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Friday, July 13, 2007

Commentary: War Brewing with the County on Peripheral Growth Can End with a Simple "No" Vote on Tuesday

One week ago today, I got a call on my cell from one of the County Supervisors forewarning me that the county general plan staff report was coming out that afternoon, that it included in it recommendations to create special study areas that included Oeste, Covell, and I-80. These study areas looked and smelled much more like development proposals than concepts for changing land use designations. In any case, I was warned that Davis would go berserk over this and that there would be recalls. Whatever one thinks of Supervisor Matt Rexroad, his assessment last Friday, was exactly right and then some.

This week has been chaotic ever since that point in time. The reaction to this proposal has been justifiably angry, although I stop short of my friend Former Mayor Bill Kopper and current Mayor Sue Greenwald's call for recall, I remain very concerned about what these proposals will do to the city of Davis.

However, this is not set in stone yet. As Supervisor Rexroad pointed out in his blog,
"We have not even voted on it yet."
The County Board of Supervisors will meet on Tuesday, July 17, 2007 starting around 9 am. This figures to be another very long day. However, everyone with concerns about this proposal and this process are strongly encouraged to come and voice those concerns.

My fear is that Davis' County Supervisors are unsympathetic to the concerns about large peripheral developments on the borders of Davis. After all, they are bringing forth another version of Covell Village which was defeated by a 60-40 margin just a year and a half ago. And the Covell Village property is the SMALLEST of the proposals by the county. People are angry because they feel that their own elected supervisors do not respect their vote or their desires.

Supervisor Mike McGowan who represents West Sacramento (not Davis) was quoted in yesterday's outstanding Sacramento Bee article as saying:
"We need to improve our revenue side so we can continue to provide the same level of services."
This continues to be a poor argument.

County staff, as I pointed out last Saturday, dispelled this myth:
"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."
The county is due roughly $72 million in the pass-through agreement over the course of the next 18 years. Developments may yield some in the way of one-time development fees, but the key phrase there is "one-time." It is not a consistent stream of money. As the county of Sacramento and the city of Fresno have both learned you cannot develop yourself into prosperity, even if you create development policies that rely on repeated one-time development fees as the main source of revenues.

Moreover if Supervisor McGowan is so concerned about county revenues, perhaps he ought to propose massive new developments on the periphery of West Sacramento, I understand they like sprawl there.

The Bee yesterday quotes Supervisor Mariko Yamada saying,
"I would like everyone to take a deep breath. Calm down... There will be no decisions on specific projects that will be entertained in terms of action on Tuesday."
But as Tsakopoulos understands, Yamada's statement is simply untrue.
"If they decide not to study it, it's all over."
That is exactly right. Right now, as far as I can tell there are two firm no votes against the study areas. That means a no vote by either Supervisor Yamada or Supervisor Thomson can kill the plan. One must ask why certain Republican Supervisors who do not live here are more protective of Davis' borders than Davis' own supervisors.

At Tuesday's Davis City Council meeting, the council unanimously supported taking a strong stance against these proposals. City staff drafted a letter by all five council members that will strongly oppose any plans by the county to study growth on Davis' borders.

Despite the claims of one of Davis' supervisors, the prognosis of this is clear--if the county votes against studying these three areas on Davis' periphery, the proposal dies. If however, the county votes to study these three areas on Davis' periphery, the fighting and war of words that we have seen this past week is just the beginning.

The Vanguard strongly urges Supervisors Yamada and Thomson to leave growth on Davis' city edges to Davis. Moreover, all Davis residents with concerns about this process should go to the meeting on July 17, 2007 to voice those concerns.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting