Opposing Sides Have Contrasting Views of WDAAC in Forum – Part I

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

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.

Introductions

Jason Taormino

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

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

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

Alan Pryor (no)

We think there are plenty of important reasons about why you should oppose this project.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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


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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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32 Comments

  1. Jeff M

    The development is a 75 acre conversion of productive farmland

    Stupid argument as most of Davis’s existing 10 square miles is on productive farmland.  I am sure that Alan Pryor lives on land that was once productive farm land.   Land can be productive in more ways than just farming.

    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.

    More perfection is the enemy of the good.  Seems to me that the people using this argument are hiding an agenda to block all development, or to block a certain project for personal reasons.

    The project opens up the entire northwest quadrant of the city to the north and east of Covell, to speculative piecemeal development.

    It is connected to the existing city limits.  The argument is nonsensical in that it would apply to any and all peripheral development around the city.

    The developer’s ‘take care of our own’ Davis-based Buyers Program is inherently exclusionary.

    Political correctness BS.

    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.

    Hyperbole and lacking counter points of all the other benefit extractions done by the state and local government that have added costs.  Liberals in control of government keep looting and then complain that there is less loot.

    The city itself projects a positive annual return to city coffers as a result of build out of this project

    Should have just ended the sentence there to maintain any credibility.

    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.

    Did Alan Pryor vote for Jerry Brown and support the killing of RDA?  If so, he needs to point the finger of blame back at himself for the lack of funds available for building affordable housing.

    This project puts seniors on the far edge of town in a segregated community with poor connectivity.

    This is disingenuous hogwash.  We cannot house everyone in the city center.  And not everyone wants to live a dense urban lifestyle.  Lastly this is right next to medical services and shopping.  There will be plenty of public transportation.  A bus stop right there.  I suggest this lie stop.

    1. Eric Gelber

      Political correctness BS.

      This reply is not only non-responsive and a way to avoid addressing the issue, but, in addition, it demonstrates that you clearly don’t know the meaning of the term political correctness.

    2. Eric Gelber

      Quoted text: “This project puts seniors on the far edge of town in a segregated community with poor connectivity.”

      Jeff M’s response:  “This is disingenuous hogwash. … I suggest this lie stop.” 

      What part is a lie? Is it on the far edge of town? Yes. Is it in a segregated community? Yes. Is there poor connectivity? That’s a matter of opinion (like your statement that there will be “plenty of public transportation”), not a lie. This illustrates the tactics of proponents that Tia describes in her 2:25 p.m. post.

      1. Jeff M

        There are many more seniors right across the street.  I live farther west, I am segregated?  It is not the “far” edge of town.  That is the lie.  There is housing more west and housing more north.  There is a lot of housing on the edge of town… in every city… in every state… in every country… probably on other planets with intelligent lifeforms.

        1. Craig Ross

          Have to agree with Jeff here.  I happened to go by the site today, I was struck by the fact that it is not only across the street from senior housing, but basically next door to Sutter.  Reading some of the comments by Alan Pryor, he makes it sound like there are a bunch of invalids living there.  You’re not talking about assisted care, you’re talking – wait for it – ACTIVE ADULTS.

        2. Craig Ross

          With that said, Jeff could take lessons on how to win friends and influence people.  Because he’s probably turning off the very people he should be hoping to influence.

        3. Eric Gelber

          To Jeff:

          1) It’s segregated because of the age restrictions, not the location.

          2) The far edge of town doesn’t mean complete isolation or the most distant possible–it means near the perimeter, at a great distance from the central part of town.

          And to Craig: The fact that it’s for active adults who don’t need age-related services is all the more reason that there’s no justification for the age discrimination other than the desire of some seniors to exclude younger households, including families with children, from their neighborhoods.

        4. Eric Gelber

          Not exclude.  Limit.

          Less than 14% of homes (market rate plus affordable apartments) are available to non-seniors. So, limits on families with children are OK? Would you say housing was not exclusionary if it had a quota of 14% for blacks or Jews or LGBTQ couples?

          And, the homes it will free up as seniors presumably downsize will be relatively large and expensive homes–that will not meet local priority housing needs. That’s the downside.

        5. Jeff M

          1) It’s segregated because of the age restrictions, not the location.

          Thanks for the clarification.  So then you apparently have a problem with all senior housing projects because they too would be segregated this way?  And then too you would have a problem with student housing projects, because they would be segregated that way?  I am trying to understand who you are advocating for here with this segregation argument.  If for the seniors, don’t you think they will make up their own mind where they want to live and if they want to be around people their own age or different?  If you are really against building new housing for this singular demographic, then you probably should think of another angle to criticize it other than this claim of it being segregated.

          2) The far edge of town doesn’t mean complete isolation or the most distant possible–it means near the perimeter, at a great distance from the central part of town.

