Category Archives: City of Benicia

City of Benicia closes all facilities, cancels City Council and Commission meetings

Closures and cancellations effective through March 31

PRESS RELEASE
CITY OF BENICIA
Benicia Fire Department
250 East L Street
Benicia, California 94510
Contact: Fire Chief Josh Chadwick, Benicia Fire Department
(707) 746-4275, jchadwick@ci.benicia.ca.us

CITY OF BENICIA UPDATE ON COVID-19
FOR MARCH 16, 2020

Benicia, CA (March 16, 2020) — On Tuesday, March 17, 2020, the City of Benicia will close the following facilities to minimize COVID-19 exposure to City staff and the public:

• All City buildings including City Hall, Benicia Public Library (virtual service will be available), Benicia Community Center and Benicia Senior Center.
• The lobby areas of Benicia Fire Department and the Wastewater Treatment Plant.
• City facilities, which includes James Lemos Swim Center, Benicia Clock Tower, City Gym, and all park restrooms. This includes cancellation of facility and parks rentals.
• The Antifreeze, Battery, Oil and Paint Center at the Corporation Yard will be closed and the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Door-to-Door pickup will be stopped. (Contra Costa HHW will also be closed.)

In addition, the City Council meeting of Tuesday, March 17, 2020 and all other public meetings of Boards and Commissions are canceled.

Although the City’s public building and facilities will be closed, much of our City staff will continue their duties with an emphasis on those operating critical infrastructure and public safety.

At this time, the closure is set to last through March 31, 2020. City staff will examine circumstances on a daily basis and may extend the closures.

If you have a critical issue that needs attention during the closure, you may call the following numbers 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Thursday and alternate Fridays, and expect a return phone call:

• 707.746.4200: City Manager’s Office, City Council, City  Attorney’s Office, City Clerk’s Office
• 707.746.4289: Economic Development
• 707.746.4766: Human Resources
• 707.746.4225: Finance, Water/Sewer Service, Accounts Payable
• 707.746.4275: Fire Department non-emergency
• 707.746.4340: Library
• 707.746.4285: Parks & Community Services
• 707.745.3411: Police Department non-emergency
• 707.746.4230: Community Development, Building Inspection/Permits
• 707.746.4240: Public Works
• 707.745.3411: Emergency sewer, water, roads issues after hours.

The City of Benicia continues to closely monitor the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak through local, county and state health officials. Our top priority is always the health, safety and well-being of our community.

As conditions change, updates will be shared on the Coronavirus webpage at https://www.ci.benicia.ca.us/coronavirus.

What can you do?

• See the CDC’s Coronavirus Disease website for updates, news and symptoms to watch out for.
• Wash your hands often and cover coughs and sneezes.
• Maintain your social distance (no hand shaking or hugging) at events and gatherings.
• Stay in touch with older adults and encourage them to seek medical assistance, if they develop symptoms.

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City of Benicia weekly newsletter

Benicia’s City Manager Lorie Tinfow publishes an email newsletter every Monday.   I found this one very interesting, especially the Water Resources Tools.  You can sign up to receive the newsletter here.  – R.S.


City of Benicia This Week

Highlights:  Water Resource Tools, Census Forms in the Mail

March 16, 2020

Hello Everyone,

On behalf of the City Council and City staff, I want to take a moment to reach out to everyone in our Benicia community with an important message about the current public health emergency. We understand that the emergence of COVID-19 has created some real challenges, as well as fear among members of the Benicia community and beyond. Our understanding of the future of the virus and its impacts continues to evolve on an almost a daily basis. A team of senior City staff that includes representatives from every department are meeting daily to stay on top of the changes, prepare our responses and keep the community as safe as possible. These activities are our primary focus right now.

There are many sources of information flooding us in the media and social media; some of this information is alarmist and false. To help everyone, we created a dedicated website with up-to-date vetted information regarding the City, State and National response to this virus as well as steps you can take to better protect yourself and your loved ones. You can rely on it for information to answer your questions: ci.benicia.ca.us/coronavirus. Please also take a look at the updates we’ve provided in press releases issued last week. You can find them under Press Releases below.

We understand how challenging this emergency has been for so many in our town and appreciate how fortunate we all are to live and work in a place that has such a profound sense of community and where we understand the importance of looking out for each other. Using the best practices for staying safe, we encourage you to check in on your neighbors and friends, especially those who might be more vulnerable. Provide support to them where you can. Think about those in need; do not horde, but rather share with others when possible.

We also remind you that if you find yourself in a place that you feel you cannot take care of yourself or feel you need help, please call us. Our emergency communications center is open 24-hours a day, 7-days a week and can be reached by calling 707.745.3411.

