The owners of the largest plot of undeveloped land in Davis want to develop it into a mix of housing and industrial office space. The Davis City Council, however, is not so keen on the idea of giving it up for housing.
The roughly 100-acre site, known as Cannery Park, is located north of Covell Boulevard and east of F Street. For 38 years it was the site of a cannery operation but has been vacant since 1999. Lewis Planned Communities, the current owner, has been working for four years on a plan to construct 610 residential units and 20 acres of business park offices.
With the number of large plots of unused land dwindling and the city’s list of development goals growing, sites like Cannery Park are a hot commodity. The City Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday to move forward with the Lewis proposal cautiously, making clear that they were not comfortable with the idea of putting a housing development on land that could be used to attract “green technology” and high-tech startups and businesses due to its proximity to UC Davis.
The site has been zoned for light-industrial and high-tech uses since the cannery closed in 1999, and the Lewis proposal would require the City Council to approve a zoning change. As a result of the council’s decision Tuesday, city staff will commission a plan for a business park-only development at the site. Staff will then commission an environmental impact report to analyze the impacts of a mixed-use development compared to the impacts of a business park development at the site.
At the heart of the debate is whether this large plot of land should be used to meet the city’s housing goals or to meet the city’s economic development goals. Outside of the Cannery Park site, there are about 36 acres left of land zoned for light industrial uses within the city limits, said city manager Bill Emlen.
Emlen said he saw green energy and technology transfer opportunities from UC Davis as a potential niche business market in Davis.
“We certainly have a bright future in that area and we want to be prepared to take advantage of that,” he said.
Councilmembers agreed with that sentiment, with Sue Greenwald, Stephen Souza and Lamar Heystek saying they felt there was a critical need for more space in Davis for green technology startups inspired by research at UC Davis. Greenwald said she did not believe the currently proposed 20 acres was not enough to accommodate a large demand for high-tech business park space.
“I think we have to have enough land so that whatever comes along, we can make a pitch to get it,” she said.
City Councilmember Don Saylor cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he would rather move forward with a development that would happen sooner than later. With buildout for a mixed-use development estimated at five to eight years and buildout for a purely business park development estimated at up to 39 years, Saylor said the city should opt for mixed-use and not “sacrifice the good in search of the perfect.“
City staff will return in January with a timeline for moving forward with the analysis of options for the site, but the council requested that the environmental impact report be complete within a year.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at email@example.com.