by David M. Greenwald
The question with these things is always how much of an impact does a newspaper endorsement have for a project before the voters? Under the best of circumstances, probably not much.
Amid signs that the paper is more disconnected from the community, the impact here might be less than usual. But I still find it instructive to look at these endorsements and note the points made.
The paper frames this as “new opportunities” and a “chance to set the roadmap for the future.”
They write: “A research park in Davis has been a longtime dream for civic and business leaders tired of watching brilliant minds educated at UC Davis go elsewhere. The proposed Davis Innovation & Sustainability Campus, on November’s ballot as Measure B, offers Davis a chance to leverage its home-grown brainpower and build a true economic dynamo for the future.”
That’s definitely the upside of the project. The question is: will the paper identify and address the concern of some sectors of the public? The verdict on that is mixed.
The editorial attempts to address the gorilla in the room: traffic.
They write: “The specter of more traffic on Mace Boulevard is concerning but pales next to the existing buildup along the Mace/I-80 area. But the key to fixing the Mace and I-80 backups will be regional collaboration between the city, county and CalTrans, and while a commercial center north of the freeway adds an extra potential (future) complication, it’s not going to be the determining factor in the big picture. Traffic problems are solvable, lost jobs are not.”
That’s probably not an argument that is going to convince anyone opposed to the project to support it.
But what about those on the fence? Those who see the need for jobs and city revenue, but who worry about traffic and adding more cars and thus GHG emissions?
They don’t address greenhouse gas for the most part, but they do offer the argument we have: “The worst-case alternative is that we continue to be a bedroom community for other tech businesses that do end up being built to the east and to the west. Then we get all the traffic and all the pollution, but none of the economic benefits.”
That’s not bad. I would probably point out that Davis has a competitive advantage in proximity to the university plus stronger environmental standards. And I would have hit on the sustainability issue that the paper completely whiffs on.
But the paper instead doubles down on the fiscal benefits.
They note: “The city expects the project to add a net $5 million annually to its budget to support essential services and amenities like parks, greenbelts, and sports facilities without raising taxes. Additionally, it would generate more than $1.3 million annually in new revenues for the Davis Joint Unified School District.”
They raise several other points.
First, they note the much needed “research and innovation space” and that the project over a 20-year buildout (that’s very optimistic, by the way) would bring about 2.65 million square feet of business and innovation space.
Second, they argue that this would slow the “brain drain” of students and others leaving the area by attracting high-paying companies that could look to the east rather than here.
Third, they note our “retail base” such as it was is “shrinking” and argue that “nobody knows what the total long-term effect of the coronavirus is going to be, but we can count on it making the situation much worse.”
They also view the 850 units and 153 affordable units as “a welcome addition.”
They pay minimal homage to those concerned that this will become a housing project: “As a Measure R vote, the project’s ‘baseline features’ would be locked in. One of these is that housing construction can’t begin until 200,000 square feet of commercial development are developed. After that, it’s one unit per 2,000 square feet of commercial space. DISC’s priorities would be set into law.”
All in all, this is an argument that is likely to appeal to the core supporter of DISC and unlikely to address people on the fence or skeptics to give it another look.
They conclude: “It’s a big decision, but Davis voters have never shied away from big decisions. A yes vote gives us a chance to take control of future growth in this town. By approving Measure B, we can establish a roadmap for what the economy and what our community will be.”
Hey, you’d rather have these if you are supporting the project than not, but this argument is unlikely to move the needle.
Councilmember Dan Carson posted a couple of comments: “As co-chair of the Yes on B campaign, thank you so much Davis Enterprise for your support for our cause.”
He added, “To learn more about Measure B and the most environmentally friendly project of its kind it would authorize, please check out our website…”
That prompted Roberta Millstein, one of the folks spearheading the opposition to the project to quip: “It is very telling when a councilmember refers to the website for a developer funded project as ‘our website.’ Democracies should promote informed decisions.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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