Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Commercial investors snapping up prime property in Easy Bay

Commercial investors snapping up prime property

By George Avalos
Contra Costa Times

Posted: 06/28/2010 03:57:29 PM PDT

Updated: 06/29/2010 08:04:37 AM PDT

Some retail sites in the East Bay, many of them long empty, are starting to entice buyers and tenants - but the price has to be right.

Buyers have snapped up retail properties in Pleasant Hill, Fairfield, Dublin and several other sites in the Bay Area recently.

Among the latest deals: A partnership controlled by Westfield Group bought an 88,000-square-foot building in Fairfield that had been occupied by Mervyn's and which is located next to the Westfield-owned Solano Shopping Mall. The Fairfield purchase closed June 23. Terms weren't disclosed.

A group led by Retail Opportunity Investments Corp. bought a 71,000-square-foot retail center in Pleasant Hill for $13.7 million. The center on Buskirk Avenue between Mahew Way and Coggins Drive is anchored by Office Depot and Basset Furniture. A Best Buy anchor store owned by a different group serves as another major store for the center.

The common theme in a number of the deals: In a lousy economy, buyers believe they are getting a great price for many retail properties.

"We were able to buy this at 60 percent of the replacement cost," Richard Schoebel, chief operating officer with Retail Opportunity, said of the Pleasant Hill site. "We also saw that it was a good location, a space that could be leased up and increase our return on investment."

A number of the sites that are being bought are deemed to have excellent locations, brokers said.

"Everybody is looking for a good deal," said Scott Kinsey, a broker whose specializes with property sales at Colliers International. "A lot of these retail sites fit the mold of the best of the best, Class A properties."

In other cases, investors were certain that they would be able to reduce their risks in a building purchase. Westfield, for example, bought a building that was next to its bustling regional mall in Fairfield.

What's more, before the purchase, Westfield also knew that Forever 21 would be renting 44,000 square feet in the two-story, 88,000-square-foot building that the Westfield-led Solano Mall Boxes LLC group bought.

Negotiations are under way already with another retailer to occupy the remaining 44,000 square feet on the first floor of the former Mervyn's store.

"We see this as a great opportunity for Fairfield," said Karl Dumas, an economic development official with the city of Fairfield. "This is the first Forever 21 store in the area. They should do very well at their new location."

Kohl's, Burlington Coat Factory and Forever 21 have all been aggressively taking over long-empty retail buildings in the Bay Area. Many of them were one-time Mervyn's stores.

Some former auto dealership sites are being snapped up by investors.

"I just had an auction for a former Vacaville Ford dealership, and we had 15 bidders show up," said Ray Devlin, a vice president with Grubb & Ellis, a commercial realty brokerage. "People are willing to spend money if they see good value."

The buyer of the ex-dealership property is a local investor who will focus on getting the empty retail building leased up.. .

The rising activity heartened brokers.

"Maybe this is an indication that things are bottoming out," Devlin said.

Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477.

Monday, June 28, 2010

PG&E completes first solar plant on 500MW program

PG&E completes first solar plant on 500MW program
Published: 11 hours ago By James Cartledge Send to a colleague | Print

The 2MW Vaca-Dixon facility
California utility PG&E has celebrated the completion of its two-megawatt Vaca-Dixon Solar Station, the flagship project of a new solar program aiming to develop 500MW of new generating capacity.
The new solar plant is the first to be developed under the five-year program, in which independent project developers will provide half of the new solar capacity.

The program will see new solar plants developed under 20MW in size, which the utility said would require less time to plan and build than larger solar projects.

Once complete, the new solar capacity should provide enough clean power to meet the needs of around 150,000 average homes.

The Vaca-Dixon Solar Station, named for a nearby electricity substation, spreads across 16 acres and took four months to build.

“I applaud PG&E for its commitment to making a direct investment in clean, renewable solar energy generation that will help reduce our dependence on oil,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “This project will help us meet our long-term energy goals while creating jobs and keeping California on the leading edge of this booming industry.”

PG&E President Chris Johns said the project will kick start the utility’s program of developing many more solar projects in Northern and Central California.

“PG&E proposed this program in an effort to supply our customers with more renewable energy on a faster timetable,” said Mr Johns. “The success of the Vaca-Dixon Solar Station pilot project has provided PG&E with the tools and know-how to develop similar facilities in our service area and the ability to turn our clean energy vision into reality.”

The new plant was built by Solon Corporation, the US-based subsidiary of Germany’s Solon SE.

Solon worked with local company ALB, Inc., to prepare the site, while another California firm, Silverwood Energy, built the facility.

San Francisco-based PG&E is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States, delivering energy to 15 million people in Northern and Central California.

Solano EDC session focuses on Delta issues

By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | June 27, 2010 22:08

The sun sets on the Suisun Marsh in Solano County. An event on Wednesday will allow members of the public to voice their concerns over recently enacted legislation affecting the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Photo by File

FAIRFIELD - The local business community will have the chance to voice concerns or support for recently enacted Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta legislation when state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, speaks at an event Wednesday in Fairfield.

On June 3, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill written by Wolk that will extend a cost-sharing program that helps many local levee agencies afford necessary maintenance and improvements to levees in the Delta.

There are many business interests in Solano County -- particularly in the area of farming -- that have stakes in the future of the Delta, said Mike Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corp. He said part of the goal of the event is to offer insight into how future Delta legislation, such as a proposed peripheral canal, will play out.

'You have these large legislative initiatives and you sometimes get unintended consequences,' he said. 'We just want to throw it in front of our membership . . . and see what happens.'

The event is scheduled for 8 a.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn. Attendance costs
$25 for EDC members and $35 for nonmembers.

For more information, call 864-1855.

Marketing workshops

The Solano College Small Business Development Center will offer three sessions in the coming days.

'Maximize Your Marketing' costs $30 and will take place from 1 to 3:30 p.m.
Tuesday at 427 York St. in Vallejo. 'Best Practices in E-mail Marketing'
costs $25 and will take place from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday at 111 Webster St. in Fairfield. 'Getting Started with Constant Contact' costs $25 and will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday in Fairfield.

For more information or to register, call 864-3382.

New life looms on horizon for Circuit City site

Reach Ben Antonius at 427-6977 or bantonius@dailyrepublic.net.

FAIRFIELD - A go-cart race track could fill the spot of departed retailer Circuit City, under a new plan.

Driven Raceway, which already operates one track in Rohnert Park in Sonoma County, has received initial permits to convert the former electronics store, which closed in 2008. Current plans call for construction to start in early July and take about three months, leaving a grand opening somewhere in 'late fall, early winter,' Chief Executive Matt Stearn said...

Driven Raceway uses carts with electric motors on an indoor track. Stearn said closed retail stores seem to work well -- their Rohnert Park track replaced a Linens 'n Things store -- because they provide large indoor spaces and are typically located in areas that already have commercial traffic.

Company officials hope to install private rooms for birthday parties and corporate events, said Chief Operating Officer Rod Towery. It will also have a snack bar, albeit one that is scaled-down from what they currently operate. The Circuit City site is slightly smaller than their existing facility, and the Gateway Plaza shopping center is also rich with eating establishments...

The interest is a sign that the economy is recovering, Economic Development Director Curt Johnston said during an early June interview. He said he believes it has taken as long as it has because companies interested in expanding during a recession concentrated on larger markets first.

'We are a smaller market and the companies that have been occupying space are first responding to the opportunities in the larger markets,' he said.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Vallejo's ferry station project key to recovery

Vallejo's ferry station project key to recovery

By Jessica A. York / Times-Herald

Posted: 06/22/2010 07:50:26 AM PDT.

Local, regional and federal officials gathered to break ground on the Vallejo Station Project's ferry parking structure.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, described the Vallejo Station as part of a nationwide effort to drive economic growth, green development and commuter cost savings.

"This has been a project of note for some years, but it was really about a vision for this city, to tie this city back to its strength, which is the historical waterfront of this area," Miller told a construction-site gathering of about 75.

The $74 million-Vallejo Station will be a hub for various modes of transportation, ferry, bus, automobile and bicycles. Monday's focus was the parking facility, plus a bus transfer station, transportation offices and a pedestrian throughway.

The two-part multi-story parking facility is expected to open up a cumulative 7 acres of waterfront property for development. It has so far been funded by public funds and private investments, including a $1 million city contribution.

Monday's ceremony marked the start of two years of construction on the parking facility's first stage, a 700-space parking garage and pedestrian walkway to connect an under-construction bus facility on one side and the ferry on the other. Some 200 union jobs are expected to be created by the first phase. The second phase, including a second garage tower, still needs
$9 million more in public funding. . . 

More information on Vallejo Station is available online at www.vallejo station.com, or by calling Allan Panganiban, city senior civil engineer, at
(707) 648-4686.

Contact staff writer Jessica A. York at (707) 553-6834 or jyork@timesheraldonline.com.

At a glance Vallejo Station parking structure:

. Two-part project consolidates ferry parking spread along the waterfront

. 700 parking space-garage, plus another 250 on the ground in Phase 1

. Phase 2 will provide a total of 1,200 total parking spaces

. Total parking project cost: $74 million

. First union construction contract for city

. Will free 11 acres of ground, and provide development space atop the Phase
2 garage.

WinCo Foods eyes Vallejo Elks Lodge site for new grocery store

WinCo Foods eyes Vallejo Elks Lodge site for new grocery store

But WinCo faces a tight time-frame

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen / Times-Herald

Posted: 06/22/2010 01:01:03 AM PDT

If some folks had their druthers, Vallejo's Elks Lodge would move to Amador and Florida streets and a new WinCo Foods store would be built on the Redwood Parkway site where the Elks Lodge now stands.

The subject of a possible WinCo Foods store on the site comes before the City Council tonight.

But there are some obstacles to that scenario -- not the least of which may be time, said Fred Sessler, the Elks Lodge's Realtor.

