DISC Returns to Council to Plan Commission Hearing Roll Outs

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – Nine months after a narrow defeat at the polls last November, DISC (Davis Innovation Sustainability Campus) comes back to the council as staff looks for them to provide direction on processing the new application.

The original DISC project was submitted to the city in June 2019, went through a public outreach process which culminated in a council approval last July and defeat by the voters in November by a 52-48 margin.

Staff points out that the “most notable difference between the original DISC project and the DISC 2022 project is the reduction in size of the project. The project is roughly half the size it was in 2019.”

The revised proposal reduces DISC 2022 from 194 acres down to 102 and reduces the office, laboratory and advanced manufacturing space from 2.6 to 1.1 million square feet, and reduces the number of proposed housing units from 850 to 460.

Staff writes, “The applicants believe that the modified project will serve the economic development and innovation needs of UC Davis and the City for the next decade, will do so in a manner that is responsive to community feedback, and reflects the realities of a post-COVID work environment.”

The goal would be that it would receive ballot consideration by June 2022—which would mean a tight timeline requiring council to take action on the project by February 15, 2022 ( just five months away).

Staff says, it “believes that returning to the commissions that reviewed the prior proposal for the purpose of confirming that their prior recommendations are still valid and to see if there are any modifications they feel should be made to address the scaled-down proposal would be helpful.”

Under the proposed timeline the project could go to commissions: Open Space, Rec and Parks, Tree and NRC (Natural Resources) in October.  It would then go to BTSSC (Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety), Finance and Budget and Social Services in December.  That would mean a January Planning Commission hearing and a February council meeting.

The return of DISC 2022 was announced back in July.

“Because the demand is strong and growing for an innovation center close to the university, we’ve decided to try one more time to get a plan approved. We believe there’s an appetite in Davis for a smaller plan that is responsive to the community and the market,” said Dan Ramos, vice president of Ramco Enterprises and DISC 2022 project manager.

“The changes we’re making are in direct response to what we’ve heard from the community,” said Ramos. “We also now have insight into what post-COVID work environments will look like and our updated plan reflects those realities. What hasn’t changed is the need for research and advanced-manufacturing facilities to deal with global challenges like climate change and food security, especially so close to a leading research university like UC Davis.”

The original project was put on the ballot for a vote in November 2020 where it was defeated by 1300 votes.

Critics of the project complained about traffic impacts as well as the overall size last year.  In addition, many observers felt that the uncertainty created by the pandemic and the absence of students on campus were causes of the voter denial.

Critics have argued that the reduced size of this project simply means that the owners will return for a second vote at a later time.  Some have suggested using the Reynolds and Brown property on the north side as mitigation land.

In the meantime, there were generally positive comments from various stakeholders in Thursday’s release.

“UC Davis encourages projects that bring economic development to our region and produce opportunities for our shared communities,” said UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May.

“As the voice of the Davis business community, we’re planning to play an active role in communicating broadly about the plan’s many benefits for the city,” said Cory Koehler, executive director of the Davis Chamber of Commerce.

According to Ramos, numerous tech firms have expressed interest in locating at the DISC. “We know there is strong demand within and outside of the region for the type of facilities we plan to develop. There will be no problem finding leading-edge tech tenants when the plan is approved,” Ramos said.

Local tech leaders also have indicated they are supportive of the DISC 2022’s implementation.

“There isn’t enough space in Davis to accommodate all of the innovation-focused businesses that would like to be here. We need DISC 2022 to retain more of the companies that are being formed through research done at UC Davis,” said Justin Siegel, a Davis-based entrepreneur and founder of five biotech companies.

The project could potentially go on the ballot for June 2022 vote.

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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5 Comments

  1. Matt Williams

    Staff writes, “The applicants believe that the modified project will serve the economic development and innovation needs of UC Davis and the City for the next decade, will do so in a so in a manner that is responsive to community feedback, and reflects the realities of a post-COVID work environment.”

    .
    Given that there has been no public meetings or public dialogue about DISC from November 2020 through the recent half-DISC reapplication announcement, what community feedback are the applicant and staff using to support that statement?

    1. Bill Marshall

      Perhaps because City staff, electeds, and/or the developers got feedback from the community outside of announced, Brown Act noticed, “public meetings or public dialogue”?  All normal, and perfectly legal, BTW.

      Not sure of your point.  Feel free to elaborate.

      Point is, there will be public meetings and public dialogue… should we add a year of time to process, to alleviate your apparent concern?  Two years?  Five?  Why not two-10 years for “community feedback”, via ‘channels’ you appear to feel are the appropriate ones?  Only publicly noticed “public meetings or public dialogue”…

      I have no issue with the timelines mentioned in the article. Might oppose the ‘new’ project, might support it, might come to a “whatever” position.

      Eight commissions… looks like plenty of opportunities for ‘public input’…

      1. Matt Williams

        I agree all normal, and perfectly legal.  What is much more important is for the developer, Council and staff to share (ideally in Tuesday’s Staff Report, what that community feedback was, and when it was collected.  That simple disclosure shoudn’t slow the process down at all.  If anything, it should speed the process up.

        The biggest problem (from my personal perspective) with DISC 2020 was that Hans Christian Andersen would call it a local version of The Emperor’s New Clothes.  There was absolutely no substance in demonstrating real Demand for what the project proposed to offer.  In Texas they call that “All Hat, No Cattle.”  Further, in the Supply aspect of the project, what was being offered was sketchy at best.  The two words that best described both the Demand and Supply sides of DISC 2020 were “Trust Us.”  Anyone who has raised a daughter has a healthy skepticism of those two words.

        So now we have Half-DISC.  If anything, the Demand side of the proposal has gotten even thinner, because the Marketing arm of the DISC 2020 partnership has pulled up stakes and left the partnership, going back to North Carolina.

        “Gathering community input” is homework about the Demand side of any project.  I really don’t understand why an approach of proactive sharing in Tuesday’s Staff Report of the specific lessons learned from that community input isn’t being followed.

  2. Jim Frame

    We know there is strong demand within and outside of the region for the type of facilities we plan to develop. There will be no problem finding leading-edge tech tenants when the plan is approved,

    If commercial/industrial demand is so strong, why not drop the residential component and maximize the tech stuff?  I think that would pass a Measure D vote handily.  The project as proposed provides only 42% of the original tech space but retains 54% of the original residential space.  That’s going in the wrong direction, in my opinion.

     

    1. Bill Marshall

      Two edged sword… residential component was originally suggested by staff, to ‘mitigate’ peak hour (assuming housing for employees) traffic… so, the plan got ‘trashed’ by those against more residential. Had they stuck with all non-res, they’d have been ‘trashed’ by those citing traffic concerns related to “commuters”… some of the cleverest anti-growth/anti-expansion folk jumped on both band-wagons, and several have posted here… alternating which wagon they’re on.

      There is nothing rational here… it is all politics, and oft by those who hide their true agenda(s), under the guise of ‘legitimate concerns’.  And will attack any project, on any pretext that they believe will generate a negative JeRkeD vote.  That is real.

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