Commentary: How Do People Plan to Finance Their Ideal Community?

By David M. Greenwald

In 2018, only 57 percent of the voters supported a parcel tax for roads—it needed a two-thirds vote and thus went down to defeat.  Last month, Measure B, which some were hoping would generate $5 million a year in revenue, went down 52-48.

A small but important majority of voters have sent a message here.  They drew a line on a project (Davis Innovation & Sustainability Campus) that they feared would increased traffic impacts on Mace and some drew a line on peripheral expansion of Davis.

Over the last 20 years voters have shaped the contours of Davis.  When they imposed Measure J starting in 2000, they slowed down peripheral development.  The voters have approved just two major projects in the last 20 years, a student housing project at Nishi—which is closer to infill than peripheral—and a senior housing development north of Covell.

The voters consistently have opposed peripheral development, voting down several major projects that would expand the boundaries—Covell Village, Wildhorse Ranch and now DISC.

But land use decisions like elections have consequences.  Not just the intended consequences created by the overt vote choice, but also unintended consequences.

The drive to preserve the town has led to huge changes in the town.  We have seen less peripheral housing and more infill projects, a pressure to densify, neighborhood level conflict, soaring housing costs, a declining middle-middle (middle income and middle age demographic 30-55).  There are fewer families moving to Davis, fewer staying in Davis, and pressure is increasing on our schools.

At the same time, we have seen an increased pressure on our city resources.  Some of this was out of our control—the Great Recession, the COVID-recession.  Some of this was failure to plan—the failure to anticipate the impact of increasing pensions and retiree health benefits.

But a lot of this has been self-inflicted.  We increased salaries markedly in the last decade, depending on revenues that evaporated.  We then resisted structural changes, mortgaging the future to pay for the present, creating huge unfunded needs and a cache of deferred maintenance.

As I have learned through my fifteen years of observing local politics, the biggest problem that we have is that our own self-imposed policies have created a margin which amplifies our errors—and unless we find ways to expand that margin, we will also be living on the edge.

Our land use decisions have contributed greatly to that problem.  Cost of housing is one problem.  Lack of retail sales another.  We rely on voter approval to do major expansions or make major changes, but most voters are understandably risk averse—many have their savings tied to property values, and many are holding on to their cherished notion of the vision of this community.

That is exactly the problem, that people’s ideal community comes with huge costs—intended and unintended?  The question going forward is what is the cost people are willing to bear for their ideal community?

We like a compact community with rural and agricultural boundaries.  But that also comes with costs.  It means that the cost of housing, constrained by the market, goes up.  It means that growth pressures force density and taller buildings on the interior.

On the fiscal side, we have eschewed big box retail—a decision that increasingly looks wise given the decline of brick and mortar retail, but a decision that has constantly put pressure on our city finances.

How do we overcome that?  One vision was economic development.  I embraced the concept of a 200-acre tech park in part because of the promise for revenue, in part because we needed to diversify jobs to capture more of our intellectual capital through graduating students, and in part because I ironically believed it was the best way to hold the line on future growth.

Yes, we expand our boundaries by 200 acres, but it is 200 acres over a 30- to 40-year time horizon.

But we have other options for dealing with revenue needs.  We can add taxes.  We can subtract city services.  We can attempt to do a bit of everything.

That is the key question, where is the revenue going to come from—taxes?  Hotels?  Economic development?  New retail?

Can we work with the university on creating a tech environment that draws more visitors to the university and to conferences that can fuel hotels and restaurants?  Can we expand our athletic fields like many other communities to draw soccer and other sports competitions that will bring people in once COVID clears?

In the battle for DISC this year, we attempted to complete a 10-year planning process that started with DSIDE and the Innovation Park Task Force meetings that began in 2010.  The idea was, with UC Davis, we could take advantage of technology transfer and create a thriving high tech ecosystem in Davis—harvesting intellectual capital and innovation from the university.  The voters narrowly rejected that vision.

Can they reconsider a modified version in 2022 or 2024?  Sure.

Should we go back to the drawing board?  We can.

But I think we need to be clear—we cannot preserve the city in its 2020 form any more than we could preserve it in its 1996 form or its 1980 form.  Change happens.

We need to address a fundamental question—what is our ideal community and how do we finance it?  That’s a hard question, because, if we do nothing, we will see that the center does not hold here either and the great things about this community are about to slip away because we can no longer afford to pay for them and people can no longer afford to live 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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69 Comments

  1. Keith Olsen

    great things about this community are about to slip away because we can no longer afford to pay for them and people can no longer afford to live here.

    First off I feel like I’ve read this same article several, several times and secondly when is the demise of Davis actually going to come because this dire warning has been sounding off for what, 10 years?

     

    1. David Greenwald

      Have things improved over the last ten years or are they slowly getting worse? Have we closed the funding gap? Improved the roads? Increased city revenue? How long will it take to feel it – I don’t know. Do you doubt that we will?

