Analysis: Closing Thoughts on Nishi’s Defeat and More

Nishi-Forum-11In the end, with all of the strangeness of having to count 6000 to 7000 additional votes, the outcomes really did not change. If anything, the final count bolstered the trend from Election Day, where Measure A went from 300 ahead in the initial count to 300 behind after the Election Day count was completed, and it ended up losing 51.5 to 48.5 percent, with a 693-point spread.

The No on Measure A team issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon, “We are grateful to Davis voters including UCD students who, after carefully considering the issues, voted No on the Nishi project. We appreciate that Measure J/R gave Davis residents the opportunity to decide for themselves if this project was what the community wanted. We continue to be concerned about the lack of well-planned housing in Davis and at UCD, however, and will continue to work hard towards the goal of increasing affordable housing availability.”

The Yes on Measure A campaign has not yet issued a statement on the results.  Nor have they publicly declared whether they would seek a new election with a modified project.

Here are some thoughts on the Measure A election and also the council election which has been finalized…

First, the final vote count showed 66.1 percent voter turnout.  That means 23,909 of 36,196 registered voters voted.  November’s vote count, depending on how competitive the presidential election race is, figures to top 80 percent.

That voter turnout pushed the council vote figures into record territory.  On June 5, 2002, Dan Wolk received 10,212 votes, finishing first in every precinct.  This year’s election has now seen Brett Lee finish first in every precinct.  He received a whopping 13,409 votes – shattering Dan Wolk’s record by over 3000 votes, or over 33 percent.

In fact, Lucas Frerichs finished second with 11,401 and Will Arnold finished third with 11,135 – also breaking Dan Wolk’s previous record by over 1000.  In 2012, 14,928 people voted.  In 2016, that number was nearly 9000 higher.

How big was the turnout?  We calculated, based on previous elections, that it would take about 9000 to win Measure A.  It turns out that number was quite low, and  11,702 voted against it while 11,009 voted for it.  We thought the high number of identified voters, 7000, might be decisive but the final vote totals dwarfed it.

What happened?

The numbers suggest a strong trend moving away from Measure A on Election Day.  Early on we believed that a strong Sanders push would get students out, students who were concerned about housing and costs.  It seems that may have actually worked against the project.

First, the typical Sanders voter in the city of Davis is probably less inclined to support growth.  Second, social justice supporters turned against the project with the lack of Affordable Housing and the apparent giveaway by the city.

The Sanders rally the week before, Yes on A officials believed, hurt them.  Hurting them as well were concerns about Redrum Burger, which they tried to alleviate.  Also there was a strong social media pushback against the project.

Still, I think it is hard to draw a lot of hard conclusions from a close election with an unusually high turnout.  Michael Harrington once again proclaimed this “the single worst proposed development – ever…”  And the city council as “totally out of touch with the voters.”

In our view, the electorate for the first time was truly split on this measure, with 11,000 voters supporting it.  That doesn’t suggest a council that is “totally out of touch with the voters.”  You could argue that point a lot higher in 2005, when 80 percent of the council voted for Measure X and 60 percent of the voters opposed it in the polls.  In 2009, 60 percent of the split council voted for Measure P but 75 percent of the voters opposed it.

No doubt the developers spent a lot of money to get the measure passed, but that is not unusual and, in fact, Measure A’s development team spent far less than the Measure X team to try to get the matter passed.

The measure was no doubt hurt by a number of factors we already laid out.  The Affordable Housing deal may have surprisingly been the key issue – turning off potential student and activist supporters.  As we mentioned previously, failure by the council to deal with some of the issues on Richards prior to the vote probably played a role.  Not nailing down key details on connectivity to campus, sustainability, and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification certainly hurt.

There are those who believed that not getting the measure on the November ballot was fatal as well, although the huge turnout may belie that point.

Going forward, there is a question as to whether Nishi, having come as close as it did, could come back.  A similar project might not require a new EIR, saving the team some of the expense of a total redesign.  On the other hand, several have told the Vanguard that they have some ideas for a truly progressive project at Nishi that would pass easily, and they seem discouraged that the development team did not take this to heart earlier.

There are those who believe that Nishi needs to go on a November ballot to win.  That would likely require November 2018.  It is not clear that the development team would want to wait that long.

The prevailing wisdom is that pushing it onto a special election – like Covell Village in 2005 and Wild Horse Ranch in 2009 – would be fatal, as the bulk of the committed voters are opposed to new projects.

The Vanguard believes that, regardless of what projects are needed, the 0.2 percent vacancy rate coupled with the continued campus growth are only going to increase the need for more student housing and, while UC Davis has agreed to supply more housing – as we argued on Monday – the devil will be in the details.

—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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70 thoughts on “Analysis: Closing Thoughts on Nishi’s Defeat and More”

  1. Fred

    “Hurting them as well were concerns about Redrum Burger which they tried to alleviate. ” Which they tried to alleviate? That is about the most favorable description you could probably come up for the hatchet job they tried to do on a very nice man. How about instead saying, ‘when the developers and their surrogates spent the last day of the election off message and attacking the owner of Redrum instead of promoting their project, it was clear they were in trouble.’ The way they treated Jim Edlund was despicable and spoke volumes about the quality of the character of those attacking him.

    1. Fred

      What was Kemble Pope thinking when he came out slinging mud at a small business owner in the final hours of the campaign? Only time will tell how much this hurt his credibility and possibly his Trackside project. It reflects very badly on him.

  2. Fred

    “The Sanders rally the week before, yes on A officials, believed hurt them.” I would have to agree and the aggressive paid operatives from Spafford +Lincoln probably made it worse. The No on A Facebook page summed it up perfectly:

    “Everyday our democracy is getting weaker and weaker because billionaires are buying elections” – Bernie Sanders, Davis CA, June 1, 2016.
    Photo of Yes on A staff “tabling” for millionaire developers at the Bernie Sanders rally in Davis tonight, June 1, 2016.
    Yes on A has already spent more than $360,000 on this campaign. “The majority of the funds — $329,000 so far — have been spent on the campaign’s team of local organizers, student interns, and printing and mailing costs.” – The Davis Enterprise June 1, 2016
    https://www.facebook.com/NoOnNishiDavis/photos/a.995294703871145.1073741828.990858060981476/1029996360400979/?type=3&theater

      1. Alan Miller

        The humor as well as the content of the No on A Facebook page was really something else; brilliant!

        I was Yes on A, and I have to agree with you — the No on A was hilarious, brilliant, and . . .  additionally, totally factually disingenuous.  But I still laughed it was so well done and politically brilliant.  Frank Lee had it all wrong — it was the young vote that sank the Nishi ship.  There was a huge outreach the last few weeks on social media to young progressives that Nishi was Satan’s palace.

    1. SODA

      Your description was right on: when I drove east on 80 on Election Day,entering on Mace on ramp there were about 8 young enthusiastic people waving Yes on A commercial signs and one lone woman a little farther along the road with a No on A handmade sign!

  3. Marina Kalugin

    PS>   follow the money and stop being such sheeple…….truly, really….

    that continues to be the message….

    PSSSS>>>most of the absentee had been mailed already and the provisionals were those who messed up earlier in not getting the correct ballots and such….

    however, someone stole our Bernie sign around the time of the election….my husband thought I okayed it?    now why the h would I do that?

    likely a yes on A guy…..who else would do such a thing….

    1. Alan Miller

      my husband thought I okayed it?    now why the h would I do that?

      I believe the reason he hired me to remove the sign was because he didn’t actually like Bernie Sanders.

      — Yes on A Guy

    1. dlemongello

      Of course NOT an R vote if that’s what you mean, just a council vote, it’s right in the middle of town already.

      I find your statements regarding Trump ridiculous, but of course you’re free to vote for whomever you like.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I didn’t defend Trackside, I chose to point out that we have not seen the latest iteration. The previous one was fatally flawed, that doesn’t mean the next one will be especially if they have support of the neighbors.

  4. dlemongello

    “failure by the council to deal with some of the issues on Richards prior to the vote probably played a role.  Not nailing down key details on connectivity to campus, sustainability, and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification certainly hurt”.

    These were the prevailing issues for the people I talked to; voting with the unknowns and holes in the DA not worked out re: Richards and UCD.

    1. nameless

      I did find revealing the words of Michael Harrington to the City Council last night, indicating those opposed to development were willing to work with the City Council moving forward to come up with solutions “WE” all could agree on – planning to put THEIR plans in a ballot measure…

      1. Misanthrop

        That was Michael gloating and rubbing it in their faces. I won’t hold my breath for the opponents to come up with plans to alleviate the housing shortage or the affordable housing shortage in the city. Most of these activists have been against every housing development since before Measure J when they tried to stop Wildhorse.

        As for the complaint about how much money the Yes on A people spent, Measure R guarantees that only rich people can play the annexation game.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I know there is some fraud triton in some quarters, but when you have nearly 23,000 people vote on a project and 51.5% of voting no, it’s hard to conclude that the measure is in trouble.

        1. Fred

          Nameless, that is just sour grapes and wishful thinking on your part. There was a huge voter turn out and the majority of the voters voted no on this specific project. Many more would vote to keep the right to vote on new developments in the future. You may not like Measure R, but Davis likes it.

        2. The Pugilist

          I think there is a beginning of a movement away from Measure R.  I was a supporter in 2000 and again in 2010, but I find it too difficult to get reasonable projects approved.  I don’t think Measure R is in danger, but for a lot of us, it is no loner automatic.

        3. Michael Harrington

          That was Michael Harrington offering, again, and again, to assist the CC with city policy and fiscal solutions that do not involve blowing the borders with terrible projects that suck city resources with little in expected payback to the city government or residents.

          BTW, anyone know where Nishi’s land mitigation was supposed to be?  Oh, they forget to tell us, and the CC did not make them, disclose it all the way through to a Measure R vote?  Isn’t that mitigation supposed to be part of the bargain with the voters?

           

          Same for Ramos Land:  forgot to tell us?

           

          What’s with this pattern?  Well, we are going to fix Measure R and force the developers and the CC to ensure these basics are part of the deal, and fully disclosed long before the next R vote.

          CC members:  may I ask one of you to tell us WHY you guys refused to require the mitigation disclosures?  I just don’t understand this:  the mitigation land is a key piece of the deal, and good mitigation land should be the lead point in a proposal.  It just makes me conclude, reluctantly, that the mitigation was not disclosed because it’s just more junky low-value waste land in the county with near zero habitat or development risk.

           

          So bury the mitigation location and quality, and the developer starts with 1 1/2 feet in the hole before the race to the  R vote.  Not requiring the disclosure was a huge hit on the developers … the CC and staff sort of did this, didn’t they?  Just asking.

      2. ryankelly

        Harrington has no plans to work collaboratively with anyone outside of his group.  I don’t know why he even attends City Council meetings after he has publicly stated that that its members are not to be trusted in any way.

        1. Michael Harrington

          I asked the CC to put the Cannery on the ballot, and not one of them moved to put the package on the ballot for the voters.  The result of this failure to give the voters a voice in a direct election has been playing out ever since.   Lack of bike overcrossing access, the huge gift to the developers of the facilities bond, the Cith Manager (certainly with the blessing of the CC) hiring a senior member of the Cannery Team, and then tens of thousands of New Homes contributions to Dan Wok shortly after he and Rochelle and Lucas gave them the sweet deal.  Wonderful.  Feels like Modesto.

        1. ryankelly

          Just go ahead and post your suggestions for improvement here.  They will read them along with everyone else.  Do it, Mike.  Let us know what you would say to them if they did meet with you.

  5. Fred

    “Early on we believed that a strong Sanders push would get students out, students who were concerned about housing and costs.  It seems that may have actually worked against the project.”
    This belief was based on the assumption that students could be duped into voting for a project that was actually against their interests by hiring paid student operatives from ASUCD to secure the ASUCD endorsement and then canvas the campus with yet more paid operatives Spafford + Lincoln. (Spafford also had Aggie Newspaper staff on payroll). Not surprisingly, students are much smarter than the A campaign gave them credit for and many of them voted against Measure A because they wanted truly affordable student housing, not more luxury apartments. In the end Spafford + Lincoln was a liability not an asset because it highlighted how developers were trying to buy student support.

