Supervisor Saylor Pushes For More County Involvement in Davis’ Economic Development Initiative

Saylor-DonAt the last council meeting, Chief Innovation Officer Rob White, at midnight, presented a staff report asking for the council to act on a proposed Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) on the Innovation Center.

Councilmember Lucas Frerichs expressed concerns about the process, “in particular with regards to the county.” He noted that this was taking place “on a number of properties  in the county. In terms of process, has this been… have we had these conversations with the county thus far? I’m not sure that has occurred and frankly I think it might need to occur as a local governmental partnership with our county partner in this case, before we… I’m all in favor of fast-tracking this and getting out to the public, we definitely need to get this moving.”

The issue got placed on the city-county two-by-two which met on Thursday morning. Mayor Joe Krovoza and Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk represented the city and Supervisors Jim Provenza and Don Saylor represented the county.

Rob White explained that the Innovation Park Task Force recommended several sites, including two where proposers have come forward at Mace 200 and the Northwest Quadrant.

“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,” Mr. White explained. “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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

Mayor Joe Krovoza pointed out, “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.

He 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.”

He noted that the city does want to engage the county in this process. “Let’s see if we got interest, and if we do, then let’s call the question,” he said. He noted that all of these would require a city vote of the citizens to implement anyway.

Don Saylor asked the question, “How would you do that?” He suggested bringing in the county planning commission, bringing all of the cards to this table and discussing it. He argued, “We’ve not engaged in this and we should in some structured way that involves the county and the city as government organizations.”

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.

Supervisor Saylor suggested that between now and May 15 the staff from the city and county work together on integrating some of the considerations. In a move that seemed to back off from his previous comments, he said “I don’t want this to be interpreted as opposition to economic development in this area.”

Supervisor Provenza added, “I think the pass-through agreement really envisions this process of the county and the city working together.”

Mayor Krovoza added, “I feel like there needs to be much more significant staff sync-up here.” He was nervous that this might simply duplicate the existing process and added, “I can’t imagine a much more public process than the Innovation Parks Task Force.”

The meeting ended on a more conciliatory note, with Supervisor Saylor pushing for an integrated planning process from the beginning and talking about the amazing possibilities before Davis.

—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

    Can anyone outline the usual path that’s followed when a city annexes a county parcel? When Mace Ranch and Wildhorse were annexed, at what point and to what degree did the supes and the county planning staff get involved? Isn’t LAFCO the entity that manages all of this?

  2. Michelle Millet

    Totally confused.

    Saylor: “So for the city to proceed brings up some sort of question about what we’re doing here,”

    Krovoza: “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.”

    Was Saylor part of the City Council when the Innovation Park process was set up?

    1. Don Shor

      Was Saylor part of the City Council when the Innovation Park process was set up?

      Yes, I think he was. But two things have changed since then. He is now looking at things from the county’s perspective, and Yolo County is broke. And the pass-through agreement that underpinned previous development decisions is no longer a certainty. The RDA was created for the specific purpose of funding the pass-through agreement.

      1. Michelle Millet

        He is now looking at things from the county’s perspective, and Yolo County is broke

        His perspective doesn’t change his knowledge of events. If he was on the city council when the process was set up and the sites were identified I’m assuming that, even if as a County Supervisor his perspective has changed, he still maintains knowledge of the city’s plans. This article makes it sound like these plans came as surprise to him. I assume I missing something or misunderstanding something.

        1. Davis Progressive

          the sites were finalized in fall 2012. he was off the council by then, but should have been aware of what was going on. as i say below this is all ego for him.

      2. Davis Progressive

        this is more about ego than policy. he thought he was the leader of this back in 2010 with DSIDE that is now irrelevant and has been folded, but he has been surpassed by people like rob white, the innovation park task force, and he’s become an aftermath. so he leans on his boys in councilman lucas and increasingly dan wolk.

  3. Frankly

    How might this entire process been made much easier for the city had the innovation park been Mace 391…. you know, that parcel that we owned but gave away for a $500,000 cash loss and a $100,000,000.00 opportunity cost?

      1. Frankly

        You don’t know that. In fact, having our own land to design versus having to negotiate with a landowner-developer would have been a very strong benefit to encouraging yes votes.

        1. Davis Progressive

          you would have had the open space commission making the case to the public that we took land out of easement to turn into a business park. you’d have had angry and organized opposition.

          i don’t know for sure obviously, but that’s my belief. to get one of these things approved you need to have everything go perfectly and not have organized opposition. if you get the granda’s or the michael harrington’s whining that’s one thing, but getting people with credibility is death to any development in davis. you of all people should know that.

          1. Don Shor

            I agree. There would have been substantial opposition to Mace 391, and it would very likely have failed. Ramos/Bruner has a much higher chance of success.

    1. Michelle Millet

      Frankly I won’t attempt to diminish the frustration you feel regarding the Mace 391 issue by telling you it’s time to move on, but I will say dwelling on it is not helpful when attempting to moving forward with economic development, something I know is important to you.

      My suggestion, pay attention to what is happening now and what decisions are being made, it may prove more productive.

        1. Davis Progressive

          you prevent the next failure by putting up a project that can succeed and doing the due diligence to make sure you attend to reasonable concerns.

        2. Michelle Millet

          I suggest you focus your efforts on keeping these actions that you see as failures from occurring again, rather then JUST dwelling on things that have happened in the past. So far that is all you seem to be doing.

          1. Frankly

            There is actual purpose here. The council voted to give away the land to the Yolo Land Trust precisely because of the fear of repercussions from citizens unhappy with their decision. So consider me just one of those citizens.

  4. Michelle Millet

    There is actual purpose here. The council voted to give away the land to the Yolo Land Trust precisely because of the fear of repercussions from citizens unhappy with their decision. So consider me just one of those citizens.

    I won’t debate you now on why council made the decision they did- needless to say I have a different take on it then you- but I’m unclear of what you mean by repercussions in this instance, i.e. complaining about a decision.

    If your goal is to point out to people the mistakes that were made, fine I get that. But without combining this action with some plan to move forward, I don’t see how this accomplishes what I hope is your ultimate goal of successful economic development.

    Do you want to use past experience, and the lessons we have learned from them, to move forward? Or do you just want to complain, because again at this point, that is all I hear you doing and I don’t see how that, by itself, is helping.

  5. Michelle Millet

    With the goal of moving forward I will pose this question:

    According to an earlier report on the VG about this topic David wrote:

    Councilmember Brett Lee moved staff recommendation three to direct staff to “Incorporate comments and issue the Innovation Center RFEI for a 30 day period” and “Return to Council in June 2014 to report on received submittals from the Innovation Center RFEI and recommend next steps.”

    According to Rob White:

    This is only a guidance activity,” he said. “This does not create any outcomes other than just finding out information. This is valuable for us, it allows us to tell the community what it is that we think has been talked about for many years, including from the Business Park Land Strategy as well as the Innovation Park Task Force findings from February 2012 and the work that’s been done since then.”

    I don’t understand why the County’s concerns brought up by Frerichs should have stopped this “information gathering” step from happening. Again I feel like I missing something. Maybe someone with more knowledge on this topic can offer some clarification.

  6. Davis Progressive

    it’s not the county’s concern. it’s don saylor’s concern. his concern isn’t about information gathering, his concern is that he himself is not getting enough play.

  7. Davis Progressive

    it’s funny that bisch, mark west, frankly have all railed against the city for not moving fast enough, don saylor has tried to insert himself into the process, and there’s hardly a murmur of protest from the econ dev wing of the vanguard.

  8. DT Businessman

    I’ve never railed about not going fast enough on innovation park development. You made a similar comment on another thread. You’re making it up out of whole cloth. I guess I’ll have to manufacture positions for you on various subjects and then comment on them daily. Here’s mine for today, “It’s funny that Davis Progressive is all of a sudden turning on Saylor when he’s been such a staunch supporter all this time.”

    As for Saylor and Frerich’s actions/comments on the various innovation parks under discussion, I don’t know what to make of them so I have no comment.

    -Michael Bisch

    1. Davis Progressive

      did you not state earlier this week: ““As for economic development, way too little, way too late. Even when projects or policies are pursued, they’re entirely consumed by politics, and again, with zero transparency.”

      is that not what don saylor is doing here – consuming the innovation park process with politics and delay that you were complaining about earlier this week?

      1. DT Businessman

        You clearly confuse real estate development with economic development. You also confuse a single project(s) with a sustained, comprehensive strategic effort. And finally, you confuse all of the foregoing with the larger concern of priority setting and resource allocation, which is what I have been “whining” about these past 5 or 6 years. One cannot effectively bring the city finances on a sustainable trajectory (revenue & expense) AND sufficiently engage in community outreach/in-reach, so that informed votes are cast, if one is allocating the needed resources to other endeavors. It’s simple arithmetic. The CC is trying to do 120 things when the available resources only allow for 30. Why do you think the city doesn’t have an estimate for the infrastructure maintenance backlog apart from water, waste water, roads and bike paths?

        -Michael Bisch

        1. Davis Progressive

          “You clearly confuse real estate development with economic development.”

          how so?

          you clear stated “as for economic development” and the issue at hand in the county is the innovation park. so just what in the heck are you saying?

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