Monday Morning Thoughts: Most Important Issue… What to Do with Measure J

Mixed Use

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – Last week a commenter made the rather surprising comment that the Vanguard has largely ignored the city’s fiscal situation.  While it is true that I happen to believe that housing is a much more pressing issue than the city’s budget in both the long and short term, they are linked—and not just in the ways the commenter was thinking.

I recall a conversation I had a month ago with a long-time resident.  It was pointed out that before the current focus on housing, the leaders had concerted discussions about the need to expand the city’s retail and also pursue an economic development strategy.

These concerns are reflected in the most recent general plan (that of course has long needed update), as well as the efforts of D-SIDE, Studio 30 and the Innovation Park task force.  And yet as most are aware, although there was considerable momentum, and at least three, perhaps even four proposed Measure J projects (depending on how you view the brief Tsakopoulos proposal), not one of them was actually approved by the voters—despite three turns at them.

Does this sound familiar?

So here we are in the middle of the housing crisis, and housing has taken center stage and we are going to run up against the same barrier—the voters.

There is however, something different with this current issue.  The state.  We have RHNA and we have HCD breathing down our necks pushing for housing.  And unlike what was the case with economic development, there are outside forces that have the ability to impose their will—either in the form of infill, in the form of lawsuits, or in the form of sanctions.

In the long run, as I have argued and the city and city council have acknowledged, the city will not be able to meet its RHNA obligations without going peripheral.  But in the short term, for this cycle, they really have no choice but to try.

How will the city do it?  They have the downtown which they have rezoned to allow for housing and more density.  They are also reaching out to commercial properties to see who is interested in rezoning their land.

In short, this is a classic example of robbing Peter to feed Paul.  And it turns out that the city doesn’t have much choice given the state law and the fact that Peter is not backed by anyone whereas Paul has all of the state laws behind it.

It’s worse than you think.  We created a situation where the city by law has to rezone land for housing and yet, is in need of commercial development that can create more in the way of tax revenue to support basic services along with infrastructure.

The city has survived this hamstrung situation temporarily through a couple of sales tax increases and pushing non-services into unmet needs which are technically off-budget.  It has also survived by not restoring staff positions lost 15 years ago to the Great Recession.  But increasingly that is leaving the city short-handed and it is having greater amounts of difficulty finding the staffing to run the city.

Measure J is of course a big culprit here in two ways.  On the one hand, it is putting pressure on the city to rezone any inch of land for housing—even if it is mixed use—and often, as we have, that use is not retail that will net tax revenue.

On the other hand, commercial property and development falls under the same Measure J restrictions as housing.

Hence, the Davis Innovation Center relocated to Woodland before it got bludgeoned by the anti-growthers, Nishi lost its bid for a mixed-use project, and DiSC lost at the polls not once but twice.

For those who say we should have just had commercial-only projects, they may or may not have had a better chance of succeeding, but even if they did, the city would still need to find housing.

That leaves Measure J as probably the most important issue facing the city—because we cannot solve our triple crisis (housing, jobs, and revenue) without developing on the periphery.

The city is now going to have t—probably this fall—look at a modification of Measure J.  While they undoubtedly will focus their attention on housing they need to remember that commercial is a huge problem facing the community as well, and it’s caught up in the same log jam.

The most likely outcome is that the council will put some sort of modification to Measure J on the ballot.  It is unclear if the voters would support such a move—and they very well may not.

If that fails, the most likely outcome will be a lawsuit and then if that’s successful another effort for a more modest Measure J.

But the city must strongly consider ways that it can prioritize commercial development because otherwise the state laws and external pressure will continue to push for housing at the expense of commercial, and thus city revenue.

No matter which way the city decides to go, the city should not forget about making it easier to build some commercial projects to bring in desperately needed revenue—otherwise, we may meet our housing needs but will still be faced with revenue problems.

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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54 Comments

  1. Ron Oertel

    This article is so disingenuous.

    It seems that it doesn’t matter how many times it’s pointed out that a proposal like DISC would have created a housing shortage.

