Monday Morning Thoughts: Preservation As an Illusion

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Infill along B Street

By David M. Greenwald

There are reasons why we all live in Davis.  For me, it’s about two things primarily—maybe three.  First, the schools.  I have told my stories too many times on here, but we are reminded on a daily basis as parents how amazing it is to deal with schools where your children matter and they aren’t simply widgets to be pushed through.

But second, as someone who has lived in a number of big cities at various times in my life, I greatly prefer a relatively small town to the hustle and bustle of the big city.  So when I first started getting active in the community after my time as a graduate student was winding down, one of my big priorities was to preserve that small town atmosphere of Davis.

In the valley, we have seen many cities and communities explode with population growth and, in 2000, Davis seemed to be heading in that direction.  But the voters passed Measure J as a way to put a brake on growth.

But I think too many people, myself as well, have fallen into the trap of believing that we can somehow keep Davis as it is—or even as it was when you first moved here.  I get it, it’s a great place to live.  But I think we have been sold a bit of a false vision here.

Davis is vastly different than it was when I moved here in 1996, and Davis in 1996 was vastly different than things were in the 1970s when people who came here fifty years ago moved here.

We don’t have the option of staying as we are.  Life doesn’t work that way.

We basically—and I am oversimplifying for the purpose of illustrating this point—have three paths forward.  And yes, we have some mixed paths.  Option 1 is we do not build new housing.  Option 2 is we build out.  Option 3 is build up.

Each option has some benefits, but each one has drawbacks.  No matter which path we choose we will have fundamental change to the community.

The downside of no new housing that we make this community unaffordable to anyone other than the wealthy who can purchase million dollar homes.  Part of the problem—I would argue—with the current debate over growth is that there is a false sense of the world by those who purchased their homes 30, 40 or 50 years ago0—when they could do so at less than $100,000—and those who have to purchase their homes now.

A lot of the folks who have lived in this community for a long time could not afford housing if they graduated from the university today.  That is going to mean fundamental change to who lives in this community, but it also creates a distorted sense for the issues.

We have largely avoided and precluded Option 2 with Measure J.  But if we voted to end Measure J, we would see the resumption of building of single-family homes on the periphery, the city would likely grow outward, and the farmland and ag-urban boundary would begin to diminish.

Finally we have Option 3 where we build up.  That means more density.  More infill.

Because of Measure J, we have largely punted on peripheral growth.  Yes, we passed Nishi in 2018, but in reality that is more infill in both location and function than peripheral.  So really the only peripheral growth we have seen in the last 20 years is a part of the Cannery on the edge of town with single-family homes, and Bretton Woods—which has yet to be built.

Otherwise, we are really debating over no housing and infill.  And for a long time, we had, for most intents and purposes, settled on no housing.

Infill has the advantage of keeping the contours of the city, but it starts changing the interior.

The comments from the URP discussion at the Planning Commission last week are telling.

Emily Shandy had one of the great quotes of the day: “I am disappointed that this is yet another project coming before us that’s sort of an island of buildings in the middle of a sea of parking.”

Darryl Rutherford said, “The design seems a little odd—pretty industrial.” He added, “It just doesn’t have a Davis feel to me.”

He noted the attempt to move to a “more modern design” but he said, “It still doesn’t seem to fit the community.”

The complaint: this building is ugly.  While Mark Friedman pushed back saying he promised to build a beautiful project, the critics here are probably right.

We are plopping down a dense, mixed-use building in the middle of a technology park that has already been built out in the middle of town.  What are we expecting here?

Aesthetics aside, though, there is a policy angle to all of this.  The critics of the University Commons called it a monstrosity, and they worried about how it would impact the character of the community.

One person wrote that “the City Council’s job is to protect the integrity of Davis IN THE LONG TERM.”  Another wrote: “The project needs to be much more down-sized as well as compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods and cause fewer impacts.”

Another: “I am deeply concerned and appalled by the projected plans for a tall monstrosity that does not take into account the needs of the entire community.”

We need to fully recognize that this is a consequence of a conscious decision—we have decided not to grow outward.  We have recognized that if we build zero housing, we have problems.  So we are starting to build upwards.

We are going to have people concerned with too much density.  People concerned that we are building housing that is too high.  And concerned that these projects don’t look like Davis and will change the character of this town.

At this point, Ron Glick or someone else will shout—No on Measure J, defeat Measure D.

Look, I’ve always favored Measure J for a variety of reasons, but I do think we made a massive mistake not having a broader community discussion.

We should have taken the time to model what this town will look like under the three scenarios I laid out.  What does it look like if we simply stop building housing?  What does it look like in 30 years if we build outward at the rate of one percent per year?  And what does it look like in 30 years if we densify at the rate of one percent per year?

Shouldn’t we be able to make educated decisions and know what we are getting into?  It is unfortunate that we are practicing planning by necessity and crisis rather than through … I don’t know … careful planning.

