Letter: Same Old Choices

by Larry D. Guenther

On Tuesday, the City Council will decide whether or not to put DiSC on the ballot again. DiSC 2022 is the project on the outside of the Mace Curve that was voted down in its last iteration. It is now about half the size of the previous project. One of the Council’s goals is economic development. Another of the Council’s goals is Carbon Neutrality by 2040. In our current development paradigm, these goals are contradictory. That’s because our current development paradigm is centered around the automobile and commuting workers.

Approximately three quarters of our community’s total Green House Gas Emissions (GHG’s) come from transportation – and the lion’s share of that is single-occupancy vehicles; i.e. commuters. Hence the problem. DiSC is designed for commuters – it is designed in the current paradigm. The EIR for the DiSC project says that this project alone will increase the City’s total GHG’s by 4%. The EIR also states that this project will not allow the City to reach its carbon neutrality goal. These are not statements from opponents, this is from the project’s EIR.

There is scientific consensus that if the average global temperature increases by 1.5°C, our environment (that is to say, ‘we’) will suffer extreme and irreversible negative consequences. There is also scientific consensus that the average global temperature has already increased by 1°C. Additionally global GHG’s – the primary cause of increased temperatures – are still rising. This project would continue that trend.

We do not have to choose between economic development, housing, and the environment. We just need to build in a new way. We need a new paradigm. The idea that we must have either economic development, or reduce our environmental impact is a false choice. We can do both, we just have to do development differently.

So will City Council choose to prioritize its development goals, or its environmental goals? We’ll find out Tuesday night. If we stopped building for commuters, we could do both.

Larry D. Guenther
Speaking on my own behalf

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Bill Marshall

    This article provides an interesting insight into the JeRkeD process… the author implies the CC should NOT put a development process up to a vote if they deem it’s not good for GH gases (or whatever)… but if they judge it OK, there is a vote…

    If ‘the people should decide’, shouldn’t the people decide in ANY event?

  2. Jim Frame

    If ‘the people should decide’, shouldn’t the people decide in ANY event?

    The CC is a filter, the electorate is the final arbiter.   The process is the result of CCs repeatedly making land use decisions that the electorate believed were not in the best interests of the city.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Woodland is a “real-estate-value-buttress” for Davis.  So is West Sacramento, Dixon, etc.

        Woodland has MASSIVE amounts of housing development still-planned, in addition to their own “innovation center”. (Which essentially “moved” from Davis after it failed, there. To be replaced by – wait for it – housing, in the form of “Bretton Woods”.)

        Of course, in Woodland – they don’t fool around by asking voters what they think. They just go ahead and add 1,600 houses to innovation centers that are displaced from Davis. Much more efficient that way, in a sense.

      2. Matt Williams

        Alan, the 20-year history of housing price change data in Davis, Woodland, West Sacramento, and Dixon does not support your real-estate-value buffer argument.
        The annual percentage home value appreciation in Davis over the six-year period from November 2015 through November 2021 was 7.1%In California it was 10.1%In Woodland it was 10.2%In West Sacramento it was 10.8%In Dixon it was 9.6%
        Bottom-line, the average home price increase in Davis (7.1%) over the six-year period increased more slowly than the average home price increase of all three of the close-by communities (all were close to 10%) and/or the average home price increase of the state as a whole.  What does that tell you about the impact of slow growth policies on home price increases in Davis?

  3. Ron Oertel

    The idea that we must have either economic development, or reduce our environmental impact is a false choice. We can do both, we just have to do development differently.

    So will City Council choose to prioritize its development goals, or its environmental goals? We’ll find out Tuesday night. If we stopped building for commuters, we could do both.

    The council has already made its preferences known.  A couple of them are outright activists, regarding the proposal.  Nothing that anyone says will change this.

    Ultimately, it has nothing to do with economic development, either.  They want the one-time fees from development, like every other Ponzi-scheme city.

