Friday, March 30, 2012

Leaders say Highway 12 is fiscal force Solano County should capture

By Sarah Rohrs/Times-Herald staff writer Published By Times Herald

FAIRFIELD - Worth an estimated $6.3 billion, Highway 12 is an economic giant whose power can and should be better harnessed, Solano County leaders said Thursday.
Usually known for its fatalities and gridlock, Highway 12 can be something more for the local economy, numerous speakers said during a Solano Economic Development Corporation breakfast in Fairfield.

Instead, Highway 12, and its caravans of motorists, truckers and other drivers, represent untapped potential, speakers said.

Nearly 150 political and transportation leaders attended the breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn to learn more.

The event focused on an economic study being done as part of a comprehensive examination of highway improvements needed between Interstate 80 in Fairfield and I-5 near Lodi.

Though a vital link between the San Joaquin Valley and the Bay Area, Highway 12 gets little notice from state and federal leaders, Solano County Supervisor Jim Spering and others said.

"Highway 12 is an orphan corridor, "Solano Transportation Authority Executive Director Daryl Halls said. He stressed that local leaders need to work together to make the road a high priority among those who control transportation dollars.

"You're going to have to decide if you want to adopt this corridor," Halls said.

A wider stretch between Fairfield and Lodi, safer intersections, and replacement of the Rio Vista Bridge are among items already identified as big needs, although no funding has been found yet.

The most visible improvements underway include the widening a 5.8-mile segment from two to four lanes between Red Top Road north of Vallejo to Highway 29 in Napa County.

The current study does not include Vallejo. However, the largest city in the county's southern part benefits from Highway 12 and will be part of the broader perspective of the road's impact, Halls said.
Meanwhile, Spering said that as more highway improvements are tackled, transportation and political leaders only have one chance to maximize investments of public money. "Doing it right the first time is very important," Spering said.

Meanwhile, Economic consultant Robert Fountain of Benicia said the Highway 12 corridor represents a lot of dollar signs. His study will be done to help inform transportation planners on needed improvements.

Major industries along the corridor include manufacturing, worth nearly $2.1 billion; and government services, worth $1.3 billion.

Nearly one-fourth of the people on Highway 12 stem from households, while manufacturing industries account for 21.4 percent of the traffic, Fountain said.

Due out in about a month, Fountain's study will look at cities' economies along Highway 12 and how they could be improved.

Those interested in participating in the economic planning efforts can go to and click on "Highway 12" to take a survey.

Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at or (707) 553-6832. Follow her on Twitter@SarahVTH

Leaders say Highway 12 can be more than ‘orphan corridor’


Solano County Supervisor and MTC Commissioner Jim Spering speaks at the Economic Development Corporation breakfast Thursday morning. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)
Solano County Supervisor and MTC Commissioner Jim Spering speaks at the Economic Development Corporation breakfast Thursday morning. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD — Highway 12 is the region’s $6.3 billion corridor.

That’s how much economic activity is generated annually in ZIP codes along the corridor by households, businesses and governments, economist Robert Fountain said. A big contributor is manufacturing, especially food processing, he said.

He and others talked about Highway 12 at Thursday’s Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn. Fountain’s work is part of an upcoming Solano EDC economic study on Highway 12. That study, in turn, is part of an effort by local, regional and state agencies to design a Highway 12 for the future.

Fountain’s $6.3 billion estimate looked at the Highway 12 segment from Highway 29 in Napa County through Solano County to just west of Lodi in San Joaquin County. The Solano County focus is particularly on the segment from Interstate 80 in Fairfield to the Sacramento River at Rio Vista.

Much of that Solano County stretch of Highway 12 is a two-lane rural road. Solano Transportation Authority Executive Director Daryl Halls said that it fails to get the same attention as I-80.

“I would label it as the orphan corridor,” Halls said. “It is the corridor no one wants to claim, except maybe Rio Vista.”

Highway 12 between Fairfield and Rio Vista has seen several safety improvements in recent years, such as adding a median barrier in some sections and plastic median poles in others, and widening shoulders. That safety improvement effort has just about ended.

Now local transportation leaders are talking about further possible improvements along this major link between the Bay Area and Central Valley, such as someday making Highway 12 a four-lane road and replacing the Rio Vista Bridge. Whatever improvements are decided upon would have to compete for federal and state money.

Solano County isn’t a big county like as Los Angeles and San Francisco, Halls said. Making further Highway 12 improvements will require a united community effort, he said.

“You’re going to have to decide to adopt this corridor,” Halls told the crowd of business and government leaders in the room.

The latest planning effort is looking at Highway 12 as more than a mover of vehicles and trucks. It is also looking at Highway 12′s role as an economic engine and its potential role.

Highway improvements usually start with engineers’ plans, then environmental studies and then public hearings, Fountain said. That’s backward, he said.

