What Should the City Do About Mace 25?
As we reported on Saturday, the Davis City Council will be asked on Tuesday to evaluate the suitability of the city-owned 25-acre parcel for a community farm and, if council determines that the parcel is not suitable for a community farm, staff anticipates entering into an agreement with the Mace Ranch Innovation Center applicant to explore an alternative, superior site for consideration.
In our view, a community farm concept is a good one, however, the question is what is the best use for the 25-acre land.
We will make three points on this. First, the Cannery is already developing an urban farm in conjunction with the Center for Land-Based Learning (CLBL). It’s a far smaller site, but it would probably serve us well to see what further needs we have for an urban farm after developing the existing site.
Second, the Center for Land-Based Learning has some models in West Sacramento that might be a better and more centrally located concept than the 25 acres, that is located north and east of the Mace Curve and therefore will be difficult for non-automobile access.
Third, there might be other possibilities. A few years ago, on the site of Wildhorse Ranch, there were some proposals for urban farm concepts along with some ranchettes.
Therefore, the city ought to look at alternative locations for a worthy urban farm concept – preferably in the sort of public-private partnership that allows a private entity like the non-profit CLBL to plan and run the farm.
However, at the same time, we caution the council against automatically entering into an agreement with the Mace Ranch Innovation Center on the current land. The 25 acres might be sufficient to house Schilling Robotics or other area companies, if an innovation park is voted down by the voters in a Measure R vote or if the applicants need additional time to properly plan the development.
Breaking the Silence of Alternative Conflict Resolution
It wasn’t really planned this way, but the timing of Breaking the Silence of Racism, right before the roll out of the newly-proposed Alternative Conflict Resolution (ACR), worked perfectly. On Saturday, a longtime member of the Davis Community who has been dealing with these issues for decades made the point that we have studied these issues to death, but what are we doing to change them?
One answer is we are changing the way we handle citizen complaints when we can, from the sterile and impersonal formal process to a dynamic and interactive restorative justice-based mediation session.
For months we have talked about the issue of race, and also the interaction between police and various communities, particularly of color. A lot of the issues that arose out of Ferguson are frankly preventable.
Body cameras can give us an eye on what happened, so that we do not have to rely on eyewitness testimony, which can be imprecise, skewed and biased ‒ if not flat out wrong.
This past week I was involved in a minor collision in the Starbucks parking lot, and watching the incident on video, realized that my original perception, while not inaccurate, was nevertheless a bit off from what actually happened. It made me realize that, in a dynamic and fast-changing situation, there are things you will not see and things that you will forget.
Video is not 100 percent conclusive but can be a huge aid in assessing what happened. Of course, the situation in Staten Island was on video and reactions to the death of Eric Garner still varied.
In addition to looking at mandating body cameras for police officers, the state is looking at ending the Grand Jury system for officer-involved killings, and creating an independent oversight body to investigate those killings.
One of the big issues that generated a lot of controversy and triggered reactions to both Ferguson and Staten Island is the issue of trust. Creating independent bodies to oversee investigation is one way to rebuild that.
But, at the ground level, a conflict resolution program that can facilitate dialogue and understanding will go a long way toward restoring trust in the community. It is not a panacea, but it is a good start. It’s a pilot program and there are built-in metrics to assess it.
As an added point to the Breaking the Silence concept, one thing that the event and dozen or so public commenters re-instilled in me is that people often just want a voice, they want to have their say. We know that people’s perceptions of what happened is only one side of the story, and there is value in creating the mechanism for people to be heard.
Binning and the Innovation Park
I am not going to weigh in on whether I agree or disagree with the folks at Binning. However, one important point is that this is really the opening round of discussions that will now be two-way on the innovation parks. Up until now, we have really only heard voices of those supporting the parks – and, in those cases, only in concept.
We will have to see how this develops – I can foresee areas where there could be some common ground, and areas where both sides are likely to dig in their heels.
One thing that I found interesting is that, while the neighbors are not in lockstep on the specifics of what they want or don’t want, they were not necessarily opposed to mixed housing.
There are several reasons why mixed housing might be helpful here. First, if they are concerned with a commercial park next door, mixed housing might be a way to transition from residential to buffer to commercial.
Second, by creating mixed housing on the site, it would mitigate at least some of the traffic impacts.
The concerns over flooding should be handled by careful planning and engineering. Traffic impacts can be mitigated as well. The developers will need to figure out how the circulation plan can work with existing limitations and that will undoubtedly be part of the studies that occur in the next several months.
Will addressing these issues be enough? We will see. It also remains to be seen whether the voices of the neighbors, residents of the county but not the city, end up carrying any weight.
One thing that I caution people against – there is a tendency to discount complaints of neighbors as NIMBYism. But why is it that self-interested opposition is wrong? From their perspective, this may harm their quality of life – why shouldn’t they fight to protect that?
That doesn’t mean that the rest of the community has to agree with them. The rest of the community has to weigh the advantages against the drawbacks, to figure out where they come down on this issue.
—David M. Greenwald reporting