Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Solano Beats Trend, Scores Jobs

Solano Beats Trend, Scores Jobs
By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald

The state's jobs are moving inland, away from the coast - with Solano County being one notable exception, a new study found.

The number of new jobs created in Solano, Napa and Sonoma counties grew at a significantly faster pace than in the rest of the Bay Area's coastal counties, said Alissa Anderson Garcia, an analyst for the California Budget Project, which conducted the study.

Between 1990 and 2005, the study found the number of jobs in Solano County increased by about a third - very high for the state's coastal region, of which the county is considered a part, Garcia said.

"Compared to the other coastal counties overall, Solano County's 32.9 percent job growth during that period is on the high end," she said. "Job growth in the county was slower than in the inland counties but much faster than the rest of the coastal region."

Inland, jobs grew by nearly 50 percent while in coastal areas they grew by just 9.6 percent and in San Francisco, the number of jobs actually declined by nearly 9 percent during the same period, Garcia added.

By comparison, Sonoma County saw the number of jobs grow by nearly 34 percent and jobs in Napa County grew by a whopping 46.7 percent, she said.

It's important to note, however, that job growth percentage doesn't necessarily reflect a large number of new jobs, said Sean Snaith, former director of the Business Forecasting Center of Stockton's University of the Pacific.

"When you start with a small number of jobs, it doesn't take adding many new ones to create a large percentage change," he said.

The largest number of new jobs in Solano County were in the trade, transportation and utilities category, the study shows.

"Mostly, the job growth was driven by retail, and, mostly, that's related to population growth," Garcia said.

Construction and the education and health services industries, respectively, rounded out the top three job-gaining categories, locally, she said.

Solano Economic Development Corporation President Mike Amman, said the findings make perfect sense, based on the county's location between major employment regions.

"We're in the middle, and that's certainly part of it," Amman said. "Long term, Sonoma won't be able to grow much more, because of the tough congestion on 101. Southern Napa and American Canyon have some opportunity to continue growing. And I think Solano will just continue to grow because of our access to Sacramento, San Francisco and the East Bay."

Amman said he expects Solano County's population and the number of jobs here to continue growing.

It's an opinion Snaith shares.

"Solano County is on a major transportation artery in and out of the Bay Area, and with comparatively affordable housing, it will continue to outpace the other local regions going forward," said Snaith, now with the University of Central Florida, Orlando.

"It's like a prize fight," he said. "The first punch is housing, and the jobs associated with building, selling and maintaining them. The second punch is that once the people live in the homes, there's follow-on growth. People need dry cleaners, divorce lawyers, retail shops and these creates jobs."

Basically, he said, jobs grow where the affordable housing is.

"I think Solano County will continue being the beneficiary of a long-term trend that is pushing people out of the Bay Area in search of more affordable housing," Snaith said.

E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at RachelZ@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6824.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

RECENT HONORS AT UC DAVIS

University of California, Davis
January 29, 2007

RECENT HONORS AT UC DAVIS

Barbara Horwitz, distinguished professor of physiology and vice provost of academic personnel, has been selected the 2007 recipient of the Bodil M. Schmidt-Nielsen Distinguished Mentor and Scientist Award. The Women in Physiology Committee of the American Physiological Society chose Horwitz based on her mentoring excellence and outstanding contributions to physiological research.

On Jan. 27, the UC Davis Cal Aggie Alumni Association hosted the 2007 Alumni Awards ceremony at Freeborn Hall, honoring the following
alumni: Rex Hime '69, J.D. '72, Jerry Fielder Memorial Award; John Patrick Jordan '55, Ph.D. '63, Distinguished Achievement Award; Francisco Rodriguez '85, M.S.'97, Outstanding Alumnus Award; Ernesto Sandoval '96, Young Alumnus Award; and Douglas Muhleman '77, M.S.
'79, Aggie Service Award.

Shirley Chiang, chair of the physics department, was named a fellow of the American Vacuum Society Nov. 15 at the society's 53rd International Symposium in San Francisco. The AVS fellowship was established in 1993 to recognize members who have made sustained and outstanding scientific and technical contributions in areas of interest to society. Chiang received the award for her work in microscopy, especially imaging of molecules, chemical reactions and metals.

Luxury Offices Get New Tenant

Luxury Offices Get New Tenant

Fairfield-based The Wiseman Company recently announced that Van Pelt Construction Services has signed a lease for 1,850 square feet and will relocate its offices to the firm's Green Valley Executive Center building on Business Center Drive in Fairfield. Kirk Hull of The Wiseman Company represented both the lessor and the lessee in the transaction.

Van Pelt Construction Services is recognized throughout Northern California as a leading construction management firm for school, university and health care projects. For more information call 438-3790 or at www.vpcsonline.com.

The Wiseman Company is a full-service commercial real estate firm offering brokerage, development, investment and management services to Solano, Yolo and Napa counties. For more information, call 427-1212.

Biotech Challenge Set for 2007

Biotech Challenge Set for 2007
Biology Students Analyze Impact of Biotechnology

BioTech SYSTEM, a consortium of the Solano, Yolo and Sacramento counties with a mission to promote biotech training and educational programs across Northern California, has launched Teen Biotech Challenge 2007.

In this program, high school biology students are challenged to demonstrate biotechnology's impact on society by looking at topics such as stem-cell research, biofuels, personalized medicine, genetically modified foods, forensic science and bioterrorism.

The participants create a Web page that illustrates and discusses a major aspect of biotechnology within their chosen area of focus. Project focuses include: agricultural and industrial applications; biomedical applications and bioengineering; biofuels and bioenergy; forensics; stem cells and tissue engineering; or genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics.

Preliminary proposals should be submitted by March 7 and final Web page entries will be due on April 25.

Winning Web pages will be compiled to create an Internet-based instructional resource for teachers, students and the community at www.teenbiotech- challenge.org. Entries will be evaluated on quality of content and Web design, creativity, organization and adherence to contest instructions. First- and second-place winners in each focus area will be awarded cash and prizes, and a grand prize winner will be selected from the first-place entries.

Participants and sponsors will be honored during the Biotech Symposium at UC Davis on May 29. The Biotech Challenge is co-sponsored by the University of California Davis Biotechnology Program and the North Valley and Mountain Biotech Center at American River College. For more information, contact Denneal Jamison-McClung, at dsjamison@ucdavis.edu or visit www.biotech-system.org and www.teenbiotechchallenge.org.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Bay Area hospitals make nation's top 5 percent - East Bay Business Times:

Bay Area hospitals make nation's top 5 percent
East Bay Business Times - 2:55 PM PST Monday

Several Bay Area hospitals have been the recognized among the top 5 percent in the nation: Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley, John Muir Medical Centers in Concord and Walnut Creek, Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, and El Camino Hospital in Mountain View

HealthGrades, the Colorado-based health ratings organization, annually identifies hospitals in the top 5 percent nationally in terms of mortality and complication rates for 26 procedures and diagnoses, from bypass surgery to stroke.

Alta Bates, in particular, was the only Bay Area hospital named on both a list of "distinguished hospitals for clinical excellence, and "non-teaching hospitals for clinical excellence."

"I think the the medical center is consistently trying to raise the bar on itself," said Carolyn Kemp, a spokeswoman for Alta Bates. The hospital has previously been recognized by HealthGrades for its stroke care, treatment of heart attacks and heart failure.

Of 4,971 short-term, non-federal, non-children's, acute-care hospitals, only 266 hospitals are designated as Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence, HealthGrades said.

Sacramento home sales, prices down in December - Sacramento Business Journal:

Sacramento home sales, prices down in December
Sacramento Business Journal - January 26, 2007

Correction at bottom of article

The unsold inventory index for existing, single-family detached homes declined in December to 6.8 months from 7.4 months in November, according to figures released Thursday.

But it is still hovering around double the inventory of the previous year, when it was 3.5 months in December 2005.

The California Association of Realtors released the index, which indicates the number of months needed to deplete the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate.

The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home in December was 73 days, compared with 43 days for the same period a year ago and 70 days in November.

The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in California for the month was $567,690, a 3.7 percent increase over $547,400 last year.

In the Sacramento region, the median home price in December was $362,660, down 0.6 percent from November and down 4.3 percent from December 2005. Sales in the region were down 0.1 percent from November and down 25.6 percent compared to the previous December.

Home sales decreased 15.3 percent in December in California compared with the same period a year ago, while the median price of an existing home increased 3.7 percent.

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the highest median home prices in California during December 2006 were: Los Altos, $1.46 million; Burlingame, $1.33 million; Manhattan Beach, $1.28 million; San Juan Capistrano, $1.17 million; Santa Barbara, $1.01 million; Danville, $995,000; Los Gatos, $970,000; Rancho Palos Verdes, $947,500; San Clemente, $916,000; and Santa Monica, $833,000.

Correction:
As a result of an editing error, an earlier version of this story included incorrect information that suggested home sales rose in December from the prior-year period while prices rose year-over-year. The story as it now appears reflects the correct data from the California Association of Realtors.

Financial Times: UC Davis business specialty No. 1

Financial Times: UC Davis business specialty No. 1
Sacramento Business Journal - 1:25 PM PST Monday
by Kelly Johnson
Staff writer

The Graduate School of Management at University of California Davis came out on top in the Financial Times' worldwide ranking for the study of organizational behavior.

The Graduate School of Management ranked 47th among Masters of Business Administration programs nationally, and 76th in the world, in the list released Monday. In 2006, UC Davis came in No. 79 in the world. Its three-year average is No. 77.

In the category of organizational behavior, which examines how people, individuals and groups act in organizations, UC Davis was No. 1.

The Financial Times' 2007 Global MBA rankings looked at 21 categories focused on the areas of alumni career progress, diversity and faculty quality. The list also ranked 10 specialties, including organizational behavior, which were based on alumni recommendations.

The Graduate School of Management has been ranked among the top 50 business schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for 11 consecutive years, university representatives said. The magazine's most recent survey ranked UC Davis No. 21 among business schools at public universities and 46th overall.

Beyond the Battlefield

Beyond the Battlefield
Solano Serves as Starting Point for Firm's U.S. Expansion
By Amanda Janis/Business Editor



Mel Mitchell, Ellie Uldall and Ted Beecher (left to right), are part of a group that regularly meets at Green Beans Coffee Worldcafe in Vacaville. (Brad Zweerink/The Reporter)

Hallujah, Jalallabad, Vacaville and Fairfield share a common economic development: In each city, Green Beans Coffee is busy setting up shop.

Green Beans is a Larkspur-based company that's spent a decade carving out a most unusual niche - serving organic gourmet coffee to U.S. troops in some of the world's nastiest war zones. It boasts 55 locations in eight countries, and now, it's using Solano County as its launching pad for domestic expansion.

The firm recently purchased Vacaville's Perfect Blend Coffee House, located at the intersection of East Monte Vista Avenue and Dobbins Street. And, even more significantly, the firm is building a store on Fairfield's North Texas Street that will open in March and serve as a model for all of its future domestic locations.

A far cry from the 40-foot double-wide trailers that function as Green Beans cafes in global hot zones - and have reportedly been used for target practice by insurgents - the Fairfield store will incorporate recycled and eco-friendly materials.

"That will be the prototype, basically, for future stores opening in the U.S.A.," said Jon Araghi, Green Beans' vice president and Bay Area native.

Deals are in the works to expand throughout the United States both on military bases and beyond. The firm has franchising packages being finalized, Araghi said, which would offer a 10 percent discount to franchisees who are military personal returning from overseas.

"We have numerous, numerous requests from customers who've returned from temporary duty overseas," explained Araghi. "They come back and want to open their own Green Beans. They've developed a very unique loyalty to the brand name - instead of Starbucks or Peet's or Caribou - because when they were out there, those brands were not there with them. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the troops."

Araghi and his brother Jason Araghi, the company's president, have traveled around the globe to set up coffeehouses at military installations throughout the Middle East.

The privately-held company's success story - last year it racked up $15 million in revenue, a whopping 67 percent more than the previous year - began ten years ago in Saudi Arabia.

In 1996, the two brothers were working in the Middle East and decided to open the Art Nouveau Cafe, a Seattle-style coffeehouse, in Riyadh. The cafe became so popular with U.S. soldiers stationed nearby, that soon, at the military's urging, Green Beans opened locations at the neighboring Eskan Village and Prince Sultan military bases.

"We basically grew with (the military) as their footprint expanded in the region," said Jason Araghi. "And when 9/11 hit, we were the first American food company that responded and said we'd go over there."

The impact has been positive, according to Jerry Hanson, an Iraq-based specialist with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, a contractor that delivers home-style merchandise and food to troops overseas.

"Green Bean has gone to just about every location where we have troops deployed," Hanson said.

Green Beans imports its organic beans from around the world and has them roasted and packaged at a facility in South San Francisco. The logistics of shipping the coffee to war zones results in huge overhead costs, but the company insists on prices similar to stateside cafes.

"The costs of the products they sell are acceptable but can put a pretty good dent in a military member's wallet if they drink it a lot," Scott Whitley, a soldier stationed in Iraq and a daily Green Beans patron, told the Wall Street Journal.

Still, Green Beans kicks a small percentage of its profits back to organizations that support military families, such as the Pat Tillman Foundation and the Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund.

Back in Vacaville, longtime patrons of the former Perfect Blend have given Green Beans the thumbs up.

"So far, so good," said Ted Beecher. "It's different (management), but it's great."

Fellow regular Ellie Uldall agreed. "It's just a real friendly coffee shop," she said.

Nicole Michaud, the cafe's manager, said it's drawn a mix of civilians and soldiers since changing hands.

"We've gotten a few of each," she said. "But the military personnel that have come are really excited."



Jon Araghi, vice president of Green Beans Coffee, discusses the company's vision while visiting its new Vacaville store.

Gary Klien, of the Marin Independent Journal, contributed to this report. Amanda Janis can be reached at business@thereporter.com.

Top Business Exec Predicts a Solid Future

Top Business Exec Predicts a Solid Future
Solano Can't Help But Grow
By Amanda Janis/Business Editor

Solano County's positive economic growth will continue in the near future, according to the county's top economic development chief and new findings from a Bay Area planning agency.

In his 'state of the county' type address, Michael Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corp., outlined 2006 progress he predicts will continue into 2007.

"When you're the middle point between two rapidly growing Northern California markets, you're going to grow, too," Ammann told more than 300 local political and business leaders recently gathered at an annual luncheon sponsored by the Solano EDC.

"We've taken care of business here," he said, launching into a synopsis of the county's economic report card.

Travis Air Force Base - a major economic engine for the region - is safe and secure, having escaped the military base closure list last year, Ammann said. And the much-heralded addition of 13 new C-17 cargo aircraft is just part of a $100 million investment the Pentagon is making at Travis, he noted.

Ammann also pointed to the increasingly low unemployment rate for residents - hovering at 4.5 percent - as proof of Solano's superlative economic health at a time when many other regions of the state and nation are showing signs of economic distress. In the past year alone, more than 2,300 jobs were added in Solano County, according to the state's Employment Development Department.

That translates to a 1.8 percent job growth rate, matching Santa Clara County's and outpacing the rest of the region's 1.6 percent rate, according to a recently released report by the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Solano should continue to grow at a moderate pace, said Paul Fassinger, an economist and research director for the agency.

"We expect to see the county add 2,000 jobs this year and about 1,800 jobs in 2008," Fassinger said. The slightly lower projections for 2007 and 2008 can be attributed to the softening housing market, he said.

One market that isn't softening, however, is local business/industrial park real estate. Brooks Pedder, managing partner of Fairfield's Colliers International office and Solano EDC board chairman, told the audience at Thursday's Solano EDC luncheon that 2006 was record-breaking.

"In the last 90 days of the year, in business parks throughout the county, there were transactions that totaled about 3 million square feet," said Pedder. "We only have a business park market that's approximately 24 million square feet total, so in 90 days, 10 percent of our market turned over - which has never before been seen in our marketplace."

Additional successes highlighted by Ammann include:

• Kaiser Permanente's $1 billion investment in a new hospital, the groundbreaking of a 430,000 square foot office campus, and partial completion of the Nut Tree development in Vacaville.

• Development of new retail parks and continued construction on the new high school in Dixon.

• Construction of two hotels and office condos, as well as land purchases by NorthBay Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente, and Copart in Green Valley Corporate Park.

• Groundbreaking on Suisun City waterfront's redevelopment centerpiece, Harbor Square, which will add 34,500 square feet of retail, residential, restaurant and office space.

• Expansion of Touro University, Kaiser Permanente, and Sutter Solano Cancer Center in Vallejo.

• An 18 percent year-over-year sales tax revenue increase in Benicia, as well as $20 million-worth of investment and expansion in the Benicia Industrial Park.

• Annexation of the former U.S. Army Reserve Center and plans to create a 10-acre research center in Rio Vista.

The Times-Herald, Vallejo contributed to this report. Amanda Janis can be reached at business@thereporter.com.

Fairfield's First Premier Address

Fairfield's First Premier Address -- Rancho Solano Looks Back at 20 Years
By Barry Eberling



Cows graze near homes in Rancho Solano. (Photo by Zachary Kaufman)

FAIRFIELD - Fairfield planners about 20 years ago envisioned Rancho Solano as a type of pioneering community for the area.

It was designed to be a first for the city in many ways - the first neighborhood with a golf course, the first with gated streets, the first with homes of a quality that might tempt executives and people of similar ilk to live in Fairfield, rather than flee to fancier surroundings.

These days, Rancho Solano has competition as Fairfield's premiere address from newer developments. It's experienced a few rough spots over the years, such as landslides that threatened some homes. It once was at the center of the area's growth wars.

Yet Rancho Solano has delivered for many who live in its nearly 1,200 homes along streets named after Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, Winged Foot and other famous golf courses. Residents include not only those climbing the corporate ladder, but people who already lived in Fairfield and wanted to move up to a bigger, more expensive house.

"I've watched it grow up," said Denise Kirchubel, a resident there since 1991. "And I've watched it go through its growing pains."

Kirchubel called Rancho Solano her favorite neighborhood. It offers a level of living style that's attractive to the corporate environment and contributes to the city's tax base, she said.

Gary Falati was mayor when Fairfield put Rancho Solano on the drawing boards in the mid- and late-1980s. Today, he's happy with the results, saying the community filled a housing niche for Fairfield.

"We were trying to build a project that would stand the test of time," Falati said. "Every year, with the landscaping and trees going in, it gets more beautiful. I think it came out very, very nice."

Two decades ago, Solano County had few upscale housing developments, apart from upper Green Valley in the rural county. Rancho Solano came before Fairfield built Paradise Valley or Eastridge. It came before Vallejo built Hiddenbrooke.

A different kind of place

Data from the U.S. Census 2000 - the latest available with details for individual neighborhoods - shows Rancho Solano indeed stands apart from Fairfield as a whole.

About 63 percent of Fairfield homes that year were owner-occupied and 37 percent were rentals. The average Fairfield house cost $191,000 and had six rooms.

Meanwhile, about 93 percent of Rancho Solano homes were owner-occupied and 7 percent were rentals. The average Rancho house cost $319,000 and had eight rooms.

Today, homes in Rancho Solano cost from about $535,000 for a smaller, single-story home to $1.6 million for a custom home, Kirchubel said. The sheer pricing makes it executive housing, but Rancho Solano has a nice mix of retired people, young families and people in-between, she said.

Michael Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corp., sees Rancho Solano and the upscale communities that followed in its wake as assets for attracting businesses to the area.

"We certainly have more opportunities now throughout the county as far as executive housing," Ammann said. "It's not as much of an issue as when (Rancho) was conceived and built."

Ammann also put things in perspective. There are other priorities for prospective businesses than executive housing, such as a skilled labor force and the availability of buildings or building sites, he said.

As a Realtor, Kirchubel has an idea of the type of people who buy homes at Rancho Solano. Usually, it's someone looking to move to a bigger house in a neighborhood with rules requiring residents to maintain a certain, aesthetic level for their homes and yards, she said.

"They are people looking for a comfortable neighborhood to live in where they feel secure," Kirchubel said.

Homeowners must follow community rules. For example, landscaping must meet guidelines designed to give neighborhoods a cohesive look. Trees cannot block views, fences are to be unpainted and the majority of a front yard should be grass or ground cover. Garage doors are to remain closed unless someone is moving a car or working in the garage.

What draws people there

The Kirchubels came to Rancho Solano in 1991 as first-time home buyers escaping the high housing prices in Marin County. They had looked at a house in American Canyon, then learned of a deal in Rancho Solano with special, down payment assistance.

"We'd been the up-and-comers," Kirchubel said. "We were the typical yuppies with the suddenly higher income and not much savings."

She liked the well-constructed homes in Rancho Solano and a community spirit that had neighbors helping each other landscape their yards.

Dale Baumler moved to Rancho Solano in 1990 and in 1993 retired from a U.S. Air Force career that at one point had him commanding the U.S. Air Force Reserve 349th Air Mobility Wing at Travis Force Base. He liked the style of the homes, the Rancho Solano country club and the look of a community with 1,400 acres of open space.

"The setting was, as it is today, beautiful," Baumler said. "It's was just a tremendously beautiful community. Just the way it was situated. And then the privacy."

Plus, there's the Rancho Solano golf course, perfect for an avid golfer - though Baumler laughingly said his golf game doesn't qualify him for that title.

Birth of a big project

But Rancho Solano had a painful birth. Landowner William Lee Smith in the early 1980s interested Solano County in building 850 homes on 2,284 acres of his ranch. Homes would be on lots of a half-acre to 10 acres, with much of the land left for open space and cattle grazing. The development would have an equestrian center.

Rancho Solano, along with the proposed city of Manzanita, spurred the Proposition A ballot measure. Opponents saw the developments as unleashing sprawl growth on farms and ranches. Proposition A passed in 1984, barring most development on rural land unless annexed by a city.

Falati was among those wary about Rancho Solano as proposed by the county. The development would have had a lagoon to treat sewage, something the city didn't want near its borders.

In 1985, Fairfield took over the project and annexed the land. The new Rancho Solano would have smaller lots and no sewage lagoon. It would have a public golf course, something Fairfield had sought for several decades.

But the growth wars continued. Some residents filed a lawsuit to stop what they saw as the sprawl growth of Rancho Solano, Rolling Hills and Paradise Valley. The city settled in 1986, agreeing that assessments on the new homes would help create the Solano County Farmlands and Open Space Foundation - today, the Solano Land Trust - to preserve open space.

Rancho Solano sold its first homes in the late 1980s and the golf course opened in March 1990. The new community proved a hit, with people lining up to buy homes.

"The only constraint we've seen to construction and the sale of homes is the pace we can build at," said Robert Lando, the attorney for Rancho Solano, during 1989.

Most buyers were Fairfield residents who wanted a bigger home, he added.

Not always paradise

Rancho Solano soon hit some rough spots. Mudslides threatened several homes after heavy rains in 1993. Spas in the privately owned health club - planned as a jewel of the development - were shut down by the county in 1995 because of bacteria.

These issues have been resolved, said Baumler, who is president of the Rancho Solano Master Association homeowners group. For example, the association in 1999 settled the lawsuit over the landslides, getting $5.4 million to use for landslide repairs. It still has a committee to monitor the situation.

And, Baumler said, problems with the club were resolved after area resident Billy Yarbrough bought it in 2000 and brought in the Millennium Sports Club.

The development didn't grow as fast as originally planned, despite the initial torrid sales. Rancho Solano was to be completely built by 1995. Eleven years later, the community is almost finished, but still has some homes to be constructed. National housing market slowdowns affected Rancho Solano.

Rancho Solano has been criticized by some as being a world apart. But society's problems still occasionally creep into its various gated neighborhoods. For example, vandals have done such things as egg cars and drive cars into the street gates, which close at nights.

Whether the culprits live at Rancho Solano or elsewhere is unclear. In one case when the vandals got caught, they lived elsewhere. The homeowners group wants to install an informational kiosk with a security camera near the Rancho Solano entrance, in part to deter vandalism.

But if Rancho Solano can't escape all of the world's problems, it remains a paradise for many of its residents.

"It has been a real good experience and I think the planners did a super job," Baumler said. "I would say it's been a tremendous success."

Falati expressed doubt that Fairfield will ever get another Rancho Solano, given present city growth policies. Those policies favor steering growth into existing city boundaries and reject large expansions onto farms and ranches.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

Big dates for Rancho Solano

1986 - Fairfield and Rancho Solano opponents settle lawsuit filed to stop the project.

February 1989 - Rancho Solano developers say the initial homes are selling briskly.

March 1990 - The $9.2 million Rancho Solano golf course opens, fulfilling a decades-old city dream to have a public golf course.

July 1990 - B. Gale Wilson Elementary School near Rancho Solano Parkway opens.

1992 and 1993 - The Rancho Solano club hosts the $50,000 U.S. Tennis Association Challenger Series, attracting big-name pros.

Early 1993 - Huge storms trigger a landslide that threatens two homes on Formby Drive. More than 30 landslides around the development later come to light, triggering litigation between homeowners and the developer.

September 1998 - Rancho Solano's privately owned, long-troubled fitness-and-tennis club, initially targeted to be a community jewel, closes after a foreclosure sale.

August 1999 - Rancho Solano developers and homeowners reach settlement over landslides, with homeowners association getting $5.4 million for remediation work.

September 2000 - Local resident Billy Yarbrough buys the health-and-fitness club. It reopens as the Millennium Sports Club.

October 2004 - Rancho Solano residents convince City Council to allow 100-foot-tall telecommunication tower to improve cellular phone service in community.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Vacaville plans development to complement downtown

Printed on: Sun, Jan 28, 2007

Vacaville plans development to complement downtown
By Ian Thompson

VACAVILLE - Vacaville's Redevelopment Agency is slowly gathering land around Catherine Street with plans to turn the four-block area into a mixed-used extension of the city's downtown.

"It's an exciting project," Vacaville Redevelopment Director Cynthia Johnston said of turning the low hill between East Main and Mason Street into a pedestrian-friendly mix of offices, retail and housing "that would complement the downtown."

The area is a collection of older single-family homes and businesses where the agency has slowly purchased parcels since 1999, according to Johnston.

The agency wants to build Opportunity Hill as an extension of its campaign to revive the city's downtown area and serve as a more inviting eastern gateway.

The agency has purchased 26 properties during the past several years and is negotiating with the owners of a half-dozen more, according to Johnson.

More recently, it showed its plans to several community and business groups to get their input as to what the agency should consider putting there.

"So far, things have been positive and we are still looking for input," Johnston said.

The Redevelopment Agency took another step forward with its plans Tuesday night when the Vacaville City Council approved plans to buy two more parcels and move the homeless shelter on Catherine Street.

Under the agreement, the Opportunity House homeless shelter would be moved to a site on Brown Street where a 24-bed shelter would be built. In return, the city would get the Catherine Street site.

The council also approved buying both 140 Depot Street and 150 Depot Street for a total of $978,000.

While the two sites are outside of the area planned for Opportunity Hill, they could be used either in a land swap with property owners in the project area, become part of an expanded project or become a separate project.

Johnston expects the proposal to gel more sometime within the year once the negotiations for the remaining needed properties are wrapped up.

It will be up to the City Council to decide more specifically what mix of businesses and residential development it wants there as well as whether there will be a master developer or not.

The agency will also have to study the area's sewer and water infrastructure to determine if that needs to be improved to handle the potential development.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at ithompson@dailyrepublic.net.
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A green light for Jamieson?

A green light for Jamieson?
Sunday, January 28, 2007 1:09 AM PST

Local leaders are hopeful that efforts to address the worst traffic bottleneck -- and one of the most dangerous stretches of road -- in Napa County will get a big boost on March 1.

That is the day the California Transportation Commission is expected to release its list of projects funded by Proposition 1B, the $20 billion transportation bond passed by the voters in November. According to local officials who visited the Register editorial board last week, the county has high hopes for getting $102 million to improve safety and traffic conditions on Jamieson Canyon Road.

Those who visited the editorial board included Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd, who is also a member of the Napa County Transportation Planning Agency and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission; Leon Garcia, NCTPA chair and the mayor of American Canyon; new NCTPA Executive Director Jim Leddy; and top NCTPA staffer John Ponte.

Here's the backdrop: In 2005, Napa County residents overwhelmingly passed Proposition W, a non-binding resolution on whether to widen Jamieson Canyon to four lanes and to make safety improvements. In 2006, a sales tax increase to fund this and other projects failed at the polls -- with only 54 percent saying yes to the measure that required two-thirds approval. Napa transportation leaders have sought the approval -- or at least non-opposition -- of slow growth groups by making it NCTPA policy not to seek widening of Carneros Highway and by pushing the state to make Highway 37, which skirts Napa County, the main corridor between highways 80 and 101.

After the local sales tax, Measure H, failed, statewide voters approved $20 billion in transportation bonds. According to Dodd, about $1.5 billion is heading for the nine-county Bay Area. Two agencies, Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, have forwarded lists of high-priority projects. Jamieson Canyon Road and the I-80/680 interchange in Solano County made both lists.

The $102 million, combined with funds from state, Napa County and Solano County sources, would pay for a second lane in each direction on Jamieson Canyon and safety barriers at key points, according to Leddy.

If the California Transportation Commission approves the money, then local officials will wait for what they hope is routine approval from legislators this summer. But they are not sitting on their hands now.

Leddy said he has been working closely with Napa Valley industries to make sure their voice is heard in the apportionment process, as the movement of workers who commute on Jamieson Canyon and goods -- from wine grapes to the stonework materials produced in the south county -- is vital to the state's economy.

Garcia pointed out the benefit for local drivers in American Canyon, who will see traffic woes ease if the I-80/680 interchange and Jamieson Canyon can handle the cars now detouring onto slow and sinuous American Canyon Road.

Ponte emphasized that at least four out of five drivers on Jamieson Canyon in Napa County either live or work here, and that the "pass-through" traffic is minimal. In other words, we truly are the beneficiaries of any upgrade.

Dodd said he is working with leaders from Sonoma, Marin and Solano counties to ensure the North Bay gets transportation money it needs, despite the possible minuses that the population base here is smaller than the state's big metropolitan areas and that local voters decided, by rejecting Measure H, not to make Napa a "self-help" county on transportation.

This opportunity represents the best chance we may see for Napa County to address a critical transportation need.

The Reporter - Top business exec predicts a solid future

The Reporter - Top business exec predicts a solid future: "Top business exec predicts a solid future
Solano can't help but grow
By Amanda JaniTop business exec predicts a solid future
Solano can't help but grow
By Amanda Janis/Business Editor
Article Launched: 01/28/2007 07:50:21 AM PST

Solano County's positive economic growth will continue in the near future, according to the county's top economic development chief and new findings from a Bay Area planning agency.

In his 'state of the county' type address, Michael Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corp., outlined 2006 progress he predicts will continue into 2007.

"When you're the middle point between two rapidly growing Northern California markets, you're going to grow, too," Ammann told more than 300 local political and business leaders recently gathered at an annual luncheon sponsored by the Solano EDC.

"We've taken care of business here," he said, launching into a synopsis of the county's economic report card.

Travis Air Force Base - a major economic engine for the region - is safe and secure, having escaped the military base closure list last year, Ammann said. And the much-heralded addition of 13 new C-17 cargo aircraft is just part of a $100 million investment the Pentagon is making at Travis, he noted.

Ammann also pointed to the increasingly low unemployment rate for residents - hovering at 4.5 percent - as proof of Solano's superlative economic health at a time when many other regions of the state and nation are showing
Advertisement
Century 21Distinctive Properties Inc.
signs of economic distress. In the past year alone, more than 2,300 jobs were added in Solano County, according to the state's Employment Development Department.

That translates to a 1.8 percent job growth rate, matching Santa Clara County's and outpacing the rest of the region's 1.6 percent rate, according to a recently released report by the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Solano should continue to grow at a moderate pace, said Paul Fassinger, an economist and research director for the agency.

"We expect to see the county add 2,000 jobs this year and about 1,800 jobs in 2008," Fassinger said. The slightly lower projections for 2007 and 2008 can be attributed to the softening housing market, he said.

One market that isn't softening, however, is local business/industrial park real estate. Brooks Pedder, managing partner of Fairfield's Colliers International office and Solano EDC board chairman, told the audience at Thursday's Solano EDC luncheon that 2006 was record-breaking.

"In the last 90 days of the year, in business parks throughout the county, there were transactions that totaled about 3 million square feet," said Pedder. "We only have a business park market that's approximately 24 million square feet total, so in 90 days, 10 percent of our market turned over - which has never before been seen in our marketplace."

Additional successes highlighted by Ammann include:

• Kaiser Permanente's $1 billion investment in a new hospital, the groundbreaking of a 430,000 square foot office campus, and partial completion of the Nut Tree development in Vacaville.

• Development of new retail parks and continued construction on the new high school in Dixon.

• Construction of two hotels and office condos, as well as land purchases by NorthBay Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente, and Copart in Green Valley Corporate Park.

• Groundbreaking on Suisun City waterfront's redevelopment centerpiece, Harbor Square, which will add 34,500 square feet of retail, residential, restaurant and office space.

• Expansion of Touro University, Kaiser Permanente, and Sutter Solano Cancer Center in Vallejo.

• An 18 percent year-over-year sales tax revenue increase in Benicia, as well as $20 million-worth of investment and expansion in the Benicia Industrial Park.

• Annexation of the former U.S. Army Reserve Center and plans to create a 10-acre research center in Rio Vista.

The Times-Herald, Vallejo contributed to this report. Amanda Janis can be reached at business@thereporter.com. Top business exec predicts a solid future
Solano can't help but grow
By Amanda Janis/Business Editor
Article Launched: 01/28/2007 07:50:21 AM PST

Solano County's positive economic growth will continue in the near future, according to the county's top economic development chief and new findings from a Bay Area planning agency.

In his 'state of the county' type address, Michael Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corp., outlined 2006 progress he predicts will continue into 2007.

"When you're the middle point between two rapidly growing Northern California markets, you're going to grow, too," Ammann told more than 300 local political and business leaders recently gathered at an annual luncheon sponsored by the Solano EDC.

"We've taken care of business here," he said, launching into a synopsis of the county's economic report card.

Travis Air Force Base - a major economic engine for the region - is safe and secure, having escaped the military base closure list last year, Ammann said. And the much-heralded addition of 13 new C-17 cargo aircraft is just part of a $100 million investment the Pentagon is making at Travis, he noted.

Ammann also pointed to the increasingly low unemployment rate for residents - hovering at 4.5 percent - as proof of Solano's superlative economic health at a time when many other regions of the state and nation are showing
Advertisement
Century 21Distinctive Properties Inc.
signs of economic distress. In the past year alone, more than 2,300 jobs were added in Solano County, according to the state's Employment Development Department.

That translates to a 1.8 percent job growth rate, matching Santa Clara County's and outpacing the rest of the region's 1.6 percent rate, according to a recently released report by the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Solano should continue to grow at a moderate pace, said Paul Fassinger, an economist and research director for the agency.

"We expect to see the county add 2,000 jobs this year and about 1,800 jobs in 2008," Fassinger said. The slightly lower projections for 2007 and 2008 can be attributed to the softening housing market, he said.

One market that isn't softening, however, is local business/industrial park real estate. Brooks Pedder, managing partner of Fairfield's Colliers International office and Solano EDC board chairman, told the audience at Thursday's Solano EDC luncheon that 2006 was record-breaking.

"In the last 90 days of the year, in business parks throughout the county, there were transactions that totaled about 3 million square feet," said Pedder. "We only have a business park market that's approximately 24 million square feet total, so in 90 days, 10 percent of our market turned over - which has never before been seen in our marketplace."

Additional successes highlighted by Ammann include:

• Kaiser Permanente's $1 billion investment in a new hospital, the groundbreaking of a 430,000 square foot office campus, and partial completion of the Nut Tree development in Vacaville.

• Development of new retail parks and continued construction on the new high school in Dixon.

• Construction of two hotels and office condos, as well as land purchases by NorthBay Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente, and Copart in Green Valley Corporate Park.

• Groundbreaking on Suisun City waterfront's redevelopment centerpiece, Harbor Square, which will add 34,500 square feet of retail, residential, restaurant and office space.

• Expansion of Touro University, Kaiser Permanente, and Sutter Solano Cancer Center in Vallejo.

• An 18 percent year-over-year sales tax revenue increase in Benicia, as well as $20 million-worth of investment and expansion in the Benicia Industrial Park.

• Annexation of the former U.S. Army Reserve Center and plans to create a 10-acre research center in Rio Vista.

The Times-Herald, Vallejo contributed to this report. Amanda Janis can be reached at business@thereporter.com. s/Business Editor
Article Launched: 01/28/2007 07:50:21 AM PST

Solano County's positive economic growth will continue in the near future, according to the county's top economic development chief and new findings from a Bay Area planning agency.

In his 'state of the county' type address, Michael Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corp., outlined 2006 progress he predicts will continue into 2007.

'When you're the middle point between two rapidly growing Northern California markets, you're going to grow, too,' Ammann told more than 300 local political and business leaders recently gathered at an annual luncheon sponsored by the Solano EDC.

'We've taken care of business here,' he said, launching into a synopsis of the county's economic report card.

Travis Air Force Base - a major economic engine for the region - is safe and secure, having escaped the military base closure list last year, Ammann said. And the much-heralded addition of 13 new C-17 cargo aircraft is just part of a $100 million investment the Pentagon is making at Travis, he noted.

Ammann also pointed to the increasingly low unemployment rate for residents - hovering at 4.5 percent - as proof of Solano's superlative economic health at a t"

Signs of Stabilization in the Bay Area Housing Market During the Fourth Quarter

Earthtimes.org (Press Release)


Signs of Stabilization in the Bay Area Housing Market During the Fourth Quarter
Posted on : 2007-01-23 | Author : Prudential California Realty
News Category : PressRelease

PLEASANTON, Calif., Jan. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- As sales decreased 22 percent in the fourth quarter across the Bay Area, year-over-year, downward trends were moderating in most counties, according to a report released today by the research division of Prudential California Realty. Price appreciation was stable, rising by one percent across all housing types over the same period last year. Inventory grew (+22%, year-over-year) but gains slowed dramatically over previous quarters.

"The sharp rate of the downturn has definitely decelerated. Unit sales are still down considerably from 2005 levels, however the decreases became smaller each quarter as the year ended. At the same time, the rate of new listings coming to the market leveled off and dropped," said Scott Kucirek, general manager of Prudential California Realty based in Pleasanton. "Although it's still early, these are positive signs that the market is finding its legs in this correction and stabilizing."

Fourth Quarter Bay Area Market Summary 2006 Median Price* Home Sales Q4 2006 Q4 2005 % Q4 2006 Q4 2005 % Housing Type change change Single-Family Detached Homes $740,615 $729,183 +2 10,970 14,147 -23 Single-Family Attached Homes $488,486 $483,921 +1 2,400 3,000 -20 Average Days on Market Active Listings** Q4 2006 Q4 2005 difference Q4 2006 Q4 2005 % Housing Type (in days) change Single-Family Detached Homes 57 40 +18 38,453 31,864 +21 Single-Family Attached Homes 61 32 +31 8,450 6,726 +27

After a glut of mid-year inventory shifted the market from a strong sellers' to a buyers' in a short period, buyers enjoyed a great deal of choice and were able to make demands for price reductions. This had an impact on inventory levels in the fourth quarter as some homeowners removed their properties from sale and more choose to wait and see how the market would fare before listing.

Across the counties, homes that did sell continued to spend longer on the market, averaging 24 days more than in the fourth quarter 2005. The spread included San Francisco at +9 days and Napa at +47 days on market, year-over-year. While buyers and sellers were not as out of sync as they had been in second and third quarter 2006, it still took more time to negotiate a deal that both parties felt was equitable, which contributed to more days on market.

As price increases softened on mid-priced homes in several counties, pockets of luxury homes in San Francisco and close to Silicon Valley experienced the strongest price growth in the fourth quarter. In Atherton, San Mateo, the median price of a single-family detached home grew by 12 percent to $3,252,500, the highest median price in the Bay area. The median price for the same property type in the Pacific Heights area of San Francisco jumped by 18 percent to over $2.6 million.

Added Kucirek: "Although there is some consumer apprehension, demand for homes remains solid in the Bay Area, and in the fourth quarter it was buoyed by a rebound of hiring in the tech sector. Currently, we are still in a transition period and it will take the spring market to really see where the market nets out in terms of both activity and price resiliency."

Survey of Bay Area Counties' Median House Prices - Fourth Quarter 2006 Single-Family Detached Homes Single-Family Attached Homes Fourth Fourth Fourth Fourth Quarter Quarter % Quarter Quarter % 2006 ($) 2005 ($) change 2006 ($) 2005 ($) change Alameda County $636,881 $648,283 -2 $416,079 $422,497 -2 Contra Costa County $651,700 $655,369 -1 $344,976 $389,835 -12 Marin County $944,760 $994,989 -5 $550,969 $538,801 +2 Napa County $610,000 $618,000 -1 $425,000 $422,450 +1 San Francisco County $978,049 $929,561 +5 $742,560 $719,418 +3 San Mateo County $1,001,896 $988,209 +1 $496,407 $501,196 -1 Santa Clara County $859,790 $811,224 +6 $437,467 $435,637 0 Solano County $456,933 $474,545 -4 $292,183 $313,328 -7 Sonoma County $553,133 $578,326 -4 $348,510 $388,563 -10 Bay Area median $740,615 $729,183 +2 $488,486 $483,921 +1 Survey of Bay Area Counties' Home Sales - Fourth Quarter 2006 Single-Family Detached Homes Single-Family Attached Homes Fourth Fourth Third Third Quarter Quarter % Quarter Quarter % 2006 2005 change 2006 2005 change Alameda County 2,357 2,979 -21 369 501 -26 Contra Costa County 1,976 2,856 -31 296 391 -24 Marin County 432 462 -6 128 143 -10 Napa County 187 213 -12 31 48 -35 San Francisco County 675 848 -20 508 562 -10 San Mateo County 1,070 1,296 -17 255 317 -20 Santa Clara County 2,550 3,306 -23 574 725 -21 Solano County 809 1,070 -24 92 137 -33 Sonoma County 914 1,117 -18 147 176 -17 Bay Area totals 10,970 14,147 -22 2,400 3,000 -20 * The median home price for the entire region is the weighted mean of median home prices of cities within the San Francisco Bay Area. ** Active listings is the sum of listings that were available for sale for at least one day within the quarter. This can include listings from previous quarters. Days on market (DOM) is the number of days a property was listed on the market until it went under contract at its final listing price. This is may not reflect previous listings. Data are sourced from multiple listing services and are deemed reliable but not guaranteed. All percentages rounded to nearest whole number. Bay Area refers to sales within Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Marin County, Napa County, San Francisco County, San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Solano County and Sonoma County. About Prudential California:

Prudential California Realty



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UNDERGRADUATE APPLICATIONS UP 6 PERCENT More than 42,300 applied to study at the University of California, Davis, for fall 2007

University of California, Davis
January 24, 2007

UNDERGRADUATE APPLICATIONS UP 6 PERCENT

More than 42,300 high school seniors, prospective transfer students and others applied to study at the University of California, Davis, for fall 2007 -- a 5.9 percent increase over fall 2006.

A total of 42,311 students applied to UC Davis, compared with 39,936 applicants for fall 2006. There are 35,088 applicants for freshman status this fall, a 7.6 percent increase from last year's 32,611 and the largest percentage gain in freshman applications among UC's undergraduate campuses.

A total of 7,223 applicants are seeking to transfer from another college or university, for a 1.4 percent decrease from last fall's 7,325.

Applicants from traditionally underrepresented groups rose to about
19 percent among both domestic freshman applicants and domestic transfer students. Last year, they accounted for about 17 percent in each applicant group.

"We're encouraged by the increased diversity of our freshman and transfer applicant pools," said Pamela Burnett, director of Undergraduate Admissions at UC Davis.

For fall 2007, UC Davis is aiming to enroll about 4,800 new freshmen directly from high school and about 1,800 new transfer students.

Systemwide, UC applications are up 3.9 percent overall, from 106,784 for fall 2006 to 110,994 for fall 2007. A total of 87,213 students applied for freshman status, for a 5.3 percent increase over last year's 82,841. Among transfer applicants, there was a 0.7 decrease, from 23,943 last year to 23,781.

Freshman applicants by ethnicity

A total of 32,901 California high school students applied for freshman status at UC Davis in 2007, compared with 30,650 for fall 2006. Those from traditionally underrepresented groups -- African American, American Indian and Chicano/Latino -- increased 16 percent.
For fall 2007, they account for 19 percent, or 6,270, of all California high school applicants, compared with 17.6 percent for students who applied to study at UC Davis for fall 2006.

All ethnic groups experienced increases this year: African American, from 1,141 last year to 1,242 this year, or 8.9 percent; American Indian, from 201 last year to 217 this year, or 8 percent; Asian American, from 10,972 to 11,239, or 2.4 percent; Chicano/Latino, from
4,062 to 4,811, or 18.4 percent; Filipino American, from 1,293 to 1,476, or 14.2 percent; and White/other, from 11,438 to 12,371, or
8.2 percent.

Students for whom an ethnicity is missing increased negligibly, from
1,543 to 1,545, or 0.1 percent.

Transfer applicants

A total of 5,691 domestic applicants are seeking to transfer from a California community college this year, compared with 5,873 last year. Those from traditionally underrepresented groups account for
19.1 percent of the domestic applicants, compared with 17.6 percent last year.

Those groups with increases this year include: African American, from
213 last year to 222 this year, or 4.2 percent; Chicano/Latino, from 760 to 816, or 7.4 percent; and Filipino American, from 198 to 212, or 7.1 percent.

The following groups experienced decreases: American Indian, from 61 last year to 53 this year, or 13.1 percent; Asian American, from
1,914 to 1,797, or 6.1 percent; and White/other, from 2,309 to 2,223, or 3.7 percent.

Students for whom an ethnicity is missing also decreased from 418 to 365, or 12 percent.

Offers of admission

Applicants will be notified of admission decisions beginning in mid-March.

Burnett encourages applicants to beat the rush by creating their MyAdmissions account now so they can easily check the status of their application online at .

UC Davis applications generally reflect trends in UC systemwide data.
Statistics for the system are available at .

Media contact(s):
* Pamela Burnett, Undergraduate Admissions, (530) 752-3018, plburnett@ucdavis.edu
* Julia Ann Easley, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-8248, jaeasley@ucdavis.edu


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Poll: U.S. economy will skirt recession Consumer spending will offset housing slump, economists predict

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MSNBC.com
Poll: U.S. economy will skirt recession
Consumer spending will offset housing slump, economists predict
Reuters
Updated: 12:58 p.m. PT Jan 23, 2007

NEW YORK - The U.S. economy will easily skirt recession this year as consumer spending remains sufficiently sturdy to offset the effects of a housing downturn, a Reuters poll showed on Tuesday.

This resilience may even allow the Federal Reserve to leave interest rates unchanged this year — a 40 percent chance, according to respondents — although a majority still expect them to come down by the end of June.

The poll of 58 economists showed they expected growth to coast along at a rate of about 2.5 percent in 2007, picking up to 3.0 percent next year. That is little changed from 2.6 percent for this year in a poll taken one month ago.

Fears that the housing slump would drag middle-America into the gutter appear to have faded, with signs of incipient stability in the sector bolstering sentiment about U.S. economic prospects as a whole.

Manufacturing, another sore spot in the outlook, seems to be faring just well enough not to threaten the benign growth picture. Rising incomes, which took some time to catch up to productivity increases, should offer some help.

"As the economy continues to exhibit strength against the backdrop of slowly fading adjustments in housing and manufacturing, market expectations of significantly weaker growth are ebbing," said Robert Mellman, economist at JP Morgan.

Less sure about rate cuts
As for interest rates, most still see the Federal Reserve pushing them lower them before the year is over. The first rate cut will likely come in the second quarter, the survey indicates, followed by another in the fourth.

That would bring the federal funds rate to 4.75 percent from its current 5.25 percent, but hinges on a continued gradual moderation in the rate of inflation.

Economists forecast core CPI to average 2.3 percent this year compared with 2.4 percent projected in last month's poll.

The very gradual nature of such a drop in interest rates indicates many of those polled have become less convinced of the certainty of looser monetary policy this year as pockets of resilience have emerged in the economic data.

Futures markets have already acknowledged the shift, and are now pricing in just one rate cut for 2007 as a whole — down from more than three late last year.

"The Fed's rate-setting behavior contains a significant amount of inertia: a Fed at rest tends to stay at rest," said John Shin, economist at Lehman Brothers.

Don't forget the umbrella
Those with bearish views on the economy warn, however, that weather may have been a big part of a late-year surge in activity, which could have been more of a last hurrah for consumer spending than a sign of renewed vigor.

Last year was the warmest on record in the United States. The spring-like temperatures surrounding the Christmas season may have not only artificially boosted holiday shopping but also given false hope that the housing market was stabilizing.

Lower energy prices, a key boost to consumption, may also not be around forever. Despite a drastic recent slide, cooler temperatures were pushing the cost of an oil barrel back up toward $53.

To be sure, the labor market seems to be holding fairly well at this stage in the business cycle. With around 160,000 jobs being created per month over the past six months and the unemployment rate at just 4.5 percent, this key marker of economic performance gives reason for cautious optimism.

Cautious, because the Reuters survey indicates conditions will worsen in coming months — the unemployment rate is expected to average 4.8 percent for the year.
Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16774232/
© 2007 MSNBC.com

GOOGLE JOINS LARGE SYNOPTIC SURVEY TELESCOPE PROJECT COMPOSED OF UC DAVIS & 15 OTHER UNIVERSITIES

GOOGLE JOINS LARGE SYNOPTIC SURVEY TELESCOPE PROJECT

Google Inc. has joined a group of 16 universities and national labs that are building the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST).

"Partnering with Google will significantly enhance our ability to convert LSST data to knowledge," said J. Anthony Tyson, professor of physics at UC Davis and director of the consortium to build the telescope.

Scheduled to begin operations in 2014, the 8.4-meter telescope will survey the entire visible sky every week, investigating dark matter and dark energy and opening a movie-like window on fast-changing objects such as exploding supernovae, near-Earth asteroids and distant Kuiper Belt objects beyond Pluto.

The LSST will generate more than 30 terabytes -- 30 thousand gigabytes -- of images every night for a decade. The collaboration with Google will aim at organizing, processing and analyzing that huge amount of data and enabling the new discoveries from the telescope to be made available to the public and researchers in real time.

"Google's mission is to take the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," said William Coughran, vice president of engineering for the Mountain View, Calif.-based Internet search company. "The data from LSST will be an important part of the world's information and, by being involved in the project, we hope to make it easier for that data to become accessible and useful."

In 2005, Wayne Rosing, a former vice president for engineering at Google, was appointed as a senior fellow in mathematical and physical sciences at UC Davis, working primarily on the LSST project with Tyson.

The LSST research and development effort is funded in part by the National Science Foundation. Additional funding comes from private contributions, in-kind support at Department of Energy laboratories and other institutional members of the consortium.

Founded in 2003, the LSST Corporation, a nonprofit 501(c)3 Arizona corporation headquartered in Tucson, Ariz., includes the University of Arizona, Research Corporation, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the University of Washington, Brookhaven National Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Google Inc., Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Johns Hopkins University, Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology - Stanford University, Las Cumbres Observatory Inc., Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Princeton University, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, The Pennsylvania State University, UC Davis, UC Irvine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and University of Pennsylvania.

Additional information:
* Large Synoptic Survey Telescope

Researchers at UC Davis have created a new type of nanoparticles testing contamination of food products, and for medical diagnostics

University of California, Davis
January 25, 2007

Science, Engineering and Technology News Tips

MAGNETIC, LUMINESCENT NANOPARTICLES SET NEW STANDARD

Researchers at UC Davis have created a new type of nanoparticles that could be used in tests for environmental pollution or contamination of food products, and for medical diagnostics.

The particles, about 100 to 200 nanometers in size, are luminescent, magnetic and inexpensive to make, and can be tagged with antibodies.
They are made up of a magnetic core of iron oxide or iron/neodymium/cobalt oxide coated in a shell of europium and gadolinium oxide. When stimulated with a laser, europium emits red light at a very specific wavelength.

The nanoparticles can be manipulated with magnets and detected by fluorescence. They could also be labeled with other fluorescent labels in different colors, or used as part of an assay with other fluorescent labels. The built-in europium luminescence acts as an internal standard, making it easier to carry out accurate quantitative assays, said Ian Kennedy, professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering and senior author on a paper describing the work.

The particles can also be coated with short pieces of DNA and used for genetic analysis. The team is exploring uses including testing for bioterrorism agents such as ricin or botulinum toxin in food and for genetic tests in cancer medicine.

The nanoparticles were made by spray pyrolysis, which involves mixing the raw material in a solvent and spraying it through a flame. The method is much cheaper than the techniques previously used for making similar particles, and can readily be scaled up to industrial production. It is already used in the chemical industry to make products such as fumed silica and carbon black.

Other authors on the paper are research specialist Dosi Dosev, Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering; postdoctoral researcher Mikaela Nichkova, research associate Shirley Gee and Professor Bruce Hammock, all of the Department of Entomology; and physics graduate student Randy Dumas and Kai Liu, associate professor of physics.

The researchers are establishing a company, Synthia LLC, to develop the technology further.

The paper is published online in the journal Nanotechnology and will appear in the Feb. 7, 2007, print issue of the journal. The work was funded primarily by the National Science Foundation and the Superfund Basic Research Program of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Media contact(s):
* Ian Kennedy, Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering, (530) 752-2796, imkennedy@ucdavis.edu
* Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-4533, ahfell@ucdavis.edu



Media contact(s):
* Lylie Fisher, (415) 637-9221, info@lyliefisher.com
* Richard Lander, Physics, (530) 752-1780, lander@physics.ucdavis.edu
* John Terning, Physics, (530) 752-2749, terning@physics.ucdavis.edu
* Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-4533, ahfell@ucdavis.edu

------------------------------------------------------------



Media contact(s):
* Suzanne Jacoby, LSST Corporation, (520) 881-2626, sjacoby@lsst.org
* Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-4533, ahfell@ucdavis.edu



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WEST COAST AAU JUNIOR OLYMPIC GAMES RETURN TO DAVIS

University of California, Davis
January 26, 2007

WEST COAST AAU JUNIOR OLYMPIC GAMES RETURN TO DAVIS

[Editor's note: Digital images of the 2006 West Coast AAU Junior Olympic Games are available by contacting Dana Welch (see below).]

For the second consecutive year, UC Davis has been chosen to host the prestigious West Coast AAU Junior Olympic Games, the Amateur Athletic Union announced today.

The event, slated for June 23-July 1, 2007, is expected to attract 2,500 young athletes from across the nation to compete at facilities and sports fields on the UC Davis campus and throughout the city of Davis. The athletes, mostly 8 to 14 years old, will compete in six sports throughout the 10-day period: baseball, boys and girls basketball, diving, jump rope and wrestling.

In addition to daily sports competitions, several special events are being planned for athletes, their coaches and their families. The city of Davis, the Davis Downtown Business Association and other community organizations will coordinate activities such as free outdoor concerts, a "March of Athletes" in Central Park, and an "Athlete Village," where attendees will be able to play games, enjoy music and swim after a busy day of competition.

UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef welcomed the opportunity to once again host the West Coast AAU Junior Olympic Games. With top-notch sports facilities and a supportive local community, "UC Davis meets the needs of student-athletes and their families very nicely,"
Vanderhoef said. "Those who visit for the games will enjoy all that our university and our region have to offer, and we'll very much enjoy having them on campus."

The local community is also on board for the planning of and support for the games.

"The city of Davis is thrilled that the West Coast AAU Junior Olympics will be returning to Davis and the UC Davis campus this summer," said Davis Mayor Sue Greenwald. "The response from last year's inaugural event in town was encouraging, and we are hopeful that this event can grow to rival similar AAU events in other parts of the country.

"Davis has developed a successful niche for sporting activities, and youth-based sports in particular are a good fit for our community,"
Greenwald added. "I look forward to seeing all of the athletes, their parents and coaches enjoying all that our town has to offer this June. As mayor, I am proud that the city is able to help host these games."

In 2006 -- the event's inaugural year -- more than 1,000 participants traveled to Davis from nine states including Alaska, Indiana and Florida. Athletes could be seen strolling around town sporting AAU shirts and their participation medals. Local support was evident in the windows of stores and businesses, and athletes received goody bags filled with products from sponsors.

While next summer will mark only the second year for the West Coast games, the national AAU Junior Olympic Games has a longstanding tradition of success. The 41st annual AAU Junior Olympic Games will host an estimated 20,000 athletes in Knoxville, Tenn., later this year. Founded in 1888, the AAU is one of the nation's oldest and largest nonprofit, volunteer sports organizations.

The Amateur Athletic Union is dedicated exclusively to the promotion and development of amateur sports and physical fitness programs.
During the early years, it served as a leader in international sport, representing the U.S. in the international sports federations. The AAU worked closely with the Olympic movement to prepare athletes for the Olympic Games.

Since 1978, the AAU has focused its efforts on providing sports programs for all ages at the grassroots level. The philosophy of "Sports for All, Forever" is shared by nearly 550,000 participants.
The AAU is divided into 56 districts, which each sanction thousands of national championships and local events for 34 individual and team sports.

The AAU boasts a long list of well-known alumni. They include Shaquille O'Neal (basketball), Greg Louganis (diving), Dan Gable (wrestling), Lisa Leslie (basketball), Carl Lewis (track and field) and Keri Strug (gymnastics).

For more information on the West Coast AAU Junior Olympic Games go to . Participants, sponsors and volunteers are being sought, and all are encouraged to contact the Web site.

Media contact(s):
* Dana Welch, UC Davis Event Coordinator, (530) 754-4892, dmwelch@ucdavis.edu
* Amanda Stokes, AAU Sports Coordinator, (407) 828-8323, amanda@aausports.org
* Mitchel Benson, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-9844, mdbenson@ucdavis.edu


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Fairfield's first premier address -- Rancho Solano looks back at 20 years

Printed on: Sun, Jan 28, 2007

Fairfield's first premier address -- Rancho Solano looks back at 20 years
By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - Fairfield planners about 20 years ago envisioned Rancho Solano as a type of pioneering community for the area.

It was designed to be a first for the city in many ways - the first neighborhood with a golf course, the first with gated streets, the first with homes of a quality that might tempt executives and people of similar ilk to live in Fairfield, rather than flee to fancier surroundings.

These days, Rancho Solano has competition as Fairfield's premiere address from newer developments. It's experienced a few rough spots over the years, such as landslides that threatened some homes. It once was at the center of the area's growth wars.

Yet Rancho Solano has delivered for many who live in its nearly 1,200 homes along streets named after Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, Winged Foot and other famous golf courses. Residents include not only those climbing the corporate ladder, but people who already lived in Fairfield and wanted to move up to a bigger, more expensive house.

"I've watched it grow up," said Denise Kirchubel, a resident there since 1991. "And I've watched it go through its growing pains."

Kirchubel called Rancho Solano her favorite neighborhood. It offers a level of living style that's attractive to the corporate environment and contributes to the city's tax base, she said.

Gary Falati was mayor when Fairfield put Rancho Solano on the drawing boards in the mid- and late-1980s. Today, he's happy with the results, saying the community filled a housing niche for Fairfield.

"We were trying to build a project that would stand the test of time," Falati said. "Every year, with the landscaping and trees going in, it gets more beautiful. I think it came out very, very nice."

Two decades ago, Solano County had few upscale housing developments, apart from upper Green Valley in the rural county. Rancho Solano came before Fairfield built Paradise Valley or Eastridge. It came before Vallejo built Hiddenbrooke.

A different kind of place

Data from the U.S. Census 2000 - the latest available with details for individual neighborhoods - shows Rancho Solano indeed stands apart from Fairfield as a whole.

About 63 percent of Fairfield homes that year were owner-occupied and 37 percent were rentals. The average Fairfield house cost $191,000 and had six rooms.

Meanwhile, about 93 percent of Rancho Solano homes were owner-occupied and 7 percent were rentals. The average Rancho house cost $319,000 and had eight rooms.

Today, homes in Rancho Solano cost from about $535,000 for a smaller, single-story home to $1.6 million for a custom home, Kirchubel said. The sheer pricing makes it executive housing, but Rancho Solano has a nice mix of retired people, young families and people in-between, she said.

Michael Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corp., sees Rancho Solano and the upscale communities that followed in its wake as assets for attracting businesses to the area.

"We certainly have more opportunities now throughout the county as far as executive housing," Ammann said. "It's not as much of an issue as when (Rancho) was conceived and built."

Ammann also put things in perspective. There are other priorities for prospective businesses than executive housing, such as a skilled labor force and the availability of buildings or building sites, he said.

As a Realtor, Kirchubel has an idea of the type of people who buy homes at Rancho Solano. Usually, it's someone looking to move to a bigger house in a neighborhood with rules requiring residents to maintain a certain, aesthetic level for their homes and yards, she said.

"They are people looking for a comfortable neighborhood to live in where they feel secure," Kirchubel said.

Homeowners must follow community rules. For example, landscaping must meet guidelines designed to give neighborhoods a cohesive look. Trees cannot block views, fences are to be unpainted and the majority of a front yard should be grass or ground cover. Garage doors are to remain closed unless someone is moving a car or working in the garage.

What draws people there

The Kirchubels came to Rancho Solano in 1991 as first-time home buyers escaping the high housing prices in Marin County. They had looked at a house in American Canyon, then learned of a deal in Rancho Solano with special, down payment assistance.

"We'd been the up-and-comers," Kirchubel said. "We were the typical yuppies with the suddenly higher income and not much savings."

She liked the well-constructed homes in Rancho Solano and a community spirit that had neighbors helping each other landscape their yards.

Dale Baumler moved to Rancho Solano in 1990 and in 1993 retired from a U.S. Air Force career that at one point had him commanding the U.S. Air Force Reserve 349th Air Mobility Wing at Travis Force Base. He liked the style of the homes, the Rancho Solano country club and the look of a community with 1,400 acres of open space.

"The setting was, as it is today, beautiful," Baumler said. "It's was just a tremendously beautiful community. Just the way it was situated. And then the privacy."

Plus, there's the Rancho Solano golf course, perfect for an avid golfer - though Baumler laughingly said his golf game doesn't qualify him for that title.

Birth of a big project

But Rancho Solano had a painful birth. Landowner William Lee Smith in the early 1980s interested Solano County in building 850 homes on 2,284 acres of his ranch. Homes would be on lots of a half-acre to 10 acres, with much of the land left for open space and cattle grazing. The development would have an equestrian center.

Rancho Solano, along with the proposed city of Manzanita, spurred the Proposition A ballot measure. Opponents saw the developments as unleashing sprawl growth on farms and ranches. Proposition A passed in 1984, barring most development on rural land unless annexed by a city.

Falati was among those wary about Rancho Solano as proposed by the county. The development would have had a lagoon to treat sewage, something the city didn't want near its borders.

In 1985, Fairfield took over the project and annexed the land. The new Rancho Solano would have smaller lots and no sewage lagoon. It would have a public golf course, something Fairfield had sought for several decades.

But the growth wars continued. Some residents filed a lawsuit to stop what they saw as the sprawl growth of Rancho Solano, Rolling Hills and Paradise Valley. The city settled in 1986, agreeing that assessments on the new homes would help create the Solano County Farmlands and Open Space Foundation - today, the Solano Land Trust - to preserve open space.

Rancho Solano sold its first homes in the late 1980s and the golf course opened in March 1990. The new community proved a hit, with people lining up to buy homes.

"The only constraint we've seen to construction and the sale of homes is the pace we can build at," said Robert Lando, the attorney for Rancho Solano, during 1989.

Most buyers were Fairfield residents who wanted a bigger home, he added.

Not always paradise

Rancho Solano soon hit some rough spots. Mudslides threatened several homes after heavy rains in 1993. Spas in the privately owned health club - planned as a jewel of the development - were shut down by the county in 1995 because of bacteria.

These issues have been resolved, said Baumler, who is president of the Rancho Solano Master Association homeowners group. For example, the association in 1999 settled the lawsuit over the landslides, getting $5.4 million to use for landslide repairs. It still has a committee to monitor the situation.

And, Baumler said, problems with the club were resolved after area resident Billy Yarbrough bought it in 2000 and brought in the Millennium Sports Club.

The development didn't grow as fast as originally planned, despite the initial torrid sales. Rancho Solano was to be completely built by 1995. Eleven years later, the community is almost finished, but still has some homes to be constructed. National housing market slowdowns affected Rancho Solano.

Rancho Solano has been criticized by some as being a world apart. But society's problems still occasionally creep into its various gated neighborhoods. For example, vandals have done such things as egg cars and drive cars into the street gates, which close at nights.

Whether the culprits live at Rancho Solano or elsewhere is unclear. In one case when the vandals got caught, they lived elsewhere. The homeowners group wants to install an informational kiosk with a security camera near the Rancho Solano entrance, in part to deter vandalism.

But if Rancho Solano can't escape all of the world's problems, it remains a paradise for many of its residents.

"It has been a real good experience and I think the planners did a super job," Baumler said. "I would say it's been a tremendous success."

Falati expressed doubt that Fairfield will ever get another Rancho Solano, given present city growth policies. Those policies favor steering growth into existing city boundaries and reject large expansions onto farms and ranches.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at beberling@dailyrepublic.net.



Big dates for Rancho Solano

1986 - Fairfield and Rancho Solano opponents settle lawsuit filed to stop the project.

February 1989 - Rancho Solano developers say the initial homes are selling briskly.

March 1990 - The $9.2 million Rancho Solano golf course opens, fulfilling a decades-old city dream to have a public golf course.

July 1990 - B. Gale Wilson Elementary School near Rancho Solano Parkway opens.

1992 and 1993 - The Rancho Solano club hosts the $50,000 U.S. Tennis Association Challenger Series, attracting big-name pros.

Early 1993 - Huge storms trigger a landslide that threatens two homes on Formby Drive. More than 30 landslides around the development later come to light, triggering litigation between homeowners and the developer.

September 1998 - Rancho Solano's privately owned, long-troubled fitness-and-tennis club, initially targeted to be a community jewel, closes after a foreclosure sale.

August 1999 - Rancho Solano developers and homeowners reach settlement over landslides, with homeowners association getting $5.4 million for remediation work.

September 2000 - Local resident Billy Yarbrough buys the health-and-fitness club. It reopens as the Millennium Sports Club.

October 2004 - Rancho Solano residents convince City Council to allow 100-foot-tall telecommunication tower to improve cellular phone service in community.
Copyright © 2005. Daily Republic. All rights reserved.
The Daily Republic is part of the McNaughton Corporation including the Davis Enterprise, the Mountain Democrat, Village Life, and Winters Express newspapers. All content is property of the Daily Republic and may not be reprinted or published in any form with out written premission from the Daily Republic.

SJ County bids for national Bio and Agro-Defense Facility lab

Note: The location of a national facility will attract other service providers and users to adjourning areas such as Solano County. Lawrence Livermore Labs have existing research relationships with UC Davis which is located in Solano and Yolo Counties in Davis and near Dixon and the biotechnology cluster in Vacaville. Comments by Mike Ammann, President Solano EDC.

Modbee.com
SJ County bids for national lab

By INGA MILLER
BEE STAFF WRITER

STOCKTON — Under a proposal being considered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory would become the first place in the country where scientists could study even the most controlled forms of zoonotic diseases sickening both humans and animals.

Diseases such as West Nile virus, avian flu, severe acute respiratory syndrome, and foot-and-mouth disease would come under the microscope. Site 300 near Tracy would be outfitted with a lab to study the diseases in animals. And scientists would be charged with the additional duty of diagnosing suspected cases from across the country, University of California and lab officials told the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The university system runs the lab.

Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday for a resolution offering preliminary support. The move is viewed as a boost to the lab's application.

"Everyone still has questions, but we're never going to get answers to those questions if we don't move forward," Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller said.

The site is one of 14 locations under consideration nationwide by the Department of Homeland Security. It already whittled the list from 28 proposals.

Supervisor Steve Gutierrez, who cast the lone vote against the resolution, cited uncertainty about what, exactly, would go on at Site 300 — and language in the resolution stating research activities "would help to safeguard and support the general public."

"I would like to support it in concept, but the most important part for me is making it contingent on further study," he said. "I want to make it contingent on public safety."

'Level 4' air, waste fully treated

Strict protocols assure that diseases stay in labs, said Pam Hul-linger, Lawrence Livermore's lead for food and agricultural security.

In the "level 4" security areas, for the most controlled diseases, the primary focus "is to protect people and the environment. People wear fully protective clothing, they take two showers, go through several stages," Hullinger said. "The air and waste is fully treated to protect the environment."

Level 4 diseases include the notorious Ebola virus. It is responsible for deaths in Africa by hemorrhagic fever.

But that would be an unlikely disease for study at Site 300 because it infects people but not animals other than primates, Hul-linger said. So it wouldn't seem to fit the proposed lab's zoonotic mission on diseases affecting both.

More likely, at the most extreme, scientists would work with the Hendra virus, predominantly seen in Australia and affecting people and horses, and Nipah, usually found in Asia and affecting pigs and people, Hullinger said. Both diseases can kill animals and humans.

Between 10 percent and 15 percent of the proposed lab would be dedicated to such controlled study. People who enter a level 4 lab take off all of their clothes and enter a second stage of containment where they get dressed before entering a third stage where they don protective gear including breathing apparatuses before entering the final, fourth, area where the diseases are held. When they leave, they repeat the process in reverse: showering inside the gear, then taking two additional showers before leaving.

Clothing worn inside protective gear is either disposable or laundered within the facility.

Under the protocols, the carcasses of test animals are fed into a "tissue digester," a chemical bath that disintegrates them inside the lab.

Now, the closest facility with level 4 clearance is Winnipeg, Canada, Hullinger said. Plum Island, off the northeastern tip of Long Island in New York, does level 3 testing for contagions such as foot-and-mouth disease.

If authorities in California were to suspect such an outbreak, under a best-case scenario, it would take more than 13hours to get the sample to Plum Island: two hours of packaging, two hours to get to an airport and on a plane, six hours across country, a 2½-hour drive to the dock and a 45-minute ferry ride, said Hullinger, who has made that trip.

In comparison, a sample from a local animal could be at Site 300 within 2½ hours, she said.

Robert Sarvey, who lives near Site 300, bemoaned the logic.

"I think with today's easy transport and airplanes, there will be quick response no matter where the site is located," he told supervisors.

He pointed out the potential for accidents and the absence of local jurisdiction, and urged supervisors to wait to vote until after the Tracy City Council votes Feb. 6.

The county's Agricultural Advisory Board voted its unanimous support of the Site 300 proposal. Joe Petersen, a member of the committee, said, "We looked at the safety, and we quelled our concern when we found out most of the facilities are inside cities," he told supervisors. "We figured if they operate in cities, we can relax about what's going on. … If you take safety into account, this actually benefits safety."

Being that California is the biggest agricultural producer in the country, it "has a lot to lose if we get foot-and-mouth disease," Hullinger said.

County Agricultural Commissioner Scott Hudson said a report shows such an outbreak would cost California an estimated $1million to $2 million each hour it went undetected or that response was delayed.

The proposal is the only one for the West Coast, Hullinger said.

Representatives from the Homeland Security Department are expected to visit the sites in April, and whittle the list to two or three finalists in June.

If authorities select Site 300, an environmental review would begin, at which point county supervisors stated their intention would be to pay close attention to safety plans and local issues such as traffic.

A finalist would be chosen in 2008. According to the time frame, the lab would become active in 2013 or 2014.

Bee staff writer Inga Miller can be reached at 599-8760 or imiller@modbee.com.

AT A GLANCE

ISSUE: Bio and Agro-Defense Facility at Site 300 in Tracy

WHAT: One of 14 proposed labs for studying zoonotic diseases that infect people and animals with diseases such as West Nile virus, bird flu and SARS

WHO: The University of California proposes running it.

WHO DECIDES: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

WHEN: In June, officials are expected to whittle the list to two or three finalists; a lab site would be selected in 2008.

WHERE LOCALS STAND:

The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday for preliminary support.

The county's Agricultural Advisory Board unanimously supports the proposal.

Tracy City Council votes Feb. 6.


Posted on 01/24/07 00:00:00
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/13226082p-13863514c.html

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Assemblywoman Wolk gets committee assignments

January 26, 2007

Wolk gets committee assignments

By Daily Republic staff

SACRAMENTO - Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, announced this week his committee assignments for Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis.

Wolk will serve on the Assembly committees on Budget, Banking and Finance, Budget Subcommittee on Transportation and Information Technology, Natural Resources, Veteran Affairs, and Water, Parks and Wildlife. She will continue as chairwoman of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee.

"I look forward to continuing my work on the budget, transportation and resource issues important to all Californians, and to my new role as a member of both the Banking and Finance and Veteran Affairs Committees," said Wolk in a statement.

Land Trust balances recreation, nature at King/Swett ranches

January 25, 2007

Land Trust balances recreation, nature at King/Swett ranches

By Barry Eberling


FAIRFIELD - Some 4,000 acres comprising the King, Vallejo Swett and Eastern Swett ranches could someday be a place where humans have fun and rare frogs and butterflies continue to thrive.

The challenge is finding the right balance before opening up the land to the public. The Solano Land Trust, which owns the ranches in the hills between Fairfield and Vallejo, thinks it has some answers.

"You plan your trails well and you try to offer lots of recreational opportunities away from the sensitive areas," said Sue Wickham of the Land Trust.

For examples, none of the proposed 30 miles of trails are near certain streams and ponds. Those areas are home to the California red-legged frog, the largest native frog on the West Coast. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says such factors as development have eliminated the frog from 70 percent of its historic habitat, leaving it at about 238 streams in 23 counties.

"Vallejo Swett ranch is just phenomenal for frogs," Wickham said. "So it's special. Very special."

Nor are trails planned near grassland fields with a certain type of violet. Callippe silverspot butterflies lay eggs on the plants. The butterflies are found at only a handful of locations, all in the Bay Area.

The ranches could end up a cross between a regional park and a nature preserve, with areas for rare creatures off-limits.

"This is a more restrictive policy than most regional parks or open space areas, which typically permit people on foot to wander where they want except in designated restoration areas," says a draft public access plan by Randy Anderson of Benicia-based LandPeople.

People can learn about and comment on the proposals during a Solano Land Trust Board meeting on Tuesday. It begins at 7 p.m. in the Cordelia Library, 5050 Business Center Drive.

Wickham has some favorite places on the King, Vallejo Swett and Eastern Swett ranches.

There's the woodland on the King ranch in the hills near Fairfield's Southbrook neighborhood. She likes looking at the oaks, which she described as old and gnarly.

"It's kind of quiet back there in the valley," she said.

Then there's the exhilarating view of the Central Valley and Bay Area from the top of the ridge in the Eastern Swett Ranch near Vallejo's Hiddenbrooke neighborhood. Sometimes, the fog hits various portion of the 1,000-foot-plus hill.

"It's interesting weather combinations up there, very changeable," Wickham said.

People could see such spots under the draft LandPeople plan. They could hike, ride mountain bikes and ride horses along various trails.

But the plan sees the ranches more like a Rockville Hills Park than a Lake Solano Regional Park. No RV campsites, large campgrounds or swimming areas are planned. There could be a hike-in campsite. Dogs would be prohibited.

Making certain people stay away from the restricted areas for rare creatures would be a challenge. Alert rangers, stiff tickets for violators, public education and volunteer patrols could be needed, the plan said.

A segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail would pass through the ranches. When completed, the 580-mile Ridge Trail is to surround the Bay Area.

Money is needed to someday open up the ranches as a regional park. Building the trails and staging areas and providing such things as restrooms and picnic tables could cost $1.7 million, the LandPeople study estimates. That doesn't count the annual operating costs, which include such things as rangers.

Possibilities include having the county manage the land as part of the county parks system or forming a Solano County parks district, the study said. The agencies could hire a private firm to do the day-to-day chores.

The plan by LandPeople doesn't include many money-generating activities at the King and Swett ranches. County Supervisor Mike Reagan has pushed to have parks be more self-sustaining, so they take less tax subsidies. But the grants the Land Trust used to purchase the ranches prohibits public vehicle access or major campgrounds.

Solano County and the Land Trust are teaming up to open nearby, 1,039-acre Lynch Canyon as a county park this spring on a three-year trial basis. What happens with that venture could determine if the county will help open up the King and Swett ranches as parks, too.

For now, though, the future of the King and Swett ranches as parks remains in the planning stages and the public can still have a say.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

Fast facts on the King, Eastern Swett and Vallejo Swett ranches

- About 100 species of birds, mammals reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates have been recorded on the ranches.

- PG&E during the 1980s intended the ranches to become wind turbine farms.

- The Solano Land Trust spent $8.1 million buying the nearly 4,000 acres over a period of years to preserve it as open space.

Comment on the plan

The Solano Land Trust Board on Tuesday will accept comments on a draft public access plan for the King, Eastern Swett and Vallejo Swett ranches. It meets at 7 p.m. in the Cordelia Library, 5050 Business Center Drive. Please go to the Land Trust Web site at www.solanolandtrust.org to see the plan.

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