Council To Hear Proposed Changes to Measure R

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On the long range calendar, the Davis City Council by a 4-1 vote agreed to agendize a discussion of Measure R. At last night’s meeting, Dan Ramos was representing the Ramco company and other interests in a 238-acre proposed business park that he once again emphasized will not contain any proposed housing.

At the meeting last night, Mr. Ramos read from a June 17 letter to Interim City Manager Gene Rogers. Mr. Ramos read, “One issue which has emerged as we have proceeded is how to comply with Measure R which, as you know, currently requires a vote of approval by the electorate following City Council approval for a project such as the one we are contemplating.”

He added, “We certainly support Measure R.” He added, “I want to emphasize that.”

Mr. Ramos continued, “However, we would like the mandated vote to occur earlier in the process. Why? Because it waits until too late in the process for us, the landowner, to ascertain whether the community supports our proposal.”

He added, “The same is true for local innovation companies which are currently seeking expansion opportunities.”

To this end, he stated, “We would like to request that the City Council place on the November 2014 ballot a slight modification to Measure R which would allow the mandated vote to occur prior to City Council action as opposed to after that action. In addition, we would further request that the modification measure actually act as a means of allowing the electorate to vote on our proposal.”

The letter continued, “These actions together will facilitate citizen input while allowing us to learn early in the process whether there is communitywide support for our proposal. They will also help assure the timely and efficient review of the proposed project.”

While Councilmember Brett Lee objected, the other four councilmembers agreed to place the item on for discussion.

During public comment, Tyler Schilling of Schilling Robotics spoke as to the urgency of the issue.

“I am very interested, based on the rapid growth of our business, in seeing a Measure R vote as early as practical because of the time pressure our business happens to be under,” Mr. Schilling stated. “I’ve always considered myself a futurist, but unfortunately I’m only able to see 15 to 30 minutes into the future and didn’t anticipate our business growing as rapidly as it has.”

He continued, “We’re going to need a sizable parcel to build a new facility and I would dearly love to be able to do it here in Davis.”

Mr. Ramos is proposing the following ballot question: “Shall Ordinance no. 2530, commonly known as Measure R, be amended, as set forth in Ordinance no. _ , to allow for voter approval for a innovation, research and business park not to exceed 230 acres in size and to be located east of Mace Blvd and north of Interstate 80, and which involves no residential development, and shall this measure be deemed to constitute that vote?”

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The Mace Innovation Center, the developers write in their RFEI [Request for Expressions of Interest] proposal, “is intended to be an area where leading-edge anchor institutions and local to international companies cluster and connect with start-ups, businesses incu­bators, and accelerators as well as the University of California at Davis. It will incorporate sustainable design features including LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] building standards and will be walkable, bike and transit-accessible, and technically-wired. The Park will offer a mix of building types and uses including office, light man­ufacturing, research and development, flex space and support retail. It will also include support uses such as recreation facilities and may include uses such as lodging and a conference center.”

They add, “It is intended that a ‘Business Park’ be functionally and aesthetically integrated into the community and not provide commercial uses that are encouraged in the downtown and neighborhood centers.”

“Phasing the project over time will allow for a strong initial first phase that may be at a lower FAR [floor area ratio], but then provide higher density in later phases to create the desired FAR,” they write. “In later phases the plan will look to create opportunities to densify existing built areas, including utilizing parking structures to free up land for additional development.”

“The Project is to deliver office/corporate spaces that are highly flexible and technologically advanced. They will include new collaborative spaces/flex spaces/dry and wet labs,” the Mace developers note. “There will be space developed for Research/Incubators start-ups who may be subsidiaries of larger and more established companies in Davis, Sacramento, or even the Bay Area. Programs envisioned in the Project are scientific, technical and research focused. UC Davis spin-off research/internships are potential and targeted programs.”

They continue, “The site, given its size and location, is suitable for research programs for green technology and sustainable agricultural research. The Project intends to include potential hotel/conference center, associated retail, and other amenities for employees and visitors to the site.”

The council will take up the issue of the Measure R revision on July 1 with newly-elected Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk seated in place of outgoing Mayor Joe Krovoza.

—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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34 Comments

  1. Good Government

    Would this be a one-time change to the Measure R “order of operations”? Or a permanent change? Personally, I kind of like the idea of moving the voters ahead in the process and giving us “first right of refusal”.

  2. Tia Will

    I have a concern about making this change. To be clear, I am seeking clarification, not stating opposition.
    We already hear repeatedly that voters get information “at the last minute” or are not brought into the process soon enough. I see this change as a two edged sword.
    Bringing the voters in early sounds like a good idea. But who is going to be providing the information on which the voters are making their decision. My guess is that the information would be coming from the developers who will be likely to present their proposal in glowing terms much as the Cannery project did with pretty drawings of green walkways implying a degree of innovation, connectivity, environmentally sound planning and environmentally friendly features that would have been considered cutting edge when Village Homes was being planned but clearly do not meet those standards today as Joe Krovoza and Brett Lee pointed out in council comments.

    1. DavisBurns

      I am glad to know I’m not alone in thinking the cannery falls far short of a development for the 21 century. I learned the same architectural firm that designed Cesar Chavez Plaza is designing the low income housing at the cannery. I had a daughter living at Cesar Chavez who was recovering from a major illness. I visited her every day for six months and that was one of the worst apartments I have ever been in. And the management and maintenance is sub-par. There is nothing to be found on the web about the design except how wonderful it is but it has major design flaws for a development in this climate yet the same folks are going to give us another 62 units. Sorry off topic.

      I think putting a business park in this location makes more sense than the other properties that are being proposed. At the very least there is freeway access and it does not have the egress problems of the Nishi property. It makes sense to vote early for approval but those developers are sly dogs. Take their first born children hostage to ensure they are held accountable.

      1. Dave Hart

        I share your concerns about the specifics, not the general idea. However, regarding the step of taking their firstborn as hostages, what do we do with the kids when they stab us in the back, which I am sure they will even under those circumstances?

  3. davisite4

    This proposal makes no sense as it stands.

    First, it’s trying to do two very different things in one: amend Measure R, and then also, approve a business park at Mace, presumably including the city-owned 30 acres that was set aside for the purpose of a community farm (I assume that is why it says 230 acres rather than 200).

    Second, the proposal seems to be trying to amend Measure R in a very specific way, to benefit only this project. What’s the justification for that?

    The whole thing is confusing and thus seems designed to be deceptive.

    1. David Greenwald

      “Second, the proposal seems to be trying to amend Measure R in a very specific way, to benefit only this project. What’s the justification for that?”

      I think it would impact all of the proposed Measure R business parks.

      1. davisite4

        That’s not how it reads to me. It’s written very specifically:

        “to allow for voter approval for a innovation, research and business park not to exceed 230 acres in size and to be located east of Mace Blvd and north of Interstate 80”

        And if that much is unclear, that’s reason in itself to think this measure is a bad idea.

  4. Ryan Kelly

    When did the City set aside land for a community farm?

    I support voting earlier. This is not a residential development where there are issues of access, greenbelts, buffers, etc. It is a commercial development with squarish buildings and parking lots right off of the highway. Not difficult to understand.

  5. davisite4

    When did the City set aside land for a community farm?

    The city purchased Leland Ranch with Measure O funds and other funds, with the intent of selling the land with an easement on it. The Open Space and Habitat Commission recommended that 30 acres of that land (the piece on the map with the hash marks that say “City of Davis”) not be sold so that a community farm could be put on it. So, when the Leland Ranch property was sold, that 30 acres was not part of it.

  6. Barbara King

    Does anyone have a concise summary of the Mace Ranch saga, in which Ramco played the county against the city and then asked for and got–one at a time–change after change to the development agreement? The current council should be aware of this history.

  7. noname

    This is a bad, bad idea. So a developer can put forward a “concept” that looks beautiful to voters — on paper. And then once voters say OK, the developer and the council can cook up whatever deal they want? “Oh, an extra 600 houses? What’s just a minor change.”

    Beware developers proposing Measure R changes that limit voters’ voices.

  8. noname

    Anybody know when the council will be considering this? The deadline to get something on the November ballot is fast approaching. The council needs to have a thorough discussion about this proposal with the public, the same public that is now enjoying summer vacation and the upcoming holiday weekend. This better not be a jam job.

    Really, Robb Davis?

  9. Barbara King

    From Don’s link above.

    “Chapter Six: Mace Ranch: A Disturbing Challenge

    Davis was unprepared in 1986 for a high-stakes political showdown over development along its borders, and its slow-growth policies were largely to blame. The crisis came swiftly, without much warning, demonstrating that the growth-control policies were more fragile and more susceptible to damage from political forces beyond the city’s borders than officials had believed. Davis city suddenly found itself tormented by a recurring nightmare, where new houses, shopping centers, and industrial projects kept popping up just outside of the city’s borders, just beyond the city’s control. Looking back, Dave Rosenberg, mayor from 1986-88 and again in 1994-95, acknowledged the crisis caught Davis by surprise. “I think it’s fair to say that,” he said. “Mace Ranch changed everything.”

