Saturday, May 31, 2008


Next Tuesday, June 3rd, the approval or denial of the Benicia Business Park proposal (Seeno Project) will be on the Agenda of the Benicia City Council.

Benicia deserves:
  • A visionary, future oriented plan for the 527 acre Seeno Project.
  • The recognition of Benicia’s unique situation on the I 80 corridor between Sacramento and San Francisco and its’ proximity to both Davis and Berkeley with their leadership in green industrial development, research and development, and the need for clean building technology.
  • A Project that reflects this city’s unique character and priorities.

BeniciaFirst! Protests:

  • The traffic impacts of this project on Semple School.
  • The air quality impact on Semple School.
  • The possible Urban Decay of downtown Benicia.
  • That the Seeno Project is based on an old warehousing and shipping model over an anticipated build-out of 20-25 years.
  • The 35 acre commercial development will require a fully staffed police facility.

The Benicia Planning Commission has already voted 6-1 to deny the Seeno Project. It is crucially important that everyone possible attend this meeting and voice their disapproval of this flawed proposal or provide support to those who do.

Meeting begins at 6:00. If this is early for you, don’t sweat it, just come when you can. Bring a friend! (The actual Seeno Hearing is last on the Agenda, and probably won't begin until 7:00 or later.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

City Council to consider approval of Seeno Project, May 20

The City Council will continue its Hearing of Seeno's revised Benicia Business Park proposal on May 20, with the final approval or denial of the project due at their June 3 meeting. (7 p.m., City Hall, 250 E. L St.)

Benicia First will give a short slideshow presentation on May 20 documenting the many reasons why the City Council should deny the current project due to General Plan inconsistencies, environmental threats, and inadequate documentation provided by the applicant. (Denial of the project would create the opening for a completely new project to be formulated that fits the needs and vision of Benicia in the context of major new 21st Century constraints and opportunities.)

Seeno will undoubtedly make sure there are many pro-Seeno advocates in attendance at the meeting, expressing their opinions why the current project should be approved, regardless of its many shortcomings. If you are supportive of our alternative vision for the project, we urge you to make your voice heard now at this crucial juncture. Try to call or write the City Council before the meeting. (Call 746-4210 to leave a message for City Council; or write an email message to them and address it to )

If you cannot attend the meeting, watch it on Cable Channel 27. If you can come to the meeting, you don't have to speak if you'd rather not. Just your presence there is very important (and you can hand in a short note if you like).

It may be helpful to review
this video of the City Council's statements at the Feb.19 EIR Hearing, in which they stipulated the conditions and documentation that they required Seeno to provide in the revised project before they would approve it (many of those conditions and documentation have not been provided).

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A win-win situation for Seeno?

To the editor: (Benicia Herald, May 9, 2008)

We want our City Council to keep downtown alive, to reap the most revenue possible, and leave an inheritance for Benicia for the 21st century; a legacy of intelligent land use planning, development, and a reputation for smart growth.

Benicia can be the leader in Solano County, situated perfectly between Davis and UC Berkeley for a high tech, green, campus style development in the Benicia Business Park. But Seeno wants us to wait for him to build his passé commercial development as a first phase, and wait for the second phase, proposed for 5-8 years from now…..that will be too late.

A huge opportunity for Benicia has arrived. There are investors RIGHT NOW ready to invest in and facilitate green technology and there are companies RIGHT NOW looking for places to build imaginative, clean-tech developments. There are also countless numbers of bright, educated people right here in this town, that are willing to help forge a vision for the Benicia Business Park, aka the Seeno Project.

The trick is what to do with the old project we have now. There is precious little to be recommended in terms of the needs of Benicia and the 21st century. The conditions recently styled by the City Staff are easily dodged or ignored. And we are not equipped to establish a development agreement (although that would be preferable to nothing at all). Seeno has said that they will not accept a development agreement anyway.

Maybe there is way to find a win-win solution here.

First, the Council must insist that Seeno give it time to learn about alternative, profitable possibilities.

