Commentary: Housing – We Need a Plan, Not Just ‘No’

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By David M. Greenwald

Davis, CA – The Housing Element contained a warning: “The City does not currently contain enough vacant land appropriately zoned for the development of the housing necessary to meet the City’s estimated housing needs for the period between 2021 and 2019.”

The Draft report notes: “This, combined with the generally high cost of the existing single-family for-sale housing stock, has led to concerns that as the City’s existing homeowners age in place, the lack of housing suitable and affordable to families has been changing the community demographics, forcing increasing numbers of local workers to commute in from surrounding areas, and contributing to related community issues, such as declining school enrollment.”

While it is likely the city can stay in compliance with RHNA requirements for the current period, the long term picture is troubling at best.

The Housing Element Committee attempted to find additional ways to build housing made a series of recommendations — most of which were shot down by council members after considerable opposition was voiced to the recommendations by many in the community.

The recommendations included exploring removing R-1 zoning, elimination of parking minimums, eliminating the one percent growth cap, rezoning strip malls to allow housing, by-right ministerial approval for new housing, pre-approvals of development at two sites, and a goal to build more than the RHNA assignment.

One of the recommendations, the elimination of R-1 zoning, could come from legislative action by the state.  Council indicated that they are willing to rezone strip malls, but most of the rest have been rejected.

The problem at the end of the day; however, remains the first statement and second statement I quoted at the beginning of this article from the Draft Housing Element report — how do we address housing shortfalls, the high cost of single-family homes, and the lack of suitable and affordable housing for families in the community?

The answer from a sizable portion of the community is … to some extent, we don’t.

To the extent that we have any plan at all it could be summarized as pushing new development to UC Davis.

As I expressed in a recent commentary on the UC Davis strategy, it seems more like punting the hot potato out of town, rather than attempting to forge a meaningful policy.

The first problem of course is that UC Davis is largely insular.  We can attempt to work with them.  We can attempt to partner with them.  But at the end of the day, where does the 800 pound gorilla sit in the theater?  Anywhere it wants.

But even if UC Davis were more amenable, shunting housing to the campus is not necessarily a great answer.  I don’t have a problem pressing UC Davis to accommodate half its student housing on campus.  But beyond that, we are basically advocating putting upper class students and potentially faculty and staff on campus in neighborhoods that are cut off from the city, disenfranchised the residents of that housing from voting in the city, but still largely connected and reliant on the city.

Leaving aside the viability of growing another city next to Davis – what advantage does such an arrangement really get us?  If anything, it puts a large population not only off our tax rolls and away from the polling place but also outside of our control in terms of growth and other impacts.

I am not sure how well this has been thought through to conclusion by those advocating that as our sole growth strategy.

The UC Davis strategy seems to be a variant on the “grow out or grow up” choice.  The only difference is that it moves that growth from the north side of Covell to the south side of Russell.

Let me be clear — I am all for UC Davis doing their share, and all for acknowledging that they really haven’t done their share for the last 20 years, but at the same time, neither have we.

So what is the viable growth strategy for the city other than a strategy that pushes for more housing from UC Davis?

I think that is what the Housing Element Committee attempted to tackle.

On the one hand, we have an infill strategy — which has largely been the preferred course of action.  That means more density.  The HEC acknowledging the dwindling supply of open and vacant parcels in town that can support housing, and through their recommendations, has embarked on a strategy that seems to maximize space, increase density, and make housing more economically viable.

The viability issue is paramount.  When we looked at the Downtown Plan for example, a big problem with mixed-use in the downtown was cost.  A by-right process could speed the process and help to reduce cost.  Enough to make redevelopment of the downtown viable?  We should be checking.

In addition, the rest of the recommendations seek to maximize available land by increasing density.  Removing R-1 zoning is probably out of our hands, but thatr recommendation does point to a way to replace at least some single-family homes with multi-family housing.  Eliminating parking minimums, rezoning strip malls and the like are other ways to increase housing on a finite footprint.

Don’t like those options?

That leaves us with peripheral housing.  Some people want to eliminate Measure J.  But that’s likely not in the cards given the overwhelming margin it was renewed by.

I believe that pre-approvals of the two recommended parcels is NOT an end run around Measure J.  It just isn’t.  It doesn’t require changes to Measure J.  It still requires voter approval. But it allows for the process and cost to be moved up front, before the expensive work of design comes into play.  Ideally, the community  identifies land for potential housing, puts baseline features on that land to limit how much housing can go there and votes on it.

The council is correct — there is a fail safe for the community — the ability to put a project on the ballot for approval after the fact through a referendum.  For controversial projects that could be in the works.  I disagree with the Council members who suggested that this would be commonplace .  My reason is simple. Since the passage of Measure J, no housing project that didn’t require a vote of the people has been put on the ballot by the voters.  Not even Cannery, which perhaps should have.

Are there other answers to the housing problem?  I don’t know.  We have a General Plan Update coming up and would love to here viable solutions beyond just pushing the problem to UC Davis.

—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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50 thoughts on “Commentary: Housing – We Need a Plan, Not Just ‘No’”

  1. Ron Glick

    “The City does not currently contain enough vacant land appropriately zoned for the development of the housing necessary to meet the City’s estimated housing needs for the period between 2021 and 2019.”

    This is the perfect typo. Instead of looking forward Davis is always looking back.

    “That leaves us with peripheral housing.  Some people want to eliminate Measure J.  But that’s likely not in the cards given the overwhelming margin it was renewed by.”

    If its not in the cards because influencers like you are still in denial there is no solution.

    1. Keith Olsen

      If its not in the cards because influencers like you are still in denial there is no solution.

      Influencer?  I hope that’s not true.  I know he doesn’t influence me.

    2. David Greenwald Post author

      Ron – you are making the same mistake as the slow growth side. You are putting all of your eggs into one unrealistic solution. For them, it’s relying on UC Davis which they have limited influence over. For you, it’s relying on the end of Measure J – a position that less than 20 percent of the population supported. For both sides it allows the same thing – avoidance of other potential solutions that are more realistic.

      1. Ron Glick

        Doesn’t matter to me. I have a house. My eggs are fine no matter what the city does. I benefit from doing nothing as do most of the property owners in Davis. I do however think its wrong to limit supply through Byzantine zoning and annexation rules. As long as we have the limit line we will have supply deficits. You can look to other solutions but it would be foolish to believe they can make much difference. So as long as you support the limit line it doesn’t matter much what other solutions you consider.

        You might get the state to build on UCD  but they can never get caught up because even if they were to house more students UC doesn’t have the responsibility to build for the multiplier effect jobs that accompany enrollment increases. You can do infill but people for the most part don’t like infill so it can only have a marginal impact.

        The problem you have David is you refuse to see that the biggest impediment that exists to addressing housing demand is a policy you support.

  2. Don Shor

    So now a quick list of the possible peripheral sites and a review of the obstacles each would face, and you’ll see we’re right back to the drawing board.

    I’d put my money on the Shriner’s site coming forward first.

  3. Eric Gelber

    One of the recommendations, the elimination of R-1 zoning, could come from legislative action by the state.

    I’m unaware of any pending legislation that would eliminate R-1 zoning. SB 9 would provide a limited exception for duplexes if specified conditions are met. The City could explore other options that modify allowable uses in R-1 zones without eliminating them.

  4. Alan Miller

    The answer from a sizable portion of the community is … to some extent, we don’t.

    Yup.  And rents will continue to skyrocket.  Owners (i.e. JeRkeD voters):  who cares?

    As I expressed in a recent commentary on the UC Davis strategy, it seems more like punting the hot potato out of town, rather than attempting to forge a meaningful policy.

    We could forge a potato and watch it turn to carbon, but that wouldn’t be carbon neutral.

    But at the end of the day, where does the 800 pound gorilla sit in the theater?

    On the hot potato?

     

  5. Richard_McCann

    I think this article lays out well the issues that we face. We are left with a number of dilemmas and difficult choices that too many people are in denial about.

    One of the first steps is to end the myth that we can protect the town’s “charm” by freezing it in place. Much of the town’s charm has been it’s dynamism as a small town compared to the many other rural communities in the Sacramento Valley. That charm derives from being a college town at its core. Go to other small public-school college towns like Eugene, Bellingham and Ann Arbor (all that I’ve spend considerable time in) and you will see innovative businesses and activities that cater to their younger student population. Davis used to have that when we moved here a quarter century ago, but those businesses are disappearing. Even the student bars are closing now–we’ve lost 3 in the last 2 years. Without that dynamism our town’s fiscal and financial model becomes unsustainable.

    We don’t need population growth per se but we do need our amenities and housing to keep pace with UCD’s enrollment. As I showed a while ago, the ratio of enrollment to City population has stayed relatively constant around 50%, varying 5% either way over the last 50 years. That seems to be the sweet spot that we should be aiming for.

    1. Mark West

      “Without that dynamism our town’s fiscal and financial model becomes unsustainable.” [emphasis added]

      Stop pimping this fallacy. The City’s fiscal and financial models are not sustainable, and have not been for decades – hence our structural deficits and unfunded obligations that total in the tens to hundreds of millions depending on the time frame you want to discuss. We need fundamental change in our approach, not just nibbling around the edges.

  6. Keith Olsen

    Even the student bars are closing now–we’ve lost 3 in the last 2 years.

    Hmmm, don’t you think the pandemic might have had a hand in that?

    1. Richard_McCann

      Only one of them closed with any influence from the pandemic-KetMoRei. The Grad closed in 2019 and Bistro 33 had decided to not renew its lease prior to the pandemic. The pandemic just was the final straw. We’ve also lost a number of innovative restaurants oriented toward younger diners over the years as well. We can see that these types of establishments are thriving in Midtown Sac (and Eugene and Bellingham where I’ve visited recently), so it’s not about consumer cycles.

  7. Mark West

    “The council is correct — there is a fail safe for the community — the ability to put a project on the ballot for approval after the fact through a referendum.”

    This has always been the case, so if you think it is sufficient now, why do you believe we needed Measure J and its successors in the first place? Instead of advocating for yet another ‘band-aid’, why not advocate for a real treatment?

    The only honest way forward is to end our decades long experiment in direct democracy for land use decisions. The experiment worked, and as a direct result the quality of life in Davis has been in constant decline ever since the original vote.

  8. Ron Oertel

    The vast majority of the population of California lives within cities that aren’t expanding their boundaries, but are subject to the same type of RHNA requirements that Davis has.

    The population of California is no longer growing, but it is continuing to spread-out.  There seems to be a belief that requiring cities to densify will automatically prevent that, but it is not true.  For example:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/29/business/economy/new-home-building-suburbs.html
    https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2021/05/06/massive-project-will-connect-i-5-to-highway-50-near-el-dorado-hills/

    In Davis’ case, even David has acknowledged that student housing has been adequately addresses, via the approved megadorms and on-campus housing.  (Too bad that the megadorms don’t appear to fully-count toward RHNA requirements.  The city was warned about that possibility, but approved them anyway.)

    As far as additional “family” housing (in addition to the vast tracts of single-family housing that already exist), that’s what Spring Lake (and the other developments planned on the south end of Woodland are accommodating.  As prices rise everywhere (including in Woodland), young families will choose a location that is somewhat more affordable, and still offers a traditional single-family dwellings (with garages, yards, etc).

    This will include the technology park that failed in Davis, and moved to Woodland.  (Adding 1,600  housing units in the process.)

    In short, there is no housing crisis.  There are affordability challenges (for some), as prices have risen everywhere. And, there is a temporary shortage of “resale” homes on the market. Resale houses are a major part of “supply”. Also known as “pre-owned” houses, for those who don’t like the term “used”. 🙂

    If any of the supposedly “rich” Davis homeowners have a desire to feel “poor”, try pricing houses almost anywhere in the Bay Area.

     

     

     

    1. Don Shor

      The population of California did not grow during the pandemic. This was directly attributable to declining native birth rates, COVID deaths, and federal immigration policy changes.

      “As pandemic-related deaths decline and with changes in federal policy, California is expected to return to a slightly positive annual growth when calendar year 2021 population estimates are released in May 2022,”

      — California Department of Finance.

      No rational urban planner would consider the one-year pandemic-related change in population to be an ongoing trend.

      As far as additional “family” housing (in addition to the vast tracts of single-family housing that already exist), that’s what Spring Lake (and the other developments planned on the south end of Woodland are accommodating.

      Davis does not predicate its housing policy on what neighboring communities are doing, nor does SACOG.

      1. Ron Oertel

        The Census Bureau says that on July 1, California had 39.37 million people while the Department of Finance pegged it at 39.78 million, a difference of about 400,000. During the previous decade their annual estimates had differed by as much as a million and the 2010 census settled the issue, largely in favor of the Census Bureau.

