By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – For those people who argue they don’t want to turn Davis into Natomas or Elk Grove—I get it. I don’t want to either. I don’t think anyone does. And I don’t think anything in the plans will actually do so.
DiSC 2022 adds about 100 acres, just over 1 million square feet of R&D space—available space which Dan Ramos and Tim Keller both noted this week is about out—while it adds about 540 housing units. It might be a large project by Davis standards, but it’s not going to turn Davis into anything that resembles Natomas or Elk Grove.
Nor is DiSC 2022 likely to be growth-inducing for Davis. Some critics have argued that DiSC will add housing demand to Davis and the region, but that’s not the conclusion that the EIR reached.
Based on the EIR’s analysis, “the increase in housing demand associated with the DISC project could have been met within the City rather than the surrounding SACOG region.”
The EIR notes, “A total of 2,088 of the planned and approved units are proposed for moderate—or above moderate—income units, which are likely to align with the incomes of most DiSC 2022 employees. With that capacity, the raw demand for housing in Davis generated by DiSC 2022 could be met with the existing planned and approved units and, as such, the project does not induce a need for increased housing construction.”
One of the keys to this is the slow build out of DiSC, it’s not as if it is going to suddenly be plopped down with an estimated 2800 employees. Rather, those employees will be added slowly over time, allowing the city and region to slowly absorb that growth.
The project will of course convert around 100 acres of agricultural land to urban uses.
Bob Dunning in his column yesterday points out “over time, just about all of Davis has been built on prime ag land by developers who were seeking to profit.”
That means “if you are currently a Davis homeowner whose home was built sometime in the last 100 years by a greedy developer and you are feeling guilty about the paving of prime ag land, you may want to rent a bulldozer, plow your home into oblivion and plant several neat rows of corn and sugar beets and tomatoes and any other crop where a golden pheasant could hide.”
Dunning notes, “Our family lived in one of the first homes built in Oeste (rhymes with toasty) Manor and we could sit in the backyard and see the sun set over the Putah Hills. That homestead is now smack in the middle of Davis and the only view from the backyard is of the westerly neighbor’s chimney peeking over the back fence.”
He writes, “Every time a developer proposes a project on land that is currently being farmed, cries of ‘Save Prime Ag Land’ can be heard. Many recent letters to the editor in Davis’ Only Local Newspaper have cited the loss of prime ag land as a reason to oppose Measure H. And, of course, all developers are by definition ‘greedy’ and seeking only ‘profit.’”
Dunning notes that when he and his family moved from Portland so his father could go back to college after WWII, Davis had about 3500 people.
He writes, “Do I long for the days of my youth that included Foster’s Freeze, the Vienna Bakery, Old State Market downtown and summer afternoons jumping off The Tower at Hickey Pool on campus? Of course.”
At the same time he notes, “Then again, way back then we didn’t have an Art Center, a Pence Gallery, a Community Park and a million other amenities we now take for granted. And our beloved California Aggies were playing the Cal Ramblers instead of the Cal Bears.”
He adds, “Times change.”
I have pointed out, “Times change” regardless of what you do.
A previous letter noted that they came here for the amenities and the great schools.
The problem of course is that current Davis policies are actually putting both of those things in peril. We have declining enrollment which is an insidious force the way that school funding and economics work. Some have suggested merely “right-sizing” the schools, but they are missing a key point—even if you could kick out all of the out-of-district transfers, the schools would still be declining in size and still bleeding ADA money. Shrinking the size of the district at best would be a temporary salve, it does not solve the problem.
The problem as Rachael Fulp-Cooke in a letter today points out is that “too many individuals and families who work in Davis have been priced out of the Davis rental and housing market.”
Sure, you can close a school and save some money, but that doesn’t reverse the declining trend.
Moreover, those amenities are things that the city is struggling to finance. As Mayor Partida put it, “We have a lot of amenities. We have trees that are dying. We got roads that need to be fixed. We have all these amenities that people stay here for and come here for and are very proud of, but we need ways to pay for them.”
In short, the city that you are trying to save through restricted growth is dying. That doesn’t mean we need to become Elk Grove in order to save it. We need smart and well-managed growth. That’s a middle course.
While it doesn’t mean we become Elk Grove, it also means that we do change.
As Dunning writes, “During the last go-round, one of the arguments of those who opposed what is now called DiSC was that the project would block the lovely view Davisites have of the stupendous Sacramento Skyline.”
But, quick research “showed that only 13 Davisistes actually had a view of the Sacramento Skyline from their homes and then only if they climbed up on the roof. The No on H folks have wisely dropped that silly argument this time around.”
I worry greatly about the future of this community. I fear that too many people have a nostalgia for the past and, by trying to hold onto that past, they have missed the fact that we need to plan for the future.