Affordable Housing Expert argues that Affordable Housing at DiSC does not Comply with City of Davis Municipal Code
By Matt Williams
Each morning for the next two weeks I will provide Davisite readers and Davis voters with an article on one of the dozen issues that I covered in my presentation on Thursday at University Retirement Community which had Dan Carson presenting for Yes On Measure H. For everyone’s reference, at the end of this article I have listed those dozen issues that argue strongly for a “No” vote on Measure H.
What is the most important reason to vote “No” on Measure H?
On Tuesday I got a telephone call from David Thompson, the president of he Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation and co-principal of Neighborhood Partners LLC, which has developed and has in development over 1,400 units of low-income integrated nonprofit housing valued at over $200 million. His Affordable Housing projects in Davis include:
Eleanor Roosevelt Circle
Cesar Chavez Plaza
David has forgotten more about Affordable Housing than I will ever know. So when he asked me if I was interested in understanding how there is considerably less Affordable Housing in the DiSC project than is required by the City of Davis Affordable Housing Ordinance, I was quick to listen.
David started our discussion by asking me whether I had received the recent promotion piece for Yes on Measure H, which says, “Measure H enhances and advances more of what we love about Davis by creating affordable housing.”
After I told him that I had indeed seen that statement, he replied “That statement by DiSC is simply not true!”
DISC is purposefully choosing to provide less affordable housing as a percentage of the total than any previously proposed site that has come up for a citizen vote.
The reason is both simple and straightforward. Prior to 2018 all citizen vote proposals provided at least 25-35% of the housing units as permanently affordable under the provisions of Article 18.05 of the City of Davis Municipal Code … the City of Davis Affordable Housing Ordinance … which states.
To the maximum extent feasible, each developer must meet the ownership affordable unit requirement as it pertains to the project, as set forth below:
(a) Standard ownership affordable housing requirements. Any development that is comprised in whole or in part of ownership units shall comply with the following requirements, which shall be included in the development’s affordable housing plan.
(1) Affordable Housing Requirements, by Residential Product Type.
(A) For projects comprised of market rate single-family detached ownership units on lots larger than five thousand square feet in area, the developer must provide for a number of affordable housing units equivalent to twenty-five percent of the total units being developed, including the affordable units, by means of one of the methods set forth in this section.
General plan implementing policies also require that, to the extent feasible and subject to existing law, rental housing developments with five to nineteen units shall provide fifteen percent of the units to low income households and ten percent to very low income households; and in rental housing developments with twenty or more units that twenty-five percent of the units be affordable to low income households and ten percent of the units be affordable to very low income households. General plan policies also require that affordable rental units remain affordable in perpetuity. (Ord. 2418 § 1, 2013)
David went on to explain that DISC is applying under the “Interim Affordable Housing Ordinance” which substantially reduced the requirement to 15%.
The interim Affordable Housing Ordinance was passed by City Council in February 2018 with the stated plan that it would sunset on December 31, 2018. That sunset never happened, and its interim policy is still in effect.
However, that interim policy with its lowered 15% was written specifically to apply to land already in the city, and was/is based on the December 11, 2015 Economic Report prepared for the City by A Plescia & Co entitled Preliminary Project Economic Analysis For City of Davis Affordable Housing Ordinance. That Plescia report begins as follows:
The primary purpose of this summary report is to present preliminary information related to the projected economic implications of potential affordable housing ordinance requirements on certain urban scale residential ownership and rental development prototypes. The project economic analysis summarized in this report addresses the estimated financial feasibility (including profitability) information for certain identified residential ownership and rental development prototypes.
The preliminary project economic information presented in this report can be used by the City of Davis to inform the process being undertaken by the City of Davis in regard to its consideration of amending its existing Affordable Housing Ordinance as it relates to the identified residential ownership and rental development prototypes addressed in this memorandum.
For purposes of this preliminary project economic analysis, the identified residential and mixed-use prototype alternatives are assumed to each be developed on a hypothetical 2.0 acre infill development site within the current urbanized area of the City of Davis.
Why within the current urbanized area of the City?
Because land costs in the City had risen to the level of hundreds of thousands of dollars per acre.
Land that is outside the urbanized area, like the DISC site, does not suffer from high land costs. It resides on agricultural land outside the City Limits that was purchased for considerably less than $10,000 per acre … NOT hundreds of thousands of dollars per acre.
That economic reality, and the clear words of the Plescia report mean the affordable housing requirement for DiSC should remain at the 25-35% threshold contained in Article 18.05 of the Municipal Code
In November 2019 hundreds of Davis residents applauded Richard Rothstein’s talk on the “Color of Law,” which critiqued the role of government in reducing housing for people of color. Many of us want a future Davis to be more inclusive and expansive of housing for low income residents and racial minorities.
DISC does the opposite by providing considerably less housing for low income residents and racial minorities.
David is unequivocal in his opinion that the interim Affordable Housing Ordinance simply does not apply to DiSC, and until and unless the DiSC project changes its Affordable Housing Plan to comply with the provisions Article 18.05 of the City of Davis Municipal Code, the only choice is to vote “NO” on Measure H. David Thompson has clearly stated that it is the most important reason to vote “No.” None of us should want to live in a Davis that accepts fewer homes for those most in need and people of color.
NOTE: I have been challenged to fact check this article because a handful of Davis stakeholders believe there are factual problems with the article. I have posted in a second article the fact checked version of this story. Posting it as a separate article will make it easier to read.
As noted at the beginning of this article, each morning for the next two weeks I will provide Davisite readers and Davis voters with an article on one of the dozen issues listed below that I covered in my presentation on Thursday at University Retirement Community.
Reasons to Vote “NO” on Measure H
- Massive Traffic Problems
- Firm Plans to Mitigate Traffic
- Unmitigated Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- DISC will Cannibalize Existing Downtown and Local Businesses in Davis that are Still Hurting from the Pandemic
- Projected Financial Projections to the City are Questionable or Misleading
- We Cannot Trust our City Staff and Council to Protect Us from Rapacious and Predatory Developers
- Critical Farmland, Habitat, and our Last Views of the Sierra and Sacramento Skyline will be Lost Forever
- A Yes Vote Gives the Developer Lucrative Entitlements with No Guaranteed Baseline Features in Many Critical Areas
- The Project Will Exacerbate the Housing Shortage in the Davis Area
- The Scale of the DiSC Business Park is Much Too Large for a Small College Town Like Davis
- An industrial-research development while we are in a serious drought?