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
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
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
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
Flatlander, May 1997