My View: The Courage to Kill a Bad Proposed Innovation Park


innovation-centerA lot of people have talked about a concept of demolition by neglect, where there are buildings on a parcel where the developer wishes to propose a project that gains a large amount of controversy and they may skirt the issues by allowing the buildings to fall into disrepair, making their demolition inevitable. There is a similar concept of paralysis by analysis, the idea being that people allow the process to bog down due to the increasing need for analysis.  Some people in our community are concerned that the current process will fall victim to that kind of analysis paralysis.

My biggest concern, however, is that we become so invested in getting an innovation park project approved that we fail to push for and press the developers to develop a good project. Recently at a meeting I was heartened to hear at least one group of leaders share that concern and, at least in principle, agree to be willing to kill a bad project.

Now, of course, in principle it is easier to understand the concept than put it into practice. So let me lay out a couple of issues here.

First, I firmly believe that a bad project is worse than no project. I understand the “Yes on Everything, we needed to build the innovation park yesterday as well as ten years ago” crowd is going to get up in arms at me for this comment. But hold your breath and count to ten.

You may not like Measure R, you may think it’s harming the city, but it is the law of the land and it is not going to go away. Any project that converts agricultural land to an urbanized use has to pass a Measure R vote, period, end of story. So the minimum threshold for any project is whether it can get to 51 percent of its Measure R vote. And, as you well know, we have limited ability to poll and, therefore, you have to build a project that you hope can get 60 to 70 percent of the vote to hedge against the unforeseen in a campaign.

Having a bad project has a cost and it is a big cost. Covell Village was a bad project – it was too large and failed to mitigate for traffic problems in a sufficient manner. The proponents undoubtedly spent millions of dollars on the project and it went down to a thunderous defeat.

But here’s the thing – the temptation might be, hey nothing ventured, nothing gained. But the reality is quite different, as not only are the developers out of money from that project, the site which seems to be a prime spot for some kind of development lies empty.

The community was so poisoned by the campaign that emerged around Measure X in 2005 that a subsequent effort to put senior housing on the site failed miserably, and the site is likely to remain vacant for at least the next twenty years.

Putting forth no project would have been far better from the perspective of the developers and land owners than a bad project.

That is the danger we face – if we put forth a bad project at one of the innovation park sites, and it gets defeated, that may be the last shot we have at an innovation park. The stakes cannot be higher – the developers must get it right, even if that means delay and going back to the drawing board.

The developers naturally are trying to avoid those pitfalls by getting community, stakeholder and leadership feedback before coming out with a formal proposal.

I think everyone recognizes this pitfall, but I think it is easier to state that you will kill a bad project in the abstract.

There are some factors that could prevent these leaders from following through.

First and most obvious, is that there may well be disagreement about what constitutes a bad project. Personally, I do not believe that ConAgra/New Home Company could have gotten the Cannery project to pass a Measure R vote as formulated. There are people who believe that the Cannery project is very good, and the most innovative one we have had, and there are others who think we settled for a mediocre project and could have and should have pushed for a great one.

The project had a lower burden as they only had to convince three councilmembers (which they did on a 3-2 vote) and hope that the community would not attempt to put the measure on the ballot.

Second, and perhaps more serious, is that once the train starts rolling, who is going to want to be the one to pull the plug on it. Look, it’s easy to state in the abstract that you will kill it, but if you are facing the loss of Schilling Robotics, are you going to really say, “Sorry, this is not good enough, we need to improve it”?

Along the same lines, we may just get to the point where we can no longer stop the project – the more time goes on, the more money goes into it, the more difficult the project will be to stop. I felt that way on the water project in 2011, that the train had just moved too far down the track, and, but for the referendum, that flawed project with flawed rates would have gone forward. The same was true for Cannery – it is hard to stand up and vote no.

The third downfall is uncertainty. We’re never going to be certain if a project can pass a Measure R vote. In 2009, the project developers of Wildhorse Ranch (A) added on to the sustainability component to make it zero net energy, (B) attempted to improve the fiscal model to get to fiscal neutrality, and (C) even made last minute changes to accommodate universal design principles.

But the project was never able to overcome initial neighborhood opposition and the timing of the project was wrong, given the housing market.

The lessons there may not all apply to the current situation, but they illustrate that you cannot predict or assure success at the ballot box. Given that uncertainty, I would tend to err on making the project as good as you can, but, given that uncertainty, it might be easy for many to say that this is good enough, any more becomes paralysis by analysis.

The bottom line is that the developers can respond to all public concerns and attempt to mitigate as many as possible, and it still might not be enough to pass.

In this case I agree that failure is not an option. Failure means that the city will likely lose Schilling Robotics and probably several other companies. Failure means more taxes and/or cuts to city services and amenities. And failure probably means we do not get a second shot at this, because who wants to risk millions on a project that is destined to be voted down at the ballot box?

There is also downside risk for defenders of Measure R and slow growth. Measure J was a very close election. Measure R was not. If Measure R paralyzes our ability for economic development, it could be at risk in the future because many voters will see a simple choice … either higher taxes or Measure R.

