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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Vanguard has moved.

NEW ADDRESS: DAVISVANGUARD.ORG
The Vanguard has moved.

NEW ADDRESS: DAVISVANGUARD.ORG

Monday, March 02, 2009

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Judge Orders Defendants to Cease Delay Tactics in Buzayan Case

It was summer of 2005 when then 16 year-old Halema Buzayan was arrested by Davis Police Officer Pheng Ly. Much has happened since that time both within the city and the police department. But one thing that has not happened is that the Federal Lawsuit filed by Ms. Buzayan's family has not gone to trial. That may finally change shortly as a Federal Judge last week ordered the defense to quit stalling and allow the case to move forward.

Halema Buzayan and her family allege 16 causes of action against the Davis Police Department, individual police officers, the Yolo County District Attorney and several individual's from the DA's Office, and the City of Davis. Specifically the list of defendants include: City of Davis, former Davis Police Chief James Hyde, Assistant Police Chief Steven Pierce, Officer Pheng Ly and Ben Hartz, Former DA David Henderson, Deputy DA Patricia Fong, and Counsel for Yolo County and the City of Davis Douglas Thorn who is himself a defendant in this case.

The defendants have submitted a series of motions to dismiss, but to this point the only original defendant whose case was dismissed was the Davis Enterprise, dismissed in July of 2007.

US District Judge Morrison England describes the current motion to dismiss as being submitted "in an unusual manner."

He writes:
"Although the Court concludes that the majority of the Second Motion to Dismiss is duplicative and unnecessary, and while Plaintiffs have strong arguments that the Motion to Dismiss is untimely in the first place, the Court will nonetheless exercise its discretion to hear Defendants’ pleading challenge one final time because resolution of Defendants most recent contentions may help clarify the remaining issues in the present action."
Judge England proceeds to deny all but a very small portion of the defendant's motion to dismiss.
"Based on the foregoing analysis, Defendants’ Motion to Strike (Docket No. 156) is DENIED. Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 138) is also DENIED, except that the Court clarifies, with respect to Plaintiffs’ Fourteenth Cause of Action that any reliance on false light invasion of privacy is precluded. Defendants’ Second Motion to Dismiss is accordingly GRANTED in that regard. Pursuant to Rule 12(f)(1), the Court orders the second sentence of paragraph 190, and the first sentence in paragraph 192, in Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint stricken. All other causes of action shall proceed in a manner consistent with this Order."
While the judge struck those two paragraphs, he left the bulk of the fourteenth cause of action in place.
"However, the Fourteenth Cause of Action remains viable to the extent Plaintiffs rely on alleged disclosure and broadcast of private information."
The Fourteenth cause of action is a complaint regarding a violation of the California Constitutional Right to Privacy. The bulk of that complaint claims a deliberate disclosure and broadcast of private information.
"Defendants' conduct has resulted in Halema Buzayan and her family being placed in a false light in the public and within the community. Defendants have violated Plaintiffs' right to privacy as secured under the California Constitution. Plaintiffs assert claims for violation of their right to privacy as secured under the California Constitution against all involved Defendants."
Judge England then concludes his opinion with the following:
"Additionally, while the Court concludes that entertaining Defendants’ Second Motion to Dismiss had some limited utility in narrowing the arguments, many of the other arguments raised were either cumulative, premature, inadequately developed, and/or unsubstantiated. Defendants are directed to refrain from any further efforts to frustrate the timely resolution of this litigation."
In other words, Judge England is telling the defendants to quit trying to stall this case. It is time to move forward.

He roundly criticizes their arguments as being premature, inadequately developed, and/ or unsubstantiated. He questioned the need for this second motion to strike. And although he limited the 14th complaint somewhat, for the most part virtually summarily dismissed it.

At this point in time, it is time to move forward with the case, and let the Buzayan Family after three and a half years finally have their day in court. Then the court can determine if they were wronged and what the damages were.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Commentary: What Does Seven Million in Budget Cuts Look Like?

