Archive for January, 2014

Letter writer congratulates council on voting down Seeno development

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Editor:

Mayor Pro Tem Rocha and Council Members Gary Agopian and Monica Wilson, take a bow! You did the City of Antioch a great justice by your recent vote to deny the Pointe Project. That development would have ravaged 21 acres of hillside land at the western edge of the city, robbing God-given beauty and some wind barrier. 

More frightening for the future, it would have overturned a hillside development ordinance that has been in effect since 1981. That ordinance had been applied on at least six projects over the past three decades. It’s disregard would send a signal that agreements can be bent and broken when expedience dictates.

They say you can’t fight City Hall but in the Philippines, where my wife hails from, they call it ‘people power’. I applaud the residents of the Black Diamond Estates Project, Save Mount Diablo Organization and the Antioch Planning Commission for all standing tall and fighting the good fight.

Antioch takes its’ knocks. We can all agree it was overbuilt, is too saturated, too cookie cutter and in the case of our Malls, too boxy (how one wishes we had insisted on a pedestrian-friendly plan like the Streets of Brentwood, which has strolling charm). Be that as it may, our mistakes can’t be undone.  

We do, though, have three natural assets other locales don’t. One, obviously, is our seat at the Delta.  The River brings views, recreation and a cooling breeze. 

The second blessing is our undulating streets. Hillcrest and Deer Valley come to mind as a boon from monotonous straight lines! 

The third asset are the hills that we didn’t all chop off; some internal and some dramatically framing our town.  Guests visiting me who drive along Hillcrest marvel at the ambiance. It feels palatial.

Yes, more homes is easy money. We know and respect that the fees are tempting, what with city services having hit rock bottom. Things are on an upswing, though, and patience will be rewarded.  

In the meantime, let’s hope that whenever there is the next, let’s face it, inevitable ‘mini-wave’ the infrastructure is long set. Wouldn’t it be nice, then, to have something really different from the hum-drum, we’ve got plenty, tracts. How about senior developments like Trilogy in Brentwood; or McMansions on oversized lots that draw in the Blackhawk crowd who could set up needed business and light industry here? Now you’ve got my attention.

Yes, more city workers and a return to five days of City Hall service? Valued.

Respect for past agreements…. appreciation of the hills.

They are priceless.

Walter Ruehlig

Antioch

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City Council rejects 60 home Seeno ‘Pointe’ development

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Albert Seeno, Jr. makes rare appeal

By John Crowder

At the Tuesday, January 28 meeting of the Antioch City Council a proposal by Discovery Builders, owned by Alberto Seeno, III, to build 60 homes in the city was rejected on a 3-to-2 vote. The Pointe project, planned for an approximately 22-acre site near the corner of Somersville Road and James Donlon Boulevard, would have generated more than $2.55 million in city and regional road fees if approved according to a Seeno spokesman.

The fees assessed to the project included $27,500 per home Residential Development Allocation fee for a total of $1.65 million to the city, and $15,000 per home for a total of $900,000 for regional road improvements, specifically Highway 4, including the Bypass, as well as the Buchanan Bypass road, which will be an extension to James Donlon Blvd., connecting to Kirker Pass Road in Pittsburg.

The proposal to build the homes had generated controversy at the December 10th meeting of the Council, with residents of the Black Diamond Area and a representative of Save Mount Diablo speaking out against it, because it meant grading 125 feet of a hill and violating the city’s hillside ordinance. At that meeting, at which the council had put off a vote on the matter, then city manager Jim Jakel had urged the council to make a decision, even though it might be hard.

 

Discovery Builders was requested by Councilman Gary Agopian to bring back an alternative plan showing how many homes they could build while following the city’s hillside ordinance. In response, during his presentation to the council, the developer’s spokesman showed the design of how one home would look on the hillside and a plot map showing a few areas on the hill, for a total of about four acres that could be built on.

