Wednesday, September 17, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Park your innovation right here

By
From page A8 | August 03, 2014 |

The issue: Community has a unique opportunity to give input on local development

Davis took a small but important step in realizing the long-held dream of a Stanford-style research park last week as developers, most notably Ramco Enterprises, made their pitches for building a high-tech “innovation center” on the Davis periphery.

THE LURE is strong for any city. The Holy Grail is Palo Alto’s 700-acre Stanford Research Park, which fueled the Silicon Valley boom and not incidentally pumps millions of dollars into city coffers. It spawned dozens of imitators around the country, with the huge Research Triangle in North Carolina and Purdue’s sprawling complex in West Lafayette, Ind., being high-profile examples. They allow university towns to leverage the local brain power for economic growth.

Davis is thinking a bit smaller, with all three proposals submitted to the city around 200 acres. But the interest, and the potential economic benefits, aren’t merely theoretical. Home-grown Schilling Robotics wants to stay in Davis, but needs a bigger high-tech space. UC Davis is producing innovators, and they’ll go elsewhere if the city doesn’t give them a place to land. Cities everywhere — regionally, statewide and across the  country — crave the technology jobs that these parks promise.

And those benefits could be substantial. Businesses pay property taxes not just on the real estate, but on all the high-value equipment they have, too. Davis has a narrow tax base and a persistent budget deficit. We need this revenue.

HANGING OVER everything, of course, is Measure J/R. Any annexation of agriculture land for an innovation park will require a vote by Davis residents.

Knowing this, Ramco’s Dan Ramos is trying to get out ahead by seeking input from the public. The community outreach effort will include a website, an information booth at the Davis Farmers Market and additional community meetings like the one held last week, as the developer tries to format his proposal to something acceptable to local voters.

Ramco is already aiming at Davis sensibilities, suggesting solar panels in the parking lots, as well as bike and public transportation options. But many of the details are up in the air, as developers wait to hear from the public.

SO NOW WE, the community, need to get involved. Get to these meetings. Visit the market booth. Both previous Measure J/R votes have failed to overcome residents’ resistance. But those were for residential projects and this development is quite different. It has the potential to be an economic powerhouse that benefits the whole city.

If we let the developers and city leaders know exactly what we want, we feel confident in getting a viable project and a successful outcome.

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