From everyone’s perspective, we need a good project to go forward and we need leaders with the courage to say no to a project that will not pass a Measure R vote.

—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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45 thoughts on “My View: The Courage to Kill a Bad Proposed Innovation Park”

  1. gunrock

    While I agree that a bad innovation park would be a lousy idea for the community, I do strongly believe that a well-designed innovation park is going to be an important addition when it is built. The city completely blew it by approving the “Cannery Park” rather than building a world-class innovation park there. Finding a suitable replacement for this failure of planning is not going to be easy. I apploaud the approach of looking at several sites and getting the developers to engage with the community long before there are permits pending.

    1. Anon

      I have to disagree with one point you make here. The Cannery was never going to be a business park. At one time I was of the mind that you are, that it should have been an innovation park. But as time went on, I finally realized it was never, ever going to happen. The neighbors were against it, and business wants to locate next to a freeway. The Cannery parcel is too far away from major freeways/highways. The parcel has access problems for delivery trucks, etc., etc., etc. Once I finally realized The Cannery was never going to be a business park, then I was okay with housing, altho not real gung-ho. However, as the developer started speaking to the public, bringing theirs ideas to a number of commissions, and showed a real willingness to listen and work with the community, I actually became a staunch advocate of this project. My guess is, that when citizens look back in 5 years, they will realize The Cannery is actually a wonderful project and will very much add to the prestige of Davis as an innovative community.

      1. DT Businessman

        Newsflash. The Cannery has a business park component. There was always a business park component. The fight was always over how much or how little, never over a total absence thereof.

        -Michael Bisch

          1. Matt Williams

            If Sue Greenwald controlled the decision it would have been. “Never” is a bit absolute don’t you think.

          2. Mark West

            ““Never” is a bit absolute don’t you think.”

            No. I think it accurately describes the situation. In its day, the Cannery was a great location for a tomato processing plant, but today it is not a great location for a business park. The space fronting Covell Blvd. does provide a good location for retail expansion in town, but this entire property would never make a good site for large business development, without better access to the freeways.

            Sue Greenwald opposed business development in town, but for political reasons she preferred to claim that she favored it, but only as long as it occurred at her preferred locations. She had the same approach with infill housing, claiming to favor it as long as it was limited to the PG&E and Nishi properties, which I am certain she expected would not be developed in her lifetime.

            What is surprising to me is that you would use Sue Greenwald as a basis for your argument today. Is she currently on the City Council? Is she currently a civic leader? Since we all know that she isn’t either, what relevance do you see for Sue’s opinions in the current discussion? Maybe you should allow Sue to present her own ideas if she wants, and limit yourself to your talking about your own opinions (instead of hiding behind someone else’s).

          3. Matt Williams

            Mark, as best as I could tell the discussion as it progressed from gunrock to Anon to DT Businessman and back to Anon was about the history of the ConAgra site. I didn’t see any qualification that the only timeframe was current. I wasn’t making an argument, only an observation about the historical veracity of the comment during the course of that timeline.

          4. Don Shor

            Regardless of whether it would have worked as a business park, the owners made it very clear they would never develop anything except housing there. And they knew they only had to wait until they had 3 council votes to do that.

          5. Davis Progressive

            have to agree with matt, there was at one point at least a strong minority view that business park would be better developed there. if enough people had been elected to council, why would that *never* have happened?

          6. Mark West

            Perhaps a different CC majority would not have changed the zoning on the site, but that would have had no impact on whether or not a business park was build there. There was too little profit to be had in building a business park in a poor location so the land owner would have been much more likely to wait it out looking for a new CC majority in the future. We can not force the developer to build a project that they don’t want to build.

            What it would have done however is block consideration for any of the proposed innovation parks since the argument would be that we don’t need peripheral business development as long as the Cannery site was available. So not only would we not have the much needed, innovative housing project now being built at the Cannery, but we also would not have had any of the prospective Innovation Centers that are currently on the table.

          7. Alan Miller

            ” . . . but this entire property would never make a good site for large business development, without better access to the freeways.”

            Yeah, because tomato trucks en masse couldn’t make it to the freeways from there.

            There are huge business parks in Sacramento and Silicon Valley much further than a mile from a freeway and they are fine. This was always a straw argument.

  2. Frankly

    I challenge you to point out any “bad project” located in Davis that was built prior to Measure J. It is really quite ridiculous to read this type of thing… that our collection of activated citizens prone to believing that they, and only they, can define what a good project is, and that all developers if left to their own designs would simply rape, pillage and destroy… leaving behind a decrepit and undesirable pile-o-buildings having walked away with their barrels full of cash.

    Developers and their architects know everything about what attracts potential buyers to their projects, and since their buyers are largely human persons like those in Davis that think they know better, they will generally want the same things.

    All Davis has to do is to create a prioritized list of features they want to see. At the top of the list should be those that we demand, and then leading to those nice-to-haves. Then we need to get the hell out of the way and let the projects begin.

