Category Archives: General

General

Energy Disclosure in California has a Bumpy Road

Published by:

Marika_Erdely

By Marika Erdely, Founder and CEO of Green EconoME

It’s official! On March 1, 2018, the State of Califor­nia’s Energy Com­mission (CEC) has reinstituted a statewide energy disclosure law, called AB 802, requiring building owners to annually disclose their building’s energy usage. This new law replaces the former AB 1103 disclosure requirement. Signifi­cant changes from AB 1103 include the incorporation of multi-family buildings and publicly disclosing the energy us­age on an annual basis. This public re­porting will provide investors valuable information regarding the efficiency of their potential investment and will ulti­mately affect market values.

AB 802’s schedule of implementation is as follows:

Energy_Disclosure_Dates

California’s former disclosure law, AB 1103, was repealed at the end of De­cember 2015 due to issues with access­ing tenant energy-usage data. Without this data it was difficult to ascertain the true energy efficiency of a building with multiple types of meters. Since then, utilities have been required to develop the ability to download “whole build­ing” data into the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager software. This data now includes common-area and ten­ant energy-usage data. AB 1103 also did not have any enforcement mecha­nism while, with AB 802, the CEC has the authority to enforce the disclosure through Public Resource Code 25321.

The energy disclosure process, called Energy Star “Benchmarking,” requires a minimum of twelve months of energy usage data, along with certain physi­cal and operational characteristics of a building, to be entered into the EPA’s software. The result is an Energy Star “Score” of 0 to 100, with 100 meaing the most energy efficient, when com­paring the building against other simi­lar building uses in the software. A weather-normalization process occurs by zip code.

The EPA software also provides Energy Utilization Index (EUI) scores, which are compared against the latest Com­mercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS). Since there are over 80 different building uses in the EPA software, almost every type of property can be benchmarked.

So, what are the benefits of benchmark­ing and why did California re-institute this disclosure? It’s simple: build­ing owners/operators know that their building consumes energy and rightly become flustered when utility costs go up. Proponents of energy disclosure laws believe that if building owners/ operators knew their specific inefficien­cies, especially when compared to oth­er similar building uses, they’d work to become more efficient and save money in the process.

Considering that energy costs are a significant expense for any building owner/operator, increasing the oper­ating income produces a more attrac­tive building valuation and ultimately means that the more energy-efficient buildings will have higher market val­ uations. Some say this doesn’t matter since the real estate market is so “hot,” but when one considers buying and op­erating a building, it’s hard to imagine that this Energy Star Score won’t be considered and compared to determine the best investment.

In 2017 BOMA conducted a study on Energy Star Certified Buildings (En­ergy Star Score exceeds 75), showing that they experience indisputably high­er rental values, higher sales prices, and lower occupancy rates compared to standard buildings. Energy Star scores are also a component of the LEED rat­ing system. Thus, energy efficiency results in higher LEED credits.

Energy efficiency not only means LED lamps and wireless, programmable thermostats, it also means comply­ing with Title 24, California’s energy building code. The State’s focus on providing increasingly stringent code requirements when completing retro­fits pushes the industry to include oc­cupancy sensors, dimming, lower watt­ages and higher lumens, all resulting in increased efficiency and, in many spaces, more comfort. Who wouldn’t want to dim their fixtures to their per­sonal preference?

Though hard to believe in today’s cul­ture, Title 24 projects that by 2030 all commercial buildings constructed in California will be Zero Net Energy (ZNE). ZNE simply means that all the energy consumed by a building ulti­mately gets offset, or canceled-out, by the amount of energy generated during the same time period. These buildings will have higher Energy Star scores.

So, as building operators retrofit their buildings and increase their Energy Star Scores, those not focused on the importance of efficiency will be left behind in their obsolete buildings with low scores and even lower market val­ues.

This trend towards energy efficiency has already caught the attention of real estate professionals and those in large REITs or with large portfolios. In fact, many have been benchmarking their buildings for years. These investors know that the next generation consid­ers it morally important to reside in Energy Star-certified or LEED build­ings. These forward-thinking inves­tors are ensuring the relevance of their buildings by making this investment. Those with smaller portfolios, or with one or two buildings, have made some progress, but many find the investment difficult to swallow and continue to feel that in a “hot” real estate market, it might not matter.

For anyone holding out, there are op­tions to consider. Those currently de­veloping projects can take advantage of the Savings by Design incentive pro­gram. By building at an efficiency of at least 10% above the current building code, the owner and their design team can receive utility incentives to build more efficiently. It is a great opportu­nity to receive incentives while build­ing better than your peers. One of our clients used the proceeds of this pro­gram to invest in an energy-monitoring system, allowing them to understand the energy usage of their hotel and to uncover areas of energy waste. It’s a guarantee that the operator will save energy with the knowledge of when kW peaks occur – among the most ex­pensive line items in any electric bill.

For those operating in existing build­ings, both SCE and the LADWP are currently offering LED and HVAC in­centives, which can greatly reduce the payback period on any type of energy-efficiency retrofit. Delaying means missing the window on these incentive opportunities.

Naturally, Solar PV systems are a great investment, even with the recent tar­iff increase. However, it is important to first make your building energy ef­ficient, as these systems are based on your kWh usage and kW peak. The Federal 30% tax credit begins its de­cline after Dec. 2019.

Finally, although more expensive than conventional financing, PACE financ­ing has become more popular for build­ing owners who don’t want to invest any of their cash into the building. The PACE assessment can absorb the entire cost of an efficiency project and now can also include seismic retrofits to be added to the property taxes of the building. These assessments can be made for 20 or 30 years and stay with the building.

The bottom line is this: energy dis­closure reporting is here to stay. And with energy efficiency tethered to the building code, understanding how your building measures up will undoubtedly affect your investment.

Marika Erdely is Founder and CEO of Green EconoME. In her previous life, she was a CFO for a land developer and home builder in Calabasas. Marika has an MBA, is a LEED AP BD+C, is a Certified Energy Auditor and a License B Contractor (#1001368). Marika has happily become a grandmother since she last wrote for the Bradco High Des­ert Report.

Green EconoME is a woman-owned, multi-disciplinary energy consulting and construction firm providing full-scale energy efficiency services to di­verse public- and private-sector clients. Their objective is to increase the net operating income of a property to posi­tively affect market valuations. They are accountable and committed to the performance of each project.

Contact Marika if you need help with energy disclosure reporting or wish to discuss making your building more energy efficient.

Marika@greeneconome.com
818-681-5750
www.greeneconome.com

General Politics

Update from Jay Obernolte’s First Term as State Assemblyman, 33rd District

Published by:

Jay_Obernolte

It has been my honor to represent you in the State Assembly since 2014. This last legislative session I success­fully got eight bills signed into law that dealt with transparency, govern­ment efficiency and property owner­ship. Despite my legislative success, taxpayers weren’t as fortunate. The Legislature passed several bills that will increase costs on Californians, particularly hurting middle- and low­er-income families.

In 2015 I authored Assembly Bill 809, which requires all tax measures that are placed on a ballot to clearly label the tax, the rate of the tax, and the du­ration of the tax. However, Los An­geles County found an activist judge who allowed them to place a sales tax on the ballot without disclosing to voters that it was a tax. To fight back I authored AB 195 last year, which closes the loophole and requires all taxes to be transparent with voters.

In 2016 the Legislature passed, over my opposition, SB 1263, which pro­hibited any new development on land that relied on hauled water. This bill effectively eliminates large portions of the High Desert from being devel­oped. In response, last year I intro­duced AB 367 to allow homeowners who rely on hauled water to rebuild their homes if they burned down in a fire. I will continue to push for legisla­tion that strengthens property rights.

In 2017, middle-class taxpayers in California were hit with more tax increases than any year since 1935. Taxpayers were burdened with the largest gas tax increase in state his­tory when the Legislature passed SB 1, which took effect last November. It increased gasoline taxes by 12 cents per gallon, increased diesel fuel taxes by 20 cents per gallon, increased ve­hicle registration fees by between $25 and $175 per year, and added a new $100 fee on all electric vehicles. These new taxes represent a $5.2 billion an­nual tax increase on Californians. Unbelievably, 30 percent of the new funding is being diverted to projects that are unrelated to roads. And fewer than five percent of the funds can be used for constructing new highway lane miles, which means this tax does nothing to solve our traffic gridlock.

The Legislature did not stop there. Last September, SB 2 was passed, which imposes a $75 recording “fee” on real estate-related documents such as deeds and notices. These fees and taxes are extremely regressive and will drive up the cost of living in California. Our state already leads the nation in poverty, and these poli­cies clearly hurt middle- and lower-income Californians.

The Legislature also passed several bills that make our communities less safe. Take for example AB 1448, which allows prisoners who are 60 years of age or older and have served 25 years of continuous incarceration to be eligible for parole, regardless of how much time is left on their sen­tence. Perhaps even worse is SB 394, which allows a person sentenced to life without the possibility of parole as a juvenile to become eligible for parole after serving 25 years in pris­on. Both of these bills will result in more criminals being released into our communities. Crime rates are al­ready spiking across California — re­ducing punishments on criminals will only exacerbate the problem.

