Commentary: But I Don’t Want Davis to Become Elk Grove…

Covell site in 2005

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

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.

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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55 Comments

  1. Walter Shwe

    This article is spot on. Davis will very likely never turn into anything resembling Elk Grove. I am positive that Ron Oertel and Keith Olson, both zero housing zealots, will fail in their attempts to conclusively prove that Davis doesn’t need any new housing despite the pent up demand multiple developers believe exists. Since Ron firmly believes that Brixmor should be given the chance to redevelop University Mall, shouldn’t some, if not all housing developers be afforded the same opportunity to develop in Davis? That’s the free market system and small government that many people profess allegiance to, despite some of their actions to the contrary. Before they claim that sprawl is bad yet again, here is something that says that sprawl is actually good. Ron Oertel lives in a community that is sprawling all over the place despite repeatedly claiming that sprawl is bad. In my mind, that makes Ron a definite hypocrite. It’s fine for me, but bad for others.

    Sprawl Is Good

    The Environmental Case for Suburbia

    In reality, sprawling cities are more environmentally sound than their dense counterparts and will become even more so as technology evolves.

    Instead of warring against sprawl and cars, planners and environmentalists should recognize how the green spaces of suburbia, allied to autonomous electric vehicles and green single-family homes, can provide both the affordability and sustainability most Americans crave.

    https://thebreakthrough.org/journal/no-15-winter-2022/sprawl-is-good-green

    1. Ron Oertel

       despite the pent up demand multiple developers believe exists.

      That’s how you prove that Davis “needs” housing?  Really?

      Since Ron firmly believes that Brixmor should be given the chance to redevelop University Mall, shouldn’t some, if not all housing developers be afforded the same opportunity to develop in Davis?

      Unlike University Mall, none of these lands are in Davis.  I’m not opposed to commercial redevelopment.  For that matter, I can see that the inclusion of housing at University Mall made sense in some ways – even if it compromised the commercial aspect of the mall.

      Before they claim that sprawl is bad yet again, here is something that says that sprawl is actually good.

      Walter is now an outright defender of sprawl.  Why would anyone even listen to anything he has to say about this issue?

      Ron Oertel lives in a community that is sprawling all over the place despite repeatedly claiming that sprawl is bad. In my mind, that makes Ron a definite hypocrite.

      I’ve never said where I live, but it has nothing to do with any point brought up.  For sure, Davis is one of the few valley communities where those concerned about it even have a say in it.

      It’s fine for me, but bad for others.

      Sounds like you should move outside of Davis boundaries, again.  Lots of places welcome sprawl, so why don’t you move there?  Seems like you’d be happier that way.

      But again, continued sprawl is not “fine” for anyone.

  2. Keith Olsen

    The reality is that Davis is about 70,000 in population and Elk Grove is 170,000. 

    Hmmmm, there was a time when Elk Grove only had a population of 70,000 too.

    1. Walter Shwe

      Hmmmm, there was a time when Elk Grove only had a population of 70,000 too.

      So what? Cities that were formerly smaller are now larger. That applies to thousands of US cities, including Winters, Woodland and West Sacramento. If that’s the best you can do, that’s literally pitiful.

      1. Keith Olsen

        The point was Walter, which looks like it escaped you, is that David is using Elk Grove’s current higher population to claim that Davis is not like Elk Grove.  Well my point is that Elk Grove also had a population of 70,000 and look where it’s at now.  How soon will it be before Davis is just like Elk Grove?

  3. Ron Oertel

    A couple of days ago, I rode my bicycle past all of the lands proposed for sprawl, including the Wildhorse buffer (adjacent to two proposed developments) and the 400-acre Covell Village II.

    How anyone wants to sacrifice these lands for sprawl is beyond me. I can see sacrificing Palomino Place as sort of a “compromise” to satisfy the sprawl enthusiasts, but even that does not “improve” life for existing residents. In fact, it has the OPPOSITE effect.

    Actually, can anyone explain how the pursuit of sprawl improves life for existing residents, the environment, or anything else?

    By the way, whatever happened to Chiles Ranch (consisting of approximately 100 housing units, IN the city)? Why is there still no building activity, there (more than a decade after it was obtained by a developer)?

  4. Ron Oertel

    If these projects get built, it will not only provide housing, but also will limit the amount of housing that can be built.

    Interesting concept – vote for sprawl, in order to prevent sprawl.

    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.”

    Isn’t that land in a flood zone?

    Likewise, Village Farms would do the same thing, to the north.

    It’s already that way, to the north.  The 400-acre Covell Village II proposal does nothing to change that.

    Others have pointed out that there are toxics remaining on this land from the old dump (adjacent to the site that you refer to as a “conservation area”).  And is also in a flood zone, as is the northern part of Covell Village II, itself. (However, the entire Covell Village II site consists of prime farmland.) Hopefully, those at The Cannery will help to stop it.

    I noticed that you didn’t even mention the 234 acre Shriner’s property development, or the 100% housing DISC site. Or, any barriers to future expansion beyond those sites.

    Or any of the other sites which aren’t off limits to development (shown in the map you posted).

    The only way to put these continued sprawling proposals to rest (permanently) is to get them out of the hands of developers, and/or put them into permanent agricultural mitigation. Otherwise, this will go on forever – even in a state with a declining population.

    But since that’s not going to happen anytime soon, I’d suggest putting all half-dozen of them on the ballot simultaneously, and let them duke it out. Now that’s something I’d like to see.

  5. Keith Y Echols

    You know what Elk Grove has that Davis doesn’t?  A surplus in their budget.  $88M in expenditures in 2022 compared to $95M in revenue.  That surplus wasn’t created by houses.  RETAIL.  Say it with me people “RETAIL”.  “SALES TAX REVENUE.”  Don’t we personally try to get a job and earn money before we buy a home?

