by Karri Winn and David Kupfer
Used by permission of The Flatlander.

Flatlander Editor's note: this article serves as an introduction to the issues addressed in the May 1997 issue of the Flatlander such as development, the environment, water resources, the environment, water resources and effective planning for the future in Davis, CA.
Colin Walsh
PO Box 72793
Davis, CA 95616
(916) 750-FLAT

Those of us who have lived in Davis for a long time remember when there were fewer cars on the street (and fewer streets for that matter), and we remember when we walked downtown and knew most of the people we passed. We remember when there were fewer subdivisions, and when the dominant themes linked with Davis were innovations like Village Homes and energy efficient development. With its agricultural heritage, its enlightened and highly educated citizenry, and its up and coming university, Davis had an incredible opportunity.

The City's landmark 1972 General Plan mandated a slow-growth philosophy which would ensure Davis' estimable quality of life. But, standing alone amidst a burgeoning Sacramento metorpolitan area and the Interstate-80 corridor, the City's reputation in part led to its problems. The idyllic, green-bordered community was sought after by developers planning to pour concrete over prime agricultural land and to build expensive, single family detached homes for Sacramento and Bay Area sprawl participators.

In 1986, Davis voters passed Measure L, an advisory vote which stated that the City should "Grow as slow as legally possible". In spite of this advisory vote, by 1987, Davis' City Council had succumbed to development pressures.

The 1987 General Plan, along with a county "pass-through" agreement engineered by Dave Rosenberg for the City Council and Betsy Marchand for the County Board of Supervisors, laid the groundwork for the accelerated growth that we are still experiencing.

The largest plum granted in the 1987 General Plan was to Frank Ramos, of Ramco, Inc. (West Sacramento). Ramos owned the prime agricultural parcel upon which Mace Ranch now sits. Ramos was able to manipulate the City Council between a rock and a hard place by threatening to build Mace Rance in the unincorporated county if it was not annexed into the city.

This maneuver taught us how important it is to elect County Supervisors, as well as City Council members, whom we can trust to stand up to developer pressure.

Former Mayor Bill Kopper explained the politics of growth this way: "The 1987 General Plan was leveraged by Ramos, causing a great amount of growth in the City and resulting in a reduction of environmentally oriented planning. The City Council in the late '80s front-loaded many housing developments so that all projects were approved early. THAT is what has caused rapid growth. People lost control over planning the city City and control of the planning process has been very hard to get back."

As Kopper said, it has been very hard indeed. Developers have channeled large amounts of money to city council candidates whom they believe will be favorably predisposed toward their projects. And, in a new wrinkle, they formed a PAC during the last election which enabled them to legally circumvent the City's campaign spending limits in order to promote their favorite candidates--in this case Sandra Spelliscy and Susie Boyd.

Further compounding the problem is the fact that most council candidates espouse slow growth and pro-environment platforms during their campaigns, and too often ignore these promises after they are elected. It can be very difficult for the voter to discern which candidates are "for real".

So what can be done? The 1987 General Plan is currently undergoing a revision process. The Growth Management Committee has recommended that the City approve no new subdivisions, and that no housing be allowed on the Covell Center site.

The General Plan is now before the Planning Commission, and will soon be before the City Council. It is up to Davis citizens to support the Growth Management Committee decisions by coming to the City Council hearings and workshops on the General Plan, by speaking at public comment time at the City Council, by writing letters to the Enterprise editor, and by calling and writing the City Council members.

And, most importantly, let's pull together and work for a new majority on the City Council. Let's elect two new slow-growth city council members who share our vision of Davis, who will be truly independent of developer influence, and who will have the integrity and toughness to stay the course.

-- Davis, CA
Flatlander, May 1997

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