Commentary: Davis Really Isn’t a Bedroom Community in the Classic Sense

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By David M. Greenwald

Davis, CA – I was struck by a question offered up by Matt Williams yesterday in my Monday column.

He wrote: “Here is a question for Tim Keller … If the Vision for Davis is to be a bedroom community for people who work outside the City Limits, then why does Davis need more R&D  / Commercial space? “

I would argue this is a miscast question.  Davis really is not a bedroom community and I don’t think most people really would envision it becoming one.

The dictionary definition of bedroom community: “A primarily residential town where most residents commute to work in a larger city. For example, many industrial workers may live in a small town outside the city in which the factory is located; they must either drive or take public transportation to go to work each day. Bedroom communities generally have little economy of their own beyond retail shops for use by residents. They are often, but not always, suburbs.”

There is a segment of Davis that does indeed commute to larger communities.  Some will commute to Sacramento for sure and some to the Bay Area.

But there is a big problem for the bedroom community notion—the biggest employer for people who live in Davis by far is UC Davis.  And most of those people do not commute out of town. even if UC Davis is technically outside of the city limits.

Matt Williams argues that UC Davis is outside of the city.  It is.

But there is a separate concept of a bedroom community that is not embodied within the formal definition.  A lack of community identity.

If you live most of your life when you commute out of town, work a ten-hour day, commute back and then eat your dinner and go to sleep, you are generally not engaged in your community.  That’s not really what Davis is.

Davis has a vital downtown and community identity.  Residents are actively engaged in local activities, whether it’s the schools, Farmer’s Market, the downtown, and civic engagement.

Moreover, while it is true a sizable portion of the population does commute out of town during the day to go to work (not including UC Davis), on the other hand, a bigger population actually commutes into Davis or UC Davis to work during the day.

I would argue instead of Davis as a bedroom community, Davis is a classic college town.  It is a small to medium size town.  It doesn’t have a huge secondary employer, but instead, the major employer in the area is the university.

To illustrate why this is not a bedroom community set up, let us take an extreme example.  A college professor on Rice Lane gets on his bike or walks on foot across A Street onto campus, works there and then at the end of the day, walks or bikes home.  He technically leaves the city limits to work, but he is perhaps traveling a block or two.  That’s not really what they have in mind for a bedroom community.

Rather than being a bedroom community, it seems to me that Davis suffers from two primary problems—both of which are within its realm to address.

First, the real problem isn’t that people commute out of Davis to work, the real problem is that, according to the State of the City report and University Travel Survey, something on the order of 24,000 commute outside of Davis to work while another 28,000 people commute into Davis (and UC Davis) each day to work.

It’s not that people are commuting, the problem is the fundamental mismatch between housing and jobs that means that people who work in town are not living in town, and vice versa.

Again, that’s not a bedroom community.  It is not a one-way migration—it is a two-way migration.

Also embedded in Matt Williams’ question is a second point—why does Davis need more R&D and commercial space?

Is Matt Williams really giving up on the notion of technology transfer?

Several years ago, then-Chancellor Linda Katehi came up with idea of placing the World Food Center at the Railyards in Sacramento.  Ultimately the idea was shelved and probably scrapped.  One reason for that was backlash from university faculty and staff who lived in Davis who didn’t want to move or commute to Sacramento.

But that concept is something that would be a good fit for Davis—taking the experimental and research-based technologies of food production and generating market-based products and technology that can help feed the world.

When Barry Broome gives his presentation, he likes to show the STEM potential of UC Davis, but also demonstrate how it lags behind some of its research counterparts like the University of Wisconsin.

Many see UC Davis as a multi-billion dollar economic force that has the potential to spin off into private markets that can generate jobs and new technology which can benefit the community.

But only if we have the labs and infrastructure to support it.

Ironically, Matt Williams’ question ponders a self-reinforcing prophesy.  If you assume that Davis is a bedroom community and thus move tech transfer to places like Woodland or Sacramento, it becomes a reinforcing prophesy where people are forced to commute out of town for jobs.  Students who graduate from UC Davis end up settling in places like Woodland and Sacramento and taking their immense talent with them.

By doing that you create something that much more closely does represent a bedroom community.

But is that the ideal?  At a regional level or even a local level, is there anything actually gained by moving jobs away from UC Davis and toward Woodland and Sacramento?

—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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46 thoughts on “Commentary: Davis Really Isn’t a Bedroom Community in the Classic Sense”

  1. Ron Glick

    The travel survey is a better metric for how many people live in Davis but don’t work in Davis. If you subtract the number of people who travel more than five miles to work from the total workforce population of Davis residents you get a better picture.

    Still I find trying to base housing policy on where people work is the type of social engineering that has led to our manufactured shortage of housing. We should be letting people make these decisions for themselves.

    Let me give one example. We are friends with a young married couple who bought a home in the Cannery. They like living there. One works in Sacramento for the State. The other works in Vallejo for Kaiser. For them to live in Davis makes perfect sense and we are lucky to have them. They both have advanced degrees and have professional occupations commensurate with their educations. They are employed, pay way more in taxes than many retirees in Davis who have a lower prop 13 tax base, and I’m hopeful want to have kids.

    These people are going to live someplace in this region. The idea that we shouldn’t be building housing in Davis as part of the regional economy but only for the internal Davis economy creates an exclusivity that reduces supply for that same internal population because these people can afford higher prices than the kids who grow up here unless those kids benefit from the kind of intergenerational wealth that previous generations of racist Davis housing policies used to keep Davis white.

    Until you can regulate how far people can commute to work this entire internal needs debate is simply one more failed argument that does nothing to solve the housing shortage.

    1. Alan Miller

      Still I find trying to base housing policy on where people work is the type of social engineering that has led to our manufactured shortage of housing. We should be letting people make these decisions for themselves.

      Amen, RG, amen

      Until you can regulate how far people can commute to work this entire internal needs debate is simply one more failed argument that does nothing to solve the housing shortage.

      Amen, RG, amen

      And regulating how far people can commute is NEVER going to happen.

      1. Edgar Wai

        You don’t need to regulate how far people can commute. The city or university could have housing prioritized for people who study or work in Davis.

        If there is statistics on where people actually want to live, the state could give grant to cities (or any individual) making progress to fulfill the wait-list.
        This is wish fulfillment. It gets to the essence of whether you choose to fulfill wishes if you know what they are.

        1. Bill Marshall

          You don’t need to regulate how far people can commute. The city or university could have housing prioritized for people who study or work in Davis.

          UCD, maybe… City of Davis, el wrongo… the City does not, and should not, have that regulatory control… and I’m no conservative, except for basic constitutional issues…

          I am in the class that both ‘progressives’ and ‘conservatives’ love to hate… a moderate… and proud of it…

        2. Edgar Wai

          For me the argument is not that the city should do so. By having private property owners do so, voting is avoid.

          Anyone could just get more properties and rent them out with a priority for people who study or work in Davis.

          There really need no law doing that but having no laws against that.

          However, simply letting people do what they want doesn’t necessarily fix problems at large because you get people who don’t care about other people’s wishes.

          So the projection is that if you just let people build in Davis, you just end up getting more commuter residents without reducing the wait-list. Developers make money but don’t get impacted by traffic.

          Free for all is not necessarily better because freedom includes actions that do not help others.

    2. Bill Marshall

      … is the type of social engineering that has led to our manufactured shortage of housing

      There is a ‘social engineering’ thingy that has also basically banned ‘affordable housing’ in Davis… “manufactured housing”… ex.:  no mobile home parks have been permitted in Davis since the ’60’s (Rancho Yolo)… decent housing, yet affordable… [note that the City has used ‘manufactured housing’ for where their employees work since at least 1985 (yes, from 1985-2011, I was ‘trailer trash’ where I spent much of my career)… cheaper than conventional construction… but eschewed repeatedly for housing for residents]… and, considered “anathema” to progressive and conservative folk alike, in Davis… but I believe the Housing Element should put ‘manufactured housing’ and MHP’s into the “toolbox”… if folk are serious about affordable housing… BIG if

       

    3. Richard_McCann

      Ron G

      I think the question we’re trying to answer is a bit different. What we’re asking is whether economic development in Davis can be aligned so that housing is closer to work. Using your example of the couple in Vacaville, the idea would be to have a similar firm to the one she’s commuting to in Vacaville be located in Davis instead. The question isn’t directly about locating housing but rather how to get jobs and housing closer to each other.

      1. Ron Oertel

        The question isn’t directly about locating housing but rather how to get jobs and housing closer to each other.

        I find it fascinating to see how some can simultaneously claim that there isn’t “enough” housing for those who already work on the adjacent campus (or in places like Sacramento), and then turn around and say that they’re trying to bring housing and jobs closer together.

        As if adding more jobs won’t increase the demand for housing.

        It’s increasingly as if Alice (from “Wonderland” fame) is making comments.

         

      2. Ron Glick

        Richard, the problem is its both a regional housing market and a regional jobs market. The argument I’m making is that restricting supply as Davis has done only makes it harder for local people to compete for housing against those who can commute to professional jobs. Thus the entire build for the local need is self defeating. I’m yet to see a proposal that favors current residents that can pass legal muster.

        Of course, if the real objective is to posture about trying to do something while really blocking things, as I believe some are, its a perfect argument.

    4. Todd Edelman

      Until you can regulate how far people can commute to work this entire internal needs debate is simply one more failed argument that does nothing to solve the housing shortage.

      And the huge subsidy for use of personal cars? Is it not based on regulations? Imagine how much shorter our commutes would be – or what alternatives we’d be using – if drivers paid more of what it actually costs to drive.

  2. Edgar Wai

    Still I find trying to base housing policy on where people work is the type of social engineering that has led to our manufactured shortage of housing. We should be letting people make these decisions for themselves.

    I think it should be based on a wait list. The wait-list will show the number of people wanting to move to Davis. Then we could compare the size of the wait-list of other cities.

    To fulfill the wait-list, the priority could be whoever that would make you fulfill the wait-list faster > transients (e.g. students, each housing can help more people because they can be more dense and they move out) > people who work in the city > others.

  3. Tia Will

    But that concept is something that would be a good fit for Davis—taking the experimental and research-based technologies of food production and generating market-based products and technology that can help feed the world.”

    We have had this conversation before. This would be true if “feeding the world” were to have been the outcome. When your primary partner is a company like Mars, whose own web page at the time stated its mission was the creation of “food products” and whose principle products were candy ( a non food) and animal food ( necessary, but hardly “world feeding”), then please excuse my skepticism. Lest you think I am “off topic” I see this as a truth in advertising issue that also extends to our housing element.

    We have a number of examples of supposedly noble projects whose primary goal and outcome would be the financial advancement of the investors and developers, with final project resemblance to what was sold to the community barely discernible. The Cannery is one, Trackside was another. I am sure everyone has their own favorite example.

    So what is my point? I am a strong believer in developing according to our vision of what we would like Davis to be in the future X number of years. However, it has been demonstrated again and again that if actual development, often driven by the bait and switch of what “pencils out” or what turns out to be unfeasible for whatever reason, it is the current residents who pay the price. Yes, the people who live in these developments often enjoy living there. But at what cost?

    David does a good job of describing those costs in both our physical space and social inequity, but where we seem to fail is that some see only the upside to development and thus present it as all rosy, while others see only the downside. We are binary thinkers while what is needed is transparency and respect for an agreed upon vision, not forever wheedling about how to work around one.

    1. Alan Miller

      final project resemblance to what was sold to the community barely discernible. The Cannery is one, Trackside was another.

      There is no final project on the latter , thankfully, so hard to compare that one, but one of partners for that projects promised the neighbors at the project on B Street just north of 8th one building in neighborhood meetings which they bought off on, then switched the design without consulting neighbors, and the City went along with that, apparently thinking that just because a process that is immoral is not illegal, it’s OK.  There’s a disgusting example for you.

    2. Tim Keller

      I can vouch for the veracity of the “feeding the world” vision, at least on the commercial development side.   Here is a list of SOME startup companies that are currently active members of my network at Inventopia:  You will see something of a theme:

      PeakB – A naturally derived blue food coloring ( current options are chemical )
      California Cultured:  A way to grow cocoa using cell culture ( lots of existing cocoa production uses child / slave labor)
      E-Microguard:  Working on mediating toxicity of dairy wastes
      Ferminkasi:  Helping wineries cultivate natural microbial flora for their fermentations.
      Innerplant: Uses specially-bred plants as living sensors for environmental stresses.
      Ravata:  Develops embryology tools for IVF in research mice and livestock
      SensIT:  A chemical gas sensor that can do things like early detection of spoilage of a stored agricultural commodity, ( they can do other amazing things too, but I shouldn’t share them without their permission)
      FloraPulse:  A sensor that directly measures water status for vines and trees, allowing farmers to make better irrigation decisions.
      Pluk Robotics:  A robotic Musroom harvester.

      That is NOT the full extent of the companies currently using inventopia.  And there are similar lists of companies who use other facilities like the HM Clause labs, or the AgStart Labs in woodland.. AND there are a number of companies that are more mature, or are corporate spin-outs who have not needed the support of incubators like mine.   A BIG swath of those companies are agriculture / food related.

      All of that is a long way of saying that the vision for “UC Davis to help feed the world” is NOT pie in the sky, and it is not something “we can create someday”… it is an opportunity that is ours to lose – right now.

      The companies that I listed are either currently in Inventopia, or they have come through inventopia and are now in larger spaces of their own.   Of the latter, it has been VERY hard to keep them in town because of a lack of appropriate facilities.     Any skepticism about Davis’ ability to be the center of the universe when it comes to food, ag, and environmental technologies is mis-placed, and if we DO fail to achieve that vision, it will only be because of people creating a self-fullfilling prophecy that it cant happen.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Of the latter, it has been VERY hard to keep them in town because of a lack of appropriate facilities. 

        You might want to let them know that they’re building a massive facility 7 miles up the road from UCD in Woodland, as I haven’t heard of any announced companies/tenants there.  (Of course, that only occurred after it failed in Davis and added 1,600 housing units during the “move”.)

        I assume that these companies (unlike yours) are not looking for a small amount of “unused/equipped”, pre-existing lab space, at a bargain rate for startups. (So, there shouldn’t be a problem, for them.)

        1. Tim Keller

          Ron,

          Even after they out-grow my facility, they STILL need scale-up space for several years.
          This is called “the valley of death” for entrepreneurs – you have already done the prototyping and the initial proof of concept… now you need to invest in equipment, you need to hire people, you need to find additional investors, and you need to win sufficient customers to pay for all of that.

          What you dont understand is that in these early phases of a company’s life, they are STILL not a match for landlords like the woodland effort.   Truth be told, they arent even a match for landlords like Buzz Oates who hasve a lot of commercial properties here in Davis, and it is a significant reason why those properties havent been filled by local startups.

          Large, successful commercial developers have a certain playbook:  you only develop things for companies that have good credit.   That business works for them, but it is also one of the factors that make upward mobility difficult:  To access the resources of our capitalist economy, you almost need to already be successful.

          The solution to this impasse is to create flexible space with these companies in mind.   You create a place that would otherwise be considered “overbuit” by commercial standards, providing ample electrical, plumbing and ventilation utilities so that entities can “plug in” their operation in a space without having to do a huge remodel.    That is also a business model that works in a variety of places, we just dont have any of it here (yet)

      2. Ron Glick

        I always find it sadly amusing when no growth or eugenicist types express indifference towards the important advances made by UCD related scientists.