      1. Ron Oertel

        Maybe at some point, folks will start asking where existing funds are going (e.g., unfunded retirement benefits, etc.).  In other words, payments without receiving any services in return.

        This issue is obviously not limited to Davis.

        If cities rely upon sprawl to fund existing footprints, this is obviously not sustainable. Then again, many cities are no longer sprawling – e.g., in the Bay Area.

        But from what I can tell, even cities that generate more revenue are in a deficit. Seems that spending ALWAYS rises to match whatever revenue is available.

        And obviously, when cities depend upon more revenue (via economic development), they suffer even more when that revenue crashes – as seems to be occurring via the move out of California by some businesses in the technology industry.

        1. Richard McCann

          Ron O

          I posted an article a few weeks ago from the SF Chronicle that showed that SF was NOT in deficit prior to the pandemic, which belies your claim. (Did you read it?) Many other cities are also fiscally sound, they just don’t make the news. Your claim is unfounded and incorrect as a general statement.

          As for unfunded pension liabilities, what is your suggested LOCAL solution? We have to live within the conditions handed to us by state and federal law. Just as you claim that we should control global population growth to solve our local housing crisis, you are sticking your head in the sand to try avoid having to make the hard choices that we face. Saying that it’s someone else’s to solve is not a solution.

          As for property tax revenue, they only rise at most a little over 2% a year, and they are only a minority of City revenues.

        2. Ron Oertel

          No, Richard – I did not see that.

          Here’s the first one that popped up for me:

          San Francisco is facing a $1.7 billion deficit over the next two and a half years without even considering emergency response spending on the coronavirus, the mayor’s office announced Wednesday.

          SF facing $1.7B budget deficit over next 2.5 years (sfgate.com)

          There are listings of the “deficit per capita” (by city) that I’ve previously posted.  As I recall, Davis was not the worst or best, in that regard.  But I don’t recall seeing any cities which did not have such a deficit. (That existed prior to Covid 19 shutdowns, as well.)

          Regardless, if San Francisco is not running a deficit (as you claim), that would be “proof” that sprawl (the Ponzi scheme) is not needed for fiscal soundness.

      2. Ron Oertel

        It’s also important to note that revenue (taxes) do rise (each-and-every-year), even under Proposition 13.

        Unless property values crash – which I believe has happened in some cities. (Which ones declared bankruptcy, again? Was it Stockton and/or Richmond?)

        And of course, it’s well-past time to abandon the “pay-as-you-go” model, when looking at the true cost of developments.

        This issue came up at the finance and budget commission meeting (in regard to DISC), and was a key reason that three of those commissioners did not agree that DISC would have created a “fiscal profit”.

        In a nutshell, current analyses do not include long-term capital replacement costs that the city must bear, as a result of a development.

        But as one commissioner put it (to paraphrase), “obviously, pay-as-you-go is not working”. And yet, it’s apparently been the local government standard used throughout California. (I believe this is directly related to unfunded liabilities from retired employees, as well.)

        “Pay-as-you-go” also encourages the Ponzi scheme regarding pursuit of development, since the true costs only become apparent at later dates. To be temporarily “solved” by (what else) – more Ponzi scheme.

        1. Richard McCann

          I’d have to look into the FBC’s interpretation of funding capital projects in the future, but I have a fundamental disagreement with Matt Williams about how those projects should be funded. The correct, efficient, and equitable manners is NOT to pay a sinking fund now for future replacement. That’s because current residents/inhabitants/consumers are already paying for the current capital investments made on their behalf when the project was built and was funded by debt. That current payment is the debt repayment that includes both interest and principal, the latter which is a stand-in for depreciation. Future large capital investments also should be paid for through debt which will then be repaid by the future residents/inhabitants/consumers who are actually using the replacement capital. Current residents/inhabitants/consumers should not being paying for both current and future capital–that’s double paying and a subsidy to future residents/inhabitants/consumers.

          If we are paying for large capital projects on a pay as you go basis, the solution is simply lowering the floor on what projects we should be funding through debt. This we can even do internally from the excess funds that we hold in our enterprise funds, particularly if we merge the funds.

      3. Bill Marshall

        Although I was not the intended recipient of the question, will answer for us…

        [Caveat… likely seen by some as ‘inherent bias’, on several levels, including race, economic status, former employment]

        Have things improved over the last ten years or are they slowly getting worse?

        Our answer is “mixed bag”… neither… overall, same-same…

        Street/bike-ped paths have had issues since the 1980’s… a struggle to keep up… but certainly in the last 10 years, ‘nothing new under the sun’… there are just more streets/bike-ped paths… striping has deteriorated, signficantly, but that’s mainly an issue at night, or inclement weather [yet a small group has demanded more superflous striping, which has occurred, even when we are not maintaining the striping we had 10 years ago]…

        Street tree maintenance, and removals of dead trees, has declined… City tree crews were basically eliminated, less $$$ for contractors, and the ‘druids’ on the Tree Commission who are not inclined to have a ‘city’ (or any other) tree removed, even if malformed and jeopardizing safety or property (better wear a helmet traversing city bike-ped paths, even as a pedestrian… tree maintenance has been spotty, at best)…

        Water still comes into our home, and with less hardness than 10-years ago… an improvement… when we flush the toilet, drain the sink, the waste still goes ‘bye-bye’… same-same…

        Taxes/fees… except for DJUSD levies (approved by voters), taxes/fees have been with normal parameters as far as %-age of income… still, acceptable, as to ‘quality of life’…

        Main point… demand for services/programs has increased (often from folk who have arrived in the last 15-20 years)… due to Prop 13 (particulary related to non-residential properties) funding sources have been ‘ham-strung’… [to be clear, ALL, ALL, ALL (I say 3 times) City revenue comes from taxes, or fees… duh!]… the revenue from DISC that the City would have received, would have come from taxes or fees… and unlike taxes, fees (by State law) can only cover direct expenses, as if it is greater than that, it is ‘by law’ a ‘tax’…

        “We have met the enemy, and it is us” [Walt Kelly, via Pogo]… new development will not long help us, and same for lack of development, financially… supply and demand… demands have increased, supply not so much… choices… choices between what we demand, and what we are willing to do to pay for those demands… this is, in fact, one of those zero-sum games…

        But, at the end of the day, and the year, I opine we are no better off or worse off than 10 years ago… pretty much same-same…

        I fully expect to be “ripped” by both conservatives and liberals/”progressives” (the latter tend to demand more services, but at no price to them)… and by some folk who hold animus towards anything I opine, for whatever reason… I don’t give a d$%n…

         

        1. Alan Miller

          yet a small group has demanded more superflous striping,

          Not superfluous (or super floss, whichever).  The Davis bike lanes are no longer anything to be proud of.  Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco are so far ahead of us in smart street road design.  We should close our bike museum in shame (and open up a teen center so youths don’t turn into criminals, not on Davis’ watch).

          Water still comes into our home, and with less hardness than 10-years ago… an improvement… when we flush the toilet, drain the sink, the waste still goes ‘bye-bye’… same-same…

          Yet, I read this great article in the Aggie, which I don’t think the Enterprise ever covered (apologies if y’all did), on how much agricultural waste is now in our new river water source.  There’s an issue for the DV to tackle, rather than housing, race, Reisig, empty-the-jails wash rinse repeat.

          I fully expect to be “ripped” by both conservatives and liberals/”progressives”

          Us green libertarians will go gentle on you . . .

  2. Mark Dempsey

    I’d suggest you’re omitting some funding possibilities besides increased taxes. One glaring omission is the possibility of a public bank for Davis (or the region). People typically thing banks lend money on deposit, but that’s not so. They literally create the credit they extend.

    This could be a big deal. After all, roughly half the cost of big infrastructure projects is the cost of financing them. At one time, we had public finance nationwide with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. Herbert Hoover actually came up with this, but FDR used it to finance the big infrastructure projects of the New Deal, like the TVA, or the first Bay Bridge.

    Now, we’ve so thoroughly privatized finance that Goldman Sachs underwrote the second Bay Bridge, and the Kings’ Stadium. We send all the financial profit to Wall Street, but a local public bank could finance innovative projects, and recycle any profit locally.

    The East Bay, L.A., Seattle, San Francisco, and several other locations are about to have these banks. Why not Davis? (See https://publicbankeastbay.org/ for one reference) Gavin Newsome even recently signed legislation enabling these in California.

    As for the lament about the shortage of resources usually accompanying the “how will we possibly afford [fill in the blank]?”… That’s almost entirely false. There are five times more vacant homes than all the homeless in San Francisco, for just one example. See the most recent posts to my blog for the details (https://itssimplerthanitlooks.blogspot.com/)

    1. Bill Marshall

      Any revenue that you cite, would still be a fee, or a tax… called “skimming”… still comes from same pot of money… the public…

      BTW, your choice of the word “bank” is particularly egregious to me… been about 35 years since I’ve done business  (much) with a bank… I tell my kids, do not put your money in a bank… Credit Union… a ‘co-op’ if you will… you are stakeholders there… any net proceeds are plowed back to the members, via lower interest rates on loans, higher interest rates for savings… a good zero-sum game…

    2. Alan Miller

      There are five times more vacant homes than all the homeless in San Francisco,

      Y’know that’s a great point.  I bicycling by Sterling on 5th Street the other day, and I came up with this great idea.  Instead of having all those empty new apartments just sitting there until the students return in the fall, the owners of Sterling should just open up all the apartments to all the so-called homeless people in Davis!!!!!  Sterling could easily handle everyone along the railroad, the bike paths, the freeway bushes, the drainage canals, tents in downtown.

      We could close the Respite Center and shut down Project Roomkey as there would be no need since everyone would have a home.  And protests from Rancho Yolo? —- suck it up Rancho Yolo!!!  The owners of Sterling should do this because as landowners, they are obviously rich and should give back to the community.

      Who’s with me?!!!!!

