It’s Official: Davis Innovation Center Now Moves to Woodland


It was the spring of 2014 when the city of Davis put out a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) to get some innovation center proposals.  They got three proposals back that led to two applications – one near Sutter Davis Hospital called the Davis Innovation Center and one at Second and Mace called the Mace Ranch Innovation Center.

By now most are aware of the Mace Ranch Innovation Center (MRIC) which, while suspended, remains a potential possibility down the road as the developers are seeking certification of their EIR.  But the Davis Innovation Center pulled out in the spring of 2015 after getting push back from neighbors at the Binning Tract.

For some time it has been believed that the developers at Davis Innovation Center would move down the road to Woodland – that is now official.  Davis has lost out on millions in annual revenue while Woodland in a year may see their efforts hit pay dirt.

“Our plan has been designed to follow the expressed guidelines and vision of the City of Woodland’s General Plan update,” said John Hodgson, Woodland Research and Technology Group representative. “Yolo County, and this site specifically, is ripe to attract innovation and research interests which will create jobs and grow the local economy.”

Woodland Research and Technology Park will combine a high-tech commercial campus with mixed-­use development, including residential neighborhoods and a community retail and recreation center.

In a phone interview with the Vanguard, John Hodgson said, “In general the city of Woodland has been very receptive to this project.”

He said, “We had the same folks, that designed the Davis Innovation Center, do this plan for us.”

The Woodland Research and Technology Group last week submitted a revised land use plan and project description for its Specific Plan application. The proposed Specific Plan lies within the identified area of the General Plan, SP-­‐1A, and includes 351 acres of mixed-­‐use neighborhoods anchored by a research and technology business park at the City of Woodland’s “Southern Gateway” at County Road 25A and Highway 113.

Of that 350 or so acres, 130 will be some type of commercial.  The biggest part of that is an 80-acre business park.  There will be 34 acres of “light industrial.”  There will be small retail for employees and neighbors to hang out, “but nothing major.”

The housing is on 150 acres – low, medium and high density.  A small majority of the housing, 55 percent, will be low density, traditional single family homes.  Then there is a component of medium density which will be smaller units – condos and townhouses.

High density in Woodland is 20 to 40 units per acre.  That would be three-story apartments or condos.

“The beauty of this plan is we’re allowed to do a community on a comprehensive basis,” Mr. Hodgson told the Vanguard.  “Put jobs where housing is.  Put housing where jobs are.  Put an employment center within ten minutes of UC Davis.”

Right now the proposed total commercial is about 2.15 million square feet – a similar size in square footage that would have been in Davis, but on a smaller footprint.  Most of that is the research park.

The Village Center is part of the tech park, but it is a retail portion.

“This area is a global hub for agricultural research, food production and sustainable technology. The proximity of this site, just seven miles from UC Davis, will offer appropriate facilities for technology startups to put down roots,” added Lon Hatamiya, former Secretary of Technology, Trade and Commerce for California and now Woodland Research Park development team economist.

“In addition to meeting that need, this project will create economic benefits for the City of Woodland by creating new higher-­‐wage jobs, sales and property tax revenues, and fees.”

Additionally, the Woodland Research and Technology Park Specific Plan offers an attractive place to live, recreate, shop, and gather for community events and will complement the neighboring Spring Lake neighborhood.

“The area between Highway 113 and Spring Lake has been designated for this type of project for years. This project couldn’t be better located to intersect public research and private industry,” said Ken Hiatt, Community Development Director for the City of Woodland. “Plans for Woodland Research and Technology Park complement the City’s General Plan and our existing economy that is driven by our robust food and agriculture industry.”

John Hodgson told the Vanguard, “We are going to aim for a year in terms of getting this to council and through LAFCo [Local Agency Formation Commission].”  The area is “in the sphere of influence and in the Woodland Urban Limit line, we need to annex it but it’s been in the sphere for twenty years.  The studies have already been done – so it should be a relatively straight forward decision for the LAFCo folks.”

“I’m not saying anything’s easy, because I’ve never had a project that’s been easy,” he said.  But he thinks the challenge will be getting all the studies prepared.

But again, Woodland’s gain is Davis’ loss.  Mr. Hodgson wouldn’t say it on the record, but clearly they saw this as an easier path to completion and they could get their mixed-use this time, whereas Davis was very reluctant to allow any type of residential.

—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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29 thoughts on “It’s Official: Davis Innovation Center Now Moves to Woodland”

  1. Matt Palm

    Ed Glaeser of Harvard made an argument in a recent Op-Ed that California’s CEQA reviews’ “No Project Alternative” need to actually imagine the most likely location of the projects if the jurisdictions reject them.  E.G. in Davis, we need to think of “No project” as “project moves to Woodland/West Sacramento” or even Texas.  Dr. Glaeser surmised this kind of thinking might dramatically change the findings in some cases.  He argued that environmental effects, emission in particular, do not recognize jurisdictional boundaries, so we should stop pretending that if a project goes elsewhere its emissions/traffic effects/etc are functionally zero.  But with this project it could be that its emission might be lower in this part of Woodland versus Davis.


        1. David Greenwald

          Absolutely.  We were not the only community near the university.  So Woodland will get the millions in benefits and we’ll still be figuring out how to pay for our roads.

        2. Tia Will

          If one indeed sees DIC moving to Woodland as a “loss”, then it is indeed a self inflicted injury. At the very public meeting that I attended on this project, one of the developers made it clear that they favored a project that included a comprehensive plan including housing. At that point in time, Davis was adamant about no housing. Some place the entire blame on the Binning ( and “no growth”)opposition. I see the problem as a broader one in which Davis will not accept any project which entails housing for a variety of reasons. Given that we have both revenue and housing needs, this approach seems short sighted to me.

  2. Don Shor

    But the Davis Innovation Center pulled out in the spring of 2015 after getting push back from neighbors at the Binning Tract.

    It really seems to me there must be much more to the story than this.

    1. David Greenwald

      There is – (1) financing is hard without some sort of mixed use component, which is why they have one; (2) financing is uncertain and costly when you go through an expensive EIR and public process only to (potentially) lose at the ballot and (3) opposition popped up which made them reconsider the risks.

      1. Don Shor

        But near-neighbor opposition is normal for projects. Getting a project to move forward requires commitment from staff, council members, lenders, and the developers. At the stage of the RFI’s, all of those things seemed to be in place. Which ones went missing? I don’t really think the minor opposition from some homeowners in Binning Tract was determinant in this. Their issues could readily have been dealt with in negotiations.

        1. Mark West

          “I don’t really think the minor opposition from some homeowners in Binning Tract was determinant in this.”

          I agree, blaming this on the residents in Binning Tract is too simplistic. The problem goes back to the RFI process and the decision to pander to the ‘no new housing’ contingent in town by precluding mixed use. That was a fundamentally poor decision that ignored the reality of the ‘best practices’ for these types of developments.


      2. Mark West

        Good thing we here in Davis have Measure R and a hyperactive ‘No’ contingent to protected us from this future, otherwise we would be stuck with these high-quality jobs and new revenues to fund our redevelopment, infrastructure improvements, and our unfunded obligations.

      1. Jim Frame

        The problem is that you are putting in the infrastructure and the main costs before you have build out.

        What that tells me is that regional demand for business parks is too weak to make building them feasible without a large subsidy in the form of high profits from residential construction.

        The Woodland proposa isl a residential project — residential constitutes the largest land use — with some business park and other commercial mixed in.  And most of the residential is single-family.  Those characteristics don’t fit the profile that the Davis task force outlined.


        1. Jim Frame

          2,000,000 ft.² is about what they were proposing for the Davis innovation center

          It seems to me that the primary risk components in the DIC proposal were market demand and Measure R.  Which begs the question:  how much did each contribute to the decision to scuttle the project?   My impression is that MRIC pulled their project mostly due to the former.

          By moving 5 miles up the road they lose the convenience and cachet of being in Davis, but they sidestep Measure R uncertainty and gain 150 acres of housing, a profitable sure-thing.  It seems like a more than reasonable trade-off to me from a developer perspective.  From a Woodland taxpayer perspective, it’s not as clear:  they’ll lose money long-term on the residential, but pick up tax receipts from the commercial, assuming that the demand exists to fill it. Plus they’ll have to deal with the impacts associated with a larger population, something that’s never seemed to bother Woodland.

        2. Colin Walsh

          I was in Woodland on Tuesday and for the first time I saw signs on peoples front lawns that say “STOP building on prime farm land” and I saw several of them.


  3. Mike Hart

    First of all- welcome Woodland Research and Technology Park!

    This is good news for Woodland and great news for Davis.

    Having spent the past year developing the Sierra Energy Research Park (SERP) and our Area 52 accelerator I have learned a lot of things from other communities.  The most important thing is that innovation is a lot like love, the more you have the more you get.

    This isn’t a zero sum game.  Woodland’s gain is not a loss for Davis.  In fact, with the hopeful success of this project it will dispell a lot of odd myths about innovation that seem to confuse many in our city. A success in our region will lead to others.  A network of innovation can develop and become the catalyst for people with innovative ideas and the funding that seeks it to come here.  Just look at the bay area- successes in one town have fueled successes in their neighbors as well.

    So welcome Woodland and let’s hope that Dixon and West Sacramento get into the game as well.  Our region is already becoming one of the brightest new lights in innovation in clean energy, sustainable agriculture, cutting-edge robotics and material sciences.  Davis is not losing out and SERP, Area 52, URP and Nishi will all have roles to play here!



  4. Tia Will


    Your comment comes the closest to my feelings on this issue. I do not feel that this is a “loss” for Davis. What I can envision is that the university, serving as a nidus of innovative ideas, could generate more need for small incubator type projects which would be good fits for Davis while larger companies could locate in Woodland and West Sac with all experiencing benefits most compatible with their communities. I do not believe that all communities need to have the same components to be successful.

  5. Todd Edelman

    “Ten minutes to Davis [by car].” Is there any requirement from Yolo County or SACOG for regional transit improvements in conjunction with large new developments? (I mean a regulation or clear and supported guideline, not a wish…). As we all learned in school, church or from our favorite LP record, selling something on its pretend-car worthiness ain’t so innovative.

    Fortunately this development is extremely close to the future Davis-Woodland Alternative Transportation Corridor, which – after the re-location of the freight railway services on this section of track – could be extremely-usefully re-developed with at very minimum a dedicated cycle-track optimized for electric-assist bicycles – this means NOT multi-use but also quite wide – there can be a parallel but separate walking & equestrian path. With an e-easily-achievable 25 mph pace the trip from the innovation center to Downtown Davis would take about 20 minutes.

    It’s unlikely that there will be enough density – at least on the Davis end – to justify some kind of light rail – Google “tram train” – service on the Corridor, even though it could take people mere steps away from trains at the Davis Depot. If that’s not enough of a problem by itself, there will likely be opposition because of the complications with surface vehicle traffic or expensive-avoidance of going underneath at least four streets in Davis. It could, however, continue as a tram all the way to 1st St. and to the edge of the UCD campus. Also without the parallel tram-train the fast bike route would be safer and less complicated, and there could be some development along the wider stretches of the ROW in town (I realize that many hundreds of housing units were projected in a study, but I bet that that’s based on the idea of not such a wide bike path and that it’s also conceived to have lots of car parking designed to balance out the positive environmental effects of the Alternative Transportation.)

    A better alternative – to start, with a high-capacity bus service – would be from the innovation center, down 25A to the 113 with one dedicated service to the Memorial Union via Russell and another to the Davis Depot via 80, Richards and 1st St. The latter would be synchronized with all Capitol Corridor services.

    Still on a steep learning curve about some local particularities: I take it that Yolo County itself doesn’t gain any significant development fees or other substantial benefits from this development which it could invest in infrastructure around the County, including incorporated areas? If that was the case, I assume that this might be called the Yolo County Innovation Center.

    1. Don Shor

      Is there any requirement from Yolo County or SACOG for regional transit improvements in conjunction with large new developments?


      With an e-easily-achievable 25 mph pace the trip from the innovation center to Downtown Davis would take about 20 minutes.

      I seriously doubt many people would take any form of transit from the Woodland center to Davis. They’ll drive. It’s faster, takes them exactly where they want to go, and there won’t be significant congestion.

      I take it that Yolo County itself doesn’t gain any significant development fees or other substantial benefits from this development which it could invest in infrastructure around the County…

      Yolo County is broke and getting broker. Transportation infrastructure isn’t on their ‘to do’ list.

      I sense that you moved here from a much less car-centric region. All of the transportation changes you’ve suggested are very unlikely to occur. There is a great deal of difficulty planning transportation between the cities of Yolo County, along with Dixon in Solano County, because of lack of demand. It’s easier and faster and arguably cheaper to drive.

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