Staff Lays Out Potential Timeline for Measure J Projects Starting in March 2025

Mayor Will Arnold

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – In April, the City Council determined that it would not pursue a land use/Measure J measure for the November 2024 ballot.

Councilmember Bapu Vaitla explained, “To me, in terms of the November 2024 ballot, that is my priority, to ensure that the fiscal needs that are unmet right now are met to carry out a community engagement process that’s robust, that’s authentic, that will culminate in a revenue measure, is gonna require a lot of staff time.”

Bandwidth is an issue as well.

“I’m concerned then that staff time is, if we do move forward with one or more of these proposals, taken away from that revenue effort,” he said.  He added, “I’m also aware that, uh, there is a, which we didn’t talk about in the last agenda item, but there’s a ballot measure that’s slated to be, on the statewide ballot that would greatly limit the ability of local governments to raise revenue going forward.”

He said that while “one hopes it loses, but one doesn’t know. So the November 2024 date seems really critical for the future fiscal health of the city, and I’d like to prioritize that above any development proposal.”

Instead of proceeding with what they considered to be a rush to get a Measure J project properly evaluated with an EIR and other legal requirements, council directed the Council Subcommittee of Mayor Will Arnold and Councilmember Bapu Vaitla along with staff to undertake the following next steps:

  1. Focus staff efforts on implementation of the Housing Element (including zoning amendments and infill housing enhancement mechanisms), the Downtown Plan, and other approved projects such as Nishi, Bretton Woods, Chiles Ranch; 715 Pole Line, Plaza 2555, Research Park Mixed Use, Olive Drive Mixed Use; and
  2. Complete an analysis of City owned properties for potential affordable/workforce housing opportunities and other infill housing opportunities, and return to City Council with recommendations; and
  3. Develop housing type and price point desired targets, working with DJUSD and other stakeholders; and
  4. Develop a proposed framework to engage the community in visioning for future housing needs and peripheral growth expectations as a second stage (Downtown Plan was the first stage) of the General Plan update; and
  5. Create a Council subcommittee comprised of B. Vaitla and J. Chapman to investigate infill opportunities with goal of achieving Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) obligations.

But those cheering the idea that there will not be a vote in November 2024 might stop when they realize it is only a very temporary reprieve.

Staff came back with a recommendation that would bring the first project as a special election in March 2025 – just four months after the November 2024 election.

Staff created a basic timeline to make available election dates in 2025 or later.

“An EIR will take a minimum of 12 months to prepare and process from securing an EIR consultant through a final EIR public hearing,” staff writes. “A well thought-out project description is necessary to avoid delays in an EIR preparation as the scope of the EIR must be inclusive of all project parameters.”

Staff added, “The considerations raised by the subcommittee and staff in the April 4, 2023 report remain, and available bandwidth of staff, the community, Council and commissions will affect the timing for any given project review.”

They added, “Should the City Council wish to provide direction to proceed with preliminary review and EIR preparation for any of the annexation projects for a 2025 ballot, having as much lead time as possible prior to the desired election date is ideal.”

Not included in the staff report is any discussion of a possible ballot measure that would create potential affordable housing exemptions to Measure J which might therefore impact this time table.

In April, Mayor Arnold noted that Measure J elections are “flashpoints” and “causes of schisms.”

He said, “We see some of the scars of an election that was nearly 20 years ago that are still fresh today.”  He continued, “We have repeatedly over the last few years subjected the community to these battles.”

He noted that he thought there would be a benefit to the community of “having at least one election cycle off from one of these fights.”

He added, “The worst possible outcome, in my opinion, is that we fast track, which I think there’s no way around saying we would be fast tracking one of these proposals for a November 2024 election.  And in part, because we fast tracked it, it fails after a long, hard fight, we’re going to be right back here, maybe with one fewer of you here in the room, having this exact same conversation in 2025.

“That’s an unacceptable outcome,” he said.  “It gives me no pleasure to be the last nail in the coffin here, saying we are intentionally taking November 2024 off the table for one of these elections.”

The mayor at the same time noted that “this is a long-term process that we will be participating in that will hopefully culminate in at least one of these passing and being built, and then another one, and then another one so that we can meet what I imagine will be our 2030 RHNA requirement that is going to require that we go outside of our current city boundaries to meet those numbers.”

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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6 Comments

  1. Ron Glick

    It’s shameful, this  City Council can’t walk and chew gum at the same time? We just had an off cycle special election and as always it was a low turnout event. Presidential elections have the biggest turnout yet the CC wants to skip the election most likely to capture the best sentiment of the voters. Yet this CC wants to skip the election most likely to get the biggest turnout for one likely to get the lowest. In my mind that defies all reason.

    As for the notion that the community needs a cycle off from the acrimony Measure J elections cause, I’m constantly being told how wide a margin Measure J renewal passed by, so, this is the process this city has chosen.

    Now the CC doesn’t want to engage with the process they supported to protect the community from acrimony. When Measure J was up for renewal during the pandemic I was a lone voice asking for change. I didn’t hear anybody arguing against the acrimony Measure J brings to the community. I heard how Nishi and WDAAC proved the system works. I heard the demand that no changes be made to Measure J. I watched a unanimous vote of the CC to put renewal on the ballot with no changes even though several members agreed with me privately that Measure J  was at the root of our housing problems.

    We don’t need a sabbatical from Measure J acrimony we need housing.

    1. David Greenwald

      I was frankly appalled by the staff report, whoever created that timeline gave no thought to political realities, only thought to staffing.

      1. Ron Oertel

        You and Ron G are stating that staff should advocate for development, based upon politics. In other words, put forth a “recommendation” that a given election date would ensure the “best chances” of approval.

        And that part of their job is to analyze the political landscape (with that goal in mind) in the first place.

        I don’t believe that’s their job. And if they started doing this, it would likely create even more distrust. For that matter, that applies to the council as well.

        Next thing you know, one of them might volunteer to act as an “honorary chairperson” for a particular development, and initiate a legal action against opponents (on behalf of a developer) regarding the wording of a ballot measure.

        1. Ron Glick

          I didn’t say anything about the staff. I didn’t say they should go with the date most likely for passage. I said they should go with the date likely to have the best turn out.

          As for the staff they follow the CC’s lead. Bapu favors infill and so that is what the staff will work on. Its pretty obvious because if a shortage of staff is the problem they can hire contractors to do the work.

          Ron O. I think you are projecting.

          Btw, this makes me disinclined to support any new taxes. I know I should separate the two but at this point I can’t get there.

        2. Ron Oertel

           I said they should go with the date likely to have the best turn out.

          And the reason for that is because it seems that you and David believe it would result in the best chance of passage for some sprawling proposal.  I believe that David (at least) has explicitly stated this in regard to more than one proposal.

          But if you have some other reason for that suggestion, you could certainly clarify it. (You are correct, in that I don’t have any way to really know your reasons – other than what you state.)

          As far as “political chances”, Will Arnold is correct in that (at this point), putting anything on the ballot in 2024 would likely ensure that it’s not approved – for more than one reason.

          (Though truth be told, I’d like to see all 5 of them on the ballot simultaneously, ASAP. Should be fun.)

          I am somewhat surprised by Bapu, as he does indeed seem to favor infill.

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