Commentary: Wildly Inaccurate and Exaggerated Opposition Statement on DiSC 2022

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – In pollical campaigns, we expect political theater.  While actually wholly inaccurate political statements are generally frowned upon, we expect a good deal of pollical theater and exaggerated claims in political discourse.

But ballot arguments are a bit different because they appear in the election material and are supposed to be at least accurate.

Along those lines the ballot arguments against DiSC – Measure H – are at times wholly inaccurate and other times wild exaggerations.

For example, the opponents of DiSC argue that “it is still non-compliant with the City of Davis General Plan.”

In order for a project to be approved, the council has to approve a General Plan Amendment and that General Plan Amendment must be approved by the voters, as required by Chapter 41 of the Municipal Code, the “Citizens’ Right to Vote on Future Use of Open Space and Agricultural Lands Ordinance.”

In the ordinance it notes, it has been “consistent with the General Plan, as amended…”

By law, it cannot be non-compliant with the City of Davis General Plan.

Second, they argue, “The Developer has made almost no binding commitments…”

That’s at the very least a gross exaggeration if not outright falsehood.  There are over 50 binding commitments – all listed in the project baseline features.

Later, it states, “Yet alarmingly, the Environmental Impact Report states DiSC is projected to produce 54 million pounds of new greenhouse gases annually – largely from vehicle emissions. DiSC alone will increase the City’s carbon footprint by almost 5%, completely derailing the City’s ability to meet its carbon-neutral goal by 2040.”

However, as noted, “DiSC 2022 will achieve carbon neutrality by 2040.”

In order to achieve this goal, “each individual development must, prior to the issuance of building permits, demonstrate consistency with the City’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan by demonstrating a fair-share reduction of GHG emissions.”

Examples of this include: “VMT reduction through TDM programs, electrifying project components, inclusion of on-site renewable energy, institution of composting and recycling programs, implementation of an Urban Forestry Management Plan, use of energy efficient fixtures, and finally, purchasing off-site mitigation credits if necessary.”

“The Project shall meet or exceed Title 24, Cal Green Tier 1 and will utilize the City of Davis’ Residential Energy Reach Code standards. The Reach Code promotes energy efficiency within the City of Davis through the use of energy-efficient building standards and is intended to ensure LEED Gold Equivalent or better”

Along the same lines, the opponents argue, “According to the City’s own Environmental Impact Report, DiSC will add 12,000 additional car trips per day…”

While accurate as written, it fails to note the mitigation measures.  In other words, according to the traffic models, the project would add 12,000 additional car trips per day but that assumes that there is no mitigation measures.

Among the baseline features:

  • DiSC 2022 will construct and/or contribute funding to improve the capacity, functionality, and safety of Mace Blvd. and, in particular, at the intersections of Mace and Alhambra Dr. and at Mace and 2nd Street.
  • DiSC 2022 will fund the creation of a comprehensive Mace Boulevard Corridor Plan to improve bicycle and pedestrian travel and transit in the vicinity of the Project.
  • DiSC 2022 will fund the development of a “traffic calming” plan for local streets identified in the environmental analysis.
  • DiSC 2022 will participate in the construction of safety improvements at County Roads 32A and 105 and at the crossing of the UPRR tracks.

One person noted, that mitigations measures while “worth mentioning” should be taken with “a grain of salt.”

While that’s definitely a reasonable position, it misses two problems – one that the ballot argument used the gross figure as though it were the net traffic impact and two, the project baseline features contains specific benchmarks to guard against such a reading.

Councilmember Dan Carson during the approval argued, “It was said before, and I want to try to make this concrete, this project doesn’t in the long term worsen traffic, it solves the traffic problems. It makes things better. And that’s not my conclusion. That is the conclusion of the transportation experts at Fehr & Peers.”

He said, “There was document released in December referred to as Volume Two Traffic Study that has an amazing amount of detailed information here to sustain this.”

The mitigation calls for additional lanes and signalization.

“They conclude that the total number of intersections operating with an average level of service of F during one or more peak hours, would decrease from nine to zero,” Carson explained.

