Another Giant Council Mistake?

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mace-land-use-mapby Jeff Boone

Most of us agree that previous City Councils made big mistakes over-expanding and over-compensating city labor, then failing to tackle bloated labor costs and moving money between accounts to hide the extent of the problems.  Then these problems were exacerbated by similar mistakes and moves by state government: reducing payments to cities to pay for the state’s bloated labor costs.   These prior mistakes are the primary reasons that Davis required another sales tax increase, and currently faces more than $50 million in unfunded road and building maintenance expense.

But few Davisites probably know of the most recent big “Mace 391” mistake made by our current council.

Mace 391 is a 391-acre parcel previously named Leland Ranch.  The bank foreclosed on this land and it was subsequently purchased by the city in July 2011 using $1.3M in Measure O (the City’s Open Space Protection Special Tax Fund) plus $2.4M of our very inadequate city road maintenance funds.  City staff then worked with the Yolo Land Trust, a private non-profit with a single mission to preserve open space and farmland in Yolo Country.  The Yolo Land Trust applied for and was awarded a $1.1 million grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conversation Services (NRCS) Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program.  In June 2013, the Council approved resale of the property with a permanent conservation easement.

Prior to the City Council decision to place Mace 391 into a permanent agriculture easement (and sell it at half million dollar loss), the Davis business community came forward to ask Council to pause and assess the cost-benefit for using the land as an innovation business park.  The open space people complained that the business community previously never expressed interest in this land for a business park.  The business community responded with three points: one – there was little effort by the city to engage the business community about the use of the land; two – the extent of our city’s fiscal problems were unknown/undisclosed until recently and there was less understanding of the need for local economic development to generate revenue for the city; and three – UCD had recently ramped-up programs and strategies to better collaborate with private research and development  business requiring commercial-zoned land in and around Davis.

Despite the complaints by the open space people, the Davis City Council voted 4-1 to pause and debate the use of the 391-acre Leland Ranch.  The wheels of economic development progress started turning, but too slow to overcome the energy of the very committed open space people.  As the deadline for the NRCS grant approached, the open space people pulled a special card.  They claimed that the beloved Yolo Land Trust would be harmed as a future NRCS grant recipient if the City rejected the $1.1 million grant.  They even presented a NRCS employee to confirm the claim… a claim would later be proven to be entirely false as the NRCS grant process is highly statistical, and primarily because of Davis and Measure O funds, the Yolo Land Trust’s benchmarks would remain at the top even after losing the Mace 391 grant.  But the perception damage was done (or the cover was provided), and the Council voted 5-0 to put Mace-391 into permanent agriculture easement.

We know what the city gained by this Council decision: Davis has added 391 additional acres to our existing 2,500 acres of preserved open space in and around Davis.  Also, the Yolo Land trust gained another 391 acres of preserved land to their existing portfolio of 5000 acres throughout Yolo County.   But what did Davis lose?

To answer that question we need to assess the opportunity cost of the alternative using this city-owned land to develop a business innovation park.

Opportunity-cost is simply the net value of an opportunity not pursued.  Every decision can be evaluated in a cost-benefit analysis.  There are both intangible (I like or don’t like the way it looks) and tangible (it costs or is worth X dollars) costs and benefits.

First let’s be clear that it is impossible to develop definitive estimates of the total opportunity of something as potentially variable as a new business park.  The process to develop a business park generally begins with a project to complete a park design and then to install the infrastructure.  For any business innovation park in Davis, UCD would play a leadership role attracting the types of businesses that would benefit from close proximity to the campus.   Next, the various lots are listed for sale of for lease, and professionals in the commercial real estate, commercial mortgage banking, and business economic development industries, all start marketing and attracting prospective companies.   Developable Lots are acquired and the business facilities are constructed.  Generally within a year or two after business acquires the lot the employees start working onsite.

Nobody can know which businesses would eventually locate here, and hence it is impossible to calculate a specific total local economic impact.  However, we can make reasonable estimates with assumptions based on the results of other similar technology and innovation business parks throughout the nation.

One key point here is that the city of Davis owned this land.  It was acquired primarily from monies out of our general fund.  We can cut through much debate about the intangible costs and benefits with a straightforward acknowledgement that the city would have completely controlled the design and development of a business innovation park at Mace 391.  All the conflict about bike and pedestrian connections, visual mitigation, landscaping, density, building design, etc., etc., all of this would have been City-controlled and citizen-driven.  Contrast that to a situation where a developer owns the land and will fight for maximum profit, and clearly we let a big pile of intangible opportunity slip away.

But what about the tangible (monetary) opportunity cost?

The 10 year build out of a Mace 391 Business Innovation Park would have resulted in range of $50-$90 million dollars in monetary value to the city.  That’s right!  At a time that we knew we were bleeding red ink and headed toward broken roads and crumbling buildings, our City Council sold a city-owned asset valued at $50-$90 million in monetary value for a $500,000 loss.   How do we arrive at that total opportunity cost valuation?

From research done by the Association of University Research Parks (AURP), there are approximately 200 university research parks in the nation.  They average 532 acres in size; contain an average of 41 separate companies employing an average of 3,339 employees

AURP publishes economic impact studies on some of these research parks.  Although each of these analyses are unique, they tend to use a common set of criteria to derive both direct and indirect economic impacts.

Direct economic impacts derive from both the construction phase, and from the long-term, ongoing, operations of the company.  They include: sales taxes, income taxes, realty transfer taxes, motor fuel taxes, gas taxes, vehicle licenses and fees, telecommunication and electricity excise taxes, property taxes and other State and County revenues supported by the operations of the company.  These are basically all the city tax and fee revenue increases that would derive from the development and operation of  business innovation park over the first 10 years.

Indirect, or secondary, economic impacts include:

  • The increase in total employee wage, salary, benefits and self-employed jobs within the park;
  • The increase to total employee wage, salary, benefits and self-employed jobs supplying the businesses within the park;
  • The induced impacts: the increase in end-use consumer products and any locally-purchased intermediate products that were used in producing the consumer goods and services.

Mace 391, like any other future business, research or innovation park, would have resulted in a similar set of direct and secondary economic benefits.   Based on these study comparisons, the 10 year estimate of these direct and indirect monetary benefits to the city is $20 million.

This 10-year direct and indirect tax revenue benefit valuation compares with a recent city estimate of $12 million for developing the smaller adjacent developer-owned Mace 200 parcel.

In addition, since the city owned the Mace 391 land, we would have benefited from the sale or lease of the land to a developer, or alternatively from the sale of the individual lots had we decided to develop the park ourselves.

Considering 200 acres of develop-able land out of 391, the wholesale value would be $150,000 per acre ($30 million) to a developer.  Note that this value is discounted because of the sales contract clauses to cover all Davis covenants, codes, restrictions and amenities… and to fund most of the city infrastructure build out.  The retail sales value of Davis-developed ready-to-build lots and sold to individual business owners would be $500,00 per acre ($100 million), but at a cost of about $30 million to develop the infrastructure and lots including all the amenities…. or net $70 million.

This real estate valuation is based on current comparable commercial property for sale in and around Davis.

So there you have it.   Our City Council sold, for a $500,000 loss, a city-owned asset worth $50-$90 million.  They did this at a time when they knew we are facing a road maintenance deficit of almost exactly the same.   This was a giant mistake.

There is an important question to ponder when voting for yet another tax increase to cover all of these mistakes by government:  how do we prevent them from happening again?

More importantly, how do we force the focus to be on long-term fiscal stability rather than moving from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis?

Davis generates about 30% of the business tax and fee revenue as does the average comparable city.   We are out of whack.   There is simply no way we can continue to afford our demanded city lifestyle and amenities unless we grow our local economy.  We can certainly meet each fiscal crisis and agree to keep taxing ourselves at a higher and higher rate, but at some point we will say no.  And then what?  And what burden will our children have to bare funding city operations from a high percentage of their personal wages and earnings?

It is clear that Mace 391 will loom as an epic mistake by this City Council.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime city opportunity to jump-start our economic growth and fill our depleted and inadequate city coffers.   It is comparable to all the fiscal mistakes made by previous City Councils; but more glaring given the lack of Great Recession excuse.   We knew our fiscal problems, and we knew the opportunity cost of not pushing to develop Mace 391 into a world-class, Davis-owned and designed, Business Innovation Park.  Our Council knew these things and yet they did not act in the best interests of the majority residents of this great city.

The open space people claim that Mace 391 would have never passed a Measure J vote.   I have more faith in the intellect of the average Davis voter to weigh the costs and benefits in light of our recently disclosed fiscal problems, and the fact that we would end up with a true Davis-designed park.

I think the City Council got the Mace 391 decision terribly wrong.   I think they let us all down.  Let’s hope the new City Council gets it right going forward.  I remain very skeptical.

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55 thoughts on “Another Giant Council Mistake?”

  1. Jim Frame

    It is clear that Mace 391 will loom as an epic mistake by this City Council.

    Clear to anyone wearing blinders. Imposing a conservation easement on Mace 391 was a crucial step in locking in the eastern limit of the city, and opens the door to Mace 200 business park development. The Mace 391 vote stands alongside the Measure E vote — the one that blocked the widening of the Richards Boulevard undercrossing — as landmark decisions critical to retaining a small-city character for Davis.

  2. Tia Will

    Jeff

    First, I want to thank you for laying out your objections to the Mace 391 decision so clearly.
    But I would like to paraphrase the title to this article as “Whose mistake is this ? ”
    I have a different view on a number or points that you have made.

    “The bank foreclosed on this land and it was subsequently purchased by the city in July 2011 using $1.3M in Measure O (the City’s Open Space Protection Special Tax Fund) plus $2.4M of our very inadequate city road maintenance funds. City staff then worked with the Yolo Land Trust, a private non-profit with a single mission to preserve open space and farmland in Yolo Country.”

    Within this paragraph, you have encapsulated in part a major difference in our points of view. The statement “using $1.3 million in Measure O ( the City’s open Space Protection Special Tax Fund) provides an insight to intent.
    From the beginning, the decision to acquire was based on open space protection not about land development or the ability to turn a profit.

    “Prior to the City Council decision to place Mace 391 into a permanent agriculture easement (and sell it at half million dollar loss), the Davis business community came forward to ask Council to pause and assess the cost-benefit for using the land as an innovation business park.”

    I agree with your statement. However, note that the business community made their request prior to decision to place into permanent agriculture easement, not prior to acquisition and involvement of the conservation community. So what we really have is a situation in which the business community was slow to recognize the issue and enlist the activity of those of a similar mind. This is neither the fault of the city nor the fault of the conservationist community. And, as you noted, the City Council did as the business community requested, they slowed the process for reconsideration. Was the business community appropriate in acting in what they saw as the best interest of themselves and the city using their measure of economic well being as the most important consideration ? Absolutely ! But this does not mean that other groups do not have the right to advocate as vigorously for their self perceived values.

    “In addition, since the city owned the Mace 391 land, we would have benefited from the sale or lease of the land to a developer, or alternatively from the sale of the individual lots had we decided to develop the park ourselves.”

    True as stated, if financially benefitting is your only concern. Not true if you perceive other goals as more important, or if you view other means of benefiting the city ( alternative sites for development, other types of business development, or other means of revenue generation….taxation for example) as more appropriate given the overall goals and intent of the City Council and citizenry bearing in mind that their are many groups with disparate goals and that the business community does not speak for all citizens just as the conservation community does not accurately reflect your goals.

    1. Jeff Boone

      “I agree with your statement. However, note that the business community made their request prior to decision to place into permanent agriculture easement, not prior to acquisition and involvement of the conservation community. “

      Thanks for your reply Tia. But I think you need to re-think this comment.

