Davis City Council Candidates Question 5 – Measure J Exemption for Business Parks


Editor’s Note: Every week on Friday the Vanguard will send all five of the candidates a question that they will be asked to respond to by the end of the day on Thursday for a Friday publication. The answers are posted in the order that they were received.

Answers are limited to 350 words.

Question: There are some in this community who believe that Measure J/ Measure R were really intended to give residents the ability to determine whether residential and housing developments could go forward. Should we exempt business and innovation parks from required Measure R votes? And would you support amendments to Measure R to exempt the peripheral development of business and innovation parks at Nishi, Northwest Quadrant and Mace 200 from required votes?


Davis-RobbRobb Davis

While concerns about housing growth drove the development of Measure J, Davis citizens clearly desire an opportunity to engage directly in decisions about all peripheral development.

Business and innovation parks should not be exempted from Measure R votes, and I would not support amendments to Measure R to exempt the three innovation sites from such votes. A key pillar of my campaign is to assure that we carefully help steward the farmland on our periphery, because it represents a critical planetary resource for the growth of food and seeds.

I have also made it clear that I welcome the opportunity to examine all three innovation park sites and if any site has real potential for increasing City revenue, I will work with my Council colleagues to lay out clear guidelines for its development. This is why I have called for immediate implementation of the first recommendation of the Innovation Park Task Force:

Adopt a new fiscal model that accurately evaluates both the fiscal impacts and economic benefits of new innovation/research development for the community.

The use of this model will help the Council and the citizens analyze the potential of each site and transparently and clearly make the case about its value so that we can make a fully informed Measure R vote. If the Council can demonstrate the revenue and jobs potential of each site, I believe the voters will approve them.

I understand that some owners/developers of individual innovation park sites in question may want to use a citizens’ ballot initiative to more fully lay out their plans and reduce their own uncertainty. Because such initiatives would be fully within the spirit of Measure R and could even lay out a clearer picture of what is planned for each site, I would be open to supporting them (assuming, again, that the projected revenue stream is a benefit to the city).

I am committed to seeking a multi-pronged approach to expanding our revenue base. Examining the three sites is part of that approach, but citizens must be allowed to vote on each one.

Munn-John-2014John Munn

I have thought about this question for a few days and am still having the same reaction – Where is this coming from? It has not been mentioned, even in passing, in any of my conversations with people interested in the City Council election.

And my answer also keeps coming back the same. No, this is just another bad idea. In June of 2010, Davis voters overwhelmingly approved Measure R, with nearly 77 percent of the total vote and a majority vote in every precinct in Davis, thereby renewing their authority to vote on proposals for changing agricultural and open space lands zoning to allow urban uses.

Measure R included specific mention of “economic development” on the “Nishi” property, so there can be no doubt about the Measure’s application or the voter’s intent in this case. Elsewhere, Measure R is clear about its requirements to preserve agricultural lands and agricultural land uses, which would certainly apply to the conversion of such lands to commercial uses.

Attempting to amend Measure R to exempt business park development would both fail in an election and distract the City from timely consideration of innovation park proposals. This is another instance where we should just say “no” and stay focused on solving the problems we already have before us.

Trying to make an end run around Measure R would end up covering a lot more time and distance than facing it directly with a well-designed development proposal.

sheila-allen-14Sheila Allen

I do not believe the public thought that business and innovation parks would be exempt from a Measure R vote. I support the community weighing in on an annexation questions. This process gives the city and the developer the opportunity to articulate the intended use of the land and the potential costs and benefits to Davis and its citizens.

With an innovation/business park it will important to inform the voters that such a use will bring immediate and long term, sustainable funding for the city. I support the work of Rob White and the Innovation Task Force and hope that the first park queues up in the near future as a part of the solution for our city’s financial challenges.

I would like to look at the Measure R process to assure that developer, council and voter decisions move along at a sufficient pace so we do not lose opportunities e.g.: some current businesses are interested in expanding now and would like to grow in the proposed innovation park. I would like to move the Measure R vote forward when there is sufficient understanding of the proposed project, but not so late in the process that large sums of money are invested before a clear green light is given by the council and the community.

I am not prepared at this time to support a broad reaching amendment to Measure R to exempt business and innovation parks but I would be willing to have that public discussion in the future.


Parrella-DanielDaniel Parrella

No, I think the people of Davis should have the final say on any kind of development and I would not support amendments for a business park. I believe that measure J is the most powerful tool we have to force concessions out of a developer.

Davis has seen a radical shift in its politics. After the defeat of covell village running a “no-growth” campaign was all the rage to get elected. As of right now all five city council members and all four new candidates support some version of a business park. The community is not quite as unanimous, but I am confident that if the city presents the appropriate arguments we can push one or two business parks through.

I have been conducting my own poll as I walk precincts and the idea of a business park is far more popular than residential developments. No one wants to keep losing homegrown companies. Everyone wants local jobs for graduates. The most compelling argument of all is the idea of generating revenue through means other than taxation.