    Analysis paralysis begins when too many busy-bodies insert themselves into business that they have no business inserting themselves in. It ends when the optimized group of stakeholders and project participants is identified and activated around a concise list of shared goals and pre-determined conflicts having been mitigated.

    Unfortunately Measure J/R results in too much of the former and not enough of the latter. But there are signs, including the hiring and work of Rob White, that the city understands the need for more of the latter and is moving forward in the right ways. I remain guardedly optimistic that we will actually get something done instead of letting the typical Davis entitled demand for some schizophrenic definition of perfection be the definitive enemy of the good.

    1. DT Businessman

      Frankly, you might want to rethink your comment here. There are numerous functionally and economically obsolete properties in Davis, some of them quite recent. They’re not necessarily the fault of the developer. The city, the CC and various community activists had a hand in some of them. I’d be happy to tour town with you to point them out.

      -Michael Bisch

      1. Frankly

        Michael – can you not comment on them on the blog? I’m certainly not saying that every single property developed is going to be a home run, but seriously, where is the justification for all the hand-wringing that any of these innovation parks are going to the massive mistake inferred by this article?

        There are people still wringing their hands over the cannery development. I will bet you several good German beers that once complete it will become an accepted and valued asset of the community.

    2. Davis Progressive

      what difference does your point make frankly – the point is that an innovation park has to pass with majority support. a bad project is one that doesn’t get that majority support.

  3. Napoleon Pig IV

    “. . . all developers if left to their own designs would simply rape, pillage and destroy… leaving behind a decrepit and undesirable pile-o-buildings having walked away with their barrels full of cash.”

    What an excellent summation of a key guiding principle of the Porcine Pinnacle of Power! I congratulate you on your insight.

    As for the Cannery project, is anyone really surprised by the 3-2 vote? Really?

    As hard as it is for the pigs to believe, there is a vital role for enlightened government in the affairs of animals and men. As hard as it is for the sheep to understand, there is a very slippery slope from a noble stand for enlightened government to a reserved seat at the trough serving the Porcine Pinnacle. Oink!

  4. Anon

    Frankly makes a very valid point. So many developers in this town have faced the analysis paralysis problems and anti-business climate difficulties here. We almost lost at least two good projects recently that I personally know of because of it. And as much as Tia will object to my characterization, the two good projects succeeded only because of some deft behind the scenes maneuvering. (Please do not ask me to name the two projects.) I also know that a businessman, who was accepting an award from the City Council not so long ago, said something to me to the effect that as much as he was proud to receive the award, his business had a heck of time getting established in Davis because of the anti-business flavor of the process.

    Having said that, I do think city staff have improved the process quite a bit and are ready to welcome new business to Davis. My concern is more in the area of analysis paralysis, from both the City Council and citizens. There seems to be this notion that the city has the leverage to wring as many concessions out of developers as possible. This is just not true – developers will not build a project that does not pencil out for them. There are plenty of other welcoming venues to do business. I think it is equally true that the City Council and citizens will not accept a project unless it pencils out for the city, so that an innovation park generates sufficient tax revenue to make approving the park worthwhile. Nor will citizens put up with an innovation park that has a net negative impact to the city in terms of cost of services and inconvenience.

    The problem area lies somewhere in the middle, when it comes to deciding what “type” of innovation park do citizens want, and the amenities thereof, which can be very, very subjective. Not everyone has the same vision or interest in micromanaging the developers. For instance, one gentleman recently insisted he wants an innovation park to not be just net zero energy, he wants it to be net positive. This is exactly the sort of thing that very well may kill an innovation park project. When citizens start demanding so much that they set the bar impossibly high, then it doesn’t pencil out for the developer or the project just becomes ridiculously infeasible. An analogy is the latest fighter jet the US gov’t is trying to get off the ground (pardon the pun). It has been bogged down with all sorts of technical problems and cost overruns because there are just too many goodies on it.

    In short, at some point, everyone has to be ready to settle for less than perfect. I don’t want to see the excellent fail while the city dithers around seeking out perfection. To me, the fallacy of this entire article is the premise that there are people in Davis who want an innovation park no matter what. I just don’t think that is true. Who would want to build an innovation park, just for the sake of building an innovation park, that was a net drain on the city’s budget or was just plain net neutral? I think everyone is pretty much on the same page about the economics of the innovation park issue. It is the the more nuanced “visioning” part that seems to be the sticking point.

    However, in speaking with a consultant who has been hired by the city to facilitate innovation parks, I had my analysis confirmed, that this will be a huge collaborative process, involving public outreach, city commission input, City Council check-ins, etc. There will be plenty of time to “get it right” so that the majority of citizens will be happy with the result. Will there be obstructionists who will try and throw a monkey wrench into every step of the process? Sure. But that just means the rest of us have to put pressure on the City Council to see the value of a well planned innovation park that achieves certain definite parameters, and has a lot of wonderful “goodies” that make the innovation park a true asset to the community. Most of us are not looking for perfection, but we are looking for excellence.

