Similarities were more apparent than differences Wednesday night as candidates for the Davis City Council expressed their views on a variety of topics.
All six candidates met at the Community Chambers for a forum organized by the Sierra Club‘s Yolano Group and the Davis Neighborhood Coalition.They spent two and a half hours answering10 questions written by the sponsoring groups and by community members.
Each of the candidates talked about the importance of limiting the city‘s impact on the environment,preserving prime agricultural landand finding ways to improve the city‘s housing situation.
Answering a question about the future of the downtown area,all of the candidates agreed that new connections were needed between downtown and the university.Each of the candidates,except incumbent Stephen Souza,said doing something about Fifth Street,which has been the scene of numerousautoaccidents,was important.
“Fifth Street in and of itself is an embarrassment toDavis,“ said challenger Sydney Vergis.“We basically have a four-lane highway segmenting one important part of the community.“
Vergis suggestedre-stripingthe street and double-striping bike lanes,an idea that was also mentioned by incumbents Don Saylor and Sue Greenwald.
Greenwald said she wanted to see a housing development at the PG&E Site atPole Line Road andL Street.
“We could put some very exciting,green housing alternatives on that property,and I think if I accomplish nothing else,I‘d be thrilled to accomplish that,“ Greenwald said.She mentioned this project in several of her answers to other questions as well.
One difference arose in a question about the future of Measure J,the law that requires a citizens vote to approve urban development on agricultural land on the city‘s borders.The law took effect in2000and expires in2010.
Saylor said he supports the citizens‘ right to vote,but wants to be informed by a thoroughreview before renewing the law.
“By the time this ordinance sunsets in2010,it will have been more than10years since it was drafted,“ Saylor said.“We should thoughtfully review our experience over the past decade,the impacts of this,and the potential for the changing needs of our community.To not do that would be irresponsible.“
Challenger Sydney Vergis said she is supportive of the concept behind Measure J,but said there should be more discussion on whether the law could be made more straightforward.She also said she would be interested in learning whether the law was prohibitive to smaller projects with smaller budgets.
The other four candidates said they supported renewing Measure J in its current form.
The candidates were asked about how to protect historically significant buildings,some of which,such as the Terminal Hotel,have been demolished in recent years.
Challenger Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald said there needs to be an ordinance that prohibits using deterioration of a building as a reason for allowing it to be demolished.
“It‘s akin to rewarding property owners for allowing properties to degrade,“ Escamilla-Greenwald said.
Every candidate supported the concept of having more small-neighborhood markets rather than a few large stores.This has been an issue over the past year as the owners ofWestlakePlaza shopping center have attempted to renovate the vacant grocery store space onLake Boulevardinto office and business space.
“More funds should be directed toward a robust market analysis that would help determine exactly what types of stores…would be profitable in each location,“ Souza said.“That analysis could then be used to lure and convince the right businesses to begin operations.“
Challenger Rob Roy mentioned the former State Market grocery store onRussell Boulevard andAnderson Road as an example of why neighborhood grocery stores were needed.
“We‘ve got people that live in that area and people on campus,they have to go shopping at Rite-Aid,“ he said.“That‘s a way to get scurvy right there…We‘re going the wrong direction with these huge grocery stores.“
The City Council race has picked up speed recently,with campaign signs popping up on lawns across the city anddoor hangers finding their way to every place imaginable.Absentee ballotswill be mailed May5,the last day to register to vote is May19,andElection Day is June3.
Students who live on campus south ofRussell Boulevard are not eligible to votein the election for City Council.Registered voters inthe Cuarto dormitories are eligible to vote in the council race.
The forum was broadcast live and will be rebroadcast periodically until the election on Davis Community Television,Comcast channel15.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.