This week, former Davis Mayor Mike Corbett submitted a letter to the Editor of the Enterprise that generated a good amount of controversy and has generated some discussion as well. Don’t get me wrong — some of the items in his laundry list of complaints going back to 2013 are concerning and troubling.
We long have been critical of the Cannery project — which is why the project was approved on a split 3-2 vote, and the CFD which was also approved on a 3-2 vote. Not mentioned among his complaints was that the original affordable housing plan counted granny flats that were not cost-controlled as part of their allotment.
We remain troubled by the BrightNight deal this year and the failure to fund roads and city infrastructure.
But overall what struck me was how detached the list of complaints is from what I think most people are worried about in 2020.
On Friday, a friend who does not live in Davis, a Black man, posted something on Facebook that was alarming. No one was able to reach him for hours. In the course of deciding what to do, we opted not to have the police do a wellness check out of concern for what might happen.
There is a robust conversation of shifting police resources to social services in this community — and personal experience this year shows we also need more resources for mental health crisis support.
As someone who lost a family member to COVID, the impacts of that remain a concern as the COVID numbers in Yolo County continue to climb. National news has reported that deaths from COVID now surpass the number of American deaths in all of World War II.
The economic slowdown is wreaking havoc on our downtown — many longtime businesses are gone and not coming back. Many people are having to cope without jobs, with reduced hours and pay, with the loss or reduction of government assistance over the next few months.
Students who were forced to sign early leases due to lack of vacancy, are now being forced to pay for living arrangements they do not need, due the cancellation of much of UCD’s in-person instruction. During a time when many cannot get the part-time jobs they once relied on, this is an additional economic hardship.
Parents of school age children are struggling right now to balance work and monitoring their children, as they attempt to distance learn.
The list that Mike Corbett put out does not compare to what I think are most people’s current day to day concerns here in the city of Davis.
In addition to these immediate concerns that many people in this community are facing — for a long time I have been warning about what I consider to be a huge looming crisis for this community — which is, How do we continue to provide high quality of life for the residents of Davis, as the city on the one hand faces fiscal shortfalls and on the other hand continues to price the middle class and middle tier out of this community?
A big problem that we have not addressed is the lack of any long term community vision. I would point out not only the slow play of the Downtown Plan and the long-expired General Plan, but also a coherent way to move forward. Why haven’t they finished the downtown plan? Why isn’t there a coherent way forward?
One of the things the recent discussion on the University Research Park made me realize is that we actually have no plan. Think about this — in the next 30 years, we are going to need to go from about 70,000 people to around 95,000, assuming about a one-percent growth rate.
We have effectively locked down most peripheral housing, so where do we put those people? Where is the housing going? What does this community look like in 30 years if we continue to grow at that rate?
By the same token, if our growth rate is slower, does that mean the community has fewer housing for families and workers? Does that mean Davis becomes even more unaffordable? Does that mean Davis becomes a retirement community?
We fight tooth and nail on affordable housing on every project while we fail to plan overall for how much affordable housing we need — where we can put it, and how does it gets built?
With proper planning on these fronts we can arrive at a shared vision for Davis, and a plan as to how to get there that can start to move away from the project-by-project battle and approval process.
Along similar lines, we should develop a 30-year plan for fiscal sustainability and economic development. We have been talking about economic development for years, and we are in the process of a contentious Measure J vote this year. What happens if that vote succeeds? What if it fails? What is our 30-year plan?
Meanwhile, we have under the best of circumstances suffered from a lack of retail sales base. What does our plan for the future look like there?
All of this relates to a long-term fiscal vision for Davis. How do we provide city services and maintain our infrastructure? What is the cost of doing so? Where is that money coming from — cost-savings, tax revenue and sales tax?
Along the lines of the long-term vision is a question about population trends. In recent years we have seen the growth in students and retired populations and the shrinking of the 30-55 age demographic. Those are the people who have the jobs and the families. Those are the customers of the brick and mortar retail businesses. I continue to worry about the ramifications for those trends.
Along similar lines we should be looking at jobs — where do people work? The university? The state? Do they have to commute to work? Are we creating enough non-university jobs?
Finally, all of this impacts our schools. We have slowly begun to shrink our parent population, because housing is not affordable or available for family-aged people—and neither are jobs that aren’t associated with the university available that enable people to live and work here.
My biggest concern along these lines is that this community is radically changing, and we have not taken stock or come to terms with the long-term demographic and economic trends — and how they will impact the fiscal health of our city and our schools and the overall community.
As a community we may not agree on the vision for the future. That’s fine. That’s why we have discussions and ultimately elections. My problem is that we are not even discussing the big picture here and putting these issues on the table for the voters to grapple with.
—David M. Greenwald reporting