Earlier this week, it appeared there was good news with newly-elected Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry stating that she would support the UC Davis consideration for building the World Food Center “on its land and there are other parcels like the (on-hold) Mace Ranch Innovation Center proposal.”
She told the Vanguard, “I want to see Yolo County as a hub for ag-tech, including value added product manufacturing. AgPlus (Central Valley Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium) is one initiative I’m involved with that is a good model here.”
But UC President Janet Napolitano appears to have other plans. She told the Sacramento Bee on Wednesday “that she hopes whoever gets picked as the new chancellor of UC Davis can pull off an expansion of the campus into Sacramento.
“I think there is a real opportunity to bring Davis over the highway, so to speak, and to do more in this general economic area of California,” Ms. Napolitano said Wednesday during a meeting with the Sacramento Bee editorial board. “What I am looking for in a chancellor is someone that has the capability of doing that.”
The Bee noted former Chancellor Linda Katehi’s vision for bringing the World Food Center to Sacramento “with Katehi’s resignation.”
But the Bee is now reporting “there is still plenty of interest at the UC level.”
The Bee added that Sacramento “could relieve the shortage of space on the Davis campus, especially as the university population continues to grow.”
The Bee also talked with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who told the Bee, “We want to invite the university to come across the causeway, because whether it’s food policy research, entrepreneurship around food and agriculture, whether it’s literally bringing some of their graduate programs across the causeway to Sacramento, I think we can be of great benefit to the university, and we need the university.”
The Bee reports, “The expansion could still include the relocation of the World Food Center, Napolitano said. The center was established in 2013 to increase the economic benefit from campus research, influence national and international policy, and to convene teams of scientists and innovators from industry, academic, government and nongovernmental organizations to tackle food-related challenges around the world.”
“It could take many forms,” she said. “I really think the next chancellor should be able to weigh in on that.”
However, there are still reasons why a World Food Center move to Sacramento may not happen.
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.”
The key would appear to be the next chancellor of UC Davis.
That process will be slow. According to the Bee report, Napolitano said eight or nine candidates are being interviewed and a recommendation could happen at the January or March UC Regents meeting. March seems most likely, which would probably mean the new chancellor would not be on board until the fall.
—David M. Greenwald reporting