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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hate Crimes Strike Davis

There have now been a couple of Hate Crime Incidents that have struck Davis in the last week.

I received an email from one of the victims of the attack last weekend, someone I know casually. The garage door of their house was tagged with "KKK FUCK NIGGERS." Two of the residents were white while the other was biracial. The police believe it was a target of opportunity either struck along the way or as an afterthought because the main target appeared to be a street over--an African-American family whose home was apparently much more extensively hit with graffiti described as "white supremacist."

The troubling aspect to the individual involved and to a number of people I have since spoken with is the apparent lack of response in Davis either by the Davis Police Department and small and scant coverage in the newspaper.

The police detective the victim spoke with speculated that not much will happen to the culprits--both of them students at Davis High School. At most they'll receive probation and have community service and pay a fine.

The police describe this as a high school friendship situation that got out of control.
"'This is high school tensions that got way out of hand,' [Sgt. Scott] Smith said today. 'Now these kids are looking at significant charges because they chose to resolve their friendship issues in the way that they did.' "
Community leaders are concerned about this incident and also the lack of public outcry. But then again, what is the public to do when such stories are buried in the middle of the paper?

And yet it happened again--yesterday morning. This time at Holmes Junior High.

The Enterprise reports again a small article in the middle of the paper:
"Davis police are investigating as a hate crime an incident of graffiti discovered this morning at Holmes Junior High School.

An employee of the 1220 Drexel Drive school arrived on campus at about 7 a.m. to find the graffiti spray-painted with silver paint on lockers, windows and the gymnasium wall, Davis police Sgt. John Wilson said.

'Some of it appeared to be gang-related, some of it appeared to be racially related, and some of it was just generally nasty,' Wilson said. The racial content included derogatory terms for Asians and African-Americans, he added.

So far, no suspects have been identified, 'but we're still very early into it,' Wilson said. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Davis Police Department at 747-5400.

The incident comes on the heels of another local hate crime in which graffiti, some of it targeting African-Americans, was spray-painted on the garages of two East Davis homes last weekend.

Davis police have cited a 17-year-old boy for vandalism with a hate-crime enhancement and have requested similar charges be filed against an 18-year-old male in connection with the crimes, which police said stemmed from friendship tensions among a group of Davis High School students. "

It is before Christmas. People are going on vacation. But we cannot just let these things drop. Come the first week of January this issue will be revisited. My friend, Jann Murray-Garcia has a late-breaking op-ed in the Davis Enterprise tomorrow on this very subject. The issue of hate crimes in Davis has come up again and again. Every time they think they have a handle on it, it comes back.

People are willing to dismiss this stuff as a high school dispute that got out of hand. I just cannot buy that. A community cannot afford to turn a blind eye when an incident with hatred embedded in racial terminology pops up. It has to deal with it head on to ensure that it happens never again in this community. That requires vigilance and it requires those in the position to both deal with the public and educate the public to step up and take strong and proactive stances. If they do not, these incidents will repeat, they will increase, and then we will have a real problem on our hands.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, December 21, 2007

Council Approves Small Increase to Developer Impact Fees That Keeps Davis on the Low End of the Spectrum

Last week ago, the issue of developer impact fees came up on the Vanguard in reference to a Tsakapolous project.

From the December 11, 2007 Sacramento Bee:
"A developer's willingness to purchase water services in advance of home construction will help the El Dorado Irrigation District weather the downturn in the housing market.

The district board Monday approved an agreement with AKT Carson Creek Investors LLC that calls for the firm to pay nearly $4.34 million in facility capacity charges for water, wastewater and recycled water service in 2008 as an advance deposit on the fees that will be levied when the residential units are built. The company owns the Carson Creek properties in the El Dorado Hills area.

District counsel Tom Cumpston said the pact is similar to contracts the district entered into in the past through assessment districts and other advance funding agreements."
This article in turn spawned a discussion as to whether Davis got its fair share of developer impact fees.

In that article I suggested:
"In short, the real question is are we asking developers to do enough in the city of Davis when we approve their plans?

I am not advocating more development here. Nor am I suggesting that developers need to take a loss on their project.

What I am suggesting is that we ask our developers to do more than we presently do. If they want to develop land adjacent to Davis, and we think these are good projects for the future, maybe, just maybe, we should ask for things in return, so that these developments do not negatively impact the city as much as they presently do."
This issue came up to council on Tuesday of this week. City Staffer Paul Navazio proposed a new method for assessing developer impact fees. The proposal would raise the fees from a range of 12.19% to 38.38%.

