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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Davis Vanguardians

(Another push for the Vanguardians newsletter)

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Davis General Plan Housing Element Committee Convenes to Some Early Controversy

The Housing Element Steering Committee convened for the first time the other night to a discussion, ironically enough, on the issue of Conflict of Interests. It is ironic that they have this discussion in light of what happened with the County General Plan update and what we reported yesterday where a member was actively pushing a proposal that would directly financially improve his property which was adjacent to the property designated for development at Oeste Ranch.

Former Davis City Councilmember and Committee Member Mike Harrington said at the meeting, “Some people in this room stand to make tens of millions of dollars from our decisions.”

According to the Davis Enterprise:
"Committee members wouldn’t need to recuse themselves because their vote would be one of 15, said Bob Wolcott, Davis’ principal planner. One person wouldn’t be able to sway the vote unless there was a good reason to put housing on a property he or she had a financial interest in."
That is not the principles that the rest of government uses to determine conflicts of interest.

An individual city councilmember is just one of five, and yet anytime a discussion comes within 500 feet of their property they must recuse themselves.

The City is ironically updating its Conflict-of-Interest code:
"Pursuant to Government Code Section 87302, the code will designate employees and officials who must disclose certain investments, income, interests in real property and business positions, and who must disqualify themselves from making or participating in the making of governmental decisions affecting those interests."
These include members of commissions--commissions of course can only recommend to the city council rather than act on proposals and yet they are required to disclose fully their financial interests and they are also required to disqualify themselves from making or participating in governmental decisions affecting those interests. These members not only sit on body as one of seven, but the proposals also generally require a council vote be enacted. The process is thus diffused from an individual commissioner having undue influence and yet they are held to stringent conflict of interest prohibitions.

Why is there a lower standard for the updating of the General Plan Housing Element than for the City Council or Commissions? Wolcott's answer seems fundamentally non-responsive to those key differences. Is his argument because this body is larger? Because it would seem that the same basic principals apply regardless of size.

Many of the members of this committee stand to make large sums of money not only directly from the Housing Element Update but also indirectly in the increase of their property values as the result in changes in the land-use element and the development strategies adopted by this committee.

By the way, two of the members are out--Jeff Adamski and Brenda Little. They were replaced by alternates Kevin Wolf and Lucas Frerichs. Kevin Wolf was one of the big proponents of Measure X while Frerichs is a member of the Social Services Commission and a legislative aid.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, February 09, 2007

Commentary: County Declares War on Davis

The message delivered on Tuesday by the County Supervisors should be enough to alarm Davis residents who have long fought hard and long to control the rate of growth.

The message from Supervisor Mike McGowan goes even further. McGowan was quoted as saying:
"I don't care where (Davis) puts their additional units, but from any standpoint they have to absorb their fair share. I'm not telling them where to grow."
He added:
"One of the reasons we are embarking on the General Plan update is that we can't maintain the old way of doing business; we aren't generating the revenues we need."
Not mentioned is the fact pointed out by Davis Mayor Sue Greenwald that housing is not a reliable source for revenue.

But there is more in this rhetoric. The notion of fair share. This notion is based on the presumption somehow that California can continue to grow. That it has the resources--namely the water--to be able to sustain high rates of growth. As it is, Davis is looking at expanding its water capacity and paying an addition 300 to 450 million dollars for a water project.

Supervisor Helen Thomson represents part of Davis.

The Davis Enterprise writes:
"But Thomson later suggested there was much to talk to Davis about in addition to new housing.

In exchange for the county's policy of directing commercial and residential projects to the cities instead of building them on agricultural land, the cities pay the county a fee in what's called a pass-through agreement.

In 2005-06, Davis paid nearly $2 million to the county in its pass-through agreement, Thomson said. But that agreement is nearly 15 years old and there are other issues to discuss. Thomson cited her own example of "poor planning" by the city of Davis — allowing homes to be built on seven 20-acre parcels at Binning Ranch north of Davis."
Of course what the article fails to mention is in fact, that the City of Davis and Yolo County just recently renewed the pass-through agreement.

My thoughts are this: I am very disturbed by the audacity of Supervisor McGowan who does not reside in Davis making such bold assertions.

However, I am even more disturbed by the lack of leadership from the two Davis Supervisors in this regard.

Growth around Davis is an issue for the Davis City Council. The City of Davis will determine and should determine how and when and in what places it will grow.

I sympathize with the County about their dilemma. They provide services to the cities and have revenue shortfalls. I am not unwilling to look into changes in the pass-through agreement. But Davis residents have fought long and hard be able to retain control of their growth both through Measure J and the hard fought pass-through agreements. If the county expects that they are going to get their way on this, I think they have another thing coming.

It was very reassuring to see both Mayor Greenwald and Councilmember Saylor vehemently on the same side on this. The entire council seems united on this issue. And the citizens of Davis control forty percent of the county supervisors.

I have no problems with discussions but the rhetoric of fair-share is a slap in the face to Davis residents. The notion of fair-share is inherently selfish. It is about the procurement of scare resources with discussion about the future carrying-capacity of the state of the California and moreover fails to look into the future at what the climate changes may have in store. I think the idea of growth is blatantly irresponsible and unfair. We need to address these questions and not simply look at growth as a cure-all for fiscal and revenue problems.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Conflict of Interest on the County Planning Commission

According to several sources one of the members of the County Planning Commission owns property adjacent to the Oeste Ranch, Binning Farms. He then circulated to his neighbors the 2100 unit Oeste Ranch Senior Housing development project as an answer to improve the value of his own property.

In an email that circulated to his neighbors, he writes:
One of the recommendations the board received from the Yolo Planning Commission is to support the addition of 2,100 housing units in the Northwest Quadrant, located west of 113 and North of Covell Blvd in Davis.

I am in support of the Planning Commission's recommendation for two basic reasons: Sewers and Water.....

Our best opportunity for infrastructure improvement in the Binning Farms will come from a regional plan for our quadrant. The Binning Ranch Estates project (to our immediate South), if constructed, offers our community the possibility to connect to a regional sewer and water plan at considerably lower cost than if we had to provide our own assessment district.
This represents a clear conflict of interest in my view. He stands to potentially gain financially with improvements to the adjacent property by being able to connect to regional sewer and water services that do not appear to presently be available. While some may defend this process by suggesting that the county supervisors rather than this individual has the final say over the implementation of this policy and it appears that the county is not going to pursue this policy, nevertheless this appears very unseemly.

The city of Davis for example has a policy where a Councilmember must recuse themselves on any project or decision within 500 feet of their policy, it seems only reasonable that there should be the same level of scrutiny for this process as well. The planning commission has a large say over what projects get considered and what projects do not.

His email sells this project to his neighbors as their "best opportunity for infrastructure improvement in the Binning Farms."

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Don Saylor: "I feel disrespected and treated without dignity"

Late Tuesday night, and actually more accurately early Wednesday morning, the Davis City Council had a long discussion about what to do with the Cannery Park development project.

Part of the reason that the staff recommended that consideration of Cannery Park should be put off has to do with expectations perhaps that there would be a renewed development project with the adjacent site which is right now just outside of the city limits and that had been the location for the Covell Village development project.

Toward the end of this discussion Don Saylor made a statement that was rather surprising in its tone:
"I want to make one small observation, in our council ground rules, under the first paragraph, it says that each councilmember should treat each other with respect and dignity even when disagreements arise. I feel disrespected and treated without dignity when my motivations are questioned and it is assumed that I am leading to something that I have not said."
You can watch the full statement on the youtube link below.

However, I have to say when I heard this, I was taken aback by the tone. Because first of all, not one of the comments made by Mayor Sue Greenwald or Councilmember Lamar Heystek were personally directed toward Mr. Saylor. There was general discussion about what the plans were for the Covell Village development site. This was legitimate since it was mentioned in the City Staff report.

Councilmember Heystek said:
“November 2005 is not in our distant memory. I think it would be disingenuous to assume something for the North Central area. I think as a body, we are kind of tone-deaf.”
And for people who opposed Measure X and the development at Covell Village, it made perfect sense to remind the council of the bitter and cantankerous vote that occurred less than 15 months ago. Moreover, that this measure was very soundly defeated by a large sector of the population.

There was a debate during the meeting as to what that vote actually meant, and that is fine. But none of that debate could be interpreted as a personal swipe at anyone. And in fact, I would interpret it as concern about the language in the staff report that strongly suggested that the issue that was just defeated would be revisited.

Councilmember Saylor speaks in a very monotonic and measured manner. That is simply how he speaks, whether you talk to him in person, listen to him at a council meeting, or listen to him give a speech. This style I think serves him well for meetings of this sort, but when he gives a public speech, it tends to translate rather poorly.

In this case, Saylor's measured speaking style probably saves him. Because if you listen to what he says, rather than his tone, he is essentially whining. He was not disrespected and he was certainly not treated without dignity by his colleagues on the council. There was simply concern given the staff recommendation language about what the intentions were for this controversial development site.

For Mr. Saylor to take these questions as a personal affront, is rather appalling.

I think this sort of behavior strikes at the very heart of many people's concerns about Saylor as an individual. It certainly did nothing to add to the discussion. And as we have seen in the past when he feigned indignation about using a parliamentary maneuver in order to reconsider a city Park's consultant proposal, and then a few weeks later admitted that he had done as much, I think it harms his credibility. He clearly counts on the fact that this is occurring after midnight and few will get to witness it.

Mr. Saylor's tenor does very little to improve the tone on the council. More frankly on an evening that began with a strong show of unity on the part of the Davis City Council dealing with the county and the perceived threat from there, for Saylor to complain about such a trivial matter, severely undermined any progress that had earlier been made toward unity and reconciliation. In short it Saylor's comments were undignified and uncalled for.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Cannery Park Project on Hold

In proceedings that quickly turned contentious and then went from contentious to downright ludicrous the council put the Cannery Park project on hold.

The subplots of this discussion were perhaps more interesting that the actual discussion itself on the 610 unit housing development that would also include some retail and perhaps a church or nursing home or another public building. The project is within the city limits, so it is not subjected to a Measure J vote, but it would have to obtain a zoning change.

The council majority felt that with the housing element steering committee being just appointed to update the housing element, it would be premature for the council to approve this project. In fact, as Mayor Ruth Asmundson suggested--the processing of this application would undermine the 15 member steering committee.

