Sunday Commentary: If We Lose Schilling or Other Major Companies, This Time We Were Warned

In 2013, as Davis was dealt a blow from losing Bayer Crop Science, formerly AgraQuest, Commercial Real Estate Broker Jim Gray wrote an op-ed telling Davis not to beat itself up over the loss.

“Large employers like Bayer are the quality of firm that Davis should try to attract and keep. Proximity to world-class UC Davis; a highly educated work force; commitment to sustainability, greenbelts and bike paths; a vibrant downtown; and a great community in which to live, work and raise our kids are some of the attributes that Davis has in spades,” Jim Gray wrote.

But what Davis didn’t have was “a large, vacant, bargain-basement facility that could be acquired at a fire-sale price.”  He added, “It wouldn’t be wise economic or public policy to have an oversupply of distressed empty buildings sitting vacant, hoping that a user would come along.”

But the loss of Bayer, which started as AgraQuest and was founded by a Davis local before being bought out by the multi-national Bayer corporation, was a warning sign.

So too was the appearance of Tyler Schilling in June 2014 before the Davis City Council.

He warned the council, “We’re going to need a sizable parcel to build a new facility and I would dearly love to be able to do it here in Davis.”

At the time, the hope was that would be at the Mace Ranch Innovation Center.  That was not to be.  Davis even got a reprieve when the oil market tilted downward, delaying the need for expansion.  But that will soon prove to be a temporary reprieve if the rumors of an imminent move prove to be accurate.

There are those who are arguing that Davis actually has 124.5 acres of commercially zoned properties in Davis   But at best that’s an illusion, as we demonstrated back in January when the inventory came before council in the first place.

For starters, 33.5 of those acres are owned by Sutter Davis and Kaiser and are set aside by the health care companies for hospital and medical facility expansion.

Moreover, another 25 to 30 acres off Second Street is currently the Frontier Fertilizer Superfund Site.  At some point that land would be available and in a good location for high tech economic development, but right now that land is not available and won’t likely be so for several decades.

That leaves us with perhaps 60 to 70 acres.  Of that available land, only the 14.81-acre site at Chiles and Cowell would seem to be large enough to support substantial commercial business opportunities.  That site did have the larger Panatoni proposal a few years ago.

“It’s a good site, in my opinion, for the development of amenities,” Jim Gray told us in January.  But unfortunately, issues with ownership of that site might prevent anything from being built there.

Where does that leave us?  Maybe 50 acres of land, but all of it small – 7 acres or less.  Nothing that is going to support a 20-acre Schilling Robotics development like they appear to be looking at in West Sacramento.

Even getting another Mori Seiki is in grave doubt.  That company purchased 14.5 acres of land in Davis in 2010 where they put a 185,000 square foot factory – the largest non-residential structure in the city – which employs up to 200 workers, generating a huge amount in combined property and sales tax for the city.

That is the kind of development Davis needs to generate its fiscal revenue.  That’s the kind of development which will help launch Davis forward, not only on a path to fiscal sustainability but toward its goals for expansion of economic development.

But right now, it only has one such parcel available, and it lacks sufficient size to hold onto Schilling.

In 2013, Bayer probably would have preferred to have stayed in Davis, but they had no place to go and found a good deal to move to West Sacramento.  But don’t kid yourself, that was a big loss.  Bayer has since invested in their own innovation center in West Sacramento, pumping jobs and revenue into that community.

But if there was nothing Davis could have done about Bayer at that time, Davis was fully warned by Tyler Schilling that they needed land for their expansion plans.  As I mentioned, we even got a reprieve when their expansion plans got delayed, but that is about to run out.

That will be a blow, a preventable blow that we could have avoided with better planning.

As Jim Gray said at the time: “There are clearly unintended consequences of the growth control measures that were designed to slow the community’s residential growth. We do need additional state-of-the-art buildings with competitive business infrastructure so we can compete effectively on the global stage. We need to continue to work collaboratively and competitively to attract and win our fair share of great jobs and world-class companies.”

This is the point that Danielle Casey made in August, when she noted that companies looking to come to our region are not considering Davis because Davis lacks the space.

That situation certainly has the ability to change, but it is going to be up to our leaders and ultimately the voters to make it happen.

—-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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42 Comments

  1. Ron Glick

    “That situation certainly has the ability to change, but it is going to be up to our leaders and ultimately the voters to make it happen.”

    Don’t you mean getting rid of Measure R and ballot box planning to make it happen.

    If Schilling leaves it will be a direct result of Measure R. Without it the city council would have built MRIC with Schilling as an anchor.

  2. Ron Oertel

    Good riddance. Hope they take some of the pressure to create more traffic and sprawl, with them.

    For those who are simply compelled/driven to annex another site (in addition to the other failed innovation center sites that have since been converted entirely to housing), I’d suggest looking at the site inside Mace curve, adjacent to Harper Junior High and the new Nugget headquarters.

    1. Richard McCann

      The usual shortsighted response. Instead of being able to control sustainable development that is much more likely to show the rest of world how to create a less environmentally damaging way, we just close our eyes and claim “well, it’s not OUR problem.” It’s simply foolish to think that we can keep Davis the same as the rest of the world burns around us.

      1. Rik Keller

        Richard McCann: taking up a retrograde, auto- and freeway-oriented project like ARC on a piecemeal basis without a full discussion of the sustainable development direction that the city of Davis wants to go, is the very definition of “shortsighted.” It is disappointing that you are pushing that approach.

          1. Don Shor

            without a full discussion of the sustainable development direction that the city of Davis wants to go, is the very definition of “shortsighted.”

            DSIDE (Developing a Sustainable & Innovative Davis Economy) first met in, I think, 2009. Peripheral/business park task force and BEDC (Business and Economic Development Commission) were active for the next few years. Working draft of a comprehensive economic development strategy was published in 2011.
            This particular site was identified by the task force as part of a dispersed economic development strategy. The city put out RFP’s in 2014, or thereabouts.
            Any suggestion that this parcel, project, and general economic development strategy has not been fully discussed is not merely disingenuous. It is simply a stalling tactic intended to kill the project by any means necessary.
            If you don’t agree with the goals or strategies or the recommended proposals, there were plenty of opportunities to weigh in on them. All of those commissions met in public, with agendas and prior notice, and their work products were reported to the city councils who acted on them in public meetings.
            There has been no shortage of discussion of all of this.

        1. Rik Keller

          Don: oh, so the City of Davis decided that a retrograde stale business model that is auto- and highway-oriented is the best way to achieve the city’s overall sustainable development goals? I must have missed that. I have looked through the documentation of these various initiatives that you provided previously and you are mistaken if that’s what you think they say. You are also mistaken if you think that a specific project of this scale has been thoroughly discussed and vetted.

          You are simply trying to squelch discussion of the actual project with repeated misinformation.

          1. Don Shor

            Don: oh, so the City of Davis decided that a retrograde stale business model that is auto- and highway-oriented is the best way to achieve the city’s overall sustainable development goals? I must have missed that.

            Yes, you did miss that. I’ve been here throughout the discussion and a great deal of it took place on the Vanguard, as well as in public meetings. Not sure when you came in to it. It’s been ongoing since 2009. The city developed an economic development strategy that included three peripheral sites and continued development within the city limits. One peripheral site remains. There was plenty of discussion of the economic development strategy.

            I have looked through the documentation of these various initiatives that you provided previously and you are mistaken

            No, I am quite correct as to what was recommended.

            ….if that’s what you think they say. You are also mistaken if you think that a specific project of this scale has been thoroughly discussed and vetted.

            You are partially correct. The scale of the project fits right in with the economic development strategy. The site was identified, RFP’s were put out, and the original version of the MRIC proposal was put forward. The specifics of the current version differs from that, particularly as to housing, so it bears discussion as to the changes. It does meet the original goals of the economic development strategy.

            You are simply trying to squelch discussion of the actual project with repeated misinformation.

            That is false.

          2. David Greenwald

            The interesting thing is that a few years ago at least, Don was either opposed to this project or skeptical. I have no idea where he is now. For a guy who criticizes other people when they are in error, Rik doesn’t check his facts quite frequently before making assertions/ accusations.

        2. Rik Keller

          The interesting thing here is that you make vague accusations about me “getting facts wrong” but offer no specifics. I made no statements about what Don’s past positions might have been. So saying that I did is false.

          1. David Greenwald

            It’s a long list, against my better judgment, I will respond once here.

            “What conversations has the Vanguard previously had with developer in order to release project details in the months leading up to this project unveiling?”

            I have had one conversation with the developer. It was on the record. I released details of the project based on their letter to the city and based on our on the record conversation. Period.

            One example.

        3. Rik Keller

          Don Shor. We discussed this before. Those economic development “goals” and “strategies” in the documents you mention are so vague as to be essentially irrelevant when discussing the “merits” of this specific retrograde, massive parking lot of a project.

          If the documents actually said what you say they do, you would have long since provide quotes and excerpts.But they don’t, and so you don’t.

        4. Rik Keller

          You said

          My question: “What conversations has the Vanguard previously had with developer in order to release project details in the months leading up to this project unveiling?”

          Your answer:

          “I have had one conversation with the developer. It was on the record. I released details of the project based on their letter to the city and based on our on the record conversation. Period.”

          Ah, you finally answered the question. But you did not provide an example of me  “getting facts wrong”. You just provided an example of me asking a question. Your “one example” is terrible. Too bad you ruled out trying again.

           

        5. Alan Miller

          Rik K: You have now reached your five-comment limit on this thread.

          Actually, your counter is off like a Vanguard comment timer clock — RK actually commented eight times.  So you have to fly around the Earth backwards for a few hours and make him never do the no no.

  3. John Hobbs

    “Good riddance. Hope they take some of the pressure to create more traffic and sprawl, with them.”

    Schilling and others deserve better hosts than Davisites seem to be. Sacramento and West Sacramento offer more room and welcome new opportunities for economic growth.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Some truth in that.  Plus, they don’t have UCD.  (Actually, Sacramento has some of that institution, as well.)  West Sacramento will also be assigned about 9,000 more housing units, in the upcoming round of SACOG requirements.

      Davis also doesn’t (and won’t ever) have “fire sale prices”, to accommodate large facilities.  (In fact, the commercial spaces proposed at ARC aren’t all that large.)

      I was recently speaking with someone in the Bay Area, who wondered why technology companies don’t spread out more – to communities that actually need it.  We both came up with Detroit as an example (which is seeing some revitalization).

      So yeah, West Sacramento is a community that probably needs more revitalization, as well. Too bad that they’ll also have to deal with another 9,000 housing units. (Well, they’d probably welcome that, anyway.)

    2. Bill Marshall

      John… appreciate a quite a few things about you… and your comments… among them,

      You have readily disclosed you are not a Davis resident…

      No sign of ‘hidden motives’… you call it as you see it.  Logically, sometimes philosophically…

      You are someone who can disagree with someone’s views, and generally accept that folk “can agree to disagree”, and post accordingly… (and I have disagreed with you far more than once)

      Hang in here… please

       

  4. Sharla Cheney

    Traffic continues to be a growing problem for some, despite efforts to stop all development.  This isn’t working. Why not get something of value for all the perceived inconvenience?

    1. Ron Oertel

      Why (purposefully) add to it?

      In addition to the impacts from the development itself, it will likely increase pressure to develop other sites (e.g., Shriner’s, Covell Village, etc.). Thereby diluting or eliminating the suggested “benefit”, since housing is a long-term money loser for cities.

