Thursday, March 31, 2005

Predictive Diagnostics Team-ups with University of Utah Research Foundation (UURF)

Article Launched: 03/22/2005 01:19:15 PM

Monday, March 28, 2005

Predictive Diagnostics, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vacaville-based Large Scale Biology Corporation, announced Monday that it has a collaboration with the University of Utah Research Foundation (UURF) to identify biomarkers from a simple maternal blood test for the early diagnosis of pregnancy-related complications and disorders such as pre-term birth and preeclampsia.

Under the collaboration, the research foundation will provide Predictive Diagnostics with blood samples to be analyzed using its technologies to identify and validate blood tests for the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of such conditions.Further information about Predictive Diagnostics, Inc. can be found on the company's

Web site at

Suisun City as on the move to improve its downtown with the Main Street West project and a host of smaller commercial and residential projects.

Article Last Updated: Wednesday, Mar 30, 2005 - 10:52:03 pm PST

Manager happy with Suisun's progress

By Ian Thompson

FAIRFIELD - Suisun City's efforts to economically improve itself are beginning to bear fruit, interim City Manager David Martinez told Solano County real estate professionals Wednesday.

Martinez described Suisun City as on the move to improve its downtown with the Main Street West project and a host of smaller commercial and residential projects.

Main Street West is the city's "most exciting project," he said at the gathering of local real estate experts. The city is in the process of working out which master developer will get the job of overseeing it.Suisun City leaders have narrowed the field to four and plan to approach the City Council with their top recommendation in the near future. The heart of the project is promoting the development of live-work projects with retail or commercial businesses on the ground floors and apartments on the upper floors. Such a concept could be a good fit for improving Vallejo's waterfront, Martinez said. He has suggested Vallejo leaders take a look at Suisun City's plans.

The first of these, Solis Plaza, is already in design review. Solis Plaza will be located at 423 Main St. with the long-time Suisun City fixture La Cabana Restaurant on the ground floor and five apartments located above it. "The old building will be demolished and we will have a whole new building there," Martinez said.

Plans to build a lighthouse on the waterfront near Mike Day Park has gotten preliminary approval from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. Suisun City is going to get a second lighthouse thanks to the telecommunications industry, Martinez said. A proposed cell tower planned for the northeast corner of Highway 12 and Walters Road is slated to be disguised as a lighthouse, Martinez told the gathering. City officials hope annexing and developing the 71-acre Gentry property south of Highway 12 and east of Pennsylvania Avenue will help bring in sales tax income.

Leaders hope to attract a mix of small shops, general merchandise businesses, a super center and/or a large home improvement store to the development. Martinez estimated 70 cents out of every dollar Suisun City residents spend is outside of the city because of the lack of significant retail businesses. "It is to our advantage to have more retail opportunities in town. We are working hard to bring more retail to Suisun City," Martinez said. Other pending projects Martinez mentioned include:
  • An 80-apartment complex on Worley Road, which is under review.n A 31-acre mixed-use village at Marina Boulevard and Highway 12 that will include up to 125 homes and 125 townhouses as well as retail and light industrial businesses.
  • A 13,000-square-foot retail/commercial development on a site at Grizzly Island and McCoy Creek roads.
  • A two-business retail building at 193 Sunset Ave. that will include a Starbuck's Coffee.n A four-business retail business at 1240 Anderson Drive that will include It's a Grind Coffee Shop and Quizno's Subs.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Monday, March 28, 2005

Understanding Fairfield Redevelopment

Article Last Updated: Saturday, Mar 26, 2005 - 11:42:15 pm PST

Understanding redevelopment

By Karl Dumas and Brian Miller

Every year in March, the California Redevelopment Association holds its Annual Conference and Expo to update keep its membership about redevelopment issues and activities. This year's conference was held in Southern California.Redevelopment was created by state law to allow governments to target tax revenues for the elimination of blight from designated areas, and to achieve goals of reconstruction and rehabilitation of residential, commercial, industrial and retail areas. Through targeted public investment in infrastructure, housing and economic development activities, redevelopment encourages new investment in deteriorated areas beleaguered with physical, environmental or economic conditions that have been barriers to new private investment.

Fairfield's Redevelopment Agency has five redevelopment project areas: North Texas Street, Regional Center (mall area), City Center (downtown), Highway 12 (which includes West Texas Street) and Cordelia. Redevelopment activities are funded by tax increment. Redevelopment does not raise the property tax rate or contradict Proposition 13. Instead, tax increment is generated from the new taxes received from new construction or the sale of property at increased value within the redevelopment project area. The redevelopment agency receives a portion of this increase (the increment), which is used to finance many of the agency's investments and development activities.

The State Legislature requires 20 percent of the tax increment generated from project areas be used to improve the supply of affordable housing. Recently in Fairfield, the agency assisted in supplying affordable housing through the development of 107 new homes at Providence Walk (Travis Boulevard and North Texas Street). The Agency used low/moderate housing funds to assemble parcels for project and then sold the property at market value to a home developer for redevelopment. This project replaces the dilapidated mobile homes and apartments of Ellsworth Court. The agency also provided funding for the Sienna development near Green Valley Road and Mangles Boulevard. The developers of these projects were required to reserve some of the homes for sale to moderate-income households.Redevelopment agencies also undertake retail projects.

The Fairfield Redevelopment Agency helped develop Solano mall in the 1970s, and then participated in developing Gateway Plaza (Trader Joe's), and Gateway Courtyard (Barnes & Noble) shopping centers.

One component of the annual redevelopment conference is an expo with exhibitors marketing their services and products. We visited the International Council of Shopping Centers booth, the global trade association of the shopping center industry with over 50,000 members in the U.S., Canada and more than 80 other countries. Its members include developers, managers, marketing specialists, investors, lenders, retailers and redevelopment officials. Here are some fun facts we obtained from the ICSC booth regarding shopping-center sales and the U.S. economy:
  • In 2003, there were 12.4 million retail and real estate leasing or shopping center related jobs in the United States.n Estimates show one out of every ten jobs in the United States is shopping center related employment.
  • Shopping centers generate nearly $2 trillion in retail sales annually in the U.S.n In 2003, shopping centers raised approximately $137 billion in sales tax revenue for local governments.
  • From January through August 2004, shopping center industry employment expanded by 156,000 jobs and accounted for 10.9 percent of total job growth.
In Nova Scotia Canada, voters have chosen to remain the only province in Canada to ban shopping on Sundays. Large grocery stores, liquor outlets and big retailers are required to stay closed.

Economic Notes: An update from Fairfield City Hall is written by Brian Miller and Karl Dumas of the Fairfield Planning and Development Department. They can be contacted at 428-7461 or e-mail at or

Copyright Daily Republic.

Vacaville's Nut Tree Airport provides home for variety of pilots

Article Last Updated: Saturday, Mar 26, 2005 - 11:48:32 pm PST

Nut Tree Airport provides home for variety of pilots

By Brad Stanhope

VACAVILLE - Tom Beattie has "the perfect job."

"I have an office minutes from home and I'm footsteps from my plane," he said. "I fly every week - probably 120 hours a year."

Beattie, the national product manager for a construction material company, is part of the airborne culture at Nut Tree Airport, one of two general aviation airports in Solano County. The other is 11-year-old Baumann Field in Rio Vista, which gets about one-third the air traffic as Nut Tree.

Solano County supervisors are in negotiations to purchase 16 additional acres for the 40-year-old Nut Tree Airport - under the assumption it is built to capacity and needs additional space to continue to serve the growing population of the region.

The airport - built by the owners of the venerable tourist attraction of the same name in 1955 - features the Federal Aviation Administration identifier of VCB, similar to the San Francisco International Airport code of SFO or Los Angeles International Airport code of LAX.

Beattie's flights are part of the average of 278 takeoffs and landings a day from northern Vacaville, all of which are done without a control tower.

"It's used by everything from pleasure flights to business flights to corporate and business travel," said Andy Swanson, the airport manager. "For somebody doing business in the Vacaville area, it's better than flying into Sacramento or Oakland. You can conduct business quicker."

That's the case for Beattie, who began flying while in the Air Force and started working in the same building as the administration offices for Nut Tree Airport about 15 years ago - when he convinced leaders of the Tennessee-based Strongwell Corp. he could handle the job while working 2,000 miles from headquarters.

Part of that is flying his Piper Archer.

"I had a project in Santa Rosa and the operation was one block from the airport, so I flew over and did the business," he said. "Next week, the company jet is landing here and the CCO and I are going to Southern California to meet with some people."

For Beattie, Nut Tree Airport is part of his business.

"The real savings is time: When a businessperson is working on a $1 million or $1.5 million deal, time is the most valuable thing," he said. "For me to drive to Santa Rosa and back is a minimum of three hours on the road, compared to 15 to 20 minutes. Where it pays huge dividends is when you move a lot of people. I took a staff engineer and sales rep (to Santa Rosa). It's realistic that I can go to Santa Rosa, fly back and still have a full day in the office."

Vacaville's pilot projects

Suisun City resident Brian Compton is using Nut Tree Airport as a place to learn to fly.

Compton, an officer with the California Highway Patrol, recently received his pilot's license. Unlike most beginning pilots, he raced through his training, taking just a few months while taking lessons from Blue Ridge Aeronautics - the flight school at the airport.

He and his wife, Kristine Compton, decided in December that he would pursue his license and he began two days later - working quickly because of the cost and his desire to advance.

"It's a little of both - I wanted to go out, get it done and get it over," he said. "My goal is to fly for my department and that will help me in the long run."

Economics came into play because Compton estimates it will cost him $5,000 to $6,000 to get his license - less than if he took lessons sporadically and thus required more review from his instructors.

"I could sit around and rehash all the stuff, but I didn't want to be constantly doing that," he said. "Why spend an hour with an instructor doing that when you can be flying?"

Price is the big thing for most student pilots, added Kim Hunt, an instructor at Blue Ridge Aviation.

"Basically, it amounts to cost," she said. "A lot of people run out of money. Each lesson is 1.5 hours in the air and a half-hour ground time. Brian did it four hours a day, four days a week."

The desire to learn how to fly - one of the key elements to traffic at Nut Tree Airport - ebbs and flows, she said.

Compton rents a plane for $109 per hour, plus the cost of the instruction. He says his lessons usually last two hours in the air, plus ground school.

He sometimes thinks about buying a plane, but the cost makes it difficult. You can purchase a Cessna plane, he says for $30,000 to $200,000 - but then you pay for a hangar or to tie down the plane at the airport and you pay for regular tests for the aircraft.

Compton rents, but a majority of the nearly 250 aircraft at the field are privately owned - including Beattie's.

Small staff, small airport

The staff at Nut Tree Airport can fit in the elevator that they take to their second-floor office: It's Swanson, administrative secretary Tami Martin and airport maintenance director George Atondo.

"My job is to manage the airport in the most efficient and safe manner," Swanson said. "And to stay in compliance with FAA, state and local laws."

That's the idea, but a lot of his time is spent balancing the needs and desires of the tenants - there are 67 county-owned and 12 private hangars at the airport, as well as dozens of planes tied down on the apron area.

"Tami takes care of accounts for businesses and tenants - she wears a lot of hats," Swanson said. "George does all field maintenance, inspections, all mowing, everything else."

Swanson was a commercial fisherman in Alaska when the love of flight - something he'd had since childhood - took off.

"I fished commercially out of Bellingham, Wash., and went to Alaska. (Flying) was the only way to get around," he said. "I really loved aviation and so I went to school and majored in aviation management. I like flying and like projects. I fly, but don't have a license now."

The county hired him in November and now he's in charge of the airport, a job he describes as representing the interests of all the tenants.

That means helping business people such as Beattie, beginning pilots such as Compton and multiple-flight pilots such as Jimmy Ferreira.

'I grew up at Nut Tree'

Vacaville resident Ferreira, who moved to town when he was 9 and often went to Nut Tree to watch the planes land and take off, is now a pilot of corporate jets flying out of Novato.

"I grew up at (Nut Tree)," he said. "I learned through Blue Ridge. I washed airplanes, I pumped gas."

He even taught out of Blue Ridge for a few years. His subsequent career features a variety of pilots jobs - he was a flight instructor, then specialized in teaching how to fly old-fashioned tail-wheel planes. He inspected underground pipelines from the air, was a pilot for a small cargo company with a contract from UPS. He was a fire-spotter and then a co-pilot on fire bomber planes before beginning his current job of piloting people around for corporate clients.

But Nut Tree is still his home field.

"I'm not there as much as I used to be - but I'm still a flight instructor in my spare time," said Ferreira, 30. "I do it on weekends and when I have time off work."

He has fond memories of the airport.

"When I started working, I was 18. I worked at Nut Tree (next door) in the aviation book store," he said. "I started flying at 21."

Plans for the future

With recreational pilots, business pilots and experimental pilots all sharing the facility, Nut Tree gets plenty of use. And Swanson and the county have big plans for it - assuming they can get the financing from the federal government and add the 16 acres or more.

Swanson hopes to get federal funds to upgrade the perimeter fencing around the airport as part of the post 9-11 emphasis on airport safety. He also hopes to have the apron area - which is bumpy and pothole-filled - resurfaced in the next few years, following the resurfacing of the taxiway and runway.

In the past few months, the Solano Community College aeronautics classes relocated to the airport, which could bring more young pilots and mechanics to the area.

"It's changed in a lot of good ways," said Ferreira, who learned to fly there a decade ago. "The runways were extended 900 feet and there is more corporate traffic."

Ferreira could be a spokesman for the airport, having watched planes as a child and learned to fly there before making piloting a career.

"It's the Solano County airport - a prime area for the extended Bay Area," he said. "One thing I noticed is that Nut Tree is bigger and has more business than it used to. But there's still the father standing with a son or daughter standing outside, watching airplanes, just like when I was a little kid."

Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6925 or

Copyright Daily Republic. All rights reserved.

The Solano County real estate industry is heading into 2005 as the most active and affordable real estate market

Optimistic outlookFebruary sales indicate good year ahead for Solano

By Barbara Smith/Business Writer

The Solano County real estate industry is heading into 2005 as the most active and affordable real estate market in the region.

While most sales in the nine-county Bay Area remained tepid from the typical post-holiday season, sales in Solano warmed up with prices climbing to a median of $413,000 in February. In fact, compared to the other counties, more homes sold in Solano - 22.6 percent compared to January and 25.5 percent compared to a year ago, according to a real estate information service.
Frank Lopez, veteran mortgage broker and co-owner of Adobe Mortgage in Vacaville, said he expects to see Solano County, particularly Vacaville, continue to be at the top of the market.
Lopez has found from current data for each Solano County city that year to date without exception the county's resales are ahead of last year's pace, and the sales new homes are well ahead of last year's pace.

"Which does come as a surprise, but it's certainly welcome," Lopez said. "I honestly think that we're in for another very good year, and I don't think that's false optimism." A third generation Vacan, Lopez said he's watched Vacaville grow and sees the city especially poised for a strong year because of what city planners have done to make it such a desirable community, he said.

With the exception of Napa County, most Bay Area county sales in February were stagnant or declined from January down as far as 6.1 percent, but were still an average of 20.1 percent higher from one year ago. That mix edged up the median sales price to a new peak of $549,000 with sales staying at near-record levels, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

A total of 7,463 new and resale houses and condos were sold in the nine-county region in February. That was down 0.6 percent from 7,509 for the previous month, and up 0.7 percent from 7,412 for February last year, Last month was the second-strongest February in DataQuick's statistics, which go back to 1988. Sales in February 2000 totaled 7,507.

The median price paid for a Bay Area home - $549,000 - is a new record. That was up 2.8 percent from $534,000 in January, and up 20.1 percent from $457,000 for February a year ago. Prices are going up at their fastest pace in four years. DataQuick, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, monitors real estate activity nationwide.
Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president, said in a report that the strength of the market has taken economic forecasters by surprise because interest rates have been edging up the past month. "Generally when that happens, buyers jump to get in before rates increase any further," he said. "We can expect a strong March and April, at least." Lopez agreed.
"Typically, March and April are what I consider the selling season, and given the products lenders have to offer the borrowers, and the affordability in Solano County, I think that we're in for a pretty robust spring market."

Also according to DataQuick, the typical monthly mortgage payment that Bay Area buyers committed themselves to paying was $2,460 in February, an all-time high. A year ago it was $2,008.

Indicators of market distress are still largely absent. Foreclosure rates are low, down payment sizes are stable and there have been no significant shifts in market mix, DataQuick reported.
Barbara Smith can be reached at

Source: DataQuick Information Systems,

The Solano County real estate industry is heading into 2005 as the most active and affordable real estate market

Optimistic outlookFebruary sales indicate good year ahead for Solano

By Barbara Smith/Business Writer

The Solano County real estate industry is heading into 2005 as the most active and affordable real estate market in the region.

While most sales in the nine-county Bay Area remained tepid from the typical post-holiday season, sales in Solano warmed up with prices climbing to a median of $413,000 in February. In fact, compared to the other counties, more homes sold in Solano - 22.6 percent compared to January and 25.5 percent compared to a year ago, according to a real estate information service.
Frank Lopez, veteran mortgage broker and co-owner of Adobe Mortgage in Vacaville, said he expects to see Solano County, particularly Vacaville, continue to be at the top of the market.
Lopez has found from current data for each Solano County city that year to date without exception the county's resales are ahead of last year's pace, and the sales new homes are well ahead of last year's pace.

"Which does come as a surprise, but it's certainly welcome," Lopez said. "I honestly think that we're in for another very good year, and I don't think that's false optimism." A third generation Vacan, Lopez said he's watched Vacaville grow and sees the city especially poised for a strong year because of what city planners have done to make it such a desirable community, he said.

With the exception of Napa County, most Bay Area county sales in February were stagnant or declined from January down as far as 6.1 percent, but were still an average of 20.1 percent higher from one year ago. That mix edged up the median sales price to a new peak of $549,000 with sales staying at near-record levels, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

A total of 7,463 new and resale houses and condos were sold in the nine-county region in February. That was down 0.6 percent from 7,509 for the previous month, and up 0.7 percent from 7,412 for February last year, Last month was the second-strongest February in DataQuick's statistics, which go back to 1988. Sales in February 2000 totaled 7,507.

The median price paid for a Bay Area home - $549,000 - is a new record. That was up 2.8 percent from $534,000 in January, and up 20.1 percent from $457,000 for February a year ago. Prices are going up at their fastest pace in four years. DataQuick, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, monitors real estate activity nationwide.
Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president, said in a report that the strength of the market has taken economic forecasters by surprise because interest rates have been edging up the past month. "Generally when that happens, buyers jump to get in before rates increase any further," he said. "We can expect a strong March and April, at least." Lopez agreed.
"Typically, March and April are what I consider the selling season, and given the products lenders have to offer the borrowers, and the affordability in Solano County, I think that we're in for a pretty robust spring market."

Also according to DataQuick, the typical monthly mortgage payment that Bay Area buyers committed themselves to paying was $2,460 in February, an all-time high. A year ago it was $2,008.

Indicators of market distress are still largely absent. Foreclosure rates are low, down payment sizes are stable and there have been no significant shifts in market mix, DataQuick reported.
Barbara Smith can be reached at

Source: DataQuick Information Systems,

The Vacaville Bella Vista Road Park and Ride Lot was dedicated and opened with the aim to cut traffic on I-80

Article Launched: 03/25/2005 07:25:51 AM

Lot aimed to cut traffic on Interstate 80 opens

By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

With the subtle roar of a midday Interstate 80 not too far away, city and county leaders gathered Thursday to unveil a welcome addition to Vacaville's transportation options.
The Bella Vista Road Park and Ride Lot was dedicated and opened Thursday, where Bella Vista meets Davis Street in the shadow of I-80. The $1.7 million project was lauded by Vacaville officials as a product of hard work and smart planning.

"These things don't just happen," said Mayor Len Augustine.

Dale Pfeiffer, the city's director of public works, said the expansive lot was designed in-house by city engineers. The 201-space lot was paid for entirely by grants from the federal government, the state and a regional air quality district.

But one of the most exciting things Pfeiffer pointed at was the fact that the lot's entire power needs will be met by solar panels on the site. A 45-kilowatt photovoltaic system will provide the energy needed to run the lot's six electric vehicle recharging stations, as well as all the lighting for the site. As an added bonus, the solar panels provide shelter for several parking spaces.

Suisun City Mayor Jim Spering, who has long been involved in regional traffic issues, commended Vacaville on its vision and commitment to alternative modes of transportation.
"If there's one staff in the county who gets it, it's the city staff in Vacaville," Spering said.
Daryl Halls, the executive director of the Solano Transportation Authority, said the new lot will help reduce the 125,000 daily trips that are made on the Vacaville stretch of I-80. The lot is within walking distance of Vacaville's major public transportation hub - the Vacaville Regional Transportation Center on Davis Street, north of I-80.

Vacaville also has a Park and Ride lot near Leisure Town Road's I-80 interchange.
Tom Hall can be reached at

The Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District Board will vote Monday on raising rates

Article Last Updated: Friday, Mar 25, 2005 - 10:35:13 pm PST

Sewer District Board considers raising rates

By Ian Thompson

FAIRFIELD - The Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District Board will vote Monday on raising monthly residential sewer bills by $1.03.The district needs the increase so it can maintain and replace parts at the district plant during the coming decades. If the board approves, the raise will go into effect July 1.Bills for business and industry will go up more than residential bills while bills for those on Travis Air Force Base won't go up as much.Even with the raise, the residential sewer rates are still below other cities in Solano County. Vacaville charges $7.30 more a month and Vallejo charges more than $11 more.Board members could also vote to give their employees salary raises as early as Monday night, based on a report that studied other sewer district salaries.

At least two board members want the vote held off a month so the public has time to comment on any recommendations that come out of a closed session on the issue Monday.The district is using the pay study as a baseline to help determine how far employee salaries should rise. Board members got the study Monday although officials refused to release it to the public. District executive director Rich Luthy said the study wasn't a public document because it was part of salary negotiations with the district's 24 employees, although by law the salaries of public employees are public information.The 69-page study compares more than a dozen other sewer districts, some of them districts which are larger than Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District.

Board members could take action on raising salaries as soon as they come out of the closed session.The sewer district, which is governed by both the Fairfield and Suisun city councils, has raised some of its salaries each year to keep up with inflation and to keep in line with other sewer districts for years.This is the first study in years that has examined the classification and salary of every employee.

Fairfield Councilman Jack Batson called the study a major step and felt it would be unwise to take action before understanding the report's full implications.Fairfield Councilwoman Marilyn Farley also wanted any action held over for a month "to make sure that the salaries are the right ones for our market" and "daylight" any proposals to allow the public a chance to examine them.Their concerns had nothing to do with how the sewer district is being run, with Batson and Farley saying Luthy and his employees do an excellent job.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or

Copyright Daily Republic. All rights reserved.

Fairfield Allan Witt Park project could meet economic, housing, safety goals

Article Launched: 03/27/2005 08:47:02 AM

Park Rebirth

Fairfield project could meet economic, housing, safety goals

What may be the most ambitious - and most complicated - partnership between public and private entities is headed into a critical phase in Fairfield as high hopes emerge for a new vision of the city's western gateway to Interstate 80.

City decision-makers, the business community and citizens in Fairfield are understandably drawn to the Allan Witt Park project, which now moves into a critical second phase. The city will launch a study of the impact of a proposed facelift to the city's West Texas Street portal, an exciting prospect that we believe must move forward.

Myriad questions remain. Is the project economically feasible? Can its many "moving parts" be aligned to ensure its success? Can it come to fruition with so many entities involved?
This thumbnail sketch shows the complexity of the Allan Witt Park project:

  • The current park site would be augmented with 10 to 13 acres of city-owned property now used as a city corporation yard and with the existing Caltrans maintenance yard that sits between the park and a shopping center to the west.
  • Between 400 and 500 new for-sale housing units would be built on the expanded site, providing a variety of choices for buyers - single-family homes, townhouses and so-called "stacked flats" or owner-occupied single-level units.
  • The park will have a new family aquatic center (similar to the Walter Graham Center in Vacaville), new tennis and basketball courts. It will incorporate the existing skatepark.
  • At least 35 acres of the existing park will be renovated to provide safer, user-friendly casual recreation - picnics, jogging, pickup softball and soccer games, kite flying and children play areas.
  • Existing fields for softball and Little League will move to a new sports complex at Cordelia and Chadbourne roads to be funded by the developer. This park will add fields for youth and adult sports programs.
  • About 55,000 square feet of new space will be created for small businesses, for live-work enterprises and other specialty shops that could cater to the nearby neighborhoods.
    The initiative is complicated because of the number of principals that are involved: the city, Caltrans, a private developer for the park, and a potential concessionaire to operate and maintain the new sports complex. The city has an ideal solution for Caltrans. It would move the existing facility to city-owned land off Red Top Road.
The city is negotiating with Triad Communities Inc., the same developer that is refurbishing and reinvigorating the Vallejo waterfront and proposing a unique project in a portion of Lagoon Valley, that would rejuvenate the city park in Fairfield.

The city hopes it can convince Big League Dreams, a premier developer and operator of amateur recreational sports facilities in the country, to become partners in the new sports complex. In effect, the vendor would operate the fields for youth baseball programs and adult softball teams. It would maintain the facility at no cost to taxpayers. The city would share in the revenue stream created by tournaments and special events.

Of course, Triad Communities would be responsible for building all of the public amenities in the new Allan Witt Park, including the aquatic center, jogging and walking paths, roadways and landscaping. It would blend with the existing skatepark. Triad would need to agree to a funding mechanism, such as a special district fee, to maintain it all.
There is a long way to go, as we noted. Many questions remain to be answered. Tough negotiations are ahead.

But dynamic benefit could result from its success.
Revitalizing the neighborhood would bring new residents and businesses. With so many eyes watching the park day and night, it would become a safer place to visit. Many residents who avoid the park because they deem it perilous would return and use it. And, of course, the recreational opportunities in a new Allan Witt Park and in a new sports complex would be welcomed.

As the process moves along, taxpayers should hold city negotiators accountable for the financial considerations - keep the project self-sufficient, ensure the new park can be maintained at a reasonable cost with the developer paying the lion's share and keep the uses for which there is no current fee free of charge.
Filling a portion of the region's housing needs, adding to its recreational opportunities, bolstering Fairfield's economic base and making the neighborhood safe again are eminent goals.

Solano adds 600 payroll positions

Solano adds 600 payroll positions

By Matthew Bunk

FAIRFIELD - The jobs market in Solano County and across California seems to have improved in February. Solano County employers added 600 payroll positions last month, and the 125,300 total jobs in the county was up 2,600 from a year ago, according to a survey by the state Employment Development Department. California added 27,600 jobs during the month. The state figures didn't include farm jobs, which typically fluctuate throughout the year. Nationally, employers added 262,000 jobs.

The biggest job gains in Solano County were in government, which beefed up by an extra 500 positions. The construction sector added another 300. Losses were in trade, transportation and utilities, down 300 jobs, and leisure and hospitality, down 100. The county's jobless rate dipped slightly to 6 percent, which is a tad lower than the state average of 6.1 percent. Last year at this time, Solano County's unemployment was at 6.5 percent.

