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Thursday, March 29, 2007

County Moves Forward with Recommendation for "Joint Study Areas" on Davis Periphery

On Tuesday, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors voted to approve three areas in the Davis sphere of influence as "Joint Study Areas." These areas include the Oeste Ranch area in the Northwest Quadrant and an area in the Covell Village west of Poleline both of which would be designated for residential housing developments, and an antiquated property east of Mace Road along I-80 which would be designated for commercial development. Ostensibly these Joint Study sessions would be used to determined changes in land use designations for the County General Plan Update.

The City of Davis and the City Council remains at least in public adamantly against such developments. As Katherine Hess, Davis Community Development Director wrote in a hand-delivered letter to the board, "we continue to be concerned that the current recommendations being considered could set in motion potential significant land use inconsistent with the long-standing policies embraced by the City and County on urbanization within the City's Planning Area."

The City-County pass-through agreement grants exclusive land use authority to the city of Davis in the Davis planning area in exchange for over $2 million a year granted to the county.

Hess writes:
"The City continues to be very concerned about possible inclusion of retain uses along Intestate 80, either at Mace Boulevard or at Chiles Road. The City of Davis is aware of the fiscal difficulties facing the County. We hope that the funds that the City's Redevelopment Agency passes through each year provide some assistance to your budget. Development along the freeway without the consent of the City would jeopardize that $2 million per year. Retail development that would generate an equivalent amount of revenue for the County seems improbable."
At the last meeting Stephen Souza, Davis City Councilmember, expressed interest in joint meetings to discuss an array of issues, however, the city council as a whole is strongly opposed to a joint meeting. At the two-by-two last week between the city and county, Councilmember Don 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.

As Hess wrote:
“There is no City Council consensus on whether the city and county should jointly consider urban development in the northwest quadrant or in the north-central planning sub-area... Although there may be opportunities for continued discussions about future land uses in these areas, we support having these discussions outside of the process for the current General Plan Update.”
Some members of the Davis City Council have pointed out that in fact the voters in Davis resoundingly defeated the development proposal by the city in Covell Village. That being the case, even discussions considering land-use alternatives for the Covell Property should be considered by the voters a direct affront to them. Others members have suggested further that the County is basically declaring war on the city of Davis by trying to force changes within the Davis sphere of influence.

That leads us however to the logical question as to why the County would be pushing this issue so hard if the Davis City Council is so strongly opposed to these developments. A number of people have suggested that while some of the members of the Davis city council have publicly opposed these developments, that others privately support all of these developments but are not willing to admit it publicly. According to a number of sources, the suggestion is being made that the County pushing this issue will give them cover and once they have joint study sessions, some sort of arrangement will be used to justify peripheral growth in Davis that right now is politically infeasible.

While in the past, I have dismissed these notions as somewhat conspiratorial, there is a strong logic to it. For instance, why would a member of the County Supervisors, who is a resident of Davis and a strong ally to some on the city council continue to push this project that the council is unanimously opposed to unless they were getting some sort of differing message in private? In general, the Board of Supervisors tend to defer to the members who represent a given city on such issues, so this issue is being largely pushed by the members of the board who represent Davis. Why would this issue be pushed unless they were at least getting some indication from the city that there would be a possibility that a joint study session may result in a change in preferred land use changes to the areas being studied? Unfortunately, I am forced to conclude that there may be behind the scenes maneuvering by members of the Davis City Council that have kept these approaches alive.

I had no problem with an idea of holding joint City-County discussions on a broad array of topics as suggested a few weeks ago by the Davis City Council. I had no problem with Mariko Yamada's proposal for a sort of Yolo County Council of Governments. It seems there should be some sort of coordination as local governments re-write their respective general plans or in Davis' case, their housing element. However, I am strongly opposed to the county studying areas on the Davis periphery for changes in preferred land use. Land use authority on city edges should be within the domain of the city as the pass-through agreement dictates. These have been long fought for land use principles and they have served both the city and county very well. The County has received revenue well in excess of what they would have received from development and the City has been able to control how and when it grows.

I honestly do not understand the County's continued pressing of this issue while at the same time it seems to be conceding as Hess' letter suggests that "the General Plan Update EIR will not include changes to the existing land use map for these areas."

---Doug Paul Davis reporting