    Think about this for a moment – David actually and repeatedly denies this, even though the EIR itself noted that the additional demand for housing created by DISC would not have been accommodated onsite, assuming that the jobs were created.

    How can one believe anything David says when he can’t even acknowledge this basic fact?

    Not to mention the fact that HCD considers the number of jobs in a given area for future RHNA targets.

    Regarding Measure J – if it’s really as vulnerable as David would like it to be, then development interests will try to take it down – regardless.

    But for sure, the state’s RHNA targets are not going to be met – throughout the state.  They’re already on track to fail.

  2. Richard McCann

    It looks like at least 3 different ways forward to modify Measure J have been proposed, and they are not mutually exclusive of each other. The question is whether the Council is prepared to listen to citizens’ proposals and willing to direct the City staff to stand aside, as it did during the process of evaluating the creation of Valley Clean Energy, in resolving these issues.

    1. Keith Olsen

      83% of Davisites voted for Measure J in its current form.  So which of those 83% of voters should the city listen to?  I would bet most of them want to keep it as it is.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Try it – see what happens.

          What you’ve proposed is essentially what places like Woodland have (a “generous” urban limit line, which allows a council to “fill it in”).

          By the way, I’d suggest that you lose your fear regarding your position on Measure J.  Ron Glick is right about this.  You don’t support it – why are you so afraid to acknowledge that?

          Davis started sacrificing its industrial/commercial spaces for housing a long time ago – before the state started encouraging more housing.  (See Sterling, the “mixed use” development at Pena/5th, the inclusion of housing at all of the proposed “innovation centers”, the outright withdrawal of commercial at Nishi, etc.).

          But you are somewhat correct regarding the ramifications of the state’s “targets” in regard to vast population centers along the coast – which aren’t expanding outward.  Those cities are losing their commercial space – due to lack of demand and/or desire to accommodate the state’s targets.

          San Francisco (and its entire downtown) are prime examples of this.

          Ultimately, it’s the state itself that will be forced to deal with the ramifications of their actions.  If they’re going to assume local control, they’ll have to deal with the consequences – but on a statewide level.

          Ultimately, the state itself is dependent upon commercial activity.

           

          1. David Greenwald

            Someone is going to put something forward.

            You and Ron Glick are wrong on my position on Measure J. I support a modified Measure J. I don’t support eliminating it altogether.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Someone is going to put something forward.

          Sounds mysterious.  Who, and what?  Are you privy to some “insider information”?

          You and Ron Glick are wrong on my position on Measure J. I support a modified Measure J. I don’t support eliminating it altogether.

          Again, what you’ve described is similar to what cities like Woodland have.  And no one would claim that Woodland has a “modified Measure J”.

           

          1. David Greenwald

            There is nothing mysterious. The council has already said they will consider some modifications to Measure J which would have to be approved by the voters. There are other possibilities as well as laid out in this article.

            Woodland put their urban limit line out so far it was practically useless. I wouldn’t support that approach.

        3. Ron Oertel

          There is nothing mysterious. The council has already said they will consider some modifications to Measure J which would have to be approved by the voters.

          Uh, huh.  This was a council that was already too “afraid” to put Covell Village II on the 2024 ballot.

          And they think they’ll have success gutting Measure J, instead?  Is that actually what they’re thinking?

          Woodland put their urban limit line out so far it was practically useless. I wouldn’t support that approach.

          Right – in “your” view, it was “out too far”.

          Unlike what “you” would propose, something “just right” (see “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” – or was it the “Three Stooges?”).

          Again, what you’re proposing is no different than what Woodland has.  It’s just that you would (presumably) create a line that is “just right” in your view.

          This (by definition) means that you don’t support Measure J.  Which I think is fine for you to acknowledge, given your views.  Really, it’s time for you to stop being afraid to acknowledge your own views.  No one will hold it against you, as they already know what your views are – regardless of how you want to label them.

           

          1. David Greenwald

            I just told you what I think will happen. That doesn’t mean I’ll be right. We’ll find out. I disagree that what I’m proposing is no different than what Woodland has. I’d support something along the lines of what Tim proposed.

        4. Tim Keller

          There is nothing mysterious. The council has already said they will consider some modifications to Measure J which would have to be approved by the voters. There are other possibilities as well as laid out in this article.

          Its funny because you are only stating what you have read in your own blog… people like myself and Robb Davis who are talking openly about how it would benefit our community to modify J….  There is indeed nothing “mysterious” about this, there is no insider information… we have been writing about these ideas on this forum..

          I think the real question is this:  Is the council willing to adopt this cause themselves or does the community need to organize and put it on the ballot with signatures.  Thats really the only question.

          We are in a situation where there are no easy solutions, and the best solution yet presented, requires doing something unconventional.

          In the absence of any better ideas, (which would still be welcome) it is probably time to start refining that set of ideas, testing them with various constituencies, making sure we don’t have any blind spots and then just start pushing forward.

          The council seems to want to preserve November of 2024 for the revenue measure, but the J Ammendment really does need to be on that ballot, because if it fails, the backup is to vote on the other two measure J projects in the next two special elections thereafter.

        5. Ron Glick

          Hey, I didn’t say anything today but I think I understand your position David, maybe with more clarity than you recognize. But here is the problem with your argument. The last time J was renewed your supported renewal despite the fact that no changes were made. You could have said you wouldn’t support renewal, because without amendments, we wouldn’t be able to address the perennial housing shortage facing the community. But you didn’t. You rolled over like a Republican presidential candidate vowing to support Trump if he is the nominee.

          What is particularly sad about the positions you have held over time is that unlike the candidates and petty local politicians unwilling to take a stand on what they know is true for fear of voter wrath, David isn’t subject to the whims of the electorate.

          Now, after supporting a ten year renewal of Measure J, David now hopes that somehow his mend it don’t end it position will come to pass. Good luck with that David but I’m not holding my breath. As long as people like you think Measure J is somehow workable don’t expect the system to change short of outside intervention from the state of California.

          1. David Greenwald

            I did push for changes, pushed for a community discussion, got no traction. I also felt like the most opportune time to revisit the issue would be in between cycles. So we’ll see what happens.

        6. Ron Glick

          So where  were you in the 10 years between Measure R and Measure D? The time to challenge is not when something is on the ballot? The time to challenge something is when you realize it’s bad and continue doing so until something changes. When was that David? Have you figured it out yet? You’re still trying to play political games, have it both ways with your mend it don’t end it nonsense. That is a game for politicians to play not bloggers.

          It is weird that after so many years you are now regularly saying things I’ve been saying for at least 10 years but you still are unable to speak the truth and repudiate your no growth past. At the end of the 2020 election you supported it for another ten years. Own it David. You have been part of the problem.

          1. David Greenwald

            Hold on here. You think I’ve gone too far. He thinks I have not gone far enough. Which is it?

        7. Ron Oertel

          Hold on here. You think I’ve gone too far. He thinks I have not gone far enough. Which is it?

          Neither.

          Look at Ron G’s response again.  He and I are in agreement regarding your lack of sincerity in your comments:

          You’re still trying to play political games, have it both ways with your mend it don’t end it nonsense. That is a game for politicians to play not bloggers.

           

          1. David Greenwald

            I don’t know why you don’t think I’m sincere in supporting Tim’s proposal. I don’t believe completely eliminating Measure J is feasible or desirable. That’s the last I’m going to say on this.

        8. Ron Oertel

          The lack of sincerity has to do with being “against Measure J, while also being for it”.

          As far as Tim’s proposal is concerned, I don’t believe you’re even entirely for that.  The reason being that he’s opposed to a sprawling single-family development, while you would support it.

          There is a part that you both agree on, however.  You both want to eliminate Measure J and expand the size of the city.

          1. David Greenwald

            Actually what I want to is allow for a reasonable and sustainable level of housing in a way that’s predictable and not overly contentious.

        9. Ron Oertel

          Actually what I want to is allow for a reasonable and sustainable level of housing in a way that’s predictable and not overly contentious.

