Guest Commentary: Davis Must Build More Housing to Avoid Municipal Stagnation

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by Jackson Mills

Healthy cities are consistent growth machines. They continuously attract new residents while supporting their existing population that contribute to the local economy. The revenue a city earns from this population base is then used to fund and expand essential services, such as education, public safety, healthcare, energy, water, transportation, and much more. These improved services then attract more new residents to the city, spurring more spending and development.

This is a healthy cycle for cities, allowing them to grow at a steady pace and make tangible improvements to services and attractions that bolster the quality of life. What happens, however, when a community hijacks this growth process? What happens when attempts are made to freeze a city in a particular time period and prevent this cycle from occurring? We don’t have to go far to find answers.

Over the last 20 years, the city of Davis has largely stopped growing. According to the U.S. Census, the city experienced a 10-year population growth of 30.5% from 1990 to 2000. This dropped to 8.8% from 2000 to 2010, and from 2005 to 2010 total growth was less than 2%. This slow pace continued through the next decade, with 1.9% total growth between 2010 and 2020.

Davis’s population growth stagnation stems from the fact that the city stopped building meaningful levels of housing. The city grew at a steady pace from the 1970s to the 1990s, but new housing construction dropped off at the turn of the century. From 2010 to 2020, just 1,200 units were built, an increase of 4.6%, or less than half a percentage point annually.

This was due to a variety of factors. One of the most notable was the passage of Measure J in 2000, which required a citywide vote on any development project that necessitated annexation of land adjacent to the city. The measure was then extended with Measures R in 2010 and Measure D in 2020. Measure J has allowed Davis residents to strike down key housing development proposals over the last two decades, seen most recently with the rejection of the Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus in 2020.

Only two projects—Bretton Woods in 2018 and Nishi in 2018 (after failing at the ballot box in 2016)—have been approved by voters since the passage of Measure J. Both have had lawsuits filed against them from disgruntled residents seeking to prevent any new development from being built. As of 2022, zero units of housing have materialized from Measure J/R/D projects.

If Davis cannot develop agricultural land, the only other option is infill development. But attempts to build within city limits have been mercilessly bogged down by residents and community organizers who hide behind claims of preserving the character of the neighborhood in question.

Take, for example, the Trackside Center development. This four-story mixed use building was approved by the Davis city council in 2017, but shockingly construction hasn’t begun nearly five years later. The development was stuck in litigation brought on by Old East Davis community members who decided to devote half a decade to blocking new retail and new neighbors from their neighborhood. This only ended after the State Supreme Court declined to review the case in April 2022.

Here we see the fundamental reason why Davis has struggled to build any housing over the last two decades. Residents have uniquely immense power in determining the fate of new development; no matter how or where the city attempts to build, every new project is one lawsuit or vote away from being delayed for years, or never being built at all. To put it mildly, this is an incredibly unsustainable situation.

The consequences of not building are rooted in basic economics: While housing supply in Davis has tapered off, demand for available and affordable housing has exploded. This dichotomy has spurred a precipitous rise in housing prices: The median home value in Davis has jumped from $450,000 in 2012 to more than $875,000 in 2022. An average household income of around $200,000 is necessary to afford a home at this value, which only an estimated 11.2% of Yolo County households and 13.3% of California households make, according to the American Community Survey.

Sky-high demand for housing in Davis without enough supply has led to an historically low rental vacancy rate. From 2014 to 2019, 0.5 percent of rentals were vacant on average at any given time; for context, healthy housing markets tend to have vacancy rates from five to eight percent. Davis’s low vacancy rate is symbolic of an exclusionary housing market that works to the detriment of anyone trying to find rental units.

Davis faces a housing affordability crisis like never before in its history. This is not unique, as many cities in California have experienced soaring housing costs over the last decade. What is different about Davis are the measures and ordinances that have made it almost impossible for the city to build enough housing in the 21st century. This includes Measure J as well as the one-percent growth cap adopted in 2006, which mandates that the city not expand its population beyond one percent annually.

One group hit particularly hard by Davis’s housing crisis is families. It is generally agreed that Davis is a great place to raise a family, with its outstanding schools, plentiful parks and greenspace, easy access to goods and services, and close proximity to major employment centers in Sacramento. The city also has a vested interest in catering to the needs of families, who contribute significantly to local government revenues through sales tax and real estate taxes.

But the ongoing housing crisis means that a growing number of families are unable to afford living in Davis. As a result, Davis schools are facing an enrollment decline that threatens to reduce state funding within a few years. School district officials are warning that the district faces declining enrollment for the foreseeable future. This increasingly untenable situation will force cuts to essential educational programs and faculty—and could even portend the closure of schools—unless residents vote to increase parcel taxes or find other sources of funding to stave off these cuts. The district’s recent strategy of importing students from outside of Davis is not a viable long-term solution to this deepening crisis.

