Yesterday the Sacramento Business Journal reported on the fact that the Davis Innovation Center “is on hold, though not officially abandoned.”
They reported that John Hodgson, “who also was the architect on the project with Hines and SKS Development, said the partners concluded the Davis Innovation Center couldn’t pass a necessary citywide vote.”
He told the Journal that they are disappointed and found “city staff and leadership had been very supportive of the idea.” However, he said, “We made a political calculus.”
These are similar views to the ones expressed last week when the Vanguard broke the news early on Wednesday morning. The article does not elaborate on what led the developers to reach this conclusion.
Mr. Hodgson said that “city residents turned back two other proposals in previous Measure R elections, and his group feared the same fate.”
“We have not given it up entirely,” he said. “But right now, we don’t have a specific timeline to move forward.”
However, that doesn’t explain what changed. After all, the group knew about Measure R when they responded to the RFEI (request for expressions of interest). They knew about the two previous failed projects.
And yet, last week, the statement they issued was, “Our decision is based on the assessment that getting approvals to develop this world class project at the current time is less likely to succeed than initially appeared.”
This is the message that the region gets about Davis – Davis has Measure R, and major development and world renowned Houston-based Hines is now pulling out and their spokesperson is pointing to Measure R.
While Measure R is an easy mark and we have recommended a small tweak to the process, we increasingly believe there is something more going on behind the scenes. For one thing, we don’t see a huge shift in the public right now.
Earlier this year, we reported on concerns from several non-Davis residents in the Binning Tract.
One letter from earlier this week stated, “Many Davis residents are breathing a great sigh of relief at the news that the SKK/Hines proposal to build out 200 acres into a business park adjacent to Sutter Davis Hospital is on hold. This gives the City Council and the mayor time to think about salient issues regarding developing commercial properties in Davis.”
“So far, the process had been the reverse of what is a healthy, contemporary approach to urban planning. Rather than involving the community in the discussion of what areas are appropriate for a 4 million-square-foot business park — which would consider zoning, the separation of residential areas from commercial, and the fit with adjacent use — the word went out to developers to simply create proposals,” Sherri Venezia stated.
“Do we want enormous business/industrial parks at edges of our town? Do we wish to live in a clone of San Jose?” she asked. “Where was the strategic vision for Davis? New commercial centers can cluster in the core as infill and along the I-80 corridor. The Nishi project is mixed-use, which makes it possible to bike or walk to work, UC Davis or downtown. The Mace proposal, on the I-80 and Second Street corridor, also makes logistical sense.”
Jim Leonard noted that he learned recently that the jobs associated with the proposed tech parks would be 18,000. Of course this figure was projected over a 20 to 50 year period. Mr. Leonard remarked, “It’s shocking that I didn’t learn that number until so far into the process.”
It should be noted that the jobs projections have actually been there for some time, as each of the innovation parks applications contained projects for jobs as well as the square footage.
Mr. Leonard continues, “But there may have been a reason I had not learned it: The number was being held back for fear of our community’s reaction. If all the 18,000 jobs meant an increase of 18,000 new community members, that would mean an increase in Davis’ total population by about 27 percent.”
He concludes, “We have a highly paid park booster on city staff, and now learn, at this late date, population numbers that would, if implemented, have a severe impact on our quality of life. Is it too late to change Davis’ approach to tech parks, or has the ‘horse already left the stable?’”
Prior to that, the only other critical letter we have seen was from Ralph Finch, who re-posted his comments on the Vanguard. He was critical of Community Choice Energy, but then wrote, “Far more serious is the council’s hardline push for ‘innovation,’ its optimistic euphemism for development gone wild. From what I read in this newspaper, influential people wouldn’t mind at all seeing Davis go the way of San Jose: Pour asphalt over the farm lands and grow, grow, grow. With a chief innovation officer now a full-time city employee, we are forced to pay someone to advocate for what many of us do not wish for Davis.”
That is not a lot of pushback as these things go. In fact, as Will Arnold noted in a comment to Ms. Venezia’s letter, “I attended one of the many community outreach events held by the project developers, and I was literally the only community member there aside from Ms. Roberts Musser. If the author of this letter feels her opinions were not heard, it was not for lack of effort by the developer.”
From our standpoint then, unless the developers had polls that we are not privy too (which is entirely possible), we don’t see huge waves of dissent forming on the innovation parks. We will be exploring other possible explanations in the coming days and weeks.
—David M. Greenwald reporting