Press Room

Madera Drive-in Reopens to Sold-out Crowd

MADERA, California (KSEE) – The Madera Drive-in reopened to moviegoers Friday to a packed audience. Vice President of Operations Bob Gran Jr. said they were just about to kick off the season when the pandemic hit. “We’ve worked hand in hand with the Madera County Health Department to mitigate all those measures against the virus,” he said.

The more than 300 car capacity lot has been cut to about 200, allowing at least ten feet between vehicles. Markers for social distancing were placed leading to the now outdoor snack bar and everyone is asked to stay inside their vehicles unless they have to get out (then masks are required). Despite all the new rules, the crowd still came. “Oh, it’s going to be a sell out,” Gran Jr. said. He was right, a line of moviegoers wrapped around the block. Among them was Ralph Westcott, who says the rules are worth the reward. “This, not having to set anything up yourself at home, it’s just the family time,” he said.

“It is nice to see them reopen – especially with a lot of people taking safety precautions, so that way we’re still conscious of other people’s health and safety, so that’s why I think this is way better than sitting in a regular movie theater,” said Erica Chuvichien. Gran said he wants everyone to willingly comply with the new guidelines, but they will be enforced, and people who don’t follow will be asked to leave. “If you can, please wait until we return to normal. You can come out and enjoy the normal drive-in experience. Right now it’s a special drive-in experience,,” Gran Jr. said.

This week the theater is playing Trolls World Tour and Doolittle on side one, and Knives Out and the Hunt on side two.,season%20when%20the%20pandemic%20hit.

Tulare Among Fastest Growing Cities in the State

By John Lindt

City grows by over 1,300 people in 2019, ranking it 29th in percent change from 2018 to 2019

CENTRAL VALLEY – California’s growth rate was nearly stagnant in 2019, with over two-thirds of counties seeing a dip in population, but not in inland areas like the Central Valley, where nearly every county saw an increase in population.

The Central Valley and the Inland Empire regions maintained strong growth compared to growth that slowed to nearly zero, and in many cases negative, along the coast, according to population estimates released by California’s Department of Finance earlier this month. Tulare ranked 29th on the state’s list of fastest growing cities with a more than 2% growth last year. That means an additional 1,300 residents moved into Tulare County’s second largest city bringing its total population to 67,834. Two other Tulare County cities were among the top 100 fastest growing cities in the state. Dinuba ranked 64th on the list with a 1.19% increase and Woodlake came in at No. 74 with a 1.07% increase. The county’s largest city, Visalia, is now the 44th largest city in the state with 138,649 residents, an increase of nearly 1,000 people in 2019.

Lindsay and Farmersville had the least amount of growth last year with just one and three new residents, respectively. Exeter increased by 21 people and Porterville by 165. Overall, Tulare County grew faster than the state with a modest increase of 3,389 people for a new population estimate of 479,977 and is now the 18th largest county in the state. Nearby San Luis Obispo shrunk by a few hundred residents.

Growth in California’s cities was nearly split between those with increases (256) and those with decreases (225). Of the ten largest cities in California, Bakersfield had the largest percentage gain in population (1.4 percent, or 5,500) with Sacramento (1.1 percent, or 5,700) a distant second while Fresno came in 5th place for largest numeric change (3,757, or 0.69%). Fastest growing, many inland, cities include Guadalupe that grew by 4.1%, Wasco 4.85%, Shafter 2.98%,Kingsburg 2.65%,Clovis 2.24%,Merced  2.37%, Tulare 2.07%, Manteca 1,68%, Coalinga 1.50%, Parlier 1.48% and Bakersfield 1.43%.

People wanting more space are turning to inland areas with the cost of living, and the real estate, are more affordable. Cities with a high ratio of single family to multi-family growth include: Sacramento (73.2 percent single family), Bakersfield (99.0 percent single family), Fresno (81.1 percent single family), and Menifee (99.8 percent single family) in Riverside County.

Some of the population dips in Valley cities were disproportionately affected by prison populations. State prisons are generally located in remote areas; as a result, increases or decreases in this population can account for significant changes in their respective counties. State prison declines led to population decreases in McFarland, Taft, and California City in Kern County, while driving population increases in Norco in Riverside County, Victorville in San Bernardino County, Soledad in Monterey County, and Vacaville in Solano County. Wasco in Kern County and Lathrop in San Joaquin County were among the top cities for housing growth in areas that did not experience devastating wildfires. Near the top of the fastest growing communities statewide is wildfire-devastated Paradise in Butte County that recorded a population increase of 3.26% in 2019 from 4485 in 2018 to 4631.

