Commentary: Lots of Questions and Few Answers for Davis’ Future

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By David M. Greenwald

There is perhaps some chance that Measure B—DISC, the Davis Innovation & Sustainability Campus—can make a comeback, but at this point those chances are fleeting, as it trails by 940 votes with perhaps between 7000 and 10,000 ballots yet to count.  More likely it is headed to a narrow but not razor-thin defeat.

At the same time, Measure D won overwhelmingly by over 15,000 votes.  Twenty years ago, Measure J won relatively narrowly, but in the two decades that have passed since 2000, two things have become clear—one is that Measure J has become ingrained in the culture of the community and, two, there hasn’t been an active challenge each time.

So where does that leave the city?  For those who simply opposed putting a large project on the periphery of town, I can respect that view and agree to disagree.  There are many different visions for the future of Davis and that is certainly a fair one.

I am more frustrated with those who argued not this and not now.  I could be wrong here but I don’t think we get another bite at the apple.  I get that this was during a pandemic and that the future is much less certain than it was perhaps 12 months ago, but, at the same time, there is going to be a need for lab space and other forms of physical space—and, increasingly, those companies will not be moving into Davis because we simply lack the space.

Revenue remains a challenge for the city—and that has just become more acute.  We love our parks, greenbelts, our walkable downtown, the small-town college town atmosphere, but we have just made it much harder to sustain long term.

DISC would have provided revenue to fund those amenities, and jobs to support recent graduates and young families—but now that part of the future is very much in doubt.

The threat to Davis is not from runaway development now as it seemed to be back in 2000, but rather stifling growth policies that will make it difficult for the next generation of families to live here altogether.

Increasingly, this is a bifurcated community—one comprised of students on the one hand and an aging baby boomer population.  The percentage of people in my age bracket, 30 to 50, is dwindling—and, with them, the future of families, children, our schools, etc.

At the same time that we passed Measure J’s second extension to 2030, we are about to grapple with very real planning issues—the culmination of the Downtown Plan, the Housing Element, and a General Plan update that, by the time, it is approved could occur nearly one-quarter century after the last update.

At current growth projections, Davis is slated to build housing that could accommodate nearly 20,000 addition residents by 2050.  That would push the population to nearly 95,000.

Clearly that growth cannot occur merely due to infill.  The housing opportunities, however, even on the edge of town, continue to dwindle.  We perhaps have two realistic avenues for peripheral housing—the northwest quadrant and the land that was known as Covell Village.  With so much land on the periphery tied up in Measure O funds and agricultural easements, ironically Measure J may become increasingly unimportant.

Some have looked at the downtown as a means for additional residential growth, as we move toward densification and mixed-use projects in the downtown.  But, as we have already seen, the costs of such redevelopment lead us to question their economic viability.  Without redevelopment money, it appears that even before it’s approved by council, the downtown plan may take decades to actually implement.

I will be particularly interested to see what direction the Housing Element takes us.  Unlike what I have been talking about, that is a short-term plan that must account for a path to develop around 2000 or so new housing units over the next eight years—where are those located and whether we be able to build them.

Those are big questions—where are we going to get affordable housing?  Where are we going to get workforce housing?  Where are we going to get family housing?  And perhaps as important—where are those people going to get jobs?

I get that we want to preserve our community, but our community is changing right under our feet.  The character of this community will change because we cannot afford the amenities or city services, it will change because we have priced out the middle class-middle age from our midst, it will change because it is increasingly becoming a bedroom community where most people have to commute to get to work—unless they are fortunate enough to be employed by the university.

The most important question is: Where do we go from here?

—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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55 thoughts on “Commentary: Lots of Questions and Few Answers for Davis’ Future”

    1. Matt Williams

      Ron G, the City of Davis (and DJUSD) does not need to go deeper in debt.  It has an alternative, which is to add approximately $500 per year in taxes per resident on the City side, and approximately $1,000 per year in taxes per household on the DJUSD side.  That would generate the necessary recurring revenue stream to make the City budget balanced and sustainable, and the DJUSD budget balanced and sustainable.  Adding those taxes wouldn’t move Davis toward being more affordable for people to live in, but it would avoid the Tennessee Ernie Ford version of life that you have cited.

