Commentary: Is a Rushed Process Really a Problem with DISC?

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – It seems like with every project the first line of attack is something along the lines of—this project is being rushed.

During public comment on Tuesday, for example, Roberta Millstein noted that two years ago many complained about a rushed timeline, and she said “unfortunately I’m seeing that same mistake made.”

She said, “Again, there’s only time for each commission to see the project once. There’s no time for them to review the EIR, and I think that’s a problem.  And again, this was a problem last time and commissions ended up having to rush through and have multiple meetings — extra meetings — in order to do it.”

She noted that there are “substantial changes to look at,” arguing that it’s not just a smaller version of the previous proposal.

Colin Walsh later added, “In order for us to do a thoughtful analysis, we’re going to need to get the information from the developer.  We’re going to need to have a subcommittee that meets on it, analyzes it, and then brings it back to the commission as a whole.”

In short, he didn’t think the timeline provided sufficient time to do that.

Pretty much every proposal that ultimately became a Measure J vote has generated the criticism of the timeline being rushed.

If we are going to be objective on this, a five-month timeline is compressed.  There is no doubt.

Councilmember Will Arnold had one response to that claim.  He pointed out that the planning for Innovation Parks in Davis began in October of 2010 when the City Council established the Innovation Park Task Force.

We have been talking specifically about this site since about 2013.  We have had four or five different proposals for that site, maybe more.

“I suppose you could argue that five months from right now to when the city council will need to have a public hearing is compressed,” Arnold said.  “I would disagree with that.  I think by any reasonable measure of time, that five months is perfectly adequate for us to get what we need for this proposal.”

I am not going to argue that the timeline here is not compressed.  I will argue, however, that we are probably going to be okay and we always have the fallback, as Lucas Frerichs pointed out, of delaying the decision to the fall if need be.

But I would argue it is actually better to proceed now as though June is the goal, rather than delay it at the start.

First, I would point out that Measure J is part of the problem here.  It creates artificial deadlines.  If there were no vote, you could simply schedule your hearings, get to the Planning Commission and, when ready, the council votes on it.

That’s how things work with non-Measure J projects.

So I think that one of the bargains with having Measure J is that the other side has to acknowledge that a public vote requirement creates a timeline.

One member of the public pressed the point, that this adheres to developer timelines not community needs.

Ultimately I think that’s probably true.  The developers need to be able to raise money and finance a project in order to build it.  This is already a long and drawn out process.  I don’t think it’s too much to ask to allow them to determine when the project goes to a vote.

The public has recourse here—if they think they don’t have enough information, they can always vote no.

A third point I will make here is that having a tight timeline forces the city to schedule the commission meetings and move the project forward.  My experience is that if you started out with a project going to ballot in November, we would still be up against the deadlines with the layout of the plans.

I think we are actually better off proceeding as though a decision needs to be made in February and March, and then if we don’t make it, we can schedule a second round of hearings for the spring and early summer.

It always feels like we are studying for an exam—you push the exam off a week, and you think you’re going to have more time, but by the time you catch your breath, the new deadline is on you.

But finally, and perhaps my biggest point, is that I think we know this project very well.  Not only did we have a public vote on a larger version of this project and fully analyzed the traffic impacts, but we have been discussing this location since 2013.  There have been at least four, maybe more, versions of this project.

Do we really need as much study by the commissions for a smaller version of this project?

One thing pointed out by some is that this is not just a smaller version of the previous proposal, there are “substantial changes to look at.”

There is something to be said for that point, but still, it’s smaller and there are more peripheral issues.

For example, Matt Williams pointed out, “The reason I think Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission (BTSSC) will find the one meeting limit challenging is that the Half DISC project description appears to no longer have the bicycle/pedestrian tunnel underneath Mace. “

Not to be overly flippant here, but long does it really take to note that there is no crossing and there probably should be one?  If we needed the crossing the first time, I fail to see how a smaller version obviates the need for it again.

In the end, I think most people are going to make up their minds by weighing the negative impacts—traffic, loss of agricultural land and open space, and size—against the perceived benefits—city revenue—and make a choice.

While we don’t have a full analysis of that trade off yet, it probably won’t take more than a few months to get a reasonable approximation.

One point I think the critics of this project miss is that really they are not the ones with the burden of proof in Davis.  The opposition doesn’t really have to convince the voters, the applicant does.  They have the much taller burden.

There are already 30 to 35 percent of the voters who pretty much are always going to vote no on these projects, with another 10 to 15 percent often or perhaps even almost always going to vote no.  That doesn’t leave the developer with much margin for error.

Will the smaller size and impacts, along with perhaps more students being around town and less pandemic uncertainty, be enough to push the project through?  That remains to be seen and is by no means certain.

Personally I don’t think another six months is going to make much difference in the amount of information most people need to know to make an informed decision.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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50 Comments

  1. Matt Williams

    It seems like with every project the first line of attack is something along the lines of—this project is being rushed.

    .
    Was WDAAC criticized for being rushed?  I don’t remember it that way.  There was substantial public outreach by the developer before the processing timeline was established by the City.

    I was a strong and active opponent of Nishi 2018 and there too I do not remember the criticism being about a rushed process.

    The problem of rushed process seems to be a recurring and consistent problem with the DISC/ARC/MRIC project.

