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July 2020

Why I am running for City Council

Larry-bkyd-swtr-20By Larry Guenther

I am running for City Council because I am frustrated with decisions that have been made and opportunities that have been missed.  And I'm running because I am hopeful and know our community can do better.

I am frustrated when our Police Accountability Commission asks the City to improve transparency and accountability by reviewing the Picnic Day Report – a report all parties agree has factual errors – the City Council unanimously votes no.

I am frustrated that when the Police Department asks for an armored vehicle and more surveillance equipment, the City Council unanimously votes yes.

I am frustrated that:

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Keeping My Commitment to the Community

Screen Shot 2020-07-31 at 7.51.43 AMBy David Taormino

The list of challenges for residential developers and builders in Davis is long and well known.

To be honest, our community’s reputation for opposing nearly all growth was a major hurdle when we presented Bretton Woods to 14 financially qualified and experienced national home builders. Almost all solicited builders turned down Bretton Woods without any consideration of the project’s merits, with its Davis location cited as their deciding factor. Several builders that turned it down are currently building in Spring Lake, aka “North North Davis,” where 80 percent of buyers come from Davis.

Voters approved Measure L in November 2018, with the understanding that Bretton Woods would be a community intended to accommodate current Davis residents, and that 90 percent of sales would be limited to Davis connected buyers. This was what I pledged, and my commitment to achieving this goal remains unchanged.

In October 2019, I asked the City, on behalf of the builder, to amend the Development Agreement (DA). The builder requested that the City remove the 90 percent Davis connected limitation from the DA for two reasons — they would have more autonomy if the market for Davis based seniors was not as substantial as expected; or if someone filed a discrimination-oriented lawsuit. Some in the community criticized this request to remove the language pertaining to the Davis Connected Buyers Program a “bait and switch.” I want to explain why that is not the case.

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Walsh Seeks City Council Seat In District 2

Walsh4Davis(From press release) Colin Walsh is running for Davis City Council in District 2 (see map). Walsh states he is motivated to run “out of a deep love for our community and from a sense of duty and service”. If Walsh had to sum up his campaign platform in two words they would be “transparency” and “inclusivity” he says. 

As someone who grew up in Davis, but has lived in many cities, Walsh values the fact that Davis has become home for people from all over the world. He now lives on the same street he grew up on with his two children and his mother. Colin works as a litigation graphics and technology consultant and has led teams supporting civil trials in courts across the country.

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Honu and Moa: Hawaiian Storytime in the Park with Edna Cabcabin Moran

An invitation from Multiculturalism Rocks! and Sol Summer Camp Davis

Image0(From press release)

Date: Friday, July 31, 2020
Time: from 10 am - 1 pm
Location: Central Park, Davis, CA (We will be at the carousel and picnic tables).
Please wear a mask, bring a hand sanitizer (extra will be provided). The 6-feet rule will be enforced.

Be treated this Friday to a Hawaiian Storytelling & Hula Dancing Lesson by author/educator Edna Cabcabin Moran! Edna (https://kidlitedna.com/) is an author, illustrator, educator and climate change activist based in the Bay Area. This Friday she will:

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Improving City of Davis Decision Making: An Open Letter

Screen Shot 2020-07-23 at 9.29.40 PMInformed and transparent decision-making is an essential pillar of good local governance. In Davis, this pillar is eroding. Recent years have seen multiple alarming instances of secretive action, shortsighted planning, and disconnect between community and leadership priorities.

We the undersigned—including current and former members of city commissions—call on City Council to address these issues. Specifically, we urge swift adoption of the attached common- sense proposals regarding (1) transparency, information disclosure and public engagement, (2) city commissions, and (3) advancement of significant actions and initiatives.

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Rebuttal to University Commons Staff Report


By Greg Rowe

This is a rebuttal to the staff report on the proposed University Commons project.  It falsely implies that limiting 4-bedroom units to 45% of the 264 units (or 119 units) is a developer concession.  But as stated in the EIR Notice of Preparation (November 16, 2018, p. 4), the developer originally proposed that 66 units (25%) would have 4 bedrooms. The 45% cap now offered is higher than the original proposal by 20 percentage points and 53 units. Specifying there would be no units with 5 or more bedrooms is meaningless because the original proposal had no such units.

