Commentary: In a Close Call, Tie Goes to Free Speech…

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – A few weeks ago I wrote a column arguing the ballot statements by the No on DiSC were “wildly inaccurate” and “exaggerated.”  Despite the ruling by Judge Maguire, I largely stand by those comments.

I would argue that, from the standpoint of the law, for the most part Judge Maguire did the right thing—creating a very high hurdle for judicial action to actually strike a ballot argument.  However, from a subjective standpoint, I believe some of the arguments by the opposition to DiSC to still be false and misleading.

Furthermore, I would argue if we read the full comments by the judge, that a lot of this was a close call and, when it was, he deferred to leaving the ballot statement—which he should do and is obligated to do by law.

In other words, the petitioner had a much higher bar to climb than the respondents and that’s how it should be.

So let’s quickly look at the five issues.

The first one is the one I probably disagree with the most.  The issue of DiSC being “non-compliant” with the General Plan I don’t think the judge got right.  He ruled that since the project necessitates a change to the current General Plan, the “Real Parties in Interest are entitled to express their opinion that the project is incompatible with certain goals and policies in both the current and proposed amended General Plan…”

My problem is, that’s not what they did.  Nor did the judge seem to recognize that, at this point, every project requires a General Plan amendment.  (In fairness, Judge Maguire is not a land-use expert and the attorney for the petitioner did not raise this point). In this case, I would argue, that while the statement is true as written, it is misleading as to imply some sort of violation with the law—a violation which is handled administratively through the amendment process and thus does not really exist.

In fact, it would seem that the attorney for the respondents actually cherrypicked from the General Plan itself to attempt to show that the project was out of compliance with the outdated document.

In fact, if you read Chapter 5 of the General Plan, it specifically provides for a “University Related Research Park (URRP).  On page 204, it notes, “Study opportunities to designate lands for “green” technology, high technology and University related research uses within or adjacent to the City.”

It continues, “Work closely with the local business community, community leaders and U.C. Davis officials in determining when and where such uses can best be accommodated in addition to the 25-acre enterprise site planned on the UC Davis campus.”

While it calls for a consideration of re-designating or rezoning land within the City limits, it also allows for the “designation of peripherally sited URRP” which shall only occur after “[i]t is determined that lands within the City limits would not meet the needs for ‘research-oriented’ Business Park uses.”

All of this was actually carried out over a decade ago during the Business Park Land discussions.

In 2012, Studio 30 report had analyzed available land, and recommended a “dispersed innovation model” whereby existing space would be fully utilized, but ultimately the report believed we needed to create around 200 acres of peripheral innovation space to fully leverage our assets.

Notably, Studio 30 found, “The current isolated and dispersed sites that are available and appropriately zoned are not adequate in terms of size, location, or configuration (and related constraints) to address the emerging market need of an Innovation Center.”

So, while it is true in a technical sense that DiSC is not in compliance with the current general plan (in part because the current general plan is in need of an update), the claim by the opposition is actually misleading if not false and the implication is not what they suggest.

Moving on to other issues.

The judge did find the evidence “clear and convincing” that the developer “made almost no binding commitments…” was “objectively false or misleading.”  The judge writes, “The qualifier ‘almost’ imports an element of subjectivity or opinion, which brings the statement within the wide ambit of acceptable political speech.”

I understand the judge’s point but I would argue still that “almost no binding commitments” is misleading even if it is not objectively false.  There simply aren’t no binding commitments.  The opposition has narrowly defined binding as binding with the voters—and as we shall see, even there, there are quite a few binding commitments within the Baseline Project Features.

The judge did find on the statement about the Traffic Demand Management Plan being the only promise, “The Court finds clear and convincing evidence that this statement is verifiably false, because the Transportation Demand Management Plan is one of nine separate traffic-related commitments among the Baseline Project Features.”

Here he ruled in a minimalist fashion that they must strike the word “only.”

On the issue of “unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions,” the judge notes, “Petitioner argues that this phrase should be interpreted as a factual statement that the project contains no greenhouse gas emission mitigation measures. So construed, it would be objectively false.”

However, “Real Parties in Interest construe the phrase as a prediction that the project will result in significant unmitigated greenhouse emissions. So construed, the phrase would stand as an opinion ‘about the future effects … if the measure was enacted.’”

Once again, he’s splitting hairs.  He ruled that he could not find the evidence clear and convincing.  But the very fact that the meaning of the statement is ambiguous suggests it is misleading.

In most cases, having read and heard the No on H argument, I see their points.  I think the phrasing could have been more clearly defined in a lot of cases that would have avoided these claims.

