Category Archives: Benicia Mayor Steve Young

Mayor Steve Young: Join the Conversations on Benicia’s Real Property Transfer Tax Proposal

Benicia Mayor Steve Young. | City of Benicia.

By Benicia Mayor Steve Young, June 9, 2024

Tomorrow, on Tuesday, June 11th, the City Council will hold the first of a series of public hearings on a specific tax proposal that, if passed, would increase taxes solely on the sale of real estate.

These public hearings will focus on the proposed structure of a proposed Real Property Transfer Tax ( RPTT), targeting only residential and commercial properties when they are sold, with the potential for the issue to be decided by our voters on the November ballot.

No one likes taxes.

And it is challenging to ask voters to approve new ones, even when applied to a limited number of people. But the City’s financial situation, while improving, is not yet stable.

The overwhelming approval by Benicia voters of Measures A and B provided critical funding to maintain service levels for most City programs. But it will not provide enough to address our remaining financial challenges.

We still have a shortfall of tens of millions of dollars to address our need to upgrade deteriorated city facilities, improve our parks, and continue to maintain top quality employees.

The City Manager has been quite transparent in discussing his plan to develop enough sustainable revenue to carry Benicia forward into the future and address our many unfunded needs. At the same time, he will shortly announce even more internal, significant, cost-savings brought about by restructuring of departments and reduction in personnel.

A Real Property Transfer Tax already exists. Solano County taxes all Benicia property at $1.10 per $1000 of sales price (0.11%).  We are asking voters to allow it to be raised in a way that is similar to other neighboring communities. It is paid by either the buyer or seller (or negotiated) in real estate transactions, and is paid as part of closing costs.

Historically, there are between 200-250 property sales per year in Benicia. Unless and until you plan to sell a property here, you would be unaffected.

We should also look to the possible future housing growth in the city.  If we do see new home construction, we will have in place a taxing tool to collect our fair share of the sales transaction.

Only charter cities are allowed to increase this tax (if approved by voters), so a companion measure is required that authorizes a limited Charter, restricted only to this use.

Related issues that will be discussed by the Council, and for which public comment is desired, include the following:

    • Should there be a flat tax where all property sales be taxed at the same rate?  Or should the rate be progressively higher as the sales amount increases?
    • What rates are appropriate in each case?
    • Should property sales under $500,000 (for example) be exempt?
    • Should transfers among immediate family members be exempt?
    • How will commercial property sales (which do not happen often) be managed—variable or flat rate?

Other anticipated exemptions involve circumstances such as sales due to a divorce, non-profit ownership, sales by government entities, and corporate re-organizations under bankruptcy laws

Again, your input is desired, either by attending any of the meetings (in person or virtually) listed at the end of the staff report, or by submitting written comments to the city clerk at

Save these dates

Below is the City of Benicia’s projected timeline for next steps to place the limited charter and RPTT on the ballot for the November 2024 election:

  • Tuesday, June 11, at 5:30pm (tomorrow): Special City Council Meeting – Limited Charter Public Hearing #1; Direction on RPTT Rate Models and Exemptions*
  • Sunday, June 23: Notice of Public Hearing #2 (by publishing in Benicia Herald Sunday Edition and posting at three public places within the City)
  • Tuesday, July 16: Limited Charter Public Hearing #2 – City Council Meeting
  • Tuesday, August 6: Last day for City Clerk to submit resolutions to Registrar of Voters to place a measure on November 5, 2024 Ballot

For more information about attending these meetings, either virtually or in-person, view the City of Benicia’s Tuesday, June 11 Full Agenda Packet.

*The City has a closed session starting at 4:30pm. The public portion of this meeting is scheduled to start at 5:30pm, but may start as late as 6pm.

Benicia Historical Society Seeks Public Input on First St. Height Limits at March 5 City Council Meeting

[Note from BenIndy: The comment the BenIndy received from the person who forwarded this Benicia Historical Society message was, “Our historic protections are unraveling right before our eyes. Are we the next American Canyon?” If you would like to participate in the March 5 Benicia City Council Meeting either to register your opposition or support to increasing the height limit in our Historic Downtown to four stories to allow for hotel development, instructions for accessing that meeting are available at the end of this post. The BenIndy is not affiliated with the Benicia Historical Society and they did not ask us to share their email communication to their supporters; we were forwarded the message by a follower of these developments and we share it to alert our community so they can participate in the public process. Emphases in this message were added by BenIndy.]

The Benicia Planning Commission is considering amending the development standards in the Town Core Zone in the Downtown Mixed Use Master Plan (DMUMP) to allow a height of up to four stories (50 feet) with a use permit. The Planning Commission did not adopt the proposed amendment and recommended that the City Council direct staff to conduct public outreach on this important issue. | message.

Message from Benicia Historical Society:

On February 7, 2024 the Benicia Herald printed an Op-Ed from the Benicia Historical Society on the proposed building height increase in Downtown Benicia. The Benicia Planning Commission on February 8, 2024 considered amending the development standards in the Town Core Zone in the Downtown Mixed Use Master Plan (DMUMP) to allow a height of up to four stories (50 feet) with a use permit. The Planning Commission did not adopt the proposed amendment and recommended that the City Council direct staff to conduct public outreach on this important issue.

We would like to thank the dozens of people who attended the meeting in person and Zoom and spoke passionately on this issue. Your attendance and comments, along with the comments of the Historical Society made a difference in the outcome of the proposed height increase. We would also like to thank the Planning Commissioners for listening to the public and the concerns that were raised, and their thoughtful deliberation of the issue. It was a testament to public participation.

If you attended any of the Q&A meetings on the city’s financial challenges, you would have heard that increasing the height limit in our Historic Downtown to four stories would allow for hotel development.  At the Q&A session on February 27, at the Southampton Fire Station, Mayor Young reiterated that a four story hotel with a roof top bar was proposed for the corner of First and East D St. (the Avant Garden site). He further stated that additional hotels could be built on First Street similar to the hotel boom in American Canyon along Highway 29.

What hasn’t been discussed or presented is that the increase in the height limit to four stories (from 2.5 and 3 for housing opportunity sites) would apply to all buildings and vacant parcels in the Town Core Zone. Once approved, the development standards in the Town Core Zone to allow for four stories (50 feet) with a use permit will cause property values to rise and place economic pressure to redevelop, increasing the potential for demolition of existing buildings including historic buildings. It would also allow for four story buildings adjacent to residential homes on the side streets.

The Historical Society is concerned that the character and historic fabric of our Historic Downtown will unravel as development occurs with higher building heights. Our history is the city’s richest asset; it sets us apart from other Solano County cities, and downtown entices visitors to its small scale and walkability. Visit California, which markets California in partnership with the state’s travel industry, states this about Benicia. “As one of the oldest cities in California—and the third city to have served as the state’s capital, from 1853–54—Benicia is filled with vintage architecture and historic landmarks that date back to the Gold Rush, the Wild West, and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.” Our historic downtown matters and is our best marketing tool. If First Street is lined with multiple four story buildings overwhelming historic structures and disrupting the continuity of our small scale walkable downtown, who will be staying in the hotels?

On Tuesday, March 5, the Benicia City Council will hold a public hearing to adopt the resolution amending the height limit of the Town Core in the DMUMP allowing for four story (50 ft.) buildings on every parcel along First Street south of K Street. The staff report on this item mentions the Planning Commission recommendation to conduct further public outreach, but fails to propose any action on the recommendation.

We are all aware at this point of the financial issues of the city. We are aware that change will occur, as it always has, but what we need is thoughtful consideration of how change is allowed in our downtown which still reflects much of our history left by earlier generations. We are in favor of compatible development that follows existing zoning and complies with the Downtown Historic Conservation Plan. We need to value the historic integrity of downtown and be assured that our ability to market and attract visitors to our stores and restaurants will not be diminished. This can only happen with additional public involvement.


