YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

Its business since the Great Recession being only “break-even,” Pearson’s Appliance will close its doors in mid-August.

Pearson’s Appliance has been a solid fixture at Second and Main Streets in Woodland, for decades, leaving behind a very large, vacant downtown storefront smack in the middle of this City, again illustrating a continually reoccurring syndrome of a chronically gap-toothed Main Street.

So, what happened?  It’s easy to understand; it’s the same thing that happened to downtown Cranston’s Hardware fifteen years ago. Don and Patty Manhart, then operating Cranston’s, plainly said that because Orchard Supply and Hardware and Home Depot had opened on East Main Street, Cranston’s would soon have to close, because the wholesale margins were not competitive.

Enormous, chain-based retail corporations, Orchard Supply and Hardware and Home Depot bought hundreds, of which Cranston’s bought dozens.  Although Cranston’s provided often needed expertise and loyal (legendary) customer service, it could not match new pricing margins being commercially permitted within proliferating commercial districts, outside of the city’s downtown.

As Don and Patty Manhart clearly knew, local folk would begin coming into Cranston’s to discover what they needed — and then easily go on over to its newly approved and uncompetitive competitors — to actually make their purchases.

Don and Patty certainly didn’t want to endure such approaching commercial atrocity, after so long a good run for Woodlanders.  So, they closed Cranston’s doors.

This hard lesson has lately been learned by Pearson’s Appliance.  Its employees describe the very same scene as the Manharts predicted would reoccur on Main Street, if the city council continued to approve peripheral development projects, most often chain-based retail businesses which discount knowledge / expertise and customer service, but undercut basic commercial margins of local merchants.

“People come here with their pads and pencils, trying to discover what to do [with various appliance needs],” indicates an employee of Pearson’s; “but, after we help them understand what they need to know, they go on over to” the large. chain-based stores, “to save a hundred dollars.”

These huge chain-based stores often “don’t have people with enough actual experience with these products (of which Pearson’s inventories a great variety); they just stock a few popular products, but buy them at a margin we can’t compete with,” expresses a long-time employee.

Pearson’s is not giving up (only on Woodland); it’s soon opening a new store in Napa (where the commercial climate is better), as well as retaining its other existing store near Fairfield. Woodland is then left with another vast, downtown edifice in dire need of a purpose.

The owner of the downtown Sears store, the last remaining appliance shop on Main Street, has in the recent past said that if provided the right deal on Woodland’s periphery (like Gateway Center), he might consider a move from what would become yet another vast edifice, in dire need of a purpose.

What has happened to the pivotal and historical Cranston’s building?

It’s now become very quiet, seemingly perpetual insurance offices, obviously a severe downslide from the pedestrian traffic which Cranston’s used to provide. Downtown Main Street thrives on strong retail (and entertainment) businesses, not opaque offices, on its ground-floors.

Cranston’s had (has) a wonderful mezzanine, made to order for an ebullient Main Street; now however, it is abruptly ensconced outside of general downtown access, setting a quite awkward fashion of downtown devolution.

Of course, it is assumed that Woodland’s current Mayor, Tom Stallard (who owns this building as well as other downtown buildings) has done fiscally well to secure a long-term lease with this insurance outfit. Otherwise, as well, the downtown area may have become / remained even more gap-toothed.

Problems appear to arise, though, within the general political atmosphere of this City, for decades, involving achievement of a proper balance between Woodland’s downtown (historically) retail area and its commercial outskirts. Apparently, that’s why there is presently such an unappealing (inappropriate, service-oriented) tenancy in the historical Cranston’s building.

Woodland city planning documents are replete with terse announcements that the future of Woodland’s downtown area is destined to simply be antique / boutique shops and restaurants / entertainment venues.

Major retail is yet again being forced from Woodland’s downtown, because of decades of continuous commercial sprawl which has relentlessly undercut the City’s historical culture.

The basic question seems to be: Why did city councils over decades believe that some kind of “free market” (whatever that is) best dictates our intricate community complexion, that (historical) downtown commercial ventures based on devoted and expanded customer services (as opposed to corporate-margins) would not flourish amidst historical restaurant and entertainment options?

Of course, when the city council (~1991), based upon its “free market” type of political / civic ideology about local planning sense and entertainment uses, approved a new movie theater complex at County Fair Mall – far outside of the downtown area — the gradual slide into downtown ruin was bound to occur.

Sudden closure of Pearson’s Appliance, can now be seen the latest chapter in a long and sad saga of ongoing downtown blight, seemingly caused by the city’s inability to – weave together – local (historical) downtown commercial uses into a stable community fabric.

Some persons fault Woodland for not having a grid-like downtown (such as in Davis); it has to simply make do with a long Main Street. Well, interviews with many local folk reveal that — when there was still a thriving Main Street (until the 1980s) — they would walk up one side of downtown Main Street and then down the other, maybe making several rounds.

Vibrant Main Street atmosphere may someday rekindle such activities, but Pearson’s Appliance will be gone.

YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

Interviews with several merchants within the two block span of Woodland Main Street surrounding Heritage Plaza (at Second Street) have revealed the City is meaningfully ignoring their previously filed letter — signed by fourteen (14) relevant merchants (please see below) — objecting to closure of Main Street between Second and Third Streets on Saturdays, until about 1 p. m., for purposes of locating the tiny and struggling Woodland Farmers’ Market.

One downtown business employee (born and raised in Woodland) couldn’t understand why the Farmers’ Market — with its presently (historically) slim profile — would not easily fit within the general Heritage Plaza area — going on to say that the Market’s abrupt closure of Main Street on Saturday mornings has definitely interfered with normal business traffic at a key time, indicating that  “many of our customers come here from Davis and we’ve had confusion and complaints about this situation,” during recent months.

Consequent to receiving this letter about a month ago, the city reopened Second Street just southerly of Main Street on these occasions, but closure of Main Street remains, between Second and Third Streets.

Downtown merchants recounted recent (yet slight) contact with City officials, confirming the City’s intention to rebuff affected, complaining merchants and allow closure of Main Street for locating the market, during the remainder of this season (through mid-October), despite Woodland Mayor Tom Stallard’s previously stated intention of perhaps finding “another solution.”

Upon Stallard’s prior remarks, one downtown merchant had already (weeks ago) commented: “He’s just B***S****** us, he won’t change a thing.  This is his baby.”

Also of great interest, it seems that some limited conversations between downtown merchants and City officials have revealed that the Woodland Farmers’ Market — manager — was supposed to – had agreed to – as a condition with the City, of this Main Street closure – have both polled affected downtown merchants about this proposal prior to its adoption / implementation and reported to the City with their responses and concerns.

No downtown merchants were ever so polled or advised by the market manager and it was a complete surprise to them when one Saturday morning in May — Main Street was suddenly closed to accommodate this market — according to several merchant accounts.

Apparently, Woodland City Hall officials never even followed up with the farmers’ market manager about such processes — upon which this Main Street closure was supposedly premised.

Clearly, neither the farmers’ market manager nor city hall fulfilled their (seemingly recognized) obligations toward the welfare of downtown merchants.

However, such significant failures of city policy and conduct will apparently not serve to deter the city from continuing on its course of further alienating these downtown merchants, who simply don’t believe there is any good reason for this Main Street closure.

Has this sort of thing happened before?

In 2012, a petition signed by thirty-six (36) downtown Main Street merchants (from Third to Elm Streets), directed toward then councilmember Stallard’s (council adopted) odd notion of painting downtown red curbs gray, was totally ignored by city hall.

These gray curbs led to a continuous calamity within downtown parking, warnings and citations — quadrupling — during the months following this sudden and confusing change to the downtown traffic system.

That petition, signed by the vast majority (36) of downtown Main Street merchants, was entirely ignored, swiftly disappearing into who knows where, similar to the instant case.

Today, fourteen (14) merchants upon only a few blocks of downtown Main Street are petitioning city hall for relief from its unnoticed and unnecessary (combined with its process failures — obviously unreasonable) closure of Main Street on Saturday mornings, when suitable alternatives clearly exist.

Downtown Merchants Endorsing The Letter To City Hall (published below):

The Gifted Penguin

Corner Drug Company

Oak Tree Antiques

Bella! Hair Salon

Jackson Medical Supply

Sweetie’s Café

Main Street Antiques

The House Dresser

The Cup and Saucer

Cascade Creations

Remember When Emporium

Dixie’s Paws and Claws

Woodland Gold and Sliver

Pearson’s Appliance

Letter to Woodland City Hall :

Being strong supporters and contributors to the economic wellbeing of Downtown Woodland, we would like to address the First to Third Main Street closure every Saturday from 6am to 1pm, sometimes later.  First, we must say we have been advocates of the Farmers Market and encouraged them to join us Downtown at Heritage Plaza.  However, we are strongly opposed to closing Main Street every Saturday.

