Adam Morrill meet and greets
An evening with Leah Rothstein

Part 1 Candidate Responses to the Sierra Club Yolano Group Questionnaire for the 2022 Davis City Council Election

Sierra-club-yolano
 
Land Use and Housing Development – Peripheral Development

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Introduction - As has been our custom for over 20 years, the local Sierra Club Yolano Group has prepared candidate questionnaires for some local elections in Yolo County.  The questionnaire for the 2022 Davis City Council race asked for candidates' views and opinions on a wide-range of environmental issues of interest to our local membership.

The questionnaire received answers from all 5 candidates in the 2 City Council Districts for which an election is held this November. Listed in alphabetical order by their first name, the candidates are:

District 1 (West Davis): - Bapu Vaitla, Dan Carson, and Kelsey Fortune

District 4 (East Davis) - Adam Morrill, Gloria Partida

Questions were asked in the following general categories:

Part 1 - Land Use and Housing Development – Peripheral Development

Part 2-- Land Use and Housing Development – Downtown Core and Student Housing

Part 3 - Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Part 4 - Transportation Management

Part 5 - Waste Management

Part 6 - Toxics in the Environment and Other Environmental Issues

The article below reports the candidates' responses to the questions posed to them in the first category, Part 1 - Land Use and Housing Development – Peripheral Development. The following 3 questions were asked of each of the candidates in this category:

Question #1 - Measure HDavis Innovation and Sustainability Campus

Did you support or oppose the development of the Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus mixed use business park in Davis on the June ballot as Measure H and why?

Question #2 - New Proposed Peripheral Housing - Projects on Covell and Mace

There are 3 new proposed large housing projects on prime farmland in east Davis for which pre-applications have been submitted to the City - Palomino Place, Shriners, and On-the-Curve. All will require General Plan amendments and Measure J/R/D votes by the citizens. Do you support these projects and, if so, would you require any changes from their pre-application? If you do not support these projects, why not?

Question  #3 – Measure D (Measure J/R) Modification

Do you support any modifications to the recently renewed (2020) Measure D (formerly Measure J/R)?  Why or why not?

Subsequent articles with candidate responses to questions asked in the 5 other general categories will be reported in the coming days.

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Part 1 - Land Use and Housing Development – Peripheral Development

Question #1 - Measure H – Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus mixed use business park

Did you support or oppose the development of the Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus mixed use business park in Davis on the June ballot as Measure H and why?

 

Responses from District 1 Candidates

Bapu Vaitla - I supported Measure H on affordable housing grounds. I have served on the Social Services Commission for over three years, and Measure H was one of the best affordable housing proposals the Commission has seen over that time. The developer offered to build 85 units, 74 of which would be built onsite; the total number equals about 18.5% of all units, which is above the 15% required by the City. Few of the proposals reviewed by the SSC over the past few years offered to build affordable units at all, opting instead to pay in-lieu fees or pursue other alternatives. In addition, upon the SSC’s request, the DISC developer added units for very low- and extremely low-income families, which would have been an important precedent for future proposals. My job as a Social Services Commissioner was to evaluate Measure H on its affordable housing component, and by that standard I believe it was a step forward for the City.

There were many good reasons to vote no on H; many people whose opinions I deeply value did so. Affordable housing should not be the only consideration when evaluating proposals, and DISC was flawed in many ways, including its traffic impacts and its effect on prime agricultural land. I also think that Councilmember Carson’s actions were a dangerous precedent. The people overwhelmingly rejected DISC, and I respect their wisdom in doing so. It will not and should not appear again on the ballot.

I believe that infill housing should be our highest development priority. With suitable planning, infill can meet the housing need for our workforce, low-income families, and the unhoused. This approach would mitigate the need to develop on top of some of the world’s finest agricultural soils. Infill housing should be dense, affordable, climate-friendly, and transit-linked. We must also be prepared to build up, especially in and near the downtown core. Building up and building dense in a thoughtful, human-centered manner would reflect the strong environmental ethic of our community.

