Sunday Commentary: Who Benefits from the Davis Status Quo?

In recent weeks I have seen the terms “left” and “right” used at times to describe positions in local politics.  While I understand that temptation, I continue to believe that those terms are misapplied.  After all we are talking about a community where more than 75 percent of the voters voted for the Democratic President in the last three national elections – everyone is to the left of center pretty much.

It is a reasonable question as to where to situate growth and housing issues on the local political continuum, but I also think there is a problem with doing so – the key question is not so much where one ends up on the issue of housing, but how one gets there.  After all, relatively conservative developers may find common cause with some of the most progressive folks in town.

To illustrate this point, I will look to former Mayor Robb Davis and future Mayor Gloria Partida – two of the more pro-housing members of recent councils but without any doubt two of the most progressive.

During his tenure on council, Robb Davis was a strong proponent of housing while on council.  He also pushed for the city to adopt a $50 parcel tax to fund both homeless programs and an affordable housing fund.

He pushed this idea from left.  At the Vanguard’s student housing townhall meeting he challenged its citizens on their reluctance to support new housing projects to alleviate student pressure on the rental market. “You cannot call yourself a town that cares about the environment if you push people (out of their homes in Davis) and into cars (to commute from other cities instead),” he argued.

Robb Davis called affordable housing “a core city service.”  He said, “We’ve always supplied affordable housing in this community.”

He argued that “a portion of that $50 parcel tax could go to a fund which is a continued housing trust fund to ensure we don’t lose the stuff we have.”

Gloria Partida finished as the top vote-getter in the June 2018 election for city council.  She finished first despite openly questioning the city’s land use policies even Measure R which she called “a double-edged sword for Davis.”

On the one hand, she said, “It has defended the city from rampant growth, sprawl and poorly envisioned design.”  On the other hand, “At the same time it has driven housing prices up and changed the whole character of who is able to live in Davis. No longer can generations of Davisites grow legacies of future homeowners. No longer can UCD students stay as young adults or return with families.”

After winning, she told the Vanguard: “I think it’s ironic that Measure R was put into place because we wanted to preserve what we had in Davis, but what it’s done is it has changed the demographics, so that the people who are now living here are the people who can afford to buy here, and they’re not from here.  They don’t feel the same about preserving slow growth.”

Two of the more progressive leaders in Davis have taken up the mantel of more housing, affordable housing and addressing the homelessness.  Does that make them more conservative than others in the community who are fighting against housing proposals and fighting to preserve the status quo in Davis.

I think we have to ask a critical question – who benefits from the status quo?  This is not a question most people in this community want to have to deal with because the status quo in the end preserves privilege and prosperity while putting up barriers to new housing.

It locks in a high cost of housing that prevents people of more modest income from moving into town.

This is the privileged left of Davis – they are left on national issues, they will come out an oppose Trump, they will say the right things about justice, but as one person told me, they “are disdainful of the working class and will abandon their liberal values as long as they can remain comfortable.”

This is what I called upon the founding of the Vanguard in 2006, the dark underbelly of Davis – the veneer of progressivism that covers a deep-seated tide of privilege and elitism.

As I have noted in the past, this is nothing new.  Writing in 1987,  UC Davis sociology professors John and Lyn Lofland called this “lime politics.”   Davis’s reputation as a progressive city, they argue, “grows out of a more than a dozen years of well-publicized municipal activities.”

The professors conclude, “the political life of the city of Davis, California, progressive political culture is composed almost exclusively of a green orientation.”

Go beyond environmentalism and while I still believe this community is changing slowly over time, the currents run against progressive leanings on issues like class, race, and by extension housing.

Who benefits from the status quo?  Those who already live here in town.  Those who purchased their homes when they were a fraction of a cost they are today.  And those who can afford to pay the inflated amount to purchase a new home.

Who doesn’t benefit from current Davis growth policies?  The poor and middle-income people.  People who do not own homes.  People of modest means.  People of color.

So how is it that you can characterize people who wish to conserve the status quo and limit growth as being on the left and characterize those who wish for there to be more housing for low income, families, the workforce, etc. as being the people on the right?

Over the next few years, the shape of Davis will start to take shape once again.  There are three critical issues that we will need to address – these are not in chronological order.  First we will address the issue of Measure R which for the last nearly 20 years now has acted as a brake on proposed peripheral development.

Second, we will address the issue of the downtown and whether we maintain the current version of the downtown where retail is leaving, where we have low density one- and two-story buildings and limited residential housing.  The question will be whether we maintain that current version or we go to a more dynamic urban version with mixed-use and economic revitalization.

Finally, we will address the issue of economic development.  Do we continue with our relatively low per capita sales tax revenue or do we move more in the vision of economic development – where we spin off university research to bring in high tech startups and mid-level companies, generate jobs and a new future of Davis.

