Guest Commentary: Bretton Woods Attempts Another Bait and Switch with Its Davis Based Buyers Program

Protections Will Weaken for Prospective Davis Senior Buyers 

by Alan Pryor

The Bretton Wood developer, David Taormino, is attempting to pull another bait and switch on Davis seniors by completely gutting the campaign promises he made to Davis voters committing to sell 90% of homes in the new project to Davis-based buyers. The long-promised Davis-Based Buyers Program was intended to ensure that 90% of all new homes sold at the new development were to Davis seniors thereby freeing up their existing large homes for new families to come to Davis. 

But make no mistake about it, this newly proposed watered-down plan has so many loopholes in it that it will open the floodgates to advertising and sales to well-heeled Bay Area expatriates flush with cash from sales of their own inflated homes. Indeed, this will probably drive up prices for new homes at the project so high that it will functionally exclude Davis seniors from participating – much like we saw in the Cannery project where the majority of new sales were to buyers from outside Davis. 


The Davis-Based Buyers Program is a foundational cornerstone of the Bretton Woods development . This project was formerly known as the West Davis Active Adult Community during the Measure J/R campaign in 2018. A tremendous amount of campaign promotionsl hype surrounded this promise that 90% of all of the homes sold in the project would be reserved for sale to people with a Davis-based connection. 

According to the Development Agreement presented to voters as part of the pro-WDAAC 2018 campaign, 

Developer has elected to restrict ninety percent (90%) of the residential units within the Project, excluding the affordable housing and the specialized senior care, to initial purchasers with a preexisting connection to the
City of Davis
, and desires to sell or hold said percentage of market-rate residential units available for sale to households that include a local resident, defined as a person residing within the City or the Davis Joint Unified School District boundary, family of a local resident, a Davis employee, a Davis grade-school student, or an individual that attended Davis schools.” (emphasis added)

Although a lawsuit was filed challenging the legality of the program, Taormino provided two letters from local/regional law firms attesting to the legality of the program. The Davis City Council also heralded it’s support for the program indicating its own internal review also confirmed the legal viability of the program. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed without prejudice after the Measure J/R vote passed comfortably with overwhelming senior citizen support in Davis


However, in December of 2019 Taormino was prepared to present a proposal to the Planning Commission, with Staff support,  to completely rescind the Davis Based Buyers Program in exchange for the promise to build all-electric homes in the development. Previously, the developer vigorously opposed a requirement that all homes be all-electric construction (with no natural gas service available) claiming it would impede his ability to sell the homes because he could not offer “choice” to prospective buyers. 

This new proposal to rescind the Buyers Program in exchange for committing to all-electric construction was an empty, self-serving gesture, however. This is because by then the City had already implemented new City-wide residential building codes that strongly favored all-electric construction. It did so by imposing increased energy efficiency standards and additional solar photovoltaic with battery back-up requirements on all new home construction in Davis in which natural gas service was otherwise provided. 

In fact, given the cost of bringing in natural gas delivery infrastructure to the Bretton Woods project combined with the above identified energy improvements required for each new home constructed with natural gas service, it would have ended up being far more economical for the developer to just install all-electric homes to begin with rather than offer any homes at all with a natural gas option. So Taormino proposed to give-up the Davis-Based Buyers Program protecting the opportunity of Davis seniors to buy into the development in exchange for the commitment by Taormino that he will make save thousands of dollars in construction costs for each all-electric home built at the project…how magnanimous!

However, this new proposal to eliminate the Davis Based Buyer Program resulted in significant community push-back. One Vanguard article by this author on July 5, 2020 (see David Taormino and Bretton Woods Are Attempting a ‘Bait-and-Switch’ with the Davis-Based Buyers Program) stated,

David Taormino, the developer of the Bretton Woods senior housing development just west of Sutter Hospital, is trying to pull another fast one on the City of Davis’ senior populationThis whole bait-and-switch process is fundamentally dishonest and reprehensible. And for City Staff to recommend that Taormino be allowed to remove this obligation from the Development Agreement, while getting really nothing of substance in return, shows City Staff is once again willing to play ball accommodating developers without regard to what is best for the City and, in this case, its senior residents.” 

A commentary by Vanguard publisher David Greenwald the next day (see To Change Buyers Program, City Needs to Put Project Back on the Ballot) also stated, “Bottom line for now, however: removing the Davis Based Buyers Program is a major change that should necessitate a new vote to maintain voter trust.

Shortly thereafter this proposal was rescinded by Taormino even before it went to the Planning Commission along with plenty of excuses in the local press –  including the Vanguard (see Keeping My Commitment to the Community). He closed that Vanguard article by stating, 

We are no longer seeking to remove the DA language pertaining to Davis connected buyers. Shortly, I will be outlining the Davis Connected Buyers marketing and outreach program as called for in the DA. It will contain appropriate guidance for the builder and will include verification so that the City and the public can understand the plan. My continuing job is to demonstrate to the builder that the Davis Connected Program will provide more than enough qualified buyers to meet their business needs, financial goals and will not be discriminatory.


Unfortunately, the most recent proposal by Taormino is just as bad for Davis seniors as eliminating it altogether. This is because it has so many loopholes that it is functionally rendered useless in its intent. The “new” Davis-Connected Buyers Program proposed by Taormino was explained in an article by the developer in yesterday’s Vanguard (see Developer Modifies Davis-Connected Buyers Program, Submits It to Planning Commission). In it Taormino states, 

The DCBP is a comprehensive, multi-phased advertising plan along with a verification and reporting system focused primarily on Davis-connected seniors.  The program’s goal is to achieve a sale of ninety percent (90%) of the residential units within Bretton Woods to purchasers with a preexisting connection to the City of Davis“.  

A link to the actual proposal to be provided to the Planning Commission was included in the article (see here).

Close examination of the new proposal, however, reveals that there are numerous loopholes sufficiently large that there are absolutely no guarantees at all than any buyers will have a “Davis-connection”; much less 90% of the buyers as Taormino wants us to believe is his goal. For instance, the new proposal says that the program will now require that all prospective buyers of homes in the development will need to complete a buyer qualification form identifying their purported connection to Davis and these will be “verified” by the developer. 

But just after explaining how this supposed requirement to complete this qualification form demonstrating a “Davis-connection” will protect Davis seniors, Taormino then states the following, 

To be clear, anyone identifying with a race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability, familial status, marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity that is protected by State or Federal Fair Housing laws will not need to complete the form identifying their connection to Davis.”(emphasis added). 

So prospective buyers can simply claim on the Buyer Qualification Form that they are an “Exempt Class” without needing to provide any documentation at all, or simply check “Decline to State” on the form (allowed so as to not intrude on the prospective buyers privacy) and their buyer application would presumably be accepted. This offers absolutely no buyer protection at to Davis seniors who flocked to support this project at the ballot box thinking it would certainly benefit them. It is patently ludicrous that the developer would be granted such broad exemption from what was promised voters by bot the developer and the City Council who unanimously supported it.

The absurdity of Taormino’s proposal was noted in a comment by Davis-based attorney Eric Gelber in response to yesterday’s Vanguard article by Taormino and puts the developer’s nonsensical language into perspective. 

This takes the language on protected classes out of context. Fair housing laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, etc. Everyone falls within these categories as long as they identify with a gender, race, color, religion, marital status, etc. They just can’t be discriminated against based on their race, religion, gender, etc. All races, genders, religions, etc. are protected against discrimination. Under the above language of the program, because everyone identifies with a gender, race, color, etc., no one would have to complete the form.” (emphasis added)

This sleight-of-hand language is nothing more than a legal equivalent of a parlor card trick designed to hide the real intentions of the developer which are to neuter the Davis Based Buyers Program to the extent it would be functionally non-existent


The new program also states that Bretton Woods will not be initially advertised by the developer outside the region until a brief period of time has passed after the first model home is constructed for each phase of the development. If the intention is truly to target Davis buyers, it would seem more appropriate to delay such shotgun outside advertising until later in the development of each portion of each development phase. This would extend the time frame after which the developer is free to enlist a broader advertising campaign. 

The developer also claims that their contract builders will similarly be constrained by such time limits on advertising. However, there are absolutely no such time restrictions imposed on any real estate agents nor any “independent” 3rd-party promotional and advertising campaigns from promoting the development anywhere in the Country. So the advertising restrictions proposed by the developer are, in reality, worthless.

And there are absolutely no penalties imposed on the developer or the project if the advertising net is thrown wide-open the day after sales and marketing commence. Particularly if any prospective buyer simply has to only claim they are an “Exempt Class” or “Decline to State” on the qualification form, it could lead to a land-rush of out-of-area buyers not connected in any way to Davis. This would invariably lead to inflated pricing (just as at Cannery) that could result in Davis seniors being left on the sidelines and looking in. 

These types of late-inning request for changes in the Development Agreement with the City to benefit the developer is not by accident. Indeed, it is not uncommon at all for developers in Davis to come back again and again to the City’s entitlement-feeding trough as projects develop in town and developers seek additional advantages and profits on their project. 

Long time residents are reminded of the promises made by the Cannery developer, New Home Company, when they stood in front of Council and loudly proclaimed their intentions to ensure local buyers have an opportunity to buy-in to the Cannery development thus allowing the then freed up local housing to go to new families in town. 

Of course, all of the subsequent advertisements were directly targeted to Bay Area residents who constituted the bulk of subsequent buyers at the project. And even as the Council saw these out-of-town sales developing, they continued to grant more and more exceptions and amendments to the project’ Development Agreement.

Is anyone else feeling a strange sense of deja vu here?


Certainly not coincidentally, Taormino is now attempting to get the Planning Commission to recommend approval of his new watered-down Davis buyer protection plan to the City Council only after he has already received all of the major entitlements to the project from the City.  Notice that the date on the proposal to be submitted to the Planning Commission is January 29, 2021. But the date of the press release by Taormino and his article in the Vanguard is almost two months later on March 27, 2021

That means that Taormino and Davis City Staff had this proposal parked and hidden from public and Planning Commission review while they were busily otherwise seeking other project approvals before the Planning Commission on February 24 AND March 24, 2021. There is no reason why this proposal could not have similarly been presented to the Planning Commission and subjected to earlier public scrutiny during any of those other dates. 

This timing is thus very suspicious and seemingly indicates that the developer and the City Planning Department held this information back from the public and the Planning Commission until other major entitlements for the project were first obtained – obviously denying a bargaining chip  to the Commission in their deliberations with the developer. 

It is one thing for the developer to engage in such maneuvering tactics and behavior for his own advantage. But it is disconcerting to find Staff cooperating with this subterfuge and it certainly speaks to the perhaps too close level of cooperation that developers enjoy with our own  City Planning Department and senior Staff management. 


Now Taormino claims that he already has hundreds of deposits from local seniors who scrambled to give him thousands of dollars each to reserve a spot in the new development. But these seniors really didn’t reserve anything at all because the eventual selling price for the units is not specified anywhere in the deposit agreements. That’s right! 

All Taormino has to do is jack up the offered selling prices on the new homes sufficiently high enough to put homes well out of reach of the average local senior buyers. Then if they do not agree to his inflated prices, they must decline to purchase one of his new homes.  Taormino will, of course, give them back their deposit money (without interest) but it is easily worth it to the developer if he can then proceed to advertise and sell to any other buyers from anywhere at the highest price he can get. 

There is a huge economic advantage to Taormino if he can sell far more units to rich Bay Area expatriates flush with cash from selling their multi-million dollar Bay Area bungalows.  And does anyone seriously think that the developer won’t turn his back on local Davis seniors if he thinks the new homes can otherwise command an extra $100,000 each if sold to a more affluent Bay Area clientele compared to buyers in Davis.

There are 410 new homes being developed at the Bretton Woods project. If the developer can extract an extra $100,000 for each of the homes or lots by selling to cash-rich Bay Area transplants, that’s over $41,000,000 (that’s right $41 million) in increased sales and profits for this one project alone. I suspect that is quite enough incentive to cause Taormino to turn his back on the promises he made to Davis seniors during the 2018 campaign; particularly if there are no economic penalties associated with such a course of action. 

But the burning question now is whether or not the Planning Commission and Davis City Council will go along with this charade after both bodies trumpeted the buyers plan in their approvals leading to the successful Measure J/R campaign in 2018. 

Will our City Council have the backbone to stand up to the developer to hold him accountable to his earlier campaign promise that 90% of sales will go to people connected with Davis? Or will the prospect that the City might receive annual property tax receipts on an increased $41,000,000 in newly constructed home property value prove just too tempting? 

Based on the history of flagrant Council give-aways to the Cannery and other developer in years past, my bet is that they will cave to the developer’s demands and turn their backs on Davis seniors. 

Some things never change. 

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About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. David Greenwald

    Alan – the city has a correction.  According to them, this was submitted to the city on March 25 – despite the fact that the document has a January date on it.  Therefore the city has not been sitting on this for nearly two months.  Please let me know how you want to handle it.

    1. Alan Pryor

      I do not believe that Taormino would have come up with this plan on his own without extensive consultation with City Staff beforehand. The final version of the revised plan may have only been “formally submitted” to the City to forward to the Planning Commission on March 25, but I am 100% convinced they substantially reviewed portions of it well in advance of that date. Let the City disclose when they first reviewed darfts language of the revised Plan and then I’ll consider revisions to the article to clarify my language.

  2. Alan Miller

    Will our City Council have the backbone to stand up to the developer to hold him accountable to his earlier campaign promise that 90% of sales will go to people connected with Davis?


    Or will the prospect that the City might receive annual property tax receipts on an increased $41,000,000 in newly constructed home property value prove just too tempting?


    But the real fools are Davis voters, who ever bought this horse cr*p.  Two piles of it.  First, continuing Measure JeRked.  Second, buying the DCBS.

  3. Don Shor

    Alan Pryor in support of the lawsuit against the Davis-based buyer’s program.

    Davis Enterprise Sept 26 2018:

    “This raises the obvious question,” Pryor said. “Does the Taking Care of Our Own, Davis-based buyers’ program constitute implicit, exclusionary racism because buyer preferences are extended to pre-existing, predominately white Davis residents while denying buying opportunities to ethnic minorities residing elsewhere?

    “It seems that the inescapable conclusion is that the … for-sale homes in the West Davis Active Adult Community will invariably be predominately purchased and occupied by… wealthy people… who are seniors… who are predominately local, white people,” Pryor said.

    Alan Pryor opposing any change to the Davis-based buyer’s program. Davis Vanguard March 28 2021:

    “Will our City Council have the backbone to stand up to the developer to hold him accountable to his earlier campaign promise that 90% of sales will go to people connected with Davis?”

    So Alan, do you support retaining the program because it was approved by the voters, or oppose it because of its racist outcomes? Just seeking clarification of your actual position on this topic.

    1. Alan Pryor

      Readers are well aware of my early opposition to the Buyers Plan but Council approved presenting it to voters and loudly attested to the legality of it.  And it is clear that many Davis senior voters actively supported the project and other voters relied on the developers representations and promise when considering their vote. I consider it immoral to now switch it out and say, “Ooops, we’ve thought it over and now really don’t like the Buyers Program anymore and want to pull out of our firm commitments to sell 90% of the homes to Davis-connected seniors“. If Taormino and Staff really want to pull the Bait n’ Switch as proposed, I’m OK with putting it to a vote as David Greenwald suggested.

      1. Eric Gelber

        As to putting modifications to the Development Agreement to a vote, the ordinance provides:

        (c)    Once the voters have approved a land use map designation or land use entitlement for a property, additional voter approval shall not be required for:

        (1)    …

        (2)    Any requested modification to a land use designation or development project entitlement that does not increase the number of permitted dwellings or units or the intensity of commercial/industrial development and does not significantly modify or reduce the baseline project features and required provision of open space, recreational amenities, design features and public facilities, as specified in the exhibits and plans approved by the voters. The city council may adopt procedures for the hearing of a request for modification.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Since a vote is not required, it seems to me that the developer is bringing even more negative attention to himself by attempting to hold onto the program in some manner (and announcing that intent).

