Council Clears Way for Innovation Center RFEI to Move Forward

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Councilmember Rochelle Swanson met with Congressman John Garamendi when she was back in D.C.

Rochelle Swanson Forcefully Pushes Council on Economic Development –Rob White was finally allowed to give his full presentation on Tuesday night, three weeks after his presentation was cut short by the lateness of the night. The Council agreed to allow the RFEI (Request for Expressions of Interest) process to move forward.

However, it was Councilmember Rochelle Swanson who passionately and forcefully pushed the conversation forward, relating her experiences in Washington on Cap-to-Cap and reading Congressman John Garamendi’s letter into the record.

Councilmember Swanson said of her trip to D.C., “This year I was lobbied. This year I was pressured. This year the region is wanting to know what are we doing and why aren’t we moving forward because they’re getting really worried because we have assets that nobody else has.

“It’s not Davis versus West Sac, it’s not Davis versus Woodland or Folsom or Roseville,” she continued. “It’s Davis versus Austin. It’s Davis versus Chicago. It’s Davis versus cities in China. We’re losing and our region loses if we don’t step up.

“There’s a lot of criticism in the community from certain pockets about things like the Cap-to-Cap trip and some of the investments we’re doing,” she said. “Usually when you go to these meetings, you thank them for the time and you tell them how you need help. Congressman Garamendi was very generous in that he gave us time to talk about Davis.”

“It was really unique in all the meetings, he sat back and he turned to me and he said, there are things I need from you,” she explained. “That was a very different tone and I asked him to please write me a letter so I could share it with the community.”

Councilmember Swanson then read the letter into the record.

Garamendi-letter

Councilmember Swanson said, “The reason why I share this, and maybe there is a sense of frustration, is that 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 have support like no other,” she continued. “I was not an hour there at a reception and had at least six to ten people, many I didn’t know, who looked at my badge and said, ‘What’s up with the innovation center? What’s going on? How come this hasn’t moved forward? You know that we need you. We have companies asking us when things are coming on line.’

“Other communities around us are very literate, whether it’s their staff or their councilmembers on we have to work with these companies,” she said. “It was telling, people were asking why we just have a handful here, why is it just you. I applaud Sarah (Worley) coming out of her own pocket. Other communities they walk the walk, they don’t just talk the talk.

“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, saying, “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 lockstep. 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.”

Innovation-Center-concepts

guiding-attributes

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Councilmember Brett Lee asked the city’s Chief Innovation Officer Rob White if a 30-day proposal was too ambitious.

Rob White responded that, given the extra three weeks, most of those who would be making the large proposals have had three extra weeks to understand what was coming down the pipe. He noted that both of the large proposers were sitting in the room – representatives from both the east innovation area and the west innovation area.

“What we’re looking for here is much more of a statement of interest and how they might meet these things, and much less of an absolute proposal,” he stated. “So I’m not as concerned about the time, I’m not worried if you want to stretch it another ten days. We start running into timelines of decision making, but that’s something, that’s a decision of the council.”

Councilmember Lucas Frerichs noted, “We’re going to get precious few opportunities to do an innovation center, one or more of them. I think they’re not necessarily going to be all that large in size or scope, so the key to me is to ensure that the opportunities exist to increase density.”

He again noted, this time without explicitly referencing Interland, that there are existing areas that are just not that dense. He said, “I would see it frankly as a wasted opportunity to have a single-story 200-acre innovation center.  I just think there needs to be an emphasis on density.” Councilmember Frerichs pushed for adding language that “increased density is desirable.

“I’m certainly supportive of this effort, having spent the previous three years, a year prior to being on the city council and two years since being on the city council, on the innovation park task force, we’ve talked time and time again about the notion of expanding this conversation to the greater community and throughout the region,” he stated.

—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.

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21 Comments

  1. Frankly

    Vote for Rochelle. I have not been happy with her up to this point after getting a sense that she had been strongly business and economic development supportive. She seemed to have retreated into a political safety cocoon afraid to anger the NIMBYs and open space zealots. During the last several months of the campaign season, Brett Lee has been the only council member demonstrating some consistent common sense on the topic of economic development. Maybe, if we get lucky and put the more thoughtful and balanced Rob Davis on the council and he tempers his priority mission in life to make everyone ride a bike, we will finally have a majority that get the need for urgently moving forward with economic development.

    Did I say urgently?

    Read her quotes above and what has been written about us on this topic… this is a common theme that I hear from outsiders. They think we are really, really stupid. We have this tremendous opportunity to help ourselves, help the region, help the state… and we just say no to everything except the building of that farmland moat… something that helps nobody by a very tiny fraction of the population… and even that claim is dubious.

    Maybe because my career has been IT… one where change is constant… I do not fear change. I do not fear a Davis with a larger economy. What I do fear is stagnation… letting the fearful and risk-averse call the shots and block any and all meaningful progress.

    People afraid of change… what they don’t seem to understand is that a decision to do nothing is still a decision and all decisions lead to change. Davis is changing… it is changing in many ways that are bad for us. The shift in demographics to affluent seniors and young students… that is bad for us. The shrinking number of young families and young professionals… that is bad for us. The extremely low and dropping taxable sales per capita… that is bad for us. The sales tax leakage… that is bad for us. Insolvency… that is bad for us. Tax increases… bad for us. The lack of surplus to deal with unplanned financial crisis… that is bad for us. A world-class research university that will grow frustrated and start looking to Solano County for land to support the development of its business initiatives on… that would be bad for us.

    Business parks on our periphery are not bad for us.

    There is a principle in the management of large projects to recognize when the project has exited the feasibility debate and has entered the planning phase. The focus at this point should be for the community to come together to help settle the requirements for building the best business parks we can possibly build.

    Unfortunately the council gave a away Mace 391… a parcel we owned and could completely control. Now we have to play games with the other land-owners / developers… negotiating for things we want that will eat into their profitability. Nonetheless, we need to be deep into that planning and negotiating as soon as possible.

    1. Davis Progressive

      frankly: interesting comments. i agree on your bottom line, but not on some of your details

      “Maybe, if we get lucky and put the more thoughtful and balanced Rob Davis on the council and he tempers his priority mission in life to make everyone ride a bike”

      i really don’t think that’s robb’s mission in life and i think a lot of people disparage him by assume and presuming that’s his biggest issue. this is a guy who has done a lot of different things from restorative justice, neighborhood courts, relief work in africa, community meals, the rotating homeless shelter, etc. why is it presumed that bikes is at the top? i’ve heard the parking task force plan disparaged as pro-bike – how so?

      “this is a common theme that I hear from outsiders. They think we are really, really stupid.”

      who is it that is talking? i think people in other communities are really, really stupid too. i could make a list if you want. they don’t care what i have to say though and i’m not sure why we should.

      that said, i agree: “We have this tremendous opportunity”

      yes this is where i agree. i don’t see it as helping our selves, but i do see an opportunity.

      “we just say no to everything except the building of that farmland moat… something that helps nobody by a very tiny fraction of the population… and even that claim is dubious.”

      i don’t see the overall preservation of prime farmland in that light

      “People afraid of change”

      people do not agree on what the change should look like

      “what they don’t seem to understand is that a decision to do nothing is still a decision and all decisions lead to change.”

      everyone also has a different time horizon. you need to remember that people moved here, invested their lives savings, and came here for a reason. as you advocate for change, don’t shit on everyone else’s concerns.

      “Davis is changing… it is changing in many ways that are bad for us.”

      davis has also managed to preserve a lot over the years.

      “The shift in demographics to affluent seniors and young students… that is bad for us. The shrinking number of young families and young professionals… that is bad for us. The extremely low and dropping taxable sales per capita… that is bad for us. The sales tax leakage… that is bad for us. Insolvency… that is bad for us. Tax increases… bad for us. The lack of surplus to deal with unplanned financial crisis… that is bad for us”

      but no one had surplus to deal with a financial crisis, the communities you wanted to model davis after faired worse than davis.

      ” A world-class research university that will grow frustrated and start looking to Solano County for land to support the development of its business initiatives on… that would be bad for us.”

      or sacramento

      “Business parks on our periphery are not bad for us.”

      that’s going to be a major task to convince people of and you can’t just shout them over to your side.

      “Unfortunately the council gave a away Mace 391… a parcel we owned and could completely control. ”

      the problem is that there was no chance that the voters would approve it. however, as many have pointed out, the discussion has started to generate change. mace 200 is now possible because of the failure of mace 391. you need to recognize that as you through your stones. not everyone thinks like you and you have to bring people over to your side.

      1. Frankly

        My comment about Robb Davis was a mostly sarcasm… and a veiled plea to keep economic development as the most urgent of policy issues next to cutting our city expenses though city employee reductions and labor negotiations.

        but no one had surplus to deal with a financial crisis, the communities you wanted to model davis after faired worse than davis.

        Right… so they were ALL stupid. But Davis deserves the distinction for continuing stupidity because of its unwillingness to leverage the opportunities right at our feet to help solve our fiscal problems. These are opportunities that other communities would kill to have… and we just squander them.

        “Davis is changing… it is changing in many ways that are bad for us.”

        davis has also managed to preserve a lot over the years

        Yes, Davis has managed to preserve a lot over the years… you write that as if “preserving” is an automatic virtue. I guess my thinking is not that myopic. I see a lack of change as potentially good or bad, just as I see change as being potentially good or bad.

        Davis has changed. It has changed in a lot of ways that are mostly good in my opinion. It has also changed just because you cannot stop the hands of time.

        But here is the challenge. Apparently you and others want Davis to stay like it is. So take responsibility for leading the city toward fiscal stability lacking your unwanted change. The way I see it those that are blocking and denying any and all types of growth because the want Davis to stay exactly the same should carry the burden for contributing to a plan for the city to have a stable and sustainable budget.

        1. Davis Progressive

          “Apparently you and others want Davis to stay like it is. ”

          no, i am willing to accept modest economic development on the periphery. but, i think it needs to be measured and i do think we have to be sensitive to what the community as a whole wants.

          1. Frankly

            What is your worry DP? Really… what are you really afraid of with respect to peripheral business development. Davis is already dense. We have crammed more people and business into our little 9 square mile city limit than any other comparable city.

            What are the specific negative impacts you are thinking you will prevent with “modest” economic development versus more rigorous and expansive economic development?

            And please don’t be obtuse or nebulous here. If you can’t come up with definitive risks and concerns, then I go back to the irrational fear of change point.

          2. Don Shor

            My guess is that you and I and DP would all “accept” development on Mace 200, Nishi, and probably something out by the hospital. So I don’t see why you’re even arguing the point.

          3. Frankly

            Don’t deflect. List those specific negative impacts you are against. Why not build 1000 acres of business parks around Davis in between all that existing 5000 acres of preserved open space and farmland?

            Oh wait… that 5391 acres of preserved open space and farmland.

          4. Don Shor

            What do you think I’m “against”? I support developing on poorer soils in specific locations that I’ve described dozens of times. I’m seriously not sure who you’re arguing with, what you’re arguing about, or why you’re even arguing.

          5. Frankly

            I’m challenging you and DP to list the negative impacts causing you to not support more rigorous and expansive peripheral development.

            I think you and DP will struggle to make such a list because it will prove that much of your resistance is irrational.

      2. Frankly

        the problem is that there was no chance that the voters would approve it.

        Bull. 50.1% could have been convinced that Mace 391 was the opportunity of a lifetime for the city to do great things and fix our fiscal problems in one fell swoop.

          1. Frankly

            You are mistaking the views of the political class minority as having the last word in a 50.1% vote. I get out and talk to the real people in the town and I think you are flat wrong on this.

    2. Tia Will

      Frankly

      “Maybe because my career has been IT… one where change is constant… I do not fear change. I do not fear a Davis with a larger economy. What I do fear is stagnation… letting the fearful and risk-averse call the shots and block any and all meaningful progress.”

      You just like everyone else are change averse when the change does not fit with your personal vision. Examples:
      1)You are averse to a model that would reduce car traffic in downtown Davis. You have stated many times that
      the automobile is here and so we just have to live with it. . You have shown no willingness to consider
      alternative
      proposals of how a downtown focused around people, not car access might look.
      2) You are resistant to pursuing the change from PG&E to a POU stating that this is not the right time and
      you don’t like what you see as a not so hidden “green agenda”
      3) You have shown resistance to our changing demographics in which we will soon be a “minority majority”
      population.
      4) You resist increasing the minimum wage. This is not an effort to debate the pros and cons of any particular
      amount, just a statement of fact.
      5) You resist obviously needed changes in our health care system preferring repeated claims that are statistically
      blatantly not true with regard to the status of health care provision in our community and our country.

      This is not the thread on which to debate the relative merits of these issues. I am merely pointing out that you yourself are resistant to a lot of change. You doubtless feel that your resistance is based on fact and not on fear.
      I would propose to you that everyone who is resistant to the type of change that you are promoting probably feels just the same as you do.

      1. Frankly

        I have no resistance to change at all… I look at everything from a realist’s view and a cost-benefit perspective.

        1) I don’t have a problem reducing car traffic. I have a problem making car travel more difficult as a way to FORCE people to ride a bike… especially when we FORCE all the core retail in one central location far away from where many in Davis live. Some people don’t have the time luxury of riding a bike given the city retail design.

        2) A POU does not work from a cost/risk versus benefit/opportunity perspective, IMO. Green energy has a value… but it is down the list from fiscal sustainability. When we are so far out of whack on fiscal stability then we have to ad weight any risks for making that worse. A POU risks making our fiscal situation worse. It is bad timing. I’m ok with pursuing a POU idea after our finances are in order.

        3) The issue with our growing minority population is simple one of assimilation. We have allowed too many… still are allowing too many. They are costing us too much. They are causing wages to depress and eliminating employment options for many existing Americans. They are changing our political landscape for the worse… demanding more business-harming taxation for growing entitlements. The issue isn’t immigration per se. I am for controlled immigration. The problem is that the number of poor and uneducated immigrants has overwhelmed our society and economy to be able to absorb them without causing so much harm to the rest of us. I am guessing, but I might be wrong, that I have much closer ties to Mexico and Hispanics that you might. I am not racist or xenophobic. Again, it is all cost-benefit.

        4) The minimum wage issue is entirely cost-benefit.

        5) My position on healthcare is entirely cost-benefit.

        Tia – I just use a calculator more often and you skip it and go straight to your heart. If you want to save the world you need money to pay for it. I’m ok with helping where we can. I just got a call from a charity we have donated $250,000 over the last decade that helps put people in section 8 housing in LA. They are in trouble and are asking for more financial help. We will do what we can. But I am not going to put the company in debt and at risk for the existing employees so I can save this charity.

        That is the mode you and other bleeding-hearts take. You are bankrupting the county, the state and the city to pursue your desire to take care of everyone. That only works until you run out of other people’s money. We have passed that point many years ago, yet you are still demanding more giving.

        1. Davis Progressive

          “A POU does not work from a cost/risk versus benefit/opportunity perspective, IMO. Green energy has a value… but it is down the list from fiscal sustainability.”

          green energy is not the defining feature of a pou.

          1. Frankly

            That is like saying that increasing sex appeal is not the defining feature of breast augmentation.

          2. Davis Progressive

            the core of the program is cost savings, it may facilitate green energy production, but it’s not the defining feature.

          3. Mark West

            The projected savings are entirely imaginary at this point, while the public effort to pursue a green energy agenda is not. The agenda came first, and the imaginary projections are being used as the justification.

          4. Davis Progressive

            given that the idea originated with pinkerton, i don’t think you have any evidence to back up that statement.

  2. Mark West

    It was refreshing to see Rochelle finally lead in the way that I have always thought she should. I supported her during her last election and have wanted to do so this time, however with regards to economic development, her desire to always reach consensus before making a decision had been getting in the way of accomplishing anything. If she continues to show this type of leadership, and if she and Robb are elected this time around, the City will be in the best hands possible for dealing with this fiscal crisis. Two big ifs, but I am much more optimistic this morning than I was yesterday.

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