Commentary: Davis Avoids Both the ‘Naughty’ and ‘Nice’ Lists on Housing… for Now

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By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Sacramento, CA – The Governor’s office put out a press release and what struck me was who made the list of seven communities who have earned the distinction of being “prohousing”: Eureka, Healdsburg, Mountain View, Petaluma, San Luis Obispo, Santa Monica, and the County of Tulare.

In other words, a lot of communities that are very comparable to Davis and several that have traditionally been just as growth resistant as Davis.

The Governor’s office is still pushing the need to plan for 2.5 million homes by 2030.

“California is facing a housing crisis decades in the making. While some communities fail to meet state housing goals, others have earned the distinction of being Prohousing. Prohousing communities get priority for resources to build housing to help meet the statewide goal of 2.5 million homes by 2030,” the release stated.

“We need to aggressively build more housing to support Californians. Prohousing cities move to the front of the line when it comes to incentives, funding and other state resources. It’s critical for more communities to join in this distinction and build their fair share of housing,” the Governor said.

This is part of the carrot/stick approach to housing.

The Governor’s office noted that “this goal will only be possible with the concerted efforts of state and local governments actively working to implement state housing laws and best practices. The prohousing designation rewards communities that are willing to reduce barriers to construction, lower costs, and create overall housing policies aligned with state goals.”

Prohousing communities receive additional points in the scoring of competitive housing, community development, and infrastructure funding administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).

“Communities whether large or small, rural or urban, are actively working to accelerate the development of housing for Californians at all income levels,” said HCD Director Gustavo Velasquez. “We are pleased to be able to reward our Prohousing partners with incentives to help them build on their innovative efforts to break down barriers to development.”

Davis is hard pressed to get on this list of now 37 communities.  The lack of available land for infill projects along with Measure J will effectively prevent Davis from joining a prohousing designation.

“For local leaders, earning the Prohousing designation takes commitment to policies that accelerate housing production and minimize obstacles,” the Governor’s office noted.

It is interesting that the Governor chose to announce the list when they did.  Because it came at the same time as cities faced serious penalties for housing compliance.

January 31 marked the deadline to submit a housing plan or face “serious penalties.”

Davis again was not impacted by this.  The City Council in December approved the third version of its Housing Element and is waiting to hear back from HCD on whether this time it was certified by mid-February.

For years, the state issued strongly worded letters that called on cities to address their housing needs.  The approach did not work.

So now the state has implemented a series of penalties.

“The housing need in California is still really great,” HCD’s Melinda Coy told a Bay Area TV Station. “And as a result, it has become more important that cities and counties hold to their commitments that they’re making to their own communities so that we can get the housing built.”

A number of communities as of Monday still needed to adopt a housing plan and submit them to the state.

“It’s really critical that the cities and counties basically set the table for development to occur,” Coy said. “That’s through their own powers to zone, also through their abilities to approve housing developments and facilitate their development.

“Right now, we’re evaluating those jurisdictions that actually have had to do those rezonings to make the land available to make sure that they’ve actually have completed their commitments,” Coy added.

What happens if they are not approved?  “If cities are not approved, they may lose state funding eligibility and other state-imposed consequences escalating over time.”

There is also the “builders remedy” allowing developers to bypass the planning process.

Perhaps the most serious consequence is that the state has increasingly taken local communities to court to compel changes.

This is where I think the state could come down on Davis.  Builders remedy is not likely to move the needle because the city simply lacks infill sites.

But, as I argued last week, if the state deems Measure J to be a “constraint on housing development” and the city lacks the housing sites internally to fill the need, the state or another entity could take the city to court to invalidate Measure J.

That’s not going to impact the current RHNA cycle, however.

The city for example, concluded, “While Measure J adds costs, extends processing times, and has been used to halt development projects that would convert agricultural land to urban development, it is only a constraint to meeting housing needs if the city lacks sufficient infill housing sites.”

The city continues that, at that point, “there is not currently (2021) enough land designated for residential development to meet the sixth-cycle RHNA.”

However, the city simply needed to “rezone additional sites to meet the RHNA” and they were able to identify “sufficient candidate rezone sites within its limits to meet the RHNA, averting the need for a Measure J vote.”

By the end of the cycle, of course, the council acknowledged, going forward, they will not be able to meet their housing needs through infill.

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.”

That’s where the city is going to have to worry.

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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7 Comments

  1. Matt Williams

    List of seven communities who have earned the distinction of being “prohousing”: Eureka, Healdsburg, Mountain View, Petaluma, San Luis Obispo, Santa Monica, and the County of Tulare.  In other words, a lot of communities that are very comparable to Davis and several that have traditionally been just as growth resistant as Davis.

    .

    That is a very strange statement David.  I look at those cities and I don’t see any of them that are comparable to Davis.  Eureka and Healdsburg and Petaluma and San Luis Obispo are all economic hubs for a surrounding region, while Davis is the economic hub for no region … it is a bedroom community for the economic hub in Sacramento. Santa Monica is a resort town … one that attracts lots and lots of “other people’s money” to its economy. Davis is anything but a resort town.  Mountain View is the home of Google and lots of other high tech companies.  How is that similar to Davis?

    As I said … very strange statement.

    1. David Greenwald

      We’re talking about housing and growth control policies here, not economic development.

      For example, San Luis Obispo had 41K people in 1990 and has grown at less than 1 percent per decade over the next 30 years, in 2021 it had 47K people. That’s very similar to Davis, if not slower.

        1. David Greenwald

          Ok. I really don’t understand your point. My point was a bunch of cities with a reputation for having slow growth policies are now being recognized for being prohousing. That seems to be a significant change in circumstances. The other issues you are attempting to bring in are extraneous at best.

        2. Matt Williams

          The point you were trying to make is not the point that you made. Read your words again.  You even subsetted the list.  You can argue that those cities may have had similar recent history … a narrow segment of history, but history nonetheless … but they are anything but comparable cities to Davis.

          “In other words, a lot of communities that are very comparable to Davis and several that have traditionally been just as growth resistant as Davis.

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