Commentary: Why Focus on Innovation Parks?

InnovationWhy focus on only one element of economic development if we’re at such a critical community crossroads? That is the question that has been posed over and over again, mostly by a single individual.

The simple answer is that the Vanguard has not focused on a single question, rather an entire package. Of the ten objectives created, not by the city but by the Chamber, Davis Downtown, and Yolo Visitor’s Bureau, the Vanguard has had extensive coverage of Nishi, the Downtown Gateway, the Innovation Parks, Downtown Parking, and the Hotel Conference Center.

At the same time, the Vanguard believes, if done properly, the innovation parks are the centerpiece.

First, while the Hotel Conference Center could produce sizable revenue, it is unclear as to how much revenue the rest of the objectives will generate.

The focus on densification sounds good – and as we pursue new projects, we should look toward proper densification so that we do not repeat past mistakes such as Interland, where the business is primarily a series of single story buildings spread out in a most land-inefficient manner.

However, densifying just to densify, as one source told me this week, does not necessarily pencil out. For instance, in the downtown, rents are good but not sufficient to cover the costs of new construction, particularly on small lots.

If the city requires parking or parking mitigation, the revenues generated will not cancel out on the costs.

My principle driver here is economic. Over the last four years, the city has slowly but surely carved into the runaway benefits and salaries to city employees. Critics will argue that the city has not gone as far as they should have – we continue to argue that the city went as far as it could, given the 2009 MOUs.

The city was able to carve into cafeteria cash outs, get employee agreement with five bargaining units for a second tier of pensions for new employees, get non-safety workers to take up a greater share of their pensions, shore up the retiree health care system by reducing the potential costs from 24% of payroll down to 16%, among other critical structural reforms.

At the same time, while they did offer a modest 2% below inflation rate increase in salary, for the last five years the city has managed to largely flat line salaries, allowing the impact of those salaries to decline over time.

Despite this, the city continues to fall into the red. Some of that shortfall was due to the delay in implementing DCEA and fire. But that is one-time money. There will be increased costs for pensions and medical insurance. Those are far larger hits. Down the line, we have the impact of increased water rates.

The biggest cost, however, is still off-budget and that is infrastructure. For a decade the city largely balanced the budget by putting critical infrastructure needs – roads, sidewalks, greenbelts, parks, bike paths, sewer and water infrastructure, and city buildings – off budget.

The city needs to build the consensus for the community to support these critical infrastructure needs through a parcel tax. We have had a long debate over roads versus pools, but that situation may be about to blow up in the next few weeks as repair needs for pools force the issue.

The bottom line is that, while much of the economic development program is incremental, the city needs a large ticket item to drive up revenue. We agree with fixing the city’s parking situation, but that is revenue generated on the margins.

We think the Hotel Conference Center could produce transit occupancy taxes which would be vital toward helping the city’s revenues. While Nishi has an innovation center component, it is unclear how much revenue that would end up generating.

As we have argued, the city stands at a crossroads – the critical crossroads is which path does it take. Do we continue to cut staff and service and diminish the great services and amenities of this community? Do we continue to fund ourselves through incremental tax increases? Or can we develop economically?

The big picture is that to generate the revenue we need, we need space for university start ups, including the tech transfer we are also talking about where university research is converted into commercial enterprise. That takes small spots of space, some of which we have, much of which we can free up or create through the innovation parks.

It takes places for businesses that are growing – the biggest example is Schilling Robotics, but there are many – to have a place to grow while staying in Davis. And it takes places for businesses to move to Davis to take advantage of the unique research environment and readily available stream of employees situated a stone’s throw from the capital of the world’s 7th largest economy.

So why focus on innovation parks? The real question, given these needs, is why wouldn’t we?

First of all, the city of Davis has Measure R. Measure R requires a citizen vote of approval for any new development. In order for that to happen, we have a need for citizen discussions. I happen to believe that the community is willing to support the right project, but more and more I realize how few of the residents have really thought much about an innovation park.

Other than Nishi, none of the other objectives require specific citizen support. That makes the discussion around the innovation parks strikingly different.

Second, in terms of city needs for revenue generation, as we build out the parks, we are looking at perhaps $4 million to $7 million in annual revenue from just one park. In terms of the city’s barely $40 million general fund budget that could be a 10% to nearly 20% increase in revenue from just one park.

But that is just projected property tax and sales tax revenue.

Then you have things like construction fees. You could be talking about $1 to $2 BILLION in construction costs which generate huge fees for the city – granted, it is one-time money, but it is substantial one-time money.

Nothing else on the list even remotely compares with this sort of revenue.

Finally, there were really three key moments for me in the evolution of thinking. First was the discussion around Mace 391. Second was the realization of the city’s dire straits fiscally. But third was my recent visit to PayPal Headquarters.

If we build these things right, these could be cool, innovative, community centerpieces that blend seamlessly from what we already have on the UC Davis campus.

So the answer to the question as to why focus on this one? First, we are not exclusively focusing on this one, but if we were, this is the one to focus on.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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71 thoughts on “Commentary: Why Focus on Innovation Parks?”

  1. Davis Progressive

    this seems like a lot of turf pishing. bisch is a downtown guy, he wants redevelopment to focus on the downtown rather than the periphery. the vanguard seems to have run the numbers and sees the peripheral innovation park as the way to go.

    1. Frankly

      This is a study in tribalism to a large degree. “What is in it for us?” and “How can we seize a piece of the pie?”

      Too bad Brown and the CA teachers unions raided and killed RDA. I think the Davis Chamber and the DDBA has a problem in that there are not enough public-private tools available to do the things they want to do. And with Davis’s tiny retail economy, there isn’t enough muscle in the business associations to get enough done.

      I completely, 100%, support downtown and regional shopping revitalization and some of the other ideas listed by Michael Bisch and posted by the VG. The challenge for these is simply the financial impacts… and/or their potential distraction from other efforts that help our financial situation.

      I think this stuff needs to be phase-II. And if Michael or other existing business leaders want their stuff done, instead of complaining that the city or the VG is not paying enough attention, they should instead get behind the innovation parks and help push them through.

  2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    David, since you switch back and forth from the singular to the plural, I wonder whose opinion is this editorial supposed to be? Yours? Or your larger Vanguard board? And if it is just yours, why do you confuse matters by speaking in the plural? It not only makes for better reading that the author sticks with the same voice. It is also clearer.

    “At the same time, the Vanguard believes, if done properly, the innovation parks are the centerpiece. … My principle driver here is economic. … We think the Hotel Conference Center could produce transit occupancy taxes which would be vital toward helping the city’s revenues. … As we have argued, the city stands at a crossroads – the critical crossroads is which path does it take. … I happen to believe that the community is willing to support the right project, but more and more I realize how few of the residents have really thought much about an innovation park. … Finally, there were really three key moments for me in the evolution of thinking. … First, we are not exclusively focusing on this one, but if we were, this is the one to focus on.”

  3. John

    “The focus on densification sounds good – and as we pursue new projects, we should look toward proper densification so that we do not repeat past mistakes such as Interland, where the business is primarily a series of single story buildings spread out in a most land-inefficient manner. However, densifying just to densify, as one source told me this week, does not necessarily pencil out. For instance, in the downtown, rents are good but not sufficient to cover the costs of new construction, particularly on small lots.”

    I agree Densification needs to be approached on a project by project basis. With that in mind, it is interesting to consider the most recent renovation (tear down and rebuild?) project proposed for 3rd and G Streets is designed with only two stories.

    That two story design is supported by the Chamber (for sure) and Davis Downtown (I believe). Why aren’t the Chamber and Davis Downtown concerned about the proposal as a lost densification opportunity? Four stories like the Chen Building just down G Street would appear to be much more appropriate. Isn’t anything less than three stories a violation of the Densification Objective. Do the Davis rental rates referenced in today’s article have anything to do with the scaled-back design?

    Perhaps one of the project supporters can explain why that isn’t a lost opportunity.

    1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      “Why aren’t the Chamber and Davis Downtown concerned about the proposal as a lost densification opportunity?”

      Who says they would not favor more stories there?

      You have to keep in mind two far more important factors: The first is that it is private property, and its owner, Mr. Ruebner, thinks (given his bankroll) that two stories on his property makes more sense than three. Others may have opinions. But they are not putting their money at risk; and second, you need to consider its neighboring properties and the effect a three story building would have on them. The 3rd and G site is next to the one-story Old City Hall, where Bistro 33 has outdoor dining. It could be a negative to have a 3-story building next door, towering over their customers. Additionally, Mr. Ruebner’s building is next to two historic Davis buildings. The first of course is Old City Hall; the second is the Bank of Yolo building across 3rd Street on G. You have to be careful when you build near designated historical structures that you don’t harm their historical value by changing the context of their environment. Where a 2-story building like Mr. Ruebner is building fits in, a 3-story structure which towers over them might damage the historical context of one or both.

      There is one more factor to consider with the 3rd and G site. It’s quite small from north to south. That makes it unlike the Chen Building which sits on a far larger parcel. An advantage of having a larger parcel is the ability to set back upper floors. But, certainly on the 3rd Street side, there is no chance of doing that with Mr. Ruebner’s property at 3rd and G.

      One last thing to keep in mind: parking. Until Davis builds one or more new parking garages, approving much taller buildings, with in-lieu fees, will have the effect of making our already over-subscribed parking situation even worse.

      I don’t want you to think I oppose densification or turning single-story buildings into new structures which are 3 or 4 stories. I am all for it. But I think you have to look at specific questions for each parcel, like those I mentioned with regard to the 3rd and G site; and you also need to address more general questions, like total parking capacity in the core area.

      1. John

        “Who says they would not favor more stories there?”

        The Chamber has been very public and transparent about their support of the owner’s two-story proposal.

        I’m not saying that Mr. Ruebner’s proposal is wrong, just that it is a lost densification opportunity.

        Regarding your Bistro 33 reference, Tres Hermanas has outdoor dining immediately beside the Chen Building, with no problem. How is “the historical context” damaged, especially considering that there is an intervening alley between the 3rd and G site and the Bistro 33 site?

        Finally, 3rd and G is only a block away from the 4th and G parking structure, so on that fringe of the core, parking doesn’t seem to be a major issue.

        Regarding Parking, it seems like you are saying that the Densification Objective and the Parking Objective are in conflict with one another, Rich. Is that right? If so, how do you propose resolving that conflict?

        1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          “The Chamber has been very public and transparent about their support of the owner’s two-story proposal.”

          Fine. But that does not mean in any sense at all that they would not rather a 3-story or 27-story building. They are taking Anthony Ruebner’s investment choice at face value and giving it their blessing. That does not mean that, if the Chamber were in charge the building would not be taller. You need to realize that your conclusions do not fit the facts and that your logic is flawed.

          “Regarding your Bistro 33 reference, Tres Hermanas has outdoor dining immediately beside the Chen Building, with no problem.”

          You do know that Tres Hermanas restaurant is in The Chen Building? You know that, no?

          “How is ‘the historical context’ damaged, especially considering that there is an intervening alley between the 3rd and G site and the Bistro 33 site?”

          I never said it would damage the historical context. I said that is something which would have to be determined. It is a very important consideration at that site, because it is next to Old City Hall and across Third from the Bank of Yolo building, both of which are designated historical resources. It’s also near another designated building on G Street.

          In terms of context, I can explain it like this. If the Old City Hall–a one story building–and the Bank of Yolo–also one story–are made to look much smaller by introducing next door or nearby new buildings, that stands a good chance that the new buildings would damage the context of the historical buildings. I am not saying that is certain. But based on my many years experience looking at these things, I can assure you that is a consideration. Another consideration could be the style of the architecture of a new building. If it is highly contemporary–say glass with chrome finishes–that might make older buildings look out of place, taking them out of their context. This sort of thing has happened in Davis, and as a result, older buildings which might have been designated were not, because their context changed too much. A requirement of our General Plan is to balance various needs, one of which is to protect the environment of our few historical buildings.

          “Finally, 3rd and G is only a block away from the 4th and G parking structure, so on that fringe of the core, parking doesn’t seem to be a major issue.”

          That is a good point. However, if you look at the work of the parking task force, you will note that the area around 3rd and G is highly impacted at times. So you run into a problem if you add too much new density in that area without adding new parking places.

          “Regarding Parking, it seems like you are saying that the Densification Objective and the Parking Objective are in conflict with one another, Rich. Is that right? If so, how do you propose resolving that conflict?”

          I think that is mostly right. I think the parking task force had one smart solution, which would have been to add smart parking meters in that area at the most impacted times of the day and evening. A second solution I favored was building a new parking garage downtown. However, as you likely know, different players in Davis effectively stopped both solutions. So we are at a bit of a standstill, until a solution the City Council likes can be agreed upon.

          That is not to say I would oppose any densification until a solution to the parking is put in place. I am very much in favor of encouraging building investors to go higher. But when they submit such plans, the city needs to keep in mind the parking problems which will follow, and then decide if the benefits are greater than the costs.

          1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            “A second solution I favored was building a new parking garage downtown.”

            If I had been “the Csar” of the E-F-3rd-4th proposal–which could no longer happen since our RDA was shut down–I would have tried to get the property owners on Third Street and Fourth Street to literally “buy in” to the concept of a massive parking structure. If any refused, I would have proceeded against them with eminent domain.* Those who cooperated would have benefitted.

            My plan would have been to level the entire block. From there, I would have erected a 4-story building, with ground floor retail facing 3rd, 4th, E and F and some parking and delivery space in the center of the ground floor. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors would have been entirely for parking, and they would have been set back about 10 feet from E, F, 3rd and 4th. But unlike the city’s original plan, those upper stories would have had parking spaces over the entire block, not just in the middle. Addtionally, above the 4th floor, I would add roof-level parking and a solar shade structure.

            Once completed, all of the new retail space–far more than is now in place–would have been sold to investors. From the money generated by the sale, the former owners who played ball would receive full market value for their properties they gave up plus any amount they lost in rent for the duration of the demolition and new construction.

            My plan would have added 5 times as much parking as the city’s erstwhile plan. It would have been one-story shorter. And because of the perimeter set-back, it would not feel like such a large, tall building at street level.

            I am aware, of course, that my plan would never fly for some practical reasons: 1) we lack the balls in Davis now to pursue eminent domain; 2) there is an ethos in town against spending public money on anything which serves cars and drivers; and the biggest reason, 3) a building that large would have been way too expensive for our budget, even if the new retail spaces were sold at a substantial profit, which I suspect would have been the case.
            ____________________________
            *Cities do this all the time to build new streets, parks and parking facilities. When Central Park was built in the 1930s, I was told by an old, old-timer that a couple of the property owners refused to sell and the city had to take their land via eminent domain to build the park we all enjoy today. I’d bet Davis has used eminent domain since then, probably to expand roads, but I don’t know of a specific case.

