Monday Morning Thoughts: A Development in SF to Watch – A Warning for Davis on Housing As Well

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Last week it was reported that two San Francisco Supervisors—Board President Aaron Peskin and Supervisor Connie Chan—wrote a December 26 letter to City Attorney David Chiu to advise them on the city’s “legal options.”

The supervisors believe that San Francisco has “done its fair share to spur housing production” and have been unfairly singled out by the state for failing to meet state-imposed housing goals.

It is the only the latest twist both in the city of San Francisco’s battle to get in compliance with state housing laws and the state’s ongoing battle to get local communities to build sufficient housing to pull the state out of its housing crisis.

Generally it has been the state to sue local jurisdictions—most recently La Cañada Flintridge in mid-December, an attempt to enforce housing laws such as the Builder’s Remedy.

As the San Francisco Examiner put it, “The letter is the latest development in the ongoing debate between state and local legislators over The City’s housing policy. The former feel San Francisco has dramatically failed to meet the housing needs of its residents, while the latter feel that the state has established an unattainably high bar without offering funding to help meet them.”

Ironically this pits the city of San Francisco against State Legislators, some of whom are former San Francisco Supervisors.

In their letter, they note that the state’s pressure on San Francisco amounts to “discrimination.”

“We cannot force developers to build and yet new legislation would seek to penalize San Francisco anyway,” Chan and Peskin wrote.

Of particular issue is SB 423, the extension of the Builder’s Remedy, where the Examiner noted that there was a specific provision that requires San Francisco to submit annual reviews of its progress on housing.  That amendment was secured by Senator Wiener himself.

“We need to support San Francisco in reforming its approach to housing and hold ourselves accountable for tackling the housing crisis,” said Wiener.  “This provision in SB 423 does exactly that: It provides close oversight for San Francisco’s housing permit system and ensures the city can expedite the housing it so desperately needs.”

Most cities would only have to have a midpoint check in on the eight-year process.

“Developers have chosen not to build,” Chan and Peskin wrote. “Yet the City is being penalized by allowing these same developers to essentially have peremptory powers over regular local processes.”

But Senator Wiener does not agree.  In December, he argued that the reason that San Francisco has been singled out is because it is “uniquely terrible when it comes to housing.”

“To suggest that San Francisco is somehow a nirvana for housing policy is absurd,” the Senator told the Examiner.

He argued, “San Francisco’s approach has—even where housing is permitted—dragged out the permitting process by several years.

“That’s been San Francisco’s approach, and that is very destructive,” he said.

Senator Wiener appeared this weekend to be backed up by his legislative colleague, Assemblymember Matt Haney—also a former San Francisco Supervisor.

“San Francisco hit a 10+ year low this year for new housing,” Haney posted on X.  “Instead of trying to fix that abysmal reality, which leads to some of highest rents in the country, they apparently now want to sue the state.”

He added, “Can’t make this stuff up.”

For the rest of the state, while this appears to be an extension of the San Francisco Civil War—with the Governor being a former San Francisco Mayor himself—it has deep implications.

The lawsuits like those filed against Huntington Beach, Elk Grove, and now La Cañada Flintridge will set one parameter.  The potential countersuit by San Francisco —another.  Although, again, San Francisco clearly finds itself in a different boat than the rest of the state.

But then again, Davis finds itself in a unique situation as well—a mess at least partly, if not mostly, of its own making.

A column a few weeks ago in the San Francisco Chronicle suggests that San Francisco ought to look toward Sacramento for housing solutions.

Clearly the Chronicle is not likely to sympathize with the Board of Supervisors.

The San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Board a few weeks ago finally called a spade a spade, and wrote, “How SF dropped its housing failures on this California city’s lap.”

It’s embarrassing that “the state of California has to babysit the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to get them to do the bare minimum,” Louis Mirante, the Bay Area Council’s vice president of public policy, told the editorial board.

The Chronicle’s model for proceeding, as they lay out in their editorial, is not San Francisco, but rather Sacramento.

They note, “Contrast San Francisco with Sacramento, where its city council just unanimously — unanimously! advanced housing reforms that go above and beyond what’s required by state law and may be among the most ambitious in the country.”

“Sacramento’s policy, scheduled for a final procedural vote in early 2024, aims to create what’s known as ‘missing middle’ housing — such as triplexes, fourplexes and other types of multifamily housing — near transit and in neighborhoods currently restricted to single-family homes,” they add.

The Chronicle continued, “Anyone used to San Francisco housing politics — including hours-long arguments over potential shadows cast by a proposed development — might expect that Sacramento’s single-family neighborhoods would rise in protest.”

San Francisco has been so bad that it has taken the focus off of Davis—but Davis has a lot of work to do on housing in 2024 and into 2025, or it could find itself in the state’s crosshairs sooner than it would like to believe.

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. Matt Williams

    But then again, Davis finds itself in a unique situation as well—a mess at least partly, if not mostly, of its own making.

    .

    That is a really loaded statement.  let’s unpack it

    (1) The most important part of the situation in Davis is far from unique.  Davis does not need unaffordable market rate ($900,000 to $1 million sale price) housing units. What it needs are affordable ($500,000 to $600,000 sale price) housing units.  Many cities are in that same situation.

    (2) Davis developers do not want to build $500,000 housing units and they do want to build $1 million housing units, because they walk away with more profits when they build more expensive units. Essentially all cities are in that same situation.

    (3) “… the state has established an unattainably high bar without offering funding to help meet them.” All California cities are in that same situation.

    (4) Davis has Measure J.  The entirety of Solano County has a similar “people’s right to vote” provision.  So again Davis is not unique.

    (5) Measure J was deemed necessary by the Davis voters because the City Council and City Staff and the developers of Mace Ranch all ignored and/or failed to enforce the Mace Ranch development agreement.  The result was that the voters/residents do not trust either their local government or developers.  Here too Davis is not unique.  Distrust of government is  more prevalent than not.

    (6) Davis has a shortage of undeveloped land within its City Limits.  That is probably unique when compared to other small cities, but it certainly is a situation that San Francisco and many other dense urban cities face as well.

    (7) Davis has an external force imposing/transferring its willfully-generated, annual, recurring, incremental demand for more and more housing onto the city/community, with all the associated service provision costs that come with that.  That external force is UC Davis.  The behavior of UC Davis is unique.  Berkeley and Santa Cruz receive multi-million dollar payments from their respective UCs each year in acknowledgement of the burden that they impose on their respective city by pursuing enrollment, faculty and staff increases in order to garner more revenues.  Bottom-line, UCD has established an unattainably high housing bar without offering funding to help meet that bar.

    1. Mark West

      “The entirety of Solano County has a similar “people’s right to vote” provision.”

      As a simplistic analysis, perhaps, but the two provisions could hardly be more disimilar in practice or intent.  The Solano County’s Orderly Growth Initiative was intended to limit development from occurring outside of the existing cities, not to block all development. Now that it has been incorporated into the County’s General Plan, it is a tool for assisting with rational, County-Wide planning of future developments. Measure J on the other hand was intended to block the expansion of the City of Davis and functions to prevent rational planning (or really, any planning) of future development. The two are not equivalent.

      1. Matt Williams

        Mark you are either uninformed or being purposely obtuse.  Measure J was not assembled by its framers or put before the voters in order to “block all development.”  It happened because the City Council and City Staff were either unable or unwilling (or both) to enforce the terms of the Mace Ranch Development Agreement.  As a result the housing in Mace Ranch was built out three times faster than the Development Agreement legally called for.  Further, the Council and Staff failed to properly analyze the cost of building out the services infrastructure, most notably city parks, and they had to impose a CFD on all Mace Ranch residents to fund the building of the parks.

        That was a failure to adequately plan either on the part of the developer or the City or both.  Measure J put into place the controls needed to ensure that a similar failure to adequately plan and/or adequately comply with the plan and/or adequately enforce the provisions of the plan would not happen again.

        If a developer does their job and the City does its job, then no development is blocked.  Nothing more, nothing less.

        1. Don Shor

          I was here, you were here (I think?), and Mark was here at the time Measure J was proposed and passed. I consider Mark’s analysis more accurate than yours. Supporters may have had mixed motives, but the main purpose was to put on the brakes. I don’t think voters or residents give a whit about development agreements or how they’re enforced. They care about how much housing is being built, and where. It had nothing, from the conversations at the time, to do with “failure to adequately plan and/or adequately comply with the plan and/or adequately enforce the provisions of the plan….”
          Measure J was intended to slow growth or, if possible, to stop it. Coupled with Measure H which established an upper growth limit per year, the whole discussion at the time was how much, how fast, and where, and not whether they were adhering to the technical details of a DA.

        2. Matt Williams

          Don, I have spoken directly to the people who crafted the provisions and language of Measure J.  You and Mark are putting forward a narrative that is inconsistent with the first-person evidence I have gathered from face-to-face discussions with those measure J authors.

