Sunday Commentary: Competing Visions For Economic Development

William_McDonoughDoes Davis Need Green Guru Riding in White Horse to Save Us?

In Sunday’s Davis Enterprise, the members of the ChamberPAC once again get editorial space in the local paper to promote their vision for economic development.

They write: “To compete regionally and create true community sustainability, we have no choice but to nurture and promote Davis economic development.”

It is a kinder and gentler vision, selling it to those in the community with trepidation about what economic development may mean.  They explain: “There’s that scary term again – economic development! Many in the community equate economic development with sprawl and a loss of community identity. What can we do now to encourage economic development without compromising our identity?”

The ChamberPAC explains economic development as “the sustained, concerted actions of policymakers and communities that promote the standard of living and economic health of a specific area.”

They argue, “It is hard to argue that such efforts wouldn’t be beneficial to the entire community.  However, to be successful, concerted actions by the community, city staff and elected officials must be taken together to generate jobs (aka develop human capital), maintain and build critical infrastructure, become regionally competitive and otherwise promote and nurture Davis’ economic health.”

The city of Davis is attempting to do exactly this by bringing in a veritable outsider, green guru William McDonough who is best known for designing the Ford Motor Company’s plant with a vast green grass roof and more recently with his book Cradle to Cradle, he has, according to Forbes Magazine, “unleashed a design revolution that began examining not just what things look like, but also the chemical makeup of things: water bottles, carpet, countertops.”

“The proposed Vision process with McDonough + Partners will provide an opportunity to think more holistically and deliberately about what we want our economy to look like in the future and what steps need to be taken to ensure we achieve the desired outcomes,” city staff writes.

“This process will seek to bring into alignment the community’s economic development aspirations with its commitment to environmental stewardship,” they continue.  “This effort is also timely as the University brings into focus its 2020 Initiative and will provide a venue for identifying opportunities for strategic partnerships that support our shared visions for the future. Community partners, both public and private as well as business and environment, are prepared to support and engage in this important topic.”

“This effort will demonstrate the city’s ability to take a leadership role in bringing these interests together on issues of mutual concern and benefit,” staff writes.

Writes City Staff, “Based on several exploratory conversations with William McDonough + Partners, it was shared that a visioning process for this effort would: facilitate a dialogue between community stakeholders, articulate the shared values in the community and define the guiding Principles to frame action plans to achieve long-term economic vitality in Davis.”

But why bring in an outsider to do what we have the talent to do within the community?  Why have yet another visioning process on top of what has already been done?

We have already had the Davis Economic Health and Prosperity Report, DSIDE Community Forum, the Business Park Land Strategy, and UC Davis Request for Concepts.

The city would argue, “Each of these efforts have touched directly or indirectly on the benefit of having a vision that could help guide the individual and collective goals for economic development in Davis. Most recently, in framing the community outreach process for the CEDS, it became apparent that a well structured and engaging process with the community is needed to establish a shared longterm vision for a sustainable and innovative Davis economy.”

At the same time, it seems the ChamberPAC already has a list of actions they would like to see the council work toward.  These include the development of “Nishi/Solano Park/Gateway/downtown area as a mixed-use, innovation district that would provide space for start-ups and tech businesses, as well as much-needed high-density housing, both of which would be in, or in close proximity to, UC Davis and downtown so residents and workers could walk and bike seamlessly between the two.”

They also want to see the city “execute a plan to continue the development of the downtown as an arts and entertainment district to attract visitors and residents.”  The first steps there include “constructing the privately funded Richards Tunnel Gateway Welcome Arch and Art Project that was proposed earlier this year.”

They want to continue the Buy Local Davis program that would shift “10 percent of the community’s purchasing power from national and regional retailers to locally owned retailers.”

They also want to “increase and better manage the supply of downtown parking. The first steps would be to design and install way-finding signs and to accurately determine daily peak utilization of existing parking capacity.”

Further, they want to encourage densification and provide additional mixed-use development.

They want modify the “zoning of the Target shopping center on Second Street to encourage the development of the vacant retail pads in a fashion compatible with our community vision.”

Finally they want to create “a public/private economic development corporation that would attract, retain and grow companies in specific industry sectors, leveraging the region’s assets – those of UCD in particular – pursuant to an Economic Development Plan to be developed by the EDC, with specific measurable goals. Such an EDC would dramatically boost and complement, not replace, existing city staff economic development efforts.”

Is this the way to go?  I do not know that I agree with each of these goals.

They offer, “We have no illusions that such policies and actions will provide immediate relief for the schools and city budgets. But we are very confident that such policies and actions eventually will result in a job-creating and robust local economy critically needed for fostering a sustainable Davis community.”

