City of Davis Chief Innovation Officer Rob White notes the good news – Davis’ tech community is growing. He cites as examples, the recent move of Marrone Bio Innovations into 45,000 square feet of offices in South Davis, which represents an 80 percent increase in space.
Then there is Engage3, located in downtown Davis, which received “a sizable investment in its new ShoppingScout mobile application” from the McClatchy Company. Mr. White notes, “As a result, the company of about 45 employees is currently hiring at least 12 new positions, and several of the company leaders have unofficially indicated there are plans to grow to as many as 300 employees in the next five years.”
He also trumpets the efforts of the Davis Downtown and other community leaders who helped launch “the creation of the JumpStart Davis monthly networking events and the soon-to-be-opened downtown co-working space are adding resources for entrepreneurs and startups.”
But of course not all of this is good news. The Vanguard has already covered the summer of 2013 loss of Bayer CropScience (AgraQuest), which was forced to move to a larger facility in West Sacramento.
“Its new 160,000-square-foot facility opened in September, providing space for 140 current employees and the potential to grow to 300. Bayer is also developing another 5-acre parcel in West Sacramento for greenhouses and seed research,” Mr. White writes. “This $80 million facility is Bayer’s global headquarters for crop science and is part of Bayer’s corporate plans to invest more than $1 billion worldwide into research and development labs, according to CEO Liam Condon. Bayer purchased AgraQuest in 2012 for $425 million.”
We also know that Schilling Robotics needs room to grow and that, as Mr. White puts it, “Davis has very few parcels over 5 acres available, and none of them is able to accommodate the 30 acres of new growth space that Schilling wants for a new manufacturing facility of up to 400,000 square feet to be built over the next decade.”
So far, Mr. Schilling has been patient as Davis plots out the potential for innovation parks that could house his new facility.
As Rob White puts it, the growth of the tech-industry is “a mixed bag,” with “success in local growth of some small to medium tech companies while some of the more recent large-scale investments have moved to nearby locations due to lack of available land and space in the city.”
He adds, “With a university that reported more than $700 million in research funding for the 2013-14 academic year, it is likely we will continue to see growth and attraction of research and technology companies. The questions the community will have to ponder in the very near term are what actions should we take to keep some of that job growth local, and how do we benefit from increased public revenue and corporate philanthropy.”
Rob White, at least in the recent piece, does not take this to the next level – the need for innovation parks. But those of us familiar with the situation know where this is headed.
My column yesterday focused on the need for Davis to reverse some of its slow growth tendencies, if only for a brief moment, and to be willing to support parks.
As I wrote yesterday, my support is not unconditional. We have to understand the politics of the situation and assess the reality not just as we want it to be, but as it is. A poll conducted by the Ramco Company demonstrated theoretical support for an innovation park. While that is somewhat reassuring, we should treat it a bit delicately.
We have yet to see a big push back from those inclined to oppose new growth in the periphery. We also have yet to see the political process play out. That may yet be the far bigger threat to innovation parks and a Measure R vote.
With Nishi in consideration, the potential at least exists that there could be three Measure R projects on the ballot for spring 2016 – Nishi, Mace, and the Northwest. As we recently laid out, that is a recipe for failure – as the number of voters likely to support two, let alone three, projects is small and by putting competing projects on the ballot, you have the potential to split the yes votes.
However, there is also no straightforward way to determine who goes first – particularly in a scenario where the other two may well view going second as not going at all.
Beyond that, I believe we need to be somewhat clear. I laid out several conditions under which I would support a Measure R project for Innovation Parks. Previously, the city laid out its own guiding principles – mine are simply adding to those principles.
I selected mine for good planning purposes as well as personal preferences. My views, I think, are largely in line with the city’s guiding principles that council recently agreed to.
First, while Measure R requires a 2 to 1 mitigation, my preference, at least in the northwest, would be that this mitigation is adjacent. I am not approving an innovation park that opens up the northwest quadrant to additional development. This is not a huge concern in the east, where Mace 391’s conservation easement abuts the proposed Mace Ranch Innovation Park and surrounds it nearly completely. But the west is a different story.
I have spoken to a number of people who would be considered in the slow growth camp, and I think most would be reluctant to support a northwest project that does not have mitigation land that seals it from future development to the west and south.
Second, it has to be net zero energy. I will not support another project of any sort that isn’t net zero energy and I hope Davis will pass an ordinance prohibiting that. Net zero energy is included in the city’s own guiding principles.
Third, also included in the guiding principles are alternative transportation components – that is, links to existing systems that prevent this project from greatly increasing traffic. I read a recent story from UC Davis News, for example, that 47 percent of UC Davis students, staff and faculty bike to campus. In fact, another 18 percent take the bus, and only 23.9 percent drive only.
In the last seven years, bike mode share to the campus has grown by nearly 25 percent, from 38 percent in 2007 to 47 percent in 2014.
Why should we settle for less with these new innovation parks?
Finally, we have some nice models to look at. The high tech campuses that I have seen really look like extensions of a college campus. That would fit in with the existing climate in Davis and would work well.
Someone yesterday argued that my conditions were tantamount to opposition to the innovation parks, but I believe the opposite is true. I don’t think we gained nearly enough for our community from Cannery. We should have been able to get to net zero energy. We should have been able to get a more innovative project – we should not be settling for less here in Davis, there is no need for it.
I believe we can achieve these goals as well as the other guiding principles. In so doing, we can help pave the way for a better and more sustainable future here in Davis.
—David M. Greenwald reporting