Target Pad Discussion Becomes Proxy for Broader Discussion of Target’s Impact on Downtown

It was a minor item on a long agenda.  There are three vacant spots in the pads around Target, but because none of them were 4000 square feet, they did not meet minimum requirements of the development agreement, making it tricky to fill them.

As it turned out, that was a minor issue, as the item turned into a bit of a proxy war for re-fighting the 2006 election.  Dan Carson put it this way, “What we heard a bit tonight is a bit of re-litigation of the original public vote in support of establishing Target – those passions are still there, they’re still real.”

During public comment, Colin Walsh took issue with staff language that said, “[A]fter ten years of operation city staff believes it can be empirically deduced that the tenants of the shopping center are not relocating from the downtown area nor are they causing closure and mass vacancy in the downtown area.”

He called “empirically deduced,” an “exceedingly strong statement.”  And pointed out that the staff report offers only the 2017 State of the City report, based on third quarter 2016 data as evidence to back their statement.

“This is not current data,” he said.  He noted this data predates the closure of Ace Housewares, Whole Foods, the Gap, Radio Shack, etc.  He also noted that Strelitzia relocated from the downtown.  He said, “You’re overlooking store closures, you’re overlooking huge amounts of vacancy in the downtown.”

Councilmember Will Arnold pushed back, noting that as the owner of a downtown business, he is in the unique position to be able to describe the business climate downtown and elsewhere in town.

He called the challenges to downtown retailers “many,” but argued, “I would not put this Target shopping center high on the list of challenges.”

Councilmember Arnold did acknowledge that “nothing is clear in the business world.”  But, that said, “Radio Shack is going through its second bankruptcy, the Gap has closed nearly 300 stores, there are so many challenges to retail in particular that it is almost impossible to point to one or the other, and say this is the right ‘why’ (that this store) is failing.”

He said, “Anyone making those claims is overstepping the bounds of logic.

“The challenges that are being faced are there whether we like them or not,” he continued.  “We as the city of Davis can do very little to affect those challenges.  Nor should we really act as the blunt instrument of government to say we’re going to protect X, Y and Z business…  As a business owner, the number one thing you want the government to do is get out of your way and let you just run a business.”

He said, “That’s what I see going here with this proposal…  letting the government get out of the way.”

Lucas Frerichs would add, “It’s easy to make broad brush strokes (about) why things have happened the way they have.”  He said, “Not only is it the second bankruptcy for Radio Shack – they’ve all closed.  The Whole Foods site is vacant.”

Whole Foods announced its closure in 2017, as part of a much broader restructuring of the company on a national level, where they scaled back major expansion plans nationally in the face of six quarters of declining sales.

It was reported at the time that Whole Foods was having “a hard time in the corporate sense” and “their sales were not doing well.”

Councilmember Frerichs also took issue with the reference to Strelitzia by the public commenter.  “Yes they did move away from the downtown,” he said.  “They wanted to have an enhanced space.”  He explained that they have a wholesale warehouse with a retail storefront.  “That was not a permissible use in the downtown,” he said.

Mayor Brett Lee pointed out that there does need to be a broader General Plan discussion, but made the point, “The square footage is there.  We’re not talking about adding to the square footage, it’s a just a few lines… of restrictions which at some level don’t seem to make sense.”

Will Arnold added, “If we want to help the downtown – we can help the downtown.”  He noted we can add amenities, and make it easier for people to shop and park in the downtown.  “That’s how we help the downtown.  I don’t think we help the downtown by… arbitrarily limiting the size of a clothing store…  I don’t think that helps anyone.”

He said, “Amazon and the internet as a whole (are) 95 percent of the challenges that retail is facing and everything else doesn’t rate in my opinion.”  He said, “There’s almost nothing we can do about that.”

Dan Carson pointed out that Target “has been a huge plus for this city.”  He noted this does not add square footage to the center.

He said if we want to help the downtown, we should abide by a public vote that approved Nishi.

“(Nishi) would provide 2000 customers to our downtown that would help our retailers and restaurants,” Councilmember Carson stated.  “It’s hung up in litigation.  There’s a party who spoke here earlier tonight who’s a party of that litigation.  If we can resolve that lawsuit we can move forward with a project that can help our downtown.”

He said, “I think that’s how we move forward.”  He added, “This modest proposal will do nothing to hurt our downtown.”

Will Arnold added once more, “Prior to Target and TJ Max, there was a whole list of things that we’re all wearing right now you couldn’t buy in Davis – socks, undies.”

—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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18 Comments

  1. Ron Oertel

    From article/Will Arnold:

    “Nor should we really act as the blunt instrument of government to say we’re going to protect X, Y and Z business… As a business owner, the number one thing you want the government to do is get out of your way and let you just run a business.”
     
    He said, “That’s what I see going here with this proposal…  letting the government get out of the way.”

    Seems to me that Mr. Arnold is “confusing” the responsibility of government (including council members), with the interests of individual businesses/developers. He is sounding an awful lot like one of the development-oriented commenters on here.

    It is not about protecting individual businesses, as Mr. Arnold claims.  (Although that can be a side-effect.)

    The council has an obligation to perform adequate planning (including taking steps to ensure that downtown is not decimated), while the latter would not necessarily have that interest (and may even actively work against it).

    1. Craig Ross

      You say that the council “has an obligation to perform” – what evidence do you have that they have not?  Colin’s evidence seems specious at best.

      1. Ron Oertel

        The “affable” Will Arnold’s comments speak for themselves.

        (Just making light of the Vanguard’s previous description of Mr. Arnold’s personality – which I largely agree with.)

        1. Craig Ross

          I love when people state that something speaks for itself, when clearly there are differences of opinion of said subject and frankly I have no idea even as to what your point is.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Craig:  Given your point of view, I wouldn’t expect that you would see a problem with Will Arnold’s statements – which is the only thing I was commenting on (and already addressed).

          Moderator:edited

  2. Alan Miller

    there was a whole list of things that we’re all wearing right now you couldn’t buy in Davis – socks, undies.

    I was part of this Davis era without the ability to buy socks or undies.  We made due and many of us continue the tradition to this day.

    — “Commando Al”

    1. Bill Marshall

      Yes, Alan, a Davis “urban myth”… there was Lawrence’s @ U-mall… met my needs in college… there was Wingers… my backup… both very long gone… Longs actually had those available, CVS may still, haven’t looked… the sales tax revenue from those items are de minimus… and I never have made a separate vehicle trip for such things… just something I picked up when doing other errands, wherever (used Mervyn’s, but didn’t make a special trip to Woodland to do it).

      Actually will go to Target-Davis when I need them (~ less than a mile, and can walk/bike conveniently)… but, I’ll be brief/short… I’ve been there, done that, and have a drawer full of t-shirts… with those perpetuating “the myth” just put a sock in it.

  3. Ron Oertel

    I wonder if voters would have approved Target and the adjacent pads, had they known that council members would make these changes years later.

    In reference to David’s other article, perhaps the “mistake” that voters made was in “trusting” that what they approved would actually be the result. (Somehow, that has a familiar ring to it.)

    1. Craig Ross

      Watching the discussion last night – they pointed out that these decisions were made at the time, but at this point, the logic of the specific deal has changed.  No one came up last night and objected to the changes (even Colin was making a broader issue).  Most importantly not one merchant from downtown raised an objection, no one from the Davis Downtown did, no one from the Chamber did.  Shouldn’t that be telling?

      1. Don Shor

        Yes, the impact of Target is water under the bridge at this point.

        There are three vacant spots in the pads around Target, but because none of them were 4000 square feet, they did not meet minimum requirements of the development agreement, making it tricky to fill them.

        Then why did they build them that size?

      2. Ron Oertel

        Craig:  You’re making factually incorrect statements.  For example:

        <blockquote> “Tonight council plans to install one more detour sign that will lure business and shoppers from downtown to the easy auto access, free parking, no zoning Target,” Urazandi said. “I expect big box and Jeff Bezos to try put me out of business. I resent it when my city staff and council members become their accomplices.”</blockquote>

        https://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/council-approves-changes-to-target-shopping-center/

        1. Ron Oertel

          Note that the Vanguard’s continuing technical problem prevented me from correcting the format of the quote above – from a downtown business owner.

  4. Dave Hart

    When we voted on the Target deal, voters were thinking “I want to be able to shop at Target here in town instead of driving to Woodland”, or “I don’t like big box retailers, so I’m voting No”.   So 10 years later here we are.  I think the city council is doing the right thing.  It’s got nothing to do with hurting the downtown or helping it.  It does have to do with getting those empty spaces filled.

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