Education is not the only institution that will suffer if Davis does not build enough housing. Cities that lack the necessary tax base and revenue sources face the prospect of budget challenges that can significantly impact everything from education quality, transportation access, infrastructure maintenance, health services, and public safety resources. With ever-increasing costs of living and services that are stuck in a cycle of chronic underfunding and inadequacy, it becomes very difficult for cities to improve their situation.

What results from this vicious cycle are cities that function as exhibits for the well-off to enjoy among themselves. They are unable to be lived in by huge chunks of the general population and are seen as increasingly undesirable from outsiders looking in. Davis is closer to this reality than we realize.

One group I have not yet mentioned is students, who will nonetheless play a significant role in determining Davis’s prospects. A core principle among community members who have vocally opposed new development in Davis is that UC Davis should be doing more to house its students on campus. This is a cynical way of deflecting responsibility away from the city and toward the university to solve the housing crisis on its own. It also ignores that UC Davis has, in fact, done a lot to accommodate its growing student population, most notably with the completion of West Village accounting for 5,475 beds.

The consistency of student residency in Davis would normally safeguard against some of the economic and institutional troubles that will affect the city without a change in the status quo. But because the university is not within city limits, students living on campus are not a functioning property tax base for Davis to rely on.

If Davis does not build enough housing and UC Davis continues to build more housing, a growing number of students are going to live on campus instead of in the city. This is a lost tax base that the city could otherwise take advantage of. Any argument that the university should house more of its students is an argument in favor of cutting out significant revenue Davis would receive if these students remained in the city itself.

The city cannot rely on any particular group of people or any other quick fix to avoid the costs of not building enough housing; it simply must build more housing. We need to recognize that the desire among longtime residents and community members to keep Davis unchanged is starting to change the city for the worse.

Davis’s neighborhoods cannot be museums for the wealthy and retired, complete with exhibits that never change. The city’s well regarded municipal services and institutions will suffer unless we take meaningful steps to address our housing crisis. Measure J and the one-percent growth cap are incompatible with the housing needs of Davis and must be reformed if we can even hope to make housing more accessible and affordable.

Davis is a lively, diverse, and culturally rich city. We should be doing everything in our power to preserve these qualities that comprise such an integral part of the city’s character. All are at risk without effective municipal housing policies that ensure the addition of enough units to make housing more accessible and affordable. We owe it to ourselves, our current and future neighbors, and the city we love to make certain that the next generation of families, students, changemakers, and everyone in between, can live and thrive in Davis.

Jackson Mills is a student at UC Davis, Director of Political Affairs for the Davis College Democrats, and bus driver for ASUCD Unitrans.

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49 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: Davis Must Build More Housing to Avoid Municipal Stagnation”

  1. Jim Frame

    Measure J/R/D gives the electorate — the stockholders, if you will, of the municipal corporation — the power to decide whether or not to expand their city.  It’s hardly a radical notion.

    1. Richard_McCann

      That’s what the whites who wanted to keep their neighborhoods segregated claimed in the past as well. No one is an “owner” of a municipality. Cities are convenient political divisions that ease administration for our larger governmental entities.  Everyone in the state has a stake in every smaller community. No one has a right to exclude others from other communities from residing in that community by limiting housing supply.

      1. Aaron Stacy

        I think that communities should have a say in how they grow and develop.  By allowing development to be decided solely by committees and developers (who are often in bed with each other) is a recipe for disaster.

      2. Alan Miller

        That’s what the whites who wanted to keep their neighborhoods segregated claimed in the past as well.

        So, measure J is racist?

        Everyone in the state has a stake in every smaller community.

        I don’t understand what that means.

        No one has a right to exclude others from other communities from residing in that community by limiting housing supply.

        And yet Davis does just that.  Do we have the right?

    1. Alan Miller

      Jackson Mills is a student at UC Davis, Director of Political Affairs for the Davis College Democrats . . .

      You forgot that part, RG.  This is hilarious because after a few paragraphs in I was thinking to myself ‘this sounds like it’s “written by” the College Democrats’.  And sure enough . . .

  2. Keith Y Echols

    This reads like a “I want more housing” 101 primer.  Of course it’s ignorant in the fact that HOUSING IS A COST TO THE EXISTING COMMUNITY.

    Then there’s wrong headed entitled comment:

    One group I have not yet mentioned is students, who will nonetheless play a significant role in determining Davis’s prospects. A core principle among community members who have vocally opposed new development in Davis is that UC Davis should be doing more to house its students on campus. This is a cynical way of deflecting responsibility away from the city and toward the university to solve the housing crisis on its own. It also ignores that UC Davis has, in fact, done a lot to accommodate its growing student population, most notably with the completion of West Village accounting for 5,475 beds.

    The city of Davis has no responsibility to UCD.  They CHOOSE to exist in separate jurisdictions.  Saying UCD has done a lot to accommodate it’s growing student population is like your neighbor putting out half the mouse traps necessary to capture all the mice and then saying; they’re spilling over on to your property…it’s your responsibility.