      2. Mr. Toad

        Interesting connection that a parking garage enables downtown to go up instead of being about parking its about development. Its sort of like water. Without water Davis can’t grow. Without water and parking structures Davis downtown can’t grow. So for all those that are for maintaining Davis as it is doesn’t the densification of downtown seem like change that strikes at the character of what the City of Davis is today?

        Personally, I’d rather see us preserve downtown keeping it as much like it is today as possible and spread out a little on the periphery. Of course many of those pushing the all peripheral development is sprawl that will destroy our way of life idea have real estate interests in the center of town.

        1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          “Personally, I’d rather see us preserve downtown keeping it as much like it is today as possible and spread out a little on the periphery.”

          My own view on densification (i.e., growing vertically) is that it should be focused mostly on F Street and G Street from 1st to 5th, taking into account in each instance how a new, taller building affects surrounding properties.

          It seems to me we would do well to have street front ground floor retail, second floor office and third/fourth floor setback residential. But as noted above, I think we shouldn’t do that without first considering parking.

          1. South of Davis

            Rich wrote:

            > If I had been “the Csar” of the E-F-3rd-4th proposal

            If I was Czar (the westernized spelling I have always used) I would go even higher than Rich and put apartments set back with decks so people could look out over the street (before heading out for a drink, dinner or cup of coffee) above the parking. What a dream it would be to live in a downtown area where you could walk/bike to campus and also walk to shops, food and entertainment and only use your car for trips to the Bay Area or Tahoe.

        2. Davis Progressive

          with good planning, you could build up to two stories or three stories without changing the character of downtown. it’s inexcusable that there are large sections of the core at one story.

  4. John

    “Of the ten objectives created, not by the city but by the Chamber, Davis Downtown, and Yolo Visitor’s Bureau, the Vanguard has had extensive coverage of Nishi, the Downtown Gateway, the Innovation Parks, Downtown Parking, and the Hotel Conference Center."

    One thing that I have always seemed strange to me is the fact that Nishi is talked about separately from the Innovation Parks. Isn’t the Nishi-Gateway project an Innovation Park?

    It was one of the four sites identified in the Innovation Park Task Force report to Council. Why aren’t we talking about Nishi-Gateway in the same discussions as all the other Innovation Park proposals?

      1. John

        The housing component of Nishi-Gateway doesn’t negate or even diminish the Innovation Park component. TrueBlueDevil and Anon have both called for the consideration of live/work accommodations in the other Innovation park proposals. Why do you think that the presence of housing calls for segregation of that proposal into a separate category?

        1. realchangz

          From their presentation, earlier this year at CC, the proponents are projecting a maximum of 1,600-1,800 on-site jobs in connection with the Gateway project. From the numbers referenced by Rob White in previous postings on the Vanguard, the estimated new jobs as might be associated with an Innovation Park could be as high as 10,000 jobs. I see the “Innovation Hub” envisioned at Gateway as a totally complementary project to those being considered for the Innovation Park locations.

          And, as Frankly has noted, it is all about economic activity and the Innovation Park locations are nothing if they are not about increased economic activity.

    1. Don Shor

      One thing that I have always seemed strange to me is the fact that Nishi is talked about separately from the Innovation Parks. Isn’t the Nishi-Gateway project an Innovation Park?

      IMO Nishi is an Innovation Park, the two sites that are moving forward (Mace and NWQ) are Business Parks, and we don’t know what is actually proposed for the South Davis site.

      1. Anon

        Not following why you consider Nishi an “innovation park” but have decided Mace and NWQ are “business parks”. There was a long discussion by a previous poster in another article as to why Mace and NWQ are formally defined by current standards as “innovation parks” and not “business parks”. Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the poster or which article (sorry!) the comment was in.

      2. John

        I completely disagree Don, and if either of the east or west innovation parks try and make their defining mission to be that of a “business park” then I believe they are doomed to a Measure J/R vote defeat. They need to be mission consistent with technology transfer from UCD.

        1. Don Shor

          What is an Innovation Park?

          Innovation Centers are usually within
          three miles of a major university or
          research facility.
          • University proximity is complemented
          by close political, administrative,
          or financial relationships with the
          university. These relationships are
          characterized as mutually beneficial:
          the center provides a site for
          employment, particularly in the realms
          of research and development, while
          the university provides a steady stream
          of qualified staff, collaborators, and
          consumers. The university can also
          provide access to campus amenities
          and resources for innovation center
          employees. Often the community,
          innovation centers, and universities
          work together to apply for research and
          development funding.”

          Centers are near housing and a major
          downtown area. Research suggests that
          quality of life as it relates to community
          livability and access to cultural,
          entertainment and recreational amenities
          play an important role in a center’s
          success in attracting businesses.

          Innovation centers do not focus on
          recruiting a particular business or
          industry but instead try to attract a
          wide range of businesses whose
          only similarity maybe that they are
          innovative or cutting edge. Many centers
          include incubators for new and emerging
          companies to nurture cutting edge new
          technology.

          Centers have shared spaces of varying
          sizes and types in order to nurture
          creativity and innovation. Shared spaces
          that bring together center occupants,
          such meeting and conference rooms,
          shared recreation areas or cafes, are key
          components of the built environment.
          This is also why proximity to downtowns
          is valued. Innovation centers and mixed
          use innovation districts provide amenities
          and support flexible creative live-work
          and desired sustainability focused
          lifestyle choices.< ./blockquote>

          http://extension.ucdavis.edu/unit/land_use_and_natural_resources/pdf/innov_study.pdf

          In other words, sites where employees can live and work, walk to downtown, closely interact with the university, and where businesses will interact in shared spaces. Nishi meets all those criteria.
          Most of the focus on Mace 200 has been about finding space for one particular business: Schilling. There is no housing component. Neither the Mace nor NWQ proposals has significant connectivity to the downtown or to UCD. They appear to be pretty standard-issue peripheral business parks, which I am sure will be well-designed to meet Davis standards. But they aren’t Innovation Parks. They are Business Parks.

          They need to be mission consistent with technology transfer from UCD.

          Their primary missions, so far, seem to be to provide sites for two local businesses that want to expand. That’s actually a pretty good selling point.

          1. John

            Don, what I read in what you posted is a description of an Incubator. In an Innovation ecosystem Incubators are part of the continuum, but when technology transfer businesses have gotten beyond the incubation stage, they are still innovation businesses. They are still consistent with UCD’s mission of technology transfer to the private sector.

            DMG Mori is a perfect example. It is a clear technology transfer from Professor Yamazaki’s (sp?) applied mechanical engineering program. It has just grown to adolescence.

            Schilling Robotics is also an applied mechanical engineering “child” that has come of age.

            Marrone Bio Innovations (and AgraQuest befre it) fit the same mold, just from a different UCD core competency.

  5. DurantFan

    A Cautionary Tale of “Explosive Growth!”

    Act 1; CAPE COD PRIOR TO 1960: A predominately rural, peaceful, personal, private, isolated and insulated regional treasure. Summer visitors from Pennsylvania were considered to be from the “south” and those from Ohio were considered to be from the “west”. We never saw visitors from California, although we were aware of Herbert and Natalie Kalmus, the enigmatic and mysterious Californians who vacationed privately at their maqnificent estate in Centerville every August even though their estate was fully staffed and maintained all year.

    Act 2: INTERMISSION: (CHANGE OF SCENERY): 1960 John F. Kennedy elected President

    Act 3: CAPE COD AFTER 1960:The Cape Cod “treasure” became known nationally, and much of it was captured (plundered) by opportunists (developers?) through explosive and uncontrolled growth. As the song goes, “they paved over paradise and put in a parking lot!”.

    Don’t let this happen here! “You don’t know what you’ve got until its gone” is another part of the song!

    1. Frankly

      Oh geeze… the sky is falling… here comes “SPRAWL!”

      Davis is not a small rural farming community. Heck we don’t even have one retailer providing agriculture products. Davis is a medium-sized, highly dense, California city… the home of a world-class research university that is expanding and growing.

      If you don’t like the town to grow, it might mean that you need to start looking for another town to live in. Because it has to grow because the university is growing and expanding. If you demand the the university houses all the new students and employees, then you still have them using the city services and retail. And the university is also growing its public-private partnerships… and needs land for the private businesses. Again, the university can attempt to source that land to make it happen, but the city will still be impacted by it.

      And lastly, we have huge budget deficits that can only be satisfied by local economic expansion.

      The point many of you are missing… we have no choice but to grow our local economy.

      If you long for that smaller rural ag-based town there are plenty of others. It is just your bad luck that UCD has been so successful and needs to expand. Now, related to the budget problems, you might look in the mirror for your voting record and blame yourself for that problem. Too bad you did not demand more fiscal conservatism over the last couple of decades so we could have prevented the huge run-up in city employee costs that is bankrupting us.

      1. Davis Progressive

        “Oh geeze… the sky is falling… here comes “SPRAWL!””

        okay, but that’s certainly a voice in this community that needs to be heard whether you (or i) agree.

        1. Frankly

          I’m sure that there are those that get heated at my dismissiveness of these types of concerns and see me as doing damage to the cause as these slighted people dig in their heels. But I am not trying to convince the people that write or say this stuff because they are clearly entrenched in opposition… instead I am combating irrational hyperbole to prevent the easily excitable undecided and convince-able from falling for it.

      2. Anon

        I don’t look in the mirror for my voting record and blame myself for the budget problems. I blame the city manager and City Council that permitted basic infrastructure repairs to be placed in the “unmet need” category, declaring the budget “balanced”. It was a misrepresentation to the public, and a sleazy accounting trick meant to deceive the public.

        1. Mr. Toad

          But Frankly is correct about the double edged sword of public largess and lack of growth to fund it. You may blame others claiming duplicity or deception but its not like nobody new. Its just too bad that those who rang the bell were marginalized by their own personality flaws that prevented their voices from being heard.

        2. Frankly

          If you didn’t vote for the fiscal conservative, and you voted for the candidates with connections to the public employee unions and associations, then you would be remiss to not look in the mirror. Because you would likely make the same mistakes going forward.

          It seems that a great number of Davis voters have looked in the mirror given the recent rejection of one CC candidate that was closely tied to city organized labor.

          1. John

            This election I would say that Munn and Davis were clearly fiscal conservatives. Swanson and Parella were final moderates with al leaning toward fiscal conservative. In 2012 I would say that Greenwald was fiscally conservative with respect to housing values. In 2010 probably none were. In 2008 again Greenwald was fiscally conservative with respect to housing values.

          2. Frankly

            I agree, but I think Munn shot himself in the foot being associated with the no-growth crowd. In that he was only a one-dimensional fiscal conservative… cut, cut, cut. So was/is Sue Greenwald, but with less directness.

            But the two of them are certainly a tonic to the problem of over-spending on city employees and comp.

          3. Davis Progressive

            munn shot himself in the foot by being too limited a candidate and not having a breadth of issues. he could have survived being in the no-growth crowd, had he been willing to invest some time in a full slate of issues.

          4. Mr. Toad

            Munn almost won and without the anti-growth anti development conservative alliance he wouldn’t have even come close. If anything being a plaintiff in the water suit might have been the difference. If he had not sued the city and simply been on board with the anti water people he might have won. my guess is its hard to sue the institution you want to serve in. Granda going nowhere is a perfect example. Of course with so many candidates perhaps Granda can sneak through. God help us if that is the case our schools are doomed.

    2. Anon

      The problem with Cape Cod is that the shoreline was not declared “for public use” as is the case in the state of Hawaii. Instead, hotels snapped up shoreline, and developed the heck out of most of the beaches. In consequence, whatever is available in Cape Cod for public beaches is crowded, and the major portion of the shoreline is owned by either homeowners who have lived there for generations or hotels who have built there. In Cape Cod, the public is prohibited from using private beaches, which represents most of the shoreline.

        1. Anon

          If you have been to Hawaii, you would know that all the beaches are available to the public. As a result, you can find a quiet beach with very few people, and bask in the sun to your heart’s content. In Cape Cod during summertime, almost all the public beaches are extremely crowded because there are so few of them. It doesn’t make for the most pleasant experience when a beach is wall to wall people.

          1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            Frankly, they go to Hawaii only because the pu pu platter in Massachusetts is pooh pooh.

  6. Mr. Toad

    Comparing Cape Cod to Davis is a stretch by any means. First Cape Cod doesn’t have a major land grant university and second it seems plenty of people still think Cape Cod is still a pretty nice place. Maybe not the place you remember but then again the world was only half as full in 1960.

  7. Mr. Toad

    “First of all, the city of Davis has Measure R. Measure R requires a citizen vote of approval for any new development. In order for that to happen, we have a need for citizen discussions. I happen to believe that the community is willing to support the right project, but more and more I realize how few of the residents have really thought much about an innovation park.”

    That damned elephant again. How’d he get in here this time. Actually measure R is an argument for doing everything that isn’t subject to Measure R first because that is the path of least resistance. Cannery being Exhibit 1. Of course the point of having measure R is to make it hard to get anything done. Anything I guess includes repairing the roads and pools.

  8. TrueBlueDevil

    DurantFan paints perfectly what I was going to argue as one component, and that is snobbery. Ironically, the WWII generation that moved here doesn’t seem to have those qualities, but it’s the newbies with post docs, extra initials, and these grand ideas on how they could shape the town, or not shape it.

    Besides the city and campus needing architects that understand warmth, I don’t get the analysis paralysis while city needs go south. Street repair is really a clarion call: pay up now or pay up 3x, 5x, or 10x more down the road.

        1. Frankly

          LOL. Maybe he has more on his plate today.

          Yesterday I was supposed to be on the golf course working and would not have been able to respond, except that an emergency business issue came up and I had to cancel.

  9. Jim Frame

    Then you have things like construction fees. You could be talking about $1 to $2 BILLION in construction costs which generate huge fees for the city – granted, it is one-time money, but it is substantial one-time money.

    I’ve posed this questions before, but if it’s been answered, I haven’t seen the response: do the fees and taxes the city receives for new project permits and application processing actually bring uncommitted money to the general fund, or are they simply cost-recovery charges? It seems to me that unless there’s a hefty markup to the cost of administration, then construction taxes and permit/processing fees shouldn’t be counted as project-associated revenue. Absent that markup, the small percentage to local economic activity that might result from the new hires brought on to handle the added workload spending money in town might be more akin to a sugar rush: we take on a bunch of new employees and/or consultants and see a spike in cash flow, but when the project is built we have employees to shed (and we all know how well that works) and the departments have to make a sudden downward adjustment in their operating budgets.

    Anyone with solid info on this care to chime in?

    1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      ” do the fees and taxes the city receives for new project permits and application processing actually bring uncommitted money to the general fund, or are they simply cost-recovery charges?”

      My understanding, from talking with members of the City Council, is that the construction tax money is way above cost-recovery. However, I am no authority on that. If you desire a more definitive answer, I would ask Mike Webb (mwebb@cityofdavis.org), the City’s Community Development and Sustainability Director (the ungainly name that is really the planning department).

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        I agree. I thought the modern way cities generated money / new revenues was through permit fees, and fees of all types.

        I’d like to see what examples exist of real world permit fees, in California. My guess is that the funds get shoveled into the general fund.

    1. Frankly

      There is cognitive dissonance in this drum beat.

      Bring more nature into the the city, but don’t develop land.

      Bring in nature to the city, but get rid of cars… making the city more dense and walkable.

      If you think about this… first it does not make complete sense because the goals are in direct conflict.

      And it is really a conflict of individualism and collectivism.

      Don Shor lives in the country somewhere on several acres. You and I do not get to enjoy that land unless he invites us on to his private property. Should we force Don Shor to live on a small lot and small house and make the surrounding land all common space?

      Or do we need some new laws that limit the size of a residential lot based on proximity to population centers?

      So younger people don’t care about having any buffer between them and their neighbor? Well yes, that is usually the case until they have a family… and less are having families and that is a problem.

      I agree with one point made… improve public transportation. Get people out of their cars an on the train or buss or bike or walking. But cramming people together in small highrise apartments without and personal land is not my idea of a good life. There is plenty of evidence that higher population density causes more life-stress.

      This is really a debate over public verses private ownership and use of land. The collectivist / socialist view is that individuals should give up their demand for land and buffers, and instead we should use it to create community space that all can enjoy. But some people don’t want that. They enjoy gardening in their yard and some buffer from their neighbor that is generally irritating and disruptive.

      1. Don Shor

        Don Shor lives in the country somewhere on several acres. You and I do not get to enjoy that land unless he invites us on to his private property. Should we force Don Shor to live on a small lot and small house and make the surrounding land all common space?

        It’s a farm. Are you in the habit of strolling through farms?

        So younger people don’t care about having any buffer between them and their neighbor? Well yes, that is usually the case until they have a family… and less are having families and that is a problem.

        Interesting analysis, but in a community that is short thousands of beds for young adults who are here to go to college it’s pretty irrelevant. Davis is overwhelmed by housing demand in one category: young adults who want to rent a room or apartment. The magnitude of that insufficiency of supply with respect to demand overwhelms all other aspects of our planning.

        1. Frankly

          I did not know you were a farmer. I thought you owned a nursery in town. Do you grow your own inventory?

          I agree that we need more rental properties. Absolutely.

          What about single family homes?

          What about single family homes with yards that allow for a garden (so other people can farm on a smaller scale than you?)

          1. Don Shor

            I own a nursery in Davis, and also grow nuts (almonds and walnuts, and pecans) on a farm. I don’t raise plants for the nursery on the farm any more, though we did for a while.
            There is little point in building single family homes, at least in any quantity, until more rental housing is built. A huge percentage of the single-family homes in Davis are occupied by student renters. The demand for rental housing is overwhelming the supply of single-family homes. Somebody posted a rather startling statistic the other day as to the percentage of single-family homes that are rentals in Davis. I can attest that some of those groups of students do enjoy gardening. But most are just getting together and renting houses because there aren’t enough apartments.

            Until the city and university develop goals and plans for a couple thousand more apartment units, that will be the biggest factor in our housing market here. Practically every neighborhood has houses that are occupied by student renters. Buying single-family homes as investment rental properties is a big part of the market here. It wouldn’t even surprise me if a significant number of the new homes in the Cannery project end up as rentals very quickly.
            I was talking to someone recently who has been quite involved in housing and growth issues locally. The comment was made that the university committed to providing more housing. But they have come nowhere near to meeting their commitment.

          2. Don Shor

            This is one of the reasons that I think a live/work component to these new developments could be helpful, and why I think Nishi is an important project to go forward as soon as possible. The housing component there is crucial.

          3. Frankly

            The single family home next to my office is owned by a family with a daughter attending college and she has three room mates. They have dogs and chickens. Kind of hard to have dogs and chickens in an apartment.

            Something is broken with our apartment rental market when kids can share the rent of a house with a yard for less than it costs to rent an apartment.

            There is not a single home in my immediate neighborhood that is occupied by students. There are a couple that are rented by visiting UC professors. I wonder why that is? Maybe because I am about on the edge of town and far enough away from the campus?

            I think that is the tendency for all college towns or neighborhoods… more of the single family residences in close proximity to the campus become student rentals.

            Maybe that is just inevitable and instead of more apartments, we need to build more single family homes on the periphery.