Board of Directors
Benicia Historical Society

Accessing the March 5, 2024 Benicia City Council Meeting

The Benicia City Council Agenda Packet for March 5 is your first and best resource for accessing this meeting because it contains the best and most recent instructions. However, here is a quick guide for participating in person, by Zoom, or through written comment. The following was cribbed from that packet and adjusted slightly to accommodate the format used here.

How to Participate in the Meeting:

1) Attend in person at Council Chambers
2) Cable T.V. Broadcast – Check with your cable provider for your local government broadcast channel.
3) Livestream online at
4) Zoom Meeting (link below)

The public may view and participate with a public comment (via computer or phone) link:

  • If prompted for a password, enter 449303.
  • Use participant option to “raise hand” during the public comment period for the item you wish to speak on. Please note, your electronic device must have microphone capability. Once unmuted, you will have up to 5 minutes to speak.
  • To dial in with phone, view the Benicia City Council full agenda packet for March 5 here and follow instructions.

How to Submit Written Public Comments for this City Council meeting:

Besides appearing in person or by Zoom and offering public comments, members of the public may provide written public comment to the City Clerk by email at Any comment submitted to the City Clerk should indicate to which item of the agenda the comment relates. Specific information follows:

Comments received by 2:00 pm on the day of the meeting will be electronically forwarded to the City Council and posted on the City’s website.

Comments received after 2:00 pm, but before the start time of the meeting will be electronically forwarded to the City Council but will not be posted on the City’s website.

For inspiration for a written comment, check out what other Benicia residents have sent regarding the controversial DMUMP amendment.

Steve Young & Mark Hughes: What is the future of Benicia? Voters will help decide 

Former Benicia City Council Member Mark Hughes. | City of Benicia.
Benicia Mayor Steve Young. | City of Benicia.








By Steve Young and Mark Hughes, January 22, 2024

[A note from the authors: Some may be surprised to see both of us as authors of this opinion piece. We served together on the Council from 2016–18, and while we did vote differently on a variety of issues, we respected each other’s point of view. We never ran against each other, but did support different candidates in various elections. But the one thing we never doubted was our mutual commitment to the betterment of the City. We both know that our financial situation is dire, and that these revenue measures will help keep Benicia financially stable moving forward.]

Slowly, Benicia residents are becoming aware of the extent of the fiscal challenge facing the City. There is an ongoing annual deficit of $6.5 million. Currently we are using reserves to cover the deficit, but those reserves will only last one more fiscal year.

Then what? There must be a combination of budget cuts and new revenue if we are to put off cuts to programs and services that Benicia residents have come to expect. Part of the reason for our rapidly increasing costs are the same as those affecting all of our residents, such as higher energy costs for fuel and heating/cooling, increasing health care costs, as well as the cost of virtually everything the City buys. In short, the City’s expenses have been increasing year over year, while revenue has been stagnant.

Some people point at recent raises given to City employees as the problem. The fact is that our employees were falling further and further behind other local area governments in compensation, and we were losing trained employees to other cities and counties, as well as finding it very difficult to recruit and hire new employees, especially those with specialized skills.

The simple fact is we cannot cut our way to a balanced budget; we also need additional revenue. The City’s two main sources of revenue are property taxes and sales taxes. Because our town is so attractive to families and others, there are relatively few houses for sale. This low turnover rate, combined with Prop. 13, has resulted in essentially flat property tax levels for several years. It’s also important to note that Benicia only receives approximately ¼ of the property tax collected, with the remaining money going to State, County, and School agencies. 

Sales taxes have also been relatively flat, with very little new development for more than a decade. And while a small town, no-growth attitude is what some people love about Benicia, it comes at a real cost.

