Developers’ Poll Shows Potential Support for Housing

Mace Ranch Innovation Center
Mace Ranch Innovation Center
Internal View of Mace Ranch Innovation Center

The Davis City Council will be asked this evening to make a critical choice about the future of the Mace Ranch Innovation Center (MRIC) proposal. Staff is asking for council to provide direction as to the next steps for treating a mixed-use proposal at the innovation center site.

In a letter from project manager Dan Ramos, he asked for the council to consider a potential 850 housing unit mixed-use component. He writes that “as we have proceeded over the last several months, our team has become convinced that a viable innovation center should contain a housing component such as the one reflected in the mixed use alternative.”

While initially being opposed to housing, he said that “we have learned that cutting edge innovation centers now almost always contain a housing component, the primary purpose of which is to provide housing for those who work at the innovation center. This proximate housing is endemic of the unique live/work relationship prevalent in the tech industry and is essential to the effective marketing of innovation centers.”

Moreover, he notes that “through both the Draft EIR and our own efforts at developing a first-rate sustainability plan, we have learned that a housing component contributes the reduction of VMT and has a corresponding reduction of air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. These highly desirable environmental results are important and it is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve a high degree of sustainability without them.”

One of the objections to housing has been the concern that many supporters of the innovation center concept have that housing is the third rail of Davis politics and would reduce the likelihood of the project passing a Measure R vote.

To bolster their case about the viability of the project, Dan Ramos has provided the Vanguard with a copy of the most recent poll performed by J. Moore Methods, Inc., based in Sacramento.

The poll asked, “Would you favor or oppose annexing land into the city to build an Innovation Center that produces an environment that will support UC Davis scientific research, create new research and technology jobs for UCD graduates and Davis residents here in town, and generate needed revenue for the City?”

Sixty-seven percent of respondents answered in the affirmative, with just 20 percent opposing and 13 percent offering no opinion.

The pollsters drilled down, explaining in detail the Mace Ranch Innovation Center and noting, “An independent economic study says the project could generate up to $2 million in additional revenue for the City of Davis. Proponents state the Mace Ranch Innovation Center location has sufficient traffic capacity and will link downtown and UC Davis by transit and bike trails. Critics say the project is on farmland that shouldn’t be developed, and would create some additional traffic.”

The respondents were asked, “If this project was on the ballot, would you likely support or oppose it?” Sixty-three percent said they would support it, while 26 percent were opposed.

There were then two questions regarding housing on the site.

The first asked, “One of the unanswered questions is whether to allow some limited type of housing for some of the employees that work at the site. The type of housing that could be included would be live-work loft units and townhouses designed to compliment the main research facilities. The total number of live-work units could total up to 850 over the 20+ year build-out of the project. Would you support or oppose including up to 850 live-work housing units as part of the Mace Ranch Innovation Center?”

That question generated 55 percent support with 32 percent opposition.

A follow-up question asked, “The Environmental Impact Report produced for the City of Davis showed that traffic and greenhouse gases in the project would be reduced by up to 30 percent if housing was included in the project, due to the reduced car trips from having workers living on site instead of commuting into Davis. Knowing this would you support or oppose including up to 850 live-work housing units as part of the Mace Ranch Innovation Center?”

This one generated 60 percent support versus 30 percent opposition.

For the developer, these numbers indicate that there is not immediate and inherent opposition to the inclusion of housing on the site. The housing offered here would not be traditional single-family homes, but rather would be high-density housing that would serve the workforce working at these parks.

However, while the developer is encouraged by the numbers, there is a note of caution as the project only starts with about 55 to 60 percent support for a project with housing. While Measure R only requires a bare majority of 50 percent plus one to pass, these numbers exist prior to an election campaign that figures to be highly adversarial.

Council will have to weigh the polling numbers against other considerations.

—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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  1. Tia Will


    This is interesting information. I am curious about the sampling technique. Do you have access to the entire poll ? Do you know if it was done by telephone or written questionnaire ?  Do you know how they arrived at the sample population ? Do you know the sample sizes, both initial contacts and actual responders ? Any additional information would be appreciated.