          4. Don Shor

            Maybe that is just inevitable and instead of more apartments, we need to build more single family homes on the periphery.

            So your solution to the lack of rental housing for young adults is to build more single-family homes on the periphery?

            Something is broken with our apartment rental market when kids can share the rent of a house with a yard for less than it costs to rent an apartment.

            I doubt it costs less. But our apartment rental market has been broken for decades.

          5. Frankly

            So your solution to the lack of rental housing for young adults is to build more single-family homes on the periphery?

            It does cost less. My son shared a room in a 3-bedroom house and it was $780. I think the average cost of a 1-bedroom apartment in Davis is $1100, and a 2-bedroom is $1900. I don’t think there are many three bedroom apartments.

            Again too, you are talking about a larger living space with a yard.

            My point is that I think the core area residential inventory will probably not change much, and may grow, in terms of percentage of rentals. So maybe we let that happen and the single-family home inventory should be expanded on the periphery.

            Otherwise we need to build enough apartments that the vacancy rates fall and so does competition for renters.

            But one consequence of that will be more low income people that are not students renting in Davis to get their kids into the schools. Which would be fine with me, but it will not help the student apartment vacancy problem.

            It seems like there just needs to be more on-campus student housing to solve this problem.

          6. Don Shor

            My son shared a room in a 3-bedroom house and it was $780. I think the average cost of a 1-bedroom apartment in Davis is $1100

            He shared a room? So if your son had shared a room in a 1-bedroom apartment it would have been $550.

          7. Don Shor

            Otherwise we need to build enough apartments that the vacancy rates fall and so does competition for renters.

            But one consequence of that will be more low income people that are not students renting in Davis to get their kids into the schools. Which would be fine with me, but it will not help the student apartment vacancy problem.

            It seems like there just needs to be more on-campus student housing to solve this problem.

            Unlike many others, I am not exclusively concerned about the lack of rental housing for students. We have a serious lack of rental housing for non-student young adults who work here (like most of my employees over the years). Not all the rental housing has to be near campus. Not all of it has to be apartments, but higher-density housing aimed at the rental market is what is needed. That can include duplexes, quadplexes, apartments, housing co-ops, mobile home parks, and more. The campus needs to provide at least 40 – 50% of what is short right now and what will be short by 2020. Campuses like UC Irvine house 50% of their students. UC Davis houses, I believe, about 25%.
            The West Village development is a good start. They need another development that big. We need Nishi. Apartment densities should be encouraged wherever houses are built; Cannery should have been higher-density.
            The city council and the university need to address this problem. At least two of our council members need to establish a working group with someone from the chancellor’s office to set goals and address policies for providing more housing. They are short thousands of beds and adding 600+ students a year. The problem is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

          8. Frankly

            He shared a room? So if your son had shared a room in a 1-bedroom apartment it would have been $550.

            Oops.

            No – had his own bedroom. Shared a house.

          9. Don Shor

            He could get a room in a 2-bedroom unfurnished apartment (the most common unit) for about that $780, or less, in 2012. That year the average 2 BR was $1307. More common is 3 – 4 students in a 2-bedroom apartment.

          10. Frankly

            I think that is a bit lower than the average… but my initial $1900 was way off. I was looking at the wrong data.

            Even so, you are talking about a larger space with a yard and parking right out front for about the same cost.

            To get these kids out of the homes and into apartments, the cost of the apartment is going to have to fall 15% or more.

        2. Frankly

          Now… are you really a nut farmer, or do you just have some nut trees to claim to be farming so you get the property tax break from the county?

          I have a lot of friends that have grape vines or fruit and nut trees on their property but hire people to tend them and then write off a loss every year… and get the country property tax break for being ag rather than residential acreage. Do you really run a profitable farm on your land?

          It is an important distinction because using the land to produce versus using the land for personal enjoyment is the crux of the debate between a more dense urban plan and one where we would have more single-family homes on reasonable lot sizes.

          1. Don Shor

            Now… are you really a nut farmer, or do you just have some nut trees to claim to be farming so you get the property tax break from the county?

            No, I really am a nut farmer. Yes, I really run a profitable farm on my land. I’m on 13 acres, zones A-40 (can’t be subdivided), and I don’t write off the trees I grow for personal use. It’s zoned ag, always has been (since 1911, anyway) , and always will be.

          2. Frankly

            That’s cool. Didn’t know.

            You do know though that there are lot of people living outside city limits on 2-20 acres that don’t have any interest in for profit farming… they just like having land around them for various uses… including privacy from neighbors.

          3. Don Shor

            Yes, those rural ‘ranchettes’ are a common factor in loss of productive farmland. Hence the importance of the A-40 ag zoning. In fact, in some parts of Solano County A-40 can’t be subdivided below 80 acres unless it is in vineyard or orchard — in which case, they can be 40 acres. We were very lucky to find a parcel less than 40 acres with the ag zoning. They’re uncommon, but mostly exist as remnants due to some other land use factor such as railroad lines or freeways — like Nishi, I guess.

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