Striking a Balance

Innovation-MapBy Rob White

In the time that I have been working in Davis (about a year and a half), the discussion about the concept of innovation parks has evolved considerably. Though not a new subject – the city has planning documents demonstrating that business parks (and then research parks) have been being discussed as far back as the late 1980s – the reasons for considering innovation parks has considerably changed.

In the past, we have discussed the potential of research parks as a way to retain the startup and small businesses that have been created as a result of work at or with the university. It was very much a simple economic development discussion about retention and expansion of existing businesses. And this seemed very logical and appropriate considering the context.

But conditions in Davis have been changing over the last decade, even if it wasn’t being widely discussed, or even recognized. What we didn’t “know” broadly was that our community had gone dramatically out of balance on the fiscal side of the three part equation of sustainability (environmental and social being the other two pieces).

Most specifically, there has been an ever increasing gap in the city finances that has created a significant (and urgent) need to increase revenues. The reason for this urgency is the growing realization by the community that the infrastructure and facilities that have been the backbone of the quality of life enjoyed in Davis have been deteriorating due to avoidance of needed maintenance and have now reached a point that replacement is the likely outcome for much of these assets.

To David Greenwald’s credit, he recognized some of this several years back, but I would hasten to guess that even he has experienced a little sticker shock over the last few years as the true tally is being figured.

And though I don’t disagree with previous posts about needing to be a regional leader for business growth and that some of these local businesses might be well-suited in other parts of the Sacramento region, these comments do not address two current facts: 1) Davis has an increasingly poor fiscal position with respect to the City’s budget and the services it delivers; and 2) In the State of California, there are four primary ways a local government can correct that – increases taxes, charge fees, cut budgets or grow the economy.

On the first item, I believe this blog and the editor has made a long-standing case for looking at the real budget, including things we pay for on a daily basis as well as deferred costs. The City Council has proactively began dealing with the structural imbalance of the issues through cuts, some raised taxes, and discussion of economic development.

To use an analogy, most of our household budgets deal with the immediate needs first (food, clothes), then recurring bills that help us live more comfortably (utilities, perhaps entertainment), usually a few wants (a new laptop or smart phone)… and then, for what I suspect is most of us… way down the list, those pesky deferred maintenance and long-term items. Like painting the exterior of the house a few years past when we should, or fixing the fence only when it blows over in the wind, or dealing with that slow drain in the kitchen that has backed up just one too many times.

It is these deferred items that usually cost a lot of time and money to address and it is harder for many of us to justify saving for them. Or quite possibly, we just can’t get there because our budgets are so stretched (partly due to the last economic downturn). And in some cases, we see them every day but we think to ourselves, ‘I am too busy to deal with that now, I’ll do it later.’ In some respects, we keep hoping the issue will just go away if we don’t pay it enough attention.

And I know at least one of our community on this blog use medical analogies, so let me attempt to use one here: How many people let a small nagging ailment go on too long to where it becomes a crisis or a major issue to deal with instead of just being able to address it with less invasive measures? As a Kaiser member, I am aware of their push for prevention as a way to deal with long-term and catastrophic costs (as a member since 1991, I see the member literature and emails regularly). So I suspect that much of the medical industry similarly is trying to get patients to address their issues early while they are likely to avoid significant costs.

But the city’s fiscal crisis should not be news to the readers of the Vanguard anymore, so I won’t belabor it anymore.

On the point of how we raise money for local government service delivery, this too should not be news to longer-term Vanguard readers. To simply recap, and be specific to the City of Davis, we generate revenue primarily in the following four ways:

* Taxes – the major taxes are property, sales, use and utility. Davis has the first three. The Davis general fund budget of about $48 million, and its total adopted budget for FY 2014/15 is about $204 million. The reason there are two different numbers is that certain parts of the city’s operations (like water and wastewater) are delivered through what is called ‘enterprise funds’ – e.g. there is a rate charged the user that pays for the operations, maintenance and long-term replacement of the system. For the $48 million general fund, over 61% of the revenues come from property and sales/use taxes. You can see more about this at the city’s website, under the City Manager’s budget presentation for FY 2014/15:

* Fees – these are generally permits and other fees that usually have to do with building, business licensing, planning, etc. These permits and fees are typically set to be a reimbursement for the staff time and administration of regulations and ordinances that have been set by state/federal law or city/county actions. Davis also charges some nominal fees for some service delivery for recreation programs, but these fees are typically a minor percentage of what it takes to really deliver the service.

* Budget cuts – this usually refers to programs and services that are either trimmed or eliminated, including the staffing, administration and delivery. As has already been discussed, the City has reduced its staffing from an employee count of 464 in FY 2007/08 to about 355 currently (FY14/15). That is more than a 23% reduction in 7 years. Or put another way, we had a ratio of about one city staff to serve 133 residents in 2007, whereas we now have one staff serving 186 residents. Staff have taken on many additional duties due to the reduced employee count, attempting to ensure there is not a significant loss in services to the residents. But as we look at the potential for more cuts in the future, this trend will be unworkable and services and programs will need to be reassessed.

* Grow the economy – in all California cities, we are stuck with a broken model of revenue generation. That means the surest way to impact the city’s revenue equation in terms of economic development is to attract significant new sales tax generators. For most cities, these are typically big box retailers, auto dealers and retailer power centers. Unless I am mistaken, the majority of the Davis community is not largely in favor of this approach. But what we are blessed with is a growing tech community – agtech, medtech, biotech, cleantech, advanced manufacturing – that wants to be in Davis. These businesses typically generate significant property and sales tax (considering their size), they often have expensive equipment that is assessed an unsecured property tax (similar to what boats and planes are assessed), they generate jobs with disposable incomes that result in at least some of those dollars being spent in our community (regardless of where the employees live), and they are likely to attract global investment (which imports dollars into our community, instead of just mixing them locally). It is these functions of supporting our existing businesses with more patrons and importing new revenues from outside sources that will grow our revenues. There are many other positive outcomes to list under this topic, but I have covered many of them in my past articles.

And because we are at a place where we spent the majority of our previous annual budgets on the then current list of immediate needs (to use the household metaphor), we now have a fence in need or replacement, a house that desperately needs painting, and significant repairs throughout the house. If you think this is not true, take a walk around town. We have splitting sidewalks, roadways with potholes, dying trees and landscaping in need of maintenance.

Out of immediate view we have whole sections of roadways that need replacement, deteriorating city infrastructure and public facilities in need of renovation. And in some cases, beyond our public facilities not being up to our high community standards, we have several facilities in desperate need of replacement. Come visit city hall as a start, where the cooling and heating systems cannot keep up with even marginally acceptable outcomes. Or visit our pools and parks and take note of the cracking, deteriorating condition of the surfaces and hardscapes. Not to mention much of the playground equipment and ball courts.

Though I think you get my point, the issues created in today’s fiscal instability were choices the community made many years ago. We spent all of our revenue on current needs and did not address the larger, more costly needs of infrastructure and maintenance. This is a tough scenario to have to reckon with, but it is a fact made obvious through direct observation.

Though I understand the desire to keep Davis “small and quaint,” I want to highlight that the past decisions of the community have created a situation where the residents need to realistically assess their options for a path forward. I certainly don’t like spending my money on painting my house, but at some point the damage to my home will become so dramatic that the fix will be insurmountable financially. And having a desire that the need goes away and that the current condition would just stay as it is today will not really address the realities.

