Antioch Council joins Oakley, Brentwood in endorsing cheaper, innovative rail line
Moves Sand Creek new home area forward; approves cameras for high-crime area of E. 18th Street and Cavallo Road
By Dave Roberts
The Antioch City Council on Tuesday joined the city councils in Oakley and Brentwood in endorsing an innovative rail transit system that could extend the East County eBART line through far East County at significantly less cost.
The ultra-light rail transit (ULRT) system by a private company, CyberTran International (whose investors include a company partially owned by Antioch Herald publisher Allen Payton), is seeking funding to demonstrate the viability of the system on a track in Richmond, and then to roll out the above ground line possibly in East County connecting the Hillcrest eBART Station to stations in Oakley, Brentwood, Discovery Bay and the Byron Airport.
The eBART line now under construction from the Bay Point BART Station with stations at Railroad Avenue in Pittsburg and Hillcrest in Antioch costs $56 million per mile, CyberTran President Dexter Vizinau told the council. His ULRT system would cost about $30 million per mile and have the advantages of providing more stations, perhaps at shopping centers, and provide cars that would go nonstop from any station along the line.
“The problem is that [traditional] transit is too costly to build, operate and maintain,” Vizinau said. “There is a $78 billion backlog in transit maintenance in the country. The only way to pay is to raise taxes. Something has to change and it has to be innovative. We believe we solve that problem.”
Vizinau cited the support of U.C. Berkeley, and the three national labs, in the development of the CyberTran system. He also held up a letter from the U.S. Department of Transportation stating the system was further along technologically than any other innovative transit system in the country.
Mayor Sean Wright noted that few Antioch residents are likely to use the system. “It doesn’t affect Antioch – we’re done and through,” he said. But it does have the potential of reducing traffic from far East County residents on Highway 4 through Antioch, which pleased Council Member Lori Ogorchock. “Anything to reduce traffic and congestion,” she said.
Vizinau said his company has been working on the project for 23 years and is ready to break ground. The main challenge is finding the funding. A 10-mile ULRT line from Hillcrest Station to Brentwood would cost about $300 million.
The company was set to receive $42.9 million from the county’s Measure X half-cent sales tax hike that fell three percentage points short of passing in November, he said. Another tax-hike attempt could be made in two years, he said.
The council unanimously voted to support the project and the company’s efforts to obtain funding, which was a bit of déjà vu as the Antioch Council passed a similar resolution of support seven years ago for the project. That effort was successful in obtaining $15 million in federal funds for innovative transit in the U.S. But, President Obama failed to release the funds before he left office in January, Vizinau said.
Sand Creek Focus Area
In other action, the council listened to concerns from residents opposed to the proposed Sand Creek Focus Area, which updates the city’s General Plan to accommodate as many as 4,000 homes on 2,781 acres surrounding Sand Creek in south Antioch. The area is bordered by homes on the north, Black Diamond Mines park on the west, the city limits on the south and Brentwood on the east.
Residents and environmental groups told the council that the proposal contains too many homes, not enough open space, that it will further burden local schools, roads and police services, and that there hasn’t been enough community input into the proposal.
Council members noted that the plan focuses on land use zoning, and that its approval is not equivalent to approval of actual residential development, which would have to be done separately. Over 1,200 homes have already been approved in the area.
The next step in the proposal is conducting environmental impact studies in the coming months, which would then be reviewed during a public hearing by the Planning Commission.
18th Street at Cavallo Road Cameras
The council also approved $156,412 to place police surveillance cameras at the intersection of East 18th Street and Cavallo Road, which has been the scene of a recent shooting.
Interim Police Chief Tammany Brooks said that installation of cameras in another high-crime area, the Sycamore corridor, in November have been effective. Council Member Tony Tiscareno, who lives near Sycamore, agreed that police sirens have become less frequent in recent months.
A resident who lives near Cavallo and 18th teared up as she thanked the council for putting in the cameras, saying she’s seen drug activity on that corner and that her husband witnessed a drive-by shooting.
The council members voted to spend nearly $3.3 million to eliminate use of ammonia and chlorine in the city’s water treatment plant. Those chemicals have been deemed hazardous and highly corrosive, according to Project Manager Scott Buenting.
Affordable Housing Progress Report
The council also approved the filing of a state-mandated housing progress report. The state has mandated that it provide over the next six years an additional 1,448 housing units with 349 of them for very low-income households, 205 low-income units, 214 moderate-income units and 680 units for above moderate-income households.
Last year 42 building permits were issued – 41 of them for above moderate-income single-family homes and one for multifamily apartments providing 84 extremely low-income units. Ogorchock noted, “We’re not reaching the goals we’re supposed to be reaching.” The developer of a proposed 126-unit affordable housing project on Wilbur Avenue complained that city fees have made it too expensive for the project to go forward.
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