    1. Tia Will


      “Analysis paralysis begins when too many busy-bodies insert themselves into business that they have no business inserting themselves in”

      Wow. Shades of the conversations that took place in Orange County ( where I lived at the time) and my hometown of Gig Harbor which I have written about. Please tell me why a developer rightfully prioritizing his business of development, or a businessman who is understandably interested in promoting his business, has more right to weigh in than does a resident of the city. Why should only those who are at the other end of the “development spectrum” from you be labelled as “busy bodies” who have “no
      business inserting themselves” ? I believe that any one living in , attending school at, or conducting business in Davis is a stake
      holder and as such has a right if to “insert themselves” and their opinions into the conversation in anyway they see fit.

      I cannot help but think that had money not outweighed all else, there might still be some orange groves and strawberry fields in Orange County and a few less mansions but more working farms in my hometown. You state that this cannot happen here, but then insert the key “within a few decades” as the modifier in a recent post. My time line may be longer than yours, but I am not going to pretend that what I have seen happen twice in the past 50 years, could never happen here.

      1. Mark West

        “Please tell me why a developer rightfully prioritizing his business of development, or a businessman who is understandably interested in promoting his business, has more right to weigh in than does a resident of the city.”

        The Developer owns (or controls) the land, the citizen does not. The owner of the land has much more say over how that land is utilized than does his non-owner neighbor. If the City owned the land in question, then every citizen would be justified in believing that their voice should be heard in the discussion of how the land should be used. If not, then only the local controlling jurisdiction has that right, and the individual is really nothing more than a busy body.

        In the end we will all get to vote on whether or not we want the project to proceed. I have complete confidence that Dr. Will will find a reason to justify voting no (it will not be innovative enough), regardless of how many hoops the developer jumps through during the process. I think it is complete hubris for anyone here to believe that they have the ability to identify what a good project is beyond what they personally like or don’t like. Why don’t we just stop wringing our hands and allow our City Staff to work with the Developers, with the direction of our CC, to create a project that is projected to be a net positive for the City’s budget, and put that project in front of the voters. If they fail, then so will we all, and they will certainly fail if they spend their time trying to appease all of the negative voices in town.

        1. hpierce

          Strongly agree with Mark for the development of land consistent with its existing zoning/landuse.

          Not so much for dramatic changes in land use, ex. Ag to Ind Park. In those cases, the owner is entitled to “ask”, but the City does not owe them a “yes” answer.

          1. Mark West

            I completely agree hpierce. The City does not owe them a ‘yes’ if there is a change of zoning. That is where the local jurisdiction has control and the right to dictate what happens. When the City wants the land developed however, as in the current situation, they need to work with the Developer to find a project that is a beneficial for both the Developer and the City, and not act like they can dictate to the land owner what must be done.

            In either case, the rights of the nosy neighbor are limited to their influence over their elected representatives (and in this case their vote in a Measure R election), and not as a voice in the negotiations.

  5. Tia Will


    ” I don’t want to see the excellent fail while the city dithers around seeking out perfection. ”

    Agreed. And I don’t want to see the mediocre enacted while a developer trumpets it as innovative.

    I believe that this is what happened with the Cannery. Not to re – open the Cannery debate, but with virtually no “innovations” that are not just versions of projects that are already in existence somewhere else and in some cases considerably watered down, I do not see the Cannery as an especially “innovative project” although it was sold as such.
    In a conversation with one of the city council members who voted yes, it was pointed out to me that the residents of this community would likely “enjoy” living there. No doubt that is true. I enjoy living in my 1950 Old East Davis bungalow. That does not mean that we should adhere to the standards of the Old East Davis build out because it is enjoyable no matter how
    “innovative” it was described as being.

    1. Anon

      I think it is really sad that you do not consider the Cannery innovative, when in fact so much of it is. First, it is universally designed, which is an amazing stride forward for a developer. The Cannery folks were not even sure it could be done, but by golly they listened and somehow they found a way. I also believe there will be some sort of mini-farms on the periphery, another enhancement. It will not be a net zero energy project, but it will be considerably more energy efficient than other developments in Davis. The Cannery is also planned more as an “urban” community, so there are more houses on less land – in other words infill. However, it is designed with the idea in mind to create community interactivity by cleverly designing how the houses face each other in a courtyard type fashion. This development also has ADUs as part of some of the home plans, which allows the owner to either have an elderly parent living on the property or use the ADU as rental income and possibly increase affordable housing. To fit all these ideas in one community was quite a feat, and consequently the Cannery actually won an award for their innovative design.

      I’m not sure what the Cannery doesn’t have that you personally wanted to see that was not included. However, the developer cannot possibly please everyone. I personally would not want to live at the Cannery because I don’t care for infill. I would prefer to live in a house on a big lot, but unfortunately that is not the direction the state or this community is going. Nevertheless I am appreciative of the efforts the Cannery folks made to accommodate as many of the requests as they did. There were many competing interests, factions who wanted different things, city policies that were in conflict with some citizen desires, state policies that required encouragement, etc. that the Cannery developer had to take into account. At some point, the project has to pencil out for the developer – if it doesn’t the project is not feasible.