As we evaluate these and other proposals, we need to ask ourselves – what is the status quo?  Who is it benefitting?  And what would happen if we start to shift our thinking?

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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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69 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Who Benefits from the Davis Status Quo?”

  1. Rik Keller

    This article is the height of hypocrisy. The Davis Vanguard/David Greenwald relentlessly pushes projects that overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy and then complains that lower to middle income workforce/family housing is not being provided. He consistently sides with the factions in town (Chamber of Commerce and developer coalitions) that have suspended Davis’ Middle Income Ordinance and try to weaken affordable housing requirements.

    He asserts without evidence that Davis’ growth policies are exclusionary, but sits down with developers pushing actual exclusionary housing to help them develop their campaign materials. He tries to undermine the credibility of fair housing organizations pushing for full implementation of the Fair Housing Act.

    And to top it all off, in this article he complains about Davis’ low sales tax revenues while advocating for “economic development” in the form of research parks that don’t substantially address sales tax revenue except to the extent that they also add non-research park retail uses.

    1. Jeff M

      The Davis Vanguard/David Greenwald relentlessly pushes projects that overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy

      Bunch of Fido excrement… tired old leftist / DNC political memes that have zero basis in fact nor reality.

      The wealthy today ARE liberals… but more often wealthy because of some government connection.

      They benefit from no-growth practices… less competition for their looting and keeps their property values inflated.

      And where does the money to assist the poor come from?  It comes exclusively from economic activity… the type that Davis lacks because of the greedy and wealthy liberals in Davis.

      It is the opposite.  NIMBYs and no-growers are the advocates for Davis wealthy.

  2. Matt Williams

    David Greenwald said . . . In recent weeks I have seen the terms “left” and “right” used at times to describe positions in local politics.

    Politics?  Politics?  We don’t need no stinkin’ politics!!! … a widely quoted paraphrase of a line of dialogue from the 1948 film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

    David, you misread the left-right comment.  I had nothing to do with politics, but rather with the economic rationale for growth or non-growth of Davis housing inventory.

    To find the person misapplying the terminology, sidle over to your bathroom mirror and gaze at the person gazing back at you.

    Your microeconomic position on housing growth is definitely Capitalistic, which is on the right right side of the intellectual spectrum, as opposed to Gloria Partida’s social equity position on housing, which is on the left side of the intellectual spectrum.

    1. David Greenwald

      Matt – I think my position and Gloria’s and Robb’s are pretty close.  I strongly disagree that my position on housing growth is Capitalistic.

      1. Ron

        I find David’s defensiveness here amusing.  Everything he advocates for could be taken out of the Chamber of Commerce’s “playbook”.

        But, he apparently is correct that some with more conservative views are also concerned about rampant growth/development. (Look at the origin of the word “conservation”.)

        The “status quo” is what’s occurring throughout the region and California. (And to some degree, Davis.)

        1. Howard P

          The “status quo” is exemplified best by Ron, Keith, (Rik?) and others who ‘have theirs’ and resist any increase as to people, traffic, new housing units… that they continue to see increased property values, non-changes to their lifestyle, by supporting the status quo… very understandable.  “Self interest” is not inherently wrong… actually, a ‘survival mechanism’…

          I ‘have mine’, to be sure, but I share that with others, like folk did when I came to this community a mere 46 years ago… including the other “newbies”… for others, it seems that “status quo” is all about themselves… understandable, but I eschew that view.

          Screw the Scrooges… be they ‘conservative’ or ‘progressive’… two flavors of the same tainted fruit… conservatives want to protect what they have… progressives want to take money from others to keep the status quo,and mitigate their guilt.

        2. Ron

          Howard:  You’re attributing motivations which don’t exist.  For one thing, Davis property values would not be diminished by MRIC, for example.

          My personal interest in reigning in growth/development also extends beyond Davis, in communities where I have no direct interest. I have seen what occurs, in the absence of control. (One doesn’t have to look very far away to see that in action. It is, in fact, the “status quo”.)

  3. Rik Keller

    In this article, I stake out a left/progressive position that calls for Davis and other communities to “affirmatively further fair housing” through land use policy: https://www.davisvanguard.org/2018/10/keeping-davis-white-land-use-policy-civil-rights-issue/

    We’ll see if David Greenwald supports progressive initiatives like this, or whether he will just continue his ongoing campaign against Measure R. As my article also points out, Measure R actually provides for inclusivity and is targeted toward that. Greenwald, in campaigning against it, wants continue more of the actual status quo in Davis that has got us here: lower-density developments targeting upper income groups that are highly profitable for developers.

    The background and legislative intent of the language in City of Davis Measure R (2010) regarding the policy goal of an “adequate housing supply to meet internal City needs,” includes a statement in the 2007 City Of Davis General Plan Update that “the primary reason for city residential growth to provide housing opportunities for the local workforce.” This history is more fully explored in this article: [https://www.davisvanguard.org/2018/09/guest-commentary-internal-housing-needs-davis/].

    To summarize briefly here: despite the clear definition of the phrase “internal housing need” when we look at the City’s General Plan for which Measure R is designed to “further” and “implement,” there are some who have either forgotten this recent history or are hoping that we forget this recent history as they seek citizen approval to convert agricultural lands on the periphery of the city. These proposals should be evaluated carefully to determine whether they are truly addressing the policy language and intent in Measure R, the General Plan, and supporting documents.

    Keeping with Measure R directives, project proposals that seek voter approval to develop protected agricultural land should be evaluated based on whether the proposed conversion of agricultural land to other uses is necessary and whether it meets the directive of addressing the city’s internal housing need—the housing need for the city’s workforce, particularly underserved low- and moderate-income households.

    In perhaps the most egregious example of special interests weakening affordable housing provisions in Davis, there is a specific set of requirements that were killed by the Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of developers in 2009: the City of Davis Middle Income Ordinance. This was directed specifically at the primary internal housing need identified by Measure R and the City of Davis General Plan: workforce housing.

    1. David Greenwald

      In general, I don’t support peripheral housing projects.  I have favored a series of dense, infill projects as a means to provide housing to students and hopefully workforce.  I do think we have a problem with the feasibility of generating housing for low and moderate income households in the absence of RDA money or separate from bootstrapping it to market rate projects.  Nothing in what you’ve suggested overcomes that fundamental problem.

      1. Don Shor

        We have a problem generating housing for low and moderate income households in the absence of peripheral annexation.
        Annex the northwest quadrant of the Covell Village sites via public vote. Set the densities and require as high a percentage of affordable housing as you wish. Then open it up to developers to work with those requirements. I suspect you’d find developers willing to put forth projects, particularly if the affordable component could be met by land donation to a nonprofit. I doubt that you’ll find developers willing to spend the time and money on planning a project to submit for a Measure R vote for a large-scale development at either site at the moment.
        So if people actually want any significant amount of lower-income housing in Davis, they need to be willing to support land annexation.

  4. Rik Keller

    Greenwald stated “…and hopefully workforce”. It’s going to take more than your vague hoping.  Why have you not made that a priority, and instead have spent your time advocating for projects that exacerbate the status quo: projects that provide student and senior housing targeted primarily at upper income groups while ignoring the identified primary housing need in Davis?

    Why have you repeatedly sought to undermine and discredit fair housing advocacy groups?

    Why haven’t you addressed major fundamental flaws in the recently-released Plescia analysis that, for example, ignore the positive effect that density bonuses would have on the feasibility of providing lower income housing?

    1. David Greenwald

      On the issue of workforce housing: I considered the student housing shortage a more urgent problem.  I have written a number of times that solving that was the most immediate concern and by solving that it would start us on the path to addressing other housing shortfalls that frankly will be much more difficult to solve.

      On the fair housing issue, I considered that for the most part to be a campaign ploy to attack a Measure R project.  I largely agreed with Gloria Partida on her response.

      On the Plescia analysis, it’s not clear to me how density bonuses enable developers to build more affordable housing.  Maybe you can explain the nexus there to me.  My focus there has been looking at ways in which to increase funding – i supported Robb’s $50 parcel tax, I support a renewed push for tax increment, and also other ways to encourage developers to bootstrap affordable housing to market rate.

      1. Eric Gelber

        On the fair housing issue, I considered that for the most part to be a campaign ploy to attack a Measure R project. 

        I strongly disagree—even with your attempt to qualify the statement by saying “for the most part.” Some of us take housing discrimination seriously. The exclusionary nature of WDAAC was and remains a legitimate concern with the project in its own right. There were many arguments raised in opposition to WDAAC, and the fact that fair housing concerns were often among the issues raised by many who had much broader concerns in no way delegitimizes the fair housing issue or reduces it to a mere campaign ploy. It was and—with the finalizing of the Davis-Based Buyers’ Program still pending—remains a legitimate and significant issue.

        1. Ron

          Eric:  As I’ve previously noted, you’re able to raise this point in a reasonable and understandable manner.

          It does point out some hypocrisy, regarding David’s shifting positions regarding discrimination.  It seems that he’s normally quite concerned about the issue (to say the least), until it gets in the way of a development proposal.

          It is pretty obvious that providing preference to Davis-based buyers will continue to favor the racial makeup of Davis. (Not to mention being outright exclusionary, regarding “outsiders”.)

          Ultimately, I think there’s a flaw (and tendency toward corruption) in constantly trying to define and address “internal needs”.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Here’s a key question for you – is my position shifting? Is Gloria Partida also a hypocrite for calling out the lawsuit while building her focus in this community on issues of inclusivity? Part of my problem with the whole premise of the fair housing complaint is that (A) the program is not finalized, (B) the program must meet fair housing standards as written into the DA and (C) most importantly, I’m not convinced that we end up discriminating against people of color (I am more convinced that we end up excluding people in general) – between the very large population base of people who went to UCD and people who live in Davis or went to K-12 in Davis and the 10 percent wiggle room, it’s actually hard to imagine that a person of color who wanted to live at WDAAC and could afford it, would not be able to under some manner. If we are truly concerned about diversity, then we must build housing that allows for low income and middle income people to move into them.

        2. Howard P

          C’mon Ron… you care not about ‘equity’ (or equality?), except your own.  You are opposed to new housing, in any form, unless, maybe, it’s on campus.  Own that.  “Man up” to acknowledging that.  The truth will set you free…

          Yeah I get that anyone who would allow any development, in your view, are in the ‘pockets of evil developers’. Who provided the house you live in, BTW…

          #’s 4, 8 & 11… from your script(s).

        3. Ron

          Howard:  Housing on campus could (theoretically) hurt home values in Davis.  Why would anyone advocate for that, if they’re so concerned about home values?

          Why would anyone concerned about home values advocate against MRIC, if it’s going to bring “thousands of jobs” and “economic salvation” to Davis?

          There is nothing being proposed in the city that’s going to have much effect on home values, one way or another. However, it will have other negative impacts (including the loss of prime farmland, a logical boundary for the city, encouragement of freeway commuting, and corresponding impacts on access points and streets). Not to mention increasing pressures to grow/develop elsewhere.

        4. Ron

          David:  “Here’s a key question for you – is my position shifting? Is Gloria Partida also a hypocrite for calling out the lawsuit while building her focus in this community on issues of inclusivity?”

          As noted in our email exchange (in which you took issue with my comment), I do see internal conflicts regarding your stated concerns related to discrimination.  I don’t think you’d argue that many of your prior articles quite focused on this issue.

          Regarding Gloria, I don’t know her (other than what she’s stated on here).  I will say that being a “person of color” doesn’t mean that they are uniquely in a position to recognize discrimination, when it occurs.  (Even if directed at their own “color”.)  As an example, some (including you, I believe) have noted that African-American police officers may feel the same “bias” toward their own “color”, when attempting to enforce the law.

          Perhaps you should ask Gloria (who is already part of the community) how purposefully excluding others from outside the community (and who are more likely to be “persons of color”, at least regionally) is not discrimination.  I’d look forward to hearing that line of reasoning.

          I am not particularly impressed when others hold up any individual person of color, gender, sexual preference, or disability as an example or representative of something larger.  Those characteristics have no relationship whatsoever, regarding my support (or lack thereof). To me, what matters is their policy.

          David:  “Part of my problem with the whole premise of the fair housing complaint is that (A) the program is not finalized, (B) the program must meet fair housing standards as written into the DA and (C) most importantly, I’m not convinced that we end up discriminating against people of color (I am more convinced that we end up excluding people in general) – between the very large population base of people who went to UCD and people who live in Davis or went to K-12 in Davis and the 10 percent wiggle room, it’s actually hard to imagine that a person of color who wanted to live at WDAAC and could afford it, would not be able to under some manner. If we are truly concerned about diversity, then we must build housing that allows for low income and middle income people to move into them.”

          I bolded a comment in your statement above, which is concerning.  I’m not quite sure how to respond to it.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “Perhaps you should ask Gloria (who is already part of the community) how purposefully excluding others (who are more likely to be “persons of color”, at least regionally) is not discrimination.”

            So your suggestion to me is that I ask the Mayor Pro Tem of Davis, a loaded question in order to discern her line of reasoning?

          2. David Greenwald Post author

            ” it’s actually hard to imagine that a person of color who wanted to live at WDAAC and could afford it, would not be able to under some manner. ”

            One of the reasons why the city and developer believe that their proposal passes fair housing muster is the category “attended UC Davis” is extremely broad so as to be non-discriminatory. If the case gets that far, we’ll see what the courts think of that perhaps.

        5. Ron

          David:  “So your suggestion to me is that I ask the Mayor Pro Tem of Davis, a loaded question in order to discern her line of reasoning?”

          I think the question could have been asked, perhaps at the time she submitted an article to the Vanguard.  I don’t see how it’s “loaded”. Is there something “incorrect” regarding the question?

          Does being a person of color, or the “Mayor Pro Tem” mean that such questions are off-limits? Even when submitting an article regarding the subject?

          Since she’s not participating here at the moment, how would you respond to the question?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “I don’t see how it’s loaded”

            You’re basically asking how discrimination is not discriminatory. The question I think that you want to ask is whether she believes that this policy “purposefully excludes” people. I suspect that her answer to that would be no.

        6. Eric Gelber

          David said:

           If we are truly concerned about diversity, then we must build housing that allows for low income and middle income people to move into them.

          Agree, but that has zero to do with the policy (or with WDAAC, for that matter). But as to your other points:

          The policy may not be finalized, but every description of its intent includes problematic criteria. And the whole concept is questionable.

          “The policy must meet fair housing standards as written into the DA.” Duh! Of course it must, whether written into the DA or not. As proposed, I don’t believe it would. The significant part of that DA provision is the indemnification language, not the requirement of complying with the law.

          “I’m not convinced we end up discriminating against people of color …” That’s the issue. If the eligible pool is disproportionately white, so will be the buyers. The 10% wiggle room means someone (e.g., a person of color) without Davis connections will be prohibited from purchasing 90% of the homes. Sounds like discrimination to me. Moreover, since most of the presumed eligibility criteria don’t require current Davis residency or employment, this policy won’t meet the stated intent of addressing housing needs of current residents.

           

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “Moreover, since most of the presumed eligibility criteria don’t require current Davis residency or employment, this policy won’t meet the stated intent of addressing housing needs of current residents.”

            As I’ve said before – I actually think this is the bigger problem with the policy. I really don’t believe that the overall theory works.

        7. Ron

          David:  “You’re basically asking how discrimination is not discriminatory.”

          Bingo!

          And then, I went on to question why you’re not concerned about it, since you’ve written so many articles regarding discrimination.

          I then put forth a “theory” as to why you’re not concerned (in this particular case), but perhaps should have kept that to myself. 🙂

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “Bingo!”

            But that’s not a legitimate question – it’s loaded or tautological.

        8. David Greenwald

          I explained why I’m not that concerned about it before – The category is so broad, it won’t effectively discriminate against anyone and because any project that is peripheral, low density single-family, market rate housing is going to have a relatively low percentage of people of color living in it.  That gets back to my chief objection with the project as expressed in my op-ed “if I were to vote No on L”

        9. Rik Keller

          Greenwald said “ If we are truly concerned about diversity, then we must build housing that allows for low income and middle income people to move into them.”

          OK, so you’ll join me in advocating for strengthening the City’s affordable hosting policies and requirement? And you’ll join me in advocating policies that “affirmatively further fair housing”?

      2. Rik Keller

        David Greenwald said “On the fair housing issue, I considered that for the most part to be a campaign ploy to attack a Measure R project.” And then David Greenwald said to Eric Gelber: “… I will say I do believe you were sincere on this issue.”

        So, who exactly do you think is being insincere?  I’ve certainly discussed the issue on the DV quite a bit. My bona fides stretch back almost 25 years on the issue. I was the lead author on the very first two State of Texas Low Income Housing Plans and the first Consolidated Plan for Housing and Community Development. And even after George W. Bush got elected and installed his people to head the Housing Dept. (but before they got rid of the liberals), I continued to advocate internally for policies like encouraging local jurisdictions to adopt inclusionary housing provisions as a way to further meeting fair housing goals.

        I have conducted analyses of inclusionary housing policies and ordinances for a half-dozen California jurisdictions. I have done a broad survey and analysis of inclusionary requirements across a broad range of California jurisdictions, I have been the lead author for about 15 Housing Elements for California and Oregon jurisdictions, I have been the lead author for multiple analyses of impediments to fair housing choices.

        And you, David Greenwald? You know so little about the issue that you were unaware of the 50-year history of Fair Housing Councils and tried to smear one as “not an official organization” You called a letter that another one wrote discussing long-term and well-known fair housing issues “strange”. You didn’t know what density bonus provisions for affordable housing were until today. You make broad allegations that people bringing up fair housing and discrimination issues are not sincere. Who, specifically, are these people you are talking about? And how do you imagine you have any credibility on the issue when your smears have been direct campaign material?

  5. Rik Keller

    Greenwald said: “I considered the student housing shortage a more urgent problem. ” So, you are ignoring the City’s own analysis and policies regarding its primary housing need? You are part of the problem.

    Greenwald said “On the fair housing issue, I considered that for the most part to be a campaign ploy.” You are part of the problem.

    Greenwald said “it’s not clear to me how density bonuses enable developers to build more affordable housing.” You don’t even understand the issue.

     

     

    1. David Greenwald

      The analysis you are pointing to is from 2004.  That’s a long time ago.  I’ve read the most recent Housing Element Updates and they list a range of needs.  I would put the student housing issue as one of the most immediate given the fact that students are actually here and in need housing.

      “You don’t even understand the issue.”

      Indulge me.

      1. Rik Keller

        Greenwald: you assert without evidence that workforce/family housing is no longer the primary housing need in Davis.

        You’re going to have to get yourself up to speed on density bonuses as one of the key incentives available for the production of affordable housing, and the recent changes in California density bonus law designed to make them more accessible. There a great big internet out there for that! I pointed you to some resources on the subject already in a previous thread in the last couple of weeks.

        You could start with this: “The Density Bonus Law (found in California Government Code Sections 65915 – 65918) provides developers with powerful tools to encourage the development of affordable and senior housing…” http://www.meyersnave.com/wp-content/uploads/California-Density-Bonus-Law.pdf

        And then you could post some of your thoughts on why the Plescia report did not include this central component in the affordable housing feasibility analysis.

        1. David Greenwald

          This is tiresome, I did not state that workforce and family housing is not a primary housing need, I stated that it wasn’t the only housing need and I in fact cited the Housing element update (which is still in effect).

          I’m not familiar with Density Bonus, although I find it interested that when I toured the Sacramento affordable housing sites with SHA last summer, it didn’t come up.  I’ll study up on them and see what I think.

        2. Rik Keller

          Show us where the Housing Element states that workforce housing is no longer the primary housing need. You realize that the Housing Element is part of the General Plan, and the General Plan is still in effect? What has happened in Davis where workforce housing is no longer the primary housing need?

          California planning and land use law has had density bonus provisions since 1979. Why are you looking at it so LATE?

      2. Rik Keller

        Greenwald: yeah, I already commented on that minimal discussion in the Plescia report awhile back. It’s weird that you are only just noticing it now. Basically they are saying: “we didn’t look at a key component of housing affordability feasibility and here are some weak and misleading reasons why.”

        How is it possible that you write articles about affordable housing and have apparently never even heard of density bonuses? You are doing a disservice to the community with your opinionating on a variety of city planning subjects while being breathtakingly uninformed.

        It’s also strange that you have done a SHRA tour, but you have never looked at Sac County’s density bonus provisions.

        http://www.per.saccounty.net/applicants/Pages/HousingInformation.aspx
        The Housing Incentive Program (HIP).HIP provides density bonus incentives to multifamily developers who provide units for individuals with special needs.  New developments of at least 5 housing units in areas zoned RD-20 and above or commercial within the unincorporated County may be eligible for a density bonus of up to 15% and a waiver of one multifamily development standard! See the HIP Brochure​​ for more details. To take advantage of the program, please submit the Request for a Waiver of Development Standards via Density Bonus supplemental form along with your project application. Find both forms on the Planning and Application Review Forms page
        Other Density Bonus Programs. The State Density Bonus Program provides incentives for the production of housing for very low, low, and moderate income housing in accordance with state law. The County of Sacramento also offers density bonuses for preservation of environmentally sensitive features, energy conservation design, or proximity to transit. More information on all density bonus programs are available in Chapter 6 of the Sacramento County Zoning Code
        Funds Administered by SHRA. SHRA combines local funds collected through the Affordable Housing Ordinance and the Very Low Income Housing Fund with other state and federal funds and administers them through a competitive process. Visit the SHRA Developer Resources page for additional information, including funding availability and application schedules.

        1. Rik Keller

          Don Shor: even if the City of Davis didn’t have a density bonus provision, they are required to grant them under State law. The big question is why didn’t the Plescia report do an analysis of affordable feasibility that takes this important incentive into account?

           

    2. Richard McCann

      Rik

      You ignore fundamental principles about the housing market, both in Davis and in general. We do not need to build housing specifically for one group to meet that group’s housing needs if instead we create housing for another group that frees up the preferred housing for that first group. And that’s what will happen with the large amount of student housing now in the pipeline. Many of the students who now rent duplexes all across town will instead be in that new multi-unit housing. That will free up the duplexes, originally designed for working families, to be rented to non-students. So why build expensive new “affordable” housing for which we get just a few added units for millions of dollars, when instead we can get multiples of truly affordable housing units by getting students out of those existing units? We should focus on the most cost effective solutions rather than someone’s pet solution.

      1. Matt Williams

        Richard, in a normal microeconomic marketplace your point would be correct; however, the Davis housing marketplace is anything but normal.  The Demand side of the ratio has grown between 1,000 and 3,000 beds per year each year throughout this Decade.

        Nishi adds 2,200 beds, but those won’t come on line for at least 3 years. By that time the incremental increase in Demand will exceed the incremental increase in Supply.  Therefore, no net downward movement of the Supply/Demand curve intersection.

        1. Richard McCann

          Matt, there’s more than 10,000 student-oriented beds coming to Davis in the next few years. Plus we’re reaching the end of the current enrollment boom. UCD projects only 5,000 more students above 2016-17 enrollment by 2030, yet adding more than 9,000 beds. https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/regents-consider-uc-davis-long-range-development-plan/ All of that points toward relief from pressure on our existing affordable housing stock.

