Can you imagine an editorial board for a paper the size of the Sacramento Bee writing an editorial urging a relatively small town’s city council to approve a relatively modest housing project? It is difficult to picture a major newspaper writing about any other community’s housing development, as the Bee writes about Davis’ Cannery project.
And yet here we are in this morning’s paper, with just such an editorial. We are talking about a 547-unit project with some commercial elements on 7 of the project’s 100 acres.
“The city of Davis should show its support for smart growth by approving an innovative housing, retail and office project on the long-dormant site of an old cannery off the city’s main east-west street,” the editorial board writes.
They add, “The project makes sense for a city and region that is concerned about urban sprawl onto prime farmland. As it is envisioned, the project would be an example of infill within city limits, and provide housing in a university town that needs it.”
After a brief description of the project that “would include small eateries and artisan food vendors, a bike loop and 547 single-family homes and apartments of varied types on roughly 100 acres,” they state that the developers “propose 19 acres of park and open space, including a 7-acre farm, organic, of course.”
“There would be retail and office space so people could work near where they live,” the Bee adds.
The Bee has been pushing for more development in Davis for years – taking turns mocking the community for its slow growth tendencies and prodding the town to think bigger. But there is no denying the intention conveyed about the importance of Davis to the region, with its top-notch university and its potential as an economic engine.
Despite this, the Bee’s focus has often exclusively been on land use.
Here they argue, “Families with school-age children often look to Davis, knowing the public schools are top-flight. But they quickly realize that they are priced out of the housing market and settle in Woodland or other towns.”
At the same time, they acknowledge some discrepancies between their hopes and the reality of the project.
They note, “Houses would run from $350,000 to almost $800,000. The high-end would hardly be affordable for young families. But the project offers a possibility that some families might find homes.”
The Bee adds, “Developers also plan to pay attention to the needs of a graying population by including some small single-story homes without yards.”
“A concrete slab and steel gate is all that’s left of the tomato processing plant. It’s the last large parcel in Davis not zoned for agriculture or open space. That means it could be developed without a vote of the residents, although project opponents threaten a referendum if the council approves the development,” the Bee writes.
They add, “Some critics say they hope the site could be used for manufacturing. The region could use factory jobs. But while the cannery is close to a rail line, there is no easy way to transport goods to Interstates 5 or 80, or the airport.”
At the same time, access issues continue to be a concern.
The Bee notes, “As it’s configured, the project would include two exits for vehicles, and one undercrossing for bicycles and pedestrians. As many as 9,800 vehicles a day would use the intersections.”
The Bee writes that Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza “has been trying to persuade the developers to construct additional paths under Davis’ main east-west street, Covell Boulevard, for bikes and foot traffic.” They argue, “His ideas are worthy, but not if they make the project financially unviable.”
The Bee fails to argue whether that is the case, and instead continues, “Cannery developers promise to pay special attention to energy efficiency, as the city’s environment-conscious residents should expect. Toward this end, the developers ought to pay special heed to foot and pedal power.”
“Californians have seen too many developers bulldoze local officials, turning prime farmland into shoddy developments that don’t live up to their promises. No one could accuse the developers of ramming through approval of the Cannery project,” the Bee argues.
They continue, giving the Vanguard a plug, “The Davis planning commission will hold another hearing this week. The City Council is expected to take up the development in hearings in October and November. The Davis Enterprise and the online Davis Vanguard have been running lengthy reports detailing all aspects of the project. Democracy is alive and well in Davis.”
The Bee concludes, “The old Hunt-Wesson cannery closed in 1999. Fourteen seasons later, the city is coming close to approving a replacement. Davis leaders and residents should seize the opportunity, and provide a model for developments elsewhere in the region.”
We consider it a bit odd that a paper with the size and scope of the Sacramento Bee would be concerned enough with a 547-unit housing development in a nearby town of 65,000, but we will take it as a compliment to the importance that they see this community to the larger region.
Agree or disagree with their take, one thing rings true – “Democracy is alive and well in Davis.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting