Planning Commission Recommends Council Retain Current Affordable Housing Ordinance until Further Study Can Be Done

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The Davis Planning Commission became the first body to hear the new Affordable Housing Ordinance and the Inclusionary Requirements for Rental Development.  City Staff had requested feedback on four questions and, after over two hours of discussion, the Commission expressed frustration at the process and attempted to convey the information about their concerns to the council.

As Commissioner David Robertson put it, “Tell me how many we need.  Is there a preference?  Yeah, my preference is that we provide affordable housing for the elements of Davis Society that are in need of housing currently.  That’s a starting place.

“Do I have an income target for affordable housing in Davis?  I don’t know,” he continued.  “Sometimes it’s not appropriate to answer questions.  Sometimes we count things because we can count them.  Not because they should be counted.  Is there a preferred income for affordable rental housing?  My answer to that is not right now, because I don’t have enough information.”

Herman Boschken opined, “We’re dealing here with what is commonly referred to in recent years as wicked problems.  The simple definition of a wicked problem is a problem that has no solution.”  He said, “The consultants here weren’t rightly tasked… They did give us essentially what they were asked to give us.”

He explained that they found if they emphasized the social equity aspect to this, you get no economic development.  As a result, “[W]e are subject to what you might call, negative sum games.  Namely that economic development and equity both lose as it’s structured.

“We are not just missing information, we are missing an assessment,” he added.  “It’s hard to encourage going forward with this ordinance as it stands, the 5-5-5, without this contextual information.”

David Robertson offered a possible solution.  He noted that they have approved a number of projects with 5-5-5 in place.  “Developers willingly or grudgingly saying ultimately that I can accept that as a condition of my project,” he said.  “We cannot go to the 10-25, I’m convinced of it.

“Even if the analysis told us nothing more, it told us that ain’t gonna work,” he said.

“One way or another, we have to leave something in place, doing nothing, letting it simply go away, is doing something, it’s going to 10-25,” he said referring to the previous 35 percent standard that everyone agreed was not workable and no one else in the state was using as a standard.

He said, rather than addressing the four questions, “we recommend that the existing ordinance stay in place, until the appropriate time for the city council to decide that.  They don’t need us to decide…    We just want it to continue until an appropriate time for it to be replaced by something that’s based on data and not on wishes, guesses, hopes.”

He said for the Downtown Core this would be in place, but for the rest of the community we can wait until we have a housing element.  He noted that the only reason the ones which have been approved already have worked is because they’ve allowed a bedroom basis for approval.  “So I think we have to allow that to continue,” he said.  “It doesn’t have to be exclusionary.  It can be by a unit basis for a portion or by a bedroom basis for other portions.

“If our concern is locking out families because it’s on a bed basis, let’s allow some flexibility,” Mr. Robertson said.

He continued, “Preferred income level?  It ought to for now, be the 5-5-5.  Because we don’t have enough data to go further than that.”

Basically the motion would keep the existing ordinance in place until the housing element is adopted or the Core Area Specific Plan is approved “or whatever date the council believes is most appropriate for putting in a different ordinance.”

Sheryl Essex asked to remove the mixed-use exemption, wanting some affordable housing to come out of the downtown redevelopment.

David Robertson responded, saying that “having seen the motivation for that exemption, I agree with you completely.”

Darryl Rutherford suggested that some language change to make it “a minimum 15 percent of which the target is at 5-5-5 and make that our floor of affordability.”

David Robertson suggested, “I think that is implied by the ordinance and I don’t have a problem with that clarification.”

He pointed out that all this is a recommendation to council – they can pull anything out that they want.

The motion passed 6-0 with Darryl Rutherford abstaining.

—-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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20 thoughts on “Planning Commission Recommends Council Retain Current Affordable Housing Ordinance until Further Study Can Be Done”

  1. Jim Hoch

    “Do Nothing” is always a popular option for committees.

    ” my preference is that we provide affordable housing for the elements of Davis Society that are in need of housing currently.  That’s a starting place.”

    Is a classic example of:

    virtue signalling

    “the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue.”

    If he really wanted to go on a limb he could have wished that there was no lower back pain in Davis.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      One of his questions was that there was no analysis of need, so he felt the need to start the analysis at the place of a statement of principle. It wasn’t meant to go out on a limb. Of course by focusing on this, you are missing the far more important issues that were raised here. There are two key issues here – both of which the commission essentially punted on because they didn’t feel like they had sufficient data – the key question is how to even get to 15 percent affordability given the economic analysis.

      1. Jim Hoch

        “analysis of need” is completely political and also a moving target so it will be dependant on the environment when some funds are available. There is a certain onanistic aspect to a discussion of what would we do with money if we had some since there is no realistic prospect of obtaining funds that I am aware of. 

        If you won the lottery what kind of car would you buy?

