Stories for January 2005

Monday, January 31

El Cajon Shopping Center Sells for $5 Million

San Diego-based real estate investment firm Eriqat Enterprises has sold off one of the last of roughly 50 San Diego properties in its portfolio, Kragen Center Broadway in El Cajon.

Hiring for the 21st Century Not for Faint Of Heart

It is imperative that those who manage the HR function in organizations understand the urgent need to adopt technology to increase the productivity of the HR function.

San Diego People

Key Hires and Promotions ... Awards & Recognition ... Executive Spotlight: Robert Saltmarsh

Firm Has Shot at Award For Santee Apartments

Rancho Cucamonga-based Southern California Housing Development Corp. has gained national recognition for its success at the Shadow Hill affordable apartment complex in Santee.

New Group Seeks Lower Workers' Comp Rates

Workers' compensation, one of California's hottest business issues, is again garnering attention as a new organization calls on insurance carriers to lower rates for the state's small businesses.

Look for Local TV Ads Before, After Super Bowl

The cost for a 30-second ad before and after the game is about 60 percent less than the cost during the game.

Libraries Level Playing Field

Libraries Level Playing Field

Week in Review

Federal Judge Marilyn Huff sentenced another key defendant in the PinnFund case, the largest corporate fraud case in San Diego's history, to five years and three months in prison and five years' probation.

Meeting Planners Taste S.D.'s Treats

Local tourism venues spend $1.7 million on a three-day effort to woo conventions to town.

SAIC Promotes Duane Andrews

Science Applications International Corp. has named Duane P. Andrews chief operating officer, the company announced Jan. 31.

Picking Right Type of Franchise Is Vital to Success

Potential franchisees need to consider many things before they decide to purchase a franchised business.

San Diego Firms Get More VC Funds in '04

There was a slight increase in venture capital funding into San Diego's biotechnology companies from 2003 to 2004, according to a new survey.

Executive Profile: Alan Soderblom

Alan Soderblom brings a Seventh-day Adventist Church heritage and financial discipline to his new job as the president and chief executive officer at Paradise Valley Hospital in National City.

Findings Justify Need for New Stem Cell Lines

Stem cell experts at the Burnham Institute say the recent findings that all federally approved embryonic stem cell lines are contaminated with a foreign molecule from mice, and thus, inadequate for human transplantation, justify the need for creating new

State Senators Set Hearing in San Diego

State Sens. Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego, Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, and Liz Figueroa, D-Fremont, on Feb. 3 will conduct the first in a series of hearings to find out how the public thinks government should be run.

Strong Mayor Needs Everyone's Backing

Business often is the first to step up, checkbook in hand, and do whatever it takes to find a solution. Nowhere is it more evident than the pressing need to implement San Diego's strong mayor policy, approved by voters in the November general election.

Closing Libraries a Bad Idea

Closing Libraries a Bad Idea

Chamber Calls for Affordable Housing

The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce has called on the city of San Diego to speed up the processing of affordable housing permits.

Businesses Flex Muscle For Strong Mayor Plan

San Diego's five-year experiment with a strong mayor form of government kicks in next January. Two groups are seeking consultants to help ease the historic transition.

WB to Broadcast Regional TV News Show

"WB Morning News" will combine the "KTLA Morning News" program from Los Angeles with San Diego segments.

Airport Panel Member Hints at Joint Use With Bases

Authority faces mounting pressure as ballot-measure deadline draws closer

Construction Journal

Construction Journal

Sarbanes-Oxley Puts Accountants in Spotlight

Accountants and those with auditing experience are in high demand, and commanding much larger compensation packages because of their scarcity, say local staffing professionals.

Progress Report

Sales and leases

Business Journal Site Has New Look, New Content

The Business Journal's Web site has a crisp, new image, and new features. It's also easier to navigate.

Firm Pumps in Different Kind of Tsunami Aid

An Escondido-based company , or at least one lifesaving piece of its equipment , just happened to be where it was most needed after southern India was ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Dec. 26.

Merit Pay for Teachers

It was only two sentences in Gov. Schwarzenegger's budget speech, but the teachers union is screaming bloody murder. Just a mention of merit pay for teachers is sufficient to bring them to a boil.

Gaining Emotional Intelligence Can Help Staff

Question: What is emotional intelligence?

Websense Inc. CEO Announces His Resignation

Websense Inc., the San Diego-based provider of Internet filtering software for businesses, announced Chief Executive Officer John Carrington will be stepping down, as the search for a new CEO has begun.

San Diego Might Go Bowling Twice Per Year

The folks who run the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl are trying to get a second college football bowl game for San Diego that would be held at Qualcomm Stadium before Christmas.

PriceSmart Deals With Dispute in Philippines

PriceSmart Inc., a San Diego-based operator of international warehouse club stores, said it is locked in a legal tussle with one of its largest partners in the Philippines and canceled its licensee in China.

Company Establishes More Aggressive Strategy

Westcore Properties, LLC is ratcheting up its investment plans for 2005.

Small Business Spotlight

William Edmett, president and CEO, Solutions Consulting Group, Inc.

Fees May Impede Developers

A Board of Supervisors decision on transportation impact fees could end all future commercial and industrial development in unincorporated areas of the county, according to some local builders.

Hotel Occupancy Up, While Final Standings Drop

With more rooms to fill in 2004 than the year before, San Diego's innkeepers nevertheless rounded out 2004 with a higher occupancy rate than 2003.

San Diego Real Estate Is Attractive to Investors

Many institutional investors, such as hedge funds and high yield bond funds, are looking for alternative investment opportunities and are increasingly investing in real estate.

Flourishing Franchises

Those who choose franchising as a business are able to capitalize on the success of an established corporation, enabling them to be a step ahead of private businesses.

CEO's Goal: Make Grounds a Slice of Paradise

President of Paradise Valley Hospital Looks to Build Senior Living Village, Housing for Employees

Bankruptcy Attorney Notes Filings Drop Nationally

Bankruptcies are down across the country. "They're down significantly in our jurisdiction," said Kathryn M.S. Catherwood, newly elected president of the San Diego Bankruptcy Forum

Tech Group Cuts Staff, Connects With UCSD

The San Diego Regional Technology Alliance is downsizing, trimming its staff to two people and leaving its India Street office to share space with the Connect organization at UC San Diego.

Tossing Money to Tolls Could Secure Road Funds

A Libertarian think tank has released a study proposing changes to the way San Diego County highway projects are financed.

For the Record

Business Events

Friday, January 28

Legoland Plans $6M in Capital Improvements

The Carlsbad theme park's 2004 attendance was 1.42 million, up nearly 10 percent from 2003.

La Jolla Pharmaceutical To Sell Shares

La Jolla Pharmaceutical Co., which developed an experimental lupus drug, announced on Jan. 28 that it will sell 12.25 million common shares for $1.40 each in a public offering.

Schools Chief to Leave After Stormy Tenure

Trustees of the San Diego Unified School District voted Jan. 27 to buy out the contract of Superintendent Alan Bersin.

Thursday, January 27

Solar Turbines Parent Reports Good Year

Caterpillar Inc., parent company to Solar Turbines, reported record 2004 sales and revenue of $30.25 billion and record profit of $2.03 billion.

Carrington to Leave Websense CEO Post

Websense Inc., the San Diego-based provider of Internet filtering software for businesses, announced that Chief Executive Officer John Carrington will be stepping down, as the search for a new CEO has begun.

Titan Division Acquired By Ex-Company Execs

BeamOne LLC, a San Diego company formed last year, has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Titan Scan Technologies Corp., a division of Titan Corp., for an undisclosed price.

Extension Granted for Subpoenaed Papers

San Diego has been granted an extension by the U.S. attorney's office until Feb. 1 to produce documents that were subpoenaed Jan. 21.

Wednesday, January 26

Chula Vista's Fuel-Cell Effort Wins Praise

Chula Vista's innovative hydrogen fuel-cell demonstration project has been honored with the San Diego Regional Energy Office's SANDEE (San Diego Excellence in Energy) award.

Bush Will Seek Extra $80B for Pentagon Budget

The White House plans to ask Congress for an $80 billion budget supplement, largely to cover the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the end of fiscal 2005.

Tribe Inks Casino Pact, Plans to Start Building

The Santa Ysabel Band of Diegueno Mission Indians plans to begin construction of its casino near Julian in March and is aiming to open it by December.

Sandag Seeks Transportation Oversight Board Members

The San Diego Association of Governments is seeking volunteers to assist in the implementation of the TransNet program, the local half-cent sales tax that was recently extended by the voters with the passage of Proposition A.

Accolades for Bonita Substation Project

San Diego Gas & Electric Co.'s upgrade of its Miguel substation in Bonita was named "Transmission and Distribution Engineering Project of the Year" for 2004 at the annual DistribuTECH Conference in San Diego on Jan. 25.

Technology Park Sells for $60 Million

Pacific Technology Park, a 440,569-square-foot, mixed-use office park in Sorrento Mesa, was sold by Pacific Value Partners for $60 million.

Tuesday, January 25

Another PinnFund Exec Sentenced

Federal Judge Marilyn Huff sentenced another key defendant in the largest corporate fraud case in San Diego's history to five years and three months in prison and five years' probation.

Tech Association Joins UCSD Connect

The San Diego Regional Technology Alliance is downsizing, trimming its staff to two people and leaving its India Street office to share space with the Connect organization at UC San Diego.

Cymer Reports Record Sales

Shares in Cymer Inc. rose in after-hours trading after the San Diego company, which makes a key component in the fabrication of microchips, reported fourth-quarter and 2004 earnings.

Cox, Comerica Sign on for Ballpark Building

San Diego-based Cisterra Partners announced it finalized leases with its first two major tenants in its planned 306,700-square-foot DiamondView Tower in Downtown San Diego.

Admiral in Line for 'Navy Mayor' Job

The Pentagon announced Jan. 14 that Rear Adm. Leendert R. Hering will soon become commander of the Navy's Southwest region.

Monday, January 24

Local Unit Builds Parts for New Airbus Jet

Goodrich Corp.'s Aerostructures unit, based in Chula Vista, makes parts for the Boeing 717 and the Airbus 380 , two very different aircraft that made the news this week as their programs reached production milestones.

Local HP Exec Gets the Call To Head Firm's New Division

Vyomesh "V.J." Joshi, Hewlett-Packard's top executive in San Diego, has a whopper of a job ahead of him: leading HP's newly merged personal computer and printer divisions.

Norway Company Buys Local Tech Firm

Norway-based Chipcon Group ASA has acquired San Diego-based Figure 8 Wireless Inc. in an all-stock transaction. The dollar value of the deal was not disclosed.

San Diego Media Reports for Duty in Iraq

While there's plenty of national coverage on the war in Iraq, several members of the local media are providing unique coverage and insight on local troops stationed in the Middle East.

City's 4th District in Midst of Economic Boom

A number of projects and plans are in the works for San Diego's 4th City Council District.

Biggest Industrial Sales

Largest San Diego County industrial sales in 2004

Workers' Comp Is a Terrible Mess at the Core

Before you pay your next month's workers' compensation invoice, I implore you to stop and look at the reason your premiums are so high. Do you have a claim that never seems to go away? Is there a claim that you believe has no validity? If you were injured

Chula Vista Firm Gains Minority Business Certification

International Data Collection has been certified as a minority business enterprise by the Greater San Diego Business Development Council, an affiliate of the National Minority Supplier Development Council.

Executive Profile: Behrooz Farahani

Behrooz Farahani never envisioned becoming restaurant owner half way around the world from his home city of Teheran.

Annual Auto Show Not Just for 'Looky-Loos'

The annual San Diego International Auto Show has evolved into a part of the selling process for local auto dealerships, enabling them to show off the newest cars in a hassle-free non-sales environment.

Local Office Market Is Among Nation's Best

Citing very positive net absorption, decreasing vacancy rates and healthy employment growth, Bert Dezzutti says the office market in San Diego is among the nation's best.

Week in Review

The county's job picture continued to look great in comparison with most of the state and the nation, with its December unemployment rate falling to 3.2 percent from the November rate of 3.5 percent.

The State Budget's Rough Road

Business leaders have given the governor a thumbs up for his second go-round with a state budget. Yet, one area is lacking.