DJUSD knows what it is like to try to reduce a $4.5 million deficit because they attempted to do so last year. $4.5 million would have meant at least 114 teacher layoffs, possibly a closed school, definitely some ended programs like music, art, maybe da Vinci High as well--at least as they knew it. But while Davis experienced threats, they never had to go through with it. The May revise came in better than the midyear budget estimates. The Democratic legislature restored funding cuts. Davis used one-time monies from its reserves and got a $1.7 million gift and was able to escape last year largely unfazed.

I say all of that because at its core, $4.5 million in budget cuts would have been devastating. Now imagine $7 million in cuts. That is what Woodland is facing right now. That is what the Woodland School Board did on Thursday night, they voted to reduce expenses by $7 million. That is more than twice the deficit Davis is facing right now.

How does one cut $7 million? The Woodland Daily Democrat hardly gives a vivid description of this. Although apparently the public outcry got them to restore a number of programs including the elementary music program.
"Trustees also allotted $793,773 in funds to restore several programs and positions -- two high school vice principals, zero and seventh period, the Elementary Music Program, a high school librarian, an elementary school counselor and an extra teacher for Pioneer High School's Block Scheduling -- that were set to be cut."
It continues:
"While the elementary music program was restored, the board made several reductions to other programs, school budgets and at the district level.

School sites throughout the district froze open positions and cut 10 percent of discretionary funds, the enrollment center was restructured, elementary vice principal positions were cut, and teachers were reduced along with many other cuts. After much discussion, the board agreed to close both Grafton and Willow Spring Elementary schools."
That's right Woodland voted to close two elementary schools.
"Willow Spring and Grafton elementary schools were hotly debated reductions with many parents speaking in favor of leaving the schools open, to no success.

While Trustees Carol Souza Cole and Rosario Ruiz-Dark said they were not in favor of making these decisions without more information or more community input, other trustees said the schools were already set to be closed and students would get a good education no matter where they went. The board voted 5-2, with Trustees Souza Cole and Ruiz-Dark opposing the recommended cuts."
I will leave it to our friends at the Woodland Journal to work out the rest of the details. I have heard enough. This is not about picking on Woodland. Woodland is not alone. School districts all across the state are having to make veritable Sophie's choices between closing down programs and closing down schools. Many will have to do both.

Davis is quite fortunate in a lot of different ways. Some people have suggested in light of certain decisions that they regret voting for Measure W. Well let's do the math. Without Measure W just add another $2.5 million to the deficit that Davis has. That would put Davis' deficit for next year up over $5 million. Take out the generosity of the Davis residents and their $1.7 million in donations last year. We would be looking at the kind of cuts that Woodland is right now.

In other words, Davis is fortunate. A wealthy school district, in a wealthy community that is generous and supports its schools. That is a great thing.

The horrible thing is that across the state many students are not nearly so lucky. They do not live in communities that can dip into their bank accounts like Davis did last year. Heck, Davis probably could not do it so easily this year as they did last year. The economic crisis has hit home in this state. The unemployment rate is over 10%. Tax receipts are way down. The state is slashing billions from schools. That means millions slashed from local school districts, most of whom do not get parcel tax money to make up the difference.

The result of this is that the relatively wealthy and well off students in places like Davis will get by just fine. Their community will give just enough to avoid the kind of wholesale draconian cuts that Woodland is facing. We will tighten our belts. Our teachers may have to take pay cuts or face a small number of layoffs. But at the core our programs will survive and our students will thrive.

There are people on this blog who seem to take these things for granted. They seem to believe that schools have failed us. They seem to believe that there will be no consequences from cutting billions across the state from schools. I disagree with that assessment. I don't think schools have failed us. I think we've failed our schools. Not in Davis, but across the state of California.

California ranks in the middle of the country in per pupil spending, and that was data from a few years ago before the latest round of cuts. California was below the national average. And those are in absolute dollars, it does not account for the higher cost of living in California compared to many of the states below California in per pupil spending.

There was good breakdown last year in my other publication, the California Progress Report.
“The Census Bureau numbers show that California still spends $652 less per student than the national average, even though their figures on "student spending" include funds from outside the state that never make it into the classroom, which arguably inflate the figures. The Census Bureau estimates lump in payments made into the state retirement system, as well as federal funding beyond what the state spends. But even including those calculations, California's significantly below-average spending on students is abysmal. By comparison, the non-partisan national publication Education Week issued a report showing that California spends $1,900 less than the national average, because it only includes the actual funds spent by each state on each student.”
Also:
"even though we have extremely high costs, housing in particular, our teachers are still paid below the national average on a per pupil basis: $3,479 in California - compared to the national average of $3,811."
The bottom line is that we get what we pay for. If California were near the top of the barrel in terms of students scores, then maybe, just maybe we could justify our lack of spending. But it is not. It is towards the bottom.

For years we are told that the problem is just that we pay too much on administrators. Sorry folks, the district has laid the budget numbers bare. Only a tiny percentage of DJUSD's general fund budget goes to administrators. And that percentage has gone down. Davis has cut out it's Associate Superintendent of Education Position, it has cut to the bone its fiscal office. There is nowhere else to cut. The raised salaries that people are moaning about do not amount to a hill of beans in the scheme of things--and even they are probably coming off the books and then some.

Davis is not alone. Across the state, districts have done the same. This is not pork. Many of these are essential positions and their absence requires other people to do more work for no additional pay. A lot of additional work. For years, teachers have had to purchase educational supplies out of their own pockets. The same teachers who are paid below national average per pupil--which means that we are teaching to more kids than the national average. California teachers teach to about 22 kids whereas their counterparts teach to 15 kids. Think that might make a difference in the service they receive in return?

The sad thing is that all of the numbers I have just shared with you are numbers that existed before we cuts roughly $7 billion from the state's educational budget this year on top of whatever cuts were accrued last year and the lack of COLA for increased costs of living.

We indeed balanced our budget temporarily through huge real cuts (not simply slowing down the increases to programs, but actual cuts) and tax increases, but we did at a huge cost. Go to Woodland and you can see the very human cost it is going to take.

Remember that this is the childhood of those kids. This is their education. This is their future.

One final note: Somebody had the audacity of accusing me of being a Republican yesterday because I favor fiscal responsibility in the city of Davis and will not support new taxes without an assurance of accountability and responsible new contracts for upper level city employees. What these individual apparently do not get is that we do not have the money and resources anymore to be living the way we did in the 1990s or even the 2000s. We have to pick and choose what programs to support. For me, education has to be THE priority. Everything else has to come second.

The priorities in the city of Davis are out of whack. We are sitting on a $13 million deficit of unmet needs. That's road repairs and infrastructure upgrades. If we do not get our public employee compensation and pension system under control, we cannot keep up with the things that we really need to put money into.

Sorry but there is really not one pot of money for schools and one pot for the city. It is but one pot of money and we have to make tough choices.

A liberal in these times has to be fiscally responsible because there is no money to just throw around anymore.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Friday, February 27, 2009

Heystek Joins Vanguard's Call Against New Taxes without Reform

Back on February 3, the Vanguard made a bit of splash by invoking the spirit of Bush I circa 1988, saying "Read My Lips... No New Taxes."

In truth, despite how it sounded, it was not a declaration against taxes, or even new taxes. It was suggestion that Davis gets its fiscal house in order.

The city of Davis faces both a rare crisis and a rare opportunity. Right now, the city faces in the short term an economic downturn which has led to a loss of tax revenue. This situation calls for short-term budget cuts. However, the city has longer term structural deficit problems, it's facing a crisis of unmet needs, it's facing a problem of runaway top employee salaries, a pension problem, and an unfunded liability problem.

Those problems existed before the current economic crisis, but ironically the current economic crisis gives us a glimmer of an opportunity to get our fiscal house in order.

This economic crisis has already caused the city of Davis to scale back on its original plans to fix the longer term problem with new taxation. Instead, they are looking to manage the economic situation by renewing the current taxes.

As the Vanguard wrote on February 3, it has become
"clear that neither the council nor city staff wanted to raise or impose any new taxes in the near future to solve the city's growing problem of unmet needs. While I agree with that approach, it does not solve the city's problems either in the short term or the long term.

Instead they have suggested that they will simply place the current taxes back on the ballot. That would include an extension of the Parks Tax, which is a parcel tax requiring two-thirds vote and an extension of the half-cent sales tax."
The Vanguard took the position that even this renewal of taxes would be opposed unless the city gets their fiscal house in order in part through restructuring employee contracts and pensions.

At Tuesday night's Davis City Council Townhall Meeting, the Vanguard's call was heeded by Councilmember Lamar Heystek. In January, a similar townhall meeting drew 30 members of the public, at least. This time the meeting was poorly attended. Just three members of the public attended as opposed to huge amounts of city staff including all of the department heads.

Councilmember Heystek told the council and city staff that he would oppose the renewal of the new taxes unless the city dealt with the fiscal problem and new employee contracts in a responsible manner.

His announcement seemed to stun city staff who immediately took notice. The City Council is not directly involved in employee negotiations, although they do approve the final contracts. However, Mr. Heystek believed it was the only leverage he had.

Two of his concerns are asking city employees to take more responsibility for their post-employment benefits. In addition, the city should re-examine the method by which we deliver services such as fire.

The Vanguard earlier this week demonstrated that the city's costs for fire are disproportionate to our service calls. A situation the begs for a restructuring of fire staffing. The Vanguard is fully committed to insure that there is no loss of service or response time, but believes alternative and less costly models can and should be applied to improve our fiscal responsibility.

Right now that appears to be several changes the city can make to the structure of contracts that would contain city costs:
  1. Hold the line on top employee salaries
  2. Short term hold the line on all employee salaries during the economic crisis, in the future bring them up only as far as inflation takes us.
  3. Restructure the pension system by increasing employee contributions especially at the top end and moving it from "pay as you go" to full funding.
  4. Look into cost containment for health coverage
All of these would need to be done with collective bargaining agreement. The alternative to restructuring the pension system would be to create a two-tiered system. The bargaining units could make the decision as to which is more beneficial.

Now that Councilmember Heystek has pressed for the city to engage in strong negotiations, hopefully other members of council will follow. Councilmember Sue Greenwald has long been outspoken in terms of wanting to reign in the contracts and pensions of the highest paid employees and upper-management.

Once again it is important to emphasize that this is not an effort to put down either the average city employee or employee unions. The job of an employee union is to get the best possible contract for their respective bargaining unit. It is the job of the city however to be an effective counter to that weight. They represent the interests of the voters and the taxpayers. When one particular unit uses their political muscle and resources to elect favorable councilmembers while the other units do not engage in overt politicking the system begins to breakdown.

As we saw with the Grand Jury report in January, the impact of throwing $30,000 or more into a political race can be decisive in the actions a council is willing to take. Even the Mayor who has been outspoken in favor of fiscal responsibility wilted under the pressure of her backers back in January.

This will thus be a long and difficult fight, but Councilmember Heystek's actions on Tuesday put the city staff on notice that business as usual will result in a less than unanimous endorsement of their current policies.

The Vanguard urges other members of the council particularly Mayor Asmundson to quickly follow suit.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Focusing the Debate on Davis High School's Stadium Renovation

Back in December, the DJUSD school board made the decision to prioritize the modernization of the football stadium over that of Emerson Junior High. This has generated a lot of criticism for the school district from a number of different quarters. In general this criticism has been ill-founded and based on misconceptions of funding and other factors.

The purpose of this article is to clarify some of the issues. While there seems to be a good deal of criticism to go around, it should be criticism that is fact-based rather than based on misinformation.

I largely decided to do this article because the school board and district's perspective is, we had a full public discussion about this at least twice in open meetings. People can view the tapes of those meetings if they are confused.

That is of course not how it works. The district needs to do a better job of communicating with the public. People do not watch the meetings and they will not watch the tapes of the meeting. At least most people will not. They may not even read the newspaper on the issue. But that will not stop them from forming opinions and even expressing those opinions.

Likely then that means the issue of communication falls to entities such as the Vanguard which can breakdown complex issues and discuss them at length rather than being confined to 500 words, 800 words, even 1200 words.

For that reason I have decided to go ahead with this explanation, even though I'm not sure what decision I would have made had I been a board member in December or February. Criticisms as I said should be fact-based and then people can make up their own minds.

A letter appears February 20, 2009 in the Davis Enterprise from 24 teachers at Cesar Chavez Elementary School.