          It is not the “far” edge of town.  Yes it is a distance from the city center, but how in the hell can everyone in a city with 80,000 people live next to the city center?  And this point you are trying to make is relative.  Because being 5 minutes away from the city center by bus would be considered pretty awesomely close in most communities.   And it is near the hospital and near shopping.  Hell, Woodland is just up the road where there is fantastic shopping.  There is a medical supply store just up Lake Blvd.  There is a Dollar Store just up Lake.

          Sorry Eric, I think you a bit disconnected here.

        6. Craig Ross

          You’re thinking inside a box.  Each home is an opportunity – not only for someone to move there, but for someone else to move into their current residence.  People were using the same argument to fight student housing, even though student housing creates opportunities for people to reclaim single family homes in the middle of town.  Housing is our life blood.  We have choked it off in this community for far too long.  You’re using the language of those who wish to cut us off, to stop us from having homes and housing and beds and places over our heads.  This is wrong.  You know what’s exclusive – a community that decides who can live here and who can’t, by not building housing.  Housing opens doors and allows us to live somewhere.

        7. Jeff M

          With that said, Jeff could take lessons on how to win friends and influence people.  Because he’s probably turning off the very people he should be hoping to influence.

          Why would I want to take lessons on that?  I’m sure there are plenty of people that don’t have a hypersensitive trigger and can just read the words without getting all wee weed up.

          Frankly, there are a lot of people in Davis that have grown tired and irritated with the local NIMBY army.  Nothing is ever good enough.  There are also development factions with their proxies playing this game.

        8. Eric Gelber

          So then you apparently have a problem with all senior housing projects because they too would be segregated this way?  And then too you would have a problem with student housing projects, because they would be segregated that way?

          It is not the “far” edge of town.

          Fair questions.

          1) I have no problem with housing that provides specialized services for seniors–such as assisted living or continuing care retirement communities. But, yes, I otherwise have a problem with housing projects that exclude families/households based solely on age. And, yes, I would have a problem with a private apartment complex designed to meet the needs of students that explicitly excluded non-students who may have similar housing needs. This is to be distinguished from housing developed by a university for its student population.

          2) We can argue about what’s on the “far edge of town” or not; but my issue here is with calling those with different opinions liars, as Jeff M. does.

        9. Jeff M

          Thanks for the explanations Eric.  I get your points now, and I can certainly support your opinion on housing targeting certain demographic characteristics since it is consistent.

          As for the “far”… it is somewhat subjective.  I think we both made our points concerning it.

  2. Tia Will

    Dan Carson said “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.”

    Two things that I was surprised that Dan Carson omitted from his tests for approval.

    1. Is the project defined as “needed” by some objective criteria ? Statistics for example. He has given us numbers of aging individuals. But no firm evidence that this type of housing is going to meet the needs of those who actually need help in acquiring housing as opposed to the wealthy aging who just like the thought of living there.

    2. Is this the best use of the property in question, not just a place that will be enjoyed by those lucky enough to get the few affordable spots and those who can afford the market rate places?

    My thought is that had he included these additional criteria, he might not have had quite as positive an impression.

     

    1. Craig Ross

      Tia, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that you can argue on the one hand that there is a large and growing senior population and then argue on the other this isn’t filling a need.  The developer may not have done advanced metrics in their research, but they have reached out to senior populations who seemed interested.  It’s their money.  I have a problem with the extent that a basic tool of consent has become license to micromanage projects.  Reading Alan’s comments on affordable housing is a reminder that lay-people are not experts.

    2. Mark West

      “Is this the best use of the property in question…”

      This idea should have no place in the discussion unless we are talking about publically owned land. The appropriate determination here is yes or no on the proposed project. Just because you can imagine what you believe is a ‘better’ use, you do not own the property and you do not have the right to spend other people’s money to develop that ‘better’ option. Due to Measure R, you get a vote, but that vote is limited to yes or no on the current proposal, not some imaginary one.

      1. Rik Keller

        This is an absolutely appropriate question. If this project is approved, we lose the opportunity for a project to be developed on the site that addresses our city’s needs much better. Let us remember that the developers are asking for a public good: the “entitlements” and right to develop the property. Measure R establishes criteria for which to evaluate projects that seek this, and fundamental to this is the idea that “continued conversion of agricultural lands to meet urban needs is neither inevitable nor necessary.”

        Furthermore: “Each and every proposed amendment or modification of the land use map to modify the land use designation of lands designated for agricultural, open space or urban reserve use on the land use map to an urban or urban reserve designation is a significant change that affects the city and its ability to maintain its vision for a compact urban form surrounded by farmlands and open space. Any such proposal, therefore, requires public participation in the decision, including, but not limited to, voter approval of the proposed amendment or modification of the land use map.” see http://qcode.us/codes/davis/view.php?topic=41-41_01&showAll=1&frames=off

        Voters will obviously use whatever internal criteria they like in voting to approve or reject a project. To say that they shouldn’t evaluate a project under a Measure R vote based on what they think would be the best use of the land to meet the city’s policy goals set forth in Measure R is strangely limiting.

        It should be noted that the WDAAC project tries to justify itself by declaring that it meets the Measure R policy goal of providing for “internal housing needs”. However, as I detail in the following article, this is reliant on a misreading of Measure R and the broader policy context of the General Plan: http://www.davisvanguard.org/2018/09/guest-commentary-internal-housing-needs-davis/

  3. Tia Will

    I attended this forum as a neutral party to assist CivEnergy. It is only within the last week that I finally made my decision against this project. That decision was based on a one on one discussion with one of the developers as I have outlined on previous posts.

    My impression of yesterday’s forum presentation would have driven me away from the project even if I had previously been favoring it. The reason was to be found in Jason Taoromino’s opening statement. 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.

    My bottom line is that when proponents of any change resort to attacking their opponents rather than simply arguing for the benefits of their own proposal, a much closer review of the proposal is warranted as they are obviously deflecting away from issues they would prefer not to discuss.

    1. Jeff M

      Some people can simply weigh a project on its merits instead of based on how much they like or dislike the people debating for and against.

      Because it is a form of passive aggressive bullying to penalize the work of someone just because you don’t like something they said or how they said it.   How would you like that applied against you?  For example, if someone said that we would not support your proposal to add fluoride to the drinking water because of how you acted dismissive to the concerns of others against it, and that you personally claimed people disagreeing with your were lying.   I would bet you would rather people just looked at the facts and steered clear of the personal personality bias.

  4. Matt Williams

    I missed yesterday’s forum due to travel out of town.  Thanks to Bob Fung, Linda Deos and Tia Will for working as a team to make the forum happen.

    The 24 comments that precede this one by me have touched on a number of important questions, so I won’t rehash any of those questions.  I do have one question that has not as yet been raised, so I will ask it here and now.  The No on Measure L team made the statement

    “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”

    .
    Given the limited time of the forum, an explanation of the calculations that support that statement was not provided.  can the No on Measure L team please explain how they arrived at that $3.4 million number?  I will post this same question in the davisite.org discussion of the forum, as well as submit it as a letter to the editor with the Enterprise.

    1. Rik Keller

      Matt: in regards to that there has been large amount of information posted specifically on that topic on the No On WDAAC campaign website for months. You should discuss with Alan Pryor to clarify if needed. Posting a link below but it might get deleted…

        1. Matt Williams

          Rik and David, the link Rik provided is partially useful.  What it does not provide is:

          (1) any comparison to other recent projects (including but not limited to Nishi, Lincoln 40, Sterling, Mission Residences, Cannery, Davis Live, University Mall, Plaza 2555, and Trackside)

          (2) any reference to existing Davis Ordinance(s) that staff is relying on to set the impact fees at the level they are for each of the above listed projects.

          Mission Residences is, in my opinion, a particularly germane comparison because it too is targeted toward seniors.

          Plaza 255 is, also in my opinion, particularly timely given the scheduled Council discussion tomorrow night.  The staff report for that discussion references a Development Agreement numerous times, including reference to the Development Impact Fees of the project in Exhibit C of that Development Agreement.  However, no actual Development Agreement (with an Exhibit C) is included in the staff report.

  5. Sharla C.

    So glad I decided to skip the forum.  Instead I drove to Richmond, CA to deliver a washer/dryer to my niece’s new apartment (the only city that is now relatively affordable in the Bay Area). Sounds like the forum was a squabble with the repetition of accusations previously made through other means.  However, Tia’s accusation of Trumping by the Yes campaign are new and is now added to the “racist” labeling of voters who may vote to support the project.  Everyone’s feelings are hurt.  It is just so tragic.  I think this should signal the end of political forums in Davis.  This is not a life or death matter.  It is voting on whether to change zoning to allow development of residential housing, yet people are willing to destroy all good will in the process.   I don’t know if there is much goodwill left to burn in Davis’ politics.

    1. David Greenwald

      ” Sounds like the forum was a squabble with the repetition of accusations previously made through other means. ”

      I would say overall that is an unfortunate description. There were some moments of accusation and a bit more snarky than necessary than response. But mostly it was tame compared to other venues in other cities. It was nothing compared to the Measure I forum from 2013, for example. Absolutely civil compared to a presidential debate. But don’t take my word, I will have the whole thing published verbatim within a few days.

    2. Rik Keller

      You can check the transcript. As others have pointed out, it is very unfortunate that Jason Taormino started the debate accusing the project opponents of lying but never substantiating his allegations.
      Later in the forum, Jason went on a rant, repeatedly using the word “they” with a bunch of broad and false accusations (to paraphrase: “they are against seniors, they are against all development”, etc.), I called him out for his divisive “us vs. them” language and for detracting from the public discourse. I corrected him that the “no” side had very specific criticisms against a specific project.

      Additionally, his smirking throughout and his repetition of the same marketing language for the program that his father already apologized for in an Enterprise op-ed earlier in the weekend  did not add to the public and civic discourse.

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