  3. Don Shor

    I think a lot of people like Davis just fine the way it is, though they would prefer less traffic. They don’t care about the schools because they don’t have kids in them, they think the road conditions are fine, they are unaware of the city’s structural fiscal deficit. If you pressed them, they’d probably say they preferred the way it was ten years ago. They don’t need housing because they already have a house. They like the pretty parks and greenbelts and are willing to pay a little in taxes to have those.

    Most of the housing debate we’ve been having on here have been about people who can’t live here because of the cost and the paucity of housing in particular price ranges.  Those people have no say in these issues. The complacency you’re describing is based on the present comfort level of the existing voters. For them, things are fine. I doubt if most are even concerned about the rate of property taxes they pay.

    I suggest someone commission a poll to see what the top priorities of the citizens are. Crime and homelessness would probably be up pretty high on that list.

    1. Don Shor

      What upsets existing homeowners is having change forced on them from outside. The growth of UCD’s enrollment puts pressure on the host city, and some residents seem seriously enraged about that. But my guess is that the state is going to keep ratcheting up the pressure for tight, insular communities like Davis to allow more housing growth because of the statewide housing shortage. That will infuriate those who are presently satisfied and they will seek to push back. Rather than seeing residential growth and economic development as having any benefit to the community, they will see it as causing harm to their current comfort levels.

      1. Matt Williams

        While I don’t disagree with the point that Don has made, I do believe the State of California has a role to play that goes beyond “ratcheting up the pressure for tight, insular communities like Davis to allow more housing growth because of the statewide housing shortage.”

        That additional role is in addressing the affordability of getting a university education at California’s public universities.  A huge part of the increased housing demand in Davis is due to the increase in UC Davis enrollment each and every year since the 2005-2006 Academic Year (which saw an enrollment decrease of 351 students from the prior year) from 28,154 students to 40,032.  That growth in UCD enrollment also comes with an resultant increase in the number of faculty and support staff of close to 4,900 FTEs.  There simply isn’t the financial resources in the private housing development industry or the City of Davis budget to address the issue of providing affordable housing for those 12,000 additional students and 4,900 additional faculty and staff.

        During his 2020 Presidential campaign Bernie Sanders argued numerous times for a change in State of California policy (and budgeting) to make substantially more education funds available to all of California’s  universities, so that they can subsidize on-campus housing.  I personally would argue that with the additional funding should also come academic achievement metrics so that the students getting the subsidization understand that getting an education is a JOB, and they need to take the responsibilities of that job seriously, and produce measurable output/results.

        With that said, arguably UCD currently doesn’t have the unrestricted fiscal resources to be able to solve the on-campus housing affordability problem by themselves.  Arguably the UC Office of the President doesn’t have the resources either.  In my personal opinion, any “commitment” to greater housing affordability at UCD (and at all the other UCs as well) is going to have to come from Gavin Newsom.  In November 2019 the Sacrameno Bee front page headline read “California is on track for a $7 billion budget surplus. Where will the money go?” That budget surplus has unfortunately been used up by the response to COVID, but the principle remains the same.

        With financial help from the State, UCD could build the additional affordable housing on campus, which would mean that the increase in housing demand due to increased enrollment would be matched with an incremental increase in housing supply provided by UCD … housing for students, housing for faculty, and housing for staff.

    2. David Greenwald

      They did a poll last year. Things may have changed since then. But one of the fallacies is you can’t keep a place as it is. That’s really my point here. Change will happen. The question is what kind of change you want to see.

      1. Matt Williams

        David, that poll was as superficial as superficial can be.  It was , in my personal opinion, nothing more than a public relations tool.  It didn’t attempt to illuminate any causes, only to highlight the point Don has made in his 8:02am comment above.

    3. Richard McCann

      Don

      I agree with your assessment of the citizenry’s complacency. This same problem is evident at the national level, particularly among the supporters of one the presidential candidates. But it is the role of our LEADERS to instruct them and persuade them about the fallacies of their assumptions and how unsustainable and vulnerable the current situation is.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Here’s what I’d “suggest”
          Have Dan and Gloria advocate on behalf of a development pushed as a “savior for the city”. That ought to do the trick.

          Why put it in quotes?   You suggested it in your post!  Your last sentence was, paired with the previous, condesending, but not un-expected.

      1. Don Shor

        But it is the role of our LEADERS to instruct them and persuade them about the fallacies of their assumptions and how unsustainable and vulnerable the current situation is.

        The city leaders who addressed the city’s fiscal situation and focused on economic development all supported peripheral business parks.

  4. Ron Glick

    “…when is the demise of Davis actually going to come because this dire warning has been sounding off for what, 10 years?”

    For the roads in my neighborhood its getting closer all the time, where, instead of a catastrophic collapse there is ongoing yet accelerating uniformitarian erosion. Those little meteorites in the streets aren’t from space they are pieces of the road.

    For public services you are getting less and paying more. Look at Davis Waste Removal. When an opportunity to buy the company arose the City didn’t have the money to buy it so instead an outside corporation bought it and raised the rates.

    Plus there seems to be a constant drive to increase taxes and fees. The attempt to put more paid parking in downtown is more about revenue and less about congestion then the proponents will tell you.

    1. Mark West

      “The attempt to put more paid parking in downtown is more about revenue and less about congestion then the proponents will tell you.”

      In terms of the way it was attempted here in Davis, I agree with this statement. The approach chosen was all about revenues, and by making that choice, they completely ignored the research and best practices. Paid parking programs work to manage congestion when designed correctly, but the way the CC chose to implement it, it was just another poorly justified tax.

      1. Bill Marshall

         The approach chosen was all about revenues, and by making that choice, they completely ignored the research and best practices.

        TOO FUNNY!  The ‘research’ came from “progressives” (who tend not to like business’ profits), and was somewhat supported by DT business, as long as all revenues went to improving City paid downtown amenities, to increase DT profits… Several DT business owners figured it might improve parking ‘turnover’, helping their business model, and all revenue should be used to their potential benefit (note that I did not say “net” revenue… they wanted the ‘gross’ revenue, at City expense, as they felt TEA [taxed enough, already])…

        An ‘inconvenient truth’… I witnessed the machinations…

         

  5. Alan Miller

    The drive to preserve the town has led to huge changes in the town.  We have seen less peripheral housing and more infill projects, a pressure to densify, neighborhood level conflict, soaring housing costs, a declining middle-middle (middle income and middle age demographic 30-55).  There are fewer families moving to Davis, fewer staying in Davis, and pressure is increasing on our schools.

    And yet you continue to support Measure JeRkeD, which cause all of this.

    I may be in the tiny 17%, but I will be vindicated when they are able to tap into the alternate universe in which Measure J was not passed in 2000 and Davis had a larger footprint, but the bike paths weren’t littered with blocks of asphalt emanating from their cracks, rents were lower, and student weren’t fighting seniors over the key to the city.

    Pardon, just finished watching “Dark”, one of the greatest German sci-fi time-travel, parallel-universe dramas ever made, and it really makes me want to go back to the temporal node where Davis went astray and fix our mistake before it became permanent.

    1. Ron Glick

      As Brian Wilson sang “Wouldn’t it be nice?”

      David pretends his position in favor of J, R and D has no consequences. Sadly we are stuck in this universe for the next ten years.

      1. Bill Marshall

        David… Ron G was not talking math… he was talking about talking out of both sides of one’s mouth, as I read it…

        Not new for you… years ago (and hinted, still today) you becried City expenses as too much for ‘public’ employees… and then you have taken the opposite tack for DJUSD ‘public’ employees (after all, “it’s for the kids” [‘teachers are way underpaid, minimal benefits’… if they had better pay, benefits, the kids would thrive, right?]… you tend to say different things, different times, to support your own goals/values… but you will never, ever, admit that… at least, please own it. Privately…

        Tearing down City employees makes “good copy”… as does lionizing public school folk…

        1. David Greenwald

          I was talking about math. By math I was not referring to ten years. I’m talking about 83 percent math. Measure J is reality at this point for the forseable future. And there is a fundamental flaw in Ron G’s logic to boot. Just as we constantly point out that the ends do not justify the means, so too the ends do not negate the means. Just because in a democracy we have to lose elections does not mean that elections themselves are bad.

          I say different things at different times because my thinking on things constantly changes. I still believe that we pay too much for public employees. I also believe that I have lost that battle and so the only appropriate course of action is to figure out a viable way to fund local government, and that solution is not going to come down from up high. Cities may all have their own struggles but in the end, they must save themselves for the most part.

        2. Ron Oertel

          I’ve heard (informally) that schools consume about half of all taxes state-wide. It’s reasonable to assume that some of those taxes could be redirected toward struggling cities, if the political will existed.

          Given demographics, I believe there’s increasingly going to be a revolt between those who have no kids (or whose kids have already grown), vs. those who want others to pay for their kids.

          And school systems, teacher unions (and parents) will fight this tooth-and-nail, all the way down.

          Some school systems are in very serious trouble, indeed. (Just look across the causeway, if you want to see that.)

          And increasingly, those associated with school districts are willing to abandon any pretense of morality regarding development proposals (that they hope will stave off the inevitable). Personally, I think we’ve seen this with some in regard to DISC.

        3. Alan Miller

          Just because in a democracy we have to lose elections does not mean that elections themselves are bad.

          The election that gave us Trump wasn’t “bad” ?   Cause a great many people to declare that we had to get rid of the electoral college, due to the outcome.  But I guess “it’s all good”.  Opposite side of coin, many are declaring this last election bad, including some Democrats I’ve spoken to.  But I guess “it’s all good”.

          Measure J is reality at this point for the forseable future.

          And four years ago, Trump was the reality for the foreseeable next four to eight years.  But plenty of people wouldn’t accept that reality.

          I say different things at different times because my thinking on things constantly changes.

          “Not so much” – Borat

  6. Alan Miller

    A small but important majority of voters have sent a message here.

    That’s some luscious language,  “small . . . majority” 😐

    but most voters are understandably risk averse—

    Risk Adverse Alert!  Risk Adverse Alert!  Whoop!  Whoop!

    The voters narrowly rejected that vision.

    And if they narrowly supported it you wouldn’t be using the word “narrowly”.

    Can they reconsider a modified version in 2022 or 2024?  Sure.

    Sure, IF it’s put on the ballot.

    Should we go back to the drawing board?  We can.

    The proper response is “we should”.  But what drawing board, like the City Council actually having a discussion about Measure JerKeD before putting it on the ballot for a ten-year extension?  Not likely.

    But I think we need to be clear—we cannot preserve the city in its 2020 form any more than we could preserve it in its 1996 form or its 1980 form.

    You there!  Drop the shovel!

    Change happens.

    Whoop!  Whoop!  Fear of change shaming alert!  Fear of change shaming alert!  Whoop!  Whoop!

    We need to address a fundamental question—what is our ideal community and how do we finance it?

    Ship has sailed.  Ideal community dead, finances in the tank.  We tried everything, it failed.  We’re doomed.

    That’s a hard question, because, if we do nothing, we will see that the center does not hold here either and the great things about this community are about to slip away because we can no longer afford to pay for them

    Naw, it’s like the national debt, just keep printing more Davis Money.  But seriously, the great things about Davis were the people cooperating instead of fighting viciously.  And those days are gone, fueled by the self inflicted wound of Measure JeRkeD.

    and people can no longer afford to live here.

    What was it that student commenter said a few months back? — “everyone should be able to afford to live here”.  That was EVERYONE.  That is clearly our highest budget priority for 2021 — subsidized housing for EVERYONE who can’t afford to live in Davis.

    1. Don Shor

      But seriously, the great things about Davis were the people cooperating instead of fighting viciously. And those days are gone, fueled by the self inflicted wound of Measure JeRkeD.

      Were you here for city council races before we had Measure J? I do not remember this glorious era of people cooperating.

      1. Alan Miller

        The rifts didn’t seem as vile.  Republicans could marry Democrats.  But perhaps I suffer the same memory rosation as those who claim the 50’s were some f*cking paradise.

      2. Bill Marshall

        Don… I’ve only been here in Davis since 1972 (yeah, a ‘newbie’)… and as a non-student, only since 1979… the ‘cooperation’ in CC ended ~ 1968-72…

        It has basically gone to perdition since that, with some exceptions… and those depend on whether it was about development, finances, services, or ‘whatever’… some CC’s have been absolutely ‘toxic’… some dysfunctional… some ‘contentious’, some good… in each of those areas…

  7. Matt Williams

    a declining middle-middle (middle income and middle age demographic 30-55).

    Davis’ middle-middle isn’t declining, it is shrinking (in size).  Although no study has been done of the vibrancy and resilience of the lives of the individual members in the middle-middle (or alternatively individual families in the middle-middle), my personal gut feel is that the typical member of the Davis middle-middle has just as vibrant and resilient and sustainable lifestyle as that a middle-middle person has in the ’90s.

    Said another way they are just as “well off,” there are just fewer of them.

    Chances are that the average age of the middle-middle demographic cohort in Davis is a few years older than it was in the 90’s and the average number of children in a middle-middle household is significantly smaller.

  8. Richard McCann

    The idea was, with UC Davis, we could take advantage of technology transfer and create a thriving high tech ecosystem in Davis

    While I know this is a difficult task, I haven’t seen evidence that the City has seriously engaged UCD on this effort. The City has left it too much to developers to come up with partnership, and as we saw with DISC, that really was a failure. I suggest that we get our state representatives engaged to talk with the UC office of the president to get this started. The state should be pushing the UCs to deliver more from the investment that is made there.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Yeah, but then they might face a lawsuit, even if it all “worked out” as you suggest. 

      (See Aggie Square.) 

      It’s just so, so hard. 😉

      All these no-good no-growthers, fouling up plans. With all those “bites at the apple” (and whatnot).

      1. Ron Oertel

        And apparently, participation in a lawsuit has even extended to a council member, I understand.

        Of course, that was a “righteous” lawsuit, unlike all others.  😉

        I’m becoming more confused, as to who are the good guys, and who are the bad guys regarding this type of thing. (Maybe David can straighten that out, in a future article.)

        1. Don Shor

          What’s your vision for the city, Ron? How would you suggest Davis achieve fiscal resilience, continue to provide the amenities you prefer, and maintain the present infrastructure. If your answer begins with the things you oppose or wouldn’t do, you haven’t answered the question.

        2. Ron Oertel

          I don’t buy-into the doom and gloom which is presented as a way to continue the Ponzi scheme.

          The challenges that Davis faces are not limited to Davis.  They are largely systemic, beyond individual cities’ control. As such, it needs to be addressed at a higher level.

