Analysis: Why WDAAC Was Able to Win and Win Overwhelmingly

A year ago, the question on everyone’s mind was whether any Measure R project could pass a vote – ever.  That answer has been resoundingly answered this year as first Nishi and now WDAAC now only passed a vote of the people, but overwhelming did.

As we noted in our analysis the last two weeks, we believed that Measure L would prevail as there did not appear to be a lot of opposition.  We noted the disparities in social media as well as the lack of letters of opposition to the project.

But there was another possibility – many people could have been on the fence, rather than hard opponents, and if that were the case, they might break late for no.

However, both in Nishi and this most recent race, that did not happen.  While we looked at some polling that suggests that there is a core of no votes out there, both this project and Nishi seemed to get that core No vote and not much else.

What accounts for the change in the electorate?  Changing circumstances for starters.  Measure X in 2005 came on the heels of many large project that were approved and developed in the 1980s and 1990s.  In fact, we can view Measure J itself as being an outcome of that period of rapid growth.

In 2009, when Wildhorse Ranch was proposed, it was simply the wrong year – in the heart of the recession and housing market collapse, voters were not anxious to approve new housing.

Nishi in 2016 proved a better test, and that was a close vote with late votes come in to bring it to a narrow defeat.  The key issues – lack of affordable housing and traffic impacts on Richards Blvd.

The last two votes which saw solid victories, did not have those kinds of direct impacts, and there was a perception of a great need for housing both for student housing and senior housing.  Some believed that the student housing crisis was unique, but it seems that the concerns go beyond just student housing.

Both Councilmember Lucas Frerichs and Dan Carson noted the role that the overall housing crisis played.

Councilmember Dan Carson explained, “The housing crisis is a statewide issue beyond dispute.  And the need in particular for senior citizen housing in Davis was undeniable. “

Councilmember Frerichs added, “The success of Measure L was born out of both a statewide crisis (the lack of adequate housing)…  The result is  a plan which will help address Davis’ housing challenges; ultimately it will include the building of 150 units of much-needed affordable senior apartments, in addition to the market-rate housing.”

The power of the senior voters I think was under recognized.  We saw this at the council meeting where large numbers of senior groups came out to the support the project.  We saw this at the forum where the same dynamic appeared.

Seniors believed that there is a lack of housing options both for market rate people who are looking to downsize and also for low income folks.  That was a key part of this vote that I think many overlooked.

But the other factor that we saw both at the May council meeting and October forum – the lack of opposition.  We never saw a lot of opposition to the project.

The opposition to both Nishi and WDAAC had similar challenges, tried different but a similar tactic, and we ultimately unsuccessful really at getting beyond that 40 percent slow growth core.

First, what we see is that if there are not direct and tangible impacts, it is hard to defeat a project.  Look at the three project that were defeated: (1) Covell Village – traffic impacts and overall size; (2) Wildhorse Ranch – near neighbor opposition and housing market downturn; (3) Nishi 1 – traffic impacts on Richards and lack of Affordable Housing.

In both cases there were two big factors – one a macro-factor – overall size, recession, and lack of affordable housing and one a micro-factor – traffic or near-neighbor opposition.

For WDAAC – there really wasn’t a traffic impact.  I saw some comments about traffic, but the traffic analysis undermined that claim and it was never a real factor.  Second, there was not any kind of near-neighbor opposition.

That left a kind of throw everything against the wall approach that didn’t work for Nishi and didn’t work here.  I felt like their best issue was the peripheral development and lack of density, but in retrospect that did not have much resonance.

I never felt like the issue of exclusionary housing resonated – we have senior housing in many places and that wasn’t going to gain a lot of traction.  The fair housing issue always felt too hot-buttoned.  The lack of circulation did not have any kind of urgency and the location actually was as good as any for senior housing.

The letter from that Orange County group kind of embodied the problem faced by the opposition.  The title here says it all: “Guest Opinion: The “West Davis Active Adult Community” Naming Is Misguided and Probably Illegal.”

The campaign throughout used these type of invectives: “misguided” and “illegal” which I’m not sure the voters really bought into.   Moreover, they were taking issue with the name, which whether it was a legitimate issue or not, always seemed trivial.

This exemplified their problem – they really didn’t have an issue that a large segment of the community was going to rally behind and whatever traction fair housing might have had, was undermined by Gloria Partida’s column and the lack of other people of color speaking out.

I know that opposition campaigns have had success running as grassroots, seat of pants operations, but that’s not how Covell Village was won.  There the opposition raised a substantial amount of money, had a campaign team, and ran a real campaign.  I think unless those kinds of efforts are put forth in the future, it is going to be difficult to win campaigns simply by throwing a ton of mud and seeing what sticks.

That leaves us with a final point.  Dan Carson argued that this was vindication of the Measure R process.  He stated, “Measure J and R can work, at least if the losing side does not try to nullify the election results with legal actions that are at odds with the spirit of Measure J and R.”

