Sue Greenwald for City Council -- A Record You Can Trust
City To UCDavis:       
Let'sWork Together
Hotel/conference center offers the opportunity
for mutally beneficial, integrated planning.
By Sue Greenwald and Ken Wagstaff
Special to the Davis Enterprise
{Author's note: Although the University is proceeding with a hotel on county land at the UCD exit, this article is included because it describes the importance of integrated, mutually beneficial planning. Hopefully, the city and the University will be collaborating in future, mutually beneficial projects, as we did when Aggie Village and Davis commons were built}.

UCD and the City of Davis share a long history of mutual cooperation.† This mutually beneficial partnership is a statewide rarity among UC campuses and their host cities. Unfortunately, some elements of the current UCD non-academic development plans threaten to undermine that relationship. We, expressing the majority sentiment of Davis City Council, feel that it is not too late to reestablish Davis and UCD as a model of town-gown cooperation.

The most immediate problem facing us is the universityís proposal to build a hotel, conference center, restaurant and pub on university land at the UCD I-80 interchange at Old Davis Road.† Because this site is not adjacent to the city, it could never be annexed by the city.† Hence, the city cannot collect tax revenue from this complex.

THE FINANCIAL PICTURE

The tax revenue from this hotel and restaurant complex would be substantial. Were it built on land annexable to the City of Davis, as we have requested, this complex could, once established, generate as much as $650,000 a year for the city in hotel occupancy, sales and property taxes at a build-out of 150 rooms. To put this figure in perspective, it exceeds half the revenue generated by our existing parks tax.

Our small college town has built its economy around service to the university. And, in fact, we really have few other realistic options for economic development open to us. Due to the fact that the state is taking back a much higher percentage of our local property tax than it did a decade ago, the average research, industrial and business park is revenue neutral, meaning that it costs as much for the city to service as brings us in property taxes. Bringing additional appropriate retail to town will help, but cannot, eliminate, our looming budget shortfall. The average Davis household would have to spend about $2,500 more in Davis per year to equal the revenue potential of this one hotel complex at build-out.

Hotels bring a lot of money to the city. This is because cities only retain 1% of the 7% sales tax they generate, while they retain the full amount of the hotel occupancy tax.† Davis currently collects 10% hotel occupancy tax. In addition, we collect property taxes and any related sales taxes. As a small university town, our natural economic niche involves university services and the arts, entertainment and cultural sectors. Further development of this sector is our most realistic hope for ameloriating the cityís projected economic shortfall.

With these factors weighing heavily on our minds, we have asked the university to move its planned hotel conference center back to an area adjacent to and annexable by the City of Davis, while maintaining the phasing of development requested by our local hotel owners.

We would now like to address a few myths that have been floated concerning the feasibility of such a move.

Myth No. 1: The university has always planned to build its hotel conference center at the I-80-UCD exit, outside the Davis city limits.

Fact: The only commercial development mentioned in the UCD 1989 Long-Range Development Plan is the Davis Commons shopping center at Richards and First Street, which was to be annexed by the City of Davis. The county didnít object to the annexation.† No hotel was mentioned.† The shopping center was annexed by the city.

Then, in 1995, the university did not object to the plan to build hotel-conference center on the Nishi property, which was to be annexed to the city. The county did not object either.

The first serious proposal for a hotel conference center outside the Davis City limits came to the city council earlier this year, and the city promptly expressed its concern with the economic impacts.

Myth No. 2: There is no realistic site for the hotel-conference center which is adjacent to the city.

Fact: There ARE realistic alternative sites. A hotel is a relatively low impact use. (One of us lives next-door to two of them). They are quiet uses, and they do not produce significant peak-hour traffic. We feel that one excellent site would be the huge area of land around Toomey field at 5th and A street, adjacent to our downtown. Toomey field could be moved to the rec center area, is currently planned by UCD, or to either edge of the large site. A hotel complex on this site would add immeasurably to the vitality of our downtown, and would be much more in keeping with good modern planning principles.

Alternatively, the hotel conference center could be located on the Nishi property, where it was planned to be built in the mid-nineties.

Myth No. 3: The county would never let us annex the hotel-conference center, even if it were built adjacent to the City.

Fact: Yolo county has a strong policy, articulated in its General Plan, that urban uses belong within city limits.† We believe that if the two county supervisors from Davis wanted the hotel to be annexed, sooner or later it would be annexed, if not by the current board of supervisors, then by a future board.

When the two county supervisors from Davis wanted the Davis commons shopping center to be annexed to Davis, it was annexed to Davis. When the hotel conference center was originally planned for the Nishi property in 1995 and the two Davis supervisors wanted it to be annexed to Davis, it was understood that the county would allow it to be annexed. We trust that our Davis supervisors have sufficient political skills to enable them to engage the support of at least one other supervisor through the political process of reciprocal cooperation.††

Myth No. 4: A hotel-conference center located at the UCD freeway exit on university land will ultimately benefit Davis.

†††† Fact:† After examining three separate consultantsí reports, we believe that the proposed hotel complex will harm our existing revenue potential. We fear it will result in the closure of one or more of our existing hotels.

†††† But even if we are wrong, the proposed location of the project will block our ability to significantly expand our hotel sector at the very time that we should be relying on the expansion of this sector to ameliorate our projected budget shortfall and to compensate for the impacts that the university expansion will have upon city, including the large net revenue drain of new student housing.††

Myth No. 5: The University has made major concessions to the city.

Fact:† The university has made only small concessions to the city.† They have offered to contribute 3% of the hotel occupancy tax to an ear-marked fund.† They have also planned to lower the number of rooms temporarily from 150 to 75, althoughVice Chancellor Meyer told the County Board of Supervisors that this was because the market is currently too soft to procure a loan for the full 150 rooms.

SUMMARY

We recognize that the university will grow. Speaking for the City Council majority, we are seeking to help meet the specific needs of this growth in a manner that is mutually beneficial. This includes integrating UCD revenue-producing development into the City of Davis, as has been customary in the past.

It is important to remember that one of UCDís major faculty recruitment and retention assets is the quality of life in the City of Davis. If the university undermines that quality of life by refusing to help us offset the impacts of its growth with the revenue from that growth, both the university and the city will ultimately suffer.

As the statewide UC system grows, all of the UC host cities will be facing major impacts. The host cities will respond in a variety of ways. We fervently hope that Davis and UCD can serve as a model of cooperation and of mutually beneficial integrated planning.

Sue Greenwald and Ken Wagstaff


Sue Greenwald
Davis City Council

Ken Wagstaff
Davis City Mayor

[Note: This op-ed piece was published in the Davis Enterprise on October 7, 2001]
[Photo by G Richard Yamagata taken at the Inuyama-Davis Sister City reception held at the International House, Davis, CA in September, 2001]

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