Commissioner Rowe’s Comments on DISC at the Planning Commission Meeting

Greg Rowe makes his comments in DecemberPlanning-UC-2

(Editor’s note: these are the comments from Greg Rowe on Wednesday night, speaking about the Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus).

This is a really challenging project, it’s not like the others we normally deal with that we look at and get built soon.  I’ve been researching and preparing written comments on this project since it was introduced last April, gone all the way back and looked at the 2015 EIR the draft and the final.

I have submitted a lot of comments, one of them was 39 pages.  I’ve listened to the deliberations of virtually all of the city commissions.

I’ve had a lot of concerns about this project and I have been consistently opposed to it all along with my primary concerns being traffic, affordable housing, the use of public land to meet some of the project needs.  I’m glad the detention basin has been taken off the table.

I’ve had concerns all along about the Ag Buffer because it was purchased  with Measure O open space funds.

I’ve had concerns about how the 850 housing units would be used, whether it would be scooped up by UC students or snatched up by Bay Area transplants like we’ve seen happen at the Cannery.

I’ve had concerns about how it relates to the General Plan.  How a lot of people in Davis want this to pretty much stay a small university town.

That being said, I’ve worked with CEQA and NEPA documents for 20 years.  I think there are parts of the EIR I might have minor disagreements with.  It’s not perfect but I think it meets the legal requirement for being adequate and complete.

Two weekend ago we got this 600 page staff report and the DA and all the commission comments, I approached it with an open mind.  And considered all the supporting and opposing (arguments).

One of the things I looked at were the letters, very carefully worded letters from people like the co-founder of Novo Nordisk, the founder of Digestiva and the founder of Marrone Bioinnovations, and how they would love to have their companies stay in Davis.  In the case of one of those companies, all of his employees live in Davis, but because he couldn’t find lab space in Davis, they have to drive to Stockton Blvd in Sacramento to work everyday and they’d really like to be here.

I also talk to some local business people I respect and I got their opinions.

I’m glad Howatt Ranch has been taken off the table.  I think this is the most robust affordable housing program we could get.

I think deferring decision on the 6.8 acres so more studies can be done – is probably a good idea.  I know one of the things that the Open Space and Habitat Commission has even discussed is perhaps doing a landswap of that land somewhere in the county – that may have better habitat or joining it with a larger parcel.

I think the fact that the habitat conservancy just got a $5 million grant from US Fish and Wildlife Service could help with that.  I like the sustainability and other things that have been incorporated in.

Most commission recommendations have been incorporated as well.  I don’t think you can realistically expect all of those to be in there.  Like most people, I still have questions about the 24,000 trips per day, but the thing is that’s 20 to 25 years from now.  To me there is time for the city, council, CalTrans and the Developer to figure that out.

About 25 years ago I was the economic development manager for a chamber of commerce for a big city here in California, my job was to recruit companies to come to that city.  I would meet with them, I’d take them on tours, I would introduce them to the business leaders, I would tell them about the regulatory hoops that they would have to jump through.

After doing that job for three years, the thing I learned is – these companies want certainty, and speed and availability.  They put together an objective and schedule and they go where they can meet those objectives.  They’re not interested in buildings that need a lot of renovations.  They don’t want to wait till a site is cleared for them – they want to move now.

The second thing that has occurred to me, a while ago I spoke to someone who has been employed by FMC-Shilling for some time.  I asked him about the rumors that the company might move.  He said the thing that people don’t understand is we not only have the location on Second St, but we have one elsewhere in Davis and one in Shingle Springs.

The owners of the company are really looking at a place where they can consolidate under one roof.  They haven’t found anything that meets those requirements in Davis so they are looking at moving all three facilities under one roof to Wes Sacramento – which would be a big loss for Davis.

I think back to almost 12 years ago from today, I was attending the ground breaking for the new Terminal B at Sacramento International Airport, which I had a small part in making it happen.  One of the keynote speakers said something very important, that I just remembered recently, it really resonates.

He said, “We’re not building this terminal for today, we’re building it for the next 50 years.”

I’ve been thinking about those things and I still have a lot of reservations about the project.  I do think the developer, if they want to get past the Measure R vote, they should really think seriously about taking those seven acres off the table.