          Seems to me that we (as a state/country) have not yet felt the impacts of the government-ordered shutdowns, unemployment, business failures, upcoming evictions, etc.

          1. David Greenwald

            You missed a critical point – the problem is how to finance your community, the answer is not path dependent.

        3. Ron Oertel

          Yes – I’m pretty happy with the way things are. I’m very happy that DISC was defeated.

          I believe the “reckoning” (one way or another) will generally occur at a higher level, since it involves many cities, counties, and the state itself.

  9. Ron Oertel

    I do have a related potential topic for David to explore (e.g., in a future article):

    The scope and impact of the eviction moratorium, locally, statewide, and across the country.  This is likely having a variety of impacts, some of which are still to come.

    Also, what is the current vacancy rate, in Davis? And, were a lot of students able to cancel their leases?

    This type of thing is likely going to have a big impact on developers’ willingness to build, going forward (e.g., if they’re not collecting rent for a year or two). Given David’s interest in promoting development, I would think that he might want to explore this.

    This will also likely have an impact on the local economy.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Not all of it – I’d like to hear analysis regarding the range of expected impacts of the eviction moratorium – locally, statewide, etc.

      I haven’t seen a lot of reporting regarding this, other than the upcoming/expected evictions – once the moratorium is lifted.

      For example, how many people aren’t currently paying rent as a result of this (e.g., locally, and/or in the region)?

      I’m also curious if students (in mass) were able to cancel their leases, and what the vacancy rate currently is.

      Actually, the same question might apply regarding commercial properties (e.g., business failures leading to vacancies).

      1. Alan Miller

        Just talking about the general arugments/viewpoints.

        I very much would like to hear data on what you listed above, but the attitude here seems to be, “It’ll all be back to normal in the fall”.

  10. Matt Williams

    The drive to preserve the town has led to huge changes in the town.  We have seen less peripheral housing and more infill projects, a pressure to densify, neighborhood level conflict, soaring housing costs, a declining middle-middle (middle income and middle age demographic 30-55).  There are fewer families moving to Davis, fewer staying in Davis, and pressure is increasing on our schools.

    .
    David’s bolded statement may be true in the housing rental market, but I suspect it is not true in the housing ownership market.  Landon and I moved to Davis in 1998 … as a family … a family of two.  I believe we are typical of a lot of families that have moved to Davis in the 22 years since we arrived … without children.  Our family has also stayed in Davis … again as a family of two … which again is probably typical of the families that have stayed … without children.    That does indeed put pressure on the schools to “right size” … and perhaps eliminate the senior exemption on parcel taxes. Both those steps would reduce the pressure on the schools.

    At the same time, we have seen an increased pressure on our city resources.  Some of this was out of our control—the Great Recession, the COVID-recession.  Some of this was failure to plan—the failure to anticipate the impact of increasing pensions and retiree health benefits.

    But a lot of this has been self-inflicted.

    .
    The statements above are either intentionally or unintentionally short-sighted.  The short-sightedness is in the timeline David has applied to the fiscal situation.  The City of Davis didn’t start living beyond its means with the onset of the Great Recession.  Rather, that fiscal irresponsibility began in the 1990’s … possibly even the 1980’s.  Annual recurring costs exceeded annual recurring revenues (from property taxes and sales taxes and the like) long before the year 2008 (or even the year 2000 when Measure J passed).  What did the City Councils of that era and the City mangers/Staff do to deal with the fact that annual costs were exceeding annual revenues?

    First, they mortgaged the future by using their one-time revenues to cover the shortfall of annual revenues vs. annual costs.  Using those one-time revenues for other (inappropriate) purposes left the community (and the accounting statements) with one-time costs that were coming due in the future, but no dollars to pay for them.

    When the steady stream of (mortgage-able) one-time revenues dried up after housing growth slowed in 2000/2001 (due to Measure J and reactions to 9/11), the shortfall in of annual revenues vs. annual costs began to be covered by deferring capital maintenance expenses for roads, bike paths, greenbelts and buildings/facilities.

    So, that very clear history is at odds with David’s statement that “some of this was a failure to plan …”  In my opinion, “all of this was a failure to plan.”

    1. Mark West

      Matt W. “all of this was a failure to plan.”

      Actually, no, all of this happened according to ‘the plan.’

      What incentive do the City Manager and Senior Staff have to reign in City spending? None, as they are not held responsible for the resulting problems. If things get dicey, the CM just moves on to another job leaving the mess for someone else. The simple reality is that the any incentives that are present are in favor of increasing spending, especially with regards to public payrolls.

      The same is true for our elected representatives, especially those interested in higher office. What better way to guarantee support in your upcoming run for Assembly or Supervisor than to have public employee unions happy with your efforts to boost compensation? If the CC were to actually attempt to reduce spending as is needed, the public would destroy them and their future careers.  The obvious ‘plan’ then, for both the CC and Staff, is to spend all the money they can find and move on (if needed), leaving the mess for someone else to clean up. That has been our approach in Davis for decades and I see no indication that it will ever change.