        The 2020 census will settle it again, but no matter how you slice it, California’s 170 years of strong population growth have ended and we may have joined other states in the Northeast and upper Midwest whose populations have declined.

        https://calmatters.org/commentary/2021/01/californias-population-declining-census-congress-politics/

        In other words, even if COVID-19 had not reared its ugly head, California would still have lost population due to long-term demographic trends — declining births, increasing deaths due to the aging of the population, a much-slowed rate of foreign immigration and losses in state-to-state migrations.

        https://calmatters.org/commentary/2021/05/california-population-decline-drop/

        The most important take from PPIC’s reports is that the factors in the zero population growth Johnson and others advocated decades ago appear to be permanent. It’s entirely possible that California will never quite reach the 40 million population that once seemed inevitable, much less the 50-plus million that had been predicted.

        https://calmatters.org/commentary/2021/06/california-population-decline-zero-growth/

        Don:  “Davis does not predicate its housing policy on what neighboring communities are doing, nor does SACOG.”

        Woodland (along with every other city) has its own SACOG/RHNA numbers.  But, I suspect that they’re more than willing to go far beyond them.

        You’ve already acknowledged (many times) that Spring Lake (in particular) is accommodating much of the increased demand for single-family housing in the nearby region, with many new residents having direct connections to Davis.  One of the developers wrote an entire article for the Vanguard, noting this. Hell, Davis’ school system depends on it, since they’re not willing to right-size until it’s essentially forced-upon them.

        Regardless, here’s something to ponder:  What do you think the population of California would be, if only one house in the entire state was built?  (And, what do you think the price of that house would be?)  Pretty sure that the house would not be worth a great deal.  There’s a limit, which would be reached pretty quickly.

        Or, are you suggesting that the state is so desirable that folks would not then locate in other states?  (Of course, this assumes that many of the jobs follow them, which is exactly what’s occurring.  There is nothing “wrong” with this, and it’s a sign that the state is reaching maturity – despite all the kicking-and-screaming from development interests, who wish it wasn’t true.)

        1. Don Shor

          Or, are you suggesting that the state is so desirable that folks would not then locate in other states?

          You’ve already acknowledged (many times) that Spring Lake (in particular) is accommodating much of the increased demand for single-family housing in the nearby region

          I am saying that our region is expected to grow, not decline, over the next generation, and that for Davis to predicate our housing policies on what Woodland or any other city is doing would be poor urban planning.

        2. Ron Oertel

          You started off by challenging the lack of growth in the state, using numbers provided by the Department of Finance which conflict with Census Data (showing lack of growth).  As noted, the Census data has proven more accurate, over time.  The state has essentially stopped growting.

          As far as “ignoring” the developments in the southern part of Woodland, this is akin to burying one’s head in the sand.  You’ve already acknowledged the reality, yourself.  New buyers certainly aren’t ignoring it.  Nor do the giant advertising signs (which appear periodically at the corner of Covell and Road 102) ignore it.  Again, you’d have to be an ostrich, to ignore that.

          And Davis has no say whatsoever, regarding that reality. For that matter, the residents of Woodland have no say in it, either. Though I suspect that most are far more welcoming of development than those in Davis, on average.

          As far as accommodating “shifts” of population within California (e.g., from the higher-priced, more-dense Bay Area to the sprawling Sacramento region – including Davis), this is actually working against one of the primary justifications for the establishment of RHNA requirements (e.g., density, proximity to jobs).  It’s as if state politicians and SACOG have not caught on to the reality of workers spreading outward (due to permanent telecommuting and the desire for more space at home), and are doggedly-pursuing “density” regardless of reality. And they are doing nothing to prevent sprawl, either.

          RHNA requirements do not really correspond with “need”, anyway – as demonstrated by the inability to fully-count the megadorms, so far.  And for that matter, “who” should be responsible for that need (e.g., UCD vs. the city).

          Then there’s the matter of “affordable” housing (especially as related to RHNA requirements), that no one wants to build (unless it’s subsidized).  (Given the cost of building Affordable units, one might conclude that an audit is in order regarding how those funds are actually being used.  We already know that “personal profit” is a different issue than a a given organization’s non-profit status.)

