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Davis, California

Monday, March 4, 2024

Davis League of Women Voters releases survey report addressing housing concerns in Davis

The organization presents a General Plan and Community Vision Committee Project Report to the city 

 

By ZOE SMITH — city@theaggie.org

 

On Nov. 6, the League of Women Voters, Davis Area (LWVDA) released a report that’s been in the works since 2021 called the General Plan and Community Vision Committee Project Report: “A Vision of Our Future in Davis: Ideas and Thoughts from the Community.” As part of the project, the LWVDA surveyed Davis residents to get their input.

The report was created in response to the city of Davis’ General Plan which was written in 2001 and was last amended in 2007. A city’s general plan typically serves as a blueprint for its future. It creates policies and a vision so that as a city develops it runs smoothly. As the city of Davis has grown over the past two decades, the LWVDA believes the general plan needs updating.

Mary Jo Byron, ex officio board member and past president of the LWVDA, has been deeply involved in the LWVDA General Plan and Community Vision Project Report.

In a league meeting that took place at Mary L. Stephens Davis Library on May 15, Byron gave a presentation to fellow league members about the report.

“The city’s general plan of 2001 is out of date and is not consistent with the realities we face today,” Byron said. “The update process is supposed to start in 2023. We started in 2021. We spent a lot of time doing research and talking to different kinds of people in regards to Community Vision, but the city has had to put it off and put it off mainly because they have a number of other things that they have to deal with.”

The LWVDA General Plan and Community Vision Report was emailed to the Davis City Council on Sept. 28. They have not responded to it yet. The league plans to present the results from their survey to the council on Jan. 9, 2024.

“Our goal or objective was basically to help the city council understand the importance of updating the general plan and how much we were in need of a community vision to lead us into the next 20 years,” Byron said. “It was not [made] to reprimand them or to be negative. It was a positive experience to show them how much people were interested in the update of the general plan and community vision.”

The league surveyed 932 Davis residents who were 18 and over at various locations throughout the city. Participants were asked to rate general plan elements that need to be addressed by the city council from a scale of one to four, with four being the highest priority and one representing the lowest.

The categories were: housing, safety, land use, conservation, open space, circulation (i.e. transportation) and noise. Participants found the issues of housing and safety to be most pressing. Supplemental elements such as social justice, community service, arts & culture, economic development and neighborhood design were also surveyed on how high of a priority these need to be addressed. Social justice and community service were found to be the highest priority.

Komal Hak, director of communications, strategy and marketing for the league, has been a member since 2019. She initially joined after graduating from UC Davis and becoming interested in local politics, specifically in Measures H and J which have to do with zoning laws and affordable housing. Hak oversees the social justice/equity diversity lens of the league.

“There’s just a glaring need for affordable housing,” Hak said. “Not government subsidized housing necessarily. There’s a lack of inventory for the middle income group and lower income group to sustain a whole life in the Davis community.”

In addition to the survey, the league also recorded results from five focus groups. The issue of affordable and accessible housing was one topic that participants found important for the city council to address urgently.

Because Davis has limited infill land available — meaning unused open land meant for urban development and complicated zoning laws such as Measure J, which prevents farm land from being turned into high density residential housing — focus group participants opted to build up instead of out, preferring taller buildings to urban sprawl.

Eileen Samitz has been with the league on and off for years and was involved in the development of the original city plan published in 2001.

“Davis had one of the most generous, affordable housing requirements of 35 percent for many years,” Samitz said. “But because of inflation, labor costs, material costs, especially land costs, that number just doesn’t work anymore.”

Samitz believes that addressing the housing crisis will take years but that the survey will help show the concerns of Davis residents to the city.

“The city has needs which the survey will show exactly what those are,” Samitz said. “Addressing those [needs] and getting the city to be able to update the plan and put in more affordable housing for both apartments and small properties is very complicated, and will take years.”

 

Written By: Zoe Smith city@theaggie.org

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