    In the early 1980s, motorists headed north on Mace Boulevard were greeted by a pastoral panorama as they mounted the overpass across Interstate 80. Off to the left, was an expanse of more than 600 acres of farmland located within the Mace Curve, the stretch of road where Mace bends to the west and eventually becomes Covell Boulevard. The site’s prime soils were particularly suitable for row crops such as tomatoes and sugar beets, but could sustain other crops such as walnuts and alfalfa. Still, the land seemed a likely candidate for development: housing lay adjacent to part of its western boundary, the freeway ran just to the south, and the Mace Curve appeared to be a natural boundary for urban development on the east. City officials could accept that the land might be developed someday, but didn’t expect that day to come anytime soon.

    Developer Frank Ramos of West Sacramento, though, had other ideas for about 530 acres owned by him and his partners in Mace Ranch Investors. The partnership purchased the land around 1981 and soon afterward approached the city informally about their plans. According to Ramos, he got no encouragement from City Manager Howard Reese and Planning Director Fred Howell. Late in 1984, the partnership filed plans with the city for a 94-acre project called the Davis Technology Center. Proposed for land located north of Second Street just east of the city limits, it was to feature an industrial park, as well as land for research and development firms. At about the same time, Ramos unveiled a master plan for the entire site, without submitting plans for the remaining 434 acres. The master plan included a 198-acre research-and-development business park and set aside 67 acres for an industrial park. Houses would be built on 146 acres, a conference and cultural center on 37 acres and a hotel on 28 acres. An energy cooperative that would use solar energy to generate electricity would need another 11 acres, a winery would take up 12 acres and public streets would cover 37 acres.

    The master plan created a major dilemma for the city, but also created a political backlash against Ramos. The city’s dilemma sprang largely from a decision to maintain a small sphere of influence, a decision dictated by its growth-control policies. In California, a sphere of influence generally delineates which land outside a city’s borders it anticipates needing for development during the following 20 years. Davis kept its sphere of influence very small, because it intended to grow slowly. Placing more land into the sphere of influence would have allowed Davis to exert more control over the land, but also would have created an expectation that it would be developed. Ramos filed the 94-acre project because that land was within the city’s sphere of influence. The remaining 434 acres weren’t, and Davis was abuzz with rumors that Ramos might ask Yolo County officials to approve development there over any city objections. Ramos could argue any proposal for the 434-acre site should go to the county, because city officials gave up their chance to take control of the site when they declined to put it in the sphere of influence. City officials loathed the idea, because county approval of the project would imperil city growth-control policies. Moreover, the county would get tax revenue that normally would go to the city, but Davis likely would have to cope with traffic and other problems created by the project.

    Normally, Davis officials wouldn’t have worried much about the county’s intentions. County planning policies clearly said urban development proposed for land located within the Davis urban area, but outside of the city limits area should be annexed to the city. “Yolo County shall require urban uses to be placed within city limits in the urban areas of Davis, Woodland and Winters, and within the urban service areas of all unincorporated urban areas,” said one of those policies. [1] Moreover, the county Board of Supervisors generally had been faithful to that principle since adopting it in the mid-1960s after it allowed El Macero to be built outside the city limits and Davis responded by annexing huge tracts of farmland where South Davis stands today.

    Circumstances had changed by the time the crisis began to unfold, however. The county was in the midst of an on-going fiscal crisis and was looking for ways to increase its revenue. To some county supervisors, Davis was partly to blame for the county’s predicament, because the county’s tax revenues would grow more rapidly if the city allowed more development. On the horizon was a potential answer to their prayers: a major development that could be built on unincorporated land, so the county would not have to share new tax revenues with a city. At the time, experts often clashed over whether new development actually was a boon to local governments, once the cost of expanding services was weighed against expected increases in tax revenue. Residential development was particularly iffy, but experts tended to agree that a project heavy with industrial or commercial land could be advantageous.”

    1. Mark West

      Sounds to me like we would been in a much better fiscal position now if we had agreed to the Ramos master plan for the property up front. More than half of the 500+ acres were destined for commercial development generating a continuous stream of income to the city. What we got instead was a bunch more McMansions on postage stamp lots. Way to go Davis!

      1. Barbara King

        Mark: Ramco applied for many changes to the Mace Ranch plan, one at a time, over the years. Getting those changes is a big part of why Mace Ranch is what it is now.

