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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Covell Partners Attempt to Hijack Thursday's Housing Element Workshop

The Vanguard has received a forwarded email from the Project Coordinator for North Davis Land Company, Lydia Delis-Schlosser. North Davis Land Company, is Tandem Properties' owner and Covell Village developer John Whitcomb's group. The email contains an invitation to tomorrow's (Thursday January 24, 2008) Housing Element Steering Committee workshop where public input will be taken. The email also - and more insidiously - contains explicit instructions on how to fill out the Housing Element Workshop survey in order to best serve the needs of Mr. Whitcomb and the Covell Partners.

Mr. Whitcomb has been attempting to develop the Covell site for a number of years now.

The proposal for Covell Village was rejected by Davis voters by nearly a 60-40 margin in November of 2005. Now they have come back with a new proposal that seeks to build senior housing on the Covell Site.

This project first came before the Housing Element Steering Committee in September 2007.

Tomorrow night, there will be a workshop where the public can weigh in on where they would like to see development. The public can rank order those options from 1 to 37.

Mike Harrington, a former Davis City Councilmember and a current member on the Housing Element Steering Committee expressed concern and outrage at the tactics.
"This is more political manipulation of the political process by the Covell Partners and it is going to backfire against them just like their boogie man campaign backfired in the fall of 2005, when they attempted to scare residents into voting for Measure X with the letter from Supervisor Helen Thomson."
Councilmember Lamar Heystek expressed concern over this process in a conversation with the Vanguard.
"Public participation that is choreographed by third parties simply cannot be taken at face value. This strategy calls into question the integrity of the public process. I'm disappointed that there are interests that feel the need to 'coach' the Davis public to advance their point of view. If we’re really interested in meaningful public engagement, we must let the people think for themselves and draw their own conclusions."
Richard Livingston, who managed the campaign against Measure X in 2005 said in a statement to the Vanguard:
"It appears the same developers who lost the MEASURE X campaign by a 60% vote are at it again. Now they are trying to lure support for senior housing. They want the city to give them another shot at making money off something not needed in Davis. Senior housing is not a priority. Also interesting is the fact that they want another big development at a time when the economy in the United States is facing a serious recession, caused to some extent by overbuilding and inflated prices. It appears that their tactic it to stack the audience with their supporters in hopes of influencing the city. Well we saw how much they were willing to spend the last time to develop the Covell property. When a company is willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get what they want imagine the profits they anticipate."
Mayor Sue Greenwald told the Vanguard in general that she supports senior housing, but this is not the proper location or method by which it should be done.
"I'm very supportive of a continuing care facility. I'd like to see one located close to downtown. I think the PG&E Property is perfect for it, since we're already looking at developing it."
However, she stressed this was not the proper manner in which to go about doing this.
"I don't like developer driven planning."
This represents a blatant attempt to manipulate the political process whereby the public can have input into a crucial measure of the city's housing future, and indeed these tactics cast doubt on the veracity of the entire process.

Here are copies of the email and the first three pages of the pdf instruction sheet attached to the email:

For the full text of the instruction sheets: hit the link

---Doug Paul Davis reporting