          In fact the terms of the subsequent 1% Growth Cap discussions clearly indicate that stopping growth was never part of the equation.

        3. Matt Williams

          Mark and Don are looking at Measure J from a 2023 perspective, with a copious amount of recency bias with the passage of 24 years time.  It is important to remember that Measure J was conceived and written in 1999 and passed by the voters in 2000.  Then the Davis City Council adopted the one percent growth guideline on March 8, 2005, which was then clarified by City Council in 2008 to read ”

          “City Council adopted an annual average growth guideline of one percent based on the number of housing units and dwelling unit equivalents. At adoption, the growth guideline was approximately 260 units per year and the allotted number increases proportionate to City growth. Second units, vertical mixed use units, and permanently affordable very low, low, and moderate income and senior housing are exempt from the growth guideline. The growth guideline limits peripheral growth to 60 percent of the allowed units each year, manages infill growth, and provides for Council approval of infill projects that exceed the growth guideline. The one percent growth guideline represents a cap that is not to be exceeded except for units that are specifically exempted or allowed by the City Council as an infill project with extraordinary circumstances and community benefits.”

          For the record, the person-to-person, first hand interviews that I conducted with the specific people who crafted the provisions and language of Measure J took palce in 2007 and 2008 during the timeframe that the Housing Element Steering Committee was holding its series of 20 plus meetings.

          1. David Greenwald

            Matt you say, “Mark and Don are looking at Measure J from a 2023 perspective, with a copious amount of recency bias with the passage of 24 years time.” You then argue it important to remember… But then you don’t explain why it is important to remember and what relevance that has for the current discussion.

        4. Matt Williams

          David Greenwald said … “You then argue it important to remember… But then you don’t explain why it is important to remember and what relevance that has for the current discussion.”

          David, I’ll repeat what I already said, which provides the answer you appear to have missed.

          (1) Mark West said, “Measure J on the other hand was intended to block the expansion of the City of Davis”

          (2) I replied, “Measure J was not assembled by its framers or put before the voters in order to “block all development.”  It happened because the City Council and City Staff were either unable or unwilling (or both) to enforce the terms of the Mace Ranch Development Agreement.  As a result the housing in Mace Ranch was built out three times faster than the Development Agreement legally called for.  Further, the Council and Staff failed to properly analyze the cost of building out the services infrastructure, most notably city parks, and they had to impose a CFD on all Mace Ranch residents to fund the building of the parks.

          That was a failure to adequately plan either on the part of the developer or the City or both.  Measure J put into place the controls needed to ensure that a similar failure to adequately plan and/or adequately comply with the plan and/or adequately enforce the provisions of the plan would not happen again.

          If a developer does their job and the City does its job, then no development is blocked.  Nothing more, nothing less.”

          (3) At the risk of repeating myself, the relevance is that the residents and voters of Davis (a) don’t trust government in general, and (b) don’t trust the City Council and City Staff to enforce the terms of any development agreement.  One need go no further than The Cannery to see how development agreements get renegotiated.  Willowbank Park is another development agreement that was effectively gutted after it was initially negotiated.  The Baseline Features provisions of Measure J prevent that from happening.  Those Baseline Features provisions also force the City Council and City Staff to conduct a planning process that doesn’t result in 30 year CFD tax payments by the residents of the development.

          1. Don Shor

            The voters have approved the last two housing developments that were put in front of them. They did not approve a hybrid commercial/housing development. I see nothing about trust issues. I think, Matt, that you’re viewing all of this through your rather technocratic lens and most voters don’t think or act that way.
            By the way, my initial comment was based on my recollections of the campaign at the time. It’s entirely possible that the framers of Measure J had other motives. I’m just describing how the campaign itself played out.

          2. David Greenwald

            I think both you and Matt are missing a critical common denominator – the two projects that were approved had no traffic implications. The projects that have been voted down all have had traffic implications. Most of the projects under consideration will have some traffic impacts.

        5. Mark West

          “Mark you are either uninformed or being purposely obtuse.”

          Coming from you, Matt, that statement is hilarious.

          Measure J was intended to stop development. Full stop. There may have been some statements made at the time (and since) to give folks like you ‘plausible deniability’ about what it is you support, but the facts, and the results, are not disputable by any rational person.

          1. David Greenwald

            I would argue it is kind irrelevant as to what the intention was – the effect has been that growth has all but stopped over the last nearly 25 years.

