COMMUNITY FORUMS & CANDIDATE QUESTIONS
Sierra Club Candidate Questions
Category: Energy Use and Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)
Q: Do you support in principal a GHG mitigation fee on new developments in Davis and why or why not? If yes, do you have any ideas how such a fee might be assessed?
A: "The logical alternative to a mitigation fee is to require new construction to be zero net energy. Where this is not possible, a mitigation fee should be imposed as an incentive to minimize GHG emissions – including transportation related impacts. It is clear there is a need for climate change mitigation and that local governments can provide and are providing this service. Development can have very significant GHG impacts; therefore, I believe creation of a legally defensible concept of a development cost charge for climate change mitigation is appropriate. Although I would prefer it be done at the state level, it is possible that Davis could set a good example by pioneering a GHG mitigation fee for new developments.
I see the goal of GHG mitigation fees not just to penalize high emission projects, or as a “sin” tax, but as a lever the City can use to encourage better transit connected development or otherwise reduce the transit related impacts. Adoption of green building codes and land use practices upfront like infill would be better than just GHG tax and garner the best projects.
I am not sure what the fee should be at this time, but it would need to be enough to effect change in practice without stifling all new development. That said, the mitigation fee cannot just be used to buy ""offset"" credits (such as is proposed for DISC) because these actually do not reduce the total carbon footprint of the City. Rather, the mitigation fees should be put into a trust fund used solely to benefit and reduce energy consumption of low-income and marginalized communities.
Q: Do you support a proposed ordinance mandating solar photovoltaic systems on new multi-family housing, or commercial construction in Davis if not otherwise planned for a net-zero energy use?
A: Yes. In the 1970’s John Whitcombe built the Sun Tree apartments on the corner of F and Covell with a state-of-the-art solar water heating system developed just for that complex. That system has since been removed, but it shows what can be done by Davis developers when they choose to.
Today with the lower PV costs, there is no reason multifamily housing or commercial construction should be exempt from PV requirements that single family homes must meet, or the developments should otherwise demonstrate that they are net zero. With lower energy costs, the PV should more than pay for itself over the life of the project.
Q: What additional steps could be taken by the City, its businesses, and residents that you believe would be most effective in reducing the City's overall energy use and GHG emissions to meet our Climate Action and Adaptation Plan?
A: Transportation is the area that needs the most improvement. I recently saw data suggesting Davis averages 36.8 VMT per capita as compared to the rest of the SACOG Region’s 25.1 VMT per Capita. With UC Davis as one of the largest employers in California, but with anemic commuter public transportation, the result is most people who live outside of Davis drive to campus. I see the City partnering with UCD and SACOG to better transit connect both Davis and UCD to the region as essential to reducing GHG. I would also advocate for electrification of this system.
I would also be a strong advocate for a renewable electricity systems. We need systems that produce for more than just for buildings so the energy can be also be used in transportation. I have also held a DMUD as an aspiration for our City since the 1990s.
Additionally I would advocate for:
Low voltage LED lighting systems in new homes
Pedestrianize the downtown emphasizing peripheral parking and heavy goods delivery services
Provide convenient wait zones for ride sharing / taxi services
Partner with UCD to change over Unitrans bus fleet to all electric.
Partner with Unitrans and yolo bus to improve routes to downtown.
Lobby UC Davis to initiate shuttles to the train station, and commuter busses to neighboring cities. (UCD is one of the largest employers in CA, and does little to move its commuters to public transportation)
Q: Davis has adopted a Zero Waste Resolution striving to achieve zero waste by 2025. As part of this program, all food service industry tableware and drink containers must be reusable, recyclable or compostable including a ban on all Styrofoam containers. All waste must also be segregated by organics, recyclable, or landfill but very few fast food or restaurants are currently doing so. What should the City do to enforce this Ordinance?
A: First, I would like to see the ordinances strengthened for a total ban on non-compostable plastic straws and other single-use non-compostable tableware in the food service industries in Davis in the City. There are inexpensive biodegradable alternatives, some of which are indistinguishable from plastic straws. I would also advocate for the ordinance to be updated to eliminate anything but compostable take-out containers in other businesses such as grocery stores. “Reusable” containers are more often than not treated as single use containers, and with uncertainties in the recycling market, it is clear compostable is the better option.