—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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64 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts: Preservation As an Illusion”

  1. Ron Glick

    “Option 1 is we do not build new housing.  Option 2 is we build out.  Option 3 is build up.”

    Failure  to house people is not an option. Even Colin Walsh will tell you he supported WDAAC. Only the most radical conservationists will argue for no additional housing.

    The interesting thing about Options 2 and 3 is not that they are juxtaposed but instead supplementary. The best path forward, in my opinion, is some of both depending on what is appropriate and practicable.

    Sadly Measure D limits our flexibility to make the best choices and drives infill where we get massive buildings that change the culture of Davis. Historically we built out as needed. By going up instead we are changing the community in ways that were unintended 20 years ago when Measure J passed.

    Vote no on D.

  2. Matt Williams

    Davis is vastly different than it was when I moved here in 1996,

    Landon and I moved to Davis in 1998, so our time-line is pretty much the same as David’s and Cecilia’s.  Neither of us feel that Davis is vastly different than it was in 1998, and if you changed “very different” to just “different” our answer would still be the same.

    So, it is very logical to ask, “What is different about today’s Davis from the Davis of 1996-1998?”

    1. Ron Glick

      What is vastly different?

      The price differential of a rental and the price of a house when compared to surrounding communities.

      The trajectory of our school age population has turned negative.

      Many of my friends have moved away because they couldn’t afford to stay.

      The amount of debt students are taking on to pay for college has increased, rent included.

      The Grad, The Blue Mango, Cafe Roma, Dairy Queen and The Palms are gone.

      We have better water but we are losing the claw.

      Measure J/R has forced us to densify instead of continuing to build out as needed. As a result lot size and garden space have declined changing the culture of how people live.

      We have built housing on research fields in order to conserve commodity production fields.

      We have been changing from an ag based community to a biotech community.

      The middle age demographic has been hollowed out.

      Parking on B St. has been eliminated north of 6th Street.

      I could go on for a long time on this topic.

       

       

      1. Matt Williams

        The price differential of a rental and the price of a house when compared to surrounding communities. –  Although I don’t have the data at my fingertips to corroborate, I suspect that the percentage differential between communities is not much different now than it was in 1998.

        The trajectory of our school age population has turned negative. – That definitely has been a specific change.  How has that specific change in school enrollment changed the community?  FWIW, the school age population trajectory Davis was on in 1998 was never sustainable.  If it had been sustained, DJUSD’s enrollment would now be close to 20,000 students.  Having 20,000 DJUSD students would clearly have changed Davis.

        Many of my friends have moved away because they couldn’t afford to stay. – That isn’t a change in Davis.  The increase in the cost of living in Davis has not been significantly different that the cost of living increase in California.  

        The amount of debt students are taking on to pay for college has increased, rent included. – Again, not a change in Davis specifically, but rather a change in California and the entire United States

        The Grad, The Blue Mango, Cafe Roma, Dairy Queen and The Palms are gone. – Businesses come and businesses go.  The Grad is gone, but 3 Mile Brewing has arrived.  The Dairy Queen has gone but Trader Joe’s (where I get my ice cream) has arrived. 

        We have better water but we are losing the claw. – The claw, the claw, we don’t need no stinkin’ claw.

        Measure J/R has forced us to densify instead of continuing to build out as needed. As a result lot size and garden space have declined changing the culture of how people live. – In 99 plus percent of the Single Family Residences parcels in Davis, the lot size and garden space today is exactly the same as it was in 1998.

        We have built housing on research fields in order to conserve commodity production fields. – I don’t believe anyone can name a single instance where that has happened in the City of Davis since 1998

        We have been changing from an ag based community to a biotech community. – when was Davis an ag-based community?  Woodland is an ag-based community.  Davis was an education/research based community in 1998 and it is an education/research based community today.

        The middle age demographic has been hollowed out. – That definitely has been a specific change.  How has that specific change in the percentage of middle aged Davisites changed the community?

        Parking on B St. has been eliminated north of 6th Street. – That definitely has been a specific change.  How has that specific change in B Street parking changed the community?

        I could go on for a long time on this topic.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          “when was Davis an ag-based community? ”

          Maybe when the cannery was a big employer? It is the UC Davis Aggies, fwiw. Not sure I’m disagreeing with you per se. UC Davis is the number one ag school though.

        2. Ron Glick

          Matt I can refute your refutations but I’ll point out the obvious.

          1. You claim not to have the data then claim you assume the price premium hasn’t changed in over 20 years.

          2. Your assertion about research land is true only in a universe where neither Covell nor West Villages are thought about as having never been influenced by policy decisions made in Davis.

          3.The assumptions for school district population was only not sustainable in a world where you build your housing supply in a school district in another community.

          4.Most parcels haven’t changed in size but the new ones have all been reduced in size and the reduction in size certainly changes the relationship between newcomers and the land.

