Council Approves the Housing Element – Further Discussions on Measure J and UC Davis To Follow

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By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – After much consideration and discussion, the Davis City Council on Tuesday passed the Housing Element on a 5-0 vote.

Among the add-ons was support of a policy where the city would identify and implement more robust sources of funding for affordable housing as well as the inclusion of the Social Services Commission in the affordable housing ordinance process.

In a separate vote the council agreed to explore putting a package of housing initiatives on the ballot for voter approval, which would include a property transfer tax and exploration of amending the language already in Measure J/R/D that exempts from its public vote requirements projects that provide affordable housing or facilities needed for City services.  Both would require a subsequent vote of the people.

The council also decided to explore expanding the legal authority under Article 34 of the State Constitution for the City to develop public housing that would otherwise expire in 2025.

The council also supported an item to work with UC Davis to maximize housing on campus, including affordable housing and producing more high density housing.

While there was not a lot of public comment, some of the comments sought to avoid any changes to Measure J.

The council ultimately was willing to look further at the proposal to modify Measure J for the purposes of affordable housing.  However, as 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, but we 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.”

He said, “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.”  He said, “I hope you feel the same way about any policy guiding the governance of our city. We can do better, and help address our affordable housing needs, which was supposedly part of what this measure was going to do.”

Carson noted that UC Davis has “been an extraordinarily good partner.”

“They have delivered what they said they would do in the MOU,” he said.  “Sometimes I feel like we’re living in a parallel universe here where folks are talking about the 29% promise that the campus made for housing years ago.”

The reality he said is that UCD just brought online 3200 units, and the chancellor indicated those units are going to be completely filled.

“They are abiding by what we agreed, worked out with them in the MOU,” he said.  “Some of the folks speaking here tonight had predicted we would get no housing out of that MOU. They were wrong.”

Councilmember Will Arnold expressed concern “that these larger units are not being adequately counted — I think that does give me pause.”

He said, “I’m not interested in more of these projects that have these big four and five-bedroom units.”  He urged that the city be cautious about approving these types of developments going forward until the legal issue and legislative actions are clarified.

Councilmember Arnold reiterated a key point and addressed a key concern raised during public comment, “We can’t amend Measure J tonight.  Even if we wanted to — which we don’t … or at least I don’t — but, technically we can’t even begin the process of exploring amending any ordinance in town.”

He noted, “This doesn’t kick off a process, this doesn’t move us toward an end goal. What we could possibly do tonight is propose a policy that would include exploring an amendment to an existing city ordinance that’s not specific to Measure J.”

“The idea that this is somehow using the side door to thwart the will of the voters — I don’t think that stands the test of whether that’s true.”

“Because, if we ever wanted to amend — for any reason — Measure J, it would need to go in front of the voters, period,” he added. “And that whole process would have to take place with public outreach, with the council moving it forward, and all the commission input that would go into that.  And of course, the voters having the final word.”

Dan Carson jumped in and added, “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.”

Councilmember Josh Chapman agreed with Dan Carson, “I do not want to go there … around Measure J/R/D with zoning inside the curve and identifying those properties.”  He then said, “But I do think it’s been laid out here this evening, and I’m supportive of exploring what that looks like.”

He added, “This document — it is just tweaking around the edges.”

Vice Mayor Lucas Frerichs pointed out that this is his third RHNA cycle and probably the most challenging, “Because we’ve had a continued build-out around town in the intervening years, we have been building, a decent amount of housing in the past, we’ll say 10-plus years, and a lot of infill, a lot of vacant lots, that once existed – either have been constructed upon or are in the process of being instructed upon currently.”

“That leaves us with not a lot of inventory,” he said.

However, he said, “One thing though that still remains the same — we’re still at a crisis point and we need additional housing.”

Frerichs, while appreciative of UC Davis’ efforts over the past couple of years to build housing, went on to say, “But I also certainly think that we can encourage them to do more,” he said.  “I don’t see them as being mutually exclusive.”

He used Orchard Park as a perfect example.

“That’s a perfect location for higher density housing,” he said.  “There are no near neighbors and it’s directly on campus, it’s directly on campus.”

“It is frankly, pretty upsetting to me to see them continue to build three and four-story buildings. I’ll just say it, I mean, especially on the core parts of the campus,” he said noting other UC Campuses are building eight-story buildings directly on campus.  “(UC Davis) could absolutely be building denser housing on campus.”

Frerichs indicated that SB 9 which he expects to be signed by the governor, “is another tool in the toolkit for housing construction.”

“I’m not sure how well utilized it’s going to be in Davis,” he said.  “But I think it could be a positive tool for the city and for the creation of additional housing on some of our residential lots.”

He also expressed frustration at the RHNA allocations and the fact that Yolo County received a total of 57 units, but that UC Davis was building in West VIllage which is in the county and it is was not getting counted at all.

“All those units, all those hundreds of beds… they are not accounted for in the methodology with regard to currently with Yolo County,” Frerichs said.  “It’s as if those units basically don’t exist.”

Yet he pointed out there are real impacts from those units.

Mayor Gloria Partida added that it is really baffling to understand why Orchard Park is not taller.

She said, “I think what we’ve learned through the MOU and the Healthy Davis Together program is that it is so important to keep those lines of communication open with UC Davis.”

“I think we get more accomplished when we’re actually in collaboration and having open conversations,” she added.

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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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17 thoughts on “Council Approves the Housing Element – Further Discussions on Measure J and UC Davis To Follow”

  1. Don Shor

    the council agreed to explore putting a package of housing initiatives on the ballot which would include a property transfer tax,

    So they plan to push for Davis to become a charter city?

        1. Don Shor

          It should be separate, and should be fully discussed and voted on directly and separately from this specific tax proposal. Charter city status has broad implications that should not be bundled with other ancillary proposals.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            It’s going to have to be. They have to get it passed. The last time a charter was put on the ballot it went down in flames.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            It was not a good proposal. My understanding if it comes back, it will be specific to the transfer tax and would require a new vote to amend.

          2. Don Shor

            My understanding if it comes back, it will be specific to the transfer tax and would require a new vote to amend.

            Charter vs General Law is binary. You are or you aren’t. New votes are always required and become endless. I strongly suggest you seek alternative information about this topic since it sounds like you’re being advised by people who are in favor of charter status.
            The staff needs to understand that there will be opposition to this proposal.

        2. Keith Olsen

          My understanding if it comes back, it will be specific to the transfer tax and would require a new vote to amend.

          This boggles the mind.  So Davis could be a charter city specific only to a transfer tax but otherwise would still be a general law city?  Is that the plan?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            While I look forward to watching football this weekend, I don’t think the analogy applies, everything will have to get voter approved – the charter and transfer tax, probably with two votes.

        3. Alan Miller

          My understanding if it comes back, it will be specific to the transfer tax and would require a new vote to amend.

          Should also include ranked choice voting.  Last time I brought this up at a Council Meeting, I was told the City would have to become a charter city.  So let’s make it specific to the transfer tax and choice voting — and anything else people want it for 😐

    1. Bill Marshall

      Two points:

      I could agree to explore whether I could quell all wildfires in 48 hours.  Words, no substance… questionable likelihood of success, except “exploring”…

      Not sure they were “planning” anything… except perhaps to get the element filed with the State, and moving past the agenda item.  Don’t recall them asking City Atty whether an ad valorem tax could be instituted by a ‘General Law’ City.  I have my opinion, but I’m a not an attorney.

      Reminds me of a child asking for a hot new bicycle, bells and everything… parents know that’s not a happening thing, but tell the child, “let us think about that, consider it”, or, “we’ll see”… child might just ‘buy that’, and stop bugging the parents.  Immediate ‘problem’ “solved”.  End result?

      Analogy may be a bit stretched, but not by an order of magnitude.

      Clue:  did CC stipulate a time-line for ‘exploration’?  A month?  Year?  Decade?

      Words… no substance.

  2. Ron Glick

    “In a separate vote the council agreed to explore putting a package of housing initiatives on the ballot which would include a property transfer tax, explore amending the language already in Measure J/R/D that exempts from its public vote requirements projects that provide affordable housing or facilities needed for City services.”

    Better late than never.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Better late than never.

      Key words… “explore” (no action committed to, except ‘exploration’)

      ‘late’ and ‘never’… ‘late’ is in the eye of the beholder… ‘never’ is oft used in a similar manner.  Is 40 years “never”?  For me, statistically, they are one and the same.

      Saying that, I actually have no problem with a property transfer tax, in concept… it already exists @ the County level… it is one time, and de minimus. Spending that revenue is an issue.

  3. Bill Marshall

    Charter city status has broad implications that should not be bundled with other ancillary proposals.

    Truth be told, adopting a charter to become a “charter city”, by definition, can include all the other ancillary proposals.

    Including provisions for PTT, or not… ‘rank-voting’, or not… City income tax, or not (am surprised folk haven’t picked up on THAT possibility!)

    Charter City status does NOT mean “anything goes”… The charter itself can be self-limiting… and any changes would require another ‘vote of the people’.  The key is in the drafting.  There is nothing inherently good nor bad in Charter City vs General Law City… unless the folk who draft the charter are stupid, or conniving…

    And yes, a Charter City can enact local income taxes!

    Any new taxes, thanks to the previous Congresses, and Admin., will likely not even be deductible (Fed taxes) for those in the middle class, even @ marginal tax rates, in CA… far less, a tax credit

    Many charter cities have neither rank voting, PTT, nor local income taxes… I know of none that have more than one of those (there may be some, but suspect it would be few).  Charter status gives choices… but we can choose what choices… ‘charter status’ is a tool.  One can choose how to use that tool… tools can be used to create works of art, or used to maim/destroy.  It is a tool… nothing more, nothing less… those adamantly opposed are foolish, as are those adamantly in favor.

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