Will the Council Look into Tweaking Affordable Housing Exemption in Measure J?

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – The Davis City Council approved the Housing Element on Tuesday night.  But while the Housing Element represented a formal document that needs to be approved by HCD, the discussion generated further areas for the city to explore—including the potential of the first ever amendment to Measure J.

One of the possibilities is the suggestion that the city council could “[p]ut a package of housing policy initiatives on the ballot to, among other things, amend language already in Measure J/R/D that exempts from its public vote requirements projects that provide affordable housing or facilities needed for city services, or other changes to city ordinances that would help create affordable housing.”

The council not only approved the Housing Element but directed that the Affordable Housing Subcommittee look into issues of this sort to come back to the community and council for further discussion at a later point.

For Bapu Vaitla he noted, “Peripheral, we can look at the RHNA numbers.  It’s broken down in the Housing Element. We have potential, if everything goes very well, to satisfy a certain fraction of that with infill downtown.”

He continued, “Every development, every single parcel downtown becomes absolutely critical. We need to optimize for the amount affordable, but it’s also time to talk about affordable on the periphery.”

So he said, “It’s time to talk about an affordable exemption for Measure J/R/D.  It’s time.  So let’s open the community conversation.  Let’s hear about it.”

At the same time, he noted, “We know that we have limited viable peripheral sites. We know that we want to protect as much agricultural and open space and habitat as possible.  So we need to use every one of the sites that we have available judicially.”

He believes we need to maximize the amount of affordable, saying, “To me, the pathway to do that is to open the conversation about an affordable exemption to Measure J/R/D.”

Vice Mayor Josh Chapman noted that he would be supportive of putting this issue on long range and, “Looking at them and having this council have a full discussion on that.”

He said he is hopeful that “this opens the door to the conversations that we drastically need to have in this community around affordable housing, around growth around the periphery, (and) around infill around city owned properties.”

Councilmember Gloria Partida noted that she and Bapu Vaitla “are on the subcommittee on affordability, and I am looking forward to really tackling that.”

She added, “I think some of the ideas that you put forward this evening about having these hard conversations around our periphery, our peripheral growth and just getting creative and really sort of pushing the envelope on, on ways that we can produce some affordable housing is where I think we’re at now.”

Mayor Will Arnold also addressed some of the concerns about Nishi, in terms of whether the housing would count toward the city’s affordable housing requirements.

Mayor Arnold noted that he is “proud” of the work that the council has done in its “long history of taking on the challenge of housing, the housing crisis that we’re in and taking it head on.”

He said, “Over the course of my tenure on the council… on providing student beds, getting very creative with how we’re able to do that, inventing a system effective for providing affordable housing that is available to full-time students, which was not the case in the past.”

He continued, “We did so with eyes wide open to the fact that ran the risk of not getting full credit from HCD.  Sure enough, that’s what we’re looking at, but it didn’t move us off of the right thing—because it was the right thing to do.”

Mayor Arnold added, “I would encourage that we include language that encourages UC Davis to join the city in building higher density housing for its students—as well as faculty and staff housing on campus.”

He said, “The city has approved seven-story projects near campus and recently approved a downtown plan that calls for much higher densities in the core including large swaths of the downtown where seven stories is now possible.”

He said, “Higher density housing is more sustainable.  It makes more efficient use of the land.”

City Attorney Inger Khalsa clarified with respect to the affordable housing at Nishi, “We believe that they’ll count.  We clarified that those units are not restricted to students and that they are units that the general public would be able to to rent in the same manner as a student would.  So there’s no student restriction and HCD is satisfied.”

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.

Related posts

22 Comments

  1. Ron Oertel

    Sounds great (I say, sarcastically).  A “gauntlet” of Affordable housing on the outskirts of an expanded city, and separate from the rest of the city.  As decided and approved by extremists on the city council.

    Measure J already has an exemption for Affordable housing.

    Again, any Affordable housing funds not used in Davis (or on prime farmland surrounding Davis) would then be available for other cities to use.

    This is a zero-sum game.

    I’d also suggest that these type of “hard conversations” (as Bapu put it) be divided into two parts:

    1)  Meeting actual state requirements.  (The same ones that every other city has to meet, statewide.  The majority of which are not expanding outward.)  Some of which are actively fighting the state in the first place.  (For sure, Gavin Newsom won’t be governor by the time that the next housing element is due.)

    2)  The perceived, nebulous, and undocumented “need” for Affordable housing.  I’d also suggest that the city examine the fiscal impact of pursuing this.

  2. Jim Frame

    amend language already in Measure J/R/D that exempts from its public vote requirements projects that provide affordable housing

    Amend it to say what?  The ordinance already exempts peripheral projects as long as they’re necessary to meet RHNA obligations all the units are affordable to moderate, low and very low income households.  It even says that the 5-acre limit can be exceeded if required to hit the RHNA target.

