Guest Commentary: DJUSD and Measure R/J

By Mario Salvagno

In order to maintain existing schools and operations, DJUSD imports 650 of their students from surrounding towns. The number continues to increase and may grow by an additional 1,000 out- of-district transfer students unless long term planning begins now.

At the last discussion of Measure J/R’s renewal, many members of the public and City Council expressed a desire that Measure J/R should reflect a community-driven process. But how can the current renewal discussion be considered to be a community-driven process when neither its provisions nor its impacts have been discussed or considered by the City commissions or the public in an open and formalized process?

Instead, the current plan seems to be to present the citizens of Davis with an up-or-down vote on a ballot measure that was drafted and designed two decades ago under substantially different housing and economic conditions than Davis faces today.

During the past two decades, Davis has experienced a dramatic demographic transformation which has affected every citizen and entity in Davis, including DJUSD. In the 00’s, Davis was building new schools, now the district is faced with the choice between closing schools or finding more out-of-district transfer students to plug the gaps in their budget.

Before the City Council renews Measure J/R for another decade, shouldn’t the Council and community have a serious discussion about what Measure J/R has meant–and will mean–for Davis, DJUSD, and other community entities?

I am proud to be from Davis. Our town is one of the most educated towns in our country, and our public schools and education rank in the top 35 in the state according to niche.com. Our community values education—and rightly so. However, we as a community need to acknowledge that the past two decades have created serious challenges to the mission of DJUSD to provide excellent education for its students: a decline in families and school age children within Davis, and rising housing costs which have priced out many teachers and their families.

Any discussion of Measure J/R’s renewal should consider whether and how its current provisions have contributed to these challenges and how they might be remedied. A wise person once said that an unconsidered life is not worth living, and it might be also said that an unconsidered policy is not worth pursuing.

And while our school district may be thriving academically, our teachers are struggling. In 2018-19 the average teacher salary was $70,657. While this sounds like a good salary, the Zillow Home Value Index mortgage payments would be 58% of their annual salary. Median sale prices are just as bleak, with mortgage payments at 54% of that salary. Even looking at the average rental rate, the average teacher is still spending over 35% of their income on rent, above the federal standard for how much you should pay for housing.

In 2016, California passed the Teaching Housing Act, which allows affordable housing to be built for our teachers. When it comes to attracting and retaining our teachers, we need to do more.

With the passing of Measure G, we were finally able to help close some of the compensation gap from other districts in the area. However, when comparing our housing costs to the rest of the Sacramento region, we are one of the most expensive communities in which to live.

Increased teacher pay will help DJUSD attract and retain great teachers, but reducing living expenses for DJUSD employees is also important in light of Davis’ high housing costs. Our community needs to capitalize on this opportunity to house our teachers. However, there aren’t many parcels of land left within the city to build a robust housing program for teachers.

Measure J/R should be amended to exempt teacher housing from a citywide vote. Our school district should not have to spend resources paying for campaigns that could be better put towards their students and staff.

We should allow our commissions and City Council to support DJUSD’s needs through peripheral teacher housing projects without an expensive, timeconsuming, and risky ballot process provided that such projects are guaranteed to be reserved for DJUSD employees. If the district wanted to sell/lease any of this housing to someone else, it would need to go to a vote of the people.

Some of the best schools in the country– Choat, Andover, Deerfield–all provide housing as a way of recruiting teachers. More locally, Santa Clara County has used district housing successfully through the Teaching Housing Act of 2016..

In addition to the need for DJUSD housing, we also should include administrative facilities. Many of our buildings are in disrepair and spread out throughout the city. The offices on B Street and Fifth street are old and dilapidated. Currently, the District is facing millions of dollars in repair costs just to keep their district office operable.

Sometime soon, DJUSD will face an ultimatum on how to handle these buildings that are nearing the end of their life cycle, and affording the District more options can help them use their public monies more efficiently and effectively.

Measure J/R was originally written for when land for new schools was the district’s primary concern. Teacher retention and deferred maintenance have become chronic problems for school districts across California. The needs of the school district have changed, and Measure J/R needs to change with it.

These small amendments to Measure J/R would create opportunities for DJUSD to address critical issues while maintaining the broad spirit of the original ordinance.

Mario Salvagno is a Davis resident and graduate of DJUSD


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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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38 Comments

  1. Alan Pryor

    Mario –

    I agree 100% that a Measure J/R exemption for DJUSD teacher housing would be appropriate. But the fact is that there are still lots of plots of land that are being developed within the City’s boundaries on which housing is currenly being built or could be developed that are not nearly inexpensive enough to be afforded by “teachers”. That is unless you have a hugely broadened definition of what is a “teacher” (e.g. is a fully tenured UCD faculty member or an executive within the DJUSD administration knocking down $150,000+/year considered a teacher).

