Commentary: Measure R Has Not Produced a Good Community Planning Process

Developer Dan Ramos discusses the previous project during January Vanguard Event
Developer Dan Ramos discusses the previous project during January Vanguard event

As I write this, the Vanguard has learned that Mace Ranch Innovation Center has withdrawn its proposal.  The Vanguard will have more on this development as information becomes available.

Here I want to draw on some thoughts about how Nishi worked and now about the MRIC process.  There are those who have argued that Measure R has worked as it was supposed to here.  I disagree.  If you believe that Measure R is simply in place to stop projects, particularly bad ones, then you might have a point that it has worked as intended.  But from a community planning process I think it is a failure.

First of all, unlike some, I come at this from the perspective of someone who believes in small “d” democracy and who supports in concept the idea of community-based planning and Measure R in specific.

My first problem here is that, despite the fact that Measure R is supposed to make for a community-based process, it actually brings the community in too late in the process.  This leads to the odd dynamic where the community opponents ask why this was rushed to the ballot and the developers say, what the heck are you talking about, we’ve been working on this for eight years.

The reality is that both sides are actually correct here.  Nishi is a good example – I remember attending planning sessions along the way where the developers sought input from the community and only a small number of engaged citizens attended.  By the time the public really gets involved in the process it is fairly late, and suddenly the  developer, city and council are under the gun to get a project on the ballot.

That brings us to the second problem – the need to get a measure on the ballot creates an artificially compressed timeline.  The reality is that the election cycle is not friendly to these type of projects because there are hard deadlines that must be hit, and there is no flexibility to get the project to go through another round or two of changes.

Pushing a project that is 70, 80 or 90 percent done to the next election might be problematic from the standpoint of the developers and their investors.

A non-Measure R project would have allowed for more refining than Nishi got.  But we can look at the Cannery, as well, to see the upside to the Measure R process.  Cannery had no such need to get voter approval – that left the developers in the position where they could hold out for their preferred path, they only needed and received three votes, and the process allowed them multiple bites at the apple to try to change their project.

So we are left at a conundrum here – the answer to what is the rush is a combination of factors from the inattentiveness of citizens early in the process, the need to adhere to electoral timetables but the need for the community to have a strong say in the process.

Nishi’s apparent narrow defeat (depending on the results of counting the additional ballots), illustrates the strengths and the weaknesses of the Measure R project.  There was a lot of late community input, the developers were responsive to many of the criticisms, they refined their project but ultimately ran into a hard deadline and hoped for the best.

As councilmembers noted on Tuesday, the process for Nishi was actually fairly strong but, in the end, there were some mistakes that got magnified during the Measure R process and it narrowly lost.

From the developers’ perspective, Nishi represents a problem – a fairly strong project, but in the end it was a crap shoot at the polls and it lost.

Leery of these lessons, the council set up to at least consider MRIC on its merits.  I think we can point to a number of problems along the way for MRIC.  Some have attributed nefarious intent to the developers, but here I think the maxim applies: do not assign to malice what can be explained by error.

As I understand it, the RFEI (Request for Expressions of Interest) process pushed for a commercial-only project but, as the EIR process came down, the city insisted that an alternative scenario examine a mixed-use proposal.  This was a mistake because it pushed the developer and its investors to believe that the best alternative was mixed-use.

The council, reading the tea leaves in February, tried to put an end this push by insisting on going forward with the commercial-only project.  At this point, the investors, wary already about their prospects of electoral victory, balked and caused the project to pause.

Why did it come back?  We didn’t get a complete answer to that on Tuesday.  I continue to suspect this was driven by Schilling Robotics’ needs.

The problem faced by the council was clear – they could kill the project and I believe they ultimately would have had to.  However, they felt obligated to at least give the developer a week, or until July 12, to see about making it work.

Robb Davis clearly believed that this process would tear apart the community – I can’t really argue with that.  I believe him when he said that he wanted to see a project that could win, and he was skeptical about this process.

As noted on Tuesday in my column – I did not want the first answer from the city to be no.  However, I expected we would have gotten to no and, probably, the developers figured this out and killed it themselves.

There are some who want to blame this process on the council for even pushing it to this point – they were in a tough spot.  I firmly believe we need an innovation park, and I think most on the council agree.  However this wasn’t ever the way to get there.

My concern going forward is that the process is problematic from everyone’s standpoint.  The community is really involved late in the process.  It is still a developer-driven process with a vote at the end.  From the developers’ standpoint, they are laying time and a huge investment of money on the line for a process that could well be outside of their control.

If we re-visit Measure R, it should be to put the process up front in the community and figure out a way to reduce the risk to investors and developers, so that we can sit down and produce the type of project and process that we need.

In the end, the community still has the right to say no, but we need to make it possible for them to have something to say yes to.

—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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97 Comments

  1. Jim Frame

    Pushing a project that is 70, 80 or 90 percent done to the next election might be problematic from the standpoint of the developers and their investors.

    The city does not exist for the benefit of developers and investors, it exists for its citizens.  The former must accommodate the schedule of the latter, not the other way around.

     

     

    1. David Greenwald

      I disagree Jim. I think the city does derive benefit from having housing and commerce and therefore it has to be a collaborative process rather than a one-way process. A good development should benefit both city and developer/ investor.

      1. Matt Williams

        David, I agree with your premise, and that is why the failure of the Mace Ranch development team to even show up at the April 11th FBC meeting was so strange.  That action came across as affirmation that the Mace Ranch team did not see the process as collaborative.

      2. Tia Will

        David

        I see this more merit in Jim’s position here. It is the needs of the community that drive the need for development. This can be seen repeatedly in the arguments for basically any revenue generating project. What is always said is, “we need the revenue to provide for the amenities that we ( the citizens ) want.” If we had the ability to pay for everything we wanted, there would be no need for developers.

        Now I completely agree that the developers need to make enough money to make a project worthwhile for themselves and their investors. But this is always dependent upon the needs and desires of the community. Where we seem to be getting into trouble is having adopted a system that is developer driven. Thus I agree with the other aspect of your article that a major problem is engagement of the community too late in the process.

        There is one simple way that I believe that the Vanguard and the Enterprise might help with this issue. It seems that there is relatively little coverage of these proposals when they are in the very early stages of development. I think that I am more engaged than many in our community and yet the very early stages of Nishi and Sterling managed to elude my attention as did the early stages of Paso Fino. Perhaps if we could proactively address through regular development updates as a feature we might be more of a help with this issue rather than just the extensive coverage given to these projects as they come close to their timeline ?  Just a thought.

        1. David Greenwald

          I pretty much agree with you. One of the reason I presented this was the need for the community to drive the process early on and therefore drive the needs.

          One thing I guess I disagree with you on is I feel we did cover Nishi and MRIC early on in the process but had only variable and light levels of interest on the part of the readers. Nishi and Sterling I think presented a more immediate “threat” because they lacked a Measure R vote at the end. I’m all ears as to how to fix this issue from our standpoint.

  2. Jim Frame

    There was a lot of late community input, the developer was responsive to many of the criticisms, they refined their project but ultimately ran into a hard deadline and hoped for the best.

    They didn’t run into a hard deadline, they chose it.  The Nishi vote could easily have been pushed back to November or later.

     

    1. Matt Williams

      I completely agree with Jim.  The June ballot timeframe was “chosen” by the Nishi Gateway team.  I know that from first-hand discussions with them in which I strongly advised them to choose a later election date.

      They explained to me their logic in choosing June, rather than a later date, and given those parameters/assumptions I understood their logic, but I personally would not have used those assumptions.

      One of the key assumptions was that Mace was hell bent on using the November election date for their project, and given the recent events . . .

      1. David Greenwald

        Matt, I get what you and Jim are saying, but what I’m arguing is somewhat different. Measure R is confining the timeline it is either in the case of Nishi a June or November time line. I agree that they could have gone to November, but given that they decided for June, they were constrained as they would have been for November. I think there may be another way to approach this that allows for a better process that is not so confined by the electoral calendar and those strategic considerations.

        1. Matt Williams

          I couldn’t disagree more David.  There is no reason that I can think of that mandates the exclusive use of a June/November ballot date.  A well-planned, well-vetted proposal should sail through a Measure R election regardless of the date of the election.

          Bottom-line, the constraints are self imposed by the developer.

        2. Misanthrop

          You mean like the Wildhorse Ranch special election that failed? Or before that the Wildhorse referendum that failed? Or did you mean like when Arnold was going to fix California with a bunch of initiatives he sponsored in that 2005 special election where they all failed? Theoretically you could pay for a special election anytime but realistically, with the large opposed to everything contingent of Davis voters, calling a special election to get voter approval is like Lucy asking Charlie Brown to kick the football, anybody watching can see that its not going to turn out well for poor ol’ Charlie Brown.

        3. Matt Williams

          Misanthrop, the key is to do the necessary proactive homework to make the project compelling for the voters.  The problem that all those past elections have in common is that they tried to finesse the necessary homework, and what they created was compelling for the voters, but in a negative way.

          Preparation, preparation, preparation.

          What the voters said in each of those elections was “Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on our part.”

        4. Misanthrop

          So with MRIC off the table the coast is clear for Nishi to “fix” itself and come back in November. Of course they would run into the same time constraints as MRIC did so Nishi is more likely off the table. They could, I suppose, not change anything and simply ask for a do over. Of course what is that Einstein quote about doing the same thing over again and expecting a different outcome? Perhaps you are suggesting they are looking at June or November of 18 if they want to take the time and risk the money to formulate a new proposal because  as argue above yes votes in special elections are a heavy lift and rare outcomes. Then you have all that wait time between the vote and building the infrastructure before you can build anything that generates revenue. So now we are looking at possibly 2022. Meanwhile UCD will add probably 7000 students by then so Nishi coming back as a solution to Davis’ housing problem is a long term drop in the bucket to a housing crisis that is already upon us.

  3. Jim Frame

    Getting the larger community engaged in a development proposal in the early stages has always been a challenge.  It was that way before Measure J, and it’s still that way under Measure R.  Most people don’t pay attention to pending land use changes until they get a notice that something’s about to be built, and then they cry, “Why wasn’t I notified about this?”  If there’s a practical way to change that, I don’t know what it is.  But none of that renders Measure R illegitimate.

    I continue to support Measure R, and in my opinion so does the majority of the electorate.  To those who wish to repeal it, knock yourselves out, and good luck with that.

    Measure A failed by a very slim margin.  If the developer were to tweak it in ways that address some of the No on A complaints — particularly those which, in my opinion, had no merit but had high emotional appeal — and bring it back, I think it’d pass.  Given the level of investment they have in the project to date, I’d be surprised if they don’t do just that.

      1. Misanthrop

        Measure R isn’t illegitamate, it simply doesn’t work unless you want Davis to fall further and further behind in meeting the community needs of its growing economy.

      2. Matt Williams

        David, the failures in the three Measure R votes are all failures of process by city staff and the project proponents.  In each case they were reactive rather than proactive.  In sports terms they were playing not to lose rather than playing to win.

      3. Jim Frame

        To be clear, I’m not arguing that Measure R is illegitimate, but rather believe that it hasn’t produced a great planning process.

        Producing a great planning process was never its intent.  J/R was implemented to prevent city councils from approving peripheral developments that aren’t supported by the electorate.  I think most people will agree that it’s a meat axe rather than a scalpel, but Davis citizens got fed up with major land use changes to which they were opposed getting imposed on them anyway.

        J/R is to land use planning as Proposition 13 is to taxation.

        1. Don Shor

          That’s correct. Measure R is not a planning process. Measure R has now been used to block the results of a long planning process that began with the Peripheral Park (later Innovation Park) Task Force, identified three sites for business parks, led to the hiring of a CIO and the issuing of requests for proposals, and the plans that went forward to varying degrees.
          We now have no planning process remaining for economic development. We have no sites with willing owners and development teams ready to work with the city. We have no prospective sites that I’m aware of.
          So the voters have used Measure R to nullify the process. That means a new process needs to be initiated. But we are starting from scratch at this point.
          I think Measure R has worked exactly as it was planned. But it does make any visioning, planning, and implementation processes much harder.
          Any conversations here about what might happen with the Nishi site now, or the Mace site now, are pretty irrelevant unless the property owners are on board, and I see no particular reason they are likely to come on board. Owners of the Nishi site can simply go their own way in developing it, and the city will have no say in the matter. Owners of the Mace site could do us all a favor by just selling the parcel to someone else. I have no idea about the status or likely development prospects of the northwest site.
          The only other site that was identified in the task force proceedings was Fifth Street redevelopment.

          1. David Greenwald

            Except that of course, he wouldn’t have needed to take extraordinary measures if we didn’t have Measure R.

        2. Jim Frame

          unless the property owners are on board, and I see no particular reason they are likely to come on board. Owners of the Nishi site can simply go their own way in developing it, and the city will have no say in the matter.

           

          It’s an interesting idea, but it begs the question:  if developing Nishi with only UCD access is feasible, why did the developer choose to work with the city in the first place?

          1. David Greenwald

            I don’t believe it’s feasible with UC Davis only access. The other problem is that the traffic analysis would show that a good portion of the traffic would still access Nishi through Richards, they’d simply drive through town as they are doing now to access Old Davis Road and the UC Davis campus.

    1. Matt Williams

      Jim Frame said . . . “Measure A failed by a very slim margin.  If the developer were to tweak it in ways that address some of the No on A complaints — particularly those which, in my opinion, had no merit but had high emotional appeal — and bring it back, I think it’d pass.”

      Here too I think Jim is correct.  It is very much like the scenario that we faced with the CBFR water rates.  The tweaks that Donna and I used to morph CBFR into 87-13 were minor, but they addressed the key issues that had clearly been articulated by the voters in the Measure P process.

      1. Misanthrop

        How much more do you think it will cost to “fix” Nishi and bring it back to the voters? One of the problems is do you fix Nishi by making it more dense with more housing or less dense with less housing? I ask this because I heard both arguments from opponents and this brings us to one of the fundamental problems of ballot box planning, How do you reach consensus under circumstances when people are all over the map in their opposition?

        1. Matt Williams

          Just as there was a clear pattern of objections to CBFR, there was a clear pattern of objections to Nishi.  Some of those objections are very easily fixed, for instance:

          — the “fee credit” issue regarding the bridge over the Putah Creek Parkway was created by a poor choice of language in the Development Agreement.  Clean up that language and that problem evaporates

          — the budget for the Richards corridor improvements from the I-80 Interchange (at the south end) to the Olive/Richards intersection (at the north end) was never clear, and the uncertainty worked against the project

          — the project’s three part contributions of $7 million to the Richards corridor improvements and the Putah Creek Parkway bridge was never clearly articulated, nor was that $7 million’s satisfaction of the $4.7 million requirement made clear.

          — UCD needs to make its fiscal contribution clear.  Their standing on the sidelines was the biggest challenge.

          Fixing those issues doesn’t address all the challenges, but fixing them eliminates a huge portion of the uncertainty that dominated the electoral process.

          1. David Greenwald

            Again – good points. But part of the problem is that hindsight is 20/20 and the current process makes it difficult to come back to the board with a second take.

        2. Matt Williams

          None of the points I listed were hindsight.  They were clearly and repeatedly pointed out to the development team and/or staff.  But they were stuck “inside the box” unwilling to proactively respond to the issues as they emerged or came into focus during the Measure A process.  They played No’s game on No’s home turf, rather than redefining the game in order to avoid being a community that is Tied Up In Nots.

        3. nameless

          Matt, do you honestly believe cleaning up the language in the DA would make a scintilla of difference to the opposition?  They will still spread disinformation and resort to the usual dirty tactics to defeat the project.

        4. Fred

          Matt, you left out these 2

          –  proactively work with any small businesses that would loose their buildings to help them relocate rather than put forward a plan that destroys them, and then try to vilianize them in the press when they stand up for them selves

          – include housing that is affordable for students

        5. Matt Williams

          Yes nameless I absolutely believe that.

          The list isn’t all inclusive, but it hits the high points.  The details of the last point need to be fleshed out, and in that fleshing out I believe additional “fixes” will be achieved that will resonate with the voters.