          Of course, a given area will grow if housing is built, and if there’s market demand for it).  The absence of either one of these factors would ensure that it does not grow.  I’m reminded of the movie “Field of Dreams”, regarding that.

        3. Tim Keller

          I’m having a hard time tracking what Ron is advocating.  If spring lake okay?   If we are against peripheral development of davis because that would constitute sprawl, are we okay with the same sprawl happening in someone else’s town?   Doesn’t the fact that those ppl commute here, adding to vehicular traffic make that an even worse form of sprawl?

           

           

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            That tracks with my question from the column overall – if the answer is UC Davis needs to do more housing, what’s the difference between housing in town versus next to town? There seems to be a disconnect here.

        4. Matt Williams

          Tim and David, I personally see a huge … dare I say massive … difference between housing on the UCD campus and housing in Springlake.  Every single person who lives in student housing on the campus goes to their daily “job” on that same campus … almost all by foot or bicycle or Unitrans.  To the best of my knowledge there is not a single employee working in Springlake.  The “jobs” to housing ratio for student housing on the campus is 1:1.  The “jobs” to housing ratio for housing in Springlake is not calculatable because the jobs portion of the ratio is zero.

        5. Ron Oertel

          To the best of my knowledge there is not a single employee working in Springlake.

          There are employees of UCD (and within the city of Davis itself) who live in Spring Lake.  Quite a few of them, I believe.

          For the most part, they are probably not students – which seems to be what you’re referring to.

          There are commuter bus lines from Woodland, Sacramento, and Winters to Davis/UCD.

          https://www.yolobus.com/routes/

          Look for this to expand, when the “technology park” is built. The one that failed in Davis, and added 1,600 housing units during its “move” to Woodland.

          Of all the surrounding communities, the southern part of Woodland is probably the primary source of new, nearby housing – especially for families. Hence, it’s “nickname” – “North, North Davis”.

        6. Matt Williams

          Ron, take a step back and reread what I said.  “To the best of my knowledge there is not a single employee working in Springlake.”

          Working in Springlake …

          Working in Springlake …

          Working in Springlake.

          CORRECTION: Bill Marshall has pointed out to me that there may be a handful of self-employed (accountants, etc.) folks who work from their Springlake homes, and as I was driving down I-80 from Kaiser Roseville it occurred to me that the new elementary school built in Springlake has the source of jobs.

        7. Ron Oertel

          Thanks for the clarification.  I was confused by your comparison of those living and “working” on campus.  (And one can remove the quote if they’re actually working there, and not just students.)

          However, some new employees connected to the new school might (also) be living in Spring Lake.  But, that’s a pretty small number.  And, I doubt that any of the development’s construction workers live there, to any significant degree. In any case, there is still a massive amount of ongoing construction occurring – more than enough to warm the c-ckles of even the most strident development activists.

          As a side note, I’ve heard that some parents want to include another school site at the planned technology park, but that the district is (so far) resistant to that suggestion.  Perhaps because they’ve seen what happened in Davis, regarding “over-building” of schools.  (Or, perhaps because the Davis school district is already siphoning-off a significant number of Spring Lake students.  Or, perhaps they just don’t have the money to do so.)  In any case, I’m just speculating as to the reason for the resistance.   “Perhaps” being the key phrase.  🙂

  9. Eric Gelber

    Of note: The June 28th State budget package includes the following:

    … creates a new $2 billion fund that will support campus capacity expansion projects at UC and CSU and student housing projects at community colleges, UC and CSU. Details of this program will be added in a subsequent budget action.

  10. Ron Oertel

    I just happened across this:

    Orange County Cities Sue State over Erroneous Homebuilding Goals

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/orange-county-cities-sue-state-over-erroneous-homebuilding-goals/ar-AALyzEq

    I suspect that we’ll see more of this type of thing, in years to come.  Perhaps ultimately resulting in the removal/rejection of the state politicians behind this, over time. Especially those on key committees – including Mr. Wiener.

    In any case, let’s wish them luck.  Some of these places are pretty wealthy and influential. Let’s see if the state has the long-term resources and stomach to engage in these extended fights against its own citizens and local governments. And let’s not forget that these jurisdictions elect their own assembly members and state senators, as well.

    Perhaps combined with stronger rent control (sometime after the state itself pays outstanding rent owed, as a result of the pandemic and eviction moratorium).