Trial Date Set in Mayoral Write-in Dispute

A Jan. 31 start date has been set for a trial to determine whether San Diego's sitting mayor, Dick Murphy, should be replaced with San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye, the write-in candidate.

Young Is Restless to Push the 4th District to New Level

When San Diego City Councilman Charles Lewis unexpectedly died Aug. 8, his chief of staff, Tony Young, pledged to shepherd along millions of dollars in projects that were in the pipeline for the city's 4th District. Young has since been elected the counci

Local Resolution Center Proves Talk's Not Cheap

Blood feuds, gang wars, civil disputes and workplace wrangling all are fodder for conflict resolution. And nobody knows that better than the National Conflict Resolution Center, which has spent more than 20 years trying to spread the word that talk is not

Construction Journal

Corky McMillan Cos. and the San Diego Redevelopment Agency announced that construction has begun on the third phase of the walking promenade at the Liberty Station waterfront community in Point Loma, on the grounds of the formal Naval Training Center.

Firm's Growth Bid Includes Step Into Rival's Home

The Irvine Co. is among a handful of prospective buyers for the portfolio of Los Angeles-based asset manager CommonWealth Partners LLC. The 30 office buildings in five states could go for $1.5 billion or more.

For the Record

Business Events

Mayor Calls Hearing About Document Requests

San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy on Jan. 24 said he is scheduling a public hearing for Jan. 31 to get "complete understanding" of allegations that the city may not have fully complied with subpoenas for public documents, including those from the U.S. Securitie

Letter

Libraries Not Out of Date

Aguirre: Insurers Must Pay in De La Fuente Case

San Diego's insurers are liable for all outside attorneys' fees and part of a settlement in a reverse condemnation jury award that has escalated with interest to about $120 million, said City Attorney Michael Aguirre.

CEOs Must Manage Their Time Well

Question: How should a chief executive officer spend his or her time?

Upscale Magazines Stomping on Familiar Turf

With the average value price of luxury homes in San Diego County climbing to nearly $2 million, publishers of upscale magazines are setting up shop here in hopes of capitalizing on the more affluent residents in the region.

Small Business Spotlight: Hershey Technologies

Neal Fischer, principal and co-founder of Hershey Technologies.

Japan's Reaction Exceeds Checkbook Diplomacy

My good friends at Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs are a bit miffed, and in retrospect I can't say I blame them. They somehow got stuck anew with the "checkbook diplomacy" stereotype during their response to the horrific tsunami crisis, and it really

Issa Wants BRAC Process to Take Precedence

As Congress prepares to whittle down the number of active military bases throughout the country, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa made a public appeal for legislation to temporarily halt the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority from studying any of San Diego

Lawsuit Filed Over City Pension Benefits

Rancho Santa Fe attorney Michael Conger filed a lawsuit Jan. 21 in San Diego Superior Court seeking a rollback of the pension benefit improvements made in November 2002 by the San Diego City Council.

Customer-Friendly Model Means Success for Bank

City National Bank puts an emphasis on bringing the bank to its customers through courier services, the Internet and snail mail. The model seems to be working quite well, looking at City National's latest financial results.

Ex-Peregrine CEO Paid $4 Million

Peregrine Systems Inc. paid former CEO Gary Greenfield more than $4 million for his year's service guiding the bankrupt company through the Chapter 11 process.

Biggest Office Sales

Largest San Diego County office sales in 2004

Southeast EDC Reshapes 4th District

San Diego's 4th District is growing to be a boomtown of sorts, tapping into its heritage, solid home-owning communities and proximity to the bright lights of Downtown San Diego. And Carolyn Y. Smith has been at the forefront of much of the current renaiss

Energy Efficiency

To combat excessive and volatile utility costs, some commercial property owners have struck on the pre-emptive solution: generating their own energy, or at least a good portion of it.

Family Joins in to Celebrate Hotel's Progress

The topping-off party celebrating completion of the exterior of the Homewood Suites by Hilton San Diego/Del Mar was a family affair. "Everybody in my family, my parents, my in-laws, my brother, my uncle and cousins, were investors," said Bob Rauch, a gene

Progress Report

William Smith purchased a 14-unit apartment property at 1803 E. Washington Ave. in Escondido for $1.9 million.

Two Named to Superior Court Bench

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Jan. 24 announced the appointments of Francis "Frank" M. Devaney of San Diego and Timothy B. Taylor of Coronado to judgeships in the San Diego Superior Court.

San Diego People

Key Hires and Promotions, Awards and Recognition, Executive Spotlight

Bullish Figures Not All Fun, Games for Hoteliers

San Diego's hotels placed third among the nation's top destinations in a year-to-date ranking of occupancy rates through November. But local tourism officials aren't cheering. Instead, they're watching their backs.

Merck to Close San Diego Operations

New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Merck Co. announced on Jan. 13 that it will close its San Diego research unit offering the remaining 110 employees jobs elsewhere.

S.D. Commercial Real Estate Market May Cool Off

The reality of markets dictates that what goes up must eventually come down, and the commercial real estate market in San Diego is no exception. San Diego's office market is approaching its peak in 2005, according to one analyst.

County Bonds Draw AA- Rating

Fitch Ratings assigned an AA- rating to $115 million in certificates of participation, short-term bonds, scheduled to be issued by the county Jan. 19 for reconstructing Edgemoor Hospital in Santee.

Move Will Leave Big Gap in Irvine Spectrum

Irvine Co. is riding high after Broadcom Corp. this month signed Orange County's biggest corporate relocation deal in recent memory. After the buzz wears off, Orange County's largest landlord faces a sobering reality.

Plaintiffs Allege Health Services Denied

San Diego low-income residents who claim they have been denied medical services by the county filed a class-action lawsuit Jan. 24 in San Diego Superior Court.

Major Development Project Planned for Oceanside

A major development project in Oceanside is in the works, on the 152-acre site formerly known as Rancho Del Oro II.

Pension Strike Force Team Being Formed

San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre vowed to solve the pension fund crisis by forming a pension strike force team within his department to go after those who are not abiding by the law.

