Vanguard Analysis: Concerns About the Innovation Task Force Process

innovation-park-task-force

Last night at the Innovation Parks Task Force Meeting, the city’s Chief Innovation Officer Rob White gave an update on the progress made on four identified innovation areas and the task force started to map out a path forward to public engagement.

At the February 11, 2014, city council meeting, the council will receive an update on the 44-acre project which, according to Rob White, “will really show how the Nishi – University – Downtown properties all integrate together.”  This has been done in tandem with the university and their work at Solano Park.

It is being planned right now as a mixture of housing and research space.  It would be subject to a Measure R vote.

“I can tell you one of the access discussions is to put a subterranean tunnel beneath the railroad tracks right near the Mondavi Center.  That would open up access to the university,” Mr. White explained in response to a question on the access issue.  “There’s obviously conversations about access points coming off of Olive Drive.  All of those things subject to traffic and circulation (studies), but those are the discussions and probably the most obvious ways to create an access point.”

Second, he updated the progress on the East Innovation Park, the 200 acres east of Mace owned by Dan Ramos in part, and another tract owned by Buzz Oates Construction.  Rob White noted that, at this time, there has been no formal proposal submitted to the city.

He did offer that the land sits directly east of Mace and would be bracketed on the north and the south by land that will be preserved as agricultural land and open space.

Rob White told the group that Tyler Schilling has already alerted the city of his interest in moving his company to that property.  He needs about 30 to 40 acres of space for his proposed expansions and if he does not get it in Davis, he is likely moving his company and all of their jobs to Texas.

Mr. White noted that HM Klauss and Marrone Bio-Innovations have also expressed interest.

Councilmember Rochelle Swanson asked when a vote would need to happen on a proposal.

“There are two ways to go about this, one is again the traditional Measure R vote which allows us as citizenry to have the applicant put in the application for a number of upfront entitlement works and environmental work, and ultimately a vote by the citizens probably in a two to three year time period,” Rob White explained.

“Another way for this to go is for what the landowner  may be proposing, but hasn’t been proposed yet, but has been discussed openly, is the potential for some sort of citizen’s initiative which would be similar to a Measure R vote,  it would still be a vote of the populace,” he continued.  “Instead of it going through the normal entitlement processes up front, it would have an abbreviated process and the entitlement work would be done once the approvals were made.”

Mr. White noted, “That gives some security to the landowner in that yes, in fact, the community wants this project but it also allows the community to be very vocal about what it is that they want to see as well.”

Third, Rob White discussed the issue of the West Innovation Park.  He noted that there was an interested landowner present in the audience that was looking into the 200 acres west of Sutter-Davis hospital.

Rob White indicated that a proposal would come forward “in a timely manner” and “in the next few months.”  Again there has been no proposal, but this would be in the areas of agricultural technology and biomedical.

Finally, a longer term prospect is the Downtown Innovation District which would be smaller infill parcels, with the city looking at the city and school district corporation yards and the PG&E property.  He argued that, given the size, we would need to have both.

He said that, while there have been some discussions in the past, there is no current conversation or discussion but that could change.

Rob White also mentioned that there has been considerable discussion countywide about the rail line relocation project and he said, it is “moving faster than anyone expected.”

The Vanguard has several political and policy concerns about this discussion.

First, the discussion in the room focused on outreach efforts.  In the last two meetings, members of the task force and audience members noted that there is a considerable amount of fear in the community, and the implication is that opposition to development is a manifestation of the fear of change rather than policy and philosophical preferences.

If a proposal is to move forward, the nature of this discussion must change.  There must be an effort to hold a community dialogue that focuses not on fear, but on vision.  We need to engage the public on what their vision is for the future, figure out where there are areas of common interest, and then help to develop a joint vision moving forward.

Talk of fear will be seen as talking down to the population and will quickly end any communication.

Along the same lines, the Vanguard continues to be concerned that the meetings are in effect an echo chamber where people of the same persuasion end up talking to themselves.  The idea that they can effectively outreach to populations that have been skeptical and wary of growth is questionable at best.

The discussion needs to include people who have supported Measure J, supported Measure R, opposed peripheral development projects in the past.