        1. Matt Williams

          I’m not advocating for it David.  I’m simply pointing out one scenario in a many-scenarios situation … with that one scenario eliminating the “deeper in debt” scenario that Ron G has implied is our only option.  There are actually a reasonable number of alternative scenarios … but we need to have the Vision to be able to engage and discuss them.  Right now we have no Vision.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Whatever word you want to use – the point is that it’s a huge not a small ask. It’s basically five times larger than the road parcel tax that was voted down in 2018.

        2. Matt Williams

          It is indeed a huge ask, but is it as huge an ask as letting our city crumble around our ears?

          BTW, even if DISC gets approved, the EPS-projected increased stream of recurring annual net revenue is only $1 million a year during the first seven years of the project.  $1 million a year is only a small fraction of what is needed to maintain the City’s streets, greenbelts, bike paths and structures.  An increase to the City’s taxes is an inevitability with or without DISC.

          How do you propose to address the budget shortfall in the next seven years?

        3. Bill Marshall

          Read carefully, David… part of Matt’s suggestion, was per resident (not parcel tax)… that concept would affect you more than me…

          Am assuming Matt was “just saying”, not ‘promoting’… tongue in cheek?

          Reality, as I believe Matt may be implying, is that either costs/expenditures of City and DJUSD need to decrease, or magnitude of what it would take to make both ‘solvent’… no ‘deferred costs’…

          And, David, you yourself advocated for a much higher DJUSD parcel tax than what was put forward… then you decried its (lower amount) failure, to be proved wrong… the amount you recommended would very likely have failed…

          You tend to be “all over the place”… just saying…

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            You took my comment as opposition rather than pointing out the difficulty (also, not sure what a per resident tax actually is).

      1. Bill Marshall

        So, another $2,500/yr for this household… another $3,500 for David’s… another $1,000 for you… sounds equitable…  we just need to make sure there are no “senior exemptions”…

        Unless you have tongue fully in cheek…

  1. Matt Williams

    There is perhaps some chance that Measure B—DISC, the Davis Innovation & Sustainability Campus—can make a comeback, but at this point those chances are fleeting, as it trails by 940 votes with perhaps between 7000 and 10,000 ballots yet to count.  More likely it is headed to a narrow but not razor-thin defeat.

    At the same time, Measure D won overwhelmingly by over 15,000 votes.  Twenty years ago, Measure J won relatively narrowly, but in the two decades that have passed since 2000, two things have become clear—one is that Measure J has become ingrained in the culture of the community and, two, there hasn’t been an active challenge each time.

    .
    There is a very clear message in those two simultaneous votes.  Almost 8,000 of the voters who said “Yes” on Measure B also said “Yes” on Measure D.  Casting both votes as “Yes” is a very clear indication that those 8,000 voters saw value in Ordinance No. 2350 – the Citizens’ Right to Vote on Future Use of Open Space and Agricultural Lands

    Another interesting message in the vote count is that in Districts 2, 3 and 5 there were 500 people who voted on Measure B who did not cast a vote in their City Council race.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Almost 8,000 of the voters who said “Yes” on Measure B also said “Yes” on Measure D.  

      The ones who make me laugh are those who voted “Yes” on Measure B, but “No” on Measure D.

      If there was no Measure D, I assume that those folks think that future councils would approve everything that comes before them (and they’re probably right). In fact, it would provide an incentive for development interests to ensure that the “right kind” of council members have well-funded campaigns. As occurs in just about every other local city.

      As it is, the current council has ALREADY demonstrated that they are out-of-touch with a majority of voters. And, they’re not even the “usual suspects” that run for council positions, in most cities.

      In any case, voting to disenfranchise oneself (or one’s neighbors) doesn’t seem like a winning goal – now, or ever.

      1. Ron Oertel

        I have another one – how about the folks who voted “No” on both of the measures?

        In other words, they didn’t support DISC, but also didn’t support their ability to reject it (while simultaneously rejecting it).