They wrote:
"Fourth, we oppose the plan to build a $10 million high school stadium while there are schools such as Emerson Junior High which, last year, was under consideration for closure due to dilapidated facilities. Additionally, the long-term effects of the stadium financing on the general fund are not clearly delineated, and a clear payment plan has not been developed."
For this we need to back up several steps. Last spring, the district was facing a $4.5 million deficit. To that into perspective, what we face now which is roughly $3.1 million is a two year deficit. The scale of that deficit dwarfed this one in a lot of ways. So one thing the district was looking at was they knew off the bat they could save over $600,000 by closing a school.

The next part of this was the condition of Emerson Junior High. The district knew that it needed upgrades and repairs. However, what they did not know at that time was whether those needed upgrades and repairs were safety violations. This all happened so quickly that the district was in danger of making decisions based on less than complete information. This is very important to understand, to a good degree, the condition of the facilities in Spring of 2008 was unknown and all discussions were speculation.

Based on this and the problems of logistics that arose, the district made the decision not to close Emerson Junior High at that time and evaluate the facilities at a later point.

In June 2008, the district completed its evaluation. The evaluations indicate that the district will need to spend between $10 and $15 million on upgrades to Emerson. However, what they were told was that this was not an imminent safety problem. Much of the needed upgrades and repairs were to get it up to date with current code requirements. According to the consultants at the December meeting, that can happen at any time. Basically those requirements only kick in if the school were to do a major construction project.

School board Tim Taylor made it a point to talk about this back in December. He acknowledged rumors of deteriorating conditions in the buildings at Emerson but again added that there rumors were not borne out by the actual surveys by architects.

So when the teachers say there were school such as Emerson that were under consideration for closure due to dilapidated facilities, that is both misleading and really out of date information. The correct statement would have been that the district was looking to cut costs last spring and the conditions of the buildings while not known at the time, were cited as a possible reason for closure of the school.

I have said before and I will say again, I do not believe that any board members or any administrator wants to close Emerson. That is based on personal discussions with just about all of them. Moreover, looking at the three year finances, I do not see a reason that the district would need to close Emerson. They may play with the configurations, but I believe with strong certainty that Emerson is in no danger at this point of closing.

I spent more space than anticipated addressing the Emerson rumor, but that was important to put to bed. At a future point, there will be an article that fully explains the financing of the football stadium at Davis High School.

At this point, here is what we know. The district believes it can get redevelopment money for a portion of this project. That redevelopment money can only be used for school facilities, not for teacher salaries or other instructional expenses.

Second, the district is planning on borrowing about $4 million against future revenues from the school district's community facilities districts. Again those funds can be used for school facilities only, not for teacher salaries.

See a pattern here. I am uncertain what the teachers meant when they stated: "the long-term effects of the stadium financing on the general fund are not clearly delineated." To my knowledge there will be no impact on the general fund since these monies do not and CANNOT come from general fund monies.

There has been considerable public outcry to this point about the project. In part the money issue is driving this. Part of that stems from the perception that the district is starving for money on one hand but taking up a $10 million project on the other. Again, that perception is wrong and misplaced because of the differential in types of funding.

The other issue with funding is that the district chose DHS over Emerson. They did this in December. There is no getting around the fact that they consciously prioritized DHS Stadium over Emerson. As I have already explained that does not mean they are closing Emerson. They simply believe that DHS Stadium is more pressing.

Again, I turn to a letter to the editor, this one from New Year's eve:
"Unquestionably, the appalling condition of the Blue Devils' stadium calls for its replacement. But in these desperate economic times is a costly restoration the best option? Especially when it likely means stalling desperately needed restoration at Emerson."
One of the questions is of course whether the restoration at Emerson is really desperately needed.

However, what is clear is that this is not merely an issue of the football program at the high school. This is not merely a matter of putting academics ahead of athletics or the appearance of vice-versa.

What this comes down to is a health and safety issue. The district was told by consultants and by students that there are safety issues not just with the football field, but with the track and with the stands. The district believes they face liability if this issue is not corrected and that liability would come out of the general fund whereas the repair comes from facilities money.

Again, that is the issue and the basis on which they made their decision. Are there alternatives to renovating the field? That is subject to debate and discussion. The district seemed to consider alternatives such as using Toomey Field, that seemed to be cost-prohibitive as well. Moreover it was impractical for everyday usage. Remember it is not merely the athletics programs that use the facilities but there is everyday usage.