The idea that there is a monolithic anti-growth force in the community is wrongheaded.  There are, in fact, degrees of gray as we can see in the narrow majority that supported Measure J to the broad majority that supported its renewal in 2010.  We have seen two Measure J projects, one defeated with 60 percent of the vote opposing, one with 75 percent opposition.

On the other hand, in a quasi-Measure J vote, Wildhorse was approved, Target passed narrowly and the water project passed narrowly.

Clearly, a campaign would have to focus on the population that supported Target and the water project but opposed Measure P and Measure X.  However, that cannot be a discussion led by the true believers who have no doubt that we need a business park, but must be led by people with a more skeptical but ultimately approving position.

That gets to the next concern.  Right now we are talking about a Measure R vote on Nishi.  A citizen’s vote on Mace 200.  And a possible third vote on the Northwest Quadrant.

This is ridiculously and foolishly optimistic.  The Vanguard has been willing to consider supporting Mace 200, but proposing both quadrants at once is really out of the question from this citizen’s perspective.

Nishi would have to have considerable discussion on the issue of access before the voters would approve this.

The Vanguard believes putting up three peripheral projects in close proximity will allow the activist base to rally against all three projects and make a credible claim that this opens the door to more development.

Finally, we question whether the population will support a citizen’s initiative rather than a Measure R vote.  Neither Rob White nor Steve Pinkerton were here in 2009.  Rochelle Swanson and Lucas Frerichs were not on the council, though Mr. Frerichs undoubtedly was involved with the city at the time.

But none of them may recall that there was considerable concern during the Measure P vote about the developer’s agreement and ensuring that agreements that the developer made were codified into the agreement.

As Mr. White described what a citizen’s initiative would entail, specifically the fact that the vote would occur prior to the entitlement process, we believe that the landowner would be asking for considerable trouble in doing it this way.  They would open the door for critics who oppose the project to question whether promises made during the campaign could be enforced.

We understand the time constraints and would hope that a faster route could still bind the landowner to agreements made with the community.

These are discussions that must go forward and, given the amount of discussion that needs to take place on revenue and land use, the next steps need to be carefully rather than hastily planned out.

—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.

Related posts

58 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    “Clearly a campaign would have to focus on the population that supported Target and the Water project but opposed Measure P and Measure X.”

    I had to smile when I read this line. You first state that there is no monolithic antigrowth contingent in town. A correct observation in my mind.

    And then make the assumption that those who supported Target are the same population that supported the water project. I know of several voters who supported one by not the other of these two projects and mention it only to reinforce your statement that the reasons to support or oppose any given project are varied. Tto make the assumption or assertion that people’s objections are fear rather than value’s based is a huge mistake which will indeed be perceived as both patronizing and denigrating. Hardly a winning combination for collaborative efforts.

    1. David Greenwald

      Made no such assumption, only reflects that there is a 30% gap in support and recommends targeting that 30% of the population. It’s just a math issue. As you should know, attributing individual level data from aggregate data is an ecological fallacy, but we know mathematically that there is a sizable population that supported some measures but not others and those are the targetted groups.

  2. iPad Guy

    “The Vanguard believes putting up three peripheral projects in close proximity will allow the activist base to rally against all three projects and make a credible claim that this opens the door to more development.”

    The activist base can be depended upon to rally against all such projects whether they’re in close proximity or come up years apart. And, the slippery slope argument has become the first one out of the chute whenever a proposal gets close to consideration.

  3. Ryan Kelly

    The problem I see is the idea that opposing factions – for and against – receive equal coverage in local media, completely drowning out people who support a plan, but would like some edits. The campaigns become a choice of extremes with no process for negotiation, such as what happened with the Cannery. This is a failing of the Measure R process.

    1. David Greenwald

      I agree – I think we need to focus on the 30% in the middle rather than the extremes. My concern last night was most in the room were on one side of the extremes.

        1. Rob White

          City staff are working on a plan to engage the community, including those that are referenced above. In order to have an honest an open dialogue about a potential innovation park, we will need to have input from across the spectrum – those that are against growth, those that need to have growth explained and justified, those that are perfectly fine with any kind of growth and those that want to see any growth done in a manner that respects the values of Davis and have a direct positive impact on the fiscal future of the City… and of course, those in between.

