If there is to be a discussion on the renewal of Measure J, it will have to be when the measure is before the voters. An overwhelming number of citizens called in to express their support for the renewal of Measure J/R without major changes. Council unanimously supported the same approach.
A key factor for the city council was the fact that two projects in 2018 passed—alleviating concerns which had circulated portions of the community about Measure R, which between 2000 and 2017 had seen just three projects come forward and all three fail. But that changed in 2018 with the passage of Nishi and West Davis Active Adult Community by overwhelming margins.
As Councilmember Will Arnold put it, “Had we still never seen a successful project go through the Measure J process to be approved, my concerns about the value and efficacy of Measure J would be significant.”
However, with two projects passing in 2018, he said “that doesn’t mean Measure J is perfect but it does mean it’s not fatally flawed.”
Councilmember Arnold also expressed another clear theme from the council—any changes to Measure J will have to come from the voters rather than council.
“Because Measure J was a community driven proposal and ultimately was passed and then reaffirmed overwhelmingly by the voters,” he said, “it’s my opinion that any changes to Measure J of any substance needs to be that same community-driven process.”
He added, “I would be very reticent about the council proposing any significant changes.”
Those views were echoed by Lucas Frerichs.
“There is no question that the measure isn’t perfect per se,” he said. “But I really believe it’s working.”
Councilmember Frerichs noted that there have been four project—five votes, where two of those projects have passed and two have failed.
“That’s really set a high bar certainly,” he said. “But I think recent successes show that with the right project approval is possible.”
“There are a variety of ways to get at the issues of growth and potential issues of sprawl,” he said. About “endless sprawl,” he said “that has not happened in Davis, it’s not happened in Yolo County and it’s not going to.”
He suggested that we have placed a high bar on peripheral growth, and residential infill development in his view is the way to go—and he believes that only minor amendments to Measure J are the way to proceed.
Councilmember Frerichs also noted that they should push to attempt to name this either Measure J or Measure R to avoid the confusion of spreading the measure further across the alphabet.
If there was a councilmember that offered and articulated a different view it was Gloria Partida, who at times has indicated the desire to re-examine Measure J. At this point she agrees with the no substantive change approach, although she said, “I have some serious reservations about this particular measure.”
She added, to follow the lead of her colleagues, “I agree that if I hadn’t seen the last two projects pass, I would be feeling a lot different about this particular measure.”
She noted the 16 years between major projects, but felt that at this late date, it would not be a wise course to make substantive changes without considerable feedback from the voters.
“I think this is a people’s measure,” she said.
While not a fan of sprawl, Mayor Pro Tem Partida stated, “I also think we need to acknowledge some pretty negative impacts that we have created” with the city’s overall policy on development.
“Our cost of housing has increased so much that it’s impossible for people who grew up here to stay here,” she said. “It’s also made it impossible for graduates of UC Davis to stay here as I did 30 years ago.
“These types of initiatives cause a lack of diversity in communities,” she said regarding racial and socio-economic issues. “It’s a sad irony that most of the progressive cities in America are also the most segregated.”
Gloria Partida also pushed back on the notion that this community has preserved agricultural land.
“We have driven our people onto other ag land and caused them to commute into Davis,” she said, noting her difficulty turning left from Picasso onto Pole Line because everyone is commuting from North North Davis. “When we say we’re trying to preserve our life and the environment through this measure, we must acknowledge that mostly (what) we’re preserving is the footprint of the city. Unless we are working to provide some infill housing and really work on mitigating the effects of the increase of the population here, I think we need to do a better job there.”
Gloria Partida did push for a five- rather than ten-year period as one consideration to come back and revisit some of these issues, but that suggestion did not have any legs with her colleague.
Instead, Dan Carson noted his preference to bring back Measure R in “substantially the form that we see it here.”
He too added, “We have had a recent demonstration that the voters were willing to support good projects… both won by substantial margins,” which he said gave lie to the previous prevailing wisdom that no project can pass.
Mayor Lee also desired to renew it “as is” and noted, “What’s clear is that we are all quite comfortable with the staff recommendation” to place it on the ballot as it. He did suggest any proposed changes come forward sooner rather than later.
—David M. Greenwald reporting