This closure has severely impacted our sales and access to our businesses in the following ways:

  1. No customers, therefore no sales.
  2. No sales, therefore no sales tax revenue.
  3. No parking availability for two full blocks, barriers send customers off of Main Street away from businesses and a majority of our Saturday customers are those driving down Main Street.
  4. Allowing market vendors to park on Main Street obstructs the view of businesses from potential customers.
  5. Lunch time is generally the peak of Saturday business, Main Street being shut down until after 1pm has caused a massive decline in that business.
  6. Access to businesses is limited to walking traffic only and many of our customers are elderly and not highly mobile.
  7. There are no vendors between Second and First Street even though the street is closed.
  8. The market is small and does not draw a large number of customers.
  9. Market customers have proven that they generally only shop at the market and not our businesses.
  10. During summer the majority of our business is done in the morning when it is cooler, Main Street being shut down prevents much of this.

We are deeply offended that the city would make the important decision to close Main Street every Saturday through summer and into fall without any discussion with the businesses directly affected by the closure.  Also, none of the affected businesses were notified in any way whatsoever about the closure leaving us to find out on our own on the first day of the Farmers Market.  The impact of this unilateral decision has definitely injured our relationship with the city, a partnership that we have enjoyed and appreciated over the years.

As you know, we have always been proponents of a clean, safe, family friendly atmosphere in our Historic Downtown.  We have been instrumental and supportive of one time street closures for special events that draw a large crowd, such as Trick or Treat on Main, Stroll Through History, Christmas Parade, the recent vintage car show, Movies on Main, etc.  We have always encouraged other groups to use Heritage Plaza and the adjacent parking lot for special events. Downtown businesses have endured successive Main Street closures for curb repair, street repair, building of the courthouse, sidewalks, etc.  It has been difficult and negatively impacted our businesses and sales, but was necessary while closing Main Street on Saturdays for the market is not.

We are asking that you communicate with Main Street businesses before considering any street closure that would directly affect us.  We also request that the Farmers Market move back to Heritage Plaza or Freeman Park, as soon as possible, for the convenience of our customers and the overall wellbeing of the businesses that have chosen to operate on Main Street.  We do welcome the Famers Market to our Downtown as a partner in our business relationship.

#########

YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

Downtown Main Street merchants between First and Third Streets in Woodland have written a letter (published below) to City Hall vigorously complaining about the recent, sudden and totally unnoticed closure of this portion of Main Street during Saturday mornings, as a new location for the Woodland Farmers’ Market.

Main Street has been closed in this manner since May, from 6 a.m. until about 1:30 p.m., which severely cramps regular business, while not balancing such distress by the creation of sufficient new business to compensate, indicates Woodland Gold and Silver owner, Brandon Hodges, who wonders why undermining longtime downtown merchants is necessary to help evolve the longsuffering Farmers’ Market.

“We’re part of the core of downtown commerce and shouldn’t be injured in such a thoughtless way,” says Hodges, referring to proximate and peeved downtown business proprietors.  He relates tales of various city problems, frictions and nonsense, arising during these several Saturdays of Farmers’ Market occupation.

Saturday Morning Conflict

“Saturday mornings in the summer are prime business hours,” declares Hodges, “people like to get out and shop when it’s still cool.  Closing off Main Street at this time is a huge and unreasonable intrusion.”

Of course, such is precisely the cool-morning, business-timing theory of Woodland Farmers’ Market, although conflicting with downtown commerce because of this Main Street closure, unless and until it reaches satisfactory, justifiable attendance levels.

Freeman Park would be a much better market location during this summer, strongly believes Hodges and merchant cohorts.

Installation of a traffic-signaled crosswalk over Main Street, between Freeman Park and the new county courthouse, should become a beneficial factor for this market location, these merchants envision.

Current location of Downtown Woodland Farmers’ Market is apparently being partially driven by the willingness of two downtown merchants in this vicinity to allow public use of their restrooms during Market hours.  Hodges describes being told that the City doesn’t want to pay for portable toilets, although such toilets are being used at the Tuesday Woodland Farmers’ Market located near Woodland Memorial Hospital.

For decades, Woodland Farmers Market has struggled to discover a real home, fluctuating locations from Main Street (a long time ago) to Heritage Plaza to Freeman Park to County Fair Mall and Woodland Memorial Hospital.

Closing Main Street to accommodate the present phase / dimension of downtown Farmers’ Market activity is unjustified, believes this group of merchants, who clearly express their being — “deeply offended” — by the obtuse way the City of Woodland has handled these affairs.

Murky City Responses

Woodland City Manager, Paul Navazio, has responded to Hodges with the following remarks:

“Brandon – than you for forwarding your email and letter.  We are aware of concerns expressed by some businesses and it is helpful to have then clearly articulated.  City staff will confer with the Farmers’ Market to address concerns as best we can under the current arrangements and agreements we have in place.  We will keep the Council members apprised as to our progress….several of them have relayed businesses’ concerns, and we also have a Downtown sub-committee that can assist, as needed, in this regard.”

Hodges expresses great apprehension about what Navazio means by:  “Address concerns as best we can under the current arrangements and agreements we have in place,” fearing that this city position intends to continue on the present course of Main Street closure, through October, an especially unappealing prospect for “severely impacted” downtown merchants.

Contacted by Yolo Sun, Woodland Mayor Tom Stallard seems to recognize the growing existence of a serious problem. “I’m already working on another solution,” responds Stallard, although he hasn’t yet revealed the nature or details of this other “solution.”

Letter to Woodland City Hall :

I [Brandon Hodges] am emailing this letter on behalf of the many Downtown Woodland businesses being negatively affected by the current location of the Saturday Woodland Farmers Market.  Those businesses affected include, but are not limited to, Woodland Gold and Silver, The House Dresser, Corner Drug Company and The Gifted Penguin.

[Hodges indicates his belief that several other proximate businesses also heartily endorse this letter and will become signatories.]

Being strong supporters and contributors to the economic wellbeing of Downtown Woodland, we would like to address the First to Third Main Street closure every Saturday from 6am to 1pm, sometimes later.  First, we must say we have been advocates of the Farmers Market and encouraged them to join us Downtown at Heritage Plaza.  However, we are strongly opposed to closing Main Street every Saturday.

This closure has severely impacted our sales and access to our businesses in the following ways:

1. No customers, therefore no sales.

2. No sales, therefore no sales tax revenue.

3. No parking availability for two full blocks, barriers send customers off of Main Street away from businesses and a majority of our Saturday customers are those driving down Main Street.

4. Allowing market vendors to park on Main Street obstructs the view of businesses from potential customers.

5. Lunch time is generally the peak of Saturday business, Main Street being shut down until after 1pm has caused a massive decline in that business.

6. Access to businesses is limited to walking traffic only and many of our customers are elderly and not highly mobile.

7. There are no vendors between Second and First Street even though the street is closed.

8. The market is small and does not draw a large number of customers.

9. Market customers have proven that they generally only shop at the market and not our businesses.

10. During summer the majority of our business is done in the morning when it is cooler, Main Street being shut down prevents much of this.

We are deeply offended that the city would make the important decision to close Main Street every Saturday through summer and into fall without any discussion with the businesses directly affected by the closure.  Also, none of the affected businesses were notified in any way whatsoever about the closure leaving us to find out on our own on the first day of the Farmers Market.  The impact of this unilateral decision has definitely injured our relationship with the city, a partnership that we have enjoyed and appreciated over the years.

As you know, we have always been proponents of a clean, safe, family friendly atmosphere in our Historic Downtown.  We have been instrumental and supportive of one time street closures for special events that draw a large crowd, such as Trick or Treat on Main, Stroll Through History, Christmas Parade, the recent vintage car show, Movies on Main, etc.  We have always encouraged other groups to use Heritage Plaza and the adjacent parking lot for special events.
Downtown businesses have endured successive Main Street closures for curb repair, street repair, building of the courthouse, sidewalks, etc.  It has been difficult and negatively impacted our businesses and sales, but was necessary while closing Main Street on Saturdays for the market is not.

We are asking that you communicate with Main Street businesses before considering any street closure that would directly affect us.  We also request that the Farmers Market move back to Heritage Plaza or Freeman Park, as soon as possible, for the convenience of our customers and the overall wellbeing of the businesses that have chosen to operate on Main Street.  We do welcome the Famers Market to our Downtown as a partner in our business relationship.