The biggest of these increases would be single family dwellings which would increase by over 33%.

Nevertheless, in relative terms, as the chart demonstrates, Davis is getting among the lowest amount of developer impact fees of the jurisdictions that were sampled in the chart that is posted next to the article--particularly for single family dwellings, which make up a large percentage of new developments.

Mayor Sue Greenwald spoke passionately on this issue, at one point somewhat parodied Councilmember Saylor's demeanor and delivery style.
"Year after year, our impact fees have been among the lowest of all cities we've looked at. Year after year, we always say in measured reasonable voices that we need more details, we're making progress, we need more studies, more data, more plans, and year after year after year our developer fees are the lowest.

Right now I'm going to repeat, our water fee is the lowest of nine cities we looked at. It's $2740, the water fee for Livermore which is a slow growth city is $22,775, ten times the size of our developer fee.

There's no excuse for this. Every year since I've been on the council, at least the last six years I've been saying, there's no excuse for this. And every year in measured voices, the council answers, well we have to study more, work on our methodology, get more details."
Mayor Greenwald said she would "have to vote for this, otherwise we will get even lower developer fees." However she did make a motion to get an independent, outside consultant to examine the fees, and see what we could legitimately and more reasonably charge developers, in an attempt to get a higher but more fair share for the city of Davis.

While the council passed the new impact fees as proposed, the Mayor lost in a 2-2 vote on the issue of an outside consultant examining whether the fee could be increased.

The bottom line for me is that there are very real costs that occur as the result of development, costs that actually make it not cost-effective for the city. A good illustrator of this point is the impact of West Village. Both the city and UC Davis would lose money on cost of services versus what they would recoup in one-time developer fees and property taxes.

This would seem a no-brainer issue for both sides. For those in favor of development, higher development impact fees might make the public and the council more willing to approve future housing projects. For those in favor of lower development, higher development impact fees means that the city can recoup more of its costs for water, public safety, and traffic impact. The cost of these services generally means that development is a losing prospect for the community.

Meanwhile Davis is going to grapple with increased water and sewer costs in the near future, allowing developers to pay more of their fair-share seems the only realistic way to go here. But again, the council majority does not seem to see it that way.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Word To The Wise: Anna’s Story

By E.A. Roberts

Appearing in the Sunday, December 9th, 2007 Sacramento Bee was a wonderful article about Anna Zoubak, an 87 year old senior in quite a predicament. The remarkable thing about the story was not only its content, but that it appeared in a Sacramento newspaper of all things. It was an account of how various Yolo County agencies, private enterprise and volunteers coordinated efforts to assist an older adult at risk. To put it more succinctly, the narrative described a process that should serve as a model on how to accomplish great things. What follows is nothing short of a miracle.

From Proposition 63 funding, Yolo County Department of Alcohol, Drugs, & Mental Health (ADMH) formed the Older Adult Program - a mobile assessment team for seniors in crisis. An elderly lady of Russian descent named Anna Zoubak and her disabled adult son George came to the attention of the Older Adult Program’s Supervisor, Nancy Edgar and Social Worker/Russian Translator Tatyana Solimena. Mother and son were living together in an apartment that had become unsafe for them. Persons in the neighborhood were targeting them for a place to stay overnight and asking them for money. Anna had become quite distressed and tearful on a daily basis.

Despite being elderly and in poor health, Anna kept insisting she wanted to return “home”. However, no one seemed to know if the frail woman ever had a house; or if she did, where it could possibly be. The matter was referred to me in my capacity as Executive Director of Building Bridges, an organization designed to prevent elder abuse. Building Bridges is a project of the Triad Task Force, a subcommittee of the Yolo County Commission on Aging & Adult Services. Through donated services, a title company determined that indeed Anna did own a home.

Unfortunately the residence was uninhabitable because of numerous building code violations. According to the Sacramento Bee article, written by Lakiesha McGhee, “[A code enforcement officer Debbie] Neuman was called to Zoubak’s home in January 2006 to investigate a complaint about inoperable cars in the driveway, rodents, and overgrown vegetation. Neuman said when she arrived at the property, she suspected far worse conditions. She returned with a Russian-speaking police officer after several failed attempts to contact Zoubak. A home inspection found weak points in the ceiling and floor that caused the walls to buckle out... An addition to the back of the home was separating from the main house. The floors were slanting because the house was built atop concrete that had rotted…A building inspection determined that the house was unsafe and Zoubak would have to move.”

Extensive coordination was put into play, between county and city agencies as well as private enterprise. Debbie Neuman, Senior Code Enforcement Officer of the City of West Sacramento Police Department, became heavily involved. She was joined by Louise Collis, Senior Program Manager of the City of West Sacramento Housing & Community Investment as well as Adult Protective Services. All parties concerned, including the Older Adult Program and Building Bridges, worked tirelessly to facilitate demolishing the existing house to erect a replacement dwelling for Anna and her son. There are still a number of details still to be sorted out.

Funding for the project was provided by a substantial deferred loan and several grants approved and provided by the City of West Sacramento. Cousin Gary Homes located on West Capitol Ave. was selected by the city as the business of choice to provide the new modular quarters. The case of Anna and her son George represents a remarkable milestone for the Older Adult Program - which proactively garnered the necessary resources to assist a senior citizen in desperate plight.

Housed within ADMH, the Older Adult Program is mobile and available to older adults experiencing a crisis which has mental health ramifications. A determination is made as to what services are appropriate and available, based on a thorough assessment of the client’s totality of circumstance. The Older Adult Program is designed to reach underserved vulnerable populations. If it proves consistently successful, the hope is for this project to have funding to expand and provide more services for the elderly in the future.

I was on the original Proposition 63 planning subcommittee for older adults, along with Dave Soto of the Area 4 Agency on Aging, attorney Sean Rashkis, Barbara Grigg - a retiree from ADMH, and two stakeholders, one a patient herself and the other a father of a mentally ill child. It is fascinating to see the subcommittee’s vision of a mobile assessment team for the elderly implemented after all those many months of development. What a triumph over tremendous odds for this project to come to fruition so productively.

Nancy Edgar, Supervisor of the Older Adult Program said, “It has been gratifying and exciting to be part of [Anna’s] story. Without the collaboration of the various community partners, particularly…Building Bridges, a successful outcome would not have been possible.” I provided what I like to call “shuttle diplomacy”, whenever the legal process would stall and needed a nudge to move forward again. Social Worker Tatyana Solimena worked tirelessly with her clients Anna and George, shepherding their part in the process along, giving tremendous assistance wherever it was necessary. Both the Older Adult Program and the City of West Sacramento will continue offering these two additional help on an as-needed basis.

It is interesting to note that the funding for this new modular home was provided by redevelopment funds, in the form of a no-interest deferred loan. It is a sizeable chunk of money to expend on just two people, although the city will recoup most of its expenditure eventually when Anna and George are no longer living, or the house is sold. The idea behind such a large disbursement of community block grant money is to remove blight from the city. Had the West Sacramento government followed through with the normal process of condemnation, the house would have sat empty until the legal process was complete. In the meantime, vandals would have further destroyed the abandoned home, and it would have become a magnet for criminal activity.

The City of West Sacramento is working to improve neighborhoods in Bryte and Broderick, which are two older areas in the northern section. If older homes are allowed to fall into a state of disrepair and are then condemned, the result will be a lowering of property values for the entire community. If financial assistance is given to rehabilitate these residences to whatever extent is necessary to make them habitable again, neighborhoods for the low-income remain healthy and viable for the good of everyone. However, because there is such great need and the city has only limited funding, assistance is on a first-come, first-served basis.

According to the Sacramento Bee, “Since January, the county has received 250 referrals about elderly people in bad living conditions. Many cases occur in West Sacramento, where there is a large population of elderly residents living in trailer parks…Sacramento County Adult Protective Services reports similar problems…“It’s rare that we see a situation when it’s only about the home falling apart,” said Paul Harling, APS program manager. “In almost 34 percent of the cases or higher, there is some marked deterioration in the health of the person.”…The problem is expected to grow as more people live longer. Agencies across the state are setting up teams similar to Yolo County’s Older Adult Program.”

Lesson to be learned: Agencies, private enterprise and volunteers can make a difference in the life of citizens who fall upon hard times. As the old adage goes, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Someday it may be you who requires the assistance. It does take a village to care for those in need, by pooling resources and pulling together for the good of everyone. Reach out to a lonely senior this holiday season, and let them know you care.

You can read the Sacramento Bee article in its entirety

To Readers: Do you feel an example similar to the case above is a good use of redevelopment funding? In Davis, the City Council just approved the use of redevelopment funding to add a second screen to the varsity theater. Any other examples/opinions you would like to share of redevelopment fund uses you know about?

Elaine Roberts Musser is an attorney who concentrates her efforts on elder law and aging issues, especially in regard to consumer affairs. If you have a comment or particular question or topic you would like to see addressed in this column, please note in the comment section.

