Mace 200 Doomed to Become the Next Failed Project if Things Don’t Change – As word has begun leaking out of that the World Food Center is headed to Sacramento (most likely), behind the scenes the ghost of Mace 391 has been revived. Tech leaders and proponents of the innovation park on land that is now headed for a conservation easement are quick to point fingers as to what went wrong.
This is not only not a healthy approach, it’s also not very realistic in terms of the politics in the city of Davis. The truth is that Mace 391 was a very long longshot under the best of circumstances. Forget about the process problems, lack of community discussion, and last-minute council machinations. Forget about the value that the public puts on agricultural land, open space preservation and anti-sprawl measures.
Mace 391 would have been seen as a dangerous overreach by the public much as Covell Village was a decade ago. It would have gone to a Measure J vote with the Open Space Commission, Yolo Land Trust, and other conservationists screaming foul, in addition to the usual suspects that oppose growth. And in that landscape and climate, Mace 391 not only would have gone down to defeat, it wouldn’t have been close.
However, Dave Morris, who put this issue on the table, has been unnecessarily beaten up over this. While there were missteps, Dave Morris’ vision and the resulting discussion have opened the door to other innovation park possibilities that are far more scaled down and thus realistic.
Mace 200 and the Northwest Quadrant are two much more feasible possibilities. They are backed by studies by the Innovation Park Task Force and UC Davis’ Studio 30. Mace 200 has the added advantage that it will be surrounded by mitigated land and easements which will prevent its development from leading to sprawl.
While the discussion over Mace 391 gave energy and focus to the need for an innovation park, there are signs that city leaders are fumbling it away. In the last several months I have talked to a lot of people who have not been at the table and the response ranges from yes we need to do something, to threats that any proposal for Mace 200 is DOA.
City leaders have unfortunately been talking in a echo-chamber. We brought this issue up both at the January and February Innovation Park Task Force meetings – the need to bring a broader range of stakeholders to the table, and the need for people who supported Measure J in 2000 to be at that table to change the course of conversations that leaned heavily on the anti-Measure J/Measure R side.
At the February 24, 2014, meeting there was discussion about a Community Forum Plan and Community Outreach process which included input and direction on information gathering sources, outreach activities and a time frame.
What has happened since then? Absolutely nothing. The March and April meetings were cancelled for lack of a quorum. We are now almost at the end of May and it has been three months – there is still no proposal for a business park.
This is beginning to look like the revenue measure issue. In June of last year the issue was raised that we needed a revenue measure, it did not come up again until December, then suddenly the council had to throw up a revenue measure as the clock ticked toward midnight.
A sales tax measure can pass under those circumstance – a land use measure is going to need a lot of community dialogue and we have barely begun that.
Recognizing the need to generate discussion and opportunity, Rob White put together his proposal for an RFEI (Request for Expressions of Interest). This would come before the council on April 22, but poor agenda management led to the item coming before council at midnight.
Mayor Joe Krovoza incredibly asked Rob White to do a three-minute presentation. Council balked at the notion of allowing Mr. White to go forward at that time, instead bringing the discussion back three weeks later.
In the meantime, the issue went to the City-County Two-by-Two, which had been almost as dysfunctional as the Innovation Park Task Force. With both city representations running for Assembly, the body had barely met. Immediately, Supervisor Don Saylor tried to co-opt the process.
He said, “I think over time I’ve heard people complain about a developer driven process, so the idea that an application would be a conversation starter seems to be concerning.”
More importantly, he said, the county and city already have structures in place and he think they could bring the proposals to “this table” and allow the city and county to establish a community engagement process. He said, “For either one to proceed down a track without that framework discussion, it sort of opens up conflict potential. We don’t have to do that.”
With Don Saylor threatening to slow down the process, the city council last week finally agreed to allow Rob White to move forward with an RFEI. It was Rochelle Swanson who stepped up last week to throw down the gauntlet.
She told her colleagues, “We have been talking for a long time about what we’re going to do. The innovation task force has been talking for a number of years. We’ve talked about waiting for proposals… I do worry that this search for the perfect is going to kill the good.”
“We don’t have to change the character of our community,” she said. “I just want to make sure that people are aware that now is the time, we are going to have to work together.”
Rochelle Swanson referenced Paul Tsongas in 1992: “He talked about how there are people on canoes and they’re rowing, and other countries are rowing and they’re all in step. And we’re standing up hitting each other over the head with paddles. When I see what the other communities are doing, they’re in lock step. They get it. They’re rowing in order. And I think we still tend to beat each other up over certain things. I want to encourage us to really move forward.”
And that’s a perfect analogy. In the months after the failure of Mace 391, we have been hitting each other over the head with paddles over lost opportunities rather than taking advantage of the opportunities we have now.
Mace 391 is not coming back, but if we fail to reach out to the community right now and if someone does not take the leadership mantle like Rochelle Swanson did last week, we are doomed to repeat history.
Mace 200 or the other projects are going to be heavy lifting, and the community will need to be brought on board or it will fail.
Tonight, The University Financing Foundation (TUFF) is coming to the community chambers to discuss various Davis projects, including the two peripheral innovation parks. According to an email from Rob White yesterday, “If you are not familiar with TUFF, they are a leader in research park and mixed use projects across the US. Their executive director, Kevin Byrne, is also the president of the Association of University Research Parks (AURP) Board and will be one of three TUFF representatives in Davis tomorrow.”
From 3 to 4:30 will be an Informal Presentation – “Open to the Community (to be video recorded for posting to the City’s website). This will be about a 45 minute overview of TUFF, their experience, and some lessons learned from working with AURP, with time for audience questions. Due to time constraints, we are not broadly advertising the presentation, but it is certainly open to any that would like to attend. It will be held in the City Hall Community Chambers, 23 Russell Blvd, Davis.”
The bottom line here is that we are less than six months away from the November general election. We have lost three months in opportunities to outreach to the public, there is no formal project on the table, and so if people are serious about a business/innovation park, they need to forget about Mace 391 and worry about the next proposals becoming the next Mace 391 to fail to gain traction.
—David M. Greenwald reporting