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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sodexho Workers Present Card to Chancellor's Office

A group of six Sodexho Food Service workers from UC Davis gathered at Mrak Hall late yesterday afternoon to present a card to Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef.

The card was an enlargement of a card that was signed by a majority of Sodexho Food Service workers.

It read:
"I already work at the University, now it's time I work for the University."

"By signing below, I affirm that I support University employment with AFSCME Local 3299 membership for myself and my co-workers because it's better for all of us, our families, students, and our community."
The cards were signed over the past few months and this week, they were signed by over a majority of the workers.

The chancellor was not available. However, Executive Vice Chancellor Bob Loessberg-Zahl met with the delegation of six Sodexho workers, most of whom Spanish was their first language.

He patiently and politely listened for nearly 20 minutes to each of the workers relay their concerns and experiences. He took extensive notes and promised to relay the information to the chancellor.

Recall the picture from last week where the Sodexho workers met with former President Bill Clinton and the President pledged his support to help in their struggle for university jobs.

One of the stories that was told to the Mr. Loessberg-Zahl was the consequence for the lack of health benefits. The gentleman two people to the right of the President is a man named Joe Moreno. Mr. Moreno could not make it yesterday because he is in the hospital. He has a serious heart condition and is prescribed two heart medicines which are extremely expensive. Because he cannot afford insurance, he has only been able to take one of those heart medicines. Right now he has an enlarged heart. Because of its weakness they cannot shock him back into sinus rhythm, so he is laid up in the hospital and they are hoping at some point he will get strong enough so that they can shock him. An individual with health insurance would not be in his position today.

Directly to the right of the President is Esther Juarez, who was with the workers yesterday. You may recall her tale. As the result of an emergency procedure, I believe an appendectomy, and the fact that she did not have health insurance, she owes $45,000, a debt that she will likely never be able to repay.

The fight for affordable health insurance is literally a fight between life and death. These individuals work hard for low pay. Having affordable health insurance can mean that they can get preventative medicine, it means they will be more productive, and it means that a simple emergency will not put them into tremendous debt. In the case of Joe Moreno, it could mean the difference between life and death.

For me this is a struggle about the most basic of human rights and human dignity--the right to fair pay for a hard day's work and affordable health insurance. We were standing in the office of those making hundreds of thousands of dollars and all I could think of is that the women I was standing next to could have easily been my mother-in-law, the grandmother of my future children. The woman who sacrificed so much so that her children could have a better life. So that her daughter, my wife, could go to college and not have to be worry about such indignities.

It seems like such a simple thing and it seems to easy to dismiss. Last night, all I could think about was Joe Moreno and how happy he was to have gotten to meet the President. However, proud they all were to be standing there that day. And to think that now he's in the hospital fighting for his life, I really cannot put words to describe how I feel. For those of you who believe this is just about a union trying to get power by organizing a few hundred workers, think again. Think how you would feel if this was your loved one or even yourself.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Vanguard Stories

School Board Votes 4-1 To Rebuff Superintendent's Recommendation on Charter School

In yesterday's article, the Vanguard reported:
"Contrary to our bleak assessment yesterday on Valley Oak, it appears according to published reports that late discussions between Superintendent James Hammond and supports for the Valley Oak Charter have produced an agreement that have enabled the Superintendent to recommend approval of the plan."
As it turns out, the original bleak assessment turned out to be much more accurate. That would become clear one hour into new school board member Susan Lovenburg's lengthy question and answer session that seemed at times more like a filibuster or a cross-examination than an effort to absorb information.

Superintendent James Hammond repeatedly urged the school board to take a chance at doing the right thing by allowing the process to go forward.

However, the charter was likely doomed the moment Associate Superintendent Bruce Colby laid out the facts. With 167 students, the bare minimum, the school district would be projected to lose an additional $300,000 on this arrangement. Even with the projected 305 students, the district would lose $200,000.

All night the elephant in the room was the budget and "fiduciary" responsibility. Despite the fact that according to state law, the fiscal impact on the district cannot be criteria for denial of the charter. Board members ranging from Tim Taylor to Susan Lovenburg and Richard Harris said that unfortunately this could not be ignored.

Mr. Taylor somewhat diplomatically suggested that there was a conflict between the state law that governs charter schools and the laws that charge the school board with fiduciary responsibility.

Ms. Lovenburg much less diplomatically suggested that she would write her state legislator and try to get the law changed. However, the law is there for a key reason and that is to give charter schools a fighting chance to get passed. Without such laws, the school board could always have a ready reason to strike down approval.

Throughout the proceedings, the Vanguard and much of the audience was taken aback by the demeaner and approach of newly elected school board member Susan Lovenburg. She began with a long cross-examination of Charter Petition drafter Mike Egan and continued throughout the meeting with a lengthy series of questions. At one point, she asked six questions after she said she had one more question.

She increasingly became combative from the dais, clashing with DTA Representative Steve Kelleher at one point and then seemed to accuse the teachers and drafters of failing to be sufficiently rigorous in their work. This prompted Tim Paulson of the DTA to angrily rise and point out the huge amount of work that went into drafting the original document of the charter.

Ms. Lovenburg claimed to have come to the meeting undecided, but her line of questioning belied that claim. Moreover, her approach and demeaner were at times condescending and insulting to those who had poured sweat and toil into this process.

While one can disagree with Richard Harris in his choice, he was at least honest from the beginning, stating that this was not a close call for him and explaining why he would be voting against this resolution. At one point he took umbrage with a letter from parents presented at a previous meeting that accused the district of lack of sympathy and respect for EL Students. He rightly pointed out that while that may have been true in the past, and over the previous 5 to 10 years he had no doubt there was a lack of respect. However, Superintendent James Hammond had shown nothing but respect to the people of this district, going well above and beyond the call of duty.

Board member Gina Daleiden was genuinely torn on this issue between her responsibility to the students of Valley Oak and those of the rest of the district. As she did last year however, she voted in the end against the charter.

Board member Tim Taylor tried to find another way by suggesting that they wait another year to make sure the charter could succeed rather than rushing to implement it. However, it was clear that the petitioners were not in support of this approach. They feared closing down the school and trying to recreate what was there would prove impossible. Some suggested this was a ploy, but in my view, Taylor's approach was sincere.

The highlight of the evening was student representative Amanda Lopez-Lara's valient and eloquent advocacy for Valley Oak. Staying well into the night, she delivered a passionate statement talking about her family and what Valley Oak meant to them and then a plea for the school district to provide the means for Latinos and disadvantaged students with not only a place to learn but a place to call home. Her statement was clearly the highlight of the evening along with Sheila Allen's almost tearful support of the charter, the sole board member to support it.

In the end, the recommendation and work of James Hammond was valiant but futile. Factors that were not supposed to weigh on the minds of the board members weighed on their minds.

The process however will go forward. The petitioners plan to appeal the process to the county. If the county accepts the appeal, they become the authorizing body. Not mentioned at this meeting was the cost to the district should that occur which according to some estimates may run upwards of $1 million rather than $300,000 as current estimates suggest. If the county were to deny the charter, the state board could authorize it and then assign a body to govern it. This would also be potentially costly.

A further point that was raised is that the appeal would be the original charter that the board deemed to be inadequate rather than the newly negotiated charter, that was referred to as the Hammond Charter throughout the evening. The stakes here could be very high for the district and while it seems unlikely the county would reverse the decision, the state has a long history of doing exactly that.

After the meeting, the Vanguard caught up with Bill Storm, science teacher at Valley Oak:
"The elephant in the room might have been the $300,000 [a charter would cost the district], but the brontosaurus was race and class."
Mike Egan very graciously emailed the Vanguard a statement at 1:55 AM early this morning.
"The Founding Group of the Valley Oak Charter School is deeply disappointed at the DJUSD Board's action to reject a compromise charter petition. This compromise was the product of much good faith work between the Founding Group and the Superintendent and his staff. We believe the Board has missed an important opportunity to address the needs of an all too often neglected segment of the Davis community. We appreciate the support from members of the community who spoke in favor of the charter proposal. We particularly appreciate the insights offered by the student representative to the Board in speaking in favor of the charter. We will be meeting to consider our future course of action, including an appeal to the Yolo County Office of Education. "
As Steve Kelleher pointed out to a group outside following the verdict, this has been an uphill battle from the start but it is not over.

For my part, I did not expect to be writing this after the news came forth that the Superintendent was recommending passage. I am disappointed with the board for their decision and their lack of faith in the work of the Superintendent. I am disappointed that once again, the burden falls on those students who are most disadvantaged and least able. And finally I am disappointed that this fight that appeared over will have to continue for the parents, teachers, and students for a number of additional months.

The agreement that was reached was tough. It had concrete deadlines. These deadlines were built in to assure success. In some ways the school district ignored completely charter school law. The degree to which financial considerations weighed on the minds of school board members was discussed openly and will be admissible as a reason for appeal. This could actually put the school district at even greater risk. The degree to which the attendance issue weighed on the minds of the school board also has implications. The charter school law provides that they only need to get the signatures of half of the students. They actually got signatures for two-thirds of the students and yet that was never enough.

Yes the district is facing a severe budget crunch. Tim Taylor spoke of the need possibly to cut another school. However, the school district does not have the option to ignore state law on charter schools. By denying this charter there is the potential there that the district will face a loss of money three times what they currently project. If that occurs, how many programs are they going to have to cut?

This is a disappointing outcome for sure. But the fight is not over. Last night after the verdict there was no defeat, only resolve.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

General Plan Housing Element Steering Committee Workshop A Success

by Matt Williams

Anyone who came to tonight’s Housing Element Update Workshop looking for theater went away disappointed. Those who came looking for an opportunity for learning and participation were rewarded with a great chance to learn about and wrestle with the housing challenges and issues that face Davis in the coming years.

The Committee and the Planning Department Staff did a truly superb job of providing a wealth of information on huge 3 foot wide by 6-foot tall sheets, which covered all four walls of what had to be a 40-foot by 40-foot room. In the words of Rodney Robinson, “I can’t wrap my mind around all of this!” I am sure Rodney was not alone in those feelings.

To their credit, the Committee and Staff did their very best to anticipate that very reaction, and organized the workshop into five “Stations” each of which was designed to expose the participants to a “bite-size” portion of information, and build the participant’s knowledge (and hopefully enthusiasm) as they moved from Station to Station. Each Station was manned by as many as three of the Committee members, who shared information and answered questions.

After signing in and placing a blue dot on the location of your residence on a map of Davis, each participant proceeded to Station One, where Kevin Wolf and Mark Siegler gave each person an orientation to the Workshop as well as the twelve-month process that had led up to it. Kevin and Mark’s words were supported by the first four of the 3-foot by 6-foot wall graphics, which provided appropriate information that further “framed” the questions being addressed.

Station Two built on the knowledge garnered in Station One. Interactive learning/participation with Committee members was supplemented by eight more 3 foot by 6-foot wall graphics. It was fascinating to watch the interactions at Station Two. As Committee member Mark Spencer said, “People didn’t stay in their burrows tonight.” No question was out of bounds, and based on the questions being asked at all the Stations, more than one Committee member echoed Kristin Stoneking’s comment that she “didn’t think that developers had been in evidence tonight.”

