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