          Every descriptor you’ve used here has no actual meaning.  But it’s certainly going to be “contentious” if the city attempts to “replace” Measure J.  Especially with several proposals already lined up.

          But again, you’re continuing to deflect, which seems to be the reason that Ron G constantly challenges you.

          Again, what you’re proposing to “replace” Measure J is no different than what Woodland has, for example.  The only “difference” (in your mind) is that you apparently “wouldn’t draw the line out” as far as Woodland does.  Because, after all – “you” know where that line should be.  (In your case, the “line” corresponds with the pending development proposals.)  That’s essentially the definition of eliminating Measure J.

          1. David Greenwald

            I simply don’t agree with you that it’s tantamount to Woodland. Tim cut the border much more narrowly and the urban limit line will extend further than it does currently in Davis but lower than it is in Woodland.

        10. Ron Oertel

          I simply don’t agree with you that it’s tantamount to Woodland. Tim cut the border much more narrowly and the urban limit line will extend further than it does currently in Davis but lower than it is in Woodland.

          Your response is no different than what I just stated:

          The only “difference” (in your mind) is that you apparently “wouldn’t draw the line out” as far as Woodland does.  Because, after all – “you” know where that line should be.  (In your case, the “line” corresponds with the pending development proposals.)  That’s essentially the definition of eliminating Measure J.

          Both Tim and you have proposed an urban limit line which “just so happens” to correspond with the pending development proposals.  Name one parcel of land proposed for development that you think should be off-limits to development.

          But again, you don’t even agree with Tim regarding what should be built on that farmland in the first place.  (As such, I would think that Tim would want to preserve Measure J, rather than give-away that control.  But in your case, you’d support what the developers propose, regardless.)

          But my question is far more basic than either you or Tim put forth.  What makes you think that you, Tim, or Robb Davis know “where” the electorate wants to ultimately “draw the line”?  I suspect that at least half of them want to draw the line right where it currently is (or close to it).

          Left unsaid is how large of a city (and how much farmland you want to sacrifice) regarding your goals.

           

           

          1. David Greenwald

            Tim and I don’t agree on what should be built on that land. I don’t see a particular problem with the line encompassing the current projects. In a way, it would mean one vote rather than five, which I think is better. And then going forward the public would have the opportunity to decide whether to extend that line out further or not.

        11. Ron Oertel

          Tim and I don’t agree on what should be built on that land. I don’t see a particular problem with the line encompassing the current projects.

          Well, that is indeed where you and Tim differ.

          And for a lot of voters, they’d prefer to retain that control (even if they support expanding the size of the city).

          In a way, it would mean one vote rather than five, which I think is better.

          Perhaps some of them will drop by the wayside – especially if one or two of them get shot down.

          I personally would have preferred it if Measure J limited proposals to a given number per time period (e.g., one proposal every 10 years or so).

          But I’m just as happy running them through the “Davis Spanking Machine”, as it gives me “something useful to do” (halfway kidding).  Truth be told, the two proposals that were approved probably made sense, overall.

          But in a way, I think I might enjoy participating in the proposal to eliminate Measure J even more than I would in regard to individual proposals.  Especially with several pending proposals.

          And then going forward the public would have the opportunity to decide whether to extend that line out further or not.

          Just as they do in Woodland – no different.

          And just as in Woodland, “someone else” would decide “where” that line (as presented to voters) should be “drawn”.  Thereby providing only a “yes” or “no” choice by that point.

          In Davis’ case, that initial proposed line would apparently correspond with the pending development proposals.  After all, that’s what the “boundary committee” decided, after gathering “public input”.  (The committee, of course – consisting of people who want to expand the size of the city.)

           

           

        12. Ron Glick

          I really wish you would speak for yourself instead of trying to speak for me. I never said David was insincere. I thought he was wrong about Measure J by lending his support and presumably his vote to renew. And while I disagree about David’s tactical approach I understand his logic. My approach is to call out Measure J early and often and despite my inability to run a campaign during the pandemic I think that many of my arguments have gained traction over the years on the merits. My complaint with David is that he is late to realize the damage Measure J is doing to housing affordability and also him trying to game the electorate.  I believe his role as a blogger should be one where he is simply speaking the truth instead of engaging in political positioning. That positioning is the job of politicians not would-be journalists.