Reflecting on what he saw, Council member Don Saylor made the comment that, “You couldn’t have asked for more. The Workshop gave everyone the opportunity to build their knowledge at their own pace, before moving on to the next stations where they were given the opportunity to share their opinions.” Mayor Greenwald spent most of her evening at the workshop sharing her thoughts on housing in general and on some sites specifically … Nishi and Cannery most notably.

Stations Three and Four began the feedback process. The 14 Principles the Committee has used to guide their deliberations and site rankings were on display.
(1) Promotes a compact urban form, which allows for efficient infrastructure and services.
(2) Promotes overall proximity to existing community facilities including parks, greenbelts, schools and shopping (which reduces driving and its negative impacts).
(3) Promotes overall proximity to the downtown and UC Davis (which reduces driving and its negative impacts).
(4) Is capable of providing compact development and higher density housing, especially near community facilities (which reduces driving and its negative impacts).
(5) Preserves prime farmland and minimizes farmland conversion.
(6) Is adjacent to, or contributes to open space and greenway system connections.
(7) Provides adequate vehicular access and safety.
(8) Promotes pedestrian, bicycle and transit mobility.
(9) Is compatible with existing land uses in the vicinity.
(10) Is compatible with noise environment.
(11) Avoids health risks (such as exposure to particulates in close proximity to freeways).
(12) Preserves a small town feel.
(13) Promotes historic preservation.
(14) Advances (or at least does not harm) fiscal stability.
Each participant was given three sticky dots, which s/he could use to vote for their most important three Principles. Principles (1), (4), (5) and (8) appeared to have the most green dots.

With that exercise complete, Station Four was where the rubber hit the road. At this Station the Steering Committee grouped the 37 potential housing sites into three categories (High Ranking, Medium Ranking, and Low Ranking) based on the 14 principles from Station Three. At this Station the Committee provided everyone with a Comment sheet so s/he could share thoughts about any changes to sites in the three categories. The Comments sheet also solicited feedback about the reasons for changing a site ranking. In between answering questions at Station Three, Committee member Donna Lott told me, “The Committee is really looking forward to taking the comment information from the Workshop, and using it to make sure the decisions they had made to date were on target.” Another Committee member Jay Gerber echoed Donna’s comments, “I’m really looking forward to the feedback.”

For those participants who weren’t suffering from their own version of Rodney Robinson’s mind-wrap problem, Station Five was set up to get feedback on the wealth of topics not covered in Stations Three and Four. Some of those topics were:
  • Overall housing directions,
  • Trade-offs and strategies the community might want to pursue in meeting its housing needs
  • Options for Housing Density and Intensity Near Downtown and Neighborhood Nodes
  • Preferences for Housing Development Within the City as Compared to Peripheral Sites, and
  • Thoughts on the one percent growth guideline adopted by the Davis City Council on March 8, 2005 (based on an estimated internal housing need report prepared by Bay Area Economics).
To help participants, the center of the room had a large worktable with detail support documents that could be read if a participant wanted to know more about a particular issue. This table was also a place where people could discuss their thoughts about all they had learned. Discussions overheard at that table, covered topics like:
  • “Not one single additional acre of farmland should be paved over in our life times!”
  • “What does the Committee envision for the Anderson Transit Corridor?
  • “The South Davis properties along I-80 shouldn’t be residential. The kind of High Tech companies we want to attract to Davis want Freeway access, which is one of the few positives those sites have to offer.
  • “Davis is a wonderful community because of our values, our innovation and our welcoming hospitable character. To continue to be innovative, Davis needs a certain amount of growth, with the 498 unit RHNA number probably being too little growth, but the 2,300 unit 1% guideline number probably being too much growth.”
It is too early to tell what the bottom-line take away from the workshop will be. In the next two weeks, Staff will organize and distill all the comments and feedback for the next Committee meeting on Thursday, February 7th. In the meantime, we should all act on the following words that appear on the Comments Sheet.
Submit your comments either at THE WORKSHOP OR, if you would like to take more time, please MAIL, FAX OR EMAIL your comments so that they arrive at City Hall by January 30, 2008 (next Wednesday), so that Staff can include your comments in the workshop report.

Please send your comments to Bob Wolcott, Principal Planner, City of Davis, 23 Russell Boulevard, Davis, CA 95616. Tel (530) 757-5610; Fax (530) 757-5660; Email Bob Wolcott. Thanks!
The comments form can be printed off by going to the city website

In closing I would like to echo the words of Committee member Lucas Frerichs, “I’m very, very encouraged by the turnout, especially in the rain. It exceeded all expectations, and is a great tribute to Davis.”

Please click on the pictures below to enlarge:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thursday Vanguard Stories

Superintendent to Recommend Support for Valley Oak Charter

Contrary to our bleak assessment yesterday on Valley Oak, it appears according to published reports that late discussions between Superintendent James Hammond and supports for the Valley Oak Charter have produced an agreement that have enabled the Superintendent to recommend approval of the plan.

This agreement includes specific benchmarks with specific deadlines that the new charter school would need to meet in the next year.

A resolution has been drafted that would "conditionally" grant the charter for the Valley Oak Charter School.


Contrary to the resolution in November, this current resolution finds the petition in compliance with Ed Code requirements for the approval of a charter proposal on key grounds.
  • "the Board of Trustees hereby finds the signatures of teachers submitted in support of the petition substantially comply with the requirements of Education Code section 47605(a)(1)(B)"

  • "that the Board of Trustees hereby finds that the revised proposed Charter, attached hereto as Exhibit A and incorporated herein by reference, satisfactorily responds to and substantially complies with all requirements of law as prescribed... by the Charter Schools Act"
However, the resolution adds a number of conditions.

The first three are routine and include the beginning operations for the 2008-2009 year and the location at 1400 East 8th, the present location of Valley Oak.

Then it lists off 15 conditional requirements.

Here are some of the key ones:
  • Participation in training from the Charter School Development Center by January 29, 2008

  • Amended collective bargaining agreement with DTA by January 31, 2008

  • By February 15, 2008 demonstrate 167 students intend to enroll for the first year of operation

  • By February 29, 2008 provide evidence of application for start-up funding

  • "No later than July 18, 2008, Valley Oak Charter School shall provide verification of receipt of startup funding in the form of a Charter School Startup Grant, Charter School Revolving Loan, or other identified source of revenue sufficient to ensure the fiscal viability of the Charter School during the first three years of operation."

  • "Valley Oak Charter School shall operate under the fiscal control, personnel management, and administrative oversight of Davis Joint Unified School District. Valley Oak Charter School shall be indirectly funded and Davis Joint Unified School District shall act as the fiscal agent of the Charter School for all purposes, as determined by the Superintendent or his designee."

  • "The District shall retain the special education funds received through the SELPA for Districtwide enrollment (including Charter School enrollment). The District shall provide special education instruction and related services to the students of the Valley Oak Charter School in the same manner as would be provided to the students of any other school of the District."
What seems to be the key sticking point is that within three weeks, the Charter School needs to have basically enrolled at least 167 students for next year. Now that seems a likely possibility but it will require another round of concerted effort. They received over 200 signatures. The law requires that they obtain signatures for half of the projected students in order to legally be in compliance. However, the district was nervous that 200 signatures would not translate in 300 students. The petitioners suggested that usually the attendance is higher than the level of signatures, but it is clear this must have been one of the key sticking points.

At the end of the day, the Superintendent must be applauded for his willingness to broker a deal here. And behind the scenes it seemed clear that members of the school board were also hoping for this kind of resolution. The district will face a tough fiscal climate in the next year, but at least this charter proposal will produce a level of clarity and certainty in terms of the number of facilities that will operate within the district.

Most of all, if the board does approve the Valley Oak Charter, this will be a tremendous victory for the parents and teachers who worked long and hard to make this happen and to those who never gave up hope even after the school board voted by a 3-2 vote to close down Valley Oak Elementary School.

Tonight remains a crucial meeting not only for Valley Oak parents but for all parents in the district and Valley Oak Charter School can be a district-wide asset if allowed to succeed and prosper.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Deputy DA Jim Walker to Challenge Judge Fall

The Vanguard has learned that Judge Tim Fall will receive electoral challenge from Yolo County Deputy District Attorney Jim Walker. This will mark the first time in quite some time that there will be a contested judicial election in Yolo County.

While Judge Fall has raised the ire of many over the course of his tenure as Judge, Deputy DA Jim Walker would likely be an unmitigated disaster.

Originally Judge Steve Mock was to retire after his term expired. However, he has since changed his mind and instead he will apparently resign midterm and allow the Governor to appoint a replacement.

Deputy DA Walker reportedly was seeking a judicial appointment from the governor but that option was likely precluded to him by rumored unqualified ratings from the bar association.

So contesting another judge seems the most likely option for the Deputy DA and apparently Judge Fall, who has a mixed record, is deemed the most vulnerable.

However, the Vanguard believes that Judge Fall will receive the backing of all of the Yolo County Judges.

The Yolo County Republican Party has a posted press release on their website:
"Jim Walker, a successful supervising prosecutor with the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, announced Tuesday that he is seriously considering a run for Yolo County Judge. Walker made his announcement at the Woodland Public Library during the Woodland Republican Club’s meeting. The group had gathered to hear an update from Walker on Yolo County’s criminal justice system."
At one point, Mr. Walker considered running for District Attorney, however, outgoing DA David Henderson backed Jeff Reisig as his successor. Mr. Walker will now look to unseat a sitting judge, which is a difficult prospect at best, particularly for one who will likely be rated as unqualified.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

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

Valley Oak Charter Decision To Come on Thursday Night

Thursday evening in Davis figures to be one of the more important nights for two key issues. As we have been discussing, at 7 PM, the General Plan Housing Element Steering Committee will hold a workshop and take community input on the ranking of 37 identified potential sites for future development. At the same time, the school board will meet to likely decide whether or not to approve the Valley Oak Charter School.

The petitioners and the school district agreed last month by mutual consent to continue negotiations and talks aimed toward reconciling concerns that the district has with the drafted charter proposal. Both sides have worked hard and in good faith to move closer toward agreement. However, at this point there are a number of serious obstacles that have developed.

At last week's school board meeting, a presentation by Chief Business Officer, Bruce Colby, determined that the district is facing a $3.5 to $4.5 million shortfall in their budget for the upcoming year. The problem has to do with a statewide budget crisis and attempts by the governor to bring the budget closer to balance than he had previously. The result is that education which is one of the big line-items is facing a severe cutback in state funding.

The result of this budget crisis, coupled with the fact that the district has been deficit spending for the last three years or so, means that the Davis Joint Unified School District will face tough and painful decisions.

Let us be clear, the district's budget problems cannot be a reason to deny the charter. And in fact, the estimated cost of keeping Valley Oak open as a charter would only be $300,000 or so in a sea of $4.5 million. Nevertheless, you can be certain that this budget crunch will weigh heavily on the minds of the board members as they examine the viability of the charter overall.

