Commentary: We Cannot Stay the Course on Housing and Measure J

Covell site in 2005

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

I have been arguing for some time that the city of Davis is going to need to modify Measure J in order to meet its housing needs.  While I think some of the city’s leadership have bought into that idea, the community as a whole probably has not.

I don’t know what that is going to look like ultimately, but let me quickly lay out again why I think we are going to need to do it.

First, the city did everything it could to get a certified Housing Element using infill sites.

In December, then-Mayor Will Arnold warned, “I would just say to those who have said that we will be able to meet our next RHNA cycle numbers without going outside of the city limits… I suggest they tune in or watch the recording of this meeting as we really try to meet our current requirements simply with infill and the difficulty we’re having in doing so.”

Councilmember Bapu Vaitla has said similar things as has City Manager Mike Webb.

I think most people if they are honest understand that this is what we are facing.

Where I think people will start to differ is on the second point—can we fill the needs under the current Measure J system?

In my view the answer is no.  I know some people believe that a purely residential project could pass a vote.

But here is why I think that is not true.

First, in the nearly 25 years of Measure J, we have approved exactly two Measure J projects.

Second, during that time, the city has actually built just 700 single-family homes.

Third, the two projects that passed Measure J votes lacked traffic impacts on the majority of the city.  The problem that we face is that the next group of projects are clustered on traffic impacted corridors—Covell and Pole Line, Covell and Mace, and also Mace.  Traffic is going to be a major issue and no project that has had legitimate traffic concerns has passed a vote of the people.

That leads to the next problem—we don’t just need one project.  I have been operating under an assumption that the RHNA requirements for the next period will be about what they were this time, which was about 2100 units overall and just under 1000 low- and very low-income units.

But, as the staff report back in December noted, if you look at the trends, it is very possible that the next requirement is going to be double the current one—or 4000 or so overall units with 2000 low- and very low-income units.

My point can be made just as easily looking at the low-end estimate.  I calculated that if we found a way to bump up the affordable levels to 20 percent, we could fill the next two RHNA cycles by passing the five projects currently proposed.

But that’s assuming we have about the same requirements as this cycle.  And that is more than twice the number of projects that were passed in the first 25 years of Measure J (assuming the next Measure J project is in March 2025).

That’s pretty close to an inside straight.

Moreover, many of the same people who are arguing that Measure J works fine are planning to, in fact, oppose the next Measure J project.

Therefore, I don’t believe that we can count on the current process to work.

Some have countered at this point that we already have a Measure J exemption.

They are technically correct.  We have a Measure J exemption IF the project is 100 percent affordable and several other conditions are met.

How many such projects have been proposed in the first 25 years of Measure J?  None.

Finally, there is the consequence of failing to create a viable plan for housing.  As I have noted, between the state, between YIMBY Law, and between other organizations, we are likely to see a legal challenge to Measure J.

A letter from Legal Services we have covered before shows the danger.  They warned, because the city failed to analyze the impact of: (a) land use controls; (b) growth management measures…”

They argue, “Housing Element Version 2 continues to conclude that Measure J is only a constraint if the City lacks sufficient infill sites…”

But of course the city council has basically conceded that, after this Housing Element, the city basically lacks sufficient infill sites.

Legal Services added that “a constraint to housing development exists even when the City may be able to demonstrate sufficient sites to address the RHNA. Further, the City currently lacks sufficient infill sites to meet its current housing need.”

They conclude that “the City continues to have a duty to remove or further mitigate the impacts of this identified constraint.”

Would Legal Services press this point in a lawsuit in the future?

We also know that the state has been pressing local communities, even small ones, to eliminate barriers to housing.

As I noted this weekend, for a long time, the local citizens have taken solace from the lack of size and importance of Davis.  But Davis is uniquely situated just 15 minutes from the capital and thus a lot of people who work in Sacramento actually live in Davis.  That gives Davis an outsized presence.

But even aside from that point, we have seen the state filing against places like La Cañada and Huntington Beach, and YIMBY Law filing against Millbrae.

In this climate, counting on the relative size to save Measure J is a fool’s errand.  And at the end of the day, something is going to have to give to make the math work.  Opponents of housing keep counting on the state fading away, but, if anything, the opposite is happening.

The bottom line is that if Measure J falls in this way, Davis loses local control.  The only good news is that the city still has time for course corrections—but the response to proposed changes can’t be that Measure J will work, we already have an exemption on the books, and all we need to do is stay the course.

We have seen the results of that approach over the last 25 years—it won’t work in the next five.

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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35 Comments

  1. Keith Y Echols

    You’re a policy wonk.  And that’s fine; the world needs policy wonks.  But policy wonks aren’t the best at translating their policies into anything relevant to the people/voters.  I read all of what you just wrote and without putting on my policy wonk hat an (and because I hadn’t drunk my coffee yet) and I really glazed over what you wrote and really didn’t care.  I then had my coffee and put on my work pants and reread what you wrote (same ole, some ole).

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Voters have to be personally connected to these decisions…otherwise…eh, keep things mostly the way they are and be careful of what will make things worse.

    Personally, I don’t really care about new (market rate) housing in Davis.  It’s a financial and quality of life (traffic, parking, available services) cost to the community.  But it’s necessary to meet the state mandates.  I get it.  But that translates to: THE STATE COULD TAKE OVER COMMUNITY PLANNING IN DAVIS if the city doesn’t approve enough housing.  That’s a simple bold statement that gets everybody’s attention.

    But how does peripheral development effect me the community member/voter?  I mean that big ole biz park they proposed was going to cause a bunch of traffic…right?  Why should I want my community to grow?

    Here’s the banner slogan:

    “LET’S IMPROVE THE COMMUNITY AND REASONABLY GROW A LITTLE”

    THE CITY OF DAVIS NEEDS TO PAY IT’S BILLS.

    BETTER ROADS

    BETTER TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT

    BETTER PARKING

    BETTER POLICE (SAFER COMMUNITY)

    BETTER SOCIAL SERVICES

    BETTER PARKS AND RECREATION

    (and pay for the new housing we’re being forced to plan for)

    The goal is to show a bright shining future of community BETTERMENT to offset the inevitable resistance and (and valid) negatives [edited: opponents] will have about new development….because everyone hates having something new and big built up near them.  But if the rest of the community can be show how it benefits everyone (the greater good)…then maybe that’s enough to get things done.

     But Davis is uniquely situated just 15 minutes from the capital and thus a lot of people who work in Sacramento actually live in Davis.  That gives Davis an outsized presence.

    Yes, that and along with all the people in Davis that work outside of the city at UCD…you know what that makes the city of Davis?  A BEDROOM COMMUNITY.  So with limited/crappy retail offerings that means Davis bears the brunt of providing services for the community with limited ability to generate much needed tax revenue to maintain (if not improve) it’s quality of life for it’s residents.  

    So peripheral planning needs a RETAIL and Industrial focus and message focus that pays for the necessary residential growth in the community.   Sell a vision of growth and prosperity to the residents of Davis.  Maybe get some pre-approval plans for certain peripheral areas.  Sell a vision of prosperity and get the necessary housing built along with it.

    1. David Greenwald

      I wouldn’t consider myself a policy wonk to be honest. I haven’t even laid out a policy. Just pointing out that the current policy/ direction doesn’t work.

      1. Keith Y Echols

        Guilty by association.  You explained the policies like you were explaining it to a policy wonk.  What’s the point?  My point is that you (and more importantly city leaders) have to explain peripheral growth policies in a way that translates it to what people actually care about.

        I’ve told this story here before; but I’ll tell it again because it illustrates my point.  About 15+ years ago, me and buddy (developer) were exploring new opportunities in San Francisco.  We went to the up and coming Dog Patch neighborhood (this is before Mission Bay was built out).  We attended a community meeting where three of the things discussed were: a new jumbo powerline brought up from the bay into a new power station, the impact of Lennar’s nearby construction at Hunter’s Point and some new spots for busses to pick up people around the new UCSF campus. First PG&E presented.  They went over all the details of laying new power cable across the by, the regulations, the 1.21 jiggowatts of power it would conduct, the regulations of the power station to be built next to the bay in the neighborhood (kind of similar to what they already had).  The crowd didn’t even blink (they might of fallen asleep).  Then Lennar presented and basically said everything they were doing wouldn’t impact the neighborhood, it was all uphill and away from the Dog Patch neighborhood.  Then UCSF presented and said they needed to convert some spots on the street into bus stops.  It would end up taking away about 4 parking spaces on the street.  OH MY GOD.  The neighborhood representatives and attendees rose up with proverbial pitchforks because UCSF DARED TO TAKE AWAY SOME STREET PARKING.

        1. Matt Williams

          I’m one of the regular participants, and I firmly believe that I am the last person you need to be talking to.  I agree with keith that you (and even more importantly the community leaders) need to be talking to the typical Davis constituent.

          Of course it is important to know what the “typical Davis constituent” is.  Do we really have a current profile of what are the major constituencies in Davis?  I haven’t seen one.  One of the key cocepts of public speaking is to know your audience.  What proportion of the Davis constituents are the nuclear family of the homeowner(s)?  What proportion are renters?  What are the current number of residential units in Davis?  How does that number break out into SFRs owner-occupied?  SFRs renter-occupied?  SFRs vacant?  How about apartments?  Student-occupied?  Non-student-occupied?  How about DJUSD numbers?  DJUSD students from owner-occupied SFRs?  DJUSD students from renter-occupied SFRs?  DJUSD students from apartments?

          Bottom-line, we really do not know who we are. And as a result, the principle of “know your audience” is a crap shoot.

           

           

    2. Tim Keller

      I think there are a lot of other very positive pitches to be made when championing an amendment to Fix measure J that bode to have broad appeal in Davis:

      Envrionmental Advantages

      “Sustainable city development”. or “Sustainable housing”
      “Walkable and Bike-Able Neighborhoods”
      “Climate Friendly Neighborhood Design”

      Economic & Justice Arguments: 

      “Local housing for Local workers”
      “Affordable housing, NOT McMansions”

      And finally, what is really interesting to me is this issue causes an overlap of the venn diagram between people who are very pro-housing for social and environmental justice reasons (it describes almost all of us)  AND people who tend to be against growth, because if J fails, it means developers just put up McMansions everywhere:   Something that the sustainable housing crowd as well as the more traditional “anti sprawl” crowd would both detest.   So the last few here I think have pretty broad appeal to the typical davis electorate:

      Process and Control Arguments:
      “Urban Limit Line”
      “City planning by citizens, NOT developers”
      “Protect citizen control over city growth”
      “Prevent urban sprawl”

      I think that is a winning initiative in a town like Davis.

       

  2. Richard McCann

    Keith

    A good translation of David’s points and good ideas on a path forward. The first question is how to persuade the City to pursue this marketing strategy.

  3. Don Shor

    I know some people believe that a purely residential project could pass a vote.

    But here is why I think that is not true.

    First, in the nearly 25 years of Measure J, we have approved exactly two Measure J projects.

    Second, during that time, the city has actually built just 700 single-family homes.

    Third, the two projects that passed Measure J votes lacked traffic impacts on the majority of the city.  The problem that we face is that the next group of projects are clustered on traffic impacted corridors—Covell and Pole Line, Covell and Mace, and also Mace.  Traffic is going to be a major issue and no project that has had legitimate traffic concerns has passed a vote of the people.

    Yes, I do think that a purely residential project could pass. The demographics of Davis voters have changed.

    The two Measure J projects that passed were purely residential.

    Yes, they will have traffic impacts. Mitigate them to the greatest extent possible, keeping in mind that Californians aren’t very amenable to mass transit and the jobs/housing ‘balance’ is basically insurmountable here for any number of reasons that we’ve discussed before.

    In the absence of actual polling data, the outcome of a Measure J vote is just conjecture on your part and mine. The only way to test it is to put a project on the ballot. Village Farms is ready to go on the ballot. Delaying it will just get it picked to death by the alliance of micro-managing urbanists and slow-growthers. If it loses, the developers of that and the other projects will have to re-evaluate their options. But it took two votes for Nishi to pass and the margin was flipped when it did.

    I think we are at risk of planning and debating things to death. Which, I would note, is a popular strategy for those who oppose development.

    1. Tim Keller

      Yes, I do think that a purely residential project could pass. The demographics of Davis voters have changed.

      I dont think Village Farms is going to pass.   I have had two multiple conversations with the developer now, and he has said the same thing each time:   “I think I have a good plan, I’m willing to take my chances at the polls.”

      Which was his way of saying that he isn’t interested in modifying or changing his plan either.

      The problem is that the plan for Village plans comes from an out-dated playbook from the 1950’s and its not something that anyone who is in the newly minted “pro housing” demographic you are referring to is going to get excited about.    It is going to have the maximum traffic impact that any potential development of that site could POSSIBLY have.   And if you are pro-housing in this town you are normally pro-housing for sustainablility and economic justice reasons…   so a swath of single family houing some of which has a temporary affordability gimmic applied to it isnt going to sway many people into enthusiastic support.   It just isnt.

      Since its going to be a special election, that means the people who are actually motivated enough to actually vote are going to be the people who are voting no.

      1. Don Shor

        he has said the same thing each time:   “I think I have a good plan, I’m willing to take my chances at the polls.

        I agree with him. And it’s his money at risk. So put it on the ballot and we’ll see whether he and I, or you and David, are correct.

        so a swath of single family housing some of which has a temporary affordability gimmic applied to it isnt going to sway many people into enthusiastic support.   It just isnt.

        Here is the breakdown of the housing types and land uses proposed.

         

         the plan for Village Farms comes from an out-dated playbook from the 1950’s

        The plan is responsive to the market. Most people don’t want to live the way you want them to live.

        1. Matt Williams

          Don, the State of California, by issuing their HCD housing mandates is telling the people to live the way that Tim has described.  Affordable housing built the way that you want is not financially possible.

          1. Don Shor

            Affordable housing built the way that you want is not financially possible.

            Very affordable housing is not going to be built by private developers for the most part. Each project proposal going to the voters is going to have lower-cost housing options that are high density, as you can see from what I posted about Village Farms (I’m sure the others are similar). They’re going to be affordable by design to a large extent.

            As far as I can tell from the posts by the real experts on this topic, housing for very low income will only happen with dedicated (donated) land and taxpayer funding. Trying to force housing developers to build very low income housing simply shifts the costs to the other home buyers in that subdivision. Shifting the cost to taxpayers overall provides a much broader base of financial support.

            Insisting on a high percentage of low-cost housing in new developments is likely to simply prevent housing development.The need for very low income housing should not be used to block development proposals. It doesn’t pencil out by the traditional means.

        2. Tim Keller

          The plan is responsive to the market. Most people don’t want to live the way you want them to live.

          Im sorry Don, but this is incorrect.   Either you are projecting your own preferences onto everyone else, or you mis-understand what kind of housing I’ve been advocating for.

