Sue Greenwald for City Council -- A Record You Can Trust
Open Space: A Legacy
For Future Generations

We are beginning to share a growing awareness that the preservation of open space, much like the operations of our schools and libraries, is an essential community goal which will not be accomplished without our sustained support.

Photo composed and choreographed by Sue Greenwald.  Photographer was G Richard Yamagata

On Nov. 7, Davis citizens will have an opportunity to vote for Measure O - a City of Davis ballot measure which will provide the funding necessary to enable our city to participate in an international attempt to save our Earth's rapidly shrinking wildlife habitat and workable farmland. At the same time, we will be enhancing our own quality of life by creating wildlife habitat reserves, with areas set aside where Davis citizens will be able enjoy strolling, bicycling, bird watching and bringing their children. And we will be slowly creating a green buffer to help define our city limits. Davis citizens of all ages will have the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy to future generations.


When it comes to open space protection, the city of Davis has much to be proud of. We have already protected, or partnered to protect, over 2,400 acres of sensitive wildlife habitat and farmland.

We have already established impressive habitat reserves along part of the Putah Creek riparian corridor, and are in the process of completing a magnificent and innovative wetlands wildife project at the waste-water treatment facility north east of the city. (If you would like to tour it now, you can contact Mike Conner at 757-7531). Additionally, we have protected much farm acreage from development through the relatively inexpensive technique of purchasing permanent conservation easements.

We been unusually successful at acquiring federal and state matching funds and grants, and our open space acquisition program has been so successful that we received a League of California cities award of excellence in land use and environmental quality. Our Davis Wetlands project has won the San Francisco Bay Estuary Project for the best integrated conservation and management plan.


To date, our open space acquisition program has been funded by development impact fees leveraged against grants. But impact fee based funding is a treadmill effort. To get impact fees, you have to have impacts, i.e., for every acre of land you save, you lose an acre to development. Unlike impact fees, Measure O is not growth dependent.

Measure O is a $24 dollar a year dwelling unit tax which will, at the end of 30 years, have raised $17.5 million dollars for the acquisition of open space within the Davis planning area. Reductions will be available for low income seniors and other low income individuals.

For only $2 per household per month, our open space acquisition program will no longer be financially dependent upon the expensive and undesirable treadmill of new development for its funding. For $2 per household per month, we can continue our open space program.


Measure O will preserve wildlife habitat and agricultural lands which are outside our city boundaries, but within the Davis Planning Area. The Davis Planning Area extends between the Yolo by pass to the East and County Road 96 to the West, and from Tremont Rd. on the South to route 92 on the north.

We currently estimate that the city will be able to protect and maintain about 2,200 acres of open space with the proceeds from this tax. If more federal and state matching funds become available, we could be able to preserve more. The acquisition priorities are two-fold: 1) sensitive habitat land, and 2) farmland and habitat adjacent to the city, which will ultimately help shape our cities boundaries.


After years of work by citizens groups, the Open Space Commission and by the past City Council, our current City Council voted unanimously to place Measure O on the November ballot.

Measure O enjoys unusually broad support. It's been endorsed by all five Davis City Council members: Major Ken Wagstaff, Mayor Pro-Tem Susie Boyd, and councilmembers Sheryl Freeman, Sue Greenwald, and Mike Harrington; both of Davis' Yolo County supervisors, Lois Wolk and Dave Rosenberg; State Assemblywoman Helen Thompson, and many former mayors and councilmembers.

A wide array of organizations, including the Yolano and Mother Lode chapters of the Sierra Club, the Putah Creek Council, the Trust for Public Lands, Tree Davis, the Davis Democratic Club Executive Board, the Yolo County Green Party, The Davis Professional Firefighters Association, and the Davis Police Officers Association have added their support.

We are gratified to see citizens with such a diversity of interests united in an effort to accomplish a mission of universal importance.


City Councils will come and go, but development pressures will never disappear. Even if the citizens of Davis stand firm in the face of developers' well financed campaigns which might result from measure J elections, we still have only temporary control of the county's ability to develop on our borders. And even measure J is subject to expiration or revocation by initiative.

The only guaranteed method of permanent open space protection is the public ownership of open space land purchased from willing sellers, or the public ownership of the development rights of that land, which is called a conservation easement.


Measure O is a modest step toward achieving a larger vision of maintaining species diversity and environmental protection, without sacrificing the ability to feed mankind.

Measure O is a modest step, but, as we mentioned in your ballot statement, it is important to remember the example of the East Bay Regional Park district. Most of us find it difficult to imagine the cities of Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond if development had sprawled across the rugged, unspoiled, breathtakingly beautiful hills of the East Bay Regional Parks [Editor's note: Of which Tilden Park is a part -- Ry].

The unspoiled wilderness of the East Bay Regional Park at sunset photographed by Sue Greenwald

Yet the open expanse of the hills which make up the East Bay Regional Park system did not come about by chance. Rather, a group of dedicated citizens and businessmen, concerned about mounting development pressures, put a tax measure on their ballot in 1936, during the depths of the Great Depression. The wise and generous citizens of the region voted to pass the tax, the communities started to the acquire open space lands. From this modest beginning, the magnificent East Bay Regional Park system was built. The citizens of the East Bay cities left a legacy to future generations and began the process of shaping the future of their region.

We in Davis today are facing the same development pressures, and the same choices that were faced by the citizens of the East Bay seventy years ago. Let's begin to take control of our future. Let's take one tangible step toward preserving our environment. Let's leave a legacy to our children and grandchildren.

Please join us in voting YES ON MEASURE O.

Sue Greenwald

City Council Member
Sheryl Freeman
City Council Member

[Please note that this op-ed by Sue Greenwald was published in the Oct 28, 2000 Sunday issue of the Davis Enterprise. Measure O did pass on Nov 7, 2000 with the popular support of the citizens of Davis. -- G. Richard Yamagata]

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