The first point of contention was the suggestion by the council majority and the staff report about building a development project again on the Covell Village site. The real motivation for wanting to put on hold this project was thus to see if the housing element process would recommend new development projects for the Covell Village Site. As we pointed out on Tuesday, the 15 member committee is loaded with supporters of the Covell Village development project.

Councilmember Lamar Heystek was clearly perturbed by this suggestion. He pointed out that the Covell Village development project was not just rejected but overwhelmingly rejected by the voters and that this was not something that occurred in the distant past, but was a fairly recent vote and he considered this conversation to be a slap in the face to the will of the voters.
“November 2005 is not in our distant memory. I think it would be disingenuous to assume something for the North Central area. I think as a body, we are kind of tone-deaf.”
Some of this discussion seemed to rankle Councilmember Don Saylor who at one point bizarrely suggested that he was being disrespected. (We'll have a full video clip of this discussion later on).

In addition to the problems with the insinuation that Covell Village could end up being developed once again, Mayor Sue Greenwald's concern was that the property was zoned for high-tech industry and she did not want to change that zoning.

The developer admitted under questioning from Mayor Greenwald that he had assumed that he could get the zoning change.
“Every time we’ve said yes to changing zoning to residential, it raises the speculative value of the land and developers will not build high-tech. My personal point of view is, we zoned this high-tech/industrial, and we should keep it that way.”
Later on the Mayor pointed out to me that the city's designated growth rate of 1.25% per year does not seem like a tremendous amount until you realize exactly what that growth rate means. It means a development project the size of Cannery Park every two years, the size of Wild House every three years, and the size of Mace Ranch every seven years. If you project that out, you realize that is tremendous growth. Growth for which we lack resources such as water and infrastructure to be able to absorb.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New Chief Candidate Favors Civilian Police Oversight

Davis got to meet the prime candidate for the open Police Chief position last night down at Council Chambers. It was a small group of people for the brief meet and greet. A bit disappointing given the magnitude of this hire for the future of the Davis Police Department.

Perhaps the most interesting news of the night regarding Seattle Police Captain Landy Black was Councilmember Lamar Heystek's pronouncement from the dais that Captain Black is a supporter of civilian police review.

The city of Seattle adopted a version of citizen oversight in 2002 when the Seattle City Council created the Office of Professional Accountability Review Board composed of three citizens appointed by the City Council. This board receives roughly 10 percent of randomly selected closed cases that were processed by the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA). OPA is made up of a civilian director - who reports to the police chief - and an auditor - appointed by the mayor. The office handles citizen complaints and mediations between members of the community and the Seattle Police Department.

Unfortunately given the setting, I did not get to ask the Captain a number of questions that I had for him. I will try to contact him later this week to follow up.

A few things of note, Captain Black is from Ohio originally, but attended the University of Washington and ended up staying in Seattle. His precinct includes the Capitol Hill area of Washington which is a very diverse community and rather eclectic. It compares well to some of the more eclectic parts of San Francisco for instance.

Captain Black turns 50 on Thursday of this week. Although he looks considerably younger than that.

My sense of him was that he gave a lot of well-prepared answers, so it was difficult to really get an assessment of him. I did ask him if he had thick skin or thin skin. His response was that he could definitely get offended but that he tried not to act rashly as the result of being offended and that he tried to remind himself that this was not personal but that people were often reacting the situation and that often the position was a symbol for the problems rather than the problem itself.

He also expressed an understanding of the problem of racial profiling. He said this was a problem that was rather widespread, but I was not able to follow-up to ask him what he thought ought to be done to correct this problem.

I would like to be able to say that I have a good sense of this guy, but really I did not get the opportunity to ask him a number of questions. He did mention that he has read this blog and he is a fan of such endeavors to educate the community.

We will find out shortly if Captain Black will become Davis Police Chief Landy Black. At this point if they decide not to hire him, the process would have to start over, as he is the only realistic candidate at this point.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

City of Davis United Against County Proposals and Changes in Pass-Through Agreements

The Yolo County Board of Supervisors meeting was packed, the overflow room just outside of the board meeting room was itself overflowing with people standing in the back and standing across the open promenade listening to a TV and waiting their turn to speak. One-by-one the small rural communities spoke their peace. Perhaps the most shocking proposal was the growth of Dunnigan which some developers were requesting growth by 7500 housing units to a population of over 25,000. The recommended growth seemed high enough at 2500 housing units. Either way, Dunnigan will become a city rather than merely a small rural town.

The recommendation of the Yolo County Planning Commission was for no development along city edges with the exception of Davis where there were not one but three proposals including the 2100 senior housing units at Oeste Ranch, and perhaps as shocking a 30 acre development to the east of Mace Blvd across from the current Arco Station.

The Yolo County staff's recommendation was to oppose the Northwest Quadrant development proposal as they did not see it as a source of revenue for the county. Instead they recommended a joint special study area with city and county for this development.

The City of Davis came and delivered a united front.

First, Mayor Sue Greenwald spoke. She strongly favored a continuation of the pass-through agreement giving Davis and Davis' City Council control over edge development. She considered a joint study session a violation of this pass-through agreement and this trust. The joint study group was not appropriate.

Greenwald did not oppose senior housing or special needs housing, however, she believes that the best plan should be determined by the City Council. She appreciated that county had financial problems as county services outpaces development proceeds, but argued that housing is not a good source of revenue (something that the staff recommendation by the county agreed) and argued that even retail development has diminishing returns.

Davis City Staffer Katherine Hess delivered a letter from City Manager Bill Emlen. She simply stated that development on the Davis periphery should be made by the city through a city process and she asked that the Board of Supervisors would concur with that.

Councilmember Don Saylor was in full agreement with Mayor Greenwald. He said that he appreciated that the county has real issues that need to be addressed and that the destinies of the county and city are intertwined. Davis has a process for dealing with its development and will be undergoing its own general plan update. He saw that as the appropriate agency and forum to address development issues. Moreover, while Davis does have a history of peripheral development it does not have a process for the Northwest Quadrant. He believes there are issues with housing for seniors and this may not be the most appropriate location or the best use of site given the distance from the core downtown area. Moreover he suggested that commercial development at Mace and I-80 are not "obvious" for us and mentioned that there are several commercial projects already in the works and does not want a new development area outside of the Mace Curve that could be detrimental to this development.

In general, the two members of the Davis City Council and one city staffer were united on this issue that the city and not the county should be the agency involved in determining where, when, and how peripheral development occurs. There were concerns about process and also specifics in this development.

Several Davis residents and notable progressives also spoke against this proposal.
  • Rachael Livingston was concerned about congestion, traffic, air quality, and overall growth. She felt that this project was huge as it could add up to 6000 new people. While she too is a supporter of the need for senior housing, she was strongly opposed to changes in the pass through agreement and urged that there be additional meetings so that Davis residents unable to make this meeting could give their input into the process.
  • Pam Nieberg added that this was bigger than the failed Covell Village project that was defeated by a 60-40 vote. And she hoped we could count on our own supervisors, Helen Thomson and Mariko Yamada to stand up for us.
  • Norma Turner was stunned by this very proposal and very uncomfortable with the idea of a joint city-county study group which she saw as a ploy to inject the county in the process and produce the same results as those that proponents of this plan are seeking.
  • Finally David Suder did not understand why Davis was singled out for growth and had a different approach from the rest of the county development. He argued city planning should be at the city level rather than county and echoed the concern that a large number of constituents were working and could not make this daytime meeting, thus he urged an evening meeting, preferably in Davis and in a larger meeting facility.
I had to leave this meeting to attend other meetings last night. I was informed that while the Board of Supervisors took no specific actions, per their public declarations. The 2100 unit proposal seemed to be largely off the table. The pass through agreement was heavily discussed and it appeared there would be future talks and there seemed to be support for talks at least between the city and county. We will have to see what the fall out is from this discussion.

I will add having attended the Davis City Council meeting, that the Davis City Council was in a rare moment united on this issue and believed that the county needs to honor its pass-through agreements and that growth on the periphery of Davis should be determined by the Davis City Council rather than the County Board of Supervisors.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Past Hiring Process for Police Chief Vastly Different

In lieu of the very secretive search for a new Davis police chief--one that has been defended based on the need for confidentiality and also standard operating procedures--it was very interesting to do some research into the last chief hiring process in mid-2003 by then City Manager Jim Antonen and discover that the process itself was vastly different and much more open than this secret process we have seen play out over the last month.

On May 4, 2003, there was an article in the Davis Enterprise where all six candidates for the Davis Police Chief had come to Davis and gotten a chance to meet the community.

Each of the six were identified by name to reporter Lauren Keene as well as the public. And their backgrounds were briefly profiled in the newspaper--something that has not occurred this time.

There was a public opportunity to meet and mingle with both city officials and other police employees. There were also numerous functions where the public got to meet and talk with the candidates for the police chief position.

This process took roughly two months, as the City Manager made the final decision by July 10, 2003 to hire Jim Hyde. The names of all six finalists were released to the public a full two months before a final decision was made

That is not to suggest that the past process was perfect. There were public suggestions that there needed to be a broad and diverse citizen group that would help advise the City Manager on the selection of a new police chief. In fact, the concerns raised were rather prophetic and it seems possible that much of the drama of the past year could have been avoided with a more frank discussion from the onset. And yet that did not happen in 2003 and indeed we have moved even further from this ideal in 2007.

There were issues raised in public in 2003 that became the focal point of the problems that led to the exit of Chief Jim Hyde. These problems have not been addressed to this day or in this hiring process. How can we expect to not have a repeat of recent history? And now the public has no means to access the new candidate for police chief to see how they view some of these very crucial issues.

The process has moved backwards since 2003. The public has been less rather than more involved in it. And now the City Manager could very well hire a man to be police chief, who people in this community know absolutely nothing about.

Talking with people involved with the past process, I was very interested to find out that there was in fact a number of public meet and greets, where not only the Human Relations Commission, but members of the public got a chance to meet some of the candidates prior to the hire of Hyde. And we are not talking about a meet and greet for a mere 30 minutes.

The process has been very different this time. In January, there was an announcement in the paper that there were seven candidates. This time, none of those candidates were named by City Manager Bill Emlen. There were assurances made that the public would get a chance to meet some of the finalists. And tonight at the City Council Meeting, just prior to it at 6 pm, there will be a half-hour meet and greet for the public. A very limited time frame and very little opportunity for the public to meet and get to know the only realistic candidate at this point.

