Guest Commentary: League’s Impartial Analysis of Measure B

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Submitted by Bob Fung

League of Women Voters Davis Area

The Question:  Should residents approve annexing agricultural land to develop the Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus (DISC)?  Annexation of county land for city-related uses has required citizen approval since voters passed the Citizens Right to Vote on Future Use of Open Space and Agricultural Landsordinance in 2000 (as Measure J) and renewed it in 2010 (as Measure R).

The Situation:  Davis has studied options for an innovation park with the goals of leveraging UC Davis’ international reputation for academic and research advancements in agriculture, biotech, green-tech, and food science research.  As the options were studied, four options initially appeared to be available but these have since been reduced to one (see Appendix for a more detailed history).  The project site is agricultural land that has been productively farmed for many decades.  Moving forward with the project will put an end to farming on the site.

The Proposal:  Ramco Enterprises, Buzz Oates Group and Reynolds & Brown’s proposal, as presented to the City Council in July 2020, is for a 203.5-acre project site, immediately east of the City of Davis city limits, east of Mace Blvd and just north of Second Street/ County Road 32A.  At full build-out, projected by the developer to occur over a 20-year period, DISC will include:

  • Office, laboratory, research and development space: 1,510,000 ft;
  • Advanced manufacturing space: 884,000 ft;
  • Housing: 850 units, including 125 on-site affordable housing units;
  • Agricultural buffer, park, greenway and open space: 2 acres;
  • Transit plaza for Yolobus, Unitrans and shuttles to/from Amtrak: 6-2 acres;

Fiscal Implications: Negotiations between the City and Yolo County regarding each entity’s share of the projected revenue and other items have not yet been finalized and may be modified with time.  Sales revenue, jobs and increased school attendance are areas of economic impact; estimates differ as seen in the pro and con arguments.

Appendix:  History of Exploration of an Innovation Park Concept for Davis

The City has studied options for an innovation park for over 20 years:

  • 1996 –Economic Research Associates identifies a 200-250-acre technology park as the best option for economic development for Davis and notes that few sites within the city are large enough for this purpose;
  • 2001—Davis’ General Plan includes the goal of a research and innovation park;
  • 2010— An Innovation Park Task Force (IPTF), consisting of City and UC staff, advisors and students convenes to provide recommendations for an innovation park;
  • 2014—A City-issued Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for an Innovation Park elicits three candidates;
  • 2015—One firm drops out, the second retracts its proposal (since applied in the City of Woodland 10 miles to the north) and the third is pended at the applicant’s request;
  • 2016—The Nishi Gateway Project, proposing housing units, innovation park and open space connected to the UCD Arboretum, is narrowly defeated (300 votes) by citizens;
  • 2017—Ramco Enterprises, the Buzz Oates Group and Reynolds & Taylor, re-submits the third proposal for an innovation campus with employee-focused housing.

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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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30 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: League’s Impartial Analysis of Measure B”

    1. Matt Williams

      I agree with Ron it is an excellent and balanced analysis.  Bob and all the members of the Voters Services subcommittee of the League of Women Voters Davis Area deserve a lot of thanks.

      The website of the Davis chapter of the nonpartisan League is https://lwvdavisarea.org/ and their mailing address is  PO Box 1705  Davis, CA 95617. 

      If you want to send them a message of thanks go to https://lwvdavisarea.org/contact/. To become a member yourself go to https://lwvdavisarea.org/membership/

      1. Ron Glick

        I spoke with my neighbor about saying who the tenants will be. He said the most at this point they would have is a letter of intent. Without knowing if the project will pass at the ballot box nobody is going to enter into any kind of contract.

        1. Matt Williams

          Ron, thanks for checking back with your neighbor and sharing what he said, but I think you are missing the point.  No one is asking for companies to sign a contract/lease on the dotted line.  What would be very useful would be for companies that have an interest in locating at DISC, simply step up and state their support for the project.  That is what Tim Keller of Inventopia has done.  That is what Tyler Schilling of FMC Schilling Robotocs did when the project was MRIC.

          Statements of support from possible tenants are not binding, but they are informative.

          A statement of support from UCD for the project would also be informative.  UCD was not willing to make a statement of support.  Instead their statement said that UCD did not oppose the project.  That was informative in itself.

          Silence is not informative.  Silence feeds speculation.

          1. David Greenwald

            But Matt, other than a local company in the position that Schilling was in circa 2014, you are not even going to get public expressions of interest when the likely opening date is 4 to 5 years out. So you are asking for something that is not feasible nor have you done legwork to suggest otherwise.

        2. Ron Oertel

          How much commercial interest/commitment has the proposal in “anything goes” Woodland generated, some 3 years after it failed in Davis?

          (Located about 5 miles away from its previously proposed site in Davis – which will instead be occupied by WDAAC/Bretton Woods.)

          With 1,600 (yeap – count ’em) housing units subsequently included at the Woodland site.

          Is Woodland perhaps the city where proposals go to die a “second death”?

          1. David Greenwald

            First of all, it is inaccurate to say it failed it in Davis.

            Second, from this article in the Business Journal, looks like they are doing very well and they have yet to start marketing it to either housing or commercial developers.

        3. Ron Oertel

          It is a fact that it failed in Davis. And, as usual, the site will be a housing development, instead.

          Full public access is apparently not allowed regarding the source you’re citing.

          How are they (or you) defining “very well”, given that your comment that they have “yet to start marketing it to either housing or commercial developers”?

          1. Don Shor

            I am unaware of any specific proposal for an innovation center ever making it even to the planning stage on the UC Davis campus.
            No business park has “failed” in Davis, other than the voters rejecting Nishi when it had a commercial component. The development group that was proposing one for the northwest quadrant decided to go to Woodland instead. We can certainly speculate about why they did that, but it did not ever go far enough in the planning process in Davis to be considered to have “failed.”
            The Woodland park appears to be progressing steadily through the planning process there. It’s easy enough to google this stuff.

          2. David Greenwald

            All UC Davis ever did was put one on their previous planning map (the one prior to this one).

        4. Matt Williams

          David, I think you need to check in with Wesley Sagewalker to validate your assertion.

          When Wesley asked me to go to lunch back in September 2019, one of the central topics we discussed while we ate at Shanghai Town in Westlake Plaza was how to make the project “real” in the eyes of the citizens/residents/stakeholders.  He assured me that the kinds of statements of support I thought would be useful were definitely possible, and that he would set up an appointment for me with Reynolds and Brown to take the next steps in such a “reality” effort.  Eight months went by with no follow-up from either Wesley or Reynolds and Brown.

          Then in June 2020 Wesley reached out to me again, and we again went to lunch at Shanghai Town and discussed the same “reality” topic.  He said that he knew that I had/have concerns about the project coming to fruition and I wanted to see what the DISC team can do to make me feel more comfortable with supporting this project.

          After I expressed my disappointment with his failure to do what he promised in our last meeting,  we discussed the very disappointing UCD letter of “no opposition,” and then agreed that he would try and quickly address my “reality” and “coming to fruition” concerns.   To date, four months later he has once again not done what he promised.

          So, am I asking for something that is not feasible?  Not according to what Wesley told me twice.  he had plenty of opportunity to say that what I was asking for was not feasible, but he didn’t do so.  Instead he made (what turned out to be) empty promises.

          Further, have I not done the “legwork to suggest otherwise”  What more do you want me to do beyond meeting with a DISC team representative … Wesley … and giving him every opportunity to tell me that what I am asking for is not feasible?

          I think you are starting to look desperate David.  This is the second time in a week where you have chosen to “go personal” in your comments about concerns I have raised.  There probably isn’t anyone in the Davis community who has more consistently done due diligence and legwork on issues.  However, I do know that I do not “bat a thousand” and perhaps you are right that I could have done more legwork, I simply do not know what that additional legwork might entail.  If you have suggestions, please share them.

           

        5. Ron Oertel

          I am unaware of any specific proposal for an innovation center ever making it even to the planning stage on the UC Davis campus.

          It is described in the lawsuit that Dan Carson was apparently part of, in regard to UCD’s LRDP at that time.  You know this, already.

          No business park has “failed” in Davis, other than the voters rejecting Nishi when it had a commercial component. The development group that was proposing one for the northwest quadrant decided to go to Woodland instead. We can certainly speculate about why they did that, but it did not ever go far enough in the planning process in Davis to be considered to have “failed.”

          You (and David) have an odd definition of “failure”.  Failure would also include MRIC, itself (not once, but twice – I believe).

          The Woodland park appears to be progressing steadily through the planning process there.

          What else would you expect from “anything goes” Woodland?

          As noted by David, they apparently haven’t even started marketing it, some 3 years after it failed in Davis. Even with the 1,600 housing units planned within the site. Maybe they’re still too busy building out the 4,000 or so housing units in Spring Lake?

          The Woodland park appears to be progressing steadily through the planning process there. It’s easy enough to google this stuff.

          Seems like something that a blog like this might investigate, before shilling for yet another development that isn’t even viable (beyond the stages subsidized by expensive Davis housing).

           

        6. Ron Oertel

          You might think it’s “beside the point”, but it may also go to the heart of the matter (lack of viability – even with “free land” and an on-campus location). Note that the small Aggie Square development (in Sacramento) is requiring public subsidies in ADDITION to “free land” on UCD’s campus, there.

          Just as the owners of the Cannery were steadfastly against a business park, there (including letting the site lie fallow) – as I recall Don confirming.

          So, there’s two more failures for you to look into.

          1. David Greenwald

            It was definitely aside from the point I was making.

            You make a point about public subsidies at Aggie Square. That’s the whole point of a private-public partnership. They could do it the private route as well and get investors. The money has to come from somewhere one way or another.

          2. David Greenwald

            “So, there’s two more failures for you to look into.”

            We’ve covered all of this in real time.

  1. Bill Marshall

     Instead their statement said that UCD did not oppose the project.  That was informative in itself.

    How so?  Damned by faint acquiesence?

    UCD, the “government entity” cannot, by law nor ethics, support nor oppose something like Measure B… certainly, high ranking individuals can, but not “representing” the entity… just as individuals.

    I do believe it is ‘informative’, from the standpoint that UCD (entity) took ‘no position’… legally and ethically, absolutely the correct call.

      1. David Greenwald

        There is a good point here. Let’s say UC Davis came in and endorsed the measure, so then everyone would be complaining that UCD should mind its own business and say they have 5 million acres on campus (fake number Bill), why not just put an innovation park on their own land. They can’t win.

        1. Ron Oertel

          why not just put an innovation park on their own land.

          They already proposed that (back in the early 2000’s).

          The reason for its failure is not clear, but it does not appear that access was a concern regarding that portion of UCD’s development plans.  (As you know, there was a lawsuit regarding planned access to the residences, on the other side of campus.)

           

        2. Ron Glick

          Was that the lawsuit where Dan Carson was one of the plaintiffs?

          I can give you a hint as to why UCD isn’t interested in an innovation center on its land.

          U.S. Bank

    1. Matt Williams

      Bill, you have shifted the focus of UCD support from “the project,” which officially came into existence in the middle of 2019 when the project team notified the City that it was taking its MRIC project off of the “pause” it had been on since early 2016.  UCD could have indicated its support for the project at that time and had no conflict with any Ballot Measure.

      I agree that they should not take a position of support on an election matter, but there were months and months of time to express support for the project itself, and at the same time avoid running afoul of election protocols.

      1. Bill Marshall

        No… I have shifted nothing…

        You have clarified what you meant… you have stated facts, as have I… they are not dissonant.

        Thank you for your clarification…

  2. Jim Frame

    All UC Davis ever did was put one on their previous planning map (the one prior to this one).

    They got farther than that.  How much farther I don’t know, but they don’t have to engage consultants just to sketch something in on a planning map. And I happen to know that at least one consultant was engaged.  🙂

    1. David Greenwald

      Interesting. Somewhere I have the response I got from the university on the removal of the lines from the planning area and it did not indicate that they had gotten very far. As I was told once the city engaged on the innovation parks the university preferred that alternative and when the city’s fell under, they went the Aggie Square route. They had also looked into the Railyards.

    2. Don Shor

      It appears that about 20 years ago they put a research park designation in their LRDP for a site in Solano County, south side of campus. About five years ago they announced it would not be included in the planning process, and moved to publicly support research/innovation park plans in Sac. Here’s David’s take on it when Bob Segar announced they were no longer considering the Solano County location.
      https://www.davisvanguard.org/2015/10/uc-davis-based-innovation-center-appears-off-the-table/

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