For the next eight weeks, the Vanguard will be sending the Davis City Council candidates weekly questions. They have 250 to 350 words.
Question #2: While the city’s budget picture has improved, the city is still in need of funding for things like roads, parks, greenbelts, pools, buildings, as well as some unfunded retirement needs – what measures would you support to increase city revenue and why?
Question #3: What is your reaction to MRIC being paused and as a council member what would you do to move us forward on economic development?
I remain optimistic. Our community came together under an economic development strategy via the Innovation Park Task Force, including hiring Studio 30 on campus to research the most compatible features for Davis. After a long citizen engagement process, three proposals were submitted at the sites commonly known as Nishi, Mace and the Northwest Quadrant. I have always believed the Mace site to be the superior location, with the best existing infrastructure and I-80 frontage for access and visibility.
We need to reach out into the river of money that is Interstate 80, and divert some of it to flow our way. We cannot tax our way to “prosperity,” and I support our community driven process to increase and diversify City revenue.
We have an engaged, robust, active and informed citizenry, and I am a strong supporter of citizen-based planning. But our process does not work to its full potential when only the activists show up, and the end result of a community-driven process cannot be to kill every project that comes before us.
For that reason, I believe we must institute more action-driven community outreach policies and procedures to move forward our economic development strategy. We need to broaden and deepen our citizen engagement process to bring more of our community into the discussion. We must improve citizen outreach, deepen the direct budget connection, and broaden Davis’ leadership opportunities.
A few ideas to broaden citizen engagement on this issue include instituting a Wednesday Night at the Market City booth during the Spring to Fall season, Town Hall meetings at the school district’s MPRs that include child care, and identifying specific current and potential revenue streams as part of the quarterly budget updates.
Davis enjoys a unique location that lends itself to robust economic activity. We are the physical home of UC Davis and sit between the Bay Area and the greater Sacramento Region. We are known worldwide for education, and we should be known worldwide for innovation. I want to ensure our community does not just have a seat at the table, but that we are in the driver’s seat.
From the economic development perspective put forward by the Vanguard in this question, the MRIC “pause” is not an immediate crisis, but it is a setback.
Page 2 of the April 2016 EPS Land Economics Analysis states that the MRIC plan contains “approximately 129 acres of developable land accommodating approximately 2.7 million square feet of new construction.”
Page 49 of the September 2015 EPS Economic and Fiscal Impact Analysis states “Without formal Innovation Center concepts moving forward, the city would not realize the benefits of an agglomeration of development with sufficient critical mass, instead having a random patchwork of development spread out in various sites.”
According to Staff’s latest update to the May 2015 Mace Ranch Innovation Center Draft EIR, that “random patchwork” contains approximately 153 net acres in 32 properties, but only 52 net acres in 15 limited (spread apart, very small, and/or unable to accommodate medium and large sized businesses) properties are considered currently readily available for purchase and development.
In the short term, the City and the various owners of those existing properties need to work together to transform the random patchwork into a far more coherent communitarian whole.
Successful economic development strategy/tactics build on (and leverage) a community’s core competencies, and the strategy of leveraging the research programs and intellectual capital of UC Davis is solid. The “pauses” of both the Davis Innovation Center and the Mace Ranch Innovation Center (“MRIC”) are because of tactical level failures.
Working more collaboratively with UCD, ideally on mutual timetables, is essential to making progress in building the innovation economy in Davis.
The City, the land-owners, and UCD need to work together to build documentation of clear examples of evidence of how close collaboration with a university’s research programs and intellectual capital produces innovation economy value creation.
Further, “non-innovation park” efforts (e.g. focused economic development activities in and close to Downtown, which leverage research and intellectual capital) are crucial to Davis’ economic sustainability. In this “pause” era, that is even more true. Building a joint community/university message that clearly shows how and why Davis is a cut above, will be a boost for those non-innovation park activities.
It is not too late to be creating that kind of evidence, and UCD and the community need to truly collaborate in its production. The entire distributed innovation ecosystem in Davis will benefit from this collaborative and communitarian effort.
I will just go ahead and say it – it does not surprise me that that the MRIC proposal has been put on “hold”.
I don’t think the developer was that enthusiastic about building a tech park without a housing component. Building tech parks in Davis with the high land prices and high community expectations (LEED this and solar that) with a 10-20 year buildout timeframe is quite speculative and may not pencil out in the end. In addition, there is the added hurdle of having to win a citywide election.
Having said that, I did not and do not support including housing as part of the MRIC proposal. The community’s interest and the developer’s interest are not always aligned. My job as a city councilperson is to focus on the community’s interest.
As outlined in my editorial on this subject almost a year ago, a tech park could have provided very important revenue to the city, revenue to the community’s businesses and important job opportunities- all of which I support. A housing development provides little of the above and has greater negative externalities especially given the site’s relative distance to the center of town.
This site is as far from the university and core area as you can possibly be – take a look at a map and you will see what I am talking about. We all benefit from a city with a compact footprint (traffic, infrastructure costs, sustainability). Any new housing should be built closer to the center of town in density and height appropriate infill projects. We have several infill proposals before us that total over 300+ apartment units in addition to the Nishi proposal.
If revenue to the city is of primary concern, building 5 acres of additional auto dealerships would result in nearly an equivalent amount of revenue to the city as the full 200 acre MRIC proposal without a 20 year buildout. In last week’s answer, I outlined a few of the ideas I have for encouraging economic development – which needs to be an ongoing, multi-pronged approach – not based on a single development.
My emotions have ranged from surprise, (yet not shocked) to annoyance and bewilderment. Above all, I am frustrated and I want a solution.
It’s imperative for the city to diversify its revenue stream away from taxes (whether sales, property or parcel). Providing space to attract new businesses, for local companies to expand, and small or new businesses to take root is a sure way for us to grow our local economy (create jobs, increase revenue and additional accessory spending) without continually “going to the well” for new or renewed tax increases.
The Request for Proposals that led to MRIC was the culmination of a long public process. The Innovation Park Task Force, (having served as Planning Commissioner and Councilmember) developed a strategy for dispersed economic development (sites at East, Northwest, and middle of Davis). It involved numerous public hearings over several years.
The process didn’t identify the properties east of Mace as sites for housing. The proposals that came forward were based on public input and clearly identified the East and Northwest Davis sites for business/commercial uses only.
Mace also has issues (many likely solvable) well beyond the inclusion (or not) of housing…the Ag mitigation chief among them.
We’ve been successful in attracting or growing new businesses: Blue Oak Energy, TDL, Mori-Seiki, Cedaron Medical, Expression Systems. Yet, some have left Davis, such as Bayer and Monsanto.
My proposed economic development plan includes these options:
- Complete a comprehensive inventory of the available commercial/industrial parcels in Davis.
- Play to Davis’ & UC Davis’ strengths- work on attracting/creation of ag tech & food-related businesses.
- Collaborate with UC Davis to capture the technology transfer coming from campus.
- Additional flex lab space is needed; Nishi Gateway would provide much needed R&D space.
We should double down on our efforts with Davis Roots, which has incubated six successful companies (and growing). We should also collaborate with Sierra Energy’s new Area 52 heavy incubator.
We need to examine or pursue the redevelopment of City Corp. Yard, PG&E parcel, or both. Let’s finish cleanup of Frontier Fertilizer Superfund site and pursue economic development opportunities there, as well.