By David M. Greenwald
A few weeks ago, an op-ed by several citizens implied that the council who voted to put DISC (Measure B) on the ballot, we somehow out of step with the voters.
They argued, “the election also demonstrates that there is a troubling disconnect between the current City Council and the concerns of its citizens, including the concerns of many downtown business owners. All five council members were enthusiastic supporters of Measure B and there was not a single voice on the council that championed citizen or city of Davis Commission concerns about DISC.”
But the writers fail to note that the two of those who voted to put the Measure on the ballot were reelected by large margins – including over one of the authors of the piece and that the voters themselves were closely divided on the issue – 52-48.
In response, Dan Ramos, noted that while the authors argued that the defeat of DISC “means that it’s time for a new vision,” he pushed back in his own letter arguing, “the truth is that Davis remains an excellent location for an innovation center that retains and builds on the transformative technologies coming out of UC Davis.”
“We wouldn’t have proposed the project and spent the money to move it forward if that wasn’t true,” Ramos argues. “Without a project like DISC, those new ideas and businesses will just go elsewhere, as they’ve been doing for decades. That creates a missed opportunity for Davis to play a more significant role in actually addressing climate change, food insecurity and other pressing global issues, and for the city and Yolo County to benefit from the hundreds of millions of dollars in research funding that flow annually to UC Davis.”
While the authors argue that DISC’s defeat has “climate-change benefits” – Ramos points out, “the truth is that it means highly qualified Davis residents who could be working locally will instead continue commuting to jobs in Sacramento and the Bay Area. Lost jobs, missed opportunities to positively shape and impact the future, and longer work commutes … that’s hardly a win for the environment and an undeniable loss for Davis.”
Meanwhile Timothy Tutt points out, “the Council’s support of DISC means that their vision comports with that of nearly half of Davis voters — that’s not wildly out of step to me.”
Tutt argued, “I carefully read through the DISC proposal, the environmental impact reports, and the arguments opposing the project and then voted for it. I believe that by the time DISC would have been built out most of the car trips to and from the site would have been with electric vehicles powered by electricity that is at least 80 percent carbon-free.”
He argues, “I believe in net-zero development, but also understand that one simply cannot make that happen in all cases without some offsite reductions to offset onsite carbon emissions. One cannot build a net-zero medium rise or high rise building without offsite reductions — there is simply not enough space for on-site zero carbon energy production and not enough room in our lifestyles for significantly less energy use than allowed by state building code.”
He notes, “I have worked for 40 years in the area of energy and climate policy and understand the benefit of offsite reductions and trust the protocols and monitoring that makes those fully legitimate.”
Tutt believes there is plenty of room in the Davis zoning code for denser infill development.
He writes, “Three story development opportunities downtown are abundant, and higher developments are possible with variances if deftly planned. My favorite candidate is the strip mall just north of the Co-op. It’s outdated and I could see a very nice mixed-use development there of three or more stories. Granny flats are allowed and could be developed in nearly all the existing R-1 and R-2 areas. A code change in which tasteful four unit apartment buildings, no more than two stories, in R-1 and R-2 zones, similar to what Minneapolis has adopted, makes sense to me.”
In my view, the views of various residents on the future of Davis need to be part of robust discussion. What do we need to do to remain vital and have a sustainable economy while at the same time, preserving the many strengths of this community?
A 52-48 decision by the voters during a pandemic is hardly a knock out blow for the council or future discussions about economic development and growth.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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