Davis has one of the most highly educated populations in the country.  I think we’re probably second to New Haven, Connecticut, which the number of people with post-graduate degrees.  I think there’s a real need for a dynamic innovation culture in Davis to match the abilities and the education of our populace.

I don’t think we can exactly predict what’s going to be here in 20 or 25 years, but I don’t think we should be reluctant to change or take a chance on getting there.

Where I am… We’ve been talking about this for a long time.  I think it’s time to put it on the ballot and let the voters decision, which is the exact intent of Measure R.  That’s what’s different about this from the Cannery – we didn’t get to put those kinds of conditions on the cannery.


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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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23 Comments

    1. David Greenwald

      Alan’s research was only based on rental rates but that wasn’t the overriding consideration for the company. The overriding consideration is it was a bunch of people living in Davis who would have prefered to work in Davis despite the higher rental rates.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Alan’s research was NOT only based upon rental rates, though that is a factor. That’s why I haven’t selectively quoted from that comment, so far.

        But since you brought it up, why didn’t this name arise in regard to all of the other failed proposals (including MRIC)? (Since these employees, however many there are – already live in Davis and don’t need the housing.)

        1. David Greenwald

          Nothing in Alan’s post disproves their contention.

          Looks like Digestiva was a 2019 startup. But I would say is that there are probably a lot of Digestiva’s around – companies that wanted to come to Davis, but couldn’t for a variety of reasons. Most we’ll never hear about because it’s the nature of this type of transaction. Would have been a good company to come to Davis since we wouldn’t need to add housing for them, maybe if this gets built, they will decide to move back here.

  1. Richard McCann

    Most commission recommendations have been incorporated as well.

    If only that had been true. The “recommendations” that were “incorporated” barely went beyond what is already required under City ordinances. In particular, the NRC recommendations, which it thought most had been vetted by the developer, would have put the development on the path to be a world class sustainable development. Instead, it will be much like any other business park in the state, with little in the way of unique attributes, and potentially hanging an environmental albatross around our necks for the next century due to obsolete infrastructure. The City Council should step up add several of the key baseline features proposed by the NRC, particularly on the built environment.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Summing up…

      Suggestions, recommendations, preferences, opinions of any commission (example, NRC) should be taken as directions, and/or have the force of law… prior to an ‘approval’ by CC and/or Measure R vote… yet, the Commissioners of any Commission are not “elected”, by a vote of the people… interesting concept… one I do not support.

      But I ‘get’ your apparent ‘position’… and many commissioners on various City commissions likely have similar views…

  2. larryguenther

    Most commission recommendations have been incorporated as well.

     

    None of the Tree Commission’s recommendations were incorporated.  None.

    1. Ron Oertel

      I’d like to see a master list compiled of the recommendations from all of the commissions, along with the responses from the city/developer.

      One key recommendation (that I haven’t seen addressed) has to do with the phasing of the housing (so that it’s not primarily built during the first two phases).

      I don’t believe that master leases (for businesses) have been addressed, either.

      Any failure to address these latter two recommendations provides more evidence of the developer’s primary goal (dense housing, at a location that would otherwise never even be considered for it).

      1. David Greenwald

        Believe the list was in the Planning Commission staff report

        On the master lease, I think that one is a more difficult lift. Not impossible however in some form

        1. Ron Oertel

          Believe the list was in the Planning Commission staff report.

          If so, it appears that Greg Rowe didn’t read or fully comprehend it.

          Since that time, we’ve heard from a number of commenters, noting that some key recommendations were disregarded. (Even from some who might otherwise support the development.)

          1. David Greenwald

            I think the key will be what the project is when the council approves it. A month or so ago you asked why I was not saying I am supporting the project, the reason is that right now I don’t think they have a project that can pass. I think they can get to that point, but they aren’t there yet. They have more changes that need to be made.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Well, that’s an interesting comment, at least.

          I think the key will be what the project is when the council approves it.

          This statement precludes the possibility that the council will reject it.  However, I agree that it’s probably a done deal – as far as the majority on the council are concerned – regardless of any further changes.

          It will then be up to you, strong supporters on the council, the developer, and other supporters to claim that the changes (by this coming Tuesday) are “substantial”.  It will become a sales job, at that point.  (Not unlike what might occur regarding the University Mall proposal.)

          A month or so ago you asked why I was not saying I am supporting the project, the reason is that right now I don’t think they have a project that can pass.

          You do support the proposal, and have for some time.  You just don’t think it will pass as proposed.  Those are two different things.

          I think they can get to that point, but they aren’t there yet. They have more changes that need to be made.

          They may have some last-minute changes that those who already support the proposal (or are “almost” supporters) will then try to “sell”.

          1. David Greenwald

            That statement isn’t that interesting. It’s a prediction that they will pass it. As for the rest, you seem to not understand that there is a difference between supporting a project in concept and supporting the specfic details of that project. We will see where they up in a week.

        3. Ron Oertel

          That statement isn’t that interesting. It’s a prediction that they will pass it.

          Exactly – regardless of any substantive changes.  We agree on that.  Given that they’re going to approve it anyway, why even have a council weigh in regarding peripheral proposals?

          As for the rest, you seem to not understand that there is a difference between supporting a project in concept and supporting the specfic details of that project.

          You’ve been advocating for this proposal ever since I’ve been participating on the Vanguard (and probably prior to that, as well).

          Only a politician attempts to walk as thin of a line as you consistently attempt.

          Are you (now) actually claiming that you’re waiting to see whatever changes arise by Tuesday, before declaring that you support it?  Really?

          This is the type of claim that makes you appear less than forthcoming. I doubt that even your supporters would deny that.

          What (exactly) is your “fear” of truthfully acknowledging your support for the proposal, after publishing a series of repetitive articles and comments over the years, indicating your support?

          Are you suddenly “ashamed” of your support?  Or, is there some other reason you’re denying it, now?

          What, exactly, are you now claiming is a “deal breaker” for you, personally? Let’s hear it.

          We will see where they up in a week.

          You mean in 3 days from now, after having more than a decade to work this out (and multiple failures at this site and others, along the way).

           

          1. David Greenwald

            Because the council controls the proposal that goes on the ballot.

            I’ve been advocating for there to be a proposal. But not necessarily this one.

            I don’t think they’ll act until next week.

        4. Ron Oertel

          Because the council controls the proposal that goes on the ballot.

          And, we’ve already agreed that they’re going to put it on the ballot regardless of any substantive changes by this Tuesday. Hence your use of the word “when”.

          What, exactly, are you now claiming is a “deal breaker” for you, personally? Let’s hear it.

          Still waiting for that one.

        5. Ron Oertel

          By the way, that question will be a lot easier to answer, after any minor changes are made.

          Then, you can say – “yeap” – it was that one.

        6. Ron Oertel

          Next week, not this week.

          Exactly my point.  Wait until you see whatever else they propose, and (then) say that’s what you were concerned about.

          But, let’s try it one last time. What (exactly) is a deal-breaker for you, at this point in time?

          (Kind of reminds me of the interview regarding the definition of “is”, involving Bill Clinton. In some ways, it was kind of impressive.)

          1. David Greenwald

            I wrote a 1500 word article last Saturday that explained everything why would I repeat that?

        7. Ron Oertel

          You write a lot of articles regarding DISC, so I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

          I vaguely recall that you did write an article suggesting that the DISC developers should change some things, but (from what I recall) was written as “advice” to get it approved, and not how you personally view it.

          I simply asked what would be the “deal breaker” for you personally, if DISC makes no substantive changes from this point forward.

          From your writings, I don’t believe that you have a “deal breaker”.  You will continue to support it at this point (via your articles, etc.), regardless of whatever changes might come forth. 

          Isn’t that true?

          This is a simple question, for anyone other than someone trying to avoid a direct answer. I’ve come to realize that you don’t like providing straightforward responses, regarding issues that you’d rather avoid. A master of deflection.

          Makes sense, coming from someone with a political background.

          In contrast, there are commenters on here who don’t try to hide and deflect. But, they’re not writing repetitive articles of support, while claiming at the last minute that they “haven’t made up their mind”.

        8. Ron Oertel

          while claiming at the last minute that they “haven’t made up their mind”.

          The importance of which may be demonstrated by this:

          Wait until you see whatever else they propose, and (then) say that’s what you were concerned about.

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