Following the presentation, about a dozen citizens, including neighbors of the project, and a representative of Save Mount Diablo again spoke out against the project during the public comments portion of the hearing. Only one speaker, former councilman Allen Payton, spoke in favor, reminding the council that the builder had moved forward based on direction given by the council six years ago, when they had allocated the 60 units, under the city’s Residential Development Allocation program. Payton also noted that to reverse course would send a negative message to businesses willing to invest in Antioch.

In the project proponent’s three-minute rebuttal, at the end of the public hearing, a rare and emotional appeal was made by Albert Seeno, Jr., the first time he had spoken on an issue at an Antioch City Council meeting, since 1979.

I’ve been building homes in Antioch for 52 years, more than any other developer,” Seeno said. “I never had a project that didn’t have opposition. Not in my back yard. I’ve heard it for 52 years. It doesn’t work.”

How much open space do we need?” he asked. “People have to live somewhere. There’s limited land in Antioch inside the Urban Limit Line that can be built on. This should be approved.”

Seeno later shared that the company had spent $100,000 on fees to pay for city staff time, after receiving the allocation of the 60 housing units, much more than the $30,000 spent to develop the plan.

Following the public hearing the council debated the proposal extensively, with all but Councilwoman Monica Wilson stating why they were voting for or against it.

Agopian said he hadn’t made up his mind until that moment. He had considered voting in favor even though he had driven by and seen the hill the development would have taken down.

I saw the hill and said ‘That hill? Tear it down to build houses?,’” he stated. “This hill needs to not be built on.”

At one point the public hearing was reopened in order for Councilman Tiscareno to question Albert Seeno III about two meetings his company had held with neighbors, in an effort to address some of their concerns. He pointed out that he also met individually with neighbors living in the adjacent subdivision, also built by Seeno, and reminded them they had signed documents acknowledging the 60-lot project could be built.

Following Seeno’s comments, and further deliberation by the council, Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha made a motion to deny approval of the development, and was joined by council members Gary Agopian and Wilson in voting to do so. Mayor Wade Harper and council member Tony Tiscareno cast the two votes in favor of the project.

On a related note, during the discussion, city staff mentioned that the developer would complete the widening of Somersville Road, between James Donlon and the canal, and install a signal light at that intersection, by December.

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Art exhibit at Umpqua Bank in Antioch, February and March

Friday, January 31st, 2014
Artwork by Richard Meyer

Artwork by Richard Meyer

The Arts & Cultural Foundation of Antioch is pleased to announce the latest exhibit at Antioch’s Umpqua Bank for local artists to showcase their work. The exhibit changes every two months and features five to six artists per exhibit. The latest exhibit begins February 1st and continues through March 28th, from 9 AM – 5 PM (excluding bank holidays). This is the 4th exhibit for the ongoing display. Featured artists for the February – March exhibit are: Clyde Cox, Doug Hampton, Mayette Ignacio, Beverly Martinez, Richard Meyer, Paul Schorr and Wiley Walker.

The exhibit is free and open to the public from February 1st – March 28th, 2014 from Monday – Friday, 9 AM – 5 PM (excluding bank holidays). The bank is located at 3700 Lone Tree Way, in the Raley’s shopping center. The free artist reception will be held on Thursday, February 6th, 5-7 PM. For more information about this exhibit, click here.

ACFA is currently seeking artists for the ongoing exhibit. The next exhibit window is April-May, which will feature the artworks from students from Antioch Senior High School. The Umpqua exhibit changes every two months.

If you are interested in participating, please email Executive Director Diane Gibson-Gray atDiane@Art4Antioch.org or call her at (925) 325-9897. Click here for more information.

 

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Two arrested in Antioch for marijuana cultivation

Thursday, January 30th, 2014
Wei Zhu

Wei Zhu

By Detective Mortimer, Antioch Police Investigations Bureau

On Wednesday, January 28/2014 at approx 11:15am, Antioch Police Detectives were working leads on a possible indoor marijuana cultivation at a residence located on Noakes Court in Antioch. Antioch detectives contacted 25-year-old Wei Zhu and 27-year-old Zhouquin Huang at the residence and they were subsequently arrested in connection to a large scale marijuana cultivation. Detectives served a search warrant at the listed location which turned up approx 1,000 marijuana plants.