This effort is looking at the economics first, Fountain said. The Solano EDC study will look not only at Highway 12′s economic impact, but its potential economic impact if certain improvements are made, he said.

People can participate in the Highway 12 economic planning by going to to take a survey.

County Supervisor Jim Spering talked about how Highway 12 improvements can bring increased economic benefits to local communities. Rio Vista in particular will have a once-in-a-city-lifetime opportunity, he said.

“We’re only going to have one chance to maximize the investment in this corridor, so doing it right is important,” Spering said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or

Friday, March 16, 2012

Person, head of Solano EDC, earns 2012 Woman of Year nod


FAIRFIELD — For her service to the community, Sandy Person of Vacaville was one of two named as the 5th State Senate District’s 2012 Women of the Year by Sen. Lois Wolk.

Person has worked in economic development and real estate for more than 25 years, currently as the president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation. She is also a community volunteer and has worked with NorthBay Healthcare Advantage, Solano College Theatre Association and the Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee and Travis Community Consortium.

Person was Wolk’s selection for Solano County. For Yolo County, Wolk will honor Alicia Mosqueda of Woodland, who has worked to promote equality for women in the workplace dating back to 1976, when she and 100 women cannery workers filed a class action discrimination lawsuit against the state’s canneries.

Wolk, D-Vacaville, will honor Person and Mosqueda with a private ceremony March 23 at her district office in Vacaville.

The announcement is part of the celebration of Women’s History Month, according to a Wolk press release.

Reach David DeBolt at 427-6935 or

Woodland woman honored for promoting equality

Published By Daily
Created: 03/16/2012 12:30:30 AM PDT

As part of the State Senate's celebration of Women's History Month, Senator Lois Wolk, D-Davis, announced Friday that she will honor Alicia Mosqueda of Yolo County and Sandy Person of Solano County as the 5th Senate District's 2012 Women of the Year.

"These are strong, smart women who have profoundly affected this community," said Wolk. "I am proud to honor their service to their community and to the state."

Wolk is honoring Mosqueda for her work to promote equality in the workplace. In 1976, Mosqueda and a group of nearly 100 women cannery workers filed a class action law suit against California's canneries, citing employment discrimination against women and seasonal workers.

The court ultimately found in favor of Mosqueda and her fellow claimants, ordering that canneries set up an affirmative action program to better ensure fair hiring practices -- and directing canneries to rewrite rules regarding seniority in order to be fairer to seasonally employed workers. The ruling helped mold the state's civil rights laws.

Additionally, Mosqueda continued to work at the cannery for a total of more than 30 years as a can labeler, machine operator, automatic machine stacker, packing machine worker, and as a pallet stacker -- breaking from traditional gender roles in the workplace.

Person of Vacaville is being recognized for her years of community service, and for her work to promote economic development in the region. Person has worked in the fields of economic development and real estate for over 25 years, and is the President of the Solano Economic Development Corporation--a public-private collaborative marketing partnership that works to attract expanding businesses to Solano County.

Person is a community volunteer and has also provided years of service and leadership with the Solano County Chambers of Commerce and numerous other local organizations such as NorthBay Healthcare Advantage, the Solano College Theatre Association, and the Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee and Travis Community Consortium, groups that provide outreach and support for the Travis Air Force Base community.

Wolk will honor Mosqueda and Person with a private ceremony at her District Office in Vacaville on March 23.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Death of redevelopment focus of Solano EDC breakfast

Fairfield City Manager Sean Quinn, left, City Attorney Greg Stepanicich, with Richards, Watson & Gershon, and lobbyist Anthony Gonsalves of Joe A. Gonsalves & Son, right, talk before the start of the Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn on Thursday morning. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)
Fairfield City Manager Sean Quinn, left, City Attorney Greg Stepanicich, with Richards, Watson & Gershon, and lobbyist Anthony Gonsalves of Joe A. Gonsalves & Son, right, talk before the start of the Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn on Thursday morning. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)
FAIRFIELD — Civic and business leaders gathered Thursday to mourn the death of redevelopment agencies and discuss what new methods might emerge to spur economic development.

About 150 people attended a Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn. As one speaker noted during the proceedings, redevelopment played a role in establishing that very building.

But California dissolved redevelopment agencies as of Feb. 1. No longer can cities such as Fairfield, Suisun City and Vacaville use the agencies to take future property tax increases from targeted areas to invest back in those areas, helping to attract such businesses as Genentech and spur such development as the Gateway shopping area and Green Valley corporate area.

“I’ve been asked to do eulogies before,” lobbyist Anthony Gonsalves of Joe A. Gonsalves & Son told the crowd. “We usually talk about a friend who passed away. As you know, our friend, known as (redevelopment), was mugged in Sacramento by a greedy gang of thugs who wanted the money.”

Speakers at the Solano EDC meeting talked about efforts to replace redevelopment agencies with other ways to spur economic development. Cities and communities are looking to the state for help, though Gonsalves said they will have to convince Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the proposals into law.

“We truly need your help with Gov. Jerry Brown,” Gonsalves told the gathering.

One bill mentioned at the breakfast is by state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis. It would make it easier for cities to form infrastructure financing districts.

Infrastructure financing districts can divert property tax increase revenues from local agencies, excluding schools, for 30 years to finance such things as roads, sewers and flood control. They are not redevelopment districts — they cannot be used to condemn property or assemble parcels — but they can be used to pay for bonds.

Few cities in California have formed them. Agencies that would otherwise get the taxes must agree to the district’s formation. Plus, citizens must approve the district formation by a two-thirds vote.

Among other things, Wolk’s bill would make the districts easier to form by deleting the vote requirement.

Fairfield City Manager Sean Quinn said after the breakfast that Fairfield has never formed an infrastructure financing district.

“I think they have the possibility of being a tool,” Quinn said. “It’s going to require both the city and county to work together very closely. We’re both going to be giving up property taxes for this district.”

Such a district would have to be for a project that would generate substantial revenues to the city and the county or create a substantial number of jobs, Quinn said. For Fairfield, such a district would apply only to the planned northeast growth area near Peabody Road. Other parts of the city have infrastructure in place, he said.

Fairfield is also hoping for some type of legislation that would allow it to keep at least a portion of the $80 million owed to city coffers from its now-defunct redevelopment agency. Without the repayments, the city faces deep budget cuts.

“There’s not a game-changer right now,” Quinn said. “I think with some language changes, there could be a game-changer in some of that legislation.”

Brown wasn’t at the Solano EDC breakfast to explain why he wanted to get rid of redevelopment agencies and no one defended him. But Brown has addressed the issues on other occasions. He’s said the agencies, while useful, take property tax money from schools, counties and core government functions.

“So it is a matter of hard choices and I come down on the side of those who believe that core functions of government must be funded first,” Brown said last year.

The breakfast also focused on what cities must do to wind down the affairs of their former redevelopment agencies. The law calls for such things as successor agencies and oversight boards.

Greg Stepanicich, who is with Richards, Watson & Gershon and serves as Fairfield’s city attorney, said he’s worked on government issues for 35 years, including in the wake of Proposition 13. Now he’s helping Fairfield comply with the redevelopment dissolution law.

“This is the most complex statute I’ve ever encountered, in terms of trying to understand what it means and how it gets implemented,” he said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or

Solano Economic Development Corporation hears issue of closed redevelopment agencies

By Kimberly K. Fu/
Posted: 03/02/2012 01:04:03 AM PST

There's no question that the recent death of redevelopment in California was a worst-case scenario or that cities now dealing with the situation are somewhat overwhelmed.
But who would've figured that negative hits would keep on coming?

Such was the news Thursday at a redevelopment-focused Fairfield gathering sponsored by the Solano Economic Development Corporation.

"This could still be a long-term process," cautioned Greg Stepanicich, city attorney for Fairfield and Mill Valley, during his talk. "This could go on till 2016."

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown shuttered redevelopment agencies throughout California in order to use the funding to bridge the state's budget gap.

Effective Feb. 1, all RDAs were dissolved and many local cities chose to act as the successor agency, or the agency that would handle winding down the financial affairs of the RDAs.

Calling the move "devastating," Stepanicich said Thursday that leaders are still trying to determine the meaning of the law governing the redevelopment dissolution, including how to meet existing payment obligations and disburse of redevelopment properties.

"This is the most complex statute that I have ever encountered," he said.

That's putting it mildly, Vacaville leaders emphasized, describing the situation as confusing, complicated and inconsistent.

"The overall impact will only be known as the winding-down of redevelopment occurs over time," advised Emily Cantu with the city of  Vacaville.

Of major concern is the selling-off of redevelopment properties, she said, which would impact many. In Fairfield, for example, an elementary school is sited on a redevelopment parcel, which could mean relocating youths to other schools. And in Vacaville, the Town Square property and old Carnegie library are also endangered.

Mark Creffield, president of the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce, expressed worry about the Carnegie location, as it currently serves as the home of the chamber. Though the organization holds a 10-year lease on the site, he said, it could be sold out from under them.

"Someone could come along and say (to the successor agency), 'I'll give you a million dollars for the Carnegie library,' and then it'll be gone," he said.

Cyndi Johnston, Vacaville's Housing and Redevelopment director, said there's still lots of learning to do on all sides. Some properties may have to be sold, others not. The two examples listed could be sold, she said, but the law does allow for certain considerations, such as keeping a site that benefits the public.

"So much is up in the air," Johnston said. "We're going to do the best we can."

Follow staff writer Kimberly K. Fu at