WDAAC Cruises to an Easy Approval (Updated)

David Taormino (far right) with David Thompson (to his left) and Jason Taormino (with the red jacket) and the rest of the Yes on L team celebrate at the Hallmark Inn on Tuesday night

For the second straight time, the voters of Davis, who rejected the first three Measure J/ R projects, have approved a project via a Measure R vote.  For the second straight time, the vote wasn’t particularly close, belying the heavily contested nature of the election.

With 100 percent of the voting reported, the project received 9314 Yes votes to 6917 no votes.  While there are undoubtedly a large number of ballots still to be counted in terms of the same day Vote by Mail ballots, the outcome is highly unlikely to change.

The initial vote that came in just after 8 pm showed a commanding 59-41 lead.  That lead narrowed some in terms of percentage, but it grew in terms of vote margin from 1800 to around 2400 by final verdict.

Like most Measure R projects, there is still some uncertainty as the project faces a filed civil rights lawsuit which claims the Davis-based buyer’s program will have a disparate impact that will accentuate existing disparities in terms of minority homeowners in Davis.

Opponents fought hard throughout, claiming that the project was exclusionary and it focused heavily on senior housing with 80 percent of the homes reserved for those over the age of 55.  Meanwhile, the affordable project was also subject to criticism, despite claims by the city and developers that the 150 units well exceeded the requirements under the affordable housing ordinance.

The Vanguard spoke with developer David Taormino before the final results were in.

“We’re enthusiastic about the results,” he said.  “We’d like to have gone higher in terms of the numbers but we were pleased that people were supportive of what we want to do.”

He said, “I think generally it’s people recognizing in the community that there’s a need for this type of housing and giving people choices for people to be able to downsize.  By making more homes available for resales, that’s going to help the entire community.”

Mr. Taormino was not willing to go so far as to say that Davis had turned the corner in terms of its ability to support housing projects.

“It was a very hard fought effort,” he explained.  “I was disappointed that so little of the conversation was about the actual project and how it fit into the overall community.  I’m not sure that the community over the next 20, 30, 40 years will progress so that the level of conversation is more at the intellectual level than it was for this last election.”

Alan Pryor issued a statement this morning: “The No on Measure L campaign worked very hard to inform the community about the proposed West Davis Active Adult Community development. However, Davis voters have approved Measure L by a substantial margin.”

“We look forward to continuing the discussion with the community as to how to best provide the affordable housing the City desperately needs for both seniors and working families of modest means,” he said.  “We want to thank all of the voters of Davis for their vigorous participation in the democratic process. This is the lifeblood of the Davis community.”

Councilmember Lucas Frerichs sees the vote reflective of the recognition of a housing crisis that is statewide in nature.

“The success of Measure L was born out of both a statewide crisis (the lack of adequate housing) and a community driven process,” he said. “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.”

He added, “I’m heartened that the majority of our community supports this effort, as well we well know that passing a Measure J/R vote is no small feat.”

Councilmember Dan Carson similarly saw the housing crisis at the root of the success.

He explained, “The Yes on L campaign had a couple of big natural advantages.  The housing crisis is a statewide issue beyond dispute.  And the need in particular for senior citizen housing in Davis was undeniable.  So I was not surprised by the lopsided win shown in the early election results. “

Councilmember Carson also saw this as continued vindication of the Measure J/R process.

He stated, “The other key message: 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 opposition fought this one hard, but they did not have a lot of resources at their disposal.  They were badly outspent by the developers – although that has been a usual factor in Measure J/R campaigns which has not proven fatal – and their lack of mounting an effort that could reach out to the community no doubt hurt their cause.

As of publication time, they have not sent the Vanguard any sort of statement.

—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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    1. David Greenwald

      I was there for about five minutes, the results came in, I took my photo and went to the next place. It was a different night because the results were obvious as soon as the first returns came in.

        1. David Greenwald

          Usually I try to hit some places early and get photos while people are there and then hang at the close campaign, but there was no close one this time, so I scrambled to get my interviews and get home.

        2. Alan Miller

          Wait . . . What?    You are “Yeah, I agree”-ing with yourself?  Was something cut that is no longer visible?  Otherwise B.P., it appears you are talking to yourself.

        3. Alan Miller

          Huh?  What David?

          There must be something seriously wrong with my settings.  I see no David.  Wonder how much I never see.  I do see Greenwald postings, but apparently some I don’t — or SOMETHING.  This whole interface s—ks.

      1. Keith O

        I think Measure R didn’t work in this case as imo the project didn’t deliver the type of housing that Davis really needed, was exclusionary and not dense enough.

        But I think the No on L side really blew it going down the racism rathole.  I feel they turned a lot of people off even in this very liberal city.

        1. David Greenwald

          As I wrote in my analysis:

          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.

        2. David Greenwald

          That said I do think both you and Dan are making the same mistake – outcome based assessments. In this case, I think the problem with Measure R was more process based.

  1. 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. Sharla C.

      I don’t think money effected the vote.  The Yes on L campaign maybe had nicer tablecloths and professionally designed and printed flyers, but that is not where people got their information.  It was articles, comments and letters on the Davis Vanguard, The Enterprise and on social media sites (Facebook, Nextdoor).  The No on L campaign did a good job saturating their arguments against the project, but the need for housing in Davis was a greater motivation.  Even if the No on L campaign had more money, it is difficult to see how they would spend the money to make a difference in people’s minds.

        1. David Greenwald

          The reason for that conclusion is there has been five Measure R campaigns, all of which spent a lot more than this one and yet the opposition prevailed in three of the five. That suggests that money is not the only factor.

        2. Rik Keller

          Saying “money is not the only factor” is a lot different than saying “I don’t think money effected the vote.” It’s curious that a so-called “People’s Vanguard” would not be more critical of the big-money influence on local politics.

        3. David Greenwald

          Rik: The data suggest that money isn’t the overriding factor here.  I agree with Sharla, the difference between the first three Measure R votes that failed and the last two that passed was not money spent, but rather the salience of the issues to the voters (as described in my analysis).

        4. Keith O

          Are you kidding?  The average voter isn’t very sophisticated.  Sometimes all it takes is a mailer, a knock on their door, a phone call or just a sign to sway them.  The No on L didn’t have the funds for that stuff.

          1. David Greenwald

            No on L should have had the funds for that stuff. If Melissa Moreno could raise $17,000 from the community, so could No on L. They would have had enough for a mailer and a walk piece. It’s a matter of organizing.

    2. Eric Gelber

      For what it’s worth, my view is that, sure, the spending differential was a factor. But I give credit to the Yes folks for wisely avoiding focusing on the for-sale homes as much as possible, and emphasizing the affordable apartments.

      That’s why the most visible public spokesperson for the project, particularly in the print media and particularly after the City Council vote, was David Thompson instead of the Taorminos. Whenever the Taorminos got involved, they didn’t make the best impression and often tended to step in it, forcing them to play defense (e.g., with the Taking Care of Our Own slogan and the Davis-Based Buyers’ Program).

      David Thompson, the affordable housing developer, on the other hand, focused exclusively on the 450 seniors on the waiting list and the 150 affordable apartments WDAAC would provide for 150-170 needy seniors, thereby avoiding all of the issues with the rest of the project (a low density development for financially well-off seniors). It was a smart–albeit less than forthright–strategy, and David Thompson did his job well. I congratulate them.

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