Council Delays Action on Mixed-Use Option Until After Final EIR on MRIC

Robb Davis
Brett Lee
Councilmember Brett Lee pushed council to take no formal action

On Tuesday night, the city council seemed to be leaning towards continued consideration of the main project proposal for the Mace Ranch Innovation Center, despite the request from the applicant to consider a mixed-use component and 850 high-density housing units.

In fact, council had a motion on the floor from Councilmember Lucas Frerichs moving forward the current option, when Councilmember Brett Lee pointed out that the council really did not have to take action at all. Instead, the council could simply wait until the final EIR comes out in early January and act accordingly at that point.

The council, while of mixed views on the consideration of a mixed-use housing proposal in concept, is leery of whether the voters would support such a measure. As Elaine Roberts Musser put it, “As you are well aware, a Measure R vote looms large, if citizens feel there has been a bait and switch from MRIC as proposed to a mixed-use option only, it very well may doom the MRIC project.”

Eileen Samitz added, “There have been concerns by the citizens from the beginning about housing being proposed at this project and we were told not to worry, that it’s going to be an innovation park because the city needed revenue.”

Ms. Samitz argued that everyone gave this project a chance due to the lack of housing and now, “lo and behold, here we are a year later and the developers are asking for not just some units, 850 housing units, that’s the same number of units in Wildhorse. They are going to somehow jam them into this innovation park.”

Eileen Samitz
Eileen Samitz addresses council during public comment

For his part, Dan Ramos argued that there was no attempt to deceive, he and his team have simply “become convinced that a viable innovation center should contain a housing component such as the one reflected in the mixed-use alternative.”

He said this was a change “because we initially were highly opposed to the inclusion of a housing component in our project.”

In his comments to council, he noted that the housing would be geared toward housing for workers. He said he is not advocating more housing than already currently planned, and that housing would simply be re-prioritized.

Prakash Pinto, who presented on their proposal, noted that it would be the same square footage for the research and development space, however, the housing would greatly increase the density on the site.

Council, however, for the most part was skeptical of the change.

Councilmember Rochelle Swanson noted that she was one of those “who said, housing’s a third rail on this one, so don’t include it. I find myself in an interesting position because I also understand the SACOG principles and blueprint and all the good reasons.” At same time, she noted, with the “accusations of bait and switch,” that “I think it’s realistic to raise those concerns.”

Robb Davis
Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis lays out his thoughts on the process

Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis noted that going forward with the current plan does not preclude the council from switching course at a later point and propose a mixed-use project. He said, “I understand it may slow things down.”

He argued that we may need to do things differently from how we usually do things on these projects. “You’re hearing it in the comments of the community, some discomfort, and that means… we need to give more time for processing,” he said. He then pushed for the commissions to look more into some of these components for instance, the Natural Resources Commission to look more into the sustainability plan and Finance and Budget to look further into the EPS (Economic Planning Systems, Inc.) report and the mixed-use component.

He noted, “The EPS actually is mixed on the mixed use… On one hand it’s clear that it reduces the net revenue to the city to have a mixed-use approach. On the other, the EPS report is clear that the very feasibility of the study might depend on mixed use.”

Robb Davis noted that he wasn’t on the council that put out the RFEI (Request for Expressions of Interest), which was clear on no housing. He said that gives him the luxury of thinking outside that without being accused of baiting and switching.

“What I found troubling in the RFEI is that the prior Chief Innovation officer, even as he was presenting you with the RFEI, was also publishing article after article, that if you read the articles in their discussion of innovation was making it clear that the direction that innovation centers are going are towards housing,” he said. He noted that there was no courage at that time for people to ask what an innovation center was supposed to be and why there was no housing there.

He called that “a really serious error.” He added, “We can rectify that error by at least reconsidering what we’re doing.”

Robb Davis said when council agreed to add in a mixed-use component to study, he said, “I support that partly because we have a housing crisis in this town and we need to look at all options. Why would we entitle 200 acres and not at least consider putting dense, mixed-use housing on that.”

“I don’t have a particular axe to grind except to say that we have a housing crisis and we should be looking at all alternatives,” he said.

Mike Webb
Mike Webb with Heidi Tsaudin (right) lays out some options for council

Nevertheless, he noted that he is happy to stay with the current option for now while reserving the right to switch down the line, knowing that it may slow things down.

Councilmember Lucas Frerichs made a motion to move the staff recommendation that would direct the staff to proceed with the current plan. Like his colleague, he said, “I will reserve the right moving forward to support or not support the potential of mixed use at that site.” But, in his opinion the council has been consistent all along that the innovation park proposals should not include housing.

He added that “there is no application before us other than the MRIC as proposed, I think we should be adhering to the principles articulated in the RFEI.”

“For me keeping the eye on the prize of economic activity, job creation and revenue enhancement for the city are the top priorities and I’m not personally at this point inclined to include housing or a mixed-use component as part of this process,” he said.

Councilmember Swanson said that the reason housing wasn’t included in this process was “frankly because nobody felt that housing could pass a Measure R vote.” She said that “that’s part of leadership, we have to look at the big picture… When you’re dealing with the threats that the project’s not going to get approved if we build a house on it, and we’re sitting here looking at the revenue measures.”

“I don’t know why we’re going to dance around the issue,” she said. “We have to make a choice about what’s going to be successful in the community.”

Dan Ramos said he acknowledged the risk of pushing this issue past next November, however, he thinks they have time to consider mixed use. Nevertheless, he told the council they were fine with them taking action at this time.

Councilmember Brett Lee suggested that, in fact, no action needed to be taken at this time. He said, “We’re a little blind here, we’re trying to go off the draft EIR trying to evaluate possibilities, I don’t see that any action is needed tonight.” He said making a choice at this time “seems reasonable except for the fact that within four weeks we will have the final EIR” which will take into account the concerns of the community and councilmembers.

At that time, he argued, they would be a in a better position to give staff a well-informed direction.

Councilmember Swanson stated, “I’m more comfortable without an action, that [would say] go on ‘2A’ and say even without a formal document we’re just willing to pretend like all that information’s not there.”

Mike Webb told the council they expect the Final EIR to be done by January 19 and Brett Lee suggested either January 26 or February 2 as dates for council consideration.

Mike Webb summed up the council’s direction as staying the course in terms of the current review of the project and keeping working on the EIR as though the path remains the same, but they will check in with the council once more information becomes available.

This was seen as a hybrid approach, where the council didn’t direct the applicant to prepare for two alternatives but it keeps both alternatives alive for now.

While the direction of council seems clear that there is a hard lean against a mixed-use approach, they have not foreclosed that possibility going forward.

—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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97 Comments

  1. Misanthrop

    You should put up the tape of what Rob said, he was at his best and right on the mark. First he points out there is a housing shortage. Second, environmentally, building housing next to where the jobs are  is the way to reduce greenhouse gas production to help meet those goals.

    Both Sacog and other innovation centers get that a housing component is the way to go. Building housing there is environmentally state of the art.

        1. CalAg

           

          To riff on the argument for senior housing … maybe Davis residents moving to the workforce housing on MRIC to be closer to their work will free up traditional housing in the city for more mini-dorms.

      1. Matt Williams

        BP, I believe the answer to that question is pretty straightforward.

        The housing crisis in Davis is driven not so much by a college apartment shortage, but rather from a huge spike in the demand for housing from the substantial increase in the UCD enrollment.  That spike in student demand manifests itself in a number of ways:

        1) The limited supply of apartments is experiencing a demographic shift, with single family tenants being displaced by student tenants.  That means Davis is seeing a reduction in its population between the ages of 25 and 54 and between the ages of 0 and 19.

