Some of DiSC’s proponents called it a tiny city. That suggests it is a microcosm of Davis as a whole and all of the issues it faces.
In a recent interview with the Davis Enterprise, Gloria Partida said that “I know that people right now are very focused on what happened with Measure H” but that being a member of Council is “not a one-issue job.”
However, Measure H represents a large number of central and key issues that future Davis City Councils will have to weigh in on. It would have been bad for Davis in variety of ways, as Davis citizens widely recognized when they rejected the project by an almost 2-1 margin.
Thus, a candidate’s stance on Measure H speaks volumes about their values and how they would govern. Gloria Partida (District 4), Dan Carson (District 1), and Bapu Vaitla (District 1) were strongly in favor of Measure H. In contrast, Kelsey Fortune (District 1) and Adam Morrill (District 4) strongly opposed Measure H.
As the No on Measure H campaign emphasized in its ballot arguments and campaign literature, each of the following issues was relevant to the proposed project. In no particular order:
- Affordable housing – DiSC barely met the minimum affordable housing required by the City, a percentage that was already reduced. A true proponent of affordable housing would have pushed for a higher percentage. The housing location was likewise poor, as it would have been adjacent to unhealthy manufacturing activities and I-80.
- Housing crisis – DiSC would have had far more employees than it could house, adding to Davis’s housing woes. Proponents of DiSC who said that housing was a reason to vote for the project were not doing their math (over 2000 new employees but only about 460 housing units, with no guarantee that employees would be housed on-site).
- Agricultural land use – All the candidates now claim that they value agricultural land, but the project wouldn’t have just been on any ag land, it would have been on officially designated Prime agricultural land, the sort of land that we will be increasingly relying for local needs and carbon sequestration. Candidates who claim to care about ag land but who were in favor Measure H should not be believed.
- Habitat land use – The site where DiSC would have gone is known to be habitat for species of special concern, such as Burrowing Owls and Swainson’s Hawks. How will candidates who favored DiSC handle such land uses in the future?
- Traffic – The area around Mace is already gridlocked and DiSC would have added 12,000 cars per day according to the EIR. Some candidates like to downplay the importance of traffic, but when it’s a matter of picking up a child from school, getting to an essential appointment, or making it to the hospital on time, it’s more than a quality of life issue. Also, the traffic that the project generated would have dramatically contributed to the City’s carbon output, which leads to the next item.
- Climate change –DiSC would have increased Davis’s carbon footprint by almost 5% and thwarted the ability for Davis to achieve the goal set by its “Resolution Declaring a Climate Emergency,” mandating carbon neutrality by 2040. Again, all candidates say that they care about addressing climate change, but that doesn’t pass the sniff test for those who supported DiSC.
- Transportation – DiSC was, by design, a freeway-oriented project. It had little-to-nothing in the way of non-automobile-oriented transit. Driving is Davis’s #1 contributor to climate change (79% of greenhouse gas emissions); the City Council should be working to improve that situation, not worsen it.
- Peripheral land use/sprawl – The location of DiSC on the outskirts of town made the traffic, climate change, and transportation problems almost inevitable. Why should we think that candidates who supported DiSC would prioritize infill development over sprawl?
- Downtown Davis – The DiSC EIR unambiguously admits DiSC would have competed with existing local retail, office, and hotel space, especially in downtown Davis. If continuing to have a vibrant, centrally-located downtown was not a priority for those that supported Measure H, how would they vote on issues that affect the downtown in the future?
- City commission process – Almost every commission pleaded for more time to examine the project, but City staff rushed the process through. Will candidates who supported Measure H take the time to make sure that future projects are thoroughly vetted?
- Listening to citizens – Almost the identical project had been rejected by voters just 18 months earlier. The City Council could have insisted that the developer engage with citizens and make changes to the project accordingly. What does it say about candidates who supported a project in spite of previous voter rejection? As councilmembers, would such candidates listen to citizens?
- City Planning – The DiSC project is not in Davis’s General Plan, yet the City prioritized putting DiSC on the ballot twice instead of making long overdue updates to the General Plan. Approving massive projects like this without a plan is like going on a cross-country trip without a roadmap – it is easy to lose your way and take a wrong turn. Should we believe candidates who supported Measure H but now claim that they would not support development outside the General Plan?
- Upholding democracy & independence from developers – Endorsing Measure H meant endorsing the bad behavior of its campaign, which famously included the free-speech squelching developer-funded lawsuit led by Dan Carson. None of the candidates who supported Measure H have made a strong and clear denunciation (or any denunciation at all) that shows they understand why what Carson and the Yes on H campaign did was so problematic.
In short, there is no reason to believe – and much reason to disbelieve – that candidates who supported Measure H would do a good job of steering Davis forward through many of the most important issues it will likely be facing in the coming years.