While these times are difficult, they also present an opportunity to show just what a caring and amazing community we are.

Wishing you good health!

Lorie Tinfow
City Manager
CityofBeniciaThisWeek@ci.benicia.ca.us

City News

Water Resources Tools:  Do you like data? Are you looking for trusted hydrologic and climate data sources? If so, here are some of the tools used by our Public Works Department to manage the City’s water resources.

Drought Information
The federal government brings data from many sources into the National Integrated Drought Information System. This portal serves as a one-stop-shop for near-term climate data and projections. These data are useful in projecting annual water demand in Benicia. Last week, 38% of California is experiencing abnormally dry conditions.
https://www.drought.gov/drought/

Major Reservoir Levels
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) aggregates reservoir data in this portal. Current reservoir information is needed to understand water available for diversion and use. Six days ago, Oroville Reservoir (the major water storage facility in the State Water Project) is 64% full.
http://cdec.water.ca.gov/resapp/RescondMain

Solano County Water Agency Weekly Operations Report
Our water wholesaler, the Solano County Water Agency, provides weekly reports on our local water sources. This link is a little technical in nature, but provides a critical snapshot of Benicia’s water sources: the Solano Project and the State Water Project. Lake Berryessa is about 92% full.
http://www.scwa2.com/about-us/weekly-operations-report

Census Forms in the Mail:

Census forms began arriving in our mailboxes this week. As a reminder, you are asked to respond by April 1. The easy questionnaire takes 10 minutes or less and may be completed securely online using the Census ID code you received in your envelope.

Your prompt response will —

  • Help direct billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities for schools, roads, and other public services.
  • Help your community prepare to meet transportation and emergency readiness needs.
  • Determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and your political representation at all levels of government.

More information on the Census can be found at Census.gov. Details on Solano County’s outreach program can be found by visiting the Solano Economic Development Corporation’s website.


Press Releases

Recent City of Benicia press releases are available on the City of Benicia website under Main/Announcements.

Press Releases

Save the Date

Mar 17 – City Council meeting, 7 p.m. in the Council Chamber, City Hall. See the Full Agenda for more information.
Mar 20 – City Hall closed for Alternate Friday.


City of Benicia | edev@ci.benicia.ca.us | 707.746.4200 | ci.benicia.ca.us

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After Two Major Refinery Accidents, Valero and Benicia Take Steps To Work Better Together

[Editor: In addition to coverage of the current news story, KQED’s Ted Goldberg presents here an excellent summary of Benicia/Valero issues over the last 3 years.  – R.S.]

After Two Major Refinery Accidents, Valero and Benicia Take Steps To Work Better Together

By Ted Goldberg, KQED, Jun 25, 2019

The Valero refinery in Benicia. (Craig Miller/KQED)

Benicia officials are set to consider a plan designed to keep the city and its residents better informed when the town’s largest employer, the Valero refinery, has problems.

The City Council on Tuesday plans to vote on an agreement with the company aimed at establishing a stronger air monitoring network, improving communication and giving the public more access to information about the facility.

The vote comes three months after a series of serious refinery malfunctions and in the wake of a battle over operations at the facility that spilled over into the Solano County city’s last council election.

In March the refinery sustained its second major accident in two years.

The malfunction led to a significant release of soot and smoke that prompted a brief health advisory and a more than 40-day shutdown of the facility — a closure that contributed to last spring’s increase in gasoline prices.

Under the new proposal up for a vote on Tuesday, Valero would pay $278,000 a year to fund a division chief position at the Benicia Fire Department. The person who holds that job would work as a public liaison and be the point of contact for residents who have concerns or complaints about releases from the refinery. Valero would respond to the division chief’s “reasonable requests for information.”

The proposal also calls for Valero to give risk management and safety plans to the city, provide the Fire Department with incident reports 72 hours after significant refinery malfunctions and hand over investigative reports to city officials. The city would also work to create a “single, easy” place where residents can find such reports.

The agreement also promises improved air monitoring by Valero.

Last November, the company completed installation of a set of air monitors along parts of the fence line of its refinery. But after the releases in March, the site that publishes the fence line data included a warning that all of its measurements should be considered “questionable until further notice” because several of its parts required adjustments.

City staff say Valero plans to build, install and maintain more air monitors along its northwest boundary at a cost of $1.5 million. The company is also expected to spend $460,000 on adding “community” air monitors that would be located in the city.

The measure has drawn mixed reaction from members of the City Council, which in the past has considered an industrial safety ordinance, or ISO, to give local officials more oversight of the refinery.

Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson called the proposal a “good first step” but wanted assurances the new air monitors would be effective.

“We clearly need to improve our air quality and acknowledge all the sources of air pollution,” Patterson said in an email Monday.

“This looks like a decent attempt to deal with all the issues that have been presented regarding air monitors and ISOs,” said Councilman Tom Campbell.

But Campbell pointed out that there’s no timetable for the proposed actions. He said if the Fire Department’s new division chief who worked as a public liaison is aggressive, the agreement would work.

“The division chief is in our seat at the table,” he said.

Councilman Steve Young called the proposal “an improvement” over current practices, but said it should be stronger.

“There should also be warnings to the public prior to any planned instances of increased flaring, as happens during turnarounds or other major maintenance activities,” Young said.

Councilmember Christina Strawbridge, the town’s vice mayor, called the agreement “well thought out and void of politics.”

A spokeswoman for Valero declined to comment on the proposal.

The March problems were the latest in a series of incidents in which the city and company have sometimes been at odds.

In September 2016, the Benicia City Council rejected Valero’s plan to build a railroad terminal that would allow trains to deliver crude petroleum to the refinery.

In May 2017, the refinery suffered a power outage that triggered the release of more than 80,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide.

That 2017 episode led to an effort by some on the council to consider an industrial safety ordinance.

Mayor Patterson, who complained that Valero and agencies that have oversight of its refinery have failed to provide the city “a seat at the table” when it comes to information about the facility’s problems, championed the measure.

The City Council rejected the ordinance a year ago.

But debate over the regulations set the stage for last November’s hard-fought election in which Strawbridge and another council candidate, both backed by a political action committee funded by Valero and its workers’ unions, beat an environmentalist candidate backed by Patterson.

Strawbridge, who voted against Valero’s bid to build a crude-by-rail terminal, acknowledged in an email Sunday that “tension had escalated with the refinery since the city went through that process. It intensified with last year’s election.”

The March malfunctions are the source of several ongoing investigations: Valero, the air district, state workplace regulators and Solano County inspectors are still looking into the incident.

The releases exposed weaknesses in how the air in Benicia is monitored after a refinery incident.

When soot began spewing from the refinery’s stacks, for instance, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District had to send a van to Benicia because it does not run a stationary air monitoring device in the city’s residential areas.

Since then the agency has been working on finding a monitoring site, air district spokeswoman Kristine Roselius said Monday.

District officials visited six potential sites and determined that it wants to place a new air monitor at Robert Semple Elementary School, which is three-quarters of a mile southwest of the refinery, Roselius said.

City of Benicia releases carefully worded cannabis update

PRESS RELEASE
CITY OF BENICIA
City Manager
250 East L Street, Benicia, California 94510
Contact: Lorie Tinfow, City Manager, (707) 746-4200, ltinfow@ci.benicia.ca.us

City of Benicia Stays on Path to Allow Retail Cannabis Business

Number of businesses reduced to one that will be selected from existing set of nine proposals.

Benicia, CA (June 20, 2019) — On June 18, 2019, the City Council for the City of Benicia held a public hearing to consider amendments to Title 17 of the Benicia Municipal Code regarding cannabis. The City Council did not approve any amendments to the Benicia Municipal Code regarding cannabis during this hearing. Instead, on a motion of Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, seconded by Councilmember Steve Young, the City Council approved, on a 3-2 vote, to direct City staff to draft and submit to the Planning Commission and City Council an ordinance which amends Chapter 17.84 (Cannabis) of the Benicia Municipal Code as follows:

  1. Reduce the number of permitted cannabis retail businesses in the City from two to one. The existing nine cannabis retail business applicants would be subject to all requirements of the existing cannabis ordinance.
  2. Amend the existing definition of “school” to clarify that education provided is consistent with State curriculum standards.
  3. Prohibit all future applicants for retail cannabis businesses from locating within 600 feet of a child care center, youth center, learning center, residential zone or public park that is in existence at the time the use permit for a cannabis business is issued.

In addition, City staff will draft for City Council review and action, a resolution which establishes the procedures for issuance of cannabis use permits, including the process for selection of the cannabis retail business.

Because there are multiple steps (including hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council) which must be taken before these amendments can become effective, City staff will continue to put any further review and processing of cannabis retail business applications on hold until it has been determined which ordinance amendments, if any, will become final.

All other types of cannabis businesses—cultivation, testing, manufacturing, distribution, delivery and microbusiness—are allowed subject to adopted conditions.

For more information, contact: City Manager Lorie Tinfow at (707) 746-4200 or ltinfow@ci.benicia.ca.us

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