This was a letter sent by Alan Pryor on April 13 to the Davis Planning Commission
Dear Planning Commissioners –
At the upcoming Planning Commission meeting this Wednesday you will be presented with the newly proposed “Davis-Connected Buyers Program” for the Bretton Woods Project. This new proposal has serious flaws and is essentially gutless in terms of ensuring that a large percentage of new homes are sold to existing Davis homeowners thus freeing up current local housing stock for new families as promised by the developer in the actual language on the ballot in the Measure J/R vote in 2018.
I have written a detailed article published in the Davis Vanguard about the new program and its shortcomings that are so severe that it renders the program practically non-existent. To see the article click on the following title, Bretton Woods Attempts Another Bait and Switch with Its Davis Based Buyers Program, or insert https://www.davisvanguard.org/2021/03/guest-commentary-bretton-woods-attempts-another-bait-and-switch-with-its-davis-based-buyers-program/ into your browser.
In summary, the new Davis-Connected Buyers Program states that it will have prospective buyers sign a disclosure form identifying their link to Davis but that it also allows ANYONE to refuse to sign the disclosure form because they are a member of a protected class based on any race, gender or gender identity, ethnicity, religion, etc. I myself could refuse to sign the disclosure form simply because I am a straight married white agnostic male and the developer’s new proposal says that would allow me to buy a new home even if I otherwise had no links at all to Davis. The developer also claims that they will not investigate or demand proof of any “protected status” claims because he does not want to intrude on the prospective buyers privacy. In other words, the developer will take any and all buyers thus opening the floodgates to anyone who wants to buy there and has the wherewithal to engage in bidding wars.
The developer also claims that neither he nor any builders will advertise outside of the designated areas for a short period of time after model homes are built. But this does not preclude anyone else from plastering ads all over the Bay Area including real estate agents or other 3rd party marketing firms. Further, the developer’s own proposed self-imposed advertising restrictions are toothless because there are no absolutely no penalties whatsoever to preclude the developer from simply ignoring his own promises.
In my Vanguard article I also point out how much it is to the developer’s financial benefit if he can sell the new homes to more wealthy Bay Area expatriates flush with cash from the sale of their old homes at inflated values. For instance, there are 410 new homes to be built at Bretton Woods. If the developer and builder can sell each of these homes at $100,000 more by selling them to more equity-rich Bay Area buyers, that is an extra $41,000,000 (yep – you read it right – $41 million!) in extra profit compared to what the developer and builder might otherwise receive if selling to local Buyers as was promised by the developer in the election materials.
As one example of the severe pressures put on the local real estate market by out-of-town buyers, one recent home listing in Davis received 18 bids within a day or two of showing. The home was an older non-descript, 1,400 sq ft single story home listed at $750,000. Of the 18 people who submitted bids, only two were from Davis. The other 90% of the bids came from out-of-town buyers! I know an elderly couple wanting to downsize from a 2-story 2,100 sq ft home who submitted a bid at $780,000. This turned out to be almost the lowest bid and it didn’t come close to the eventual winning bid of $830,000 from an out-of-town buyer.
This influx of out-of-town buyers flooding into the Davis marketplace and bidding up properties out of the reach of local buyers is not a new phenomena. I’m sure many of you remember the promises given to the Council by New Home Co, the developer of the Cannery. They loudly proclaimed over and over how their project was going to ease the local housing shortage and focus on attracting local buyers to free up existing housing stock for younger buyers with growing families. Yet as soon as the ink dried on the Development Agreement, New Home Co. was running half page ads in Bay Area newspapers touting the affordability of their new homes in Davis and out-of-town buyers came flocking.
Of course, the Bretton Woods developer promised us his project will be mostly for local buyers through the original Davis-Based Buyers Program. But now just weeks after receiving the final map entitlements for the project from your Commission, the developer is back wanting to completely change the deal he promised voters...who could have thought?
The developer himself notes in his new proposal that there are over 5,000 households in Davis owned by people 55+ years old (equaling about 25% of all Davis single-family homes) and an additional 12,000 homes owned by people who have an immediate family member over 55. That’s 17,000+ prospective buyers for his 410 homes of which he promised to sell 90% to Davis seniors. Do the math! The developer only has to tap into 2.2% of those existing 17,000 homeowners and he has sold out the 369 homes that he promised would be reserved for Davis buyers. Yet now the the developer is still claiming he can’t stick to his original promise to the Davis seniors whose votes were absolutely critical in passing the Measure J/R vote authorizing the project.
Worse yet. I’m told the developer has sent around emails to the local homeowners who deposited money to reserve homes at Bretton Woods telling them that unless he can get his new Davis-Connected Buyers Program approved by the City, he may not get a builder to sign up and he may have to raise prices on the seniors who have already signed up and deposited money with him!…amazing…what chutzpah!
I finally note that former Mayor Brett Lee published an Op-Ed in the Davis Enterprise on Sunday in which he suggested a compromise by opening up the Buyers program to all of Yolo Co. including Woodland and West Sacramento. Unfortunately, this does not relieve the extreme local shortage of family homes we have right here in Davis. We need aging seniors to move from their larger Davis homes to free them up for new families to purchase and enter the local school districts. That was the promise sold to voters by the developer in the Measure J/R vote and that is what the developer should be held to.
For these reasons I believe it is incumbent upon the Planning Commission to weigh in and advise Council to reject the developer’s proposed bait and switch Buyers program rather than just receive the report from Staff as an informational item. You certainly have the authority to do that and doing so sends a signal to the developer and Staff that you intend to ensure developers keep their promises to the electorate and that you are not there simply to rubber-stamp Staff’s proposals.
Alan Pryor is a Davis resident and former member of the Natural Resources Commission.
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