          5. Businesses come and go. I’m not talking about protection just musing about what has been lost since 1998.

        3. Matt Williams

          UC Davis is the number one ag school though.

          David, in your statement above, which is the more important/meaningful word “ag” or “school”?

          Further, when you look at UCD’s name, which word is more prominent “agricultural” or “university”?

        4. Matt Williams

          1. You claim not to have the data then claim you assume the price premium hasn’t changed in over 20 years.

          2. Your assertion about research land is true only in a universe where neither Covell nor West Villages are thought about as having never been influenced by policy decisions made in Davis.

          3.The assumptions for school district population was only not sustainable in a world where you build your housing supply in a school district in another community.

          4.Most parcels haven’t changed in size but the new ones have all been reduced in size and the reduction in size certainly changes the relationship between newcomers and the land.

          5. Businesses come and go. I’m not talking about protection just musing about what has been lost since 1998.

          1. I’m chasing down the corroborating data. I’ll let you know when I get it.   With that said, what data do you have that support your assertion that “The price differential of a rental and the price of a house when compared to surrounding communities”?

          2. The events of the past three decades have clearly shown that UCD makes its own decisions about how to use its own lands, and pretty much ignores the City of Davis’ policy makers (City Council).  Further, the decisions vis-a-vis West Village are/were a direct result of the UC-wide initiative and task force that published the “UC Housing for the 21st Century” report in November 2002. If you are interested in the report I can send it to you.  I’ve captured slides from the September 2002 Regents meeting that illuminates their engagement with the issue … and why.

          https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Screen-Shot-2020-08-31-at-2.42.14-PM.png
          https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Screen-Shot-2020-08-31-at-2.41.24-PM.png
          https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Screen-Shot-2020-08-31-at-2.41.47-PM.png
          https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/2002-11-01-UC-Housing-in-the-21st-Century.jpg

          3.  I have submitted a CPRA records request to DJUSD for the year-by-year historical enrollment data.  Once I get it from them, I will share it with you personally and also here on the Vanguard.

          4.  Other than Grande, what new parcels have been created in Davis since 1998?  I don’t know of any.  With that said, how do the Grande parcels compare to the mace Ranch parcels?

          5.  The business cycle is a spinning wheel, and as Blood Sweat and Tears once said
          What goes up must come down
          Spinnin’ wheel, got to go round
          Talkin’ ’bout your troubles, it’s a cryin’ sin
          Ride a painted pony, let the spinnin’ wheel spin

          You got no money, you got no home
          Spinnin’ wheel, all alone
          Talkin’ ’bout your troubles and you, never learn
          Ride a painted pony, let the spinnin’ wheel turn

  3. Alan Miller

    But I think too many people, myself as well, have fallen into the trap of believing that we can somehow keep Davis as it is—or even as it was when you first moved here.

    That ship sailed 40 (or X – fill in the blank for yourself) years ago.  In other words, that above comment means nothing.

    I get it, it’s a great place to live.  But I think we have been sold a bit of a false vision here.

    Who sold us what false vision?  Is there an oracle in Central Park?

    Davis is vastly different than it was when I moved here in 1996, and Davis in 1996 was vastly different than things were in the 1970s when people who came here fifty years ago moved here.

    Captain Obvious called, and he wants the above sentence back.

    We don’t have the option of staying as we are.  Life doesn’t work that way.

    Guru Greenwald, thank you for letting us know that we cannot live in a world without change.  We were lost, deceived by evil oracle of Central Park, that told us we could live in 1970’s Davis forever.  Your shaming and enlightening words have enlightened Davis, and set us on the path of Housing for the Greater Good.

    1. Bill Marshall

      As a “newbie”, not sure I can say this… but Central Park used to be houses… that’s why the ‘sycamore grove’ is a depression (didn’t have dirt to fill the house cellars)… before my time… then, when I came in ’72, there was a Central Park, and Fourth Street extended to B and beyond…. there was a vacant block, south of Fourth, that was the old site of Davis Elementary school… it was considered for both a shopping mall (Arden-Mayfair) then as a relocation/growth site for Davis city offices… Fourth Street was eventually removed and Central Park more than doubled in size…

      Conservation good… preservation, very limited… ignoring of history and what it can teach, not so good…

  4. Alan Miller

    The comments from the URP discussion at the Planning Commission last week are telling.

    I find it interesting that developments in town keep playing the game of renaming their project every time there is a bit of controversy about it, to keep those paying less attention confused, while URP has not, even though in the urban dictionary the acronym is defined as:  “to vomit, or to suggest the sound of a belch”.

  5. Keith Echols

    A lot of the folks who have lived in this community for a long time could not afford housing if they graduated from the university today.  That is going to mean fundamental change to who lives in this community, but it also creates a distorted sense for the issues.

