Council Calls Special Meeting Tonight to Address Mace Curve Property

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Open_Space

An email sent out over the weekend from Greg House, a local citizen and organic farmer, triggered a fire storm of debate and criticism over a proposal by the city to decline an NRCS grant.

Moving forward with the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) grant “would permit the Yolo Land Trust to secure agricultural conservation easements on the First Bank of NW Arkansas Property.”

On the other hand, “declining the grant would retain opportunities to explore options to leverage the property for additional or alternative urban agriculture transition area acquisitions, and potential furtherance of local economic development strategies.”

Staff believes there were a number of inaccuracies in Mr. House’s communications, and have essentially pulled the item from the consent calendar and moved it to its own special meeting agenda.

The city acquired the 391-acre Mace Curve Property in November 2010 from the First State Bank of NW Arkansas for a purchase price of $3.8 million.

Two sources funded the purchase: Open Space Fund – Measure O ($1,325,000) and an internal loan from the Roadway Impact Fee account for $2,475,000.

The Yolo Land Trust, in partnership with the city, received authorization for a $1,125,000 NRCS grant on April 18, 2011 that would be used to fund approximately 50% of the easement costs to place a permanent conservation easement on the property.

The remainder of the costs comes from Measure O funding used to purchase the property.

The key to this proposal, however, is a proposed land swap.

Staff reports that a few months ago, a new Davis-based benefit corporation called Capitol Corridor Ventures “approached the City with an offer to essentially conduct a ‘swap’ of properties that would allow the City to gain a more robust conservation buffer along the northeastern edge of the City while acquiring a parcel that had a higher percentage (over 85%) of Prime Agricultural farmland.”

The city notes that the company claims it does not represent any developers.

The proposal would allow for Capitol Corridor Ventures to acquire the Mace Curve Property.  They would reimburse Yolo Land Trust for costs incurred in this process and city costs for negotiating with Capitol Corridor Ventures.

Staff reports, “As proposed, included in the transaction would essentially be a swap of the proposed easement on 234 acre portion of the Mace Curve 391 Property for a conservation easement on the Shriner property, which is also approximately 234 acres. CCV holds an option on the Shriner’s Property.”

Staff continues, “Conservation easements are also proposed for the north east 157 acres of the Mace Curve 391 Property. The Measure O funds are proposed to pay for the easements described in this proposal.”

They further continue: “As proposed by CCV, at the conclusion of the transaction, the 234 acres of the Mace Curve 391 Property would not be subject to a conservation easement. CCV would have purchased the Mace Curve 391 Property and the City will have contributed the Measure O funds for the conservation easements described above.”

“In addition, the City and the Land Trust would be ‘whole’ at the conclusion of the addition of the Shriner’s Property into the transaction,” staff writes.  “Any future, voter-approved development proposed by CCV in the Mace Curve area… is proposed to include a continuous, substantial and sustainable annual funding source for the City (in excess of traditional development fees).”

In summary, “This transaction would effectively swap approximately 234 acres on the Mace Curve 391 Property for approximately 234 acres on the Shriner’s Property. Capitol Corridor Ventures does not represent any developers and acquired the option to purchase the Shriner’s Property in an effort to assist the City with its goals of Fiscal Stability, Economic Development and Sustainability.”

Staff continues to recommend that the council decline the NRCS’s grant funding “to explore a proposed opportunity to gain additional acreage for conservation along the northeast border of the City.”

Council has a June 15 deadline in order to make the decision regarding the grant.  Action by the council is required on June 11 (Tuesday) if it chooses to decline acceptance of the grant.

Staff argues that “because of their regulatory design, agricultural conservation easements place strict limitations on the use of the property with a key objective of soil conservation.”

“Pursuing an agricultural conservation easement on the Mace Curve 391 Property locks in agricultural uses but would also limit any significant use for research and development opportunities due to strict limitations on surface area used for structures and parking, including placement of greenhouses or research- related facilities,” staff writes, noting “The NRCS grant specifies that only two percent of the land area is the maximum typically permitted for greenhouses, structures, and parking.”

“Placing an agricultural conservation easement on the property at this time would narrow the scope of potential opportunities to utilize the Mace Curve 391 to meet multiple long-term City objectives, including larger and/or alternative urban agriculture transition areas that provide a better buffer adjacent to the City,” they argue.

Staff adds, “Furthermore, the Council’s adopted resolution recognizing the ‘Dispersed Innovation Strategy’ would be significantly hampered and choices would be removed from the community’s consideration. Therefore, land that could be in the City’s best interest for potential innovation park uses and related agricultural research facilities consistent with the City Council direction would be removed from any future consideration.”

“The Mace Curve area also presents location and infrastructure opportunities not found in other areas of the community,” staff argues. “Proximity to Interstate 80, the Mace Interchange, rail lines, a significant bicycle connector with Sacramento, the Second Street business park area, and existing drainage and utility facilities create opportunities to connect with the region and city core and university and to minimize greenhouse gas impacts.”

They argue: “Cost savings realized from proximity to these infrastructure resources could result in significant financial benefits, well in excess of what would be foregone with the NRCS grant.”

They would add, “Proceeding with the staff recommendation also provides an opportunity to explore cost sharing strategies that may reimburse incurred land acquisition costs and create a long term revenue stream for the city.”

Instead, they argue that the council should direct staff to leverage the Bank of NW Arkansas Land toward the objectives of fiscal sustainability, economic development and sustainability.

Staff writes, “Under this option the City would be exploring ways to utilize the Mace Curve 391 Property to gain a more significant implementation of the urban agricultural transition areas around the Mace Curve area and create a permanent buffer that is almost completely controlled by the City. This option would require the City to enter into public private partnerships to acquire land and easements necessary to implement the General Plan vision.”

The other option would be to go forward with the grant funding.

Staff writes, “If the Council chooses to continue with the NRCS grant, staff would be directed to immediately identify a purchaser for the Mace Curve 391 Property as farmland with a NRCS conservation easement co-held between the City and Yolo Land Trust. This approach is consistent with the NRCS Ranch Lands Protection Program grant to fund the acquisition of the agricultural conservation easement on the Mace Curve Property.”

Staff explores advantages and disadvantages to both.

The advantages of option 1 are that the land could be leveraged to acquire additional urban agricultural transitions.  Utilizing this land for non-agricultural uses frees up land for council to adopt long-term economic development strategies.

They believe that the proximity to critical infrastructure, as well as cost sharing opportunities, would create a revenue advantage going forward.

The city lists some disadvantages to declining the grant proposal: “real estate acquisition or development concepts are always speculative”; “there are details that would need to be negotiated in the CCV proposal and exploration and vetting of concepts will be necessary”; and “the City would lose the NRCS grant funding.”

However, staff seems to miss the big one, which is an expressed desire by the community to protect agricultural land in general and not develop land east of the Mace Curve.

Likewise, the staff employs a very limited vision of advantages for accepting the NRCS grant, but does include the fact that “the land would be permanently preserved for agricultural use.”

On the other hand, they list a lengthy list of disadvantages to the alternative option of proceeding with the grant, including: “land use restrictions, such as limitations on the amount of greenhouse structures or other impervious surface area (no greater than 2% of the land area), limit future flexibility for uses other than strict agriculture…”

Brief Comment

While the staff view may well be accurate, it does appear that their use of advantages and disadvantages reflects their bias for rejecting the option, rather than an objective assessment of the situation.

From the community’s perspective, there are advantages of going forward with this proposal, but only if one buys into the idea that this is the appropriate land for creating a business park.  If one believes that this is land that should be protected, that would represent a big disadvantage.

As much as staff wants to argue this point, it basically comes down to a philosophical view of growth and economic development, and a consideration of the value of preservation of agricultural land.

As such, the scheme may not be as subject to a cost-benefit analysis, as city staff implies.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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71 thoughts on “Council Calls Special Meeting Tonight to Address Mace Curve Property”

  1. JustSaying

    “To qualify (for the NRCS Farmland and Ranch Lands Program), farmland must be:

    …privately owned….”

    Wonder how this publicly owned parcel even got through the process since the program, for obvious reasons, seems to reject the such consideration.

    “However, staff seems to miss the big one which is an expressed desire by the community to protect agricultural land in general and not develop land east of the Mace Curve. Likewise the staff employs a very little vision of advantages for accepting the NRCS grant but does include the fact that “the land would be permanently preserved for agricultural use’.”

    The number of “advantages and disadvantages” doesn’t drive a decision. The permanency of the NRCS option is its principal advantage (and, in my opinion, an overwhelming disadvantage). Nothing calls for a perpetual easement to honor the expressed, reasonable desire some of the community, all of whom will be dead within a hundred years.

  2. David M. Greenwald

    “Wonder how this publicly owned parcel even got through the process since the program, for obvious reasons, seems to reject the such consideration.”

    I believe that’s where the transfer to YLT comes into play.

  3. stevem

    Worth noting that Capitol Corridor Ventures and techDavis share the same address and director. This is part of why the background of techDavis is worth exploring.

  4. Matt Williams

    In yesterday’s thread about this subject I said, [i]”There are a lot of moving parts in this situation. […] The fact that Council is taking the time to thoroughly and properly assess those moving parts is both good decision making and good government. […] They appear to be processing the information as it comes to them. This is a group that has shown that they do not have to be held captive by past decisions that either are or have the potential to be economically damaging to the City’s fiscal health. Just ask Bobby Wiest. The Surface Water Plant has been downsized from 18 mgd to 12 mgd. They may even get the Wastewater Plant Upgrade RFQ process right and save Davis citizens another $47 million NPV. Their behavior isn’t strange. Over the past 12 months it has been well considered and rather prudent. […] In my opinion Council should not rush to judgment without making sure that they understand the consequences of any action they take.”[/i]

    Today’s article by David reveals even more moving parts than we knew about yesterday. As a result, I’m even more convinced that Council should not rush to judgment without making sure that they understand the consequences of any action they take.

  5. Don Shor

    [quote]Worth noting that Capitol Corridor Ventures and techDavis share the same address and director. This is part of why the background of techDavis is worth exploring.[/quote]

    Seriously? Unbelievable. Sorry, but if this is true then Rob White has just lost a lot of credibility with me.

    The council needs to stop this. Reject the staff recommendation and proceed with the grant funding.

  6. JustSaying

    “A story published Tuesday about the recent Cap-to-Cap lobbying trip incorrectly stated that David Morris, managing director and co-founder of techDAVIS, also represents the Capitol Corridor AMTRAK route. Morris represents Capitol Corridor Ventures….” (From the May 3 Enterprise.)

    Way too many “wink, winks” going on here. Don and stevem suggest an apparent conflict, one that better be handled firstmthing this evening. What is the purpose of CCV if not to develop properties?

    This is no reason to adopt a permanent easement, however. The city should be using Measure O funds to buy up its own conservation easements from willing landowners, not borrowing money from our roadway development account to engage in perpetual easement programs.

  7. Growth Izzue

    From today’s Enterprise:

    [quote]The Davis/Yolo County team included City Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson; Davis Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kemble Pope; David Morris, representing techDAVIS and Capitol Corridor Ventures; [/quote]

  8. Mark West

    This is a logical location for the community to consider expansion at some point in the future. Any development of the land will require a vote through the measure R process, which means it will require the support of the community for anything to happen. We should not preclude that option in perpetuity.

  9. hpierce

    There is a plaque, commissioned by the developer, Paul Petrovich, honoring David Morris, at the NW corner of Pole Line and Cowell. Feel free to draw conclusions, if any [“follow the money”?].

  10. Growth Izzue

    Oh I’m sorry, I just realized that my last post was somewhat off topic. I don’t want to be accused of trolling and have other members posting the definition of a troll so please accept my sincere apology.

  11. JustSaying

    Geez, guys, focus! How would you like to be a city councilor, trying to make the best decision for our community on such short notice with the can of worms the council’s been served up today?

    What a certifiable mess they’re facing this evening. From consent calendar item to special meeting notice within 48 hours. With action required today. With all the rolling disclosures, last minute revisions and questionable connections, there’s certainly a tangled web woven for them. One just has to pray they’ll be able to sort it all out and make the best call for our future.

  12. Frankly

    [i]This is a logical location for the community to consider expansion at some point in the future. Any development of the land will require a vote through the measure R process, which means it will require the support of the community for anything to happen. We should not preclude that option in perpetuity.[/i]

    Bingo.

    The council is moving responsibly toward a responsible decisions. The no-growth conspiracy theory folks are being irresponsible.

    And, with measure R, what are ya’ll afraid of? Are you afraid that a future vote to build a high-tech business park on this parcel will be pass?

  13. Don Shor

    Oh, the good old “what are you afraid of” argument.
    The council should reject the staff proposal and move forward with the conservation easement.

  14. Don Shor

    I think there is a mis-use of the terms ‘permanent’ and ‘forever’ here. I hope somebody more familiar with the state regulations will weigh in here. As the Williamson Act has faded away, there have been conservation easement exchanges. The ‘permanent’ part is that a certain number of acres are permanently retained in agriculture. But those acres are not always on the same site. 100 acres protected under the Williamson Act could be exchanged for 100 acres to be protected somewhere else. There are strict criteria and regulations about exactly how that has to transpire. But from my reading of the rules ([url]http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dlrp/lca/easement_exchanges/Pages/Index.aspx[/url]), if there is some day down the road when the city really, really wants to allow the development of that land, it is possible. The only thing that is ‘permanent’ is that a fixed amount of acreage somewhere has to be conserved in its place.
    Again: somebody with greater expertise on this, please correct me if I’m wrong.

  15. JustSaying

    OMG, Mark West and Frankly, are you really suggesting that future generations of Davisites should have a right to vote for something different than the “expressed desire by the community to protect agricultural land in general and not develop land east of the Mace Curve.”

    The council should reject the concept of locking in eternity when making decisions for us mere mortals.

  16. Frankly

    Don, flip 234 acres of farmland for a different 234 acres of higher-quality farm land. What’s not to like about that… unless you are masquerading a no-growth opinion with a claim of only caring about farm land? The intensity of your opposition to this does not seem to add up. Have you checked to assess the actual ag benefits-impacts of this swap proposal?

  17. Don Shor

    I’m not ‘masquerading’ anything. Would you quit with your demeaning rhetoric, please? This is simple. I said it on another thread, and I’ll say it again:
    [b]Prime farmland that is next to prime farmland shouldn’t be developed if your goal is to prevent the development of prime farmland. [/b]
    The proximity to an existing city boundary, and the proximity to adjacent high-quality farmland, is a big factor in choosing which farmland to put into an easement. It is, in fact, a growth-management (not ‘no-growth’) issue, because urban sprawl — by definition — occurs on the edge of a city.

  18. Mr.Toad

    “and an internal loan from the Roadway Impact Fee account for $2,475,000.”

    So the City had an opportunity to buy this land but didn’t have all the money so they raided the road funds for a loan. It looks like the road budget got spent on open space instead of fire fighter salaries.

  19. Mark West

    This functionally is a proposed sale of the development rights for a specific piece of property to the Yolo Land Trust. The only way that it could be undone is if the YLT agreed to resell those rights, or swap them for something of similar value.

    One reasonable question then is has the YLT ever agreed to any such deal in the past, or would such a deal violate their principles and bylaws. Everything I have seen regarding the YLT and deals of this sort is that they view them as permanent. This deal is intended to block development on this piece of land in perpetuity. To suggest otherwise is nonsense.

  20. davisite4

    [quote]Geez, guys, focus! How would you like to be a city councilor, trying to make the best decision for our community on such short notice with the can of worms the council’s been served up today?

    What a certifiable mess they’re facing this evening. From consent calendar item to special meeting notice within 48 hours. With action required today. With all the rolling disclosures, last minute revisions and questionable connections, there’s certainly a tangled web woven for them. One just has to pray they’ll be able to sort it all out and make the best call for our future. [/quote]

    Oh, please. As I said on the other post, there is no “short notice” here. The Council has known about this grant for over two years. The last minute disclosures are the result of the Council not making the issues more public before this.

  21. Growth Izzue

    [quote]Get over yourself and your perceived ‘slights’, GI. [/quote]

    First of all hpierce there’s nothing “perceived” about it at all, you have no idea how many times my posts get erased so keep your two cents to yourself.

