Growing Pains: Thirty Years in the History of Davis


Chapter 6 - Mace Ranch: A Disturbing Challenge

Davis was unprepared in 1986 for a high-stakes political showdown over development along its borders, and its slow-growth policies were largely to blame. The crisis came swiftly, without much warning, demonstrating that the growth-control policies were more fragile and more susceptible to damage from political forces beyond the city's borders than officials had believed. Davis city suddenly found itself tormented by a recurring nightmare, where new houses, shopping centers, and industrial projects kept popping up just outside of the city's borders, just beyond the city's control. Looking back, Dave Rosenberg, mayor from 1986-88 and again in 1994-95, acknowledged the crisis caught Davis by surprise. "I think it's fair to say that," he said. "Mace Ranch changed everything."

In the early 1980s, motorists headed north on Mace Boulevard were greeted by a pastoral panorama as they mounted the overpass across Interstate 80. Off to the left, was an expanse of more than 600 acres of farmland located within the Mace Curve, the stretch of road where Mace bends to the west and eventually becomes Covell Boulevard. The site's prime soils were particularly suitable for row crops such as tomatoes and sugar beets, but could sustain other crops such as walnuts and alfalfa. Still, the land seemed a likely candidate for development: housing lay adjacent to part of its western boundary, the freeway ran just to the south, and the Mace Curve appeared to be a natural boundary for urban development on the east. City officials could accept that the land might be developed someday, but didn't expect that day to come anytime soon.

Developer Frank Ramos of West Sacramento, though, had other ideas for about 530 acres owned by him and his partners in Mace Ranch Investors. The partnership purchased the land around 1981 and soon afterward approached the city informally about their plans. According to Ramos, he got no encouragement from City Manager Howard Reese and Planning Director Fred Howell. Late in 1984, the partnership filed plans with the city for a 94-acre project called the Davis Technology Center. Proposed for land located north of Second Street just east of the city limits, it was to feature an industrial park, as well as land for research and development firms. At about the same time, Ramos unveiled a master plan for the entire site, without submitting plans for the remaining 434 acres. The master plan included a 198-acre research-and-development business park and set aside 67 acres for an industrial park. Houses would be built on 146 acres, a conference and cultural center on 37 acres and a hotel on 28 acres. An energy cooperative that would use solar energy to generate electricity would need another 11 acres, a winery would take up 12 acres and public streets would cover 37 acres.

The master plan created a major dilemma for the city, but also created a political backlash against Ramos. The city's dilemma sprang largely from a decision to maintain a small sphere of influence, a decision dictated by its growth-control policies. In California, a sphere of influence generally delineates which land outside a city's borders it anticipates needing for development during the following 20 years. Davis kept its sphere of influence very small, because it intended to grow slowly. Placing more land into the sphere of influence would have allowed Davis to exert more control over the land, but also would have created an expectation that it would be developed. Ramos filed the 94-acre project because that land was within the city's sphere of influence. The remaining 434 acres weren't, and Davis was abuzz with rumors that Ramos might ask Yolo County officials to approve development there over any city objections. Ramos could argue any proposal for the 434-acre site should go to the county, because city officials gave up their chance to take control of the site when they declined to put it in the sphere of influence. City officials loathed the idea, because county approval of the project would imperil city growth-control policies. Moreover, the county would get tax revenue that normally would go to the city, but Davis likely would have to cope with traffic and other problems created by the project.

Normally, Davis officials wouldn't have worried much about the county's intentions. County planning policies clearly said urban development proposed for land located within the Davis urban area, but outside of the city limits area should be annexed to the city. "Yolo County shall require urban uses to be placed within city limits in the urban areas of Davis, Woodland and Winters, and within the urban service areas of all unincorporated urban areas," said one of those policies. [1] Moreover, the county Board of Supervisors generally had been faithful to that principle since adopting it in the mid-1960s after it allowed El Macero to be built outside the city limits and Davis responded by annexing huge tracts of farmland where South Davis stands today.

Circumstances had changed by the time the crisis began to unfold, however. The county was in the midst of an on-going fiscal crisis and was looking for ways to increase its revenue. To some county supervisors, Davis was partly to blame for the county's predicament, because the county's tax revenues would grow more rapidly if the city allowed more development. On the horizon was a potential answer to their prayers: a major development that could be built on unincorporated land, so the county would not have to share new tax revenues with a city. At the time, experts often clashed over whether new development actually was a boon to local governments, once the cost of expanding services was weighed against expected increases in tax revenue. Residential development was particularly iffy, but experts tended to agree that a project heavy with industrial or commercial land could be advantageous.

In the spring of 1986, Davis debated whether to approve Davis Technology Center, the 94-acre project located within the city's sphere of influence. Ramos needed the city to approve an annexation request and to change the site's designation on the Davis General Plan land-use map from agricultural reserve to industrial. "The project sponsors propose to construct over a period of years a series of quality facilities for the housing of appropriate technology firms. The intent is to provide a campus-like atmosphere, with distinctive architectural style and innovative site planning," developers explained in a project description. [2] They emphasized the project could lure high-technology firms wanting to be near UCD and would provide badly needed jobs for local residents with technical expertise. Ramos estimated the 94-acre project would create about 3,000 permanent jobs and add about $1 million to city coffers annually through property, sales and other taxes. In the project description, Ramos and his partners noted that the city was reviewing only the 94-acre project, not the entire master plan. "Since the project, as presently envisioned, involves no residential construction, there is no conflict with the city's goal of 50,000 residents within the Davis urban area by the year 2000. Provision of residential uses on the north end of the project may be desired by some as a buffer to the Davis Manor subdivision," they said referring to the existing residential neighborhood located north of the 94-acre site. "However, the project sponsors do not believe this inclusion of residential zoning is desirable or necessary at this time." [3] In a March 1986 letter to Davis Planning Director Tom Lumbrazo, Michael A. Hackard, an attorney for the developers, noted that only the 94-acre project was before the city for consideration. "Because land adjacent to the project site is also owned by the project applicants, the planning department required the possible future uses to be assessed in the environmental impact report," he wrote. "It should be emphasized, however, that there are no proposals now being considered by the city for anything other than the 94 acres campus research park site." [4]

Such arguments, though, weren't convincing to some Davis residents, who couldn't get the other 434 acres of their minds. Adding to their anxiety was the environmental impact report prepared by Jones & Stokes Associates Inc. of Sacramento, which at the city's behest looked at the entire master plan area, rather than just the 94 acres. The EIR confirmed what many Davis residents already suspected: the community would have a hard time meeting its population goals if the master plan was built out. It estimated the project would add 3,340 residents to the city, more than half of the growth still available before the city would reach its anticipated General Plan buildout population of 53,540. At the time, California Department of Finance estimates pegged the urban area's population at slightly more than 47,000 people, including almost 41,000 within the city limits and more than 6,000 in unincorporated urban areas such as El Macero and the Binning Tract. Explained the EIR, "Taking into account the estimated indirect population generation of the proposed project, construction of the project in the near term would result in the city's population objective being severely exceeded." [5] The population analysis contained another conclusion that was certain to alarm city slow-growth advocates. "One additional impact of the project is the potential for inducing development of other properties currently located outside the city limits, thereby further increasing the Davis area population," it said. [6]

Two citizen groups left no doubt about their views in an eight-page letter responding to the draft EIR. "In conclusion, we, the Citizens for the General Plan and the members of the East Davis Neighborhood Committee, are completely opposed to the Campus Research Park proposal," their letter said. "The proposal clearly violates county and regional planning and totally ignores the principles of the Davis General Plan." [7] The draft EIR included an estimate that couldn't help but alarm slow-growth advocates: the master plan would not only add about 3,320 people directly, but could also could add thousands more to the area indirectly, because of new off-site jobs that would be created to serve on-site employers and employees. Other responses to the draft EIR raised apprehensions about the project. In a December, 1986 letter, for instance, the California Department of Transportation indicated the project could require widening the Mace Interchange, preferably to five lanes. The letter said the improvements would have to rely solely on local funding, saying no state money would be available. [8]

After public hearings during the spring of 1986, the city rejected the 94-acre project decisively. On May 13, the Planning Commission voted 7-0 against an annexation request, preliminary development plans and recommended changes to the General Plan land-use map, giving several reasons: no need for the project had been demonstrated, it was contrary to city growth and farmland-preservation regulations, and the project might be better suited for a site somewhere else in the county. Ramos appealed the decision to the council, which voted 5-0 on May 21, 1986, to follow the commission's lead and reject the project. "It should be stressed that, while the EIR was certified, the document shows that there would be significant impacts in the area of land use, population, employment and transportation for which there are no feasible mitigation measures," Mayor Rosenberg explained in a July 1986 letter to county Supervisor Bob Black, noting that Ramos did not give the city a plan for reducing those impacts. [9] Rosenberg also emphasized the city rejected the industrial part of the project without prejudice, so Ramos could submit an application for that part at any time. "If this finding was not made, the applicant would have to wait at least a year to submit a new application, or, if a new application was submitted within the year, the Planning Commission would have to find that the new application is substantially different than the one denied," Rosenberg explained. [10]

The city's idea was to have Ramos return with an industrial park proposal for the southern 33 acres of the 94-acre site. During the meeting, council members emphasize they weren't committing the city to approving the smaller project, saying Ramos would have to demonstrate the city needed more industrially zoned land and the project would be a financial boon, rather than boondoggle for the city. To Councilman Jerry Adler, the idea had merit for two reasons: the site seemed appropriate for industrial uses because it was located next to a steel plant, trucking company and greenhouses and the city's willingness to consider a smaller version of the project could help thwart any move by Ramos to approach the county and argue he was being treated unfairly by the city. "That, I think, is a very significant point," Adler said the day following the meeting. [11] Project Manager Larry Asera sought to ease the city's concerns that the project would end in the hands of county officials. "I have no directive to take this project to the county," he said, responding to a question from Rosenberg. "If the city turns us down, we'll try again." [12] Afterward, Asera questioned the city about how fast it could review the smaller version. City Planning Director Tom Lumbrazo responded in a July 14 letter, outlining a timeline that would take about three months.

Already, though, the city's opportunity to use the 33-acre proposal as a bargaining chip was slipping away. Circumstances were changing rapidly, and Ramos saw no point in continuing to bargain with the city, as Asera noted in a July 18 letter responding to Lumbrazo. "Since the city's denial of our application for development of the 94-acre Campus Research Park project on May 21, 1986, several events have occurred which would make reapplication to the city both an exercise in futility and a waste of resources," Asera wrote, nonetheless thanking Lumbrazo for the suggestion that Ramos file an application for the 33-acre project. Asera added that the time had come for Ramos to take his remaining 434 acres to the county for review, noting the county was bound to be interested because its revenue base was shrinking because of West Sacramento's decision to incorporate as a city. "The county needs development, especially development such as that which we propose, which will provide substantial revenue to the county," Asera concluded. [13]

He pointed specifically to three events that called into question the community's willingness to accept new growth, including the 33-acre project. The most significant occurred on June 3, when approximately 56 percent of the city's voters cast ballots in favor of Measure L, an initiative sponsored by Citizens for the General Plan. The measure was advisory, and thus would not bind the hands of council members or county supervisors in the dispute over Mace Ranch. Still, the council could hardly ignore the underlying message: voters wanted Davis to stay on a slow-growth course. "Should the following advisory statement of growth policy be adopted?" Measure L asked, advising city and county representatives to heed three principles:

  • Davis should grow as slowly as it legally could;
  • Future growth should be concentrated on lands already within the city limits and additional annexations should be discouraged; and
  • The county should not approve development on the periphery of Davis unless the city gives its stamp of approval by ruling it consistent with the Davis General Plan. Measure L included several findings, including the beliefs that "the prime agricultural land surrounding Davis is a resource of local, state and national importance" and "the growth of Davis is an issue best determined by Davis citizens without outside pressure or influence."

The second event was voter approval of Measure S, a city initiative on the same ballot that didn't deal directly with Campus Research Park, but strengthened the conviction that voters were in a slow-growth mood. The measure was sponsored by a group known as Save Open Space that included former Mayor Maynard Skinner among its leaders and gained the support of almost 58 percent of the voters. The measure's passage derailed the city's plans for having an 85,000-square-foot shopping center built on the Arden-Mayfair Lot, vacant, city-owned land north of Third Street between B and C streets. The lot was used as a parking lot at the time, and Central Park covered only the block just north of the lot. Measure S was an ordinance requiring the city to extend Central Park southward across the lot, with the understanding that up to one-third of the lot could be used for parking and public buildings. In the same election, Councilwoman Ann Evans was re-elected to a second term and Mike Corbett was elected to the council. Both were outspoken champions of slow growth, as was Rosenberg, who the council chose to serve as mayor. In his letter, Asera cited the council's choice of Rosenberg to be mayor as the third event that caused Ramos to reassess his plans. "One cannot deny that growth in this part of the county will occur," Asera concluded. "Growth is not only inevitable, but essential in light of Yolo County's financial needs. If approved, our project will help to satisfy those needs." [14]

A fiscal-impact report prepared for Ramos by Ralph Andersen & Associates estimated, at build-out, Mace Ranch would generate an annual revenue surplus of more than $1.75 million in 1986-87 dollars for the county if the project was developed outside of the city and the county had responsibility for providing services to the area. The report said the surplus would be even larger if some services were financed through assessment districts. As it noted, the report analyzed only estimated ongoing revenues and service costs for the county, and did not attempt to gauge fiscal impacts on the city, the Davis Joint Unified School District and local special districts.

Even before the Asera letter went out, Ramos began declaring his intent to approach the county, and Davis was sending an olive branch to the county, while saying it was willing to fight if necessary. At a meeting on July 16, 1986. council members voted unanimously to adopt a largely symbolic resolution saying the city would consider the needs of the county and university in its planning process, indicating the council was simply reaffirming long-standing city policies. They also agreed the city should undertake a comprehensive review of the Davis General Plan over the next year, and made public some of the events that led Ramos to try his luck with the county. Adler, for example, reported county intermediaries approached the council, detailing plans for an industrial research park generally in keeping with the city's size preferences. According to Adler, both the county and developers wanted a clear signal from council members that they would approve the project after it had gone through the review process. The council considered the proposal briefly during an executive session because it involved possible litigation, but decided it couldn't give the desired signal. At the time, Asera acknowledged that the county may have approached the city, but emphasized it was not acting on behalf of the Ramos group.

In a September 1986 letter to Supervisor Black, Mayor Rosenberg sought to counter attacks on the city's growth-control policies. "Some persons, both on and off the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, have from time to time suggested that Davis is a no-growth community," Rosenberg wrote, emphasizing that Davis grew faster than other cities and the county as a whole between 1970-86. [15] During that period, Davis saw its population grow by 74.3 percent, giving it an average annual rate of 3.59 percent. Woodland's population grew by 64.9 percent, or 3.23 percent per year, while Winters was growing 37.7 percent, or 2..05 percent per year. "By any calculation, Davis is hardly a no-growth community, and it has certainly accepted more than its fair share of growth in Yolo County,'' Rosenberg concluded, saying its growth-control policies allowed the community to temper outside pressures that otherwise would have forced the city to grow too rapidly. [16]

Ramos filed an application for the remaining 434 acres with the county in August 1986, naming the project Mace Ranch Park and making some major changes to the master plan. The research and development park remained, and was to cover nearly 160 acres. The amount of land set aside for housing increased from 146 to 180 acres, including 93 for standard single-family houses, 45 for single-family clustered houses and 42 for apartments. The hotel stayed in the plans, but its share of the site dropped from 28 to 8 acres. Nearly 47 acres of commercial uses were added to the project, along with 10 acres of park land. The conference and cultural center, winery, and energy cooperative disappeared from the master plan.

The city had little choice but to seek a compromise agreement that would allow Ramos to build his project, but ensure it was annexed to the city. Rosenberg recalled that two questions were critical to him: By refusing to extend city services to the site, could the city thwart any move by the county to approve the project? Could Davis successfully challenge county approval in the courts? Tom Lumbrazo, the city's planning director at the time, raised the first issue in a December 1986 letter to the county, saying the council wanted the county's EIR to address what alternatives would be available if the city declined to provide sewage, water, fire-protection and other services to the site. Rosenberg said that threat lost its appeal to him after the Davis Public Works Department responded to his inquiries by saying Ramos could afford to build a sewage-treatment plant if he couldn't use city facilities. Relying on such a threat also was risky because it could backfire. Forcing Ramos to build his own waste-treatment plant, for example, would increase the cost of the project significantly, but a new plant with leftover capacity could promote additional development outside of the city's borders. Responding to the second question, the city's attorneys told Rosenberg that Davis could delay, but not stop the project by challenging county approval in the courts. "It was going to happen either in the county or the city," Rosenberg said, explaining his decision to seek a compromise to ensure Mace Ranch was developed in the city. "That decision was easy for me."

Slowly, but surely, Ramos, the city and county worked during the following months to defuse the crisis. After intense, behind-the-scenes negotiations, the city, county and Mace Ranch Investors agreed to a settlement that gained the council's backing on a unanimous vote at a meeting on May 20, 1987. Councilwoman Debbie Nichols-Poulos presented the details: Ramos was to submit a master-plan application to the city, county officials were to delay certifying an EIR on the 434-acre project still before them, Davis was to revise its General Plan by Dec. 31, 1987, and Ramos was to work with the city on drafting the East Davis Specific Plan, a blueprint for development of Mace Ranch and nearby properties. Everyone understood that if the city did not proceed in good faith, the county could step in and regain control of the project. On Sept. 1, 1987, John P. Yeager, an attorney for Ramos, announced in a hand-delivered letter to city officials that an application for Mace Ranch would be submitted to Davis. The letter indicated, though, that Ramos remained leery, saying the application did not imply his consent to annexation and that Mace Ranch Investors retained the right to fight annexation if necessary. [17]

Now that it had an accord on how to handle the Ramos project, Davis needed a strategy for avoiding similar predicaments in the future. Its solution was an historic accord with the county reached in November 1987. Known as the Davis-Yolo Pass-Through Agreement, the accord is based on a simple principle: the county can approve urban development near Davis if it wants to, but it's going to take a big hit financially if it does. County officials kept their legal authority to decide whether unincorporated lands near Davis should be developed or not, but the practical impact has been to give the city control of a planning area that stretches from County Road 27 on the north, the Yolo Bypass on the east, County Road 35 and the Interstate 80 interchange at Pedrick Road on the south and County Road 97D on the west. The planning area covers about 84 square miles of territory, including the seven square miles of land located within the city limits at the time.

The city's ace up its sleeve was its plans for setting up a redevelopment agency for the downtown area and South Davis to raise revenue for a host of major traffic projects, including construction of a new freeway overpass across Interstate 80 and widening of the Mace Boulevard interchange. Typically, a city's redevelopment agency gets money by claiming a large share of property tax revenue created by new developments in redevelopment areas, siphoning off funds that otherwise would go to the city general fund, county and other local government agencies. In the agreement with Yolo County, Davis agreed to pass along to the county and a local library district tax revenue that normally could be claimed by the city's redevelopment agency. Rosenberg emphasized the county retained its authority to determine whether projects proposed for land located outside the city's sphere of influence should be approved or not. The pass-through deal would last, however, only as long as the county did not approve urban development over any city objections. Informal procedures were worked out for the county to notify the city when projects were proposed for unincorporated lands located within the Davis planning area and for the city to notify the county whether the projects are considered to be urban development.