The report asserts student oriented rental projects can have a beneficial impact by easing pressure on single-family neighborhoods and reducing competition for single-family rentals. That would be true if UCD's student population remained static, but UCD's July 16 "University News" confirms that UCD is continuing its relentless enrollment growth far beyond the City's ability to respond. UCD offered fall 2020 freshman and transfer admission to a record high 45,820 applicants, including 35,838 freshman admissions, a jump of 17.5% above last year.  The campus expects to enroll 9,500 freshmen and transfer students, or 5% more than fall 2019. The upshot is that UCD's student growth will outpace available housing no matter how many more student projects the City approves. The need for rental housing near campus for UCD employees has meanwhile not been addressed.

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Please Endorse the Planning Commission's Unanimous Vote Against the Umall Project


The following letter was sent to the Davis City Council and is reprinted here at the request of the author.

Dear City Council,

I am writing  to ask you to support the unanimous decision of the Planning Commission to not  approve the U-Mall project for all of the reasons they gave and the ones that were elaborated on in great detail by Commissioner Rowe. I will only highlight several key points.

Firstly, let it be noted that last week UCD projected that fall enrollment would be almost 40,000 students, or, I think, 13.6% above last year. I am a retired university professor and I have lived in university towns all my life in the US and UK. I am not anti-student. I continue to like living in a university town and that was one reasons I moved here in 2000 and bought my first house. However, I never imagined that UCD's rapid enrollment expansion would, and will further,  drastically re-shape the city. I don't have time to crunch a bunch of numbers but few cities in the US can have such a high proportion of students to its population. Furthermore, until about five years ago I was not aware of UCD's abysmal record, the worst in the UC system, of building on-campus student housing.

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Petition for change in Yolo County

(From press release) Three local grassroots organizations, Yolo People Power, Envisioning Justice Partnership-West Sacramento, and Three Sisters Gardens have launched an online petition which acknowledges systemic anti-Blackness and racism in our structures of governance, and demands changes in how we envision and provide public safety. The petition calls upon Yolo County and its local municipal governments to join jurisdictions from across the nation in recognizing policing as a public health issue, and propose a transition from a weaponized approach to a public safety model. The petition is informed and inspired by programs like Eugene, Oregon's CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) which differentiates which responders are most appropriate for each call. This means employing mental health and substance abuse specialists, social workers, and advocates for the houseless community, who are not affiliated with police departments, to respond to most calls.

The petition also calls for an intervention into the mechanisms of participatory democracy, to ensure that marginalized communities are well-represented in decision-making processes, and have the opportunity to speak for themselves. Toward this end, the petition calls on policy-makers to host community forums around public safety in the next three months, and develop proposals for community review prior to the 2021 budget cycle.

All Yolo County residents are welcome to sign the Change.org petition, which has been endorsed by Indivisible Yolo. The petition can be found online at http://bit.ly/3hdaJDf

Looking for leadership to do the right thing this time around

COVID-19 is all about concentration

Png-clipart-crowd-cartoon-characters-illustrationBy Roberta Millstein

We were flattening the curve.  We were staying at home.  We were doing the right thing.  Then our leaders – county, state, and federal – blinked.  They caved to pressure from the business community to “open up.”  And they opened up even where it made no sense to open up: bars, restaurants, churches, movie theaters. Now the prevalence of COVID-19 is far worse in our region than it ever was.

Here is what our leaders should have said to the business community:  “If we open up, cases will spike and we will have to shut down again.  Not only will it be costly to ramp up only to have to close down again (especially for restaurants), but also, it will delay an economic recovery even further.” In other words, they should have led.

Instead, they somehow expected that families and friends from different households wouldn’t get together even though people were getting together in bars.  And now they blame citizens instead of blaming themselves for putting out a mixed and inconsistent message.

There are some sensible ways to open up, but they require paying attention to “The Six C’s” (Note: I have modified this from others):

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Over 1,700 Signatures Collected for Petition Calling for DJUSD Special Election

YCDIE(From press release) In the span of 7 days, the Yolo Committee for Diverse and Inclusive Elections (YCDIE) collected over 1,700 signatures (1,472 of which were submitted this morning) for a petition calling for a special election to fill the seat on the Davis Joint Unified School District’s governing board that was vacated when board president, Cindy Pickett, resigned on June 30, 2020. This is in excess of the 1.5% of registered voters needed to qualify for the ballot. The vacated seat was originally filled through a provisional appointment made by the DJUSD Board of Trustees on July 2, 2020. This appointment resulted in an overwhelmingly white board that does not reflect the diversity of Davis. A successful petition will terminate that appointment and allow the voters to decide on who should fill the seat. The petition was submitted to the Yolo County Office of Education on July 14, 2020. The Yolo County Superintendent of Schools, Garth Lewis, now has up to 30 days to verify the signatures and call for a special election.

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City Council Should Heed Planning Commission’s University Mall Recommendation

Screen Shot 2020-07-09 at 2.54.07 PMBy Greg Rowe

Some Davis residents have publicly questioned the planning commission’s May 27 unanimous rejection of the University Commons redevelopment proposal.  After carefully evaluating this project for 18 months, I suggest that decision reflects the community’s expectation that the commission will uphold good land use practices and support neighborhood integrity.   

Instead of simply modernizing University Mall, the owner (Brixmor) wants to convert it to a large student housing complex with retail, offices and other features to purportedly serve community needs.  Brixmor’s March 2018 application included 174 housing units comprising 552 bedrooms within 208,606 square feet (sf). But 8 months later when the city issued an EIR “Notice of Preparation” (NOP), the apartments had increased by 90 units and almost doubled in area to 412,000 sf with 894 beds. There was no explanation for this increase.  

The NOP said the 264 apartments would consist of 66 one-bedroom units, 104 two-bedrooms, 28 three-bedrooms, and 66 four-bedroom units (25%), focused on student bed rentals. But as I explained at the May hearing, a 2019 survey of Davis apartment complexes revealed that 76% of surveyed units have only 1 or 2 bedrooms. Units with 4 or more bedrooms comprise just 6% of surveyed apartments, compared to the 25% sought for University Commons. These factors clearly reveal Brixmor’s intent to exclusively cater to student renters because families are better served by conventional apartments.

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Local Clergy Comment on Affordable Housing

The owners of the University Mall, the Brixmor Property Group, have applied to the City for permission to demolish the existing shopping center and replace it with a mixed-use project of 264 apartments and 136,000 sq ft ground-floor retail.

We also note that Commissioner Darryl Rutherford has stated that the Commissioners themselves had multiple objections. "I'm a little disappointed in what we're seeing here." He called the proposed affordable housing plan ($600,000 in lieu fees) "an atrocity" and a "slap in the face."

Historically, Davis once had one of the strongest inclusionary housing requirements in the state. That policy intended to create affordable units in every major rental project built in Davis, enabling low-income families to live in Davis, and create the possibility of a robustly diverse community. Many minority households whose members work in Davis are part of the low-income population and these affordable units were often their only entry to living and working in Davis.

However, of the 264 apartments being given permission to be built on the University Mall site in Davis, not one of those 264 units will be set aside as an affordable unit.

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DJUSD, "Representation is crucial"

Discussions following the school board’s decision to fill Dr. Pickett’s seat exposed many deep feelings. As I listen, I grow increasingly frustrated that people of color are again repressed from a decision-making position.

Assuming good will, the issues are more deep-seated than what I hear. The trustees who made the decision believe they chose the best candidate. They chose from their perspective, values and experiences. The hidden flaw in all decisions is unconscious bias. We only see what our minds allow us to, unless we choose to uncover our shadows.

The next decision-making piece is the importance of representation. Reflect on these scenarios:

You’re a man, looking at a board of all women. Do you feel your voice will be represented?

You’re a woman, looking at an all-male board. Do you feel your voice will be heard?

You’re white, looking at a board where every member is a POC. Do you feel your voice will be represented?

You’re a POC, looking at an all-white board. Do you feel your voice will be heard?

The last point is choosing the best candidate. As a leadership coach, I encourage clients to consider the best candidate, looking beyond qualifications. What an organization needs when hiring is based on measured results, and accountability to the mission and goals. Start with determining the minimum competency requirements, followed by what characteristics and skills are needed to fulfill the organization’s mission. The most qualified candidate is the one who meets the required qualifications and best matches the characteristics and skills needed to fill those gaps.

Using this lens to fill Dr. Pickett’s seat, what are the board’s gap areas? The final candidates met the qualifications. According to the district, its mission is fulfilled, in part, through a system characterized by a “diverse and inclusive culture.” How can the culture be diverse and inclusive if its board doesn’t represent the students and families? When choosing the most qualified, I believe these well-intentioned trustees missed an opportunity to follow DJUSD’s values and mission.

This only perpetuates a skewed power system. If the board doesn’t diversify, there’s less chance that the administration and staff will. Representation is crucial for young people of color, navigating a world that demonstrates there’s no place for them.

What does leadership do now? It looks in the mirror, admits its blind spots and unconscious bias, and stands up for what’s right.

Tracy Tomasky

David Taormino and Bretton Woods Are Attempting a "Bait-and-Switch" with the Davis-Based Buyers Program

by Alan Pryor


David Taormino, the developer of the Bretton Woods senior housing development just west of Sutter Hospital, is trying to pull another fast one on the City of Davis' senior population. Taormino just proposed, and City Staff supports, that the Davis-Based Buyers Program be rescinded from the signed Development Agreement for the Project that already exists between him and the City. This local senior-preferential buying program reserved 90% of the 560 new homes in the project for seniors that have a pre-existing connection to the City of Davis. It promised that the project would be for local or Davis-connected seniors and not just a high-end enclave for rich retirees fleeing from the Bay Area.

This requirement to preferentially sell to existing Davis seniors was widely promoted and promised to voters in actual ballot language when the project was approved in the November, 2018 general election (then known as the West Davis Active Adult Community). Well, after Taormino and all his lawyers and the Davis City Council all loudly and adamantly proclaimed the project was definitely and undeniably legal in all respects, now David Taormino claims he has new "concerns" about the legality of the program and he wants to rescind it and its promises to Davis seniors. There has been no new legal opinion or justification provided by Mr. Taormino to substantiate this newfound concern.

Of course the real reason that Taormino has this newfound concern for the law is that he realizes that by selling his new homes to wealthier Bay Area expatriates instead of the local senior voters he so ardently-courted (but who have far less home equity in their existing homes), Mr. Taormino can probably get an extra 10 - 15% or more for each home he sells to out-of-towners. And he can market the homes to a whole lot more people than he would if otherwise restricted to Davis. 

But Taormino heavily sold this project directly to Davis senior voters by promising them that this project would be just for them and not cater to Bay Area transplants. He even collected hundreds and hundreds of names and email addresses of senior voters by claiming he was putting them on a buyers "waiting list" for the new homes and then proceeded to bombard them with campaign literature in the guise of project "updates" throughout the election campaign.

This whole bait and switch process is fundamentally dishonest and reprehensible. And for City Staff to recommend that Taormino be allowed to remove this obligation from the Development Agreement while getting really noting of substance in return, it shows City Staff is once again willing to play ball accommodating developers without regard to what is best for the City and, in this case, its senior residents.

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Letter from Davis faith leaders opposing the changes in regulations on seeking asylum in the U.S.

To Whom It May Concern:

As faith leaders in Davis, CA, we strongly oppose the changes in regulations on seeking asylum in the United States being proposed by the Department of Homeland Security and the Executive Office for Immigration Review of the Department of Justice.   These proposals would effectively end our asylum system, block protection for people and families fleeing from persecution, and reverse decades of U.S. and International Law.  The changes would restrict the number of those admitted to the US, apparently on the unfair basis of wealth and status.  Thus, those with the means to fly into the US would not be affected if their flight was non-stop or only had one stop in another country.  However, those who have passed by land through two countries would automatically be barred.

The new proposed rule is long and complicated; however, a few of its new restrictions are particularly disturbing.  It would eliminate gender-based claims for asylum.  Women and LGBTQ asylum seekers would be disproportionately affected by this change. Not only would women be unable to seek asylum based on their experiences of extreme domestic violence, but even women fleeing sex slavery at the hands of terrorist groups could be denied.

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