Commentary: Weintraub’s Critique of Davis Fails to Understand the Fundamentals of Liberalism

I read Daniel Weintraub’s critique of Davis in the Sacramento Bee: “Liberal town? Davis is white, wealthy and conservative” with somewhat mixed emotions.

After all I have been a strong critic of Davis’ liberal persona at times. In fact, I was quoted in the Bee in January saying:

“Davis isn’t as liberal as it thinks.”

The irony however is that when I say that “Davis isn’t as liberal as it thinks”, I am in large part talking about the opposite things that Weintraub is talking about.

As many know, one of my main critiques of Davis has been the failure by some in this community to acknowledge what I have termed “the dark underbelly.” The portion of Davis beneath the liberal veneer, that can allow incidents of racism and intolerance to brew without scrutiny. The denial on the part of some as to whether there have been problems in the past with practices by some police officers that call for police oversight. The problems that we have seen in the last year at the high school and junior high with racial incidence of intolerance and bigotry. The failure by school administrators to properly handle these incidents. These are parts of my critique on the persona of liberal Davis.

However, another aspect of this critique is in many ways the inconsistency between public rhetoric by officials and government policy. We see at the same time, members of the Davis City Council talking about environmentalism, talking about global warming, but at the same time supporting massive developments that will lead inevitably to traffic and pollution problems. Supporting the building of big-box retail stores that are globally unsustainable and add vastly to our carbon footprint both as a community and globally. There is a fundamental incompatibility with the expressed concern for global warming and the support for unsustainable policies at home.

Again this is my critique of Davis. Weintraub is complaining about Davis because Davis has failed to grow fast enough for his liking apparently–this in itself is somewhat of a myth. In the 1950s, Davis was a town of a few thousand people and it has grown to a town of nearly 70,000. Contrary to the slow-growth myth, Davis has been a city that has grown rapidly.

The editorial cites Supervisor Helen Thomson’s daughter as not being able to buy a home in Davis–a topic that Supervisor Thomson brought up at the Board of Supervisor’s meeting last week and that I criticized on this blog during that meeting. In fact, a friend drove me through a Davis neighborhood near the Covell site and I saw a large number of homes that Supervisor Thomson’s daughter could afford–unfortunately, she was looking for them at the wrong time it seems. The housing market is considerably better now than it was a few years back.

Moreover, the solution to the problem of housing is not the kind of developments put forward by Supervisor Helen Thomson either at Covell Village which she supported or the county level which were shelved.

Mr. Weintraub writes:

“When Helen Thomson’s daughter went looking for housing a few years ago in her native Davis, the cheapest thing she could find was a half-million-dollar fixer-upper.

The home reeked from the smell of too many cats, and the floors sloped. “If you dropped a marble at the front door,” Thomson says, “it would roll through the house and into the back yard.” Her daughter settled for a house in West Sacramento instead.”

In fact, had Covell Village gone through, that is what largely would have been built–absent the cat odor.

The irony is that Davis is hardly alone in Northern California in terms of unaffordability of homes–and those communities largely run the gamut in terms of ethnicity and growth policies. The Bay Area particularly the east and south bay have had large growth and remain highly unaffordable. The basic problem is that demand exceeds supply and that will largely be the case regardless of growth policies–unless Davis is to grow so fast that it becomes more like Lodi and less like Davis. Is that really what we are aiming for?

I am still unclear as to how supporting sustainable growth, agricultural preservation, and environmental protection policies makes Davis conservative?

Have we changed our definitions here to make developers the vanguard of liberalism? To be liberal means to support rapid growth, paving over of agricultural land and nature preserves?

The irony of this is that the projects that have been supported would be building homes that are very large. These policies involve building homes that cost well over what Supervisor Thomson’s daughter could afford. And in reality, they involve building homes that would house largely Republicans rather than Democrats.

And Mr. Weintraub believes that would be the hallmark of liberalism? By what grounds?

As Mr. Weintraub suggests:

“While the rest of California becomes more ethnically and economically diverse, Davis remains a mostly white enclave for wealthy, highly educated people… The city is 70 percent white and 17 percent Asian American, but fewer than 3 percent of its residents are African American and only about 10 percent are Latino.”

In fact, as someone pointed out recently, Davis does remain ethnically less diverse than other areas of California, however, that does not mean it has not become more ethnically diverse than it had been. The figure of 70 percent white actually represents a strong downturn in the white population that in the 1980s stood over 90 percent.

Weintraub’s solution like that of the Supervisor’s last week is massive housing developments which would destroy the character of Davis.

I think there are a number of ways that we can have a larger and more diverse housing market without the massive developments, without building more $600,000 homes, without paving over prime agricultural land. I challenge our leaders to be creative and find news ways to do this. But I admonish people like Daniel Weintraub who suggest that if we do not follow the models by other communities to build, build, build, that makes us a bunch of rich conservatives.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Categories:

Land Use/Open Space

268 comments

  1. I think Weintraub’s critique contains a lot of ugly truths that the citizens of Davis must understand that they’ve come to represent.

    A large number of readers of this column have never seen a development that they could support – this is from a sample that contains many proposals over many years. If the proposal is on the periphery, it causes traffic problems and takes away prime ag lands (which we should actually be doing in CA because there is far too little water in this state to be flood irrigating crops like alfalfa). If the development is 4 – 5 story building downtown, it destroys the charming character of the Davis and must be built with setbacks and common areas that have long been proven to be detrimental to the survival of the tenants, and require more land (less dense) and force rents to be higher than they otherwise should. And if it is Target, amongst other things, then according to DPD, it is fundamentally unsustainable and promotes global warming (not sure I get how having lots of small family owned business helps vis a vis Target), but nonetheless, another development that the “progressive” (read – nothing should ever change) group that prides themselves as being the Vanguard of Davis, can’t support. Finally, if someone, namely a developer, expects to make a dime of profit on a project, then this group also rings out in Robinhood like fashion to stop the travesty. It this preoccupation with profits that I really don’t get.

    Vanguardians – please understand that what is unsustainable is the Davis that you claim to be trying t protect. The forces of markets, capitalism and change will continue, and over time, Davis must progress or it will be left behind. You can already see it happening. We have racial diversity that you should be ashamed of – not, as DPD writes, in response to Weintraub, that it’s not as bad as it used to be”. And while DPD is correct to point out that many parts of CA have very high home prices, it doesn’t mean that it is an admirable result that Davis has much higher prices and be much less affordable than all of the surrounding communities.

    There is a dark underbelly in Davis, but not in what DPD spends his time worrying about. The Vanguardians would have a much better chance of having a community that is sustainable and viable if they would spend some time examining and exposing their own motives, and then develop some growth propals that can actually be developed and thrive. That would be a much more positive use of energy as opposed to casting doubt and suspicion people like Yamada, Thomson,Saylor and Souza.

  2. I think Weintraub’s critique contains a lot of ugly truths that the citizens of Davis must understand that they’ve come to represent.

    A large number of readers of this column have never seen a development that they could support – this is from a sample that contains many proposals over many years. If the proposal is on the periphery, it causes traffic problems and takes away prime ag lands (which we should actually be doing in CA because there is far too little water in this state to be flood irrigating crops like alfalfa). If the development is 4 – 5 story building downtown, it destroys the charming character of the Davis and must be built with setbacks and common areas that have long been proven to be detrimental to the survival of the tenants, and require more land (less dense) and force rents to be higher than they otherwise should. And if it is Target, amongst other things, then according to DPD, it is fundamentally unsustainable and promotes global warming (not sure I get how having lots of small family owned business helps vis a vis Target), but nonetheless, another development that the “progressive” (read – nothing should ever change) group that prides themselves as being the Vanguard of Davis, can’t support. Finally, if someone, namely a developer, expects to make a dime of profit on a project, then this group also rings out in Robinhood like fashion to stop the travesty. It this preoccupation with profits that I really don’t get.

    Vanguardians – please understand that what is unsustainable is the Davis that you claim to be trying t protect. The forces of markets, capitalism and change will continue, and over time, Davis must progress or it will be left behind. You can already see it happening. We have racial diversity that you should be ashamed of – not, as DPD writes, in response to Weintraub, that it’s not as bad as it used to be”. And while DPD is correct to point out that many parts of CA have very high home prices, it doesn’t mean that it is an admirable result that Davis has much higher prices and be much less affordable than all of the surrounding communities.

    There is a dark underbelly in Davis, but not in what DPD spends his time worrying about. The Vanguardians would have a much better chance of having a community that is sustainable and viable if they would spend some time examining and exposing their own motives, and then develop some growth propals that can actually be developed and thrive. That would be a much more positive use of energy as opposed to casting doubt and suspicion people like Yamada, Thomson,Saylor and Souza.

  3. I think Weintraub’s critique contains a lot of ugly truths that the citizens of Davis must understand that they’ve come to represent.

