CivEnergy hosted a forum on Measure L on Sunday that turned testy and combative at times. The Yes on L side was represented by 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, then there were four questions from CivEnergy and concluding remarks. They also took two additional audience questions after the concluding remarks.
Jason Taormino (yes)
We’re going to be building affordable apartments for low income seniors and we’re going to be building small format homes – 600, 800, 900 square foot bungalows, stacked flats, condos. And we’re also going to be building single story homes so that people can age in place. 1200 square foot homes, 1400 square foot homes, 1800 square foot homes, but not 3000 or 3500 square foot homes.
Our opposition I think agrees that this is a good idea, because they’ve come up with no legitimate points, they seem to be taking a page from Trump’s book – throwing out big lies and little lies and trying to divide our community.
They’ve said that we’re not going to have transportation – maybe they haven’t seen that there’s a bus stop that exists right now. That we’re going to be building a transit hub in the middle of our development. They’ve said that there’s no guarantee that we’re going to build 150 affordable apartments – except that every land dedication site that we’ve ever done in the city of Davis, has affordable housing built on it.
I suppose if North Korea sends over a nuclear (bomb) and it lands on our site, we might not build them – but, other than that, there’s a pretty good guarantee that we’re going to build them. They say that we’re getting a 60% discount on city fees, that’s ridiculous.
They say that we don’t comply with SACOG, Sacramento Area Council of Governments, we met with the president, he liked our plan. He said that our mixture of medium density and high density and the fact that we’re serving our local people was a good idea.
I would ask you to vote yes on Measure L, because it’s a way for us to take care of our community members.
David Thompson (yes)
Many of the attacks on the low income senior site are preposterous and untrue. It will be built as Jason has just said, we have just finished – we were given the Creekside site, although some of the no people have said we’ve had it for 15 years – we have not had it for 15 years, we had it in June of 2016. By this summer, we raised $34 million to build 90 units of housing for those in most in need in our community.
So the challenge that we can’t do it, we won’t do it, is just untrue, and should not be a part of this conversation.
The sad truth of the No on L winning is this, that 150 apartments, for seniors will not be built. The occupants of those apartments will be about 170 low income seniors – people that we take care of at Eleanor Roosevelt Circle and Dixon and soon hopefully in Woodland. 70 percent of those seniors are elderly females, 37 percent are minorities, and about 30 percent are disabled. They are living in houses as low as $400 a month – which is nothing that you can get in Davis.
Dan Carson (yes)
I wasn’t on the council that approved this project, but I did my additional homework and I did decide to endorse it and support it. I have three tests that I apply to any project that I will support. It has to be sound land use policy. They have to deal with the environmental issues that might be discovered through an EIR, and any project has to be fiscally positive.
This project meets all of those criteria. My commission looked at the fiscal in it in great detail, and we probably will talk more about that later. It is undoubtedly and very clearly fiscally positive.
The main thing about this project – the reason I think people should vote for it, is because it meets a critical need in our community for senior housing of different economic groups. Our city constitution if you will – our general plan – spells out what are the critical needs for particular special groups – and seniors are one of them.
If you can (sit) back and read the general plan update – you’ll see a rather startling number, they looked at the census data between 2000 and 2010, and how the population changed, and what that data showed is a 50 percent increase in senior households.
There’s clearly a critical need to serve that group. We have to help other groups as well, but I think that’s a great place to start with this project.
Alan Pryor (no)
We think there are plenty of important reasons about why you should oppose this project.
- The development is a 75 acre conversion of productive farmland into a sprawling development that’s really reminiscent of the 1960s. It is a sea of single story, single family homes on average 5000 square foot lots except for a small, four acre proposal for low income housing stuck right on Covell – it has almost no density or diversity of building types – this problem was recognized by the Sierra Club who officially endorsed the No on Measure L campaign and opposed this project as unplanned, sprawling development.
- This development doesn’t meet our city’s real demographic needs for more diverse and affordable housing for both our seniors and working families of moderate income. Let’s face it, we’re selling prices for most of the larger homes at $700,000 and more. The only way our poor old mom is going to be able to move there, is if she’s a millionaire. What we need in Davis is affordable senior and family housing and not a luxury Del Webb type development gobbling up our farmland.
- The project opens up the entire northwest quadrant of the city to the north and east of Covell, to speculative piecemeal development. Folks, this is no way to build a modern sustainable, urban environment for Davis. What we really need is a comprehensive masterplan, our site specific plan, before we move forward in that.
- The developer’s ‘take care of our own’ Davis-based Buyers Program is inherently exclusionary. And we believe illegally. Essentially what this program does is say you can’t buy there unless you’re connected in some close way to the city – such as you work here, or have kids here, or you graduated from the local schools. The city is enriched and made more resilient and vibrant by the diversity of its citizens. Regionally, Davis has the least racially diverse city for many decades. Our population is also the oldest, and the most wealthy in terms of income. The taking care of our own, Davis-Based Buyers Program exacerbates all these demographic imbalances in Davis – which is why the developer and the city are being sued for civil rights violations under the Fair Housing Act by famed civil rights attorney Mark Merin.
- The city has granted the developer massive giveaways and subsidies by reducing project impact fees by over $3.4 million compared to fees normally charged new developments. That’s $3.4 million that’s going into the developer’s pocket and not being used for city infrastructure.
- The city itself projects a positive annual return to city coffers as a result of build out of this project – however, this estimate is based on accounting gimmicks that assume unsubstantiated lower costs for providing basic city services to the project. One member of the city’s Finance and Budget commission estimates that when more realistic assumptions are used, the city will actually end up losing $150 to $200 thousand dollars a year on expenses over and above property tax receipts.
- Other than the four acre land donation on which someone else will actually build low income housing required for the project, the developer is not contributing any money to the actual construction costs for the low income housing units as has every major development in town in the recent past. Instead the developer is relying completely on possible future availability of government grants to build the units. Thus there is no guarantee that these needed low income units will ever be built. As a result of that there is a provision in the development agreement that if it’s not started within three years, the land goes back to the city. That wouldn’t be there unless there was some risk of non-performance.
- This project puts seniors on the far edge of town in a segregated community with poor connectivity. Our seniors should be integrated into the broader community, and as a valued part of an inclusive community, and not warehoused elsewhere.
—David M. Greenwald reporting