  10. Davis Progressive

    this is just not a good idea. it will hurt the chances of the project of passing by making it look like a walk around, even a partial one, of measure r

  11. Frankly

    This is a great idea. It puts the decision power in the hands of the objective voter and away from those that have money to stir up unfounded fears and suspicions so that they can use to prevent any and all growth and change.

    This is exactly what participatory community vetting and decision-making should be. Measure R is a joke otherwise because it is a blocking tool used by the enemies of change and progress.

    There is a clause to be added for “material adverse change”. If the population votes yes, and the project changes materially and adversely from how it was defined, then the vote becomes null and void and it would require another vote.

    Hence it would be important to ensure that the project is well defined in the first vote.

    And to get to that point the developer would have to engage the community to make it so.

    1. Don Shor

      I think this actually puts some risk on the developer, since it makes it easy for opponents to argue “we don’t know what we’re voting on! We don’t have the development agreement!” So the developer really has to make the case and have much more detail out to the public in advance of the vote. For once, the developer would have to sell the project to the voters, not just to a council majority.
      I think this is an interesting proposal because it is specific to this (or these) developments. So, we can see how well it works. Your clause would make it even tighter.

    1. Frankly

      Let’s just say that the developer would need to ensure a robust definition if he wants to encourage the more skeptical voters to come on board.

      But this cuts both ways, because the city has to do a good job pulling citizen participation in communicating the requirements for the project.

      Here is what I see in this town. Primarily professional critics rather than people that would participate upfront to help design a project or solution. That creates a big problem for developers, the CC and progress in general as people come out of the woodwork after the fact and work to derail the project by throwing out criticism after criticism.

      Again, this change will require more upfront work by the city to collect input.

      But ultimately that is the way ALL complex development projects should be handled.

      Cooperative planning and designing by the key stakeholders, and then a vote by all the stakeholders to go forward or not. Including the developer… who might back out after all the Davis requirements are provided.

    2. noname

      Good point, B King. I imagine it would ultimately come down to lawyers in a courtroom. What is material and adverse to you and me is probably not material and adverse to Mr. Ramos and others. Better to give voters the final say in approving a project to avoid a bait-and-switch. Let the developer pay the costs of putting together a good, detailed project and selling it to the public.

  12. Mr. Toad

    So Ramos’ response to the solicitation for proposals is that they don’t really want to do a bunch of work and spend a bunch of money coming up with an actual design unless they know for sure its going to go forward by having the vote at the beginning of the process. Who can blame them? As I said yesterday they aren’t going to waste their time with a town where obstruction is the mainstay of local politics. I have an idea why don’t we put the innovation park in Woodland where the people who work there are going to live since there isn’t any housing for all these new workers in the plan for the Ramos property. Then they won’t need to drive so far to work. As for us we can stay dumb and happy as our roads, schools and water systems continue to decline.

  13. Good Government

    I’m sure if the University of California were today considering Davis for the site of a new campus, some in our community would fight it tooth and nail. It will bring more people! More traffic! It’s growth inducing!

  14. Rob White

    My comments here should not be construed in anyway to be support or lack of support for the Ramos/Oates/Bruner proposal from the City Council meeting last night (June 24th). Here is the current process (with potential to change) that City staff will be bringing to the City Council:

    On July 1, staff will present to Council the submittals from the Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for an Innovation Center. The Vanguard has posted each of the three submittals in previous articles. This presentation will be an overview of the submittals, some brief assessment of consistency with the RFEI, and how each submittal answered the questions and described the desirable attributes of the RFEI. Staff will then extrapolate the potential economic outcomes from the RFEI submittals. Each of the three proponents will be given 5 minutes to discuss their submittal and then City Council can ask questions of the staff or proponents. Council will also give the community a chance to address the topic during a public comment during the item. Council will then deliberate the submittals and discuss next steps.

    After Council is done with that item, Council will take up a new item on the Ramos/Oates/Brunner proposal (as directed at the June 24th Council meeting). Staff will then have a very brief opening presentation of a few graphics for context and an outline of potential options. Then the Council will discuss the topic, open up a public comment period, and then deliberate potential actions. They may decide to take no action or discuss more on July 2nd.

    If they decide to discuss more on July 2nd (a continuation of the July 1st meeting), they may or may not direct staff on next steps.

    Should the Council decide to move forward on preparing a ballot measure for November, staff would be directed to do so (either on the July 1 or July 2 meeting) and then staff would agendize for the July 15th (tentative) meeting.

    That is the best I can give you for now as this is an evolving scenario. Thank you all for the patience as Council and staff work to figure out what process to use for a Council discussion (and any potential direction) on this proposal.

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