        My personal favorite is the development of rust resistant wheat that has massively improved the supply of food throughout some of the poorest regions of the world. Poo pooing UCD’s ag research because there are some commercial aspects of it that meet with disapproval of some locals misses the larger point about how research at UCD has, both in the past and currently, helped meet the nutritional needs of an ever expanding world population.

  4. Edgar Wai

    First, the real problem isn’t that people commute out of Davis to work, the real problem is that, according to the State of the City report and University Travel Survey, something on the order of 24,000 commute outside of Davis to work while another 28,000 people commute into Davis (and UC Davis) each day to work.

    A breakdown of the reasons to “why don’t you live in the city you work” would be helpful.

    My guess of the top reasons would be:

    “Because housing in Davis is cheaper than where I work.” (For those commuting from Davis)

    “Because housing in Davis is too expensive.” (For those commuting to Davis)

    Anyway I look at it there is no simpler solution than building Davis-relevant housing for people studying or working in Davis. The issue is fixed if there is a law zoning an residential area (logically the areas close to campus) to be local relevant restricted. If there is such a law, the price/rent of those are would drop to what students and local workforce could afford. (Without such law, the University or the City might as well buy those properties and manage them like dorms requiring proof of relevance.)

  5. Ron Glick

    “Yes, the people who live in these developments often enjoy living there. But at what cost?”

    Please answer your own question. What are the costs that you find unpalatable and then we can do some sort of a cost benefit analysis? I can anticipate there is likely some local traffic impairment that would be more than offset by regional benefit.

  6. Ron Oertel

    Just came across this article – which everyone already knows is occurring, regardless.

    Separate research has shown that there was significant out-migration from major cities, but in most cases people moved to a “donut” of suburbs around those cities, rather than relocating across the country. Researchers argue this trend suggests that most Americans expect that they will have a hybrid work setup in the future, where they split their time between the office and working from home, rather than fully being remote.

    This is allowing Americans to get the most bang for their buck in the housing market, rather than needing to sacrifice affordability or space in the name of living closer to urban centers.

    In the long term, this trend could lead to home prices becoming more even across the country and lead to less concentration of wealth in certain cities, Tucker said.

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/americans-are-moving-but-theres-a-notable-reversal-in-the-types-of-homes-theyre-choosing/ar-AAKPPB5?li=BBnbfcL

    And yet – the state is pretending that this isn’t occurring via its RHNA requirements and other “Weiner” type efforts (while doing nothing to reign-in sprawl).

  7. Matt Williams

    But there is a big problem for the bedroom community notion—the biggest employer for people who live in Davis by far is UC Davis.  And most of those people do not commute out of town. even if UC Davis is technically outside of the city limits.

    David’s statement is not supported by the US Census jobs figures, which report that in 2018 there were a total of 24,520 jobs that are filled by City of Davis residents.  The Census reports that 4,173 of those 24,520 jobs are located within the City Limits (17.0% of the total).  The Census also reports that 5,707 of those 24,520 jobs are in Educational Services (23.3% of the total).

    So when you add 4,173 and 5,707 together you get 9,880, which is 40.3% of the total.  So even with UCD employment included, you still have 60% of the City of Davis residents with jobs who are commuting to a job location that is either not in the City of Davis or not on the UCD campus.

    The table below shows the industries that comprise the 24,520 jobs.

    https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Screen-Shot-2021-06-08-at-8.45.00-AM.png 
    https://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/2018-Davis-Jobs-inflow-and-Outflow.png 

    One argument for keeping UCD separate is that UCD actively keeps the City at arms length with a “You do your thing, and we do our thing.  Just stay out of our way, unless we ask you to be involved” attitude.  There are occasional exceptions, with Healthy Davis Together being one of those exceptions.  However, the exceptions are rare.

    Despite UCD’s disdain for the City, for well over 50 years Davis has been a university town, growing in lock step with UCD’s growth, and that was enough to allow the City to pay its bills.  However, that is no longer the case, and slowly but surely Davis has become less and less of a University town, and slowly but surely the deferred maintenance of the City’s infrastructure has caught up with us and that infrastructure is crumbling around our ears and around our feet.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      This is a bit data from 2017 State of the City report, but my source: “According to the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) Origin-Destination Employment Statistics, published by the US Census Bureau, there were approximately 28,465 persons employed within the City of Davis and on the UC Davis main campus in 2014.”

    2. Ron Glick

      Lies, damn lies and census data. There are other categories that might be included besides educational services like Scientific or Public administration. It depends on how each group is defined. If you use travel data of under 6 miles then all of those jobs could be considered local because it is over six miles to the nearest town outside of Davis.

  8. Tim Keller

    “Here is a question for Tim Keller … If the Vision for Davis is to be a bedroom community for people who work outside the City Limits, then why does Davis need more R&D  / Commercial space? “

    Let me address the question directly:

    Being a bedroom community for people who work outside the city is NOT part of my vision for the city – in any way.  And I have no idea how one would get that impression based on anything I have written in these pages.

