Letter: Why We Need Measure L

Dan Carson

by Councilmember Dan Carson

The data is startling:  Between 2000 and 2010, the U.S. census shows, the number of elderly households in Davis increased by almost 53%, compared to a 3.6% increase in the Sacramento-Yolo region. We added 2,500 more elderly households during a ten-year period when the number of households in Davis overall was almost unchanged.  That trend has clearly continued the last eight years.

Our community is aging and, like our city’s General Plan concluded, needs more housing specially tailored for our senior citizens. That’s the main reason I’m supporting Measure L.  I have supported providing additional housing for students, families, and Davis workers, but believe we also need to accommodate the growing ranks of seniors interested in buying a smaller home with universal design features that is easier to care for.

We need the 150 affordable senior housing units that the West Davis Active Adult Community will bring to reduce the ranks of low-income house-poor seniors now struggling to make ends meet.  We also need the 410 for-sale homes ranging in size from 800 to 1,800 square feet, including a mix of cottages, bungalows, condominiums, single-story homes, and fifty lots for small home builders. Some will be sold to families.

The project will feature 350 native oaks, planting of pollinators, all-electric homes, an energy retrofit program, bicycle connectivity, wildlife passages, a transit hub, and $1,000,000 towards a community aquatics center. Please vote YES on Measure L to help meet the critical housing needs of Davis seniors..

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About The Author

Dan Carson worked for 17 years in the Legislative Analyst’s Office, a nonpartisan fiscal and policy adviser to the California Legislature, retiring in 2012 as deputy legislative analyst, and serves as a member of the city’s Finance and Budget Commission. This commentary reflects his views only and does not represent the position of the commission on this issue.

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  1. Jim Hoch

    Not getting the logic. So we are the oldest town in the region so we need to discriminate against younger people and families?  Sounds like we need more families, not more old people.

  2. Eric Gelber

    I fully agree that we need more homes that meet the needs of many seniors—smaller, universal design, single story, etc. All new homes should incorporate universal design or, at a minimum, visitability features. But it’s not only seniors who need those features. Many younger people with disabilities, first-time home buyers, families with children, etc. do as well. All developments should be more inclusive, accessible, and include a mix of housing.

    We don’t need to build segregated neighborhoods that prohibit purchases by households based on age. A neighborhood is not inclusive or welcoming of families with children or non-seniors with physical disabilities if it places a cap on the number of such households.

    We can do better. We should not settle for less. We don’t need Measure L.

    1. Jeff M

      Eric – are you a developer?  Do you participate on the Planning Commission?   Are you running for City Council?

      I don’t understand how someone with your obvious intelligence cannot understand the disconnect here with that level of design authority expectation from someone that is simply a resident without any financial stake and without any position that would allow you to promote your vision for what is a good design.

      This is the sickness of Measure J/R.  It makes the average Davis voter feel entitled to get their way on things outside of their scope of responsibility and control.

      1. Tia Will


        are you a developer?  Do you participate on the Planning Commission?   Are you running for City Council?”

        Are you really postulating that one has to have special expertise in order to have an informed opinion on an issue? Really?

        If that were the case, then I should have asked you: Are you a pediatrician? An MD? Are you a dentist? Are you running for City Council ? If the answer to these was no, then surely you would have been unable, as a mere citizen, to provide an informed opinion on fluoride.

        I doubt you would agree with the latter proposition. And neither would I. Being just a citizen is adequate basis for having an opinion on an issue which will come before the citizens for a vote. Or to present before the City Council to influence their vote.

        1. Jeff M

          Are you really postulating that one has to have special expertise in order to have an informed opinion on an issue? Really?

          Wrong analogy.

          The analogy is being a customer of the hospital believing that I have a right to demand how the hospital is designed and how service is provided and I am armed with the ability along with other customers believing we are entitled to make these demands to veto what the actual people responsible for carrying out the design and implementation would decide.

          And the fluoride example is baseless. You were advocating putting the chemical in the water where it would be consumed by my family. I had an actual material stake in the impacts of that decision. Eric does not have any material stake in Measure L as far as I can tell. I do know that some of the vocal opposition are people with other development projects on the drawing board, but I am guessing that this isn’t Eric.

      2. Eric Gelber

         are you a developer?  Do you participate on the Planning Commission?   Are you running for City Council?

        So, if one is not in a developer, a member of a governmental body, or has a financial stake, one has no business advocating for the housing policies the City should adopt? What an elitist position. Perhaps you’d like to return to the days when only (male) property owners could vote.

        By the way, with respect to WDAAC, pursuant to Measure J/R, as “simply a resident,” along with other voters I am one of the people with final approval authority on the development.

        I’m not entitled to get my way, but I am entitled to advocate for what I believe is good policy.

        1. Jeff M

          I was responding to your very detailed design expectations as a condition of your support.  It seems you have a lot invested in your vision for what should be.  My point is that you are not in a position to make that so, only to fuss about it not being so, and thus it seems a waste of your work and visioning to just fuss and not lead.

          There is that saying, lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.   I see you just getting in the way.

          And you know what they say about opinions.

        2. Eric Gelber

          Anonymous Jeff – Again–your position is that ordinary citizens who do not meet your elitist definition of “leader” should STFU (i.e., “get the hell out of the way”). That’s not how our participatory democracy works.

        3. Jeff M

          Nope.  You are missing the point.  You are in opposition to the project based on a very detailed expectation for how you think it should otherwise be designed.  You are not just in opposition, you are a professional critic.  You should put that energy into leading toward the end result you would like to see.  Maybe you do spend time in that way and I am just not aware of it.

          I am a bit sensitive to this type of thing as I am opening a new business in Winters and had to go up to the planning commission a year ago to get a conditional use permit and had someone in the city oppose saying the property should be used for something else that they wanted it to be used for.  This was a resident with no stake in anything other than an opinion.   In Davis we have a lot of those type of people (in fact, I think this person has once lived in Davis) and the have Measure J/R.

          Critics are a dime a dozen but they are destructive in great numbers.

        4. Eric Gelber

          You are missing the point.

          Oh, I get your point all too well. But, by your own account, your opinion is worth only 1/12 of a dime. I certainly hope you are not among the community “leaders.” (But, of course, I can’t tell because you are Anonymous Jeff.)

        5. Jeff M

          I’m not entitled to get my way, but I am entitled to advocate for what I believe is good policy.

          I believe your advocacy goes beyond policy and into actual design of the project.

          You seem to have a compelling vision and great ideas, why not put them to good use as someone that is participating on the “making it happen” side.

  3. Rik Keller

    Dan Carson: your demographic analysis is lacking.

    How many of these “new” senior households were because of the aging of existing households already living in Davis? How many were households moving here that were able to find housing? The story you seem to be telling is that seniors were very successful in retaining or finding housing in Davis.

    Where are your comparable stats for number of working families who were able to find housing and move to Davis? What about workforce  households with moderate incomes and below who have been identified in City planning documents and policy as the households that constitute the primary housing need in the city and are the most underserved. Why does your analysis ignore them completely?

    1. Craig Ross

      One need is senior housing.  One need is workforce house.  They are not mutually exclusive and yet the No on campaign has treated them as though they were.

      1. Eric Gelber

        Quite the opposite. It is the Yes on L campaign that treats these needs as mutually exclusive. That’s why their proposed development addresses one need to the explicit exclusion of the other.

        1. Craig Ross

          I disagree with your underlying belief.  Given a multitude of needs, focusing on one or a few is a wise course of action.  Attempting to address all needs in a relatively small project will mean a small dent.  That’s why it made sense to me to attack student housing specifically.  Attacking senior housing specifically makes sense.  building additional projects that address workforce housing makes sense.  Etc.

        2. Eric Gelber

          I know Anonymous Jeff M doesn’t believe I should be expressing opinions, but I don’t think segregated neighborhoods is how we should meet multiple housing needs–senior enclaves, workforce enclaves, etc. I believe the goal should be diverse, inclusive neighborhoods. (And I don’t consider 350 for-sale homes a “relatively small project” for Davis.)

        3. Craig Ross

          Yeah and I think you have this wrong.  The best way to address housing needs is to build housing when you have the opportunity.  The worst way to address housing needs is to stop housing because it’s not perfect.  If you vote yes, we get housing that puts 500-plus new units into town, 150 of those go to low income seniors, another 100 go to anyone and 250 to 300 go to seniors.  If you vote no, nothing new gets built.  Maybe the project comes back.  Probably not.  And so we are stuck looking for additional ways to build housing for a lot of different folks.  Everyone loses.  Maybe with a yes vote, not everyone wins, but we solve some needs.  Maybe it’s not the way you want to do it.  Maybe it’s not the way I would prefer to do it.  But it’s something and that’s what we need right now… something.

    2. Craig Ross

      To add to my previous point, you have repeatedly beaten the workforce housing drum and yet you ignore the 2013 Housing Element Update that lists a wide range of housing needs.

  4. Tia Will

    U.S. census shows, the number of elderly households in Davis increased by almost 53%”

    This is indeed a sobering statistic. It is interesting to me how differently Dan Carson and I interpret the significance and implications for best practice development. I agree with his statement that we need 150 affordable housing units. I would add that we need many more and that we need to develop them more compactly without unnecessary sprawl and without the exclusionary requirement of age. That is ultimately why I am voting against Measure L.

  5. Jeff M

    I live next to this development and I will be voting yes for it because I clearly see that with Davis we have a long-standing trend of allowing an irrational pursuit of perfection destroy the good.

    There is a need for this type of housing.  True it does not address all the other types of housing needs, but it does improve the situation by freeing up existing housing for seniors wanting to downsize.

    It is not a perfect solution to Davis’s housing problems, but Davis caused its housing problems over decades of NIMBYism and it is all not going to be solved in a single development.

