World Food Center to Sacramento Not a Done Deal Yet

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Chancellor Announces Advisory Group, No Decision Made on WFC – UC Davis, less than a week after news leaked out of plans to potentially put the World Food Center at the railyards in Sacramento, appears to be backing away from that report. One source told the Vanguard on Tuesday afternoon that there are no firm plans about the placement of the potentially $1 billion center and that faculty are balking at the notion of relocating to Sacramento.

On Tuesday, Chancellor Linda Katehi sent a release which formally announced plans to create an advisory group of deans, faculty, staff and students to help UC Davis explore the academic program for a possible new campus in Sacramento.

According to the release, Chancellor Katehi first mentioned the idea of a third campus in her annual State of the Campus presentation to the Academic Senate in February. At that time, she said the campus would emphasize UC Davis’ commitment to education, research, clinical and policy aspirations with a focus on food, health and the environment.

“Because of our location, history and expertise, UC Davis is in a unique position to be an even greater positive source for California state government and policy than we have been in the past,” Chancellor Katehi said in a letter announcing her plans to create the advisory group to help crystallize the vision for a third campus.

“To take full advantage of that opportunity and raise the profile and reputation of the entire university, we have been thinking for some time about developing a third campus somewhere in Sacramento,” she wrote. “The time is now right to begin moving forward with this process.”

Assemblymember Mariko Yamada issued a statement following the Chancellor’s announcement.

“Forming this advisory group following the very public speculation over the location of the proposed UC Davis World Food Center is welcome news,” said Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, who represents the main campus in Yolo County.

“Since front-page speculation over locations in Sacramento and West Sacramento surfaced, I have been in contact with campus administration to ask for a full-briefing,” Assemblymember Yamada continued. “In the coming months, I look forward to being actively engaged in the consultative process the Chancellor referenced, including the feasibility of locating the World Food Center in Davis.”

Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza issued a statement as well, noting, “The city of Davis looks forward to our continuing collaboration with UC Davis to support their increasing global prominence and resultant economic development.”

The mayor sees the proposed RFEI on a potential innovation park as a path forward for both the university and the city of Davis.

“With respect to the World Food Center, our Davis innovation park plan creates 450 acres of available land for companies and campus development,” the mayor said. “Davis is ideally suited to play a significant role for the growth of the food center. Our community is in a unique position to support the expansion of research on campus, and companies and visiting scholars that connect to campus research.”

Mayor Krovoza, who is running for State Assembly continued, “Our long list of community assets that would support the innovation from the World Food Center include close proximity to unrivaled agricultural lands and our leadership in food systems, as demonstrated by our internationally recognized Farmers Market. We look forward to continued engagement with UC Davis on this exciting venture and believe that success of the food center is a regional and global benefit.”

A few weeks ago the buzz starting to leak out was that the World Food Center was going to head for the Sacramento Railyards rather than the main campus in Davis.

When the Vanguard spoke to Luanne Lawrence nearly two weeks ago, the associate chancellor for strategic communications was evasive, arguing that no decision had been made, talks were speculative and in the early stages, and there were no concrete plans to be offered.

Since then, the university position has evolved. Ms. Lawrence last week said, “A lot of people have been talking to (Chancellor Linda Katehi) about the World Food Center. She is committed to having some kind of location in Sacramento.”

Roger Beachy, the center’s director said, “The questions that the university can address are big enough to be on the world stage. We think that Sacramento — because of its growing importance as the capital of a state that has an enormous amount of influence in food and food policy nationally — seems to us quite logical to take on an increasingly international position, and UC Davis can help with that.”

Sources on Tuesday indicated to the Vanguard that the news may have gotten out from the university before they were ready. There has been some push back by faculty to moving teaching and research facilities out of Davis.

How that gibes with the official announcement of an advisory group is anyone’s guess.

As the release indicated, “Sacramento offers a plethora of opportunities — a perfect nexus for UC Davis’ strengths and outreach capacities in health and food. With proximity to the state Capitol, important state government partners and industry leaders, the city provides access to further engage communities that interact with both the UC Davis Health System and Davis campus.”