Accounting Firms Join Together

Nation Smith Hermes Diamond, San Diego's largest locally owned accounting firm, is merging its consulting and tax unit with Cleveland-based Century Business Services Inc. (CBIZ), and its audit and attest unit with CBIZ's affiliate accounting firm, Mayer H

Defense Convention Features Navy's Chief

"Beyond Iraq: How Do We Get Transformation Right?" is the theme for the West 2005 exposition Feb. 1-3 at the San Diego Convention Center.

Landlords May Gain Upper Hand This Year

A flurry of sublease activity in a range of key sub-markets bodes well for the county's landlords.

Friday, January 21

Attorney Takes Seat on Public Utilities Commission

Dian M. Grueneich, an attorney from Berkeley, was sworn in as a commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission on Jan. 18 following her appointment by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Rice Appointed to State Agency Post

Richard Rice, 56, of Imperial Beach, has been appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as undersecretary of the Labor and Workforce Development Agency.

Report: Titan Settlement Near

Titan Corp., a San Diego-based defense contractor, has agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges and pay a fine of about $30 million to settle a long-standing investigation into alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, said the

Trial Date Set for Sempra Class Action

A Sept. 2 trial date has been set in San Diego Superior Court for a $24 billion antitrust class action lawsuit against Sempra Energy.

Thursday, January 20

Angiosyn Sale in the Works Wall Street Journal

Pfizer Inc. is close to an agreement to buy La Jolla-based biotechnology startup Angiosyn Inc., which developed an experimental drug for treating macular degeneration, in a deal that could be worth $527 million, the Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 20.

Partnership Acquires Office/R & D; Property for $12.75M

Westcore Sandrock, LLC and Longwing Real Estate Ventures acquired a five-building, 102,200-square-foot office and research-and-development property on Aero Drive in San Diego for $12.75 million.

Water Authority Opens El Centro Office

The San Diego County Water Authority on Jan. 19 opened an outreach office in El Centro to provide local access to the agency in Imperial County.

Kearny Mesa Properties Sell for $17M

The San Diego-based Shidler Group, a national real estate investor, sold Chesapeake I and II, two three-story buildings totaling 88,260 square feet, for more than $17 million on Jan. 19.

Symphony Backs San Diego Opera

The San Diego Symphony has been named the official orchestra for the San Diego Opera, announced Edward B. Gill, the executive director for the symphony, on Jan. 19.

Rubio's to Restate Financial Results; Leases at Issue

Rubio's Restaurants, Inc., the San Diego-based chain specializing in fish tacos, said it would restate its financial results because of changes in the interpretation of rules covering booking of expenses for leases and improvements to its stores.

Law Firms Joining Forces

Foley & Lardner LLP, which maintains offices in San Diego, is planning to acquire the Boston office of Epstein, Becker & Green, P.C.

Wednesday, January 19

Tourism Strong, But Officials Decry Local Spending

San Diego's lodging industry placed third among the nation's top destinations in a year-to-date ranking of hotel occupancy rates through November.

Cubic Eyes Parking Market

San Diego-based Cubic Corp. has acquired Lexis Systems of Vancouver, British Columbia, and plans to make it the core of a new, wholly owned subsidiary.

Qualcomm Revenue Approaches $1.4B

Wireless technology company Qualcomm Inc. reported net income of $513 million on revenue of $1.39 billion for the first quarter of fiscal 2005, which ended Dec. 26.

Last Year's Median Home Price: $459,000

The overall median home price in San Diego County increased by more than 20 percent in 2004, ending the year at $459,000, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

JetBlue Sets D.C.-San Diego Route

JetBlue Airways, the discount airline flying daily nonstop round-trip flights between San Diego and New York, plans to expand its transcontinental service to Lindbergh Field with daily, nonstop routes to and from Washington Dulles International Airport ne

Tuesday, January 18

Insurance Industry Bristling Under Commissioner's New Requirements

New broker regulations proposed by Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi following the scandal at Marsh & McLennan Cos. are under broad attack by the insurance industry, which calls them unnecessary, confusing and illegal.

Local Unit Builds Parts for New Airbus Jet

Goodrich Corp.'s Aerostructures unit, based in Chula Vista, makes parts for the Boeing 717 and the Airbus 380 two very different aircraft that made the news this week as their programs reached production milestones.

City Identifies Four Receiving SEC Subpoenas

San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre on Jan. 18 released the last four names of city employees issued subpoenas Dec. 16 by the Securities and Exchange Commission in its ongoing investigation into city finances.

Monday, January 17

High Cost of Housing Continues to Plague County: 2

Panelists at the San Diego County Economic Roundtable, an annual economic forecast held Jan. 7, noted that while most key indicators looked favorable for another positive year, the housing situation here continues to be a major concern.

Vcast Is Coming To a Small Screen Near You

Video-on-demand is one of the services Verizon Wireless will introduce to mobile phone customers in 30 U.S. markets Feb. 1.

Passenger Count Continues Ascent at Lindbergh Field

The number of passengers flying in and out of Lindbergh Field continued a monthly climb for this past year, reaching 1.3 million in November , up 7.9 percent from the same month in 2003.

Delays at Border Still Hinder Local Economy

Three years after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, business and government leaders here are still trying to revitalize cross-border commerce. A new study aims at assessing the economic impacts of border wait times.

VP Says Firms Should Get Credit When They Don't Require It

The time for small businesses to seek funding is the time when they don't necessarily need it, according to one expert.

Mayor's Backbone Put to the Test

Mayor Dick Murphy's State of the City speech once again reflected the attitude Downtown. Except this time around it's anything but business as usual.

Stemming The Tide

A proposal for a football stadium on port property was rejected by the San Diego Unified Port District Commission in early summer. But one observer said that proposal was the wake-up call that prompted a faction of the 600-member Port Tenants Association

Limited Options: 1

Faced with figuring the values of employee stock options granted, and deducting those values from the bottom line, some companies are reducing the options issued.

Executive Profile: Linda Hastings Murray

Copley Press, Inc. has increased its presence in North County with the launch of its newest daily publication,

Governor's Speech Offers Positives for San Diego

California's "economic ecosystem" mandates that what's good for the state is going to be good for San Diego business. That's the opinion from one local business leader, who gave Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger high marks for his Jan. 5 State of the State speec

Week in Review

The Performance Institute, a San Diego-based government reform think tank, says the city violated the federal tax code by allowing leaders of four powerful city unions to receive retirement benefits based on their union-paid salaries.

Attorney Looks to Rid City Pension of Its 'Quid'

Rancho Santa Fe attorney Michael A. Conger is gearing up for part two of his quest to right what he considers to be the city's pension wrongs. At issue is the San Diego City Council's action in November 2002, underfunding the city's pension, while increas

State of Emergency Extended to S.D. County

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Jan. 15 declared a state of emergency for San Diego and six other counties, paving the way for them to apply for partial reimbursement of costs associated with the recent storms.

Progress Report

Sand & Sea Capital, Inc. purchased a 20,476-square-foot office building and a 41-unit apartment complex at 4077 Third Ave. and 4094 Fourth Ave., San Diego, for $12.7 million.

San Diego People

Key Hires and Promotions, Awards and Recognition

REIT Buys Biotech Center for $20.5 Million

Pasadena-based Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. purchased Nancy Ridge Research Center in Sorrento Mesa for $20.5 million on Jan. 13 from Nexus Properties, Inc.

Gauging Value Leads to Sale of Student Loan Firm

A query about what his company was worth on the market led to the sale of San Diego-based Educational Lending Group Inc. to CIT Group this month.

Small Business Spotlight: Pure Flo Water

Using water from a well more than 900 feet deep, which is three-fourths of the height of the Empire State Building, Pure Flo Water provides purified water, drinking water and fluoridated water to homes and offices throughout San Diego and parts of Riversi

Kyocera Announces Local Layoffs of 600

Kyocera Wireless Corp. said it is cutting about 600 jobs at its University City complex. Some jobs are going to its maquiladora in Tijuana.

Isis Pharmaceuticals to Cut 40% of Workers

Carlsbad-based antisense company Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced Jan. 10 that it will cut its work force by about 40 percent to focus on its lead antisense drug candidates and cut operating costs.

Sempra Pledges At Least $500,000 For Tsunami Relief

Sempra Energy has pledged up to $700,000 toward disaster-relief assistance in the wake of the tsunami that devastated southern Asia.

Alternative Energy Firm Sold for $225 Million

AES Corp., the Arlington, Va.-based power generating company, announced Jan. 11 that it plans to acquire privately held SeaWest Holdings, Inc. of San Diego.

Letter

I have often wondered how the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been had he been a businessman.

For The Record

Business Events Calendar

State Bar Addresses Issues of High-Tech High Jinks

Doing business on the Web continues to be potentially perilous and remains one of the hot issues facing attorneys , and businesses , heading into 2005.

Limited Options: 2

Unless you're an auditor, a top executive or board director at a public company, Sarbanes-Oxley Act's Section 404 probably isn't on your radar screen.

Construction Journal

Swinerton Builders, a San Diego-based general contractor, began working on the renovation and restoration of the historic 318,840-square-foot US Grant Hotel in Downtown San Diego. Beginning on Feb. 1, the hotel will temporarily close its doors to the publ

S.D. County Tourism Agencies Call for Summit

Tourism industry officials, concerned that San Diego could lose some of its appeal as a major vacation and convention spot in the wake of decreased funding for the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, are proposing a summit to figure out how to keep vi

Padres' Radio Fans to Hear More From Tim Flannery

Tim Flannery, a former San Diego Padres infielder and third base coach, will be joining Jerry Coleman and Ted Leitner as part of the 2005 Padres radio broadcast team.

Community Libraries Becoming Endangered Species

I love libraries, but in today's intellectual, technical and financial climate, they are as incongruous as a gym bag with wheels.

Employers Seeing Little Relief Despite Changes in Law

Some business owners contend that they have yet to see significant relief from workers' compensation premiums promised with last year's overhaul by the state Legislature.

XTRA Moving Down the AM Dial

San Diego sports fans will no longer find XTRA Sports on the dial at 690 and 1150 AM. The station's frequency beginning Feb. 3 will be 570 AM.

Local Border Region Must Present a Global Attitude

Nowhere are the challenges and opportunities arising from globalization more real than in San Diego-Tijuana, the largest and fastest-growing binational metroplex in the world with a population of more than 4.5 million people.

New State Laws Impact S.D. Landlords, Residents

Among the new housing laws that took effect Jan. 1, those regulating tenants' rights in unlawful detainer (eviction) cases, and those guaranteeing tenants protection against surprise rate increases of more than 10 percent, are especially worth noting.

Joint Venture Buys San Ysidro Shopping Center

A joint venture between El Segundo-based Pacific Coast Capital Partners LLC and Pennsylvania-based Stoltz Real Estate Fund I LP purchased a 46.8-acre retail property, Plaza Las Americas, in San Ysidro for an undisclosed amount on Jan. 4.

Taxpayers Group Pushes for Fiscal Fix

John O'Neill, the newly elected president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, is coming on board at a particularly volatile time as the city continues to struggle with its financial woes, including a massively underfunded pension system.

Job Growth Continues Locally

The county's job picture continued to look great in comparison with most of the state and the nation, with its December unemployment rate falling to 3.2 percent from the November rate of 3.5 percent, according to the state's Employment Development Departm

New U.S. Tax Law Impacts Restaurant Industry

The American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 includes two important provisions that affect restaurant property.

Push Is on to Make S.D. the Home of Stem Cell Institute

Dr. John Reed of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has a big agenda before the organization's next meeting. Among other things, he wants to push for making San Diego the institute's home.

High Cost of Housing Continues to Plague County: 1

One leader of San Diego's real estate industry says the most critical issue facing the county in 2005 will be the mismatch between housing supply and housing demand and the dearth of affordable homes created by this imbalance.

Friday, January 14

Aguirre Report: Public Misled About City Finances

San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre on Jan. 14 released evidence that the 2002 final report of the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Committee on city finances "vastly understated the severity of the city's pension fund liability by 318 percent or $215 million."

Kehoe Gets Senate Panel Assignments

State Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, has been appointed to chair the Senate Committee on Local Government.

Local HP Exec to Lead New Division

Vyomesh "V.J." Joshi, Hewlett-Packard's top executive in San Diego, has been promoted.

Biotech to Put 6 Million Shares Up for Sale

San Diego-based biotechnology firm Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced on Jan. 13 that it plans to publicly offer 6 million common shares.

City Employees Hire Attorney for Pension System Flap

The San Diego Municipal Employees Association has retained San Diego attorney Rob Butterfield to represent it over the latest controversy to involve San Diego's troubled pension system.

Merck Closing San Diego Unit

New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Merck Co. will close its San Diego research unit and offer its 110 employees jobs elsewhere.

Energy Rate Settlement Reached

The California Public Utilities Commission on Jan. 14 announced it had entered into a settlement agreement with Mirant Corp., an Atlanta-based energy company, and its affiliates, which filed for bankruptcy on July 14, 2003.

Thursday, January 13

Issa Wants BRAC Process to Take Precedence

As Congress prepares to whittle down the number of active military bases throughout the country, Rep. Darrell Issa made a public appeal for legislation to temporarily halt the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority from studying any of San Diego's ba

County Bonds Draw AA- Rating

Fitch Ratings assigned an AA- rating to $115 million in certificates of participation, short-term bonds, scheduled to be issued by the county Jan. 19 for reconstructing Edgemoor Hospital in Santee.

Apartment Forecast: Rents to Climb, Vacancy to Fall

The San Diego apartment market will continue to be one of the nation's top performers, according to the National Apartment Research Report for 2005, released by Marcus & Millichap, the nation's largest real estate investment brokerage fund, on Jan. 13.

SDG & E; Gets New Hearing Before Regulators

San Diego Gas & Electric Co. will get another chance to plead its case before the California Public Utilities Commission over a reallocation of funds that left the utility holding the bag for $733 million in increased costs. No date has been set.

Wednesday, January 12

Titan Deal Bridges Civilian-Military Gap

The Defense Department has awarded the Titan Corp. a contract to provide information technology and other services to a Pentagon agency called the Joint Task Force Civil Support.

Median Home Price Hits $500K

The median price of a home sold in San Diego County , including condominiums, townhomes and detached housing , reached the half-million-dollar mark, for the first time in December.

CCDC President Makes Resignation Formal

Peter Hall, the president of Centre City Development Corp., the planning and redevelopment agency Downtown, officially announced his resignation on Jan. 12.

City Accused of Violating Pension Laws

The Performance Institute, a San Diego-based government reform think tank, says the city violated the federal tax code by allowing leaders of four powerful city unions to receive retirement benefits based on their union-paid salaries.

Burnham Institute to Relocate to Former Biogen Idec Property

The Burnham Institute, an independent, nonprofit research center dedicated to life sciences research, signed a 66-month, $12.4 million sublease for 74,557 square feet of laboratory space at 3010 Science Park Road.

Mayor Loses Chief of Staff

Mayor Dick Murphy's chief of staff, John Kern, has resigned his post to raise funds to defend Murphy in a spate of post-election lawsuits.

Tuesday, January 11

BAE Buys Plant in Rancho Bernardo

BAE Systems, which makes electronics to help the government interpret satellite imagery, announced Jan. 10 that it paid $7.6 million for its facility at 16262 W. Bernardo Drive in Rancho Bernardo.

Mayor Sets 2005 Agenda in State of the City Address

San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy, in his Jan. 10 State of the City address, acknowledged that the city's financial crisis, an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and a mounting pension deficit are "intolerable lapses in governance," and pl

Sempra Scores Mexican Natural Gas Contract

Sempra LNG, a unit of Sempra Energy, has been awarded a 15-year natural gas supply contract by Mexico's state-owned electric utility,

Fortune 500 Power Company Buying SeaWest

AES Corp., the Arlington, Va.-based power generating company, announced Jan. 11 that it plans to acquire privately held SeaWest Holdings, Inc. of San Diego for $225 million.

Nassco Signs New Navy Contract

National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. gained more work Jan. 11 when the Navy exercised options to build two additional cargo ships.

Monday, January 10

Firm Looks to the Sea to Fight Cancer

A new injection of $42.6 million in venture capital funding gives Nereus Pharmaceuticals Inc. the needed boost to try to translate ocean-derived microorganisms into cancer-fighting drugs.

Some Nations Shine, Others Don't in Wake Of Tsunami

A monster tsunami can not only move small mountains , and wipe away whole villages, it can also shake up governments, revealing their unexplored weaknesses as well as strengths.

San Diego People

Greg White has been named president and chief executive officer of Air-Trak, Inc., a developer of the Cloudberry GPS tracking and communications system.

Businesses Look to Chamber for Tsunami Relief Effort

Despite the standing title of this column, it isn't about tourism this week. It's about the effort under way in the local business community to get information out about ways to help victims of the tsunamis that struck South Asia on Dec. 26, killing an es

Bank of Internet Seeks a Dutch Treat

A San Diego-based savings bank plans to conduct its initial public offering through the Dutch auction method , the same used by search-engine firm Google last year.

Licensing Plan May Net Returns for Arena

Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s stock remained in the $6 range after the San Diego-based biotechnology firm last month announced a potentially lucrative licensing deal with a big pharmaceutical firm.

Week in Review

Tony Young defeated former San Diego City Councilman George Stevens in a Jan. 4 special election for the 4th District City Council seat vacated by Charles Lewis, who died in August.

Make Four Points to Keep the Boss Up to Date

Question: What are some practical tips on how I can keep my boss informed and how, as a boss, I can help my employees improve?

Wyndham to Keep Emerald Plaza Hotel

When Wyndham International Inc. announced plans to sell 25 non-strategic, corporate-owned hotels, San Diego's Wyndham Emerald Plaza property was spared.

Aguirre Names Management Team

San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre has chosen Assistant City Attorney Rupert Linley, a former deputy district attorney, to lead the criminal division in his office.

Lessons to Be Learned From Nike's Banned Ads

In the eyes of Chinese consumers, Nike's advertising may have gone in a different direction than its commercial message.

Executive Profile: David Driggers

Onetime computer consultant David Driggers runs Verari Systems, a computer-maker that has grown 80 percent to 100 percent per year.