The Education Code specifies five grounds to deny a charter:
(1) the charter school presents an unsound educational program for the students to be enrolled in the charter school; (2) the petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition; (3) the petition does not contain the number of signatures required; (4) the petition does not contain an affirmation of each of the conditions prescribed by law; and/or (5) the petition does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of the sixteen charter elements in prescribed by law.
While those are the formal reasons for denial, as we saw in December, those are subject to rather subjective interpretations particularly parts (1) and (2) can be rather broadly construed. As we saw with the resolution put forth by district staff, these can be nitpicked and interpreted rather broadly.

On the side of the petitioners has been the fact that the district has worked very closely with the petitioners to shore up some if not most of these concerns. At this point, the district has not released any support materials for this item. We will check for any updates through out the day.

In December, a strongly worded resolution was drafted against the charter petition. While the staff report gave the board the option of supporting the resolution, opposing the resolution, or taking no action, the implications for such as strongly worded resolution were clear.

The board apparently was uncomfortable with the strident language in the resolution and the newly hired Superintendent James Hammond emerged with a means to a good faith effort to reconcile the differences of the board with the language of the charter proposal.

As a result, a potential showdown was averted at this time and according to our sources there have been strong and good faith efforts to reconcile the concerns of the district.

Further complicating the process is the fact that there are now two new board members. Gone is board member Jim Provenza who was one of the strongest supporters of keeping Valley Oak open. Gone too is board member Keltie Jones, one of the strongest supporters of closing Valley Oak. In their place are new members Susan Lovenburg and Richard Harris. Mr. Harris was outspoken during his campaign in opposition to the charter itself. While Board Member Lovenberg strongly favored closing Valley Oak and following the recommendations of the Best Uses of Schools Task Force, it is less certain how she might view the charter proposal. The new board members do not necessarily doom the charter proposal, especially given the laws surrounding charter proposals, but they do add uncertainty.

If the board votes to reject this proposal, it would be appealed first to the County Board of Education and then the State. The feeling is that the county especially given the budget situation would probably uphold the rejection but the state has been known to overturn such rulings by local boards. Nevertheless, the rejection would drag this process out for a considerable amount of time and place the children who would attend Valley Oak into a quandary that would leave their lives and schooling at the very least disruptive.

At this point, I have serious concerns about whether this charter will get approved by the school district. Much will depend on the work that has occurred within the last month to shore up the proposal. A good deal of hard work, sweat, and anguish has gone into this charter proposal and it would be a shame to see it rejected at the last moment for reasons outside of the control of the petitioners.

The hearing is slated for 8:05 PM at the Community Chambers on Russell Blvd. It is unfortunate that we find ourselves in the position of having two key events occurring concurrently. For those involved the Valley Oak Charter is a hugely important decision that deserves the full attention and support from this community. I am hopeful that the district will be able to do the right thing for this community and the children of Valley Oak.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tuesday's Articles

Guest Commentary: Defining Davis’ Slow Growth Vision

by Eileen M. Samitz


Historically, Davis has been a city proud and protective of its agricultural heritage, small town character and quality of life. In 1986, the citizens of Davis overwhelmingly passed Measure L, an advisory vote that mandated that Davis should only grow “as slow as legally possible”. Instead, developer-driven growth was allowed by pro-developer City Council majorities for over a decade. They approved one large residential development after another paving over 25% of the city in 12 years rather than the 23 years that was intended. An update of the 1987 General Plan emerged in 2001. It was drafted by the input of more than 200 citizen volunteers on 14 committees and was subjected to extensive public review. The new citizen-based 2001 General Plan reiterated the slow growth desire by Davis residents and strengthened agricultural protection language. It also reiterated that when housing is built at least 25% would be affordable housing. It also reminded the University of its promise to provide its share of housing for its students and faculty as it grew.

In 1998, tired of pro-developer Council majorities accelerating our growth, Davis voters elected Ken Wagstaff to join Julie Partansky and Stan Forbes on the city council, thereby creating a slow-growth majority. In 2000, when Sue Greenwald and Mike Harrington were elected to sustain a slow-growth council majority, Davis voters also approved the citizen-based Measure J ordinance. The Measure J ordinance empowered the citizens of Davis to decide if and when agricultural or open space land was to be developed. Measure J had strong developer opposition which poured an enormous amount of money into defeating the citizen-based measure, however Measure J passed. The new era that has evolved, enables the citizens to weigh in on the future of the city… however, developer pressure continues.

1% growth may sound slow, but is not slow growth

In more recent years, the public elected Don Saylor, Steve Souza and Ruth Asmundson, all of whom ran on “slow growth” platforms. Instead, they set out to justify a 1% housing growth rate. This seemingly innocuous 1% growth rate was based upon an impossible task assigned to city staff and the Bay Area Economics consulting firm of trying to define our “housing needs”. Since there are no standard formula’s for such a study the parameters were guided by Council. The genesis of this new 1% growth rate imposed by the current Council majority included Ruth Asmundson’s frustration expressed at Council meetings, that some of her children, and others could not afford to buy a home in Davis. Therefore, one of the goals for the “internal needs” study became that Davis should be able to build enough homes to provide a home for every child born since 18 years ago. This was deemed a “natural growth” factor. This invented factor wound up accounting for about half of the 1% growth rate. The 1% growth rate turns out to be at least 328 units per year, adding up to at least 2,300 units for every 7 year SACOG cycle. This means approximately 1 1/2 new Mace Ranch developments every 7 years. The astonishing part about this study is that no fiscal analysis was done to assess what the costs would be to the city and the citizens of Davis.

