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Davis, California

Sunday, May 26, 2024

City Council candidates address Picnic Day, renters’ rights, student-police relations

Before Davis residents mail in their ballots or stop by their polling place, Davis City Council candidates had a chance to put forth their last comments at a final public forum.

The hour-long forum consisted of discussion about items that directly affect students, such as Picnic Day, fees for noise violations, security deposits and renter rights. ASUCD hosted the five hopefuls at Griffin Lounge last Wednesday at 7p.m. where ASUCD Senator Adam Thongsavat asked a question to each candidate in random order. Each candidate had two minutes to respond, and after, others could jump in for one minute.

Picnic Day

Second-year UC Davis law student Daniel Watts was asked what specific steps can be taken to preserve Picnic Day traditions. Watts compared Picnic Day to the Sun God Festival at UC San Diego, which had 200 arrests on campus while the city of Davis had 33 arrests.

He suggested implementing a wristband and stamping system in the downtown area to track the number of drinks each person buys in order to combat drunk people downtown causing trouble, Watts, self-proclaimed student voice in this race, said.

“Realistically, I don’t think Picnic Day is that much of a problem, and just a few tiny corrections like that could preserve that tradition,” Watts said.

Rochelle Swanson, a land-use attorney with her own consulting firm, suggested closing parts of downtown and having more available restrooms. While taking reasonable steps to make sure it is still a fun day, Swanson does not want to get rid of an old tradition.

Swanson and her husband Charlie Swanson, owner of The Graduate at the University Mall, moved alcohol sales until after 11 a.m., decided on no drink specials and to serve food throughout the day.

Jon Li, a public policy analyst for city, county and state planning, had a different perspective.

“I think this is ASUCD’s responsibility more than anyone else,” Li said. “You’re the leadership. Picnic Day has become fueled by alcohol and that is wrong. I hate to be an old guy, but Davis was dry until 1979, so people did get drunk on Picnic Day but didn’t see how polluted you could get.”

Noise citations

Thongsavat asked Swanson, “noise citations can be issued without a written or a verbal notification costing around $200 per resident. This can be up to a $1000 household fine. How can we alleviate the fiscal burden while protecting the rights of neighbors?”

Swanson proposed an education campaign to improve neighborhood relationships between non-student and students.

“A neighbor didn’t walk over and knock on the door and say, ‘Your music is too loud, please stop,'” she said. “Encourage the good neighbor policy – that those neighbors will go next door.”

Renters’ rights

The next questions asked what specific provision or policy the candidates would like to see added about renters’ rights.

“The model lease – if it’s not adequate now, it needs to be updated, so we need to sit down at the table,” Li said.

Joe Krovoza, the director of external relations and development at the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies and Energy Efficiency Center, and Li said the rental market is getting soft.

“You guys [need] to get more organized,” Krovoza said. “With the rental market getting soft, that’s the opportunity for you to fight out. The Davis Model Lease is absolutely broken and you need to simplify it. It’s so long, it’s so complex – it’s unenforceable.”

Bike safety

In response to how each candidate would improve bike safety, Sydney Vergis, a graduate student in the UCD Institute of Transportation Studies and a former Sutter County senior land-use planner, said promoting transportation alternatives brought her back to school as a graduate student. She would like to see the city become aggressive about pursuing grant opportunities for biking and walking infrastructure.

“How to make it more friendly to multiple modes of transportation is something there will be more money for,” she said.

Krovoza said there is an enormous missed opportunity on this campus.

“The amount of bike education to arriving freshman is absolutely appalling,” he said. “We also need pedestrian education.”

Student-police relations

“I would look forward to hearing more from students. We need to make sure the level of racial profiling is not going on,” Krovoza said.

Watts said the police are “ridiculously abusive.”

“On Halloween they stalk you, they pull you over for no reason. They search your body, it’s horrible,” Watts said. “I would direct the police department to release the aggregate data on the people they stop to see if they are actually profiling or not.”

Watts would like to establish a bill of rights explaining residents’ rights to courteous interaction with police.

“I know Landy Black, our chief, would like to talk to you,” Li said.

Swanson recommended workshops for students and officers to talk.


For safe entertainment options, Swanson wants to include students in the discussion of entertainment, along with families.

“I don’t think safe entertainment stops just with families and students,” she said “It’s something most people are open to and they want to see options besides going clubbing and going to the bars on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday night.”

Vergis commended ASUCD for putting on free concerts in the park as an opportunity for the community to get together.

Krovoza is interested in bringing in a permanent music venue, where every Friday night, for example, there will always be a concert with an established ticket fee.

West Village

Students on campus live in the county, not in the city of Davis, Li said.

“It’s the Chancellor’s and Regents prerogative as to whom on campus gets to vote and at this point, everything that’s on the campus is not part of the city,” he said. “I say that there’s an electronic fence that’s freer on that side of Russell and it’s safer on this side.”

Krovoza said he is worried West Village will be a “gated community.” He believes it should be annexed with a bike path to Trader Joe’s and an underpass through Russell for all the students who live north of Arthur Street.

“I think the city has failed in fully engaging the campus,” he said.

Swanson and Watts both supported the idea of a student representative, who would be able to make motions to the City Council, so the student voice is heard during the comment process.

Watts also supports the annexation of not just the West Village, but also the entire UC Davis campus and adjacent housing, such as The Colleges at La Rue, into the city.

There are 20,000 students and 37,000 registered voters. If students on campus were part of the city as well, their votes would have a big effect, he said.

“If you live on campus, you are in Yolo County,” Watts said. “You should have input on government that affects your life. If you all registered to vote you would control the city of Davis. It’s a matter of convincing the county.”

Vergis, who said annexation was her expertise, said in an ideal world, West Village would be annexed and those residents would be able to vote in city elections. Both the university and Yolo County would have to agree to annexation, but for financial reasons, the county has not agreed.

“[Yolo is] cash strapped,” she said. “If we can’t get a sign off from the county, it’s an impossibility.”

POOJA KUMAR can be reached at city@theaggie.org.


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