The Davis City Council has asked the Innovation Park Task Force to reconvene to initiate a community engagement process, providing opportunities for community dialogue about possible innovation center options and related issues.
The meeting, to take place on Tuesday night, will feature Rochelle Swanson and ostensibly Lucas Frerichs from the Davis City Council. However, Councilmember Frerichs will be out of the country at this time. It also will have Annaya Choudhuri and George Hague from the planning Commission and Steve Golemme and Brian Horsfield from what used to be the Business and Economic Development Commission.
The meeting is Tuesday from 5:30 to 6:30 at the Community Chambers Conference Room.
Back in November 2012, the city council approved the recommendations of the Innovation Park Task Force, in particular to pursue a “Dispersed Innovation Center Strategy” and initiate community engagement processes that would inform and solicit input on the findings and recommendations from the task force.
Since that time, at least three things have occurred. First, the city hired Rob White as Chief Innovation Officer. Second, the city has lost one of its principal innovation technology companies, Bayer CropScience, to West Sacramento. And third, we had the June and now October discussions on the potential for a business park located east of the Mace Curve.
The “Dispersed Innovation Strategy” offers flexible space and could support the needs of both growing businesses and new startups. This approach looked to maximize the existing inventory and review “existing land use, zoning and tax structure with objectives of supporting retention and growth of innovation businesses and maximizing revenue opportunities.”
In the near term it looked at the Gateway Project at Nishi as the option that offers the best proximity to the university as the city’s top innovation center priority. In the midterm however, it focused on both east and west “edge” sites which would “offer viable options for location and size of larger innovation centers meeting needs of growing mid-sized companies, and should be continued to be explored as part of a mid-term Dispersed Innovation Strategy.”
As the staff report notes, the original task force reached three primary conclusions. First, “Davis has competitive advantage of proximity to University research and quality of life not found in other adjacent communities. Davis can play an important role attracting entrepreneurs and businesses to the region, supporting UC Davis tech transfer objectives.”
Second, “Remaining existing city sites and a new mixed-use innovation district will not be sufficient to meet needs of growing businesses.”
Third, “To actively support transfer of University research to market applications, increased opportunities for local business growth are needed.”
The task force clarified its objective to “provide for the lifecycle space needs of growing businesses” and removed the terms business park and innovation park, in favor of “innovation center,” which would offer a blended integration and range of differently-sized flexible work spaces; business services; and recreational, entertainment and other lifestyle amenities.
Staff notes, “The Task Force solicited the assistance of UC Davis Extension Land Use and Natural Resources and Sustainability Programs Studio 30, a professional skills course, to help define what an innovation center might look like in the City of Davis, and assess the economic environmental and social impacts of that innovation center based on different sites.”
The conclusions of Studio 30 were then compiled into a “City of Davis Innovation Center Study” report.
According to staff, “This report concluded that Davis is in an excellent position to support an Innovation Center, and a combination of a close-in innovation hub combined with a larger less constrained edge site offers the right mix of University proximity and identity with expansion capability to address job growth and rapid business expansion that can occur with technology and knowledge companies. The study also concluded: 1) that the Nishi/Gateway site offered the best opportunity for a close-in innovation hub because of its proximity to the university; and the East and West sites evaluated offered viable options for edge expansion sites.”
These conclusions then informed the Innovation Park Task Force’s recommendations that council adopted last year.
As we know from the ongoing discussions about the Mace 391 proposal, Cannery and Nishi, the critical detail in Davis is where to put such business park locations and what will the community’s response to these locations be.
As we saw on Tuesday night, the council was supportive of reengaging on the issue of Mace 391.
This process seeks the type of community engagement many have been calling for. The goals of this meeting will be and initiate a community engagement process to inform and solicit input on the task force findings and recommendations and then to advise the council on appropriate next steps.
The idea of community engagement is critical. In June, questions about the process led to the denial of pausing the conservation easement on Mace 391/Leland Ranch.
“I want an open and honest discussion about the best use of this property for the community of Davis. I’d like to see a wide variety of options presented to us, understanding that whatever we choose, sadly we’ve, at this decision point – either decision is not going to be ideal,” Councilmember Brett Lee stated on Tuesday night. “If we would have had this discussion a year ago it could have been the ‘win-win’ but at this stage it’s going to be a ‘win-lose.’ “
“I would want that open and transparent discussion,” he said. “The key here is transparent, I am extremely disappointed in the way this information trickled to us as council people. I do not believe that staff upheld the high standards that we expect of them. I’m not very pleased with the closed session information we received at the time and I’m not pleased with what was presented to us in June.”
Mayor Joe Krovoza was the lone dissenter for even discussing the possibility of re-opening this process.
“I will not support he motion on the floor,” he said. “I am completely puzzled. For the three years I have served on this council, we’ve been considering straight up in public forums the option of a wonderful open space easement that we’ve been using our open space funds to acquire.”
“We concurrently embarked upon the Innovation Park Task Force study to look for lands around the city that we can open up for economic development,” he noted. “We constructed a process with city council members, planning commission members, and business and economic and economic development commission members to serve on that (task force).”
“Many of you in this audience attended those meetings,” he said. “You participated in those meetings. That process resulted in the identification of by my estimation of approximately 450 acres around Davis, California, that can be opened up for economic development and business park. And for that entire process, this land use easement was considered to be surrounding one of the major parcels of that recommendation.”
“That’s one reason why we recommended the 200 acres outside the Mace Curve because it had this wonderful land conservation potential around it,” he added.
Now that Innovation Park Task Force process will reconvene concurrent with other discussions in the next few months.
—David M. Greenwald reporting