Developers Pull Back on November Advisory Vote

Proposed Location for Mace Innovation Park
Proposed Location for Mace Innovation Park

It appears there will not be a November advisory vote after all, as the group heading up the Mace Ranch Innovation Center led by Dan Ramos sent a letter on Wednesday to the city, pulling back.

The letter indicates that the proposed advisory measure generated “a great deal of discussion by the Council” and that they have “carefully rethought our request and have concluded not to proceed with an advisory measure at this time.”

The letter did not shut the door on a future effort to “seek an advisory measure early next year when the project is further defined” and also indicated that Tyler Schilling of Schilling Robotics “participated in this decision and concurs with it.”

In a phone conversation with Dan Ramos, the developer emphasized that this still remains a very tight schedule and they will be aggressively moving forward.

In the letter they added, “Critical to our decision to withdraw our advisory measure request, at least for now, is a determination to devote our full time and energy to processing an official application for our proposal. Our intent is to move forward as expeditiously as reasonable with that application, with the anticipation that we will be ready, pending Council approval, for a Measure R vote in November 2015.”

Sources familiar with the city situation told the Vanguard on Wednesday that city staff worked hard with the development team to come up with a more realistic timeline that will enable the public outreach and development of the project to proceed in a timely but thorough matter.

Councilmember Rochelle Swanson has been the strongest advocate for pushing the process forward.  She told the Vanguard early Thursday morning, “I am appreciative of the level of engagement on the innovation centers and am optimistic we will see some good applications and an engaged outreach. The activity and responsiveness of Ramco over the last few iterations on an advisory measure, including the decision to rescind, bode well for applications and the process moving forward.”

She added, “I am glad the measure R process will move forward. While it is imperative any application have rigorous outreach it is equally imperative Davis citizens proactively engage — early and often. Waiting until the eleventh hour produces poor results and hampers a “good faith” process. I am eager to see a “Davis DNA” innovation center that does the community proud and provides a sustained and reliable revenue source to bolster our quality of life.”

John Hodgson and the Northwest Quadrant Team did not return a request for a comment. However, last week they laid out their position quite clearly when Mr. Hodgson told Council, “We question the advisory vote, but if there’s going to be one, we’d like to be included and we appreciate Dan’s (Ramos) offer.”

“These things are all happening with 20 minutes’ notice to the other participants,” he told council. “These things are multimillion if not billion dollar decisions. It would be nice to have a process that is a little bit more orderly in following RFEI. Having said that, this is the real world and we’ll deal with it.”

He added, “We will, as aggressively as possible, work on getting a project through. We filed an application with the city today.”

George Phillips, representing the Davis Ranch project, told the council, “We as one of the applicants know that we have quite a bit of work to do in a compressed time period and we are committed to participating in whichever the council defines for the three proponents to follow.” However, he added, “We think advisory measures provide potential benefits and also potential risk.”

He was uncertain about whether the risks outweigh the benefits, “particularly if there’s not a sufficient amount of detail about these proposals available to the public about which they can make their decisions on a public vote. If there is to be an advisory measure we would probably urge that there’s more time allowed for those proposals to take shape.”

“If one proponent is allowed to have an advisory measure, we definitely want to be in that mix and participate,” he said.

At last week’s meeting, several council members supported the advisory vote as a means to show support in particular for Schilling Robotics remaining in Davis, but they questioned the process.

Mayor Dan Wolk said, while he has little doubt that the council and community would support peripheral economic development, he was concerned about this process.

“Despite this RFEI process,” he said, which he said was great and produced three excellent projects, “we have the council now getting backed into a corner because it’s got this advisory vote pressure coming.”

Councilmember Brett Lee said “I think this is a bad public policy just to put something relatively unvetted on the November ballot.” He added, “We need to have some sort of vetting process before we just put something out to the voters, we should have confidence that it’s something good for the city of Davis. As it stands now, the wording is just so vague and open. It will be up to the developer in the fall to add specificity, but we don’t really have control over that.”

