Thursday, June 26, 2008

Time for Action on the Solano General Plan

By Nicole Byrd, Solano - Napa Field Representative, Greenbelt Alliance

The Board of Supervisors will hold their first public hearing on the General Plan next week. Our community needs to show up in full force to let the Supervisors know that we want a plan that makes our quality of life better, not worse. Unfortunately, the proposed plan will drastically change Solano County for the worse! The plan could result in paving over as much as 30,000 acres of farmland – that’s more than the size of Fairfield. Implementing this plan will further deteriorate our air quality, and we already have the worst asthma in the state. Traffic will get much worse than it is and we could face water shortages. Please come to the public hearing and tell the Board that we want a plan that makes our community stronger, healthier and safer.

The first hearings are set for Tuesday, July 1, 2008 from 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm and 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm. Come to either time that works for you.

Additionally, the board will be holding a public hearing on the Environmental Impact Report on Tuesday, July 22, 2008 – 2:00 p.m. Please also put this date on your calendar.

[See list below of additional hearings, agendas, and supporting documents.]

There are many aspects of this General Plan to be concerned about. I’ve included some points of concern below. Please feel free to address these in your comments, or bring up other issues.


--Developing more of our county land will increase traffic and make our air quality even worse.

--The Draft Plan does very little to acknowledge Solano County’s water supply problems. More work needs to be done to ensure that development in the unincorporated areas will have a sufficient water supply.

Growth Concerns
--The land use diagram shows a significant increase in development in the unincorporated County over existing conditions. Why is the county growing right up against the cities’ limits?
--The extension of the Orderly Growth Initiative should be a part of any ballot measure put forth to the voters.
--Package sewage treatment plants are a bad idea (perhaps they may be ok for certain agricultural operations but not for residential subdivisions). These sewage plants will have growth-inducing impacts on agricultural lands.
--The Cities of Vacaville and Dixon have expressed concern about the plan. How can this be a good plan for the County if the Cities don’t like it? I hope that the County will work with the Cities to resolve their issues.

Community Separators
--The 2008 Draft Solano County General Plan discusses five existing Community Separators but only maps the Tri-City and County Area. More work needs to be done in regard to protecting and expanding the community separators, including mapping all of them on the land use plan. For example, the Vallejo-Benicia Separator is discussed but there are no policies to strengthen this separator nor is it mapped on the Land Use diagram.

Special Study Areas
--The GP sets up four Special Study Areas - Collinsvillle, Middle Green Valley, Old Town Cordelia, and Suisun Valley. It looks like these areas will be studied further later, but the issues should be resolved now.
--The Middle Green Valley Special Study Area sets up this area for growth.
The plan does not deal with the water issues related to growth in this area.
The plan promotes 400 new houses in Middle Green Valley which is inconsistent with the city-centered growth model that the plan says it should follow.
The plan does not deal with the traffic issues that will be created by growth in this area.

Climate change/ greenhouse gas emissions
--The plan addresses this as a mere afterthought. They did such a poor job on this that the Attorney General has asked the County to put some real protections in place.
--We know that transportation is a major source of greenhouse gases. The car – dependent rural residential growth recommended by the General Plan update will make the problem worse!

Biological Resources
--The General Plan should be consistent with the proposed Habitat Conservation Plan.

--Why is this process being rushed to get the land use changes on the November ballot? We should be focusing on creating a plan that represents our community.

If you have additional questions, please contact:
Nicole Byrd, Solano - Napa Field Representative, Greenbelt Alliance, 1652 West Texas St. Suite 163, Fairfield, CA 94533, phone: (707) 427-2308

Public Hearings on the 2008 Draft General Plan
Click on the links below for agendas and supporting documents

July 1, 2008
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Staff Presentation
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. City Comments
3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Public Hearing
6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. Public Hearing

Board of Supervisors Chambers
675 Texas Street, 1st Floor
Fairfield CA, 94533

For more information, see here.

Additional Public Hearings:
July 8, 2008
July 18, 2008
July 21, 2008
July 22, 2008
July 29, 2008

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Find a new plan

by Bob Berman

In July, the Solano County Board of Supervisors will consider the adoption of Solano County's new General Plan.

I recently reviewed the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the county's new General Plan and was astonished to find that it will result in 27 individual significant unavoidable adverse impacts. This means that of the impacts discussed in the EIR 27 will result in significant unavoidable damage to Solano County's environment. These impacts cover a wide variety of areas including land use, air quality, noise, transportation, hydrology, agricultural land, public services, cultural resources, aesthetics, and climate change. Pretty much everything that makes up the precious Solano County environment that we all would like to protect.

For example, according to the EIR new development as proposed in the General Plan will:

• Result in the generation of air pollutant emissions beyond established standards.

• Result in a significant increase in noise along county roadways.

• Result in a significant increase in traffic congestion - 27 different locations where traffic will be unacceptable are identified, including, of course, on Interstate 80, I-680, Lake Herman Road, and Curtola Parkway.

• Result in the conversion of nearly 22,000 acres of farmland to urban uses.

• Result in damage to scenic vistas and resources.

And there is more - there will not be adequate water to serve all of the projected development. New methods to obtain water and additional sources of water will be required.

This is not the future that I envision for Solano County.

I urge all Solano County residents to contact individual members of the board of supervisors and tell them it is time to stop the new General Plan and go back to develop a plan that protects, not destroys, Solano County's environment.

Note: To contact the Board, Click HERE, or email:
Michael Reagan

Jim Spering
John Vasquez
Barbara Kondylis
John Silva

Monday, June 23, 2008

Questions and Answers on Seeno Project

A Statement from BeniciaFirst!