      And lastly, there will always be citizens who are against any growth, and clothe that viewpoint in constant criticism of every aspect of a proposed project. They perpetually raise the bar, so that no developer can possibly meet their supposed “requirements”. It is a tactic to achieve no growth if possible. They are people who quite frankly want to save what is theirs, pull down the portcullis, fill the moat around the city, and fill the moat with alligators. No one else should get in. The problem with that myopic world view is that no city will survive stagnancy. Eventually such an unsustainable model will self-destruct, because there will be no way to pay for city services and sustain schools without a certain amount of change.

      1. Mark West

        “And lastly, there will always be citizens who are against any growth, and clothe that viewpoint in constant criticism of every aspect of a proposed project…”

        Completely agree with your last paragraph (in its entirety).

      2. Tia Will


        I think the difference of opinion that we have regarding the Cannery can be found in our differing interpretations of the word innovation. You correctly stated that the developers chose to make a number of “enhancements”. I do not interpret “enhancement” and “innovation” as synonymous.

        There is no doubt that the developers listened and made many changes to accommodate the desires of citizen groups. And my point is not about features that I would have liked to have seen since there is no possibility that I will ever be living there. My point was solely about “innovation” which was a major selling point, and which I believe to have been inaccurate since virtually every “innovation” has been accomplished elsewhere and as you pointed out it will not be net zero as an example of how it falls short of what is achievable.

        I also consider your point about “penciling out for the developer” a little differently from your interpretation. The developer has no obligation to discuss this “pencilling out” or put, another way, just how much profit on the project they feel is worth their while. Of course they will not build a project in which they will lose money….and we will never know how much profit they define as “penciling out”. If we are considering buying a plastic toy or a dress or even a piece of electronics, we frequently have some kind of idea based on quality of the item, how much we feel it cost to produce, and how long it is likely to be useful or up to date before we make our purchase. When we as a community, “buy” a project, there is much less certainty about any of these factors and thus I think there is a responsibility of the developer to be very transparent and honest about the features of their proposal, both the pros and cons.

  6. Tia Will


    “I challenge you to point out any “bad project” located in Davis that was built prior to Measure J.”

    I’m not sure if I have my timing right ( feel free to correct if I am in error), but I believe that Matt already did give this example when he wrote about the area adjacent to the freeway in South Davis which is now occupied by the Davis Kaiser Clinic, auto body shops , fast food restaurants, gas stations, AppleBees and IHOP. While I have no problem with any of these businesses except perhaps the least healthful of the food chains, I would question whether the location with the direct freeway access and proximity to the University might not have better served the city as an innovation park than as the businesses that are located there now. Notice that I am not laying blame at all for the location, only pointing out in response to your question that I believe it was a “bad project” for its current location.

    1. Anon

      To Tia: You think an innovation park should be located where the Safeway environs is, with all that housing and university buildings around? I’m not sure a developer or other citizens would agree with you. But then that is exactly my point. You are certainly entitled to your opinion, as I am entitled to mine, and everyone else is entitled to theirs. The problem is that all these viewpoints cannot be accommodated by a developer, because often these viewpoints are not compatible with each other.

      So I am going to ask you a question that is not intended to be confrontational or accusatory in any way. What sort of growth do you favor, if any? What is your vision of Davis, that has/is not being met by current plans of development. And how do you think your vision meshes with that of other citizens in this town?

      1. Matt Williams

        Anon, the Davis Business Park was built in 1980. I believe that predated all the Oakshade (Safeway environs) housing by a decade, if not more. The University buildings are actually in that 38-acre development area. In 1980 there probably wasn’t much of anything south of Interstate 80. other than farmland.

      2. Tia Will


        What Matt wrote is why I prefaced my comment that I might be wrong about the time sequence and asked for correction if wrong. I do not know enough about the time line of the development of South Davis to have been sure about what was present at the time of development.

        I will happily try to address your questions about my preferences and vision for Davis and what those are based on.

        We are far beyond my personal preference for Davis. I liked it best when I arrived in 1979 when it still could be described as a small city adjacent to an agricultural university. I stress the word agricultural.

        I believe that we all can agree that Davis is on ( in some parts which Don could clearly point out) and surrounded by rich agricultural land. This is the core on which Davis and UCD were built and I would like us to remain as close to that core as is feasible. Davis has also already had what I perceive as a lot of growth with the addition of a number of developments and businesses since I arrived, so to characterize it as no growth is quite a stretch for me.

        I realize that there is no going back and there is never absence of change. However, I am by nature a minimalist. I believe that humans should live as lightly and non disruptively on the land as possible. I believe that we should do this as individuals, in our own homes and communities and that the effect would inevitably ripple outward as we were discussing on another thread. I know this is anathema to Frankly and some other posters, but I do not believe that more is always better and I feel that a consumption based life style is at its heart very destructive. This is the basis for my belief that Davis should remain as “green” as possible. I frequently fall short of this ideal in my own life, however, I still see it as a goal to strive for.