    If Davis does not build enough housing and UC Davis continues to build more housing, a growing number of students are going to live on campus instead of in the city. This is a lost tax base that the city could otherwise take advantage of.

    What lost tax base?  You mean the net negative revenue that will result in providing services to this new housing?  Now here’s where I might agree somewhat;  Yes, the city does need to capitalize on the student population.  It should have dedicated student quarter/area near UCD that has the desired commercial services that students want.  And if necessary it could have some mixed in housing to better support this student quarter.

    Jim Frame: Measure J/R/D gives the electorate — the stockholders, if you will, of the municipal corporation — the power to decide whether or not to expand their city. It’s hardly a radical notion.

    Yes but it’s a stupid notion to give the unwashed mashes DIRECT decision making power on such a complex long term issue.

      1. Keith Y Echols

        Not having sufficient housing is also a cost to the existing community

        Well if you say it online. It must be true.  I will bow to your expertise in land development and city finance.  So in lieu of providing anything of substance to back up your claim…. please let me know where you studied urban planning and with which development firms you worked or or started so I may acquire your in depth knowledge and experience.

      2. Keith Y Echols

        You probably won’t believe my anecdotal comments on the subject.  I believe Matt Williams has calculated the costs per unit or person to the city.  I’ve referenced this article before that illustrates how Modesto is in a similar situation that Davis is in.

        Jaylen French, Modesto’s economic development director, said developing new land is always risky for a city. Because entitled land needs to be fitted with utilities and maintained in perpetuity, embarking on a large-scale development typically results in a “net negative” for a city’s budget.

        Note: this comment was made in the context of new housing development.

        1. Richard_McCann

          If French’s comment was true then no city would ever be in fiscal balance. Yet most cities with a thriving economy run at least balanced budgets. The obvious empirical evidence contradicts this obviously false statement. In fact, this reveals that Modesto’s economic development director may be incompetent.

        2. Ron Oertel

          The only fiscal analysis that I’ve seen for apartment buildings in Davis showed a fiscal loss (resulting from Sterling), after approximately 12-15 years, as I recall. With that loss increasing every year thereafter, in perpetuity.

          David is familiar with that analysis, as well.

          Unfortunately, this type of development is not usually analyzed.

          If French’s comment was true then no city would ever be in fiscal balance. Yet most cities with a thriving economy run at least balanced budgets.

          Name some. I can post a list which shows the vast majority of cities in California have long-term fiscal deficits – including cities with “thriving economies”. (Perhaps even especially those with “thriving economies”.)

          Define “balanced budgets” in that context.

        3. Aaron Stacy

          Richard McCann,

          I grew up in Modesto, and it is my hometown, the place has turned into a cesspool.  My family has lived there for three generations (going on four), and they have watched it turn from a prosperous agricultural town into a crime-ridden, traffic-packed, and mismanaged all to hell.  When I return home, I pass by their eye-sore 20M overpass project where they put their motto on the side of it: “Water, wealth, contentment, health” – and it reminds me of how much we squandered.

          If Davis is in a similar position Modesto is in, it needs to look at Modesto like it’s older drug-addicted sibling and do the polar opposite of everything it has done.

        4. Keith Y Echols

          If French’s comment was true then no city would ever be in fiscal balance. Yet most cities with a thriving economy run at least balanced budgets. The obvious empirical evidence contradicts this obviously false statement. In fact, this reveals that Modesto’s economic development director may be incompetent.

          Richard, I thought you were an economist; which would imply some level or degree of knowledge about accounting and finance (to go along with the study of economic behavior).

          It’s pretty simple….and in this case Ron is correct….many cities run a development ponzi scheme.  Sure a city can get it’s finances squared away through development fees that provide a cash infusion for cities.  But it’s a short term fix that requires further development to pay for the long term costs of providing services to those new homes.

          Commercial development tends to be a source of positive tax revenue for a city because it tends to require less service but also (and more importantly) provides business and sales tax revenue.

    1. Bill Marshall

      HOUSING IS A COST TO THE EXISTING COMMUNITY.

      Keith Y-E and David… you’re getting into a silly discussion…

      Housing is a cost to the community… schools are a cost to the community… roads/bikepaths/sidewalks, sewage, drainage, parks, open space, recreation programs, police/fire services are all costs to a community… health care, social services, financial services, City Council, commissions, JeRkeD elections are all costs to the EXISTING community… DUH!

      TNSTAAFL!

      The correct discussion is on relative value, and acceptable costs… and those values go well beyond strict economic numbers…

      To say all housing is bad, or good, all commercial is all bad, or good, misses the reality entirely… and there are nuances in those values…

      If everyone fully paid their “fair share” of costs, based on demand/needs, the rich would get richer, the ‘economically challenged’ would be further challenged…

      Define “community”!??!

      1. Keith Y Echols

        To say all housing is bad, or good, all commercial is all bad, or good, misses the reality entirely… and there are nuances in those values…

        I would gladly like to hear your thoughts on the “nuances in those values” that you speak of.

        As for relative value: I support housing at DISC as a necessary evil to get the project going (likely financially approved).  I support student housing in a student quarter that is focused on commercial uses that can capture sales tax revenue.  I support affordable housing (and would push for more public housing options) to encourage a mix of socio-economic residents in the community (and simply building more market rate housing isn’t going to work).

    2. Richard_McCann

      Again I will retort that the residents of Davis have an obligation to the taxpayers of California to accept the responsibilities that come with hosting a UC campus for the obvious benefits bestowed on Davis from its presence. We only need to contrast Davis with a similarly situated Dixon to measure those benefits. I’ve elaborated at length in previous posts

      The bigger issue is not loss of tax revenue but rather the disenfranchisement of having students on campus outside of City limits instead of inside the City where they can directly vote for local representation. This is just another example of an attempt to segregate and disenfranchisement a specific class of individuals so wealthy homeowners can maintain their privileges. The last sentence illustrates the anti-democratic notion behind this comment.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Again I will retort that the residents of Davis have an obligation to the taxpayers of California to accept the responsibilities that come with hosting a UC campus for the obvious benefits bestowed on Davis from its presence.

        The taxpayers of the state of California only pay a portion of UCD’s budget.  I recall Don Shor posting a percentage, which is much lower than you might expect.

        In reference to your argument (which doesn’t really make much sense in the first place), I suspect that Davis is providing housing for a much higher percentage of students, compared to the percentage of funding provided by the state to UCD.

        Your argument might make more sense if the state was providing that funding to to the city (specifically for student housing), rather than UCD. But again, the city is already likely exceeding the percentage given to UCD in the first place (in comparison to the percentage of UCD’s students that the city houses).

         

      2. Keith Y Echols

        I will retort that the residents of Davis have an obligation to the taxpayers of California to accept the responsibilities that come with hosting a UC campus for the obvious benefits bestowed on Davis from its presence.

        There you go again with your mystical magical belief in the obligation of the city of Davis at the cult of UCD.

        THE CITY OF DAVIS DOES NOT HOST UCD!!!!  Why is that such a hard concept to understand????   UCD sits outside of the city’s jurisdiction.  UCD makes it’s own ordinances AND PAYS NO CITY FEES OR TAXES.

    3. Alan Miller

      The other thing that is clear from the quotes you pulled from the article, KYE, is that the views are beneficial to developers who build projects in the City, not for students overall, who just want housing.

      Does it not strike all of you that a student writes a piece that has points that benefit in-city developers, not just a call for more housing overall which is what students want?  Remember the term ‘follow the money’.  I saw a developer tell a group of College Democrats he was buying them dinner after a City Council meeting in the entryway to Chambers a few years back (and later saw them at Thai Canteen), and two credible sources have told me developers in town make large contributions to the group.  Follow the money.

  3. Matt Williams

    Healthy cities are consistent growth machines. They continuously attract new residents while supporting their existing population that contribute to the local economy. The revenue a city earns from this population base is then used to fund and expand essential services, such as education, public safety, healthcare, energy, water, transportation, and much more. These improved services then attract more new residents to the city, spurring more spending and development.

    This is a healthy cycle for cities,

    .
    The author of this article has done an excellent job of describing the Growth Ponzi Scheme, which can be described as follows:

    Most American cities find themselves caught in the Growth Ponzi Scheme.

    We experience a modest, short-term illusion of wealth in exchange for enormous, long-term liabilities.

    We deprive our communities of prosperity, overload our families with debt, and become trapped in a spiral of decline.

    .
    My question to the author is whether a Ponzi Scheme is ever “a healthy cycle for cities”?

    This link will take you to a video “Why American Cities Are Broke – The Growth Ponzi Scheme” prepared by Charles Mahron and the team at StongTowns.org

    1. Bill Marshall

      Ahhh…  you’ve hit on an excellent point…

      whether a Ponzi Scheme is ever “a healthy cycle for cities”?

      Use of adjectives, to promote (or defend against) an ‘agenda’… very much more typical in the last couple of decades… “I’m right, you’re wrong” was a less subtle way of having discussions… now PC incorrect…

      There is no magic bullet, magic wand… one way or the other… “zero/negative growth” and “let’s develop anything, any time” are the extremes… neither will move the football forward, deal with reality… yet both cloak themselves in pointing out the fallacies in the other, without recognizing their own ‘glass houses’…

      Are there any thinking, knowledgeable adults in the room?  “I wonder”…

       

      1. Darell Dickey

        “Are there any thinking, knowledgeable adults in the room?  “I wonder”…”

        Yup. See Matt’s comment above.

        I’m confused…. Zero/no growth deal with reality. And developing everything doesn’t deal with reality. So what does the knowledgeable adult in the room think is the answer that doesn’t come from the glass house? I assume some sort of never-ending slow growth? But I can’t accurately infer much here except that everybody else is wrong.

    2. Bret Stevens

      The only perpetual growth the homeowners of Davis are typically interested in is the perpetual growth of their home values.

      The housing market in this town has become its own Ponzi Scheme. Granted its happening everywhere else now too, but Davis was an early adopter. The video you link to is not anti-growth. Its anti low density growth. I’ve talked to Jackson, and I do not think this is the type of growth he is talking about. High density housing is typically cheaper for a city to service than a comparable amount of single family homes. In fact, the video you link to is pretty explicitly saying that growth should be via high-density housing. People want to live here. If we do not build more houses for them, the price of housing will rise. No amount of wishful thinking will stop that.

      I imagine in the rest of the country, housing prices will start to deflate from the post pandemic bubble. Interest rates are decreasing demand and there has been a bit of a construction boom that is finally starting to make a dent in the housing construction dearth of the 2010’s. I’m not convinced this will happen in Davis though. The only way for housing to become affordable here is to build up. The anti-housing advocates in town seem to have quite a bit of political sway and endless energy. They seem driven to make Davis an income restricted community. Its disappointing, but I hope to see the housing price Ponzi Scheme collapse at some point.

       

  4. Ron Glick

    “It should have dedicated student quarter/area near UCD that has the desired commercial services that students want.”

    This is exactly what UC has built south of Russell. Too bad Davis gets nothing out of it.

    I understand your assertion that housing is a loser for the city but I wonder if it holds for these new apartment buildings?

    1. Mark West

      “I wonder if it holds for these new apartment buildings?”

      The notion that housing is a money loser for cities is based on the standard subdivision of low density detached houses. The claim begins to fall apart when housing densities rise, and is highly suspect when the form of development is high density, multi-story, multi-family housing.

      1. Keith Y Echols

         The claim begins to fall apart when housing densities rise, and is highly suspect when the form of development is high density, multi-story, multi-family housing.

        That is not entirely true.  Usually the impact on existing infrastructure is expensive in the long run for cities when higher density infill projects are built.  I’m all for more infill projects.  I’d far prefer them over peripheral development.  But my experience has shown me the reality of the impact of higher density infill on existing infrastructure.  There are no free lunches…so to speak.

  5. Aaron Stacy

    Since it seems to have some relevance as the story’s author is a UCD student.  I am also a UCD student- a 3rd year graduate student in the Chemistry department.  Anyways, here’s my comment:

    Sure, not having any housing is detrimental to a community, but continuous expansion is far more detrimental.  Davis is in the precarious position where it is at the brink of becoming a small city or staying a large town.  Personally, I come from a city (and region) that has seen explosive growth fueled by Bay Area industry- and I can tell you from personal experience that the sacrificing of the small town vibe for housing is the equivalent of modern bloodletting.  Not only do we reduce our local capacity to grow food, but we lose a part of our history, our identity, and compound existing issues (i.e. traffic, crime, road deterioration, etc.).  The people of Davis should be very thankful that they have managed to hold the power of veto over any proposed development- and should retain that right for as long as they possibly can.

    On another note:  it is VERY clear to me now that Greenwald is a heavy proponent of Palpmino Place- and development in general.  I live in this development, as do two other families.  We have lived here for three years- some of us for longer than ten years.  The place has a historical significance, it housed the part of the UC Davis Equine reproductive program in the 90s and 2000s; it housed various Equine club’s horses up through the 2010s; and recently it has become an animal refuge where wild rabbits, hares, possums, owls, and dozens of bird species have made their homes.  To develop Palomino Place would demolish not only their homes, but ours too.  Yes, I will acknowledge that the home we reside in will not be literally destroyed, but everything that makes it special will be. It will be the permanent destruction of Duffel Farm, the last Wild Horse tamed, the literal  final nail in the coffin for Davis’ agricultural heritage.

    Tangential, but important story coming:

    To the readers of the Davis Vanguard, David Greenwald (deliberately?) ignored a story about the developers of Palomino Place (Taormino and associates) screwing over the students of Davis High School at the 11th hour this year when they were looking to house their farm aninals on the property while their buildings were undergoing service from April to August.  The people pushing Palomino Place lied to the staff, students of DHS, and to the residents of Davis by saying that WE (the residents on the property) did not want the animals housed here.  I contacted Greenwald, he asked for the receipts, I forwarded him the email thread, and NOTHING.  Left on read because CLEARLY he is on the take as evidenced by the ad on top of every page.  It seems quite biased to post pro-development ads and pro-development articles, but never run any stories that show the other side of the story.

