Guest Commentary: New Ownership Brings Changes to the Downtown


E-St-Parking LotBy Jason Taormino

The Davis Chamber welcomes Browman Development to Davis and we are pleased they chose to invest here.  They will be an asset to our community, based on their long term ownership strategy and engagement in the communities where they currently own property.

The study they commissioned is a prime example of their commitment.  That study concluded that redevelopment was not economically feasible at this time, and is a sign that is hard to ignore.

With the increase in property taxes triggered by the sale – several of the existing business owners decided to close or move to lower cost buildings.   This is an indicator that market demand for space in Davis, especially for retail, is lower than desired.

Over the past decade, downtown Davis has converted 60,000 sf of office and retail (per City of Davis) to bars and restaurants.  If office and retail are dwindling then we have a less balanced economy.

As we have fewer high paid employees downtown working in offices, they shop less and a negative cycle of less retail and more bars and restaurants catering to college kids continues.

If we want an Apple store or other marquee businesses in town we need a balanced portfolio across Davis and not just in our core down town.

According to the Institute for Transportation Engineers – restaurants need 16 parking spaces per 1,000 sf, while retail requires two spaces.  This is why the parking situation downtown is worse today than ten years ago.

If we do the math  60,000÷1,000×2 = 120 vs 60,000÷1,000×12 = 720 or we have a net deficit of 600 spaces.  We need a 400-space parking structure on the City-owned lot at 3rd/4th/E & F, and to increase surface parking just to stem the tide.

Economically vibrant communities across the world have found that, when demand is high enough, it warrants redevelopment with a focus on mixed use architecture, allowing retail on the ground floor and office and housing above.  How high the new buildings rise is a reflection of the strength of the market.

To understand why this has been slow to happen in Davis requires a deep dive into our economy and culture.  It is a conversation we need to have as a community and it should involve everyone from special interest groups in town as well as those who live in Davis and help lead our University.

We would like to close with two other thoughts about driving economic vibrancy to benefit the entire community.  To sustain the amenities such as our parks, pools, community services and other infrastructure, we need 10,000 new high paying jobs in Davis.

We need to increase our commercial space from 1,750,000 sf to 4,000,000 in order to achieve this goal.

This won’t solve all of our problems but it will improve our economy, increase city revenue, improve our schools and allow us to compete and thrive.

Our vision of the future includes Browman Development opening a new building in a vibrant and well-balanced community.

Jason Taormino is the Davis Chamber of Commerce, Board Chair


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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21 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: New Ownership Brings Changes to the Downtown”

  1. quielo

    “According to the Institute for Transportation Engineers – restaurants need 16 parking spaces per 1,000 sf, while retail requires two spaces.  This is why the parking situation downtown is worse today than ten years ago”


    Is this a valid benchmark in a town with high rates of bicycling and walking where many of the patrons do not own a car?



  2. Tia Will

    If we want an Apple store or other marquee businesses in town we need a balanced portfolio across Davis and not just in our core down town.”

    It is not immediately clear to me why this is the case ?  Why does a vibrant downtown, easily accessible to our student population and many others who choose to walk or bike, require that there also be peripheral businesses other than the neighborhood based, grocery store anchored shopping centers that we already have?  Or was your comment specific to the large innovation parks as a part of a “balanced portfolio” ?

  3. Grok

    Improved peripheral parking would help get cars off the main downtown grid making it friendlier for bikes and pedestrians in the downtown. More peripheral parking could actually make the downtown a better place to bike and walk.

    The Calori lot on Olive Drive represented the best opportunity to do that. The Calori lot would be the easiest place on Olive Drive to connect to the train station and could provide train parking getting commuter traffic out of downtown and out of the choke point tunnel on Richards.

    The corner of the Calori lot is only 400′ from the Tres Hermanas patio and it would have served downtown well to have parking with easy access to downtown, but without the cars ever having to come into the downtown.

    Sadly it seems our city has likely missed this opportunity now that the Calori lot is in the hands of a developer who plans on building a massive apartment complex there.  So instead we are now talking about dropping a giant parking structure into the downtown grid with all of the traffic problems it will bring with it.

    On the bright side at least the Chamber is not proposing putting the lot between E and F 2nd and 3rd. If we don’t build smart parking for the downtown soon, you can expect that Browman Development will propose building it at this central lot in a few years when their research shows it would be a lucrative time to redevelop their adjacent properties.

