By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – In a release that came out last week, the UC Davis Chancellor had a not-so-subtle message. The release announced the breaking of ground on a rehab hospital. Naturally the first free-standing physical rehabilitation hospital in the region would be in Sacramento near the medical center.
But the statement from Chancellor Gary May went much further than this.
“UC Davis continues to bring new investments and nationally known business partners to the Sacramento area,” said May.
He continued, “Projects like this show who we are and what we do for the community. Since its creation, the University of California has been a major economic engine for the state, and here in Sacramento, UC Davis is doing the same.
“We’re investing heavily in our Sacramento Campus, and this is just one of four major projects underway here – each one focused on improving the quality of life for people in the Sacramento area. These are all part of our commitment to be an Anchor Institution for our surrounding communities and a regional health care resource for all of Northern California.”
I can understand the original decision for UC Davis to put the medical center in Sacramento rather than Davis. I can understand also the desire to expand their market into Sacramento—especially focusing Aggie Square on medical technology.
Part of it has to do with where they have decided to put their innovation eggs. One plan was to put it in the Solano portion of the Davis campus.
Then they seemingly scrapped that idea when Davis appeared poised to develop innovation centers in the north and eastern portions of town.
Around the time those were foundering, however, they announced plans to build Aggie Square in Sacramento in full partnership with the City of Sacramento—a commitment UC Davis never got from the City of Davis.
The message might have been viewed more loudly when UC Davis failed to back fully the DISC project and even more loudly when they released a very vanilla statement of cursory support for the project.
On the other hand this is a two way street. Davis has made partnerships of this sort very difficult. Any major project on the periphery would have to go through a Measure J vote—and as we saw with DISC last November, that could mean defeat and the setback of millions of dollars in planning and years in time.
The message that they are investing heavily in their Sacramento campus and have one of four major projects underway suggests UC Davis has moved on.
They note that “each one (is) focused on improving the quality of life for people in the Sacramento area.”
These investments will bring jobs, technology, private sector spinoffs and more. And those will feed into the growing ecosystem of Sacramento.
Perhaps more telling—the residents of Davis, especially in the last election, notably moving toward the gray end of the spectrum, were much more concerned with traffic impacts than creating jobs or even a sustainable future for the city.
The big battle by residents over the last five years is also telling—they are demanding UC Davis build housing on its land. Pave over research fields.
Did any of them protest when UC Davis talking about putting the billion dollar innovative World Food Center campus in Sacramento rather than Davis? No.
Did any of them protest when UC Davis made plans to build the Aggie Square in Sacramento rather than Davis? No.
Did any of them demand more of these projects on the Davis campus where it could produce more local jobs and private sector spinoffs? No.
What have people demanded? Housing on campus. That’s what they care about.
The university signed the MOU with the City of Davis and Yolo County that focused on what—housing, not jobs. Isn’t that telling? Neither the city nor the county were that concerned with keeping jobs and investment in Davis rather than across the river.
So UC Davis brings investments and nationally known business partners in Sacramento, and Davis is fighting the same old battle over where to put student housing.
UC Davis has moved on. The message is clear. They will likely invest in housing on their Davis campus, and innovation on their Sacramento campus.
Sadly a good many people in Davis want it that way. It no longer matters to UC Davis. The picture is now clear. It should be pretty obvious to all now.
—David M. Greenwald reporting