      2. Rik Keller

        Richard McCann: simplistic supply-demand mantras don’t work in the real world, and jurisdictions don’t simply build their way into affordability. Here’s one primer:

        https://www.theurbanist.org/2016/04/04/why-seattle-needs-inclusionary-zoning-explained-by-the-bid-rent-curve/

        A simple supply-demand narrative fails to explain the relationship between price and location. It might show what average prices are in the Seattle metro area but it can’t explain why Sandy is paying 50% of her income to live in a 528 square foot apartment in Everett and still commuting an hour to work. However, the relationship between price and location can be explained by an alternative model known as the bid-rent curve. This model helps illuminate why affordable housing isn’t just about building lots of units but also about where those units are located. The bid-rent curve describes the harmful market forces that lead to income segregation. It shows that the affordable housing crisis isn’t only a crisis of not enough housing or low enough prices. Rather, we face a crisis because we lack low cost housing in specific locations. Overall, the bid-rent curve shows why Seattle needs inclusionary zoning.

        1. Richard McCann

          What I’m pointing out is consistent with the bid-rent curve. Davis needs to have student housing uniquely for the Sacramento region, so if we build more of that housing, we’ll be meeting the demand driving rental prices. Nothing in the bid-rent theory says that housing must be built solely for a specific demographic to relieve market demand. If that housing is created by targeting another demographic with significant demand that is impacting the first demographic group, there’s no reason to think that the opening of existing affordable housing won’t occur. The simplistic solutions that usually fail are the ones that try to address an issue directly without considering the other market forces that will steer around that solution. (The failure of the Eastern European Communist economies is the best illustration of this type of simplistic reasoning.)

          BTW, a more relevant quote from the article you cite:

          But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t build more housing. Evidence suggests that affordability outcomes are even worse in neighborhood that restrict new housing. The importance of this can’t be overstated, especially considering the vocal opposition to development in Seattle. The market forces driving income segregation are impossible to address without more housing. But the call for more housing must complement, rather than undermine, efforts to grow equitably. Adding housing isn’t a panacea. It’s necessary but not sufficient.

        2. Rik Keller

          The failure of the American capitalist economy to provide affordable housing is a good  illustration of this type of simplistic supply-demand reasoning.

          We have case studies of entire regions with essentially no growth constraints (Las Vegas comes to mind) in previous cycles that have experienced some of the highest appreciation rates and lack of affordability around. The build-baby-build mantra doesn’t work.

        3. Ken A

          When Rik says “The failure of the American capitalist economy to provide affordable housing” I’m wondering what price he feels is “affordable”?

          In most of the US you can rent a nice place for under $1K/month and in the midwest you can easily rent a nice place for under $500/month.

          https://cleveland.craigslist.org/apa/d/3br-2ba-1268-sqft-home/6762826024.html

          I can buy a great bottle of wine for under $10 and there is no shortage of “affordable” wine.  I could complain that Napa Oakville cabs are not $5/bottle like they were in the 1960’s or just drink something else.

          Just like I would rather be drinking $100 Napa wines I would rather be living in a big home with a SF bay view, but things are not that bad living in a small Davis home without a view and drinking sub $10 wine from Costco.

  6. David Greenwald

    Here is what Plescia stated with regards to density bonuses – I’ll be curious Rik’s thoughts on this.

    Although consideration of density bonus was not a part of the scope of this assignment the City has expressed interest in understanding the potential economic implications on the feasibility conclusions for the subject development prototypes. Section 18.05.060 sets forth provisions for applying a density bonus (one-for-one units) to multi-family rental housing developments that include 25 percent to 35 percent of the on-site units for very-low and low-income housing. Based on previous financial feasibility analyses that APC has conducted for the City of Davis on development prototypes that have included on-site affordable housing with density bonus units we found that the estimated net project values generally decreased, and that estimated return-on-investment (return-on-cost) decreased to levels below the acceptable targeted level for return-on-investment. So, although the density bonus units increased the economic productivity of those development prototypes the inclusion of on-site affordable housing (35 percent) units resulted in the negative effects on overall development feasibility.

     

    1. Matt Williams

      David, is the Plescia report a high quality work?  I have talked to a number of Planning Commissioners and commissioners from other City Commissions and unanimously they question the quality of the Plescia work.  What in yoiur opinion makesa it a worthy document to be making decisions based on?

        1. Rik Keller

          My earlier reply accidentally ended up somewhere else on this page. To add to that, my sense from reading in between the lines and years of community development-related consulting work for jurisdictions is that City folks wanted density bonuses to be looked at, but Plescia wasn’t scoped for that additional work, so they added two cursory paragraphs.

          Overall though, I don’t get the sense that this is the type of work that the firm has a lot of experience in. They probably have broad expertise in producing and analyzing developer pro-formas, but this analysis is really limited to terms of the full-range of things other jurisdictions examine for housing affordability feasibility. Completely leaving density bonuses out of the literal equation is but one example of this. As another example, I don’t see any sensitivity analyses performed for key variables like required parking.