    To the extent that we ARE a bedroom community for people who commute to Sac or SF – it is only because we are a relatively affluent, well educated college town that is more appealing to people who can afford to live here, than the alternatives such as living in Woodland, Dixon, Natomas or Winters.

    Another way of saying it:  If we are a bedroom community right now, that doesnt mean thats what we should be, or what we should aspire to.   It is a symptom of our housing prices and availability ,which by extension, dictate who can afford to live here.

    Matt also questioned my characterization of our housing prices as “ridiculous” by comparing our housing to California averages.    Saying that housing here is cheaper than the Bay Area totally misses the point.   The relevant comparisons need to be the local alternatives, namely Woodland and Dixon where the median home price is indeed 1/3 less.

    Housing prices in a given region should generally reflect the relative wages / economy of that region.     With a local differential in housing prices like what we are seeing, we obviously have something else happening, and that thing is obvious:  A shortage of supply in Davis.

    So no, I don’t want Davis to be a bedroom community.  If people want to live here and commute, no problem, that is their choice, and we should develop more housing to account for that – just in the same way that we should expect to accommodate retirees who want to settle here.

    Neither of those factors are the problem.  The problem is that 1) there are lots of people who work here who cant live here because there are not enough opportunities to do so.  2) there is significant commercial demand for the kind of people who DO live here already.

    Those are the reasons why we have so much in-flux and out-flux with the city every day.  Our community is imbalanced, and the “right” direction for our city could probably be reduced to: “fixing that imbalance”
    My vision is that Davis should have ample opportunities for people to live and work in this town.    We have every ability to provide those opportunities, but time and time again, we have chosen not to. THAT is what needs to change.

    1. Matt Williams

      Being a bedroom community for people who work outside the city is NOT part of my vision for the city

      .
      That is and has always been crystal clear.  FWIW, it isn’t my vision for Davis either, but as Don Shor very correctly pointed out …

      In a series of votes over a few decades, the voters of Davis have made their vision clear.
       
        — They want to constrain the physical size of the city.
        — They want to restrict the growth rate of housing in the city (“grow as slowly as legally possible”).
        — They want to have direct approval over most, if not all, major development projects.
        — If they approve a project, it has to check a lot of boxes and benefit a demographic they feel positive about (seniors yes, students not so much unless they’re totally away from all other housing).
        — It is also likely, based on the few projects that have come forward, that densification is going to be very contentious.
       
      Is there any real question in peoples’ minds about what vision Davis residents have for the city, and how big they want it to be? It seems that Davis voters want Davis to retain its character (which means “like it was when I moved here”) and be as small as possible. They don’t want to be inconvenienced by the traffic generated by other people moving here.

      “…but the fact that Davis MUST grow deliberately and significantly is increasingly hard to ignore.”
      I’d say at least 40% of the resident population, or at least the voters, clearly disagree with you. It is likeliest at this point that such growth, significant or otherwise, will be imposed on the city by market forces or by the state.

      .
      That may not be the official de jure Vision for the City, but it certainly looks like the de facto Vision.   That poses a significant challenge to your following statement:

      Another way of saying it:  If we are a bedroom community right now, that doesn’t mean that’s what we should be, or what we should aspire to.   It is a symptom of our housing prices and availability ,which by extension, dictate who can afford to live here.

      .
      If Don Shor is correct in his litany of events, then what you have labeled as a symptom is actually a repeatedly made democratic choice.  The challenge is pretty clear.  What you appear to be saying is that what you unilaterally believe is more valid than what the democratically voiced will of the voters believe.

      I do have a significant problem with Davis being a bedroom community, and that is that no one is coming to grips with the consequences of that status.  The very affluence that you describe means that the majority of Davis residents have a very pleasant and very full life, and the daily activities of that very good life causes them to be disconnected from the fact that the City’s annual budget has $14 million less revenues each year than it has needed expenses.  As a result, each year $14 million of the needed maintenance expenses are deferred and our fair city crumbles a bit more around our ears and under our feet. We need to be both candid and honest with ourselves about that reality.

      1. Ron Oertel

        How does this compare to other bedroom communities throughout the state?

        And for that matter, even those that “aren’t” bedroom communities, such as ultra-wealthy San Francisco?

        Thought I’d look up an article, as I type this. Looks like recent Federal funding has SIGNIFICANTLY come to the rescue, there:

        https://www.sfexaminer.com/news/federal-funding-shrinks-sf-budget-deficit-to-23m/#:~:text=San%20Francisco's%20once%20whopping%20budget,layoffs%20and%20deep%20service%20cuts.

        No wonder they support Biden, as pretty much acknowledged in the article.

      2. David Greenwald Post author

        “In a series of votes over a few decades, the voters of Davis have made their vision clear.”

        I have to take a little issue with this point. One of the complaints about the planning process is that Davis has not had a visioning process, has not updated it’s General Plan in two decades and has instead engaged in a project by project planning process. These votes are not tantamount to a vision, they are tantamount to a vote by vote set of choices. And those choices have had some unintended consequences that the nature of those choices has precluded us from addressing.

        1. Matt Williams

          David, your point is valid, which is why I have made the distinction between de facto and de jure.  Don’s point was that the “voice” of the community has been clear … thus the de facto vision.  However, that voice has not been memorialized in a clear, easily-communicated, written down, and frequently read and/or cited Vision … a de jure vision.

