Sunday Commentary: Infill or Peripheral? We Need Housing, Period

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – Is it infill or peripheral?  That’s a little side debate between Mike Corbett and Eileen Samitz.

Writes Eileen Samitz: “A recent letter by Mike Corbett pitches infill development, claiming that peripheral development is unwise. However, he then tries to redefine the former 390-acre Covell Village site, now proposed as ‘Village Farms,’ as an ‘infill site.’ This is untrue, as the Village Farms site is in Yolo County, not within Davis, and is therefore not infill but a peripheral project per our General Plan.”

Mike Corbett responded, “This development is infill! It is the land that lies between existing developments on the east, west, and south sides. This is made clear if you look at a Davis map and locate the only remaining undeveloped patch. Village Farms is clearly infill.”

It is an interesting little debate, but it misses the fundamental point: it does not matter.  We need housing.  If you want to define infill as Eileen Samitz does, that’s fine, we need peripheral housing because we do not have the infill sites to build the kind of affordable and family housing we need.

Even you want to define infill as Mike Corbett does, and count the 1400 to 1800 units at Village Farms, it still requires a Measure J vote to approve it and other properties will need to be developed as well.

This week the council cleared both Village Farms and Shriners to begin the EIR process.  I plan to support both projects because this community needs housing.  Village Farms will likely come to a vote in 2025 and Shriners in 2026.  Both projects have things this community needs and both will have time to address some of the concerns that community members have raised.

Eileen Samitz points out that Corbett was part of the Covell Village development team that proposed an 1864-unit project at the same site.  That site was voted down by a 60-40 margin.

She writes, “The Village Farms project now proposes 1,800 housing units at the same site by the same Covell Village developer and has all the same problems, and more.”

I was one of the 60 percent of the voters in Davis in 2005 that voted against Covell Village.  As it turns out, it is the only Measure J project I voted against.

Times have changed, and attempting to use the same arguments against Village Farms as were used against Covell Village is a mistake.  It’s a mistake that ignores development patterns, traffic impacts along Pole Line and the huge impact of the housing crisis on our community as well as on traffic.

Samitz argues, “The project would bring massive traffic to the already impacted Covell Boulevard and Pole Line Road intersection and does not have safe bicycle/pedestrian access across Covell Boulevard. Imagine the gridlock that would occur if 1,800 more housing units [were] at this intersection, particularly with the added traffic coming down Pole Line Road from Woodland?”

Corbett counters that “the Village (Farms) project will not produce massive traffic. In fact, because of its location next to a grocery store, pharmacy, and bank, residents will be able to walk or bike to key destinations. It is also close to schools so children can bike rather than having their parents drive them. Buses to the downtown, train station and University already stop at this location.”

“If you’ve ever looked at a lawn sign that is “no” on whatever proposal is in front of us, almost all of them have a picture of a car in gridlock. That’s almost always the number one argument,” Mayor Will Arnold noted in this past week’s discussion.

But as he pointed out back in March during a discussion with the school board, sometimes those arguments are misleading.

“I’ll let our community know that in 2005, we voted down Covell Village but we built Covell Village. We just built it five miles up the road and call it North North Davis, jokingly, in Woodland,” he said.

“The boogeyman during that campaign was traffic on pole line and Covell, well, guess what? Now there’s a lot of traffic on Pole Line and Covell, because 0% of the people that live in North North Davis are riding their bikes to school, or to work, or to the grocery store, or any other destination in Davis. So there are consequences to the development decisions we make over the years that are, that are, even the arguments against some of these things come back in our face sometimes,” he added.

Traffic has always been the wedge that has helped to defeat 5 of the 7 Measure J projects before it.

We don’t do a good job of modeling traffic impacts if we don’t build the project—we simply model added traffic against the status quo.  And so, in fear of adding traffic from a development, we fail to analyze what will happen if people have to move up the road and then drive into town—whether it be on Pole Line or coming into town off I-80—and how those traffic impacts will impact our community.

For the last 25 years we have gotten ourselves into this housing crisis by finding reasons to say to no to housing.  That’s not hard in a community like Davis.  In order to get out of the housing crisis, we need to find reasons to say yes.

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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19 Comments

  1. Ron Glick

    “She writes, ‘The Village Farms project now proposes 1,800 housing units at the same site by the same Covell Village developer and has all the same problems, and more.’”
    So disingenuous. For this to be true you need to assume that the property owners haven’t learned anything in 20 years. I can give one example of a significant change. The 1100 square foot starter homes with the silent subordinated second mortgage, There was nothing like this in the 2005 proposal.

