Council to Start Looking at Renewing Measure J

When the City of Davis passed Measure J, now 20 years ago, in 2000, it became one of the city’s seminal land use measures that requires a vote of the citizens in order for the city to annex existing agricultural land, or convert ag-land to urban uses.

The measure in 2000 was highly contentious and passed relatively narrowly.  Since then it has become a hallmark of the city’s policies controlling the encroachment onto agricultural land and in 2010, during the heart of the recession, it received token opposition at best and re-newed for an additional 10 years overwhelmingly.

There have been five projects that the voters have voted on.  The first three – Covell Village, Wildhorse Ranch and Nishi 2016 all failed.  The last two – the 2018 version of Nishi and West Davis Active Adult Community passed overwhelmingly.

The measure sunsets on December 31.  Council is being called on to determine the first steps toward any renewal of Measure J.

Staff recommendations are for Council to “Direct staff to prepare and return with the necessary ordinance and resolutions prior to July 7, 2020 to place renewal of Measure J (Citizens’ Right to Vote on Future Use of Open Space and Agricultural Lands, also known as Measure R) on the November 2020 ballot for voter consideration.”

They are requesting the incorporation of what they are calling “minor technical changes” into the language.  Staff could also be directed to “incorporate any other changes into the Measure J/R language that the City Council may desire.”  Staff recommends a new sunset date of December 31, 2030.

The measure originally passed by the voters in 2000 and extended in 2010, “requires a vote of the citizens before land can be re-designated from agriculture or open space to any urban use, as those land uses appear in the 1999 land use map in the City’s former General Plan.”  It also requires a vote on two large parcels – the Covell Village site and the Nishi property, which the voters approved a project in 2018.

Staff notes that the measure is “intended to serve as an additional procedural stage of review for any development project that proposes to convert agriculturally designated land to an urban use, whether for residential or commercial purposes.”

Staff notes that Measure J was “adopted as an agricultural land preservation and citizen ratification tool. It was not necessarily intended to manage or limit peripheral growth. Measure J is intended to be used in conjunction with a number of other tools for community planning, growth management, and citizen participation.”

Among the technical changes include the removal of language referring to redevelopment since the State ceased operating local redevelopment agencies as of February 2012.

It also recommends extending the sunset date by another ten years to extend to December 31, 2030.

In addition, staff recommends keeping several key references in the measure.

First, in reference to the 1999 land use map.  They recommend adding the following, “despite the fact that the land use map in the General Plan was updated in 2001.

Under the current Measure J language, “the land north of Sutter Hospital is exempt from a Measure J vote only if the hospital builds medical-related buildings on the site.”

Should the hospital decide instead, staff ponders, “to build condominiums and retail space on that site, the current Measure J language would require a vote to approve such a non-medical project.”

Therefore, staff believes that the current language of Measure J should be retained “in order to preserve the public’s right to vote on anything other than medical-related buildings on that site.”

Staff also recommends keeping the references to the Covell Center and Nishi sites.  Right now, Measure J requires a vote for any urban development on the two large parcels already designated for urban uses on the 1999 land use map.

They write: “Because these two sites were not designated as agriculture or open space on the 1999 land use map, they were specifically called out in the language of Measure J to ensure that Measure J would apply to them nonetheless.”

In the very first Measure J vote, the Covell Center site had a proposed project that was voted down in 2005 in Measure X.  Staff notes that the parcel was downzoned to agriculture in 2001 with the General Plan update, and under current language of Measure J, “if a property’s land use designation was changed from urban uses to agriculture uses (as in this case), it can’t be changed back to urban uses without a vote.”

Despite this, “staff nevertheless recommends keeping the language that specifically calls out this site so that this technicality does not get lost.”

The Nishi site is also interesting.  While the voters approved a development on this property in 2018, if references to the site were removed, “voters would not be able to vote on any future development proposals, should the current project not get built for any reason.”  That would also apply to changes to the project’s Baseline Features.

Staff writes, they believe “the community would want to retain the right to vote on any future development proposals on this site (should the one that was approved by voters does not get built or should the developer change its Baseline Features), and therefore staff is recommending that the language specifically calling out the Nishi site be retained.”

The council has two months to make a decision on Measure J and put a renewal on the ballot.

The council does not have the option of allowing the measure to sunset.  Staff writes, “In accordance with the provisions of Measure J, the City Council is charged with submitting the provisions of the Ordinance to the voters for renewal, amendment, or repeal prior to its December 31, 2020 expiration.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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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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56 Comments

  1. Bill Marshall

    “In accordance with the provisions of Measure J, the City Council is charged with submitting the provisions of the Ordinance to the voters for renewal, amendment, or repeal prior to its December 31, 2020 expiration.”

    The plain language suggests the CC should be given 3 equal weight options as to ordinances to be put to the voters… renewal (as is), amendment (apparently proposed), and repeal.

    I further suggest that all three possible alternatives be placed on the November ballot… the alternative chosen by simple plurality would go into effect.  No “rank order” provisions…

    It is not evident that failure to pass an amendment would automatically constitute “repeal”…

    A clear choice (and vote) between the three options would appear to be consistent with the “spirit” of public decision-making… and possibly the ‘letter’ of the quoted language…

    1. Matt Williams

      Bill, is the Repeal option necessary?  If neither the renewal as is nor the renewal with amendment got 50% of their respective votes, the wouldn’t repeal be automatic?

      1. Bill Marshall

        The plain language, apparently…

        charged with submitting the provisions of the Ordinance to the voters for renewal, amendment, or repeal prior to its December 31, 2020 expiration.

        Plain language would arguably lean to requiring an affirmative vote to repeal

        Otherwise, the ordinance would have been written to include the phrase (or something similar), “unless renewed or amended, the ordinance shall be deemed repealed”… basic legal language constructs… avoids ambiguity… grounds for legal challenge… even an engineer knows that ambiguity should be avoided.

        If it is argued that it is ‘obvious’ that the lack of a affirmation of a renewal or amendment is a repeal, I strongly suggest that in the absence of and affirmative vote, if I was inclined (which I am not) to say that it was not ‘repealed’ (no further effect), I could argue in Court that the default would be ‘no change’… might not prevail, but pretty sure my argument would have to be ‘considered’ by the Court… and probably not considered a ‘frivolous lawsuit’… all I’d need is a sympathetic judge… who just uses their own ‘metrics’… and we have seen examples of THAT in Yolo County… if I lucked out on the judge, might prevail…

        All of this is based on what was written in the staff report, article…

        Oh… example of inaccurate wording…

        “The council is only required to put a measured on the ballot”

  2. Doby Fleeman

    Measure J, in concept, makes sense on any number of levels.  This assumes, however, that we start out with an informed and engaged electorate.
       
    As staff notes,
    “the measure was originally adopted as an agricultural land preservation and citizen ratification tool.”
    “It was not necessarily intended to manage or limit growth. Measure J is intended to be used in conjunction with a number of other tools for community planning, growth management, and citizen participation.”

    This point is key, for without the context of a contemporary General Plan, reflective of a near-totally buildout status of the City’s landmass, the Measure serves primarily as a dead weight and massive burden upon any future development of the city.

    The City, planners and elected leaders should be very much aware of this linkage and of the necessity for a current and up to date comprehensive planning document – if the measure is to work as intended rather than as merely another impediment to smart growth.   You simply cannot have one without the other, and still claim to have an effective process for “community planning, growth management, and citizen participation.”   Without the planning documents, it’s a bogus proposition.

    Today, we simply do not have the requisite background information and planning documents necessary to assure we have an informed process or debate, much less an informed electorate.

    The current ARC proposal is a perfect case in point – where we have the opportunity to discuss an exciting new development opportunity for the community – but have no contextual background from which to understanding the economic and fiscal needs for such development, nor its importance to restoring balance to our commercial land use needs within the community.

    Under these circumstances, passing a ten year renewal of the measure is a sure fired recipe to stifle any further development or smart growth for the next decade or more.

  3. Ron Glick

    If they do put a renewal on the ballot I don’t think it should be for ten years because of the special circumstances of this election.

    I would like to engage in a vigorous campaign to  amend Measure J/R and  or to defeat it at the polls if it is not sufficiently amended to address what I see as its flaws.

    Under the current circumstances I believe it would be impossible to engage in a vigorous campaign that would include activities like canvassing voters, holding rallies and organizing literature drops. Therefore I believe that a two year renewal until after the current emergency has passed and a full campaign could be had is appropriate. In my opinion an election decision that would stand for ten years under the current circumstances would be a miscarriage of the election process.

    1. Doby Fleeman

      Can’t disagree with your proscriptions, but again I would reiterate that the city of Davis – under it’s slow growth mantra from 1974 thru year 2004, led the Sacramento region in percentage population growth – year after year, decade after decade.

      That history of continuous growth was Davs.   That history of continuous growth is what this community was built upon.

      But that era is over now.

      Even in the years leading up to the advent of Measure J/R and continuing on through today, we have made no attempt to update our concepts about a community vision for the futures or about planning for growth (or the consequences of lack of growth) since.

      The notions of “fostering community dialogue and promoting specific initiatives to move the forward on goals like sustainability, social equity, affordable housing, public transit, mode shifting, accessibility, broadband, sheltering of the homeless” – while all important considerations and elements in the  planning process – is no substitute for the actual planning and development that brings such goals to fruition.

      The 20th century in Davis was a century of “doing” (characterized by growth) – in context of a vision and a plan to plateau at a population of roughly 70,000.   It’s not so clear that this plan (from a standpoint of development and construction) actually ever addressed the notion of plateauing at full buildout – but that’s where we’re at.

      Seems like maybe it’s time for a fresh look at the facts on the ground.

       

       

       

      1. Ron Glick

        Agreed Doby. Another problem with proceeding with business as usual is the limited ability to engage in an open and forthright  discussion of what we need to do by way of amending J/R. Its been 20 years and placing a renewal on the ballot without the ability of all parties to be heard and engage is unfair to all parties. A fair process would involve something akin to what was done with Cannabis a few years ago or housing over a decade ago where you get everyone in a room and everyone engages with everyone else. Or another way to proceed would be to get input from different city commissions; planning, open space, natural resources, budget and finance.

        It seems putting such a significant ordinance before the voters for a ten year extension under current circumstances and a truncated debate would be a travesty.

        1. David Greenwald

          I think they waited too long on this, but I don’t agree that there is a limited ability to engage. There is actually an enhanced ability to do so right now.

        2. Doby Fleeman

          David,

          Beg to differ.   Not without the data and background on existing conditions necessary to inform, and

          …engage in an open and forthright  discussion…….

          And today, that background is nowhere to be found.

        3. Matt Williams

          Ron G, it is one thing to have an open and forthright discussion.  It is something entirely different to have an informed and open and forthright discussion.  Measure J/R and its wording is not our problem.  Our problem is way, way, way deeper (and more fundamental) than that.  An honest assessment of Davis is that our economy is neither resilient nor sustainable.

          And for the most part we (both as a community and individually) do not know how we got to this non-resilient, unsustainable juncture.  I would even go so far as to say that if asked, a substantial portion of our community residents would say that Davis is both resilient and sustainable.

    2. Bill Marshall

      As an alternative to my recommendation, would whole-heartedly agree, for all the reasons you posited…

      Might even vote “yes”, if it was a 2-year thing…

      1. Bill Marshall

        With 3 + minutes on the “shot clock” could not add “But I still stick with my recommendations”.

        Am starting to wonder about the “shot clock” for revising one’s own posts… am wondering if it is based on ‘poster identity’ and/or, ‘content’… might be random, but it sure appears, “not”…

        I’m not the only poster who has experienced this…

        1. Mark West

          I would have thought by now that you would have adjusted to the situation and modified your behavior so that you no longer needed to rely on a feature that is known to be buggy.

  4. Jim Frame

    I concur with the staff recommendation.  While I appreciate Ron’s and Doby’s desire for a broad and deep discussion about future planning, that’s something that would take a year or two, and even then it would only represent the small slice of the community that chooses to engage.

    We’ve known that a renewal vote was coming for the last 10 years, and those who oppose or want to change the ordinance did nothing substantive or effective toward that end.

    I favor a 10-year renewal with the minor adjustments recommended by staff.  If enough demand can be found to launch a wholesale redo of the city’s planning direction, by all means go forward with that effort.  If it produces a strong enough desire to repeal or amend the renewed Measure J, that can be accomplished by another vote.

    1. Doby Fleeman

      Jim,

      Somewhere along the line, I must have confused you with someone who is concerned with the City’s finances.

      Ron and I aren’t talking about a time out for a Comprehensive General Plan Review for which we have neither the appetite nor the resources.

      If you’re all good with the background and quality of community level dialogue surrounding the future of technology employment in this community – so be it.

    2. Ron Glick

      Actually Jim, I’ve spent most of the last five years pounding away at R to prepare the community for a fall campaign. Before I started nobody was willing to challenge renewal. Now people are not intimidated to speak out.

      With a ten year tenure there was little else to do until renewal was actually before the voters. Sadly because of circumstances having a full and fair debate will be difficult. In fact how would a full public debate even be held by the league of women’s voters or whoever else? In light of these circumstances I don’t think its unreasonable to ask for a shorter term to carry us over until such a debate can be held.

    3. Doby Fleeman

      Jim,

      You’re connected to the construction and development business.

      Out of curiosity, what is your three minute elevator speech about WHY we NEED high quality employers and HOW they will make Davis a better place to live?

    4. Doby Fleeman

      Jim,

      Didn’t mean to put you on the spot.  My real point is this:

      HOW many jobs do we need in the City of Davis, anyway?

      How do we know WHAT would be an optimal number?

      WHY do we believe that would be an optimal number?

      If we think we might need more, WHO is best positioned to help us determine IF we NEED more?

      As matters stand, we don’t have a detailed employment profile for the City of Davis – clearly laying out how many jobs, and of what type, and in what sectors, and offering what ranges of compensation.

      That’s just a basic starting point, recognized by most cities, when discussing issues relating to economic development opportunities.

      Heck, in this most recent report from EPS, they’re telling us our local “Davis domiciled” jobs count increased some 10,000 jobs since their last report based on some kind of new reporting methods employed by ESRI.   OK, I’m prepared to accept that, but now how about some accompanying profile information to give some better idea of the number and types of jobs, sectors and industries served?

      I guess I’m just expecting too much.

  5. Doby Fleeman

    For those interested in a direct look at the types of data being monitored, and reports being issued,  regularly by some of our West Coast neighbors, here is link to Downtown Portland:

    https://live-dpcas.pantheonsite.io/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/2018-business-census-FINAL.pdf</a&gt;

    And here is the link to Downtown Berkeley:

    https://www.cityofberkeley.info/uploadedFiles/Manager/Economic_Development/CityProfile_10.30.15.pdf</a&gt;

    Not suggesting we be comparing ourselves with these communities, only that we should be developing comparable practices for gathering, monitoring and regularly reporting on progress being made in the City of Davis.

  6. Jim Frame

    When MRIC was first proposed, I was enthusiastic about the prospect of adding a tech-centric commercial/industrial center to what seems like an ideal spot, right next to a freeway interchange and surrounded by protected ag land.  The city’s innovation coordinator (or whatever his title was) spoke of the pent-up demand for UCD spinoff businesses and the tax money that would flow from all the high-dollar business property that would populate the site.  It seemed like a great idea to me.

    Then the developer brought forth a plan with a modest amount of commercial space and a bunch of housing.  When I asked why they weren’t proposing to blanket all 200 acres with commercial buildings, his consultant hemmed and hawed a bit, then said (I’m paraphrasing) “We don’t believe the regional market can absorb that much innovation space in a timely way.”  I lost a lot of my enthusiasm that night.

    A well-known local commercial real estate broker told me that the current ARC plan is a non-starter.  Too little, too late.  UCD is committed to Sacramento, not Davis.  West Sac can undercut any tech development Davis proposes because they have a big inventory of such property and will generate more the minute the market provides enough demand.

    Davis-area land values are high because developers are willing to wait until they can build houses on them.  There’s more money in it than in commercial because demand for housing here is higher than in Woodland or West Sac or Dixon, and has been for a long time.  So it’s tough to make job-generating commercial pencil out here.  Remember just a year or two ago, the plans for expanding the research park in South Davis?  That went nowhere, the market wouldn’t support it.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but I know what the answer isn’t:  turn control of annexation and development approval over to the City Council.  Elected officials like to build big things, and if they can’t build big things that make sense for the city they’ll build big things that make sense to the developer.  You don’t have to look any farther back than the Cannery to see how a majority of the CC members looked at a mediocre project and said, “Let’s go!”  And a year or two later they effectively made a gift of public funds to the developer by approving an $11M (as I recall) CFD that they were no obligated to pass.  For that matter, you don’t have to look any further back than a couple of weeks ago when the CC approved the sweetheart sole-source deal with BrightNight.

    I’ll stick with Measure J/R for now, thanks.

    1. Doby Fleeman

      Jim,

      Thanks.  Your response helps immensely.  In response to your comment:

      Then the developer brought forth a plan with a modest amount of commercial space and a bunch of housing.  When I asked why they weren’t proposing to blanket all 200 acres with commercial buildings, his consultant hemmed and hawed a bit, then said (I’m paraphrasing) “We don’t believe the regional market can absorb that much innovation space in a timely way.”  I lost a lot of my enthusiasm that night.

      Of course, it’s all about demand and risk.  Reliable demand has been defined by needs of the university, supported in turn by state mandates, to meet enrollment goals.  Historically, that’s been both reliable and predictable – with a product (both single and multifamily housing) that is well defined and well understood.

      This observation about the lack of commercial demand is essentially the same observation I have heard from multiple commercial brokers whose business spans the larger Sacramento region.  Most successful commercial brokers are agnostic as to whether a client lands in Davis or Roseville, Folsom or Woodland.  It’s what’s best for the client and not their concern.

      With respect to Davis, in particular, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.  A City Council which is often tone-deaf to the virtues of increasing commercial development, and a University which doesn’t seem concerned with the financial fortunes of its host community.  Most communities go out of their way to pave the way for commercial development – understanding full well that more jobs equate to more growth, more opportunities for its residents and businesses, and more revenues to their City.   Not so in Davis. primarily because the community’s “jobs” have traditionally been created “on campus” – and in copious supply.  The real question here should be: “OK, Well, why does that matter?”   But I’ve never heard that question.

      The difference for jobs at Aggie Square, in Sacramento, is the University’s growth is simultaneously fueling growth of “for profit” commercial enterprise which creates both high quality jobs (in Sacramento) as well as copious amounts of additional, new municipal revenues to the City of Sacramento.

      So, let’s just keep that story rolling.  “Davis is asleep at the wheel and every other jurisdiction would just love to have your company in our community……….”   How, exactly, does that perception help Davis?

      In many of our adjoining communities, they are actively soliciting “Davis commercial businesses” because they understand full-well what comes with such opportunities – not the least of which are improved circumstances for their residents, their schools and their community.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Development at Aggie Square won’t generate property taxes, as it’s on UCD’s land.