          1. David Greenwald

            “My complaint with David is that he is late to realize the damage Measure J is doing to housing affordability”

            This is a fair criticism. I wonder what might have happened had there not been a great recession which probably depressed the housing market for five years or so and thereby masked some of the impact of Measure J.

            The other criticism, we’ll disagree on.

        13. Ron Oertel

          I really wish you would speak for yourself instead of trying to speak for me.  I never said David was insincere. 

          Fair enough.  Let’s see what you said (from above):

          You’re still trying to play political games, have it both ways with your mend it don’t end it nonsense. That is a game for politicians to play not bloggers.

          Now, I’d call that an allegation of “insincerity”, but maybe you’d have another name for it.  And again, I actually agree with your comment.

           And while I disagree about David’s tactical approach I understand his logic.

          Right – you called it a “game for politicians, not bloggers”

          My complaint with Davis is that he is late to realize the damage Measure J is doing to housing affordability and also him trying to game the electorate.  

          What’s that word I’m looking for again, in regard to the bolded text?

          I believe his role as a blogger should be one where he is simply speaking the truth instead of engaging in political positioning.

          I agree, and I also agree that David often does not do so.  I can provide other examples of this as well.  By “truth”, I’m referring to one’s own “truth” (beliefs).

          I obviously do not agree with your “truth”, but it comes across as sincere.

          That positioning is the job of politicians not would-be journalists.

          I don’t think even the local politicians engage in “positioning” as you call it to this degree.

           

      1. Richard McCann

        Measure J wasn’t handed down on Mt. Sinai. We constantly change laws, even initiatives. Prop 13 has been modified several times. This would be no different. We do this because what we decided long ago may no longer be appropriate. That’s why we can change laws.

  3. Keith Y Echols

    I’ve said before; it’s like being on a diet and then wanting cheat days.

    Giving power to the unwashed masses and then asking them to give it back (even partially) is a tough task.  Everyone in this arrogant town (which is ironic since I’m probably the most arrogant…but at least I’m justified in my arrogance) thinks their intelligence translates to good city policy planning.  But Measure J was like allowing your young children to choose bed times.

    For those who say we should have just had commercial-only projects, they may or may not have had a better chance of succeeding, but even if they did, the city would still need to find housing.

    So?  The city NEEDS commercial growth (actual successful commercial development) for fiscal reasons.  The city (the people currently living in the city) doesn’t NEED housing.  The city is required to PLAN for housing.  Pushing commercial projects through should be the primary focus.  Planning for housing, while unfortunately necessary should be a secondary concern.  If it can happen concurrent, fine…if not push the commercial projects through.

    I’ve laid out before how developers could get around Measure J…if they want to brave the political storm.  Develop a project in the county adjacent to the city limits.  If it’s already zoned for commercial, then there’s no Measure J vote.  Just the city council to vote on providing services to the project separately or as part of the city (in which case annexation would be required).

    BTW.  I’m only in favor of peripheral growth up and until some point where the city’s fiscal health is restored and it can pay for needed services in a timely manner….traffic management probably being on the top of the list.

    1. Todd Edelman

      The city (the people currently living in the city) doesn’t NEED housing.

      NO, Keith. They do. At least many renters do: The very low vacancy rate for rental accommodations creates havoc or at least stress for people trying to find compatible housemates. A poor match affects every part of a person’s life.

      1. Keith Y Echols

        NO, Keith. They do. At least many renters do: The very low vacancy rate for rental accommodations creates havoc or at least stress for people trying to find compatible housemates. A poor match affects every part of a person’s life.

        You know what I did when I couldn’t afford to live somewhere?  You know what everyone else has done in the capitalist world where owning land is private when they couldn’t afford to live somewhere?  WE MOVED!

        Where did this absurd idea that that people have a right to live anywhere they want come from?  I want to move to Oahu and surf?  Can I go take a surf class and have Oahu plan for student housing for me?  What if I just want to move there and be a beach bum?  Plan housing for me!  Oh…and also plan for housing to reduce my stress too please! lol….

        1. Tim Keller

          Where did this absurd idea that that people have a right to live anywhere they want come from?

          It is in our best interests to provide housing for the people who work and study here.  On a traffic and a climate basis, it is better for us to house them here.. but IF and only if, such housing pays for itself…. which means single family housing is out.

          So the housing which we should want to build is NOT what is being proposed – single family housing which will likely be sold to people who commute out of town… that is the worst case scenario and not a solution to any of our problems.

        2. Richard McCann

          The right to live where one chooses is in fact the basis of the Fair Housing Act. When a community takes steps to foreclose the ability of certain classes of individuals to live in a community, e.g., constricting housing supply so as to escalate prices beyond the reach of that class of individuals, that is segregation and a violation of civil rights. Davis with Measure J is currently in that position. You can make the argument about market prices leading to efficient resource allocation when the supply and demand are relatively unfettered, but not when the supply is explicitly restricted and the demand has highly bifurcated characteristics where one class has 10 times the wealth that another one has.

          I’ve laid out before how developers could get around Measure J…if they want to brave the political storm.  Develop a project in the county adjacent to the city limits.  If it’s already zoned for commercial, then there’s no Measure J vote. 

          Given that (1) the County has no land near Davis included in its General Plan for future development and (2) none is zoned commercial, this solution is infeasible, akin to the suggestion that the City acquire and redevelop the PG&E property.

  4. Ron Oertel

    The thought has occurred to me that those on the council (who don’t support Measure J) might put forth an alternative for the sole purpose of seeing it fail – thereby opening the door (in their view) for a lawsuit against Measure J.

    But I doubt that strategy would work.  For one thing, no one has judged Measure J to be illegal in the first place.

    1. David Greenwald

      As I point out in the article, the most likely outcome even if Measure J is found to violate state law, would be the council or citizens putting forward a modified version of Measure J.

      1. Keith Y Echols

        Would even a modified Measure J continue to violate state law?  And again, my point is that even under pressure to make changes to Measure J….. that the Plebians won’t likely be able to agree to make those changes.

        But I like that you at least briefly acknowledge the fiscal side of the issue this time.  I think it was Matt Williams that mentioned a few days ago that the fiscal impact of the required housing need be discussed.

        Right now, even if you build all those houses or even get companies to move or stay in Davis….all those new residents and new employees still aren’t spending their money in Davis and generating much needed tax revenue.

        1. David Greenwald

          I think the biggest problem with Measure J is that as currently formulated, the city is going to have to pass some J votes to have enough land to rezone for the amount of housing they need in the next RHNA cycle. Tim’s proposal for example would eliminate that problem. (Yes – I’m speculating).

          In terms of the fiscal issues, the point I was making here is that we are taking land that is commercial out of circulation to fill housing needs. We are also precluding the development of peripheral land for commercial. I tend to be less concerned that the housing itself is going to be a fiscal strain – but that’s something to monitor.

        2. Keith Y Echols

           I tend to be less concerned that the housing itself is going to be a fiscal strain – but that’s something to monitor.

          I have no idea how you can’t believe it’s not an issue.  Houses = people = use of resources….like people on the road.  They use the police, fire, public parking, city staff time…..etc….I don’t know what the water system capacity and infrastructure looks like these days…so I won’t assume it’ll initially have a negative impact there.

          Tim’s proposal is a new urbanist’s wet dream.  It just assumes everyone wants to live in a townhome or condo.  Like most of these ideas (and hey, I love urban environments, I miss living in an urban city) they do not take into account the rest of the surrounding area.  It’s not like people don’t have choices.  If you live New York or San Francisco…you pretty much don’t have much of a choice then to live in a dense urban residents.  But in Davis?  Do these people want to pay premium money for a 1400 sqft condo or townhome?  Or go to North North Davis and get a 2,300 sqft home with a yard?  I know new urbanists have dreams of hip urbanites with tech jobs moving to these kind of nouveau urban developments in these suburban towns….but it’s just not reality.  I’ve seen people move into these kinds of places in the Bay Area….and what happens?  A few years later they move to a house with a yard, a garage, a driveway…   Note:  sure SOME will be fine with living in these kinds of homes.  But to mandate it for all peripheral development?  That’s just absurd.

          In terms of the fiscal issues, the point I was making here is that we are taking land that is commercial out of circulation to fill housing needs. 

          This is the hardest part for ideological planners to accept.  Often times if you want something actually built you can’t just plan it and will it into existence (despite what that silly book “The Secret” says).  These things are subject to the conditions that are present at the time (market, fiscal, political…etc..).  So you plan/build what you can to have the greatest benefit to the community.  So something like the Davis lumber yard…which is commercial…there isn’t likely a commercial solution for that space right now….you’re not likely going to get an innovation park built there or some innovative trendy shopping center.  But mixed use residential with a little commercial?  Probably.  The the retail and business commercial the city needs is likely on the periphery…..especially if the absurd retail size restrictions are removed.

          I think the biggest problem with Measure J is that as currently formulated, the city is going to have to pass some J votes to have enough land to rezone for the amount of housing they need in the next RHNA cycle.

          I do not have any faith in the city and it’s people to get some Measure J votes approved to fix the RHNA problem in the next cycle.  It’s going to come to a legal challenge…to either Measure J or the HCD/RHNA.

        3. Tim Keller

          Tim’s proposal is a new urbanist’s wet dream.  It just assumes everyone wants to live in a townhome or condo.

          No it doesnt.    You are painting my position as much more extreme than it actually is.

          Davis is already 80% single family housing (by land area) and the rest is student housing.   NOTHING is going to change the supply of existing single family homes, and in fact my statutory proposal even includes 30% single family homes as part of the new developments overall mix.

          Its just that I want the rest of the developments to be made from housing types that are almost entirely absent from our city:  Townhomes, condos and adult-sized apartments.

          Creating a supply of housing types that we are missing does NOT mean that EVERYONE needs to live in a townhome or condo.    It is just adding to the variety of options we have and right now, our options are pretty damn limited.

          There are PLENTY of people who would jump at a chance to live in a neo-urbanist development in Davis.    People who prefer to live in single family homes already have the option of living pretty much anywhere in town ( if they can afford it).

        4. Richard McCann

          I know new urbanists have dreams of hip urbanites with tech jobs moving to these kind of nouveau urban developments in these suburban towns….but it’s just not reality.  I’ve seen people move into these kinds of places in the Bay Area….and what happens?  A few years later they move to a house with a yard, a garage, a driveway…

          And those people who move out of those those places to a larger space sell at a premium to another household moving into a townhouse or condo. It this chain of transactions that give value to these developments. We move on average ever 13 years, so we shouldn’t pretend that we’re building for a young family just of college who will leave that abode feet first 60 years later.

  5. Tim Keller

    For the sake of clarity and transparency, after writing my pieces and having a lot of foll0w-up conversations with various people, the summary of what is being proposed (at least by me) as a J modification is this:

    1) Measure J stays in effect as written, but an exception can be made for properties within a designated area (the limit line) which would allow annexation to happen by a council vote.

    2) For the properties within that limit line, the exception applies if they meet ALL of the following conditions:

    a) Compliance with a high-level neighborhood layout plan that ensures that bikepaths and transit options, and parks, neighborhood shopping centers, and city services etc get coordinated across projects.

    b) X% of developable land dedicated to the city for “Capital A affordable” housing projects.

    c) Y dwelling units / acre average housing density

    d) A set of parking maximums per usage type, for example, “A max of Z parking spots per unit in multi-family structures.”

    d) All buildings to be compliant with LEED-Silver energy efficiency standards (or better)
    —–
    Note that I have some variables here… these are things we need to be figuring out in the immediate term.  For example, it has been noted that a high requirement for affordable units has been used to effectively KILL development in other cities because nobody can afford to develop a building with that high of a requirement.. we definitely don’t want to be accidentally poison-pilling ourselves in this case.