        6. Mark West

          “Don, I have spoken directly to the people who crafted the provisions and language of Measure J. 

          As have I.

          You and Mark are putting forward a narrative that is inconsistent with the first-person evidence I have gathered from face-to-face discussions with those measure J authors.”

          I am simply reporting what I know, what I saw, and the results on the ground.

        7. Matt Williams

          Mark West said … Coming from you, Matt, that statement is hilarious.

          I’m assuming that Mark’s pithy comment above is in response to my statement, “That was a failure to adequately plan either on the part of the developer or the City or both.”  I don’t see what is humorous about my statement, but comedy is often very personal, and I’ve never been able to understand Mark’s approach to urban/business/political planning.  Given his history as a City Council candidate in 2018 who came in 8th out of 9 candidates with only 1,489 votes out of 20,196 votes cast (7.4%), if he really did want to/intend to win, a bit more planning would have been necessary.  And, with a bit more up front and ongoing planning, the demise of West-Rominger Winery also could possibly have been avoided.  So I say to Mark, physician heal thyself.

          Mark West also said … Measure J was intended to stop development. Full stop.

          That sounds like a political campaign slogan.  It also ignores the facts.  Full stop means 0% growth.  The passage of the 1% growth cap ordinance clearly shows that 0% was never on the table.  As was clearly shown in the comparison of Nishi 2016 to Nishi 2018, the inadequate/incomplete planning in 2016 resulted in a loss at the polls, while the more robust planning in 2018 resulted in a win at the polls.  The voters have shown that they respond more positively to better planning.

           

          Measure J was intended to stop development. Full stop. There may have been some statements made at the time (and since) to give folks like you ‘plausible deniability’ about what it is you support, but the facts, and the results, are not disputable by any rational person.

           

        8. Mark West

          “I’m assuming that Mark’s pithy comment above is in response to my statement, “That was a failure to adequately plan either on the part of the developer or the City or both.” “

          Wrong Matt. I quoted the statement that I was responding to. Reading comprehension is a valuable skill.

        9. Matt Williams

          David Greenwald said … I would argue it is kind irrelevant as to what the intention was – the effect has been that growth has all but stopped over the last nearly 25 years.

          The 2008 ordinance says “City Council adopted an annual average growth guideline of one percent based on the number of housing units and dwelling unit equivalents. At adoption, the growth guideline was approximately 260 units per year and the allotted number increases proportionate to City growth.”  

          Some simple math says that if 260 was 1% in 2008 then 26,000 was the baseline number of units in 2008.  Here is how the year by year construction of units has proceeded since 2008 as reported by the City to the California department of Housing and Community Development

          Year __Baseline__Units added__Percent added

          2008 __26,000_____27________0.1%
          2009 __26,027_____27________0.1%
          2010 __26,054_____21________0.1%
          2011 __26,075_____122________0.5%
          2112 __26,197 _____188________0.7%
          2013 __26,385_____54________0.2%
          2014 __26,439_____13________0.05%
          2015 __26,452_____105________0.4%
          2016 __26,557_____266________1.0%
          2017 __26,825_____214________0.8%
          2018 __27,039_____374________1.4%
          2019 __27,408_____395________1.4%

          I will chase down the 2020 and 2021 and 2022 reports and add them once I have them.  What those numbers show is the effect of the Housing Bubble Collapse and the Great Recession in 2008 through 2014, and then a return to a normal market from 2015 through 2019.

          1. David Greenwald

            “What those numbers show…”

            You’re offering one interpretation of what the numbers show (and then acting as though it is the only one).

          2. Don Shor

            Your numbers clearly demonstrate that construction of the homes in The Cannery began in 2015 and came on the market in 2016. The Cannery, of course, only needed three votes to pass.

        10. Walter Shwe

          Only 395 units for 2019 is absolutely pathetic. The messily 1% growth cap is just as pathetic. That’s why Matt Williams is fast becoming a NIMBY zealot on par with the likes of Eileen Samitz. BTW if Davis voters don’t like their Council representatives, just vote them out rather than engaging in NIMBY socialist obstructionism.

          1. David Greenwald

            Again, I don’t think that’s a fair characterization of Matt. However, there are some problems with his data interpretation.

        11. Matt Williams

          David Greenwald said …. You’re offering one interpretation of what the numbers show (and then acting as though it is the only one).