    To the readers of Davis Vanguard:  Please save my home, please save our homes, save your community, and please keep Davis small.  Do not end up like Modesto (my hometown) or Stockton.  YOU, the voters, have a choice.

    1. Richard_McCann

      College towns bigger than Davis have maintained their ambience, ones that I’m very familiar with e.g.,  Eugene, Ann Arbor, Bellingham. Stockton and Modesto are the way they are for very different reasons that are rooted in their local economies that are much more like Woodland’s.

      Note that the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is likely to lead to a reduction of 700,000 to 1 million acres of cultivated agriculture in the Central Valley where ag is dependent on groundwater. Yolo ag relies substantially on groundwater supplies as well. So we are likely to see a shrinkage of local ag land over the next 20 years.

      1. Aaron Stacy

        All of those cities are outside of California, are they not?  Kind of hard to compare apples to oranges here, don’t you think?

        Modesto and Stockton do not enjoy the luxury (read: right) for the people to approve/deny new housing developments like Davis does.  Interestingly enough, Ripon, which is 15 minutes north of Modesto hosts a vibrant economy and culture- but has not seen the growth the other cities nearby have (Ceres and Salida come to mind).  This is solely because their city council and associated representatives have blocked most attempts to develop new housing just because there’s demand.  Not everything needs to be for sale.

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  7. Edgar Wai

    There is no known moral basis to support the claim the “continual growth is healthy.”

    The commonly known moral basis gives “sustainability is health.” This implies a city should shrink if it is too big.

    Measure J etc is anti autonomy because it allows majority to win on every parcel.

    In Choice Democracy, each person would have the same decision power which is consumed as they exercise their power. Choice Democracy can be applied to land usage with voters endorsing the usage of their divided amount of land. Then minority can approve the usage of their proportional amount.

    Choice Democracy is democracy without needing to vote, as applied in situations where voting would harm autonomy, such as in land use.

     

    1. Ron Oertel

      There is no known moral basis to support the claim the “continual growth is healthy.”

      Agreed.  Actually, there is no basis of any type to support that claim.

      The commonly known moral basis gives “sustainability is health”.

      True.

      This implies a city should shrink if it is too big.

      They do, sometimes.  It’s usually a pretty painful process, in that direction.

      Measure J etc is anti autonomy because it allows majority to win on every parcel.

      Factually incorrect, regarding parcels in the city. (See Trackside, for example. Though we don’t know what would happen if that proposal or others were subject to a vote. Probably less-successful, in gaining approval.)

      Measure J enables voters to determine if (generally) large agricultural parcels outside of the city should be included in the city (and subdivided for development), which would then be the responsibility of the city to provide services to – in perpetuity.

      In Choice Democracy, each person would have the same decision power which is consumed as they exercise their power. Choice Democracy can be applied to land usage with voters endorsing the usage of their divided amount of land. Then minority can approve the usage of their proportional amount.

      Choice Democracy is democracy without needing to vote, as applied in situations where voting would harm autonomy, such as in land use.

      Don’t know what you’re talking about, here – so no comment other than that.

       

       

      1. Edgar Wai

        Say there are 5 pieces of land converting to be voted on, and the voters are 40% pro conversion.

        In majority rule democracy, even though the decisions all about land use, each vote is independent. This means the 60% will win in every vote. The result is 60% of the voters will decide 100% of the land use.

        Because the 40% did not get their proportional decision power, majority rule is anti autonomy (the minority lost their decision rights).

        In Choice Democracy, the voters are endorsing land use by spending their fixed 100% decision power per person.

        For example, if a voter is dead set that parcel A shall not be converted, they may endorse their 100% decision power on A to be non converted. By doing that, they have exhausted their decision power and does not have a say on what to do about parcel B to D.

        The result is that the 40% pro conversion voters gets 40% of the land to convert. Their autonomy is not violated.

        1. Ron Oertel

          For example, if a voter is dead set that parcel A shall not be converted, they may endorse their 100% decision power on A to be non converted. By doing that, they have exhausted their decision power and does not have a say on what to do about parcel B to D.

          What if they, for example, were opposed to converting parcel A, but supported converting parcel B to D?

          In other words, you seem to be assuming that they’d be automatically opposed to all of the conversions.

          How would you even implement something like this, e.g., over the course of several elections? Would election officials “keep track” of previous votes for individuals (and block future ones for a period of time) under this scenario? Isn’t that information private in the first place, for that matter?

          Sounds like a situation in which we’d need Trump’s team to subsequently come in and check for voter fraud, but with some basis in reality.

        2. Edgar Wai

          Re: Parcel A, B, C, D, E.

          The way Choice Democracy works is that a voter gets their share of decision power in acres. Say in total there are 1000 acres to decide, and there are 10K voters, then each voter has a decision power of 0.1 acres.

          When a project proposal asks for 5 acres, then each voter decides how much they want to endorse and makes the endorsement. If the project gets at least 5 acres of approval from the 10K voters, then the project is approved.