My point all along (since arriving) is that Davis is blessed with an incredible opportunity. One that most communities will never enjoy. It has a university that is reaching a global apex in its areas of research and the companies (local and global) that want to be part of that really want to be in Davis. And this ‘gift’ of new revenue options is completely consistent with our existing economy based on knowledge, research and technology. We can of course refuse this gift and these business will go to other cities in the region or perhaps other states (in which case we really get no lasting benefit from having been the host city while they grew).

In the case of being a city that grows the tech businesses and then let’s them go other places in the region as they expand, this is fantastic regional community building… and is a completely detrimental condition to increasing the local revenues in Davis that will help pay for services, programs and maintenance. Our current catalogue of small and medium sized businesses (even if we were to add 10%) will not meaningfully address the financial issues in our community.

But more importantly, there are outcomes no matter what the choices (or lack of choices) – both positive and negative.

I am not suggesting that new research parks won’t have impacts to all of Davis. They will. But just like the university has grown from a small, farm research outpost for UC Berkeley into a significant and well-integrated part of the Davis ecosystem, research parks scattered around the city in small clusters will help to mitigate large scale impacts while creating a draw for new investment and ultimately new revenue for the community amenities that Davis enjoys.

I would suggest this as a far better overall outcome than continuing to hope that the structural fiscal imbalance will be addressed through some incalculable mechanism of fortune. It won’t. And the facts are in evidence. Just like I don’t want to believe how much my school loans have amounted to over the course of my education, the statement from the loan companies is pretty sobering and would be hard for me to ignore.

Why rehash this past dialogue? The City is at a crossroads. One that will require either deliberate action by the community… or circumstance will dictate the outcome and we will need to live with those circumstances. I am not being a pessimist, nor an alarmist. I simply present the facts of the fiscal situation plaguing the city’s budget and the community can decide what it wants to do.

A last (but new) point. There are many communities that enjoy a high quality of life, have infrastructure that is being maintained, have many amenities and programs, and have significantly sized research parks (100s of acres) that do not overwhelm the character of the community. These research parks have become part of the community fabric, just like the university is part of our community fabric. And these research parks generate significant local jobs (at all scales) and opportunities for residents. I am sure you can think of a few on your own, but let me offer some off of my own list: San Ramon (CA) (where UC Davis has a GSM program), Palo Alto, Champaign (IL), and Cambridge (MA).

With respect to San Ramon, Bishop Ranch is “a major mixed-use business park that accommodates office, retail, restaurants, lodging, etc., developed in the 1980s and 1990s on 585 acres along Interstate 680 in San Ramon. Located in the southwestern corner of the City of San Ramon, Bishop Ranch is one of the premier business parks in the Bay Area, indeed in California. Bishop Ranch is home to more than 550 companies and features office, retail, restaurant, and hotel uses. It offers tenants and their employees a wide range of amenities and on-site services, including vanpool and ridesharing fleets, and UC Davis Graduate School of Management. Among its roster of tenants are many high tech and bio tech companies including IBM, Affiliated Computer Services, Inc., Aon eSolutions, AGIS Network, Cognizant Technology Solutions Corporation, MRT, Systems America, Inc., Six Dimensions, and Austral Biologicals. Other prestigious companies within Bishop Ranch include the Chevron Corporation, Toyota, AT&T, Bank of the West, Del Monte Foods, Hill Physicians, H.J. Heinz, Robert Half, and Chubb Insurance. Tenants occupy from 200 square feet to well over 500,000 square feet of space, marking a wide range of options for varying company sizes.”

If you have not been to San Ramon, I encourage you to go. It is an amazing East Bay town that has many of the same quality of life attributes as Davis, but is lacking a major university. In my view, if the city of San Ramon can achieve a long list of environmentally and fiscally sustainable outcomes at Bishop Ranch (started back in the 1980s and 1990s when the world was not generally focused on sustainability), the research parks being envisioned for Davis can take the best practices of these places and improve on them with current knowledge and create a place that is a show piece of Davis ingenuity.

Can we keep Davis the way it is? I think my educated guess would be no. No matter what the choices or decisions made by the community (or lack of decisions). I am sure this seems controversial to some, but I hold up the example that even without significant housing construction within the city in the past decade, there has still been significant change. Some positive, some not so positive. But change nonetheless.

If we choose not to do any significant economic development (not add new revenues sources), then we will see the continued deterioration of our infrastructure and public places due to lack of enough tax revenue. If we add new taxes (parcel or sales taxes), we are still unable to keep up with the need, as the total additional taxes needed will be several hundred dollars per parcel more than currently collected just to meet current demand (but not fully address infrastructure replacement). And if we cut the budget more, we will need to make choices about what programs and services we no longer want as a community (which all contribute to the quality of life discussion).

I obviously advocate for keeping Davis similar to its current community character while growing the opportunity for increased revenue to meet current and future demands. And I think there are several templates from around the US that show that it can be done. But the choice will really be up to the voters.

To finish my analogy, wishing my house would not need painting or that the costs weren’t so much actually doesn’t change the facts. Wanting Davis to not have current fiscal issues, or hoping that the economy will miraculously improve to make up for millions of dollars in current needs and $100s of millions in infrastructure and facility maintenance and replacement costs, is also not going to change the facts.

I do not want to “change” Davis. That has never been the reason for my position nor the tasks I am charged with executing. I do want to amplify the community’s opportunities and hopefully provide a set of reasonable solutions to our fiscal issues (that have been decades in the making). This includes utilizing the fortuitous situation of having an emerging tech university sited next to the city, one that can help us turn the corner and make a positive, sustainable shared future – environmentally, economically and socially.

Thanks for considering my thoughts. Your reactions and questions are always welcome. My email is if you choose to email me directly.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Alan Miller

    San Ramon? Why that as an example? A friend of mine was a minister near there and she sabotaged her own job to get kicked out and transferred anywhere else. Uber-white, elitist, rich, gated communities. #mini-throw up#. I am for the business parks, well two out of three of them, but rue the day Davis looks anything like the Amador Valley.

    1. Frankly

      Fine, but when get to the point that we can’t even afford the bucket to #mini-throw-up# in, Davis will start to stink as much if not more than San Ramon.

    2. Rob White

      Thanks Alan for your comments. I hope you can find the time soon to write up an article detailing your concepts, ideas and suggestions. I know the Vanguard will be happy to publish it. Have a great Labor Day weekend.

    3. TrueBlueDevil

      You clearly have no real understanding of “San Ramote”. There is a large Indian population which the statistics don’t reveal. It is clearly not elite, but it is kind of boring suburban, safe, with plentiful public services (pools, etc.). It is no more “white” than Davis from first blush. It benefits from being next to a number of small cities with their own interesting qualities (Walnut Creek, Danville, and Livermore).

  2. Tia Will


    Thanks for the very thoughtful piece. We are in agreement on several points. First change is an invariable aspect of life. It is truly the only constant. My concern is not how to keep Davis from “changing”. It is with regard to the nature, purpose, timing and rate of change.

    I also must take exception to the analogy that you have chosen. You have portrayed development of the innovation parks as the need to find the means to “paint your house”. What you have chosen not to emphasize is what if the means you were choosing to paint your house meant that you were going to have to add an additional three enormous structures to your property, each of which would have multiple occupants. Oh, and did I forget to mention that your house needs painting now, and none of these structures will actually start generating money for at least a few years. Now does that means really look like the best option to you ?

    I say this not to the detriment of the idea of either needing to paint the house, nor to the potential benefits of a business park but merely to point out the inadequacies of the analogy. This is not a straight forward proposition that we are looking at. I am well aware that there are both long term and short term needs being addressed and I feel it is important not to try to wrap them into one big pretty “innovation parks are good for us “package.

    As has been pointed out on a number of occasions, we have needs for short term generation of funds for the city, so we need a parcel tax. We have need for medium and long term funding, so we need some form of business development that will come on line within years.

    What we do not need in my opinion is to over react, over correct and engage in the pendulum swinging type of activity that leads to so much of the boom and bust cycle that we see in the economy of our country. Previous leaders made some poor choices under the economic circumstances of their day which largely created where we are now.
    I would hate to see this city do the same on the other side of the ledger in response to the economic situation and pressures of our day.

    What I would suggest is that we take a slow, reasoned approach to these innovation park proposals. I suggest that
    the community go in with a completely open mind about what best meets our needs. I would encourage the planners and developers to include a balanced presentation of the anticipated advantages and potential hurdles to overcome at the time of their initial presentations. Most of our citizens are not city planners. We do not know all of the potential pitfalls or disadvantages of proposals. I feel it is incumbent upon the developers and planners to present these with complete honesty and transparency. With this thought in mind, I would like to present my own analogy.

    You are the patient. Your degree is in English literature and the very thought of blood makes you queazy. You are now bleeding very heavily and you want the problem to end and you want it to end now ! You know that a hysterectomy will achieve that goal. So you come to me as the surgeon. Do you want me to just do the surgery, or do you think that I should tell you up front how much it will cost you, how many days you are likely to need off work, how much pain you are likely to experience and what your options are for management of that pain ? Wouldn’t you want to know what the surgical risks are , that there is a chance that you could die or become permanently disabled if there are complications ? Wouldn’t you want me to tell you that although you will never have another heavy bleed, you may have long term or delayed complications that may require further surgery in the future ? Wouldn’t it be better if I also told you that there are less risky and less expensive options that will get you the same results or would you prefer that I just do the surgery and pocket the larger fees?

    This is the kind of analysis that I provide my patients and that is what I am expecting from the planners and developers, and yes, you Rob as our city innovation leader. I am not asking for “no change”. I am asking for a full accounting of what that change is likely to mean for us right from the beginning. I am as unable to provide that information in the area of city planning as our English professor would be when she comes to see me so that we can make a fully informed decision based on more than nice anecdotes of other communities and glossy pictures.

    1. realchangz


      Based on your proscriptions, it sounds like Rob has his work cut out for him getting those planners to lay out a meaningful, community planning model to help understand how the community might look fifteen years down the road.

      In the meantime, perhaps you could turn your attention to David’s article on the need for a parcel tax (the immediate funds needed to paint the house).

      Given the numbers he is asserting, $100MM, how much do you think would be a reasonable per parcel charge to fund a meaningful, initial bond issuance next year? How do you think that burden should be most equitably shared by the residents? Should the students, who are already heavily burdened with rents and expenses, be expected to pick up a significant share? It’s a complicated discussion, but the sooner the community begins chiming in the faster we can move along with the best solution.

          1. David Greenwald

            Perhaps true – but all the more reason to lay out and let people operate from facts rather than speculation and emotions.

        1. Tia Will


          “$400-$500 per parcel. It is not going to happen. Time to move on from that pipe dream solution”

          Absolutely agreed if anyone were proposing that as the only solution. Perhaps not so true when seen as the short term part of a solution that will necessarily have to play out over years. The business parks that you so desire will not generate any income for at least a few years. Do yyou propose doing nothing in the meantime ?

    2. Rob White

      Tia – I will accept the responsibility for not being clearer.

      The ‘house’ in my analogy was in fact meant to be the whole city of Davis. Therefore, at 10 square miles (6,400 acres), adding 200 acres of research park, or even 400, is more akin to adding a front porch, or maybe an extra room. I am not saying that isn’t significant, but it is far from the alternative analogy you offered. It is not being suggested that we add “an additional three enormous structures to” the property, but instead 3 to 6%. Again, using the house analogy, that is not three enormous structures, but some modest modifications to the existing home.

      And, from my perspective, I don’t think the city is in a place of deciding on whether to get a hysterectomy or not. I think it is much more like a blocked artery, that could mean catastrophe if not dealt with rapidly. And I think you might agree as a physician that the difference and timing at which you deal with a blocked artery versus a hysterectomy are very different. As someone who has called the Kaiser advice line, I get a very different response when I say I have chest pain than when I complain of an ache in my side.

      Additionally, I am not using the word ‘change’ lightly. I have had several people tell me they don’t want any change to the existing conditions. Even a few people telling me they wish the city could revert back to 40,000 people. It is simply my point that there has been change happening every year for decades in Davis, some good, some not as pleasant. I am not suggesting that we have to build anything. In fact, I am not materially invested in any of these outcomes – don’t do anything, build a research park or two, build lots of things. I was asked to try and bring a solution to the residents that would be in concert with Davis’ community characteristics. I plan to do that and then the voters can decide.

      Lastly, I continue to urge the research park proposal teams to bring their ideas forward for the public vetting you are describing. City staff are becoming increasingly more restricted in what we can proffer for these proposals as our role is moving from solicitation to regulation. It becomes challenging to continue to provide the channels of debate you are describing while trying to keep our prescriptive roles as the regulatory agency separate. Though staff will continue to work with the proposal teams, our ability to do as you requested becomes difficult. That is not to say that it isn’t important, just that the community cannot expect the city to be on both sides of the equation.

      I hope this helps to clarify my earlier thoughts in my article and address some of your concerns.

  3. Tia Will


    I truly wish I knew or could even take a reasonable stab at the questions you are asking. I am so far from my area of expertise that all that I can do is ask questions. I do not even know what is legal and not legal in terms of taxation and assessment of fees. I can certainly put forth some ideas off the top of my head as points of departure for discussion.

    1. I believe that we have a responsibility to pay for what we use discretionarily. So I would be in favor of any legal usage fee including that for roads ( toll roads are common in some parts of the country), pools, and city recreational services. I also would favor paid parking downtown. This is clearly a form of usage of a commonly held resource that we are letting people use for free which also increases the wear and tear on our streets.

    2. Those of us fortunate enough to own property should be willing to pay more in the form of parcel taxes with any legal exclusionary provision for those who are truly economically disadvantaged or on fixed low incomes. I don’t pretend to know how much, but would love to look at projections ( again ) of just how much per parcel would buy us in terms of infrastructure maintenance and will happily weigh in when someone shows the numbers.

    3. I would favor some kind of public voluntary contribution plan for specific goals much as Rochelle headed up for The Blue and White effort that got the high school its new track. I know I would contribute.

