Friday, October 31, 2003

More Peak Power For Solano County

Completion of power plants commemorated

Calpine Corporation dedicated the completion Wednesday of three peaker power plants on Lambie Road near Suisun City.

Bob Fishman, Calpine vice-president, Solano Supervisor Duane Kromm, and Randall Abernathy, a representative of the California Independent System Operator met at the project to commemorate its successful operation.

The project consists of three, 45-megawatt peaker plants within the Lambie Industrial Park.

The idea for the project came about in the throes of California's energy crisis in 2001.

The peaker plants are designed to go from standstill to full output, helping the state's electrical grid withstand periods of peak power demand.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

New town eyed for Yolo county

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

New town eyed for county

By Elisabeth Sherwin/Enterprise staff writer

More than 300 people attended a workshop Monday evening to help plan the future of a new and much more crowded Yolo County. And at least one group decided that a new city was the way to plan.

The workshop, at the Veterans' Memorial Center in Davis, was put on by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and Valley Vision.

Yolo County Supervisor Helen Thomson of Davis welcomed the crowd of politicians, planners, city and county staff, and county residents to the SACOG Blueprint project.

"By the year 2050, the county could grow to 580,000 population if we do nothing," she said. "We have the choice about how growth will affect (us)."

Yolo County's population stands at about 180,000. By 2050, not only will there be more people, but they will be older. In 50 years, there will be more senior citizens than children in the six-county area, officials forecast.

Thomson, a member of the SACOG board of directors, said three general regional land use alternatives would be brought to the six-county regional association in April.

The task before the group on Monday night was to select and adapt one of four countywide growth scenarios and forward the data on to SACOG computer modelers.

Each table at the Vets' Center was covered with maps forecasting land use, growth patterns, residential build-out, air quality and more. Participants -- representative of the entire county -- were asked to select a growth scenario that most closely matched what they wanted.

SACOG has held 31 workshops bringing together 1,600 participants from throughout the six-county area, including workshops in all four of Yolo County's cities.

Former Supervisor Tom Stallard described the urgency underlying the task of smart planning.

"People never used to talk about leaving California," he said. "But now people talk about where they're going when they retire. That's sad."

SACOG is primarily an association formed to oversee spending of federal transportation dollars. But after forecasting new transportation plans to 2025, SACOG planners realized that congestion still grew worse by 50 percent. Clearly, land and transportation planning had to be more closely aligned.

SACOG's Mike McKeever said Yolo County has a good reputation in the six-county area as a smart-growth model. Development has been confined to the county's four major cities, a greenbelt has been identified to preserve ag land between Davis and Woodland, and walking and biking is emphasized.

But challenges remain. Yolo County must take its fair share of growth, and the question is: Where will that go? Some scenarios have West Sacramento taking 60 percent of the new growth.

Participants at each table then got to work, identifying general land use plans that they could live with and making adjustments as needed.

At one table, decisions were made quickly and with consensus.

Participants from West Sacramento, Davis, Woodland and Zamora liked the planning scenario that called for a high concentration of growth in the cities, preserved ag land to the greatest extent possible, and accepted Yolo's share of new growth.

However, they decided that new growth should be within a new city.

"Growth is coming and it has to go somewhere," Stallard said. "Using a new town as a growth absorber has merit," he added.

"I agree," said Matt Rexroad, vice mayor of Woodland. Kelle Reich of Zamora and Marilyn Moyle of Davis also agreed.

The new town of 45,000 people could be built north of Woodland close to the intersection of Interstates 505 and 5. The town would be built on grazing land; no prime ag land would be sacrificed.

The compact town would be designed with smart growth principles in mind, mixing land use and housing choices and encouraging walking, biking and public transportation.

"It will be a brand-new, creative town," Rexroad said. "We'll start new and make it transportation-friendly."

The new town would have a commercial, industrial and residential mix.

With a few more adjustments, the group had its plan finished. But the adjustments were critical and consisted of asking UC Davis to follow smart growth principles in the future, including a commitment to infill, providing bike lanes between Davis and Woodland, and providing one or more bridges to move traffic from Yolo County east to Sacramento.

On paper, all problems were solved.

