Guest Commentary: Yolo TD Admits I-80 Will Affect Affordable Housing

Click image to watch video

Video: Exec Director calls for supporting “Super Commuters”

By Alan Hirsch

The General Plan is on Tuesday city council agenda—but not just in the item so labeled, but in a call to overturn the city policy to “strongly support” the I-80 widening.

I-80  is not just about GHG and climate, it about access to affordable housing for local residents.

While we in Davis can zone in more density like Cannery, push Davis developers to increase their affordable set aside a few precent points, and even vote a tax on ourselves to fund a housing trust, the benefit for current residents will easily be diluted by demand generated from ten thousand commuters a day, the 33% increase in freeway capacity will enable.

YoloTD Director Bernstein said at their 12/11/23 board meeting one of goals of widening I-80 is it will allow housing in Davis and Sacramento to be used to address affordable housing issues in the  Bay Area.  You can watch the video outtake linked here 1:30:00 Bernstein spins it a positive for the project—i.e.  it is good to encourage Bay Area “super commuters” to drive 2-3 hours to find affordable housing in the Sac region.

This statement by Bernstein in fact affirms critical comment in Davis city DEIR letter of 1/12/24 that challenging Caltrans for denying the wider freeway will change growth patterns.

As social policy, one can question if given the climate crisis and the need to reduce driving, we should invest hundreds of millions to “induce” more GHG generation from a super-commuter lifestyle choice instead of more dense housing in the Bay Area.

It notable that Bernstein’s positive spin on super commuters was in response to a question from the YoloTD rep from the City of Winters. Winters is rapidly turning into a bedroom community for Bay Area with a massive 11% growth in housing since 2020—a growth unsupported by local jobs. This lifestyle choice is subsidized by freeway construction. Some might call Winters’ growth a textbook example of a tragedy of commons. Wider freeways certainly benefit local merchants and landowners in Winters, and does create short term construction jobs in that town, but long term it destroys the common—our planet, by freezing in an unsustainable growth pattern and fossil fuel dependence.  The Winters City Climate Adaption Plan (CAP) says 75% of their GHG is from driving, but the plan offers no program to reduce VMT from commuting.

Housing advocates need to speak up Tuesday at council as this linkage has not been acknowledged by Davis’s two representatives on the YoloTD Board—Supervisor Lucas Frerichs and Mayor Josh Chapman.  You can write council at Davis City Council to share your position on the I-80 widening.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Richard McCann

    Winters is rapidly turning into a bedroom community for Bay Area with a massive 11% growth in housing since 2020—a growth unsupported by local jobs. 

    PG&E opened its larger Gas Safety Academy in Winters in 2018. There’s been associated businesses opening there as well. So it appears there have been a big increase in local jobs. Further, there has been no significant change in I-505 for decades. Perhaps the I-80 expansion downstream a decade ago in Fairfield has an influence, but that’s a long delay.

    1. Don Shor

      For as long as I can remember, Winters has basically been a bedroom community for Davis. People who want a rural ambience, more space and larger yard, and don’t mind the drive to work, buy out there. I know people who are cashing in on their increased equity from their Davis homes and buying in the new subdivisions in Winters, with plenty of cash left over.
      Perhaps some Bay Area residents are moving there as well, and I think the new job opportunities you’ve noted are a factor in the growth as well. As you’ve noted, I don’t think freeway expansion is really a factor.

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