        I also believe that we should pay as we go. I do not believe in holding other people responsible for paying for our desires whether those people happen to be paying in money, or in loss of opportunity to make their own choices about their environment. When we make the choice to grow, we are essentially denying our children the right to make their own development decisions which may or may not be the same as ours. We are also determining for them that there will be a greater degree of traffic, noise, congestion, pollution…..than there would be without the growth. This is demonstrable fact, not fear or exaggeration, these are the known trade offs. And we are doing this ( ostensibly ) to pay for our own poor financial decisions in the past. One of the major motives for the drive for an innovation park is the improvement of our cities infrastructure which we should have been maintaining all along. This actually does not make much sense to me since the funds anticipated from an innovation park will not kick in for a number of years. The infrastructure will have to be addressed by some form of taxation at least in the short term. If people want to state, honestly, that they want a larger city and that they want to be able to make more money, and that they want more places to “get their hands dirty and tinker “as one gentleman said, that’s fine, and we can see if enough people agree that this is the best way for Davis to head. But I remain adamant about all parties being completely honest in intent, in all predictable consequences, and that there not be maneuvering behind closed doors as certainly occurred with the Cannery.

        So my ideal would be no further growth. Since this is impossible, what I would like to see is as little population growth as legally possible coupled with consideration of “innovation parks” on a one at a time basis to assess the impact as we go. I would like said “innovation parks” to represent true “cutting edge innovation” the way one developer put it, not ideas that have already been implemented in other communities and portrayed as “innovation” here. I also would like Davis to see itself as part of the region, not as an isolated entity that must always compete with the surrounding communities. We do not live in isolation, so why is it so difficult to recognize that a very, very large business or cluster of businesses might be better suited for a location in Sacramento or other surrounding area ? If we were to arrange for adequate public transportation to these other locations much of the need for using one’s car to commute is resolved. The trend amongst our children’s generation is less, not more dependence on the private automobile. We are continuing to argue the paradigm of our own generation as the best and inevitable, however, this ignores the more recent trends of internet shopping and preference for walking, bike and public transportation of much of our youth.

  7. realchangz


    Your comment: “we are essentially denying our children the right to make their own development decisions which may or may not be the same as ours. We are also determining for them that there will be a greater degree of traffic, noise, congestion, pollution…..”

    I would ask you to consider the corollary, if we do not make provision for our future generations to similarly join and partake of our community – are we not likewise denying them the foundational opportunity to even join in the conversation?

    I am talking about career opportunities and pathways. Would you be here today if you had not be able to find suitable employment and career opportunity? Would you be here today if your employer had not made a commitment to locate in a prosperous and thriving community which held opportunity and potential for their business model to prosper?

    What I continue to argue is the need for an inclusive, deliberative visioning process that might allow for a healthy and necessary growth in employment opportunities consistent with the core values of our community. As we have seen in other communities, host to world class research universities, our definition of growth need not be conflated with a growth in residential housing. Perhaps that is yesterday’s paradigm, but it need to dictate how we choose to vision and evolve our future.

  8. Tia Will


    Unlimited growth is not sustainable. Unless we are willing to establish some parameters for what our maximum sustainability will be, Orange County is a realistic possibility. I am not in favor of absolute “no growth” policies, for example, I favored the water project since I did not feel it is reasonable to use the life essential water as the limiting factor on growth. However, that does not mean that we should be profligate with our use of water as we have been so far with water in California, nor should we be profligate in our use of land.

    I realize that everyone has different life experiences that shape their values. In two areas in which I have lived, I have watched as those with more money and resources than the residents dramatically changed the face of the community and the surrounding lands to suit their economic goals. To me, it was very sad to quite literally watch as miles and miles of orchards and strawberry fields were converted into gas stations, strip malls, fast food stores and outlets to “serve” a population that in terms of resources, should never have been located there in the first place. Since I have watched it happen twice, I know it is possible despite those who claim this could never happen in Davis. This is not the vision I have for Davis, and unless we are quite thoughtful and vigilant in the projects we choose, I believe this may be the path we are choosing. I sincerely hope I am wrong.

    1. realchangz

      And, regarding career pathways for the next generation.

      And, regarding career pathways for our children and theirs to be able to absorb the unfunded debts our generation is leaving behind in terms of deferred infrastructure investment and unfunded healthcare programs – read Medicare and other unfunded federal, state and local programs – what is our obligation to provide them with a runway to success and opportunity in their time on this planet?

      What are your constructive recommendations?

  9. Anon

    To Tia: Thanks for responding to my inquiry. It at least helps me better understand where you are coming from. I have a totally different view however. I’m not quite sure what your definition of “innovation” is. However, it is my understanding that the inclusion of universal design concepts in the entire Cannery development is the first of its kind in the country. And the Cannery won an award for its “innovative design”. So apparently your definition varies significantly from a lot of others.

