Monday Morning Thoughts: Manufactured Dissent


One would think that plans to put an office complex on the corner of Mace and Alhambra, a long underutilized location, and not only fill it with a business park but also a business park that allows the Nugget Market corporate headquarters, is not only a huge coup for the city, but also a win-win for all involved.

According to the staff report for the planning commission, set to hear the project on Wednesday, “The project is the construction of three commercial buildings on the parcel at the northwest corner of Mace Boulevard and Alhambra Drive. The project includes a two-story 32,220 square-foot office building closest to the corner, and two 16,200 square-foot R&D/office buildings.”

The big thing is that the parcel, nearly six acres, is currently vacant except for providing overflow parking for the adjacent apartment complex – a function that is supposed to remain.

The site has been vacant since the 1989 approval of the Mace Ranch project.

The site was proposed for office uses.  In 2006, the city rezoned the site for a neighborhood retail center.  But in 2014, an application “was submitted to the City for a Final Planned Development, Design Review, and Tentative Map for a 55,600-sf office/medical/retail development with four buildings on four separate parcels. The application was deemed incomplete by the City and subsequently withdrawn by the project applicant.”

Staff believes that the slight changes to the designation, as neighborhood retail use to business park, would allow the intended use in addition to the R&D uses proposed for the back of the site.  Limited accessory retail could support the office R&D uses.

In the initial study, they found, “Trip generation associated with development of the proposed project would be considerably less than buildout of the site per the site’s current land use designation. The relatively small amount of traffic that would be added to the Mace/Alhambra intersection is not anticipated to substantially affect intersection operations.”

You would think that moving the headquarters to Davis of a well-respected local company like the Nugget would be cause for celebration – especially during a time when the city is desperately in need of economic development of this sort.  And this doesn’t even substantially change land-use designations or require annexation of new land.

Indeed, Councilmember Lucas Frerichs was excited.  On Sunday in the wee hours of the morning, he posted on Facebook, tagging a number of others: “(Hopefully) Coming soon!! Welcoming the new corporate headquarters for one of the country’s consistently best rated “companies to work for”; this is great news for Nugget Markets and a major economic win for the city of Davis! The Planning Commission sees it this week, with City Council approval expected at our July 31st meeting.
#NuggetMarkets #DavisCA.”

And why wouldn’t he?  What is the downside to this?  An underutilized parcel?  An infill project?  A spot already designated for commercial use?  And we can get Nugget to come to Davis – as they should have long ago?  We should be rolling out the red carpet for them.

Yesterday, the Vanguard asked where leadership should come from – seems to me that having the welcome mat rolled out is the least we can expect if we want to compete for economic development.

And yet, we have complaints.  The first person to post on yesterday’s article which was not even about this project called the project “a joke” and complained that we lack sufficient mode share for bicycles.

In a comment on the Vanguard they wrote, “They do their own analysis showing a 4% modal share for bicycles, about 1/7 of the current goal for cycling to work. The report states that two Unitrans bus lines serve the area, but it’s only one, and this runs every 30 to 60 minutes, accounting for another 4% modal share (unless because they made that bus lines serving mistake, it’s only 2%!).”

Never mind the initial study found that this project would only generate a “relatively small amount of traffic.”  One of the problems in Davis is we fail to recognize that, sometimes, the perfect is the enemy of the good.

Worse yet are the folks complaining that Lucas Frerichs jumped the gun by posting the announcement on Facebook with such exuberance, and that he should have waited for the proposal to go to the planning commission and the council.  After all, the citizens might raise concerns that would cause the council to think twice about the project.

There are times when projects are going to be controversial and it would be prudent to stay neutral.  But this hardly seems like one of those times.

But, for the most part, this seems like manufactured dissent.  This project is a huge win for the community.  Getting Nugget to locate its corporate headquarters here is a huge coup.

As staff notes: “The proposed office and research/development buildings would support General Plan Economic Development policies to encourage businesses to locate in Davis, targeting businesses which improve the City’s fiscal base…”

The staff report, because it is written for the Planning Commission, does not have any fiscal analysis, but it would seem that this could have modest fiscal benefits to the city down the line with little to no downside.

Frankly, I would be disappointed if the council were not championing this project.  We need more of this in town.  Save the dissent for the times when dissent is needed.

—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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13 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts: Manufactured Dissent”

  1. PhilColeman

    A July, 2011, article in Psychology Today analyzed the motivations of what the author called, “chronic complainers.” It’s become an everyday term in this profession. Every groupings of persons have such persons–but as any outsider relocating to this town will tell you–Davis is the Capital City for constant complainers in public venues. My fellow sufferers and I speculate it’s the Davis water.

    The pyschologist author notes that the constant complainer has no self realization of his/her negativity. They truly feel the world constantly treats them wrong. Their behavior is basically an  effort to obtain sympathy and emotional validation. Those of us who are exposed to such persons are advised to give them emotional support but make no effort to convince they are mistaken. That’s not what they want to hear, it only fuels their negativity. They want your  sympathy, give it to them.

    When possible I ignore and shun these depressing folks, the world has enough misfortunate and tragedy without the manufactured and embellished kind. Besides, such persons are boring. When a reaction is necessary, just give sympathy without giving agreement or support.


    1. Jeff M

      When possible I ignore and shun these depressing folks

      Democracy makes it difficult unless we don’t mind them calling the policy shots.

