Thursday, April 28, 2005

Vacaville Nut Tree development to begin late May

Article Last Updated: Wednesday, Apr 27, 2005 - 11:42:01 pm PDT

Nut Tree development to begin late May

By Claire St. John

VACAVILLE - Although roadwork costs for the Nut Tree exceeded city estimates by about $1 million, council members, engineers, a finance manager and a lot of residents are excited to see the development take shape."This really is a milestone for the Nut Tree because we're actually going to start seeing something happening," said Mayor Len Augustine after the council unanimously approved awarding the construction contract.The low bidder was Ghilotti Construction Co., at almost $15.7 million, about $1.1 million above city engineer estimates."That's roughly seven percent above, which isn't unusual in today's climate," Finance Director Ken Campo said. "It will never be equal to the engineer's estimate."The money will go to widening the Nut Tree Road overcrossing across Interstate 80 and pushing East Monte Vista Avenue back toward the middle of the property and turning it from two lanes to four with a wide, landscaped median.

Water, sewer and storm drain systems will be installed, as well as two new traffic signals, landscaping and irrigation.Because the project infringes on state Department of Transportation territory, plans and approvals took years."A myriad of approvals had to be obtained," Campo said."We've been working on the design and concept of this for four or five years," Public Works director Dale Pfeiffer said. "It's taken about three years for Caltrans approval."The Nut Tree Airport didn't make things any easier. To improve access to that, county and Federal Aviation Authority approval was needed."If it was easy to do, it would have been done by private development," Campo said.In the face of all that, a $1 million overrun wasn't too difficult to fix. The extra money will come from traffic impact fees and the city's redevelopment agency. Construction is set to begin May 23 and continue for 14 months.Meanwhile, Nut Tree development will go through the planning stages and initial construction of shops and parks will begin, Pfeiffer said.When completed, the Nut Tree will include entertainment options such as an amusement park, a shady plaza with bocce courts flanked by fine dining and specialty boutiques. "They're working with the concept that this is a regional project, not just serving the city," Pfeiffer said.

Reach Claire St. John at 427-6955 or

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

California has edge in scramble for biotech, Public Policy Institute of California study says

Posted on Wed, Apr. 27, 2005

State has edge in scramble for biotech, study says

By Steve JohnsonMercury News

Given California's plans to pour $3 billion into a stem-cell research initiative, plus its top universities and skilled labor force, it should have little trouble retaining its national lead in biotechnology, a new study has concluded.

But because of its high cost of living, the state may need government help fending off competition from other states vying for biotech manufacturing facilities, according to the report made public Tuesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.

``No other state has so much biotech R&D capacity and so many biotech products in the pipeline,'' the report said. But California nevertheless faces competition from other states eager to lure business their way.

The study found that there has been a trickle of biotech businesses migrating out of the state over the years.

Fifty-two biotech businesses moved out of the state from 1990 through 2001, while only 45 moved into California during that period, the study noted. But the state saw a net increase in biotech jobs as a result of that in-and-out migration.

That migration was only a small proportion of the 5,589 biotech establishments that existed in California at some time during that period, the study authors said. The study defined an establishment as a business unit that could be a firm or a branch of a firm.
And while Junfu Zhang, one of the study's co-authors, said he hasn't fully analyzed more recent data, he said the trend appears to be continuing.

``To have very good biotech firms, you have to have top-notch scientists, and California is very strong on that front,'' Zhang said. ``But in terms of manufacturing, I see that as a legitimate concern.''

The report recommended among other things that California government officials maintain high levels of financing for state universities and provide incentives to encourage regional biotech manufacturing clusters, such as the one that has sprung up in Vacaville.

Although the report noted that almost every state has efforts under way to develop biotech economies, California has a considerable head start. Part of that is due to its talented workers, many universities and long tradition of venture capital investment.
California also boasts nearly 40 percent of the nation's biotech employees and public biotech companies, and more than half of biotech-industry revenues.

Another big plus is Proposition 71, the measure approved by voters in November, which authorized the state to spend $3 billion in public money over the next 10 years on stem-cell research.

``Proposition 71 will almost surely tilt the playing field in favor of California,'' the report said. ``It has the potential to make the state a magnet for bioscientists and a training center for coming generations of bioscientists.''

Contact Steve Johnson at or (408) 920-5043.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

University of the Pacific’s Eberhardt School of Business release on the economy

University of the Pacific’s Eberhardt School of Business release on the economy

Highlights of the California Forecast

Payroll employment forecast to grow at 2.0% per year over 2005-2007

High growth Sectors: Professional and Business Services, Information and Construction.

Gross State Product to grow at nearly 5.5% 2005-2007

Unemployment rising slowly from 5.7% to 6.0% (2005-2007)

Housing starts peak in 2005 and fall slightly in 2006-2007, as mortgage rates rise.

Highlights of Vallejo/Fairfield/Napa, CA SMSA

Total personal income is expected to increase above the state average growth rate as the employment outlook is strong.

After experiencing marginal growth in the past few years, total employment is expected to increase an average of 3.5% through the next three years.

Professional and business services are predicted to have the greatest growth of 9% while creating over 3,000 additional jobs by 2007. Population is expected to continue to rise as Bay Area workers continue to migrate east in search of affordable housing. The influx will cause employment in construction to grow an average of 4%. Information, leisure and hospitality are forecasted to grow at an average of 4%, due in part to the growth in the popularity of wineries.

Although manufacturing employment is down on average throughout the state, manufacturing in this metro is predicted to continue to grow as firms like biotech giant Genentech and biodiesel producer Bio-Energy Systems grow.

However, state and local government will remain the largest employment sector with 33,000 jobs by 2007.

Unemployment is predicted to decline slightly as total employment outstrips the growth in population.

Solis Plaza, the future home of the La Cabana Restaurant, is expected to get the commission's support

Article Last Updated: Monday, Apr 25, 2005 - 10:19:33 pm PDT

Commission to consider Main Street construction

By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Plans for the first new building on Main Street in more than 15 years goes before the Suisun City Planning Commission for a public hearing tonight. Solis Plaza, the future home of the La Cabana Restaurant, is expected to get the commission's support before the Suisun City Council takes a look at the proposal later this month. La Cabana's owner, Ramses Solis, wants to build a narrow-fronted, two-story building that would have the restaurant filling the first floor and apartments filling the second. It is designed in a modern, Mediterranean style with parapets, wrought iron, large windows, awnings and an outdoor seating area. Solis wants to put the building up at a vacant lot he owns at 423 Main St., only about 60 feet down the east side of Main Street from the building he currently leases.

"It is a landmark project," Suisun City Community Development Director Gerry Raycraft said of the privately funded building. Solis has run the popular La Cabana Restaurant since 1990 and spent the last 18 months in talks with the city over his project and lining up the right architect, PDF Design of Suisun Valley.

Solis' project lands before the commission right at the time Suisun City is reviving efforts to economically revive the west side of Main Street by bringing in a master developer. Suisun City leaders are expected to name a master developer who will oversee redevelopment projects in the old town within the next two months. The list of finalists is down to fourThe Suisun City Planning Commission meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Suisun City Council chamber at 701 Civic Center Blvd.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or

Valero Acquisition may make firm North America's largest oil refiner

Article Published: Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Valero becomes oil player

Acquisition may make firm North America's largest oil refiner

By GREG MOBERLY, Times-Herald staff writer

BENICIA - Valero Energy Corp. announced Monday that it plans to acquire Connecticut-based Premcor Inc. in an $8 billion transaction, making the Texas-based company North America's largest oil refiner.

Once completed, the deal could be beneficial to motorists paying high prices at the pump, said Valero Energy Corp. President Greg King. But prices are more driven by the price of crude oil, he added.

In announcing merger terms, King said Valero intends to keep all four Premcor refineries, make improvements adding refining capacity and potentially increase the number of refinery employees.

"That's our history," King said.

Valero bought the Benicia refinery from Exxon in 2000, and grew its operation a few years ago when it bought Ultramar Diamond Shamrock.

King said Valero has increased its operations by 380,000 barrels per day since 1997.
The Premcor merger means Valero will have 19 refineries in North America, including refineries in Canada and the Caribbean.

Valero's total refining capacity will be beefed up to 3.3 million barrels per day.
"Size means something in our business," King said. He said the pending Premcor deal will allow Valero to enter the Midwest refining market.

Premcor's refineries are in Port Arthur, Texas, Delaware City, Del., Memphis, Tenn. and Lima, Ohio.

Investors seem agreeable to the pending merger.

Both Valero and Premcor stocks, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, closed for the day with Premcor posting a $10.70 gain, ending the day at $69.70 a share.

Premcor is a "like-minded company" in its interest in taking in cheaper sour crude oil, King said. Valero and Premcor have refineries capable of processing the heavier, cheaper crude, he said.
The Federal Trade Commission must first approve the deal.

Both companies hope to complete the transaction by the end of the year. No changes will be made to Valero's senior management, according to a Valero press release.
A Premcor official did not return a call for comment.

The pending deal would put Valero ahead of Exxon-Mobil and Conoco Phillips in refining capacity.

Valero has more than 4,700 retail and wholesale branded stores in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. Store names include Diamond Shamrock, Shamrock, Ultramar, Valero and Beacon.

Premcor does not operate any stores, but it does supply unbranded transportation fuels heating oil, petrochemical feedstocks, petroleum coke and other petroleum products.

- E-mail Greg Moberly at or call 553-6833.

Jelly Belly named 'best company tour'

Article Published: Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Jelly Belly named 'best company tour'

Reader's Digest bestows honor to candy maker

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Times-Herald staff writer

A visit to see how Fairfield's Jelly Belly Candy Company makes its treats was named Reader's Digest's "Best Company Tour in America," it was announced Monday.

The Pleasantville, N.Y.-based magazine's May issue, available now, contains its editors' choice of the "Best of America" in a variety of categories.

"The editorial team of reader's Digest scoured the country to compile the second annual "America's 100 Best" issue, naming the 100 best people, places, ideas and innovations found only in America," according to an official Reader's Digest statement.

Jelly Belly spokeswoman Tomi Holt said she was contacted by Reader's Digest officials early this year and was asked a number of questions.

"They seemed to be impressed by the fact that the tours are free and by the sheer number of people who come," Holt said. "Everyone at Jelly Belly is over the moon about this."
Rosie Miles of Fairfield is general manager of Jelly Belly's visitor center. She said learning of the Reader's Digest honor was a "wonderful surprise."

"They apparently just came in on their own and didn't tell anyone who they were, and the next thing we learn we're going to be featured. It's a very nice compliment," said Miles, who's said she's been with the firm for almost a dozen years.

"I'm a decorator by trade, and I helped design the building the colors," Miles said. "This was just an empty plot of dandelions seven years ago."

During the 40-minute walking tour, Jelly Belly tour guides show visitors through a real working candy factory where more than 150 different sweets are made, Miles said. Visitors walk along a catwalk above the action, and are treated to samples, she added.

The visitor center also features a caf, one element Holt and Miles said they think sets the Jelly Belly tour apart from the "hundreds, if not thousands" of other firms offering tours. Holt said that between 400,000 and half a million visitors from all over the world take the tour each year.
"The numbers were increasing every year, but after 9/11 it leveled off. The numbers are climbing back up now," Holt said. "Some 30 percent to 40 percent of the visitors are from out of state, and we get international visitors, too. And not just children. Seniors are the second largest group after school kids."

"You'd be surprised how many children come through here," Miles added. "It's not unusual to have eight to 10 buses of little ones at once. It's a very lively, very happy place."

Jelly Belly's roots are traced back to the Goelitz family of Germany.

Two Goelitz brothers, Gustav and Albert, immigrated to the United States in 1867. Two years later, Gustav Goelitz bought a Belleville, Ill. ice cream and candy store, and his brother Albert sold their wares from a horse drawn wagon.

The family's second generation continued the candy-making tradition, creating "buttercream" candies, including Candy Corn, which the firm's made since about 1900. Today, Gustav Goelitz' great-grandsons carry on the tradition, the company Web site says.

The Web site says that though the first modern jelly bean ancestor appeared in the 1800s, jelly candies have been around for thousands of years.

The Jelly Belly Visitor Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and factory tours operate about every 15 minutes daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except major holidays. The factory will be closed for maintenance this summer.

For more information 1-800-9-JELLYBEAN (1-800-953-5592), or visit

The idea for the jelly bean, which owes much of its fame to being the late president Ronald Reagan's favorite candy, was born in Los Angeles in 1976. That year a candy distributor contacted the Herman Goelitz Candy Co., (now Jelly Belly) with his idea for a jelly bean made with natural flavorings. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ron Rowland, Vacaville's assistant city manager and community development director, announced his retirement effective Nov. 1.

Article Launched: 04/26/2005 07:34:43 AM

After double duty, he will be retiring

By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

Ron Rowland, Vacaville's assistant city manager and community development director, announced his retirement effective Nov. 1.

Ron Rowland, Vacaville's assistant city manager and community development director, has announced his retirement, effective Nov. 1.

Rowland, who has been with the city since 1992, said it's time to do something different.
"It seems like the right time to retire and reflect on my future," the 56-year-old said.
Rowland has worked in community development in different cities for 27 years. He started with Vacaville in 1992 as the assistant director of community development. Five years ago, Rowland moved into the top position in that department.

When David Van Kirk took over Vacaville's city manager job in 2003, Rowland became assistant city manager - adding another set of duties to his job description. He said it's been worth it.
"I've had different jobs with the city and I've enjoyed them all," Rowland said. "It was actually pretty difficult to decide to retire, because I really enjoy working for Vacaville."

Van Kirk said the recruitment process for Rowland's successor already has been set in motion. Advertisements in industry publications will begin to appear in May, he said. He anticipates a five- to six-month process leading up to the hiring of a new community development director.
Van Kirk said Rowland, with whom he's worked for 13 years, will be a tough act to follow.
"I think he's one of the best in his profession," Van Kirk said. "He's just been unbelievable."
Van Kirk said Rowland brings a dimension of compromise and empathy to City Hall - much needed with the bevy of assorted projects the city's involved with.
"He's really had a knack at being a really calming influence," Van Kirk said.

Rowland said he and his wife plan to keep living in Vacaville. While he said he's likely done in public service, he said he hasn't ruled out the private sector. He said he'll take time come November to spend time with his family and ponder what's next.
"It seems like it might be enjoyable to do something else," he said.

Tom Hall can be reached at

Dixon Fair promises to be at its best

Article Launched: 04/26/2005 07:34:43 AM

Fair promises to be at its best

By Reporter Staff

When the 130th annual Dixon May Fair opens May 5 for a four-day run to the theme, "What a Ride," it promises to be the biggest and best in its history, fair officials said.

The legendary Willie Nelson on Thursday night, the southern rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd on Friday night, and the return of the demolition derby on Saturday and Sunday nights will highlight the fair, the oldest in California.

"The little ol' town of Dixon will rock," said fair manager Mike Green.

The Willie Nelson concert, with guest star Jackie Greene, opens at 7:30 p.m. May 5, while the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, with guest star Nothin'Personal, opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The Demolition Derby is back after a 10-year absence. Derby action begins at 7 each night with a full venue, three heats and a main event, with a combined purse of $6,000.

Country and rock music will showcase on many of the stages during the four-day fair. The country groups include the Michael Thomason Band of San Francisco, Fred McCarty and Company and Becca from Santa Clara, Tim Murphy of San Jose, River Run of Sonoma, and Pardi, a country group from Dixon. Other area groups performing include Push Play, based in Solano County and Four Barrel, headquartered in the county, plus Last Mile, Stevenson Bridge and Four on the Floor, all home-grown talent from Dixon.

"We have an absolutely amazing Mexican line-up (including Banda Limon) for the Dia de las Madres celebration on Sunday," Green said. "And the Ballet Folklorico, a local children's dance group, is back."

Fairgoers can be hypnotized by the Hypnosis Company, laugh at the antics of the Swan Brothers Circus, marvel at the rodeo performers known as the Painted Ladies, and get lost in the Mitchell Showboat Marionettes' production of "Bluebeard's Folly, a Pirate's Tale."

They can call hogs at the hogcalling contest at 3:30 p.m. May 5, milk a cow in the cowmilking contest at 6 p.m. May 6, and watch daily oldtime crafts such as blacksmithing, tinsmithing, paper making, and spinning and weaving. Other events include a diaper derby, cooking contests, livestock shows, a wine tasting and sipping pavilion.

One of the new attractions is the rodeo performing group from Sacramento known as the Painted Ladies. They ride paint horses and do reining, trick riding and high-speed maneuvers. They will perform daily shows, including two on May 7.

The Painted Ladies also will ride in the Dixon May Fair Parade, which begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 7. They appeared in the 2005 Tournament of Roses Parade.

Fairgoers can purchase prime market beef, lamb, goat, pork, chicken and quail at the Junior Livestock Auction, set for 12:30 p.m., May 7 in the Livestock Showcase. Butler Amusements is offering two Pay-One Price Days or Wristband Days.

They are May 5 from 4 to 10 p.m. and May 6 from noon until 6 p.m. The purchase of a $20 bracelet allows one to to ride unlimited rides on Pay-One-Price Day for the specific six hours. Fairgoers may purchase the wristbands in the carnival area during the fair.

The fair is located at 655 S. First St. Hours are: Thursday, May 5: 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, May 6: 12 noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, May 7: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, May 8: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Gates open two hours earlier on Thursday and Sunday than they did last year, Green noted.
The general admission price, for ages 13 to 64, during the fair is $10. Other admission prices during the fair are: senior citizens (ages 65 and up), $8, and youths (ages 5 to 12), $6. Toddlers (ages 4 and under) are admitted free. Active duty and reserve U.S. military personnel are admitted free with proper identification. On Kids' Day, Friday, May 6, children 12 and under are admitted free.

Further information is available by telephoning the fair office at (707) 678-5529 or accessing the

Web site at

"Welcome to Fairfield" freeway sign featuring a smiling Mr. Jelly Belly should soon beckon potential visitors to the city.

Article Last Updated: Wednesday, Apr 20, 2005 - 12:18:52 am PDT

City ready to embrace giant Mr. Jelly Belly

By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - A red, 62-foot-high "Welcome to Fairfield" freeway sign featuring a smiling Mr. Jelly Belly should soon beckon potential visitors to the city. The Fairfield City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously in favor of allowing the sign. The council must take one additional vote at its May 3 meeting."I think it's lively and attractive," City Councilwoman Marilyn Farley said. The sign could be up by the end of summer, said Kevin Johnson of the Fairfield Hotel Association. The Fairfield Hotel Association proposed the "Welcome to Fairfield" sign. The association's goal is to get potential visitors off the freeway and into Fairfield and nearby Suisun Valley.