I am less than sure that these kinds of proposals will do what they think they will.  That said, the city offers an alternative, bringing in an outsider to do what the insiders have already done.

The idea that we need a William McDonough to come in on his firm’s white horse and offer us some shared vision and then turn around and ride back out of time seems a bit strange.

My understanding is that this idea has been pushed forward by a couple of local business people – not the ones who wrote the ChamberPAC piece, and that the city and campus are lukewarm at best to the idea.

Looking at the list that the ChamberPAC offers up, it seems there is certainly a good start there of concrete projects for consideration.

The community with the homegrown talent to bring us West Village, the first zero net energy development in the nation, and the talent to bring us Village Homes, probably is not in need of William McDonough or his associates to tell it how to innovate.

On the other hand, what is clear is that there are competing visions for how Davis should move forward.  At the same time, it is even more clear that there is resistance to change.

The ChamberPAC piece clearly attempts to gain some sort of comfort while at the same time pushing the ChamberPAC’s agenda to the general population.  I am not sure writing a series of Op-Eds is the right approach either.

That does not offer a dialogue – the kind of dialogue that is really needed when different groups have different ideas about moving forward.

At the same time, it must be noted that the McDonough idea seems to have been met largely with a gaping yawn from many in the community who have both seen this and done that before.

The bottom line is that if we offer the community some well-thought out, innovative infill projects, then we might have a chance at community buy-in.  If we offer them dressed-up peripheral development in the Northwest Quadrant and Mace, we’re going to have a holy war.

From that standpoint, I think that it is time to stop visioning and time to start offering concrete projects that we can debate and then accept or reject on the merits.

—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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53 Comments

  1. Robb Davis

    Thanks for this David. I know it might sound like planning “jargon” but I think we need to distinguish between vision, objectives and actions. I don’t think there is much disagreement in this town about the vision for economic development. After all, who does NOT want things like a vibrant downtown, a diversified retail base and sites dedicated to high tech ( with secure jobs with good pay) startups and businesses? It is as we move into objectives and then specific actions (plans) that the differences emerge. Those differences can be quite sharp because how Davis’ leaders support or fail to support certain actions (projects) means significant gains for some and loss (or an inability to realize gains) for others.

    I don’t think we need a “new” visioning process for the reasons you lay out above. We need to push our leaders to make some determinations about the actions that are on the table. Let’s be clear–no matter what our leaders decide there will be some who will support their actions and others who will vigorously and loudly oppose them. If I understand the many comments on this site, what is frustrating to people in the business community is inaction–an inability to move forward. If that is the case a new visioning process will not yield better results. Stakeholders will largely agree with whatever broad vision emerges and then proceed to disagree on the best means (objectives and, more specifically, projects) to achieve the vision.

  2. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]My understanding is that this idea has been pushed forward by a couple of local business people – not the ones who wrote the ChamberPAC piece, and that the city and campus are lukewarm at best to the idea.[/quote]

    It appears city staff is also supporting the idea of bringing in McDonough, or have I misinterpreted what was said in this article?

    To Robb Davis: Well said!

  3. David M. Greenwald

    “It appears city staff is also supporting the idea of bringing in McDonough, or have I misinterpreted what was said in this article?”

    I was told they were lukewarm on it

  4. David M. Greenwald

    “Just slap the word “green” on it and Davis will bite. “

    You of all people know that’s not true, just look at Measure P.

  5. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]erm: “It appears city staff is also supporting the idea of bringing in McDonough, or have I misinterpreted what was said in this article?”

    dmg: I was told they were lukewarm on it[/quote]

    According to the staff report, written by Ken Hiatt and Sarah Worley:
    “Approve resolution to authorize the City Manager to enter into a consulting services contract with William McDonough + Partners, to develop a visioning process to establish shared principles, goals and an implementation strategy for long-term economic vitality consistent with the community’s values.”

    If you read the rest of the report, it seems to be very much in favor of this approach, especially the conclusory paragraph. How can that be read as anything but support? If they were “lukewarm” as you suggest, they would have said so I assume…

  6. DT Businessman

    “I am not sure writing a series of Op-Eds is the right approach either.”

    David, what’s the right approach in your view?

    -Michael Bisch, Chamber PAC

  7. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]I’m sure you can figure out what’s going on here.[/quote]

    Not really. This is the problem with “unnamed sources”. You indicate staff “were lukewarm on it”, yet it appears Ken Hiatt and Sarah Worley are very much in favor of this idea. To my way of thinking, what someone tells a reporter off the record doesn’t mean diddlysquat – it is what is on paper and on record that counts. For all intents and purposes it appears city staff are very much in support of this idea of bringing in McDonough. In fact the staff report talks about all the other visioning efforts, then states one big visioning process by McDonough is necessary to bring all the visioning efforts together in a cohesive way. I see nothing but staff support for this idea…

  8. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]I’d like to see some community forums and townhall meets with panels and some discussion.[/quote]

    Didn’t that already occur with DSIDE, etc.? I was at the original DSIDE meetings; and DSIDE meetings are ongoing. There was plenty of community participation.

  9. Frankly

    Rob Davis, I appreciate the project comments. Although I largely agree with your points, I do think that there is a disconnect with the vision for Davis. More specifically, I think there a lack of vision for what it takes to deliver a community like ours a level of economic heath and vibrancy. The business community needs to take a much stronger leading roll in helping to shape this vision, and to also control more of the narrative on city planning and development going forward. By successfully communicating a compelling vision you get more citizens onboard and tend to reduce some of the later project-derailing conflicts that would otherwise develop.

    A vision has to be sold considering the “what’s in it for me” principle. I think there is 1/3 of the population that will be against change because they want everything to stay the same. There is another 1/3 that want change and will support almost any compelling vision to develop our economy. The middle 1/3 can be influenced. Unfortunately it is the first 1/3 that has been more motivated to participate in Davis politics and has controlled too much of the narrative related to economic development. This is why Davis generates about 60% of the state average retail sales and we have become largely a bedroom community aside from those attending or working for UC.

    I think the Davis ChamberPac is doing the right thing writing and publishing op-eds for the Enterprise. We need to get this compelling vision out there to enfluence people and stir their passions. The blockers will come out in full force as they always do.

    Related to the Green guru, unfortunately I see this as being largely another tool of the blockers. It depends how the city uses this resource; but adding development requirements to meet some extreme green agenda will only serve to reduce the number of businesses that would locate here, and it would potentially cause others with interest to not pencil out after adding the additional costs for green building features. It is not easy or cheap to be extreme green. So, as long as we inject a level of flexibility and practicality into our approach toward development requirements supporting a green agenda, I am all for it. But I am worried that extremists will demand extremes and we will just add another check to the long list of things that make Davis the most business-unfriendly small cities.

  10. Don Shor

    Just to clarify: there’s nothing in the ChamberPAC op-ed about the visioning consultant. It is a simple list of goals and actions they recommend for the incoming council. Most of them are things that have been discussed on the Vanguard and there seems to be broad agreement about them (Nishi, rezoning around Target, trying to resolve parking, etc.).
    Some will likely question the use of public monies to start a “buy local” campaign. I would expect lots of anguished commentary about any proposal to put a Welcome Arch on Richards, because Davisites love to debate things like that (remember when the co-op got painted?). I have asked before about the logic or efficacy of having an economic development corporation for a small city like Davis; generally EDC’s are regional and much larger.
    But Nishi, parking, and downtown densification don’t seem to be very controversial to me.

    I would like to know who is actually proposing the use of the consultant. If they have a strong rationale, I’d love to hear it. Otherwise, it seems like a waste of time and money to me.

  11. medwoman

    From the op ed

    [quote] Many in the community equate economic development with sprawl and a loss of community identity. What can we do now to encourage economic development without compromising our identity? To answer this question, we must first understand exactly what economic development is.[/quote]

    While I am in agreement with a number of the proposals put forth in the op ed, I think it would do much to allay the concerns of those who do not share the perceived vision of the business community of economic growth being inextricably tied to undesired ( by the same skeptics) population growth, if the business proponents would spend as much time defining their concept of our “community identity” as they do in defining economic development. Only by seeing if their vision of “community identity” is in alignment with that of those who prefer a small city atmosphere over a more urban, or even worse Vacaville like atmosphere can we decide if their proposals meet both the criteria of economic development and preservation of community identity.

  12. Michael Harrington

    An Arch at Richards would look … Odd ?

    If there is a panel discussion about the downtown, I would volunteer for it Lived and worked downtown 24/7 since 1995; seen it all.

    I want to see our local business thrive. It’s really doing poorly through this Great Recession.

  13. civil discourse

    A buy local campaign is a waste of time in Davis. Everybody is already aware of “buying local”- the farmers market- one of the first in the country- is founded on the idea.

    The rest of the proposals have pretty much been laid out by Mark West and Don Shor and others on this blog.

    Nothing new from the Chamber PAC in my opinion. More rhetoric against a straw man that no longer exists. I’m for economic sustainability myself, as it turns out.

  14. Robb Davis

    The actions called for in the Op-Ed may not be new but that a significant business group is willing to call them out as THE actions that the City Council should get to work on now is noteworthy and welcome I think. Just one comment and a question:

    Comment: I am not sure I agree with civil discourse on the “buy local” campaign. I am not convinced that many (most?) Davisites or the decision makers at our largest local purchaser (UC Davis) have thought through what it means to buy local. Certainly consumers are informed about eating locally but there are many other purchases that could keep tax dollars and money circulating locally that are not often considered. I have no data on this so you might disagree. It is a sense I have based on how little consideration people give to where they buy non-food goods.

    Question (And this is NOT rhetorical–it is genuinely out of ignorance): What is keeping us (the City Council) from moving on any or all of the items on the Chamber PAC list? I understand there will be costs associated with each but I also know that some costs will be borne by the private sector or the University if it can be convinced to partner with us (I have in mind a partnership to study parking for example)? So… what are the factors holding up implementation? Even though I have lived here for over a decade now there are some things I simply do not understand.

    Finally… I am perhaps more sanguine than Medwoman about the risk of peripheral sprawl. Measure R provides us with a powerful tool to stop sprawl in our nearby and County land use policies help us avoid leapfrog type development. I am not concerned that “economic development” in the Davis context is some kind of Trojan Horse for those hungry for peripheral development. I just do not see it–and I certainly do not see this risk in the Chamber PAC’s proposal.

  15. Mark West

    Rob Davis: “[i]What is keeping us (the City Council) from moving on any or all of the items on the Chamber PAC list?[/i]”

    The Nishi development will require annexation and a Measure R vote. The other items can be acted upon immediately, and most are not new ideas. Some in fact have been proposed before and approved by the City Council as part of a previous ‘visioning’ exercise, and were then either ignored or actively blocked.

    The underlying problem is what I consider to be an unreasonable demand to know all the parameters and wait for consensus before making any decision. This approach has been used successfully to block any meaningful change, and has resulted in our current financial situation. Dialog and visioning are great, but we need to implement the ideas that result from the process, not wait for universal acceptance.

  16. David M. Greenwald

    But leaving aside universal acceptance which is never going to happen on anything, do we even have any sort of consensus on these projects and do we know?

  17. Mr.Toad

    David said “If we offer them dressed-up peripheral development in the Northwest Quadrant and Mace, we’re going to have a holy war.”

    While I’m sure you mean this figuratively it does suggest a fealty before the alter of the tomato that defies any reason beyond the cultish. Interestingly the Northwest Quadrant isn’t even class I soil, so, maybe your objections have a more fundamentalist nature than you recognize.

  18. David M. Greenwald

    It’s not a soil issue for me if that’s what you’re asking. It’s a question of growth and land use policies. On that front, I think growing along I-80 is more inviting and therefore more dangerous for sprawl than growth on the Northwest Quadrant away from I-80 and towards an area that is less inviting for growth. Nevertheless, it’s a move I’d prefer to avoid for the time being.

  19. Mark West

    Medwoman: “[i]Only by seeing if their vision of “community identity” is in alignment with that of those who prefer a small city atmosphere over a more urban, or even worse Vacaville like atmosphere can we decide if their proposals meet both the criteria of economic development and preservation of community identity[/i].”

    Actually I think you have it backwards. The Chamber PAC has made a series of proposals that they believe will improve the economic viability of the city. If you don’t like their ideas because you think they will adversely impact the ‘character’ of the city, then it is incumbent upon you to explain specifically why you think that to be true, and then propose an alternative approach that would mitigate your concerns. Demanding that they prove that their vision of ‘community identity’ is in alignment with your own in advance of discussing the validity of their proposals is nonsense.

  20. Mark West

    David Greenwald: [i]”do we even have any sort of consensus on these projects and do we know?”[/i]

    Why is consensus important at this point. The proposals are on the table, if you don’t like them, say why and offer an alternative. The discussion that ensues will produce a better proposal. Waiting for consensus in advance is simply deciding to do nothing; something we have done far too much of in my opinion.

    We do not need one ‘home run’ vision or approach that we all agree in advance will be the answer to all of our problems. What we need are a number of incremental projects and approaches that will add up to the final goal of economic viability. Some proposals will work as expected and lead to success, and some will not. Fear of ([i]insert your favorite obsession here[/i]) should not be the controlling factor in deciding how we proceed.

  21. David M. Greenwald

    “Why is consensus important at this point”

    You’re kidding right? If you go against what the public wants then there will be all sorts of problems

  22. David Thompson

    I am grateful that the Chamber PAC are pursuing an agenda on the matters of economic development. Their willingness to lay out concepts to move forward on gives all of us an opportunity to respond to specifics either for or against. On many of the concepts I see an ability to have a healthy dialogue leading to action. I am attracted to moving on having more of our dollars Dollars spent in Davis. So kudos to the Chamber PAC for setting the pace.

    As many have written, our normal problem is that ideas in Davis don’t often translate into action. We seem to be a city of thinkers and talkers rather than deciders and doers. One point seems apparent to me and hopefully to others. That point is that we appear to have most of the outcomes we like when the Council created, digested and owned the ideas. As time has gone on City staff have surplanted the City Council in this regard. Staff bring concepts forward (too often only one- theirs)and the Council get to say yea or nea to just one option. I think this major change in the structure of decision making has left us too reliant on City staff. This new Council should address changing the existing dynamic.

    I echo Mr. Harrington’s comment, when will we have a three person fire crew?

    On my part, the City Attorney spending a million dollars on defending DACHA and covering up the role of City staff is a huge abuse of the use of public dollars. So how that happeneded is far more important than $5,000 of City money on a $15,000 study of a green economy.

    The City staff have forgotten, neglected or made bad decisions about housing to the tune of over ten million dollars. We should be looking at that massive loss of our public dollars over the past decade. The City Council needs an Audit Commission to overcome the lack of oversight practiced by City staff. When a City staff member gets a home in Wildhorse and makes $200,000 and nothing is done then Green Economic Development should take a back seat.

    We may be better off putting that expenditure on hold until the new ouncil gets a sense of itself and establishes its own goals when it meets on those matters in August.

    Mr. Pinkerton has plenty on his plate but we can no longer sweep millions of public dollars of waste under the carpet.

    We need a Cleaner City Hall at this time more than we need a Greener City Hall.

    David Thompson, Tewin Pines Cooperative Foundation

  23. Frankly

    I agree completely with Mark West.

    Lead, follow or get out of the way.

    Critics are a dime-a-dozen.

    If you don’t like the vision, the plan, the objectives then voice your alternatives. If you don’t have any, then I don’t know why your opinion should be valued.

    I think those prone to block anything that looks like change, are also the most vocal. Call them Davis’s own Party Of No. The lack of action probably has a lot to do with the noise generated by these folks. If you are on the city council it probably sounds like there is consensus against change. What we need is the other voice to grow louder and drown out the complainers, blockers and critics and give our city leaders the green light that they can proceed with these plans without suffering the wrath of the majority.

  24. Mark West

    David Greenwald: “[i]I don’t agree Mark, I think the burden is always on the mover.[/i]”

    David, I am not surprised you think that way.

    [i]”You’re kidding right? If you go against what the public wants then there will be all sorts of problems.[/i]”

    We elect a City Council to make difficult decisions and [b]lead[/b] the public forward, not to float aimlessly on the hot air emanating from of a vocal minority.

  25. SODA

    Why does evonomic viability NEED to be significant parcel development? Why can’t it be or also include changing the focus of some storefronts, e.g., music venue. Look at neighborhood shopping center vacancies for what our city does NOT need and try to attract what would fill a need and draw.
    I would welcome the PAC s ideas here since they are much closer to the vacancies and businesses than I.

    Maybe I am sensitive because of the huge New Harmony development going up in South Davis and it looks like a parcel across Drummond is being graded.

  26. Don Shor

    I doubt there is significant opposition to the items listed in the op-ed. A council member needs to get each agendized, council needs to direct staff to prepare a report and action item, and they need to be reviewed by appropriate commissions.

    The owner of Nishi needs to be on board with annexation; a vote needs to be scheduled, the sooner the better. Specific development proposals are not necessary for the public to vote on rezoning that site.

    A general proposal for more flexible rezoning of downtown and nearby properties needs to be prepared.

    The developer’s proposed changes to the Second Street Crossing development agreement need to be acted on by the City Council. AFAIK, no hearings or commission review would be necessary for that. I am unaware of any opposition to the proposal, except that the DDBA apparently wishes to review it. Give them 30 days.

    The council can certainly endorse private efforts regarding art districts and buy-local campaigns, so long as there is not budget item requested. I personally feel both of those are best funded privately.

    So one of our council members simply needs to step forward and act to get these items agendized for council discussion and action.

  27. Don Shor

    [i]”If we offer them dressed-up peripheral development in the Northwest Quadrant and Mace, we’re going to have a holy war.”[/i]
    There is no specific proposal for peripheral development anywhere at this time. This is irrelevant to the ChamberPAC’s proposals. There is a commission reviewing peripheral sites. IMO there are serious problems with all of the sites under review, and it is a pertinent question whether peripheral development for tech parks or anything else is appropriate or beneficial overall. But any ‘holy war’ over peripheral development is a long way off.

  28. Don Shor

    Community identity is not as easily defined as economic development, but when urban planners use the term they mean the
    •demographic
    •cultural
    •aesthetic
    •geographic
    •architectural
    •historical
    •and ecological aspects that make a place unique.

    So comparing Davis to Woodland: Woodland has a much larger inventory of historical buildings that give the city much of its character, and probably most residents there would mention them as they describe the things that make Woodland unique. Much more so than Davis. When I ask visitors what they like about Davis, they mention things like the trees, the arboretum, the quaint downtown, the vibrancy that results from all the young adults and bicycles, and how easy it is to get around.
    Agriculture is part of the identity of both cities. The university is part of ours. They protect courthouses. We protect bungalows. Public art is often used to reinforce community identity.

    I think if you asked 100 Davisites to list the top ten things they think define Davis in a positive way, you’d get considerable overlap on those 100 lists. People tend to feel that large development projects threaten one of more of the things they value in the community. That isn’t a fear to be dismissed or denigrated. You work with it, make change incremental and respectful, and don’t try to graft things onto a community that it doesn’t want.

  29. Robb Davis

    Mark West wrote: “We elect a City Council to make difficult decisions and lead the public forward, not to float aimlessly on the hot air emanating from of a vocal minority.”

    I agree with this fully. We have just gone through an election process in which the candidates were questioned in detail (more than I have ever seen in other places I have lived) about their views on any number of issues. I participated and selected my choices on the basis of which ones I felt could provide leadership–not merely testing the winds of public opinion. I want them to make decisions based on their experience, their sense of community need and, perhaps most importantly, based on what they believe (based on experience and evidence) will make for a more resilient and robust community. I am ready to give them significant leeway to make such decisions but I want them to act. I do NOT merely want them to engage in years of trying to ascertain what the “will” of the community is.

    I don’t know what consensus looks like in an entity of 50 people let alone 60,000. Hard choices have to be made after listening to the arguments. Leaders need to take the risk of making tough decisions and move on. Inaction is also a decision but we do not elect leaders to be inert.

  30. medwoman

    Mark West

    [quote]Demanding that they prove that their vision of ‘community identity’ is in alignment with your own in advance of discussing the validity of their proposals is nonsense. [/quote]

    You may have missed the part of my post that where I stated that I was in agreement with a number of their proposals. However, we do have a major point of disagreement. When someone is proposing a change, I do think it is incumbent upon them to explain why they believe change is needed, what the specific change is that they are proposing, and what anticipated improvement they expect to see.
    An example from my field. If we are going to adopt a different standard of practice, I want to first see what the outcomes are from the process we are currently using, the evidence that the new practice or drug will do a better job, what the relative risks of the new process will be, and how much improvement we are likely to see.
    Furthermore, I expect some numbers or data to back this up, not just “we feel it will be better”. So what I would like to see ( in concise form ) is a summary of where the business community is now, what the businessmen proposing change anticipate to gain from their proposals in actual numbers, and what the downside risks are. If all this information exists in an easily accessible form, someone could simply direct me to it. If not, and if they are standing behind each of these proposals, surely it is not too much to ask for a summary of their views on each. I expect this in the medical field, I do not see why it is not reasonable to expect it in community planning.

  31. Mr.Toad

    “They protect courthouses. We protect bungalows.”

    Please tell me you are joking! Bungalows! Now we are trying to save bungalows! Oy.

    David, I didn’t ask you anything, I simply pointed out the absurdity of your rhetoric threatening Holy War against peripheral development in the hopes that you would not get so carried away in the future. At the same time, I was hoping to get others to think critically about the kind of nonsense that passes for acceptable dogma in Davis.

  32. Mark West

    Medwoman: Have you noticed the sucking chest wound (otherwise known as the City’s current financial situation), or are you only interested in the acne on the patience nose (small town feel)? Why is it so hard to understand that standing pat is the wrong answer here? I am worried about maintaining services and not having our City declare bankruptcy, while you seem to focus on keeping the small town feel intact. How much character do you think Davis will have when we run out of money.

    Economic development does not equate to sprawl, nor does it equate to population growth. Those are two possible outcomes depending on what decisions are made, but stopping sprawl and rampant population growth can be accomplished without squelching the economic life of the City. The Chamber’s proposals are modest and for the most part, well thought out. I don’t agree with all of them, but I like the fact that proposals are on the table for us to consider. Fear of the unknown is a poor reason to say no to a new idea and standing pat without good reason is simply poor management.

  33. civil discourse

    Don Shor wrote:

    “The council can certainly endorse private efforts regarding art districts and buy-local campaigns, so long as there is not budget item requested. I personally feel both of those are best funded privately.”

    Completely agree with Don Shor on this one.

    Buy Local is simply a PR campaign, shouldn’t be initiated or funded by city money.

    Those complaining about City Council members not acting are simply giving them easy political cover when they turn around and ask them to simply initiate a PR campaign.

    I also agree with Jeff Boone: lead, follow or get out of the way. So who should lead on initiating a sustainable Buy Local campaign? How about the local chamber of commerce? That seems like a perfect leading role for them, with the rest of us following or getting out of the way.

  34. Don Shor

    Mr. Toad: [i]”Please tell me you are joking! Bungalows! Now we are trying to save bungalows! Oy.”[/i]

    I was referring to the B Street Visioning we went through several years ago.

  35. Michael Harrington

    Don: you are speaking for me . And great comments on Woodland. I represent a Woodland downtown businessman with a fleet of planes, and he sees it like that. But he does give me a ration about Davis every time I meet with him !! And I hit him back about the new center at Rd 102 and I-5 killing his downtown. We are both right

  36. Michael Harrington

    I think we need a capacity crowd at the Varsity to talk about Davis business and improving it for all concerned . I don’t need to hear yet another overpaid consultant droning on about environmental solutions gussied up to look like some hot shot Obama stimulus contract guy. We need solid local business solutions, and I am ready to help.

  37. medwoman

    Mark West

    [quote]Why is it so hard to understand that standing pat is the wrong answer here? I am worried about maintaining services and not having our City declare bankruptcy, while you seem to focus on keeping the small town feel intact. How much character do you think Davis will have when we run out of money. [/quote]

    Why is it so hard to understand that I am not arguing for “standing pat”. Like you, I think it is good that “the proposals are out there for consideration”. And as stated previously, there are some proposals I favor. I am interested in data, not just statements of preference, prior to making decisions. All I have asked for here is provision of information.
    If that exists, why not provide it ? If it does not exist, then it is not yet time for action. If there is not data, then someone ( preferably those who have a direct financial stake and encouraging a given change) needs to do the homework. The community expected this in terms of the surface water project. I simply believe that we should expect this for any major development.

  38. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]An example from my field. If we are going to adopt a different standard of practice, I want to first see what the outcomes are from the process we are currently using, the evidence that the new practice or drug will do a better job, what the relative risks of the new process will be, and how much improvement we are likely to see.
    Furthermore, I expect some numbers or data to back this up, not just “we feel it will be better”. [/quote]

    It is not always possible to have data to back up contentions. At some point someone has to start somewhere, and take a leap of faith. One doesn’t learn how to swim unless one is willing to actually go in the water…

    [quote]If that exists, why not provide it ? If it does not exist, then it is not yet time for action. [/quote]

    In other words if exact data does not exist to “prove” that something will work, we should not even try? Really?

  39. Don Shor

    medwoman: which of the action items are you specifically curious about? It isn’t too hard to give a general cost-benefit description of, say, modifying the Second Street Crossing development agreement. Changing the zoning for downtown to allow higher buildings or allow commercial uses in residential areas would be more difficult to quantify until someone comes forward with a specific proposal.

  40. Frankly

    Don – Great post helping to define community identity. That is useful and I have bookmarked it to refer back to.

    Medwoman – Doesn’t consideration of Davis’s dire financial situation combined with the 2007 data from the US Census Bureau showing Davis to have generated $7,752 in retail sales per capita compared to the state average of $12,561, Woodland’s $11,028 and Folsom’s $26,474… give you enough data to get behind economic development in general?

    I agree with Elaine that we are not going to be well served if we have to nail down every cost, risk and benefit. Remember the drive to bring Delanos/IGA to west Davis? A bunch of people thought it would work. The Delanos thought it would work. Turns out it is barely working… maybe not.

    Economic development requires risk-taking. It requires a general vision and plan, and then there are going to be a lot of variables that are unknown and uncontrollable. The best we can do is learn from them and respond to them. I think you set the bar too high demanding a definitive analysis for each project. Many times it is not the development, but the actual retailer that has a problem. For example, Borders. Who could have anticipated Borders would go out of business and take down our successful local store? Woodland hurt the County Fair Mall with mega peripheral development and that seems like a “duh” moment; but most economic development decisions are not that clear in anticipating customer actions.

    I personally think that the Davis downtown is under-developed and a bit shabby, but still an attraction enough to survive peripheral retail development. My preference would be to see a revitalized G street. A new parking structure connected to a pedestrian promenade replacing part of E or F street. I would also expand the retail zoning a block out into residential areas. I would emphasize the arts and entertainment services and work to bring in a hotel and conference center. I would also consider developing some peripheral retail along 113 north of Covell and maybe along Mace.

    And I would definitely like to see a new business park and a partnership with the university to help fill it.