    Secondly, when I came here in 1987, this town was in sad want of restaurants, sufficiently sized grocery stores, etc. Since that time, it has IMO improved immensely. Now we have a lively downtown with all sorts of restaurants to go to, a Target where even low income can find mundane items at a reasonable price, sufficiently sized grocery stores that are pristine clean and convenient as heck to shop at. Interestingly enough, I believe (correct me if I am wrong) your employer (Kaiser) was not here in Davis in 1987. Would you have preferred Kaiser stay out of Davis? UCD set up its own medical offices in town, as did Woodland Healthcare. Davis has its own hospital now, which was not the case when I moved here. Woodland was the nearest hospital.

    You have stated you would prefer “no growth”, altho you concede this is impossible. You yourself have benefitted from the growth that has occurred thus far, yet if we close off growth and keep Davis as it is now, then no one else gets to enjoy Davis. And what of those who don’t share your vision of Davis? How does a developer handle the various “visions” of Davis, that often conflict with each other?

    1. Matt Williams

      Davis has its own hospital now, which was not the case when I moved here. Woodland was the nearest hospital.

      I did a quick check of the history of Davis, and the facility now known as Sutter Davis Hospital opened iin 1968 as the privately-owned Davis Community Hospital. Sutter Health purchased the facility in 1981 and renamed it Sutter Davis Hospital. Sutter Health doubled the size of Sutter Davis Hospital in 1994.

    2. Jim Frame

      when I came here in 1987…Davis has its own hospital now, which was not the case when I moved here.

      For the record, Davis Community Hospital was located on Road 99 on land now occupied by a single-family house (which, for the curious, was moved from central Davis a few years ago). It was a single-story facility of modest size, and sat just east of the big white horse arena north of Covell & Lake (the southerly extension of Road 99). It opened in 1968 and operated — first a for-profit, and later as a nonprofit under Sutter ownership — until the new Sutter campus opened in 1994 or so.

      1. Anon

        My mistake, which is odd, since I went to both. However, when I fell deathly ill some years ago, I was taken to Woodland hospital to handle my case, not Davis Hospital. Davis Hospital was not equipped to handle it.

        1. Jim Frame

          I had to look it up to verify dates. I did some work at the old site as part of its restoration to vacant land, and was stunned to learn that I did that work almost 20 years ago. If this keeps up, I might have to conclude that I’m getting old.

  10. Tia Will


    We’ll that depends a good deal on what you consider constructive.

    1. My first recommendation is not unique, it is actually quite old and attributable to President Kennedy. I believe that we all would be better served by asking not “What can my country can do for me but rather what can I do for my country .

    2. I would suggest that we broaden our definition of what constitutes a rewarding career to include any positive contribution to our community and that we pay a living wage for every contribution.

    3. I would suggest redefining success from acquiring wealth to societal contribution.

    4. With regard to leaving them to pay for our excesses and lack of maintenance, I wouldn’t. I believe that we should tax ourselves enough to clean up our own mess. Those of us who are more affluent should pay more, and those who truly could not remain in Davis could be subsidized.

    For those who don’t believe that it is possible because this is not how we do things now, I would counter that we have overcome equally high mental and logistical hurdles in the past. Two examples that come immediately to mind are rejecting the notion that people can be bought and sold as property based on the color of their skin or that women should have the right to vote after all. We are the only barrier in our away to building a stronger, healthier , more sustainable way of life for our children.

  11. Tia Will


    What you are describing is a difference in expectations and desires of our community. I arrived in 1979 with a bike and two suitcases. I did not find there to be a “sad” lack of restaurants. Friends and I had no lack of places to eat Chinese, Thai , Indian or Italian food. True there was a paucity of “fine dining” but many believe that there still is.

    I survived quite nicely without the Target simply by planning ahead which inexpensive items I would need for the next quarter and shopping ahead. I could get the food I needed easily from the Coop or Lucky’s. The Palms was still here and there were two mainstream theaters and at various times, the Varsity. I was as content them as I am now if not more so. It was the small city, peaceful atmosphere that brought me back.

    As I have previously stated, i am a minimalist. I do not need multiple choices of restaurants and I fail to see how adding a 10th Target within a 30 minute radius of some part of Davis really added to the quality of life here, especially now with virtually anything one could want delivered to your doorstep, often cheaper from Amazon, and I know virtually no kids in the 18 to 26 range who do not know how to order that way.

    As for the provision of medical care in Davis, I have a very different point of view. First, I have worked in Davis for a relatively small portion of the time I have been here so the presence of the clinic in town has not made that much of a difference to me. Kaiser does not have a hospital in Davis. The closest towards the west is in Vacaville and I have never practiced there. But that is not really pertinent to my feelings about health care. Davis only generates enough need for hospitalizations for one hospital to be operative in Davis. Since I am a firm believer that health care should be provided through a single party payer due to the inefficiencies and duplication of services engendered through our totally dysfunctional, needlessly competitive rather than collaborative fee for service , insurance based, lack of health care “system”, my answer would have to be “no” in the sense that none of us are “well served” by the distribution of health care services which tend to provide an excess of options for some and none at all ( except the closest ER) for others.