        Alice in Wonderland is starting to come to mind.

      2. Don Shor

        As it is, the current council has ALREADY demonstrated that they are out-of-touch with a majority of voters.

        Looking at the margins the incumbents won by, I’d say you’re wrong.

        1. Ron Oertel

          You can agree with Don, but it doesn’t support the facts.

          If the council was in touch with voters, a little more than half of them (on average) would not have supported DISC.

          Same would be true regarding most peripheral proposals (as well as some infill proposals).

          I have no explanation, though – regarding the relative dearth of slow-growth candidates. But, it is tough to knock-off an incumbent, especially one seen as doing well in other areas. Or, maybe it’s just that voters don’t fully understand the differences between candidates.

          I believe we see this at the state level, as well. For some reason, politicians are more supportive of development than the electorate. (Some of that has to do with corruptive influences.)

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            This council put three Measure J initiatives on the ballot – two passed by large margins, one narrowly failed. I fail to see how that suggests that they are out of touch with the voters. Moreover, the voters returned the only two on the ballot to office by again… wide margins.

        2. Ron Oertel

          I don’t believe that the margins of approval were that “wide”, in regard to Nishi or WDAAC.

          Nishi failed the first time.

          But again, simple math shows that the council (which unanimously approved of each and every version of these proposals, including DISC) consistently do not proportionately represent the electorate.

          We could also go back to earlier proposals, which failed when presented to the electorate.

          This is a fact, not an opinion.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            You don’t think a nearly 20 point margin is wide? Nishi failed the first time, but was put on by the previous council.

            Also why do they not get credit for Measure D’s wide passage which they put on the ballot with a 5-0 vote?

        3. Ron Oertel

          I don’t know what you’re referring to, regarding a 20-point margin.  But even that example shows that a significant number of voters did not approve of it (while the council simultaneously did).

          Is this the proposal that involved the “Davis buyer’s program”?

          Regarding Measure D, it seems that Gloria is the most “out-of-touch” of all.  Maybe voters just don’t understand this.

        4. Ron Oertel

          By the way, “protection of housing values” doesn’t fly, regarding DISC.

          Nor does it fly when those who normally complain about housing shortages support a proposal which creates them.

          Nor does it fly when some claim to be concerned about local contributions to greenhouse gasses, while supporting developments like DISC.

          It’s as if some just support development, regardless.  (Which is what I suspected, a long time ago.)

          Oh so it’s Nishi 2.0 that you’re referring to. So, even that example would suggest that a unanimous council approval does not proportionately reflect the electorate.

          And that’s really the only example you have.

          How many did not support DISC? How many council members did not support Nishi 1.0, which failed?

          How many supported the small Wildhorse proposal? Covell Village?

        5. Ron Oertel

          Kind of interesting that a much smaller number voted at all, regarding Nishi 2.0.  Not sure what to make of that, other than the fact that it will pretty much be “out-of-sight” and “out-of-mind”.

          Plus, it did make sense in some ways (e.g., right next to UCD, etc.).

          I wonder when they’re going to start building it (and how much of it will “count” toward RHNA requirements, etc.). Same question regarding the other megadorms, in regard to RHNA requirements.

          In any case, let’s hope that the combination of the economy, developer reluctance, and council reluctance prevents yet another disruptive campaign, anytime soon. Give it a rest.

  2. Matt Williams

    I will be particularly interested to see what direction the Housing Element takes us.  Unlike what I have been talking about, that is a short-term plan that must account for a path to develop around 2000 or so new housing units over the next eight years—where are those located and whether we be able to build them.

    I believe David is underestimating the housing potential of the Downtown.  The current Davis Live project on Russell can serve as an illustrative example of the potential for housing in Downtown.  Davis Live has 71 units with 440 beds (an average per unit of just under 7 beds).  That means a large proportion of the Davis Live Units are 4 bedrooms.  Chances are that apartments in Downtown are going to have very few 4-bedroom units if Davis Live were hypothetically relocated to Downtown, it probably would be closer to 100 units for those 440 beds.   If each redeveloped property in Downtown Davis has the potential to add 100 units, than a substantial portion of the 2,000 will come from Downtown.

    There is an ideal “first” location for Downtown redevelopment … the southern building of Davis Ace Hardware.  Demolition costs would be low when compared to other Downtown locations due to the type of construction of the existing building.  The location is ideal.  I believe it is a very good “proof of concept” location.

    According to the urban planning professionals I have talked to, a resilient, self-sustaining neighborhood needs a population of approximately 10,000 people … enough people to support a full-service supermarket.  If that is indeed true, then shouldn’t our target population for Downtown Davis be at least 10,000 residents?

    Thoughts?

  3. Bill Marshall

    Semi sidebar:  not completely on topic, but has the possible effect on the Davis population, present and future…

    SCOTUS is dealing with a challenge of ACA (what real people call it), and/or ‘Obama-care’ (how some like to trash it)… outcome might negatively affect more Davis folk, more national folk than any election…

  4. Richard McCann

    The premise of this column is that the current land uses are immutable. Yet the Downtown Plan assumes significant redevelopment across downtown. Even more so, the commercial real estate market is being radically restructured by the pandemic. Carl Nolte’s Sunday column in the SF Chronicle describes a ghost town where the Transamerican pyramid sold for 10% less than asking price whereas the market was on fire less than a year ago. Jim Gray’s article in the Vanguard (https://www.davisvanguard.org/2020/10/guest-commentary-thoughts-on-the-proposed-downtown-specific-plan-the-pandemic-and-attracting-needed-investment/) prognosticates about radical changes in downtown–those changes will not be limited to just downtown, but will spread across most of the City’s commercial spaces. What is office space in south Davis may be redeveloped into the type of research business park similar to DISC.

    A further premise is that manufacturing can be colocated with housing, which as the environmental justice movement has shown, is not a desirable planning choice. If manufacturing had been emphasized as much as David has made of this in the last month, then as an NRC commissioner I would have recommended against inclusion of housing on the site and instead proposed that the developer acquired nearby off site parcels for developing housing.

    But perhaps the biggest step that we need to take is to develop a vision plan for Davis that looks forward to what do we want the community to look like, what type of economic activity do we want to encourage and what are the requirements we desire for new development and redevelopment. This is a must as a prelude to a new General Plan and even as part of the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) that will be starting with the new year.

    As for the parcel where DISC is located, it’s not going anywhere–that’s the nature of land. Nishi came back after an initial loss with a proposal more responsive to the community.

    So rather than just throw up our hands in exasperation, we should take this as an opportunity. We should be beating the drums for immediate action to constitute forums to move forward. We don’t need to wait to hire a team of consultants to pull this together–we have many available resources and willing citizens to step up and take this on. We need to bring land owners to the table as part of the conversation, and we need to lay down what is realistic, particularly about how the demise of redevelopment agencies took away a key funding tool. But it needs to be a community wide conversation.

    1. Ron Oertel

      A further premise is that manufacturing can be colocated with housing, which as the environmental justice movement has shown, is not a desirable planning choice. If manufacturing had been emphasized as much as David has made of this in the last month, then as an NRC commissioner I would have recommended against inclusion of housing on the site and instead proposed that the developer acquired nearby off site parcels for developing housing.

      This is an honest point, and one that others had been pointing out.

      Of course, no one wanted to acknowledge that a business park (like MRIC / ARC / DISC) would lead to further peripheral development (assuming, of course that such a proposal was actually viable, without the inclusion of housing). 

      Nor did they want to discuss “where” that housing development would occur. Some went so far as to essentially imply that DISC would have no impact on housing demand. They were (for lack of a better word), “lying”.

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        “would lead to further peripheral development”

        That’s because that was your argument – taken from a quick read of the EIR – while I made the case that we could absorb it over the build out via normal housing growth.

        1. Ron Oertel

          And there’s the lie.  Pretending that the creation of jobs has no impact on housing demand.

          What does “normal housing growth” mean to you, and where do you propose it (beyond the city’s borders)?

          And again, are you claiming that DISC would have no impact on housing demand? (This ranks right up there with Trump’s claims regarding voter fraud.)

          Personally, I suspect that surrounding communities would absorb most of it, regardless.  (That is, if the commercial part even materialized, beyond the portion that they would have been required to build.)

          The vote still isn’t finalized.  If it changes, I’m sure that you won’t be shy about using DISC as a reason to support the next peripheral housing development.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “And there’s the lie. Pretending that the creation of jobs has no impact on housing demand.”

            That’s the problem. There is not a pretending here – it is a calculation based on the likely growth over a 20 to 30 period and the question of whether that growth can absorb the new jobs.

            I am not claiming it would have no impact on housing demand, I’m claiming that the projected housing growth can absorb it – two very different things.

      2. Richard McCann

        Ron O

        My point is that the pandemic changed the equation. I still don’t think your initial points were particularly valid. None of those are concerns of mine–I want to be clear that we have very different reasons for why the DISC proposal was problematic.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Understood, Richard.

          But I at least find your reasons and arguments (as well as Don’s and some others) to be more “honest” than David’s arguments. 

          That’s the part that really irritates me. Well that, plus the internal conflicts with one’s own previously-stated positions, without acknowledging it.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I don’t appreciate your comments Ron. I’ve been transparent, shown you the numbers, been transparent about where I stand. We may have a difference of opinion, but I have been completely honest about mine. Do the math – how many additional housing units will DISC generate over a 30 year period? What is the expected additional housing unit growth in Davis? And then the question is whether that can absorb it – I see no reason why it can’t.

        2. Ron Oertel

          You already know the numbers.

          DISC (claimed) to create around 5,000 jobs.  There would have been 850 units on-site, of which 130 were subsequently designated as Affordable (meaning that those might not even house ANY workers, unless they occupy low-wage jobs at the site).

          The earlier EIR estimated that approximately 2,900 units (in addition to the 850 on-site units) would be needed as a result of DISC.  About 1,700 of those were expected to be absorbed by other cities, with 1,200 more in Davis.

          Without DISC, those numbers (which represent the increased demand for local housing from DISC) don’t exist.

          Your arguments aren’t honest.  Sorry, but that’s just the reality of it. Should I shy-away from pointing this out?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            The EIR which you continue to site, project about 1200 more people to be absorbed in Davis. But what you continue to fail to note is that is over a 30 year time horizon. Based on the current RHNA numbers, we are projected to build about 7800 units over those 30 years. So can we absorb 1200 into those 7800? Yes we can. There is nothing dishonest about this at all – it’s just math.

        3. Ron Oertel

          The EIR which you continue to site, project about 1200 more people to be absorbed in Davis.

          That is incorrect.  The EIR discusses units, not people.

          And that doesn’t include the 1,700 units assumed to be provided outside of Davis.  Nor does it account for the fact that 130 of the onsite units were subsequently “reserved” for those who may not be able to work at DISC, due to income limitations.

          But what you continue to fail to note is that is over a 30 year time horizon. Based on the current RHNA numbers, we are projected to build about 7800 units over those 30 years. So can we absorb 1200 into those 7800? Yes we can. There is nothing dishonest about this at all – it’s just math.

          There are several problems with these assumptions.

          First, you’re assuming that RHNA numbers are finalized for the next 30 years.

          Second, RHNA numbers deal with different income categories.  Therefore, they may or may not address demand from DISC (assuming that the jobs are not all lower-income).

          Third, you’re assuming that RHNA numbers are the “limit” as to what would be approved.  We’ve already seen Davis surpassing those numbers.

          Fourth, you’re assuming that RHNA numbers already take into account the additional demand that a development like DISC would create.  You already know that SACOG bases those numbers partly on the number of jobs in a community.  If the number of jobs in a community increases, so would future RHNA numbers.

          Those are just off the top of my head.

          But again, if you’re claiming that future housing numbers are already “fixed”, and that there’s already a housing shortage, how does creating more demand than already exists fit into your set of morals?

          If you’d like, we can also discuss your claimed concerns regarding local contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, because it’s similar to this.

