Council Moves Forward with Crafting the Framework of a Permanent Inclusionary Housing Ordinance

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – Council on Tuesday held what amounted to a sprawling discussion attempting to thread the needle between affirming their commitment to 15 percent affordable, pushing for as much affordable as possible and recognizing that requiring too much in the way of affordable could create conditions that would discourage development altogether.

The council passed a motion that would adopt a new ordinance requiring 15 percent affordable on rental projects with the division as follows: half of that being low and half of that being very low, the default being that these are built on site.

As Bapu Vaitla, one of the members of the subcommittee put it, “(We need) to signal this dynamic approach that we have to addressing volatility in market conditions and also variation land values across Davis.”  He said, “I think in the past we’ve been hamstrung a bit by the fact that some developments can afford to provide a lot more affordable units and some can’t.”

The challenge he said, “How do we deal with that heterogeneity, that complexity, the approach that we’re laying out now, really the innovation is to set some clear standards within the language of the ordinance, but then also have these guidelines that we’re calling them be dynamically updated.”

Gloria Partida acknowledged, “To be clear, this inclusionary ordinance is not going to be the end of how we solve our affordable housing requirements.”  She noted, “We have a certain number of units that we have to build, and through the inclusionary housing ordinance, it’s not how we’re going to get all of these units.”

Inclusionary ordinances can be a double-edged sword.  City Attorney Inder Khalsa, for instance, noted, “A few years ago I would’ve said that HCD was warmly supportive of inclusionary ordinance, but that has changed over the last few years, and they’re now looking at them more critically in the context that some of these inclusionary requirements are so onerous that they’re preventing the development of any housing, market rate or otherwise, and therefore contributing to the overall housing crisis.”

By that token, “HCD will be looking at our inclusionary ordinance to see if it’s impacting our ability to meet our goals under our arena as we move through the current housing element cycle and into the next.”

While the initial ordinance focused on low and very low, Vice Mayor Josh Chapman noted that the “infill subcommittee” is looking at extremely low as well.

As Councilmember Partida noted, “We landed on this being 50 percent low and 50 percent very low, and not the extremely low piece, because the extremely low units tend to cater to a demographic that often needs support.  Those units are more well-suited to ‘Big A’ affordable.”

Much of the discussion on Tuesday focused on alternatives to the hard and fast 15 percent rule.

Some of that discussion focused around a notion of transparency or “show your work,” a potential requirement that a prospective developer demonstrate in writing why the project cannot include inclusionary housing.

Gloria Partida noted, “You hear often that either we’re not holding developers accountable or that there’s not enough transparency in the process.”  She said, I think that this is an important piece to start a conversation if someone comes forward and says we can’t meet 15 percent.”

Vaitla added, “I think the show your work requirement for discretionary projects is a reasonable request to say that there needs to be some evidence more than just your word. That certain requirement is not feasible.”

He also suggested that the city hire consultants or analysts to check that claim.

A big point of discussion was vertical mixed use.  Currently, the code requires 5 percent affordable for vertical mixed use.  However, if the code as proposed were passed, that number would go up to 15 percent.

Vaitla pointed out, “I’m agnostic on whether it should go in the guidelines or codified.”  He explained, “For me, the most important point is to make the definition of vertical mixed use more precise.”

Mayor Will Arnold noted, “Vertical mixed use potentially isn’t so much about feasibility as it is about incentives and what we want built in certain places.”

Vaitla added, “I just don’t think we have a very precise sense of what vertical mixed use is.”

Partida added, “So I tend to agree that I think it’s really important for us to make sure that a mixed use project is in fact a mixed use project. And it’s not like one coffee shop in a corner. That to me is not mixed use.”

She expressed concern, “I am afraid of us completely losing what we call downtown.”

Will Arnold said, “If we were to lose storefronts in the downtown because redevelopment was happening to some of these buildings and they became 100 percent residential and the ground floor was only accessible to residents, I think that would be a negative outcome for our downtown.”

Sherri Metzker pointed out that under the downtown plan, a 100 percent residential project would not require a rezone.

City Manager Mike Webb noted, “With the form-based code, it allows flexibility of the uses within that space, including the potential of ground floor residential and the use as you described.”

He said that one option for amending the Downtown zoning would be “to mandate ground floor, at least a certain percentage of ground floor commercial use separate and apart from the inclusionary ordinance.”

Vaitla added, “I’m not comfortable giving a recommendation for the guidelines right now without us making a decision on what vertical mixed use should be defined as.”

He said, “I would like more stronger evidence for why 5 percent.”

Mike Webb noted, “There are more complications, there are more risks, there are more costs, generally speaking with vertical mixed use.”

He suggested that there some ideas and options for the council to consider and chew on.

“In the meantime, the meantime, until that would be adopted, the standard would be 15%. And in that time, maybe we would hear from would-be applicants or developers,” he said.

Overall, the council laid out their preferences on alternatives, and dismissed a catch-all option.

Bapu Vaitla noted, “I don’t think I’ll support a catch-all.”  He said, “I think it sort of pushes applicants to negotiate things down and down and down. ”

Mayor Arnold responded, “What they’re going have to do in a catch-all situation is present us with something that is so compelling that we would be willing to get creative. And having been part of these discussions where we have had things that in my opinion, were compelling enough that we got creative, I don’t want to preclude that.”

He added, “I trust the council isn’t going to be negotiating down.”  He added, “You’re not wrong Bapu…  I like maximum flexibility, maximum discretion on the council.”

Vaitla raised concerns, going back to the Cascadia study, “the core of it is based on an Internal Rate of Return for the application… it was 12 percent.”

He said, “So in effect, the public sector is being asked to guarantee or ensure an internal rate of return for a private firm. That’s really what’s happening here”

He said, “So one lesson to draw from that is that we need to guarantee an internal rate of return for private developers, private firms. Another lesson of that is that private housing markets are broken or severely damaged, and maybe it’s time for the public sector to get involved in financing or even building housing if we’re having so much trouble getting private capital to build housing. ”

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.

Related posts

28 Comments

  1. Ron Oertel

    A few years ago I would’ve said that HCD was warmly supportive of inclusionary ordinance, but that has changed over the last few years, and they’re now looking at them more critically in the context that some of these inclusionary requirements are so onerous that they’re preventing the development of any housing, market rate or otherwise, and therefore contributing to the overall housing crisis.”

    So what’s HCD’s solution?  Require an even higher percentage of Affordable housing, via their “builder’s remedy”.

    What “punishment” would they then attempt to dish out, when they determine that their own “solution” is not viable?

    It doesn’t make a lot of sense, folks.  And probably wouldn’t in a courtroom, either.

    Nor does shooting for targets when the supposed “need” hasn’t even been defined.  It’s as if a type of mania has taken over, with no thought process or analysis whatsoever.

    Davis has essentially no “local, low-income workers” in the first place. Other than students, or a few who can’t afford housing ANYWHERE. Get yourself a better job, and then we’ll “talk”. (With Zillow being the first place I’d point to.)

    Perhaps a discussion regarding rent control, as well. That is, if the city is serious about controlling costs.

    1. David Greenwald

      The dilemma is that if we ask for too much inclusionary housing, and the project can’t get built because of it, we end up with 15% of zero, which is… zero. That’s why San Francisco is looking at reducing their required percentage of affordable housing.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Seems like you misunderstood my points:

        1)   The state’s “builder’s remedy” requires an even higher percentage of Affordable housing (20%). So if 15% is “not viable”, how is 20% “viable”? (Actually, we have an example of the latter, already.)

        2)  The “need” has never even been defined/quantified – probably anywhere. Just vague references to local workers, whatever that means (and whomever they are). Some of whom include teachers, who wouldn’t even be needed if the city right-sized its school district in the first place.

        3)  If the city was serious about controlling costs for long-term renters, they’d be discussing rent control (as exists in San Francisco, for that matter).

        1. David Greenwald

          “1) The state’s “builder’s remedy” requires an even higher percentage of Affordable housing (20%). So if 15% is “not viable”, how is 20% “viable”? (Actually, we have an example of the latter, already.)”

          For one thing, the builder’s remedy is 20 percent of “low” whereas the city had been requiring 15 of low, very low and extremely low. So it’s not an apples to apples.

          For another, builder’s remedy is a by-right approval. But you saw, only one of the three infill projects even attempted builder’s remedy.

          I’m not going down the rabbit hole of 2 and 3.

        2. Ron Oertel

          This entire effort is already in a rabbit hole, in regard to the supposed need, the law, etc. Truth be told, a lot of this seems to be driven by virtue signaling.

          But again, I don’t see how the state can “punish” cities, if their own “punishment” (builder’s remedy) is generally not viable.

          Would Rob Bonta then sue HCD, itself? Or perhaps the state auditor, which found seemingly-fatal flaws regarding this effort? 🙂

          And would the state then declare bankruptcy, as a result of suing itself? Stay tuned.

          1. David Greenwald

            You’re getting us off topic. Topic here is the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance, not builder’s remedy or the state.

        3. Ron Oertel

          O.K. – but HCD is mentioned in the article itself, in regard to local inclusionary ordinances.  I initially cited a passage which shows this, above.

          I assume that no one else will subsequently respond to this particular thread, since you’ve declared it off-topic.

