One of the key questions that the economic development project, formerly known as Aggie Research Campus (ARC) and now renamed Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus (DISC), has to address is the housing-jobs balance.
This has been a concern of ours that has been raised on this site since at least 2014 and 2015. A huge number of people leave the city each morning to work in Sacramento and the Bay Area. Another huge number of people drive into Davis—some to work in the city and others to work at UC Davis.
There are those who worry that adding jobs to Davis could exacerbate that problem. The SEIR, for example, notes that while DISC provide 850 units of housing, there would be generated over the course of the buildout of that project over two to three decades—if not more—a need for 1200 additional units in town with 1700 or so units of housing leaving the town each morning.
In our interview with Dan Ramos, he pointed to this imbalance and argued that some of those people may already be living in Davis and, instead of continuing to commute out of town for work, they can have high paying jobs in town.
Ramos argued that “hopefully it will be an employment center for some of the existing people that live in Davis who commute out of Davis.”
Right now, if you don’t work at the university or a few companies around town, for high quality jobs you are headed out of town to Sacramento, Roseville or even all the way to the Bay Area.
“Hopefully we can help provide some job opportunities for some of the people who are commuting out of town right now,” he said. “Those jobs aren’t (in Davis) so they’re commuting away.”
To illustrate just how few jobs there actually are in the city of Davis, we looked at the 2018 Downtown Specific Plan Existing Conditions report which was generated in conjunction with that study.
According to the US Census there were, in 2015, 31,648 total employees in the City of Davis. Of those, 18,959 leave the City for other job locations while 9003 come into Davis to work.
This leaves a remarkable 3686 people who both live and work in the city of Davis.
There are caveats to this data. This does not include UC Davis. That means some of those 18,000 who leave town are simply going to work at UC Davis.
But the point that we have raised for several years now remains. There is a lack of jobs unless you work at the university. Very few people live in town and work in town.
By creating economic development it serves a bunch of purposes—one of which would be to create jobs in town for people in the private sector, not associated with the university.
We can see the lack of diversity of jobs here. This chart actually combines the city and UC Davis to give us a flavor of who is hiring.
Note that UC Davis is the biggest engine by far—followed by DJUSD, Sutter Davis, the City of Davis, Unitrans, Nugget and Safeway, then URC, Courtyard Healthcare, and Davis Food Co-Op.
Three of the top four are government jobs. You then have three health-related, three grocery-related and Unitrans—which primarily hires low wage student employees.
To make it more stark, the total number of jobs in Davis is just under 36,000 in 2019. That means those top ten businesses employ 78 percent of the people who work in Davis.
Kellie Bruton with the city noted, “The labor statistics show us the service type, businesses hospitals, convalescent, Unitrans and Nugget supermarket are increasing their workforce, whereas retail Target and government employment have taken significant drops to their workforce.”
She said the only exception is the school district, because they increased their workforce.
She added, “The interesting thing I see in this report is with Nugget moving their headquarters to Davis they will soon move into the top 5 employers in Davis.”
The EPS report noted that the DISC project “is forecasted to produce 5,000 new jobs with employee compensation of $500 million at project buildout. The City of Davis and Yolo County would experience economic spinoff from the onsite employment as businesses elsewhere in the County respond to the ongoing business, employee and household spending generated by the project.”
EPS added that “a larger, more diversified regional economy will have a greater multiplier effect because it can capture more of the spin-off economic activity.”
EPS thus writes: “The City will experience some economic spinoff of that direct employment, but a much greater spinoff impact will occur in other parts of the County as businesses elsewhere in the County respond to the ongoing business, employee, and household spending generated by the Project.”
The total county employment, including the direct onsite employment and indirect and induced employment, figures to come to 9000 annually at buildout—with total compensation between $600 and $700 million.
This is the job picture that Davis has and why a lot of people believe that bringing in high paying, high-tech jobs would be beneficial in diversifying Davis’ economy.
—David M. Greenwald reporting