  4. Eileen Samitz

    We need a small Sears store like in Woodland somewhere on the north side of I-80. The Woodland Sears manager showed much interest in the past, but the City never followed up. Imagine the sales tax on washers, dryers, refrigerators coming in? Davis had one years ago downtown but got pushed out by a lease issue. Sears them tried a site in south Davis which was invisible, so no one knew it was here. A store like this needs visibility.

    Also, what about resurrecting the plans for the downtown redevelopment of the City parking lot and block where Kinkos/Fed Express? It would seem worth looking at again to increase our parking with underground and/or multi story parking there and retail square footage. Now that otehr store sties are available, this could offer sites for relocation of some of the stores who would need to relocate for the renovation.


        1. South of Davis

          I’m sure some kids born in the late 70’s and 80’s went to Sears with a grandparent in the 80’s when they were kids and Sears was still doing OK, but I know quite a few people under 40 (born after 1976) and none of them ever went in to Sears on their own to buy some Toughskin jeans (or other clothing), a Kenmore washing machine or a Craftsman roll a way tool box.  Does anyone know if local high school kids were often at the Davis Sears store before it closed?

    1. Matt Williams

      Eileen, Sears had a retail appliance store in Davis for well over a decade in the El Macero Shopping Center.  Sears unilaterally decided to close that store in 2006. They did not consult the Council when they made that decision.

      When you say “Davis had one years ago downtown but got pushed out by a lease issue” my understanding is that that store (which was small catalog store in the location currently occupied by KetMoRee) closed back in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s, moving to the El Macero Shopping Center where it continued for over a decade before its closing in 2006). When I moved to Davis in 1998 Strelitzia Flowers was in that downtown location and Sears was firmly in place in El Macero Shopping Center.

      To the best of my knowledge (I’m open to any specific information you have) the decision to close in 2006 was not “a lease issue.” Each year leading up to the 2006 closure, the Davis Sears store saw decreased revenues from the products and services they offered … sale and repair of appliances.  They also accepted returns of products purchased at any Sears location.  Their declining revenues were happening even before the Great Recession hit.

      You state “The Woodland Sears manager showed much interest in the past.”  In what year(s) was that interest shown?  The same location that Sears previously occupied, very close to the I-80 exit at Mace is currently available.  Has the Woodland Sears manager approached the El Macero Shopping Center about that location?

      1. hpierce

        Sears had a ‘catalog store’, similar to the El Macero one, with some floor sales @ the SE corner of Third and G for many years (for sure in the 70’s and 80’s)…

  5. Chamber Fan

    Everyone is missing the point, why is Eileen suggesting we put a dying chain in to support retail in a spot where they aren’t going to generate that much sales?  Is she not paying attention to the death of Sears?

    1. Chamber Fan

      Here is a list of stores, headed by Sears that we should not bring in:

      BTW, on the stores doing well, TJ MAXX is at the top of that list, so that was a good choice to bring to town.

    2. Grok

      Eileen uses Sears as an example, and all of you have jumped on that, but if you read what she wrote further, she is more specific that she is talking about a store that sells appliances. Perhaps Davis Lumber could enter that space? Or another store could be attracted to Davis. The fact that it is a Sears may be less important than what type of store she means.

      The positive aspect of a store like that is it is less susceptible to being undercut by internet sales.

      1. Matt Williams

        Grok, you may want to revisit the history of retail appliance sales in Yolo County over the past two decades.  It was not all that long ago that Pearson’s Appliance in Woodland was the dominant player in appliance sales in Yolo County.  Their Woodland, Vacaville, Fairfield and Napa stores were serviced by a low cost regional warehouse/distribution center.  They were the low cost / high service market leader.  But in 2015 they closed their Woodland store because Yolo County simply wasn’t generating enough demand to produce sufficient revenues to support their business model, and they closed.  Yolo County has a Home Depot in Woodland, a Home Depot in West Sac, a Lowes in West Sac, and another nearby Home Depot in Natomas . . . all of which sell appliances at considerably lower prices than any small retailer in Davis could possibly sell them.  If a regional powerhouse like Pearsons didn’t see a way to successfully compete in that market, there is a message there about appliance sales in Davis, whether by an independent or by Davis Ace.

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