#########

YOLO SUN (SUPPLEMENTAL) NEWS REPORT :

[Editor’s note: This is the second, supplemental news report, on the topic of Woodland’s current water situation, following an initial report found further down-scroll.  Please find the first supplemental news report, immediately down-scroll.]

Friday afternoon, June 12, the California Water Resources Control Board (WRCB) issued an Order affecting state water rights in an unprecedented manner, prohibiting all diversions established after 1902.

Riparian-based water rights were also affected, with only about half of such interests accepting the state’s offer (ending June 1) to voluntarily restrict their diversions by 25% in order to avoid worse cuts — which have now been implemented.

The WRCB wrote in its official Order (linked below), that even worsening water access is quite likely.

The state began regulating surface water in 1914 and water rights established before then are legally classified as “senior,” contrasted with “junior” rights.

Woodland has acquired two water rights, one of each general type, but neither of which is as reliable as before the ongoing (4th year of) drought.  The state has previously halted 2015 diversions for “junior” water rights.

Woodland’s (Term 91) allocation using its “senior” water right was (seasonally) curtailed on April 30.

Here is the official data from (WRCB):

http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/drought/analysis/docs/term91graph.pdf

Previously, such curtailments would be lifted around the onset of the rainy season, but new odds have begun to shift toward much greater uncertainty.

Sufficient water must now become available to restore access to many more “senior” water-rights holders, never yet affected, before finally reaching the level of service for Woodland’s (Term 91) right, which has been regularly curtailed in minor amounts during the dry season, yet only 40% of its allocation was available in 2014, an initial signal of this severe drought.

Another very serious concern exists regarding the general absence of a state snow-pack (for the first time in recorded history), the regular source of replenishing reservoirs which source Woodland’s water rights.  This water-storage system was designed for mining snow-pack, but the climate is now changing.

Rising temperatures will reduce state snow-pack, even when precipitation eventually arrives, continually challenging the state’s reservoir system to adapt.  Presently mandated to protect against floods, by keeping space in reserve for that purpose, reservoirs may have to be re-prioritized toward filling-up, to a reasonably maximum extent.

So, several large obstacles are arising against Woodland’s confident access to surface water:  (a) many more “senior” water-rights holders (their numbers are increasing in unprecedented ways) must now be made whole, ahead of Woodland;  (b) absence of a state snow-pack will largely disallow any reservoir-filling, until whatever rainy season arrives;  (c) future snow-packs are relatively in jeopardy;  (d) state water-management policy must rapidly evolve with multiple challenges, carrying unknown consequences for Woodland;  (e) and then, of course, there’s the ongoing drought, itself.

Here is a link to the WRCB’s (detailed) Order of June 12:

http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/press_room/press_releases/2015/pr061215_sr_curtailmentsfnl.pdf

Perusal of this document is encouraged for local residents who want to best understand such matters.

YOLO SUN (SUPPLEMENTAL) NEWS REPORT :

This supplemental news report is published to best provide Woodlanders (indeed, Yolo County in general) with what they need to know, regarding the prior article of Yolo Sun, alongside the most conscientious and reliable (long-range) weather forecast interpretation which is presently available for California (please see below).

Some local folk believe (this specific view has come directly from the mouths of high city officials) that an impending El Nino event may serve to solve Woodland’s water woes; while in actuality, this topic is much more complex (as well as, interesting).

Yesterday (June 11), statewide news reports indicated a strengthening of the El Nino phenomenon of Pacific Ocean warming, possibly leading to increased precipitation for California (in general).  Here’s a representative snippet from San Jose Mercury News (SJMN):

“Currently, an ocean area that scientists call the “3.4 region” along the equator near South America that is considered a key indictor of El Niño trends is 1.2 degrees Celsius, or 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit, above the historic average. That departure from normal is twice what it was a year ago. And the trend is expected to keep growing.

“Supercomputers at NOAA, NASA and other world-leading scientific institutions are projecting the temperatures in that ocean region to hit 1.6 degrees Celsius, or nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit, on average by September. The last time temperatures there reached that level in a September was in 1997, when they hit 2.3 degrees Celsius, or 4.1 degrees Fahrenheit, above average. What followed was among the wettest winters in California history, similar to another strong El Niño year, 1982-83, with California receiving twice as much rain as normal.”

What does this potential strengthening of the current El Nino actually mean for Woodland?

Mainstream journalism (such as SJMN) usually tends to vastly generalize around such key, localized (even Northern California type) details.

Weather West

However, there exists a blog uniquely devoted to these sorts of details: Weather West   ( http://weatherwest.com ).

Weather West displays the work of Daniel Swain, alumni of UCD and now at Stanford.

Weather West has provided unique and valuable California weather and climate information, as well as profound discussion of such, since 2006.

Daniel Swain is a PhD candidate in the Department of Environmental Earth System Science at Stanford University. A member of the University’s Climate and Earth Sciences Dynamic Group, Daniel studies the changing character of extreme meteorological events, with a focus on the role of persistent large-scale atmospheric patterns. He holds a B.S. in Atmospheric Science from the University of California, Davis.

June 3 (El Nino) Essay By Weather West

On June 3, Weather West published a lengthy and intriguing essay about El Nino and the continuing (4th year) California drought, reaching a level of intricate weather interpretation not found within the mainstream press.

Some local folk have suggested, for example, that next winter California may experience something akin to what Texas has recently seen.

Says Weather West:

“Given the strengthening El Niño event, do the drought-busting Texas floods suggest that California will be in for the same experience next winter? Not really–well, at least not directly. The kind of weather pattern that led to the Texas floods–persistent, moist deep convection (thunderstorms) with self-organizing characteristics (i.e. mesoscale convective complexes) aren’t really possible in California. We don’t have anywhere near the kind of warm, moist, and unstable conditions made possible in Texas by the proximity of the Gulf of Mexico, and large-scale atmospheric conditions near California are also generally unfavorable for this kind of event.”

“During weak El Niño events, this effect is less profound, and the end result can often be relatively weak versions of both the subtropical and sub-polar jet vying for influence over the East Pacific. The net effect can be quite variable; if California’s lucky, we see moist storms originating from both regions, but if we’re unlucky, we can largely miss out on storm systems taking both trajectories. If we composite the most recent weak El Niño episodes, the average effect in California actually appears to be a slight drying during the winter months–directly contrary to the El Nino mythology that pervades the Golden State.”  (Emphasis added.)

Related to strong El Nino influences, Weather West expresses:

“However, things are a quite a bit different during a strong El Niño event. When East Pacific sea surface temperatures become sufficiently warm, large-scale atmospheric temperature differences between the tropics and the mid-latitudes are big enough to strengthen the subtropical jet quite substantially over the portion of the East Pacific that is most relevant for California wintertime precipitation. This enhanced subtropical jet can greatly enhance the strength of low-latitude storms west and even slightly south of California, and also makes it easier for such systems to tap into the rich tropical and subtropical atmospheric moisture reservoir that exists at lower latitudes. Additionally, storms during strong El Niño years have the potential to be more convectively unstable due to increased lower-atmospheric temperature and moisture, leading to an increased likelihood of intense localized downpours. In other words: a strong El Niño event tends to result in a jet stream structure that 1) steers more storms toward Southern California, 2) is favorable for stronger storms at a lower latitude in the East Pacific, and 3) affords pre-existing storms greater potential access to warm, moisture-rich air masses.”

Thus, even in a strong El Nino, odds are that much of Northern California could be left relatively dry.

Weather West further describes relevant matters (emphasis occasionally added):

Will El Niño end California’s extraordinary, multi-year drought during Winter 2015-2016?

“Almost certainly not. Over the past four years of very low precipitation and record-shattering warmth, truly enormous water deficits have accumulated throughout California. On a statewide basis, the Golden State would need to see substantially more than an entire year’s worth of extra precipitation fall to eliminate the long-term deficit in a single year (in other words, a year with much greater  than 200% of average). Since California’s all-time wettest years (typically associated with very strong El Niño events) have historically involved a doubling (200%) or less of annual precipitation, California would probably need to experience its wettest year on record (by a fairly wide margin) to erase ongoing deficits in a single year. While it’s not physically impossible, that would be a very tall order, indeed. And a winter like that would most likely bring a whole host of other problems.