As you would imagine – the opponents of this project trot out the worst case scenario as the likely outcome and ignore the safeguards built into the project baseline features that would mitigate against that worst case scenario.

12,000 additional car trips is full buildout with zero mitigation.  But with all of the required mitigation it will be significantly less.  None of the mitigation is mentioned by the opposition and what that would do.

Along the same lines, by 2040, the project must be carbon neutral and the developers will have to continually implement new mitigation measures – many of which could be quite costly to get there.  But get there they must, so the whole idea that this would derail the city’s ability to meet its carbon neutrality goals by 2040 is false because the developer has the same carbon neutrality goal – it’s in the baseline features.

Hyperbolically the ballot arguments adds, “On the worst days it already takes 45 minutes just to drive a mile on Mace Boulevard.”

That’s certainly not a regular occurrence if it ever occurred.

That reminds me of the claim by Alan Pryor in 2020, that during peak hours there would be a nearly five-hour delay for traffic.

“If you do the math,” he said.  “You will find out it will take almost five hours to get all of that traffic onto the freeway every evening.  Obviously this is a huge huge problem.  It will likely result in total gridlock on the entire southeast side of Davis.”

The ballot argument also warns, “The City’s analysis predicts that competition from retail and commercial at DiSC will cause sizable vacancies in Davis on top of the effects from the pandemic. We need to protect our local businesses!”

But as previously reported, there are protections to the downtown built into the proposal.

According to the staff report, “Prior to occupancy of retail space, Developer will demonstrate that the proposed ancillary retail will not exceed the anticipated demand increase generated by new project employees and residents.”

It continues, “If the analysis demonstrates that the proposed amount of ancillary retail space is outpacing employee- and resident-generated demand, then the ancillary retail uses shall be scaled back to be commensurate with the projected demand or omitted.”

During his presentation to council in February, attorney Matt Keasling addressed the issue of the impact to downtown.

EPS Consulting estimates that employees on the site will “spend on average $8.3 million offsite within Davis a year – that’s $8.3 million spent at other Davis businesses by the folks living and working here.” Keasling continued, saying “that does not include the almost $42 million in business-to-business transactions where the businesses at the DiSC site are doing business with other businesses within the city of Davis.”

He continued, “Additionally, what it shows is at full buildout, the annual employee compensation is around $200 million from the people that work at this site, which is a major boost to the regional economy.”

Finally he noted that “as sort of a safeguard against any concern that perhaps our retail will draw people away from the core, we do have a requirement that prior to developing any retail on site, we have to conduct a demand study to show that there is sufficient demand generated on our project site that warrants creation of that retail, or we are precluded from creating the retail until the demand exists from within the DiSC 2022 development.”

Councilmember Josh Chapman, who is a downtown business owner, said he was “extremely happy with and appreciates the retail demand market study.” He said, “That was a huge piece, as a small business owner downtown, that some of my business colleagues were wondering how it would affect the downtown. But I think that this a tool and mechanism to really help address some of those concerns.”

In sum then, the project cannot be non-complaint with the City General Plan.  The 12,000 additiona car trips assumes no mitigation at all.  The 54 million pounds of GHG annually and “completely derailing” the city’s ability to meet carbon neutrality goals by 2040 ignores that carbon neutrality by 2040 is written into the project baseline features and finally, the warnings about downtown blight, ignore the fact that the project attempts to address that also through measures and baselines to protect the downtown.

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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43 Comments

  1. Keith Olson

    I look forward to the Vanguard commentary of the YES on DiSC 2022 ballot statement regarding any possible exaggerations and inaccuracies.

    Maybe tomorrow?

      1. Keith Olson

        Looking at the YES argument I would certainly like a discussion about any exaggerations and inaccuracies.

        How about it Vanguard?

        Will tomorrow come?

        1. Keith Olson

          This comment tells you all that you need to know, regarding the Vanguard and its “fact-checking”.

          Exactly, which facts one decides to fact check and which supposed facts are let slide does say a lot about fact checking.

          David, don’t you think it odd that you would question the NO side but not the YES side of DiSC 2022?

          1. David Greenwald

            Did you happen to notice that the article is labeled “Commentary” as in, it’s an opinion piece?

            Also I’m still waiting for someone to dispute one of my claims – no one has done that yet.

        2. Keith Olson

          Did you happen to notice that the article is labeled “Commentary” as in, it’s an opinion piece?

          So, does that mean you can’t do an article on your OPINION of the YES on DiSC 2022 arguments for possible exaggerations and inaccuracies?

        3. Mark West

          “So, does that mean you can’t do an article on your OPINION of the YES on DiSC 2022 arguments for possible exaggerations and inaccuracies?

          If you want an article that reflects your opinions, write it. I’m sure David will be happy to publish it. In the mean time, stop whining that someone else (David in this instance) does not share your point of view.

           

        4. Keith Olson

          How do we know what David’s point of view is on the Yes arguments for DiSC if he doesn’t write an article?

          I would think it only fair that he covers both sides.

        5. Keith Y Echols

          Did you happen to notice that the article is labeled “Commentary” as in, it’s an opinion piece?

          I guess because the Vanguard started off as your blog some people still get confused with the Vanguard’s actual news articles which I’m assuming has some journalistic standard and your opinion pieces.  I said this the last time commentors got all in a huff about your commentary; you should have a tagline at the top of the commentary pieces that plainly states (since people seem to forget) they are opinion pieces which reflect your personal thoughts and feelings and may or not be completely fact checked or source verified.  

          1. David Greenwald

            In this case, it was completely fact checked – because I wrote it and checked to make sure everything was accurate. We don’t fact check most guest submissions – neither does most newspapers.

        6. Keith Olson

          In this case, it was completely fact checked – because I wrote it and checked to make sure everything was accurate. 

          Once again, I look forward to you doing the same for the YES on DiSC 2022 argument.

  2. Alan Miller

    But get there they must . . .  it’s in the baseline features.

    OK, I agree with some of your analysis . . . but you can’t put a 2040 carbon neutrality goal as a baseline feature.  The state’s goals are nothing more than that and they won’t be met by a country mile, but one can’t prove that either way as it’s in the future.  But we all know how government goals like this work, so let’s not kid ourselves and say ‘get there they must’.  No, if ‘they’ don’t get there then the goal date will just be extended.  Also, projects are often designed and built by a developer and then sold immediately or a few years in to an investment firm.  So it’s likely it isn’t even the same ‘they’ at that point.

  3. Ron Glick

    Truth is the first casualty of War and political campaigns so picking apart a ballot statement is a waste of time.

    I’m still undecided because even though I favor economic development the traffic on the east side of town is soo bad.

    Carson is depending on the conclusions of Fehr & Peers for transportation analysis and from my recollection they have been around a while. So here is the question I need answered. What is the track record of the predictions made by Fehr & Peers on other projects? Are they reliable or do they produce conclusions supporting whatever the people who hire them want?

    1. Keith Y Echols

      I’m still undecided because even though I favor economic development the traffic on the east side of town is soo bad.

      This is my stance as well.  Though I’m leaning towards YES and sorting out the traffic mess going forward.  But then I can do that because I don’t live in East Davis.

      1. Bill Marshall

        I live in Mace Ranch, and I agree…

        Though I’m leaning towards YES and sorting out the traffic mess going forward.

        Keith O and Ron O by their ‘arguments’ (really delayed from getting your meal from Guadalajara?), and Alan Pryor, etc., are making me lean more and more towards a strong “Yes”… same for the other two voters in our household.

        I lived in the Bay Area for 25+ years… learned to drive there… two blocks from 101…

        If you grew up in Yreka, yeah, Davis traffic is horrible! If you grew up in SF (Bay Area) , SJ, LA, “what traffic?” is likely your opinion…

        1. Keith Y Echols

          It’ all about what you’re used to.  I commuted from Palo Alto to Fremont, Los Gatos to Fremont, San Francisco to South San Jose and San Francisco to Fremont.  I also used to drive from San Francisco to Davis and back for quite a few years…I wouldn’t call it a commute as it was mostly on the weekends….but still weekend traffic.

          It taken me years to consider Davis home….and I’m still adjusting.  But one of the indicators to me that I’d started to change; initially I was never bothered by trying to find parking in downtown Davis.  These days I get really irritated trying to find parking downtown and then remember that it’s nothing compared to driving from the Inner Sunset to Russian Hill and looking for parking.