          You’d think that he’d just quietly dump it altogether, and move on. And if anyone asks, he can say that he subsequently realized that there would be problems with the program (despite earlier warnings and a lawsuit launched prior to the election).

        2. Matt Williams

          Eric, thank you for that clear communication.  The question most Davis voters should have is whether the Davis-Based Buyers Program was/is a Baseline feature of the project.

          Thoughts on that question?

  4. Ron Oertel


    Pretty sure that I predicted that this would occur after the election.  Not sure why the developer is even hanging onto it in any form, at this point.  He got what he wanted, already.

    Dump it – and put that change on the ballot, as needed. Now, if that change “lost” in a subsequent election, that might be pretty amusing. I’m sure that some would try to blame Measure D under that scenario, but really – the responsibility for this mess lies with the developer and the city. And, the dummies who believed it.

    1. David Greenwald

      “Not sure why the developer is even hanging onto it in any form, at this point. He got what he wanted, already.”

      Because you are misreading what he wanted. He didn’t need the DBBP to win the election. What he wanted was a mechanism by which to prevent what happened at Cannery. He saw this as a way to insure that the people moving to BW were from town, thereby opening up housing in town for younger families. You can argument that’s misguided – and you may well be right – but it was sincere.

      1. Ron Oertel

        “He didn’t need the DBBP to win the election”.

        No one knows if that’s true (including the developer), but it was a primary part of the developer’s campaign.

        What happens if this change (elimination of the program) is now put on the ballot, and it “loses”?


      2. Alan Miller

        He didn’t need the DBBP to win the election.

        Oh, Pu-Leeeeeez.  The ONLY reason to have DCBS was to win the election – the only parameter of importance was that of perception – voter perception. And since voters are demonstrably stupid, they stupidly perceived.  Why do you subscribe to those so developing such high moral conscience?

        1. David Greenwald

          I don’t agree. I think people voted for WDAAC because we needed housing and it didn’t create traffic or near neighbor effects. I will bet if we pulled the average citizen most didn’t even know about the DBBP.

        2. Eric Gelber

           I will bet if we pulled the average citizen most didn’t even know about the DBBP.

          All the more reason to simply scrap the ill-conceived program. The notion that this requirement would result in additional housing for young families to purchase as seniors downsized was always bogus. Young Davis families would be unlikely able to afford those larger, expensive homes these seniors would presumably be downsizing from. They’d more than likely be purchased by those dreaded Bay Area homebuyers, thereby doing nothing to address the purported issue.


      3. Tia Will


        He saw this as a way to ensure that the people moving to BW were from town, thereby opening up housing in town for younger families. You can argue that’s misguided – and you may well be right – but it was sincere.”

        I understand you believe he was sincere. I feel differently. I believe he was being disingenuous from the beginning. My evidence is first-hand. Prior to initial city backing, the elder Taormino was in attendance at a political event in my community the purpose of which is to discuss current issues on the ballot. He was clearly disappointed that he would not be allotted time to present his project. As a longstanding member of this community function, I agreed to talk with him privately. My first question was about how he determined the need for such a project. He said it was based on his personal observations. I pushed a little harder for some statistical data on demand for senior housing of this type. He had no response and became progressively more defensive. Based on this lack of any kind of objective evidence, and his subsequent demeanor whenever challenged on basically any issue, led me to believe that his concern was not truly the seniors of Davis, but rather a profit motive. Which, as has been stated is fine…if no false assertions are made about the community benefits. That unfortunately has not been the case since the beginning. In medicine, we would consider that false advertising.

  5. Bill Marshall

    I don’t have a dog in this fight… never did… the DBBP was neither a factor for, or a factor against my vote on the project.

    I think it was mis-named, tho’… Davis Biased Buyers Program would have been more accurate…

    It was ludicrous from the beginning, thinking that down-sizing seniors would then sell their existing homes, at a discount, to young families (and would those come from the Bay Area, elsewhere?)… what appears to be more ludicrous is those demands that the developer stick to the ludicrous concept.

    1300 SF ‘flats’ in Cannery (3 story buildings) are being marketed @ $500-700 k…

    Since it was brought up by the author, my other pet peeve is that ‘eliminating’ NG services to new or existing housing stock is preposterous, on many levels… we use NG to heat our home, heat our water, cook on the stovetop.  I see no benefit to trading zero NG for anything.

    Decades ago, “all-electric appliances” were the rage… less efficient than NG for all 3, and it means (evidenced decades ago) that it gave utility companies carte blanche to jack up electricity rates…

    Given electrical outages, including ‘pre-emptive’ ones (to minimize wildfire risk), I like the mix of NG and electricity.  If I was forced to be ‘all-electric’, I’d fire up our Coleman stoves to cook, heat water, and fire-up the fireplace with wood, to heat at least one room in the house, in the event of a prolonged electrical outage… those would contribute much more to GHG than current NG use, I can assure you.

    Plus, for light, would either use candles, or one of our ’emergency’ kerosene lamps… again, working against the goal of reducing GHG emissions…


    1. Alan Miller

      … what appears to be more ludicrous is those demands that the developer stick to the ludicrous concept.

      As it helped you win the JeRkeD vote, live by the DBBS, die by the DBBS.  You don’t get to float a sham and then abandon it.  Of course, if the voters weren’t stupid . . . 😐

      Given electrical outages, including ‘pre-emptive’ ones (to minimize wildfire risk), I like the mix of NG and electricity.

      During the recent 42-hour outage, I was able to keep my house toasty warm with natural gas, while many people I knew were freezing their arses off.

      If I was forced to be ‘all-electric’, I’d fire up our Coleman stoves to cook, heat water, and fire-up the fireplace with wood, to heat at least one room in the house . . . for light, would either use candles, or one of our ’emergency’ kerosene lamps

      Not to mention a much higher risk for people to burn their houses down uses janky methods for heat and light.

  6. Ron Oertel

    Eric:  They’d more than likely be purchased by those dreaded Bay Area homebuyers, thereby doing nothing to address the purported issue.

    As with the entire region, apparently:

    Bay Area home buyers scoop up shrinking inventory at furious pace

    Not sure if that can be seen by everyone, so here’s another:

    Citrus Heights home receives 122 offers in one weekend, sells within three hours

    Regardless – Citrus Heights, despite being closer to the Sierra, “sucks” compared to Davis. 🙂

    Of course, all the market will change again at some point, as it always does. But so far, always on an upward projectory in most of California. (Even that can change, though.)

  7. Ron Glick

    The buyers program as well as the senior housing project itself was always guided by winning an election in the City of Davis. All such votes must have campaigns designed first and foremost to get past the veto power of the Davis voters. Listening to the whining of proponents of Measure J and its successor ordinances  is laughable. First they demand elections, then after the election they complain about representations, however flawed, used in the election by the proponents.

    The opposition never sleeps. Meanwhile, 21 years after the passage of Measure J,  not one unit of housing subject to the ordinance has been built.  Measure J has been an amazing success for those opposed to providing housing for those to come behind those already here.

  8. Joe Bolte

    Who cares about holding developers accountable? Let’s get the best outcome for Davis and the world.


    I voted against Bretton Woods in part because of the intended exclusion of the DBBP, and in part because car-centric development like this is bad for residents and everyone else. I’ll be glad if the DBBP disappears.

    1. Ron Oertel

      One (good?) thing about retired/old people is that they probably aren’t driving all that much, compared to other cohorts.

      But when they do drive, “watch out”!  🙂

      My fifth comment, I think.

      1. Eric Gelber

        The minimum age to qualify for senior housing is 55–well short of average retirement age. (And I’ll put my septuagenarian driving skills up against drivers of any younger age, thank you very much.)

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