Rochelle Swanson said, “For me it’s all about retaining our business partner here.” She would add, “We’re going to sit here and decry process. This time it’s a process issue and we’re being told that the timing is bad. We have people who are willing to take the risk. Am I worried about an advisory vote? We don’t know how it’s going to go, but I think it’s the job of council, to set the starting line, the starting gate has to be the same. We have R and everyone needs to do that.”

“Am I thrilled with the process? No,” she said, but her bottom line is saving jobs.

Councilmember Lucas Frerichs indicated that he is not sure he would support the motion. “One thing that’s really quite frustrating… is this issue of being backed into a corner and the sense of urgency on this,” he said. “The RFEI process is working really well, it has been an excellent process so far… Three potential projects have come forward.”

Brett Lee noted, “It’s interesting that two of the respondents are not interested in having an advisory measure on their proposal, unless one goes, then me too.” He added, “To me that tells me that when all of the project details are spelled in their proposal then they will have strong community support and going to the public with a more general hey would you like to develop in the northwest area of Davis near the hospital, they feel like their proposal will be much stronger when all the details are filled in.”

Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis made the point that typically a city council would do an advisory vote when they need advice, and “we’re not looking for advice. We don’t need any advice. We know what we want to do, we want to move forward.”

He spoke toward the developers, “I’m not sure you’re going to get what you want.” He added, “I don’t know what you do with a 51-49 either way.” He asked them to consider another route. He suggested a citizens’ initiative as a way to get the certainty that you want, “You won’t get this through this process.”

In the end, Robb Davis said he voted for this motion for one reason, that he questions the wisdom of this approach but he wants to keep Schilling Robotics here. That was really the message that four and possibly all five councilmembers sent.

Dan Ramos emphasized to the Vanguard that, while they are pulling back from a November conclusion, this remains a very tight timeline in which to get a project approved to meet the needs of Tyler Schilling in addition to the rest of the community.

He wrote, “We remain committed, as indicated to you last week, to having a full and complete application filed in early September, 2014, at which time we would like processing to begin in earnest.”

He continued, “We thus are requesting that by September 1, 2014 the City have selected an EIR consultant and otherwise have put in place the necessary resources for us to move forward immediately following the filing of our application.”

Mr. Ramos added, “Although not his preferred course, Tyler Schilling supports this course of action since he believes that the our expeditiously moving forward on an application presents his best opportunity for securing the expansion space which he needs – in Davis – on a timely basis.”

“The Council should also be aware that, prior to submitting an application in September, our team intends, in July and August, to hold public workshops to receive community input on our proposal,” Mr. Ramos added. He would conclude: “That input will then be utilized to help shape our application. Our objective through these public workshops, and the community input process which will follow, is to craft a project which meets the desires of the citizenry while meeting our objective – which we know the Council shares – of creating a first class Twenty-first Century Innovation Park.”

—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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82 Comments

  1. Mr. Toad

    Davis and Schilling lose another year to process. As Sim Van Der Ryn, the state architect during Jerry Brown’s first term once said “The worst thing you can do is keep making no changes.”

    1. David Greenwald

      I don’t think that’s an accurate response Mr. Toad. They may proceed directly to a Measure R vote in the spring, they may do an advisory in the spring in which they would be four months behind where they were.

  2. Mr. Toad

    Davis and Schilling lose another year to process. As Sim Van Der Ryn, the state architect during Jerry Brown’s first term once said “The worst thing you can do is keep making no changes.”

    1. David Greenwald

      I don’t think that’s an accurate response Mr. Toad. They may proceed directly to a Measure R vote in the spring, they may do an advisory in the spring in which they would be four months behind where they were.

  3. Tia Will

    I am in agreement with David on this. I think that a measure R vote a few months down the road on proposals that have been well defined will be much more valuable than an advisory vote on vaguely sketched proposals. Taking more time to provide more detail on your plan is not the same thing as to “keep making no changes” and has the potential for convincing more people of the merits of your proposal.

  4. Tia Will

    I am in agreement with David on this. I think that a measure R vote a few months down the road on proposals that have been well defined will be much more valuable than an advisory vote on vaguely sketched proposals. Taking more time to provide more detail on your plan is not the same thing as to “keep making no changes” and has the potential for convincing more people of the merits of your proposal.

  5. Mr. Toad

    Unlikely to happen by spring. Of course if it wasn’t for measure R Ramos would be much farther ahead on developing his proposal and wouldn’t have dragged his feet since 391 went down. So by the time its over if it passes we will have lost 2 years to measure R.

    1. Davis Progressive

      not sure how you’re calculating time. look at the cannery park proposal and how long it took with no measure r process. you have to do things right with or without measure r.

    2. Tia Will

      “So by the time its over if it passes we will have lost 2 years to measure R.”

      And possibly have a much better project because of it.
      I see measure R as one means of assuring that when a developer is designing their project, they will by necessity have to consider the goals and preferences of the citizens of the city as well as his and his clients bottom line.

  6. Mr. Toad

    Unlikely to happen by spring. Of course if it wasn’t for measure R Ramos would be much farther ahead on developing his proposal and wouldn’t have dragged his feet since 391 went down. So by the time its over if it passes we will have lost 2 years to measure R.

    1. Davis Progressive

      not sure how you’re calculating time. look at the cannery park proposal and how long it took with no measure r process. you have to do things right with or without measure r.

    2. Tia Will

      “So by the time its over if it passes we will have lost 2 years to measure R.”

      And possibly have a much better project because of it.
      I see measure R as one means of assuring that when a developer is designing their project, they will by necessity have to consider the goals and preferences of the citizens of the city as well as his and his clients bottom line.

    1. Barack Palin

      Ah yes, but does it expire and just go away? It already expired once before but was easily renewed. Even if you think it might not be renewed, that’s still 6 years away.

      1. Mr. Toad

        It most likely will be renewed unfortunately. That is why I want to start now trying to rally the opposition. Everyone seems to think these deals will get done. I hope they are correct but these same people are telling others to take extra financial risks then wonder why its so hard to get projects proposed. So far J/R have stopped all annexation into the city since inception. If that continues the backlash could be enough to mount an actual opposition campaign. Measure R is like prop 13, policy with serious unintended consequences that everyone is afraid to challenge. Even I do it anonymously.

          1. Davis Progressive

            probably the same thing that happens if i do – i get talked to by my bosses and told to not post any more.

          2. South of Davis

            Tia wrote:

            > What is it that your are afraid will happen if you post
            > under your real name ?

            I don’t want to speak for Toad, but it is scary whey you disagree with “most” of the people in town on issues.

            Just like I would not want to post under my own name on a Texas blog about banning guns at Target or letting gays get married I would not want to post anything on a Davis blog about reducing the UC administrator pay or letting someone build eight homes in the middle of a housing development with a couple hundred similar homes…

          3. South of Davis

            I’m sure that DPs boss does not want to read a Sacramento Bee article like this one with their name in it:

            “A California Department of Education employee posted approximately 4,900 comments on The Sacramento Bee’s website between December 2010 and December 2011, according to a state report released this morning that details several lapses, abuses and illegal acts by state workers and agencies. Investigators found that the education employee posted comments on sacbee.com 195 days of the 208 days he was at work, averaging about 25 comments per day. On his most active day he wrote 70 comments during business hours.”

            Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/the_state_worker/2012/12/state-employee-posts-nearly-5000-online-comments-while-at-work.html#storylink=cpy

    1. Barack Palin

      Ah yes, but does it expire and just go away? It already expired once before but was easily renewed. Even if you think it might not be renewed, that’s still 6 years away.

      1. Mr. Toad

        It most likely will be renewed unfortunately. That is why I want to start now trying to rally the opposition. Everyone seems to think these deals will get done. I hope they are correct but these same people are telling others to take extra financial risks then wonder why its so hard to get projects proposed. So far J/R have stopped all annexation into the city since inception. If that continues the backlash could be enough to mount an actual opposition campaign. Measure R is like prop 13, policy with serious unintended consequences that everyone is afraid to challenge. Even I do it anonymously.

          1. Davis Progressive

            probably the same thing that happens if i do – i get talked to by my bosses and told to not post any more.

          2. South of Davis

            Tia wrote:

            > What is it that your are afraid will happen if you post
            > under your real name ?

            I don’t want to speak for Toad, but it is scary whey you disagree with “most” of the people in town on issues.

            Just like I would not want to post under my own name on a Texas blog about banning guns at Target or letting gays get married I would not want to post anything on a Davis blog about reducing the UC administrator pay or letting someone build eight homes in the middle of a housing development with a couple hundred similar homes…

          3. South of Davis

            I’m sure that DPs boss does not want to read a Sacramento Bee article like this one with their name in it:

            “A California Department of Education employee posted approximately 4,900 comments on The Sacramento Bee’s website between December 2010 and December 2011, according to a state report released this morning that details several lapses, abuses and illegal acts by state workers and agencies. Investigators found that the education employee posted comments on sacbee.com 195 days of the 208 days he was at work, averaging about 25 comments per day. On his most active day he wrote 70 comments during business hours.”

            Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/the_state_worker/2012/12/state-employee-posts-nearly-5000-online-comments-while-at-work.html#storylink=cpy

  7. Mr. Toad

    Well i guess we are going to suffer through the next 6 years. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point out why its bad policy and costly too. Its not bad policy for everyone just the have nots who need work and homes. For the haves its great policy. It keeps their property values high. Of course it does so at the expense of others.

    1. Davis Progressive

      think this is a fair point about not accepting the status quo. however, i really don’t think most people are motivated by the property values argument, because most people who live in davis are not looking to cash out their homes.

    2. Tia Will

      Mr. Toad

      I would have favored measure R had I understood its implications when I had just enough money to share a very inexpensive apartment here with other students. At least some of us treasure environment over more money regardless of the amount of money that we do or don’t have. DP is also correct in the motivation of some.
      I have no intention of “cashing out’ and yet I still favor slow growth for the environment and lifestyle, not the money.

  8. Mr. Toad

    Well i guess we are going to suffer through the next 6 years. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point out why its bad policy and costly too. Its not bad policy for everyone just the have nots who need work and homes. For the haves its great policy. It keeps their property values high. Of course it does so at the expense of others.

    1. Davis Progressive

      think this is a fair point about not accepting the status quo. however, i really don’t think most people are motivated by the property values argument, because most people who live in davis are not looking to cash out their homes.

    2. Tia Will

      Mr. Toad

      I would have favored measure R had I understood its implications when I had just enough money to share a very inexpensive apartment here with other students. At least some of us treasure environment over more money regardless of the amount of money that we do or don’t have. DP is also correct in the motivation of some.
      I have no intention of “cashing out’ and yet I still favor slow growth for the environment and lifestyle, not the money.

  9. Mr. Toad

    Funny that I’m being told not to shine a light on the elephant in the room while Frankly gets told not to point out the costs of preserving 391. I guess its time we “move on.” Sorry, that whole free speech thing is so annoying.

    Perhaps “move on” should be the new city motto.

    1. Barack Palin

      No Toad, nobody is stopping you from talking about Measure R. By all means, keep whining away. In fact, you’ve got at least 6 more years to complain.

      1. Davis Progressive

        i largely agree that no one is trying to prevent a discussion, however it’s not going to inform the larger discussion on economic developments.

    2. Tia Will

      Mr. Toad

      Perhaps you and I are interpreting something in the comments differently. Exactly which comment made you feel that you should not “shine a light on the elephant” in the room ?

      One thought I did have is that perhaps it would help if you were to describe the elephant as you see it rather than presenting a stereotypical description of what you think the elephant minders motivations must be.

    3. Tia Will

      Frankly

      “I think Measure R needs to be amended so that no vote is required for business development when our budget is in the red and projected to be in the red, and no vote is required for residential development when our rental vacancy rate falls below 5%.”

      I can see some merit in this idea since it addresses some kind of quantitative assessment of priorities.
      I do see some potential problems with it. Not having any kind of control over who could build what kind of business and where would seem to ignore any consideration of how much revenue the business(es) might generate and over how much time.
      On the housing side of the equation, it does not address what type of housing is most needed.

      Your thoughts about those concerns ?

  10. Mr. Toad

    Funny that I’m being told not to shine a light on the elephant in the room while Frankly gets told not to point out the costs of preserving 391. I guess its time we “move on.” Sorry, that whole free speech thing is so annoying.

    Perhaps “move on” should be the new city motto.

    1. Barack Palin

      No Toad, nobody is stopping you from talking about Measure R. By all means, keep whining away. In fact, you’ve got at least 6 more years to complain.

      1. Davis Progressive

        i largely agree that no one is trying to prevent a discussion, however it’s not going to inform the larger discussion on economic developments.

    2. Tia Will

      Mr. Toad

      Perhaps you and I are interpreting something in the comments differently. Exactly which comment made you feel that you should not “shine a light on the elephant” in the room ?

      One thought I did have is that perhaps it would help if you were to describe the elephant as you see it rather than presenting a stereotypical description of what you think the elephant minders motivations must be.

    3. Tia Will

      Frankly

      “I think Measure R needs to be amended so that no vote is required for business development when our budget is in the red and projected to be in the red, and no vote is required for residential development when our rental vacancy rate falls below 5%.”

      I can see some merit in this idea since it addresses some kind of quantitative assessment of priorities.
      I do see some potential problems with it. Not having any kind of control over who could build what kind of business and where would seem to ignore any consideration of how much revenue the business(es) might generate and over how much time.
      On the housing side of the equation, it does not address what type of housing is most needed.

      Your thoughts about those concerns ?

  11. Frankly

    Tyler Schilling supports this course of action since he believes that the our expeditiously moving forward on an application presents his best opportunity for securing the expansion space which he needs – in Davis – on a timely basis.”

    And there we have it.

    The problem with developers working to develop in this city is that unless they have already developed on Mars, they don’t understand how to deal with aliens from another planet.

    I wonder… are their any other communities on this planet that have the equivalent of a Measure R?

    1. Alan Miller

      Boulder, CO has an urban limit, not sure the details. It creates an artificial high-end community with protected high-end real estate values. Utopia for some, barred out for others.

  12. Frankly

    Tyler Schilling supports this course of action since he believes that the our expeditiously moving forward on an application presents his best opportunity for securing the expansion space which he needs – in Davis – on a timely basis.”

    And there we have it.

    The problem with developers working to develop in this city is that unless they have already developed on Mars, they don’t understand how to deal with aliens from another planet.

    I wonder… are their any other communities on this planet that have the equivalent of a Measure R?

    1. Alan Miller

      Boulder, CO has an urban limit, not sure the details. It creates an artificial high-end community with protected high-end real estate values. Utopia for some, barred out for others.

  13. Frankly

    I think Measure R needs to be amended so that no vote is required for business development when our budget is in the red and projected to be in the red, and no vote is required for residential development when our rental vacancy rate falls below 5%.

  14. Frankly

    I think Measure R needs to be amended so that no vote is required for business development when our budget is in the red and projected to be in the red, and no vote is required for residential development when our rental vacancy rate falls below 5%.

    1. Davis Progressive

      an interesting approach might be for the council to put forward a measure authorizing the council to be authorized to develop 600 acres of peripheral land for the purpose of business/ tech park, with the stipulation that any house would have to come back to the voters. the might have been an alternative to the citizen’s vote or the advisory vote had council been thinking about this more clearly six months ago.

      frankly’s suggest won’t fly because it’s too open ended and cyclical.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        I am not necessarily against your proposal, DP. It sounds pragmatic.

        However, my own view is that when you build an industrial park (or a high tech campus), it is wise to include some housing on the site for workers. I don’t mean single family houses or even apartment complexes. I mean you include buildings which have residential apartments over the shops. Obviously, not everyone wants to live in that sort of an environment. However, some will; and such units can provide a recruitment tool for the companies. Consider that such over the shop residences mean no commute time for the employee. Such workers create zero exhaust going to work every day. And by staying off our streets, they would add nothing to rush hour traffic.