    Further, the choice of the word “attack” is misplaced in my opinion.  The word “reaction” would be a much better choice.  There is a classic sign that sits on many an administrative assistant’s desk that says “Your failure to plan does not constitute my emergency.” or “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”   

    The MRIC application was put on pause because of a lack of planning on the part of the development team.  They gave such short notice of their decision to pause that the principals from EPS arrived at the FBC meeting to discuss the fiscal analysis, and the members of the development team were nowhere to be seen.  Staff and the FBC and EPS had to improvise what to do next.  Should they review the financial analysis?  Should they not review it?  It was a very odd scene that could have been avoided if the DISC/ARC/MRIC development team 1) had taken the time to plan, and 2) had even a small amount of respect for other people’s time.

    Based on when it was announced to the public, the DISC 2020 application and EIR came in at the very last minute for a timeline that needed to be buttoned up with the Yolo County Elections Office by July 2020.  That resulted in final hearings by the Planning Commission and City Council where several Commission recommendation reports were not provided in the agenda materials and/or the recommendations were not responded to by staff.

    Given that history … both long and deep … is it any surprise that people’s reactions were “Here we go again!”
    The word “attack” might have merit if any of the seven Commissions had been notified that the DISC ½0½½ item was going to be on Tuesday’s agenda.  The word “attack” might have merit if any of the seven Commissions had been notified that staff was going to recommend forbidding any commission to meet more than once.  The word “attack” might have merit if any of the seven Commissions had been notified that staff was going to recommend that no commission subcommittees could be formed.
    The DISC team’s failure to plan for the well-established Yolo County Elections Office calendar is all on them.

    Both the DISC team and city staff should have known that the amount of time it would take EPS to update the fiscal analysis for the new project size, as well as comply with the City’s new standard of two scenarios, one with a 75% Marginal Cost assumption and the second with a 100% Marginal Cost assumption, was longer than the time allotted. Both the DISC team and city staff should have known that the FBC review that new fiscal analysis was going to take more than one meeting.  Every single FBC fiscal analysis of a new development project has taken at least two meetings, and sometimes three.

    Those are just some of the reasons my personal first line of “reaction” was along the lines of—this project is being rushed. And my public comment Tuesday night laid out the fiscal analysis reasons why I felt that way, as well as the public safety concerns that removing the bicycle/pedestrian tunnel across Mace would pose for the Bicycle Street Safety and Transportiation Commission would no doubt have.

    Given the massive amount of traffic that this project would add to an already very busy Mace Curve, can you imagine pedestrians and bicycles safely crossing Mace without a grade-separated crossing?  Playing fast and loose with public safety is just one more example of the DISC team’s lack of planning, but in this case the word emergency will be followed by the word “vehicles” and/or the word “room” and possibly by the word “morgue.”

     

  2. Matt Williams

    One point I think the critics of this project miss is that really they are not the ones with the burden of proof in Davis.

    .
    This comment by the Vanguard is just plain strange.  Here we have a situation where the community dialogue is calling for the DISC development team to provide more information about the project, and for the public review process to share that “burden of proof” information with the commissions and ideally with the neighborhoods surrounding the project.  I’m not sure what is being “missed.”

  3. Alan Miller

    It seems like with every project the first line of attack is something along the lines of—this project is being rushed.

    It seems like with every project the first line of attack by the Vanguard is to attack the attackers.  The attack comes in the form of beating people over the head with repetitive articles, since that is the only weapon.  How about just stating your opinion and leave the attacks and the repetition out of it?

    And yes, I’m attacking the attacker for attacking the attackers.  Comes from my nonviolence training.

  4. Keith Y Echols

    At this point, If I’m the developer, I’d take the EIR, traffic reports, financial projections…etc…. and take a pair of scissors and cut them in half and say: “Here ya go. That should cut down on half the time for you to analyze the project. Can we move on?”

    1. Ron Oertel

      Some things can’t be “cut in half”, such as the bicycle/pedestrian underpass that was originally proposed.

      Some things (such as the riparian corridor) have apparently been cut “more than” in half.

      Some things have been eliminated (e.g., the shuttles).

      The hotel hasn’t been “cut in half”, nor has the amount of housing.

      It remains to be seen if any (claimed) fiscal profit has been “cut in half”.

      (At least, that’s my understanding.)

      1. David Greenwald

        “(At least, that’s my understanding.)”

        What we tend to see is give and take based on community feedback. My guess is that many of these things will end up in the final proposal. The hotel shouldn’t be cut in half – it’s a key part of the proposal.

        1. Ron Oertel

          The hotel shouldn’t be cut in half – it’s a key part of the proposal.

          It was a key part of the “claimed” fiscal benefit.  And yet, there’s a brand-new hotel right across the street.

          The entire proposal has been significantly reduced, meaning that there’s less demand for the hotel (in regard to business from the proposal, itself).  Let alone a money-losing conference center (probably one of the things on the chopping block)? You already saw what happened with that regarding the hotel near downtown.

          Then there’s the impact of permanent Zoom meetings, regarding reduced demand for hotels in general.

          What we tend to see is give and take based on community feedback.

          Well, they’ve already “taken” things away, compared to the last (losing) proposal. Are they expecting to look like heroes, if they give some of those things back?
          I

          1. David Greenwald

            “And yet, there’s a brand-new hotel right across the street.”

