Davis Council Subcommittee Proposes a Radical Consolidation of Commission

Planning Commission in 2019

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – In what figures to be controversial a Council Subcommittee on Commissions—Mayor Josh Chapman and Vice-Mayor Bapu Vaitla—are recommending a consolidation of commissions in an effort to “to define significant, specific roles for the city’s advisory commissions in the process, especially around community engagement efforts.”

They write: “The recommendations in this report stem from the overarching goal of utilizing commissions to gather information on our community’s vision for the future.”

Five recommendations:

  • Create a Circulation and Active Mobility Commission by merging the Unitrans Advisory Committee and the Bicycle, Transportation, and Street Safety Commission.
  • Create a Fiscal Commission by merging the Finance and Budget Commission and the Utilities Commission.
  • Create a Climate and Environmental Justice Commission by merging the Natural Resources Commission and the Tree Commission.
  • Create an Equity and Culture Commission by merging the Human Relations Commission and the Civic Arts Commission.
  • Take initial steps to incorporate the Historic Resource Management Commission into the Planning Commission

The subcommittee noted, “The City Council will be discussing a process for the General Plan update in February. The Subcommittee recommends including in that discussion direction to align several of the commissions with state-mandated elements (chapters) of the General Plan.

Specifically, they explain that “we suggest asking certain commissions to spearhead the community outreach component related to each element.”

They add, “Overall, we feel that Commissions are well-placed to gather information on our community’s vision for the future.”

To facilitate the General Plan-related work, the subcommittee recommends “consolidating several of the commissions and more generally streamlining the scope of all commissions.”

They also recommend, “Given worrying recent health trends, we also recommend that Council explore the creation of a new “Community Health Commission” with a strong focus on mental health, especially among vulnerable populations (aging adults, children, youth).”

The subcommittee adds, “We stress our recommendation that all current commissioners who are willing remain on their commission until the end of their term (or they submit a resignation), even if it means larger-than-normal commissions over the next few years.”

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. Matt Williams

    This proposal is confusing … not for what it does, but for what it does not do. Specifically,

    — Why leave the senior Citizens Commission as is when it seems to so clearly fit into “a “Community Health Commission,” with a strong focus on mental health, especially among vulnerable populations (aging adults, children, youth).”

    — Why leave ]the recreation and Parks Commission free standing when it so logically fits into the new Climate and Environmental Justice (CEJ) commission?


  2. Richard McCann

    Here’s what I wrote to the City Council this week. I only heard about the outlines of this proposal last week and Council member Donna Neville said then that she had no idea of what was in the content. This sort of constitutional change requires deliberation.
    The City is overdue for reexamining its commission structure. As one of the signatories on a series of recommendations to the Council about how to change the manner in which commissions meet, consider issues and convey findings to the Council, I recognize the current system is not working at well as it could. This initial recommendation is a good way to start the conversation on what we want our commissions to focus on and how they should operate. Yet acting on these recommendations is premature, particularly since there has been no real citizen input. I urge the Council to take these recommendations out for public review before moving forward.

    The two most important issues facing the City are meeting housing demand and implementing our Climate Action & Adaptation Plan. It is unclear how this restructuring will move these two goals forward. Starting with CAAP (which will strongly affect the direction of housing), while two commissions would be consolidated (NRC & Trees), implementation requires going across as many as five commissions’ purviews. Building electrification will be closely integration with electric vehicles in multiple ways, and increasing transit use will require land use planning. Planning for shade trees will affect use of solar panels. Implementing an effective CAAP will require a more holistic perspective than what has been parsed into silos so far. No one commission (nor any staff members or departments) have sufficient expertise to provide the planning and implementation required. The Council should be looking at how it can integrate the knowledge from these commissions to advise on the CAAP.

    Similarly, solving the housing dilemma will require consideration of not only the standard zoning issues but familiarity with innovative transportation solutions, building sustainability, social equity considerations, fiscal impacts and community resiliency. Again no single commission (nor staff members or departments) have the expertise to consider these holistically. A wider range of perspectives than what comes from one commission will be needed.

    The Council should be see this proposal as a starting point, not the end recommendation.

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