Nevertheless, I think it’s better that the judge not weigh in on these issues.  The Measure H campaign clearly thinks these statements are false, they got a platform to express that and have additionally used the rebuttal section of the ballot arguments to do so as well.

The voters now have the information to decide whether they agree or not with the advocates of DiSC and, more importantly, they still get to decide whether this is a project they want.

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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56 Comments

  1. Alan Pryor

    Dance on the head of the pin and flap your arms all you like David. But it is clear that the No side was the clear winner in this politically-motivated hit-job by a sitting City Councilmember on his own constituents. Basically, the judge rained on the fancy parade put on by Carson and the Yes side with the Vanguard leading the show as the drum majorette.

    What you claimed were “wildly inaccurate” and “exaggerated” statements by the No side were almost completely upheld by Judge Maguire with the sole exception of changing 54 million pounds (albeit “troy pound”) to the rough equivalent of 20,000 metric tons per year of GHG emissions and eliminating the word “only” from one phrase. Wow! Democracy was saved in Davis thanks to Carson and the Vanguard. But we should also note that it was the No side that suggested these changes to the judge in writing.

    This lawsuit was unprecedented and has never happened before in Davis politics. So it now looks like Carson’s choice to go “nuclear”  has opened the floodgates to these types of dirty shenanigans in the future.  And the Vanguard’s role in trumpeting this whole sordid dystopian, Trumpian affair reveals the dirty side this publication played acting as just another political hack to promote their lawsuit.

    To be clear, Carson’s intention was to put the No side in a choke-hold politically and financially and the fact that the Vanguard continues to play along with this charade under some self-promoted guise of “fair reporting” diminishes this publication as a independent source of unbiased information.

    Perhaps to redeem yourself and the Vanguard’s reputation and try to grab back some measure of respect for objectivity, you should apply the same standard you claim should apply to the No side’s Arguments to the Rebuttal statement by the Yes side and write an article on that.

    But we all know this is not going to happen, right?

      1. Alan Pryor

        C’mon David- Are you really claiming that your arguments are quantitative and objective when you are stating the No’s claims  are “wildly exaggerated” (as just one example). As Matt Williams likes to say, “Pot…meet Kettle”.

        1. David Greenwald

          I believe that the No claims are wildly exaggerated and that the opposition has gotten away with questionable claims on a number of occasions, the judge basically ruled that they weren’t bad enough to strike, but for the most part it was hardly a ringing endorsement.

        2. Ron Oertel

          the judge basically ruled that they weren’t bad enough to strike, but for the most part it was hardly a ringing endorsement.

          The judge wasn’t even asked to review the “pro-development” side’s claims.  It was too late for the other side to challenge them.

        3. Matt Williams

          If they are wildly exaggerated David, then we have a situation of wild exaggeration on the one side,and meaningless, unenforceable commitments on the other side.  Is that what you support?

        4. Keith Y Echols

          If they are wildly exaggerated David, then we have a situation of wild exaggeration on the one side,and meaningless, unenforceable commitments on the other side. 

          Matt,

          Did you read the comment that I wrote in reply to you a couple days ago?  In the document that lists the Baseline Commitments; it said that progress on the baseline features commitments would be reevaluated at the various stages of entitlement.  So at each stage (tentative map and final map for starters) the Council is required to deny the developers approval without progress on those baseline features.  Now what that progress is isn’t defined.  But then IMO you can’t force a developer to make those level of plans before they even know they’re going to get voter approval or at least an initial stage of entitlement.

        5. Keith Olson

          So at each stage (tentative map and final map for starters) the Council is required to deny the developers approval without progress on those baseline features.  Now what that progress is isn’t defined.

          KYE, I took your statement and just changed the bolded parts.  I think this answers what Matt wrote much better.

           

        6. Alan Miller

          Council is required to deny the developers approval without progress on those baseline features.

          And Council, which will be new people we don’t even know when these decisions are made, isn’t bound by even very specific wording in city planning documents.  In any city in California.  This is the basis of why, long shot though it may be, we appealed to the Supremes CA on the Trackside decision.  The citizenry has woken up to understand the who’s who and what’s what and the how, and as a result, faith in the planning process is asymptotically approaching the zero line on the X axis.

        7. Keith Y Echols

          And Council, which will be new people we don’t even know when these decisions are made, isn’t bound by even very specific wording in city planning documents.  In any city in California. 

          Uh…I posted a link (below) to the document that lists the baseline features and stipulates that the baseline features that must be followed.  The Council has to uphold them.

