Keep it Local: Over 90 percent of downtown businesses are locally owned and operated. Benicia Main Street and the Downtown Benicia Alliance sponsored or participated in a number of events including the tremendously successful 2015 Benicia Film Festival, which is scheduled to be repeated this year.
Historic Values: In 2015 Benicia invested in our future. By investing in our historic neighborhoods, we link economic synergy with the historic, commercial downtown and arsenal neighborhoods. We have increased the number of designated historic properties, which qualify for tax incentives and in turn add value to our historic neighborhoods. Thanks to a $3.6 million restoration of the city’s Commanding Officer's Quarters in the former military arsenal district, we were able to complete a long-term lease in 2015 for a new business hub there, providing a central location for innovators and investors.
Art and the Economy: In 2015 we increased funding for newly-established arts and cultural programs, and restored grant programs for two of our oldest art and cultural organizations, namely Arts Benicia and the Benicia Old Town Theatre Group. To document the economic value of arts and culture in our community, we commissioned the Benicia Arts and Cultural Commission to participate in Arts and Economic Property. Their survey is the largest, most comprehensive study conducted in the U.S. to measure the economic impact of nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences. It quantifies the vital role of arts and cultural activity in strengthening local communities and the national economy, and provides specific and reliable data on the industry’s impact on jobs.
People in Need: In 2015 we were able to increase support of our human services organizations that provide temporary shelter, assistance for individuals and families in need and intervention in situations that could escalate without trained professionals providing support in the way of counseling and services. By helping individuals and families to meet basic needs, we demonstrate our commitment to our fellow citizens.
Embrace the future: Benicia has demonstrated that we do not need to fear change or lean on the crutch of dogma but instead adapt and innovate. Based on our experience in 2015, looking at how we survived the Great Recession, we can move forward with confidence through public engagement, with thoughtful investing, and by embracing innovation.
Reducing GHG: In 2015 Benicia became a member of Marin Clean Energy (MCE) a public utility agency. With MCE, residents are able to choose to use 50 to 100 percent alternative energy sources, vs. PG&E’s (an investor-owned utility) 27 percent. The most common reason people in Benicia cited for choosing MCE: “It is the right thing to do.”
Energy Savings: The city’s solar projects are offsetting over $5 million in energy savings and rebates, which includes earning top rates for the power that we are able to produce. The 9,305,848 kWh saved is equivalent to 466 passenger vehicles taken off the road for one year. The project was structured financially such that no capital outlay was required by the City, and finance payments are covered by the savings and rebates, with a net positive benefit to City coffers.
Water Supply: In 2015 we began to think and act back to the future for water use and supplies. When Benicia was being settled from the 1850s through the early 1900s, large rain gutters were used to collect rainwater in cisterns. In the early 1900s the city built Paddy Creek Reservoir to collect watershed runoff and tapped into multiple springs for its water needs. In the mid 20th century we entered the era of large engineering projects, buying into the federal Solano Project (Lake Berryessa) and then selling those rights to buy into the State Water Project. As our water supply line grew longer and more distant, less attention was paid to the sources. That has now changed, and we are adapting.
Wise Water Use: Efficient water use is a way of life for most of us in Benicia, in the home and in the yard. Decorative lawns are being replaced with drought-tolerant plants. Benicia has the largest per capita “turf” replacement program in Solano County. The City is currently preparing a wastewater recycling feasibility study to provide us with a more reliable water supply, including how to qualify for state and local financing for the project.
Connecting the dots: In 2015 we initiated discussions on integrated water management, in order to begin the planning and implementation of storm water capture, rain water gardens and recycling. In the next quarter of a century, water from the Carquinez Strait may be used, with tidal action providing the power to pump and treat the water.
Our most valuable asset: Benicia City Council actions in the year 2015 reinforced Benicia’s unique strengths as a city, perhaps most notably our work ethic. Not only is this work ethic the core of our city workers, it is also motivates volunteers on our commissions, boards and committees, citizen groups and service organizations. We couldn’t do what we do without their energy, imagination and diversity of background and experience.