    1. Fred

      I also have to wonder what Stephen Souza got out of this. He is listed as a member of the board of directors of Spafford + Lincoln, and was prominently featured in the campaign. David reported in the comments section of an earlier story that Souza was paid $500 directly by the Yes on Measure A campaign, yet he never actually appeared on the Yes on A campaign expenditure forms so either David was wrong or the campaign expenditure forms were wrong. My guess is the money actually went through Spafford + Lincoln so we would have no idea how much Souza was paid in total. Spafford and its operatives received over $100,000 at the first reporting period. (5 times what Yes on A reported for their entire campaign).  This will surely have to be considered some of the worst money spent in a Davis election.

    2. David Greenwald Post author

      Come on Fred, it was based on the belief that housing is a huge issue for students. I work with many during the course of the year and it’s a constant complaint. There were factors that lead that belief not to pan out in this election (or at least in theory).

      1. Marina Kalugin

        it is…and it is being built on campus…and Nishi is not needed.    🙂

        PS>   most of us were students at some point, and despite what some here might think,..  not all of them were born yesterday either…

  6. Rob White

    Fred (Colin) –

    Please take a chill pill. You got what you wanted, why the continued digs? The community listened, voted, and Nishi was defeated. Not by very much, but defeated nonetheless.

    AND, there are some very large holes in your suppositions (that you appear to refer to as facts), and it is obvious you only know some of the background about the topics on which you are writing… It seems you would be well-served to let sleeping dogs lie. Have some dignity and grace…

    Unless of course you have something to disclose? Because usually those that gloat after a victory often have something that drives them… what is driving you?

    1. The Pugilist

      For all the complaints about the nastiness of the yes side, people like Fred are not only nasty about the project but to anyone who isn’t dead set opposed to the project.

      1. Fred

        Pug, In the final days of the election the attacks on Redrum’s Jim Edlund were desperate and over the line. It’s bad enough that developers planned to bulldoze his 30 year old business without ever giving him a fair shake, but then to attack him because he stood up for himself was a step beyond.  Today David described the politically motivated no holds barred attacks on Jim in the final days of the campaign as trying to “alleviate” the problem. These prolific attacks came in a coordinated waves from paid facebook ads, more than 7 Spafford field operatives and interns, White, Pope,  and others stating the same things over and over again on the Vanguard and social media. I am not going to stand by and let that kind of bullying be whitewashed. If you think I am nasty for sticking up for Jim, I can live with that.

        1. dlemongello

          Something just did not add up about the “great deals they had offered Redrum” and “he had declined”.  I did not know the inside scoop, but it seemed very unlikely that offers like that could hold water or be sincere with nothing on paper. Or was the hollowness of some other sort?

           

        2. Fred

          Your right, I spoke with Jim Edlund at length about the situation and there is a much longer and fraught story about all of the ways the developers treated him poorly over several years, but it is not my story to tell. Jim did say a few things about it on the Redrum Facebook page – here https://www.facebook.com/205532616140580/photos/a.1351573648203132.1073741826.205532616140580/1354653654561798/?type=1&theater and on other postings.

          I think the easiest and most obvious place to start and what I feel comfortable saying is this, the “offers” that were being posted repetitively on social media and the Vanguard  by a whole range of people (in some cases by high school interns at Spafford + Lincoln) on the last 2 days of the campaign were as close to a formal offer as Jim got.  Hopefully needless to say, the timing of these offers alone was enough to make them unworkable, since there would be no way at that late hour to take what was being floated on Facebook, and turn it into a binding contract before the election.

          My opinion is these offers and the suggested giveaways that were some times accompanied by personal attacks and veiled threats where no more than a last minute attempt to smear Jim and Redlund.

           

           

        3. David Greenwald Post author

          My reference to alleviate the problem comes from this statement from the developers: “Redrum Burger has been offered space as the Nishi Gateway’s first tenant in a modern facility at the same rent they are currently paying” – You seem to be claiming that that offer was never made. I have no way of knowing either way.

        4. Fred

          Thank you for your reply David. I recognize that you are referencing statements from the developer alone. That is a very one side thing to do.
          To put this in context, Redrum is not alone as a small Davis business facing pressures from large developers. Just look at the now empty store fronts in the former Brinley properties along 2nd street. Now that these buildings have been bought by a large Bay Area developer the pressure is on the over 20 small businesses in the buildings. First there is a massive jump in the rental expenses and some of the business have opted to close. What will happen next when the developers want to redevelop the entire block on 2nd between E and F? How will the small businesses be treated by the City and the Developer? These small businesses are a valuable part of Davis, and it takes years to cultivate the wonderful small businesses that thrive in Downtown Davis. They cannot be easily replaced. David, I urge you to set the tone now by giving small businesses a fair shake. Please don’t just parrot developer statements about Redrum. Please investigate, analyze and report.
          Have you called Jim Edlund from Redrum for a statement? You have not included the statements Jim posted on his Facebook page in this article or your comments here.
          It would be good journalism to show multiple points of view. I assume you saw the attacks on Jim since some of them occurred right here on the Vanguard. Even your earlier article about Redrum, released on the day before the election, although it included quotes from Redrum’s Facebook page, never suggest that you tried to get information directly from Redrum’s owner. It did however have extensive quotes from named and unnamed sources supporting the developer making unfounded accusations about Redrum. It also had factual problems with dates that I pointed out to you at the time but you have never tried to clarify.
          Yes, I am claiming no credible offer was ever made by the Nishi developer to Redrum. Even just looking at the Developers statements and attacks from the many and varied surrogates it is clear on the face of it that no credible offer was ever made. Just look at how they tried to approach Redrum. They had High School interns and others posting offers on a Facebook page in the final days before an election. Jim was literally learning about what was being “offered” by reading Facebook posts being made by High School interns from the Yes campaign. That is not good business practices on the part of the developer, and the “offers” lack credibility.
          If there is any one thing I think people should know about Jim Edlund it is this: Jim is a businessman, not one of Davis’s political creatures. His restaurant is a source of income for him and his employees not a political pawn that he was attempting to maneuver for some unknown advantage. His interest going forward is to keep his business going. He would have readily made a deal with the Nishi developers and been a supporter of the project given a chance, but that opportunity was never presented and opposing the project was his only option to save his business.
          After years of trying to work something out, on June 1st, 6 days before the election Jim finally made a public statement on the official Redrum Face book page and urged Redrum fans to vote no on Measure A. His post received over 500 reactions and was shared to almost 400 individual and group Facebook pages. His post easily reached 10s of thousands of people. His follow up on June 5th was shared by over 100 people. There was an outpouring of support for the beloved long standing Davis business, but it was rapidly followed by a barrage of hostility and veiled threats from the developers surrogates. I can understand why the developers felt they had to attack Jim in the final hours of the campaign, but their tactics were unethical.
           
          The developers “offers,” postings, and articles attempted to smear a good person’s name and I can’t stand by when you describe these vicious attacks as nothing more than an attempt to “alleviate” the problem.

    2. Michael Harrington

      Nice to hear from you, Rob.  Now that this five year developer-driven nightmare trio of projects are on hold, tell us some more good things you have planned to help the city’s finances and good civic relations?

      Fred is 100% correct on the facts and conclusions posted on the DV.   The public needs to know these things.

      1. ryankelly

        I don’t think you have a right to challenge people about their plans to resolve the city’s finances and civic relations, until suggest plans of your own.  The public needs to know if obstruction is the only tool in your shed or if you have any idea of how to address the financial and housing crisis that is coming.  I’m going to assume that you will be supporting future tax increases both for the City and the School District and expect that property owners will be paying these additional taxes on time and without complaint.

         

      2. hpierce

        I think “good civic relations” is code for paying ‘extortion’ to the right folk…

        Perhaps in the amount and location of “mitigation”…

    3. Fred

      Rob, your last minute politically motivated attacks on Jim Edlund from Redrum were noted too. It was completely indecent and uncalled for. I would have expected better than attacks on small business owners from someone who is trying to attract businesses to Davis. That’s the real nastiness.

      Gloating? No, just another day with another shoddy Vanguard article.

  7. DurantFan

    Clearly the Nishi Project would have had a  major impact on the the busy intersection of Olive Drive and Richards Boulevard.  Many small businesses thrive there (the Shell Gas Station, Redrum Burger, Dutch Brothers Coffee, and In and Out Burger, among others), and traffic flow there is consistently heavy.  This long established, diverse, and somewhat “funky,” business community continues to be popular with  a wide variety of Davis residents.

    Ripping out the Shell gas station on Olive Drive JUST before election day was DUMB squared! Although that “in your face” activity may have been unrelated  to the Nishi Project, the demolished site  “painted” an incredibly negative visual demonstrating the potential  impacts of the Project on this specific community, and , by extension, other communities within Davis.

    1. The Pugilist

      “Ripping out the Shell gas station on Olive Drive JUST before election day was DUMB squared!”

      That didn’t have anything to do with Nishi, but it was poorly timed.

      1. Marina Kalugin

        most such things are “poorly timed”….  I like Chevron gas better…any chance of a Chevron going in?

        doesn’t mean I like the company, just their gas is better…..yeah, yeah….I know the pundits will say that is bull…all I know is our cars drive on that better than the stuff with higher ethanol…

  8. The Pugilist

    One of the more interesting things is that following the loss of Covell, the city took a step back on development.  Following the loss of WHR it stopped development cold on the periphery.  Now with the economy back, we finally are seeing a true divide in this community on development.  This was as close to 50-50 as you could get.  Is this a sign that the pendulum is beginning to swing back toward more willingness to see development?  That’s a key question.

    1. Michael Harrington

      Pug:  the public has nearly always been in favor of good, reasonable housing and business projects.  We just have seen few of them.

      For Nishi to ever win an R vote (and I believe it can), they are going to have to stop being so arrogant, and talk to the public about a plan that works for all of us in that quadrant.  Destroying the flow of people and commerce through our southern entrance to the downtown will fail every single time.

      (And Kemble Pope, Manager of the Trackside project team and former CEO of the Davis Chamber of Commerce, attacking our beloved Murder Burger was …. beyond understanding.)  Why would one business guy personally attack the owner of one of our most famous, longest, and successful businesses?)

      Reminder:  the Nishi CEQA/Measure R/Affordable housing Ordinance litigation is still active, and Plaintiffs would be very willing to sit down with the Nishi team and see if a settlement can be reached.

        1. Michael Harrington

          Pug:  I’m just posting my views.   Putting out clear communications helps all interested parties reach a mutually amicable resolution of the problems.   I think it’s total BS that the City is bothering the public with these poorly planned exterior projects.

      1. South of Davis

        Mike wrote:

        > Why would one business guy personally attack the

        > owner of one of our most famous, longest, and

        > successful businesses?

        When you are the kind of guy that thinks it is a good idea to kick the owner of the most popular blog in Davis out of a Chamber event…

  9. Marina Kalugin

    the same engineering firm and developers didn’t learn much from what they just did at the Cannery…..Matt, would you please explain, as I am so tired of repeating myself on that topic?

      1. hpierce

        And the engineering firms were different, as well… two strikes… am pretty sure another is soon to follow, if it hasn’t already preceeded from the “tired” poster…

        Thanks for corroboration, Pugilist…

    1. Marina Kalugin

      most of the developments in Davis in decades used Cunningham Engineering, and Chuckie Cunningham himself, now retired, wrote a long document of support….

      the same developer who also owns the apartments across from the Cannery, and is blocking the easement for the bike crossing, is also involved in the Nishi project from what I was informed by a friend……

      Fouts is building large, million plus houses in the Cannery project and wasn’t he also a player in Nishi?

      just to name a few of the players I was thinking of……

      it would be nice to have a chart of those involved,  and also including “silent investors” as well as those with their names actually posted  – much of the developing and building related funds flow through similar hands regardless of the “project”……

       

  10. RoyM

    I was open to the Nishi project until I saw the details of the Project and the Process.

    First, those who asked why Nishi needed to be annexed into the city instead of letting the developers make a deal with UCD to provide services were curtly dismissed with “…this is the project we have in front of us…”.  Since UCD shares a border with Nishi, has a police department, has a fire department, has a water supply to draw from, has a sewer to drain into, and would benefit from additional housing next to campus, the question seemed very reasonable.  When it wasn’t answered, we were left with the conclusion that the people who should know the answer were either lazy, incompetent, or didn’t want to provide the answer because it wouldn’t serve their purpose.

    Second, the project descriptions were deceptive and biased.  The project was always 700,000 sq. ft. of residential and 400,000 sq. ft. of commercial.  Rather than present it in this way (which would have allowed voters to easily understand that it was two-thirds residential and one-third commercial), all of the descriptions were “650 dwelling units and 400,000 sq. ft. of commercial and industrial space”. Even the ballot measure described it as “University-Related Research Park”.  Is this a pure coincidence, or was it a deliberate choice as the developers, city staff, and other supporters worked together to try to sell the project?  Logic suggests the latter alternative.

