Developer Pulls Back on Changes to Bretton Woods, ‘Going Back to Drawing Board’

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On Tuesday, the city announced that the Planning Commission meeting set to discuss the changes to Bretton Woods would be canceled.

In an email from developer David Taormino, he said, “We are requesting a continuation of the above matter to the next available meeting. The purpose of continuation is to allow me an opportunity to put in writing our proposal and its justification that I intended to deliver orally to the Planning Commission.”

He added, “Unfortunately, not doing so initially has led to erroneous conclusions by some members of the Davis community.”

In a phone interview with the Vanguard late this week, Taormina acknowledged blame for that miscommunication. In light of George Floyd, he said they have to think about “people’s sensitivities to perceived or actual discrimination — particularly in housing.”

He said he is going back to the drawing board “about how to minimize or reduce the likelihood of litigation — and still deliver on the promise of the Davis-based Buyers Program (DBBP) which I’m not stepping away from one iota.”

Taormina explained that in the Development Agreement, there was a requirement to come up with a program about how the DBBP would work.

At this point he said he had been hoping to break ground in September but it may now have to be closer to the spring.

“Right now we have about 90 Davis-based homeowners who have put $5,000 into escrow to a reserve a lot and a home in phase one,” he said. “By the time phase one starts construction, we will have 100 percent of those units sold. That’s without any advertising whatsoever… without even a model.” According to the Phased Tentative Subdivision Map No. 5180 there are a total of 118 lots in phase one.

“Much of this is show over substance,” he said. “The substance is delivering on the promise. I want to deliver on the promise.”

He said that events in recent weeks have made him “more sensitive to perceptions of racial unfairness.”

For the first time, he acknowledged “if you dig into the statistics in Davis and you look at the Davis-based Buyers Program it could give you the perception that the program may not be sensitive enough to people of color.”

This was definitely a complaint made by the opposition to the project back in 2018 — a fact that Taormino acknowledged.

“Yes,” he said. “What we’re trying to do, is figure out how to make it more sensitive to people of color. [And] not punish Davis buyers at the same time.”

What David Taormino also acknowledged was that his intention was not to end the Davis-based Buyers Program, but he admitted that his approach was flawed.

“We never intended to give the impression, although we did,” he said, acknowledging that the impression was that they were ending the promise that 90 percent of the buyers would be Davis residents. He believes he will get there at this point with or without the provisions in place.

He took blame for the miscommunications, stating, “I agree our application was poorly handled by ourselves, we should have presented much more detail — it was my goal to present all of the detail at the Planning Commission and get their feedback on how they saw things. That was obviously poor planning on my part.”

Taormino said he hopes to have the modified program or a replacement program for public release so everyone can see what they are doing and why they are doing it and “not giving the impression that we are abandoning the principles outlined during the campaign, nor are we trying to do a bait and switch.

“Having said that, we did not handle the first part very well,” he said. “I apologize for that.”

—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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45 thoughts on “Developer Pulls Back on Changes to Bretton Woods, ‘Going Back to Drawing Board’”

  1. Tia Will

    “Much of this is show over substance,” he said. “The substance is delivering on the promise.”

    I am heartened to see Mr. Taoromino own this. I do not see this as entirely his fault, but rather a systemic problem with the way in which development projects are too frequently presented to the commissions, city council, and community. Too often they are presented in glossy drawings and effusive words as a pretty bauble that present only advantages to the community. As the developer of a number of innovative projects, I can attest that no one knows the initial weaknesses and likely downsides of a proposal better than its author. Yet these are rarely discussed unless brought up by a member or group in the community and then are often downplayed, minimized, and the false adversarial narrative of NIMBY vs Greedy Developer swings into full play. I suggest this is not our best way forward and would like to offer some concrete suggestions.

    1. Developers should first consider whether there is actual statistical and evidence-based need for a project before proceeding, should weigh that against other city needs and be prepared to present upfront an evidence-based statement of how their proposal meets real, not anecdotal community need. For me, this needs assessment was an initial failing since, when encountered directly with questions of demonstrated need, Mr. Taoromino’s response amounted to “many people have expressed interest”, a far cry from a needs assessment.

    2. The initial proposal should include the pros of the project, but also a full accounting of the potential pitfalls with an accurate accounting of how those will be resolved. Yes, I said resolved, not mitigated. The word choice is deliberate as we have examples, the Cannery being a primary one, of how promised “mitigations” somehow become impossible to achieve after the project is underway.

    3. Time and adversarial actions, up to and including lawsuits could be saved by a truly collaborative process between developers and knowledgable members of the community rather than our current adversarial process. Once a problem is identified, it should be addressed head-on, not trivialized or glossed over as occurred not only in this case, but in many.

    4. I believe our city staff and council should demand this approach of anyone making a major developmental project before the city as a basic prerequisite, not as a nice but optional approach.

     

  2. Alan Miller

    Developer Pulls Back on Changes to Bretton Woods, “Going Back to Drawing Board”

    The above headline should begin, “On the advice of lawyers . . . ”

    In light of George Floyd, he said they have to think about “people’s sensitivities to perceived or actual discrimination — particularly in housing.”