    All the grumbling about this exemption being “unworkable” is due to the simple fact that no developer is going to come forward with such a project because there’s no money in it.  As long as the city is depending upon the “let us build houses for rich white people and we’ll throw a few bones to the unwashed masses” model of affordable housing provision, it’s never going to get any significant amount of affordable housing without massively expanding the city.  Voters have been very clear that they don’t want that.

    Another model is needed, and it’ll probably have to come from the state with funding attached.  But in the mean time, leave Measure J alone.

     

    1. Don Shor

      Here’s some of what was in the housing element that was in the council agenda, which they passed:

      • [Program 4.8] Prohibit enforcement of the City’s one percent growth policy until at least January 1, 2030, consistent with SB 330 and SB 9

      • [Program 2.5] Unless Article 34 is repealed by the State, place a measure on the ballot in 2024, prior to the expiration of the current measure, to seek voter approval that would grant the City general authority to support the development of affordable housing units.

      • [Program 2.6] Put a package of housing policy initiatives on the ballot to, among other things, amend language already in Measure J/R/D that exempts from its public vote requirements projects that provide affordable housing or facilities needed for city services, or other changes to city ordinances that would help create affordable housing.

      I’m not sure how this moves the element forward with the state HCD, but we’ll find out soon enough. It doesn’t sound like a change in policy to me, other than the removal of the 1% cap. It seems the council is inching toward peripheral development so they can get some affordable housing built, but nobody really wants to say that yet.
      There are not enough viable infill sites and infill is a costly way to get housing. I’m not sure how the voters are going to feel about approving new subdivisions in order to meet state housing goals.

      1. Ron Oertel

        I’m not sure how this moves the element forward with the state HCD, but we’ll find out soon enough.

        Given that the housing element only addresses proposals within city limits, it’s irrelevant.  And again, the housing element isn’t suddenly going to include proposals outside of city limits.

        It’s already a “done deal” (as is), for the current cycle.  (Which, I’ve not mistaken, started a year or so ago at this point, already.)

        It doesn’t sound like a change in policy to me, other than the removal of the 1% cap.

        Had they even been following that in the last housing cycle?  In other words, the cycle which includes the megadorms which don’t fully count toward RHNA requirements?

        It seems the council is inching toward peripheral development so they can get some affordable housing built, but nobody really wants to say that yet.

        Are you kidding?  That’s ALL they (and the Vanguard) ever talk about. Well, that plus the developments such as DISC that would have created “housing shortages” (and additional RHNA requirements) in the first place.

        There are not enough viable infill sites and infill is a costly way to get housing.

        Again, the housing element only addresses sites within a city. This is not an issue that’s unique to Davis.

        Ask San Francisco (and all of the other major population areas along the coast) if they’re planning to sprawl outward as a result of this.

        I’m not sure how the voters are going to feel about approving new subdivisions in order to meet state housing goals.

        I’d suggest that the Vanguard puts forth a list of cities (statewide) which are pursuing peripheral development as a result of the state’s requirements.  As well as those which are not.

        And if the Vanguard and the council aren’t even going to discuss this, why would anyone believe anything they say at all?

        And while they’re at it, ask the state if their intention is to encourage sprawl.

        The state’s efforts are going to fail – just give it time. In fact, they’ve repeatedly failed in the past (in other cities) when the “requirements” were much lower.

        (There’s some ACTUAL topics for Bapu’s “hard conversation”.)

        The problem is the zealots on the council – essentially clones of Scott Wiener, Gavin Newsom, Rob Bonta, Aguiar-Curry, etc.

        Dump them, and the problem disappears. (But a lot of these folks will be gone by then, regardless.)

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

    2. Richard_McCann

      Yes the state needs to put forward funding to replace what it cut off in eliminating the redevelopment agencies. The easiest answer is to give a large portion of the incremental property taxes to the cities. (And to discourage sprawl, they can leave out counties and even have density and transit requirements.)

      That said, Measure J/R/D needs to be modified to reduce political risk for developers. I’ve suggested a sustainability and social justice guideline requirement–meet these and the project only needs Council approval. As it is the Measure likely is illegal under the 2005 law given that it has expired twice. Waiting for that law suit. My proposal will stand up to legal challenge. The adoption of the CAAP will help facilitate this.

  3. Ron Oertel

    Folks, you’ve already elected the wrong council to challenge this:

    Cities are being set up to fail.