            You mean like in Woodland where all those hotels are in one place right off the highwaya? That’s how it works. That’s how you have conventions and other things.

        2. Ron Oertel

          There generally has to be a reason for a convention in a given area, other than a group of hotels.

          I suspect that the hotels in Woodland are primarily connected to travelers who have other destinations (e.g., after exiting from the airport, or perhaps those coming down the valley toward Sacramento).  In any case, they appear to be budget hotels, not having large conference centers.

          I don’t believe that they’re all visiting the “tractor museum”, for example.

          Nor are that many going to visit “Half-DISC”.

          How many hotels have been approved in Davis, over the past few years?  Three?

           

        3. Matt Williams

          There generally has to be a reason for a convention in a given area, other than a group of hotels.

          .
          Ron, there is a HUGE reason for a whole multitude of conventions in the Davis area.  That reason is UCD.  Well over 90% of the UCD departments listed below send one or more of their faculty and/or staff to discipline-specific conventions around the World each year.  Many of the faculty form many of those departments would love to have UCD host the annual convention of their discipline.  Unfortunately, Davis has historically not had enough hotel rooms to satisfy the minimum requirements of the vast majority of those convention possibilities.  I know that to be the case based on personal one-to-one research I conducted back when approval of the additional hotels was being considered by the City.

          Aerospace Science and Engineering
          African American and African Studies
          Agricultural and Environmental Education
          Agricultural and Environmental Technology
          American Studies
          Animal Biology
          Animal Science
          Animal Science and Management
          Anthropology
          Applied Chemistry
          Applied Mathematics
          Applied Physics
          Art History
          Art Studio
          Asian American Studies
          Atmospheric Science
          Biochemical Engineering
          Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
          Biological Sciences
          Biological Systems Engineering
          Biomedical Engineering
          Biotechnology
          Cell Biology
          Chemical Engineering
          Chemical Physics
          Chemistry
          Chicana/Chicano Studies
          Chinese
          Cinema and Digital Media
          Civil Engineering
          Classical Civilization
          Clinical Nutrition
          Cognitive Science
          Communication
          Community and Regional Development
          Comparative Literature
          Computer Engineering
          Computer Science
          Computer Science and Engineering
          Design
          East Asian Studies
          Ecological Management and Restoration
          Economics
          Electrical Engineering
          English
          Entomology
          Environmental Engineering
          Environmental Horticulture and Urban Forestry
          Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning
          Environmental Science and Management
          Environmental Toxicology
          Evolution, Ecology and Biodiversity
          Food Science
          French
          Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies
          Genetics and Genomics
          Geology
          German
          Global Disease Biology
          History
          Human Development
          Hydrology
          International Agricultural Development
          International Relations
          Italian
          Japanese
          Landscape Architecture
          Linguistics
          Managerial Economics
          Marine and Coastal Science — Coastal Environmental Processes or Marine Environmental Chemistry
          Marine and Coastal Science — Oceans and the Earth System
          Marine and Coastal Science—Marine Ecology and Organismal Biology
          Materials Science and Engineering
          Mathematical Analytics and Operations Research
          Mathematical and Scientific Computation
          Mathematics
          Mechanical Engineering
          Medieval and Early Modern Studies
          Middle East/South Asia Studies
          Molecular and Medical Microbiology (Formerly Microbiology)
          Music
          Native American Studies
          Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior
          Nutrition Science
          Pharmaceutical Chemistry
          Philosophy
          Physics
          Plant Biology
          Plant Sciences
          Political Science
          Political Science — Public Service
          Psychology
          Religious Studies
          Russian
          Science and Technology Studies
          Sociology
          Sociology — Organizational Studies
          Spanish
          Statistics
          Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems
          Sustainable Environmental Design
          Theatre and Dance
          Viticulture and Enology
          Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology
           

        4. Ron Oertel

          Matt, all of those departments have existed for years. There is no recently-created vast increase in demand.

          The city has recently-approved at least three new hotels. I believe there’s also a relatively new one on campus.

          Are you stating that this (proposed) one (located some 4 miles or so from UCD, outside of city limits) won’t cannibalize business from the other hotels (in addition to the recently-approved ones)?  Especially given the reduced size of DISC, the ability to conduct Zoom meetings, the availability of existing space within the city, etc.?

          Will the fiscal analysis include the possibility of this cannibalization of TOT?

          Didn’t one of the (existing) hotel owners express concern regarding this? (I’ve forgotten if he actually took some action regarding that.)

        5. Ron Oertel

          I tried to add (but was cut-off):

          How much space do hotels generally occupy, anyway?  Maybe an acre?

          Is anyone seriously stating that such space can’t be found within the city (and closer to UCD), assuming that Davis is suddenly going to become “hotel central”?

          And since there’s no planned bicycle underpass, are all these mofos going to drive to campus, at least 4 miles away? (For that matter, even if there WAS a bicycle underpass – unless they’re arriving at the hotel via bicycle?)

          Conference centers are apparently money-losers for hotels. We’ve witnessed this, before.

        6. Matt Williams

          all of those departments have existed for years. There is no recently-created vast increase in demand.

          .
          That is irrelevant Ron.  It is untapped exiting demand.  Untapped because the minimum needed supply of rooms for the potential convention/conference attendees does not exist.  The conference space exists, but not the rooms.