Dan Carson  - I voted for, endorsed, and campaigned for Measure H to provide market-rate and affordable housing and economic development needed to support city services in a location that Yolo LAFCO finds a logical and appropriate location for urban growth. However, the voters have spoken and defeated the measure. After the election, I promptly stated publicly that I accepted their decision in keeping with our democratic process.

Kelsey Fortune -  I did not support of DISC. This project would have exacerbated 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 agricultural land by the developers. There is room for the sustainable business activity that was the big sell of which there was no guarantee within the city limits. It’s past time to look at the underutilized land in town and consider redevelopment based on the current needs of our community.

Responses from District 4 Candidates

Adam Morrill - I opposed Measure H for several reasons.

  • The General Plan has not been updated and no peripheral development (good or bad) should be considered until it is.
  • The developer was only going to pay for a traffic study, not address the current issue or the worsening traffic had it passed.
  • It was not an environmentally sound project and would only contribute to higher GHG emissions.
  • It did not provide for affordable workforce housing.
  • It would have created an isolated island with minimal connectivity to the rest of the city.
  • It would have permanently destroyed prime farmland while causing all the previously mentioned issues.

Gloria Partida - I supported measure H. I believe that we need a diversified tax base support a resilient economy for when a downturn or other circumstance such as the loss of retail trends, pandemics or unforeseen situations happen. Innovation especially in a town with a world class University makes sense. I also felt that the increase in traffic would have been mitigated with the revenue for our roads. Now any infill we do will not have the advantage of these robust improvements. I also felt the sustainability features as ag land mitigations were excellent. 

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Question #2 - New Proposed Peripheral Housing Projects on Covell and Mace

There are 3 new proposed large housing projects on prime farmland in east Davis for which pre-applications have been submitted to the City - Palomino Place, Shriners, and On-the-Curve. All will require General Plan amendments and Measure J/R/D votes by the citizens.

 

Do you support these projects and, if so, would you require any changes from their pre-application? If you do not support these projects, why not?

Responses from District 1 Candidates

 

Bapu Vaitla - Of the three proposals that have been submitted thus far for the North/Northwest Davis periphery, I prefer Shriners. On-the-Curve and then Palomino have serious weaknesses.

While the Shriners pre-application doesn’t provide details about the affordable mix or percentage, the expressed intention to build multi-family units within the parameters of the Affordable Housing Ordinance is a good start. I also support the intention to price 10% of the units at 70% of the City’s median home price; however, these units should be deed-restricted to stay affordable. The Shriners proposal does not provide enough detail on mitigation of the loss of high-value agricultural land. In short, the Shriners proposal has some promising elements, but I reserve support or opposition until more specifics come forth.

The On-the-Curve proposal’s focus on multi-family housing is welcome. However, the pre-application offers few details on inclusionary housing, affordable for-sale properties, or open space/agricultural land/habitat impacts. There is promise here in building a denser subdivision than is typical in Davis, but there are also major concerns, including with traffic impacts and poor transit connections.

 believe the Palomino Place pre-application in its present form could be greatly improved. There is very little in the way of inclusionary housing or deed-restricted for-sale affordable housing in the plan. While I respect the intention to construct workforce housing, I believe the target income mix could be weighted more heavily towards entry-level buyers. In addition, there is little description of mitigation measures for impacts on open space.

Dan Carson - To my knowledge, an official building application has been submitted to the city for only one of the three projects mentioned in this question and the council has not yet discussed whether the city should process any of them should applications for the additional projects mentioned come our way. I note that the council has not been provided key details that would be needed to assess whether we should proceed with these proposals, such as their potential fiscal implications for the city or how or if they are consistent with the city’s housing goals outlined in our draft Housing Element. Until such information comes forward, there is insufficient information to allow me to determine their merit and what if anything should happen with them.

