Davis Diamonds Finds A New Site; This Time with No Controversy or Fanfare

Gymnastics

After all of the troubling developments surrounding the 3-2 decision by the Davis City Council to grant a conditional use permit that would allow for the construction and move of Davis Diamond Gymnastics to a location on the Davis Auto-Center, the project died due to financing problems.

The original conditional use permit was approved on a contentious 3-2 vote in January, with the three council members facing reelection voting to support it and then Mayor Joe Krovoza and Mayor Pro Tem Rochelle Swanson dissenting.

Despite the dire warning in January, the city has found a more appropriate location which would amend a 3.37 acre vacant parcel located at 2750 Cowell Blvd, currently zoned for multiple large scale administrative and industrial research and office uses, to add “Commercial Recreation” as a principally permitted use on the site.

“The primary purpose of the rezone of the parcel is to facilitate an anticipated gymnastic use on the parcel,” the staff report explained.  “Approval of the proposed rezone would not mandate commercial recreation or preclude industrial research uses on the site, but would allow for flexibility for a new use.”

On Tuesday, City Planner Cathy Camacho told the council, “Staff has not identified any significant issues that result from the rezone.  The rezone would still accommodate industrial uses.”

The staff report explained, “Currently Davis Diamonds Gymnastics is in negotiations to purchase approximately one-third of the easterly portion of the subject site with the intent to construct a new facility for their use on the parcel.”

Under the parcel’s PD Industrial Research sub-area zoning, “Commercial Recreation” is not a permitted or conditionally permitted use.

The staff report continued, “Approval of the proposed rezone would provide assurance for Davis Diamonds, allowing them to move forward with the acquisition of the land for gymnastic use.”

Mayor Joe Krovoza said, “This is a spectacular bit of improvement of what could go in there compared to what the prior zoning was.  I think this is a very well placed facility within the community and if I were a neighbor, I would be delighted to see this parcel being developed in this way both for the benefits that it brings the community through recreation.”

He added he was excited to see its proximity to the affordable housing project, New Harmony.

Previously, Davis Diamonds intended to purchase the parcel and existing building located at 5060 Chiles Road in the auto-center zoning district, where commercial recreation use is conditionally permitted.

In December 2011, the Planning Commission reviewed a request from Davis Diamonds for gymnastics use at that location. In February 2012, the City Council approved the Conditional Use Permit.

Staff reports, “The purchase ultimately was not successful as the current tenant exercised the option to renew his lease through 2018.”  However, information that the Vanguard received, but never confirmed, is that the financing for the project failed when the co-applicant, the MarkeTech Group, backed out of the project.

As a result, Davis Diamonds is now pursuing this alternative location.

Staff reports, “Because there are limited areas in the city zoned for commercial recreation use, or existing facilities that would provide the unique configuration of space that would accommodate their needs including high ceilings, open floor plan and ample parking, permitting the use on the subject site would provide a build-to-suit ownership opportunity for Davis Diamonds.”

“If the site is developed by Davis Diamond Gymnastics in the future as anticipated, the use would require Final Planned Development and Design Review applications and Planning Commission approval of the entitlements,” staff writes. “A lot split would also be required in order to develop a portion of the parcel as an individual lot.”

DD-Rezone

The staff report notes, “The site is bounded by a mix of uses and facilities. The parcel faces Interstate 80 to the north. Adjacent parcels include a vacant parcel to the west zoned for industrial research uses; commercial/business park site to the east containing a UC Davis bookstore warehouse; a city green belt is located directly behind the property to the south. Single family residential use is located south of the greenbelt.”

The vote that occurred back in January, was not only an unusual split, but it was punctuated by the unseemly interplay of a double-dealing agent.

While the Vanguard initially supported the idea of moving the facility to the automall in concept, as facts became more and more clear at the January council meeting, it became clear that the children and families that utilize the Davis Diamond Gymnastics facility were being used in order to line the pockets of several key monied interests.

The eventual vote itself reflected a unique split where the three councilmembers who faced re-election voted to support the conditional use permit rather than risk the anger of a large audience of children and their parents.  And while there was the general motive of saving the facility and keeping it in Davis, information perhaps was manipulated by one agent – who was both an agent for Davis Diamonds as well as for the parcel involved.

As the night went on it became more and more clear, that Xavier Santana, who represented not only Davis Diamonds but also the owner of the parcel, was in fact playing both sides of this issue and accruing great personal advantage from doing so.

The original deal was all about Xavier Santana.  Mr. Santana was the agent for both the buyer and the seller on this deal.  In the real estate world, such an arrangement is perfectly legal and commonplace.

Because Mr. Santana was the agent for the property on the auto mall, he acted as almost a gatekeeper.  So anyone who had a serious interest in purchasing that property really needed to go through him and hire him as an agent.  Now, he would not get paid unless the sale were completed, but you still seemed to have a situation where the agent got to double-dip and control access to the sale of the property.

But the biggest question was to what extent other options were explored by Davis Diamonds, and whether that exploration was precluded because of Mr. Santana’s other interests.

One person involved in real estate in Davis told the Vanguard the week of the decision that it is true that there is nothing illegal or unethical about being an agent for the seller and the buyer, as long as this role is disclosed and the fiduciary responsibility to both clients is fulfilled.

On the other hand, it is a license violation to mislead a public body.  And what this individual and several others that also work in real estate in this town told me is that they were never contacted to inquire about any other listings or to talk about projects that their clients were working on.

These individuals, none of whom wished to put their names on the record, said that there were other brokers with active listings that never heard from Mr. Santana.  Moreover, there are other options that were not listed and a number of alternative solutions that Davis Diamonds could have explored.

Mayor Pro Tem Rochelle Swanson said that, while she is a huge supporter of Davis Diamonds and what they bring to this community, she could not, however, support a conditional use permit “sight unseen.”  She argued that we need to know what we are getting into and we do not approve projects that did not hit design review.

She noted how tight the city budget is by pointing out the need for a public-private partnership to save the community pool.  “What I don’t want to see,” she said, “is out of hand let go of what is not ghost revenue.”  She noted that staff had been talking to some prospective auto dealerships and that there was an offer on the table.

She believed that there was a win-win solution, but that the conditional use permit did not get us there.

Now the city can keep Davis Diamonds, preserve the spot on the automall for the appropriate business, and avoid the unseemly deal that had occurred under conditions of a perfect storm back in January.

—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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3 Comments

  1. Rifkin

    I thought the decision to grant the conditional use permit for this site was unwise, and perhaps cowardly (given the obvious political nature of that vote).

    What I would like to see one (courageous) member of the current council do is put forward a resolution which says something like this:

    “Whereas funding for the City of Davis relies heavily on sales tax revenues;

    “Whereas automotive sales generate a significant share of the sales tax revenues for the City of Davis;

    “And whereas the City of Davis has a limited number of parcels specifically zoned for automotive sales;

    “The Davis City Council should not rezone any parcels designated for auto sales or permit any unrelated conditional uses on parcels designated for auto sales unless and until the Davis Business and Economic Development Commission has had three months to analyze the fiscal impact to the City of Davis over 1-year, 3-years and 10-years from a change in zoning or from a conditional use permit which fundamentally changes the permitted use on a site designated for auto sales; and the same report of the Davis Business and Economic Development Commission should determine whether the site in question retains or has lost its long-term utility for auto sales.

    “Once the Davis Business and Economic Development Commission has issued its report to the City Council, the City Council may hold a public hearing and decide whether the Council believes changing the zoning or permitting a non-conforming use is in the best interests of the City of Davis and its residents.”

  2. Don Shor

    Courtesy of Anthony Palmere, here is a more detailed picture:

    [img]http://davismerchants.org/vanguard/DavisDiamondsnewlocation.jpg[/img]

    Saved at:
    [url]http://davismerchants.org/vanguard/DavisDiamondsnewlocation.jpg[/url]

  3. Michael Harrington

    Joe and Rochelle: Thank you for your NO vote months ago. We have to protect our business and commercial land available for appropriate businesses.

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