Commentary: Change Will Happen in This Community, We Need to Figure Out the Best Way to Direct It

In the middle of the debate over policies, a bigger point has emerged which is what is your vision for Davis.  I actually believe that’s a secondary point although I think have an answer to that.  The problem with asking the vision question is that I think for a lot of people their vision is to figure out a way to keep Davis as it is now or as it was when they first moved here.

Many people will rightly point out that Davis has changed a good deal over the decades and that is unrealistic to expect either (A) Davis to go back to what it was and (B) Davis to remain as it is now.

The key point for me then is not what your vision is for Davis, but rather how do we retain the things that we love about this community (of course you could argue that is itself a vision).  Here many will no doubt disagree just how to do that.

But towards that end, I found the post by Matt Williams the other day to be helpful:

He writes: “The reality of the $8 million per year shortfall (each year for 20 years) is going to force the municipal jurisdiction of the City of Davis to stop plunging its head into the sand plying ostrich, and deal with the fiscal realities we face.”

And I think this point is the tip of the iceberg, not the iceberg itself because is belies the fact that the city of Davis, as currently construction is not sustainable.

That being said, Matt Williams is correct to point out there are “different” which he differentiates from “opposing” or even “polarizing” sides to how to deal with this.  But his point is strong here: “The one thing all those sides will have to deal with is change.  Change brought about by the recurring shortfall.”

Toward that end, Matt Williams identifies five groups:

  • One of the groups sees  Davis as a one-company, “University Town,” and wants to hold on to the illusion that nothing has changed.
  • Another group of people want to hold onto the one-company University Town identity, and believe the best way to deal with the collapse of the pre-2008 Ponzi Scheme is by paying the additional taxes needed to cover the costs of the City’s services to which they have become accustomed.  They are willing to see Davis become more and more expensive a place to live.
  • A third group is comprised of people who acknowledge the collapse of the pre-2008 Ponzi Scheme and know we need to address the fiscal shortfall, but do not want to see Davis become more and more expensive to live in.  They also still see Davis as a one-company University Town.   They are willing to see a substantial cutback in both the cost and the level of services the City (and DJUSD) provide.
  • A fourth group is much like the third group, but they do not want to see their personal taxes increase or the level of services decrease.  They will push for taxes that are paid by others (e.g. TOT and sales taxes and gas taxes).  They will push for modest economic development like more hotels and building the cannabis economy), but fundamentally they don’t want Davis to change.
  • A fifth group is comprised of people who acknowledge the single-threaded University town economy that we historically and currently have is both unbalanced and fiscally unsustainable … and want to add the companies and jobs needed to reduce the community’s reliance on the University.

While Davis would appear to be in good shape, there are canaries in the coal mine here that suggest that all is not well – and if we do not act things will get worse.

The biggest overt sign is that our roadways are deteriorating and we lack the ongoing revenue stream to deal with that.  That may not sound like a big deal, but it goes to the fundamental ability of our government to carry out its primary purpose to deliver services to the community and maintain the community infrastructure.

I would argue that what makes this community great is manifold but part of it is the character and nature – our parks, our greenbelts, our bike paths.  The walkability and bikability of this community.  The engaged nature of this community.

Imagine a community where we can no longer afford to maintain our roads, bikepaths, parks, greenbelts, among other things.  That is a threat to the very nature of our community.

Second, and this goes beyond the issue of fiscal sustainability, but imagine a community that grows to expensive for the average person to live here.

Third, as this community grows more expensive, the population of school aged children will continue to decline and one of the great amenities is our schools – right now we are supporting and subsidizing our schools through a combination of factors – two of which are parcel taxes and out of district transfers – in the long term neither of these seems particularly sustainable.

That is why I believe that while most people love this community because it is small, it has a college atmosphere, and they would prefer to see limited change – we have to figure out a way to allow change to happen while balancing that change.

That calls for compromise and a moderate path forward.  For example, we may believe it would be better not to continue to expand onto the surrounding farmland, but then that might mean we have to accept more high density infill and redevelopment.

On the economic development side – with the slow death of retail, our choice that we already made becomes clearer – we are not going to improve our tax take through development of peripheral retail, but instead we need to look to the university and the high tech route.  That’s a reason I support looking at an innovation center.

Our downtown is a key and valuable resource, but the slow death of retail is going to impact it as well – as it already has – what do we see as the future of our downtown?  I see a downtown that while busy is not what I would consider thriving.  How do we improve it?  What if we put more people in downtown, better utilize the land by going up, and still maintain the character of the downtown?

