Re-elect Jim Provenza for Yolo County Supervisor
Letter: Vote Walsh for change

2020 Sierra Club Yolano Group Questionnaire and Responses from Davis City Council Candidates

Part 2  - Land Use and Housing

by Alan Pryor

Introduction - Every 2 years the Sierra Club Yolano Group prepares questionnaires for candidates in local races we deem to be seriously contested and/or where there are clear differences between the candidates on matters of interest to the public and/or our local Sierra Club members. We use questionnaires with written responses to allow the candidates to directly express their views and opinions in their own words. We report these in a series of articles on a range of environmentally-related topics. This is Part 2 of the series in which we report candidates' responses to a series of questions regarding land use and housing in the City. All of the candidates supported Measure D so this question is not included for brevity. The candidates responses are in alphabetical order based on their first name.

___________________________________________________

1st Question re: Measure B – Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus Mixed Use Business Park

Question: Do you support the development of the Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus mixed use business park in Davis as proposed on the November ballot as Measure B and why or why not?

Colin Walsh  

No. DISC is an example of a project that should never have been placed on the ballot. It goes against foundational core values in the Davis general plan, as it is a peripheral project that relies on the car and has poor connections to public transportation.  The DISC project will increase the carbon footprint for the city of Davis by about 8% and puts 24,000 additional car trips on Mace Blvd. daily. The car traffic is predicted to spill over onto local neighborhood streets and cause significant and unavoidable impacts.  Most of the car trips will be from commuters to the DISC site from outside town and there is no way to begin to mitigate the GHG production from these commuter trips.   The project EIR predicts extensive commercial vacancies in Davis due to competition with DISC, based on pre-pandemic data. With current pandemic trends of remote working and the stark evidence of some Davis businesses already failing, this seems certain to be much worse.   It is also entirely unacceptable that 7 acres of open space land based with measure O taxpayer money should be used for any part of the project. It uses nearly 200 acres of prime agricultural land that also serves as habitat for sensitive species like the Burrowing Owl and Swainson’s Hawk.   And that is just the beginning of the extensive problems with this project.

Connor Gorman

Yes.  From the “Housing” section of my full platform (https://connorfordavis.com/full-platform/):  I support the Davis Innovation Sustainability Campus (DISC) which will be Measure B on the ballot November 3. It is a good project that serves several needs in Davis from providing additional housing, to helping attain financial stability for the city, to providing jobs for UC Davis graduates and researchers. Furthermore, the city and community forced DISC to be substantially better on a number of issues including affordable housing and sustainability measures. If community members hadn’t pushed the developers on such things, we would have a significantly worse project that would also have a higher chance of being rejected on November 3.

Dillan Horton

I plan to vote for Measure B this fall because I believe the city needs to commit to harnessing our relationship with the university to provide economic opportunity to more Davisites. If passed the community will have an opportunity to scrutinize business and the design of housing proposed at the site and we can use that process to look out for the community’s needs & interests.

Josh Chapman         

For me, when I weigh a pending project it starts with transparency and community/neighborhood outreach. All projects must meet this test before I even begin to weigh the project merits. In this particular instance, I do have a problem with how it came about. When this project was first proposed, it went before all the appropriate commissions and then that project was abruptly pulled. When re-proposed as DISC that rigorous process wasn’t resumed and it then went through an abbreviated process that precluded meaningful commission and other stakeholder group participation. So, it fails that first test for me.

Larry Guenther       

In short, I am opposed to DISC. My position on DISC is that it could be a good project, but not as proposed. The green aspects of the buildings are great, but the buildings account for about 20% of the GHG emissions of a project like this. The other 80% are from the cars that will carry the workers. I am not willing to put off the plan of dealing with that 80% without much more specificity. There are too many examples of 'we'll worry about that later' that didn't work. Los Angeles and the Bay Area did not get their traffic nightmares from one bad decision. Those problems occurred one development at a time. They are cautionary tales of approving impacts before dealing with those impacts. The City has declared a climate emergency. If we truly believe that, we must act accordingly. The EIR for this projects states that if built to the existing plan, the City cannot achieve its carbon reduction goals by 2040. If we believe in that goal, that single sentence should be a deal-breaker. Leveraging businesses spawned from and working with the University is an essential goal. But so are our environmental commitments. There are also - as usual - a host of statements that provide no specificity: contributions to electric shuttles and highway improvements; penalties for non-compliance with tree requirements; grade-separated bike/ped crossing; consequences for not meeting transit/traffic goals; etc. And the City's treatment of the burrowing owls shows a lack of integrity in our environmental, habitat, and open space policies. This project proposes to double the existing commercial/industrial space in Davis. It is too big to get it wrong.

Lucas Frerichs          

Yes. I voted to place it on the ballot.  There is much innovation coming out of UC Davis, and are many home grown companies/businesses that want to stay/ grow in Davis, and cannot find space to do so.   The sustainability requirements/features of this project exceed what is being done anywhere else in the entire Sacramento region, and it is foolish to think that if DISC is stopped in Davis, that something of lesser quality/sustainability won’t be built somewhere else.   The companies/businesses attracted to DISC will gladly locate in an inferior location (because they are primarily looking for suitable space close to the innovation, talent and students of UCDavis), and then folks will just continue to drive to/from to get to jobs/housing, etc.

Kelsey Fortune         

As it stands, I am not in support of DISC. This project will exacerbate our current housing shortage and create thousands of new commuters. While the project is sold as sustainable, its reliance on private vehicles and the lack of housing for thousands of workers leads me to question its carbon footprint. In addition, I do not approve of the use of open space land by the developers.

Rochelle Swanson    

Yes, I support measure B because Davis is uniquely positioned to support and enhance research and research related industries that are the hallmark of UC Davis, including but not limited to sustainable agriculture, carbon neutral personal transportation, equitable food production and distribution, other future mobility options. Location matters. We are home to the country’s premiere agricultural research institution. I believe the opportunity to support entrepreneurship and research around mitigating climate change offsets the concerns around the projected full build out.

Will Arnold    Yes, I support Measure B, have endorsed, and will be voting yes on my ballot. I support more local jobs, green energy and affordable housing.

___________________________________________________

2nd Question re:  Downtown Core Redevelopment           

Questions: Do you support increased height of buildings in the downtown core to allow for more mixed residential/commercial uses? If yes, what is the maximum height in structures that you would support?  What do you think should be the maximum height in transitional areas adjacent to the downtown core or in other parts of Davis (e.g. Trackside)?

Colin Walsh

I favor infill over sprawl and thus support taller buildings in the downtown. Mixed use with residential commercial and retail is preferable because it encourages lower car use. Also, building where there is already existing infrastructure makes very good economic sense for a city.  I do not favor building heights that would create shadow canyons and make it difficult for trees to flourish, however. I would also like to see residential downtown that catered to year- round residents to support retail downtown year- round.   That being said, I am very sensitive to the transition boundaries between older neighborhoods adjacent to downtown. In the Trackside case I supported the lower building height of 3 stories. Densifying in a manner that respects and is responsive to existing neighborhoods with historical features that are worth preserving is challenging, but workable.

Connor Gorman

I think height limits should be based on a number of factors including the nature of the surrounding buildings and land uses.  In areas on the periphery of, or outside, the downtown this would mean height limits of varying amounts depending on the circumstances but when proposed projects are in or adjacent to neighborhoods of single family homes, I would say a limit of 3 or 4 stories is appropriate (I will also add that Trackside had a lot of problems including, but not limited to, height).  The heart of the downtown is one region where I believe much denser projects make a lot of sense and I would be supportive of allowing large buildings here (I’m thinking 7 or so stories) as long as other conditions are met (both on the developer, like around affordability, and on the City like making sure our Fire Department has a ladder truck).

Dillan Horton

The dynamic of downtown suggest that it is the best part of town for higher mixed use properties, yes I support it being explored. This is in part due to the nearby availability of food, possible work, and public transportation. I believe the appropriate height of a structure anywhere in Davis should be determined by the concerns about public infrastructure, safety, and the adjacent properties. It should be design needs and neighbors that determine the height of new buildings in transitional areas and all of Davis.

Josh Chapman

I am in favor of increased height of buildings in the core of the core downtown and would support the DPAC recommendations that were put forward. I would work to finalize the Downtown Plan which provides clear guidelines and goals for any future development. Transitional areas are clearly addressed in this plan and I am in support of approving and helping implement the plan.

Larry Guenther

As part of the Downtown Plan Committee, I advocated for taller buildings in the downtown. The draft plan shows 5 stories in several places and 7 stories in a few places. I support that part of the plan. At the earliest stages of that process, I submitted a video of a plaza about the size of E St. plaza surrounded by 6-story buildings. A key feature of the success of something like this is building design.  I believe that our traditional neighborhoods give a sense of who we are and where we come from. I believe that 3-story buildings with step-backs at the 3rd story where adjacent to single-family homes allows increased density without destroying the character of these neighborhoods. As a member of the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association (now board president), we proposed a model for the Trackside property that was financially viable, was approved by the neighborhood, maintained the existing amount of commercial/retail space, and could have had the same number of dwelling units as the current proposal. I believe we are the only group to do this. I feel the 3-story transition to the University/Rice neighborhood and the 2-story transition to the Old North Davis neighborhood were appropriate. Those neighborhoods were satisfied with their transitions and the increased densities (proposed) of the entire area is greatly increased. As a member of the Downtown Plan Update Committee I also supported height minima. This idea got no traction.

Lucas Frerichs

Yes. The future of Downtown Davis is to densify responsibly, and to strive to have an increased combination of vibrant mixed uses, including various types of housing above ground floor retail and office spaces.  Infill is also the environmentally superior option. The new Downtown Davis Specific Plan uses form-based codes to serve as a guide of what types of buildings can be built, and at what heights/# of stories. The new plan allows for buildings of up to seven stories as allowed uses. (We currently have a variety of 3 & 4 story buildings throughout Downtown Davis.)  As a member of the City Council that voted in favor of the 4 story Trackside project, and as part of the Defendants side (Old East Neighbors (Plaintiffs) vs. City of Davis (defendant), I think that if built appropriately, a four story building could be built there.   I also believe the real key to building ANY project is proactive, sustained and effective communication between developer/applicants and surrounding neighbors, and I think the city should also work to ensure this happens during the consideration of every project.

Kelsey Fortune

I am in support of increased height in the downtown core and transitional areas. I would recommend height restrictions only to ensure that historic areas are preserved in the future. I would require that developments work directly with the neighborhood and believe that this is a better alternative to height limits.   In transitional areas, I believe that a height maximum of two stories higher than the immediate neighborhood is appropriate. This would only act as a backstop, as I do not believe there are cases where neighborhoods would support anything taller.  In the downtown core, I do not believe that height limits are necessary. People want to live near and in downtown, and if we can see more mixed-use spaces, this will benefit businesses as well as create much needed housing in an area where people will not need vehicles.

Rochelle Swanson

Yes, I support increased height of buildings in the downtown core. In general, I support the concept outlined in the Downtown Plan with 5-7 stories in the core with transitional heights into the surrounding neighborhoods.   The maximum height in any area should be addressed in an updated General Plan.

Will Arnold

I support the increased density and height of buildings in the core, transitional areas and other parts of the community where suitable, considering neighborhood and other impacts. I am on record in support of four stories in the transitional area.

___________________________________________________

3rd Question re:  Large Apartment Complexes Rented by the Bed

Preamble: The Nishi, Sterling, and Lincoln40 apartment projects have been approved that will only offer residents rent-by-the-bed in predominantly larger apartments. A similar residential / mixed use proposal is before the Council for the University Commons project on the corner of Russell Blvd and Anderson Rd. 

Question: Do you support this developing trend of rent-by-the-bed in student housing in Davis and why or why not?   