          What is clear is that there is no single over-arching agreement on what, where and when… but we do have some important work to build from in the Innovation Park Task Force findings from Nov 2012 and the discussions that ensued through 2013.

          1. B. Nice

            those that are perfectly fine with any kind of growth and those that want to see any growth done in a manner that respects the values of Davis and have a direct positive impact on the fiscal future of the City…

            I think this describes a majority of people in Davis, but I also think they are the ones least likely to become politically engaged on the issue, making the tapping of this “resource” challenging.

  4. Frankly

    LOL…

    If a proposal is to move forward, the nature of this discussion must change. There must be an effort to hold a community dialogue that focuses not on fear, but on vision. We need to engage the public on what their vision is for the future, figure out where there are areas of common interest, and then help to develop a joint vision moving forward.

    Talk of fear will be seen as talking down to the population and will quickly end any communication.

    – Then –

    That gets to the next concern. Right now we are talking about a Measure R vote on Nishi. A citizen’s vote on Mace 200. And a possible third vote on the Northwest Quadrant.

    This is ridiculously and foolishly optimistic. The Vanguard has been willing to consider supporting Mace 200, but proposing both quadrants at once is really out of the question from this citizen’s perspective.

    Nishi would have to have considerable discussion on the issue of access before the voters would approve this.

    The Vanguard believes putting up three peripheral projects in close proximity will allow the activist base to rally against all three projects and make a credible claim that this opens the door to more development.

    Is the VG really that blind to the contradiction being displayed here.

    One of the things that kills useful dialog is insensitivity. The other is hyper sensitivity.

    But, by far, the biggest killer of useful dialog is a lack of honesty. And honestly, I cannot see a more honest description of the push back against these ideas than fear of change.

    But, I do agree with the point that we need a comprehensive economic development vision. I am absolutely sure that 90% of humans struggle being able to envision a future state and hence are prone to anxiety about change. The other 10% are the designers and visionaries and leaders. The problem is the tremendous amount of time and energy it takes to help the 90% get comfortable. That is what the VG is demanding… a protracted series of commissions and discussions and debate and compromises… that in the end will cost a lot of money and a lot of time and will end up providing us with a less-than-optimal result that still makes 50% of the city unhappy that they did not get their way.

    I think the best approach is to combat fear with fear.

    It is the fear of what the city will look like without significant economic development that should trump the fear of change.

    And in the end we will still have 50% of the people unhappy with the result, but at least the city will be saved from bankruptcy.

    1. Mr. Toad

      and while those that are happy and complacent taking their sweet time 17 % of the people in this county live in poverty yet there is no discussion of having them at the table or their needs.

        1. Mr. Toad

          Whatever it is its too high. Besides many of the working class people who labor in Davis live in Woodland. Perhaps you are too provincial to care about anyone outside your little world. How liberal of you.

          1. David Greenwald

            I asked a question, you jumped to conclusions that have no bearing on my question. The answer is: you don’t know. This is a discussion about city policies, so naturally the poverty rate in Davis matters. I think your 17% figure is bs. It’s way too low. More than half of county students take reduced lunches, that number is lower in Davis, but still 22%. Do you take your daughter to Head Start? Have you ever had to use the county services? Don’t start lecturing to me about this stuff, you talk, I have to live with it.

          2. Mr. Toad

            Your personal contradictions have always amazed me. You have chosen a path that should be in contradiction to the positions you often take yet here you are advocating for policies that don’t advance the needs of people like yourself.

            If you are correct that my 17% number for the county poverty rate is too low that only makes my argument stronger. You could be correct though because there are a lot of poor people who have incomes above the poverty line because just as we have failed to raise the minimum wage to keep up with inflation we have failed to do the same with the poverty line. By the way the reason we have failed to raise the minimum wage to match increases in productivity is because of the decline in private sector unionization in this country.

          3. Matt Williams

            Toad, when I read your comment about David above, I was reminded of a wise statement that I permanently added to my wise sayings data bank. It goes like this:

            The study of public choice is just microeconomics applied to politics, there’s some interesting scholarly work in the field, but it quickly hits diminishing returns.

            Simplistic analyses of politics that rely strictly on self-interest and ignore ideology, altruism and irrationality fail to explain how policy is made.

            That is why the study of history is so compelling. If you want to understand politics or markets, you have to know where they came from in order to have a feel where they’re going.

            People who think that the present was always here, as if the past was the same and future is bound to be, are lost.

            Even worse are reactionaries, who invent an imaginary past and want to flee to it, and utopians, who invent an imaginary future that ignores the lessons of the past and want to create it.

            If nothing else, David is ideological, altruistic and irrational.

          4. David Greenwald

            What you see is a personal contradiction is actually a balancing of concerns. I both moved to and stayed in Davis for specific reasons. I wanted to live in a small college town I wanted my kids to attend good schools and I’m willing to not own a home

          5. Frankly

            You do not live in a small college town. That is the source of the problem here. You are trying to make Davis be something it is not and cannot be.

            Is Palo Alto a small college town?

          6. Don Shor

            Palo Alto is part of a large metropolitan region that has no physical boundaries between the cities.

          7. Mr. Toad

            Seriously though you seem to want everything defined by lines. Measure R, jobs for Davis residents so they don’t need to commute and others don’t need to commute in. Its just not how the country works. We are a free society people come and go as they please. A big failure in the no growth attitude of Davis is its inability to look beyond the city limits and take a broader view of our place and role in our region, the state, country and world. We are a host community to an important world class university but we act as if with great privilege comes no responsibility.

      1. Frankly

        I have a friend in town that is losing his job in the private sector due to the length of the recession. He is going to be a contractor and will make less money as he starts this new chapter. He has already lost his family health insurance (dropped), and coverage through Covered California is costing him much more and it includes gaps in coverage, including no coverage for certain prescription drugs that his family needs.

        With more business in the area there would be a greater likelihood that my friend could find adequate replacement employment and/or more billable customers.

        When I take economic development to a moral consideration, I honestly get a bit sick at my stomach hearing from those that do not support it. And then I get irritated. And once I am irritated, I grow insensitive and unresponsive to their arguments.

        There is no greater altruism than employment. In the spirit of giving… something that so many Davisites claim to be in favor of… why not consider giving in to accepting change that directly improves the economic circumstances of Davis families.

        Economic development results in improvements to the human condition.

        The benefits are many and they are material and quantifiable. The liabilities are described in vagaries and emotive terms like “sprawl” and “gridlock”.

        We can increase taxes as a solution to prevent city bankruptcy; but, we will not be improving the human condition. Tax increase will do just the opposite. They will make it even more difficult for my friend. And I think those in opposition to economic development need to be held accountable for that result.

    2. David Greenwald

      “I think the best approach is to combat fear with fear. ”

      That doesn’t create consensus, it creates polarity. The default setting in this community is no-growth, you have to combat that by creating a joint vision that people can embrace. If you run a fear campaign, people will dig in and you will lose.

  5. Mark West

    The City needs to move forward with an aggressive economic development program, with the City Council leading the way and laying out the arguments in favor. We cannot force anyone to engage on the subject however, so It is time to act like adults and stop coddling the no crowd. If the citizens of Davis are foolish enough to vote no, so be it.

    One important fact that needs to be shouted from the rooftops however, is that for every $1 in property tax that the City gains through economic development, whether that be from the land, the buildings, or the equipment inside, the school district gains $2. When we use economic development to help solve the City’s fiscal problems, we are doing even more for the School district at the same time. That means that those who claim to be interested in keeping our schools strong, including the members of our School Board, really should be out in front leading the charge for more aggressive economic development.

    The other important fact is that an economic development program is not just the act of building a business park on the periphery. It may include funding an aggressive marketing program to bring new consumers to Davis and involve encouraging downtown land owners to redevelop their properties to increase space for business and residential. It may involve removing zoning restrictions on the types of businesses allowed in our residential shopping centers, and changing the zoning of our existing stock of commercial buildings to allow retail as an approved use. It may also involve selling City owned properties for business development, especially in the downtown core. None of these things require a measure R vote, and all can be moved forward by a decision of the City Council (and perhaps a General Plan amendment).

    I believe we need the peripheral business park, but we do not have to wait for that to come to fruition in order to have a robust economic development program in operation. We just need the will to act.

    1. David Greenwald

      “We cannot force anyone to engage on the subject however, so It is time to act like adults and stop coddling the no crowd. If the citizens of Davis are foolish enough to vote no, so be it.”