          You have a vision that you believe and support, but it is not de jure either.  I have a vision that I support, but I do not believe I have any right to unilaterally impose that vision on the residents and stakeholders of the city … and my vision it is not de jure either. Tim Keller has made it clear that he has a vision that he has said the City should have … but that vision it is not de jure either.

          Regarding unintended consequences, I don’t think the residents of Davis have a clear understanding of those consequences.  A well-handled visioning process will help the City of Davis decide on its vision for the future, with a clear undewrstanding of the consequences that come with that vision.

      3. Tim Keller

        So I think that Don’s points and the more general point you are making about our “De-Facto” situation are correct, but I think I diverge from that line of thinking when it comes to establishing anything like “intent” or the “will of the people” in politician speak.

        Yes, Voters here have made a series of decisions that have resulted in where we are now, but saying that Davis thus WANTS to be an over-priced bedroom community for SF and SAC is a little much.   Yes, you can say that, and it is true based on the voting record, but I dont think that our community ever deliberately intended to create these effects, and, given an alternative, I think they would chose otherwise.

        Lets swap out the issue in question to quickly explore that dynamic:   Many people still choose to drive gas-powered cars, eat mass-manufactured food, and buy things in plastic packaging.   All of those things are not sustainable in the long term, yet does that mean that most people are FOR ruining our ecosystem?  Are they saying that they dont care enough about the environment to not ruin it?

        The sobering thing is that in fact, yes, we are ALL “voting” that way when we make everyday decisions,  which is Don’s kind of analysis, and it is indeed damning.   But I would also contest that the majority of us really wish there were more / better sustainable alternatives, and would use them if they were available.

        Getting back to housing, I think that the same is true in this case.   It is very easy for voters to say “I don’t like this particular project” especially when we have vocal opposition to all projects.  And it is easy to make that short-term decision without consideration of the long-term consequences.  This is a fundamental human weakness.  But I DO have faith in humanity enough to believe that if we are presented with the relevant and wholistic facts, and we are given robust alternatives about how to act on those facts, we ARE indeed capable of making the right choice.

        Which brings me back to the primary point that I made in my article on Saturday:  That we need to step back from the issue-by-issue state of mind when it comes to development and look at our situation as a whole.   Do we really want to end up where we are going?  If not, what are the best ways to make the small decisions that end up taking us to the right place?

        I postulated that when you do that, we might conclude that Davis should perhaps be twice or even more its current size.   Someone else made a comment that I was perhaps under-counting the existing popultaion and thus we might only need to be 1/3 larger, – which may very well be true.   The follow-on conversations about our secondary economy, and the inclusion of by-choice commuters and retirees have also brought relevant points to the conversation.

        THOSE are the conversations we need to be having, as a preliminary step to a revised general plan that charts a different course for our town than the current one.

        I think that if we can present voters with a comprehensive and rational plan for growth, and then frame our project-by-project process in the context of that plan, then we WILL in fact, diverge from Don’s observations – we WILL start to make better choices about growth as a city, and we WILL end up, 20 years from now, with a vibrant University community that isnt simply an more expensive, yet crumbling and bankrupt, version of exactly what it is today.

        1. Matt Williams

          Yes, Voters here have made a series of decisions that have resulted in where we are now, but saying that Davis thus WANTS to be an over-priced bedroom community for SF and SAC is a little much.   Yes, you can say that, and it is true based on the voting record, but I dont think that our community ever deliberately intended to create these effects, and, given an alternative, I think they would chose otherwise.

          I’m inclined to believe that in the 20 years of the current General Plan there has been NO vision that has guided the community, and that we have become a bedroom community by default. We have effectively been a rudderless ship, going where the seas and the winds have taken us.

          Most Davis residents are wrapped up in the day to day realities (very nice realities) of their lives.  They have had very little reason or incentive to pay attention to the issues of the larger community.

          Unfortunately our annual $14 million per year City deficit makes that kind of laissez faire attitude, seriously problematic.  Unfortunately, economic development offers no short-term contribution to reducing that annual $14 million deficit number.

           

           

      4. Richard_McCann

        There is no such thing as a “de facto” vision–this reflects indifference or indecision or cognitive dissonance by the citizenry, and also reflects a lack of leadership. What David described correctly as project by project decision making is like driving without a map. We have the citizens currently saying “bring me a rock…no, not that rock, bring me another….” A vision is a map of where we are going–citizens have not been presented with such a map in decades. They only said with Measure J was “we don’t like the current map.”

        Matt is correct that so long as the current situation doesn’t directly impinge on the lives of the residents, they don’t have much of an incentive to move forward. That’s where leadership comes in to lay out the real choices.

        1. Matt Williams

          We have effectively been a rudderless ship, going where the seas and the winds have taken us.

           

          What David described correctly as project by project decision making is like driving without a map.  A vision is a map of where we are going–citizens have not been presented with such a map in decades.

          .
          Richard and I have used different metaphors for the same situation without direction.

        2. Don Shor

          Davis voters have been given the opportunity to support candidates who ran on fiscal platforms, addressing the budget gap, and chose not to do so. Those candidates fared very poorly.