The litigation remains a concern for all projects regardless of a community vote.  But I remain concerned with the nature of these campaigns.  The opposition should note that simply attacking the project has not defeated the last two Measure R votes – Nishi 2 and WDAAC.

David Taormino told the Vanguard that he was disappointed that the discuss did not focus on the actual project and I wonder if these kinds of campaigns help us produce better planning.  Rather than a community planning process, for the most part, the campaign felt like a political campaign with accusations and counter-accusations – some of which were ugly and meanspirited.

As we look at Measure R and that renewal process – we need to think about how we can better engage on these important questions without getting into the gutter and simply having an exchange of mudslinging.  That doesn’t help this community and acts to further polarize the process.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for

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.

Related posts


  1. Ron

    Wow – how sad and disappointing.  I did not think that it was necessary to approve a sprawling peripheral development at this time.  Especially at the beginning of another housing market downturn.

    Oh, well.  At least this, along with Nishi, will make it much more difficult to attack Measure J/R.

      1. Ron

        Yes – surprisingly, it appears that’s going to lose. Earlier, I recall reading that it was expected to win. So, in that sense, the results should favor those who move to WDAAC from existing residences in Davis, vs. those from other cities.

        1. Ron

          I recall that it was in an online newspaper article, which also noted support from the real estate industry.  Not sure if I posted the link at that time.

          I did not see, or subsequently search for poll results. Of course, David could have posted a link at the time he became aware of those polls (if he wanted to dispute my earlier posts).

  2. Rik Keller

    I’m going to hazard a guess that spending $30 or more per “yes” vote received* might have something to do with it.

    It’s time to figure out how to get big-money special-interest influence out of local politics.

    *  ~$27/vote with ~$250,000 Yes on L expenditures as of 10/20 (final tallies will be $10,000s more) and 9,300 votes as if this morning.

    In comparison: about $7,500 spent by No on L as of 10/20 and 6,900 votes = ~$1.09/vote. 



    1. David Greenwald

      What’s interesting, is they spent far less than any of the other Measure J/ R developers on the campaign, did not mail, etc. So I don’t agree with that assessment.

      2018 Nishi – $250,000
      2016 Nishi – $300,000
      2009 WHR – $250,000
      2005 Covell Village – at least $600,000 and we think more

      1. Rik Keller

        David Greenwald: how can you claim “they spent far less than any of the other Measure J/ R developers on the campaign,” when Yes on Measure L  spent at least as much as 2 out of the 4 campaigns on your list (they disclosed expenditures of ~$249,000 as of 10/20 and there will be tens of thousands added to that for the last few weeks of the campaign). And contrary to your assertion, they delivered flyers directly to mailboxes through mailing or in-person or both.

        One big question remains: when is David Greenwald going to follow standard ethical practices and guidelines for non-profit journalistic enterprises and disclose the full amount of advertising revenue and donations that the Davis Vanguard received from the Yes on Measure L campaign?

        1. Rik Keller

          David: that statement covers 9/22/2018 to 10/20/2018. The previous statement covers 7/1/2018 to 9/22/2018. And, of course, there are massive expenditures not listed that would have occurred before the project was formally submitted to be placed on the ballot. It would be VERY interesting to account for those.

          As far as Davis Vanguard revenue, based on your article today soliciting advertisers [], the Yes On L/WDAAC project was likely providing at least $1,000/month ad revenue for many months as the primary/most prominent advertiser on the site.

          In a final accounting, it is very likely that Yes on L/ WDAAC money flowing to the Davis Vanguard alone exceeded the total campaign expenditures of the No On L campaign. For transparency, it would be very illuminating to provide a full accounting of that.

          1. David Greenwald

            They were not providing $1000 a month in ad revenue. That’s the header ad which was occupied by F St Dispensary from May through September.

        2. Rik Keller

          That statement overrules the “statement covers period 9/23/2018 through 10/20/2018” above it ? This still doesn’t address the massive amount of $ spent before the ballot item was placed. or in the final 3 weeks of the campaign. Nor have you said what the total value of donations by WDAAC were. Let’s not forget the free advertising you provided by developing arguments for the WDAAC campaign and hand-holding them in meetings to try to produce counter-arguments against No on WDAAC like the infamous “highlighter” document that came out of one of those.

          1. David Greenwald

            The statement includes the line which is highlighted as “calendar year total to date” which is the summation of expenditures from January 1, 2018 to October 20, 2018. That number is $155,375.96

        3. Ken A

          The “One big question” most of us have is when will Rik move on and admit that Davis voters just wanted to OK the WDAAC and Nishi 2.0 (that Howard calls 3.0) and since in four of the last six elections (66.6% of the time) Davis voters didn’t care how much was spent and voted with the No people.

        4. Rik Keller

          David: thanks for the clarification on the spending. I stand corrected on the total spending amount. It will be interesting to see the final 3 weeks’ expenditures.