“Could a strong or very strong El Niño in 2015-2016 substantially mitigate the California drought and/or lead to serious flooding?“Absolutely. If the developing El Niño event reaches a strong or very strong intensity and maintains its strength through winter 2015-2016, the odds of experiencing persistently wet conditions next winter will increase. The occurrence of frequent precipitation events during significant El Niño winters increases the probability that antecedent hydrological conditions will be moist if and when heavy precipitation events do occur, increasing the risk of flooding. Also, since the trajectory of Pacific storms during strong El Niño winters tends to be from a much lower (more southerly) latitude, air masses during rain events tend to be warmer and moister overall.

“This can have several effects, including higher snow lines and more rapid runoff, greater precipitation intensity overall, and an increased risk of deep moist convection (which can produce very high rainfall rates even in the absence of mountainous topography). It’s important to note that almost all of California’s major flood events result from land-falling “atmospheric rivers,” which tend to be more frequent (but not necessarily more intense) during El Niño years. Therefore, a major flood can easily occur during any winter, El Niño or not. Still, for upper-tier El Niño events, there is definitely an increased risk of above-average precipitation and flooding during the cool season.

“Since strong El Niño events increase the likelihood of wet California winters, it does stand to reason that a strong El Niño in 2015-2016 could provide at least partial (and perhaps substantial) drought relief. A wet winter would most likely allow most of California’s major reservoirs to fill, though those who operate California’s dams and reservoirs are heavily constrained by flood control mandates. Surface soil moisture would increase, and drought-stressed forests and ecosystems would benefit substantially in the short term. Stress on urban water supplies would be reduced as demand decreases, and supply increases.

“But even a tremendous amount of water falling from the sky won’t completely alleviate all of California’s drought impacts. And if much of this hypothetical precipitation were to fall as rain rather than snow in the Sierra Nevada, longer-term water storage wouldn’t be boosted nearly as much as it would otherwise.

“California is currently witnessing firsthand what happens during its first year in recorded history without a measurable springtime snowpack, and it’s becoming quite clear that warming temperatures aren’t very compatible with the snowmelt-dependent water storage infrastructure currently in place.

“The Pacific Ocean, on the whole, remains extraordinarily warm (even in regions geographically far removed from those used to define El Niño), and is expected to remain so for the foreseeable future. This means that even if heavy precipitation does return to California next winter, temperatures will likely remain well above the long-term average.

“And just to reiterate a key point from above: we still don’t know for sure whether strong or very strong El Niño conditions will ultimately develop (nor whether they will persist until winter, when they are most relevant for California). Confidence is starting to increase in current projections, since we’re now emerging from the Spring Predictability Barrier and most dynamical models are still suggesting the potential for a powerful event. But when we concatenate all the various uncertainties discussed above, there’s still something of an open question regarding what happens in California next winter.

“At this point, it’s fair to state that the likelihood of experiencing a wetter-than-average winter (and, perhaps, flooding) is increasing, but simultaneously that the risk of the California drought continuing into 2016 is nearly 100%. Needless to say: it will probably be a very interesting year to come for weather and climate-watchers in the Golden State. Stay tuned!”

Yolo Sun greatly encourages Woodlanders to stay up to date regarding Northern California’s general weather conditions and drought forecasts, by means of this valuable blog.

YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

Woodlanders are conserving water at an astonishing rate.

City reports indicate that water usage during this May was 46% below its overall water usage in May of 2014.  This measured reduction rate amounts to about 84 gallons per day, per capita.

Likely, this huge usage decline leads the state in proportional water-conservation efforts.  The state is mandating only about 25% use reductions, depending upon circumstances.

But, will continuing drought evaporate Woodland’s expectation of receiving Sacramento River water, intended to be pumped through its new river-water intake facility, built in alliance with Davis and costing $79 million?

In 2014, according to city records, Woodland’s (“senior”) water-right would have received only 40% of its allocation demand from this new surface-water project, planned and implemented during recent years.  It is due to begin supplying water in May of 2016.

This new (Woodland, Davis, little bit of UCD) water facility is a partnership with Conaway Preservation Group (CPG), which will receive 80% of siphoned river water, while these public entities will receive 20%.  It’s easy to understand why CPG was a willing partner in this project, alongside great value arising for Woodland and Davis.

Precipitous Curtailment Of Water Right In 2014 

Thirty-year long graphs of water data indicate that delivery upon the city’s water rights appears secure, until 2014, when a spectacular, drought-caused drop occurs in access, to just 40%, for its primary (“senior”) water right.

Woodland also has an annual, secondary water right to 10,000 acre-feet released from Lake Shasta, fully guaranteed by its agreement with CPG, as long as there is enough water in the Lake (presently about half-full and slowly dropping within this dry season).

Perhaps the most reliable weather forecasts, signal that odds are looming for another dryer than normal winter.  Continuing drought would further reduce Woodland’s primary water-right allocation from 40%, into historically unknown territory.

As well, continued drought could eventually drain Shasta Lake to a point jeopardizing service of the city’s “junior” water-right.  Basically, water rights obtained prior to 1914 (when state regulation began) are considered to be “senior,” grandfathered ahead of “junior” water rights.

Woodland greatly needs river (surface) water for mixing with its ground water, to avoid municipal effluent problems identified and monitored by federal authorities, leading to substantial fines for non-compliance with federal water standards.

In general, the city’s (relevant) water-hardness measure would drop from about 25 to 5, with introduction of enough surface (river) water into its present, groundwater delivery system.

If the city receives its expectation of river water, water-softening will become unnecessary.

Woodland’s Water Bank

Woodland is surely ready to harvest river water and bank it, using injection into a suitable aquifer underneath the City, about 50 feet in width, located about 450 feet belowground.

Greg Meyer, Woodland’s Public Works Director, describes that as much as — 10 billion gallons — of properly treated water could eventually be stored within this aquifer and accessible to the City.  He says that the world’s most experienced and capable experts with such technology are advising the City about its aquifer-storage program.

Meyer explains that this underground aquifer can be used as a water bank, with the city filling it in times of plenty and then withdrawing water as needed, while slowly increasing its balance up to a perceived maximum of 10 billion gallons. He relates that water storage within this aquifer would push out existing (“bad”) groundwater, which would not mingle with the injected water.  Also, storage within this aquifer, depicts Meyer, would not be compromised by the many farmland wells, recently drilled in anticipation of drought conditions.

Meyer believes that the city is far ahead of most other municipalities and water agencies in California, with regard to its water access, storage and conservation program.

Supporting his surmise, is the fact that its water conservation expert has just been hired away by Davis, which is paying an extra $20,000 annually for this valued (former) city employee, in hopes of best advancing its own water-conservation program, saying a lot about the quality of Woodland’s recent approaches to water issues.

Thus, Woodland seems well situated to grapple with extended drought conditions, just as long as enough water comes down the Sacramento River to provide it that opportunity.

YOLO SUN OPINION :

If Woodland City Council was a dog, it should attend training and obedience school, for it fails to fetch what its community tosses, while piddling away its frazzled credibility.

Most City Hall poobahs and commissars likely believe they have slyly wriggled away from a potential fiasco, related to tree removal within the City Dog Park.

Nothing could be further from the truth, as we shall see.  In an amazing and distressing spectacle of civic irresponsibility, Woodland City Council has politely stifled popular concern about its failure to protect the City Dog Park.

As the wise saying goes, “the devil is often in the details;” in this case, pertinent details were overlooked or even suppressed, in a worryingly persistent style of municipal rushing to best please outside developmental interests, of whatever stripe, in this case the enormous Korean conglomerate, Hanwha Corp.

The city’s new solar-energy facility has six locations, one of which is so close to the city Dog Park, that this developer’s agents and arborists have suddenly determined that eight (8) trees within it had to be immediately removed, in order to properly abide “insolation” provisions of its agreement with the city.  In other words, nothing at all, at any time, could ever be allowed to get between the sun and this developer’s solar arrays.

Two Year Process

The city’s consultant, TerraVerde Renewable Partners LLC, describes a more than two-year long process of designing this solar-energy collection facility, “exploring just about every possible configuration” of the facility, indicates Doug Stecker of TerraVerde.

Well then, wasn’t there — ample time — to responsibly contact the many folk who frequent the Dog Park, informing them and collecting relevant concerns?

Apparently not.  Collecting solar rays totally blinded the city and its consultant  (paid almost a million dollars) against collecting views of Dog Park users, who were quite lucky to even have discovered this city plan and its dire impacts, at all, with many of their so recently (tardily) expressed concerns and proposals being meaningfully ignored.

Some citizens suggest the city should rename itself: Sunland.

It seems that, alongside displaying reckless civic behavior, ‘wagons are circled,’ and durable questions sloughed off and rebuffed.  Vice-mayor Bill Marble declared that these Dog Park folk “have been heard;” but let’s consider the actual details.

The real bottom line was, to his credit, accurately spelled out by city manager Paul Navazio.  “Given the nature of these trees, at some point they are going to be incompatible with the design of the current project.”

Dog Park Testimony

Very interesting and compelling citizen testimony was presented to the city council at this meeting (May 19).

Dana Schuyler got the ball rolling.  “We were very surprised when we got to the Dog Park last week, with the red Xs on our beautiful trees that give us shade now.

“Woodland is known for the City of Trees, [  ] there’s a sign right behind you guys.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that.”

Schuyler continued, explaining that she is disabled and she and her eleven (11) year old dog visit the Dog Park almost daily.  “The atmosphere is just really nice,” reports Schuyler, who believes key mental health values exist at the Dog Park, adding that such “outings for me” coincide with a very important socializing element, since she feels like she and others at the Dog Park are like “a family.”

Christine Shewmaker, a locally prominent “climate change activist,” emphasized that (among other things) Governor Brown has set new targets to reduce greenhouse gases by 40% over 1990 levels, by 2030.

“So, I’m going to advocate that you go forward and not hit the pause button on this project,” Shewmaker exclaimed, while also supporting at least a tree be planted for each tree being removed.

Claudia Barba brought vital arguments to this topic, including her view that, although she supported recent (2015) city bond measures for parks — there was no information provided about Dog Park impacts from this city solar project.

Barba is “all in favor of protecting the environment,” as well as addressing greenhouse gas issues noted by Shewmaker.

“We oppose,” however, “the specific siting of the solar panels in and around the Dog Park, when there are other areas that are available.”

Barba then described the Dog Park as an — “all-day use facility” — contrasted with the other five locations of solar arrays.

She recounted “urban heat-island” research indicating that solar panels increase nearby ambient air temperature by sixty (60) degrees; [so,] “we’re heating the area where we actually have human beings, pretty much all day, and these are people who have no other chance to go out off-leash at a park.  Some of them don’t even own dogs, but are driven to the Dog Park by [social service] agencies because they are disabled and they use this as an emotional and mental health break.”

It seems that none of this key information about the city Dog Park and impacts of this solar-energy facility played any role in city / consultant decision making.

Barba proposed shifting the solar array intended for installation next to the Dog Park, in an easterly direction, toward vacant land adjacent to some playing fields (a basketball court, in particular).

Shelly Duto testified to the city council that a one-to one (1 to 1) mitigation of planting new trees for adolescent or mature trees, is not equivalent mitigation, for purposes of either shade (cooling) or greenhouse-gas reduction.

“While the [city’s] plan is tree for tree, it definitely doesn’t catch up for many years,” expressed Duto.

Paul Hanes testified that: “Most of those trees out there are more like ornamental trees, not native trees to this area.  I don’t see any oak trees or any elm trees, or any big shade trees.  All I see are small ornamental trees.

“I live [by] Crawford Park and there are trees there that have been there for forty (40) years and aren’t even twenty-five (25) feet tall.  40 years and 25 feet, is not a tree.

“So, if we’re gonna plant new trees, I’d like to see shade trees planted, not ornamental bushes!”

Ann Winship’s testimony provided very useful insight into the stark level of inattention by the city toward its Dog Park.

“As it is, there are no trees planted to shade the areas where people sit.  We’ve had to take to bringing our own lawn chairs to find shade.  And it’s been an eight (8) year period waiting for the trees to give adequate shade, so we can enjoy them.”

Wendy Hildebrand testified that trees should be planted on the southern side of the Dog Park, relating concerns about tree-planting within the middle of the Park, regularly used for games of fetch.

City Staff: “Surprised,” But Not Contrite

City manager Paul Navazio stated: “I will tell you honestly, that city staff was surprised about the inclusion of trees [being removed] at the Dog Park.”

This surprise was, of course, completely due to the obvious fact that no attention was provided regarding the city Dog Park, in midst of the (two-year) preparation of this solar-energy facility – despite having such extremely close proximity — that 8 trees within the Dog Park were immediately deemed to be in violation of the city’s contract with Hanwha Corp.

City councilmember Jim Hilliard certainly was not contrite.

“We were kind of blindsided by that issue.  [  ]  I think this [all] can be accomplished without a tremendous amount of discussion or concern,” stated Hilliard.

Rather, councilmember: It was the city Dog Park which was truly “blindsided” — by the city.

Navazio offered that: “Efficacy of design, cost considerations and relative benefit of redesigning it, at this point,” all “strongly” argue toward retaining the current project alongside the impacted city Dog Park.

Other relevant city staff maintained, absent any form of evidence or detail, that there were perceived problems with locating solar arrays — “close to playing fields, because of possible damage that could occur.”

No city councilmember questioned this relatively odd assessment.

Thus, locating this facility in such a way as to prevent some slight (yet clearly avoidable) hazard was a — top priority — while obvious hazards to the city Dog Park were entirely ignored.

Dog Park users literally had to stumble over this situation, to even become aware of it.

City staff and council members demonstrated no semblance of actual responsibility or remorse about this egregious circumstance.

Remorse or acceptance of responsibility by the city, for failing to recognize and consider environmental impacts to the Dog Park from its solar-energy project, would have inclined this matter toward its doing as Park proponents requested, properly evaluating a shift of the problematic solar array.

Thus, no one related to the city would apologize for its egregious foul up.  Trust of the city is thereby injured, since process and factual material to properly satisfy Dog Park concerns was made unavailable; non-transparency was essentially invoked by the city, to avoid meaningful review of its various premises for this decision.

Just prior to council vote on this item, a voice could be heard from the rear of the chamber, presumably Claudia Barba, somewhat (justifiably) indignant about such non-transparency.  Marble told her that public comment was done.

Woodland Tree Foundation

Both city councilmembers and staff make a great deal of Woodland Tree Foundation’s involvement with this project.

Of course, this organization does much good.  However, two items regarding this matter should be illuminated.  Firstly, the one-to-one replacement of trees seems to have been endorsed by it, when such a course is plainly not equivalent.

Secondly, city staff and councilmembers rely to a substantial degree, on the fact that many trees, within the parking lot adjacent to the Dog Park, are “ornamental pear,” a variety susceptible to “fire-blight.”  Thus, removal of such trees is inevitable, as they become increasingly unhealthy.

Reliable sources indicate, however, that Woodland Tree Foundation was planting such “ornamental pear” trees, until only a few years ago.

There was a loud call in this council meeting, for skyline type trees (Sycamore, Walnut, Oak, etc.) to be planted – and “ornamental bushes” to be eschewed — unless required by planting context.

It will be interesting to discover how Woodland Tree Foundation responds to such challenges.

Only Barajas Displayed Real Concern, To No Avail

Only city councilmember Angel Barajas displayed some diligence on this political occasion, several times attempting to somehow discover a more proper outcome.

Initially, Barajas exclaimed his desire that the city council “revisit” this matter, at the later point of these 8 trees within the Dog Park being eventually extracted, per statements by Navazio.

Barajas was plainly (laudably) concerned about the civic texture of these affairs; however — in reality — there is nothing of significance to be done in the future — if the city’s contract with Hanwha Corp. is not presently amended to provide any recourse except such tree removal.

One day in a few years, Hanwha Corp. will simply demand that its “insolation” provision of the city contract be abided, and these trees will be eliminated, as Navazio described.

Barajas asked: “Do we need more time, perhaps, to think this out?”

Also, Barajas challenged vice-mayor Marble to request testimony be provided from the city’s consultant, TerraVerde, regarding: “Whether or not the project can sustain effectively a redesign at this stage,” in words of its consultant (Doug Stecker).

“We actually went through I don’t know how many iterations, but many, many iterations. [  ]  We’re faced with a whole host of tradeoffs around – how do get the best value, [  ] how do we sacrifice the least and still put a project together that [  ] is financially viable [  ] and do that in a way that meets the critical prerequisites of the project,” related Stecker.

Stecker explained that some configurations were “disqualif[ied], because we have challenges that can’t be overcome.”

Stecker anticipated that the city council would want to keep this discussion “out of the technical weeds,” while also stating that he is “happy to dive into all of the technical reasons and their financial counterparts.

“We did everything we could,” declared Stecker, “to meet the high level of challenges that existed at this site and still have a viable project with the current configuration, and the other configurations we explored simply didn’t give us that possibility.”

Solar Facility Project Would Collapse Over Minor Redesign?

