Thursday, April 24, 2014

Things here on Far West Russell Boulevard are about to change


From page A10 | December 15, 2013 | Leave Comment

So, Winters really needs some good news right about now, and while I’m not ready to go full-on Happy Holidays and ho-ho-ho quite yet, I do have tidings of good cheer.

What someone so aptly called “the worst kept secret in history” at a Winters Chamber of Commerce presentation on Friday is the proposed PG&E training facility being planned for Winters. It will be literally transformative, not just for our business community, but also for our town’s iconic entrance.

Right now, the blue ridge hills are the backdrop to our town’s front door. Within the next year, however, you may see a state of the art PG&E training facility along the south side of Grant Avenue at Interstate 505.

Now, for those of you who are recoiling in horror about changes to our precious “gateway,” relax. If this complex goes up the way it’s been presented, there will be a lovely, wide greenbelt along Grant Avenue, with wide, open training fields on the west side of Interstate 505. The main building is offset so as not to block the view of the hills.

The property will be rimmed in trees, and the building will be constructed in compliance with our Grant Avenue Design Guidelines, which our Economic Development Advisory Committee (on which I was a member) so painstakingly created. PG&E will be completing the Putah Creek Nature Park walking path and adding additional perimeter walking paths, and it seems that project architect Courtney McCleod-Golden has already anticipated anything our community’s little heart might desire. After hearing about each cool feature, I’m expecting to hear Courtney exclaim, “But wait! There’s more!”

Light pollution and downward facing lights?

“Check. And they will also be motion-sensitive.”

Noise pollution?

“Check. All the outdoor heavy equipment training will take place along I-505 and we have already conducted noise studies.”

Increased vehicle traffic to surrounding neighborhoods?

“Check. We have created an access loop, giving our trainees two entrances/exits to use rather than existing neighborhood streets.”

Potential for jobs?

“Check. PG&E will do outreach to the local high school, community and Solano Community College, and raise awareness about our career options, many of which do not require college degrees.”

Participation in the community?

“Check. We have a long history of volunteerism and participation in local service clubs.”

“Energy efficient buildings?”

“Check. Come on. We’re PG&E.”

Benefit to the local business community?

“Check. Duh.”

OK, I paraphrased the last one. The obvious impact of a world-class training facility filled daily with 100-plus people from across the state, and even the nation and possibly the world, is immense. These folks finish their classes at 3:30 p.m. each day, and why would you just hit the road when you can come to downtown Winters, have a glass of wine, enjoy some tapas or brick oven pizza, maybe catch a show at The Palms, heck, maybe even decide to stay an extra night because Winters is, frankly, the cutest girl at the dance and you want to get to know her better.

Staying the night will also become easier, because in addition to our two lovely existing bed and breakfast inns — Abbey House Inn and Park Winters — the prospect of 100-plus people attending multi-day classes every week, year round, all needing someplace to spend the night, will surely be the tipping point to making the elusive downtown hotel project a reality. And, more people staying downtown means yet more business downtown.

“Cool beans for the businesses, but what’s in it for me?” asks Mr. Average Winters resident.

Three things, Skippy: One, increased sales tax means new sidewalks, recreation programs, parks, police and pools. Two, increased business means more jobs. Three, more money spent in town by people who don’t actually live here means less need for sprawling cookie-cutter housing developments that swallow up small towns and propel them into culture shock.

Nothing changes the character of a town faster than 500 new homes filled with 1,000 new people from all over the place who aren’t really interested in our historic downtown, and just want their Outback Steakhouse, BevMo and a Walmart. By virtue of sheer numbers, those folks can elect city council representatives who will give them what they want and destroy the town we know and love. Translation: time to move to Esparto.

In a thousand ways, this PG&E project may actually preserve the Winters we know and love. PG&E has already proven to be sensitive to community input simply by relocating this project from acres of property they already own in the unspoiled hills of rural Winters to the Grant Avenue location. Yes, you read that right: PG&E could have built this project on their own property for free, but instead weighed everything out and made a choice that’s best for the greater good of all. As far as I’m concerned, anybody that operates in “for the greater good of all” mode gets my two thumbs way up.

Best of all, this training facility is devoted to gas pipeline safety. In the wake of the San Bruno disaster, giving employees state of the art maintenance and safety training is a huge “for the greater good of all.”

“Yeah, yeah,” grumble you folks down on Far East Grant Avenue, “What’s in it for Davis?” Well, beyond economic boon spillover as people travel to and from Winters, it’s an opportunity to invest in our business community. Please, for the love of God, someone open a sushi or Thai restaurant down here on Far West Russell Boulevard. Unless you want us to just woo your businesses away. (We’ve done it before, and we’ll do it again. Just ask the owner of The Palms. Remember — we’re the cutest.)

So — Froggy’s? Ciocolat? Fuji Chef? Yes, you, big boy! We’re fluttering our eyelashes at you! Come on, you know you want us! We’ll welcome you with open arms. And wallets. And so will all those hungry, thirsty PG&E trainees.

— Email Debra DeAngelo at; read more of her work at and

Debra DeAngelo


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