Sunday Commentary: Saylor Tries to Get Hands in Davis’ Economic Development

Saylor-DonFor those who missed it, emerging out of the city-county two-by-two is a very ominous sign for those believing that Davis needs to develop a business park and hoping that the city voters will get a chance to approve the business park this year.

The city has already had extensive discussions about locations for the business park. It had the Innovation Park Task Force and the Studio 30 report on the City of Davis Innovation Center. Indeed, the Innovation Park Task Force was established in October 2010.

At that time, the mayor was Don Saylor, who in a few months would resign to take the position of county supervisor.

The Innovation Park Task Force, following the recommendations in 2012 from the Studio 30 study, evaluated peripheral opportunity sites which included the area of Mace 200 as well as the Northwest Quadrant.

The city has a tricky issue moving forward, because right now there is no project application and this is increasingly becoming a problem. However, the city has some creative people helping to lead the way here, and one of those creative people is Chief Innovation Officer Rob White.

His idea is to set up a request for expressions of interest (RFEI) as a way to move this process forward in the absence of concrete proposals at this time.

As he explained, “The problem that we’re hung up on here, the reason for this action is that we, the city, because of some of our legal regulations, mostly the CEQA law, precludes us from having a formal engagement around something that isn’t yet applied for.”

He continued, “What we’ve done… is identify a way for our council to formally say to the public, here’s the things we think are important that in the last five years we’ve talked about.”

“The intent of bringing forward what we’re calling here a request for expressions of interest (RFEI),” he said. “The intent is not to make decisions, but go out and ask questions and find out publicly who might be interested in a discussion around one of those two locations or possibly something else.”

But it appears that Don Saylor is upset that this process, ironically one that he and Rochelle Swanson helped to set up in 2010, is going forward without him. Supervisor Saylor still wants to be lord of the manor and it appears that, if he cannot be, he will attempt to sabotage the process.

Supervisor Saylor, who chaired the meeting, noted, “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.”

This is a completely false assertion. As Mayor Joe Krovoza pushed back against Don Saylor on Thursday, “These sites that we’re talking about are very calculated parts of our Innovation Park Task Force process that you set up at the city.” He said the idea was absolutely not supposed to be developer-driven. The idea was for us to have a dispersed strategy.

That is what it’s been. It is not developer-driven, it is the opposite. We have identified the need and now we need applicants to come forward to make it happen. As the mayor explained, “That was the public process that took place… Now the question is [if] anybody [is] interested in going to these places that have been identified.”

In addition to Supervisor Saylor appropriating Mayor Krovoza’s language on a developer-driven process, he also invoked the 2007 explosive discussions of joint-planning sessions at the county level on Northwest Quadrant, Covell Village and the I-80 corridor.

Supervisor Saylor noted that a few years ago the county proceeded with a general plan update studying the same areas we are discussing now, “and the city was not interested in that, in fact I was one of the people on the city council at the time so I know some of the discussions that happened and the community response to that consideration.”

“So for the city to proceed brings up some sort of question about what we’re doing here,” he continued. “A developer making a plea in a private office is not a community based process.”

But Supervisor Saylor is clearly making a thin analogy here, as the process that occurred in 2007 was driven by County Supervisors Mariko Yamada and Helen Thomson as a way to get around the Measure R process.

What is happening here is a city-led discussion that has been developed over the last four years and will not go forward without a vote of the people of Davis.

Here we can clearly draw the line between Supervisor Saylor trying to get a piece of the action and Supervisor Jim Provenza, who had serious concerns about the development on agricultural land.

Supervisor Provenza argued that the only way he would be supportive of this is if there were “a substantial set aside of agricultural land” that would have to be paid for by the developer, that would be the bottom line. He expressed concerned about the development of farm land outside of Davis.

This has been a consistent concern of his, he was elected in 2008 pledging to protect agricultural land, and nothing has changed. As we have noted, in order to get a Measure R vote through, there will need to be strict assurances that the development of 200 acres east of Mace does not open the door for new development and Supervisor Provenza is indicating that the current plan for 2 to 1 ag mitigation in addition to the protection of Mace 391 in a conservation easement is not sufficient.

Mr. Provenza’s concerns can addressed and will mark a way forward for the council and developers to be able to assure a successful Measure R vote.

Supervisor Saylor made it a clear point at the end to move back from the brink when he stated, “I don’t want this to be interpreted as opposition to economic development in this area.”

But how else can we interpret this when the concerns he raised have really already been addressed?

Making this even more tricky was the comment by Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk at the end when he suggested that we all needed to follow Supervisor Saylor’s lead.

There is nothing good that will come from this process. Those concerned about the city’s fiscal position and the need for economic development should view this latest development as alarming. The question we should be all asking is what is Supervisor Saylor’s intention here?

Is he trying to stop the process? Is he trying to get the county a piece of the action? Is he attempting to insert himself back in?

Any one of these is a problem.

—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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  1. Jim Frame

    I think the city should focus on its goals and pay close attention to the legal requirements that need to be met in the process, but otherwise not worry much about what the supes think. Invite the county’s input via formal channels and respond respectfully, but not let themselves get bullied into doing anything that interferes with the desired outcome.

    It’lll be interesting to see if any council members end up carrying water for any supervisors as this develops.

    1. hpierce

      Philosophically, Jim, I agree with you. In reality, LAFCO has to approve an annexation. Currently, Don Saylor and Matt Rexroad (county supes) are two of the five LAFCO reps. Michelle is an “alternate”. There is one “public” member (have no idea where he lives). Neither of the other two members are from Davis. This scenario will last at least another year. Appears that Mr Saylor thinks he has the city ” by the ____s”. It appears he has reasonable beliefs that this is so.

      Development of an “innovation center”, outside but adjacent to the City, would be double confounding… Davis would have the impacts, but Yolo County would get the revenue. It is what it is.

      1. Matt Williams

        From their webpage
        the Yolo County LAFCo Commission is comprised of

        Public Members

        — Olin Woods, Chair – appointed until May, 2015 (retired and lives in Willowbank)
        — Robert Ramming, Alternate- appointed until May, 2017 (farms organically between Davis and Woodland)

        City Members

        — Bill Kristoff – appointed until May 2016 (West Sacramento Council member)
        — Cecilia Aguiar-Curry – appointed until May 2018 (Winters mayor)
        — Rochelle Swanson, Alternate – appointed until May 2016 (Davis Council member)

        County Members

        — Don Saylor – appointed until May 2018
        — Matt Rexroad, Vice Chair – appointed until May 2015
        — Jim Provenza, Alternate – appointed until May 2016

        Olin Woods headed up the Transportation Unit of SACOG prior to retiring. He is a member of Yolo County’s South Davis Citizens Advisory Committee for the County General Plan. He is very aware of the public dialogue that has taken place in the City of Davis and in the Davis community about Innovation.

        Robert (and Debbie) Ramming’s farm is where “For the past four years Robb Davis has volunteered weekly at a local organic farm.” Robert is also very aware of the public dialogue that has taken place in the City of Davis and in the Davis community about Innovation.

  2. Davis Progressive

    have to keep pounding on bisch here. he worries about the lack of coherent economic development strategy and is silent on saylor co-opting the city’s plan.

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