      2. Dave Hart

        I live in East Davis, just off Monarch Lane and Covell Blvd.  I also live opposite the proposed Wildhorse extension development by Taormino and I understand that every last one of us is responsible for the traffic to which each of us contributed when we moved into this fragile community.  I am sick and tired of traffic being used as an excuse not to do anything.  Nobody likes traffic…okay, we all get that.  My reaction is install more signals and traffic calming speed bumps.  That is the only way we can move the dial back to livability.  People adapt to the traffic patterns around them.  I support development that creates decent paying jobs and affordable housing.  If this development is a net cost to the city, then I’m concerned; but, that has to be spelled out to me at the third grade level which is all I can handle these days. Otherwise, I’m a yes vote.

        1. Ron Oertel

          How do you feel about “manufactured” housing shortages?

          (An excess number of jobs, compared to the housing provided.  Says so, right in the EIR. And that’s already making assumptions about the number of residents who would actually work at the site.)

          Of course, that may not be as much of an issue, when they pursue housing on the other half of DiSC, Shriner’s, the space inside of Mace Curve, and the Palomino development that you’re fond of. And maybe someday, Covell Village again.)

          In a sense, I agree with you – in that manufactured traffic jams (e.g., related to more than 2,000 parking spots) is appropriate “karma” for those who support these developments. I will admit that I get some kind of perverse pleasure out of seeing that occur, at this point.

          I especially enjoy it when it comes out of the same mouths that claim to be concerned about local contributions to climate change.

        2. Dave Hart

          I don’t know if I’ll be “fond” of any new development until it’s actually in place and I do think the City Council needs to be tough on the back end of development agreements.  That’s politics, but just continually coming up with bs arguments exhausts the public’s patience.  I think that is why there have been two consecutive yes votes on Measure J votes.  The voters realize we can’t say no forever and there needs to be some development.  So negotiate the development you want and let the politics take their course.  It matters who we elect to the city council.  I’m just tired of hearing about and seeing the “traffic cudgel” wielded at anything and everything that isn’t what exists right now.

        3. Ron Oertel

          I don’t know if I’ll be “fond” of any new development until it’s actually in place and I do think the City Council needs to be tough on the back end of development agreements.

          That’s what we call, “too late”.

          That’s politics, but just continually coming up with bs arguments exhausts the public’s patience.

          Wouldn’t that apply regarding the “for” arguments?  How about asking David to “analyze” those?

          I think that is why there have been two consecutive yes votes on Measure J votes.  The voters realize we can’t say no forever and there needs to be some development.

          I’m glad those two won, at this point.  I don’t consider Nishi to (functionally) be sprawl.  And the other one will be filled with grumpy older people, who also probably don’t like sprawl.  Especially after having their deposits cancelled.  🙂

          But take a look around the region, and tell me if you think sprawl is in “short supply”.  Including about 7-8 miles north of Davis.

          So negotiate the development you want and let the politics take their course.

          See:  The Cannery, according to some.

          It matters who we elect to the city council.  I’m just tired of hearing about and seeing the “traffic cudgel” wielded at anything and everything that isn’t what exists right now.

          Traffic and climate change is directly related to continued sprawl – which again, is not in short supply.  Not sure what the latter part of your sentence means.

           

        4. Ron Glick

          “I’m just tired of hearing about and seeing the “traffic cudgel” wielded at anything and everything that isn’t what exists right now.”

          I get that because usually these arguments are red herrings. However the traffic mess in East Davis is not a figment of my imagination.

  4. Ron Oertel

    First thing I came across:

    and finally, purchasing off-site mitigation credits if necessary.”

    Oh, it will definitely be “necessary” – given the greenhouse gasses given off by commuters.  And it’s nothing more than a shell game.

