The Vanguard has a new home, please update your bookmarks to

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Guest Commentary: Oppose Massive Development on Davis' Borders

Mariko Yamada’s spin-meisters have really been hard at work. In her submittal to the Davis Vanguard, she is now claiming that her “open mind” on a 2800 acre project proposed by Angelo Tsakopoulos is really about a stem cell research center. She makes no mention of the actual development proposal brought forth by Tsakopoulos. She states only that “the idea of a stem cell research facility in Yolo County is conceptual”, and that she is “keeping an open mind about the research, educational and life-saving potential such a facility might bring to the region.” Nowhere in her article does she reveal the actual full proposal or her apparent support for it as published in the Bee and the Enterprise last week.

In fact, Angelo Tsakopoulos did not come forward with a proposal for a stem cell research facility. What he is proposing is to develop 2,800 acres of prime Yolo County farmland along I-80 between Davis and the Vic Fazio wildlife area, just east of El Macero, into thousands of houses and commercial buildings. He has apparently been in negotiations with local leaders for some time on this, wining and dining them in back room private dinners at the Sutter Club. Has Yolo County surrendered to the high powered (and fancy dinner) politics of Sacramento?

Typically, he is offering a carrot in this deal, and that is a stem cell research facility on part of the property, and it looks like some of our supervisors are going for it. Thursday’s Sacramento Bee and Enterprise quoted three of our supervisors on the issue. Mariko Yamada, in whose district this parcel lies, appears open to this proposal! She is as quoted as saying, “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.” She goes on to refer to this as the “innovation corridor” and the importance of Yolo County being in the conversation when it comes to developing it.

Supervisor Mike McGowan also appears more than open to the proposal, but given his record on growth, this is no surprise. Apparently the only supervisors who want to protect this valuable agricultural land and wildlife habitat are Duane Chamberlain and Matt Rexroad. Matt is quoted in the Bee as saying, “The place where the Tsakopoulos family owns land is pretty good farmland….Would it be great to have a research center like this in Yolo County? Yes. Does it have to be located on that parcel? No.”

If Tsakopoulos and Yamada want to consider a research center, there are far better places for it than in the middle of farmland. The U.C. campus is one such location, for example. We would be 100% in support of such a proposal. But this is not about a stem cell research center. This is about thousands of homes and acres of commercial development on prime farmland, in a flood plain, next to a sensitive wildlife area. This is exactly the type of sprawl we do not support.

What happened to the process? So much for considerations of the SACOG Blueprint Process and preservation of habitat, open space and farmland. We have been told repeatedly that Yolo County’s new General Plan is a planning-based, not a specific-project-based plan. That does not appear to be the case here. This is poor planning at its worst. Why is Mariko supporting it? The answer will most likely come at the end of July when she reports her financing for the assembly race.

This is not the first time Davis’s own two supervisors have talked about changing direction and pushing for development in the county. Earlier this year they proposed to look into joint study areas on the periphery of Davis as possible locations for future development. This is in total violation of our pass- through agreement with the county. The agreement assures that cities retain the sole right to determine growth on their borders in exchange for passing through redevelopment funds to the county. In Davis’s case, this is more than $2 million.

Both El Dorado and Sacramento County turned down Tsakopoulos’ proposals for massive developments in their jurisdictions—carrots and all. Yolo County needs to see this for what it is: another attempt to pave over hundreds of acres of farmland and open space in exchange for a sea of houses and commercial buildings for a huge profit to the developer and a huge loss to the county and its residents.

Mariko says she is just keeping an “open mind”, studying the facts, and seeking input from all sides before making a decision. That is double-talk. There is no need to study this. Some proposals should be dead on arrival and this is one of them.

Contact Davis Supervisors Mariko Yamada and Helen Thomson and tell them we do not want this massive development on our borders. We want the county to honor our pass-through agreement, and leave planning decisions for development on our borders to our community.

Mariko Yamada. Phone: 757-5554 or 666-8624; email
Helen Thomson. Phone: 757-5557; email

Pam Nieberg and Holly Bishop

Pam Nieberg and Holly Bishop are Co-chairs of the Sierra Club Yolano Group.