Vanguard Weekly Council Question, The Final Week: UC Davis

Davis City Hall with an old style bicycle statue out front

Next week, there will be a special election to fill the vacancy in the 3rd District left by the departure of Lucas Frerichs to the County Board of Supervisors.

Filing to compete for that seat are two candidates: Donna Neville and Francesca Wright.  Each week between now and the election, the Vanguard will pose the candidates weekly questions in which they have between 250 and 350 words to respond.

Question 10: How would you as a councilmember engage with the university to bring forward a more collaborative relationship?


Francesca Wright 

The university and city are entwined socially, culturally, and economically.  Co-located with separate governance structures, each entity’s decisions about growth, housing, public health, safety and land use are felt throughout our shared community.

High level conversations are formally structured through the “Two by Two” process of two council members, two representatives from the Office of the Chancellor, and the two Yolo County Supervisors who represent Davis.  This is where issues and opportunities are raised and joint programs, such as the Healthy Davis Together and the Hate-Free Together campaigns are launched.  These conversations are critical to understand emerging concerns, varied perspectives, and constraints.

But the opportunities for collaboration are much more profound than joint public-facing initiatives.  The students, staff and faculty bring energy, skills and expertise.  They are already enlivening our non-profits through volunteer service and board leadership.  Others are applying breakthroughs from UCD research to launch business ventures.  I will advocate for our city’s economic development strategy to work with this talent so that Davis can become a hub of food and agricultural innovation.

I will seek and invite campus energy, skills and expertise into our city processes as well.  We learned during the campaign for public safety that when asked, our academic researchers will help the city commissions identify root causes of problems and find solutions.  As an understaffed city with financial shortfalls, we must activate community resources. Just this past week, the Utilities Commission determined to seek university interns to help with some of their needed research.  We have the world-class Institute for Transportation Studies yet the future of transit is not addressed in the Downtown Specific Plan.  Our need for community engagement on big issues of land use planning and the city’s financial frailties exceeds our staff capacity, yet we have experts in community development and students looking for practicums.  The city can offer a living laboratory for municipal design if we shift our thinking toward facilitation of collaborative learning.  The binary of work done either by city staff or by contract misses the opportunity of activating the network of talent that exists here in our university town.


Donna Neville

I came to Davis to attend the University and stayed here because of my work in Sacramento and my husband’s work on campus. I consider UC Davis to be the intellectual and economic heart of our community.

If elected, I will engage with the University by building trust and strengthening relationships that focus on collaboration and furthering our shared goals. I will approach this by being a good listener, by showing up and being consistently engaged, and by being a strong advocate on behalf of the City. Several goals come immediately to mind:

  • Making housing more available and more affordable;
  • Retaining the talent produced here on campus in the form of innovative incubator business ventures as a way of promoting economic development;
  • Consulting with subject matter experts on campus when making city council policy decisions;
  • Collaborating on our General Plan update.

I will continue and build on the work our prior council and county supervisors did by entering into the MOU with the University of California related to student housing.

We need to develop a strong partnership with the University so that we retain the talent produced on campus. Many innovative technologies and ideas originate from UCD; if we can keep that talent here in the form of incubator businesses, we can create new jobs and promote economic development. Not tapping into this talent and finding suitable commercial space puts us at a competitive disadvantage from other cities.

I will cultivate relationships with subject matter experts on campus so that their expertise informs my decision-making. We have some of the top experts in transportation planning, climate change, land use, agtech, and business innovation on campus. The City already relies on many of those experts, and I look forward to continuing those relationships.

Finally, UCD students are in the best position to advocate for the issues that impact them: housing, transportation, bike safety, mental health services, food insecurity, and others.  I would advocate for creating a more formal relationship between city council and the student body, perhaps as a 2×2 where city council and student body representatives meet regularly.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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1 Comment

  1. Todd Edelman

    At least one or two City of Davis Commissions have an ex-officio from UCD: Human Relations has two, but one’s vacant.  Perhaps more Commissions should be so equipped? Or should we have a quota of voting members?

    Yet what opportunity is there for non-University-associated City of Davis residents to participate in similar fashion in UCD governance?

    And seriously, no mention of University Commons… ex-University Commons? Early on in the process when I was a member of the BTSSC I suggested that a formal “City-Campus District” should be created to have an influence on this. Not a soul moved on that: Was told that the Reimagine Russell would be the related useful collaboration, but that was mostly a consultant-led mess, facilitated in non-transparent fashion by a now departed City staff member.

    An City residents pay something into Unitrans but can’t use it fare-free… okay, graduate students etc also can’t, yes?, but still…

    My impression is that the Chancellor of UCD has more gravitas than the City Council, in aggregate. Should this be the case? (Not the personalities, but the actual office…)

    Healthy Davis Together was great… wasn’t it mostly a UC-led thing?

    How many UCD graduates actually want to live here if they could afford it? There’s this consistent thing that many, many would, probably more than the reality….

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