The explanations for the secrecy were based on process and precedent, but that appears to be untrue based on the examination of the historical record, at least in the recent past. While we acknowledged that City Manager Bill Emlen has a very difficult task at hand and a difficult decision to make, any error should have been on the side of too much public openness rather than not enough. There have been suggestions made about dissatisfaction with the caliber of candidates and even the suggestion that this hire may not occur and that the process would restart. We hope that Mr. Emlen will choose a more public process next time through and we believe that the will lead to a better outcome and stronger support from this community.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Staff Recommends Council Stall Cannery Park for another Shot At Covell Village

While the proposals in the County Supervisors General Plan update have rightly gotten much of the attention this week, there is in addition to the very important County Supervisor's meeting this afternoon, some very important items of the Davis City Council agenda for tonight.

The Cannery Park proposed housing development is surrounded on two sides by the site that was the proposed Covell Village.

It is very interesting now that the staff report is suggesting that approving the Cannery Park proposal before the completion of the update to the housing element might be "premature."

Claire St. John's article on Sunday in the Davis Enterprise does a very good job of laying out the possibilities that this is a ploy to stall for time in terms of getting another shot at the project that the council majority and staff really want--Covell Village.

She writes that there is nothing to prevent a future proposed development once again on the Covell Village site. "If that were to happen, the city might have other uses for Cannery Park." As such, the city might be better off leaving the area zone for industrial use as it now rather than a 600 home develop with set asides for a nursing home, community center, or another public use.

St. John continues: "The city might also like Cannery Park to be seamless with whatever might be built next door." Thus implying that staff things perhaps they would like to wait and see if they can get Covell Village approved before they create a usage for the Cannery Park site.

Indeed, when we look at the make up of the housing element committee, as we have profiled just some of the members, we see a strong strain running through that committee. The members appointed by Souza, Saylor, and Asmundson were virtually all strong proponents of Measure X and many were strong opponents of Measure J.

Moreover some on that committee have a very strong financial stake in a future development project at the Covell Village site. As we see John Whitcombe's Tandem Properties, who planned and sought the development of the Covell Village project, is well represented on that committee, as were others with peripheral interests to the Covell Village Development project.

As we know, given concerns about traffic and now the availability and costs of water and wastewater treatment, it may be now or never to revisit the Covell Village project.

Thus it is not surprising that a staff report is recommending that the City Council wait and see rather than approve this project.

Caught in the middle, Ken Topper, senior project manager for Lewis Planned Communities who owns the property, who would like council's approval for his project but expressed patience.

Nevertheless it is pretty clear that developers such as Topper are not the city's priority as they eye another end-run around the General Plan and Measure J to get the final nod for the massive Covell Village.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, February 05, 2007

Core Land Use Principles Under Seige in Yolo County

The County General Plan update process is finally starting to generate needed attention (and frankly needed alarm by progressives and environmentalists and even some non-progressives and non-environmentalists who seek to protect pass through agreements and agricultural land).

The stakes here are high as the proposal for a 2,100 unit development in the northwest quadrant would be tantamount to circumventing the City of Davis' voter-approved Measure J which allows the voters to determine and manage peripheral growth. This project is larger than Covell Village by 15%. Many in this city support the idea of senior housing and might be willing to look at renegotiating the pass-through agreement between the City and County, especially in light of the amount of services provided by the county to city residents and the lack of revenue to the county. However, I think most in Davis would be strongly opposed to any process that circumvents Measure J and the city's elected governance.

Further as we look at the graphic, it is questionable how much value a senior development would be in the northwest quadrant, as it clearly illustrates the level of isolation that development would have in its distance from downtown and other core areas of Davis.

There have been several very important letters to the Davis Enterprise warning us about the dangers that the proposals contained in the proposed Yolo County General Plan present to our established principles of land use.

Marianne Muller Ferrendelli of Woodland writes:

Yolo County teeters on the edge of a precipice. Our agricultural heritage is being threatened, and an agrarian community is facing extinction.

Another proposal for a large-scale housing development leapfrogging onto agricultural lands is in the works; another proposal that will change the face of Yolo County, one that will make us eerily resemble the communities of Elk Grove, Galt, Roseville and Lodi. These communities once made up of open space and family farms now are crowded and facing crime and congestion problems.

Developers Lux Taylor and Mike Guttridge, well known for their shopping centers and massive housing developments throughout the once farm-covered regions surrounding Sacramento, have submitted pre-applications for a 1,200-home subdivision in the rolling vineyards of the Dunnigan Hills. [Their political consultant and chief spokesperson is former Yolo County Supervisor Betsy Marchand]

The narrow county roads and bridges surrounding their proposed plan will be overloaded with the commuter traffic such a development will require. Imagine the number of cars forced to use the three narrow roads leading to the development, combined with the tractors, harvesters and trucks hauling livestock, grain and tomatoes from the farms and ranches bordering their new community, larger in scale than Wildwings, the largest leap into previously rural lands in our county's history.

Where are the environmental impact reports? How can the water demands be met, and how will the underwater aquifers handle such massive demands? How will the lives of farmers and ranchers in the region be affected? How will sewage and waste be safely handled in an area known to flood during our rainy seasons; are we to hope that farms downstream remain safe from possible contamination? What will be the impact to plant and animal habitats?

County residents, please be aware that the plans are in the works. Our county supervisors will be considering updating Yolo County's General Plan to allow this development to proceed. Changing the county General Plan and allowing a development of this magnitude in an area so highly valued for agricultural production will open the door to development after development. Our county's growth must be located in areas with existing infrastructure, away from prime agricultural land.

If this is the type of proposal to which you are opposed, please take a stand. Supervisor Duane Chamberlain and the Yolo County Farm Bureau have announced strong opposition to this development. Let your voice be heard. Contact your supervisor. Make a difference for our county.
David Suder of Davis wrote:
In December, the Yolo County Planning Commission voted to recommend a Preferred Land Use Alternative for the county’s general plan. Davis residents would be well advised to review the document (available at the url given below).

The recommended alternative includes “city edge” residential development in only one community for the entire 25-year planning period. That community is Davis. The recommendation reads “Add 2,100 new units in the northwest quadrant, generally located west of State Route 113 and north of Covell Boulevard.” For all other cities in Yolo County, the recommendation is “no new development.”

This recommendation, if adopted, would represent a significant change in direction for Yolo County planning. The December 19 Planning Commission Staff report mentions several residential development proposals “located at the edge of Davis or Woodland, which would place them into the city-edge growth model – a model the County has in the past generally sought to avoid.”

City planning should be done at the city level. Davis has just begun the process of updating the Housing Element of our general plan, a process that is expected to take more than a year. That is how our city should decide how, when and where we should grow.

The Yolo Planning Commission’s recommendation for “city edge” residential growth in one specific area of Davis - and nowhere else in the county - seems inappropriate. Would-be northwest quadrant developers (or their representatives) will undoubtedly cite the Planning Commission’s recommendation as they attempt to influence the Davis general plan update process.

The Yolo County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the Planning Commission’s recommendation on Tuesday, February 6 at 1:30. One would hope that we can count on Mariko Yamada and Helen Thomson to vigorously oppose the adoption of any County plan or policy that would attempt to direct the type and pattern of growth in or around Davis.

The Planning Commission’s recommendation is available here.

A proposal by developer Mike Gill has been called by Yolo County District 3 Supervisor Matt Rexroad one of the most egregious schemes of the General Plan update process for its timing and scope.

Gill owns property on the southwest and southeast quadrants of the intersection of State Route 113 and County Road 25A, about one mile south of Woodland.

In a letter to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, Gill wrote that he is interested in building parcels on the land designated for commercial, as well as high density housing use.

“My intention for the development is to construct several ‘Big Box’ stores, a shopping center, restaurants, a gas station and high density housing,” he wrote.

The irony at this point is that the most outspoken people on these points have not been some of the noted progressive slow-growth champions, but rather the Republicans on Board Duane Chamberlin and Matt Rexroad. Rexroad told me on multiple occasions that Oeste Ranch and growth in general on the periphery of Davis is a Davis City Council issue not a County Supervisor issue. Hopefully the Davis Supervisors will step up tomorrow and put this issue to rest once and for all.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Commentary: Police Chief Hiring Process Lacks Public Input

Last week there was an announcement from the City of Davis that Seattle Police Captain Landy Black would be making a visit to Davis and have a chance to meet the community--for half an hour prior to Tuesday's City Council Meeting. So for half an hour, Cpt. Black will be in a public room so that the public can meet the person who is realistically the only remaining candidate for the police chief position. Basically any citizen interested in the process can shake the man's hand. There is certainly not going to be the opportunity to do much past that. I find this a very disturbing development in what has already been a disconcerting process.

This is a most unfortunate development for the very reason that the Police Chief position is probably the most important hire that City Manager Bill Emlen will making during his tenure. Given the turmoil of the last year, this is a hire that can change the course of the department and really help to heal the wounds in the community. The wrong hire could set this process back another ten years. That is how crucial things are. The community in many ways is in a waiting pattern to see which direction the police department is going to go. And yet in many ways, my most feared scenario has already been played out.

The final seven candidates were kept secret. There were assurances made that there would be public scrutiny on the finalists for the position. Yet a week or two ago, we were told that it was down to three candidates and those names were still kept secret. Only now with only one candidate remaining, is a name even revealed. But guess what, it is only one name and so while they are saying they have not made a decision to hire this individual, the only realistic fallback is for them to start the hiring process once again. What is the chance that they will get a better candidate next time? Not great. So most likely Landy Black, will be the next police chief of the city of Davis.

The suggestion has been made already that the Davis Police Chief position is a difficult one to fill. Some will blame the turmoil of the last year for that. However, you can go further back than that. You have Former Chief Phillip Coleman who had to retire after allegations of sexual misconduct. Then Former Chief Jerry Gonzalez was forced out with a no confidence vote by the DPOA (Davis Police Officers' Association). After a short term from Martin Ruiz, you have Chief Jim Hyde who resigned abruptly in 2006. Some have suggested that Davis is not the place to have your first job as police chief or city manager, and yet if this hire goes through we will have a first time police chief and city manager.

Others have questioned the quality of the applicants. Frankly, that's not even something I am prepared to do at this point. I simply have not received enough information on Captain Landy Black to know if he would make a good Police Chief. Nor do I have enough information to reach the conclusion as to whether or not I think he would be a good hire or a bad hire. It is unfortunate because I would prefer to be able to give the new Chief strong support as I was able to give the Police Ombudsman strong support PRIOR to his hiring.