This sign is to be located along Interstate 80 at the auto mall. It is to have a message board and panels promoting a proposed Welcome Center, Jelly Belly, Suisun Valley farms and the auto mall. Near the top of the sign is to be an 8-foot-tall, three-dimensional version of Mr. Jelly Belly, the mascot for the Jelly Belly Candy Co. Jelly Belly is already a city tourist attraction.

Mayor Karin MacMillan mentioned the sign's height, which tops the 45-foot limit in the city's sign laws. She expressed concern about setting a precedent. But Johnson saw a difference between the "Welcome to Fairfield" sign and a typical freeway advertising sign."This is not any one particular business, per se," Johnson said. "This is the community-at-large."She agrees, MacMillan said. But that doesn't stop someone else coming forward asking for an exception and saying that the city did it for the welcome sign, she said.MacMillan also asked that the sign mention that Fairfield is home to Travis Air Force Base. But Travis is not a tourist destination, Johnson said. It would create a headache for the base to send tourists there, he said.

City Councilman Jack Batson mentioned the importance of the sign in promoting Suisun Valley. The rural area west of town has produce stands and wineries. Fairfield's longstanding policy has been to avoid developing the valley and leave it in agriculture - something that is easier to do if the farmers are successful.

Other signs that exceed the city's sign height limit are the 80-foot-tall Westfield Shoppingtown Solano Mall arch and the 55-foot-tall Saturn sign.

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

The State Department of Education lauds Vanden, Rodriguez Fairfield-Suisun high schools

Article Last Updated: Wednesday, Apr 20, 2005 - 12:18:51 am PDT

State lauds Vanden, Rodriguez high schools

By Audrey Wong

- Rodriguez and Vanden high schools are among the state's best.

The State Department of Education announced the 192 distinguished middle and high schools Tuesday - choosing both Rodriguez and Vanden for the honor. Mare Island Technology Academy High School in Vallejo is also among the winners.

Rodriguez Principal Kevin French said the honor reaffirms his feelings about his school.

"I tell people we're a great school," French said. "It's nice for people to come from the outside and validate that."

This is the first time Rodriguez received the title in its four-year history. The only other Fairfield-Suisun high school with distinguished status in the 20-year history of the award was Armijo High School in 1988. Vanden High School was named a distinguished school in 1994.

The state alternates years where it judges elementary schools and middle and high schools for distinguished school status. To qualify for the title, schools must have high state test scores.

Schools must prove that they demonstrate excellence in several themes and areas, French said. Teachers and administrators must show they are teaching state educational standards and their students understand those standards. The state looks at what each school's visions are and what they are doing to reach those goals, French said.

Evaluators who visited Rodriguez for the distinguished school award could sense that the school's school staff embraced the school's vision, French said.

"Our theme for our school is 'Success for all and failure is not an option,' " French said. "It kind of drives a lot of our activities. We want all students to be successful at every level. We don't want to give students options of failing."

The state also examines whether curriculums are relevant to state standards, how rigorous courses are and relationships between school staff and students.

Vanden Principal Sheila McCabe said evaluators who visited her campus spoke enthusiastically about the school's culture.

"They could sense people really liked Vanden High School," McCabe said. "You really got the sense that people cared about each other. When kids talked about (school) being comfortable, proud, enriching and competitive. They said it felt like home, safe and welcoming. We focus on diversity, staff members are encouraging. It's kind of neat how evaluators talked more about the feeling they got spending the day here."

Reach Audrey Wong at 427-6951 or at

Vacaville Council approves condo conversion

Article Last Updated: Wednesday, Apr 20, 2005 - 12:18:50 am PDT

Council approves conversion

By Claire St. John

VACAVILLE - The Planning Commission unanimously approved the conversion of senior apartments to senior condominiums on Tuesday night.The issue initially caused a stir among the residents of Oaks Senior Apartments on Eastwood Drive, and some moved out before Christmas."When we notified the residents of our intent to file a subdivision map, a lot of them left," said Chris Valeriote, president of Terra Nova Development, Inc., which owns the apartment complex.Soon after, Phil Venable, a Contra Costa County inspector who lives in Vacaville, suggested that Valeriote consider offering residents 62 and older a lifetime lease on their units."Most of the residents felt they'd be unable to afford to buy their units," Venable said. "They didn't want this sort of disruption in their lives."

Valeriote agreed and went one step further. If tenants did choose to leave, he said, Terra Nova Development would offer $1,000 for moving expenses, an immediate deposit refund and lots of rent reductions if they chose to move to one of the several other senior complexes Valeriote runs in Vacaville and Fairfield."When residents heard they would have a lifetime lease, a great deal of joy and relief filled the room," Venable said.Valeriote, who said he builds senior housing as if his mother would live there, said he was happy with the arrangement. "What I bring before you is the best win-win situation I could've imagined," Valeriote told the commission.

Because the 78 two-bedroom apartments were approved in 2000 as senior housing - allowing the developer to build more apartments per acre and receive some tax breaks - the condominiums will only be available to buyers 55 and over.Valeriote said he has no intention of turning his other senior apartment complexes into condominium complexes, but Venable told the commission that a law needs to be in place in case future complex owners aren't as honorable as Valeriote. The item would have to be put on an agenda by a City Council member, and Venable said he's already discussed a lifetime lease law with a councilman.

Contact Claire St. John at 427-6955 or

Lewis Planned Communities create a new Villages at Fairfield community with 2,327 residences.

Article Last Updated: Wednesday, Apr 20, 2005 - 12:18:53 am PDT

A developer envisions housing and green space called the Villages at Fairfield on a large plot of land north of the city.

Housing envisioned for Tooby land

By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - Northeast Fairfield is the land of rare Contra Costa goldfield flowers, vernal pools, remains of a historic cement operation and two modern cement operations.It's also the city's last major planned-growth frontier. If Fairfield is going to find new ways to combine the "smart growth" ideas in its General Plan with the modern American subdivision on a big scale, this is the location. Northeast Fairfield is a place of promise and constraints.Wanted: A developer to create a piece of suburbia that invites walking rather than driving. Just make sure those walkers avoid treading on a Contra Costa goldfield. Lewis Planned Communities will try to meet the City Council's expectations, build around the constraints and create a new Villages at Fairfield community with 2,327 residences.

"I think it will be a landmark for Fairfield," City Councilman Jack Batson said. "I think it will attract a lot of bright, modern people to it and help put Fairfield on the cutting edge of urban living."The Planning Commission and City Council on April 27 will discuss the draft environmental study on the Villages at Fairfield. They will also hold a study session on the Villages.

They meet at 7 p.m. in the council chamber at 1000 Webster St.The developer's visionLewis Planned Communities has a vision for the Villages at Fairfield that is summed up in a booklet with photographs and artist renderings.The raw material Lewis has to work with is 433 acres of land that used to be part of the Tooby cattle ranch. This land isn't in a nice, neat square, but is spread out like a lopsided "L."Lewis wants to build homes on various-size lots. It proposes parks, wetland preserves, a shopping center, a school, trails, a Linear Park bike trail extension along a railroad right-of-way and apartments.Among the key proposed features is a Homecomings apartment complex at Clay Bank Road.

But it would be unlike any apartments Fairfield has. For one thing, it would be big, with more than 600 units. Some apartments would have garages. Homecomings in other areas offer residents such benefits as field trips, a gym, a library and movie nights.An advertisement for a Southern California version calls Homecomings a "lifestyle neighborhood" where people rent instead of buy."Which means you don't have to worry about a mortgage, yard work or home maintenance and you're surrounded by more of the things that make life fun and relaxing," the advertisement said.In coming months, Lewis will try to merge its ideas for the Villages with those from a City Council that has strong ideas about growth. Smart growth in suburbiaCity Councilwoman Marilyn Farley wants the development's Laurel Creek Plaza shopping center toward the middle of the Villages. Then, along with the park and school, it would form a neighborhood hub easily reached by foot and bike. Fairfield needs to do something like this if it's serious about "smart growth," Farley said.

But the developer wants to build Laurel Creek Plaza at the corner of Air Base Parkway and Clay Bank Road. Then the supermarket, drug store, shops and gas station could easily be reached by drivers from a wide area. Batson wants walking paths and trails in the Villages. But he sees a limit to how much people will walk for chores. They'll likely drive to do such things as the weekly grocery shopping trip, he said.He sees the trails and paths as good for recreation.City Councilman Harry Price said having a good trails can make a difference for the Villages' planned elementary school. He wants parents living in the Villages to feel safe having their children bike or walk."If we do this well, we won't have a great number of concerned parents who transport their kids to school," he said. "We won't have that huge queue of station wagons and vans."Price is concerned about home prices in the Villages. "My fear is the price tag will get beyond so many people," Price said. "I hope it is affordable, whatever that means anymore, to our military community." Flowers, concrete and history.

But then there are those constraints. The northeast growth area contains some of the most significant Contra Costa goldfield populations remaining in the world, a 1994 city study said.These flowers grow near vernal pools, which are clay-lined depressions associated with such rare creatures as the vernal pool fairy shrimp. One part of the northeast growth area has about 100,000 plants.But the flower is scarcer on the 433 acres targeted for the Villages. A draft environmental study found only about 100 flowers, all in a group near the proposed shopping center. These could become part of a small preserve. Other preserves scattered amid the development would protect wetlands. "It sounds a little cliché to say it, but we've tried to take a constraint and turn in into an opportunity," said William Mellerup of Lewis Planned Communities. In this case, the opportunity is open space for the community. About 30 percent of the Villages will be open space, Mellerup said.

