Assuming the project goes forward, Davis residents will be asked to vote on whether or not to approve the Aggie Research Campus. The developers for the project are estimating that roughly 5882 jobs will be located at the proposed development.
A question that some have asked is whether Davis needs additional jobs. There are various metrics that we can look at. Some that have been cited are the city’s relatively low per capita retail sales leading to a low sales tax yield – as compared to both other college towns as well as other regional communities.
There is also the overall lack of diversification of the economy and the large number of people who are traveling to and from Davis on a daily basis.
From a public opinion standpoint, the polling that we have seen shows that for the most part the generation of 5882 jobs is seen as a positive – only a tiny portion of the population sees the creation of thousands of new jobs as a mostly bad outcome, and it is somewhat intriguing that about as many see it as neutral as see it as mostly good.
Adding nearly 6000 jobs is not a small thing when we look at the overall job picture in Davis.
The 2017 state of the city report estimated that the city had 13,847 jobs in 2015. The top five industries were: Accommodation and Food Services (18.3 percent), Health Care and Social Assistance (16.6 percent), Retail Trade (16.0 percent), Government (13.0 percent), and Professional and Business Services (12.2 percent).
This figure does not include UC Davis employment on the campus.
The report notes: “According to the UC Davis Office of Budget and Institutional Analysis, 12,181 staff and faculty were employed within the City of Davis during the 2015-2016 academic year, while another 12,097 were employed outside the City of Davis in locations such as the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, the UC Davis Marine Laboratory in Bodega Bay, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.”
The Draft LRDP anticipates on-campus employment, excluding student employees would increase “to 14,500 employees by the 2027-2028 academic year.”
Two pieces of data, however, paint a less rosy picture.
The state of the city report notes that “the top 10 employers accounted for 46.3 percent of all jobs in the city. UC Davis accounted for the largest share of employment (36.9 percent). Other top employers included public employers such as the Davis School District, the City of Davis and Unitrans, healthcare providers such as Sutter Davis Hospital and Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, grocery retailers such as Safeway and Nugget Market, and utility provider, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). Each of these other top employers accounted for less than three percent of total citywide employment reported by the CAFR.”
That shows the city is reliant heavily on government jobs, health care, and services.
Further, the report continues to note the lack of retail in Davis.
The report writes: “Although Davis represented around 32 percent of the countywide population in 2014, according to the BOE, retail establishments in the City of Davis facilitated only 15.6 percent ($589,194) of countywide taxable sales, compared to West Sacramento and Woodland which facilitated 36.7 and 24.3 percent of countywide taxable sales.”
Finally there is the area of jobs-housing balance.
The report notes that the policy approach for much of the 20th century has the creation of “an artificial separation between jobs and residences in communities throughout the nation. Among the many unintended consequences of this policy approach are the lengthening commute distances.”
To solve this problem, the report notes that “the planning community has increasingly embraced the broad goal of promoting a better balance between the number and types of jobs available in a given place and the number, type, and affordability of the housing within the same area.”
The state of the city report finds that the ratio of jobs to occupied housing units was “equal to approximately 0.54:1 in the City of Davis” where the “ideal ratio of jobs to occupied housing units, or households, would typically range between 1:1 and 2:1.”
The report notes that there were approximately 28,465 persons employed within the City of Davis and on the UC Davis main campus in 2014, about 73.8 percent of those were in-commuters – they lived outside of the Davis area.
On the other hand, there were 24,204 employed residents in the City of Davis and on the main campus, about 69.1 percent of those employed residents were out-commuters.
Writes the report: “The intensification of cross-commuting patterns, including an increasing rate of both in-commuting and out-commuting, reflects a growing disconnect between the employment opportunities available within the Davis area and the characteristics of Davis as a residential community for workforce households.”
This is crucial to understanding the nature of the problem. It is easy to say that there is a net-in flow of jobs and therefore we have the jobs we need.
But that’s not what is happening. What is happening is that we have a mismatch between the jobs we have and the ability to house the people working here. While at the same time, we do not have the jobs in Davis to support the majority of people living here.
The report notes: “[W]ith an existing net inflow of workers (i.e., jobs minus employed residents), an average residential vacancy rate of only 3.7 percent (and a multifamily rental vacancy rate of only 0.2 percent), and little new housing development, the community’s existing cross commuting patterns are likely to intensify, corresponding with upward pressure on area housing prices.”
The figure points to the need, of course, for more workforce housing in town. But some people will argue that creating additional jobs will simply exacerbate this problem.
The Mace Ranch EIR notes that between “1,215 to 1,377 of the 5,882 innovation center employees are anticipated to live and work on the Mixed-Use Site. Therefore, 4,505 employees are not anticipated to live on-site.”
Will existing housing accommodate them? Will many of them have to commute? Should we build more housing on-site in hopes of housing them? Should we build more workforce housing in Davis, possibly at the Signature site across the street? All of these are realistic concerns.
There is one more critical area of concern that we should look at. The decline of the working population and the age increase in Davis. We are seeing an increase in people in the college age range, and a decrease in people age 30 to 50, with an increase in people over the age of 60. There is nothing new in this data, but it means we have less in the way of working population – people with jobs and kids – and more in the way of students and seniors.
Moreover, we have a brain drain. UC Davis has one of the lowest student retention rates among comparable universities, with just 23 percent remaining in the metro area. And yet as we know the majority of graduates at UC Davis are in STEM fields – fields that would be attracted to and perhaps have the opportunity to stay if we had high tech and research-oriented jobs to offer upon graduation.
It is here that I think the story most favors the need to create nearly 6000 local jobs in STEM fields that could help to retain recent graduates, and becomes a reason for people in the 30 to 50 age range to stay in town rather than take their degrees and utilize them elsewhere.
I do think we need to be honest here though – we need housing which enables those people to not just work in town, but to live in town. The housing proposed at ARC is probably not enough based on the EIR estimates, but in combination with other projects and workforce housing, it can help improve the housing-jobs balance and provide jobs, enabling more people of working age to live in Davis.
Will some view this otherwise? Of course. There are those opposed to housing growth who will see added jobs as a reason for more housing. But I believe the overall fiscal picture in Davis calls for more of these types of jobs to improve our overall balance.
—David M. Greenwald reporting