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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

City-County Discussions Continue to Generate Heat

Most residents of Davis were likely unaware of the County General Plan update process until the County Planning Commission returned with a report recommending several development projects on the periphery of Davis including a 2100-unit senior housing unit in the Northwest Quadrant. This sounded an alarm to many activists and other residents concerned with peripheral growth. At this point, that specific proposal seems dead, however, the contentiousness is far from over.

On Monday, the City of Davis-County of Yolo two-by-two committee met. This body is composed of two members from each body--Sue Greenwald and Don Saylor from the city council and the two Davis County Supervisors--Helen Thomson and Mariko Yamada.

There were moments of relief such as when both Thomson and Yamada indicated their support for the current pass-through agreement indicating that there would not be any move to renegotiate it.

The pass-through agreement is an agreement by the county not to develop within the sphere of influence of the city of Davis, in exchange, the city agrees to give the county a share of the redevelopment money they would have been entitled to had they developed. In this case, Davis gives the county roughly $2.7 million (the figure was somewhat in contention with the county suggesting it might be $2.1 million).

This is a much larger number than the county likely would get if they tried to develop the land. Moreover, it is considerably larger than the pass-through agreements between the county and Woodland and West Sacramento. So when the county talks about not having enough revenue, it seems like Davis ought to be the last place that the county is looking towards.

Moreover, while the county members were suggesting that Davis needs to take on its fair share of growth--a point reiterated by Supervisor McGowan at the County Supervisor's meeting on Tuesday, City Councilmember Don Saylor on Monday, adamantly said that Davis has exceeded all SACOG requirements on fair share of growth in the past. So again, this entire discussion focusing on Davis seems very odd.

Councilmember Saylor was very clear that the City of Davis through the pass-through agreement, maintained the land-use authority on the periphery. He also strongly maintained his opposition to the specific projects mentioned. The county was adamant however that this has not been a project-based plan so far but rather that they are looking at concepts and philosophies. However, specific sites have been identified as possible study areas by the county.

A few weeks ago, the city of Davis agreed in principle to have some sort of joint meeting with the county to discuss common destinies. The county would take up this issue on Tuesday. On Monday however, Councilmember Saylor was very clear that by agreeing to talk that is all the city was doing. They were not agreeing to reconsidering issues such as peripheral growth.

The issue of the joint study sessions at this point seems to be the sticking point. The county is looking at the change of designations of very land areas. This seemed strongly opposed by both Greenwald and Saylor. Greenwald viewed this as the first step toward development process.

Greenwald in speaking of lands on the Davis city-edge: “I would expect the county to keep its agricultural designation... It would be a somewhat hostile act that would impede cooperation.”

Yamada took exception to the use of the term hostile, but Greenwald's point here was dead-on: the county should not be changing the land-use designation here. At this point, the joint study session is viewed by Davis council as a means by which to try to force a change and that is not supported, at least from what I have seen, by the council. In the end, I think this proposal will be dropped, but as of now it is THE point on contention.

A few weeks ago, again, the city council in principle agreed to meeting with the county for a meeting on joint destinies. Supervisor Yamada brought this before the Yolo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. It became clear that she did not have the votes to support a County-City specific meeting. Neither Rexroad nor McGowan supported that idea as they did not want the county to intrude into their spheres of influence or their respective cities.

Supervisor Rexroad pointed out that he generally defers to the Davis supervisors on Davis issues and thought it should be handled by the two-by-two which is a process already in place. If there was a formal process between Davis and the county, he would have to play a more active role.

Supervisor McGowan suggested that growth on Davis border was a "false alarm." That there was no need to rehash the general plan. He was not interested in meeting with jurisdictions right now to see what it looks like, not on narrow and specific interests. He said these concerns expressed by Davis are not going to happen. This was local stuff that he did not want to get involved with.

McGowan reiterated previous comments--that he was not interested in telling anyone where they should grow, but all are responsible for caring about increased growth that will come down from SACOG. He was not interested in a county absorbing specific growth because a city does not take on their fare share. (Again, Saylor's point is important that Davis has exceeded its fair share, so it is not clear where this concern is coming from).

Supervisor Chamberlain made the point that he was interested in meeting with Davis because they want to control business around Davis which are in his district. The Oeste project (Northwest Quadrant) would have bordered his district and he did not think it should go forward without input from the 5th District. (Again the Supervisors were adamant that this project is off the table).

Thomson supported the idea of an all-city-county meeting. This would be between the four cities and the county sometime in September or October (which likely means even later). This ended up being the compromise that was supported by all of the members.

It seems clear that the County General Plan update generated a huge amount of alarm in the city of Davis--and some of that appears to be justified. The process seems to be moving in the right direction however the joint study session idea is still a large concern to residents of Davis who wish to protect against peripheral growth and the county overstepping its land-use authority as authorized in the pass-through agreement.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting