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Davis

Davis, California

Friday, March 1, 2024

City council candidates Francesca Wright and Donna Neville share platforms at candidate forum

The Davis Area League of Women Voters hosted a forum with the candidates to discuss the upcoming election

 

By CHRIS PONCE  — city@theaggie.org

 

On March 29, The Davis Area League of Women Voters (LWV), in partnership with Davis Media Access, hosted an online forum featuring District 3 city council candidates Donna Neville and Francesca Wright. With the special election on May 2 less than a month away, candidates discussed issues relevant to the city such as housing, fiscal challenges and downtown plans.

The candidates were asked about the most important actions they would take to improve financial growth in Davis. Neville said that she has previous experience in this area, explaining that she drafted criteria used by the California state auditor’s Local Government High Risk Program to assess the fiscal health of California cities.

“First we need more revenue,” Neville said. “This requires a robust economic development plan that sets out our priorities for attracting and retaining businesses in our downtown and other commercial hubs. We can’t flourish if we have empty retail spaces. Second, we need to find ways for the innovative businesses that want to locate and stay in Davis to stay here. Finally, I’ll promote more transparency and community involvement in our budgeting process. We should hold public budget workshops where each city department presents its budget and the community has the ability to weigh in on spending priorities.”

Wright then answered the same question. She said that the city needs to set aside more funds for long-term maintenance of roads. 

“We need strategies to maximize revenue — and that includes property taxes, sales taxes [and] hotel taxes — while preserving the character of our town,” Wright said. “This will require restoring vibrant retail, attracting tourism and facilitating ease of [permitting] upgrades. For example, we could increase property tax revenue by accelerating [the] permitting of real property upgrades. […] We could use smarter application screening tools that require less staff time, and we could add fees for expedited services that could pay for the additional staffing.”

An audience member asked the candidates about the issue of affordable housing and rising prices of rent in Davis. Wright mentioned the improvements that have already been made with the Davis Housing Trust Fund and what work still needs to be done to help combat the housing crisis.

“By having staff in place, we can go after federal and state housing resources and make them more accessible,” Wright said. “The renting issue is beyond just the affordability. It’s also having climate-resilient spaces and I would like to address that as well.”

Neville said that she believes the city can and should acquire the federal and state resources to address the issue. 

“The state now has enacted a number of pieces of significant legislation that are very top-down in terms of directing housing at the local level,” Neville said. “But they haven’t given us the tools or the money to be able to really incentivize the building of the affordable and the low- to moderate-income housing we need. So I would love to see Davis work together with the League of California Cities to advocate for money in the state budget for that purpose.”

Both candidates were also asked about the Downtown Davis Plan, which aims to create a long-term guide for development and infrastructure through 2040. Wright answered first, focusing on the impact of the plan and how it can be improved. 

“This new model promises to accelerate the permitting process,” Wright said. “It has opened an opportunity for increased building height up to seven stories in the core [of downtown] and densification along G Street and is projected to provide 1,000 more units of housing. As a city council member, my priority for the Downtown Plan will be to address two key missing areas, which are: one, planning for the trees and two, envisioning streetscapes and transportation options.”

Neville said that while the Downtown Plan will have a lasting positive impact on Davis, more must be done to address the city’s economy and housing crisis. 

“The Downtown Plan alone won’t revitalize our downtown economically nor will it ensure that the housing we desperately need gets built,” Neville said. “I have two key priorities. In terms of housing, we need to put additional tools in place such as a revenue stream for Housing Trust Fund and possibly housing impact fees or commercial linkage fees that will truly serve as incentives to building the housing we need in the downtown area. The Downtown Plan needs to be accompanied by a robust economic development plan that sets out a proactive approach for attracting and retaining businesses to downtown.”

The last day to register to vote in the special election is April 17. Ballots will be mailed to voters in  District 3, and a list of ballot drop boxes, as well as additional voter information, can be found on the Yolo County Elections Office website

 

Written by: Chris Ponce city@theaggie.org