Commentary: A New Hope on the World Food Center?

The Sacramento Bee reported on Tuesday that the end of Linda Katehi’s tenure as “chancellor of UC Davis effectively ended efforts to make the university’s World Food Center the centerpiece of a third campus, possibly in Sacramento’s downtown railyard.”

The paper quoted World Food Center spokesman Brad Hooker, who would confirm that the university was not pursuing such a plan. “No one is working on it,” he said.

In fact, the paper reports Mr. Hooker saying that “the World Food Center is planning to move to another space on the existing UC Davis campus.”

These plans had been laid out by the former chancellor, who had a vision to build another campus in Sacramento, one that would include “a school focusing on population and a global health and public policy institute, as well as clinics to treat people dealing with nutrition and other food-related issues.”  At the time, all signs pointed to the railyard being the prime location for such a plan.

The Bee also quotes Denton Kelley, “the developer of the downtown railyard, and Sacramento city staff confirmed that plans to build a UC Davis campus on the site have stalled.”

“Everything is on hold in light of the leadership transition that has gone on at UC Davis over the last year,” Mr. Kelley told the paper.

Right now, plans for the 244-acre railyard include a Major League Soccer stadium seating 19,621, up to 10,000 homes and a Kaiser Permanente medical campus of up to 1.2 million square feet.

According to the Bee, the developers are “still interested in working with the next UC Davis chancellor to see if the school is interested in the railyard, a piece of property so large it could essentially double the size of Sacramento’s downtown core over the next 20 years.”

Back in the spring of 2014, news leaked out that the chancellor planned to potentially put the World Food Center at the railyard in Sacramento.  However, from the start that was not a popular decision, either for the Davis community or for faculty that would have to relocate to Sacramento from the Davis campus.

The loss of a potentially $1 billion center from the main UC Davis campus was locally seen as a blow to the community.

Chancellor Katehi first mentioned the idea of a third campus in her annual State of the Campus presentation to the Academic Senate in that February. At that time, she said the campus would emphasize UC Davis’ commitment to education, research, clinical and policy aspirations with a focus on food, health and the environment.

“Because of our location, history and expertise, UC Davis is in a unique position to be an even greater positive source for California state government and policy than we have been in the past,” Chancellor Katehi said in a 2014 letter announcing her plans to create the advisory group to help crystallize the vision for a third campus.

“To take full advantage of that opportunity and raise the profile and reputation of the entire university, we have been thinking for some time about developing a third campus somewhere in Sacramento,” she wrote. “The time is now right to begin moving forward with this process.”

But that ambition has fallen flat in the wake of the chancellor’s resignation and the continued search process for a new chancellor.

The Bee reported that UC Davis spokesperson Dana Topousis said, “UC Davis is still exploring the possibility of developing an additional presence in Sacramento. There will be further discussion about how UC Davis moves forward in Sacramento once a permanent chancellor is on board.”

The Bee also quoted incoming Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg who “expressed hope that the next UC Davis chancellor will embrace the idea of establishing a major presence in Sacramento beyond the UC Davis Medical Center.”

“It’s my understanding that nothing will be decided until UC Davis has a permanent chancellor on board,” he said in a prepared statement. “We’re continuing to build a great relationship with the team at UC Davis and have been very open in our desire to help them have a stronger presence here in Sacramento. That presence and relationship shouldn’t be defined or limited by one program; we want to go big and really help our region grow together.”

But this also gives Davis a chance to rally its troops.  The railyard project of 244 acres is not much bigger than the 200-acre Davis Innovation Center or Mace Ranch Innovation Center projects that are on hold.  And UC Davis’ potential third campus would share space with a giant Kaiser building and an MLS Soccer Stadium.

With leadership and movement, perhaps the city of Davis could proactively clear the way for the potential billion dollar World Food Center going into one of its own sites – either in a new peripheral spot or in town.  While the city would not generate the revenue from the WFC, the spin-offs and companies working adjacent to the WFC could be a huge boon for the burgeoning ag-tech and food security sectors in this community.

Local leaders have put food security near the top of the list of goals, and ag tech would fit in nicely with the community’s commitment to agricultural land preservation and innovation.

The opportunity has reemerged, but the city has to be nimble enough to jump on it.

—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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  1. Barack Palin

    But this also gives Davis a chance to rally its troops.  The railyards project of 244 acres is not much bigger than the 200 acre Davis Innovation Center or Mace Ranch Innovation Center projects that are on hold.

    Great idea as long as they don’t muck it up and try to include housing because we all know where that will end up.

    1. Matt Williams

      It is my understanding that when the initial three responses of interest to the City’s RFEI were expressed, the third group (who in the end did not submit a written proposal) was focusing its interest on hosting the World Food Center.  The July 2014 map from Staff’s RFEI update to Council locates that site to the east of the City limits to the south of Chiles near the Legacy soccer fields.

  2. Tia Will


    Great idea as long as they don’t muck it up and try to include housing”

    You just made an excellent argument for the Sacramento yards as the better location. If the World Food Center is a success on a large scale, where exactly do you think that the new students, scientists, faculty and staff are going to live ?  We are already having difficulty housing our current population and yet you see including housing as a non starter ?  Ok, then my response would be that without the appropriate housing on site, I would strongly favor the rail yard location. Now if we were to be contemplating a work/live situation within our own community, I would strongly consider this as a possibility.

      1. Ron

        And – the city gets NO revenue from university-owned property, as noted in the article.  (The same thing that some pro-development types harp on, regarding the university itself.)


        1. Ron

          Correction –

          I understand that the city gets NO revenue from university-OCCUPIED property.  (Purchased, or leased.)

          To the “probable disappoint of some”, I won’t have a lot of time to engage in online discussions, today. (Intended as self-deprecating humor.)


        2. Matt Williams

          Ron, the Finance and Budget Commission addressed that issue in the Nishi process.  To deal with that challenge the developer agreed to a “make whole provision” that obligated the developer to pay the taxes that were affected by the University usage.

          Such an agreement must be consummated up front proactively.

        3. Ron

          Matt:  Thanks for that reminder.

          But, it should still be noted that (even) Nishi failed.  I don’t think something like this will “fly”, especially at a more far-flung location (such as the formerly-proposed MRIC site).

          From the article above, note the following quote from the mayor of Sacramento:

          ” . . . we want to go big and really help our region grow together”

          If this development is pursued, I guess we’ll see if the voters of Davis agree with that “vision”.

          This will probably be my last post for the day.

        4. hpierce

          Sorry, Ron… wrong twice (you posted twice with same error)… UC is exempt from property tax (that part is correct)… like DJUSD… so, little/no GF revenue … the City derives revenue for services, inc. water/sewer/drainage, etc., though.

          Yeah, just “trolling”, but thought it was important to let folk know it’s not ALL a “free ride”… but still an issue, re:  GF revenue…

          Oh… and Ron… wishe you and yours have a wonderfu Thanksgiving holiday… sincerely meant…

        5. Matt Williams

          Why wouldn’t it fly Ron?  The developer had no reservations about the provision because they planned to pass the tax through to the University as part of the monthly rent payments.  The University had no reservations about the provision.  They understood that for that rental space they would not be getting the same level of subsidy from the citizens of the City of Davis and Yolo County that they had historically been getting.  As a result, their costs would be the same as everyone else’s rather than lower than everyone else’s.  They had no problem understanding the concept of fair market rents.  The City and the County had no reservations about the provision either.

          You mention Nishi’s failure at the ballot box.  Out of curiosity what percentage of the NO votes cast in Measure A do you think were affected by the “Make Whole Provision”?  My personal answer to that question is 0.0%.  In fact I would say that less than 5% of the voters even knew the “Make Whole Provision” existed, and significantly fewer than that could have described it accurately.

          You are following a pattern in your comments on this . . . trying to make a major issue out of something that is very solidly under control.  That is a pattern that you have consistently followed in almost every issue you choose to comment on. I suspect that “What if?” are your two favorite words.

          Have a Happy Thanksgiving Ron.

        6. Ron

          Matt:  “You are following a pattern in your comments on this . . . trying to make a major issue out of something that is very solidly under control.”

          Couldn’t resist responding to this.  You’re misunderstanding my statement.  If you look at the quote I cited above, I was referring to voters, and whether or not they envision the same thing for Davis that the mayor of Sacramento envisions:

          “. . . we want to go big and really help our region grow together”

          And – I noted that some of the locations around Davis that are being discussed are farther from campus than Nishi.

          On a related note, I wonder if Sacramento would also insist upon a “make whole” provision.  (If not, then they would be more competitive.)

          O.K. – I’ll try not to even look at any more responses.  Happy Thanksgiving to you, hpierce, and everyone on the Vanguard.

      2. Tia Will


        When housing gets introduced into the peripheral innovation park plans the projects get shot down.”

        I do not hold myself responsible for the short sightedness of others…..only my own.

        You also forgot to note that the project near the hospital also withdrew and that obviously had nothing at all to do with a housing component since none was put forward in their plans.

  3. Marina Kalugin

    yep… jeee  and where are the @@@@@@@@@@oles who were all over the Chancellor for made up ss@@@@@@@  by the napo, right?  right?

    lots more to say, but LK will go down as the premier chancellor UC Davis was fortunate to entice and one day there will be a movie …featuring the Napo, the Gov, the teamsters and UAW unions, grad students,  Academic Senate leaders and managers…faculty and starring Anjelina Jolie as the Chancellor LK…….

    while the i@@@@@@@ gave away this campus for a dime in their paychecks….and brought up 5 year old “news” to sink a truly foreward thinking chancellor….right?

    gimme a break…..

    and yes, lots to say on many sides of this topic….but today is a holy day and I will let the others at it…right?



  4. Biddlin

    “but today is a holy day and I will let the others at it”

    Though I consider every one I’m here for sacred, I am reasonably certain that today is not a “holy day” for any extant religion. Perhaps Marina could elaborate.

    1. hpierce

      Perhaps the day it sunk in that JFK was dead?  Would have been early AM on the 23rd in Russia…

      Actually, I don’t buy into the conspiracy theories… Oswald was nuts…

      1. Marina Kalugin

        and heck LRon claimed to be jesus and buddha also, right?    did ya ever read one of his book titled Song of Asia or some such?  I never had the time….and it was not on my job description when it came out…

        PS>   I was in SF in the lunch yard when we heard that announcement about JFK on the loudspeaker…. and later my family, all refugees at least twice in each of our lifetimes alone, were watching the news in the evening…usually we were not allowed to watch TV and actually didn’t even have one until shortly before that horrific inside job….



    2. Marina Kalugin

      I did….and it was snuffed off…jeez and even when the DV is supposed to be on holiday THE  DS is hard at work snuffing  out the truth… which I post….all truth ….and mostly inconvenient…

      and it is not even off topic and is always truth…wtf?   right?  ha ha

      watch for it all on the anti-DV site……..coming soon …as soon as I come back from the pool and the beach….or in a few weeks…or so…

  5. ryankelly

    It makes no sense to remove the World Food Center from the main UCD campus.  The location and function, not the proposal for such a Center, is the problem.  Why does it have to be off campus at all?  Why remove it from students and faculty?  This proposal illustrated and contributed to Katehi’s suspected view that Davis was maybe too provincial for her.  She hired someone who spent his time flying around the world first-class with little interaction with the faculty who were showing up for work on campus and combining research with teaching.   If the World Food Center comes back, it needs to be in a different form and a clearer academic purpose than economic development of downtown Sacramento.

  6. hpierce

    Pretty good compensation (over 4 times what I ever made as an engineer)… with no duties… now she has “all that” and book proceeds… better intellectual thought cumma history…

    Thanks, Jerry, for sharing…

    1. Jerry Waszczuk


      $ 425,000  annual salary  for the chancellor  are acceptable and it is does not matter if it is Katehi’s salary or other chancellor’s salary . Chancellor’s subordinates in UCDMC   are  on the pay scales of which  chancellors could only dream about .  What would say say if you would be working as  an  engineer and you would be supervised by the guy  with High School  with $ 200, 000 annual salary which are higher than Judge’s salary  in superior court with 20 years on the bench .?  The UC administration and management is the corrupted and greedy elite.  The new CEO which was recently hired by UCDMC  got for start $600, 000. Is no wonder that chancellors are looking to make some extra money by serving on the boards  in private companies .

  7. Michael Harrington

    Stop the sprawl, and these investments come into our small compact city.  If the Rail Yards location for the WFC is now off the table … because one person left the campus, that means for certain the RY location was stupid and a bad plan …

    Putting it on the UC Davis campus here is the only way to go … and it enhances the social, economic, and real values for all of the community.

    Stop that stupid Nishi plan for 47 acres … and guess what? A well known and respected Sacramento developer buys Interland complex for new and significant development that will be able to host the high tech and businesses that Nishi wanted. I think Interland is about 32 acres? AND IT’S IN THE CITY.

    Yet again, proof these junkie exterior projects the CC is promoting are bad deals for us, and 1950s thinking.

    So once again, the progressive political view prevails, and is shown as the way to move forward.

  8. Michael Harrington

    David,  when are you going to do a story on the proposed  senior housing project that will blow open the NW quadrant to new development?  Please get it out there, and we can start the conversation as to whether we want the City to suddenly push out in that direction?

    Also, I thought we needed student housing?  And they want to instead push up our population with senior housing, which will almost certainly be heavily marketed to seniors from all over the US.

    1. Biddlin

      “David,  when are you going to do a story on the proposed  senior housing project that will blow open the NW quadrant to new development?  ”

      Michael, that sounds like a project you’d welcome, unless you don’t handle ADA suits. Davis is perhaps the least ADA compliant city of its size that I’ve seen in California. The lack of accessibility is one of the key reasons the missus nixed Davis in our retirement scenario.

      1. Marina Kalugin

        really….there is a ton of accessibility in the downtown Davis area, still, though much of it is being destroyed every year…..and many of the better restaurants and shops keep getting pushed out….and  not much of what most of us older folks may want….

        Woodland, Winters and even Dixon are way better and the campus, farmer’s market, Mondavi center , Varsity, Mishkas and other real draws are nearby…..and usually faster to get to from Woodland and sometimes Dixon than Soda

    2. Marina Kalugin

      PS> Thank ya MH ole pal..
      and PS>..David when are you going to do a story about the senior housing which was to be built in Woodbrige?   that was an agreement of that final plan…

      then decades go by and it is not senior housing…..I could’ve used it  when Davis got too pricey and so on….. now there is a huge development crowding out the open space and child play area….

      and many of the original neighbors and original owners of the Ricci farm have died and or moved recently….my neighbor on the corner of El Macero and Ensenada, who is a realtor, told me the other day that they are considering moving due to the huge increase in traffic from that development…

      oh well, anyone know?   good thing I just sold my house also…cya

  9. Edison

    Some random thoughts in response to today’s posts.

    World Food Center at the former MRIC site might make sense if, as Matt pointed out, an enforceable “Make Whole” provision could be included in the development agreement or similar legal document. If the project included housing that was NOT specifically targeted to students, then it might have a chance of passing a Measure J/R vote.  (I personally liked the MRIC proposal much better than Nishi, partly because the housing component did not target students.)
    WFC would probably make most sense on campus, as it would be most convenient for faculty, staff, etc.
    I live in the NW quadrant of Davis and have an open mind about the proposed senior housing project.  Sorry, Mike, I personally don’t care if the occupants were to move from elsewhere in Davis or other parts of the country.  (There’s good reasons for a senior citizen to move to Davis. Years ago I asked a retiree why he moved from Wyoming to Davis. He responded by asking “Have you ever been to Laramie in the Winter?”  Same reason my parents moved from Toronto to Orange County.)  Also, unlike college students, most senior citizens don’t have noisy light night parties, don’t stagger out of party houses to vomit and urinate on the lawns of neighboring homes, don’t park on sidewalks, and don’t litter the neighborhood with empty beer bottles and cans.  All other things being equal, I’d vote for senior housing before I’d ever vote to expand Davis boundaries to house the students that UCD should be accommodating on campus.

    With that, Happy Thanksgiving to all.  And, thanks to David for the Donner Lake photo. I just finished reading a book about the emigrant experience on the California Trail between the early 1840s and late 1850s.  The Donner party was far from the only group that suffered as a result of reaching the Sierras too late to avoid early snowfall.  Those who migrated to California then were pretty tough.

  10. Jerry Waszczuk

    I just finished reading a book about the emigrant experience on the California Trail between the early 1840s and late 1850s


    It was on History channel . Terrible .

  11. Jerry Waszczuk

    A few months later, in June 2013, after a similarly collaborative process, Chancellor Emerita Katehi established the UC Davis World Food Center.
    , Chancellor Emerita Katehi’s leadership team closed in on another crucial goal for the university, this one a full year ahead of schedule: raising $1 billion for student scholarships, programs, facilities and other academic support from 100,000 individual donors.
    Chancellor Katehi said in a 2014 letter announcing her plans to create the advisory group to help crystallize the vision for a third campus.“ she wrote. “The time is now right to begin moving forward with this process.”

    UC President Janet Napolitano trashed the  Linda Katehi’s achievements and  dream and  humiliated Katehi  by puling the plug on the UC Davis World Center project  in Sacramento.  The one statement in  the  Sacramento Bee article ” is quite interesting :

    The campus was part of the “University of the 21st Century” plan, laid out by Katehi in September 2015, which was to include an estimated $2 billion in construction projects on and off the UC Davis campus. The plan was to have been presented to the UC regents earlier this year and started immediately after its approval, according to Katehi. She said the first building on the Sacramento campus was to be completed within three years.
    The University of California regents never received the plan for consideration, said Dianne “Klein, spokeswoman for the University of California.

    I am curious what Linda Katehi has  to say about  as the UC Chancellor Emerita.
    Now , after  Chancellor Emerita’s dream burst like a soap bubble , the spot reserved for the World Food Center would be perfect to erect  monument of Janet Napolitano and the museum memorizing the  3,000,000 undocumented immigrants Napolitano  deported prior she became the President of the University of California .

    Read more here:

  12. South of Davis

    Hopefully a “food center” in the region will help to get people to eat more “real food”.  Last night we watched the movie “Captain Fantastic” about a dad who home schools his kids in the woods feeding them real food and when they come out in to “civilization” they don’t understand why so many people are so fat.  Sadly my guess is that any “food center” will be paid for by corporate america and produce reports that say GMO stuff is great for you…

    P.S. If Tia is not going to watch college football all day I thought she might like to read the (depressing) 49 page USDA report linked below that says taxpayers pay for over $300 million worth of soda (and almost $200 million for “bag snacks” and close to $100 million for “candy-packaged”) every year for poor kids.

    P.P.S. I’m not a doctor or nutritionist but I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that the poor will be a lot more healthy if we stopped buying them a half BILLION dollars of soda, bag snacks and candy every year…


    1. Jerry Waszczuk


      The two billion World  Food  Center went up in smoke  like Katehi’s dream about. Rude awake

      Who has skill  and dedication like Katehi in UC  Davis to work around the clock  and to  raise 1,000,000,000 in such short time. Hexter ?

      Money talk  BS walk.  Neapolitano caused disaster for UC Davis   with her deportation skill she used against Katehi.

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