    The real problem is NOT in the a scarcity of land in the City on which housing for teachers could be built. The problem is the developers all want to focus on high end housing (2,000+ sq ft at $375+/sq ft = $750,000 minimum) because that’s where they make the most money. Until developers start producing smaller townhomes without quartz countertops, hardwood flooring, and stainless steel kitchen applicnaces, etc (e.g. at, say, 1,000 sq ft for $300/sq ft = $300,000), no amount of changes in Measure J/R will ever solve this problem.

    So I don’t see how our DJUSD teachers could anymore afford a housing unit in a parcel brought into City limits through Measure J/R than if a new development were already being built in town. Certainly there is nothing in the new ARC proposal that will comeeven  close to being affordable to teachers.

    But I’ll play the devil’s advocate here – Do you have specific language that could be used to accomplish this goal without otherwise opening the floodgates to abuse by developers and our own Council to ram through Measure J/R projects that may, in fact, only have a tiny fraction of the proposed housing that is actually required to be set aside for “teachers” – that is, in other words, NOT a proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing?

  2. Ron Glick

    “’Recruiting’ students from other districts damages both the receiving and sending districts.”

    From Ron O’s comment before its removal.

    Simply because you keep saying it doesn’t make it true. If it was bad for DJUSD why would school board after school board continue to allow it?

    1. Ron Oertel

      “If it was bad for DJUSD why would school board after school board continue to allow it?”

      It’s more accurate to say that it’s bad for the receiving “city” (regarding parcel taxes/housing affordability), and encourages efforts to undermine planning (e.g, by those associated with the school district, and/or via involvement of development interests).

      Regarding the “sending” district – it reduces funding for them as they lose students, and likely siphons-off a different student demographic (compared to those “left behind”).  With less motivation to adequately supplement funding in their own districts, as needed.  As such, it may reduce the quality of education for those “left behind”.

      It also encourages unnecessary commuting.

      Schools exist to serve a community, not the other-way around.

      1. David Greenwald

        It’s not for the city. We have walked you through the math so many times. The community is advantaged by the practice from a lot of standpoints including people who work here being able to keep their kids in school here. It doesn’t encourage unnecessary commuting because they have to have a tie to Davis in the first place.

    2. Ron Oertel

      And as far as the reason that DJUSD continues to recruit non-resident students, it’s due to self-interest (on the part of the district itself, parents who benefit from it, etc.)

      But, it’s not good for all, as noted.

  3. Ron Oertel

    It’s not for the city. We have walked you through the math so many times.

    Misrepresenting (or not fully exploring) the options doesn’t make it accurate.  Nor does ignoring the DJUSD parcel taxes (which are only levied on Davis properties). Nor does ignoring the DJUSD developer fees (that drive up the cost of housing in the first place).

    The community is advantaged by the practice from a lot of standpoints including people who work here being able to keep their kids in school here.

    How many of those people work for the school district, itself?  And, would have no intention of moving to Davis, regardless?  And, who might work in their home districts, if it wasn’t being downsized as a result of the siphoning-off of students by DJUSD?

    It doesn’t encourage unnecessary commuting because they have to have a tie to Davis in the first place.

    Yes it does – at least for some.

    I’m going to repost my original comment in a moment, as it appears that things are too corrupted regarding what’s put forth on here to ignore.

     

    1. Ron Oertel

       Nor does ignoring the DJUSD developer fees (that drive up the cost of housing in the first place).

      To clarify, facilities that wouldn’t be needed if the district was right-sized in the first place.

    2. David Greenwald

      “Yes it does – at least for some.”

      Almost all of them either have parents who work in the district, have parents who work in Davis, or started off in Davis and then moved out and because of that, entitled to remain.

      1. Ron Oertel

        I don’t know about the percentages, but I would think that a lot of them work for the DJUSD school district, itself.  And may have made a different choice, if their own home districts weren’t experiencing a siphoning-off of students by DJUSD (and the resulting impact on their own/home school district employment opportunities).

        Regardless, it sounds like some already have a place to live (outside of Davis), and will likely continue living there.

        DJUSD wouldn’t “need” to recruit non-resident students, if it was right-sized in the first place. It’s as simple as that, regardless of how you want to twist it. One would have to (independently) examine the entire budget in detail, to arrive at specific conclusions regarding how to accomplish that.

        We can discuss this further if you’d like, but it appears that the moderator is suggesting that it be dropped.

        It’s really not the main point, anyway. Ron G. responded to a comment that had already been deleted.

        1. David Greenwald

          In 2013, it was 65% worked for DJUSD itself.

          “DJUSD wouldn’t “need” to recruit non-resident students, if it was right-sized in the first place.”

          That’s the problem of declining enrollment. You really can’t right size the district – the article I posted the link to explains that. It’s a reverse economy of scale issue. As you get larger you become more efficient with your costs, as you get smaller, you get less efficient. So the best course is to try hold it steady.

        2. Ron Glick

          “DJUSD wouldn’t “need” to recruit non-resident students, if it was right-sized in the first place.”

          Or if Davis hadn’t constrained supply through J/R , jacking up home prices and forcing young families with jobs in Davis to buy in Woodland or West Sac.

        3. Ron Oertel

          Differences in housing costs predate Measure J/R. However, it is likely that surrounding communities are absorbing some of the demand for housing.

          Regarding the cost of housing, you might want to start by examining how much developer fees are for new housing (for unneeded school district facilities in an over-sized district), and how much DJUSD parcel taxes are.

          And, you might want to talk about why teachers would be afforded special treatment, regarding housing (when many others earn far less). Especially since they just received a raise, via yet another new parcel tax.

          Then, you might want to talk about the dire situation faced by a wide range of professions (including teachers), outside of the confines of Davis. You might find that Davis teachers are not among the worst-off, regarding those challenges.

          You might also want to address why some continue to undermine Affordable housing efforts.

        4. Richard McCann

          Ron O

          The housing price differences are at least $300k:

          Davis average price is $721K

          https://www.zillow.com/davis-ca/home-values/

          West Sacramento average price is $400k

          https://www.zillow.com/west-sacramento-ca/home-values/

          Woodland average is $414K

          https://www.zillow.com/woodland-ca/home-values/

          The 80% differential is much larger since passage of J/R than the historic differential. (In 1996 we sold a West Sac house for $140K and bought in Village Homes for $196k).

          Developer fees are just a fraction of that amount (and its the DIFFERENCE in the developer fees that matters, and that’s even less). So this isn’t an issue in the price differential between regional communities.

        5. Ron Oertel

          Richard:

          I don’t think that anyone is arguing that prices in Davis are higher than surrounding communities.  Surrounding communities are absorbing some of the demand, and are likely keeping Davis housing prices in check.

          Now, if you’re really interested in keeping prices (and demand) in check, you might want to consider opposing ARC (and the 1,200 residential units within Davis that aren’t accounted for, in that development).  Not to mention the (1,700?) additional units that would be needed outside of Davis, to support that development.

          It does seem strange that those who claim to be concerned about housing shortages are willing to overlook this “inconvenient” fact.

          In any case, this kind of analysis can become complicated, regarding the differences in median prices, average prices, differences over time, differences in development fees, CFDs/mello-roos, parcel taxes, etc.

          Rik (who has since been banned from participating on here) previously showed that housing prices have risen the fastest in areas where they’ve allowed the most growth and development.

    3. Richard McCann

      Ron O

      What does interdistrict transfers have to do with providing affordable housing to teachers? There’s no connection whatsoever since the District will ALWAYS need teachers.

  4. Richard McCann

    Ron

    Growth of students in the district has nothing to do with this issue. It’s about housing for the teaching staff, which turns over for a variety issues. New teachers don’t have the income to support buying a house in Davis, regardless of whether students are coming in from outside the district or not.

    1. Ron Oertel

      The district (and, perhaps – the number of teachers) is higher than what the community actually needs.  So, if they’re going to argue that they should (also) receive some special treatment (in comparison to other professions), I’d call that into question. Especially since they just got a raise (which coincidentally, drives up the cost of housing for everyone else).

      I’ll go ahead and re-post a portion of one of my comments above, since it appears that you didn’t read it:

      Regarding the cost of housing, you might want to start by examining how much developer fees are for new housing (for unneeded school district facilities in an over-sized district), and how much DJUSD parcel taxes are.

      And, you might want to talk about why teachers would be afforded special treatment, regarding housing (when many others earn far less). Especially since they just received a raise, via yet another new parcel tax.

      Then, you might want to talk about the dire situation faced by a wide range of professions (including teachers), outside of the confines of Davis. You might find that Davis teachers are not among the worst-off, regarding those challenges.

      You might also want to address why some continue to undermine Affordable housing efforts.

      But if you really want to know what’s going on here, development interests appear to be behind the scenes regarding this effort.

  5. Ron Glick

    “But if you really want to know what’s going on here, development interests appear to be behind the scenes regarding this effort.”

    Really? Do tell, or is this another statement without foundation?

    1. Ron Oertel

      I would LOVE to talk about that, but I believe it could violate the Vanguard’s doxing policy.  (Not that this isn’t routinely violated, regardless.)

      Also – suggest you read the article itself, slowly and carefully (and consider the reason/motivation for it, from this author and background that is shared).

