Commentary: North Covell Creek Cools the Room Temperature – But the Issue Isn’t Gone

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – Yesterday the Vanguard broke the story that owner of the Wildhorse Golf Course has withdrawn his application for the North Covell Creek development.

They had met with neighbors the two previous weeks—and the sessions, not surprisingly, were well attended and they received a lot of feedback.

The applicants made the right decision—and frankly the only decision that they could have made.  Even people who generally support housing were opposed to the plan to build housing on the northern part of the Golf Course which sits on a conservation easement, though many disagreed as to why they opposed—one common denominator is that when the project was built, the community was told this would be preserved as open space.

With all of that said, this issue is not likely to go away.  That’s because the underlying issues have not been resolved.

Clearly mistakes were made here—and I think they were probably not made in bad faith.

Several people have told me—and I completely agree—the applicants went about this process backwards.  I think they should have led with meetings with the neighbors and stakeholders first.  Figured out the issues and worked with the neighbors to see if there was common ground.

Make no mistake—there might not be any here, but that’s a first step for sure.

Coming with a proposal first turned up the temperature in the room and I’m sure came as a stunning shock to many residents nearby—but also to residents who were involved in this issue 30 years ago.

By withdrawing the application, they now bring that temperature way down and can have some dialogue with the neighbors and other stakeholders about what the future looks like.

As I said, the issues are not going away.  There is a real concern about the long-term viability of the Gold Course as an 18-hole course.  They were trying to thread that needle by developing the north half, reducing it to a 9-hole while using the golf course as a buffer for the neighbors.  Clearly, that did not appeal to most people who believed—and rightly so—that the golf course was set aside as open space in perpetuity.

But if the applicants are correct, simply withdrawing the application doesn’t solve that problem.

As a housing advocate, I was torn between the prospect of a 500- to 700-unit project that might not require a vote of the people that could provide us with vital space for housing and the fact that the politics here were probably way too hot to get any kind of reasonable consensus.

The housing issues are not going away either.  The city has its own housing crunch.  Moreover, the state is bearing down on all local jurisdictions to do their part to address the statewide housing crisis and, at the end of the day, the city does not have enough space internally to address the next cycle of RHNA without pulling in some peripheral property.

This project could have gone a long way to address some of that along with the two Measure J projects in the works.

It’s a tradeoff in the end.  Not building here doesn’t mean that housing won’t get built, it just means it will get built somewhere else.  Is it better to build on half a golf course or on current farmland?  That’s what it is going to come down to.

I’m not going to ignore the other issues here with respect to a conservation easement—that is something that clearly needs to be addressed.

Are there deals to be struck?  Can there be tradeoffs?  I don’t know.  But now that the temperature has cooled slightly and there is no impending project, maybe those talks can happen and then we’ll see.

In the end, the owners of the golf course are going to have to figure out their future and the city is going to have to figure out its future.  Where that lands, we’ll find out in the coming months and 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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