Although the Legislature did lasting damage to the middle-class in California in 2017, I am optimistic for California’s future. I have helped gather hundreds of signatures to put a repeal of the gas tax on the 2018 November ballot. I am also supporting an initiative that would address some of the unintended consequences of the recent criminal justice reforms that have resulted in an increase in the violent crime rate. I will continue to advocate for government transparency, government efficiency and expanded property rights. It is an honor to represent you.

General Transportation

SBCTA Keeps the High Desert Moving

Published by:

San_Bernardino_County_Transportation_Authority

By Tim Watkins, SBCTA, Chief of Legislative and Public Affairs

Maintaining and improving our streets, roads and transportation infrastructure is critical to quality of life in the commu­nities of the High Desert. The amount of time and ease it takes traveling home, to local businesses, school, and commut­ing to work effect the day-to-day lives of all residents.

The San Bernardino County Transpor­tation Authority (SBCTA) is proud to play a vital role in helping bring high quality transportation projects and im­provements to our county.

Serving more than 2.1 million residents of San Bernardino County, SBCTA is responsible for cooperative regional planning and furthering an efficient multi-modal transportation system countywide. SBCTA administers Mea­sure I, the half-cent transportation sales tax approved by county voters in 1989, and supports freeway construction proj­ects, regional and local road improve­ments, train and bus transportation, rail­road crossings, call boxes, ridesharing, congestion management efforts, and long-term planning studies.

Through Measure I, SBCTA has con­tributed to many impactful projects throughout the High Desert over the last year. Partnering with and providing funding to local cities and the County, SBCTA has facilitated projects in every community.

The Yucca Loma Bridge construction and Yucca Loma Road widening in Apple Valley, as well as the widening of Yates Road, were completed in 2017 by the Town of Apple Valley. The proj­ects totaled more than $64 million in improvements with nearly $15 million in Measure I funds.

In addition, Phase 1 of the National Trails Highway (Route 66) resurfacing project was completed last year by San Bernardino County. The project, lo­cated on Route 66 between Fort Cody Road and Lavic Road (18.3 miles) and 4 miles west of Amboy Road to 17 miles east of Amboy Road (21 miles), totaled $3.6 million in new pavement with $3.4 million contributed by Measure I funds.

High Desert cities also benefited from more than $14 million Measure I dol­lars for local street and road projects in 2017. These funds help High Desert cit­ies repave and repair the neighborhood streets and roads residents use every day.

Looking to the future, the High Desert will continue to benefit from transporta­tion improvements funded with Measure I dollars. Those transportation improve­ment projects include:

  • U.S. 395 Widening from State Route 18 (SR1 8) to Chamberlaine Way – City of Adelanto, $56.9 million project / $17.6 million in Measure I funds.

The project will widen sections of U.S. 395 from two to four lanes between SR 18 to Chamberlaine Way in the City of Adelanto. Proposed improvements also include operational improvements such as adding turn lanes and signal improve­ments at intersections.

  • Apple Valley Road and SR 18 Re­alignment – Town of Apple Valley, $4.9 million project / $2.2 million in Measure I funds.

The project will realign and construct intersection improvements at Apple Valley Road and SR 18 in the Apple Valley area.

  • North First Ave. Bridge over BNSF Railroad – City of Barstow, $42.7 mil­lion project / $4.3 million in Measure I funds
  • Green Tree Boulevard Extension – City of Victorville, $45 million project / $18.1 million in Measure I funds.

This project will extend Green Tree Boulevard from Hesperia Road to Ridgecrest Road/Yates Road, and con­struct a new four lane road, including a bridge over the BNSF railroad.

  • Bear Valley Bridge over Mojave Riv­er – Town of Apple Valley, $19 million project / $1.1 million in Measure I funds.

The project will replace an existing two lane low-water crossing with a new two lane bridge.

  • Yucca Loma Rd. Widening from Ap­ple Valley Rd. to Rincon Rd. – Town of Apple Valley, $7 million project / $4.9 million in Measure I funds.

The project will widen from two lanes to four lanes Yucca Loma Road from Apple Valley Road to Rincon Road.

  • Ranchero Road Corridor Widening $38.8 million project / $17.5 million in Measure I funds.

The project is to widen and reconstruct Ranchero Road from .3 miles east of Mariposa to 7th Street at various loca­tions to go from four lanes to six lanes with a center median. Improvements include widening of the bridge over the California Aqueduct and at-grade rail­road crossing improvements.

Additionally, SBCTA contributed more than $4.3 million to the High Desert Cor­ridor (HDC) project for project approval and environmental clearance. The HDC project will create a new 63-mile-long multi-modal transportation facility to improve mobility within the High Des­ert region between State Route 14 in Los Angeles County and SR 18 in San Ber­nardino County. The HDC also aims to improve travel safety and reliability, while connecting residential, commer­cial and industrial areas in the Antelope and Victor Valleys, including the cities of Palmdale, Lancaster, Adelanto, Victor­ville and the Town of Apple Valley. As a multi-purpose corridor, the project is con­sidering the integration of a new freeway/ expressway, high speed rail connection, a bikeway, and green energy element.

SBCTA looks forward to continuing to partner with the cities, towns and commu­nities of the High Desert. The agency is dedicated to bringing road and infrastruc­ture improvements that not only keep resi­dents and commuters moving but enhance the quality of life for residents and fami­lies and help local businesses succeed.

General Politics Transportation

VVTA Adapts to the Speed of Life

Published by:

VVTA_LOGO

By Fidel Gonzales, Marketing & Civil Rights

Travel plans change at the speed of life. Public transit must be quick to identify and adapt to the emerging needs of its community. Victor Valley Transit Au­thority (VVTA) continues its quest to serve the burgeoning transportation needs of its High Desert community.

A challenging task — considering its op­erational footprint nearly spans a whop­ping 1,000 square miles and claims many niche communities — VVTA is amid a series of systemwide improvements to take a focused aim at overcoming those challenges. From strategic new facility buildouts and transit fleet additions, to the deployment of advanced technolo­gies, bus routing, and bus stop signage, VVTA is on the move.

Just like transit agencies throughout the country, VVTA has experienced a re­cent mild decline in fixed route (big bus) ridership. Overall though, VVTA’s total ridership demonstrates its long-standing growth trajectory. Total ridership jumped from 1.7 million in 2013, to 1.9 million in 2015, and up again to 2.5 million in 2017. VVTA’s operational strength is still embraced by a fixed route transit system that spans 11,873 miles.

Big on the bucket list of connecting ser­vice to the Inland Empire are plans to in­troduce a CSU San Bernardino bus stop in time for the fall 2018 semester start. There is also the possibility for addition­al trips between Victorville and the San Bernardino valley.

Comprehensive Operational Analysis

VVTA commissioned the renowned consulting firm, AECOM, to perform a Comprehensive Operational Analysis (COA) of its entire system. Completed in February 2017, the study reviewed service performance in relation to com­munity developments within VVTA’s operational area. The effort sought to determine how effective the existing services were and identify what modi­fications were needed to best serve the community in the coming years.

The recommendations were based on 18 months of analysis, consisting of community outreach, public comments, and collaboration with key stakehold­ers within the VVTA service area. The COA addressed the needs for system growth and enhancements required to improve on-time performance and create continuity between Barstow Area Tran­sit (BAT) and VVTA, as these two bus systems merged in September 2015.

Since VVTA is fiscally conservative, the changes outlined within the COA were based on a financially-constrained environment. Growth recommenda­tions were phased and designed with the flexibility of meeting future funding re­alities.

COA Implementation

The VVTA Board approved the find­ings of the COA, and in October 2017 VVTA implemented many of the find­ings. VVTA expanded service hours, worked toward a reduction of wait times, and adjusted routes to match population growth trends and movement throughout the High Desert. The long-awaited fare alignment standardized fares between the Victor Valley and Barstow service areas, simplifying passenger travel. The adjustment reduced fare on some ser­vices and increased others, while many remained the same.

“Although many transit agencies in­crease their fares for riders every two years, VVTA has not raised fares in 10 years, even though the level of service has improved and our population has grown,” said VVTA Executive Director Kevin Kane with regard to the service changes. “VVTA remains a best value for its level of service, featuring some of the lowest fares in Southern Califor­nia.”

Route numbers were relabeled based on the type of service they provide and where they operate. Routes numbers 1-9 primarily now serve Barstow. Route numbers 10-19 and 200-299 are del­egated for inter-city routes. Route num­bers 20-29 are reserved for county areas. Route numbers 30-39 primarily serve Adelanto. Route numbers 40-49 primar­ily serve Apple Valley. Route numbers 50-59 primarily serve Victorville. And route numbers 60-69 primarily serve Hesperia. Commuter routes continued with numbers 100-199.

“Anytime the transit agency makes changes in their system, it is going to benefit the majority of its riders but will still negatively impact some; however, I believe this system upgrade is cer­tainly more intuitive,” said VVTA Ex­ecutive Director Kevin Kane prior to the changes. “Operationally, we will be able to better direct our resources, thereby eliminating redundancies inherent with overlapping route services. By provid­ing more direct connections, we look to improve reliability and on-time perfor­mance, which will benefit our riders.”

Route Changes

VVTA touted 36 routes prior to and fol­lowing the COA, despite the addition of new routes. This was due in part the con­solidation of several routes.

In Barstow, weekday service started an hour earlier in the morning and ended an hour later in the evening. On the week­ends, service hours were also extended. Barstow Routes 1, 2, and 3 were rede­signed to eliminate redundant routing, which revealed on-time performance improvements and a reduction of trav­el times between key locations in the months following the COA implemen­tation.

The new Route 6 now provides service between Walmart and Barstow Community College. Route 4 was renum­bered to county service designation as Route 28, providing service between Barstow, Hinkley, and Helendale every three hours. Route 5 was renumbered to county service designation to Route 29, providing scheduled service between Barstow, Yermo, Daggett, and Newber­ry Springs.

For inter-city routes, Route 15 B-V Link routing was streamlined to improve on-time performance. The route, which serves Barstow, Apple Valley, Vic­torville, San Bernardino, and Fontana, added service to the Victorville Civic Center and Victorville Courthouse and adjusted two Barstow trips to depart two hours earlier, according to passen­ger demand. No changes were made to Route 200 Needles Link, which serves Needles, Barstow, and Victorville.

For Victor Valley routes, the agency’s first express route, the 45X, was renum­bered to 50X. This route was also the first bus in the agency’s history to fea­ture a full vinyl wrap.

Route 33 was rerouted, extending service to Molina Medical Center in Adelanto. Route 21P (Pinon Hills) was rerouted to operate between the Mall of Victor Valley and Pinon Hills every two hours. Route 21W (Wrightwood) was rerouted to operate between Mall of Victor Val­ley and Wrightwood every two hours. Combined, both segments now operate hourly between Mall of Victor Valley and Phelan.

Portions of Routes 44 and 48 were com­bined to create new Route 68. This new route now serves key locations in Hes­peria and Victorville, including the Hes­peria Civic Center, Lime Street Park, Hesperia Library, and the Mall of Victor Valley.

In order to accommodate the needs of VVC students for the fall semester, Route 42 began service August 2017. The route connects VVTA’s major transfer point at Victor Valley College (VVC) to previously unserved locations throughout northern Apple Valley. Fea­tured bus stops include VVC Regional Public Safety Training Center, Walmart Distribution Center, Los Ranchos Mo­bile Home Park, and the High Desert Ju­venile Detention Center, which is avail­able by request only.

New Design For Bus Stop Signs

In concert with the COA changes, VVTA developed a newly designed sign for its bus stops. These more recogniz­able signs began gracing the curbside of the High Desert landscape in late 2017. All 1,018 bus stops signs have been standardized and are being replaced throughout the system. The signs display the hallmark agency colors and provide several passenger-friendly benefits, in­cluding visibility from both sides, route identification, and a unique bus stop ID number which is used in GIS tracking.

Interactive Voice Response

VVTA is slated to debut its on-demand Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Phone System by Summer 2018. The automated phone system delivers real-time bus routing and scheduling information to those in need of answers fast. The automated call flow is engineered to quickly identify rider needs and deliver that information instantaneously.

This will put an end to the annoying el­evator hold music that some customers may experience during peak call hours. The automated call flow is fluid and pro­vides a dynamic travel planning experi­ence that is quick, efficient, and accessi­ble from any landline or mobile phone.

Using the unique bus stop ID numbers, passengers will be able to access real-time bus arrival times for an individual stop via the IVR system.

The systems will automate routine cus­tomer inquiries and enable customer service agents to focus on the customers who really need their help.

WiFi Connectivity and Mobile Apps

Following the launch of the 2017 COA changes, VVTA unveiled its new op­erations and passenger information in­frastructure. Developed by Syncromat­ics, this innovative transit dispatch and tracking solution combines innovative hardware and software to deliver real-time monitoring of key transit systems.

Operationally, supervisors and analysts can now monitor most vehicle systems and performance in real-time. This monitoring includes key data points such as on-time performance, automated passenger counting, vehicle health monitoring, and a myriad of other crucial metrics.

For passengers, both the web-based and dedicated mobile app delivers routing and scheduling assistance, including predicative bus arrival times based on algorithms. Furthermore, the system in­troduces free WiFi connectivity to pas­sengers. The system also interfaces with digital signage, providing passengers with real-time display and annuncia­tion of arrival times right on their smart phones.

The platform integrates with the new bus stop numbering system, allowing passengers to look up stops and request predictive bus arrival time information via text messaging. A passenger sim­ply texts “VVTA” followed by the stop number to 41411 to receive instant bus arrival information.

Fueling Stations

VVTA currently owns and operates two strategically located alternative fuel stations in Barstow and Hesperia. These stations meet the fueling needs of the general public, private trucking companies, government agencies, and VVTA. Because alternative fueling stations are not as abundant as unleaded fueling sta­tions, the two locations provide a significant service to the High Desert alternative fuel consumers, as well as those consumers traveling from out of state. Its list of local clients include Matheson, Burrtec, Advanced Disposal, City of Barstow, and San Bernardino County.

In a move to streamline fleet fueling operations and reduce fuel costs, the VVTA Hesperia Fuel Station was con­structed and began operation in 2009 and now dispenses Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and unleaded gasoline. The loca­tion eventually became home to VVTA Administration and the VVTA Hesperia Yard in 2011.

Following the merger of VVTA with Barstow Area Transit in September 2015, VVTA purchased the City of Bar­stow Fuel Station in July 2016. The site provides quick access to Interstate 15, and will also serve as the future loca­tion of the VVTA Barstow Maintenance Yard.

In 2017 the Hesperia station dispensed approximately 32,000 Gasoline Gallon Equivalent (GGE) of CNG to the public. The Barstow station dispensed approxi­mately 60,000 GGE of CNG and 1,037 GGE of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to the public.

VVT alone consumed 975,049 gallons of CNG and 152,104 gallons of unlead­ed gasoline in 2017. VVTA dispensed in excess of 1 million gallons of CNG in 2017.

In addition to the operational and cost saving advantages of the owned fuel stations, VVTA has valuable access to additional real-time reporting metrics. These include instantaneous monitoring of fleet, as well as vehicle-specific fuel data, mileage, and engine oil consump­tion. This monitoring capability deliv­ers VVTA a proactive posture in ongo­ing preventive maintenance activities through trending analysis.

Maintenance Advancements

VVTA continues refinement of one of the transit industry’s first paperless Preventive Maintenance Inspection (PMI) programs, which launched in 2015 and is incorporated into the existing fleet management system. Using tablets, the program provides technicians with one-touch access to vehicle- and component-specific shop manuals and historical maintenance data during inspections. The program auto-generates work orders on individual line item inspection failures to ensure that all items are addressed, repaired, and not overlooked due to human error.

Switching to a paperless system has provided mechanics and analysts quick and easy access to real-time data of fleet information, current vehicle repairs, and vehicle history. Such features are saving hundreds of personnel hours, minimiz­ing the time required to review work or­ders, PMI information, parts inventory, and repair history.

Collaborating with its operations contrac­tor, Transdev, VVTA continues making strides in streamlining preventive main­tenance fleet operations by introducing operating procedures commonly seen at consumer car dealerships.

New Barstow Division Facility

VVTA recently began plans to replace its leased and outdated Barstow maintenance yard with a modern facility to be located adjacent to its Barstow Fuel Station.

The future maintenance yard will stand on a spacious 5.5-acre parcel. The build­ing will span approximately 8,500 square feet and feature three maintenance bays, a parts department, convenient stor­age rooms for tools and tires, and 2,400 square feet of office space for transit op­erations. The facility will be constructed with a cost-saving metal structure and will boast an appealing façade and in­ternal walls necessary for office- and maintenance-related space.

VVTA will soon proceed with issuing a request for proposals for two design-build companies. Assuming VVTA Board approval and that the project proceeds as planned, VVTA anticipates breaking ground on the project in late 2018. Completion of construction is an­ticipated in the summer of 2019.

Getting Roomier In Barstow

VVTA recently took delivery of five new 40-foot “Clean Air” CNG transit coaches. These coaches will be deployed in Barstow and are the first full-size buses ever to operate in Barstow and the surrounding service areas.

The coaches feature the advanced, near-zero emissions Cummins L9N engines, which are acclaimed as the lowest cer­tified Ultra Low NOx emission engines in North America, boasting a 90-percent lower emission than the current North American EPA standards.

These buses offer improved comfort and a smoother ride than the current chassis-on-frame cutaway vehicles. The new buses will offer free WiFi connections, real-time vehicle tracking, and farebox­es that align with VVTA’s goal of intro­ducing mobile ticketing to its system in 2018.

Mobile Ticketing

With the planned launch of TouchPass mobile ticketing in summer 2018, the new fare system will deliver improved passenger convenience and on-time performance. No longer will passengers have to fumble around for exact change at the farebox or wait for a driver to view their boarding pass. They simply flash the fare card or mobile app at the fare­box reader while boarding the bus. It’s that simple. This new boarding method has proven to significantly reduce dwell times at stops, helping passengers get to their next destination on time.

The new system offers passengers the ability to pay fares on their phone or any internet-connected device. Such fare products are protected from loss if the passenger registers their TouchPass ac­count through the web portal or mobile app.

Moving Forward

As VVTA continues its quest to “Con­nect Community to Opportunity,” great consideration into passenger-centric service improvements and fiscal-minded efficiency remains at the forefront. Its community partnerships are instrumental in achieving continued success in public transportation.

From the challenges of fielding an all-battery electric fleet, to moving students toward higher education and the communicability, to employment opportunities, it’s not only about dollars and cents. It’s about people. VVTA remains committed to moving its community wisely into the future.

General Politics

Hope for California

Published by:

Mike_Morrell

By Senator Mike Morrell

In meeting with various groups throughout the state, I am often asked if there is still hope for California. I have had my doubts with all of the challenges and problems we face, but I am confident that the answer is “yes.”

It is said that “as California goes, so goes the nation.” With almost 40 mil­lion people and as the world’s sixth largest economy, our state is too impor­tant to lose.

As citizens committed to limiting gov­ernment’s power, we are drawing a line in the sand and setting a course to take it back.

I have four reasons to believe that there is hope for California.

First, 40 years of one-party rule in Sac­ramento has reached a tipping point. They have overstepped their bounds, and voters are becoming more aware of the negative effects. The majority party has recklessly pursued an agenda of pro­gressive/socialistic policies that expand the bureaucratic state and affect us eco­nomically, politically, and spiritually.

On their watch, education rankings have dropped to 44th in the country. Califor­nia has at least 34 percent of the entire nation’s welfare caseload.

We have the highest state sales tax and now among the highest gas and car tax­es. These hikes hit areas like the High Desert and the Inland Empire hardest, where driving is the primary means of transportation.

For over a decade, surveys of 500 CEOs around America have rated California the worst place to do business. During the same period, we have seen a net loss of one million residents.

Perhaps the most egregious is what is happening to public safety. Laws cre­ated by the governor and Democratic legislators to release at least 40,000 con­victed felons into our neighborhoods have put our loved ones in harm’s way. Recently, a judge has ruled that another 10,000 sex offenders should be eligible for early parole.

These policies have failed, and Cali­fornians are increasingly seeing these facts.

Secondly, while many of my friends across the aisle refuse to acknowledge this reality, others notice the writing on the wall. That is why their default is to argue through politically correct speech. They know they have lost the debate, so their go-to plan is to blame and accuse, demonstrating their weakness.

In contrast, Republicans have practical and substantive answers. We believe in limiting government’s power and let­ting Americans keep more of their mon­ey to invest in their families, churches, and charities. We recognize that citizens rank above the state and that politicians and bureaucrats work for us. They are public servants, not masters.

Third, and more importantly, we have seen throughout history that America’s morality and religion are indispensable supports for our nation’s peace and prosperity, a point made by Alexis de Tocqueville, nineteenth-century author of Democracy in America.

For me, his observation has rung true in recent months as I have spoken to near­ly 600 pastors, whose influence reaches over two million people. They are seri­ous about taking back our state – I have not seen this kind of engagement before now and it is encouraging.

It is a revival of the rich spiritual heritage of our state, which is my fourth reason to believe there is hope for California. Consider the planting of 21 missions, a ministry begun by Father Junipero Serra. Furthermore, World Vision, Fo­cus on the Family, Cru, and the Azusa Street Revival were all started here, and in our very own San Bernardino Moun­tains, a young Billy Graham made a world-changing decision to preach the Gospel.

For these and other reasons, though we live in difficult times, I do not believe Providence has written California off.

However, as the Declaration of Inde­pendence reminds us, we are governed by consent – a government of, by, and for the people. It is our responsibility to plant the flag and reclaim our state.

We will only make headway in this cause when those who have a vested interest in preserving our religious, po­litical, and economic freedom, such as people of faith and business owners, take a stand.

In 1941 the University of Rochester awarded Winston Churchill with an honorary degree. He delivered accep­tance remarks broadcast from London and spoke on the realities facing the world in the lead up to the entrance of the United States into World War II:

“We are sure that the character of hu­man society will be shaped by the re­solves we take and the deeds we do. We need not bewail the fact that we have been called upon to face such solemn responsibilities. We may be proud, and even rejoice amid our tribulations, that we have been born at this cardinal time for so great an age and so splendid an opportunity of service here below.”

Though the circumstances are different, Churchill’s words are a fitting descrip­tion of our time and age. With your help – and the resolve of millions of other Californians – I have faith that we will overcome the challenges we confront.

State Senator Mike Morrell represents the 23rd Senate District in the Califor­nia State Legislature, which includes portions of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles counties.

General Transportation

Caltrans Continued Work on High Desert Routes

Published by:

Caltrans

By Tyeisha Prunty – Public Information Officer, Caltrans
By Joy Schneider – Public Information Officer, Caltrans

Caltrans continues work on Interstate 15 (I-15), and state routes SR 58, 138, and 395 through­out the High Des­ert to improve and upgrade the transpor­tation system to accommodate the rapid growth in the region. Projects such as the State Route 138 East Realignment and State Route 58 Kramer Junction, will provide motorists with a smoother driver surface and more enjoyable driv­ing experience.

Devore Interchange Project

The $324 million Interstate 15 (I-15)/In­terstate 215 (I-215) Devore Interchange Project was completed in November 2017. The project added truck by-pass lanes in each direction of I-15, added additional general use lanes in each direction, brought the I-15/I-215 inter­change up to operational standards, and addressed the arterial highways network deficiencies—specifically reconnecting State Route 66 (Cajon Boulevard).

I-15 Cajon Pass Pavement Rehabili­tation Project

The $121 million I-15 Cajon Pass Pave­ment Rehabilitation Project is nearing completion—the contractor is finishing up punch list items (minor tasks to be completed at the end of a project). The project, which is strictly pavement re­habilitation, resurfaced and restored the pavement between Kenwood Avenue and the Hesperia Overhead, which pro­vides approximately a 40-year life to the pavement through the Cajon Pass. Project features include the replace­ment of two outer lanes in both direc­tions of I-15, random slab replacements at various locations, on/off-ramp pave­ment rehabilitation, and future median striping—to be used for high occupancy vehicles or toll lanes.

I-15 Stoddard Wells, D & E Street Inter­change Project

The $80 million I-15 Stoddard Wells, D & E Street Interchange Project will con­struct new interchanges at D and E Street in the City of Victorville. The project also constructs new bridges and ramps on I-15 at Stoddard Wells, D Street, and E Street. In addition, the project will construct a new frontage road and auxil­iary and deceleration lanes.

Currently, crews are working on dirt hauling, surveying, drainage, retain­ing walls, and utility relocation work. Additionally, they are working on the widening of the Mojave River Bridge, the Victorville separation & overhead Bridge, and the Stoddard Wells Bridge widening.

The project was awarded to Ames Con­struction, Inc. and began in March 2016. It is estimated to be completed in Sep­tember 2019.

SR-58 Hinkley Expressway Project

The $120 million State Route 58 (SR- 58) Hinkley Expressway Project was completed in December 2017. The project widened and realigned a portion of SR-58 from a two-lane conventional highway to a four-lane expressway, ex­tending from approximately 2.4 miles west of Hidden River Road to approxi­mately 0.7 mile east of Lenwood Road, near the unincorporated community of Hinkley in San Bernardino County.

The project included construction of two interchanges on the widened and realigned portion of SR-58; one at Hin­kley Road and the other at Lenwood Road. All entrance ramps in both direc­tions now have two lanes at the local road and transition to a single lane prior to merging onto the expressway. All exit ramps now have three-way stops at the exit ramp intersections with the lo­cal road.

SR-58 Kramer Junction

Construction of the $190.8 million Kramer Junction Expressway Project recently began in December 2017. The project is located in the county of San Bernardino near the Kern County line and extends 7.5 miles east of US High­way 395. The project realigns a four-lane divided expressway in order to al­leviate some of the congestion caused by the current lane configuration. The project also constructs a railroad grade separation at the east end of the project and a new SR-58/US-395 interchange. The project is scheduled for completion late 2020.

SR-138 (West) Widening Project

The SR-138 (West) Widening Project is nearing completion. Crews are currently working on punch list items—final sig­nage, pavement smoothness, and plant establishment. The project is approxi­mately 97% complete.

The project widened SR-138 to four lanes, with a 14-foot median buffer from Phelan Road to Interstate 15. The project upgraded roadway shoulders to current standards, extended drainage, and constructed wildlife-crossing struc­tures.

The $52.1 million dollar project was awarded to Flatiron Construction Corp. The project began in February 2015 and is expected to be completed by Novem­ber 2018.

SR-138 (East) Realignment Project

The $23 million SR-138 (East) Realign­ment Project is a 2.1 mile project that will realign SR-138 from 1.9 miles east of I-15 to just west of Summit Post Of­fice Road. It will re-construct a two-lane, paved section of highway with outside shoulders, three wildlife cross­ings and an off-highway-vehicle cross­ing north of the current alignment.

Currently, crews are working on bridge structures, drainage, the last 2,500 feet of new roadway, and abandoning the current SR-138 roadway.

The project is estimated to be complete by late August 2018.

US Highway 395 Median Buffer—North

The $17.3 million US Highway 395 (US-395) Median Buffer—North project is scheduled to begin winter 2018. The project was awarded to Sully-Mill­er Contracting Co. The project will construct a four-foot median buffer and widen the existing shoulder to eight feet (width). The project will also add cen­terline and shoulder rumble strips, and various passing zones will be eliminated. The project limits are 2.5 miles north of Kramer Hills to the SR-58/US-395 Junction. The project is expected to be complete by winter 2019.

US Highway 395 Median Buffer—South

The US Highway 395 (US-395) Median Buffer—South project is currently in the Right-of-Way Phase. The project proposes to construct a four-foot median buffer and widen the existing shoulders to eight feet (width). The project also proposes to add centerline and shoulder rumble strips and eliminate various passing zones. The project limits are 1 miles south of Kramer Hills to 2.6 miles north of Kramer Hills. The project is anticipated to go out for bid by summer 2018.

Education General

New Era In Public Education For San Bernardino County Schools

Published by:

By Ted Alejandre, San Beranardino County Superintendent

As we consider the forces that drive our economy both here in San Bernardino County and across California, public education looks to prepare our students for jobs and productivity that will make our communities vibrant. With more than 406,000 students attending public schools in our county’s 33 school dis­tricts, the challenge and opportunity that educators face every day in their class­rooms and on campuses is to have their students ready to graduate high school prepared for both the rigors of college and the workplace. This is the goal that our schools and districts strive to meet on a daily basis, and in the High Desert, public education is positioned to work with business and civic community part­ners to help all our students be prepared for post-secondary options and careers that will fuel our economy.

To assess how our schools are going to meet those needs and demands, the state is in the midst of establishing its new ac­countability model, called the California School Dashboard. Describing the effec­tiveness of the new measurement system brings to mind an analogy of visiting the doctor’s office. A physician would not just take the temperature of a patient and have a complete set of results to make a diagnosis. It is the same for assessing public schools with the California School Dashboard. Instead of just looking at test scores, the new system checks a variety of 10 indicators to provide a well-round­ed and thorough progress report for not only our schools as a whole but also their significant subgroups of students.

The California School Dashboard does examine testing results – both in English Language Arts and Mathematics. It also provides data, including graduation and suspension rates, progress for English learners, a college/career indicator and chronic absenteeism. There are also four local indicators that measure parent in­volvement/engagement, school climate, implementation of academic standards and basic conditions (such as teacher qualifications, safe/clean buildings and textbooks for all students).

Current trends among High Desert schools and districts show their highest performance in the areas of graduation rates and English-learner progress.

Two schools districts – Silver Valley Unified and Hesperia Unified – scored in the highest percentile (a “blue” desig­nation) on the Dashboard. Silver Valley boasts the county’s highest grad rate at 96.6 percent and Hesperia is close be­hind at 91 percent. Six other High Desert districts – Apple Valley (87.7 percent), Barstow (79.6 percent), Morongo (88 percent), Needles (83.6 percent) and Snowline (87.8 percent) – also received proficient designations (a “green” desig­nation) for their grad rates. Countywide, the grad rate is 83 percent.

In English-learner progress, three High Desert districts – Apple Valley, Helendale and Morongo – all received “green” designations for the progress they have made.

In December 2017, the California De­partment of Education (CDE) posted its most recent California School Dashboard results. Those complete results, as well as all others in our county, are available on the County Schools’ Countywide Educa­tion Open Data Portal at the following website: http://ed-data.sbcss.k12.ca.us

The Education Open Data Portal, which County Schools launched a year ago, is aligned with California’s move toward greater engagement, transparency and accountability. By displaying multiple measurements, our schools and districts can provide a better understanding of how well they are progressing. School districts, government agencies and community stakeholders will be well-equipped to use the data on the portal for decision-making, reporting and engage­ment. The portal is an incredible resource for parents, families and educators to support student learning and provide the support that all students need to progress on the continuum of their journey to be lifelong learners.

As students in our county start that jour­ney, they need early literacy tools to gain a foothold as they begin their educations. Last year, County Schools initiated a countywide early literacy effort with the nationally recognized Footsteps2Bril­liance program.

In the span of less than a year, more than 38.5 million words have been read using a smartphone or similar tablet that gives students and families access to engaging literacy tools, books and songs. For the 2017-18 academic year, preschool learn­ers have read more than 26 million words as a cohort of students in the county. The free program is available in both English and Spanish to support the nearly 1-in- 5 students in our public schools who are English learners. County Schools has been working with County Preschool Services and First 5 San Bernardino to implement the program, using a regional trainer of trainers model to expand use and increase awareness of the program. Research shows that for students’ long-term academic success, reading profi­ciency is a critical trait to support their achievement.

Seeing confident students who have achieved in their schools and now have taken on leadership roles on their cam­puses and their communities is a sterling example of the positive growth all educa­tors like to see as students learn and grow. That was on full display during the third annual Student Advisory Panels that met during the months of January through March this year. Providing opportuni­ties to hear student voices is one of the many positive outcomes from the annual Student Advisory Panels that meet from schools across San Bernardino County.

This year’s class of more than 220 partic­ipants countywide made presentations to elected officials in both the High Desert and for the West End/East Valley regions at the beginning of March. The students have a strong understanding of being good citizens.

“It’s important to help in your commu­nity,” said Tyrell Frederick, a senior at Silver Valley High School. “You always have to find those opportunities when you can give back. That’s what being a good person is about.”

Among High Desert schools, 16 high schools representing eight school dis­tricts had participants. Among those par­ticipating by district were:

  • Apple Valley Unified: Academy for Academic Excellence, Apple Valley and Granite Hills;
  • Bear Valley Unified: Big Bear;
  • Helendale: Independence Charter Academy;
  • Hesperia Unified: Canyon Ridge, Hes­peria, Mojave, Oak Hills and Sultana;
  • Oro Grande: Riverside Prep;
  • Silver Valley Unified: Silver Valley;
  • Snowline Joint Unified: Chaparral and Serrano;
  • Victor Valley Union: Excelsior Edu­cation Center and Victor Valley.

The students researched four priority areas of San Bernardino County’s Com­munity Vital Signs Transformation Plan that promotes a strong quality of life in our communities: education, the econo­my, school safety and health/wellness. Students provided key insights about what is taking place on their campuses and worked together with students from different schools to collaborate on trends and issues affecting their schools and neighborhoods. The culminating activity included student groups presenting their recommendations in front of elected offi­cials. While this was a little nerve-wrack­ing for some, the students appreciated the opportunity to share their thoughts in front of decision makers.

“Once I got over the nerves, it was re­ally empowering to know that what I am saying was being heard,” said Layvin Franklin, a sophomore at the Academy of Academic Excellence in Apple Val­ley. “People are willing to change, and they will listen to us, so changes can be made.”

It was inspiring to witness the students’ commitment to their schools and their strong collaborative nature working with one another. This generation of students in our county truly is making a differ­ence!

In the next couple of months, Gov. Jerry Brown and our state legislature should enact the state budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year. The proposals for K-12 edu­cation include fully funding with an ad­ditional $3 billion the governor’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) two years ahead of schedule. That would re­sult in an increase in per-pupil funding of 5.8 percent.

The governor has proposed $73.8 billion for the Proposition 98 guarantee, which would be a record level of funding if en­acted. While the increased funding is ap­preciated, it is not adequate, as California public schools remain woefully under­funded in national comparisons.

Among other highlights for K-12 public education funding proposals:

  • $1.8 billion one-time discretionary funding or approximately $295 per aver­age daily attendance.
  • $55.2 million for county offices to assist with differentiated assistance for LCFF and Local Control Accountability Plans.
  • $4 million for eight county offices statewide to serve as training centers for technical assistance for schools and dis­tricts that need to improve under the new California School Dashboard account­ability measurements.
  • $10 million for Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPA) to work with county offices of education in providing technical assistance to schools and dis­tricts.
  • $100 million (one-time) for special education teachers.

In Conclusion:

We want all San Bernardino County students to realize and actualize their unique, boundless potential from Cradle to Career and to be engaged, productive citizens who are a voice for positive change in their communities. I appreciate all the support our schools in San Ber­nardino County receive from parents and our many education partners in the community. By working together, we can transform lives through education.

General Politics

High Desert Isn’t Your Dumping Ground, California; Time for Change on Inmate Placement

Published by:

Scott_Wilk

By Senator Scott Wilk

Over 40 innocent, unsuspecting wom­en fell victim to a brutal rapist. They spanned California as an evil menace remained on the hunt for over two de­cades.

It’s a tragic tale for the women involved, their families and our entire society, but luckily, it ended as it was supposed to, with a violent predator behind bars, nev­er again to threaten our mothers, daugh­ters, wives and communities. Or so we thought.

And for people in the areas down the hill and in Northern California where he previously stalked, it was true; he never returned. But for us in the High Desert, their nightmare became our reality as ,upon his release, still deemed by prison officials as a violent predator, a judge in Silicon Valley, where he had served time for a string of rapes, ruled that the Pillowcase Rapist was to be placed in the High Desert; out of sight and mind for most but front and center for those of us who call the desert our home.

This isn’t how it should be. We’re a hard-working bunch in the High Desert, and we have plenty of our own chal­lenges to deal with in our communities. There is no excuse for the rest of Cali­fornia making us their dumping ground for violent, dangerous undesirables; and yet that’s what they’ve done.

In the Los Angeles County areas of the High Desert alone, there are nearly 500 sex offenders currently living in our communities. In San Bernardino and Kern, hundreds more. But it isn’t just sexual predators. Recently released in­mates of all kinds, from serial robbers to violent gang members; you name it, are being bussed out to places like Lan­caster, Victorville, Adelanto, and other High Desert communities, communi­ties to which they have no previous ties whatsoever.

That’s why this year I’ve introduced a pair of bills to address this problem and keep our High Desert communities safe. Senate Bill 1199 will require that prison inmates, including sex offenders, will be released to a community to which they have previous familial or other ties. It takes a village to raise a child, the old adage goes. And it’s true. But when that village fails, they shouldn’t be off the hook. Another village shouldn’t have to take on responsibility for their short­comings. No, these recently released criminals should be returned to their home communities to continue their re­habilitation, not shipped off to the High Desert. Senate Bill 1199 will make sure that is the case going forward.

Crime is on the rise in our communities. Violent crime is up five percent in some High Desert communities, retail theft is up 25 percent in others, the trend is not good for our region, even as crime na­tionwide continues to decline. In an era of California public safety policies like Assembly Bill 109, Prop. 47 and Prop 57, that basically amount to “release prisoners now, ask questions later,” it is more important now than ever to appro­priately place and monitor these newly released offenders to ensure ongoing safety for our communities.

That’s why I’ve introduced another bill – Senate Bill 1198 – aimed at manag­ing our released sexual predators. The Sex Offender Management Board is the state’s body responsible for assess­ing the fitness of a sex offender to be released and, if they are fit for release, the appropriate amount of supervision. A great concept and they serve in many ways as our last line of defense against frivolous release of potentially violent sexual predators. Unfortunately, the state has not provided them with ad­equate information to make the assess­ments needed to determine these things, so the Board is forced to make judgment calls on life-and-death decisions. This cannot stand, and Senate Bill 1198 will bring us within reach of sensible man­agement for soon-to-be and recently re­leased criminals in our communities.

Senate Bill 1198 will force the State and all its departments, including the De­partment of Justice and the Department of Corrections, to provide any and all in­formation the Board may need or want to utilize in the process of their reviews on potential releases. Currently, there is no such requirement, and information sharing is spotty at best. With SB 1198 we will have a more informed board that will make more informed decisions that will lead to more accurate and appro­priate management of released sexual predators so that they may not continue to hunt for prey upon release.

Crime is a very serious issue for us in the High Desert. It’s time the whole state starts to realize we are not their dumping ground, and this pair of bills will be a huge step in that direction.

Senator Scott Wilk represents the 21st Senate District, which encompasses the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Victor valleys.

General

BLM Begins Scoping Process to Consider Amendments to Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan

Published by:

By Marc Campopiano, Joshua T. Bledsoe, Jennifer Roy, James Erselius

On February 2, 2018, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a notice of intent to review the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) for potential burdens on domestic energy production in California in response to Executive Order (EO) 13783, “Promot­ing Energy Independence and Econom­ic Growth.” EO 13783 was issued on March 28, 2017, and requires the heads of federal agencies to review all existing agency actions that “potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources.”

Finalized in 2016, the DRECP estab­lished a framework to streamline per­mitting for renewable energy projects on public lands in the California Mo­jave and Colorado/Sonoran desert re­gion. Renewable energy development activities covered by the DRECP in­clude solar, wind, and geothermal proj­ects, as well as transmission facilities that service renewable energy projects. In March 2015, concerns from local agencies, industry, and environmental groups caused state and federal agen­cies to narrow DRECP’s focus to public lands only.

The corresponding Land Use Plan Amendment (LUPA), issued when the DRECP was finalized, affects land use planning decisions for all of the 10.8 million acres of federal lands within the 22 million total acres covered under the DRECP. The LUPA set aside certain BLM-managed lands for conservation and recreation and identified priority ar­eas for renewable energy development. The approved LUPA designates 388,000 acres of “Development Focus Areas,” which are lands identified as having high-quality solar, wind, and geothermal energy potential and access to transmis­sion. In addition to Development Focus Areas, the approved LUPA designates: 40,000 acres of Variance Process Lands for renewable energy development; ap­proximately 6.5 million acres for con­servation; approximately 3.6 million acres for recreation; and 419,000 acres of General Public Lands, which lack a specific land allocation or designation. A land-use-plan amendment is needed to develop renewable energy in General Public Lands areas.

The February 2 notice initiated a pub­lic scoping period for potential amend­ments to the DRECP and associated National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents. Accordingly, BLM announced that it will hold eight public scoping meetings, taking place in the following California cities: Lone Pine; Ridgecrest; Hesperia; El Centro; Sacra­mento; Bakersfield; and Palm Desert. The public scoping period closed on March 22, 2018, 15 days after the last public meeting.

According to the notice, BLM seeks to reduce the burdens on energy devel­opment by looking at how the current DRECP’s land-use designations poten­tially will affect commercial-scale re­newable energy projects. For example, the notice of intent seeks comments on “increasing opportunities for increased renewable energy development, recre­ational and off-highway vehicle (OHV) access, mining access, and grazing.”

In addition, BLM indicates it is reopen­ing the DRECP in response to EO 13281, “Streamlining and Expediting Requests to Locate Broadband Facilities in Rural America,” which was signed on January 8, 2018. Accordingly, BLM is seeking comments on potential impacts of land use designations, land disturbance lim­its, and visual management classifica­tions on the deployment of future com­munications infrastructure.

Although BLM is taking comments on whether the DRECP should be amended, any such amendments would take time and likely require new environmental analysis under NEPA. Indeed, the notice of intent states that it “initiates the public scoping process for the potential plan amendments and associated [NEPA] documents.” Moreover, any proposed amendments are likely to be controversial and face opposition, as the BLM’s approval of the DRECP finalized in 2016 was eight years in the making.

Previously, the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) issued a Review of the Department of the Interior Actions that Potentially Burden Domestic Energy report (DOI Burden Report), and the Forest Service issued a Final Report Pursuant to Executive Order 13783 on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth regarding EO 13783 and the effect certain other existing fed­eral regulations and policies may have on the energy industry. The recent re-opening of the DRECP appears to be in line with these and other federal efforts intended to reduce regulatory burdens on the energy industry.

iFor more than 40 years, Latham & Watkins’ Environment, Land & Resources lawyers have advised clients on complex regulatory, litigation and transnational matters stemming from cutting-edge environmental issues. For more information and commentary on climate change, renewable energy and clean technology, please visit Latham’s Clean Energy Law Report at: www.cleanenergylawreport. com

Education General

Victor Valley College (VVC), now in its 57th year

Published by:

By Robert A. Sewell, PIO/Director of Marketing/ASB Advisor, Victor Valley College

Victor Valley College (VVC), now in its 57th year, serves an area encom­passing roughly 2,200 square miles and is located on a 253-acre campus at the center of the three major communi­ties of the Victor Valley (Apple Val­ley, Hesperia and Victorville). VVC serves the cities and communities of the High Desert; Adelanto, Apple Valley, Helendale, Hesperia, Lucerne Valley, Oro Grande, Phelan, Piñon Hills, Silver Lakes, Spring Valley Lake, Victorville and Wrightwood. VVC also features a 13-acre Regional Public Safety Training Center (RPSTC) in Apple Valley and an Aviation program at Southern Califor­nia Logistics Airport (SCLA). In to­tal a population base of approximately 420,000 people with over 30 feeder high schools and diploma-granting institu­tions rely on VVC for their educational needs and opportunities.

What’s happened in the last 25 years is an increase in how much community colleges are involved in job training and economic development. “We are the Place to Be” when industry identifies a skill gap. The relationship between in­dustry and Victor Valley College contin­ues to strengthen as we work together as a catalyst to develop career partnerships that provide workers with the skills the economy needs most.

Victor Valley College is the primary source of workforce training in the Victor Valley. Our career technical programs teach fundamental skills that employers in almost every corner of the region need, and they offer more than 100 certification programs to ensure our graduates are marketable employ­ees. Victor Valley College also offers customized training to help companies train up their employees in specialized skills they need in order to be more prof­itable.

A cause for celebration is the recently received 2018 Strong Workforce Stars, a special Chancellor’s Office recognition recognizing career education pro­grams whose students show significant gains in factors important for advancing social mobility – a substantial increase in earnings, attainment of a living wage and a job closely matched with the field of study. Ten Victor Valley Col­lege career education programs were acknowledged: Welding, Automotive Technology, Child Development, Con­struction Crafts Technology, Respira­tory Therapy, Medical Assisting, Office Technology, Nursing, Fire Technology and Paramedic program.

Enrollment

The Dual Enrollment Program at VVC, which has established partnerships with local high school districts to bolster the number of college-ready or career technical education students, has grown from 8 partners to 11 this year. In the Fall 2017 semester, 365 high school students were enrolled, allowing them to take VVC classes at their own school. This number increased to 609 enrollments in Spring 2018 and nearly twice as many class sections.

