By David M. Greenwald
I voted for Measure D when it came on the ballot in November last year. I have taken a lot of flak from both sides but I think it’s the right policy for Davis. But it is not scripture. In fact, as I have pointed out, it has never been legally challenged and we actually have not seen a project go from beginning to completion under the process yet.
But, while I supported Measure D, that does not mean I support the notion that it should remain as written in 2000 in perpetuity. Even the 200-year-old-plus Constitution remains a living document with amendments and courts updating interpretations into the modern era.
On Tuesday, with potential consideration for changes looming, predictable voices spoke out against such consideration.
Nancy Price was one of several commenters who made a similar point on Tuesday.
“I strongly oppose language that would alter or amend a Citizen-based Measure J/R/D ordinance that was overwhelmingly supported in the recent November 2020 election by over 82 percent (of) voters,” Price said.
She added, “I think it would be explicitly flying in the face of the Davis vote, should the Measure J/R/D be included in the housing element—it should be separately discussed and debated by the community.”
One of those proposed changes has been largely taken off the table by council—even though it actually does not require any change to the language of Measure J. That is the notion of pre-approving land that could be set aside in a vote, which would allow for the city to simply consider a land use proposal as it would an infill project.
Councilmember Dan Carson explained, “We’re not accepting, at least I’m not recommending, one of the proposals that come forth to pre-zone some properties in the city at the end of town.”
Carson explains, “To me, it creates a confusing problem of EIRs and potentially multiple votes. I just don’t think it works.”
I don’t agree with the council on the issue of pre-approvals, which would not require changes to the Measure J language. Carson believes it could set up two votes—if it does, so be it. But I don’t think that will be the norm. There have been plenty of infill projects that have earned the ire of neighbors in the last 20 years—none of them have gone to the ballot.
The other proposal gained more traction and will actually gain consideration—it would change the requirements for affordable housing exceptions to Measure J which, right now, Dan Carson correctly identified as unworkable.
He said, “(W)e are in fact proposing, as was described, the targeted change. There was already an exception written into measure J/R/D for affordable housing, but the language in that exception makes it unworkable, it hasn’t been used in 20 years.”
But on Tuesday, once again, about four or five citizens spoke up during public comment pointing out that Measure D passed with 83 percent of the vote and the voters didn’t want it touched.
As someone who was part of that 83 percent, I think people have to be a little careful not to fall into the trap that everyone who voted for it was expressing the belief that there should be no changes.
That is certainly not true of me. I preferred Measure D in the current form to repealing it. But I would, in fact, like to see changes explored.
What the protesters seem to forget is the voters will have to make the change, it cannot happen through the backdoor or through council action alone.
“We need to make this a useful and workable tool because of the challenges that we have.” Carson said that he supported Measure J, he voted for it, “but it isn’t perfect and it can be improved.”
I think Carson is right on here.
I really don’t understand the concern about consideration of changes to a 20-year-old policy.
Indeed, Carson hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that the whole idea behind Measure J is that the voters should be trusted to be able to make informed land-use decisions and be the final decider on the rezoning of peripheral lands.
Dan Carson said, “I do think it’s reasonable that if you support Measure J/R/D and you trust the voters’ judgment, you ought to trust their judgment about amending J/R/D too.”
This remains a source of frustration for me. Last year, I was urging strongly that the council have a community-wide conversation on Measure J about a year prior to the renewal, and before COVID made those things more challenging.
But the council literally waited until the last moment, had limited conversation, no outreach, and put the same matter up on the ballot again. Now here we are, and we are less than a year into the 10-year renewal and we are already talking about changes. Seems like we could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble by doing it back in 2020.
Second, my frustration is that any talk about revisions gets hammered by a small section of the public who seem to view the original language of Measure J as immutable. It seems every time we have even approached the issue of considering a modification, we get the same people speaking out—no, keep it as is.
We can’t even have the discussion.
Finally, I point out again, please, stop using the line about 83 percent supporting Measure J as is. You don’t know that. I for one supported Measure D but would like to see revisions or at least consider them.
It appears several on the council feel the same way. You want to trust the voters on land-use decisions—you need to trust them on the law governing land-use decisions.