Local Television Stations Play Musical Chairs Again

Local television stations are switching up the usual faces seen on the news broadcasts, as KUSI-TV Channel 51 and KFMB-TV Channel 8 go through some staffing changes.

S.D. Company Gives Children Something to Crow About

Heidi Niehart and Penny Cohen have produced their own children's programming, which was recently released on DVD. The program, "Tot-a-Doodle-Do!" is geared toward children 2 to 7 years old.

A Little More Security in Growing Old

I have been conditioned not to expect a plug nickel from the government when I retire, and I suspect to some extent, you have too. So, much to my delight and relief, it looks like the Bush administration is planning to revamp Social Security.

Game Puts Biotech on the Board

The board game Patential , Prescription for Success teaches players all about the long and winding road of taking a drug to market.

Northern S.D. Office Park Purchased for $98M

In one of last year's largest suburban office sales, Kilroy Realty Corp. snapped up Legacy Sabre Springs , a 281,830-square-foot multi-tenant office park , for $98 million.

Courts Getting a Workout as Mayoral Issue Lingers

City Councilwoman Donna Frye is not filing her own legal challenge to her contested write-in bid to be San Diego's mayor, but two of the latest lawsuits filed on her behalf could be laying the groundwork for a potential upset.

San Diego Businesspeople Say Let's Get Technical

"Techno stress" is one of the latest terms that can be found in magazine and newspaper articles that warn of the dangers of being too "plugged in." Phooey to that, said John Hawkins, who owns Cloud 9 Shuttle Inc.

Aguirre Calls for City Pension Reform

San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre, in a move to reform the city's troubled pension system and reduce its $1.17 billion deficit, made several calls for budget reform and warned of impending bankruptcy if solutions aren't found.

GA, Northrop Bidding on U.S. Army's New Aircraft

San Diego's General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. is going head-to-head against Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Integrated Systems unit early this year to decide who will build a next-generation unmanned aircraft for the Army.

Radio Hosts Seek National Platform

For many talk show hosts, the ability to be heard nationally is a major draw toward broadcasting via satellite.

Acquisition Opens New Avenues for Ashworth

While sales of golf equipment and the growth of the sport itself remains flat, Carlsbad-based Ashworth Inc. bucked the trend last year, turning in record numbers and capitalizing on a strategy of diversifying its product line and distribution channels.

Bank Turns to Industry Veteran as Opening Nears

The prime organizer of Pacific Coast National Bank in San Clemente with an office planned in Encinitas did most of the legwork in helping to found the bank. But, he won't be able to wear the top hat once it opens.

For the Record

Tuesday, January 11: Pillsbury Winthrop LLP presents "Employment Law Outlook for 2005," from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the La Jolla Marriott, 4240 La Jolla Village Drive. Cost is $50.

La Jolla, Gaslamp Quarter Launch Ad Campaigns

Local areas such as the Gaslamp Quarter and La Jolla have launched regional campaigns to boost awareness of the areas in hopes to attract more local and national visitors.

Small Business Spotlight

Howard Katz, president of Southern California Soil & Testing, has worked in many industries. Jumping ship may be scary for some, but for him, the change was simply a good business move.

Dede Alpert Moves From Legislature to Law Firm

Dede Alpert ended her career in the California Legislature in November. Now the prominent Democrat brings her knowledge to the Sacramento office of Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinelllo, Mueller & Naylor, LLP.

Progress Report

Trophy's signed a 10-year, $2.1 million lease for 5,604 square feet of retail space at the northwest corner of Sixth and K streets, San Diego.

Staccato Communications Wired To Push Industry Forward

San Diego could become a major anchor for a new wave of wireless technology if Staccato Communications has its way. Founded in 2002, the Sorrento Valley-based ultra wide band wireless communications company , a pioneer in the technology , now is poised t

Time Warner Cable's High-Speed Internet Service Gets Faster

Time Warner Cable is increasing the maximum download speed of its high-speed Internet service.

Invitrogen Buying Zymed in $60M Deal

Carlsbad-based Invitrogen Corp. announced on Jan. 10 that it signed an agreement to buy privately held Zymed Laboratories Inc. for $60 million in cash.

Isis Pharmaceuticals Announces Job Cuts

Carlsbad-based Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced Jan. 10 that it will cut its work force by about 40 percent to focus on its lead antisense drug candidates and to cut operating costs.

Construction Journal

The Unified Port of San Diego celebrated the completion of a seven-story parking structure near Petco Park, at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Harbor Drive.

IT Spending Is Where IT's At

According to business analysts, companies that put their information technology plans on hold during trying economic times began replacing outdated systems between the second and third quarter of last year and are expected to continue that trend this year

Friday, January 7

SYS Acquires Another S.D. Defense Firm

SYS Technologies, an information technology house that does a sizable amount of work in the defense sector, has acquired another San Diego defense contractor, Antin Engineering.

Hilton Gaslamp Sold for $85 Million

The Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter hotel on Fifth Avenue across from the San Diego Convention Center fetched $85 million in a sale announced Jan. 7.

Mexico OKs Permits for Natural Gas Terminal

ChevronTexaco de Mexico has been awarded a permit from Mexico's Regulatory Energy Commission for a proposed natural gas import terminal off the northern coast of Baja California.

Thursday, January 6

Lawsuit Filed Over S.D. Mayor's Race

Santa Monica attorney Fred Woocher on Jan. 6 filed a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court, requesting an order setting aside Mayor Dick Murphy's election victory and declaring San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye the rightful winner. Murphy was sworn in

Wednesday, January 5

Shidler Group Completes $142M Purchase

The Shidler Group, a San Diego-based private real estate investment firm, purchased a 19-building, 1.1 million-square-foot portfolio of office and research-and-development space for $142 million. Ten buildings are in San Diego.

Gen-Probe and Corixa Strike Deal on Blood Cancer Testing

San Diego-based Gen-Probe Inc., which develops tests to screen for various diseases, said today that it licensed the rights to develop blood cancer tests from Seattle-based biotechnology company Corixa for about $4.8 million, excluding potential later pay

Young Takes Special Election

Tony Young defeated former City Councilman George Stevens in a Jan. 4 special election for the San Diego City Council's 4th District seat left vacant by Charles Lewis, who died in August.

