Commentary: The Cannery Folks Are Abusing Process at This Point

From the start, the Cannery project has been fraught with controversy and a series of 3-2 votes that have allowed the developers to have multi-bites at the apple when they have miscalculated or wished reconsideration of part of their plan.  To date, the council, albeit narrowly, has obliged.

But in our view, this continued pattern is becoming a problem for the city and is putting current housing needs at risk.  It is time for the council to show mettle and tell the Cannery folks either the word “no” or, at the very least, the word “wait” and get in the back of the line.

Once again, the arguments put forward by Bob Dunning in his column Tuesday greatly oversimplify the problem by suggesting in Davis “every big change is controversial.”  He’s not wrong on that, but if the Cannery isn’t justifiably controversial, I don’t know what is.

There was a bit of a self-serving nature to the fitness clubs of Davis coming out to oppose LA Fitness.  I used to be a member of 24 Hour Fitness, I’m now a member of Get Fit Davis, and it was nice to see the owner come out and speak from the heart.  They do a good job and have a good product.  I think it probably survives because there are sizable groups of people in this community who are not going to want to go to a big club.

In a way, however, the presence of the local gym owners distracts from what I see as the bigger problem here.

The bigger problem here is that, once again, Cannery is coming back to council after badly miscalculating – once again.  Even worse is this is not the last time.  There are already other changes on the

The thing about Cannery is not that a fitness center is a big deal or should be controversial. Rather, it just feels like their entire project has been one miscalculation/recalculation after another and, after awhile, you just shake your head at this stuff.

My concern is this takes up bandwidth needed to deal with more pressing issues that weren’t decided five calendar years ago.

But actually it is worse than that.  I had a conversation Tuesday night with a few people citing Cannery as a reason to be skeptical about Nishi because of this ever-changing process.  While they have legitimate concerns, at least with Nishi the baseline features and any major changes to them will require a new vote.  And, while deciding what constitutes “major change” may be debatable, what’s not debatable is that most of the new bites of the apple from Cannery would have triggered a new vote for Nishi.

But this is something council needs to be cognizant of – every time they go back to accommodate Nishi on a failed promise, they are undermining their own credibility.

As one person told me, “There’s a ‘here we go again’ feeling. And this isn’t even going to be the last one.”

So the question is why allow them to do this?  The council has the power to put an end to this, and, speaking with some members of council this week, there may well be the votes to do just that.

Is that why Cannery asked to delay the vote on Tuesday night?  We don’t know for sure, but it would seem a reasonable possibility.

The problem here once again is the Cannery promised something to the community that they could not deliver upon.  So, instead of being held accountable, they want the council to let them off the hook.

As George Phillips of ConAgra explained at the Planning Commission earlier this month, “We were hoping that we could attract a large food format that would have been an attraction within the city because it was going to be unique, (like) nothing else in the city.”

Again, this is not the first time that they have done this.

In 2013, the project was approved on a 3-2 split vote with then-Mayor Joe Krovoza and Councilmember Brett Lee voting in opposition.

The infrastructure needs caused the developers to come back after the fact and request the passage of a CFD (Community Facilities District) costing residents at Cannery, which pushed the project back before the council in 2015 for another 3-2 vote approving the CFD, this time with Brett Lee and Robb Davis in opposition.

In May 2015, then-Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis stated, “I still don’t understand why the New Home Company needs this CFD to cover their costs. The infrastructure that we’re approving tonight, $6 million is already in place – they found a way to finance it. It’s already in place. $6 million of the $8 million is already in place according to Bob Clarke.”

Nor was the CFD the only issue.  In April 2016, the Cannery pulled back at the last second from a number of proposed changes to increase the number of stacked flats while reducing the number of small builder units.

At some point, Cannery has made its bed, let them lie in it.  Clearly the heat is on as the applicant requested a delay, but unless they actually pull back entirely, the precedent will be once again set and it will harm the council and city’s credibility not only on this project, but on future projects.

It is time to put a stop to this.  And the council has the ability to say enough is enough.  We have approved the project, make it work to the best of your ability.

The problem otherwise is you end up with people making arguments like this:  Developers in Davis are promising things that they can’t deliver on, just to make a sale.  While I think the notion that this was done intentionally or represents “bait and switch” as the Enterprise editorial implied is moving beyond the facts, reasonable people still can and should question this process and whether it is in the best interest of this community.

Once again it falls to council to just say no.  Will they do it this time?

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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. Tia Will

    “We were hoping that we could attract a large food format that would have been an attraction within the city because it was going to be unique, (like) nothing else in the city.”

    Developers in Davis are promising things that they can’t deliver on, just to make a sale.”

    A few days ago, I was asked the entirely reasonable question of why I am frequently skeptical of claims made by developers. This is a very timely example of why I feel that way. Ramos ongoing changes to the MCRA project were another recent example. The author of that question said that I was imputing dishonesty. This is not true. My skepticism is based on actual events within the city regardless of the motivations/goals of the developers which are obviously unknowable to me unless they choose to share, which they almost never do fully.

    1. David Greenwald

      Just illustrates the point I’m making here – the need to stay on the straight and narrow because people are wont to be distrustful of developers and their intentions in this community

      1. Howard P

        … people are wont to be distrustful of developers and their intention…

        Aye, and there’s the pity…

        Nobody should ‘profit’ from anything… take no risks… (some would say)

        The intention of developers is clear… to invest in acquiring property, despite risks, develop property, and get some acceptable ROR on their investment… DUH!

        Same as anyone who invests in mutual funds, individual stocks, or buys a house… DUH!

        I suspect that some who oppose development/developers have money in REIT’s as part of their portfolio, or who own SF houses… part of their portfolio…

        1. Tia Will


          The intention of developers is clear… to invest in acquiring property, despite risks, develop property, and get some acceptable ROR on their investment… DUH!”

          I don’t think the issue is quite that simple. I believe that developers have the responsibility to completely disclose all of the potential benefits & risks of their developments as they know them to be. If they are wrong, they have the obligation to make the situation right on their own. That is the true meaning of “taking risks”. Where is the “risk” if the city bails a developer out every time they make a costly error in judgement ?

          Using a medical example. Let’s suppose that I believe as a surgeon that the diagnosis is X and that if I complete removal of the uterus and ovaries, the problem will be solved. At the time of surgery, I experience difficulties and am unable to complete the procedure within the time frame designated for the surgery. Do I complete the surgery as offered initially knowing I will not be fully compensated, or do I say sorry, I misestimated and therefore did not do the complete surgery and you will have to deal with the partial treatment you have now, or pay more to have the modified surgery done. I suspect the vast majority expect me to take full responsibility for my mistake and do the right thing for the patient.

  2. Jeff M

    Every notice that some of people least likely to give strait opinions or firm commitments unless they are 100% sure of all the variables are the same that demand perfect estimation in others even when the variables are incalculable?

      1. Ron

        What I’d like to know is who, exactly, is asking developers to continue “taking risks”?

        Other than continuously trying to accommodate the impacts caused by a university that doesn’t care about the community’s goals (or the costs and impacts that it’s foisting upon the city), why are there so many proposals in the first place?

        And then, why all the “complaining” when it ultimately fails? (Or, the fake “indignation” from those taking such risks, when folks realize that the development isn’t what was promised and start complaining about it?)

        1. Howard P

          That’s easy, Ron… you asked,

          What I’d like to know is who, exactly, is asking developers to continue “taking risks”?

          Truth is, it’s me… got a problem with that? [An exact answer, BTW]


        2. Ron

          Howard:  No “problem” with that, but you might be in the minority.  (Not sure, really.)  Certainly, some agree with you. And, I suspect that most (including me) realize that some development will occur, regardless.

          But, there appears to be some “built-in” false assumption that the majority are looking forward to the next big proposal, from developers. And then, all the hand-wringing starts, when we find out otherwise.

          And inevitably, it’s never what was promised in the first place.

        3. Ron

          Maybe so, but a whole lot better than the alternative that was being pushed awhile back.

          By the way, we now (apparently) have at least 3 bicycle/pedestrian overpasses needed for developments that will require some form of funding from the city (one for the Cannery, and two for Lincoln40).

          If there’s a fitness center at the Cannery, this will become even more important (since it will draw in folks from outside the Cannery).

        4. Howard P

          David… your 6:51 post… I suspect/believe, more than you know… Cannery and Covell Village site should have been planned together… egos, economics, and politics precluded that…

          We are reaping the wind… we will have to deal with that… and, perhaps, learn from it… but, nah…. ain’t a happening thing…

        5. Howard P

          More was/is the pity… some tried… they were laughed off… by the property owners, “professional (?) planners” and the public… ‘voices speaking in the wilderness’, were ignored/dismissed… it happened… no apparent “re-do’s”… finis….

          Now we reap what was sowed…

  3. Dave Hart

    I guess it’s no wonder that when the community witnesses the continual change in direction of a development that was sold one way and morphs into something else they vote no when they have the chance.  When a development that is studied to death by the city, commissions and council still ends up different than how it was sold why would any voter think they could do a better job approving a development?

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