     

  2. Ron Oertel

    “I’ll let our community know that in 2005, we voted down Covell Village but we built Covell Village. We just built it five miles up the road and call it North North Davis, jokingly, in Woodland,” he said.

    The problem with this argument is that it’s factually untrue, as pointed out many, many times on here.

    Spring Lake’s Specific Plan was adopted by the Woodland city council in 2001, but the Covell Village vote did not occur until November, 2005.

    The first houses in Spring Lake were built by 2006 (at the latest).

    https://localwiki.org/woodland/Spring_Lake

    https://localwiki.org/davis/November_2005_Election/Measure_X

    So the only “choice” that Davis had was whether or not they wanted to “add to” the traffic generated by Spring Lake. The same “choice” that they’re being asked to make again.

    Supporters of Covell Village, Part II need to find a better argument – or at least one that’s not factually untrue.

    1. David Greenwald

      You’re arguing that Spring Lake was not designed in response to the failure of Covell Village. That’s a different argument from the argument about the movement of people and commuting patterns. As opposed to the innovation center which actually did move up north, with housing to Woodland.

      1. Richard McCann

        Ron O

        You’re confusing the initial project plan with the realized build out which reflects the closing of the Davis house building market. You have repeatedly pointed out how Spring Lake has accommodated the growth that would have been in Davis by having Davis workers living in Woodland.

        1. Ron Oertel

          You’re confusing the initial project plan with the realized build out which reflects the closing of the Davis house building market.

          What are you talking about?  The “realized plan” has nothing to do with what Davis did, or did not pursue.

          You have repeatedly pointed out how Spring Lake has accommodated the growth that would have been in Davis by having Davis workers living in Woodland.

          What I said was that Spring Lake (and other surrounding communities) are accommodating a lot of the type of sprawl that communities like Davis would normally pursue.  This primarily “accommodates” folks relocating from the Bay Area, usually with more than “one” worker per household.  Probably none of whom work in “Davis” itself – other than perhaps some teachers.  (The latter of which would not even be needed, if Davis “right-sized” its school district.)

          But again, the price differential alone will ensure that this continues, as long as Woodland and other communities continue to pursue it. And there’s nothing that Davis can do to stop it – the plans have already been established.

          But again, this isn’t about what I said not about what I said – it’s referring to the following claim from Will Arnold, which is blatantly-false:

          I’ll let our community know that in 2005, we voted down Covell Village but we built Covell Village. We just built it five miles up the road and call it North North Davis, jokingly, in Woodland,” he said.

           

           

           

    2. Ron Oertel

      But as he pointed out back in March during a discussion with the school board, sometimes those arguments are misleading.

      Think about that for a moment.

      What we have here is a council person who is making purposefully-misleading statements, such as the untrue claim noted above.  (While creating a straw-man argument, to boot.)

      Seems to me that we Davis now has another “honorary chairperson” of a development campaign, and one making demonstrably-untrue statements.

      You’re arguing that Spring Lake was not designed in response to the failure of Covell Village.

      I’m not “claiming or “arguing” this – it’s a fact.

      Will Arnold is putting forth demonstrably false claims regarding this. And you’re continuing to promote those false claims.

      1. David Greenwald

        The point he is making is that if you don’t build housing in town, people will move to Woodland and commute back to Davis. We’ve seen that with North North Davis – there’s a reason why it’s called that. And it happened with the Davis Innovation Center that moved up to Woodland, with housing as well. And those moves have traffic impacts.

        1. Ron Oertel

          David, he literally said the following.  You’ve built your article around this false claim:

          I’ll let our community know that in 2005, we voted down Covell Village but we built Covell Village. We just built it five miles up the road and call it North North Davis, jokingly, in Woodland,” he said.

          There are literally only two possible explanations for this false claim:  Either councilman Will Arnold is (somehow) ignorant of the facts, or is purposefully lying.

          There is no other explanation.

          Now, if you and Will Arnold want to build a campaign around an outright lie, have at it.

          And I am sorry that there’s no other way to label a purposefully-false claim, assuming that Will Arnold is not simply ignorant of the facts.

          Which is difficult to believe, especially since I think that his father’s company was involved with Spring Lake, as well. (Not sure if his father was still a partner at that point.)

          But as a council person promoting a development, one would think that someone with long-term connections to Davis would know the facts, at least. Or at least not put-forth false claims.

          Have you asked him for an explanation? That’s what I’d suggest.

  3. Don Shor

    I’ll let our community know that in 2005, we voted down Covell Village but we built Covell Village. We just built it five miles up the road and call it North North Davis, jokingly, in Woodland,” he said.