Then there's the area's history. Pacific Cement Co. operated a cement factory in this area from 1902 to 1928, complete with a company town. The environmental study found little left worth saving. Batson found something though. "I have a high interest in preserving the kilns of Cement," he said. These ruins have several 18-foot-high lime kilns and a 40-foot-high cylinder that may have been a chimney, the environmental study said. The site is located near Cement Hill Road and is not targeted for homes under the Lewis plan. Lewis will give the kiln site to Fairfield for a park, Mellerup said. A regional bike trail will run by the park. Mellerup talked of putting a plaque near the kilns memorializing the old cement operation.

Another challenge is two modern-day cement operations in the area. Concrush concrete recycling and Rinker Materials - formerly Solano Concrete - are located near proposed homes. A 10-foot-high masonry wall between the Concrush plant and the homes should block the noise from the cement operation, the environmental study said. An eight-foot wall will separate the homes and Rinker. Truck traffic is to use Manuel Campos Parkway."We can co-exist," Mellerup said.

Water runoff poses still another challenge. New rules by the Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board seek to reduce the amount of pavement in developments. The goal is to have stormwater soak into the ground where it can be filtered of pollutants, not run directly into stormdrains and, ultimately, creeks and Suisun Marsh. Villages at Fairfield is to have such features as homes with downspouts routed to vegetative areas. Stormwater is to run through grassy swales and basins. Driveways would be sloped so they drain onto the lawns, not the street. The community will be the first in Fairfield to incorporate such features on a large scale, Mellerup said."This is the test case," he said.

For now, the Villages at Fairfield remains only a vision. Now the city and developer must make certain they have a shared vision for the city's growth frontier."It's going to be a good, lively discussion," Price said.

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

Solano County Mayors delegation makes headway at U.S. Capitol

Article Published: Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Mayors lobby for federal funding
Solano County delegation makes headway at Capitol

By CHRIS G. DENINA, Times-Herald staff writer

For the past few years, Solano County officials have made the rounds in Washington, D.C., asking U.S. lawmakers for more money for local transportation projects.

This year, though, some officials now visiting Capitol Hill said they're edging closer to getting all the federal dollars needed for at least one key project, Vallejo Station. The proposed waterfront parking garage and transit center could cost an estimated $56 million.

If the city gets the remaining $8 million or so needed, construction could begin as early as next year, Vallejo Mayor Tony Intintoli Jr. said. Even if the city only gets part of the requested amount, every bit helps, he said.

"It's certainly worth the effort," Intintoli said by phone from Washington, Monday. "If we didn't make the effort, we wouldn't get anything."

Intintoli is part of a county delegation seeking more than $81 million in federal funding for local transportation projects, including the transit center.

The group plans to finish its two-day lobbying trip today. The delegation includes Suisun City Mayor Jim Spering, Dixon Mayor Mary Ann Courville and Rio Vista Mayor Ed Woodruff and Executive Director Daryl Halls of the Solano Transportation Authority.
Their schedule today includes meetings with Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, and Washington representatives for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif.

"The idea is to keep our projects high profile," Intintoli said. The Solano County group has visited Washington every year since 2000 to seek more money, he said.

This year, the group is asking for another $50 million for a project that would help ease traffic at a freeway bottleneck in Fairfield. The interchange at state Route 12 and Interstates 80 and 680 is prone to congestion, officials said.

The delegation also is requesting another $23 million for improvements to Jepson Parkway. The road between Vacaville and Suisun City serves as an alternative route to Interstate 80, which runs parallel to the parkway, officials said.

The three transportation projects all tie together, said Mike Wilson, chairperson of the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce board.

Unless traffic is eased on Interstate 80 in Fairfield, commuters will have trouble getting to Vallejo to take the city's ferry service, he said. And unless Vallejo Station is built, those ferry riders will have inadequate room to park, he added.
"I'd rate the traffic situation as bad," Wilson said.

On Monday, the group met with representatives for Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

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

Business services firms find new home in Vacaville

Article Last Updated: Monday, Apr 18, 2005 - 10:17:33 pm PDT

Business services firms find new home

By Matthew Bunk

VACAVILLE - Four firms that specialize in business services will move into a new location to provide a "one-stop shop" for small business owners' financial and insurance needs.Joining forces are: PayRoll Partners, Inc.; Ronald P. Konkle, CPA; Professional Business Services Group; and Mojica Insurance Agency. Those firms will move into a building at 609 Merchant St. later this month.

Though they will operate as separate companies, they share the same goal of providing "everything you need to start a business or, if you are a business, to get into compliance," said Manuel Cosme, president of PayRoll Partners and a board member of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. Another shared goal is to serve the Spanish-speaking community, Cosme said. All of the businesses have multi-lingual professionals on staff, and many of them have a high percentage of Hispanic clients."Our goal is to get our business clients into the mainstream," he said.

All but Santa Rosa-based Mojica Insurance had operated together in a different location in downtown Vacaville. The move was intended to increase visibility and for easier access, Cosme said. "Now we're easier to get to," he said. "It's a one-stop shop."The 2,500-square-foot building was once the home of Ramirez Overhead Doors, a business that moved recently a few doors down on Merchant Street.

Strapped for cash, Large Scale Biology borrows

Article Last Updated: Monday, Apr 18, 2005 - 10:18:54 pm PDT

Strapped for cash, Large Scale Biology borrows

By Matthew Bunk

FAIRFIELD - The most venerable biotech firm in Vacaville wiggled out of an immediate financial crisis by borrowing money from its chief executive.And it's not the first time the company borrowed money from Kevin Ryan. Ryan, the top executive at Large Scale Biology, loaned the firm $3 million last week to overcome a cash shortage which has threatened its viability for more than a year. That was on top of his $600,000 loan to Large Scale last month. If the loans are not repaid, Ryan would be able to claim ownership of "certain intellectual property," according to a report to investors.

But it's not clear if cash will ease the long-term challenges facing Large Scale, which has posted quarterly losses of more than $4 million for the past year after downsizing maneuvers that include cutting its workforce by about half and stopping all early stage product development. The company's financial statements have for some time reflected doubt about its ability to continue operating. An annual report issued Friday reiterated those concerns. Large Scale's cash balance as of Dec. 31 was $1.1 million, while losses for the year stood at a crippling $14.6 million.

The firm has since borrowed money from several sources to pay operating expenses."The current rate of cash usage raises substantial doubt about the (c)ompany's ability to continue as a going concern, absent any new sources of significant cash flows," the report stated.Large Scale Biology has operated in Vacaville since 1987, focusing on development and manufacturing of biotech products. It uses tobacco leaves to grow proteins used for medical purposes.The company was the first notch in Vacaville's growing life science belt, which now consists of biotech giants Genentech Inc. and Alza Corp.

But money problems stymied Large Scale's growth since its big contracts began winding down a few years ago. Cost-cutting slowed the outflow of cash, but it needs to sign new product deals to sustain its operating costs, according to the annual financial statement. Loans from research partners and its executives will only solve the short-term problems."We expect the negative operating cash flows to continue throughout 2005 at a similar rate as 2004," the statement indicates. "However, this rate of cash usage is not sustainable for a long-term period." Our ability to develop our products and sustain operations will require subsequent funding through collaborations, or debt or equity financing in the short term and product sales in the long term."

In another development announced along with the release of the annual report, Large Scale's independent financial auditing firm ended its contract with the biotech company. Large Scale noted that there were no disagreements with its auditor, Deloitte & Touche, LLP.

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

Farmers markets set for May openings

Article Last Updated: Monday, Apr 18, 2005 - 10:38:13 pm PDT

Farmers markets set for May openings

By Ian Thompson

FAIRFIELD - May will be go-to-market time for shoppers in both Suisun City and Fairfield when downtown areas in both cities open their seasonal farmers markets. The Suisun City Waterfront Open Market will start on May 7 with gourmet foods, antiques, entertainment, cooking demonstrations and a free outdoor movie at dusk. A pianist will perform during the market and cooking demonstrations will be held by the Athenian Grill and 627 Main restaurants. About 30 vendors are expected to be at the market including The Vegetable Patch. Suisun City has brought on Debbie Kiikvee of Do Me A Favor Weddings and Special events to organize the four markets which will be held on the first Saturdays of May, June, July and August. The markets will open at 10 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. For more information about the Waterfront Open Market, call 428-4970.

The Fairfield Downtown Association opens its first Certified Farmers Market of 2005 May 5 in its new home - the plaza in front of the Solano County Government Center. The downtown Fairfield markets will run from 4 to 8 p.m. every Thursday through Oct. 6 under its new manager, the Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association. More than two dozen vendors are expected to offer a wide variety of produce. Live music and free children's arts and crafts projects will be offered on the plaza between 5 and 7 p.m. To celebrate Cinco De Mayo, Ballet Folklorico will perform and the market's arts and crafts project that day will have a Cinco De Mayo theme. For more information about the Fairfield Certified Farmers Market, call (800) 949-FARM.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Monday, April 25, 2005

Every city in Solano County is the most populous with its name in the United States.

Article Last Updated: Sunday, Apr 24, 2005 - 10:41:16 pm PDT

Rio Vista, Dixon population kings, too

By Brad Stanhope

FAIRFIELD - Every city in Solano County is the most populous with its name in the United States. While Fairfield is the most popular name of the county's seven cities - nearly half the states have a Fairfield - Rio Vista and Dixon are also the largest towns by their names in the nation.

There appears to be only one other Rio Vista in the U.S. - Rio Vista, Texas, a town southwest of Dallas with a population of 656. There are plenty of neighborhoods and retirement areas and apartments called Rio Vista, which means "river view" in Spanish, but only the Texas town. Solano County's Rio Vista has 5,682 residents, according to the latest estimate.

There are more Dixons, but the 16,103 people in the Solano County version give it 162 more residents than Dixon, Ill. - which is where Ronald Reagan lived from seventh grade until he left for college. There are also Dixons in Missouri, Kentucky, Iowa and Wyoming, but all are significantly smaller.

The county's other four cities - Vallejo, Benicia, Vacaville and Suisun City - are the only ones by those names in the nation.

Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6925 or

Genentech's Vacaville's incentives include everything from water rights, to deferral of development impact fees, to sales tax rebates

Article Launched: 04/20/2005 07:34:33 AM

Win-win aura at City Hall re Genentech incentives

By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

The Vacaville Planning Commission unanimously approved an amendment to the city's agreement with biotech giant Genentech that puts in formal terms previously agreed upon incentives for expansion of the company's Vacaville manufacturing facility.

Mike Palombo, the city's economic development manager, called the amendment a legal authority for incentives already laid out in the biotech firm's development agreement with the city. Those incentives include everything from water rights, to deferral of development impact fees, to sales tax rebates.

An expansion of the plant currently under construction stands to double the size of the facility, and Palombo said that the amendment stands to update the incentives to coordinate with the full scope of the project.

Genentech's Mike Edwards said the amendment further strengthened the partnership between Vacaville and the company.

"It's been a great partnership," Edwards told commissioners. "These issues are very key to bolster the growth you see out there."

The City Council is scheduled to hear and approve the Genentech amendment at its May 10 meeting.

Tom Hall can be reached at

Unemployment dips in Solano County to 5.5% vs. 6.8% estimate a year ago

Article Launched: 04/20/2005 08:10:33 AM

Unemployment dips in Solano

By Barbara Smith/Business Writer

The unemployment rate in Solano County was at 5.5 percent in March, down from 6 percent in February and below the year-ago estimate of 6.8 percent, according to a state report.

The Employment Development Department reported the total number of people employed in the county in March was 126,600 compared to 125,400 in February - a difference of 1,200 new jobs. Of those, 200 were farm jobs and 1,000 nonfarm jobs.

Top industries creating or filling positions in March included leisure and hospitality businesses filling 400 new jobs, construction with 200 jobs, and government with 200 jobs.

Preliminary data provided by the state shows the labor force in Solano County is at 209,000, with 197,400 employed and 11,600 unemployed. Vallejo has the highest unemployment rate of 6.9 percent, but the city has the largest labor force in the county - 63,300. Fairfield follows with a labor force of 47,800 and an unemployment rate of 6 percent. Vacaville's labor force is 44,900 with an unemployment rate of 4 percent.

The report also noted that the state is experiencing its lowest unemployment rate since July 2001, when the rate was also 5.4 percent. A year ago, California's unemployment rate was at 6.4 percent.

Barbara Smith can be reached

AmCan Council may take first step in realigning Broadway

Article Published: Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Realigning Broadway being considered

AmCan Council may take first step in untangling traffic

By DAN JUDGE, Times-Herald staff writer

AMERICAN CANYON - The City Council on Thursday will consider awarding a construction bid for the realignment of Broadway, the first step in easing the tangled traffic situation on American Canyon's east side.

"It's been a major circulation improvement that has been planned for years," City Manager Mark Joseph said Tuesday. "When it's done, we should have a much better traffic flow."
The rapid growth of housing subdivisions east of Highway 29 has left the two-lane American Canyon Road and its intersection with Broadway severely overtaxed.
Broadway connects to American Canyon Road just a short distance from a traffic signal on Highway 29. During rush hour when vehicles stack up, a left-hand turn from Broadway is nearly impossible.

Eventually, the city wants to widen American Canyon Road to four lanes to accommodate traffic generated by the 400 to 500 homes in the area.

As part of that project, Broadway will be realigned further east to match up with Silver Oak Trail, an entrance road to the new Vintage Ranch subdivision. A new traffic signal, crosswalk, sidewalk, bike lanes and water main would also be installed.

"By realigning it you have a real intersection, not one of our traditional four-way intersections that don't line up," Joseph said.

The movement of the road will also create more room for the new Veterans Memorial Park being constructed between Highway 29 and Broadway.

The city opened bids on the Broadway realignment project Tuesday and will be analyzing them before presentation to the council on Thursday, Joseph said.

In his report to the council, Public Works Director Robert Weil said he expects the project cost to fall within the city's available budget of $1.3 million.

Vacaville's Large Scale announces possible Alzheimer's breakthrough

Article Last Updated: Wednesday, Apr 20, 2005 - 11:31:26 pm PDT

Large Scale announces possible Alzheimer's breakthrough

By Matthew Bunk

- Researchers might be one step closer to the early detection of Alzheimer's Disease, according to an announcement Wednesday by biotech firm Large Scale Biology Corp. and PerkinElmer Inc., a leading provider of drug discovery.

Vacaville-based Large Scale Biology and Boston-based PerkinElmer said they have found a series of biomarkers that appear to differ in Alzheimer's patients compared to people without cognitive impairment.

The announcement was the result of a study by PerkinElmer and David Bennett, M.D., director of the Alzheimer's Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The collaborative study compared the results using a blood test, making it one of the first studies of its kind to describe a potential for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's. The results were presented last week at a medical conference in Baltimore. However, the results are not definitive. The findings have not yet been verified by independent studies.

The blood analysis was carried out using technologies developed separately by PerkinElmer and Predictive Diagnostics, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Large Scale Biology.Using the technologies, researchers identified patterns of proteins and peptides that distinguish Alzheimer's patients from those without clinical signs of the disease.Large Scale and PerkinElmer said the study shows that their technologies could be crucial to diagnose and treat certain diseases.

"This study demonstrates the power of our comprehensive suite of tools and technologies for biomarker discovery and analysis," said Peter Coggins, president of PerkinElmer Life and Analytical Sciences.

Large Scale says its technology has the capability to detect certain cancers and multiple sclerosis. Company executives believe early detection will reduce health care costs.The two companies, although partners, have drastically different backgrounds and financial situations. While PerkinElmer is a global drug technology leader with 2004 revenues of $1.7 billion and more than 10,000 employees, Large Scale Biology has teetered on the edge of financial crisis for more than a year.

Last week, Large Scale borrowed $3 million from its chief executive, Kevin Ryan. It has stayed afloat for the past year through cost-cutting measures such as trimming its staff by about half and eliminating some early-stage product development. Wednesday's announcement pushed Large Scale's stock price up 6.7 percent to a closing price of 94 cents per share.

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

Vallejo Exporting conference focuses on available help

Article Last Updated: Thursday, Apr 21, 2005 - 10:03:04 pm PDT

Exporting conference focuses on available help

By Matthew Bunk

VALLEJO - Business leaders from the North Bay and beyond gathered here Thursday to learn how exporting can be made easy with the help of the U.S. government.That wasn't the official theme of the North Bay Export Conference, but it may have well been.

More than 100 executives representing companies from wine makers to fuel pump manufacturers showed up at Vallejo's World Classics Auto Museum to hear messages from government agencies which work to enhance U.S. exporting relations.Some of the entrepreneurs were veteran exporters. Others were just beginning to explore the idea of shipping their goods overseas.But nearly all of them learned something from presentations by the U.S. Department of Commerce, event sponsor FedEx, state economic experts and local business advocates."It was definitely worth my time," said John Anderson of Richmond-based Draper and Esquin Wine and Spirits. Anderson was exploring the possibilities of exporting wines to Europe and beyond.

"Not only was it helpful because of the content of the presentations, but it was also good to hear comments from those who've been through the pitfalls of exporting, because not everything is rosy," he said.

That was the flip side of Thursday's presentation - it can be difficult to export without tapping the expertise of federal agencies which specialize in that field.

"The opportunity for exporting is phenomenal, there's a huge potential to make money on foreign business," Vallejo Mayor Tony Intintoli Jr. said. "But there are things to learn before you begin exporting.

"Speakers from various federal commerce agencies - presenters included representatives of the U.S. Commercial Service, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Export/Import Bank of the U.S. and worldwide shipping firm FedEx - claimed to have the answers.

They offered advice on everything from ways to make sure foreign clients make timely payments to how to set up a virtual wine- or food-tasting event at U.S. embassies abroad.The results of consulting with those agencies are immeasurable, said a business owner who runs a software company in Novato."We literally started in a garage, and when we looked at the international market it was like a big black box," said Herb Gottlieb of Attest Computer Auditing. "But with their help we became a global company with 24 international partners."

One Solano County businessman, whose company has exported since the day it began, hoped to learn how to make international sales the largest segment of his company.

Michael Eck is president and chief executive of AcroMetrix, a Benicia-based biomedical firm that specializes in quality-control products and services. His goal is to increase the company's percentage of international sales from 30 percent to 60 percent in the next five years."You've got to have that partnership with the (U.S.) Department of Commerce," he said. "Working with the right people gets your product to the market faster."

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

Vallejo Conference offers tips to would-be exporters

Article Published: Friday, April 22, 2005

Conference offers tips to would-be exporters

By CHRIS G. DENINA, Times-Herald staff writer

Five years ago, Anna Marie Bimenyimana came to the United States, knowing she wanted to start a business serving people in her native Rwanda. Yet she knew little about international trade.

Now, she's the owner of A & B Import Export in Sonoma, shipping used clothing for sale overseas.

"When I decided to open, I didn't know anything about exporting," Bimenyimana said as she was honored Thursday in Vallejo at a conference on exporting.

An estimated 100 people attended the North Bay Export Conference. The Vallejo business community hosted the event to give entrepreneurs a lesson in how they can export products and grow their businesses. The conference targeted companies owned by women and minorities.
Bimenyimana, who was awarded a certificate of achievement from the U.S. Department of Commerce, was among the speakers.
The event was sponsored by the Department of Commerce and the Vallejo Business Alliance, which represents the black, Filipino-American, Hispanic and Vallejo chambers of commerce. It included talks on financing, the key to growing a business and even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's view on exports.

Exporting can help build the state's economy, said Yolanda Benson of the state Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. Benson, who works with the governor, said he wants to build foreign trade relations.

"We have to let them know California is ready to do business," said Benson, the state agency's deputy secretary of jobs, economic development and trade.

But Californians trying to get into the field may find it takes time to learn all the rules, said Heidi Hill of FedEx Services in Oakland, which helps businesses transport goods around the world.
Exporters must know about such matters as tariff codes, customs documentation, duties and taxes, she said, and failing to follow the rules could lead to trouble.

"You're responsible for exporting," Hill said. "You're liable. Do your research."
Once an exporter knows what goods he wants to sell overseas, he needs to consider where he will export those goods, said Michael Elkin of the U.S. Small Business Administration's San Francisco office. Consider the reputation of the country you're exporting to, he said.
"Getting paid can be difficult, not because of the company but because of the issues that are going on in that country," Elkin said, noting political issues.

After the first year of business, an exporter can seek the federal agency's help to grow the company, said Elkin, assistant district director for entrepreneurial development.
The administration helps secure bank loans for small businesses, which often are defined as companies with fewer than 100 employees and less than $5 million in annual sales, he said.
Even with plenty of resources, an exporter still needs to network, said Jonathan Scott of Thunderbolt Enterprises Ltd.

"Relationships is the key to being a good exporter," Scott said.
Scott acts as a broker between buyers and sellers, exporting such products as dental supplies, restaurant equipment and cement additives, he said. His Novato business sends those goods to countries including Russia, Japan and South Korea.

"It all comes down to relationships," Scott said, noting that he likes to know whom he's selling to.
At the end of the conference, Bimenyimana offered another piece of advice. "I certainly encourage everyone to export to Africa," she said, promoting her homeland. "It is a place you can try to do business."

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

Solano health care facilites to receive funding injection

Article Last Updated: Friday, Apr 22, 2005 - 10:49:59 pm PDT

Solano health care to receive funding injection

By Sarah Arnquist

FAIRFIELD - Anticipating that Solano County's population growth will continue, the health-care industry plans to pour millions into future expansion projects here, industry leaders said Friday.

Top executives from Kaiser Permanente, NorthBay Healthcare System and Sutter Health affiliates discussed multimillion dollar expansion projects at a breakfast sponsored by the Solano Economic Development Corp., delighting local government and business representatives.

These investments mean quality improvement for Solano County residents, said Michael Ammann, Solano EDC president."Long term, it gives us a better health-care system within our county for the folks who live here as well as those who will be coming here," Ammann said.

Solano County is the fastest growing county in the Bay Area, projected to increase one-third by 2025. All the local hospitals have recently expanded their emergency departments or have immediate plans to do so to meet the growing need.

The health-care industry is one of the largest employment sectors in Solano County, employing about 12,000 people, according to the Solano EDC.Kaiser expects to bring hundreds of trade jobs to Vacaville while constructing a new hospital and medical office center, and add 1,000 permanent jobs to staff the new facility in 2009, said Deborah Romer, Napa and Solano area manager for Kaiser.

Solano County's greatest need is critical care services, said Gary Passama, NorthBay chief executive officer. NorthBay plans to bring more advanced specialty care to Solano County and someday upgrade its trauma services, he said.The health companies are gambling that Solano's population will continue growing to support the million-dollar capital investments. Based on trends, they agreed the situation looks positive.Kaiser has more construction plans for Solano County than any area in Northern California, Romer said.

"The growth of Solano is unique," Romer said. "We know people are coming here."The health-care providers face some challenges as they grow such as recruiting enough skilled physicians and nurses and managing the growing number of uninsured patients, Passama said.

The average age for doctors and nurses in California is over 50, and the state's high concentration of managed care and high cost of living makes it difficult to recruit younger physicians, said John Ray, chief executive officer of Sutter Regional Medical Foundation.

NorthBay affiliated medical groups have found smaller offices, with fewer physicians close to people's neighborhoods to be the most effective way to grow, Passama said.Sutter has similar expansions planned for Benicia and Rio Vista, Ray said."It's important for us to be where the people live," Passama said.

Reach Sarah Arnquist at 427-6953 or

Health providers reveal construction plans for new investment in Solano County medical facilities

Article Published: Saturday, April 23, 2005

Providers reveal plans for investment in county health

By SARAH ROHRS, Times-Herald staff writer

FAIRFIELD - Solano County's three major health care providers will invest millions, and generate thousands of new jobs as they build more clinics, emergency rooms, hospitals and medical centers to meet the demands of a growing population.

Sutter Solano Medical Center, NorthBay Healthcare System, and Kaiser Permanente executives elaborated on plans Friday at a Solano Economic Development Corporation Member-Investor Breakfast.

The "Future of Healthcare in Solano County" presentation, sponsored by the Times-Herald and The Reporter, drew about 150 corporate, business and public leaders to Rancho Solano Clubhouse.

Solano's health care providers are also incorporating the latest in imaging, radiology and surgical services. Eventually, patients may be able to view medical records online. The largest private Solano County employer, Kaiser Permanente, has launched major new construction in Vallejo and Vacaville.

The $350 million Vallejo medical center, plus the $300 million Vacaville facility will generate between 300 to 1,000 construction jobs daily, said Deborah Romer, Kaiser senior vice president and area manager.

Some 1,000 new jobs could be generated at the two new facilities, she said. The Vallejo hospital tower is slated to open in mid-2008. The Vacaville hospital and medical center is scheduled to open in early 2009.

Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo, meanwhile, is building a new $24 million facility that will hold a cancer center plus medical offices occupied by Sutter Regional Medical Foundation. The 60,000-square foot facility should be completed in November, said Terry Glubka, Sutter Solano's chief executive officer.

Sutter Solano, an affiliate of the Sutter Health care system, began work on a new $5 million emergency department last summer, Glubka said. Emergency room visits are increasing dramatically, she added. In addition, a $9 million renovation of the imaging department should be complete in November, Glubka said.

Sutter Foundation, another Sutter Health system component, is also investing tens of millions to meet area health needs, said John Ray, foundation chief executive officer. It invested $4 million in charity care last year, he said.

The medical foundation recently opened a $35 million outpatient and medical office facility in Fairfield. The organization is pursing plans to replace a clinic in Fairfield, and is also exploring new facilities in Benicia, Vacaville and Rio Vista.

NorthBay Healthcare System is also expanding. Gary Passama, president and chief executive officer, said new projects will primarily meet Fairfield and Vacaville's growth demands. NorthBay services draw a smaller number of American Canyon and Hiddenbrooke residents, he said.

NorthBay has begun a $2.5 million expansion of its North Bay Medical Center hospital, a third primary care center in Fairfield, and a $10.8 million expansion of VacaValley Hospital's emergency department. It recently bought a 20-acre site in Green Valley for more facilities. Both NorthBay and Sutter Solano executives said the new facilities will generate more jobs, but they could not say how many.

-- E-mail Sarah Rohrs at or call 553-6832.

Vacaville Council to discuss future commuter transportation hub

Article Launched: 04/23/2005 08:30:41 AM

Council to discuss transportation hub

By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

Transportation is expected to be the focus of much action when the Vacaville City Council meets Tuesday.

On the agenda are plans to create a transportation hub in central Vacaville for commuters headed to Sacramento and the Bay Area, and also on tap is a request for the council to award a construction contract for revamping the Nut Tree Road overcrossing at Interstate 80.
The City Council will vote on a resolution asking the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for $500,000 to kick-start the environmental process for creating an intermodal station on the northwest corner of Harbison and Ulatis Drives.

The project money would come from a 2004 ballot measure approved by Bay Area voters, raising tolls on seven Bay Area bridges by $1. The extra money was earmarked for local projects that have been determined to reduce congestion or improve travel throughout the Bay Area.
Dale Pfeiffer, Vacaville's public works director, said plans call for a station across Ulatis Drive from the Ulatis Cultural Center because of its central location within Vacaville and its access to
I-80. The city is looking at nine acres there, which are owned by the city's redevelopment agency.

The $500,000 would pay for the environmental phase of the project, Pfeiffer explained. Subsequently, funding for the project in future years would pay for the acquisition of the property and the building of the hub.

The station is the only project Vacaville is planning from its share of the bridge toll funds.
Pfeiffer said the station, which could be completed in three years, would be regionally significant, in that it will provide Vacaville with express mass transit options to both the Sacramento area, as well as the Bay Area. Connections to Bay Area Rapid Transit stations in Pleasant Hill and El Cerrito are planned.

Two hundred on-site parking spots are planned, as well as space for 10 buses and extensive landscaping. A future second phase of the project adjacent to the Harbison/Ulatis station could include a 400-spot parking structure and integrated retail and office spaces.

In other action Tuesday, the council is expected to award a $15.7 million contract to Ghilotti Construction Company for construction of the new I-80-Nut Tree Road overcrossing.
The project, which includes the widening of the overcrossing, realignment of East Monte Vista Avenue and installation two new traffic signals, was projected to cost $14.6 million. Construction is scheduled to begin May 23, and is expected to be completed in the first part of 2006.

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

Tom Hall can be reached at

Vacaville City Council Meeting

7 p.m. Tuesday, City Council Chamber 650 Merchant St.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

1,029 homes were sold in Solano County in March

Article Last Updated: 4/23/2005 07:29 AM

Sales still strong - March numbers show real estate still rules in Solano

By Barbara Smith/Business WriterTheReporter.Com

The real estate sales race is still going strong, considering that 1,029 homes were sold in Solano County in March.

That's 324 more homes sold than the 705 sold in February, according to a recent information service report. While the median sales price in March - $409,000 - dropped $4,000 from February, the March median price is still a roughly 25 percent appreciation compared to last year, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

Linda Green, broker/owner of Century 21 Distinctive Properties, said in January and February, real property was taking somewhat longer to sell, but not in March. And, the inventory is shrinking so multiple offers are what Realtors are dealing with.

"I feel it's still going to be a strong market this year," Green said. "But we need more inventory. We always need more inventory." She added that demand remains stronger than supply.
Green attributes the slight decline in prices to a vast range of properties that sold - from condominiums to newly constructed homes.

Data Quick reported sales for March in the entire Bay Area were at their highest level in 16 years.

A total of 11,310 new and resale houses and condos were sold in the nine-county region in March. That was up 51.5 percent from 7,463 for the previous month, and up 2.7 percent from 11,015 for March of last year. Last month's sales count was the highest for any March since 11,442 homes were sold in March 1989.

"People seem to be increasingly willing to let the homes they live in represent a higher portion of their net worth. I suppose parking wealth in real estate is more attractive than investing in the stock market," Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president, said in a report.

The median price paid for a Bay Area home in March was $568,000, a new record. That was up 3.5 percent from $549,000 in February, and up 19.8 percent from $474,000 for March a year ago.

Also, 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.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Bay Area buyers committed themselves to paying was $2,566 in March, an all-time high. A year ago it was $2,052.

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

Saturday, April 23, 2005

City of Fairfield discusses economic development

Article Last Updated: Wednesday, Apr 13, 2005 - 10:52:20 pm PDT

City discusses economic development

By Matthew Bunk

FAIRFIELD - City leaders had some alternative suggestions, but they mostly liked the ideas for enhancing Fairfield's business structure that were presented at a special meeting Tuesday night.

At the study session, city planners and economic development specialists unveiled a comprehensive 2005 Economic Development Strategy that outlines how city staff will approach business recruitment and retention in the next five years.

The strategy shows a shift in the city's focus from developing business parks to a more rounded approach that includes improving the city's core business districts along the Interstate 80 corridor.

City Council members probed the document and said they wanted staff to present a list of outcomes that will be achieved if the strategy is approved.

The strategy is filled with non-specific goals with no measure of success. Though they approved of the tone of the document, City Council members wanted assurances it would lead to results "we can see."

"I would like to see measurements of success," such as striking a balance between housing and jobs and growing the city's tax base, Councilwoman Marlin Farley said. "That seems to be missing."

The council, and especially Mayor Karin MacMillan, liked that the Economic Development Department is trying to reach out to businesses of various sizes and industries. Concentrating too much on only one type can lead to drastic swings in the city's economy, she noted.

Small businesses actually provide 75 percent of the city's jobs, economic development specialist Rachel Hazlewood said."We intentionally attract small- and mid-sized companies with potential for growth," Planning and Development Director Sean Quinn said.

The discussion explored how to get the word out about Fairfield, what sort of business signs should be allowed within city limits and whether the quality of the local school system affected whether business leaders would move their companies to Fairfield.

At one point, Vice Mayor Harry Price urged economic developers to go after white-collar industries such as law firms. Legal firms, he said, would complement the county's court system in Fairfield.Fairfield should be able to attract more than just "the low-hanging fruit," he said.

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

Fairfield Economic Development Quick Facts

  • Fairfield has 1.4 jobs for every household, more than any other city in Solano County.
  • Seventy-three percent of Fairfield businesses have fewer than 10 employeesn From 1995 until 2004, developers built 7.3 million square feet of retail, office and industrial space.
  • In 1997, the city issued building permits for more than 1 million square feet of commercial space.
  • The average Fairfield resident earned $20,617 in 2000.

Sources: U.S. Census and Fairfield Planning and Development Department

Vallejo Chamber Exporting conference focuses on available help

Exporting conference focuses on available help

By Matthew Bunk

VALLEJO - Business leaders from the North Bay and beyond gathered here Thursday to learn how exporting can be made easy with the help of the U.S. government.

That wasn't the official theme of the North Bay Export Conference, but it may have well been. More than 100 executives representing companies from wine makers to fuel pump manufacturers showed up at Vallejo's World Classics Auto Museum to hear messages from government agencies which work to enhance U.S. exporting relations.

Some of the entrepreneurs were veteran exporters. Others were just beginning to explore the idea of shipping their goods overseas.

But nearly all of them learned something from presentations by the U.S. Department of Commerce, event sponsor FedEx, state economic experts and local business advocates.

"It was definitely worth my time," said John Anderson of Richmond-based Draper and Esquin Wine and Spirits. Anderson was exploring the possibilities of exporting wines to Europe and beyond.

"Not only was it helpful because of the content of the presentations, but it was also good to hear comments from those who've been through the pitfalls of exporting, because not everything is rosy," he said.

That was the flip side of Thursday's presentation - it can be difficult to export without tapping the expertise of federal agencies which specialize in that field.

"The opportunity for exporting is phenomenal, there's a huge potential to make money on foreign business," Vallejo Mayor Tony Intintoli Jr. said. "But there are things to learn before you begin exporting."

Speakers from various federal commerce agencies - presenters included representatives of the U.S. Commercial Service, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Export/Import Bank of the U.S. and worldwide shipping firm FedEx - claimed to have the answers.
They offered advice on everything from ways to make sure foreign clients make timely payments to how to set up a virtual wine- or food-tasting event at U.S. embassies abroad.
The results of consulting with those agencies are immeasurable, said a business owner who runs a software company in Novato.

"We literally started in a garage, and when we looked at the international market it was like a big black box," said Herb Gottlieb of Attest Computer Auditing. "But with their help we became a global company with 24 international partners."

One Solano County businessman, whose company has exported since the day it began, hoped to learn how to make international sales the largest segment of his company.

Michael Eck is president and chief executive of AcroMetrix, a Benicia-based biomedical firm that specializes in quality-control products and services. His goal is to increase the company's percentage of international sales from 30 percent to 60 percent in the next five years.

"You've got to have that partnership with the (U.S.) Department of Commerce," he said.

"Working with the right people gets your product to the market faster."

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or

Friday, April 22, 2005

Bay Area less in love with long commutes

Poll finds 50% want new homes built closer to job centers

Kelly Zito, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, January 14, 2005

Chalk it up to commute fatigue.

About 50 percent of Bay Area residents say new homes should be built near job centers instead of in far-flung suburbs, according to a new survey by the Bay Area Council, a business-oriented public policy group.

The annual study's results on housing, to be released today, also found that residents support a regional growth plan for the nine counties, with extra transportation funds provided to those cities that adhere to the plan.

The poll results on so-called infill development reflect growing regional demand, particularly among first-time buyers, for smaller, multifamily homes in established cities replete with nearby shopping, public transit and other services. And developers in recent years have been moving in that direction with infill housing developments surfacing from Richmond to Daly City, not to mention San Francisco's huge Mission Bay project.

"Clearly there are people who still want a larger house and lot," said John Coleman, director of government affairs for home builder KB Home. "But the Bay Area market is changing. People are looking at attached (homes), and they want to live close to where they work."
Coleman said about one-third of KB's new home developments in the Bay Area, including a Union City community on the site of an abandoned steel mill, are considered infill projects. A decade ago, the firm concentrated mainly on suburban locations.

Nevertheless, the dream of owning a detached home is still strong. Take a trip to towns like Vacaville or Tracy and it is clear many local buyers remain wedded to a detached 3,000-square-foot-home and a three-hour-plus round-trip daily commute.

Indeed, 43 percent of respondents to the survey said it would be better to build new housing outside of existing areas, even if it extends the urbanized portion of the region. Forty-nine percent said homes, whether multi- or single-family, should be built near urban job centers.

Jim Wunderman, president of the council, said the 43 percent figure shows the potent force of the "not-in-my-backyard" crowd, often called NIMBYs. "They're not a majority, but they're a large number of people," he said. "And they're very good at using the legal and political system to stop or scale down (development)."

The annual survey of 600 residents of the Bay Area was conducted in late November and attempts to take the public's temperature on a range of issues. Respondents said housing is one of the top three issues facing the region, behind transportation and the economy.

Wunderman hopes the survey results will bolster infill development as a way to fight sprawl, trim commute times, curb pollution and boost the quality of life for area residents.
But even if the public is in favor of developing more underutilized urban land, the projects face many other challenges.

Many infill developments make use of former industrial sites, which can take years and millions of dollars to restore. In addition, builders of multifamily units have seen insurance costs skyrocket in the face of increasing construction-defect litigation -- a hefty incentive to stick to larger, single-family homes on former farmland. What's more, the financial fallout from Proposition 13 encourages cities to approve commercial, rather than residential, development.
Finally, there is the complicated web of Bay Area agencies involved in the most ambitious of infill projects. For instance, plans for Oakland and BART's mixed-use Fruitvale Village took shape over 10 years and spanned numerous local agencies, not to mention 30 different funding sources.

Bay Area residents appear cognizant of that complexity -- with 52 percent supporting a regional growth plan that ostensibly would encourage cooperation among the many planning groups and take a broader view of the area's future.

On that front, however, developers like Coleman are less optimistic.

"Would (a regional planning effort) make development easier and more effective?" Coleman said. "It would. But I wouldn't count on it. There are too many jurisdictions that say they support housing, but when you get down to it, it's a political issue and their constituents don't want it."

For instance, many cities in western Contra Costa County, including Hercules, have ratified a smart-growth initiative that is intended to rein in sprawl and balance jobs, housing and transportation, said Vice Mayor Frank Batara. Towns in the eastern part of the county, where space is not as tight, have balked at the measure, which would reduce transportation funds to areas that permit building housing at the fringes.

"This issue goes to the heart of cities' rights and land use," Batara said. "It's been very divisive."

E-mail Kelly Zito at

Rent prices down slightly in Solano

Rent prices down slightly in Solano

By Matthew Bunk

FAIRFIELD - Rent prices have leveled off in most cities in the West, but Solano County is one region in which average monthly rents dropped slightly since last year.

There were mixed results in California, where about half of the metro areas saw higher rents and the other half saw rents go down.

In Solano County, rents dipped to the lowest point since the first quarter of 2003. The average rent for all sizes of units fell to $1,063, down 0.2 percent from last year's average of $1,073.

The highest rents were in Benicia and Fairfield. The lowest was in Vallejo.

Occupancy rates in Solano County also drifted downward, reflecting less interest in renting as more units are built. For most California market areas, occupancy rates went up.
Those findings were part of a report released this week by RealFacts, an organization that surveys thousands of apartment complexes across the U.S. every quarter.

Rents in the Western half of the U.S. for the most part didn't change much in the first three months of 2005, but some market areas such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas were up considerably from a year ago, according to RealFacts.

Places such as Portland, Seattle and the Bay Area felt slight declines in rent prices. However, "the rapidly dropping rents of several years ago are no longer a feature of the rental market anywhere, and prices have definitely achieved stabilization," RealFacts reported.
Demand for rental property also seems to have stagnated. Occupancy rates declined in just more than half of the metro areas surveyed.

Solano County was one of those. It's occupancy rate dropped to 93.3 percent, a 1.1 percent drop compared to a year ago. Slowed rental growth is "good news for renters and bad news for owners of apartment buildings," RealFacts noted. "It is generally assumed that occupancy rates must rise to put upward pressure on rents."

Nationwide, more rental units were taken off the market than were added last year, RealFacts said. Hundreds of apartments were converted into condos last year, a markedly high number of them in Southern California.

If rents continue to go down and demand remains high for owner-occupied units, condo conversion will remain an attractive exit strategy for many apartment owners, RealFacts forecast.

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or
  • Solano County Rental Facts
  • Average cost of rent per square foot: $1.28.
  • The average asking rent in 1997 was $685.
  • The average asking rent in 2004 was $1,069.

The Fairfield-Vallejo metro area saw the biggest first quarter decline in rental prices of 25 California metro areas surveyed.

Source: RealFacts

Average Rents and Occupancy Trends in Solano County Cities

Rental communities Occupancy % change Average rent % change

Vallejo 20 communities 92.6 -1.5 Occupancy & % Change $1,003 -2.7 Ave Rent & % Change
Fairfield 18 communities 94.1 -.6 Occupancy & % Change $1,122 1 Ave Rent & % Change
Vacaville 17 communities 92.6 -1.5 Occupancy & % Change $1,082 2.1 Ave Rent & % Change
Benicia 5 communities 95.7 .9 Occupancy & % Change $1,126 -1.1 Ave Rent & % Change
Source: RealFacts

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Downtown Dixon Business Association has endorsed the proposed Dixon Downs

Article Last Updated: 4/19/2005 06:34 AM

Businesses stand behind Dixon Downs

By Barbara Smith/Business WriterTheReporter.Com

The Downtown Dixon Business Association has endorsed the proposed Dixon Downs thoroughbred horse racing track and commercial development.

Angela Meisenheimer, executive director of the merchants' association, said 61 businesses were polled with 78 percent in favor of the project, 18 percent undecided and 4 percent against it.
Magna Entertainment Corp - the largest operator of thoroughbred race tracks in North America - wants to build a $250 million horse racing, entertainment and commercial facility on 260 acres south of Interstate 80 and west of Pedrick Road.

Members and non-members of the association were polled, Meisenheimer said. It is unknown how many business polled also are members of the Dixon Chamber of Commerce, which announced its endorsement of the project April 7.

The chamber surveyed its 264 members, with 115 responding. Roughly 90 percent of those favored the development, said Gordon Hammond, president of the chamber.
Meanwhile, a group calling themselves "Dixon Citizens for Quality Growth" have formed to oppose the project. They held their first meeting Saturday to discuss city-sponsored information exchanges held this year and the upcoming draft of the environmental impact report.
The draft environmental report is expected to be ready in May or June.

Dixon Downs calls for a two-phase project, with the first being construction of the horse racing and training facility, including the track, stables, grandstands and groom's quarters. That would be followed by the second phase, which would include a mixed-use commercial complex with such amenities as a multi-screen movie theater, hotel-conference center, restaurants, retail merchants and office space.

Barbara Smith can be reached

Dixon City Hall eyeing expansion

Article Published: Monday, January 24, 2005

City Hall eyeing expansion
By Michael Joyce/Staff Writer

Dixon City Hall appears headed for its first expansion since the building was constructed in 1982.

The City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on a resolution to adopt initial plans and a cost estimate for the project.

"The expansion is designed to accommodate additional employees to serve a larger community," City Manager Warren Salmons said.

Salmons said it is important to be prepared to accommodate a growing population in order to avoid adverse effects to programs and services. He stressed that Tuesday night's resolution is in regard only to a conceptual plan, not to construction.

The proposed expansion would add 11,506 square feet to the building, more than doubling its current size. The addition would include a community development section, a common use area and a new engineering department.

Currently, engineering is in a house near City Hall. Salmons said that crowding will become an issue in many departments as services expand.

In its 23 years, the City Hall building has undergone only minor internal changes.
The cost estimate of the expansion project is $3.5 million, a portion of which will be covered by development impact fees. These fees are collected from new home, commercial and industrial developments.

It is yet to be determined where the remaining funds for the expansion will come from.
In other action Tuesday, the City Council will discuss proposed field trips for the Dixon Downs project.

It also will cover the 2003-04 and 2004-05 fiscal year general fund budgets. In addition, the council will vote on a resolution regarding the management agreement for the Lincoln Creek Apartments.

The meeting will be in the Council Chamber at 600 East A St.
Michael Joyce can be reached at

Article Launched: 01/26/2005 07:40:25 AM
Dixon plans for expansion of City Hall
By Michael Joyce/Staff Writer, The Reporter

Dixon City Council members passed a resolution to get the ball rolling on the expansion of the very building in which they sat - City Hall.

Tuesday night's acceptance of initial plans and a cost estimate of $3.5 million were the first steps for the future project.

The idea to expand was introduced to accommodate additional employees for a growing population, City Manager Warren Salmons said. While he noted the resolution was only for a conceptual plan, he said it is imperative for the city to be prepared.

When the building was built in 1982, the city was not prepared for the population boom that would follow. Twenty-three years ago, City Hall served roughly 7,500 Dixon residents. Dixon's population grew to 16,100, according to the 2000 Census, with a projected population of 22,000 by the year 2010.

Councilman Michael C. Smith said already-cramped quarters will only worsen as the population grows. He added that it is important for the city to expand accurately, avoiding outgrowth.
"When you walk through City Hall, you see people working in the hallways," Smith said. "Doors are blocked by desks, and there's no room for the engineers to roll out their plans."
The project would address space issues by more than doubling the size of City Hall, from 10,170 square feet to 21,676 square feet.

While a portion of the funding for the more-than-10,000-square-foot addition is yet to be identified, most of the cost will be covered by development impact fees, Smith said. These fees are collected from new home, commercial and industrial developments.

The proposed additions in the initial plan include a community development section, a common use area and a new engineering department.

Currently, the engineering department is located in a house near City Hall, which Associate City Engineer Danny Uppal said causes some confusion. The engineering department experiences delays in mail because some deliveries are made directly to City Hall. Uppal said that communication and efficiency would improve with the expansion.

In other business Tuesday, the council set the schedule for community participation in the Dixon Downs project, proposed by Magna Entertainment Corp. The first information exchange, covering fiscal impacts, will be held in Madden Hall on Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m.

The council agreed to send Vice Mayor Gilbert Vega and Mayor Mary Ann Courville to Florida on Friday for an extensive look at other Magna-owned and operated racetracks. The general public will have an opportunity to view racetracks in Albany and San Mateo in February.

Michael Joyce can be reached at <> href="">

Solano's Got It!

Solano's Got It!
The Best That Northern California Has To Offer.

Blog Archive