          A voter can only endorse using the decision power that they have. A voter that has never decided on any land use may use 100% of their decision to support the project. that would be 0.1 acres out of that 5 acres. But by doing so the voter is also forgoing having a say on other projects.

          Re: Implementation

          This is the information age with computers. Anonymity and accounting are both trivial problems. Without using computers, it can also be done using a city council, and it works with proportional representation.

          In the simplified case, say you have a city council with 5 members. Then it is equivalent to having a village of just five people. The 5 members simply make open votes (not anonymous). The 1000 acres would be split between the members, each having decision power of 200 acres.

          Then, if someone proposes a project that only needs 5 acres, even if 4 of 5 members are against it, as long as the last member still have 5 acres of unallocated decision, that member could use their power to approve the project.

          In Choice Democracy, there is no “majority” versus “minority. Every member has the same fixed amount of decision power to spend.

  8. Bill Marshall

    PSA (definitely off-topic!):

    Recology – Davis is having a free document/paper shredding event tomorrow… 9A-12N… only 2/yr occurrence…

    Just wait until 9:30 to show up, so y’all don’t delay/inconvenience me… (the ‘Davis attitude’)

  9. Ron Oertel

    Just noticed this, from the article:

    Measure J has allowed Davis residents to strike down key housing development proposals over the last two decades, seen most recently with the rejection of the Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus in 2020.

    Interesting, that DISC was framed as a “housing development” by this author. Is that a Freudian slip?

    Ironically, both the previous and current proposal would create housing shortages, despite the inclusion of housing.  (Assuming that the commercial is actually successful.) Says so, right in the EIR itself. (The EIR notes that DISC creates a demand for 1,269 housing units that WON’T be included onsite. In other words, 460 units onsite, and 1,269 offsite.)

    Even more ironic that the supporters of DiSC claim that the current housing element would satisfy this additional demand, despite the fact that the current housing element plan does not account for it.

    However, SACOG would ensure that future housing elements include a plan for addressing that increased demand, if DiSC is approved.

  10. Todd Edelman

    The author is also a member of the Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission (BTSSC) – while it’s significant that this opinion article by someone more than anything representing DCD’s position showed this affiliation – in comparison with the past where the DCD affiliation was left out of the by-line – it’s curious that two other affiliations (or one, because one has to be a student to be a Unitrans driver or a member of DCD) were mentioned, but not that he’s a member of the BTSSC, for which he interviewed with and was recommended by Councilmember Carson (and Partida), and – a reminder – that DCD recently honored Carson for whatever it is that Carson does.

  11. Jim Frame

    No one has a right to exclude others from other communities from residing in that community by limiting housing supply.

    Developers (and a certain economist) beat their breasts and rend their garments, proclaiming, “We must be allowed to build housing!”  For the benefit of those folks, remember that Measure J has a provision for adding up to 5 acres per year to the city for affordable housing upon making a finding that should be a slam-dunk.  Ever wonder why it hasn’t ever been used?  Because no one has ever tried.  The developers shrug their shoulders because there’s not enough profit in it.  (The economist turns back to his dismal science, muttering something about the regrettable conflict between egalitarianism and the rights of capital.)

  12. Darell Dickey

    “Healthy cities are consistent growth machines.”

    I guess healthy humans are consistent growth machines too. Up until the time that they can grow no more and begin to decline. And then die.

    We have no example of something that grows forever. Not in this finite world. So where, when and how does a city’s “consistent growth machine” stop? We can acknowledge this and plan for it, or we can put on blinders and enjoy the party while it lasts.

    I’ve never understood this idea that never-ending growth is the only option for “health.” Where are the examples that prove this?

  13. Alan Miller

    Take, for example, the Trackside Center development.

    I wish someone would take it.  Far, Far Away.

    This four-story mixed use building was approved by the Davis city council in 2017, but shockingly construction hasn’t begun nearly five years later.

    As you know:  that is not shocking.

    The development was stuck in litigation brought on by Old East Davis community members

    I’d argue it was “brought on” by the developers of the project and the City — but clearly that is a value judgement brought on by which side one is on.

    who decided to devote half a decade

    OEDNA did not ‘decide to devote half a decade’.  OEDNA would have gladly had this over with much sooner, but negotiations with the developer, even formal Yolo County mitigation, did not lead to mutual agreement between parties.  OEDNA’s repeated suggestion to the City to hire Opitcos — who assured us they could find a mutually agreeable building form (“It’s what we do”) — was ignored.  OEDNA even suggested we could fund part of the cost.

    to blocking new retail and new neighbors from their neighborhood.

    That’s just straight up a lie; you need to apologize and retract that.  At NO TIME did OEDNA oppose the construction of a retail and residential building there.  What we opposed was doing so with a building form outside the Neighborhood Design Guidelines (unless a new design was mutually agreed to), as well as the process where the City appeared to give assurance that (enough for the developers to propose) a larger building than called for would be approved.