    2. Don Shor

      Davis has essentially no “local, low-income workers” in the first place. Other than students, or a few who can’t afford housing ANYWHERE. Get yourself a better job, and then we’ll “talk”.

      That statement is not just false, it’s ridiculous. It’s patronizing, elitist garbage. Every store you shop at, every restaurant you go to, every place you are served by anybody is staffed by local, low-income workers. Stop saying stupid stuff.

      1. Ron Oertel

        That statement is not just false, it’s ridiculous. It’s patronizing, elitist garbage.

        I’ve worked at jobs like that, myself.  You simply cannot afford the cost of living in those type of jobs.  In general, they’re not even intended to do so.

        The type of job you might find at a local, retail nursery for example.  Nothing “wrong” with those type of jobs, but it’s not enough (in itself) to live on. So yeah, they’re going to HAVE TO get themselves “better jobs”, eventually. And almost all will do exactly that.

        And those jobs will probably be OUTSIDE of Davis.

        Every store you shop at, every restaurant you go to, every place you are served by anybody is staffed by local, low-income workers. Stop saying stupid stuff.

        I’ve seen them, and was one when I was much younger.  Most of these type of workers in Davis appear to be students – most of whom will go on to earn far more than I ever did. For that matter, I have never even seen a worker in Davis who appeared to be middle-age (or more), working at some low-level job. (Maybe a few older, knowledgeable guys at Davis ACE, but that’s about it.)

        There are some folks who do this type of thing to stay active, or because they’re interested in what the business does. But they generally/probably have something else which creates financial stability for themselves (e.g., spouse, long-term homeowner, etc.).

        Not to mention a large number of lower level staff at UC Davis most of whom commute into town.

        This is a different type of worker than Don referred to.  They’ve already settled in to wherever they’re living, and are likely not the only worker in their families.  In general, they’re not going to move to Davis.

        For that matter, they aren’t “Davis workers” in the first place.

         

        1. Don Shor

          So yeah, they’re going to HAVE TO get themselves “better jobs”, eventually. And almost all will do exactly that.

          And those jobs will probably be OUTSIDE of Davis.

          More stupid stuff. You just can’t help yourself.
          And then, after they move on, the job will still be there, and a new person will take that job, and that person will need a place to live. There are hundreds of retail, restaurant, and service industry workers in Davis at any given time.

      2. Richard McCann

        If you don’t believe that high housing prices that have made housing unaffordable for the majority of households are the single statistic indicator if a housing crisis, then you see no need for additional housing for these workers (see Ron’s reference to Zillow as the place to start for that population.)

        And the UCD Travel Survey shows 60% of non faculty staff commutes in from outside Davis. Other commuters to Sacramento are out bidding these workers, displacing them due to the housing supply shortage here.

        1. Ron Oertel

          If you don’t believe that high housing prices that have made housing unaffordable for the majority of households are the single statistic indicator if a housing crisis, then you see no need for additional housing for these workers (see Ron’s reference to Zillow as the place to start for that population.)

          Just the other day, there was a widely-reported “study” which showed that the homeless people who responded to the survey reported their income to be approximately $960/month (for the previous 6 months), as I recall.

          And yet, that same article concluded that the price of housing was the primary factor in homelessness.

          It’s as if they didn’t actually look at the results of their own study.

          As far as Zillow is concerned – yeah – you can find plenty of actual houses in Davis for less than the state median.  I’d say that $700 – $750K will get you a decent, single-family house. I’ve posted links to several of them on here. Condos and half-plexes less than that.

          And if that’s not good enough, I suspect you could get that same, pre-existing house in Woodland for around $500K, maybe less.

          And the UCD Travel Survey shows 60% of non faculty staff commutes in from outside Davis.

          See “housing prices in surrounding communities” (example, above).

          Other commuters to Sacramento are out bidding these workers, displacing them due to the housing supply shortage here.

          Sounds like some folks need to move to Sacramento, while others need to get themselves a better job.

          1. David Greenwald

            From the report: “In the six months prior to homelessness, the median monthly household income was $960.”

            IE, that means they were housed at that income. Not sure what your point is.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Sounds like some folks need to move to Sacramento, while others need to get themselves a better job.

          Tried to clarify, but was cut-off prematurely:

          Sounds like some of the latter might want to look for a job in Sacramento.  The state is always hiring.

          And then they can move there, to boot.

          IE, that means they were housed at that income. Not sure what your point is.

          Using up their savings, going into debt, or living in subsidized housing that they somehow lost.

          $960/month isn’t going to cut it – anywhere outside of a flophouse or some other arrangement. And it almost certainly is an indicator of some “other” problem with those earning that amount. (Assuming it’s from a job in the first place.)