      1. Ron Glick

        Well I hope you are right and that people with money finance a campaign to improve or repeal J/R. They certainly haven’t contacted me but I’m available and intend to do what I can towards that effort.

  6. Ron Glick

    “Now, if you’re really interested in keeping prices (and demand) in check, you might want to consider opposing ARC (and the 1,200 residential units within Davis that aren’t accounted for, in that development).  Not to mention the (1,700?) additional units that would be needed outside of Davis, to support that development.”

    I’ll admit that I have mostly stayed out of the ARC controversy but I don’t understand how increasing jobs is a bad thing. If you build housing to meet demand increasing jobs actually helps lift up many boats both directly and as a multiplier . Its only when you restrain the supply of housing that increasing jobs increases scarcity.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Uh, huh. 

      Where do you propose putting the 1,200 additional residential units in Davis whose “need” would be directly created by ARC (but are not accounted for in the 850 on-site units)?

      The 850 units (alone) are more than what’s in The Cannery.

      And, if you don’t have an answer for that, why are you claiming to be concerned about housing shortages?

      (For now, we’ll leave out the long-term fiscal impact of those 1,200 units, especially since that’s exactly what the EPS analysis did as well.)

        1. Ron Oertel

          Demand is “created”.  Says so, right in the SEIR – in that example.

          And in this case, “demand” is created without addressing “supply”.

      1. David Greenwald

        How about putting them in the housing that will be approved over the course of the next 20 to 30 years. Ramos addressed this point in the article we ran on Sunday.

        “Dan Ramos believes that the housing demand, given the gradual build out over a period of years if not decades, will be subsumed within the normal course of housing in the coming housing element processes.”

        And he also pointed out that a lot of people who commute outside of town to work now, might have high quality jobs at ARC.

        t “hopefully it will be an employment center for some of the existing people that live in Davis who commute out of Davis.” Right now, if you don’t work at the university or a few companies around town, for high quality jobs you are headed out of town to Sacramento, Roseville or even all the way to the Bay Area.

        “Hopefully we can help provide some job opportunities for some of the people who are commuting out of town right now,” he said. “Those jobs aren’t (in Davis) so they’re commuting away.”

        1. Ron Oertel

          How about putting them in the housing that will be approved over the course of the next 20 to 30 years. Ramos addressed this point in the article we ran on Sunday.

          So, just to be clear – you’re stating that the created demand (in the form of 1,200 additional residential units) won’t have any impact regarding demand?

          And, that this created demand will simply be addressed/included “somewhere” within Davis, over some period of time?

          Really?

          1. David Greenwald

            I’m stating that over the course of 20 to 30 years, the ramp up will be slow enough to be absorbed into the normal housing build out.

        2. Ron Oertel

          ”   . . .absorbed into the normal housing build out.”

          So again, additional/created demand (in the form of 1,200 units) “doesn’t make any difference”, in your view?

          I’m actually laughing a little, as I write this.

          But, the sad part is that this type of argument is coming from those who claim to be concerned about housing shortages. Ultimately, it also points out a complete lack of concern, regarding that claim.

          You’ve got to address conflicts within your own arguments, to maintain credibility.

        3. Ron Oertel

          Oh, and this doesn’t address the 1,700 units, whose residents would be commuting in.  (Also “claimed” to be a concern.)

          You can drive a truck through the holes in arguments, on here. That is, if the roads weren’t subsequently clogged with commuters.

          1. David Greenwald

            And that’s why they are looking at transit models as well as the potential for more remote work

        4. Ron Oertel

          The “remote” work indicates a lack of demand for office space (in the region, state, and nation) in the future.  A glut of such space, coming into the market as companies offload it.

          Then again, the 6,000 parking spaces point in a different direction.

          Let’s face it – it’s driven by the profit that can be realized from the housing, during the first two phases.

          As I recall, a “smaller” MRIC proposal wasn’t feasible (without housing, of course).

  7. Ron Glick

    “So, just to be clear – you’re stating that the created demand (in the form of 1,200 additional residential units) won’t have any impact regarding demand?”

    Not if you allow increased supply to meet demand. I guess there are those who don’t believe this but it is an old model that has stood the test of time.

  8. Ron Oertel

    For what it’s worth, I just came across this article regarding lists of cities/regions which are at risk of getting the stuffing knocked-out of them, regarding housing prices.  (You know, the “original” definition of a housing crisis. In this case, due to COVID.)

    The greater (or is it “lesser”?) Sacramento region is on this list:

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/cities-on-the-verge-of-a-covid-driven-housing-crisis/ss-BB149gtb?ocid=spartandhp#image=3

    Maybe good news, for those able to take advantage of the opportunity. Seems like talk of “housing shortages” often disappear, in such times.

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