Saturday, August 27, 2005

Developers have new vision for Old Town

From Daily Republic // Aug. 27, 2005

Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - The men behind Main Street West Partners, the firm that wants to revitalize Old Town's economic fortunes, simply have to step out of Miller-Sorg's Kellogg Street office to walk their development sites.

The city hopes lead developers Mike Rice, president of Miller-Sorg, and Frank Marinello of Marinello Real Estate will bring in new retail and live-work developments to Suisun City's center.

Main Street West Partners recently submitted a market research document and has until October to complete site plans.

If the plans are feasible, Suisun City will likely approve an agreement with them to build on Redevelopment Agency-owned parcels in and around the Old Town, interim Redevelopment Director Al da Silva said.

Rice is a Vacaville native who relocated Miller-Sorg's offices to the Suisun City waterfront in 1998 and is responsible for the design and construction of several projects in town.

These have included two office commercial buildings, the Promenade project and a portion of the Harbor Village development. The Promenade live-work project on the city's waterfront has since been lauded as a smart growth development by a local land-use coalition.

When Rice heard about the city's plans to revive its campaign to redevelop the Main Street area, he called Frank Marinello.

Marinello had been the project manager and lead designer for Basin Street's redevelopment of the south side of Petaluma's downtown into a mixed-use theater district.

Rice considered Marinello a good fit for the city's Main Street West project because of his ability to "texture residential development with commercial development."

"I needed someone who was successful in downtown development and Petaluma was an excellent example of where we wanted to go," Rice said.

The Petaluma project was also very similar to what Suisun City was looking for. The area was once mainly home to antique shops, empty car lots and old warehouse buildings. Basin Street's owner, Matt White, once planned to tear down a historic auto showroom and garage, and replace it with a four-story hotel, but was stopped by the Petaluma City Council in 2000.

A group of determined Petaluma teens who wanted to bring a movie theater back to town got White interested in making another try.

White lined up several investors and pumped $10 million into building a theater complex and remodeling the auto garage to accommodate restaurants and retail stores.

Building the theater complex spurred more development. With backing from the city, Basin Street built a $100 million, seven-block redevelopment project that included 225 residences, and retail and office space.

"It has been a very well received project," said Paul Marangella, director of Petaluma's Economic Development Department. "It has done a lot to revitalize the downtown area."

Rice and Marinello were among 20 developers who initially responded to Suisun City's call for proposals and ended up with the exclusive negotiating agreement in June.

Marinello signed on with Main Street West Partners due to Rice's reputation for building good developments and the city's commitment to improving the downtown's economic future, and because the downtown already had the infrastructure in place.

"There is a lot of potential here," Marinello said of the Main Street area. "It is a great opportunity to finish out the private investment portion of downtown."

Rice and Marinello said it is too early to talk about the specifics of what will go into the downtown. They are presently working out what the overall architecture will look like and lining up potential tenants.

They have brought Kent Bourland of William Hazmalhalch Architects of Redding who already has done several projects in Rio Vista, Windsor and American Canyon, among other areas.

"All of the framework is here," Bourland said of the existing downtown. "We hope to craft the right mix of users. It just needs a little push to get it to the next level."

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Hanging up their holsters; Pair of Suisun officers looking to retirement

From Vacaville Reporter // Aug. 27, 2005

Kimberly K. Fu/Staff Writer

Exotic locales and ample family time are in store for Bill Smothers and Doug Riddick, both Suisun City police veterans who hang up their dress blues in about a week and meld into retirement.

The pair, who together have more than 50 years of policing experience, will say their final farewells on Friday. Following that, Smothers heads to Europe and Riddick to Hawaii on much-anticipated vacations.

"They deserve a long and healthy retirement," Chief Ron Forsythe said. "They've both been mentors to a lot of officers, role models ... They've touched a lot of lives in this community and they'll be sorely missed."

Smothers, a master officer, began his career in 1978 as a reserve officer with the Solano County Sheriff's Office. He signed on with the Lovelock Police Department in Nevada in 1979 and, in 1981, joined the Suisun City force.

"The camaraderie was very, very strong," he said. "It was very close-knit, more like a family."

During his tenure, Smothers worked in Investigations and Boat Patrol, was a field training officer, property and evidence room custodian, member of the SWAT team's entry unit and the first Suisun officer assigned to the Solano County Narcotic Enforcement Team.

Smothers reveled in his narcotic work, said Dixon police Lt. Tony Welch, and also excelled at it.

"He liked to catch the bad guys," said Welch, a former Suisun lieutenant. "If you wanted to find Bill, he was where the bad guys were. He enjoyed his job."

Former Sgt. Kurtis Cardwell agreed.

"Bill was legendary for knowing all the area dopers, and Suisun had a lot of those in the early '80s," said Cardwell, now an investigator with the District Attorney's Office. "His MO was to rapidly approach a suspected tweaker you may have stopped, and say to them, 'When was the last time you slammed?' as he inspected their forearms. I was so impressed as a rookie that they would always tell him. Tweakers would always walk up to your parked car and say, 'Do you know Bill Smothers?' It was constant and hilarious. They loved him."

For his service, Smothers was honored with numerous awards including the Hazardous Action Medal, Distinguished Action Medal with three devices, Distinguished Service Medal, Achievement Medal, Life Saving Medal with one device and the Chief's Medal.

Riddick's career was also colorful. A longtime retail employee, he swapped his grocery store uniform for police duds in 1977 and never looked back.

"The lights, the sirens, the action. That was much more appealing than stacking cans on a shelf," emphasized the master sergeant.

