Comments to the Open Space & Habitat Commission concerning DiSC 2022
Bicycling, Transportation, and Street Safety Commission needs a DiSC 2022 Subcommittee

Report from the Open Space & Habitat meeting re: DiSC 2022

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The following was originally posted as a comment in response to the Davisite article Comments to the Open Space & Habitat Commission concerning DiSC 2022 and has been reposted here as an article with permission of the author.

By Ron O

In regard to the Open Space and Habitat Commission meeting last [Monday] night, here are some highlights:

The recommendation (from the article linked above) to request that the northern (approximately) 100 acres be established as agricultural mitigation was not discussed or considered by the commission. Two commenters reiterated this request. (The 100 acres was part of prior proposals.)

The commissioners proceeded to review and edit the recommendations made when the proposal included the northern portion of the site. The developer representative claimed that many of them no longer applied, since the northern site is not part of the current iteration. As a result, the commissioners edited and deleted large sections of the prior recommendations, on-the-spot.

As the meeting approached 9:00 p.m., the chair suggested that a second meeting be held, given the amount of work left to be done. However, several commission members were not able to attend an additional meeting prior to the October 18th deadline set by the council. The chairperson stated that the council put the commission in a "bad place", and stated that she was "very unhappy" about it. The chair stated that they had received the packet for review on the previous Friday afternoon (for this Monday meeting).

At the suggestion of the developer representative (and Sherri Metzger, the city's principal planner), the commission entirely skipped-over the previous recommendation to reject the proposal. The chair expressed "relief" at this suggestion. One commissioner seemed to mistakenly believe that commissions were not permitted to weigh-in regarding recommendations to approve or reject, despite the fact that they were reviewing the document in which that recommendation was made. (It was noted that five of the eight commission members were "new" to the commission.)

Ms. Metzger stated that recommending approval or rejection of a proposal is not the role of commissioners, though she did acknowledge that they can do so. There was some pushback at Ms. Metzger's description of the commission members' efforts during the meeting as "wordsmithing". (Not sure if she originated the use of that term during the meeting, but the commission members clearly had a different view of their efforts than Ms. Metzger did.) Ms. Metzger also stated/claimed that much of the commission's recommendations can be made after it's approved. (Assuming it's approved.) Ms. Metzger stated that the proposal is "not residential", and that open space requirements are therefore not the same. (It should be noted that the proposal includes residential.)

Due to the unavailability of commission members to attend further meetings and the October 18th deadline, the chair and the remainder of the commission agreed to push-through the recommendations last night, ultimately whittling-them down to seven (as I recall). I did not check the time, but I believe this occurred sometime after 10:00 p.m.

There was also some discussion regarding the inclusion of the concrete plaza as "open space", but no action became of it. There was also some discussion of building on prime farmland, but it was ultimately acknowledged that there's no viable way around that, if the proposal is approved.

Comments

Roberta L. Millstein

Thank you very much for this report, Ron -- I was unable to attend myself due to travel. I am very disturbed by what I hear. It sounds like Ms. Metzger was taking very heavy hand to the process by dictating what the commission could and could not say -- even contravening what past practice has long been. And objecting to "wordsmithing" sounds to me like someone objecting to the commission being careful in what they said. Don't we want commissions to be precise and accurate? As for recommendations that can be made after approval -- as I noted in my original article, the developer can promise anything but only baseline features are guaranteed. So what good are recommendations made after project approval??

The City Council promised to improve commission process. I wonder if this is what "improvement" looks like to them -- City staff feeding commissioners misinformation and pressuring them in "preferred" directions rather than allowing them to come to their own independent conclusions.

Your report also demonstrates very clearly the problem with the shortened timeline for evaluating the project -- a timeline that the developer wanted and the City Council went along with (see articles linked below). Asking commissioners -- many of whom are fairly new to the commission -- to evaluate such a big project over a weekend, with only the option of an extra, off-schedule meeting on a very short notice -- is completely unreasonable.

This looks like City staff is trying to stack the deck in favor of DiSC 2022, not a fair evaluation of the project.

~~

https://www.davisite.org/2021/09/disc-is-back-and-so-is-bad-process-.html

https://www.davisite.org/2021/09/d%C3%A9j%C3%A0-vu-council-and-staff-collude-to-limit-review-of-the-disc-2022-project-by-the-citys-advisory-com.html

https://www.davisite.org/2021/09/part-2-d%C3%A9j%C3%A0-vu-council-and-staff-collude-to-limit-review-of-the-disc-2022-project-by-the-citys-advis.html

Nancy Price

So, based on these two comments, what is the remedy to this truncated process and apparent control by staff of much of the discussion? If this is what happens with other commissions, then what?

Colin Walsh

I think it is also important to note that the Commission attempted to schedule a special meeting, but wanted to do it on a different day of the week to accommodate commissioner schedules but were told by staff that they could not meet because there were no available Zoom licenses. what happened in this meeting was far from what the council requested to give commissions a seconbd chance to meet as long as as it was in the ridiculously short 2 week period. Staff actively discourage the commission from meeting again, and actively discourage d the commission from having a deeper look at the project.

This was a shameful display.

Matt Williams

In response to Nancy Price's comment, the City appears to be leaving the citizens' vote when (and if) this goes on a ballot as the only remedy.

Their approach to process appears to be one of "the ends justify the means." The citizens have the final say in what those "ends" will be.

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