  22. SouthofDavis

    stevem wrote:

    > Worth noting that Capitol Corridor Ventures and
    > techDavis share the same address and director.
    > This is part of why the background of techDavis
    > is worth exploring.

    A Google search also found the Boos Development Group at 105 E St. Suite 2C (See Link Below):

    [url]http://local.napavalleyregister.com/boos+development+group.9.120514037p.home.html[/url]

    The link below says the TechDavis guy working on E St. will be getting paid $240K (I bet the firefighters are jealous):

    [url]http://citycouncil.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/CouncilMeetings/Agendas/20130305/05B Technology Economic Development.pdf[/url]

  23. JustSaying

    “Again: somebody with greater expertise on this, please correct me if I’m wrong.”

    I’d be pleased to. The “permanent part” of the NRCS perpetual easement program means permanent or perpetual or in perpetuity or forever. The federal laws and regulations apply, not the Williamson Act or other state laws.

    Even in rural areas, NRCS is required to hold to the contract.* That’s why it’s so misguided to use the program for a city owned property at the city limits–the most logical place for planning future development and expansion.

    It might make sense for a farmer to sell off rights in order to have money to spend before passing on. It makes little sense for a municipality to do the same since it lives forever and its needs and values change over time. And for a relative pittance, hardly enough to pay for a few fire fighters!

    But, let’s say you’re correct in suggesting this perpetual easement could be rewritten by trading off some similar site, sort of a mitigation approach, or buying back a Williamson-type protection. Why, then, would you be lobbying to enter into a perpetual arrangement if it wouldn’t be perpetual? Trying to have it both ways?
    ———–
    *For an object lesson in the futility of a change of mind after signing an NRCS perpetual agreement, check out wallacebridge.com. This totally country easement is the target of a rich, ag-related developer with an equestrian dream that’s gained support from nearby governments, businesses, neighbors. He’s offered up more land and habitat over the years. The problem: a perpetual easement is, well, perpetual.

  24. Mr.Toad

    A farmer once told me that putting your land under a conservation easement is what you do if you are broke. Why else would you sell your property rights? I don’t think the City is broke.

  25. Don Shor

    City web site URL’s always seem to have problems. Trying again with the one SOD did:
    [url]http://citycouncil.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/CouncilMeetings/Agendas/20130305/05B Technology Economic Development.pdf[/url]

  26. Adam Smith

    The farmer that Toad spoke with is short-sighted and incorrect about many landowners that enter into conservation easements, but Toad is right that the city isn’t broke. At one time staff and the previous city council thought it proper to preserve this land for ag, but current staff and council may think differently. In the end, if the city decides to develop, or allow the property to be developed, the citizens will have to vote. Nothing the council does here will change that.

    Looks like a good spot for a business park to me. Visibility and good access to and from I-80. The soils are mediocre at best. Only downside that I can see is that I believe the site is in a floodplain.

  27. Frankly

    [i]Prime farmland that is next to prime farmland shouldn’t be developed if your goal is to prevent the development of prime farmland.[/i]

    What about prime farm land that is next to prime farm land that is next to prime farm land that is next to prime farm land? So, your are making a case that we should preserve all contiguous prime farm land and never ever develop it? I think if we had held that opinion previously your business would not exist today. It is overly-simplistic to obsoletely value farming over every other possible land use.

    For one, this part of world is near being classified as desert. Water use for irrigation has a social and environmental cost. So does the use of pesticides and the inevitable top-soil erosion that farming the land causes. Lastly, each new bit of farming results in greater farm-subsidy expense.

    My point is that you begin to lack credibility for contributing to a fact-based discussion by making this sweeping requirement that we have to preserve all farm land at all opportunity costs. It really does appear to be an argument from someone that just dislikes growth in general. Because ultimately growth of Davis would require some farm land to be developed.

  28. Don Shor

    [quote]What about prime farm land that is next to prime farm land that is next to prime farm land that is next to prime farm land? So, your are making a case that we should preserve all contiguous prime farm land and never ever develop it? [/quote]

    We should avoid developing prime farmland that is on the city limits and that is adjacent to prime farmland.

    [quote]I think if we had held that opinion previously your business would not exist today. It is overly-simplistic to obsoletely value farming over every other possible land use. 

    For one, this part of world is near being classified as desert. [/quote]
    Not even close.

    [quote]Water use for irrigation has a social and environmental cost. So does the use of pesticides and the inevitable top-soil erosion that farming the land causes.[/quote]
    So, you’re saying a business park is a more environmentally acceptable use of farmland?

    [quote] Lastly, each new bit of farming results in greater farm-subsidy expense.[/quote]
    Really?

    [quote]My point is that you begin to lack credibility …[/quote]

    Actually, I’d say you do, based on your factual errors.

    [quote]…for contributing to a fact-based discussion by making this sweeping requirement that we have to preserve all farm land at all opportunity costs. [/quote]
    As always, you have misrepresented my views, using a standard but fraudulent rhetorical device of presenting a much more exaggerated version of my position. In fact, that does not even follow from the clear principle I have stated.
    I have not said we need to preserve all farm land.
    Protecting farmland is part of a growth management strategy. Part of Measure O (which was an open-space initiative, not specifically an ag preservation initiative) is identifying the sites that are highest priority.
    For more information about Measure O, click here: [url]http://davismerchants.org/vanguard/DraftMeasureOReport20130524.pdf[/url]

    [quote]It really does appear to be an argument from someone that just dislikes growth in general. Because ultimately growth of Davis would require some farm land to be developed.[/quote]
    Again (and again and again) I support orderly growth. Planned growth. Smart growth. Urban limit lines. I have stated repeatedly that there are sites that are reasonable exceptions. I have urged the council to move forward on any number of economic development proposals, including specifically annexation of Nishi.
    Yet you persistently mischaracterize my positions. I wonder why.

