Do you wonder about the empty stores in Downtown Davis? Don't you wish there was somebody on the City of Davis Staff who is responsible for improving our local economy?
Last week, the City of Davis held its "Downtown Davis Plan Team Participatory Design Workshop" for four days. It was lectures by highly paid outside consultants mouthing what the Davis Staff has decided is going to be in the Downtown element of the new Davis General Plan. State law says ours is out of date now and must be updated. Davis Staff set up a process with as little public input as possible. They only want to legally check off the box "public input."
The Davis Staff has no one who cares about the Davis Economy. Davis Staff has talked nonstop about housing and growth control for so long that they don't know where to begin with the local economy, so they just don't want to talk about economic development at all. Some growth control fanatic might complain. The growth control ethos is the only thing Davis Staff care about.
The Participatory Design Workshop included seven blocks of 90 minutes to have the highly paid outside consultants DICTATE what is going to be in the next Davis general plan. Davis Staff made clear to me in October and again in November that only 5 Davis citizens will have any say about the new Davis general plan: the members of the Davis city council. By law the city council members are the only ones that Davis Staff have to pay attention to, and this time, NOBODY else is going to get in the way. Oddly enough, some members of the city council appointed Downtown Davis Plan Advisory Committee actually would like to have some influence in how the new Downtown Plan evolves. Good luck.
Last Wednesday, the first brown bag lunch topic was the Economics of Downtown, and the consultant went on and on until the time was used up, but highly paid outside consultants and their Wizard of Oz architect leader allowed the 40 people in the audience a few minutes for questions. It never occurred to the Davis Staff or the highly paid outside consultants that the audience might have a different take on what the economic numbers of the Davis Downtown might mean.
They let the public talk for TEN MINUTES about the Davis economy.
The second speaker on Historical Preservation opened by saying "I have ALL THE ANSWERS." Several of the people in the audience left discussing the economic problems of Davis, but there was no venue for them to express their concerns. While the highly paid outside consultants know a lot about image and architecture, all they know about economics is they want to be paid a lot for LOOKING GOOD. If the Davis Downtown Plan LOOKS flashy, that is all that matters.
Seven Sessions of 90 minutes in a week to talk about the Davis Downtown, and they only allowed the public 10 minutes to talk about the economy.
Davis has some big institutional problems that are growing, that the city council candidates are ignoring almost as much as the current council. The Davis Staff is running the city council, which is backwards. The Davis Staff has obligated the city council to rubber stamp the Downtown Plan that they will be presented. This is not the way a democracy with elected representatives works well: it usually backfires.
The economic report was static, not dynamic, but it was consistently dismal. The main source of sales tax downtown is automotive, and second is bars. There are very few jobs downtown, and only about a thousand people living downtown, so there is no economy there. Expecting it to become a tourist destination didn't work. They tried. They can't build enough parking structures.
The solution is to turn the Downtown into 10,000 residences by building six stories, and higher, and having jobs and housing downtown. If you want a car, pay more than double the rent. Make Downtown Davis a place where people in their 20s who have graduated can create a good economic opportunity for themselves and others.
Davis' problems with the economy and with UCD are growing worse. They are outside the realm of the general plan. Davis needs to redefine itself as a post-automobile city. The best way to do that is to go through the discussion to become a Charter City, like a quarter of California's cities.