Click here to open and download the Frequently Asked Questions and Answers handout. 

Why is the City interested in pursuing the development of Innovation Centers?

Pursuing the consideration of Innovation Centers and an Innovation District allows the City of Davis and the community to take a deliberate role in the growth potential and sustainability of the local economy. Innovation Centers are a way for the City to leverage and build upon existing innovative assets such as the University of California, Davis, a preeminent research institution, and the large number of innovative businesses already located in Davis. Innovation Centers are a way of providing opportunities for business expansion over time as our current supply of available space and land for such growth is severely limited. A Mixed-Use Innovation District on the Nishi site would provide a walkable and bikeable district to serve as an extension of downtown, provide high density urban housing,and a space for university related research development integrated into the UC Davis campus.The Davis City Council is interested in establishing new innovation business opportunities that facilitate technology and business development in Davis. The City has been planning for the addition of innovation centers within the City for many years.

Why is the City looking at three projects?

In 2012, the City, UC Davis, Yolo County, and the property owner began a joint planning effort to evaluate development of the Nishi property as a Mixed-Use Innovation District. The planning effort was in furtherance of the City Council’s Dispersed Innovation Strategy and recognized the site’s unique proximity to the UC Davis campus and downtown Davis. Based upon established goals for creating innovation centers and City Council direction in 2012, and recognizing that Nishi Gateway – even if approved – would not accommodate the needs of larger businesses seeking to locate in Davis, the City issued an Innovation Center Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) in May 2014 and received responses in June 2014. Subsequently, the City received two planning applications for Innovation Centers: Mace Ranch Innovation Center and Davis Innovation Center. The City had already been evaluating a proposal on the Nishi Gateway Mixed-Use Innovation District.

All three applications are in the City review process, all require significant analysis, including preparation of Environmental Impacts Reports among other studies, and, if one or more are approved to move forward by the City Council, would require a public vote under the provisions of Measure J/R. Each Innovation Center applicant has developed a project specific website with more information about their proposal. Click here to learn more about the three innovation center proposals.

What is the City’s role in this process?

The City’s primary role for the two Innovation Center applications is to evaluate each of the proposed projects in relation to City policies and ordinances, as well as the guiding principles that were adopted by the City Council on December 16, 2014. A key role in the city’s evaluation is to provide regulatory oversight by conducting analysis of the proposals under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is being prepared for each proposal.
 
The City is also responsible for providing information to the community and decision-makers about the proposals and the potential outcomes for the community including product types and overall financial, economic, land use, and environmental impacts. Throughout the review process there will be community engagement to solicit input on the proposals, but also to provide the community with opportunities to review technical studies and the Draft EIRs. Ultimately, the City would hold a series of public hearings on the proposals before the Planning Commission and City
Council.
 
The City, along with Yolo County and UC Davis, is an active participant in planning for the Nishi Gateway Mixed-Use Innovation District. The City is contributing to the pre-development expenses for the proposal, subject to reimbursement if the project receives voter approval. The City has hired consultants for land planning and Davis Innovation Centers sustainability studies, assisted by a significant (nearly $600,000) grant from the State of California Strategic Growth
Council.

How can the community get involved?

Community feedback is essential to the Innovation District and Innovation Center projects. In order to provide the community with information about the projects and receive feedback, the City is planning a comprehensive community engagement program throughout the planning, environmental review, and decision making process. The City will organize meetings, presentations, and opportunities to provide your feedback online throughout the process. In addition, the  Innovation Center City Council sub-committee has organized a listening tour with councilmembers Robb Davis and Rochelle Swanson to gather questions and feedback about the Innovation Centers.  Click here to learn more about future opportunities for involvement and to sign up for email alerts.

What approvals/actions from the City are required?

  • Preparation of various analyses, including economics/fiscal, and EIRs.
  • Amendment of the Davis General Plan to create a new land use designation and apply it to the project site.
  • Pre-zoning/Zoning to create a new Preliminary Planned Development Zone and attach a new zoning designation to the project site.
  • Execution of a Development Agreement - A voluntary contract between a developer and the City citing developer contributions in addition to those with a direct nexus to the project (e.g. conditions of approval and mitigation measures).
  • Development of a tax sharing agreement with Yolo County.
  • Site Plan/Architectural Review related to proposed Design Guidelines and Design Performance Standards.
  • Action by the City Council to call for an election and set the baseline features of the project.
  • Voter action on a ballot measure pursuant to the requirements of Measure J/R.
  • Annexation into the municipal boundary of the City of Davis (if approved).
The Mace Innovation Center application includes land-use approvals and annexation of the “Mace Triangle” property (Ikedas market, City park-and-ride and water tank property, and an eight-acre agricultural parcel on Road 32A). Anticipated zoning for the Mace Triangle will allow the continuation of existing uses and provide flexibility for compatible future general commercial uses on the two privately held parcels.
 
The Nishi Gateway Mixed-Use Innovation District envisions the potential for West Olive Drive to transition over time to a mixed-use district complementing downtown and the UC Davis campus. Any future redevelopment decisions would be made by property owners in consideration of project economics and existing lease relationships.

Will the projects require a Measure J / R vote?

Yes, approval of the voters is required for the City to enact a change in land use from agricultural or open space lands to any urban use. A Measure J/R election is scheduled after environmental review is completed and only if the City Council takes action to approve a project. Project(s) could be scheduled for a Measure J/R vote as early as June 2016. A Measure J/R ballot measure includes the project description and a set of baseline project features that cannot be changed without subsequent voter approval. The baseline project features could include timeline and phasing for development, environmental mitigation, and public contributions, such as those established in a Development Agreement. The registered voters in the City of Davis then vote on the proposal(s) on the ballot.

What is an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and what topics will it study?

The overarching purpose in preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is to provide the public and decision makers with detailed information about a project’s potential environmental effects, ways to avoid or minimize the project’s significant environmental effects, and to evaluate a reasonable range of alternatives to the project. It is important to note that an EIR is a disclosure process – it does not determine whether a project is right or wrong or should or should not be approved.
The areas that the EIR is evaluating cover a wide range of topics, including:
  • Aesthetics and Visual Resources
  • Agriculture and Forest Resources (including loss of ag land)
  • Air Quality
  • Biological Resources
  • Cultural Resources
  • Geology, Soils, and Mineral Resources
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Energy
  • Hazards and Hazardous Materials
  • Hydrology and Water Quality
  • Land Use and Urban Decay
  • Noise and Vibration
  • Population and Housing (including jobs/housing balance)
  • Public Services and Recreation
  • Transportation and Circulation
  • Utilities

What project alternatives will be evaluated in the EIR?

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires analysis of a range of reasonable alternatives to the project, or the location of the project, which would feasibly attain most of the projects basic objectives and avoid or substantially  lessen the significant effects of the project. The feasibility of an alternative may be determined based on a variety of  factors, including but not limited to economic viability, availability of infrastructure, and plans or regulatory limitations  (CEQA Guidelines 15126.6(f )(1)).
 
The City Council has approved the following range of alternatives to be evaluated in the Innovation District and Innovation  Center EIRs: these alternatives will evolve based on information that will be generated from the technical studies. They will be further defined as more information is known about the likely impact of the projects.

 

  1. No Project Alternative – This alternative assumes that existing conditions/uses continue on the project sites. This alternative is required under State law. This alternative would be analyzed at a “comparative” level but there would be considerable detail available through the setting sections of the EIR.
  2. Off-site Alternative – This alternative would assume development of the proposed project at an alternative site. The rationale for an off-site alternative generally is that it may avoid or substantially lessen the significant effects of the project.
  3. Reduced Site Size – This alternative assumes the full intensity of development on a smaller site. The rational for this alternative generally is to test whether a more compact urban form would avoid or substantially lessen the significant effects of the project.
  4. Reduced Project – This alternative assumes 35 to 50 acres for short-term expansion of only one or two Davis businesses.
  5. Mixed Use Alternative – This alternative assumes the introduction of a balance of high-density residential uses in both projects. The type of housing anticipated would be high density (over 30 units/acre), attached, multi-story live/work units designed specifically to house and support workers within the Innovation Center.

Housing was not recommended for inclusion in the Innovation Center project(s) during the RFEI process, nor are the applicants proposing housing as part of their proposals. However, CEQA requires that the lead agency test alternatives that could reasonably reduce significant impacts of the project. Staff anticipates that the project EIRs may identify significant impacts related to vehicle miles traveled, and air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, staff has concluded that a mixed use alternative will likely be necessary to satisfy CEQA requirements. It is anticipated that the Draft EIRs for the Innovation District and Innovation Center proposals will be released in June 2015 for a 45 day public review and comment period. During this time, the community and City Commissions can evaluate the Draft EIR and  submit comments and questions on the draft documents. Responses will then be drafted to these comments and questions as part of the Final EIR preparation.

What economic and fiscal analysis will be conducted?

In addition to the EIR preparation, the City is undertaking review of the economic and fiscal impacts of the Innovation
Center proposals. The scope of work for the City’s economic consultant includes the following:
  • Development buildout scenarios (timelines) and anticipated mix of uses, industry, and job type, under high and low assumptions.
  • Evaluation of a land economic profile for each proposal, for purpose of understanding the project’s ability to cover infrastructure costs and other contributions desired by the City; and to assist with the Yolo County tax share agreement.
  • Community economic impact analysis, to evaluate the potential benefit of the jobs and other business spending to the Davis economy. The evaluation will also be conducted at the Countywide level.
  • Fiscal analysis, to evaluate potential project impacts on the City’s General Fund.
  • Meetings and advisory services, including check-ins with the City Council and Finance and Budget Commission.