Sunday Commentary: The Object Lessons of Davis Diamonds


Davis Diamonds owners Hilde Aune and James Major write in a letter published in the local paper that, on January 15, “Davis Diamonds Gymnastics was granted a temporary permit to occupy our new gymnasium at 2800 Cowell Blvd. from the city of Davis and, shortly afterward, more than 30 girls practiced bars, beam, vault and floor exercise there. The first day of regularly scheduled classes in the new gym was last Monday.”

They are, of course, thankful to the city who helped guide this process that first began three years ago. In January 2012, the Davis City Council voted 3-2 to overturn a 5-1 decision by the planning commission opposing a relocation of Davis Diamonds on Chiles Road, to a spot formerly occupied by a Ford auto dealership that has since vacated.

According to the staff report, “The majority of the Planning Commission felt that there was a decision to put an auto center in place, and there are significant economic factors to consider regarding non-auto uses in the A-C district.”

On January 25, 2012, Dan Wolk, Sue Greenwald, and Stephen Souza voted to direct staff to come back with conditions and findings for a Conditional Use Permit.

Mayor Joe Krovoza was pointed in his dissent, “It actually bothers me that the choice here is between sending a great institution like Davis Diamonds out into the auto mall areas in a dilapidated building because it’s cheap, and putting [it] on the edge of town.”

“I’m bothered that we’re going through this choice where we’re choosing Davis Diamonds or auto malls,” he continued.  “Because I think that’s a false choice.”

“I will be frank here,” he continued, “I don’t think that this issue has played itself out to the degree that it should in this community…  I don’t think it has had a chance to do that because the best financial opportunity for Davis Diamonds is this deal that they have before them.”

He argued that so long as this deal is before Davis Diamonds, that blocks us from getting to a better solution for the community, which is a more central facility.

Mayor Krovoza was joined by then-Mayor Pro Tem Rochelle Swanson in dissent. The council was pressured into supporting the vote or risk the possibility of losing the treasured Davis Diamond Gymnastics facility.

The Vanguard at the time quickly discovered that there were other possibilities, but the real estate agent, Xavier Santana, was the agent for both the buyer and the seller on this deal.  In the real estate world, such an arrangement is perfectly legal and commonplace.

Councilmember Sue Greenwald put it this way: “I don’t understand why the issue of the real estate broker is relevant, unless there were other sites available and he misinformed the owners of Davis Diamonds concerning the availability and cost of the other sites.”

She added, “I talked with the owners of Davis Diamonds about alternative sites, and they believe that they have explored them and that there are none that are viable.”

Six months later the deal fell apart when the current tenant at the site exercised its option to rent the facility for five more years, precluding the move by Davis Diamonds.

At that point, working with city staff, Davis Diamonds found the property along Cowell Blvd. The city had to change the zoning to commercial, initial financing fell through, and ultimately twelve investors stepped forward, made primarily of parents of kids from the program, and they got it.

“The community really made this gym possible,” Mr. Major said back in 2012. “We’ve grown to be a very big part of this community. The kids know that this is a safe haven for them.”

The story of Davis Diamonds ends well. But it also serves as an object lesson.

First, the easy move was to put Davis Diamonds in the auto mall. That was not a good option. The city relies on auto sales for a good portion of its sales tax revenue. Moreover, the facility itself and location were far from ideal for a gym.

Second, we discovered pretty quickly that the real estate agent who handled the original agreement had a perceived conflict of interest – now, it is completely legal in the real estate world, but from a political standpoint the question was whether or not Davis Diamonds had exhausted its possibilities and the answer given at the time was yes, but six months later they actually got a far better arrangement.

Third, the three councilmembers who supported Davis Diamonds were all up for reelection that year, but two of them lost. As we noted at the time, there is no doubt that Dan Wolk would have supported the conditional use permit because of his support for Davis Diamonds and, in fact, in the letter they thank “Mayor Dan Wolk and Community Development Director Mike Webb for their tenacious efforts to get us into our new gymnasium.”