Before new enforcement was implemented, I would want to see a new outreach campaign both to the restaurants and residents of Davis. This would include requirements for posting a visual information graphic at every restaurant point of sale. This graphic would include a number to report noncompliance to the city. Businesses that comply could also be given a certification from the city verifying compliance so patrons would know before entering a business or ordering online (like a window decal.)
I would like to see a citizen-based task force follow up on complaints and check for compliance. This group could work through our Natural Resource Commission, and much like the tree commission oversees fines for improper tree removal either the NRC or a waste subcommittee could oversee fine application to help enforce the ordinance.
Q: The City of Davis waste management plan also now requires mandatory commercial and multi-family segregated recycling and segregated food scrap collection but this City has yet to roll-out these mandatory programs on a widespread basis? Do you support these measures, why or why not, and how should the City go about rolling them out and enforcing them?
A: Yes, I support these programs with the caveat that onsite composting is the superior option. The City should start rolling them out as soon as possible.
Q: Do you support or oppose municipal water fluoridation in Davis and why or why not?
A: I oppose fluoridation of our water supply. There are many options to add fluoride through toothpaste and mouthwash products if households feel they need fluoride to prevent tooth decay. This gives people choice about fluoridation. Further, new information has surfaced in recent years as reported in numerous reputable scientific journals that excess fluoride in drinking water and other ingested sources adversely affects fetal brain development resulting in later diminished IQ scores in young children. There are other epidemiological studies indicating other impacts of fluoride on the brain and brain functions. Until these impacts are fully understood, the precautionary principle demands we chart a very conservative course when imposing mandatory fluoridation of municipal water. Such an action would also impose a substantial hardship on low-income populations who choose not to ingest fluoridated municipal water forcing them to purchase bottled water with the economic and adverse environmental impacts that brings.
Large apartment complexes rented by the bed
Q: The Nishi, Sterling, and Lincoln40 apartment projects have been approved that will only offer residents rent-by-the-bed in predominantly larger apartments? A similar residential / mixed use proposal is before the Council for the University Commons project on the corner of Russell Blvd and Anderson Rd. Do you support this developing trend of rent-by-the-bed in student housing in Davis and why or why not?
A: I do not support this trend, and I have argued against it during public comment at the City Council. Rent by the bed on campus is appropriate on campus, but off campus it creates exclusionary student only housing. The one place I saw an exception to this was warranted was the Davis Live project which is being constructed in the UCD off campus dorm area on Oxford Circle. Also, rent-by-the-bed units are often one bathroom for each bedroom, and this is not an efficient nor economical use of space and functionally prohibits the use of space.
Amount of UC Davis On-Campus Housing
Q: UC Davis has recently committed to building new on-campus housing for an additional 8,500 students. However, at least 10,000 new beds will be required to meet the UC system-wide goal of housing 50% of students on campus. What should the City do, if anything, about this proposed shortfall in on-campus housing build-out by UCD?
A: I advocated for more on campus housing through the UCD LRDP process. I have advocated for more on campus housing at UC Regents meetings. I advocated that the Davis City Council push for more on-campus housing, including taller buildings on campus than are currently planned. The City-UCD MOU is a start, but it is weak and does not require enough housing. There are no direct levers to force the university to build more housing, so as a council person I will continue to advocate for more housing on campus and encourage the rest of the council to join me, and even consider passing resolutions formally requesting it. If all of these measures prove ineffective, the city must lobby at the state level. Santa Cruz and Berkeley have both sued the UCs in their towns and have received money and agreements to help address impacts as a result. I would not want to go that route, but the option must stay on the table if UC impacts to the city are not otherwise addressed.
Q: Do you support the renewal of Measure D (formerly Measure J/R) as it is on the ballot this November? If not, why not?
A: Yes. This ordinance is an important check on growth and sprawl on farmland and open space habitat outside the city limits. It allows Davis citizens the opportunity to weigh in on projects and press for projects that have the most cutting-edge environmental features. However, Measure D alone cannot do this; a strong City Council that maintains the highest standards for projects is also required.