  2. Barack Palin

    Look at some of the questions in the poll and how they were framed.  I’d bet an attorney would call them leading questions.  Not surprising at all that they got the response they did.

    I’m sure if they decide to pursue housing that the people against it will have a whole different slant on their questions to the voters pertaining to the project.

  3. noname

    “The project will provide a net negative level of greenhouse emissions, zero traffic and a pet pony and rainbow for every resident! Do you support the project?”

    David, you blindly accept this developer-driven propaganda as meaningful polling without any scrutiny. Why?

    1. David Greenwald

      I don’t necessarily accept those polling numbers. I haven’t offered my own opinion on this yet. But as a political scientist who studied public opinion, I do see 55% to 60% polling numbers as very robust at this stage because it’s independent of any active campaign and organized opposition. I’d like to see where Covell Village was polling at this stage.

      1. Barack Palin

        One thing the polling showed to me was that the innovation park without housing is a slam dunk but add housing along with an opposition campaign and it’s going to get very iffy.

        1. CalAg

          It’s not a slam dunk anymore. The more the developer pushes for a housing component, the more support erodes for any kind of development on the Mace property.

          They may have already reached the tipping point where a Measure R failure is inevitable. Personally, I think they can probably still recover if the City Council respects the principles articulated in the RFEI – which served as the foundation for the broad support that MRIC initially enjoyed – and gives clear direction this evening that they are not going to change the rules for RAMCO mid-stream.

          The bottom line is … will the City Council members support RAMCO or the City Staff. Punting tonight would be a very bad idea.

          From the Staff Report:

          Absent direction otherwise, staff’s intent has been to prepare this package only for the project as proposed, and not, for example, for any of the CEQA alternatives such as the Mixed Use Alternative.

          There are several reasons for this: 1) There is no application before the City for any project except the MRIC as proposed. 2) The City’s Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) expressly discouraged residential uses.


        2. Davis Progressive

          “It’s not a slam dunk anymore. The more the developer pushes for a housing component, the more support erodes for any kind of development on the Mace property.”

          this is a very underrated point in that people are starting to re-think the proposal and get skeptical about the intentions of the developers.  it’s not a free ride to test the waters, there are actually consequences.

        3. CalAg

          I’m pretty taken aback. Was a huge supporter. Now I’m not so sure.

          Right now it’s on the developer – who everyone knew going in was kind of scummy, but had the key piece of property and was being responsive to the RFEI (I suppose the attempt to bypass Measure R should have been more of a red flag). If the CC doesn’t stop this abuse of process in its tracks tonight, then it’s also on them.

  4. Don Shor

    The poll is somewhat misleading for using the terms “live-work units” and “having workers living on site instead of commuting into Davis.” There is no way to limit the purchasers and renters of housing on this site; only the university can discriminate as to who they sell or rent to. They certainly may intend that the housing units go to people who work there, but there is no guarantee of that. In a housing market as skewed as Davis currently is, it is perfectly likely that others will seek that housing. 

  5. CalAg

    Excerpts from the Ramos letter:

    we initially were highly opposed to the inclusion of a housing component in our project

    as we have proceeded over the last several months, our team has become convinced that a viable innovation center should contain a housing component

    There have been rumors of this polling data since the time the RFEI was issued. When was the polling done? Was the reported poll the only polling that was done?

    It’s pretty clear that this is a false narrative from the developer and consultant that has been fabricated to influence the political debate. In my opinion, they have been intent on housing since day one, and the current bait-and-switch is simply this strategy being played out.

    What’s changed? Their competition is gone – which would not have happened if the Council had signaled to all parties that housing was on the table – and the MRIC developers now feel they have the City over a barrel.

    If the City Council is supports this ruse, then the Measure R vote will almost certainly fail once the political debate hits the mainstream. Remember Target? Very high initial support that collapsed in the final run-up to the election.

    Make no mistake. This is not Target. Not by a long shot – the most obvious differentiator being 850 dwelling units. As a consequence of this huge over-reach by RAMCO, some of the core underlying principles of both the project (sustainability) and the economic development strategy (market demand) are going to be hotly debated … and support for the proposal will inevitably collapse.

    The developer needs to stand down on this bait-and-switch (just like they did on their effort to tamper with Measure R) before the negatives get driven so high that they destroy the viability of the 100% tech park scenario.

    I’m beginning to think that this is just RAMCO being RAMCO (ala “shove Mace Ranch down their throats”).

  6. Alan Miller

    but rather would be high-density housing that would serve the workforce working at these parks.

    What Don said:   No, David, this is what the developer says so they can make a greenhouse gas claim.  In fact, no one knows who will live there.  Some percentage between 0 and 100% will be people who work on the site.

    This is similar to a recent piece where you quoted Trackside Partners LLC and said the neighborhood wouldn’t have to worry about students living at Trackside Tower, because of who Trackside Partners LLC said would live there in their promotional material.  Our neighborhood bought this rhetoric from a developer ONCE a long time ago, and nothing but students, some two-to-a-room and one-to-a-den, live at that “family-oriented duplex”.

    Don’t quote people with an agenda (note: everyone has an agenda) and state it as fact, say instead so-and-so said such-and-such.  By the way, that project is now known as “Train-wreck Towers” (says a guy with an agenda).

  7. CalAg

    “we have learned that cutting edge innovation centers now almost always contain a housing component, the primary purpose of which is to provide housing for those who work at the innovation center.” Dan Ramos

    A self-serving misrepresentation.

    On-site housing makes a lot of sense for innovation centers being developed on brownfield redevelopment sites in large urban centers. These locations tend to have limited and/or blighted housing resources.

    In contrast, MRIC is proposed on a suburban greenfield site with adjacent residential and good transportation infrastructure (which will be enhanced and integrated with the site).

    High density residential – which will almost certainly insure a Measure R defeat – is unwarranted as part of this proposal.

  8. Eileen Samitz

    These poll questions on whether housing should be included in the Mace Ranch Innovation Center are clearly so, so, loaded with language to simply get the answers Ramos wants.  What is clear is the absence of honest, objective questions, but what else would you expect when it is the developer doing the poll for his own project? 

    Ramos is now trying to add in 850 housing units after promising that there would be no housing in the project.  What needs to be considered beyond the bait and switch situation, is the water and waste water treatment demands that 850 housing units would drain our infrastructure resources and cause us long term costs for City services and infrastructure maintenance.  Right now we have fulfilled our “fair share”  housing requirement for the current SACOG cycle. We will need those infrastructure resources in 6 years when our next SACOG fair share of housing growth requirements are assigned to Davis. We are currently being taxed on the new expansion of the waste water plant and the new water project. Plus, the City would get no credit for any excess housing units built beyond what we have currently approved for the current cycle. Also, exceeding our fair share growth of housing invites SACOG to assign us a higher fair share number of units for the next cycle. All the developers would just love that.

    Mace Ranch Innovation Park was presented to the public to be considered as a commercial project ONLY high tech park to help the City with revenue, and  we were promised that they would  NOT try to include housing. We heard this repeatedly when the conversation  began over a year ago.

    This is nothing more than a bait and switch attempt by the developers, particularly this type of stunt has been pulled by the Ramos development group in the past. What is important however,  is to see what the City Council will do with this. Are they are going to allow this kind of deceptive stunt to move forward? Or are they going to keep their word to the citizens of Davis and do what we were promised  in pursuing a high tech innovation park, with no housing? It certainly seems that Ramos had this up his sleeve the entire time from the beginning, regardless of any impression that he may have been giving that there would be no residential in the innovation park. The timing of the release of HIS poll, on HIS project, with HIS desired results  just before the City Council is scheduled to give direction to staff on this issue…what a coincidence.
    The City staff had no business even exploring this “alternative option” given the bad history the community has with the Ramos development group. It should be no surprise to them that Ramos would try this stunt to attempt to get residential to happen on their land which is outside the City limits.

    Not only was this to be a commercial only high tech park for revenue for the City but it was also to provide a jobs-housing balance, by providing jobs for our existing housing. So now all of a sudden, we need to provide more housing for the jobs? This scheme would be endless.

    Our City Council needs to make the right decision and put an end to Ramos’ attempt to try to manipulate the process, otherwise the City planning “process” cannot ever be trusted again.

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