    Whereas before George Floyd:

    “not so much” — Borat

  3. Eric Gelber

    From the staff report for the July 8th Planning Commission meeting:

    Development Agreement Amendment

    In late December 2019, the applicant submitted a request for DA amendment to remove the DBBP from the Development Agreement. City staff and the applicant has been in negotiations since then and have recently come to an agreement. A proposed amendment to a Development Agreement requires both Planning Commission review and City Council approval. As described above, the proposed amendment would remove the entire requirement for DBBP, as shown below.

    From today’s article:
     

    [Taormino] said he is going back to the drawing board “about how to minimize or reduce the likelihood of litigation — and still deliver on the promise of the Davis-based Buyers Program (DBBP) which I’m not stepping away from one iota.”

    These 2 things cannot both be true, and there’s no way city staff got things so wrong. Taormino’s statement here is a major attempt to backtrack on the agreement to drop the DBBP. I’ll be interested to see how he keeps the commitment of 90% Davis-based buyers without encountering the same disparate impact issues raised by the existing iteration of the program as described in the Development Agreement.

    I’m beginning to think you can’t trust anything Taormino says on this issue. Anyway, we’ll see what they come up with. I’m not hopeful it will resolve things satisfactorily.

     

  4. Ron Oertel

    Eric:  These 2 things cannot both be true, . . .

    Neither can the following two things, unless the “first time” refers to the acknowledgement:

    For the first time, he acknowledged “if you dig into the statistics in Davis and you look at the Davis-based Buyers Program it could give you the perception that the program may not be sensitive enough to people of color.”

    This was definitely a complaint made by the opposition to the project back in 2018 — a fact that Taormino acknowledged.

    How is it that this development is allowed to proceed without addressing the fact that what was approved by voters may, or may not be different than what is built?

     

     

    1. Alan Miller

       

      How is it that this development is allowed to proceed without addressing the fact that what was approved by voters may, or may not be different than what is built?

      Would you like fries with your Measure R vote?

    2. David Greenwald Post author

      “How is it that this development is allowed to proceed without addressing the fact that what was approved by voters may, or may not be different than what is built?”

      That part I can answer because I asked the question of the city at the time. The answer was building of the homes is a land use decision governed by Measure R. The selling of the units is covered separately and enforceable through the CC&R. So from the start, the DBBP was never convered under Measure R, it was always separate.

      You can see a little bit of that discussion here: https://www.davisvanguard.org/2018/06/council-quickly-votes-put-wdaac-ballot/

      How that could be allowed? Well the council allowed it and the voters approved it.

      1. Eric Gelber

        The answer was building of the homes is a land use decision governed by Measure R. The selling of the units is covered separately and enforceable through the CC&R. So from the start, the DBBP was never convered under Measure R, it was always separate.

        This will come as news to everyone who voted under Measure R thinking they were voting for or against a seniors housing development. But, apparently, by the same reasoning, Measure R covered only land use and not restrictions on who homes could be sold to. More obfuscation and doublespeak.

        1. Eric Gelber

          Yes. But if the developer wanted to drop the seniors only requirement, as a baseline feature it would have to go to the voters even though, as a sales restriction, it’s presumably outside the purview of Measure R. This suggests to me that the distinction between land use and selling of the units is not as clear as the city staff suggested.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “This suggests to me that the distinction between land use and selling of the units is not as clear as the city staff suggested.”

            I agree. As I re-read the stuff from 2018, I don’t understand why the city attorney allowed this to go through as it was written.

        2. Mark West

           “I don’t understand why the city attorney allowed this to go through as it was written.”

          Was it the same City Attorney? We did recently change counsel.

  5. Keith Olsen

    I’ll bet an interesting read would be to go back and read the Vanguard articles and comments regarding the ‘Davis Based Buyer’s Program’.

    One can read what was being said then and compare it to what is being put forward now.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      This was in my commentary when I opined in October 2018 about the “dangerous race card” – “The irony is that opponents of this project really didn’t need to use the race card to attack the Davis-Based Buyer’s Program. The opponents are correct, this program is central to the developers’ story and their theory of this project. It’s vulnerable enough on legal grounds.”

      I also said earlier this week that if they want to pull back on the DBBP, they need to put that back on the ballot. But we will see what their proposal looks like.

      1. Ron Oertel

        And yet, the issues behind the “dangerous race card” (as you put it) are now being acknowledged by Taormino, himself (“for the first time”).

        Perhaps someday you’ll see it, as well.

      2. Keith Olsen

        This was in my commentary when I opined in October 2018 about the “dangerous race card”

        Hearing David say the race card is dangerous is so fulfilling on its own regardless of this issue.

         

  6. Don Shor

    “Right now we have about 90 Davis-based homeowners who have put $5,000 into escrow to a reserve a lot and a home in phase one,” he said. “By the time phase one starts construction, we will have 100 percent of those units sold.

    It seems this makes the whole issue moot.