Measure B – Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus mixed use business park
Q: Do you support the development of the Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus mixed use business park in Davis as proposed on the November ballot as Measure B and why or why not?
A: No. DISC is an example of a project that should never have been placed on the ballot. It goes against foundational core values in the Davis general plan, as it is a peripheral project that relies on the car and has poor connections to public transportation.
The DISC project will increase the carbon footprint for the city of Davis by about 8% and puts 24,000 additional car trips on Mace Blvd. daily. The car traffic is predicted to spill over onto local neighborhood streets and cause significant and unavoidable impacts. Most of the car trips will be from commuters to the DISC site from outside town and there is no way to begin to mitigate the GHG production from these commuter trips.
The project EIR predicts extensive commercial vacancies in Davis due to competition with DISC, based on pre-pandemic data. With current pandemic trends of remote working and the stark evidence of some Davis businesses already failing, this seems certain to be much worse.
It is also entirely unacceptable that 7 acres of open space land based with measure O taxpayer money should be used for any part of the project. It uses nearly 200 acres of prime agricultural land that also serves as habitat for sensitive species like the Burrowing Owl and Swainson’s Hawk.
And that is just the beginning of the extensive problems with this project.
Q: What would you propose to make the bicycle a more viable and safe transportation mode in Davis?
A: Safe routes to school is a start, but there also needs to be education and advocacy for bicycle transportation for kids. I remember when I went to WDE, most kids rode their bikes alone, but now I see posts from parents fretting about letting their 4th graders bike alone to school. I also see that the bike rakes are the same size, even though the schools are often have more than twice as many kids.
One major hurdle is the condition of many of our bike paths. If people are going to use the bike paths they need to be in a condition that facilitates their use. Bumpy and cracked paths are a hazard and a deterrent.
As council members we can lead by example and showcase our use of using our bike for transportation around town and challenge our fellow citizens to join us.
People also need to feel that when they lock up their bike at school or around town that it will not be stolen. A bike theft task force is needed as bikes are being stolen regularly, even when secured with expensive locks in visible locations.
Q: Do you support the construction of a new automobile parking structure near or in the downtown core and why or why not? If yes, where would you like to see it located, how large should it be, and how should it be paid for?
A: We need to explore other ways to facilitate travel to downtown, such as “electric rickshaws,” more extensive bus service, better bicycle throughways and more secure bicycle parking. I think every effort needs to be made to reduce car trips to downtown while increasing the number of people and frequency of trips downtown.
I would like to see increased ridership on the Amtrak train or other rail. I see getting people out of their cars and off of interstate 80 as a very positive goal. Providing additional parking for train riders could help move that goal forward. I hope to see parking structures as a thing of the past - especially sloped parking structures that have no possibility of repurposing. If funding and land were available, I would consider a land use efficient parking structure that could service the train station and the downtown. It would be preferable to access such a structure from Olive drive, and the site of Lincoln 40 would have been a good choice.
Q: Do you support the addition of parking meters on downtown streets or in downtown city-owned public parking lots or parking structures and why or why not?
A: I think there are many places in Davis that paid parking should be implemented. I would like to see exit fees on garages like at the new Sterling apartments, Lincoln 40 and University Commons projects to encourage the use of other forms of transportation. The City’s downtown parking plan included several items to help reduce car travel to the downtown, such as improved public transportation. After lengthy discussions with local business owners, despite my initial desire for paid parking downtown, I have come to understand their concerns that paid parking may discourage customers from coming downtown at all or shortening their visits. The stores in our downtown often work on thin margins and even a small decrease in customers could make the difference between profitability and closure. I believe keeping as vibrant downtown as possible will attract people to the Davis downtown and discourage travel further distances to other towns, keeping GHG emissions down. Inversely, if we lose our Downtown businesses people will be forced to travel further to stores and entertainment and will be far more likely to drive.
The plight of our downtown businesses has only increased through the pandemic.
Therefore, I oppose increased paid parking in the downtown at this time, but would consider it in the future as other parts of the parking recommendation are implemented and downtown business become less car dependent.