    Third, there was no need to subsidize the developer with either the up-front study funding or other givebacks/public funding for the infrastructure.  Philosophically, “Socialism for the Rich” is not an idea that gets much support.  Pragmatically, his alternative was not a good one (i.e., to continue to farm a marginal piece of land for which he overpaid several years ago).  Unfortunately for the developer/staff/supporters, these subsidies were one of the arguments against the project.

    Fourth, the traffic plan was ridiculous.  Unless one widened Richards, the railroad underpass, and A street to two lanes in either direction, the capacity of the Olive & Richards intersection would continue to be the limiting factor.  Adding more traffic to it would simply increase congestion; something the voters would not accept.  The one alternative that would have added capacity would have been a new road (on land leased or purchased from UCD) parallel to the freeway and intersecting Old Davis Road near the I-80 Overpass.  Another wilder alternative would be to work with UC Davis and build the student housing like dorms — which typically do not offer parking.  (This would have also made the project very ‘green’ since transport would be by bicycle in most cases.)

    Fifth, the R&D/commercial/industrial part of the project “disappeared”.  It was obvious that the developer wasn’t interested in this piece of it since it was marginally profitable and risky (given the vacancy rates and competition from other building in Davis and elsewhere).  Since much was made of the “Innovation Center” nature of this proposal, the absence of any requirement for this space in the development agreement made the whole project seem disingenuous and deceptive.

    Sixth, it would have been very easy to test the air quality and thereby refute the assertion of unhealthy air.  There are lots of former California Air Resource Board personnel in the metro area, not to mention the many scientists and lab technicians  on campus.  Unless you thought the results would confirm the accusation (a real possibility), it would seem wise to have diverted some of the $500,000 spent on paid staff towards providing a factual, scientific response to the accusation.

    Seventh, what were the economics of LEED Platinum vs. Leed Gold?  Again, it would seem that the developer/staff/supporters should have known that the higher standard would cost $X.  Since the only reason not to do LEED Platinum would be cost, and since other Davis buildings are built to that standard, the rationale for not committing to it should have been communicated.

    Eighth, why was the process rushed?  The ‘hurry’ to get the project on the June ballot resulted in a number of shortcuts, something that the voters noticed.

    All-in-all, the developer, the city staff, and the supporters should understand that they lost a very winnable election.

     

     

     

     

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      A simple question on your first point: the city wants space for R&D in the city, having UCD annex Nishi defeats the purpose of that goal.

      1. RoyM

        Two points:

        First, if they wanted R&D space at Nishi, they would have mandated it as part of the development agreement (i.e….certificate of occupancy will be granted on residential units only after certificates of occupancy have been granted on commercial space equal to half of the total residential square footage).

        Second, the commercial space in the Nishi project was no larger than the available vacant lots along Cowell next to I-80.

        footageand until certificates of occupancy50

    2. Michael Harrington

      RoyM:  well stated!    It’s a total mystery why these local rich families chose to proceed the way they did, and chose and pay for a smarmy “rich looking” campaign that was practically guaranteed to fail as it is not “the Davis way.”

       

      (I think these political marketing firms are paid a percentage of the budget, so there is a huge interest, and a conflict, to allow the vendor to decide how expensive a campaign to run.  That might explain the runaway tractor campaign.)

       

      Again, a note to the CC:  our amended R initiative will require that the basic box checks will be done well before the final vote to put the measure on the ballot.  This should make the projects more successful.

      How in the heck did they think they could win with no:  deal with UCD for the RR underpass and road system on the UCD side:  city-county tax sharing deal;  city-UCD-County-Cal Trans plan and funding sources for “fixing” Richards and Olive and I-80;  final development agreement; affordable housing;  disclosure and a signed deal for the mitigation land?

      I understand that the developers and staff buried most of the adverse air quality  information from Dr. Cahill?  Since the election I have seen additional extremely adverse air quality studies.

       

      1. hpierce

        Since the election I have seen additional extremely adverse air quality studies.

        Since we know you are extremely civic-minded, would you be willing to cite and share?

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