The national unemployment rate was even lower at 5.8 percent.According to data for Solano County, the cities of Benicia, Dixon, Rio Vista and Vacaville reported the lowest unemployment rates, all coming in at less than 5 percent. Vallejo, Suisun City and Fairfield all had unemployment rates of more than 6 percent.

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

M.I. tax districts likely - Revenues would offset the cost of improvements, city services

Article Published: Tuesday, March 22, 2005

M.I. tax districts likely
Revenues would offset the cost of improvements, city services

By CHRIS G. DENINA, Times-Herald staff writer

For the first time in decades, families are slated to move this summer into new homes on Mare Island. With the rush of residents, city and development officials expect they will need to do plenty of work fixing up the old military base.

Who will pay for the improvements in such areas as landscaping, sewers and streets? Who will pick up the tab for law enforcement and firefighters and for building and maintaining parks?
The homeowners, apparently.

The Vallejo City Council plans to vote today on the first step in a process to create two special tax districts and borrow the cash to pay up front for those improvements. If the council OKs the procedure, a public hearing would be set April 26.
"That's all part of developing properties," Vallejo Finance Director Robert Stout said of special tax districts.

Depending on a home's size, parcel taxes could reach as much as about $1,300 a year. Residents would have to pay that in addition to a 1 percent property tax collected by the county.
With homes now selling for more than $700,000, those taxes could add up to more than $8,000 a year, not including any other fees charged by the city.
"Every little penny makes a difference," said Bobby OJha, who is buying a Mare Island home with his wife Sejal. "I'm happy overall, but not happy hearing this," OJha added.

The tax is aimed at neighborhoods including Gardner's Glen and Alden Place, where OJha hopes to live starting in June. On Monday, he said he picked out flooring for his new home.
Even if he has to pay more, he expects the value of the house to rise year after year. "They won't have a loss of customers," OJha predicted.

But for home shoppers like Susie Quach of San Francisco, the added taxes may price the home even further out of reach. She said she's looked at other areas, where similar taxes, often called Mello-Roos fees, are about half the proposed Mare Island amount. Still, Mare Island's proposed tax is small compared to the overall price, she said. "Whoever can afford an $800,000 home, they can afford the extra $100 a month," Quach said. "It's a drop in the bucket."

The special tax was designed to allow Mare Island to pay for itself and not drain the city's general fund, said Lennar spokesman Jason Keadjian. The money will go to such improvements as gas and telephone utilities, street lights and Mare Island Causeway bridge upgrades. As more homes go up on Mare Island and more people move in, the tax will be spread out among more people, Keadjian said. "It has been many years since there have been homeowners on Mare Island," Keadjian said. "We look forward to them moving in, beginning to enjoy the island, and really establishing roots and community."

Lennar envisions about 1,400 homes, including apartments, houses and townhomes for the former shipyard, once home to thousands of military personnel and their families.
About 126 homes are planned in the first batch, with nearly half of the houses spoken for, a salesperson said. Another 10 are slated for release next month.

- E-mail Chris G. Denina at or call 553-6835.

FYI ... For more information about Mare Island housing, call 558-9191 or visit
East Bay Business Times - March 21,



East Bay Business Times - 3:43 PM PST Monday
Bay Area CFOs expect Q2 hiring to top national average

Eleven percent of chief financial officers in the Bay Area expect to hire accounting and finance professionals in the second quarter of 2005, according to a survey by Robert Half International Inc.

Eleven percent of executives surveyed plan to add staff during the quarter, and 3 percent anticipate reductions in personnel. The net 8 percent increase is equal to the first-quarter 2005 forecast and two points above the national average of 6 percent.

The local results reflect a rolling average based on the responses of 200 CFOs from a stratified random sample of companies in the Bay Area with 20 or more employees; 1,400 CFOs were queried for the national data. The surveys were conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half International Inc. (NYSE: RHI) of Menlo Park, which has been tracking financial hiring activity in the United States since 1992.

"Nationally, companies appear to be more confident, pursuing new initiatives as well as ones that were previously postponed," said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. "As economic conditions improve and more projects are launched, there is greater urgency to hire accounting and finance personnel to support expansion efforts."
Nationally, among executives planning to increase staff levels in the second quarter, 61 percent cited business growth as the reason. Seventeen percent of those polled pointed to larger workloads. "Corporate governance initiatives continue to fuel demand for skilled accounting and internal audit staff as firms address ongoing Sarbanes-Oxley compliance," mhytha 3/21/05 said Messmer said.

Hiring activity is expected to be strongest in the finance, insurance and real estate industries. Twenty percent of CFOs polled from this sector project adding full-time accounting employees, and none expect to decrease the size of their staff.

The manufacturing and wholesale industries are expected to outpace the national average as well. A net 9 percent of CFOs from manufacturing firms plan to augment their finance teams in the coming quarter, and a net 8 percent of wholesale executives anticipate increased hiring.

© 2005 American City Business Journals Inc.
RecentCompany News

Robert Half International Inc.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Genentech wins Business of the Year honor at Vacaville Chamber

Article Launched: 03/20/2005 08:30:16 AM

Genentech wins Business of the Year honor

By Barbara Smith/Business Writer

Genentech Inc. has been named Business of the Year by the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Officials from the biotech firm will be honored at the chamber's Director's Ball on April 16.

Genentech, which has a manufacturing facility in Vacaville, is one of the city's top employers. A $600 million expansion project is underway and company officials expect to add about 575 employees to its workforce.

The chamber board reviews a number of business every year based on certain criteria and Genentech fit the bill, said Gary Tatum, chief executive officer of the chamber.
"We looked a their involvement in the community and their impact," Tatum said. "They have been outstanding as far as their involvement, and their growth, of course, is another big factor. They are employing a lot of people from here in our area."

Tatum also noted that Frank Jackson, Genentech's vice president of product operations, was the founder of a major employers council which meets quarterly with the city manager.
Headquartered in South San Francisco, Genentech discovers, develops and manufactures products in oncology, immune diseases and angiogenic disorders - cutting off blood flow to cancerous tumors. Drugs manufactured at the Vacaville plant include Xolair, which treats acute asthma; Rituxan for non-Hodgkins lymphomas; and Herceptin for breast cancer. It's star product is Avistan, which targets cancerous tumors.

In other chamber news, new chamber board members to begin their terms July 1 are Bruce Gondry, vice president of Vacaville Sanitary Services, Craig Mackley, vice president Mariani Packing Company, and Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, president and chief executive officer of Travis Credit Union.

Tom Phillippi of Phillippi Engineering will serve a second term.

Returning directors for the new year are John Nerland, president and CEO of Solano Bank; Denton Connor, principal in the firm Cavanagh Connor & Company; Steve Lessler, owner of The Lessler Group; Audrey Nachilo, principal of Cirkadia; Debra Tavey, director of advertising for The Reporter; Chris Calvin, manager of the Hampton Inn & Suites; Mark Creffield, manager of HomeTown Buffet; Eleanor Felbaum, owner Vacaville Pontiac, Buick GMC; Gary Passama, president and CEO of NorthBay Healthcare System; David Schroeder, owner of AlphaGraphics Vacaville; and Denise Suihkonen, principal Suihkonen CPAs & Consultants.

Barbara Smith can be reached at <> href="">

The Solano Affordable Housing Foundation - Meeting needsNonprofits fill affordable housing project requirements in Fairfield & Benicia

Article Launched: 03/19/2005 08:19:51 AM

Meeting needsNonprofits fill affordable housing project requirements

By Barbara Smith/Business Writer

In an era when cities are scrambling to meet state-mandated affordable housing quotas, nonprofit organizations are filling a niche some for-profit developers often can't or won't.
The Solano Affordable Housing Foundation, for example, is completing Union Square II - a $5 million major rehabilitation project in Fairfield. About 10 years ago the same group built a Head Start day care center for families who live in the Sunset Creek community, a low-income apartment project in Fairfield, said Lark Ferrell, project manager in Fairfield's office of planning and development.

"Nonprofits are wonderful mechanisms for developing affordable housing in our community - that's their speciality," Ferrell explained. "They're not in it to make big bucks, they're in it to provide affordable housing."

Most nonprofit developers generally take a comprehensive look at the needs of the growing number of very low-income to working class segment of society and the community as a whole.
Examples are Mercy Housing, which helps families build their own homes through "sweat equity." And Berkeley-based

Resources for Community Development has partnered with Caminar on new construction projects in Fairfield for households with special needs. There's a real need in the social service component, Ferrell said.

"It takes very special individuals to do this type of work," Ferrell said.
Also, if there's a problem in the neighborhood that needs to be cleaned up, the nonprofit developer is in it to do so and help improve the community. "That's where the nonprofit niche is just excellent," Ferrell said. "A developer would look at what is the bottom line, and for some projects that's not the question to ask."

Ferrell said there are wonderful for-profit developers, too, but they definitely need to have a "project pencil." That doesn't always help people with critical cases, such as the very, very low income, people with disability issues or the homeless. Solano Affordable Housing Foundation was created in 1990 for the specific purpose of increasing and preserving the supply of affordable housing in Solano and surrounding counties, said Dennis McCray, executive director.
"It was created by a coalition of political, business and social leaders in the community, all of whom were concerned about the cost of housing starting to increase much faster than people's ability to pay," he said.