          Again, it goes to basic honesty. Others acknowledge that housing pressures would increase as a result of something like DISC. You’re on your own, here.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            You will note that the units I used in the analysis were units, not people. 2075 units is the 8 year allocation for Davis.

            I’m not assuming anything Ron, I’m pointing out that I have a basis for my opinion and it’s based on math that is known at the moment. You calling me dishonest is an attempt to mau mau me, please stop, it is not permissible on this forum.

        4. Ron Oertel

           I’m pointing out that I have a basis for my opinion and it’s based on math that is known at the moment.

          Actually, it’s not known (other than the units for the current round).  Nor do we know if the already-approved megadorms “count”, or the degree to which they do. Nor do they have anything to do with DISC.

          But again, sorry to say but I find your arguments to be fundamentally (and purposefully) misleading, for the reasons I put forth (as an example).  And your arguments conflict with your other claimed concerns.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Showed you the math – other people can decide. Future posts on this strand will be removed.

        5. Bill Marshall

          I want to be clear that we have very different reasons for why the DISC proposal was problematic.

          There were, indeed, many different reasons why folk opposed/favored DISC… for reals…

          I was very long “on the fence”… but a lot of the negative non sense (deliberate parsing) of the viral opponents, led me to vote in favor… yes, out of spite… I own that!

    2. Mark West

      “The premise of this column is that the current land uses are immutable. Yet the Downtown Plan assumes significant redevelopment across downtown.”

      The Downtown plan pays lip service to redevelopment, but the limitations imposed by that plan on most of the area downtown will preclude any significant changes. Come back in 20 years and what will have changed in the downtown will be a continued deterioration of the existing stock.

       

      “Even more so, the commercial real estate market is being radically restructured by the pandemic.”

      This overstates the situation dramatically. We don’t know the long-term impact of the pandemic on commercial real estate because we don’t know the long-term extent of the pandemic. It has caused a disruption in the short-term for sure, but an effective vaccine will allow things to revert back to a pre-2020 situation fairly quickly and with it, the demand for commercial real estate. Long-term we are more likely looking at a hiccup in the market than a radical restructuring.

       

      “Jim Gray’s article…”

      Was largely wishful thinking from someone who makes a living brokering commercial real estate. Changes to the commercial space in town will depend on property owners being willing to invest to make those changes, but there is no evidence to suggest that will actually happen to any extent in town, hence wishful thinking.

       

      “But perhaps the biggest step that we need to take is to develop a vision plan for Davis that looks forward to what do we want the community to look like, what type of economic activity do we want to encourage and what are the requirements we desire for new development and redevelopment.”

      Clearly Richard doesn’t believe the community is capable of ‘walking and chewing gum at the same time.’ This demand is nothing more than one of delay, for no good reason. There is no incentive to spend the years of time and $millions in cost for a new General Plan (when we are already $millions in deficit) when it will be obsolete the day it is published. Also, when it will be ignored by all except those wanting to use it to bludgeon any attempts at change, as has been the case with the current version.

       

      “As for the parcel where DISC is located, it’s not going anywhere–that’s the nature of land.”

      I’m sure all the folks living in homes at Covell Village will agree with you.

       

      “Nishi came back after an initial loss with a proposal more responsive to the community.”

      Being ‘responsive’ to the community led to a less financially viable project and the complete loss of potential commercial activity and resulting tax revenues for the City. As it is, please tell me when the Nishi project breaks ground because it won’t help the community in any way until it is built. It is an approved project, yes, but so far not a successful one.

       

      “We need to bring land owners to the table as part of the conversation, and we need to lay down what is realistic, particularly about how the demise of redevelopment agencies took away a key funding tool.”

      We need to create incentives for property owners to build. So far, what Richard is proposing is to expand the many reasons that they will not do so. We had a property owner willing to invest in the City and the community just told him no, we didn’t want it. That is yet another disincentive to change and a major disincentive for property owners to even propose future projects. Whining about the demise of redevelopment at this point is beyond stupid. If we want to see redevelopment all we need to do is create the environment where change is desired. That, unfortunately will never happen in Davis, at least not in my life time. Increases in taxes though are a certainty.