    1. wesleysagewalker

      Despite the high bar of protection afforded to political speech, the ballot statement by the No on H campaign was found by a Yolo County Superior Court Judge to contain claims that were “verifiably false” and “misleading.” The changes that were adopted that were suggested the No on H ballot signers were made directly in response to these claims being ruled “verifiably false” and “misleading.” How is that a credit to the No on H ballot signers when they were ordered to remedy claims that were “verifiably false” and “misleading?” They either were “verifiably false” and “misleading” or they were not. There is no almost here.

    1. David Greenwald

      If you read the judge’s ruling – as I quoted most of it – you see just how close a call it actually was. For example he noted, on the unmitigated ghg claim, “Petitioner argues that this phrase should be interpreted as a factual statement that the project contains no greenhouse gas emission mitigation measures. So construed, it would be objectively false.” But he also constructed three total interpretations and acknowledged “These words are challenging to interpret because they are a heading, not a sentence or assertion.” Here he didn’t rule that the No side got it right, but rather, that he couldn’t find “clear and convincing” evidence that the heading was objectively false or misleading. That’s pretty much as close a call as you can get.

      1. Alan Pryor

        As I stated above, “…you should apply the same standard you claim should apply to the No side’s Arguments to the Rebuttal statement by the Yes side and write an article on that” if you are really unbiased and want to present the Vanguard as such.

  2. Matt Williams

    I understand the judge’s point but I would argue still that “almost no binding commitments” is misleading even if it is not objectively false.  There simply aren’t no binding commitments.  The opposition has narrowly defined binding as binding with the voters—and as we shall see, even there, there are quite a few binding commitments within the Baseline Project Features.

    .
    Okay David, I will take your bait.  Please provide one or more examples of Baseline commitments that are binding … and to what level they are binding?

    To help you along I’ll provide my evaluation of the first Roadways commitment, which reads as follows: “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”

    The problem with that commitment is that there is nothing concrete or binding in it.  It does not specify any amount of funding.  It does not specify any actual capacity, functionality or safety features. It does not specify how the referenced crushing traffic mess will be improved.

    Further, the commitment totally disregards the root cause of the crushing traffic, which is the intersection of Interstate 80 with Mace Blvd.

    Finally. the commitment ignores the fact that CalTrans is 100% in control of those Interstate 80 intersections with Mace. So in total it is a commitment without any real substance, and it does nothing about the traffic mess on Mace.  It simply shuffles the deck chairs on the Titanic.

    1. David Greenwald

      You’re not taking my bait, because there wasn’t bait.  I already laid out the case in a previous article.  The level of binding is irrelevant.  You can subjectively argue that they are not sufficient, I think that’s a fair take, but you can’t say they aren’t binding.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Barbed wire, soaked in fecal matter, and tightened with a ‘come-along’ [both hands, feet, arms, and legs]… but that might not be enough for some folk…

          Far better than laws, legal documents (including DA’s, general contracts), etc., which might be amended due to changed circumstances, with agreement of both parties, subject to due process and notifications… see also, [marriage vows (a legal contract, in most states), rental contracts (where payments can be put in abeyance/deferred, lowered if the renter/borrower runs into unforeseen circumstances), and other promises/representations… all of those are too loosy-goosey and inherently corrupt]…

          Want REAL binding (beyond my first suggestions)?  There is always a strict bread and water diet regimen, or over consumption of hard cheeses (hold the fruits and vegetable fiber)… those will ‘bind’ someone, as well…

           

    2. tkeller

      Separate topic, but Matt have you seen the discussions here and on next-door about the idea of streamlining the overbuilt intersection between 113 and 80?     Your point HERE stands which is that the solution to the traffic issue at mace is not in the city’s hands or the developer’s hands either…

      But I do think that those of us who are concerned with traffic at mace should both stop blaming the city for it, and stop worrying about Disc with it… because it is pretty clear that the problem is with i-80… and we should focus on exerting pressure to fixing THAT ( the experiment to see if streamlining it would work is REALLY simple and cheap to do… ).

      1. Bill Marshall

        because it is pretty clear that the problem is with i-80…

        No, it is pretty clear it is driver expectations and behaviors… “roadways don’t cause traffic congestion problems, people do”… think I have heard something along those lines… and as Walt Kelly had Pogo opine, “we have met the enemy, and it is us”…

        And until we recognize and act on it, there is not thing #1, the City, State, or Feds can do about resolving ‘the problem’…

        The roadways are inert, human made ‘things’… they are not the root cause of ANYthing…

        Suspecting this comment will go “into moderation”, too… guess I need to make at least 15 on a given thread, to avoid that…

        Suspect there will be a zero comment rule put in place for me…

    3. wesleysagewalker

      Matt, here is a slightly abridged list of legally enforceable commitments that are part of the project baseline features since you asked.

