Friday, May 30, 2008

Garamendi: Education key in a healthy economy

Garamendi: Education key in a healthy economy
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | May 30, 2008

FAIRFIELD - As go California schools, so goes the state economy.

That was the message from Lt. Governor John Garamendi, who spoke this morning in Vacaville in a private meeting with members of the Solano Economic Development Corporation. Garamendi is chairman of the California Commission on Economic Development and most of the discussion focused on economic issues.

The answer to most of the problems, Garamendi said, is better education.

'We have got to fund this system,' he said. 'You cannot expect to succeed in any business unless you invest.'

Read more in the Daily Republic or at

The new cult wines: 6 wines to covet

The new cult wines: 6 wines to covet
Jon Bonné, Chronicle Wine Editor
Friday, May 30, 2008

It may be more difficult to define a cult wine nowadays, at least in the Screaming Eagle sense of the term. But all six of these wineries have impressive followings among well-informed wine buyers and consumers - finessing that tricky mix of scarcity, quality and reputation. None were producing wine before the millennium; at least one has yet to release its first vintage.

Scholium Project
Location: Fairfield

Case production: 1,500

Given its cult following among wine insiders - appearances at sommeliers' off-hours gatherings, for instance - Abe Schoener's effort is set to become the next Sine Qua Non. Just as Manfred Krankl's winery broke cult wines from the Napa Cab template, Scholium is again rewriting the book on cult wine.

A philosophy lecturer by trade, Schoener trained with John Kongsgaard at Luna Vineyards before Kongsgaard went on to establish his own cult Chardonnays. Scholium's first release in 2005 was based on barrels made from 3 tons of Chardonnay that Kongsgaard shared with Schoener five years earlier.

Schoener's unique winemaking style requires a barrel-by-barrel approach. The vineyard sources are often wildly unusual - Verdelho from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, for one - and the methods are either innovative or insane, depending on how much you buy into the textbook model of winemaking. Some white wines sit on their skins for days like a red; natural-yeast fermentations can halt in the winter and take years to complete; many barrels are finished without any use of the preservative sulfur dioxide.

The results are bottled with a unique name -"The Prince in His Caves," a skin-fermented Sauvignon Blanc that fermented for more than seven months in barrel, is simply marked by vineyard name (Sonoma Mountain's Farina Vineyard) and "white wine"- no varietal. It's a style inspired, in part, by winemakers like Josko Gravner and Stanislao Radikon, Italian mavericks who gained a reputation for experimenting with anything from terra-cotta amphorae to sulfur-free winemaking.

This caused a bit of worry among the salespeople who agreed to help Schoener with his wines, including the one who managed to persuade the French Laundry and stores like St. Helena's Acme Fine Wines to buy almost his whole production. "Afterwards, (the sales rep) said, "I didn't think we were going to sell a single case,' " Schoener recalls.

Clearly, it's not a concern anymore.

See the complete story at San Francisco Chronicle.

County marks construction of $18.7 million health building

County marks construction of $18.7 million health building
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | May 29, 2008

Solano County Supervisor Jim Spering speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for a 30,000-square-foot county building that will house a public health clinic, a public health laboratory and a forensic laboratory at Courage Drive and South Watney Way. Photo by Brad Zweerink

FAIRFIELD - Construction will soon begin on an $18.7 million, two-story county building to house a public health clinic, a public health laboratory and forensic laboratory in Solano Business Park.

'You look at many counties in California that are struggling to provide basic services,' county Supervisor Jim Spering said during the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday. 'Here, we're expanding services.'

The first floor of the 30,000-square-foot building at Courage Drive and South Watney Way will house a public health clinic in which people can get primary care without an appointment.

Fairfield Mayor Harry Price noted the clinic will be convenient for users because it will be near bus routes and the Mission Solano homeless shelter.

Part of the second floor will be a public health laboratory, which is moving from Vallejo. The other part of the second floor will be the district attorney's forensic laboratory. Technicians will analyze bodily fluids for drug and alcohol content and identify doses of illegal drugs. Such information is used in court cases.

Solano County presently has such tests done in Contra Costa County for about $855,000 annually. The new laboratory might cost about the same amount to operate but will be much more convenient, District Attorney David Paulson said.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic Online.

Training hub named for police veterans

Training hub named for police veterans
Article Launched: 05/30/2008

A state-of-the-art training facility for peace officers and a nearby thoroughfare were dedicated Thursday in the name of two Fairfield police veterans.

The facility, which consists of 49,000 square feet of training space, boasts a 20-lane, 25-yard pistol range; a six-lane,100-yard rifle range; a 3,200-square-foot mat room for weaponless defense training; multiple classrooms that can accommodate up to 100 students; a simulator training center with three driving simulators and one force-option simulator; and a 20-seat conference room.

The long-awaited building was named for fallen Sgt. Art Koch, the only Fairfield officer in history to die in the line of duty.

Koch died July 29, 1984, a day after being shot by a Vietnam veteran who is now serving a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Fairfield Police/Art Koch Training Facility sits at 1717 Rex Clift Lane. The lane is named in memory of Fairfield's first police chief. Clift served the department from 1943 to 1958.

Healthy start beckons county clinic, lab

Healthy start beckons county clinic, lab
By Danny Bernardini
Article Launched: 05/30/2008

With county supervisors selecting public art projects Tuesday and a ground-breaking ceremony Thursday, things are starting to come together for the $18.7 million health clinic and laboratory in Fairfield.

The public health clinic, public health lab and forensics lab - part of the Twin Campus Project - will be built near Courage Drive. A ground-breaking ceremony took place on the corner of Watney Way and Courage Drive on Thursday.

The building is part of an effort by Solano County to integrate health services by including them in one place. Some of those services include primary care, mental health, public health, substance abuse, child welfare, employment, Medi-Cal, food stamps and services for older and disabled adults.

The Public Health Laboratory will be relocated from Vallejo to a new expanded and upgrade laboratory that will enhance Public Health services and emergency response. The Forensics Laboratory will provide essential lab analysis that supports the efforts of the district attorney and the sheriff, according to Steve Pierce, public information officer for Solano County.

And earlier this week, the Solano County Board of Supervisors approved a sculpture and mural as public art pieces for the Fairfield building.

Dayton Claudio was selected to create "Passiflora," an exterior freestanding sculpture that may double as an archway. Also selected was Gregg Valley's work for a lobby mural titled "Growth."

Impressing the relatives

Impressing the relatives
Sister city praises Vallejo meeting style
By JESSICA A. YORK/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 05/28/2008

City Council spectating in one small South Korean town has improved in recent years - because of Vallejo.

A delegation of South Korean municipal officials from the city of Jincheon descended upon Vallejo's City Hall on Tuesday. The group, residents of Vallejo's sister city Jincheon in South Korea, was led by its city council chairman, Jung Kwang Sub, who had first visited Vallejo in 2002 as a representative for a council member.

Sub told Vallejo city officials that he had been impressed by how Vallejo's council chambers allowed easier viewing of meetings, which led to a similar structural setup to his own city after his visit. After this visit, Sub said he hopes to duplicate the city's general public comment period at the beginning of his council meetings. He also spoke of how impressed he was with Napa vineyards that had been passed down from generation to generation.

The delegates were introduced and translated for by Vallejo resident William Kim, a 30-year Vallejo business owner and a Korean-American. Kim had helped forge the relationship between the two cities nearly a decade ago, when he and his Tae Kwon Do students began attending word championship events in Jincheon.

Vallejo Sister City Board Member Diji Christian welcomed the delegation in Korean, with an enthusiastic response from the crowd.

Tuesday's stop at City Hall allowed Vallejo mayor Osby Davis and Sub to meet for the first time, solidifying the sister city relationship, said Kim.

"The main purpose is to enhance the relationship," Kim said while awaiting the delegation's tour bus. "They want to kind of reconnect."

The Jincheon group, which included Sub, a council vice chairman, five city council members, city staff and a reporter, had just returned from a two-day visit of the Colorado Springs Olympic Complex. Their Vallejo tour was expected to include Mare Island, the Maritime Academy and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.

Jincheon, one of six Vallejo sister cities - has been united with this city since 2002.

"The mayor gave us a warm welcome - we feel very uplifted," Sub said, translated by Kim. "I want to have an everlasting friendship continue between Jincheon and Vallejo."

Other Vallejo sister cities include Akashi, Japan; Bagamoyo, Tanzania; Baguio, Philippines; La Spezia, Italy and Trondheim, Norway.

• Contact Jessica A. York at 553-6834 or at

Discovery Kingdom lowers fares

Discovery Kingdom lowers fares
Six Flags theme park reduces adult ticket prices to make visits more affordable.
By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen/Times-Herald, Vallejo
Article Launched: 05/28/2008

Even as gas prices and other travel costs skyrocket, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom's ticket prices took a tumble Tuesday, park officials announced.

It's the first time adult gate admission prices have been reduced, and the new $39.95 adult gate ticket price is the lowest in five years, said park spokeswoman Nancy Chan.

"We wanted to offer a more affordable leisure time option, so we're kicking off the 2008 daily operating season with a price roll-back, from $49.99 to $39.99," Chan said.

An online promotion that also kicked off Tuesday, allows everyone into the park for the kids' $29.99 price, Chan said.

On the other hand, time's run out on the $69.99 season pass, which is now $79.99, Chan said.

The lower ticket price came as a nice surprise to David Reyes of San Rafael, he said.

"Of course it's good. I was expecting to pay more. I saved $40," Reyes said, who said he paid for three other people's tickets. The lower price will likely mean more visits, Reyes said.

Although Lawrence and Angie Matlock of Vallejo are season ticket holders, they said they think the price roll-back is an excellent idea.

"This way they can give back to the community, so they can come enjoy themselves," Lawrence Matlock said. "I hope it brings them more business."

"It should," Angie Matlock said. "It's nice to have something positive happen."

Demonstrating its commitment to "making a visit to Six Flags a more affordable option for families in search of fun and value," Kirk Smith, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom's director of marketing, rode a stationary bike, nonstop, in the heart of the park for 10 hours. One hour for every dollar dropped from the ticket price, Chan said.

A recreational cyclist, Smith volunteered for the assignment, he said.

"It ties in with the Tony Hawk's Big Spin and the roll-back of prices," Smith said.

"I've run marathons and I teach a spinning class, but this is by far the longest I've done the stationary bike - by, like seven hours."

There have been a few slow weekends since the park opened on a part-time basis in March, but generally park attendance has been good so far, Chan said

Discovery Kingdom's price reduction is about offering a more financially attractive option for summer fun, Chan said.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

MAY 2008

Table of Contents
- Real Estate Roundup (April 2008)
- Clarkston Consulting Tours Solano Communities
- May 28th Membership Breakfast – “Meet the Business Editors”: East Bay Business Times, Comstock’s Business Magazine, NorthBay Business Journal
- Did you know?

Real Estate Roundup (April 2008)
- Quarters K, Mare Island, Vallejo -- 8,783 SF lease to Packaging Arts
-Building 112, Mare Island, Vallejo -- 20,550 SF lease renewal to Performance Contracting
-Building 678, Mare Island, Vallejo -- 81,600 SF lease renewal to XKT Engineering

Colliers International (
-4361 Park Road, Benicia – 3,250 sf lease to Fastenal Company

Cornish & Carey (
-4833 Auto Plaza Court, Fairfield, 21,880 sf lease to STARCON International

Grubb & Ellis (
-Cordelia Road, Fairfield – 7 acre land sale to JCM Partners, LLC

Keegan & Coppin (
-4833 Auto Plaza Court, Fairfield, 21,880 sf lease to STARCON International

Premier Commercial (
-4321 Lozano Lane, Fairfield - 5,304 sf lease to Mike Merlonghi
-1455 Oliver Road, Fairfield – 4,936 sf lease to Kappel & Kappel
-VacaValley Road, Vacaville – 50.4 acres sold to City of Vacaville
-Cherry Glen Road, Vacaville – 4.8 acres sold to New Life Church of the Nazarene

Clarkston Consulting Tours Solano Communities

Clarkston Consulting executives recently toured available sites in Solano County as potential locations for their biotechnology company clients. Tony Stolis and Julia Cost of Clarkston toured the County May 12 on with Mike Ammann, president of Solano Economic Development Corporation.

The site tour included: Vallejo, Fairfield, Vacaville and Dixon. Michael Palombo, economic development manager for the City of Vacaville, hosted lunch at the Nut Tree after touring several sites with the I-505/I-80 triangle area.

Stolis is a member of the Bay BIO Board of Directors and said after the tour he "...appreciated the time taken to showcase what is happening and available in Solano County." Ammann said the consulting firm is prominent in the growing biotech industry and this tour "...shows how the communities of Solano County are positioned to participate in the expanded growth of this industry." Stolis said: "I found the Genentech research facility to be particularly interesting, because it demonstrates even broader potential for the County. I'll definitely be keeping that in mind."

The site tour is an example of EDC's continual effort to bring top industry leaders into the County to learn firsthand of all the opportunities afford their companies and clients.

Business publication editors speak at EDC event
Editors from three of Northern California’s premier business publications will speak at the May 28 Solano Economic Development Corporation (EDC) breakfast event in Fairfield.

The editors are: Brad Bollinger, North Bay Business Journal; Doug Curley, Comstock’s Business Magazine; and Al Pacciorini, East Bay Business Times.

The editors were invited to Solano County to give business and government officials better insight into these specialized publications, their mission and how to best utilize each for news distribution.

“This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about these specialized publications that focus entirely on economic issues and business news,” Michael Ammann, president of EDC said. “Each editor will explain how to submit news for publication and also specify their current areas of high news interest.”

Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield. To register, call 707 864-1855. Cost is $25 for EDC members and $35 for non-members.


Did you know?
Vacaville has held the highest per capita concentration of electric cars in the world, giving it the nickname "Voltageville”. (Wikipedia)

The Solano Economic Development Corporation’s mission is to enhance the economic vitality
and quality of life in Solano County communities through the attraction,
growth and retention of business and industry.

Solano EDC Team

Mike Ammann, President (
Sandy Person, Vice-President (
Pat Uhrich, Office Manager (
Andy Turba, Special Projects (

Solano Economic Development Corporation
360 Campus Lane, Suite 102, Fairfield, CA 94534
Phone: (707) 864-1855 Fax: (707) 864-6621

City spotlight: Suisun City

City spotlight: Suisun City
East Bay Business Times

Mayor Pete Sanchez served as a Suisun City councilmember from 1994 to 2006, when he was elected mayor. He is a former banker and accountant, and is retired as supervising auditor-appraiser at the Solano County Assessor-Recorder's office.

What excites you the most about Suisun City's future? Suisun City is a terrific community that has worked really hard to set the stage for dramatic business growth. We have created a true regional destination that will explode as more people come to realize this is a great place to dine and enjoy the natural beauty of the Delta.

What troubles you the most about Suisun City's future? We are a small city with well-developed and varied neighborhoods but little room for outward expansion. We are focused on bringing in the right mix of shopping for our residents.

What is the biggest opportunity in Suisun City? The Waterfront District. We are building 40,000 square-feet of restaurant, retail and office space as an initial construction phase that will bring hundreds of thousands of square feet of mixed-use space online in the next several years. Construction also is underway on a 102-room waterfront hotel.

What is Suisun City's biggest asset? No other community in the region has our Waterfront District. Plus, we have 32 daily Capitol Corridor Amtrak train stops on Main Street, which links people from as far away as Rocklin and Roseville through Oakland/SF and on to San Jose.

What is its biggest liability? While no one likes to think about liabilities, ours is most likely our inability to expand. We are proud to be neighbors of Travis Air Force Base and the Suisun Marsh. But those terrific assets limit our ability to develop an economically diverse tax base to meet the long-term service demands of our community.

What is the most important development project going or to come soon? The Main Street West project is transforming the Waterfront District into a true 24/7 destination with an initial focus on being the region's top dining destination. The Wal-Mart Supercenter approved for the eastern end of town will provide large-scale shopping and help us capture sales tax currently leaving our city. With a per capita sales tax factor of just over $2,000 - compared with statewide trends of $10,000 per capita - such projects, if planned and located appropriately, are critical to our long-term fiscal health.

What is something people don't know about Suisun City? We're a great place to go kayaking. Launch right off the boat launch or guest dock and enjoy a full day exploring the Suisun Marsh by water. Our Wildlife Center is a special downtown gem - you get to see owls and eagles and other marsh wildlife up close and personal. Park for free in the Waterfront District and then decide whether or not you want Greek, French/California, Thai, Japanese, Mexican or good old hearty American fare.

Population: 27,980
Biggest private employer: Precision Industrial Constructors
No. of Precision employees: 101
No. 2 private employer: Raley's Supermarkets
No. of Raley's employees: 100
No. of business licenses: 663
No. of jobs in Suisun City: 3,760
Median household income: $74,150
Median home price, April '08: $290,000
On the Web: or

History: For thousands of years, the Suisunes, an American Indian tribe lived in the region. Suisun Bay took its name from the tribe, and the city took its name from the bay. By the time of the Gold Rush, the area�s water location fed growing agricultural and commercial enterprises, leading to incorporation in 1868. The arrival of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 bolstered the area as a commercial center. The opening of Interstate 80 away from the town in the 1960s sparked a decline in rail and water transit coming to Suisun City. The town had about 3,000 people by the 1970s, when a growth spurt began. More people generated a renaissance focused on the waterfront and historic downtown. Image: A promenade links the Civic Center with the rail station and other redevelopment efforts.

NorthBay Medical Center brings open-heart surgery to Solano County

NorthBay Medical Center brings open-heart surgery to Solano County
East Bay Business Times - by Marie-Anne Hogarth

NorthBay Medical Center will invest almost $10 million to start Solano County's first open-heart surgery program.

The Fairfield hospital hired Diana Sullivan, a hospital administrator from New York City's Beth Israel Medical Center, to run the new program. Sullivan, who directed the 1,368-bed Manhattan facility's heart institute and has experience developing hospital-based cardiac programs, arrived in January and will spearhead development of NorthBay's program set to launch this spring.

The 132-bed Fairfield hospital also plans to start treating patients with blocked coronary arteries in its newly built cardiac catheterization lab, where it will use stents and angioplasty balloons and other techniques.

Hospital administrators hope the new program will "fill the gap" for medical care for some 1,400 people who currently travel outside of the county for inpatient services, including heart care. The county has a population of about half a million people.

NorthBay and other hospitals in Solano County treat heart attack patients, but they are currently transferred if they require open heart surgery.

The program could give NorthBay an edge in the Solano market over Kaiser Permanente, which is planning to open a hospital in nearby Vacaville in spring 2009, but sends heart patients to Oakland for surgery. NorthBay is sandwiched between heart surgery programs at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa and John Muir Health in Concord, which is building a new patient tower with three stories devoted to a cardiovascular institute.

Significantly, the new program will serve the hospital's strategy of focusing its efforts on vital services that can only be provided through inpatient care, said NorthBay CEO Gary Passama. That could be critical as more services move beyond hospital walls, and the pool of money from government payers like Medi-Cal and Medicare shrinks.

"Hospitals are seeing a lot of what they are doing moving to outpatient care," said Passama. "This helps us to replace revenue that is lost as procedures move to outpatient areas and from the large amount of bad debt that we take on."

NorthBay's open-heart surgery program will serve 100 patients in the first year, and ramp up to between 200 and 300 by the third and fourth years, Passama projected.

In its 24-hour cardiac catheterization lab, the hospital plans to treat between 300 and 400 patients through "interventional" procedures using stents and other devices. Officials hope to build up to 800 or 1,000 patients by the third and fourth years. Although NorthBay has had a cardiac catheterization laboratory for 15 years, it has for the most part used it for diagnosis by injecting dye to see a blockage in an artery.

Dr. Jeffrey Breneisen, medical director of cardiology for NorthBay, said that having surgical backup on-site wasn't necessarily a requirement for treating patients with coronary blockages in the catheterization lab. Still, he said, the surgery program would provide important backup to the lab and help ensure surgeons remain "involved" and don't "just dabble" in the program.

NorthBay administrators are pitching their new program as a "one-stop shop," which begins when a patient calls 911. Paramedics send results of a 12-lead EKG from the field to the hospital, where a physician can activate the cardiac catheterization team from the emergency department.

As part of its investment, NorthBay spent $3.6 million last year rebuilding and expanding its cardiac catheterization lab, which now measures 3,600 square feet.

Passama said he was also expecting "momentarily" the state's approval to spend some $4.8 million to build an 8,000-square-foot operating room for the heart surgery program that will be twice the size of standard operating rooms. The build-out would take six months and NorthBay hopes to perform its first open-heart surgery sometime next April.

The hospital will also invest $1 million to provide more than 12,000 hours of training to more than 50 clinical staff in areas of the hospital ranging from the emergency department to the intensive care and telemetry units.

The hospital has also signed contracts with three surgeons from Queen of the Valley in Napa - Drs. Robert Klingman, Ramzi Deeik and Peter Caravella - who will operate out of both facilities, as well as several perfusionists, technical specialists of the the heart-lung machine used during cardiac surgery.

NorthBay is currently recruiting for about eight more staff members, including a nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialists, nurses skilled in harvesting veins for use in cardiac bypass surgery, and anesthesiologists.

"Honestly, there is no department that is not impacted by the evolution of these services," Sullivan said. "From environmental service to the biomed staff, it is literally everybody."

Sullivan said she was persuaded to come and work at NorthBay Medical Center largely because she was so impressed with the hospital's chief nursing officer, Kathy Richerson. | 925-598-1432

East Bay's new-home inventory declining

East Bay's new-home inventory declining
Builders on hold, but buyers still find plenty of choices
East Bay Business Times - by Jessica Saunders

The backlog of new homes for sale in the East Bay is slowly declining, despite competition from existing- and foreclosure-home sales, and fewer buyers who can qualify for loans.

That's good news because inventory is a gauge of building-industry health and a key guide to the future supply of new homes.

Although builders have cut prices by as much as 25 percent, a slowdown in building has shrunk inventories more than the lower costs have, said Dean Wehrli, vice president of Sullivan Group Real Estate Advisors in Sacramento.

"Of course, the trick is knowing what is truly going to be introduced onto the market and when," he said.

Builders have a number of ways to reduce supply, among them slowing or stopping construction, converting to a different product type, seeking city or county approval for a different use, auctioning off units or, in extreme cases, giving a project back to the bank, said Michael Ghielmetti, president of Signature Properties in Pleasanton.

All that makes housing inventory a moving target for industry analysts like Wehrli.

Inventory is also an ongoing expense for most builders, who can pay hundreds of dollars a day per unit in interest on construction loans. "With prices doing what they have done, for builders to have cash tied up in inventory like that is not a real healthy thing," said Don Hofer, vice president of community development for Shea Homes in Livermore.

Even builders who don't borrow money dislike unsold units on the books, said Chris Truebridge, president of Shapell Homes, which is developing Gale Ranch in San Ramon. "It ties up half a million dollars of capital in that house, so I don't like it. I want to get revenue out of it," he said.

Inventory levels vary throughout the East Bay, with eastern Contra Costa County having the highest numbers of unsold new homes, according to Hanley Wood Market Intelligence's March report, the most recent available. There were 519 units of standing inventory - units either completed or within 30 days of completion - in the area, which includes Antioch, Brentwood, Discovery Bay, Pittsburg and Oakley. That amounts to a 6½-month supply based on the current sales rate, according to the report.

There were no units in the East County area listed as "under construction," which means the foundation or vertical construction has started but the home will not be completed within 30 days.

"Until those builders get through that product they aren't going to build anything new," said Stephen Smiley, principal at Meyers Builder Advisors in San Ramon, a real-estate consulting firm. He noted that the current sales rate of one to two units a month per subdivision is historically low, which drives up the months-of-supply figure. A 10-year average rate would be four sales per subdivision a month, Smiley said.

New-home builders in eastern Contra Costa County compete for buyers with the foreclosure-saturated resale market, Smiley said. There were more than 3,400 properties with foreclosure filings in Antioch, Brentwood, Discovery Bay, Pittsburg and Oakley in April, according to

But Hofer, whose company, Shea Homes, has four open communities in east Contra Costa, said sales are beginning to stabilize in the area. Shea is starting construction on new phases there, he said.

Standing inventory was up 971 percent in Alameda County and 55 percent in Contra Costa County in March compared to a year ago. Solano County had no standing inventory in March 2007 but 62 units in March, Hanley Wood said. Under-construction units were also much higher in Alameda and Contra Costa, but were down somewhat in Solano County.

Hanley Wood also tracks future construction, or units in active subdivisions that are planned but not under construction yet. During downturns builders usually "mothball" this inventory category and wait out the market. There were approximately 16,000 future-construction housing units throughout the East Bay in March.With all those units to move, the law of supply and demand kicks in, lowering prices. "In some markets we have seen houses priced 25 percent below peak, maybe more at this point," Smiley said. "That doesn't necessarily mean they will sell, either."

Shapell Homes is willing to negotiate on remaining units in its older subdivisions to close them out, Truebridge said. "Shoppers right now are looking for the absolute bottom price," he said.

Shea Homes has initiated "net pricing," effectively a price reduction equivalent to the value of previously offered incentives, Hofer said. "We think it's helping drive more buyers to the marketplace," he said.

Prices, however, are only one of the hurdles for buyers. Credit is another. Mortgage lenders burned by defaults and foreclosures now want down payments and higher credit scores than were required from 2002 to 2005, Wehrli said.

"Even if you get to the right price, the buyer pool is smaller than it was two, three, four years ago, because of the lack of the kind of mortgage vehicles they had two, three, four years ago," he said.

Those who do qualify have been waiting for the market to bottom out, afraid to overpay if prices could fall further. Home builders are trying to restore confidence with price guarantees, such as Signature's Live Secure program, which was rolled out last month.

"The single biggest question everyone out there is asking our folks is, 'Are we at the bottom?' That's the No. 1 phrase people use," Ghielmetti said. "Consumer and investor psychology is at play more than anything right now." | 925-598-1427

As home prices fall, architectural firms create new standards

As home prices fall, architectural firms create new standards
East Bay Business Times
by Sarah Thailing East Bay Business Times contributor

The subprime mortgage crisis is having more than just a financial effect on the home-building industry, shaking also the very foundations of residential design.

The name of the game these days for architects and home builders alike is flexibility, and there are many changes ready to hit the drawing boards. The living room, for example, soon may be extinct, after a long battle for floor space with the great room or the family room. And the formal dining room is on the endangered list, along with grand foyers, which may be scaled back in the years ahead.

Call it the Darwinism of design. Once the home market rebounds and construction resumes, new homes will evolve, offering more-flexible floor plans, better energy efficiency and a greater connection with the outdoors.

Eye-popping home price appreciation is a thing of the past, and East Bay homeowners now realize they can't trade up to a bigger, better house every few years.

"People now recognize that they may be staying in their home for an extended period of time," said Bob Hidey, president of Robert Hidey Architects in San Ramon, which does the majority of architectural work for Shapell Homes and is the architect for the upcoming residential developments of Wilder in Orinda and Palos Colorados in Moraga. "We are developing floor plan configurations that are much more flexible and meet the needs of a changing lifestyle. This lets homeowners use the space differently as their family matures and children move out."

For example, a room that opens onto the great room could serve as a dining room at first. Later, it might become a home office, an exercise room or a grandparent's bedroom. With formal spaces disappearing, a flexible floor plan gives owners an array of possibilities.

Less is more
New homes are going to get smaller but more efficient, said Chip Pierson, principal and general manager of Pleasanton-based Dahlin Group Architecture Planning. Nationwide, the average single-family home completed in 2007 was 2,512 square feet, well over double its humble average of 983 square feet in 1950. In 2015, new homes will average between 2,300 and 2,500 square feet, predicts Gopal Ahluwalia, vice president of research for the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Home Builders.

"All of this is the result of higher land costs, higher construction costs and less discretionary income," Hidey points out.

The good news is that a small house can feel bigger with the right design. New homes will have a direct relationship to the outdoors, in many cases thanks to more glass. Gone are the traditional front yard and backyard, said Hidey. Instead, homes in a variety of price ranges will feature covered outdoor spaces that give owners more living area - and outdoor rooms to furnish. Designs might have a front courtyard with a low or high wall for privacy. A C-shaped house might revolve around a central courtyard that opens onto a side yard. Or a covered courtyard might be in the back.

"Home builders are bringing inside and outside spaces together," said Cindy Siwecki, vice president of marketing and research for the Alamo-based Reiser Group, which is a sales and marketing agency for residential-property developers and specializes in new-home sales. Slate floors, or ceramic tile floors that look like natural stone, will carry from the great room to the outside patio. "Bring the outside in, and you make your space feel bigger," she said. At the same time, interiors are going beyond beige and moving toward bolder colors.

Outdoor living is in
Outdoor features like porches and patios are increasingly common in newly built homes, according to the NAHB. Among upscale home buyers, fully equipped outdoor kitchens continue to be popular. In addition to top-of-the-line grills, luxury-home owners want outside sinks, cooking islands, refrigerators, beer dispensers and wine refrigerators. They also might add audio equipment, a TV, an outdoor fireplace and a pool or spa to complete their backyard oasis.

On the higher end, some new homes will come with a detached living space in the back. This might serve as living quarters for extended family, or a home office with more peace and quiet. The upscale home of the future may come with a fiber-optic network, a multi-room audio system, multi-room video access, a system that integrates security, lighting, heating and cooling, and a master bath with multiple shower heads, NAHB predicts. Make that two master bathrooms. In luxury homes, the demand for two master bedroom suites is on the rise.

Solar is hot
Green and sustainable building is not just a trend, but a new direction in architecture. By 2020, the Home Builders Association of Northern California has set a goal of reducing overall energy consumption in new homes by 50 percent from 1990 levels and aims to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent during the same time frame. The association also supports green building standards created by the Berkeley-based nonprofit Build It Green that exceed the state's current standards for energy-efficient construction.

Among other things, green building means better insulation, high-performance windows and more efficient lighting and appliances. It has also increased the popularity of renewable materials, such as bamboo and cork flooring and kitchen countertops made of concrete or bits of recycled glass - some of which are priced at a premium. In some designs, deeper overhangs and sun shades will shield windows, and courtyards will improve ventilation.

Some architects say solar power will get hotter in the next decade. After tax rebates and incentives, photovoltaic cells might start at $20,000 - an investment that owners can recoup through lower electric bills in seven to 10 years. A few new homes will come with solar panels, while others may offer them as an option. The question is whether home buyers will be willing to pay the price.

"All of these ideas are thousands of years old," said Rodney Friedman, president, CEO and executive design architect of Emeryville-based Fisher-Friedman Architects. "The difference is that some enabling technologies are available today to help us design a better shelter." Friedman believes home buyers will go solar not necessarily because it is energy conscious, but because it will make economic sense. "The consumer is going to look at his utility bills and $4 gas and say, 'I can have a house that's 500 square feet larger if it has photovoltaic cells.' Buyers will buy the biggest home they think they can finance. It's part of a natural desire to have a larger dwelling."

NorthBay to open heart center in '09

NorthBay to open heart center in '09
By Robin Miller
Article Launched: 05/23/2008

Medical and administrative staff from NorthBay Medical Center gather Thursday to announce the development of a new Heart and Vascular Center, set to open in spring 2009. The job requires turning two existing operating rooms into a state-of-the-art surgical suite with high-definition monitors and tele- conferencing capabilities. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter)

Solano County residents in need of advanced cardiac care no longer will have to be shipped to neighboring counties for treatment come next spring.

NorthBay Healthcare unveiled its plans Thursday for a new state-of-the-art "Heart & Vascular Center" it plans to have up and operating by spring 2009.

Already in place is a new cardiac catheterization lab and construction will begin in June on a new $4.8 million high-tech cardiovascular operating room at NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield. It will be the most sophisticated and high-tech operating room of its kind in the region, NorthBay officials noted, and will involve the dismantling of two existing operating rooms to construct a single state-of-the-art surgical suite.

How high-tech?

"We will be able to teleconference while operating," explained cardiac surgeon Dr. Ramzi Deeik. Linked to doctors in other areas, surgeries conducted in the new facility will be able to be watched live.

"In that way, we will be able to teach or to get second opinions," he said. In addition, with high-definition monitors, the surgeons will be able to call up and view images taken before surgery and view them as needed.

The hospital already has obtained the equipment for its catheterization lab, though procedures done locally currently are limited to opening up clogged blood vessels in arms and legs. Opening clogged blood vessels near the heart will wait until the full Heart Center is operational.

The concept of a one-site-serves-all heart center has been in the works for several years, officials said.

"It truly is ridiculous for a growing regions this size - with an aging population that will need these services more than ever - to be without top-quality advanced cardiovascular surgery services," said Gary Passama, CEO and president of NorthBay Healthcare.

He noted that in 2006, some 1,400 residents had to travel outside of Solano County for the heart treatments they needed.

"The time it takes to move a critically-ill heart patient from here to another county where these services are currently available is too often a life-and-death proposition."

Asked why it has taken until now to plan for such services locally, Passama said the infrastructure had to be in place, finances had to be in place and the population had to grow.

And at a time when the government "continues to reduce its payments to doctors and hospitals, which lose money on caring for the state's poor and elderly residents," the center presents a challenge, Passama said, requiring significant investment and training. But it is vital, he said.

"As the state reduces its Medi-Cal reimbursements, NorthBay has to look to new lines of services to diversify its revenue stream," he said. "But more importantly, this is critical, essential advanced medicine that our friends, neighbors and loved ones here at home need. And NorthBay is committed to filling that gap in local health care."

Population growth is a key part of the need for the new center, officials agreed.

"Sending patients outside the county for cardiac care always delays treatment because you must arrange transportation and hospital admission. For some patients, that delay can be life-threatening," said Dr. Jeffrey Breneisen, medical director for cardiac services at the Fairfield hospital. "And while NorthBay could have chosen a minor expansion into cardiac care, they have instead committed to developing a center of excellence."

Six Flags lowers Vallejo ticket prices

Six Flags lowers Vallejo ticket prices
By Jon Ortiz
Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Riders are momentarily inverted while riding the Medusa at Six Flags in Vallejo. The price to ride at the amusement park has gone down, with admission prices cut $10 on Tuesday. Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee file, 2006

Six Flags Inc. kicked off its daily summer operating season by rolling back prices at its Vallejo theme park in response to the sluggish economy.

Adult gate admission to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is $39.99, down from the previous $49.99. All tickets purchased online go for the child rate of $29.99.

The price for a season pass -- $79.99 -- is unchanged.

Six Flags spokeswoman Nancy Chan said Tuesday that the company decided to cut prices "in response to things like higher gas prices and the overall state of the economy."

Shares of Six Flags, which is based in New York City, were trading at $1.97 at noon on the New York Stock Exchange, down 1 cent.

Seeno showdown nears

Seeno showdown nears
Controversial Business Park project decision deadline June 3
By SARA STROUD/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 05/23/2008 06:54:27 AM PDT

BENICIA - After innumerable staff hours and two lengthy city council meetings, the proposed Benicia Business Park project is almost ready for its big showdown.

In the meantime, city staff met Thursday with developer Discovery Builders to work out details of some project approval conditions, including how a new on-site fire station will be financed.

There's a "healthy tension" between the developer and the city, a Discovery Builders representative said this week about working through some 216 conditions.

The key issue Thursday was the funding of a fire station to be built during the construction's first phase, Community Development Director Charlie Knox said. Under one approval condition, the developer would be responsible for building a fire substation. Operating costs would be split evenly with the city.

Discovery Builders hopes to use project revenues to fund long-term operations, Knox said.

For their part, the developer said they would like more flexibility in project phasing to accommodate future tenants.

Also known as the Seeno project, the proposed mixed-use development would occupy about 528 acres in northeast Benicia, on what is the town's last large undeveloped parcel. Discovery Builders has made extensive project changes since February, when the council OK'd the project's environmental impact report, but noted conflicts with the city's general plan.

"The applicant has made some serious concessions," Knox said.

The project has spawned protest among some residents, who have spoken out at council and commission meetings against the commercial and light industrial development.

Members of opposition group Benicia First! decried what they viewed as Discovery Builders' "my way or the highway" development strategy. The environmental impacts of the revised project have not been adequately assessed, members said, and they would like to see an environmentally progressive project catering to high-tech and research and development tenants.

Discovery Builders Vice President Sal Evola said Tuesday his company is dedicated to courting high-tech businesses, but needs a project to show prospective tenants.

"We want to develop a visionary project," Evola said.

Councilman Mike Ioakimedes said Tuesday a visionary project must include a mass transit plan and substantially mitigate air quality impacts.

"I want this project; we need this project, but you're not working with us," Ioakimedes said. "Until we can figure out how to move people not automobiles, you're not going to get me."

Unless the developer asks for an extension, the council must make a decision about the project at its next meeting June 3.

• E-mail Sara Stroud at or call 553-6833.

Open space a big draw for county

Open space a big draw for county
By Danny Bernardini
Article Launched: 05/27/2008

Steady growth in revenue and visitors, along with national attention are a few reasons Lynch Canyon Open Space is being called a success after its first year of operation.

The Solano County Board of Supervisors will receive a report Tuesday detailing the first year of the 1,039-acre open space between Fairfield and Vallejo.

That report, the Annual Assessment, will label the area as a success. The park welcomed approximately 3,800 in its first year and revenue has steadily grown, according to staff reports. It compliments the park on providing recreational activities not offered at other parks in Solano County.

Educational and exercise opportunities for children were also praised. Cattle grazing and ranching operations have been successfully operated in concert with public recreation, with no significant conflicts to date.

Overall, Lynch Canyon Open Space is providing a range of low-intensity recreation opportunities that complement the County's other more developed and water-oriented park facilities like Lake Solano and Belden's Landing.

The park is maintained in partnership with the Solano Land Trust and Teri Engbring, volunteer and education coordinator, agreed that the first year went well. She said the increase in use by the equestrian community was a surprise.

But she said the best part for her has been the amount of families she has seen in the park.

"It's the perfect place where family's can go together and exercise. I was delighted to see that," Engbring said. "There are a lot of strollers going through the park."

Engbring said the volunteers deserve a lot of credit for maintaining the park and getting others involved in activities.

"It's really getting adopted by people who care about the environment in Solano County," she said.

While most people only think about hiking in the Spring, Engbring said the park is inviting throughout the year.

"Lynch Canyon is a great place to hike all summer long," she said. "With those bay breezes, even when it's hot in the valley, it's very comfortable up there."

The Solano County Board of Supervisors meet Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the Supervisors Chamber in Fairfield.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Benicia takes on business park plans

Benicia takes on business park plans
By Sara Stroud
Vallejo Times Herald
Article Launched: 05/05/2008 12:03:22 AM PDT

The plan for a controversial mixed-used development will reach the final stage of city approval Tuesday.

The City Council will begin discussion about the proposed Benicia Business Park, but given the project's scope and the extensive public debate it has engendered, the subject likely will continue to future meetings, city staff members said.

By law, the council must decide about the project by the end of its June 3 meeting, unless the city and project developer Discovery Builders agree to an extension.

It could be the "main event" for all three council meetings between Tuesday and June 3, Community Development Director Charlie Knox said.

Also known as the Seeno project, the proposed commercial and industrial development would occupy 528 acres between Lake Herman Road and East Second Street, on what is Benicia's last large undeveloped parcel. An earlier version of the project sparked criticism from some residents and prompted the formation of two opposition groups, Benicia First and Citizens Considering the Consequences.

In February, the council approved an environmental report for the project, but said it was inconsistent with the city's general plan.

After the council's decision, the developer made extensive changes, reducing grading while increasing the amount of open space and adding environmental concessions.

But last month, by a 6-to-1 vote, the planning commission recommended the council reject the project.

Commissioners said they felt too rushed, but Discovery Builders representatives declined to give them more time. They also rejected the commission's request for a development agreement.

Discovery Builders representatives did not respond to requests for a comment last week.

Knox said he thinks most of the project's general plan inconsistencies have been resolved, resulting in an "environmentally palatable" project.

Previous council and planning commission meetings on the development have stretched late into the night in a packed council chamber.

Jerome Page of Benicia First said the group plans to be out in force Tuesday night.

While the developer made some improvements from the earlier project, Benicia First would like to see a cohesive research and development-based core, Page said.

"We'll keep plugging for what we think Benicia deserves and ought to get," Page said.

The Benicia City Council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at 250 E. L St.

Reach Sara Stroud at

Thursday, May 22, 2008


University of California, Davis
May 22, 2008


[Editor's note: Illustration of high-tech "cork" design available on request.]

A design for a high-tech closure for wine bottles that would allow the wine to breathe much like traditional bark corks won the $15,000 first prize in the annual Big Bang! Business Plan Competition at the University of California, Davis. The contest is run by students in the Graduate School of Management.

The screw-cap concept, which could help prevent some $10 billion worth of wine from being ruined every year by cork taint, will compete next on May 28 at the Draper Fisher Jurvetson Venture Challenge in Palo Alto, Calif. The challenge pits the UC Davis team against the winners of business plan competitions at 15 other top west coast business schools. The prize: $250,000 in start-up funding.

"These students are trying things that more experienced people might say shouldn't be done," said Scott Lenet, managing director of DFJ Frontier and a volunteer judge for this year's Big Bang! Business Plan Competition. "That's why these business plan competitions are so important. These are the people who will create the next Microsoft, the next Amgen."

In addition to the first-prize-winning cork concept, a $5,000 second prize and $3,000 "people's choice" award -- selected by audience vote
-- went to the same team: Arcus. Led by second-year MBA candidate Matt Vogel, who has had diabetes since adolescence, the team is developing technology that would allow people with diabetes to test their blood sugar levels by blowing into a small handheld device -- a pain-free alternative to current glucose monitoring, in which patients must prick their fingers to draw a blood sample two to eight times a day.

The Big Bang! competition, founded in 2000 by students at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, is designed to reward innovation at UC Davis and encourage entrepreneurship in the region at large.
Previous winners and finalists have gone on to form such companies as Bloo Solar, Instant Effects and Improved Converters.

This year's Big Bang! awards were announced on campus Wednesday evening, following presentations of the five finalists' plans. The event drew a standing-room-only crowd of about 275 people at a ballroom at the Activities and Recreation Center.

The high-tech wine cap was developed by MBA student Tim Keller, a UC Davis viticulture and enology alumnus who worked for 10 years as a winemaker in Sonoma and Napa counties before enrolling in the Graduate School of Management, and his teammates, Kevin Chartrand and Diana Mejia. Chartrand, a fellow MBA candidate with an undergraduate degree in materials science, worked as a thin-film expert at IBM.
Mejia, a former engineer for Anheuser-Busch, is earning a master's degree in food engineering at UC Davis.

Their team, Advanced Enological Closures, set out to design a better bottle cap because cork taint, a byproduct of a fungus that infects cork and makes wine smell like moldy mop water or sweaty gym socks, now contaminates the corks of an estimated one in 20 wine bottles on store shelves, ruining billions of dollars of wine annually. Although synthetic corks have been developed in response to the problem, they allow too much oxygen into the bottle, according to Keller. Overly oxidized wine has a shorter shelf life and can develop a fingernail-polish odor. Screw caps -- another alternative to bark corks -- are a viable option for wine white, but do not allow in enough oxygen for fine red wines, Keller said. Without enough oxygen to draw on, red wines start to smell like burned rubber or matchsticks as they age.

The team's design, a "breathing screw cap," has small vent holes and is fitted with a liner made of alternating layers of thin metal and a porous polymer. The liner can be customized to allow optimal oxidation for specific varietals, something that is impossible with bark corks. A patent is pending for the design.

"If you open up lots of bottles of the same wine, you'll notice variability from bottle to bottle because of differences in the amount of oxygen that gets in," Keller said. "With cork, you just never know. Our product will give a level of control that the wine industry has never had."

The cap would sell for 20 cents a unit -- or 10 to 11 cents per unit less than cork-and-foil closures, and only 5 cents more per unit than ordinary screw caps and synthetic corks, according to the team's projections.

With this year's prizes, UC Davis Big Bang! has awarded a total of $143,000 to 24 promising student-initiated projects, becoming one of the best-known business plan competitions on the West Coast. From November through May each year, dozens of students, researchers and entrepreneurs from UC Davis and the private sector invest hundreds of hours honing their business ideas for the chance to win cash and network with investors, intellectual property attorneys and business leaders. Teams must include at least one UC Davis student, alumnus, or staff or faculty member.

Some of Northern California's largest employers, venture capital firms and law practices provide the prize money, coaching and volunteer judges. This year, more than 14 companies sponsored the contest.

"Why do we do it? We do it for fun. We do it because it's a good thing to do. And we do it because true economic development and real job growth really begins with entrepreneurship," said venture capitalist Roger Akers of Akers Capital, who helped judge this year's competition and arranged private-sector mentors to work with teams.

The competition opened with a field of 36 business plan submissions that were eventually whittled down to the five finalists.

Four of the five finalists were also winners in a Little Bang contest in February sponsored by UC Davis InnovationAccess, which encourages more campus scientists to explore the market potential for their research.

The three other Big Bang! finalists announced Wednesday were:

* CEDR, a company with a simple solution to avoiding rolling blackouts during peak power demands. The nascent company seeks to market a system developed by electronics engineer Joel Snook, a 1983 graduate of the UC Davis School of Engineering who now heads NEV Electronics, a Grass Valley, Calif.-based consulting service. The system would allow utilities to automatically shut off 50 percent of the lighting load at participating commercial buildings at the flip of a switch or via wireless signal. Temporarily turning off half the lights would not impair workplace productivity, but could spare California the need to build 160 new power plants in the next 10 years, the team argues. A demonstration system has been installed at UC Davis' California Lighting Technology Center.

* WicKool, a company with a device that takes the chilly condensation that forms on air conditioner coils and uses it to help cool air.
According to WicKool spokesman Siva Gunda, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering at UC Davis, the retrofit device makes rooftop air conditioners up to 9 percent more efficient. The technology was developed by Dick Bourne, associate director of the UC Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center. A patent is pending for the design, and the company has signed agreements with Wal-Mart and Target to test the technology at the retailers' Sacramento area stores.

* PuriTea, a company with a concept for a portable personal water filter in the shape of a tea bag. "You put it in a cup of water and it sucks up the bad stuff," said David Wong, a program manager at Cisco Systems and student in the UC Davis Graduate School of Management's Bay Area MBA Program for Working Professionals in San Ramon. The concept uses a nanobead technology developed by Michael Wong, a chemical engineering professor and head nanomaterials researcher at Rice University, who happens to be Wong's brother.

"Something special happens when you mix a great technology, a good business plan and prize money," said Nicole Woolsey Biggart, dean of the management school. "Big Bang! is a showcase of what is happening at UC Davis -- big ideas, and a growing entrepreneurial spirit. The final competition, with hundreds of spectators, is as much fun as a championship sporting event."

Said first-year MBA student Elizabeth Collett, co-chair of this year's Big Bang! organizing committee: "This year's slate of finalist teams shows that we've successfully accomplished one of the main goals of Big Bang! -- bringing innovative UC Davis researchers and their technology together with MBA students to create viable new business opportunities."

For more information on the competition, visit the Big Bang! Web site at .

About the school

Established in 1981, the UC Davis Graduate School of Management provides management education to nearly 400 students enrolled in Daytime MBA and Working Professional MBA programs on the UC Davis campus, in Sacramento, and in the San Francisco Bay Area. It also offers a technology management minor for undergraduates and business development programs in which doctoral science students develop skills to commercialize research.

Media contact(s):
* Tim Akin, Graduate School of Management, (530) 752-7362,
* Claudia Morain, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-9841,

Our full UC Davis directory of media services and 24-hour contact information is available at .

Magnet school's students again attract spotlight

Magnet school's students again attract spotlight
By Melissa Murphy
Article Launched: 05/22/2008

Buckingham Charter Magnet High School once again ranks as one of the best schools in the state.

The school scored at the top on two counts - compared to all other schools and compared to schools with similar socioeconomic characteristics.

New test score results released Wednesday rank each school on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest. Those rankings show that the percentage of California schools meeting or exceeding the state's performance targets rose in all three levels, elementary, middle school and high school.

For the second year, Buckingham received a 10 in both categories.

Buckingham reached above the Academic Performance Index goal of 800 for the 2007 state testing with a score of 829.

"It's a pretty amazing feat," said Bob Hampton, principal at Buckingham. "We have great teachers, students and very supportive parents."

Hampton said one of the reasons for the high scores is how the school handles standardized testing.

"We try to make it very effective and efficient," he said. "We're an academic high school that provides a unique opportunity to students. We try to create an environment they (the students) feel comfortable in."

Buckingham's academic popularity has pushed its enrollment to the limit of 425 students, creating a waiting list for next fall.

Other schools in Solano County ranked high on the test results.

In Vacaville, Alamo Elementary School ranked at 9 when compared to similar schools in the state, but received a rank of 8 compared to all other schools. Cooper and Orchard Elementary both received a rank of 9 compared to all other schools in the state, but dropped when compared to similar schools. Cooper ranked at 7 while Orchard ranked at 8.

Vacaville's Jepson and Vaca Pena Middle schools each received a 6 in each category.

According to the office of State Schools Chief Jack O'Connell, the 2007 Base API, which is calculated using the results from spring 2007 state testing, shows the percentage of elementary schools at or above the statewide performance target of 800 is 36.7 percent, up from 34.6 percent in 2006.

The middle schools performance target was 24.6 percent, up from 23.9 percent and the high schools' target was at 14.5 percent, up from 13.6 percent.

"I'm pleased that California schools continue to rise to the challenge of high expectations," said O'Connell in a press release. "Our Academic Performance Index pushes schools to make improvements each year. ... This reflects significant gains in student achievement in our schools."

The state tests provide the basis for the state's Base Academic Performance Index, which runs from 200 to 1,000. The state wants schools to score at 800 or above.

The 2007 Base API report also provides information on growth targets that schools and all student subgroups are expected to meet. The 2007 Base API will be compared to the 2008 Growth API, which will be released in August.

To view the complete list of rankings go to

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


University of California, Davis
May 21, 2008


Lawrence Coleman, a UC Davis professor of physics and former vice provost for research at the University of California system, has been named a senior fellow with the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges , a public university association. As senior fellow, Coleman will contribute to a new national initiative, Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative, designed to increase the number and diversity of high-quality middle school and high school science and mathematics teachers prepared by member universities and other higher education institutions. The teacher initiative is led by a national commission of leaders from universities, schools and industry chaired by Richard Herman, chancellor of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Michael Lewis, professor emeritus of brewing science and a prominent member of the brewing community, was awarded the prestigious 2008 Brewers Association Recognition Award at the annual Craft Brewers Conference. The award recognizes his dedication and service to the industry. With more than 30 years of teaching experience, Lewis has taught many of the prominent players in the American brewing industry and has served as the academic director of the UC Davis Extension professional brewing programs for the past 25 years.

Alexander Mogilner, professor of mathematics, has been appointed as chair of the Modeling and Analysis of Biological Systems Study Section by the Center for Scientific Review, part of the National Institutes of Health. Study sections carry out peer review of applications for NIH grants.

The A.W. Mellon Foundation recently chose Benjamin Houlton, an assistant professor in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, for a junior faculty research grant in the field of conservation and the environment. The three-year award will allow Houlton to invest in scholarly activities at UC Davis, including training of undergraduate and graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars.

Charlie Bamforth, professor and chair of the Department of Food Science and Technology, was recently selected to be a fellow of the International Academy of Food Science and Technology. He and other members of the new class of fellows will be formally inducted into the academy in October during the 14th World Food Congress in Shanghai, China. The fellows are distinguished food scientists and technologists who are elected by their peers to the academy, which supports and advises the nonprofit International Union of Food Science and Technology.

Veterinary professor Susan Stover was recently recognized as one of the Outstanding Women in Thoroughbred Horseracing. The honor came in the form of a California legislative resolution presented April 11 during a special ceremony at Santa Anita Race Park. The resolution acknowledged the importance of Stover's research on the horse's muscle and bone structure in identifying potential causes of serious injuries in racehorses. Stover directs the J.D. Wheat Veterinary Orthopedic Research Laboratory, one of several centers in the School of Veterinary Medicine dedicated to the health issues of equine athletes.

Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist for the Department of Entomology, won the gold award, the top award in the newswriting category, from the international Association for Communication Excellence (ACE). The annual competition drew 400 entries, with Garvey scoring 99 out of 100 points. A journalist, editor and photographer, Garvey began working at UC Davis in 1986. She co-authored the book, "Aquatic Pest Control." Garvey will receive a plaque at the ACE awards banquet June 11 in Traverse City, Mich. ACE is comprised of communicators and information technologists in universities, government and research organizations.

Ishwarlal Jialal, a professor of internal medicine in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine has won two awards in his field
-- the 2008 Philip Levine Award for Outstanding Research and the Linus Pauling Award. The American College for Advancement in Medicine presented Jialal the Linus Pauling Award for notable achievement in the field of integrative medicine on April 11 at its spring conference in Orlando. ACAM represents more than 1,000 physicians in 30 countries. The Philip Levine Award for "outstanding research" will be given to Jialal in October at the American Society for Clinical Pathology's conference in Baltimore. Jialal is also the Robert Stowell Endowed Chair in Experimental Pathology and the director of the Laboratory for Atherosclerosis and Metabolic Research.

Cooperative Extension honeybee specialist Eric Mussen has received the Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America, which includes 1,500 members in the western United States and Canada. Mussen, whose career spans 31 years at UC Davis, was recognized for the depth of his scientific knowledge about honeybees and the program he has developed to communicate that information to industry and the general public.
Mussen also has played a key role in rebuilding the honeybee program at the entomology department's Harry Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.

Hanspeter Witschi, a professor emeritus in the Department of Molecular Biosciences, has received the Merit Award for 2008 from the Society of Toxicology. The award recognizes his distinguished contributions to the field of toxicology throughout his career, referring to him as "a thinking man's pathologist" who has published seminal articles in pulmonary toxicology, adaptation to toxicant exposure, second-hand smoke and lung carcinogenesis.

The Corporation for National and Community Service has named UC Davis to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for exemplary service efforts and service on behalf of disadvantaged youth. Launched in 2006, the Community Service Honor Roll is the highest federal recognition a school can achieve for its commitment to service-learning and civic engagement. Honorees for the award were chosen based on a series of selection factors, including scope and innovativeness of service projects, percentage of student participation in service activities, incentives for service, and the extent to which the school offers academic service-learning courses.
UC Davis' application was submitted by Human Corps and the Internship and Career Center on behalf of the chancellor's office.

The Republic of Austria's prestigious Cross of Honor for Science and Art First Class has been awarded to Erich Loewy, a professor emeritus of medicine. Loewy, whose family fled Austria during World War II, was trained as a cardiologist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Then he went to the University of Illinois and began his lifelong work in bioethics. In 1996, he was chosen as the first endowed UC Davis School of Medicine Alumni Association Chair of Bioethics. Loewy is an internationally recognized voice for ethics in medical education, ethical theory, ethics in geriatric and palliative care, and social, clinical and research ethics. In April, Austrian Consul General Martin Weiss from the Austrian Consulate in Los Angeles presented the honor to Loewy in Sacramento.

Alan Hastings, considered by his peers one of the world's top mathematical ecologists, is editor-in-chief of a new journal, Theoretical Ecology, which published its first quarterly issue in March. For its first year, the journal is an open access journal, online at: . In 2007, the UC Davis Academic Senate awarded him the Faculty Research Lectureship. In 2006, he received the Robert H. MacArthur Award, the highest honor given by the Ecological Society of America.

Professor Andrew Waterhouse, interim chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology, delivered a keynote lecture titled "Polyphenols and Inflammatory Effects" for the joint session of two international conferences on polyphenols and health held in November in Kyoto, Japan. The session brought together participants from both the Third International Conference on Polyphenols and Health and the International Conference on Food Factors. Waterhouse, a wine chemist, holds the John E. Kinsella Endowed Chair in Food, Nutrition and Health.

Media contact(s):
* Clifton B. Parker, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-1932,
* Mitchel Benson, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-9844,

Fairfield ranked among best family places

Fairfield ranked among best family places
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | May 21, 2008

FAIRFIELD - Smile parents. Your kids are growing up in the 13th best city in California.

At least that is the finding of Best Life magazine, which placed Fairfield at 50 on its list of the '100 best places to raise a family.'

The men's lifestyle magazine said the cities represent the best combinations of the factors men consider for their children.

'(Fathers) want to raise their children somewhere safe, where they can attend good schools with favorable student-teacher rations, above-average test scores, and respectable budgets,' the magazine concluded.

With those criteria and using national census, education, health, crime, museum and law data, Fairfield ranked just ahead of Antioch and just below Escondido on the list.

The ranking placed Fairfield above such cities as Denver, Chicago, San Francisco and Baltimore. Among the large cities ranking above Fairfield were San Diego, Los Angeles, New York and Sacramento.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic Online.

More complexes going crime-free

More complexes going crime-free
Article Launched: 05/21/2008

In recent weeks, both Vacaville and Fairfield have had apartment communities scheduled to be certified in each city's Crime Free Multi-Housing Program.

The program has three phases and was developed in an effort to reduce crime, clean up rental properties and increase property values throughout each respective city.

In Vacaville, Hidden Court Apartments, in the 200 block of Brown Street, was certified on May 10. It is the 14th certified property in Vacaville.

In Fairfield, Delta Court Apartments, in the 1300 block of Crowley Lane, will be certified tonight. It will be the 19th certified property in Fairfield.

Housing project advances

Housing project advances
By Jennifer Gentile
Article Launched: 05/21/2008

With minimal comment Tuesday night, Vacaville planning commissioners endorsed a revised plan for phase two of the Southtown project that will now go to the City Council.

Developer D.R. Horton has started construction on about 80 homes to date in the Southtown project area, which encompasses about 280 acres in southeastern Vacaville. The developer revised its plans for phase two of the project and now wants to build 201 single-family homes on 48 acres.

Where cluster-style housing was proposed before, the revised plan calls for detached, single-family homes in neighborhoods of small lots and wide-shallow lots.

"We feel it is the best product for the market," said applicant Vince Fletcher. "It complements what we're doing in Southtown phase one and it's what we're being told buyers are looking for when they go through our existing models."

Addressing the commission, Fletcher said, "We've been working on this for a long time, and we're very proud of where we are today."

Project Engineer Tom Phillippi added, "There's been a lot of thought and consideration, both on our part and the city's part, in bringing (this) to fruition."

The commission generally liked the changes during a study session earlier this year and endorsed them again Tuesday night. Commissioner Brett Johnson called Southtown "a tremendous master-planned development" that is unique in Vacaville.

"It's just a phenomenal project," he said.

In other business, the commission approved Vacaville Christian Schools' plan to convert a 1,800-square-foot, single-family home and freestanding garage into an overflow office building. The converted building will include six offices, a conference center, a reception area, a copy room and a storage room.

"The applicant has stated that the nature of the project is temporary (3 to 5 years)," according to a report from city staff, "and the structure will eventually be demolished to make room for future buildings in the VCS campus."

The commission continued discussion of Fire Station 75, which is part of Southtown, phase two, and has been allotted a one-acre parcel at the corner of Vanden Road and Cogburn Circle.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Campbell Soup juices up its Dixon tomato processing plant

Campbell Soup juices up its Dixon tomato processing plant
Expansion would increase processing season, add variety for its V8 juice line
Sacramento Business Journal - by Celia Lamb Staff writer
May 16, 2008

Campbell Soup Co. plans to expand its tomato processing plant in Dixon so it can run two months longer each year and also take carrots, celery and other vegetables.

The expansion would increase its tomato-processing capacity by 15 percent in the summer and allow the plant to process nine other vegetables for the company's V8 juice and other products in the spring and fall.

The company employs 180 people at the Dixon plant, its largest tomato processing facility. It does not plan to hire more workers, Campbell Soup spokesman Anthony Sanzio said.

"This isn't about new jobs," Sanzio said. "It's about extending the season. This will create 60 days more production (per year)."

The company plans to bring in new equipment and control systems for receiving vegetables, cooking them into concentrates and packaging.

Typically, tomato processing plants run full bore during harvest season and sit idle in the winter and spring. Campbell processes tomatoes at the Dixon plant from July to October. Next year, when the expansion is completed, the plant would start up two months earlier, in May.

The company anticipates expanding its contracts with growers in Solano, Yolo, Sacramento, Colusa, Contra Costa, Fresno, Kings, Monterey, San Joaquin, Sutter, Tulare and Ventura counties.

"We expect the benefits of the expansion to extend beyond Campbell and have a positive impact on local farmers, as well as many other businesses that support farmers, such as supply and transportation companies," said Michael Dunn, vice president of manufacturing for Campbell's Sacramento operations, in a news release.

Sacramento-area growers said the expansion will probably benefit the local farm economy because Campbell Soup usually contracts with farmers who are close to the plant to keep transportation costs low. But the company hasn't given farmers specifics yet.

"As growers, we have not received anything official as far as what the future holds," Dixon tomato grower Ron Timothy said. But he's optimistic.

"They treat their growers well," he said. "If you are a Campbell Soup grower, you are part of that family."

"This will obviously have a positive impact on Dixon's economy and also on other Solano County communities," said Michael Ammann, president of Solano Economic Development Corp.

The expansion also would enable the company to process a greater variety of organic vegetables for several Campbell brands, including Campbell's Organic Tomato juice, V8, Prego pasta sauce and Pace salsa, Sanzio said.

Campbell's beverage business was its best performing unit in fiscal 2007.

"The demand for healthy beverages continues to grow as more people try to find easier ways to incorporate vegetables into their daily diet," Irene Britt, vice president and general manager of sauces and beverages at Campbell USA, said in a news release. "We expect the expansion of our Dixon facility to help us meet the increased consumer demand for Campbell beverages."

Campbell Soup earned $544 million, or $1.41 per share, in the six months ended Jan. 27. That was a 0.9 percent increase from $539 million, or $1.44 per share, in the first half of fiscal 2007. It reported sales of $4.4 billion in the six months ended Jan. 27, a 7 percent increase from the same period of fiscal 2007.

The first-half results included a $13 million gain from the resolution of a state tax matter and $14 million from the sale of an idle Pepperidge Farm plant. The company also plans to sell its Godiva business as part of a strategy to focus on its soup, baked snacks and vegetable juice businesses.

High food-ingredient and energy prices have hurt the company's bottom line this year.

But strong sales have helped. Sales of V8 V-Fusion and V8 vegetable juice, ready-to-serve soups, reduced-sodium soups, broths in aseptic packages and Pace Mexican sauces increased during the past quarter.

Campbell Soup Co.
Ticker symbol:


Headquarters: Camden, N.J.

Annual earnings: $854 million, or $2.16 per diluted share, in the year ended July 31, 2007; $766 million, or $1.85 per diluted share, in fiscal 2006

Annual sales:

$7.9 billion in fiscal 2007; $7.3 billion in fiscal 2006 | 916-558-7866

Air Force forum reminds Solano officials of Travis' importance

Air Force forum reminds Solano officials of Travis' importance
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 05/20/2008

A healthy Travis Air Force Base is essential to Solano County's security and economic well-being, said two local officials who recently returned from a four-day Air Force forum.

Sandy Person, Solano Economic Development Corporation vice president, and County Supervisor Jim Spering were among those who attended the 55th annual National Security Forum at Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. The forum was designed to expose influential citizens to senior U.S. and international officers and civilian equivalents for an exchange of ideas and perspectives on Air Force, national and international security, Spering said.

"It's a tremendous outreach by the Air Force to give community leaders a better idea of the military's impact on local security and economy," Spering said. "It was eye-opening for me, and I came away with a much greater appreciation and a sense of obligation to advocate for a healthy Travis Air Force Base."

Describing herself as "still aglow" from the "phenomenal experience," Person said she left the forum with the same message.

"Travis is the county's single largest economic generator, at about $1.3 billion annually," Person said. "I was just moved by the extraordinary quality of the people. I was inspired and humbled. It made me want to up my game, to be more aware of our county's situation and strive for excellence."

Last week, some 130 civilian business, education and government leaders from across the U.S. met with senior military leaders to candidly explore national security issues, Person said.

"In our group, we had a general, a pilot, a high-ranking officer from Jordan and one from Indonesia," Person said. "I came away with a sense that the rest of the world looks to us for leadership, and I want to be a champion of that effort."

Part of Air University, the Air War College is the Air Force officer education system's senior professional development school, according to an EDC statement. It's a major component of Air Education and Training Command and the intellectual and leadership center of the Air Force, the statement notes.

For more information on Air University, visit

• E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

Sign gives businesses freeway visability

Sign gives businesses freeway visability
By Brian Miller and Karl Dumas | May 17, 2008

Later this year, a tall freeway-oriented sign will arise in Fairfield's Gateway commercial district. Here's the scoop on the sign and why it's needed.

At the Planning Commission meeting May 14, city staff and project proponents presented a proposal for a 65-foot-tall sign to be installed within the Fairfield Gateway Special Sign District at the rear of the Kaiser Permanente medical office.

The district provides for the placement of as many two signs in the Gateway to advertise businesses within the district boundaries. The district basically encompasses Gateway and Travis boulevards, and Pennsylvania Avenue.

The 80-foot-tall Westfield sign at the Travis Boulevard/Interstate 80 interchange was the first to be erected. The proposed 65-foot-tall sign would be the second.

Like the Westfield sign, the new sign would advertise multiple businesses in the project area. However, it will not contain an electronic reader board.

The city's Economic Development Division has been working with property owners in the Gateway area on the development and design of the second sign.

It would be primarily designed to advertise businesses located within the Gateway Plaza shopping center, which is home to Trader Joe's, Party City, OfficeMax, Ross, Babies 'R' Us, etc., as well as Kaiser Permanente and other businesses within the Special Sign District.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic Online.

Mexican restaurant specializes in seafood

Mexican restaurant specializes in seafood
By Audrey Wong | DAILY REPUBLIC | May 18, 2008

Roberto Canpis a cook at Mariscos Del Pacifico shows one of the shimp plates served at the restaurant on Texs Street in Fairfield. Photo by Mike McCoy

FAIRFIELD - When Moises Hernandez met Hector Torres about six years ago, they soon discovered they shared the same dream.

Both men wanted to operate a restaurant. They realized that goal in late April when they opened Mariscos Del Pacifico in the former Favela's Taqueria location at Texas Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Torres' dream germinated 30 years ago when he first arrived in Fairfield and found only one Mexican restaurant. He decided back then he wanted to have his own eatery. Although more Mexican restaurants have come along, Torres was not deterred.

'It's always good to try to do something so you don't go away thinking, 'I didn't do it,'' Torres said in Spanish, which was translated by Hernandez.

With plenty of competition, Hernandez said the staff will make an extra effort to stand out in the crowd.

'It's a challenge,' he said. 'Any business is hard to do. You need to offer the best service you can, be polite with customers.'

Specializing in seafood is one way Mariscos hopes to stand out. Hernandez said he doesn't know of many restaurants that serve octopus and oysters. The menu also features standard items such as burritos, but the seafood is an attraction.

Shrimp cocktails are a big draw.

'A lot of people eat it. It's one of the top menu sales,' Hernandez said. 'Our cocktails are pretty good. We put 16 to 18 shrimps on it. We go through pounds and pounds of shrimp.'

See the complete story at the Daily Republic Online.

State board to consider grant for Suisun Marsh

State board to consider grant for Suisun Marsh
By Barry Eberling | Daily Republic | May 19, 2008

FAIRFIELD - A $750,000 state grant could improve parts of Suisun Marsh for waterfowl, the Suisun ornate shrew, tule elk and other wildlife. Hunters would also stand to benefit

The state Wildlife Conservation Board on Thursday will consider several other grant requests affecting the region. It meets at 10 a.m. at the state Capitol.

Suisun Marsh is about 115,000 acres of wetlands and uplands. It is the largest contiguous esturarine marsh on the West Coast. The state Department of Fish and Game manages several properties, including 8,600-acre Grizzly Island about 10 miles south of Suisun City.

But Fish and Game has limited money for Grizzly Island, a Wildlife Conservation Board report stated. As a result, some areas need renovation and enhancement.

One area is 475 acres of uplands on the island. The grant will pay for such things as weed control, allowing the agency more than 18 months to get rid of pepperweed and other intruders. It will pay for new water control structures so the land can be flooded and drained to improve a brood pond.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic Online.

Voc ed options expand

Voc ed options expand
By Doug Ford
Article Launched: 05/19/2008

One of the great educational achievements in Solano County in the past few years has been the result of cooperation between Solano Community College, the Solano County Office of Education and several Solano biotechnology businesses.

Initially, the college established what was the first two-year biotechnology manufacturing program in the nation, to provide trained employees for the county's expanding biotechnology industry. For years, most of the students who enrolled in that program had already completed a bachelor's degree or higher.

Then the college, the Office of Education and the biotech businesses established a Regional Occupational Program in biotech that makes it possible for students to complete one year of college credit toward the SCC program while still in high school. This highly successful program is now thriving in four Solano high schools.

Now, a new effort is under way to give students a head start in all areas of manufacturing. With more than 800 manufacturing businesses in the county, there is a great demand for young people who are well trained in the mechanical and electronic skills that are, unfortunately, lacking in most applicants for the excellent jobs available in these industries.

SCC has developed an advanced manufacturing program to meet the needs of the largest and best-paying segment of Solano's economy. The college, SCOE, the Workforce Investment Board of Solano County, and several employers have established the Solano Manufacturers Workforce Taskforce Committee. They have been meeting monthly at the Anheuser-Busch facility in Fairfield to work out the details involved in developing such a program. Since its main focus is on mechanical and electronic skills, it has been named the Mechatronics Program, and the first SCC courses are planned for this year. It is hoped that a high school entryway into it will follow in the not-too-distant future.

While this is an excellent program for students who do not plan to earn a four-year or higher level degree, it could be of great value to university aspirants also. It provides the kinds of skills that will open doors now closed to a large percentage of college graduates.

The task force has planned its first Manufacturing Open House for high school seniors from 4 to 8 p.m. May 28, to be hosted by Anheuser-Busch, located on the west side of Fairfield. Parents, educators and others interested in Mechatronics and manufacturing are also invited. There is no cost to attend.

* The author is retired from the U.S. Air Force, lives in Dixon and serves on the Solano County Board of Education.