On the face of it, TerraVerde’s assertion — that there was only one feasible option, upon which to predicate a viable project — appears absurd.

And let’s be clear —  at root, TerraVerde (the city’s environmental expert) is obviously to blame for not realizing (early on) that an issue existed regarding Dog Park trees (and more), then providing some reasonable process to best address / eliminate / avoid such issues,  After all, it is the expert consultant, paid a million dollars.

TerraVerde very likely, simply picked the easiest configuration to optimize, but with how much actual comparative advantage?  Where is relevant transparency?  TerraVerde seems to depend on councilmembers not wanting to “get into the technical weeds,” on this matter.  For a million bucks, it needed to better perform.

City council could have held TerraVerde to account, responding to the – blindsided – Dog Park folk — but it failed.  City staff is caught in the middle of this mess.

Regarding playing-field concerns: From the relevant diagram, the only proximate subject is a basketball court (which could easily be shielded with a net, from causing damage).  Wayward Frisbees, thrown for dogs to fetch, would also present a potentially similar hazard, correct?

TerraVerde should have recognized these Dog Park issues and established with the city a process of considering them, alongside its evaluation of various solar array configurations.

Clearly, both the city and TerraVerde would rather avoid even a minor redesign, despite their statements about such iterations being preliminarily considered and, presumably, relatively accessible for pertinent analysis.

Getting to the utter details of these circumstances would be the only way to evaluate the potential for this minor adjustment to the city’s huge facility, to best protect the Dog Park.

This effort would have meant a delay – as Barajas earlier proposed – yet could find no help creating, from his fellow councilmembers.

Marble Mishandles Testimony Situation

Seemingly, Marble was anxious to swiftly proceed.

Instead of properly asking Barajas, whether he was satisfied with this wholly vague, specifically unresponsive comment by Stecker, Marble abruptly dismissed Stecker from further testimony.

Barajas had to gently demand such testimony — to begin with — over Marble’s initial attitude of dismissal about any likely councilmember interest with quizzing TerraVerde (paid about a million dollars for this project).

Marble’s move, here, halted all relevant inquiries.

Barajas needed to ask specific follow-up questions, going to the heart of these affairs, but he seemingly wasn’t inclined to further buck Marble’s conduct of the meeting.  This is not a healthy and respectful political atmosphere, to our civic distress.

Apparently, Marble wanted to get to other, favorable, less contentious councilmember comment.

“There’s ways to do things without having to start over with the design part of it,” believes city councilmember Sean Denny.

Waiting a little while (with pruning) to remove these 8 trees, replacing them and erecting an artificial shade structure, says Denny, “will take care of all the issues.”

Really?

Despite abundant public testimony about the inadequacy of older tree replacement by new trees, as well as the likely time-period involved (much less than the 8 or more years needed for equivalent tree growth), Denny and the city council seem to believe that all is now fixed.

This view is plainly nonsense.  Trees planted later this year will take 8 years or more to become mature; while the trees to be extracted will be gone in only a few short years.  City councilmembers must think that our citizens cannot figure this out.

Artificial shade structures in the Dog Park did not arise as an option, let alone such a primary course, until this civic calamity.  Certainly, such structures are much more expensive and much less desirable than trees, in the City of Trees.

Somehow, though, the city solar-facility project (its consultant: TerraVerde), city staff and councilmembers failed to recognize or investigate these crucial Dog Park issues, during the entire two-year period of project development.

Now they claim, in Hilliard’s words, to have been “blindsided.”

YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

Walking their dog about a week ago, at Woodland’s Dog (walking) Park next to its Community and Senior Center, a local resident noticed someone spraying X on many trees in and nearby the Park.

Informed that all of these marked trees were soon being removed, they contacted other Woodlanders who soon contacted City staff, which was unaware that 8 trees inside the Dog Park were being scheduled for removal.

Although, trees within its adjacent parking lot and outside of the Dog Park, were long planned for removal, to make way for one of six sites for the city’s new solar energy program.

A public uproar subsequently arose last week, clamoring over significant loss of mature trees (40 – 50 trees) adjacent to and within our community Dog Park, resulting from planned installation of a rather (extremely) smallish section of the city’s huge new solar project with (giant) Hanwha Corp. of Korea.

Apparently, relevant (upstart) tree-advocates intend to suitably attract city council attention during its meeting this coming Tuesday evening (May 19), with hope of the council determining to soon and responsibly amend its agreements with Hanwha Corp., at a June council meeting — before such radical tree removal might begin at our community Dog Park.

Indeed, a scenario seems to exist (below), whereby these advocates may hope to prevail (using enough political presence and pressure).

Hanwha, TerraVerde, Conaway

Hanwha Corp., an enormous Korean conglomerate, has worked out a pretty neat deal with sunny Woodland.  It installs and operates solar-energy facilities, providing the City a certain amount of (renewably sourced) electricity at a discount. The city annually saves $140,000 for 28 years ($7.6 million in total); while, of course, Hanwha Corp. (which produces and installs high-quality photo-voltaic cells) will then sell to others the vast predominance of such solar-generated power.

City staff in January reached an amended agreement with TerraVerde Renewable Partners LLC (a Delaware-based company) to contain municipal liabilities regarding its due “Development Fee” related to this deal (seemingly, brokered by it), in the amount of $950,000.

So, the city pays almost a million dollars, fairly up front, for its $7.6 million savings; thus the city saves only $6.65 million in the end, for the 28 year term of its deal with Hanwha Corp., after paying what amounts to about a 13% commission to TerraVerde.

Conaway Preservation Group, which owns most land easterly of the city, has extended a helpful (sweetheart-type) arrangement, allowing needed transmission-related access for $100, annually.

Six Solar-Energy Sites

In all, six sites are involved in the city’s solar energy project: (a) city parking lot at northwestern corner of Court and College Streets, (b) city sewage plant, (c) city screw pump, (d) city police station, (e) municipal services building, (f) Community and Senior Center.  Tree removal is involved in (a), (d) and (f), since solar-energy arrays and shade trees are not compatible.

One basic idea, here, is to deploy solar-energy arrays over city parking lots, so such shaded parking might amplify environmental benefits. The basic question, though, is whether the city has actually minimized relevant tree removal, especially at its Community and Senior Center (and Dog Park), in order to best conduct (so to speak) this idea.  Also, is it is more valuable to provide totally shaded parking in these city lots, or to let trees do their best and find other city-owned land to locate solar-energy facilities?

Staff Response

“The Community and Senior Center is the second highest energy user of City facilities, and an approximately 500-kW array is planned for the center,” explains Roberta Childers, lead staff person for the City on this project (admirably responsive, organized and capable).

“We did consider extending some portions of the system into the parking lot farther to the east at one time,” describes Childers, “but this idea was rejected because panels there could be too exposed to potential damage from sports park activities (stray balls). Since then, significant effort has gone into establishing the electrical system and interconnection details with PG&E. Note that the interconnection will be along the south side of the property. Lengths and locations of conduit runs are important technical considerations in siting the arrays to optimize system efficiency, reduce power losses between the panels and the interconnection point, and reduce trenching and directional boring runs. The closer the arrays are to the interconnection, the better.”

Here outlined, are the pivotal matters regarding siting of these solar arrays, involving still unanswered questions.

Perhaps Now Relevant, Yet Then Inaccurate Depiction Of Solar Array

In December of 2014, the Daily Democrat ran a story about this subject being on the city council agenda, featuring an artistic rendering of a solar-energy array, place directly alongside the sidewalk of the Community and Senior Center. This photo is likely the most publicly distributed image of these affairs.

“This picture is an artist’s rendering meant to illustrate the basic design of the arrays (how they will curve, the style of the support columns, etc.). It does not represent the actual system location, size, or extent,” indicates Childers.

Well, why not?

Shifting one solar array from alongside the Dog Park, to alongside the community center sidewalk, as very publicly depicted in this graphic example, extending it easterly along this sidewalk (not yet close to sports park hazards) — fully resolves all related Dog Park concerns.

City staff have not yet addressed this specific and pivotal question.

Even More Basic Question

In addition, regarding a more basic question, is it is more valuable to provide totally shaded parking in these city lots, or to let trees do their best and find other, perhaps even better, city-owned land on which to locate solar-energy facilities?

Childers relates: “Note that the interconnection will be along the south side of the property. Lengths and locations of conduit runs are important technical considerations in siting the arrays to optimize system efficiency, reduce power losses between the panels and the interconnection point, and reduce trenching and directional boring runs. The closer the arrays are to the interconnection, the better.”