Regardless, I think the question about alternatives is a fair discussion point. I also think the question about prioritization is a fair discussion point as long as understand the facts at this time suggest that Emerson is not going to be shutdown due to health and safety issues and the district's consultants believe that DHS Stadium faces more imminent and significant health and safety concerns than Emerson.

So to quickly summarize here: Emerson is not closing due to health and safety concerns. DHS Stadium will not use monies that could go to the classroom. The district believes the situation is more critical at DHS Staidum where Emerson mainly faces code upgrades that are not needed until construction occurs in the future.

---David M. Greenwald reporting

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Westlake Grocery Deal in Doubt As Owner Allegedly Reneges on Handshake Deal

In an interview with the Vanguard, the Davis Advocates for Neighborhood Groceries (DANG) say they thought they had a deal. Consultants for Farrokh Hosseinyoun, the majority owner of the Westlake Plaza Shopping Center on Lake Boulevard in West Davis had found a suitor for the Westlake Plaza's empty grocery store spot.

Enter the Delano Family, owners of eight Bay Area Grocery stores bearing the same name. They operate Delano's Markets in San Francisco, Mill Valley, Tiburon, Fairfax and Novato, many of them very upscale in appearance. Adding to the intrigue is the versatility of their product and the vast experience of the Delanos in the grocery business and their genuine interest in coming to Davis and Westlake Plaza.

The principle owner of the Delano's Markets, an independent family owned chain, is Harley Delano, 72, who has been in the grocery business for 55 years. He previously was the president of several food store chains such as Cala & Bell Food Stores in San Francisco as well as a divisional president to Kroger's and Lucky's store chains and he has sat on the board of directors of a number of other grocery stores. His son and co-owner, Dennis Delano has been in the grocery business for more than 30 years. Harley is the CEO and Dennis is the President/COO of their family run business with other family members actively involved in the day to day operations.

They possess the rare ability to create custom grocery stores that are neatly tailored to the clientele in the specific neighborhoods and communities in which they operate. In Davis, the Delano's were looking at opening a specialty store with an upscale appearance and emphasis on organic and other natural foods. In other markets, their stores have as many as 198 organic items.

Dang Board Member Carolyn Hinshaw was quoted on the DANG website as being impressed with what she saw during a January 7, 2009 tour of the Delano's Bay Area stores.
"My impressions were immediately favorable. I feel that Delano's would be a very good fit for West Davis and that it is a business that the community and the City should get behind and support."
The Westlake Plaza store site is zoned for a minimum of 15,000 square feet of grocery store space. However, the Delanos wanted less space and DANG believed that they could have a good store at 11,000 square feet. The remaining space would have presumably gone to other retail.

DANG was willing and excited to accept a temporary zoning change to allow a grocer such as Delano's Markets to operate an 11,000 square foot store, hoping that the remainder of the 23,000 square foot footprint would be filled with coffee shops, and other businesses whose core activities centered around food.

It was at this point, that the Delanos and DANG began to run into obstacles, many of these of the owner's own doing.

Previously, when Food Faire left Westlake Plaza, now nearly three years ago, Mr. Hosseinyoun and and his minority partner, Jim Barcewski, had gutted and stripped the entire grocery store building leaving it essentially a shell of its former self. They filled in the cargo bay rendering the receiving door to the rear of the store useless. They tore out the insides of the store such as the interior walls, the rest rooms, the floors, air conditioning ducts, insulation, and other grocery store infrastructure. As a result, there is a huge cost of tenant improvements that the landlord must do to repair and restore the building back to a usable state prior to leasing the property to a new grocery store tenant. DANG estimates that it may take up to well over $1 million or more to return the gutted former store back into an operational grocery store.

There have been serious questions raised by the neighbors about whether the property owners even wanted to rent this space as a food market in keeping with the City's Ordinance which requires a minimum 15,000 square foot grocery store at the shopping center. Apparently, Mr. Hosseinyoun and Mr. Barcewski made the location as unappetizing as possible and then lobbied City Staff and the Planning Commission to reduce the zoning requirements down to 3,000 square feet. This is basically the size of the Circle K store which is little more than two blocks down the street from Westlake Plaza. DANG and other neighbors want a full service and fully operational grocery store and the 3,000 square feet proposal does not cut it. Fortunately for them, the Planning Commission agreed and denied the application.

However, since then Mr. Hosseinyoun has pledged to bring a grocery store to Westlake. He has put money into the property, finally making long overdue repairs and upgrading the site's exterior appearance.

It was back in September 2008 that the Delanos first expressed an interest in bringing their store to Davis. They estimated they needed financing of between $750,000 and $800,000 to make the deal work. This funding would be used to purchase the needed equipment, fixtures, coolers, software and electronics, cash registers which is usually borne by the grocery store operator who becomes the tenant.

Mr. Hosseinyoun even offered to loan them $250,000 to help close the gap. At that point they needed another $500,000 to $600,000 in additional funding and they began their search for a lender.

DANG worked with the Delanos and had them talk to First Northern Bank, but according to the members of DANG, they are not sure what happened. First Northern Bank backed out, DANG suspects because Mr. Hosseinyoun decided he either could not or would not continue with his commitment to provide $250,000 in capital to the Delanos. Once that offer came off the table, First Northern took a different view at the ability to finance the Delanos.

This was extremely frustrating, needless to say, to DANG. In addition to opening up a market, the Delanos were ready to move their cooperate office to Davis leasing additional space at Westlake Plaza to do so. The Delanos would have hired 30 to 40 people to work in the Davis store.

This has driven a wedge between DANG and the owners of Westlake. DANG suspected that perhaps Mr. Hosseinyoun got cold feet because the project was becoming too close to reality. Mr. Hosseinyoun claims, according to DANG, that the downturn of the economy was causing his funds to dry up or that he feared they would dry up. DANG seems skeptical of the claim.

DANG has let Mr. Hosseinyoun know that he needs to step up to the plate or he needs to find another lender. At this point Mr. Hosseinyoun is claiming that it is DANG's responsibility to find financing.

These events have caused DANG to step back from their willingness to partner with Mr. Hosseinyoun. They no longer feel they can trust him.

On February 6, 2009, they fired off a letter to the Mr. Hosseinyoun, copying members of the Davis City Council as well as the Vanguard.
"DANG is aware of the discussions that have taken place at your meeting last Thursday with both First Northern Bank and the Delanos. We were surprised to hear about this new "residential" component scenario, and are currently taking no position on the issue other than to acknowledge the fact that this distracts from our number one priority of securing a good grocer/anchor tenant for Westlake Plaza, in a timely manner.

We were disappointed to hear that you and or FNB did not offer any realistic financing solution for the Delanos. And in fact your having withdrawn your $250K loan offer to the Delanos, had cooled FNB's interest in financing the balance necessary to bring the Delano’s Market to Westlake. We are also aware that financing the entire $750-800K needed by the Delanos, is well within your means.

DANG has been in recent contact with the Delanos to ascertain as to whether or not they are still interested in pursuing their "Westlake Project". At this point they still are . . . and so is DANG! They have their caveats . . . and so does DANG!"
Among the Delanos caveats is that they will not encumber their personal residences or property in order to secure a loan or a line of credit.

DANG's Caveats include the following:
"1)- That the Delanos total financing needs of up to $800K are met by you, either through a direct loan (or line of credit) from your resources for the full sum, or your guarantees in conjunction with a lender of your choice.
2)- That the Delano grocery project is given your first priority, with the goal of having the store open by September 1, 2009 to take advantage of UCD student arrivals and the 4th Quarter Holiday sales.
3)- That the current retailers and restaurants continue to be given rent reductions so they can try to survive while the anchor tenant is being restored to the property.
4)- That any plan to subdivide, residential rezone, and redevelop the property be delayed until after the Delano's grocery is open, as this process will be too lengthy for the Delanos or your current retail tenants.
5)- That the current total square footage of retailers and restaurants is secured in any future redevelopment so as to maintain critical visitor traffic."
They conclude:
"DANG wants to be assured that the above caveats are met, and that a grocery store opens soon. At the opening of a new neighborhood grocery store, DANG will fully support reducing the zoning grocery requirement of 15,000 sq ft down to the 11,000 sq ft requested by Delanos. We will not support reduction of the 15,000 sq ft requirement prior to the store opening, unless we can agree to create a legal mechanism that ensures complete and acceptable performance."
In response, Mr. Hosseinyoun asked the members of DANG and the community to come up with the difference.
"I urge you, the community, to come up with the difference in order to make this deal happen."
DANG responded:
When your $250,000 commitment was hastily withdrawn from the deal it did 'SHOCK' everyone and appears to have undermined the confidence of the DeLano's, DANG Board, First Northern Bank and probably the City of Davis. As a result, DANG's good faith efforts to help you recruit a grocer, approach the city, other financial institutions and the West Davis community on your behalf are now suspended.

