YOLO SUN OPINION :

For a variety of reasons (as will be expressed), it has become necessary to temporarily transform this publication into an election accessory with the hope of expanding and balancing key political discourse, leading up to the Woodland City Council election on June 3, 2014.

Mingling politics and journalism, as a candidate in this election, appears to be essential for purposes of serving the public interest, which is my goal.  As will become apparent, this goal easily takes precedence over playing pretty, perverse, self-serving / clique-serving political games which more and more consume a greater and greater portion of local election process.

Future columns will focus on topics relevant to these circumstances, with this initial entry concerned with basic background and the Daily Democrat.

Contrasting City Election Processes

An extraordinary absence of public process accompanies contemporary city council elections, as compared with how they were conducted a few decades ago.

Then, the city would hold an open orientation session for council candidates, introducing key city staff members and providing an overview of city operations, so that all candidates might have balanced and convenient access to basic / updated understanding of local municipal function.

This seemed to be the least our city could do for the relatively few persons who each two years applied as council candidates.

Today, only a few city departments practice candidate outreach.  There exists no organized effort to accomplish it, leaving city council candidates to whatever independent, likely unbalanced and inequitable measures are available.

Our fundamental commons of local political process has been significantly eroded.

Another example of such an adverse trend is the requirement that candidates must pay the ~$1500 cost of publishing their ballot statement.  This basic, equitable political platform was revoked about the time the new century dawned, making it more difficult for ordinary, lower economic-class citizens to participate as candidates and easier for Woodland’s upper-crust, political class, as it were, to better control the local candidate field.

What about local election forums and debates (although debates, per se, are clearly out of bounds, somehow perversely considered uncivil)?

There used to be several city council candidate forums (though, no actual debates worthy of that name), often three events, hosted by the Senior Center, the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtowners, Latino interests, the Daily Democrat, etc..  Recently, the League of Women Voters provides the only remaining election forum venue.

The Daily Democrat used to host a lengthy interview with its publisher, etc., for each city council candidate, as grist for endorsements and relatively extensive and detailed candidate profiles (although separate staff interviews were also conducted).  The paper would (to a limited extent) also cover the various candidate forums.  The paper’s election coverage is now only a pale reflection of its past process.

The Daily Democrat’s ethical performance, though never very good, recently approaches a nadir.

Serial Election Misbehavior

In 2012, the Daily Democrat refused (or failed, however stated) to report news about the politically relevant fact that City of Woodland did not have a budget for two fiscal years (2010-11, 2011-12).  The Daily Democrat also refused to sell Yolo County Supervisor, Duane Chamberlain, political ads making reference to this fact.

The reason the Daily Democrat behaved thus, is because it backed candidates who would be politically harmed, if it reliably reported the huge and hidden news about the absence of a public, city budget, within the time-period city council members were still unethically keeping from public view that half ($2 million) of annual Measure E money was being used in violation of its advisory guidelines, to fund (defaulting) bond service on the new community center project – using money promised for capital improvements to fund out-of-control debt, arisen from this extravagantly designed and imprudently implemented boondoggle, from which it will take the city decades to financially recover.

But hey, why should a newspaper report such things?

In 2010, the Daily Democrat attempted to unethically extort advertising money from community supporters of Measure V, telling them that it would not publish so many of their letters to the editor, saying that they rather needed to buy expensive ads in the paper for purposes of disseminating their political message.

Shaking-down community interests in such a manner is unconscionable, and led to the paper’s editor being described as “a despot” (please see June, 2012, Yolo Sun article).

Newspapers are by principle supposed to abide with what’s often referred to as — “a firewall” — between its potentially conflicting editorial and advertising components.  Violating this traditional journalistic standard seems to be a regular specialty of the Daily Democrat.

Twisted News Coverage

News coverage often suffers the same general fate as these letters to the editor, in my experience with this paper, whose posture is often that of a lap-dog for entrenched city-council / chamber-of-commerce type interests.

Let’s take the recent case of its reporting news that Paul Petrovich’s Gateway 2 project — approved by the city council and rubber-stamped by the local superior court — was on appeal (unanimously) found to clearly be in multiple violation of state environmental law.

The Daily Democrat article’s lead referred to the Gateway 2 project being: “Kicked in the teeth.  Again.”  The “again” seems to refer to the lawsuit (by California Clean Energy Committee) being filed in the first place.

“Kicked in the teeth,” implies an unjustified assault had been committed upon this project, rather than the Daily Democrat simply stating the plain truth, that the city (council) and Petrovich colluded to violate key state law with Gateway 2, a significant aspect of which involved urban decay.

Other examples of such slanted reporting are fairly prevalent.

Recent Misreporting

Lately, the Daily Democrat (yet, so many say: Daily Disappointment) elevates its penchant for slanting of its reporting, to the extent of spending its column inches attempting to pillory yours truly, rather than focusing on what the public actually needs to know.

Instead of duly reporting that two members of Woodland Planning Commission (Fred Lopez and John Murphy) voted with strong voices in opposition to Paul Petrovich’s application for expansion of allowed commercial uses at his Gateway Center, and explaining the solid reasons for their opposing votes, the Daily Democrat spills ink about me that demands retraction, seriously mischaracterizing affairs, jumping to anxious conclusions to see only what it wants to see.

The Daily Democrat is content to ignore slanderous misrepresentations by Petrovich to the Planning Commission, related to his and the city’s recent state appellate court loss, voiding Gateway 2 — while sensationally highlighting my being unfairly refused a rebuttal by the Planning Commission chairperson, who is clearly in Petrovich’s camp, and in frustration calling “bullshit” against such slander.

Petrovich’s attitude and statements starkly displays a likely intention to renew his Gateway 2 proposal — a vital reason for the city to require an environmental impact report regarding expansion of allowed uses at Gateway Center.  That’s a hugely crucial news story, passed-up by the Daily Democrat.

Journalism in the public interest is obviously a challenge for this paper.

Another such example, is the context of Petrovich’s remarks before the Planning Commission regarding his failure to continue with plans of a downtown theater complex, after the city collapsed consideration of an alternative project.

Petrovich claims that the cost of a city requirement for an environmental report on that project ($100,000), “would kill me.”

In actuality, the relevant city staff report was falsified to state that no further city processes were required in order for Petrovich’s theater complex to move forward, this falsification being at the center of the city’s collapsing consideration of an alternative project.

More Curious Problems

The Daily Democrat got off on the wrong foot, regarding my city council candidacy, on March 19, with its editorial review naming all political candidates relevant to Woodland, except me.

Then, its brief article about city council candidates included everyone’s picture, except mine (which the paper certainly has on file).  It’s also worth noting that the feature story in that day’s paper (about soil studies) was longer than the article about the city council race.  The paper expects city council candidates to pay it, in order to play their message.

Below is my demand letter to the Daily Democrat, issued on the day its article hit the street :

Elizabeth Kalfsbeek (and Jim Smith),

Re: Daily Democrat article of April 19

I don’t believe my remark about not being allowed to rebut — as Petrovich was allowed to do — constitutes being “unruly.” “Unruly” means much more than that, and I believe you were slanted with this report.

Plus, Petrovich actually “baited” me at the press table (and why was he even there?). He started that exchange — not me.

I just leaned over a moment later and told him that his repeated (slanderous) characterizations of the Gateway 2 lawsuit and the appellate court were “repellant.” That’s all I said to him and that’s when he jumped up and fled.

His slanderous statements in this regard were a primary reason I requested a rebuttal. That was the actual reference of my calling him “bullshit.”

You have misreported these matters. You should have checked with me to learn the truth, rather than jump to conclusions.

I firmly object to your slanted coverage of these items and demand a published retraction.

 

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YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

Another odd twist has emerged involving the evolving community planning context of Gateway Center, the 50 acre, big-box strip-mall at Woodland’s eastern edge.

Paul Petrovich, whose Woodland Development Company LLC owns Gateway, has filed an application to “clarify and allow additional flexibility in the nature and types of uses [ ] for the small tenant spaces (under 4000 square feet),” according to the relevant city staff report. “This request is to allow additional professional service uses, as support to the overall center, and to clarify what uses are allowed in the smaller tenant spaces.”

Petrovich is requesting that the center’s conditional use permit “be modified to allow uses that are consistent with the City’s C-1 Neighborhood Commercial Zone[,]” continues this community planning staff report.

City planning staff contends that existing environmental approval for Gateway Center and the need to complete and reinforce project build-out support Petrovich’s application.

This matter is set for public hearing on April 17 before Woodland Planning Commission.

Dozens Of Businesses Involved

City planning staff indicates that Gateway Center is already — generally permitted — to allow retail shop spaces under 4000 square feet, for the 77,200 square feet of space requested for zoning clarification by Petrovich.

“The requested changes do not increase the size of the center or significantly change the retail uses,” argues this staff report. “The changes do not increase the intensity or overall use of the center and do not raise any environmental issues that were not addressed in the earlier environmental review, or cause new or substantially more severe significant environmental impacts.”

The pertinent planning issue is: Currently determining what specific zoning categories are interpreted as being properly implicated by the vague and broad, eight-year old, conditional use permit of Gateway Center.

In practical terms, this amount of total space (located at southeastern part of Gateway, near the Pet Extreme store) would provide room for about 25 businesses which would perhaps otherwise locate within Woodland’s downtown area or at County Fair Mall.

The city staff report admits that, by its (perhaps now outdated) 2006, pre-recession, environmental analysis and evaluation, Gateway Center’s “most direct competition would be with the County Fair Mall,” while still arguing that its impact “would not be significant because [various market areas] still presented the County Fair Mall with a sizable market.”

“Further, the [2006, pre-recession, environmental] analysis concluded that with or without the Gateway Center, the County Fair Mall would need re-working to compete regionally. ‘That there is still investor interest in the mall, even with the Gateway center and therefore the project would have less than significant impact on existing businesses due to urban decay,’” recites the current staff report (emphasis in original).

“Staff’s assessment,” continues this report, is that “impact to the vacancy rate [caused by city approval Petrovich’s application for zoning clarification and flexibility] would be relatively small and would not affect the overall health of [County Fair Mall or Woodland’s downtown area].”

County Fair Mall: Impacted, Protests

County Fair Mall ownership describes its vacancy rate as about 40%, and that its “foot traffic is extremely small,” continuing, “ Wal Mart [at the Mall] owns their own building and related land, [and] insisted on closing off the entrance into the Mall, so this major retailer does not generate much shopper traffic after their customers buy groceries.”

By stark contrast, this city planning report states that: “[I]t should be noted that the Mall appears to be undergoing transition and has experienced the recent positive addition of the WalMart grocery store.”

Its 40% vacancy rate “is not feasible to continue,” asserts mall ownership, seemingly contradicting the city’s 2006 environmental review, upon which the present city staff position is based.  This review found that Gateway Center “would have less than significant impact on existing businesses due to urban decay.” (Please see excerpts quoted just above.)

According to city staff, the legal (case law based) “standard of significance” for urban decay includes property deterioration “directly or indirectly” caused by retail “vacancies.”

For reasons which are curious / unclear, Radio Shack and Payless Shoes, presently located at County Fair Mall and both around 3000 square feet in size are described by city planning staff as “already allowed uses in the Center,” — regardless of the requested planning contours of Petrovich’s suddenly desired clarification of allowable, small tenant uses.

These businesses remain relevant as “awaiting approval of the City to move to Gateway,” according to Raymond Arjmand, managing owner of the Mall, despite whatever specific planning distinctions are applied by city staff, regarding any parsing of specific zoning categories involved with Petrovich’s application.

“We are protesting the expansion of the Gateway Project,” plainly declares Arjmand in his April 4 letter to the city.

Interestingly, public notice of this matter was not published until April 6, by The Daily Democrat, which has come under suspicion for leaking such information.

Two Letters From County Fair Mall Ownership

Arjmand actually wrote two separate letters to the city on April 4, one protesting Petrovich’s request and another letter objecting to any “potential future construction of the Gateway II project planned to be developed by Paul Petrovich.”

Gateway II, a proposed, adjacent doubling of Gateway Center, was struck down and voided by a state appellate court ruling on February 28, because of multiple violation of environmental quality law, as a result of legal action brought by California Clean Energy Committee.

Apparently, Arjmand greatly fears that Petrovich will soon attempt to resurrect Gateway II, despite its enormous and expensive failure, as this project was discerned as unlawful following several years of litigation.

Arjmand complains to the city that Target (90,000 sq. ft.), Mattress Outlet (3000 sq. ft.) and General Nutrition Center (2000 sq. ft.) have already left County Fair Mall for the existing Gateway project, and that the Mall’s movie theaters (owned by Cinemark, a huge corporation) “is awaiting approval from the City to move to Gateway.”

Gateway Center’s Development Agreement permits insertion of movie theaters, after their location downtown, potentially creating commercial confusion / inhibition / competition against a downtown theater location.

“The effect of your efforts is to monopolize all new business at the Petrovich development site,” writes Arjmand to the city. “This is totally unfair business practice and clearly demonstrates favoritism to one developer [: Petrovich].

“We suggest that your efforts would be more beneficial to the community you serve by promoting redevelopment and helping business owners who have already been damaged by Gateway I.  You have a fiduciary responsibility to be serving all of the members of the City of Woodland,” admonishes Arjmand (emphasis in original.)

“We think that one of the most important jobs of the City Council is to seek to create net economic growth in this community,” writes Arjmand, pointing out that merely transferring businesses from one location to another will not achieve “new net sales to Woodland,” as described by city staff report.

Arjmand believes that: “This kind of business decision making must be stopped.”

“A successful [Gateway Center] requires synergy created by a diverse tenant mix through a variety of merchandisers and service providers,” announces city planning staff. “Providing a range and depth of tenant mix will support the center’s success and resiliency[.]  But at the same time, the center should not overly compete with other key neighborhood and community retail centers in town.’

What: “overly compete[,] success[,] resiliency” actually amount to and how such retail commercial purposes and zoning are best viewed, assigned and implemented, are clearly at the core of this city planning controversy.

YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

Paul Petrovich has recently applied for an adjustment of the Development Agreement for Gateway Center, an expansion of allowed uses to include Neighborhood Commercial, a zoning category which has previously been disallowed because of direct conflict with Woodland’s downtown area and County Fair Mall.

If approved by Woodland Planning Commission at a public hearing on April 17, retail spaces of less than 4000 square feet would become available at Gateway Center, limited to 20% of the total retail space of this project.

Knowledgeable sources indicate that the owner of County Fair Mall, Raymond Arjmand, is livid with objection and contacted Woodland City Hall even prior to public notice being issued about this proposed modification of the Gateway Center Development Agreement.  Speculation has arisen that the leak of this information to Arjmand has resulted from its submission to The Daily Democrat for publication as a legal notice.

Yolo Sun will soon publish a detailed report about this matter.

YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

City of Woodland and Paul Petrovich (real party in interest) have lost their lawsuit defending the Gateway 2 Development Project, a doubling of the size of the existing Gateway Center at the eastern edge of the City (California Clean Energy Committee v. City of Woodland, Case Number C072033).

The City of Woodland is now under an appellate court order to soon rescind its planning certification and void its approval of Paul Petrovich’s proposed Gateway 2 Project, for multiple violation of the California Environmental Quality Act.

California’s Third Appellate District has today issued this initial statement of the disposition of this case: Pivotal for the future of Woodland, Reversal of the Yolo County Superior Court, Brought by California Clean Energy Committee to enforce the California Environmental Quality Act (another Yolo Sun News Report on the full opinion will follow):

Disposition date (YYYY-MM-DD):          2014-02-28
Disposition description:                        Reversed & Remanded to trial court w/directions
Disposition status as of 2014-02-28:    Final

[Court] Notes:

The judgment is reversed, and the matter remanded to the trial court to grant California Clean Energy Committee’s petition for writ of mandate on grounds (1) the City of Woodland’s urban decay mitigation measures are insufficient under the California Environmental Quality Act, (2) the final environmental impact report violates the California Environmental Quality Act by not properly assessing the feasibility of the mixed-use alternative, and the City of Woodland’s rationale for rejecting the mixed-use alternative is not supported by substantial evidence in its environmental impact reports, and (3) the City of Woodland did not properly assess transportation, construction, and operational energy impacts in its environmental impact reports.

The trial court shall vacate the award of costs to the City of Woodland as the prevailing party and shall retain jurisdiction over this action by way of a return to the writ of mandate demonstrating the City of Woodland has rescinded its final environmental impact report certification and project approval, after which the City of Woodland shall exercise its independent judgment as to how to proceed.  (Pub. Resources Code, § 21168.9, subd. (b).)
California Clean Energy Committee shall recover its costs on appeal.  (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.278(a)(3) & (5).)

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YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

In the wake of recent theft and recovery of the Library’s historical (1905) brass handrail, Trustees of Woodland Public Library met on February 19 and considered, among other matters, various subjects related to security.

Bicycle theft became a topic, since library patrons are chronic victims of such criminal behavior.

One library staff member speculates that bike thieves sometimes operate in teams, using a truck to collect bikes locked-up with only regular cables, which can easily be cut with relatively concealable tools.

During consideration of potential remedies, library trustee Bud Goding came forward with an innovative solution.  He proposes welding suitable lengths of 3/4-inch thick chain to the library’s bicycle racks, so that each bike frame can be wrapped with such a chain and secured using only patrons’ hardened locks.

Goding also volunteers to do the welding.

“It would take someone more than a half-hour to hack-saw through a 3/4 inch chain,” indicates Goding, who adds that bolt cutters big enough to break such a chain / lock would be difficult to conceal.

The library has spaces for about 25 bicycles, in four racks at either side of its front entrance.

Although the specific time-frame is uncertain for Goding’s installation of such chains on library bike racks, this security measure should soon become available for library patrons, so they may confidently use bicycles to frequent the library.

YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

In a sign of the times, brazen thieves sawed-off and absconded with Woodland Public Library’s original (1905) brass handrail, during the night of January 21.  This theft was discovered by initial Library patrons arriving the next morning and reported to Library staff, who alerted police.

Woodland Public Library is the oldest operating Carnegie Library in California.

Gleaming brass in two layers about a quarter-inch thick is revealed at the base of this nine-foot long handrail’s three support columns, which these thieves set upon with some form of saw(s) to dislodge them from their anchoring fixtures along the library’s front steps.

Brass is a soft, relatively valuable metal (alloy), fairly susceptible to such attack.

This historic library handrail survived the Great Depression, but not the Great Recession.

___  Police Dispatched To Scene  ___

Within an hour of the opening of the library on January 22, Woodland Police Department dispatched an officer to review the crime scene and evaluate some response.

This police officer immediately contacted local recyclers and checked their brass scrap containers (to no avail), leaving with these recyclers police contact information associated with an alert regarding the handrail.

This police officer then reported receiving an email from the Woodland Public Library’s Director, Greta Galindo, “stating that the hand rail replacement will cost approximately $1,500 dollars[,]” concluding his report with the note that: “There are no known suspects and no investigative leads.”

Later discussions with library staff provided a gloomy picture, with the original handrail potentially being replaced with one which possesses no practical likelihood of theft.

“The next one [if valuable] would be stolen as well,” expressed one depressed staff member; adding, “I suppose it’s just the times we’re living in.”

Separating Woodland Public Library from its original brass handrail would seem an egregious, aesthetic denigration of this historic facility.

The police “crime and incident form” associated with theft of the handrail describes the code violation as: “Grand Theft.”

___  Handrail Suddenly Recovered  ___

About 10:30 PM on the night of February 1, a Woodland Police Department report indicates that contact was received from Yolo County Sheriff’s detectives, who, “told me [they] had recovered the brass railings recently stolen from the City of Woodland’s public library.”

“[These detectives] met with me at the station to turn over the railings,” indicates this police report.

According to this report: “[The detectives] could not give me details as to the suspect due to an ongoing investigation.  But the railing seemed to be intact, with the supports unscrewed for easier transportation.

“I took possession of the railing and placed them in the sallyport  and booked them into evidence at the station,” concludes this police report.

___  Handrail To Be Re-Installed  ___

An interview with library director, Greta Galindo, reveals that the original brass handrail will soon be repaired and re-installed, using some structural techniques (such as rebar reinforcement) which hopefully will resist further criminal mischief.

“We’ll slow’em down next time,” if someone attempts theft of this handrail, expresses Galindo.

Woodland Public Library’s Board of Trustees will also consider overall library security issues, focusing on the handrail, during its next regular meeting on February 19.

[ Editorial Note:  On February 18, 2014, the library's brass handrail was secured by city maintenance staff and  re-installed, with some security features.  Woodland Police Department evidence stickers remain attached to the handrail. ]

YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

A unique context within Woodland’s development docket concerns a key parcel of 38 acres, between County Fair Mall and Woodland Community and Senior Center (and Sports Park), near the City’s southern edge on South East Street.

As the mall was once, several decades ago, thought to be potentially expanding, this 38 acres has long been reserved and zoned by the city as commercial land (C-2).

Yolo Residential Investors LLC (YRI), of which Paul Prudler is the primary member, presently owns or represents this property for the cause of creating upon it a residential development project, the Prudler Subdivision.

In August of 2005, Woodland Planning Commission approved a development petition for this land based upon a housing project for “active seniors,” perhaps a neglected housing focus since the city does not specifically zone for senior-oriented residential land.  However, this project concept was cast aside during the Great Recession.

A long and winding negotiation process later unfolded (2010-11), wherein the city has potentially extracted from YRI about $1.5 million in compensatory, development impact fees related to YRI’s revised project being perceived as unfairly competitive with an immense, adjacent, already approved and underperforming residential development: Spring Lake (only about 25% built out).

Also, the city has provoked YRI to agree to help financially support the project-adjacent, municipal Sports Park through establishment of a relevant facilities district.

During 2013, YRI’s (Prudler Subdivision) revised project swiftly ramped up as the city began to process its new residential development application for this land.

What has been strangely overlooked in these matters, however, is the rather pertinent fact that this development project is being moved forward by the City of Woodland in direct and blatant violation of its voter-adopted (2006) Urban Limit Line Ordinance.

___  Originally: “Active Senior” Housing Project  ___

A 246 unit senior housing project involving this land was begun in 2005, its formally petitioned proposal being approved by Woodland’s Planning Commission by early August.  However, this project didn’t proceed to fruition.

During 2010-11, discussions and negotiations began between the city and YRI regarding a revised development application for this land, involving 180 (general) housing units, a reduction of 66 units, more than a quarter of the units within the original application.

Issues quickly arose about the fact that the YRI parcel and the city’s massive and sputtering, Spring Lake Specific Plan area (SLSP) were contiguous and shared some infrastructure.

YRI’s land avoided enclosure within the SLSP and its several expensive layers of impact-fee based special districts, according to knowledgeable sources, because of — ownership objections, legal obstacles (noted in its project file) and this parcel’s expressed potential for a distinctly needed identity, better economically serving: “[A]ctive seniors,” according to the city.

Close proximity to the city Senior Center, etc., seems an obvious value, and this land fronts along East Street, a major corridor beneficially directed toward the city’s downtown area.

Situated between the mall and the city’s vast new civic complex, YRI’s particular parcel possesses a unique identity and developable character, concerning which the city’s Urban Limit Line law is clearly applicable.

___  Development Impact Fee Differential  ___

YRI indicated (August 2011) through its attorney that it suggests $14,280 per unit is the actual “impact fee differential [with SLSP, and w]e have proposed to pay half of that difference (approximately $7,140 per unit) as a voluntary contribution to the City, for unrestricted use by the City to fund public improvements or services.  This voluntary contribution is intended to allay concerns that the Prudler Subdivision would have a significant economic advantage in development costs compared to SpringLake.”

YRI’s attorney (George Phillips, Phillips Land Law, Loomis) continues that: “Further, in response to an interest expressed by the City, we propose to contribute to the maintenance of the SportsPark facility through formation of a services [district] for the project.

“Finally, as we discussed, the City would not be looking to impose a special tax or shortfall fee on the Prudler project to compensate for the assumed reduction in revenues to the City associated with changing the zoning of the subject property from commercial to residential.”

___  Plea For City Confirmation Of Accord With Prudler Subdivision  ___

This August, 2011, letter by Phillips to Deven also states that: “Making the proposed revision to the project and supporting documents will require the expenditure of significant funds to complete.  Prior to initiating this effort we would like to confirm that the City is in accord with respect to the revised project, the proposed approach to impact fees, and funding for the SportsPark.”

Woodland City Manager, Mark Deven, soon responds by writing that: “[T]his project will be supported by staff and we believe that the conditions described in your letter will be favorably received by the Planning Commission and City Council as part of the review process.”

Deven does not mention the legal need to ensure implementation of the Urban Limit Line law, although such an imperative planning examination and “re-evaluation” might well: “[D]etermine the potential for increased residential densities,” perhaps well above (even double) the density indicated and intended by YRI’s revised project.

Logically and prudently, it would appear that implementation / application of this law should occur at an early stage of project planning.  However, such timeliness has oddly failed in this instance.