       

      1. Richard McCann

        Mark

        You and I usually somewhat agree on the need for economic development of some kind to meet our community’s needs. However, you seem to have bought into the argument that developers will only come to Davis if they have an unfettered ability to build whatever they want from your comments. That will never happen.

        I’m not sure what you’re proposing on the General Plan. Are you saying that we shouldn’t bother updating the plan and we should continue to approve projects via exceptions? And that the community has no valid voice in how the City should evolve in the future and instead that we should just leave it to the captains of industry to plop down whatever developments that they want? That’s a dead letter proposal and will just lead us down the path of Houston (which I’ve been to several times and would never wish on us.)

        I’m not seeing the limitations in the Downtown Plan that you’re claiming. You will need to be more specific.

        It’s not the pandemic itself that will impact the commercial real estate market. If you’ve been reading the business pages, the drumbeat is that the pandemic triggered a dramatic change in office space use that was already trending toward more employees being at home. Many companies have already closed major offices due to the efficiency gains they realized. (Please don’t make me post the list yet again.) That is the market trend I see, and the one that Jim Gray confirmed in his article. I don’t see how that vision is aligned with his personal financial position–it seems quite contrary in fact.

        Nishi is one example of coming back in one form. DISC can come back in a different form, but instead of the developer leading the vision process, it should be citizens. The fact is that DISC could have presented competition with existing office space just at the moment when the existing space was most vulnerable. That whole situation just arose since March. Ignoring that potential is like continuing to drive toward a cliff edge that just appeared over the horizon without stopping and assessing whether we want to continue that direction.

        1. Mark West

          “You and I usually somewhat agree on the need for economic development”

          That was true up until you started arguing against the one major economic development project that we have had available to us over the past two decades.

           

          “However, you seem to have bought into the argument that developers will only come to Davis if they have an unfettered ability to build whatever they want”

          No your assumption is not correct. I have advocated for creating incentives so that developers build what we want them to build, instead of telling them what they cannot build, which has been our approach to date.

           

          “I’m not sure what you’re proposing on the General Plan.”

          Then I will help you out. If we need a new GP, then the CC should ask Staff to write it, but we should not stop making decisions on development project during that process. We should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

           

          “we should continue to approve projects via exceptions?”

          Whether we write a new plan or amend the old one, we will continue to approve projects via exceptions for the simple reason that we can not and will not write a GP that addresses every possible scenario. Someone, at some time, will come along with an unexpected exception that makes sense. The problem is not the GP, but your arrogance in believing that a new plan will meet our needs better than what the existing one does.

           

          “I’m not seeing the limitations in the Downtown Plan that you’re claiming.”

          When your highly paid consultant explains to you that the height limitations you are considering will not allow for economically viable projects yet you select those limits anyway… Worse yet, when your local developers have been telling you that for decades and you continue to ignore them… We may see a parcel or two redeveloped because the existing building is about to fall down, like the building on G street, but you won’t see any projects of the scale that are needed for a real improvement` in the City’s economic or fiscal future.

           

          “If you’ve been reading the business pages, the drumbeat is that the pandemic triggered a dramatic change…”

          Yawn…maybe you should spend a bit more time in the real world and less time reading the business pages. Some companies will change, others will not. Making grand proclamations about the ultimate impact at this point is entirely speculative and not very informative. Making long-term planning decisions based upon those speculative proclamations is frankly stupid.

           

          “Nishi is one example of coming back in one form. DISC can come back in a different form, but instead of the developer leading the vision process, it should be citizens.”

          I pointed out above, Nishi cannot be viewed as ‘coming back’ until it is actually built. If we approved an nonviable project, what exactly have we gained? Uninformed citizen’s driving the process is how we arrived at our current poor position as a City. Why do you believe that repeating that past failure will result in a better outcome?

           

          “The fact is that DISC could have presented competition with existing office space just at the moment when the existing space was most vulnerable.”

          So what? This has got to be the dumbest argument I have ever heard, and from and economist no less. Why do we want to protect existing property owners from competition? Who benefits from that other than the protected property owner. Not the city’s residents or business tenants. Sixty years of this very approach is why we have such a strong retail sector in town…oh wait.

           

          In short Richard, you advocated making a 20-50 year planning decision based upon your fears of the potential impact of a one to two year problem. I call that shortsighted in the extreme.

  5. Matt Williams

    David Greenwald said … “Do the math – how many additional housing units will DISC generate over a 30 year period? What is the expected additional housing unit growth in Davis? And then the question is whether that can absorb it – I see no reason why it can’t.”

    David

     

    From January 2013 to October 2021, the Davis RHNA consisted of 1066 units – the new RHNA requirement is 2,075 covering October 2021 through October 2029.  That is eight years at a rate of 280 units per year.  The growth in enrollment, faculty and staff at UCD will more consume 280 units per year by itself, leaving no units for DISC employees.  Alternatively the DISC employees will consume the 280 units per year, leaving no units for UCD students, faculty and staff.

    Add into that consideration the fact that RHNA only requires a community to have the units zoned, rather than actually built, and the challenge becomes even larger.

  6. Matt Williams

    Another factor that is part of the mix is that the RHNA count is for “units approved (entitled or permitted) or built since the start date of the RHNA Projection Period.” 

    Since the RHNA Projection Period begins 11 months from now in October 2021, Nishi’s units and WDAAC’s units and possibly Chiles Ranch’s units and University Commons’ units all have the possibility to qualify as “built” during the RHNA Projection Period.  That even further reduces the proportion of the 2,075 units available to the people filling jobs at the DISC site.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      You’re making the same mistake Ron was – arguing the details.  The point I was making is that you can make a viable argument and it’s not at all dishonest.  Keep in mind, if DISC got built, given the build out and the 200,000 square requirement and the onsite housing, DISC is probably not going to impact Davis this RHNA cycle anyway and we still have to figure out where those 2075 units are going.  but again, that gets into the weeds.

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        And actually I think we will have the housing capacity through normal growth to accommodate more than just the 1200 units.  When the EIR consultants were asked about the out of town assumption and how they figured it, they said they that was the average out of town for people working at an innovation center, it might be if the housing is available, more people will want to live in town, who knows.  But the project should not cause Davis to have to build more housing than they would have – I stand by that.  Not that it matters at this point.

  7. Ron Glick

    “Ron G, the City of Davis (and DJUSD) does not need to go deeper in debt.  It has an alternative, which is to add approximately $500 per year in taxes per resident on the City side, and approximately $1,000 per year in taxes per household on the DJUSD side.”

    Suggested by someone who won’t be paying the city share of the tax he proposes.

    1. Matt Williams

      I’m not advocating for it Ron G, simply pointing out that it is an alternative to your “deeper in debt” prognostication.

      You and I look at most issues from very different perspectives.  As you have done in your comment above, you inject passion into your replies as a default.  As I have also done in my comment above, I do my level best to present alternatives dispassionately.  That is particularly pertinent when I am an outside observer, like I am in this case.

  8. Ron Glick

    “As for the parcel where DISC is located, it’s not going anywhere–that’s the nature of land. Nishi came back after an initial loss with a proposal more responsive to the community.”

    But Covell Village hasn’t come back and its been 14 years.

    1. Bill Marshall

      And, the Covell Village project spurred Measure X, then Measure J, was arguably “infill”… surrounded on 3 sides by existing development… same with Wildhorse Ranch…

      Covell Village was a poorly designed project… lots of technical issues… I voted to nix it… but have never voted in favor of J, R, or D…

      Covell Village, Wildhorse Ranch, and Cannery were heavily influenced by City Planning staff (particularly, one or two)… as was Chiles Ranch… densification, minimalist public rights of way, etc.

      The variations of DISC, same… inconvenient truth… but Cannery and Chiles Ranch were not subject to a J/R vote, and both are problematic… technical and policy issues… but, fait accompli…

      Whatever… the voters have ‘made their bed’… may  they deal with the results… it is ‘on their heads’… it was ‘in their hands’… it will be what it is… good /bad/indifferent… but, they need to “own it”…

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