      You already missed a critical point I raised, there is a no crowd, a group that will vote no on anything. That is not your target. Your target is the 30% in the middle who have supported some projects, but not others. Get rid of words like coddling and figure out what that group of people wants to see, what vision they have for the community.

      1. Mark West

        Nope David, I didn’t miss your point at all, I just don’t agree with you.

        We already have years of discussion and visioning to build on. It is time to act, preferably with the Council in the lead, and you and all the other hand-wringers need to decide to follow or get out of the way.

      2. iPad Guy

        Still don’t quite how you calculate your 30% figure, let alone poll for it.

        Are you saying that 60% of Davis voters have always voted YES and NO and will vote the same way regardless of the subject under consideration, leaving only 30% who have voted YES sometimes and NO sometimes?

        If so–and if you identify the 30% by polling (surveying 100%?)–how will you go about targeting these individuals. And, what would move them to vote YES on any given future projects even if they’re spread out over time?

        Finally, what’s to keep the NO activists from being successful at using the same strategy to sway these historically open-minded voters?

        1. Frankly

          Finally, what’s to keep the NO activists from being successful at using the same strategy to sway these historically open-minded voters?

          This is a very good question and the key challenge to David’s opinions here.

          He is all two one-sided in his thinking.

          The “no” side primarily uses fear arguments… the fear of sprawl, the fear of traffic, the fear of more crime, the fear of vanishing farmland, the fear that their small-town atmosphere will disappear (without really quantifying what that means), and lastly the fear of indescribable terrible human suffering and pain resulting from growth.

          But then he says that a campaign to communicate the fear of pain from not doing enough economic development as being a losing strategy.

          Me thinks that David is fearful that it would be a productive strategy and because of that he is making arguments to dissuade it from being used.

          An any case, the fear campaign for pro-economic development will be honest and factual… so in the end if it does fail, those causing it to fail will only have themselves to blame.

          1. David Greenwald

            “Me thinks that David is fearful that it would be a productive strategy and because of that he is making arguments to dissuade it from being used.”

            It’s the same strategy that was basically attempted and failed with Measure X – promise a whole bunch of people give aways and scare the population that if we don’t for it, the bogey man is coming and the city will go belly up.

          2. Tia Will

            Frankly

            You do not seem to be able to differentiate between ” fear of “and “dislike of”. I have no “fear” of any of the things that you mentioned. I have lived in Los Angeles, Anaheim, Fresno, Santa Barbara. Claremont, and Santa Clara. I have no fear of a fast pace, crowds, massive traffic jams, noise, the homeless, vanishing farmland. I have seen if, I have lived it, and I do not like it. No fear, just a different vision for the community in which I wish to live and retire. You can call it fear all you like, but that is not what will win my approval of any given project. I was opposed to the Target (due to redundancy in this area). I was a supporter of the water project because I believed that our community would best be served by a diversity of supply. Peoples motivations for various positions vary. What you and Mark, are doing is to try to stereotype a diverse group of people each with his own values and pretend that you know what motivates them.

            This is inaccurate, condescending, paternalistic and overall not a historically winning strategy in Davis.

        2. David Greenwald

          “Still don’t quite how you calculate your 30% figure, let alone poll for it. ”

          Measure P – 25% Yes
          Measure X – 40% Yes
          Measure J – 51% Yes
          Target/ K – 51% Yes
          Water/ I – 54% Yes

          Measure R – 75% Yes

          Looking at that spread there are about 30% of the population, perhaps as much as 40% that is persuadable. You would have to poll / phone bank to determine.

          “what would move them to vote YES on any given future projects even if they’re spread out over time?”

          That’s what you need to figure out.

          “Finally, what’s to keep the NO activists from being successful at using the same strategy to sway these historically open-minded voters?”

          Nothing. There is no guarantee that this will succeed.

    2. Don Shor

      funding an aggressive marketing program to bring new consumers to Davis and involve encouraging downtown land owners to redevelop their properties to increase space for business and residential. It may involve removing zoning restrictions on the types of businesses allowed in our residential shopping centers, and changing the zoning of our existing stock of commercial buildings to allow retail as an approved use. It may also involve selling City owned properties for business development, especially in the downtown core. None of these things require a measure R vote, and all can be moved forward by a decision of the City Council (and perhaps a General Plan amendment).

      All good proposals. Early in 2012 I posted this on a thread about economic development:

      I’d urge the council members to direct staff to bring them reports and action plans for:

      a. annexation of Nishi. Specific language for a ballot measure to be put before the voters within a year.

      b. review and consideration of zoning changes for the downtown and parts of east and central Davis to allow greater flexibility for development proposals. Request review of potential development sites, input from property owners and residents.

      c. review and consideration of specific sites in the downtown where taller buildings could be allowed. I don’t know what obstacles exist to greater density and height downtown. Request input from property owners, existing businesses, and nearby residents. There may need to be a “visioning” process as was done for B Street.

      d. staff report on progress on filling vacant retail sites in existing shopping centers, and development of the additional pads near Target at Second Street Crossing.

      I believe Nishi will be on a ballot soon, and TJ Maxx is underway (but other pads still remain vacant). As to the others, it would be really great to have council members actively pursuing these things.

      1. Robb Davis

        Ahhh… Don and Mark singing the same song. It does my heart good 😉 Just FYI, I have been asking a broad array of people to help me understand the barriers that exist to creating greater density in the downtown and more flexibility in the neighborhood shopping centers. Maximizing the spaces we have to increase revenue (i.e. using already developed land more efficiently) is a critical piece of a comprehensive economic development plan. These proposals are excellent and I am interested in moving them forward. Thanks.

    3. Rob White

      Mark, et al

      In the short 10 months I have been here, it has taken some effort to get my arms around what the term ‘economic development’ means in Davis. As you might guess, this is not as straightforward as it is in many other cities. But one thing has become very clear to me… many in this community are hungry for something to happen to increase economic sustainability, even if we don’t always agree on what that action might be.

      At the February 11th City Council meeting, I will be proposing to Council a draft Economic Development Strategy. This document will outline the specific City efforts in economic development that I propose will make up the primary focus of the activities of the two staff that Davis has devoted to this effort.

      The strategy describe what City staff will work on over the next 24 months, in line with Council goals and City values. It will also set a 5 year vision and outline specific outcomes we are looking to achieve. Many of the ideas posted here will be discussed and make up the strategy. We are not going to reinvent the wheel, but be very clear that the City staff resources will be focused on a specific set of outcomes and deliverables. it will also be clear what staff will not be working on and what we will rely on our community and regional partners to achieve.

      I hope each of you will take the time to read the draft strategy and provide comments back to Council. We look forward to finalizing the strategy at the March 11th Council meeting.

  6. Michael Harrington

    I’d like to vote on these business park proposals. Let’s put all three of them on the ballot together, with the tax increases. That way I can easily mark down one column, and go back to work faster.

    1. Ryan Kelly

      Mike, Everyone knows that you will oppose any development, any new tax (except for a school parcel tax, it seems), and expansion or improvement to the City’s infrastructure. Giving you information regarding our dire financial situation or community need, or even scientific research will not change this. We know. You are part of the extreme that I referred to in an earlier post. We really need to hear from those in the middle.

  7. Michael Harrington

    Mark, I like many of your comments on city expenditures and future budgeting challenges.

    Where we differ is I think our local governments are growing stronger and should start ramping up revenue soon, if not already. We’ve weathered the storm of the last 5-6 years, and there is no reason to panic and blow open our current General Plan and borders. I know the developers see this current rise in the wave of real estate prices as one to catch, like Mavericks, but I would counsel steady as she goes.

  8. Rob White

    As a general comment, City staff are working to put together a set of outreach and engagement activities that is geared towards gathering input from the spectrum of voices and opinions in Davis. As has been referenced many times, any proposal will come to the voters in some sort of mechanism, whether it is as prescribed in Measure R/J or a citizen’s initiative (where the proponent gathers signature of up to 15% of the voters, depending on the type of initiative).

    Under all scenarios, the land owners and project proponents are well aware of the required outreach and need for engagement. And the City Council, City Manager, and key staff have all agreed to work robustly to engage the community. This includes community forums like was held on Nov 5th, presentations to community and neighborhood groups, discussions with business leaders and business organizations, and joint meetings between the Task Force and other commissions (to name just a few ideas).

    In tandem to this, City leadership is discussing with various community groups the budget issues, which are directly related to the discussion of economic development and any potential innovation park.

    1. Frankly

      Rob – Thanks for this.

      What I am beginning to hear is the demand for an external consultant-supplemented-WAC-like-process to develop a comprehensive economic development plan from which proposals for new business parks would just be a component of.

      I am hearing this from two camps.

      One is the downtown business community that is understandably impatient for the types of improvements they have been asking for for some time. I also think there is a view that all of economic development is connected as part of our economic ecosystem and thus we should be involving all the parts of that ecosystem to ensure harmony in design and execution.

      The other appears to be those that are on the no and slow-growth side of things… and I think they do not trust that we need any new development at this point, or want concessions and assurances to keep it as little and as small as possible.

      From my perspective, I think we already have an economic development plan that we developed about 10 years ago and that we are not following. Can you correct or confirm my understanding for this?

      Second, I don’t think we need to go so far as a WAC-like process at this point. I think we are at a point where approving land use for tech business is necessary and exclusive of the need for more dialog about it. I think if we approach this like you have laid out, we will do well enough gathering input from concerned stakeholders. I am interested in your comments related to this… do we need to pause and form a committee process to develop a comprehensive ED plan from which to work from? And related to this, what can we say to the camps opining for a pause to convince them that we should not?

      1. Tia Will

        I think that an evidence based approach would be most likely to be effective for those of us who are open to change that is demonstrated to be beneficial but are not willing to accept the “just trust me and sign this bland check approach”. Robb White has taken some very strong steps in that direction with his evidence based and data based approach in articles presented here, and in being willing to ask questions and genuinely consider other points of view without making disparaging comments. This approach should be applauded rather than undermined by the dismissive approach that Frankly and Mark are promoting here.

        1. Frankly

          So, let me understand. You need evidence that business parks provide revenue?

          Or you need to hear exactly how much revenue and over what exact period of time, and then you need evidence to prove the accuracy of this?

          Or, do you need some evidence that without economic development the city is going bankrupt unless residents vote to tax themselves a lot more.

          And related to that, do you need evidence that the voters will reject or approve tax increases to keep paying obscene wages and benefits to city employees?

          I really don’t understand what “evidence” you are asking for.

          I think it should be on you to provide evidence that a rejection of economic development (i.e., business parks) will not lead to city fiscal insolvency.

          You do know that business is the ONLY long-term net positive tax revenue generator? Again, other than more tax increases. So what evidence do you require to prove what is already undisputed?

          You do know that every other city under the sun, except Davis, is working hard to attract business within their borders for this very reason?

          Look at it this way… the city has cancer. Economic development is the only remedy. So why do you want to pause and demand evidence before approving the treatment?

          1. Don Shor

            It would be useful to have projections about the revenue to the city from the sites under discussion by the ITF, to have some analysis about the likely absorption rate for new commercial acreage, and what costs (if any) the city has to plan for — especially in the early stages of development of new sites.

          2. Frankly

            Why would it be useful?

            There is a pretty incredible contrast to the lack of accountability and disclosure for what has already been spent and committed, and this demand to commit to and disclose estimates for future revenue projections for something with more moving pieces than a Swiss watch… don’t you think?

          3. Don Shor

            1. It would help sell a project if you can prove that it pencils out. I am remembering past elections.

            2. I didn’t ‘demand’ anything.

          4. Jim Frame

            The “just trust me” approach (or the variant that appears here too frequently, “we’re going to do it my way, so buzz off”) will guarantee failure.

            Davis is committed to slow growth; I see no reason to alter that policy, and plenty of reasons not to alter it. There are a lot of people who want to see the numbers laid out, both costs and benefits, so that the end result balances the two as closely as possible. Not to adequately develop and disclose those numbers would constitute a profound lack of leadership, and a betrayal of both citizen values and city policy.

          5. Jim Frame

            To clarify, by “costs and benefits” I mean not only ensuring that a project pays for itself and then some, but also that we don’t build any more projects than we need.

          6. Mr. Toad

            Meanwhile as your process proceeds towards zeroing in on the right project size and values are you willing to pay up to keep the city solvent?

          7. Tia Will

            Really Frankly? You want to use the analogy of cancer and then ask me if I want evidence that a given treatment will work? I would think that as a doctor you would want me to be well versed in the all the options available… surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal management with the pros and cons of each. Really, wouldn’t you? Or would you rather I just said “well, I’m a surgeon so I’ll just cut it out so just trust me, don’t bother your head about the details.”

            My desire for information has been highly specific and I think it is a little disingenuous of you to pretend you do not know what I am asking since I have been very specific about the kind of information that I would like to see. I really don’t think that this is so outrageous a request. Would you really launch on any kind of business without a business plan with project costs and projected income and an idea of where the funding was coming from ?

            But I can repeat. What I would expect is not a crystal ball, but the best estimate available of each of the following:

            1) How much land we would anticipate needing for an optimally sized business park or parks of the types being proposed ?

            2) What infrastructure support would be needed for the proposals ?

            3) What costs would the city incur in both short and long term ?

            4) What is the time line that is anticipated to see revenue generated for the city ?

            5) What are the types of businesses that we are attempting to locate at the site or sites ?

            6) What will the safety concerns be from the types of company or companies that will be located at these sites and how will our city meet any potential challenges ?

          8. Mr. Toad

            Meanwhile as your process proceeds towards getting the answers to all your questions are you willing to pay up to keep the city solvent?

          9. Tia Will

            Absolutely. I have consistently voted yes on parcel taxes as they have arisen. I would also support a change in our laws allowing for a graduated tax so that those of us who have benefitted most from our system pay more to support it. I believe that you know that I have posted this position many times from your responses to previous posts of mine. I am sure that you are also aware that I favor raising the minimum wage to a level that would allow a full time worker to support their family at above the poverty level. As a matter of fact, I would support providing a completely level playing field by compensating everyone contributing to our society the same amount and allowing economically ambitions people to earn more by working more hours. I am hard pressed to see what could be more “equal opportunity” than that.
            I doubt that enough of you would be willing to join me to make that happen, but it is what I would be willing to do.

  9. Alan Miller

    “Rob White also mentioned that there has been considerable discussion countywide about the rail line relocation project and he said, it is “moving faster than anyone expected.”

    The investment of cities in business parks is a valid investment because it creates en masse opportunities for private investors to grow business in Davis, creating real wealth through production which in turn feeds back into the tax base of Davis. That is where the city business officer is useful.

    The rail line relocation proposal is a massive federal welfare program to benefit local developers. It creates no production, only possibly opens up land for housing (and that is speculative at best0, or growing spaghetti. There are some, apparently our business officer among them, and whoever in the City is allowing them to waste their time on this fraud, who consider a possible though unlikely massive influx of fraudulently spent federal dollars to be “income” to the county. That way of thinking is a sick belief, the very thing that has created the massive federal debt.

    The rail portion of the flood control problem can be solved through a simple rail connection costing $2-5 million plus some haulage agreements. The initial consultant’s “report” (more like crayon drawing) estimates $50 million for the track relocation. (That may be true with an optimal route and no mitigation, but the true costs are likely to double or triple.) Or the bridge could be rebuilt as a causeway like the freeways instead of a wood trestle. (I don’t know those costs as I’m not a bridge guy.)

    The fact that the consultant fails to mention these alternatives (which will have to be in the EIR/EIS or it will be incomplete), and that they tie flood control in with rail removal in Davis, Woodland and West Sacramento (which has nothing to do with flood control), shows that the consultant (and who hired them) is doing nothing more than trying to blind everyone to a the fact that a simple, cost-effective alternative is available to solve the flood control problem. This is nothing more than an attempt to hitch a huge cart to a tiny horse, hoping everyone will be convinced its all in the name of flood control. That is a lie.

    At times someone will support a project that “happens” to benefit them economically through fortunately-located land, or will benefit their construction firm or other business. That’s OK. To concoct a pyramid of false projects upon a flood control issue and propose they are all necessary and tied together and 20-50 times more taxpayer money than needed be spent to fix the problem — in fact to not even mention the simple, cheap solution — that is fraudulent and criminal in my book . . .

    . . . and in the United States of America, it’s called “business as usual”.

    Davis needs to detach itself from this corporate welfare land scam, and have its business officer do real work.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for