        2) The limited supply of single family homes is experiencing a demographic shift, with single family residences (SFRs) being converted into mini-dorms that match the student tenant demand.  That means Davis is seeing significant changes in the quality of life of its SFR neighborhoods, and at the same time seeing even further reduction in its population between the ages of 25 and 54 and between the ages of 0 and 19.

        3) The high intellectual capital jobs that are projected to be created by the knowledge economy businesses that locate in Innovation Parks are overwhelmingly going to be filled by workers between the ages of 25 and 54. Given the demographic trends manifested in (1) and (2) above, the clear question is, “Where in Davis are those 25 to 54 year-old workers going to find a place to live?”

        So, the bottom-line of the housing crisis in Davis is that our City is seeing a dramatic shrinkage of its 25 to 54 year old residents (down 1,500 from 2000 to 2010) and the 0 to 19 year old children of those residents (down 900 from 2000 to 2010).  That crisis is sucking the lifeblood out of the Davis retail economy and the lifeblood out of the DJUSD schools.

    1. Frankly

      So what is Robb’s position on Trackside out of curiosity?

      It is very difficult to assign credibility to these voiced opinions of housing needs when the voiced opinions are all over the map.

      The vast majority of business and research parks throughout the country do NOT include housing.

      For one thing it is a bit of oil and water mix.   You put residential buildings next to businesses and the residents start to complain about the business and what business they are willing to accept next to them.  Likewise, businesses can have more problems with high-density housing next to them.   Because high-density housing is generally low-income housing, and like it or not, low income housing invites renters that tend to be more apt to break the law.

      By allowing the housing component to MRIC, it will increase the likelihood that the developer will come back within the 20+ year build-out and request approval for more housing as the existing housing built tends to reduce the utility as a business park and potentially results in a slower or more difficult population of business into the park.

      I disagree that the inclusion of housing is beneficial to anyone other than the developer.  Any potential business prospect moving here would note the vast supply of housing in the surrounding communities and be fine with it as a location.

      1. Michelle Millet

        It is very difficult to assign credibility to these voiced opinions of housing needs when the voiced opinions are all over the map.

        You are questioning Robb’s credibility? The guy is so credible it borders on annoying at times. (sorry Robb, but it does, just once I wish you would get me out of a parking ticket;-).

        The vast majority of business and research parks throughout the country do NOT include housing.

        The old ones don’t, but from what I understand housing is included in the newer more  “innovative” developments. For someone who claims to be forward thinking I’m surprised at your reluctance to consider all possible options.
        [moderator] edited. No personal attacks, please.

        1. Frankly

          Here you are Ms. personal attacks…

          http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/13030.html

          The study found higher rates of all types of violent crime in areas of high-density residential land use, even after controlling for overall population. The correlation was more pronounced in disadvantaged areas but held true in other areas as well.

          I know it is not politically correct to bring up certain facts, but I live in the world of facts not political correctness.

        2. Michelle Millet

          I’m not sure what your point is. We shouldn’t provide affordable housing in our community out of fear that it might lead to more crime? I find that a short-sighted reaction, and its smacks of NIMBYism. Sometimes I think you say these obnoxious things in order to get the opportunity to show off your lack of political correctness.

      2. CalAg

        By allowing the housing component to MRIC, it will increase the likelihood that the developer will come back within the 20+ year build-out and request approval for more housing as the existing housing built tends to reduce the utility as a business park and potentially results in a slower or more difficult population of business into the park.

        Increased “likelihood”? I’d say more like a “complete metaphysical certitude.”

        The vast majority of business and research parks throughout the country do NOT include housing.

        Particularly greenfield developments adjacent to existing residential. This argument from the developers in a red herring.

      3. Tia Will

        Frankly

        Any potential business prospect moving here would note the vast supply of housing in the surrounding communities and be fine with it as a location.”

        And might that not be, at least in part, because the business does not really care about the adverse impacts on the environment and the impacts on the community as a whole. Their primary goal is to maximize their own profits ( at least as I understand business, please correct me if I am wrong) and to minimize their own costs of operation. However, we have those of us who do already live here and do not share your perspective on the balance of benefits vs disadvantages of growth ( either population or strictly business).

        1. Frankly

          A business has to attract and retain good employees.  The cost and availability of housing is one of the many attributes employees consider in their job offer decisions.  So this would also be a factor for a business picking a location.  Business owners are people too (one ot the things liberals tend to forget in their demonizing of business and CEOs).  And like most people they don’t like to see real harm done to the environment.  They also would not want to cause real harm to the community where the business is located and they are likely to live in.

          But, I suspect that many of them would be willing to accept the fake harm that you and other residents fret about.

  2. SODA

    Unable to watch last night. Good article; you mention everyone but Dan Wolk, what were his comments/stand on housing? And was Rob White’s replacement there to offer comment? Diane Farro I think tho could be wrong on the name?

  3. Misanthrop

    Perhaps you missed it. Davis vacancy rate is under 1%. Building a project that creates jobs without a housing element adds to the shortage. Building housing where the jobs are reduces greenhouse gas emissions. I understand that from some of your other writings that you don’t think GHG’s are a problem. Hopefully, the rest of Davis is more interested in moving to a less GHG producing model.

    It was interesting watching the public comment from the same old anti-housing voices. I kept thinking that they are still fighting the environmental battles of 20th century Davis.

    It was sort of like how I think about the marijuana laws. Those laws make a good analogy. My parents generation never favored legalizing marijuana but that “Greatest Generation” is now almost gone and we see state after state moving towards legalization. I wonder how long it will be before the Millenials and Gen Exers of Davisites takes over and stops dealing with the sclerotic philosophy of the no growth baby boomers of Davis. It may yet still be a long time to come since voter turn out among the young in Davis is so low and the boomers saddled us with measures J and now R. Perhaps Mace Ranch will be the turning point, perhaps not. I was encouraged the other day when Michele Millet argued for doing the right thing instead of the politically expedient thing. Now Robb Davis is also speaking up for doing the right thing. The poll done by Ramos also is encouraging but the question of whether it was a push poll or not remains to be seen. The fact that Ramos and his partners, with so much money at state believe in the poll makes me hopeful.

      1. Matt Williams

        Two questions DP:

        1) Are you saying that we might have a housing crisis down the line, but that we don’t have one now?

        2) Where would that housing down the line be located in your opinion?

  4. Barack Palin

    The poll done by Ramos also is encouraging but the question of whether it was a push poll or not remains to be seen. 

    That poll was a farce with many leading questions making housing sound all sugary (pardon the pun).

    It reminded me somewhat of the water project telephone poll of which I participated.  They asked questions like are you for a reliable water source, are you for clean water………..

    By the time they got to the gist of what they were looking for, which was are you for or against the water project, one was so led that they would’ve sounded ridiculous to say no.

  5. Ron

    Overall, there are no environmental benefits from ANY proposed development on this site.  Any development will eliminate farmland and open space, and will generate more traffic, not less!  To state otherwise is an example of disingenuousness on full display.  There are, of course, extremely significant financial incentives to make such misleading statements.

    Mace Boulevard currently provides a clear, logical boundary for the city.  This massive, proposed development “leapfrogs” over this boundary, and creates a precedent that will encourage further sprawl.

    To review, the city is now stating that they can no longer live within their budget.  (A primary justification for the initial proposal.)  As a result, some are now hoping to “develop our way” out of a supposed problem.

    Now, housing is also being proposed.  This will COST the city money, wiping out the initial justification for the project.  Housing would also bring workers to fill jobs (that are promised within the project, and elsewhere).  This would reduce opportunities for CURRENT residents, thereby wiping out another supposed justification for the initial proposal.

    To call it an “innovation center” is misleading.  This is a commercial development (possibly with housing), plain and simple.  (Do we need a designated place for innovation?  Did Hewlett-Packard, Apple, and others need this to “innovate”?)