The best way to look at Solano Affordable Housing Foundation is as you would any developer, but with a public purpose, McCray said. The foundation recently received the "Sponsor of the Year" award from Oakland-based Merritt Community Capital Corporation, a large regional syndicator of equity for affordable housing in California. Merritt, also a nonprofit, works with the foundation in that it solicits capital to the project from investors who wish to shelter their income.

The way it works is equity comes from the sale of tax credits - a credit that companies can take on their tax returns by contributing capital as equity to affordable housing projects, McCray explained. The foundation applies for a tax credit allocation, then goes to the syndication market for investors. The tax credit program has been around since 1987 and has bipartisan support from Congress. It both provides low-income housing and the ability for investors to shelter their income, McCray said. "It really works out quite well," he said, noting the foundation has raised more than $78 million in debt and equity financing for affordable housing.
The fact that nonprofits can handle the complexities of financing affordable housing is another bonus in working with nonprofits, said Rachel Hazlewood, Fairfield's economic development project manager.

"The sophistication is quite amazing," Hazlewood said. "They have to structure these deals working with layers of funding. They all have different funding sources with different requirements, so it's quite challenging."

Hazlewood is particularly impressed with the 2004 completion of Burgess Point, a 56-unit new affordable rental complex in Benicia built by the foundation. Burgess Point is a $12 million project and consists of one-and two-bedroom apartments and three-bedroom townhouses. The complex is located on a prominent hilltop in Benicia and has commanding views of the Carquinez Strait. It was financed with a combination of tax-exempt bonds, tax credits, and subordinate loans from the Benicia Housing Authority.

"It is lovely," Hazlewood said. "It's got this beautiful view, and has a lot of amenities."
Union Square II was financed the same way but with loans from the Fairfield Redevelopment Agency. It will consist of one, two, three and four-bedroom apartments.

Both Union Square 11 and Burgess Point are targeted to families earning 60 percent or below the median income adjusted for family size in Solano County. For a family of two, income cannot exceed $35,460. For a family of four, the limit is $44,340.

McCray said the apartments are always rented quickly. "There is basically a waiting list of people who are looking for housing that is priced where they can afford it, and there isn't that much when you get to the 60 percent level," McCray said.
Generally the foundation tries to find pieces of land that have the right general plan designation and proper zoning.

"Then, the municipalities are pretty much committed to allowing that use," he said. However, they will work with neighborhoods to mitigate issues, as they did the Benicia project. They moved the buildings as far away as they could from existing housing, he said.
"We had some neighbors that were very unhappy in the beginning, but now that we've completed the project, I've heard no objections," McCray said.

The Solano Affordable Housing Foundation is planning future housing in Solano County.
"What we're looking at in Suisun is an acquisition rehabilitation project, and in the cities of Fairfield and Vacaville, it is new construction projects," McCray said.
Barbara Smith can be reached at

Vineyard Place wins OK from AmCan council

Article Published: Saturday, March 19, 2005

Vineyard Place wins OK from AmCan council
By DAN JUDGE, Times-Herald staff writer

AMERICAN CANYON - It took hours of head-butting, heated tempers and tied votes, but the City Council finally gave its approval to a unique affordable housing project Thursday.
The council gave its blessing to Vineyard Place, a development of 45 tightly packed single-family homes, and the Vineyard Crossing apartment complex. Both are designed to give low-income buyers a foothold in American Canyon's booming housing market.

Several local residents offered glowing praise for the development plans.

"I think it's time for us to have some affordable housing and I don't think you could find a better-looking project than this," longtime resident Fran Lemos said. "It's just beautiful."
The 11-acre project site was dedicated to the city by Standard Pacific Homes, builders of the Vintage Ranch housing subdivision, in lieu of developer fees.

The affordable housing project will be built by M.C. Homes Inc., part of the Mid-Peninsula Coalition non-profit group picked by the city to develop the site.

Sitting on the edge of Vintage Ranch, Vineyard Place will include 45 homes with an average lot size of 3,393 square feet, some larger and some significantly smaller. Thirty-six of the units will be earmarked for low- and middle-income buyers, while the remaining nine will be sold at market rate to help subsidize the other homes.

The Vintage Crossing apartment complex will include 145 units, all to be rented at affordable levels. Five percent will be reserved for very low-income renters.

The Mid-Peninsula Coalition has gained a strong reputation for not only the design of its projects, but also its continued participation after they are completed. Built on a "village" concept, the project will include a daycare center, community center, computer room and recreational facilities for the residents. It will also be managed by the group. "One of the things we're known for is not just building a project but really building a community that not only serves the project, but also is a good neighbor and enhances the entire community," said Fran Wagstaff, president of Mid-Peninsula.

Strong demand is expected for the product, Planning Director Ed Haworth said, and a lottery will probably be held with first preference given to those who already live or work in American Canyon.

The general consensus of the council seemed to be that the project is superior and the developer outstanding. The devil, however, was in the details. Both Mayor Cecil Shaver and Councilmember Cindy Coffey complained that city staff had given the council inadequate maps and information to review.

At one point, the mayor leveled a sharp outburst at the planning director for allegedly accusing him of lying about a discussion the two had on the project. Shaver and Coffey tried to postpone the discussion of the project until next Thursday, but Councilmember Ben Anderson's absence at the meeting left the council with a 2-2 vote on the continuance. Another attempt at resolving the issue ended in another tie vote.

Councilmember Leon Garcia pressured the council to push forward with the decision. He noted that the city had the "premier" developer of affordable housing projects and the deadline to meet state funding deadlines were too close for comfort. "I think it behooves us to remind ourselves what's at stake," he said. "There is a deadline here and if we don't meet it, things start to come unraveled."

The mayor finally offered his tie-breaking approval after several alterations to the project. Those conditions included the addition of more length to the driveways, which would result in back yards measuring just over 8 feet being further reduced to just over 7 feet. Despite offering her support for the single-family portion of the project in general, Coffey cast the lone opposing vote.

"I don't like being put in a position of approving something I'm not comfortable with," she said.
The council unanimously approved the apartment complex.
- E-mail Dan Judge at or call 553-6831.

Only two pieces are needed for a major, new Fairfield east-west roadway to be born

Article Last Updated: Sunday, Mar 20, 2005 - 11:52:16 pm PST

Cars travel along the new stretch of Manuel Campos Parkway between Claybank Road and Cement Hill Road. (Phot by Mike McCoy)

Manuel Campos Parkway will link 1-80, Peabody
By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - Only two pieces are needed for a major, new Fairfield east-west roadway to be born. Manuel Campos Parkway will run from Interstate 80 to Peabody Road. It will be a more modest, slower-paced version of Air Base Parkway, one that hugs the foothills.Developers and the city for a decade have put in pieces here and there. Part of existing Cement Hill Road serves as a piece. Two pieces of about .4 miles each need to be built to create a continuous, 3.6-mile-long parkway.The two missing Manuel Campos pieces are:n Between I-80 and Dover Avenue. The connection includes renovating the freeway interchange. Fairfield could begin the $18 million project in 2007.

In between Mystic Drive and Dickson Hill Road. The $6.4 million project is waiting for Bureau of Reclamation approval to cross the Putah South Canal that carries drinking water.Once these segments are in place, people will be able to drive Manuel Campos Parkway from the freeway through the Paradise Valley area to Peabody Road and Fairfield's eastern growth boomtown, an area targeted for hundreds of homes. They could then continue to Vacaville on existing roads.The city's junior version of Air Base Parkway will be ready.

Resident Richard Barker is with the homeowners association for Paradise Cove, a subdivision near the parkway. He looks forward to the final Manuel Campos links being made. "I hope it reduces traffic on Dickson Hill Road and ultimately that it will give us easier and quicker access to the freeway," Barker said.

However, one family living near Manuel Campos Parkway sold their home and moved on. They thought a tranquil area will become noisier with the extra traffic, Barker said.Planning Commissioner Stan Silverman lives near the parkway. He's concerned opening up Manuel Campos will add more traffic to Clay Bank Road.But the parkway could also give people in the new sections of Paradise Valley a way to get to I-80 without getting on local streets, he said."It's a mixed bag," Silverman said.

What is beginning life as a two-lane road in some places will ultimately have plenty of room. Manuel Campos Parkway could someday have six lanes from I-80 to Clay Bank Road and four lanes from Clay Bank Road to Peabody Road.But it won't be a freeway. There will be traffic lights and intersections, probably more intersections than along Air Base Parkway.Coordinated signals should help make traffic flow efficiently, City Engineer Gene Cortright said.The most dramatic project associated with Manuel Campos Parkway is the renovated interchange at I-80 and North Texas Street.This includes building a section of Manuel Campos Parkway between the freeway and Dover Avenue/Paradise Valley Road. A developer graded the route years ago, but today it sits covered by grass and bushes. Fairfield will punch Manuel Campos Parkway through the graded swathe to the freeway.

It will shift part of North Texas Street to the east to make room for the renovated interchange. Entrances to some business parking lots will shift also, from what is now their fronts to their rears.The state must approve the design plans, because the interchange serves the freeway.

Fairfield has long realized the need for Manuel Campos Parkway. The road shows up in the 1992 General Plan under a different name." A significant new roadway is a new east-west expressway," the 1992 plan says.Fairfield originally proposed a bigger version of Manuel Campos Parkway, one that would be six lanes its entire length. That was back when the city planned to allow thousands of homes east of Peabody Road, an idea it has since dropped.Manuel Campos Parkway will have more intersections than originally envisioned, to meet the needs of housing developments adjacent to it. But it should still serve as the major road planners envisioned a decade ago.Fairfield originally had other names for the road, such as the Foothill Expressway.

The city renamed the road after Manuel Campos in 1997. Campos served on the Fairfield City Council for 20 years during four different decades, including mayor in the 1970s, ran the Food Fair market and lived in the downtown Goosen Mansion. He died in 1995.A photograph taken after his first council victory in 1958 shows a man with short hair wearing a bow tie and thick-framed glasses. His mouth is curved in a half-smile. He had a reputation for being gruff but caring.His name will be remembered for decades to come by Fairfield motorists.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

Copyright Daily Republic. All rights reserved.

UC Davis joins new food safety research network which will share $5 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Sacramento Business Journal - 10:53 AM PST Monday
UC Davis joins new food safety research network

The University of California Davis is one of 18 U.S. colleges and universities that will share $5 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create a Food Safety Research and Response Network.

The network, led by North Carolina State University in Raleigh, will include more than 50 food safety experts who will investigate food-related illness, the department said. They'll look at pathogens like e.coli, salmonella and campylobactor to learn where they're found in the environment, how they endure and how they infect herds.

The department also said it would redirect almost $2 million in funding to bolster research on bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease.

The two ventures will improve U.S. food safety by strengthening research partnerships with academics, said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns in a statement, "and establish another tool to aid our response to food-related disease outbreaks."

Besides UC Davis and North Carolina State, the other institutions in the network are Cornell University, Iowa State University, McMasters University, Mississippi State University, North Dakota State University, The Ohio State University, Tuskegee University, University of Arizona, University of California Berkeley, University of Florida, University of Illinois, University of Kentucky, University of Minnesota, University of Montreal, Washington State University, and West Texas A&M University.

Supes approval sought in next step of Nut Tree airport land deal

03/21/2005 07:12:41 AM
Supes approval sought in next step of land deal
By Jason Massad/Staff Writer

The county is deep into negotiations with a private owner regarding the purchase of nearly 16 acres to expand the Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville.

The property, owned by Whitney Investments-Rainbow Investments, is located along East Monte Vista Avenue and adjacent to the county's general aviation airport.

The asking price is about $2 million. The owners have drafted a non-binding agreement for the county to pay $1.85 million for the land, according to a county report.

The Solano County Board of Supervisors will be asked Tuesday to authorize the county's staff to move forward with the agreement. A preliminary environmental assessment and a formal property appraisal would be conducted before the agreement is complete.

According to the county's report, the property has been available for most of 2004.
The negotiated price of $1.85 million is below the fair market value of the property for comparable lands within the airport's immediate area, the report says. "Acquiring (the) ... property will enable the Nut Tree Airport to enlarge its physical footprint to support the enhancement of aviation-related activities." The proposed acquisition at the Nut Tree Airport could be a positive step in a spate of rough times at the airport.

County leaders most recently scrapped a state loan to build hangars at the general aviation facility because the bid prices were more than the amount of money left to pay for it.
Prior to that, an audit at the Nut Tree prompted management changes and scrutiny of the airport's operations, which were called underperforming by a consultant.

The purchase of the property could be covered by the federal and state aviation divisions.
A Federal Aviation Administration grant, if approved, could cover up to 95 percent of the property's fair market value, according to the county report.
Jason Massad can be reached at

Solano County Board of Supervisors Meeting 9 a.m. TuesdayBoard Chambers inside Old County Courthouse at 580 Texas St. in Fairfield

Vacaville must plan now for housing mix of the future

Perfect Blend

City must plan now for housing mix of the future

Staring 20 years into the future, Vacaville's city planners see a city of 120,000 people taking up not much more geography than the existing landscape. While that may sound like explosive growth, it represents a slow, but steady advancement.

Getting from here to there will not be so much an issue of how fast we grow, but more importantly, what type of housing we provide.

The remaining two frontiers are North Village in the northern range of the triangle formed by Interstate 80, I-505 and Midway Road, and a portion of lower Lagoon Valley. About 10,000 of the anticipated 25,000 to 30,000 new residents will find housing in those two regions.

The remainder will fill homes, townhouses and apartments in so-called "in-fill" developments - small tracts on the fringe of the city, modest subdivisions on vacant land within, and tiny parcels where 10 to 15 houses may be constructed.

It will take two decades for the city to reach what today's civic leaders say is its destiny, at least in terms of housing the growing population of California. The pace to achieve that will be deliberate as the city expects to stay within its current housing goal of adding no more than 750 homes per year.

By comparison, the current rate of home construction is about 300 homes per year.

The end result, when Vacaville has realized its "build-out" potential, must be a city with a healthy mix of housing - small houses and large, upscale homes blending with the mass-market supply of typical subdivisions. Sprinkled in that composite are townhomes, apartments and senior living units.

Last weekend, our front-page story itemized the next dozen projects that will produce about 5,000 new living units. They included some less expensive townhouses and some high-end, large-lot houses. And some projects' ingredients are still to be determined.

With that in mind, the city planners and City Council should calculate the end-result sum. If plans proceed as presented to date, what would be the final mix? And what should it be? And are we going to achieve that preferred combination of homes, apartments, high-density townhouses and executive housing that Vacaville needs to be a well-rounded community that comprises a diverse populace of homeowners?

Considering the final "build-out" is in sight today, planning for the perfect blend begins now.

The Reporter Editorial

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

More than 90 percent of Fairfield-Suisun schools improved or maintained their state ranks in the Academic Performance Index scores.

Article Last Updated: Wednesday, Mar 16, 2005 - 12:09:54 am PST

Schools perform well in API test

By Audrey Wong

FAIRFIELD - More than 90 percent of Fairfield-Suisun schools improved or maintained their state ranks in the Academic Performance Index scores.

District staff found that 23 of 25 Fairfield-Suisun schools whose scores were released improved their state ranks or remained in the same spot as last year, said Brian Centeno, director of assessment and accountability. In 2003, 69 percent of schools improved or maintained their state rankings.

"We find this a positive trend," Centeno said.

Schools that dropped in their state rankings were Richardson Elementary and Crystal Middle. Each schools fell a point in the state's 10-point ranking system.

The improved state rankings for many Fairfield-Suisun schools show that teachers have focused on teaching state education standards, Centeno said. While schools show improvement, the district still needs to address the achievement gap between low-income students and their more advantaged peers, Centeno said.

The API is the state's way of measuring student achievement. Schools give students a series of tests including the California Standards Test, a national standardized test, and for high schools, the California High School Exit Exam.

Schools are ranked on scales of one to 10 - with 10 the highest. The state Department of Education compares schools with the statewide averages and to schools with similar characteristics, such as socio-economic status, ethnic groups, percent of English learners and number of teachers with full credentials.

API scores range from 200 to 1000, with 800 the target for all California schools. Each school gets its own goal for the year, based on the difference between last year's score and the 800 API score benchmark. This year, the state changed the way it calculates API scores

B. Gale Wilson, Nelda Mundy and K.I. Jones elementary schools have scores of 800 or higher, which means they won't have a target score to shoot for this year, according to state figures.

Vanden High School in the Travis school district earned a 10 ranking in both its statewide and similar schools score. The school also scored high in last year's tests, but irregularities resulted in rankings that weren't meaningful, said Sarah Taylor, interim assistant superintendent of educational services. The Travis district has two other schools which met the 800 benchmark - Center and Travis elementary schools.

"The numbers look very positive to me," Taylor said.

Vacaville's district - which includes four schools with scores better than 800 and which had scores go up and down this year - has a plan for improving test scores this year.

"What we're going to look at, are there other schools out there like ours that are doing better than we are?" said Peggy Alexander, the assistant superintendent of academic advancement. "And what are they doing differently? That's what accountability is about, improvement."

Reach Audrey Wong can be reached at

EDC draws new business to Solano

SEDCORP, with new name and leadership, pushes benefits of business in county
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

How do you convince a large company to move someplace where its costs will rise, doing business will be more difficult in a number of ways and it could do the same thing more easily almost anywhere else?

It's not easy. But that's exactly what the Solano Economic Development Corporation's job does - talk up the county to business leaders nationwide in an effort to bring jobs here.

"It's an uphill battle, but one worth fighting," said Vallejo Chamber of Commerce head Rick Wells. "The implications for the community are phenomenal."

Wells said the EDC is an important link in a chain of agencies and organizations trying to improve the county's economy by recruiting new businesses to the area. Part of the challenge is letting industry leaders know Solano County is here, said EDC head Michael S. Ammann.

Formerly known as SEDCORP, the Fairfield-based organization is funded by the county's cities, and recently underwent a complete overhaul, emerging with the new moniker and new leadership from Ammann.

It was Ammann, discovered in Michigan during a nationwide headhunt, who came up with the EDC's new marketing and mission statement: "Solano's Got It!... The Best Northern California Has To Offer!"

Sandy Person, the EDC's new vice president, is back with the agency after several years away. She said the reborn, re-focused enterprise had been in decline in recent years, and is now fighting its way back.

Besides scouring the nation for businesses of various types and sizes to locate in Solano County, the EDC must also find the balance between the needs of the individual cities and the county in general. Each Solano County city has its own unique vision of itself and its future, Person said, so different business prospects will be a more or less appropriate fit, depending on a variety of criteria. The organization's board members believe, though, that what benefits one Solano County city benefits the others, because the more jobs there are within the county, the more money, income and taxes are earned and spent here.

Founded in 1984 primarily as a real estate organization, SEDCORP fell on hard times in the early 1990s, Person said. A 2002 study of the area's needs lead about a year and a half ago to the name change and a refocusing of the organization on its original mission - marketing the county. The change was needed because although Solano County's location is its main selling point, too many people outside the immediate area have no idea where it is, Person and Ammann said.

"The name changed because no one outside of Solano County knew what it meant. The new name is more standard lingo," Ammann said. "One of the biggest problems is that no one knew where Solano County is. It had no identity to the outside world. They may have heard of Vallejo because of Mare Island or Marine World, but they had no idea about the county. In terms of reputation nationally, Solano doesn't exist."

The reorganization also prompted a nationwide recruitment effort for a new EDC president. Ammann, 57, took on the job of "going out and talking to site selectors and telling them about Solano County," he said.

Ammann said the county's location between Northern California's two main population and industry centers is a major selling point. But there are challenges, as well, some of which are outside of local control.

"California's business climate is a challenge, and there are other states, like Nevada and Oregon, actively recruiting businesses away from the state. But we have a large marketplace and we're between two of the region's largest markets - The Bay Area and Sacramento," Ammann said. "Also, regionally, people and businesses have been moving east from the Bay Area, and we haven't been at the table and that's what I'm doing."

Wells agrees California's current business climate is the main challenge facing any business recruiting firm.

"It's been rough going lately. It's hard to attract business when its costs are going to go up. It's hard to recruit businesses to a state ranked 46th in business friendliness," Wells said.
Amman said that in selling the county to the world, he accentuates the positive, but it's important to be realistic, too.

"Solano County probably won't attract the huge companies' corporate headquarters, but it could get the smaller, regional offices or manufacturing facilities," Ammann said. "It's close to the University of California at Davis, a major research institution, which makes it realistic to try recruiting technical and bio-tech firms. Also, State Farm locating in Vallejo could attract other large office users."

The county lacks "a corporate mentality - the high-end restaurants, world-class theater" - to attract the larger corporate headquarters, Person agreed, "though as we grow, we're developing that. And there are some exceptions. Jelly Belly did come here. But expectations have to be in line with what Solano's reality is."

Ammann said he tries to market the entire county, keeping in mind each city's unique attributes.

"Each community has its advantages and disadvantages," Ammann said. "For example, Dixon has no buildings available where Vallejo, Fairfield and Vacaville do. But Dixon has available land for development and a city like Benicia really doesn't."

Person, 50, said an important message and selling point to the 20 to 25 prospect companies the EDC is courting at any given time, is that "when companies do locate here, they tend to expand and grow."

Success with an agency like the EDC, is measured in "tangible value" - results - but it doesn't happen over night, Person and Amman said.

"These things take time," Ammann said. "If you're going to make a several-million-dollar investment in a city, that decision takes time. My motto is to follow up until they die, buy or locate someplace."

For information, visit SolanoProspector, , on line, the Solano Economic Development Corporation, 424C Executive Court North, Fairfield, or call 864-1855 or (888) 864-1855.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

New businesses for Mare Island

Article Last Updated: Monday, Mar 14, 2005 - 11:07:07 pm PST

New businesses for Mare Island

By Matthew Bunk

VALLEJO - Slowly and surely, jobs are cropping up at the former military compound on Mare Island.

Seven businesses have moved into Building 117, a remodeled industrial structure located along the waterfront at the corner of Nimitz Avenue and 7th Street, and the island's developer is touting the building's re-use as a major step in the ongoing effort to turn the closed naval base into one of Vallejo's primary economic engines.

The new businesses in Building 117 - Vallejo Floor Company, DL Construction, Hot Water Inc., Cat Tech, European Custom Millwork, Hal Pierce Electric and R.D. Council & Associates - will generate 40 jobs, according to a statement by the island's developer Lennar Mare Island, LLC. Nearly half of those businesses are new to Vallejo.

"The successful reuse of commercial and industrial buildings such as Building 117, as well as 690 Walnut, which is now 100 percent leased following completion of renovation in 2004, represents a key component of the effort to create jobs and stimulate the (island's) economic revitalization," Lennar said in the statement.

Lennar's plans for Mare Island include the rehabilitation of several other buildings and new construction on unused parts of the island, some of which must undergo environmental cleanup before it can be redeveloped. In the end, the company hopes to create more than 7 million square feet of commercial space, which would make it one of the largest commercial campuses in Solano County.

Lennar and the city hope Mare Island will one day provide jobs for 8,000 people. Developers have replaced roughly 1,600 jobs since 1996 when the base closed and as many as 10,000 military jobs disappeared.

Public safety tops list of Fairfield business priorities

FAIRFIELD - City officials on will discuss business priorities for 2005 at a morning meeting Thursday at the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts.

City Manager Kevin O'Rourke will focus his speech on what the city is doing to ensure public safety and how those efforts will affect business owners.

The meeting, open to the public, will start at 7:45 a.m. Continental breakfast will be served.

For more information and to reserve a seat, call Anita Horwath at 428-7462.

Biz bits . . .

-- Starbucks Coffee Co. recently opened a store at 1600 North Texas Street. The company held a grand opening event Saturday.

-- Lisa Marie Theis, a noted real estate agent for Kappel & Kappel in Dixon, was recently honored at the Annual Dixon Chamber of Commerce Dinner Dance and Awards Ceremony with the "Ambassador of the Year" award. She was recognized for her successful fundraising efforts and tireless volunteerism to benefit the Chamber.

"Business Matters" is a regular column that runs Tuesdays and Fridays. If you know of a newsworthy business item or event, call the Business desk at 427-6934 or e-mail

Vallejo and Six Flags may ink new deal

Article Published: Tuesday, March 15, 2005

City and Six Flags may ink new deal

Agreement calls for $7M commitment to parking garage

By CHRIS G. DENINA, Times-Herald staff writer

Vallejo may have a buyer for Six Flags Marine World if the city promises to commit as much as $7 million for a new public parking garage.

Six Flags Inc. was close to buying the city-owned theme park last year, but backed out, citing concerns over lost parking if a developer redevelops the nearby Solano County Fairgrounds.

The Vallejo City Council today plans a public hearing on a new deal with the Oklahoma City-based theme park operator. Under the new terms, Six Flags would get five more years to decide if it wants to buy the park for an estimated $52 million.

"We fully intend to exercise our option to purchase the park within that period of time," said park spokesman Paul Garcia.

Under the current arrangement, Six Flags runs the park, sharing its profits with the city - roughly $2 million a year. If the company buys Marine World, the city instead would charge an operation fee that could bring in an estimated $750,000 annually.

The parties said it's too early to say what kind of parking structure would be built. The deal only says 2,450 spaces are needed. Marine World has nearly 3,000 spaces on its property.

The Redevelopment Agency would put up the city's contribution to the public garage. The rest would likely come from the county, theme park operator and fairgrounds developer.

"All that's a work in progress as to the long-term parking," City Manager Roger Kemp said. He declined to further discuss details of the proposal, saying real estate negotiations are confidential.

Six Flags officials wanted assurances parking would be available if Marine World loses its overflow parking at the fairgrounds. That soon may be the case. An Arlington, Va.-based company is in talks to overhaul the fairgrounds property.

The Mills Corp. hopes to build a year-round shopping center and new facilities for the annual fair. The developer has until Sept. 15 to present an early master plan to the county and fair officials.

It's too soon for anyone to make plans for building a new parking garage, said General Manager Joseph Barkett of Solano County Fair Association.

"We'd hate for the city to get locked in now before we know where everything's headed," Barkett said.

If the fairgrounds project moves forward, the area will need plenty of road and parking improvements, he said.

"We just want everybody to keep their options open until we know what the best approach is," Barkett said.

Plans for 45 new homes in the Foxboro area in southern Vacaville are expected to move forward

03/14/2005 07:23:52 AM

Commission to decide on plans for subdivisions

By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

Plans for 45 new homes in the Foxboro area in southern Vacaville are expected to move forward Tuesday.

The Vacaville Planning Commission will vote on plans for two Sterling Chateau subdivisions Tuesday. One Sterling Chateau subdivision has already been completed.

The homes are in the Alamo Place development, which is a project to be built by two developers. Meritage Homes is building the Sterling Chateau homes, while Standard Pacific Homes will build more than 100 homes on an adjoining property. Sterling Chateau Unit 2 calls for 31 single-family homes on 7.5 acres on the east side of Ruby Drive. The Unit 3 subdivision consists of 14 homes on 3.9 acres on the southern side of Morning Glory Drive, near Foxboro Elementary School.

The development is the result of a land swap between the builders and the Travis Unified School District. The district gave the developers two vacant surplus school properties, and the builder handed over land for a future middle school near Vanden Road.

The project is planned to be a mix of single-story and two-story floor plans. Homes will range in size from 2,006 to 3,755 square feet. The exteriors will be stucco, wood fascias, wood shutters, wrought iron sill planters and concrete tile roofing.

The commission will be asked to approve general plan amendments and zoning changes for the sites. Being school district property, the sites are currently zoned for school campuses. The new zoning for the property would be low-medium density residential.

The commission will also be asked to give a Wykoff Drive homeowner two more weeks to come up with a suitable plan to subdivide his 0.75-acre property for a second home.

The homeowner, Ali Khatami, has asked for more time after commissioners opposed the plan March 1.

While the city has formulated findings of denial, which are needed before plans are shot down, staff has encouraged the commission to allow Khatami extra time to try to come up with a compromise.

The commission will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Chamber at 650 Merchant St.

Tom Hall can be reached at

Vacaville Planning Commission

7 p.m. Tuesday

City Council Chamber

650 Merchant St.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Upgrades, community backing improve Travis' chances in coming round of base closures

Article Launched: 03/13/2005 08:34:04 AM

Making the case
Upgrades, community backing improve Travis' chances in coming round of base closures

By Bud Ross

Efforts by the Travis Community Consortium to bolster public awareness of Travis Air Force Base's strategic military value in the upcoming round of Defense Department's Base Realignment and Closures, or BRAC, are being rightly recognized by our community.

A little know fact is that the Travis Community Consortium is really the culmination of a 15- to 20-year quest to improve base facilities and missions. The dramatic makeover of the base during this time is due largely to local business, civic and elected officials. Working with elected representatives in Washington, D.C., they got military construction projects funded and completed.

The Travis Community Consortium is comprised of Solano County, its seven cities, the Economic Development Corporation, Solano Community College, and the Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee. It funds and executes efforts to improve Travis' chances in the upcoming round of BRAC.

Not only is the organization prepared to make the case before the commission in the event the base is nominated by Department of Defense or the commission itself, the Travis Community Consortium is there to make the case for Travis getting new missions from bases reduced under BRAC.

The Travis Community Consortium prepared a strong case in January to the newly formed Governor's Base Support and Retention Commission chaired by Leon Panetta, former U.S. representative from California and the former White House chief of staff for President Bill Clinton. It armed the state commission with ammunition to make the case to keep Travis and other state installations off the BRAC list. Among the points made:

Strategic location: Poised to meet the new challenges of the Pacific Rim, Travis remains at the center of intermodal transportation hubs like the ports of Oakland and Stockton, has ready access to Interstate 80, I-505 and I-5, and is near major intercontinental rail heads and international passenger and cargo airfields in San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento.

Travis can quickly support the movement of West Coast military and Homeland Defense units, including National Guard and Reserve.

Infrastructure improvements: Deteriorating and difficult-to-maintain buildings have been replaced by scores of newer, energy efficient facilities. A modern control tower and radar approach control facility have been built. New aircraft operations and maintenance facilities have gone up.

The underground petroleum refueling system has been and continues to be upgraded by the Defense Department.

Modern on-base housing has been built and older substandard houses razed. More than 1 million square feet of obsolete temporary buildings have been removed, enabling site planning and construction of new missions on base.

New missions: The newest air lifter, the C-17 Globemaster, soon will call Travis home when a squadron beds down here. Important Navy and Army units are located here.

Additional missions capacity: The factors cited above make Travis well suited to accommodate additional Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security missions. Indeed, they are natural fits.

There is ample real estate and excellent infrastructure support. Rapid mobility capability makes Travis a perfect location to house fast-response teams like those from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Army and Air Force Guard and Reserve units, which need to be at the action point the soonest.

There are also great opportunities to combine Defense Logistic Agency operations closer to the where the "rubber meets the ramp." Ample munitions storage areas formerly used to support Fort Ord can readily accommodate combat-arms units.

Unimpeded operations: There are ample air training routes that are unencumbered. A portion of the land east of the base, formerly known as the Wilcox Ranch, was purchased by the county and the city of Fairfield from the Nature Conservatory through an agreement that calls for the land to continue to be used for agriculture until such time as it is needed for expansion of the base.

Development land-use restrictions around the base are in place to ensure there is no incompatible development that would jeopardize its operations. Moreover, there is adequate expansion capability in the Travis Reserve to accommodate additional base housing and administrative and logistics facilities, should it be needed. With the San Francisco Bay Area's recent improvements in air quality, there also should be little difficulty in getting additional air emission credits for new missions.

Homeland Security: After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the base became the platform for fighter aircraft protecting the skies over the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento and the Silicon Valley.

State and federal relief efforts for Northern California's major earthquakes or man-made disasters will likely focus on Travis. Its emergency response capability is virtually unmatched.

Unlike many California hospitals, David Grant Medical Center on Travis was built to withstand earthquakes.

Community support: Lastly, Travis enjoys strong community support and is considered part of the community in all aspects. Community support and involvement by Travis personnel as part of our community have been long-standing, not just a recent occurrence.

This month the BRAC's nine commissioners will be named. For communities with nearby military bases, the selections will be of great interest.

By May 16, the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will make his recommendations. The BRAC Commission will hold numerous hearings in Washington, D.C., as well as regional hearings. They may add to the Defense Department's list and its final recommendation will be made by Sept. 8. President George W. Bush will approve or disapprove the list by Sept. 23.

Two decades of community and congressional support have clearly strengthened Travis' prospects.

• The author, chairman of the Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee, is a retired Air Force officer and former president and chief executive officer of the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce.

In Solano County, there were 17,151 businesses run solely by their owners in 2000

Article Last Updated: Saturday, Mar 12, 2005 - 11:07:26 pm PST

Working from the comfort of home

By Matthew Bunk

FAIRFIELD - When Eleanor Benjamin ran an interior decorating business in the Philippines during the early 1980s, she had seven workers on her payroll and a large commercial building that drew customers from far away.

She saved her profits for years in hopes of one day moving herself and the business to California. When the time came and she had stashed away enough money, Benjamin and her brother invested everything they had to start a small shop in Vallejo, where they made window coverings and offered design tips to fashion-savvy clients.

It wasn't long before they realized they would never have a staff as large as the one Benjamin had the Philippines. The difficulty of paying American wages and California rents were too much for a small business to bear.

Now Benjamin runs the interior design business out of her Green Valley home. She and her husband are the only employees.

Though the Benjamins make a comfortable living, the business doesn't generate enough money to pay a large staff or to rent commercial space downtown.

The first lesson of running a home-based business, Benjamin said, was that "you do everything yourself." But now that she's used to running the business out of her detached garage, Benjamin wouldn't have it any other way.

"I don't want to have a big commercial area," she said. "I like it just how it is."

She isn't the only one. Small, home-based businesses have been popping up in record numbers all across the U.S. - and Solano County is no exception.

More than 17.9 million Americans work for themselves, according to a Census Bureau study that found the number of small firms without employees rose 3.9 percent in 2002.

California led all other states with more than 2.5 million non-employee businesses and was way ahead of second-place Texas and third-place New York. Those states combined for about 2.7 million businesses without employees.

In Solano County, there were 17,151 businesses run solely by their owners, according to Census figures from 2000, the most recent county data. That's about three times the number of businesses with employees, according to data compiled a year later.

In the past couple of years, the number of single-person businesses seems to have jumped even higher, said Chuck Eason, director of the Small Business Development Center at Solano Community College. Although the category of single-person businesses doesn't necessarily mean it's home-based, many of them are, he said.

"Hiring that first employee is a big step, and some home-based businesses don't want to grow," he said. "There's a lot of advantages to running a business from your home. For example, you can start slow and keep your overhead costs down."

Nationally, these small businesses make up more than 70 percent of all businesses. They may be run by one or more individuals, can range from home-based businesses to corner stores or construction contractors and often are part-time ventures with owners operating more than one business at a time.

Many firms of this type were in real estate and property management, as well as construction and professional business services. Segments with the largest growth from 2001 to 2002 include landscaping services (21.5 percent), janitorial services (20.4 percent), nail salons (8.7 percent), real estate agents (7.1 percent), child-care providers (5.9 percent) and beauty salons (5.6 percent), according to the Census Bureau.

Some experts indicated growth in owner-operated small businesses was a positive trend showing Americans' entrepreneurial spirit.

Other observers felt it might have resulted from a downturn in the jobs market and didn't necessarily reflect a trend toward business creation.

"A lot of people were being laid off as a result of the dot-com bust, and out of frustration went into business for themselves," said Michael Shaw, assistant state director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

In 2002, the 17.6 million non-employer businesses combined for gross receipts of $770 billion, or roughly $44,000 each. That average was slightly higher in the Bay Area, $54,621, and California, $50,672, according to reports.

But not all solo businesses succeed, Eason said. Many times, the cost of health insurance drives small business owners back to salaried employment.

In some cases, the decision to start their own business was only a temporary fix until the job market improved, Shaw said.

"One thing that drove the spurt was that people came out of these tech jobs and decided to wait it out by starting their own business or to work as consultants until they got their jobs back," he said.

"That trend may have slowed a little bit with the increased hiring across the nation. But in California, where we're still losing jobs, I think we'll continue to see that type of small business growth."

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

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