          The city has recently-approved at least three new hotels. I believe there’s also a relatively new one on campus.

          .
          Based on my discussions with industry professionals, the total number of beds currently in Davis is still below the minimum that a majority of national (and even regional) academic associations need to service their annual convention/conferences.  FWIW the Hyatt on the UCD campus opened in 2010.

          Are you stating that this (proposed) one (located some 4 miles or so from UCD, outside of city limits) won’t cannibalize business from the other hotels (in addition to the recently-approved ones)?

          .
          Yes I am saying exactly that.  The increased volume of convention business will float all the hotels up to a higher level of revenues and a better level of bottom-line.

          Especially given the reduced size of DISC, the ability to conduct Zoom meetings, the availability of existing space within the city, etc.?

          .
          Yes.  The reality is that DISC at any size will not contribute to academic convention/conference demand at all.

          Will the fiscal analysis include the possibility of this cannibalization of TOT?

          .
          That is a question that you will have to ask EPS.  However, there is a good lesson about cannibalization that can be learned from the “Coke and Pepsi Wars” advertising campaigns several years ago.  There was no cannibalization of Coke revenues by Pepsi, and there was no cannibalization of Pepsi revenues by Coke.  Both companies saw their revenues increase because they were both able to harvest revenues from up to that point untapped market demand.  Untapped convention/conference driven hotel room demand will eliminate any cannibalization effect, and the City’s TOT will increase every time there is a convention/conference that comes to Davis rather than going elsewhere.

          Conference centers are apparently money-losers for hotels. We’ve witnessed this, before.

          .
          That is irrelevant, since none of the hotels would need to provide conference center space.  That space already exists on the UCD campus.

        7. Ron Oertel

           

          Untapped because the minimum needed supply of rooms for the potential convention/conference attendees does not exist.  The conference space exists, but not the rooms.

          Just to be clear, you’re stating that attendees cannot find hotel space within 10 miles of Davis?  And that this is the reason they haven’t scheduled more conferences?

          And someone told you that another hotel which is 4 miles away from campus is suddenly going to make a difference regarding the ability to schedule conferences on campus?

          That is irrelevant, since none of the hotels would need to provide conference center space.  That space already exists on the UCD campus.

          At least 4 miles away.

          You do realize that one of David’s desires is to have conference space for activities related to the Vanguard, right?  He’s specifically stated this, in the past.  He was disappointed when that space did not materialize as planned, at the hotel near downtown.

          However, there is a good lesson about cannibalization that can be learned from the “Coke and Pepsi Wars” advertising campaigns several years ago.  There was no cannibalization of Coke revenues by Pepsi, and there was no cannibalization of Pepsi revenues by Coke.  Both companies saw their revenues increase because they were both able to harvest revenues from up to that point untapped market demand.  Untapped convention/conference driven hotel room demand will eliminate any cannibalization effect, and the City’s TOT will increase every time there is a convention/conference that comes to Davis rather than going elsewhere.

          I suspect that demand for both Coke and Pepsi (as well as hotels in general) is on the decline.

          That is a question that you will have to ask EPS.

          It’s not a question “for me”.  It’s a question the city will have to ask.

          But again, it seems rather absurd to suggest that there’s a “sudden realization” that there’s a dire need for hotels (in addition to the recent approvals) for UCD departments that have existed for decades.

          But more importantly, is anyone actually claiming that another hotel (if needed) cannot be located closer to UCD?  Again, we’re probably talking about an acre or so.

          By the way, what’s preventing UCD itself from becoming “hotel central” for its own activities?  They already have one hotel, and their TOT is lower (with the county).  Since the conference centers and departments are already there, how is that not a “win” for both the attendees and UCD itself?  (Not to mention the county, in regard to TOT?)

          (Also, not to mention the environment, in regard to greenhouse gasses? You already know that anyone staying 4 miles away from UCD at a hotel is going to be driving to campus.)

          I have no concern regarding additional hotels, but a 200-acre peripheral site isn’t needed for that.  (As you noted, this proposal should essentially be viewed in the same manner as the original proposal, regarding size.)

           

           

        8. David Greenwald

          I can tell you because my daughter is in soccer, when there are tournaments in town, and there are frequently with the legacy fields, most of the girls end up staying in Woodland or Dixon and driving in.  Which means we loss TOT and our restaurants lose business as well.  That’s a big reason why we have added two hotels recently was to capture more TOT from soccer tournaments and the like.

        9. Ron Oertel

          I can tell you because my daughter is in soccer, when there are tournaments in town, and there are frequently with the legacy fields,

          What “legacy fields”?  Nugget Fields?  That’s a pretty easy commute from the budget hotels in Woodland. Are you sure that families want to pay “Davis prices” (and Davis TOT)?

          Or, are you referring to that strange field out in the middle of nowhere, near the floodplain/bypass?  Which might almost be viewed as part of Sacramento, more than Davis?

          In any case, I find it interesting that both you and Matt are referring to demand which is unrelated to DISC, itself.

          I have no problems with more hotels, but I do have a problem with them being used to justify a 200-acre development on the periphery of town.

          Again, they probably occupy about an acre or so. Davis can probably fit 10 more of them within city limits, without batting an eye.

          And hopefully, UCD won’t steal Davis’ hotel business, in the future. (After all, it is “their” business that Matt referred to. And I’m not aware of any agreements between the city and UCD which addresses this.)