    4. Crowd sourcing is very popular right now. Perhaps there are ways to use social media to spark funding that the city has not considered for very specific goals. For example, the leaking pool. Perhaps the city could put out a challenge or matching fund for citizens who are avid swimmers to help meet targets over specific time intervals to have their pet project get accomplished.

    5. Perhaps some of our citizens who are accomplished fund raisers could volunteer to spearhead such efforts. We are a very bright, well educated community. I believe that there probably are other options to address at least some of our needs that we are not yet tapping.

    After all, who had ever thought of the “ice bucket challenge” until someone did, and it went viral.

    1. realchangz

      Very cool, out of the box thinking. Thanks for taking a stab. I’m guessing our CC will be most appreciative of this type of idea-driven, creative problem solving. I think more than half the battle is getting the community to own the problem, and hopefully we are getting closer on that score.

    2. Frankly

      Tia my friend. I fear you are chasing rainbows to avoid what you consider to be bad news. Your prescriptions are basically to fund our huge deficits with the equivalent of some bake sales.

      You are one that routinely demands facts, figures and proof that someone else has succeeded doing the same. So you need to take your own medicine, IMO, and go find examples of other cities solving $100+ million dollar structural budget deficits with the approach you are advocating.

      1. David Greenwald

        I think Tia represents a key part of the population that is not that well represented on the comment section of the Vanguard but is in the community. If you wish to get Measure R approval, I suggest you figure out ways to engage the segments of three’s in the community.

        1. Frankly

          I think it will be exhausting and not change a single mind. Just look how much effort has gone into peppering Tia Will with facts and figures and she is still basically in the same opposition position she was in beginning with the first day of debate.

          When faced with a need for change that some dislike you will cause your own failure putting so much energy into trying to convince them.

          Better to push the change anyway you can and let those opposed learn the reality of their unreasonable fears as the sky does not fall.

          Just check for how ACA was enacted.

          1. Tia Will

            My dear Frankly

            I think that listening to what others say rather than predetermining is a real skill.

            You clearly have not been doing that in my case. First, when have you ever heard me voice an opinion on any of the “innovation parks” ? You have heard me urge caution. You have heard me ask for a frank discussion of the pros and cons. You have heard urge a measured approach. Please cite one instance in which you have heard me urge rejection of any of the specific parks ? What facts and figures have I been “peppered with ” that are supposed to change my mind ? I haven’t heard the evidence of their pros and cons for the simple reason that they are only just now putting their proposals out there. After attending my first information session, which I perceived as a one sided sales pitch, I called publicly for a full discussion of the pros and cons, not outright rejection.

            So to say that I ever have been or am now in opposition is a bit premature to say the least since I am out listening to their actual proposals rather than just cheering or dissing them from afar.

        2. Frankly

          Look at it this way.

          I am willing to take responsibility for any realization of the critics concerns. I am confident that the critics are wrong.

          They then have to take responsibility for the fall out from them getting their way. Are they confident that they are right?

          1. David Greenwald

            I see a group of people who are not necessarily opposed to an innovation park who simply need to have questions answered. I’ve talked to many of them and I’m absolutely convinced that if people would take the time to address their concerns they would support.

            Is it going to be arduous? Absolutely, but necessary. I’m not willing to write off the three’s in the community.

          2. Frankly

            If you are talking about people undecided and absolutely on the fence, then I agree. If you are talking about people already vested in opposition, then I don’t hold out much hope that any arguments will change their mind.

          3. David Greenwald

            People vested in opposition are category four’s, I’m talking about category three’s.

          4. Tia Will


            ” I am confident that the critics are wrong.”

            How can you possibly have made up your mind that “the critics are wrong” when we have not even heard the details of any of the proposals yet ?

      2. Tia Will


        IF you were my patient, is that what you would want me to say to you ?

        As the expert in the field of gynecology, how much would you trust me if I said to you, the patient, I am the expert in this field but I expect you to go out, find the list of alternatives, pros and cons, risks and benefits of the proposed procedure, bring them back to me, and then we can discuss the options. I feel that as the expert, that responsibility is mine, not yours. I expect the same of those who are promoting growth in their areas of expertise.

        1. Frankly

          Of course I see this analogy differently. The patient is very sick and will become terminal if not given treatment. But the family demands a level of reassurance that the side effects of the treatment will not result in ANY OTHER health issues. The family ignores the doctor’s pleading and delays the treatment. Meanwhile the patient is soon going to be beyond saving.

          1. Tia Will


            If you get a chance, watch the “Bring out your dead scene” in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Sometimes the patient and not the family or the entrepreneur really does have the best concept of their own well being….at least until everyone else has had their way.

            You are in this case using the same “the sky will fall if we don’t do things this one particular way” that you sometimes decry in others beaus of the “emotionalism” involved. What you are saying “must be done to save the city” will not even begin to kick in for about 5 years per David’s estimate. This does not sound like what one would use to save a “dying patient.” I wouldn’t deny the need for more immediate care while waiting 5 years for a treatment to save a currently dying patient. Therefore, I must either assume that you are engaging in the dreaded “hyperbole” or that you are simply not choosing to address the issue of more urgently needed steps.

      3. Tia Will


        At least at the presentation in City Chambers by the Davis Innovation Center, on site housing remains on the table. I do not know if this is good, bad, or somewhere in between but this was not “promised” not to be part of the project on Thursday.

      4. Tia Will


        “Your prescriptions are basically to fund our huge deficits with the equivalent of some bake sales.”

        Let me point out the power of some “bake sales”.

        On the local level, I have already mentioned the Blue and White Foundations successful effort to upgrade the high school track. I understand that Rainbow Park also had a large volunteer component.

        On a national level, Dr. Ernie Bodai’s Breast Cancer research stamp had generated upwards of $ 72 million dollars of revenue for breast cancer research by 2011 just by people’s willingness to pay a few cents more for a postal stamp with the extra being dedicated to breast cancer research . I am sure that it has generated much more by now and has spread to other countries as well. In common parlance, the idea went viral.

        Please note that I am not saying that we can meet all of our expenses this way, but I think it would be just stubborn and silly to not take advantage of the obvious possibilities for funding specific projects by those willing to pay perhaps even a little bit at a time to achieve a specific goal.

        One small example. The side walk on my street is uneven enough to pose a hazard of someone tripping and falling. A friend of mine had a bad accident ( not in my neighborhood) while out running that ended up in costing her jaw surgery and a lot of time lost from work. So what if, instead of looking at this from the
        “we have to fix the city” point of view, we were to look at it from the neighborhood point of view. What if we had someone from the city come out, tell us how much fixing this particular block would cost us and we decided as a neighborhood group to raise the money ? Is this not exactly the kind of individual responsibility that you are always saying that you value . Would this “save the city” ? Of course not, just as the new track did not take care of all of the needs of the high school, but it would certainly be a step in the right direction. Now suppose that we had groups all over town who were willing to work with the city on their specific projects ? Not of value ?

        1. Frankly

          You would be changing the way public infrastructure finance is done except for local development bonds like mello roos.

          It is really pretty funny

          You are advocating for private funding of infrastructure made necessary because of all of the other non-infrastructure spending including non-essential services and social welfare that I believe is better handled from private funding.

          So, in your prescription government should use tax money to take care of all the “needy” people, and those highly taxed people should also pony up to fix their own streets and bike paths.

