Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Real Estate: Schuil and Associates celebrates 30 years

(Submitted photo. Mike, Marc and Rick Schuil of Schuil and Associates Real Estate in Visalia.)

Visalia real estate company, Schuil and Associates, is celebrating 30 years in business this month.

The company, run by three brothers, started in Dinuba in 1983 and over the years opened three other offices in Kingsburg, Reedley and Visalia. Back then, the business handled residential, commercial and agricultural property sales. Each brother — twins Mike and Marc and younger brother Rick — managed an office.

Then in 2007, the brothers decided it was time to consolidate locations. The company built a nearly 4,000-square-foot building on Mineral King Avenue and Akers Street in Visalia six years ago where the brothers and all employees reunited under the same roof.

What’s it like to work with family all these years?

“Obviously family businesses always offer challenges,” Rick Schuil said. “The fact that we consolidated rather than moving farther away (from each other) is a testament that we get along pretty darn well.”

The company made its name specializing in agricultural and dairy sales. It shed the residential portion of the business just before the economic downturn to concentrate on agricultural and commercial property.

“The economic downturn really affected residential sales,” Rick Schuil said. “We were proactive before that happened.”

While the residential market suffered, farmland prospered allowing the Schuils to remain stable in recent years.

“Agricultural sales and values have dramatically increased in the last five years so our timing was very good.”

Fight for west-side water on display this week

West San Joaquin Valley water battles are leaping onto the big screen and into the sports world this week — both under the heading of “The fight for water.”

On Thursday, Olympic boxer Jose Ramirez, who is from the west-side community of Avenal, will talk about his first professional fight in the Valley, on Nov. 9 at West Hills College in Lemoore.

He is expected to say he wants it to make a statement about the hardship of west-side farm water shortages, calling it “The fight for water.” His news conference is scheduled at noon Thursday in the Sierra Athletic Club.

On Saturday, an award-winning documentary, “The fight for water: a farm worker struggle,” will screen at 6 p.m. at the Tower Theatre in Fresno.

The film, produced by Juan Carlos Oseguera, features a 2009 water march by growers and farm workers.  The Latino Water Coalition is a central player in the march.

Nothing simple about property buys for high-speed rail route

A conceptual view of a high-speed train running through the Valley.

Monday’s story about efforts by the California High-Speed Rail Authority to acquire property, and the resulting displacement of businesses along the route in the Fresno and Madera areas such as Angelo’s Drive In or Keith’s Automotive, struck a chord among readers who interrupted their Labor Day weekend to leave me phone messages and send a few emails.

It seems to underscore the complexity of the process involved in securing land for public works projects, including right of way for big ones like the controversial high-speed train project. There are two big factors at the heart of the issue:

  • People who own businesses, farms and homes in the path of the railroad route have not only invested their money, but their effort and their sweat, into something that stands to be swept away, if and when the project is built; and
  • They’re feeling a little pushed around by the process, and in some cases insulted by offers that don’t reflect what they believe their property and business is worth — that is, they don’t think it is what the lawyers call “just compensation.”

No wonder property owners, homeowners and affected businesses can find themselves confused and angry. But here’s some info that we weren’t able to work into Monday’s story.

The story reported that the rail authority has, as of last week, made more than 120 formal written offers to owners of land along the proposed railroad route in Fresno and Madera counties. Those written offers are based on appraisals done by consultants to the rail agency. You can see a copy of the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s parcel-by-parcel right of way plan here (warning: it’s a large file!). The right of way plan has been incorporated into the agency’s contract with Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons, the contracting consortium hired to design and build the first 29-mile section of the system in Fresno and Madera. You can find an interactive, clickable map of parcels identified by the rail authority as those likely to be needed earliest (by the end of September) here.

When the authority makes a written offer to a property owner, it triggers a complex process in which “most property owners probably are not aware of what the law provides in terms of compensation for an impacted business owner,” said Anthony Leones, an eminent-domain attorney for Miller Star Regalia, a Bay Area law firm that prepared a newsletter about high-speed rail and land issues.

“What a business owner needs to do when they get an offer is, first of all, understand that the offer may not be inclusive of all their potential damages,” Leones said. “A business can be damaged in a lot of ways, even if they’re only taking a portion of the property. … For businesses, the situation is a lot more complex and they should understand that the initial offer is not a final offer, and they don’t have to accept it.”

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Federal agency studies enlarging San Luis Reservoir

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is preparing a report on raising San Luis Dam to enlarge San Luis Reservoir in western Merced County.

The 2 million acre-foot reservoir is already the key west Valley holding place for irrigation water for a broad swath of farming, including 600,000-acre Westlands Water District.

Bureau Commissioner Michael Connor on Saturday mentioned his agency is working on a draft appraisal, which roughly describes the benefits, costs and feasibility of raising the dam. Connor was a panel member at the Delta Water Summit.

He did not say why the appraisal is being done now or release other details, such as how much larger the reservoir would become. His statement about the possible enlargement of San Luis was a surprise to many water agency officials and observers.

The appraisal report should be ready in October. If it appears feasible, the bureau would complete a final feasibility study within a few years.

San Luis is one of the largest off-stream reservoirs in the country, but it is only holding 16% of its capacity right now. Drought and environmental water pumping restrictions in Northern California have left it near historic lows.

Delta Plan is a set of rules for long-term restoration

Readers emailed to clarify a point in my Delta Water Summit story, which referred to seven lawsuits over the Delta Plan that was approved by the Delta Stewardship Council on May 16.

The Delta Plan is not a draft of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. The Delta Plan, required in 2009 by the state Legislature, contains rules for the longer-term approach or framework for managing the sensitive Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Like the BDCP, it aims to restore the delta and make more reliable water deliveries to farms and cities. Both have been working toward proposed solutions for years in response to continuing ecological delta damage and unreliable water deliveries.

Seven lawsuits were filed against the Delta Plan from many sides on the delta’s issues. The plaintiffs include environmental groups, commercial fishermen, water diverters and local governments.

The BDCP draft should be available for public comment in October, state leaders say.

Real Estate: Ivanhoe celebrates first new apartment complex since 1992

(Photo provided by the Corporation for Better Housing. The Linda Vista Apartments in Ivanhoe.)

The unincorporated town of Ivanhoe on Tuesday celebrated the grand opening of its first new affordable apartment complex in years.

The Linda Vista Apartments, on the southwest corner of Avenue 327 and Highway 216, is the first new apartment development to be built since 1992, according to the Tulare County Resource Management Agency.

The $16.6 million project answers a call from the agricultural community to provide housing for the area’s poor and farm-worker families. It was paid for with state and federal housing grants, tax credits and farmworker housing funds.

“Safe, affordable housing has long been sorely needed in Ivanhoe,” said Tulare County Supervisor Steve Worthley, who represents the area.

The 76-unit complex has one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, a community center, basketball court and playground area.

The developer was the Corporation for Better Housing, a Sherman Oaks-based nonprofit development company has has built several other affordable housing projects in Fresno, Madera and Tulare counties.

For more information, visit corpforbetterhousing.com.

Fresno State study warns of climate effects on San Joaquin River

Two Fresno State professors say climate change will make the San Joaquin River’s annual runoff show up earlier — as much as six weeks earlier in the next century.

And one other thing:There will be a “significant decrease in annual stream flow,” said geology professor C. John Suen, who co-authored a study on the upper San Joaquin. Suen’s co-author was associate hydrology professor Zhi Wang.

The study, published in Hydrology Research, is more confirmation of findings in previous climate change studies, and it is not a pretty picture.

As water engineers and researchers have been saying for years, California’s reservoirs are built built to capture a gradual runoff from melting snow. More than half the state’s summer water supply is frozen in the snowpack each year.

If the state see more rainfall and earlier snow runoff, there could be big problems protecting communities and farms from floods.

In the San Joaquin Valley, the shift could be damaging for the multibillion-dollar economic base of agriculture.