          By the way, flophouses have existed for more than 100 years. (And there’s an early Charlie Chaplin film which confirms it, unless you think that’s not based upon reality.)

          Nowadays, flophouses (and “mental health clinics”) sometimes consist of cheap hotels.

  2. Ron Oertel

    Don:  More stupid stuff. You just can’t help yourself.

    There’s no need for this type of comment.  You’re the one underpaying your employees (in regard to the cost of living).  And then, expecting “someone or something else” to account for that.

    And then, after they move on, the job will still be there, and a new person will take that job, and that person will need a place to live. There are hundreds of retail, restaurant, and service industry workers in Davis at any given time.

    Again, how many are students (trying to temporarily supplement their income), vs. those trying to make a “career” out of working at a plant nursery (or coffee shop, etc.)?

    The real problem is that there’s all kinds of unquestioned and unsupported assumptions claimed in regard to the “housing crisis”.

     

  3. Jim Frame

     I have never even seen a worker in Davis who appeared to be middle-age (or more), working at some low-level job.

    Try looking in the kitchen of just about any restaurant.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Good point, but they’re probably owners about half the time (or related to the owner, in some way).

      One of my comments (in response to the following comment from Don) has not been posted:

      More stupid stuff. You just can’t help yourself.

       

       

    2. David Greenwald

      They aren’t even hidden a lot of the time. I work in the downtown and I see a lot of students who come and go for sure, but I also see a lot of people who have been working there for years, who are older, and most of them are not owners. Some of them live in Davis, but a lot don’t. They commute in.

      1. Ron Oertel

        You don’t know where they live, how many of them there are, or whether or not they’d be willing to move from their current locations to Davis (assuming they don’t already live there).

        And that’s true regarding the so-called “issue”, in general.

        For that matter, “local worker” has not been definitively defined.  For some promoting growth, it includes UCD employees.  Other times, it only includes those working in the city (who don’t live in the city, and would “presumably” move to the city from wherever they live if some ADDITIONAL sprawling development was built).

        None of this has a basis in reality.

        But again, there’s a push for growth without answering any of these types of questions.

        Believe it or not, not everyone is trying to live in Davis – even if a member of their family works there (or at UCD). And even if there was a “desire” to do so (e.g., supposedly accomplished via someone building them a brand-new house that’s cheaper than market-rate), that’s not a “housing crisis”.

        Nor is it a “climate crisis”, especially since not everyone in a family necessarily works in Davis or at UCD.

        And what would become of their existing house, even if they moved to Davis? Oh, right – someone else would live in it, and commute to somewhere else.

        Entire cities in this region are primarily suburbs of Sacramento.

        This entire premise is nothing but unsupported b.s., or more accurately – an outright fabrication by those seeking more sprawl.

        And by the way, who said that some development on the outskirts of Davis would ensure that some local chef would start riding his bike to downtown? What a crock.

        1. Ron Oertel

          I see.  Do you talk to the following people, as well?

          I often see them — non-students, in their 30s and 40s, riding a bike to or from work in downtown restaurants.

          It’s a long bike ride from “Natomas”.

          1. David Greenwald

            Not as such. But I have talked to several people in the last two months that said they looked for housing in Davis and ended up in Natomas.

  4. Ron Oertel

    Not as such. But I have talked to several people in the last two months that said they looked for housing in Davis and ended up in Natomas.

    I suspect that some people would “prefer” to live in Davis, if housing costs were the same (for the same product as in other locales).  But they aren’t the same, and weren’t – even before Measure J.

    And again, a differential in price does not constitute a “housing crisis”. For that matter, there’s price differentials within cities (such as Davis), as well.

    But as Davis becomes more dense, that’s another factor that drives people “out”.  This is also a factor regarding the exodus from places like San Francisco.  (In other words, it’s not just cost of housing.)

    I recently attended a party at a friend’s house in the town of “Yolo”, and I can tell you that he, his family, and friends are pretty happy there.  Probably happier than a lot of people in Davis.  Nice big yard, huge trees, etc.  All for the price of a cheap, run-down house in Davis (at best).

    And I’m quite certain that he, his family and friends are not down at the local (non-existent) city council pushing for more housing, or some other nonsensical political issue.

    (And he used to commute to Davis, from that location – despite being able to afford Davis.) He’s now retired.

    So ironically, the push for density will probably drive more people “out” – especially those with families.

    Perhaps it’s time to “stop fearing change”, in regard to changing demographics in Davis.  Which is never “permanent” in the first place.

    Abd for sure, one way to reduce commuting “into” Davis is for the school district to “right-size” itself, in terms of both students and staff.

    And stop pushing for developments like DISC.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for