Colin Walsh

I do not support this trend, and I have argued against it during public comment at the City Council. Rent by the bed on campus is appropriate on campus, but off campus it creates exclusionary student only housing. The one place I saw an exception to this was warranted was the Davis Live project which is being constructed in the UCD off campus dorm area on Oxford Circle. Also, rent-by-the-bed units are often one bathroom for each bedroom, and this is not an efficient nor economical use of space and functionally prohibits the use of space.

Connor Gorman

I support rent-by-the-bedroom and in some cases rent-by-the-bed since this provides certain types of renters (primarily students and young professionals without families) more secure leases where they don’t have to worry about, or try to police, their housemates’ financial situations (in other words, it puts the financial burden on the landlord rather than putting more burdens on renters or pitting renters against each other).  In terms of associated Affordability requirements, I’d be fine with by-the-bedroom Affordably (for projects where this makes sense) but not by-the-bed “Affordability” because I question whether by-the-bed “Affordability” in doubles is really any cheaper than renting a single market-rate room and splitting the cost between two people.  Furthermore, I think any Affordability plans need to involve Affordability that’s representative of the bedroom arrangement.  For instance, if a proposed project includes 20 4-bedroom units and the Affordability requirement is 15% then the Affordability plan for this portion of the project better involve either 3 Affordable 4-bedroom units (not 3 studios or anything like that) or 12 Affordable bedrooms scattered throughout the 20 units (not 3 Affordable bedrooms or anything like that).

Dillan Horton

I don’t support a trend of by-the-bed rental set ups because they aren’t the right things for everyone’s housing needs. Though I also don’t oppose it when appropriate as it provides a helpful alternative to those who don’t like the traditional rent by the unit set up.

Josh Chapman

I do not support rent-by-the-bed projects. I favor rent by the unit projects that can meet the needs of the broader spectrum of city and university communities. We need to address the housing shortage in our community with a mix of by the unit projects and include family sized/friendly units to allow multi-generational families to be able to live in our community. 

Larry Guenther

No. This is a very inefficient use of space and will surely promote waste of resources, specifically water and energy, by the inhabitants. The data is clear that if people do not have individually metered resources, they do not use those resources as efficiently. It also makes the per/bed cost higher and it eliminates renter flexibility in those units. Putting multiple individuals on a lease is a completely solvable problem.

Lucas Frerichs

I voted to support Sterling, Lincoln40, DavisLive and Nishi.   I voted to oppose University Commons- as I felt it was too much for the site, and I worry about the need for more rent by the bed apartment complexes.  We’ve approved four projects, (with three under construction or nearing completion). We need to wait and see about the need for more, especially during the uncertainty of the COVID pandemic.  I do believe that a need for additional apartments exists, but I don’t believe that the rent by the bed is the way to go, as it is not really accessible for families, or working professionals.

Kelsey Fortune

I oppose rent-by-the-bed housing, as it allows complexes to charge high prices, excluding a significant portion of the renting population; those with partners and families.

Rochelle Swanson

I supported the concepts of rent-by-bed as it was a needed component of our housing stock to accommodate a growing reality of students commuting long distances or being homeless. However, I do not believe this should be the dominate trend of post University Common projects. We need to encourage rental options with a mix of unites that accommodate workforce, professional and family housing.

Will Arnold

I have taken the housing crisis head-on since I was elected. We have approved several projects, particularly multi-family housing, and including several large projects focused specifically on providing housing for students. And I am ready to continue to address the housing needs of our community, including students, but also our workforce and families. That is why, when we approved the fourth of these student-focused group housing projects, I said that we needed to pivot to a housing model that allows for greater diversity of potential residents, exclusive of no one. True to my word, when another proposal came before us proposing big 4+ bedroom units, rent by the bed model of group housing, Plaza 2555, we sent them back to the drawing board. Then, a few weeks ago, I voted against the University Commons project. I’ve said I am not interested in more of this type of group housing model right now, and I have been consistent in my actions.

___________________________________________________

4th Question re:  Amount of UCD On-Campus Housing

Preamble: UCD has recently committed to building new on-campus housing for an additional 8,500 students. However, at least 10,000 new beds will be required to meet the UC system-wide goal of housing 50% of students on campus. 

Question: What should the City do, if anything, about this proposed shortfall in on-campus housing build-out by UCD?           

Colin Walsh

I advocated for more on campus housing through the UCD LRDP process. I have advocated for more on campus housing at UC Regents meetings. I advocated that the Davis City Council push for more on-campus housing, including taller buildings on campus than are currently planned. The City-UCD MOU is a start, but it is weak and does not require enough housing. There are no direct levers to force the university to build more housing, so as a council person I will continue to advocate for more housing on campus and encourage the rest of the council to join me, and even consider passing resolutions formally requesting it. If all of these measures prove ineffective, the city must lobby at the state level. Santa Cruz and Berkeley have both sued the UCs in their towns and have received money and agreements to help address impacts as a result. I would not want to go that route, but the option must stay on the table if UC impacts to the city are not otherwise addressed.

Connor Gorman

I’m strongly in favor of UCD building more housing on campus, provided it’s affordable.  Furthermore, I believe they have the resources to do so by redirecting funds from admin bloat, campus policing, and other unnecessary or harmful endeavors to student and worker needs (though state funding is part of the problem as well and something everyone should be pushing for more of).  There’s really two ways to try to get UCD to build more on-campus housing.  The first way, which the City has already done a lot of and made some significant progress because of (as this question alludes to), is to continue collaborating and/or formally negotiating with the UCD administration.  The second way is direct action that wouldn’t be officially sanctioned by the City but City officials could promote and attend as individuals.  In particular, once it’s safe to do so, I support sit-ins (in administration buildings, outside the chancellor’s mansion, etc.) as well as rallies, marches, and other events that disrupt university business as a way of pressuring UCD admin to accept our demands as students, workers, and the wider community (note, though, that this would require mass participation from non-students; non-student residents of Davis can’t expect students to take on all of this labor alone).

Dillan Horton

The city in its regular interactions with the university focused on housing the city should ask about the reason for that apparent gap. The city should use any good will developed in the MOU process to ensure that university fully lives up to its expectations.

Josh Chapman I favor the city utilizing every single opportunity to encourage the university to develop their fair share of new housing.

Larry Guenther       

Showing UCD that ignoring the housing problem is not in their best interest for attracting students, staff and faculty to a world-class University or for the needs of those students. 2. Partner with other UC municipalities to bring pressure to bear at the Regent level. The fact that there is no combined Long-Range Development Plan between the City and the University makes our General plan almost worthless, as seen in the last 4 years of development projects.

Lucas Frerichs

I helped negotiate the legally binding MOU between UCD, Yolo and Davis, which commits UCD to housing 50% of its students on campus in the coming years. The MOU also commits UCD to contributing millions of dollars in needed shared transportation improvements between UCD, Davis and Yolo County. The MOU is in effect and still has several years before UCD is due to complete the requirements contained within. We need to continue to pursue good faith negotiations with UCD (and the county) in the coming years, and I’m confident we can negotiate an updated MOU, should the situation demand it.

Kelsey Fortune

I believe that the recent commitment is an achievement to celebrate, and the UC system goal should be used by the City to encourage further commitments from the university. I also believe that the university’s current plan relies too heavily on turning single rooms into doubles and doubles into triples. As interdependent entities, the City and the university should communicate and collaborate. This is a relationship I believe needs to be much stronger.

Rochelle Swanson

Considering the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic and an anticipated reduction of a full student body over the next few years, I think the City needs to work with the University to project realistic numbers and housing needs between now and 2024.

Will Arnold

I am proud of the agreement we reached with UC Davis, and we are continuing monitoring and joint reporting out of progress. So far, they are meeting their obligations, and there are mechanisms in place should that not continue to be the case.

Comments

Nancy Price

Thanks for posting these answers - good to get to know the candidates and their positions on the issues so care about.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)