        And even so, it’s receiving massive amounts of public funding.

        Talk about a “subsidy”.

        But, at least it has a legitimate claim regarding the use of the word “Aggie”.

      2. Ron Oertel

        Who cares if Aggie Square’s property taxes accrue to the City of Sacramento?

        There won’t be any, as it’s UCD’s land.

        You’re the one who brought up Aggie Square.

        As a side note, I didn’t realize how small of a footprint it will actually occupy. It’s also what I’d consider to be an “infill” development, since the city surrounds it.

        I doubt that it would have 6,000 parking spaces, as well.

        1. David Greenwald

          Ron – I have not seen an economic or fiscal analysis for Aggie Square. I just looked and couldn’t find one. But when you say there won’t be any property taxes accrued to the City of Sacramento, I don’t know that we know that. That will depend on whatever agreements are reached between UC Davis and the university. We do know that the city will accrue sales tax from the project, that was a big impetus behind Measure U, Sacramento’s half cent sales tax increase and people like Barry Broome cited Aggie Square as a reason to pass Measure U. I think you should be more careful about assumptions unless you have verified information here.

  7. Alan Miller

    that requires a vote of the citizens in order for the city to annex existing agricultural land or convert agland to urban uses.

    Now they just tear out the ag land for a solar farm without asking.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Not to defend the solar lease, but at least the land is not being parceled-up and sold-off.

      As such – it can always revert back, in the future.  (Hopefully, ultimate removal of obsolete infrastructure is addressed.)

      I would think that solar farms are a more cost-efficient method of obtaining solar power, vs. retrofitting everyone’s roof. (Or, even when compared to installing it on new houses.)

      Of course, environmental problems can occur (e.g., in sensitive habitat areas).

      1. Alan Miller

        I would think that solar farms are a more cost-efficient method of obtaining solar power, vs. retrofitting everyone’s roof.

        There are plenty of places that aren’t house roofs.  They also don’t require taking ag land out of production or buying new land – these areas, such as parking lots, medians, building roofs, already exist for other purposes and can double as solar.

        1. Ron Glick

          I thought the whole point of being against peripheral development was the preservation of our precious ag land. Now it seems this new argument, that 50 years from now the land can return to ag production, reveals the truth. It’s not about ag production its about not housing people. Denying reality, you simply don’t want more people to live here. Despite a growing university developing new technologies and the human capital of the next generation. Despite the human tragedy of homelessness. Despite the population of California and the world likely doubling or tripling in your lifetime you seem to have no interest in being part of the solution to our most vexing problem of housing people.

           

        2. Ron Oertel

          I assume that comment was directed at me, rather than Alan M.

          I was just pointing out that (unlike subdividing the land and selling it off in parcels), city ownership of a large parcel that’s not irreparably damaged provides more options, in the future.

          There’s a reason they call it a solar “farm”.  Providing clean, non-greenhouse energy is a worthwhile goal.

          If solar farms started displacing (and impacting) needed food production (or had significant, negative consequences to sensitive natural habitat), I’d be more concerned. However, that doesn’t seem to be a problem (locally), so far.

          There’s always tradeoffs.  The dam at Hetch-Hetchy comes to mind as something that might have removed an even more valuable asset, but it does provide very clean water and energy to San Francisco and the Bay Area.  Perhaps someday (e.g., as it fills with silt or is otherwise rendered obsolete / beyond its usable lifespan), that valley will be restored.

        3. Ron Glick

          “If solar farms started displacing (and impacting) needed food production (or had significant, negative consequences to sensitive natural habitat), I’d be more concerned. However, that doesn’t seem to be a problem (locally), so far.”

          As I was saying you don’t want housing. You could make the exact same argument replacing solar farm with housing but of course you don’t.

           

        4. Ron Oertel

          Here’s what you said, below:

          We live in an area that produces much more food than it consumes.

          Adding more housing/residences has an impact well-beyond its own footprint.  Not so much, with a solar farm.

          As bad as the current deal is, it still provides the city with money, as well. (Without any significant service costs, such as those associated with housing.)

          Current farming practices are heavily-reliant upon the fossil fuel industry.

    2. Bill Marshall

      Now they just tear out the ag land …

      Except for use as an overland flow, ‘sanitary sewage’ use, it has not been “ag” in many, many years…

      It would be useful to know if the land, based on analysis of the soil, as it exists, is suitable for crops (“ag”)… likely to be alkalinity issues, permeability, possible residuals of heavy metals, selenium, etc.  There is no evidence that such analysis has been done… it was a ‘sanitary sewage’, overland flow treatment site…

      That said, there is the “process issue”… but I’m more concerned about the “soils analysis” issue…

      Not all “ag” (usually, by ‘zoning’) land is suitable for “ag” purposes… ask anyone who understands “ag”…

      1. Bill Marshall

        BTW, given everything, including lack of services, location, adjacent roadways, etc., etc., no way the site would go to “parceling out” or housing… not in this century, at least… only ‘housing’ I could imagine, is if it was turned into a wetlands… could well be ‘housing’ for critters, and a good ‘way station’ on the Pacific Flyway…

  8. Ron Glick

    Matt Williams: “Our problem is way, way, way deeper (and more fundamental) than that.  An honest assessment of Davis is that our economy is neither resilient nor sustainable.”

    I guess it depends on the metrics you use to decide what is resilient or sustainable.

    We live in an area that produces much more food than it consumes. We live in an area that has a growing and insatiable demand for its educational services and that is spinning off ever more new technologies. Many of these new advances enabling both our own and other communities to become more sustainable and resilient. We live in an area that has plenty of land that is developable and has adequate water.

    Perhaps you are talking about the structural deficit of the City? Isn’t that partially the result of opposition to economic growth? By a weird twist of fate, the thing that makes our community rich and pumps billions of dollars into our local economy each year, UC Davis, doesn’t pay taxes that are captured by the City. Rather than planning  around this and looking for ways to maximize revenue, many go off about how UC should house its own people, a policy that neither brings money into city coffers or prevents peripheral development on ag land. Even worse, the ag land displacement of this policy takes much more valuable research land out of production instead of the commodity production land that peripheral development displaces.

    1. Matt Williams

      We live in an area that produces much more food than it consumes.

      You have made an excellent point Ron G.  The regional economy is indeed agriculturally robust.  However, the City of Davis (the “our” in my statement) does not produce more food than it consumes.

      We live in an area that has a growing and insatiable demand for its educational services and that is spinning off ever more new technologies.

      Again agreed, but again the “area” is regional.  This second statement, like the first suffers considerable loss of robustness when the compartmentalization of the area/region is taken into consideration.  Perhaps we should be practicing regional planning.

      Perhaps you are talking about the structural deficit of the City? Isn’t that partially the result of opposition to economic growth?

      Actually, the structural deficit is mostly due to complacency … and a lack of any kind of collaborative regional planning.  As a result, the unintended consequences of the actions and goals of individual “compartments” within the region on the rest of the “compartments” in the region have been swept under the rug.

      By a weird twist of fate, the thing that makes our community rich and pumps billions of dollars into our local economy each year, UC Davis, doesn’t pay taxes that are captured by the City. Rather than planning  around this and looking for ways to maximize revenue, many go off about how UC should house its own people, a policy that neither brings money into city coffers or prevents peripheral development on ag land. Even worse, the ag land displacement of this policy takes much more valuable research land out of production instead of the commodity production land that peripheral development displaces.

      That seems to be a compelling argument for the value of regional planning.

      1. Ron Glick

        The first thing they teach you in thermodynamics is that how you define your system matters.

        I guess I see Davis as more than its existing borders, that it is intertwined with the University, the County of Yolo, the Sacramento River Watershed, The interstate Highway System, The Union Pacific rail system, the Pacific Flyway, California, USA, the Pacific and North American tectonic plates, The Pacific Rim economic trading Region and the Planet Earth. In this view Davis is sustainable and with good leadership could address its problems.

        Measure R sees Davis as an Island devoid of interactions with the rest of the world. In that view Davis is not sustainable.

        1. Matt Williams

          You and I both see Davis the same way; however, the fiduciary jurisdictions don’t.

          Which is why what Doby has been calling for forever … regional planning … is necessary.  Yolo County and UCD do not jointly plan.  The City and UCD don’t jointly plan.  Every one of the fiduciary jurisdictions follows the rule of WIFM … or in the terms of Win-Win Negotiations, they look at each inter-jurisdictional interaction not as Win-Win, but rather as, “I win and you take care of yourself.”

  9. Doby Fleeman

    Ron G,

    Thanks for bring additional clarity to this issue.  I have bolded a portion of your statement which continues to go unaddressed:

    UC Davis, doesn’t pay taxes that are captured by the City. Rather than planning  around this and looking for ways to maximize revenue, many go off about how UC should house its own people, a policy that neither brings money into city coffers or prevents peripheral development on ag land. Even worse, the ag land displacement of this policy takes much more valuable research land out of production instead of the commodity production land that peripheral development displaces.

    Why can’t we have an open conversation about this challenge and the best options available to develop strategies accordingly?   I have been asking, and asking – till I’m blue in the face – for Finance & Budget Commission to address and study the quality, quantity and sustainability of our City revenues.  But the commission and the City have steadfastly declined to engage.  Such a review would lay bare the challenges you have identified.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Why can’t we have an open conversation about this challenge and the best options available to develop strategies accordingly? 