However, sometimes supporting an organization and a cause means not taking the easy vote and instead looking for the right solution.

As we think about and celebrate the success of Davis Diamonds and Davis’ ability to retain it, we need to keep these lessons in mind. We should not succumb to the notion that there is just one option. What we discover is that if the community is committed to preserving valued institutions like Davis Diamonds, we should strive to preserve them in the right way.

One thing that comes to mind in all of this is Schilling Robotics. We have been told that Schilling Robotics wants space to grow and the city council has clearly expressed the desire to keep Schilling Robotics. However, it is our hope that, in that desire, the council keeps in mind that we should not just retain that company, but rather do it in the right way that benefits all involved.

Are we going to try to push through a sub-par project in the Mace Ranch Innovation Center just to preserve Schilling? I am only speculating here, not disparaging the project which is still in early planning stages. My only point is to make sure that we approve a project and put one to the voters that can pass a Measure R vote, rather than settle in a vain hope of preserving Schilling.

We need to remember that we have other options. One option is, of course, the Mace Ranch Innovation Center. But we could also consider the city-owned 25 acres on Mace, which we may find out more about in February. We could also consider the Davis Innovation Park. It is even possible that the Panattoni spot on Cowell might be able to accommodate the needed size of a larger Schilling Robotics. Or perhaps, in a pinch, Schilling could have two separate spots until we can find a larger parcel for them to put their new facility.

The bottom line from this is the lesson that we should not simply settle for the first option, the easiest option. Things look limited at times, but it is amazing how, when push comes to shove, we can find a way to have our Davis Diamonds and put it in the right spot.

—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.

Related posts

22 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: The Object Lessons of Davis Diamonds”

  1. South of Davis

    Does anyone know how the Davis Diamonds got the OK to build a cheap looking metal skin building on a major thoroughfare in town?

    I can’t think of a single other cheap metal skin building built on a street in town (or in any Bay Area town) for the past 30 years.

    Will planning allow anyone to put a low cost metal building on any street in town or did the Davis Diamonds get some kind of variance to the zoning rules?

      1. South of Davis

        David wrote:

        > Isn’t the outside virtually the same as the old place on 2nd?

        The old place on 2nd is a modern high quality concrete tilt up building, while the new place is a cheap metal building that is common in rural Iowa for farm storage, but I have not seen any city allow to be built in urban CA for decades…

        1. darelldd

          Coming from somebody who has spent considerable time in both buildings (several hours per day for ten years in the old one, and too many hours already to count in the new one) I’m amazed at this comparison.

          Is it simply the metal skin that you dislike? The horrendously ugly concrete of the old one makes you happier? Nothing on that building worked correctly. Everything from the HVAC to the bathrooms to the front doors that were literally falling off. The new building is higher quality (meeting far higher energy efficiency standards as well as “green” building standards than was the old building. And while beauty is always in the eye of the beholder -the new gym building is WAY the heck better looking than the old one.

          What do you think of the DISC across the street from the old building?

        2. Miwok

          old place on 2nd is a modern high quality concrete tilt up building

          Snicker.. I used to build the metal kind, and they are more energy efficient and can be anything on the outside, such as brick without being a tilt-up. The tilt up is a cheaper no insulation monstrosity to build than an insulated metal building.

          The metal buildings out West were hardly ever built with insulation, but now they are. I grew up building them in the Midwest and we insulated everything..

  2. SODA

    I am afraid the traffic in and out will be problematic with all the drop offs/pick ups. It is near a curve by New Harmony which has its own traffic issues when the west exit tries to turn left onto Cowell (illegally).  I am surprised they didn’t try to have a circle drop off.

      1. hpierce

        David… distance from west edge of New Harmony to east edge of Davis Diamonds is just shy of 400 feet.  From centers of the projects, about 800 feet. A quarter mile is  1300 + feet.  A half mile is ~ 2650 feet.  Driveway to driveway, around 800 feet.  Please don’t generate untrue “facts” to refute others’ opinions.  Not very ‘journalistic’.