    California’s city councils and supervisors will need to fight back.  A two-pronged approach would be to support the State Auditor’s work, but also consider becoming one of the plaintiffs in the HCD/RHNA lawsuit.

    https://www.livablecalifornia.org/playing-the-housing-numbers-game-how-californias-sixth-cycle-rhna-was-rigged-presented-by-michael-barnes-at-a-livable-california-teleconference-10-29-22/

    The current Davis city council are on the same side as those setting-up cities to fail.  They are not on the side of residents. As is often the case, the foxes have been hired to guard the henhouse. (The same reason that Measure J exists in the first place.)

    Neither is the California Association of Realtors, and the lawsuits that they and YIMBY are funding against cities (e.g., via the realtor-funded, “non-profit” “Californians for Homeownership”). Ask your “friendly local realtor” about this.

    It’s ultimately up to you, if you want to continue allowing these moneyed interests to destroy communities. As with UCD’s College Democrats”, don’t be fooled by the “Democrat” label.

    And while you’re at it, ask them why they won’t support rent control (supported by tenant groups). (You already know the answer to that, as well.)

    Might as well empower the Chamber of Commerce to make decisions regarding development, as the result wouldn’t be any different.

    How about we tell the folks the REAL story regarding what’s going on (in a state that’s losing population, to boot)?

  4. Jim Frame

     I’m not sure how the voters are going to feel about approving new subdivisions in order to meet state housing goals.

    Program 2.5:  Grant the CC the authority to override J/R/D at will.

    Program 2.6:  Grant the CC the authority to override J/R/D at will.

    My prediction is that both fail at the ballot box.

    1. Don Shor

      They might fail if the proposals are presented without context. But with the builders remedy leading possibly to development over which the city would have little control, voters might prefer to let the council make decisions rather than watch it all devolve to the state. If this is the key to avoiding the rejection of the city’s housing element and retaining local control, the results could be unpredictable.

      Some, of course, would probably prefer to litigate. Before anyone commits city funds to that course of action, I’d certainly like someone to explain what legal grounds they would cite.

      Davis voters rejected the challenge to the Mace Ranch development agreement and project approval in the 1980’s, even though most people at the time were pretty incensed about Frank Ramos essentially forcing it on the city. Council (Rosenberg, Corbett, Evans, Adler, and Nichols-Poulos) negotiated the best deal they thought they could get under the circumstances and the voters concurred by margins of 60 – 64% on the two measures. I remember that whole episode. The voters took the pragmatic route.

  5. Matt Williams

    I have no problem with the proposed change as long as the developments are 100% Affordable.  Any less than 100% is simply a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

      1. Matt Williams

        Any less than 51 percent is adding more unaffordable houses to the community than affordable ones.  The old slogan “54.40 or fight” seems appropriate.

        1. David Greenwald

          That’s not really accurate Matt.

          There is plenty of research that shows that market rate housing helps with affordability and helps to stabilize home prices: link.

          In fact, affordable housing itself is quite limited in terms of who can qualify for it. So it by itself would not be a solution to the housing crisis even if it is an important component.

        2. Matt Williams

          David, the research you are citing is a one size fits all “blunt instrument.” That research is about as good at modeling the Davis housing market dynamics as the mainline Democratic Party positions are in describing AOL’s positions.

          Have you looked at actual data from Davis to see what happened to the $ per square foot housing sales prices when substantial new housing inventory was added to the existing supply.  I have sought out that data, and what it shows is that the $ per square foot prices rose when the new housing supply was added rather than either leveling off or declining.  When the first Cannery home came on the market in 2015 the average sales price per square foot was $339.  12 months later in 2016 it was $347 per square foot, then $358 in 2017, $392 in 2018, $397 in 2019.  COVID caused a small drop to $390 in 2020, but the rise reasserted itself to $454 in 2021 and $529 in 2022.

          Just like in politics, housing prices are local.

          The local factors that cause Davis NOT to behave like the generic research you have cited are as follows:

          1) UCD’s continuous enrollment increases, which have produced parallel Faculty and Staff increases.

          2) the over 250,000 living UCD alumni who in their hearts would love to come back to Davis to live and raise any children they have

          3) the exodus from the Bay Area of workers who can telecommute to perform their respective jobs.

          That creates a super regional demand and only a local supply.

          1. David Greenwald

            “the research you are citing is a one size fits all “blunt instrument.”

            You clearly did not read the Lewis meta-study. The paper cites a series of micro-level studies.

            Moreover, does your analysis control for either inflation or housing inflation? Does it compare costs to nearby residents?

            Do you believe that Davis has unique market forces which would cause it to act differently than other markets? What are those forces?

            “That creates a super regional demand and only a local supply.”

            That would argue for a lesser impact of each incremental unit added, not that adding market rate housing causes housing prices to increase in adjacent areas.