  11. Tim Keller

    I totally agree that Davis needs a “Plan that isn’t just No”. But the discussion of measure J really does have me thinking about that plan we need to develop and what it would mean.

    I think that “NO” is a much easier position for individual voters to take when we are deciding growth project-by-project.   It is easier for the opponents of the development to claim that they aren’t against all growth… just this one we are talking about..  wink wink…

    There is a time and a purpose for this kind of direct democracy, which I will not deny.   It prevents corruption of the planning process and the capture of those functions by development interests – and that’s a good thing.   But the way it has been implemented in THIS particular town, it is a tool designed specifically to obstruct growth, and it has been remarkably effective.

    That obstructive power is maximized when it is applied with as granularity as possible.   If Mitch McConnell lived in Davis, he would be calling for a seperate vote for every individual home that was proposed to be built

    So the idea of a bigger-picture approval process really does appeal to me.   I really do want this town to have a robust and fully featured general plan that is actionable.   Let’s take a good amount of time, really do a good job of putting together a comprehensive plan for growth – one that incorporates a balanced addressing of needs for all types of housing and commercial space, and ties it all together with a robust transit plan, and let’s put THAT to a vote for approval.

    If we don’t do it that way, the. The general plan will be effectively subject to a line-item veto, and any of the planning we have done for things like transit, or parks, or infrastructure upgrades will be undone.   Which honestly, is pretty much the situation we are in now…

  12. Ron Oertel

    Tim:  “I’m having a hard time tracking what Ron is advocating.  If spring lake okay?”

    I thought it was pretty clear:  It’s irrelevant regarding what people in Davis think of Spring Lake.  For that matter, it’s also irrelevant regarding what individuals in Woodland think of it, in the absence of a Measure D-type measure.

    Woodland is the type of community that will approve whatever the market will bear, and one in which developers have significant political influence.  In other words, it’s pretty much like every other valley community.  And that includes creating demand for housing, in the form of an “innovation center” which moved there after failing in Davis – adding 1,600 housing units in the process.

    David:  “That tracks with my question from the column overall – if the answer is UC Davis needs to do more housing, what’s the difference between housing in town versus next to town? There seems to be a disconnect here.”

    I don’t know why you’re bringing this up, since the reasons have been posted multiple times (e.g., fiscal costs to the city, opportunity cost, greater environmental impacts, etc.).  The fact that SACOG does not consider student housing to be a “city need” is also quite clear, so far.

    Regardless, even you have acknowledged that there are more-than-sufficient plans to house additional students in the city and on campus. Tens of thousands of beds in the pipeline, I understand.

  13. Edgar Wai

    Unless a city was founded with a mission statement to house people (who are not already residents), a city has no obligation to house any more people.

    State laws that require affordable housing are authoritarian. The anti authoritarian way of housing people is to found new cities (Davis*) with a clear mission statement.

    Once Davis* is found, if Davis indeed had a crisis, Davis* will out compete Davis and people from Davis will move to Davis*. Davis will be left abandoned, then absorbed by Davis*.

    So for people worrying about Davis, the surrounding cities that allow growth are the current Davis*. If Davis is unsustainable, let it naturally collapse and it can be absorbed naturally.

  14. Craig Ross

    Saw this in the Economist today and thought about this crew

    “TRULY EXTRAORDINARY.” That was how Craig Lazzara of S&P Global, the firm that compiles a widely watched measure of house prices in America, described its reading for the month of April, released on June 29th. House prices rose by 14.6% year over year, the fastest rate in the 34-year history of the index

    1. Ron Oertel

      You say that as if Davis has some control over that, beyond the agreement with UCD.

      Davis has housing, by the way. Quite a bit of it – with more to come.

  15. Keith Y Echols

    And around and around we go with this debate….the alarm that keeps sounding about a “housing crisis”.  Is it a “crisis” to not be able to live in the great and glorious city of Davis????

    Leaving aside the viability of growing another city next to Davis – what advantage does such an arrangement really get us?  If anything, it puts a large population not only off our tax rolls and away from the polling place but also outside of our control in terms of growth and other impacts.

    I really want to check with whomever David went to  Urban Planning School with or which industry leaders he learned from….because this statement makes no sense.  He keeps trumpeting the same nonsense.

