Monday Morning Thoughts: The Rubric Could Be Good or Bad Depending on Its Ultimate Purpose

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – The Planning Commission is meeting this week (news in and of itself apparently), to discuss the proposed rubric.  But the bigger news is probably that we are just a week away from the concept coming back to council.

I found some of the comments from the commission interesting.

On the NRC, one member noted that “LEED ND [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development] is a good place to start, however, it was written in 2018 for a national audience. As such, it reflects neither Davis nor State of California values and requirements.”

In addition, they added “there are many critiques of LEED within the environmental and sustainability field—that it can create ‘green sprawl’, concerns about gentrification, and concerns that there is a disconnect in LEED measures for creating good walkable neighborhoods, etc. These concerns should be addressed before using this as the basis for a Davis standard to evaluate proposed development projects.”

The Utilities Commission expressed concern “that the City will go through a lot of considerations; however, did not include the vulnerabilities of the project from the point of view of people that would like to not see projects done. These vulnerabilities need to be addressed adequately in plans. There is at least one project that likely would not have faced as much rejection if they had provided more plans on a specific area.”

While I understand the criticism that LEED ND was not really intended to perform this type of task, as I understand, it is more about using LEED as a starting place to develop a system of criteria.  The intention all along has been to then refine it to make it make sense in a place like Davis.

Whether that becomes a good thing or a bad thing is going to depend on what happens next.

To me the critical question is whether the rubric becomes a tool to streamline the approval and building process or a tool to make the bar impossibly high.

In short, while this tool seems clunky and fairly involved, if it becomes a quick check off list that if met, could pave the way for a quick and streamlined approval process, I would be for it.

But without guardrails and an actual commitment by the council to use the rubric as a potential tweak to Measure J, I worry that this is just creating another barrier to entry.  One that adds costs and time without getting us what we really need—good housing.

Like most things in Davis, this all goes back to Measure J.

Measure J has effectively shut the door on housing.  It has allowed just 700 single-family homes to be built in the last two decades.  Unless we find a way to use the rubric to modify that process, it seems likely that the rubric actually becomes a tool to make housing more and not less difficult.

As Eileen Samitz noted on Saturday, “It is clear David, that you constantly want to scape-goat Measure J/R/D. You should instead, be complaining about the developers dragging their heels on developing projects like Chiles Ranch for so many years now.”

She has a point with regard to Chiles Ranch.  It’s not a game changing problem.  But it is a problem.  Dan Fouts has been sitting on an approval for nearly a decade and a half—an approval obtained over the objections of the neighborhood.

And while 96 single-family housing units is not going to change the housing picture, it’s also not nothing.  It would move the bar from 700 to 800 single family homes built.  And while that is still way too low, a nearly 15 percent increase is also not insignificant.

Without taking the developer off the hook there, it is also worth noting that this again illustrates a problem with the whole system.

We have made it very difficult to build housing, even when a project gets approval.

For example, not just Chiles, but University Commons got an approval but the terms were such that they couldn’t build it.  Cannery got approvals, but they are still struggling to finish their project.  Nishi passed a Measure J vote, but we put conditions on that passage that have thus far prevented that housing from being built.

So I agree—Measure J is not the only problem here.  It is a symptom of the problem.

Thus, I also agree that simply changing Measure J is necessary but not sufficient to fixing the problems with building housing.

Here I agree—Davis is not alone.  Yes, Davis has created a tool that makes it far easier to stop housing.  But the overall mentality in California is not conducive to housing and frankly it is harming all of us.

I saw this post on NextDoor and it has nothing to do with housing but everything to do with the entitled view of people who live in this community.

A person complained about loud football game.

Here were the comments (all-caps in the original): “LOUD FOOTBALL AT UCD , LAST NIGHT WAS THE WORST IT HAS BEEN HERE IN WEST DAVIS WITH SOMEONE SCREAMING INTO A MICROPHONE .I DONT PAY HIGH DAVIS TAXES TO HEAR THIS TILL 10 P.M. UCD NEEDS TO RESPECT THEIR NEGHBORS NOT IGNORE THE RULES ……… ANYONE ELSE HEAR IT , AT THE END THE MICROPHONE WAS BLASTING MUSIC SHORTLY.. LOUDER THAN THE GUY YELLING TOUUCCHHDDOOOWWNN.. IM MORE THAN A MILE AWAY WITH THE WINDOWS CLOSED .. IT WAS LIKE IT WAS IN MY BACKYARD ….”

You live in a college town.  UC Davis plays at most six or so games a year at home.  Some of them are day games.  If you choose to live near a football stadium—even if you pay taxes—you might need to be inconvenienced a few times a year.

It’s that same attitude that is driving the housing crisis and not just in Davis.

So if the rubric has the ability to cut through some of that and streamline the process, I am for it.  If it becomes another layer, another hoop to jump through, I oppose it.

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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1 Comment

  1. Richard McCann

    First, I’ve talked with two commissioners on two commissions who reviewed the LEED Neighborhood rubric and found it so wanting that it should be just cast aside. It’s designed for places that have no real planning guidelines and giving a developer some type of points award is better than nothing. We had the same problem looking at using the LEED Building rubric for energy efficiency standards a half dozen years ago. We ended up going with the CalGreen standards instead. We just need to give the relevant commissions a green light to develop their version of the rubric (which should have happened a long time ago when the NRC first proposed that approach).

    Second, Davis is starting to reek of privilege and a growing ignorance of the importance of UCD to the character and structure of this community. The CEQA lawsuit in Berkeley is an unfortunate symptom of what appears to be an unjustified annoyance of privileged older whites with younger people without recognizing the vitality of their treasured community is embedded in the presence of those young people. For some reason older people believe that the town of their memories can be frozen under glass.

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