  6. Ron Oertel

    More news regarding RHNA:

    Cities across the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area had until Wednesday to show state regulators how they plan to approve a sufficient quantity of housing over the next decade.

    Some submitted their plans on time. Most did not. Some made an earnest effort to comply. Others not so much. Some will have their plans accepted. Others have already had theirs rejected. Suburbanites viscerally opposed to new construction and density in their neighborhoods are incensed. Pro-development activists are celebrating a “Zoning Holiday.”

    As of Thursday afternoon, of the 109 cities and counties in the region, 66 have either had their plans rejected, or failed to submit one at all.

    https://calmatters.org/newsletters/2023/02/california-housing-politics-builders-remedy/

    A key plan to dramatically increase housing across the Bay Area fell flat this week as less than 15% of the region’s cities and counties met the state’s Tuesday cutoff to provide their homebuilding proposals.

    https://www.mercurynews.com/2023/02/01/most-bay-area-cities-are-now-late-on-their-state-housing-plans-and-new-penalties-could-be-in-store/

    In consideration of the massive statewide failure of the state’s efforts (including active resistance by some locales), I’d sure hate to be on the side of those attempting to undermine Measure J. Good luck with that.

    I’m guessing that the state is going to have to hire an army of lawyers to deal with this – going up against some wealthy locales which are willing to spend their own funds fighting this.

    And even in the absence of “active” resistance in some locales, all evidence shows that the state (along with the YIMBYs and the realtor-funded group, among others) is not going to be successful. I say, sit back and enjoy the show!

    1. David Greenwald

      “In consideration of the massive statewide failure of the state’s efforts (including active resistance by some locales), I’d sure hate to be on the side of those attempting to undermine Measure J. Good luck with that.”

      I’m not following your logic here – what does any of that have to do with city looking into changing an affordable housing exemption to Measure J?

      1. Ron Oertel

        Given that the first sentence in your article (and in fact, the entire developing series of these articles) attempts to tie-together the state’s requirements and Measure J, your question comes off as disingenuous.

        At this point, we’re still in the beginning of your (and the council’s) attempts to undermine Measure J, using state requirements as an excuse to do so.

        But honestly, I don’t think your chances are good.

        It’s unfortunate that Bapu (in particular) has decided to push this so hard, and so soon after arriving on the council. (Though as long as he limits his involvement to just spouting-off, he probably won’t end up like Carson.)

        It appears that this is going down the path of yet another unnecessarily divisive issue foisted upon the city by extremists.

        1. David Greenwald

          The lede: “The Davis City Council approved the Housing Element on Tuesday night. But while the Housing Element represented a formal document that needs to be approved by HCD, the discussion generated further areas for the city to explore—including the potential of the first ever amendment to Measure J.”

          Not really agreeing with your assessment. The discussion on Tuesday was aimed at (a) passing a Housing Element that would be approved and (b) looking at ways to build affordable housing in the future including a discussion on a possible amendment to Measure J.

          Not sure how that gets to your point. Why is amending Measure J tantamount to “undermining” it? And what does that have to do with the other links you posted.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Again, RHNA is mentioned throughout this article (and other, similar articles).  Including the quotes by Bapu.  As such, your “denial” of your attempted connection falls flat.

          Given what’s happening statewide, the “need” to undermine Measure J based upon RHNA requirements isn’t going to be very persuasive.

          Now, if you and Bapu want to make an argument that Measure J should be undermined for other reasons, I say go for it.

          If I shared Bapu’s views (and was in a position such as his), I wouldn’t be trying to undermine Measure J on the same evening in which the city submitted a housing element that’s likely to be approved – and so soon after being elected to the council in the first place.

          But hey, he’s the one who got elected – so maybe he feels that he has some kind of “mandate” to undermine Measure J, regardless.

          I’d give it time, perhaps by encouraging the state to write a letter to the city stating that they’re not happy with the city’s “progress”. (Of course, those type of letters will no doubt be sent to the vast majority of cities across the state, so maybe that won’t be effective in regard to underming Measure J, either.)

          But I guess it’s up to him, if he wants to sacrifice his time and energy in this manner – with your assistance.

  7. Jim Frame

    But with the builders remedy leading possibly to development over which the city would have little control

    The builder’s remedy pertains to projects within a given political subdivision that doesn’t have an HCD-approved housing element.  It doesn’t pertain to annexation requests.

    1. Don Shor

      Yes. But if the city is out of compliance because the voters choose not to modify Measure J (which is a clear impediment to housing; that was its intent) and the city fails to meet its RHNA #s, any site within the city limits could be subject to the builders remedy. Ten stories at University Mall, anyone? Bottom line, I’d say: ‘we can’t do it’ isn’t going to fly with the state anymore.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for