Economic Development Series: Developing Comprehensive Visions for Davis

Innovation-Park-exampleby 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.

References:

Economic Development Series: Future of Economic Development in Davis, Robb Davis, May 1, 2016, http://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, http://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

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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35 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    Hi Bob

    I appreciate your sharing your views. I am in complete agreement with your approach of developing a comprehensive planning strategy rather than one focusing on only one aspect of our community.

    1. Bob Fung

      Tia,

      Thanks.  I hope that a comprehensive visioning approach would provide a forum to understand the connections and tradeoffs between different aspects of our community.

      Bob

  2. The Pugilist

    I think the time for talk (vision) is over.  The reality is that there are people who support change and those who will do anything they can – lawsuit, intimidation, lies, etc., to stop change.  We continue to let the loudest voices win out.

    1. Doby Fleeman

      Interesting, but in some ways you are re-enforcing the very point to which Tia addresses her concerns.  It seems you would seek to let the matter be resolved by those who speak the loudest.  Hard to imagine that would be a winning strategy if that is to be the metric for success.  One hopes there still exists some appetite for reasonable dialogue and debate.

  3. davisite4

    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.).

    Hear, hear.  Thanks so much for this.  I think a key step to developing such visions – one that has not been taken in the recent past – is to include a diversity of views and values from the outset.  It’s no surprise that we see blanket rejection of proposals like large peripheral business parks from some groups in Davis.  Those groups were not made part of the planning process and their concerns were not taken into account.  Furthermore, there is a lack of trust between different constituents and we need someone who can work to build that trust.

    1. Matt Williams

      I concur davisite4 and Bob.  We need to change the planning process so that it promotes proactive thinking rather than reactive thinking.  Sustainable Planning means we balance four key components, Social Sustainability, Economic/Financial Sustainability, Environmental Sustainability and Cultural Sustainability.   The way we plan needs to engage those four components with reliable, transparent, rrepeatable processes that engage the public, set clear expectations and then deliver on those expectations.

  4. Tia Will

    Pugilist

    I think the time for talk (vision) is over.  The reality is that there are people who support change and those who will do anything they can – lawsuit, intimidation, lies, etc., to stop change.  We continue to let the loudest voices win out.”

    I could not disagree more that the time for talk is over. In addition to the two groups you have focused on, there are many of us who do not adhere to one side or the other, but consider each project based on its own merits.  I do not see one bit of difference between those who would leverage the composition of the City Council to get their favored projects accepted and those who would leverage the legal system to block those projects they oppose. There are alternatives to these practices in which a comprehensive conversation can lead to not perfection, but rather a project that includes the perspectives of those with varying points of view.

    First is Nishi. Whether you favor or oppose the project based on your perception of the balance of pros and cons,  one cannot deny that the developers have truly engaged the community in discussion over years to attempt to design a project for this difficult space that would meet as many needs as possible while disrupting as few as possible.

    The second is the HighBridge properties proposal for student apartments on Olive Drive. To his credit, the lead for the project, Bill Ritter has been reaching out to those who will be most impacted early and making efforts to minimize the impact on those who would be affected.  This has involved actively attempting to identify alternatives for those who would be displaced and seeking input from the surrounding neighborhoods ( including mine which is directly across the east/west tracks) to identify means to mitigate anticipated adverse consequences on these neighborhoods. Whether or not I ultimately support this project, whether or not the project succeeds, what I will always remember and respect is this approach which clearly values the interests of all affected groups.

    1. The Pugilist

      We’ve been talking and planning for ten years.  I would like to see a process with action-oriented goals rather than merely a visioning process.

    2. Matt Williams

      Tia Will said . . . “This has involved actively attempting to identify alternatives for those who would be displaced and seeking input from the surrounding neighborhoods (including mine which is directly across the east/west tracks) to identify means to mitigate anticipated adverse consequences on these neighborhoods”

      Tia, what does your neighborhood see as the anticipated adverse consequences of the proposed HighBridge student housing development on your neighborhood in Old East Davis?