  12. Anon

    To Tia: So the one question you have not answered is how does the innovation park developer cater to our differing viewpoints, which are diametrically opposed? Or another pertinent question, how does this city pay for its services without an innovation park? Only the wealthy need apply? Because those are the only ones who will be able to afford to live here when taxes go sky high to pay for all those services/amenities citizens have come to expect (including you), because there is not sufficient tax revenue to pay for them. Our roads are in deplorable shape, and building maintenance is shoddy at best. Do you propose to let the pools close, and the roads to further deteriorate? If you think higher taxes are the answer, now are you going to convince your fellow citizens, who won’t even agree to pass a $100 parcel tax to fix roads.

  13. Tia Will


    1. Maybe by scaling back on the size of his project.

    2. The city is not going to be paying its expenses with funds generated by a business park within the next few years in any event. My proposal is that we pay with taxes the way we should have been doing in the first place. These are our amenities. We should pay for them.

    3. I guess you missed the part where I said that I believe that the affluent should pay more and those who truly cannot pay should be subsidized. I would happily pay more to avoid rapid growth and I suspect I am not alone.

    4. As for convincing other people, exactly the same way that you will attempt to convince people who are not in favor of an innovation park. By putting forward my ideas and hoping that enough others will agree. Isn’t that how it is done ?

  14. Anon

    To Tia: Saw a quote today from George Bernard Shaw that I thought you should see: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

    1. What size should the developer make this innovation park? It is already quite small as innovation parks go. Remember, it has to fiscally pencil out for both the developer and citizens.

    2. I agree that a parcel tax is necessary, because a business park is not likely to generate enough tax revenue for another 10 years. However, an innovation park can be stopped with the tactic of “death by a 1000 cuts”, where citizens against growth will criticize every aspect of any innovation park project, no matter how innovative or excellent it may be. Then in 10 years where are we as a city with abysmal roads and buildings, with no way to generate any new tax revenue to repair them?

    3. The affluent may subsidize lower income folks up to a point, but when that subsidization seriously cuts into the wealthy’s ability to pay their own bills/amenities, not a chance. And frankly, I suspect you are in the minority of wealthy who are willing to seriously subsidize the low income people. Many times I have heard wealthier folks say if someone cannot afford to live in Davis, then move elsewhere. Secondly, low income folks do not necessarily want continual “handouts” in the form of subsidies from the wealthy. They want to feel equal, and a vital part of the community paying their fair share.

    4. I suspect their is far less chance of convincing citizens to approve a parcel tax that is not coupled with a push for an innovation park.

  15. realchangz


    Also to Anon’s points, I noted your comment above in which you observed:

    “I also would like Davis to see itself as part of the region, not as an isolated entity that must always compete with the surrounding communities. We do not live in isolation, so why is it so difficult to recognize that a very, very large business or cluster of businesses might be better suited for a location in Sacramento or other surrounding area?”

    Part of what we are trying to point out is the anemic level of “in Davis” private sector technology employment. In theory, tech employment should be our sweet spot, our strategic value proposition, for the region – and yet it’s not here. It’s a major, missing component of our local economy.

    For better or worse, all of our communities do vie for revenue enhancing attention from our neighbors in the region. This is why you have mega malls in some communities and competition for arenas and sporting venues in others. Each community is looking to make itself relevant and a compelling destination within the region.

    The university has already graciously “spun off” the UC Davis Med Center and the 10,000 direct jobs it provides to “the community” – in that case Sacramento. There are some serious economic benefits to the City of Sacramento from the high wages and taxable services that are conducted in connection with its operations.

    So, its not so much about “not sharing”, it is more about trying to play to our inherent strengths in creating compatible economic activity that benefits both “the community of Davis” and, indirectly, the coffers of our local municipal government.

  16. Frankly

    We are far beyond my personal preference for Davis. I liked it best when I arrived in 1979 when it still could be described as a small city adjacent to an agricultural university. I stress the word agricultural.

    Tia – too bad UCD hasn’t been less successful so you could get your way. I would say that you are just unlucky in timing. And frankly (because I am) you are in good company. Please name a list of successful and viable small-medium sized cities that have not grown and changed over the years.

    Now, if you want a more stasis existence, I can suggest thousands of cities you could relocate to. The problem with most of those cities is that they are struggling financially for lack of economic activity.

    However, the ones that you might consider as meeting your general preferences are those that see a larger percentage of tourism dollars.

    I think that is the disconnect I see with some Davisites demanding Davis not change. They travel to Europe or places like Carmel, and they want to see Davis stay similarly constrained. But these small and compact villages lacking business and industry are generally economically fired by tourism dollars.

    Frankly (because I am), I would be open to that vision for Davis. Can Davis become more of a tourist destination?

    I was thinking about the UCD World Food Center idea and the opportunity for Davis to capture a culinary destination like Napa is a wine destination. For this to work we would need more peripheral retail and hospitality development. But we could reduce the pressure to build more housing as the city attracts more temporary visitors to leave us their tax dollars.

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