On Wednesday as the clock neared midnight, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended moving forward with the Renewal of Measure J with only the recommended technical changes. The commission took approximately 12 comments from the public—all in support of the renewal.
Commissioner Darryl Rutherford did raise a point raised on the Vanguard—the lack of ability for community discussion about the renewal.
“I believe there is probably some room for improvement on this ordinance,” Rutherford stated. “Unfortunately I think that the process that has been laid out to the community has been a disservice to the community. I haven’t seen any real outreach done. No public meetings outside of City Council.”
He noted, “I know that there’s probably a minority in this community who would rather not even see this measure exist anymore—yet we don’t have the opportunity to hear from them nor do we have the opportunity to hear about some potential recommendations that they could provide to us to improve on it.”
He asked, “Why didn’t we have any community outreach done on this ordinance?”
During the public comment, the overarching request was to put the measure back on the ballot in November, with only technical changes, for another ten-year term that expires December 31, 2030.
Some of the public commenters noted that the city is required to put the measure before the voters as it is currently written.
As Eileen Samitz put it in her public comment, “The citizen ordinance is intended to be placed on the ballot every ten years without major changes.”
When the council put the measure back on the ballot back in 2010, they passed a resolution. In the language in the resolution that was not codified into the city ordinance, Section 4 Part B, it says, “Ordinance 2018, as amended and extended by this Ordinance, shall remain in effect until December 31, 2020, unless modified or repealed earlier by the voters of the City by majority vote.”
It then states, “On a regularly scheduled election date prior to December 31, 2020, the City Council shall submit the provisions of this Ordinance to the voters of the City for renewal, amendment or repeal.”
In Section 5 it adds, “This Ordinance may be amended or repealed only by the voters of the City of Davis at an election held in accordance with state law.”
Darryl Rutherford, following public comment, added that “our current development process and the strengths we have in this community, is really creating a challenge to really creating an equitable community where everybody at all income levels, of all walks of life, of various races, let’s call it what it is, this is an ordinance that has really affected racial equity in this community.”
He continued, “I’m really appalled by the leaders of this community who have continued to push aside opportunities for an ordinance of this magnitude to be taken to a larger public in a robust community outreach process that allows a lot of folks an opportunity to mix.”
He noted, “I imagine at this time, a lot of the people affected by the lack of affordable homes being developed in this community are probably asleep or at work—because they either have to wake up really early or they’re cleaning up, doing things that not those of us who have the ways and means to afford to live in this community can do it.”
Rutherford said, “I’m not opposed to this measure by any means,” and he indeed voted with the rest of his colleagues to move it forward to council. “I think having the public right to vote on the projects in the community is awesome.
“Is it the way it is currently written the way it was written 20 years ago in response to the community not trusting the development staff in approving project in allowing growth to go in ways that the community didn’t want to see at that time,” he said. “Is that still the case today?”
He pointed out that we have known for a long time that this was going to be up for renewal this year. He thinks it could be up for some revisions, “but we don’t have the luxury of having that kind of debate in this community at this point.”
He said he knows this will go to council, it will go on the ballot as currently written and sit for another ten years until it comes up again for discussion in another decade.
A voter initiative or revising it part way through, he felt, was expensive and it is time consuming to put a matter on the ballot.
“I think there is a lot of room for improvement in this day and age,” he said, noting ways that the affordable housing portion of the measure could be improved, not just for lower income households but also public servants.
Greg Rowe, following Rutherford’s comments, said, “One of the things that impresses me about Davis is that it’s one of the only cities I know where people have a voice in this.”
“If you compare Davis to a city that’s very similar population, Flagstaff, Arizona…” he said. “We’ve contained almost 70,000 people in ten square miles. It’s because we have the ability to vote on whether we go outside that boundary or not.”
Flagstaff, by comparison with similar population size, he said, sprawls over 70 square miles.
“You can’t ride a bike across town,” he said. “It’s not compact enough.”
He said this mechanism “doesn’t exist in other towns.” The result is in many communities unconstrained growth and leap frog development.
“You end up with a city that doesn’t make any logical sense,” Rowe stated.
—David M. Greenwald reporting