The future of Davis is at stake and some may not even realize it. Is Davis going to be a community that cannot even pay for basic city services? The last few weeks are a reminder that attempting to count on tax money to fund basic infrastructure is not a sure thing, whether it is local or from the state.
A strong majority of voters supported the roads tax, but even at 57 percent it still fell well short of two-thirds vote requirement. To add insult to injury, a measure has qualified for the November ballot that would rescind the 12-cent gas tax. That means roughly $1.5 million from the state for road repairs would dry up if voters indeed approve the measure, which experts expect to pass in November.
In 2020, all eyes will be on maintaining the 1 percent sales tax (half of which was passed in 2004, the other half in 2014). If that goes away, the city’s budget gets ugly fast. Forget about expanding tax revenues, at least in the first part of 2020 – we are now looking at 2022 at least before we can think about another roads tax. As I asked earlier this week, how much will that cost us? It will likely be in the tens of millions.
Throughout the campaign this year, comparisons were drawn to 1972. There was a belief that a large number of students would come out to vote this time. That doesn’t seem to have materialized. But 1972 was the year that Davis really became Davis, because the 1972 General Plan laid the ground work for the planning that defined Davis – from its greenbelts to its parks and bike paths.
If we’re not careful, 2018 will define Davis for it might become – a community that can no longer pay to maintain the great infrastructure that has been planned for and built by the generations that came before us.
With an immediate housing crisis upon us, we have had to focus heavily on providing student housing for UC Davis students coming to our community to get their education. But, at the same time, we have to think about our long-term funding needs.
In the news yesterday was an announcement from UC Davis where Chancellor Gary May thanked Governor Jerry Brown and Assemblymember Kevin McCarty for approving a planning budget of $2.8 million for Aggie Square.
“The UC Davis Aggie Square satellite campus planning is off and running with an infusion of $2.8 million in state funds,” said Assemblymember McCarty. “The project is a quadruple win for the State of California, UC Davis, the City of Sacramento and the Stockton Boulevard Corridor. The partnership will allow the University of California to accommodate more students, support small businesses in our community and foster economic development throughout the Sacramento region.”
Brown approved the funds as part of his signing of the state’s budget on Wednesday morning. The monies, which will cover 2018-19, will be used for community engagement and outreach, internal planning staff, external consultants and technical experts, and legal experts.
“I am grateful for this commitment of support from our government leaders, especially Gov. Brown, Assemblymember McCarty, and Sen. Pan,” Chancellor May said. “This initial investment will help us take significant steps forward as we refine our vision for Aggie Square in partnership with industry, faculty and the community.”
We can view this news as a negative or a positive. The bad news is that UC Davis is partnering with Sacramento on creating a large innovation park, along the lines that we were planning back in 2014. Getting in the way of our ability to deliver on our immense promise, and the promise of sustainable revenue, have been old fights over land use and restrictions over development.
The result is that, while we had basically three proposals for innovation parks on the table in 2014, they are all effectively off the table today. The Davis Innovation Center which was proposed for north of Sutter Davis has moved up the highway to Woodland, where it has already been approved.
Nishi was approved by council in its original form with 300,000 square feet of R&D space, but that measure was voted down by 700 votes in June 2016. Nishi came back to the voters in 2018, but this time without the 300,000 square feet of R&D space.
Finally, the Mace Ranch Innovation Center is technically still alive. The council certified its EIR in 2016. However, it remains on hold.
On the other hand, we can also view the efforts by UC Davis and Aggie Square in a positive light. It shows that there is a regional demand for research and development, and for high-tech, and that bodes well for Davis and UC Davis.
While UC Davis is clearly putting its efforts now into Aggie Square, a rising tide will likely lift all boats. The fact that the state is willing to help put money into innovation in Sacramento means there is the potential for Davis to step up with its own innovation space in Davis and attract money and investors.
Recent conversations with city leaders have convinced me that this remains a priority for the city. We have lost our momentum over the last few years, that we seemed to have had in 2014 when we had three active proposals on the table, but the basic dispersed innovation strategy developed in 2010 still holds and the basic need is as strong as ever.
What is needed is some new leadership and some new energy, and that is something we can get moving again – and very quickly.
—David M. Greenwald reporting