Davis City Council candidates expressed their views regarding environmental concerns in and around Davis at last week’s City Council Environmental Forum. The Sierra Club Yolano Group hosted the discussion.
City Council candidates responded to questions from the Yolano Group Management Committee and from audience members regarding environmental and community issues.
According to City Council Candidate Sydney Vergis, climate change – specifically our dependence on nonrenewable resources – is the most significant environmental issue facing Davis. Investing in walking and biking infrastructure will ensure viable and vital infrastructure throughout the Davis community, while simultaneously increasing local access to local shops, she said.
Candidate Jon Li, along with the other candidates, wants to improve Davis’ carbon footprint. Constructing buildings higher than three stories will promote higher density living, Li said.
“Fifty-three percent of our carbon footprint is due to transportation. The problem is people driving to the Farmers Market,” said Li.
City Council Candidate Rochelle Swanson said air quality and water are the most significant environmental issues facing Davis.
“We live on wells here. No one knows where the water comes from that fills our wells,” Swanson said.
Swanson said future plans could include selling our water after it has been treated.
The city of Davis needs to establish a sustainability department that will deeply permeate the environmental ethic into the community, according to City Council Candidate Joe Krovoza. Mobility, planning and water treatment and supply are three crucial areas of environmental concern, Krovoza said.
Davis should look at the whole picture in order to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. Options for improving traffic flow include synchronizing traffic lights and increasing roundabouts. Educating residents about all modes of transportation, including bus lines, will help promote single trips, Swanson said.
Promoting zero waste by phasing out paper and plastic bags is an additional important measure to reduce our carbon footprint, she added.
Three ways to establish Davis as a carbon-neutral city include creating a more compact urban form, increasing bike transportation by providing safe bike routes for children and seniors and performing home and energy retrofits, Krovoza said.
Providing carpooling initiatives that ensure children can get together in strong numbers to get to school safely is important, Vergis said. The Davis Low Carbon Diet Program exemplifies a program focused on reducing Davis’ carbon footprint.
All candidates said they support the renewal of Measure J through Measure R for the “Citizens Right to Vote on Future Use of Open Space and Agricultural Lands.”
“The growth issue is never going to go away,” Li said. “We need to rethink what we think planning is and look at sustainability and mobility.”
Regarding water, all candidates said conservation is imperative.
Candidates shared their thoughts regarding the destruction of small farms in favor of big-box stores and the relationship between environmental issues and these stores.
Swanson said Target – a big-box store in Davis – provides products and services across various economic standpoints. Also, the Davis Target is environmentally friendly.
Issues surrounding big-box stores include buying less local products and the stores encroach upon small farms, Krovoza said.
Vergis said she will strive to think creatively about tourism and enhancing Davis as a destination. One option is to bring visitors to Davis via Amtrak. Tourists can buy local products by shopping at “America’s favorite farmers market.”
Ending the forum, candidates shared their visions for Davis in 2050.
Swanson said she imagines Davis will remain small and close-knit. Davis will have met the goals for reducing its carbon footprint and most transportation will be solar powered. Bicycles will prevail and few arterial roads for automobiles will exist.
Krovoza predicts Davis will have zero net carbon by 2050. Residents will capture rainwater on their roofs and organic farms and new greenbelts will exist around town. In addition, Krovoza said 100 percent of the food in the schools will be locally raised. Davis will lead by example.
Vergis predicts the bicycle will be the main form of transportation in 2050.
Li hopes by 2050 the Covell Village Partners will build a small museum dedicated to Julie Partansky where new young artists can display their work.
Absentee ballots for the city county election will begin to appear in Davis mailboxes early May. Election day is June 8.
THERESA MONGELLUZZO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.