The hard thing for people to accept is that things are going to change one way or another.  There is no avoiding change in life.  The only thing that doesn’t change is already dead.

Instead of fighting change, we need to direct change so that we can retain what we love about this community while making changes to be sure that we are sustainable.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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. John D

    All true, but what is it telling us?

    How about if we back up a step and ask:

    1) What is our strategic value proposition to the region and the world?

    2) What enhancements and investments are required to enhance and fortify that position?

    3) Lastly, and most importantly, how do we go about positioning ourselves (the city) to best leverage and monitize that value proposition to achieve the greatest returns and improvements for the community?


    1. Rik Keller

      John D: this sounds fine in the abstract, but two of your proposed solutions  on yesterday’s thread about ways  to “monetize” things were sports arenas and convention centers which are two of the biggest economic boondoggles around.

      1. John D

        Other than advocate for somebody else to build affordable housing to serve the region, do you have anything else that might add to the conversation about Davis?

        And, I still haven’t seen any of your research on the role of public investment in terms of fostering increased revrnues from associated private sector reinvestment.

        Other than to outline what you don’t like, siloed, cherry picked monologues aren’t generally of much value on a topic of this nature.


      2. Alan Miller

        which are two of the biggest economic boondoggles around.

        Roger that.  Never fails to amaze me that a certain brand of conservative (see Bay Area Council, etc.) are fine with mass corporate/civil welfare.

      3. Rik Keller

        John D: the first rule is to not do harm. So let’s set aside those “field of schemes” plans/visions you are pushing involving corporate welfare.

        As far as my city planning and policy analysis career and experience, it stretches back almost 25 years. You want to start with reading my master’s thesis circa 1994 on smart growth planning?

        1. Richard McCann

          So Rik, you should be familiar enough with the literature that you can find links to the research that supports your positions.

          BTW, that article you cited in the bid-rent curve (which goes with the effects of agglomeration economies), basically contradicted your position about housing solutions.

  2. Rik Keller

    Meanwhile, rather than talking about a broad community vision, the Davis Vanguard has been  pushing the “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” (children’s book) approach to city planning: let’s  put in this giant research/office park at the edge of town to try to reduce City budget deficits. But they’re going to want a hotel that actually produces more revenue.  And then they’re going to want a conference center to create demand for the hotel. But it’s isolated on the edge of town, so they’re going to want some retail/dining/entertainment  options nearby. And let’s go ahead and throw some housing in there too, and so on…


    1. Richard McCann


      If you don’t like the approach to setting out a broad community vision by the Vanguard, you should set one out yourself. Continual criticism with no real positive inputs gets you nowhere.

      1. Rik Keller

        The Vanguard doesn’t have a “broad community vision” Greenwald is just campaigning for the project du jour without even providing a cursory examination or critical analysis of project assumptions and impacts.

        As far as my vision, I have set it forth below. It starts with proper process: addressing large scale community change in the context of the General Plan. And doing a through update of that as needed, rather than being in reactive mode to whatever a certain property owner is pushing.

  3. Alan Miller

    Toward that end, Matt Williams identifies five groups

    You forgot the sixth group, those that categorize people into groups and  subtly criticize all but one of the groups for denying ‘change’, all the while advocating for the ‘solutions’ that they believe as the only true response to said ‘change’.

    Reality check:  More often then not, change sucks, especially when someone else defines it for you.

    1. Mark West

      “Reality check:  More often then not, change sucks”

      More often than not you won’t even notice that the change has happened until much later. The impacts are generally incremental and largely go without notice until the cumulative impact is significant.

  4. Jeff M

    Read ex-editor of Reason Magazine, Virginia Postrel’s book “The Future and it’s Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress”


    Today we have greater wealth, health, opportunity, and choice than at any time in history. Yet a chorus of intellectuals and politicians laments our current condition — as slaves to technology, coarsened by popular culture, and insecure in the face of economic change. The future, they tell us, is dangerously out of control, and unless we precisely govern the forces of change, we risk disaster.

    In The Future and Its Enemies, Virginia Postrel explodes the myths behind these claims. Using examples that range from medicine to fashion, she explores how progress truly occurs and demonstrates that human betterment depends not on conformity to one central vision but on creativity and decentralized, open-ended trial and error. She argues that these two opposing world-views — “stasis” vs. “dynamism” — are replacing “left” and “right” to define our cultural and political debate as we enter the next century.

    In this bold exploration of how civilizations learn, Postrel heralds a fundamental shift in the way we view politics, culture, technology, and society as we face an unknown — and invigorating — future.

    Talking to a friend about a story of a 70-year old who is on an extreme fitness routine and is still running and winning, I said: “That is fine, but the older I get, the more I age.”

    Bottom line is that change happens.  Those that understand it, embrace it and run with it are always going to be the more satisfied and successful.  Those that dig in their heels with an irrational expectation that they can maintain the status quo will generally be the opposite.

  5. John D


    All good and well, but sounds more like an excuse to simply avoid any meaningful conversation at all.

    Is that your goal?  To shut down any conversation about change?

    P.S. – Talk about “subtly criticizing”, I’ve never suggested or implied building an arena or convention center in Davis – that’s a flat out lie.   We are talking about options for Davis – correct?  Do you have any lists of what would help make Davis a better version of itself – if so, please feel free to share?


    1. David Greenwald

      I think it is not only an excuse to avoid meaningful conversation but I also think, as I wrote this morning, that people honestly believe we can stay the same.

    2. Rik Keller

      John D: you specifically brought up sports arenas and convention centers as examples of the type of “vision” and “community investment” we need to have. Those two examples are some of the largest economic boondoggles around. Why are you using them as examples? Those are prime examples why we should be skeptical of the promises of “economic development” projects and apply critical analysis skills grounded in reality, not wishful thinking.

      1. John D


        With apologies, but these are absurd examples for a small town  like Davis.  Do you really need me to tell you that – seriously?

        On the other hand, how about if you show me some examples of big city markets without these so-called boondoggle venues – and all the suckers that attend their events?

        In any event, we’re talking about Davis.   What are you proposing to help move the economy along to afford a more desirable version of itself and a more fiscally sustainable formula – beyond simply cutting more staff and more programs and raising more regressive taxes on its residents?

        If you want to take the long view, how about if we start a new, less-regressive tax on the services provided by attorneys, accountants and consultants and their clients to help them pay their fair share towards the upkeep and maintenance of their city?   Why can’t these service businesses – and their clients – be convinced to help with maintaining essential infrastructure of the community?  Why should their clients get a free ride while retailers and their customers are stuck with paying all the taxes?

        Lots of cities have implemented transactional taxes on real estate.  You want to work on something out of the box, here’s your chance.   But we’re back to talking about taxes again, and the idea of economic development is to develop strategies that foster new employment opportunities, reinvestment and renewed economic vitality – all while making the community into a better version of itself.

        You want to say that’s not possible – that’s fine.   But then what is your role in this conversation other than sheer obstructionism?


        1. Rik Keller

          John D: if you think those are just “so-called boondoggles” there is no need to discuss anything further. Economists never agree on anything and they unanimously say that publicly financing arenas/stadiums is one of the worst scams out there.

          “As University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson memorably put it, “If you want to inject money into the local economy, it would be better to drop it from a helicopter than invest it in a new ballpark.”


    3. Rik Keller

      Greenwald said “I think it is not only an excuse to avoid meaningful conversation but I also think, as I wrote this morning, that people honestly believe we can stay the same.”

      Eh, what you wrote this morning is just your typical strawman argument to try to change the subject from critically analyzing the reality of the types of projects you are actively campaigning for

      1. Richard McCann


        David’s assessment is at least a valid perception. If opponents simply oppose every project brought before them and they don’t have realistic proposals for how to change the projects, and are uncompromising on their criticism, that can only be interpreted as opposing any kind of change, even if they may not even be completely aware of their own attitude.

        1. Rik Keller

          Richard McCann: bring me good projects backed by a strong community vision and I will provide support. Give me piecemeal projects with faulty assumptions, unrealistically rosy projections, impacts that haven’t been adequately analyzed, and so forth, and I’ll oppose.

    1. David Greenwald

      Let’s suppose we can get $5 million a year from just one innovation center, it also produces a lot of jobs and creates more general vitality for the community – and we can do it with a 200 acre park? Will that solve our fiscal problems? No. Will it help it and a lot of things? Yes. Will that damage this community? I don’t think so. No more than a series of tax increases or service cuts or a peripheral mall.

      1. Ron

        That’s quite a supposition.

        Regardless, I’m sure that you’ll be siding with the developers on the next housing proposal (following this one), under the guise of housing all of the new workers.  (Which will end up costing the city money.)

        All while ignoring that there’s already a net inflow of commuters.


        1. Ron

          David: If true, your lack of understanding is a problem.

          The statewide/national scope of the unfunded liability crisis is the real “change”.  It cannot be successfully addressed at a city-by-city level.

          However, it does provide a convenient excuse/opportunity for development interests, to claim that they can resolve the challenge. (Despite the miserable track record across all communities resulting from that approach, so far.)

          1. David Greenwald

            The unfunded liability problem is certainly one piece of the puzzle. But that’s not what you were talking about that prompted my response.

      2. Rik Keller

        Greenwald said: “Let’s suppose we can get $5 million a year from just one innovation center…”

        This is fiscal irresponsibility. Total “field of schemes”/pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking not grounded in reality.

        Set aside the hotel/conference center and ancillary retail uses that could be built elsewhere in the city (and, as Matt Williams points out, make a lot more sense elsewhere) and 40% of the projected net revenue at buildout of MRIC is gone. And let’s keep in mind that buildout is 25 years down the road. What does the fiscal situation  look like at a more modest time interval, say 10 years?

        Also, the remaining net projected revenue of $1.4 million at buildout  is likely highly inflated due to completely unrealistic property valuations of the industrial and office/flex uses that are many times more than a actual  regional market rates. Likely we end up with 1/3 of the projection.

  6. Matt Williams

    David Greenwald said . . . The problem with asking the vision question is that I think for a lot of people their vision is to figure out a way to keep Davis as it is now or as it was when they first moved here.

    David, that isn’t a vision.  It fails as a community vision on two levels.

    First, it is intensely personal rather than at the community level.

    Second it is at best only a strategy, but probably only a tactic.  Actually, it is probably neither a tactic or a strategy, but rather only a stated goal.  In order to be a tactic or strategy, it needs to present any way to achieve the stated goal.

  7. John D


    Reference your response to David (and maybe you live somewhere else), but there is no net inflow of employee commuters – much less a surplus – to “Davis” and that really is THE issue when talking about the city’s structural revenue deficit and strategies for the City of Davis.   There is no meaningful tech employer base in Davis.

    Do you understand why that has become a fiscal issue for the city?

    1. Ron

      John:  I assume that the net inflow of commuters are primarily going to UCD. David has previously compared the net inflow, vs. outflow of commuters.

      Again, I’d ask if the type of development that you’re advocating has resolved fiscal concerns in other communities.  The article that I posted above shows that it hasn’t.

        1. Ron

          I don’t know, but what difference does that make? 

          You’re the one who previously compared total inbound, vs. outbound commuters.  (Which included those traveling to UCD.)

          You have previously expressed concern regarding the net inflow of commuters.

          Are you only concerned about the imbalance if it supports a particular development proposal? (And, are willing to “overlook” a proposal that makes the imbalance worse?)

        2. David Greenwald

          You said: “I assume that the net inflow of commuters are primarily going to UCD. ”

          So I assume, you figure it makes a difference hence your comment.

          For the record, my concern is not regarding the net inflow of commuters.  My concern is that we have a large number of people who live in Davis but drive elsewhere to work and we have a large number of people who work in Davis, but can’t afford to live here.

        3. Ron

          David:  “My concern is that we have a large number of people who live in Davis but drive elsewhere to work and we have a large number of people who work in Davis, but can’t afford to live here.”

          Maybe they should either “switch jobs” (with each other), or “switch houses”.

          Or, maybe you should stop trying to invent illogical problems, to support development.

        4. David Greenwald

          I know you’re being facetious but that’s the problem.  A lot of jobs in town do not pay enough to live here.  Housing is too expensive – not a sufficient number of well paying jobs.

        5. Ron

          David:  UCD has quite a few “well-paying jobs”.  Hence, the net inflow of commuters to/through Davis.

          Sacramento also offers stable careers, which is the reason that it’s also an employment center. (One which is well-served by public transportation from Davis, as well.) My commute (using public transportation) from Davis to Sacramento was fully subsidized, by my employer.

        6. Richard McCann

          Ron, you wrote:

          “Maybe they should either “switch jobs” (with each other), or “switch houses”. Or, maybe you should stop trying to invent problems, to support development.”

          Of course a ridiculous solution in which you are avoiding the issue that David has identified–that many commute out of Davis who would prefer to work here, and many work here who can’t afford to live here. So what problem is David inventing? Is what he stated untrue? If it is true, then we have two salient problems here, one being environmental damages from excessive commuting out and in, and housing affordability. I don’t see a non-problematic future unless you want to put your head in the sand.

          As for public transit to Sacramento, it’s expensive and inconvenient. If you work past 5 pm, which is the case for most private employers, the few express buses stop running. And the train is expensive and infrequent. We have a public transit debacle in this region.

          As for UCD, those in the working class generally are not qualified for those well paying jobs because they are in academic services. By supporting R&D and innovation, more production jobs will become available here.

        7. David Greenwald

          Ron –

          Last time I looked at the data, faculty primarily live in Davis, staff do not.  Regardless, you’re misreading the inflow commute data, people who come to Davis to work are doing so (in part/ primarily?) because they can’t afford to live here.

        8. Ron

          David:  An innovation center is not going to reduce housing prices.  It’s also going to create a greater imbalance of inbound commuters, even if housing is included.

          Do any of the documents describe how much parking would be needed, for this freeway development?

          Richard: Again, public transportation was free to me (and my coworkers). I don’t recall the last hour that express busses ran, but I’m pretty sure it was beyond 5:00 p.m. A few times, I stayed in Sacramento very late and took the 42 back, which wasn’t all that different.

        9. Ron

          Would you care to post the number of parking spaces, under the various scenarios in the EIR? (Including parking spaces within residential or commercial structures, external lots, etc.?) In other words, the grand total, for each alternative?

        10. Ron

          Don:  I wasn’t asking for a way in which to search for the total number of parking spaces under each alternative.  I was asking if David would care to post those totals, especially if some are claiming an environmental benefit from this freeway proposal.

          Regardless – I’m sure it will come up, during the forthcoming campaign.

    2. John D


      The “types” of projects that I have advocated are for an increase in the number and size of private-sector, for-profit, technology employers with linkages to the departments and research missions being conducted by UCD.

      From my experience, most of the larger versions of such employers do host their own conference centers.   DG Mori, for example, has its own auditorium.

      If you’re talking about strategies built around public sector investments/supported venues, that’s another topic.   For example, I have long had difficulty understanding how Davis city would go about promoting itself (stated goal of past Councils) as a larger, regional destination Entertainment center (for the record it’s not my top priority) without some further investment in a recognized entertainment venue.   Same thing if the city has a strategy of increasing visitorship and reducing carbon footprint through public investment, seemingly it would prioritize and target reinvestment in a more effective public transit hub to serve employees and visitors to the Downtown.

      You can call these boondoggles if that’s your preference, but to my mind they are responsible investments of public resources to benefit the community while fostering additional reinvestment and a self-supporting civic financial model.

    3. John D


      Following is your earlier exchange with David:

      David Greenwald December 12, 2018 at 11:28 am
      What percentage of employees are UC Davis employees versus working elsewhere in town?

      Log in to Reply ↓

      Ron December 12, 2018 at 11:35 am
      I don’t know, but what difference does that make?

      We know you know better, but for the newcomer to this conversation, it appears that you really don’t understand or fully appreciate the distinctions and relationships between “jurisdication” and “taxation policy” and “municipal revenue generation”.

      The City has just paid handsomely for expert consultants to report on the numbers and percentages of inbound versus outbound commuters along with subcounts on the numbers associated with such commutes.

      The wonderful folks who work on campus are working in a different tax jurisdiction (not Davis) AND they are working for an institution which is exempt from payment of property taxes.    As the result, their employer produces zero property tax for the city.   Similarly, all the meals, products and Amazon deliveries they conduct on campus produce zero sales tax for the City of Davis.   Point is:  Location matters.

      If all these jobs, with this same employer, were situated in Davis – the City still wouldn’t receive any property taxes.   The City would, and does, however enjoy increased measures of sales tax generated by their “off campus” purchasing and daily discretionary spending for those who are situated in the City of Davis.

      Bottom line, if all of the University jobs were situated within the City of Davis – it would add significantly to the City’s retail sales tax revenue stream (just as it currently does for the County of Yolo).

      How many times should the Vanguard need to rehash this elemental calculus? It’s a total waste of Vanguard resources and the readers time.

      1. Ron

        John:  My comment was in response to environmental/VMT concerns, which I believe was brought up by someone else.

        Regarding your point, I’m slightly encouraged by the agreement (between UCD and the city), which resulted in a contribution from UCD to help offset the cost of some roadway improvements. 

        I wish that the agreement was stronger, but some on here were completely against the possibility of any legal action against UCD. As a result, the results of the mediation were not as optimal for the city as might have otherwise occurred.

  8. Rik Keller

    As far as the “vision thing,” it is not prudent for the Davis Vanguard to keep campaigning for this piecemeal project that isn’t being considered in context of the City’s General Plan and other visioning/policy documents. It’s also a “process thing”: A project like MRIC with very large impacts (11,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs; and a population increase of 23,000 of so, depending on how one sees the future jobs-housing balance) needs to have a thorough process for consideration.

    My view is that it is terrible city planning practice to evaluate projects of such magnitude on an individual piecemeal basis. If this is something that the City leaders wish to consider, it should be in the context of a full General Plan Update because it would dramatically change everything about where and how the city grows in the future. The whole point of those planning documents is to establish that vision in a thorough process with deep community involvement.

    It is also irresponsible for the Davis Vanguard to keep campaigning for the project without even a cursory vetting of some of the fiscal impact assumptions (much less a thorough one). If Greenwald is actually serious that we need to figure out the best way to direct growth, he will join me in calling for these issues to be addressed in the appropriate venue–a General Plan visioning and Update–not in a reactionary mode to large projects considered on their own.

    1. Don Shor

      My view is that it is terrible city planning practice to evaluate projects of such magnitude on an individual piecemeal basis.

      MRIC came out of a long process that began before 2010 of assessing sites and developing an economic development strategy. There was DSIDE, then a peripheral park task force, then renamed to an innovation park task force. This was a committee established by the city council to determine the best sites and strategies for increasing economic output in the city and on the periphery, which ultimately recommended the dispersed site strategy, culminated in the Requests for Proposals for the Mace Ranch and north Davis sites. Nishi/Davis Gateway and Fifth Street were also part of the discussion.
      This has not been, as you describe it, “an individual piecemeal basis.” There were hundreds of hours of public meetings authorized and endorsed by successive city councils. The reports are all available on the city’s website. A couple of years ago we were actually pretty close to having three sites in the development stage. Then Nishi got voted down, the partners withdrew from the north Davis site, and MRIC is all that remains. Subsequent developments within the city limits have occurred that make up some of the lost opportunities. But in my opinion, and considerable documentation to back up that opinion on the city’s website, your characterization is very inaccurate.
      We’ve been talking about a General Plan update for nearly two decades. Don’t hold your breath.

      1. Rik Keller

        Don: you just exactly described a piecemeal process in which many of the moving parts have changed in the last 10 years. It has been reactive based on projects proposed rather than a community vision about where and how growth should occur.

          1. Don Shor

            piecemeal ADVERB & ADJECTIVE: Characterized by unsystematic partial measures taken over a period of time. as adjective ‘the village is slowly being killed off by piecemeal development

            As noted before, the economic development strategy was a larger process that included MRIC. I hope that our new/returned assistant city manager can get some movement on the other site(s). But that doesn’t negate the process the led to MRIC. “Piecemeal” is an inaccurate descriptor.

      1. Rik Keller

        Don said “I suggest you stop using this supposed population increase.”

        So you are proposing that—in a town that is already not adequately providing housing for its workforce—we should provide housing for our workforce even less? Just let other surrounding jurisdictions take care of it, add to regional VMT, etc.?  That’s a terrible city planning vision



        1. Rik Keller

          Don: it’s not a fable. That’s induced population growth from the project. It’s part of the impacts that should be considered. The question is where will they live? What is your vision for that?

          1. Don Shor

            The question is where will they live? What is your vision for that?

            They will live in Davis, Dixon, Woodland, or West Sacramento, as people who work in the area presently do. Which they choose will depend on their incomes, how much yard they want, what types of communities they prefer, what they feel they can afford, how much of a commute they prefer, where their spouses work, and myriad other factors.
            Combined populations of those cities is about 205,000. If you are concerned about VMT, the effective and efficient way to deal with that is by increasing availability of public transportation between those cities. If you are concerned about carbon footprint, you should encourage the continued trajectory of lower-emission vehicles for California’s automobiles.
            I am unaware of any developers willing to build sufficient housing at their expected return on investment to simultaneously provide profitable housing and 35% affordable housing on any currently available site in Davis. It would require annexing a large parcel of property to get that. Davis is part of a regional housing market. Decisions about where to buy and work are not neatly tied together in most households that I’m familiar with.
            Obstructing a business park because there is not housing within our city limits for all of those who might work there ignores the realities of modern lifestyles and the availability of lower-cost housing 6 miles to the north, 10 miles to the west, and 12 miles to the east. In most parts of California, those commuting distances would be considered luxuriously short.

        2. Mark West

          “Don: it’s not a fable. That’s induced population growth from the project.”

          It is not induced population growth, it is only an induced increase in the demand for more housing. If the demand for housing was the deciding factor of population growth in the City, Davis would already have a population in excess of 100,000. Your 23,000 number is a fallacy.

        3. Rik Keller

          Mark West: as a corollary, we’ll also mark you down in the column of wanting to increase housing unaffordability by dramatically increasing demand without accounting for the provision of adequate housing.

        4. Mark West

          Yet more dishonest commentary from Rik K.  No surprise there.

          Rik, I suggest you limit yourself to explaining your own position as you are clearly challenged with honestly representing anyone else’s.

    1. Don Shor

      I live in the real world. I run a business and employ people. I am very familiar with the Davis housing market and the limitations of what it can provide to the “workforce.”

    2. Richard McCann


      You can probably put down that these folks are not supporting your proposed solution to building housing in Davis. Everyone of those posters you cite have supported increased housing additions, but not necessarily with all of the riders that you’re proposing.  You don’t have the only solutions to the problem. Objecting to any solutions to other issues because those proposing those solutions won’t buy into your pet solution to a different problem is just unproductive stonewalling.

      1. Rik Keller

        McCann:  I’m putting it down to these folks not wanting to take into account the full impact of the projects they are pushing. That’s just fundamentally irresponsible.

        1. Craig Ross

          The whole point of the article here was the impact of not making these kinds of moves.  It seems you are the master of “why not” but fail to account for the costs of inaction.

  9. Rik Keller

    Don: I have written a bunch of development impact analysis reports professionally. Some were a series for the State of Oregon where the Dept. of Corrections was planning on new facilities and was required by State law to fully analyze impacts from construction and ongoing employment on local budgets, population and housing growth rates, etc. 

    Please remind me again: what professional qualifications and experience do you have in looking at  impact analyses?

    1. Rik Keller

      Don: you are not making a distinction between what is and what should be. 

      If you don’t think that employees of a future Davis research park will be or should be Davis residents, one wonders what you see as the greater purpose of pushing for a research park in Davis to primarily employ the residents of other communities. 

      Keep in mind also that the fiscal impacts in the EPS study are based on the assumption of the employees living in Davis (and a substantial portion of their retail spending in Davis, etc.). So based on your assumptions, the positive fiscal impacts on City revenues will be substantially less.

      1. Ron

        Rik:  In a way, you’ve got to admire the honesty of Don’s 8:39 p.m. and 9:29 p.m. comments.  Both comments acknowledge reality, in a way that’s not often done on here.

        The comments also expose the reality that the only justification (from the point of view of the city) for paving over prime farmland outside of a logical boundary is to make a hoped-for “fiscal profit”, decades from now at build-out.  There is no other justification.

        The comments also acknowledge the reality of vastly increased commuter traffic, through Davis. Of course, they might also approve 850 housing units, which will increase outbound traffic as well.

        It will be interesting to see how many parking spaces are proposed.

        Assuming that the future fiscal profit is real, one can only “hope” that the city doesn’t spend it during the decades that it will take for build-out.  (Gee, I wonder what the chances are of that occurring?)


        1. Ron

          Of course, another way to eat into that supposed fiscal profit is to include housing within the site, on another peripheral site, or “both”. 

          (If I had to guess, I’d say that it would ultimately be “both”.)

        2. Rik Keller

          Ron said “In a way, you’ve got to admire the honesty of Don’s 8:39 p.m. and 9:29 p.m. comments.  Both comments acknowledge reality, in a way that’s not often done on here.”

          Yes, Don directly stated that he doesn’t think Davis has an obligation to plan for housing for our workforce. That is more honest than most who just pay lip service to the idea. I just don’t happen to agree with his “vision”.

          And more than just being honest, Don is also being very generous in offering Davis as the place where the residents of other communities can find jobs, so that we can just maybe (if we ignore things like much of the revenue being based on the unrealistic valuation of industrial and flex/office space at much higher rates than actual regional market rates), achieve a positive net fiscal impact of a small fraction of the City’s General Fund deficit.


        3. Ron

          Rik:  I have a slightly different take, on Don’s comments.  I believe he’s acknowledging that future will choose to live anywhere within a radius of this development, even if workforce housing is included.  There’s simply no way to prevent that from occurring.

          However, I suspect that this development will be used by development activists to justify more housing somewhere on the periphery (either at the site, or elsewhere), which ultimately eats into the “fiscal profit” (and creates more outbound commuters).

          For sure, MRIC would be a growth-inducing machine, beyond the actual development itself. Which also hasn’t worked out so well (regarding fiscal profits), in the long-term.

          Seems to me that the city might want to concentrate on its existing 40-65 year supply of available commercial sites, before looking to the periphery.

  10. John D


    It’s a conversation about what’s missing and how best to deal with it.   Owing to circumstances, Davis – a very high performing and high expectations community (like it or not) – is effectively living on fiscal fumes.

    Many have recognized this challenge.  Apparently, you have not.

    Our greatest deficiency – as a municipal model – lies with the relative absence of private sector job creators, i.e. employers.

    In contrast with many communities, we have the ability and capacity to create highly desirable private sector jobs – jobs and employers that generate surplus revenue and benefits for the community.  By embracing those circumstance, we can make our mark on the planet while also finding and funding our own solutions – and it’s a topic worthy of a community conversation.



  11. Alan Miller

    – and it’s a topic worthy of a community conversation.

    I do believe it’s time for this community to have a community conversation about how best hold community conversations.

  12. Rik Keller

    John D & Don:

    The following is highly recommended reading from the Director at the Center for Economic Development and the Director at the Consortium for Economic Development at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It provides a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the overblown promises of research park development. This is the kind of analysis and information that David Greenwald/Davis Vanguard should be presenting as a true “community watchdog” rather than the refurgitating of campaign material that we get instead.
    “Local economic development is a public policy field with a checkered history, prone to fad chasing and a “herd mentality” among decision-makers and often dominated by powerful business interests. Over the past three decades, for example, despite overwhelming evidence from academic studies that such projects yield little community economic benefit, cities and states have invested billions in convention centers and sports stadiums as “engines” of local economic development. In many ways, the entrepreneurial university is the “next new thing” in this long line of oversold economic development fixes.”
    You could also look at this:
    In this paper I assemble a county-level panel dataset to explore the effects of science parks on job growth and on venture capital. Non-parametric and econometric analysis reveals no positive effect of science parks on regional development overall. In other words, while success stories do exist, the analysis suggests that successes are the exception rather than the rule.”
    Do Science Parks Generate Regional Economic Growth? An Empirical Analysis of their Effects on Job Growth and Venture Capital.

  13. Richard McCann

    Thanks for the cite. I looked through and found this passage:

    “A possible explanation for the few examples of “science park-led local economic development” (Felsenstein 1994), is that, as Jowitt (1991) observes, research parks are often just a political quick fix to industrial decline.”

    In addition, the study incorporated to the extent possible the full population of such parks.

    I see major problems with selecting “control” counties. More important than the static statistics for comparison is the economic trends within each county. If research parks tend to be placed in counties with slowing economies (as hinted by the reference to Jowitt) while the other counties are growing, then of course the analysis is going to come out as the study found. For this reason alone, I have to entirely discount the results of this paper.

    That university R&D spending has little or no effect on high tech jobs is problematic in the results. That’s basically saying the university R&D has no economic impacts whatsoever–that’s a red flag on the analysis.

    The question to be answered is what is the impact of research parks where (1) it leverages an existing agglomeration opportunity, as is presented UCD’s agricultural focus and (2) the region is not in economic decline. The Stanford Research Park is an example of success that fits these two criteria, and arguably we are in a similar situation.


    (BTW, I know 2 of the reviewers who are environmental economists. I also reviewed over 70 “peer reviewed” studies on a specific topic about 10 years ago and found more than half of them at “fatal flaw” analytic problems that rendered their analyses incomplete or flawed. Peer reviewers too often due not pay close enough attention to the results in the papers and don’t use common sense to check them.)


    1. Rik Keller

      Why don’t we “peer review” and reality-check things like the EPS projections first? Those are the kinds of studies that are far more likely to be misleading and inaccurate. In a brief review, I’ve already found some key assumptions that seem to be very problematic. It’s also the case that for these kinds of reports, their scope does not call for a comprehensive assessment of  impacts. It’s prudent and wise to be very skeptical.

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