      Darn good point… most discussions to date have been framed by folk seeking to affirm their own ‘biases’… IMNSHO… not “open” (and rarely, even public)…

    1. Matt Williams

      Bill, on the same subject, I strongly recommend this week’s Davisville episode in which Bill Buchanan interviews the very same Bob Leland who is presenting to Council on Tuesday … and on the very same subject.  The whole 25 minute interview is outstanding, but the “cash is king” interchange” at the 10:00 minute mark and the “prior to the pandemic Davis was doing a good job” interchange at 17:15 minute mark are particularly thought provoking.

  10. Jeff Boone

    Measure J/R started the city on a trajectory of a broken local economy.  It is broken in many ways, but a key source is the lack of commercial real estate for a city of 80,000.  Renewing Measure J will ensure that the trajectory continues.  Defeating Measure J will only begin the process of reducing the gap.  There are no magic bullets at this point because the corrections and remedies will take time.  But voting to renew Measure J will insure that the gap continues to grow and the future remedies and corrections can jut be kicked down the road to future generations.

    Life in Yolo County during a pandemic has given me perspective and experience for what my Davis NIMBY and slow/no-growth friends opine for.   It is great to be in the back yard and not be assaulted by Harley riders and USD students’ import car after market exhaust noise.  It is great to drive to one of my two essential and pandemic-response-critical businesses and not have to stop at every damn traffic light and have students crossing everywhere it is convenient for them.  It is great to see more families spending time together… laughing kids playing in the neighborhood.  Couples out and about talking walks… having time to stop and chat with their neighbors (at least 6 feet apart).  It is great to go to the grocery store after work and find a parking space and not have to wait in line for 15 minutes behind a line of students.

    Science has concluded that the human animal is the only animal that cannot tell fantasy from reality.  This experience is a fantasy as it exists only with a looming failure of hundreds of small businesses and their permanently unemployed workers.  This fantasy will carry over to impact the state and local governments… and soon agencies and their employees will be crying for tax increases to maintain their platinum job security and retirement benefits.

    All those noisy and interrupting irritations of humanity are reality demonstrating a sustainable and working local economy.  And our greedy demand for less of it is a fantasy… unless we are somehow willing and able to pay for it.   Now, there are plenty of us that think there is a virtuous and righteous defense of the fantasy… and one sufficiently justified that everyone (except for some convenient exceptions) be forced to pay for these benefits.  But I don’t see that as being sustainable.  I don’t see it as being sustainable because that noise and interrupting, irritating activity is the sound and motion of the heartbeat of the core of economics that sustains everything else.

    I long for more irritation of humanity because it reminds me that we, as a community, are in much better health.

    1. Matt Williams

      Measure J/R started the city on a trajectory of a broken local economy.

      Jeff, I respectfully disagree.  The local City of Davis economy began its broken trajectory at least 20 years before Measure J was passed in 2000.  Together, UC Davis and Davis as a community decided that, while it was important to grow the University, and as a bi-product grow the number of faculty and staff who lived in the community (in effect a “company town” economic model), it was at the same time not important to retain UC Davis “products” (both minds and ideas) that fell outside the boundaries of the campus.  Those “non-academic” minds and ideas were allowed to escape to communities other than Davis.  As a result, Davis continued to be a “company town.”

      Even before Measure J/R, one thing started to change.  Some members of UCD’s cohort of faculty and staff reached retirement age, and chose to retire in place.  So Davis had an ever growing population of UCD students and an ever growing population of retirees, but it did not have a growing population of jobs other than at “the Company.”

      The local Davis economy was in effect a Ponzi Scheme where the sustained growth of the Company’s employees and enrollment created a sustained demand for additional housing.  The fact that true life-cycle costing was not used to set annual property tax levels at a sustainable level that would actually pay for end-of-useful-life maintenance and/or replacement, was obscured by the steady stream of One-Time Fees each new residence produced (I refer to that as “The Wave” in the graphic below), and as long as new housing was being built, the Ponzi Scheme survived.

      https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/08-Population-and-Enrollment-history-with-the-Wave.jpeg

      On an individual project basis, the up front one-time revenues build up a “savings account”, which then gets drawn down each year to cover the fact that the annual expenses exceed annual revenues.  At approximately 15 years the “savings account” reaches zero, but the annual deficit continues.

      https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/07-Paying-Our-Bills-through-Growth.jpeg

      What Measure J actually did, coupled with the impacts of 9-11, and then the bursting of the Housing Bubble and the resultant Great Recession, was expose the vulnerability of the Ponzi Scheme. And once the Ponzi Scheme collapses, it can’t simply be recreated, because of the the existence of the annual Budget Shortfall.

      https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/10-Red-Flag.jpeg

      1. Jeff Boone

        Matt – I am not sure I understand your point here.  Is one without distinction?   Regardless if mistakes have been made prior to Measure J, it is beyond any question or challenge that it has done severe economic damage to the city.