  2. Jim Gray

    Chronic Complainers is a great description!

    As noted in the article this property has been in our planning documents for commercial uses — office/business park/retail for almost 30 years! The impacts have been studied many times and the plan will address and mitigate any real impacts. They are proposing a high quality office park.

    Our community has a severe shortage of commercial space for businesses.  We have a great local company –Nugget — planning on relocating their office into an attractively designed building. Keeping and adding real jobs and services in our region.  And the land owner/developer team will apparently build two speculative buildings for other future businesses.  Local businesses can expand …or new businesses can set down roots in Davis.  That is a good thing!

    Councilman Lucas Frerichs reacts to the announcement by indicating this is “good news”.  For a council member to be encouraging and to publicly recognize a good offering is a worthy response.  Thankfully, Lucas has demonstrated his leadership and reacted to a positive announcement.  It is good for an elected representative to be encouraging!  

    Hopefully the “Chronic Complainers” can find another way to spend their time. .. Coleman is right. Please “Chronic Complainers”… take two aspirin, go kick your dog, find a couch to lie on,  and sort out with a Therapist why life is so bad in Davis?  I suspect the only people that will listen to you are those who are paid to be listeners…  but I suspect that even they won’t agree with you that this is a reason for concern.

  3. Ron

    Seems like a good proposal to me.  Nugget belongs in Davis.  And, it’s inside the Mace Boulevard curve (and within the city limits), in an area that’s appropriate for commercial development.

    Having said that, the comments/commenter that David is referring to are nevertheless welcome on here, as far as I’m concerned. (Before others start labeling/complaining/suggesting therapy for others, perhaps they should look in the mirror, first.)

  4. Alan Miller

    > You would think that moving the headquarters to Davis of a well-respected local company like the Nugget would be cause for celebration

    It is!

    We have a saying in the nonviolent conflict resolution training for volunteers at the Whole Earth Festival:  “Ignore Alien Orders”.

  5. Todd Edelman

    The first person to post on yesterday’s article

    That’s me. This.

    Never mind the initial study found that this project would only generate a “relatively small amount of traffic.”

    Does that someone make irrelevant that the bicycle modal share is so far below the overall city goal? Indeed, in the many responses to my post yesterday no one addressed this.

    One of the problems in Davis is we fail to recognize that, sometimes, the perfect is the enemy of the good.

    Seriously, we’re starting this exciting week with a new council and the next Downtown workshop with this tired, old lazy slogan? 1/7 of a goal is good? Do we apply this to anything else in a similar way? (“Oh, you’re 1/7 cancer-free, the perfect is the enemy of the good <3”?). The problem is that if we keep on approving projects which are by City staff’s own estimates far below meeting goals, there’s no way to ever meet those goals, especially as the current situation is so bad (e.g. Nugget Market shopping is probably 95% by car, and a good part of the rest by bike. 30% is supposed to be by bike by 2020, similar to trips to work. If we allow more typically-car-oriented destinations such as supermarkets or their – okay! – just-barely-not-peripheral headquarters some slack and thus a 15% share goal – keep in mind this means that e.g. Downtown or other areas need a 45% share to balance that! – both are still only 1/3 of the way there. My educated guess is that there’s nothing that the City is doing now to improve cycling that will change this in any substantial or even noticeable way.)

    About chronically-complaining, in advance of the workshop this week I’ve spent many hours this week cooking up some constructive ideas for Downtown mobility access, so that it’s less likely that children are hit by cars on the way there, prompting a response of “the perfect is the enemy of the good” because – thank the great tomato! – they were only injured. A long-time current Planning Commissioner says that the ideas are “visionary”.

    1. Don Shor

      City of Davis, per the link I found, is at 20% right now, which is the highest rate by far in the country. We are obviously not going to reach 30% by 2020. It is July 2018. The Bicycle Plan was adopted in 2009. Obviously the goal was unattainable. I would think that became pretty apparent when the 2012 goal laid out in the 2009 plan of 25% was not met.
      So when a plan is not meeting the stated goal, it’s time to review and rethink that goal.

      1. Mark West

        The 30% bike modal share goal, like the former 30% affordable housing requirement, are examples of City policies derived to appease narrowly focused advocates and Commissions. Neither the goal nor the requirement took into account the real-life costs to the community associated with them. When we arbitrarily add costs to development, as we did with these standards, it creates an impediment to obtaining the types of developments we need for the City to be fiscally healthy.

        Since both standards were put in place, the City has acknowledged at least an $8 million annual funding gap. Perhaps it is time we change our priorities and get rid of these and other ridiculous standards (as we recently did with the affordable housing demand) and stop allowing the narrowly focused advocates and Commissions from controlling the discussion.

        By the way, the ‘low hanging fruit’ for increasing bike modal share (while also reducing traffic) is to increase the inventory of student housing in town.

      2. Todd Edelman

        Don I’ve seen more like 17% – there’s been no count since the 2010 Census, and the City has not budgeted for a survey – but that’s the overall rate, disproportionately carried by junior high kids who can’t drive themselves and those with campus destinations, where parking is expensive or otherwise restricted.

        I have been referring to the plan adopted in 2014.

        Trips to work not on campus and for shopping/entertainment is below double digits – I think that this is easy and fair to conclude giving all the visual evidence.

        I think that the City is making some progress, but it’s slower than it needs to be…. and not only because of official goals.

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