This morning’s column puts together two different thoughts into one column. The Bee’s analysis of suburbs and housing. and Bob Dunning’s seeming tunnel vision of the decline of Davis’ bicycling place .
We will start with the Bee’s “Tipping Point” column from July 25. “Some Sacramento suburbs are in trouble. Others are thriving. See where your community stands.”
Writes Tony Bizjak and Phillip Reese: “Fifty years ago, if you moved to Arden or Carmichael, you probably had it made. A house in those new suburbs – with a backyard for barbecues and attached garage for that new car – was the American dream in the booming post-World War II era.”
But these reporters argue “that dream has faded.” Instead, a Bee analysis of 25 Sacramento-area communities “finds many of the region’s original suburbs, born in optimism, now struggle with an aging and sometimes shabby housing stock, faded commercial strips and graying populations in need of assistance.”
The Bee notes: “It’s happened as elected leaders, developers and successive generations of buyers focused money and energy on waves of new subdivisions offering bigger homes, newer technology, and lower maintenance, as well as modern shopping malls that give governments a jolt of fresh tax revenue. Many of the communities receiving the most attention are far from the region’s urban core, leading to clogged freeways and sprawl.
“It’s the greener pastures syndrome, and it’s prompted David Sander, Rancho Cordova vice mayor and board president of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, and others to say Sacramento’s older suburbs need help,” the Bee writes.
“It is a massive issue,” he said. “Older neighborhoods suffer as new neighborhoods are built. Wealth moves on. Old corridors die.
“What are those greener pastures?” they ask as they present “communities in flux” with “some of them facing a tipping point.”
They call Davis an “island college town,” “secluded by geography – and by choice.” Where: “Growth is often not a welcome word, making the university city a place where young minds come to be trained, then leave because they can’t find housing or affordable places to start businesses.”
They note, “Home prices have risen more sharply here than nearly any major community in the last two decades.”
They note that voters “control whether new development should be allowed on adjacent farmland.
“Slow or no growth is normally a recipe for stagnation. But thanks to an innovative and growing university, Davis has maintained an attractive identity, a healthy downtown, and a smart resident profile. In a region where slightly more than 30 percent of residents have a four-year degree, the Davis number is an astronomical 74 percent,” they write.
“When Davis does add housing, it usually isn’t run of the mill,” they write, seemingly fond of the Cannery, which they call “a dense urban-style community that boasts a farm, a barn, a community center and fruit stand.”
However, they note, “some homes there are listed for more than $1 million.”
I think Mr. Bizjak and Mr. Reese fail to recognize Davis being on the tipping point. The city continues to get more expensive. While the voters have seemingly recognized that housing and cost are important, they approved the last two housing projects and list affordability as the top issue – the next growth for the city remains a bit of mystery.
Moreover, the city is on the edge of being able to sustain itself fiscally. Davis has not plunged over the edge compared to other communities – owing some of that to the same university that some seem to resent more than appreciate.
That leads us to the Bob Dunning point that perhaps a leading indicator of where the city is headed is in its bicycle rating.
Mr. Dunning (in his latest column) writes “our bicycle-crazy community has been dissed once again.”
He notes in the California City News article on Top Biking Cities, Davis is no longer in the top 10. (If I recall correctly it was, just last year).
Granted, it is just one publication’s ranking. But it does provide us a few critical points.
“Davis was nowhere to be found,” he writes. “Call me crazy, but I don’t think it was a coincidence that this list came out on the heels of the Mace Boulevard fiasco, where bicycles were front and center in the controversy.”
My first reaction to his column is why would he focus on Mace, which was designed to improve bicycle safety, and not the halted project at F Street for the bicycle under-crossing of Covell that the city had to halt.
Be that as it may, the story lists: “The PlacesForBikes rating score is based on five factors: Ridership, Safety, Network, Reach and Acceleration.”
I have a few thoughts on this myself. But Bob Dunning illustrates a key problem with his understanding of these metrics when he notes, “The Safety score considers fatalities and injuries of people on bikes as well as those walking and driving.”
He responds, “I’m not sure how a walking injury relates to bicycle safety, but it’s their survey, not mine.”
If Mr. Dunning had consulted someone, he probably would have learned the importance of multimodal transportation and safety, and if the city has a lot of walking fatalities, the safety for bicycling is probably compromised as well.
But I think we should probably focus on two points. First, ridership, which people have been warning for some time has been dropping in the city. Second is the notion of acceleration.
As Mr. Dunning notes: “The Acceleration score assesses how quickly a community is improving its biking infrastructure and how successful its encouragement programs are at getting people to ride.”
His response: “We probably got dinged for Mace Boulevard again, especially if a 20-ton tomato truck was rumbling down the street, hot on the heels of a shiny red Schwinn.”
I think we get dinged because we are living off our accomplishments from the 1970s and have fallen behind a good number of other communities. I think we get dinged because we have a multi-million dollar backlog on maintenance and repair for our bike paths.
Bob Dunning wants to focus on ratings and Mace, but he never looks at things like the budget and other problems that have been building up for years.
Again, I don’t know that this is the best measure for bicycling. I still see plenty of measures that still have Davis ranked highly, but there is a tipping point coming here and, if we do not invest in our infrastructure, the day will come when we are no longer the community that many others aspire to emulate on bicycling – perhaps that day has already come.
—David M. Greenwald reporting