Vanguard Weekly Council Question: Week 8 – Housing

Davis City Hall with an old style bicycle statue out front
Donna Neville and Francesca Wright from the recent forum/ screenshot

In May, 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 8: Housing is a top concern for many people—please describe the type of housing and locations of housing that you would support.

Donna Neville

We need to make housing more available and more affordable for our workforce, first-time home buyers, seniors, students, renters, and the unhoused. This is one of my top priorities. If elected, I will work tirelessly to address this issue.

If we are going to make headway on housing, the City and developers need to collaborate with surrounding neighbors to address concerns at the outset, not after a plan has already been developed. Too often residents feel blindsided by projects when city council acts on a proposal, and developers feel blindsided by last minute requests from the dais. Effective planning fully engages the community early in the process, not at the end.

To promote environmental sustainability, we need to build up by densifying within existing City limits. Our recently adopted Downtown Plan transforms land use in the downtown area and removes barriers such as parking, setback, and density requirements that previously discouraged building housing in the downtown area. Now the City needs to strengthen the tools, including our Housing Trust Fund, that will provide incentives and must work with developers who have the capacity and resources to build needed housing.

We need to use a multifaceted approach to promote as much redevelopment as possible elsewhere within the City. The City has identified parcels in city limits that can be developed/redeveloped. Now it needs to work actively with developers to ensure that housing actually gets built. We also need to make the community aware of the financial incentives that are available for those who want to build Accessory Dwelling Units.

Finally, we are now faced with the reality that we may not be able to meet our Regional Housing Need Allocation. Council is currently working to develop criteria that it will use to decide which peripheral projects to place on the ballot but decided not to place any such projects on the ballot until 2025 at the earliest. We need to ensure that any project that goes on the ballot meets the needs of the City and has the support of our residents through smart planning and an engaged process.

Francesca Wright

Our community has a shortage of both workforce and affordable housing.  I support pressing for infill while we have rigorous community conversations about the conditions under which we’d support bringing projects forward for annexation.

  • I support promotion of infill on single family lots, as permissible by California law.  While not a huge number, with additional public education and promotion I would expect we could add 50 units per year or 350 in the current element.  This can include following Santa Cruz County’s lead to allow tiny homes on wheels to be legal accessory dwelling units.  Some landlords could designate their units as affordable.
  • Our housing element, as submitted, still falls nearly 500 units short of our low-income unit goals. The plan assumes this will be met through the Downtown Specific Plan.  I believe that solving this type of housing shortage will require developing revenues for our housing trust fund, such as commercial linkages fees, and identifying sub-market land. This includes possible repurposing of land owned by the city and exploring land dedications from communities of faith.
  • Our Downtown Specific Plan has been approved and I expect both mixed use and residential projects to come forward soon.
  • This week’s Brixmor events were a huge loss to our community.  I support recruiting for our vacant planning positions so that we can plan for future mixed-use redevelopment, particularly at our other aging neighborhood centers and along transit corroders.
  • There are nearly a dozen planned or approved sites in the pipeline.  We need to be monitoring progress.
  • We must advocate with the state to accelerate housing development at UC Davis.

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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