    If the development proceeds without housing, it will still create additional pressure to include housing elsewhere.  (If the development is approved, arguments will be made regarding our increased “internal need” to add more housing in the future.)

     

     

     

      1. Ron

        Frankly:

        I do not know the reasons that the city can (no longer) live within its budget.  This is something to question (and examine carefully), before we attempt to “develop our way out” of a perceived problem.

         

        1. Frankly

          Ron – Your comment might make sense in a Davis bubble, but you can simply check the metrics for every other comparable city in the state and see that we have a much smaller general fund budget per capita than they do.

          You say we cannot “develop our way out”, but the greater truth would be the comment “we cannot cut our way out”.

          If is frankly either a pipe dream or a deflection of the hard facts to keep pointing to city spending as the source of our budget problems.  Yes, overspending is a contributor but this city is in very good company with almost all other cities.  The difference is the low amount of revenue that Davis brings in.

          And you are actually wrong that you cannot develop a way out of city budget problems.  The point I was making is that a city’s positive tax revenue flows from economic activity and only economic activity.  Economic activity requires business.  Business requires land to be developed for business use.  If you want to continue with that farmland moat around Davis to prevent business development and keep it same-same, then you will see the city eventually reach fiscal insolvency.  Then a judge will take over the budget that the inept leaders and voters failed to manage.

    1. CalAg

      The orchards on Mace 391 are now the clear, logical boundary for the city. Using a major arterial as an urban limit is bad planning. MRIC should be 100% tech park.

      1. Matt Williams

        The orchards on Mace 391 (or, using the OSHC term for the property, Mace 366, because 25 acres was retained by the City) are really quite impressive visually as you drive north on Mace.  The impact of that visual almost makes me feel that the $3.9 million the City received at the time of the sale of the property.

        BTW, one of the many benefits of the hard work of Tracie Reynolds (the City’s new Open Space/Facilities Coordinator) in providing a high level of transparency and accountability to the Open Space program is the good news that the Mace 366 proceeds amounted to just over $10,500 per acre, which is a fair market price for orchard land.  Prior to Tracie’s hard work, the impression that most people had was that the City sold Mace 366 for a much lower “row crop land” value closer to $4,000 per acre.  The other misconception that Tracie’s hard work has shed light on is the fact that Mace 391 was purchased for $3,807,578 and Mace 366 realized $3,900,455.  The belief (that I and others had) that the Mace 391 property transactions  produced a net negative bottom-line is incorrect.  In addition to a small net positive balance, the City still owns the 25 acre parcel, which will realize additional revenue when/if sold.

        1. CalAg

          Mace 391 was a net loss to the City. Analyze the spreadsheet in the Staff Report.

          The limited supply of orchard-compatible acreage in this region is selling for substantially more than $10,500 per acre. Lillard Ranch, just NW of Mace 391, was just on the market for $15,500 per acre before they pulled it and did the orchard development themselves. That’s the lower end of the current market – and translates into an additional $2M paper loss to the City for selling the land at a discount.

        2. Matt Williams

          CalAg said . . . “Mace 391 was a net loss to the City. Analyze the spreadsheet in the Staff Report.”

          Spreadsheet analysis =

          Cost of Purchase of Leland Ranch (Mace 391) = $3,807,578 with the first $150,000 expended in FY 2010-2011 for the option to purchase, and the remaining $3,657,578 expended in FY 2011-2012 when the closing for the Mace 391 purchase took place.

          Proceeds received at the time of the sale of the Mace 366 remnant parcel after the 25 acres was carved off for retention by the City = $3,900,455, which came in two simultaneous parts during FY 2013-2014 when the closing for the Mace 366 sale took place.  Part A was $3,093,371 and Part B was $807,084.

          The net of those four transactions was/is a $92,877 surplus.  The numbers do not lie.

          CalAg said . . . The limited supply of orchard-compatible acreage in this region is selling for substantially more than $10,500 per acre. Lillard Ranch, just NW of Mace 391, was just on the market for $15,500 per acre before they pulled it and did the orchard development themselves. “

          I’m not sure where you got your information that the supply of orchard-compatible acreage in this region is limited.  Given the high quality of soil types in this region, the supply of land that could be converted to orchard is quite substantial.  With that said, the availability of such orchard-compatible land in a real estate transaction may indeed be limited.

          The fact that the listing price of $15,500 per acre did not result in a sale would appear to indicate that $15,500 is the price per acre that currently is just above the “top of the market.”  Your argument that the City could currently get a price above $10,500 per acre has merit … at this moment in time.  Whether that was the case in the midst of the Great Recession is anyone’s guess.

          Bottom-line, the reason I added my BTW was that there was a broadly held opinion by myself and others that Mace 366 only realized about $4,000 per acre, the row crop land market value, and that broadly held opinion was/is incorrect.  $10,500 per acre is definitely an improvement over $4,000 per acre.  Whether it could have been even higher is certainly possible.

           

           

        3. CalAg

          1.  The supply of orchard-compatible acreage > for sale < in this region is extremely limited.

          2. Leland Ranch was underpriced. The fact that it was pulled from the market and developed into an orchard was a good business decision, not evidence of mispricing.

          3. The numbers do not lie but accountants sometimes obscure the truth.

          Your numbers do not sync with those in the Staff Report. Maybe this is worth an audit.

          http://city-council.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/CouncilMeetings/Agendas/20131210/04E-Leland-Ranch-Resale.pdf

          See page 04E-83

          Based on the numbers in the Staff Report, I calculate a net loss of $1,362,331 to the City of Davis for the entire set of Mace 391 transactions, which is partially offset by the City's retention of 25 acres.

      2. Ron

        CalAg:

        I don’t believe that we NEED development beyond Mace Boulevard.  Why do you think it’s “bad planning” to keep our current urban boundary?

        Seems like these battles are endless.  Always someone trying to justify continued expansion of our city.  (Oh, I remember – it’s because someone can make a ton of money, if they’re successful in convincing everyone that there’s a “need” to do so!)

        1. CalAg

          Ron: We don’t need to do anything. However, in my opinion, we should develop the land between Mace Blvd and the Mace 391 orchard into a tech park (with zero residential). Regardless of who’s opinion has the most merit, its bad planning to use major arterials as urban limit lines. Its an inefficient use of infrastructure to single-load this type of roadway.

          1. Don Shor

            Regardless of who’s opinion has the most merit, its bad planning to use major arterials as urban limit lines. Its an inefficient use of infrastructure to single-load this type of roadway.

            That doesn’t make sense. It’s only “bad planning” if you’re trying to grow. It is common to use roads as urban limit lines around cities surrounded by farmland, because there is no other less arbitrary or less logical choice.

        2. Matt Williams

          Ron, how do you propose that the City address its precipitously shrinking 25-54 year-old demographic group, and the precipitously shrinking number of 0-19 year-old children of that 25-54 year-old demographic group?

  6. Michelle Millet

    “What I found troubling in the RFEI is that the prior Chief Innovation officer, even as he was presenting you with the RFEI, was also publishing article after article, that if you read the articles in their discussion of innovation was making it clear that the direction that innovation centers are going are towards housing,” he said. He noted that there was no courage at that time for people to ask what an innovation center was supposed to be and why there was no housing there.

    I agree with Robb’s sentiment here and for the sake of putting forward the best possible project I wish housing had been considered from the beginning, regardless of whether it is eventually included or not. If we are going to build a project of this scale, why not consider all possible options before making a decision? I don’t agree with not looking at housing based on fear, as Yodi would say, this is the path to the dark side. (we’ve been binge watching).