        Davis’s problems have certainly been exacerbated by the growth of the poor student population… also the growth of the fixed-income grays.  However, it is the lack of commercial real estate that sends existing business away (when it grows) and fails to attract enough new business.

        It is simply that.  Davis has everything else it needs.  In fact, it has more than the average community to exploit… except for the lack of places to set up shop.

        I have been doing a lot of researching and thinking about many things related to this topic.  I have this developed theory of two tribes, two structures, two human hierarchies… all similar.  There is the administrative tribe.  This is one focused on hierarchical achievement from government-related involvement.  The other is the producer tribe… the one that focuses on hierarchical achievement from the private economy.  Davis has too much of the former and not enough of the latter.  And thus the power structure in community decisions is aligned with the former and not the latter.  Basically Davis is tribally out of balance in power and influence.

        There is nothing that will fix that except abject failure because the administrative tribe is not going to concede power and authority to the other tribe.

        In most communities it is more balanced… private sector leaders of the community involved in the planning and execution.  Just look at the CVs of the all the Davis council members. We are a government town… lacking much business sense.

        1. Bill Marshall

           I have this developed theory of two tribes, two structures, two human hierarchies… all similar.  There is the administrative tribe.  This is one focused on hierarchical achievement from government-related involvement.  The other is the producer tribe… the one that focuses on hierarchical achievement from the private economy.

          Very ‘polar’, in my opinion… and sophomoric, and untrue (except, in your opinion, which you are entitled to)…

          Are you saying that operating our water supply, drainage, sanitary sewer, road repair/maintenance, should all be privatized (by their nature, virtual single source operations), with a private entity, for profit, managing them all?  Accountable for service, rates?

          Guessing, from your words, only one ‘tribe’ has “a place”… may that never come to pass… I believe that it is not “off-on”…

          I dread a reality that private enterprise has full control of the economy and life.

          Many in the public sector are also “producers”…

        2. Jeff Boone

          Bill – So you claim polar, sophomoric and untrue… and then go on to validate my point.  Thank you despite the digs.

          Let’s start with (gee… do I have to even write this since the recipient is obviously so non-polar in his thinking he should already see this) that the administrative state is one of needed service in our modern life.

          What we lack in Davis is balance.

          I don’t know what you did or do for a living, but the odds are if you are posting on this site your livelihood is or has been strongly connected with government (aka administrative state), or you have other connections (spouse, family, etc.).   I am not digging you for this.  It is not intended as a slight.

          But your connection to that domain makes you more apt to support policy that favors it, and likely oppose policy that competes with it.  Your second to last sentence confirms this.

          Humans placed on a primitive and isolated land would naturally organize based on innate talents and abilities to produce things necessary for survival and prosperity. At some point in their progress to care for themselves the people would agree that some of the work needed to support the structure of their productive lives would be made more efficient by electing, appointing public servants who
          would be delegated certain administrative tasks and authority. For example: road maintenance, postal service, law enforcement, judicial, trash service, etc. Thus begins the development of that secondary structure, hierarchy, tribe (all synonymous terms in this context).

          The obvious problem that could develop with the delegation of administrative authority is the lack of control to prevent overreach and soft corruption of that authority. Because the growing administrative state would have no superior overseer, it would need to be constrained by something.

          I am not sure we are at corruption level in Davis, although the money we spend on government employees is indicative of some level of corruption… or at least a result of a conflict of interest between the governance structure that puts politicians that are all connected to government in charge of decision on government employee compensation.

          Tribal human nature is to secure a high place on the human hierarchy.   Your comment about not wanting private enterprise to have full control of the economy and life would give psychologists a check mark confirming this theory.  It is not your hierarchy (aka tribe) and thus you prefer it is not the dominant one.

          So we have all of our city leaders as being of THAT tribe.  Having THAT perspective.  Defending their place on the human hierarchy within THAT structure they feel most confident and competent in.

          Check out the CVs of the Palo Alto City Council and compare it to ours.  Palo Alto is balanced.  Davis is not.

  11. Ron Glick

    Matt: “Red Flag: the last new development was well over fifteen years ago.”

    Cannery doesn’t count? It was less than 10 years ago.

    1. Matt Williams

      Cannery was after the 15-year window.  By the time Cannery happened, the Wave was completely depleted and the $10 million Budget Shortfall was in full flower … and growing. By the time Cannery happened we were in full blown emulation of Sisyphus.

  12. Alan Miller

    This experience is a fantasy as it exists only with a looming failure of hundreds of small businesses and their permanently unemployed workers.  This fantasy will carry over to impact the state and local governments… all those noisy and interrupting irritations of humanity are reality demonstrating a sustainable and working local economy.  And our greedy demand for less of it is a fantasy…

    “Next stop Willoughby!  A peaceful, restful place, where a man can slow down to a walk and live his life full measure”. 

    Awakening from his dream, he asks the conductor if he has ever heard of Willoughby:  “Not on this run…no Willoughby on the line.”

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