Sacramento Area Council of Government’s (SACOG) is a local entity whose primary job, is to try to do traffic planning regionally. They try to do this by dividing up projected population growth into the various SACOG cities (which includes Davis). An important concept to understand is that SACOG can not force cities to grow, but requests that cities plan for the number of units assigned. Sites that are designated for development towards the assigned growth cannot legally be forced to materialize, only to be planned. The SACOG number currently assigned to Davis between 2006 and 2013 is only 498 units. However, the Council majority of Asmundson, Souza and Saylor want Davis to grow by at least 2,300 units, which is almost five times faster than what is being asked of us. The language of Measure L is included in our General Plan to grow as slow as legally possible. Yet this new Council majority growth policy is clearly in the best interest of the developers, not Davis citizens.

Not only is the 1% growth policy inconsistent with the intentions of our slow growth citizen-based General Plan, but mandating this number of units encourages SACOG to increase Davis’ fair share assignment for future years. The Council majority never asked the citizens if they wanted this new growth rate added to the citizen-based General Plan, nor did they do any analysis of the impacts or the costs to the city and the citizens. Given that SACOG has asked us for only 498 units, that the current nationwide housing financial situation is in crisis, and that Spring Lake has 4,000 units under construction only 5 minutes north of Davis on Pole Line Road, why would we want to impose a mandatory growth rate contrary to Measure L?

The Covell Village site- a history of problems

Contrary to Kevin Wolf’s enthusiasm for another iteration of Covell Village, this parcel has inherent problems, which cannot be ignored and has a history to attest to these problems. The current developers had bought the huge parcel for only $3.1 million since the previous out of town developer was unable to resolve the traffic issues due to its access and egress problems. The land, located at Covell Blvd. and Pole Line Road, is primarily prime agricultural land, which is not within city boundaries but is Yolo County land. This means that the city would not get all of the property tax if it were developed but the tax would be split with the County. In 1998 the developers offered it as Covell Center, a 386-acre parcel at Covell Blvd. and Pole Lane Road with 688 housing units and a school site. When the school district clarified that it was not interested in the site due to the location, the developers quickly substituted a sports complex hoping to harness the sports community to pull the project politically. It did not take long for the citizens to assess the infeasibility of the sports complex fiscal report. The sports community could not sustain it, and Davis residents would wind up inheriting the financial albatross as well as the traffic, noise, night lighting as well as the other impacts from day and night tournaments.

In 2005, Covell Village was their new iteration but this time 1,864 units were being proposed on the handicapped parcel which would have been the largest residential development proposed in the history of Davis. The project was strongly supported by Council members Asmundson, Saylor and Souza despite their slow growth campaign promises. The citizens review of the EIR which revealed that the traffic would double on Covell Blvd. to 39,000 cars per day and on Pole line to 26,900 cars per day. The analysis found that Level of service “F” would result on many streets defined as “conditions that are intolerable for most drivers”. Traffic would back up onto neighborhood streets and cause associated safety and pollution issues especially for children, seniors and those with respiratory conditions.

The Covell Village EIR also revealed that the majority of the soil is prime ag land and the 2002 FEMA maps demonstrated that almost half of the 386 parcel was in the 100-year flood plain. New flood control legislature this year will now force cities and counties to cover a share of damage caused by flooding so it will cost Davis citizens when there is a flood event. It is possible to engineer control of a small flood plain area but it is not “smart planning” to deliberately build homes on more than 150 acres of flood plain. The Covell Village developers advertised that their project would bring Davis citizens affordable housing, however, the EIR revealed that the average house in Covell Village would cost $683,945. Another consequence would have been that we would prematurely exhaust our waste water treatment capacity. The current estimates for expanding the waste water treatment plant is over $150 million.... a cost which would be hoisted upon Davis residents. The project would also put enormous pressure upon our water resources. Our Council majority is pursuing surface water to fuel the growth train at an estimate of another $150 million also to be paid for by Davis residents. Fire and police demands would increase significantly also at a high cost (see Rich Rifkin’s Lexicon Artist article Weds. December 26, 2008 in The Davis Enterprise). Despite over 1,000 EIR comments from citizens ( including engineers and other planning professionals) opposing the adequacy of the EIR, the Council majority approved it and the developers will try to use that same EIR for any future project. Fortunately, on November 8, 2005, Covell Village was voted down 60:40, but now only 2 years later, the developers are back with a new proposal.

The Covell Village site – the latest “carrot”

As if there had never been a vote against development on the problematic site, the Covell Village partners are back with yet another project. The partners have taken on a new name -- North Davis Land Company, and have a new “carrot” – senior housing, for the entire 386 acre parcel (including more than 150 acres of flood plain). According to a letter they submitted to the General Plan Update Housing Element Committee they interviewed 75 senior community members who would like quality homes, neighborhood services, and health care delivery. The developers submitted a letter to the Housing Element Committee recently hoping to get the committee to consider only the entire 386 acres, presumably as a condition to offer the new senior housing project. For size perspective, University Retirement Center (which is a continuum) is approximately 11 acres, so asking for 386 acres is more than excessive. Considering that the 386 acres cost the developers only $3.1 million means that they could develop only a third (or less) of the land and leave the rest for agricultural mitigation, and still make an enormous profit. However, while it would be good to plan for more senior housing, clearly this is another “carrot” or lure consistent with a number of other offers in the past, all of which had many more problems than benefits. There are other site options within the city that could be used for senior housing in Davis that are not huge peripheral sites needing annexation and are not such a distance from other services. These sites will be listed for the public’s review and comment at this Thursday’s public open house workshop, Jan. 24, 2008 at 7:00 pm- 9:30 pm at Holmes Jr. High School Multi Purpose Room.

