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Our View: Measure B Offers New Opportunities

By Our View | Davis Enterprise

The issue: Davis voters have a chance to set the roadmap for the future

A research park in Davis has been a longtime dream for civic and business leaders tired of watching brilliant minds educated at UC Davis go elsewhere. The proposed Davis Innovation & Sustainability Campus, on November’s ballot as Measure B, offers Davis a chance to leverage its home-grown brainpower and build a true economic dynamo for the future.

IF APPROVED, Measure B would amend the city’s General Plan to allow for the 187-acre DISC site east of Mace Boulevard just off of Interstate 80.

The developers — Ramco Enterprises, the Buzz Oates Group and Reynolds & Brown — aim to provide much-needed research and innovation space to businesses emerging from UC Davis, thousands of local jobs to graduates and other Davis residents, and increase the city’s housing supply. Over a 20-year buildout, the project would bring 2.64 million square feet of business and innovation space — 1,510,000 of research, office and R&D; 884,000 for manufacturing; 160,000 of hotel and conference space and 40,000 of ancillary retail — as well as 850 residential units.

That we’ve been dealing with a brain drain for years is self-evident. Just take a glace up I-80 to the cluster of biotech companies in Vacaville, where Solano County officials leverage their proximity to UC Davis in order to attract high-paying companies. Or look east instead of west, where UCD itself is building Aggie Square in Sacramento. The city of Davis, at the moment, can’t even contemplate competing with that.

Our retail base is shrinking, and nobody knows what the total long-term effect of the coronavirus is going to be, but we can count on it making the situation much worse. We need options for the future, options to diversify our economy, to provide a new source of high-paying jobs and to add a real tax boost to the city’s coffers. To do nothing as COVID swings a virtual wrecking ball at the national and local economy is asking for trouble.

While not the focus, the housing element — 850 units, including 153 affordable-housing units — is a welcome addition. Certainly, it’s not going to solve our housing crunch by itself, but every little bit helps.

As a Measure R vote, the project’s “baseline features” would be locked in. One of these is that housing construction can’t begin until 200,000 square feet of commercial development are developed. After that, it’s one unit per 2,000 square feet of commercial space. DISC’s priorities would be set into law.

THE SPECTER of more traffic on Mace Boulevard is concerning but pales next to the existing buildup along the Mace/I-80 area. But the key to fixing the Mace and I-80 backups will be regional collaboration between the city, county and CalTrans, and while a commercial center north of the freeway adds an extra potential (future) complication, it’s not going to be the determining factor in the big picture. Traffic problems are solvable, lost jobs are not.

The worst-case alternative is that we continue to be a bedroom community for other tech businesses that do end up being built to the east and to the west. Then we get all the traffic and all the pollution, but none of the economic benefits.

The city expects the project to add a net $5 million annually to its budget to support essential services and amenities like parks, greenbelts, and sports facilities without raising taxes. Additionally, it would generate more than $1.3 million annually in new revenues for the Davis Joint Unified School District.

It’s a big decision, but Davis voters have never shied away from big decisions. A yes vote gives us a chance to take control of future growth in this town. By approving Measure B, we can establish a roadmap for what the economy and what our community will be.

Originally Published on the Davis Enterprise:

Printed in the September 27, 2020 edition on page B2 | Published on September 27, 2020 | Last Modified on September 25, 2020 at 4:45 pm

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