  3. PhilColeman

    Back to the topic of the column while the kids play on the kindergarten playground, the analysis and historical context by the Vanguard Editor was well reasoned and credible. This measure had a direct impact and involvement with the seniors in our community, underestimating their strength MAY have been a factor. We geezers, for all our deteriorating faculties, still have the ability to detect the distinct smell of El Toro Ca Ca when the occasion arises. The opponents needed a new script, we saw this stage production many times before.

    Opponents were small in number–what they made up for in numerical strength they compensated in volume, repetition, and manufactured fear and hysteria. In large measure, the tactics used by the opponents ended up being counterproductive. Wanting a “guarantee,” of results was beyond all rational expectation of future events. Comparing with other social issues lacked credible substation. A lot of heat, no light. Having Orange County tell us what to do was a real hoot and a really bad tactical move. Fire the guy who thought of that one.

    There is an automatic “No” with thirty percent of the voting population on any “Yes/No” proposition with financial or social implications. Despite their use of every inflammatory term in their limited arsenal–ageism, racism, elitism, economic disparity, illegality, etc.–nothing pushed the needle remotely close to 51%. The lawsuit will receive a similar fate soon. It was meant as a distraction and stands no chance of prevailing. Courts don’t like to be dragged into land use disputes that have a remedy in public elections.


    1. Howard P

      Good answer… sorry didn’t see this earlier… would have held off on some responses… which should now, appropriately, be ‘cleaned up’… sorry for my part in the inconvenience…

  4. Jeff M

    2018 Nishi – $250,000
    2016 Nishi – $300,000
    2009 WHR – $250,000
    2005 Covell Village – at least $600,000 and we think more

    That is $1.4MM or more that could have been used to help build more affordable housing.

    Time to eliminate Measure R.  It is a giant costly mistake.

      1. Ken A

        I had a note on my calendar pop up today that said “mail $2 to David for Howard if rent control wins”.

        I forgot the details, but the Vanguard search feature found:

        Howard P October 5, 2018 at 10:10 am

        I’ll bet $2.00 that prop 10 passes… narrowly… no odds, no more of a bet… are we “on”?

        Ken A October 5, 2018 at 10:20 am

        I’ll take Howard’s bet (I’ll mail the $2 to David and he can do the same).  Prop 10 will win in SF and probably win in Davis, but in a (typically) low turnout midterm older homeowners are the majority of the voters.

        If Howard gives the money to David he can keep it as a donation to the Vanguard.


        1. Howard P

          Done… will get square with David by noon, Friday… I only recall the main bet, as to passage… don’t recall the SF or Davis aspects…if shown to be incorrect, will square those with David as well, on Friday…  thanks for the reminder, Ken!  Truly, might have forgotten…




  5. Craig Ross

    Well, well, well…

    It appears that some of you are out of step with the rest of the community – something I warned when you were making predictions that this project would go down.

    While the senior population is important to this, don’t overlook students who have come out to support housing proposals in the community.

      1. Craig Ross

        You really aren’t getting it.  You continue to think in terms of what someone is getting.  That caused you to miscalculate the outcome of the election and is causing you to make comments like this.  It’s not about what “we” get, it’s about a general need for housing in this community.

      2. Ken A

        Unless seniors that live in Davis homes and apartments now move to WDAAC and open up the homes and apartments for students.

        I believe it will be possible for the parents of some students that want their kids to have a garage for their new AMG Mercedes or Maserati SUV to buy one of the non age restricted homes in the WDAAC.

        P.S. Not a day goes by when I don’t see what looks like a student driving a late model AMG Mercedes or Maserati SUV in town…

  6. Jeff M

    Here are some Measure R thoughts for those that opposed this project because it was not perfect enough.   Maybe without it you would have had a better chance working through the Planning Commission and the City Council to influence the project to be more to your liking.  But the existence of Measure R made you put all your eggs in the Defeat Measure L campaign instead of working through the standard process THAT EVERY OTHER CITY ON THE PLANET USES TO VET AND APPROVE DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS.

    1. Craig Ross

      When Jeff is right, he’s right.  In this case, it’s notable that I don’t believe one of the members of the No on Committee, spoke out during the planning process.

  7. Alan Miller

    OK, that’s weird, Greenwald posts all showed up until I logged in, and now all my posts and Greenwald posts are gone, or invisible, or SOMETHING.  Can the Vangods please fix this?


  8. Alan Miller

    OK, I figured it out.  I see DG sometimes because he posts under two different icons.  The one with him and a little girl in face paint I see.  I logged out and there were a whole bunch more posts and they have a fancy “V” as his icon.  When I’m logged in I don’t see these, why I do not know.  Technology!  Customer Service!  Help me!

    So apparently I’ve been missing out on parts of conversations, maybe even responses to things I’ve commented, and like today I often wonder why people are responding to themselves and making no sense.  Now I know.  On second thought, forget it.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for