      “The Project is subject to numerous commitments established in the Development Agreement between the City of Davis and the Developer as well as through mitigation measures as specified in the environmental review of the project. Specific components of the Development Agreement required by these Baseline Features are the following:
      Housing:
      ·      Housing will be designed and construction timed to meet the housing needs of the workforce.
      ·      Rental and for-sale housing shall be provided to accommodate a range of incomes and needs.
      ·      DiSC 2022 residences will not be dormitory-style housing.
      ·      All housing shall be medium and high-density with a minimum median density of 30 units per acre.
      ·      Commercial development shall precede housing construction; there must be 200,000 square feet of job space before any homes are constructed. Housing construction will be contingent upon the construction of the commercial space at a ratio of one home per 2,000 square feet of nonresidential space. Onsite affordable housing projects shall be exempted from this requirement.
      ·      Parking associated with multifamily parking will be unbundled, meaning that it is paid for separately from rent. Tenants will be able to avoid these parking costs, and reduce traffic impacts if they choose a car-free lifestyle.

      Affordable Housing:
      ·      Housing shall accommodate a diversity of incomes on-site.
      ·      DiSC 2022 will provide for the construction of no less than 85 affordable housing units. Provision of 85 units exceeds City requirements.
      ·      At least 60 of the project’s affordable housing commitment will be constructed on-site in inclusive locations near parks and/or transit.
      ·      At least 14 for-sale units located onsite will be designated for those buyers meeting Yolo County’s definition of moderate income.

      Sustainability:
      ·      DiSC 2022 will achieve carbon neutrality by 2040.
      ·      Project’s electricity demand shall be fueled by 100% clean energy either generated onsite or purchased from a 100% renewable program such as Valley Clean Energy’s “UltraGreen” program.
      ·      In furtherance of the commitment to utilize 100% renewable energy, all conducive structures will maximize installation of solar or other renewable energy technology.
      ·      The project will be pre-wired for future microgrid capacity and designed to accommodate battery storage for energy generated onsite.
      ·      Housing units will be all-electric and will not include natural gas.
      ·      DiSC 2022 will achieve net zero electricity for outdoor lighting.
      ·      Native and drought tolerant plants shall predominate the plant palette. Valley Oaks or other local native species will be significantly incorporated into the agricultural buffer area.
      ·      Runoff shall be captured and conveyed onsite in a series of bioswales intended to filtrate and clean the run-off and maximize groundwater recharge.
      ·      Planting and ongoing tree health at DiSC 2022 will be monitored by an arborist to ensure creation of a healthy tree canopy.
      ·      DiSC 2022 will have a minimum of 1,500 trees (as Tree defined in the City of Davis Tree Ordinance 37.01) to sequester carbon, improve mental health, deter the heat island effect, and provide shading. If the final site plan cannot accommodate 1,500 trees on site, up to 300 of these trees can be planted at another location(s) in Davis.
      ·      Trees planted in parking or street-adjacent areas shall use structured soil or suspended pavement to allow successful root development. Developer shall size pavement treatment areas to accommodate the anticipated sizes of the various tree varietals that will be planted.

      Transit:
      ·      In coordination with Unitrans, Sacramento Regional Transit and Yolobus, enhance and relocate the existing bus stops located on Mace Boulevard for improved use by DiSC 2022 employees and the broader community.
      ·      A Transit Plaza located along Mace Boulevard will serve as a connection point for multi-modal transportation including shuttles with connections to Amtrak and UC Davis, on-site shuttles, paratransit and micromobility (e.g. bike, skateboard, and scooter share services). The Transit Plaza will be capable of stacking multiple buses.
      ·      Land will be reserved to widen the right-of-way on Mace Boulevard to accommodate a potential express bus lane and other future transportation needs.
      ·      DiSC 2022 will establish and participate in a shuttle program with connections to the Amtrak train station, UC Davis, and other destinations.
      ·      A Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Plan will be adopted and implemented requiring specific targeted reductions in vehicle use. A designated TDM manager will report directly to the Master Owners Association and to the City to track progress on actions to improve mobility and to reduce traffic impacts.

      Roadways:
      ·      DiSC 2022 will construct and/or contribute funding to improve the capacity, functionality, and safety of Mace Boulevard and, in particular, at the intersections of Mace and Alhambra Drive 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 vicinity of the project.
      ·      DiSC 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.

      Bicycle and Pedestrian:
      ·      DiSC 2022 will construct a grade-separated bicycle and pedestrian crossing of Mace Boulevard connecting to local and regional trails.
      ·      A minimum of 1.5 miles of publicly accessible bike lanes and walking paths will be provided on-site at DiSC 2022.
      ·      DiSC 2022 will construct an off-street bike trail connection between Mace Boulevard and Harper Junior High School along the inside of the Mace Curve, thereby providing a greatly needed connection, filling a gap in the system, and improving bicycle safety.
      ·      DiSC 2022 will provide ample bicycle connections to local and regional routes, convenient and abundant bicycle parking, storage lockers, shower facilities, and a maintenance and repair kiosks to encourage cycling.

      Agricultural Land and Wildlife Conservation:
      ·      By the full build-out of DiSC 2022, the developer will have purchased conservation easements protecting local agricultural lands amounting to twice the acres converted to urbanized uses, thereby ensuring their preservation as farmland.
      ·      The portion of the Mace Drainage Channel within the DiSC 2022 site will be restored and enhanced utilizing native riparian vegetation while maintaining its drainage conveyance function.
      ·      A diversity of native habitats shall be dispersed and managed throughout the site, primarily within the agricultural buffer and along the channel, including but not limited to riparian, California oak savanna, and native prairie grasslands. The agricultural buffer shall include areas densely vegetated and sparsely vegetated to accommodate nesting and foraging opportunities for a variety of species.
      ·      An artificial burrowing owl den complex will installed in the agricultural buffer in consultation with a qualified biologist.

      Fiber Optic Broadband:
      ·      DiSC 2022 will obtain the rights and extend fiberoptic or comparable internet infrastructure to the site that is critically needed to attract and support research and technology endeavors.
      ·      To the extent feasible, other users, including the City of Davis, UC Davis, DJUSD, and Yolo County, will be allowed to connect to the internet network and extend service into other areas of the City, such as downtown, under terms to be negotiated.

      Sequencing Development of the Project Site

      Buildout of DiSC 2022 will occur in two phases and is anticipated to be constructed gradually over the course of approximately 10 to 15 years. The initial development would likely occur along the western edge at Mace Boulevard, from which infrastructure could be easily extended into the Project site. Phases are as follows:
      ·      Phase 1 will consist of approximately 50 acres and would include 550,000 square feet of innovation building space, up to 50,000 square feet of supportive retail, and up to 275 residential units. Construction of the residential units would be timed to slightly trail the businesses, so that jobs are created on-site prior to offering housing thereby maximizing the likelihood that employees will occupy the housing. The sports park will be constructed in Phase 1.
      ·      A sub-are of Phase 1 (Phase 1A) located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Mace Boulevard and Alhambra Drive, would likely develop first. The area is approximately 3.3 acres and could include 60,000 to 100,000 square feet of office/R&D/laboratory uses.
      ·      Phase 2 consists of approximately 50 acres and will include the remaining 550,000 square feet of innovation uses, 30,000 square feet of supportive retail, and the hotel and conference center. Phase 2 also includes the remaining 185 housing units, continuing the direct linkage between the creation of jobs, prior to the construction of housing.

      Baseline Project Features: Implementation

      The DiSC 2022 must be developed consistent with these Baseline Project Features, which may not be substantially changed without approval by the voters of the City. The Planning Commission and/or Zoning Administrator will review compliance with these Baseline Project Features as they consider applications for Final Planned Development, Tentative Subdivision Map, approval of Design Guidelines, implementation of sustainability plans, and the required annual Development Agreement implementation review.”
       

      As you can see, even under the Project Baseline Features which only compose a limited subset of the commitments with which this project is legally required to comply (the other major commitments are spelled out in the mitigation measures from the EIR, SEIR, and CEQA Addendum as well as the robust commitments found in the rest of the Development Agreement), DiSC 2022 makes a large number of binding commitments which are to be reviewed and enforced at multiple times during the entitlement process.

      I leave it to other readers to judge if this limited subset of commitments are indeed binding and concrete, much less the other commitments found in the EIR, SEIR, CEQA Addendum, and the rest of the Development Agreement, but I would suggest that the claim that they are neither binding nor concrete is false.

      Specifically, with respect to the transportation commitments to which DiSC 2022 is obligated, these are all spelled out in greater detail in the transportation and circulation section of the EIR, SEIR, and CEQA Addendum and will of course involve further study and refinement by traffic engineers, city planners, and other transportation professionals. This seems quite logical to me and in keeping with your insistence that actions undertaken involve significant planning.