Second, the Council needs to work with Benicia First in helping to create a forum with speakers from the field of clean-tech, with examples of cities working with these concepts of green industry and research and development campuses. Let’s listen to the experts.….let’s learn together.

Third, given that the future of Benicia’s well-being lies in Council’s hands, they must negotiate with Seeno from a position of strength and accommodate both the town and Seeno….. by opening their minds to the possibilities and find an alternative where Benicia AND Seeno can win.

This is not an easy task, but I sincerely believe that the Council has the ability to accomplish this for Benicia. The challenge is this: Why settle for second best? A brand new, clean tech project is the right choice for Benicia.

Susan Street
Benicia, CA

Reports and Articles on Bay Area Cleantech industry

The reports and articles listed below reveal the strength and extremely promising economic potential of the emerging cleantech phenomenon, globally and particularly in the Bay Area, even during the current economic downturn affecting all other business sectors.

These reports clearly indicate that it would be far better for the healthy economic future of Benicia if the Seeno Business Park proposal would begin Phase I of the project in the industrial zone (with a specific focus on cleantech R&D and industrial production) instead of the currently proposed Phase I focused on a freeway-oriented commercial development.

The reports describe a dramatic explosion of University R&D, spin off businesses, government initiatives and grants, venture capital, etc., all focused on cleantech innovations spread across a wide spectrum of industries. So far, most of the action has been focused in the South Bay (Silicon Valley area) and San Francisco, but they are experiencing increasing pressure to locate elsewhere due to space constraints, housing costs, and traffic congestion.

Benicia is perfectly situated to capitalize on this economic opportunity, as we are situated 40 minutes from both UC Davis and UC Berkeley -- two of the key cleantech research centers -- with acres of vacant land already zoned industrial. We also have a perfectly matched employment pool (well educated, much of it white-collar professional, management, office, and skilled technical), most of whom currently have to commute elsewhere for jobs. And we have relatively low cost housing (in comparison to Silicon Valley and SF) and good schools. Since cleantech R&D would probably also pull some researchers from the university centers of Berkeley and San Francisco, it might give us a better shot at getting a ferry stop here. This could be Benicia's golden egg. But only if we act now, gaining first move advantage while the opportunity is still fresh.

Here is a link to Benicia's 10-year Economic Development Strategy which was adopted by the City Council Sept. 2007. On page 9 it sets out our city's strategy to increase "campus-style office" and "clean energy, high-tech R&D uses in our industrial districts" over the next 10 years. And on page 11 it states that such uses are more likely to provide jobs for Benicians because of our community demographics (which are described on page 2 & 3). It states on page 12, "The City Council's adoption of this Strategy will provide policy direction to City employees and a clear message to prospective businesses about our community priorities and economic development interests."

Please click on the links below to read these important reports and articles that document the cleantech economic opportunity:


1. Clean Technology And the Green Economy, March 2008

2. Clean Energy Trends 2008 , March 2008

3. Innovative Energy Solutions from the SF Bay Area: Fueling a Clean Energy Future, June 2007

4. The Economic Development Potential of the Green Sector, June 2006


1. Bay Area in league of its own
"New game: Cleantech didn't even have a name five years ago."
San Francisco Business Times, Jan. 4, 2008

2. Hopeful cleantech hubs proliferate around the bay
"Cleantech is the Bay Area's future."
San Francisco Busines Times, Dec. 14, 2007

3. East Bay mayors, UC unite for 'Green Wave'
East Bay leaders, hoping to capitalize on energy research emerging from UC and LBL, intend to create a regional environmental hub.
Chronicle, SFGate, Dec. 4, 2007

Benicia First statement on Business Park, 5/6/08

We have reached a crisis point in consideration of the Benicia Business Park. The decision of the City Council in this matter will have a profound impact upon the future of Benicia.

The Council is faced with the following choices: (1) To attempt to reshape the current version submitted by Seeno by the use of either a huge number of conditions of approval or by a development agreement or (2) To deny the project and ask Seeno to return with a new proposal reflective of the cities needs and desires and the new economic realities of the time.

The character and economics of industrial development have radically changed in just the past few years, a change not reflected in either the initial or the revised plan presented by the Seeno Company. Even if limited solely to an economic evaluation and assessing only the future economic prospects for Benicia, the Seeno plans have not made sense. The first plan was an incredibly bad proposal, a dated warehousing and shipping model, involving no concern for scenic values, environmental impacts, economic sustainability, energy efficiency, market realities or the Benicia General Plan.

While the alternative plan now presented has attached some of the buzzwords of the new industrial era, and has reduced impacts, it is clear that at the conceptual level it remains mired in the past. There is neither a deep understanding of nor a deep commitment to anything resembling a coherent, integrated research and development campus, anchored by some major technological core. This is reflected in its phasing plan; it is reflected in its fragmented approach and it is reflected in the complete lack of any overarching vision of the whole project. Its scope is reduced but it is still far from the kind of project envisioned in Benicia’s Economic Development Strategy. It still does not conform to the General Plan, still provides no evidence of serious economic analysis and is still starkly deficient in any awareness of current trends or the rich potential of the Benicia site.

Whether north Benicia development will ever achieve what the city has set forth in its development strategy, is heavily dependent upon (1) the developer sharing with the city the same goals and vision for the overall project; (2) finding the right kind of high tech, research and development venture to anchor the development and to stimulate related technological enterprise, and (3) creating the kind of campus setting that fits this type of industry. It is precisely this kind of venture and this kind of planning that is now attracting major economic focus and venture capital and has the Bay area leading the state, at a time when general business credit is very tight. There is little indication to date that the Seeno Company understands these realities. One crucial planning reality is that any initial development begun without such understanding can immediately close off all the rich potential and possibilities of Benicia’s situation.

What we do not want, what we absolutely must avoid. is to begin with a large commercial development, potentially conducive to urban decay and then “phase” into a string of warehouses and random unrelated activities created over the next twenty-five years.

In our view, the establishment of hundreds of conditions of approval is a woefully inadequate method to deal with the shortcomings of the Seeno plan. It is a fragmented approach; it will neither create nor insure a coherent project and is a virtual guarantor of continuous oversight problems. There is no way that the present proposal can be nudged, negotiated or forced into anything resembling what this city wants, or to fit the demands for sustainable, future oriented, technologically oriented, green industrial development. Nor do we believe that moving to a development agreement, while a step better than detailing conditions of approval, can solve that fundamental problem.

For these reasons, we believe it to be imperative for the city to deny this project and ask Seeno to come back with a new sustainable, campus oriented, cleantech project reflecting current and future economic and environmental realities, demands and opportunities OR, to bring in a partner, capable of such planning. We further believe that the city should assure the Seeno Company that it is prepared to engage actively in expediting such a proposal and cooperating fully in its realization.

Seeno History of Violations


Seeno Fined 3 million for environmental damage, Antioch

Intentional Killing of endangered species
Department of Justice Summary

General story: Additional detail

Rating of Seeno by homeowners satisfaction: JD Powers Survey
2007 Survey: Among 16 area builders, Seeno rated last.

Follow the story of Measure P in Pittsburgh—Allowing major Seeno growth.

Another story on Measure P;

Seeno, hazardous waste fine, ($300,000) Antioch

Seeno investigation for environmental damages from Grading, permits etc. Pittsburgh

Seeno Construction Accused Of Destroying Pittsburg Creek

Nevada gaming interests of Seeno
See Bottom, 2nd page and on.

Seeno family, relationships, fines and interests in Nevada casinos.

Major Study of Social Change (UCBerkeley) by Tamsen Anderson focusing upon the evolution of one bay area industrial suburb (Pittsburgh)Contains a very interesting section on the role of Seeno. Blog with assessment, from within the communities, of Seeno and its methods---includes pictures, data and reactions