    Re Tia’s comment:

     Developers should first consider whether there is actual statistical and evidence-based need for a project before proceeding, should weigh that against other city needs and be prepared to present upfront an evidence-based statement of how their proposal meets real, not anecdotal community need.

    The need is obvious, if 100% of the units are already basically sold. I know of no other way to quantify this that would be persuasive to anyone who isn’t in the real estate industry.

    1. Ron Oertel

      The need is obvious, if 100% of the units are already basically sold.

      If those units (or those built at any other development) were being sold to those from the Bay Area (who otherwise wouldn’t move to Davis), is that a Davis “need”?

       

      1. Eric Gelber

        The need is obvious, if 100% of the units are already basically sold.

        Don – I think you are confusing need with demand. There may be a market for housing among, for example, seniors with large homes seeking to downsize, but that’s different than local housing needs—for the local workforce, for young families with children, for first-time homebuyers, etc. The expensive homes sold by downsizing homeowners won’t address those housing needs either.

        1. Don Shor

          that’s different than local housing needs—for the local workforce, for young families with children, for first-time homebuyers, etc.

          There is a clear need for all those types of housing, and other types, in Davis and nearly everywhere else in California. Any particular reason the developer has to prove it?

        2. Eric Gelber

          The developer doesn’t have to prove it; but the developer here claimed it. The DBBP was promoted as meeting the needs of seniors wanting to downsize. Just my opinion, but I’d argue new housing should strive to meet the needs of the unhoused and the under-housed, rather than the over- housed. And it should promote rather than hinder diversity, like the current iteration of the DBBP would.

      2. Don Shor

        If those units (or those built at any other development) were being sold to those from the Bay Area (who otherwise wouldn’t move to Davis), is that a Davis “need”?

        Maybe you missed this part:

        “Right now we have about 90 Davis-based homeowners who have put $5,000 into escrow

        1. Eric Gelber

          Under the DBBP, as described in the Development Agreement and elsewhere, “Davis based” includes far more then just current Davis residents.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Don:  Maybe you missed this part:

          – probably should also note that the 100% claim only refers to Phase 1.
          (I don’t know if those deposits might be refundable.)

          Or, maybe you missed this part:

          or those built at any other development

          (in regard to houses being sold to those from the Bay Area, for example.)

          And since we’re only referring to Phase 1, it seems plausible that this might still apply regarding Bretton Woods.

          Then there’s (also) Eric’s point (e.g., regarding “downsizing”), though one might argue that’s an internal “need”.

           

           

           

        3. Ron Oertel

          “Davis based” includes far more then just current Davis residents.

          Which could include wealthy people who now live in the Bay Area, for example. Who are most likely, “white”.

          A conundrum surrounded by an enigma.

    2. Tia Will

      Except for the fact that we had no way of knowing that would be the outcome prior to the vote, and the vote was based on an incomplete understanding of the full implications of the project as written as Mr. Taoromino has confirmed.

      1. Bill Marshall

        Given the fact there are no approved tentative or final maps, 25% is quite high for “reservations”… you can’t truly ‘reserve’ a plot of land until it legally exists… and there are no such lots today…

    1. Ron Oertel

      The Davis Buyer’s program is not an inherent part of Measure R. It was a sales tactic, which could have come forth even if Measure R didn’t exist (e.g., to convince council members to support the proposal).

      Perhaps developers and the city shouldn’t be presenting something illegal to voters in the first place.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Though perhaps it’s more accurate to say, “vulnerable” to further legal challenges.

        It will be interesting to see what they come up with.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          The developer will say it wasn’t in the baseline features, therefore there was always a possibility it could change and the city’s language on DBBP was it was always contingent on fair housing laws.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            That’s a good question along with … why didn’t they know it at the time?

        2. Ron Oertel

          why didn’t they know it at the time?

          I wouldn’t necessarily conclude that they “didn’t” know, especially since a lawsuit was launched prior to the election. Seems like a pretty good “clue”.

          I predicted that the program would disappear, after the election.

          I’m not sure why the developer is trying to “hang onto it” in some manner, at this point. Other than to avoid breaking a promise/campaign argument.

  7. Tia Will

    Don,

    Except for the fact that we had no way of knowing that would be the outcome prior to the vote, and the vote was based on an incomplete understanding of the full implications of the project as written as Mr. Taoromino has confirmed.

  8. Ron Glick

    “the vote was based on an incomplete understanding of the full implications of the project as written as Mr. Taoromino has confirmed.”

    I’m not sure. If the opponents raised the issue in the ballot rebuttal and the voters passed it anyway an argument can be made that the voters were informed before they voted. I can’t remember the arguments perhaps someone does.

    1. Ron Oertel

      If the opponents raised the issue in the ballot rebuttal and the voters passed it anyway an argument can be made that the voters were informed before they voted. 

      If the city weighs in (and says it’s “legal” and that they will “defend” it), then that would diminish those who question its legality.

  9. Ron Glick

    Also there is the issue of whether the buyers program is severable. This is the same issue that is before the Supreme Court right now on Obamacare. If there is a problem with one part do you throw out the entire thing?

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