  29. Growth Izzue

    I would bet that voters passed Measure O thinking that they were paying for land to create a buffer around their city as it existed at that time. I doubt they were thinking Measure O was a buffer that might be put in place after all future build out. As it is now, it looks like we’re paying for a floating buffer that maybe someday might actually be put in place after it has been moved back several times due to special interests. I doubt that was what Measure O was all about. If the city can’t implement Measure O properly then they need to refund all our parcel taxes with interest because in my opinion it doesn’t look like we’re getting what we’re paying for.

  30. JustSaying

    Selling easement rights sometimes is just a way to keep doing what one loves on land that could be sold off for lots of money. Other times, it’s a means of keeping a spot on this earth producing in a way the owner values for generations to come. One could argue that either reason is the sign of someone who is really rich, hardly poor.

    There’s a difference between a farmer making this decision and a city. Farmers have private property rights. (Sell them, give them away, fine. You’ll be gone soon. Whoever comes next gets what he pays for.) On the other hand, city leaders have a different responsibility and need to be keeping public property options open for future city leaders who’ll face different problems than we do today.

  31. JustSaying

    “We should avoid developing prime farmland that is on the city limits and that is adjacent to prime farmland.”

    This is the critical argument here. It obviously is the side that the city adopted when getting in league with the Yolo Land Trust on this parcel.

    But, it’s growth obstruction tactic disguised as a farmland preservation strategy. What happens when the city decides to expand, however? (And, is there any doubt that day will come?)

  32. Frankly

    GI: [i]If the city can’t implement Measure O properly then they need to refund all our parcel taxes with interest because in my opinion it doesn’t look like we’re getting what we’re paying for.[/i]

    JS: [i]But, it’s growth obstruction tactic disguised as a farmland preservation strategy. What happens when the city decides to expand, however? (And, is there any doubt that day will come?) [/I]

    While I understand the point GI is making, I think JS makes a stronger, contrasting point. Times have changed. When Measure O passed we were all feeling fat, dumb and happy gorging on a humping economy made strong by buckets and barrels full of real estate equity debt, and appreciating stock values. The unemployment rate hovered in the 4 and 5% range. We expected that we could maintain our parks, our roads, our special services. Although we were starting to talk about the absurd public sector pay and benefits, we expected a “miracle of revenue” to occur and delay the day of reckoning. We expected our well-educated children to find work and move out.

    I think voter perspective on land use and economic development has shifted.

    I think there are no-growthers that will always be no-growthers, but there is a majority that simply vote their self-interests and increased development and growth is now in their best interest. I think some of the active no-growthers sense this, and it is why they will work hard to block even a 1 for 1 land preservation swap.

  33. Mr.Toad

    Which property would you rather own if you were the City, Shriners or this one? I think that is the question the council faces. I don’t know the answer but wish them well in figuring this out.

  34. Don Shor

    It’s not growth obstruction. It’s not disguised. It’s growth management. Cities grow where land-owners and developers want them to grow, or they grow where they decide by community consensus to grow.
    When the city decides to expand? Why do you see that as inevitable? And why to the east? Or do you believe Davis is destined to grow in all directions, no matter what?

  35. Growth Izzue

    [quote]I think voter perspective on land use and economic development has shifted.
    [/quote][quote]Times have changed. When Measure O passed we were all feeling fat, dumb and happy [/quote]

    Frankly, and I appreciate your opinion. The thing is Measure O is the law, so let’s follow the law until/if it gets changed. We don’t ignore laws because we feel like things “may” have shifted.

  36. Don Shor

    If you want to put Measure O, and for that matter Measure R, on the ballot again, go right ahead. I would be very, very willing to bet on the outcome.

  37. JustSaying

    [quote]“…or they grow where they decide by community consensus to grow. When the city decides to expand? Why do you see that as inevitable? And why to the east? Or do you believe Davis is destined to grow in all directions, no matter what?”[/quote]Yes, I think Davis residents will decide to expand our city pretty much in all directions based on city within the next century, even with our tradition of limiting growth. [quote] If you want to put Measure O, and for that matter Measure R, on the ballot again, go right ahead. I would be very, very willing to bet on the outcome.[/quote]Again we agree. I suspect you would want to do it now. I think our replacement citizens eventually will have a different outcome; Who knows at this time? Why shouldn’t “community consensus” be allowed to prevail then with respect to this parcel?

  38. Don Shor

    Community consensus seems pretty clear to me, given the outcomes of Measures J, R, O, Covell Village, and WHR, but if you really think the public would go for a peripheral business park — again, by all means, put it on the ballot.
    I urge the city council to go forward with the easement.

  39. Matt Williams

    Mr.Toad said . . .

    [i]”Which property would you rather own if you were the City, Shriners or this one? I think that is the question the council faces. I don’t know the answer but wish them well in figuring this out.”[/i]

    Excellent question Toad. Don, which one would you choose?

  40. stevem

    The discussion about growth is worth having. But there is also a process/interests issue here that should be of concern to anyone interested in good government.

    Why is this change being discussed? Because of a proposal by Capitol Corridor Ventures, which the staff report describes as “a new Davis-based benefit corporation” which would offer options for future development of a business park.

    Whatever a “benefit corporation” is, CCV has nearly identical organizing details to techDavis (you may check this at http://kepler.sos.ca.gov/). techDavis has just agreed to give the city somewhere near a half-million dollars over three years to fund the new Chief Innovation Officer — a position that seems to have been filled without a search and with no input from any city commission. It’s reasonable to assume that the occupant of that office might promote development of a tech business park. techDavis and the CIO have been unresponsive to requests to reveal the directors of techDavis (see the “Transparency” discussion about the CIO office http://bit.ly/142TZoG). We’ve also discovered that the original staff report on the CIO arrangement mischaracterized the current tax status of techDavis.

    Is any decision made under a cloud like this going to be widely regarded as legitimate?

  41. JimmysDaughter

    “Prime farmland that is next to prime farmland shouldn’t be developed if your goal is to prevent the development of prime farmland.”

    I agree.
    I spent my “Wonder Years” in Orange Co. in the 70’s, when it had actual orange groves. I took a college class called “Environment and Man”. I learned about the Irvine Project. It kept getting eroded until the original proposal did not look like the one they fed to the O.C. citizens. Now look at the O.C. and try to find much farmland there. Davis needs prime farmland to grow and eat local produce & become less dependent on food sourced hundreds of miles away. Davis needs local, organic food.

  42. davisite4

    [quote]it is why they will work hard to block even a 1 for 1 land preservation swap[/quote].

    [quote]Which property would you rather own if you were the City, Shriners or this one? I think that is the question the council faces. I don’t know the answer but wish them well in figuring this out.[/quote]

    Note that although staff is working hard to make it appear as though this were the question on the table, it is not. This land swap appeared in the revised staff report today; it was not there yesterday. The staff recommendation is not to go forward with a land swap. The staff recommendation is to [i]explore[/i] a land swap or other possibilities; the [i]main[/i] recommendation is to forgoe the NRCS grant. There is no concrete agreement to consider. The land swap is just sugar coating for the real issue. The real issue is the building of the innovation park.

  43. Frankly

    [i] The thing is Measure O is the law, so let’s follow the law until/if it gets changed. We don’t ignore laws because we feel like things “may” have shifted. [/i]

    GI, I agree. But, I think a one-for-one swap should meet the letter of the Measure O law. If not, then Mike Harrington will be on it like a coyote on a sick rabbit.

    [i]I spent my “Wonder Years” in Orange Co. in the 70’s, when it had actual orange groves.[/I]

    Good thing that someone ripped up a few orange groves before the 1970s to make room for you to enjoy your “Wonder Years”.

  44. JustSaying

    [quote]“Community consensus seems pretty clear to me, given the outcomes of Measures J, R, O, Covell Village, and WHR, but if you really think the public would go for a peripheral business park — again, by all means, put it on the ballot.”[/quote]None of these provided a community consensus for use of an unnecessary and permanent easement on land already owned by the city. That is why the council should turn it down this evening even though it meets objectives of the Yolo Land Trust, NRCS and objectives.

  45. Don Shor

    Here’s a map showing the different easements and properties: [img]http://davismerchants.org/vanguard/PublicLandsandEasements.pdf[/img]
    and the link to where I have it saved on my server: [url]http://davismerchants.org/vanguard/PublicLandsandEasements.pdf[/url]

  46. Frankly

    Me: [i]For one, this part of world is near being classified as desert.[/I]

    Don: [I]Not even close.[/i]

    Semi-deserts (hot semi-arid climates) include areas getting only 20 inches of rain per year. The Sacramento area gets about 18.5 inches.

    [img]http://www.cscdc.org/miscjeff/arid.jpg[/img]

    [img]http://www.cscdc.org/miscjeff/arid2.jpg[/img]

    Hmm… so which one of us is more right than wrong?

  47. Rob White

    I would like to inject several facts into the discussion and dispel some myths that at least one party continues to raise. These seem to be leading to conclusions not supported by facts, but instead by conjecture. I tend not to want to get involved with these types of discussions because they are mob rules at best, but the dialogue about me and the funding relationships are getting so far afield, I wanted to give some facts that will help inform the discussion. It shouldn’t ever have to get personal, and it is a sad day when people cast aspersions publically before they have looked in to the facts. Once damage is done, it is difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. I have been frank with David Greenwald and encouraged each of you to come meet me. Those that are creating conspiracy theories have not done this.

    First, yes the Dave Morris of techDAVIS and that of Capitol Corridor Ventures is the same. The Dave Morse from Boos Development is a different Dave (both genetically, personally and in spelling) and has offices at 711 4th Street and you can find his info here: http://www.boosdevelopment.com/leadership.cfm.

    The two Daves have met… Morris rented the office space subsequent to Morse moving his offices. This is why they had the same address. Strange yes, but truly a coincidence. Michael Bisch can confirm this and that they are not in fact working together. Dave Morris has since moved his offices into the Chen Building. And I do not work from the techDAVIS offices, though I have occasionally met there, like I do with many businesses across the City.

    The Dave Morris of techDAVIS and Capitol Corridor Ventures was a faculty member of UCD, started the biotech company Sagaris and did in fact ‘guide’ Petrovich on how to create a better OakShade center. He didn’t receive compensation, but he did get a thank you plaque. I suggest you go by Dos Coyotes some day and you will likely see Dave Morris there; he worked hard to convince both Paul and Bobby to put that restaurant there because he loves their tacos. True story. There has never been, and will not be, money that traded hands… Dave did his work trying to be a good neighbor. He lives in South Davis.

    techDAVIS was set up as an idea to implement an entrepreneur’s focus group and a tech company executive round table. Dave stepped forward with a concept to create funding for 50% of my position based on other ideas from other cities (including Livermore). Dave and Bob Medearis (co-founder Silicon Valley Bank, previous UCD Foundation member, and long-term Davis resident) came up with the idea of having the local businesses and tech companies pay for a share of my salary as a way to help the City get someone with the appropriate background and skills for the tasks to work on issues identified by the City, DSIDE, UCD, Chamber and others. The plan was well vetted with City leadership, the City attorney, and led by Rochelle Swanson, City Councilmember and the Chamber leadership. This effort was going on long before I was actually hired. It seemed like a quick effort by the City if you weren’t in the middle of it, but realistically, the folks involved had been pitching me to come be a part of the efforts here for years.

    My compensation shouldn’t continue to be an issue. It was never hidden, was vetted by Council and leadership and now widely discussed. Anyone else want to put their compensation up on the web? I make a typical package as compared to my counterparts in similar jobs across the State and most specifically across the street. It seems that this keeps coming up because a few people seem to be frustrated that they were not consulted. I get that, but feel free to come by my office and we can chat and discuss your ideas. I didn’t create the hiring process. There was no position to fill. It was created to attract me to come to Davis and work with all of you.

    But if you are looking for facts… the fact is that I was about to accept a multi-year contract in Livermore and the leadership here in Davis knew it. And they wanted me to come help here instead of in Livermore. That’s it. And as far as hiring, I would like to see the long list of folks that qualify (or would want to do) what I am doing. In order to match my quals they would need to have experience in science, tech, local/state/federal government, private sector, economic development, community development, business, policy, public administration, and a sprinkling of academia. They would also have to want to spend well over 60 hours a week (though their salary is based on 40) doing the job because they genuinely loved it. Though some might fit the bill, I can assure you there are very few.

  48. Rob White

    Separately from techDAVIS, Dave Morris has been managing a venture capital fund and more recently was able to acquire the option for the Shriner’s property. He opened a new company called Capitol Corridor Ventures so that the option was held outside of his other businesses. Late last year he offered the City a chance to do a trade acre for acre, but it was determined that the NRCS grant does not allow this trading. It was checked locally, with the federal elected officials, and I was asked by the City leadership to check on it while in Washington DC for Cap-to-Cap. And a benefit corporation is a new state designation that allows corporations to work as a business but do philanthropy as a non-profit.

    As was already mentioned, NRCS is a federal easement (not state) and therefore runs with the land for as long as the federal government is around. It is not like the California Williamson in that respect, and you cannot trade properties in the future. But NRCS has assured the City verbally and in writing that both local and federal USDA and NRCS reps will not be adverse to future dealings with the Yolo Land Trust nor the City. In other words, the City and YLT can apply for more grants and it will not be impacted by declining the current grant.

    Lastly, doesn’t it seem absolutely out of phase that a guy who has been here all of 2 ½ months could somehow convince the City Council, City leadership, and other community members to do something that they haven’t already been discussing? The idea that I am somehow that powerful is pretty absurd. The facts actually bear out that these conversations have been going on for quite some time and are informed by things like the Council Goals, the General Plan, and the Innovation Park Task Force. How can I possibly be a very effective driver on this effort when I don’t even know most peoples names? Conservation versus economic development are competing ideas for sure, and it is interesting as a newbie to see how Davis works, but I cannot believe for a second that I am somehow being attributed the ability to change the Davis culture in a mere few months. Now that is just not a viable scenario.

    Thanks for listening. I am still available to meet with anyone who so chooses. Email me at rwhite@cityofdavis.org

  49. Don Shor

    Frankly: we are an oak grassland in a riparian area with groundwater and near the confluence of two major rivers that have abundant water available from winter snows and spring rains. From an agricultural standpoint we aren’t even close to being a desert or a semi-desert.

  50. Don Shor

    [quote]Separately from techDAVIS, Dave Morris has been managing a venture capital fund and more recently was able to acquire the option for the Shriner’s property.[/quote]
    Rob: that is a conflict of interest, IMO, with respect to the work you are doing in discussing or facilitating community discussions about suitable peripheral sites for a business park. It should have been disclosed from the start, and is the reason I have asked about this issue. If someone with a financial interest in any of the property trading is also involved in an entity that pays your salary, I assume you can see how that is an apparent conflict of interest.

  51. Frankly

    Don, when you work in economic development, you are likely going to know other people involved in economic development. If you know people involved in economic development, some will have interests. But, why is an interest to block development any less sinister than an interest to develop a parcel? Why would you apply conspiracy motives and demonize one and not the other?

    I think we have gone off the rails in terms of looking for that dollar connection as the root of all bad public policy. Bad public policy comes from failing to factually assess policy and projects on their merits and instead playing the game of assassinating the character of people involved in the political process to win at all costs.

    I have no doubt that Rob White is interested in doing good things for our city despite these connections, and probably because of these connections. In fact, I am more encouraged that they exist.

  52. Don Shor

    No conspiracy motives. No demonizing. It’s an obvious conflict of interest, it should have been disclosed, and it probably calls into question this particular funding mechanism for Rob’s position.
    I think Rob has done an excellent job of outreach, and I applaud his responsiveness on this and other issues. But it probably will be necessary to find some other way to fund his position.

  53. JustSaying

    Rob: I’m disappointed about how this is playing out. While I appreciate the background of your hiring, your compensation level and your limited role in this project, you are not the issue. Neither is the fact that there are two Daves.

