Monday Morning Thoughts: Should We Consider Housing for MRIC?

Dan Ramos listens to council comments surrounded by his team
Dan Ramos listens to council comments surrounded by his team

The Vanguard has learned from a source familiar with the process that the original MRIC concept included a provision for housing.  However, the city at the time was completely opposed to the concept of a mixed-use project.

The original RFEI (Request for Expressions of Interest) that the city put out in May 2014 included the provision: “Acknowledgement of community’s current desire for no residential to be included.”

However, shortly after the application for the Mace Ranch Innovation Center (MRIC) was received, the city was the one to push for a mixed-use alternative in the EIR (Environmental Impact Report).

As Community Development Director Mike Webb explained in December 2014, “Our recommendation to include that as an EIR alternative stems from that community feedback and there being a clear interest in seeing what that looks like from a CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act] perspective.”

By December 2014, Dan Ramos requested consideration of a mixed-use alternative. In a letter from Mr. Ramos to the council, he writes that “as we have proceeded over the last several months, our team has become convinced that a viable innovation center should contain a housing component such as the one reflected in the mixed use alternative. This is interesting because we initially were highly opposed to the inclusion of a housing component in our project.”

He argues, “Over time, however, our view has changed. Why? First, because we have learned that cutting edge innovation centers now almost always contain a housing component, the primary purpose of which is to provide housing for those who work at the innovation center. This proximate housing is endemic of the unique live/work relationship prevalent in the tech industry and is essential to the effective marketing of innovation centers.”

But by February, the council put an end to the mixed-use alternative. Councilmember Rochelle Swanson told her colleagues that, while she was not opposed to a mixed-use project, the key consideration was making sure that this project could pass and, quite simply, she did not believe a project with housing could pass.

She said, “I really do see why the mixed use can work well… I just don’t think in this time frame, the November 2016 vote, I don’t think that this community will pass it.”

Councilmember Rochelle Swanson concluded that, while she thinks the mixed-use project would be best, there are other ways to address housing and vehicles miles traveled (VMT), and “at the end of the day I do think we have to look at the big picture… I really think that it’s important that we put a ballot measure out there that will pass and be successful.  Because I feel very strongly that if we put something on the ballot like this and it fails, that fails a lot more to our community than just this one project.”

For those who want to focus on bait and switch – there is certainly some fodder in there.  It is difficult to reconcile Mr. Ramos’ December letter with the information that the developers had originally approached the city with a housing component.

To me, however, it seems that the developer has been more consistent than the city, which originally opposed housing and then under new leadership opened the door, only to have the council slam it shut in February.

The question now is whether the door is now open for a housing component. The arguments against housing have mostly been political.

In the Vanguard’s column from August 2015, we argued that Housing was not needed for MRIC.  But even here two of the three reasons cited were political: “First, the city in its RFEI (Request for Expressions of Interest) made it clear that there was not to be a housing component. We can call that a political decision, but the expectation was this was to be a tech park – not a housing project. Second, there are reasons to believe that the voters might be willing to approve a tech park, but not housing. We have had two votes in which residents turned down housing and one vote in which the voters narrowly approved Target in the last ten years.”

The third argument suggested a work around on the VMT issue, but at that point we did not fully consider the financing issue.

The press release sent out by the developers last week cited financing issues.  It said, “A study prepared by Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. and reviewed at the Monday, April 11, Finance & Budget Commission meeting concludes that the project might not be feasible, given that only 128 acres or 60 percent of the site are considered developable and that infrastructure costs are high. The estimated infrastructure costs of more than $50 million are four times the industry standard for similar projects, according to the project sponsors.”

However, as Matt Williams posted in a comment, “[T]he way that David Zehnder, the EPS consultant, explained it to the FBC on Monday was that the project pencils out very nicely at $20 per unit, but there is no comparable project in Davis to validate whether the market supports a $20 per unit rental rate.”

So EPS looked at West Sacramento and Woodland, where the rental rates were at $9 per unit. Writes Mr. Williams, “David acknowledged that those projects had radically different missions than MRIC, and didn’t have the access to UCD that MRIC had, so $9 per unit was probably quite low . . . but there was no available alternative in the region that matched the innovation profile of what MRIC was trying to offer.”

While this may not answer every question – it clarifies at least in my mind that the fiscal analysis is only part of the equation here.  The calculations by the developer probably go far deeper and, while it is true they have already laid a lot of money on the line for planning, the EIR, and outreach – the bottom line here is that a larger factor than the fiscal analysis is the uncertainty of the Davis process.

Mr. Ramos, his team and his investors have to be increasingly uneasy watching how the Nishi process is unfolding.  Given that Nishi is a far smaller process, the status of it cannot be giving the MRIC development team a lot of confidence.

As I spoke to Mr. Ramos and many other people in the last few days, my sense is that, while MRIC is not dead, it is on life support.

Does housing fix the financing problems?  I would have to see an analysis.  What this change does do is change the political calculations for those who believed that housing with the project made it a better project, but were unwilling to take the political risks of including housing.

As Will Arnold put it rather eloquently back in January, [T]he main argument for having housing at the Mace Ranch Innovation Center is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” He said, “It’s my opinion that putting housing as part of the Mace Ranch project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it will reduce them to zero because there will be no project.”

The problem now is that there is no project, so that calculation is largely out the window.

My view at this point is that, if housing gets the proposal back on the table, then let us look at it.  I have never opposed housing on principle – in fact, done right, a  live-work project was always preferable. The problem as I saw it was if people are automatically going to vote based on housing, then why are we going to put housing on the site?

That said, I’m not convinced that this is just about housing or just about financing.  I think this has a lot more to do with the landscape of development in Davis and the risk of losing additional millions in a project that could be dead on arrival for the voters.

For me at least, that is the most troubling aspect here because, as I have said to many people, if you analyze the fiscal condition of the city, I think we are in trouble without revenue generators and I do not believe we can tax ourselves out of this hole.

—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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104 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    It seems to me that a large number of decisions are being based on “crystal ball” analysis. We are hearing from a number of city leaders and potential leaders ( Swanson and Arnold in this case) as well as Wolk and Frerichs on other issues that their decisions are not based on what they believe is best for the community, but on what they “believe will pass a vote”. Does being a candidate for, or member of the city council make one more likely to make the best predictions ?  I have no idea. But I do not believe that this is the best approach to leadership. Counting up the number of emails pro and con, or the number of speakers at city council is certainly one approach, but I cannot count it is true leadership. Even when I disagree with them, I would much rather see an approach which clearly lays out the evidence based, objective pros and cons of a project as viewed by the leader as the basis for their vote and their clear advocacy based on their perception. This to me would represent leadership.

    1. David Greenwald

      Some would argue that is why Measure R produces suboptimal results as it changes the calculus from the best project for Davis to the best project that you reasonably believe can win a Measure R vote. The presumption being a project is better than no project.

      1. Barack Palin

        Some would also argue that without Measure R we would end up with out of control sprawling housing tract growth and would mirror communities like Elk Grove and Natomas.

        Thank you for Measure R.

      2. Tia Will

        David

        The presumption being a project is better than no project.”

        This is the basis of why I believe that we should keep measure R. I do not believe that the “calculus” has to change. I believe that a “good” project ( one that enough see as of value ) will be approved by the voters. I do not believe that any project is better than no project.

        I will use the example of Target, which I opposed. It won albeit very narrowly, presumably because enough voters felt it would bring in enough money to make it worthwhile. Although most of the commentary I heard about it from individuals in conversation was about how much more convenient it would be. As it turns out, it is marginally more convenient ( same travel time for many as to the Woodland Target), is not “green”, not innovative, does not provide a “superior shopping experience” as one proponent told me, and did not generate the projected amount of funds for the city. But it was “good enough” for a majority vote.

         

        1. Mark West

          I cannot believe that ten years out, you are still fighting against the Target store with your same tired arguments. The Davis Target is a successful store, clearly meeting the needs of many customers. I doubt there is another retail store in town that brings in greater total tax revenue to the City (sales and property taxes) as does that store. You may not like the store, I don’t choose to shop there myself, but a healthy retail environment offers customers options for where they shop with stores such as Target playing an important role.

          On the plus side, we obviously don’t need to worry about the prospect of seeing Biddin “walk down F street naked singing Yankee Doodle…”

    2. Ron

      David Greenwald:  “Some would argue that is why Measure R produces suboptimal results as it changes the calculus from the best project for Davis to the best project that you reasonably believe can win a Measure R vote.”

      And, those same individuals might argue that voters are simply too ignorant or selfish to decide what’s best for the community.  And, that it’s better to let local officials decide, because they’re always objective and informed (and are never unduly beholden to development interests).

       

      1. Frankly

        You vote for local officials to decide because usually the decisions are way too complicated for a direct democracy approach.  Our elected representatives are supported by staff that help them consider and weigh thousands of variables to get to a decision point.  And any decision is absolutely going to make some people unhappy.   And some of those people cannot handle it and then take to making the tired old claim that the politicians are beholden to developer interests, and that developers are all scumbags that only care about making money off the poor abused members of the community that are so damaged by the development.

        Yes, I’m fine with the claim that some voters are too ignorant to know what is good for the community, or they are just selfish and unwilling to let go of their growth anxiety for the greater good… especially in consideration of what comes from the mouths of many of these same people making their ugly claims about the city staff, city leaders and the developers.

         

        1. David Greenwald

          I think you have missed something critical here. Councilmembers are not generally land use experts – they can be, but most aren’t. And so you have professional staff handling the expertise and creating analysis and staff recommendations, but ultimately the council makes a policy decision. Measure R adds a layer onto that, after the council makes a policy decision, the public weighs in with their own policy decision.

        2. Barack Palin

          Frankly, there’s already proof of what happens when the council makes the decision on a project without direct voter input.  Just take a look at the Cannery which I’m not hearing many glowing reviews about.

        3. Frankly

          Yeah David, I know it is in your DNA to think that activists can do a better job running the city, county, state and nation than can the elected officials.   Ironically you would likely vote for an activist type running for office.

          But here is what I know… if you could do a survey of all the people that were against Nishi and MRIC beginning the first time they heard about it and today, you would find that only a very small percentage changed their mind in support of them.  You might find a few on the VG, but think of the time and effort that went in to convincing them… and then they only budged slightly and would be ready to bolt in opposition at the first blush that we would not be getting the same number of goodies as first proposed.

          When there is a need for significant change, any leader driven to make consensus decision will be a failed leader… because 85% of the human population lack leadership skills.  They are not the type that can visualize a future state with many variables.  They are wired as followers.  But they are also prone to change aversion because the lack the capacity to visualize a future state and hence they are made anxious when others attempt to take them there.

          This human nature is why we have representative governance and not direct democracy.   Direct democracy is tyranny by the majority… and it also gives activists a fertile ground for tyranny of the minority.

          The reason that Davis’s economic development plans are in tatters is that too many folks like yourself are prone to thinking that elected officials are hazards and that activists must constantly deride them and insert themselves into the decisions processes.

          Look how much effort went into vetting these two project, yet it is likely that neither will be built.

          We have met the enemy, and it is the average Davis voter.

        4. Frankly

          BP – The Cannery is not a perfect development and they are having trouble selling because of the requirements of the city to get 3 CC votes, not because the developer lacked the ability to develop an attractive development.

          I think you have it backwards.  It was the demands of the city resulting from the demands of the activists in the city that have lead to the Cannery being less that great.

          Activists don’t know how to develop a successful development… especially those Davis type activists.

        5. Jim Frame

          All of the “Measure J/R is bad” talk is superfluous hot air until such time that it comes back for approval or rejection at the ballot box.  It’s the law, it was created by the electorate, and it can only be altered by the electorate.   (Okay, it *could* be changed by a court of competent jurisdiction, but that seems so unlikely as not to be worth considering.)

          Got anything better than “Are you tired of Measure R yet?” inanities?

           

  2. Don Shor

    The Request for Proposals that led to MRIC was the culmination of a long public process. The Innovation Park Task Force, originally the Peripheral Park Task Force, developed a strategy for dispersed economic development. It involved many hours of public hearings over several years. Meanwhile, the review of housing sites and options took place via the housing task force several years ago in which dozens of citizens worked for hundreds of hours to identify and rank sites for potential housing around Davis.

    Neither of those processes, to my knowledge, identified the properties east of Mace Blvd. as sites for housing. The two proposals that came forth were based on public input and clearly identified the east and north Davis sites, along with Nishi (which was in the housing discussions), for business.

    The proposal for housing at Mace Ranch circumvents the public process, dilutes the effectiveness of the dispersed economic development strategy, wastes potential revenue-generating business space, and threatens the electoral success of not only MRIC but any future business park plans. If the north Davis plan revives, the public would be very justified in considering it a likely site for housing as well — flouting the process that led to the site consideration in the first place

    Once again the public process is being derailed. And the likely outcome is that the park itself would fail, and future parks would fail, at the ballot box.

    1. David Greenwald

      “Neither of those processes, to my knowledge, identified the properties east of Mace Blvd. as sites for housing.”

      I think this is where the conception of the mixed-use project breaks down. I don’t think this should be conceived as a site for housing but rather an understanding that there would be some housing incorporated into the innovation park structure.

      The other difference I have is you write, “Once again the public process is being derailed.” Is it? I mean the project has go through the commissions, get approval from the planning and city council during public processes and then gain a majority vote in a Measure R vote – how is the public process being derailed?

    2. Frankly

      Don, you and I are mostly on the same page here.

      But I think you and others are failing to consider that our city’s land preservation policies and measures, as well as Measure R, are either causing the real economic circumstances that cause a pure commercial development to not pencil out… or it is convenient leverage for the developer.

      It isn’t the lack of housing that is breaking the financial feasibility for the project, it is the combination of the requirement of open space, set-backs and high infrastructure costs.

      Basically, it is Davis thinking it is so special that we can demand all these things from business.. basically looting and picking from it… and then we cry foul when the business folds and goes elsewhere.

      This is something rooted in ideological differences.  It demonstrates significant city-wide ignorance in finance and how and why business ever starts, grows and stays.   I know you understand the pure financial side, but I think you and others are not counting the financial impacts of demanding so much from these developments that causes them to lack financial feasibility.

  3. Jim Frame

    in fact, done right a live-work project was always preferable.

    At one of the MRIC forums hosted by the Vanguard, an audience member (whose name I don’t recall) said that he has a startup business currently operating out of his home, and that he’d like to move to a live-work space like those proposed at MRIC so he could expand the operation.  He asked the development team what the target price of those live-work spaces would be, and when he heard the answer (also forgotten) he responded in disgust that at that rate no startup could afford them.

    The presumption being a project is better than no project.

    The presumption that a bad project is better than no project is a bad presumption.

     

    1. Frankly

      Did you ever take any economic classes pursuing your significant education credentials?

      Do you understand the forces of supply and demand?

      The cost of any new live-work properties in Davis would fetch a high dollar, and we can directly attribute these inflated prices to anyone that demands our farmland moat while also rejecting infill like Trackside.

      I am working on a business start and I will not be locating it in Davis due to the fact that the space I need would be more than twice as expensive in Davis if it even existed.

      1. Matt Williams

        Frankly raises a good point that applies very directly to the entrepreneur Jim described.  Jim’s entrepreneur was pursuing a dream from his home, incurring minimal overhead expense.  That meant when he had customers and/or stakeholders come to see his endeavor, they met in his living room or over his dining room table or in his home office.

        Some customers and/or stakeholders would see that as a red flag.  They want a business that has enough earning potential and capitalization that it can afford the monthly rent for an office. Other customers/stakeholders would see the home operation as a wise use of money/capital by the entrepreneur.

        Regardless, Jim’s entrepreneur has an effective expense starting point of $0 per month for office space.  Going from $0 to the rent MRIC was forecasting for its live/work space is a steep climb, even with the monthly cost of Jim’s entrepreneur’s home included.  A prospective tenant of the MRIC live/work space, who already is paying rent for both his/her home and and office for his/her start-up will experience less sticker shock than Jim’s entrepreneur.

        Also, the live/work space in a 10-year old building like the Chen Building is going to be less expensive than new construction . . . simply because the Chen Building was built using yesterday’s dollars and the new construction is going to be built with tomorrow’s CPI-inflated dollars.

      2. Jim Frame

        The source of the relative higher cost in Davis is a legitimate subject for discussion, but my point is that it’s here, it’s real, and in the present time it has rendered MRIC uncompetitive and thus infeasible as proposed.  That’s the reason I don’t support efforts to bandage up the proposal with housing or other uses unrelated to city revenue generation just to squeak it past the break-even point.  We don’t need a bunt, we need a home run, or we need to look elsewhere for solutions to the budget woes.

        1. Mark West

          “we need a home run”

          This is exactly the thinking that is killing Davis’ economic future. When you swing for the fences you are more likely than not going to strike out.

          The pursuit of the perfect…

        2. Mark West

          The simple reality…if you look at the estimated annual revenue to the City from MRIC and compare that to the $30-35 million annual hole in our current budget, you will see that in order to create sufficient new revenues, we will ultimately need multiple MRIC sized projects. Instead of one ‘home run’ project, what we need is a series of ‘singles and doubles’ (multiple moderate sized projects or multi-phases of a larger one) that allow the citizens to see for themselves that adding businesses and good jobs to the community will strengthen the community, not ruin it (as some claim). Some will never accept that reality, but most will, once they experience the results. It is a matter of building confidence within the populace that we are on the right track, allowing for the continued growth in economic vitality over time.

          If your barometer for success is a ‘home run’ your first time at bat, you are looking to fail.

        3. Jim Frame

          To continue the baseball analogy for a bit (just got back from a DHS game in which the opposing pitcher was throwing in the 93-98 mph range; DHS lost 6-5), I agree that home runs are hard to come by and focusing on them largely unproductive.  But 1 each bunt — which is how I characterize MRIC in its most recent iteration — will provide no financial relief  in the short term and very little in the long term, while its housing impacts will be nearly immediate and mostly undesirable.

          I’d be willing to consider some doubles and even singles if they’re configured the right way.  But in my view the last MRIC proposal was an 850-unit housing project with some iffy innovation space tacked on.  Send that batter back to the dugout and bring out someone who can hit.

          1. David Greenwald

            Jim: As far as I know MRIC hasn’t had a formal proposal with housing, so I think it’s hard to evaluate without seeing an actually design proposal.

  4. Don Shor

    This site was conceived as a business park, not a housing development. Just that consideration has probably significantly increased the value of the land, to the good fortune of the landowners. If they aren’t willing to develop it within the parameters given, they can sell it to someone who will. Until then, it’s farmland.

    There is another good site right down the road for housing if the goal is to have workforce housing nearby.

    1. David Greenwald

      Did you intentionally use the term “business park” because the city has explicitly stated it is not a business park. Instead it is an innovation center which can contain housing. From the Brooking Institute article on Innovation Districts: “Innovation districts constitute the ultimate mash up of entrepreneurs and educational institutions, start-ups and schools, mixed-use development and medical innovations, bike-sharing and bankable investments—all connected by transit, powered by clean energy, wired for digital technology, and fueled by caffeine.”

      1. Barack Palin

        This is so funny, from the start there was a lot of talk on what to call it, a business park or an innovation park.  I think everyone agreed it was just semantics.  But through all of the talk I never heard once that it’s being called an innovation park because it can contain housing, and believe me I followed the process.

         

         

        1. Barack Palin

          Though the Davis City Council has been discussing the concept for several years, questions from the community about how an innovation center is different from a commercial or industrial business park are not uncommon.
          One way to explain the difference is to look back at the council’s actions that established the Innovation Park Task Force in 2010. At that time, the city was very deliberate in wanting to use current terminology to describe a place where research and development were the primary activities and not warehousing or processing plants.
          The city wanted to be sure that the use of the term innovation park would be more akin to a research park, though it could include advanced manufacturing facilities like Schilling Robotics and DMG Mori.
          The definition of an innovation park was further refined in July 2012 by the UCD Studio 30 report that was commissioned by the city. Specifically, the report describes a “21st century innovation park” as a place that “designed primarily for R&D facilities, high-technology and science-based companies and support services.”

          http://www.davisenterprise.com/business/rob-white-what-is-an-innovation-center/
          No where that I can find in this article is housing mentioned as a reason the city wants to call it an innovation park.

        2. Barack Palin

          Says you.   They wanted to call it an innovation park because of the types of businesses they wanted to lure and they didn’t want people to think of it as a bunch of drury gray warehouses.

          1. David Greenwald

            Okay, but then housing has nothing to do with that equation – right? So you can have an innovation park with housing or one without housing, correct? So you point is what exactly? That housing wasn’t originally a publicly presented consideration. We know that. The question is: will adding housing enable the project to pencil out? And if so, is the public willing to vote for a project with a housing component?

      2. Misanthrop

        There are good sites down the road for an innovation park too. They are in Woodland and they will bring that city a lot of money that Davis will lose. Money that Davis badly needs.

  5. Barack Palin

    I remember hearing from commenters that we as a community had to consider a mixed use alternative because it’s mandated by CEQA.  Now reading this it looks like it was a choice,

    As Community Development Director Mike Webb explained in December 2014, “Our recommendation to include that as an EIR alternative stems from that community feedback and there being a clear interest in seeing what that looks like from a CEQA perspective.”

    I have no doubt that we would still have a project today if we had kept our eye on the ball and stayed on track for an innovation park without housing, once the lure of housing crept into the mix it changed everything.

     

    1. Matt Williams

      BP, I believe you are interpreting Mike’s comment from a Manichean perspective.  The most recent changes to CEQA require a jurisdiction to evaluate alternatives for mitigating Vehicle Mile Traveled (VMTs).  CEQA does not specify how that evaluation of alternatives must be done, nor what the alternatives have to be.

      With regard to your concluding statement, the fiscal analysis of MRIC presented to the FBC by EPS last Monday indicated a return for the developers in the 3% to 4% range.  That fiscal evaluation was not at all affected by the housing consideration.  EPS was very clear with the FBC that 3% to 4% return was highly problematic.

    2. Mark West

      BP:  “I have no doubt that we would still have a project today if we had kept our eye on the ball”

      No.  Our population of friendly obstructionists in town would simply have found another aspect of the project to focus their opposition on, to the same ultimate result. Personally, I think we should demand that any new development is painted pink.

      The never-ending search for the perfect is making reasoned action impossible, and every dollar of new revenue we fail to raise through business growth will come out of our pockets as new taxes   – whether we want it to or not. Keep demanding ‘the perfect’ project BP, just get your checkbook ready as you are going to need it.

      1. Barack Palin

         Keep demanding ‘the perfect’ project BP, just get your checkbook ready as you are going to need it.

        I don’t think anyone is demanding perfect. I think people want what the city originally wanted and what the developer originally presented, not the morphed mixed use project.

        I also think that the city is crumbling and the get your checkbook out threats are being way overplayed.

        1. David Greenwald

          “I think people want what the city originally wanted and what the developer originally presented, not the morphed mixed use project.”

          Isn’t that something to be decided still? You are drawing a conclusion and we haven’t even seen a design proposal for a mixed use project. Why are you attempting to short-circuit discussion at this point especially with no project on the table. Isn’t the reason that we have elections so we don’t have to “think” or “guess” at what the public wants, we can “know”?

        2. Barack Palin

          Why are you attempting to short-circuit discussion

          Seriously?  We haven’t already talked about the mix-use alternative until we’re blue in the face?  The council already made its decision based on years of discussion, nothing was short-circuited or is being short circuited now.

          1. David Greenwald

            You said: “I think people want what the city originally wanted and what the developer originally presented, not the morphed mixed use project.”

            I responded: “Isn’t that something to be decided still? You are drawing a conclusion and we haven’t even seen a design proposal for a mixed use project. Why are you attempting to short-circuit discussion at this point especially with no project on the table. Isn’t the reason that we have elections so we don’t have to “think” or “guess” at what the public wants, we can “know”?”

            Your response pulled my short-circuiting discussion point out of context. At this point there is no project on the table. The council in February sent the project forward that no longer exists for reasons that are now irrelevant. So the question again is whether we should work to create an alternative project or let this die and take our lumps with taxes. I at least want to see what a mixed use design looks like before I say, kill the project. You seem to simply want the project to die if you can’t get one without housing. Hence my comment asking why you want to short-circuit discussion AT THIS POINT.

        3. Mark West

          “I don’t think anyone is demanding perfect.”

          Everyone who says “I won’t support it if…” or I will only support it if…” is demanding their own personal version of perfect. Because everyone has their own version of the demands that are required, there is no possibility for even a good solution.  Until you and other activists accept the idea of judging the project as a whole based on how it helps the City meet the community’s needs, instead of through your personal lens of wants, we will never have success.

          Every time you state your requirement for no housing, you are demanding perfect.

  6. Michael Harrington

    It’s the mitigation, folks.  Where is the land in fee simple to the city?  Ramos never approached us with what should have been their best foot.  He told me a couple of times that they would announce it later.

    We are going to put an improved R on the ballot that will require them to disclose their mitigation land upfront.  If they have good land in exchange for the discretionary approval of the upzoning, then I sm sure it will greatly assist their political travels to an R vote.

     

    The failure by Nishi and Ramos to disclose their mitigation is an admission that it’s probably junk land in the county that has low probability of being developed

    It’s appalling to many of us that the City never required them to disclose the mitigation.

    Now, back to work on No on Nishi

     

     

    1. Matt Williams

      Mike Harrington said . . . “Where is the land in fee simple to the city?”

      Mike,here are three questions for you.

      — Where is the ordinance that requires that the mitigation land be conveyed fee simple to the City?

      — How does fee simple conveyance improve the mitigation?

      — If fee simple ownership is so preferable, then why did the City sell the 366 acres of the Mace 391 parcel after the conservation easement was placed on those 366 acres?

      I’m looking forward to hearing your answers.

       

  7. davisite4

    Wouldn’t housing at Mace have reduced the overall income to the City by increasing the costs of providing services to the additional residents?  Why isn’t that one of the reasons mentioned in the article above?

    1. Matt Williams

      That is a very good point davisite4.  In doing an evidence-based analysis some approximation of those increased costs go on one side of the scale.

      On the other side of the scale goes some approximation of the slower realization of revenues for the City due to the slower build-out that would happen due to some CEOs of prospective tenants/occupants deciding that their workers would be “housing challenged” in Davis, and as a result they would locate their facility/office somewhere other than a Davis innovation center.

      Gather the evidence and weigh the pros and cons.

    2. David Greenwald

      Isn’t that something that we can model and ask the developers to mitigate? (Also if there’s no project isn’t the real question whether we can get something to pencil out with revenue?)

      1. Barack Palin

        That’s something else I’ve wondered about.  If there’s room for housing that’s not currently in the plans then why isn’t there also more room for added innovation buildings that might help the bottom line?

        1. The Pugilist

          There is.  They could easily go to 4 million square feet.  But guess what, I would be willing to bet someone on here will attack that too.

          Why are you so against housing?

        2. Matt Williams

          Pugilist, my sense from his comments is that BP couldn’t care less about housing.  What he cares about is honest communication, which is a moral issue much more than it is a factual issue.

        3. Matt Williams

          BP, there definitely is room for added innovation space . . . tons of room.  Each building has the potential to grow vertically to incorporate that additional space.   In addition, the available acres can be redeployed in order to incorporate additional innovation space.

          However, creating space doesn’t create value.  Filling any space that is created with innovative intellectual and business activity is what creates value.

  8. Eileen Samitz

    The presumption being a project is better than no project.

    “The presumption that a bad project is better than no project is a bad presumption.”

    an understanding that there would be some housing incorporated

    “The design presented with housing had a lot more than ‘some’.”

    I completely agree with Jim and Don. Jim’s statement is self explanatory and well said.

    Don’s comment is also well said but to elaborate, 850 housing units is not just “some” housing. That is all of Mace Ranch and 2/3’s of Wildhorse in terms of impacts and infrastructure needs like waste water treatment and City services.   So  revenue gains from the commercial portion would be counteracted by the costs due to all these infrastructure, City services and other long term costs to the City. Not only that, there is no legal way for the housing units to be reserved or restricted to having primarily MRIC workers living there. That presumption is ridiculous as are the greenhouse gas reductions. In fact, since anyone living there who was an MRIC workers, is likely to have other roommates and/or family members who work elsewhere, so they will need to drive o their jobs. So the greenhouse gases are much more likely to increase due to not “some ” units, but the enormous total of 850 units.

    Furthermore,not only do we get no SACOG RHNA credit if these 850 units were built before 2021, but the Ramos developers are trying for the no affordable housing deal that Nishi Gateway got the special privilege of. That has NEVER been allowed for a large project of this magnitude in Davis.

    So sorry David, but many of us understand how this is a “bait and switch” still, it’s just round 2. It will be important to see how the City Council deals with this stunt that Ramos is trying to pull again. Hopefully, they will not cave to this clear manipulation of the process. As I have said before, the Ramos group knew the math from the beginning. If they can’t do an innovation park only, then I am willing to bet that another proposal will come forward. Or as Don said, Ramos should sell the MRIC land site to another developer who is interested in building the commercial-only innovation park.

    1. The Pugilist

      Elaine: Who is going to spend millions on that 200 acres of land, design a project, and try to get it entitled and through a Measure R vote when it has been shown that you or Harrington or someone else will campaign against a project and defeat it?  Who wants to risk millions.  If I were looking to buy, I’d go to Dixon or Woodland.

  9. sprawlingdensity

    Well done Eileen, well done! We only want commercial development in Davis, we have our houses in Davis and love the equity.  Let the workers, families, young people, live in West Sac or Woodland who needs them!!!!

    1. Tia Will

      sprawlingdensity

      Let the workers, families, young people, live in West Sac or Woodland who needs them!!!!”

      Is it your position that building the currently proposed projects are going to help any of the groups that you have named to find housing in Davis ?  Let’s look at a few of the recent proposals and maybe you can help me understand how they will benefit your stated target populations.

      Cannery – for the most part, too expensive for your identified groups

      Trackside – specifically proposed as luxury apartments. Doubt they will help your defined groups.

      Nishi – mostly targeted to wealthy students and/faculty. Again unlikely to help those you have named.

      Olive Drive proposal – student housing

      5th Street project – student housing

      Now I have opposed some of these projects and will probably be in support of others since the housing needs of our community are complex. However, I do think it is an over simplification to name these specific groups as though they will directly benefit from the projects as proposed. It implies that there is an overall altruistic purpose behind these developments, and from the proposed purchases prices and rents, I find that hard to believe.

  10. Anon

    Don Shor: “The proposal for housing at Mace Ranch circumvents the public process, dilutes the effectiveness of the dispersed economic development strategy, wastes potential revenue-generating business space, and threatens the electoral success of not only MRIC but any future business park plans. If the north Davis plan revives, the public would be very justified in considering it a likely site for housing as well — flouting the process that led to the site consideration in the first place…

    No potential revenue-generating business space would be lost if housing were included in MRIC.  The idea was to densify the business space so that no square footage would be lost.  Housing would be lofts over business space, so it would likely only appeal to employees.

    As Community Development Director Mike Webb explained in December 2014, “Our recommendation to include that as an EIR alternative stems from that community feedback and there being a clear interest in seeing what that looks like from a CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act] perspective.

    This comment from Mike Webb gives me pause.  Did the opponents of innovation parks convince city staff to include the housing option to explore VMT – so that they had arguments to kill the project either way?  On the one hand they could argue not including housing would increase VMT, and increase GHG emissions.   On the other hand, they could argue the project was never supposed to include housing, and if it does, the project will be DOA.

    I do not believe there was a housing bait and switch here, but rather a schizophrenia on the part of the City Council on whether housing was to be included.

    Mark West: “The never-ending search for the perfect is making reasoned action impossible, and every dollar of new revenue we fail to raise through business growth will come out of our pockets as new taxes   – whether we want it to or not. Keep demanding ‘the perfect’ project BP, just get your checkbook ready as you are going to need it.

    Spot on!

    Barack Palin: “I also think that the city is crumbling and the get your checkbook out threats are being way overplayed.

    Then either you haven’t been paying attention to budget discussions, or listened too much to Mayor Wolk’s naive and misleading picture of the city’s budget situation.  Council member Swanson had it exactly right when she threatened the mother of all parcel taxes if the innovation parks don’t succeed.  It’s either that or start cutting services and expecting already existing potholes to grow.  Have you see 5th St. by the Post Office lately, the horrible condition of the road?  Take a look!

    Michael Harrington: “It’s the mitigation, folks.  Where is the land in fee simple to the city?  Ramos never approached us with what should have been their best foot.  He told me a couple of times that they would announce it later.

    Ramos did announce the ag mitigation – you just didn’t listen.

    Barack Palin: “That’s something else I’ve wondered about.  If there’s room for housing that’s not currently in the plans then why isn’t there also more room for added innovation buildings that might help the bottom line?

    There is a certain absorption rate for new tech businesses.  If you make too much room, it will not get filled.  Ramos did an analysis of the absorption rate, and based the square footage provided on that absorption rate.

     

    1. Alan Miller

      Housing would be lofts over business space, so it would likely only appeal to employees.

      Nothing says employee appeal like the opportunity of living over your office.

  11. Anon

    The F&BC has come up with some other ideas for cost savings at MRIC, like paring down the amenities, provide less fancy open space, phase the projects so it is not financed upfront all at once while farming half until buildout is far enough along, finance the project on the open market while interest rates are low instead of creating a community facilities district, etc.  Don’t know if MRIC will think about such possibilities, but all avenues should be explored, including workforce housing in the form of lofts over the workspace, which is more likely to end up workforce housing.

    1. Matt Williams

      In addition to the items Anon has listed, the FBC also pointed out that the Ag Buffer of MRIC can be a significant income producer if it is planted with the same nut trees that the adjacent Mace 366 property is planted with, and the resultant farming activities for the nut trees on that Ag Buffer are provided by the Mace 366 farmer under contract.

      1. Anon

        Yes, that would be an excellent idea, except nut trees use a tremendous amount of water, and with Lois Wolks’s bill coming forward to limit wells, as well as the new groundwater management requirements, such a plan may not be feasible or desirable.

    2. Frankly

      How about we just have the CC amend the ordinance or agree to an exception for the 2:1 ag mitigation?   Allow the developer to build more sq ft of commercial space.

      1. Anon

        There are only so many tech businesses this park can absorb.  Ramos took that into account when deciding the square footage of business park to settle on.  To build more business park into the project will be of no benefit.

        1. Matt Williams

          Anon said . . . “To build more business park into the project will be of no benefit.”

          That is just as Manichean a perspective as BP’s original perspective is.  You have simply swung the pendulum to the other extreme.  Creating or not creating space doesn’t create value.  Filling any space that is created with innovative intellectual and business activity is what creates value.  If the demand for space exceeds the expectations, then building more business park will absolutely be of benefit.

          With that said, the Open Space and Habitat Commission’s discussion of phasing MRIC into at least four separate phases would support a much more evidence-based understanding of actual demand for space, rather than the speculation that we are currently forced to do because of the lack of evidence.  David Zehnder’s discussion of the effect of the range of $9 per unit to $20 per unit in Monday’s FBC meeting addressed that very issue.  His fiscal projections were based on not a small amount of speculation.

        2. Barack Palin

          There are only so many tech businesses this park can absorb.  Ramos took that into account when deciding the square footage of business park to settle on.  To build more business park into the project will be of no benefit.

          How in the world do we have any idea what the demand for innovation space will be at full buildout in 20 years?

          Secondly, you are sure giving a lot of credit that the developers figured this all out when it’s becoming obvious that they sure didn’t have it all figured out when it comes to their current plan that supposedly doesn’t pencil out.

           

    1. Matt Williams

      I’m not sure what you are saying Don.  Could you elaborate on your point?  Specifically, I’m not sure what you are referring to with your word “This” in your expression “This is not really an issue …”

      1. Don Shor

        Groundwater regulation that might occur at some point in the future will not be an issue with respect to any decision to plant nut trees, or any other crop, on that site.

        There are many misconceptions about the water use by nut trees in particular. Using the ag jargon: they do have a high “crop coefficient” as currently managed compared to some other crops (but others like alfalfa can be even higher water users). But water use on nut crops can be reduced anywhere from 15 – 30%, depending on various factors, without significant reduction in yield (and profit). There’s lots of research and management practice data available for drought management of tree crops.

        If there’s a need or an incentive, growers will reduce water use. Ground water is nowhere near to actually being regulated yet, and the process of developing regulations is involving interest groups that have a lot of clout. So don’t look to farms or orchards having to seriously curtail water use in regions that aren’t being severely over pumped now or any time soon.

        1. Jim Frame

          I may have missed part of the discussion (reading on my phone at a DHS baseball game), but nut crops aren’t a long-term sure-fire gold mine.  Demand fluctuates, and the price of nuts can and does go below the cost of production at times.

          1. Don Shor

            That is a concern about walnuts, from what I’ve been reading, especially with the huge amount of acreage that’s gone in over the last few years. Almonds are unique: there’s almost nowhere else in the world that they can be grown.
            But it’s not that big a deal to rip out an orchard of one type and plant another tree crop. Pears, plums, apricots have all come and gone in total acreage here over the last couple of decades. The high-density walnut spacing may prove unsustainable in the long run, but they can make a lot of money faster than with the traditional spacing anyway. People tend to think orchards are a lot more permanent than they really are.

  12. Tia Will

    Mark West

    I cannot believe that ten years out, you are still fighting against the Target store with your same tired arguments.”

    And I cannot believe that you cannot consider anything I say without using it to attack at random. I was using the Target issue as an illustration of the benefit of community choice. I certainly can no longer be “arguing against it” since it is in existence. My point was solely to point out that this was a close call and the majority won. It would seem that I cannot even support the right to vote on important land use issues, even when it does not go my way, without incurring negative commentary from you. So much for objectivity and rational thought !

  13. Tia Will

    Matt

     Filling any space that is created with innovative intellectual and business activity is what creates value.”

    Unless of course you happen to believe that space has value in and of itself.  True, it cannot be converted into money, but is is of value to some of us all the same.

    1. Ron

      “Unless of course you happen to believe that space has value in and of itself.  True, it cannot be converted into money, but is is of value to some of us all the same.”

      The proposed location of MRIC is also creating value (and money) as farmland, right now (without causing a lot of negative impacts).  Not a comparison to what a commercial development might/might not bring financially, but still something of value.  (I realize that it’s under county jurisdiction, but hey – Davis is in the county.)

    2. Matt Williams

      Fair enough Tia.  I was responding within the specific context of Anon’s specific comment.  Within the context of your value system … and the value system of the Open Space and Habitat Commission members, the open space has significant value in and of itself.

      1. hpierce

        and the value system of the Open Space and Habitat Commission members, the open space has significant value in and of itself

        True enough, but they expect everyone else to ‘finance it’, whether others share those values, or not…

        1. Don Shor

          That’s a really weird thing to say. Here’s the official description of their function and purpose:

          Advise the City Council on all matters relating to open space issues, programs and projects including those dealing with habitat. Areas that may be included are issues related to natural areas, wildlife and wildlife habitat, agricultural land conservation, land acquisition, regional parks, trail systems, environmental education and interpretation, project site design, and project operations and maintenance.
          Monitor the implementation of the City’s open space objectives and identifies solutions to implementation problems.
          Serve as the focal point for the community and City government for open space projects and issues.
          Work cooperatively with the Planning Commission, the Recreation and Parks Commission, and other City and community groups on issues of mutual interest.

        2. hpierce

          Weird?  What group was primarily responsible for putting measure O on the ballot, and promoting it?  Or did the measure spring from the head of Zeus?

          1. Don Shor

            but they expect everyone else to ‘finance it’, whether others share those values, or not…

            That’s kind of the way taxes work. Just ask any local pacifists how they feel about funding the military. But Measure O was passed by the voters (16 years ago). So presumably a majority share or shared those values.

    3. Frankly

      You do realize Tia… that to satiate your liberal impulses to save the people of the world from struggle, some people have to make the money that pays for it.  And for people to make that money they require land to start and grow a business.  You do know this, right?

      And you also must realize that farming is a highly subsidized business that generates very small net GDP per acre of land… and benefits only a small number of people per acre?

      Or maybe you really do believe that money grows on trees that we can plant on our farmland moat…

      1. Tia Will

        hpierce

        True enough, but they expect everyone else to ‘finance it’, whether others share those values, or not…”

        We live in a community. We all “pay” one way or another for the preferences of others. When we densify, those who do not like densification pay with more congestion in the downtown area. Those who do not like sprawl “pay” as peripheral land is developed. Those who don’t like taxes pay with their money. This is the nature of living in a city. I do not dispute your comment, I just think that your comment is far too narrow and presupposes that “finances” are the only thing of value.

      2. Tia Will

        Frankly

        that to satiate your liberal impulses to save the people of the world from struggle”

        I would be happy to have a conversation with you if you were not totally invested in basing your comments on things that I have never said.

  14. Tia Will

    I just noticed something that perhaps everyone else has already been aware of. This is the use of a particular word as a pejorative. The word is “activist” used to disparage anyone who is willing to express an opinion contrary to those of the rapid growth advocates. This is interesting to me since it is quite obvious to me that there are “activists” on both sides of the growth issue. One could reasonably refer to developers and their supporters as “activists” as they are making proposals and attempting to gain city leadership support for their projects and to change and forward their vision for the future of the city. Why then is it seen as a negative for those who have a different vision to be proactive in expressing their views ?

    1. hpierce

      The word “applicant” differs greatly from the word “activist” (no matter what stripe).  To me “activists” are beyond “advocates”… the way I see it, they go WAY beyond “expressing their views”, and will “spin” facts and opposition “views”, to win “the game” (again, any stripe).  The “activist” mentality, as I see it, is to disparage the views and positions of others, publicly, to further/protect THEIR views.

      I have no problem with folk expressing their views.

      1. South of Davis

        Tia wrote:

        > The word is “activist” used to disparage anyone who is willing to

        > express an opinion contrary to those of the rapid growth advocates.

        Can anyone name someone who “self identifies” (not just have others call them that) as an “activist” (for anything) who “most” people would not say is “a little crazy”?

        http://cache1.asset-cache.net/gc/464723374-anti-fur-activists-hold-banners-and-shout-gettyimages.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=GkZZ8bf5zL1ZiijUmxa7QQKw1mUDl9XcpdDWstmn04MSjEbd42w2XgtV9LIyCx8uoBcv7CcQ9qaGccNk2yjasw%3D%3D

      2. Tia Will

        hpierce

        I mostly agree but with one caveat. “Applicants” can also be “activists” and are certainly not immune from the use of misstatements and exaggerations to forward their goals. And not all “activists” are willing to disparage the views of and positions of others, publicly to further /protect their views.  For example, I believe that both Gandhi and MLK were activists but the situations that they were opposing were so drastic as to need no exaggeration.

        1. South of Davis

          Tia wrote:

          > I believe that both Gandhi and MLK were activists 

          You can call Gandhi and MLK (or Abe Lincoln) “activists” but I can’t find any evidence that they personally used that term to ever describe themselves.

  15. hpierce

    Frankly… don’t think MRIC is “dead”… feels more like a “time out”… either way, since it appears that Nishi will have direct access to W Olive, AND to make clear to the folk that oppose any new development, what the ramifications might be, I’m leaning towards the defeat of Measure A… the M.A.D. kind of thing.

  16. Frankly

    Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, or direct socialpoliticaleconomic, or environmental change, or stasis with the desire to make improvements in society and to correct social injustice. Forms of activism range from writing letters to newspapers or to politicians, political campaigning, economic activism such as boycotts or preferentially patronizing businesses, ralliesstreet marchesstrikessit-ins, and hunger strikes. One can also express activism through different forms of art. Daily acts of protest such as not buying clothes from a certain clothing company because they exploit workers is another form of activism. One view holds that acknowledging privileges and oppressions on a daily basis ranks as a form of activism.[1] Research has begun to explore how activist groups in the United States[2] and in Canada[3] use social media to facilitate civic engagement and collective action.

    I like this description from Wikipedia.

    I view “activists” as chronic or even professional bottom-up agitators… mostly unwilling to take their compaints through the standard political process and more apt to try to get attention for thier cause by acting out.

    It used to be a part-time thing… people would come out to agitate for something important and then go back to their regular life.  Modern activists never stop.  Their causes are their life and the other stuff is secondary.

    I’m not a big fan of perpetual activists.  They are largely products of the generation that continues to be the biggest embarrassment to the one that came before them.

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