    The landmark cap-and-trade system that allows polluters to buy credits to offset their emissions has been the centerpiece of California’s climate change policies for a decade  — and a lightning rod for criticism since then. Environmental justice advocates fault cap and trade as a mechanism that allows pollution to continue in disadvantaged communities near refineries and other major polluters.

    https://calmatters.org/environment/2022/02/california-climate-cap-trade/

  5. Todd Edelman

    In that whole long list of mitigation measures, there’s only a few that DISC will do on its own, and of these and most of the rest I am not encouraged by extremely slippery terms like “enhance” and “improve”.

    I appreciate that it’s clear that the DISC 2022 share is entirely dependent on other contributor and sources, but I reminded that e.g. so far there’s still contribution to add to Ryder’s for the grade-separated crossing from east Olive to Davis Depot…

    About Fehr & Peers, it’s difficult to evaluate them when the City’s not had a counterpart traffic engineer for nearly five years. Also some of their suggestions for the Mace Corridor – inclusive of the Mace Re-redesign and the proposed car wash – leave little margin for error or suggest things that many won’t do in their behavior, such as riding from the south end of and the west side Mace to get to El Macero Shopping Center by crossing Mace. It seems that their role is to say that everything can be mitigated somehow, rather than to be – for example – imaginative.

    And again, DISC is too far from everything to be a significant part of Davis’s bicycle ecosystem, and there’s ZERO planned to create a safe cycling path to the nearest shopping center. Unfortunately that’s not a requirement of the General Plan, and I can anticipate a lot of resistance to adding this in the future.  DISC – and to a certain extent, Bretton Woods – are the most recent examples of this declaration of surrender to automobilism in Davis. A grade-separated crossing to access the closest school does not cut it.  The Council should lower their heads in shame.

    1. Ron Oertel

      A grade-separated crossing to access the closest school does not cut it.

      Last I heard, the developer may not be required to actually pay for this.  It might ultimately be the city that’s on the hook, for doing so. Or, at least partly responsible for paying the cost.

      Regardless, it would not be constructed before the second phase.  (And, there’s only two phases.)

      But there’s probably not going to be any families in there to speak of, regardless. Maybe UCD students – in which case the location of that imaginary crossing might not be ideal.

      The crossing itself is apparently (already) planned to be on the “other half” of DiSC. (The half for which they supposedly have “no plans”.)

  6. Ron Oertel

    The map which can be seen by scrolling in the link below shows the locations/size of the other developments that are being pursued, near DiSC.

    https://www.votenoondisc.com/about

    If it wasn’t for Measure J, you can be sure that a council such as the one currently in-place would have approved these a long time ago, along with Covell Village.

  7. Sharla Cheney

    I remember when the arguments in opposition to the University Mall, Lake Blvd, W. Covell/Sycamore, Nugget on East Covell, 1st Street commercial development, Target, and commercial zoning in Mace Ranch were that each of these were going to lead to the demise of the Downtown.  This argument is wrinkled with age.

    1. Ron Oertel

      I remember when University Mall is (now) pursuing a megadorm development. Perhaps partly due to Target.

      I also remember when 8th Street Mall became run-down (and essentially an extension of a homeless shelter).

      I remember when Borders left, and then Whole Foods left. I remember when ACE Housewares shut down.

      I remember when Hibberts shut down, to be replaced by an apartment building no doubt.

      If I took a walk around Davis, I could probably point out a bunch more.

      1. Sharla Cheney

        I remember when Wingers closed and replaced by 6 different smaller businesses.  I remember when Foster’s Freeze closed and an outdoor clothing store and now a Starbuck’s  move into the space.  I remember when Dairy Queen closed and is now an architect’s office.  I remember when Hoffman’s closed and is now a bank.  I remember Safeway on G Street closed and is now the Davis Food Co-op.  The billiard hall became Suburban Yardage and then became a bank and a news/magazine/smoke shop.  The 2nd Street Cinema became a music store and now is a chicken restaurant.  The Club on G Street is now Woodstocks.   Change is always happening in Davis as far as my memory goes.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Sure – things change.

          The problem occurs when peripheral sprawl creates/facilitates decline (e.g., no business to take the place of some of the more-central locations).

          Let us know when a business takes over the space vacated by Whole Foods, ACE Housewares, Hibbert’s, etc.

          I think it’s time for Matt to post those vacancy photos, again. But better do it quick, before those type of locations are converted to housing.