          Interesting. And 180 degrees of wrong IMO.

  4. Anon

    To Tia: I have a problem with your analogy of the patient hemorrhaging. If I were bleeding out, I certainly would not want you wasting my time giving me all sorts of information about this, that and the other, as I lay dying – I would want you to stop the bleeding posthaste! LOL

    1. Tia Will


      Thanks for the smile. However, I would also point out that fatigue and anemia do not mean that you are on deaths door. It is certainly important that I am able to tell the difference. I see the city as imperiled, not moribund.

  5. BrianRiley429

    Here’s a couple of interesting online articles which potentially point the way toward a solution in raising revenue for the City of Davis:

    In other words, UCD has an obligation (and is legally allowed) to voluntarily give the City of Davis money to help mitigate the effects of the existence of the campus on City services. Now, with UCD attempting to draw in a higher percentage of out-of-state, domestic students as well as international students (who pay much higher tuition rates), it would seem appropriate for UCD to allocate a portion of that extra revenue to the City of Davis.

    1. Frankly

      We can also make the case that Davis owes the university for supplying all those captive customers that provide the tax revenue to support our no-growth history.

      1. realchangz

        To your point, however, the university has not been a no-growth enterprise model and neither has their clientele nor the housing needs for which they have together been responsible. We had grown at 25%-30% per decade during the 60s,70s,80s & 90’s – that’s not exactly no growth. It’s what happens when you turn off that spigot of homebuilding activity with no alternative activity to fill the resulting economic activity void.

  6. Edgar Wai

    Sustainability is primarily a matter of having the right ratios.

    For any size of a community, there are sets of equilibrium points that the community would become sustainable (fiscally, environmental, socially, as you said). Each set of equilibrium points determines the the role and contribution each entity in the community and related to the community needs to fulfill. As long as each entity fulfill its responsibilities, the community remains sustainable.

    Therefore, the size of a community, is a matter of preference.

    The members of a community are free to decide that the community should be at any size of to grow or shrink at any rate. At whatever choice the members make, the members need to know the proportions that would make such size sustainable, and make adjustments accordingly.

    By knowing the equilibrium and comparing that to the current situation, each entity would know whether they are fulfilling their responsibilities. The overall picture of the equilibrium might be difficult to see with details at once. One could start with a top-down approach, first defining the ratios in terms of transactions into and out of the city, then procedurally go into the finer details. One could also start with a bottom-up approach by analyzing a specific imbalance and identify the debtors and request payment.

    In trying to reach an equilibrium, there is a concept that does not mesh very well in the common way people deal with a fiscal decision, that might require a philosophical shift.

    Typically, when one wants to buy something, the instantaneous price is consider, and the transaction is complete at the point of purchase, there is no hidden fee that the buyer needs to pay after the purchase. The cost of a decision is known at the moment of decision.

    The process of reaching equilibrium is a process of discovering imbalance and hidden debts. It is about “someone did something but did not realize the true cost to the community.” Since the costs were not defined upfront, the process would feel like trying to convict someone of wrongdoing regarding a law that was never written.

    “We never told you that you need to pay for it. We know that you made your planning and budgeting based only on the information you knew back then. But we found that your action is costing the community more. Will you pay for the hidden cost that we have just discovered?”

    It is easy to say ‘no’ on the grounds that whoever did not see the hidden cost but accepted the transaction was at fault. Under that philosophy, justice is drawn according to the contract of the transaction. Whoever didn’t foresee the true cost and ended up paying for it is at loss. This kind of philosophy is vulnerable to information imbalance, deception, and exploitation. It is hard to reach an equilibrium when justice is define in that philosophy.

    A more helpful philosophy to reach equilibrium, is one that defines justice at the overall effect of a decision. In that case, when a person makes a decision, they need to know that they have the responsibility to offset any debt caused by their decision even if those debts are discovered later. This type of philosophy makes it easier to reach equilibrium because each person would take the initiative to pay for the damage they have cost. All they need is a reasonable bill of the damage, and the reason that they are the cause of the damage, and they will responsibly pay the bill.

    This type of philosophy, if it is written as a law at a top-down fashion is dangerous and vulnerable of being abused. It is better if each person exercises the philosophy on their own, much like a person may choose to be polite or be mean.

    In combination, there is a layer that defines the upfront cost to prevent people who cannot afford the visible cost of their decision from making such decision, and a second layer that pays for the hidden cost when they are discovered later.

    * * *

    How does this philosophical exposition related to policies, etc…:

    Before thinking about the policy to pay for the road maintenance, a bill needs to exist that defines the debt of each individual. The bill could be written as a way that defines how much a person would owe the city depending on the amount they use the roads and sidewalks. For example:

    Walking: $0.0001 each mile
    Skateboarding: $0.01 each mile
    Bicycle: $0.01 each mile
    Car less than 2 tons: $0.02 each mile
    Car less than 5 tons: $0.06 each mile
    Car less than 10 tons: $0.15 each mile

    Any specific and visible damage did to the streets:
    Long scratches: $1.0 per scratch
    Puncture: $1.0 per cubic inch

    The charge of each of these item should be cheaper than what would cost an individual to fix, for the necessary and obvious reason the city would get a group rate discount for fixing a lot of them at once. If the rate is more expensive, the individual would have just hired someone to fix it, and the city should not intervene (all else being equal (quality of work, scheduling, regulations).

    It should be a necessary condition that each individual can see for themselves that they are saving money if they cooperate with the city to fix the roads.

    As long as the numbers make sense, each member that received the bill would know their own debt to the city. Each member can then calculate, report, and pay for their fair share, and they can voluntarily round-up or pay additional.

    The city could simply keep track of mileages reported, the credits and the remaining debts. The overall deficit would come from these sources:

    1. People who under reported their mileages and underpay.
    2. People who should pay but never got the bill because the city does not know who those people might be.
    3. People who should pay but are dead or had left and become un-trackable

    The city can report these remaining debts and let people recognize people who make contributions to offset/sponsor those costs.

    The initial bill could be send to:
    1. People who lives in Davis
    2. Entities who owns properties in Davis (including the university and businesses)
    3. People who work in Davis

    If a significant amount of damage is caused by visitors, and there is not enough contribute to sponsor their damages, maybe set up a visitor contribution box. By in general, visitors come get stuff or visit someone. So if the businesses and inhabitants would cover them.

    1. Edgar Wai

      The comment is part of the governing philosophy where the city is not there to impose charges, but a relator that let the people know the cost of what they are doing and set things right on their own. This type of philosophy helps to prevent a governing body from getting big, or having a lot of money or power at its disposal.

      What such government does is to make the information transparent so that the people can see it for themselves. The government itself does not have fiscal or personnel power that it can abuse. All the power are still with the people.

    2. South of Davis

      > For example:
      > Walking: $0.0001 each mile
      > Bicycle: $0.01 each mile
      > Car less than 2 tons: $0.02 each mile
      > Car less than 5 tons: $0.06 each mile
      > Car less than 10 tons: $0.15 each mile

      We all know that heavier vehicles are harder on roads than walking and biking, but MOST of the wear to roads is from the weather (even with zero traffic it will cost a lot to maintain a road).