    None of those projects will do anything about housing affordability in Davis.  And none of them except possibly Pioneer project which has some retail (though I doubt it’s substantial enough to offset the project’s ongoing cost to the city) will add any positive net revenue for the city.  Nope, unless the city has some offsetting revenue generator in the form of new retail and businesses….then these proposed residential projects are just big ole leeches on the local economy.

    Now do these projects need to be built?  Yeah…I suppose if Davis wants to get square with the HCD and it’s RHNA numbers. But if I’m (the city) am going to have to bite the bullet and swallow some residential homes without generating any new revenue; I’d prefer it to be higher density residential with more affordable homes.  But whatever the case….my point is that the city (it’s people) better get their heads out of their rears and recognize the city’s financial problems and start embracing some real solutions….which will likely include expansion/”sprawl” of retail shopping and business center/parks. 

    But back to Elk Grove and Davis.  I have a question….maybe one for Matt Williams….In Elk Grove’s city budget under revenue I see listed “Property Tax in Lieu of Vehicle Licensing Fee”…which is basically an old 2004 agreement between the state where some of the vehicle tax the state collects gets returned to cities.  Elk Grove appears to receive about $15M in revenue from the state.  Davis does not list this revenue item.  I suppose this could be listed under “Other Taxes” but more likely it might be lumped in with “Property Tax” since that’s what it technically is.  But that would mean that Davis’ property tax revenue of $22M (for comparison Elk Grove’s property tax revenue is $15.7M) is substantially less than than what it appears because its bolstered by the VLF state money.

    1. Matt Williams

      But back to Elk Grove and Davis.  I have a question….maybe one for Matt Williams….In Elk Grove’s city budget under revenue I see listed “Property Tax in Lieu of Vehicle Licensing Fee”…which is basically an old 2004 agreement between the state where some of the vehicle tax the state collects gets returned to cities.  Elk Grove appears to receive about $15M in revenue from the state.  Davis does not list this revenue item.  I suppose this could be listed under “Other Taxes” but more likely it might be lumped in with “Property Tax” since that’s what it technically is.  But that would mean that Davis’ property tax revenue of $22M (for comparison Elk Grove’s property tax revenue is $15.7M) is substantially less than than what it appears because its bolstered by the VLF state money.

      .

      Keith, I will check that out when I get home this evening.

  6. Keith Y Echols

    Why Grow?

    So yeah….growing mostly sucks.  It causes more traffic and it takes away beautiful farmland to look at.  It creates crowds, takes away parking and reduces local resources.

    However:

    1.  The state mandates added housing.  Housing requirements that can’t be met through infill alone (plus infill has it’s own problems for getting approved).  Some idiots think we can just ignore it until it blows over.  But that just means the city completely loses it’s authority to direct and approve projects; so you could get anything and everything built if the state approves it.

    2.  City finances.  The city needs more retail and DESTINATION RETAIL of some sort.  It needs something to draw people to Davis to shop and generate tax revenue and also to better capture sales tax revenue from it’s own population.

    So why grow?  To meet state housing requirements and to balance the city budget without giving up things that downgrade the quality of life in Davis.….such luxuries like basic road maintenance, park upkeep (there are still blown down trees and stumps that haven’t been taken care of since January).

    But once you meet the city budget requirements (within reason) and the state housing requirements;  there’s no need to grow or continue to sprawl.  

  7. Tim Keller

    You know what Elk Grove does but Davis doesnt?  Invest in programs to attract and retain startup companies…  just sayin’

    But more to the point of the article… there is a factor not mentioned here which is “how the city feels and operates”  – which is present in Elk Grove, Natomas, and Woodland… which is “sprawling” single family homes…

    Davis DOES have some natural geographic boundaries, but even if we stay within those.. if all we do is build low-density single family housing tracts, then davis will FEEL much like elk grove or natomas… even if it is smaller… and that is probably more on-point with the sentiment being expressed.

    The thing that nauseates me is the fact that we KNOW that single family housing developments are unsustainable in many ways… we KNOW the suburban experiment started in the 30’s and 40’s has failed… yet we are now looking at a wave of development proposals all suggesting that we repeat that same, failed development paradigm.  Is that not the definition of insanity?

    There is a narrow path to success here in Davis… adding to our population in such a way that the added population is of benefit to the city economically, environmentally is possible if we do it right… but I dont see ANYONE talking along those lines outside of Sustainable Growth Yolo…  Single family homes are the LAST thing we need… (not that we need ‘none’ – but they should be our absolutely lowest priority… )  condos and apartments targeted at staff and working families, and planned with both parking maximums  AND adequate transit would move the needle FAR more than any of these single family housing proposals… but nobody is talking that way, and I cant figure out why.

     

    1. Keith Y Echols

      I don’t really want anymore single family homes built either.  But I’m a realist.  You have to build what the market demands.  You can only build so many high density units before it’s no longer worth it for the builder.  The market has it’s limits.  Are all of your start up workers former grad students with spouses and no kids or just one kid?  Are they going to be good with renting or buying a 900 sqft unit apartment/condo without a yard for $700K  or$2,600/month?   Or will they look to Woodland, West Sac or Winters for 1,500 sqft for $700K or $2,500/month with a yard?  Schools?  They can still get their kids into DJUSD schools (without paying the school property tax, I might add).

      My point is that Davis does not exist in a vacuum.  So as long as surrounding towns keep producing single family housing…then if Davis is (for whatever reason trying to house workers….maybe to attract a businesses or some big company) going to plan to build more homes…. then yes, Davis will have to plan some single family homes to meet market demand.

      1. Tim Keller

        So that is the thing… how do we KNOW that single family is “what the market demands”?   We dont.

        Are there any condos or apartments or townhomes anywhere that cant find tenants?

        Single family housing for the past two generations have been the ONLY thing that was legal to build in 80% of the buildable land due to R1 zoning.

        The fact that you could ONLY build SFH doesnt mean that SFH is actually the most popular.

        Besides… Since single family homes are an economic loser for the city, and higher density forms of housing are net positive economically… lets let those neighboring communities do the sprawling SFH kind of planning… and for us… lets keep single family detatched housing at maybe 30% of the total mix… focusing on townhomes, stacked flat condos, garden court apartments and even “texas doughnuts”.

        We can get 5x the number of people in town that way, using the same amount of land… which also makes walking-distance retail a very viable thing, and transit starts to be much more effective, meaning that the population increase could subsidize expansion of transit service and take the edge off of traffic issues that come along with that growth…

        All the rational arrows point towards medium density / mixed use etc being absolutely the right way to go.

        1. Don Shor

          So that is the thing… how do we KNOW that single family is “what the market demands”? We dont.

          Tim, the housing industry has done surveys for many years. They aren’t just flying blind on stuff like this.
          Just two examples:
          https://www.nahb.org/-/media/NAHB/news-and-economics/docs/housing-economics-plus/special-studies/2021/special-study-what-home-buyers-really-want-march-2021.pdf
          ——–

          Below we examine the question: Is the nation moving toward a future of multi-family homes in walkable, densely populated areas, or will Americans hold on tight to their single-family houses?

          Here’s a summary of key findings:
          89% of homebuyers would prefer a single-family home with a backyard over a unit in a triplex with a shorter commute.

          33% of Redfin.com users limit their searches to single-family homes, down from 41% in 2012.
          28% of homebuyers said plenty of living space is the most important factor in their home choice, more than any other factor.

          https://www.redfin.com/news/millennial-homebuyers-prefer-single-family-homes/
          ———
          Plenty more studies where those came from.
          I understand that people with backgrounds in urban planning don’t agree that this is what they should want. But it is what they do want.

        2. Keith Y Echols

          Since single family homes are an economic loser for the city, and higher density forms of housing are net positive economically…

          How or where do you have specific data that higher density forms of housing are a net positive economically?  You’ve said before that you believe that more people in Davis are an economic positive based on property tax and sales tax revenue generation.  But that only works if there’s enough local retail options to capture local consumption enough to generate enough sales tax revenue….which there isn’t (enough retail options).

           lets keep single family detatched housing at maybe 30% of the total mix… focusing on townhomes, stacked flat condos, garden court apartments and even “texas doughnuts”.

          I mean…30% sounds like a nice number.  But I have no way of knowing if it’s the right number.  I’d be fine if it were 10% or 50%.  To me it depends on specifically what the city needs (for economic development)….and again my default is to just say no to single family housing (but again; it’s okay if it’s deemed necessary for economic growth).   To me the only reason to build for profit housing is to meet specific demands by potential employers….HOWEVER, the possible exception is new planned new housing forced upon Davis through RHNA numbers by the HCD.  Then yes, I if you’re forced to produce more housing; make it medium to high density housing….preferably AFFORDABLE housing.   But my point is that I’m not going to stick to an arbitrary number for the amount of single family homes I believe the city should approve.  I think it should be based on what the city specifically needs at any given time (and again my default for R1 zoning is NO…unless it’s proven it’s needed….generally a developer will tell you why he/she believes they need X amount of whatever product to build).

          We can get 5x the number of people in town that way, using the same amount of land

          I’d rather get the required number of people/units on 5x less land….so we can limit sprawl.  I’m not into planning for homes to stuff the city with people.   I support planning and building necessary affordable housing and required state housing.  Ultimately I’m for the optimal balance of civic economic health and overall quality of life for current residents of Davis.

           

           

        3. Richard_McCann

          33% of Redfin.com users limit their searches to single-family homes, down from 41% in 2012.

          That indicates that MF housing is becoming more popular.

        4. Keith Y Echols

          That indicates that MF housing is becoming more popular.

          Or simply less affordable to most home buyers.  It doesn’t mean they don’t want it.

        5. Mark West

          “Or simply less affordable to most home buyers.  It doesn’t mean they don’t want it.”

          People need a place to start, then those who are successful, are able to trade up (if they want). High-density multifamily housing is the starting point, especially in areas where housing costs are high. High-density may not be the desired final option, but it is the one that provides the greatest opportunity for first-time buyers AND the greatest return for the City. That is what we should be building now as that is what is missing with the existing environment. Detached, single family residents should be very low on our priority scale, even if that is what some think is what buyers ultimately desire.

        6. Keith Y Echols

          People need a place to start, then those who are successful, are able to trade up (if they want). High-density multifamily housing is the starting point, especially in areas where housing costs are high. 

          I don’t really care what people that are considering moving here need.  I care about what’s best for the city and it’s existing residence.   I find it amusing that you feel the need to explain housing 101 to a former real estate developer/builder.

        7. Mark West

          “I don’t really care what people that are considering moving here need.  I care about what’s best for the city and it’s existing residence.   I find it amusing that you feel the need to explain housing 101 to a former real estate developer/builder.”

          I too care about the City and the existing residents, especially those who grew up here and want to stay but cannot find appropriate housing. High-density multi-family housing (apartments, condos, townhouses, etc.) benefit both the City’s finances and the availability of appropriate housing for both current and future residents.

          I’m glad you are amused, but I have no interest in explaining things to you. I am writing to counter your frequent bluster and remind other readers that since you know little about the City’s history, your proclamations are often incomplete, short-sighted or inappropriate. But of course I err, what you say must be the god’s holy truth since you were once a real estate developer/builder.

          1. Don Shor

            The projects before the city contain a mix of housing sizes and densities.
            Palomino Place: 7 – 9 units per acre.
            Contains:
            Cottages
            1/2 flex townhomes
            Move-up lots at two densities
            Lots for single-family homes

            Village Farms:
            “Affordable multi-family units”: 210, 14 – 25 per acre
            “Affordable single-family units”: 310, 6 – 14 per acre
            Single-family units. 875: 3 – 6 per acre.

            I haven’t looked at the other three.

        8. Keith Y Echols

          . I am writing to counter your frequent bluster and remind other readers that since you know little about the City’s history, 

          What makes you think I know little about the city’s history?

          Who exactly are you to counter my “bluster”.  I’ll stack my 15-20 years of land development and building to yours if you want? What are your qualifications?  Why should anyone listen to you?  I provide insight into how real estate developers work and operate.  What do you offer?  I’m not going to argue with you about wines.  Why would you think you can argue with me about real estate development and urban planning?

        9. Keith Y Echols

          The projects before the city contain a mix of housing sizes and densities.
          Palomino Place: 7 – 9 units per acre.
          Contains:
          Cottages
          1/2 flex townhomes
          Move-up lots at two densities
          Lots for single-family homes
          Village Farms:
          “Affordable multi-family units”: 210, 14 – 25 per acre
          “Affordable single-family units”: 310, 6 – 14 per acre
          Single-family units. 875: 3 – 6 per acre.

          Yeah, I suppose that’s not bad for a suburban compromise.  But I still contend that in order to make neighborhood retail work (which I think is important to help offset the residential costs to the city), that it has to have a much denser residential component as integrated into the retail and right next to it.  Also, IMO smaller homes do not necessarily equate to affordable homes.  I know mathematically it can work out (for now) based on size and price.  But on a cost per square foot it’s usually right back to premium new home pricing.

          1. Don Shor

            But I still contend that in order to make neighborhood retail work (which I think is important to help offset the residential costs to the city), that it has to have a much denser residential component as integrated into the retail and right next to it.

            I contend that the “neighborhood retail” needs wide roads, truck access, adequate parking, night lighting, and other things that are pretty incompatible with a residential neighborhood. I do realize that in dense urban settings people are used to truck deliveries at 2 a.m., bright security lighting and loud alarms, and all that stuff, but Davis is not a dense urban setting.
            I’m getting at least 8 deliveries this week. Two will involve double semi trucks, two will use forklifts, they’re noisy and either need turnaround room or a broad avenue on which to double-park as we offload them.
            I really think most people have not thought through what is involved with stocking and running a retail store and how that impacts the surrounding neighbors. Houses should be in neighborhoods, stores should be in shopping centers. They should be close together. But this 5-decade attempt at merging them has a lot of confounding issues and I see a lot of failures.
            I believe Village Homes, which was presented in my urban planning classes in the 1970s as the pinnacle of modern urban design, was supposed to have a commercial component. There is a nice restaurant there, but I have little doubt that Mr. Fasulo would happily relocate to a larger location if one were available. Arlington shopping center is surrounded by housing and has struggled from the start.
            I guess I’m not seeing how your principles of urban planning would be implemented here any better than the previous unsuccessful attempts.

        10. Keith Y Echols

          Don, I get what you’re saying.  But IMO pretty much all attempts at new urbanism in the suburbs like the ones you’ve described have been half measures that were doomed to fail.  Not enough density.  No planned community….just medium density units sort of near retail units.   I’ll have to look it up but there’s some sort of density threshold within a short walking distance of local retail that is supposed to work (for example all those apartments near the Market Place would be too far) that I’ve heard or read somewhere.  The problem is that for most potential infill projects those thresholds tend to be more than most suburbs are willing to swallow plus the changes cost in infrastructure changes and improvements tends to be prohibitive.   But planning for that kind of density to be integrated with neighborhood retail for new communities is much more doable.

          But yeah…I get taking new urbanism ideas with a grain of salt.

          1. Don Shor

            I’ll have to look it up but there’s some sort of density threshold within a short walking distance of local retail that is supposed to work (

            Something like this, I assume:

            Most people are unwilling to walk much more than half a mile on a regular basis, which means that destinations—jobs, stores, transit stops, and so on—are only within “walking distance” of people within a half mile of them.

            https://cityobservatory.org/understanding-walkable-density/

        11. Tim Keller

          How or where do you have specific data that higher density forms of housing are a net positive economically?

          Strong Towns.  They studied the relative income / cost of properties in many cities based on the usage type…. and found that multi-family and high density commercial literally subsidizes all of the rest of the town.

          Here is a great video which presents those findings:https://youtu.be/7Nw6qyyrTeI

        12. Keith Y Echols

          Yes, but there’s a numeric threshold for number of people that live really close to the number of square feet of neighborhood retail.  Basically you need lots of people (some threshold) living close together and close to the neighborhood retail to make the retail successful.

          I’m starting to miss Cole Valley again….I miss walking to the Reverie, Crepes on Cole, Finnigan’s Wake and Cole Valley Fitness.  You know what’s a recipe for good health?  When you live close enough to walk to the gym (or Golden Gate Park).

          But yes “walkability” is a big deal for building neighborhoods and communities and to support local retail.

        13. Tim Keller

          Mark West: 

          People need a place to start, then those who are successful, are able to trade up (if they want). High-density multifamily housing is the starting point, especially in areas where housing costs are high. High-density may not be the desired final option, but it is the one that provides the greatest opportunity for first-time buyers AND the greatest return for the City. That is what we should be building now as that is what is missing with the existing environment. Detached, single family residents should be very low on our priority scale, even if that is what some think is what buyers ultimately desire.

          100%.

          This is the thing that the “its what the market wants” argument totally misses…

          If you DO want single family homes… guess what?  90% of Davis is ALREADY built that way!!!     What we do NOT have is a choice, because SFH by law is the only thing you CAN build when a city planning department paints huge sections of a city with “R1”

          And again, Im not saying we cant build any more SFH ever again… only that in terms of our relative priorities, we MUST focus on higher density, mixed use housing options…   Let’s build some CHOICES into our housing market and see what happens!   I guarantee you there will never be a condo complex sitting empty in this town in my lifetime.

          1. Don Shor

            If you DO want single family homes… guess what? 90% of Davis is ALREADY built that way!!!

            Not even close.