    I realize this is a hot-button subject, but I make the following statement and ask the following question with no other agenda then attempting to understand the situation better:

    While I would be opposed to building large scale low-density housing anywhere on the periphery at this point in time, I’m not understanding the opposition to on-site high-density housing, especially if it reduces environmental impacts, and gives employees the opportunity to live near where they work. The one I keep hearing is that housing will kill the project, but no one is talking about why there is opposition to this type of housing proposal.

    1. Ron

      Michelle:

      Davis is essentially the only place in the valley that has (at least) some viable method for citizens to limit endless sprawl.

      The population of California has more than doubled, in my lifetime.  (40 million, and counting.)  I don’t believe that continued growth is sustainable (or desirable).  From my perspective, continued sprawl has reduced the quality of life (for humans, and wildlife) everywhere it has occurred.  And, very few seem to be questioning this.

      This particular project simply represents the latest example, from my perspective.  Unfortunately, those with significant financial/development interests will continue to do their best to convince others that there’s a “need” to do this.

      1. Don Shor

        In general I would agree with you that limiting growth on the east side of Mace is desirable to prevent sprawl. Given that Mace 391 was put into ag easement and the remaining parcel is essentially blocked on all sides, I think it is a reasonable compromise to develop it as a business park to help the city’s revenue problems and to provide some land for move-up businesses that need more space. If Mace 391 had not been preserved, I would be vigorously opposing this development, and I know many others would as well.
        I think adding residential there is very problematic, and the council should stick to the original proposal with regard to housing on the site.

      2. Michelle Millet

        From my perspective, continued sprawl has reduced the quality of life (for humans, and wildlife) everywhere it has occurred.  And, very few seem to be questioning this.

        Ron, I am going to agree with you on this. One of the reasons my husband and I choose to live in Davis is because it so actively limits sprawl, and in doing so increases the quality of life for those of us fortunate enough to live here, and the little wildlife we have left.

        I’m not sure I will support this project. I would prefer we find ways to stimulate our local economy by maximizing use of our currently existing resources, and if we need to build I’d prefer we do so on already “disturbed” land.

        That being said, if we are going forward with this large-scale development project, I want it to be the best it can be. If that means including high-density housing, then I think we should include it. If there are legitimate reasons for not including housing that go beyond fear of it passing a Measure R vote, I’d like to hear them, but so far I haven’t.

        1. Jim Frame

          I want it to be the best it can be.

          What criteria are you using to define “best”?

          My primary interest in considering the MRIC site for development as an innovation park (or whatever the currently preferred term is) is the generation of general fund tax revenue to backfill the budget hole.  I’m not interested in seeing it developed for housing because:

          1.  Housing is a long-term drag on the budget.

          2.  Housing takes up space that can otherwise be devoted to tax-net-positive uses.

          The idea that you need on-site housing in order to attract business tenants doesn’t make sense to me.  People who want to live close to their jobs at one of the business tenants will be competing for those on-site apartments/condos with a much larger pool of folks who don’t mind living miles from their jobs.  And people tend to settle into their housing even through job changes, so someone who started out living and working at the site may well get a job elsewhere but not change domiciles.

          The idea that you can squeeze the business space (increase its density) to free up space for housing has no appeal to me either.  If you can successfully market a denser business park in order to include housing, then you can successfully market a denser business park that features no housing but more business space.

        2. Michelle Millet

          What criteria are you using to define “best”?

          I’m not entirely sure. But I can say that I have issues with traditional business parks. I don’t like creating separate work, shopping, and living environments. It leads to these community silo’s that force people into their cars and it isolates us from one another.

          My husband works downtown, there are loft spaces above his office where people live. People live and work in the same building, they can all walk a couple of blocks to restaurants, or coffee shops, or to the CO-Op for  groceries.

          Ideally all of our work, living, and shopping environments could be intermingled. This doesn’t happen in a traditional business park.

          I’d prefer we look for ways to strengthen and build a locally based economy in ways that don’t require us to build a mammoth tech park. But if we are going to take this route, I think we should open to exploring the positive and negative impacts that come with including housing.

  7. CalAg

    While the direction of council seems clear that there is a hard lean against a mixed-use approach, they have not foreclosed that possibility going forward. @ David Greenwald

    Dan Ramos sends in a letter on 12/9 asking for a major policy change, and by 12/13 there were at least two council members willing to consider an accommodation. Kudo’s to Lucas Frerichs and Brett Lee for not blinking.

    Personally, I wish the final message to the applicant was more clear. Now we are going to have to endure another month or so of rationalization about why we should ignore the simple political reality that addition of housing to the MRIC at this stage will kill it at the ballot box.

    The housing issue has been on the radar since 2010, and there have been no fundamentally new findings on this topic. The DEIR and technical studies are filling in the details, to be sure, but the council had all the information they needed for the policy decision when they adopted the RFEI.

    The mistake that was made was allowing the equal weight analysis of the mixed used alternative. That came in under my radar, and it will be interesting to watch that public hearing and read the record.

    1. Misanthrop

      This is directed to Ron on his 2:24 post.

      So what is your solution to the population doubling in your lifetime? You identify the problem but you don’t seem to offer any solutions other than saying no.

      1. Ron

        Misanthrop:

        I have some ideas, regarding how to help stabilize our population.  This is a bigger question, compared to whether or not one supports a particular project.

        The first step is acknowledging that there’s a problem with endless population growth (40 million people and counting, in semi-arid California alone).  I’m not sure that most are even ready to acknowledge that this can’t continue, indefinitely.  (Perhaps some would prefer to wait until we lose even more land and resources to development.)

        In the meantime, I don’t feel any obligation to support such madness.  At least Davis provides citizens with an opportunity to weigh in, regarding particular developments.

    2. Michelle Millet

      Dan Ramos sends in a letter on 12/9 asking for a major policy change, and by 12/13 there were at least two council members willing to consider an accommodation.

      If this policy change results in a better project, then I think it would be remiss of our council not to consider it.

      1. CalAg

        Then Ramos should withdraw his application and the City can issue another RFEI that allows workforce housing. Davis will have a level playing field and MRIC will probably have renewed competition from the NWQ … and a better project will result.

         

        1. Barack Palin

          Thanks CalAg.

          I think we know that if an innovation park with 850 planned housing units was put forward from the beginning that the public would’ve never stood for it.

          Instead we get what many see as a bait and switch where there’s an attempt to add housing years later after the public was told it was just going to be an innovation park.

        2. CalAg

          I’ll bet the NWQ developers will “re-activate” that application if the City allows them to include 850 units in their EIR. Maybe they will score some brownie points for straight shooting and resubmit after MRIC crashes and burns because of their housing play.

        3. Michelle Millet

          Given that fact that any project is up for voter approval, I’m not concerned about any “bait and swich” tactics that may or may not have been used. Ultimately voters get the final say. I just want to ensure that we are voting on the best possible proposal.

        4. CalAg

          And I just want to ensure that the council follows the rules, maintains a level playing field, and respects the process.

          I reject this idea that it’s okay to game and/or subvert the system if it “results in a better project” as defined by the proponents of this kind of behavior.

        5. Michelle Millet

          If we are going to put this on the ballot all I care about is getting a project put forward that best meets the needs of our community, or put another way minimizes the negatives impacts on our community. I don’t really care all the much how it impacts the developer.

        6. CalAg

           

          “best meets the needs of our community”

          Ignoring rules and process to accommodate developers and their political advocates (and investors, in the case of Trackside) is bad public policy.

          I get it that some people believe it is okay to blow off the RFEI – which formed the foundation of MRIC’s initial political support – as long as it results in what these particular individuals define as a “better project.”

          In my educated opinion, an innovation park project that fails at the ballot box does not meet the “best needs of the community” for anyone, including those that rationalize away the other obvious deficiencies in the mixed use alternative.

        7. Barack Palin

          Ignoring rules and process to accommodate developers and their political advocates (and investors, in the case of Trackside) is bad public policy.

          the RFEI – which formed the foundation of MRIC’s initial political support 

          Boy, you hit a home run on that one.

          1. Don Shor

            Bypass commissions, ignore neighborhood guidelines, ignore the RFEI, ignore the General Plan, revise development agreements after the fact, give special tax deals to developers, on and on.
            I would say this would set a bad precedent, but it actually seems like more of a bad pattern.

        8. Michelle Millet

          I should probably change my phrasing from “what is best for the community” to, “what will result in the fewest negative impacts on the community.”

          If adding housing minimizes the negative impacts this type of project has on our community then I think we should consider it. I am unclear on why this is a controversial statement.

           

  8. Eileen Samitz

    I am glad that the Council decided to “stay the course”.  Special thanks to Lucas for clearly coming forward with not supporting any housing in the project, and to Bret for making the motion that no action really needed to be taken to stay the course.

    The ONLY reason that this project was ever considered from the beginning was because it was to be a commercial only, innovation park to help the City generate revenue. It would have never gotten off the ground had the Ramos developers tried to include housing in the beginning. This last minute “bait and switch” attempt was bad enough. But then on top of that the last minute timing of releasing bogus self-serving poll results of  polling questions (that were in no way objective since they were designed by the developer, and who arranged to have done) are pretty astonishing stunts pulled by the Ramos group.

    It just makes clear how important it is for everyone to please write to our Council members now to let them know your opposition to any housing being added to the Mace Ranch Innovation Park.

  9. Tia Will

    Thinking back to my original conversation with Ramos at their initial project open house, when I asked him how many workers he anticipated would need local housing based on the project as initially proposed, he shrugged, smiled, and said “I don’t know. Thousands?” Now some will probably say that it is not the responsibility of the developer to be concerned about the housing needs of the work force that their project will generate. I disagree. I think it is very much the responsibility of those who will benefit from a project to mitigate the adverse consequences. Also, it is certainly the responsibility of our city leaders to consider all aspects of a proposed project, not just the potential city revenues when making this kind of decision.

    I do not pretend to know, or even have a strong preference at this time for or against the inclusion of on site housing, but I do feel that it would be remiss not to reconsider all options given the withdrawal of the alternative proposed business park.

  10. Ron

    Matt:

    I couldn’t respond directly below your comment, regarding the age ranges of different population groups in Davis.  However, I’m not sure why this would even be a problem.  I’m also not sure that it’s something that needs to be addressed.

    1. Matt Williams

      Ron, there are two reasons why it is a problem.  (1) one of the bedrock tenants of concepts behind what organizations like the Nielson Ratings tell advertisers is that the 25-54 year-old demographic cohort is the engine of the retail portion of the economy.  25-54 year-olds are far and away the most active buyers of “things” and selling “things” is what retail is all about.  So in Davis, the substantial decrease in the number and proportion of 25-54 year-olds is a serious threat to the sustainability of all retail businesses.  (2) the fact that the 25-54 year-old cohort (down 1,500 residents) and the 0-19 year-old cohort (down 900 residents) march in lock step with one another means that not only will Davis be seeing increased closings of retail businesses, it will also be seeing closures of elementary schools and more than likely one of the junior high schools. (3) both those quality of life declines will mean that housing prices may experience declines; however, if the mini-dorm conversions reduce the number of single family residences enough, that contraction in SFR supply will prop up prices . . . as long as families are willing to live in mixed neighborhoods with student mini-dorms.

      1. Ron

        Matt:

        My final posting, hopefully.  I’m exhausted.  So many people have such varied opinions on this site.

        It seems like you’re making an argument that our growth policies should be partially based on the same assumptions used to develop Nielson ratings.  (I know that I’m over-simplifying this.)

        In any case, I think you may be discounting the effect of UC Davis students.  New students arrive every year, and help support many businesses.

        I’m not convinced that ALL retailers rely upon the cohorts that you mention.  ACE Hardware, for example, probably relies upon an older cohort than other businesses.  (Just an example.)

        In general, I’m definitely not convinced that Davis will “crash and burn” without this proposed development. However, I’m quite convinced that it will cause a loss of farmland and open space, and a significant

        1. Matt Williams

          Ron said . . .  “It seems like you’re making an argument that our growth policies should be partially based on the same assumptions used to develop Nielson ratings.  (I know that I’m over-simplifying this.)”

          Yes you are oversimplifying this, but that isn’t unreasonable given the point you were making.

          You are absolutely right that new students (accounted for in the Census by the 20-24 year-old cohort) arrive each year, and they do indeed purchase lots of services at restaurants and movie theaters and bars and coffee shops, etc.  What, for the most part they do not do is purchase any appreciable amount of “things” at local Davis retail establishments.  Other than the recent additions of discount retailers in Second Street Crossing, there really isn’t a discount retailer of clothing anywhere in Davis.  As a result, most of those new students buy their clothes (clothes definitely qualify as “things”) outside of Davis.  Hang around Davis Ace for a little while and note the significant absence of UCD students shopping there.  Drive over to Hibberts and that absence becomes complete.  Bottom-line, if you talk to an assortment of Davis retailers, they are all going to say that UCD students make up a miniscule proportion of their business.

          Similarly, all of us Seniors (55 and older) have reached the stage of life where we are busy trying to shed our “things” not add to them.  If there is a thing that we want, chances are very good that we acted on the decision to buy that thing long before we reached the age of 55.

          Why is all that important?  The reason is simple.  Growth (and growth policies) is only a side show to the real issue, which is community sustainablity.  If our 25-54 year-old demographic cohort continues to shrink (it dropped from 39% of the Davis population in 2000 to 33% in 2010, and almost surely is well below 30% today) then the number of students in the DJUSD schools will continue to shrink, and closing retail establishments (Luna Jewelers for example) and closing schools is not a good model of community sustainability.  Davis won’t “crash and burn” but it will become a bi-modal community with a Food Court in the middle and a student enclave at one end and a retirement community at the other end.  I respect your right to want that if that indeed is what you want.

           

           

        2. Misanthrop

          I’m not sure what Ron wants Davis to be but from his remarks about population growth in his lifetime I’m not even sure he wants Davis to be what it is, a place where we develop the human capital of the present for the future.

  11. Eileen Samitz

    Just so everyone understands, the only way that the developers could cram in 850 housing units and not lose any commercial space would have to be apartment-like units, whether they are for sale or rental. This is an enormous number of housing units and not everyone wants to live in a apartment-like sized housing unit, particularly young families. The entire parcel is only around 200 acres for heavens sake.

    Also, they can not legally reserve the housing units for employees of the innovation park, but also this would put an enormous amount of traffic in the area going into and coming out of the project which is likely to lead to air quality issues from all the cars. So this does not make it a better project, it makes it a far worse project.

    1. Barack Palin

      Think of it Eileen, if 850 units are allowed on top of the many workers coming and going to that site you’ll have hundreds possibly thousands more that don’t work there but do live there also commuting and making daily trips in and out of MRIC.  It will make the traffic that much worse.  On top of that MRIC is about as far as one can live in Davis from the downtown so trips will cause more VMT if one wants to shop, eat or see a movie.

      1. CalAg

        Let me make a substantive point here. If you review the tape, the MRIC consultant spoke specifically about creating a “mini-downtown” as part of the mixed use project.

        Another big red flag I almost forgot about.

    2. Matt Williams

      Eileen said . . .  “the only way that the developers could cram in 850 housing units and not lose any commercial space would have to be apartment-like units, whether they are for sale or rental. This is an enormous number of housing units and not everyone wants to live in a apartment-like sized housing unit, particularly young families.”

