Commentary: Would the Council and Voters in Davis Support Broader Affordable Measure J Exemptions?

Share:

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Yesterday San Francisco Mayor London Breed along with Supervisor Ahsha Safaí announced the introduction of the “Affordable Homes Now” ballot measure for the June 2022 ballot that would streamline the production of affordable housing in order to address the housing crisis.

It’s a measure in San Francisco that attempts to “streamlined approval for any new housing project that is at least 25 units and either 100% permanently affordable housing or provides 15% more permanently affordable on-site affordable units than otherwise required by the City.”

Their hope is that by doing this, “projects could be built months, and sometimes years, faster than the current process allows for. This would reduce the cost required to build these projects, which means more projects would be economically feasible to build and more affordable housing could be built with limited City funds.”

“San Francisco should be a leader on creating new homes in California, and this measure will help us fundamentally change how we approve housing in this City,” said Mayor Breed. “I’ve seen too many people I grew up with move away from this City or be pushed out because they can’t afford to live here, and I’m seeing that same thing happen with the next generation of young people. We need to get rid of the bureaucracy and barriers to new housing at all income levels so San Francisco can be a city for working people, for families, and for seniors who want to remain in their communities.”

Looking at this proposal got me thinking this should be along the lines of what Davis looks at if it wants to broaden the Affordable Housing exemption to Measure J.

Right now there is a limited exemption to Measure J for projects that are affordable housing.  But that exemption is limited.

“The exemptions written by the original drafters of J/R/D were fine in concept, but have so many strings attached that they are unusable–and have never been used. We could fix this by removing the problematic language, said Dan Carson in June.

“For example, in order to use the affordable housing exception, an applicant would have to prove that no other site anywhere in the city is available for affordable housing – a daunting if not impossible barrier,” he pointed out.

The current city affordable ordinance – which is an interim ordinance – calls for 15 percent affordability to most projects.  Adopted back in 2018, after AB 1505 reestablished local authority following the Palmer Decision, the ordinance “temporarily establishes an alternative affordable housing target of 15% by the bed, bedroom, or unit with a 5% extremely-low, 5% very-low, and 5% low-income mix.”

But during times of redevelopment, the requirement was 35 percent.  The city had Plescia and BAE both review the ordinance and downwardly revised the requirements.

However, just as adding certainty and streamlining the process could speed up the approval, it also reduces costs and uncertainty.  The city could require a much higher percentage of affordable housing if it waived Measure J requirements for projects that were exceeding affordability requirements by sufficient amounts.

Could you get up to 50 percent affordable?  The developer most likely would have to have a land dedication site and get non-profits involved, but it seems like with proper incentives that could occur.

Perhaps the city could have Plescia and BAE determine what percentages are realistic.

The next question is whether the voters would be willing to support it.  Hard to know.  Every time we hear of a possible change to Measure J, the same 10 to 15 people call up and tell the council that the voters have consistently supported the renewal of Measure J as is, with no changes or only minor technical changes.

Clearly the current exemptions are not sufficient to get developers to come forward with an all-affordable project, but could the city a much heavier affordable housing project in exchange for concessions to build the project at 50 percent affordable?  Hard to know.

We know how some members of the public have responded to modest proposals such as a pre-approval.

Eileen Samitz called this an “end-run” around Measure J.  She wrote, “So, Davis citizens need to understand that if they support an initiative like this they would have no say on what got built on these properties. It would basically be a ‘blank check’ for the developers of those properties to build anything without the public having any meaningful input.”

Carson and others on the council opposed the pre-approval idea, but Carson was open to other modifications of Measure J for the purpose of affordable housing development.

“The exemptions written by the original drafters of J/R/D were fine in concept, but have so many strings attached that they are unusable–and have never been used. We could fix this by removing the problematic language,” he said in June.

Would he go further than that and allow for say a 50 percent affordable project to avoid a Measure J vote?  That remains to be seen.  But the council should be looking at creative ways to incentivize larger affordable projects and removing voting requirements could be just the carrot to get some to come forward.

Share:

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.

Related posts

7 thoughts on “Commentary: Would the Council and Voters in Davis Support Broader Affordable Measure J Exemptions?”

  1. Keith Olson

    The next question is whether the voters would be willing to support it.  Hard to know.  Every time we hear of a possible change to Measure J, the same 10 to 15 people call up and tell the council that the voters have consistently supported the renewal of Measure J as is, with no changes or only minor technical changes.

    As with just about any issue, be it Measure J or for example some Defund the Police issue.

    But in the case of Measure J the 10 to 15 people that call up are supported by the fact that Measure J/R/D passed with 86% of the voters.

    In fact David wrote:

    The results of Measure D should be a cautionary tale for anyone viewing reform of Measure J as a strategy.  We figured at least 70 percent would vote for Measure D, and the actual number was over 85 percent.

    https://www.davisvanguard.org/2020/11/commentary-disc-what-went-wrong-pretty-much-everything/

     

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      A comment directed largely at Ron Glick, I mainly meant ending Measure J as a strategy. As we know, we haven’t tried to amend Measure J so it’s hard to know where people stand on that issue.

      1. Keith Olson

        You actually wrote “The results of Measure D should be a cautionary tale for anyone viewing reform of Measure J as a strategy.”

        I think most people would agree that reform and amend are basically the same thing.

         

        1. Ron Glick

          Reform and amend can be seen as the same thing if you want to dwell on semantics but this fix is trying to make something already included, an affordable exemption, workable.

          This will be a telling debate. We will see if the Measure J crowd is serious or obstructionist.

           

        2. Richard_McCann

          No, they’re not the same. Reform means to make a fundamental change of direction, while amend more specifically is about making corrections without changing intent.

  2. Ron Oertel

    Yesterday San Francisco Mayor London Breed along with Supervisor Ahsha Safaí announced the introduction of the “Affordable Homes Now” ballot measure for the June 2022 ballot that would streamline the production of affordable housing in order to address the housing crisis.

    San Francisco has NO peripheral land, and is a much-more expensive place to build infill.  And yet, the mayor there believes that Affordable infill is nevertheless possible, via her proposal.

    And yet somehow, David refers to San Francisco’s proposal as a way to attack Measure J (in regard to peripheral land).

    If anything, San Francisco’s proposal should be viewed as a way to build more Affordable infill, not peripheral proposals.

  3. Keith Y Echols

    I’ve said before that wanting exceptions to Measure J is like going on a diet and then wanting cheat days.

    This is the problem with putting too much DIRECT power in the hands of the unwashed masses.   Agreed upon exceptions to Measure J would probably be something like:

    1. 400 units/acre

    2.  4 lanes added to Mace

    3.  A clover leaf added to the Mace and 80 on/off ramp.

    4. Each project will require 1000 acre rain forest terrarium to be built that will produce oxygen that can be pumped back into the community.

    5.  A bicycle tunnel network system that goes to downtown and UCD.

    6.  Commuter/HOV bicycle lanes, prioritizing tandem bikes and trailers.

    7. A natural gas powered light rail to go from Mace to downtown to UCD (don’t ask my why the bikes got tunnels and not the light rail).

    8.  Only solar powered cars allowed in newly built communities (kinda iffy using the thing on cloudy days).

    9.  No new Police Officers added because of any growth (which because Mace has all these nice new lanes and on/off ramp…will make it a desirable target for out of town bad guys…which will result in communities hiring rent-a-cop poorly trained and armed private security…..also, bad guys looking to get away quickly are successful because at night the solar power cars can’t keep up).

    If all these items are met….then the project will meet the requirements of the voters to get a 6 acre projects preapproved through Measure J.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for