      The city controls the zoning and annexation potential for peripheral land. Any attempt by a developer to purchase and then push for the development of a peripheral parcel would be expensive and risky… and we have a history of failed efforts to give developers plenty of reasons to take a pass. The land was and is zoned ag land and therefor could only be sold and purchased as ag land. The city was/is in a unique position of its own making to purchase the land at ag land rates, and then pursue the improvement of that land for more valuable business use.

      This is not unethical nor is it uncommon. The acquisition of adjacent land in foreclosure and then improvement of that land is, in fact, a very common practice of cities that perform well in their responsibility of sound fiscal management. Certainly there are other intangible benefits that can be pursued with the use of city-acquired land… but generally for a greater good other than satiating the no-growth demands of well-off residents. For example, the city of LA has acquired hundreds of properties from foreclosure over property tax delinquencies. They are looking at these properties for all sorts of re-development: affordable housing, economic development, etc. And some they want to improve as neighborhood parks. However, there is the question of funding. So they need a good mix of tax-revenue-producing redevelopment to help fund those public policy desires that result in greater expenses.

      And herein lies your basic problem. You and others want amenities that fill the expense side of the city income statement. That’s fine. I like most of those things too. The problem is that we are severely out of balance having spent most of our previous time focusing on those things without working on the revenue side. Mace 391 was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to inject much needed revenue into our coffers. That opportunity was fumbled. It was a giant mistake.

      You make a case that the city used Measure O funds to purchase the land. They actually used almost twice as much of our general fund moneys to purchase the land. This then brings up a very big question about the use and intent of our city funds for open space acquisition. If you go back and read Measure O you will note that ag land was/is only a piece of the larger vision for what the city voted for. There was a clear commitment and expectation for useable open space. The city has severely failed to meet that expectation. That is another reason we all should be unhappy with the city council’s decision on Mace 391. Because that parcel is now completely off limits to residents. We can only look at it driving down Mace. If it had been developed, it could have been done so with open space that the community could use… parks, bike paths, sports fields, etc. That is another part of giant mistake that I didn’t cover.

      1. Davis Progressive

        the clear purpose of the purchase was to put the land into an easement. the process was very far along when alternatives were raised. that means you had to not only fight the council majority (essentially get one more vote), but convince a slow growth leaning electorate to jump on board.

        i think part of the problem here is you are over looking the benefits of that conversation last year and now we have established the need, now let’s see what proposals have come forward.

      2. Tia Will

        Frankly

        “The city was/is in a unique position of its own making to purchase the land at ag land rates, and then pursue the improvement of that land for more valuable business use.

        I am responding late, and prior to reading the rest of the posts so what you are seeing is my initial reaction to your response to me.

        Your statement “improvement of the land for more valuable business use” is exactly what my point was. Some of us do not, and never will see the use of prime agricultural land for “more valuable business use” as improvement. I strongly feel that prime ag land should remain just that and that other, less agriculturally appropriate land should be used for these non ag purposes.
        I know that repurposing land is neither unethical nor uncommon. This does not mean that it is desirable. I lived in Orange county and have seen first hand what this kind of repurposing of land for the “more valuable” business use can become. Miles and miles of orange orchards
        and strawberry fields converted to miles and miles of strip malls, hotels, housing developments.

        I am not suggesting that we are currently at risk of turning into Anaheim. But I certainly am suggesting that I do not want to see a scenario in which we abut Woodland on the north and Vacaville on the west with no intervening buffer. I see this is a definite possibility if you were to achieve the 1.5% growth and the kind of peripheral development that you recently promoted as your vision.

        Once again, I am not opposed to change. I simply have a very different vision for the future of our city and will continue, as are you, to advocate for my vision.

    1. Jeff Boone

      Mike – we will never know. But then with this comment it appears that you don’t support any peripheral development east of Mace. Or maybe you don’t support any peripheral development at all. Please comment.

    2. Jim Frame

      I’m not sure the community would support jumping the Mace Curve to the East.

      I wouldn’t have supported it prior to the Mace 391 decision. Now I believe that Mace 200 is an ideal location for a business park without throwing open the east end of town to rampant development.

    3. South of Davis

      Michael wrote:

      > I’m not sure the community would support jumping
      > the Mace Curve to the East.

      Perception is based on who you hang out with (your “community”) but even most of the Prius driving tree huggers I know don’t have a problem with a business park (that many would say is “half way to Sacramento since it is east of Target”) since it will not impact them I their day to day lives in Central Davis.

  3. Mark West

    “rampant development.”

    This is what I love about the No on Everything crowd; everything is discussed in extremes. Who has said anything about ‘rampant development?’ We had a unique parcel that the City could have used productively for the benefit of the entire population and it was shouted down by the ‘No’ crowd with their fear mongering.

    Another example was Don’s claim a couple of days ago about how Davis and Woodland would grow together if we allowed more housing growth. Just another example of the extreme hooey being bandied about by the No crowd.

    There are good reasons why the City may have chosen not the develop Mace 391, first among them being that simply owning the land in a develop-able state would have provided great leverage for negotiating the best deal with the owners of Mace 200. There was no urgency to place the property in an agricultural easement, it could have been done at any time in the future, and the money we received was insufficient to justify the false urgency presented. We could have simply sold the land for on the open market as agriculture land and made the money back. Unfortunately, we never even considered the fiscal impact of throwing the property value away. The No crowd is happy, and the rest of us will be paying the bill for generations.

    Some people have complained that this is a dead horse and we should all move on. I think this was a complete failure by our CC to carry out their fiduciary responsibility, and that in my opinion will never be a dead horse. Yes the opportunity has been lost, but the mistakes made by the CC will never go away.

    1. Davis Progressive

      no one everything crowd? jim frame has just come out in favor of mace 200 and i believe he supported the water project. he’s hardly the no on everything crowd.

      1. Mark West

        I agree that Jim has been very reasoned and thoughtful in most of his comments. He did however revert to the same hyperbolic language favored by the more strident foes of change. In doing so he furthers the cause of the No crowd.

        Keeping Mace 391 on the City books as develop-able land would not have opened the door to ‘rampant development’ and no, Davis is not going to grow East to merge with West Sacramento.

    2. Don Shor

      Another example was Don’s claim a couple of days ago about how Davis and Woodland would grow together if we allowed more housing growth. Just another example of the extreme hooey being bandied about by the No crowd.

      In fall of 2013, Woodland city council directed staff to plan for a 1.9% population increase over 20 years, with an increase in housing of 10,000 units. That’s about 25,000 more people.
      Due to some public outcry, they have scaled that back to about 4,000 units; i.e. about 10,000 more people. But it was a very real proposal with majority council support at the time, in a community not known for community-consensus planning. So it isn’t unreasonable to think that developers there are considering it as a possible growth scenario. Woodland is planning to grow by about 10,000 people, and has discussed up to 25,000.
      Jeff has called for an increase in Davis population of 10,000 over ten years, a 1.5% population increase each year.
      If you add those together, I don’t see how the two communities would add housing without bumping into each other. Spring Lake subdivision is already basically “north North Davis.” Fortunately, Woodland has an urban limit line to the south. Unfortunately, they took the opportunity, upon creating an urban limit line, to immediately grow up to it.
      Given the traditional growth patterns of Valley towns, I don’t think my comment was “extreme hooey.” It will, in fact, take careful planning to keep Davis and Woodland from growing together, just as Fairfield and Vacaville, and Vacaville and Dixon, have worked together to maintain open space buffers. One of the tools of that planning is the open space purchased via Measure O funds.

      1. Mark West

        Get out a map Don and calculate the acreage between the north border of Davis and the south border of Woodland, then tell me how long it will take to fill that land with houses with the proposed growth rates (assuming all the growth will come in that direction). Complete fear mongering hooey!

        I agree we need to have carefully planned developments, with the primary target of restricting sprawled growth. We do that with smart growth, not by fear mongering against any growth.

        1. Don Shor

          Get out a map Don and calculate the acreage between the north border of Davis and the south border of Woodland

          It’s about the same distance as Fairfield is from Vacaville. The only thing separating those two cities is Lagoon Valley. Current plan for Lagoon Valley is about 1000 homes.
          That’s not fear mongering. It is the normal pattern of development in the Valley, unless you plan otherwise.

          1. Mark West

            Let’s get out an envelop and do a little math…

            Davis has a population of roughly 66K on 9.9 square miles for a density of 6600 people per square mile. Woodland has a population of 56,000 on 15.3 square miles for a density of 3600 people per square mile.

            There is approximately 30 square miles of land between the southern most border of Woodland and the northern most border of Davis located between Hwy 113 and Road 102. For Davis and Woodland to grow together, assuming both grow at the same rate but maintaining their current densities, Davis would need to add roughly 100,000 people while Woodland grows by an additional 55,000 people.

            Growing our population at a continuous rate of 1.5% per year (compounding), it will take roughly 65 years for that to occur.

            Fear mongering hooey.

          2. Don Shor

            It is not “fear mongering hooey,” Mark. Your density numbers are pointless. Growth occurs along corridors, not in the strange amoeboid fashion you seem to be envisioning by calculating densities. There is a straight corridor up from Davis to Woodland.
            Just look at how Vacaville and Fairfield are growing together along I-80. Davis and Woodland are less than five miles apart. There are less than five miles between Vacaville and Fairfield. Developers look for open land. There is open land there. With good planning between the cities, and continued work with Yolo Land Trust, that can be avoided. How did North Davis Meadows happen to get developed?
            But go ahead, keep repeating whatever you want.
            If you and Jeff Boone want a reasonable discussion to occur in this community about peripheral land development for commercial purposes, you may wish to change your tone and style. Stop demonizing people who happened to disagree with you about Mace 391. We have other projects to discuss now.

          3. Mark West

            Your a hoot Don. You make a bogus claim and then you get all hot and bothered when someone calls you on it. Stop making bogus claims and I won’t have any reason to challenge your nonsense.

            Davis is not Vacaville, or Fairfield for that matter, and we are not going to grow north and merge with Woodland, at least not until global warming causes the sea levels to rise 50′ pushing the bay area into Yolo County.

            When Davis does grow, it won’t happen along your proposed straight corridor up road 102, it will be be a continuation of the type of growth we have seen before, with the City expanding slowly in fits and starts in more than one direction, creating a larger version of the ameoboid shape we currently have. Vacaville and Fairfield are doing exactly the same thing, expanding outwards into the available land. With hills on one side, and wetlands (and an Air Force base) on another, growth along the interstate is basically all they have available. In all the years I have lived here I haven’t noticed hills, wetlands or an Air Force base limiting the direction of growth around Davis.

          4. Don Shor

            Davis is not Vacaville, or Fairfield for that matter, and we are not going to grow north

            Where would we put 10,000 people, Mark?

          5. Don Shor

            In all the years I have lived here I haven’t noticed hills, wetlands or an Air Force base limiting the direction of growth around Davis.

            No, we have a flood bypass and wetlands, a university, a county line, and lots of farmland. So unless we want to pave over lots of good farmland, we should plan carefully.
            Davis won’t grow to the east. In my opinion, growth to the south should be limited. Davis can’t grow to the southwest. So Davis will grow to the northwest and north.

          6. Mark West

            you cut my quote short and changed the meaning Don. Now that truly is bogus.

            We are not going to growth north AND MERGE WITH WOODLAND.

            Woodland is 5 miles away. It will take far more than 10,000 more people to make the two cities bump up against each other. Your claim is completely bogus and based solely on your irrational and extreme anti-growth and anti-development position.

          7. Don Shor

            No, if Davis grows up along 113, and Woodland expands south, the cities will effectively merge if we add 10,000 people and they add 10 – 20,000 people. Nothing bogus about that. Just like Vacaville and Fairfield are doing. I’m not extremely anti-growth, as anyone who has read the Vanguard knows. As you know. I’m not irrational. I’m not anti-development, as I’ve made clear many, many times. So you’re, to be blunt again, full of it.
            It is very likely that Davis will add housing to the north. It will take good planning for Davis and Woodland to maintain open space and conserve farmland. That’s the point I’ve made over and over again. I don’t know where your constant bile comes from, but it says more about you than it does about me.

    3. Jeff Boone

      Exactly.

      There is way too much hyperbole from the no-growth and slow-growth people. I have a hard time seeing them as credible and rational when I hear the terms like “sprawl” and “rampant growth”.

      First, we well never connect with West Sacramento because of the 5-mile-wide causeway.

      And there is no city directly south.

      And Woodland, Dixon and Winters are too far away for any concern.

      Solano County and Yolo County are certainly potential developers of peripheral land, but we have agreements.

      But if anyone is worried about these other jurisdictions building next to us, we better get moving to do our own Davis-style development. Because they won’t.

      1. Don Shor

        Sprawl is a perfectly reasonable description of poorly-planned growth out into rural land. There is no city directly south, but that is some of the best farmland in the world and it merits conservation. Winters and Dixon are not any concern. But with North Davis Meadows north of Davis, Spring Lake pushing the Woodland city edge south, and open un-conserved land in between, it isn’t difficult to see how the two urban areas could grow together. It would also be easy to prevent, since Measure O funds have already locked some of the nearby properties into conservation easements. It is growth up 113 that would be a concern from our direction, and added housing south of Spring Lake adjacent to Woodland that would be a concern from that direction.
        The two cities working together, in conjunction with the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, can make sure that doesn’t happen. But to dismiss it as unlikely, extreme, or irrational simply ignores the history of land development everywhere in the Central Valley.

        Probably nobody would have expected a subdivision proposal for 6,000 homes south of Winters, either, but that was what the voters of Solano County had to decide on in the mid-1980’s (Manzanita project, which included Mike Corbett on the design team). Developers look at open land and try to figure out how to develop it. Land is always worth more dollars for almost anything than it is for farming or conservation. That’s why you need a clear and firm conservation plan in place, urban limit lines, and you need to stick to them.

        1. Jeff Boone

          I think this is an extreme platform.

          But I wish more people would show even a percentage of this much concern about our financial future as you do the the future of farmland.

          1. Jeff Boone

            I think it is an extreme platform making the case to protect from sprawl and destruction of farmland. From my perspective we are a long way off from that concern, and I don’t think there is any slippery-slope.

            The YLT now reports 10,000 acres of preserved open space in Yolo County. We have about 3000 acres in an around Davis that is secured. Davis itself is less than 6000 acres in size.

            Looking at this from my perspective, the land preservation people have accomplished a great deal. And because of this they should stop with the extreme platform of fear words like “sprawl” and “rampant development” otherwise it is hard to find their arguments credible.

            Measure J would exist for every peripheral annexation… another feather in the cap of the land preservation people.

            You have all this land preserved already, and you have measure J… yet you are still making arguments that make it sound like the sky will part and developers will rain down and we will become a concrete jungle like Orange County.

            I find that an extremist platform.

          2. Don Shor

            Just because you use the word ‘extremist’ three times doesn’t make it so. I was describing the typical land development pattern that is observable anywhere, including the cities nearest to us. And North Davis Meadows (near the golf course, for those who don’t know the site) is a classic example of urban sprawl. I haven’t made any comparisons to Orange County. My comparison was to Vacaville and Fairfield and the way Lagoon Valley is being lost to development.

            It’s almost as though you and Mark and others got together and came up with a script: we’ve got to paint opponents of Mace 391 as extremists. So we’ve got to repeat that over and over. It’s a nonsensical assertion. There are, in fact, people here in Davis who would oppose any peripheral development of any kind. Some of them even post on this blog, and some are making their arguments over at the Enterprise. You should take your debate to Mike Harrington, Sue Greenwald, Jim Leonard, and others of their coterie, and stop insulting people like me and Jim Frame who would be likely to support reasonable peripheral projects that meet community needs.

          3. Frankly

            It’s almost as though you and Mark and others got together and came up with a script: we’ve got to paint opponents of Mace 391 as extremists.

            Nope. We don’t get together to talk about this stuff, but apparently we come to a similar conclusion.

            Yours is a sky is falling, or sky will fall, platform. I don’t buy it.

            Listen, I like farmland and I like open space. I don’t want to live in a concrete jungle.

            I just spent a week in San Francisco. I was trying to imagine what that cit would be like if it has also been prevented from developing peripherally.

            Davis sits on class-1 soils.

            San Francisco and Davis are pretty great places to be in… but we had to develop on some land to make them happen.

            We could develop Mace 391 and Mace 200 and the NWQ and this new Davis Ranch property and we would STILL Not be in any material risk of sprawl. Assuming these developments are all smart and connected with adequate open space areas… they would enhance our lives in many ways.

            Especially if doing so attracted and retained the World Food Center.

          4. Mark West

            Don: “It’s almost as though you and Mark and others got together and came up with a script: we’ve got to paint opponents of Mace 391 as extremists.”

            It might give your ego a boost to think so, but the answer is no. On those rare occasions that Frankly and I are together in the same room we have spent far more time talking about his mercifully short musical career than we have about your opinions on Mace 391 and other development issues.

            Your irrational fear of development and change is well documented in your own writings.

          5. Don Shor

            Again, I am not irrational. I don’t fear development. I favor good planning. I’ve been very consistent about that. You have been very consistent about misrepresenting my positions. I don’t know why.
            In the past I asked you for examples of my supposed inconsistency, but of course you never provided those. So now it’s time for you to document my “irrational fear of development and change.” Go for it. Put up this time, buddy.

    4. Tia Will

      Mark West

      “This is what I love about the No on Everything crowd; everything is discussed in extremes. Who has said anything about ‘rampant development?’”

      The adjective “rampant” is a matter of subjective evaluation. Of course no one who favors growth would use the adjective “rampant” with its pejorative connotations. They would instead use nice words like “valuable”, “necessary”, “fiscally responsible”, “business friendly”. This does not change the nature of the potential adverse consequences which can and do occur when a community decides to trade in its prime ag land for “more valuable business use”. If money is one’s highest value, then yes, this would be the right way to go. However, many in our community do not share money as our highest value. Once again, I will share my experience with developers who chose not to use the words “rampant growth”.

      Forty years ago, I lived in Anaheim. What that community, like much of Orange County had chosen to do was to listen to the dulcet tones of developers who of course were not discussing “rampant development”. They were doing it. And the result was the conversion of mile after mile of orange orchards and strawberry fields into strip malls, hotels, amusement parks, fast food businesses, convenience stores and cookie cutter housing developments. Again, good if what you value most highly is the money to be made. Not so if that is not your highest priority.

      Now I know that in the short term, we are not going to turn into Anaheim. But in 40 years , I see it as a distinct possibility without the voices of those who have a very different vision for Davis. Now in 40 years I will no longer be living, so what do I care ? I care for my son and those like him who have come back to Davis precisely because of its small size and feel which he prizes above the “more valuable business” pursuits. I would like some remaining ag land and open space for my son and any grandchildren to be able to enjoy and make their own decisions about. The residents of Anaheim 40 years ago took away those options from future generations without it ever becoming apparent to them that “rampant growth” was occurring all around them, one parcel at a time all in the name of the “more valuable business” uses.

  4. Michael Harrington

    Thank God we got Measure J in when I ran for CC in 2000. And knocked down Covell Village 5 years later. And now we should get fair water rates sometime this year.

    As everyone knows, I like higher levels of mitigation that seals off any new development outside the city limits. I need to see the proposals and land maps and mitigation areas to comment further, but anything that jumps Mace to the East has a lot of default negative energy directed to it. I’m just being straight.

    1. Jeff Boone

      Mike – I think your desires to never allow another peripheral development are much too extreme unless you counter it with a desire to allow a lot of redevelopment with high rise buildings. Do you really think it is feasible to lock Davis into a time warp where it never grows and never expands its economy? Please identify any city in the world that maintains that strategy and is worthy of praise.

    2. Jeff Boone

      Mike – I meant to write that I respect your absolutism and clarity on peripheral growth. I disagree with your opinions on this, but I respect it when people are honest and direct. We need more of that in our city-wide discussions.

  5. Jeff Boone

    Don Shor: No, if Davis grows up along 113, and Woodland expands south, the cities will effectively merge if we add 10,000 people.

    Not that I agree with this at all, but I am struggling to understand where your real concern/agenda/fear/objective/opposition is related to peripheral growth/expansion. It is made a bit more confusing because I know you don’t live within the Davis city limits.

    Your initial objection to the Mace-391 property as a business park was that it was high quality farmland and you said we should not develop on high quality farmland (even though most of Davis is already on high quality farmland).

    Now it seems you have shape-shifted to the sprawl concern argument.

    Earlier you have made the point that Davis needs more housing for the planned UCD growth of 6,000 more students in 10 years. So you were advocating for more high-density housing. Figure another 500 new faculty and staff to handle that increase.

    But you are arguing with me about 1.5% per year annual growth over the next 10 years which adds about 10,000 people… or 3500 more than you already agree UCD will add.

    And now, according to you, 10,000 new people means sprawl and you are against it.

    But you had already resigned to the 6,000 more students.

    And this point about corridors connecting – something that I completely agree with Mark West on… that it is so far off in possibility that it is ludicrous to even put the concern on the table – but then what about your farmland concern? If we are preserving that precious farmland in a patchwork quilt around Davis and throughout Yolo County, then why are you so worried about development connecting on Poleline or SR113?

    if you are worried about connecting corridors then you should have been for development of Mace 391 and development of east of Mace in general, because that direction will never connect with West Sacramento because of the causeway,

    I think much of the reason that you get so much vitriol in debate from me is that you shape-shift. You keep making up a new basis for your arguments against growth, but then you claim you are not no-growth. It does not add up.

    The other thing that gets me quite irritated is you and others’ dismissal of the point that we already have a ton of open space, farmland and preserved land in Yolo County. How much is enough? Isn’t quality farmland, quality farmland? The peripheral land has value for other things. Yet farmland removed from peripheral land is not at risk. And we have a lot of it… there are over 1000 square miles of Yolo County (over 600,000 acres) and only about 50 square miles are within city limits. We are not ever going to fill up but a small percentage of that total land. Even if all the cities doubled their footprints urban use would only account for a 10th of the total county land.

    391 acres for a business park that might have helped us retain the UCD World Food Center and you cannot accept it because… of nothing that I can determine to be consistent, rational and well thought out.