            Because UC Davis is adjacent to the city limits of Davis, a significant portion of the housing units in the city are rentals. Approximately 57% of the 25,869 housing units in Davis are rental properties and 55% of Davis residents live in rental housing. More than 43% of the housing units in Davis are multi-unit structures (apartment complexes). Home ownership in Davis is 43.8% compared to the national average of 66.9%.

            https://www.cityofdavis.org/about-davis/population-and-housing

        14. Tim Keller

          Yes, but there’s a numeric threshold for number of people that live really close to the number of square feet of neighborhood retail.  Basically you need lots of people (some threshold) living close together and close to the neighborhood retail to make the retail successful.

           

          yep, 100%.   And THAT is why we need planning… without it, none of this works.

          But… if you look around town there ARE places where if you did a good job planning AND you could get past the NIMBYs who whine about building height, you could have enough density to make mixed-use commercial work.

          Look for example at all of the two-story student housing complexes along Covell.. especially the strip between the marketplace and the high-school.

          All of that area, coud be re-zoned to 4 stories tall.   Maybe there might not be ground-level retail along the entire strip… but in clusters… perhaps across from the other shopping centers certainly..

          Those other shopping centers also could be re-developed as mixed use while we are at it.  Instead of insulating the shops with a sea of cars, you put a parking garage behind it and move the stores up to the street where they can be met by pedestrians… and the number of people you could house OVER the equivalent commercial space of a property like Anderson plaze or the marketplace is considerable.

          Note… you dont have to get EVERYONE do walk or bike… but if you can entice a big percentage of people to do so because it is easier… then driving also gets easier for the people who have no other option.. like the elderly & disabled

          Note… these might seem like crazy changes because they are big… but I see it this way:  It took us two generations to plan and build our city into car-dependant sprawling suburb… so okay if it takes a generation for us to fix that problem!    This CAN happen slowly…. im totally okay with that.

          What is needed is big-picture perspective, some forward thinking, and an ounce of political will… unfortunatley, we have precious little of any of that in this town it seems… so maybe we are just hosed….

        15. Ron Oertel

          Because UC Davis is adjacent to the city limits of Davis, a significant portion of the housing units in the city are rentals. Approximately 57% of the 25,869 housing units in Davis are rental properties and 55% of Davis residents live in rental housing. More than 43% of the housing units in Davis are multi-unit structures (apartment complexes). Home ownership in Davis is 43.8% compared to the national average of 66.9%.

          A more “environmentally relevant” way to calculate this would be to compare the percentage of the city’s land mass consumed by single family housing, vs. multi-family housing. And the amount of people accommodated per acre.

          In what is still (primarily) a “university town”, it is not surprising that most of the properties (and all of the apartments) are rental properties, and that this exceeds the national average.

          But no doubt, this varies widely by neighborhood. Probably not too many rental properties in the Lake Alhambra neighborhood, for example. (And not very many “homeless” people there, for that matter. The reason for the latter being that they would be obvious – and not tolerated.)

        16. Tim Keller

          Don… look at the zoning map of davis and you see what I mean… I suspect you get it, but I’ll link it anyway

          Now, 90% isnt probably correct for single family homes… but look at the zoning map and  all of the light yellow in the planning map is single family homes…   its the VAST MAJORITY of the land use in our city – which was my point.

          Now look at the brown and orange parts of that map, which is where the medium-density student housing is… the fact that we can get 40% of our households in probably 10% of the land area is probably the greatest single argument FOR concentrating on higher density types that can be made!

          Now, unfortunatley, because we are SO impacted in terms of housing, pretty much ALL of that higher density housing is student housing – which is a totally different catagory from the missing middle housing that Im advocating

          When we had our first child we lived in tanglewood.. one of the more expensive apartment complexes which I thought would cater to an older crowd… but no… we had undergrads who threw parties below us, which was a nightmare when it was hard to get infant to sleep in the first place.

          So again… we need MUCH more higher density housing and especially we need higher density housing aimed at career and adult aged residents – not students.    Which mean more volume of units to absorb all the students AND construction types which target working families:  Townhomes and condos.    We are completely bereft of any meaningful inventory of that kind of housing for the adult population here.

          Unless you want to live with noisy students who wake up your kids at 2AM, In davis, its single-family-home or NOTHING.

        17. Mark West

          “What makes you think I know little about the city’s history?

          Oh, I don’t know, maybe because you frequently post statements that demonstrate your ignorance of the topic.

          “Retail first”

          You have correctly identified that the City is severely screwed up and that there are many things that need to change going forward. Unfortunately, with this statement, you fall into the trap of thinking that you (alone?) know the one thing that absolutely must be done first, before we move forward.

          No, you are really just as ignorant as the last self-proclaimed prophet.

          ‘Retail First’ [It was ‘Jobs First,’ first, if I remember correctly].

          If you really knew the history of the town, you would know that we have a long succession of ‘knowledgable’ local folks who decide that we have to do one thing first, before we do anything else. More planning, more retail, more jobs, more commercial, more…it really dooesn’t matter what.  All it means is that we do nothing while waiting for the ‘one thing.‘ When you post ‘(used-male-bovine-food) first,’ all you are saying is ‘don’t to do anything.’

          We need everything. More jobs, more retail, more hotels, more commercial, more revenue for the City, more housing for students…workers…families…ignorant rich folks…etc.

          Anyone who makes a statement that we need to do one thing first before everything else is simply opposed to addressing our problems, not working to solve them. So far, you have provided some meaningful information here, and a valuable viewpoint with your background as a developer, but in the end you haven’t done anything to move us forward (largely due to your f’ing arrogance). That puts you on a par with Ron, Matt, and Richard, among so many others here. Lots of noise, but no progress.

          “What are your qualifications?”

          With regards to real estate development, none, but that doesn’t mean that I am wrong.

          I’ll buy the first round.  (David can put you in contact, if you dare).

          I don’t expect to hear from you.

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

        18. Keith Y Echols

          Here is a great video which presents those findings:https://youtu.be/7Nw6qyyrTeI

          First, let me acknowledge that you came up with some data/research in answer to my question….I do appreciate that.   As for Strong Towns?  I take them with a grain of salt.   Yeah, I’ve read and watched those Strong Town articles….they have an agenda that tends to stretch or bend their claims…. (and remember I want mixed use high density residential to work).  What they don’t mention is that Layfette has very good retail in and around the city (despite strong town’s showing of a closed down Toys R’ Us; there are some vibrant shopping centers around there).   It’s their retail (and possibly other local taxes) that make whatever they build fiscally worth it for the city.  If you have retail built anywhere in the city; it’s going to make residential areas more palatable to a city.   It doesn’t even have to be integrated into the high density residential projects.  Let me give you an example:  If Davis had a bunch of high density residential towers in West Davis (something like 50+/acre).  And in East Davis there was a Coscto, Walmart and Outlets stores…etc…; all the people that live in those high density units across town would likely spend their money in those stores (students already go across town to Target and go to Woodland to Costco) which better captures sales tax from the people that live in those high density residences which makes those high density projects revenue positive.  So again, it’s like I told you before; you have to build retail first if you want it to fiscally make sense for to make residential housing at least pay for itself….even high density residential…..again what makes it viable is sales tax from retail.

        19. Keith Y Echols

          Seriously, I can’t believe you ran for City Council…how much of your own wine are you drinking???

          What have you ever contributed to the discussion here?  Anything of substance?

          I post about builders’ decision making process.  I posted about SB 35 the streamlined multi-family housing process.  I post about the need for more public housing.  I post financial numbers about how a Costco generates revenue for a city.  I post about destination retail examples as revenue generators.

          You know what the funny thing is?  As far as policy goes; we’re not that far apart.

          That means expanding our commercial and RETAIL sectors, creating private sector jobs and business opportunities for our residents, improving the economic vitality of the region and expanding the tax base supporting City services. It also means finding more cost effective means of providing the services that residents require without cutting those services or creating a culture of austerity. Tax increases will likely be required, especially in the short-term, but they should be the last step in the process, not the first option.  Mark West is a Candidate for Davis City Council

          The problem is that you don’t like me (I know…I’m a lovable arrogant scamp!) and hate the fact that I know so much more than you on this subject.  You grasp at straws to discredit my connection to Davis.  I mean…I go back a couple decades….my wife’s from here….but you’re right I don’t have a senior citizen’s connection to the history of Davis.  But it’s not exactly relevant either.

          So I challenge you to post something of substance.  Please.  I may disagree with many of the commenters here.  But many of them post stuff of substance to consider…even if I disagree with them.

  8. Ron Oertel

    Housing requirements that can’t be met through infill alone (plus infill has it’s own problems for getting approved). 

    This is literally untrue, as demonstrated by the vast population centers along the coast (which aren’t expanding outward, but which are actually the focus of the state’s mandates).

    Some idiots think we can just ignore it until it blows over.

    It’s not that it will “blow over”.

    The state’s mandates will literally fail, regardless of what’s “approved”.  This is nearly universally and factually acknowledged. I can post articles again showing this throughout the state.

    1. Ron Oertel

      And by the way, I’m not sure that I’d want to be ANY peripheral developer’s shoes right now, as whatever they propose would have to include an extremely high percentage of “affordable” housing to address any anticipated “future rounds” of RHNA requirements.  (Which won’t even be known for many years – well-after the current mandates have failed throughout the state.)

  9. Ronald Andersen

    I’m 32, married, and interested in moving to Davis at some point in the near future. I grew up there and still have family there. (I’m currently out of state, but I can now do my job remote.)

    My ideal housing situation is a 1,700 square foot townhome. Three stories, with the first story being a one-car garage. Access to a bike path, a park nearby, and enough density so that my one or two kids can have friends within walking distance and so that I can walk/bike to some sort of grocery store or coffee shop.

    I have enough money to afford an over-sized single family home, even in Davis. But I have no idea why I would want to. It seems very isolating—in addition to all the environmental, transportation, segregation, and budget issues that come with single-family developments.

    There are many people out there like me (pretty much all my high school friends, in fact). Moreover, we’re the type of people who tend to want to live in Davis and who existing Davisites tend to want to have live in Davis. The idea that Davis should build big single-family homes (in 2023!) because that’s what people want in Las Vegas and Birmingham is silly. I’ve lived in places all around the country now: it goes without saying that the people who want to live in McMansions in the Sun Belt are very different from the millenials who are starting families and thinking of moving back to Davis. (I mean, McMansion-dwellers also drive huge trucks and would never think about using a bike for transportation! Let’s not even start on who they vote for!)

    Overall, it’s just very odd to come on here and have *elderly gentlemen* tell us young folks that they know our housing preferences better than we do. (Newsflash: you don’t!)

    In conclusion, it’s great that Davis may finally build some housing. But, boy, do these proposals feel like they’re twenty years out of date. Let’s add some townhomes, some apartments, some bodegas and coffee shops!

    1. Don Shor

      Overall, it’s just very odd to come on here and have *elderly gentlemen* tell us young folks that they know our housing preferences better than we do. (Newsflash: you don’t!)

      No, we look at actual surveys done by the industry. You fit right in there. Just there are more first-time home buyers who state a preference for single-family homes.
      From one of the links I posted earlier, a study of millennial homebuyers.

      Most homebuyers and sellers would choose a single-family home over shared walls—even if it means a significantly longer commute
      Although the share of homebuyers limiting their searches to single-family homes has shrunk over the last seven years, that’s likely due to rising prices rather than homebuyer preferences. Our research indicates that the vast majority of homebuyers and sellers would prefer a single-family home over a unit with shared walls, assuming the price is the same.
      Just one out of every 10 prospective homebuyers and sellers would prefer a unit in a triplex with a short commute over a comparable single-family home farther away from their job. Nearly 90 percent of homebuyers would prefer a single-family home.