The city was destroyed by the Camp Fire in November 8, 2018 when eighty-six people died, tens of thousands displaced and 18,804 buildings were destroyed. It was the deadliest and most destructive fire in California. Before the fire the small city had a population of 26,800. After the Camp Fire a door-to-door count in April 2019 found just 2,034 people left. Now there is a modest comeback, according to the state count, to 4631 persons as the community slowly rebuilds.,its%20total%20population%20to%2067%2C834.

Avocados Being Tested For Central Valley Production

By Tim Hammerich with the Ag Information Network of the West

Will we see commercial avocado production move into the central valley? That’s what Joseph Mark Buhl is wondering. Along with a few collaborators, he is running a test of different avocado and rootstock combinations in the Visalia area. He wants to know, can they grow well under nets. “We’re kind of replicating almost like a Colombian rain forest in there for them. Then the hope is to keep it under 95 degrees, and the hope is to keep it above 32 degrees.”

Buhl is the cofounder of Data Harvest. He says avocados could offer central valley growers good prices, lower pesticide needs, and a water-efficient crop. “I brought this project back with Dr. Mary Lu Arpaia, UCANR Cooperative Extension, Subtropical Horticulturist about a year and a half ago when some friends of mine had shared with me what they were able to attain to these in these net houses for environments,” said Buhl. And so we thought, what a wonderful opportunity to try this out. And, so my place is in hoping that this is an industry starter for other farmers and for the central Valley. And around the world. I think there’s many opportunities and environments that haven’t been considered that this could open the doors for growing all over.”

The project is made possible in part by a USDA grant to study the concept in California and Texas.

Wonderful: Delivering Flexible Solutions to Meet Tenant Needs in Evolving Times

By Dennis Kaiser

It might be easy to focus on the agricultural and western ranch activities of California’s Southern Central Valley and overlook the region’s growing commercial real estate activity. But, the fact remains, there is an important industrial core emerging in the Bakersfield market. The southern reaches of what has often been called Americas breadbasket, sits outside of the hustle and bustle of Southern California’s urban fabric. That location provides industrial occupiers a distinct logistics advantage for a host of factors.

First, the Bakersfield area is unencumbered by the transit snarls that clog Los Angeles’ freeways. Goods are able to move in and out of the Southern Central Valley with ease. Second, and perhaps most important for logistics and supply chain operators, the location allows them to serve vast consumer bases, while remaining close enough to the ports to expedite goods movement. “The Central Valley is ideally located to move goods around the West Coast,” says Joe Vargas, president at Wonderful Real Estate Development, which develops and manages several industrial projects in the Central Valley. He notes the Central Valley location allows companies to serve the Western United States in a single-day turn. This means the entire population of California is reachable in that time frame, and on two-day turns the delivery reach expands to 70 million people, encompassing every Western state.

In Q1 2020, Wonderful delivered a one million square foot speculative facility at Wonderful Industrial Park, a 1,625-acre fully-entitled logistics park located in Shafter, CA, just north of Bakersfield. The park is entitled for 25 million square feet of development, and currently has roughly nine million square feet of occupancy, either leased or owned. Vargas says the project stands out because there are fewer than 20 like it in the entire United States. Ross Stores, Inc. leased the park’s previous one million square foot speculative facility upon completion in 2018.

Wonderful’s other Bakersfield area projects include Crossroads Business Park, which currently has 40,000 square feet of office and retail condominium units developed and an additional 40 acres of land available for office, retail, and industrial development; and the 180-acre North Meadows Business Park, located near the Bakersfield Airport. Wonderful Real Estate’s Central Valley projects place them within two and one-half hours from the critical ports in SoCal of Los Angeles and Long Beach, as well as Port Hueneme, a vital entry point for vehicles and fresh produce. Additionally, a Bakersfield/Shafter location is just four hours from the Bay Area’s key port in Oakland.

Overall, industrial market activity in Southern California and nationally continues to be robust. That fact is highlighted by the low vacancy rate of 2.1% across SoCal’s roughly one billion square feet of industrial space. “Factor in the functionally obsolete space and high demand, it is easy to see why the region continues to report record lease rates and sales prices,” notes Vargas. Currently, there’s about four million square feet of space under construction, and even though the market added 5.2 million square feet, Vargas says, it was such a small amount that it “didn’t make a dent,” in market fundamentals.

What is making a difference in space absorption is the fact that owners and users are seeking new, state-of-the-art facilities that feature 40-foot or higher clear heights, large truck courts, 60-foot speed bays, large column spacing, and a host of modern “bells and whistles,” says Vargas, which have all been factored into Wonderful’s projects. “It is vital that maximum rack-to-clear heights are achieved today,” he says, “because occupiers are packing more product into buildings.” The evolution of the warehouse facility has advanced to include sophisticated technologies used to pick product, as well as mezzanine space to maximize every square inch of a facility.