In this newest project proposal the developers are offering to have three phases of the project. The first phase would be approximately 130 acres for 800 units, the second phase of approximately 110 acres would be for 400 units, and the last phase would be approximately 140 acres for “urban reserve”. The last phase would be reserved for an undefined number of units. The developers are so enthusiastic that they bought 650 of acres to the north of the parcel to use for the required agricultural mitigation expanding the footprint of the project to 1,036 acres. Apparently, the developers must feel that the gamble is worth the potential multimillion dollar gain. Were it not for a long history of offers, promises and packaging that did not turn out to be what the public first thought, one might be attracted to this proposal without hesitation. The reality is that the developers know that the northern end 2/3’s of the 386 acre parcel should never be developed because of the enormous flood plain and the liability that comes with it. Instead of even attempting to reduce the footprint to avoid the flood plain and reduce the traffic impacts they return with simply a new design. Whether this proposal goes to the ballot for another Measure J vote will be decided by the new City Council to be elected this June which will include incumbents Sue Greenwald (who opposed Covell Village), and Don Saylor and Steve Souza (who supported Covell Village).

Hunt-Wesson/Lewis Cannery - A better site for housing

The 100-acre Hunt-Wesson Cannery site was abandoned approximately eight years ago. To expand the uses of the site the zoning was changed shortly after to allow high tech industrial. Despite political desire to redevelop it into high tech, no company was willing to invest in it presumably, because it was surrounded to the west and south by residential. Also, since Mace Ranch has more than 70 acres of vacant commercial land available closer to I-80, any high tech companies wanting to come to Davis would most likely prefer to locate there. In 2004 Lewis Planned Communities purchased the land and asked the city and residents what they would like to see redeveloped there. The desire for more housing for the workforce was a clear objective by the City Council, so the developers were encouraged to proceed with a proposal by the city. The Hunt-Wesson site is clearly a better alternative for housing than its neighboring Covell Village site, since it is within the city limits. This allows the city to get far more property tax rather than having to split the property taxes with the County as we would need to with Covell Village. It is already zoned for urban use and is an underutilized site. Also, the units proposed are far less in cost than what Covell Village was proposing to build.

The project design is not a finished product, however the developers have had a series of public meetings to get input from the public which they have utilized and integrated into the proposal. As a result the design has changed due to citizen and city staff input. Davis planning director Katherine Hess first hobbled the project by recommending that an industrial viability study be done, which the Housing Committee unanimously did not support. However, the City Council approved the study. She then wanted another access to the project than the single entrance originally proposed. The developers responded with a second access point. But then, Hess wanted access through Covell Village to Pole Line Road. Since Hess was the city planner in charge of the failed Covell Village project, it seems rather interesting that she appears to be trying to link the Hunt-Wesson site and the Measure J dependant Covell Village site. Although the historical Simmons property parcel on East Eighth Street has similar access issues, Hess does not seem to have the same concerns. The Hunt-Wesson site does not need Pole Line Road access and the project would fall into a timeline when the city would get fair share credit for the next SACOG cycle. Hopefully, there will not be an attempt to blackmail the public into a package deal of Covell Village and Hunt-Wesson because the public will clearly see through such a ploy. Finally, since this land is within the city boundaries and has urban zoning it is not obligated to provide 2:1 agriculture mitigation. Contrary to a claim in Kevin Wolf’s recent guest commentary, there was a misstatement that this project be being exempted from the General Plan agriculture mitigation policy.

UCD needs to build more on-campus student apartments

Another issue of concern that needs to be addressed is the lack of student high rise apartments on the core campus. The University of California statewide has the goal of providing 42% of student housing by 2012. So far UC has admitted that it is shy of this 42% goal and has plans for 38% UC student housing. Yet its largest campus, Davis, with over 5,000 acres has never provided the 25% of on campus student housing that it promised in its current Memorandum of Understanding to the city. The university could control the cost of rents for students and reduce traffic and travel costs but instead UCD continues to try to hoist the responsibility of its housing needs on the city as it expands its student population. Unlike the city, only UCD can legally dedicate its housing to UCD students, staff, and faculty and offer permanently affordability. UCD is willing to expand other dorms which are temporary housing for freshman, rather than helping to solve the housing problems by building subsidized on-campus student apartments. UCD is currently complaining that the city does not have enough apartments although they increase their student population one year and decrease it the next due to their budget changes. Logical planning would call for increasing their student population after UCD builds more student housing on-campus. An added benefit of more on–campus student housing is that it would free up more housing within the city for non-student Davis residents.

So what do we do now?

As a member of the General Plan Housing Element Update Committee I have felt privileged to serve and I have a great deal of regard for the 14 other members as well as staff who have been serving. I know that everyone has good intentions for our city’s future, however, we agree on some issues and disagree on others. Some members believe that if we build many housing units in Davis the cost of housing will drop. Historically, this result has not been the case in Davis when even when large numbers of units were being built, the housing prices continued to rise. This is a consequence of Davis being a desirable community to live in. If Davis is to remain a small, compact university town surrounded by agriculture as our General Plan states, then we need to acknowledge that there are limits as to how much growth Davis will have without losing our quality of life and agricultural land around us. Smart planning begins with choosing sites which make sense to build on and then makes the best use of the land that you sacrifice for that growth. We can increase our densities to a certain extent but there is a finite point when you start overpopulating an area. The goal is to have well planned densification which is a delicate balance of how much works well to have livability as well as compatibility. Otherwise you create an inner city atmosphere with more crime and stress, rather than a community which is a good place to live. Furthermore, it is important to recognize that you can’t build your way out of city fiscal problems which only becomes exacerbated by adding much more residential growth. Given that the housing market is currently undergoing a fiscal crisis, and that SACOG has assigned only 498 units for Davis, the time for us to slow our growth is now.

