How Much Does Davis Need to Grow Now?

When Measure X was on the ballot, the council majority made it a point to talk about state mandated growth. RHNA indeed sets the state guidelines for growth, however, traditionally any sanction has been a slap on the wrist. While those penalties now may be more serious, the actual RHNA required growth for Davis–defined as Davis’ fairshare–is actually quite low.

In terms of state mandated growth for the next 10 years, we are talking on the order of a couple of small projects.

The real growth inducer is now the city’s own and SELF-IMPOSED 1% growth requirement.

The City Council majority of Stephen Souza, Don Saylor, and Ruth Asmundson in September, upheld that goal.

Councilmember Souza argued 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.”

There is an element of truth to that. Any peripheral development is required by law to obtain a Measure J vote. Any infill is not, and though there are not many locations for which infill would occur, any major project the council likely to ask for a vote anyway.

The tricky part though is that Mr. Souza is also incorrect. Growth is also determined by the planning process and the Housing Element update process. The locations and size will be largely determined by what spots on the map the Housing Element recommends for future growth. If the Housing Element recommends 1% worth of developments that will lead to more potential for growth than .5%.

The community rallied against Covell Village because of the magnitude of the project and likely foreseen disruption it would cause. Would there be future outcry against smaller and less burdensome projects? It seems unlikely.

The developers who propose these projects have a built-in advantage in that they have money and organization already in place in order to run Measure J elections. Grassroots movements are likely to be underfunded and disorganized. A large number of Measure J votes will leave them tired and depleted.

Thus having a rearguard defense is not enough. The key for proponents of slower growth is the gatekeeping power–the ability to determine which projects go forward and which do not.

During the Covell Village Arguments, the City Council Major argued that SACOG’s Fair Share numbers required us to grow at a given rate. Now that these numbers have been reduced, suddenly they are not as important. Indeed in September they argued that these are merely goals and they know we will come in well under 1% growth rate.

This argument largely ignores the fact that we will grow by whatever amount of proposals are actually placed onto the Housing Element Update. It seems unlikely that projects that are selected will not ultimately go forward as Measure J votes in the development process and as I mentioned earlier, it seems even less likely that all but the most massive and disruptive would then be approved.

For too long the argument has been that we have to obtain a certain level of growth, the state mandates it. Now with the new RHNA numbers said to require much lower growth rates than we place upon ourselves and with a depressed housing market, the pressure to grow will be much reduced. The question is whether that means that the council will ease up on its goals for growth over the next ten years. That seems much less certain.

—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

228 comments

  1. The Council Majority argues now that SACOG numbers are not critical to Davis growth rate decisions after claiming that they were a critical determinant in the need for their citizen-rejected Covell Village project. Saylor and Souza’s public record with regard to
    credibility should give the Davis voter pause in placing them back on the Council dais for another four years.

  2. The Council Majority argues now that SACOG numbers are not critical to Davis growth rate decisions after claiming that they were a critical determinant in the need for their citizen-rejected Covell Village project. Saylor and Souza’s public record with regard to
    credibility should give the Davis voter pause in placing them back on the Council dais for another four years.

  3. The Council Majority argues now that SACOG numbers are not critical to Davis growth rate decisions after claiming that they were a critical determinant in the need for their citizen-rejected Covell Village project. Saylor and Souza’s public record with regard to
    credibility should give the Davis voter pause in placing them back on the Council dais for another four years.

  4. The Council Majority argues now that SACOG numbers are not critical to Davis growth rate decisions after claiming that they were a critical determinant in the need for their citizen-rejected Covell Village project. Saylor and Souza’s public record with regard to
    credibility should give the Davis voter pause in placing them back on the Council dais for another four years.

  5. “While those penalties now may be more serious, the actual RHNA required growth for Davis–defined as Davis’ fairshare–is actually quite low.”

    For those who don’t know — it was not explained in the column — RHNA means Regional Housing Needs Assessment. The City of Davis website calls it the Regional Housing Needs Allocation. I guess both are acceptable. The RHNA comes from state law.

    ….

    To my mind, the big question for growth in Davis (and the immediately surrounding unincorporated areas) going forward is how much UC Davis grows. If the University ever stops growing, then so will the city.

    While it is true that some of our marginal growth in recent years came from people who commute to work in Sacramento and from retirees who moved here from the Bay Area and So. Cal, the core driver of growth in Davis is (and I believe will continue to be) UC Davis.

    The best qualities Davis has which attract outsiders mostly derive from the University.

    If UCD doesn’t add more faculty, more staff, more graduate programs and so on, then the internal pressures to add more subdivisions will be modest. But if UCD is growing fast, then either the City of Davis will expand or the unincorporated parts (as is happening with West Village) will add housing.

    I don’t think the SACOG numbers or the RHNA numbers are meaningless. They can add to or subtract from the pressures for more Davis housing. But the ultimate pressure is internal. And that is driven mostly by the University.

  6. “While those penalties now may be more serious, the actual RHNA required growth for Davis–defined as Davis’ fairshare–is actually quite low.”

    For those who don’t know — it was not explained in the column — RHNA means Regional Housing Needs Assessment. The City of Davis website calls it the Regional Housing Needs Allocation. I guess both are acceptable. The RHNA comes from state law.

    ….

    To my mind, the big question for growth in Davis (and the immediately surrounding unincorporated areas) going forward is how much UC Davis grows. If the University ever stops growing, then so will the city.

    While it is true that some of our marginal growth in recent years came from people who commute to work in Sacramento and from retirees who moved here from the Bay Area and So. Cal, the core driver of growth in Davis is (and I believe will continue to be) UC Davis.

    The best qualities Davis has which attract outsiders mostly derive from the University.

    If UCD doesn’t add more faculty, more staff, more graduate programs and so on, then the internal pressures to add more subdivisions will be modest. But if UCD is growing fast, then either the City of Davis will expand or the unincorporated parts (as is happening with West Village) will add housing.

    I don’t think the SACOG numbers or the RHNA numbers are meaningless. They can add to or subtract from the pressures for more Davis housing. But the ultimate pressure is internal. And that is driven mostly by the University.

  7. “While those penalties now may be more serious, the actual RHNA required growth for Davis–defined as Davis’ fairshare–is actually quite low.”

    For those who don’t know — it was not explained in the column — RHNA means Regional Housing Needs Assessment. The City of Davis website calls it the Regional Housing Needs Allocation. I guess both are acceptable. The RHNA comes from state law.

    ….

    To my mind, the big question for growth in Davis (and the immediately surrounding unincorporated areas) going forward is how much UC Davis grows. If the University ever stops growing, then so will the city.

    While it is true that some of our marginal growth in recent years came from people who commute to work in Sacramento and from retirees who moved here from the Bay Area and So. Cal, the core driver of growth in Davis is (and I believe will continue to be) UC Davis.

    The best qualities Davis has which attract outsiders mostly derive from the University.

    If UCD doesn’t add more faculty, more staff, more graduate programs and so on, then the internal pressures to add more subdivisions will be modest. But if UCD is growing fast, then either the City of Davis will expand or the unincorporated parts (as is happening with West Village) will add housing.

    I don’t think the SACOG numbers or the RHNA numbers are meaningless. They can add to or subtract from the pressures for more Davis housing. But the ultimate pressure is internal. And that is driven mostly by the University.

  8. “While those penalties now may be more serious, the actual RHNA required growth for Davis–defined as Davis’ fairshare–is actually quite low.”

    For those who don’t know — it was not explained in the column — RHNA means Regional Housing Needs Assessment. The City of Davis website calls it the Regional Housing Needs Allocation. I guess both are acceptable. The RHNA comes from state law.

    ….

    To my mind, the big question for growth in Davis (and the immediately surrounding unincorporated areas) going forward is how much UC Davis grows. If the University ever stops growing, then so will the city.

    While it is true that some of our marginal growth in recent years came from people who commute to work in Sacramento and from retirees who moved here from the Bay Area and So. Cal, the core driver of growth in Davis is (and I believe will continue to be) UC Davis.

    The best qualities Davis has which attract outsiders mostly derive from the University.

    If UCD doesn’t add more faculty, more staff, more graduate programs and so on, then the internal pressures to add more subdivisions will be modest. But if UCD is growing fast, then either the City of Davis will expand or the unincorporated parts (as is happening with West Village) will add housing.

    I don’t think the SACOG numbers or the RHNA numbers are meaningless. They can add to or subtract from the pressures for more Davis housing. But the ultimate pressure is internal. And that is driven mostly by the University.

  9. increasingly, students and new profs can’t afford to live here, though. more and more live in sacramento, west sac, woodland and dixon, and commute in. i suspect that the sacramento commuter demographic is larger than you assume.

    that’s one reason for the university building west village. job searches are getting harder, because unless the prof. is bringing equity from a part of the country that’s roughly as expensive, it’s not worth taking the job if you can’t afford housing.

    at any rate, the salient point isn’t as much the rate of growth as what kind of growth we’re going to have. right now most of the houses are aimed at the luxury market, so they’re unlikely to be bought by new profs or recent graduates, or (as we’ve noticed in the valley oak discussion) young families with children, much less people who perform most of the service jobs in the local economy.

    ultimately, the manner in which we choose to grow determines what kind of a community we become. i’m a lot less concerned about the rate of growth than i am about the kind of city we’re gradually becoming.

  10. increasingly, students and new profs can’t afford to live here, though. more and more live in sacramento, west sac, woodland and dixon, and commute in. i suspect that the sacramento commuter demographic is larger than you assume.

    that’s one reason for the university building west village. job searches are getting harder, because unless the prof. is bringing equity from a part of the country that’s roughly as expensive, it’s not worth taking the job if you can’t afford housing.

    at any rate, the salient point isn’t as much the rate of growth as what kind of growth we’re going to have. right now most of the houses are aimed at the luxury market, so they’re unlikely to be bought by new profs or recent graduates, or (as we’ve noticed in the valley oak discussion) young families with children, much less people who perform most of the service jobs in the local economy.

    ultimately, the manner in which we choose to grow determines what kind of a community we become. i’m a lot less concerned about the rate of growth than i am about the kind of city we’re gradually becoming.

  11. increasingly, students and new profs can’t afford to live here, though. more and more live in sacramento, west sac, woodland and dixon, and commute in. i suspect that the sacramento commuter demographic is larger than you assume.

    that’s one reason for the university building west village. job searches are getting harder, because unless the prof. is bringing equity from a part of the country that’s roughly as expensive, it’s not worth taking the job if you can’t afford housing.

    at any rate, the salient point isn’t as much the rate of growth as what kind of growth we’re going to have. right now most of the houses are aimed at the luxury market, so they’re unlikely to be bought by new profs or recent graduates, or (as we’ve noticed in the valley oak discussion) young families with children, much less people who perform most of the service jobs in the local economy.

    ultimately, the manner in which we choose to grow determines what kind of a community we become. i’m a lot less concerned about the rate of growth than i am about the kind of city we’re gradually becoming.