Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 in review: Benicia's year characterized by ordinance changes, other developments

(Originally published in the 1/1/16 edition)

   The city of Benicia saw some big changes in 2015.
   First, the city hired a new police chief. Erik Upson assumed the title vacated by Andrew Bidou who left to accept a new job as police chief of Vallejo. Upson had spent 17 years as a captain at the Berkeley Police Department and was officially sworn in at a May 19 ceremony. During his tenure, Upson has pushed for stronger community outreach, having ushered in the department’s first social media presence with a Facebook page in December. Upson says the department will continue to expand its social media outreach in 2016.
   The City Council made many changes to city ordinances, including lifting the ban on urban beekeeping in residential areas, limiting the amount of outdoor construction hours and expanding the Mills Act, where owners of historically significant homes get tax breaks by maintaining their homes in historically accurate ways.
   Benicia also received extensive coverage for a grisly crime story. Nolen Buchanan, a 16-year-old Benicia High School student, was arrested on suspicion of killing his father, father’s fiancee and half brother. Buchanan is accused of having shot his family in their cabin in Greenwood and burning the property to the ground. The case is currently being handled in El Dorado County.
   After taking part in the Marin Clean Energy program in 2014, Benicia residents were provided with the renewable energy  electricity provider, replacing Pacific Gas and Electric. However, those who wished to opt out and keep PG&E were able to do so.

   Finally, ground broke for a new bus hub in the Industrial Park. The hub was a collaborative effort among the city, Solano County Transit Authority and area transit providers, including SolTrans. The center will give Benicians a chance to travel to BART stations across the Bay Area and will have 46 parking spaces, a “kiss-and-ride” area and two bus shelters.

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