         

        Whatever statement of principles they come up with will be irrelevant as decisions will be made on the basis of whatever political calculations current. However history has shown that pandering to the geezers is a path to success.

         

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          If you are trying to set a policy that sets a threshold for requiring affordable housing, how do you do that without actually analyzing what we need and then what the costs are? There are a number of realistic prospects for obtaining the funds, but even if there aren’t, we still need to know what the needs are.

      2. Howard P

        David… they didn’t “punt”… the ball was not ready to be ‘hiked’… it’s not 4th down, long yardage… staff and PC, other commissions, CC have a ‘way to go’ before they can score… yet it is unclear where the goal line is… hard to make decisions as to what play to make, when you don’t have a common understanding of ‘the goal’… that’s my take…

      3. Jim Hoch

        “we still need to know what the needs are.” No not really. We need to know what there are funds available to us.

        It’s not as if we are going to raise the money here in Davis and go shopping.

        We will opportunistically consider projects that other people are willing to pay for, similar to our statue acquisition process. Did we identify a need for statuary and decide that the old Gandhi was a “best fit”?

        1. David Greenwald

          You always need to know what the needs are.  You’re wrong about the latter as well, often affordable housing projects are financed locally both through grants as well as through approval of market rate.  I really don’t understand your point here.

        2. Tia Will

          Jim

          How often do you go shopping without knowing what you need to buy?

          That is called window shopping and requires no money at all. There is no point in finding out what you can fund, without knowing what you need and possibly what you want if you have extra.

        3. Howard P

          “we still need to know what the needs are.” No not really. We need to know what there are funds available to us.

          Sounds a lot like DJUSD…  “give us the funds, we’ll find the ways to spend it”… Measure M was a bit different, but not completely… DJUSD had/has a lot of deferred maintenance ($ spent elsewhere) and no budgeted ‘sinking fund’ for capital renovation/replacement… remember the six P’s… common to gov’t and private entities…

        4. Jim Hoch

          “How often do you go shopping without knowing what you need to buy”

          If I have no money and no prospects then I m not “shopping” I am “fantasizing”

    2. Howard P

      You obviously don’t have any clue as to Dave Robertson, his background, and his analytical mind.  I’ve only known him for ~ 20 years, in person, and watching him @ PC.  You know not of which you brazenly opine.

      The quotes attributed to him in the article are classic Dave.  Although he has no medical background (that I’m aware of), what you foolishly refer to as “do nothing”, is his version of “first, do no harm…”

      Guess some believe that “you have to do something”, no matter how ill-advised… or how lacking, as to relevant information… I try to avoid those people… from what I read in the article, the issue was ‘not ready for prime-time’…

  2. Dianne C Tobias

    Howard. Completely agree on David Robertson. I do not know him,  nor for 20 years but greatly admired him as chair of the PC years ago not only for his probing questions but his ability to run a meeting well. Spot on.

    1. Howard P

      Thanks, Dianne… I staffed PC meetings years ago, with Dave as member and as Chair… he ran meetings well, and some of his ‘probing questions’ he already knew the answers to… but, he wanted to elicit the answers from staff, not from the dias… I ‘read’ that often… Dave is “aces”… always has been… we have disagreed at a number of times, but felt that he and I could communicate very well, sometimes from “body english”… I believe (at least, want to) he respects me similarly.

      With Dave having to say what he is quoted as saying, folk should heed it.   At least the wise will… not an oracle, but a very informed, rational voice.

  3. Ron

    From article:  “Cheryl asked to remove the mixed-use exemption, wanting some affordable housing to come out of the downtown redevelopment.”

    Perhaps the city can settle this issue before approving rezoning and redevelopment (including at University Mall, which I believe is an 8.25 acre site).

    1. Howard P

      You, of course, Ron, know that U-Mall is not downtown, right?

      Or do you oppose any development or re-development for some reason?  That would appear to be the case, based on your past posts…

    2. Ron

      Howard:  Yes, I’m aware that University Mall is not downtown.  However, it is proposed as a mixed-use development.  (Pretty sure that you know that, already.)

      No – I don’t oppose all developments/redevelopments. However, I would oppose any residential or mixed-use peripheral developments for the foreseeable future. The two that were just approved should satisfy the development activists, for awhile.

  4. Craig Ross

    Watching the meeting last night, wasn’t exactly sure what Robertson was doing.  Not sure the point of that anyway other than they want the council to handle the heavy-lifting.

    Kind of surprised to see not more pushback on the percentage of affordable.  It’s like the 35 percent push has evaporated, now the question is whether it goes below 15.  Other than going by the bed, there is every reason to believe it might.

  5. Michael Bisch

    “Sheryl Essex asked to remove the mixed-use exemption, wanting some affordable housing to come out of the downtown redevelopment.”

     

    This is very disappointing.  I was under the impression that Sheryl was a champion of both mixed-use development and downtown redevelopment. Her “ask” will block both.

     

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