      Many of us who are “elderly gentlemen” have millennial children and are quite familiar with what their preferences are. There is a lot of nuance in those studies. People make tradeoffs and many reflect the values you’ve expressed. But not all, and quite arguably not even a majority based on the industry surveys.
      Bodegas would be great. My daughter really likes having them in her neighborhood in Brooklyn. I think you’ll find there’s no shortage of coffee shops in Davis.
      Note that all of the housing projects proposed, so far as I know, include higher-density housing as well as single-family homes.

      1. Keith Y Echols

        I’m of the belief that new peripheral neighborhoods should be planned out to be their own local communities.  That mixed use retail has to be included in them.  The kind that has local coffee shops, bodegas (I miss corner shops), restaurants and shops.  If you can’t connect every new place seamlessly by walking path, bike and mass transit to the rest of Davis, then the new communities should be as self sufficient as possible (and the connections to the rest of Davis can be worked on later).

        1. Mark West

          “I’m of the belief that new peripheral neighborhoods should be planned out to be their own local communities.”

          Smartest thing you have ever said on this site. Projects that don’t use this approach should be rejected. Full stop.

        2. Tim Keller

          Im 1000% in agreement with this… but just like my planning comment elsewhere… the measure J process itself almost prevents any kind of “good well-thought” coordinated neighborhood…

          As someond who lives near the mace curve, I would LOVE for there to be a coordinated local corner of town nearby that had shops / eating etc.   In fact, if you map where the supermarkets are in town already, and then anticipate that all of the mace curve might get developed, then it would actually be a “retail bald spot” in town if there WASNT a shopping center in some of those plans….    The logical right place to do so is at the Shriners property… but guess what isnt included in their plans….

          Right now there are no walkable eateries  or coffee shops close to me…  NONE.  Unless you count the starbucks in target…   so If it were well designed and presented, I’m willing to bet that a lot of locals here in my neighborhood would be excited to have a local neighborhood center develop nearby

          But again, I dont see the developers banding together to come up with a joint proposal anytime soon….  unless they are forced to, or the law changes, or there is some actual political leadership undertaken by SOMONE…

    2. Keith Y Echols

      I’m 32, married,

      Lol…with no kids….

      I remember some family friends about 15 years ago (so they were about 32) bought almost exactly what you described:

      My ideal housing situation is a 1,700 square foot townhome. Three stories, with the first story being a one-car garage. Access to a bike path, a park nearby, and enough density so that my one or two kids can have friends within walking distance and so that I can walk/bike to some sort of grocery store or coffee shop.

      It was in Fremont and it was with in walking distance of the Irvington District (so coffee shops, restaurants..etc..).  They could walk with their kid to the local Farmer’s market.  But what did they end up doing?  You know what happened  5 years later?  THEY MOVED!  They sold their nice 3 story town home for a traditional home WITH A YARD in the Niles district.  I’ve seen this happen over and over but mostly moving from the Bay Area to the Sac area for a bigger home…with a yard.

      I’ve lived in places all around the country now: it goes without saying that the people who want to live in McMansions in the Sun Belt are very different from the millenials who are starting families and thinking of moving back to Davis. (I mean, McMansion-dwellers also drive huge trucks and would never think about using a bike for transportation! Let’s not even start on who they vote for!)

      Here’s the thing; massive numbers of people are choosing to live in suburbia over buying townhomes in the Bay Area.   So we’re mostly not talking about people moving from the Sun Belt to Davis. To me it sounds like suburban Sacramento (which is what Davis is)…is no longer for you.  Maybe you should live somewhere urban or semi urban.  Downtown Sacramento has lots of townhomes.  I was a silly young adult at one time…when I was 32…I lived in an actual city for all the restaurants, coffee shops, parks (I lived next to one) and mass transportation…but mostly for live music.  The funny thing is I also owned a big ole full sized truck and a wakeboard boat…which I kept outside of the city.  So I get wanting that urban/semi-urban life.  But that’s not Davis.  It’d be nice if it was…I sometimes miss it.  I remembering complaining to Robb Davis (then Mayor) once that Grande Village was just a bunch of big single family homes and that I wanted mixed use there so I could walk down the greenbelt to get a cup of coffee.  So I sympathize with you….I really do.  But reality is reality…and that reality is that people that buy houses…might say at one time they want nice new fancy “new urban” homes…but they eventually look around at their options and move towards bigger square footage and more yard. So the more kids you have, the more stuff you have….the more room you need/want.  Don’t worry….pretty soon you’ll also start wearing stability comfort dad shoes and convertible cargo pants/shorts (which I made fun of my dad for wearing 20 years ago)….things change….you’ll change…it happens to us all.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Lol…with no kids….

        So the more kids you have, the more stuff you have….the more room you need/want.  Don’t worry….pretty soon you’ll also start wearing stability comfort dad shoes and convertible cargo pants/shorts (which I made fun of my dad for wearing 20 years ago)….things change….you’ll change…it happens to us all.

        Which is why they buy in Spring Lake (in particular).

        Though none of this actually applies to me – just an observation.

        Turns out that no one wants to (or can) pay more than $1 million for this type of thing, when it’s offered for less than that some 7 miles “up the road”. Along with the ability to send your kids to Davis schools, though I’m not sure that’s an advantage at this point.

         

         

    3. Keith Olsen

      Overall, it’s just very odd to come on here and have *elderly gentlemen* tell us young folks that they know our housing preferences better than we do. (Newsflash: you don’t!)

      I’m curious Mr. Andersen, since this appears to be your first comment on the Vanguard how do you know that the commenters here are “elderly gentlemen”?

      1. Keith Y Echols

        I’m curious Mr. Andersen, since this appears to be your first comment on the Vanguard how do you know that the commenters here are “elderly gentlemen”?

        “Mr. Anderson?”  You sound like Agent Smith from “The Matrix”.

        Eh, If I were 32 and read the comments here; I’d assume we were all elderly gentlemen.

        “My goodness. I’m just playing. I’m Gen-X. I sit on the sidelines and watch the world burn.  – Host Kenan Thompson  SNL Millennial Millions

  10. Ron Glick

    David once again makes an argument I’ve been making for years. Well better late than never.

    But I’d even go further and ask what is so bad about Elk Grove? Its more diverse, has a more stable budget, homes are more affordable for young families, the schools there are full and the teachers make more money. In fact I know several people who left Davis schools to teach in Elk Grove schools.

    Elk Grove puts the lie to Keith’s argument that home builders keep supply tight. Elk Grove is a place that proves if you build enough you get lower prices.

    Okay its too car dependent and needs better mass transit but otherwise I think the fear of Davis turning into Elk Grove reveals more about the person making the argument than anything else.

    1. Keith Y Echols

      Elk Grove puts the lie to Keith’s argument that home builders keep supply tight.

      Your comments on Land Use should have a warning sign with clown symbol next to it (you should be embarrassed).  If you have relevant experience to Land Use and Construction please let us know….or are you just spouting off based on a few things you’ve read here and there?  Me?  I’ve got 15-20 years of experience in land development and homebuilding.   My job at one time was to actually identify new housing markets.  You should really learn to be quiet and pay attention when someone who knows more than you about a subject is speaking.

      Builders only build where the market grows.  Where’s the market growing?  ELK GROVE.  Do you know where they wouldn’t build if Elk Grove wasn’t growing?  ELK GROVE.  Do you think the homes built in Elk grove are released for sale all at once?  No.  They’re released in phases.  That’s mostly to mitigate financial risk.  But part of that is controlling supply to not flood a local market.

  11. Ron Oertel

    I find it amusing how the article and comments went from “Davis won’t be like Elk Grove”, to “Elk Grove isn’t that bad”, to “Davis should be like Elk Grove”.

    In any case, here’s what happened in Elk Grove during the last economic downturn.

    Onward, sprawl

    Recession and real-estate collapse be damned: Sacramento-area leaders and developers continue to plot to grow the suburbs

    As bad omens go, the dead mall in Elk Grove is tough to beat. The hulking, half-built Elk Grove Promenade makes a too-fitting symbol of the real-estate collapse and the end of seemingly unlimited suburban sprawl.

    It’s like a ghostly shipwreck, warning Elk Grove’s civic leaders: “Turn back, before it’s too late.” Even the name of company that went bankrupt trying to build this mall, General Growth Properties, seems a little bit on the nose. Turn back.

    Elk Grove is not turning back.

    Instead, the once-booming city is pushing to expand its sphere of influence—the reach of the city’s land-use authority—and then eventually annex about 8,000 acres to its south and east, pushing farther into the Cosumnes River basin, farmland and critical wildlife habitat. If approved, the city would grow by 30 percent, overnight.

    The city of Folsom has almost successfully annexed a 3,500-acre swath of oak woodlands and farmland on its southern border, instantly adding 25 percent to that city’s area.

    Both cities’ development plans would break Sacramento County’s longstanding urban-growth boundary. “This was considered to be the very long-term edge of growth,” says Rob Burness, a former urban planner with the county.

    And Sacramento County itself is considering approval of a massive new development called Cordova Hills—in an area previously considered off-limits to development.

    Linking all of these hot spots: Local officials, business groups and developers are pushing forward on a plan to build a $500 million “connector” from Elk Grove to Folsom and on to the suburban El Dorado Hills in the next county.

    This will undoubtedly relieve congestion—for a while. But critics say the roadway will just open up the rural east county to even more development.

    https://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/content/onward-sprawl/5762776/
     

  12. Ron Oertel

    Here’s something that gives me “hope” – even for Elk Grove!

    Millennials are fueling a generational housing bubble – and it’s set to pop in the next decade as demand drops, researchers say

    Millennials are fueling a generational housing bubble that’s set to burst over the next decade as demand for homes falls off, according to researchers.

    Millennials are fueling a generational housing bubble that’s set to burst over the next decade as demand for homes falls off, according to researchers.

    In a recent report from the Indiana University Center for Real Estate Studies and the Indiana Business Research Center, researchers said Millennials — who are between their mid-20s and early-40s, are in the prime-homebuying age — have pushed up home prices in recent years as demand outweighs supply.

    But the situation will start to reverse over the next decade, as Baby Boomers begin age out of the housing market. Meanwhile, post-Millennial generations will be smaller as population growth slows.

    That could lead to an excess of housing, potentially pushing down prices and sparking a crash in the real estate sector.

    “Plainly put – a generational housing bubble is on the horizon. New housing built now to meet strong demand may sit vacant in a decade. Demand reversal will intensify by the mid-2030s, when the annual number of homes that seniors add back to the market is expected to be 40% higher than current levels,” researchers said.

    In case you can’t “read between the lines”, baby boomers will be “ageing out of the housing market” and “adding back to the market” by dying-off – at which point they no longer need housing. I fully expect to no longer need housing myself within the next 40 years – tops. And statistically, a lot sooner than that. Hopefully, without a “first stop” at a nursing home.

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/millennials-are-fueling-a-generational-housing-bubble-and-it-s-set-to-pop-in-the-next-decade-as-demand-drops-researchers-say/ar-AA1anWFt?ocid=hpmsn&cvid=a997637c6cd44c779228f3d1191a9f01&ei=10

    1. Ron Oertel

      Not sure why the first lines were repeated, but apparently some kind of copying/pasting error on my part.

      Hopefully, not a sign that I won’t need any housing even sooner than I envisioned.

  13. williamgoll

    As a resident of Elk Grove for 22 years I can understand why Davis would not want to emulate Elk Grove’s congestion, which is ironic in a city run by mostly left leaning politicians, just like Davis. But trust me, people in Elk Grove absolutely do not want to ever be like Davis either. Far left politics, progressive claptrap, bikes thinking they own the roads, and a university filled with young minds of leftist mush. I will take the traffic over any or all of that.

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