          1. David Greenwald

            Legacy is off I80 before the Causeway.

            I’m using an example of how much Davis is hurting by not having enough hotels. If we had a 500 person conference, most parties would have to lodge outside of town. How does that make sense?

        10. Ron Oertel

          Forgot to add:  As far as kid’s soccer tournaments go, kids themselves are a “declining business” in Davis.

          Within 10 years, you won’t have any “kids”, yourself.

          Some see this as “something wrong”, while I see it as “something right” (and really, pretty inevitable).

          Eventually, all housing will be “turned over”, though. No one is going to be buried in their own house.

          I’m planning my own pyramid – maybe the one in West Sacramento.

        11. Ron Oertel

          If we had a 500 person conference, most parties would have to lodge outside of town. How does that make sense?

          Who is “we”?  UCD?

          Again, what’s preventing them from building more hotels on campus? As Matt noted, they already have the conference space.

          Is there anything preventing developers from building more hotels in the city, now? Again, they typically occupy perhaps 1-acre sites.

          What makes you think that the DISC developers are going to build a 500-person conference center? Is that even addressed in the EIR?

          For sure, I don’t support any conference centers specifically for the Vanguard. It’s bad enough that you’re tax-exempt.

          1. David Greenwald

            If they built more hotels on campus, the TOT would not go to the city.

            I disagree with Matt on enough conference space. They don’t have the capacity for a large convention, which is why they either go to Sac or SF, when they do.

            We is the city of Davis.

            “For sure, I don’t support any conference centers specifically for the Vanguard. It’s bad enough that you’re tax-exempt.”

            We have to pay for it like anyone else.

        12. Matt Williams

          Just to be clear, you’re stating that attendees cannot find hotel space within 10 miles of Davis?  And that this is the reason they haven’t scheduled more conferences?

          .
          From my discussions with convention/conference booking professionals, I was told that in the vast majority of cases the attendees of the typical convention/conference don’t independently choose their hotels.  They make a selection from the list that the convention/conference organizer assembles as part of the registration package, and for those convention/conference organizers 10 miles is a deal breaker.  The reason I was given for that is pretty simple.  The organizers want the maximum possible attendance.  They make more money that way, and having all the hotel options with the same city name maximizes attendance.

          At least 4 miles away.

          .
          For conventions/conferences being hosted by UCD, shuttle service from the new Hyatt and the new Marriott and any other “remote” Davis addressed hotel will be provided for the convention/conference attendees.

          But again, it seems rather absurd to suggest that there’s a “sudden realization” that there’s a dire need for hotels (in addition to the recent approvals) for UCD departments that have existed for decades.

          .
          It is only a sudden realization on your part Ron.  The meeting planners at UCD “realized” that the problem existed at least two decades ago.

        13. Ron Oertel

          The meeting planners at UCD “realized” that the problem existed at least two decades ago.

          And yet, it somehow took two decades for hotel developers to respond.  Why do you suppose that is?

          I know that Residence Inn is open, how about the others?

          Again, if there’s additional demand beyond the three that have recently-been approved, space can be found within the city for the relatively small footprint they occupy. Again, you already know that at least one hotel owner in the city had expressed concern regarding those three that were approved. Has anyone checked-in with him, to see how his business is doing?

          In any case, none of this justifies a 200-acre peripheral site, outside of the city. The city can probably find space for 10 more within the city itself, without batting an eye.

          And you’d better keep your fingers crossed that UCD doesn’t build them, regardless of DISC. There is no agreement between the city and UCD regarding that possibility.

          Again, we’re referring to demand from UCD, itself. And, they have the conference space already.

          None of this has anything to do with demand from DISC, itself.

        14. Ron Oertel

          I disagree with Matt on enough conference space. They don’t have the capacity for a large convention, which is why they either go to Sac or SF, when they do.

          Again, let us know if DISC is planning a 500-person conference center, using your earlier example.  Is this even addressed in the EIR?

        15. Matt Williams

          And yet, it somehow took two decades for hotel developers to respond.  Why do you suppose that is?

          .
          Developers have a funny way of working on their own timetables.  Then they have to run whatever that timetable is through the City planning and approval process.  I suspect they had other potential projects that were going to be more profitable for them than a possible hotel in Davis.

          Another factor is that prior to the addition of the 127 beds at the Hyatt Place on the UCD campus there were a total of 604 hotel beds in Davis. 
           
          33       Aggie Inn
          27       Best Western Plus Palm Court Hotel
          52       Best Western University Lodge
          78       Days Inn
          26       Econo Lodge
          120     Hallmark Inn
          71       Holiday Inn Express (Comfort Suites)
          51       La Quinta Inn & Suites
          103     Motel 6
          43       University Park Inn
           
          Hyatt Place brought that up to 731. That was still substantially below the convention/conference “floor” supply according to the UCD Meeting Planning professionals. Hyatt House and Marriott added 240 and the conversion of Hallmark to Hilton Garden, the room supply is a bit over 1,000. That is a workable supply for booking smaller conventions/conferences according to the UCD Meeting Planning professionals. Any further additions to the supply enable the meeting planners to tap into that previously untapped conventions/conferences supply, which means the cannibalization that you referred to is highly unlikely to happen. That means the time to break even for a new hotel project is now much shorter because of synergies with the existing supply in tapping that previously untapped demand.

          Also the quality of the new hotels was much better than some of the lower market hotels that are in the 604 bed list.

      2. Keith Y Echols

        you missed the obvious; those reports are too thick to be cut in half with scissors.

        You seriously thought I believed that an accurate analysis could be done by cutting all the figures in half????

  5. Ron Oertel

    Matt: “Any further additions to the supply enable the meeting planners to tap into that previously untapped conventions/conferences supply, which means the cannibalization that you referred to is highly unlikely to happen.” 

    If all hotel business was related to conventions/conferences, that may be true (assuming that larger conventions were constantly scheduled, as a result of increased capacity).  And that they totally ignored rooms available in surrounding cities.

    Developers have a funny way of working on their own timetables. 

    Perhaps not as “funny” as you think.

    Your analysis seems to be limited to what UCD meeting planners told you, rather than what those who analyze hotel opportunities decide. I believe you’re asking the wrong people. Ask the people (companies) who actually invest their money, not the people/organizations who are speaking about their own “needs”.

    And according to David, UCD doesn’t have the conference space for large conferences, either.  So, what makes you think that another hotel would “solve” that (claimed) problem, and that UCD would then schedule larger conferences?

    Then they have to run whatever that timetable is through the City planning and approval process. 

    When did they first propose Residence Inn, Hyatt, and the other one?  Was it “two decades ago”, when UCD reportedly recognized an “increased need”?  (I don’t think so.)

    I suspect they had other potential projects that were going to be more profitable for them than a possible hotel in Davis.

    I suspect that’s true.

    Hotel demand is not what’s driving DISC.

    1. Matt Williams

      Your analysis seems to be limited to what UCD meeting planners told you, rather than what those who analyze hotel opportunities decide. I believe you’re asking the wrong people. Ask the people (companies) who actually invest their money, not the people/organizations who are speaking about their own “needs”.

      .
      The assumption in your first sentence is an incorrect assumption.  As a result your second sentence is irrelevant.  Your third sentence describes process steps that I included in and completed in my original effort.

      Hotel demand is not what’s driving DISC.

      .
      I have never said that it is. In fact, I can’t think of anyone who has said that it is.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Matt:  “The assumption in your first sentence is an incorrect assumption.  As a result your second sentence is irrelevant.  Your third sentence describes process steps that I included in and completed in my original effort.”

        I don’t know what additional process steps you included, but I was referring to this:

        Matt:  “That is a workable supply for booking smaller conventions/conferences according to the UCD Meeting Planning professionals.” 

        I’d suggest that the “results” (in regard to how recently and how often hotel owners actually submitted applications) is a better measure than perhaps anything else.

        I suspect that they are in the best position to determine what “pencils out” for them, and that they include a lot more analysis than what UCD says. Factors I can think of include how much demand (other than that related to conferences) actually exists, availability of rooms in nearby cities, etc. Probably all kinds of factors that you and I aren’t aware of.

        For sure, it is a very different issue than what UCD has determined as its own “need”.

        1. Matt Williams

          I don’t know what additional process steps you included,

          .
          The process steps you described in you own words.  Ask the people (companies) who actually invest their money, not the people/organizations who are speaking about their own “needs”.

          Ron you use the words “I’d suggest” and “I suspect” the same way Donald Trump uses the words “I have heard”. Suggestions and suspicions are only speculation, often assuming facts that are not notable evidence.

      2. Ron Oertel

        By the way, the same principle applies whenever you hear the Vanguard state that the city hasn’t approved any new market-rate apartment buildings since (XX) number of years.

        One has to look at the number of applications, not the nonsense. Especially since applications ultimately do arise, when it “pencils out”.

        And one would also have to compare that to surrounding cities, to see if Davis is actually “unique” in any kind of way. (Other than somewhat limiting sprawl.)

        In the case of DISC, there’s always a market for sprawl – if it includes housing. They just have to figure out a way to make it “palatable”, and it doesn’t seem like they’re off to a good start.

        Probably worse than last time. (I’m feeling semi-confident, at the moment.)

        1. Ron Oertel

          The process steps you described in you own words.  Ask the people (companies) who actually invest their money, not the people/organizations who are speaking about their own “needs”.

          Allow me to flush this out, a little.

          By “ask”, I mean that you go to their respective corporate headquarters to see and analyze the information/data/factors that they actually use when deciding to put forth an application in a given city.  Including in-depth discussions with those who make such decisions, in regard to that data.

          In other words, data, information, and access that they wouldn’t likely share with you. And not what some marketing guy who shows up trying to sell the product to the city tells you.

          So unless you’re a professional hotel opportunity locator (employed or contracted by a major hotel chain), I suspect that you don’t know all of the factors. Even if you’ve explored some of them.

          As such, it’s probably easier to see what they “do”, in regard to actual applications.

          None of that has to do with either hotels or convention/conference demand, but feel free to change the subject.

          The subject is actually DISC, and the rushed process.  At this point, I’ve forgotten how we’ve even gotten onto this track.

