The issue has come up for consideration and also has been tabled because the Council wanted to consider it jointly due to its proximity to Covell Village. Some on the side of developers, those on the side of the council majority would like to see the Lewis Property considered in conjunction with Covell Village.
On the other hand, progressives are opposed to any development in the near future on the Covell Village site but differ on what to do on the Lewis Property.
Mayor Sue Greenwald has long advocated for this property, which is currently zoned as high tech and light industrial to remain so. She argues that Davis needs to develop its own industry and business to avoid becoming just another bedroom town. She says we have enough housing but would like to see new high tech companies that can hire people directly out of college to stay in Davis and get work in the high tech field.
Councilmember Lamar Heystek said that the current proposal from the Lewis property owners is not one he would vote on. However, he believes that proposal will change in the future. His key focus was to avoid allowing the Lewis Property to be tied to Covell Village.
Councilmember Heystek argued that any such discussion of developing Lewis and Covell jointly flies in the face of the citizens’ will that was expressed in the Measure X election in November 2005. The voters of Davis voted strongly against the wholesale loss of peripheral agricultural land. A city staff-promoted concept plan that envisions the joint development of the Lewis and Covell sites would most probably trigger a Measure J vote, reopening a discussion that we just had less than two years ago. This is not what Davis needs.
While I sympathesize with the arguments that Mayor Sue Greenwald makes here, as I have studied the issue, I have become firmly in the camp of Councilmember Lamar Heystek.
First of all, developing the Lewis Property does not require any sort of Measure J vote. And I think even in properties that are not controversial, a Measure J vote will be time consuming and costly. As such we need to look into developing areas first that do not require a Measure J vote.
Second, Davis is in need of housing. The question is where is the best place to put it. While I am not opposed to densification, I often think that densification results in loss of character of core areas of the town. If it is not done well, densification could make our problems worse rather than better. Therefore, I wish to look for housing sites first where we do not need to build four and five story buildings in the core of town, altering the site and landscape inalterably.
Third, unlike a lot of properties that are under consideration, Lewis Property is already paved and it is just sitting there. There is no agriculture there. We are not talking about paving over prime agricultural land.
Fourth and finally, while I like the idea in concept of a high tech zone in Davis, I do not see it as viable at this point in time and furthermore I am less than sure I would want it where Lewis property is. I think a better area for high tech development would be along Second Street out along I-80.
Last the night the agenda item to explore residential development on the Lewis Property was passed with a 4-1 vote, Mayor Sue Greenwald the only dissenting vote. Councilmember Heystek was able to limit the community feedback about the Lewis Property to that specific site rather than any sort of joint study with the Covell Property. This will hopefully go a long way towards an avoidance of developing these parcels jointly.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting with help from Simon Efrein