Davis city voters appear to have rejected the proposed Nishi Gateway project, a 46-acre business and housing development planned on farmland along Interstate 80 next to downtown.
With all 34 precincts reporting, 51 percent of voters said no to the project, while 49 percent said yes. The difference was only 298 votes, however, leaving the possibility that the outcome could change when provisional and drop-off ballots are counted.
County elections officials say there are several thousand such ballots that were dropped off Tuesday at precincts in the city of Davis. They don’t know how many of those are from people who live in the city and so could have cast votes on the Nishi Gateway project, known as Measure A.
Susan Patenaude-Vigil with the Yolo Elections Office said a final vote likely will not be tallied until the week of June 20.
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Daniel Parrella, a spokesman for the Yes on Measure A campaign, said his group estimates that there are about 1,200 ballots outstanding with votes one way or the other on Nishi Gateway. He declined comment until those are counted.
“We’ll wait for those results,” he said.
The Davis City Council supported the project, one of the most ambitious presented in the city in years.
Mayor Dan Wolk said Nishi would help incubate startup businesses, attract larger businesses near the university and stop the intellectual and economic leakage Davis experiences when college graduates leave town because of a lack of jobs.
“We have these great students graduating, and there aren’t the jobs for them, so they end up leaving,” he said.
Project opponents, however, said the project was too large and in the wrong place.
“It was not right for Davis,” said Michael Harrington, an attorney, former Davis City Council member and No on Measure A group member. “It was too big, obviously too dense, and in the wrong location. They tried to jam it into this little space.”
Slow- and no-growth activists also expressed concerns about traffic impacts on nearby Richards Boulevard, although the city’s agreement with the developer included a provision requiring that the freeway interchange at Richards be rebuilt to handle traffic more smoothly prior to development of the Nishi site. The land slated for the project is at the southwest end of Olive Drive, across Putah Creek.
Nishi would have created 325,000 square feet of space for new companies with a focus on research and development. The proposal, by UC Davis economics graduate Tim Ruff of Nishi Gateway LLC, included 650 higher-density, multistory residential units.
Although the City Council approved the project, under Davis city rules, the public must vote to agree on development on agricultural land. The project was named after the Nishi farming family that had owned the land.