Kelsey Fortune - In general, I am not a fan of peripheral development. I believe that at the very least, all three of these projects need to be improved.

Palomino Place: Developing this land makes the most sense of the three. It is a small area that is surrounded by current development on three side and is adjacent to a grade separated multiuse path that crosses Covell. I do have a few initial thoughts on improvements I’d like to see. While the housing may be “affordable,” there is no provision of “Affordable” housing. The city should be asking for the halfplexes and cottages to part of the Affordable Ownership Housing Program and increased density that includes at least 30% low-, very low-, and extremely low-income Affordable rental units along Covell where lots 1 though 4 sit. Additionally, there is no need for 48 foot wide streets in a residential neighborhood. If we want reasonable traffic speeds, travel lanes of 8-9 feet are appropriate and put parking on only on one side of the street or none on shorter roads creates more human friendly streets. Also, switch from carports to garages - we need to offer secure parking for bicycles. Finally, all peripheral development must be net zero. This means it needs to include a way to offset ICE vehicle VMT on an annual basis. I could get on board with this development with significant improvements.

Shriners: This is a very large project. While it would help address the housing shortage in town, the city should ask for more. The current plan vague, so it is difficult to comment on. It has 15% Affordable housing which should be higher. The 10% of units offered for sale at 70% of market should instead go to the Affordable Ownership Housing Program. It’s difficult to comment further as there is not much detail yet, but all the above comments apply here as well. Then I would consider it. I would much rather see a development on the west of Wildhorse as it adjacent to a shopping center and again surrounded by existing development on three sides. It is unlikely I would support this project.

On the Curve: Again, this is a very large project which is still very vague in its description. I would be difficult in my mind to justify building this disconnected from the rest of town, but if they are willing to provide 30% Affordable housing and sell additional units through the Affordable Ownership Housing Program, as well as providing significant funds to better public transit, perhaps I could get on board. It is highly unlikely that I would support this project.

Responses from District 4 Candidates

Adam Morrill -I oppose any developments that are not currently part of the General Plan, whether they are good for the community or not.  We can no longer condone patchwork amendments to the General Plan as it will only contribute to urban sprawl.  Additionally, we should be looking to develop areas that have already been incorporated in the General Plan before even considering anything else on the periphery.  These areas have already been vetted for how they fit into the existing community.

Gloria Partida - Every project that is to be put forward to the voters should meet all our planning requirements.

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Question  #3 – Measure D (Measure J/R) Modification

Do you support any modifications to the recently renewed (2020) Measure D (formerly Measure J/R)?  Why or why not?

Responses from District 1 Candidates

 

Bapu VaitlaI do not support modifications to Measure D. The people have the right to weigh in on land use decisions that entail annexing land to the city, and I think such direct democratic participation ultimately strengths our civic culture. However, if we fail to build affordable housing during this next RHNA cycle (2023-29), I believe we should consider an exception for 100% affordable developments. I stress that this would be a last resort strategy; I am a supporter of the ballot process and do not want to see its scope narrowed except under emergency circumstances..

Dan Carson - I voted to put a measure to renew Measure J/R/D on the November 2020 ballot with only minor adjustments that were acceptable to its original sponsors. I stand by that decision, and personally voted to pass Measure D at the ballot box, but believe the measure could be improved upon.

The City Council added language to the city’s draft Housing Element that calls for considering clarifying improvements to the existing language in Measure J/R/D that, on paper, exempts affordable housing from its local voting requirements, but has never been used because of conditions that make the use of this provision impractical.  I believe compromise language clarifying the original language should be explored.   

Kelsey Fortune - I generally feel that direct democracy is biased against disadvantaged populations and does not effectively represent the entire community. Additionally, this measure should not be necessary if the public feels they can trust their representatives. However, I understand the distrust that currently exists. As I am opposed to sprawl, I support the current renewal of this measure as it stands. My hope is that we can build a future where this measure is no longer necessary.

Responses from District 4 Candidates

Adam Morrill - The only modification that I would support would be to remove the sunset date.  History has shown that the public wants input on any development outside the city on agricultural land.  If opinions significantly change in the future, the law can always be changed.

Gloria Partida - I believe that the community should have an opportunity to weigh in on the measure as it did when it was first adopted. I believe the current residents should be allowed to examine it and have a voice in it’s future.

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The Sierra Club Yolano Group is a local Sierra Club group comprising members in all of Yolo and small parts of Solano and Colusa Counties. We can be contacted at sierraclubyolanogroup@gmail.com.

Comments

Colin Walsh

Vaitla Wants to claim H was good because of the affordable housing, over looking that the project created far more demand for housing than housing. He also seems to overlook that some of the affordable housing would be met with in-leu fees. He has been on the social services commission for years and he has let an interim affordable housing ordinance with low requirements linger in place the entire time.

In other words, Vaitla’s answer on H says quite a bit about what kind of a council person he would be.

Roberta L. Millstein

Agreed on all counts, Colin. I would also add that his blatant attempt to reach across to voters who were no on Measure H falls flat. It does not fit with my experience of his actual views on Measure H or people who voted no on Measure H. It seems we have a true “politician” here.

Keith

Most of these candidates appear to be trying to be everything to everyone. Many wish-washy responses. For instance, not wanting to build on farmland but being open to building on farmland. Which is it?

IMO, if you're a slow growther it appears that Morrill is your guy.

Ron O

Question #2: "There are 3 new proposed large housing projects on prime farmland in east Davis for which pre-applications have been submitted to the City - Palomino Place, Shriners, and On-the-Curve. All will require General Plan amendments and Measure J/R/D votes by the citizens."

"Do you support these projects and, if so, would you require any changes from their pre-application? If you do not support these projects, why not?"

Gloria Partida's response: "Every project that is to be put forward to the voters should meet all our planning requirements."

This is a complete and total "non-answer", and leads me to believe that she supports all three of these sprawling proposals.

Question #3: Measure D (Measure J/R) Modification

Do you support any modifications to the recently renewed (2020) Measure D (formerly Measure J/R)? Why or why not?

Gloria Partida's response: "I believe that the community should have an opportunity to weigh in on the measure as it did when it was first adopted. I believe the current residents should be allowed to examine it and have a voice in it’s future."

Once again, a complete and total non-response, which leads me to believe that she does not support Measure J/R. The voters already/recently "answered" that question, again. More than 80% support it.

This wing of the "progressives" supports sprawl (including both Partida and Vaitla). In addition, neither one of them acknowledges the increased demand for housing that a proposal like DiSC would have created. (And yet, they're the ones who claim to be concerned about "housing shortages", local contributions to climate change, etc.).

And in the case of Gloria, do you really want to hold on to your position so badly that you'd try to hide your views via non-responses? Why not just acknowledge them more openly, and let the chips fall where they may?

Colin Walsh

As much as Gloria gave a non answer on how she would change measure J/R/D Vaitla‘a answer is worse. It makes it sound like he hasn’t read the law, since there already is a 100% affordable housing carve out.

Todd Edelman

Not really about content - i.e. any possible contradictions - the candidates in any town and perhaps even more so our relatively-well educated one - need to make sure that they have their statements proofread before return.

There are many reasons some have inconsistent good use or prose, or make spelling or other minor errors and so on. I am not questioning the intelligence or wisdom of any candidate - unless they don't fully utilize them in an important communication to the public which is organized by volunteers.

*****

Follow-up question: The online automated text correction engine Grammerly is considering setting up a multi-million dollar new HQ in Woodland OR in Dixon.

The Woodland location, being located in the same county as Davis, would provide substantial tax revenue for the county which could help Davis in direct and indirect ways. The Dixon location is similar in size and scope - neither will provide anything but some reasonable funding for workforce housing - but will be located next to the Union Pacific ROW and will include completion of the train station here, allowing a new stop on the Capitol Corridor line. However as it's in Solano County it will only contribute taxes there, not to Yolo.