        1. Jim Frame

          distance from west edge of New Harmony to east edge of Davis Diamonds is just shy of 400 feet

          I get a little over 500 feet, but close enough for discussion.

        2. hpierce

          Jim… old McKay & Somps parcel is 400 wide (what I based my estimate on).  Add 25 feet for City well site (which I didn’t think of).  Source Yolo County GIS site, which gives a value of ~425 feet.  As you say, good enough for discussion, but certainly nowhere near a quarter mile, much less half mile.

        3. Jim Frame

          Source Yolo County GIS site

          Better than a guess, but nowhere near as good as Google Earth in most instances.  I use the county GIS site when I have to — it’s my go-to place for Assessor’s Parcel Maps — but Google Earth is one of the first applications I open every day, and one of the last I close every night.

  3. Anon

    From my personal perspective, and this is just my opinion, the City Council should have:

    1.  Listened more closely to the Planning Commission’s decision – we have zoning laws for a reason, and any variance should be looked at very closely

    2. Understood that a realtor who is both buyer/seller represents a conflict of interest whether legal or not, so further intensive investigation by the city would have been necessary.  That said, I know at the time the city was actively trying to find a more suitable location than auto row, but nothing seemed forthcoming.  I am curious why the current location never came up as a potential solution at the time?  Does anyone know?

    3. The “right fit” for a business location is very, very important, and clearly auto row was not it

    4. I’m not sure that I really see any analogy between the Diamonds situation and Shilling robotics.  The two are inherently different.


  4. Tia Will


    I’m not sure that I really see any analogy between the Diamonds situation and Shilling robotics.  The two are inherently different.”

    Since I am completely unversed in issues surrounding zoning, ideal location for businesses and their expansion, I see similarities. It seems in my simplistic view that we have two highly valued private businesses that for different reasons find themselves in need of new locations. The city made or is making attempts to help these businesses.These situations seem quite similar to me. Can you explain what you see as the inherent differences ?

      1. Davis Progressive

        good point but i think david’s point is that we should not get locked into a single location for schilling and push that location through to the detriment of the community and it’s chances for passing.

  5. darelldd

    I’m still trying to determine the point being made in the article, David. Is it that Davis Diamonds ended up with a great situation and deal in the end? That the intense financial and emotional strain on the small business was worth the many years of delay? That it was good to have gone through the 3+ (actually closer to five) years of being yanked around and given half-promises that were not supported with actions?

    From the perspective of somebody who was somewhat close to the situation, the process was horrible. I can’t find a better word for it.

    1. Davis Progressive

      as someone far from the situation – the process was horrible.  i think what david points out is jumping at the first opportunity would have been a poor solution and it required looking hard at the situation and finding a good outcome.

        1. hpierce

          Your definition of “unsavory” and your evidence that the agent behaved in that manner?

          When my parents passed, and I needed to sell the family home, I engaged a real estate agent who ended up representing both the buyer and the seller.  He was entitled to X% commission from the buyer, and X% from the seller.  He offered 1.5X% (instead of 2%) and both the buyer and the seller saved money as opposed to using two agents.  The selling price was extremely close (and somewhat higher) to appraisal (which I had to do independently for tax reasons), and escrow was opened in a very short time.  Had it not been for the fact that the buyers’ funds were coming from overseas, it would have closed within 45 days (it took 60).  Throughout the process I felt the agent was operating VERY ethically.  He was of tremendous help in getting the home ready for sale, and the contractors he found for me did exceptional work for much less than I had envisioned.  I have no problem, based on my limited experience, with having a single agent who is ethical and has BOTH clients’ interest foremost in their mind.  Your mileage may very.

          Again I ask, do you have credible evidence for “unsavory”, or are you just slinging mud, for GOK what reasons?  If no evidence, consider keeping your yap shut.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for