    My placeholder values for these figures at the moment are:

    X:  7% of the developable land
    Y:  20 Dwelling units per acre
    Z:  1.3 Parking spots per multi-family unit ( one free and one with additional payment)

    The building standard one is also a variable.

    But again… these are the things we should be talking about and figuring out.    We don’t have the luxury of an exhaustive general plan update to work out everything in fine detail.    We need a “good enough” plan to get us rolling on producing SOME housing which doesn’t suck and keeps our options open.  Once we get ourselves out of hot water, perhaps these standards for exempted development can be replaced by the next general plan, if we ever get around to it…

    There are no perfect solutions here.. but there IS a pathway we can follow that is MUCH better than the alternatives.    Nobody is going to 100% happy, but I think we can optimize to do the best we can with what we have…    I have yet to hear a better option.

      1. Tim Keller

        I hear you Todd.  100%.      Its a position we shouldn’t be in… but we are.

        The bad news is that if we do NOTHING we only have two potential outcomes that both suck:

        1) We pass one of the currently proposed single family developments… which means more car-centric, low-density sprawl…
        -or-
        2) We don’t pass them, then HCD or a lawsuit succeeds invalidating measure J and the SAME car-centric sprawling developments go forward anyway…

        If we want ANY chance of designing “good” housing and neighborhoods that are walkable / bikeable and designed for local workers who might actually use transit instead of cars…. then we really only have this path open to us… right?

        I dont see another way.

  6. Ron Oertel

    I think the biggest problem with Measure J is that as currently formulated, the city is going to have to pass some J votes to have enough land to rezone for the amount of housing they need in the next RHNA cycle. Tim’s proposal for example would eliminate that problem. (Yes – I’m speculating).

    Again (as pointed out many, many times by now), your belief is that HCD views cities that “could” conceivably expand outward (e.g., those in the valley) “differently” than those that “can’t”.

    There is no evidence to support your belief.  If anything, it’s the other-way around (the state’s primary focus is on cities which “can’t” expand outward).

     

        1. Ron Oertel

          This is not written as “speculation”, and it’s not the first time you’ve done so.  And for that matter, if this is what the “council” is stating, they’re also asserting that it’s not “speculation”:

          In the long run, as I have argued and the city and city council have acknowledged, the city will not be able to meet its RHNA obligations without going peripheral.

          So again, I’d point anyone who claims this to the large population centers near the coast, which aren’t expanding outward.

          It’s up to those making the claim, to “prove” that the state views places like Davis “differently” than the near-coastal population centers.

           

  7. Don Shor

    The voters of Davis have approved two residential projects, one of which is presently under construction. There are development proposals going through the city planning process right now. How about if we see how the voters feel about them after they’ve gone through commission and council review and been put on the ballot? It may not be necessary to modify Measure J at all.

    1. Richard McCann

      Don

      As it stands, we’re going to get yet more disjointed neighborhood proposals that cater to commuters that worsen our fiscal situation if we don’t modify Measure J. It removes any incentive to coordinate among development proposals–we’ve already seen the current set competing amongst themselves. If we want a better community, we need to change those incentives.

  8. Ron Oertel

    In regard to the effort to overturn Measure J via a vote, I’d suggest another title for this article:

    “Shooting fish in a barrel”.

    One single, decisive paddle administered to a giant rear-end delivered via the Davis Spanking Machine.

    An oversized “softball” delivered right over the plate.

    (Though in this case, it would be one single fat fish that would likely take-out a whole bunch of other “dependent” fish – all of the proposals pending via a Measure J vote.)

    Sure – try to overturn Measure J while simultaneously attempting to gain approval for several proposals via Measure J.

    Sounds like a comedy skit.  Either that, or an attempt to “set up the electorate” in a convoluted, ill-advised scheme to expose Measure J to legal challenges.

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