Following Pushback from Community, Applicant Requests Delay on Cannery Fitness Center until March 13

On Tuesday afternoon, the city put out an announcement stating, “At the request of the applicant, tonight’s hearing on the proposed Cannery Marketplace revisions is postponed.”  At the start of the council meeting, the city announcement it was re-scheduled for the March 13 meeting.

That did not stop residents from coming forth during public comment to speak out against the proposal.  A number of owners and workers at other fitness clubs are concerned about the impact of a chain fitness center coming into Davis which could upset the market and lead many local companies to go out of business.

Tammy Timbrook, the owner and operator of Davis Swim & Fitness, told the council in speaking on behalf of other fitness centers that Davis Swim & Fitness bought out the location where 24 Hour Fitness was located in part because 24 Hour Fitness could no longer afford the rent.  “Davis as a community believes in the Davis clubs and members seem to not care about that big shiny new facility,” she said.

She said that once LA Fitness came to Davis, “the shininess would wear off, (but) the clubs that they had taken over would be gone and you’re looking at a club that’s not taking care of their members.  LA Fitness is notorious for letting their membership, their clubs go, and not bringing in new equipment.”  She sees a lot of downsides to bringing in a corporate club.

“There will just be an LA Fitness and a few clubs that are able to survive,” she added.  “And they will struggle.”

Matt Casera, the Assistant Manager from Davis Swim & Fitness.  He grew up in LA and came to Davis to go to the university.  He said, “It was very different than it was back home.  You can
actually talk to people on the street.”  He said, “What I love about Davis is people really do care about their community.

“If we do let LA Fitness into Davis, what kind of precedent are we setting as far as staying local and staying as a community as opposed to corporate big box?” he asked.

Nicholas Walejeski, the owner of Get Fit Davis said, “We have a community, people with real names that try to come together to offer a community-based gym to our members.”  He said he started at 24 Hour Fitness. “Big Box gyms are not about creating an experience for the member or developing relationships for the members.  They have zero responsibility for our community or any interests in becoming part of our community.”

For many, this was another instance of the Cannery development team having promised something they could not deliver on.  Explained George Phillips of ConAgra 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.”

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 pass 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.

Now they are coming back to the council again, this time to propose a large fitness center in the commercial portion of the development.

That will require changes to the conditional use permit to accommodate.  It would allow “[a] single-user tenant building up to 34,000 square feet on the East Side, where 15,000 square feet the maximum otherwise permitted, for a fitness anchor tenant use.”

Then, “Based on the information and lack of concerns raised by the local business community, staff concluded that the proposed fitness center use is a compatible use and can be accommodated among the community’s existing fitness clubs and studios.”

But there was clear pushback.  In a blistering editorial, the Enterprise called this “Bait and switch at the Cannery,” calling the fitness center proposal “a radical change.”

The Enterprise notes: “The new gym would be 36-percent larger than any other in town, much bigger than anything Cannery residents could keep solvent on their own. What was meant to be a neighborhood retail space, to serve the needs of locals and keep the neighborhood walkable, instead will attract gym members from all over Davis.”

The editorial continues: “Davis has a clear vision for its commercial space: to concentrate it downtown and along freeways, supplemented by smaller-scale neighborhood shopping centers. A large-scale fitness gym in the middle of a residential area would shatter that pattern, and pull customers away from downtown, which is facing its own challenges as it is.”

As Rob Hofmann from the planning commission put it, “That will absolutely … be putting the death nail in the concept of neighborhood commercial. (It) will change the entire community.”

While the Cannery developers clearly did not anticipate the pushback and are in the process of some sort of reconsideration perhaps, this is not the first time that they have done this.

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.

Bonnie Chiu, representing the New Homes Company at the time, announced that they had withdrawn their proposal, noting they “decided to put our proposal regarding the Stacked Flats Condominiums on hold at this time to allow additional outreach time.”

That was after Doby Fleeman submitted an open letter to the Davis Planning Commission, stating, “Over the past several days, it has come to my attention that developers of the Cannery Project have submitted formal request, Item 6b of tonight’s Agenda, for modifications to the basic terms of their development agreement as it pertains to certain commercial buildings located in the Neighborhood Mixed Use Center – East.”

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

Clearly the community is lining up against this proposal, and the next question is whether the developers once again blink or if they attempt to push these changes through.

—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. Ken A

    It sounds like the Davis gym owners have a lot in common with the Davis apartment owners and want to “protect” us from any new gyms and new apartments (while they protect their profits continuing to raise monthly membership fees and rents at their dumpy old gyms and apartments).

    1. Keith O

      There’s a lot of truth in what Ken wrote here.  If a grocery store was to go in would Nugget have grounds to complain?  I particularly see the statement that LA Fitness lets its clubs go and doesn’t bring in new equipment as kind of ironic being that over the years I’ve used two gym clubs in town that had old equipment in which many pieces were often broke down.

      That said I think people were expecting stores with a smaller footprint and not the big box corporate ones.  They’re looking more for a quaint small store shopping experience which I can agree with.

        1. Howard P

          I agree… if the purpose was for a neighborhood retail/commercial to serve the neighborhood in a walkable/bicycle mode, where the hell has the neighborhood been in helping find tenants, and/or weighing in on the proposed changes?

          If they don’t give a damn, I guess I don’t either…

          Guess the “planners”, developers, thought they knew what was best fo the neighborhood, and got it wrong, missed the mark, whatever.  I definitely think this is the time and issue for outreach strictly in the immediate and immediately adjoining areas, to find out what they want/need, and are willing to support… and follow that as best we can… and if they don’t participate, “screw it” and let the property owner do whatever they feel is best for them… we are not their “nannies” and shouldn’t try to be.

          We are not hurting for gyms/athletic clubs… maybe the owners of existing gyms/athletic clubs should have a good game of “Dodgeball” to see who ‘wins’ and who loses… I want the role of Chuck Norris!

          Seriously… if it is a neighborhood resource, amenity, let’s hear from the nearby neighborhoods… if they don’t actively respond, let’s devote the whole site to affordable UCD student housing, and pay whatever it takes to acquire the land and build the highest, most dense mega-dorms/apartments that we can!  It’s (site) on two transit routes, there is a pseudo-Dutch junction nearby… why not?

        2. Todd Edelman

          The former cannery area is realistically cut off from the rest of Davis, except by car. It still will be with the ridiculous ADA-ped-bike crossing under and over and under East Covell. Are the denizens of the former cannery area neighborhood-oriented… have they lived there long enough to develop these bonds organically? Aside from the subsidized folks who are the most recent residents or near-future residents, and the students, how many people there are just home-J St.-Drexel-L St.-E. Covell-Mace-80-Mace-E. Covell-Nugget-home types, with little connection to Davis? Do they want a practical and safe not-by-car path to the west or across the entirely not-Dutch intersection?

          Perhaps the sensitive and likable folks on Council who’ve supported this project so far – in one or both votes – can do some healing of this land before they leave or continue in this office.  Competing with Nugget seems unrealistic, but it’s very important to have neighborhood-oriented businesses that complement more so in atmosphere – rather than offering – the businesses Downtown.  (It would be interesting to see if the Cannery could have been approved after the transition in CEQA from LOS to VMT…?)

          By the way, fitness centers – like all Davis businesses – should be striving for a 30% bicycle modal share for visits from guests and employees within three years. This is the City Council-approved goal.

        3. Ken A

          The Cannery is not “realistically cut off from the rest of Davis, except by car” since people are already waking and riding their bikes to schools and shopping outside the Cannery (and more will be walking and riding as more people move in to the Cannery).  Davis had hundreds of UCD students that live north of Covell and few (if any) drive to campus every day.  I expect the majority of students that move in to the Cannery will ride (or take the bus in the rain) to campus (since I assume like the hundreds of other kids that cross Covell by the Marketplace they will figure out how to get across the street that “realistically cuts them off from the rest of Davis” using a crosswalk)…

        4. Howard P

          Just curious Todd… how does one “develop … bonds organically”?  I get that with aspens, coast redwoods, and some other plants. but am not seeing the human referent… in this context…

          Meant as an honest question…

        5. Alan Miller

          The former cannery area is realistically cut off from the rest of Davis, except by car. It still will be with the ridiculous ADA-ped-bike crossing under and over and under East Covell.

          Amen to that, brother Todd!

        6. Todd Edelman

          My apologies: I was not clear: My point was about the Cannery as a destination and a place to pass through. I lived near Pole Line and Donner and would often not only cut through the fields but cross the train tracks on the way Downtown — I did not see a lot of activity by bike, or foot. There is no simply no human-scale or convenient crossing to the rest of Davis existing or planned.
          “North of Covell” and east of Pole Line is where I lived for about a year: Non-car travel is minimal. If you’re talking about west of the tracks, the connections are better and the campus is closer — still, I would like to see David’s “travel stats” and how they apply to the Cannery, and for trips not to campus: I don’t think it is acceptable that trips to school mostly by young people should take most of the responsibility for the bicycle modal share goals in Davis. And about that, here are two opinion pieces – one about how students should get to school and another – a bit tongue in cheek, perhaps – about who should get the best parking places – appeared in the Blue Devil Hub that very indirectly reference Davis youth cycling culture.

          Howard P: “… develop organically…” means that the Cannery is still not built out and occupied for currently-approved housing, and there’s not been enough time for neighbors to get to know each other… and more deeply than that I am curious if the holistic design actually encourages that.

        7. Ken A

          If Todd really did “cut through the fields but cross the train tracks on the way Downtown” the reason he “did not see a lot of activity by bike, or foot” is that:

          1. He was illegally trespassing on private property and

          2. If you wait until you cross the tracks from Donner on your way downtown (vs. heading south on L) your are going way out of your way.

          Most people when walking or riding will not trespass if it takes longer to get somewhere (but will often trespass if it is a “shortcut”)…

        8. Todd Edelman

          The area between the drainage ditch and East Covell is peaceful, amazing and magical when the cornstalks are high. I was asked to not go through – and, yes, it’s safer and faster than the legal way – for security reasons, but I was actually free security every time I crossed through. I complied, but try it next summer!

          It’s nice to alter routes.

          The most honorable thing – for anyone who feels responsible – to do when the “keys are handed over” for the Cannery to F St. crossing is hand over some bolt cutters, so that nearly all people can cross the tracks efficiently, quickly and with perhaps with less social safety risk than by travelling the long, more isolated and designed route. Perhaps these can even be incorporated into the bike share system (so under-18’s can be included, since they will not be allowed to use the bikes.)

  2. David Greenwald

    It is pointed out to me that the Enterprise has a massive conflict of interest here.  They own the building at Third and G Street which is their former printing facility now rented by FIT House.

    1. Howard P

      Curiouser and curiouser… hadn’t connected those dots…

      Still, as you correctly pointed out (I surmised) earlier, the real question is ‘what is the “highest and best use” of the property’, as it relates to the proximate neighborhoods… it’s not about athletic clubs/gyms… a symptom, not the underlying “illness”/issues.

      The rest is ‘static’… diversions…

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