Anyone with information should contact Detective Matthew Koch at (925) 779-6895 or they may also text an anonymous tip to 274637 (CRIMES) using the key word ANTIOCH in the body of the text.

Zhouquin Huang

Zhouquin Huang

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Watchdog: taxpayers need to watch Antioch School Board

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Watchdog-LogoIt behooves taxpayers to keep a close watch on the Antioch Unified School District Board.

On December 18th Joy Motts, Board President, put discussion of the anti-Prop. 13 resolution by Evolve-ca on the agenda. Evolve-ca is an activist group who’s attempting to persuade local school boards and city councils to support removing Prop. 13 protections for business property. They falsely claim that homeowners are paying a greater share of the total property tax today. That’s false. The percentage paid by non homeowner occupied property accounted for 58.16% in 1978-79 and increased to 60.26% of all assessments in 2011-12, meaning the percentage paid by homeowners has declined! Fortunately, thanks to valuable information provided to the Board by the Contra Costa Taxpayers Assoc. the board tabled the resolution.

Now the Board is once again contemplating putting a parcel tax on the ballot. The only difference between their 2008 and 2012 parcel tax measures and the one they are contemplating now is that the prior ballot measures were structured as school facilities improvement district bond measures, excluded residents in southeast Antioch who pay a Mello Roos tax and required only 55% of those voting to approve the measures for them to pass. (Both passed.)

This time the district is considering putting a parcel tax on the ballot which will apply uniformly to all taxpayers or real property within the district, exempt Seniors/SSI/disabled and permit an inflation adjustment. As of 2009, bonding capacity for unified school districts was 2.5% of assessed value, tax rate limitations $60 per $100,000. Revenues can be used for capital facilities or operations. This type of tax measure requires 2/3 voter approval.

Taxpayers should not approve another AUSD parcel tax! The AUSD is going to get additional money under Prop. 30 and from the Governor’s budget which repays school districts for Prop. 98 money it withheld during the state “crisis”. In addition, the district still has a considerable and controversial real estate portfolio. When I stated they should sell some of their holdings prior to the their previous tax measures, I was told that state law required the district to send back any money from the sale of properties until the district was no longer considered to be in a “hardship” status due to prior mismanagement. Apparently the district is no longer in a hardship status because they just sold 191 acres of the Moller Ranch property for $305,000. (The district paid $2.6 million for 206 acres in 1996).

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Antioch police arrest teen in Sunday shooting

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Elijah Hill

Elijah Hill

On Wednesday, January 28, 2014 at approximately 5:46 PM, Elijah Hill, 19 years, was arrested by Antioch Police Officers and Detectives for the attempted homicide of a 33-year-old Antioch resident. This attempted homicide appears to have occurred after an argument in the Jack in the Box parking lot, 4801 Lone Tree Way. The Victim is considered to be in Critical Condition.

Hill was sent to the Martinez Detention Facility. Antioch Police Detectives will be seeking attempted Homicide charges later in the week.

Anyone with information regarding this case is encouraged to call Detective Joannides with the Antioch Police Department at (925) 779-6931. You may also text a tip to 274637 (CRIMES) using key word ANTIOCH.

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Antioch man shot multiple times at Jack In The Box on Lone Tree Way, Sunday afternoon

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

By Sgt. Mike Hulsey, Antioch Police Field Services Bureau

On Sunday, January 26, 2014 at approximately 4:07 P.M., Antioch Police Officers responded to 4801 Lone Tree Way (Jack In The Box) on a report that a subjecthad been shot. The victim, a 33-year-old Antioch man, was located there and appeared to have multiple gunshot wounds. The victim was transported to a hospital where he is being treated for his injuries. The case is currently being investigated.

No suspect information is available at this time.