    It’s just the beginning of the push to develop beyond the Mace/Covell area.  None of which have anything to do with economic development, and will end up costing the city money.  (Palomino Ranch, Shriner’s, the “other half” of DiSC, the spot inside the Mace curve, etc.).

    The cumulative traffic impacts from these other proposals (combined with DiSC) have not been analyzed.  Nor have the cumulative fiscal or environmental impacts.

    DiSC is just the “camel’s nose under the tent”, which will more-easily enable the other proposals to proceed. (Partly due to the increased RHNA housing requirements that would result from DiSC.) In other words, DiSC is the hole in the dam.

  4. Jim Frame

    But now it’s primarily a real-estate-value buttress.

    I hear this a lot as an accusation, but I can’t say I’ve ever known anyone who looks at growth issues that way.  It rings hollow to my ears.

        1. Alan Miller

          I call BS on that.  What data?  All one has to do is “follow the money”.  Owners vote in higher numbers than renters.  Most people’s only large asset is their home.  Constrain supply and the value of one’s greatest asset goes up.  For owners of apartment complexes en masse who feed campaigns against Measure J/R/D votes, this goes true one-hundred fold, not only for property values but for rents.  Maybe you are righteous and vote for new developments based on their merits, but to say this isn’t a major factor in Measure J/R/D votes today ignores human nature and people’s second-most-primal urge.

        2. Ron Oertel

          I call BS on that.  What data?

          Looks like Matt already provided it, via his 3:22 p.m. response, above.

          But more importantly, how do you figure that DiSC has anything to do with “constraining supply” of housing, given that it (supposedly) adds more jobs (demand) than housing (supply)?

          Unless you’re also including all of the other housing developments that would be more likely, as a result (e.g. Palomino Ranch, Shriner’s, the “other half” of DiSC, the space inside of the Mace curve, etc.).

          For owners of apartment complexes who feed campaigns en masse against Measure J/R/D votes . . .

          I’m not aware of any, and I’ve seen what goes on in campaigns. I have not seen any of the money that you believe exists. And if it did, it would be part of the public record.

          Much of time, large-scale apartment owners are also the same people as the developers.

          Regarding apartment-dwellers, are you familiar with the activities of the “College Democrats”?

        3. Matt Williams

          Alan, I will be glad to review the data with you.
          Let’s grab a cup of coffee together.  My database of average home values goes back month by month to January 1996.  The trend described above actually goes back to August 2010.

          The annual percentage home value appreciation in Davis over that 11.25-year period August 2010 through November 2021 was 5.5%.
          In California it was 10.4%.
          In Woodland it was 10.5%.
          In West Sacramento it was 10.6%.
          In Dixon it was 10.4%.

          Prior to August 2010 the impact of the Housing Bubble bursting caused slower home value appreciation in Woodland, West Sac, Dixon and California.

  5. Don Shor

    The idea that we must have either economic development, or reduce our environmental impact is a false choice. We can do both, we just have to do development differently.


    1. Ron Oertel

      Seems like it’s time for Matt to post those “vacancy” photos, again.

      But as to the larger question, if the answer to everything is always “farmland” (expansion of footprint), that’s THE problem, and is the reason that the resulting development patterns exist and continue to be pursued to this day.

      Maybe you should ask San Francisco (and almost all of the Bay Area), given that they can’t expand. Has it held them back? (Actually, there’s quite a few commercial vacancies lately in that area, as well – due to the impacts of Covid, telecommuting, etc.)

      But if one wants a “local” innovation center, there’s one on its way in Woodland (along with 1,600 homes). The one that failed in Davis. (Or should I say, “one of” the ones that failed in Davis, as there’s been several.)

      1. Todd Edelman

        Roof cap

        or similar over CA-113. Benefit aside from housing and mixed use directly adjacent to the highway, UC Davis, hospital zone, one block from a shopping center is decreased noise from CA-113.

