Note: Wednesday, the Davis League of Women Voters will host a presentation by Davis Deputy City Manager Kelly Stachowicz on The General Plan "What Is It and Why Do We Care!", 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM, 3300 Cowell Blvd
By Jon Li
Davis’ General Plan expired in 2015, like old milk in the back of the refrigerator.
The current 2002 Davis General Plan (Housing element update 2010-15) is an update of the 1974 Plan. That plan was once ecologically innovative but the California Building Code superseded Davis’ code in 1990.
The 1987 General Plan had so little public participation that it was quickly out of date. In 1993-4, 16 Davis committees worked on policies for a new general plan in such areas as youth, seniors, art, social services, community computer networks and economic development, as well as the state mandated plan elements like housing, transportation infrastructure, public safety and open space.
Any innovation died there. A group of anti-growth activists prolonged the process several years, and buried the innovation in the back of the plan. The only thing that matters about the current Davis General Plan is kill any economic development because it might cause change.
The pressure to turn vacant land into housing is incredible. The plan prudently zoned for commercial or business use that remains vacant (because the plan makes it impossible to develop) can be rezoned for housing for immediate development. UCD jobs and Sacramento jobs give a false sense of prosperity; Davis has a real jobs/housing balance of 0.5. Davis has half of the sales tax revenue per capita of California cities, and one of the state’s least successful city economic development programs, with nothing to show for $500,000 annual expenditure for several past years.
Corvallis, Oregon is an interesting comparison. 15 miles from the state capitol, Corvallis, like Davis has a population of 65,000, and Oregon State, like UCD, has 35,000 students. The difference, according to the City of Davis State of the City Report 2017, Corvallis has 41,000 jobs, and Davis has 21,000 jobs.
Aside from the General Plan being required by law to have at least the housing element be updated every 5 years, two things make a complete re-think of a New Davis plan necessary:
- unanticipated growth of the UCD student population by several thousand students has created a tremendous housing shortage impacting Davis and surround areas, driving up the price of housing rentals, inflating the cost of living, and creating massive traffic impacts, all of which is an ecological tragedy. The Davis envisioned in the current plan is lost in the rhetoric of sustainability that is completely out of touch with reality today.
- Climate Change is real, and the Davis General Plan rhetoric about sustainability is only more hot air. Peppering the plan with the word “sustainability” may be gratifying to city council and staff, but it is worthless in the real world.
Behind closed doors, Davis city staff have spent the past 3 years spending $3 million with outside consultants, blocking any public input with a Downtown Plan Advisory Committee that is expected to rubber stamp the consultant’s report of what the city manager wants. The city has released their “FINAL” report for 90 days of public comment, and then that will be approved by the city council, and that and only that will be the future of Davis.
The General Plan is 25 years out of date. The general plan’s hurdles destroy businesses. The current general plan is a prison, without the potential for options or opportunity.
The city is totally unprepared to deal with electronic democracy, economic innovation, affordable housing, traffic problems and sustainability. Adding those words to the obsolete general plan is all the city staff is willing to allow the public to do.
We need to re-think Davis as a 21st century settlement. New Davis.