      1. Matt Williams

        Wesley the first 26 of those have nothing to do with the “traffic mess”   The 27th has no funding  or timeline.  DiSC could build a sidewalk on its property between those two intersections and fulfill the “commitment” as worded, and in the process do absolutely nothing to remedy/address the traffic mess.  Most importantly without specifically listing the Mace-Interstate 80 intersections, the commitment will not address the root cause of the traffic mess.  That commitment is magical wishes arriving by Unicorn. The 28th and 29th are the referenced plan.  The 30th and 31st have no funding or timeline … two more Unicorns  The  32nd 33rd and 34th do nothing to address/improve the traffic mess.  All the rest of your list aren’t even about traffic.  Reading is fundamental.

      2. Alan Miller

        Some of these are very specific and therefore enforceable; some are completely vague on timing, amount and/or funding; some are just ‘sound goods’ that any lawyer could slide out of.  I’m surprised some of this is even allowed to be placed in a baseline feature list that anyone minimally reviewed.

  3. Bill Marshall

    Completely appropriate that these comments are happening on April 1…

    We’ll see, in June… and I strongly suspect that the ravings here will NOT affect that June result…

    Still, can’t wait to see a certain poster’s 23 comments on this, today…

  4. Ron Oertel

    Would have thought that David would drop this by now, after what he and his development friends experienced as a result of the judge’s ruling.

    The first rule in political science is to (try) to focus attention away from issues that you’ve lost on. Would expect David to know that, given his background.

    Oh, well – spin away, I guess.

  5. Alan Miller

    In a Close Call, Tie Goes to Free Speech…

    Might want to apply that headline to the moderation of the comments section.

    This comment will self-destruct in five seconds, in a silvery glitter-bomb irony explosion.

  6. tkeller

    The voters now have the information to decide whether they agree or not with the advocates of DiSC and, more importantly, they still get to decide whether this is a project they want.

     

    Yes, techincally.   But we all know that only a handful of voters will actually seek out external information about this ballot measure.  They will vote mostly from the ballot statement itself, or the literature that comes to the door.

    The ballot statement has been allowed to stand with a significant amount of willful dis-information included in it.   I agree with you that protecting freedom of speech is probably the “right” call here, but saying that going through this process has generated information for the voters is overly optimistic.

    The damage has been done.   The mailers with these same lies on them went out to my mace ranch neighbors a week or so ago and already the no-on-H lawn-signs are popping up.     The Yes on H campaign is going to have to work VERY VERY hard to undo the damage of this disinformation campaign, and I hope they are successful, because this project is too important to our city to be decided by voters based on fraudulent information.

    Freedom of speech was upheld, but our experiment in direct democracy was badly compromised.   Hard to call that a win for anyone.

    1. Keith Y Echols

      I posted this in a comment a couple days ago.

      RESOLUTION NO. 22-010, SERIES 2022

      Baseline Project Features: Implementation

      The DiSC 2022 must be developed consistent with these Baseline Project Features,

      which may not be substantially changed without approval by the voters of the City. The

      Planning Commission and/or Zoning Administrator will review compliance with these

      Baseline Project Features as they consider applications for Final Planned Development,

      Tentative Subdivision Map, approval of Design Guidelines, implementation of

      sustainability plans, and the required annual Development Agreement implementation

      review…… . In addition, minor changes to the Project can

      be anticipated during the course of this multiple year build out. Such changes, often the

      result of detailed engineering, sustainability obligations, or changes in surrounding

      conditions, may be implemented without voter approval if they are substantially

      consistent with the Baseline Project Features and they do not materially alter the

      character of the Project (See, Resolution 06-40 Establishing Criteria to Determine What

      Constitutes a Significant Project Modification or Change Requiring a Subsequent

      Measure J Vote).

  7. Alan Pryor

    But the very fact that the meaning of the statement is ambiguous suggests it is misleading

    Well, if you really want to go down that rabbit-hole, I’ll join you.

    How about these juicy ambiguous items from the Yes side’s Argument For,

    Yes on H gives voters an exciting opportunity to…

    protect endangered species” (what the ? is that about?)

    “…attracting next -generation companies focused on solving the world’s greates challenges” (like the oil-field equipment and service companies which are some of Ramos’ current real-estate clients in Davis)

    “…provides opportunities for everyone” (well I guess that the low-paying cleaning people at the hotel and janitors at the conference center and  offices and store clerks qualify as ‘everyone’ – But there has been no commitment to allow any of these jobs to unionize so I am not sure these qualify ).

    Should I go on (there are lots more) or are these enough examples of “ambiguous” (and therefor misleading) statements. And these are just in their Argument For. Don’t even get me started in their Rebuttal Statement.

    1. Robb Davis

      I am pretty sure I am going to regret posting this, but tkeller’s comment about direct democracy reminded me that I had written about that issue here on the VG back in 2013.