Seniors Flood Council Chambers and Council Struggles to Act on their Behalf

As we have reported the Senior living facility, Atria Covell Gardens has said that they will be raising rent for their seniors living in their facility effective the first of the year. This will be on average an 8% rental increase, with some residents experiencing over a 10% rental increase. The rental increase follows another 8% increase that took effect in January of this year.

At Tuesday night's Davis City Council meeting, roughly 50 residents of the facility came to city council to express their support of the council to intervene on their behalf.

Supervisor Mariko Yamada who has been at the forefront of advocacy for seniors and senior living issues spoke before the council:
"I not only want to express support for the council's efforts to look into this matter, county will certainly be a partner with you in that. In fact they did meet with the resident's association immediately after the first news report of first the eight percent increase but then learning it has been a double digit increase over the past two years. This is part of a larger corporate issue I think in terms of how seniors are housed in our communities. Atria is a national corporation, there are issues arising, problems with Atria nationwide. But it also speaks to other housing needs for seniors, at the county level we are bringing home a study on rent stabilization for manufactured home parks, as well as taking a look at other facilities such as CCRC's (Community Care Retirement Centers)... But I also think we need to take a look at senior housing needs throughout the area."
Davis City Councilmember Lamar Heystek urged the council to take immediate action--if it was within the realm of the law and expressed a willingness to meet during the holidays in order to accomplish this.
"I'm in town [next week] If staff gave us a place, I'd be happy to act before the end of the year because it is of an urgent nature, I mean your rent increases kick in at the beginning of January. And I say that sincerely because I think we can talk about doing things on a long range calendar... but I understand you would like some immediate attention and I hope that I can be part of a solution on an immediate basis."
Mayor Sue Greenwald also indicated a willingness to act immediately:
"Why don't we authorize Harriet [Steiner] to look into our legal options and if there are option, why don't we ask Bill [Emlen] to schedule an emergency meeting."
Councilmember Don Saylor indicated that neither he nor two of his colleagues would be in town during this time:
"I think there will be two of you in town during that time..."
He also expressed reticence to act immediately even if he were in town.
"Like everybody, I think we're all touched, nobody likes this situation and we're very touched by the presence of the people in the room tonight. But I think we have to act within the bounds of what we can do and be clear about that. While it's possible that we could be the first city in the state, or one of the first, to implement a rent control mechanism, it's not likely. And it's not going to happen in the next couple of weeks. I think that we ought to be looking at the things that we can do and working with the management of Atria to try to get them to participate in a voluntary mediation has potential, it's possible. I don't know if it's going to be successful. But it's certainly worth trying... So I think we should do the things we can, within the authority we have, and test the bounds by exploration. But I don't think we can do something within the next few weeks, no matter what we do."
Michelle Reardon, who sits on the Social Services Commission and also practices in geriatric counseling, suggested there may be little a local entity can do at this point. She expressed regrets that Atria was licensed by the Department of Social Services to be a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly. Once licensed she believed that the state and not the city had jurisdiction over "rent."

This brings forward a larger issue of about Senior Care Facilities and licensing. A quick search for Atria finds a troubled organization with a wide array of complaints against it.

Channel 13 in Sacramento reports on a residential protest at an Atria facility in Sacramento.
"Nobody at this senior home wants to go, they just don't know if they can afford to stay. They were told that their rents were being raised, the residents got together and figured out that the increases range from six up to eleven percent.


Arthur's rent is increasing more than $4,000 next year.


The reason they've been given was that the building is riddled with dry rot, but residents don't believe that's financial burden to bear.

Some increase is expected, three or four percent is average at other homes. But, the overall feeling here is that management is unfairly taking money these people spent their lives saving."
In the meantime, Atria faces federal investigations for the violations of workers' rights:
"At facilities around the country, Atria is now facing a large number of federal investigations over charges that the company violated federal labor law, including threatening, intimidating, spying on, and otherwise violating the rights of employees who have been active in forming a union for improvements at their facilities"
And when workers at these care facilities has attempted to unionize, Atria has resorted to standard intimidation, harassment, and disciplining of workers.
“I was fired because I want a voice on the job. Atria needs to listen to workers so that residents get the care, staffing, and services they deserve. We’re forming a union for a voice in care for residents and working conditions for workers,” said Radika Munna, a former employee at Atria Senior Living, during a candlelight vigil where community leaders gathered to support workers who have been harassed for their efforts to improve conditions for workers and residents by forming a union at Atria Shaker in Lynbrook, New York.
These complaints bring up the question of who licenses these facilities and how local communities and counties can insure that when they provide for Senior Housing, that these provisions are met in a responsible manner. Local governments should not lose control of their authority once they grant building permits and zoning changes. How does a community like Davis, insure that once they provide these facilities, that their residents receive the type of care, attention, and affordability that they deserve?

Obviously this is a much broader question than can be addressed now. But it is imperative that the City of Davis along with Yolo County and other advocacy groups look at what is happening nationwide with companies like Atria and take steps to insure that this never happens again.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Council Passes Ordinance That Would Allow Renters to Display Political Signs on their Units

The City Council did, at Councilmember Stephen Souza's motion, pull back the portion of the election code item that would have changed the campaign contribution limitations from $100 to $250.

However, they left the sign ordinance on the agenda. Six UC Davis students stayed until late in the evening on their winter break on behalf of this issue.

The item was not without some controversy. As originally written, the ordinance would only impact those renters whose landlords did not have a provision in their lease that would ban campaign signs. While that turns out to be most of the rental agreements, the fear was that for this election cycle, renters would be able to display signs, but new rental agreements would contain provisions that would prevent the display of signs.

City Clerk Margaret Roberts during her staff report said:
"The ordinance that's before you minimally addresses that in that it says that they [political signs] are allowable, however, currently if a lease between a landlord and a tenant prohibits political signs, or any signage in their windows, that contract would supersede our ordinance. With that said, the city attorney has prepared at my request some alternatives that would disallow landlords from forbidding them to put that in."
City Attorney Harriett Steiner suggested that nothing would preclude the city from adding a section to the ordinance dealing with non-commercial advertising signs, that would enable renters to post signs on their rental unit space.

Councilmember Don Saylor voted in favor of the first reading, however, he requested to see material for the second reading. He suggested that the new language has not been seen by people outside of the room (I am not certain that has been a concern in the past when he has proposed amended language to agenda items and ordinances).

One item of interest was Senate Bill 540, which passed both houses of the legislature but was vetoed by the Governor.

That bill would have established:
"that a landlord may not prohibit a tenant from posting a sign, flag, or banner relating to an election or legislative vote, or the initiative, referendum, or recall process, subject to certain limitations."
Councilmember Stephen Souza had similar reservations about the change in langauge as Mr. Saylor, but he also had a concern about the timing since the primary election is around the corner in February 2008.

The council settled on presenting material on the second reading.

Lamar Heystek, lauded and applauded ASUCD for bringing forward this issue and getting it to the city council. He wanted to honor their commitment and the fact that they were there late into the evening during Winter Break, with appropriate action.
"It's very clear that tenant's should have equal freedom of speech rights, that they have political views, that they have opinions to express, and if they do them within the constraints of other residents, be they owners or not, I think it's a reasonable accommodation to make and I think frankly it's unfair to ask tenants to shop around for that right. To ask tenants to look for a place that will allow you to do that. It's a fundamental freedom of speech right. And just because students don't own the land that they live on doesn't mean that they don't get that right either."
He concluded by suggesting that around 40% of our residents are renters, and therefore if we do not pass this ordinance, we will be excluding 40% of our residents from an ability to post political signs.

Don Saylor supported the ordinance but he had reservations.
"I think as we express our heartfelt appreciation for the six people who are here this evening and who have worked to bring this to us... I think as we applaud free speech, and the opportunity for all people who are interested in an issue to be present to discuss it. It's also important to understand that many people who might have been interested in this issue aren't here. And one reason that they aren't here is that they weren't aware that this issue was going to be discussed in this fashion. I'm going to support the resolution, the ordinance with the amendment that has been suggested, I think it's appropriate that we proceed. But I have to say that we don't have information for alternatives for how to approach this. We have one point of view represented. That is not a good way to do business. For that reason, I'm giving you a little bit of a cold shoulder on loving it to death, because I want to know on all issues what the various points of view are so that when we pass something, we know that we have weighed them carefully and understood the tradeoffs and understood what the points of view are that may not be represented. There is always something that we pay attention to whether we agree with it or not is another questions. So democracy and free speech includes all points of view."
A few thoughts from my perspective. This is the most committed and most organized I have seen students in this community since I arrived in 1996. Don Saylor's view is ironic because the students felt that the timing of this item was inappropriate--students were on winter break, finals were over, most have left town. So it is greatly ironic that students who do not permanently live in town in some cases would show up and stay until 11:30 p.m. and that town residents would not.

Secondly, it is also interesting that no one showed up. From our description of the October commission meeting, this was indeed a lively and at times contentious debate. The CEO of the Chamber of Commerce was present for that debate. As was a representative from one of the largest property management companies in town--Tandem Properties owned by John Whitcombe. This is to suggest that if they were not aware of this issue, I would have a tendency to put it on them.