Question: Does this debate over the Seeno project represent a clash between pro-development and anti-development forces?

Nothing could be further from the reality of the case we have presented. The central issue is the quality and practicality of the currently proposed plan. What Seeno is proposing is a dated plan for a commuter-driven park--one that is geared to attract conventional warehousing and shipping, with a commercial area located at the freeway. Such an outmoded model ignores the new realities upon which Benicia First has focused. We face an energy-constrained future economic environment as highlighted by the Global Warming Solutions Act, AB32, which mandates drastically reduced "vehicle miles traveled" generated by any new project. At the same time, there is a revolution in thinking about green industrial development together with an unprecedented demand for the kind of research and development campus for which Benicia is uniquely suited.

Question: If your concerns and hopes for achieving what you call a 21st Century project are spelled out in "Conditions of Approval" set by the City, would this not be a solution?

Essentially,this approach heightens one of the major drawbacks of the Seeno proposal. With a project that incorporates neither coherence nor a visionary comprehensive plan for a campus-style R&D park, attempting to reshape that project through hundreds of conditions simply underlines and emphasizes its flaws and its fragmented character. It would require permitting and overseeing virtually all detail of the development and attempting somehow to create coherence through endless, difficult management of detail. It would require enormous oversight responsibilities for the city extending through 25 years into the future. We do not think this feasible or realistic. Practical enforceability is questionable. Nor do we believe it possible to create an integrated, coherent, energy sensitive and future oriented project in this fashion.

Question: Didn't the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) with the recently produced Addendum give this project a clean bill of health?

No. The voluminous comments submitted by Steve Goetz and Don Dean, both professional planners, detail the numerous flaws and inadequacies of the FEIR and the present revised proposal. We cite here just one dramatic example: its treatment of traffic increases and resulting air pollution impacting Semple School. If you think the health and safety of Semple school children are important, consider this. The FEIR contained a gross error in its estimates of future traffic on I-780 and East 2nd St., adjacent to Semple School. Real world traffic projections put that figure far over the prescribed limit for locating new schools. NOTE THIS CAREFULLY. The City Council must legally agree that these unavoidable negative impacts on air quality affecting the Semple School, are justified by "overriding considerations"; in short that the benefits of the Seeno project override those impacts. Would you want that Resolution of CEQA Findings signed?

Question: If this project is denied, won't that delay development for many years?

In reality the highly questionable phasing plan of the present proposal already delays the industrial development for five to ten years. Currently there is a great need and business climate for the kind of development that Benicia should be getting. Venture capital is flowing to precisely those research and development, future-oriented clean tech projects that are most desirable for Benicia. There will never be a more obvious window of opportunity for Benicia to get the green industrial development that enhances and serves the city while exploiting its unique demographics and location.

Question: With denial, what would happen next?

It would be essential for the city to send the strongest possiblesignal to Seeno that it wants to cooperate, proactively andimmediately, in helping the company to both advance a new plan and to recruit the kind of research and development ventures, (biotech and alternate energy enterprises and other supporting businesses) that are now demonstrating such promise for the future in the Bay Area.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Update on Seeno Project

The final fate of the Seeno Project was supposed to have been decided on June 3, 2008. But, that decision has now been postponed until October 2008…..

To back up a bit, in case you are not familiar with the Seeno project, it is a huge 527 acre commercial/industrial development proposed for the rolling hills in the north-east section of Benicia. It is officially named the Benicia Business Park but is commonly referred to as the Seeno Project because it is owned by Discovery Builders, an Albert Seeno company.

It is a controversial project because many citizens contend (with ample evidence) that the project, as currently conceived and designed, would radically damage the character and livability of Benicia forever. It fails to conform to many important goals in the General Plan relating to environmental and economic quality and sustainability, and the type of commercial businesses proposed for the development would likely weaken the Downtown as the City's central commercial zone, contributing to urban decay.

Following is a very rough outline of the review process so far on this project :

2007: The year of 2007 saw countless months of City Council meetings, votes, public hearings, public forums and presentations, and voluminous written and oral public comments on the Seeno Project's Environmental Impact Report (EIR). It was well documented by citizen comments that the EIR was inadequate in many ways and did not conform to the requirements of the Calif. Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Feb. 19, 2008: In spite of its flaws, the Council approved the final EIR, but this vote did not approve the project itself. The Council told the applicant (Seeno) that the project itself could not be approved unless they came back with a revised project containing significant environmental improvements and substantial documentation to support it such as a supplemental EIR and a new urban decay analysis.

April & May 2008: In April the applicant brought forth a significantly changed project containing several environmental improvements but still lacking the degree of improvements that were needed and called for by the Council, and lacking the supporting documentation that was expected.

There were several hasty hearings in April and May, with insufficient time for review and documentation, because of a statutory requirement that mandated a final vote on the project by June 3, unless the applicant approved a time extension.

June 3, 2008: (actually 1:00 a.m., June 4) Sensing that they did not have the necessary three votes for approval of the project, the applicant agreed to a time extension so that an additional traffic study could be conducted (after school resumes in late August) to determine the extent of traffic congestion on E. 2nd Street.

Oct. 7, 2008: The results of the traffic study will be presented to the Council, and the applicant will pressure the Council to approve the project.

A citizens’ committee, Benicia First, is calling for denial of the current project, so that a new project can be designed that is a better fit for Benicia and for the environmental and economic constraints and opportunities that we now face in the 21st Century. To read more about their ideas for an alternative vision for the Seeno project, see the Benicia First Website at

(To read more details about the review process chain of events, see the Benicia First Blog at )