Toxics in the Environment
Q: Davis has implemented a wood smoke ordinance that allows complaints to be filed against wood burning residents if they are producing visible smoke from a non-EPA approved wood burning device. However, the police department and code enforcement) will not respond to complaints during nighttime hours when almost all wood-burning occurs because they do not have enforcement tools. Why or why not do you support this ordinance, and what changes, if any, would you support to it including any enforcement mechanisms?
A: I support this ordinance. The health impacts on neighbors are real, and on some streets, persistent and ongoing. As it stands now the ordinance basically does nothing. The ordinance needs to be sufficiently funded so that it can be enforced.
Q: Davis recently banned the use of pollinator-killing neonicotinoid class of pesticides and phases out the use of the herbicide glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Round-up product) next year. However, the City Council declined to require that only certified organic pesticides be used in the City’s Parks and Open Spaces as recommended by the Natural Resources Commission and endorsed by the Sierra Club Yolano Group. Do you support restricting pesticide use on City properties to only those certified as “organic” and why or why not?"
A: I support restricting toxic pesticide use on city properties. Toxic pesticides are harmful not only to children and pets but even more so to the workers who have to apply them. The City has dragged its feet for far too long in hiring an IPM specialist since the departure of the previous one (I am endorsed by Martin Guerena, the previous City of Davis IPM specialist). This has allowed non-specialist staff to press for “exceptions” to City policies instead of using methods that do not require any pesticide applications. The City Council needs to lead on this issue and not just follow current staff, who are not experts and who seem resistant to using any methods other than pesticides.
Also, many neighborhoods have indicated an interest in helping with weeding, but at a recent City Council meeting staff admitted that they had not followed up on it. Yet they complain about the cost of other methods. The City Council can and should rectify this situation by encouraging and deploying citizen volunteers.
Other Environmental Related Issues
Q: Davis will face threats to infrastructure, operations, and quality of life as climate change impacts become more apparent including extreme heat events and drought, or excessive precipitation. What would be your strategy for making Davis more resilient in the face of coming issues related to climate change?
A: The top thing that needs to be done is to bring a sense of urgency about climate change to the council. It needs to be considered in almost every decision the council makes going forward. The Davis general plan needs to include climate change as an essential consideration as a new plan is drafted.
Q: What are other environmental or climate change-related issues facing Davis and how would you propose the City address these issues?
A: I am interested in improving in the following additional issues:
Habitat protection and restoration
Better wildlife management policies (i.e., no dead bears, coyotes, or burrowing owls)
I would like to see more done by the city to protect raptors from poisons. Although there was a resolution passed several years ago, poison bate is still the normal practice for pest companies working in Davis.
More informed conversations about water use tradeoffs (e.g., heat effects of stones placed in yards to reduce water use, or trees dying because of water use restrictions).
Better adoption of “grey water” and other water saving techniques.
Encouraging organic farming and other habitat-friendly policies on the City’s properties.
I would like the city to do more use of permeable pavement and swales for storm water. This can be done both on city properties, in new developments and encouraged in other landscaping.
Yolo People Power 2020 Candidate Survey
Question 6: When there is a conflict between the recommendations between executive staff and the public, how would you decide which recommendation to implement?
That is a difficult question to answer in the abstract, and the answer is going to vary by specific situation and depending on how the terms are defined. I value the City staff’s professionalism, but I also value our commissions and members of the public. Davis has a wealth of talent that can be drawn upon to engage in discussions and help make decisions. I would also note that some questions may come down to technical details where experts are more helpful. Others may come down to values choices or be based on local experiences where a much broader range of inputs must be considered. In all cases community expertise and opinion will always weigh heavily for me.
Question 5. Do you believe the public needs to be engaged? If so, how do you ensure that the public will be engaged throughout the reform process?
Yes, Absolutely. The Commission system is a good place for public engagement, and Police Accountability, Social Services, and Human Relations Commissions should all be a part of a multi-phased, negotiated and agreed-upon reform process – but the opportunities to engage need to go beyond a 2 or 3 minute public comment session. The city commissions can serve as hubs for engagement, both through their regular meetings and through special gatherings designed to solicit community input. This has been done for other issues (e.g., forums on the use of open space, forums on the use of pesticides) and it would work well here. I would like to see charrette type meetings, surveys, and outreach to affected populations. The commissions have the relevant expertise to guide the discussion and it is their purview to solicit and report on community input.
Question 4. Of the reforms that you create, how would you ensure that they are instituted with full accountability and transparency and are achieving your goals?
It starts with the process of how reforms are created. By involving stakeholders including the police department itself, there is a better chance of buy-in and implementation. I value our commission system and see the PAC as an important part of follow through and would hope to see their role increased as a part of reforms. Transparency and accountability are major themes of my campaign and would certainly apply to the police department. The recent releases of statistical information on Davis policing is a step in the right direction. This needs to be a routine practice going forward. Investigations into specific incidents such as the picnic day incident a few years ago need to have any written reports released to the public (redacting as little as possible) as a matter of regular practice.
Question 3. If elected, are there any changes in public safety and criminal justice systems you would work towards and how?
I would work with the community to find the best ways to better distribute the responsibilities of the police, such as dealing with mental health and homelessness. I think any reform needs to involve conversations with stakeholders, and that includes the police department itself. Ideally monies are redistributed rather than increasing the total amount of money spent, but these issues are sufficiently important that it might require increasing funding to make better use of social workers and other relevant non-police professionals. Considering the budget situation in the City, the county and the state that will be a challenge and may not come immediately. In addition to making sure our police treat everyone with respect and policing is equitable, I am interested in ending the use of chemical weapons and decreasing militarization, but this too needs to be part of a larger conversation. I worked tirelessly to keep Yolo County from getting another costly armored troop carrier MRAP, and we were able to prevent it.
Question 2. Do you believe there is systemic racism in your jurisdiction? Please elaborate.
There is systemic racism in all American communities. It is impossible to separate current situations from a deep history and practices of racism in the US. Police historically often existed as a system for managing and even producing inequality by suppressing social movements and unions, and by tightly managing the movements of poor and non-white people. This may not always directly and fully apply to the Davis PD, but systemic racism also affects housing, homelessness, employment, education, and other aspects of Davis. In the not too distant past, redlining practices in Davis excluded minority home buyers from participation in the post WWII housing boom. We may not exactly have red lines anymore, but bank lending practices have been found to continue to discriminate against communities and people of color. These are complex problems and there is no one solution to any of them. Events that work to change attitudes are important, but in some cases policies themselves need modification. Fortunately, in Davis there has been change over time, but there is a need for ongoing evaluation and systemic change now and into the future.
Question 1. What in your opinion are the strengths and weaknesses of modern policing and specifically the policing in your city/county? In your role as an elected official, what is your responsibility to address weaknesses in policing in your jurisdiction?
Weaknesses are highlighted by the handling of the “Picnic Day 5”. The situation was escalated by a disproportionate response. Later, when confronted with the problem it was not addressed head on and seemed to be obfuscated. The recent response to a BLM protest is another example of disproportionate response. The bigger challenge though is addressing the less visible implicit biases that officers may hold. Strengths include the many good relationships between citizens and the Davis police. Things need to keep improving, but the PD seems willing to listen. Natalie Corona was an officer people rallied around and exemplifies what the police can become. As a council member, I will work with the community, county agencies and the PD to reevaluate how to appropriately distribute responsibilities, like dealing with traffic, homelessness, and mental health issues. Ideally, funds will be reallocated rather than increased, but these issues are important, and it may require more funding to make better use of social workers and other trained and relevant non-police professionals. I would also insist on transparency, making sure that statistics and auditor reports are released to the public.
This series of questions appears on the Davis Vanguard.
Davis Vanguard Weekly Candidate Questions
Question Six - The city undertook the Davis Downtown Plan through a citizen-based commission. Discuss your thoughts on the plan - address issues like: (A) Form-based code, (B) densification, (C) Mixed-housing and residential housing in the downtown, (D) Parking and your overall thoughts on the plan going forward.
On my website (https://www.walsh4davis.com/principles) I lay out detailed principals for how our city should be governed using the acronym TRACK. In short, those principals are Transparent, Responsible, Accountable, Community-Oriented, and Knowledge-Driven. All of those apply here.
