Measure B supporters and opponents examine why the Davis community voted against the Davis Innovation & Sustainability Campus
Measure B failed in the local election on Nov. 3, 2020 by 1269 votes. If it had passed, the measure would have allowed for the development of the Davis Innovation & Sustainability Campus (DISC) and Mace Triangle.
Campaign Consultant for “Yes on Measure B” Andrew Truman Kim explained that DISC is the last of three potential business park plans that the City of Davis has been studying and attempting to put forth since 2008.
“The Studio 30 Report, which was a product of the Innovation Park Task Force, identified three viable private sector innovation centers that could comprise the dispersed innovation strategy,” Kim said. “One was the Nishi Gateway Innovation Center by the Mondavi Center, second was the Davis Innovation Center by the Sutter Hospital and third was the Mace Ranch Innovation Center, later known as the Davis Innovation & Sustainability Campus today—which was Measure B.”
According to Kim, the Nishi Gateway Innovation Center failed in 2016, and the Northwest Davis Innovation Center subsequently moved to Woodland.
Kim explained that Measure B would have provided more research and development space (R&D) for local startups.
“The Davis Innovation & Sustainability Campus would address a critical and unaddressed need in Davis to support technologies spinning out of UC Davis and local scale-up companies by providing the lab, R&D, advanced manufacturing and office space to help advance their technology globally,” Kim said.
Opponents of the measure were concerned about the possibility of increasing traffic gridlock on Mace Boulevard. Principal Officer and Treasurer of “No on Measure B” Alan Pryor expressed concern about the nature of the project.
“In terms of DISC being a model for the future, I don’t think it could be more wrong,” Pryor said. “This was a very car-centric, auto-dependent, freeway-dependent project. They projected there were going to be 24,000 auto trips a day resulting from that project.”
Kim said that the number of car trips was taken out of context, describing it as a “worst, worst, worst case scenario.”
“This project wouldn’t have been built out for many years,” Kim said. “This is a multi-phase project. Full build-out, when all of the commercial and housing would be fully constructed and occupied, wouldn’t happen for another 20 to 25 years. So the framing that was placed around the estimated number of daily car trips, which was repeated often by the opponents, was a selective presentation of the facts. The daily trip estimates that the opposition purported widely did not account for the significant mitigation measures, which the project was mandated to have.”
The project would have been constructed in phases; Phase 1 involved roadway improvements and extension of internet infrastructure, Phase 2 included park construction and drainage channel improvements and Phase 3 planned to build an agricultural buffer and peripheral trail.
The possibility of urban blight, which occurs when there are an increased number of empty or abandoned buildings, was another concern that opponents of Measure B raised. According to the rebuttal to the argument in favor of Measure B, DISC competition could harm downtown businesses.
Kim countered that this concern would have been mitigated by city council demands.
“Before any of the ancillary retail could be built on site, the project was obligated to demonstrate to the city’s satisfaction through a market demand study that there is an unmet demand that is not being served by existing Davis businesses,” Kim said. “In other words, ancillary retail cannot be built on-site unless it could be shown that it would have no negative effects on existing Davis businesses.”
Pryor stated that bringing more business to Davis was an “admirable” goal, but there was concern that the primary purpose of DISC was to bring revenue into the city.
“I think the real motivation for the council was that they expected this was going to turn into a little piggy bank for them,” Pryor said. “They were projecting 5.3 million dollars a year in net revenue from this project, and property taxes and other sales taxes from that.”
Pryor went on to point out the dangers of increasing sprawl for revenue.
“Transportation impact fees could be used for repaving roads all over the city,” Pryor said. “Obviously, the city desperately needs that, but that’s a shell game. That’s what has gotten so many sprawling cities into trouble—they continue to sprawl unchecked to get these short term impact fees. When that money’s gone, all they’re left with is impacts without enough revenue from the projects to pay for the impacts themselves.”
Transportation funding is important to Davis sites, and Kim stated that revenue from DISC would help the city fix roadway issues.
“We’re stuck in this negative feedback cycle. There’s not enough current funding to improve road conditions, and because of that, we have traffic,” Kim said. “But an important funding mechanism to improve traffic are fees and private contributions from these types of projects. However, people use traffic as one of the main reasons to oppose them, thus our city is unable to realize the revenue required to move quickly on infrastructure improvements.”
Written by: Rachel Shey — firstname.lastname@example.org