  5. nameless

    The problem I see with a all encompassing visioning process is that I suspect the majority of citizens or more moderate citizens will not come out to be part of the discussion.   Instead the very vocal group that opposes growth no matter what will show up in force, and literally keep many good citizens from joining in the discussion because the average citizen does not want to deal with confrontation.  So I am not convinced a visioning process would be very successful.  One way that might work is to have a visioning process by neighborhood, so that there is less likelihood of a concentration of one ideological group.  However, that said, there is no question in my mind the very vocal opposition to growth will still pull out all the stops any time a development project is brought forward, from lawsuits to disruption of public meetings to the spread of disinformation.

    1. davisite4

      I guess you don’t see the bias in what you’ve written.  Try this:

      “Instead the very vocal group that supports growth no matter what will show up in force, and literally keep many good citizens from joining in the discussion because the average citizen does not want to deal with confrontation.”
      I think that is just as true as what you’ve written.

      The point is to get away from “opposes” and “supports” and to try to find ways to work through our differences and find common ground where we can.  I agree that that means including moderates in the conversation – perhaps by persuading them of the need for the conversation in the first place (again, something that has not been well done).  What does not help is to demonize one side, as you have done here.

      1. Tia Will

        davisite4

        The point is to get away from “opposes” and “supports” and to try to find ways to work through our differences and find common ground where we can.”

        Thank you for expressing this in a less contentious way than I managed with my 11:30 post.

      2. Matt Williams

        davisite4 said . . . “The point is to get away from “opposes” and “supports” and to try to find ways to work through our differences and find common ground where we can.  I agree that that means including moderates in the conversation.”

        I strongly agree davisite4.  With that said, many moderates will choose not to participate because of the long history of strife between the respective forces of the “opposes and supports” camps.

        I say that from experience, since I consider myself a moderate (a blend of socially liberal and fiscally conservative).

    2. The Pugilist

      Nameless: What do you think of either a WAC or HESC style approach to planning an innovation park – a large group of community members, hopefully with broad make up – who can be tasked with creating something that enough can agree to in order to get it passed?

      1. Doby Fleeman

        My reading of Bob’s article is the suggestion that we take a “more comprehensive” look at our community needs rather than exclusively focus the conversation on “economic development”.  By my reading, and the examples you cite, your suggested approach would appear to be even more subject matter specific than the broad topic of economic development.

        Here is the actual wording from Staff Report to City Council issued October 9, 2012:

        Community Visioning

        In June the City Council contracted with William McDonough + Partners to develop a road map for preparing a community vision for a sustainable economy that leverages the synergy between our world-class university and dynamic business community, and reflects our community’s environmental values. The initial road map is to inform a more significant Visioning Process, which will 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. This road map will lay out the process for our community to align its economic aspirations with its commitment to environmental stewardship, and determine what our long-term, sustainable economic system should look like.

        Somewhere along the line there seems to be a lot of substitution of intent with respect to the purpose behind the original McDonough initiative.  The original roadmap would have involved extensive inventorying of community needs and wants with an eye to enhancing and improving those elements the community values most, and, conversely, developing a list of undesirable or less desirable elements which the community might wish to minimize or eliminate.  Not too complicated.

        If we, as a community, have already done enough of this……then so be it.  If not, perhaps it is a conversation worth revisiting.

        1. Doby Fleeman

          Don,

          Portland looks like a great example.  Here’s a link to another titled Our Palo Alto 2030
          http://www.paloaltocompplan.org/about-2/what-is-the-comp-plan/

          Here are some of their steps:

          – The Lead-In phase will involve collecting detailed background data to inform the community and updating the project website to post the findings.
          – The Visioning phase will introduce the community to Our Palo Alto 2030, engages residents in conversations about critical challenges, determines the scope of environmental review, and develops three alternative futures for detailed study.
          – The Draft Plan and Draft EIR will present draft policies, programs, alternative futures, and mitigation strategies. Extensive public input will help shape these for consideration by the City Council.
          – The Final Plan and EIR will incorporate substantive public comments for consideration and finalization by the PTC and City Council in late 2015.

  6. Tia Will

    nameless

    However, that said, there is no question in my mind the very vocal opposition to growth will still pull out all the stops any time a development project is brought forward, from lawsuits to disruption of public meetings to the spread of disinformation”

    And do you believe that the “pro growth” side is not capable of the use of the same types of bullying tactics ? With regard to a number of issues presented at multiple City Council meetings, I have seen both sides of issues use these tactics against their opponents. Think fluoridation, MRAP, downtown night clubs, soda tax. All have had instances of belittling, name calling, making false accusations, disinformation and attempting to intimidate those having different views. No one has a lock on this behavior.

        1. The Pugilist

          I don’t see a flag there. I see the developer in a difficult circumstance trying to find a way to make the project pencil out. I’ve heard in the last few weeks that the reason they pulled out as they lost a major investor.   They asked for housing, didn’t get it a,d so here we are.

  7. Tia Will

    Pugilist

    Everyone is capable of using low tactic, right now I think the flag on the field is against the no-growthers.”

    And I see flags on both sides. Pro growth on the Cannery and no growth on Nishi. May both sides play clean on upcoming proposals.

    1. The Pugilist

      Good point, Cannery was out of mind when I made the comment.  I was thinking economic development rather than development in general.

  8. Bob Fung

    With respect to Don’s comment about Portland’s visioning process and Doby’s pointer to Palo Alto’s comprehensive plan, I think researching how other cities are doing comprehensive planning should be one of the first steps that is taken.  As part of writing this article, on the City finance long-term planning angle,  I ran across the Government Financial Officers Association (www.gfoa.org) which has a service to help cities develop long-term financial plans as well as ongoing research; the California League of Cities  (www.cacities.org); and http://www.californiacityfinance.com/ which is run by Mike Coleman a long-time Davis resident.

  9. Frankly

    Those working on economic development in other liberal communities have stopped using the term economic development and started using economic vitality.  Eventually that will go away too as it gets black-listed in the “Safe Places” policy manual.

    So, Sir Earnest Shackleton is a Davis Mayor that takes the members of the community on an exploratory voyage to the Antarctic.  The ship becomes icebound all the passengers will need to make their way back over the ice to safety and then rescue.  Sir Shackleton develops a plan to save the party heading northeast, but Tia Will and others voice opposition to the plan because they felt that their interests and ideas had not been heard.  In the end there are two vocal groups: one agrees with Shackleton and the other says they should go southeast.  Because the “everybody should be made to feel good” culture was prevalent with the group, they spend two extra night on the ship debating the pros and cons… making sure everyone feels at least that they have had a voice.   In the end they have to compromise because even after all the talking, nobody changed position.  So they compromise and head east.

    First they run out of food and water.

    Then then all die.

  10. Tia Will

    Frankly

    Interesting use of a nautical example. Being fond as I am of not leaping to conclusions, nor accepting reassurances without examining all of the evidence , I have another example for you.

    Captain Edward John Smith fully believing the the ship he is to take out on her maiden voyage is unsinkable, as he and all the passengers has been told, is about to leave port. Tia Will, was considering making the voyage, but after review as much information as she could find, is unconvinced of the safety of the ship and chooses not to board after all. Frankly in his usual “full steam ahead” approach dismisses her concerns and boards the ship. I think we all know what happened to the Titanic.

  11. nameless

    davisite4: “I guess you don’t see the bias in what you’ve written.  Try this:

    “Instead the very vocal group that supports growth no matter what will show up in force, and literally keep many good citizens from joining in the discussion because the average citizen does not want to deal with confrontation.”
    I think that is just as true as what you’ve written.

    The point is to get away from “opposes” and “supports” and to try to find ways to work through our differences and find common ground where we can.  I agree that that means including moderates in the conversation – perhaps by persuading them of the need for the conversation in the first place (again, something that has not been well done).  What does not help is to demonize one side, as you have done here.

    Sorry, but I cannot agree with your assessment based on the community forums, City Council and commission meetings I have attended, and I have attended many.  I have not seen any concerted effort on the part of pro-growthers to disrupt meetings, spread disinformation, file lawsuits, etc.  The only ones stooping to those tactics appear to be no-growthers at this time.

    1. Matt Williams

      nameless, do you believe the grade-separated crossing soap opera at The Cannery gets a pass on your model?  Do you believe the housing at MRIC soap opera gets a pass on your model?  Those are two that pop to mind.

  12. nameless

    The Pugilist: “Nameless: What do you think of either a WAC or HESC style approach to planning an innovation park – a large group of community members, hopefully with broad make up – who can be tasked with creating something that enough can agree to in order to get it passed?

    Wouldn’t recommend it as a solution.  Economic development is a different animal, where a developer’s project has to pencil out no matter what citizens demand.  The WAC and HESC were more city oriented committees.

    1. Matt Williams

      nameless, are you saying that economic development is not city oriented?  If that is what you are saying, I couldn’t disagree more.  The city/community is bringing considerable “value” to the table that the developer’s project is going to rely on in order to create even more value.  The city/community has created a franchise, and the developer is looking to buy into and capitalize on that franchise.

      I have always thought that one of our city/community’s greatest failings is that it has not taken the time to (1) clearly articulate the communitarian value of that franchise, and (2) clearly understand the resources that it takes to properly maintain that valuable community franchise.

      The Cannery negotiations were a perfect example.  Various factions within the city/community were competing with one another to be at the head of the line when the collective and individual terms of what would be paid for the franchise were being discussed.  Further, because of the conflicts within the Council Subcommittee negotiating the formal Development Agreement, the likelihood that the city/community would be paying more money down the road was never disclosed.  In the end after the CFD was brought out into the light of day and approved, the cost to the community of those non-disclosed likelihoods became $1 million per year for 30 years . . . $30 million in total sucked out of the local economy.  That would not have happened if we, as a city/community had clearly articulated the value of our franchise.

    2. Tia Will

      nameless

      Economic development is a different animal, where a developer’s project has to pencil out no matter what citizens demand.”

      I just want to be clear. Do you think it is good policy for the city to be making decisions that strongly impact the well being of many members of the community without having the slightest idea of what “penciling out” actually means to the proponents of a development ?  Are we, as citizens and city leaders just to take the word of a developer that they have our best interests at heart and are doing all they can to meet community needs, or is there a possibility that the city might effectively be being taken for far more than the developer actually needs to make a profit ?

      I believe that in a situation where the developer is building on their own property and their proposal does not require any permission from the city or its citizens in the form of a vote based on considerations of all of the potential pros and cons, they have the right to build whatever they like within the existing guidelines. When they are asking for concessions ( or essentially favors) from the city or its citizens, and they are privy to the information of what the city will lose and or gain, that the city should also be privy to the truth about what the developer stands to lose or gain. This would make for an equitable negotiation. What we have now is a deck stacked permanently in favor of the developer since the citizens are working in the economic dark.

       

       

  13. nameless

    Tia Will: “And do you believe that the “pro growth” side is not capable of the use of the same types of bullying tactics ? With regard to a number of issues presented at multiple City Council meetings, I have seen both sides of issues use these tactics against their opponents. Think fluoridation, MRAP, downtown night clubs, soda tax. All have had instances of belittling, name calling, making false accusations, disinformation and attempting to intimidate those having different views. No one has a lock on this behavior.

    I was referring to economic development, period.  MRAP, fluoridation, soda tax have nothing to do with economic development.

  14. Tia Will

    nameless

    I was referring to economic development, period.  MRAP, fluoridation, soda tax have nothing to do with economic development.”

    I understand the limitations of your particular reference. However, I disagree with your choice to arbitrarily limit the conversation to one aspect of the development of our city. I also disagree that the MRAP, fluoridation, and soda tax have nothing to do with the economics of our city. The MRAP whether you were for or against it, had implications for how much we were spending on specific public safety measures. Fluoridation would have had a very minor impact on the cost of public water supply but might have had significant impact on public health ( regardless again of which side you were on) and the soda tax again has implications for how much is available to spend on children’s public health initiatives.

    Sure, I agree that none of these are going to address the multimillion dollar deficit that we are looking at over time, but each has implications for other major civic interests, namely our health and safety, which frequently get brushed aside by those who only want to measure the well being of our city only in terms of dollars.

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