        There is a lot that can be done differently with I-80, from re-routing to the south to a green roof and solar panels. The re-route would result in huge, dense, mixed use in the center of Davis on top of future high speed train route, next to everything, minutes from Railyards in Sac, no reason for a private car.

        Then also the greyfields development on top of and sometimes keeping the existing huge parking lots at several locations in Davis with one or two new connectors across I-80.

        All better options than peripheral, car-friendly, fake green DISC.

        1. Todd Edelman

          Thanks for the question, Matt. There would need to be study looking at different construction techniques. I have no idea about the cost, though perhaps an estimate could be made from something broadly similar.

          One technique could be pre-fabricating multiple C-shaped sections off-site and then trucking them in and placing them along side vertical supports that would be inserted into the bedrock and then used to support the actual buildings. The multiple C-shaped sections form a tunnel with material of some sort filled in. Main water, plumbing and electrical could be put on the sides. underneath wide lanes for cycling and walking, doubling as access for emergency vehicles (again on both sides). The home and commercial housing structural elements could also be constructed off-site.

          One side could also have a  shuttle of some sort, though it should also be accessible to the existing homes on either side of the corridor, which is complicated because it’s mostly a back fence thing. Perhaps the shuttle could be in a loop, terminating at Silo or Downtown. and directly serving the hospital and (pig) shopping center. People on the west side who want to head straight to campus would simply walk across to the east side to catch a shuttle headed south.

          Aside from some short-term pain from construction noise, I can’t imagine that anyone who lives in homes with backyards on it would prefer the highway’s vibrations to quiet and better transit access and not really too much more direct cycling access than now, but carfree all the way to the UCD cycling network.

          Material for the retro-active tunnelization? Not really sure, and keeping in mind that it has to be totally clean. Perhaps from a trench for I-80.

          The economic potential for a mixed development in part of the footprint of I-80 – in the diversion scenario – would be interesting to see.  At the very least this scenario should be used as an additional alternative in the EIR for the I-80 Managed Lanes Project.

        2. Matt Williams

          Todd, anyone who has driven the Interstate through the Buckhead section of Atlanta knows that the idea you have proposed can be done … because it has been done.  The challenge is the numbers.  The good news for your idea is that land prices per acre in Davis are quite high, but in my opinion the only realistic way it can work in Davis is if the buildings have a sufficient number of floors to generate a sufficient amount of rent revenue … and the construction costs do not include excavation, which eliminates I-80 and makes CA-113 more attractive.

          However, the ball is in your court,

        3. Todd Edelman

          Buckhead is broadly similar but a totally different urban form so not sure how it compares.

          The Vic Fazinnovation Center Homes would be in the existing below surface section, roughly from Covell to Hutchinson, possibly with some parking at the ends that connects directly to 113. If parking on campus turned into more valuable uses needs to be replaced elsewhere, the Hutchinson end would be an excellent location, and then the users could use the same shuttle to campus.

          Though people with backyards on 113 would be gaining lots of peace and quiet, they probably don’t want tall buildings sort of close by. I imagine something between two and four stories, and not necessarily a simple east and west orientation.  The section south of Russell could certainly go higher (the bride from West Village would go through the building….). Curious if this section would be owned by UC…

          Some of the off-site construction could happen near a highway or rail line in the region which would benefit from gaining highly skilled jobs close to home, perhaps in area of economic inequity.

          The most expensive element would likely be the pillars that support the buildings whilst also eliminating vibrations from traffic in Vic Fazitunnel. Not sure what mitigation will need to be done for vehicle emissions.

          It seems possible that at least one side of 113 could remain open at a time. Internal Davis and surrounding trips can be done on surface streets, reduced by improved transit, with county roads and 505 making up from some of rest. Hopefully 5 to 113 to North Davis rather than 80 to Covell…

          Reimagine 113… Aside from construction costs and some challenging engineering, what are the downsides?

  6. larryguenther

    Where? Every shopping mall in Davis. They are all on transit corridors. They all have at least one existing transit stop. And, taken together, they have a lot of room.

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