By Colin Walsh
On Tuesday night (tonight) the Davis City Council will “Provide direction to staff on new Focus Items for the 2020 calendar year.” This is a time to set the general sweeping agenda for the next Council year. This is an opportunity for the Davis City Council to set priorities for 2020.
With City Council elections pushed from March to November, the current Council will be together a little longer than expected, so how will they set their priorities?
The current expressed council goals are:
- Ensure Fiscal Resilience
- Drive a Diverse and Resilient Economy
- Pursue Environmental Sustainability
- Fund, Maintain, and Improve the Infrastructure
- Ensure a Safe, Healthy, Equitable Community
- Build and Promote a Vibrant City
- Foster Excellence in City Services
- Cultivate Positive Workplace Dynamics
Every part of the Council’s goals deserve a deeper look, but let’s just look at 2 of the goals: the goal to “Pursue Environmental Sustainability and to “Drive a Diverse and Resilient Economy.
The first stated Objective in pursuing Environmental Sustainability is, “Reduce the community's carbon footprint and achieve measurable GHG emission reductions, including reduction of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).” The City goals propose to “Implement the City’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, collaborate with organizations promoting sustainable programs/projects, such as Valley Climate Action Center, Cool Davis, UC Davis, etc.”
The City’s climate action and adaptation plan can be found on the City website and is certainly worth a look. https://www.cityofdavis.org/city-hall/community-development-and-sustainability/sustainability-program/climate-change
The plan was put in motion some time ago and one wonders what the outcomes have been. There is no report or update on the City website.
There is however a March 2019 declaration of climate emergency. But no significant changes in the City’s course have been taken since then.
The Open space section of the sustainability plans seem to have nothing to do with protecting more open space at all – they are more focused on making existing open spaces and habitat areas more usable to people.
By comparison, under “Drive a Diverse and Resilient Economy,” the City is considering adding the Aggie Research Campus (ARC) as part of the goal. Because this project is oriented toward freeway commuting and will have parking for over 4,300 cars this clearly does nothing to further the goal of cutting down on car emissions. Worse, the project had 6-9,000 parking space proposed for it at one time, and it is unclear how the project has been able to reduce parking spaces since there is no transportation plan for the city, innovative or otherwise.
The ARC has such a high need for cars because the City of Davis and UCD has such a high jobs to housing ratio. UCD is a major California employer and is already a regional draw bringing commuters in from all over the Sacramento and Bay Area. If the ARC is successful, it too will draw in many of its employees from around Northern CA. That will mean more exhaust from more cars and more green house gases.
The developer will tell you that the project itself will provide housing, but there are real problems with the developers assertions.
- There is no plan for, nor any way to guarantee that people who work in the project would live in the project, though some might.
- The project doesn’t come close to providing what the project would need.
- Previously the developer said they were exempt from providing any affordable housing.
Not to mention all of these additional cars will mean more traffic on Mace and on the freeway.
Furthermore, the Aggie Research center is proposed for prime farm land – and that is becoming increasingly scarce as 40 acres of farmland is paved over an hour in the US.
Is the City really serious about reducing emissions if it is prepared to support a freeway business park like ARC? How does the Council reconcile the disconnect between its sustainability and climate goals with a retrograde car focused project like ARC?