Speaker Gives State of County
By Amanda Janis/Business Writer
Ian Stuart, of Colliers International, delivers the keynote address Thursday on the future of Solano County during the 23rd annual luncheon meeting of the Solano EDC. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter)
Eyebrow-raising statistics concerning Solano County were presented by guest speaker Ian Stuart at the 23rd annual meeting Thursday of the Solano Economic Development Corp.
Stuart, a partner in the Advisory Group of Colliers International, gleaned data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, finding that 27 percent of households in Solano speak a foreign language compared to a national average of 19 percent.
He told more than 300 at the meeting in Fairfield that in terms of percentage of household income spent on housing, Solano ranks 14th among 236 counties in the survey, and that Solano ranks 18th among the worst commutes in the nation.
"These are just the facts," Stuart said. "What really matters is what you do from here on out."
Stuart explained, "If Solano County remains a suburban dormitory, then I predict in two decades you will have gridlock." He next offered a three-point remedy:
• He encouraged support for Solano Community College. "It's the best, most cost-effective way to give the majority of your population the language skills and the life skills to succeed."
• He discussed merits of multi-use, multi-story, high-density development schemes.
"Land here is too valuable and too costly for single-use zoning. If you want to bring down housing costs, and have the added benefit of reducing traffic, then mixed-use is the solution."
• He touted rail use to assuage traffic issues.
Reaction among those present was mixed.
Kay Draisin, of NorthBay Health Advantage and EDC board secretary, said, "I don't think there was anything new. It seemed to me to be sort of a reinforcement of what's being discussed in the county now."
County Supervisor Mike Reagan, however, remarked, "All these principles of European-style development don't really work," in ameliorating the commute for many residents, "because they still have to get in their cars and drive out of the county to go to work."
Reagan felt that the EDC's attraction and retention of employers will be the largest commute-altering factor.
Daryl Halls, executive director of the Solano County Transportation Authority, agreed with Stuart about the local college, but felt "his commute solution is pretty simple; trains by themselves are not going to solve the problems."
Halls advocated a multi-mode approach, explaining the STA's priorities are to fix the highways in terms of safety and capacity, expand transit alternatives and address local concerns.
Sean Quinn, director of Fairfield's planning and development department, agreed with Stuart on education, but faulted his rail-based transport solution.
"I think that long-term that's probably a good idea," Quinn said, but emphasized a need to improve infrastructure.
As for Stuart's call for increased mixed land use, Quinn pointed out that "mixed-use developments and livable communities are definitely being embraced in this county."
Overall, Quinn said of Stuart, "I think he offered an alternative and I think it's always interesting to get people from the outside to offer perspective."
Also at the meeting, Steve Huddleston, publisher of The Reporter, passed the torch as chairman to Collier's International's managing partner in Fairfield, Brooks Pedder. The 2006 board of directors also was installed.
Amanda Janis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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