Mayor Wolk Hits the High Notes During State of the City Address

Dan Wolk State of the City 2016
Dan Wolk State of the City 2016
Mayor Dan Wolk gave the 2016 State of the City Address to the Davis Chamber

Mayor Dan Wolk opened his remarks during the Davis Chamber’s State of the City Address citing Led Zeppelin, stating, “The Song Remains the Same” from last year. He said, “Things are going really well right now.” He allowed, “That’s not to say we don’t have challenges.”

Mayor Wolk said in his public address that things are going well, citing the J. Moore survey done by Mace Ranch which showed, among other things, that 67 percent of respondents felt that things were going in the right direction in the city of Davis, and that voters have a 56 percent favorable opinion of the Davis City Council versus 17 percent unfavorable and 27 percent with no opinion.

“Things are going pretty well,” he said. “We are of course coming out of the Great Recession in our community – which we were hit very hard by.”

He said that he put forth last year the theme of “Renew Davis,” and he said that 2015 was really a year of renewal. “I think that it starts with economic development,” he said. He highlighted Nishi and Mace Ranch Innovation Center as the major projects, and then some smaller projects.

Dan Wolk noted that the John Meyer report urged the city to “double down on economic development,” and he called the hiring of Diane Parro as the new CIO to be a key piece of that.

Mayor Wolk also pointed out that reinvestment in infrastructure was a key piece of renewing Davis. “If there’s one thing that’s really defined 2015 for our community it’s all the building that you’re seeing,” he said. “And boy did I hear it especially from Jamima (his wife) about the roads.”

“This council has really been dedicated toward reinvesting in our roads. We have seen the federal government and state government essentially pull back to zero in terms of their investments in our roads,” he said, noting that the legislature has failed to come up with a funding mechanism for roads, and so “we have really come to rely on funding our own roads.” He explained, “This council has put $4 million of our own funds… into the roads. We essentially have a $12 million two year program to improve our roads.”

This investment, he said, is paying off, as Bob Clarke a few weeks ago showed that the investment has reversed the decline of our PCI (Pavement Condition Index) on our main arterials and collector streets.

“That’s not to say we won’t have challenges and we certainly will have more challenges in the future,” he said. He noted they are exploring more revenue on infrastructure.

Dan Wolk State of the City 2016

Mayor Wolk highlighted the improvement of the budget with the improved economy and the passage of Measure O. He said, “[There were] real sacrifices made by our employees as part of the negotiation process… including bringing the (cafeteria) cash out benefit from the 2000 (dollar) level to 500 (dollar) level.” He added, “We’ve been able to really produce a budget that is quite prudent and quite strong.”

The last budget, he said, Dirk Brazil called a “transitional budget.” “It pays what we need to be paying for retiree health and pensions. It’s providing $4 million for infrastructure and roads. It provides for a 15 percent reserve.” He said current projections have the reserve over 20 percent.

Mayor Wolk praised the current City Manager Dirk Brazil. One example was “he brought on John Meyer to analyze our city top to bottom.” One result is “we now have a parks director. This is the city of Davis, [we] lacked a parks director – this is a city that parks are part of our DNA. Yet we lacked a parks director.” We now hired a parks director, he said.

“The moral in the city was very low for a number of reasons, primarily because of the great recession and the cuts we had to take,” he said. “For a well-functioning city you need good people who are productive who like what they do, that’s really what has been really happening in 2015 and Dirk was a big part of that.”

He said they brought back the employee service awards, which he said is a small thing “but it was something that had gone away in the recessions and had gone away because of previous city managers.” He said it was a great time and “you could just feel in the room the excitement among our employees for the city. They believe in our vision and they love the city… I think that’s one of the things that Dirk has really brought to the city.”

Dan Wolk then said, “fasten your seat belts, I really think that’s what 2016 is going to be like.” “We have a lot of stuff that’s coming down our pike starting with the first city council meeting in January.”

He started with a discussion of Nishi which he believes will go on the ballot in June. “I think it’s an excellent project,” he said. “They’ve committed now to being at a minimum fiscally neutral.” He cited the EPS report and argued that Nishi along with Mace, using conservative estimates, “will bring in millions of dollars to the city in terms of revenue.”

He added, “[Nishi] has also committed to a second crossing into UC Davis.” He said, “We understand that there’s an issue with Richards in terms of traffic and they’ve committed a second crossing into UC Davis as part of the process.”

Dan Wolk State of the City 2016

Dan Wolk then discussed the proposed housing at Mace Ranch Innovation Center. “The applicant has asked for a housing component. I totally understand why. If you look at the environmental effects of that, you see that it really reduces the vehicles miles traveled (VMT).”

He noted the jobs this project is going to create and asked, “Where are those people going to live? If you don’t have housing commensurate with that it could create a situation where folks are kind of coming in and creating traffic issues, pollution issues.”

Mayor Wolk added that, looking across the country, housing has been a key component of innovation parks. Council, he said will make that call and is looking to put it on the ballot for November 2016.

Mayor Wolk noted that the city will be continuing to work on infrastructure with staff coming back to council in a few months with a pavement plan for 2016. The focus, he said, would be more on “these local streets.”

“The revenue measure is very important,” Mayor Wolk said. “The revenue measure discussion kind of got dominated by the soda tax discussion. The council’s going to bring back that discussion, we’re looking at either a soda tax, or a parcel tax, a parks tax, or a TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) tax, those are the three options we’re exploring.”

He said that the council is unified in the understanding “that we have these (long term) infrastructure needs.” He acknowledged, “We have problems that can’t be addressed within our current budget… They’re just too expensive; we have to look at other funding sources.”

During the question period he was asked what happens when the sales tax measure expires. He said, “If you look at the numbers and those completely go away… our revenue drops off dramatically and it is a big concern.”

He said, “It is my hope that if we still need the revenue, the voters recognize that the revenue is critical and the voters are ready to re-up again for that revenue. That revenue has been absolutely critical to our city.”

Mayor Wolk said it was very difficult as a councilmember going through the recession, as “we had to make some very difficult (decisions).” The mayor cited the decision to close Community Pool as an example. He also noted that, through attrition and layoffs, the city lost a lot of good employees.

He said through Measure O they were able to turn this around and he hopes the voters will continue to support these efforts.

Mayor Wolk added, “With economic development, we really want to create a situation where the revenue is coming from the private sector coming into our coffers, not necessarily coming from tax revenues.”

He again said the EPS report was very conservative, but showed “millions in benefits, ongoing to the city.”

Mayor Wolk cited Dan Carson, a member of the Finance and Budget commission, who presented council “with a paper that showed that [the EPS report] really underestimated Nishi… He thinks that right now that the report had Nishi at a negative $78,000 per year, but he estimates that that’s a really low figure, that it’s probably much more positive into the millions.”

He noted that, for the revenue measures, the city needs to be transparent with the voters, showing them where the money is going and why.

On Nishi, he added, “I’m very interested to hear my colleagues’ take on Nishi because that second crossing is really critical to the council.” He noted that UC Davis is critical to this equation because the UC Regents have to approve the second crossing.

“Will the council and will the community ultimately be comfortable adopting a proposal that has contingencies? And key conditions to it, or do they want to see something more solid?” he asked. He said they’ll have the dialogue but his hope is that the council and community will still lend its approval.

In his concluding remarks, Mayor Dan Wolk would reiterate, “The bottom line is that things are going very well for our city, we certainly have our challenges but we have a good council, a great staff and a great community and things are certainly happening.”

He added, “I never felt more optimistic about the direction of this city – it is a very exciting time to be in the city of Davis.”

—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. Don Shor


    They’re spending $6 million a year on roads now.

    The sales tax is probably permanent.

    Nishi will make a lot more money than projected.

    He supports housing at Mace Ranch.

    Did I get that right?

      1. Matt Williams

        David, that is not accurate.  What has actually happened is that the original $4 million per year of “ordinary funding” proposed by Pinkerton prior to the Measure O vote was spent last year and is being spent this year.  In addition, the city has gotten some one-time “extraordinary funding” from a SACOG grant and from the WDCWA pipeline project that has provided the additional $2 million+ per year.

        In your Year 3 the “extraordinary funding” will have been exhausted and if the city wants to continue to spend $6 million on roads $2 million of additional “ordinary funding” will have to be devoted to roads.

        1. Matt Williams

          Sure …

          In late 2013 as part of the Pavement Management Update Steve Pinkerton proposed to Council that the city devote $4 million per year of General Fund dollars to roads.  Those $4 million were to come from the then-existing “ordinary funding” within the General Fund.  At that time in 2013, the SACOG grant and the sales tax increase via Measure O did not exist.

          As we know, the Measure O sales tax increased passed, but the $4 million per year devoted to roads did not increase.

          In the second half of 2014 the SACOG grant was awarded, providing the city with one-time “extraordinary funding” for roads that would provide approximately $2 million in 2015 and $2 million in 2016 and then disappear after that.

          So the $6 million being spent on roads in 2015 and 2016 is the $4 million per year from the 2013 Pinkerton commitment plus the one-time $2 million per year from the SACOG grant.

          Said another way, we got a windfall and that has allowed us to increase roads spending from the Pinkerton baseline of $4 million up to $6 million as long as the windfall lasts (2 years).


        2. CalAg

          I’m also not tracking. So current City policy is $4M per year, and we’re getting a temporary two year bump to $6M because of one-time funds from SACOG and the WDCWA?

        3. Mark West

          “I’m also not tracking”

          Not sure why this is so hard to follow.  We need to spend $10m per year to keep the roads at their current condition (on average).  We are only spending $4m but used one-time funds to add $2m more for two years.  The roads continue to get worse and the total price continues to rise.

        4. Matt Williams

          CalAg said . . .  “I’m also not tracking. So current City policy is $4M per year, and we’re getting a temporary two year bump to $6M because of one-time funds from SACOG and the WDCWA?”

          You have the scenario correctly described.


          “Policy” is perhaps too strong a word for individual budget year decisions, but changing that word to a better one would not make a material difference.


    1. Barack Palin

      The sales tax is probably permanent.

      Temporary taxes almost always are.

      He supports housing at Mace Ranch.

      What Mace Ranch?  If housing is put into the mix there will be no Mace Ranch.

      Nishi will make a lot more money than projected.

      Not according to what the reports have been saying.  Just another rosy scenario from Mr. Rosy himself.

      1. Davis Progressive

        i’m increasingly agreeing with bp on the issue of temporary taxes never being temporary.  i’m fine with that. they are temporary only in the sense that the voters have to approve them.  but who is going to vote down the sales tax knowing the consequences?

        i also agree with housing there is no mace ranch, as i said below, without housing, there will be no mace ranch either.  mace ranch is doa.  nishi is close to being as well.

        1. Tia Will


          i’m increasingly agreeing with bp on the issue of temporary taxes never being temporary.  i’m fine with that”

          I also am fine with that. A tax is a decision to pay for what we have decided that we want. I think that this is the basis for individual and social responsibility. I think that you would all find it quite irresponsible of me if I decided that I was going to purchase a luxury car, but that I wasn’t going to pay for it myself but was rather going to have my children assume the payments once they start making enough money or was going to use some of their future assets ( land in this case) in order to fund my luxury vehicle. And yet, many of your think that it is fine to pass the cost of what we want to others because we do not want to tax ourselves to pay our bills.

        2. Mark West

          Tax increases take money out of the community and make everyone poorer. Some won’t care because money isn’t important to them, others may have to reconsider their child’s music lesson, dance class or other ‘nicety.’  Still others may have to choose between a healthy meal and a cheap fast food one.  As they add up, tax increases cause lower levels of support for schools and non-profits taking value out of the community and consequently degrade our quality-of-life. Tax increases should be our last choice option, not the first choice one.

        3. Mark West

          DP:  “actually tax increases locally go to city programs which keeps more money in the community.”

          That is the false narrative the pro-tax people want you to believe.  Some small fraction of the money may well come back to citizens as services, but most will go to fund compensation. Taking money from all to benefit the few, with a net loss to the community.

        4. hpierce

          To Mark  and DP:  and how are the school district taxes/assessments different from City taxes/assessments?  I know I pay more taxes/assessments for schools than I do for City operations… big time.  My youngest was no longer a DJUSD student 12 years ago. Meant as an honest question…

        5. Matt Williams

          The history of how the City has used the additional revenues from sales taxes supports Mark’s argument.

          With that said, the point hpierce raises is a good one.  The history of how tax revenues have been used in DJUSD is different and separate from the City history.

        6. Mark West

          It really doesn’t matter how the tax monies are used, raising taxes on residents makes them poorer, and takes wealth out of the community.  At best, if 100% of the tax revenues were spent in the City providing services to residents then there would be no net change in community wealth. Less than 100% of the revenues will be used in the City so there will always be a net negative impact. Increasing taxes on residents cannot add to the wealth of the community.

          In contrast, adding new businesses will increase the wealth of the community, through business taxes, new jobs and the business’ support of community groups etc. If our goal is to protect, or even improve, the quality of life for residents, we should be pursuing business growth, not tax increases.

          The great value of the innovation parks is not the tax money that will accrue to the City, but the jobs that will be made available, and the support that business will supply to local non-profits, schools, etc. By expanding our business economy, we make the City’s finances more resilient (more eggs in the basket) and improve the quality of life of residents by increasing the wealth of the community while paying for the services we all want.  Higher taxes won’t do that.

  2. wdf1

    Vanguard:  Mayor Dan Wolk opened his remarks during the Davis Chamber’s State of the City Address citing Led Zeppelin, stating, “The Song Remains the Same” from last year.

    It would have been far more impressive if he had used that moment to pull out his double-neck guitar and begin the song.  It would have been an Arsenio Hall moment.

  3. Davis Progressive

    there is actually a lot here to unpack.

    he didn’t touch any of the issues that robb davis raised – disappointing not surprising

    “I never felt more optimistic about the direction of this city – it is a very exciting time to be in the city of Davis.”

    i was way more excited two years ago when it seemed like the innovation parks were coming.  he’s talking economic development but we lost one innovation park last year, i think mace goes down with or without housing and nishi is problematic at best.  it’s an easy campaign to run with richards jammed up.  people aren’t going to vote for a project with a bunch of contingencies.  so i don’t really see anything to be excited about.  we missed our window and dan is part of the blame there.

    1. CalAg

      “i think mace goes down with or without housing ” BP

      I’m curious why you think MRIC goes down without housing. RAMCO poisoned the well with their bait-and-switch? The housing was baked in from the beginning (before the RFEI) and they were never going to follow through on their initial (fake) proposal? The project won’t pencil? The no-growth faction was always insurmountable? Something else?

      What’s your take?

      I’m still optimistic that the original proposal can be rehabilitated, but have to admit I am now on the fence regarding this issue.

      1. Davis Progressive

        I think too many people are going to oppose any development outside of mace on instinct and not enough people are paying enough attention to really understand the issue.  When they hear dan Wolk saying all is well maybe with a few challenges, they are not being sold on the need for long term sustainable revenue.

        1. CalAg

          Thanks for the explanation. I mostly agree.

          Ironically, as you know, the need for long term sustainable revenue was the driver for the RFEI – and initially the innovation parks had an impressively broad-base of support (including an array of prominent progressives).

          My assumption was that the instinctual opposition would see the merits of the revenue argument, particularly in light of the Mace 391 conservation easement.

          I would argue that the biggest reason this is all coming off the rails is the developer’s housing play rather than the Mayor’s failure to adequately stump for economic development revenue (which is also a failure of the whole Council and the City Manager).

          On that topic, I’m lately beginning to wonder if Brazil even supports the innovation parks. He fired the architect of the RFEI, who was the City’s primary cheerleader on this issue. Parro is almost invisible. It’s quite possible, in my mind, that we have an adverse CM. There’s no evidence I can see that the process is being competently managed in City Hall.

        2. Davis Progressive

          i have been told by those in the know that brazil doesn’t believe in the innovation parks.  he sees them as too big and unnecessary.  and while dan wolk sung the praises of diane parro, i haven’t seen anything from her of substance.

        3. hpierce

          I may well be wrong, but am very suspicious that certain Planning staff planted the residential “seed”…

          I favored the original Mace proposal… could favor/vote for some live-work housing, but not “non-work-live” as a significant part of the project… but just my opinion…

        4. CalAg

          “i have been told by those in the know that brazil doesn’t believe in the innovation parks.  he sees them as too big and unnecessary.”  DP

          That wouldn’t surprise me.

          Maybe he should be invited to address the Chamber of Commerce. Pinkerton did it at least once or twice. He’s going to have to leave his bunker to help sell the tax measure(s). That would be a good opportunity for him to explain his position.


        5. CalAg

          “I may well be wrong, but am very suspicious that certain Planning staff planted the residential “seed”…”

          hpierce: I don’t believe the developer’s claim that “staff made us do it.” Not even for a second.

          The BS that the mixed use alternative was required under CEQA and then they “saw the light” doesn’t pass the smell test. My biggest concern is that there may have been an off-the-record housing “agreement” that predated the RFEI, making this entire process a charade. Nishi had set a precondition that they wouldn’t submit without a large housing component, and one can imagine that Mace did the same thing … but in this case it was hidden from the public so that the process wasn’t dead at the starting gate.

        6. Matt Williams

          hpierce said . . .  “I may well be wrong, but am very suspicious that certain Planning staff planted the residential “seed”…”

          CalAg replied . . .  “I don’t believe the developer’s claim that “staff made us do it.” Not even for a second.”

          I respect your skepticism CalAg, and I too may be wrong, but I agree with hpierce’s suspicion.

        7. CalAg

          I’ve now heard the developer polled on housing before the project was submitted and we have Tia Will’s testimony about Ramos’s statements to her.

          It now seems almost unequivocal that the housing was developer driven (a classic bait-and-switch). I agree with MW and hpierce that staff had to open the door – because of the RFEI condition that the applications have no housing. The only question in my mind is whether or not this was scripted with some members of the staff before the RFEI was even issued.

        8. CalAg

          Another point is that there is still a big hurdle in front of RAMCO. Staff has opened the door for them, but the City Council must invite them to step through (i.e. accept a new application that includes housing). This will be decided at the next MRIC hearing.

          My current read of the tea leaves based on the last public hearing is:
          No – 2
          Undecided – 1
          Maybe yes – 2

  4. Frankly

    I have a thought that popular liberal mayors in a liberal city would tend to use glass is half-full rhetoric just like would popular conservative mayors in a conservative city.

    But then I have experience with popular conservative mayors in a conservative city using more direct rhetoric… basically telling it like it us.

    So, my suspicion is that left-leaning people are more attracted to feel-good rhetoric… maybe more politically heart-focused, and conservative people are less so.

    So, I am thinking that Dan is getting some good political coaching here as he is working to appeal to his base that will go to the polls for his next political career step.

    I am also thinking that fiscal conservatives in a liberal city face some difficulty talking facts… they might fall victim to being lynched over all the bad feelings they cause.

    1. Davis Progressive

      come on frankly, remember the bush administration portrayal of the progress of the iraq war?  politicians tell us what they think we want to hear.  when robb davis is mayor, we’re going to get straight talk.  when joe krovoza was mayor we got straight talk.  those guys are very left.  this isn’t partisan or ideological.

      1. Frankly

        I don’t think it is partisan unless you want to make it so, but I do think it is ideological to some degree. I don’t agree with you on your claim that Bush or his administration ever overplayed the actual progress or downplayed the challenges of the Iraq war.  Do you have any examples to share?

        Remember, we are talking about what is absolutely known at the time… not the Einstein in hindsight stuff.

        Note too I was separating out fiscal conservatives from the bunch.

      2. hpierce

        Ask key staff (some now retired) how “straight-forward” Krovosa was… he tried to direct staff on how to do striping on Second Street without going thru the CM… a clear breach of the Municipal Code… he was the primary proponent of St Pinkerton… Krovosa was probably the third-worst mayor, and third most ‘self-aggrandizing’ mayor we’ve had in the last 30 years.

        1. Davis Progressive

          You seem to be defining straight-talk a little differently from me.  What I meant was that Krovoza was honest in his assessment of the city.  Wolk is papering over problems with rose colored glasses.

  5. Frankly

    looking across the country, housing has been a key component of innovation parks.

    Actually, no.  Yes there is a need for housing in Davis because of the UCD factor, but no, employees generally don’t want to live in a business park and because of this business parks generally do not include housing.  Those that do are really planned mini full-service developments… with a lot of retail etc.  Housing in a business park usually becomes low income housing because it is away from the city services that everyone that can afford to wants to live by.

    Here is a list of criteria that are known for strong business park absorption rates.

    Near the customers for distribution,
    Near the suppliers for manufacturers,
    Near appropriate manpower for back office,
    Near technology and medical clusters for medical and technology companies,
    Near intermodal sites,
    Near ports,
    In a market served by a major airport — ideally with international flights,
    In an area served by a superior rail system,
    Where a free trade zone is available if needed,
    Where public transport exists,
    In an area with little to minimal congestion,
    Where there are multiple broadband access systems,
    Where a large, trained, and trainable workforce is available,
    Where land costs are reasonable,
    With access to workforce education and training.
    Colleges and universities nearby,
    Affordable utilities,
    Power is reliable and predictable,
    Housing is affordable, especially workforce housing,
    Quality of life is superior,
    Professional sports teams exist,
    World-class venues for sports and performing arts are in the market,
    Commuter rail is available with the hope of high-speed rail later,
    Reputation of the park owner, the city or county, and the state,
    Tax considerations,
    Extras the developer can provide — financing for instance,

    How much of this does Davis have/offer?

      1. Frankly

        “Business park” is the general thing that can be designated an “innovation park” or “research park”.   The data available is on business parks and it applies just fine.

        We can use the term “technical innovation business park” for a more descriptive label, but we just shorten it to “innovation park”.

        1. Davis Progressive

          Business parks are so generic it could be a bunch of warehouses, I think if you do a search you will find a lot of research parks/ innovation parks have live-work components.  I’m not saying I support housing at mace, but my sense is a lot of these parks are putting in housing and you can guess why, a lot of places where these parks are going in, housing is scarce and expensive.

        2. Frankly

          What the h e double toothpicks is wrong with warehouses?   You do understand that tech business uses warehouses don’t you?  They don’t have to be ugly box buildings.

          Here are some examples of current innovation parks.  And No, there is not really any trend for housing being included within innovation parks.  It is a dumb idea for many reasons… some that I mentioned above.  Davis only lacks housing because it is an attractive place to live and the university has not built enough student housing… and the residents have rejected building more housing on the periphery.  There is nothing beneficial in adding housing to MRIC except for those that don’t want to develop on the periphery and they are robbing land that would be used for commercial (something Davis sorely needs) to try and sneak in some more housing.

        3. Davis Progressive

          This is from the Brookings Institute article on innovation districts: “A new complementary urban model is now emerging, giving rise to what we and others are calling “innovation districts.” These districts, by our definition, are geographic areas where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators and accelerators.1 They are also physically compact, transit-accessible, and technically-wired and offer mixed-use housing, office, and retail.”

        4. CalAg

          From the BI report:

          In recent years, a rising number of innovative firms and talented workers are choosing to congregate and co-locate in compact, amenity-rich enclaves in the cores of central cities. Rather than building on green-field sites, marquee companies in knowledge-intensive sectors are locating key facilities close to other firms, research labs, and universities so that they can share ideas and practice “open innovation.”

          The entire City of Davis is a compact, amenity-rich enclave. The “dispersed innovation” strategy adopted by the Council effectively makes the whole city a 10 sq mi innovation district.

          The problem is that, by no stretch of the imagination, is Davis a “central city.” As a consequence, it remains to be seen whether or not “innovative firms and talented workers” will flock to the Davis enclave.

      2. CalAg

        From the BI report:

        “… innovation districts are emerging in dozens of cities and metropolitan areas in the United States and abroad and already reflect distinctive typologies and levels of formal planning. Globally, Barcelona, Berlin, London, Medellin, Montreal, Seoul, Stockholm and Toronto contain examples of evolving districts. In the United States, districts are emerging near anchor institutions in the downtowns and midtowns of cities like Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Cambridge, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and San Diego. They are developing in Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Portland, Providence, San Francisco and Seattle where underutilized areas (particularly older industrial areas) are being re-imagined and remade.”

        If anyone is aware of an “innovation district” or “innovation center” with housing and a mini-downtown on the edge of a small college town, please post.

        1. CalAg

          From the BI report:

          “The third model, “urbanized science park,” commonly found in suburban and exurban areas, is where traditionally isolated, sprawling areas of innovation are urbanizing through increased density and an infusion of new activities (including retail and restaurants) that are mixed as opposed to separated. North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, perhaps the 20th century’s most iconic research and development campus, is the strongest validation of this model. In November, 2012, after several years of review and outreach, RTP announced a new 50-year master plan to urbanize the quintessential exurban science park, recognizing that its isolated car-dependent environment is no longer optimal for spurring innovation and attracting younger talent. The master plan calls for a greater concentration of buildings and amenities, including the creation of a vibrant central district, the addition of up to 1,400 multi-family housing units, retail, and the possible construction of a light rail transit line to connect the park with the larger Raleigh-Durham region, including the universities. Other science parks actively engaged in urbanization efforts include the University Research Park at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Virginia Research Park in Charlottesville and the University of Arizona Tech Park in Tucson.”

          The closest model of innovation districts that fits MRIC is posted above. These examples all involve urbanization of successful science parks. They are all much bigger than MRIC, and have large numbers of end users and employees plus long distinguished track records of success.

          MRIC with housing would represent a fourth model. Phantom innovation districts that never got built because the planning and execution were fatally flawed.

    1. CalAg

      Frankly: “Innovation Centers” (and MRIC is being pitched as an innovation center) are a relatively new phenomenon – generally R&D-focused redevelopment of brown-field sites in urban cores. The projects have on-site housing because they are generally in old blighted areas with minimal housing, services, or amenities in the vicinity .

      MRIC is a green-field development with good housing within walking distance and an entitled commercial center (unbuilt) across the street. In fact, there is an entire City (i.e. Davis) within the immediate vicinity with abundant high-quality housing, services, and amenities.

      What the developers are doing is dissembling the facts to try and mislead the public about why housing is sometimes embedded in these types of projects. MRIC needs to integrate itself into the City, not try to sell the bogus idea of a self contained island where nobody has to drive. That’s just self-serving nonsense.

      1. CalAg

        I realize that “brown-field” site implies environment contamination. More accurately I mean derelict sites in urban cores.

        Mace is a green-field site (literally) adjacent to a compact suburban City.

  6. CalAg

    I’m pro economic development
    I’m pro innovation parks
    I’m pro housing
    I’m pro environmental and fiscal sustainability
    I’m pro ag land preservation

    I’m anti stupidity

    The VMT/sustainability claim is false
    The claim that MRIC needs housing to succeed is false
    The developer’s push poll is misleading and irrelevant
    The proposed housing will doom the Measure R vote (this is a complete metaphysical certitude)

    Wolk needs to  rescind his apparent support of housing on MRIC.

    I don’t know who he is listening to besides RAMCO and their surrogates, but he is making stupid decisions on this issue and should not be an accessory to the bait-and-switch.

    The political ramifications of the MRIC housing clown-show – like the blow-back from the original plundering of the city by RAMCO (the Mace Ranch blackmail in the mid 80’s) – will take decades to repair. What politician in their right mind would be dumb enough to get in bed with the developers on this pernicious power play?

  7. Eileen Samitz

    I am glad that the Vanguard attended this “State of the City” event and covered what was said.

    I am really disappointed that Mayor Wolk even mentioned the bogus Ramos “push poll” which had questions crafted by the developer to yield “favorable” results to support his recent attempt to try to add housing to his MRIP project which he has promised from the beginning would be “commercial only”. So here we go, with Ramos trying the old “bait and switch” to  see if he can manipulate the Council into adding 850 housing units to his MRIP project.

    The question is will the Council keep their word to our community on this issue by retaining the MRIP as a commercial only project, or are they going to “take the bait” and trigger all the opposition to the MRIP project if housing is included. If housing is added to the MRIP, I will be one of many campaigning against it, and have heard from plenty of people who will also oppose it if the housing is added. Everyone I have spoken to about this are even more angry and motivated to go to the polls to vote “NO” if a MRIP project with housing if it is placed on a Measure J/R ballot. So I can only hope that the Council does not doom the MRIP by adding the “poison pill” of the housing component.

    I also am disappointed that Mayor Wolk seems so optimistic about the Nishi Gateway project, which is revenue negative and has grasped onto any potential favorable information to try to make this loser project (in SO many ways) look better. The financials can only get worse since the Nishi consultants admitted that they did NOT include the cost of a parking structure, nor the Putah Creek Parkway bridge in the original $24 million dollar infrastructure costs. So these very big ticket items are going to increase this original $24 million dollar estimate significantly.

    In addition, Staff is recommending that the Planning Commission certify an incomplete and inadequate Final EIR on the Nishi Gateway project tonight, which did not analyze the option of the MRIP with housing. So since the MRIP housing issue has not be decided yet, it would open up the City for a lawsuit for allowing the certification of an incomplete Nishi Gateway Final EIR knowing that the MRIP might have housing (i.e if the Council decides to make the fatal mistake of adding housing later on when it comes back to the City Council for a final decision). So these decisions on Nishi Gateway cannot be made tonight without the MRIP housing issue being settled.The traffic numbers for the Nishi Gateway EIR have already being questioned by a traffic expert, so it will be interesting to see what happens tonight.

    Finally, the Planning Commission is being asked to vote on a development agreement and “baseline project features” which are not yet released on the Nishi Gateway project. So how can the Planning Commission possibly make an informed decision on any if this, even if they get the development agreement and baseline project features just before the Planning Commission meeting tonight? It is pretty clear that the Nishi Gateway project is being “railroaded” through, just to get it on the ballot as soon as possible no matter bad a project it is. This project is destined to go down in flames also at a Measure J/R ballot, particularly given the way it is being “processed”.

  8. Jim Frame

    What the h e double toothpicks is wrong with warehouses?

    Warehouses are big-footprint buildings that contain very little in the way of taxable property.  I want to see the innovation park spaces stuffed to the gills with high-value equipment that generates a boatload of personal property tax.

    1. Frankly

      It depends.  Warehouses can certainly provide the real property tax revenue, but may be less in equipment property tax.   They do tend to have fewer employees per sq ft so we would not get as many secondary benefits that would derived from employees spending money in town.   However we would also have less commuter traffic per dollar of revenue provided compared to other business-types.  And they would cause less stress on our housing inventory.

      I think we need to expect some warehouse space because as I pointed out, tech business requires it.

        1. hpierce

          In your opinion, what is the model we are looking for?  Meant as a fair question.

          To me, it would be development that is fiscally/socially positive, taking into account initial revenues/costs, and on-going revenues/costs, including some ‘intangible’ costs re:  minimal traffic impacts, etc.

        2. CalAg

          Mission Bay is a 300-acre urban redevelopment project in a major urban center anchored by a UCSF campus and a boat-load of world-class tech companies. It is not an innovation center, although the innovation district label might apply. My understanding is that the project was run through the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, not a master developer.

          MRIC will never be anything like a mini-Mission Bay. If you want to know what MRIC will be like, look at 2nd Street and imagine the same type of stuff at a higher FAR with better landscaping and bike/ped infrastructure.

          Here’s what the big league looks likes:

          The maximum development program for Mission Bay includes:

          • 6,000 housing units, with 1,700 (28%) affordable to moderate, low, and very low-income households.  Redevelopment Agency sponsored non-profit developers will build 1,445 of the affordable units on 16 acres of land contributed by the master developer.  The remaining 255 affordable units will be included in privately developed projects,

          • 4.4 million sq. ft. of office/life science/biotechnology commercial space,

          • A new UCSF research campus containing 2.65 million sq. ft. of building space on 43 acres of land donated by the master developer and the City,

          • A state-of-the art UCSF hospital complex serving children, women, cancer patients

          • 500,000 sq. ft. of city and neighborhood-serving retail space,

          • A 500-room hotel,

          • 41 acres of new public open space, including parks along Mission Creek and along the bay, plus 8 acres of open space within the UCSF campus,

          • A new 500-student public school, a new public library and new fire and police stations and other community facilities.


          • $700 million in public infrastructure

  9. Ron

    For those of you who support commercial development at MRIC:

    Our mayor’s apparent support for the newly-introduced, large -scale housing component at MRIC may very well doom this proposal, when it reaches voters.  If that occurs, there won’t be any of the promised tax revenues, leaving the city in a more dire situation.  Be sure to thank Mayor Wolk, if that occurs.

    1. hpierce

      I still question where the housing component came from… staff or developer… am starting to wonder if the housing component is a “poison pill” to kill the concept/project… maybe by those promoting the 113 site…  or ‘development’ in general…  just don’t know… pure speculation…

      1. CalAg

        RAMCO wants the housing. They have the option to turn it down and their project is probably guaranteed entitlement. If it’s a poison pill, they are tying to kill their own project.

        1. Davis Progressive

          i think they are sincere in their belief about housing rather than cynically trying to take down their own project – after all that route costs millions potentially

        2. CalAg

          They’re obviously not trying to take down their own project. Was just stating the absurd implication of the “poison pill” theory as it relates to the developer.

  10. ryankelly

    I see on Craigslist that Ketmoree is hiring new security.  Very few qualifications – over 21 years old and can take directions –  and only pays $13.50 per hour for 4 hour shifts.  Ketmoree still doesn’t get it.  One of their customers dies and they still don’t wise up.

  11. Tia Will

    I may well be wrong, but am very suspicious that certain Planning staff planted the residential “seed”…”

    I think that seed was planted at the very beginning. At his first public presentation, Ramos and I discussed this issue. At the initial program from the group putting forward the proposal near the 113, there were many questions from the audience about the advantages and disadvantages of onsite housing. I think from the comments on the Vanguard that people think that this was a “bait and switch”. I know from attending these events that the possibility was under consideration from the outset. The developers seemed to see it as an option that they had only not opened for discussion because they had been directed to a no housing option only by the city. This was both development teams, not just one.

    1. CalAg

       I know from attending these events that the possibility was under consideration from the outset. The developers seemed to see it as an option that they had only not opened for discussion because they had been directed to a no housing option only by the city.


      TW:  Thanks for the info. Are you talking about this meeting in July of 2014?

      Ramos recently stated – in open public hearing, so everyone can watch it on tape – that they were initially very opposed to housing, but warmed up to the idea during the EIR process (which didn’t even start until the end of 2014). Your post provides evidence that this public statement by Ramos was not truthful, and reinforces the bait-and-switch allegation.

      1. Tia Will


        No, the meeting I was referencing was not really a meeting but rather the first open house. I am not sure that my post is evidence that Ramos is being deliberately devious. There is another way of seeing this.

        Both project development teams had made it clear that their impression from discussion with the city that housing was absolutely not on the table and therefore not open to discussion. Since both developers were coming from this point of view, comments about housing not being part of the plan that were definite could easily have been construed as having been the developers intent, while in reality what they were expressing was the reality as it had been presented to the by the city.

        In the formal presentation that you referenced, the only statement I could find that Ramos made about housing is the following:

        The real estate markets in Davis will be redefined by the project, as the City historically has been held back by a dearth of clean, developable parcels by sufficient scale to accommodate campus users”

        which acknowledges the impacts, but does not opine as to opportunity vs burden of those impacts.

        To give Mr. Ramos the benefit of the doubt, I think it is possible to see his “opposition” to housing as based on his perception of the reality of the directives coming from the city rather than as his personal preference.  However, the more recent comment that implying that they  had recently become aware of the trend towards on site housing, I do not believe is accurate depending on what he meant by “recent” since he was clearly aware of it at the time of the first open house ( sorry that I do not recall the date).

        1. CalAg

          Tia: I’m personally finding it hard to give Ramos any benefit of the doubt in light of the following evidence – (1) they were push-polling on housing at a time when they were self-described as strongly opposed, (2) the developers requested that the mixed use alternative be equal weight, also during this same period when they were allegedly anti-housing, (3) the developer’s testimony at the last public hearing about “seeing the light” is not credible (as you point out above), (4) the past history of RAMCO strong-arming the City on the Mace Ranch development, etc.

          Taken together, all this paints a picture (at least to me) of prior intent.

  12. CalAg

    Mayor Wolk cited Dan Carson, a member of the Finance and Budget commission, who presented council “with a paper that showed that [the EPS report] really underestimated Nishi… He thinks that right now that the report had Nishi at a negative $78,000 per year, but he estimates that that’s a really low figure, that it’s probably much more positive into the millions.”  David Greenwald

    This is going to create some cognitive dissonance. Dan Carson also generated a report stating that the consultant’s estimates of the costs of the city-wide paving rehabilitation needs are over-estimated as much as 50% (roughly $50M too high).

    So do you believe him on Nishi but not pavement? Pavement but not Nishi? Is he right on both? Is he wrong on both? Do you ignore his analyses? Do you cherry-pick what supports your position(s)?

    Anyone have a link to Carson’s Nishi analysis now that the Mayor has suggested it will inform his policy decision?

  13. Tia Will


    “Taken together, all this paints a picture (at least to me) of prior intent.”

    You could well be correct. I am not familiar with the Mace Ranch development story as I was not paying much attention to development at the time. I just inherently dislike the idea of ascribing motives to actions without first hand information provided by the individual doing the action given how very easy it is to misinterpret intent as we often see right here on the Vanguard.

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