     

    I think you’re still under the misguided notion that people have some magical right to live where they want to live.  I’d like to live on Maui.  Palo Alto does not worry if students can afford to live in Palo Alto after they graduate (or while in school for that matter).  I’m pretty sure it’s not an issue in Berkeley either.   I’m assuming we’re talking about employed students?  So a mechanical engineer or bio- science graduate employed by the state or in the private sector?  Or a liberal arts graduate employed by Starbucks?  My point being it’s those employed not their graduation status that should be considered.  So a better general gage of home prices for a community is if housing is affordable to the median income of the people in the community.  

    Most residential and commercial property is privately owned.  So crafting policy so that housing is affordable is asking the community (land owners) to give something to others.   Bottom line approved real estate projects need to provide something (more than development fees) to the community…other than simply allowing people who want to live here the ability to live here.   By themselves residential units are a cost the community.  Sure you’ll get some property taxes out of it but they also  require city services and infrastructure (roads, parks..etc..).

    So should cities freeze their growth to protect the value of it’s current landowners?  No, it’s not a good long term strategy…even for the land owners; eventually businesses and communities become stagnant.  If a city wants more stuff (roads, parks, funds for education…etc…) it can only tax the existing population to a point.  After that the city needs to grow. 

    What is needed is smart growth.  If you want to preserve aspects of the town (like the downtown I guess?) that’s fine.  But you can grow in density in some places and grow outward in others. Remember you only grow if it provides something for the existing community.  So commercial growth provides sales and business taxes/fees to the city.  As t he business and jobs grow in the city housing needs will go up.  At the point where median income (or household income) is not enough to afford the median priced home…then more residential housing is needed.  That’s when cities should look to approve more housing.  So something like DISC should be developed built out and leased out fully THEN determine how it impacts housing needs and pricing in Davis.  In the interim…that’s what inclusionary affordable housing is for.  Inclusionary affordable housing is a band-aid/short term solution.    But it allows for example to directly address housing needs of specific parts of the community should housing become unaffordable at that time…like for police, fire fighters, teachers…etc…  Obviously balancing housing affordability and growth is more a more complex issue…I’m just giving a very general broad stroke outline of a civic growth philosophy.

  6. Ron Glick

    “3.  I have submitted a CPRA records request to DJUSD for the year-by-year historical enrollment data.  Once I get it from them, I will share it with you personally and also here on the Vanguard.”

    Why bother? The district has faced declining enrollment for years. Its why they have been beating the bushes for inter district transfers.

     

    “4.  Other than Grande, what new parcels have been created in Davis since 1998?  I don’t know of any.  With that said, how do the Grande parcels compare to the mace Ranch parcels?”

    Its not simply new parcels its also infill densification that has reduced the size of yards for so many. Cannery, the old horse ranch near the cemetery, 4th and C, 8th and B, 3rd and B, 2nd and B, Lincoln 40, Sterling, Umall, Corbetts house on B St. and Davis Live come to mind as properties with less garden space and more units. Davis used to build 4-5 houses per acre and now its more like 10-15 for houses and more for apartments.

  7. Ron Glick

    So a better general gage of home prices for a community is if housing is affordable to the median income of the people in the community. 

    I think Davis would fail this test.

    1. Ron Oertel

      It’s not something I would suggest.  For one thing, the median income is probably lower in Davis due to the presence of students (who have not started their careers).  It’s also influenced by those living in Affordable housing.

      You don’t really have to “guess” about what causes demand for housing.  It’s in the EIR for DISC, for example.  (Generating a need for approximately 2,900 residential units – in addition to the 850 units onsite.)

      And if those working at DISC, for example, “raise the median income” (which I wouldn’t necessarily assume), then your “goalpost” (“allowed” housing costs) gets moved upward.

      Then again, if they work at DISC (or UCD) – for example, but don’t live in Davis, is their income counted in regard to median income? Same question, regarding those who live in Davis but work in Sacramento, for example.

    2. Ron Oertel

      And frankly, median income is also influenced if there’s a relatively large number of retirees in a given community.

      Ultimately, this is a fool’s game.

      1. Keith Echols

        Ron  O,

        students and retirees effecting median income:  those are good points.  Again, it was only the outline of an idea to compare home price with the the “typical” working income in Davis to create the basis for residential growth.  Do you have a better idea on how to get a more accurate comparison of those numbers (starting with how you’d define “typical” working income in Davis)?

        Ron G,

        So a better general gage of home prices for a community is if housing is affordable to the median income of the people in the community.
        I think Davis would fail this test.

        Other than for the reasons that Ron O mentioned, why do yo believe Davis would fail this test?

         

        1. Keith Echols

          Ron G,

          The median income for a person in Davis is about $34K.  I wonder if you removed students and seniors…what that number might be.  The median home price is about $600K.  There does appear to be an affordability housing imbalance.  But to what degree is the question.

        2. Bill Marshall

          Keith E…

          The numbers particularly related to seniors/retirees will be suspect… if they ‘bought in’ low, and have paid off their mortgages, they’re “in like Flynn”… I don’t know of any retirees who are ‘renters’… but I don’t pretend to know everyone in the City… seniors (retired or not) also have other options… like Rancho Yolo (and I have been in many of those units, and it’s very decent housing [they own the structure, rent the land]… we could use more ‘manufactured housing’)…

          ‘Affordability’ has several variables… trying to simplify too much is facetious, at best…

           

      2. Ron Oertel

        Keith:  To me, it ultimately comes back to this statement by you (which I agree with, though I might word it slightly differently).

        I think you’re still under the misguided notion that people have some magical right to live where they want to live.

        And if one “really” wants to be honest, I don’t think that Davis is actually a place that most people “seek” to live in the first place, unless they’re planning a move to the Sacramento region. And even then, they’re probably more likely to end up in a place like Folsom, if they have money.

        There’s lots of nicer places outside of this region.

      3. Ron Oertel

        And (for better or worse), places like Spring Lake are going to continue absorbing (and meeting the desires of) those who need to maintain a connection to Davis (or more likely – UC Davis).  Particularly for single-family housing.

        At a significantly lower price.

        But, it does seem that universities will no longer be a “growth industry”, into the future. A drop of 2 million enrollments nationwide (over a 10-year period), before the pandemic even started.

        I was reading today that even Los Angeles’ school district has experienced an unexpected decline in enrollments. (Future college students.)

        1. Keith Echols

          I keep bring up Palo Alto but the comparison also  applies to UC  Santa Barbara.  Students and most workers live in surrounding cities like Mountain View and Sunnyvale for Stanford and Isla Vista for Santa Barbara.  It seems like Davis is moving in that direction.  But I wonder if Davis has enough business outside of UCD to continue to sustain itself.  Palo Alto has tech and finance.  I guess the hope is that Davis could have bio-ag-tech?

        2. Ron Oertel

          Keith:  I personally don’t think that Davis is “mature enough” to resist the increased housing demand resulting from DISC, for example.  (Assuming it was even viable beyond the stages which include housing.)

          And as long as this blog exists (and its political allies), they will then go to work on the next housing proposal, citing the new “need” that they advocated for in the first place.

          And if that housing is ultimately built, well – there’s another drain on the claimed “fiscal profit”. (Not to mention the loss of farmland, traffic, etc.)

          The fiscal analysis for DISC doesn’t even include long-term capital replacement costs associated with the proposal.  (Which would ultimately be the city’s responsibility.)  It’s a “pay-as-you-go” model. (David is “just fine” with that, as well.)

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “I personally don’t think that Davis is “mature enough” to resist the increased housing demand resulting from DISC”

            Here’s a simple question for you – you keep citing the amount of housing we need in Davis with DISC, but you’ve never cited the amount of housing we have to build over the next 30 years irrespective of DISC. According to current planning guidelines, Davis is suppose to grow at 1 percent per year. So how much growht is that over a 30 year build out and what percentage of that is the projected DISC take?

        3. Ron Oertel

          Here’s a question for you, which is FAR more relevant.

          You’re stating that Davis will build this housing, anyway.  At the same time, you’re claiming that Davis (already) has a “housing shortage”.

          Unless that given amount of housing (that you’re describing) is increased, what impact would the demand for 2,900 additional off-site units (needed as a result of DISC) have on that limited supply of new housing?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Reciprocity demands that you answer my question first, then I answer yours.

        4. Ron Oertel

          I’m calculating about 8,000 units over 30 years, using 24,000 units as a starting number.

          With DISC consuming about 36% of that (if they were all built in Davis), or about 15% if 1,200 were built in Davis, and the rest outside of Davis.

          Your turn. Perhaps you could also calculate the impact that would have on the claimed housing shortage or prices.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            My answer to your question is fairly simple. First, if we build at 1% per year I don’t think we have a housing shortage. And second you are assuming that the housing needs generated by disc are independent of the overall housing needs whereas I don’t assume that. So if we build out at 1% per year I believe we can absorb the additional people. That’s been my answer from the start.

        5. Ron Oertel

          You didn’t answer my question.

          I answered yours.

          How fast has Davis been growing, over the past few decades? (Given that some years are much faster than others, depending upon the broader housing market.) Just an average might suffice, along with the timeframe that you’re referring to.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I did answer your question the problem is that you are misconceptualizing the problem. You are not going to build housing and catch up to demand. What you need to do is build housing at a steady rate that allows you to absorb that housing into the community. Over time that will alleviate the housing shortage.

        6. Ron Oertel

          From a prior Vanguard article:

          There were only two jurisdictions (Rancho Cordova and Roseville) that had annual housing growth rates higher than 1% from 2010-2017. This is of particular note because the City of Davis has an annual housing growth rate “policy guidance” of 1% that “represents a cap that is not to be exceeded except for units that are specifically exempted or allowed by the City Council as an infill project with extraordinary circumstances and community benefits” (source: City of Davis). As shown in the table, this 1% cap does not represent a limit to development in Davis compared to existing housing growth rates in the region that are generally far below 1% and projected to stay at low levels in the future.

          All other cities/jurisdictions (and the state itself) as cited in that article had a lower than 1% growth rate. You can’t force builders to build when there’s insufficient demand.

          1. Don Shor

            from 2010-2017

            The housing market hadn’t even begun to recover from the 2007 collapse until at least a couple of years into this data set. It’s a very skewed choice of years to use.

        7. Ron Oertel

          So, given that there’s some years where 1% won’t be reached, that would reduce the total number of units built, and would increase the percentage “consumed” by DISC.

          And, further reduce the availability of units needed to meet other (non-DISC) demand, over time.

          It is a strange argument for you and the Vanguard to make, to advocate for the creation of housing shortages. The shoe is on the other foot, so to speak.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            You’ve completely missed the key point here Ron. This isn’t a situation like with UC Davis where there are a finite and set number of students that must be accommodated with housing. In this case, you add your housing over time and some of that housing will accommodate internally generated needs like DISC. Other housing will accommodate other needs. You don’t need to build additional housing to accommodate those needs but other time, you can accommodate them with steady but sustainable growth.

        8. Ron Oertel

          Don:  I don’t believe that you are following the purpose of posting that data, in response to David’s assertion that Davis should grow at 1% year.  That’s not a happening thing, and yet it’s the basis for David’s response.  (In fact, he didn’t even provide any support for his conclusion, even if it was true.)

          I didn’t cherry-pick that data, it’s just something from a prior article.

          David never did answer my question, by the way.

          Is it your position as well, that the extra demand from DISC (assuming that it’s actually viable beyond the stages which include housing) won’t make “any difference” regarding claimed housing shortages? An increase in demand (for 2,900 off-site units) won’t make “any difference” into the future?

          In other words, are you (also) arguing that increased demand isn’t increased demand?

          Because at some point, someone is going to throw the proverbial “net” over this online loony bin.

          At least TRY to be consistent in your arguments.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Ron: You really seem oblivious to this. I’m not saying that Davis should grow at any rate, I’m showing you what happens if they do and why I believe that Davis can accommodate the demand from DISC without having to undertake additional growth.

  8. Don Shor

    What does it look like if we simply stop building housing? 

    Not an option.

     

    What does it look like in 30 years if we build outward at the rate of one percent per year?  And what does it look like in 30 years if we densify at the rate of one percent per year?

    Or split the difference. There is a need for multi-family and single-family homes, and a need in the single-family category for those with smaller and larger spaces. Some of these are better accommodated via infill, others by adding another subdivision.

    The Sacramento region, which Davis is a part of, is expected to grow faster than other planning regions in the state, both in jobs and population. I recall that SACOG is projecting > 1% annual growth for the region. UC Davis is one of the big drivers of that growth, by its own enrollment and employment growth across many academic levels, and in terms of the businesses that spin off from it. Retaining the ‘character’ of the city is largely a function of aesthetics in design, maintaining parks and greenbelts and the urban forest, and attempting to conserve the downtown as a commercial center.

    Per Ron G:

    3.The assumptions for school district population was only not sustainable in a world where you build your housing supply in a school district in another community.

    Yes, Woodland is providing housing for Davis workers and sustaining the Davis school district. If that were to stop, demand for housing in Davis would increase substantially.

    People need to stop looking at the Davis housing market as if it were isolated from the rest of the region. Suppressing the market for single-family homes is having a number of undesirable consequences.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Yes, Woodland is providing housing for Davis workers and sustaining the Davis school district. If that were to stop, demand for housing in Davis would increase substantially.

      It’s not going to stop, regardless of what Davis does.  Spring Lake is not the end of Woodland’s plans. Nor are their plans limited to the “innovation center” that failed in Davis (which includes 1,600 homes itself).

      And the price difference alone will help ensure that it continues, as long as it “pencils out”.  (There was a time during the housing crash that it didn’t.)

      Now, if Woodland had a Measure R in place, it might be different.  Then again, maybe not.

      There are RHNA requirements that each city has to meet to accommodate regional demand. You already know what they are.

    2. Ron Oertel

      And frankly, Spring Lake (in particular) is also helping to “free up” homes in Davis. I suspect that there’s statistics regarding that.

      In any case, the argument that Davis needs to build more (to become more “affordable”) falls flat on its face, in just about every respect. The reason being that other communities are already providing competition.

      Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to stop worrying about bullsh*t arguments, and go about saving what you can.

      1. Don Shor

        the argument that Davis needs to build more (to become more “affordable”) falls flat on its face, in just about every respect. The reason being that other communities are already providing competition.

        Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to stop worrying about bullsh*t arguments, and go about saving what you can.

        I didn’t say anything about affordability. I am focused on supply. There is insufficient supply of housing for many demographics, particularly young families, UC staff, and those who work in local businesses. I’ve stated my opinions about affordable housing policies many times and don’t feel like rehashing them.

        1. Ron Oertel

          There is insufficient supply of housing for many demographics, particularly young families, UC staff, and those who work in local businesses.

          There’s plenty of new supply, approximately 7 miles from UCD (“North, North Davis”.)

          Supply is not an issue.

          The difference in cost will continue to ensure that much of that demographic will continue to make that choice. (With the possible exception of wealthier families, moving in. Such as at The Cannery.)

          Not sure if UCD is still planning to build some housing for its own employees as part of its LRDP, as well.

          Again, you’re searching for problems which don’t actually exist.

          1. Don Shor

            Supply is not an issue.

            Oh, nonsense, Ron. People who work here are having to commute in.

            The difference in cost will continue to ensure that much of that demographic will continue to make that choice.

            That is not their preference.

            Not sure if UCD is still planning to build some housing for its own employees as part of its LRDP, as well.

            Why is it their job to house their employees?

            Again, you’re searching for problems which don’t actually exist.

            No, I am aware of people who are harmed by the lack of housing supply in the range for young families and young adults who work here. Evidently you aren’t.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Don:  Your arguments might make sense, if you (or Davis itself) could control what Woodland does.

          Not to mention West Sacramento, Dixon, etc.

          Davis hasn’t even made a strong agreement with UCD, according to some.

          As far as workers at a local nursery (for example), I doubt they could even afford a house in a surrounding community, on that salary.

          1. Don Shor

            Don: Your arguments might make sense, if you (or Davis itself) could control what Woodland does.

            Not to mention West Sacramento, Dixon, etc.

            Davis hasn’t even made a strong agreement with UCD, according to some.

            As far as workers at a local nursery (for example), I doubt they could even afford a house in a surrounding community, on that salary.

            I’m not talking about affording a house for retail workers. None of them have that expectation. I’m concerned about inadequate supply of rental housing for local workers, and inadequate supply of housing that is somewhat cheaper than the average current Davis price for young families or couples. Those can be provided if land is entitled and the densities are established by zoning. Without land added for housing supply, all you can do is infill. Infill won’t provide for those demographics.
            We don’t have to control what surrounding communities do. Davis needs more housing stock. Other communities are providing housing. Davis needs to as well.
            The agreement with UCD is not going to be any “stronger” (whatever that means) and it was a real accomplishment to get what they did. Holding UCD to it is obviously a high priority, hence my ‘top three’ issues in response to Doby’s question several days ago was for more effective planning coordination with UCD. Remind me what your top three priorities were?

        3. Ron Oertel

          Don (you) yourself have noted that most families prefer more space, maybe a yard, etc.

          Spring Lake (and other communities) will continue to provide that at a price that’s going to remain more attractive, regardless of whether or not Davis adds another subdivision. And the demographic that you’re referring to is likely price-sensitive, as you noted.

          The Cannery provides a good example of the type (and cost) of housing of a subdivision in Davis.  And, you already know what occurred there (e.g., wealthier families, some from the Bay Area).

          There may be some smaller, less-wealthy families willing to pay a premium for a smaller space in Davis.  The type that might be attracted to the (approximately) 100-unit Chiles Ranch development (which for some reason has been delayed by more than a decade).

          Then, there’s existing housing (which supposedly) will be “freed up” by WDAAC, Spring Lake, the megadorms, etc.  (Personally, I think the megadorms are the least likely of these examples to free-up houses that are already minidorms. But, the other two likely will, and possibly already are – in the case of Spring Lake.)

          There simply is no “supply” problem, unless you think that 4,000 units in Spring Lake, 1,600 units in the “innovation center”, and the vast, future tracts that will be developed are not addressing much of the “supply”. (And, that’s just in Woodland, alone.)

        4. Ron Oertel

          I would say, however, that the megadorms might help “free up” existing market-rate apartments in Davis, for non-students.

          (On a longer term than the Covid virus is already doing.)

        5. Ron Oertel

          To clarify, none of the developments will “free up” houses that are already mini-dorms.

          But for single-family housing that hadn’t already been converted, WDAAC and Spring Lake will likely free-up single family housing (either directly – via a move, or indirectly by reducing demand). Already occurring, regarding Spring Lake. To some degree, it might have occurred with The Cannery, as well.

          And, the megadorms may free up existing apartments (but not mini-dorms).

          But the bigger question might be, why am I using a hyphen for “mini-dorm”, but not for “megadorm”?

          And, why had only one of those terms been found to be so “personally insulting”, according to some? Could it be that this “controversy” was just the usual political b.s. used on here to support development?

  9. Ron Oertel

    My own (personal) view is that housing prices (“affordability”) should simply not be a factor regarding development choices in any given area.

    Housing prices always reflect a balance between supply and demand.

    For those concerned about both sprawl and high housing prices, I’d suggest looking at how demand can be addressed.

    There are two sides to this equation.

    Right now, Davis has a blaring example of a proposal that would increase demand beyond the supply of housing.  (Assuming that it was actually viable – which is highly questionable beyond the phases which include housing.)

     

  10. Ron Oertel

    I would, however, say that there’s bigger problems in the capitalistic system – beyond that which can be “solved by sprawl”.

    (For that matter, the San Jose and Los Angeles region has become rather expensive, as well. So much for that “solution”.)

    Probably a reason that there’s a moderate rent-control measure in effect, statewide. I think there’s one in Oregon, and possibly some other states, as well.)

    And then, there’s “eviction prevention” in place, during the pandemic. Who knows what impact that’s going to have, on a larger level.

    But I believe that California population growth has pretty much leveled-off. (I haven’t checked the statistics, lately.) Certainly, there’s evidence of a declining birthrate.

  11. Ron Oertel

    On a more personal level, I’ve witnessed a drastic “pricing out” of people from the Bay Area, while they were simultaneously protecting land (oftentimes private land) from development.  Quite often, for no reason other than to protect “open space” (and habitat). For private land, this was accomplished through restrictive zoning, and conservation easements. It is an ongoing process, and taxpayers in some of those counties generally elect supportive local politicians and tax themselves to ensure the latter’s continuation.

    I wouldn’t have it any other way, nor could I feel more strongly about that.

    I suspect that about half the people in Davis have been priced-out of their original hometowns.

    But truth be told, much of the reason for this had to do with the pursuit of “economic development”, without considering the consequences in a capitalistic system.

     

     

  12. Ron Oertel

    A couple of related articles, regarding a lease cancellation (costing Pinterest $89.5 million to back-out of space that they will no longer need, due to reduced demand for office space as a result of a permanent shift toward telecommuting/work-from-home).  (Gee, they apparently didn’t ask the city to pay that for them.)

    https://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Pinterest-terminate-SF-office-lease-88-Bluxome-15525421.php

    And today, an article celebrating a hoped-for return to San Francisco’s “Bohemian Roots” as a result of declining rents and partial departure of the technology industry.  Though I have to laugh, regarding a return to the “good old days” of 2007.

    https://www.sfgate.com/culture/editorspicks/article/Is-San-Francisco-about-to-return-to-its-Bohemian-15455489.php

     

     

     

     

  13. Doby Fleeman

    Don,

    To your comment above about Top 3 Priorities for Davis – seems Mr. Oertel doesn’t wish to respond in any measurable or accountable fashion.

    I believe there are many here in Davis who are interested in discussions of realistic, positive pathways forward for the challenges facing the community – not the least of which is supply of affordable housing.

    I guess what I find most offensive and disheartening in this conversation is the notion that things cannot be made better.  That, somehow, Davis has achieved all of which it is capable and that it is time to pull up the drawbridges.

    Seriously, I cannot find any other reasonable explanation for the relentless, onslaught of attacks presented Mr. Oertel.

    Yes, there are challenges and failings – just as there are alternatives and options.  Let’s enumerate them one by one.  Equally, however, for each of them – there should be feasible, realistic responses and alternatives.

    The suggestion that we are somehow “stuck” with things “as they are” just doesn’t sit very well with me.

    Second guessing,  backseat driving and Monday morning quarterbacking may be a popular past time in some quarters, just not when discussing real world problems facing our community.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Seriously, I cannot find any other reasonable explanation for the relentless, onslaught of attacks presented Mr. Oertel.

      Do you mean the ones directed at me?  I agree.

  14. Ron Glick

    “I wonder if you removed students and seniors…what that number might be.  The median home price is about $600K.  There does appear to be an affordability housing imbalance.  But to what degree is the question.”

    When looking at Affordable eligibility different numbers are used so my guess is that these values have been established excluding students. Zillow estimates that a $600,000 home in Davis would have a $2689/month mortgage. Taxes and insurance add $700/month. Call it $3400 a month. If you use a 30% rule you would need to make around $130,000 a year to afford that house after saving $120,000 for a down payment.

    But Zillow has median home price at $721,000 so you can add 20% to the figures above so you need to make over $150,000 a year to buy in Davis.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Without verifying those numbers, that’s a primary reason that most young families (who need to maintain a connection to Davis / UCD) purchase in Spring Lake.  Which still isn’t cheap.  (I periodically look at the prices of new housing there, and find it to be in the $500K – $600K range, or more.  Though some may still be in the upper $400K range, I think.)

      But that’s for new housing.

      I suspect those prices are similar throughout the immediate region.

      But if you’re moving from the Bay Area, you might be able to buy a couple of Davis houses, in cash.

      It’s an (unfortunate?) fact of life that people have different amounts of money available to them.

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