Wayne Inouye Came Out on Top at Gateway Inc.

2004 was a triumphant year for Wayne Inouye, the new chief executive of Gateway Inc.

Hotel-Motel Group Chief Lands New Job

Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants has named Pam Richardson general manager of Hotel Solamar, the San Francisco-based company's new hotel scheduled to open Downtown in April.

Monday, January 3

Corvette Combines Its Muscle With Some New Manners

The women on the sidewalk at the elementary school all smiled when the 2005 Chevrolet Corvette coupe , aka the Big Yellow Taxi , rumbled up the drive to pick up my daughter after school.

Feds Seeking Suggestions On Small-Biz Categories

The U.S. Small Business Administration is seeking comments in advance from the general public on the general revision of its small-business size standards, which determine whether a business is small.

Commentary

The San Diego Business Journal's Week in Review page includes the Quote of the Week, a particularly insightful look into the events and people making news in San Diego. Here are some of the best from 2004.

Visitors Show No Signs of Curbing Trips to San Diego

Some cities have made greater strides filling hotels than San Diego recently. But tourism officials said it was because they hadn't withstood the airline industry downturn following the terrorist attacks of 2001 as well as San Diego and were catching up.

Commercial Real Estate Market Looks Strong in 2005

While commercial real estate continues to produce better returns than some publicly traded stocks, investors will continue to keep the San Diego County market bustling in 2005, local experts contend.

More Condos Than Houses to Be Built in S.D. in '05

Builders will continue to construct more condominiums than houses in San Diego County this year, and home sales will be strong in 2005, but slower than last year, according to local real estate experts.

New Challenges Awaiting Biotech Businesses in '05

As the biotechnology industry looks toward 2005, it will be faced with a different set of challenges. The biggest is likely to come from dealing with the Food and Drug Administration in getting products approved.

Newspapers, Radio Seek Big Returns

Local media outlets are expecting the industry to focus more on increasing revenue and boosting audience levels throughout the county this year. Nationally, the radio industry has forecasted revenues to increase by about 4 percent in 2005. For local print

S.D. County Transportation Projects to Keep Rolling

From the North County rail line running from Oceanside to Escondido to the state Route 125 South tollway in Otay Mesa, San Diego County transportation projects are in full swing and will continue to move forward in 2005.

Experts Find It Difficult To Figure Out Consumers

The retail forecast for 2005 is hazy as consumer confidence continues to be cloudy one month and sunny the next. However, Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group Inc., which owns a half interest in Fashion Valley Center, is feeling pretty good about mall

Employment Figures Likely to Stagnate in 2005

Thanks to San Diego's surging real estate market and ongoing building projects around the county in 2004, the area gained more than 9,000 construction jobs , about half the area's net gain of nearly 20,000 new jobs.

A New Year, and a New Attitude

In the interest of a new beginning for the Democratic Party in the new year, may I suggest the following announcement be made by a party official seeking to become relevant in future elections: My message today is that we are both somewhat misunderstood,

Mixed Messages Drift From County's Top Industry

As 2004 came to a close, the local manufacturing sector was still losing jobs, but not at the same pace as it had in recent years. San Diego's largest economic sector in terms of revenues shed only 400 jobs in 2004 through last November, compared to the s

Little Light at End of Tunnel on San Diego County's Electric Issues

San Diego's energy industry continues to face some major challenges as it heads into 2005 , rising demands, volatile supplies, an ongoing search for reliable renewable energy to ease the reliance on fossil fuels, and a transmission system that is woefully

Tech's Future Depends on Who's Asked

Ask executives from San Diego's high-tech sector for a prediction about the year ahead and you might not hear a unanimous opinion. An executive's outlook will depend largely on which electronics, software or telecom company you approach.

New Year's Predictions From San Diego Pundits

The

Restaurants Have Tough Time Cooking Up Revenues

The restaurant industry, both nationally and locally, is expected to have a 5 percent increase in revenue for 2004. But an executive with a local trade group predicts flat profits for 2004, and sees several barriers to profitability in 2005.

Looking Back With an Eye on the Future

The San Diego Business Journal surveyed executives from local, high-profile companies. We believe their business success came from an ability to budget, brainstorm and maintain visionary leadership and that, based on this, their predictions may accurately

San Diego People

Cyrus Driver is the new vice president and general manager of Time Warner Cable San Diego's Digital Phone Department.

Letter

Thanks to Rick Bell for his Dec. 13 editorial, which makes a thoughtful and articulate statement of the case for a complete, fair and conclusive recount of the votes in the recent mayoral election. I am a registered Independent, I voted for Donna Frye, an

Stem Cell Research Panel Must Overcome Challenges

One thing San Diego's prominent leaders of research institutions and other members of the state's new oversight committee for embryonic stem cell research can count on is that 2005 will be different and challenging.

Small Business Spotlight

Patti Perez decided to combine three passions and start Puente International Consulting, Inc., a La Mesa-based firm that offers employment law and HR consulting services to a broad range of clients.

Economic Trends 2005

San Diego employers, listen up: 2005 is going to be filled with a booming biotech industry, compliance issues, whistle-blowing, new sexual harassment training requirements and general confusion about overtime.

S.D. Marketing Firms Expect Solid Year

The San Diego marketing community is heading toward a bright year in 2005, as the industry begins its steady climb, according to many local industry executives.

Real Estate Bubble Theorists Never Mention These Things

After a while, even the most optimistic of real estate bulls has to flirt with the notion that it just can't go on like this forever. As 2004 draws to a close, we are getting mixed signals about the real estate market in North County. Market times are inc

Base Realignment Decisions Coming This Year

The Pentagon plays a big part in making San Diego's economy as robust as it is. The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce estimates that the Pentagon spent $13.4 billion in San Diego during 2003 , the latest year figures are available. That is a 5 percen

Crude Humor: Prediction Is $3 a Gallon of Gas in '05

Gas prices and gazing into a crystal ball are not a good mix, according to some industry insiders, but that doesn't stop the Utility Consumers' Action Network from sharing a few educated guesses. A gas guru for the local consumer watchdog group forecasts