By Gloria Partida
The quality of life for residents of a city depend on many things. Levels of crime, the availability of parks, recreation services, ease of commuting. As with any opinion the eye of the beholder drives the assessment of how good any one thing is and by extension what would ruin the goodness of said thing. Many of our conflicts about what is acceptable for growth in Davis hinge on what we find acceptable to our quality of life. Many of the arguments for why measure H would ruin Davis are tied to loss of GHG goals, loss of farmland, loss of time commuting, loss of downtown centric vibrancy, loss of small town living.
The loss of small town living or charm of Davis is probably the most honest reason people oppose growth. Because we, as a collective people, are slow to extend grace, it is difficult to lay our raw motives out for fear they will be judged and dismissed. Being honest also means we must also accept the negative in our motives. To outright say we must preserve no growth at all cost means we are willing to raise taxes to cover our high quality of life rather than diversify our tax base so that more than those able to pay higher taxes can live here. It means we are willing to have people drive many miles for many minutes so that we save one or two minutes at a light. It means we are willing to squeeze the very community that makes our city what it is, namely the generations of families that know each other, out. It is easier to be willing to insist on these things when you add the virtue of preserving environment as part of the motive.
The tension of competing needs and ideas is always difficult to resolve, but I believe they can be resolved when we work collaboratively towards a future that that is inclusive and future facing. Even when that future means change. We have heard the pros and cons of measure H. I obviously am firmly on the pro side. Not because I do not see or understand the arguments for the no side but because I believe the benefits outweigh the impacts. Because I believe the impacts of change, which we will find initially disruptive will become not only a regular part of our landscape but will positively transform our landscape and become more of the Davis culture we are so proud of. A culture that has always faced forward. That has always led not regressed.
I have heard that what we need is a vision plan and an economic plan. We have had those conversations and plans in the past and when the time for implementation happens we become stuck in analysis and fear. Our world class University continues to challenge us to be a world class town. We have responded by not so politely saying no thank you. We ask for UCD to build housing for their students on their land, to drive their students further (producing more VMT and GHG) so they don’t exit onto our streets, to not have places that will attract students to our shared spaces. I see the University building coffee shops in West Village that do not help our tax base. Those will turn into mini marts, restaurants, gyms and a full University town right up against us with no open space in between that will take a huge piece of our revenue away. This is not a future that speaks to a thriving, vibrant city but to one that slips into mediocrity and decline.
I believe it is possible for us to collaborate on a shared vision that includes, infill, preservation of open space, filling of unused commercial space, transportation management and yes, some growth. Growth must be a part of our vison. If you are not growing you are dying. Growth as a culture drives vibrancy into not just our downtown, but into those unfilled spaces. It can change the math so that infill is actually feasible. It changes our culture so that we are an attractive place for companies to invest and not shy away from. For those that worry about the culture of charm, it also makes it possible for us to stop balancing our upkeep on the backs of homeownership so that grandchildren can live down the street from their grandparents. Yes on measure H is a step in saying yes to a future that is expansive and equitable and here I present my motive.
Equity: Anne Riley, a professor in the Department of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health at the Bloomberg School, notes that neighborhoods have a profound effect on the outcomes of children.
“I think this is a wakeup call for understanding the power of neighborhoods to contribute to the crime and behavior problems that we see in our society,” I believe it is our moral obligation to ensure we do not price people, especially young families out living in a place like Davis. We can mitigate the open space, the traffic the GHG. We will need to work harder to do it but our children and the children of others are worth it.
Shortly after I moved to Davis I had a set of nieces that came to stay with me. There mother had just passed away of AIDS and they were trying to find their footing. They were 11 and 12 at the time. Just as Davis has had been an open door to opportunity for me and my family and had set us on a path that was not limited by poverty and violence their experience living with me opened the same doors. I recall a road trip back to southern California where we stopped at a fast food restaurant and one of my nieces said can you not put this in Styrofoam because my aunt is trying to save the planet. They, despite difficult circumstance, managed to do extremely well. One has worked up the ranks of UCD without any real education and has managed to buy a home in Spring Lake where she regularly reminds people to drive slowly because there are children on the street. These are not the only people in my family that have relocated and have had their lives exponentially improved by having their zip codes change. This is the positive effect Dr. Riley has studied.
It goes beyond what the neighborhoods give to the children though. It is also about what the children give to the wider world. It produces people that are aware of and have extra resources to spend on saving the environment. Producing these people is just as important as preventing them from living here.
Gloria Partida is Mayor of Davis