      P.S. I don’t think there is a “car” out there that weighs 5 tons (double what my SUV weighs) or 10 tons (more than the MRAP)…

  7. Anon

    Sone thoughts have been plaguing me. As we know from years past, a few things went on that have probably contributed to the current fiscal mess we are in:

    1) creating an “unmet needs category in the budget, dumping road repairs and building maintenance into that sleazy bookkeeping category, waving a magic wand, and then declaring the budget “balanced”;

    2) City Council members being beholden through campaign contributions to certain special interest groups that have contributed to high employee costs;

    3) those against growth pushing for innovation parks in places that would never be suitable for such development, e.g. Cannery., as a political ploy to distract away from viable business development;

    4) the cultivation of an anti-business atmosphere in this city by making doing business in Davis very difficult (one businessperson who was receiving an award from the city quietly told me on the side after the ceremony that the process to finally become a business in Davis had been horrendous);

    5) the anti-big-box aversion, so that tax dollars leak out of Davis.

    However, times have changed, and I hope citizens will start to move away from listening to the anti-business crowd that does not want any growth in Davis and start looking for a constructive way out of the city’s budget woes – through well planned innovation parks.

    My fear is that through paralysis by analysis, those who do to want business in Davis and/or don’t want Davis to change in “character” will start a campaign of disinformation, bringing up every possible nightmare scenario or potential problem under the sun to discourage developing any innovation park. Then endless discussions will ensue, with the idea to kill the project with what is essentially a death by a thousand cuts. And yet these same people have no solutions to the current budget crisis other than to raise taxes and cut services. We have to ask ourselves at what point to we end up taxing ourselves to the point of extinction, or cut services to the point of destroying quality of life?

    Sometimes life requires a leap of faith. It doesn’t mean you have to accept something blindly, and not ask questions. But never should perfection be the destruction of what is excellent, if you catch my drift!

    1. David Greenwald

      That’s one reason why the Vanguard is looking to recast the discussion away from the no growth/ go growth and into the more middle 2/3 categories where we can work out details and address legitimate concerns. There are concerns that need to be worked through, dealing with them without devolving into paralysis by analysis is a key to getting the best of both worlds.

    2. Frankly

      I can now start my weekend chores having read this post. Bravo. Spot on!

      I am going to go political a bit. Our President, when asked about his strategy over certain foreign policy issues, said “don’t do stupid stuff”.

      I have discovered over my years of being an agent of change for the organizations I have worked for, that there are a percentage of people sometimes paralyzed to a point of indecision over the fear of making a mistake. My business partner has some of this malady. When it hits, he wants to analyze every detail so that he believes there are zero risks. And to counter this damaging sub-optimization tendency I simply remind him that a decision to stall or to do nothing is also a decision that can end up being a mistake. I note his physical discomfort with this consideration. But it is necessary because he, like others wired like him, tend to discount or dismiss his hand in stalling or a decision to do nothing.

      On the other side of this we have the shoot-from-the-hip cowboy reactionary… ready with guns blazing at the first indication that action is needed.

      The key here is balance and optimization. But it takes self-identification of tendencies and individual effort to shift toward that balanced middle.

    3. Tia Will


      “My fear is that through paralysis by analysis, those who do to want business in Davis and/or don’t want Davis to change in “character” will start a campaign of disinformation, bringing up every possible nightmare scenario or potential problem under the sun to discourage developing any innovation park. ”

      Ironically enough, this is one of the reasons that I would like to see the planners and developers themselves bring up the realistic downsides and how they would propose to mitigate them themselves early in the process. I am not sophisticated enough to know what is a realistic concern, and what falls into the category of “every possible nightmare scenario”. Therefore, I expect the planners themselves to present such issues in an honest transparent manner for consideration, just as I will do for a patient who is not medically sophisticated enough to know what is important to ask. Then I can help her sort out the probabilities of each scenario, which are trivial and which are more significant and how to mitigate each. Only then will she be able to decide which is the right path for her. Only when those who are promoting change are willing to do this will we be able to arrive at the right path for the city with out
      the exhausting “death by a thousand cuts”.

      1. Anon

        Tia, trust me, the “death by a thousand cuts” strategy will be tried, no matter how well prepared the developers are to address the downsides. And the closer the city gets to a Measure R vote, the more the opponents of any business growth will amp up the “death by a thousand cuts” tactic. We saw this play out in the Cannery proposal. One developer left town, fed up with those who were going to fight the project tooth and nail. The current developers nearly left town in frustration – frankly it is a miracle they stuck it out. It took a lot of very dedicated citizens, and behind the scenes maneuvering to achieve ultimate success.

        1. Tia Will


          I agree with you that this strategy will be employed by those that David has characterized as the “4”s, no growth under any circumstance. This I agree is inevitable. But for me, it is not the point. The point is to anticipate, plan proactively plan to mitigate to the extent possible and perhaps more some of the “3”s to the “2” position on David’s scale.

  8. Don Shor

    I think that for any business park proposal to pass a vote of the public, the case has to be made:
    — That it has benefits to the community;
    — That the community has needs that can best be met this way;
    — That there will not be adverse consequences;
    — That the project meets ‘Davis standards’ for energy efficiency, transportation, etc.

    In some cases, people are simply unaware of the city’s fiscal condition, the infrastructure needs, and the looming issue of employee compensation and unbudgeted future benefit costs. The council can certainly continue to highlight those issues – especially if it is not sidetracked by pet environmental projects, MRAP’s, and other topics that fill agendas and newspaper columns. Any city council meeting that isn’t reviewing fiscal issues right now is simply a missed opportunity.

    The benefits largely accrue in two tangible ways. They reduce the need for future parcel tax increases. And they help to keep some of our homegrown businesses in town. It’s fine to talk about partnering with UCD and leveraging the university’s image and intellectual assets. But folks need to understand that the relationship with the university is complex and not everyone in town has a completely positive view of how UCD affects the community.

    Town/gown relationships are often a little turbulent in college towns. The university certainly drives growth, but oftentimes does so without regard to the consequences. It would be good to see a more positive relationship develop between the council and the campus administration as to development of housing and innovation sites.

    The Nishi project is a good example of how that can work. But dealing with the Chancellor’s 2020 Initiative should have included more formal collaboration with city officials and planning agencies. UCD doesn’t ‘have to’ cooperate with the city, but failure to do so leads to resentment. Twice I have had people tell me that the city shouldn’t allow any more housing to be built until UCD builds more. These are smart people who are engaged in local politics; they see the university in a somewhat adversarial mode, and I’m sure they aren’t unique. So touting the benefits of UCD as driving these business parks may not be selling those projects to anyone but those who are already favorable to them.

    If you don’t have a housing component, or some kind of collaborative planning process underway, then ‘housing growth’ will become an issue in the campaigns to annex land for business parks. “These parks will increase housing demand” is going to be a very likely opposition position (just ask Mike Harrington).

    There is an unusual opportunity here right now. Willing landowners, project planners who seem to understand the Davis way of doing things, and a favorable council majority are all in place. But the Davis electorate is naturally skeptical of big projects. Clarify the need, be honest and clear about the benefits, don’t oversize or oversell these projects, and don’t demonize the opposition.

