Commentary: The City’s Dwindling Commercial Property Inventory

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – Back in 2019, the city did an inventory of its undeveloped commercially zoned private property in Davis.  The city at that point was able to identify just 124 acres within the city.

Even that was an optimistic figure, as it included 27 acres on the Sutter Davis Hospital site reserved for expansion and another chunk of acres along Second Street, part of the Frontier Fertilizer Superfund zone, that would be precluded from development until clean up has progressed further.

At the time, the figure screamed for the need for additional land to allow for economic development.  However, in both 2020 and 2022, voters defeated measures that would have more than doubled the available land.

The city has scored a few victories, being able to keep Shilling Robotics, for example, on a portion the DMG land.  Landing Biome earlier this year.  Landing the Nugget Corporate Headquarters.

But the announcement by the city about rezoning underscores just how perilous things are.

Five of the 27 properties identified will be used for housing.

Moreover, a lot of the sites have already been redeveloped.

2600 Research Park Drive is now being developed with the Yolo Crisis Nursery under construction.

2555 Research Park Dr is under construction in the form of Plaza 2555.

For 3500 Chiles, which at 14.81 acres was one of the largest sites, the city is proposing rezoning to housing.  This is a blow, because maybe five years ago, this was envisioned as a research park by a local developer, but it fell through.

3425 Chiles is proposed for rezoning to residential, as is 1100 Kennedy Place.

614 Cantrill has been developed.

1770 Research Park Drive is the vertical mixed-use project and another 1.74 acres at 1800 Research Park Drive is being proposed for rezone to mixed use.

In total, 15 of the 27 sites still remain—assuming of course the city goes forward with this rezone.

Factoring all that in, the city is down to just 73.6 acres of vacant commercial land.  But it’s actually worse than that, because, again, the city doesn’t control the land on John Jones, and without that the number plunges to just 46 acres.

Of those, none are more than ten acres.  Only four are more than six acres.  Meaning that the city’s ability to meet the needs of even a medium-sized tech company is severely limited.

That doesn’t mean the city is entirely without options.  They have options to redevelop existing parcels.  And there are some vacancies.

But if the city’s ability to attract medium-size companies was limited previously, it’s now on life support.

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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  1. Richard McCann

    So we’re down to 37% of the commercially-zoned acreage we assumed we had a decade ago. We really are going to need to expand to meet our economic needs.

    1. Walter Shwe

      Apparently Davis NIMBYs want Davis frozen in time. Nothing can be done until those NIMBYs are overridden. I have pointed out who some of those NIMBYs are.

  2. Tim Keller

    Honestly, the largest parcel here 3700 chiles road at the south end of the bike overcrossing really doenst make sense as commercial property anyway.   If you located your business there you would be near nothing and it would be hard for anyone to get to you.  ( I used to live in the adjacent neighborhood so im pretty confident of this assessment)

    That said, I do agree with the balance of the point about robbing peter to pay paul.    We need BOTH kinds of properties and they need to be laid out in a logical fashion with some concept for how the neighborhood is going to look in 50 years time…  it really shouldnt be that hard.

  3. Ron Glick

    An underlying supposition of Measure J was the misguided belief that farmland was a limiting factor in the region and  that we needed to preserve that land so that we wouldn’t run out of land to grow food upon. In reality we have more farmland in the Sacramento  and San Joaquin Valleys than we have water for irrigation. It turns out its water instead of land that is the limiting factor for food production regionally.

    Yet here we are still protecting commodity production land at the expense of other land uses. First UC developed housing on research fields because Davisites  wanted to preserve commodity production land. Of course commodity production is the lowest bang for the buck while research generates the highest return on investment. Now we are going to rezone commercial sites for housing because of the difficulty in passing a Measure J vote. Of course once again commercial properties generate more, much needed revenue for the city with its structural deficit, and a greater return on investment than commodity production land.

    The question now becomes how many ways can we rob Peter to pay Paul? How much value added activity will this community sacrifice in its misguided pursuit of protecting commodity production land?

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