          Then, we can move on to vacant non-retail commercial space (before it’s also converted to housing). For those spaces which haven’t already been converted.

        2. Keith Y Echols

          Wait! There was a billiards hall in Davis?  Dang!  I missed out on all the good stuff.  I’m hoping it was a seedy dive type place and not one of those late 90’s early 00’s hip billiards lounge type places…..though there were a few in the bay area that were able to pull off both.   For a college town, Davis sure doesn’t have any real dive bars.

        3. Ron Glick

          “I remember when University Mall is (now) pursuing a megadorm development. Perhaps partly due to Target.”

          Huh? What does Target have to do with UMall getting redeveloped? I remember the CEO of Brixmor saying that UMall was the company’s number one opportunity for redevelopment.

          “Then, we can move on to vacant non-retail commercial space (before it’s also converted to housing).”

          You seem to ignore all the housing in the core area that has done the opposite and converted housing into commercial space.

        4. Sharla Cheney

          Yes, we had a billiard hall at one time in Davis.  It was called “Family Billiards” in an effort to make it family friendly, but my father wouldn’t let me step foot into the place.  The Club on G Street (where Woodstock’s is now) was as close as we go to a seedy bar.  I wasn’t allowed  to go in there either.  There was a great bar with a stage for live music called Potpourri on F Street where Blaze Pizza is now, that turned into a Women’s gym then a record store and now two restaurants.

          I remember more – See’s Candies on 2nd Street (where we bought candy before the matinees at the Varsity Theater), the Paint Chip was a shoe store where I was fitted for shoes every year before school started. We had a Franklin 5 & Dime on G Street and then it moved to where the post office is on 3rd Street (wax lips!)

           

           

    2. Sharla Cheney

      Ron, You are right.  There used to be much more housing within the downtown.  A whole block of houses (cute Victorian style houses) was torn down to build the First Northern Bank development.  They put 4 tiny residential units in the back to mitigate the lost housing.  There was a big old house that was being used as a frat house where the new chicken restaurant is now on E Street.  That house was moved to the corner of Russell and Patwin Road one Sunday to make room for the new movie theater. The existing houses that you see with retail/businesses were all homes with families living in them and they slowly changed into dental offices, law offices, real estate offices, etc.  This expansion into residential areas around the downtown is still occurring.  So building residential units in and near the downtown is a reversal of this slow expansion of commercial use.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Seems to me that what you and Ron G. are referring to primarily occurred a long time ago, when the downtown area (and locations near campus) were no longer an attractive place to live in existing single-family dwellings. Those dwellings were built in a very different time, in a very different city.

        In any case, this pales in comparison to the large-scale conversion of existing commercial and industrial properties that are now being converted to housing.

        And that extends to the former site of the failed “Davis Innovation Center” proposal, as well.

         

  8. Ron Oertel

    Thought I’d actually look at the “mitigations” listed in the chart in this article.

    Note how many are dependent upon funding other than from the developer – including the bicycle underpass. Nor is an actual timeline/trigger point included.

    I’m only counting “3” out of the 23 mitigations listed, that would solely be the responsibility of the developer.  (Those in orange.)

    Perhaps it’s David and the developer who are making “wildly-inaccurate and exaggerated claims” regarding unfunded mitigations. (I’ve already addressed the shell game planned regarding greenhouse gasses.)

  9. Ron Oertel

    Hey – pretty cool:  I just noticed that the Palomino development is advertising on the Vanguard that it will reduce traffic, so maybe they ought to build about 10 of those as part of the mitigation.

    I wonder how much Shriner’s will reduce traffic. Or, the “other half” of DiSC.

    And given that DiSC is also claiming to reduce traffic congestion, I’m now wondering why they didn’t build these type of developments a long time ago. I’m guessing that they just didn’t have the technology to do so, back in the day.

    Remind me again how much all of these together will reduce greenhouse gasses, as well? And, increase farmland and open space?

    Plus, doesn’t it also put a genetically-modified chicken in every pot?

  10. David Greenwald

    I realized that given all our changes, it might be worthwhile to post this information.

    you’ll notice on guest commentaries a disclaimer at the bottom – “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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