By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – This is what I hear from people in Davis whenever a new housing proposal comes up. Who does? But I think we need to stop thinking in those terms, because the math just doesn’t work.
The reality is that Davis is about 70,000 in population and Elk Grove is 170,000. Even if the city approved all five of the projects, that would add under 5000 homes. Even at two people a home, that’s around 10,000 new people. That’s not going to turn Davis into Vacaville, let alone Elk Grove.
Moreover, even if the voters somehow approved all of these projects, we would be looking at a 10 to 20 years planning and build out process.
The soonest any of those projects are likely to see the market would be around 2028 and by the time we go through the approvals and what-not, we are looking at years.
So the idea that somehow these projects are going to turn Davis into Elk Grove is ludicrous and anyone arguing otherwise is engaging in hyperbole.
But there is more.
When Davis first passed Measure J in 2000, the city had changed radically in just a few short decades. Davis had developed several major subdivisions including Wildhorse and Mace Ranch, which greatly expanded the population.
Since 2000 however, the city has not added a single major subdivision larger than the Cannery. And than almost the entirety of major developments.
In the meantime, the city has gone into overdrive in terms of its open space program.
In 2000, the voters passed Measure O, an ongoing parcel tax dedicated to open space preservation and maintenance.
The result of Measure O is that more and more land on the periphery of Davis is now tied up in conservation easements. That means that Davis is slowly creating a de facto urban limit line.
When you take into account UC Davis and the Solano County line, you quickly recognize that Davis has limits as to how much it can grow.
If these projects get built, it will not only provide housing, but also will limit the amount of housing that can be built.
For example, take Pioneer Project.
The applicant notes: “The Agricultural Land Mitigation Area, is approximately 597+/- acres and will preserve existing agricultural land, ensure no urban development occurs on those lands and help the City of Davis meet its Measure O vision.”
If you look, you see the Ag Land mitigation area combined with the sports parks will completely shut down any further expansion east. Moreover, to the north of I-80 there is already in conservation easement and the route to further development to the south is almost cut off.
Likewise, Village Farms would do the same thing, to the north. The land that is reserved for Ground Water recharge, would be a conservation easement as is part of the mitigation land they are proposing. The city land is actually already in a conservation area. So the addition of Village Farms would permanently cut off development along the Pole Line corridor to the north.
That is almost 400 acres of mitigation land adjacent to the city.
In short, if the city approves these projects, not only will the city not turn into Elk Grove, with all of the mitigation land and conservation easements, it can’t turn into Elk Grove—ever.
The problem at some point is going to become, how does Davis grow at all? But even if Davis ended Measure J tomorrow, there are real limits as to how much it can grow—constrained by UC Davis and the Solano County line to the south, and increasingly by mitigation and conservation easements to the north, west, and east.
Bottom line: Davis is not in any danger of becoming Elk Grove—ever.