This PG&E “interconnection” is located at the extreme southwesterly portion of the Community and Senior Center property. Were designs considered, which may have located solar arrays on vacant land — directly adjacent — to this “interconnection?”

After all, “the closer the arrays are to the interconnection, the better.”

Both solar arrays and trees may then have equitable spaces.

Problematic Tree Species In Parking Lot

“The majority of the trees to be removed [from the Community and Senior Center parking lot] are ornamental pear,” reports Childers, “a problematic species for maintenance and not a very beneficial tree in terms of canopy and shade. In fact, the City arborist notes that many of them are showing signs of fire blight, and some are dying. Given the species and age of most of the trees in these parking lots and the City’s commitment to replace the trees at least 1:1 with species that are suitable to our conditions, the Woodland Tree Foundation contacts have been supportive of the project.”

The question arises: Why did the City of Trees plant problematic tree species in such an important spot?

It appears that the city has even more and various problems with its Community and Senior Center, than previously realized.

Continues Childers: “Concurrent with solar project development, City staff members have been working with interested community members to develop plans for the replacements. The major part of this planning is for a grove of some 50 trees that will wrap around the west and south sides of the dog park. I’ve also attached a concept for the tree grove, which was developed by landscape designer Jerry Stacionis. We would like to see this developed into a memorial grove with paths and benches and places for contemplation.”

This (“Heritage Grove”) proposal is planned for the land where, if it could be designed to fit, solar arrays would be hundreds of feet closer to PG&E “interconnection;” while eventually, replaced, more suitable trees would continue to grace this parking lot.

Were these alternatives / options duly considered by the city and Hanwha Corp.?”

Dog Park Tree Rescue

We may never know, of course, the true scope and extent of such environmental, energy and political considerations of the city and Hanwha Corp.

However, one salient aspect of critical adjustment currently remains viable, whether solar arrays can be prevented from encroaching on the city’s Dog Park, by shifting one such array alongside the sidewalk of the Community and Senior Center.

Otherwise, offers Childers: “Staff quickly began discussing options for addressing concerns, such as installing [artificial] shade structures to offset the loss of shade should the trees need to be removed. Given the current size of the eight trees in question, it also may be possible to leave them in place for a while as other trees in the dog park grow to provide more shade. We’ll be evaluating these and other possibilities.”

Dog Park tree-advocates will help to best decide this interesting matter, if they attend the Tuesday, May 19 city council meeting, prepared to speak during the public comment section at 6:05 PM.

YOLO SUN OPINION :

[Editor’s note: Further, detailed research into this very interesting matter has for a few days delayed Part Two of this column (originally set for May Day), but has resulted in the following (open) letter to Woodland City Council, regarding its impending (May 5) action on Spring Lake Specific Plan. Part Three of this column will soon be published, involving the procedural outcome of this key community development matter. Woodland City Council will be meeting about this item, Tuesday evening. Copies of this Open Letter to the Woodland City Council will be delivered to each Councilmember before Tuesday’s meeting. I encourage all interested citizens to attend this Council meeting and to speak if they wish.]

OPEN LETTER TO THE WOODLAND CITY COUNCIL

May 4, 2015

To: Members, Woodland City Council

Tom Stallard, Mayor

William L. Marble, Mayor Pro Tempore

Jim Hilliard

Sean Denny

Angel Barajas

Dear Councilmembers:

On Tuesday, May 5th, you’re being asked to approve a new development plan for a pivotal 105 acre parcel within the larger Spring Lake Specific Plan. This revised plan has been requested by a new ownership group called Woodland Spring Lake Partnership, L.P.

When you strip away all the legalize and boilerplate, the City Council is being asked to amend Woodland’s General Plan to increase Low Density Residential housing at the expense of Medium Density Residential housing, by expanding and concentrating High Density Residential housing.

For the first time within this key development, 128 R-4 homes would be built (four homes to the acre). Accommodating this major increase in home size and value, the number of R-5 and R-8 single family homes would be decreased by 196 units. The previously approved 171 multi-family residences in R-15 and R-20 zoning will be entirely eliminated; while adding, 232 very-high density apartments (R-25) directly adjacent to a quite adversely relocated park and commercial development (the latter, these new owners unsuccessfully attempted to eliminate from their plan).

So, what justifies this proposed change to Woodland’s General Plan, allowing this R-4 zoning? In its supporting documents to the Council, the Planning Commission merely repeats an assertion from the developers’ application. The exact language approved by the Planning Commission reads in its entirety as follows:

Page 2

“General Plan Consistency Findings:

The project is consistent with the goals and policies of the General Plan

in that the proposed modification provides for a more economically

viable land use designation for single family residential densities that

the current housing market will more readily absorb and support.”

(See: City Council Agenda Attachment 6, Exhibit C, page 3)

That’s it. This is the only evidence being provided to the Council to support a request to amend Woodland’s General Plan. If the Council approves this amendment it will be endorsing the idea that only very large and expensive homes will sell and that there is no market for smaller, medium-priced homes, accessible to ordinary Woodlanders.  If this view fits the Council’s vision for the future of Woodland, then you should approve it. If not, you should vote to return this development plan to the Planning Commission.

This proposed Spring Lake Specific Plan amendment is particularly disturbing as the City Council prepares to begin its legally-mandated process of reforming Woodland’s General Plan for the future. If this current proposal is all it takes to get the Council to so strongly endorse such large, expensive homes, which only few families can afford, at the sacrifice of more affordable homes, then it sends an unfortunate message regarding City Council vision of Woodland’s future (diverse demographic) growth.

This is not a decision which should be driven by developers from outside our city. Unfortunately, we’ve been down this path before, where remote developers promise one thing but deliver another. Gateway 1 started as an auto mall, but quickly morphed into what it is today—a gigantic parking lot surrounded by big box stores and restaurants, but no auto dealerships. Gateway 2 resurrected the promise of an auto mall plus more retail, but after City Council approval, state courts intervened to stop this project due to its grossly inadequate, environmental review process.

This week’s decision regarding Spring Lake Specific Plan’s key component is a clear opportunity for the City Council to, once and for all, stand up to the blandishments and skewed promises of developers whose interests do not necessarily align with those of Woodland.

Page 3

Corollary to this situation, above, is another key question the Council needs to consider: Does the City of Woodland really know who are the new developers of this pivotal, 105 acre parcel in Spring Lake?

Initially, this pivotal parcel was sold (2005) for $30,000,000 to Reynen & Bardis Communities, a respected, legacy homebuilding firm from Sacramento. An initial Development Agreement was signed on March 15, 2007 between the City and Reynen& Bardis Communities.

Then came, the Great Recession, and in 2008 John D. Reynen and Christo Bardis found themselves financially overextended, both filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, while owing about a billion dollars between them.

According to reliable press reports, this key parcel of land in Spring Lake was sold on May 10, 2012, within a foreclosure proceeding by OneWest Bank, to Village Properties — for a mere $3,000,000.

In 2012, Woodland Spring Lake Partners, L.P. was created (California Secretary of State File #201211400004) as successor in interest to Reynen & Bardis Communities. A new Development Plan was submitted to the City (2013), in the name of Woodland Spring Lake Partnership, L.P, the (revised) Plan that the City Council is now being asked to approve.

However, if you look at the 2013 Application Form (See: City Council Agenda Attachment 9, page 4), the signature on the line for “Owner” is that of “Bardis.” It’s probably Christo Bardis’ signature , although the first name is an illegible scrawl—although it does clearly begin with a “C.”

Interestingly, the “Project Applicant” listed on the form is a person named Les Hock of HCM, Inc., which is described as a construction management firm. His current address and phone number, however, are identical to those used for years previous by Reynen&  Bardis Communities and are still being used by Bardis family members who are engaged in housing development in Sacramento. This address is as follows:

10630 Mather Blvd.

Sacramento, CA 95655

Page 4

In 2011, John D. Reynen and Christo Bardis, having come through their bankruptcies, formed an entity called Artisan California to reengage in homebuilding. This firm also operates out of the above address.

The Project Applicant for the current owners, aforementioned Les Hock, has a somewhat blemished past. In 2008, he was successfully sued by several previous partners in a housing development partnership for breach of fiduciary duty and Mr. Hock was ordered to pay $500,000—a judgment that was subsequently upheld on appeal.

So who are the real owners of Woodland Spring Lake Partnership, L.P. with whom the City is dealing? Despite the signature of Bardis as “Owner” on the Application, the name of the property owner on the Application is listed as follows:

Woodland Spring Lake Partnership, L.P.

940 Emmett Ave., #200

Belmont, CA 95616

On the spaces for a phone number and email address, the notation “not available” is given.

