By David Taormino
When the term “colonized” is used one conjures up the 16th and 17th Century European Powers sailing off to Africa, South America and the Far East. The purpose then being to exploit the riches of these lands and in theory bring modern governance to an uneducated populace.
Why is it logical or fair to label the University and Davis as a Colonial Powers? I am not suggesting that these governmental entities are using practices and concepts identical to the Europeans. Instead the results have some shared elements albeit subtler and less harmful, but it still amounts to a type of exploitation.
The Oxford Dictionary entry for Colonization contains the following definition:
The action of appropriating a place or domain for one’s own use.” In “Empire: A Very Short Introduction,” by Stephen Howe, it is further described: “Colonization refers to migration, for example, to settler colonies in America or Australia, trading posts and plantations… In many settled colonies, Western European settlers eventually formed a large majority of the population…” It is my opinion that the current colonization efforts are not as sinister, but do affect Woodland, the colonized city, and the wider environment. What does our specific local form of colonization look like?
The original name of the new Woodland Colony is Springlake – 6.8 miles from the Nugget Market on Covell. The European practice of attaching a similar name to a place back home being commonplace, to us the colony is known as North, North Davis. It currently consists of about 1,500 single-family homes, 70% of which are occupied by Davis/UC Davis based individuals. Indigenous Woodlanders occupy around 15%, a small minority and Bay Area settlers the remaining 15%.
Eventually, it will accommodate 3,500 single-family homes and a tech park that was originally proposed for Davis. The initial mother city location (Davis) was abandoned for the “riches” offered by the new colony’s location. The same group of tech proponents is now moving happily forward in North, North Davis.
On any given weekday morning or afternoon, you can see the environmental effects of the colonization by observing the thousands of single occupant autos driving to and from Davis on Highway 113 and on Pole Line Rd. So much for our City-University concerns about reducing automobile generated Greenhouse gases. The environmental impacts of commuting Colonists are not included in these loudly voiced environmental concerns of various Davis interest groups.
Often the “enlightened” members of City’s Natural Resources are the very ones that fight new Davis housing. In part they want to save “precious” farmland resources immediately adjacent to Davis by exploiting farmlands in the nearby colony. Sadly, the “colony” with less units per acre (density) uses more farmland than the same homes would occupy in Davis. As vocal leaders of the mother city the Natural Resources Commission seemingly justify their silence on colonization as the liberal and progressive perspective. Check world history books for similarly voiced liberal perspectives by European leaders of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Colonists do receive one major financial benefit as residents of North, North Davis compared to us: they are exempt from a list of current and future Davis school parcel property taxes.
855 children, equal to about 10% of all Davis school’s enrollment arrive each day driven by family members living elsewhere, about ½ from North, North Davis. As a result, the Davis mother school district generates an additional 6 million dollars to keep all our Davis schools open while other Districts lose a combined 6 million dollars of school revenues from their budgets. Effectively, according to a recent Enterprise article 3 or 4 neighborhood Davis schools remain open thanks to colonists driving their children to Davis for a high-quality education while indigenous children stay at home and attend their local schools. What will happen to the 3 or 4 neighborhood Davis schools, if the rules change and colonized communities fight to retain “our students”? Another School Parcel Tax?
How did this local version of neo-colonization start and then flourish?
There are two major contributors. First, the leadership or better said, lack thereof, of previous administrations at UC Davis’ Mrak Hall that ignored the needs for Davis based new faculty and staff housing created by student growth. While a UC Davis administration did try to build faculty and staff housing in West Village, the bungling that occurred resulted in zero faculty and staff housing. West Village epitomizes Mrak Hall’s inability to timely and adequately manage the more nuanced business of residential real estate development for both students and faculty. Stanford University is currently facing real pressure to from Santa Clara to provide adequate housing for its current student and faculty growth expansion plans.
The second contributor, Davis’ citizens refusal to accept civic or moral responsibility to provide enough housing opportunities for locally based workers, UCD faculty and staff, public service related employees like teachers, police and employees of Davis based businesses. Measure J/R has made it nearly impossible to logically plan ahead for and then build homes for those individuals and families directly related to our community. About 80% of the homes, etc. in the and nearly built-out Cannery project were purchased by the Bay Area and out-of-state transplants. In North, North Davis 70% of home buyers are Davis based, many with children, while the Cannery has created few new attendees for Davis schools. In essence, the City is providing new housing for out-of-town folks and simultaneously populating its own colony of North, North Davis with Davis and UCD based employees. Does that make any common sense?
I am a strong supporter of the University and all the social and civic benefits it has and will continue to contribute to the Davis community. Sure, I am biased as a housing provider for wanting more homes and children in our community. As the lead planner and head of the development team for Springlake (North, North Davis), my partners and I realized in the early 2000’s that Davis and UC Davis were on the path of housing failure.
Neither Mrak Hall nor the City would be providing suitable housing opportunities for Davis based workers, so we planned for it and coined the term North, North Davis. In fairness to UC Davis administrations, big California employers, private and public, are failing to adequately address the housing needs of their California employees. High tech cities don’t fret either because they want the financial benefits of expensive office buildings and even higher wages spent in their cities. Just look at Silicon Valley for some of the worst housing and traffic situations in the state and country. No one in state government has a clue about what is needed, notwithstanding speeches and rhetoric to the contrary.
In conclusion, the social and environmental costs to the rest of us are massive with large employers and cities failing to provide housing where the jobs are located. These issues remain adequately unaddressed by local, regional and state governments.