Sunday, April 30, 2006

A jewel of Solano: Rush Ranch holds open house

From Vacaville Reporter
By Jason Massad/Staff Writer

Just south of the bustling waterfront town that is Suisun City, lies more than 2,000 acres where an old ranch, the Suisun Marsh and the rolling Montezuma Hills all come together.

Rush Ranch, named after a family that planted roots in Solano County in the 1850s, is nothing short of an anomaly in this busy Bay Area county.

Two miles north of the ranch is Highway 12, which hums with traffic during the morning and afternoon rush hour.

But at Rush Ranch, only a stone's throw from the paved Grizzly Island Road, you could probably hear that rock hit the asphalt if you listened closely enough.

The ranch makes it feel as if you have stepped back in time. There's an old barn with peeling paint, a working blacksmith's shop, a small visitor's center and a timeworn corral of weathered, twisted wood.

Encircling the ranch is a stand of eucalyptus trees. The birds in the canopy above call to each other, and a beckoning trail between the trees leads to a gentle hill that overlooks the entire expanse of the ranch.

Once on top, visitors can see cows grazing in the unseasonably green pastures in the northern portion of the ranch. A dredging ship in the muddy Suisun Slough sits on the horizon, and wildflowers pop up on the grassy areas above the marsh.

"About 150 years ago, there was 100 square miles of marsh," said Don Taynton, a volunteer who leads educational tours on the ranch and is a walking encyclopedia of wildflowers. "Now there's 10 miles left and 1.67 (miles) are on Rush Ranch."

To be sure, there's a lot to absorb at the ranch, which is holding its 16th annual open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today.

The ranch is the crown jewel of roughly 10,000 acres of open space owned by the Solano Land Trust. The ranch was purchased by the trust in 1988 as its first acquisition.

Organizers expect 300 to 500 people at Rush Ranch for today's event, as long as the weather turns out to be as nice as the forecast.

The open house will be a smorgasbord of nature, history and down-home entertainment, organizers say.

Planned are wagon rides with narration about the ranch and its history. There will be old time music and square dancing, wheat weaving, wool spinning, a poetry reading and even art for sale that celebrates the Rush Ranch.

Mike Muir, the great grandson of the legendary California naturalist and explorer John Muir, will bring a horse-drawn carriage equipped to take the handicapped on a tour of the property.

The event will have a pioneer-day atmosphere with an artistic twist, said organizers.

"We love to have families coming because we always have stuff for the kids. We really have something for everyone," said Mary Takeuchi, an educational volunteer who helps with programs at the ranch. "The food and soda is fairly priced. It will be cheap day of entertainment."

On Thursday, Taynton gave a guided tour toward the marsh portion of the ranch. While the late rainy season means that the grass has grown unusually high, there are still wildflowers. Purple Salsify, a light purple flower, was a small discovery alongside a mowed path that leads toward the marsh.

All around, tiny white and purple flowers, called wild radishes, swayed in the breeze. Even the state's official flower, the colorful California poppy, grows on the ranch.

For regular visitors, the ranch is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Educational tours associated with the Patwin tribe of Native Americans, the original occupants of the ranch, are regularly scheduled for young school groups.

Taynton pointed out a hut made of dried tule reeds near the marsh that the Patwins would use when the weather turned bad hundreds of years ago.

School children, some who have never ventured too far out of a city, love the experience, Taynton explained.

"It's definitely a worthwhile experience. They walk away with something they didn't know when they came here."

Jason Massad can be reached at

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Rush Ranch gets preservation grant

From Daily Republic
By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - California is giving $500,000 to help build a nature/research center at the Rush Ranch open space preserve in Suisun Marsh.

The state Coastal Conservancy awarded the money at its Thursday meeting in Ventura. The money will be combined with $500,000 from the National Estuarine Research Reserve Center.
Construction could cost $1.2 million, Solano Land Trust Executive Director Marilyn Farley said. The Coastal Conservancy grant is a key piece.

"I won't say it's the final piece, but it's very close," Farley said.

She expects construction to begin this summer.

The 2,070-acre Rush Ranch is located on Grizzly Island Road a few miles south of Suisun City. It stretches from the tule-lined Suisun Marsh sloughs to grassy upland hills.

Researchers would be able to stay at the proposed nature center. The center would include exhibits on the research. It would have a classroom that could also be used for meetings and other gatherings.

Power for the nature center is to come from a wind turbine and solar panels, given that rural Rush Ranch has no electricity.

"For anyone who wants to understand the history of the North Bay marshlands or to enjoy their sights, sounds and smells, Rush Ranch is a must-visit," Coastal Conservancy Chairman Douglas Bosco said in a press release.

"The ranch's new nature center will serve many thousands of school children and others who would like to know more about this spectacular natural environment and the people who live there."

The Land Trust bought the land in 1988 with a $1.5 million Coastal Conservancy grant. Since then, the Coastal Conservancy has provided $400,000 for Rush Ranch improvement, not counting the nature center grant.

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

Suisun's City Hall wants go-ahead to develop land

From Daily Republic
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City Hall is asking the City Council Tuesday for the green light to look for developers interested in putting a business on the vacant land next to the city's post office.

Several developers have expressed interest in the 8.3 acres located behind the Suisun City Post Office and City Hall wants to get specific proposals from them for what to put on the site.

This is part of Suisun City's efforts to get much of its vacant commercial land developed for businesses that will generate sales tax money the city badly needs.

The City Council is waiting for a study to be completed on what the best revenue-generating uses would be for this and other parcels scattered across the city.

A week ago, the council approved allowing the Old Town area's master developer, Main Street West Partners, to go ahead with putting up three buildings for retail businesses and offices on Solano Street just west of Main Street.

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

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or

Suisun goes Hollywood; Filmmaker shooting movie for Sundance Festival

From Vacaville Reporter
By Melissa Murphy/Staff Writer

A new movement is making its way through the Bay Area and an independent filmmaker is trying to get to the heart and capture the "hyphy" culture and its uniqueness by filming in Suisun City.

Peter Ramirez and Brandon Rodegeb work for Flip and Company, a movie production company. They are currently filming in downtown Suisun City until Sunday.

"Yadada," an urban comedy documentary that captures the lifestyles of the Bay Area, is the second movie that Ramirez and Rodegeb have directed, written and produced together. They currently have a five-film deal with Image Entertainment.

Ramirez said he has wanted to be involved with movies since he was little and now he's finally getting that chance.

"The hyphy movement has had some negative attention," Ramirez said. "We want to show the positive side of it."

Hyphy is a moment of euphoria, according to Band-Aide, a member of Dem Hood Starz rap group from East Palo Alto who wouldn't release his real name. Band-Aide is also a main character in "Yadada," playing Hook in the movie.

"It's just a part of life," Band-Aide said. "It's a time of relief, a big ball of energy."

The "Yadada" movie is geared to reach the new rap community that takes rap music style from the past and mixes it with a new style of music.

"These kind of movies are something that we look for, this is something we can relate to," said Scoot, another member of Dem Hood Starz, who plays Plug in the documentary. "This is a good look for the Bay Area as a whole, it's a good way to show a different element from Northern California."

Ramirez has a good mindset when it comes to making movies, Band-Aide said.

"He has a way to have fun, but be serious at the same time," Band-Aide said. "This is a different kind of media attention that we need."

Their goals are set high.

Beginning in June, the plan is to start filming "Purgatory," which will be filmed with the intentions of going to the Sundance Film Festival. Ramirez and Rodegeb created the characters and let writer Soren Baker, an editor for Source Magazine, develop the script.

"Purgatory," will be filmed in Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles. According to Rodegeb, that area has been plagued by gang violence since the '50s and '60s.

Even though the plot of the movie involves a family dealing with a son in a gang and the choices that come with the lifestyle, the producers are trying to make the movie more positive than negative.

"This is regular life for a family in this area so we didn't really have to make up a story," Rodegeb said. "This is reality. The real world is a tough place, but you can get through it and that's what this movie shows."

We're excited about the upcoming film and it's potential, Rodegeb said.

"If it's only a limited release I will be happy."

Melissa Murphy can be reached at

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Old Town anchor project gets green light

From Daily Republic
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - The Old Town building project Mayor Jim Spering called "a landmark for Suisun City" was given the green light by both the Suisun City Council and the Planning Commission Tuesday.

The council and commission approved the first three buildings of a plan that city leaders hope will fill in the vacant lots in Old Town with businesses which will increase Suisun City's sales tax income.

Earlier this month, the city council approved selling 13 agency-owned parcels in Old Town totaling 8.4 acres for $3.7 million to the Suisun City-based developer Main Street West.

Main Street West proposed starting off by putting three commercial and retail buildings on the two vacant lots that flank Solano Street just east of Main Street.

The plans propose a two-story building on the southeast corner with 17,500 square feet for businesses on the first floor and 16,500 square feet for offices on the second.

It will include a public courtyard in the center, featuring an outdoor fireplace.

A second proposed two-story building on the southwest corner will cover 5,400 square feet with businesses on the ground floor and offices or apartments on the second floor.

The only concerns that planners, councilmembers and some residents had was whether the buildings' design allow them to fit in with the already existing Old Town structures.

The city council gave Main Street West a two-year deadline to put retail and commercial development along Main Street as well as build homes and possibly a hotel on vacant land near Civic Center Boulevard on the opposite side of the Suisun Slough.

Suisun City's leaders are pinning their hopes on these developments to bring in more businesses to generate badly needed sales tax revenue for the city's coffers.

City leaders are also hoping that this construction will spur private building owners on Main Street's west side to take a more active interest in renovating and putting viable businesses in them.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Suisun City to consider Old Town development

From Daily Republic
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Proposals to fill in some of Main Street's vacant lots by putting up three retail buildings on land near Main and Solano streets is going to both the Suisun City Council and Planning Commission Tuesday.

The buildings are the first tangible result of Suisun City's renewed efforts to rejuvenate Suisun City's Old Town economy by attracting more sales tax-producing businesses.

It comes a week after the City Council, sitting as the Redevelopment Agency, approved selling the local developer 13 agency-owned parcels in Old Town totaling 8.4 acres for $3.7 million.

Main Street West has up to two years to put retail and commercial development along Main Street as well as build homes and possibly a hotel on vacant land near Civic Center Boulevard.

The developer is apparently hitting the ground running, with promises of seeing buildings go up by the end of summer and City Hall is doing everything it can to speed the process along.

The City Council and Planning Commission will hold joint public hearings on the site plans and architectural designs for the first sites which flank Solano Street on Main Street's east side.

Main Street West proposes to build a two-story building on the southeast corner that will have 17,500 square feet for businesses and retail stores on the first floor and 16,500 square feet of offices on the second floor.

This building will be U-shaped around a public courtyard in the center developed by the Redevelopment Agency that will feature an outdoor fireplace.

The proposed two-story building on the southwest corner will have 5,400 square feet on the ground floor for businesses and retail while the second floor will be for six offices or apartments.

Main Street West work crews were already on site this week taking core samples of the soil and are expected to move ahead with preparing the site for construction as soon as the council approves the plans.

The Suisun City Council and the Suisun City Planning Commission will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Suisun City Council chamber at 701 Civic Center Blvd.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Friday, April 21, 2006

Wal-Mart hones in on another Suisun City site

From Daily Republic
By Nathan Halverson

SUISUN CITY - Wal-Mart announced it has staked a new claim in Suisun City, which caught some city officials off guard.

The retail giant is working with a developer to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter at the northwest corner of Walters Road and Highway 12.

The Walters Road location is about two miles from the Gentry project site at Pennsylvania Avenue and Highway 12, where Wal-Mart previously expressed interest in building a super center.

But Suisun City mayor Jim Spering is cautious about the new Wal-Mart proposal.

"To my understanding, there is no application into the city, so I'm not quite sure what their intent is," he said. "I don't know if this is going to be the same situation as over at the Gentry site."

Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Loscotoff said the retailer was committed to Suisun City and was working with a developer on the Walters Road and Highway 12 site, which is a 21-acre parcel.

Spering said he is concerned Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is playing Suisun City against Fairfield - where Wal-Mart is also developing a 210,000-square-foot super center.

He called for a meeting between the two cities' top politicians and staff to discuss Wal-Mart.

A Fairfield report concluded that if two Wal-Marts were built, one in Fairfield and one in Suisun City, a significant number of smaller retailers could be forced out of business - although that report assumed the Suisun City Wal-Mart would be located at the Gentry site.

Both cities fear losing the sales tax revenue that a Wal-Mart generates to their neighboring city. The existing Wal-Mart is in Fairfield.

Suisun City officials have long coveted a large retailer such as Wal-Mart that would help generate revenue for the city, which suffers from low sales tax revenue. In 2004, Suisun City generated $815,591 in total sales tax revenue. A new Supercenter would nearly double that number, according to Wal-Mart.

Spering worries Wal-Mart might be taking advantage of Suisun City's financial woes.

"I don't know if what they are doing is sincere," he said. "I hope our two cities, Suisun City and Fairfield, are smart enough to work together and not be used by Wal-Mart."

Spering said he would instruct Suisun City manager Suzanne Bragdon to contact Fairfield City Manager Kevin O'Rourke and set up a meeting of city officials, including planning and economic staff and at least the city mayors.

Fairfield city councilmember Jack Batson said he wasn't sure what they would talk about, but talking was always good. Batson said he understood Spering's concern that Wal-Mart might be playing the cities against each other.

"We've all wondered about that," Batson said.

Yet Batson said a meeting between the two cities' staff, such as between planning and economic development staff, would be better than a meeting of politicians.

Spering said Fairfield is often not concerned with Suisun City.

"The big dog in the kennel is Fairfield," he said. "I just don't see Fairfield being too concerned with Suisun City's plight, but I hope there will be some concern."

Fairfield mayor Harry Price was unavailable to comment about Spering's proposal, but earlier in the day he said he would pay very close attention to both Wal-Mart proposals.

"I get e-mails all the time and people on the street commenting about Wal-Mart," he said. "I'm trying to keep a very open mind, so I listen to everything."

Suisun City public information officer Scott Corey said the Wal-Mart announcement could be a boon for his city. The city would not only capture sales tax revenue from the Wal-Mart if it is built, but it would also collect revenue from the Gentry project, which is still moving forward.

"Instead of one Super Wal-Mart at the Gentry site, we end up with two smaller big box retailers (at that site)," he said. "And we are looking to capture sales tax."

Suisun City will initiate an Economic Impact Review once Wal-Mart files plans with the city for the site at Highway 12 and Walters Road. The impact report will take about eight to nine to complete, according to Wal-Mart and city officials.

Reach Nathan Halverson at 425-4646 ext. 267 or

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Suisun hears entertainment boat proposals

From Daily Republic
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Two entertainment boat captains, both with experience running boats on Lake Tahoe, told the Suisun City Council Tuesday they both want to bring a river boat to the Old Town waterfront.

Neither asked for city help outside of a fair hearing on their business plans for how they will run the business and what they will offer in the form of cruises, dining and entertainment.

While neither mentioned having gambling on their boats, at least one city councilman, Sam Derting, said he was fine with that idea.

One proposal was born two years ago when the Mark Wirth, the son of an Old Town business owner, told the Business Improvement District he was looking to bring an entertainment boat to Suisun City.

That plan envisioned bringing in a boat - about 70 feet long with a bar and a restaurant - to offer tours to areas such as Grizzly Island and the Reserve Fleet in Suisun Bay.

Wirth presented the same idea Tuesday night, saying it would be like the vessel he now pilots on Lake Tahoe "which would work well here."

Daniel Thiemann of Sacramento Steam Navigation said he wanted to bring a 600-passenger Mississippi River-style paddleboat to the waterfront for cruises and dining.

Both men said they had financial backers who were wanted to "help put Suisun City on the map," according to Wirth.

The council commented favorably on the idea, but stated the two captains would have to present a solid business plan that would ensure whichever boat gets here would be a success.

"Suisun City can't afford another failure," said Mayor Jim Spering, alluding to the past failed efforts to get an entertainment boat to stay in Suisun City. "We want to ensure it will be viable and that it will fit in."

The last boat to tie up in Suisun City was the paddleboat Grand Romance, which sailed to Suisun City from its Napa River anchorage in 1998 for a short stay and returned the following year.

Suisun City's leaders previously tried to bring in a gambling boat, but that effort was unsuccessful. Voters approved the gambling, but a boat didn't materialize.

The city entered talks with the Riverboat Entertainment Company in 1996 in an attempt to bring the historic Delta King riverboat from its Old Town Sacramento berth, but that idea foundered.

The Grand Romance stayed in Suisun City on a month-to-month contract while city leaders hoped they finally had a waterfront attraction that gave the Old Town a unique draw.

The Grand Romance didn't prove to be the attraction the city had hoped for and it sailed out of the slough for the last time in late 1999.

It will now be up to Thiemann and Wirth to come forward with a business plan. Just when that will happen is not certain.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Monday, April 10, 2006

Recruiting cops a major task for departments

From Daily Republic
By Audrey Wong

FAIRFIELD - Frank Mihelich is a Fairfield police sergeant, but he also does marketing. What he's trying to market is his police force.

Like other police departments across the country, Fairfield faces the challenge of keeping the agency well-staffed in the face of cop shortages. Neighboring Suisun City police reached its authorized staffing of 22 officers and hope the City Council will approve two additional positions, said Suisun City Police Lt. Ed Dadisho.

But both departments are working on incentives to make their agencies more inviting to recruits.

And both agencies want to be able to attract numerous recruits without sacrificing standards.

According to a report in the Washington Post, more than 80 percent of the nation's 17,000 law enforcement agencies, big and small, have vacancies that many can't fill. And as police forces dwindle across the state, the population grows, Mihelich said. Police departments tend to hire in batches, as a result police officers retire in batches, he said. Fairfield lost officers to retirement and occasionally an officer doesn't pass training, he said.

Across the state there are 63,000 full-time officers, Mihelich said. Out of that, 8,600 are older than 50, 9,000 will be 50 in the next five years and 18,000 officers may retire in the next five years, Mihelich said.Fairfield has 134 police officer positions and is currently at 115 officers, Mihelich said. The department receives hundreds of applicants but they are quickly whittled to a handful during the process.

"There are a lot of steps to selecting an officer," Dadisho said. "You might have 100 people apply then have one or two candidates."

Departments look for qualities such as age, life and work experience, Dadisho said. Police seek people with clean criminal records and relevant life experience among other things, Dadisho said.

Applicants must take written and oral tests. Then they undergo a background check followed by a psychological test. Police supervisors examine applicants for their morals, impulse control, risk-taking work habits, intellectual abilities and communication skills, among other factors.

Because the background check can take weeks, departments prefer hiring veteran officers from other agencies. Those officers already passed background checks and are faster to train, Dadisho said. They also have more life experience compared to younger people just out of school.

The Fairfield Police Department has hired a number of officers from other departments - generally Solano County residents who worked outside of the county and were tired of commuting. The department is currently conducting a background check on a Vacaville resident who works in San Mateo, Mihelich said.

Fairfield police are looking to sweeten the pot for veteran officers with such things as signing bonuses. They also offer to accelerate the hiring process so candidates don't have to wait as long to get a job. Dadisho is working on creating a work week of three 12-hour shifts followed by four days off, among other things.

According to a survey, about 50 percent of people who want to work in law enforcement make that decision in high school, Mihelich said. So Mihelich is speaking to high school students.

There's also a generation gap. Many baby boomers are happy to have jobs but often members of Generation X first ask how much police work pays and when they get time off, Mihelich said.
"I guess (young people) want some good balance in life," Mihelich said. "We were work, work, work, at our job."

The younger generation also has more mistrust of government and is more business-oriented. Mihelich also deals with a misconception that police work is non-stop excitement like on television or video games.

"They want action, good pay and lots of vacation time," Mihelich said. "There are guys that say they want to work with the K-9 . . . they don't think about the dog hair on their clothes or that the car will smell like a dog, they will have to clean the dog and go to training."

Fairfield police are working on their Web site to attract tech-savvy youngsters. An advantage for Fairfield police is that Solano County still has housing prices lower than the rest of the Bay Area, Mihelich said.

A small department like Suisun City has much to offer officers. While Suisun City may not have specialized units such as narcotics, officers in Suisun City get to experience all aspects of police work, Dadisho said.

"They can be the responding officer, write the report, conduct the investigation and follow the case through conviction," Dadisho said.

Reach Audrey Wong at 427-6951 or

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Suisun, Rio Vista look to the water to bring in more work

From Daily Republic // April 8, 2006
Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - The last thing local real estate agent John Scaff wants to do before he relaxes on the water is to spend money on gas and time in traffic getting to his boat.

Residents such as Scaff in Northern Solano County's growing towns are making waterfronts and marinas in places such as Suisun City and Rio Vista increasingly popular water destinations.

Rio Vista's marina would like to add more berths but can't. The town is working on plans to create a waterfront promenade.

Suisun City's main boat works, Adams Marine, plans to expand and smaller water businesses such as Sunset Bay Kayaks expect to move into permanent quarters because of the increased popularity of the kayak tours.

"We are certainly getting more activity coming from the waterfront," said Suisun City Community Services Director Mick Jessop about the steady increase of boaters docking in Suisun City. "We are certainly getting a lot of exposure."

Suisun City's rising stature as a water destination has allowed Adams Marine to push forward with expansion plans that will increase its boat repair and maintenance facilities."Our image is changing," said Lori Adams of Adams Marine, Suisun City's only major water-oriented business. It opened in 1997.

"We get people from all over who get their boats fixed here," Adams said. "We are getting more visiting boaters who want to know more about the waterfront, about the town."

Adams can easily see the number of water-oriented businesses expand with offerings that could include rental fishing boats and airboats that could take tourists into the marshes.

"It will be a weekend destination for boaters once more people know where we are," Adams said.

Suisun City

Solano County's growth bodes well for places such as Rio Vista and Suisun City, with more residents preferring to put up their boats locally instead of taking a half hour to 45-minute drive to marinas out of the area.

Scaff is one of those.

He moved to Fairfield in 1998 and immediately started casting about for a good marina, eventually settling on the one owned by Suisun City rather than ones closer to the San Francisco Bay.

Scaff calls the boat he berths there "our little getaway" that is only a short distance from his house.

That short commute to his boat, combined with good berthing rates and gas prices, made him an advocate of Suisun City as a good water destination.

"You go down one mile from there and you are in middle of wilderness," Scaff said of the marina's proximity to the large Suisun Marsh.

Suisun City has 151 boat slips in a marina that has been 97 percent full in the winter months and full in the summer for the past several years. It can add another 120 slips if it wants.

"We are in middle of the market," Jessop said of how much the city charges for marina berths. "We constantly stay in touch with other marinas to ensure we stay competitive."

It costs about $500,000 a year to run Suisun City's marina and about $65,000 to provide fuel to boaters. The city makes that money back, plus a small profit.

This doesn't include money the boaters spend in local stores and places such as Adams Marine.

The nearest competition is in places such as Antioch, Benicia and Vallejo which are closer to the San Francisco Bay, but the growing population and number of boaters has ensured all the marinas are near full.

While Suisun City has the room to put in more boat slips, it hasn't done it.

"That consideration is still out there," Jessop said. "We are looking at the market for recreational boating. It has been on a level line right now for where people are spending their dollars."

Even when Suisun City decides to expand its marina, it's a four- to five-year process to get all the approvals, get the bids and build the slips.

Some local boaters are convinced it is a winning idea.

"If they put in more slips for 40- to 80-foot boats, they will get a lot more money. It will bring in a lot of people from out of the area," said Scaff.

He also said that out-of-the-area people will spend more money in the local waterfront stores and restaurants such as Athenian Grill or Bab's Delta Diner.

One definite plus is the waterfront area's ability to expand with considerable vacant waterfront land still undeveloped.

"There are not too many places like this any more," said Scaff, who feels the city could support more water-oriented business.

Rio Vista

Rio Vista's main marina, Delta Marina Yacht Harbor, with its 300 berths, is more than 90 percent full with no more room to grow, according to the Harbor's Parts Manager Ben Parent.

"We have primarily been a fishing harbor but we have a pretty good diversity of boaters from sturgeon fishermen to 60-foot sailboats," Parent said.

The number of boaters is increasing in the town that lies halfway along the Sacramento River Delta between Sacramento and Benicia with the peak season being the summer, but the rest of the year remaining fairly brisk.

"That's not to say it's a hugely increasing number," Parent said. "We are staying full more often and we are booked almost every weekend. We are getting more Bay Area traffic. A lot of people come out here to get into the sun."

Rio Vista had plans to create a city-owned marina a few years ago, but those plans never came to reality due to the town's budget problems.

The riverfront town is now preparing a plan for waterfront development that involves improving the boat docks next to City Hall, according to Rio Vista Planning Manager Emi Theriault.

"There are also plans for a public promenade all along the waterfront that we may do in the future," Theriault said.

Suisun City's plans to put a master developer to work to get in more waterfront development on the downtown's vacant is expected to get the waterfront even more outside interest.

"Hopefully, we will get a lot more exposure if we complete some of the projects out there," Jessop said.

Jessop sees more marine support services coming to Suisun City to serve the boating community - ranging from a possible expansion of the fuel dock to more fishing and bait shops.

"It's moving and it's moving in the right direction," Jessop said.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Police will visit victims of minor crime

From Daily Republic // April 8, 2006
Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City residents will again get a police officer at their door to take reports if they are victims of minor property crimes or acts of vandalism, the Suisun City Police Department announced Friday.

The restored service is one result of the city's hiring of more police officers to bring the department back up to strength.

"This is the level of responsiveness our community deserves and that we expect as a professional organization," Suisun City Police Operations Commander Lt. Ed Dadisho said.

The move is part of more aggressive stance the police are taking now that they have the manpower.

"Any criminal activity is Suisun City in Suisun City is unacceptable and deserves the full and immediate attention of the police department," Dadisho said.

The visits patrol officers have done already has been received well by residents, Dadisho said.

Staffing and budget problems had forced the police to ask residents to come to the police department to self-report minor crimes where there were no injuries or immediately known suspects.

Having residents come in to report the crimes allowed the limited number of officers to focus their time on dealing with the city's more serious crimes, Dadisho said.

The police department is finishing hiring the officers it needs and is now working on ways to improve making Suisun City safer.

"Starting immediately, residents who call to report a crime to their person or property will be visited by a patrol officer," Dadisho said. "That's at the heart of our community policing activities."

Other cities, such as Vacaville, usually send out a community service officer to take reports on minor property crimes and vandalism.

If a CSO is not available, Vacaville will send out an officer if the resident feels that is necessary, according to Vacaville Police Lt. Craig Rossiter, but that could take time if the officers are busy on other calls.

Since last fall, Vacaville offered residents the option of doing on-line reporting through the police department page on the city's Web site.

Depending on city council support, the police department is also looking at possibly creating a two-man suppression unit and detailing officers to start staking out areas of town that have problems with home burglaries.

"There are a lot of things we can do with more staff," Dadisho said.

One other hope is working closer with the California Highway Patrol to undertake more auto theft stings, something the two agencies are already working together on.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Friday, April 7, 2006

Wal-Mart seeks new Suisun site

From Vacaville Reporter
By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

Wal-Mart officials maintain that they still will work to find a site for a Supercenter in Suisun City, despite the retail giant apparently having abandoned plans to become an anchor for the city's Gentry project at Highway 12 and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Scott Corey, Suisun City's spokesman, said Wednesday that since Wal-Mart has pulled out of the Gentry project, two smaller anchors may be used to fill the 721,000-square-foot retail project.

"In the place of one Supercenter, two medium big boxes could be supported," Corey said.

Bringing sales tax revenue that currently are going to neighboring cities, especially Fairfield, into Suisun City's coffers is a priority, Corey said. A local Wal-Mart would help do that.

"Our big issue has always been capturing the sales tax revenue our residents spend in other cities," Corey said. "We're just trying to keep that here."

Sean Quinn, Fairfield's chief of planning and development, said an economic analysis of a proposal to put a Wal-Mart Supercenter in the abandoned Mission Village shopping center on North Texas Street concluded that while one Supercenter in the Fairfield-Suisun area could be supported by future growth, two stores would have adverse effects on other local businesses.

A Fairfield Supercenter wouldn't be the first in Solano County, though. Dixon's existing Wal-Mart store was converted to a Supercenter in 2005, and plans are on track for Supercenters in Vallejo and American Canyon, as well.

Wal-Mart has denied plans to build a Supercenter in Vacaville. The city currently has a moratorium on new grocery stores larger than 20,000 square feet. The moratorium expires in April 2007, but may be renewed.

The city also is seeking an amendment to the Vaca Valley Business Park policy plan which would prevent any large grocery stores from locating in one of the last areas in buildable Vacaville with the space to support a big-box store.

Developers behind a large-scale retail proposal in the business park say they have no plans for a grocery store, though they have requested the city to keep all options open at the site.

Quinn said Fairfield planning commissioners likely will vote on the Mission Village proposal in July, with the City Council getting a chance in September.

Wal-Mart could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Tom Hall can be reached at

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Wal-Mart still interested in Suisun after all

From Daily Republic // April 6, 2006
By Nathan Halverson

SUISUN CITY - The public break up of Wal-Mart and Suisun City lasted one day.

The city announced Tuesday that Wal-Mart broke things off without giving a reason why. On Wednesday, a Wal-Mart spokesman said the company still wanted a relationship with the city.

"We're still committed to a store in Suisun City," said Kevin Loscotoff, senior manager with Wal-Mart public affairs.

Loscotoff said Wal-Mart was considering other sites than the Gentry Project, which is located south of the Highway 12 and Pennsylvania Avenue intersection. The proposed Gentry project is a mega-development with retail space equivalent to about three-quarters of the Westfield Solano mall.

"We are just re-evaluating our options," Loscotoff said. "Without having an alternative location, there is no specific timeline for us."

Loscotoff said the retail giant wanted to explore its options for a variety of private reasons. But he didn't dismiss returning to the Gentry project if things worked out.

"We do understand this project still contains a supercenter," he said. "Not saying we will come back to this site, but we haven't ruled it out for future consideration."

Suisun City has few sites large enough to facilitate a Wal-Mart Supercenter. A supercenter needs about 15 acres.

One potential site is a 32-acre parcel of undeveloped land at Highway 12 and Marina Boulevard.
Scott Corey, spokesman for Suisun City, summarized his sentiments in one word: "Cool."

"If they were to locate somewhere else in town that would just mean added sales tax," Corey said. "If that scenario were to happen that would be a big plus."

Mayor Jim Spering was equally pleased.

"If Wal-Mart is interested in looking at other places in Suisun, I think that's great," he said.
Spering said if Wal-Mart built a supercenter and the Gentry project filled all its retail space it would "pretty much satisfy Suisun City's revenue needs for quite a few years."

Wal-Mart currently has a store on Chadbourne Road, across from the Anheuser-Busch brewery, in Fairfield. That store is slated to close, Loscotoff said.

Wal-Mart has applied to build a supercenter in Fairfield at the former Mission Village shopping center on North Texas Street. Wal-Mart owns the site.

The current Wal-Mart is about 125,000 square feet. The proposed Fairfield supercenter is 202,630 square feet, about 61 percent larger.

The additional size includes room for a full-service grocery department and a garden center. A supercenter carries about 116,000 different items, according to Wal-Mart's Web site.

Wal-Mart has 14 supercenters in California and 146 traditional stores, employing about 69,221.

Supercenters are always a bit controversial because opponents of the stores claim they drive smaller businesses into ruin and result in a net loss of jobs in a community.

Fairfield officials commissioned a report looking at the economic impact of a Wal-Mart. The report - released last month - stated that building a Wal-Mart in both Fairfield and Suisun City would lead to urban decay, which is the desolation of other retail centers.

Loscotoff said Wal-Mart's decision to look for alternatives in Suisun City, effectively delaying a store there, had nothing to do with the Fairfield city council's pending decision on whether to approve their supercenter.

"Neither one has to do with the other," he said. "All along we've stressed that each store is surviving in a separate market."

Reach Nathan Halverson at 425-4646 ext. 267 or

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Main 627 reopens

From Daily Republic // April 5, 2006
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Two months after it unexpectedly closed, one of Old Town's popular restaurants, Main 627, quietly reopened its doors to customers Monday.

"We wanted to set up everything first," said owner Ismael Guillen of the quiet reopening.
Guillen originally opened Main 627 15 years ago. He sold the restaurant to a cousin and another person who simply closed the doors on Feb. 7 without paying employees or suppliers.

Guillen retook control the restaurant shortly after it closed. He took out business permits and brought in staff from his other restaurant, which he has run for 17 years.

The restaurant's upstairs bar has yet to open and Guillen is offering Italian fare very similar to what he offers the patrons of his popular Napa restaurant Villa Romano.

"I really love Suisun City," Guillen said of why he reopened Main 627. "I have been here and I grew up here."

Aside from upscale Italian fare, Guillen plans to offer live music upstairs from Thursday through Sunday nights, he said. He is also planning a formal grand opening within a month.

The reopening of Main 627 comes at an auspicious time for Suisun City right on the eve of the city council's approval of an agreement with Main Street West development firm to bring more commercial development to Old Town.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Suisun sells 8.4 acres for redevelopment

From Daily Republic // April 5, 2006
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Buoyed with promises that construction could start as early as this summer, the Suisun City Council sold 8.4 acres of Old Town land Tuesday to a local developer to turn into businesses and residences.

Main Street West is paying the Redevelopment Agency $3.7 million for the 13 agency-owned parcels that cover 8.4 acres and are scattered around Old Town.

"This will have a lot of positive benefits to the city," interim Redevelopment Director Al daSilva told the council.

The plan gives Main Street West up to two years to put in retail and commercial development along Main Street while building homes and possibly a hotel on vacant land near Civic Center Boulevard.

The agency had spent $14.2 million during the last decade to buy, clean up and improve the sites that range from small narrow lots on Main Street to the large fields southeast of One Harbor Center.

Main Street West was picked from more than a dozen developers and has spent the last year in exclusive negotiations with the Redevelopment Agency over the agreement.

Suisun City hopes that Main Street West will bring in the commercial and retail businesses it badly needs to boost its sales tax revenues that, in turn, will bolster the city's coffers to pay for police, street repairs and the like.

Main Street West had initially promised to bring in a major anchor tenant - likely a movie theater - but got the council to release them from that requirement last fall.

The developer now proposes to build a two-story, mixed-use development on the vacant lots at Main and Solano streets that will have stores and businesses on the first floor while residences are put on the second floor.

Jason Garben, the city's Project Manager, said this would turn that area into "the major intersection for Old Town."

Similar uses are expected to go into the other small lots along Main Street while houses are planned for the large parcels on Civic Center Boulevard and Lotz Way.

The city is already undertaking a study to look at what businesses would be interested in moving to Old Town and how to get them there. It will also undertake a study of how the developments will affect parking.

"We expect this to be a good value in the marketplace," said Mike Rice of Main Street West.
If a change in the economy keeps Rice from bringing in businesses, he said he will return to the city council to work out a revised schedule.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Study: Suisun City supercenter would affect traffic and wildlife

From Daily Republic // April 5, 2006
By Barry Eberling

SUISUN CITY - A major super shopping center and 359 homes at the Gentry property at Highway 12 and Cordelia Road could have some significant effects on traffic and a rare flower, a new study says.

Many, though not all, of the effects could be eased by doing such things as adding lanes and trying to avoid vernal pools. Traffic effects wouldn't be limited to Suisun City, but would extend into Fairfield. The developers would have to contend with such rare plants as the alkali milk-vetch, though the environmental report outlines ways this might be done.

Suisun City on Tuesday released the draft Gentry-Suisun environmental study by consultants Raney Planning & Management Inc. of West Sacramento.

Wal-Mart had talked of building a store at the site. But now, with Wal-Mart pulling out, it's unclear who, if anyone, would build a store that could be as large as three to four football fields.
Still, the environmental study looks at a Wal-Mart size store to study "the most aggressive impacts" possible from a development at the site, a city press release said.

A Wal-Mart-sized supercenter, along with townhouses and other homes on the southwest corner of Cordelia Road and Highway 12, could generate 14,500 to 21,000 trips a day, the study said. An auto coming to and leaving the property counts as two trips.

The project would have a significant and unavoidable effect on traffic at Texas Street/Pennsylvania Avenue in Fairfield, the study said. Traffic levels could increase from 17 percent to 27 percent there during the peak evening hour. There's not enough right-of-way to make the necessary improvements, the study said.

Potential significant traffic effects could happen at several other intersections. These are places where effective improvements could be made, but only if an agency such as Caltrans or the state Public Utilities Commission cooperates. That cooperation can't be assured, even if the developer pays for the improvements, the study said.

These intersections are Texas Street and Beck Avenue, Highway 12 and Beck Avenue, Highway 12 and Pennsylvania Avenue, Highway 12 and Sunset Avenue and Cordelia Road and Pennsylvania Avenue.

No matter what is built at the Gentry property, wildlife at the site will pose a challenge. The 171-acre site has wetlands and vernal pools. Both can be home to rare plants and creatures.
Alkali milk-vetch are present, the study said. This annual plant with purple flowers is a member of the pea family. It is a federal species of concern under the Endangered Species Act.

The plant could be preserved at nearby habitat, with the land protected from development. Still, the project would have a "significant and unavoidable" impact on the milk-vetch, the study said.
Contra Costa goldfield are present. The yellow-flowered, annual plant is a member of the sunflower family, the study said. About 20 to 30 plants were seen on the Gentry property in a 2000-2002 survey, the study said. It is a federally listed endangered species.

But the effects on the goldfield could be "less than significant," the study said. It proposed trying to establish new goldfield populations at other locations.

The project looks at other properties in the area besides the 171-acre Gentry site. Together, the study area totals 497 acres.

Mayor Jim Spering has said habitat could be preserved on other adjacent properties. These other properties have better habitat than the Gentry property, he said. The city is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the proposal, he said.

The city will be accepting public comment for 45 days before finalizing the report. Then the proposal will be brought to the planning commission and city council for approval in July. The draft environmental report can be seen at Suisun City Hall, 701 Civic Center Blvd.

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

Wal-Mart says no to Suisun City location

From Daily Republic // April 5, 2006

Retailer pulls out of talks for supercenter
By Nathan Halverson

FAIRFIELD - In a surprise announcement, Wal-Mart pulled out of talks to build a supercenter in Suisun City.

City officials and developers working on the project, known as the Gentry project, said Wal-Mart gave no indication why it walked away from the deal.

The Gentry project was to include 721,000 square feet of retail space with Wal-Mart as the anchor, or main attraction. The project would be built on the south side of Highway 12 wher Pennsylvania Avenue and the highway meet.

Wal-Mart, which never committed to the project, didn't return calls for this story.

The city announced Wal-Mart would not be part of the development in a press release touting the completion of its enviromental impact report for the Gentry project.

The project developer, Tom Gentry California, is turning to other large retail stores such as Lowe's or Kohl's to fill the gap.

"You know, all the usual suspects. But we're not prepared to name any names," said Joe Fadrowsky, project manager for Tom Gentry California. "We've got other big box prospects."

Yet Wal-Mart's giant approach to retailing is not easily replaced.

"It's sort of a blow because Wal-Mart is a large store with a lot of square feet," said Ben Hulse, project coordinator for Suisun City. "The revenue potential was higher than it probably will be now. The sales tax production will be less."

A Wal-Mart Supercenter usually generates about $1 million in tax revenue, according to the company. City officials had hoped to tap into that.

Suisun City suffers from a lack of tax revenue. Residetns are spending their money in other cities.

The Gentry project is being pushed as the answer to the city's budget woes.

"From the city's perspective, this project is critical for the future," Hulse said. "It ensures the city can provide basic public services such as police and fire services."

The Fairfield city mayor, Harry Price, was dismayed by the news.

"That's terrible," Price said. "Suisun City needs to build up its sales tax revenue the same as any other city."

Fairfield has also been courting a Wal-Mart and recently released its economic impact report, which included an economic analysis. The report stated if Wal-Marts were built in both Suisun City and Fairfield that small businesses and other large retailers would likely be driven out of business.

Fairfield is still moving forward with its Wal-Mart project.

Gary Dyas, chairman of the Fairfield Downtown Association, said he was relieved by the news the Suisun City would not be getting a Wal-Mart.

"I don't think that two Wal-Marts could be supported by the two towns," he said.

Suisun City Manager Suzanne Bragdon said she was not disappointed by the news.

"We don't see this as a negative at all," she said.

Suisun City won't have any problems bringing in other retailers, she said.

The city will continue to move forward with the shopping center.

"I see the opportunity for greater synergy," she said.

Reach Nathan Halverson at 425-4646 ext. 267 or

Woman shot while driving

From Daily Republic // April 5, 2005
By Audrey Wong

SUISUN CITY - A 18-year-old woman was shot in the neck Tuesday evening while stopped at a red light on Sunset Avenue and Pintail Drive, police said.

Suisun City police apprehended a 38-year-old Fairfield man in connection with the shooting, said Juan Camacho, spokesman for Suisun City police. They did not release the suspect's name and were still interviewing him Tuesday night.

The victim was identified by her grandparents as Lamia Goins. A helicopter flew her to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, where she was listed in critical but stable condition.

Around 5:40 p.m. the victim was driving south on Sunset Avenue when she prepared to turn left onto Pintail Drive at the traffic light. A man standing on Sunset Avenue allegedly fired several rounds into the car, Camacho said. The suspect then fled.

Bullets shattered the front passenger window. Goins then drove to the Raley's shopping center near Sunset Avenue and Highway 12, where Suisun City firefighters, police and medics treated her.

Police officers found a man resembling the suspect walking around the area, Camacho said. Officers handcuffed the man and placed his hands in paper bags to preserve possible gunpowder on his hands.

The victim was driving her boyfriend's white Buick Regal. The boyfriend, Deonta King, 20, was sitting in the front passenger seat at the time of the attack.

"The next thing I know I heard the window shatter and I heard several shots," King said. "I told my girl to drive off and she said she couldn't."

Goins screamed again and King said he heard more shots. He put his hand on the accelerator and helped King drive behind a Carl's Jr. restaurant. Before they left the intersection, King said he looked to his right and didn't see any cars.

"I don't know who would do this," King said.

A bullet traveled down the back of Lamia Goins' neck and exited her shoulder, said her grandmother Shirley Goins. It didn't strike any major arteries or her wind pipe. Her granddaughter was in much pain but was still asking about family members, Shirley Goins said.

Doctors called a specialist to help her, her grandmother said. Lamia Goins is four months pregnant, King said.

Willie Holtzclaw, Lamia's grandfather, is baffled at why someone would shoot at her granddaughter. She just works and stays at home, he said.

Officers closed off part of Pintail Drive to search for bullet shells. A police dog sniffed through shrubs hunting for casings.

Detectives are investigating the motive for the shooting, Camacho said.

Anyone with information can call Detective Matt Eleopoulos at 421-7373 or 421-7362.

Reach Audrey Wong at 427-6951 or