In 1982, he moved from reserve officer to full-time officer. In 1990, he was promoted to sergeant. During his tenure, he served on the SWAT team and as its leader, worked in Investigations and Boat Patrol, was an administrative sergeant, and member and supervisor of the Major Crimes Unit. He was also the first supervisor of the Code Enforcement Division and considered instrumental in leading the unit through its infancy.

Riddick's favorite assignment, though, was Investigations.

"You got to work a case through to the end, hopefully have a positive outcome and the suspect's in jail," he explained.

Cardwell remembered training under Riddick, who taught him the ropes, so to speak.

"The first ticket I ever wrote was with Doug. He instructed me to pull a car over for not having a gas cap," he recalled. "I did not even know that was against the law. I did the stop and completed the citation, which is a fix-it ticket!"

Detective Steve Howisey expressed admiration for Riddick's people skills, making them feel comfortable regardless of the situation.

"Even when you screwed up, he didn't have to chew you out to get his point across," Howisey said. "He left you with some dignity intact."

Riddick's work was also recognized with honors, including the Distinguished Service Medal with one device, the Medal of Achievement, the Distinguished Action Medal with one device and the Chief's Medal.

Both veterans say they will miss the camaraderie with the community and other police staffers, as well as the adrenaline of the job. But after a lengthy term of service, each felt it was time to move on and spend more time with family.

Smothers has plans to golf more.

"I like the game. I just hope I can learn to play better," he joked.

And Riddick hopes to break in his new Fifth Wheel travel trailer and go fishing.

"I'm just looking forward to spending time with my wife and grandkids, just enjoying my family," he said.

Kimberly K. Fu can be reached at

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

New city manager fills two top Suisun positions

From Daily Republic // Aug. 26, 2005

Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City's new city manager has yet to even sit down at her new job and she is already moving on her first goal - filling the city's top positions now held by interim administrators.

Suzanne Bragdon, working through interim City Manager Jim Randall, filled both the planning director and newly created assistant city manager jobs with people she knew from Grover Beach in San Luis Obispo County.

Bragdon had served as an economic development consultant for Grover Beach before taking the job in Suisun City.

Ron Anderson, most recently Grover Beach's city manager, will be Suisun City's assistant city manager starting Sept. 16. Anderson also spent 25 years with the city of Fresno in a variety of positions that included working on the city's finances and managing public utilities.

Jake Raper, also from Grover Beach, is starting immediately as Suisun City's community development director. Before working for Grover Beach, Raper had worked for a number of planning agencies in Central Valley towns such as Riverbank, Waterford and Folsom.

The new city manager has yet to hire people to head the city's redevelopment agency, presently filled by interim director Al da Silva, and the finance department, temporarily filled by Diane Briltz.

Bragdon, who was appointed to her job by the council in mid-July, is expected to start work Aug. 30, Randall said.

The council made building what they called a strong and effective management team Bragdon's first priority when they hired her.

Bragdon also faces tasks of increasing finances in the city's tautly stretched budget, pushing forward redevelopment plans and improving Suisun City's economy.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Uncertainty surrounds Suisun City Wal-Mart developer

From Daily Republic // Aug. 23, 2005

By Christine Cubé
SUISUN CITY - The local real estate community is buzzing about the possibility that Highland Development Co. has been removed from the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter project in Suisun City.

Highland says it just isn't so.

While there has been some high-level staff departures with the San Mateo-based company - among them Highland CEO Jim Kessler and project manager Dean Issacs, who was initially on the Suisun City project - the developer is forging ahead with the project, said Paul Caruso, vice president of acquisition for Highland Development Co.

"We're still under contract," Caruso said, mentioning that the company in the last couple weeks made a six-figure payment toward the completion of the environmental impact report that's planned to be circulated in November. "We're definitely moving forward."

The reason for the recent staff changes at Highland?

"Philosophical differences with the managing partner (real estate investment brokerage Marcus Millichap) and they chose to do different things," Caruso said, mentioning that Marcus Millichap is the majority partner of Highland.

The company still faces a long and complicated entitlement process. The group is working with a number of different agencies including the state Department of Fish and Game, Local Agency Formation Commission and Suisun City.

Jason Garben, project manager for the Suisun City Redevelopment Agency said after the environmental impact report is complete, the next hurdle involves getting the huge section of the Gentry property annexed into the city. In the meantime, the city is arranging meetings with the public and the Main Street West developers to make sure the development projects complement one another.

"We would like to have complimentary projects rather than things that will compete," Garben said. "There's a good opportunity to create two developments that are viable in the long term and can create synergies for each other."

Highland's overall mixed-use project involves 675,000 square feet of gross retail space and about 359 single-family attached and/or detached homes to be developed by Silverwing Development. The proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter would serve as the anchor of the retail development, taking up roughly 220,000 square feet. Other big box retailers have not yet been named, although project developers identified likely tenants include a home improvement warehouse and apparel store. The projected groundbreaking is 2007.

This would be Highland's first project in Suisun City. Similar developments include a community shopping center in Hanford which features an Albertsons, Orchard Supply Hardware and Rite-Aid.

Reach Christine Cubé at 427-6934 or

Monday, August 22, 2005

Fishing shop owners hope to catch big sales

From Daily Republic // Aug. 22, 2005

By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Rafael Vidal has been fishing the waterways in and around the Suisun Marsh since he was 12 and loved it.

"Going fishing was my favorite hobby. My whole family fished," Vidal said.

Now, the Suisun City resident is in the business of helping others get everything they need to land that big one by running Rocky's One Stop Fishing Shop on Sunset Avenue, within sight of his fishing grounds.

Vidal had been working as an industrial painter, a job "that was pretty hard on me,'' and he wanted to be his own boss.

"I wanted to do something I like and I liked fishing," Vidal said of how he chose his new profession.
With money he and his wife Dema had saved up, Vidal contacted a local real estate agent who found the small storefront in the shopping center on Sunset Avenue just behind the Black Bear Restaurant.

He opened his doors on July 30 and said the first month has been good for him with a lot of customers who either spotted the place while driving by or heard about the store by word of mouth.

"It has been going real good for the first month," Vidal said, adding he is restocking a lot of what he sold out of since he opened.

Vidal's youth surprises some who walk through the door.

"A lot of new customers trip on this," said Vidal, 21. "They sometimes ask is my dad the owner."
Vidal is the person you will usually find behind the counter, but his wife pitches in "to let me go out to fish a little bit."

Rocky's offers a good selection of rods and reels for fishing in the marsh, as well as nets, lures, tackle and other fishing-related gear. There is also a good selection of snacks to make those long hours fishing a little more palatable.

The store is light on the supplies for stream fishing, but Vidal plans to expand that as the store's customer base grows.

He also offers a good selection of live and frozen bait in the tanks and freezers ranging from grass shrimp and mudsuckers to anchovies and chicken livers.

Some time within the next month, Vidal hopes to have a grand opening with a barbecue and some fishing equipment giveaways.

His long-range plans include moving to a larger space to allow him to further expand his offerings in fishing gear as well as bring in hunting supplies.

Vidal said the upside of running the store is being able to talk fishing with friends and customers underneath a sign that reads "Fish Tales Told Here."

The down side is "I don't get out to fish much, maybe once a week," Vidal said.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or

Rocky's One Stop Fishing Shop
Location: 108 C Sunset Avenue, Suisun City, 94585
Hours: Sunday throughThursday, 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Owners: Rafael and Dema Vidal
Phone: 422-4737
Opened: July 30

Brand names popular with hip-hop shoppers

Daily Republic // Aug. 22. 2005

By Brad Stanhope
SUISUN CITY - Alfredo Herrera likes P.J. Mart so much he keeps going back.

"I come here all the time - usually at least twice a week," the 18-year-old Suisun City resident says of the hip-hop clothing store in the Sunset Center near Highway 12.

How often does he buy?

"Probably once or twice a week," he says as he looks through T-shirts.

P.J. Mart - called P.J.'s by many customers - features Sean John, Ecko and other brand names. There's a huge display of K-Swiss shoes and a large number of shirts featuring the image of slain Vallejo rapper Mac Dre.

Herrera has plenty of company in the store on a weekday as school approaches. As hip-hop music plays on the store's speakers, several younger customers look through the brand-name shirts, pants, jackets and shoes.

"Everything is brand names," he explains. "That's the main thing that everybody wears nowadays."
Herrera usually comes with his friends - "this is the first time in awhile I've been here by myself," he says.

"This is close (to my home)," Herrera says. "I don't have to go to Fairfield to buy clothes like this. When you come in, they have everything. You don't have to walk all over the mall."

On the wall, there is a poster for Sean John clothes, featuring rapper Diddy. Along one wall are jerseys for Shaquille O'Neal, Michael Vick and Larry Bird, among others.

Herrera wanders the store, then stops to check out a Philadelphia 76ers shirt and talk to P.J. Mart employee Nayelli Trejo.

"He made two bets," Herrera says of a friend. "One on the Raiders, one against them . . ."

Herrera graduated from Rodriguez High School last year, so he's not worrying about back-to-school shopping like most of the other shoppers.

Young kids filter in and look around while Herrera continues to look. Just another day at the store for him.

Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6925 or

Saturday, August 20, 2005

After wife's death, father balances life as a single dad

From Daily Republic // Aug. 20, 2005

By Sarah Arnquist
SUISUN CITY - When Johnny Nguyen rushed his 8-year-old son, Thomas Nguyen, to the emergency room in early August for an appendectomy, a wave painful memories overwhelmed him.

The sterile hallways haunted him as he remembered his wife's last days before she died in April 2004. Just like when she died, though, Nguyen had little time to grieve. He rushed home to care for his four other young children.
"I'm the only one to take care of my kids right now," Nguyen said.

Nguyen (pronounced win) feels exhausted and exasperated. His wife of 11 years, Huong Nguyen, died at 40 on April 19, 2004, after a two-year battle against breast cancer. She left him with five children, ages 3 to 10.

Nguyen cooks and cleans. He shuttles children to and from school and activities. He cuddles and comforts. He cut his hours in half at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery to take care of his family.

Fairfield resident Annie Hutchinson said her heart breaks when she thinks of the young family struggling day by day without their mother. Hutchinson, a cancer survivor, befriended Huong while she fought cancer and then adopted the family after she died.

"Johnny is working and trying to keep the family together, and he's just worn out," Hutchinson said.

Nguyen, 47, emigrated from Vietnam and moved to Suisun City in 1982. He began working at Anheuser Busch in 1987.

"I try to be a good citizen. I try to be a good father," he said.

He speaks of his wife in glowing terms, but feels overwhelmed by the task of caring for five children. In July 2004, Nguyen took his family to Vietnam. There, he met Pham Thi Xuan Tuio, a woman with whom he and his children instantly connected, he said.