Form-based codes seek to control the physical form, with a lesser focus on permitted uses. They have the potential to diversify and intensify use over traditional zoning that restricts use, ideally keeping the physical form pleasing but expanding the uses allowed and having the potential to add vibrancy and flexibility that single use zoning does not. Either zoning or form-based code, however, are susceptible to manipulation to allow for unexpected outcomes if a council does not follow the ideas behind TRACK.
Reasonable densification will create more business and housing opportunities, but it should not be done at the expense of the character of the town and independent retailers.
Mixed-use and residential housing in the downtown would be welcome, but it needs to come with stronger Affordable housing requirements.
“Parking” would be better understood as part of the whole transportation picture. The downtown needs to be easily accessible including public transportation, active transportation, and automobiles. “Parking” is only one piece.
Overall, I worry that the draft downtown plan that has gone into the EIR process lacks popular community support especially regarding some of the building height issues. Without these issues being better resolved I worry that we are headed for a contentious process.
Question Five - Everyone says they want affordable housing. But with the loss of Redevelopment, actually building it is difficult. If elected, how would you change the affordable housing ordinance and what policies would you pass to ensure that affordable housing can get financed and built at the level you advocate?”
The loss of redevelopment funding is regrettable, but affordable housing is continuing to be built across the state with other sources of funding and mechanisms. The end of redevelopment agencies has not been the end of affordable housing construction.
The first step is to do an independent, in-depth study that looks at what level of inclusionary housing is actually achievable. We need a solid understanding of what can work so that the city is not relying on subjective claims by developers of what does or does not “pencil out.” The city needs an independent arbitrator of how affordable housing can be included so we can maximize affordable units in future projects.
Secondly, I would like to look into restoring the suspended Middle Income Ordinance to provide affordable workforce housing. I think the most impactful example built in Davis has been the Dos Pinos housing cooperative. I would like to see more projects like Dos Pinos.
Third, Davis impact fees are currently based on unit numbers and not unit size. I would like to see impact fees based on square footage rather than number of units. It doesn’t make sense that a 1-bedroom apartment and a 5-bedroom apartment pay the same impact fees.
Lastly, the goal should be to restore, or get closer to the 25% requirement of the suspended affordable housing ordinance and to strengthen affordability requirements in mixed use development.
Question Four – Earlier this year, the council approved the leasing of a city property to BrightNight. Did the council make the right decision? Discuss that decision as well as issues that have been raised with regard to transparency and process.
Just as the City Council made a decision on the DISC project without full analysis and without adequate consideration of input from the relevant commissions, the same happened with BrightNight – but worse. Commissioners from several different commissions called in to point out that they had not been consulted, outlining numerous serious concerns with the proposed agreement, but it was approved anyway, with only one councilmember dissenting. Staff led them to believe that the decision was urgent. But “great deal, only if you act now!” has never been a wise strategy to follow.
I think the concerns about the BrightNight agreement were well summed up by a joint letter that appeared publicly immediately following the decision, including: the lease rental rates are undervalued and do not consider opportunity costs (the rates were not appropriate derived, better rates were negotiated by other agencies, the rental rate escalator does not reflect inflation, and alternative land uses may yield more revenue) and the agreement terms unnecessarily expose the City to a variety of risks/liabilities (the excessive lease period has inadequate exit provisions, there are no guarantees that the City or its residents will benefit, since the Agreement provides for no provision of energy or capacity to the City or the Valley Clean Energy Authority, and BrightNight/PVEL is free to sell its renewable energy to any buyer anywhere in the Western regional interconnection).
This was a terrible decision, and an illustration of what needs to be improved with regard to transparency and process.
Question One: What is your vision for Davis if elected to the council?
More importantly than what is my vision for Davis, the question is, what is the community’s vision for itself. That is what the general plan is all about. Our current general plan came from an engaging citizen driven planning process and deserves to be treated with respect. There are however aspects of it that are out of date and need updating, for example to better consider climate change. I support initiating a transparent, community driven planning process to update the general plan as soon as possible.
My vision for Davis is a community where people with diverse perspectives work together to set a long-term vision for the City. In the shorter term, I envision a council that represents diverse viewpoints, respects community involvement, and commission input, and makes decisions based in intellectual honesty and integrity.
This series of questions appears on the Davis Vanguard.