This past Wednesday (June 9th), the City of Davis’s Planning Commission met for a second time to discuss the recommendations of the Housing Element Committee (HEC)-- the first meeting was May 26. At the earlier meeting, most of the comments from the public concerned 10 recommendations that the HEC had passed. And a good number of the comments came from UC Davis students who were apparently reading from the same script, since their comments were identical or nearly so.
So, one might have expected that the June 9 meeting would be more of the same. But that was not the case.
This time, there were no public comments from self-identified students. There were about 20 public comments, most of which either criticized the majority of the 10 HEC recommendations (excepting the recommendations concerning the Housing Trust Fund) or criticized the HEC’s and the City’s bad process (as described in the article by Alan Pryor and Rik Keller). Full disclosure: I spoke to the latter issue.
Also of note is that not only was the Chair of the Planning Commission absent (and so Vice Chair Rowe led the meeting), only five members were in attendance. The Planning Commission normally has seven members and one alternate. Incidentally, Commissioner Mikesell, who was in attendance, announced at the beginning of the meeting that he would be resigning from the Commission because of a move out of Davis.
Despite all of the discussion about the HEC’s recommendations at the last meeting, they chose not to vote on eight of ten of HEC’s recommendations that concerned those issues, with Vice Chair Rowe stating, “I know there is a reluctance on the part of some commissioners to entertain some motions.” They did, however, vote in favor of the two HEC recommendations that concerned the Housing Trust fund (the ones that a number of commenters spoke in favor of).
They discussed a motion to press UCD to build more housing on campus, but decided not to vote on it, given that commissioners were split on the motion (they did say, however, without a vote, that they were unanimous in wanting more “teeth” in UCD’s commitment to build more housing and asked staff to convey that to the City Council). A motion to endorse the recommendations of Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC), who had offered some heavy criticisms of the Draft Housing Element and the public participation process, failed.
Perhaps most surprisingly, they did not vote on the Draft Housing Element itself as a body, although some individual commissioners (Chair Essex, Vice Chair Rowe, and Commissioner Streeter) submitted written comments that were included in the staff report, and staff stated that they would convey commissioners’ individual oral comments. They discussed potential rezoning sites, but they also did not vote to provide any recommendations for these.
It is hard to know what to make of the absences and odd votes (and lack of votes). Was it the public comment? Was it the aforementioned article by Pryor and Keller? Was it the letter from LNSC? Something else entirely? We will probably never know, but it was definitely a strange meeting.
The Draft Housing Element will now go to the City Council this Tuesday, June 15, but it will do so with very little guidance from the Planning Commission as a whole.