       

      The point that Eileen raises here is, for me, the existential core of this proposed project.

      If, in fact, the innovation part of innovation parks is all about the intellectual capital that the companies there will host and nurture and grow, then it is probably foolish to expect the employees of those companies to act in the way that the bulk of Davis currently acts.  If you are a young 20-something PhD spinning out of the Ivory Tower into the real world, living in an apartment-sized housing unit is probably what you expect … and the thought of a family is somewhere out in the future.  The typical work day for these young innovative entrepreneurs will consume almost all of their waking hours.  Roll out of bed and get cracking.

      The image below is an innovation center complex for an architectural engineering company in the Kettner area of San Diego.  The cream colored structure on the right behind the One Way sign is the engineering firm’s public face, its offices.  The building with the mottled brick first floor facade in the middle with the blue dumpster in front is the company’s live/work space for its architects and engineers.  The bluish building with the 6th floor patio is more live/work space, and finally the remainder of the complex on the left side of the image is town houses where more of the company’s employees have their actual residences when they aren’t immersed in live/work mode.

      [caption id="attachment_55430" align="alignleft" width="704"] Live/Work space in a San Diego Innovation Center[/caption]

      Yes it is dense.  Yes it is intense.  Probably not conducive to family life for most people, but more and more common in the world of the Knowledge Economy.

      The question that I have is whether that kind of housing, well matched to the characteristics of an innovation center’s business model will self select the type of residents who choose to live there?

  12. Ron

    Frankly:

    I didn’t say that a city cannot ever “develop its way out” of a financial problem.  However, I implied that this may not be the best approach, and is definitely not the first place I would look to solve such problems.  Unfortunately, it seems to be the easy, automatic “go-to” solution, for many.  (Not to mention the powerful development interests that foist these things upon us.)

    I don’t have all of the details, regarding the city’s (apparently-claimed) shortfall in revenues.  I’ve never seen a discussion regarding exactly how this apparently occurred, how bad the problem is, or exactly how the proposed development is supposed to permanently “fix” it.  But, I’m highly skeptical that we can only solve this “problem” by accepting sprawling development outside of our city limits.

    In general, if an underlying problem is not addressed, the same thing can occur in the future (even with commercial development).  It’s possible that the problem can even be magnified in the future, by inappropriately relying upon development.

    It’s difficult for me to believe that a relatively well-off city like Davis can only look toward development to solve its reported problems.

    I seem to recall that you have some previously-acknowledged involvement with the development community.  Is this correct?   (My apologies if I’m mistaken.)  Of course, this wouldn’t necessarily preclude you from providing valid points.  You are a talented contributor, regardless of your views.

    I’m exhausted from these postings.  I think I’ll stay out of it, for awhile.  I’m not sure that we ever change anyone’s mind, anyway.

    1. Frankly

      Yes – please rest up and come back.  I enjoy your posts.

      Yes, I run a company that provides financing to small businesses through-out California.  So you can assume that I have a small business bias.

      But the purpose of the programs that we administer are really about community development and jobs.   So if you are going to accurately target my professional bias, it is those things.

      However, I am a near 40-year resident of Davis and also have a bias toward fiscal sanity and fiscal sustainability for the city.

      I have done copious digging and research to get my arms around the city’s financial picture.  I am a big picture guy and there are others more detail-oriented than can explain the situation at a more detailed level.  But the simple broad-brush explanation is that Davis’s $50MM general fund budget is too low compared to what other comparable cities take in in consideration of the level of service and amenities Davis city residents expect.

      I agree with you that we are paying more than we should, but so are all other cities.  The pay and benefits we are giving city employees is an order of magnitude higher than it should be and that it needs to be.  The problem with this is that Davis would have be a leader in restructuring city employee compensation away from what other cities are doing.  This would cause some problems especially with police as existing employees would leave to take jobs with those other cities still paying the inflated compensation.  Also, there are unions, collective bargaining groups, labor agreements and MOUs.   Politicians and unions in this state have done a good job putting legal barriers up to prevent changes that reduce the compensation of their members.

      But that does not stop me from advocating for these changes.  I think they are inevitable because all cities in California have city employee retirement benefits liabilities that exceed their budgets and budget projections.  Eventually, as more cities reach financial insolvency (where Davis is headed too) there will be a day of reckoning and the public-sector gravy train will end.  Unfortunately this will also hit existing retirees.

      But Davis is a fish swimming way behind the school of cites in terms of revenue.

      And the only sustainable way to increase city revenue is economic growth.

      Davis has a tiny local economy because we have not allowed enough economic development.  We have not allowed enough economic development, frankly, because there are enough voters like yourself that don’t want expansion.

      Here is the thing for you to keep in mind.  With 72,000 people and 10 square miles, Davis has a population density of 7,200 people per square mile.   That is very, very population dense for a small city surrounded by open land.   Even a land-locked high priced college town like Santa Barbara has a much lower population density of 4,550 people per square mile.

      Davis can build 1000 acres of commercial space on the periphery over the next 50 years and we would be 11.5 miles.  Assuming by then we have a population of 90,000 people we would still have about the same population-density.

      In other words, the concern about sprawl is WAY overblown.  Davis is not at risk of sprawl because we are already invested in lots of preserved open space on the periphery, and because we are already so population-dense.

      Personally, I think some people in this town that are so against growth are confusing this dislike of growth with their dislike of the problems caused by high population density.

      But the bottom line here is that we cannot fix the budget without growing our local economy.  And to grow our local economy we must allow peripheral expansion.

      The only other option, but one that is problematic and less sustainable, is to significantly raise taxes… way beyond the rates of any other city in California.

    2. Tia Will

      Ron

      I’m not sure that we ever change anyone’s mind, anyway.”

      It is unlikely that we will change the mind of someone who is already set in their position. For me, as a long time poster and member of the Vanguard editorial board, that is never the point. The point for me is to put my ideas out there for consideration by those who are open minded enough to give the issue more thought. And every once in a while, someone will come up to me, and mention that a post or article of mine changed their mind.

      Please rest up and come back. New voices bring new perspectives which is always of value.

  13. Ron

    Matt:

    Final thoughts.

    Population cohorts change, over time.  No one lives forever.

    I don’t think it’s sustainable (or desirable) to endlessly grow outside of our city limits.  (Here, or anywhere else.)   I also don’t believe that having a sustainable/stable population will lead to the collapse of our economy (at the local level, or beyond).  At some point, we’ve got to move beyond trying to “grow/develop” our way out of perceived problems.  I’d prefer to do this BEFORE we develop every acre of land.

     

    1. Matt Williams

      Ron, final thoughts back.

      I agree with you in principle about the “develop every acre of land” concept.  There are far, far too many examples of that approach, with Elk Grove and Roseville and Folsom all being close by examples that confirm your point.  However, closer to home, Davis has not grown outside its city limits since the 1990’s, when Wildhorse and Mace Ranch were precisely the kind of expansion that you decry.  By comparison to virtually all of California, that is a stellar track record. If MRIC were an addition of  housing units, I would be marching in lock step with you, but since it is an addition of jobs, the evaluation of the evidence isn’t as simple.

      Further support of the “develop every acre of land” reality in Davis is capsulized in the following excerpt from Ryan Pistochini’s Spring 2015 publication THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE CITY OF DAVIS’ URBAN GROWTH BOUNDARY.

       

      The build up to the adoption of Davis’ UGB started in the 1960s. During this time, Davis issued two general plans, documents that outline how the City plans to add housing and manage land use. Jennifer Fulton (2000), a reporter for the local Davis Enterprise newspaper summarized some of the early history leading to the UGB. The 1964 General Plan supported a vision of Davis having a population of 75,000 by 1985. Five years later, the 1969 General Plan envisioned Davis with a population of 90,000 by 1990. Fulton notes that the 1969 plan “set off alarm bells throughout the town,” which led to a 1974 amendment that modified the vision to 50,000 by 1990.

      Yes population cohorts change over time.  The issue isn’t the change itself, it is what that change means with respect to the economic sustainability of the community . . . especially when there is no evidence that the change to the population cohort proportions is likely to reverse and there is substantial evidence that the change is likely to continue.

      Bottom-line, I agree with you that it isn’t sustainable (or desireable) to endlessly grow outside of our city limits, and we aren’t.  I also agree that having a sustainable/stable population will lead to the collapse of our economy (at the local level), but (A) the 2000 Census an 2010 Census figures tell us that we do not have a stable population, but rather a population that is increasingly moving toward bimodality, and (B) the UC Davis 20/20 Initiative and Long Range Development Plan tell us that the upward pressures on the 20-24 year old cohort will continue to be very strong, and (C) the continuing “greying” of the population of the United States tell us that the upward pressures on the 55 and Over cohort will also continue to be very strong.

      Let me be clear, these clear demographic trends don’t provide us with answers.  They provide us with challenges, just as preserving farmland doesn’t in itself provide answers, but rather challenges.  Weighing the challenges and gathering evidence about those challenges is what we are currently doing.  I agree wholeheartedly with the position that Robb Davis shared from the Dais on Tuesday night, specifically that there is more homework to do.

       

       

  14. Ron

    Well, I seem to keep responding!  Thanks again for all or your well-thought out responses to my postings.

    Despite the arguments that were made in support of the development, I still don’t support it.

    A city-wide deficit seems to be a primary justification to support the development.  However, I’m not convinced that this development is the answer:

    1)  There doesn’t seem to be any explanation regarding how we (apparently) got into a deficit, or how this project would prevent the same errors again in the future. 

    If the underlying cause of our deficit is not addressed, it seems likely that the same thing will occur in the future.  The problem could very well be magnified by then, especially if the commercial development does not bring in the amount of tax dollars hoped for.)

    2)  I don’t really know the size of the deficit, or how much the city is relying upon the project to bring (in dollars).  (The hoped-for “net gain”, after costs are considered.)

    3)  I believe that “Frankly” mentioned unfunded retirement/health liabilities, which is a problem throughout California.  If this is the primary reason that we are in a deficit, I’d strongly suggest that we deal with this problem directly.  I’m not willing to support a development to solve that problem.

    4)  “Leaping-frogging” over Mace Boulevard will likely encourage further sprawl.  (Even if the city maintains current zoning, for some parcels near the project.)

    5)  I strongly suspect that this development would lead to calls for expansion of our housing stock in the future, to meet our newly-created “internal needs”.

    6)  The project would most definitely lead to a loss of farmland and open space, as well as a significant increase in traffic.  (On Highway 80, Mace, 2nd Street, etc.)  I’ve already noticed a significant increase in traffic, over the years.

    7)  I’m not convinced that a direct comparison to other cities is applicable, since the primary economic engine in our city is the University itself.  (I haven’t fully developed this thought.)

    These are just some thoughts off the “top-of-my-head”.  In any case, I seem to be in the minority, here.  Oh, well.

    Even if you support the project, I hope that you ask these types of questions, yourself.  I strongly suspect that the developers will gain far more than the city ever will.  (And – we’ll all have to deal with the negative consequences, including traffic, etc.)  As always, the developers will be long gone, by then.

     

    1. Matt Williams

      Ron, are you willing to become a public participant in the Finance and Budget Commission (FBC) monthly meetings.  Your comment above does an excellent job of expressing many of the most active issues that the FBC has been beating the drum for. Nobody has taken off their shoe and started banging the table with it, but we have come very close.

      Your item 1) has been an active topic of discussion (and even some progress) at our meetings for several years.  The Unanimously Approved (5-0) Motion we sent to Council on Monday was a clear message on that topic.  You can’t make meaningful progress on cost reduction without being upfront and honest and transparent about your costs.

      Your item 2) currently does not have an answer.  Because past Councils deferred so much of our capital infrastructure maintenance/repairs/replacement, the true maintenance/repairs/replacement backlog was not maintained (out of sight, out of mind was the de facto mindset), so the currently underway intense effort to come up with a “real” answer to what the deficit is, should give us a good idea some time in January.  My personal estimate is that it is close to $200 million.

      Regarding your item 3), unfunded pension and OPEB (other post employment benefits … mostly retiree healthcare) liability is one of the primary drivers, but deferred capital infrastructure maintenance/repairs/replacement is just as big a driver, if not an even bigger driver.  The third primary driver is the impact of  Total Compensation increases given to the City employees in labor negotiations since 2000.

      Regarding your item 4) when you say “Even if the city maintains current zoning, for some parcels near the project” you are inserting an element of choice into the equation that does not exist, and can never exist.  The Conservation Easements place on the adjoining Leland Ranch (Mace 391) property are both permanent and unchangeable deed restrictions.  They are not zoning, so they can not be changed.  As a result the MRIC parcel can not be “leap frogged.” 

      I can’t argue with your item 5).  If we add desperately needed jobs and desperately needed 25-54 year-olds filling those jobs and desperately needed DJUSD student children of those 25-54 year-olds, they are going to have to have somewhere to live.

      We will have to agree to disagree on any meaningful increase of I-80 traffic.  The vast majority of travelers on I-80 eastbound and westbound have both their departure destination and their arrival destination outside Davis.  Is is unreasonable to estimate that 98% of the current I-80 traffic is through traffic, and that less than 2% actually gets off or gets on at one of the Davis exits?

      Mace will clearly see incremental traffic, but its carrying capacity will be increased, which may result in no meaningful degradation in Level of Service.  The devil will be in the details.  The same can probably be said for Second Street.

      Your final item 8) is really meaningful.  The jobs that will be created, leverage the core competencies of the University.  They will clearly be intellectual capital jobs.  However, they will also be independent of the University.  The “single threading” of Davis as a college town would work if the University was willing to be a co-equal partner, but as CalAg and Eileen Samitz have both very clearly stated, the University is perfectly happy to reap the benefits of its increased, and ever increasing, enrollment while leaving the City to shoulder the burden and cost of housing the added students.   As long as the Davis employment is monolithic, we will be totally at the mercy of UCD’s unilateral decisions.

      In closing, I’m not looking for you to support it. I’m simply sharing some of the pieces of evidence I personally am wrestling with in order to make up my own mind about the project. We are faced with a choice between flawed alternatives. Deciding what the relative weight of those flaws is isn’t easy.

    2. Frankly

      I’m not convinced that a direct comparison to other cities is applicable, since the primary economic engine in our city is the University itself.  (I haven’t fully developed this thought.)

      The direct comparison is other college towns/cities.

      When you say that the university is the primary economic engine in our city, you do realize that the university pays no property tax. The only way the university contributes revenue to the city is the money spent locally by the employees and students of the university.   But since the residents have prevented much retail and services growth, we cannot really leverage this potential UCD revenue source very well.

      When somethings looks too good to be true, it generally is too good to be true.  There are a lot of very smart people living in these other cities and Davis leadership does not have any advantage there.

      1. Ron

        Frankly:

        I haven’t looked at those comparisons, but I’ll take your word for it.