An environmental report must be completed on the 50-year-old Elks Lodge property before the project can go forward, Associate City Planner Bill Tuikka said. The property has been up for sale for at least 18 months.

"I think it's prudent for us to look at the traffic impact, before we can get started," Tuikka said. "But, I think Vallejo will like a WinCo. I think it will be a hit."

WinCo is a 40-year-old, employee-owned discount supermarket warehouse store, according to its website. It ranked 226th on Forbes Magazine's List of 500 largest privately held companies in 1998 and, in 2009, climbed to 92nd on the list, the site notes.

There are 71 WinCo stores in six Western states, with more than 13,000 employees, according to the site.

There are 30 stores statewide; the nearest one in Vacaville.

But it's coming to Vallejo is contingent on the outcome of the environmental review, Tuikka said. Public hearings and a use permit for off-site liquor sales also would be needed.

Jeff Kael of San Francisco-based Newman Development Group, LLC said his firm "is assisting the applicant," Redwood Parkway Partners, LLC, through the process. Redwood Parkway Partners is the developer hoping to build the WinCo.

Akel declined further comment, saying "We're still doing our initial investigation."

Redwood Parkway Partners would pay for the environmental impact review, according to a city report.

The process could take until February, Tuikka said.

But that may be too late for the Elks' to buy the former supermarket at Amador and Florida streets, in which the group is interested, Sessler said.

"I think the timing doesn't work in the Elks' favor because the EIR will take at least 35 weeks and by then the property will either be sold or foreclosed on," Sessler said. "It's in default and the owner applied for bankruptcy protection, and that must be done before the lender can take the property back."

Offers have come in on the old supermarket property and the bankruptcy judge must decide whether to accept any of those, Sessler said. The Vallejo Elks Lodge hasn't made an offer on the property, he said.

"They can't do anything until the WinCo matter is resolved," Sessler said.

The Vallejo Lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was established in 1900, and members have said they're determined to maintain a presence in town. Lodge members continue looking for alternative sites, Sessler said.

A story last August noted the group's shrinking membership prompted the effort to sell the Redwood Parkway property and downsize. The asking price was said then to be about $6 million.

Contact staff writer Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824 or rzrihen@timesheraldonline.com.

Solano County seeks ideas on whether to sell surplus property

County seeks ideas on whether to sell surplus property

By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | June 21, 2010 12:02

ejo%20copy.jpgSolano County supervisors will be looking into options for 14 properties, including the Vallejo Veterans Memorial Hall in Vallejo. Photo by Adam Smith

FAIRFIELD - Solano County has some buildings and land it just may be willing to sell so it can get rid of surplus property.

Buildings such as the old Dixon Veterans Hall are definitely fixer-uppers.
This structure dates back to the 1920s and needs about $2 million in work to overcome deterioration due to such problems as a leaky roof.

In several cases, the properties are vacant lots.

Solano County supervisors on Tuesday will decide whether to do a market survey to see if there are any opportunities to lease, sell, redevelop or exchange 14 surplus properties. They meet at 9 a.m. at the Government Center, 675 Texas St.

'With the current state of the economy and real estate market, there may be little or no interest in the properties due to their location and condition, the availability of financing and/or physical and restrictive limitations,'
it said.

One property is a grand, historic building -- the vacant Vallejo Veterans Memorial Hall at 444 Alabama St. in Vallejo. Dedicated in 1930, it has a classical facade that makes it look like a monument. This impressive outside is wrapped around an inside that has seen extreme deterioration...

Solano County acquired six of the 14 properties in 1977 because the former owners didn't pay their taxes. Each of these properties is a vacant lot. The largest, at 9,128 square feet, is on Georgia Street in Vallejo and has a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. right of way over the entire parcel. The smallest, at 161 square feet, sits landlocked amid a residential neighborhood on Lighthouse Street in Vallejo.

Some properties, such as 1945 Kidder Ave. in Fairfield, are buildings along city streets. The county for years used this former church for mental health programs. Another property in this category is 228 Broadway St. in Vallejo, the former county mental health building.

County staff would do the market survey to determine the type and level of interest in each property. That means spending no additional General Fund money on the project.

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

Sunday, June 20, 2010

UC Davis researcher gets $1.8M grant

UC Davis researcher gets $1.8M grant
Daily Democrat
Created: 06/19/2010 07:00:57 AM PDT

A UC Davis researcher has been awarded a $1.8 million federal grant to study a unique California program established six years ago to help high school students better prepare for college.
The grant to Michal Kurlaender, an associate professor in the UCD School of Education, will fund a study of the California Early

Assessment Program, which gives students information and advice about their readiness for the California State University.

The program measures English and math skills after students' junior year in high school. Those with poor scores receive recommendations on courses and other steps they can take during their senior year to better prepare for college.

An earlier study by Kurlaender and two colleagues of students at CSU Sacramento found that participation in the early assessment program reduced the average student's probability of needing remedial English and math by 6.2 percentage points and 4.3 percentage points. This study was presented at a research conference last spring and will be published this fall in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

But it's unclear whether the improvements resulted from students taking more college prep classes, as recommended, or whether some simply were dissuaded from applying to CSU campuses. The new study will attempt to answer those questions in a much larger research project that will include all 23 CSU campuses.

"We want to know not just if the program works, but why," Kurlaender said. "Kids who get a bad message, do they decide not to apply? Is it working because we've weeded out the students who maybe aren't ready? Our early evidence suggests that's not the case.
"Second, we're going to do a more in-depth study of transcripts to try and see if kids are taking better advantage of their senior year as a result of this information."

Kurlaender will conduct the study with Jessica Howell, a CSU Sacramento economics professor, and Eric Grodsky, a former UCD sociology professor now at the University of Minnesota.

Amtrak touts Vallejo as a noteworthy destination

Amtrak touts Vallejo as a noteworthy destination

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen

Posted: 06/20/2010 02:09:47 AM PDT

Officials of Vallejo's main booster organizations said they were pleasantly
surprised to learn Friday that Amtrak California has launched a marketing
campaign which specifically touts Vallejo as a destination.

"AMTRAK DESTINATION | Vallejo, California" is one of several offshoots of an
effort to promote cities along Amtrak's San Joaquin route, a company
representative said. This is the program's second year, but the first to
include Vallejo, she said.

"Sweet," Vallejo Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Mike
Browne said upon learning about the campaign. "It would have been nice if
they'd contacted us and told us about it."

But Browne said he's not looking a gift horse in the mouth.

"It's a little embarrassing that we weren't aware of it, but we love what
they're doing and we're all for it. Anything that markets Vallejo as a
destination is a great thing."

An Amtrak California representative who said she isn't allowed to be quoted,
said none of the dozen or so featured cities were contacted.

The marketing material, which is being sent to regional publications, notes
that for "readers throughout California likely interested in a weekend trip
for the whole family filled with amusement park rides for the kids and golf
for dad, Vallejo is the perfect place to visit via Amtrak California."

Amtrak spokeswoman Debbie Mullins said Vallejo was included "because of the
many attractions the city has to offer for the entire family," that can be
reached, "stress-free" by train.

"Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, the Empress Theatre and the historic Mare
Island Naval Shipyard are just three of the attractions that we thought
people would be interested in," Mullins said in a statement.

It may be more about getting people to take the train than about bringing
them to Vallejo, but Vallejo Chamber of Commerce board chairman Jerry
Wilkerson said that's OK.

"Well, there's a news flash. Someone's promoting Vallejo as a destination to
play golf, visit Discovery Kingdom and take advantage of all our amenities.
This is wonderful," Wilkerson said.

Amtrak's material explains that getting to Vallejo by train from its San
Joaquin route will take passengers to Martinez from which they can take a
Thruway bus the few miles to Vallejo. This will save them the hassle of
flying and the expense and discomfort of driving, it says.

For information visit www.Amtrak California.com, and for a listing of routes
and departure times, visit www.Amtrak.com.

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

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Jobless rate dips again in Solano County

Jobless rate dips again in Solano County
Posted: 06/19/2010 01:05:35 AM PDT

The employment picture for Solano County improved slightly in May, the third month in a row that unemployment rates have dropped locally.
Unemployment in the Solano County was 11.8 percent in May, down from a revised 12.2 percent in April and 13 percent in March. It was, however, above the year-ago estimate of 10.3 percent.

Still, the picture was slightly better than the 11.9 percent unemployment rate for California last month.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate in May was 9.3 percent.

Vallejo had the highest jobless rate in Solano County last month at 14.4 percent, followed by Fairfield at 12.9 percent and Suisun City at 12.1 percent.

Solano County as a whole saw the number of jobs grow by 700 from April to May. Most of those were farm-related jobs, though 200 were in the Leisure and Hospitality employment category.

Mike Ammann, Solano Economic Development Corporation president, said the slight drop in unemployment is good but not dramatic enough for any celebration.

"Unfortunately, I think we still have a long way to go," he said. "We have seen a small pick-up in residential construction, which has been the area hit hardest ... but I don't see a surge. It's going to be more of a slow transition upward."

Vacaville is coming through the recession somewhat better, he added, because it has a diversified economy from shopping and retail outlets that attract Interstate 80 drivers, to more high-end jobs at local biotech facilities. And the completion of the Kaiser hospital has helped with the local economy.

Vallejo, he said, has struggled with much of its job base in government, health care and education facilities such as Solano Community College and Touro University.

"There is some good news with a new Lowe's center coming," he said, adding that plans for a downtown transit station in Vallejo will help the city as well.

What ultimately will make a difference, however, has to happen outside of Solano County, Ammann said.