This is about the place where the discussion turns to building larger reservoirs — such as Temperance Flat on the San Joaquin — or changing the way water and land are used. I’ll leave those issues to commenters here.

But Suen and Wang give us more reason to have the conversation.

Panel at Fresno State will discuss preparing for climate change

A forum called “Climate preparedness in the Valley” is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. April 15 at Fresno State to discuss how water availability will change in the future and affect farms as well as cities.

The forum will be in the Alice Peters Auditorium of the University Business Center, 5245 N. Backer Ave. on the Fresno State campus. To register for the forum, go to: www.ucsusa.org/fresno

The forum panel will feature local academics, such as UC Merced Professor Roger Bales, director of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute. Adrienne Alvord, California and Western States director for Union of Concerned Scientists, will moderate.

Others on the panel include  Dan Keppen, executive director of Family Farm Alliance;  Joseph W. Oldham, sustainability manager for the city of Fresno, and Fresno State Assistant Professor Peter Van de Water of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

The forum is presented by the Union of Concerned Scientists in partnership with Fresno State’s College of Science and Mathematics and the League of Women Voters of Fresno.

Activists challenge new ag groundwater order

The tug of war over California’s groundwater continues over a 1 million-acre swath of the San Joaquin Valley, north of the Fresno area.

For the last decade, the state has studied and discussed ways to protect groundwater beneath farm fields. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board late last year issued hard-fought orders for several thousand farmers north of the San Joaquin River.

Activists in early January told the state the orders don’t do the job, and they need to be rewritten.

Activists say farm chemicals and pollution would continue to pollute the water, monitoring would be inadequate and people in small towns would have to continue living with poor drinking water quality.

They asked that authorities stop the new orders for the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition in Madera, Merced and Stanislaus counties.

The petitioners are community groups, including Asociacion de Gente por El Agua (AGUA), Fairmead Community and Friends, and Planada en Accion.

These challenges take time. The state will have nine months to respond.

If the challenge is denied, the next stop is probably Superior Court in Sacramento. The lawyers who filed the petition with the state are Laurel Firestone of the Community Water Center and Phoebe Seaton of California Rural Legal Assistance.

The petition notes that it has been 13 years since legislation was passed requiring farm groundwater regulation. The disputes over the program may take a few more years to resolve.

This is the first large coalition in the Valley to come under the groundwater program.


Irrigation vapor from Central Valley gives Colorado River big bump

Massive water vapor from farm irrigation in California’s Central Valley each year blows over the Sierra Nevada, pumps up rainfall over other states and adds 100 billion gallons of water to the Colorado River, new research shows.

The Colorado gets nearly a 30% bump in stream flow. That’s enough water to fill nearly two-thirds of Millerton Lake near Fresno.

The study, led by climate hydrologist Jay Famiglietti of the University of California at Irvine,  will be published Tuesday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. This part of the water cycle has not been accurately described before, Famiglietti said.

If irrigation stopped in the Central Valley, there would be a decrease in the stream flow of the Colorado River basin — a supply of water that has been hotly contested for decades.

The Colorado River basin provides water to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and other cities. Nearly 35 million people, as well as more than 3 million acres of farmland, rely on the water.

The study says more than 12 million acres of farmland are irrigated in the Central Valley, which includes the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. As water evaporates into the air, it is caught by the wind and taken over the Sierra.

As it moves into the interior of the Southwest, the vapor feeds into the annual monsoon cycle that includes moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, Famiglietti said.

“Adding the moisture from the Central Valley makes storms wetter and more violent,” he said. “It’s like throwing fuel on a fire.”

He said climate computer models make it possible to isolate the contribution from the Central Valley. The research is an effort to account for as many weather influences as possible.

Famiglietti’s study says about 40% of the irrigation in the Central Valley comes from ground-water pumping, and that worries him.

He wonders what it will mean to the Colorado River If land must be taken out of production as the ground water is depleted.

“It raises questions about the future,” he said.