           

        2. Matt Williams

          Ron, you appear to have forgotten that I am a graduate of both Cornell, the #1hotel School in the world and Wharton, arguably the #1 Business School in the world.  When I was doing my research on the topic I spoke to hotel economics experts on the faculty of both those illustrious institutions.  They interact daily with the community of companies that invest their money in the hospitality industry.  Their input was broadly expert in a way that talking to one or a handful of such companies could not possibly be.  However, not satisfied with that input, I spoke to the principals of two individual hotel investment companies for additional perspective.

          There is a time honored expression that when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.  Perhaps you should heed that advice.  Each of your posts makes additional assumptions that you have no knowledge to support. I agree you need to “flush this out.”

        3. Ron Oertel

          Well actually, I did not know that.  So, I hadn’t “forgotten”.

          I did not even know there was such a thing as a “hotel school”, let alone that Cornell was one.

          But here’s the question I asked, in response to one of your earlier comments:

          Me:  And yet, it somehow took two decades for hotel developers to respond.  Why do you suppose that is?

          You:  “Developers have a funny way of working on their own timetables.  Then they have to run whatever that timetable is through the City planning and approval process.  I suspect they had other potential projects that were going to be more profitable for them than a possible hotel in Davis.”

          This response (and even your subsequent one) lead me to believe that you didn’t actually look at the financials regarding the three recently-approved hotels.  And again, I’d be surprised if they shared that information with you, directly.

          But the evidence shows that they believed there was sufficient demand for those three proposals, some two decades (or nearly that) after UCD determined that they had “more need”.

          But again, the point being that UCD’s “needs” are different than whether or not a developer responds. I haven’t even seen where there was direct communication between the parties.

          I find it amusing that you criticized me for using the word “suspect”, when I subsequently “suspected” that you were correct in your “suspicions” (as stated).

          More importantly, are there any other applications pending? The city has plenty of room for them.

        4. Ron Oertel

          But the evidence shows that they believed there was sufficient demand for those three proposals, some two decades (or nearly that) after UCD determined that they had “more need”.

          And as a side note, I’m pretty sure that asking them (at the point where they had already submitted applications – as you apparently did) means that they already ran the financials.  You don’t need to graduate from Cornell, to know that they determined there was a market for them at that point.

          Still, you’ve got some pretty impressive credentials, that’s for sure. There’s another commenter on here who constantly reminds me of his expertise (even though it doesn’t always align with what he claims).

          I suspect that you didn’t know that your credentials would lead you to “debating” things with someone like me, all these years later. 🙂 I probably should feel honored that you’d even respond. (Actually, I kind of do.)

        5. Ron Oertel

          But I would like to ask you this question again, as the owners of the new hotels would probably not be concerned about it.  I assume you missed it, earlier:

          Again, you already know that at least one hotel owner in the city had expressed concern regarding those three that were approved. Has anyone checked-in with him, to see how his business is doing?

          Also, have you spoken to the experts regarding any changes in demand for hotels (in general), as a result of the recent, increased use of Zoom-type applications? Do the experts believe that this is now a somewhat significant and permanent factor, which didn’t really exist the last time you spoke with them? (I mentioned this somewhere above, as well.)

          I’ve seen reports of the significant drop-off in business at hotels, as a result of Covid. While that may pass, it seems that Zoom-type applications are here to stay.

        6. Matt Williams

          And as a side note, I’m pretty sure that asking them (at the point where they had already submitted applications – as you apparently did) means that they already ran the financials.

          .
          Well once again your being “pretty sure” is one brick short of a load.  The hotel developers who I spoke to were not any of the four developers associated with the recent applications in Davis (with MRIC being the fourth).  So the bias you assumed was a bias on your part, not on the part of the developers.  Again, I think you really should put your shovel down and stop digging.

          One has to look at the number of applications, not the nonsense. Especially since applications ultimately do arise, when it “pencils out”.

          .
          Here too your assumptions lead you astray.  As I pointed out in a prior post, the recent flurry of applications did come at a time where the combined increase in local hotel bed supply did put the market in a position to tap into the untapped convention/conference demand, and as a result “float” all the hotels higher.  However, that does not explain the decision of the developers of the Hyatt Place to proceed.  They weren’t adding enough beds to the market to support tapping into the untapped demand.  What is your explanation for their decision to proceed even though the “pencils” did not seem to support that decision.

          This response (and even your subsequent one) lead me to believe that you didn’t actually look at the financials regarding the three recently-approved hotels.

          .
          Once again you have lead yourself to believe inaccurately.  The Finance and Budget Commission in August and September 2016 reviewed in detail the financials for the Hyatt House and Marriott projects, and in December 2015 reviewed in detail the financials for the Embassy Suites project.

  6. Ron Oertel

    Me:  And as a side note, I’m pretty sure that asking them (at the point where they had already submitted applications – as you apparently did) means that they already ran the financials.

    You: Well once again your being “pretty sure” is one brick short of a load.

    You’re (now) claiming that the three hotel developers did not run their own market analysis, regarding market demand for their own product?  That’s what you’re claiming is “one brick short of a load”.  That’s b.s., and there’s no need for insults.

    Now if you’re referring to something else, that’s different. But it seems like they didn’t teach “humility” at Cornell. Seems to be a trait among some commenters on here, at times.

    Matt:  However, not satisfied with that input, I spoke to the principals of two individual hotel investment companies for additional perspective.”

    Followed by this:

    The hotel developers who I spoke to were not any of the four developers associated with the recent applications in Davis (with MRIC being the fourth)

    Seems like it “grew” by a couple, and may not even be the same group that you first referred to.