Honestly if we cant convince the people of Davis to support a business park it will largely be do to the cities ineptitude when it comes to PR. The city’s rollout of public power was absolutely FUBAR. Despite making significant strides towards solvency the public has very little trust when it comes approving Measure O or another parcel tax. The business park will be a crucial test for the city when it comes to listening to the community and assuaging concerns.


Swanson-2014-headshotRochelle Swanson

I think that the intentions of Measure J/R was to allow the public to weigh in on whether they supported the development of any ag land or open space parcels within, or near Davis. In light of this, I would have to say that I would not advocate for an exemption unless the public was in support of it. For example, I would consider a grassroots initiative that lays out some specific project or parameters for entitling a parcel or parcels of land.

Measure J and its renewal, Measure R, were enacted to ensure the public was able to vote on whether to develop a parcel with an agricultural or open space designation. I supported Measure J and Measure R and believe that there should be a public vote to determine if we use any agricultural or open space land for development.

While Measure J and R were primarily focused on controlling unbridled residential development, it included allowing the public to weigh in on non-residential development. As our city faces significant financial challenges, we need our entire community to weigh in on the choices before us and how we meet our fiscal challenges.

It is clear that an innovation park would not only provide significant and long term revenue for Davis, but it also help establish Davis as a world leader in agricultural research, which has always been the mission of UC Davis. We do not want to lose the spirit and character of Davis, yet we need to determine a sustainable fiscal plan for the future of our community. The best way to address this is by asking for any proposals for an innovation park to come forward now.

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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      1. David Greenwald

        The issue has come up repeatedly at the Innovation Park Task Force meetings. When I was talking with people last week for different perspectives of question ideas, this came up.

  1. Tia Will

    “Honestly if we cant convince the people of Davis to support a business park it will largely be do to the cities ineptitude when it comes to PR”

    This thought expressed by Daniel Parrella is what I see as an underlying problem with the way some citizens view our fiscal picture. Our financial difficulties, and possible solutions should not hinge, nor be perceived as hinging, on “PR” by the city. Any project should be judged on the merits of the project. One theme I have seem in comments on other threads is that our financial situation is so bad that we should in one commenters words “just do it” !

    The key is what are the relative merits and downsides of the “it”. This is not a trivial question. Taking the example of the Target from a previous thread. The difference between the actual generated revenues estimated by some as 400,000 + and the projected 600,000 is not a trivial difference for a city our size. So the question is, why would one want buy in to any plan for major change without a realistic projection of the revenue to be generated and an accounting of what that would cost the city in both the short and long term ?

    For me, this is not about PR, but rather about expecting from our potential developers and potential businesses the same realistic view at finances that many decry has not been forth coming from the city.
    I am very encouraged that all of the candidates staunchly support Measure R votes regardless of the origin of
    this question.

    1. Mark West

      “why would one want buy in to any plan for major change without a realistic projection of the revenue to be generated and an accounting of what that would cost the city in both the short and long term ?”

      Because we know that the current financial model that we are living under has not ‘penciled out’ for at least a decade (probably more like two or three decades). We are not paying for the services that we demand, and have not done so for years. You are hesitant to change the status quo, yet it is that aversion to change that has created our current fiscal mess.

      Why would anyone want to continue on our current path without a “realistic projection of the revenue to be generated and an accounting of what that would cost the city in both the short and long term ?”

      We cannot continue doing the same thing and expect the results to change. Your path Tia is the one to insolvency. Enjoy the trip.

      1. Tia Will


        I am not arguing for the status quo. I am arguing for a coherent plan with some evidence of projected revenue and the anticipated associated costs.

        Would you really start a business without a business plan ?
        This is what I see being advocated by some of the posters here.

        Luckily, this does not seem to be the approach of Rob White who seems to be determined to develop a thoughtful process that considers both the advantages and disadvantages of any given course of action. I understand that even this approach does not suit the “this should have been done yesterday” sentiment of some. In problem solving, I think it is best to start from where we are now, not from where we feel we should have been.

        1. Tia Will


          I am not sure whether you are addressing this question to me or if you merely placed your reply below my comment, so I will answer.

          I absolutely would not favor suspending measure R for any particular use.
          Was there something I said that made you think that I would ?

  2. Tia Will

    Maybe someone who was making a direct appeal to the development/business community ?
    Maybe a candidate who agrees with the “let’s just do it” and “we should grow as fast as we can” philosophy?

      1. Tia Will


        I believe that our candidates should put forth their honest opinions and vision for the city and let the chips fall where they may. My hope is that for each of the candidates, the election is more about the opportunity to realize their vision about what is best for our community than merely sitting on the City Council. How can that be the case if they will not tell the truth about their positions prior to election ?

        I feel that this time around, we are blessed with a field of candidates who are willing to speak the truth about what is truly important to them whether or not this leads to election.

      2. Tia Will


        One more thought on your comment “Any candidate who was foolish enough to do that wouldn’t have a ice cube’s chance in Hell of getting elected.”

        I think that Rochelle Swanson has a reasonable chance of being re elected. She came out with the exact phrase I used( assuming the Vanguard quote to be correct) when at the time of her announcement she was quoted as saying “we should grow as fast as we can”.
        Do you really feel that this vision will preclude her re election ?

        1. Mr. Toad

          Rochelle does have a good chance of being re-elected unless of course people believe the words Tia Will tries to put into Rochelle’s mouth. If such a quote exists Tia should post it with quotation marks.

          1. Davis Progressive

            i too would like to see the direct quote. tia says it was in a vanguard article, it shouldn’t be hard for HER to find it.

          2. Tia Will

            DP, Mr. Toad

            To all who are enquiring about the source of the quote it is as follows:

            “It couldn’t be a better representation of what we can do when we really hold tight to our roots and grow as much as we can.”

            This statement was attributed to Rochelle Swanson when she made her declaration of intent to run again for City Council.
            The “It” in her statement is a reference to Davis Roots were she made her declaration.
            This is as quoted by David in his article “Swanson Pushes for Economic Development in Announcement for Re-Election”
            I realize that I shortened the quote and that it is not presented in context. I did not consider it a secret that Rochelle Swanson has been an advocate for rapid economic development.
            Since I seem to have inadvertently created a controversy, I would like you all to know that I have reached out with an email to Rochelle Swanson and am awaiting her reply. If she feels that I have misconstrued her position in any way, I will be happy to share that with all, and if I am in agreement with her assessment I will update my post to correct my statement.

            It is not my desire to inaccurately portray the position of Ms.
            Swanson or any of the candidates and if I have done so, I will make prompt amends.

          3. Mr. Toad

            That is quite different than saying she wants to circumvent MeasureJ/R or whatever it was you said she said. She might have simply meant within the existing framework. I don’t think that there are too many people who would like Davis to grow as slowly as Tia but anyone who would like anything faster than Tia should not be disqualified. Anyway Tia you make too big a jump going from as quickly as possible to circumventing the existing framework. One does not mean the other.

  3. Don Shor

    It came up more than once in the ITF meetings. I don’t know whose idea it was. Examples from the minutes:

    Minutes May 17 2012: “Should focus on Nov. 2013 for possible Measure J/R vote or exempting of need for Measure R vote.”

    Minutes Aug 11 2011: “Can ULI TAP identify costs/benefits of business park development for community sufficient to demonstrate selected innovation park model works, and to form basis for possible Measure J exemption or Measure J approval?”

  4. Frankly

    This was not a good question. It was a closed question in that it was easy to just say no and we still don’t know where the candidates head is in terms of economic development and other related matters.

    With respect to Davis’s fiscal situation where do you see the city being five and ten years from now? Please include in your answer your vision for the following related topics:

    – City spending, cuts and increases, including programs, size and scope of government and our employee compensation and benefits.
    – Taxation.
    – Innovation park development. Both infill and peripheral.
    – Retail development. Both infill and peripheral.
    – Housing. Both infill ad peripheral.

    1. Tia Will


      I agree that your question would give us a much better idea of each candidates vision for the future economic and environmental development of Davis.

  5. Alan Miller

    Between Measure R and the Surface Water Project, this town will become an elitist island, unable to support but the fairly wealthy and those students with fairly wealthy parents. Similar to Boulder, CO.

  6. Tia Will

    For anyone who was interested in my post regarding Rochelle Swanson’s statement about promotion of growth in our community, this is my mea culpa.
    I think that my experience is illustrative of what can happen when we choose selectively a small fragment of a speech or communication in order to illustrate a broader point.

    Rochelle and I have communicated by email today and I am in agreement with her that her position on growth is much more nuanced than my limited quote would have implied. I do not believe that this brief excerpt should or indeed would be used by anyone to inform their decision on whether or not to vote for Ms. Swanson for City

  7. Tia Will


    “Between Measure R and the Surface Water Project, this town will become an elitist island, unable to support but the fairly wealthy and those students with fairly wealthy parents. Similar to Boulder, CO.”

    I am not sure if you are seeing this as a positive or a negative. From previous conversations and posts of yours, you seem to have a preference for the government staying out of individual decision making as much as possible. If the majority of the people who can afford to live in Davis have acquitted their wealth through their own efforts in our free market system, are they, in your view then not entitled to protect their interests through the election of representatives they view as most in tune with their own views ? I was under the impression that this combination of a free market economy and people’s rights to enjoy the fruits of their own labor was felt to be desirable by most who lean towards an economically conservative or libertarian point of view.

    I am just not sure what point you are making here . Can you clarify ?

  8. Mr. Toad

    Of course people can and will vote to protect their economic interests but that doesn’t mean such positions are in the best interests of society as a whole. Davis is a perfect example of this with its history of restrictive covenants now replaced with no growth attitudes a majority of the voters in a small jurisdiction can thwart the imperative of the University of California in its role as the land grant university providing opportunity to the children of the most populous state in the union.

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