In an effort to move the discussion away from a polarized no-growth/ go-growth dichotomy this weekend, I introduced the notion that Davis’ electorate does not fall into a simple two-part model where one portion of the electorate supports all development while another portion of the electorate opposes all development.
Instead, I have created four categories of voters on the issue of peripheral innovation parks:
- Category 1 are those who support all development.
- Category 2 are those who are inclined to support innovation parks, but will wait for the details before completely committing.
- Category 3 are those who have a lot of questions that will need to be addressed, but they are not necessarily opposed to the idea of a peripheral innovation park.
- Category 4 are those who oppose all peripheral development or are likely to oppose a peripheral innovation park.
To those skeptics who wish to argue that people are not neatly typecast – I agree. People do not fall into neat categories and we might better conceptualize this as a continuum where the points of separation are gray rather than black and white.
For our current purposes, there are not a lot of Category 4’s that are posting on the Vanguard. There are a few Category 1’s however. For those wondering, I put myself in Category 2.
I have explained my stance previously, but the bottom line is that Davis has a relatively low sales tax base, the days of double digit property tax revenue increases are over, and we have a high demand for a high level of city services and amenities.
Thus we face a critical choice. We can continue to balance the budget through impositions on employee groups, in the form of pay cuts, personnel cuts, and, through impositions on the residents of Davis, in the form of service cuts. We can also pass taxes in five-year increments to shore up revenue needs.
Or we now have a third option, and in the next year to two years, we can see peripheral innovations parks coming forward as a means to generate revenue.
Why am I not in Category 1? First, I don’t support any proposal for the kind of traditional business parks you see in other communities – communities that don’t have a world-class university like UCD. I think we need to push the developers to create a very innovative, special project, that enhances our community. I’m not simply willing to support any project that is thrown up there – moreover, I don’t think the majority of the electorate will either.
I thought one of our posters put the need for innovation parks rather succinctly:
1. The number 1 reason is to increase the revenue to the city so that we can pay our bills and continue funding all the amenities we all demand. Business is the only net-positive city revenue generator. Residential tax revenue eventually turns negative as the cost to service the residential area exceeds the tax inflows. Davis has significantly lower business tax revenue than any other comparable city. It has been proven that the rate of tax increase required to adequately fund the city and pay for our amenities will significantly economically harm many residents. And it is unlikely that the voters would vote to tax themselves at the level required.
2. Support the university that provides us so much. UCD is way behind on its public-private partnership development when compared to other comparable universities. UCD has rocketed up to the top of the list for ag and food science, and the convergence of the historical business development deficit and the reputation advance has led us to a point where the demand for innovation park land is here today. There is a window of opportunity to support the university and it is now. If we stall or reject, then we miss the opportunity to support our university and the university will go elsewhere.
3. The moral imperative to create more good jobs. This is both a local and a regional imperative. I live and work in Davis. It is a wonderful life. We have a moral obligation to help more people… especially UCD grads… do the same. Adding some more jobs will not impact my life enough to justify my preventing them by rejecting economic development.
4. The benefits of local business contributing to the city. The owners and employees of the businesses will give back to the city. For example, Intel spends millions on Folsom schools and other programs.
5. The assist to the demographics of the city, adding more young professionals and more young families.
I think it would be helpful to begin to outline what are critical questions that have to be addressed before people are willing to support an innovation park on a Measure R vote.
To that end, another poster at least highlighted some concerns (I am slightly expanding some of these categories): (1) traffic; (2) housing needs that may be triggered by innovation park discussions; (3) energy efficiency (4) carbon neutrality; (5) fire department coverage and whether it will trigger the need for a new fire station; (5) expansion to peripheral retail or other types of business that are a concern like big box; (6) smart planning principals and concerns about urban sprawl and other growth; (7) insufficient tax revenue; (8) environmental impacts on the community.
This a good start for a discussion. The first question is whether we are missing potential concerns for the people in Categories 2 and 3 and the people in Category 4. It should be noted that discussion often raises important issues and considerations that we should take into account.
At the same time, I would like to see us develop questions that need to be addressed from a variety of different standpoints and then figure out ways to engage the community in discussions on these, as these are likely to become the battle lines. The more we can get out in front of these issues – and not be dismissive of people’s concerns – the more we have set up a way to discuss and improve the proposals.
In addition, I think Tia Will yesterday morning brought up something that needs to be addressed, as well. The issue is that of Tyler Schilling and Schilling Robotics. There is little doubt that the developer, as expressed by Dan Ramos and all five of the Davis City Council members, is concerned about the prospect of keeping Schilling Robotics in Davis.
As Rochelle Swanson noted, the first rule of economic development is to keep what you have. At the same time, Tia Will brings up a solid point, writing, “The question is should the city be making sweeping plans with multiple implications for change ( freely admitted by both sides of the growth issue that dramatic change will occur , seen as desirable by one side and unwanted by the other) in order to accommodate the needs of any particular business ?”
She added, “This is not the first time we have heard pleas for the city to intervene to ‘save’ a particular business. We have heard pleas to intervene with Davis Diamonds and with the Laundromat that was being forced to close. Is it the role of the city to intervene for every business ? Only when specifically asked by enough residents? Only when the business is large enough to generate significant money for the city overall ? What standards are we choosing as a community for when to intervene or should we be taking this on a case by case basis ?”
Some took issue to the term “save,” but clearly in this case she meant “save” it as a Davis business.
Along the same lines, what happens if the better project that emerges is not the Mace Innovation Project but rather one located in the Northwest Quadrant? In some ways, these projects are going to hinge on “the art of the possible.” If we have the space at the Northwest Quadrant, would Schilling be willing to move there?
If the city of Davis decides to develop their 25-acre parcel that lies between the Mace 391 property and the Mace Innovation Park property, as Councilmember Brett Lee discussed in July – would that be a possible destination for Schilling?
To me, at least, a big consideration is going to have to be what project will the voters approve and what will it take to get there. I think for those who are strongly in favor of the development of innovation parks – those in Categories 1 or a hard Category 2, those are issues that should be laid out and addressed sooner rather than later.
What else should be included in these discussions before we see formalized proposals coming forth next month? What do you think the people in Categories 2 and 3 need to hear in order to support a project? How can realistic concerns emerging from more skeptical voters be addressed? How can we avoid a polarizing fight – or can we?
—David M. Greenwald reporting