          Your parenthetical comment is a unilateral inference on your part.  Nowhere in anything I posted did I imply or overtly state any such thing.  I have stated often here on the Vanguard that for the vast majority of questions I believe there is no single “right” answer … rather there are many right answers, which are more or less “right” depending on your framing/biases.  That is even more true in interpretations which are like opinions … everybody has one.

          Bottom-line, the data is the data … and is part of the public record.

          For example Walter’s interpretation is that “395 is absolutely pathetic,” but that interpretation only holds up if your framing is that unless Davis added 395 jobs in the same period, the City has taken on a net negative fiscal and environmental obligation by adding housing that is inhabited by residents who have to (choose to) commute to employment across the Causeway or down I-80 in the Bay Area.

          Walter has no idea what a NIMBY actually is, so his spewing his customary venom at me just shows how disconnected from reality he is.  He could actually reach out to me and sit down over a cup of coffee and become informed, but he probably will be too lazy to do so,  if he did he would learn that I very publicly fought for an additional 3,000 to 5,000 beds at Nishi in the 2018 election.

          1. David Greenwald

            The data may be the data, but the interpretation you offered does not necessarily follow from the data. Part of the problem is that the data you are offering are at the 30,000 level. But that masks the changes that took place. (1) all units are not created equally. (2) the shift from peripheral to infill. (3) the shift to multi family apartments rather than single family homes. The result is that the market in 2018 was the not the market that existing in 1996.

        12. Matt Williams

          Don, the insults of Mark and Walter don’t bother me at all.  What would be more useful whenever an insult is thrown about, is for the person making the insult to explain why they believe the insult is warranted.  For example, in my 6:05pm comment to Mark the first sentence (which either could be insulting or could be accurate) is followed by a cleasr explanation of why I thought his prior comment fell way, way short of the mark.
          Mark’s reply, “Coming from you, Matt, that statement is hilarious” provides no insight into where the humor in my 6:06 comment lies, or why it is particularly humorous coming from me.

  2. Richard McCann

    (1&2) Davis just needs more housing. For most places affordable housing is just older housing that wealthier households move out of into newer bigger housing. (The same is true of cars–less well off consumers predominantly buy used.) This has been the natural process for generations, but Davis cut this off by failing to allow construction of new developments. Developers haven’t built for mid income housing since the early 1970s. Look around Davis at pre Mace Ranch housing and you can see this pattern. All of the 1990s housing is for higher income households except where Affordable units were required. Developers won’t build $500K houses because they haven’t built for that market for at least 40 years.

    (3) Agreed. When the state took away the incremental property tax revenues when ending redevelopment agencies, it undermined the incentive for adding housing. The property/sales tax split already was biased towards commercial development–that made it worse. The solution is very easy if the Legislature is brave enough to give up a small portion of its tax revenues, which is to again provide that incremental revenue for new developement.

    (4) There’s lots of places that growth control measures, but they also differ in how they work. Davis’ appears to be particularly adverse in how in how it forces developers to gamble in an election. We would need a survey of these measures to see how Davis’ stacks up.

    (5) Agreed. The City has mishandled both Mace Ranch and the Cannery. That the DISC developers were unwilling to go from development agreement conditions to baseline features–the former open for negotiation, the latter not–indicates how the developers have come to believe the City government is malleable.

    (6) Since Davis is a small city (with substantial open lands around it), it is largely unique in its strength of growth controls that is causing its land shortage.

    (7) UCD is bearing much of the costs associated with its presence that UCB and UCSC are not. UCD has its own fire department, one of only 6 nationwide, that provides mutual assistance to the City fire department. It’s police force is more extensive than at least the UCB one (which I’m more familiar with than UCSC.) It has its its own water, wastewater and solid waste utilities which the other campuses do not. It also will be housing almost half of its students shortly, while other major universities house 40% or even less than 30% of their students.  Regardless, the population pressures on Davis created by UCD arise, just as they do in Berkeley, from the attractive presence of a research university. That in turn raises the housing price premium and the apparent wealth of Davis homeowners, but also prices newcomers out until more housing is added to bring the market back into equilibrium.

    1. Matt Williams

      Richard, regarding (1) and (2) what rational reason do you believe exists for Davis needing more unaffordable housing ($900,000 to $1 million sale price, especially since our experience with The Cannery shows us that those new homes will be almost all purchased by empty nesters fleeing the Bay Area.  What “greater good” is accomplished by adding more of that demographic group to Davis, especially since the cost of providing City services to those added residents is greater than the revenues the City receives over the life of the new housing.

      Regarding (4)  If it weren’t for the bad actions of the City and the developers, going to the ballot box would not be necessary. Measure J was not assembled by its framers or put before the voters to deal with a generic situation that exists in other California cities.  It happened because the City Council and City Staff were either unable or unwilling (or both) to enforce the terms of the Mace Ranch Development Agreement.  As a result the housing in Mace Ranch was built out three times faster than the Development Agreement legally called for.  Further, the Council and Staff failed to properly analyze the cost of building out the services infrastructure, most notably city parks, and they had to impose a CFD on all Mace Ranch residents to fund the building of the parks.

      That was a failure to adequately plan either on the part of the developer or the City or both.  Measure J put into place the controls needed to ensure that a similar failure to adequately plan and/or adequately comply with the plan and/or adequately enforce the provisions of the plan would not happen again.

      If a developer does their job and the City does its job, then no development is blocked.  Nothing more, nothing less.

      Regarding (6) there are well-established and well-tested procedures for annexations administered by each County LAFCO.  The open land is under the jurisdictional control of Yolo County … until it isn’t.

      Regarding (7) because of the external housing demand imposed by UCD on the City, the housing market is MASSIVELY out of supply/demand balance.  Simple calculations based on enrollment, faculty and staff increases at UCD over the past 20 years show that Davis in its current market state is short well over 10,000 beds,more than likely 10,000 units, to support that artificially inflated market reality.  The result is that UCD students are forcing non-students out of the Davis housing market by driving up the housing prices, and landlords are lining their pockets with the premium rents that they are able to charge wile not incurring parallel premium costs.

      A perfect example of this can be seen in what has happened with on-campus housing at UCD. A substantial portion of the “added beds” UCD has added have been accomplished by converting single occupancy rooms into double occupancy, but the new rent for the converted unit is not 50% of the old rent.  The new dual occupancy revenue for the same unit is well over 100% of the old revenue.  That means the opportunity to provide “more affordable” housing on campus is squandered thanks to the pursuit of increased revenues.

      1. Walter Shwe

        If a developer does their job and the City does its job, then no development is blocked.  Nothing more, nothing less.

        Boy are you a NIMBY Matt. That is not what’s actually happening in real life.

  3. Matt Williams

    Also for the record, here is the public comment I made to City Council in 2008 when they deliberated on the adjustments that they were considering to the March 2005 Growth Guidelines.

     
    Ladies and Gentlemen of the Council,
    Your time is valuable, and there isn’t any way I can do justice to Agenda Item 6 in 2 minutes of Public Comment on Tuesday, so please accept this e-mail as a more thorough study of that Agenda Item.
    Summary
    Clarifying the Cap vs. Target wording of the One Percent Growth Guideline Resolution (hereinafter referred to as “the Guideline Resolution”) is the easy part of what Council needs to do Tuesday. I believe the Council in 2005 was wise enough to recognize that the 1% Guideline may need a mid-course correction, and mandated that such a correction should take place no later than 2010.  I would argue that such a mid-course correction is needed now. Why do I feel that way? 
    ·       Numbers like 325 homes, or 260 homes or 1% growth don’t help address Council’s 3/8/05 discussion of, “We need housing to take care of the people we add to Davis who work here.”
    ·       The assumptions that are the foundation of the 2/19/2003 Bay Area Economics Internal Housing Needs Analysis (which was the basis for recommendations in the 3/12/2003 Planning Department Staff Report), either have been superceded, or were flawed to begin with.
    ·       Bay Area Economics assumption in its Needs Analysis stated that Davis’ needs are based on natural growth and UCD research park growth., but that doesn’t take into consideration that construction in UCD research park ended years ago, and that the recent UCD decision to proceed with West Village will provide all the housing needed by UCD research park employees … and then some.
    ·       Bay Area Economics’ assumptions were based on a SACOG allocation that was 4 times larger than the current final SACOG fair-share number.  If SACOG has assigned growth allocations correctly, wouldn’t it be appropriate to consider converting the 1% Growth Guideline into a 0.25% Growth Guideline?
    If we make a mid-course correction now, when we do add new residences to Davis we will be in a much better position to achieve the ideal scenario where the person buying each of those new residences is going to work in Davis.  That truly will be a major step toward accomplishing, “We need housing to take care of the people we add to Davis who work here.”
    We can never truly control the infinite regional demand for Davis housing.  However, we can do our best to ensure that the housing built here is more attractive to the members of the Davis workforce than it is to the person who wants to get in their car each morning and contribute to Davis traffic and the Davis carbon footprint, while they commute to their job in Sacramento.

    Logic Behind the Position Taken in the Summary
    The 2/12/2008 Planning Department Staff Report (hereinafter referred to as the “Hess/Wolcott Report”) prepared by Katherine Hess and Bob Wolcott for your upcoming discussion and clarification of the Guideline Resolution does a good job of:
    1)     Outlining the background/history behind the Guideline,
    2)     Identifying steps that should have (and may have) happened since the Guideline Resolution was passed, and
    3)     Framing the questions, you will be discussing on 2/12/08.
    Looking at those three points.
    With respect to point 1,
    The “Evolution of the current resolution” section of the Hess/Wolcott Report needs some expansion because the evolution of the issues leading up to the passage of the Guideline Resolution began well before March 12, 2003.  Council first agendized this issue on July 31, 2002, and discussion of it began well before that.  In a 2/24/03 Staff Report (hereinafter referred to as “the Emlen Report”) prepared for the 7/31/02 Council meeting, the author of the report, Bill Emlen, got to the heart of the matter when he wrote,
    “It would be premature at this point to imply that the current housing market is beginning to challenge the assumptions contained in the recently adopted [May 2001]General Plan update.  Nonetheless, the markets do appear to be responding to local and regional demand, which remains quite high while new housing production, particularly single-family housing, continues to drop in the city.”
    Four words in those two sentences jump out from the others … “local and regional demand” Those four words beg the question, “What is regional demand for Davis housing?”  The Emlen Report does a good job of answering that question when it says:
    “While staff in no way would suggest that we can ever grow to meet what seems to be an insatiable demand, it would be prudent to consider if some long term adjustments should be considered to avoid a bubble of pent up demand that could ultimately burst in poorly planned growth.”
    The only way the demand for Davis housing can be insatiable is if one takes into consideration both internal and external demand for that housing.  Given Davis’ population, and the historical job growth in Davis and at UCD, any insatiability of housing demand is almost entirely attributable to people from outside Davis who want to move to Davis and then commute to their jobs in cities other than Davis.  To address this reality of insatiable demand, Emlen goes on to say,
    “Proactive planning will be a key element of this effort.  Finding ways to change, while maintaining the city’s vision and values will be critical.”
    “Compliance with State fair-share requirements is also a critical factor in balancing the immediate demands for housing with the community’s longer term objectives.  The Council should be aware that if the City takes an overly aggressive approach to infill and develops most of all of the infill sites prior to 2007, there may be few sites remaining to accommodate the fair-share requirements [of the future].”
    The bottom-line of Emlen’s words is that regional demand for housing in Davis was (and continues to be) insatiable.  Thankfully in the months following the Emlen Report Council took the steps outlined in the Hess/Wolcott Report, culminating with the passage of the Guideline Resolution.
    Moving on to point 2,
    The Puntillo/Souza Council subcommittee (hereinafter referred to as “the Subcommittee”) recommendations sections of the Hess/Wolcott Report note that:
    “Council previously selected a growth amount … after accepting half of the needs based on natural growth and UCD research park growth.”
    “The Subcommittee also recommended that growth be managed by the following tools to ensure that peripheral and infill development decisions are consistent with growth guidelines: … create a new development status monitoring and reporting system; use reports in decisions on projects on their timing; provide annual report and adopt annual resolution to direct prospective developers and staff where the city will consider growth and development …”
    “Davis is in a unique position of having a great deal of control of the approval of new developments through general plan amendments and/or zonings. The city can make informed decisions on new projects and control their timing.”
    The City Council discussion section of the Hess/Wolcott Report notes:
    “We need housing to take care of the people we add and work here.”
    “Go to year 2010 and then decide if it is working or if changes are needed.”
    “The City Council also added that the growth guideline would be tied to the 2010 General Plan and would not extend to year 2015 as recommended by the Subcommittee.”
    Regarding point 3, which is the meat of the matter,
    The clarifications suggested in the Hess/Wolcott Report are a good start, but so much has happened since 3/8/05, that Council’s decision to give the Guideline Resolution limited life and “decide if the Guideline is working or if changes are needed” was very wise. 
    What are some of those key “happenings”?
    1)     The final RHNA allocation from SACOG for the 2006-2013 period came in at 498 residential units rather than the 1,932 units projected in the Subcommittee report.
    2)     The first Measure J vote was completed.
    3)     UC Davis announced its plans for West Village
    4)     The Subprime Mortgage crisis has significantly reduced housing demand
    5)     I am not aware of the existence of any of the annual development status monitoring reports or annual resolutions discussed in the Hess/Wolcott report, which are included in subsection (2) of the Growth management system concepts section of the Guideline Resolution.
    6)     I am unable to find the “amendments to the growth management and housing sections of the General Plan and the Phased Housing Allocation Ordinance” called for in Section 2.a. of the Guideline Resolution.
    Those last two apparent “non-happenings” make me wonder whether Davis really is in the “a unique position of having a great deal of control of the approval of new developments.”   However, those concerns are overwhelmed by the fact that the first four “happenings” make it clear that the initial assumptions that went into the 2/19/2003 Bay Area Economics Internal Housing Needs Analysis have either been superceded, or were flawed to begin with.
    Conclusion
    As I said at the beginning of this e-mail, clarifying the Cap vs. Target wording is the easy part of what Council needs to do Tuesday, however, it would be wrong to stop there. 
    ·       We do not need numbers like 325, or 260 or 1%.  We need housing to take care of the people we add to Davis who work here.
    ·       Bay Area Economics assumption that Davis’ needs are based on natural growth and UCD research park growth, doesn’t take into consideration that construction in UCD research park ended years ago, and therefore no longer adds an annual increment of new jobs to Davis.  Why doesn’t the incremental housing growth stop when the jobs growth stopped.
    ·       West Village now provides all the housing needed by UCD research park employees … and then some.  Shouldn’t that be figured into the housing equation?
    ·       Bay Area Economics’ assumptions were also based on a SACOG allocation that was 4 times larger than the current final SACOG fair-share number.  As I said before, if SACOG is right, wouldn’t it be appropriate to consider converting the 1% Growth Guideline into a 0.25% Growth Guideline?
    It bears repeating, that the Council in 2005 recognized that the 1% Guideline may need a mid-course correction, and mandated that that correction take place no later than 2010.  The events outlined above clearly demonstrate that such a mid-course correction is needed now. 
    Because of the larger economic issues facing our country and our state, this is an ideal time to step back and assess where we are, and where we are going.  If we do that now when the housing markets are in a pause, then when we do add new residences to Davis we will be in a much better position to achieve the ideal scenario where the housing built in Davis is more attractive to the members of the Davis workforce than it is to the person who wants to get in their car each morning and contribute to Davis traffic and the Davis carbon footprint, while they commute to their job in Sacramento.
    Thank you again for your time and your consideration.

