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The Failure of Measure B Suggests a New Vision Is Needed

West from Rd 30B - Sac skylineBy Roberta Millstein, Pam Gunnell, Nancy Price, Alan Pryor, and Colin Walsh

Measure B – the measure that proposed a 200-acre business park and housing development outside of the Mace Curve – failed at the polls.  The defeat comes with official Yolo County returns showing that 16,458 people, or 52% of voters, said “no” to the project.  In Mace Ranch and Wildhorse, 60% of voters opposed the project.

This is a remarkable result considering that the No on B campaign was outspent by over 14 to 1.  As of October 28, Yes on B had spent $258,919 between when B was put on the ballot in July and the election in November, while No on B had spent $18,149.  The No on B campaign, composed solely of volunteer Davis citizens, created its own literature, designed its own sign and other graphics, was active on social media, and, to the extent possible during COVID, pounded the pavement distributing flyers to let Davisites know about the negative impacts that this project would bring.  It was a true grassroots effort.  There were no paid designers, no paid consultants, no multiple glossy mailers, and no push-polls to gather information on what messages would sell.  Opponents also could not table at the Farmers Market due to COVID restrictions, normally the bread and butter of a campaign lacking deep pocket donors to finance getting its message out.

By comparison, Yes on B hired a PR Firm and other consultants more than a year in advance of the vote to help contrive and package its message and run the campaign.

The fact that Measure B was nonetheless defeated in the face of long odds and unusual circumstances shows that DISC was a bad project for Davis from the outset.  It was too big, chewing up prime farmland and habitat.   The promise of on-site housing for DISC employees could not be guaranteed, making the development car-and commuter- oriented with extensive parking areas. Poor public transportation options exacerbated this problem. The DISC development would have massively increased Davis greenhouse gas emissions and made it impossible for Davis to meet its carbon neutrality goals. We are in a climate emergency, as Yolo County and other counties have recognized; Davis needs to shoulder its share of responsibility for climate impacts, including but not limited to wildfire impacts and extreme weather events locally and globally.

Two other major problems with the project: One, the car and commuter orientation of the project would have created very significant traffic impacts on Mace Blvd. and in nearby neighborhoods. Two, the project was financially speculative and poorly timed, coinciding with the devastating economic impacts of COVID on the downtown and local businesses. 

Measure B was a long time in the making – over 10 years. The project has already taken several forms, MRIC, ARC and finally DISC. But all these forms have had the same car and commuter, outdated, last century business park designs.

One wonders if the developers will try to bring back DISC with minor changes and spend another quarter of a million dollars in the hopes of gaining just enough new votes to change the outcome of the election.  What the election vote shows is that such an attempt would be a mistake.  The project proposal was fundamentally flawed and a few more bells and whistles wouldn’t change that.   

More importantly, the election also demonstrates that there is a troubling disconnect between the current City Council and the concerns of its citizens, including the concerns of many downtown business owners.  All five Councilmembers were enthusiastic supporters of Measure B and there was not a single voice on the council that championed citizen or City of Davis Commission concerns about DISC. We hope the Council will engage in introspection on how they came to have so disparate an opinion from the majority of Davis voters.

The defeat of DISC signals that the Davis community does not agree with the Council. We hope it is part of an alternative perspective and vision for the future of the City and it is the one that youth have embraced enthusiastically – a healthy planet that equitably supports humans, other species, and ecosystems in the web of life.  It is one that rejects the massive car-oriented sprawl of the past and embraces projects that mitigate climate change, not worsen it.  It is the one that supports our local retailers and independent businesses. It is one that makes significant inroads toward providing affordable housing, not just the bare minimum that DISC offered. It is one that makes the best and highest use of precious resources like prime farmland and species habitat.  It is long-sighted, innovative, and progressive.  It is a positive path forward for Davis.

Comments

Marsha

Excellent article. Thank You. Agree 100%.

Robin Wiener

Well stated. The City Council is out of touch with the citizens of Davis, and it needs to do something about that. Kudos to the No on Measure B volunteers. Thank you for all your hard work. Too bad the Davis citizens did not have an opportunity to vote on the debacle slated to replace University Mall.

Karen L. Baker

This is an excellent editorial. The fact that the Mayor et. al. are now purging the commissions of those who did not embrace the DISC boondoggle should be a concern to all citizens of Davis, regardless of how they voted on Measure B. Mayor Partida has stated that "amenities" such as bike paths will not be funded unless we start voting for hideous development projects. Holding bike paths hostage to big developers interests seems like an odd way to govern.

The voters of Davis have spoken, but is anyone at City Hall listening?

Karen L. Baker

Dana Stokes

Hear, hear! When will our city leaders realize that we actually need to engage in “Degrowth” for the survival of all species on our planet? This would allow
us to actually achieve established city climate change mitigation goals. It’s time to decouple city tax revenue collection from development and create new ways to finance the maintenance of our city infrastructure, personnel and services.

Dana Stokes

Greg Rowe

I have no empirical evidence as to why Measure B failed. As an anecdote, however, my wife and I were in line last year for the opening day of the See's store at The Marketplace. We spoke with a young couple who had bought a home at The Cannery. Their only regret was that the husband had to drive daily to work in Sacramento, and was finding that just getting from The Cannery to the I-80 onramp at Mace took up to 30 minutes during "rush hour."

It is easy to see that Davis residents already facing such commutes would be unlikely to approve a project that would add more traffic to Mace, even though the project was obligated through the Baseline Features and Development Agreement to fund traffic improvements.

Roberta L. Millstein

They were obligated to develop a traffic plan and implement it, nothing more. No specific reductions or mechanisms were required, thus, no guarantee that the situation wouldn’t get worse. And every reason to think it would get worse, given the 24,000+ car trips that the EIR predicted would be added. Accommodating that would be quite the magic trick.

With all due respect, Greg, the Planning Commission should never have approved this and neither should have the City Council.

Ron O

Public transportation to/from Sacramento is subsidized by government employers, and is well-used. It is convenient, cost-effective, and relatively environmentally-friendly. DISC would have (also) impacted that commute.

Thanks to all who participated in the campaign to defeat DISC. Hopefully, we won't have to "do it again" anytime soon, but I suspect that we'd be ready to participate again, as needed.

Nancy Price

Yolo County cities are not islands unto themselves protected by sky-high vertical walls from any GHG emissions and particular matter from the "outside." Maybe it's time for cities and the county to think about collaborating on and harmonizing goals especially on traffic, GHG reduction and mitigation, and climate action plans, so that the goals are in sync and we all can in our cities, smaller towns and the country can be on the same pather together address to address the climate emergency we are facing.

Davis voters rejected DISC because it failed to be as forward looking in overall design to meet this climate emergency. I congratulate the "No" on B voters who stepped up to fulfill their role as Guardians of Present and Future Generations.

Todd Edelman

The last paragraph is inspiring.

Has the pro-DISC side - the developers, the Councilmembers, other supporters and BUT not the local media - created any useful statements about why they lost?

ron Glick

I wonder how all these Davisites propose we address the structural deficit in the City's finances?

Roberta L. Millstein

I don't know that we all necessarily agree. I'd like to see the City do more to promote infill, as I know that other cities have done. But I don't have to have all the answers for a good alternative when it's clear that a bad option is being proposed -- a speculative park based on inflated rental assumptions that, according to the EIR would damage other businesses in town and cause blight.

Susan Rainier

Great article, thanks everyone. Davis has not had a Mayor with Vision or backbone for quite a while. It starts at the top. Council members are more full of themselves than to educate themselves with serious citizen input like this article. The Davis Planning Department is a joke and does not seem to have a clue about sustainable, resilient design much less have the power to influence the council. This has been demoralizing to many progressive citizens that just want to see Davis be a truly green city. The most egregious, unsustainable projects of late are the mega-dorms on 5th and Olive Drive that will influence a bizarre gentrification where a closet with a bathroom will cost $1200 or more! Wait until the summer comes with strict water use due to another heavy duty drought upon us. The 5th Street project was done by developers from Texas. The cookie-cutter design is so unattractive and has no continuity with the more attractive housing in the area. The parking garage is the first step for Davis to look like the bay area views from the train. I just wish the Mayor and Council would follow the Davis General Plan - it was a vision of sustainable design. Now they just want to throw it out for developer wishes. Nishi should be a sun tracking solar array. Both Nishi and Olive Drive have only ONE (1) exit with high occupancy. There should be a planning law about this! Common sense is not so common.

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