Developer strategies to win at the ballot: A Greenfield Win in Davis?

Davis, California is the “sustainability capitol of the world” according to the terminator-Governor of the state.  The city has some of the strictest growth control laws in California, a growth-control oriented state generally.  Voters must approve any development on open space or agricultural land and so far 1 out of five or six projects have ever been approved at the ballot.

Davis voters will vote on another one this November.  The project is called the West Davis Active Adult Community, a proposed low density senior housing development on the edge of town.  Off the bat, the very title of the project does a few things to assist in its electoral passage:

  • It signals that only neighbors in West Davis need worry about adverse traffic effects (boosting NIMBY sympathy or apathy in the rest of Davis), and
  • It signals that it will not provide student housing ala “Active Adult,” assuaging the fears of West Davis residents that the project could ruin their property values by bringing loud, drunk students into cramped, overhanging apartments in their neighborhood.

This developer has really thought this through and has NIMBY proofed this project in other notable ways.  The senior living project will run a “Davis Based Buyers Program” designed to lure existing Davis home owners into downsizing from their larger suburban tract homes into these smaller and more compact homes.  This accomplishes a few things at once:

  • It shows that the project is catering to existing residents’ housing needs and not “newcomers,” as the developer hopes to limit non-Davis buyers to no more than 10% of purchasers.
  • The campaign doubles as advertising for the development, as the high turnout senior demographic is needed to win in Davis AND constitutes the developer’s target demographic.

I encourage people interested in anti-NIMBY strategies to explore the site for the project (linked above).  This is a developer who knows what he is doing.  We will know whether it’s enough to turn the very NIMBY Davis senior demographic into YIMBYs in a couple of weeks.

Rendering of the West Davis Active Adult Community

Published by mattdpalm

Doctoral Student UC Davis USDOT Graduate Eisenhower Fellow 2014-2015

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