     

    1. Mark West

      Matt:

      Regurgitation of past excesses is not an admirable quality when it comes to public discussions, regardless of how much you like the sound of your own voice.

  4. Ron Glick

    One important thing that Matt seems to have missed is that the 1% growth cap was the minimum allowed by law. If they could have gone lower, the council at that time, with the support of anti-growth members of the community would have done so, just as Matt advocates in the comments he cites above.

    The fact that they went with the minimum allowable limit reinforces that the intent was to reduce home construction as much as legally possible as stated in the language that was used at that time..

     

    1. Matt Williams

      Ron, the Council in 2005 was Mayor Ruth Asmundson, and council members Saylor, Sousa, and Puntillo, all of whom were pro growth, plus Sue Greenwald, the lone slow growther.  In 2008 Puntillo had been replaced by Lamar Heystek.  Those were the years of the “gang of three” votes.  Definitely inconsistent with your assessment.

      1. David Greenwald

        As I recall the debates, Sue Greenwald wanted the growth limit below 1% arguing that such a rate was akin to developing a Wild Horse or Mace Ranch everyone few years. She was joined by Lamar at that time. However, the council majority backed one percent, although they made it a cap rather than a target. And as far as I know, the city has never really even approached one percent since that time, so it has always been a moot point.

        1. Matt Williams

          David, you could be right, but I don’t remember Sue advocating for less than 1%.  The real “heat” in the 2008 debate was over (1) whether it was a cap or target, and (2) whether any annual shortfall from the 1% would carry over into the next year’s cap.

           

  5. Ron Glick

    As someone who was a renter at that time and wanted a home, it occurred to me that the people who, in the name of preserving Davis, were in favor of restricting home construction, were people who showed little concern as to whether I would be able to afford living here.

    When I finally bought a home, my family decided that now that we a had a home, we weren’t going to be like the people have homes but who don’t want anyone else to have one.

    I believe the record of all my writings demonstrates my unwavering adherence to that principle.

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