Anyone with information regarding this case is encouraged to call the Antioch Police Department at (925) 778-2441 or they may also text an anonymous tip to 274637 (CRIMES) using the key word ANTIOCH in the body of the text.

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Watchdog – Concerns with Seeno’s proposed hillside development

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Watchdog-LogoBy Barbara Zivica

At their Tuesday, January 28 meeting, the Antioch City Council will consider Discovery Builders request for General Plan amendments for the Pointe project, (generally located west of the intersection of Somersville Road and James Donlon Blvd.) Specifically, the sought after amendments would change the zoning from low-density residential to inclusion in the Somersville Road Corridor Focus Area and waive the requirements of certain applicable sections of our General Plan relating to hillside development. The resolution before council is to deny the general plan amendments for the Pointe Project proposed by the Seeno company.

Background on the project which the developer wants rezoned from hillside residential development (1.2 houses per acre) to single family residential (2.4 houses per acre – or double that permitted) : The city did receive a request from Discovery Builders wanting to construct 60 single family homes, two open space parcels, two storm water basins, and a pocket park with a water feature on an approximately 21 acre property. The request was dated January 29, 2007, and amended or supplemented on January 15, 2008, April 2, 2008, December 21, 2010, August 30, 2013 and October 17, 2013.

Numerous hearings were held in which council provided direction and feedback to the applicant. On September 17, 2007 the Planning Commission held a public hearing, received and considered evidence, both oral and documentary and recommended denial to the City Council. On January 22, 2008 the City Council held a public hearing and approved 60 residential development allocations. The City then prepared an Initial Study to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of the Seeno Pointe Project.

On November 6, 2013 the Planning Commission held a public hearing on the matter, receiving and considering evidence, both oral and documentary but took no action, merely recommending denial of the Project to the City Council.

On December 10, 2013, the City Council held a public hearing on the matter but did not act at that time. In the interim the City determined the following: The General Plan Amendments are inconsistent with the General Plan’s goals and policies regarding hillside development, the amendments could potential result in the creation of a noncontiguous area within the Somersville Road Corridor Focus Area whose policies and goals do not emphasize lower density residential uses, but instead prioritize commercial tax revenue generating uses, In addition, the project undermines the efforts contained in the City’s General Plan and Municipal Code to preserve natural ridgelines within the City of Antioch. The removal of 104 vertical feet of hillside does not meet the intent of the hillside development policies or meet the definition of developable land as outlined in the General Plan.

Project approval would set an adverse precedent for future hillside development within the City.

Seeno is also currently proposing to build 356 single family homes on undeveloped grazing land south of Pittsburg’s city limits, known as the Montreux subdivision whose access would be via an intersection at Kirker Pass Road that would connect with the long planned 17 mile James Donlon Blvd extension which Seeno delayed construction of complaining of insufficient funding from the East Contra Costa Regional Fee and Financing Authority to do so. In addition, another Seeno project known as Tuscany Meadows, if approved, would result in another 917 single family homes and up to 365 apartments near where the extension would start. (Pittsburg’s new mayor Sal Evola is a cousin of Seeno III and once worked for Discovery Builders. Antioch’s mayor Wade Harper previously recused himself from a vote regarding possible litigation with Seeno regarding the Markley Creek Crossing stating that since Seeno donated to his campaign he has a conflict of interest.)

NOTE: The City has hired a consultant (same facilitator who conducted a “get to know me” session for the new council) to conduct four “Community Cafes” to solicit feedback from residents not in regard to what’s wrong with the city, but help find solutions. The meetings will be held in the evenings thus creating staff overtime costs. Frankly, I thought our gripes were well known and were what the city manager and council were hired/elected to fix. If they’re unsure what our gripes are, I suggest the City post an objective survey on the internet which would result in considerable more input and less expense than four 6:30 p.m. meetings will. (Wonder if the City runs a tab with Starbucks coffee. The Police Dept. holds Coffee with Cops meetings and it’s obvious the Chief sure loves the place).

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