    I’ve said time and time again here.  RESIDENTIAL HOUSING IS A COST TO THE COMMUNITY.   Gosh how bad would it that there springs up a large residential community next to but outside of the city of Davis that primarily comes into Davis to spend it’s money?

    -increased uses of public facilities: swimming pools (the pools got crowded before the pandemic), libraries, public parks, tennis courts, parking spaces….

    -increased use of public services: rec activities like summer camps (try signing your kids up for summer camps), community theater…community music…etc…then there’s fire and police (you can’t reform the police while stretching them thinner).

    -increased use of infrastructure:  I dunno something like water???  sewer capacity….and of course roads.  Hmm…has city traffic been getting worse over the past 20 years? (and that’s with a restrictive growth policy).

    The little bit of parcel tax revenue the city gets from new housing doesn’t justify the increased use of infrastructure and resources.  Residential housing should only be for the support of the local economy…for economic growth.  That means to directly support new local businesses and local jobs.

    Just some basic calculations here:  If there were 500 new single family homes approved at about $800,000 per home.  That’s about $4M in total property tax revenue (not including all the flat tax fees in addition to the base 1% tax).  So that’s about $720K that goes to the city (about 18% of county property tax).  So if there’s about 3 people per home that’s about $480 per person that the city gets in revenue.   Does $480 justify all the infrastructure and services costs that people incur living in a community?  Some one else can do the property tax calculations for higher density homes…but I’m guessing it comes out to be even less city tax revenue per person.

    In the case of students are we supposed to make that up by sales tax on their hamburgers, burritos, coffee and beer (actually there’s a serious lack of drinking establishments for a college town)?  You don’t even make up for it with sales to families that live and spend locally.  The city generates revenue through local businesses and sales tax (especially from those OUTSIDE of Davis).

    1. Ron Oertel

      I really want to check with whomever David went to  Urban Planning School with or which industry leaders he learned from….because this statement makes no sense.  He keeps trumpeting the same nonsense.

      This is the Vanguard’s formula, day-in, and day-out.  It doesn’t matter how little sense it makes, or whether or not it’s disputed.

      It’s apparently based upon the “repeat it enough times, and folks will believe it” strategy. It’s not news or information per se, it’s a continuing campaign.

      I hope that you don’t tire of it, as that seems to be what’s counted on. But it’s been going on for years, and will likely go on for years to come – as long as there’s developments to sell folks on. Or, at least to try to convince the powers that be.

      1. Edgar Wai

        Cities exist because people want/need representation and local governance.

        Whether those local people want to house more people should be up to them.

        1. Matt Williams

          Edgar, you can have all those things without being a city.  For example the Yocha Dehe tribe has representation and local governance.

          With that said, it can be argued that Davis is not a city (an “urb”), but rather a suburb.  As Davis has allowed the complement of local jobs and retail economy to wither away, it has arguably become lass and less of a city over time.

          Another piece of evidence that Davis is arguably not a city is that it has no Economic Development Plan. It appears to be that neither City Council nor city staff leadership see any value in having an Economic Development plan. Which, of course, makes it easy to understand why the complement of local jobs and the retail economy have both withered away.

      2. Matt Williams

        In a word Don … jobs.

        In order to understand why cities exist we must first consider a world without cities. For there to be a place with no cities there must be equal productivity, constant returns to scale in production, and constant returns to scale in exchange. Equal productivity allows each person to be responsible for his or her self and there is no specialization in any one area thus there is no need for a city to develop. 

        The next thing necessary for there to be no cities is for there to be constant returns to scale in production. So if production is subject to economies of scale, then households will be more likely to involve a trading firm when trading their products. This is because trading firms will have the ability to effectively trade with lower transaction costs than if the household were to do it themselves.

        The last necessary condition for cities to not exist is constant returns to scale in exchange. If there are scale economies in exchange then two households will link together and exchange the products in which they have a comparative advantage.

        Once all three of these conditions are changed, a city will emerge.

      3. Keith Y Echols

        You know I answered this a couple weeks ago the last time you asked this.  The answer hasn’t changed….as it hasn’t changed for thousands of years.

        Cities exist for the same reason humans have been gathering together into groups; to pull resources together to support each other.  Families grew into clans and clans crew into tribes and tribes grew into larger social communities and eventually cities.  Each time these groups grew (let in new people) it was because it benefited the existing group.   Essentially what got people to gather in one place was agriculture.  People farmed and domesticated animals and learned to pull their resources together.