Announced in February 2018, VVC is pleased to announce the Pathway to Law School Program, which students will be able to enter beginning Fall 2018 as a LAW Scholar. Pathway program en­rollees may select and pursue any major offered at VVC. The program provides the student with special attention dur­ing their time at VVC to develop suc­cess skills as well as during the transfer and application process to undergradu­ate partner schools. Partnering schools include: University of Southern Cali­fornia, Loyola Marymount, Santa Clara University, University of San Francis­co, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA & UC Berkeley. Other benefits include men­toring, recognition as a LAW scholar, transcript distinction, waiver of applica­tion fees to the partner

Since the opening of the Automotive/ Welding Vocational Complex, the Au­tomotive department has been able to open new Engine and Transmission re­building “clean” rooms, modular diag­nostic tool storage, brakes, alignment & suspension rooms and provide a work­ing Service Center lab. In addition, ten new automotive guided pathways have been structured that provide all stu­dents with a set of clear course-taking patterns that promote better enrollment decisions. These are clear curricular pathways that lead to employment and further education.

For the past year and a half, An Intro­duction to Aviation Maintenance four-unit college credit “survey course” has been offered to students from Excelsior Charter School, Victor Valley High School, and students from the Snow­line Joint Unified School District. So far, four academies have been run, sup­porting 100 high school students. This allows students to explore aviation for a semester to see if it is a good fit for them without having to make a two-year commitment to a full blown, technical career training program.

Campus Update

RegisteredNursing.org ranked the Vic­tor Valley College Nursing Program No. 4 in California and praised the college for producing graduates that are “ready to work” as a member of “the health care team.” Registered Nursing also recognized VVC as a leader in educating “generations of individuals while building successful communities.”

The ranking methodology for Regis­teredNursing.org included measuring NCLEX-RN “pass rates” out of the 131 RN programs in the state. Programs reviewed included 4-year schools that offer an Associate degree in nursing or Direct-Entry MSN Degrees. NCLEX-RN pass rates were analyzed going back to the most recent years of data avail­able up to five years. Schools’ pass rates were averaged together and weighted by the recency of the exam.

During Spring Break 2018, the VVC campus will begin to receive a compre­hensive “Signage/Wayfinding” make-over. This will include the removal of existing signage and addition of You are Here (YAH) Maps, Parking Lot Re-naming & Labelling, Vehicular and Pe­destrian Wayfinding, additional building identification and Interior Wayfinding & Room Identification.

Beginning with the November 2018 election, Victor Valley College Board of Trustees will be elected by trustee-area elections. Any candidate running for election or re‐election to the VVC Board of Trustees in 2018 will need to live in the district they seek to represent. Three current members who were elected in 2016 will continue to serve until 2020 and then will run in their new districts.

One “huge” American Cancer Soci­ety Relay For Life is scheduled to take place at Victor Valley College. This year’s two-day event will begin May 19, combining Apple Valley, Hesperia and Victorville relays into Relay For Life of the High Desert.

Construction

This summer, construction will begin on a new 26,860-square foot Student Services Center that will provide a symbolic “Front Door” to the college, beyond just a “One Stop.” The new Student Services Center will integrate support services in ways that make it easier for students to get the help they need during every step of their college experience. Included in this building: Admissions & Records, Assessment, ACCESS, Bursar’s Office, Cal­WORKS, Career Center, Counseling, EOPS and the Financial Aid department. Besides providing greater efficiency between related functions in serving our students, current space will be freed up for reconversion to classrooms – solving the near- term classroom shortage.

Throughout the entire design process, student input was a pivotal factor, including their insight gathered from several visits to other community college campuses. The new building will utilize a “multiple prime delivery method,” which breaks the project up into approximately 16 or more divisions of work. This method eliminates the role of a general contractor and allows the individual scope of work packages to be bid directly to the district. Victor Valley College’s goal is to maximize opportunities for local subcontractors, suppliers and vendors on construction projects at VVC and ensure maximum participation of local businesses and workers in all phases of our campus projects. In early March, VVC, DLR Group and California Construction Management, Inc. held a meeting to allow local contractors to learn about the pre-qualification process, bonding, safety program and additional upcoming partnership opportunities with VVC.

General Property

The IRS 170 Bargain Sale: The Appeal is Real

Published by:

By Kathryn Tong, Senior Aquisition Manager – CRE Western Region

Ever been forced to sell a stock in a sinking market or pressured to trade a car for less than it’s worth? Anyone who has experienced these disappointing fi­nancial transactions has felt the sting of sacrificing an asset for less than its true value. No one wants to sell at a loss; in­deed, everyone expects to gain from a sale. Yet “selling for less than full val­ue” is the very essence of a 170 bargain sale of real estate.

What is an IRS Section 170 Bargain Sale?

An IRS Section 170 Bargain Sale trans­action is also known as a Bargain Sale. It’s a combination of cash at closing from a buyer plus cash in the form of tax reduction or rebate from Federal and State governments. The cash portion of the IRS Section 170 Bargain Sale can be anywhere from 5-, 6- or even 7-figur­cash amounts at closing, depending on the transaction, with the rest of the cash benefit coming from tax savings. De­pending on the seller’s tax liability, it’s not uncommon to get the full tax benefit in as little as 30 days, but the seller has up to six years to fully utilize the deduc­tion.

First written into law back in 1917 as part of the War Revenue Act, and predating the 1031 Exchange, it uses the tax law to encourage philanthropy. It is estimated that there are over 20,000 of these real estate transactions done annually, with an estimated value of $8,000,000,000.

This transaction is regulated by the IRS Code Section 170 because it relates to charitable contributions of non-cash transactions. IRS Publication 526 and 561 are two additional IRS publication guidelines that further help explain the guidelines for this type of transaction.

This transaction is really the same as any other real estate transaction with a buyer or seller and real estate agent. However, with the IRS Section 170 Bargain Sale, the buyer is a tax-exempt entity and the seller is desiring to receive a tax de­duction on a portion of the transaction. Therefore, special rules apply to this transaction. Some of the unique transac­tion’s features are the following:

  1. The buyer must be a qualified tax- exempt nonprofit.
  2. The seller must obtain a qualified appraisal if the asset is valued over $5,000.
  3. The seller may deduct the differ­ence of the appraised value and the cash amount received as a charitable contri­bution. This charitable-contribution tax deduction is like any other cash chari­table contribution to a church, the Red Cross, etc., and is therefore governed by the standard rules and regulations of charitable contributions.
  4. The difference is that it’s not cash and therefore requires some sort of val­uation mechanism defined by the IRS for charitable-contribution purpose. The method valuing the specific assets are further defined in IRS Publication 561.
  5. Buyer, seller, and appraiser must sign IRS Form 8283, and seller must submit this form with seller’s tax re­turn.
  6. In order to qualify for the Federal and State tax benefits, the seller must have sufficient taxable income to utilize the charitable portion of the transaction. The seller is entitled to write off up to 50% of their annual Adjusted Gross In­come (AGI) for charitable purposes.
  7. When it comes to real estate, how­ever, there is a caveat. The seller can deduct up to 50% of their annual AGI only if they use their cost basis for the property (what they paid for it). In the vast majority of cases, however, it is in the sellers best interest to accept the 30% ceiling for allowable charitable tax deductions in a given year and use the current Fair Market value of the prop­erty based on an independent, certified appraisal.

How is this different from a donation?

Unlike a standard donation, the IRS Section 170 Bargain Sale is a combi­nation of cash from the buyer at clos­ing (or possibly over time, if terms are agreed to) and a cash benefit derived from tax savings in the form of reduc­tion or rebate, depending on the sellers specific tax liability. It is defined in IRC 170 of the IRS code as a “Bargain Sale” because it is in fact a sale but has a char­itable component to it.

A straight donation has no cash compo­nent and is often not valued for its full and fair market value, due to the seller either not being informed about IRS ap­proved valuation guidelines or not car­ing enough about the deduction.

In short, the IRS Section 170 Bargain Sale delivers the best of both worlds to a seller. They typically get cash at clos­ing or possibly the assumption of debt, PLUS they get a valuable tax deduction to reduce or eliminate other tax liabili­ties.

Property Appraisal for an IRS Section 170 Bargain Sale Transaction is a Game Changer

Why? Because the size of a tax deduc­tion from the Bargain Sale can be sig­nificant. The large deductions afford the right seller tax savings that could exceed the amount donated. The tax benefits from the transaction apply for up to 5 more years for the seller.

The true Fair Market Value assessment makes the Bargain Sale amazing!

The Fair Market Value is a significant contributing factor to why the Bargain Sale is an amazing opportunity. Before we look at this appraisal closely, let’s examine a few more appraisal types and compare them to the FMV.

  • Liquidation Value (aka the fire sale)
  • Tax Assessment Appraisal
  • Bank Appraisal (conservative mar­ket value)
  • Comparable Sales (excluding dis­tressed sales)
  • Income approach (based on optimal NOI)
  • Replacement Cost (insurance ap­praisal)

Now, let’s give a more concrete defini­tion of what this means and entails.

The Higher Value IRS 561 Appraisal differs from the Bank Appraisal and other types of appraisals. The 561 ap­praisal specifically evaluates donated property. The IRS defines Fair Market Value as a price that would be agreed on between a willing buyer and a willing seller. Neither party is under any com­pulsion to buy or sell. Both have reason­able knowledge of the relevant facts. Essentially, the Bargain Sale raises the Fair Market Value, while most other transactions decrease the value. Based on IRS Publication 561 appraisal guide­lines, the higher FMV attracts buyers. The value of donated property dictates the amount of the tax deduction the sell­er receives. The higher the property is appraised, the more tax deductions sell­ers receive.

What is the difference between a 1031 Exchange and a Bargain Sale?

The 1031 Exchange is an excellent ve­hicle to build up wealth in a tax-free environment. However, when you want to cash in your 1031 Exchange, the to­tal accumulated profits become taxable. That’s because the 1031 Exchange is a tax-deferment vehicle while the IRS Section 170 Bargain Sale is a tax-reduc­tion strategy.

With the Bargain Sale, the seller can en­joy immediate cash at closing PLUS an immediate tax deduction that in many cases can significantly reduce taxes due by the seller. In short, the IRS Sec­tion 170 Bargain Sale eliminates taxes, while the 1031 Exchange merely delays taxes, which may have to be paid at an even higher rate in the future, depending on prevailing tax law at the time.

Can I use a Bargain Sale to cash out of my 1031 Exchange tax free?

When you cash out of your 1031 Ex­change, there is typically a big tax bill due. You can offset some or all of that tax liability with IRS Section 170 Bar­gain Sale, which, in effect, absorbs the brunt of the tax liability with the charita­ble portion of IRS Section 170 Bargain Sale. You can accomplish this a couple ways:

  • Sell the property coming out of the 1031 Exchange using IRS Section 170 Bargain Sale. This assures that the bulk of the funds you ultimately receive will be tax free. It also greatly reduces taxes due on the cash portion of the transac­tion.
  • If you have already been cashed out of your 1031 Exchange and are facing a big tax bill, you can do IRS Section 170 Bargain Sale on a different piece of property and use those tax savings to offset some or all of your gains from the 1031 Exchange.

2018 vs 2017: The Real Estate Bargain Sale Got Better!

Before 2018 when you sold real estate, your state taxes for proceeds were de­ductible from your federal taxes; as of 2018, these taxes are no longer deduct­ible. Obviously, you should confirm your situation with your CPA, but this is the essence.

Subsequently, the proceeds from a tra­ditional cash transaction from a real estate sale are subject to that additional portion of taxes that were previously deductible from federal taxes (i.e. state taxes). Depending on where you live, that can vary from a couple of percent­age points up to 5 or 6% in states like California. Again, check with your CPA for your situation. The benefit here is that if you sell your asset via a Bargain Sale, you can still use the charitable deduction portion against your federal taxes, thereby avoiding state taxes and any lack of state tax “deductibility.”

For more information about 170 Bar­gain Sale real estate transactions, please contact Joseph Brady of the Bradco Companies at (760) 954-4567.

The posts focus on creating a win-win-win situation within the world of commercial real estate transactions. The content found on this page, however, is for educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal, financial, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, accountant, tax or other adviser before acting on any information found here.

General Property

North San Bernardino Industrial Market Report

Published by:

Information provided in this report is based on data derived from CoStar.

North San Bernardino includes Adelan­to, Apple Valley, Barstow, Hesperia, Victorville and their surrounding cities, which encompasses ±19,507,908 Sq. Ft. of existing industrial space, accord­ing to CoStar. The City of Victorville makes up ±7,948,142 Sq. Ft. or ±40% of the existing industrial inventory, with ±4,466,746 Sq. Ft. located at Southern California Logistics Airport (SCLA) ,home to companies such as Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Newell Rubbermaid, M & M Mars, Plastipak and other large na­tional industrial/manufacturing tenants.

According to CoStar, we ended the 1st quarter of 2018 with an industrial vacancy rate of 7.5%, down from the 4th quarter of 2017’s rate of 8%. This may appear high when compared to the 5.3% vacancy rate the Inland Empire is currently experiencing, but when you take into consideration that only five properties makeup ±1,135,545 Sq. Ft of the ±1,438,609 Sq. Ft. of vacant space currently available, and the fact that four out of these five properties are suited for very specific uses and are outdated, you are looking at an adjusted vacancy rate closer to 2%. This actually indicates that North San Bernardino has a critical need for more industrial space which is simply not being met.

The last significant industrial building constructed was delivered in June 2017. This project is known as Distribution Center 18 and is located in the California Logistics Center at SCLA; comprised of ±370,000 Sq. Ft. this facility was fully leased to Newell Brands and Plastipak Packaging.

Two major projects are presently underway in the Northern San Bernardino region that when completed will dramatically increase the total industrial square footage in the market but will not really change the landscape of the industrial market in regard to adjusted vacancy. Watson Land Company recently broke ground on a ±1.35 million Sq. Ft. distribution center for Big Lots in Apple Val­ley that is expected to be completed in 2019, and Industrial Integrity Solutions is currently developing a ±600 million Sq. Ft. Industrial Park in the City of Adelanto; known as the HDO Industrial Park, it is expected to be delivered in 2018. The HDO Industrial Park development has largely been spurred by the City of Adelanto’s pursuit of the nascent Medical Marijuana industry. The former project is likely to remain owner occupied for a long time coming, and the latter’s development is largely hinged on volatile market demand, projected profitability and what appears to be a dwindling supply of privately capitalized cannabis entrepreneurs.

North_San_Benrardino_Industrial_Market_Chart

General Water

VVWRA Subregionals Become Reality

Published by:

VVWRA

By Logan Olds General Manager, Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority

After 20 years of planning and two years of construction, VVWRA’s Apple Valley and Hesperia Subregional Water Recycling Plants (SWRP) have been completed. The plants were first en­visioned by the VVWRA Board of Commissioners some 20 years ago when it became apparent that the re­gion’s sewer interceptors were ap­proaching capacity. Faced with the expensive and disruptive option of ex­cavating and replacing miles of pipe­lines throughout the Victor Valley, the board began exploring a new, less- expensive regional treatment plan. The plan included building SWRP in Apple Valley and Hesperia that would help reduce the amount of flow in our interceptors while providing each community with a reliable source of clean recycled water. The completion of the Subregionals in Apple Valley and Hesperia represent the dawn of a new approach to treating wastewater in the Victor Valley while reusing our resources to better our community.

On February 13, 2018, large trucks delivered activated solids from VVWRA’s main plant to “seed” the Apple Valley plant adjacent to Brewster Park. Both the Apple Valley and Hesperia water recycling facilities use a biological process that requires microbes to help clean the wastewater. The microbes actually eat the organic matter in the waste. The facilities also feature FibrePlate hybrid membrane technology, which is considered a state-of-the-art filtering system. The startup process in Apple Valley took a number of months, but by mid-April the first recycled water began flow­ing to percolation ponds at the Apple Valley Golf Course. When running at maximum capacity, the Apple Valley facility will be capable of producing up to one million gallons of recycled water per day. In addition, the plant is expandable to 4 million gallons per day in anticipation of future growth. The recycled water is currently being de­livered via pipeline to the Apple Val­ley Golf Course, and there are plans to use it for irrigation at the Civic Center and area parks.

The Apple Valley and Hesperia SWRPs are designed to be a good- neighbor facilities. Much of the fa­cilities are actually below ground to deaden the sound of pumps and blow­ers. The aeration basins are covered and advanced odor-control technology is being used to eliminate unwanted odors. The visible portion of the plant is no taller than a two-story home and the surrounding grounds are tastefully landscaped to blend in with the rest of the area.

A second, nearly identical facility has been built in Hesperia but is not yet exporting recycled water. The City of Hesperia is currently installing a 10-mile pipeline that will deliver the recycled water from the plant to the Hesperia Golf Course. It will also pro­vide irrigation for the Hesperia Civic Center and area parks.

Together, the two plants cost about $80 million for planning, engineer­ing and construction. VVWRA managed to land $21 million in grants toward that cost, representing a 26% percent discount. Plus, VVWRA re­ceived a 1% interest loan on the remaining balance from the State of California. “The grants and the low-interest loan have helped save our member agencies millions in finance costs,” said VVWRA General Man­ager Logan Olds.

There are several reasons for construction of the Hesperia and Apple Valley SWRPs. With continued growth in the Victor Valley, the main interceptors or pipelines from the community to the plant could reach capacity and would have to be replaced. The VVWRA Board of Commissioners felt that construction of the regional water recycling facilities would be less expensive while also providing the communities of Hesperia and Apple Valley with a reliable source of recycled water. Another benefit from the WRPs is water conservation and reuse. Use of recycled water for irrigation is a responsible use of our natural resources and will drastically reduce the demand on our local drinking-water supplies. The same water that comes from your faucet is currently used to irrigate many community sites. Recycled water provides a reliable and safe way to keep our parks and other areas green while saving our most precious resource for use in our homes and businesses.