    A large number of readers of this column have never seen a development that they could support – this is from a sample that contains many proposals over many years. If the proposal is on the periphery, it causes traffic problems and takes away prime ag lands (which we should actually be doing in CA because there is far too little water in this state to be flood irrigating crops like alfalfa). If the development is 4 – 5 story building downtown, it destroys the charming character of the Davis and must be built with setbacks and common areas that have long been proven to be detrimental to the survival of the tenants, and require more land (less dense) and force rents to be higher than they otherwise should. And if it is Target, amongst other things, then according to DPD, it is fundamentally unsustainable and promotes global warming (not sure I get how having lots of small family owned business helps vis a vis Target), but nonetheless, another development that the “progressive” (read – nothing should ever change) group that prides themselves as being the Vanguard of Davis, can’t support. Finally, if someone, namely a developer, expects to make a dime of profit on a project, then this group also rings out in Robinhood like fashion to stop the travesty. It this preoccupation with profits that I really don’t get.

    Vanguardians – please understand that what is unsustainable is the Davis that you claim to be trying t protect. The forces of markets, capitalism and change will continue, and over time, Davis must progress or it will be left behind. You can already see it happening. We have racial diversity that you should be ashamed of – not, as DPD writes, in response to Weintraub, that it’s not as bad as it used to be”. And while DPD is correct to point out that many parts of CA have very high home prices, it doesn’t mean that it is an admirable result that Davis has much higher prices and be much less affordable than all of the surrounding communities.

    There is a dark underbelly in Davis, but not in what DPD spends his time worrying about. The Vanguardians would have a much better chance of having a community that is sustainable and viable if they would spend some time examining and exposing their own motives, and then develop some growth propals that can actually be developed and thrive. That would be a much more positive use of energy as opposed to casting doubt and suspicion people like Yamada, Thomson,Saylor and Souza.

  4. I think Weintraub’s critique contains a lot of ugly truths that the citizens of Davis must understand that they’ve come to represent.

    A large number of readers of this column have never seen a development that they could support – this is from a sample that contains many proposals over many years. If the proposal is on the periphery, it causes traffic problems and takes away prime ag lands (which we should actually be doing in CA because there is far too little water in this state to be flood irrigating crops like alfalfa). If the development is 4 – 5 story building downtown, it destroys the charming character of the Davis and must be built with setbacks and common areas that have long been proven to be detrimental to the survival of the tenants, and require more land (less dense) and force rents to be higher than they otherwise should. And if it is Target, amongst other things, then according to DPD, it is fundamentally unsustainable and promotes global warming (not sure I get how having lots of small family owned business helps vis a vis Target), but nonetheless, another development that the “progressive” (read – nothing should ever change) group that prides themselves as being the Vanguard of Davis, can’t support. Finally, if someone, namely a developer, expects to make a dime of profit on a project, then this group also rings out in Robinhood like fashion to stop the travesty. It this preoccupation with profits that I really don’t get.

    Vanguardians – please understand that what is unsustainable is the Davis that you claim to be trying t protect. The forces of markets, capitalism and change will continue, and over time, Davis must progress or it will be left behind. You can already see it happening. We have racial diversity that you should be ashamed of – not, as DPD writes, in response to Weintraub, that it’s not as bad as it used to be”. And while DPD is correct to point out that many parts of CA have very high home prices, it doesn’t mean that it is an admirable result that Davis has much higher prices and be much less affordable than all of the surrounding communities.

    There is a dark underbelly in Davis, but not in what DPD spends his time worrying about. The Vanguardians would have a much better chance of having a community that is sustainable and viable if they would spend some time examining and exposing their own motives, and then develop some growth propals that can actually be developed and thrive. That would be a much more positive use of energy as opposed to casting doubt and suspicion people like Yamada, Thomson,Saylor and Souza.

  5. Dear Anonymous: Do you believe that those Developer Democrats think adding those large projects to Davis, with the traffic, smog, and other detrimental environmental effects, is a good thing?? The politicos need the cash to fund their aspirations. The land deveopers have it. It’s a simple equation. Have you ever been directly involved in a Davis political campaign? Don’t you realize that the developers “bundle” those $100 checks from all their friends, employees, adult kids, etc.?

  6. Dear Anonymous: Do you believe that those Developer Democrats think adding those large projects to Davis, with the traffic, smog, and other detrimental environmental effects, is a good thing?? The politicos need the cash to fund their aspirations. The land deveopers have it. It’s a simple equation. Have you ever been directly involved in a Davis political campaign? Don’t you realize that the developers “bundle” those $100 checks from all their friends, employees, adult kids, etc.?