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Davis, California

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Davis lacks land for business growth, study says

The city lacks adequate land to support business growth over the next 25 years, particularly in knowledge-based industries, according to a city of Davis report.

The study, still in draft form, reviewed business growth in Davis in recent years, analyzed the potential value of knowledge-based business growth and, based on several calculations and studies, projected business growth over the next 25 years.

“This study’s role is to serve as a technical background report facilitating discussion of Davis’ economic future and subsequent policy considerations for a future update of the General Plan’s economic development element,” according to a draft of the study. “It will also provide guidance for future land use decisions affecting opportunities for business growth.”

A key finding was that increasing knowledge-based business growth would be profitable for Davis. The business environment in Davis is conducive to knowledge-based industry, including research and development, technical consulting, computer systems design, life sciences and clean energy.

“Davis has substantial untapped potential in knowledge-based industries, particularly biotechnology,” said Brian Abbanat, city of Davis economic development specialist.

However, the study also found that Davis does not have enough available land to maintain business growth.

According to a draft of the study, Davis has a total of 44 vacant commercial sites on 227.9 acres of land. This amount of land would theoretically be sufficient for business growth, but several factors complicate the issue.

One parcel of land in question is Davis’ largest commercial site, located at 1111 E. Covell Blvd. Last year a developer proposed to convert this land into a residential area, but the proposal was withdrawn. Currently Con Agra Inc. owns the land and the plans for the property are unknown.

Whether it is used for residential or business purposes, some believe it significantly affects the city’s potential for business growth.

“We’ve got some sites that could be used for residential or business,” said community development administrator Katherine Hess. “This is a community decision.”

The release of this study coincides with UC Davis’ announcement to establish a “clean energy hub” in the region. This will connect researchers, corporations, investors and government officials. The release of the study raised the question of whether the university’s vision will be hindered.

“I don’t think the university’s plans will be affected by what is available in Davis,” Hess said. “The university is going to make great contributions to the region, but the region is bigger than the city of Davis.”

Though the clean energy hub can be located anywhere in the region, Davis may not be able to house it due to lack of land space, Abbanat said.

“We have a limited number of land parcels,” Abbanat said. “We do miss out on some opportunities. The rate of job growth is probably slower than it would otherwise be.”

Suggested solutions to the problem of limited land include re-zoning residential areas for business purposes, or possibly gaining more land through annexing agricultural land around Davis.

The city is currently going through a public review period to further analyze and solidify the findings of the study. Abbanat estimates that it will be finalized by mid to late summer.

SARAH HANSEL can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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