by Matt Williams
On Friday the Vanguard ran an article that began by making the following statement, “Change is inevitable and it happens whether you allow it to happen or not.” The article then laid out a set of reasons Davis needs to change. Then yesterday the Vanguard provided us with “A look ahead to some burning issues in Davis.” And earlier in the week on Tuesday the Sacramento Bee ran an article “Davis is one of the most desirable places in the region to live. Why are so few moving there?”
What did all three of these articles have in common? They all delved into the long list of challenges that Davis has brought on itself through its actions over the past 20 years. NOTE: I have excerpted that long list and appended it to the end of this article. Please consider it as a work-in-process, and feel free to suggest any additional challenges/issues that you feel need to be on the list.
The other thing that the three articles have in common is that they pay a lot of attention to what the issues are, but they do not describe a coherent/comprehensive plan for addressing the issues.
It is easy to get bogged down in the details of any individual issue … or group of related issues … and in fact the past articles on and discussions of these issues haven’t dealt with the issues with a coherent/comprehensive (yes I’m repeating the same phrase) approach.
After my better-half … and she truly is much better than I … read the Bee article, she asked me the following question, “Do the people in Davis who are advocating for change have an example of a city in California … or for that matter anywhere in the US … that is a model for what they believe Davis needs to or should be?
I believe that is an excellent question … one that has the potential to help us have some discussions about the forest rather than bickering about the trees.
For the many people in Davis … those who agree with the headline of the Vanguard’s Friday article “But Davis Is a Great Place, I Don’t Want It to Change” … the model for what they believe Davis needs to be is … Davis itself.
It will be very interesting to hear the answers from the people who believe it is Davis’ manifest destiny to embrace change.
I encourage everyone who takes up this challenge and provides a model city name (or names), to explain why they think that city is a good model for what they want Davis to become.
Thank you all for your engagement with our community.
As promised here is the list of challenges/issues that were covered in the three articles:
From Friday’s Vanguard article Commentary: “But Davis Is a Great Place, I Don’t Want It to Change”
- Change is inevitable and it happens whether you allow it to happen or not
- The median cost of housing is now over $800,000, which is unaffordable for many people who want to live in Davis
- There is not a lot of open and developable space that exists in the city
- Construction costs for redevelopment is prohibitive and might preclude housing in places like the downtown
- Voters have been hesitant to reluctant to approve new housing on the periphery
- The city lags behind many comparable communities in per capita retail sales
- The city voters turned down a parcel tax to fund roads in 2018 and turned down DISC that would have provided economic revenue
- Right now the community is running in the hole between $8 to $10 million per year—a figure likely to increase in the coming years
- One way or another something will have to give here
- Due to the failure to expand single-family housing over the last two decades, Davis is getting older, and the number of new students in the Davis School District is trending downward
- The school district has greatly increased the parcel tax over the last 15 years from $100 a year to just under $1000 a year
- Just like with city revenue, the district has the choice—raise taxes or cut programs. The third option is outside of their control—building more family-oriented housing in the city.
- The schools are the lifeblood of the community. They add value to housing. And the presence of children adds vitality to the community that would be lacking in a community that is moving toward bifurcation of seniors and college students.
- UC Davis is likely to continue to grow
- Davis has some amazing opportunities to utilize its position as the host city for a world class university.
- For those who want to avoid Davis becoming an Elk Grove with runaway growth, there are middle grounds between virtually no growth and unrestrained growth. The city needs to find a comfortable middle course to help address some the issues that it faces while avoiding the trap of unrestrained growth.
- the voters are going to have choices still, but it’s choosing between declining services, more development and higher taxes.
From Tuesday’s Sacramento Bee article “Davis is one of the most desirable places in the region to live. Why are so few moving there?”
- Steadily rising home prices and a lack of new housing development are two of the main reasons Davis grew by only 2% over the last decade
- Davis remains one of the Sacramento region’s most desirable places to live.
- The schools are excellent, regularly sending students to the best colleges in the state and nation
- Moving to the city is becoming increasingly difficult
- The total number of housing units in Davis increased by about 1,200, roughly 4.6%. (NOTE: To double check the Bee’s numbers I pulled the per-year unit numbers from the ten annual Housing Element Progress Report filings by the City of Davis with the State of California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). For the 10-year period 2011 through 2021 the City reported the addition of 1,797 units. That calculates to a 7.2% increase in units. I’m not sure what the Bee’s source was for the 1,200 units and 4.6% numbers they cited.)
- “This is actually a pro-housing Davis City Council” said Councilman Dan Carson.
- The average rental cost for a 955 square foot apartment is about $2,400 according to Rent Café
- “I have in my church some young professors I know that can’t afford to live here, so they moved to Woodland” said Jeff Irwin the pastor of Davis Lutheran Church.
- “Families can buy more house in Woodland – bigger size, less cost, so families [in my congregation] live in Woodland more than live in Davis” said Jeff Irwin
- “People like to keep the city within the framework of its culture” said Danny Lau, real eastate agent with Lyon Real Estate.
- “Davis likes to keep itself relatively like a small town with easy access to big cities” said Danny Lau
- Danny Lau predicts more potential buyers over the next 5 years will be millennials and the oldest of Gen Z”
- Both Jeff Irwin and Stephanie Maroney would love to see more affordable housing and a more diverse population in Davis.
- “People who work here should be able to live here” Jeff Irwin added.
- “There are too many people who work in the city of Davis that can’t afford to live in the city of Davis, and we know we need to do better there.”
- Recent Census data shows the city grew by 3,171 Hispanic residents and 412 Asian residents, while losing nearly 4,500 of its White residents
- Dan Carson said, “Davis’ diversity is in no small part due to UC Davis and its students.
From yesterday’s Vanguard article “Sunday Commentary: A Look Ahead to Some Burning Issues in Davis.”
- There are three issues that appear to be on the horizon that we should be talking about quite a bit in the coming weeks.
- The first issue is the ladder truck purchase authorization.My main objection has not been the cost of the ladder truck itself, somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million—that’s a one-time cost and finding money for a one-time cost is feasible. The ongoing staffing costs are more concerning—$600K to $1.2 million.
- The second issue will be reviewing the DiSC 2022 project.
- The last of the three issues is the Downtown Plan, which should go to the Planning Commission at some point for an EIR. It has been now two years since the DPAC (Downtown Plan Advisory Committee) finished their work, and we have a whole new world.