          Look at the higher density infill projects that have happened downtown – they are all full.   Look at the higher density stuff including the stacked flats at the south edge of the cannery… again, they are  ALL FULL.

          It might be true that SOME people want single family housing more than attached housing, but there are a variety of reasons why single family housing is the worst kind of housing we could possibly produce.

          So as long as we still have displaced local workers commuting in from out of town who would be willing to inhabit a more responsible housing type that is served by transit, we should make THAT housing BEFORE we consider any more sprawling SFH developments that have all the traffic impacts and twice the carbon footprint.

          Once we see that there is an appreciable vacancy rate in missing middle housing I might agree that we can consider more single family… but not before.

           

          1. Don Shor

            Im sorry Don, but this is incorrect. Either you are projecting your own preferences onto everyone else,

            My analysis is based on surveys that are done annually.
            67% of home buyers would like to purchase a single-family detached home. Far smaller shares would like a townhouse (15%) or a multifamily condo (8%).
            https://www.nahb.org/-/media/NAHB/news-and-economics/docs/housing-economics-plus/special-studies/2021/special-study-what-home-buyers-really-want-march-2021.pdf

            Renters: while 40% of survey respondents currently live in a single-family detached unit or townhouse, 51% say their ideal rental housing type is a single family-home and 21% prefer a townhouse or duplex.
            https://www.naahq.org/5-key-consumer-preferences-renters

            Look at the higher density infill projects that have happened downtown – they are all full. Look at the higher density stuff including the stacked flats at the south edge of the cannery… again, they are ALL FULL.

            We have insufficient inventory in every housing category in Davis. All the projects being proposed have a mix of housing types and densities.

            It might be true that SOME people want single family housing more than attached housing, but there are a variety of reasons why single family housing is the worst kind of housing we could possibly produce.

            Change SOME to MOST. Also, again, most (defined as a majority of those seeking to buy or rent) people don’t want to live the way you want them to live. So they’ll just go buy the houses with yards that are being built in Woodland and Dixon and West Sac.

        3. Tim Keller

          Don,  quoting statistics from the national association of HOME BUILDERS providing data on the attitudes taken from “Recent and prospective home buyers” isnt compelling in this case.    Im not shocked that people who are in the process of looking for a single family home report that they are interested in a single family home.

          Such a survey will leave out, by definition people who are not in the market for a home either by preference or because they know they cant afford one.   Its fundamentally flawed.

          –BUT—

          Does it matter?

          Lets just take the survey of homebuyers at face value.  Does that change my argument?

          NO, because of the math:

          We have 20,ooo + inbound commuters every day.  Students, university staff and local workforce.   That is our current shortfall in housing at a very minimum.

          If you believe the number from the homebuilders that 67% of homebuyers want single family homes then that means that 13.4k of these ppl want single family homes and 6,600 are looking for something more compact.

          What is the size of Village Farms?  1800 units.  Shriners is similar right?

          If Village farms, AND shriners AND all of the other developments got together and built more densely, we MIGHT be able to satisfy that 6,600 local workers who are currently commuting here and are willing to live in multi-family housing.

          So, despite any market preference, given that we know that single family housing is an economic loser for the city, has twice the carbon footprint and ALL of the traffic impacts, it STILL doesnt make any sense to build single family housing while there is still un-met need for multi-family.

          It is simply in our best interests to make the most responsible and sustainable forms of housing FIRST.

          1. Don Shor

            Don, quoting statistics from the national association of HOME BUILDERS providing data on the attitudes taken from “Recent and prospective home buyers” isnt compelling in this case. Im not shocked that people who are in the process of looking for a single family home report that they are interested in a single family home.

            They do these surveys annually so it gives you trends over time. But I see you’ve moved on from actual data (“Does it matter?…despite any market preference….”) to repeating your ideological argument against s-f housing. So there’s no point in further discussion. You’ll oppose these projects. Clearly you’re not basing it on any sort of market analysis. My statement that home buyers prefer (strongly prefer) single-family homes is borne out by many surveys.
            These projects have a mix of housing densities and types. There will be even higher density housing downtown soon, presumably for “local workers” among others who might be willing to pay those rents. Taken together, the mix of projects being proposed downtown and on the periphery are going to meet many market needs.
            Your transit proposals are interesting and I hope you will continue to press for those.

        4. Keith Y Echols

           the plan for Village Farms comes from an out-dated playbook from the 1950’s
          The plan is responsive to the market. Most people don’t want to live the way you want them to live

          It’s funny, I’ve seen this attitude many time over the years.  Some one took an workshop on New Urbansim or walked around Europe or got the experience of living in a metropolitan city; and starts to believe that everything exists in a vacuum so why shouldn’t Podunk USA be a shining example of New Urbansim to show the way to the those outdated-playbook communities.  There’s always some virtue signaling involved.   Now that’s not to say that ELEMENTS of new urbanism can’t be incorporated into a city.  But not to the point where it will likely impede wanted development and growth.

          Look I’ve lived in an urban city.  I miss being able to walk to restaurants, stores and entertainment.  I miss being able to travel on reliable mass transit and not have to drive.  But I am under no delusions that my wishes for that urban environment is applicable to a place like Davis.  We don’t live in a vacuum.  If we want workers to live locally (but that begs the question where are they working in Davis?) then what kind of housing are we planning for them?  Is everyone of these workers single or a couple with no kids that wants to live in a condo or townhouse?  No.  And I gotta say that if I did want to live that way (like I did in my 20’s and 30’s) and I had live in this region, I’d live in Sac and commute to Davis because there’s way more to do.  No, if you’ve got a family the first thing you look at when shopping for houses is SQUARE FOOTAGE.  How much can I afford.

          Tim, there’s a FINITE quality to the housing market.  Finite due to resources, financial, infrastructure and the number of people in any given market segment.  You don’t really achieve affordability by building smaller denser units.  Homebuilders build for the top of the markets with the intention of making home prices go up.  So more new market rate condos and apartments will just pull up existing apartment and condo prices (by amenities and gentrification….the goal will to be attract the most lucrative market….likely bay area transplants and investors). You can’t just dictate to the market to the degree that you exclude a majorly significant segment like single family housing.  It’s what people want.  Polling says so.  My experience says so.  Real estate professionals will tell you this.  Let me put it to you this way.  When I lived in San Francisco, I loved my good sized 2bd 2bth apartment, it had parking, onsite laundry and even a storage area, near GG park and it was on the top floor (on a hill) with a magnificent view.   That apartment provided me probably the greatest value I could want.  But if a detached unit with more square footage and a yard on a nearby block came available?  You damn well better believe I’d have moved there.  So what I’m telling you is that if you only build high and medium density homes then pretty much everyone with a family is eventually going to move to North North Davis or West Sac…etc…because we don’t live in a vacuum.   You say that the bay area is almost exclusively building high and medium density homes.  That’s true.  But that’s also because they have little choice in terms of available developable land.  In my personal experience I know at least three families in the bay area (the proper bay area…the San Jose area….not outlier places like Antioch or Fairfield) that moved into condos and within a few years of having kids moved into larger single family homes.  Heck, within my own extended family….they used to live a block from that awesome apartment I described in San Francisco.  As soon as they had a kid they moved across the bay and rented a single family home.  They had another kid and bought an even bigger house.  You say we need starter homes?  The days of Levittowns are long gone.  You just don’t have new construction that targets the starter market (some may say they do but it just doesn’t usually work out that way).  No starter homes are EXISTING homes.  New homes get built that target the top of the market and that pushes another group of homes down closer to the starter home category.

        5. Richard McCann

          Don

          The NAHB is far from an unbiased source. They produce analysis that supports the political positions of their members. We don’t know how the survey questions were posed or how the sample was developed. And those surveys also fail to provide context to potential buyers. I suspect if given the choice of living in a mansion, they would choose that one most of the time. Without being given a budget constraint and a realistic price, those surveys are largely meaningless.

          The fact that Davis has a consistent 55% value premium over other nearby cities indicates that Davis has substantial control over the character of its housing stock without likely losing many buyers. That housing will not sit empty–there’s lots of room for prices to come down and still have a premium.

          1. Don Shor

            The NAHB is far from an unbiased source. They produce analysis that supports the political positions of their members. We don’t know how the survey questions were posed or how the sample was developed. And those surveys also fail to provide context to potential buyers. I suspect if given the choice of living in a mansion, they would choose that one most of the time. Without being given a budget constraint and a realistic price, those surveys are largely meaningless.

            That is not true. They produce analysis for their members so they can identify trends in home purchase preferences. It has nothing to do with “the political positions of their members.” If you wish to purchase the survey, you can see the methodology. But literally every survey by any organization that I’ve looked at, including government agencies, shows that home buyers have a strong preference for single-family homes with yards. Even renters have that preference, and it’s increased since the pandemic. Please find me a survey that shows any other preference.
            The current project proposals have a mix of housing types and densities. There will be high-density living available downtown for those who actually prefer that. All you’re doing when you insist on even higher densities in the peripheral projects is driving the market to Woodland and Dixon.
            Here are some examples you can slice and dice.
            ——
            Millennials Still Want Single-Family Homes, Even if it Means a Long Commute
            November 21, 2019
            89% of homebuyers would prefer a single-family home with a backyard over a unit in a triplex with a shorter commute.

            33% of Redfin.com users limit their searches to single-family homes, down from 41% in 2012.
            28% of homebuyers said plenty of living space is the most important factor in their home choice, more than any other factor.
            https://www.redfin.com/news/millennial-homebuyers-prefer-single-family-homes/
            The data on the share of homebuyer and seller preferences comes from a Redfin-commissioned survey in August 2019. The survey yielded more than 1,400 responses from U.S. residents who are thinking of buying or selling a home in the next year.

            Millennial Home Buyers Want Larger Homes, Survey Shows
            Economics
            Published Apr 04, 2022

            As the housing industry celebrates New Homes Month in April, millennials say their housing preferences have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than a third (36%) of millennials are now in favor of a larger home and home builders are responding to this trend.
            According to the Census Quarterly Starts and Completions by Purpose and Design and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) analysis, the median size of new single-family homes in 2021 was 10% higher since the Great Recession (2009) at 2,303 square feet. The shift aligns with NAHB’s home buyers’ preferences analysis, which shows millennials and Gen Xers prefer more bedrooms and are also interested in exercise rooms and home offices.

            New single-family homes with four or more bedrooms have increased in market share each of the past three years, reaching a share of 48% in 2022.
            According to Quint, among prospective buyers surveyed by the NAHB, repeat buyers are more likely to want single-family detached homes than first-time buyers, while first-time buyers are more willing to purchase townhomes than repeat buyers. First-time buyers are also more likely to want homes in central cities, whereas repeat buyers prefer homes located either in the suburbs or rural areas.
            https://www.nahb.org/news-and-economics/press-releases/2022/03/millennial-home–buyers-want-larger-homes-survey-shows

            A plurality of both first-time and repeat buyers prefer homes with three bedrooms, two or two-and-a-half bathrooms, and laundry on the first floor….
            https://www.builderonline.com/design/ibs-2023-buyer-preferences-and-home-trends-for-2023_o


            Most buyers – about three out of every four –purchased a single-family detached house (77%). Townhouses and rowhouses make up about one in ten purchased homes (9%).
            Survey Methodology/Research Approach
            In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of U.S. buyers, Zillow Group Population Science conducted a nationally representative survey of more than 4,900 buyers. The study was fielded between March and July 2022. Wherever possible, survey questions from previous years were asked in the same manner this year to allow for the measurement of year-to-year trends in key areas of business interest. This year was the first year that ZG Population Science designed, fielded and analyzed the survey entirely in-house.

            https://www.zillow.com/research/buyers-consumer-housing-trends-report-2022-31426/

            Prior to the pandemic, rent growth tended to be correlated in residential housing across structure type—single-family detached, single-family attached, and multifamily. The pandemic revealed a distinct preference by households for detached houses compared with multifamily rental buildings.
            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8521075/

  4. Tim Keller

    So there’s no point in further discussion. You’ll oppose these projects.

    I havent said that.  Not even close.  I am lobbying to improve the projects and get the best project we possibly can.   I will support whatever out best option is when it gets to the polls.  Right now, I think that we have a path to creating good, sustainable neighborhoods based on a superior model of development IF we can modify measure J.   Depending on the outcome of that, and depending on how much the developers decide to engage with community feedback and improve their projects voluntarily, that decidison to support or oppose will be variable.

    David has charachterized my position as “letting the perfect be the enemy of the good”. But that analysis assumes that we have only two set options before us.   We dont.   There is a lot that can be changed, a lot that can be done to improve the existing proposals, and there is no reason why we should just accept the options currently on the table as-is, especially when there are obvious paths to doing somethig superior.

    Clearly you’re not basing it on any sort of market analysis.

    No. Im basing my opinion 100% on market analysis.   Its just for some reason you think that we should be building what is “popular” versus what is “good for Davis”.  Those are not the same things.   We have a choice in what we permit to be built, and we can / should exercise discretion when making that choice.

    More to the point, the market data I am discussing shows that there is AMPLE demand for multifamily housing, EVEN if we accept the data you presented (which I believe to have implict bias.)

    So do we have any obligation to produce housing types that harm us?  Why?

    The state is requiring us to produce housing UNITS… it is not requiring us to make single family HOUSES.    There is no logical reason to conflate the two.

    These projects have a mix of housing densities and types.

    Agreed but the bias of the mix is the opposite of what it probably should be.

    Im not against having a mix of property types, and I accept that some amount of single family is likely to have to be part of that mix, again, especially given that land dedication has to be offset by SOMEHTING.   But again, we know that there is significant un-met demand for housing across the spectrum, and that the component of that demand which is willing to accept multi-family housing is FAR in excess of the units currently proposed for development.

    Given that it is much more in our interests to produce housing which consumes less land, causes less traffic, reduces VMT’s and has half the carbon impact, it is only logical that we produce THAT kind of housing first.  What is currently on the development roadmap is exactly the opposite.

    1. Keith Y Echols

       Its just for some reason you think that we should be building what is “popular” versus what is “good for Davis”. 

      Tim,

      I find your overall attitude that you believe you can dictate to the market to the degree you have stated is unreasonable.  Can you influence it?  Sure.  But there’s a developer moving forward with plan for a project.  To what degree do you want your ideas/plans/demands met?  What if a builder gives you 10% of what you want?  Will you oppose the project?  Are you just fine letting the project fail (assuming your support is representative of others with your beliefs) and the property moving on to another developer (in a few years) to try again?  It’s not like the city or it’s citizens are there to choose who the land owner chooses to to sell or option their property to based on their planned project.  (this is where future plans for peripheral areas would be helpful…I’d like to see county entitled property then brought into the sphere of influence).  So the land owner picks the deal that pays them best.  The developer will plan the project that will pay them the best.  And Davis will continue to be unreasonable” NO SOUP/PROJECT FOR YOU!  Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

      Look, personally I’d ideally love if the property went undeveloped.  I like open space.   Unless there’s a direct good reason to not be a Not In My Back Yard person (on an unrelated note: Jesus have we become an overly sensitive society), I see no reason to add to traffic problems and stretch the city’s already thin resources further.  I mean, I still hate the Cannery.  But I’m a realist and know that Davis has no choice but to plan for more homes to meet state requirements.  I also know that the market dictates a variety of homes (market segments) which is what builders will build.

      Given that it is much more in our interests to produce housing which consumes less land, causes less traffic, reduces VMT’s and has half the carbon impact, it is only logical that we produce THAT kind of housing first.  What is currently on the development roadmap is exactly the opposite.

      So you’re not wrong.  But what you fail to realize is that we’re past point where we can plan these things out.  Housing needs to be built over all these other needs.  Much of what you want needs to be planned on BEFORE the developer takes the property.  That’s what PLANNING is.  Instead we have developers coming to us with projects how they want it and submitting them and the the voters and city then say: no we want this, this, this, this, this, a retroactive negative carbon footprint by 2019 and organic kale garden roofs along at a 100 units/acre.  That’s not planning.  So you’re going to continue to get a limited number of developers willing to work with the city of Davis.  And that means a limited number of projects and a limited number of options on how you can influence the project.

      If you want that much granular control over a project in the city; I highly recommend supporting any initiative for the development of PUBLIC housing by the city, county and state.

    2. Don Shor

      I havent said that. Not even close. I am lobbying to improve the projects and get the best project we possibly can. I will support whatever out best option is when it gets to the polls. Right now, I think that we have a path to creating good, sustainable neighborhoods based on a superior model of development IF we can modify measure J. Depending on the outcome of that, and depending on how much the developers decide to engage with community feedback and improve their projects voluntarily, that decision to support or oppose will be variable.

      David has charachterized my position as “letting the perfect be the enemy of the good”. But that analysis assumes that we have only two set options before us. We dont. There is a lot that can be changed, a lot that can be done to improve the existing proposals, and there is no reason why we should just accept the options currently on the table as-is, especially when there are obvious paths to doing something superior.

      Okay, I apologize for mischaracterizing your position.

    3. Tim Keller

      what you fail to realize is that we’re past point where we can plan these things out.  Housing needs to be built over all these other needs.  Much of what you want needs to be planned on BEFORE the developer takes the property.  That’s what PLANNING is. 

      I would agree, In a perfect world, we would be well past the planning phase with these projects.   In a perfect world we would have a general plan and developers would be brining projects that are in compliance with that general plan.   No arguments / no drama.

      But thats NOT our reality.  In our reality we have a “policy gap” to put it mildly, and this measure J process IS the planning process by default.   Because the city has failed to create a vision for how it wants to develop itself, the developers are asked, by default to fill that gap.   And that simply is NOT = “planning”

      So I disagree that we are “past the point” where we can plan these things out.    This is the ONLY point where we have any input withe respect to “planning”.    It’s a stupid process, it’s a lengthy, expensive, inefficient process, but …. THAT is why we want to change it.

      1. Keith Y Echols

        So I disagree that we are “past the point” where we can plan these things out.    This is the ONLY point where we have any input withe respect to “planning”

        If the primary goal is to get more housing produced; then all the rest becomes trivial extra stuff (higher density, mass transit, environmental, affordability walkability…etc…) if it impedes the primary goal which again….is to get housing produced.  Like I asked you before; what’s your threshold for acceptability?  Would you be okay with getting 10% of what you want?  If you’re determined to hold fast to all the things you want from the project…you’re not going to get very far very fast.   So you’re just going to spin your wheels for quite a while and run the risk of losing the project…yes eventually another developer will try again….but again I say: Wash, Rinse, Repeat.   And you continue to build the reputation that Davis well deserves for being difficult to work with…..which carries over into other areas of development….like economic development.

        Let the current projects go through and fix the process for the next go round.

        1. Richard McCann

          Bad/no planning is worse than no housing. Otherwise we end up looking like Houston or a bunch of strip malls. Tim is absolutely correct that we have only one leverage point now and it may slow down housing. But that’s not the fault of those who want to ensure that what we build is consistent the City’s environmental and social goals, not just willy nilly as though we’re in some unanticipated emergency.

          1. David Greenwald

            “Bad/no planning is worse than no housing.”

            I think that’s a highly subjective point. On the one hand, you are correct about Houston. But there’s a trade off. Housing is far more affordable there. And they have done a far better job of dealing with the homeless. I’m not completely disagreeing with you, just pointing out the other side.

        2. Keith Y Echols

          I just don’t understand this reasoning.  To me it’s like some sort of environmental and new urbanism zealotry.  I mean I’d love to have all the zero carbon kale gardens and mass transit star trek transporters and trans-dimensional high density units (bigger on the inside than the outside) .   But I’m a realist.  This kind of thinking prevents stuff from being built.  I’d say the last 20+ years of development in Davis pretty much supports that.  It doesn’t matter who’s fault it is.  What matters is getting housing approved to meet state mandates.  Approving a project or two in the near future to meet immediate housing goals isn’t like the city is doing urban planning Crack.  Like you approve one project….the first time and you’re addicted and have to approve others.  Approve what you need and concurrently fix the plans and planning process for the future.  Then we can all enjoy our zero carbon footprint kale forest cosmopolitan urban utopia together.

        3. Richard McCann

          David

          This isn’t a subjective point–much of our dilemma in both housing and environmental impacts have been created by no planning in housing development. Suburban sprawl has created our car-centric culture that has been the largest contributor to the greatest threat we’ve ever had to our civilization (even beyond nuclear weapons.) There is no question about this despite the sand that climate change deniers try to throw in our face. (And understand in 1990 my economic analysis contributed to the defeat of the first try at reducing GHG emissions in the Big Green proposition.) Please don’t try to assert that my point that bad/no planning is worse that slowing housing development is solely subjective–it’s well backed empirically. A singular focus on housing affordability is unproductive.

        4. Richard McCann

          Keith

          Unfortunately if we just approve one project that is badly planned, future developers will make the argument that they should be given the same break. It’s like disciplining children–you need to be consistent from the outset if you want them to comply. Inconsistency  will just make it much harder the next time to comply.

          The fact is that what is being asked of these developers will not make these project infeasible. The 55% price premium that Davis housing commands leaves a lot of room to add requirements that developers might not like elsewhere. We just need to make sure that we erode that value premium too much, but we’re a long way from that. We’re talking about a $300K margin per unit.

        5. Keith Y Echols

          Unfortunately if we just approve one project that is badly planned, future developers will make the argument that they should be given the same break. It’s like disciplining children–you need to be consistent from the outset if you want them to comply. 

          That makes absolutely no sense.  That’s why planning exists so you can set the table, the expectations.  Why on god’s green earth do you believe that there’s some imaginary urban planning slippery slope that will cause the big bad developers to suddenly break free from some imaginary leash and bite you?  Seriously, your comment made me do a double take.

          Approve some projects to meet housing requirements and city fiscal needs.  Plan out the rest.  I mean good god…it’s not like city’s don’t change their mind all the time about growth objectives both population, fiscal and so on….  They call these things General Plan updates, New General Plans, Specific Plans…etc….

  5. David Thompson

    In the chart provided by Don there are 390 acres in Viillage Farms and 213 of those acres are for non multi-family units.

    An additional five acres set aside for Affordable MF housing could generate 200 units.

    Land set aside by the developer is the least costly form of housing to them as once the land is given non-profits will build the housing with funds from the feds and state and not require another dollar from the developer.

    Surely, there could be five acres of land swapped from the project total to substantially help the RHNA numbers.

    It seems such an easy action.

    My own thoughts and not representative of Neighborhood Partners LLC or the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation

     

     

     

     

    1. Keith Y Echols

      Land set aside by the developer is the least costly form of housing to them as once the land is given non-profits will build the housing with funds from the feds and state and not require another dollar from the developer.

      In terms of cash expenditure, you’re right.  But here’s how a developer looks at it:  5 acres at an average of 10 units (I’m guessing) to the acre is 50 units.  At about $700K per unit; you’re asking the developer to shave $35M off the top line.

      Something else to consider is an in lieu fee that goes to a city affordable housing fund.  Maybe Davis already has one?  But many places have a base requirement for inclusionary housing (required % of affordable housing) or an in lieu fee that goes towards a city’s affordable housing fund.

  6. David Thompson

    Keith,

    Within the 390 acres there are just over 100 acres the developer has assigned to non-housing non income bearing usage creating no return.

    Using your calculation then the developer is foregoing 10 units per acre on that 100 acres = 1,000 units = $750 million off the top line.

    It will cost the developer nothing to swap 5 acres.

    But it would give a home to 200 families who work in Davis but cannot afford to live here

    Why not shift 5 acres of the 1,000 acres of non income bearing land for affordable housing?

     

    1. Keith Y Echols

      Then the question is why has the developer set aside over 100 acres for non-income bearing usage?  I mean sure some of it has to be open area amenities to add value to the project.  Some of it maybe set aside for environmental offset reasons.   My point is that those 100 acres were set aside for a reason that adds value to the project or allows project to meet some standard.  But it’s a good question and wouldn’t hurt to ask I suppose.

  7. David Thompson

    Swapping a few acres of the 100 would allow Village Farms to do 25% of the units as permanently affordable whish was the previous requirement.

    However, while over providing in every other area Village Farms chooses to under provide affordable housing. It appears the planned goal of Village Farms is to ensure that less poor people live in Davis.

    There is room to do it but clearly not the intent.

    Is that the future Davis citizens want, a city that votes for fewer poor people per new development?

    My own thoughts and not representative of Neighborhood Partners LLC or the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation

     

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