Friday, July 31, 2009

Demolition starts for Fairfield Walmart project

Demolition starts for Fairfield Walmart project
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | July 30, 2009

Workers from EMJ Corporation in Sacramento do demolition work on an old bank building at the intersection of North Texas Street and Atlantic Avenue Thursday. The demolition is part of the Walmart project being developed at the old Mission Village Shopping Center. Photo by Brad Zweerink

FAIRFIELD - Thirty-one months after getting clearance for a new store, Walmart has started demolishing the old Mission Village Shopping Center.

As of Wednesday, work crews had begun removing the siding and wall insulation from a stand-alone bank building near the corner of Atlantic Avenue and North Texas Street.

Walmart officials didn't return calls seeking comment Thursday, so it isn't clear how long the project will take to complete.

Walmart's plan involves razing the shopping center, which has been largely abandoned for years. It would be replaced with a 185,000-square-foot supercenter and 1,100 parking spaces. The Liberty Christian Center church, which owns and uses one of the buildings along Atlantic Avenue, would stay.

The Fairfield City Council approved the plans for the shopping center in December 2006. At the time, company officials predicted doors could be open within a year.

It was initially held up by a need to revise certain parking restrictions, and then again by an environmental lawsuit. In July 2008, the company submitted building plans for the store.

Fairfield issued the retailer a building permit March 31, which covers both the demolition and construction phases, building official Tom Garcia said.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

JULY 2009

Table of Contents
-Real Estate Roundup (June 2009)
-August Breakfast Event – Solano’s Economic Impact ~ Wine Industry
-Workforce Investment Board
-Did you know – Solano Tourism?

Real Estate Roundup (June 2009)

- 907 Cotting Lane, Vacaville, CA – 13,836 SF lease to J & B Aviation
- 1051 Aldridge Road, Vacaville, CA – 4,800 SF lease to General Machining
- 640 Eubanks Court, Vacaville, CA – 1,400 SF lease to Correct Equipment

Colliers International (
- 457 Industrial Way, Benicia – Lease Renewal of 40,000 sf to Metropolitan Van & Storage, Inc.
- 505 Lopes Road, Fairfield - Leased 16,800 sf to Juvenal, S.A
- 324 Campus Lane, Suite A, Fairfield – Leased 2,290 sf to Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc.
- 4705 Mangels Blvd, Fairfield – Sale of 2,155 sf to Sierra Pacific Investment Co.
- 4775 Mangels Blvd., Fairfield – Sale of 2,155 sf to State Farm Insurance
- 4727 Mangels, Fairfield - Leased 1,441 sf to PB Americas, Inc.
- 3841 Bithell Lane, Solano County – Lease Renewal of 12,750 sf to Matrix Service, Inc.

Cornish & Carey (
- 921 Eubanks Drive, Vacaville – leased 4,542 SF to Dow Diversified, Inc.
- Interstate 80 @ Midway Road, Vacaville – sold ±216 acres to Gary Thiara & Kurt Hilbers
- 4701 Industrial Way, Benicia – sold 243,000 SF to Gonsalves & Santucci, Inc.

Cushman & Wakefield (
- 499 Edison Ct, Fairfield - 5,100 sf leased to Westinghouse
- 2850 Cordelia Rd., Fairfield – 1,740 sf leased to Ron Brilliant

Premier Commercial (
- 1249 Illinois St, Fairfield - 4,800 sf lease to Loose Endz, Inc.
- 712+714 Madison, Fairfield - 2,800 sf lease to Teresita and Michelle Reyes


Member Breakfast Event – Solano’s Economic Impact ~ Wine Industry

Come hear about the Economic Impact of the Wine Industry in Solano County from Industry Experts on growing, bottling, corking, distribution and tourism!

Date: Thursday, August 20, 2009
Time: 7:30 – 8 am Registration & Networking
Place: Hilton Garden Inn Fairfield
2200 Gateway Court, Fairfield, CA
Cost: $25.00 Solano EDC Members*
(*complimentary tickets are available varying on membership level)
$35.00 Non-members

To register, call (707) 864-1855 or email:


Workforce Investment Board (WIB)

The Workforce Investment Board (WIB) of Solano County has received an additional $1,567,481 in WIA funding from President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to serve local youth in a Summer Youth Employment Program. The WIB will seek to serve approximately 450-500 young people in the local community, ages 14-24, May 1, 2009 - September 30, 2009, with an emphasis on work readiness and paid work experience with public, non-profit, and for-profit worksites.

For further information contact:
Julie Gallego (707) 863-3506 or Cheryl Franklin-Golden (707) 863-3530

If you would like information about the Business Services offered by the WIB contact:
Sonja Rockwell-Jackson, Business Services Representative, (707) 649-3616


Did you know?

Tourism is a major economic generator in Solano County, although it is not quite as large as Napa and Sonoma but still quite impressive. According to a 2007 California Travel & Tourism Commission report…
- The total direct travel spending in Solano was $587 million dollars
- With hotel and motel receipts of $158 million dollars
- $158 million dollars of total earnings
- And local tax receipts of $7.5 million dollars

Over the past 6 plus years these numbers have continued to grow and show no sign of decline.

Continue to support our local economy with a “staycation” in the Fun and Exciting Solano County.

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

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fairfield looks to parcel for industrial development

Fairfield looks to parcel for industrial development
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | July 29, 2009

FAIRFIELD - After a few false starts, one of the city's last big industrial sites might finally have a purpose.

City officials have agreed to plunk down more than $200,000 during the next three years to turn a 'raw' property off Highway 12 into one that would be attractive to businesses.

'The city needs to position itself for the future economic turnaround,' city officials wrote in a report to the Fairfield City Council.

Fairfield owns the 43-acre site, which is at the intersection of Chadbourne and Cordelia roads, in the center of an industrial park. The city originally bought the land with plans to use it for a corporation yard. More recently, it was discussed as a possible site for a planned sports complex. Both those plans fell through.

City officials have often referred to the site as one of the few remaining large industrial parcels in the city.

'It is extremely difficult to find properties over 25 acres in this market,' said Curt Johnston, Fairfield's economic development division manager. 'Those sites are becoming very rare.'

The plan calls for spending $168,000 on the project in the 2009-10 fiscal year, $41,000 in 2010-11 and $5,000 in 2011-12.

The money will be spent on engineering work and environmental studies.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Two more firms are officially 'green'

Two more firms are officially 'green'
By Reporter Staff/
Posted: 07/30/2009

Two more local businesses have joined the ranks of certified green businesses under Solano County's green business program.

7 Flags Car Wash and Express Lube, at 2270 N. Texas St., Fairfield, and the Center for Right Relationship, at 111 West C St., Suite A, in Benicia, are the fourth and fifth official green businesses in Solano County.

They also are the first businesses in their respective cities to get the green business certification. 7 Flags Car Wash is also working to certify its Vacaville and Vallejo car wash sites and its corporate office in Vallejo.

Solano County launched a pilot green business program in July 2007, to encourage small- to medium-sized businesses that handle or generate hazardous waste to voluntarily undergo a rigorous certification process. The program expanded in 2008 to work with other businesses wanting the green business certification.

To date, Vineyard RV Park in rural Vacaville and two locations of Triangle Digital INX Company in Dixon have been green certified. There are 23 small businesses throughout Solano County that are working toward their certification.

The comprehensive Green Business Certification requires:

* Compliance with all federal, state and local regulations;

* Meeting Bay Area Green Business Program standards for conserving energy and water, preventing pollution and minimizing waste;

* On-site inspections from experts in energy conservation, water consumption and waste reduction to verify compliance with the comprehensive industry-based checklist.

For more information about the Green Business program, visit

Dixon set to land Flying J

Dixon set to land Flying J
By Melissa Murphy/
Posted: 07/30/2009

Flying J, a truck stop and travel plaza, has a green light from the City Council to land in Dixon.

City leaders on Tuesday tentatively voted in favor of the $1 million project to be built in the city's Northeast Quadrant, which is south of the Interstate 80 and Pedrick Road intersection.

City Manager Nancy Huston said that some minor hiccups in the development agreement and conditional use permits still need to be ironed out before final approval at the council's next meeting, on Aug. 11.

Huston added that the public hearing on the matter has been closed so the council will be voting on the item as part of unfinished business.

Still, the tentative approval of the project came down to finally building the much-needed infrastructure (water, sewer and other utility lines) for development in the Northeast Quadrant, which CFJ properties and Flying J promise to do with its project.

"The infrastructure is the key to developing the Northeast Quadrant," said Marshall Drack, the attorney for Flying J.

He also explained that, because utilities will finally be available in that area of the city, values in the properties surrounding the project will increase.

Drack and others are breathing a sigh of relief that the project was finally approved.

"This has been so long in coming," Drack said and admitted that the whole process has been rather draining. "So many issues were brought up by the city and through tough negotiations we will have the final documents at the next meeting. It's been a long, tough and comprehensive struggle to make things right."

Although proposed by the city, Flying J and CFJ properties will not have to build an extra shade structure, nor will it have to change its exit for trucks leaving the property.