     The Finance and Budget Commission in August and September 2016 reviewed in detail the financials for the Hyatt House and Marriott projects, and in December 2015 reviewed in detail the financials for the Embassy Suites project.

    I realize that the Finance and Budget commission analyzes proposals in regard to fiscal impact, and that it also sometimes includes a review of outside analyses (e.g., EPS’ analysis of MRIC).  Was that the case this time?

    But this is somewhat different than the “internal analysis” that companies use to determine the viability of their own proposals.  Simply put, the city’s interest is not necessarily the same as the developers’ interests.

    Of course, I realize that fiscal analyses are also dependent upon a proposal “penciling out”, and that this was called into question during the MRIC analysis.

     

     

  7. Matt Williams

    But I would like to ask you this question again, as the owners of the new hotels would probably not be concerned about it.  I assume you missed it, earlier:

    Again, you already know that at least one hotel owner in the city had expressed concern regarding those three that were approved. Has anyone checked-in with him, to see how his business is doing?

    .
    I met personally with that hotel owner at the time of the applications.  His thinking essentially followed the logic of Pascal’s Wager.  He explained to me that his hotel was already operating within the tolerances of “full capacity” and his concerns about cannibalism were like Pascal’s belief in God.  If the arguments about untapped convention/conference demand were true he would continue to operate at the same level of occupancy that he already was.  However, if the arguments about untapped convention/conference demand were not true then he would be exposed to cannibalism-driven reductions in his existing level of occupancy.  So just as Pascal’s decision about whether to believe in God was based on infinite reward if God exists versus the possibility of eternal damnation if God exists, the hotel operator saw sure rewards if the additional hotels were not approved and the possibility of reduced rewards if the additional hotels were approved.  For him, it was an easy but highly biased choice, because he was only thinking about his own bottom-line.

    I have not checked in with him since. However, doing so would have been meaningless since neither the Hyatt House nor the Marriott have been open until just the very recent few months.

    Also, have you spoken to the experts regarding any changes in demand for hotels (in general), as a result of the recent, increased use of Zoom-type applications? Do the experts believe that this is now a somewhat significant and permanent factor, which didn’t really exist the last time you spoke with them? (I mentioned this somewhere above, as well.)

    I’ve seen reports of the significant drop-off in business at hotels, as a result of Covid. While that may pass, it seems that Zoom-type applications are here to stay.

    .
    No, I have not.  There has been no reason to do so.

    1. Ron Oertel

      No, I have not.  There has been no reason to do so.

      There is, if demand is claimed to remain the same going forward.  Especially if that claim is put forth by a party which wouldn’t actually build it.

      As such, the promised hotel (and 500-room conference center) at DISC may never get built, or at least no time soon enough to “rescue” the city.

      “Help me, Mr. Wizard”!

      1. Matt Williams

        Ron, explain to me how and why, in my personal life, there was a reason to do research about the impact of ZOOM and COVID on hotel market demand and convention/conference market demand, when there is no linear before and after data that says anything about that impact one way or another.

        If I were still on the Finance and Budget Commission I might have a reason to speculate about that as yet undocumented/unmeasured market effect, but I left Finance and Budget Commission almost two years ago, so now I do analyses and research for personal pleasure.

        1. Ron Oertel

          There “wasn’t” a reason for you to do so, at that time.  Covid didn’t exist, and Zoom hadn’t taken off.

          There may be a reason to examine that, now.  (Not necessarily by you.)

          Perhaps you might go back and ask those (non-involved) hotel operators what they (now) think, if you feel like it.

          You should be on the finance and budget commission.  That was a travesty, as was some of the other “purging”. I can think of at least a couple of other examples. In my opinion, this will backfire on the city and their related efforts.

          Also, if you’re so inclined, maybe go back and talk to that one hotel operator who was concerned about his business.  (Probably should wait for Covid to pass, to be fair.) But I’d leave Pascal out of the conversation.

    2. Ron Oertel

      So just as Pascal’s decision about whether to believe in God was based on infinite reward if God exists versus the possibility of eternal damnation if God exists, the hotel operator saw sure rewards if the additional hotels were not approved and the possibility of reduced rewards if the additional hotels were approved.

      Is that what they teach at Cornell’s hotel program?  🙂

  8. Matt Williams

    You’re (now) claiming that the three hotel developers did not run their own market analysis, regarding market demand for their own product?  That’s what you’re claiming is “one brick short of a load”.  That’s b.s., and there’s no need for insults.

    .
    Ron, go back and read what I said.  I said that the developers I contacted were not any of the three who had applications in with the City.  Since the developers did not have an application, they had no need for a market analysis, regarding market demand for their own product.  If they had had an application before the City your statement would be correct, but since they did not, your statement falls short of the mark … by at least one brick.

    Seems like it “grew” by a couple, and may not even be the same group that you first referred to.

    .
    Correct, the first “group” of two I contacted were not part of the four with applications before the City.  The total is six … actually seven when you include the operator of the existing Davis hotel that objected to the City’s consideration of the four applications.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Already noted, above.  My error (but not the same thing that you responded to).

      Of course the three determined that there was demand for their own product. That’s what I was noting.

      There comes a point in these lengthy conversations where misunderstandings occur, especially when insults are put forth.

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