          Davis voters have been given the opportunity to choose to tax themselves for amenities, and have chosen to do so.

          Davis voters have been given the opportunity to vote for projects that would have boosted economic development, and have chosen not to do so. In fact, with Nishi they specifically rejected a plan that included economic development, and approved one that was housing-only.


          The real choices have been laid out for Davis voters and they have rendered their decisions.
          I sense that some here just don’t like the vision they have chosen.

  9. Keith Y Echols

     Residents are actively engaged in local activities, whether it’s the schools, Farmer’s Market, the downtown, and civic engagement.

    Like most activism in this country; I think that while trying to identify community it’s easy to ID the most active and vocal participants.  But that does not include the much larger number of people that simply live and work in Davis.  I think this notion ignores the growing number of bedroom community population that live in Davis but work elsewhere and primarily spend their time in other areas like Sacramento and the Bay Area.

    It’s not that people are commuting, the problem is the fundamental mismatch between housing and jobs that means that people who work in town are not living in town, and vice versa.

    I suppose that’s one way to look at it.  But to me this illustrates one of the problems of how many view Davis: as an island community….usually beholden to UCD.   This view does not acknowledge the fact that Davis is part of the greater Sacramento metro region which has been growing at a huge rate over the past 10+ years.  Or to put it another way; I’d ask if the majority of homes bought in Davis over the past 10 years were by UCD employees or by commuters to Sacramento and the surrounding areas (there are quite a number that commute and telecommute to the Bay Area).

    I think there’s an element of this UCD centric view of Davis to David’s article.  But on the flip side, I think he’s said in multiple articles about the need to develop new business in Davis; usually through ventures that spring from UCD or other ag/tech businesses in the area that might find Davis a good place to locate.  That belief in the economic development in Davis I can whole heartedly agree with David and I think many would agree with.  The problem that many don’t agree on is HOW Davis does this.  I think DISC was a prime example of that.  I think the DISC project was an incredibly poorly planned and marketed project.  But I think DISC was necessary to kick of the kind of desirable economic development we’re looking for in Davis.

     And most of those people do not commute out of town. even if UC Davis is technically outside of the city limits.

    I have a few questions.  How much does UCD directly contribute to the City of Davis’ revenue?  How much in property taxes, sales tax or business taxes?  How much does the city make off of permitting fees?   So when a student buys a book or a cup of coffee on campus, how much of the sales tax does the City of Davis receive?  I ask because UCD is obviously outside of Davis city limits but maybe it has some infrastructure sharing arrangement that I’m not aware of (UCD has it’s own police…probably fire?  I do not know if it has it’s own water and sewer plant or if it pays into services district).  How much do taxes, fees and other sources directly feed into the $14M city budget?   Again, I’m not saying UCD should….I don’t know what their arrangement is.   But I think it bares some scrutiny when discussing the value of UCD employees in the city of Davis and long term planning for the city.

    1. Tim Keller

      I have a few questions.  How much does UCD directly contribute to the City of Davis’ revenue?  How much in property taxes, sales tax or business taxes?

       

      So I’m obviously very pro-university, but this question you asked IS the one area where the university is different than ( and worse than ) a lot of other “primary industries” in other towns.

      For one, they don’t pay any sales tax on their “product”.    We cant charge sales tax on tuition or research funding…   Other industries that sell things from their operations here in Davis, like the tech companies on east 2nd street, or the car dealerships – they all pay sales tax locally.  So that is different than other “primary industries” in other kinds of towns.

      I dont see that has a huge problem, because still the vast vast majority of money spent by students, staff and faculty is spent off of campus, and not at the coffeehouse.

      The other thing, (and I’d like to learn more about this as well) is that I believe that when the university purchases real estate off campus ( and they indeed have a lot of it ) then they are exempt from property tax on those sites.  This would be problematic, because those sites are part of the City’s support infrastructure, our roads, fire and police… etc.    So I have to assume that the City and university have some understanding about that,  but I don’t know for sure.    ( Again, If anyone here knows that answer, I’d love to hear it! )

      1. Mark West

        “when the university purchases real estate off campus ( and they indeed have a lot of it ) then they are exempt from property tax on those sites.”

        This is true not only for properties owned by the university, but also for those that are leased. The property owner is allowed to file for an exemption for the property tax for any property leased to the University. This situation is potentially subject to negotiation between the University and the County or City with the University agreeing to make up the lost revenue in some cases, but there is no requirement for it to do so.

  10. Keith Y Echols

    because still the vast vast majority of money spent by students, staff and faculty is spent off of campus, and not at the coffeehouse.

    How does that make UCD employees different than any other commuter that drives to Sacramento or the Bay Area to work? (other than the driving part) David’s article differentiated UCD employees from commuters….other than most of the tax money from students comes from sales tax on burgers, pizza, burritos, coffee….if Davis were smart it’d have more bars and liquor stores.  College students always have beer money lying around.

    The point I’m making is that I believe the evidence is mounting against David’s claim that Davis isn’t a “Bedroom Community”.

    I’m not making a pro or con university comment (though I have tended to be very critical of the relationship between the city and UCD in the past).  I’m simply calling out what it is…which is that UCD isn’t part of Davis…in terms of city finances….so when evaluating Davis’s economically and for future growth, I think you have to start with the fact that Davis is a Bedroom Community.

    You and I agree that economic growth is key to the city’s future growth.

    Where we disagree is that housing has to be a part of that growth.  I believe it’s part of the growth but only when necessary to support the economic growth of the city….otherwise housing is a cost to the city.

     

    1. Richard_McCann

      Half of the students at UCD live off campus, almost all in Davis housing. Those landlords pay property taxes on that housing and likely pay business license fees. Those renters also pay city utility bills and utility taxes on PG&E sales.

      Davis does have a large number of state employees and the new developments in the 1990s in East and South Davis are filled with those commuters. This puts the community in a dichotomous situation. Palo Alto could be considered a bedroom community using a similar definition as Stanford is outside of its city limits, but we see substantial economic activity there which is a spin off from that university.

      It’s not easy to categorize Davis for these reasons. Instead, we should recognize our unique setting.

      1. Keith Y Echols

        Half of the students at UCD live off campus, almost all in Davis housing. Those landlords pay property taxes on that housing and likely pay business license fees. Those renters also pay city utility bills and utility taxes on PG&E sales.

        How does that make them any different than other renters?….so I don’t get the point of your comment.

        Palo Alto could be considered a bedroom community using a similar definition as Stanford is outside of its city limits, but we see substantial economic activity there which is a spin off from that university.

        Palo Alto also has/had HP’s headquarters.  It also has numerous technology law firms and financial institutions related to technology.  Palo Alto (I used to live there and had family there for decades) had many businesses there aside from Stanford (just drive up Page Mill Road).   Palo Alto is too expensive to be a bedroom community.

        Yes Stanford is one of the major generators of new businesses in Silicon Valley.  As UCD COULD be for Yolo County/Davis.  But that doesn’t change the immediate math in terms of UCD’s impact on the city of Davis.  Davis and UCD are separate entities and should be considered as such.

         

        1. Bill Marshall

          Those renters also pay city utility bills…

          Only indirectly to the extent that landlords “pass those thru” in rents… the City only bills the property owner.

    2. Tim Keller

      Where we disagree is that housing has to be a part of that growth.  I believe it’s part of the growth but only when necessary to support the economic growth of the city….otherwise housing is a cost to the city.

      We dont disagree THAT much I dont think.    And I dont think that you and David are too far from agreement either… He is only saying that we arent a bedroom community in the “classic sense”, and you rightly point out that there are a LOT of people who DO indeed use Davis as a bedroom community.    I think both positions are right, at least, as I understand them.

      At the end of the day, money spent here which creates taxable economic activity is a good thing, and yes, I agree that if people live here but DONT otherwise spend their money here, ( because they drive to woodland to go to costco etc )   Then the extra housing doesn’t pencil out for the city as well as it should.. And I totally agree with you on that.

      I like the concept which has developed in this conversation of “balanced development”    We should be building the right mix of commercial, industrial, and housing so as to maximize the revenues the city can collect, which then get poured back into our city in the form of services and quality-of-life.

      The problem is that, especially in internet comments sections, people tend to either not make, or not appreciate nuanced statements.     Someone here told me that “perhaps we should work on housing before proposing something like DISC which will only make the housing problem worse”

      The real world just really doesnt break down that cleanly of course, and often I think this is the biggest drawback to direct democracy.    The voters just don’t have time or attention to listen to anything but the simple / soundbite messages, and thus, they make binding decisions based on superficial understandings of the challenge.    Not really a great decision making process for complicated issues.

      Now, there are some advantages to direct democracy too… dont get me wrong.   But this is an internet comment thread, so someone is probably already writing a response accusing me of hating democracy and freedom of something…

      Let me try to sum up the situation that meets all of our points:

      1) There are people who can afford to live in Davis, but work elsewhere, and to the extent they bring money into our city economy that is a good thing.
      2) There are people who retire here for a variety of reasons, and so long as they spend their money in our local economy, that is also good.
      3) There are people who work here who cant find housing here and to the extent that they take THAT economic activity outside of town, that is a loss for us.
      4) The traffic produced by people who work outside of town is a negative for everyone, as is the traffic produced by the people who come to town from outside.   We cant really do anything about the former, but we CAN do something about the latter.
      5) There are people who both live and work here in town who do shopping outside of town because we have under-developed our retail sector.  This is also a loss for us.
      6) There are companies that start here that cannot stay here because of a lack of commercial real estate.   If they set up shop elsewhere, we miss out on their sales taxes which is also a loss for us.   They will also employ people who do not live in this city and we thus also miss out on the secondary benefits of their economic contribution.

      So… I think that the answer is that we need to plan for balanced growth across the board.  I for one would like to see it be VERY deliberate, well planned, and if possible, very high density.    We cant just do one kind of growth without considering the balance of other kinds of growth, nor can we do one of them “first”  and absolutely, positively, we cannot let “no growth” even be on the table.

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        “We dont disagree THAT much I dont think. And I dont think that you and David are too far from agreement either… He is only saying that we arent a bedroom community in the “classic sense”, and you rightly point out that there are a LOT of people who DO indeed use Davis as a bedroom community. I think both positions are right, at least, as I understand them.”

        That’s a very good summation of my view.

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