    The ACTUAL perfect solution for Davis’s housing problems is a long-term project that would have to include another 1000 acres of peripheral development and significant infill development.   And in the scope of that long-term project this Measure L project fits very nicely.  Look at it this way, if the Measure L vote was for a 400 acre mixed-used development, this senior-specific component would probably not be opposed.

    What we see here is the ills of a scarcity mindset.  The change-averse.  The no-growers.  The NIMBYs.  Armed with Measure J/R they make development scarce.  And then with each subsequent development proposed it gets more difficult as the list of housing needs continues to grow and we have more groups clamoring to have those needs filled.

    It is time to recognize that there are no perfect projects for Davis at this point, and to practice recognizing and accepting when something proposed is good enough.

    1. Tia Will

      “Good enough” is a highly subjective assessment. I think it is absolutely fine for you to support the project since you deem it to be “good enough” by your standards. However, it may not be “good enough” for the standards of others. I have a hard time understanding what you do not understand about the validity of other people’s preferences, just because yours are different.

      That is how, as Eric pointed out, a participatory ( or representative for that matter) democracy is supposed to work. If we only go by what you judge to be good enough, we do not have any kind of democratic process at all.

  6. Russ Kanz

    Dan is correct, Davis is a town of older residents and fewer families with school age children.  Declining school enrollment results from the inability of middle class families to buy a home in Davis.  Homes in Davis are not affordable for teachers, firefighters, police officers, analysts, engineers, etc.  There are currently about 700 students attending Davis schools from out of the district.  

    Unfortunately, Measure L/WDAAC will do little or nothing to increase Davis school enrollment.  During the Planning Commission meeting to discuss the WDAAC it was announced by city staff that the entire Cannery project had added only 8 students to the school district.  Only 20% of the homes at WDAAC will be available for families with children.  The city failed to adequately analyze the impacts or benefits of WDAAC on the enrollment of the Davis school district.  Based on the information available, it is unlikely this project will increase the enrollment in Davis schools.  The school district has increased out of district enrollment from students outside the district and that causes increased traffic on surface streets in Davis.  It’s sad that neither the school board nor the school district provided comments on the impacts of an age restricted housing project on school enrollment during the EIR process.  I would be in favor of a project that provides affordable housing for families in combination with housing for low income seniors.

    1. Ken A

      Almost every teachers, firefighter, police officer, analyst, and engineer with school age kids in the area has a college degree today.  Most are in their mid 30’s and have been working for 10+ years before their kids start school.  Unless a couple has made a series of bad financial choices (or got divorced or had some other tragedy like cancer), most combination of the above careers should be grossing close to $200K/year (especially for cops and firefighters that pick up overtime) after ten years on the job and should be able to buy a home in Davis.  While it is true that high home cost is related to some of the reason we have less kids living in town bigger reasons are people getting married later, having smaller families and people with kids not wanting to live in a small town with a large number of well educated older left leaning people and smart college kids…

      1. Tia Will


        Since your “or got divorced” applies to between 40-50% of the population, when you add in those who have had “some other kind of tragedy” or made “bad financial decisions” some of which will be in the nature of “bad investments” through no fault of their own, and then add those who are sandwiched between care of children and declining parents, you are speaking about a sizable if not the majority of the people in this age group. We tend to look at groups by occupation and assumed income without considering other potential economic obligations. This skews our view of who should be able to afford what.

  7. Tia Will

    I had an actual material stake in the impacts of that decision.”

    Analogies are always imperfect. Here we have a fundamental difference in belief in what constitutes a “material stake”. Everyone who lives in, works in, or attends school in this community has a “material stake” in what projects are approved or not approved. Students have a stake for example in whether they would be able to live in this project as do working families. Their exclusion has a very material effect on them.


    1. Jeff M

      Everyone who lives in, works in, or attends school in this community has a “material stake” in what projects are approved or not approved.

      Not really.  In their fertile imagination maybe, but not really.  That is where the word “material” fits.

      I have worked with busy-bodies that could not stop putting their nose in everyone else’s business.

      I remember one employee complaining about another who brought her children into her office for an hour or two when they got out of school before she was done with her work and would take them home.  I have a dog and children-friendly office policy.

      The complainer said that the kids were distracting.  I asked how so.  She said just the fact that they were allowed to come into the office… it was inappropriate.  I asked if the kids were making noise.  She said no.  I asked if they were otherwise psychically getting in her way.  She said no.  I asked “then how are they distracting”.  She said “just the fact that I know they are here and in the office down the hall is distracting to me.”

      In other words those kids were not causing any material impact of disruption, it was all in the other employee’s head.

  8. Ron

    Tia: “Everyone who lives in, works in, or attends school in this community has a “material stake” in what projects are approved or not approved.”

    Jeff:  Not really.  “In their fertile imagination maybe, but not really.  That is where the word “material” fits.”

    If those that live in, work in, or attend school in a given community have no “material stake” in it, than those who have no such connection (but would move into new developments, from other cities) have even less of a material stake.

    Perhaps no stake at all, at this point.

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