    1. Anon

      Don, excellent observations, but I cannot totally agree. The innovation parks do not have to provide housing, and most likely would not succeed passing a Measure R vote if they did. Already opposition is building against Nishi because it includes housing. In many cities across the country, many people do not live in the same community where they work. If an innovation park is built in Davis, it does not necessarily require that employees that work there live in Davis. I personally don’t have a problem developing work/live innovation parks, but much of the opposition will be centered around any whiff of new housing that might be included in an innovation park. That is why the NWQ and Mace projects have promised it would NOT include housing.

    2. realchangz


      With due credit for your very thoughtful comments, the Finance & Budget Commission under the leadership of Mark Siegler, had been asking for fiscal models that would demonstrate the net positive relationship between long term commercial/industrial land use costs and associated revenues. Their request was triggered by a proposal from the now defunct Business & Economic Development Commission which had recommended in their 2011 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Report which similarly suggesting the need for increased economic activity and the potential revenue benefits of increased technology employment within the community.

      It’s not an unreasonable request and the current Finance & Budget Commission has renewed the request for the city to obtain and implement an economic modeling program designed to evaluate such claims. The same request has been made on multiple occasions by the Davis Chamber of Commerce.

      The magnitude of the long-term budgetary numbers gap are going to made clear as Council’s conversations reconvene this Fall. We can only hope that the city will be in position to apply a new and improved project evaluation methodology that can provide better guidance in terms of realistic financial expectations of any new innovation centers that might be brought forward.

    3. Frankly

      Without the university, Davis would be Dixon. Not that there is anything wrong with Dixon in my opinion, but it is not Davis.

      So while we complain about university growth impacts to our demanded lifestyle, let’s not forget that the university is largely responsible for that lifestyle.

      1. Don Shor

        I am aware of that. I am just pointing out that the university is not regarded entirely favorably by the public here — even by those who work at it or who came here because of it.

        1. Frankly

          Those people need a talking to. They need a dose of perspective.

          I’m not a complete fan of UCD business. I think there is a lot about that organization that needs reform. It is bloated with overpaid administrators. It charges too much for the value it provides.

          But the existence of UCD within the community of Davis is largely responsible for Davis’s more attractive quality of life. And we owe some gratitude to the university and should support its mission.

  9. DurantFan

    August is not an optimal month to initiate public contact meetings within the City of Davis concerning development (peripheral or otherwise) because many residents are either away or preoccupied with educational concerns (school). The project proponents may be unintentionally creating “bad optics*” by scheduling informational meetings in August. The prponents should not give the appearance of attempting to fulfilli a public relations requirement while concurrently attempting to minimize public contact. At the last informational meeting, only 35 attendees were present

  10. Tia Will


    I understand your point and feel that there are pros and cons to each approach. I felt that the 35 number was really pretty good for an opening session allowing plenty of time for the presentation and for questions from the audience.

    I believe that they are planning future sessions at which perhaps more people could be in attendance and the project a little more fleshed out.

  11. Edgar Wai

    I do not understand the argument regarding a business park helping to pay for city maintenance.

    The maintenance cost exists with or without the business park. If a business park can somehow pay for our existing issues, then it is paying more that its fair share. The design of such a plan is incorrect because it does not place responsibility on to the correct entities.

    The innovation park should be argued for other reasons, such as providing jobs, shortening people commutes, making the city more vibrant, etc… But the idea that the innovation park would help pay for neglected city maintenance should not be one of them.

    Pay your own bill and let the business park pay theirs. Don’t mix the bills.

    1. realchangz


      Interesting questions – particularly your question why a business park tenant should be “paying more than its fair share.”

      Owing to California tax laws, it’s actually kind of the reverse with some businesses “not collecting” their fair share of tax dollars. Take the example of a two story office building occupied by two law firms, three investment banking firms, and two consulting firms with a bank on the ground floor. With respect to state and local sales taxes, none of these businesses are required to collect or remit such taxes in connection with the operation of their businesses. On the other hand, take a two story TJ Maxx and all of its sales required to be accompanied by the collection of state and local sales tax component. Is that fair? Is that equitable?
      And yet, from the standpoint of the host municipality, one is more desirable that the other.

      There are other such anomalies, particularly in Davis, in which commercial properties occupied or owned by the university are removed from the property tax roles – meaning that such buildings do not contribute the property tax component paid by corresponding enterprise in that same building or office park.

      With respect to Innovation Park properties, it is often the case that the tenants are major users/consumers of very expensive equipment – whether in their research or manufacturing. Such equipment will often be accompanied by a significant sales tax component when first acquired by the user. Subsequently, such equipment is subsequently scheduled as personal property and provides an ongoing base of taxable revenue to the local taxing authority. Lastly, in the case highly valued technology equipment which may be manufactured, sold and shipped from the tenant’s site – such sales are sometimes sold as FOB Factory, Freight Allowed to Jobsite – meaning that title and liability for the product passes at the point of shipping and, for in-state sales, such an event might lead to a taxable event from the standpoint of sales tax collections.

      Then there are the potential indirect benefits to a community based technology company in terms of local vendor sourcing and purchasing. Then there are the more intangible, potential benefits associated with peer-to-peer collaboration and the synergies that might produce for the respective employers, the community and the university. There are also related benefits to the local economy and community in the form of increased levels of discretionary personal income put into circulation. And, finally, there is the associated potential for employer and employee level philanthropic giving as is often associated with the founders and key executives of such businesses.

      Taken together, there is a growing body of evidence that – on balance – it is possible for such technology based innovation businesses and centers to contribute back (dollars and sense) more than they take in the form of municipal services.

      I think it is in this sense that the Innovation Parks are being discussed as potential net providers of local revenues in excess of their associated costs of doing business.

      1. Edgar Wai

        Hello realchangz,

        Not sure if the following is helpful for the discussion, but reading your explanation made me realize that sales tax makes no sense other than the traditional simplicity to calculate and collect a sum of money. It is just people seeing a sum of money and decides to get a cut of it. There is sense of responsibility or balance in that kind of policy.

        How much a company earns by doing business is not related to how much amenities and service it is using at the city. A company’s profit margin is none of the city’s business. Imagine two people renting two rooms from a motel, one is making money while staying there and the other is not. If they are both using the same amount of space and utilities they should be paying the same rate. The amount of income they make is irrelevant to the fiscal balance necessary to maintain the motel.

        If road deterioration is mainly caused by the weather, then each business should just be paying a fee much like garbage collection fee.

        Abolishing sales tax is a big change but having sales tax could distort the dependencies. Since there is no direct relation between sales and the maintenance cost, the city would either collect too much or too little most of the time.

    2. Rob White

      Edgar – this would be true if the State of California model on how cities collect revenue wasn’t skewed towards collecting more from business than residents. In most cities (including Davis) the business account for 60 to 80% of annual revenue though generating property/sales/use taxes and permit fees (like facility improvement or business license). I am not declaring this is ‘fair’, just an outcome of the fiscalization of land use in California.

      Here are several resources that discuss the topic:

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        Rob, I have what I hope is a simple question.

        Take a huge retail business like Costco. My google search revealed that the average Costco location generates approximately $100 Million per year in sales. What kind of yearly revenues does this provide a (lucky) city?

        It seems like such a development would be an economic home run?

        1. Don Shor

          You’ve asked this question about ten times already, and on at least one occasion I answered it.

