correct about one thing – housing is a much better financial bet than commercial and that is a problem that we have yet to solve for in this community.

  3. Jeff M

    From a recent study, 80% of respondents said that Political Correctness is disliked.  I would suggest that David Taormino apologize for his apology for the use of the tagline, “Taking Care of Our Own.” and keep repeating it as it is logical, rational, moral and non-PC.

    Until liberals remove all the locks from their doors, reject Measure J/R, and start demonstrating tolerance and inclusion for people not sharing their political beliefs, they should be branded as hypocrites criticizing David Taormino on this.

    1. Craig Ross

      Can we stop it with the liberal/ conservative s— on stuff that has nothing to do with liberal/ conservative stuff?  There are liberals who support this project and conservatives who don’t.  You’re just arbitrarily dividing people on issues that they need not be divide on.

      1. John Hobbs

        “Can we stop it with the liberal/ conservative s— on stuff that has nothing to do with liberal/ conservative stuff?”

        You might as well ask a dog to stop licking. It’s the only tool in his kit. That must be why Don gives him carte blanche to repeat it.

    2. Alan Miller

      “Taking Care of Our Own.”

      I don’t care about the PC, and I don’t care about the spin on either side and I don’t think it’s logical or rational or moral or interstellar or amphibious.  The program itself is nonsensical and is playing to people’s concerns about more Bay Area and others coming to Davis.  The truth is, whatever you build, you can’t keep ‘them’ out.  With the alteration of the program to employees and those with third generation Davis toad’s cousins in their yards but only if the toads use the under-crossing by the post office, the whole plan makes no sense, and will either be rejected by a court or fade away once the vote has passed or the first generation of sales are made.  I can’t believe they thought this would work — it’s probably caused many more lost votes than it gained.

  4. Rik Keller

    Several things:

    1) Davis Taormino indirectly refers to the offensive tagline. But he  NEVER mentions the actual phrase “Taking Care of Our Own” in his op-ed semi-apology entitled “Words Matter”. If the words actually matter, why does he not state specifically what they were?

    2) He claimed that “Measure L will no longer use the tagline in future materials.

    3) In yesterdays forum, the main display for the project said “Davis Caring For Our Own” at the top in large letters. That’s a true display of their intent, insensitivity, and tone-deafness: thinking a half-hearted apology with a minor editorial tweak could fix things: “Taking Davis Careing of for Our Own”

    4)  At Sunday’s CivEnergy community forum, twice in the Yes on L  team’s opening 5-minute statement, Jason Taormino used the phrase “Taking care of our…” and then used “community’s seniors” and “community members”. He apparently didn’t hear about his dad’s apology or didn’t care.

    5) Regardless of the language used to describe it, the “‘Buyer’s Club” program still discriminates, and the overall nature of the project as low density, high-cost homes still discriminates.

    6) In the op-ed, David Taormino talked about their “commitment to principles of diversity”and that the WDAAC project “welcomes and embraces diversity.” Yet at the public forum  after I accurately cited statistics about the lack of representation of Hispanics/Latinos in Davis compared to Yolo County, Woodland, and California as a whole as an indication of the people without a Davis connection that their project specifically would exclude, Jason Taormino’s response was to mock the stats as “baloney” and to present some made up stats as an attempted joke that fell flat. He apparently didn’t hear about his dad’s apology or didn’t care.

    7) Every one of the promo images that the project has been using in their glossy brochures, their website, and social media posts that are intended to illustrate “diversity” are generic photo stock agency images that have nothing to do with Davis or the project. According to the restrictions in the “Davis-Based Buyer’s”/”Taking Care of Our Own” program, these models/actors in the stock photos would be excluded from the project. More importantly, the broader class of people in these images of diversity that the WDAAC project is cynically using would be excluded from the project.

    8) It’s clear the developers of the project really do not get it at all. It is looking more and more that their insensitive and offensive choice of words is no accident.

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