Wonderful delivers the trophy buildings tenants seek, along with attributes that appeal to today’s supply chain logistics user. “Wonderful offers modern facilities with 300-foot truck courts, loading capabilities, and the ability to park up to 1,000 employee cars because our Central Valley projects are not land constrained. There is plenty of room for trailer parking and storage of up to 350 to 400 trailers, and that appeals to ecommerce users who’ve been land constrained in the Los Angeles Basin, unable to expand or accommodate parking for additional employees,” Vargas says. “Many tenants are realizing it is difficult to find land with expansion opportunities in an urban market.”

The Central Valley’s economic growth has also fueled its emergence as a quality place to live. Once thought of as only an agricultural economy, the market has blossomed with highly-skilled jobs, affordable communities for families and a growing base of businesses. In fact, Vargas says companies that locate in the region have discovered a strong labor pool, noting tenants at Wonderful’s properties report their employee turnover averages about 5% annually, which significantly reduces onboarding costs and turnover risks.

Enhancing the quality of life in the Central Valley hasn’t escaped the notice of the Resnick family, owners of Wonderful Real Estate Development, which is part of The Wonderful Company. The $4.5 billion consumer goods family of companies is led by Lynda and Stewart Resnick, whose philanthropic endeavors to improve their local Central Valley communities are widespread. Through its award winning charter schools and other community-wide scholarship, career pathway, and grant programs, the Wonderful Company’s educational efforts have reached more than 55,000 students across 83 schools in 24 districts.

The Wonderful Company’s motto, “Doing Well, By Doing Good,” has certainly been evidenced by its efforts to help its local communities during the COVID-19 outbreak. The company has responded by providing internet service so more than 4,500 students could continue distance-learning in rural towns. Wonderful has also provided more than 500,000 grab-and-go meals for employees and their families, delivered more than 72,000 baskets of essential supplies and food to employees, sourced and delivered more than 50,000 N95 masks to UCLA, and provided more than 10,000 bottles of hand sanitizer. The company has also donated 1.6 million Halos to Kern County schools, Central Valley hospitals and local food banks.

UC Merced’s Incoming Chancellor on the University’s Future

The UC Board of Regents announced last week that Juan Sánchez Muñoz will become UC Merced’s fourth chancellor. As a UC alum and first-generation student, he has a lot in common with the university’s student body. He currently serves as president of the University of Houston-Downtown, and was still in Texas when Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke with him about assuming leadership during a pandemic.

Westlands Solar Park Begins Construction

KINGS COUNTY — CIM Group announced recently that it is advancing the development of Westlands Solar Park in Kings County, one of the largest permitted solar parks in the world. The solar park could grow to more than 2,700-megawatts (2.7 gigawatts) of renewable energy potential at full build out, which could provide clean energy to more than 1.2 million homes, said a press release from CIM Group. The master-planned energy park encompasses more than 20,000 acres in the Central Valley in western Fresno County and Kings County, southwest of Lemoore, and is designed to open in phases to meet the needs of public and private utilities and other energy consumers.

The first phase of CIM’s development at Westlands Solar Park includes Aquamarine, a 250-megawatt solar photovoltaic project, which obtained all entitlement and conditional use approvals following a full environmental impact review. CIM signed a power purchase agreement with Valley Clean Energy Alliance, a locally-governed electricity provider for the California cities of Davis and Woodland and unincorporated portions of Yolo County, for 50-megawatts of capacity, with initial delivery anticipated to occur in late 2021.

According to the press release, Valley Clean Energy’s decision to select Aquamarine from a competitive solicitation process was based on its board adopting criteria designed to select cost-effective California-based renewable projects that minimize impacts on prime farmland, environmentally protected species, and habitat. CIM said it applies sustainable principles across its real asset portfolios, and at Westlands Solar Park, CIM is repurposing selenium-contaminated and drainage impaired farmland for the development of clean energy.

Kings County Supervisor Joe Neves, whose district includes some of the project’s area, said there are challenges with the land in terms of a shortage of water and it not being suitable for permanent crops, which led to land retirement. Neves said the large project will keep the land active and on to its next application. “I think it’s a good project,” Neves said. CIM said its clean energy projects will also provide solutions to multiple policy objectives for the state of California’s renewable energy mandate, including greenhouse gas reduction and carbon free energy.

Additionally, Westlands Solar Park is expected to contribute to economic development in Central Valley communities by diversifying the region beyond agriculture and creating a substantial number of clean energy jobs over the development of the entire project. CIM earlier completed a 2-megawatt pilot project at Westlands Solar Park in mid-2016 with the Anaheim Public Utility as the off-taker.

Here’s Tony Hawk Getting Barreled at The Ranch

The Ranch is not your typical wave. Besides the whole obvious manmade perfection thing, it has some absurdly fast and steep sections where most average surfers shouldn’t bother attempting anything that resembles a turn. At least not on your first crack at one of its waves. Bury a rail, miscalculate your speed, stall when you should be racing…any mishap before getting to what really matters — the barrel section — and you’ll kick yourself for eternity knowing you blew something that was literally handed to you on a silver platter. That’s the curse that hides underneath the Surf Ranch’s thin veil of potential bliss.

Of course, it’s really only this big of a deal if your chances at scoring a wave in Lemoore are limited to a couple of waves. If you’re somehow granted the opportunity to give the place a full day’s worth of playtime then your perspective will undoubtedly change. Take some chances. Try something you’ve never attempted before. Besides, if you fall flat on your face, there will literally be another wave in 20 seconds with your name on it.

Tony Hawk got a swing at The Ranch back in 2018 when he and Shaun White traded waves for a day. If the emotional rollercoaster of his first session was anything like the anxiety-riddled one described above, then we’d venture a guess this past weekend’s trip to Lemoore was actual bliss, capped off with a proper frontside barrel for the Birdman himself.capped off with a proper frontside barrel for the Birdman himself.

Farming Icon and Philanthropist Makes Transformational Gift To Valley Children’s

(Madera, California) – The estate of LeRoy A. Giannini has donated nearly $9 million to Valley Children’s, in honor of LeRoy’s parents, Ruth E. and LeRoy G. Giannini. This represents the largest single estate gift in the organization’s history. “This is a truly remarkable day for Valley Children’s as we celebrate the extraordinary gift of nearly $9 million from the Giannini family,” said Todd Suntrapak, President and CEO of Valley Children’s Healthcare. “This gift is a wonderful tribute to the family’s deep Valley roots, to their lifetime of caring for children and families and to those children who we are privileged to care for at Valley Children’s today and for generations to come.”

For 124 years, the Giannini companies were farming giants in the Central Valley. LeRoy G. Giannini started farming at an early age on 20 acres. LeRoy was 16 when his father was killed in a train accident and, shortly after his high school graduation, he took over the family farming operation. Under his innovative leadership and steady, hard work, the family business grew to more than 2,000 acres of nectarines and plums, along with a processing plant in Dinuba. At one time in the late 1970s, Mr. Giannini was the largest producer of nectarines in the world. Over the years, the family also raised cattle along the Central Coast.

Mr. Giannini was as generous as he was private. Over the course of his lifetime, he made sizeable contributions to support educational and faith-based organizations in his community but his gifts were not widely publicized. Mr. Jim Burnett, longtime friend and employee of Mr. Giannini and the trustee to his estate, shared that, over the years, Mr. Giannini paid for every Little League team in Dinuba that did not have a sponsor. For his employees and their family members, he would pay for life’s unexpected emergencies, pay to send their children to college and cover funeral expenses for every employee or family member. In Mr. Burnett’s words, Mr. Giannini was a remarkably generous man who ran his business as a family.

A new outpatient center planned for construction on the Valley Children’s Hospital campus in Madera will be named in honor of the Giannini family to serve as a powerful tribute to their generosity. “We are grateful for the generosity and vision of the Giannini family and the transformational effect that their gift will have at Valley Children’s,” said Robert Saroyan, President of Valley Children’s Healthcare Foundation. “This gift is the capstone of the Giannini family’s incredible tradition of philanthropy in the Valley. Their spirit of generosity and compassion for those in need in our community will live on with the naming of the future center.”

Telling the COVID-19 story for your great-great grandchildren

The COVID-19 worldwide pandemic will likely go into the history books as comparable to the so-called “Spanish Flu” of 1917-1923. The California Historical Society, which has troves of stories, newspapers and photos of that earlier deadly virus, hopes Californians will help it record to history of the current pandemic, which it calls a crisis of historic proportions.

For more information and to participate:

Fresno State engineering students help make protective gear for health workers

Engineering students, faculty and alumni from Fresno State’s Lyles College of Engineering have been working up to 10 hours a day in recent weeks to design and produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for Central Valley health care workers. They plan to donate about 1,000 face shields to Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno. Last week during Fresno State’s spring break, the team completed the final design and began production of the face shields — the first part of a three-phase, innovative project to support the community at a time when protective equipment is scarce for doctors, nurses and other health care providers.