    Now, with this final nail the city planning coffin, we know just ‘re-interpreting words’ to mean other stuff is perfectly legal!  Rendering all city planning a sick joke.

    This only ended after the State Supreme Court declined to review the case in April 2022.

    True.

    Residents have uniquely immense power in determining the fate of new development; no matter how or where the city attempts to build, every new project is one lawsuit or vote away from being delayed for years, or never being built at all.

    You may notice that we found out we have absolutely no power, so your claim is strange, at best.

    You also used the one example (Trackside) where the lawsuit wasn’t similar to all the ‘delay’ suits brought on by certain someones, which was not what our suit was.  We were looking for the City to adhere to its own planning documents.  OEDNA had absolutely no intention of ‘suing to delay’, and our long-time members helped draft the Design Guidelines.  Therefore, it is highly suspicious that you would use the Trackside lawsuit as an example lawsuit.

    Furthermore, you are talking about a self-stated luxury living situation with a paltry 23 units that few students will live in unless they have exceptionally wealthy parents.  I say paltry 23 with a comparison and a purpose.  Directly across from me are nearly 700 students in a new five-story complex that OEDNA did not sue or oppose.  In fact, we worked with the developer, who approached us sincerely, and came up with several items of mitigation we mutually agreed to — all proposed in built in the time Trackside has gone nowhere.  Somebody did sue this project, but it wasn’t OEDNA.

    Why, then, do you cite OEDNA and then extrapolate in the next paragraph about all the lawsuits, while never mentioning the actual perpetrators of the delay lawsuits?  OEDNA is about adhering to planning documents and preserving the character of our historic neighborhood; OEDNA is not an anti-growth group.

    1. Todd Edelman

      All the odd logic and factual meanderings are indeed curious, as is theone example of a project with negligible positive impact in housing supply.

      (Your mention of Ryder makes me think that it’s reasonable for any and all mitigation agreement for projects that are reviewed by the Planning Commission and the City Council – in and out of court, between any classes of parties, etc.  – should be a matter of public record. Is it?)

  14. Bill Marshall

    OEDNA would have gladly had this over with much sooner, but negotiations with the developer, even formal Yolo County mitigation…

    ‘Mitigation’ or ‘mediation’, unclear…

    At NO TIME did OEDNA oppose the construction of a retail and residential building there.  What we opposed was doing so with a building form outside the Neighborhood Design Guidelines (unless a new design was mutually agreed to)…

    True story (pun unintended) from what I’ve read and heard…

    Rendering all city planning a sick joke.

    Might just include the ‘planning’ where the City recognized OED as planning area, and OEDNA as a community organization… that sword might well have two edges…

    all the ‘delay’ suits brought on by certain someones, which was not what our suit was.

    Likely true, but the “certain someones” will remain anonymous…

    Alan raises good points… but I feel the courts made (ultimately, not the first… that had more holes than lace Swiss cheese) the right calls…

    BTW, is the “4th story” a 4th story, or just equipment, and/or the height the first story needs?  Is it one story (extra height) and three additional stories of res.?  I’ve forgotten… sometimes, depending on views (second pun unintended), ‘stories’ are measured in feet, not actual spaces… for mixed use, that is an important distinction.

     

  15. Alan Miller

    ‘Mitigation’ or ‘mediation’, unclear…

    My bad, “mediation”.  Brain f*rt.

    Might just include the ‘planning’ where the City recognized OED as planning area, and OEDNA as a community organization… that sword might well have two edges…

    No two edges, we’re just talking about future councils ability to completely ‘reinterpret’ the meaning words, to the point they mean whatever the future council wants, rendering planning an exercise in futility — believing the lies that what they are doing will be binding in any way on any future that doesn’t fit what future council wants.

    Likely true, but the “certain someones” will remain anonymous…

    Who?

    Alan raises good points…

    Always . . . usually . . .

    but I feel the courts made (ultimately, not the first… that had more holes than lace Swiss cheese) the right calls…

    I believe the holes are in the other cheese, but again it’s on which side your cheese is buttered.

    BTW, is the “4th story” a 4th story, or just equipment,

    It’s a actual floor.  In the latest plans released, the upper floors are set back a bit.  Those in favor say that’s mitigation, but unlike with Lincoln40/Ryder, that mitigation was deemed acceptable only by the developer, not also by the adjacent neighbors.

    and/or the height the first story needs?

    Not comprehending what that means.

    Is it one story (extra height) and three additional stories of res.?

    If I understand correctly, “yes” . . . -ish.

    I’ve forgotten… sometimes, depending on views (second pun unintended), ‘stories’ are measured in feet, not actual spaces… for mixed use, that is an important distinction.

    Don’t quote me — my recollection is the first story was planned at roughly 15′ and the above stories 11′ each and then additional height sporadically on roof equipment.

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