Chancellor Katehi said she would like the advisory group to share its ideas and visions for a third campus based on three activities and ideas that best fit UC Davis’ strengths and priorities:

  • A policy orientation to help enhance the university’s role in influencing state policy that serves the long-term environmental, economic, scientific and social imperatives for the state of California.
  • An emphasis on food and health, as these are areas the university specializes in and are of greater importance than ever before.
  • A clinical activities and outreach focus that promotes healthy living and wellness as prevention becomes a greater imperative for our nation’s health care system.

The release did respond, however, “Early media reports have speculated that the campus might be built in the abandoned railyard in downtown Sacramento and that the new World Food Center at UC Davis would be an anchor tenant, but Katehi stressed that no location or exact makeup of the campus have been chosen.”

They add, “In fact, the concept of a third campus for UC Davis that will bring together policy, education and outreach at the nexus of food and health will be part of a long-range strategy that will require the acquisition of dedicated resources and development of partnerships.”

They continue, “In addition to this effort and as part of our other plans the university continues our conversations with city officials about opportunities for further growth in Davis.”

“We are just getting started on what will be a comprehensive and deliberative process,” Chancellor Katehi said. “We want to hear what vision members of the advisory committee have, and then we want to engage the broader UC Davis community in a very substantive and detailed conversation about how best to proceed.”

The chancellor indicated that she will name members of the advisory committee in the coming days, and that she wants it to also recommend a plan on “an appropriate consultative process with the broader UC Davis community, both in Davis and Sacramento.”

According to the release, the advisory group will be asked to report back to her with its ideas for the campus by Sept. 30, so the communitywide discussion can begin at the start of the next academic year.

—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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11 Comments

  1. Davis Progressive

    huge issue of regional important and hardly any comments here. this issue dwarfs mace 391. we’re talking about a billion investment and an influx of money and investments into the economy.

    joe krovoza is cementing my vote with his advocacy on this issue.

    1. Barack Palin

      Just a thought, maybe the Vanguard would get more comments if people like Toad, Fremontia and Avatar weren’t unfairly outed. That certainly doesn’t help the participation rate.

  2. noname

    It’s tough to get worked up over this “leak” when it’s unclear what the World Food Center needs that it isn’t getting now, or can’t get in the future, at UC Davis. If this is just about Katehi trying to build empires or glad-hand some wealthy Sacramento donors, then no rush to build business parks in Davis is going to help.

  3. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    I got the sense from the Sacramento Bee article on this that the big idea of the UC Davis administration (not just Chancellor Katehi) is that the WFC should be near the capitol in order to synergize its relationships with the politicos and with the Dept. of Agriculture and so on. I never understood that as a rejection of Davis, but rather an embrace of Sacramento as the hub of government.

    1. David Greenwald

      If the information I was given yesterday was accurate, we may get a policy/ government center in Sacramento and a teaching and research center in Davis. That might be the best of both worlds.

  4. DT Businessman

    And that’s exactly why all of the world’s major research universities are located in state or national capitols. If you’re located more than 15 minutes from the politicos and bureaucrats, you may as well be on the dark side of the moon.

    -Michael Bisch

  5. Tia Will

    Barack Palin

    “maybe the Vanguard would get more comments if people like Toad, Fremontia and Avatar weren’t unfairly outed”

    I agree with you that those who choose to post anonymously should not be outed. I am not however sure what you mean by “unfairly” outed. What would you consider a “fair outing”? When I was “outed” ( a little after the fact since I had already posted clearly under both names when I realized the significance) it was by a poster who had nothing at all to do with the Vanguard, but who opposed a position I was advocating. I do not know of any way to prevent individual posters from “outing” someone with whom they are angry or with whom they simply disagree.
    If you have a suggestion as to how this might be accomplished I think the entire editorial board would be interested in hearing your suggestion.

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