    The issue that’s growing is one Dave (Morris) whose two or more roles for some reason shows up a surprise on the very day that the council is facing their critical decision on the NRCS funding proposal. If the council ever gets to this issue–it’s after 7 p.m. and the mayor is tied up singing, “Bring Your Own Bag”–it looks as though council members are in a difficult fix.

    I agree with Don that there’s a serious conflict of interest appearance with techDavis and Capital Corridor Ventures engaged in pushing for last-minute accommodations that benefit the two outfits. Although I’m not at all convinced that we need a business park at this location, I’m concerned that this episode will negatively impact your effectiveness because half of your salary is paid by techDavis.

    This situation is exacerbated by the appearance of back room dealings for who-knows-how-long that was intended to culminate tonight with a consent calendar decision. The second staff report refers to some vague “several months ago,” amended by your note here about “late last year.” Folks are bound to wonder how this could this have been under consideration without public knowledge for so long.

    I think the perpetual easement isn’t at all appropriate for this parcel, but if the council doesn’t take the staff recommendation tonight I think it’ll be because of the unsavory, last-minute way the decision looks like it’s playing out.

    How can they make the no-action, high-pressure call tonight–when it should have come long ago–with the questions floating about the motives involved?

    If we ever get to the matter, it should be a fascinating show. Good luck to the council and to you.

  54. Matt Williams

    Don Shor said . . .

    [i]”Which property would you rather own if you were the City, Shriners or this one?

    Both.”[/i]

    That “Both/And” option isn’t on the table Don. “Either/Or” is what we are dealing with in the current scenario.

    So I ask you again … [u]either[/u] Shriners [u]or[/u] the equivalent acres along I-80 west of County Road 105. Which one do you prefer?

  55. Matt Williams

    davisite4 said . . .

    [i]”The real issue is the building of the innovation park.”[/i]

    d4, you have said the above for a reason. Could you explain why you think this is the [u]real[/u] issue?

  56. Don Shor

    No, Matt, the current scenario is whether or not the city should proceed with the conservation easement. I don’t really care who owns either site. I care whether they are developed into anything other than farmland.

  57. Mr.Toad

    “Rob: that is a conflict of interest, IMO,”

    Honestly Don, this guy was brought in by the city and the business community to facilitate business development so its a little over the top to accuse him of something nefarious when he has been clear from the get go what his mission is trying to accomplish.

    For someone who gets quite insulted when people question your motives i would think you would be a little more cautious about attacking the motives of others.

  58. Don Shor

    I didn’t accuse him of anything, Mr. Toad. It’s a conflict of interest. Plain and simple.

    Final vote:
    Lucas, Brett, Joe — yes on motion to continue with conservation easement.
    Rochelle, Dan — no.

  59. JustSaying

    Wow, that was awkward.

    Too bad it took the mayor to make the clear case for the staff recommendation when the city manager/staff stumbled and mumbled an unconvincing rational for their own concept. To have the city manager unconvincingly explain how the process got so screwed up–and have two apparent supporters of the staff concept peel off because of the way it was handled–was embarrassing.

    And, it’ll be some time before techDAVIS and Capital Corridor recovers from this fiasco.

  60. Jim Frame

    Hard to believe that I sat there for 4+ hours. The vote was disappointingly close — I’m mystified by Dan and Rochelle’s willingness to trade a sure-thing $1M+ in open space funding for a development that *might* succeed *if* it were to pass the Measure J/R vote. I’m especially baffled by the staff report’s promotion of exclusive negotiations with CCV. Thanks to Joe for pointing out that a) the Innovation Task Force never considered the Arkansas property for anything other than open space and b) that *if* the city were to consider developing the property, it would entertain proposals from anyone, not just CCV. But ultimate thanks go to Lucas, Brett and Joe collectively for doing the right thing.

  61. DT Businessman

    Toad, you clearly misunderstand the term “conflict of interest”. Here’s Wikipedia’s definition:

    “A conflict of interest (COI) occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in another.”

    A conflict of interest does not mean that something nefarious is going on. It simply means that there is such a potential. That’s why in public policy it is incumbent upon actors to disclose their conflicts so that decisions makers can weigh their decisions with a full set of relevant facts.

    -Michael Bisch

  62. JustSaying

    Actually, I think Rochelle did an excellent job explaining why $1-million in hand was an underpayment, considering the potential the city ownership of the parcel had for economic development and a better ag-land preservation package. But, by that time the prospect was lost. Didn’t you gel a little uneasy when Joe made the most compelling case of anyone? But, then, weren’t you relieved when he later announced he would vote to proceed in the opposite direction?

  63. DT Businessman

    Well, why didn’t she make the case 2 months ago, a year ago, 2 years ago? She said she was on the innovation task force all that time. She kept pointing her finger at staff during tonight’s meeting, but did she truly not realize the Mace Curve economic opportunity prior to this weekend? Really? Why wait until just a few days before the grant deadline?

    -Michael Bisch

  64. JustSaying

    Everybody was pointing at staff with good reason. Rochelle didn’t whine as much as the others about it, though. It sounds as though the Capital Corridor approach some months ago was the thing that triggered the idea that the city should take another look. It seems that Rochelle and the mayor must have been in on the ground floor from that point on; they certainly had the best handle on it tonight.

    I’m not sure why you’re so critical of her for not taking a stand two years ago. Nobody else had the foresight to speak up. Plus, tonight’s atmosphere was nothing compared to the anti-development fervor around town two years ago. I think the two who voted to turn down the easement in the face of the the public comment parade and after the other three had announced their call deserve some credit for sticking with their convictions. Too bad no one was in the mood to consider the merits at this late date?

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