Davis is known for great schools, safe parks and ubiquitous bike paths. But it also grapples with an acute housing shortage, town-and-gown tensions, graying demographics and a desperate need for a more diverse tax base.
Those issues have mounted as the economy has rebounded and UC Davis has dramatically ramped up enrollment. The local June ballot reflects that pressure. With Mayor Robb Davis and Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson not running for re-election, nine candidates are vying for two open seats on the five-member council, including several veterans of battles over affordable housing and development.
With Mayor Robb Davis and Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson not running for re-election, nine candidates are vying for two open seats on the five-member council, including several veterans of battles over affordable housing or development.
Two candidates stand out. Dan Carson, 62, retired chief deputy at the state Legislative Analyst’s Office, has brought deep expertise to Davis’ budget and finance commission. His steady hand and experience would be invaluable to a local economy stifled by voter-imposed restrictions on growth.
Gloria Partida, 55, a researcher in neurobiology at UC Davis and a single mother of three grown children, is also widely respected. Having worked for years on behalf of disabled children (one of her sons has cerebral palsy), she founded the Davis Phoenix Coalition after her other son, who is gay, was violently assaulted in a 2013 hate crime. The coalition is now not only an LGBT resource center, but a hub for anti-bullying, immigration and other social justice initiatives, including police accountability – a priority that arose last year after plainclothes Davis police at UC Davis Picnic Day botched a confrontation with a crowd and the department issued a distorted press release about it.
Partida would diversify the otherwise white and male council and be a voice for a generation of rising local progressives. Eric Gudz, 31, a cannabis consultant, Army veteran and UC Davis alum who sits on the transportation commission, and Linda Deos, 58, an attorney active in Sacramento’s LGBT community before relocating, both grasp the city’s challenges, but are relative newcomers.
Mary Jo Bryan, 75, has a long record of social justice advocacy and understands the needs of those living in Davis on a fixed income. Her most recent involvement, however, has been more narrowly focused on development fights. So has that of contractor Larry Guenther and Ezra Beeman, an energy executive from an old Davis family.
Businessman Mark West, like Carson, wants a better fiscal strategy, but opposes one of the proposed parcel taxes that, for now, are needed. Luis Rios Jr., a specialist in school finance, has yet to establish a strong track record in civic affairs.
Yes on ballot measures
Also up for a vote are two parcel taxes and a much-needed student housing development that requires voter approval under the city’s growth restrictions. Measure H would renew a long-standing $49 parcel tax that pays for maintenance of Davis’ renowned parks and greenbelt. Measure I would add a $99 parcel tax to help cover the $6 million to $8 million a year Davis needs to repair and maintain its roads, sidewalks and bike paths.
And Measure J – a scaled-down version of the Nishi Gateway project narrowly rejected in 2016 by voters – would add 2,200 beds of urgently needed student housing next to UC Davis. With vacancies so tight that some students live in their cars, the campus is adding some 5,000 undergraduates, the result of legislative mandates to increase in-state UC enrollment.
Voters should approve all three.