"If the state could get its financial situation in order, it would help all of us," he said.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Vallejo Ferry Terminal improvement project set to launch

Vallejo Ferry Terminal improvement project set to launch
Times-Herald staff report
Posted: 06/17/2010 01:01:02 AM PDT

A project to renovate the Baylink ticket office and restrooms has begun at the Vallejo ferry building. During construction, the Baylink ticket office is being relocated to the adjacent Vallejo Visitor Information Center. (Stacey J. Miller /Times-Herald)
Changes are afloat at the Vallejo Ferry Terminal as the city goes full steam ahead on improvements to the rest rooms, ticket counter and roof.
Federal stimulus money is footing the bill for the upgrades to the Mare Island Way facility.
After Friday morning commute hours, Vallejo Ferry customers will be directed to a new, temporary ticket counter inside the
terminal. It will be next to the Vallejo Convention and Visitors Bureau, city engineering technician Joshua Sanchez said.
Meanwhile, the existing ticket counter will be upgraded to allow more space and other amenities.
Later Friday, the existing men's and women's rest rooms will be closed off.
People will be directed to temporary facilities to the north of the ferry building, adjacent to the parking lot, Sanchez said.
"We expect the full transfer to occur after the morning rush, but the first transfer will be the ticket office," Sanchez said.
Construction work is expected to take about four months, city senior civil engineer Allan Panganiban said.
Besides the construction work, ferry riders are also contending with fewer parking spaces along the water. Some 260 spaces have been blocked off to make way for the first phase of Vallejo Station, a multi-story parking structure on Santa Clara Street.
Ferry riders will have more than 1,000 parking spots in nearby lots, on the street and in parking areas south of City Hall.
Public notices about the loss of the parking spaces and the upcoming changes to rest rooms and ticket counter have been posted in the Vallejo Ferry Building, on the boats and on the city's web site.

New Solano County & Cities Expo to debut at County Fair

New Solano County & Cities Expo to debut at County Fair

The Solano County Fair is excited to announce the debut of the Solano County & Cities Expo at this year's Fair, running from June 23 to 27. Just one of many new attractions at the Fair for 2010, the Solano County & Cities Expo will celebrate the people, places and things that make Solano County a great place to live, learn, work and play.

All of the seven cities in Solano County (Benicia, Dixon, Fairfield, Rio Vista, Suisun, Vacaville and Vallejo), as well as the county itself, will each have a twenty foot wide by ten foot deep exhibit booth to showcase the many things that make their city unique and a great place to call home.

"We think this is a fantastic opportunity for the cities and county to show fairgoers what Solano County is all about," said Fair General Manager Mike Paluszak. “The Solano County Fair is focused on being a showcase for all the varied, special and wonderful attributes that make this our home. Having the county and all its cities participate in the County Fair allows them to get directly involved and show off to the more than 50,000 people anticipated to attend the Fair.”

Each booth is envisioned to be a collaborative effort of government, business, cultural organizations, museums, tourism bureaus and other groups. These partnerships will direct the design and presentation of their booth with a focus on the icons and attributes that are distinct to each city and the county.

Fairgoers will be invited to participate in choosing the “People’s Choice Award” for their favorite booth by filling out a short form and ballot. The first 1,000 people who vote will receive a free ticket to the California State Fair (valid July 14 through August 1, 2010).

The winner of the ”People’s Choice Award” will be announced on the last day of the Fair, Sunday, June 27. The Solano County & Cities Expo will be located in Expo Hall. Booth space is free to the cities and the county, and each entity is coordinating volunteers to staff the booths.

The Solano County Fair runs from June 23-27, 2010 at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo. Pre-sale tickets to the Fair are available online now and offer a substantial savings off the regular prices. Fair admission prices are $6 in advance and $8 on-site for adults, $3 in advance and $4 on-site for children ages 6-12 and seniors 60+. Carnival wristbands, good all day any one day, are $20 in advance and $25 on-site.

Additional savings are available with a non-profit promotional code. Children 5 and under and military personnel in uniform are always free. All concert entertainment is included free with Fair admission.

Visit www.SCFair.com or call 707-551-2000 for more information.

Posted: June 8, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Will Benicia be ready if the next Google knocks?

By Tony Burchyns / Times-Herald
Posted: 06/15/2010 01:00:54 AM PDT

BENICIA -- If the next Google walked through the door, would it be approved to go into the Benicia Industrial Park? City officials hope so. And they're doing more than just crossing their fingers.

Last week, the Planning Commission advanced ideas for adding more high-tech, clean-energy and research and development uses in the city's industrial districts.
It's been a City Council goal since 2007.

"We started this discussion when I was chair of the Economic Development Board," said JB Davis, who still sits on the advisory panel. "It's time to stop screwing around and get it done, so we can be ready when the next Apple or Google (emerges)."
With most of Benicia's industrial area built out, another focus of the zoning changes is the 500-acre parcel that Discovery Builders has applied to develop on the north side. The project has been delayed more than a year for reasons Discovery Builders' president Albert Seeno III attributes to the struggling economy.

"I think the modernization of the zoning is to attract people to that 500 acres," Planning Commissioner Richard Bortolazzo said Monday. "I'm disappointed it hasn't gone forward."

At issue are outdated zoning laws, favoring traditional manufacturing, that could hurt the city's chances of capturing new revenues and jobs, city land-use and economic-development officials say.
That's why city officials are proposing a groundwork of zoning laws that will "put out the welcome mat" for emerging technology and business sectors, a city report released this month summarizes.
The existing zoning code was written before the emergence of such industries as bioscience, software design and "green" energy systems.
City officials say the proposed changes would clarify what kind of businesses are encouraged and where they can locate.

An example of this approach was taken by the city of Dixon, which recently defined and added "bioscience" to its zoning code. The result was a research and development campus with minimal entitlement time and costs to the developer.

A range of modern industries would be defined, from "biotechnology" (the use of living organisms for specific purposes) to "nanotechnology" (the fabrication of microscopic devices). Information technologies would be defined, from software development to website operation. Animal-testing facilities also would be defined under the umbrella of new terms.

"You got to do everything you can to prepare your community for the acceptance of technology-based industries," said Solano Economic Development Corp. president Mike Ammann. "And the rationale for that is they are higher-skill, higher-wage jobs."
The city is "strategically located," city officials say, between Sacramento and Silicon Valley. And the addition of a possible train station on the Capitol Corridor line that runs to Sacramento could usher in jobs and prosperity, officials say.
The city's effort includes seeking state funding for a rail station and the development of long-term infrastructure plan for the Seeno land.

The changes would affect roughly 1,200 acres between Suisun Bay and East 2nd Street, not including the Seeno parcel between East 2nd and Lake Herman Road, which would expand the city's largest employment area if developed.

"I don't think we can replace Silicon Valley," Ammann said. "But we have access to this mega region from the Bay to Sacramento and Reno ... and we are going to be strategically located (as the population grows). The idea of Benicia aligning itself to attract more start-ups makes sense."

Contact staff writer Tony Burchyns at tburchyns@timesheraldonline.com or (707) 553-6831.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dixon senior housing lands $1M grant

Davis Senior Housing Communities Inc. was awarded a $1 million grant to build Heritage Commons, a 60-unit senior housing community in Dixon. The award from Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco is part of its Affordable Housing Program. First Northern Bank of Dixon, which is a member of the FHLB, applied for the funding. The senior apartment building will be built at the corner of South First Street and Heritage Lane. The housing is available for seniors who live at or below 50 percent of the area’s median income…. This $1-million award is the largest single award that we have ever received from the Federal Home Loan Bank. It’s gratifying to know that the funds will be used in our own hometown.” Of the $32.5 million in Affordable Housing Program funds recently awarded by the FHLB, California received only six awards of $1 million, which is the maximum limit. Heritage Commons in Dixon was the only rural community to receive the maximum award. The 5-acre site for Heritage Commons was donated by Brookfield Homes as part of its affordable housing requirement. The 60 apartments are the first phase on the site. Another 60 units will be built later.

Mike Ammann letter to the Editor

Dear Editor

Solano’s local economy took another major hit when the courts recently ruled that the State has the right to raid community economic development Redevelopment Agency Funds. What’s this mean to all local California communities and in particular Solano? It means that in the next two years local communities in California will lose $2.05 billion in redevelopment funding while in Solano County the communities will mail checks to the state treasurer for approximately $35 million. At a time when the state and Solano County’s unemployment rate is over 12% our communities are disarmed in the battle to create employment opportunities for residents.

Communities hoped that the courts would overrule the State's actions which have virtually gutted local Redevelopment Agency Funding and the ability to support the expansion or location of new private sector projects that create jobs and tax base. Redevelopment Agencies (RDA’s) in the past have helped secure loans for new business ventures, funded public infrastructure that development of office and industrial parks that are “shovel ready” for expanding local companies and prospective newcomers to our communities. A couple examples of “shovel ready” include City of Fairfield Green Valley Corporate Parks and Solano Business Park. But the best example is the Suisun City that has in a short 20 years become a “smart growth” success that is synonymous with “redevelopment”.

This unfortunate decision by the state and the court will make it nearly impossible for Solano cities to maintain marketing outreach efforts which have resulted in jobs while not being able to move forward on redevelopment plans to improve areas in need of physical improvements. RDA’s are now or soon will be out of the business of assisting business grow jobs and tax base The end result, fewer new jobs and public money match for private risk capital flowing in within the state's and Solano’s economy.

By taking $2.05 billion, the state now will be able to pass through and use that money to fund schools in redevelopment areas. Sacramento continues to raid local funding to fill budget gaps and disrupt local communities’ development efforts. Be sure to ask candidates running for state public office how they will work with local communities to create jobs and increase tax revenues if elected. Needless to say keep this in mind when voting next week.

Michael Ammann
President, Solano Economic Development Corporation

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bay Area execs see bright business future

Bay Area execs see bright business future
Carolyn Said, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, June 10, 2010

In a striking turnaround, the Bay Area's top executives feel markedly more confident in the region's economy than they did just months ago, according to a survey to be released Friday by a local business group.
"Confidence has bounced back remarkably like it did after the dot-com bubble, although the downturn was longer this time," said Lenny Mendonca, director of McKinsey & Co., the consulting firm that conducted the survey on behalf of the Bay Area Council.

The majority - 58 percent - of 500 CEOs and top executives questioned in the quarterly Business Confidence Survey think local economic conditions have improved in the past six months. When asked the same question three months ago, only 36 percent felt that way.

Looking ahead, 63 percent said they expect a better Bay Area economy six months from now, a 16-point increase from last quarter.
Overall business confidence among the executives is at the highest level since July 2005, the group said. It registered at 62 on a scale of 100, up from 43 a year ago. The all-time low was 31 in January 2009.
Still, for the average worker, the $64,000 question remains: How soon will that translate into job growth?
The survey, which was conducted in late April and early May, found that 29 percent of executives expect to add staff in the next six months, 14 percent plan layoffs and 55 percent anticipate staying the same (the remaining 2 percent didn't know). However, many of the companies planning to expand were small enterprises with fewer than 100 employees.

'A positive sign'
"It is a real question whether private-sector job growth will increase fast enough to offset declines in the public sector because of the end of the census and decreasing payrolls from budget problems," Mendonca said. "It's too soon to declare victory here; it's certainly a positive sign, but we'd like to see a few more quarters of confidence and (see that) translate into new net private-sector hiring before people will think we're out of the woods."
Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, said he thinks the region is six months away from seeing an improvement in unemployment. California's unemployment rate is 12.6 percent, while the rate is slightly lower across the Bay Area.
"I think we now are in a period of job growth, but you need several months of job growth to get lower unemployment because people who dropped out of the workforce are coming back in," he said. "The recovery will be long and slow, but the direction has turned from down to neutral to up."
Hiring on upswing

At Bank of the West, which counts 2,871 Bay Area employees among its 10,000 workers in 19 states, CEO Michael Shepherd said hiring is slowly increasing, particularly in the area of small business lending.

"We're seeing corporate balance sheets in much better positions than they were in the past few years," he said. "But there is still persistently high unemployment and other head winds, like our California fiscal situation, to restrain enthusiasm."
As president of Sam Clar Office Furniture, a Concord company started by his great-grandfather, John Schwartz has a catbird seat to see businesses' expansion.

"In 2009 everyone hunkered down and no one was moving or expanding," he said. "This year, we're definitely seeing more activity as companies move to new spaces to take advantage of the unbelievable bargains out there for commercial rentals. We see companies that have been in their offices for five, 10 or 15 years move to new space and take the opportunity to update their office furniture. They're often adding five or 10 extra seats, so they're beginning to anticipate some expansion."
Clean tech and higher education clients have been particularly active, he said, while local government offices have heavily curbed buying.

Tom Escher, president of the Red and White Fleet, which runs a 12-language bay cruise out of Pier 43 1/2, said he is seeing tourism pick up, and he anticipates a summer that will be better than last year's. He uses temporary staff to handle busy times such as summer and holidays, but he also recently added three full-time workers to his staff of 40.
Visitors cutting costs
Escher has the impression many visitors are cutting costs by staying with friends instead of in hotels. And he worries about how the European financial crisis might hurt international tourism.

"We're trying to be optimistic, but it's cautious optimism," he said.
Mark Edmunds, regional managing partner for consulting firm Deloitte Services LP, said the company is actively adding employees and growing broadly. Edmunds supervises 3,600 workers from Seattle to San Jose, 2,600 of them in the Bay Area.

"Based on the clients I deal with, there is growing confidence that we're in a sustained recovery," he said. "There is no doubt unemployment will remain high for some time to come, but the Bay Area has such a high level of entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, and this huge push in clean technology and biotechnology will carry us through."

"The recovery will be long and slow, but the direction has turned from down to neutral to up."
Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy
"We're seeing corporate balance sheets in much better positions than they were in the past few years."
Michael Shepherd, Bank of the West CEO
"We're trying to be optimistic, but it's cautious optimism."
Tom Escher, president of the Red and White Fleet
"Based on the clients I deal with, there is growing confidence that we're in a sustained recovery."

Mark Edmunds, regional managing partner for consulting firm Deloitte Services LP
E-mail Carolyn Said at csaid@sfchronicle.com.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2010/06/10/MNVM1DSL8I.DTL#ixzz0qStcoVig

Friday, June 4, 2010

Solano County Selected for Kaiser Workforce Wellness Program

Solano County Selected for Kaiser Workforce Wellness Program

The County of Solano has been selected by Kaiser Permanente Health Plan as their Northern California pilot for an innovative workforce wellness program.

"The County has cultivated a wellness culture that we hope will both improve the health of our employees, and ultimately their families and their communities," said Supervisor John Vasquez. “Participating in this pilot project will keep our wellness momentum going.”

The Kaiser Wellness Pilot will focus on improving early identification and management of diabetes in the Solano County workforce. Significant elements of the Wellness Pilot will include:

Distribution of information with a focus on diabetes awareness, physical activity, nutrition, smoking cessation and weight management.
Onsite screenings for blood pressure and body mass.
Diabetic Risk Outreach, including telephonic and online coaching of employees.
Health promotion classes, including walking clubs.
Healthy eating initiatives
“Solano County is excited and honored to have been chosen as one of only two employers in the state of California to participate in this innovative and cutting edge wellness initiative,” said Don Turko, Solano County Human Resources Director. “This pilot is a wonderful opportunity to improve the health and vitality of our County workforce, while partnering with Kaiser in building an innovative disease management model for the future.”

The Kaiser Wellness Pilot is being sponsored in cooperation with the California Public Employee Retirement System under a grant provided by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Upon completion of the six-month pilot program, Kaiser will conduct follow-up activities on participants to track the effects of the pilot on their diabetes management activities. A final report will then be made by Kaiser to the CDC documenting the results of the pilot programs efforts.

Posted: June 4, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

UC Davis to award 8,200-plus degrees for 2009-10

UC Davis to award 8,200-plus degrees for 2009-10

June 3, 2010

Graduating students will continue to be receive degrees throughout the week through Sunday, June 13. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis photo)
UC Davis will award an estimated 8,201 degrees for 2009-10 as it completes the academic year with commencements through June 13.

For this academic year, UC Davis estimates it will award 6,358 bachelor's, 950 master's, 484 doctoral and 409 professional degrees.

Information for ceremonies, degrees to be awarded and any guest speakers follows:

June 9 -- School of Education: Susan Hackwood, executive director of the California Council on Science and Technology; 4 p.m. at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts; 10 doctoral degrees and 97 master's degrees (all included in numbers for Graduate Studies) as well as 135 teaching credentials.

June 10 -- Graduate Studies: Francisco C. Rodriguez, president of MiraCosta College in Oceanside and a UC Davis alumnus; 4 p.m. in the Activities and Recreation Center Pavilion; 484 doctoral and 717 master's degrees.

June 11 -- School of Veterinary Medicine: 10 a.m. at the Mondavi Center; 127 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees, 22 Master of Preventive Veterinary Medicine degrees and eight Bachelor of Science degrees; also 34 certificates recognizing completion of residency.

June 11 -- College of Biological Sciences: 10 a.m. in the ARC Pavilion; 30 Bachelor of Arts degrees and 1,120 B.S. degrees; as this college, established in 2005, transitions to awarding its own degrees, an additional 50 B.S. degrees for the college will be awarded by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and an additional 60 B.S. and five B.A. degrees will be awarded by the College of Letters and Science (these numbers are included in the totals for the two colleges).

June 11 -- College of Engineering: 3 p.m. in the ARC Pavilion; 510 B.S. degrees.

June 12 -- College of Letters and Science: 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the ARC Pavilion; 2,795 B.A., 450 B.S. and 30 Bachelor of Arts and Science degrees.

June 12 -- Graduate School of Management: Steve Newberry, president and chief executive officer of Lam Research; 10 a.m. at the Mondavi Center; 166 Master of Business Administration degrees.

June 13 -- College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences: Fritz Maytag, chairman emeritus of Anchor Brewers and Distillers; 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the ARC Pavilion; 1,415 B.S. degrees.

At earlier ceremonies, the School of Law awarded 17 Master of Laws and 193 Juris Doctor degrees, and the School of Medicine awarded 89 Doctor of Medicine, 25 Master of Public Health and three Master of Health Informatics degrees.

UC Davis will offer live and on-demand webcasts of each of the commencements at http://commencementvideo.ucdavis.edu/.

Numbers of degrees include those earned since last spring's commencements and estimates of those to be awarded this season. Certificates and teaching credentials are not included in the degree total.

In 2008-09, the university awarded 7,480 degrees including 5,762 bachelor's, 826 master's, 498 doctoral and 394 professional degrees.

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):

Julia Ann Easley, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-8248, jaeasley@ucdavis.edu

Suisun City Public Works Reissues Main Street Project Bid Announcement

Suisun City Public Works Reissues Main Street Project Bid Announcement

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 11:45 AM PDT

SUISUN CITY — The Suisun City Public Works Department has re-issued the bid documents for the Main Street Rehabilitation Project that is expected to take place during the upcoming summer construction season.

The project, which has an estimated bonding value of $600,000, is funded by a grant through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The project entails making major repairs to Main Street from Solano Avenue to near Lotz Way. In areas where the subgrade has settled, pavement, curb, gutters and sidewalks will be replaced. When that work is completed, the entire street will receive a pavement overlay and new street markings.

The Main Street Rehabilitation Project follows the 2009 Sunset Avenue Rehabilitation Project in which the entire length of Sunset Avenue was resurfaced from Highway 12 to Railroad Avenue.

Public Works staff will coordinate construction scheduling carefully to minimize impacts to both Waterfront District businesses and nearby residents. A project page will be added to the Public Works website so everyone interested in the project can follow key developments.

For contractors, follow this link for more information.

Follow Suisun City on Twitter.

>>Read more about Suisun City's efforts to improve and maintain local streets>>