      Here you go, and have at it:

      https://www.davisvanguard.org/2013/08/the-talisman-of-direct-democracy/

      BTW, I think this is highly relevant to the article since the issues raised about ballot arguments and informed voters are at the heart of the difficulty of direct democracy.

      1. Keith Y Echols

        I’m not a fan of direct democracy.  But I think since it’s here that Direct Democracy puts a much larger responsibility on the leaders to decipher and and interpret the issues and information for the people.  The problem is that that information and interpretation that gets to the people easily becomes partisan one way or the other.

        1. David Greenwald

          That reminds me of the point Matt made earlier:

          If they are wildly exaggerated David, then we have a situation of wild exaggeration on the one side,and meaningless, unenforceable commitments on the other side. Is that what you support?

          While I would frame slightly differently. On the one side, you have to scare people into voting against the project. On the other side, you have to thread a needle fine enough to make commitments that people will support while not boxing yourself in too much with changing circumstances that you can’t build your project if it passes.

          Is this process doing the community any good at this point? I say that as someone who has supported Measure J in concept – the right of the public to vote on projects – but increasingly has wondered to what downside consequences.

        2. Ron Oertel

          While I would frame slightly differently. On the one side, you have to scare people into voting against the project. On the other side, you have to thread a needle fine enough to make commitments that people will support while not boxing yourself in too much with changing circumstances that you can’t build your project if it passes.

          I’d frame it differently from you, of course.

          One one side, you have to convince people to destroy farmland and open space (not to mention all of the other downsides regarding traffic, etc.).

          On the other side, you have to avoid reminding people how all of the previously-approved developments haven’t solved the problems that you’re (now) promising to fix.  (Sort of a “this time will be different” type of argument.) And you have to convince people that those problems are “theirs” in the first place – unlike traffic, for example – which definitely does impact them, personally.

          Or, are those all the same side?  (I can’t tell, anymore.)  🙂

           

        3. Alan Miller

          as someone who has supported Measure J in concept – but increasingly has wondered to what downside consequences.

          Bang  Bang  Ron Glick’s Silver Hammer came down upon his head!

          Just took a decade of hammering!

    2. Ron Glick

      Robb Davis’ almost ten year old op-ed calls into question the shortcomings of the kind of acrimonious direct democracy Measure J has brought.

      A decade later David claims to be beginning to question the efficacy of the ordinance he has steadfastly  supported. Its amazing to compare what Robb’s critical thinking skills could tease out so many years ago to the still embraced dogmatic support for Measure J by David who only toys with recognizing the consequences of the ordinance he has never wavered from supporting.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Are you referring to this, from Robb Davis’ article?

        @Don Shor – I think land use issues are an example of systematic disregard of process and priorities in the past. Indeed, I would probably concede that in Davis, land use issues (specifically taking land out of ag into housing or commercial/industrial) should probably continue to be placed on the ballot. This is not surprising because land is one of our most precious and scarce resources here (I know some will disagree with me on this), and so it is bound to be contentious and require more direct community engagement. The most recent “land swap” issue does, however, demonstrate that elected officials can get things right re: process.

         

        1. Robb Davis

          After having gone through three Measure J/R votes while on the CC, and seeing consistent pushback to nearly all infill projects, I think my views on this have changed. I would respond differently to Don today than I did back then. Still struggle greatly with direct democracy. I do not believe it serves us well.

        2. Ron Oertel

          After having gone through three Measure J/R votes while on the CC, and seeing consistent pushback to nearly all infill projects, I think my views on this have changed. I would respond differently to Don today than I did back then. Still struggle greatly with direct democracy. I do not believe it serves us well.

          Sorry to hear that.

          Had you told me (back in 2013, when you wrote that article) that Davis would approve two proposals via Measure J by now, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.

          I have since come to believe that as “imperfect” as those proposals may (or may not) be, I pretty-much think that the voters made the right choice on those two, overall.

          I’d like to see a lot fewer peripheral proposals come forth in the first place – maybe one every 10 years or so. And, nothing like Covell Village or Shriner’s.

        3. Ron Oertel

          Still struggle greatly with direct democracy. I do not believe it serves us well.

          I do find this statement ironic, given how corrupt the political system is.  Perhaps even more so, at the local level.

          (However, I don’t find the Davis council to be corrupt in the same manner as many other cities.  At least, not as long as I’ve been familiar with the Davis council.)

          Unfortunately, it does seem as though well-meaning social justice advocates on the council are willing to throw farmland and open space “under the bus”, in an illogical attempt to achieve their elusive objectives. Or, maybe they’re just addicted to the Ponzi scheme (partly to fund their objectives), and see no other way around that.

