The Davis City Council is nearing the midpoint in the 2019 year. This is the first full year of the new council under Mayor Brett Lee and Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Partida. Thus far in 2019, issues like paid parking, Mace Boulevard and Pacifico have dominated, while issues like fiscal sustainability, housing, Measure R and the like have waited their turn.
The council this year acted to implement a revised paid parking program that leaves street parking as free but imposes a cost on several surface lots. It has moved to revise the Mace Blvd. redesign after stakeholders and nearby residents complained about congestion. Finally, it has asked for an RFP (Request for Proposal) on Pacifico, as it looks to potentially revise that affordable housing project.
Dan Carson is just under a year into his first term and the Vanguard checked in with him to see his assessment for how things were going so far.
Vanguard: What three things do you think the council has done well this year so far?
Dan Carson: I’m glad to see that the city has moved forward on a number of specific actions to make the city more efficient, help generate new revenues, and address our $8 million annual fiscal gap. We’ve revamped our approach to city budgeting and begun taking a series of admittedly boring but specific and meaningful actions to improve city finances. For example, we created a two-year budget process to free up staff time for other purposes and are refinancing old high-interest bonds to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in new revenues for city coffers. We are reviewing how city workspace can be consolidated or relocated to free up surplus city land that could be used for housing or economic development.
We’ve moved forward on providing more desperately needed rental housing, including approval of the Chiles Road apartment project for family and workforce housing. We won a legal challenge to the Lincoln 40 student housing project (a decision we hope is not appealed). And, per our agreement with UC Davis, the campus has begun construction of more than 3,000 beds on-campus, the biggest student housing project in the United States.
Finally, we’re starting to gain momentum on much needed economic development efforts. We’re working more closely with our partners in the regional Sacramento Economic Development Council, including participation in a trip they sponsored for city officials to the North Carolina Research Triangle, to help us fashion a more effective City of Davis economic development strategy. The Food and Economic Development (FED) group added some great new ideas about enriching the city’s food culture and economy, and work is under way to build a new corporate headquarters in our city for Nugget Foods and a new Marriott Residence Inn extended stay hotel.
Vanguard: What are your disappointments?
Dan Carson: I’m disappointed about some episodes, like the controversy over Mace Boulevard, which demonstrate that our city still needs to improve its communication skills. But I am already seeing the dividends of the council direction last fall to focus on improving our follow-through on citizen complaints and making our messaging about these situations more clear and understandable. But city staff understands that more effort is needed here.
Vanguard: What do you want to see get done in the next six months?
Dan Carson: I’m excited about the work ahead. By this fall we must decide whether to renew our one-cent city sales tax that provides roughly $9 million out of our $60 million General Fund budget for public safety and parks and road repair. We are moving forward with work on a new downtown plan (that will continue into 2020) that should make investment in new housing and jobs more enticing to investors and make our downtown a more enjoyable and culturally interesting place for visitors. We are setting aside funding to start updating our Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, an effort for which there is a lot of local community energy. Given the serious concerns about what is happening to our worldwide and local climate, I’d like to see that effort get a solid start in the next six months.