There are a few troubling aspects of the way this process has been conducted. First, you have a large number of individuals who voiced serious problems with the police department last year. And while it is most likely true Chief Hyde left for purposes that had nothing to do with the HRC and the police controversy and in fact might have gone shortly even if he had not taken the position in Antioch, it is also true that that controversy played a role in the problems faced by the police department. (And it is important to realize that there are very serious administrative problems facing the police department that have nothing to do with the controversies of last year and those most likely would have force Hyde out even without the controversies).

So wouldn't you want some of the civil rights groups involved in the screening of police chief candidates? Wouldn't you want them to at least meet the individuals prior to hiring them? Wouldn't you want some sort of contact between the groups that were criticizing the operations of the police department and a new chief? And yet, no attempt was made by the city to arrange such a meeting.

The city seems to feel like if they opened the candidate to such public scrutiny they would never hire anyone. Are the candidates that sensitive? If so, perhaps this is not the place for them. You would think that most high ranking police officers would enjoy the opportunity to become a police chief. Moreover, they would face the community fire at some point if they are hired--why not face the fire before they decide to disrupt their entire life and move 1000 miles from Seattle to Davis. You might as well prepare them for that fire in advance so they know exactly what they are getting themselves into. The last thing I think you would want is a person to be hired and then run off following a short amount of time because they cannot handle the pressures and scrutiny of being a police chief in Davis. And while I appreciate that Landy Black was a Precinct Captain in Seattle and that his Precinct was as large as the Davis Police Department, he has not faced Davis yet.

My second concern with this process is that the public only received a token opportunity to meet this person in advance. Several people have informed me there were extensive public meetings when they hired Chief Hyde and that enabled people to meet him, talk to him, question him. Half an hour in a meet and greet is basically no public process. Realistically, he can shake a few people's hands. He will not get to say much more than that. If this is the process, I would prefer no opportunity to meet the police chief. Let us not pretend that this is something more than what it is.

The city maintains that this is more than most cities do. I have no way to know if this is true or not, but it really does not matter. I do not think we should allow the decisions of other cities to govern how we in Davis choose to conduct our governing process. Davis is a unique city and in many ways given the public rancor last year, you would think that the city would want to smooth over this hire with as many people as possible. Unless they think that somehow the problems have all gone away--which I do not believe they have.

Third, the point was made that this was not a political hire, but rather the hiring of a city employee. Then the question was asked if I believed that all department heads should be hired in a somewhat similar process. I certainly would not be opposed to that. But I think that question really ignores the unique nature of the police chief. In many ways, it really is a political position in the sense of the controversy that followed from last year. Moreover, I do not recall people marching against the public works department down Russell Blvd last year, people cramming into City Hall over their treatment by parks and recs officials, or people speaking out against the City Works department employees. So to act as though all department heads are the same and should have the same process seems a bit ludicrous.

And perhaps I am overstating the city's position here, which is not my intention. I have different goals and concerns than the city in this area. However, I think there needs to be a more open public process for the hiring of someone like a police chief than the public works director.

The police are in very direct contact with the citizenry and it is a very delicate job in that you work with people who may be violating the law or accused of violating the law. Officers enforce laws and that requires people be fined or detained. That is very different than any other department. When a large group--even if they are a small minority within the overall population--complains about disparate treatment, there is a difference in how the process should work for the person who more than anyone else will be in charge of changing the tone in the police department and the communication between the police department and the city.

In the end, I am not asking that we take a poll of the populace in this hiring. I am not asking that the public get to vote on this hiring. All I am asking from the start was for a reasonable public process to occur so that we could scrutinize and vet the new police chief candidate or candidates. In the end, this feels more like a fiat accompli.

We need a good and strong police chief and one that can realistically lead this department for the next 10 years and stop this revolving door of police chiefs. Unfortunately, I just have no solid basis at this point to have that kind of faith in this process. I wish the city would have involved more of the citizens in this process who had been critical of the past chief and his department.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Super Bowl Sunday Prediction

An African-American coach will win the Super Bowl for the first time ever. In fact, it is the first time an African-American has even coached a Super Bowl game.

It is just a subtle reminder to us that we have not yet reached a level playing field or a color blind society. This despite the huge strides made in society as a whole by African Americans. Moreover, despite the huge strides made in the NFL by African Americans in terms of number of coaches.

I thought Jann Murray-Garcia's words in her column last week capture exactly my feelings on the subject:

"They won! They won!" I jumped up, cheering as the Indianapolis Colts player intercepted Tom Brady's pass in the final minute of the AFC playoff game. "I've got to call my Dad."

It wasn't just the Colts' victory I was celebrating. "Two black head coaches in the Super Bowl when there have never been any before! Dad will be so happy!"

My 10-year-old daughter looked confused, sitting on the couch and following the game closely with the rest of our family. "Canela," I said, stepping back, "they used to think we weren't smart enough to coach NFL football."

Recognition replaced confusion on my daughter's young face. Race had consciously begun to matter to her long ago in her young life, as her peers pointed out, curiously and, unfortunately hurtfully, her physical distinctiveness among Davis kids. She also has progressively learned of her ancestors' American struggle for justice, and has engaged in her own.