          Fred, your first absolutely.  Your second is much harder to achieve when you are building the housing with current prices for materials, current prices for labor and the very high cost of entitlements.  Most other housing in Davis has relatively low entitlement costs, old costs for labor and old costs for materials, as well as not being “new.”

  4. Misanthrop

    Welcome aboard David, when do you expect the next shoe to drop and Schilling to announce?

    I want to thank Tyler Schilling for his patience and his dedication to Davis. I understand that you tried to get an early vote on MRIC and were told that the process was more important than any individual or company and so you got in line expecting a vote this November almost 2 1/2 years after that request for an early vote. With the closing of the chance of a vote in November I understand that you can no longer keep your company on hold and must move forward with the development of a new facility. I am sad to see Davis fail to be able to find a way forward for your company to expand here and lose the opportunities doing so would have brought to our community.

  5. Tia Will

    Misanthrop

    I also think that Tyler Schilling deserves our appreciation. I have been a vocal proponent of the idea that the city does not owe any single business owner a major change in order to keep their business in town. I still stand by that position. However, that does not mean that I do not appreciate the patience of Schilling in attempting to give the city a chance to meet the needs of this company. And I most certainly appreciate the contribution that Tyler Shilling has made to the community to date.

    1. Misanthrop

      But you still support Measure R, a broken process that is now going to cost us the expansion facility of the largest private employer in town.

      1. Matt Williams

        No, the Ramos development team is going to be responsible for that loss, if that loss actually happens.  They are the ones who interrupted the process rather than modifying their proposal so that it only related to their 101.7 acre southern parcel.  They wasted the two month period between April 11th when they failed to show up at the FBC meeting and June 10th when they resurrected their proposal application.

        The preexisting parcel status (displayed below from the Yolo County GIS site) made dealing with the southern parcel very easy.  No subdivision needed.

        http://www.davisvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/MRIC-parcels-on-Yolo-GIS.png

        1. Roberta Millstein

          For what it’s worth, if I recall correctly they did not show up at the last OSHC when we discussed the project, either.  It’s been noted here that the OSHC was not gung ho on the project, which is true, but it’s also true that suggestions for improvement were made.  One of them was, “Concentrate development near I-80 to maximize the open space area.”

    2. nameless

      To Tia Will: Your appreciation rings hollow, in light of your statement (and others you have made) “I have been a vocal proponent of the idea that the city does not owe any single business owner a major change in order to keep their business in town.

      1. Tia Will

        nameless

        Your appreciation rings hollow,”

        You can interpret it as hollow if you like. I am sincere and I am fairly sure that I know my own heart and mind better than you do.

  6. Misanthrop

    Matt Williams: “What the voters said in each of those elections was ‘Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on our part.’”

    I guess if you have a home there is no emergency but if 15 kids move into the 4 bedroom next door, or are forced to live in a shed or old van, or you need to take on additional debt or go hungry because your rent keeps going up, or you are afraid to demand your landlord keep the place up out of fear you will get evicted and have to commute from Woodland you might see the 0.2% vacancy rate as an emergency.

    1. Matt Williams

      You are missing the point Misanthrop.  The failure to plan is on the part of the staff and the applicant.  They collectively put the voters/citizens into having to decide if there is/was and emergency.  By a close margin, they did not agree that there was one.

  7. David Greenwald

    I did finally hear from Dan Ramos – he said they have not officially made a decision yet.  However, I still believe that they will withdraw and this is just a formality at this point.

    1. Fred

      It makes it pretty ridiculous that you lead the story with “Mace Ranch Innovation Center has withdrawn its proposal.” Seems like you should get your facts straight before you spout off.

  8. nameless

    As I understand it, the RFEI (Request for Expressions of Interest) process pushed for a commercial-only project but, as the EIR process came down, the city insisted that an alternative scenario examine a mixed-use proposal.

    IMO the greatest fault lies with the city and City Council.  They have given mixed messages about innovation parks for some time now.   At first the city/City Council pushed for innovation parks, then fired CIO Rob White at the same time claiming the city had a balanced budget.  These moves undercut the need/desire/support for innovation parks.  Then the City Council gave mixed messages about housing at the innovation parks, insisting mixed use alternatives be included in the EIR while persisting the innovation parks would not have housing.  The City Council itself has not been united about supporting MRIC in particular, and this past Tuesday night was no exception.  (These types of mixed messages sow the seeds of distrust in the electorate.)  Other City Councils would have rolled out the red carpet for an innovation park while Davis puts developers through an excruciatingly painful process.   The only Councilmember who has been consistently supportive of the innovation parks has been Rochelle Swanson.

    My first problem here is that, despite the fact that Measure R is supposed to make for a community-based process, it actually brings the community in too late in the process.

    Measure R is not workable, and I say this as a former proponent of Measure R, but no longer.  Opponents to growth have used measure R to magnify their voice to deafening levels, disseminating disinformation, disrupting public meetings and forums, and other similar dirty tactics.  It would not matter a whit when the developer chose to bring their project to the ballot for a vote.  No growthers would come out in force with all sorts of misinformation that causes the public to doubt anything the developer might say.

    The reason many of us supported Measure R was as a result of watching developers control the process, as in Mace Ranch residential housing and the Covell Village debacle, where a City Council bloc of 3 would do anything a developer asked, even if to the detriment of the city.  But Measure R is just as unworkable, where a particular bloc of no growthers are defeating any economic development to the detriment of the city.  At the moment, I cannot see any way Measure R could be tweaked to make it workable.

    I also think it is high time the City Council and city took control of its messaging as well as its commission meetings and public forums.  Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis took it upon himself to explain the affordable housing issue at Nishi, which was at least a good attempt to address the misinformation that was spread by the no growthers.  But unfortunately the City Council did not address the misinformation as a whole.  I have sat in public forums where opponents to a project are permitted to speak out of turn and intimidate speakers.  This sort of nonsense results in many citizens staying away, because they don’t feel comfortable in a setting where there is that sort of controversy or they do not feel they can freely speak without being ostracized.  Nor should interference with tabling at the Farmer’s Market be permitted.

  9. nameless

    Matt Williams: “It is very much like the scenario that we faced with the CBFR water rates.  The tweaks that Donna and I used to morph CBFR into 87-13 were minor, but they addressed the key issues that had clearly been articulated by the voters in the Measure P process.

    Which caused a political firestorm, eventually resulting in CBFR being soundly defeated. Not a success in my book.

    1. Matt Williams

      You, more than anyone else, should know how the timeline of Measure P played out.  Election Day was June 3rd.  Permanent Absentee Voter (PAV) ballots had been mailed on May 1st.  Unlike this year where the Measure A issues caused a lot of uncertainty, coupled with the continued vibrancy of the Bernie Sanders candidacy, the mail ballot return rate from the 2/3 of the voters who were PAV was very high.

      Face to face interviews conducted with the voters clearly indicated a Measure P triumph.  The only thing that was in doubt was the margin (7,058 – 6,771).  The concept of 87-13 was presented in public comment at the May 27th Council meeting, seven days before Election Day.  It flew under the radar of the voting public.  The Yes On P team did not publicly acknowledge it (they did howl privately that it was a cynical tactic that was designed to defeat P).  The No On P team also voiced their strong objection (you were one of those limited number of voices).  No one in the electorate was aware of this “back-story” because of all the brouhaha Brett Lee had created with his very pointed questions to Herb Niederberger during Item 10.

      If we had not been proactive and laid out the way forward after a Measure P win at the polls, then no successor rate plan would have been been moved forward until after the summer recess, most likely not until at least September, and Woodland would have had little choice other than to proceed forward alone with a plant sized to meet Woodland-only volumes.

        1. Matt Williams

          That is absolutely correct, which was why 87-13 was devised . . . to address the political issues that arose in the Measure P electoral dialogue.

  10. Barack Palin

    it actually brings the community in too late in the process

    In the case of MRIC I don’t feel that the community was brought in too late to the process.  The community was initially onboard for the innovation park only plan.  It wasn’t until later that the community started balking when housing was introduced.  Trying to make it mixed use has more to do with the scuttling of this project than anything else.  They should’ve stayed the course and offered the community what was originally planned.

    1. nameless

      But what was originally planned didn’t pencil out.  The expected rate of return would have been 3-4% rather than the healthy 12% ROR necessary to make the project viable.

      1. Matt Williams

        Again a failure to think proactively.  Only being able to justify a $9-$13 per square foot sales price yielded the 3-4% ROR.  Ramos and the City and the University always assumed a $20 per square foot sales price, but never proactively went out and collected the “comparables” from other successful university-centric innovation parks to provide to EPS for their analysis.

  11. Ron

    In a sense, I’m glad to see that David is taking a position that he’s been hinting about for weeks, now.

    Seems like some start with the assumption that we should constantly be looking to expand beyond our borders.  If you start with that assumption, then the next step would be to encourage these proposals.  Then, if the proposal fails, you’d look for “reasons” that it failed (beyond the obvious drawbacks of the proposal, itself).

    Has anyone considered that most voters may not be ready to expand beyond our borders at this time?  Or, is that simply considered to be an “unreasonable” position, to be discarded by those constantly pushing for development beyond our borders?

    If the time comes when development is needed beyond our borders (e.g., a commercial development which requires more space than currently available), it might be prudent to listen to concerns. However, we have not had any opportunities to vote on such a proposal. (Other than Target, which was approved by voters.)

     

      1. Ron

        nameless:  Not sure of your point.  The MRIC site is beyond the city’s borders.  MRIC’s developers repeatedly stated their desire to include housing on the site.  The developers were seeking commercial zoning on a portion of the site, apparently with a goal of including housing on the remainder of the site in the future.

        In any case, the developers withdrew their latest proposal, as well as their initial proposal (for an all-commercial site).

        1. nameless

          I assume you are opposed to MRIC itself?  If yes, how is the city to pay for road repairs?  How is the city to keep Schilling in town?  If you are arguing that MRIC will CAUSE urban sprawl, that is a fallacious argument since MRIC is bounded by ag easements.

        2. Ron

          nameless:

          For what it’s worth, I reluctantly supported a commercial-only MRIC, for the reasons that you cite.  (It is unfortunate that city apparently did not adequately plan for its own financial needs.  However, this is apparently a problem that occurs repeatedly, throughout California.)

          But, I strongly disagree that even a commercial-only MRIC would have no effect on the overall pressure to increase residential development (throughout Davis, and beyond its borders).  Development proposals are not limited to the sites adjacent to the MRIC site. (That was part of my “reluctance” to support it.)

          In the case of the “scaled-down” MRIC, it seemed that the developer was poised to reduce the benefits from having a full-sized commercial development, and would likely propose housing on the remainder of the site in the future.

        3. Barack Palin

          In the case of the “scaled-down” MRIC, it seemed that the developer was poised to reduce the benefits from having a full-sized commercial development, and would likely propose housing on the remainder of the site in the future.

          And we would’ve had a vote on that so I’m not understanding why someone might want to build housing on the north side was a problem.   It would’ve been nice to get the innovation park.

        4. Ron

          BP:

          You make a legitimate argument.  However, I think it’s a mistake to assume that the subsequent proposal (for housing on the remainder of the site) would automatically be rejected.  In fact, the argument to do so would become stronger, in the eyes of some.

          Why else would the developer seek to “delay” a decision, regarding the remainder of the site? (They have already withdrawn their original proposal for a commercial development on the entire site.)

          Take a look at the comments (already) attacking Measure R, if you doubt the determination of some who strongly support all types of development, and who will continue to seek out ways to reach their goals.  A couple of people on the council itself are (at least somewhat) sympathetic to these goals.

        1. Ron

          nameless:

          Well, if Measure A almost succeeded (despite some legitimate concerns regarding traffic gridlock, etc.), then I guess you don’t have much argument against Measure R.

    1. David Greenwald

      Ron: Actually the position I’m taking is to have a cleaner process – put the community involvement up front and put the resources on the back end.  That doesn’t presuppose an outcome, it simply makes for a better process to get to that outcome.

      1. Ron

        David:

        I don’t think that anyone would argue with that approach.  But, I think that some may be making a mistake in assuming that the community at large wants to develop beyond its borders at this time.  Therefore, I’m not sure if we need to be actively “planning for” the next proposed development outside of the city’s borders.  (This is not intended as a comment regarding any particular development.)

        It might also be a mistake to automatically assume that the people who are actively involved in such development efforts during the early stages represent the (overall) will of the community.  (And yet, some seem to be making that assumption, and are then angered at the outcome.)

        Another problem occurs when the proposed development “changes” significantly, over time (which may cause those involved with the earlier planning process to abandon their support).

    2. Misanthrop

      Davis hasn’t expanded its borders in around 20 years. That is hardly a land rush. As for the need  for “Commercial development which requires more space than currently available.” I would direct you to exhibit 1, Schilling Robotics, who, I expect to shortly announce it is building its new factory elsewhere. Yolo County will be lucky if he goes to West Sac or Woodland.

  12. Roberta Millstein

    The MRIC was in process.  Then the process was put on hold for months.  Then they attempted to restart the process with a new and vague proposal at the very last possible second, with not enough time to complete it.  I don’t think you can blame that on Measure R.

    On the other hand, yes, of course getting the community involved earlier would be better.  It’s hard to see who would object to that.

      1. Roberta Millstein

        There were other things that the developers could have done, as has been pointed out elsewhere on this page and many times over the course of the last months.  It was a close vote (how close, we still don’t know).

  13. ryankelly

    I dislike the Measure R process because it turns City planning into a campaign.  Campaigns are notorious for inaccuracy.  People can pretty much say what ever they want in a campaign.  The Nishi campaign gave us claims of toxic air, autistic babies, death by rail car explosion, a parking lot on Richards Blvd., greedy developers only in it for themselves, stealing from the affordable housing funds, etc.  I supported Nishi, so it is difficult for me to identify the inaccuracies of the Yes campaign, but I’m sure others could point them out.  There is no way to identify problems, adjust or add to the project and compromise on design as an ongoing process.  It has to be perfect in every way for every one in a single snapshot and that seems to be an impossibility.  There will always be Davis naysayers who will spout their “issues” and convince others to vote against it.  There seems to be a nearly permanent distrust of the City Council, even though we happily voted the members into office.

    1. hpierce

      Ryan… as was pointed out to me, it is all about “optics”, and facts and substance have no place in the process…  instead of developer professional staff, and City professional staff, the “optics” are that it should be at least two PR organizations focusing on “optics” to sell their views… no other ‘professionals’ at all.  A brave new world, indeed.

  14. Barack Palin

    What I like best about Measure R is it keeps a check on our city council and city hall.  It’s easy to say that if we don’t like a project that a council ran through that we have the option to vote them out of office.  But guess what, that’s too late if they’ve already voted for a bad project, a project that we will be stuck with forever.  It only takes a 3 – 2 vote.  So basically one person can end up making the decision.  I’d rather have the many thousands of our community making that call.

    1. hpierce

      Even if the “many thousands” truly have not ‘groked’ the facts, thoughtfully considered those, and may follow any whim of their day when they vote?  If so, let’s just dispense with professional staff analysis, the whole Commission review thing, CC review, and just rely on “vox populi” and decisions made on “optics”… would be much more efficient.

      1. Barack Palin

        Well, it’s been my experience that not too many people seem happy about how the Cannery has turned out.  That went through a professional staff analysis, the whole Commission review thing and a CC review and was passed by only one vote.   Now we’re stuck with it.

    2. hpierce

      There is a referendum process, that you ignore… to overturn a CC action… but if a majority of the voters voted against A (as I did), why would a referendum (outside R/J) have not succeeded?  Answer me that!

  15. Fred

    David, I disagree with you overall, and in very specific ways.

    “As I write this, the Vanguard has learned that Mace Ranch Innovation Center has withdrawn its proposal.” It seems like this should be your story today if you have actual information publish it. Leading your attack on twice majority passed community driven land protections with this vague innuendo is bad journalism at best.
     