  41. Don Shor

    Here are some interesting statistics for Davis vs. Woodland with respect to revenues.
    I should note that it is very difficult to find Woodland budget info, because apparently their interim city manager didn’t publish a budget for two years! So I had to dig these out of interim reports.

    Note that Davis and Woodland have very similar sales tax revenues. I am using the actual sales tax income each city reports in their budget, not the ‘per capita sales tax’ that Jeff is citing.
    The two big sales tax generators are big box retail and/or shopping mall (Woodland) and auto sales (Davis). Each takes a very large footprint. The two cities have essentially complemented each other for as long as I can remember in these categories. Davis also has high restaurant tax revenues.

    IMO it is common for cities to develop symbiosis regarding shopping and entertainment. Arcata and Eureka, Dixon and Vacaville, and so on. Woodland is a retail hub, Davis is an auto hub. There are advantages and drawbacks to both. Note especially that Davis has substantially better property tax revenues overall and per capita. Property values have held up much better in Davis than in surrounding communities.

    An economic development corporation (EDC) could parlay the strengths of each community if it were regional. And it could include the county, which has serious financial problems. A business park on campus benefits the county directly by property re-valuation, and the city indirectly by the multiplier effect of the jobs created. So an EDC is more likely to succeed if it is regional and leads to cooperation and a recognition of the existing symbiosis between the cities.

    [img]http://davismerchants.org/vanguard/woodlandrevenues.png[/img][img]http://davismerchants.org/vanguard/davisrevenues.png[/img]

  42. medwoman

    [quote][It is not always possible to have data to back up contentions. At some point someone has to start somewhere, and take a leap of faith. One doesn’t learn how to swim unless one is willing to actually go in the water… quote]

    To take your analogy a little further…. before you get into the water, it would be a good idea to make sure it is not shark infested.

    As to your leap of faith, would you take that with me if I were your surgeon, and said that I had no date what so ever to prove the safety or efficacy of the surgery I was planning, but “Hey, just trust me, I’m a doctor” ?
    If that were me, I’d be looking for a different doc.

    Now I freely admit to my bias in terms of evidence based medicine, and really do feel that there are applications for this in other areas as well. I am not demanding “proof”, just please some data to suggest that a given plan is viable and that its benefits outweight the downside.
    I find it very interesting that you are doing exactly this on the WAC, but don’t seem to feel it is necessary for downtown development planning.

  43. medwoman

    Don

    [quote]medwoman: which of the action items are you specifically curious about? It isn’t too hard to give a general cost-benefit description of, say, modifying the Second Street Crossing development agreement. Changing the zoning for downtown to allow higher buildings or allow commercial uses in residential areas would be more difficult to quantify until someone comes forward with a specific proposal.[/quote]

    I think that as a general principle, all major action items should be accompanied by a cost, benefit analysis.
    I will grant that for some proposals this will be much easier than for others. But it seems to me that there has been a is a great deal of demand from many for specifics and exact costs and detailed exploration of all the alternatives when it comes to projects that involve tax payer money with the surface water project as a prime example. Some of the same folks seem essentially willing to give a free pass to private business even though their suggestions may have as profound an impact on certain aspects of our community as the tax expenditures do.

    I am well aware of my bias as a doctor to see the world in terms of an evidence based approach. This does make me by nature cautious. However, if someone can tell me how a specific change will benefit the city, how much it will cost, what the downside is likely to be….I am more than willing to listen. I just have difficulty with the philosophy of change made without a full vetting of the cost benefit analysis.

  44. medwoman

    Don

    I much appreciated your post of this afternoon with comparison of Davis and Woodland.
    At the risk of bringing down the ‘wrath of Boone” : ), I favor complimentary development as opposed to always focusing on competition. Davis has the proximity of UCD which will always be an economic driver in this community….Woodland…..not so much. As you pointed out Woodland has retail, Davis the auto mall.
    I do not see that it is particularly productive to try to emulate what our neighbors have. I would think that it would be much more productive to build upon the unique strengths of those assets that we have that our neighbors do not.
    Again, I do…I do…I do… believe in the concept and need for economic development. But I also believe that it should be pursued with as much planning and analysis as any taxpayer funded project if it is of a magnitude that will impact our entire community for years to come.

  45. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]I find it very interesting that you are doing exactly this on the WAC, but don’t seem to feel it is necessary for downtown development planning. [/quote]

    This is not a correct reading of my opinion at all. In both situations, be it the surface water project or economic development, there will always be unknowables. At some point you have to fish or cut bait, and make a decision. In other words in either situation, you have to take a leap of faith. Otherwise you have paralysis by analysis and nothing ever gets done.

    Secondly, if I am about to jump into a perfectly enclosed public swimming pool, I don’t expect to find any sharks swimming in there 😉

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