As part of its agreement with the county, Davis was given until June 30, 1988, to enter into a development agreement with Mace Ranch Investors or submit to the county a development agreement city officials were willing to approve that was consistent with the East Davis Specific Plan. In the latter case, the county would have to rule whether the terms were reasonable. Ironically, at about the same time the city and county were agreeing to terms of the pass-through agreement, an attorney for Ramos was sending the council a letter demonstrating that many obstacles remained. In the Nov. 18 letter, Bill Holliman raised a long list of concerns about the East Davis Specific Plan, including phasing of Mace Ranch, the fees and exactions facing Ramos, the amount of parkland provided in the plan and proposed park fees. [18] A summary of the Holliman letter was part of a long chronology of written communications and meetings cited by Corbett in an October 1988 letter sent to give the county an update on the city's efforts to negotiate a development agreement with Ramos.

The chronology also cited a marathon council meeting that lasted until 2 a.m. on Dec. 23, 1987, where the council adopted the East Davis Specific Plan and a General Plan that envisioned the community's population growing to 75,000 by the year 2010. During the meeting, the council also voted 3-2 with Nichols-Poulos and Adler dissenting to locate a new freeway overpass at Pole Line Road, rather than County Road 103. Nichols-Poulos favored placing it somewhere in the vicinity of Road 103 and Adler supported a third site. Said Rosenberg of the new General Plan, "It's a good vision for the future. The city can be proud of it." Almost immediately, however, critics appeared, complaining that the city's new blueprint for the future was forced on the city by Ramos and was drafted without adequate public input. Among the most controversial features was a decision to include several major housing projects other than Mace Ranch in the General Plan for possible development by 2010, including Aspen and Evergreen in West Davis and Northstar, Crossroads and Wildhorse in North Davis. Still, the plan provided for an annual growth rate of only about 2 percent.

In January 1988, the city sent a draft development agreement to Ramos. The conflict wasn't over yet, though. On March 9, Holliman sent the city a letter chastising it for not moving quickly enough, saying Ramos was still awaiting estimated costs for offsite infrastructure, development fees and exactions. "It is imperative that we experience no further delays and that the related processes discussed in this letter be completed expeditiously," Holliman said. [18] Two months later, Bill Owen, one of the city's attorneys, sent the council a memo warning that Holliman was convinced the city was asking too much of developers. "He states that the figures which have been given to MRI by the city reflect development costs of $32 million," Owen wrote, indicating Holliman thought that was about $15 million too high. [19] Holliman blamed about $10 million on excessive demands for amenities such as parks and greenbelts. Still, Owen had some encouraging news: Holliman now was saying the fate of the development agreement had been narrowed to three issues: overall costs, the cost of a low-cost housing proposal made by Corbett, and phasing. Ramos and Rosenberg said the meetings were cordial, not confrontational. The Davis councilman, though, recalled an underlying tension and the frenzied pace as city officials sought to hammer out an agreement with the county and Mace Ranch Investors, pointing out that the city had a host of time-consuming tasks to complete: revamp the Davis General Plan, draft the East Davis Specific Plan, negotiate a development agreement with Ramos, set up the redevelopment agency and draw up its plans, establish a special assessment district to help finance public projects in the area, and expand the city's sphere of influence.

Two of the most sensitive tasks were deciding how fast Ramos could build his housing and whether a phasing plan should be set up by the city for industrial development and other non-residential parts of the project. The first was sensitive because of the city's slow-growth policies, and its habit of holding a housing allocation every couple of years or so, where developers would present their plans, the city would decide how many new houses were needed and city officials then would distribute the houses among developers. A new era was about to be ushered in, however, because the development agreement would commit the city in advance to allocating a specified number of houses and apartments annually for Mace Ranch. The city wanted to keep the total as low as possible to help keep a lid on growth and ensure a reasonable amount of housing was left over for other homebuilders. Ramos naturally wanted the number to be as high as possible, and needed it to be high enough to make financing the project's infrastructure costs feasible. At an August, 1988 meeting cited in Corbett's chronology of events, Mace Ranch Investors indicated it wanted a guaranteed allocation of 150 units per year. Corbett, the mayor at the time, stated the city's thinking in the letter that accompanied the chronology, telling the county, "Our initial review of phasing has resulted in a tentative determination that the rate of residential development of the MRI project should be in the range of 75 to 170 dwelling units per year." [20] Corbett noted the city was awaiting more detailed information from Ramos on his project's anticipated infrastructure costs.

The lack of a consensus on the issue was readily apparent when it came to the council for a decision on Oct. 24, 1988. Holliman, the attorney for developers, noted that Ramos initially proposed 150 per year, but recently had discussed 122 units per year with a subcommittee of council members. Later in the meeting, council members got their chance to debate the issue. Councilman Gerry Adler proposed 122 houses and apartments per year, Maynard Skinner suggested 110, and Evans added that 75 should be enough. Rosenberg argued for 105 and Corbett came out in favor of 95. Rosenberg then made a motion to approve 105, but lost on a 2-3 vote, gaining only Adler's support. Corbett moved 95, but failed to get a second. Skinner moved 110, but he lost 2-3, winning support from Adler. Skinner then joined forces with Rosenberg and Adler on a 3-2 vote in favor of 105 units per year.

Next, the council tackled a second thorny issue: whether the city should require phasing of office, industrial and business park development in Mace Ranch "We cannot, and will not, accept any arbitrary restrictions upon the rate of development of the non-residential portions of Mace Ranch Park," Holliman said in a Oct. 12 letter to the city. "Such restrictions seriously restrict the landowner's ability to market these portions of the property to large-scale users. Moreover, such restrictions are unprecedented in the city and have not been applied to business park developments in the vicinity of Mace Ranch Park." [21] Nonetheless, at the Oct. 24 meeting, the council voted 4-1 with Skinner dissenting to approve a phasing plan that would allow 50 percent of the office, industrial and business park development to occur during the first five years of the development agreement, 25 percent during the second five years and the remaining 25 percent in the following five-year period. Afterward, council members voted unanimously to declare that terms in a draft development agreement and preannexation agreement were acceptable to the city and should be sent to the county so it could determine whether the terms were reasonable. In the end, the non-residential phasing stayed in the development agreement, even though Ramos didn't like it.

Mace Ranch still had one obstacle to hurdle. Opponents of the project launched a drive to put the development agreement and a prezoning application before city voters. "The approval of the development agreement with Ramos is a litmus test that will be used by the citizens of Davis to see how serious public representatives are in carrying out the wishes as expressed in Measure L,'' said William and Peri Drips, two leaders of the drive, in a letter to the city. "It is not in the public interest to bow to special-interest pressure and approve projects or take actions that conflict with expressed concerns of the citizens of Davis.'' [22] The drive succeeded in putting both issues on the ballot, but 63.6 percent of the electorate ratified the prezoning by voting for Measure P and 60.1 percent voted to approve the development agreement by casting ballots for Measure Q.

Looking back, Rosenberg said he believes the city did what it had to do during the crisis. "We did the best we could under the circumstances," he said, indicating he remains convinced the 1987 General Plan was a solid blueprint for the city's future, noting that it provided for completing development of South Davis. Ramos, on the other hand, isn't necessarily content about how things turned out, realizing the project likely would have been much cheaper to build under county control. The city demanded too much parkland, he said. It required Mace Ranch to meet the water drainage needs for much of East Davis. It required Ramos to pay for improving much of Second Street. And, it convinced him to pay for 34 percent of the improvements proposed for the Mace freeway interchange. Still, his agreement with the city brought to an end a costly battle that could have delayed construction of Mace Ranch for years.

Continue to Chapter 7...