By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – While Councilmember Will Arnold pointed out the planning for Innovation Parks in Davis began in October of 2010 when the City Council established the Innovation Park Task Force, opponents of the previous bill spoke out against the new project and its timeline.
“I suppose you could argue that [the timing of] 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.”
But for members of the public who opposed the first DISC project, this is again a rush job that adheres to developer timelines not the community’s needs.
Jeff Barbosa said, “I’m surprised, but I’m not shocked, that less than one year since voters rejected DISC — despite being outspent by the developers — we are seeing another version of this project, that we just voted on in November.”
He said one of the reasons it was rejected was “concern about negative impacts.” He said, “Those concerns have not been addressed. This proposal will only add to the traffic in that area and along Mace Blvd, Second Street, and Alhambra.”
Finally he said, “This processing timeline may be convenient for the applicant, but it’s not adequate for serious review by the commissions and community. Necessarily rushing the timeline benefits with developer, not the city, and it could prevent additional committee hearings on critical issues that arise.”
Roberta Millstein noted that two years ago many complained about a rushed timeline, and 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.
Ron Oertel said that what really bothers him is that the original EIR itself “stated that it’s going to create more jobs than housing. And that would be true of this one, too, if the commercial is successful. So why are the same people who are concerned about housing pushing this proposal?”
Pam Gunnell said, “If the city truly wants good planning, then DISC-2 is the antithesis of that. The proposed housing is located in the far Northeast corner, the furthest point in the project from any connection to the city. Why is the council even entertaining a proposal that would allow such extreme peripheral housing? We have a general plan predicated on not sprawling. We have a citizenry that clearly has voiced their support for infill both in terms of the environment and the future fiscal health of the city. It’s crucial that the city use existing infrastructure and not sprawl.”
Larry Guenther said, “It is distressing repeatedly to see the city bend its timeline and process to the will of a development applicant. Given the direction sought by the initiative, put forward by the commissioners and other community members in mid-2020, the timeline for the DISC 2.0 Project outlined in staff recommendation goes in precisely the opposite direction. It severely limits commission input, and asks for that input before the documents for the project are complete.”
He added, “There always seems to be a rush to get large development projects on for the next ballot.”
Alan Pryor, quoting from the staff report, said “… all of the advisory recommendations were provided to the planning commission and city council as part of the project staff report.”
He then said, “This is a very misleading statement.”
He explained that, “In fact, due to the extremely late release date of the final EIR, many commissions were forced to scramble and hold special meetings in order to submit their recommended baseline features for consideration, but even after doing so, staff then refused to provide any comments to the recommendations from the NRC, the Open Space Commission and the Bicycle and Transportation Commission in both the staff reports to the Planning Commission and to the council — claiming that there was not sufficient time for the staff to analyze them or provide comments.”
Heather Caswell said, “Our city government is being asked to create a special zoning disposition to the existing zoning of the DISC land so that Buzz Oates, a multi-billion dollar development company, can reap enormous benefit built around this development. This billion dollar development company has no legal rights to this rezoning. Our city has no obligation to grant it.”
She added, “There is no question that another multi-billion dollar development with benefit Buzz [Oates], which already manages and bills for 25 million square feet of commercial space in California.” She continued, “But I need to remind the public — and you, our council — that you were not elected to serve a billion dollar private development company. The question is for us is whether it benefits the people of the city that you are the city officials who are sworn to serve. The answer to that question remains a resounding, ‘No.’”
Eileen Samitz added, “It is hard to believe that yet another version of the DISC project is making yet another attempt for approval.” She argued the original intent for the Ramos developers “was for this to be only a commercial tech park for revenue generation for the city. But then there was the bait and switch by the developers to shoe horn in 850 housing units in the middle of this industrial commercial park. So the housing component has significantly diminished the net revenue generation of the commercial component.”
She continued, “Now the Ramos Developers are returning with yet another bait and switch — with the project eliminating over 63% of the research office and development lab, and also eliminating 38% of the advanced manufacturing prototyping and product testing commercial components.
“So the public needs to know that this is just another charade by the developers, which would bring costs to the city rather than the revenue that it was supposed to generate.”
Colin Walsh said “this time there is a new problem. While there are forward thinking plans that were answered, the staff is asking to limit commission input to a single commission meeting, and to disallow any commission subcommittee review. To be clear, the subcommittees allow [commissions] to dig deeper into the issues and come up with more solid recommendations.”
He argued, “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.”
The council ultimately adhered to the proposed timeline, although they allowed for subcommittees to make recommendations with commission feedback on the EIR, with any and all of those recommendations due by December 31.
Post-Meeting Public Input
For Colin Walsh while an improvement over staff’s proposal, it did not go far enough.
“Thank goodness (Will) Arnold and (Lucas) Frerichs pushed back on staff’s attempts to limit commission input, and allow the commissions some opportunity to analyze the project,” Walsh told the Vanguard later. “It’s a shame the staff so clearly devalued the work of the City Commissions.”