    1. Don Shor

      Developing Mace 391 would, as others have pointed out repeatedly over many months, have led to development pressures on the adjoining properties as well as destroying some very high quality farmland. There are poorer soils adjacent to Davis that can be annexed and developed, including sites that don’t lead to development pressure. In the past, you have both denied the existence of the concept of development pressure– and then clearly demonstrated it by stating that you would support development on adjoining sites. As far as you are concerned, we should develop Mace 391 and Mace 200, and you’d probably happily develop Howatt Ranch and everything else all the way to the Causeway. Yet you don’t believe in development pressure.
      Conserving Mace 391 as farmland makes a clear urban limit to the east.
      We need an urban limit to the south. That is immediately, as of today, even more obvious.
      There are sites, as you can see on soil maps, and as I have posted many times before, where there is less farmable land that would be suitable for development; hence the proposal for the site near the hospital.
      We have to accommodate several thousand people via UCD’s growth somehow, so we need to move expeditiously on Nishi, and the university needs to provide more housing. If we are going to add 10,000 people, within the limits about where we can grow that I described earlier, it’s going to happen mostly in north and northwest Davis, and westward on the UC campus. So we need to plan, rather than sprawl. The community needs to consciously decide to add these thousands of people, and consciously decide where and how. Keeping to general principles that conserve soil and habitat and open space, and preserve the community identity to the greatest extent possible.
      I have watched how Vacaville and Woodland have grown. It is developer-driven sprawl. Simple as that. We need to plan so we don’t grow that way.
      I’m going to ask you something I’ve asked before but that you’ve never answered. Where would you NOT have Davis grow?

      1. Don Shor

        Loss of farmland in California, 1984 – 2010: http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dlrp/fmmp/trends/Pages/FastFacts.aspx

        Farm and Grazing lands in California decreased by more than 1.4 million acres between 1984 and 2010.
        The type of farmland with the largest decrease has been Prime Farmland, the best soils for agricultural production. Prime Farmland losses were just under 662,000 acres between 1984 and 2010…
        Urbanization accounts for the vast majority of this loss…

        1. Jeff Boone

          Again Don, is your platform statewide, regional, county or city? Because we are talking about city development here.

          We have also lost a tremendous number of young black men to drug and gang related violence. So should we implement extreme policies in Davis to help with that problem?

          If you lose a nickel in the basement, you won’t find it in the front yard.

          If the neighbor kid misbehaves, it won’t help the problem by beating your own kid.

          If you want to help preserve farmland, then work on it in those areas where it is most quickly disappearing… not pushing for extreme measures in a county and city that ALREADY values and preserves farmland at the highest level in the state… and that contains a city choking to death on decades of underdevelopment and lower than needed economic growth. Continuing to do so is an extremists position. It is pursuing your personal selfish interests at the expense of many others. It is that thing we call greed.

          IMO, of course.

          1. Don Shor

            Continuing to do so is an extremists position. It is pursuing your personal selfish interests at the expense of many others. It is that thing we call greed.

            You are always getting to the point of desperation when you resort to the ‘selfish’ and ‘greed’ labels. It is Orwellian to describe land conservation as selfish and greedy. I don’t describe developers that way, even though they actually make a profit on what you’re proposing. I assume that people act from their beliefs and values.
            There is nothing “extreme” about what I have supported in land use planning strategies. You and Mark West use the term repeatedly. We disagreed about one parcel of land. We probably agree about three others, possibly more. My positions are not extreme. Until I see some evidence from you as to what you favor conserving, and where you would NOT build, it is safe to say that your position is extreme. Please prove me wrong.

          2. Jeff Boone

            Greed comes in all shapes and forms. And it is recognizable specifically by the excess and the pursuit of it at the harm of others. You and others are demonstrating the epitome of greed with your continued pursuits. To hell with those other people… it is more important to get your way.

            How much high grade farmland exists in CA that lies fallow today because of a lack of water to irrigate it?

            What is the REAL unemployment rate in California?

            What is the REAL budget situation in Davis?

            What infrastructure and services might be cut because we cannot afford them from lack of economic development because of Measure J and Measure O and the selfish pursuits of the consortium of no-growth, no-change and no-development people?

            You don’t surf the objective middle ground here Don. You are on the extremist’s side and I think you know it.

            We have three proposals… it will be very interesting to me to see how you respond to them going forward. I support all three. I also support reclaiming Mace 391. Note that it appears the law was broken for how the FFRP grant was acquired. I will be looking into that.

      2. Jeff Boone

        Jesus – this makes absolutely no sense. It is all over the place.

        Develop here, don’t develop there. Grow here, don’t grow there… but then don’t grow at all because we might connect with another city… but then you say you are not anti-growth. And growing east we would not connect with another city. Prevent sprawl. conserve farmland. Don’t grow on the corridors. Prevent development pressure by developing here, but not there. Grow residential to take care of the UCD population, but don’t grow 10,000 people in 10 years.

        I cannot keep up. I think your are stuck in the vortex of your own spin.

        Measure O and Measure J/R are all working Don. We are preserving open space. The citizens will vote to approve or kill each annexation project that comes to the table.

        Where we should grow a business park is where it is most attractive to and useful for the businesses that would want to locate there, and where we have the best chance of getting it approved.

        You make absolutely no sense in your location preferences. Absolutely none. East Davis along the freeway is prime business development land. Yes it is prime farmland too, but there is plenty of that in Yolo County. What there is not enough of is business, revenue, jobs. Davis is already sitting on primary prime farmland. It has happened. It happens. You really need to accept that and get over it.

        You also cannot erase the fact that the main transportation artery for the region is right there… including potential rail access. Maybe it is just bad luck for your desires for east Davis farmland preservation… but again, we are not short of it in Yolo County. But we are short of water to farm all that land in Yolo and throughout CA.

        And in any case, many of the businesses that would locate in the business parks would be ag-based ag-tech and would be using the prime soil.

        I think you are pushing for north and west because you know it is less attractive for business and that it will be killed by the neighbors in that area. I think you just want all economic development to be off the table so Davis does not expand. But you don’t want to just come out and admit it like Mike Harrington.

        We cannot connect with West Sac growing east… don’t you want to admit that? If sprawl and connecting corridors is really your concern, then you should want us to develop in that direction.

        Mace 391 was a valuable piece of land with respect to its potential to improve the lives of many people. And yes it was made more valuable because it is adjacent to Mace 200 and other possible parcels. Most research parks are a contiguous 500 acres or more.

        Think about the human condition for a moment. People in the region that cannot find good enough jobs would have better opportunity. Revenue would flow to the city to protect services and programs.

        But the CC pissed it away and you supported it for what reasons exactly? Mayor Joe at least got his quotes in all the land preservation news letters and helped his campaign. What did you get? Apparently you and Mayor Joe value hording farmland more than you do people. Apparently you and Mayor Joe value hording farmland more than you do the financial health of the city. Apparently, even though UCD developed its world class reputation as the #1 ag and food research school in the world, you and Mayor Joe value hording farmland more than you do cementing the rewards of that reputation in the city that hosted it for 100 years.

        I’m sorry but I really don’t get where you are coming from on this topic.

        1. Don Shor

          Jesus – this makes absolutely no sense. It is all over the place.
          Develop here, don’t develop there. Grow here, don’t grow there…

          Yes, Jeff, that’s usually how zoning and planning and General Plans and stuff work.

          but then don’t grow at all because we might connect with another city…

          Gee, I never said that. I said plan carefully. I explained the development pressures we’re facing from Woodland. Our housing and growth issues do not exist in a bubble. Don’t misrepresent my positions.

          but then you say you are not anti-growth.

          I’m not. Avoid building on prime farmland.

          And growing east we would not connect with another city. Prevent sprawl. conserve farmland. Don’t grow on the corridors. Prevent development pressure by developing here, but not there. Grow residential to take care of the UCD population, but don’t grow 10,000 people in 10 years.

          I didn’t say don’t grow on the corridors. I said it is where growth is most likely to occur, so we need to plan carefully. Open space buffers are part of planning carefully.
          The problem seems to be that you cannot fathom the idea of land use planning. And since you have never opposed a development project of any kind, so far as I can recall, and you have repeatedly denigrated farming and conservation, you don’t support land use planning. You support development. Period.

          Where we should grow a business park is where it is most attractive to and useful for the businesses that would want to locate there, and where we have the best chance of getting it approved.

          Yep. Mace 200 and the Northwest Quadrant, and Nishi, will do nicely in those regards.

          You make absolutely no sense in your location preferences. Absolutely none.

          Only to someone who doesn’t value conserving land for farming, habitat, and open space, and always supports development.

          East Davis along the freeway is prime business development land.

          Yes. So Mace 200 will do nicely, now that development pressure has been removed by the conservation easement on Mace 391.

          Davis is already sitting on primary prime farmland. It has happened. It happens. You really need to accept that and get over it.

          You really need to understand that the city’s General Plan and the county’s General Plan support the goal of conserving prime farmland. Change those.

          You also cannot erase the fact that the main transportation artery for the region is right there… including potential rail access. Maybe it is just bad luck for your desires for east Davis farmland preservation…

          I am happy with the compromise that has conserved Mace 391 but will allow development of Mace 200. Evidently compromise is not in your lexicon.

          But we are short of water to farm all that land in Yolo and throughout CA.

          That statement is completely false.

          And in any case, many of the businesses that would locate in the business parks would be ag-based ag-tech and would be using the prime soil.

          Excellent. Then Mace 200 should have no trouble filling up.

          I think you are pushing for north and west because you know it is less attractive for business and that it will be killed by the neighbors in that area. I think you just want all economic development to be off the table so Davis does not expand. But you don’t want to just come out and admit it like Mike Harrington.

          I think, like Mark West, you are resorting to stupid and unfounded assumptions and casting unnecessary aspersions on my motives.

          We cannot connect with West Sac growing east… don’t you want to admit that?

          Um, I have never suggested that there was any likelihood of that. The point of our urban limit line in east Davis is to conserve prime farmland. I think I’ve mentioned that before.

          Think about the human condition for a moment. People in the region that cannot find good enough jobs would have better opportunity. Revenue would flow to the city to protect services and programs.

          I do not oppose economic development.

          But the CC pissed it away and you supported it for what reasons exactly? Mayor Joe at least got his quotes in all the land preservation news letters and helped his campaign. What did you get? Apparently you and Mayor Joe value hording farmland more than you do people. Apparently you and Mayor Joe value hording farmland more than you do the financial health of the city. Apparently, even though UCD developed its world class reputation as the #1 ag and food research school in the world, you and Mayor Joe value hording farmland more than you do cementing the rewards of that reputation in the city that hosted it for 100 years.

          You need to learn how to spell hoarding.

          I’m sorry but I really don’t get where you are coming from on this topic.

          We have different values.

      1. Jim Frame

        Anyone who doesn’t think that urban sprawl is a problem in Yolo County need only take a look at the Southport area of West Sacramento. It comprises about 2500 acres of land slated for development, and that’s just the area west of Jefferson Boulevard. The parts that have already been built are vast uninspired tracts of car-centric cookie-cutter houses and malls. Due to developer-driven planning, much of it hit the market at once, right about the time the banks tanked the national economy. Values plummeted 40% or so, and West Sac’s flood control efforts could do nothing to keep those buyers from going financially underwater.

        Measure J/R will help Davis avoid that, but with enough political money voters can be hoodwinked into approving things they’ll later regret. Maintaining Davis’ slow-growth policy requires vigilance, which means looking hard at every development proposal to ensure that it meets the needs of the citizens, not just those of the developer.

        1. Frankly

          You sound like George Bush making the case for going into Iraq to prevent us from being damaged from WMDs.

          Some people just cannot help themselves worrying and fretting about things so far removed from probability. That’s fine until they start trying to influence or make policy decisions on their twitches instead of recognizing the need for delegation to cooler and more rational heads.

          By the way, to the outside world Davis looks like a town full of clowns for letting something like the World Food Center slip away. Maybe we should demand payment for the entertainment value to help fund our city.

          1. Jim Frame

            “Rational heads” are what almost got us a 4-lane Richards Boulevard undercrossing and Covell Village. Fortunately, enough of us twitched the policy decisions in a different direction, and will continue to be vigilant in that regard.

          2. Tia Will

            And why exactly should we care about how we “look to the outside world” when parts of the outside world have been busy creating the sprawl that many of us wish to avoid ?

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