          A CostCo store averages 150,000 square feet. Average sales per square foot are about $1,000. Typical big box is now 20 – 30% nontaxable, so a CostCo would probably yield about $800,000 per year in sales tax. CostCo’s growth and expansion model doesn’t include building two stores within a two-city area like Davis-Woodland, so that market is already occupied.

  12. Tia Will


    “Pay your own bill”

    Simply and elegantly spoken Edgar. We are the one’s who enjoy the amenities of Davis and we are the ones who should be paying for what we use. Inviting in others in the hopes that they will pay for what we have allowed to lapse is in my opinion not a good approach to our current deficit.

  13. Tia Will


    Two points

    1. An innovation park is not going to even begin to pay for “amenities” or anything else for an estimated 5 years per David. So what are we going to do to pay for those amenities in the meantime ?

    2. We who have used the amenities have an obligation to pay for them and not to pass that on to others. Means of payment ? Fees, taxes, cut backs. All have either been started or will have to be started in the near future. Perhaps pursuing other non traditional ways of funding very specific projects as I posted earlier.

    The innovation parks are not a means of immediate fiscal relief and should simply not be sold that way to the public. They may or may not be a good way to establish sustainability in the future, but they do nothing at all for the immediate fiscal situation. So this is really a separate discussion from getting started on rebuilding our “crumbling infrastructure”.

    1. Rob White

      Tia – true. Innovation parks would not solve today’s problems. But temporary tax measures could, and then the longer term impact of having businesses that add more to the community than they take in services might be able to kick in. This is true in cities throughout California. We are not unique with respect to the source of the majority of taxes.

  14. Tia Will

    Thanks to all for the conversation.

    Where I am at present – as always, subject to change as new information is obtained.

    1. I favor adoption of a new parcel tax and/ or fees

    2. I favor looking at some potential “out of the box” solutions for some of the “bite size” pieces of infrastructure such as the swimming pool, specific areas of parks and roads, and potentially some city buildings.

    3. I favor examining the propositions being put for the by the developers for the innovation parks with the idea of perhaps selecting the best one and moving forward with it if the community accepts this concept.

    What I do not favor is a panicked rush to accept all three of the business parks only to find out with changing economic times that this was not the best fit for our community and that one or more might have been better off in another area of our region. I doubt that there will ever be a time when developers do not want to develop just as there will never be a pre retirement time in which I do not want to see patients. I think the worry that “all businesses are somehow going to avoid Davis ” because of our image, or because of what someone does or doesn’t say at city council is not realistic. I would suggest that we focus on the ideas being presented rather than our fears about how opposition may occur or how we may be perceived.

  15. BrianRiley429

    UCD already went through a big process to create a “research park” starting in 2000 onwards:

    Am I correct is saying that it fizzled out? What we have there now is a bunch of UCD administrative offices, some classrooms and a (non-UCD-affiliated) Masonic Temple:

    Here’s a screenshot I uploaded to show where it is:

    Looks like we do have some neuroscience stuff going on over there.

    1. Tia Will

      Brian posted an interesting article from 2000 and then asks :

      “Am I correct is saying that it fizzled out?”

      I would like someone knowledgeable about the fate of this “innovation center” to fill in the details of what actually happened.
      This might or might not be a cautionary tale about the potential outcomes of “innovation centers” designed to take advantage of the presence of a major research university.

    2. BrianRiley429

      Here’s more background from a Sacramento Bee article series titled “Promise and Peril” (from part 2: “Hurry Up and Wait,” May 8, 2000):


      And then there is UC Davis, the research engine that business leaders hope will make biotech roar in Sacramento. Until very recently, the campus culture frowned upon alliances with business. Mixing commerce and academia was seen as a threat to the university’s scholarly integrity.

      So when UC Davis plant scientist Ray Valentine founded Calgene in 1980, he became an outcast among many of his peers.

      “There was a lot of blood on the wall,” Valentine said.

      UC Davis stood on the sidelines while Stanford University essentially created Silicon Valley and UC San Diego fueled that city’s biotech and telecommunications boom.

      A turning point came in 1998. Amid considerable soul-searching, UC Davis entered into negotiations attempting to bring a major Monsanto research complex to the campus.


      Here’s a link to the whole series of articles:

        1. BrianRiley429

          Oddly enough, if you follow the UCBREP link that I gave above, and then click on the link on the second line of that webpage (“UC Systemwide Biotechnology Research and Education Program”), it explains that the UCBREP program was discontinued in June 2010, yet that webpage remains online as if nothing has changed.

  16. Alan Miller

    “I think the worry that “all businesses are somehow going to avoid Davis ” because of our image, or because of what someone does or doesn’t say at city council is not realistic. I would suggest that we focus on the ideas being presented rather than our fears about how opposition may occur or how we may be perceived.”


  17. Anon

    To Tia:
    As Robb White has noted, innovation parks represent a potential long-term solution to our fiscal problems, not a quick fix. Clearly, within the next 10 years, an innovation park will not be available to help us out of our city’s budget woes, and a parcel tax will be needed. But the idea behind an innovation park is that it would generate enough tax revenue in the future, that continual increases in sales tax and new parcel taxes would not have to be implemented as the way to solve the city’s fiscal problems. If we don’t at least try a solution like an innovation park, we are left with either continually cutting services and/or raising taxes, to the point where many who cannot afford living here would have to leave town.

  18. Tia Will


    “innovation parks represent a potential long-term solution to our fiscal problems”
    “But the idea behind an innovation park is that it would generate enough tax revenue in the future, that continual increases in sales tax and new parcel taxes would not have to be implemented as the way to solve the city’s fiscal problems. If we don’t at least try a solution like an innovation park, we are left with either continually cutting services and/or raising taxes, to the point where many who cannot afford living here would have to leave town.”

    I agree that this is “this is the idea behind an innovation park” and I would stress the word “potential”. I am quite concerned about the approach that you are advocating for “at least trying” without a full accounting of implications both good and bad for the community. Ironically enough, it was Matt Williams description of the land that will now be occupied by The Cannery as blight that put this into a different perspective for me. This site was once a thriving, job producing, real cannery. Ever since the company left, it has been blight. Now with the zoning changed it will become a major housing development with a large component of the type of housing that you state many will not be able to afford. This progression of land use is in my opinion, not optimal and yet it is a consequence of our changing economy. To imply that we know that an “innovation park” will be a net plus for the community is a guess and a hope. Now sometimes, leaps of faith turn out very well. My entire career was based on such a leap. However, i do not think that such an unquestioned leap is the best form of planning for an entire community. A careful balancing of pros and cons is all that I am requesting. And I am requesting it from those who are the experts in the field of development.

    What I want is evidence that this will be successful and that the pros will outweigh the cons. I am one of David’s “3”s. I could certainly be convinced. But I guarantee that I will not be convinced by glossies from the developers and hopeful cheerleading from community members. It will take an in depth assessment of the pros and cons to convince me. And you are absolutely right that the “4”s will never change their minds or their opposition. This is equally true for the “1”s who will never abandon their advocacy.

    I simply cannot see how we can either accept or oppose the concept without a fully fleshed out proposal before us.

  19. Pingback: Commentary: The Choices Ahead For Davis | .:Davis Vanguard:.

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