Commentary: Tuesday Was Council’s Finest Moment

Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis lays out a long list of considerations
Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis lays out a long list of considerations

As they say, the devil is in the details, but for those who believed that the Nishi vote should be delayed until November, the Davis City Council had a resounding response on Tuesday night, putting the measure within striking distance of the June ballot with its strongest showing to date.

Give tremendous credit to all four councilmembers who were there on Tuesday – Rochelle Swanson was ill and could not make the meeting. Of course it helped to have only one major issue on the agenda, allowing the council to not only focus on the job at hand, but to do so at an early hour when their minds were fresh.

It was perhaps Mayor Dan Wolk’s finest moment of his mayorship as he skillfully guided the meeting that could have bogged down once Robb Davis and Brett Lee put their proposals forth. Instead, the mayor was able to quickly forge consensus where consensus could be reached and pushed back to staff and the applicant on areas that will need more work.

While everyone seemed to believe that great progress was made on Tuesday, there are no certainties going forward. There are critical questions that have to be addressed in order for this to even get onto the ballot – let alone pass. But what seemed like a remote possibility prior to Tuesday is now quite possible.

What is the rush? There is no rush. There are, however, timelines. The developer has a desire to have the project on the ballot in June – in fact there are a lot of advantages to having the project on in June. First, by November the community will be heavily focused on the presidential election, whereas in June, the community will be focused on local issues – city council, a possible revenue measure, and potentially only the third Measure J/R vote in community history.

Second, by going in June, Nishi gets to go first. Pushing it back to November means that either Nishi and Mace Ranch Innovation Center are on the same ballot, or one has to be pushed to 2017.

Third, to some extent, Nishi and its developers feel that this has already been a long process and they simply want to get it done with at this point.

Finally, Nishi is not home free. There are a lot of questions and issues that must be clarified in order for the council to put it on the ballot and they still must win a community vote. What will be interesting is that, while in 2005 and 2009 the Measure J/R votes were on a special election, this year it will be on with other issues. How does that change the dynamic? Or does it?

Councilmember Brett Lee was on his game on Tuesday
Councilmember Brett Lee was on his game on Tuesday

From our vantage point, Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis and Councilmember Brett Lee were at their very best on Tuesday night. Critical issues were placed in the baseline features. That is important because a baseline feature can only be modified by another vote of the people – that means the developer and even the city cannot change those conditions after approval.

Once again, the devil is in the details, and to their credit, it appeared that the council was listening to the community’s concerns on many of the details of this project.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but here is where things seem to stand on critical issues.

First, the developer and the council have acknowledged that, without a UC-approved UC Davis access point, there is no project. Undoubtedly there will be those who will use the lack of current agreement as a reason to delay the project. Is it enough to have the commitment that there will be no project until the site is linked to UC Davis and “no occupancy until the Richards I-80 interchange improvements are complete”? That’s for the voters to decide.

Second, one issue that the mayor pro tem seemed to nip in the bud was the additional 20 percent residential units, which was added to the baseline. My reading of Measure J/R language on baseline features is that the requirements are rather vague and most of the commentary by the city involved what triggered a change, rather than how firm the requirements needed to be.

But, as Robb Davis pointed out, why are we playing this game – if we think the number should be 780 rather than 650, then no need to fudge.

The question of parking and indeed vehicular access still looms. Robb Davis suggested further reductions in parking and eliminating the garage. Brett Lee and also developer Tim Ruff came back that parking isn’t the issue, the issue is peak hour traffic, and they feel that they can limit peak hour traffic.

As expressed many times, I prefer less cars, and think that students are increasingly not bringing cars to Davis. From Nishi, you can walk or bike to most of the core and campus easily. There are buses for easy access. And the few times when residents need a car, giving them a free membership to Zipcar or another car sharing service would solve that problem.

I am holding out for a proposal that further reduces parking and car storage.

Unsettled is the finance issue. I was curious as to why the applicant would foreclose on a CFD (Community Facilities District) possibility to fund the infrastructure. He is willing to go to a lighting district. I’m also interested in why they would not implement a per square foot tax, that could generate over half a million a year right there with a fairly low impact on any individual business.

Robb Davis did a good job of illustrating why the EPS report and its assumptions are so conservative. One clear area is the sales tax – I think it’s a given we at least re-authorize the 2004 half-cent sales tax and a good chance we reauthorize the full one-cent sales tax passed in June 2014.

The fiscal analysis on the project, of course, widely varies. Some believe that this project is a huge loser financially, even though the developer has pledged to make it fiscally positive. Some have questioned why Robb Davis would work so hard to make this project pencil out – but, given its location and the nature of available land and voter preferences, that seems common sense.

There are those who believe that Nishi does not meet the goal of a revenue generator for the city. That is a fair criticism, although Dan Carson believes that the project will generate substantial revenue. Clearly the city will be going with a more modest fiscal analysis and, based on that, the voters will have to decide if the fiscal impacts are sufficient to vote down a project that may meet a good deal of other community needs.

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification issue is an interesting one. Robb Davis said on Tuesday that he wanted a commitment in the baseline agreement, “an agreement to pursue LEED certification.” I have always been a bit skeptical of LEED Certification as more about the process than the product. But Brett Lee made a great point on Tuesday.

He said that the idea of LEED “is very important” and “we need to commit to a certain LEED level.” The importance of LEED, he said, is that it introduces third-party verification and takes the onus off city staff to make critical determinations. “The nice thing about that is it’s third-party verification and people will have a high level of confidence that they’re evaluated objectively. It takes a little bit out of the concern that (about the cozy relationship between city staff and developer)… it takes that concern off the table.”

That’s an outstanding point in that it would take the pressure off staff and toward a third-party process.

However, Tim Ruff also had a good point in that there are aspects of Platinum Certification that are out of the hands the developers and the city. If the level of LEED is put into the baseline features and they can’t obtain it, they don’t have a project. That’s a fair point.

There is a compromise here that they put the need to pursue LEED Certification at the Platinum level into the baseline, and put the other requirements into the developer’s agreement.

Can we get to net zero energy here? Does it matter? That will be left for the community, but Robb Davis and Brett Lee did a great job pressing for accountability for these commitments.

I thought Brett Lee raised important points on the county tax sharing agreement. This is another issue that opponents can seize on because it is not settled. Councilmember Lee said he wanted approval of the project to be subject to a certain tax share with the county. He argued this would help the developer at some level, it protects the community against a poorly negotiated agreement with the county, and it puts the county on notice that there is a minimum, and if they get too ambitious then this falls through and they get nothing.

Is that enough to satiate critics? Hard to know.

Robb Davis ended his comments with this: “The question is why put this on the June ballot?” he asked. “If we can get these things answered I’d be willing to put it on the June ballot.” However, he said that, if there are still issues about sustainability and fiscal impact, we are doing a great disservice putting it on the June ballot.

I think that is a fair take. We have Measure R for a reason – it is to give the community the right to determine when and where to grow. I think if the issues that Robb Davis and Brett Lee laid out on Tuesday can get addressed in the next four weeks, there is no reason to put off the ballot.

Democracy is not a clean process. It is messy and uneven. We have seen this play out over the last few months, but, in the end, the process seems to be working toward producing a far better project than what existed six months ago.

Is that enough to get a passage by the voters? We have no way of knowing. But, at least from the council’s point of view, they have done their job and, on Tuesday, they did it well.

—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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35 thoughts on “Commentary: Tuesday Was Council’s Finest Moment”

  1. Barack Palin

    On the face of things the project looks nice.  I still have a problem in that the revenue still doesn’t appear to be locked down.  This was supposed to be a revenue generator and I still don’t see any substantial revenue coming back to the city.  How many revenue generating opportunities are we as a city ever going to have like this?  We need to ensure that we’ll get a decent return on this property now  .  I still haven’t seen it.

    I also don’t like the proposal of paving over the park.

    Voters need to make sure that Nishi will generate strong revenue for the city, otherwise you all know where future revenue needs will come from…… citizens in the form of higher taxes.

    1. Alan Miller

      I also don’t like the proposal of paving over the park.

      YEAH!  You and me both BP.  I thought that was one of the best aspects of the new, revised plan, along with saving the Oak Grove on the north end, and made me a firm supporter, and I testified at Council as such last week how much I liked the plan to put parking in structures along the freeway hidden behind the buildings and allowing to open up open space.  Now I’ve got second thoughts if this gets F’d with.  The logic escapes me — less cars overall via incentives, but move pavement?  That isn’t pretty or logical.

    2. Ron


      It may generate “revenue”, without generating a “surplus”.  Currently, it’s still projected to create a deficit.  Having more students attend the University will likely increase sales tax collected in Davis (with, or without the development).  (There doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgement of this.)

      Nishi is mostly a housing development.  (Not sure why the city’s consultant analyzed it as an “Innovation Center”.) Nishi is not going to generate substantial surplus (profit) for the city, regardless of any “tweaking” of the proposal.  For supporters, this probably doesn’t matter.

      It seems like Robb Davis and some other city officials are indeed “boosters” of this proposal.  As someone pointed out, the prior city officials who signed a letter of support also appear to be pro-growth individuals.  I wouldn’t look to any of them for an objective analysis.

      I also don’t like the paving over of the park.

      1. Barack Palin

        Yes Ron, I say revenue when I probably should be saying surplus, profit or positive returns.

        You make a good point, they’re counting the sales tax revenue from the increase in students which the city would’ve realized anyway regardless of the project.

        1. Ron

          It seems that some others (not you) may be attempting to mislead the public, by discussing “revenue” instead of the more appropriate terms (surplus/deficit).  Most voters want to know the net financial results of any development.

          Costs must be subtracted from revenue, to arrive at the net result.

        2. Davis Progressive

          i don’t think anyone is trying to intentionally mislead the public.  but clearly the term we should be talking about is “net revenue” not “revenue.”

    3. Mark West

      Nishi was never expected to be a huge revenue generator for the City.  The purpose of the commercial development at the site was to provide space for new companies to start-up from ideas generated on Campus.  The best way to think about the location is as an incubator for new companies, or rather, a start-up community.  As the successful start-ups take off, they will need to move to larger space elsewhere in town – which is the primary purpose of the peripheral innovation sites.  It is these growing – post start-up stage – companies that provide the bulk of the new jobs and net revenue for the City.  We currently don’t have enough space for either the start-up community, or the growing companies, so we need to develop both.  The Nishi and Mace sites are intended to be complimentary to each other, with both sites necessary for healthy business development – which ultimately will provide the net revenue you are demanding.

  2. Davis Progressive

    i do think we need to push back harder because it’s easy to get to at least $1 million in net revenue.  while that’s not make or break for me, as bp points out, that’s $1 million less you have to get by taxing the voters.

    1. Ron


      I have not seen any analysis which shows that Nishi would generate a $1 million net surplus.  Not even close to that.

      The analysis provided by the city’s consultant showed that the development would create a $106,000 annual deficit, for the base proposal.

      1. Davis Progressive

        so you didn’t see dan carson’s analysis that suggested $2 million?

        anyway, what i said was it was easy to get to $1 million.  here’s one scenario.  add in a hotel.  add in a $2 surcharge like they talked about at mace.  that’s just about $1 million right there.  that’s just pulling things out of my butt, but it gives you an idea.

      2. Matt Williams

        Ron, the graphic linked at the bottom of this comment (click on the link to display) shows the numbers from the analysis completed by FBC Vice-Chairman Dan Carson, which shows a $1.9 million “surplus.”  As I have said in my public comment, I believe there are components of Dan’s projections that I personally would not include in a Baseline Analysis.  Working down Dan’s list:

        — The $494,000 for the hotel should in my opinion be “external” to the project.

        — I would not include either of the next two items ($6,000 and -$5,000 respectively).

        — I would definitely include the $127,000 for the sales tax renewal, and also feel that a second $127,000 could also be added to reflect the renewal of 100% of the current sales tax rather than the 50% renewal of the sales tax that Dan proposed.

        — I would not include the $420,000 for the CFD.  I strongly oppose use of a CFD at Nishi, and I believe the majority of my colleagues agree with me.

        — I would definitely include the $135,000 offset of “lost” property taxes for government/nonprofits.

        — I would definitely include the $181,000 annual funding of open space and parks maintenance calculated under Scenario 10.

        That produces an ongoing revenues total of $1,815,000

        — I would not include Dan’s $181,000 reduction in costs for open space and parks maintenance, because I would rather have the developer pay the City to do the maintenance rather than have the developer do it.  Because of that I included the $181,000 as added revenue rather than reduced cost.

        — I agree with Dan that the “true” marginal cost to the City for Fire and Police services is going to be significantly less than what EPS is projecting. However, it is important that the developer pay the full EPS calculated amount to the City each year, so I am not going to include that $734,000 cost reduction in this analysis.

        That produces an ongoing costs total of $1,351,000

        Netting the $1,351,000 in costs from the $1,815,000 in revenues produces an annual Budget surplus of $464,000.

        The “true” cash impact on the annual Budget will be closer to $1,198,000 when the “true” marginal cost of Fire and Police is taken into account.

        I hope that helps.

    2. Barack Palin

      DP, some investors are going to make a crap load of money off of this project.  I don’t think it would be too hard for the city to get a decent amount of yearly net revenue (as you put it) out of it.  It has to be done now before any agreements are set in stone.

      1. Davis Progressive

        are you sure?  I haven’t seen any evaluation either way.  i don’t have a problem if they do.  but i haven’t seen the numbers.  i know plescia put out a prospectus on cannery which laid out what they were likely to make, is there a similar document here?

        1. Ron


          Yes, I’m sure.  The analysis (dated November 12th, 2015) from the city’s consultant (EPS) is available on the city’s website.  It shows a $106,000 annual deficit for the base proposal.

          Again, I have not seen any analysis which shows that Nishi would generate anywhere near a $1 million surplus.  Again, I think that some may (inappropriately) speak of “revenue”, rather than (“deficit/surplus”).

          I’d be highly suspicious of any analysis which shows that the development can suddenly create a $1 million surplus.

          I think it’s very important that we understand these terms, and the assumptions that are used to create any analysis.  (Especially from “boosters” of the development.)

        2. Davis Progressive

          “The analysis (dated November 12th, 2015) from the city’s consultant (EPS) is available on the city’s website.  It shows a $106,000 annual deficit for the base proposal.”

          you keep repeating that.  did you read the assumptions of that report.  the city and developer for instance agreed to a lighting agreement that will automatically take that number into the positive.  do you really think all of the sales tax increases (both 2004 and 2014) will go away?  those two things alone push it over $100K into the positive.

          i just gave you two examples of additional changes the hotel would bring in $400K and an assessment would bring in over $600K.

    3. Ron

      I keep referring to the consultant’s report (which shows a deficit) because that’s the only analysis that means anything, at this time.  The features of the proposal have not even been established (beyond the base proposal).

      If/when the features of the proposal become finalized, then a careful, critical analysis should be performed.  (Not just from “boosters” of the project.)

      I am willing to try to objectively analyze the financial projections when the time comes.

      And again, I believe that some may be trying to confuse others, by only discussing revenue (without considering costs), and without considering the revenue that would be created simply by having more students attend the campus (without the Nishi development).

      1. Barack Palin

        Yes Ron, like I stated, the net revenue all seems to be so up in the air when it should all be locked in.  Maybe they will tighten it up before they make their final decision.  Until then I don’t think Nishi is ready for primetime.

      2. Mark West

        I really don’t see the benefit in trying to ‘nail down’ the net revenues for the project.  Sure, we should try to maximize the value coming to the City through the project, but as we have learned repeatedly, the primary unknown for determining net revenues over time is the uncontrolled rate of inflation of our costs, particularly employee compensation.  No matter how much revenue we bring in from the project (any project, not just Nishi) it will eventually be swamped by these rising costs.

        That will also be true for new tax revenues, such as from a parcel tax or increased sales tax.  We recently raised the sales tax rate to cover the City’s budget deficit.  Our costs have since gone up again and those new revenues are no longer sufficient, so we are once again heading into the red. Using the same logic being used to judge these development projects, tax increases are also a net negative over time.  The difference is that development projects create jobs and build wealth in the community, while tax increases just make us all poorer.

        Instead of wringing or hands over projected net revenues from Nishi or Mace, what we should be asking is why the CC and CM refuse to control cost inflation.

  3. Barack Palin

    The goals are to ensure that each UC campus has sufficient housing for its growing student population and to keep housing as affordable as possible for UC students.

    As for how this affects UC Davis, Bob Segar, UCD’s assistant vice chancellor for campus planning and community resources said Wednesday, “This is a brand-new initiative. We don’t have details yet but the focus on student housing from the UC Office of the President is good news for our students and our community.”

    Communities around California for years have faced the challenge of ensuring sufficient affordable housing for residents. Housing is in particularly short supply in some of the communities that are home to UC campuses.
    Along with facilitating projects that are already in planning and development, the initiative aims to spur new housing construction, and potentially, the acquisition of existing housing stock.

    1. CalAg

      This is great news. I hope Napolitano puts some UC system-wide funds behind it and isn’t simply creating another un/under-funded initiative.

      Maybe the agitation from Samitz and her allies will result in UCD capturing a bigger piece of the pie. At the very least, UCOP will be more closely watching UCD’s student housing efforts going forward.

  4. Frankly

    All around my office on D street the parking spaces quickly disappear when UCD classes are in session.  This clearly indicated that students are using those parking spaces.  In fact, I think savvy students are securing resident parking passes from the city.

    The point here is that trying to engineer society to be car-less through scarcity does not work because people that need a car will have a car and will find ways to make it work… and the ways they find to make it work are consequential to others.

    The better way to convince people not to drive is if they have the amenities and transportation options that don’t require a car.   For example, if they have adequate public transportation, easy and safe bike and pedestrian routes, and plenty of shopping, entertainment and employment opportunities that can be accessed by these.

    But one last point about UCD and cars.   As the price of education has skyrocketed, and also the admission requirements have skyrocketed, the average UCD student more often comes from a well-off family.  And these well-off families want their little darlings to have a car.  And if they want their little darlings to have a car, and the Nishi development does not have enough parking spaces, they will not live there.

    The problem Davis has is that it is not a full-service urban city.  It is stuck trying to be both… a small rural city and a small urban city… and doing neither very well.   Being car-less in Davis means being someone with a low-service requirement lifestyle (minimal shopping, entertainment, medical needs, employment needs, outside education needs, etc.)  Being poor in Davis often means being car-less out of financial necessity, but it isn’t the desired alternative…  just ask all the young people working in food service and attending classes… many that have to attend community college classes in Sacramento.

    We are really blowing it here in my opinion.  We should be building out and up to increase the size of our local economy so that we increase the tax revenue.  And for each of these developments we demand top of the line bike, pedestrian, public and private transportation connections (including adequate parking).  And we include a lot of open space so that we are not a concrete jungle.   It looks like Nishi has become more of a concrete jungle, but at least with a plan for good transportation connections.  However, the lack of parking, I think, will just cause problems in the rest of the city as residents find a way to have a car.

  5. Robb Davis

    I would like to address a few of the “narratives” bubbling on the VG today:

    1. “Paving over green space.”  Those who watched the meeting know that I advanced the idea of further reducing parking (something that will make Frankly happy I am sure).  My logic was as follows: reduce parking so that it could all be surface, cover the surface parking with solar panels thereby increasing renewable energy goals.  Taking away a parking garage reduces developer costs, thereby giving us more opportunity to negotiate for affordable and other amenities.  I was willing to sacrifice parks due to one outstanding park already on site and the proximity of the project to the Arboretum.

    It is important to note that Brett pushed back on my idea, I accepted his critique and withdrew the idea from consideration.  Since I was the only one suggesting it, I would say it is a dead issue.  Brett DID agree with the idea of trying to further reduce parking, as did my other colleagues.

    2. “Robb is a ‘booster’ for this project.”  No, Robb is a booster for a fully participatory and transparent process and that includes clarity on the fiscal piece.  Those who continue to treat the -76,000 NET as “truth” have clearly not read the EPS reports.  Indeed, the negative net is now estimated to be over 100,000 by EPS.  Second, EPS provided a number of alternative scenarios that would change this estimate.  These were summarized most recently in the staff report to Council of 1/12/2016.  The FBC also reviewed these and Commissioner Solomon actually recommended that we go with private maintenance of infrastructure so as to move to an unambiguous net positive.  His recommendation came directly from the EPS.

    The ONLY thing I did on Tuesday was to ask staff to bring the FBC leadership together with the EPS and Plescia team to assure that ALL the recommendations of the FBC be fully implemented in the fiscal analysis so we could benefit from what they, as a group of citizens, believe to be the most accurate estimates.  I did this so there could be clarity on the likely fiscal outcomes.

    PLEASE NOTE: I highlighted a few, but not all, of what the FBC was asking.  At least three of the things I suggested we look at more closely would actually REDUCE revenue: examine whether assessed values of properties were too high in the model; examine whether sales tax generated by the commercial was too high because it is mostly R&D; include an analysis of a less generous tax sharing arrangement (already done by EPS).  To suggest I am merely trying to paint a rosy fiscal picture does not square with the facts from the meeting.

    3. “This project has only ever been about revenue.”  See Mark West’s post above and the Staff report to the CC on 1/12/2016 for a full list of the original Nishi goals.  We did include Nishi last year in the Innovation Park Guiding Principles and those principles DO say significant benefit but it was always going to be challenging to get there.  Further, and my last point, direct fiscal benefit is only one element of economic benefit and I would invite people to read the EPS report for more on the “multiplied” effects of this project, which are substantial.

    1. Alan Miller

      Thanks Robb for the clarifications.  Especially on the south end open space; I was not sure what the conclusion was to the proposal/suggestion.  Solar panels can be installed above on the top floor of parking structures (if not shaded), and can also be installed anywhere as mitigation, does not even need to be on site — lots of space over UCD surface lots.

      1. Mark West

        “lots of space over UCD surface lots”

        Putting solar panels over parking lots in the City adds value to the property and results in more property tax revenues to the City. Putting solar panels over University parking lots does absolutely nothing for the City.

    2. CalAg

      Multiplier effects are extremely difficult to quantitate.

      From my perspective, the project should produce a healthy net positive cash flow to the General Fund. If the cash flow is negative, the taxpayers are effectively subsidizing a high density student-focused housing project.

      I have a problem with the idea of providing a taxpayer subsidy to a project that doesn’t pencil out for the General Fund based on the vague promise that the taxpayers will be made whole via poorly-specified “multiplier effects.”

      Show us a robust economic analysis as it relates to the General Fund – not big numbers about salaries and property values with some hand waving about how part of it will trickle down to the budget.

  6. Eileen Samitz

    Robb: There is much info that has come forward regarding the concept that eliminating a parking garage and paving over green space to save money for the developers, is not something that works for anyone who has posted so far. I appreciate that you have rethought this and I can only hope that this idea is being abandoned.

    Regarding your statement: “Robb is a ‘booster’ for this project.”  No, Robb is a booster for a fully participatory and transparent process and that includes clarity on the fiscal piece.

    It is evident that different people participating in a process have different levels and types of of knowledge, all of which contribute to a better understanding of the issue and reaching a good, informed conclusion. We have just seen that happen with the information that came out of the “eliminate the parking structure, and pave over the greenspace” discussion.

    Real transparency would be using more than two members of the Finance and Budget Commission to sit down with the financial consultants to flush out the real answers. Why not also include Ray Salomon and Matt Williams who submitted most all of the follow up questions submitted to the consultants? Otherwise, have the entire Finance and Budget Commission meet with the consultants. Each member of that commission has different background and different levels of understanding of this complex analysis.  So having only two representatives of the Commission really does not make such a process helpful if other people from that Commission, who have the most to contribute to the discussion and asking the tough questions, are not present. This review of the fiscal analysis is critical and needs to be inclusive. This is the purpose of having a Commission, and not just two people addressing these financial and budgetary issues. Now is when we need them all the most.

    Also, I hope that this “transparent process” would allow the public to attend and comment if they chose to. This is what helped enormously when public commentor Bob Milbrodt revealed the major problem in the analysis of the overestimated property tax due to the comps (per sq ft) being greatly overestimated. All of this helped reveal the problems in the analysis. So being inclusive and transparent can only help the situation.

    So to summarize, a  genuine transparent process requires more inclusiveness than only two members of the Finance and Budget Commission. It needs to include, at minimum, Commissioners Salomon and Williams as well who submitted the critical additional questions, if not the entire Finance and Budget Commission. It also needs to allow the public present to hear the deliberations and to comment as well. THAT would be transparency. All the conclusions would be needed before the next Council meeting on Feb. 2 or at latest Feb. 9, which would leave the deadline Feb. 16 meeting if they force this project prematurely to a June 2016 ballot.

    The City Council clearly should not make a decision until first getting all of this financial information and conclusions from the Finance and Budget Commissioners with sufficient time to review it and to get any questions answered. This means the important information and conclusions from the Financial and Budget Commission getting to City Council well before the Feb. 2  meeting for a Feb. 9th final decision making meeting. This is in contrast to the “fast tracking” that has been going on of the Nishi Gateway project where Commissioners or Council members have gotten important  information needed for the meeting that night 2 hours before the meeting, or during the meeting. This gave them (and the public) little to no time to review or even understand the information, yet decisions were being asked of them by Staff.


    1. Frankly

      Eileen –

      I think you are chasing the wrong boogie-men going after the Finance and Budget Committee on the topic of transparency. That body has donated substantial time and effort working to improve the fiscal management transparency of the city.   It is in fact a big part of their refined new mission statement that they have put on the VG several times.

      Clearly you are more than skeptical about the revenue numbers.  Note that I too will NOT vote for a new development like this unless it demonstrates net positive cash flow to the city.  But the work done to date does show a net positive flow to the city.  The key is the secondary economic benefits.  You can go read all the other economic impact reports for successful research and business parks throughout the country and they all factor these secondary economic impacts.  They are as important as the primary benefits… in fact maybe more important as they provide other intangible benefits like helping our local merchants afford their skyrocketing rents.  My suggestion for you and others that hinge you vote on the real economic benefits to turn your skepticism toward those that support studies that omit these secondary benefits and consider them the actual boogie-men for blocking beneficial change.

      Since we are on the topic of transparency, if there was consensus among the various experts for developing accurate projected financial models for development projects that the project would, for example, generate a net positive revenue stream to the city of $1 million per year, would you come out publicly in support of the project?   Or are you just against the project in general and don’t really care if it generates cash flow to the city?  Can you be transparent about your actual position?

  7. Eileen Samitz

    On the revenue benefit subject regarding Nishi Gateway, if we thought this project would not bring significant revenue benefit I am not understanding why we would even consider Nishi Gateway. The public was led to believe that the innovation parks were being explored to help bring significant revenue to the City. Not break-even, or be barely revenue positive, and definitely not to be revenue negative. Why would we pursue a losing proposition? The City already has significant financial problems and we need to not pro-actively add to that problem.

    The conversation on Nishi Gateway seems to have drifted away from the fundamental expectation that it needed to be significantly revenue positive. We can easily fit 325,000 square feet of Research and Development within the City right now without all the problems and risk and liability that would come with Nishi Gateway. Given all of the access, traffic, circulation and financial risk and liability of Nishi Gateway, it is not worth pursuing, when we can build the same amount of Research and Development within the City right now on industrial zoned land.

    The only other thing Nishi Gateway would bring is high density housing which is targeting UCD students, but it would be using our City’s infrastructure of waste water treatment and water, both of which Davis taxpayers are paying for to expand now. This student-oriented housing in the City would also be using our City services like fire and police which Davis taxpayers are also paying for. This is why the UCD student housing needs to be on UCD land, not in the City, using UCD infrastructure and services, not our City services which we are paying for. Continuing to build UCD student housing in the City using our infrastructure is counter-productive and just enables UCD to continue deferring their student housing needs onto our community, which we wind up subsidizing permanently.

    On another note, is everyone aware that there is a good chance that the housing on Nishi Gateway has the option to be leased or sold to UCD? That really makes it clear that the City and Davis taxpayers are getting fleeced on this project.







    1. Mark West

      “Why would we pursue a losing proposition?”

      Why indeed?  Raising taxes is our only other option for paying our bills if we reject economic development, and raising taxes is always a losing proposition.   

      “The conversation on Nishi Gateway seems to have drifted away from the fundamental expectation that it needed to be significantly revenue positive.”

      That has never been the fundamental expectation.  Nishi is an extension of the downtown and provides incubator space for new start-ups and some much needed high-density housing. The auxiliary benefits from the development have always been more important than the direct tax revenues, specifically feeding the growth of the innovation parks with new growing businesses, and providing an impetus for redeveloping the area between the project and Richards.

      “Continuing to build UCD student housing in the City using our infrastructure is counter-productive and just enables UCD to continue deferring their student housing needs onto our community…”

      Blah, blah, blah… Davis has a housing shortage, including an extreme shortage of apartments.  Our refusal to build more apartments harms all of us by turning single family homes into mini-dorms, and our neighborhoods into student ghettos. We need to stop making excuses for not addressing the shortage of housing in the City and start building more apartments, condominiums, and townhomes.

      “there is a good chance that the housing on Nishi Gateway has the option to be leased or sold to UCD?”

      The only cogent item in your post. The development agreement must include the ‘make good’ provisions regarding property taxes in the event that any portion of the project is leased or sold to the University. We need to protect the tax revenues being generated by the project.

        1. Jim Frame

          UC  has never agreed to that concept, and never will

          My understanding is that would be a contractual matter between the developer and the city, i.e. the developer, not UCD, would be responsible for making up the tax shortfall.


  8. Eileen Samitz


    If Nishi Gateway is revenue negative, how does that help us pay the bills? In fact it does the opposite, by creating more bills for the City.

    And make “make good provisions”  regarding property taxes which could be lost that would be “legally binding” with UCD, who pays no taxes? Really? You are willing to “bet the farm” on an agreement that does not even exist? Remember when Staff was asked about what the status was of discussions with UCD and they said, that that was “going to happen”. So we are assuming “make whole” provisions will happen that have not even been discussed with UCD and the County yet?

    And, oh yes, this will all be worked out in the next two weeks to rush this to a June ballot before we ask any more questions about what else is not nailed down yet. Like IF the railroad undercrossing will be allowed by railroad company, and what about UCD allowing this access which will bring a deluge more traffic onto their campus? Those conversations have not happened or been agreed to, but it will all get worked out in two weeks to rush to being on the June ballot for what reason? Remind me again, why it must be on the June 2016 ballot?

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