In summary, none of the peripheral sites should be approved now, and at best, only the Hunt-Wesson/Lewis Cannery site should be planned to start no sooner then 2011 to assure that Davis will get SACOG fair share housing credit. Given the timelines we are facing, this can happen if the citizens of Davis make clear their desire to oppose and demand the repeal of the 1% growth rate imposed by the current Council majority. Notably, the 386-acre Covell Village site should not be developed now and the northern 2/3’s of this parcel should never be developed in the future because of the huge flood plain and its risks and liability to the city and residents. If this parcel was ever to be developed in the future, the northern 2/3’s of the 386-acre parcel should instead be used to fulfill the 2:1 agricultural mitigation requirement for a use such as organic farms, which would be compatible and would endure a flood event better than a massive residential tract. The Nishi property should not be developed either, due to the access issues that can never be resolved unless the University agreed to be the only access and egress. Otherwise the development of Nishi would be a disaster for Davis because of untenable traffic problems pouring traffic into the downtown at Richards Boulevard with no where to go. Finally, the university needs to provide more on-campus housing to help accommodate its own growth.

Now is the time to make it clear that it is the citizens of Davis, not the developers, who will plan future of their city.

Thank you for your time and please come to the General Plan Housing Element Update this Thursday to give your input at the open house workshop at 7pm at Holmes Junior High School at 1220 Drexel Drive in the Multi Purpose Room. This is such an important meeting and we need your input to help guide the future of Davis.

-Eileen M. Samitz, General Plan Housing Element Update Committee member

Special Commentary: MLK Day in Davis

Yesterday, the city of Davis had not one but two events to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

First the city's 14th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the Varsity Theatre.

The feature speaker for the event was Dr. T. William Hall, a Professor Emeritus from Syracuse University. Dr. Hall, now a Davis resident, attended Graduate School in Theology with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. He described his college days with Dr. King who in those days went by MLK.

MLK was an ordinary person, with ordinary concerns. Dr. Hall stressed this because he said none of them realized that this was the man who would lead the nation's civil rights struggle. However, MLK was a man who rose to the occasion. He had been a carefree sort of person during college, however, when Dr. Hall saw him next, that carefree spirit was gone. He barely recognized the man who transformed himself into the leader of the nation's struggle for civil rights.

Monette Perrin lead an ensemble of young performers who took us on an historical journey, reenacting local history and local figures from the African-American community.

The Davis High School Black Student Union students came up and each of them talked about what Martin Luther King, Jr. meant to them. One of the students talked about the fact that she was able to attend classes and treated for the most part as an equal as embodiment of MLK's Dream.

Tansey Thomas then presented a video that contained the full version of "I have a Dream" speech performed at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

Finally, the children would lead most of the audience on a march around the block.

The evening's event would feature a number of speeches and performances. Bill Calhoun spoke about Martin Luther King's legacy and exhorted the audience that the fight is not over. He talked about the fact that MLK was not the figure that he has become to be thought of in contemporary times. Rather he was a fighter for civil rights and though he used non-violence he was combative and strident in his own way--rocking the boat and upsetting the order of the day.

The highlights of the day included a brilliant beatboxing/ hip-hop performance from Davis' Buttercup and then the awards ceremony itself where eight young students were presented with scholarships that will enable them to go to college.

This a good day but I tough day. I sat with Joyce Trujillo and two of her sons. Joyce is the wife of the late Mel Trujillo who helped to found this award ceremony as a way to give back to this community. Joyce received an award on Mel's behalf. Mel Trujillo was a great friend and a fighter for civil rights and social justice. He was greatly missed on this day.

These are pictures from the afternoon program at the Varsity Theater...

These are from the MLK Awards Ceremony Last Night at the Oddfellows Hall...

My own thoughts on the day and the meaning of Martin Luther King's legacy...

The evening program presented an interesting contrast. At one end was an older generation, people who were in their 60s and 70s, people who had lived through the civil rights movement, people whose grandparents or great grandparents had been slaves. For them, there had been much progress but much unfulfilled promise. One of the speaker's described the hope and promise of the 60s and the feeling of not having that same feeling these days.

On the other head was the hope and exuberance of the youth. These are the next generation of fighters for civil rights, the next generation of activists for social justice, and most importantly the next generation of professionals who will go to college, obtain a college degree, and then get a job and raise a family.

In a year where the Democratic nominee for the first time will be a black man or a white woman, there is much to be hopeful. And yet real problems of poverty, lack of education, and lack of hope remain. Reconciling those two pictures will be the task of those kids who were receiving those awards. It will be the task of those of us in my generation who have inherited the workforce and the political system.

At the end of the day, I do not know who is right--the hope of the youth or the unfulfilled dreams of the older generation.

One of the remarkable features of yesterday is that everyone read excerpts or passages from their favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. speech. And for each person it was a different speech and a different line.

My favorite speech was not read from yesterday. It was a speech of hope for the future but also not a speech for the light-hearted. It speaks of justice but vigilance. For me this is one of the great messages from Dr. King. For all of those who celebrate his legacy but fail to live out his creed. For all of those who take solace in his words but fail to fight for social justice.

The following is the closing remarks in a speech called "Our God is Marching On." It was delivered on March 25, 1965 in Montgomery, Alabama.
How long? Not long, because "no lie can live forever."
How long? Not long, because "you shall reap what you sow."

How long? Not long:

Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne,
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above his own.

How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

How long? Not long, because:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat.
O, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant my feet!
Our God is marching on.
---Doug Paul Davis reporting