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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Commentary: Interesting Split on the Cannery Park Property

Friday's Davis Enterprise captured an interesting debate within the progressive community as to what ought to be done with the roughly 100 acre Hunt-Wesson cannery site north of Covell Blvd that is currently zoned as light industrial.

The article quotes one of the General Plan Housing Element Update Steering committee members, Pam Gunnell, appointed by Mayor Sue Greenwald as favoring maintaining the property as currently zoned.

Said Ms. Gunnell, who ran for City Council in 2002:
“I have a real concern with preserving industrial land for the city... It's difficult for me to hear the word ‘workforce housing' because where are they going to work?”
On the other hand, Committee member Eileen Samitz appointed by Councilmember Lamar Heystek, strongly favored changing the designation to residential.
"The city has 160 acres of undeveloped industrial and light industrial land, not including the cannery property; the property is half paved already; and plenty of time has passed and the property has yet to attract proposals from industrial businesses."
This is a microcosm of an interesting debate within the progressive community. Mayor Greenwald has long been an advocate of bringing in high tech companies to Davis and believes this to be an ideal site for such industry.

Others in the community view the property and its development potential very differently. Many prefer that Davis has limited housing growth. They recognize that this 100 acre property is already partially paved, and therefore such a development would not require the development of agricultural land. Therefore if there must be new housing developed, it should be in this location.

There is a further problem however with the Hunt-Wesson site, although it is within the city limits already and would not require a Measure J vote, the adjacent property is the 800-acre elephant in the room--the Covell Village site.

One of the fears is that the two properties would be considered at the same time.

The Enterprise quotes Kevin Wolf, the committee chairman and a strong proponent of Covell Village during the Measure X campaign as saying,
“Do we really think we're going to take and leave that for the next 30 years and develop on other ag land?”
This is a tricky issue to be sure. One for which I can see both sides. In the end, I probably come down a bit closer to changing its use to housing while at the same time making it clear that Covell Village will be a huge fight if the Committee deems that it needs to revisit the issue. Keeping the property light industry would probably slightly reduce the chances for development on the Covell site, however, Davis does need more housing and if it is to develop housing, I would rather it not take ag land to do so.

Personally I think any decision to re-examine development on the Covell Village site is a huge show of disrespect for the will of the Davis voters, 60 percent of whom voted against the project. People have asked if I could foresee it never being developed as a realistic option. Never is a long time. However in the near future the concerns about infrastructure remain just as viable as they did in 2005. So in the foreseeable future, I remain opposed to development on the Covell Village site.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting