Updated: Sep 25, 2020
Bob Dunning: The lines are being drawn
By Bob Dunning
Any time you try to pound a nail in this town, someone will come out of the woodwork to challenge you. In the case of the yet-to-be-built Aggie Research Campus the idea is to pound a whole bunch of nails. The project, after all, involves 2.64 million square feet of office and research space along with 850 housing units. It’s all planned to fit on 200 acres of land east of Mace Boulevard and north of Interstate 80. Because of its size, the project will have to run the gamut of a variety of committees and commissions and public meetings before the City Council ultimately decides whether or not to put it on the November ballot. The council must come to a decision by July to ensure it will meet the timeline for the November ballot, a vote that will also include a decision on the second term of one Donald J. Trump. In other words, expect massive turnout for this vote, but it’s an open question whether that will help or hurt those developers hoping to bring the Aggie Research Campus to fruition. One question that every proposed development faces is traffic. This is especially true of anything anyone wishes to build in the vicinity of the well-publicized “Mace Mess” that the city is still trying to solve. “Traffic is obviously going to be the real issue we have to look at,” said land-use attorney Matt Keasling, who represents the developers, including Ramco Enterprises, Buzz Oates and Reynolds and Brown. It’s Keasling’s contention that having all that housing on site will allow those who are employed at the Aggie Research Campus to live where they work, which should substantially cut down on traffic impacts. Especially if the development includes a McDonald’s with a drive-through window. It’s unknown, though, whether folks will actually wish to live where they work or if they’ll want to get away from the job site when the five o’clock whistle blows. Me, I don’t wish to have a pillow and a cot inside the world headquarters of The Davis Enterprise, but maybe some of my colleagues would. Of course, any time a city grows, traffic will increase. Very few people move to our town without a car, even if they strapped a dozen bicycles to the back of their Honda Odyssey when they left their former home in Winnemucca. According to Anne Ternus-Bellamy’s explanatory piece in The Enterprise, “Keasling and Ramos (Dan Ramos of Ramco) said the proposal is largely the result of hearing from businesses that they would like to be in close proximity to UC Davis and have housing nearby for their employees.” No doubt a true statement. Planning Commission chairwoman Cheryl Essex was concerned about the cost of housing at the campus and the wages that employees will be earning. Said Essex, “Some employees will be folks cleaning rooms in the hotel and serving food and some will be janitorial staff and some will be highly skilled scientists. I would like to see an affordable housing plan that actually ties the wages paid to the affordable housing plan so there is a true connect there.” Now that is an interesting concept indeed. Or maybe it’s a demand, given the power the Planning Commission has over this project. So, is the new standard in Davis going to be that every new business coming to town will have to guarantee that all its workers, top to bottom, will be able to afford their own homes in our city? Seriously? So, if my friend Sally wants to open a root beer stand downtown, she’ll have to guarantee that all her employees will be able to live here? We’ll have to see how much traction that idea gets. Ramos, project manager for the Aggie Research Campus, told planning commissioners that ‘consistent with Davis values, we are committed to developing the most sustainable, mixed-use tech campus in the USA. This is where it needs to be done, right here in Davis.’ “Some folks agree and some folks don’t. But there are many miles to go before this thing becomes a reality.Ultimately, though, it’ll be up to the voters to decide. Which is how it should be. — Reach Bob Dunning at email@example.com.