        I still (generally) go back to my original question, which is – how did this (deficit) occur, how large is it, how will this proposed development (permanently?) solve the problem, and what’s to prevent the problem from occurring again?  Otherwise, the proposed development may simply be a temporary Band-Aid, which comes with some undesirable, direct consequences (loss of farmland/open space, traffic, precedence for additional growth, etc.).  And, the problem (continuing deficit) may very well be worse, next time.  (Especially if the city relies upon this development to solve its problems, and tax revenues fall short of projections.) I strongly suspect that the city’s expenses will increase further over time, to match the (hoped-for) projected revenues of this development.

        I suspect that housing was previously built, without fully considering the consequences.  I suspect that this will occur again (even with the voter approvals required – outside of city limits).  I also suspect that this development will be used to justify housing for our increased “internal needs”, in the future.  And, round-and-round it goes.

        If this proposed development does go forward, I sincerely hope that the city gets a “good deal” from it.  I wouldn’t automatically assume that this will occur, and I would really question the benefits that are being promised.  (Pretty sure that the developers will benefit, regardless.)

        I know that I’ll never convince everyone (or maybe even anyone).  And, it’s also not likely that I’ll be convinced.  But, I guess I’m in the minority.

        1. hpierce

          Uh,  yeah…  every single house in Davis that was built prior to 1972, did not consider “the environment” (all the implications of “new development” you listed)… do you occupy one of those units?

          I’m a “newbie”… came to town in 1972… living now in a house built in the mid-90’s… built on prime ag land.  Just not getting your logic.  Am open to understanding.

  15. Tia Will

    Ron

    I guess I’m in the minority.”

    I think that you may be under estimating the support that some of your positions have. I agree with you that some housing previously built, and currently being built as on the Cannery site were approved without full consideration of adverse consequences, even when those consequences were known.

    I am a slow growth advocate. I am willing to look at each project on its own merits. But to just build because “we need” to in some people’s estimation is simply not enough for me with regard to either housing or business growth. We need much more clearly defined goals developed in a comprehensive, publicly agreed upon manner. Right now what we have is developers coming to the city hoping to get enough votes to get their favored project through regardless of the impacts on others. This is sometimes done without so much as discussing in any detail with those potentially impacted about the pros and cons as those affected see them.

     

     

    1. hpierce

      Tia… your house was built when the City felt there was a need/desire to grow.  Unless you and your residence was in place in 1917… when Davisville was incorporated as Davis… you can connect the dots.

  16. Ron

    HPierce:

    Yes – I’m a “newer” resident, compared to you.

    I don’t view this as a personal issue, or an issue that’s unique to Davis.  However, Davis is one of the very few places in which endless sprawl is at least considered to be an issue.  I wish that this issue was given more attention, everywhere.

    I don’t follow the logic of those who think this can continue forever, nor why you’d want it to.

     

     

     

     

     

    1. Tia Will

      hpierce

      you can connect the dots”

      I certainly can. I just connect them differently than you appear to. I do not hold myself responsible for the decisions that were made before I was born. My current house was built two years before I was born. The relevant question would be, what would my position have been at that time and I do not know the answer to that.

      What I do know is how I feel about our current growth issue. I accept the need for some growth. I feel that as a relatively prosperous community, we have an obligation to provide help with housing for those who are actually in need. We have no community obligation to “help “( by changing existing guidelines on a case by case basis or by adopting a “grow as fast as we can” attitude) to benefit those who are already clearly affluent and would just like to be more so.

      1. Matt Williams

        Tia said . . . “I do not hold myself responsible for the decisions that were made before I was born.”

        Tia, the above statement does not seem to be consistent with support of affirmative action.

    2. Tia Will

      Ron

       I wish that this issue was given more attention, everywhere.”

      As do I. I wish that it had been a larger issue when the developers were turning the orange groves and strawberry fields in Anaheim and surrounding areas into strip malls, fast food drive throughs and parking lots. I wish it had been a larger issue when the developers were turning my own hometown in Washington from a fishing farming community into a tourist location and home for those who can afford luxury home prices complete with lines of cars extending bumper to bumper around the once quiet harbor.

      In our haste to provide more luxury homes for profit and investment, we seem to have forgotten that we are first and foremost animals and as such are dependent upon the environment that we seem so intent on destroying for our personal short term material gain.

  17. Frankly

    I am in Austin.  Very vibrant and cool place.  It is spread out.  There are bike lanes and parks and neigborhoods.

    I think the “sprawl” thing isn’t well understood nor well defined.   certainly LA-style development isn’t desireable.   But I personaly don’t like urban high density.  I think there is some irrational fear of peripheral growth that is really based on dislike of traffic.  But bad traffic is as much a product of density as it is geographic expansion.  The key is balance.  Davis is out of balance.

  18. Tia Will

    Frankly

    But I personally don’t like urban high density.  I think there is some irrational fear of peripheral growth that is really based on dislike of traffic.  But bad traffic is as much a product of density as it is geographic expansion.  The key is balance.  Davis is out of balance.”

    That is a nice little switch of perspective. You move from your personal preference, directly to the “irrationality” of others preferences. There is nothing at all irrational about not wanting Davis to look like Southern California, or Woodland, or Roseville or Folsom. This is a matter of personal values, “not irrational fear”.

    1. Frankly

      Your arguments are out of balance… too filled with hyperbole to be take seriously some of the time.   There is a HUGE difference between LA-style development and what Davis would look like with another 200, 400 and even another 1000 acres developed on our periphery.

      I am thinking that some of the anti-growth people in Davis may have in common a lack of visioning capability.  I would urge you and them to go through an exercize creating an inventory of all the attributes they find appealing and attractive in Davis.  Then do the same with other communities they have visited listing the attributes that are appealing and attractive that Davis lacks (I will help you start with this one… adequate city revenue, good jobs, a population with a demographic balance).

      Then consider a new peripheral expansion project and honetly vet what you see as negative and positive impacts to this list of attributes.  If you are honest in this assessment, I think you will quickly note that most of the resistance to the type of growth we are talking about is irrational.

  19. Biddlin

    Austin, one of my ” Must see ” American cities for EU tourists, has history and geography so alien to Davis that I don’t think there’s much to compare, but one alien trait would be well adopted by all: tolerance! I never know whether I’m sitting next to a republican senator or a hillbilly herbalist when I’m sucking down ribs and brew between sets, there.

      1. Biddlin

        The last time I came to Davis for pleasure was when Bill Clinton was President and the town was starting to show a lot of wear, then. When I was looking for space to setup shop a few years ago, the downtown looked like my 97 pickup truck, in need of a frame up resto.

        I liked the real funky Davis of the early 1970s, that had a middle class who didn’t resent the students and had much less native hubris.

  20. Tia Will

    Frankly

    There is a HUGE difference between LA-style development and what Davis would look like with another 200, 400 and even another 1000 acres developed on our periphery.”

    Agreed. But there wasn’t such a HUGE difference in the 1970’s when I lived in Long Beach and Anaheim. I watched the changes occur one field at a time. We have to look no further than our own neighboring communities to see how this happens as each new addition is somehow “not enough”. I have been accused ( by you for example) of not having “vision”. This is incorrect. I just envision a future that honors and protects our resources as well as short term economic gain. The ultimate in “sustainability” is our ability to live upon our earth. And small steps by individual communities do matter.

    Then consider a new peripheral expansion project and honetly vet what you see as negative and positive impacts to this list of attributes.  If you are honest in this assessment, I think you will quickly note that most of the resistance to the type of growth we are talking about is irrational.”

    I have done this, as have others over many posts in previous articles, and have arrived at a very honest (because frankly I am) conclusion that happens to be different from yours. Once again, what you have done is nothing more than describe your preferences as rational to the exclusion of other views. That is hardly an objective stance.

     

    1. Frankly

      Make the list Tia.

      To help you get started note that Davis is already surrounded by parts of that permanent farmland moat.  So your continguous sprawl argument is all wet.

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