By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – On Wednesday the Davis League of Women Voters hosted a virtual candidates forum between Donna Neville and Francesca Wright.
Michelle Van Aiken, who is secretary of the Board for the Davis League served as Moderator of the forum.
The second set of questions were referred to as extemporaneous because the candidates have not seen these questions in advance.
Question: What are the top three issues raised by constituents in District Three?
The most frequent item I hear has to do with the conditions of our roads and paths. The second thing has to do with housing. As I talk to young families in particular, and especially those that are renters who want to get into a permanent home that houses are very expensive and there’s not very many available. Thirdly, there’s issues of high expectations for services and, and as I think both Donna and I explained our staffing is at about three quarters of what it used to be. And that’s because of budget constraints. And so building the expectations and figuring out what the priorities of the community is an interfacing role that council members will need to address.
No surprise, I’m hearing the same three things pretty much. Our roads are a mess. What are we going to do about the infrastructure? People are concerned about the affordability of housing and there are also concerns about homelessness. What are we going to do about it? And I hear a lot of concern about issues surrounding the L Street Respite Center. So and I have lots of background addressing each of these three issues. So, in terms of addressing our roads, this is where the needing, finding the money to repair our roads, this is where my background in public finance is going to be really helpful. There is money available. There’s ways to find money to fix the roads. And I imagine we’re going to talk more about that tonight. But we’re also addressing housing affordability is really at the heart of my campaign. I know that we need to update our general plan.
This is key, and we’ve got to work together as a community to actually find common ground in terms of what our vision is for our city’s future. I’m going to promote the development of denser more affordable housing by continuing to streamline our permitting process and putting other mechanisms in place, including a stable revenue stream for the housing trust fund. These tools are essential if we’re going to really build the kind of housing that we need. In terms of addressing homelessness, I am thrilled and excited to see what has happened at Paul’s Place. And I want to make sure that we provide full support for Paul’s Place so that it is fully successful and operational. I’m going to also work to support our newly formed department of Social Services and Housing. Our new director has fantastic ideas and we need to give her the support she needs to be successful. She’s already working on many new programs…
I have to remember not to be so literal if I’m asked for the problems, I forgot I have to tell you about my solutions. So along with Donna, we have to let people know about opportunities for creating multi-generational housing on their property through infill and ADUs. One thing that hasn’t been talked about is I’m hearing that there’s quite a few residential vacancies. So we have an Up-trending housing market and investors are holding vacant homes. I think we need to consider a residential vacancy tax to look at once we have the data to know how many of these are, and of course, we would need to account for extenuating circumstances of families. I guess I’d also like to clarify the transit-oriented planning isn’t, wasn’t the solution to (Brixmor), but to have a plan in place that was updated that could include transit or planting, that could have allowed for mixed use. We did not have a plan in place.
A quick comment, which is that I also share in the support for making it easier to permit these accessory dwelling units. And there is a provision in our newly submitted Housing Element. We’re going to provide actual financial assistance to people to help permit those and get those cited. And that could be a very positive thing in our community.
Question: What is your vision for the city of Davis?
Ny vision for the city of Davis is a city where children can safely ride their bikes to school, where people who want to live here have, can fulfill the dream of actually having stable housing, where it’s possible for working families by a home that is affordable. Where our city, we have a vibrant downtown that is flourishing and welcoming to everyone. I want our city to be welcoming, to be inclusive and sustainable. I want it to be a place where people of all walks of life can afford to live and thrive. Our housing inaffordability is literally turning us into a community that is pricing out low and moderate income families. And that is not the community that I want to see in the future. And I want to work very hard to make our community as inclusive and affordable as we possibly can. And the experience that I have working to solve complex public policy issues lends me to addressing this issue. I know how to take a problem apart, get the facts really work, listen to the experts, and I really dig in and I work hard to find the solutions that’ll work for all of us.
Davis has had a very interesting history of attracting leaders who were willing to imagine something different. We have Village Homes where the water that falls percolates into the ground and you can walk and gather fruit to bring back into your, your home, where it has a community center. We have a walkable town where in most areas you can walk to a grocery store, rides your bike. These were put in place in the 80s with very visionary leaders who recognize that how we design our space influences how we use our space. And it influences the connectivity, the people in our space. And I would like us to restore that energy and look at all the amazing assets we have. We have a very creative town. We have incredible art. We have an array of small family restaurants.
We have a wild area around outside of the town. We have birds that people travel to see. I think we need to restore our image, revitalize our image as a vibrant place that cares about the earth, that cares about each other, that makes sure that there’s room for every person of every color and every economic background that they can make at home. And that will happen with very good land use planning, with very good communication with the community, and with utilizing the our commissions and talented members of our community.