In its initial filing with the Secretary of State, the name Robert Isackson is given as the Registered Agent for Woodland Spring Lakes Partnership, L.P. at the Belmont address. Mr. Isackson is elsewhere identified as Founder and President of Village Properties, a real estate development firm operating out of the same Belmont address, the organization which purchased this 105 acre parcel, once valued at $30,000,000 for only $3,000,000.

$3,000,000 amounts to about $30,000 / acre.  Lot prices in Spring Lake are generally in the range of $40,000+, depending upon circumstances.  Thus, huge profits to these speculative land developers are involved in this deal.

The actual owner of this Belmont address is one John Glikbarg, a Bay Area resident who is a senior partner in Village Properties aside Mr. Isackson. Mr. Glikbarg has also recently been involved in several other residential development projects within the Sacramento region.

Page 5

I sincerely hope the City has been able to reliably sort out all of this odd and conflicting property ownership information.

Who’s really in charge of this key city development? Is it former owner Christo Bardis, who signed the Application as Owner; is it Robert Isackson as Registered Agent for Woodland Spring Lake Partnership, L.P.; or, is it Les Hock, whose name appears as Applicant and to whom the City has been directed to send copies of all documents arising from the development plan process.

I can clearly identify here, several, relevant outside developers / investors from the Bay Area and beyond, as well as people still associated with the previous owner/developers, Reynen& Bardis Communities, very closely involved with this pivotal parcel, importantly related to Woodland’s future.

These aren’t just idle questions designed to stir up dust at the eleventh hour. They go to the crucial question of whether the people this city is now dealing with have the legal authority to meaningfully commit the real ownership group(s) behind Woodland Spring Lake Partnership, L.P.

The City Council deserves to have clear and unambiguous answers to these ownership questions before it approves this new plan. Also, it needs to seriously consider the implications of amending Woodland’s General Plan for these developers’ objectives as presented.

If the City Council objects to transformation of residential densities within this proposed revision, or its adversely revised relocation of park and commercial areas, these are added reason to delay approval and send this vital matter back to the City’s Planning Commission for its improved review and action.

I thank the City Council for carefully considering this item.

Yours truly,

Bobby Harris

(Yolo Sun)

Reply Forward

YOLO SUN OPINION :

This column describes an intriguing and yet unresolved saga about a small group of multi-millionaire housing developers (essentially, John D. Reynen, Christo Bardis — Reynen & Bardis Communities — and related agents and heirs), who — at the apex of the housing boom (early 2007) — entered into a pivotal development agreement with City of Woodland, regarding what are perhaps the City’s most centrally important development parcels.

Future access to affordable and innovative (new-construction) homeownership in Woodland, as well as questionable marketability of recently proposed revision of this vital project, alongside a need to responsibly approve such new development, combine to make a quite revealing spectacle of upcoming municipal process.

Part Two of this column will be published on May Day, including extensive argument regarding salient details of the potential for retaining a pivotally valuable and already approved project, instead of succumbing to what amounts to false expediency for speculative developers.

It is hoped that the newest scion of Reynen & Bardis Communities, etc., (Christo’s daughter and niece), Bardis Homes (relevant details, below and in Part Two), might somehow instantly intervene to best help Woodland City Council soon find its way forward with this matter.

Affordable Homeownership

Locally, the political question of this moment is whether Woodland City Council will reasonably delay a critical development project, in order to properly examine its proposed revision and ascertain the basic feasibility of affordable homeownership within the City’s largest development plan, crippled by the Great Recession.

Clearly at stake, is the realistic potential of new-construction homeownership in Woodland, for between $200,000 and $300,000. Presently, such basic homeownership options in the City are priced at $400,000 to $650,000 and on up.

Lest one might think unrealistic such homeownership affordability, the plain fact is that real estate interests very closely related to Reynen & Bardis Communities (Bardis Homes) are currently pursuing homeownership options within the $200,000 to $300,000 range . . . in Sacramento.

“The Past”

Woodland, though, seems intended by Reynen & Bardis Communities and some associates (see below), to simply be resigned to what savvy financial interests (Ranch Capital LLP), cannily supporting Bardis Homes’ Sacramento (affordability) acumen, describe in recent SacBee coverage of as: “the past.”

“The past,” (low-density, cookie-cutter-type residential development) was recently rejected for key projects, by Ranch Capital LLC, on the basis of innovative housing concepts developed by Bardis Homes (details in Part Two of this column).

What is involved here, is the valuable possibility of Woodland offering (truly contemporary) innovative homeownership products at about half of regular / conventional cost, because such homes are: “affordable-by-design” (relatively small, usually multi-story, some basements, lacking regular yards and set-backs, relying upon common-spaces, using a successfully emerging and proven concept: small-lot development).

Reasonable Delay

Woodland City Council is presently being requested to reasonably delay allowance of proposed revision to this crucial plan, for purposes of adequate determination regarding actual feasibility of its previously approved project, especially since this original development scenario – if feasible — is obviously in the City’s best interests.

This impending Woodland City Council action will reflect and engage the arising future of homeownership; or else, this action will relapse into a remote past, by wrongly allowing a badly flawed revision of an — already approved project — possessing such affordable homeownership potential.

Details Of Impending City Council Decision

On May 5, Woodland City Council will take action on this proposal to significantly revise / amend the Spring Lake Central Project (SLCP), a fundamentally key 105 acre development within the 1100 acre, Spring Lake Specific Plan (SLSP).

SLCP (present version) contains the only remaining commercial area at SLSP, alongside an appealingly arranged, 4 acre park, within a graceful design certain to attract post-recessionary homebuyers, now beginning to surface in a gradually improving market.

Elegance, genuine allure and affordable homeownership – though — would be largely lost in this proposed revision, gravely undermining its ultimate marketability.

Woodland is under immense fiscal pressure to approve renewed projects at SLSP, since $2 million annually (one-half) of relevant city sales tax revenue has since 2009 been expended to back-fill speculative, development-fee based municipal bonds, related to SLSP.

Formerly a quite capable, aesthetic focus of SLCP, this proposed revision rather tucks its 4 acre park-site along the project’s edge, curiously floated on deeply speculative and distant prospects of annexation.

The project’s commercial zone is, in this adverse revision, instead of its park, highlighted / promoted, as if residents need to have this zone directly in their faces, so they might better find it.

High-density apartments are proposed by this revision — to wrap around its park and commercial areas.

Conventional (low-density) homes are this project revision’s remainder, directly across the street from this commercial – park – high-density apartment concentration.

Zoning available for innovative homeownership options (reflecting planning by Bardis Homes at “The Mill at Broadway” project) will be eliminated by proposed revision of SLCP.

This SLSP / SLCP revision is not (especially) graceful.

Woodland City Council should beware, while it best determines whether the existing SLCP zoning is feasible.

The Applicant For SLSP / SLCP Project Revision

So, who is the actual applicant for this SLCP revision?

A man named Les Hock, who in 2002 formed Hock Construction Management (HCM).

Hock represents an entity known as Woodland Spring Lake Partnership LP, located in Belmont, California. Participants in this partnership apparently are unknown, publicly undisclosed.

Hock was employed by Reynen & Bardis Communities as a development manager, from June 2005 to June 2009, during the time period in which Reynen & Bardis Communities owned Woodland’s SLCP and acquired (March, 2007) entitlements to develop it (as the existing project, of which Hock. as applicant, now demands revision).

During the time period Hock worked for Reynen & Bardis Communities, he also free-lanced with HCM and other ventures, one of which clearly reflects his ethical character.

Quite interestingly, in late 2008, Hock lost his appeal of a successful lawsuit filed by his former partners (Wood, Rogers), a shareholders’ derivative complaint — for breach of fiduciary duty — by an officer or director in usurping (for his own private benefit) a corporate opportunity worth upwards of $954,000.

The California Court of Appeal for the Third District, following several years of (unneeded) litigation, ordered swindling Hock to pay $500,000 in damages to these injured partners.

Hock was recently (mid-2013) the applicant for a development proposal in Elk Grove, representing Reynen & Bardis Communities, about which he was fairly circumspect with the press (Sacramento Business Journal).

This is the same person who is representing / advocating SLSP /  SLCP revision, representing an entity which might likely be simply a shell-company, extended holding company, etc., for previous interests of Reynen & Bardis Communities, trying to finally squeeze and leave Woodland; while at the same time, Bardis Homes focuses on innovating housing in Sacramento (argument for analogous value in Woodland will comprise Part Two, to be published on May Day).

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