By Alan Hirsch
The Cannery development is an impressive one — it looks like a great place to live: parks, open space, gardens, shops, etc. The trees are a bit of a problem still, but it looks like this is being addressed in the second draft of the plan.
But, the real issue is what deal the City Council will cut to assure that The Cannery will benefit the rest of the residents in Davis — not just the merchants who want more retail sales. While The Enterprise outlined $10 million in one-time mitigation payments the developer is willing to pay, we should put this in amount in perspective.
The Cannery is a $300 million project. but what hasn’t been discussed if how much of this value was created by Davis residents — i.e., the “Davis Brand” we have built via investing extra taxes, civic involvement and wise political choices. The market is pretty clear about our brand’s value: If you compare Davis homes with those in Woodland, you see a premium of about $180,000 each in what they are worth.
With 547 new homes in The Cannery, this means that Davis taxpayers have given the developer — via access to our schools, parks, library, clubs, downtown and bike infrastructure — about a $100 million windfall. Remember the developer, like all land speculators, has to date paid very low property taxes under Proposition 13.
We also should compare the one-time $10 million developer payment with the ongoing “traffic congestion tax” the development will be imposing on Davis residents — a real but hidden cost the city has never dollarized.
We can come up with a rough estimate of the cost of this traffic congestion by first assuming the 19,000 current trips per day on Covell Boulevard will be delayed by a one-minute stop at at least one of the new or re-timed stop lights — changes needed due to the 55 percent increase in traffic on that road. If you assume a one-minute/one-light additional delay per trip, and a Davis resident’s time is worth $10 per hour, you come up with $1 million-a-year “tax increase” — every year, forever — on Davis residents.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the development could be a great addition to Davis. But I do not understand why some members of the City Council seem so hesitant about asking the developer, who is getting a $100 million windfall from taxpayers, to protect the trees, or pay the full cost of bike and pedestrian overpasses to fully connect to the rest of the city. And I don’t understand why the parks and other mitigation fees the development is clearly benefiting from were set so low.
Or — the the biggest omission — why there is no developer payment to our schools, whose buildings are in obvious disrepair? These schools have added tens of million of dollars in value to the developer’s land.
The “Davis Brand” is valuable legacy built by generations of Davis residents. It should not be devalued as some on the current City Council seem willing to do in their quest for growth. Or as Mayor Joe Krovoza reminded his fellows at the last council meeting: “This development should not be built on the backs of other Davis residents.”
— Alan Hirsch is a Davis resident.