Thursday, December 31, 2009

New martial arts studio opens downtown

New martial arts studio opens downtown
By Sarah Rohrs/Times-Herald staff writer
Posted: 12/31/2009 01:01:50 AM PST

Eric Mitchell chose downtown Vallejo to open his own School of Chinese Martial Arts and help others embrace and benefit from kung fu.

Open since November, the 337 Georgia St. school offers children and adult classes in its spacious quarters adorned with colored belts denoting the levels in mastering skills -- white to black.

Mitchell, who has practiced and taught a kung fu style called Hei Long Shou Shu Kung Fu, said his passion is teaching the practice of combat and self-defense to all age levels.

His school is one of three School of Chinese Martial Arts under the leadership of martial arts teacher and master Tim McNabney. The other schools are in Hayward and Richmond.

Mitchell, 27, said his goal is to teach people what has helped him so much, including confidence, stature and happiness.

"It's done so much for me. I wouldn't be what I am today without it," he said.

Students take on a variety of challenges, including kicks, throws, grappling and the use of swords, spears and other weapons, as well as other self-defense techniques.

Beginning students wear white belts and as they master new techniques, progress to other colors. Mitchell himself, who began learning kung fu at 10, is now a third-degree (out of 7) black belt master and is working toward his fourth degree.

Relatively new Vallejo residents, Mitchell and his wife, Naja, moved to the city to be closer to her family.

He said one of his goals is to find ways to give back to the
community, including staging self-defense classes for women.

Another aim is to help change the perception of downtown Vallejo to a positive one, he said.

Mitchell was able to open the School of Chinese Martial Arts after the city relaxed its requirement that first-floor Georgia Street businesses be retail only. He first set his sights on the long-empty store in June.

For more details about the School of Chinese Martial Art class schedule and other information, call (707) 712-3223 or go to

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

Vacaville-area leaders: 2010 won't be great, but better than '09

Vacaville-area leaders: 2010 won't be great, but better than '09
By Ryan Chalk
Posted: 12/31/2009 01:00:24 AM PST

Crews work Wednesday on stucco and roofing at one of many Seeno Homes under construction along Parkside Drive in Vacaville's North Village. (Rick Roach / The Reporter)
As 2009 slips away, local leaders are looking into their crystal balls to see what 2010 will have in store, and, by the sound of it, what they're seeing is not pretty.

The financial meltdown on Wall Street that sparked the so-called Great Recession, sending ripples all the way down to the doorsteps of every American, has kept area civic and education leaders awake at night trying to figure out how to cope. But while most will be happy to place 2009 squarely in the sights of their rearview mirrors, some remain wary about the coming days, weeks and months.

Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine said he is "cautiously optimistic" about what lies ahead. With the state's finances in shambles -- and no sign of help -- he is concerned the state will continue to pinch money from cities and counties.

Vacaville, like the cities that surround it, has been slammed by the downturn in property tax and sales tax revenue. While Augustine predicts more of the same in 2010, there have been a few reasons to smile.

New restaurants such as Sonic Drive-In and El Pollo Loco are close to opening and building permit applications jumped a little toward the end of 2009.

"A big concern of a lot of cities is jobs, not just the budget," Augustine said.

Other positives include the construction at Solano Community College's Vacaville Center and new businesses are still opening in downtown Vacaville, said Augustine.

"I don't look at 2010 as being a great year. I look at it as I hope it will be a better year," Augustine said. "All in all, we're lucky to have what we do here."

In Dixon, the story is much the same.

Like Augustine, Dixon Mayor Jack Batchelor said that it will be another year of watching every penny spent.

"We will continue to be like every other city and continue to have to make reductions to our expenditures," Batchelor said.

While Dixon is in good shape financially for now, Batchelor said he'll be keeping his fingers crossed after a year of watching sizable sums of money get held hostage by the state.

Like Vacaville, Dixon will be looking to spur development in 2010, and, with several projects in the pipeline, including a proposed senior housing development and a truck stop/travel plaza, there is reason to smile.

Batchelor said, no matter what, it will be very important to maintain public safety in Dixon and commended the city's police and fire departments.

"We will continue to provide a high level of service to the residents of Dixon," Batchelor said.

Local education leaders lament the loss of millions of dollars in state funding and local revenues as well.

Roger Halberg, Dixon Unified School District superintendent, said that the goal for 2010 would be to work to rebuild the core principles of the district.

But that goal may not be realized this year.

Halberg estimates another $1.5 million cut to Dixon Unified after the state's own budget morass has reduced the district's budget by roughly $5 million in the past year.

Also, as a new Program Improvement district, the state is not offering funding help, leaving the district to try and raise test scores with reduced resources. Although the district is performing well as a whole, there are subgroups -- such as English learners and socioeconomically disadvantaged students -- that need the support, according to Halberg.

"It's a lot of stress on all of our staff," he noted.

Also, with the challenges wrought by the state funding crisis, staff morale will also be a priority for Halberg in 2010.

"I know and feel the same stress that the community feels and it's only going to get heavier," Halberg said.

Given the challenges, Halberg commends all district employees.

"I'm really pleased to work with people who are willing to pull together to work for the kids," he said.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Despite good signs, economic gloom prevailed

Despite good signs, economic gloom prevailed

Updated: 12/28/2009 01:00:16 AM PST

Editor's note: This is part of an ongoing series featuring top news stories of 2009. Thursday's Times-Herald will feature the top 10 stories of the year.

Record foreclosures and unemployment dominated 2009, though there were some bright spots and interesting developments in Vallejo's business and financial world this year.

Unemployment rates reached double-digits in Vallejo and American Canyon, as they did in the state and the nation in 2009.

By the end of November, unemployment in Solano County seemed to have turned a corner, dropping to 12 percent from 12.1 percent in October. Though it was just a slight improvement, the fact that it improved at all made some experts hopeful that a downward trend had begun. In Napa County, however, unemployment was at 10 percent in November, up from 9 percent the previous month.

In October, a regional economic forecasting center predicted Solano County's economy will be among the Bay Area's last to recover from the recession, despite having been one of the first and hardest hit.

Home foreclosures, which exploded in the area in 2008, continued in 2009, though at a slower pace. The easing was based partially on a foreclosure moratorium implemented by many banks, as the precipitous drop in housing prices here sparked something of a buying frenzy.

By August, more than 60 percent of all Solano County homeowners were "under water" in their mortgages -- paying on homes worth less than when they bought them. But the percentage of people able to afford the median priced home here also rose significantly.

Local housing prices began the year in free fall, but by spring they'd stabilized and by December, they'd begun to rise as the available inventory shrank. The median price of homes sold in Vallejo had reached a low of $117,000 in April, but had risen to $150,000 by October. In Benicia, the median sold home price in October was $374,000, up from $300,000 at its lowest point in February.

The drop in the number of available homes for sale was especially sharp in Vallejo, which burned through more than 71 percent of its inventory this year. Many of the sales were to investors, leaving many first-time home buyers struggling to break into the market.

On the local business front, the year got mixed reviews.

The Vallejo Chamber of Commerce hosted its first international intern this year -- Temur Rakhimov of Tajikstan -- but lost its long-time president and CEO when Rick Wells resigned in November to take a similar position in San Rafael.

Also this year, Vallejo business owners faced audits by a collection firm the city hired to ensure proper business license fees were paid. Meanwhile, building permit fees that even city officials agree are too high, remained that way in 2009, despite promises to the contrary.

A protracted contest between Vallejo-based Medic Ambulance Service and Colorado-based American Medical Response for the Solano County service contract was decided in August in favor of the local firm.

Several businesses opened locally to replace some that closed last year, including Bed, Bath & Beyond, which opened in November where the Linens 'N Things had been. Work started in June on the Solano 80 Center -- otherwise known as the Rite Aid Center -- and by December, the Harbor Freight and Taco Bell were operating in new buildings there. A final stage, which includes a Mi Pueblo market, is expected to follow.

A second Dollar Tree opened in the Vallejo Corners shopping center in August and Vallejo's Vargas Mexican Market opened at its new site at the corner of Mini Drive and Sonoma Boulevard in November.

Escrow was closed in the fall on property for a Lowe's in northeast Vallejo, and Ghiringhelli Specialty Foods, which opened in Vallejo last year, expanded by some 50 employees in 2009.

In December, the Ford Motor Company selected a winning bidder on the former Cornelius Ford site, though the firm has not yet announced who was chosen.

The year began with a new lease on life for the Good Day Café, which moved into what had been downtown Vallejo's Georgia Street Grill in January, about two years after a fire destroyed its Admiral Callaghan Lane location.

And though Touro University in March backed out of a multi-million-dollar, state-of-the-art cancer treatment center on Mare Island, in September, former Berkeley bio-tech firm Murigenics moved to the island. That firm followed Alstom, which in August opened on the island with plans to refurbish 66 Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains.

Contact staff writer Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at

(707) 553-6824 or

Local banks donate $13,000 to 25 schools in Solano County

Local banks donate $13,000 to 25 schools in Solano County

-- By Reporter Staff

Local Wells Fargo and Wachovia banks have teamed up to donate $13,000 to 25 Solano County schools as part of a regional effort to help local schools affected by recent budget shortfalls.

Every Wells Fargo and Wachovia bank in Northern California has selected a local school to receive $500 each. The money will help pay for much-needed school supplies and education programs. In all, Wells Fargo and Wachovia will contribute more than $170,000 to the cause.

As part of their efforts to support schools, Wells Fargo and Wachovia banks will support local schools through volunteerism and by providing financial literacy education through "Hands on Banking," a free financial literacy resource created by Wells Fargo as a service to the community to promote responsible personal money management.

UC Davis received almost $622 million in research funds in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2009.

ews for Faculty and Staff of the University of California, Davis

December 11, 2009

Research funding up again

By Andy Fell

UC Davis received almost $622 million in research funds in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2009. The total is a record for the campus and the fifth consecutive year that research funds have topped a half-billion dollars.

“With these funds, UC Davis researchers are creating new knowledge and translating it into products, processes and services to improve the quality of life,” said Chancellor Linda Katehi. “Despite the difficult budget situation, UC Davis is on a steep upward curve — doubling our research income in less than a decade.”

But Katehi expects more from the UC Davis campus.

“By reforming our processes, we can transform our research enterprise and bring this total to $900 million or even a billion dollars a year,” she said. “In partnership with our cities of Davis and Sacramento, we will become the engine of innovation and economic development in the region, the state, the nation and the world.”

Barry Klein, vice chancellor for research, said, “Our research funding trend is a tribute to our exceptional research community, and this record-breaking year is certainly a reflection of UC Davis’ continuing strength as a leader in multidisciplinary research. The work of our community of scholars has far-reaching impact on improving our society’s well-being in many ways.”


Examples of grants received in 2008-9 include: $16 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fight childhood malnutrition in the developing world; $300,000 from The Hartwell Foundation for work on synthetic bone implants; $6.8 million over three years from the National Science Foundation for mapping the genome of wheat; $4 million from several federal agencies, led by the National Institutes of Health, for research on biodiversity in Indonesia.

Just over half the total, $329,749,369, came from the federal government, followed by the state of California, $113,242,592. Other major sources of research funds included: businesses, $37,946,201; other institutions of higher education (principally subcontracts on other grants), $29,436,082; other UC campuses or the UC Office of the President, $22,366,176; foundations and charities, $27,058,020 and $22,293,851 respectively; and other government sources (states other than California, cities and counties), $17,007,045.

Almost two-thirds of funding — $194,494,009 — from the federal government came through the Department of Health and Human Services, principally the National Institutes of Health. The National Science Foundation provided $49,894,677 and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $31,693,640.

The UC Davis School of Medicine received $174,434,616 in research funds, an increase of about $3 million over the previous year. The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences saw a marked jump in research funds, from a little more than $94 million in 2007-8 to $128,029,464 in 2008-9. Among other schools and colleges, major recipients of funds were: College of Engineering, $75,898,284; School of Veterinary Medicine, $71,476,448; College of Biological Sciences, $53,069,930; Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences in the College of Letters and Science, $21,439,681. The Office of Research received $44,639,727 on behalf of interdisciplinary Organized Research Units such as the Bodega Marine Laboratory, the Institute of Transportation Studies and the California National Primate Research Center.

The total includes funding from grants and contracts awarded to the university to support research, including grants from philanthropic foundations but not private gifts, which are reported separately. Following nationally accepted guidelines, grants from philanthropic foundations may be counted toward philanthropic totals. However, they are counted only once for university accounting purposes.

Many of the research dollars go to salaries and wages of UC Davis employees, ranging from professors who are partly paid out of grants for time they spend doing research, to adjunct faculty, technical staff, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students who are paid or receive stipends from grants and contracts.

Awards include both direct costs — dollars directed to specific research projects to pay, for example, for salaries and laboratory supplies — and “indirect” costs that are awarded by agencies to fund research infrastructure, such as upkeep and utility costs for research laboratories. Grants and contracts are awarded with strict conditions that typically bar use of the funds for purposes other than research.

Research funding totals were calculated on the basis of dollars transferred to the university during the 2008-9 fiscal year. Some agencies commit to funding multiyear projects but only actually fund one year at a time.

In those cases, the grant would be counted in annual increments, in which case funds are counted in the year received. In other cases, the funding agency provides all the funds up front, and all the funds are counted in the first year of funding but not in subsequent years.

According to a survey by the National Science Foundation, UC Davis ranked 17th in the nation in university research and development expenditures in fiscal year 2007-08 (the most recent year for which figures are available).

Stimulus funds

To date, UC Davis has been awarded 176 grants totalling $69.9 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to information posted online by federal agencies. A total of $8.6 million in stimulus funds was received by the campus before the end of fiscal year 2008-09, with the rest awarded after June 30.

Stimulus funds awarded to UC Davis are expected to create the equivalent of about 250 jobs.

Loans give Benicia residents a green edge

Loans give Benicia residents a green edge

By Tony Burchyns
(Vallejo) Times Herald

BENICIA — Solar panels and other "green" technologies could be within more people's reach under a loan program the city has approved.

The program will allow residents and business owners to borrow as much as $75,000 — or 10 percent of their property value, whichever is less — for renewable energy, energy efficiency and water conservation projects. They would repay the loans over 20 years through property tax assessments.

A $10,000 roof-mounted solar array, for example, would result in an annual add-on to property tax bills of about $500, plus interest, Community Development and Public Works Director Charlie Knox said. That increase likely would be commensurate with energy bill savings, Knox said.

The program is part of a statewide drive to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and is authorized by state legislation to allow commercial, industrial and residential property owners to finance various "green" projects.

The City Council unanimously voted Dec. 15 to participate in the California Communities pilot program. City officials anticipate the first loans will be available in May or June. Details will be announced about sign-ups at that time, Knox said.

City Attorney Heather McLaughlin said solar contractors must meet set standards under the program. She added that the city could create a list of recommended contractors for property owners who want to make their homes and businesses more energy efficient.

Among the projects that could qualify for financing are small, roof-mounted wind turbines, energy-efficient windows and on-demand water heaters.

City officials said it would be possible to take out loans and still qualify for other state rebates. The city also hopes to provide its own rebates of as much as $1,000 for renewable energy projects.

Homeowners with 20 percent equity would qualify for loans. There are no income restrictions.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Census: California gains 2nd largest number of new residents

Census: California gains 2nd largest number of new residents

Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal

California was the second-largest gainer of residents between July 2008 and July 2009, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Texas gained more people than any other state (478,000), followed by California (381,000), North Carolina (134,000), Georgia (131,000) and Florida (114,000).

California remained the most populous state, with a July 1, 2009, population of 37 million. Rounding out the top five states were Texas (24.8 million), New York (19.5 million), Florida (18.5 million) and Illinois (12.9 million).

"This is the final set of Census Bureau state population estimates that will be published before the official 2010 Census population counts to be released next December," said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. "We are focused now on ensuring we get a complete and accurate count in 2010. The census counts will not only determine how many U.S. House seats each state will have but will also be used as the benchmark for future population estimates."

Wyoming showed the largest percentage growth: its population climbed 2.12 percent to 544,270. Utah was next largest, growing 2.10 percent to 2.8 million. Texas ranked third, as its population climbed 1.97 percent to 24.8 million, with Colorado next (1.81 percent to 5 million).

The only three states to lose population over the period were Michigan (-0.33 percent), Maine (-0.11 percent) and Rhode Island (-0.03 percent). The latter two states had small population changes.

Power plant plan remains in limbo in Fairfield

Power plant plan remains in limbo
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | December 22, 2009 16:40
FAIRFIELD - A proposal to build a power plant on Fairfield-owned land south of Solano Business Park remains alive, if stalled.

No solutions have yet been announced to several thorny issues after almost a year of work. Among them are the need for an associated switchyard several miles away from the power station, with Lynch Canyon open space park considered the ideal site.

The developer, DG Power, is still working on such issues, Fairfield Senior Economic Development Project Manager David White said.

See the complete story at

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Community colleges may offer bachelor's degrees

Community colleges may offer bachelor's degrees

By Matt Krupnick/Bay Area News Group
Updated: 12/22/2009 08:13:00 AM PST

With tens of thousands being turned away from state universities, California lawmakers likely will consider granting community colleges the right to offer a limited number of bachelor's degrees.

The shift, which has occurred in 17 other states in the past decade or so, would represent a major philosophical change in California, where the three state higher-education systems have clearly defined roles.

Solano Community College and Napa Valley College presidents said they need to study the proposal in greater depth before commenting, but added more funding would be needed to implement such a plan.

Solano Community College President Jowel Laguerre said it's not a new idea. "These movements often start when students cannot access the four-year institutions. It's getting more and more difficult for students to access the CSU and UC system," Laguerre added.

Napa Valley College Interim President Armond Phillips said it's questionable if community colleges can take on any more programs and still fulfill their mission.

Bachelor's and higher degrees are offered by University of California and California State University campuses; community colleges offer two-year associate degrees and certificates for a variety of professions.

However, major reforms must be considered in the age of severe budget problems, said Assemblyman Marty Block, D-San Diego, who raised the idea at a Dec. 7 hearing on the future of California's Master Plan for Higher Education.

Block said he

in considering community college baccalaureates after San Diego State recently closed admissions to local applicants.

"We have a lot of well-respected community colleges down in San Diego, and they think they could do a fine job offering those next two years to students, at least in certain disciplines," said Block, who is considering introducing a related bill early next year.

Florida has offered bachelor's degrees at community colleges since 2001, mostly to serve specific industries - such as nursing and teaching - and communities far from university campuses.

The four-year programs cost slightly more than the colleges' two-year programs, but are still significantly cheaper than university classes, said Kenneth Walker, president of Edison State College, which offers both two-year and four-year degrees.

State legislators agreed to the changes, in part, because Florida had a shortage of college-educated residents, said Walker, also president of the Community College Baccalaureate Association. California is facing a similar shortage, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

In California, such a proposal would face numerous obstacles, such as pricing and capacity. The 110-school community college system, with nearly 3 million students per year, already is overflowing, and its $26-per-unit fees likely would not be enough to pay for more advanced four-year programs.

Some experts warned that California should exhaust other options before expanding community colleges' mission, including opening more university branch campuses. Sarah Rohrs contributed to this report. Contact her at or (707) 553-6832

Private universities plugging the gaps in higher education in Solano County

Private universities plugging the gaps in higher education

The University of Phoenix building in Suisun City. (Courtesy photo)
As community colleges and public universities cope with the double whammy of state budget cuts and increased student demand, private institutions are stepping in to help fill the void, officials said.

University of Phoenix in Suisun City is one such institution which has seen as much as a 10 percent increase in community college students who are hoping to find classroom spots and required course work to complete their degrees.

"We're seeing about a 10 percent increase in people coming back because they couldn't get classes they needed in community colleges," said Bob Eoff, University of Phoenix vice president for Northern California.

"A lot of times (students) are looking to transfer, but some are just not having the luck of getting into state schools," Eoff said.

University of Phoenix officials are working on a strategic plan with nearby Solano Community College to assure its students have good access to the school, said Jo Hoffmeier, University of Phoenix vice president of community relations and product safety.

University of Phoenix has an extensive network of campuses nationwide. Students at the Suisun campus take a myriad of business programs, counseling, human resources and other programs, Hoffmeier said. They can obtain bachelor of arts, master of arts, and doctorate degrees.

The local University of Phoenix campus is also working to improve its alliances with California State University campuses and University of California at Berkeley to assure access to as many students as possible, Hoffmeier said.

As the recession continues, more laid-off workers are flocking to community colleges for retraining and to learn new job skills, officials said.

This past semester, Solano Community College saw a 3.5 percent enrollment increase, but is also faced with at least a $1.5 million budget shortfall, spokesman Ross Beck said.

Napa Valley College saw a 13.8 percent increase in students but had to cut 5 percent of its credit classes and 25 percent of its non-credit courses because of state funding reductions, a school official said.

More students are checking out a range of private institutions, said Jerry Slavonia, chief executive officer for Campus Explorer, a higher education watchdog group and online service provider.

Besides University of Phoenix, other private schools, such as Kaplan University, art institutes and similar institutions are also seeing huge jumps in enrollment, Slavonia said.

"In the past, people have really counted on the community college system to provide an affordable way to go to college. Right now most community colleges are over-crowded and turning students away," Slavonia said.

While private colleges can cost twice as much as public ones, Slavonia said students can find ways to help pay for their education. He encouraged them to check out grants and scholarships only available at private schools.

"If you get accepted, sit down with admissions reps and talk about ways to reduce tuition. If they need you at that school, they are going to help you," he advised students.

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

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Travis unit readying bases for U.S. surge in Afghanistan

Travis unit readying bases for U.S. surge in Afghanistan

As more U.S. troops prepare for deployment to Afghanistan following President Barack Obama's decision to build up forces there, many Americans will be watching the efforts of the nation's front-line warriors. But long before those troops take their first steps in that arid, rugged nation, a little-known but critically important unit based at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield will already be there. Its job: to make sure the Air Force's massive fleet of transport aircraft has safe places to take off and land in areas known as forward operating bases. The men and women of the 615th Contingency Response Wing head to remote areas around the globe – sometimes just hours after those areas have been taken from enemy hands – and quickly construct military airports that can accommodate cargo aircraft such as the hulking C-5 Galaxy, the newer C-17 Globemaster III and the venerable C-130 Hercules. And when the unit isn't preparing or refurbishing airstrips for military purposes, its members help with humanitarian relief efforts or head to areas hit by natural disasters around the world…. The entire wing – one of only two in the Air Force – consists of 650 people, but 113 specialists in a first "ready group" stay packed and prepared around the clock so they can be airborne in 12 hours or less after getting an assignment…. The key to the unit's being able to move so quickly lies in its preparation, he said. A giant warehouse not far from the main runway at Travis Air Force Base houses hundreds of pallets packed with the gear needed to open and operate an airport where no electricity, food or running water is available. The pallets are designed to slide into the cargo bay of one of the base's transport planes, crewed by another unit. The flight to Afghanistan from Travis – assisted by mid-flight air-to-air refueling – takes about 20 hours. Once on the ground in a war zone, the unit faces the daunting task of working in an environment where being harassed by the enemy can be fairly common…. Given the president's plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, Lipinski said the wing is likely to get a lot of work in the days and weeks ahead. "We do expect 2010 to be busy,"….

Property values in Solano County have declined significantly during the past few years.

Taxpayer delight is public dismay

…. Property values in Solano County have declined significantly during the past few years. Since January 2007, on a proactive basis, I have temporarily reduced the assessed value of more than 57,000 properties throughout the county. Most of those reductions were made on single-family homes. To a lesser degree, commercial and industrial properties also saw reductions in assessed value. Next year, I anticipate making further reductions on all types of property. Reductions to assessed value are made in accordance with law and based on market activity. In 1978, the California voters passed two constitutional amendments: Proposition 13, which limited the property tax rate to 1 percent of assessed value and limited future property tax increases to no more than 2 percent annually, as shown in the Consumer Price Index (CPI); and, Proposition 8, which allows a temporary reduction in assessed value when real property suffers a decline in value. Proposition 8 is the basis for current and anticipated reductions to assessed values in Solano County. Proposition 8 reductions are a double-edged sword because reductions in assessed value result in reductions in property taxes collected. A reduction in value means lower property taxes, a positive result for the homeowner. However for the counties, cities, schools and special districts that depend on property taxes as a primary source of revenue, a reduction in value has a negative effect, because those agencies must find other ways to provide services with fewer tax dollars…. There are two statewide issues that will impact Solano County. According to a recent press release from the state Board of Equalization, most California homeowners will see a slight decline in their property tax bills based on preliminary estimates of a negative CPI of approximately one quarter of 1 percent. This means owners whose property was not reduced under Proposition 8 may see a reduction under Proposition 13. In another report, the Equalization Board indicated that, on a statewide basis, the total value of state-assessed and county-assessed property declined by 2.4 percent from the previous year. This is the first year-to-year decline in statewide total since the board began keeping records in 1933, according to the report. In that report Solano County's decline was negative 9.7 percent….

Friday, December 18, 2009

G&J Seiberlich & Co LLP will merge with the accounting firm Chandler & Associates, LLP in Vacaville Jan. 1.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Napa’s Seiberlich accounting firm merges with Vacaville firm

G&J Seiberlich & Co LLP will merge with the accounting firm Chandler & Associates, LLP in Vacaville Jan. 1.

G&J Seiberlich & Co LLP has served the North Bay area for more than 60 years and the firm of Chandler & Associates, LLP has served the Solano County area for about 30 years.

G&J Seiberlich & Co LLP looks forward to establishing a presence in Solano County with this merger and is committed to continuing the tradition of providing the highest level of qualify services to their clients as well as the clients of Chandler & Associates, LLP, officials there said.

Napa Valley Register Copyright © 2009

Solano housing prices still the lowest in the SF Bay area

Bay Area home sales, price up a bit in November

Carolyn Said, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Bay Area real estate market showed continued signs of stability in November, according to a real estate report released on Thursday. Both the median price and the number of homes sold were higher than a year ago - albeit a time when the wrenching financial crisis had paralyzed much activity.

Contractor Jeff Horwitz (left) meets with Janelle and Eri... Liz Hafalia / The Chronicle

Contractor Jeff Horwitz (left) meets with Janelle and Eric Boyenga in the home they plan to flip.

Photo: Liz Hafalia / The Chronicle

 Janelle and Eric Boyenga check work being done on the ext... Liz Hafalia / The Chronicleanelle and Eric Boyenga check work being done on the exterior of the house they plan to flip.

Photo: Liz Hafalia / The Chronicle

A total of 4,901 existing homes changed hands in the nine-county area in November, up 15.5 percent from a year ago. The median price was $405,000, a 15.7 percent increase from last November.

"Things are closer to normal now, but it's easy to beat the numbers" from November 2008, said Andrew LePage, an analyst with MDA DataQuick, the San Diego research firm that released the report. "That was a very different market ... a grim period where the high end was comatose, and what sold and sold fast was heavily discounted foreclosures, usually inland."

By contrast, this November's sales showed a smaller proportion of foreclosures and more strength in higher-cost areas, both of which buoyed the median price. A greater proportion of high-cost sales raises the median price.

Foreclosure resale’s accounted for 32.5 percent of existing-home sales in November, compared with 46.8 percent a year ago. Sales in the higher-cost counties of Marin, San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo accounted for 42.3 percent of November's total, up from 35 percent a year ago.

The number of foreclosures in the market has fallen as many troubled borrowers are in extended negotiations seeking to reduce their mortgage payments. But most lenders have been slow to offer permanent loan modifications. Experts think that the lengthy pipeline of struggling homeowners eventually could lead to a fresh surge of foreclosures, which would destabilize the market.

Government stimulus - including a homebuyer's tax credit that expires April 30 and Federal Reserve action to keep interest rates low - continue to be potent forces. Without the government intervention, the market could easily lose its equilibrium, experts said.

Lured by bargain foreclosures, real estate investors have become a larger presence than in the past. Absentee buyers account for 15.7 percent of November's Bay Area sales, and buyers paying all cash purchased 22.4 percent of the homes that sold. Banks selling foreclosures prefer all-cash buyers because purchases close quickly and easily.

"There's still some of that gold-rush mentality among investors," LePage said. Competition among investors may have helped fuel modest price increases in areas where inventory was tight, he said.

Janelle and Eric Boyenga, who are both real estate agents with Intero Real Estate in Los Gatos, are among the investors who see a market opportunity. Along with a partner, the couple bought a foreclosed home in San Jose's Willow Glen neighborhood for $525,000 in late October. They plan to spend three months and a little over $150,000 fixing up the four-bedroom home, then hope to sell it for about $900,000 in January.

Paying all cash and accepting the house in as-is condition helped them compete with several other offers, they said.

They chose Willow Glen because it's a tight-knit family neighborhood that is relatively upscale for San Jose; had some foreclosures but not a tremendous number; and has homes at a range of prices. They plan to rehab the 1950s house to make it like new, redesigning the floor plan and landscaping.

"When people see a home that (needs a lot of work), they don't want to pay a lot of money, but when it's perfect ... people are willing to pay a premium," Janelle said.

Tight inventory should help spur demand for the house, they said. Santa Clara County's inventory is the lowest they've seen since 2005, with fewer than 2,000 homes for sale, less than half the normal amount.

E-mail Carolyn Said at

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state added 353,000 residents from July 2008 to July 2009, bringing California's total population to nearly 38.5 million people

California's population growth near record low

Associated Press

Thursday, December 17, 2009

California's population grew less than 1 percent in 2009, one of the lowest rates on record, according to new state demographic figures released Thursday.

The state Department of Finance found the state added 353,000 residents from July 2008 to July 2009, bringing California's total population to nearly 38.5 million people.

The only time the state has seen a slower growth rate was in the years from 1994 to 1996.

Read more:

Solano Transportation Authority (STA) releases transportation 'dream list'

STA releases transportation 'dream list'

By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | December 17, 2009 16:27

FAIRFIELD - Everything from building a
Red Top Road
park-and-ride lot in Fairfield to the ambitious idea of extending BART to Vallejo is on Solano County's proposed 25-year transportation list.

The Solano Transportation Authority board has released the massive list for public comment and could vote on it in February 2010. Projects on the list will stand a chance of getting various federal, state and regional funds.

At some point, the STA will prioritize the dozens of projects submitted by the county and its seven cities. But not yet.

'This is the big dreaming list,' STA Director of Planning Robert Macaulay said.

Light rail might be the biggest dream. Extending BART to the area would be hugely expensive and involve crossing the Carquinez Strait, perhaps using the Benicia or Carquinez bridge spans. Extending the Sacramento light rail system to the county along the Yolo Causeway would also come with a big price tag.
See the complete story at

Eight UC Davis faculty members are among 531 new fellows elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science

University of California, Davis

December 17, 2009


Eight UC Davis faculty members are among 531 new fellows elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science this year for their efforts to advance science or its applications. The new fellows will be presented with a certificate and rosette pin on Saturday, Feb. 20, during the society's annual meeting in San Diego.

Here are the new AAAS fellows from UC Davis:

Professor David G. Amaral holds the Beneto Foundation Chair in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the UC Davis School of Medicine and at the Center for Neuroscience. Amaral was selected for his contributions to the neuroscience of memory, emotion and behavior, and for his leadership in translating neuroscience and advancing understanding and treatment for autism spectrum disorders.

His research deals with the neurobiology of primate social behavior, the development and neuroanatomical organization of the primate and human amygdala, and hippocampal formation. He also has carried out a longstanding program designed to understand the organization of brain regions involved in memory. His research now also includes postmortem studies of the autistic brain, magnetic resonance imaging studies of children with autism spectrum disorders, and developing models of autism in nonhuman primates. As research director at the UC Davis MIND Institute, he leads a comprehensive and multidisciplinary analysis of children with autism called the Autism Phenome Project, which seeks to define biomedical characteristics of different types of autism.

Peggy Farnham, professor of pharmacology and associate director of the UC Davis Genome Center, was elected for "distinguished contributions to the field of biology, particularly for genome-wide characterization of transcription factor binding sites and chromatin modifications." Farnham's laboratory searches for the control points in the genome -- short pieces of DNA that are responsible for activating or switching off other genes. Sometimes those switches are located close to the gene they control, and sometimes far away.

Farnham is taking part in a large collaboration funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute to map such functional sites in the genome. The collaboration is known as the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, or ENCODE.

Professor Katherine Ferrara oversaw the establishment of the UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering as its founding chair. The department has grown from six faculty in July 2001 to 24 today, with major strengths in biomedical imaging, bioinformatics, cellular and molecular systems and musculoskeletal biomechanics. Ferrara's own research is in the application of imaging techniques in medicine. As well as pushing the boundaries of imaging, her laboratory is developing ways to use ultrasound and radiofrequency energy to steer doses of drugs contained in nanocapsules to specific sites in the body, for example to a tumor, and then release them in a precise fashion.

Richard Karban, professor in the Department of Entomology and in the UC Davis Center for Population Biology, studies population regulation of animal species and the interactions between plant-eating insects and the plants on which they depend. His current research focuses on how sagebrush emits volatile chemicals when some of its branches are damaged. These chemical cues cause many changes in neighboring plants, some of which make the nearby undamaged plants better able to defend themselves against their plant-munching enemies. Karban also has been monitoring populations of wooly bear caterpillars at Bodega Bay, north of San Francisco, for 25 years, and is working to better understand the factors that impact the abundance and distribution of the caterpillars in that area. He teaches courses in field and community ecology.

Professor of chemistry Susan Kauzlarich is interested in problems that overlap physics, chemistry, biochemistry and engineering, with an emphasis on designing and making new compounds. Since 1992, her laboratory has worked on nanomaterials, compounds with crystal structure at a very small scale that may have properties different from those of bulk materials. Kauzlarich's citation highlighted her discovery of unprecedented magnetic behavior in Zintl-type compounds, a group of chemical compounds named after German chemist Eduard Zintl, some of which are semiconductors. Kauzlarich was also honored for her leading role in mentoring young scientists, especially from underrepresented backgrounds. In 1988, with geology professor Peter Schiffmann, she established Project SEED on the UC Davis campus. The SEED program enables high-achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds to spend a summer doing hands-on research on a university campus, and get on a track to college. Kauzlarich also regularly has undergraduate students and high school students working in her lab.

Jay Rosenheim, professor of entomology and a member of the UC Davis Center for Population Biology, seeks to better understand interactions between insects and plants, predators and their prey, as well as parasites and the plants on which they feed. His current studies include research on how organisms evolve to maximize their reproduction despite limiting environmental factors. He also is studying how the vast biological data now available can be tapped to address important problems in agricultural insect ecology. His third area of research aims to develop a sound understanding of how communities of insects, spiders, crustaceans and other arthropods function, with a special emphasis on the role of predators in those communities. He teaches courses on introductory biology and population biology.

John R. Roth, distinguished professor in the Department of Microbiology, was honored for "important and fundamental contributions to the understanding of bacterial genetics and metabolism." Roth's laboratory uses Salmonella bacteria as a model to explore the basic genetics and biochemistry of all bacteria, including how bacteria evolve and adapt to their environment. Roth is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Professor Valerie Williamson, Department of Nematology, is an expert on nematodes, or roundworms, which are found in virtually every environment on earth. She also is an authority on the molecular and genetic basis of pest-resistance in crop plants. Her current research is focused on root-knot nematodes, a group of parasitic nematodes that live in the soil and cause plants to form galls or giant cells on their roots, resulting in significant crop damage. In 2008, Williamson and a team of researchers completed the genome sequence and genetic map for the tiny northern root-knot nematode, one of the world's most common and destructive plant parasites and a model species for research on plant-parasitic nematodes. She teaches courses on molecular biology laboratory techniques and on agricultural biotechnology.

The AAAS, founded in 1848, is the world's largest general scientific society. Its mission is to "advance science and serve society"

through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, and more.

About UC Davis

For more than 100 years, UC Davis has engaged in teaching, research and public service that matter to California and transform the world.

Located close to the state capital, UC Davis has 32,000 students, an annual research budget that exceeds $600 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and more than 100 undergraduate majors in four colleges -- Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Letters and Science. It also houses six professional schools -- Education, Law, Management, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.

Media contact(s):

* Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-4533,


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


Need information from campus news archives? The UC Davis News Service database contains past (and current) UC Davis news stories dating to 1991. Go to <>.


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UC Davis News Service

One Shields Avenue

Davis, California 95616-8687

Phone: (530) 752-1930; Fax: (530) 752-4068

Thursday, December 17, 2009

City to add signs promoting Suisun as a destination

City to add signs promoting Suisun as a destination
By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | December 15, 2009

SUISUN CITY - Proposals to put up electronic reader boards and murals to get more Highway 12 motorists to stop in Suisun City's downtown got positive reviews Tuesday night from the City Council.

'We need signs that catch people's attention,' said Mayor Pete Sanchez.

Better signs, he said, is an idea long past due for the town.

An ad hoc committee came up with a half dozen ideas that council members told Redevelopment Agency Director Jason Garben to move forward with.

The reader board, which would advertise city-sponsored waterfront events, and signs next to the train station announcing the waterfront district topped the list.

The committee also suggested murals on buildings facing Highway 12 and adding a second large sign to the water tank near Highway 12 and Marina Boulevard on the side facing the railroad tracks.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Initial review begins on Montezuma Hills turbine project

Initial review begins on Montezuma Hills turbine project
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | December 16, 2009

Windsmiths Anthony Perales and Mike Seaverson check the wind speed and direction sensors at the top of a wind turbine in the Shiloh II wind project near Rio Vista. Photo by Chris Jordan

FAIRFIELD - Travis Air Force Base radar coverage and Rio Vista Airport flight approach safety are among the concerns being generated by a proposal to add more wind turbines to the Montezuma Hills.

EnXco wants to build its Shiloh III project, which would construct 60 to 80 electricity-generating turbines standing up to 450 feet in height with the blade pointing up. The turbines would be on 4,600 acres and would be about a mile away from some parts of Rio Vista.

The proposed project comes at a time when the Sacramento Municipal Utility District is also trying to add up to 75 turbines in the windswept hills. About 850 turbines are already located there.

Solano County is starting an environmental impact study for Shiloh III, with a draft version possibly being released in the spring. As a first step, the county had a hearing Wednesday to gather concerns from the public that can be addressed in the report.

The Travis Air Force Base radar issue already has a high prominence. Base officials since late 2006 have said the spinning wind turbine blades can cause small civilian planes to drop off the radar. Various wind turbine companies, including EnXco, are working with Travis to try to resolve the issue.

Dick Timmons of EnXco said he expects the radar problems will be resolved by the time the environmental impact report comes out.

'We know that's a critical issue,' he said.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Tom Hanks will dine, speak at SCT fundraiser

Tom Hanks will dine, speak at SCT fundraiser
By Richard Bammer/
Posted: 12/17/2009

Two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks will appear Feb. 6 at Solano Community College in Fairfield. (Courtesy)

Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks will make a one-night only fundraising appearance Feb. 6 at Solano Community College in Fairfield.

The appearance by the star of such films as "Philadelphia," "Forrest Gump" and "Saving Private Ryan" will include a dinner with guests and a presentation later on Solano College Theatre's main stage, 4000 Suisun Valley Road.

Tickets for the dinner, which begins at 4:30 p.m. in the school's dining hall, are $100; tickets for the presentation, which features clips from Hanks' films, including a new project to be released on HBO in March, and a question-and-answer session, are also $100.

Tickets for the dinner and presentation go on sale to the public at noon Jan. 14. SCT subscribers can buy tickets beginning Jan. 7. Call the SCT box office, 720 Main St., Suisun City, telephone 864-7100 for more information.

Box office hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays.

Proceeds from the event will support the Tom Hanks/Rita Wilson Endowment Fund, which was established by the actor-director and his wife earlier this year.

In a press release, theater spokeswoman Amy Lenahan said the fund is "a living legacy from Mr. Hanks and honors students as well as his long friendship with SCT Artistic Director George Maguire." The endowment will support the programs and students in the school's Theatre Arts department, she added.

"He's doing it as a favor to the students," Maguire said Wednesday during a telephone interview from New York City, where he was vacationing. "He suggested this when he sent the endowment, saying, 'How about if I make a special appearance?' It's all about that."

Maguire, 63, met Hanks at the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Cleveland, Ohio, 32 years ago when the young actor was an intern and then became a resident player. The two have maintained a close friendship ever since.

Noting that Hanks, 53 and a native of Concord, has long been a strong supporter of the arts and arts education, Maguire said, "The fact that he is coming is a real testament to our friendship, but the thing to emphasize is how horrible the (state's) cuts are. Most people have no idea how bad it is in the state of California." He alluded to cutbacks in the school's theater program, which, in recent years, has resulted in a 50 percent reduction of stage offerings, from nearly 10 productions per year to five. The dinner will feature entertainment by former and current SCT Actor Training Program students as well as a catered dinner and wine from Green Valley Cellars of Suisun Valley.

After the dinner, Hanks will speak at the main campus theater at 7 p.m., to give a first-person account of nonfiction film entertainment, using clips from his movies and from other documentaries. The presentation also will include a preview of Hanks' "The Pacific," his newest project, a 10-part HBO miniseries executive-produced by Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Gary Goetzman. The miniseries is set in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

Sponsors of the Hanks fundraiser include Advocates for the Arts, NorthBay Healthcare and Copart.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


University of California, Davis
December 16, 2009
The apartment vacancy rate in the city of Davis increased fourfold since last fall to 3.2 percent, while rental rates rose by an average of 1.05 percent, according to a survey by the University of California, Davis.

The UC Davis Office of Student Housing conducts the annual vacancy and rental-rate survey, now in its 34th year, to provide the campus and the Davis community with information for future planning.

Last year, the apartment vacancy rate was 0.8 percent, and the average rental-rate increase was 4.36 percent.

Economists and urban planners consider a vacancy rate of 5 percent to be the ideal balance between the interests of landlord and tenant.

During the last 10 years, the vacancy rate has varied from as low as 0.2 percent in 2002 to as high as 4.2 percent in 2005.

"The changes in the vacancy rate and the rental rate this year confirm that a better balance produces a benefit for our students as they seek housing in the Davis community," said Emily Galindo, director of Student Housing.

According to the UC Davis survey, the average monthly rent this year for unfurnished two-bedroom apartments -- the most abundant type of apartment unit, accounting for 45 percent of units in the survey -- rose by $1, from $1,225 to $1,226.

The student housing office surveyed 187 apartment complexes with five or more rental units in October and November; 166 complexes responded. Out of a total of 8,720 units reported, 278 were vacant.
The 21 complexes that did not respond to the survey have a total of approximately 245 units.

Rental rates

Among 12 types of rental units included in the survey, the highest average monthly rent increase was 28.81 percent for 23 furnished studio apartments (from $611 to $787).

Only one type of rental unit -- one-bedroom furnished units -- saw a rent decrease. Average rent fell from $847 to $746, or 11.92 percent, for the nine one-bedroom furnished units reported in the survey.

The overall average increase in the rental rate is calculated by considering the percentage change for each type of rental unit and the proportion of each type of rental unit among the entire rental inventory.

The survey excludes those apartments that require an income-eligibility test to qualify low-income residents for reduced rent, because students typically are not eligible for these units.

Campus housing.

Total enrollment for fall 2009 is a record-setting 32,153, up 2.3 percent from last year's 31,426. Not all students attend classes on the Davis campus itself, and enrollment averaged over the three academic quarters is typically lower than fall enrollment.

UC Davis has about 4,520 students living in residence halls, and an additional 1,155 students living in privately managed housing on campus, such as Russell Park for student families.

Construction for new student residence halls, adjacent to the Tercero South complex at Dairy and La Rue roads, is expected to be completed by fall 2010. Three four-story buildings will add a total of 600 beds.
Construction is also under way on the West Village mixed-use community that, at full build out, will provide housing for an estimated 4,350 people: 475 new homes for UC Davis faculty and staff and housing for 3,000 students. West Village Community Partnership, the developer, has broken ground on the first 130-acre phase and plans to have the village square and apartments for 600 students ready for occupancy in fall 2011.

Help for the housing search

To help students in their search for housing for the next academic year, Student Housing offers workshops in the residence halls beginning in late January. The sessions offer information on the local rental scene, provide search tips and address topics from budgeting to leases.

The Associated Students of UC Davis will host its annual Housing Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21, in Freeborn Hall.

Students will have the opportunity to meet with representatives from local apartment complexes and to gather other information and tips for renting apartments.

About UC Davis

For more than 100 years, UC Davis has engaged in teaching, research and public service that matter to California and transform the world.

Located close to the state capital, UC Davis has 32,000 students, an annual research budget that exceeds $600 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and more than 100 undergraduate majors in four colleges -- Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Letters and Science. It also houses six professional schools -- Education, Law, Management, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.

To receive a copy of the survey, please e-mail through Dec. 16 and after Dec. 16.

Media contact(s):
* Emily Galindo, Student Housing, (530) 752-2034,
* Julia Ann Easley, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-8248,, through Dec. 16
* Claudia Morain, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-9841,, after Dec. 16