Finally, it is ironic because Mr. Saylor, is just a bit disingenuous throughout this statement. He is concerned about these factors on issues that he cares about. The fact that he and Mr. Souza supported the ordinance reflects political realities more than personal preferences.

Nevertheless this is a moment for applause rather than criticism. The work of members of the ASUCD Senate should be applauded. As should their dedication. It was their work and the strong support of Councilmember Lamar Heystek that made this passage possible.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Portion of Controversial Agenda Item Pulled From Tonight's Council Agenda

The Vanguard has learned that part of item 11 on tonight's agenda has been pulled. This item contained two separate but very important issues that generated concern from the community about the timing and the manner in which they came forward.

The first part of the item is a public hearing on an ordinance which would allow renters to display political campaign signs. According to city manager, this item will likely remain on the agenda despite student complaints about the timing of this hearing because students have largely left town this week at the conclusion of finals. According to our sources.

This is an item that first came before the UC Davis-City of Davis Student Liaison Commission. The issue came to the commission's attention after the ASUCD Senate passed a resolution in September, authored by Sen. Michael Lay, calling for an ordinance ensuring the right of Davis renters to post political signs. Several renters had complained to City and ASUCD officials that landlords were not allowing them to put up signs in support of certain candidates for public office.

The second and more controversial portion of the agenda item relates to an increase in the campaign finance limits for council elections. This would increase the limit from $100 to $250.
"Campaign Contribution Limits

The current campaign contribution limit of $100 was set by ordinance 1624 on November 20, 1991. With the increase in costs to run a simple campaign over the past sixteen years, it is being recommended that consideration be given to increasing the individual limit from the current $100 to $250."
However, the item caught many by complete surprise including apparently the City Manager and members of the council who were apparently unaware that the item was on the agenda.

Yesterday, Mayor Sue Greenwald posted the following on the Vanguard:
"I was unaware that changes in the campaign contribution limits were under consideration until I received my packet this weekend. (I go over the agenda items, but don’t see the staff reports in advance).

I had expressed reservations to the City Manager about this item, since Ruth was to be out of town. He assured me that the item was not substantive, but involved moving the ordinance to a more logical chapter in the City code.

When I saw the $250 surprise item, I called the City Manager to ask him why the changes in the campaign contribution limits materialized at this time and in this manner, he said that it was a surprise to him."
According to City Clerk, Margaret Roberts, she was asked to streamline the section of the city ordinance dealing with these campaign regulations. During the course of her inquiry, she discovered that Davis' regulation was out of step with other municipalities and therefore, according to her, she made the change on her own without any direction from anyone else.

In a conversation this morning with City Manager Bill Emlen, he acknowledged errors on his part for failing to properly scrutinize the council agenda. He saw the portion of the agenda on the political signage but missed the change in the campaign finance limitations. This is the same sort of error that I made when I initially missed this item as well.

He felt like this item was too controversial in this community to bring forth in this manner and will pull it back for re-examination. One possibility would be to have it before an ad-hoc committee to examine what other communities are doing and what this community wants.

He stressed that this error occurred not due to some untoward influence on the process but was rather an oversight and a misunderstanding by staff as to the nature of the topic being proposed.

The Vanguard will continue following this story in the near future. Stay tuned for new updates and commentary.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Housing Element Status Report to Be Heard Tonight

In what figures to be an action-packed agenda this evening, the last meeting of 2007, the City Council will hear a status report from the General Plan Housing Element Steering Committee.

As we discussed last week, the key question is now whether or not the council should maintain the 1% growth guideline (previously viewed by the council as a mandate for growth) and if so, where the city should grow in order to achieve that 1% growth guideline.

The item on the agenda this evening is strictly informational. The council has already vote once recently to maintain the 1% growth guideline under the guise at that time that they wished to wait until at least the Housing Element Steering Committee gave their update in December before revisiting the issue of the the 1% growth guideline. Of course, it is now interesting that the meeting in December has arrived and this item has been placed on the agenda as an informational item, which means no action can be taken with regards to the issue of the growth guideline.

There will be future discussion on this is during the Housing Element Steering Committee's January 24 meeting.

Councilmember Souza argued during the previous discussion that we are a community that grows by initiative now.
"So it doesn’t matter if you have a one percent, a half percent, ten percent, whatever the percent may be. The determination of where, when and how much we shall grow is determined by the residents of this town. That’s the policy we have, and unless we’re going to amend that policy, that’s the true policy that determines when, where and how we’ll grow."
Contrary to the viewpoint of Mr. Souza however, this is not a small issue. The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) has set a substantially lower growth mandate for Davis than the current 1% guideline adopted by the council majority during a very different economy.