Huston agreed that Flying J will help with other development in the city.

"It's definitely going to jump start things with the infrastructure," she said. "During this economy, we are very fortunate to have one developer willing to invest in Dixon."

The 23-acre travel plaza and truck stop proposal involves developing 27 acres in the city's Northeast Quadrant. The proposed project includes two pump islands, a combination convenience market, truckers' lounge and restaurant, and parking for trucks, passenger vehicles and recreational vehicles.

The project, according to a staff report, also would be responsible for construction of significant infrastructure improvements for water, sewer, storm drainage and traffic circulation.

It also includes building a retention/detention basin on the east side of Pedrick Road.

Drack also pointed to more benefits of the project: 90 employees will be hired and almost $500,000 in revenue will be generated each year once the project is up and running.

Still, a big concern with traffic still remains.

Although Flying J will contribute its share of road improvements on its frontage to Pedrick Road and Professional Drive, Caltrans may have to step in and redo the intersection of Interstate 80 offramp and Pedrick Road.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Solano County among top digital counties

Solano County among top digital counties

Solano County is one of the top technologically advanced county governments in the United States, receiving a top 10 ranking in its population category in a national survey conducted by the Center for Digital Government and National Association of Counties.

The award comes only a year after the County launched a redesigned website – – designed to make it easier for residents to access the hundreds of pages of useful information about County services and programs.

"This award recognizes how we are using technology to make it easier for residents to access the information they need, to improve services online and to make the business of government even more transparent," said Ira Rosenthal, Solano County Chief Information Officer.

The 2009 Digital Counties Survey found that Solano County uses information technology in increasingly innovative ways to deliver service to the county's residents. Thousands of U.S. counties were invited to participate in the survey. Officials responded to questions that included more than 100 measurements and data points about online service delivery, infrastructure, architecture and governance models.

“As counties face the budgetary challenges of 2009 and beyond, they are finding Information Technology essential for effective and efficient government,” said NACo Executive Director Larry E. Naake. “Not only are county governments using technology to continue delivering services with fewer resources, they are using innovative technology to communicate more effectively with their citizens and businesses. The Digital Counties Survey illustrates the innovation and tenacity of counties across the country.”

Solano County provides many services through its website, including a comprehensive database of land parcels, webcasts of Board of Supervisors meetings, online tax payments, photos of pets available for adoption, online Library catalog, and dozens of online forms from registering to vote by mail to starting a child support case.

About 1 million users visit the Solano County website annually, viewing more than 3.4 million pages.

More information about the 2009 Digital Counties Survey and the Center for Digital Government is available online at

Below are some of the services available online at

Assessor Parcel Maps

iCare - Online Jail Commissary

Assessor Filed Maps

Library Catalog

Bad Check Restitution Program

Official Records Index

Board of Supervisors Agendas

Online Property Information

Board of Supervisors Meetings (webcast)

Polling Place Lookup

Building Permits

Recorder Official Documents

Child Support Payments

Solano County Maps

Child Support Services Application

Solano County Recycling Guide

Child Support Services - Case Status

Surplus Items for Sale

Child Support Services - Preguntas Sobre Su Caso

Tax Information and Payments

Dog Licensing Renewal

Vote By Mail Application

Employment Opportunities

Vote By Mail Status

Environmental Health Complaints

Voting District Lookup

Food Facility Inspection Reports

Whistleblower Reporting

UC Davis researchers target kidney disease

UC Davis researchers target kidney disease
Buzz up!
By Marissa Lang
Published: Wednesday, Jul. 29, 2009 - 12:00 am | Page 3B

A new research program at the University of California, Davis, aims to bring about earlier detection of a potentially devastating kidney disease.

The $350,000 program, funded by federal stimulus money, will allow researchers to examine patients' metabolic output and detect polycystic kidney disease, a hereditary illness also known as PKD.

"The problem with polycystic kidney disease is that even though it's a hereditary disease, there aren't any good blood tests for it," said Dr. Robert Weiss, lead researcher for the PKD project and nephrology professor at the UC Davis Medical Center.

In the United States, about 600,000 people have been diagnosed with PKD, which, according to the National Institute of Health, is the fourth leading cause of kidney failure.

PKD sufferers develop kidney cysts that can eventually lead to kidney failure.

Weiss said about 80 percent of patients will need to be put on dialysis, a treatment intended to artificially replace the kidney's cleansing and regulatory functions.

"Most people don't lose their kidneys completely until they're in their 50s or 60s, but with life expectancy what it is these days, chances are we're going to live that long, and no one wants to be on dialysis for the rest of their life," Weiss said. "The only other option at that point is a transplant."

Though there is currently no cure for PKD, patients can take steps, with early diagnosis, to delay its progression. Generally, this involves diet and lifestyle changes, as well as medications, that help control high blood pressure, a complication of the disease that further damages the kidneys.

Researchers hope that within 10 years they'll be able to detect traces of the disease through metabolic excretions in blood and urine samples, well before disease symptoms begin to set in.

The kidney program is one of six at Davis expected to receive a share of more than $1.6 million from the federal government as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Others will enable research into Parkinson's disease therapy techniques, prostate cancer, radiation poisoning, traumatic brain injury and viral infections in airway tissues.

Lars Berglund, associate dean for research at UC Davis Medical Center, said government funding is essential to continuing research.

Kaiser’s Vacaville hospital to open in fall

Kaiser’s Vacaville hospital to open in fall
San Francisco Business Times - by Chris Rauber
June 26, 2009

Kaiser Permanente expects to open its $500 million Vacaville hospital by the fall, after earlier delaying the opening due to the economic downturn.

That estimate includes the 340,000-square-foot hospital itself with “up to 150 beds,” and a 217,000-square-foot medical office building that opened last November, said Kaiser spokesman Marc Brown.

Many details, including staffing levels and the exact opening date for the medical center are still to be determined, Brown said, but the opening is expected in October or November.

Last November, Oakland-based Kaiser and Area Manager Rose Calhan said the system would delay the proposed openings of hospitals in Vacaville and Vallejo from the spring and fall of 2009, respectively, to late 2009 and early 2010, blaming the impact of “ongoing economic challenges.” That timing still appears to be the game plan, given Kaiser’s most recent announcements.

Kaiser said the new Vacaville medical center will include emergency services, a critical care unit, medical-surgical services and “a full complement” of diagnostic and support services — but not initially labor and delivery services, which will continue to be offered at Kaiser’s Vallejo medical center. / (415) 288-4946

TeamCalifornia chief steps down

TeamCalifornia chief steps down
Times-Herald staff report/
Posted: 07/22/2009

Solano Economic Development Corporation President Michael Ammann recently stepped down as head of TeamCalifornia, his office announced.

For two years, Ammann led the nonprofit organization, which brings together statewide economic development organizations to market their communities for business investment and job creation.

Ammann is being replaced as TeamCalifornia's president by Michael Bushey, a Southern California Edison executive, who becomes the first Southern Californian to lead the group, the announcement notes.

Lonely mark: Solano solo in home construction increase

Lonely mark: Solano solo in home construction increase
By Rachel /Raskin-Zrihen
Times-Herald staff writer
Posted: 07/26/2009

Solano County was the only area in the state to see an increase in single-family home construction starts in June over last year, new industry figures reveal.

Though small, the Vallejo-Fairfield Metropolitan Statistical Area's 5.6 percent year-over increase compares to declines ranging from 12 percent to more than 80 percent in the rest of California.

At 105 percent, Solano also saw the third highest increase in such construction starts in June over May, according to the most recent report by the California Building Industry Association. This area was bested only by Merced's 300 percent increase, the San Luis Obispo area's 181 percent increase and a nearly 130 percent increase in the San Jose area during the same period.

An association spokesman said he doesn't know if Solano's figures are an anomaly or an indication of a trend suggesting increased builder confidence.

But it's positive in any case, association spokesman Mike Castillo said.

"It's good news that home building is happening, but I can't tell if it's because of the tax credit or something else."

Home Builders Association of Northern California CEO Cheryl O'Connor said she's convinced the area's on a roll.

"It absolutely is a trend," she said. "We've finally gotten through a lot of inventory and prices have come down so much that building is coming back."

Industry officials suggest that a significant increase statewide in total housing starts in June compared to May is added evidence that the state's new-homebuyer tax credit enacted earlier this year is working.

"It's helping to generate new-home sales, and in turn, job-generating home construction," he said.

"Builders are reporting that the demand spurred by the tax credit has helped clear out new-home inventories and we are now seeing an increase in housing production as builders ramp up projects to meet the demand," association president Robert Rivinius said in a statement.

According to statistics compiled by the Construction Industry Research Board, builders statewide pulled permits for 3,446 total housing units in June, up 17 percent from May. Permits for single-family units totaled 2,772, up 20 percent from May and the largest single-family total since July of last year, the figures show.

Association officials urged legislators not to let the program expire, the statement notes.

"The Franchise Tax Board has stopped taking applications for the state tax credit for new home purchases as the allocated funds for the program have already run out in only four months," Rivinius said. "The increase in single-family construction over the past couple of months has shown that the popular program is a success and we'd like to keep it going."

The association, which represents thousands of building industry professionals statewide, predicts permits will be pulled for just 40,000 total units statewide in 2009, which would be by far the lowest total on record, the statement notes.

'Downtown dollars' boost businesses in Benicia

'Downtown dollars' boost businesses in Benicia
By Tony Burchyns/Times-Herald staff writer
Posted: 07/26/2009

BENICIA -- Even as the economy dwindles, Benicia shoppers are increasingly buying downtown's own local currency.

About $14,000 of locally printed "Benicia Downtown Dollars" have been sold since Jan. 1, said Nancy Martinez, director of the nonprofit Main Street group that sells the notes.

"We've done a lot of promotion, but I also think it's the economy," Martinez said. "People want to support local business."

Martinez said sales of the local currency -- which is sold at the Main Street office on First Street -- are on pace to surpass last year's total of about $24,000.
Purchases of the local bills also grew in 2008, raising more than $8,100 over the previous year, Benicia Main Street reported.

The program was started about six years ago as a way to capture dollars for downtown merchants.

It works like this: Main Street prints the currency in denominations of $5 and $20. Shoppers buy it to use at any participating businesses. Merchants then redeem it at the Main Street office for 95 cents on the dollar.

Nearly 60 businesses accept the bills.

"It's very much worth it," Venticello's Ristorante co-owner Ramiro Cortez said. The First Street Italian restaurant has been taking Downtown Dollars for about four years.

"It's money that stays in Benicia," Cortez added. He said the cost of redeeming the bills is about the same as paying fees for running credit cards.

A number of people purchase the dollars to give away as gifts, Martinez said.

Some local Realtors and business owners also give them away to customers.

The owner of Christina S women's fashion store, Christina Strawbridge, attributed the increased use to more awareness of the local money.

"There's also been a lot more activity downtown," Strawbridge said.

Despite some vacancies along First Street, the commercial occupancy rate is greater than

90 percent -- a sign that Benicia could be weathering the recession relatively well, some say.

The Rellik Tavern -- a self-described upscale bar and coffee house that opened in June -- has joined the list of downtown businesses that welcome the local bills.

Funding to enable cities to hire officers

Funding to enable cities to hire officers
Published by The Reporter
Posted: 07/29/2009

Four Solano County cities will receive funding for new police officers, the Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office announced Tuesday.

In California, the federal agency awarded more than $211 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act COPS Hiring Recovery Program funds to 109 law enforcement agencies to hire or rehire 649 police officers

Dixon, Fairfield, Suisun City and Vallejo are among the local agencies to receive funds.

Dixon will receive $280,152, allowing for one officer. Fairfield will receive $1,556,205, allowing it to retain five officers. Suisun City will receive $319,603, for one officer. Vallejo will receive $2,177,436, for six officers.

Funds were awarded on a competitive basis by the federal government directly to local entities.

Fairfield praised the award noting in a press release that during the past two years, budget cuts to the city's police department have resulted in the loss of 17.8 full-time equivalent positions, including eight police officers, two captains, one dispatcher, two community service officers, two part-time investigators, 3.5 records assistants -- all of which were vacant -- and four part-time support staff.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kaiser, UCD labs seek innovations in patient care, costs

Kaiser, UCD labs seek innovations in patient care, costs
Buzz up!
By Bobby Caina Calvan
Published: Tuesday, Jul. 28, 2009 - 4:55 pm | Page 1B

In a warehouse tucked among rows of nondescript office buildings, medical wizardry is taking place.

A wand remotely controls beams of light, a robotic cart dashes through the hallways, and camera-equipped metal arms hang from ceilings, poised for surgical duty.

At Kaiser Permanente's laboratory for innovations in San Leandro, emerging tools in medicine – as well as some low-tech problem-solving – are being put to the test.

The talking robotic cart, known as TUG, might not have the bedside manner of an affable doctor, but soon could be wheeling through the corridors of Kaiser hospitals in the Sacramento region.

So could hand-held electronic tablets that might serve as conduits for better medicine, bringing new tools to a patient's bedside, said Sean Chai, senior technology manager at the Kaiser lab.

In the long run, saving time saves money, Chai said. "Everything we do here is geared toward saving money."

There's a national focus on taming health care costs and improving the quality of care. For institutions such as Kaiser and Sacramento's UC Davis Medical Center, scouting innovations is critical for improving hospital efficiency and patient safety.

"We have to be better at delivering care more effectively and more efficiently. Technology will play a critical role," said Dr. Javeed Siddiqui, associate medical director at the Center for Health and Technology at the UC Davis Medical Center.

As a teaching institution, UC Davis Medical Center is also at the forefront of technological advances, sometimes testing medical tools in real-life hospital settings.

At the Center for Virtual Care at the UC Davis Medical Center, lifelike dummies blink, breathe and on cue mimic a full-blown heart attack. They act as simulators to train the next generation of doctors. There are also robotic surgical arms that perform less-invasive surgeries, saving time for doctors in the operating room and patients in recovery wards.

"We're focused on helping to develop the next generation of technologies," said Betsy Bencken, a clinical instructor at the virtual care center.

The health system's Innovation Center, housed within the Center for Health and Technology, serves as a think tank for expanding telemedicine to far-flung reaches, not just in the rural areas of California but around the globe.

At the Garfield Health Care Innovation Center in San Leandro, Kaiser assembles teams of doctors, nurses – sometimes volunteer Kaiser members – to test the latest in medical research.

Nothing is too minor, such as testing the healing properties of paint colors. To enhance patient convenience, one room is equipped with a wand that directs beams of overhead light.

And there's TUG, the robotic courier that ferries supplies and equipment from one spot to the next. The robot already has been darting through the hallways of some Kaiser facilities in Southern California on a trial basis.

This summer, hand-held LCD monitors – which could extend the portability of electronic health records – will be tested at the Kaiser Sacramento Medical Center to help evaluate products that could become standard issue across the health system's facilities.

The San Leandro center, which sprawls over 37,000 square feet, opened in June 2006 and is the only one of its kind in the Kaiser health system. It is equipped with patient rooms, mock-ups of workstations, operating rooms – and a living room equipped with gadgets that turn the home into a control center for personal health.

"By 2015, the home will become the hub of care," Chai predicted.

Home-based equipment will connect a patient at home to the doctor, who can monitor vital signs and other health care metrics.

But it's not always about high-tech gadgetry. Useful changes often come after simple brainstorming, said Sherry Fry, operations specialist for the Kaiser facility.

A case in point: How to keep nurses charged with administering medication from being interrupted during their rounds.

There were no bells and whistles. At first it was just a neon-green vest, to be worn while on duty. But the vest wasn't exactly a fashion statement. In the end, the team settled on a simple white sash to be worn during rounds, meant to deliver the message: "Don't bother me."

Officials seek input on freeways of the future

Officials seek input on freeways of the future
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | July 27, 2009

Drivers make their way down I-80 at rush hour on Monday evening. Local residents will have a chance to see Solano Transit Authorities plans for the future of local highways at open houses tonight and Wednesday in Fairfield. Photo by Chris Jordan

FAIRFIELD - Solano County's freeways of the future could include more lanes, the area's first metering ramps, more cameras and perhaps even more landscaping.

Residents tonight and Wednesday will have a chance for a preview. The Solano Transportation Authority is holding open houses for the proposed interstates 80/680/780 plan that looks ahead to 2030.

Tonight's open house is from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Fairfield-Suisun School District office, 2490 Hilborn Road in Fairfield. The Wednesday open house is at the same time at the Solano Community College extension, 545 Columbus Parkway, Vallejo.

One approach to easing freeway congestion is to add more lanes. The study includes such recommendations as building Interstate 80 carpool lanes between Fairfield and Vacaville and adding lanes between Travis Boulevard and Air Base Parkway.

But the study also focuses on getting more out of what already exists.

The county's first onramp meters could come at I-80 at the eastbound Green Valley and Suisun Valley road interchanges. Drivers would stop briefly on the ramps until they got a green light to enter the freeway, thus spacing out the merging traffic.

More closed circuit television cameras would go up along the freeways. These would feed images to the state Department of Transportation's monitoring room in Oakland, where officials observe Bay Area traffic.

Should a traffic accident or vehicle breakdown occur, Caltrans officials can find out quickly through the cameras. Then they can dispatch a tow truck to the scene to remove disabled vehicles and get traffic flowing again.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Suisun City sees drop in major crimes

Suisun City sees drop in major crimes
Published By The Reporter
Posted: 07/22/2009

Major crimes in Suisun City dropped by 20 percent during the first half of 2009 as compared to the same period last year, officials announced this week.

According to the department's statistics, violent crimes - described as homicide, rape, robbery, assault and arson - fell by 10.6 percent. The biggest drops involved simple assaults, by 12 instances, and robberies, by seven cases.

Property crimes - defined as burglary, theft and auto theft - decreased by 28.4 percent, officials said.