Nguyen proposed to Pham and asked her to move to California to help him raise his children. She accepted his engagement proposal and planned to move here, but the U.S. Consulate in Vietnam rejected her Visa application. All the paperwork on the American side was approved, but the U.S. Consulate in Vietnam won't budge based on its decision "that this relationship appears to exist solely to convey immigration benefits upon Ms. Pham."

Nguyen's friends in Fairfield rallied behind him, stating otherwise. More than 30 of Nguyen's co-workers signed a letter supporting his love for his family and good marriage intentions.

"We, as Johnny's co-workers and friends, can assure you that this marriage is no farce," the letter said.

Nguyen also mailed the consulate letters of support from his children's pediatrician, their school principal, the priest at Our Lady Mount Carmel Catholic Church and the hospice worker who cared for his wife into her final days.

He mailed letters to Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, pleading for help. Representatives from their offices wrote letters on his behalf and said they could do no more.

Nguyen feels he exhausted all his options. The days ahead look long and difficult, he said.

"I don't know what I can do," Nguyen said. "I just think that there is someone out there that has a heart."

Hutchinson said she wishes someone with ties to immigration would sweep in and help this family. She asked people at church to help them out, but "when you say five kids it scares the heck out of people," she said.

Vivian Nguyen, the oldest child at 11, said she wishes Pham could move here right away.

"She's like another version of my mom," she said.

Pictures of Vivian's mom hang all over the Nguyen house, including a poster-size portrait surrounded by flowers. Vivian said she can't pick out her favorite memory of her mom because she has too many good ones.

Their household still grieves, but his family must move on, Johnny Nguyen said. For his children's sake, he prays immigration officials change their position.

"We can't live like this."

Reach Sarah Arnquist at 427-6953 or

Those interested in helping the Nguyen family can contact Rick Siefke, a social worker at NorthBay Health Care. He can be reached at 429-7961 or

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Keeping neighborhoods safe -- Citizen watch groups bind communities together

By Audrey Wong

SUISUN CITY -- Thirty years ago Mary Smith fell in love with a house in Old Town Suisun City which cost only $10,000.

Although the home was everything Smith wanted, she didn't care for some of her neighbors who caused trouble. Fortunately there were other neighbors Smith could rely on. She banded together with them. To this day, the group of Old Town residents inform each other about crime and other problems in their community.

She estimates 21 people are involved with the Old Town Neighborhood Watch program. Smith recalled how nearly eight years ago the group helped her handle a resident who shot out her window and took drugs.

"I would call the police then call all the neighbors," Smith said. "Then we would come on the porch and watch him get arrested."

Old Town's Neighborhood Watch group has been around about 30 years and operated before it officially became part of the Neighborhood Watch program, Smith said.

Suisun City has about 60 active Neighborhood Watch groups but the police department doesn't track how long groups have been in existence, said Joanne Ledford, a crime prevention specialist for Suisun City police.

One of the longest running Neighborhood Watch groups in Suisun City is Shasta Court, which has been around for 21 years, Ledford said. Another long-standing group is the Neighborhood Watch on Whitney Avenue, which has operated for 16 years, Ledford said.

Fairfield has 300 Neighborhood Watch groups, said Kathy Dineen, a crime prevention specialist for the Fairfield Police Department. The department doesn't keep track of which group is the oldest but has a number of groups that have been around longer than 10 years. For example, Jasmine Street Neighborhood Watch has been together for 22 years, the McKinley Street group has been around for 18 years and East Colorado Street group operated for 15 years.

A sense of purpose

Neighborhood Watch groups serve as the eyes and ears of the police. Members also take care of each other. When a group forms, Ledford will meet with members to teach them when to call 911 and how to report incidents. Each group has a block captain and block captains meet four times a year. Members will have a phone tree of the group and will meet with police officers to discuss problems.

Uniting often benefits the denizens of a block.

Mary Dooley, who formed the Shasta Court Neighborhood Watch, remembered how 10 years ago members teamed up against a couple who were involved in drugs. When suspicious people drove their vehicles into the court, neighbors wrote down license plate numbers and reported them to the police or to Dooley.

On Jasmine Street, George and Kay Locatelli will watch the homes of neighbors who are on vacation. The block captains will pick up mail and keep track of people who come to the house. And members will report any suspicious looking people on their block.

Constant communication and long-time residents keep the Old Town group going, Smith said. When Old Town members meet, they gather on the porch of Smith's neighbor for a glass of wine. They may discuss things such as who is breaking car windows and other events in their part of Suisun City. Smith may call fellow members about the latest crime or neighbors will call Smith to learn what she heard on her police scanner. Smith describes the group as good friends.

The Jasmine group also has many members who have lived on the block for decades. When the Locatellis first moved to Jasmine Street, their neighbors were in their 60s, Kay Locatelli said. Now they're in their 80s and 90s.

Jasmine residents are so close that when an elderly member died, that member's granddaughter mentioned the Jasmine Street Neighborhood Watch in her eulogy, Kay Locatelli said.

Block captains such as the Locatellis and Dooley try to get new neighbors involved. When there is a newcomer, they introduce themselves and urge them to join Neighborhood Watch. Recently the Locatellis celebrated National Night Out, a nationwide Neighborhood Watch event, and invited new families to a block party.

What can cause a group to unravel is when a block captain moves away and members lose touch with the police, Dineen said.

Janie Williams started a Neighborhood Watch for James Street in January to address troublesome residents. She wants the same longevity as the Jasmine Street group.

"Hopefully I can say in 25 years that we're together," Williams said.

Reach Audrey Wong at 427-6951 or

Suisun Council to vote on city manager's contract

From Daily Republic // Aug. 16, 2005
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - The Suisun City Council will vote tonight whether to give Suzanne Bragdon a three-year contract to run the town for $140,000 a year.

Council members already highly lauded Bragdon as the right person to be the city's city manager/redevelopment director and put it back on its feet financially.

Bragdon was described as a person with the resourcefulness and attention to detail that will move redevelopment efforts forward and rebuild the city's stretched services.

The council appointed Bragdon to the position on July 19 to fill the job held by Steve Baker before he left in December 2004 to become city manager in Oakdale, a central valley town.

Bragdon is expected to start work on Sept. 1, with her first task being to fill several of the city's top administrative positions that are now either empty or temporarily filled.

Bragdon's job is the result of an administrative evolution that makes her both head of city administration and the redevelopment agency.

The council is also voting tonight to create an assistant city manager for administrative services position that will pay $117,000 a year. It combines what is presently the assistant city manager and finance director positions.

A memo to the council from interim City Manager Jim Randall said this change will save Suisun City $64,000 by combining the two positions.

The Suisun City Council meets at 7 p.m. tonight in the Suisun City Council chamber at 701 Civic Center Blvd.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or

Suisun City to weigh developers' views on waterfront projects

From Daily Republic // Aug. 16, 2005

By Christine Cubé
SUISUN CITY - As the fight for waterfront property in Suisun City continues, two developers are vying for the chance to build distinctly different construction projects.

Suisun City officials are quick to point out they're not playing favorites, but only one project is truly proceeding down the development pipeline.

So far, Suisun economic development officials met several times with representatives of existing boat shop Adams Marine, which is overseen by owner Bill Adams. Adams and his business partners look to expand the boat shop as well as build a new restaurant, kayak rental store and office space.

The next meeting takes place Wednesday, when city officials and Adams representatives will go over the finances and finalize business projections for the development.

Shane Ballman, an investor with Suisun City-based Ballman Jensen Pitcher, said he hopes the city will do the "right thing" and open up the project land for bid. Ballman's development consortium proposes to build eight live-work executive homes with designated work space on the lower floor. It's a concept that's already in place in the Promenade subdivision of Suisun City.

"All we want is an equal opportunity," Ballman said. "That they'll issue a (request for proposals) and look at our project."

Suisun City Mayor Jim Spering maintains Adams Marine has not been given the exclusive right to build their development plans.

"We had several people interested in the parcel," Spering said, mentioning the city tends to side with existing businesses that generate tax dollars. "That's the first priority. We will entertain any proposal, but we won't do it at the expense of marginalizing an existing business that's made a commitment to Suisun City."

What remains in question is the "policy" with which Suisun City is operating by giving Adams Marine a green light on its expansion.

"Directions and policies are set in many different ways by public agencies," said Al da Silva, interim economic development director for Suisun City. "We have given enough written documentation to (Ballman Jensen Pitcher) to demonstrate this was not a policy that was arrived at last month."

Jim Randall, interim city manager, said staffers in September will recommend to the Suisun City Redevelopment Agency board, which is comprised of the same officials of the City Council, "articulating the (development) process and making it more of a policy than a practice."

Should the Adams Marine expansion materialize, da Silva said the city will have one developable parcel left for construction, but it likely will not be able to hold eight units of executive homes.
Still, Ballman Jensen Pitcher may have a shot, Randall said.

"They may get a shot at the whole thing or they may get a shot at a parcel, depending on what happens with Adams Marine," Randall said.

A final recommendation by city staff will go to the Suisun City Redevelopment Agency board in September.
Reach Christine Cubé at 427-6934 or

Monday, August 8, 2005

Expressing herself--Suisun City teen loves animé, poetry

From Daily Republic

By Amy Maginnis-Honey
SUISUN CITY - Brittany Arakaki has found many ways to express her inner self, whether it be through drawing or writing.

The Fairfield High School junior began doing animé, a Japanese art form, about eight years ago. "It looks easier than it really is," she said of the genre that has produced everything from Speed Racer to Pokemon.

The first animé artist she admired was Rumiko Takahashi, one of Japan's most loved cartoonists. Takahashi also wrote many comics.

"I really like her stories rather than the drawings," Arakaki said. "They had a lot of humor and were weird and funny."

Today, Arakaki does most of her sketching with an art tablet on the computer at her Suisun City home. From start to finish, she can do a picture in about an hour.

Before the art tablet, Arakaki often spent more than 10 hours on one picture.

She regularly contributes her talents to an online animé comic book, too.

And, friends often call upon her to draw their favorite animé characters. "I think they say, 'this involves art. Let's ask her,' " Arakaki said.

Such practice has perfected her skills. "I didn't have a knack for it," she said. "But I did it until I was at least decent at it."

Last month, for the fifth consecutive year, she attended an animé convention in Anaheim. In 2004, she began dressing up for the cast-playing at the event.

"Everyone there is like you," she said. "You don't feel weird."

This year, she and her cohorts wore costumes from the video game Guilty Gear XX.

"I love the game," she said, explaining it has a character that wears a paper bag on its head.

Arakaki played the character that was a boy raised as a girl.

Arakaki has a Japanese father and African-American mother. Her exotic eyes and dark skin made people question what race she belonged to.

"It was really weird," she said. "I would be sitting somewhere and hear people whisper, 'Is she Chinese or something?' "

She would love a career in animé, especially writing comic books.

She also dreams of being a novelist, noting her favorite author is Anne Rice.

"Her characters are so compelling," Arakaki said, mentioning Lestat, from "Interview With a Vampire." "I like how her stories are told in the first person."

She emulates Rice's style in her writings. She likes to blend tales of angels and demons. "It's more fun to do that," she said. "You can create a whole different world."

One of her animé pieces is "Play With Me?" featuring a character called Shinrai, which is her online name.

"I don't like to touch anything too happy; it's boring," she said of the waif-like female.
That comes across in her poetry, too.

In "Fatal Canvas," Arakaki writes: "I promise I'll paint you a picture, using all the tears I shed over thee with blood stained fingertips and every 'I love you' I tried to believe."

Arakaki enjoys music, particularly that of visual kei bands that often wear makeup, dye their hair in unnatural colors and wear everything from feather boas to fur coats.

She opts to dress in only black and white. And, when she doesn't have any white, she'll wear red.
And, depending on her mood, her art is often done in black and white.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or

Bait for the fish, snacks for the fishermen

From Daily Republic // Aug. 8, 2005

By Brad Stanhope
SUISUN CITY - Howlin Davis, 3, enjoys the entire experience at Virgil's Bait Shop.

"We like snacks," he says. "And we like fishing. That's what we like to do - to eat snacks and go fishing. That's what we do."

Howlin is at Virgil's on a warm summer day with his father, Justin Davis, and 6-year-old brother, Cyrus Davis. They're getting some bait for a trip later in the day to Grizzly Island, where father and sons will try to catch stripers or sturgeon.

But they're also picking up some snacks.

Cyrus and Howlin each sneak a bag of nuts onto the counter while Davis talks to Virgil's owner Bill Mitchell. There already are two bottles of water to go with the bait.

Justin Davis, who grew up in Fairfield, moved to Oregon two years ago, but is preparing to move back to Suisun City with his wife, Jill Davis, and the boys.

"Bill knows what's good," he says, referring to the store owner. "We usually get blood worms."

Today, they're getting grass shrimp. Davis explains the grass shrimp will help later in the day because "sturgeons love it and stripers don't mind," he says.

Cyrus says when it comes time to put the bait on the hook, his dad does the job - because mom wants it that way.

"I never get hurt or stabbed," he says.

For Davis, who graduated from Fairfield High in 1992, fishing is a lifelong hobby.

"We used to love to fish here," he says. "My wife and I lived down the street."

Today, his wife is at work and he and the boys are preparing for an afternoon or evening with lines in the water.

"I try to get them out as much as possible," Davis says - a thought echoed by 6-year-old Cyrus.

He says he began fishing "when I was just a little guy." When asked how often he goes out, he thinks. "Probably every one or two . . . years," he says as dad laughs. "I like catching fish."

Howlin, as befits a 3-year-old, is a little less articulate about his fishing experience.

"I like to use things to go fishing," he says. "I catch them with hooks."

Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6925 or

Suisun readies annex proposal for possible Wal-Mart site

From Daily Republic // Aug. 7, 2005

By Christine Cubé
SUISUN CITY - Developers and Suisun City officials are preparing their application to the Local Agency Formation Commission to annex property adjacent to Suisun City that could eventually become the home of a new Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The project has been the subject of debate by many local residents and members of the business community who question Wal-Mart's bid to build two supercenters in the Fairfield-Suisun area. A supercenter at Mission Village in Fairfield is under consideration.

Suisun City officials maintain developing a portion of the Gentry property would be a great asset for the community, allowing Suisun City residents to shop and spend their money at home.

Currently, Suisun City ranks lowest in Solano County in terms of per capita sales tax generation. About 73 percent of the city's disposable income is spent outside the city, supporting Fairfield and other jurisdictions, officials said.

"It's an equity issue," said Gerry Raycraft, interim community development director for Suisun City. "The Gentry project is important in terms of sales tax generation. It levels the playing field in terms of providing opportunities for Suisun City residents."

The development has the potential to generate anywhere from $600,000 to $800,000 in sales tax for Suisun City, Raycraft said. Higher, more optimistic estimates put the sales tax generation figure at $2 million, he said.

The overall mixed-use project involves 675,000 square feet of gross retail space and about 359 single-family attached and/or detached homes to be developed by Silverwing Development.

The proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter would serve as the anchor of the retail development, taking up roughly 220,000 square feet. Other big box retailers have not yet been named, although project developers have identified likely tenants including a home improvement warehouse and apparel company.

Highland Development of San Mateo is working through the entitlement process, said Mitch Bolen, director of construction for the business. The Suisun City development would be Highland's first in the Fairfield-Suisun area.

An environmental study is underway while the LAFCO process continues, Suisun City Mayor Jim Spering said. City and building officials want LAFCO to approve the underlying land use and annexation of the Gentry property to the city. The property is unincorporated land that is within Suisun City's sphere of influence, Spering said.

The environmental report is expected mid-November.

"It's not a cookie-cutter project," Raycraft said, mentioning the primary focus of the report involves evaluating traffic flow and biology with regard to wetlands, air quality and noise. "It's complex."

Reach Christine Cubé at 427-6934 or

Friday, August 5, 2005

Chairman excited about region's economic prospects

From Daily Republic // Aug. 5, 2005
Jeff Mitchell

FAIRFIELD - Just a few months on the job and Jon M. Monson is clearly an excited man.
The chairman of the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce says he believes that the precisely right blend of economic development efforts between the chamber, local and county government have come together and soon will begin to bear fruit.

"I am very optimistic," said the 46-year-old Monson, during an interview with the Daily Republic Thursday. "I think that between the existing programs and the programs the city plans to bring on-line we will begin to get our message out to the decision makers."

That message is that Solano County - specifically Fairfield and Suisun City - are good places to build a new company or grow an existing firm, given the workforce and the amount of available land for development.

Monson, who is chief executive officer of Fairfield-based MV Transportation, Inc. when not leading the 17-member chamber board, says the region's affordable housing is a prime key to achieving the kind growth which produces good paying jobs. Jobs that pay good wages in turn allow people to purchase homes and raise families - elements that serve to stabilize and enhance communities.

"Companies looking to expand or move are very careful to consider the affordable housing element," Monson said.

The man who started in the public transportation business as a bus driver and who now directs a nationwide transportation company, says the city of Fairfield's recently-announced economic development campaign plans go hand-in-hand with the chamber's efforts as well as those of the Solano County Economic Development Corp.

Monson applauded Fairfield's recently unveiled economic development campaign plans which in part focus on helping grow existing businesses as well as recruiting firms from outside the area.
"This is an area that gets forgotten about at times - I think we all need to be doing what we can to help these companies grow," Monson said. "They're here and they deserve our support."

Monson said he has enjoyed his time as chairman of the chamber, an organization whose origins date back to the 1940s and which this year boasted a membership of 700, a staff of four people and an annual operating budget in excess of $550,000.

He predicted that during his tenure as chairman and in subsequent years, the chamber will begin to take an increasingly higher profile role in the debate around community-wide questions.

Monson said the chamber is stepping up the amount of polling it is doing of its membership. He said one of his goals is to make sure those opinions are being expressed to the public and to key local decision makers.

Meanwhile, Monson, who regularly logs a wilting number of hours each week as MV Transportation's chief executive, says he has been enjoying his role as chamber chairman.

"It's been challenging," Monson said. "I have no interest in politics - and I'm not doing this as a prelude to something else. I'm doing this because I believe strongly in the work of the chamber. It's been a gratifying experience."

Reach Jeff Mitchell at 427-6977 or

Name: Jon M. Monson
Age: 46
Residence: Fairfield (since 1999)
Title: Chairman, board of directors, Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce
Other title: Chief executive officer, MV Transportation, Inc.
Personal: Married with three adult children; four grandchildren

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

National Night Out fun, educational for all

From Daily Republic // Aug. 3, 2005

By Audrey Wong

SUISUN CITY - Rayonna, 6, and Raheim, 2, frolicked Monday as their mother, Sharise Allen, gathered information about their safety.

The family participated in the National Night Out celebration at Patriot Park. Raheim enjoyed the bounce house while Rayonna sat in a squad car. The youngsters also practiced calling 911.

Allen said she appreciated that she could fingerprint and photograph her children and store their information in a database in case anything happens to them. She also gathered pamphlets on CPR, drunken driving and other topics.

"I think it's a great idea, it's very informative," Allen said of the event. "Kids can also come and run around and just be kids."

The event drew between 700 to 1,000 people, said Joanne Ledford, community services specialist for the Suisun City Police Department.

The National Association of Town Watch sponsors National Night Out. The event is designed to heighten crime prevention, strengthen neighborhood bonds and support anti-crime efforts.

This was the first year the department celebrated at its new Burdick Center in Patriot Park. A helicopter ambulance landed at the park for crowds to inspect. Boys piled into the Solano County Sheriff's Humvee while other youngsters admired the new Suisun police car.

Other Neighborhood Watch Groups held smaller block parties throughout the region. Denizens of the Jasmine Street watch group socialized and feasted on a warm August evening.

Watch group captain George Locatelli estimated nearly 70 people gathered at the home of Sam Shasky. The party is a way to bond with neighbors, especially new ones, Locatelli said.

During the festivities, Fairfield Mayor Karin MacMillan, Fairfield Police Chief Bill Gresham and other dignitaries showed up. Nicolle Fairchild presented Capt. Christian Williams of Travis Air Force Base with 580 messages she collected for troops in Iraq.

Jasmine Street residents have celebrated National Night Out for 22 years, Locatelli said.

Neighbors care for each other, he said. About three years ago, Locatelli noticed two men inspecting Shasky's van. He called an officer over and later learned the two suspicious characters had warrants for their arrests.

"We're nosy neighbors - we watch out for each other," Locatelli said. "If you head off to work and leave the garage door open, we'll close it for you."

Reach Audrey Wong at 427-6951 or

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

National Night Out aims to strengthen neighborhoods, fight crime

From Daily Republic // Aug. 2, 2005

By Audrey Wong

FAIRFIELD - Sam Shasky says he has been a crusader all his life. That's why he is involved with the Neighborhood Watch group on Jasmine Street.

"I've been against drugs and for law and order so that's why I've been trying to keep our neighborhoods free and open and safe for our kids," Shasky said.

Shasky will be one of 35 million people nationwide who will participate in National Night Out.

The National Association of Town Watch sponsors the event, where communities have block parties to strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships, heighten awareness of crime prevention, generate support for anti-crime efforts and show criminals that residents are organized and fighting back, according to Joanne Ledford, community services specialist for the Suisun City Police Department.

National Night Out will involve more than 10,000 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases internationally.

Groups will celebrate the event in different ways. Shasky invited Fairfield Mayor Karin MacMillan and McGruff the Crime Dog to make an appearance at 7 p.m. Shasky plans to have his neighbor, Nicolle Fairchild, to present 500 messages to military troops in Iraq to a member of the military.

Charles Only plans to have a jumping house, plus food, music and games on Pistacia Court for the Encore Team's block party. Only formed Encore Team's Neighborhood Watch three years ago when he moved into the new housing development.

"I organized its first Neighborhood Watch so that everybody would get to know each other," he said.

In Vacaville, Ithica Court residents will have a pie-eating contest and a Grape Street group will have a luau.

Suisun City will have its 22nd Annual National Night Out at the new Burdick Center in Patriot Park at 1101 Charleston St. The event will have child fingerprinting, Solano Shriner Clowns, crime prevention information, games and several speakers.

Ledford estimates roughly 3,500 people will celebrate National Night Out throughout Suisun
City and is expecting hundreds at the Burdick Center.

Reach Audrey Wong at 427-6951 or

Who: Various Neighborhood Watch groups
What: National Night Out
When: Tonight
Where: Various locations
Info: Kathy Dineen crime prevention specialist for Fairfield Police 428-7327
Joanne Ledford, community services specialists, Suisun City Police, 421-7381
Meaghan O'Neill, crime prevention unit, Vacaville Police, 449-5432

Railway museum keeps on chuggin'

From the Daily Republic // August 2, 2005

By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - Phil Kohlmetz stood inside the massive shell of the Western Railway Museum's newest construction project and thought about the train car house it will one day become.

That took a little imagination on this recent day. Though the exterior walls on this Wal-Mart-sized structure had for the most part been installed, the roof was nothing but an iron frame, revealing blue sky. Yellow star thistles grew in the hard, sun-baked soil that is the floor.

"Right now, it looks like a big, patch of dirt," said Kohlmetz, the museum's executive director.

He can envision the building finished, with visitors admiring up to 40 vintage electric train cars on display. It will be a lively place, Kohlmetz said.

"I see much more than a big patch of dirt," he said.

The Western Railway Museum is the little engine that could. Founded by the region's train buffs some 40 years ago on Highway 12 between Rio Vista and Suisun City, it keeps expanding.

Volunteers did much of the early construction. During the 1960s, they erected a huge shed constructed from wooden poles and metal siding to create the existing train display house.

This time, the museum is having contractors build a $2 million, 350-foot-long building that will have six tracks running inside it. It will be more sophisticated than a metal shed, with such features as four-inch-thick insulation and a sprinkler system.

"It raises the level of preservation we give to artifacts exponentially," Kohlmetz said.

The museum has raised $1.5 million, including a $310,520 grant it recently received from the state. It needs $536,366 to finish the job. Still, Kohlmetz expects the building to be completed next summer, he hopes without taking out a loan.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can . . .

Scheduled to go inside the new car shed is the restored Sacramento Northern 1005. Built by the Holman's Co. San Francisco plant in 1912, it once carried passengers on the electric railroad between Oakland and Chico. The museum's parent organization bought it in 1951 for $702.

The museum has restored the redwood, tongue-and-groove exterior. It is restoring the seats, which are a deep, red mohair found only in Europe, Kohlmetz said.

Sacramento Northern 1005 will be a work of art, brought back to life with lots of love and care from museum volunteers. The new building will help keep it in good shape. That four inches of insulation will keep temperatures inside from fluctuating quickly, something that can harm train cars.

"That's really the killer," Kohlmetz said. "It's the contraction and expansion."

Key System Transit Line number 182 will also be featured in the new car barn. It once whisked passengers between Oakland and San Francisco over the Bay Bridge, back in the first half of the 20th century, when interurban electric trains flourished.

Kohlmetz called the Key System the predecessor to BART.

Visitors can sit in the seats, smell that leather-and-vinyl odor and think about the glory years of electric train travel. Everything inside invokes the 1940s and 1950s, right down to the advertisements lining the inside wall.

"Sweep the Communists Out of the Government. Elect Dewey and Warren," a red-white-and-blue ad proclaims.

"RC tastes best," another says, with actress Barbara Stanwyck smiling and holding a glass of Royal Crown Cola.

"Orchids like alcohol. Put your orchid in a highball after wearing it. It will last much longer," advises another.

The train barn will be big enough to hold four of these Key System cars coupled together, just as they were during their working lifetimes.

Another feature of the new car house will be walls that can withstand fire for up to an hour. The museum is located in an area of high winds and hills covered with dry grass. A fast-moving wildfire is a danger.

Construction started last year, with a $600,000 donation from the late Loring C. Jensen providing the seed money. The building will be named for Jensen.

The new building is the largest, most expensive the museum has ever built, Kohlmetz said.

"We take a lot of deep breaths," he said. "The only way I've made it his far is I'm still taking deep breaths."

As the fund-raising effort enters its final phase, the museum has an endorsement from the Solano County Board of Supervisors. Supervisors on May 3 passed a resolution stating the new car house will preserve artifacts representing "a significant 20th century event that had profound effects on California's economy, culture and development."

"The Western Railway Museum is worthy of support from private and public sources," the resolution said.

As it has in the past, the museum is moving forward with an ambitious project.

I know I can, I know I can . . .

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

A Western Railway Museum History
1946: A group of train fans save an old Oakland street car that is to be scrapped. They form the Bay Area Electric Railway Association.
1960: The association buys 22 acres at Rio Vista Junction as the site for the Western Railway Museum.
1965: Some Fairfield residents are surprised to see trains running on abandoned tracks. It is a museum train excursion.
1967-68: Museum builds its first car house.
1975: Museum builds a shop where it can repair and renovate trains.
1981: Museum builds a second car house.
1993: Museum secures a 22-mile segment of the former Sacramento Northern Railway line.
2001: Visitors center opens.
2003: Museum hires full-time director.
2004: Museum board approves building the Loring C. Jensen Memorial Car House.