Wednesday, April 30, 2008

View video of Council's Feb.2008 stipulations regarding approval of Seeno Project

After the Planning Commission's recommendation for disapproval of the proposed Seeno Project on April 10, the Project now comes before the City Council for consideration and approval on May 6 and May 20 (and probably also on June 3).

We hope you will plan to attend those meetings, or watch on cable channel 27, and write letters to the Council voicing your concerns about the type of project you would like to see. The ultimate outcome of the Seeno Project will forever shape the character and direction of our town.

To prepare for the May 6 City Council meeting, it may be helpful to view this video of the Council's discussion at the Feb.19 EIR Hearing, in which they stipulated the conditions that must be present in the Project before they would grant approval, and the review process that would be required.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Planning Commission recommends denial of Seeno Project!

At the April 10 Planning Commission hearing, the PC voted to deny approval of the new revised version of the Seeno Project because the applicant had given them too little time to review it, and had provided too little documentation to verify their claims, and because it still appears to be seriously out of conformance to many requirements set forth in various General Plan elements, such as geologic and ecological considerations, fiscal and economic impacts, urban decay, traffic, health and safety, to name a few.

Their vote to deny approval did not stop the project in its tracks, however, because it is merely their recommendation that they are now sending on to the City Council. All eyes now turn to the Council and their May 6 City Council meeting (and possibly also May 20 and June 3). If the Council votes to concur with the Planning Commission recommendation and simply denies the current project outright, it would give Seeno and the City plenty of time to work together on developing a new project concept and design that is truly visionary and appropriate for the 21st Century and consistent with the comprehensive sustainability vision and goals of our General Plan.

NOW is the time to write to the City Council and let your concerns be heard!
Mayor Patterson,
Tom Campbell,
Mark Hughes,
Mike Ioakimedes,
Alan Schwartzman,

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Planning Commission to decide on Seeno Project (or pass the buck) April 10

The most immediate and urgent concern regarding the Seeno Project is THIS THURSDAY, APRIL 10, 2008, at the Planning Commission Hearing, City Hall, 7 p.m.

The Planning Commission will be faced with a decision to stop this project in its tracks by nonapproval of the project's "Master Plan overlay", thus sending the project back to Seeno with instructions for them to come back with a truly visionary project, or they may just make a neutral report (or a positive recommendation) and pass the buck on to the City Council. It is crucial for everyone who is able to come to that Planning Commission meeting! (and/or write or call the Planning Commission by this Thursday to voice their concerns.) It will be televised on Cable Channel 27.

People can read the Staff Report and links to other documents that the Planning Commission will be considering if they go to the Agendas section of the City website at this link and this link . They can also read about problems with the current project, and ideas for a more visionary and sustainable project, at .

After the Planning Commission makes their recommendation this Thursday, the City Council is required to either approve or disapprove the proposed project within 30 days! This means they must take it up and make a decision at their May 6, May 20, and or June 3 City Council meeting, and make a decision no later than June 3. This means there is a window of time between now and June 3 (and the sooner, the better!) for citizens to make their wishes heard loud and clear to the City Council about the type of development they feel is appropriate for the Seeno project.

Write, call, or go see them in person. This project will forever determine the economic and environmental destiny of our town. Now is the time to act.

City Hall, 250 E. L Street (MAP) ; 746-4200.
City website: ; (City Council page)

Mayor Patterson,
Tom Campbell,
Mark Hughes,
Mike Ioakimedes,
Alan Schwartzman,

Analysis of revised Benicia Business Park project

We have read the new Benicia Business Park proposal submitted to the city of Benicia by the Seeno Corporation on March 20. The following summarizes Benicia First reactions to that proposal.We appreciate that this plan is an improvement from the initial proposal.

It is reduced in size, providing for greater open space and attention has been given to certain mitigations of environmental impacts. It proposes to incorporate LEEDS standards in building design as well as Low Impact Development standards both of which are highly desirable and commendable.

Nonetheless, a number of issues and questions remain, An example would be traffic near the Semple School with its air quality, noise and safety problems. Using the state standards for siting of schools which set a maximum of 100,000 vehicle trips daily close to the school, we noted in our analysis of the initial project that this could be projected to 137,000 at project build out. The project reduction being proposed would reduce this to 131,000 trips a day, hardly an adequate mitigation. Other problems of traffic, including noise and safety, were dealt with very cursorily and clearly inadequately in the EIR.

Further, the very significant danger that the large centralized commercial development will compete with and negatively affect Benicia's efforts to revitalize First Street as its business center still exists.

We believe that such issues require an initial study before project approval.

However even more important is what we regard as the central issue and problem with this proposal. It is that while smaller and less environmentally intrusive, this project continues to reflect the same fundamental conceptual flaw as the original, its lack of a coherent and integrated development basis.

What is singularly lacking is any attention to the desirability of a campus setting, or a research and development core, biotech, for example, which would shape the entire project and provide the nucleus and engine, helping to stimulate additional high quality R&D ventures as well as subsidiary and supportive projects.

We express again our concern that Benicia not settle for a backward oriented project simply framed as an extension of our existing industrial park. In the explosively changing economic climate of these times, the long term viability of that type of static twentieth century model would be in great doubt.

It is vitally important that what takes place in this last major piece of Benicia's developable land be aesthetically inviting, with attractive structures, scenically placed, green in design, economically viable over the long term, sustainable in every sense of that term and productive of the kind of high wage jobs matching the demographics of Benicia. By virtue of location, transportation and its special characteristics, Benicia is in a uniquely strong position to attract such an economy. Why would we consider anything less?

Further, the type of light industrial and warehousing development suggested in this plan is in direct contradiction to the city's planning. The Economic Development Strategy developed by the EDB commission and adopted by the Council last September, sets out an overriding economic goal of encouraging a campus-style project in our industrial areas, specifically encouraging "clean energy, high-tech, research and development" uses.

In the absence of such a coherent, inherently stimulative focus, the shaping of Benicia's future is clearly left to chance. The Seeno project as constituted simply sets out a pattern of providing space for light industry and warehousing, a pattern in which initial entries could foreclose such a focus.

It is our view that before this project moves forward, this central issue must be addressed and resolved. Achieving that goal would provide high wage employment, matching Benicia's demographics, a steady dependable growth in related research and development and a need for related office space. That kind of high quality development demands and insures the preservation of aesthetic, environmental and architectural integrity. Most importantly by its productivity it would provide a highly sustainable future for Benicia and with that a profitable return for Seeno.

Jerome Page, April 4, 2008
Chair, Benicia First

The Seeno Project - EIR vote

After countless months of City Council meetings, votes, public hearings, public forums and presentations, and voluminous written and oral public comments on the Seeno Project's Environmental Impact Report (EIR), the Final EIR came up for a vote at the City Council on Feb. 19, 2008.

BAD NEWS: The EIR for the proposed Benicia Business Park contains multiple instances of inadequate imact assessments, based on inaccurate data and assumptions. It also proposes alarming "mitigation" measures that would not bring the project into compliance with our city's General Plan and would have serious negative effects on our air quality, traffic, safety, noise, and ecology. Unfortunately, in spite of these facts, the City Council, on Feb. 19, 2008, went ahead and certified the EIR as "adequate" ! (BUT with important caveats, requiring "the applicant" to come back with a revised project containing suggested environmental improvements.)

View Environmental Impact Report, Comments, Presentation

GOOD NEWS: This step does not mean the Proposed Project itself has been approved, but only the EIR. There will be many more stages in this process and more opportunities to affect the final design and function of this project, but it will take constant citizen vigilance and engagement.

To stay informed as new developments evolve on this issue, please sign up for our mailing list by writing to:

Who is Benicia First and what is the Seeno Project?

Who is Benicia First?

Benicia First is a network of Benicians committed to ensuring that development projects in Benicia must adhere to our General Plan's vision of creating a vibrant local economy, preserving of our environment, and enhancing of our cultural and historic resources.

In order to meet these goals, we believe that projects must employ the newly emerging development and economic models that are designed to meet the environmental and economic challenges of the 21st Century, and not rely on assumptions and models that worked in the past but are no longer economically and environmentally viable.

What is the Seeno Project?

The proposed Benicia Business Park is commonly referred to as the Seeno Project because it is owned by Discovery Builders, an Albert Seeno company. The Business Park is a huge commercial/light industrial development proposed for the rolling hills in the north-east section of Benicia. Starting at Lake Herman Road and E. 2nd Street, it extends in a 527-acre wedge along both roads.

Although commercial and light industrial use is permitted for this property, the project, as currently conceived and designed, would radically change the character and livability of Benicia forever. It fails to conform to many important goals in our General Plan relating to environmental and economic quality and sustainability, and the type of commercial businesses proposed for the development would weaken our Downtown as the City's central commercial zone, contributing to urban decay.

For more information, see our website, , where you can read more details about the project, and veiw our slide show presentations.


We have great concern about the proposed Seeno project, its size, conceptual design and obvious impacts, including many not subject to adequate mitigation. What is entailed in this project as designed will irrevocably alter the character and quality of life of Benicia without the promise of a viable, prosperous long term future.

We do not believe that Benicia should settle for a backward oriented, conventional project framed as something of an extension of our present industrial park. The long term economic viability of that static twentieth century model would be in great doubt.

We believe that the site, the landscape, the quality of Benicia and its population make it an ideal setting for the types of creative, research oriented companies and enterprises that will be shaping the future of our country. We believe that a development that uses the beauty of our landscape as an asset is preferable to one that destroys it.

The country is beginning to awaken to concepts of sustainability, of green enterprises, of a future not dependent upon a petroleum economy and it is hungry for ideas. Numerous cities and towns are beginning to respond with projects and ideas for that future. We believe that Benicia has a unique opportunity to be among them.

There has already been talk of searching for a research and development center, that itself becomes a magnet for other creative and future oriented new enterprises. We would like to work with other groups and individuals in developing plans for such a search and in developing the criteria for the type of development in which all Benicians can have confidence and pride.

We believe that Benicians working together can frame such a future for Benicia and we pledge to do everything in our power to assist in achieving that end.