I had a great conversation with my dad that afternoon, although my celebration was tinged with melancholy. As surely as I was a young kid watching "The Brady Bunch" in the 1970s, I could also be found at my dad's knee, cheering for the Pittsburgh Steelers' Franco Harris, Mean Joe Green, Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann. If you'd told me then that I would be 43 before a black head coach won the Super Bowl, I would not have believed you. Especially in an industry (sports) wherein African Americans generate so much revenue for industry executives and owners, a 30-year wait seems ... well, sad.

But welcome into my heart, which I share with you at personal risk, hoping you believe me and wanting you to know. Why are African Americans still so invested in the achievements of people of our racial group, people we don't know? Isn't it time to move beyond that?
Many of my more melanin challenged friends have suggested that this should indeed be a non-issue. It is a notion that is tough to dispute. We all want to believe that race does not matter any more. That sex does not matter anymore. And yet it is 2007 and in a few hours for the first time, an African American coach will be doused by Gatorade and for the first time shall be a Super Bowl Champion coach in a league where more than half of the players are African-Americans.

And yet as we look broader into the political future we see that in 2008, a full 216 years since the first President was elected, that we will see the possibility that either a woman or a non-white person could potentially be selected as the nominee for one of the two major parties.

And I could go down the list to demonstrate to people the vast inequality between white and non-white and even men and women in a whole range of things. But we all know this.

And so I echo Dr. Murray-Garcia's question: Shouldn't we move beyond that?

And my answer is that unfortunately, we have not. Why? Because we are not there yet. But we are getting closer to the day when we are.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

New Harassment Policy in Schools Moving Toward Completion

On Thursday Night, the Davis Joint Unified School Board took the next steps toward completing a new harassment policy when they unanimously approved much more specific, detailed, and strong policies that laid out severe and strict consequences for students who harass other students. Additionally, the school board moved toward the creation of a new category in their discipline matrix that will be one that deals with the violation of a student's civil rights.

This is a much needed update to the school district's discipline process. Part of the frustrating aspect of the Fischer harassment case was not just the fairly light punishments for the students involved in this incident, but the extent to which the district's policy's created a discrepancy in the severity of some punishments versus others. Two key examples, if a student called another student a racial epithet that was a more severe penalty (automatic suspension) than if a student called another student an anti-gay epithet. Moreover, smoking marijuana was also a much more severe penalty than the verbal harassment of another student. Not that smoking marijuana is a good thing, but it seems to be much more serious to harass and bully another student.

If the school district did nothing else, it had to clean up these seeming inconsistencies in their policy. And to their credit they did. School board member Sheila Allen was quoted in the paper as saying that these polices had been drafted and adopted in record time. I guess that is a good thing that the district can be responsive when a glaring hole in their current policy is found. I am certain from Mr. Fischer's perception it comes much too late. That is not necessarily a criticism of the board per se, but rather a recognition that hopefully in the future we can figure out these holes before a serious incident occurs.

In my opinion, it should not take a crisis and a lawsuit to induce fast action and change. Again, and let me reemphasize, the board did the right thing here. And they did it very quickly, I first reported on this story in the Vanguard on November 10, 2006 and the board itself first met on November 16, 2006. So it took less than three months to make drastic changes and that includes Thanksgiving, Christmas-New Years, in between. That is quite impressive.

Finally, as Mr. Fischer points out in the Davis Enterprise, the next key thing is for the district to ensure that these policies will be enforced. Again, the language is very strong and I think fairly clear. But they will only work as well as they are followed. And that is the crux of it all, they can have all of the language they want but if the principals are not following the provisions laid out then they will not work.

One suggestion would be to periodically (and I honestly do not know if they already do this or if they even could do this) monitor the schools and see how discipline policies are carried out and not just on this issue obviously, but overall. However, what I fear will happen is that the next time an incident like this occurs, the policy will be put to the test and we will only find out if it is working if the parent complains in a loud and vocal way so as to ensure that the public hears about this incident.

A couple of other quick notes. First, there are several youtube videos that I have created for use on this site. However, they are also available on the youtube website. There have been a number of comments posted by people who obviously live in this community that are rather troubling (I actually had to remove some of the comments because they were too vulgar and several of those obviously came from people who appeared to be in this community and PARENTS of students in this school district). There is also prevailing perception that Zach Fischer somehow brought this upon himself. While I think that the idea that he would be a completely innocent is probably not accurate, given the depths of this incident, I think I can safely say there can be no excuse for what happened to him. None at all.

Second to the implication that this will somehow deprive the school district of vast resources and that Mr. Fischer is suing the school district merely to line his own pockets, I would like to point out a few actual facts. First, the district has an insurance policy that will mean they will pay some sort of deductible and the rest of the cost will be mitigated by the insurance. Second, he is hardly asking for enough to line his pockets. Third and most importantly, the school district's actions show that school policy was lacking in this area. I will quickly also suggest that their quick action shows a good faith effort to correct it. I am not going to weigh in on the merits of this case, other than to suggest those actions taken in the last few weeks suggest that this is not merely a frivolous waste of everyone's time. People need to inform themselves on the facts before they make derisive comments, it has been a bit of an eye-opener to read some of those comments on youtube. (If you look on the side panel you can click on the videos that relate to the Fischer case and view them for yourselves).

---Doug Paul Davis reporting