To put this into perspective, under the RHNA guidelines we would need to grow by only 498 units between now and 2013, of which a good percentage of them would be either in the process of being built or in the works. However, a 1% guideline is substantially higher--on the order of 300 units per year.

300 units per year may not sound like a large amount. But put this into perspective.

The Mayor, Sue Greenwald commented on this issue last week here on the Vanguard:
"One percent sounds small, but it isn't. The policy aims at 325 units a year (the policy is actually 1% plus the affordable requirement), which would be the equivalent number of units contained in one subdivision the size of Wildhorse every three years.

And it doesn't even count the University's massive West Village project, which is to be almost the size of the City of Winters.

Even according to SACOG, the city has already met SACOG's desired targets for our growth through 2013. "
So while 1% sounds small, we are talking about one Wildhorse size development every three years. That always seemed a bit too large for the taste of most Davisites, however, it is particularly so when the RHNA guideline directs growth at a much much lower rate and at a time when the economy and housing market are on the downturn.

Unfortunately, the council can only listen to status report this evening, they cannot act. It is exceedingly important that Davis citizens show up in large numbers for the January 24, 2008 meeting and show the Housing Element Steering Committee that the residents of Davis are opposed to 1% mandated growth.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Monday, December 17, 2007

Quietly... Council Looks to Change City's Campaign Finance Ordinance

You had to be very alert to notice it, but on the agenda for Tuesday night's council meeting, as the last part of the last item, buried at the end of the council agenda, reads the following:

Missed it the first time? I did. I wasn't the only one.

The item seeks to put three separate aspects of election law into a single section of the election code.
These ordinances will remove all political campaign sign regulations from Chapters 3 and 40 of the Municipal Code and include them in Chapter 12 (Elections). This will put all regulations related to elections in one chapter making it convenient for the public to look an election related question up. They will also increase the allowable campaign contribution per person to $250 from the current $100 and impose a $25 removal fee for signs placed on public property.
The guise of this move is stated as "convenience." But it also has the advantage of enabling the item to be slipped through in relative obscurity, buried at the end where few are looking for it.

The first part of the item is a public hearing on an ordinance which would allow renters to display political campaign signs. This is an item that we discussed in October that came before the UC Davis-City of Davis Student Liaison Commission.

It has full backing of ASUCD (Associated Students of UC Davis). The issue came to the commission's attention after the ASUCD Senate passed a resolution in September, authored by Sen. Michael Lay, calling for an ordinance ensuring the right of Davis renters to post political signs. Several renters had complained to City and ASUCD officials that landlords were not allowing them to put up signs in support of certain candidates for public office.

ASUCD Sen. Andrew Peake:
"The right to free speech is a right guaranteed to everyone, not just to those who own property. When it comes to political participation, it shouldn't matter whether you own your home or not. When certain members of the community aren't allowed to participate in the democratic process in this way, it's a form of disenfranchisement."
City staff circulated a legal memorandum stating that landlords who prohibited their tenants from posting political signs were most likely out of step with the law.

Staff has now however taken the rather unusual step of putting together two relatively distinct ordinances into the same item. Therefore, having read the first part of the item, one might not notice that there is a second very distinct ordinance carried within it.

Adding to the confusion, is the fact that the second portion of the item has received little discussion leading up to its placement on the agenda. To the point where one wonders where it came from and under whose direction it was placed there.

Even in the agenda packet, the ordinance is buried and extremely brief. Unlike the political sign ordinance, the ordinance to change campaign finance laws has no background or discussion. It was a very simple single paragraph description.

It simply reads:
Campaign Contribution Limits

The current campaign contribution limit of $100 was set by ordinance 1624 on November 20, 1991. With the increase in costs to run a simple campaign over the past sixteen years, it is being recommended that consideration be given to increasing the individual limit from the current $100 to $250.
The merits of the increase aside, the fact that this was done in such a quiet manner, is of grave concern. Councilmember Lamar Heystek expressed similar concerns to me. This was the first he had heard of any proposed changes and he was unclear as to how the issue came about.

As Liaison the UC Davis-City of Davis Student Liaison Commission, he was very familiar with the political sign ordinance. The issue of renters having the same rights to place political signs around their rental units is an issue at the very basic levels of free speech.

However, the issue of campaign finance laws is a separate matter and needed to be brought up separately.

One can make arguments on both sides of the issue of increasing the amount an individual can donate in a city council race. However, that is not the point here. The point here is about open government, transparency, and having a full public discussion of this item. The item did not make the Davis Enterprise. It did not have any sort of prior discussion in a commission, and apparently even members of the council had no idea it was even being considered.

That is very alarming to me, again regardless of whether you think this is a good idea or a bad idea. What does seem clear is that three of the members of council are running for reelection. It takes thirty days for an ordinance to take effect after it's second reading which would be the first council meeting in January, meaning that by early February, candidates facing reelection can suddenly experience a 250% increase in their available campaign funds. And let me go out on a limb and suggest that this idea did not come from the Mayor. That leaves two likely culprits who would personally benefit from changing this ordinance.

To make things even more interesting is the fact that the Mayor Pro Tem, Ruth Asmundson, will not be at the meeting on Tuesday as she is out of town. That will leave open the strong possibility that this will not pass and perhaps it will leave open the possibility that this would be delayed until January or even after the current election.

Regardless of one's feelings on the current law or the proposed changes, the public must be heard on this issue and weigh in. Attempting to close off public input, scrutiny or debate, is a very dangerous precedent in my view. Let us have this debate with full notice in January and if the public wants to see these changes, then at least there will have been a chance for people to weigh in. My guess however is that is exactly what the timing and secretive nature of this ordinance attempted to avoid.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Latest Installment in 'As Trader Joe's Turns'

When the owners of University Mall decided to sue Radiological Associates of Sacramento in an attempt to force them to vacate their spot at the University Mall in order to pave the way for Trader Joe's to arrive, we figured that was a politically bad move. Clearly it changed some of public opinion on Trader Joe's arrival to Davis itself.

As it turns out, it was also bad law. The Davis Enterprise reports this morning that Yolo County Superior Court Judge Tim Fall granted a motion to strike a complaint that he had previous amended because it too was faulty. The motion to strike throws out the lawsuit.

According to the attorney representing RAS, Steve Boutin, the landlords had preferred to file a lawsuit to negotiating some sort of agreement between the two sides.
"Their lawsuit was faulty and premature... What they had to do was say 'Here are the conditions under which we can relocate and how we can do it.' What they did was create a very mushy situation which we didn't even have an opportunity to respond to... Their attitude has been 'Hey, see you in court,' rather than talking.... Where it goes from here is up to Centro Watt [the property managers]. Our sense is that they're anxious to get Trader Joe's in there, but my clients intend to continue to provide radiological services."
All the more reason it was ridiculous for Trader Joe's to announce that they were coming to Davis in 2008. It's a shame and frankly I have lost most of my interest in them coming here because of all this. No they did not sue RAS, but they might as well have. They insisted that the only place that they would locate was University Mall.

The problems with that location go beyond the fact that the space they want to move into is occupied by another business.

I see three primary problems with that location. First traffic. The area from Sycamore to Anderson along Russell as well as on those two side streets are among the most congested in the city of Davis. So the city wants to put in a store that will greatly add to the traffic? That makes little sense.

Second, parking is already bad at university mall. Now you are going to add another store that will bring in a ton of traffic that needs to park. Moreover, any overlap between Trader Joe's and the Graduate events could make parking a huge nightmare.

Finally, and this is an ongoing problem, anyone who parks at University Mall during the winter season is a target for the Crow shooting gallery. I remember parking the car for five minutes last year to get a coffee for my wife, and coming out of the coffee shop the car was literally covered in droppings.

Add to that, the problem that we have basically two shopping centers literally dying for an anchor and the location that is already taken makes zero sense whatsoever.

The argument that Trader Joe's wants to be close to the center of town and by a highway makes little sense either. People in Davis will come to a Trader Joe's, period. We could put it out in the fields of the Northwest Quadrant, two miles outside of town and they would come in droves. In San Luis Obispo, Trader Joe's is located on the outskirts of town, not in the town's center. Doesn't stop people from going there. If Trader Joe's does not stop this insanity they will never come and people will get tired of it. They already are.

This is my favorite part of the article from the Enterprise:
"At City Council meetings and in letters to the editor, Davis residents have questioned why Trader Joe's doesn't open its store in one of Davis' vacant grocery store sites, one in Westlake Plaza on Lake Boulevard in West Davis and the other in the Davis Manor Shopping Center on East Eighth Street."
They will not say it, but every story we have written in the Vanguard, on the issue has raised the question over and over again. But it is funny that the townfolk seem to know so much more than the business owners themselves. Perhaps representatives from Trader Joe's ought to listen to their potential customers and ditch the corporate charts.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting