Friday, November 30, 2007

Bay Area Regional Forecast Conferences held in Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose.

Economic Forecasts

The Bay Area Economic Forum has partnered with Beacon Economics to present a series of Bay Area Regional Forecast Conferences held in Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose. The forecast series provides an annual economic outlook at the national, state and local levels, with in-depth analysis on each of the selected sub-regions. A particular focus of this year's forecast is the expected impact of the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Download links for the forecast books for each region appear below, and additional materials presented at these events can be accessed from the Beacon Economics website at

Beacon Economics 2007

Bay Area Regional Forecast Conference Series

East Bay, Oakland, September 13, 2007

–Forecast Book (PDF: 97 pages, 8 Mb)*

San Francisco Metropolitan Division, San Francisco, September 18, 2007

–Forecast Book (PDF: 105 pages, 15.5 Mb)*

South Bay/Silicon Valley, San Jose, October 4, 2007
–Forecast Book (PDF: 104 pages, 7.6 Mb)*

Livermore lab and UC Davis get $8.5M grant for rapid blood tests

San Francisco Business Times - November 29, 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007 - 11:02 AM PST
Livermore lab and UC Davis get grant for rapid blood tests

San Francisco Business Times

An $8.5 million, five-year grant will help researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the University of California, Davis, develop rapid tests for blood infections.

These so-called point-of-care tests could give doctors results in an hour rather than the several days required by conventional tests. This would make them useful in emergency shelters after a disaster.

The grant comes from a unit of the National Institutes of Health -- the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

UC Davis and Livermore lab have set up a joint project called the Center for Point-of-Care Technologies, which seeks to develop portable medical tests that are tough enough to be used outside a clinic during an emergency.

Gerald Kost of the UC Davis Health System directs the center. Ben Hindson and John Dzenitis of Livermore lab are overseeing grant work there.

Researchers will spend the grant on two prototype detectors -- one meant for hospital use and one that is portable.

The devices will be aimed at major hospital-acquired infections like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus as well as at bacteria that cause severe pneumonia.

All contents of this site © American City Business Journals Inc. All rights reserved.

Solano EDC Praises Conservation

Solano EDC Praises Conservation
By Cathy Bussewitz/Staff Writer

Tax incentives. Savings. Return on investment.

These aren't always the catch phrases used by environmental leaders. But the corporate executives who spoke at Solano Economic Development Corporation's member-investor breakfast Thursday pointed out that the key changes in energy consumption they've made have gone a long way toward helping their bottom line.

Anheuser-Busch's plant manager Kevin Finger said the company cut its energy use in half since 1970, and has cut their breweries' water use by 20 percent per six pack since 1990, saving 3.5 million liters of water.

"A fair amount of my day is spent paying attention to these things," Finger said. "We have opportunities to save money, especially when we partner with PG&E."

Alza Corp's Vacaville facility recently installed a field of 5,740 solar panels, a system that's saving the facility approximately $700 per day in energy costs, according to Bob Royer, project manager for the site.

But the "unsung heroes" in the path toward greening Solano County, Pacific Gas & Electric account executive John Ketcherside said, are small business.

"We've got a large corporation that's saving millions of dollars. But what about the small biz which really makes up the larger sector of our community?" Ketcherside said.

"I've gone out to these mom and pop shops, and I've offered no and low-cost solutions that have been able to send them $5,000 to $11,000 a year. And to an operation that survives on such a slim margin of profit, that is huge."

Ketcherside pointed out that implementing small changes like adding compact or linear florescent lights, strip curtains and seals for refrigeration units can make a big difference.

Fairfield-based Meyer Corporation installed a 4.8 megawatt energy-reduction system that "wiped out their electricity bill," Ketcherside said.

In Solano County, PG&E has paid out $7 million to business in energy efficiency rebates and $5.7 million to residences, Finger said. Much of this change is a result of a program where they audit energy use at a company or residence, and then offer suggestions and incentives to reduce energy expense.

For more information about how your company can reduce energy costs, businesses can contact PG&E at 800-468-4PGE and residents can call 800-933-9555.

Cathy Bussewitz can be reached at

Thursday, November 29, 2007

UC Davis' Burn Center Will Oversee National Research

UC Davis' Burn Center Will Oversee National Research
By Dorsey Griffith -
Published 12:00 am PST Thursday, November 29, 2007

Although people have been getting burned for millennia, research on how best to care for burn survivors is in its infancy.

The UC Davis Regional Burn Center is leading an effort to push burn research to a higher level.

An infusion of $5 million from the U.S. Department of Defense will allow Davis to orchestrate collaborative research at burn centers across the country. The American Burn Association will help coordinate the effort.

Already, planning is under way for three studies. One will examine how to reduce the need for multiple blood transfusions for burn patients in critical care. Another will examine how best to rehabilitate burn survivors, both physically and emotionally. The third will identify obstacles burn survivors face as they recover.

"We want them to have a better, more productive life," said Dr. Tina Palmieri, associate professor of surgery and director of the Davis burn center. "Currently what we do now is based on very early research. It is not enough."

The initiative, dubbed BORI for the Burns Outcomes Research Infrastructure Project, could not have been imagined even 10 years ago, Palmieri said. That's because burn surgeons don't often agree on treatment and because putting burn patients in clinical trials can be complicated.

But burn specialists now see a need for better coordination and standardized treatment.

Part of the motivation for the initiative, Palmieri said, is that treatment advances have improved burn survival rates. Twenty years ago, people burned over more than half of their body rarely survived. Today, even patients with burns over 90 percent of their body can survive.

Although burn care has evolved, the field has not seen broad-based clinical trials that maladies such as cancer and heart disease have attracted. Yet about 1 million Americans are burned every year and many endure difficult, expensive recoveries, Palmieri said.

Jim Mariner, who lost most of his left arm in an electric shock accident two weeks ago, is determined to return to his job as a construction superintendent. He hopes to be discharged soon from the UC Davis Burn Center.

Mariner, 43, said his care has gone beyond surgeries, rehabilitation exercises and pain control he needs while he heals.

"They have really kept me upbeat," he said, sitting up in his hospital room Tuesday. "If I needed a shoulder to cry on, or even some tough love, they were there."

Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, who helped secure the funding, said the research initiative is timely, as more soldiers return from Iraq and Afghanistan with serious burn injuries.

The U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, at Brooke Army Hospital in Houston, will participate in the research. According to its Web site, Brooke serves 300 burn patients annually, and has treated 545 patients admitted as a result of combat.

Matsui, who toured the Davis burn unit Tuesday, said the university is the best choice to run the new research program.

"What you have got is a body of people willing to work hard who can see beyond today," she said.

Touro Facility Will Employ Particle Beam

Touro Facility Will Employ Particle Beam
By SARAH ROHRS/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 11/29/2007 08:29:40 AM PST

DR. KLAUS PLATE, right, speaks with Sandy Person of Solano Economic Corp. and Gil Hollingsworth, manager of the Mare Island conversion program, at Wednesday's conference on the new particle beam cancer treatment center planned at the Touro University campus on Mare Island. (Stacey J. Miller/Times-Herald)

Touro University's cutting-edge $231 million cancer treatment center on Mare Island will get a helping hand from a German medical school building a similar center.

Among a 50-plus crowd gathered Wednesday at Farragut Inn to support Touro's combined particle beam therapy center was Dr. Klaus Plate, chief executive officer of the Technology Park in Heidelberg, Germany.

A personal assistant to the Lord Mayor of Heidelberg was also present. Both said they will help Touro bring the Vallejo project to fruition. A similar cancer treatment center is slated to open in Germany in 2012.

"This is one of the more unique cancer therapies offered. We are happy Touro has decided to join us in the mission to save lives. We are looking forward to
working together," Plate said.

Touro has teamed up with Siemens Medical Solutions to build one of the country's first cancer treatment centers using combined particle beam therapy, including proton beam and heavy carbon ions.

The $231 million center will be part of Touro's ambitious $1.2 billion development plans for a 191-acre parcel on the island's north end. The university has an exclusive right to negotiate with the city on a development agreement for the area.

Construction on the 125,000-square-foot project, slated for a parcel at G Street and Azuar Drive, could start this winter and be completed by early 2011. Work on the Heidelberg combined particle beam therapy center will begin this spring; it is to open in 2012.

Slightly larger than the Heidelberg center, the Touro facility will be able to treat about 2,000 people per year, said Siemens Vice President Dennis Falkenstein.

The treatment facility will be accompanied by a clinical center or hospital.

On the north end, Touro also intends to build a cultural center, hotel, retail areas, classrooms and student housing.

Wednesday's gathering drew city department heads plus representatives of the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce, Vallejo Convention and Visitors Bureau, Solano Economic Development Corp., Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Kaiser Medical Center and Sutter Solano Medical Center, among others.

Touro Vice President Richard Hassel said the event helped forge important partnerships. "The goal is to start relationships and for our community leaders, city staff and elected officials to get a better understanding of the project, and the impact of the project on the overall economy of the city," Hassel said.

Bruce Lang, West Coast land resources business practice manager for ARCADIS, the project's development manager, told the audience the cancer treatment center is expected to generate 3,000 jobs and generate $145 million for the regional economy.

Meanwhile, Plate said the Heidelberg medical center, where the particle beam treatment center is slated, generates more than 14,000 jobs and a regional economic impact of about $3 billion euros which equals $4.4 billion.

But Lang said profits are not the main objective. "Touro is not looking at huge amounts of profits, but looking at something to save lives," he said.

On particle beam therapy, the Federal Drug Administration is allowing Siemens to conduct planning and secure financing prior to getting clearance, Falkenstein said.

Touro University opened in 1998, and is educating more than 1,400 students at colleges of osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, health sciences and education.

THOSE ATTENDING Wednesday's conference on the particle beam cancer treament equiment planned for Touro University's Mare Island facility saw this example of CT particle beam technology. (Stacey J. Miller/Times-Herald)

Contact Sarah Rohrs at or 553-6832.

Complying The 'Word' For Success

Complying The 'Word' For Success
By Kimberly K. Fu/Staff Writer

After a dismal performance on a public-records audit last year, the Vacaville Police Department rallied and made a startling comeback, bringing its A-game to this year's audit.

Garnering a pair of A's, with the most-recent audit testing both for legal compliance and customer service, the Vacaville department was one of two policing agencies in Solano County - the other being the Dixon Police Department - to achieve such high marks.

"I'm pleased, but we still have a lot to learn," Vacaville Police Chief Rich Word said.

The audit, hosted by Sacramento-based public-access watchdog group Californians Aware, sent auditors to more than 100 law enforcement agencies across the state last month to test each on the tenets of the California Public Records Act.

The previous audit had allowed for only one grade.

Word emphasized that his staff worked hard to improve - not because someone told them they had to, but because they wanted to. So, they quashed their anger over being told they had failed, he said, and set forth to do better.

In April, Word, with help from The Reporter, took CalAware up on its offer to host a public access workshop. More than 50 people from law enforcement agencies across Solano attended. The atmosphere was at times hostile, Word admitted, and praised CalAware's Terry and Emily Francke for stepping into the proverbial lion's den.
"That's courageous, I have to give it to them," he said. "They were good. They listened. They took some shots from police chiefs and others. ... We suggested a two-part audit and they listened to us."

Following the workshop, Word continued to discuss the issue with staff and city officials, at meetings with the heads of the county's policing agencies and at meetings of the California Police Chiefs Association, of which he is president.

"We've been talking about this for months, public records, what to release and what not to release," he said.

The chief and other department heads later underwent chiefs association training, sharing findings with other staff members.

Reinforcement training is planned.

Dixon police Chief Don Mort said his staff consistently receives public-access training and even attended a session the day before the most-recent audit was conducted.

Which is probably why he was not surprised that his agency did well for the second year in a row.

"I've really got good people," he said. "It was the same gal this time that did it last time. She's been with us five years and she's really great."

Though warmed by his agency's scoring, Mort expressed concern that the results of agencies who did not fare as well would be viewed in the wrong light.

"I don't think there's any law enforcement agency in the county that doesn't want to be responsive ... that goes into it to deceive the public or hide anything from the public," he said. "There's a human factor these surveys never take into account," he added, regarding the intent of those charged with safeguarding public records.

Fairfield police Capt. Rick Leonardini agreed.

Though his agency scored a D in legal compliance, it was an improvement from the agency's previous F.

"We're committed to doing this correctly," he assured. "The difference in grades shows we're trying. The big thing is, we're not trying to hide stuff. ... It shows the training paid off and it shows that we still have work to do."

The failing score earned by the Suisun City Police Department on both audits could be perceived as the department's needing improvement. It was docked by CalAware for reasons including being unresponsive to a written request and for failing to send a letter of determination within 10 days.

But like all other agency heads, Suisun City police Chief Ed Dadisho disputes the grading scale.

"As we discussed during the last CalAware audit, I completely disagree with the methodology and findings. In fact, the document faxed to me shows not only our customer service was excellent, but that the requested information was in fact provided to your staff," he wrote in an e-mail. "It is my understanding that the auditor received the information within 30 minutes of coming to the front lobby.

"For that reason, there is no need for a written response which we received a minus 10 (written response) and there was no reason for a letter of determination received within 10 days, which we received a minus 10 points. In my calculation that's a 71-percent-score based on CalAware's faulty score sheet. I am pleased with my employee's response and feel that they fully complied with a citizen's (auditors) request for information."

Solano County Sheriff Gary Stanton also was satisfied with his staff's performance on the audit. Last year, the department score a D-. This year, it scored a C, and excelled in the customer service area.

"The 'A' grade the Sheriff's Office received from CalAware for customer service is appreciated. Although law enforcement agencies may at times disagree with CalAware over the issue of public information and legal compliance, when responding to a media request for information we should always make a reasonable effort to respond in a professional and timely manner," wrote Stanton in an e-mail. "I also appreciate the fact that the Sheriff's Office has managed to obtain a 'C' grade for legal compliance from the audit tool used by CalAware to measure the performance of law enforcement and our ability to meet the media's interpretation of law.

"Unfortunately law enforcement and the media are still on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to interpreting what is and what is not public information. The good news is that we seem to be steadily closing the gap."

The Sheriff's Office likely would have had a higher grade had they found the robbery the auditor requested information on. Instead, a staffer told the auditor that there was no record of the incident. Ironically, a press release regarding the robbery, complete with a photo of one of the suspects, remains posted on the department's Web site.

Kimberly K. Fu can be reached at

Businesses Get Tips To Go Green Today

Businesses Get Tips To Go Green Today
By Ines Bebea | Daily Republic | November 29, 2007 11:07

FAIRFIELD - As part of their business and corporate responsibility programs, businesses in Solano County are embracing environmental and energy efficient solutions in their bottom line.

From recycling programs, alternative energy sources and strategies to reduce waste and water use, employers shared working strategies and solutions during an energy panel discussion at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield today.

Elected officials and business representatives, who attended the breakfast meeting hosted by the Solano Economic Development Corp., walked away with proven strategies implemented by various industries.

Read more in the Daily Republic or at

Map Sheds Light On Vision For Rural Land

Map Sheds Light On Vision For Rural Land
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | November 28, 2007 16:12

FAIRFIELD - A map containing a proposed vision of Solano County rural land use for the coming 20 years goes to the county Planning Commission Thursday.

Most rural land would remain farmland unless annexed by a city, with some exceptions. For example, 689 acres near Dixon could be developed with agricultural-related industries. Middle Green Valley might become a mixture of homes and open space. The remote Collinsville area would remain targeted for port-related industries.

A citizens advisory committee came up with the map and related land use policies. Now Planning Commissioners will voice their opinions.

The commission meets at 6 p.m. at the county Government Center, 675 Texas St.

Solano County is updating its General Plan that governs rural areas. Land use is a component of the revisions that has historically been controversial. Among the stakes are how the land between cities will look for decades to come and what property owners can do with their land.

Voters in 1984 passed a law that restricts most development to the cities. That makes Solano County one of the few counties in California that for the most part bans new subdivisions and industries from rural land.

Now the county is deciding whether to stick with the status quo or make new exceptions to the no-development policies.

A citizens advisory committee has laid the groundwork over the past year. The Planning Commission will review the recommendations tonight and the county Board of Supervisors will do so Dec. 11.

Then the entire General Plan goes back to the citizens advisory committee for final votes in January. A draft environmental impact report on the changes is to be released on March 17 for public review.

In April 2008, the county is to hold General Plan public workshops in the Fairfield-Suisun area, Vallejo-Benicia area, Vacaville area, Dixon area and Rio Vista area.

If all goes according to the county's plan, the Board of Supervisors would approve a revised General Plan and environmental report on July 29. The proposed land use changes would then go to voters Nov. 4, as is required under the existing orderly growth law.

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bay Area To Get $840M For Cargo Improvement

Bay Area To Get $840M For Cargo Improvement
By Erik N. Nelson/MediaNews Group

The California Transportation Commission approved a funding formula Tuesday that would allocate as much as $840 million to improve freight transportation corridors serving the Bay Area and Northern California.

State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, had demanded that the panel allow more of the $2 billion Trade Corridors Improvement Fund to Southern California. Voters approved the fund a year ago as part of the $20 billion Proposition 1B bond measure.

Meeting Nunez' demand would have left a smaller portion for Northern California. The commission vote also boosts the fund to as high as $3 billion, first with $500 million in gas tax receipts and then with the more uncertain prospect of proposed container fees and new federal funding.

The guidelines give a range of $640 million to $840 million, or 26-28 percent, to Northern California, where Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley and Bay Area officials banded together to lobby for a menu of $857 million in projects.

One of the projects included is moving the truck scales on eastbound Interstate 80 in Solano County farther east from its current location as a step in easing traffic congestion.

The list also includes a $325 million truck-train terminal at the Port of Oakland and $315 million worth of improvements to Union Pacific tracks between Richmond and Martinez, each to be half privately funded, along with opening rail tunnels through Donner Pass to allow double-stacked container cars.
Five Southern California counties, whose officials showed up in force at Tuesday's meeting to ask for 70-85 percent of the funding, would be eligible for $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion, or 56-60 percent under an increase $3 billion in funding.

San Diego, with its port and border crossing with Mexico, could get $250 million to $400 million.

"I was pleased that we didn't have 85 percent of the money going to Los Angeles," said Assemblyman Jim Beall, D-San Jose, after the vote. He told the commission that giving a huge percentage to the Los Angles/Inland Empire freight corridor would alienate other parts of the state and hurt the chances of passing future infrastructure bond measures.

Officials from Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties argued that 85 percent of the state's cargo containers come through Southern California through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, thus they're entitled to that much from the trade corridors program. Northern California officials argued that the big ports down south are largely imports from overseas, while the Port of Oakland boosts the state's economy with tech goods exported from Silicon Valley, farm products from the Central Valley and wine from Napa and Sonoma counties.

While Nunez vowed in a statement to give that corridor, which serves the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, "the honest treatment it deserves," Beall expressed confidence that the Bay Area's legislators could preserve the funding.

One of the advantages enjoyed by the Bay Area is that the state transportation commission's membership is almost devoid of members from the Los Angeles area. Three members from the Bay Area, including chairman James Ghielmetti of San Francisco, and two other Northern California members combine to make up a majority on the nine-member commission.

Larry Zarian of Glendale was the only vote against the trade corridor guidelines.

Ghielmetti said the staff recommendation was the fairest result of two days of negotiations between all the regions and state officials.

"We did our work and tried not to politicize it," Ghielmetti said. "Now it looks like it's going to get politicized."

• MediaNews Staff Writer Harrison Sheppard contributed to this report. Contact Erik Nelson at 510-208-6410 or and read his Capricious Commuter blog at

Coast Is Clear For Wal-Mart In Fairfield

Coast Is Clear For Wal-Mart In Fairfield
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | November 27, 2007 17:04

FAIRFIELD - The list of obstacles to the construction of a new Wal-Mart in Fairfield is almost gone.

City attorneys confirmed Tuesday the legal challenge to a proposed Wal-Mart store on North Texas Street died in court last week. Opponents didn't appeal an earlier court ruling, seemingly clearing the way for the project.

A Solano County Superior Court judge ruled Sept. 20 in favor of the city, which was being challenged on the validity of the environmental studies it had conducted on the effects of the store. Opponents, a group called Fairfield Neighbors Promoting Smart Growth, had 60 days to appeal but did not do so, Fairfield City Attorney Greg Stepanicich said.

Stepanicich is attempting to speak with the plaintiffs' lawyer to confirm they are no longer pursuing an appeal, but he hasn't done so yet, he added. However, the 60-day appeal window ended Nov. 19, and the city hasn't been notified of any appeals.

Representatives from the group haven't responded to requests for interviews since the lawsuit went to court. The suit was filed in January, about a month after the City Council unanimously approved the store at a special meeting Dec. 6, 2006. That overrode a split vote by the planning commission that would have stalled the project.

The council vote gave the world's largest retailer permission to go ahead with plans to knock down the mostly abandoned Mission Village Shopping Center on North Texas Street and build a 185,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter, complete with a garden area and a full-service grocery. But those plans have largely idled since the lawsuit was filed in January.

Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Loscotoff said the company is pleased to have the legal challenge out of the way and move on toward securing demolition and building permits.

'The next step is for us to finalize our construction (and) building plan, and work though the city of Fairfield's permit process,' he said.

Depending on that process, the company hopes to have permits by summer 2008 and start demolition by that fall, Loscotoff said. He has said in the past a grand opening could occur as early as spring 2009.

Reach Ben Antonius at 427-6977 or

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A compromise can help fix the congestion in Northern California

Traffic relief
A compromise can help fix the congestion
Article Launched: 11/26/2007 06:53:10 AM PST

It took a while, but the inevitable fight between Southern and Northern California over $20 billion in transportation bonds that voters approved last year has exploded into the open.

The next allocation will be $2 billion designated to improve the movement of goods throughout the state. Each dollar of bond money must be matched with a dollar from another source, so $4 billion ultimately will go to improving highways and rail lines that serve ports.

Southern California has the nation's second- and third-largest ports at Los Angeles and Long Beach. It argues it should receive 85 percent of the money because its ports account for 85 percent of the container cargo processed at state ports. Consequently, it has submitted a wish list for $1.72 billion in projects.
Northern California says the formula used for most transportation projects - a 60-40 split between south and north -should be applied to the bond's Trade Corridors Improvement Fund. The Port of Oakland, the nation's fourth-busiest, also has great traffic improvement needs. Its proposals total $860 million.
Los Angeles officials, including Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, are taking a particularly hard stand. But what's needed is less huffing and puffing and more compromise for the good of the whole state.

While the volume of goods-related traffic in Southern California clearly means it should get more than the north, its push for 85 percent is just plain piggish.
A mere 15 percent for Northern California ignores heavy congestion from the Port of Oakland, which unlike the other state ports is used equally for imports and exports. The Oakland port also has greater growth potential.

A fair split would be in the 70 percent-30 percent vicinity.
Moving goods more efficiently also can improve the environment. If rail can move more container cargo throughout the state and beyond, this will mean fewer trucks on the road and less carbon dioxide in the air.

As it is, on any given day about 20,000 trucks use Interstate 580 to travel east and west, while 20,000 to 25,000 use Interstate 880 to go north and south. To reduce those numbers, roughly half the money requested in Northern California's proposals are rail-related.

To support Northern California's bid, a coalition of Bay Area, Sacramento and Central Valley officials has been formed. The 14 projects the group supports also include dredging and some highway improvements.
The California Transportation Commission will decide on the split. But state leaders from the north and south should fashion a more reasonable compromise before the matter is handed to them.

Jobless rate stable in East Bay

Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Jobless rate stable in East Bay
East Bay Business Times

Unemployment rates in the East Bay remained stable last month but are still above where they were a year ago, state labor statistics show.

The jobless rate in the Oakland-Fremont-Hayward metropolitan division, which includes Alameda and Contra Costa counties, was 4.9 percent in October, according to the state Employment Development Department Labor Market Information Division. That compares to 4 percent in October 2006, as well as 4.4 percent nationally and 5.4 percent statewide for last month. Both Alameda and Contra Costa counties had 4.9 percent jobless rates for October.

In the Vallejo-Fairfield metropolitan statistical area, which includes Solano County, the jobless rate remained at 5.3 percent in October compared with 4.3 percent a year earlier.

The Oakland metro area added 3,900 jobs from September to October for a total of 1,064,300, the month labor-market report found. Government, education and health services showed increases, while leisure and hospitality, financial activities, arts, entertainment and recreation lost jobs.

Year over year, employment rose by 8,400 jobs from 1,055,900 in October 2006. Construction had the largest 12-month change of any major industry in the Oakland metro area, cutting 7,200 jobs, according to the report. Public schools led the 16th consecutive month of year-over job gains with 5,000 added, while the educational and health services sector grew by 4,400 positions. Industry employment in the East Bay added 8,400 jobs or 0.8 percent.

Solano County added 700 jobs from September to October for a total 136,800, the report said. Month-to-month comparisons found construction, manufacturing, farm jobs and educational and health services lost jobs, while government, trade, transportation and utilities and professional and business services showed gains.
Year to year, employment in Solano County was up by 2,800 jobs to 136,800 compared to 134,000 in October 2006. The area's construction industry had lost 700 jobs, and financial activities 900, compared with a year earlier. Trade, transportation and utilities gained 2,600 jobs year to year and leisure and hospitality 1,300 jobs.

Lagoon: Round 2

Lagoon: Round 2
Scrutiny For Project; Urban Limits For City

At each step along the legal path, judges have correctly supported the city of Vacaville's command and control of development of a small portion of lower Lagoon Valley. The state Supreme Court this month concurred as well.
It was no surprise.

So perhaps the project can now proceed or fail on its own merits, not the wishes of a group of opponents who were years late in mounting a protest. Friends of Lagoon Valley, the small band of passionate foes, has promised to challenge the project at each step of the permitting process. And though we believe the project is well planned and will bring more public benefit than harm, we salute the group's willingness to do battle in the appropriate arena.

The city, the state and federal agencies must grant permits in order for Triad Communities to complete its plan for a modest number of homes, offices and recreational uses tucked away in the western quadrant of the valley. The process includes review and scrutiny of the project's environmental impact. It should be closely monitored.

As we have said repeatedly, as frustrating as it may be now to those who prefer no change in the valley, the decision to annex it and allow limited development was made more than a decade ago. That battle culminated when the City Council banned development from Cherry Glen and Upper Lagoon valleys, but agreed that some of the lower valley could be built upon.

Overall, the Lagoon Valley project comprises 1,025 housing units - 874 single-family homes, 100 townhouses for seniors and 51 affordable housing units - integrated with a town retail center, a business village that will create jobs, a firehouse built at no cost to taxpayers, a golf course and an array of environmental benefits, including hundreds of acres of open space.

When completed, the project will bring at least $4 million in improvements to Lagoon Valley Park, a regional recreation area that is underused because of its many problems, including a lake in need of a massive cleanup. Homes and offices will be located strategically to retain the view corridor from Interstate 80, giving passers-by a clear look at the lake and regional park.

The focus of our attention on growth matters should shift to the impending proposal to draw a so-called "urban limit line" around the city of Vacaville. This will be put forward by the developer in Lagoon Valley, part of a negotiated agreement with the Greenbelt Alliance and other environmental groups, which eventually dropped their opposition to Triad's valley plan.

Such a boundary would be a "line in the sand" for future development within the city of Vacaville. It would be a line over which the city would not annex. The idea is to create the ultimate boundaries of Vacaville.

Because there are so many landowners, developers and speculators who have so much at risk, depending on where the lines are drawn and how it would affect property values, this has all the makings of a very contentious process. The city has established buffers to the south and west. An agreement with the Solano Irrigation District restricts development no farther east than a few hundred yards from Leisure Town Road. What could prove most contentious is where the line is drawn to the north, into Pleasants Valley, Bucktown and Gibson Canyon, or along Interstate 505.
Drawing the lines to satisfy all is not possible. Or at least, it would take the wisdom of Solomon and all the mediation skills of a genius. But the sooner the first proposed lines are drawn, the sooner we can all leap into the fray. And the sooner, the better.

UC Davis Energy center has big plans for the world

June 22, 2007
Energy center has big plans for the world
By Sylvia Wright

If a plane had hit Mrak Hall on June 5, the cause of slowing global climate change might have been set back a half century or more.

Gathered there in a conference room for the first board meeting of the UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center were many of the most influential people in California energy politics and policy:

the top executives of California's three largest energy suppliers;
the president of the California Public Utilities Commission;
UC Davis Professor Daniel Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies, member of the California Air Resources Board, and architect of Gov. Schwarzenegger's new low-carbon standard for transportation fuels;
the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council; and
Art Rosenfeld, member of the California Energy Commission, UC professor emeritus and pioneering proponent of energy efficiency.
"Overnight, what were the challenges of the next century have become the challenges of the next decade," said Andrew Hargadon, the founding director of the Energy Efficiency Center, an associate professor at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, and an expert on innovation in business and technology transfer.

"We hope to be a gathering place for all the right parties in accelerating new ventures that advance energy efficiency. We intend to get those parties around the table and get these things going."

At a reception that evening, Schwarznegger's chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, told the Energy Efficiency Center's assembled staff, faculty, students and supporters "how incredibly important you are."

"What you're doing here is the crucible, is the birthplace of where ideas become reality," Kennedy said. "And what you can do through this center is change the world. I am absolutely certain of it."

Kennedy's comments were a satisfying salute to the Energy Efficiency Center's first year of achievements.

The center was established last April in a high-profile event at UC Davis led by Schwarzenegger and Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef. It is the world's first university center of excellence in energy efficiency. Its objective is to speed the transfer of new energy-saving products and services into the homes and lives of Californians.

The center's start-up funding of $1 million came from the California Clean Energy Fund, a public benefit corporation dedicated to making equity investments in clean energy companies. UC Davis is matching the CalCEF grant with $1.4 million in operating and research funds, faculty time, and office and laboratory space.

At the June 5 board meeting, Hargadon reported on the first year's successes. They include:

PG&E Corp. pledged $500,000 through the next five years for critical start-up needs such as funding for fellowships to attract and educate outstanding students.
Sempra Energy, the parent company of San Diego Gas & Electric, gave $400,000 to establish the Sempra Energy Chair in Energy Efficiency, and $100,000 to support the EEC Climate Initiative, a series of research activities and workshops related to the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32).
Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison, gave $500,000 to fund research at the new UC Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center. The center intends to substantially increase the use of innovative cooling technologies tailored to California's dry climate.
Other financial supporters gave the Western Cooling Efficiency Center a total of $750,000 and the Energy Efficiency Center a total of $50,000.
The Watt Stopper/Legrand Corp., an international manufacturer of lighting controls, gave $50,000 to the UC Davis California Lighting Technology Center to establish the Watt Stopper Graduate Fellowship in Lighting Controls.
Flex Your Power, California's statewide energy-efficiency marketing and outreach campaign, gave one of its annual awards to the California Lighting Technology Center and industry partner Finelite, Inc., for their new LED-based office lighting system.
Many programs at UC Davis are working closely with the Energy Efficiency Center in three areas of emphasis. They and their directors are:

California Lighting Technology Center (Michael Siminovitch); and
Western Cooling Efficiency Center (Dick Bourne).
Institute of Transportation Studies (Daniel Sperling);
Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways Program (Daniel Sperling and Joan Ogden); and
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Research Center (Tom Turrentine).
Agricultural production and food processing
California Biomass Collaborative (Bryan Jenkins);
California Institute of Food and Agricultural Research (Sharon Shoemaker);
Postharvest Technology Research and Information Center (James Thompson);
Agricultural Sustainability Institute (Tom Tomich); and
UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (Tom Tomich).

Touro Offers Housing Help

Touro Offers Housing Help
Real Estate Firm Under Contract To Help Newcomers Get Settled
By Tony Burchyns/Times-Herald staff writer

Touro University is trying to make it easier to hire professors and lure students to its Vallejo campus by offering better housing assistance, a campus spokesman said.
The Mare Island medical school has announced a new contract with Vallejo-based Mustico Realty to provide a full slate of relocation tools. These include local business guides, moving services, local school information and other community materials.

The company also plans to help professors and students who choose to use the service find housing through a network of local real estate professionals.

"It's a recruiting tool," said Jim Mitchell, spokesman for the campus, which has about 1,000 students in various medical fields. "When we are asking someone to move to California, which is one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country, we are also providing them with someone with years of experience to help them out."

Mustico has been in business for nearly 30 years, according to owner Verna Mustico.
Mitchell said Touro's Vallejo campus, which opened in 1999, has never before facilitated comprehensive relocation services for new teachers and students. However, like many colleges, the school provides a housing office to help students find apartments.

Mustico's services will be aimed mostly at the school's new employees as the campus grows, Mustico said.

Campus officials are planning an expansion in a few years, when a 191-acre section of Mare Island is developed for a new cancer center.

For now, the campus expects 200 to 300 new students to arrive by June 2008, Mitchell said. The influx will not change the school's enrollment figures much, he added, because a number of students are also expected to leave for internships and residencies.

Dozens Of Area Teachers Recipients Of Mini Grants

Dozens Of Area Teachers Recipients Of Mini Grants
By Reporter Staff

Eighty-four teachers from school districts in Solano County have been named recipients of the 2007 Education Plus! Mini-Grant Program of the Solano Community Foundation.

This multifaceted grant program, which attracted more than 170 entries from Solano County teachers, recognizes academically enriching projects structured to enhance a student's learning experience at school. This year's total awarded came to $37,195 to K-12 public school teachers in Solano County.

As for Northern Solano County, awards included: in Vacaville Unified School District, $4,969 to 11 teachers; in Dixon Unified, $2,458 to five teachers; in Travis Unified, $3,547 to 10 teachers; in Fairfield-Suisun Unified, $14,733 to 34 teachers; and in the River Delta School District, which covers Rio Vista, $2,000 to four teachers.

"It is a pleasure to partner with teachers and provide opportunities for them and their students," said Stephanie Wolf, president and CEO of Solano Community Foundation in a press release announcing the grants. "They are offering experiences for students that go above and beyond their curriculum while expanding their knowledge. It truly is amazing what a small amount of money can do for children."

The program, created by the Solano Community Foundation in 2000, contributes to the development of learning and increases the awareness of education as a vital force in the community. These awards are funded in partnership with Advocates for the Arts and the Frank H. and Eva B. Buck Foundation.
The recipients of this year's program will be recognized during an award ceremony from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Solano County Government Center, 675 Texas St. in Fairfield.

For additional information, call 280-8771.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Planners OK a new retail and restaurant center for northeast corner of Dixon

Planners OK center for Dixon

By Melissa Murphy/Staff Writer

Article Launched: 11/21/2007 06:09:39 AM PST

After a rather lengthy discussion, the Dixon Planning Commission gave a unanimous thumbs up Tuesday evening for the construction of a new retail and restaurant center in the northeast corner of the city.

The planning commissioners voted 6-0, Commissioner Doug Uhlik being absent, to allow the construction of a 152,000-square-foot commercial center at the corner of North First Street and Vaughn Road.

"It will be a nice gateway to the north side of Dixon," said Gregg Steele on behalf of 20th Street Dixon LLC. "It will be something Dixon is proud of. It's an ideal location. Its proximity to the freeway and an adequate access is why we chose this location. It's a major thoroughfare and overall it's a better location."
The project, which will include a plaza area and shopping center, will be completed in two phases.

Phase I will include a 15,580-square-foot pharmacy with drive-thru and three restaurants totaling 8,700 square feet, and 18,600 square feet of inline retail space.

Phase II includes an additional 109,000 square feet of "future" retail.
Steele explained that the project will be built in phases to allow tenants to reserve the sites ahead of time.
"When we start building Phase I, the interest in Phase II will pick up immediately," he added.

The commission was not able to discuss before press time a possible zoning ordinance amendment related to the process of referring retail buildings of more than 75,000 square feet to the city council for design review.
Additionally, the commission had not yet discussed a modification to approved exterior changes to the old fire station.
Melissa Murphy can be reached at

Funds hike could help relocate I-80/680 truck scales

Funds hike could help truck scales
By Erik N. Nelson/MediaNews Group
Article Launched: 11/21/2007 06:09:36 AM PST

The Bay Area's efforts to clear up its clogged freight corridors received a big boost Tuesday with a proposal to expand the state's trade routes program by as much as $1 billion for a total of $3 billion.

"That would be an amazing outcome for us," said Jim Wunderman, executive director of the Bay Area Council of major business leaders. "It's certainly more than we would have expected."

Such a funding boost, which is expected to be proposed Tuesday to the California Transportation Commission by its staff, apparently would ensure money to relocate the truck scales on Interstate 80 in Fairfield.

The Bay Area Council helped organize shippers, manufacturers, the Port of Oakland and neighboring regional governing bodies to coordinate Northern California's trade corridor funding push.

Last November voters approved $2 billion for projects to improve the movement of cargo by truck, rail and ship as part of an overall $20 billion transportation bond measure, Proposition 1B.
But Tuesday, delegations of transportation and port officials from up and down the state arrived in Sacramento with demands that well exceeded that amount, pitting Northern California's $860 million wish list against $1.7 billion in projects sought for corridors leading to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

If the California Transportation Commission approves the extra $1 billion in funding, it will mean $38 million to collaborate with Union Pacific Railroad on a $75 million project to open up tunnels through Donner Pass. Higher tunnels will allow double-stacked container cars to pass through, greatly increasing the amount of cargo that can go from Northern California directly to the rest of the nation, Wunderman said.

"You cut a full day off the time it takes to move goods out of the Port of Oakland and out of the state," Wunderman said. "It also reduces pollution, because you're taking an awful lot of trucks off the road."

Other projects, such as a $325 million truck-train terminal at the Port of Oakland and $315 million worth of improvements to Union Pacific tracks between Richmond and Martinez, each to be half privately funded, combine to make up that $860 million wish list compiled by the Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
The state commission is expected to approve individual projects in April.

Daryl Halls, executive director of the Solano Transportation Authority, said Tuesday that there is a plan for $50 million in Proposition 1B funds that would be used to move the eastbound side of the truck scales a half-mile farther east, away from the frequent traffic snarl involving Interstates 80, 680, and Highway 12.

Next Tuesday, the staff will propose to the commission that it approve an additional $500 million from gasoline tax receipts - otherwise earmarked for the State Highway Operation and Protection Program, explained John Barna, the commission's executive director.

"The idea is to over-program another $500 million," approving projects up to a total of $3 billion, in anticipation of new fees on shipping containers likely to be levied by the legislature or local port authorities and the promise of a new federal initiative to improve trade corridors nationwide.
"California is far better positioned to tap into it quickly if we had a set of projects ready to go," said Therese McMillan, MTC deputy executive director for policy.

Suisun City manager pursues passion for screenwriting

Suisun City manager pursues passion for screenwriting

By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | November 17, 2007 11:45

SUISUN CITY - If the political thriller 'Lions Into Lambs' does well in theaters, Suisun City Manager Suzanne Bragdon - an aspiring screenwriter - hopes a revival of that genre will help one of her screenplays finally make it to the big screen.

'It is very hard to make it,' said Bragdon, who loves writing political thrillers because 'I am passionate about government and I am passionate about government service.'

Her belief in good government is the underlying message in her scripts. Backdrops have included the Vietnam War and the current war on terror.

'Look at my world,' Bragdon said of why she picked the political thriller genre. 'Go to what you know.'

The challenge for Bragdon is balancing the demands of running Suisun City Hall and a host of city issues with finding time for what she calls ' 'a ha' moments' to craft her screenplays.

'It is tough to get those 'a ha' moments now,' Bragdon said.

Bragdon was a management consultant for a private company in Southern California when she got involved with screenwriting during what she called 'a dark period' of her life.

'I came upon the screenwriting section in this bookstore and started forming story ideas in my head,' Bragdon said.

She put that on hold for the next 10 years as she became involved in city government and started up again after she resigned from the city manager's job in Pismo Beach.

Bragdon submitted her first screenplay to a Miramax screenwriting competition where she became one of the finalists in a field of several hundred writers.

Inspired by the 1973 movie 'The Way We Were,' the plot could almost be considered a sequel taking place 30 years after the film starring Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand left off.

Bragdon has her main character living on a sailboat in San Francisco Bay writing for the tabloid press, while the woman with whom he was involved so long ago is dying, 'watching the love of her life' fail at his career.

When Bragdon became Suisun City's manager, she had to put her screenwriting on hold again as she found her balance between her profession and her passion.

'After a year and a half, I decided I needed to pursue my love of writing,' Bragdon said.

She has since created two more screenplays, one of which has been submitted to Francis Ford Coppola and his company, American Zoetrope, for consideration.

Bragdon bounces her ideas off her husband, Kirk Bragdon, and 15-year-old daughter, Stephanie Bragdon, who writes short stories and has no reticence about telling her mother what parts of the screenplays need more work.

On a trip to Disneyland, the two spent much of the flight reading dialogue to each other aloud to the amusement of nearby passengers.

Her next effort is to tackle a romantic comedy 'because you need to show that you can write a diverse amount of material,' Bragdon said.

She is working from a handicap in a market where the most popular screenplays are action.

'But I never write action' and comedy, she said.

'The demographic studios are interested in are males from 16 to 24 and girls from 16 to 24 because that represents 50 percent of your box office in America,' Bragdon said.

Will she ever write a screenplay about a small town city council?

Bragdon laughed as she said that would not happen.

She added she is considering writing a comedy about bosses and life in an office, 'maybe about this office.'

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Breakfast Event Set

Breakfast Event Set

The Solano Economic Development Corporation's next member-investor breakfast will be held Nov. 29 at the Hilton Garden Inn, Fairfield.

The breakfast, titled "Energy Efficient Solano," will feature speakers Kevin Finger of Anheuser Busch, Monty Stephens of Westfield Solano, and representatives from ALZA Corporation and PG&E.

Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. and the program runs from 8-9:30 a.m. Cost is $25 for members and $35 for non-members or at the door.

To register, call 864-1855.

More commuters taking Capitol Corridor trains

More commuters taking the train

The Capitol Corridor trains keep rolling over previous ridership marks. More than 1.4 million passengers rode the train for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, nearly a 15 percent increase from the previous year. That marked the ninth consecutive year that ridership has risen..

The Capitol Corridor system runs trains between Sacramento and San Jose. The lone Solano County stop is at the Suisun-Fairfield train station in Old Town, Suisun City. One reason for the ridership increase last fiscal year is an increase in service. The system in August 2006 grew from 24 trips daily to 32..

Ridership surveys show that escaping congestion and the associated stress is a major ! reason people use the trains. Whether the Capitol Corridor system can sustain its torrid growth rate is questionable. A limiting factor is space. Peak-hour trains are getting crowded.

The service plans to ultimately add more cars to its existing trains. Skoropowski expressed hope that new cars could be available in three to four years.. Farebox recovery rate for the Capitol Corridor last fiscal year hit 48 percent, the highest yet. That's just short of the 50 percent goal set by the state. But there is a cloud. About 75 percent of the trains arrived on time, better than the 73 percent the previous year, but far below the 90 percent goal..

Solano Farmers want more bang for buck & Diversity a dilemma in farm economy

Farmers want more bang for buck

Larry Clement sees the future of Solano County agriculture as involving more than growing crops. Perhaps a community crush facility in Suisun Valley could someday allow small grape growers there to make wine. Or maybe the county gets more processing facilities.. 'That's 'value-added.''

A recent study shows that for every $1 generated by a raw county farm product, another 58 cents is added to the local economy by processing and other activities. Statewide, the average is $2 added for every $1 of farm products. So 'value-added' has become the watchword in the effort to boost Solano County's flagging farm economy. The quest is on to capture more money from the final product bought by consumers.

The county is wrestling with the issue during its General Plan update. For guidance, it has a new report by the U.C. Agricultural Issues Center and another by a General Plan advisory citizens agriculture subcommittee headed by Clement. At issue is the future of the county's $370 million annual farm economy a figure that includes both farms products and related businesses as well as the open spaces and views in the rural areas that are enjoyed by many city dwellers.

Both studies talk about trying to get more processing facilities and outlets in the county to capture more of the farm dollar.. Other counties treat agriculture more as a business, he said. Solano County has a history of trying to preserve agriculture through laws restricting rural development, but Clement also sees the business side as important..

Diversity a dilemma in farm economy

Solano County farms are located in such diverse areas as Ryer Island amid the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Suisun Valley amid coastal hills that resemble the Napa area. That makes finding ways to boost the farm economy a challenge. What works for the walnut orchards near Winters may have no relevance for sheep grazing in the Montezuma Hills. 'I think the concept of 'one size fits all' is pretty much dead,' said Larry Clement, a former farm adviser with the U.C. Cooperative Extension. 'I don't think we'll go back to that.

Too many people think that's not right. We've got a tremendous number of microclimates, for example.' A new report by the U.C. Agricultural Issues Center divides the county into nine farming areas.

The areas, along with some potential farming challenges listed in the report, are:

-- Dixon Ridge Some 63,000 acres of flat Central Valley farmland with fertile soils near Dixon..
-- Elmira and Maine Prairie More flat Central Valley farmland extending from central to eastern Solano County and covering about 75,000 acres..
-- Montezuma Hills Windswept hills dominate these 58,000 acres near Rio Vista and the confluence of the Sacramento-San Joaquin rivers..
-- Ryer Island A 23,768-acre Delta island behind levees that is reached by ferry..
-- Suisun and Green valleys Valleys totaling more than 10,000 acres bordered by steep hills give Solano County a touch of Napa wine country..
-- Winters Putah Creek runs through this 6,400-acre area near the Yolo County city..
-- Jepson Prairie Clay-lined vernal pools and Delta sloughs are major features in the 52,000-acre area..
-- Pleasants, Vaca and Lagoon valleys Valleys totaling about 4,341 acres near the Vaca mountains..
-- Western hills A range of hills and mountains that form the boundary with Napa County, totaling some 78,000 acres..

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Travis Air Force Base to privatize housing

Travis to privatize housing

Article Launched: 11/02/2007 06:36:27 AM PDT

The Department of the Air Force has selected GMH Military Housing, as the highest ranked offeror for the privatization of family housing at Travis Air Force Base.

The move is part of the Air Force Air Mobility Command's West Housing Privatization Project.

In addition to Travis, the project includes privatizing housing at two other Air Force bases - Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane and Tinker Air Force Base near Oklahoma City.

"This is going to be a new and wonderful world for our airmen," said Col. GI Tuck, 60th Air Mobility Wing acting commander. "The improved quality of life being offered by this privatization effort is a fantastic step to provide world-class quality housing for our military families. We look forward to working with GMH Military Housing."

Having been chosen as the highest ranked offeror means GMH can now negotiate with the Air Force on the particulars of its responsibilities, which include development, management, construction and renovation activities at the three bases.

The work is all part of the Military Housing Privatization Initiative which was authorized by Congress 11 years ago. The aim is for the military to improve the condition, availability and operation of base housing in a cost-effective manner by working with the private sector.

Deal would privatize Travis housing

By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | November 01, 2007 18:04

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE - GMH Communities Trust, a Pennsylvania-based developer, is entering exclusive negotiations with the Air Force to build and manage on-base housing on Travis Air Force Base, according to a GMH press release this week.

The project, if GMH and the Air Force reach an agreement, also includes the construction and management of housing at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.

The entire project is valued at an estimated $400 million and will cover construction and management of 2,435 housing units at all three Air Mobility Command bases, according to the release.

The Department of Defense has been working to privatize on-base housing since 1996. This is housing that is built and/or managed by a private developer on land leased from the military.

'This is going to be a new and wonderful world for our airmen,' said 60th Air Mobility Wing commander Col. G.I. Tuck said in a Travis press release. 'The improved quality of life being offered by this privatization effort is a fantastic step to provide world-class quality housing for our military families.'

Travis officials expect a contract to be awarded some time in March, according to Travis' Public Affairs Office.

The Travis portion of the plan calls for building 358 homes, primarily in the northwest portion of the base where demolition crews have been knocking down the last of Travis' oldest homes.

These homes were built in the 1950s and are now considered substandard by the Air Force.

Under the privatization plan, the contractor would be responsible for all of Travis' 1,134 houses on land leased from the Air Force for 50 years. The contractor will also be required to periodically renovate and remodel them.

The Air Force still encourages as much of the base's personnel as possible to live off base. As of August, about 72 percent of Travis' military members lived off base.

GMH has been heavily involved in the past with the Army on housing projects on more than a dozen bases across the country and presently operates 11 privatized housing projects, its release stated.

Based in Newtown Square, Penn., GMH employs more than 2,300 people and has also built off-campus housing for university and college students.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Touro sells online division for $190M funds will likely pay for infrastructure costs associated with a new cancer treatment and research center.

Touro sells online division for $190M

By SARAH ROHRS/Times-Herald staff writer

Article Launched: 11/02/2007 08:53:23 AM PDT

Touro University's development plans for Mare Island's north end got a major shot in the arm Thursday when the sale of the college's online division was finalized.

A private equity firm, Summit Partners announced Thursday it brought Touro University International for $190 million, officials said.

Proceeds from the sale go to Touro College, the umbrella over the Vallejo Touro University, and the online division which serves about 8,000 students world-wide, primarily serving in the military.

Just how much of the $190 million proceeds will go to Touro's plans for Mare Island's north end isn't yet known. Dick Hassel, Touro University vice president of administration, said funds will likely pay for infrastructure costs associated with a new cancer treatment and research center.

"This is a brick in the road to building the north end," Hassel said

Touro is working with Siemen's Medical Solution to build a combined particle therapy center as part of the school's ambitious $1.2 billion plans for a 191-acre parcel on Mare Island's north end. The City Council will likely consider the plans later this year or in early 2008.

The sale of the online school will not impact Vallejo's Touro students, Hassel said.

In the wake of the sale, the new university has been renamed TUI University, and will be operating as an independent entity.

Marge Louderback, TUI University senior assistant to the president, said students taking online classes will not see any changes, and administration, faculty and staff members will remain the same.

TUI University offers programs leading to bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in business administration, health sciences, education, and information systems.

TUI University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, one of the seven regional bodies that accredit most independent and public colleges and universities.

Summit Partners has offices in Boston, Palo Alto, and London. Founded in 1984, the firm has raised nearly $9 billion in capital in its private equity, venture capital, and subordinated debt funds, according to a firm announcement about the sale.

Vacaville's Nut Tree site's offerings continue to blossom

Tasty developments

Nut Tree site's offerings continue to blossom

By Cathy Bussewitz/Business Writer

Article Launched: 11/04/2007 06:37:24 AM PST

Whether it's lunch time or dinner time, the Nut Tree's restaurant roster is expanding to satiate Vacaville's appetite. The latest addition coming to the Nut Tree's restaurant lineup is the jungle safari-themed Elephant Bar, which recently signed a lease to open a local branch of the popular restaurant in the summer of 2008.

Sean Whiskeman, who manages leasing and marketing for Westrust, the development company responsible for the retail portion of Nut Tree, is delighted that the restaurant signed on.

"It was a coup for us to bring them in," Whiskeman said. "They have a variety of dining options, and there's always a little something there for everybody."

Another tasty venue to open soon is Spice, a Thai restaurant under the same ownership as Orinda-based Siam Orchid.

"The restaurant has a great following, and they're trying to get that going here," Whiskeman said.

Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill fans also saw the opening of that restaurant in the plaza this week.

Other recent additions include Jamba Juice, See's Candy, and L&L Hawaiian Barbecue.

On tap for the future is "Tossed," a salad and soup restaurant that will open near the new Jamba Juice store.

The most recent retail additions include Dream Photography, Sports Clips, and Barbeques Galore, a store dedicated to the backyard tradition.

The Nut Tree is also planning to submit an application to develop on a new strip of land near a new small vineyard planted across East Monta Vista Avenue from the Nut Tree site. That development, according to Rick Capretta, co-managing partner of Westrust, will include 80,000 square feet of additional retail, restaurants and office space.

The Nut Tree Pavillion Marketplace, an indoor pavillion designed to resemble a barn and host specialty food stores, opened on August 11.

The only bump in the road of development at the site came in September when Snell & Co., the firm behind the retail, office and residential development of the 80-acre landmark, backed out of a planned hotel and conference center for the site. The city has vowed to find another developer for that project.

In the meantime, those stores that are already up and operating are seeing brisk business, say local business leaders. The anchor big box retailers including Borders, Old Navy, Best Buy, and Sports Chalet continue to attract shoppers.

At build out, the development will feature approximately 330,000 square feet of office, restaurant and retail space - all of which is expected to generate more than 1,000 jobs, as well as substantial sales and property tax revenues.

Cathy Bussewitz can be reached at

Fairfield's overall economic activity apears to be strong

Economic Notes: Local economy is strong

By Karl Dumas and Brian Miller | | November 03, 2007 11:10

As Fairfield struggles with the effects of the residential mortgage industry 'correction,' our review of overall economic activity appears to point to a much stronger local economy.

The city's business attraction programs have continued to spur the interest of diverse commercial developers, office users and manufacturers. This week, we share with you some of the news percolating through the industrial and office sectors.

We've previously discussed Fairfield's success in attracting food and beverage industries, exemplified by such companies as Anheuser-Busch, Jelly Belly, and Guittard Chocolate. The recent opening of Calbee in Solano Business Park shows that food-related industries continue to be attracted to Fairfield's relatively affordable industrial space, trainable workforce and excellent water supply.

Wine-related companies are one of our newest niches, with the recent announcement that a major Australian wine importing and custom production facility will be locating in a 60,000-square-foot space in Solano Business Park. We are also working closely with a major beverage industry leader that is looking at Fairfield for a substantial industrial production facility.

Stay tuned to this column for updates.

As important as the food and beverage industry is for Fairfield, it is by no means the only focus of our economic development outreach. One big announcement is the purchase by Trans Bay Steel of the 140,000-square-foot building at 2400 Cordelia Road previously occupied by Pilgrim Fireplace. Trans Bay fabricates steel girders and pieces used in large public and private projects such as the Bay Bridge.

Trans Bay is relocating 75-100 jobs and its headquarters from Napa.

Fairfield also has another advantage in attracting new companies: a stock of available industrial buildings ready for new occupants, including 110,000 square feet remaining in a building constructed last year located at 801 Chadbourne Road. The city's Web site,, can assist businesses in identifying major industrial areas and available buildings.

Given our strengths in the industrial market segment, it is no surprise that industrial developers are very interested in the Fairfield market. Tulloch Construction is finalizing plans for a new 177,000-square-foot speculative industrial-office building at 2901 Cordelia Road. This flexible space will be suitable for a variety of small manufacturers and office tenants.

Sierra Pacific Development Company (with the assistance of Tulloch Construction) is under way with a 140,000-square-foot speculative industrial building on Lopes Road near Rodriguez High School.

The office market is also hot. We can only mention that several companies are in discussions right now with the city and local real estate development interests for office space. Look for new office and mixed-use development near Copart in Green Valley and for the final three-story building to be completed at Highlands Business Center on Martin Road.

Finally, in addition to good water and eager developers able to deliver affordable industrial and office space, Fairfield can also assist manufacturers with obtaining other assistance from state and federal economic development funding. Some of these programs include Community Development Block Grant revolving loans, California Industrial Development Bonds (IDBs) and Pollution Control Bonds underwritten by the state.

These programs can help reduce the financing costs for investment in new facilities, equipment and workforce training. Interest rates are usually 2 to 3 percent below conventional rates. Anheuser-Busch used a pollution control bond to help finance a major investment in environmental technology. The city is currently working on approvals for two other IDBs for manufacturing companies.

Even with the slowdown in the economy triggered by the home mortgage crisis, Fairfield's underlying economy remains strong. As always, look here for the latest tidbits of economic news.

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

Office building, tower likely at Alamo Plaza

Office building, tower likely at Alamo Plaza

By Jennifer Gentile/Staff Writer

Article Launched: 11/05/2007 06:04:39 AM PST

A new office building and tower are part of a plan to spruce up a Vacaville shopping center, and the proposal comes to a Planning Commission vote on Tuesday night.

The center in question is Alamo Plaza, located at the northwest corner of Alamo Drive and Merchant Street. The center was built in the 1970s and has a reported vacancy rate of 50 percent.

"The center has experienced a significant decline in occupied tenant spaces over the years and it currently does not have an anchor store," according to a staff report, prepared by city planner Ward Stewart. "The largest current tenant is Big Lots, and there are a mixture of small tenants ranging from restaurants, retail stores and offices."

If the three-phase project goes forward as proposed, a 24,000-square-foot office/retail building would be added in the parking lot area, while a 78-foot tower would be built in a central location. All the existing buildings would receive new exterior features.

"Decorative brick and metal columns will be included with aluminum storefronts and metal roofs," according to Stewart's report. "The new 78-foot tower feature will have the cement plaster facing with an aluminum storefront."

The plan also involves removing a driveway along Alamo Drive and restriping the parking lot and drive aisles. Based on the Land Use and Development Code, the project will be about 100 parking spaces short, so applicant F.H. One, Inc., has asked for an exception.

"The applicant has provided parking and traffic studies to support the request for these exceptions to code requirements," according to Stewart.

Staff does not support a variance for the tower, however, which is needed for the tower to exceed 70 feet. Its recommendation is to limit the tower to that maximum height.

Economic Development Manager Mike Palombo said the center has been struggling and that a an overhaul may help it recover.

"Alamo Plaza has been one of the centers we've had concerns about over the years," he said, "and we're glad to see steps taken to improve its condition."

Some tenants in the plaza agreed that the renovation is a good idea.

"I think it'll be great for the plaza; it needs to be upgraded anyway," said Tammy Beck, owner of Renegade's Salon. Giving the center a facelift, she said, will hopefully "bring business to this side of town."

Paul Herriott, owner of Digger's Deli, also said the improvements are "a long time coming."

The Planning Commission's decision will serve as a recommendation to the city council. The panel meets at 7 p.m. in the City Council chamber, located at 650 Merchant St.

Jennifer Gentile can be reached at

Vacaville Planning Commissioners endorsed a plan to renovate Alamo Plaza, which is at the southwest corner of Alamo Drive and Merchant Street.

Facelift seen in store for shopping center

By Jennifer Gentile//Staff Writer

Article Launched: 11/08/2007 07:28:19 AM PST

After a Planning Commission vote Tuesday night, better days may be ahead for a downtrodden shopping center in Vacaville.

The commissioners endorsed a plan to renovate Alamo Plaza, which is at the southwest corner of Alamo Drive and Merchant Street. The proposal now will be passed on to the City Council.

Although commissioners had some questions and concerns, their opinion of the makeover project was generally positive. Chair Brett Johnson described the plan as "exciting and innovative."

"We liked it; we thought it was unique," Johnson said. "It would be a nice addition to one of our gateways into Vacaville."

What is proposed, according to architect Rob Sesar, is nothing less than "a total remodel of the entire center," with changes to parking, appearance and several other aspects of the plaza. The improvements will hopefully "give the center a competitive edge," he said, "to match other newer centers in Vacaville."

Vice Chair Joe Niccoli said the project demonstrated creative, out-of-the-box thinking.

"It's a great project," he said. "We need to do something about the shopping centers in Vacaville."

Niccoli is not alone in considering shopping centers an important issue. Developing a strategy to help centers that are vacant or struggling is one of the priorities listed in the city's 2007-2009 Strategic Plan. The study, which is being developed, will look at strategies for replacing anchor stores and increasing the profile of these centers with signage or facade improvements.

The Alamo Plaza was built in the 1970s and features 165,100 square feet of gross leasable space. The vacancy rate at the center is an estimated 50 percent, and the largest tenant there now is Big Lots.

The overhaul proposal calls for new exterior features for existing buildings, a new 24,000-square-foot office/commercial building and a centrally located tower.

Some of the materials that would be used to spruce up the center are cement plaster walls, cornice and accents, decorative brick and metal columns, aluminum storefronts and metal roofs.

A driveway along Alamo Drive would be removed under the renovation plan, and the parking lot and drive aisles would be re-striped.

According to a staff report, the tower will have a base that is 20 feet by 20 feet and will "include a storefront for a small tenant space."

Although the applicant, F.H. One, Inc., proposed a 78-foot tower, the maximum height allowed under Land Use and Development Code is 70 feet. Following staff's recommendation, the commission did not grant the variance required to exceed this height.

"There are rules for a variance, and it didn't meet the criteria," Niccoli said. Namely, there are no extraordinary circumstances that apply to this property, and lack of a variance will not result in "practical difficulty or unnecessary physical hardship."

The project is also 101 parking spaces short of meeting Land Use and Development Code standards. According to the staff report, the applicant provided parking and traffic studies to support its request. The commission agreed upon an exception, allowing 657 spaces, rather the required 758.

"With the proposed improvements to aesthetics, safety, types of uses with a new office commercial building and low impact on traffic on Alamo Drive and Merchant Street, staff believes the parking deficit will not be detrimental," the report explained.

If visitors should ever fill the parking lot at Alamo Plaza, Johnson said, "At some point in time, wouldn't that be a nice problem to have for that center?"

Niccoli said, "based on the traffic study and parking study, they should be fine."

An issue that seemed to concern the vice chair more than parking was the coming and going of patrons.

At some point, he said, "the city needs to look at the issue of whether left turns should be made out of that shopping center (onto Merchant Street). He also questioned the safety of "people going in there after they've just gotten off of Interstate 80."

Overall, however, Niccoli said the reception to the project "was very positive" and "people thought very highly of it."

"I think the commissioners unanimously hope it's an unbelievable success," he said.

Sesar said he hopes to begin the first phase of the three-phase project in the spring. With approval from the City Council, he said marketing efforts can immediately begin to generate interest in the center.

Jennifer Gentile can be reached at

Waiting for a bus in downtown Vallejo could get safer and more comfortable under the city's plans to build a new transfer station.

Station may make long wait for bus bearable

Public can offer comments on plans for transfer center


Article Launched: 11/13/2007 08:24:20 AM PST

Times-Herald staff writer

Waiting for a bus in downtown Vallejo could get safer and more comfortable under the city's plans to build a new transfer station.

Vallejo Transit bus riders and others can offer public comments on the new bus transfer center at a workshop 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday night at the Florence Douglas Senior Center.

If you go

What: Vallejo Bus Transit Center Project Community Workshop
When: 6:30 to 8 p.m., Thursday
Where: Florence Douglas Senior Center, 333 Amador St. Vallejo.

A new bus transfer center at York and Santa Clara streets is meant to get buses off the streets and move them away from the current transfer center at York and Marin streets which could house a downtown development project.

A downtown bus transfer center is part of the city's waterfront master plan, which seeks to create a "transit village" in the downtown and waterfront areas. Another waterfront plan element is the 3-story Vallejo Station, a parking and commercial structure near Santa Clara and Maine streets.

Public works director Gary Leach said the city has begun the design phase of the new bus transfer center. In September, the City Council awarded a $817,910 design contract which will be paid with state transportation and other government funds.

"We've hired a design engineer to design it and are setting up public meetings to go over the design features the residents and businesses might want as part of that transfer station," Leach said.

The current downtown bus transfer station is not considered ideal for either buses or riders. City staff note that buses park on the street and block traffic, and riders have no bus shelters or other amenities. Riders often need to cross busy streets to make bus connections.

The new transfer center will move the buses closer to the ferry building, and will consolidate buses into a smaller area with better lighting and security, he said.

At Thursday's workshop, city staff will give a power point presentation on design options, and well as some amenities which could be part of the project.

The Florence Douglas Senior Center is accessible by Vallejo Transit routes 4,5 and 7. Because bus service stops at 8 p.m., shuttle service will be provided at the end of the meeting.

• Contact Sarah Rohrs at or 553-6832.

The new transfer center will:

• be located at York and Santa Clara streets • be part of city's waterfront master plan to create a 'transit village' • move buses closer to the ferry building • consolidate buses into smaller area with better lighting and security

As businesses grow, so does revenue -- Vacaville reaps benefits from uptick in property taxes

As businesses grow, so does revenue -- Vacaville reaps benefits from uptick in property taxes

By Ines Bebea | Daily Republic | November 12, 2007 22:19

VACAVILLE - With some of Vacaville's top employers in the process of expansion projects, the city is in line to collect more taxes from an old revenue source, commercial and industrial properties.

In a 2007-08 Property Tax Review report, prepared by The HdL Companies, the city experienced a net taxable value increase of 14.1 percent. The growth, which was higher than the 9.3 percent experienced countrywide, increased by a total of $1.4 billion, according to the report.

'What this means for the city is that the we will have more funds for our redevelopment agencies and that we will be able to offer incentives to companies that want to remain in Vacaville or to companies thinking about being in business here,' Vacaville City Councilwoman Pauline Clancy said. 'Our commercial properties are doing quite well.'

The HdL Companies is a Diamond Bar-based firm that assists cities, counties and redevelopment agencies in maximizing revenues through allocation audits, financial and economic analysis.

'Because commercial property taxes are not added to the general fund and instead are used by the redevelopment agencies, we will be able to have more resources for certain areas,' Clancy said. 'It will give the redevelopment agencies of downtown Vacaville and Interstate 80 and Interstate 505 retail areas funds to attract and keep businesses.'

According to the report, the largest assessed increase came from the industrial parcel owned by Genentech. The property was reassessed last year and it added $458 million. Other developments contributing to the increase are Nut Tree Inc. with $76 million and CPG Finance II LP with $32 million.

Reach Ines Bebea at 427-6934 or

Vallejo schools could end year with $7M extra - a major turnaround in finances

Vallejo schools could end year with $7M extra

By TONY BURCHYNS/Times-Herald staff writer

Article Launched: 11/15/2007 08:31:44 AM PST

Since the collapse of its finances three years ago, the Vallejo City Unified School District has undergone a $35 million swing in 36 months. That's about $1 million a month.

The district now has a projected surplus of about $7 million for the 2007-08 fiscal year, according to a quarterly budget update state trustee Richard Damelio delivered Wednesday night to the school board.

That surplus for the unrestricted general fund is expected to climb even higher in December, after the close of escrow on property the district is selling for $3.9 million.

The latest budget snapshot also shows projected revenues rising by $3.6 million. However, expenses are also projected to be $2.6 million higher for the year.

Damelio was upbeat during the presentation. Beforehand, he said the numbers represent a "moment in time," and are always changing as bills for past services come due and new revenues arrive. But he said the district is moving in a positive financial direction.

Board members praised Damelio and other administrators who are part of a state-appointed takeover team working to resolve the district's massive budgetary problems. A newly released state audit shows finances in considerably better shape than three years ago.

The district's total unrestricted general fund sits at around $100 million. About 80 percent is used for employee salaries and benefits. The money also goes for books and supplies and instructional services.

While Damelio painted a fairly positive picture, he also warned that unknown factors, such as the dismal housing market and the state's economy, could affect finances next year. California public school districts get most of their money from the state.

The district's finances fell apart three years ago after an investigation uncovered a $28 million deficit. The district had originally reported a surplus that year. The state issued a $60 million bailout loan and took control of the district.

The school board still lacks power to make financial decisions, but officials hope that will be restored in six to 18 months.

In other news, the board said good-bye to long-time board member Bill Pendergast, who was attending his last meeting after 16 years of service. Pendergast, who did not seek re-election, is known for his work bringing more resources to improve school facilities.

"Your contributions go well beyond my tenure here," Damelio told him. "And your commitment to the students and community are unquestioned. You have done some remarkable things for this school district."

Pendergast, clearly emotional, congratulated the newly elected board members and thanked his friends and past campaign workers. He also praised district administrators and teachers for working "very hard" every day to provide the best possible education under a system that does not provide adequate resources.

"Although all of you work very hard, and care very deeply about getting (the district) where you would want it to be, you know we are not there," Pendergast said.

"We do not provide what we should be providing for our children, and that's a shame," he added.

Demand for larger apartments increase rent in Fairfield survey

Demand for larger apartments inflates rent

By Ines Bebea | Daily Republic | November 13, 2007 17:42

FAIRFIELD - Rents for three-bedroom apartments in Fairfield, Suisun City and Vacaville have increased by 14.77 percent over the past year, according to survey results released Tuesday.

In its annual apartment rent survey by Fairfield's Community Development Department, 92 apartment complexes accounting for 8,043 units were surveyed to determine the median rent and vacancy rates for studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments in the three cities.

Median rents decreased slightly in the past year for studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, the survey found. But median rent for a three-bedroom apartment increased to $1,375.

'The changes for the smaller one- to two-bedroom apartments were not significant, but for the three bedroom the increase in demand affected prices,' said Lark Ferrell, housing project manager for the department.

'We also surveyed what the vacancy rates were and attempts to convert apartments into co-ops for more space, a move that we discourage because it can dwindle the pool of available units and increase the demand.'

The rise in demand and rent prices for the larger apartments could stem from the slumping real estate market, Ferrell said.

'You could have people looking at a bigger apartment because they cannot afford a home or they had to move out of one,' Ferrell said.

The survey also revealed that the vacancy rate decreased from 4.93 percent in 2006 to 4.73 percent in 2007. But the period that an apartment remained vacant before a new tenant was found increased from 14 days to 21 days.

Reach Ines Bebea at 427-6934 or

Results of Annual Apartment Rent Survey Conducted by City of Fairfield

Last Modified:
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The City of Fairfield Community Development Department conducted its annual apartment survey of the tri-city area, which includes the cities of Fairfield, Suisun and Vacaville.

City staff surveyed 92 apartment complexes, accounting for 8,043 dwelling units. The survey is conducted to determine median rents for studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom units and the area vacancy rate.

Median rents decreased slightly in the past year for studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. However, rents for three-bedroom units increased. In November 2007, median rents are: $705 for studios, $815 for 1 Bedrooms, $930 for 2 Bedrooms, and $1,375 for 3 Bedrooms. The chart below shows the change in median rents over the past seven years and the previous year by bedroom size.

Percentage Change In Median Rent

Time Period
1 Bedroom
2 Bedroom
3 Bedroom

Oct. ’00 to Nov. ‘07

Nov. ’06 to Nov. ‘07

Source: City of Fairfield Community Development Department

The vacancy rate slightly decreased from 4.93% in 2006 to 4.73% in 2007. A five percent rental vacancy rate is considered healthy. The reported time an apartment unit remained vacant before a new tenant was identified to rent the unit increased from 14 days to 21 days.

To entice potential renters to move into vacant apartments, 39 of the properties surveyed, or 42%, offered incentives. This is down from 59% of properties in last year’s survey. Apartment complexes with higher vacancies were more likely to offer incentives. Typical incentives offered were discounted first month’s rent, discounts off the monthly rent with a long-term lease, and free credit checks.

Publish Date: 14-Nov-07
Copyright © 2003 City Of Fairfield All Rights Reserved.

Nut Tree developer, city of Vacaville retool agreement

Nut Tree developer, city retool agreement

By Jennifer Gentile/Staff Writer

Article Launched: 11/14/2007 05:52:21 AM PST

As a result of a Vacaville City Council meeting Tuesday, the master developer of the Nut Tree complex received a two-year time extension on the project and is no longer obligated to build the city a hotel/conference center.

These were two of the proposed changes to the Disposition and Development Agreement with Snell and Co., which is known as Nut Tree Associates, LLC, for the purpose of the project. The agreement originally was approved in 2003 and had undergone two amendments prior to Tuesday night.

Snell was chosen to develop the 80-acre property along Monte Vista Avenue, thereby returning a Vacaville landmark to its former glory. Residents and visitors already have taken advantage of a new family park, bocce grove and dozens of stores on the property. The next phases will include office space, a residential component and more retail.

The City Council approved the latest set of amendments by unanimous vote. One of the main changes was a two-year extension to the project timeline. As it was, the development agreement required Snell to purchase a total of 50 acres of the property by February 2008.

In September, citing financial constraints, Snell announced it could not build a hotel/conference center at the Nut Tree. While the city has not given up on the project, it chose to remove this component from its agreement with the firm.

According to Assistant City Manager Laura Kuhn, a 8.08-acre site has been selected for the facility.

"This site, we believe, would accommodate a 200-room hotel" at least four stories tall, Kuhn said, and a 15,000-square-foot conference center.

She added that the city is in talks with another developer about the project and is hoping those talks result in a proposal. If that route fails, she said, "We'll be going out into the development community"

Another business hotel, planned to be built west of Best Buy, was scrapped under the amended agreement and replaced with retail space.

Another approved amendment requires Nut Tree Associates to deposit $37,800 with the city to offset the expense of landscaping and lighting maintenance work until a landscaping and lighting district can be established. Nut Tree Associates is also responsible for building a non-potable water pump, which will be operated by the Solano Irrigation District.

The city, in turn, must grant easements for two pylon signs, for which Nut Tree Associates will pay $2.34 per square foot. Another amendment requires master guidelines to be set for the use of trademarks, stating that ownership of trademarks will be transferred to Nut Tree Associates when it has acquired 52 acres of the Nut Tree Property.

When it came time to vote, the council members were united in their praise of Roger Snell of Snell and Co. and the firm's work so far.

"This was one of the most troubled pieces of property in the city of Vacaville," said Councilwoman Pauline Clancy, adding, "I think (Snell) has done wonderful things ... ."

Councilman Steve Wilkins agreed, and said, "Mr. Snell's done a remarkable job." He added, "It has not been the easiest road for him to plow and pave" at times due to economic conditions.

Wilkins also mentioned Snell's various contributions to the community aside from developing the Nut Tree, including those that benefit youth and senior citizens.

Jennifer Gentile can be reached at

Solano's Got It!

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

Blog Archive