      1. Alan Miller

        What better way to guarantee support in your upcoming run for Assembly or Supervisor than to have public employee unions happy with your efforts to boost compensation?

        One of many reasons public employee unions MUST be disbanded.

        The obvious ‘plan’ then, for both the CC and Staff, is to spend all the money they can find and move on (if needed), leaving the mess for someone else to clean up.

        Davis resembles that remark 😐

        1. Bill Marshall

          One of many reasons public employee unions MUST be disbanded.

          On that, we pretty much agree… yet, ‘insitutionally’ there is the problem of public agencies dealing with individual employees as to ‘conditions of employment’, so they basicaly require ’employee cohorts’ which logically goes to ’employee associations’, but although I’ve been in ’employee associations’ for 35 years, have never belonged to a “union”, as in AFSME, Teamsters,, etc.  All were local (not state or national), and ‘dues’ did not exist… very different from ‘unions’…

          Teachers, and a lot of other folk, @ DJUSD HAVE to be in a “union”, with state and local professional unions, or pay ‘agency shop’ dues, as a ‘condition of employment’… the ‘agency shop’ dues are pretty much the same as ‘union dues’… CTA is based in Burlingame, CA (where I was born), and the union ‘top brass’ make really good $$$…

          So, athough I think certain “unions” make sense, not very much in the public sector…

          I agree “that  [All] public employee unions MUST  SHOULD be disbanded”… at least from state and/or national affilliations… employee associations, based on ‘jurisdiction’ are OK, but still some limitations… public government needs to deal with folk in “a group”, not individually… but the ‘group’ should not be bound to, nor supported by, outside “unions”… in an ‘ideal plane’, every public employee would be able to show their value, and be compensated accordingly… snowballs chance for that to happen… historically, and practicably…

          [Davis FF’s and DJUSD teachers are part of state and/or national ‘unions’… DPD, as I recall, only state…]

        2. Alan Miller

          a lot of other folk, @ DJUSD HAVE to be in a “union”, with state and local professional unions, or pay ‘agency shop’ dues, as a ‘condition of employment’…

          I had that situation, forced public union I agreed with like never on their political stands, but first one supreme court decision lowered our dues to non-political portion, and second supreme court decision allowed us to quit!  So quit that union I did!  I wish everybody had quit, but I guess they are brainwashed into thinking that union is on their side.  Phpppppppt!

      2. Matt Williams

        Mark, I don’t disagree with your bottom-line. Don’t disagree with it at all.

        With that said, the difference between the “plan” you describe and the “plan” I described is one of (A) transparency and (B) involvement.  The plan you describe happens all behind the scenes, isn’t committed to paper, and isn’t discussed in public.  A fiscally responsible plan like the one I described would happen out in the open, be memorialized in documents, and the process for arriving at the plan would be done in public.

        1. Mark West

          “A fiscally responsible plan like the one I described would happen out in the open, be memorialized in documents, and the process for arriving at the plan would be done in public.”

          And like every other plan that has been made in town, it will be ignored in favor of the one I described. All you are proposing is to repeat the actions of the past while hoping for a different outcome.

        2. Matt Williams

          Mark, there is a reason why both you and I ran for City Council … a commitment to breaking that fiscally irresponsible cycle.  Unfortunately neither of us succeeded.

  11. Jim Frame

    We like a compact community with rural and agricultural boundaries.  But that also comes with costs.  It means that the cost of housing, constrained by the market, goes up.

    Supply restriction is one component of cost, demand growth is another.  As long as people are getting priced out of the Bay Area, I think Davis could build volumes of peripheral housing developments without significantly lowering the cost of housing.  But that’s a seat-of-the-pants assessment; I’d love to see a statistically-valid quantification of the matter.

    I embraced the concept of a 200-acre tech park in part because of the promise for revenue

    I did, too, but instead we were asked to vote yay or nay on a housing project with some tech space tacked on.  I voted nay.

  12. Ron Glick

    “…why does the math here continue to escape you?”

    The math doesn’t escape me. This city made its bed and now it has to sleep in it for ten years. My complaint is that those who should have known better but didn’t should stop trying to figure out how to work around the problems they chose to perpetuate and start taking responsibility for exacerbating them.

    1. Don Shor

      I think it is likely that if the council had not put Measure R on the ballot verbatim, a citizens’ group would have petitioned to do so. Do you really think it would have failed to pass?

      What does “start taking responsibility for exacerbating them” mean?

      I think I know about five people who oppose Measure J/R/D. I think they all post on here. So seriously, where does the city go from here given that it is a firmly established feature of the city’s development system?

    2. Alan Miller

      those who should have known better but didn’t should stop trying to figure out how to work around the problems they chose to perpetuate and start taking responsibility for exacerbating them.

      Here here!

      There there!

      What does “start taking responsibility for exacerbating them” mean?

      Maybe I’m wrong, I took it as the DV not recognizing he damage done by JeRkeD, and then proposing all sorts of fixes for the damage JeRkeD has already caused.

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