      2. Matt Williams

        Robb, I agree with you that direct democracy has its flaws, but when the alternative is what Jim Frame observed below, isn’t direct democracy preferable to that painful and repeated alternative where the elected officials have abused the public trust?

        It’s a good article with lots of valuable insight, but speaking as someone who moved here 50 years ago, I’ve learned through painful and repeated experience what trusting elected officials with functionally irreversible land use decisions often leads to.

        Borrowing a line from Ron O., I’m mindful of “all of the previously-approved developments [that] haven’t solved the problems that you’re [again] promising to fix.”

    3. wesleysagewalker

      In response:

      DiSC creates new habitat on site for threatened and endangered species and permanently preserves hundreds of acres of farmland and open space as the first Measure J/R/D project that has agreed to comply with both the City of Davis and Yolo County Ag mitigation requirements.

      DiSC 2022 will provide space for startups coming out of the research being done and around UC Davis, scale ups for local innovation firms, an opportunity for relocation/a landing site for firms around the country and world who are engaged in innovation, research institutions and accelerators such as UCANR’s proposed California Agriculture Food and Health Innovation Center, and many other research and development focused firms working on solving the world’s pressing problems.

      DiSC will create employment opportunities for people across all levels of the income spectrum. Not sure why you choose to denigrate jobs like janitors, store clerks, and cleaners, but these are indeed some of the many opportunities that will be part of the broad swathe of economic opportunities for people to pursue. As for unionization, employees working at DiSC would have the same choices available to them as any other employment center of its kind so perhaps I am missing the thrust of the critique here unless you feel that people should be compelled to unionize which is an entirely separate issue.

      1. Alan Miller

        Not sure why you choose to denigrate jobs like janitors, store clerks, and cleaners,Not sure why you choose to denigrate jobs like janitors, store clerks, and cleaners,

        I don’t see denigration, just mention these were low paying.  I’m not sure what the point was, as clearly white collar work requires blue collar support, or you end up with a messy, smelly business park.  I, too, didn’t see the point of unionization being mentioned.

      2. Matt Williams

        DiSC creates new habitat on site for threatened and endangered species and permanently preserves hundreds of acres of farmland and open space as the first Measure J/R/D project that has agreed to comply with both the City of Davis and Yolo County Ag mitigation requirements.

        Wesley, please explain to everyone what the new habitat for threatened and endangered species is on site.

        While you are at it, please provide the details the location and environmental quality of the hundreds of acres of farmland and open space that the project permanently preserves.

        Finally, please also explain how the Nishi 2018 project and the WDAAC/Bretton Woods project were out of compliance with the City of Davis and/or Yolo County Ag mitigation requirements.

        My sense is that your quote above goes zero for three with respect to veracity and accountability … and perhaps honesty.

  8. Jim Frame

    These realities characterize nearly every ballot initiative I have been part of since moving to California nearly 15 years ago.

    It’s a good article with lots of valuable insight, but speaking as someone who moved here 50 years ago, I’ve learned through painful and repeated experience what trusting elected officials with functionally irreversible land use decisions often leads to.

    Borrowing a line from Ron O., I’m mindful of “all of the previously-approved developments [that] haven’t solved the problems that you’re [again] promising to fix.”

    1. Darell Dickey

      Crediting both you and Ron O., I’d like to point out what continuously gets swept under the rug: It is illegal to create a financial pyramid scheme, but it is business as usual for city development decisions. We can NEVER afford the situation we’re in. So we must build more to raise the money to fill that gap…. so we can forever create the next gap that will need to be filled by the next development that will ALSO save us from financial ruin. If forever expansion is the only way for a society to stay healthy…. well… we are going to need a new definition for “sustainable.” Or, of course, move to Mars.

      If we don’t build this, how can we pay for all the stuff that the other developments didn’t pay for?

      1. Matt Williams

        Darell’s comment is the very best one in a group of very good comments in this thread.  Kudos to everyone who has contributed to this thread.

  9. Alan Miller

    Completely appropriate that these comments are happening on April 1…

     

    April Fool’s?

    Everyday is April Fool’s Day in the Vanguard Comments Section!

  10. Ron Oertel

    Borrowing a line from Ron O., I’m mindful of “all of the previously-approved developments [that] haven’t solved the problems that you’re [again] promising to fix.”

    Appreciate that.  I noticed that no one had an answer to that challenge.

    You’d think that all of the relatively-recent development on Second street (edge of Mace Ranch) would have saved the city, by now.

    Must be something “deeper” wrong with this model. Especially since this type of problem isn’t completely limited to Davis.

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