On Tuesday, the city council received a presentation on commercially zoned properties in Davis, with staff identifying about 124.5 acres. However, immediately 33.5 of those acres can be eliminated simply because they are extensions of medical facilities (Sutter-Davis and Kaiser).
The council focused their effort on perhaps 25 acres off of Second Street, which is currently the Frontier Fertilizer Superfund Site. However, a September 2017 report from the EPA still casts doubt on its viability noting, “The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has placed land use restrictions on the Site to prevent the use of contaminated groundwater; however, institutional controls such as deed restrictions still need to be put in place on some of the parcels to ensure long-term protectiveness.”
It further notes: “There has been a change in toxicity, and thus, the current cleanup level for TCP exceeds EPA’s acceptable risk.”
Those familiar with the site believe it will be at least 20 years before the city could even begin to consider development on the site – and that may well be an optimistic view. The first cleanup activities began in 1983, but until 1994, “investigative and cleanup activities were performed by the property owners under the remedial orders issued by the State of California. In 1994, EPA took over management of Frontier Fertilizer Site after it was added to the National Priority List.”
Another location that should draw interest is the nearly 15-acre site along Chiles and Cowell Boulevards in Davis. This was the site of the 2015 proposal for a 225,000 square foot office/ R&D Park in Davis – the type of development the city would envision for economic development efforts. However, the project fell through and Jim Gray, who handled the deal in 2015, is not optimistic about the prospects for rekindling that development in the near future.
The property owners, the Meyers, have made numerous applications over the years in South Davis to build housing and residential development.
The 14.85 acre site in the South Davis Specific Plan is zoned for business park or commercial activities. Jim Gray told the Vanguard that over the years, they have proposed the site for housing, but the city has either denied or discouraged that use.
“It’s a good site, in my opinion for the development of amenities,” he said.
The prospects are not good here – at least in the near term.
Jim Gray overall was critically of the city’s zoning, calling it “rearview mirror looking backwards.” He explained, “By that I mean we want commercial to be distinct from retail, retail to be distinct for community amenities, to be separate and removed from residential.”
He argued, “The world is moving towards mixed use, high amenity, blend of activities and we need for a site like the Meyers to really flourish – to be in Jim Gray’s opinion, the most wildly successful site in Davis, you need to amend the general plan.”
He talked about the need for mixes of uses and higher density projects.
“I don’t see anybody as a proponent developer nor as a city leader, willing to take the mantle to look towards what the future’s really asking for and demanding,” Mr. Gray said. For him, the small cities that want to be successful have to densify and have a blend of amenities. “Our general plan doesn’t support that.”
In terms of the next 10 to 20 years, Jim Gray was not optimistic.
“Someone would have to come to agreement with the Meyers to buy it,” Jim Gray stated. “I believe where we are in the business cycle, is no one is going to do it on a speculative basis. In my mind it would have to be driven by a user.
“You need a big tenant,” he said.
He put this way: “If I were living across the street from the property, and was afraid of the unknown, I think a tumbleweed field is the most likely activity for the next ten years.”
Just that analysis alone takes 25 acres along Second Street and 15 acres at Cowell off the table, meaning that immediately 73 of the 124 acres are completely eliminated from consideration – for at least ten and probably 20 years.
Based on that analysis, there is perhaps one nearly 10-acre site along Second Street that is potentially viable and available. Everything else is either reserved for other uses, or very small and fragmented.
—David M. Greenwald reporting