Based on your recent action and on your history with us and the community, DANG is not willing to accept your suggestion for us to take on the additional responsibility of finding financing for your project, only to have you torpedo it again! When you find a solution for the financing we really hope the DeLanos are still interested! Until then DANG will keep the community activated, and will keep pressure on the City to maintain the current zoning restrictions and to enforce City code compliance on the property.
DANG board members also expressed frustration at the city of Davis. The impact of this vacancy is taking a terrible toll on the other businesses in the shopping center. A large number of the retailers are barely hanging on, and holding out in hopes that a deal can be reached.

But thus far the city is doing little to nothing. They simply have not taken an active role in trying to bring a grocer to this location.

Apparently the property owners still have a pending appeal of the Planning Commission's decision which is still listed on the City Council's long range calendar. Moreover, as DANG pointed out, the City has never enforced a number of code violations. They put a notice for instance to repair the loading dock. It was a two week notice given more than two years ago. It has not been repaired. The broken window in the front of the building which has been there for years is also a code violation that has never been enforced by the City.

Asked what is going to happen next Eric Nelson, one of the members of DANG declared, "we're going to wait, keep our powder dry and our guns loaded."

Russ Snyder, another DANG member was more optimistic. He believes that they have exploded the myth that a market cannot do well in this location. Here is a very experienced grocer who is confident that a store can be run there. There is no question in their minds. The Delanos are willing to put money and their reputation on the line.

Moreover, Russ Snyder suggested that the center's landlord's decision to gut the location has created a financial liability that will make it difficult and expensive to get the location back in shape to house a grocer.

But most of all he feels like they are close. In a meeting with DANG, Mr. Hosseinyoun said that he is committed to having a grocer at this location. But if he's indeed committed, he needs to make the investment. Everyone agrees the Delano's Markets would be a great fit and successful. So from that standpoint it would seem logical to make this deal.

Eric Nelson also pointed out that the Delanos are just one of several grocers who had the same feeling.

DANG member David Thompson suggested that there is not much they can do at this point. They tried to put as much pressure as they could during the last month to encourage everyone (the property owner, the Delanos and the bank) to close the deal. They can't really do anymore than they have done. Mr. Hosseinyoun seems willing to sit with an empty food market and an empty shopping center.

Eric Nelson speculated that perhaps they will sell the property to someone who would actually care enough to get a grocer because he feels it is obvious that Mr. Hosseinyoun does not.

David Thompson added that DANG was willing to accept an 11,000 square foot store as long as there was an actual grocer who had the qualities they were looking for and the services people needed.

It is DANG's position that they are not going to agree to zoning changes generically, the only leverage they have to get their West Davis neighborhood a real grocery store is the current zoning.

David Thompson also expressed concern about what will happen to West Davis if it does not have a grocery store. Right now he is concerned also about the future of Emerson Jr. High School. If people have no grocery store or school it will be a tremendous hit to West Davis.

As Russ Snyder put it, it is about a community where people come together and can interact rather than a place where a bunch of people come and sleep.

Right now it is a community that has been missing a grocery store for nearly three years, it is a large number of businesses in the shopping center in deep fiscal jeopardy, and it is a community group that has grown tired of being given false promises and broken handshake deals.

If there is to be a grocery store that moves into Westlake, it needs to happen soon for the sake of this community, this neighborhood, and the fiscal and financial health of the city. It is high time that city staff start taking as much of an interest in this shopping center as they have taken in trying to insure that Trader Joe's and Target come to Davis.

---David M. Greenwald reporting