Vehicle theft decreased by 14 cases, theft by 80 and burglary by 36.

Proactive police staff and a successful beat patrol system are responsible for the overall decline, Police Chief Ed Dadisho said in a prepared statement.

"The reduction of crime in Suisun City is a direct result of our proactive patrol philosophy of zero tolerance to crime and gangs, the community's involvement in identifying problems, our aggressive investigative approach, and our efforts in enforcing code violations through our Code Enforcement Unit," Dadisho said.

The beat system, he added, has decreased emergency response time and criminal activity and also increased community partnerships by bolstering the Neighborhood Watch Program.

Transit funding headed to Solano

Transit funding headed to Solano
By Reporter Staff/
Posted: 07/24/2009

Vacaville and Solano County are getting more money to expand its transportation efforts.

Rep. George Miller, D-Solano, announced Thursday evening in a press release that the House of Representatives approved $1 million for mass transit in Solano County.

The money will go to two projects that are priorities for the Solano Transportation Agency intended to improve bus service in the county.

Thursday's House vote is not the final stop for approval of this funding, but final approval is expected in September.

"These funds will help make mass transit in Solano more efficient and less expensive and will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil," Miller said. "I am proud to continue to be able to secure funding for these priority programs that directly help improve our community."

Vacaville, through the Solano Transportation Authority (STA), will receive $500,000 for Phase 2 of its Intermodal Station, which will streamline express bus service to the Bay Area and the Sacramento regions along the Interstate 80 corridor, and provide efficient connections to local bus service.

STA will receive another $500,000 for its Alternative Fuel Solano Express bus replacement. The money will be used to meet current service demands with alternative fuel buses and/or prepare for potential service expansions.

The new buses will produce lower amounts tailpipe emissions, including both greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and soot. Using alternative fuel buses is part of STA's and Solano County's climate-change strategy.

The transit services provided, according to a press release, will reduce the number of cars on the road, thereby further reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A transit study along State Route 12, between Napa and Solano County, also shows a need for transit service which currently does not exist. The requested alternative fuel buses could be used to phase in transit along this heavily traveled intercounty corridor.

The complete list of Miller's appropriations requests can be found on his Web site at george

District's new jewel

District's new jewel
New Fairmont school to greet kids Aug. 13
By Ryan Chalk
Posted: 07/24/2009

The newly constructed Fairmont Charter Elementary School in Vacaville is on track to be finished in time for the first day of school, which is Aug. 13. The school replaces the original school built in 1968. (Ryan Chalk / The Reporter)

The students at Fairmont Charter Elementary School in Vacaville are in for a big surprise when they return to school on Aug. 13.

Construction crews have been working feverishly over the summer to complete work on the Vacaville Unified School District's crown jewel -- a brand-new Fairmont. The two-story, 53,392-square-foot building will become the district's second new building with multiple floors and become the first school in the county to be designated as a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) Silver school.

When school begins, the only thing that kids will recognize from their old school is the kindergarten building, which will stay as a lease option for a possible preschool or other state certified learning center.

What isn't as easy to see -- but is most impressive -- is the LEED design elements.

LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a building rating system that encourages sustainable green building practices.

Everything from the landscaping to the color of the roof, which is coated with a special white coating to reflect solar energy, is engineered with the environment and efficiency in mind.

"This building will be here in 100 years," said Tracy Asher, project manager for Roebbelen Contractors Inc., when talking about the schools concrete-and-steel construction and green design.

"This is the type of school we need to be building in public education," he added.

A model of efficiency, the school emphasizes natural lighting by use of skylight in classrooms, main foyer, library and the school's multipurpose room. In addition, classrooms are outfitted with a bank of light switches that the teacher can control using nine lighting level "scenes." This allows the classrooms to be illuminated in increments from front to back or side to side.

Students will be sure to enjoy the new multipurpose room, complete with adjustable-height basketball hoops, a black-box stage and rear projection screen for assemblies and presentations. The entire multipurpose room can be lighted by using the skylights, further cutting down on energy consumption.

With all of the work put into making the school green, effort is being made to educate the staff and students on green practices as well.

Just inside the main foyer, a wall will be dedicated for an interactive touch-screen display that tracks not only energy usage but also tracks the output of a planned wind turbine and solar panels that will be affixed to a shade structure at the rear of the school.

Teachers will be impressed by the amount of countertop and storage space in classrooms along with the latest technology, including digital projectors, interactive white boards and document cameras, according to Leigh Coop, facilities director for the school district.

Also new are showers that have been installed in staff bathrooms on the first floor to promote bicycle commuting, instead of driving. And for those who do drive, incentive parking spots have been designated for low-emissions vehicles.

According to Coop, there is still a bit more work to complete after school begins.

Crews are completing the demolition of the old school. From there, a company will come in and do soil abatement before new concrete can be poured and new play structures built.

Also in the works is a combined baseball, softball and soccer field. In the meantime, the district will put down sod so that students have a grassy area to play on.

Money for the $21 million school came from the 2003 voter-approved Measure V bond initiative. About 10 percent of the funds also come from state modernization money.

"It doesn't happen very often that you have an existing neighborhood and they get a new school," said Coop, adding, "We're very excited to make this happen."

The newly constructed Fairmont Charter Elementary School becomes the second two-story building to be built in the Vacaville Unified School District. (Ryan Chalk / The Reporter)

New State Farm office in Vallejo

New State Farm office in Vallejo
Published By The Reporter
Posted: 07/28/2009

Centro Properties Group recently opened a 1,100-square-foot State Farm Insurance office at Vallejo Corners, at Admiral Callaghan Way at Turner Parkway, in Vallejo.
Cathy D'Angelo Holms of Coldwell Banker Commercial in Napa represented the insurance firm.

Centro Properties has additional office to lease at Vallejo Corners, a company spokesperson said in a press release.

For leasing information, contact Matthew Berger, at (888) 457-3179 or e-mail

Local hospitals going green

Local hospitals going green
By Richard Bammer/
Posted: 07/28/2009

Dave Matthews, director of plant operations for NorthBay Healthcare, discusses the benefits VacaValley Hospital has seen since it installed a new state-of-the-art cogeneration plant. (Joel Rosenbaum / The Reporter)

Hospitals are like every other business trying to stay solvent during a prolonged and deep recession: They want to save dollars whenever and wherever they can.
But beefing up the bottom line can look and feel so much better if and when a hospital, in ways small and large, goes green.

NorthBay Healthcare, which owns and operates two Solano County hospitals -- VacaValley in Vacaville and NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield -- recently joined the list of area businesses reducing their carbon footprint.

The hospital firm recently switched on three cogeneration facilities at the hospitals (two in Fairfield, one in Vacaville), a move expected to save $3.8 million -- and plenty of natural gas -- over a decade.

Dave Mathews of Vacaville, director of plant operations and general services for NorthBay, said the "cogen units," as they are called for short, may save as much as 30 percent in annual electricity costs, money that otherwise would go to PG&E.

From start to finish, the cogen units were three years in the making, a project with Siemens Building Technologies Inc., which spelled it out in a $2.6 million contract that will be paid off in 10 years.

Cogeneration -- also known as combined heat and power -- is a thermodynamically efficient use of fuel. When electricity is generated, some heat is wasted. In cogeneration, the energy is used.

Mathews said cogeneration captures the excess heat through heat exchangers, heating water that would normally be heated separately by boilers (much like a common hot water heater in a home), thus offsetting the natural gas normally used to heat water. A cogen unit reaches an efficiency level of nearly 90 percent, compared to about 55 percent in a conventional power plant. This means less fuel is used to make the same amount of energy. At the same time, a cogen unit reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Showing off the new unit at VacaValley Hospital, 1000 Nut Tree Road, Mathews said it looked like a "small locomotive engine," as the boxy, beige-painted engine hummed and whirred on a lot near the hospital's emergency entrance. A silvery, metallic radiator, a cooling device, rested atop the engine, an ENI 85.

With the afternoon sun bearing down on him and the air a toasty 105 degrees Fahrenheit, Mathews said, "It runs 24/7/365."

In a press release, Diane Barney, a spokeswoman for NorthBay, said the natural-gas turbine engines housed in the cogen units are similar to helicopter engines, spinning the generators that make electricity.

After a "one-year courtship" with Siemens -- and after getting the go-ahead from the hospital firm's boards of directors -- the project, which Siemens financed, was under way, built, installed and fine-tuned within six months, noted Mathews. He said the energy savings for the two hospitals are guaranteed to reach 2.8 million kilowatt hours per year. Additionally, PG&E sells natural gas at cheaper rates for those operating cogen units, he said.

"So there's an incentive" to install cogeneration facilities, said Mathews, noting that the start-up cost "competes with the needs of physicians, who'd rather have a new CT scanner."

The approval process to install the cogen unit at VacaValley, a 50-bed hospital built in 1988, was challenging but required. It included OKs from the state of California and the Yolo Air Quality Management District. The NorthBay Medical Center units required OKs from the state and Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Barney said the $3.8 million in savings over 10 years included cost reductions not only from running cogen units but also other improvements at both hospitals, including new automation and control systems, lighting upgrades and waste monitoring systems.

Monday, July 27, 2009

2 more Solano businesses get green certified

2 more Solano businesses get green certified

Two more local businesses joined the ranks of certified green businesses under Solano County's green business program.

7 Flags Car Wash and Express Lube at 2270 N. Texas St. in Fairfield and the Center for Right Relationship at 111 West C Street, Suite A in Benicia are the fourth and fifth official green businesses in Solano County and the first businesses in their respective cities to get the green business certification. 7 Flags Car Wash is also working to certify their Vacaville and Vallejo car wash sites and its corporate office in Vallejo.

"We are extremely pleased and honored to be recognized for our environmental efforts. We have always complied with or exceeded environmental regulations within our industry, and now with the County’s green business certification program, we have taken further steps toward conserving resources and preventing pollution," said Jack Anthony, president and CEO of 7 Flags Car Wash. “We are continuing our stewardship of green business practices in the community and recommend that all small businesses work with their county officials to become certified.”

“Being in right relationship with our community and now the environment is what our organization practices on a daily basis. We are honored to be recognized for our community support and alignment with the County of Solano’s movement to be green,” said Marita Fridjhon, President and Co-CEO for the Center for Right Relationship. “As a leader in our industry, we are privileged to help pioneer a clear path for future businesses to join us this necessary movement.”

Solano County launched a pilot green business program in July 2007 to encourage small-to medium-sized businesses that handle or generate hazardous waste to voluntarily undergo a rigorous certification process. The program has expanded in 2008 to work with other businesses wanting the green business certification.

“The range of businesses participating in the County’s green business program demonstrates the effort involved towards certification is worth the positive impacts on both the environment and their bottom line,” said Narcisa Untal, Solano County Green Business Coordinator.

To date, Vineyard RV Park in rural Vacaville and two locations of Triangle Digital INX Company in Dixon have been green certified. There are currently 23 small businesses throughout Solano County that are working toward their certification.

The comprehensive Green Business Certification requires:

* Compliance with all federal, state and local regulations
* Meeting Bay Area Green Business Program standards for conserving energy and water, preventing pollution and minimizing waste
* Onsite inspections from experts in energy conservation, water consumption and waste reduction to verify compliance with the comprehensive industry-based checklist.

For more information about the Green Business program, go to

Posted: July 27, 2009

MTC'a 2035 Plan for the San Francisco Bay Area

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission's newly released Transportation 2035 Plan for the San Francisco Bay Area: Change in Motion, is now available for viewing online, along with other companion technical reports, at:

The Plan is a 25-year vision for a regional transportation system that bolsters our economy, safeguards our environment, and ensures equitable transportation access for all Bay Area residents -- while taking into account the changing environment around us. The 142-page document was developed over two years, with thousands of Bay Area residents providing input, and adopted by the Commission on April 22, 2009.

To save costs and paper, MTC encourages you to view the Plan online, but if you would like a printed copy, email, fax 510-817-5932, or call 510-817-5836, providing the name of the document you are requesting, your name and your mailing address.

A new online tool is also available for those who want to learn more about projects and programs identified in Appendix 1 of the Plan. View the Online Transportation 2035 Project Listings Web site at:

MTC Public Information

Upgrades to freeways on horizon

Upgrades to freeways on horizon
By Sarah Rohrs/ Times-Herald, Vallejo
Posted: 07/27/2009 09:02:20 AM PDT

Freeway ramp metering lights and more highway message boards could be on Solano County's traffic horizon, according to a draft version of a traffic corridor study.

Public comments are being taken on the Interstate 80/Interstate 680/Interstate 780 Highway Corridor Study and Implementation Plan.

Drivers could soon find ramp metering lights on Green Valley and Suisun Valley on-ramps onto I-80, and more message boards and other technological devices.

Nearly $121.6 million in improvements are needed by 2015 to manage Solano County's growing number of drivers, according to the draft plan.

Two public hearings will be held next week to allow drivers and others to learn more, and comment on the plan. Meetings will be held at the following times and locations:

* Fairfield-Suisun School District, 2490 Hilborn Road, Fairfield in Conference 102, 6 p.m. Tuesday.

* Solano Community College, Vallejo Center, 545 Columbus Parkway, 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Solano Transportation Authority planners will outline the corridor study, and Caltrans officials will be on hand to talk about current I-80 work, including new pavement and HOV lanes in Fairfield and Vacaville, STA project manager Sam Shelton said.

While many Bay Area freeways have message boards, and other high tech devices to keep drivers up to speed on traffic conditions, Solano is considered a "dark county," Shelton said.

The county has just three freeway message boards, including one on I-80 in

More changeable message signs, and closed circuit televisions, and phone and cables are needed, the plan says.

Comments and questions on the corridor study are due by Aug. 12. The full STA board considers the document in September.

For more details go to and click on "Solano Highway Study."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fairfield betting on luxury car market

Fairfield betting on luxury car market
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | July 24, 2009

Tattered flags fly in front of an empty building and car lot in the Fairfield Auto Mall. Part of the city's economic recovery plan involves finding new businesses to move into the auto mall. Photo by Chris Jordan

FAIRFIELD - A new vision sees the flagging Fairfield Auto Mall as a potential luxury hub for the area. It would be a dream for the city -- if it comes true.

City officials recently finalized a set of strategies for the upcoming year that lists filling vacant auto dealerships as one of the city's top objectives. But even as they build plans around luring in new dealers, officials are acknowledging that the auto industry may never look the same again.

The Big Three American automakers in particular have made it a priority to thin their huge ranks of dealerships in recent years.

'There has been quite a bit of consolidation and I think the days of every city having a Ford, a Chevy, a Toyota . . . may be over,' Assistant City Manager Rob Braulik said.

He said there could be other options, particularly at the luxury end of the spectrum, but that plan would depend heavily on the arrival of an announced Mercedes Benz dealership, planned for the struggling southwest end of Auto Mall Parkway.

The facility has long been envisioned as a centerpiece to the area, a role that has only grown more prominent with the successive closures of three of the mall's largest dealerships in the last 12 months.

'If Mercedes gets that building up, I think that will help us go after other luxury brands that we don't have,' he said. 'We don't have a BMW dealership in town, we don't have a Lexus dealership in town and we would love to get both those.'

The recently finalized 'Strategic Priority Goals' cover a wide range of objectives, including crime reduction approaches and ways to engage local youths. They also includes plans for righting Fairfield's sales taxes, which have taken hit after hit in recent years with closures of major retailers and auto dealerships.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Calif. Life-Sci Industry Dodges Two Bullets in Newly Passed Budget

Calif. Life-Sci Industry Dodges Two Bullets in Newly Passed Budget
July 24, 2009

BioRegion News

By Alex Philippidis

California's life-sciences industry dodged two bullets in the deal crafted by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislative leaders, which seeks to plug the state's $26.3 billion budget shortfall for this fiscal year.

The budget agreement, announced late Monday, retains two economic incentives sought by leaders and advocates in the life sciences and other industries: The deal keeps intact the 20-year duration life-sci companies can carry forward tax deductions on their net operating losses. The period doubles the original 10-year duration after the state government reached a compromise budget almost a year ago [BRN, Sept. 22, 2008].

Also left intact in the new budget will be the new single sales factor apportionment measure agreed to by Schwarzenegger and legislators last February, at the urging of life-sci and other business leaders [BRN, March 16]. The measure allows life-sci and other multi-state businesses to cut their corporate income taxes by changing how they determine the percentage of corporate income or “franchise” taxes they owe the state.

Starting Jan. 1, 2011, when the measure takes effect, that percentage would be based solely on their sales, rather than combining double-weighted sales with two other factors: the size of their payroll and the amount of property they own. By comparison, current law calculates each factor as a ratio of in-state activity to activity everywhere.

Democratic legislative leaders included a rollback of the single-sales factor in versions of the budget that passed the Assembly and state Senate, after state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg endorsed the idea after a coalition of labor, health, and consumer advocates urged the repeal of that and other business tax breaks before any cuts to social programs were considered [BRN, June 19].

The retention of both tax breaks is a victory for Schwarzenegger and state Republicans, who had vowed not to raise taxes as part of a budget deal. The retention is also a victory for business leaders in the life sciences and other technologies, who argued the rollback would further chill what they consider to be the state's already frosty business climate.

Supporters of single-sales cited a study by Ernst & Young furnished by BayBio, the industry group for life-sciences employers based in the San Francisco Bay Area and northern California. According to the study, the measure is projected to generate 21,180 new jobs in California and more than $1.1 billion in state income during 2011 — numbers expected to rise to 37,529 new jobs and more than $3.3 billion in personal income by 2015.

"Pretty much everything was on the table, and they had to make a lot of very painful cuts. But we had many supporters for preserving both of those [tax incentive] agreements in the legislature," said Jimmy Jackson, vice president of public policy and communications for BIOCOM, the life-sci industry group based in San Diego. “The [Schwarzenegger] administration, to our knowledge, never put it on the table. So it was something we were very cognizant of, something that we were watching very carefully. I'm not sure that it was ever substantially in play."

The tax-break rollbacks had been sought by supporters of greater spending on social programs, who contended the incentives represented "loopholes" through which businesses dodged what the advocates have deemed a "fair" share of taxes.

Supporters of the tax rollbacks cited a study issued in June by the California Budget Project, a nonprofit fiscal and policy analysis group that advocates greater state spending on programs intended to improve the economic and social well-being of low- and middle-income Californians. The study, To Have and Have Not, concluded that California cannot afford the cost of single sales factor apportionment, which they have projected as costing the state $260 million in its first year, FY 2011, and $1.5 billion by FY 2015. Those numbers reflect the projected tax savings of all businesses, not just those in the life sciences.

Single sales factor apportionment, the net operating loss carry-forward, and the transfer of tax credits among a family or combined reporting group of related corporations will cost the state a combined $8.7 billion in lost revenues through FY 2016, followed by annual losses to the state of "as much as $2.5 billion per year" each year thereafter, To Have and Have Not also concluded.

"At a time when tens of thousands of children are losing health coverage, thousands of students are being turned away from colleges and universities, if you really want to talk about shared sacrifice, it would be appropriate to rescind tax breaks that were granted at a time when the state clearly didn’t have the means to pay for them," Jean Ross, founding executive director of the California Budget Project, told BioRegion News on Wednesday.

"We don't think we're out of the woods yet. Given the state's ongoing fiscal problems, [rescinding single sales factor and NOL carry-forward extension] ought to be part of a budget agreement," Ross added.

Democratic legislative leaders — including Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) — took comfort in prevailing over Schwarzenegger and Republicans in retaining the CalGrants college-aid program, which funds 118,000 students statewide studying at the state's two public university systems and its community college system. The governor had hoped to save $623 million over the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years by phasing out CalGrants.

But California's public community college system and two state university systems, the University of California and California State University, are set to lose more than $1 billion in combined funding — or $2.8 billion when retroactive FY 2009 cuts are included — while the state's community college system is projected to lose another $936 million.

CalState, which will see a $584 million cut in its state funding in FY 2010, responded by raising its fees for in-state students 20 percent, to $4,026 per year, and raising tuition for out-of-state students for the first time since 2004-05, by about 10 percent, to $11,170 per academic year.

In addition, CalState said in a statement, it will reduce enrollment by 40,000 students over the next two years, closed spring 2010 admissions completely, and implemented an employee furlough program requiring management and non-represented employees to be furloughed two days per month beginning on Aug. 1. If all employees join in, CalState projects it can save $275 million.

UC, which has an $813 million budget hole to fill in the 2010 fiscal year, will require faculty and staff to take between 11 and 26 furlough days at a salary reduction of 4 to 10 percent, with higher earners being forced to take more furlough days and steeper pay cuts.

Also, the university announced, most campuses are deferring at least half of their planned faculty hires. UC cited its Berkeley campus, which will slash faculty recruitment from its usual complement of about 100 positions a year to 10. UC has already laid off 724 campus staff members systemwide, and has warned that additional job cuts are coming.

Cuts like these could reshape biotech and other life-sci programs at the public universities and colleges — traditionally viewed by industry and government leaders alike as a key factor in the growth of the San Francisco and San Diego bioclusters.

But it's too early at this point to know how much of a toll the cuts will take, Jackson cautioned: "I think those are going to be decisions that are made at the university offices level."
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Friday, July 24, 2009

City of Vallejo backs Lowe's conceptual plans

Vallejo backs Lowe's conceptual plans

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen/Times-Herald staff writer
Posted: 07/24/2009 01:00:44 AM PDT
Updated: 07/24/2009 01:00:44 AM PDT

The probability of a Lowe's home improvement store coming to Vallejo moved one step closer this week when the city's Planning Division approved the retail giant's conceptual plans, city officials said Thursday.
The project was approved Tuesday, Acting Planning Manager Michelle Hightower said. If built, a Lowe's would create up to 175 mostly full-time jobs, a company spokeswoman said.
Lowe's spokeswoman Chris Ahearn said company policy prohibits commenting on specific projects before a real estate deal is closed, "and we have not done that yet in that market."
Lowe's officials seek to build on Columbus Parkway near Ascot Parkway, about a half-mile from Vallejo's Home Depot, on land owned by Team Superstores owner Ken Ross. The sale is still in escrow, which should close by the end of August, Ross said.
A public comment period about the project has passed, "and no one spoke up against it," Ross said.
Nevertheless, not everyone is excited about the prospect of a Lowe's in Vallejo.
"I'm opposed to it, but I haven't put much effort into it, and as far as I know, no organization is fighting it," said Joe Feller of Vallejo, a member of Vallejoans For Responsible Growth. That's the group that spearheaded the fight against the proposed Vallejo Wal-Mart Supercenter that was subsequently never built.
"I think we have adequate hardware stores and I don't think that would be the best land use up there, but I'm fighting the (Solano County) Fairgrounds development and I can't fight everything," Feller said.

The Lowe's project application, filed in early June, is for the construction of a 120,944-square-foot store with a 31,384-square-foot garden center on slightly more than 12 acres, Hightower said. The project also calls for a separate 7,500-square-foot building, to include added retail tenants, Hightower said.

The plan provides 492 parking spaces, she said.

Ross said that while a home improvement retailer was not part of his original plans for the Auto Row area, the world has changed since he first conceived his strategy.
"The Auto Row has already changed with the economy," he said. "The model we grew up with -- that paradigm has shifted. I've been the last man standing out here for a long time. It's been scary."

Ross' former Auto Row neighbor, Cornelius Ford, was forced out of business a year ago after many decades in Vallejo.

A Lowe's would be a significant asset to Vallejo in general and Ross' car dealerships in particular, he said. . .

Contact staff writer Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824 or

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Drive to make biofuels thrive

Drive to make biofuels thrive

By Janis Mara
Staff Writer

Energy Biosciences Institute Director Chris Somerville holds a handful of... ( KRISTOPHER SKINNER )

By Janis Mara

BERKELEY — Within the next decade, drivers in the Bay Area and around the country may get around powered by fuel made from pecan shells, switch grass or even poplar trees, thanks to research at Bay Area universities funded by more than $700 million in grants.

And researchers say the plant-based fuels nurtured by these efforts could be widely available at the pump at a cost comparable to gasoline, but better for the environment.

Of course, as the price of gas hovers close to the $3 mark at local gas stations, that long wait may seem interminable.

"It's a process that's going to take time," said Alex Yelland of Chevron, which gave $25 million to the University of California-Davis to study biofuels. "We are trying to speed the process of moving from the lab to pilot production. That's why we have spread our research and development across many institutions. But it does take a number of years," Yelland said.

The challenge facing researchers, and the time-consuming issue, is breaking down tough cell walls to get at the sugar in plants to make it into fuel.

"The problem with cellulosic ethanol made from plants is that it's made of sugar, but it's not accessible. Finding the technologies to do it has been expensive," said Todd Taylor, who leads the biofuels group at the law firm Fredrikson & Byron in Minneapolis and contributes
to publications including Ethanol Producer magazine.

Huge grants, mostly from major oil companies, may well do the trick. In addition to the Davis funding from Chevron, UC-Berkeley, along with two other universities, scored $350 million from energy giant BP in 2006. A coalition headed by Lawrence Berkeley Lab got $125 million from the Department of Energy in 2007. Stanford University got $225 million in 2002 for broad-based energy research including biofuel projects from Exxon Mobil.

"The policy for advanced biofuels should be looked at as a longer-term play. To be fair, they (researchers) are trying to do things that never have been done in a short period of time," Taylor said.

Drivers in California and much of the U.S. are already using corn-based ethanol, a biofuel that makes up 10 percent of every gallon pumped in this state. In 2008, about 9 billion gallons of ethanol were produced in the U.S.

Critics say growing corn for fuel displaces food crops, causing worldwide food shortages, and turning corn into ethanol burns up almost as much energy as it produces. Though the federal government has mandated that producers must supply 36 billion gallons of biofuel annually by 2022, no more than 15 billion gallons of that can be corn ethanol by 2015.

So in labs throughout the Bay Area and the nation, researchers are hustling to produce so-called second-generation biofuels from byproducts like sawdust, or from plants that grow on marginal land.

After getting set up in various locations on campus, UC-Berkeley's Energy Biosciences Institute is currently analyzing rumen from cow stomachs to reverse-engineer the process by which the bacteria break down plant cell walls to turn grass into energy. "We're analyzing termite guts as well," said Chris Somerville, director of the institute. "We're also going into compost heaps to identify novel fungi. Next we figure out which one does the best job and try to replicate the process."

In Emeryville, the employees of the 66,000-square-foot Joint BioEnergy Institute "grow the (plants), harvest them, hand them to the deconstruction team to convert into sugar and then to the fuel synthesis team to make into fuel," said Blake Simmons, head of the institution's deconstruction division.

The organization, created by the $125 million Energy Department grant, plans to patent its discoveries and make them available for commercial use within 10 to 12 years at prices comparable to gasoline.

Somerville and Simmons' institutes are studying bioconversion, meaning biological processes like digestion, to access sugars. While UC-Davis is researching this process, the university is also looking at using heat to turn plants into gases that then become liquid, like crude oil, when cooled.

"We can take biomass and instead of breaking it down into sugars and fermenting the sugars into alcohol, we can heat the biomass and break it down into simpler compounds," said Bryan Jenkins, director of the UC-Davis Energy Institute.

Stanford University is researching subjects including "how to deal with lignins, the tough, woody parts of plant structures, because that's an area that has received less attention than going from cellulose to sugars," said Lynn Orr, former project director of the Global Climate and Energy Project.

About a half-dozen of the project's 40-odd assignments, funded by a $225 million grant from entities including Exxon Mobil, focus on biofuels. Also, Stanford's Program on Food Security and the Environment is studying the effects of biofuels on poor people, funded by a $3.8 million grant from the Gates Foundation.

Attorney Taylor was optimistic about the research going on in the Bay Area.

"The university system of California has a good reputation of getting technology out to be commercialized," Taylor said. He believes cellulosic ethanol can help make America independent of foreign oil.

"The U.S. economy will recover, just like every other economy, and when that happens there will be resource competition and it will drive the price (of gas) up. The only resource we can actively control is a biobased fuel."

Echoing Taylor, Somerville said, "You can see that oil prices are going up permanently. There's concern on the other hand about continuing to burn fossil fuel because of damage to the planet, and people have concerns about being dependent on unstable countries around the world for energy."

For these reasons, cellulosic ethanol could turn out to be the fuel driving the country's declaration of oil independence.

# Department of Energy: $125 million to a coalition headed by Lawrence Berkeley Lab to develop commercial alternatives to corn ethanol.

# BP: $350 million over 10 years to UC-Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Illinois to study biofuels.
# Chevron: $25 million to UC-Davis to study biofuels.
# Exxon Mobil and other partners: $225 million for energy research including some biofuel projects to Stanford University in Palo Alto. (Gates Foundation also awarded $3.8 million to study effects of biofuel on the poor.)

Planners OK proposal for truck stop

Planners OK proposal for truck stop
By Melissa Murphy/
Posted: 07/23/2009 01:00:59 AM PDT

A new big rig truck stop proposal for Dixon is kicking it into high gear now that the City Council will make a final decision on the project next week.

The Flying J Travel Plaza, a large truck stop proposed to be built along Pedrick Road south of Interstate 80, is in the final stages of approval.

During a final public hearing before the Planning Commission on Tuesday, city and Flying J representatives outlined the project once again.

At the end of the late night meeting, commissioners voted 6-0 in recommending approval of the development agreement to the City Council.

Commissioner Yvonne McCluskey abstained because of a possible conflict of interest.
The 27-acre travel plaza and truck stop plan includes two pump islands, a combination convenience market, truckers' lounge and restaurant, and parking for trucks, passenger vehicles and recreational vehicles.

The project, according to a staff report, also would be responsible for construction of significant infrastructure improvements for water, sewer, storm drainage and traffic circulation. It also includes building a retention/detention basin located on the east side of Pedrick Road.

Tuesday, commissioners also voted 3 to 3 on the Environmental Impact Report. Commissioners Victoria Coppes, Michael Smith and Tiffany Wing dissented.

Community Development Director Dave Dowswell said the hang up was on whether or not Flying J should be required to add a shade structure for 30 truck spaces.
Project representatives said the mitigation was unfeasible, but some planning commissioners wanted to see the structure built.

Marshal Drack, representing Flying J and CFJ properties, explained that a shade structure will only be harmful to trucks pulling into the facility, that the trucks will hit the structure and could even knock it down. Project representatives added that there is already adequate shade because of trees -- part of the landscaping agreement.

In addition, a $500 fee for idling trucks was removed from the ordinance. Dowswell said he recommended it be removed since Flying J representatives said publicly that they would enforce California's law against idling.

The Dixon City Council will vote on the matter at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council Chamber, 600 East A St.

Solano commuters an educated bunch

Solano commuters an educated bunch
Posted: 07/23/2009 01:01:00 AM PDT

If you are a commuter, riding a bus, the Baylink Ferry, Amtrak or BART train and surrounded by people from Solano County, then you are in educated company.
More than 27 percent of area residents, or more than one in four, who commute to work outside Solano County have at least a bachelor's degree, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Only San Francisco and Alameda counties have more commuters who earned a bachelor's or graduate degrees, said Michael Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation.

"The data says that Solano County contributes to the educated workforce that is driving the economic engine of neighboring counties within the northeast Bay," he said in a press release.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Ammann said there is anecdotal evidence to support the federal agency's findings, culled from a 2006 report, "American Community Survey." The study indicated that some 19,000 of Solano's 75,000 out-of-county commuters earned bachelor's or graduate degrees.

"If I take the ferry in, if I have to go to a morning meeting in The City, I see people who are reading their newspapers and talking intelligently," he said, surmising the educational levels of some of those commuters.

Likewise, citing his experience taking the Capital Corridor train from Solano County to Sacramento, he noted the Amtrak commuter rail service provides wireless Internet service, prompting commuters to work on their laptops early in the morning or late in the day.

Most importantly, he added, is that Bay Area employers "need to know that Solano has an educated, tech-savvy labor force looking for job opportunities in Solano and business-friendly Solano communities welcome new employers. Our saying is, 'Plant Your Business in Solano' and grow your business with our highly qualified workforce." The EDC's mission is to attract, encourage and retain business and industry in Solano County.

Ammann predicted that Bay Area businesses will reduce their workers' "carbon footprint" by moving to Solano County, resulting in more high-paying jobs in the future. He cited growth in the biotech industry, expansion by food and beverage firms and other specialized manufacturing clusters -- paired with available land for industrial and business parks that is "shovel-ready" -- as reasons why Solano will experience growth in the future.

Daryl Halls, executive director of the Solano Transportation Authority, agreed with Ammann's statements.

"This is a strong opportunity for local employers to capture employees," he said. "It would be nice to have a shorter commute and work closer to where you live."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Solano Regional medical center wins high marks

Solano Regional medical center wins high marks
Times-Herald staff report/
Posted: 07/22/2009 01:01:10 AM PDT

Solano Regional Medical Group achieved the second highest ranking last week from the California Association of Physician Groups, medical group officials announced.

The announcement came after results were released from the association's recent annual Standards of Excellence survey of medical

group members, according to the announcement.

Groups are ranked in four areas -- health information technology; care management practices; accountability and transparency; and patient centered care. Rankings range from "elite" to "exemplary" to "commendable" and "meritorious, according to the announcement. Groups that submit data but don't meet any of the criteria are deemed "participants," it notes.

In Solano County, Solano Regional Medical Group, the multi-specialty medical group affiliated with Sutter Regional Medical Foundation, surpassed the threshold in three of four categories and was ranked "exemplary," according to the announcement. It was the only group in the county to receive an "exemplary" ranking, the announcement notes.

Vehicle thefts dropped for the third consecutive year in Solano County

Solano sees fewer vehicle thefts
By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen/Times-Herald staff writer
Posted: 07/22/2009 01:00:33 AM PDT
Updated: 07/22/2009 01:00:33 AM PDT

Vehicle thefts dropped for the third consecutive year in Solano County and statewide, the California Highway Patrol announced Tuesday.

There were 2,478 vehicle thefts in Solano County in 2007 and only 2,250 last year. That's a drop of 9.2 percent, according to CHP statistics.

Vehicle thefts in Solano County fell slightly more than 10 percent between 2006 to 2007. And they slid 3.3 percent from 2005 to 2006, the figures show.

California saw its largest drop in vehicle thefts in more than a decade, according to CHP statistics. The figures reveal that in 2008 there was a 12.2 percent decrease statewide.

"It's good news and a trend we'd like to see continue," CHP spokeswoman Fran Clader said.

Honda and Toyota models continue to be most popular among car thieves, according to the statistics.

Toyota has consistently ranked as the most frequently stolen pickup truck since 1984.

CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said in a statement that he credits the work of law enforcement statewide along with prevention efforts by the public, for the decrease.

But the economic loss to Californians from stolen vehicles still exceeds $1 billion, Farrow said.

Slightly less encouraging than the falling stolen vehicle figures is the fact that the number of stolen vehicles recovered is also dropping, according to the CHP statistics.

Of the 199,766 vehicles reported stolen statewide last year, 86.8 percent were recovered. This compares to 88.2 percent in 2007.
In Solano County, about 10 percent fewer stolen vehicles were recovered in 2007 than in 2006, the figures show.

Statistics reveal that Southern California continues to be a vehicle theft hot spot, with nearly 56 percent of all thefts statewide occurring in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.

Sierra County had 100 percent fewer vehicles stolen last year than in 2007, the most significant decline among the state's 58 counties, according the CHP figures. Mono County, on the other hand, had a 133.3 percent increase in the number of vehicles stolen last year over 2007.

"The cheapest form of defense is to simply employ the anti-theft devices that are standard on all vehicles -- locks," Farrow said. "Lock your car and take your keys."

Contact staff writer Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824 or

To help ensure your vehicle remains where you left it:

* Park in a well-lit, populated area.

* Don't warm up or leave your vehicle running unattended.

* Consider a visible or audible device that alerts thieves the vehicle is protected.

* Consider an immobilizing device, which can prevent thieves from bypassing the ignition and hot-wiring a vehicle.

* Consider a tracking device, which can help authorities recover stolen vehicles.

Source: California Highway Patrol

Fair offers five days of family fun

Fair offers five days of family fun
By Sarah Rohrs/Times-Herald staff writer
Posted: 07/22/2009 01:00:10 AM PDT

Workers from Butler Amusement place fences around the Lolly Swing, a ride that was owned by Michael Jackson and came from Neverland Ranch. The Solano County Fair opens today in Vallejo. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)
Whether it will be rocker Eddie Money, wiener dog races, carnival rides, or livestock shows, officials hope large crowds will twirl the Solano County Fair turnstiles beginning today.

The five-day Solano County Fair kicks off at 11 a.m. with a short ceremony at the Vallejo fairgrounds including a color guard, short remarks and the singing of "Happy Birthday."

A touch of the late Michael Jackson will be present. On hand during the fair's five-day run is a kiddy carnival ride called a "Lolly Swing Ride," once ridden by children at Jackson's Neverland Ranch near Santa Barbara.

Fair officials said the ride is stationed next to Gibson Hall on the Vallejo fairgrounds and is geared for young children, and may have been at the Alameda County Fair that ran July 1-19.

To mark the fair's 60th birthday, seniors 60 and older will get in free today. Called Solano Derby Day, today's first day will have much activity at the horse racing arena with mint juleps, $1 hot dogs and souvenirs.

The fair could see its last days of horse racing, although fair general manager Mike Paluszak said an official decision won't be made until later.

Admission prices are the same as last year. Tickets will allow participants to attend horse racing and celebrity venues, including "American Idol" runner-up Kimberley Locke, Con Funk Shun, War, and Hispanic stars Los Mismos.

Paluszak expects about 60,000 to attend this year's fair, 5 percent more than in 2008.

"It's a little bit

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of a trend from last year and, if the weather cooperates, it sounds like it might be bigger," Paluszak said. Vallejo's weather is expected to range from the mid-70s to low 80s during the fair's five-day run.

Though many are struggling financially, organizers are hoping people will pick the fair for some local fun rather than taking out-of-town trips.

In the last several years, the fair has tried to beef up attendance through a combination of big name entertainment, a shorter run and showcasing Solano County's agricultural exhibits.

Last year, there were two weeks of horse racing, including five days while the fair was in full swing. However, Paluszak said that was shortened since horse racing did not do well after the fair closed.

This year's fair also will not showcase big events in its sports arena, such as the Demolition Derby and the Lucha Libra World Power Wrestling shows held last year. Paluszak said these events are expensive to stage and were not well attended.

Since 2005, the fair has tried a number of things to find success.

In an experiment that turned the sprawling Vallejo Fairgrounds into a near ghost town, big name entertainment was kept off the stage.

Instead, the fair focused on family entertainment and agricultural displays.

But after attendance plunged, organizers reversed course the following year, booking Gladys Knight and other big names. They also cut the fair in half from 10 days and shared horse racing with the Sonoma County fair.

Though hit by triple-digit heat, fair attendance in 2006 rose nearly 15 percent, suggesting fair-goers favored the big acts.

In 2007, attendance remained about the same.

Last year, it appeared the fair had hit somewhat of a stride by posting a 5 percent attendance hike with good turnouts for B.B. King and Keith Sweat. Nearly 52,450 people attended.

The highest total attendance in recent years was 114,000 in 2002.

Though some periodically insist the fair's demise is near, Paluszak said the venue is here to stay.

Both Solano County and city of Vallejo officials have both approved conceptual development plans that include a lake-sized water feature, embellishment of the existing fair, a multi-purpose arena, exhibition hall, sports fields, lodging, restaurants and retail stores.

Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at or (707) 553-6832.


Solano County Fair

Wednesday to Sunday

Vallejo Fairgrounds

Cost: $8, adults, $4, children and seniors, and free, 5 and under. Parking, $6.

For more details and daily schedule go to

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rio Vista upgrading waterfront to draw more business downtown

Rio Vista upgrading waterfront to draw more business downtown
By Melissa Murphy/The Reporter, Vacaville
Posted: 07/21/2009

(Courtesy rendering) A facelift for Rio Vista's vacant waterfront is under way.

Although the property is cluttered with construction work, preventing visitors from fishing, soon it will be an even busier place, with more amenities and an overall upgrade, officials said.

"It's a heavily used spot," said Rio Vista Mayor Jan Vick. "We're hoping this will jump-start new development."

With help from many residents and area property owners, the city recently created a waterfront improvement plan.

The project area includes the shoreline and adjacent properties from Main Street to Helen Madera Bridge.

Suggested public improvements include a shoreline walking-bicycle path, landscaping, new boat docks and flood control improvements.

To get the project's first part done in time for the city's annual Bass Festival the fall, the site is closed to the public through mid-September.

Access to the State Fishing Pier still will be possible, but the waterfront park area will be closed temporarily during this roughly 60-day period.

The pilot project has been funded by the Solano Transportation Authority and the Yolo Solano Air Quality Management District as an alternative transportation venture.

The pathway, if built, will allow people to walk and bike from the north to south sides of town without a car. The California State Parks Department also has allocated funds from Proposition 40 to pay for the improvements.

The Specific Plan creates a blueprint for private redevelopment of a potential mix of uses, among them gift or clothing stores, waterside restaurants and a hotel.

"We're hoping to get owners of the private property interested in doing something with the site so that our waterfront doesn't remain vacant," Vick said. "Our ultimate goal is to have it developed to draw people down to Main Street and make this a regional attraction.

"We do know it's going to take a while, but this is the first step."

She also encourages residents to become involved.

The city is offering businesses and families a chance to buy tiles for $50 each for the central plaza area. The idea is to keep costs down and get the public to become part of the project.

For additional information on the plan or to buy tiles, contact the Rio Vista Community Development Department at 374-2205.

'Shop Benicia First' relaunched

'Shop Benicia First' relaunched
Times-Herald staff report/
Posted: 07/21/2009

The Benicia Chamber of Commerce's BizNet committee has announced the relaunch of its "Shop Benicia First" program.

The program's goal is to remind residents, businesses and organizations of the importance of keeping dollars local, according to the announcement.

Program organizers also want Benicians to remember that business taxes contribute to street repairs, public safety and parks.

For information, call 745-2120.

Paving to begin on project in Fairfield

Paving to begin on project in Fairfield
Published by The Reporter
Posted: 07/21/2009

Paving on a segment of Interstate 80 in Solano County, which is the first infrastructure project in the state to receive federal stimulus funds, will begin this week the California Department of Transportation announced.

The $13.3 million project stretches from I-80/Route 12 to Airbase Parkway in Fairfield.

Tonight, paving will begin in the eastbound direction of I-80 and then shift to the westbound lanes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Local amateur, professional partner to enter beer festival

Local amateur, professional partner to enter beer festival
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | July 17, 2009

Longtime beer homebrewer Michael Frenn works on his newest creation at the Blue Frog Brewery. Frenn has partnered with the brewery and will be entering a robust porter into the Great American Brew Festival. Photo by Chris Jordan

FAIRFIELD - Michael Frenn is hitting the big time.

Frenn, a longtime beer homebrewer, is partnering with Fairfield-based microbrewery Blue Frog to produce one of his recipes on the large scale for a national competition.

The first big day came on a recent Friday: brewing day. Frenn and Blue Frog brewmaster Nick Campbell had scaled up Frenn's home-sized robust porter recipe to produce 240 gallons and were scooping buckets of ingredients into a boiling tank.

'I'm in double nirvana,' Frenn said. 'This is like every homebrewer's dream.'

The next big day will be in September, when they and the beer will make their way to the Pro-Am competition at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

Frenn's beer is a specific type of porter, a dark style of beer that lends itself to a wide range of interpretations. Frenn said he modeled his beer after a porter produced by the San Francisco-based Anchor Brewing Company, a process called 'cloning.'

It won a best of show award at a regional competition in March. Winning such an award is one of the criteria for entry in the pro-am category -- the other is finding a professional to partner with.

The two men knew each other through their tight-knit brewing circles, and Frenn gave Campbell a few bottles of the award winning batch.

'He liked the porter and he said let's brew it,' Frenn said.

Still, Frenn won't be the only one putting his pride on the line at the September festival, which Campbell said the industry considers 'our Academy Awards.'

Campbell said he has entered beers in the past in the professional side of the Great American Beer Festival and he has another batch of entries lined up for 2009, including a few bottles of a beer he brewed in 2004 for the brewery's then-fifth anniversary.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.