        The earliest known city is one in modern day Turkey that I can’t spell or pronounce Catahouk or something like that from the Neolithic period.  It’s about 7-9 thousand years old.  There’s always been a debate about weather religion or civilization came first.  In the same region as Catahouk is the site Gobekli Tepe which is considered the world’s first temple (maybe animal gods as there are animal head stone carvings there).  It’s about 2000 years older than Catahouk but it shows that people were gathering together for the sake of ritual and religion before any known cities existed.  Gobekli Tepe shows that people gathered and organized together.  There’s also another nearby settlement that sprouted up not too far the ancient temple..Navali Carey..or something like that.  Was Navali Cari a city?  It had housing structures and temples.  It’s about a 1000 years younger than Gobekli Tepe….but you can kind of see the evolution of temple to settlement happening.   Later you have the more well known Bronze Age civilizations and their cities like Ur, Uruk, Jerhico, Babylon in Mesopotamia, the Egyptian cities, Greek (Minoan & Mycenean).  Then there’s the whole European Marriage pattern thing in which part of it states that Europe (and European cities) developed out of the middle ages because the Church put a stop the practice of marrying kin….cousins, 2nd cousins…etc…  Even in the middle ages people tended to still gather and stick together.  Keeping marriage in the family was more the norm as clans of family still stuck together in towns all over Europe.  But the church came down hard against marriage with family members.  So people started more and more to look out beyond their family for marriage…which often required them to venture outside of the family geographically speaking.  So people searching for mates in new areas (not just hanging primarily with family) became comfortable near strangers and forming new communities not based on extended family or can but built around what people did for work. …..anyway….I’m rambling.

        Bottom line cities exist to support the existing residence of the city.  Cities grow when it benefits the existing residents.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          “Bottom line cities exist to support the existing residence of the city. Cities grow when it benefits the existing residents.”

          This comment at face value is either incredibly naive or irreducibly broad. Cities grow when the powers that be are advantaged by growing. Tacitly you could argue that’s true if you reduce residents to a group of monied interests, but that’s not how you comment reads. In most cities, the residents don’t have much say about growth. Growth is a function of market forces and the whims of the ruling majority – however representative they might be.

        2. Keith Y Echols

          David, I was specifically asked: “Remind us again why cities exist.”.  

           In most cities, the residents don’t have much say about growth.

          Now that’s just straight up ignorance.  Remind me again which of us has actually significantly developed property?  Which one of us has raked across the coals at what was supposed to be a friendly meet and greet with the neighbors over a proposed development (180 homes).   Do most cities have an idiotic direct voting control over the annexation process?  No.  But in most cities if they don’t want development, there are numerous hurdles they can put before you (including a near impossible counting desert tortoises or kit foxes on a property).

          Growth is a function of market forces and the whims of the ruling majority – however representative they might be.

          uh…to which I answer: “This comment at face value is either incredibly naïve or irreducibly broad. “

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “But in most cities if they don’t want development, there are numerous hurdles they can put before you (including a near impossible counting desert tortoises or kit foxes on a property).”

            Perhaps. But I would argue that is driven by political power rather than “what the residents want”

        3. Keith Y Echols

           But I would argue that is driven by political power rather than “what the residents want”

          It’s both.   One of my partners used to get his haircut at the city manager’s barber shop to discuss business in a town where we had a huge proposed development.

          In theory the elected officials represent the residents.  Does it always perfectly work out that way?  No.  But as one who has been verbally burned at the stake, I know residents (and this was not in some progressive liberal area of protestors, it was a conservative valley city) can make their feelings known and heard with their city officials on notice.

          But the point of my original post was that development and growth is planned for the benefit of the existing residents.    This is why I’ve said before that when a development is proposed, that it should have a tangible benefit for the existing community….I dunno a special assessment district used to fund social services to support and aid the police….a new community pool….a homeless shelter.  Or show how a development can directly effect the ability to grow the local economy….such as a survey of prospective businesses by one of those proposed economic development commissions that you suggested that shows that specific businesses believe that housing needs to be approved in order for them to move to or expand in Davis.  Much of this an academic discussion because of Measure J/R/D.   But I believe if you show the NIMBY’s a tangible benefit for them you’re more likely to get some of them on board with new development.

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