        1. Mr. Toad

          Of course the lack of infrastructure being included with these business centers means longer commutes than if we built the housing near the businesses as part of the plan. We are going to build zero net energy business parks with long commutes and then talk about how green we are and how we have platinum bicycle status with many more workers driving from Woodland.

          Woodland, by the way, put in a limit line that allowed them to grow while Davis did not with measure R. The result is the green facade of only looking at how Davis residents get to work instead of including how Davis workers get home. Now we are stuck with the measure R limit line elephant being squeezed into existing borders. Dumb policy wrapped resulting in poor planning.

          1. Davis Progressive

            that issue was addressed. we already have a huge population that lives in davis, but commutes to sacramento, san francisco, even solano county (and that just reflects the city council).

          2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            Most of that is because Davis has for a long time been an attractive community to live in. So people who make their living in this region, but not in Davis, prefer to live here and have their children grow up here.

            However, another part of the equation is that we have commonly built large residential neighborhoods with no thought about creating businesses for the new residents to work in. We’ve done this, of course, because we have long thought of the university as our job factory, even though it does not directly support the city’s tax base, and in some ways it hurts it. So when those new residents filled the new neighborhoods which are almost exclusively residential, they had to drive somewhere else to work.

            It seems to me better planning to have at least some over the shop residential in an industrial park, so that the option is there for people to live and work in the same place and thus avoid having to drive to work.

          3. Don Shor

            This can work very well. One of the buildings between 5th and 2nd (near Trokanski’s studio) has a residence on the top floor. It has a great view, wonderful breeze, and is incredibly quiet at night. The business owners lived there and loved it.

    1. Davis Progressive

      an interesting approach might be for the council to put forward a measure authorizing the council to be authorized to develop 600 acres of peripheral land for the purpose of business/ tech park, with the stipulation that any house would have to come back to the voters. the might have been an alternative to the citizen’s vote or the advisory vote had council been thinking about this more clearly six months ago.

      frankly’s suggest won’t fly because it’s too open ended and cyclical.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        I am not necessarily against your proposal, DP. It sounds pragmatic.

        However, my own view is that when you build an industrial park (or a high tech campus), it is wise to include some housing on the site for workers. I don’t mean single family houses or even apartment complexes. I mean you include buildings which have residential apartments over the shops. Obviously, not everyone wants to live in that sort of an environment. However, some will; and such units can provide a recruitment tool for the companies. Consider that such over the shop residences mean no commute time for the employee. Such workers create zero exhaust going to work every day. And by staying off our streets, they would add nothing to rush hour traffic.

        1. Mr. Toad

          Of course the lack of infrastructure being included with these business centers means longer commutes than if we built the housing near the businesses as part of the plan. We are going to build zero net energy business parks with long commutes and then talk about how green we are and how we have platinum bicycle status with many more workers driving from Woodland.

          Woodland, by the way, put in a limit line that allowed them to grow while Davis did not with measure R. The result is the green facade of only looking at how Davis residents get to work instead of including how Davis workers get home. Now we are stuck with the measure R limit line elephant being squeezed into existing borders. Dumb policy wrapped resulting in poor planning.

          1. Davis Progressive

            that issue was addressed. we already have a huge population that lives in davis, but commutes to sacramento, san francisco, even solano county (and that just reflects the city council).

          2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            Most of that is because Davis has for a long time been an attractive community to live in. So people who make their living in this region, but not in Davis, prefer to live here and have their children grow up here.

            However, another part of the equation is that we have commonly built large residential neighborhoods with no thought about creating businesses for the new residents to work in. We’ve done this, of course, because we have long thought of the university as our job factory, even though it does not directly support the city’s tax base, and in some ways it hurts it. So when those new residents filled the new neighborhoods which are almost exclusively residential, they had to drive somewhere else to work.

            It seems to me better planning to have at least some over the shop residential in an industrial park, so that the option is there for people to live and work in the same place and thus avoid having to drive to work.

          3. Don Shor

            This can work very well. One of the buildings between 5th and 2nd (near Trokanski’s studio) has a residence on the top floor. It has a great view, wonderful breeze, and is incredibly quiet at night. The business owners lived there and loved it.

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