Guest Commentary: A Different Vision for the DISC 200 Acres

Smokey Day photo by Nick Buxton

by Juliette Beck

A little over twelve years ago when I was pregnant with my first child and deciding whether to move to Davis to join my sister in raising our families here, I looked at the air quality data and considered the impacts on newborn lungs.

I ultimately made the decision to move here and fight like hell for my children to grow up on a livable planet, in a healthy community. Given the climate emergency that has choked our skies with smoke for weeks on end, I’m not sure I’d make that same decision today.

We are at a critical turning point in human history. For decades, scientists, activists and frontline communities have been telling us we must change course. This summer, it has become undeniable that all of us here in California are now on the frontlines of a rapidly destabilizing climate.

With Measure B (thanks to Measure J/R now on the ballot as Measure D), we as citizens of Davis have the opportunity to vote on how our community will respond to the climate emergency – an emergency caused in large part based on how we as a society develop land and open space.

Located just east of the Mace Blvd curve and north of the Ikeda Market, this swath of farmland borders Davis as a gateway to our city. It could be a showcase for climate positive, regenerative farming that sustains our local food needs. But if Measure B passes, it will instead be a sprawling development comprised mainly of $800,000+ luxury homes and a massive industrial business park.

In the past few years, voters have approved two major developments on adjacent farmland (Nishi and the sprawling West Davis Active Adult Community which the fickle developer has already changed to “Bretton Woods”).

Once again, we are being bombarded with expensive, developer funded propaganda to sell this behemoth of a project as “green and affordable” when this could not be farther from the truth.

There is nothing green about paving over 200 acres of prime farmland and burrowing owl habitat.

There is nothing green about building hundreds of sprawling luxury homes in a place that could be a living showcase for climate-positive, regenerative agriculture and locally-grown food. Acre-by-acre, developed land emits more than 60 times more carbon than farmland.

This is nothing green about a giant industrial business park and hundreds of parking spaces for commuters that will likely choke the 1-80 artery at Mace Blvd with thousands of additional single passenger vehicles.

This project promises “green jobs for future UCD grads”. Yet there are no committed tenants for the 2.65 million square feet in commercial development. There are no assurances that companies truly focused on environmental sustainability or committed to social responsibility will end up there. The developers pointed to Davis-based Schilling Robotics as an example of the type of tenant that would move in. Yet this company manufactures deep sea oil-exploration technology to perpetuate our fossil fuel dependency!

Furthermore, at a time when we need to prioritize economic growth that remedies historic inequities and systemic racism, Measure B will exacerbate inequality. There are no clawback clauses or social equity guarantees such as small, women-owned and minority business set asides in the 20-25 years of construction estimated for the build out of this project, for example. The developer has even refused to sign a card check neutrality contract to ensure that that workers in the proposed hotel complex can be represented by a union without interference.

Dozens of downtown businesses oppose this project because it will drain resources, people and customers away from the city core and lead to blight. There are already significant vacancies in commercial real estate all over town. Development, especially a project this large, should be integrated into a cohesive general plan that prioritizes non-motorized forms of transit and local values, such as being able to access food needs (including gardening space) and buy fresh groceries within a ten minute walk.

To sell this project as meeting our community’s need for affordable housing is another hollow promise. As a percentage of the overall number of housing units being built, the developers are offering the minimal percentage of 14.7 % onsite units as subsidized “affordable” housing.

We absolutely need to build more affordable housing in Davis. I welcome the opportunity to work with developers who are genuinely interested in building housing that supports equitable, inclusive and livable communities through co-housing and other models that allow residents to accrue equity and build wealth. This project does not do that.

We are living in a time of incredible uncertainty, with both climate change and the COVID pandemic dramatically changing the economy and our way of life. With these changes, both the housing and commercial real estate markets are likely to change as well. I believe the DISC project is a relic of a bygone era. This project is too big, out of touch with today’s reality and will fail to deliver on its promises.

Frontline communities and climate advocates all over the world are fighting with their lives to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Let’s do our part to sequester carbon in the soil and make Davis a model for inclusive, livable communities that we can be proud of.

Davis – please be part of the solution, vote NO on Measure B.

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About The Author

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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  1. Ron Glick

    “A little over twelve years ago when I was pregnant with my first child and deciding whether to move to Davis to join my sister in raising our families here,…”

    Yet you seem to  want to deny the same opportunity to others who would like to raise a family here.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Good post Ron G, and I agree with most of what you wrote.

      If our family had the same implied ‘values’ when we came here to stay in 1979 (spouse was pregnant with first child)…

      Coming to Davis in 2008 makes one a “newbie”…

    2. Ron Oertel

      Yet you seem to  want to deny the same opportunity to others who would like to raise a family here.

      Assuming it’s actually viable, DISC would create a need for housing – far in excess of what it would supply.  So your argument doesn’t make a lot of sense.

      It would make it MORE difficult for families to move to Davis, and would increase the number of those purchasing in surrounding communities – resulting in commuting to the site.

    3. Tia Will


      I do not believe that at all about Juliette’s position. What your comment ignores is the simple fact that circumstances are not the same as they were 12 years ago, or 30 years ago when I made the same decision to return to Davis. In those intervening years the condition of our city, our country, and the world’s climate/environment have steadily declined. I share Juliette’s concern about the future and do not believe these challenges are best met by clinging to the proposals of decades ago. This particular proposal is illustrative as it is over a decade old and based on ideas and solutions that are now aged. What we have also seen in the interim is the advent of COVID, with all the uncertainties inherent to this new challenge. I suggest that we have no idea yet what the long term effects will be on work and living arrangements, but what I have not seen from the DISC developer is a comprehensive plan that would be flexible enough to adapt as necessary to changing work, living, and transport demands. This seeming complacency that our future is going to look the same as our past without consideration of evolving needs that, after much consideration of the pros and cons as I see them, I voted “No” on this project.

      1. Ron Glick

        This plan is not a decade old. It has been redesigned several times. Sadly however, under Measure R, flexibility is more limited than it would otherwise be.

        I too share your concern about carbon concentration in the atmosphere and oceans. The advocates went a long way towards trying to address it. Still it is never enough for an opposition that I think has a lack of imagination about the future of non-carbon based transportation.

        But my main objection is this all pervasive hypocrisy where people try to obstruct other people from attaining what they themselves already have. Or even worse, demand from others a standard that they don’t live by themselves.


        1. Tia Will


          You are correct that the current iteration is not 10 years old. However, a casual glance through city records shows that the planning for peripheral “innovation centers” does go back to the Innovation Task Force of 2009, which is indeed over 10 years ago. Conceptually, I am sure it predates that. I seem to remember multiple conversations on the Vanguard about whether or not this project indeed represented any form of “innovation” or whether that was merely a name chosen to “update” a business and research park.

        2. Richard McCann

          Ron G

          My objection to DISC resides in the huge uncertainty that has been created by COVID and our complete lack of an adaptive management strategy going forward. What are we going to do if it turns out the commercial office market craters and we have a lot of empty office and retail space downtown? Do we want to have a competing land use on the margin of town that undermines demand for our most valued properties right next to UCD? Quite simply we haven’t had time to answer these types of questions (I’m sure there are many more.) I don’t blame the developers or the City for this situation–I wasn’t even seriously thinking of this in July when the decision was made to put this on the ballot. But now it looks like the pandemic will continue to impact us until at least next summer and our economy will have gotten into a new set of habits by then.  Think of how air travel changed so much after 9/11 and now we’re imbued to the new world.

          And you know that I have long advocated for more jobs and housing for UCD grads and younger families in Davis, and oppose Measure D in part because I believe it continues segregation in housing in the region. I absolutely do not want to deny jobs to those groups. But DISC may no longer be a preferred option–we simply don’t know because of the radical transformation from the pandemic.

          We need to stop the rush and take a longer view. I’ve advocated for a new economic vision for a few years, but now it’s really critical. We shouldn’t be locking in a commitment that adds another stakeholder that may not have interests aligned with the rest of the City.

  2. Jim Frame

     Or even worse, demand from others a standard that they don’t live by themselves.

    There nothing wrong with — and nothing new about — raising the bar in response to changing conditions and/or improved understanding of existing conditions.  If we didn’t do that we’d still have asbestos in our homes and no seat belts in our cars.  It’s called progress.


    1. Tia Will


      And due to our current circumstances, I would add, no vaccinations at all, and certainly no hope for one for the novel coronavirus now ravaging the country.

  3. Dianne C Tobias

    Once again I am not seeing any bio for the author of this piece.

    Can’t the Vanguard have a policy to ALWAYS give author info? It helps the reader understand  authors’ perspectives and adds credibility to the DV.

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