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.
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