        2. David Greenwald

          What is interesting (strange?) is that in their December 2015 analysis they ran the following scenario: “Market rate/affordable development with on-site affordable units and a density bonus.”

        3. Matt Williams

          I think you sensed correctly David.

          What is also more than a bit strange/noteworthy is the fact that the City received the report in January 2018 and sat on it for 10 months … not releasing any of its contents to either the public or any of the Commissions or the Council.  One has to ask “Why the extended delay?”

        4. Rik Keller

          Matt said: “What is also more than a bit strange/noteworthy is the fact that the City received the report in January 2018 and sat on it for 10 months … not releasing any of its contents to either the public or any of the Commissions or the Council.  One has to ask “Why the extended delay?””

          Is there any move to re-scope a report and/or bid out a new report? This current one– in addition to being delayed for almost a year for no apparent reason–seems highly inadequate in determining what the City’s affordable housing requirements should be.

          And as Matt has mentioned before, I believe, without an analysis of community needs to start with, the report scope is far too narrow.

        5. David Greenwald

          I don’t know what they are planning to do in terms of a consultant report.  It sounded at the council meeting like they were going to wait for the DPAC to finish and the CASP to be in place before deciding what to do – personally I don’t really understand the need for another report when they had just done one in 2015 (and this said about the same thing as did the BAE report for the DPAC).

    2. Rik Keller

      That is interesting. (and strange that this wasn’t done in the 2018 update). I don’t know how thoroughly that was done in 2015 as I have only looked through the recently released report.

  7. Tia Will

    Wow. What stands out to me most clearly from the comments is the willingness for commenters to tell others what they think and care about. When did you all become proficient mind readers? Why is it so impossible to express your own beliefs without telling others what they “really think” and what they should “own” or “man up to”.

    As for the article, once again I think David, that you have missed a critical point. I do not see the city as composed of either hypocritical homeowners or greedy developers. I do not see the issue as black and white. What I see is people who have different priorities and values arguing for their perceived interests as well as those of the community as they see it. Do we really have to constantly vilify those who see the world differently from ourselves?

    1. Ron

      Good reminder, Tia.  (For all of us. Will try to keep it in mind, myself. David made it pretty clear to me via email that he didn’t like one of my comments, at least.)

    2. David Greenwald Post author

      Tia – with respect to your comments on my piece – I agree with you that the city is not set into black and white. What I’m less clear on is whether you think I was vilifying those with a different world view – my point was to re-situate the discussion of left/ right by placing it within a status quo/ change paradigm. Can you help me see where I’m vilifying those who think differently?

  8. Jim Hoch

    The people who benefit are those that moved here because they like the town as it is. People who paid $390/square foot for a dumpy house certainly don’t want to see lower real estate prices.

    1. Richard McCann

      Jim Hoch

      It’s not possible to keep Davis as “the town as it is.” Only if you go to Main Street in Disneyland is this possible. So instead, residents need to be comfortable with a direction of change, but resisting any change without a willingness to compromise just puts off the day of reckoning.

      1. Jim Hoch

        “It’s not possible to keep Davis as “the town as it is.””

        They have been doing a pretty good job so far…

         

        Nobody really wants to pay higher taxes to subsidize other people’s houses. Note that Robb did not even put the $50 tax to a vote. He knows. Davis voted for projects for students and geriatrics because that seems harmless enough.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          “Nobody really wants to pay higher taxes to subsidize other people’s houses.”

          In a very real way, that’s exactly what’s happening now.

        2. Matt Williams

          David, that is a really bizarre comment.

          How “in a very real way” are Davis taxpayer paying higher taxes to subsidize other people’s houses (housing)?

          While you are at it please answer my prior question … Why does the conversation need to be re-situated?

        3. Matt Williams

          How does a parcel tax for schools subsidize other peoples houses?  It funds schools.  If that is a subsidization in your opinion, then so be it, but that subsidization is not providing housing, it is providing education … and like the base 1% of assessed value (subject to the provisions of Prop 13) the majority of people paying the tax do not have children actually in the schools.  That is a statewide and nationwide standard … nothing unique to Davis.

          Bottom-line, there is nothing “housing” about a schools parcel tax, other than the mechanism through which the tax is levied.

          Have you been smoking whacky weed David?  Your logic is illogical.

          And again you are ducking my first question. Why does the conversation need to be re-situated?

        4. Richard McCann

          “They have been doing a pretty good job so far…”

          Not really. The closing retail downtown belies on underlying trend if we try to stay static. Rapidly rising rents with minidorms in the neighborhoods is another example. We can either let change happen to us, most likely in ways that we would not prefer, or we can try to direct it somewhat.

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