As a member of the City Council, which project is your preferred one -- and secondly.... in order to encourage Grammerly to instead build the project here in Davis would you quietly donate blood as long as you are able, every week?

Ron O

Colin: True, but I'd have to say that Dan Carson's answer is even more misleading regarding that (a peripheral Affordable housing development carve-out). As I understand it, a number of things would have to come together for that to occur, including a determination that no infill site is available, a willing seller, and an Affordable housing developer with sufficient government funding to make that happen.

As such, weakening Measure J won't address those factors (with the possible exception of eliminating the determination regarding infill availability).

More likely, what Dan Carson and Bapu Vaitla would pursue is a wholesale change to Measure J which would require a certain percentage of a peripheral proposal to be Affordable housing (in order to bypass Measure J entirely). With the rest, market-rate housing. In other words, the usual peripheral proposals (while simultaneously preventing the voters from weighing in).

There probably should be some type of analysis performed, regarding the percentage of Affordable housing that already exists within the city (compared to other cities), the fiscal impact that has, etc.

Given that there's an "endless supply" of folks seeking Affordable housing across the state, what is Davis' "fair share" of it, given the amount that Davis already has? (If such a concept even exists?) With this question, I'm not necessarily asking what the state is forcing upon communities - which is totally arbitrary in the first place.

It also does not seem like a good idea to "encircle" Davis with Affordable housing - for a number of reasons. This type of housing needs to be incorporated into the city.

Truth be told, Davis is not that expensive of a city in the first place, and its housing prices are moderated by surrounding communities.

Personally, I'm more of a fan of rent control (vs. Affordable housing), as it does not permanently "trap" its occupants into lower-income levels. In addition, it keeps existing housing for existing residents at Affordable levels.

Getting back to Bapu Vaitla and Gloria Partida, this "wing" of the progressives is the most dangerous of all groups, in regard to their pursuit of "sprawl for social justice". In other words, they claim the moral high ground regarding this pursuit, in a manner that someone like Dan Carson cannot. (And yet, they themselves advocate for the creation of housing shortages and local contributions to climate change, via developments such as DiSC.)

It's difficult to understand how the "developer progressives" think. All I know for sure is that they're a dangerous bunch for the environment, as well as city planning. (They've infiltrated state government, as well.)

As I previously mentioned, I'd rather see a "damaged" Dan Carson win, vs. one of these self-perceived "moralists".

One thing I disagree with Kelley Fortune on is her belief (goal?) that the city (or any city) will arrive at a point in which something like Measure J is not needed. And again, it's not like it's preventing all peripheral proposals from being approved in the first place.

Davis (and cities/counties throughout the state) need to "stop apologizing" for protecting farmland / open space. Unfortunately, the "developer progressives" have put those who advocate for protection of farmland and open space on defense, to some degree. Note how these same people NEVER address the underlying cause (e.g., pursuit of "economic development" - such as the situation in Silicon Valley). Fortunately, this seems to be changing on its own. (San Francisco's population has dropped by more than 6% - even while the state continues to force growth upon it.) It's almost as if state officials purposefully deny reality, and scream, "grow, damn it".

Karen L Baker

As a resident of District 4, Gloria Partida's (non-)answers tell me everything I need to know: I'll be supporting Adam Morrill for Davis City Council.

She disqualified herself from serious consideration with her weasel-speak: "I believe the current residents should be allowed to examine it(Measure D)and have a voice in it’s(sic) future." Suddenly East Davis residents have a 'voice?" She didn't listen to our voices when we voted against the first DiSC and continued to ignore and dismiss our voices when we voted against Measure H. Now we are supposed to believe she will START listening to us?

East Davis: let's finally get real representation, and elect Adam Morrill to City Council

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