      It’s not unlike a Merry-Go-Round, with no winners (other than developers). Sprawl for the sake of sprawl. That’s why development patterns exist as they do, with few actually getting personally richer.

      SACOG bases its growth requirements on jobs, among other factors.

      1. Sharla Cheney

        Because we desperately need the tax revenue it would generate, it is more sustainable to have jobs and housing close to each other, Davis homeowners are growing weary of being asked to pay higher taxes for less, the combination of an aging population, increasing student renters and commuters will mean that the financial burden will fall on fewer and fewer homeowners and businesses.

      2. Bill Marshall

        In addition to the impacts from the development itself

        Which, can be positive and/or negative to a Davis resident.  Depending on their perspective. Positive impacts are good things…

        it will likely increase pressure to develop other sites (e.g., Shriner’s, Covell Village, etc.)

        Unsupported supposition,at this point in time.

        Good riddance. Hope they take some of the pressure to create more traffic and sprawl, with them.

        Good, opens up more commercial for residential!  But,

         failed innovation center non-res sites that have since been converted entirely to housing)

        Or, should it (abandoned site) go back to unfarmable ag, or, better yet, ‘open space’?

        1. Ron Oertel

          Which, can be positive and/or negative to a Davis resident. Depending on their perspective. Positive impacts are good things…

          You’re right.

          Those “positive” impacts can at least “temporarily” benefit trolls who draw overly-generous retirement benefits from the city, for example.  Living in fear of someone finding out how much they’re actually costing the city, while attacking others by attempting to “dig up some dirt” on them, which is actually misleading.

          At least until it becomes obvious that the short-term infusion of cash that they advocate as a result of those developments doesn’t last. And, they end up losing their benefits anyway, if they don’t die of old age first.

        2. Sharla Cheney

          I don’t think he’s talking about me, because I don’t fit in with his narrative.  He’s flailing about, for sure – off topic and engaging in diversion.

      3. Ron Oertel

        Sharla:  Seems like you haven’t been reading Rik’s analyses, regarding this.

        Also seems to me that you were one of the strongest advocates AGAINST student housing, on campus. Where it would have cost the least (fiscally, and environmentally).

        Again, this development will likely increase pressure to develop other lands, thereby deleting the benefit that you seem to envision.

        Matt Williams had an interesting idea, regarding the possible relocation of the Amazon site from campus, to the city. Thereby enabling the city to collect sales tax from those transactions.

  5. Alan Miller

    Commercial Real Estate Broker Jim Gray wrote an op-ed telling Davis not to beat itself up over the loss.

    We often ask, “When did you stop beating your wife?”.  Maybe the real question is “Davis, when did it stop beating itself?”

  6. John Hobbs

    “Five comments per person….

    Be respectful of other participants

    …”

    Ron Oertel October 13, 2019 at 11:07 am“…Very few of whom share all of their personal details, which may or may not impact their views -regardless.  But, which are actively searched out by some trolls, nonetheless. For the sole purpose of intimidating others, or undermining their arguments…”
    How many extra bites does Ron Oertel get?

  7. Rik Keller

    The Vanguard’s analysis of the development capacity on existing vacant commercially-designated land within the city is amateur level and invalid. It is just repeated over and over to try to sell the need for ARC.

    1. Craig Ross

      Really?  The analysis from the Vanguard is accurate.  There are three problems with yours.  (1) 30 acres of the 124.5 are owned by Sutter and Kaiser which have purposed their land for hospital/ medical expansion.  (2) 25 to 30 acres is on a superfund site that is not available for development. (3) of the remaining only one parcel is above 10 acres putting it out of reach for either Mori Seiki or Schilling Robotics.  Most of the remaining properties are less than 7 acres.

      How is this flawed analysis?  It seems like it’s your analysis that is flawed and you have never countered it with a factual accounting other than a spurious claim about the amount of commercial space you could put on this fictitious amount of land.

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