(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.
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.