Indeed, a fundamental question of legal interpretation involved with implementation of the city’s Urban Limit Line law is: When is it to be applied to a project?

___  Planning Commission Petition  ___

Woodland’s Community Development Director at this time, Nick Ponticello, followed up on Deven’s direction regarding YRI’s revised project by detailing in a letter dated: November 4, 2011: “The previous petition submitted on August 5, 2005, [  ] was specifically designed as active senior housing development.  If the revised project is not in substantial compliance with the previously approved petition, then a new petition is required to be submitted and approved by the Planning Commission.”

However, there has apparently been no (supposedly “required”) re-submittal of the Planning Commission petition; at least none appears in the current project file.

According to the project file a “revised project” submittal was made on January 18, 2013; while, there is no evidence of any process related to re-submitting the Planning Commission petition.  Such a petition is sometimes undertaken in association with development projects in order to obtain a general, tentative and conditional nature of municipal approval prior to expending extensive resources toward a project.

Ironically, precisely such a predicament now confronts YRI, as a result of inexplicable neglect regarding implementation the Urban Limit Line law.

YRI’s project is now moving forward in the city’s planning process, absent re-petitioning of the Planning Commission, according to city staff, because such re-petitioning is not actually “required.” (as written by Ponticello).

On May 13, 2013, YRI’s attorney, Phillips, did make the effort to write a letter to city planners, requesting that its land be designated as Low Density Residential for purposes of zoning for the new (2015-35) General Plan.

YRI’s present (“revised”) plan is for 204 lots on 38 acres, resulting in a unit density of 5.85 units per acre, according to YRI’s development consultant.

___  Urban Limit Line Ordinance  ___

Not yet implemented (apparently, until the new 2015-35 General Plan), an Urban Limit Line Ordinance was adopted by Woodland voters in June of 2006.

It would seem plain that local voters did not intend a near decade-long delay in implementation of such basic planning law.

This ordinance establishes that: “[T]he City shall continually reevaluate residential land use densities, housing policies and zoning to determine the potential for increased residential densities for both infill sites and undeveloped land within the permanent urban limit line.  The City shall continually review existing non-residential zoning to determine potential for conversion to higher density residential uses within the permanent urban line.”

There has apparently yet been no municipal planning process, at all, related to implementing this ballot-based ordinance regarding YRI’s project, intended for location upon a unique and key peripheral parcel.

And of course, both prongs of this voter-installed planning ordinance have been fully relevant to YRI’s land, since it has for decades been zoned as commercial.

“[C]ontinually reevaluate” would seem to indicate that such would occur at least upon each successive project concept / application pertaining to a unique and key parcel such as YRI’s land.

This legally-binding municipal ordinance, however, has apparently never been implemented for purposes of: “[D]etermin[ing] the potential for increased residential densities,” regarding the land involved with YRI’s project.

___  Initial Reaction From Planning Staff  ___

Yet, the city is processing YRI’s project application, as if such essential and perhaps pivotal implementation had already occurred.

City planning staff (available for comment) state that the Urban Limit Line Ordinance would be applied to YRI’s project, at some later time, perhaps during the planning-commission level of consideration.

City planning staff indicate, as well, that: No form or substance of imperative, analytically oriented material currently exists, for the purpose of examining and approving YRI’s revised project, in terms of its compliance with the Urban Limit Line law.

YRI’s project file demonstrates this absence of relevant material, confirmed by city staff.  Clearly, no attention has yet been given, nor action taken, with respect to implementing the Urban Limit Line law regarding the Prudler Subdivision.

City planning staff explain that there is no moratorium on project applications during preparation of the new General Plan, and YRI’s project is being processed in a way that could easily result in its moving forward in advance of adoption of the new General Plan (early 2015).

___  What Legally Triggers Implementation?  ___

In YRI’s case, residential density was significantly reduced in the eventual, revised project, from 246 to 204 lots / housing units.

Seemingly, this aspect of project revision should at least have raised, triggered the basic question of how and when the Urban Limit Line law would be applied to YRI’s project.

As noted above, YRI and the city reached a tentative deal on the Prudler Subdivision in August, 2011, proposing 180 housing units, more than a 25% reduction in density; while the Urban Limit Line law requires a planning “reevaluation” toward higher densities.

Diversity of housing is a basic purpose of the Urban Limit Line Ordinance.

But — until Yolo Sun made recent inquiry into this subject, no mention of this law even appears, within public planning discourse upon this project or within this project’s planning file or legal profile.

Yet starkly, as stated above, the August, 2011, letter by Phillips (attorney for YRI) to Deven pleads that: “Making the proposed revision to the project and supporting documents will require the expenditure of significant funds to complete.  Prior to initiating this effort we would like to confirm that the City is in accord with respect to the revised project[.]”  (Emphasis added.)

Consideration of residential densities, etc., — as a formal matter under the Urban Limit Line law — is fundamentally required – as well as being clearly and logically prior to revising and re-designing a particularly relevant development (subdivision) project and having the city circulate it per planning processes.

Potential for jeopardy / injury to project applicants from tardy implementation of the Urban Limit Line law, is obviously a very strong argument for ensuring that development projects receive a timely and reliable examination, “reevaluation [and] determin[ation].”

While the city may argue that (technically) nothing unlawful has occurred in its development process for the Prudler Subdivision, and that proper Urban Limit Line law implementation is somehow yet to occur – the only responsible legal interpretation of this circumstance is: Implementation is unlawfully tardy.

Developmental “expenditures,” mentioned by Phillips, were obviously premature until relevant implementation of the Urban Limit Line Ordinance, but have seemingly occurred as a result of an informal and improper determination within Woodland City Hall / City Council, to apparently and unlawfully wave such implementation — until someone discovers and insists.

YOLO SUN OPINION :

Woodland’s political itinerary for 2014 was finally set at the last City Council meeting of 2013 on the cusp of the holiday season, upon a troubling local fabric and fashion which may be reasonably branded as: Hypocrisy.

Transparent hypocrisy and self-serving political mayhem, reaching into the very marrow of local political culture and revealed through its sordid processes of grappling with state mandated democratic reform, is the warped gift wrapped up for civic consumption.

___  June And November Ballot Actions = Council Hypocrisy  ___

Woodland City Council has recently approved the June 3, 2014, Primary Election ballot for its own next term, as well as for potential voter extension of the existing quarter-cent, municipal sales tax measure (Measure V of 2010).

Although, the city council has also suddenly shifted to the November 2014 General Election, its previously scheduled June Primary vote on municipal adoption of election reform mandated under the state Voting Rights Act (CVRA).

What’s the rationale for shifting of the CVRA election?  If it doesn’t pass, the city will certainly be sued and a general election (about twice the voter turnout of a primary election) will (supposedly) help ensure local voters’ adoption of this controversial, political reform measure.

So, why doesn’t the same logic apply to an — eight-year extension — of Measure V, a relatively controversial, proposed continuation of the existing local sales tax?

Of course similar logic applies, Measure V is much more likely to be so renewed at the 2014 General Election.

However, the city council wants to keep its own election at the June 2014 Primary and state law requires that general tax measures (such as Measure V) be associated on the municipal ballot with city council candidacy, itself.

Thus: In order to decide Measure V at the November 2014 General Election, the city council would have to shift its own election to that date.

This is something which the city council is not willing to do, because such an election shift raises the ultimate risk of a more democratic outcome than it can survive, since low-turnout, primary elections are its cynical and shallow pool of civic control.

After shifting the CVRA election to November, to suit its political and legal purposes, it will still hold Measure V to a June 2014 ballot, in order to preserve its well-tended, historical ability to control its own (council) election upon this Primary.

Indeed, Woodland’s current, conservative political leadership (five, rich, white, male Republicans, in a town with a 49% to 42% Latino population edge) and its increasingly questionable, conservative reputation are meaningfully based upon such low-turnout, at-large, primary elections.

And that’s the way the city’s conservative elements intend to maintain local political affairs, even jeopardizing voter passage of Measure V in order to maintain the city council’s present political strangle-hold against such basic democratic reform of its own elections.

Woodland City Council has been lobbied in the past (2011, by Bobby Harris, operator of this blog) to reform its election practices by adopting a general election format.  These efforts were rebuffed, with one Council member actually contending that it would be too hot in the summertime to campaign, leading up to November municipal elections.

Art Pimentel, former two-term mayor of Woodland, has disclosed to Yolo Sun that he has recently and unsuccessfully lobbied City Council members for Measure V to be set at the November 2014 ballot, as well as the next City Council election to be set at the same date.

Pimentel should be warmly congratulated about that (unfortunately failed) effort.

Part Two of this Yolo Sun series will, however, display a different aspect of Pimentel and other Latino advocacy (including the recently announced candidate for county school superintendent, Jesse Ortiz), which leaves a whole lot to be desired, as revealed by their abject failure to obtain, or even properly contend for, vital, democratically-oriented civic progress.

___  Conservatives Like To Complain About Electoral Justice  ___

Conservative backers of the city council like to contend that everyone should vote in primary elections (where such are historically favored) or suffer the dire civic consequences.

Of course, this politically disastrous, conservative-based argument has made absolutely no progress over previous decades, entirely failing to establish any trend of increasingly commensurate voter turnouts between the two election seasons / events, June / March and November.

For recent example, within city elections in 2008, 2010 and 2012, voter turnouts in primary elections were roughly half that of voter turnouts in related general elections.

Why should Woodland City voters be made to participate in such primary elections, so obviously (relatively) unpopular and unsuccessful?

Because: This unpopular and unsuccessful, municipal electoral system serves local conservative interests.

Persons might indeed wonder at this inconsistency within conservative values, where basic success and popularity of consumer-type experiences are usually intense interests of hyperbolic proportion.

But, say the city council and local conservative elite: Not in the case of city voter-consumers.

City voter-consumers’ clearly expressed (by poll preference) wishes for participation in general elections must be denied, according the city council and its associated conservative allies, being relentlessly tethered to the primary-election pole, at which is unfairly gained these conservatives’ political advantage.

___  No Legitimate Excuse For City Council Primaries  ___

Primary elections, of course, must exist on the county and state level, wherein there is potential for a run-off election.

Woodland, of course, has no run-off elections and not even a single legitimate reason for holding its City Council elections upon primaries, except that historically lower voter turnout of primaries clearly advantages local conservatives.

Relevant conservatives, comprising the entirety of the current Woodland City Council, attempt to defend their much beloved primary-based elections, by arguing that voters are somehow more interested and better able to focus on City affairs with a smaller overall ballot; while, general election ballots are often longer, argue these conservatives, being supposedly far too much material for city voters to process — along with wringing out a near unblemished succession of conservative, city council royalty.

This conservative brand of blather has certainly outlived its comedic overtones, its only redeeming aspect.  Otherwise, it is clearly destructive of democratic values and key, practical results.

Conservatives plainly lose this odd and arcane argument, entirely based on many decades of enormously broad, voter indifference toward primaries, voters instead preferring lengthy general election ballots, from which local conservatives desire to protect them.

Where is derived any political integrity from using such obviously flawed, unbalanced and inequitable municipal primaries?

Essentially, Woodland City Council has abdicated its political responsibility to recognize and foster democratic reform, profoundly influencing basic economic and cultural reforms, so self-serving has been its political path.

Must Woodland progressives now launch a voter-initiative, ballot measure requiring the City Council be chosen at November general elections, beginning in 2016?

This is where we now are:  Pervasive and patterned hypocrisy, performed by chronically clutching conservatives, politically controls Woodland.

___  Layers Of City Council Hypocrisy Thus Unfold  ___

Hypocrisy of a crude and cynical, politically self-serving nature plainly exists within these election-related actions of Woodland City Council.

Hypocrisy is fundamentally revealed by these closely intertwined and ironic political circumstances, with the city council both directly recognizing the hugely increased electoral value and validity associated with general elections — while obstinately refusing to hold its own elections or legally connected tax proposals in such a more basically democratic manner.

Shifting city council elections to November would also, in the current instance, open the way for potential CVRA reform (district-based elections) in 2014, if its initial ballot measure was adopted at the June Primary — the original city council proposal (implied, now abandoned; more about this subject in Part Two of this Yolo Sun series).

Such election timing for local CVRA reform must suddenly be manipulated to help ensure basic CVRA adoption — while simultaneously violating the CVRA by disallowing its implementation until 2016 — is the city council’s ethically inconsistent position.

Plus, delaying the ballot measure for CVRA reform will serve to separate this controversial election struggle away from the always intended, 2014, at-large, primary election for city council, insulating that contest from this reform struggle (while overtly violating the CVRA).

This would seem to be altogether tidier for the current city council and its supportive, conservative elements in the community.

While state law requires local general tax measures to be coincidentally on ballots with relevant local elected officials, there is no state law that mandates basic local election practices to be so oriented.  There exists in this contrast yet another layer of inequitable conditions being advantaged by the city council and its allies, separating council elections from such direct controversy.

Hypocrisy of these various dimensions is practically a call to political arms, in order to best challenge at the upcoming polls such crass political subterfuge and patent subversion of the guiding principles and quality of our American political life.

That is the level at which exists this current political challenge.

Good political soil cannot be created through the unethical way of these city council actions, which manipulate and alienate our broad citizenry, some of whom are indeed (genuine) conservatives — not in harness to such local electoral corruption.

___  Inconsistent City Council / Conservative Views  ___

Expiration of Measure V in July of 2014 would mean that the city would miss out on collection of about $800,000 in annual sales tax revenue — until its potential renewal in November.

A quarter-cent increment of sales tax collects about $2 million annually.

Actually, this loss would be temporary, since the term of the tax would be five months longer if renewed in November.

$800,000 — temporarily unavailable in this particular circumstance: That’s the one-time, practical cost of forever doubling voter participation for city council elections (democratic reform of unrivaled importance), as well as best ensuring adoption of greatly needed, eight added years of Measure V, itself.

What an enormous value!

Of course, conservatives (such as the city council) take stern offense to such profligate indulgence; as they here — with ideological inconsistency — somehow contend that more taxes are always better (perhaps especially, when useful for conservative political advantage).

Maybe, local citizens would enjoy a temporary reprieve from this sales tax.  But, here the city council and associated conservatives inconsistently demand that this tax be seamlessly extended, in connection with serving their political addiction to low-turnout, primary elections.

Odd hypocrisy again surfaces, within these strained, conservative arguments, predicating unethical city council election policy.

___  Details of The New Measure V  ___

Let’s examine the details of the newly proposed Measure V, to best understand what is actually at stake in delaying for a few months its renewal.

Of future (eight-year) Measure V revenue (according to its associated ballot advisory-measures): 60% would expand and enhance youth and teen programs and facilities, 20% would enhance youth literacy programs and expand hours of operation at the city library, 15% would expand some specific public safety programs (Neighborhood Watch, gang intervention), 5% would support a city utilities ratepayer assistance program for low-income residents.

All of these causes are civically laudable; but, they are also fairly easily delayed for a few months, while this city gets its basic political act in order.

Urgency — such as the original Measure V’s 40% for police and fire protection and 30% to keep the library open, at all — clearly does not exist within the scope of civic agenda noted above, for its upcoming, eight-year proposed term of renewal.

Pretending that relative timing and nature of the new Measure V is urgent enough to actually: Drive key city policy regarding its future, basic electoral processes, is so vastly ridiculous as to be politically criminal (supposing existence of such a penal category).

___  Part Two  ___

Part Two of this Yolo Sun series will closely examine curious advocacy of several, local Latino leaders related to CVRA reform, as well as analyzing and evaluating important political implications of the district-based electoral map recently chosen by the city council to appear on the General Election ballot for November of 2014.

YOLO SUN OPINION :

Woodland City Council has suddenly dug itself into a political hole deep enough to swallow a hundred year flood.

In 1996, the city’s previous General Plan went onto the election ballot, so local voters could decide the basic future of community development, an essential question being Spring Lake’s impending conversion of more than a thousand acres of prime farmland.  Voters approved this conversion, although the pertinent issues were somewhat clouded by slanted contexts within that 17 year-old election debate.

Following resignation of former city manager, Mark Deven, interim city manager, Kevin O’Roarke, realized that this city was very tardy regarding state guidelines for revising its General Plan.  At this time, the city also had not published a municipal budget for two years.

O’Roarke insisted both that the city have a formal budget and update its General Plan.

More than a decade after it should have done so, thererfore, the city is finally now updating its General Plan — which clearly seems headed for a huge political train-wreck, a real (historical) smash-up that may well delay and perhaps pivotally intervene upon its adoption.

___  General Plan Headed For Election Ballot?  ___

Yolo Sun has recently received information confirming initiation of grass-roots activities intent on intervening upon the present course of city council actions related to the new General Plan, by means of a voter-initiative based election ballot measure.

Why?  Because the City Council’s recently unveiled General Plan policies are not only bad for Woodland — these adverse policies are also fundamentally bogus.

Apparently, this community has on its hands a madcap, crackpot City Council, which lacks voter-expected, critical thinking skills; but yet, possesses the crude pomposity to believe it can deal with a blustering flurry of land development speculation arising coincident with creation of the new General Plan.

Conaway Ranch Manager, Bob Thomas, exclaiming how delighted this outfit is to be: “Joined at the hip” with Woodland, proceeds to successfully browbeat the (willing) City Council in a way that is transparently fraudulent, regarding the city’s flood control plans.

And the city council thirsts for more.

For one example, Thomas claims to city council that a local flood solution must involve Conaway Ranch, since it lies between the city and the Yolo Bypass.

Actually, there are three possible options to displace potential Cache Creek floodwater, of which exit into the Yolo Bypass is only one.  The other two potential solutions are: (a) water moved northerly into the Colusa Basin and (b) water ponded northeasterly from the city.

Thus, Thomas overstates, misrepresents his case before the city council in a manner designed to pressure it to adopt policies favorable to Conaway Ranch.  More details along these lines are analyzed below.

Densification is disregarded and sprawl sanctioned — at a very early point in this General Plan project.

Beyond this, the city council took these pivotal actions — outside of any form of public comment or objection — at its meeting of October 15.  After public comment was closed, the majority of councilmembers made their move.

Their plan clearly was to exclude the public from this radical maneuver.

Councilmember Marble states on the dais, though, that we: “Should put all the developers in a room for two hours and they’ll come back with the solution.”

Even as a sort of stupid joke, this is a very troubling attitude relevant to other adverse views of Marble.

___  Marble Misinterprets Growth Cap  ___

Marble views a simple and arbitrarily coined (1996 era), housing growth cap (annual 1.7%) in the prior General Plan as being: “Worthy of continuance,” in the totally different form of becoming some kind of realistically predictive, reliable forecast of population and economic growth — which must thus be immediately handled within the new General Plan — a patently absurd course for city policy.

This 1.7% annual growth cap is only approved by local voters to apply in the context of the 1996 General Plan — not that of the new General Plan.

In its reckless pursuit of “free-market” ideals, the city council has lost track of this simple, electoral reality, like Councilmember Sean Denny being quite happy to resolve key city issues upon such an obviously delusional basis.

With Marble working the sails and Denny plus Councilmember Jim Hilliard greasing the rudder, Mayor Skip Davies has incompetently steered our local ship of state straight onto the rocky shoals of radical mis-governance.

Davies states of the city’s new General Plan: “I think you can meet everybody’s needs and the city’s needs economically as well.”

Denny chimes in, expressing that: “I don’t really like to go against something that the public’s already voted on.  So, I like the 1.7% on the growth rate.  I think that takes care of a lot of the problems and lets a lot of people do things.  It does keep everybody happy.”

It can now be starkly seen, that “everybody” is not “happy;” in fact, a deep and influential political revolt is swiftly brewing.

Denny, like Marble and the rest of the council majority, believes that city policy must be essentially “market-driven,” with various developers being the major influences of community composition and evolution, rather than having city policy determinations guide development into civically valuable directions and outcomes.

___  Lone Voice Of Reason  ___

Councilmember Tom Stallard is the lone voice of reason.

“I think we need to be careful how many areas we develop in our city, simultaneously,” cautions Stallard, who describes instant city council action as: “Huge and rapid expansion,” about which he didn’t even expect council discussion until 2014, associated with the schedule of anticipated General Plan project process.

“I don’t think tonight is the night to make these decisions,” warns Stallard, insisting that more data and information is needed before taking such plainly radical steps.  “Compromise scenarios” are possible, he predicts.

“How do we build commitment to infill as part of our General Plan?  This is an important point to me,” pleads Stallard, trying to keep his focus within a growing mood of frustration and gloom about these sudden, radical and unfounded city council actions.

Indeed, the city’s General Plan consultant estimates that there are about 1500 developable units within the established city area.

Additionally, knowledgeable city staff estimate that several hundred acres of developable land exist along the city’s immediate edges (especially the northerly edge), outside of the relevant floodplain, in areas where developmental and construction design factors are capable of containing flood threats.

“We need to act in terms of current, realistic expectations [such as the 1.1% annual local growth rate predicted by Sacramento Area Council Of Governments (SACOG)],” adds Stallard, who more colorfully admonishes the council that: “It’s not about SACOG trying to shaft the City of Woodland, or any such nonsense.  [  ]  SACOG are not our enemies, they’re our friends.”

“I really hoped Woodland would be more sympathetic to the objective of rationalized growth,” Stallard expresses in complete frustration with council action.

Denny, on the other hand, “look[s] at things a little different [from Stallard, specifically].”

Denny wants to create the: “Biggest economic drivers for all parts of the city,” signaling his broad inclination to attempt orchestration of more than is reasonable or prudent, in terms of unfocused, non-infill development.

As Stallard has indicated, developmental pressures for city infill are weakened by more peripheral projects, and as the General Plan project manager has stated: “[N]ot all growth yields positive benefits for the community – type, quality and timing of growth matters.”

Denny says he doesn’t want to “stifle” local economic / developmental progress.

Denny expresses his confidence that city staff will be able to manage

Denny seems to operate as a sort of Skip-light in these council actions.

___  A Floody Farce  ___

Thus, Woodland City Council is using a bogus growth plan (population from 56.000 to 85,000 in twenty years, with a 50% in housing units) to purpose and motivate commercial and residential development into the floodplain, such as upon a 900 acre parcel of city property just east of the water treatment plant.

This 900 acre parcel was singled out by the city council for immediate staff attention, at the behest of East Woodland LLC and Conaway Ranch.

Hilliard makes a big point of saying that as city property, this 900 acres can be easily and immediately zoned to meet developmental demands.

All four radical councilmembers went on at various length, in response to both blunt and sharp prodding by Conaway Ranch (Bob Thomas) and East Woodland LLC (Tim Taron), about a supposed, imperative need to provide “inventives,” etc., for relevant developmental interests — in order to somehow lubricate the enormous and tiresome wheels of state and federal government toward providing Woodland with its flood solution.

This basic and bogus argument of the council is that: Having the city demonstrate within its new General Plan a firm / robust intention to zone and develop into the floodplain will (with such developmental alliances) somehow help to influence and persuade state and federal governments to provide the hundreds of millions of dollars needed for a local (Cache Creek) flood solution.

This policy perspective is pure hogwash, zestfully ingested by an ideologically (“free-market”) oriented / driven city council.

Since the 1970s, according to city staff, the federal government has had specific policy in place to prevent the use of public funds to service commercial / residential expansion into floodplains, even (or especially) in conjunction with local governmental intentions.

There is no successful traction available using this ploy of the city council and relevant developers.

State and federal governments actually frown on such designs and predications for flood protection.

Demonstrating within the new General Plan any municipal desire to zone and develop into a floodplain intended to be protected by such a state-federal flood solution — amounts to: “Less than zero,” within competitive applications, according to city staff.

In other words, the city council is badly blundering by stiffly following with its key General Plan policies, the sprawl-laden lead laid down by developmental interests such as Conaway Ranch and East Woodland LLC.

This city council notion of adopting an “aggressive[,] unlikely” (city General Plan consultant) growth projection and zoning development into the floodplain, in order to help induce a grant of state and federal aid — is a floody farce.

Will it take a ballot measure concerning the new General Plan to induce city council comprehension of its approaching community planning debacle?

___  Densification, Not More Sprawl  ___

Along with expressing his great dismay toward these city council actions, Planning Commissioner, Chris Holt, recently has some pertinent things to say about city densification (infill).

Holt describes his research into these matters, by saying that Woodland and Elk Grove have remarkably similar municipal densities: ~3,600 residents to a square mile.  Contrast this with Davis, which (excluding campus housing) has more than 6,600 residents per square mile.

“I do think that our land use alternatives should look at a density option,” explains Holt, who goes on to say that the present city council (single option) course cannot possibly: “Allow for the appropriate analysis of what it means for Woodland to densify.”

Holt indicates his belief that primary goals of Woodland’s new General Plan would be well advanced by focusing attention on prospects for such city densification (infill), rather than through yet another spiral of sprawl, which clearly is the demonstrated desire and intent of the majority City Council.

___  Part Four  ___

Part Four of this Yolo Sun investigative series will continue to follow city actions regarding the new General Plan, as well as examining related factors of how and when the city will eventually receive its flood solution and how such a solution affects decision making related to the new General Plan.

The city will hopefully file its formal flood protection request / application with state and federal government in July of 2015, to be duly considered within planning agendas during 2017 and thereafter.

City staff now hope to have a flood solution moving forward by 2025 or 2030, based on the starkly important fact that Interstate 5 would be under eight to thirteen feet of water for two miles, just east of Costco, with a 200-year flood event.

Such a flood event could — close Interstate 5 — for months — not a consequence compatible with sound state and regional planning.

Woodland’s flooding problem thus exists (quite conveniently) alongside key regional and state imperatives.  In this overall planning context, it is likely that Woodland will finally receive its flooding solution toward the end of the new General Plan horizon of 2035.

YOLO SUN OPINION :

City staff usually insist that Woodland has the best advice available, like Bay Area Economics (BAE), which has done a splendid job of contending with sudden intervention by developmental consultants retained by East Woodland LLC (according to city staff, a commercial developmental group associated with Conaway Ranch), involved in an effort to provoke community development toward its own commercial interest.

Problem is: the majority Woodland City Council swoons before the swill served up by East Woodland LLC’s hired henchmen.

Various and quite interesting contentions by these consultants, and how these assertions and assumptions interact, appear in analysis below and within Part Three of this Yolo Sun investigative series.

Underneath this community planning landscape, though, is an arising prospect that the sitting city council (in concert with lobbying by these real estate developers) will attempt truncating consideration of the new General Plan by accelerating its adoption in alignment with a potential shift in municipal election practice, which may well serve (especially in light, ironically, of this very council action on the new General Plan) to expand civic / political participation and accountability toward confronting injurious (so-called) “free-market” alliances on the council.

District-based city council elections occurring at general-election timing in November would likely result in twice the usual voter turnout (~35% to ~70%) – good news for our democracy, but bad news for conservative-type fans of the (so-called) “free-market,” so very fond of rhetorically brandishing this inherently vague term to justify knee-jerk capitulations of civic interest toward private commercial influences.

BAE does a masterful job of exposing and explaining in a very solid and professional manner, East Woodland LLC’s skewed stew of statistics; so, why is Woodland City Council swept away under this stew’s scant sway?

That is the key question deserving an adequate, satisfying answer, which only Woodland City Council members can provide in absolute detail.  As will be seen, this will be an interesting adventure in civic accountability.

This column is devoted to illuminating the public record, so as to assist Woodlanders’ comprehension of the extent to which they are now at risk by a madcap and reckless City Council, which seems much more interested about ideological display and servicing various developmental interests, than with basic, constructive governance.

___  Davies’ Ideological Posture  ___

Woodland Mayor Davies, of course, is leading the glorious charge in this quest to elevate ideological, economic phantasms above civic interest.

In his close company is a four member council majority; only councilmember Tom Stallard is taking a contrary position.

Davies has a habit of breaking into oral presentations of those with contrary opinions (his own colleague, Stallard, as well as city consultants), to espouse his brand of (so called) “free-market” views.

Such views of Davies and other Council members have been tantalized and teased-out using developmental consultants hired by East Woodland LLC, which desires to duly and timely exploit the fact that there are currently five, white, male Republicans sitting upon the Woodland City Council dais.

___  Davies and Tschudin  ___

Davies interrupted the General Plan project manager, Heidi Tschudin, during her basic presentation, in order to exploit an opportunity to inject his determination that the 1996 General Plan’s annual growth cap (1.7%) be adopted as a genuine, developmental mechanism of the new General Plan.

“Our city policy [  ],” says Davies, “That [staff projected 5,500 new housing units by 2035] doesn’t respond to our existing city policy, correct?”

‘It does not,” states Tschudin.

“What would our existing city policy tell us that our demand would be?” asks Davies.

“I don’t think this existing [1996] city policy speaks to demand,” answers Tschudin, “It simply sets a maximum number of new, single-family units.

“The [whole] idea [here] is: In this General Plan, you’re redefining your assumptions.”

There was a long pause — as Davies tried to get another grip on this pivotal exchange, since he is obviously intent on using this old housing policy / growth cap as a crude gadget (detailed in context, below) to pursue attention toward “free-market” adoring, developmental interests.

Davies later in this meeting announces that: “The input that I’ve had is [that] the interests are similar [to that of councilmember Bill Marble, who appears strongly within the “free-market” camp] — across the board.”

“Existing city policy identifies [ ] 10.559 units,” claims Davies, who refers to a memo by a consultant retained by East Woodland LLC, in his exchange with Tschudin.

“You’re anticipating us doing half of that?” questions Davies.

Davies is clearly wrong, of course, in proposing that this 1996 growth cap actually — “identifies” — anything at all, other than simply a 17 year-old city policy capping growth, conjoined to the prior (voter-approved) General Plan that needed updating more than a decade ago.

This 1.7% figure has nothing at all to do with actually predicting current, authentic, developmental demand, as was — almost — stated by staff within this October 15 city council meeting.

But, such a solid reference to verity and logic seems far too much of a burden / miracle to pull off for Woodland City Council.

Thus, city planning is flung into a sudden quest to connect the majority city council’s “free-market” outlook, however false its foundation, to reality.

___  The Facts  ___

BAE, the City’s General Plan consultant, indicates that: “It should be noted that in looking at historic growth rates for the City of Woodland, this rate would substantially exceed the growth rate experienced between 1990 and 2000 (1.4%), the growth rate experienced between 2000 and 2010 (1.5%), the growth rate experienced between 2001 and 2013 (1.0%) and the longer term growth rate between 1991 and 2013 (1.3%).”

Woodland has never experienced a 1.7% annual rate of growth in the modern era.

BAE informs the city council that: “It should be concluded that [East Woodland LLC’s consultant’s] most aggressive scenarios [including the 1.7% figure] are not likely.”

However, Davies wants to somehow interpret the city’s existing (1996 era) 1.7% annual growth cap as being a precious, predictive goal toward which the new General Plan project must now be essentially engineered.

Antiquated and irrelevant, is the best way to describe this 1.7% number, which was arbitrarily established during the 1996 municipal referendum on the General Plan of that time.  Almost two decades later, as Tschudin accurately advises: “The idea is: In this General Plan, you’re redefining your assumptions,” based upon the contemporary context.

East Woodland LLC and the majority Woodland City Council, though, desire to – without good cause or proper process — enshrine this arbitrary and obsolete 1.7% annual growth cap as becoming a pivotal, reliably predicative element operating within the new General Plan.

___  Challenge Of Electoral Changes  ___

This slanted, obtusely “free-market” oriented city council composition is soon to be jeopardized, to the great dismay of local “free-market” enthusiasts.

The California Voting Rights Act mandates reform of the local electoral system, by using district-based municipal elections instead of at-large contests.

Because of its tardy address to this situation, Woodland may also have to shift city council elections to November (measure related to reform will be on the ballot for June, 2014, and legal sense dissuades from holding another at-large city council election at the same time).

The (impending) first general-election, district-based ballot in Woodland’s history may well prove to influence City planning in progressive ways.

So, the sitting Woodland City Council can fully control the new General Plan if it could be adopted in November of 2014, while Council terms would be extended to the same time for California Voting Rights Act reform.

Stallard has expressed concrete planning concerns about city council action regarding the new General Plan and also an intuitive / experienced sense about when to come in out of the brewing, local political storm, which is now swiftly gathering in response to this city council adoption of a “free-market” inspired, “aggressive” growth policy that proposes a stunning 50% increase in city housing units in 20 years, projecting a city population of ~85,000 by 2035.

Woodland is now home to about 56,000 persons.

As stated, the city council’s now adopted 1.7% annual General Plan growth projection is over twice the state average of 0.8%, far above other reliable estimates (~1.1%), as well as never occurring in modern city history.

___  Stallard Apologetic In Dissent ___

Stallard, though, (even in dissent) cannily expresses a need to craftily apologize for having the temerity of calling into question the expansive and destructive ambit of — “free-market” — influence rhetorically wielded by Davies, who portrays Woodland as currently being in dire competition with surrounding communities (“Yuba City, Natomas, Elk Grove, West Sac.,” etc.), in terms of housing and economic development, “and everything else.”

Such a peculiar and pernicious City Council dynamic is becoming a source of dire concern that municipal policy is often (and in basic ways) driven by destructive ideological fascination with vague and intangible, “free-market” rhetoric — unhappily confounding city council action upon the real and present interests of Woodlanders.

Responding to the continuing lawsuit against Gateway 2 (doubling of the size of the existing GatewayCenter), for example, the city has oddly stated on the record that it:  “Has no authority to distribute or control the distribution of commercial potential” in Woodland.

Of course, such curious policy / practices are an absurd abdication of common city zoning authority, obviously undermining our civic interests.

Such absurd yet politically serviceable views, regarding “free-market” developmental perspectives, seem to surface and operate when needed (by those interests) within much of city council decision making.

Repeated requests by Yolo Sun — for an official explanation of this bizarre city planning perspective, expressed within a supposedly accountable legal record — have for years been ignored by the city.

___  City Planning Basics  ___

“Assumptions regarding the pace and phasing of growth for purposes of general planning and CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act] analysis can dramatically affect analytical outcomes in both good and bad ways, and should be carefully considered,” explains Heidi Tschudin, General Plan Project Manager.

For example, “overestimating demand can lead to unintended consequences oversized infrastructure and [  ] less money actually collected when it is needed thus potentially precluding the ability to construct the infrastructure in a timely fashion[;] not all growth yields positive benefits for the community; type, quality and timing of growth matter.

“The approach proposed by staff is to use the best available reliable information to develop reasonable growth projections for purposes of planning and environmental review, and to build in policies and triggers that address sequencing and phasing of growth,” describes Tschudin, adding that: “Polices would be added to establish re-assessment points (e.g. every ten years; at 80% build-out of active growth area, etc.) or triggers (e.g. rail realignment, flood solution, etc.) at which time growth trends would be re-evaluated.

“By using policies to create a strategy for phasing and sequencing of growth,” explains Tschudin, “the City can also ensure: maximum opportunities for community benefit, efficient provision of services and infrastructure, maximized tax revenue, master land use planning within an area, and preservation of land use and development opportunities for later years.”

___  East Woodland LLC’s Data Must Be Adjusted To Apply  ___

East Woodland LLC’s planning consultant (Development Planning and Financing Group, Inc., DPFG) uses unadjusted (flawed) data, beginning in 2008 (not 2013), a practice / result explained and professionally resolved in a subsequent presentation by the city’s General Plan consultant, BAE.

In fact: “The adjusted [DPFG] estimate for residential demand is very similar to the expanded range of 4,000 to 7,100 [proposed] by the General Plan team,” describes Tschudin.

Yet, East Woodland LLC’s consultant (DPFG) instead proposes that 10,559 new housing units will be needed within twenty years — based on its unadjusted data.

This is the figure latched on to by Davies in his discussion with Tschudin (above).

Such a number of new units would reflect an annual 1.7% growth rate for the city.  The majority city council clearly voted on October 15 to attempt pursuit of this rapid rate of growth in the new General Plan — based on such flawed data.

Other serious problems of data interpretation also plague DPFG’s memo, according to BAE.

Wait — there’s more: DPFG admits that it doesn’t have any analysis or factual support for its “free-market” view / plan.

___  DPFG Memo Includes Key Disclaimer  ___

As the BAE memo points out, DPFG’s memo includes the following statement regarding the data which predicates its conclusions recommended to the Woodland City Council: “[T]he selected projections were developed simply to provide varying estimates of future growth potential and are not meant to incorporate judgments about the likelihood of the projection results or imbedded assumptions.”

Thus, as has been by itself admitted, there is absolutely no analytically verifiable reason to believe DPFG’s “aggressive” data and conclusions.

DPFG’s numbers are as plainly suspect as suspect can get.

So, East Woodland LLC’s representative, Tim Taron, an attorney with Hefner Stark and Marois LLC, simply testifies before the city council that anything less that a 1.7% growth projection would be: “Pessimistic.”

“It seems to have worked OK [in the previous General Plan].  There is no reason not to do it now,” claims Taron, going on to give the city council blunt directions: “Tonight, [ ] clearly and definitively indicate and direct staff to go with the 1.7% growth rate.”

Taron claims that: “Planning recommendations tend to always underestimate demand [and] think they can manage the market, which they can’t.  None of us can.

“We have to have multiple (commercial) opportunities” insists Taron, to operate in a “free-market” manner.

Woodland City Council does as Taron insists.

___  Infill Potential Is Overlooked By New Council Policy  ___

Tschudin indicates that: “Development of existing designated but vacant sites, existing underutilized sites and approved but undeveloped projects would accommodate some or all of this demand (~5,500 housing units, 7,300 jobs, 250,000 sq. ft. of office space, 530,000 sq. ft. of retail, 200,000 – 500,000 sq. ft. of regional retail, and 1 5 million sq. ft. of industrial uses) depending upon policies and phasing ultimately adopted in the General Plan.”

Quite importantly, BAE research has also determined that, referencing the city’s 2009 Housing Element inventory: “Around 1,500 housing units are also developable,” within the city’s established neighborhoods and planning zones (excluding Spring Lake and the Master Plan Remainder Area).

Additionally, BAE’s view is that existing (perhaps obsolete, commercial zoning within western Woodland should be considered for rezoning for residential uses.  This would again increase city potential for infill development, rather than continuing peripheral sprawl.

In other words and quite importantly — Woodland’s basic — infill — opportunities could reasonably achieve — all — of its various growth projections until 2035, the current planning horizon.

Such a course, though, would be openly antagonistic toward these “free-market” demands of local developers, such as East Woodland LLC.

Thus, Woodland City Council somehow feels a profoundly ideological (“free-market” – driven) need to use flawed data for prematurely zoning thousands of additional acres around the city periphery, supposedly in service to a prospective solution of the potential flooding of Cache Creek; whereas, most all of the city’s reasonable need for developable land can be satisfied as infill — totally outside of the relevant floodplain.

___  City Consultant Memo Disregarded By Council  ___

BAE (the city’s General Plan consultant) expresses in a memo responding to DPFG: “The DPFG memo advocates [ ] housing growth rates that are more aggressive than the current SACOG (Sacramento Area Council Of Governments) projections [ ] for the 2008 to 2035 time period. [ ] The implication of the DPFG memo is that, based on more aggressive assumptions about the housing unit growth that Woodland will sustain through 2035, the City of Woodland should include more land for residential development than what is [currently available [as housing infill].”

DPFG’s memo does not address anything other than residential demand.

“It is also important to maintain a level of perspective of what the different scenarios represent, particularly when the scenarios are proposed by parties that may have a vested interest in the use of aggressive growth assumptions,” wisely indicates this BAE memo.

This BAE memo goes on to (in a professional way) accuse DPFG of utilizing an unbalanced data platform, for which there also is no form of supportive analysis in justification.

Also — BAE points out that DPFG’s expressed position regarding the Master Plan Remainder Area is directly contrary to civic interests, since it delays reimbursement for oversized SpringLake infrastructure, for which the city’s General Fund is currently bonded and liable.

With regard to DPFG manipulation of state-derived data, BAE states that: “If DPFG had [ ] chosen to consider a broader time period that more fully reflected not only the boom period leading up to the 2008 housing crash but also the extended recovery period that was still underway as of 2013, the average annual growth rate would have been 1.0%, much closer to the rate that SACOG projects for Woodland.”

This properly modified scenario would result in a projection of 4,811 (not 10,559) housing units, according to BAE, including a substantial expansion buffer in case of unexpected demand.

Apparently, the majority city council has chosen to disregard this due caution about its commercial motivations, as well as questionable statistical credibility behind the presentation of DPFG.

DPFG presents the position that the city’s growth cap of 1.7% demands: “[A]dditional land to accommodate at least 5.059 additional housing units beyond what is currently being planned” (emphasis in original).

Such an “aggressive” developmental view, essentially based on flawed data and interpretation, vaults city housing projections toward 10.559 new housing units.

DPFG’s memo cannily argues to the council, along “free-market” lines, that BAE’s position regarding SACOG data: “[S]hould be evaluated to determine if a depressed rate of growth is a desirable condition for policymakers.”

Woodland City Council is certainly not ready to be accused by East Woodland LLC and DPFG of ordaining some (anti-”free-market”): “Pessimistic / depressed rate of growth.”

Thus, Woodland City Council has ignored its own consultant and (so far) sided with DPFG and East Woodland LLC about the new General Plan.

___ Part Three ___

Part Three of this Yolo Sun investigative series will examine additional salient facets of the evolution of Woodland’s new General Plan, including views of city council members and city staff, as well as of the competing consultants in this key civic exercise.

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