By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – Opponents of the project continue to attempt to make the case that DiSC is making “54 million pounds of new GHG emissions” and ignoring the fact that each of the 4000 or so projected employees at DiSC would be working and driving to another location if DiSC 2022 is not built.
This is not just a Vanguard argument at this point.
Matt Keasling on Tuesday, for example, in responding to some of the criticism of the project, addressed the issue of whether DiSC would add GHG emissions and move away from climate change goals.
Keasling referenced a regional map on VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled) and said, “Davis, quite frankly has a challenge with VMT. Particularly that if you’re living in Davis and you need to do anything that’s not in the city of Davis, it actually is a pretty long drive to your next location.”
Because of that, “you tend to have a higher VMT across the board than other jurisdictions, particularly the city and county of Sacramento.
“However, what our analysis shows us is that the VMT associated with this project is less than the city’s average. It’s almost 10% less than the city and UC Davis combined VMT average,” Keasling explained. “And so DISC is moving the city in the right direction when it comes to VMT and with our mitigation measures to create a robust TDM [Travel Demand Management], we believe we will achieve the 15% below the regional VMT average at project buildout with our mitigations.”
Now Alan Pryor counters that this analysis “relies on bogus Fehr and Peers calculations showing that the average VMTs (Vehicle Miles Traveled)/Per Capita of Service Population for the SACOG region is 37.11 miles per day.”
Pryor quibbles on the specific SACOG VMT analysis and argues that the SACOG region is substantially lower than the 37 as presented in the Fehr & Peers analysis. He writes, “Higher VMTs associated with the DiSC project directly translate into new higher GHG emissions for the project.”
But the point of the analysis is that even if DiSC does have a higher average VMT than the region, the person commuting to DiSC is not going from zero to 36 VMT. It’s still an offset.
This is the point made by both Will Arnold and Lucas Frerichs on Tuesday.
As Arnold pointed out, “What we have in town, unfortunately still, is a mismatch of jobs and housing.”
He said, “We have a lot of really expensive housing and a lot of low paying jobs other than the university itself, and a handful of other places. We have a mismatch. And what that mismatch causes is it causes a lot more travel. You got to go somewhere else. If you’re going to work a job that allows you to own a home in Davis, you’re hitting the road to get to that job. And so creating jobs, more jobs in Davis that allow you to be living in Davis is a good thing, and will likely have the effect of having fewer people having to travel outside of town for work.”
Lucas Frerichs added, “Some folks view this as a situation where they feel as if we don’t build it, if we don’t build it here, you know, we stop the development, we’ve won, right? But it just gets built somewhere else. That’s the reality. And frankly, with lower standards and lower benefits than what we’ve negotiated with this proposal, and I think that is very important to keep in mind as well.”
These are crucial points that are being missed by the opponents of the project.
Right now, if you live in Davis, unless you happen to work at the university, most likely you are traveling outside of town to get to work. That means at minimum you have to commute to and from places like Sacramento.
On the other hand, most people who work in Davis have to commute from places like Elk Grove and Natomas and the like, because that’s where they can afford to live.
Creating high paying jobs next to housing is an environmentally sustainable option.
If you want to argue that we need more housing on the site or near the site, I probably agree with that point. But unfortunately, that is the downside to the Measure J process—you have to design a proposal that not only makes sense, but can pass a vote. And for too many people, even having 460 units of housing is a step too far.
The second point is this—if DiSC doesn’t get built here, it’s not like the companies that will move to Davis cease to exist. They simply move somewhere else, where people have to commute somewhere else and people have to drive to work somewhere else. It’s not necessarily that there will be a DiSC plopped down in another community, but rather that Company A, if it doesn’t go to Davis, will go somewhere else. All of those impacts are going to happen elsewhere.
If you want to argue that DiSC is going to be less environmentally friendly than its replacement, I think that’s a tough case to make, but my ultimate point is that by arguing that it produces 54 million NEW pounds of GHG each year, you are putting your thumb on the scale and skewing it.