    “My first problem here is that, despite the fact that Measure R is supposed to make for a community-based process, it actually brings the community in too late in the process.” MIRC is trying to do a complete end run around the commission process and community inputs, hardly an example of what you claim. Even Nishi (what others hold up as the gold standard) was hobbled by the fact that in the end it cut the process short and didn’t finish the opportunities for community input before it was rushed to the ballot.

    “planning sessions along the way where the developers sought input from the community and only a small number of engaged citizens attended.” The developer spent more than $½ million trying to persuade the community during the election. Maybe if they had spent some of that on earlier community outreach they would have had better attendance and community involvement.
     
     “The reality is that the election cycle is not friendly to these type of projects because there are hard deadlines that must be hit” No the reality is the election demands that the developer be very specific about what they propose. Developers don’t like that because they want to be able to come back and renegotiate things to be more favorable later. The election process is good because it forces the developer to put their cards on the table and be upfront with community about what they plan to build, before there is approval.
     
    “suddenly the  developer, city and council are under the gun to get a project on the ballot.” MIRC and Nishi did this to themselves. I hate the gun analogy, but if there was a gun it was the developer holding it to their own head. ‘put this on the ballot or the developer gets it’
     
    “Pushing a project that is 70, 80 or 90 percent done to the next election might be problematic from the standpoint of the developers and their investors.” The more specificity the developers come to the table with the better for Davis. It may be “problematic” for the developers and their investors, but Davis needs to know what it is going to get if the project is approved. The developers stand to make a lot of money on new development in Davis, and going through the “problematic” process of spelling out the project in detail is a reasonable expectation.
     
    “the [non measure J/R] process allowed them multiple bites at the apple to try to change their project. MIRC has already had 3 bites at the apple and the council agreed to give them a forth. Swanson even begged the community to help the Ramco to get their act together to put forward a new proposal. No in the instance of MIRC Ramco just seems to be incapable of putting forward a good proposal.
     
    “inattentiveness of citizens early in the process.” This is just classic. If you don’t like the outcome, blame the citizens. The Nishi developer could have done so much more too really engage the Citizens of Davis, but they didn’t, instead they relied on ill-informed paid operatives from Spafford + Lincoln to bully people on line and pester them at home on the eve of the election. The MIRC developer tried to circumvent the citizen input process all together. No, with Measure A, an informed citizenry made a very tough choice on Election Day and despite every council candidate, every sitting member of City Council endorsing the project, adds on cable TV every 10 minutes and $100s of thousands of dollars spent on “operatives”, 50% of  citizens voted against the Nishi development as proposed. That vote shows that Davis citizens are engaged and paying attention to the process. They are not inattentive as you insultingly suggest.
     
    “the process for Nishi was actually fairly strong but, in the end, there were some mistakes that got magnified during the Measure R” and you can see that the council learned from those mistakes and immediately turned to apply the lessons to MIRC. Don’t blame measure R for the mistakes, blame the developer. Measure R didn’t magnify the mistakes. Measure R gave the community the opportunity to shine light on the project and see the mistakes. That is good governance and good for the community.
     
    “Robb Davis clearly believed that this process would tear apart the community – I can’t really argue with that.” if you want to see a process that tore apart the community, you should have seen the battles before Measure J/R against Wildhorse and Mace Ranch after councils voted to approve these with slim majorities.

    “In the end, the community still has the right to say no, but we need to make it possible for them to have something to say yes to.” This is the most wrong line of the article. The community already has the right and the ability to say yes. Your article couldn’t be timed more poorly than after Nishi was almost to yes (may still get to yes, we will see). Developer proposals have gotten so much better than before Measure R/J. Developers have gotten smarter. Most importantly, Developers are showing greater respect for the community. Gone are the divisive days of Ramco bullying the council with threats that they will just go to the county to build out Mace Ranch. Gone are the days of developer lead Councils voting 3/2 for massive new developments with citizens trying to stop them with after the fact ballot measures. Measure J/R proactively reflects the values of the Davis community and rightly raises the bar for new developments.  As it stood on Tuesday MIRC is not the project that will get to yes, but that project is right around the corner, and when we get there it will be good for Davis.
     
     
    Measures J/R have been very good for Davis

    1. South of Davis

      Fred wrote:

      > “Measures J/R have been very good for Davis”

      but forgot to add “single family home values” at the end…

      Unless a homeowner is hoping their company would move to Nishi and they can avoid commuting out of town every day I don’t see many people that are happy with home values voting to make the city larger.

        1. Alan Miller

          SOD’s nailed it.  A truth is better than a thousand TLDNR words.  It’s about money.  Most people won’t vote to reduce the amount that their largest investment skyrockets in value.

  16. Eileen Samitz

    I am grateful we have Measure J/R , and continue to be grateful for it. Were it not for Measure J/R three badly planned projects would have been imposed onto our community. So as far as I am concerned Measure J/R is doing its job by protecting our community from badly flawed projects from sailing through like back in the old days before the public asked for Measure J and it got voted in.

    Regarding MRIC, there is a very simple solution to the situation. Instead of the Ramos developers trying to morph the project into a mixed-use, which was NOT desired by the community (yet it is clearly desired by the developers for the residential), these developers can do the right thing and put the commercial-only 228-acred project on the ballot.  The failure here is due to the developers trying to force though what they wanted onto the community, rather what the community asked for and were told they would get, and the City deserves some of the blame by allowing the developers to deviate from what we were promised. So this is not any “fault” of Measure J/R by any means.

    The Ramos developers have the option now to bring what was clearly asked for in the RFEI and the community was led to believe that they were getting what they asked for – a commercial-only innovation park.  In the end, instead the community got not just one, but two “bait and switch” attempts by the Ramos developers. There is no excuse for these attempts to turn the project into something other than the commercial-only project that we were promised. From the beginning, these developers were given clear direction of what the community wanted, and the developers agreed publicly to do it, and they had plenty of time to produce that proposal.

    This is an issue of honesty and trust at this point as well.  It is important that our community makes it clear that we will not allow the developers to bully us or con us into what is primarily a residential high-rise project, with using some innovation park as a lure. For that matter,what makes us think we would ever see any innovation park materialize once these developers to their primary goal of an annexation which raises the value of the land at least 10X (or more) in price? Particularity if the City was foolish enough to consider letting the Ramos have any part of the land “Urban Reserve”? I can not even believe that they submitted such an outrageous proposal, not defining half of the project for a “to be determined later” situation. I mean, really?

    1. ryankelly

      Nearly half of the voting community wanted Nishi.  Maybe half of the voting community would have felt imposed upon and at least one person would have sued and obstructed until he either won or was paid off .  Now half of the voting community is discouraged and resentful.  So there will always be winners and losers with Measure R and a divided community.  This is gladiator-style planning.

    2. Michael Harrington

      Eileen:  the Ramos Land 212 acre project is way too far out from the city and UCD.  It’s a bad bad location.  It jumps the Mace Blvd crve.

      The sheer volume of GGE from 8,0000 cars parking a day is enormous.  It is total BS that you endorse this junk coming back.  Just being clear ….. I tell you this privately and publically .. with fondness and respect.

  17. Eileen Samitz

    Mike,

    Just being clear. I have been consistent on my position on this issue which I have already explained a number of times before. So looks like we will just have to agree to disagree.

  18. Marina Kalugin

    there was a time when the City Council looked out for the best interests of the residents….and the developers/realtors and such were the ones that the council and city planners would keep in line.

    as things shifted, when more money was at stake, and so on…and the council races became more dependent on money and so forth, things shifted to a point where the council could no longer be relied on for taking good care to keep the developers in line and decisions were being made which were not in the best interests of the citizens.

    at that point, it became incumbent on the citizenry to speak out and to bring up issues and so forth

    that is what we have now

    yet, we still have projects, like the Cannery, which illustrate my point…

    of allowing the developers to back out of agreements which then cost the city/citizens millions…

    it is all part of the game now  – and it is obvious to those who have lived here and been involved for many decades

    measures J/R were as a direct result of problems and so forth with the huge ( for Davis at the time) Woodbridge development….

    it was a way for the citizens to try to correct some of the issues after the fact so to speak..

    again, someone is putting the cart before the horse again……

    1. David Greenwald

      The problem is that you are missing a huge piece of the picture here. In the last 10 to 15 years, the city made a series of bad decisions. They greatly expanded our pension system. They greatly increased employee compensation. When the economy went south in 2008, the city got through by attrition of employees and by not putting money into critical infrastructure like roads, parks, greenbelts, swimming pools, city buildings. The result is that while the city did not go bankrupt, it deferred maintenance. The result is that we owe somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 million on roads. We owe somewhere around $200 to $300 million on parks facilities. Another perhaps another $100 million on city buildings. And then another $100 million or so on unfunded pension and health care liabilities to employees. Matt Williams says the number is $655 million, that came from the finance and budget commission, and no one has disputed the figure to date.

      Over a 20 year period that comes to about $32 million a year on top of a $60 million general fund. That’s a huge number. That’s city infrastructure, that’s city amenities, etc.

      So when you talk about “there was a time when the City Council looked out for the best interests of the residents” – they are – because there are only three ways to generate revenue for the city – we can cut costs, which we have, but we’re not going to be able to cut half our general fund budget. We can raise taxes, which of course we have and will do so again, but that hurts the residents. Or we can grow our economy and hope that additional revenue will help alleviate the crunch.

      The reality is that we have to do all three and the only way to do the third item is to work with developers to produce projects that can provide space for companies to come in and invest in this community.

      So I think you need to understand the big picture here before you start criticizing the council that inherited this problem.

  19. Marina Kalugin

    and, the real issue is that the giant projects have not worked – I have explained on many other threads in recent weeks why not….. and how more problems and issues have been created over the decades due to the big developments than ever get resolved.

    the answers are not simple ones but the problems have just escalated with each large project over the decades which gets built out quickly and puts way too much stress on everything else in the town

     

  20. Marina Kalugin

    I just saw what they did recently David….made a deal with the Cannery knowing full well that they would be back in days to renege…and then let them renege……isn’t that enough for a very recent starter?

    even though Matt was yes on A, he was the only one who was analyzing and speaking out about the cannery…..

    I don’t know that the others were thinking…..I mean all five who are on the council and now still on the council except Wolk and so on..

    isn’t that enough – they gave away $10 million in one quick and unanimous decision  – and that doesn’t even deserve a mention?

    a tiny criticism? jeez…cya

     

     

    1. Matt Williams

      Marina said . . . “isn’t that enough – they gave away $10 million in one quick and unanimous decision  – and that doesn’t even deserve a mention?”

      Marina, that Cannery give away did not happen with a unanimous vote.  Both Robb Davis and Brett Lee voted against it.  Dan Wolk, Rochelle Swanson and Lucas Frerichs were the three votes for the give away.

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