District 1 Council Candidates Meet at a Forum – Part 2

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – Indivisible Yolo and Yolo People Power and DSA hosted a forum on Monday for the Davis City Council.  Moderating the forum for District 1 was CJ Watson.

Dan Carson is the incumbent and he is being challenged by Kelsey Fortune and Bapu Vaitla.

Question: what would you do in the future to ensure the city of Davis has a fair share of affordable housing? Please tell us your plans

Bapu Vaitla:  I’m a member of the Social Services Commission, was a chair, and I’m proud of the work that we’ve, we’ve done, but there’s a lot that remains to be done. Just to rattle off a quick list. We have a temporary affordable housing ordinance. It’s been temporary for five years.  That sunset date keeps getting pushed forward, and we need to have a strong and permanent affordable housing ordinance. And I’ll fight for the highest percentage of inclusionary units that economic analysis shows is feasible. Number two, we need to focus on dense, climate friendly, affordable transit linked infill in our downtown. We can do that by, by density bonuses, by reducing parking minimums or eliminating them entirely. We can do them by providing incentives for folks who, who build the kind of development that our city’s values are rooted in. And finally the housing trust fund is a perfect means to do this. It’s the vehicle by which other cities in California have succeeded in building affordable housing and making sure there’s a minimum balance there every year is critical. And I would just say in terms of our vision overall, we need a general plan update. If we as a city do not say what the character of our city is as far as housing, what we want to see, then we won’t attract the kind of developers, nonprofit developers, affordable housing developers that fit that vision of equity and sustainability.

Dan Carson: I have acted and voted every chance I’ve gotten to provide both market rate housing and the affordable housing we need in this community. I campaigned for Bretton Woods, which besides the bungalow housing and the other units that are going in will with Mercy Housing provide 150 units of affordable housing, meaning federal and state income rules, for elderly and disabled persons. We are nearing completion of a new plan for our downtown that will add 1000 market rate and other types of units for about 2200 people over time. I voted to support funding and appropriate land use approval for Paul’s Place, for the respite center, for expansion of Yolo Crisis Nursery. I’ve submitted a white paper that was included in our housing element that’s now nearing final approval for a series of creative proposals to add housing, including, why can’t we have accessory dwelling units that are permanently affordable? Why can’t we use surplus land that D J U S D has to build market rate and affordable housing for teachers and faculty? Can we clarify, Measure J R D to make sure that 100% affordable housing can be approved without public vote, and we need to find new revenues to support our housing trust fund, And we’ve put a proposal on the table.

Kelsey Fortune: I absolutely agree that Davis and California’s, one of our top challenges is housing. I’m not sure if this question is talking about market rate affordable or specifically dedicated low income, affordable housing. But regardless of how much housing we build in Davis, there’ll always be a price premium on our market rate housing, because Davis is a place that people want to live.  Relative to our neighbors, there will always be that price premium on market rate housing, which why it makes it so much more important that we have this focus on our dedicated low income housing because we do not have the same ability to build in California in general, build enough housing to lower what market rate means.  Others have pointed out the, the downtown plan, which will, you know, create dense infill in our core, the core of our community which has been postponed. We had a downtown plan draft in 2019, and we just got an EIR. It’s things like this that are community focused and plans that need to be pushed forward by our council rather than focusing on peripheral projects.

Question: in the affordable housing elements in Davis, some recent and upcoming projects. Can you talk about whether or not you find them adequate? If you say they are inadequate, then talk about what would adequate look like? What specific differences would you like to see on the projects going forward? 

Dan Carson: It’s hard to build housing in Davis. We have high cost of land construction costs have been soaring, especially of late. We have a lot of requirements that other communities don’t have for more extensive energy efficiency requirements that hold down cost for future residents, but make the front end cost of building stuff more expensive. We can do things like holding our own parking costs. We’re going to have parking maximums in our downtown. We can go for density that helps carry these costs. But even after doing all of that, most of these studies that have been done, and one that’s underway right now, tend to show that you can probably somewhere below 15% inclusionary requirements provide low income housing. But if you want to provide very low and extremely low income, at some point you need government money to help subsidize it. It just is very hard to get there unless you have a very large scale project. I have a proposal that we allow Measure j r d to be waived for affordable projects that would create land dedication sites, which we are out of, and then go after the abundance of federal and state tax credits and federal and state grand funding that is available to build this stuff. Bretton Woods is our last land dedication site. This is a formula for making progress.

Kelsey Fortune: On this list is first the University Mall, which unfortunately has no housing anymore in their plan. That is highly unfortunate as it is a good site for potential dense infill. One of the other projects listed here, DISC 2022, did offer some low and very low income units. However, it was primarily a business park. And when you’re talking about 80 or so affordable units and thousands of employees, you’re only making our housing market worse. Lincoln 40, I think is a great example of a time when the community was not heard. There were many community members who were vocal about the idea of affordable beds, which is how Lincoln 40 was going to meet their requirement. And unfortunately, it doesn’t meet the requirements of the regional housing needs assessment that we are required to meet.

Bapu Vaitla: UMall is now no more housing. That’s not acceptable. Child’s 3820 is great for workforce housing, but it doesn’t actually construct affordable units. It does have an innovative in lieu fee model where 1.65% of rents go to the city. That brings us more money than typical in lieu fees. But again, no units. Lincoln 40 by the bed model, like Kelsey mentioned, that’s just unacceptable for affordable housing. Disc was going to create 84 affordable units. Some with deep affordability vary in extremely low units. It was going to be one of the highest numbers that we’ve seen in recent years, but we know it had a lot of other flaws. The downtown plan, as Dan mentioned, does zone for quite a few affordable units potentially, but we’ll have to see how that shakes out. So far. We have a plan, but developers, et cetera, the whole process that leads to affordable units will be years in the making.  So we need some changes I mentioned before, a permanent affordable housing ordinance that has a reasonable inclusionary percentage. One that’s not so high that it’s going to stop construction entirely but one that’s significant, but also to, to leverage these state and federal tax credits, the grant dollars to set us on a runway for creating all affordable projects, non-profit developments like Davis has done in the past, that’s still possible. The big thing though, is having a general plan update that sets the character our vision for housing in the city. So we attract those kind of developers.

Question: how are you going to convince people who are not accustomed to seeing people at certain incomes in their neighborhood to let those people in their neighborhood?

Dan Carson: So we just lived through Covid and during Covid we lost our student population virtually, entirely.  When they were gone and when the faculty supporting those students were gone, we had about a dozen restaurants in our downtown close. Immediately we were terrified about a domino effect of maybe losing our downtown forever. When they came back, what a renaissance we had, even before renaissance was tamed with their vaccinations. Those students really mattered this community. So we should be thinking about how we can help house them. I’m so delighted that we convinced our campus to add 6,200 student beds, mostly on campus while our city has helped too.

Bapu Vaitla: The answer to CJ is we fight like hell as city council members and tell the public, you know, look what it meant to be an environmentalist in the eighties was to say no growth was to say, not in my backyard. That’s what it meant. That’s no longer what it means to be an environmentalist. To be an environmentalist right now is to build dense, infill, affordable transit linked climate friendly housing. That’s the way we reduce per capita emissions. And that’s how we include folks who are low income folks of other colors into our community. And we have been exclusionary. We just need to admit that, Let me just say bluntly, that, that Yolo County is segregated, it’s segregated. That’s what it is. Racially in class, segregated by class. We don’t want to be those towns that, that were remembered in history as being segregationist. We want to be ahead of the curve in integrating our town, our county.

Kelsey Fortune:  if we’re talking about engaging the community in building housing, I think it’s really important that we engage our community in the planning process that actually creates that housing.  Creates the plan for that housing. That’s the issue that we have had in our community right now, is that we don’t have a plan. And so the community is not, there’s no vision coming from our community members for the city to follow. And that’s how you get to where you want to be, is you plan, We know we need more housing. How are we going to build it? Will we tell the community, Hey, we need a plan that builds more housing and they tell us how we do it.

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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17 Comments

      1. Keith Y Echols

        No one seems to recognize just how difficult additional infill is going to be and how hard it will be to get latch affordable (big a) housing to it

        Isn’t that what Carson is saying?

         It’s hard to build housing in Davis. We have high cost of land construction costs have been soaring, especially of late. We have a lot of requirements ….

        His proposal about affordable housing exemptions from Measure H is his answer to the difficulty of building infill projects.

         

  1. Keith Olson

    Some people refuse to recognize that we live in a democracy where the people of Davis have spoken.  A resounding 4 out of 5 support Measure D and 2 out of 3 voted down DiSC.  Deal with it…

    1. David Greenwald

      Isn’t part of dealing with it, a recognition that the state has increasingly stringent requirements for building affordable housing (to the point where the city may lose local land use autonomy if it fails to comply) and that the alternatives put forward may not yield the results some think they will?

      1. Ron Oertel

        Let’s see how “the state” deals with communities which aren’t expanding outward at all, in a declining housing market and a declining population.

        The state is going to fail.  Ultimately, they will not severely bite the hand that feeds them.  And if they try, it’s going to truly ignite the budding efforts across the state to return local control.

        Probably even more so if the drought continues (and the state requires millions more housing units, while simultaneously demanding that existing residents cut back). For that matter, a lot of the other requirements emanating from the state are going to make the state a more expensive place to live – for all. Which will drive even more people out of the state, while they’re simultaneously trying to force growth.

        Those pushing for this are the ones responsible for finding the funding for the amount of “Affordable” housing that they themselves are “requiring”. Good luck with that.

    2. Keith Y Echols

      Some people refuse to recognize that we live in a democracy where the people of Davis have spoken.

      The “people” (unwashed masses) aren’t usually the best ones to make long term decisions for a community.  That’s why they have elected officials.  “Dealing with it” is often the leaders job to get the people to accept the prudent decisions.  Kind of like parents getting kids to eat their vegetables.

    3. Don Shor

      Deal with it…

      State law supercedes local laws. State funding can be withheld from jurisdictions that don’t comply with state laws. A ballot initiative that would have changed these facts failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
      You can vote however you want, but at some point your community may be subject to sanctions due to discriminatory outcomes, or be required to stop blocking, delaying, or increasing the costs of development for the purpose of constraining growth.

      Some people refuse to recognize that we live in a democracy where the people of Davis have spoken.

      Some people refuse to recognize that we have a governor and a legislative majority fully committed to increasing the supply of housing in the state. The recall against that governor failed by a whopping margin, and he is very likely to get re-elected by a similar margin.
      So, as you say, deal with it.

      1. Ron Oertel

        State funding can be withheld from jurisdictions that don’t comply with state laws.

        True – no more funding of “Mace Messes”.

        Deal with it

        Indeed – see below.

        The state’s local housing goals are nothing more than a farce

        https://48hills.org/2022/09/the-states-local-housing-goals-are-nothing-more-than-a-farce/

         The RHNA goals are, CCHO says, basically impossible and the state’s position is a contradiction in terms:

        The State’s actions do not align with the state’s goals. The state’s guidance puts SF on a collision course with upzoning San Francisco to create housing that is approximately 20 percent affordable and 80 percent market rate, while at the same time actual housing production goals set by the state and region conclude that 57 percent of new housing should be affordable to very low and moderate income households.

        And, of course, just plunking down new luxury homes in existing neighborhoods is a recipe for disaster:

        Deregulation of our housing market is an inequitable strategy for creating affordability. San Francisco’s affordable housing standards have raised the bar, and we need to do more, not less, to uphold our affordable housing standards. The State is over-emphasizing the removal of government constraints without recognizing San Francisco’s policies and resources that serve as an essential line of defense to safeguard affordability and prevent displacement. Without critical policies like our inclusionary program and processes to regulate the housing market for affordability, San Francisco would not have been able to slow the tide of displacement and would have fallen even further short of our affordable housing goals. Moreover, simply lifting all government constraints as a strategy to facilitate the production of new housing development overall will still empirically never achieve the 57 percent below-market goals under San Francisco’s RHNA obligation.

        https://48hills.org/2022/09/the-state-agency-enforcing-housing-rules-doesnt-care-about-affordable-housing/

        The state’s efforts are going to fail. Especially in a declining housing market, and a declining population. (Not to mention the cities that are actually/actively resisting the state’s mandates.)

        “Deal with it”, as you say.

      2. Ron Oertel

        More evidence, regarding both lack of success, and numbers that are totally unsupported in the first place:

        The (state) Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has made errors when completing its needs assessments because it does not sufficiently review and verify data it uses,” the report deadpanned.

        Maybe that’s why as he campaigned in 2018, Gov. Gavin Newsom insisted California would need 3.5 million new housing units within eight years just to keep up. That would have been more than 400,000 homes, condos and apartments every year, all supposedly getting snapped up as increased supply caused prices to fall.

        None of this has happened. Housing construction never has topped 110,000 units per year during Newsom’s tenure, and a good share of those stand vacant. Newsom’s administration now says California needs 1.8 million new homes by 2030, a huge drop in his needs assessment after less than four years. What happened to the other half of what Newsom said was needed? Maybe the need never existed.

        https://www.vcstar.com/story/opinion/columnists/2022/04/25/big-housing-crunch-mostly-fiction/7439542001/

        In regard to the first article I referenced, perhaps this quote is the most applicable:

        Why is everyone so set on meeting “RHNA” standards when the evidence is very clear that it will never happen?

      3. Don Shor

        AB 2011: Affordable Housing and High Road Jobs Act of 2022

        Passed, signed by the governor.

        “This bill facilitates the development of two kinds of housing – 100-percent affordable housing, and mixed-income housing. To qualify to utilize the by right provisions of this bill, both kinds of housing projects must be located in zones where office, retail, or parking are a principally permitted use. Mixed-income housing projects would be limited to sites that abut a “commercial corridor,” which is a local road with a right-of-way of 70 to 150 feet (generally, four to six lanes). These commercial corridors are typically the location of strip retail centers and parking lots. Directing new development along these existing thoroughfares can facilitate transit use and other non-vehicular modes of transportation.”

        So it removes local control of multi-family developments on current commercial sites. Examples: Woodland’s County Fair Mall. Or a couple of the strip malls and older neighborhood shopping centers in Davis. A development proposal on those sites would be subject to state oversight. Local officials could basically only process the applications.
        One by one the bills are passing and getting signed to reduce the obstacles local communities have enacted, or in some cases bypass them entirely.
        The pro-housing legislators worked with the labor unions on this one, as one provision includes a requirement for prevailing wages on these projects. But the pushback from local governments and environmental groups has not succeeded in blocking these bills. In fact, exemption from CEQA is a central part of all these bills.

      4. Keith Olson

        Some people refuse to recognize that we have a governor and a legislative majority fully committed to increasing the supply of housing in the state. The recall against that governor failed by a whopping margin, and he is very likely to get re-elected by a similar margin.So, as you say, deal with it.

        Did you see where the Democrat dominated legislature tried to diminish Newsom’s emergency powers which he is till using 900 days later after it was granted for COVID?  But Newsom vetoed the bill and is still King.

        https://californiaglobe.com/articles/gov-newsom-vetoes-bill-to-limit-his-emergency-powers/

        1. Don Shor

          Did you see where the Democrat dominated legislature tried to diminish Newsom’s emergency powers which he is till using 900 days later after it was granted for COVID? But Newsom vetoed the bill and is still King.

          https://californiaglobe.com/articles/gov-newsom-vetoes-bill-to-limit-his-emergency-powers/

          This comment is completely irrelevant and off topic. The governor and housing advocates are working together to reduce the obstacles to housing development.
          Council candidates could be asked whether they support stand-alone affordable housing projects in their council district, and, if so, what they would do to encourage them. If their preference is to have affordable housing provided by private builders, then they need to explain how they’d achieve their stated goals using local or private funding, and whether they’ve evaluated the likelihood of such projects actually getting proposed and built.

        2. Keith Olson

          It’s you who brought Newsom into this:

          Some people refuse to recognize that we have a governor and a legislative majority fully committed to increasing the supply of housing in the state. The recall against that governor failed by a whopping margin, and he is very likely to get re-elected by a similar margin.So, as you say, deal with it.

          I’m pointing out that Newsom is overstepping his emergency powers when it comes to many issues, like perhaps housing.   Even his fellow Democrats are concerned about it.

          Deal with it…

          1. David Greenwald

            Again, given that this article was on the Davis City Council and the item that you posted has nothing to do with any of that, housing, affordable housing or the like, how is it relevant?

      5. Ron Oertel

        So it removes local control of multi-family developments on current commercial sites. Examples: Woodland’s County Fair Mall. Or a couple of the strip malls and older neighborhood shopping centers in Davis. A development proposal on those sites would be subject to state oversight. Local officials could basically only process the applications.

        I believe that Woodland was already supportive of redevelopment of County Fair Mall for housing.  And yet, it hasn’t happened – even without the new “fair wage” and/or “100% Affordable” housing requirements that you’re referring to.

        In Davis, the University Mall developers have apparently dropped their proposal for student housing, even in the absence of these new burdensome requirements.

        Places like San Francisco have even fewer “strip malls”.

        The pro-housing legislators worked with the labor unions on this one, as one provision includes a requirement for prevailing wages on these projects. But the pushback from local governments and environmental groups has not succeeded in blocking these bills. In fact, exemption from CEQA is a central part of all these bills.

        I do see that on-site parking cannot be required at all.  I’m *sure* that this won’t create a problem for any existing neighborhood surrounding these sites – assuming they even pencil out at all.

        Not to mention eliminating the commercial tax base, for cities.

        https://www.livablecalifornia.org/ab-2011-could-be-the-worst-bill-of-2022-for-taking-away-local-control/

        My guess is that (as usual), this will turn out to be almost totally unworkable, and will hardly make a dent in the state’s Affordable housing requirements.

        But yeah – there’s a part of me that wants to see the state force this upon some unwilling community, to help “stir up the pot” (e.g. anger at the state). So far, the state’s requirements haven’t really impacted cities, much (other than being a “paper tiger”).

        Seems to me that (given the auditor’s report), the state itself could be vulnerable to challenges regarding their RHNA calculations. In any case, I doubt we’ve seen the last of the legal/political challenges. (Probably just the beginning, so far.) Wait until it actually starts impacting cities.

  2. Ron Oertel

    Bapu Vaitla: The answer to CJ is we fight like hell as city council members and tell the public, you know, look what it meant to be an environmentalist in the eighties was to say no growth was to say, not in my backyard. That’s what it meant. That’s no longer what it means to be an environmentalist. To be an environmentalist right now is to build dense, infill, affordable transit linked climate friendly housing. That’s the way we reduce per capita emissions.

    Apparently, Bapu believes that the “new way” to be an environmentalist is to support a freeway-oriented development with thousands of parking spaces, which would have also created a housing shortage.

    I think I like the “old way” of being an environmentalist a lot better.  Though I would extend it beyond one’s “backyard”.

    And truth be told, “congestion” does not reduce greenhouse gasses. Stop-and-go traffic (and gridlock) has the opposite effect. Davis is already well-connected via public transit to places like Sacramento in particular.

    Growth (whether it’s sprawl or infill) cannot be limitless. Believing otherwise not only disqualifies you as an “environmentalist”, it disqualifies you from accepting physical limitations and reality. And that’s without even getting into quality of life type of issues, the ability of other life forms on the planet to continue surviving, etc. Ultimately, this belief/pursuit is a threat to humanity itself. (And by the way, it arises from traditionally-conservative, capitalistic views.)

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