Davis daze

Is Davis the free-thinking, ultra-relevant, cutting-edge town it considers itself to be?

Stroll through the Davis Farmer’s Market on a pre-election Saturday and consider the question. Walk due north through the streams of shoppers, the rows of bright flowers, and the organic greens, anti-oxidant reds, and phyto-chemical yellows. Then find yourself suddenly in Leaflet Land.

The citizen-activism portion of the market seems especially alive and vigorous this weekend since Davis is readying for a pivotal election on November 8, one most residents see as a truly defining one for this university berg. The town will vote on Measure X—whether or not to approve a 383-acre development named Covell Village (the biggest ever planned in Davis) for a swath of land north of Davis’ border.

First, you stroll by the “No on X” table where volunteers stand ready to bombard passers-by with leaflets, maps and data that alert residents to the disaster they think awaits if Measure X gets passed. The thing is gigantic and anti-Davis, they say. It’s mostly about making money for developers, building homes for the wealthy and creating traffic jams for locals.

Continue your stroll north and come upon the “Yes on X” folk. They’re passing out lawn signs (Davis is sprouting with “yes” and “no” saplings these days) and collecting endorsements. They want to inform you of the regional benefits of Covell Village and its pedestrian-friendly “new urbanist” design. They want you to agree that not all growth is bad growth.

(For a look at the measure, a peek behind the curtain at the self-image of a regionally iconic town, and the net red/blue impact of the steady growth that’s already taken place in Davis, check out Jeffrey M. Barker’s “Is Davis turning red?”)

What has this Saturday’s stroll through the Farmer’s Market reminded you? That Davis has got a lovely nostalgia for its own past—and a perception problem about its future. On November 8, Davis takes a test. When the town looks in the mirror November 9, what will it see?