    He didn’t say Spring Lake. He said Woodland. There are other subdivisions in Woodland that have been built since Covell Village was voted down. A number of homes in Gibson Ranch, for example, have been built in the last 10 – 20 years, and there are other subdivisions as well. Woodland, including Spring Lake, has grown faster than it would have if Davis had been building housing faster over the last two decades.

    It is accurate to say that Woodland would probably not have developed as much housing as quickly as it has, including Spring Lake, if Covell Village had been approved by the voters.

    It is not accurate to say that Mayor Arnold is lying.

    1. Ron Oertel

      He didn’t say Spring Lake. He said Woodland.

      Ask Will Arnold what he was referring to, in regard to “five miles up the (same) road” that Covell Village would have abutted, while also literally calling it “North, North Davis” in the same comment you cited.

      You’re a smart guy, Don – what do YOU think he was referring to? 

      It is accurate to say that Woodland would probably not have developed as much housing as quickly as it has, including Spring Lake, if Covell Village had been approved by the voters.

      That would be conjecture, but it’s not what Will Arnold said, regardless.

      It is not accurate to say that Mayor Arnold is lying.

      I’d like to think so, myself.  But what he’s claiming is demonstrably false (and he’s in a position to know that). As such, I don’t know what else to reasonably call it.

      Now if he made a statement such as yours (or if that’s what he intended), that would be different. But again, that’s not what he said.

       

      1. Dave Hart

        Mr. Oertel, you seem to have no ability to think in metaphors.  I disagree with your interpretation, and when I heard his comment I knew instantly what he meant.  I knew right away he was referring to the greater community of central Yolo County, i.e., the Woodland-Davis corridor.  We, collectively, built something in one place because it wasn’t possible to build it in another place.  You’re over-thinking a very simple and obvious statement in a way that literally nobody else thought to do.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Words matter.  This is not phrased as a metaphor:

          I’ll let our community know that in 2005, we voted down Covell Village but we built Covell Village. We just built it five miles up the road and call it North North Davis, jokingly, in Woodland,” he said.

          Nor is Will Arnold the first one to make such a claim.

          Many people would take the comment at face value.

          And since Will Arnold literally states that he’ll “let our community know”, I’ll do my best to let them know that he’s telling a literal lie.

          While also pointing out what happened the last time a council member acted as an “honorary chair” for a development proposal. (Now that’s a metaphor in regard to Will Arnold – at this point at least.

          Again, his own father’s real estate brokerage was directly involved in the creation of Spring Lake. He knows better than to tell lies.

          1. David Greenwald

            In the meantime, the actual point gets lost. Which was the purpose of Oertel’s comment in the first place. We’re so worried about traffic impacts… we’re creating traffic impacts by not putting housing closer to jobs.

        2. Ron Oertel

          You’re asking the “purpose” of my comment?

          I already told you – it’s to point out a lie by a council member promoting a 400-acre, sprawling development proposal.

          But as far as traffic is concerned, the only “choice” that Davis voters have is the same one that existed back in 2005:

          That is, do they want to add traffic from Covell Village, in addition to the traffic generated by Spring Lake and other developments?

          I suspect that the answer will continue to be “no”.

        3. Ron Oertel

          You’re right – you made the following statement, of which I have no idea what you’re referring to:

          In the meantime, the actual point gets lost. Which was the purpose of Oertel’s comment in the first place.

          My purpose was to point out a lie.

          But if you’re moving on to traffic, it should be noted that it flows “both ways”.  Hence, the informal name of the “CostCo Highway”.  Which might also be called the “Home Depot Highway”. (Probably increasingly-so, e.g., when Davis ACE gets too difficult for Davis residents to travel to.)

          A lot of people (including Davis residents) also use that highway to access I-5.

          1. David Greenwald

            Your purpose was to distract from the actual point he was making and nitpick it to death. Congrats. You succeeded. Well done.

        4. Ron Oertel

          The actual point he was making (which is already being used as part of an informal campaign by a council member) is a lie. And not just “any” council member – but the son of the father’s company which helped create that development in the first place!

          I’m not “nitpicking” anything – folks keep trying to claim that it’s not a lie. In other words, the usual attempt to twist things on here – repeatedly, before someone then steps forward with a “5-comment limit” in response to the only commenter stating the truth.

          But even “metaphorically”, it’s simply not true.

          Woodland has been spreading eastward and southward for decades.  But there is now at least an urban limit line, which means that it won’t spread further south than Spring Lake anytime soon.  (They’ll be backtracking “westward”, now – closer to Highway 113 and UCD.) But again, there is nothing that Davis can do to stop that. And it’s increasingly unlikely that they would do so, since the powers that be are apparently interested in duplicating Woodland’s pattern of development.

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