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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Commentary: Looking Closer at Public Statements on the Tsakopoulos Development

County Supervisor Mariko Yamada is finding herself in some hot water for her role in holding discussions with Developer Angelo Tsakopoulos on a project that would create a stem cell facility but also build on roughly 2800 acres of land between Davis and the Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area. This would include a commercial development and also somewhere in the order of 7500 units of housing.

In addition to Supervisor Yamada's response in the Vanguard last week, she has now appeared in three separate publications--the Sacramento Bee, the Davis Enterprise, and most recently the Sacramento News and Review.

Here she is in her own quoted words.

Sacramento Bee, June 28, 2007:
"We are in the 21st century, and we need to keep an open mind about how we are going to approach land use and the I-80 corridor from the Bay Area to Sacramento."

"There are already so many research organizations along the I-80 corridor. That's why it's called the Innovation Corridor. Yolo County should not be the only county that's not in the conversation."
Davis Enterprise, June 28, 2007:
"I've been approached; it's in my district."

"We're looking at all aspects of this proposal... And the university is in discussions too. It's all part of the county's General Plan update process."

"It's part of the new direction the county is going in."
Sacramento News and Review, July 5, 2007:
Attending one of the Tsakopoulos-hosted private dinners were Yolo County supervisors Mike McGowan and Mariko Yamada, both of whom were quoted in the Bee article as positively inclined toward considering some type of research center in a stretch of the I-80 corridor. But Yamada told SN&R that there was no mention made of any housing development. “No, I heard nothing proposed about housing development at that dinner,” Yamada says.

Yamada told SN&R that she would not support any housing development there, as the land sits unprotected in the Yolo Basin flood plain.

Yamada, who is chairwoman of the county board, already has emerged as the target of criticism on a community Web site, with accusations that she has moved from being a “slow-growther” to a politician more accommodating to development. While passionately defending her commitment to preserving Yolo County’s farmland and open space as top priority, Yamada is running for the state Assembly seat being vacated next year by Lois Wolk. Campaign professionals suggest she will have to raise at least $500,000 to be competitive with primary opponent Christopher Cabaldon, the mayor of West Sacramento. But, Yamada firmly asserts, “I don’t practice checkbook politics.”
Note that Supervisor Yamada told the News and Review that she would not support a housing development in that location.

As our article on June 29, 2007 made clear, the objection to the project was the idea of building homes on the property (not to mention the location of the stem cell facility on agricultural land).

As I wrote:
"The issue here is not about a stem-cell research center. If Mr. Tsakopoulos wants to build a research center, I would greatly be supportive of it on the UC Davis campus. However, this is basically a means by which to build homes and other development projects on prime agricultural land and that, I cannot support."
Supervisor Yamada on July 3, 2007, was given space to respond to the Vanguard's criticism. She chose to emphasize her record on land use while being a county supervisor.

Supervisor Yamada however at that time never came out against the housing development, instead she spoke only of the research facility:
"The idea of a stem cell research facility in Yolo County is conceptual; there is no specific proposal to be considered at this time. At present, I am keeping an open mind about the research, educational, and life-saving potential such a facility might bring to the region."
It might seem then that Supervisor Yamada is either clarifying her position or backtracking on this. It is hard to say at this point which. However, 1500 of those units is being studied in the general plan as part of the joint study area.

For my part, I will continue to argue that all aspects of this project are inappropriate for consideration by the county. The city of Davis should have land-use authority on the periphery of Davis as the pass-through agreement states. Remember that the pass-through agreement provides $2 million per year to the county in exchange for land-use authority in the city's "sphere of influence." The county may be able to generate more than $2 million on individual development agreements, but that is one-time money. There is no way, that over the course of the 25 year pass-through agreement, the county will surpass the revenue that Davis' Redevelopment Agency passes-through to them.

This discussion along with the County General plan is pushing the city and county on a collision course. If this is not halted, future cooperation is going to be severely altered. Davis elected both Supervisors Mariko Yamada and Helen Thomson to represent the issues, values, and principles of this community. These type of proposals are in conflict with the general hard-fought land use principles that Davis voters elected their representatives on the Board of Supervisors to protect. We can only hope that as this process moves on, that they remember who elected them and who they represent.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting