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Tuesday, July 17, 2007


As I write this, we are mere hours away from the showdown between the city of Davis and Yolo County that seems to be so unnecessary. The County of Yolo has legitimate concerns about revenue and the level of service, however, this is not the way to approach those concerns. Many people in Davis have spent decades in an effort to control urban sprawl and protect open space and agricultural land. If three staff proposed study areas are approved by the county today, much of that effort will be placed in jeopardy. There are many people who will not sit back and allow that to happen.

The Vanguard opposed the notion of recall just last week citing a number of concerns, however, if the county goes forward and places these projects in the County General Plan EIR, the calculations will change dramatically. At the very least, the Vanguard hopes that the county will hit the pause button and sit down and discuss with the city of Davis the concept of the pass-through agreement which provides a large amount of money per year to county, and determine the best road to go forward for both governmental bodies.

Reading press accounts of this impending showdown along with reader comments, there is a fair amount of misperceptions about just how this process works and what is in it for the county and the city.

The Sacramento Bee's editorial placed some of the blame for this battle on the backs of Davis growth policies:
"At the same time, Yolo County needs to end its confrontational approach with Davis. And the city needs to recognize its own culpability. By voting down housing projects such as Covell Village, Davis residents make it all but inevitable that county officials and developers will seek opportunities on the edge of town."
There are several implications of this statement that need direct rebuttal.

First, there is the notion that Davis has somehow not taken on its fair share of growth. In fact, Davis is in some ways "compelled" to grow at 1% per year by LAFCO. Davis is in fact in compliance with that growth rate. So to suggest that Davis has shirked its growth responsibilities is false.

Second, even if Davis had approved Covell Village, we would still be having these talks. Why? Because the county gets no revenue from the city based on housing developments or even growth. In short, we are having this discussion because of county level revenue shortfalls rather than because of city-based lack of growth.

Third, why is Davis the target for peripheral growth and a potential violation of the pass-through agreement? After all, Woodland and West Sacramento each have pass-through agreements and guess who pays the most to the county, by far? Davis. Davis pays far more than the other cities in the county combined to Yolo County. So why is the county putting the screws to Davis?

Fourth, there is a misperception that housing developments and growth in general equals revenue. That is fundamentally false. Housing developments in particular are net losses for localities. The city of Davis pays the county of Yolo far more in pass-through money than they would get if they developed on the periphery of Davis. It is that simple. The county of Yolo if it were to develop those three properties would get one-time developer fees in excess of the pass-through money, however, during the course of the agreement, the money from the pass-through agreement, estimated by the city of Davis to be $72 million far exceeds anything the county would get in development revenue.

We can see even in the initial county staff report doubt that development would produce the revenue that the county was looking to generate.
"On the residential side, staff is recommending against the addition of 2,100 residences within the unincorporated area near the northwest quadrant of Davis, as these units are not likely to have fiscal benefits for the county that would justify the growth given concerns regarding inconsistency with long-standing growth policies, provision of infrastructure and services, and effects on the city/county pass-through agreement."
That is the county report written at the end of January. They recommended against Oeste on the basis of insufficient revenue. Yet six months later, it and two other proposals are on the table.

Look no further than the discussion on West Village and the amount of money it would cost the city of Davis or UC Davis. Why? Housing developments are not economic boons--they are costly in terms of services provided by the governmental bodies which far off-set any tax revenue generated. Counties such as Sacramento that have attempted to generate revenue by growth, have lost money. Cities like Fresno which have attempted to generate revenue by growth, have been stuck in sprawl cycles that they cannot escape because the only portion of the development that generates revenue is in fact the developer agreement. The result is a boon of uncontrolled growth with little in return for the cities and counties. This is not the answer to a revenue shortfall.

Why Davis? Because apparently Supervisor Thomson is angry that Davis has rejected a number of what she perceived as good developments and apparently Supervisor Yamada believes this a way to generate money for her priority of social services. She wants to generate discussions with the city about ways in which the county can increase its revenue. At the end of the day, we are hopeful that an agreement can be reached and held to allow parties to step back and reconsider the implications of going forward.

However, make no mistake, there are too many people in Davis that have worked too long to preserve open space and ag land, and they will not sit back and allow two supervisors from Davis to undo their lifelong struggle. Those are the stakes in this battle and we will find out today what direction we go forward with. Do we forge ahead together and try to resolve the concerns of city and county or do we engage in a long and destructive war that in the end, all sides will end up losing.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Stay logged onto the People's Vanguard of Davis throughout this morning and possibly all day as we cover the County Board of Supervisors Meeting live from their chambers.