by Bob Fung
“For nearly two years we, as a community, have failed to advance a coherent vision for economic development in Davis.” Robb Davis
For the purposes of this “community dialogue,” I’d like to suggest a less specific version of Robb’s assertion above:
We, as a community, have failed to advance comprehensive, coherent, inclusive visions for development in Davis.
First, I removed the word “economic” and added the word “comprehensive” because an economic vision for Davis should not be developed in isolation from other important areas: land use, quality of life, transportation, housing, City of Davis finances, relationship with UC Davis, sustainability, energy, water, etc.). By “comprehensive” I also mean that vision is proactive rather than reactive, and as such a significant time horizon (e.g., 20 years) should be addressed … and that the vision should be updated on a regular basis as time passes.
Second, I added the word “inclusive” and pluralized “vision” because different segments of the community have significantly different values and viewpoints for how Davis should move into the future. These different segments should be given the tools to see how their values and viewpoints “play out” in the important areas over time. For example, a vision which includes significant economic development (e.g., innovation parks) should also include how the development will impact the City’s sustainability metrics etc. Once a multiplicity of comprehensive visions are developed, discussions can be held to help visions evolve and new visions emerge. For each decision that needs to be made, decision makers (City council, Davis voters) would have access to these visions to inform their decision.
In recent years, Davis has devoted considerable effort to develop such visions. Of course there is the General Plan. The current City of Davis General Plan was adopted in 2001 and amended in 2007. The General Plan before that was adopted in 1987. The “General Plan articulates a community’s vision of its long-term physical form and development. …. General plans are prepared under a mandate from the State of California, which requires that each city and county prepare and adopt a comprehensive, long-term general plan for its jurisdiction and any adjacent related lands.”
It takes a lot of resources and effort to develop and publish a general plan which is why it is only done infrequently. But in 2001 when the last general plan was published, we knew a lot less about climate change than we do now. The 2007 General Plan Update was published one year before the Great Recession. The General Plan has important functions in setting long-term goals and policies but accommodating economic and technological changes in a long-term vision should probably be done with more agile processes.
In 2011/2012, a study was commissioned by the City of Davis with the firm William McDonough + Partners to create a vision for Davis. The study report is titled “Davis California Visioning Study Step One – An initial Draft Roadmap”. That report makes the following observation about Davis:
“This unique project is a combined effort lead jointly by the City of Davis, the University of California at Davis and the business community to create a shared vision for sustainable economic development in Davis. … The initial roadmap is a small step that we hope will inform a more significant Visioning Process, which will in turn facilitate a dialogue between community stakeholders in Davis, articulate the shared values in the community, and define the guiding principles to frame action plans to achieve long-term economic vitality for Davis.”
The next step “a more significant Visioning Process” did not happen. It is my understanding that the next step required more resources than the City was willing to spend in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
While I think developing these visions is possible with modest resources because of recent technological and methodological advances, there is the significant issue of how vision development would be managed. How would the effort be organized and where would the resources come from? I have no good answer. Dan Carson has suggested as one step to extend the 2×2 committee between the City and UC Davis to include public sessions (see his article referenced below). Other possibilities include: reviving the relationship with McDonough + Partners and making the visioning process part of a general plan update. The Finance and Budget Commission is starting an effort to develop to extend the City’s current financial forecasts into a 20 year forecast. Once this was done this forecast could be used as a base forecast as issues in other areas (e.g., land use, sustainability, energy etc.) came up for discussion.
Economic Development Series: Future of Economic Development in Davis, Robb Davis, May 1, 2016, https://www.davisvanguard.org/2016/05/davis-economic-development-series-future-economic-development-davis/
City of Davis General Plan: http://cityofdavis.org/city-hall/community-development-and-sustainability/planning-and-zoning/general-plan
Davis California Visioning Study Step One – An initial Draft Roadmap, William McDonough + Partners, September 2012
Build an Improved Two-Way Communication Venue Between the City and UC Davis, Davis Vanguard, Dan Carson, August 14, 2014, https://www.davisvanguard.org/2014/08/build-an-improved-two-way-communication-venue-between-the-city-and-uc-davis/
“Yolo County uses best practices to guide long-term planning”, Howard Newens, Government Finance Review, October 2013,http://www.gfoa.org/yolo-county-uses-best-practices-guide-long-term-planningn what ways will you act on these views?
Editor’s note: following the decision by Mace Ranch Innovation Center to put its pending project on hold, the Vanguard decided to re-start a community discussion on the future of economic development in Davis. As such, we are reaching out to a very diverse group of people and starting May 1 we are hoping to publish one op-ed a day on this subject. We are pleased to announce that so far we have over 40 commitments and counting. Beginning today, we will publish one article per day for the month of May into June. If you would like to add your voice – please submit your piece on the future of economic development in Davis (800 to 1000 words).
May 1: Robb Davis
May 2: Elaine Roberts Musser
May 3: Dan Carson
May 4: Matt Williams
May 6: Peter Bell