The results of the workshop will be forwarded to SACOG to be presented at the April workshop.

mailto: Elisabeth Sherwin at

Friday, October 24, 2003

Proposed 450-home development on the border of Vallejo and Benicia

THE BORDONI RANCH on Columbus Parkway may be annexed by Vallejo and developed into about 450 single-family homes. Photo: J.L. Sousa/Times-Herald

Vallejo eyes development deal

By MATTHIAS GAFNI, Times-Herald staff writer

A proposed 450-home development on the border of Vallejo and Benicia would destroy a natural boundary between the neighboring cities, the Benicia mayor said Thursday.

A Danville developer has a deal to buy Bordoni Vineyards, Vallejo's only family-owned winery, and develop the 185 acres of unincorporated Solano County land into single-family homes. The Bordoni Ranch - which lies east of Columbus Parkway, between Benicia Road and Highlands Park - would need to be annexed to Vallejo before being built up.

With two measures regarding growth on the Benicia November ballot, mayor Steve Messina said this proposed development is a hot button issue and would constitute urban sprawl.

"We're trying to maintain some greenbelt between the two communities and it looks like another area of open space is being built out," Messina said. "I'm always antsy when it's so close to both communities. I want to keep the individual cities with their own identities.

"That's a relatively large development and that greatly decreases the separation between Vallejo and Benicia," Messina said. "It's specifically a hot topic over here because of the ballot measures."

Messina referred to Measure K and M. Measure K is a no-growth initiative which would restrict Benicia city services from beyond city limits and Measure M would prohibit residential growth past city limits, except for recreational purposes. Both target the area where Benicia rubs up against Sky Valley.

Vallejo Planning Manager Brian Dolan said the Bordoni Ranch development would still leave a greenbelt.

"Their submittal honors the buffer policy. They've left open space between the edge of the property and the city limits," he said.

In fact, Dolan added, "it's more ample in many cases than Benicia's Southampton development."

Benicia has homes along Rose Drive, just over the hill from Bordoni Ranch.

In August, the City Council voted to go ahead with an Environmental Impact Report on the property, with developer Braddock & Logan Inc. paying the $267,000 fee. The report, the first step for the developer, should be completed in April 2004.

Braddock & Logan still must get general plan amendment, zoning map amendment, planned development, tentative map and annexation approvals.

"They've submitted a bunch of material, but we're probably nine months to a year from any public hearings," Dolan said.

The annexation process could take some time.

"They need approval of the city and (Solano Local Agency Formation Commission). Typically, if it's in the sphere of influence and designated as residential, it's unlikely to be controversial," Dolan said. "But the specifics of the project may be more controversial.

"The number of units, the potential for traffic it would create, visual impacts, the implementation policy Vallejo has for development near the city of Benicia" are possible obstacles, Dolan said.

"The adjoining neighbors have lived next to this privately owned open space for a long time and they probably have come to think of it as open space forever."

According to the city's General Plan, the area is already zoned as residential, despite its unincorporated status. Dolan said that's done in "anticipation of future annexations."

Solano County Planning Manager Mike Yankovich said LAFCO has already approved Vallejo's Comprehensive Annexation Plan which details that annexation, along with two other portions of land.

"Basically, all of the areas that are not part of the city but within the city of Vallejo are marked as annexed to the city," Yankovich said.

The two other unincorporated Vallejo parcels that are scheduled to be annexed at some point are an area west of Interstate 80, between Curtola Parkway and Benicia Road, and an area east of I-80, between I-780 and Benicia Road.

Solano LAFCO Executive Officer Shaun Pritchard said his office has not received an annexation application from Vallejo. Once received, his department would prepare a report on the property and the commissioners would either approve, approve with restrictions or deny the annexation.

Appropriate buffers between cities would be an issue commissioners consider, Pritchard said.

Jim Bordoni, 50, owner of Bordoni Vineyards, said it was a matter of time.

"I think it's inevitable. My understanding is the city has always seen it as developable land," Bordoni said. "It's just one of the last ranches swallowed up by development.

"It's always sad. But I don't live in the area anymore. It's a difficult thing to manage," said the Los Altos resident.

Bordoni's parents, Raymond and Catherine, bought the property in 1948 to raise cattle and sheep.

Recently, Bordoni maintains two acres of Chardonnay grapes and leases out the rest of the ranch for cattle and horse grazing.

Mayor Messina hopes Bordoni can continue his wine-making. He said he's frustrated that Benicia's limited growth measures, even if they pass, may not matter.

"We can put a wall around our own city, but it doesn't mean someone else won't encroach into the space anyway," he said.

Meanwhile, after tending to his grapes Thursday, Bordoni waxed nostalgic.

"This could be our last harvest," Bordoni said, "or there could be a couple more?"

- E-mail Matthias Gafni at or call 553-6825.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Wal-Mart Dixon store slated to open later this month

October 18, 2003
Readying for Retail
Wal-Mart Dixon store slated to open later this month

Tod Rasmussen/The Reporter

Electrician Alan Buchanan of Sacramento takes a break from working on Dixon's new Wal-Mart, which is slated to open later this month.

By Mary Lynch/Reporter Staff

Call it done.

Dixon's own Wal-Mart is just two weeks away from its grand opening, according to a company spokesman.

The discount retailer's 118,000 square-foot "big box," sitting on 24 acres on Dorset Drive and Highway 113 off Interstate 80, will open its doors for business on Oct. 29 at 9 a.m.

Only a delay in connecting to electrical service could push opening day back to Oct. 31, city officials said.

Since the completion of construction in mid-September, Wal-Mart employees have been busy stocking the shelves.

The store's design follows the traditional Wal-Mart format, offering the familiar array of general merchandise including clothing, electronics, automotive supplies and health and beauty products.

It will not be a "Supercenter" - a 24-hour Wal-Mart store that includes a full service grocery section, a hair salon, a bank and other services - yet.

"There are no plans at this time to become a supercenter," confirmed Amy Hill, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman.

The city-approved design accommodates expansion up to 204,000 square feet, however.

"We don't know if they'll open a supercenter," said Stephen Streeter, Dixon's director of community development. "They were given permission to expand, but we don't know the timetable. It depends on how they do."

Though the store currently stands alone on its acreage, expect to see other retailers crop up on it. Wal-Mart has set aside construction pads to lease to other businesses. The city has already received applications for those sites from a Wendy's restaurant, a bank, and a gas station, according to Streeter.

Wal-Mart does not have plans currently to install its own gas pumps.

The retailer said the new store will create some 200 jobs in Dixon. The on-going hiring campaign, Hill said, is seeing a strong response from the community.

The opening closes a development trajectory whose first point was plotted when the Dixon City Council approved the project last summer. Ground was broken on the site in May, and construction went on full-swing all summer long.

From the beginning, the prospect of Wal-Mart's arrival in Dixon has met with some trepidation among local business owners and residents.

Many voiced fears that Wal-Mart would doom business activity in historic downtown Dixon and threaten the viability of area small businesses.

Fifth-generation Dixonite Caitlin O'Halloran expressed disappointment over the presence of Wal-Mart in her hometown.

"I didn't expect my hometown to be seduced by the Siren Song of cheap imported goods sold by a company whose jobs don't pay a living wage," said O'Halloran, who aired her views in a statement read on Sacramento's Capitol Public Radio last week. "We'd worked to rebuild our downtown, but statistics show that three local jobs are destroyed for every two new jobs at Wal-Mart."

But city leaders argue that that Wal-Mart will stimulate the local economy, not depress it.

"The general development of retail is very much a part of all of our lives," Salmon said earlier this year. "We consume, we buy stuff. The object is to do a better job providing those services within our community. When a commute to another city is necessary to go to Wal-Mart, we add to congestion and pollution, and we also shift tax revenue to another city."

Wal-Mart maintains that the customer base in Dixon is significant enough that the big box retailer can co-exist with smaller businesses.

The hope is that Wal-Mart will lure traffic headed for San Francisco, Sacramento and Davis off Interstate 80 into Dixon, spurring new interest and activity in the area and expanding retail opportunities.

Members of the local business community, while wary, have given Wal-Mart credit for working closely with the community, and supporting downtown revitalization efforts with its agreement to include directions to downtown Dixon in its signage.

Although a permanent sign may not be up by the time of the official store opening, members of the Downtown Dixon Business Association are asking Wal-Mart to post some temporary signage directing visitors to the heart of Dixon.

"Anything we can get out there that points to our historic downtown, we'll take," said Salaber. "We're banking on the fact that they'll bring new people to town - from Davis, for example - who don't know that there's a downtown Dixon."

As chairwoman of the association's design committee, Salaber worked with Wal-Mart officials on adapting the appearance of the store to reflect Dixon's agricultural heritage.

Her committee ultimately persuaded Wal-Mart to replace the generic big-box look with a Victorian barn design.

"They have been quite easy to work with," said Salaber.

Mary Lynch can be reached at

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