In response to this situation, which has been brewing for more than a decade, the City Council is facing up to the challenge by proposing reductions in expenses, and two tax increase measures that will appear on the March 5 ballot. The first tax measure is Measure A, which will raise the local hotel tax paid by tourists and guests from 9% to 13%. The second tax measure is Measure B, which will ask voters to approve a 3/4 cent increase in the sales tax, from 8.375% to 9.125%. This increase represents 75¢ for every $100 spent. The increased tax would generate $5-5.5 million/year, and go a long way towards eliminating the deficit, and maintaining the programs and services the City currently provides. This sales tax increase, if approved will be overseen by a Citizens Review Committee, and will be in effect for 12 years, at which time it will sunset.

What will happen if the measure fails? This is where the conversation becomes much more difficult. While the City Council unanimously supports this measure, the only responsible thing to do is to hope for the best, but plan for the worst, in the event that it fails. The City has been, and will continue to ask citizens to share what services are most important to them, because if Measure B does fail, the City will need to consider budget cuts and service reductions in all areas of the city, including Public Safety, Parks, Library, Public Works, etc.  In addition, it is likely that most of the Boards and Commissions would be eliminated, as well as the Grants that the City provides to the Arts, Culture and Human Services organizations.

And please believe us when we say that these are definitely not intended to be scare tactics; it really comes down to basic math.

We love our town, and the quality of life that we enjoy here.  Please join us by supporting the City’s strategies to address our financial challenges.

We ask you to support Measures A and B on the March ballot, and encourage you to ask your friends and neighbors to do the same.

Visit to learn more about Benicia’s Resiliency Plan, sign up for updates from Benicia City Manager Mario Giuliani, and join the effort to help shape Benicia’s future. While some workshops have already occurred, there is still time to add your voice! Look for the red, bolded text below to see upcoming workshops, and please fill out the community survey (also linked below).


Community Survey
January 15-26 – Community Survey Link
In Person Workshops
January 18 • 6pm-8pm
City of Benicia Public Library
January 25 • 6pm-8pm
City of Benicia Community Center
Virtual Workshops via Zoom
January 17 • 6pm
January 24 • 6pm – Join the meeting

Benicia to move forward with regulation of Valero refinery

The Valero Benicia refinery | Scott Morris / Vallejo Sun.

Residents felt that state and regional regulatory agencies had not followed through on enforcement.

Vallejo Sun, by Ryan Gellar, December 20, 2023

BENICIA – The Benicia City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to begin a community engagement process to create stronger regulations of the Valero refinery and other industries in the city through an industrial safety ordinance.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council chambers were filled with community members who expressed concerns about deficiencies in Valero’s fence line monitoring, accident reporting and the company’s dismissal of community input.

Many felt that state and regional regulatory agencies have allowed delays in monitoring programs and had not followed through on key avenues of enforcement. Mistrust was also fueled by a revelation in 2022 that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District had discovered that Valero illegally released toxic emissions for 16 years but the agency failed to notify Benicia residents until three years after the discovery.

In 2018, the city council considered adopting an ordinance to regulate the refinery similar to legislation in Contra Costa County and Richmond, but instead formed a cooperative agreement with Valero which is set to expire in 2025. After four years of the cooperative agreement, residents said that it has not provided sufficient oversight of industrial practices in the city.

Mayor Steve Young encouraged residents to define the areas where the current agreement falls short to indicate a direction for provisions that could be included in an ordinance.

Benicia resident Terry Mollica, who was involved in the drafting 2018 ordinance proposal and spoke on behalf of the Benicia Industrial Safety and Health Ordinance working group, said that the deficiencies are too numerous to list at the meeting. But he highlighted a key issue that the working group found to be particularly problematic.“It has absolutely no enforcement mechanism,” Mollica said. “In fact it includes a provision that allows Valero to unilaterally terminate the entire cooperative agreement at any time if it thinks it is being over-regulated.”

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