Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

Save The Yard group announces new initiative effort for downtown Antioch event center, accuses city officials of obstruction

Friday, August 5th, 2016
An artist's rendering of a proposed event center for downtown Antioch on the lot bordered by Second, Third and E Streets.

An artist’s rendering of a proposed event center for downtown Antioch on the lot bordered by E West Second and West Third Streets.

By Allen Payton

In a press release issued Thursday, August 4, 2016, the Antioch residents who support a park and event center on the old lumber company lot in Antioch’s downtown, announced a second effort after their first initiative failed to get enough valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

They are “testing the adage that ‘you can’t fight city hall’” the release states and are calling the historical Antioch Lumber Company yard site “ground zero” in that fight. The 1.25 acre parcel is situated between E Street, West 2nd and West 3rd Streets, in Antioch’s downtown, also known as Rivertown. Overlooking the San Joaquin River, the vacant parcel was utilized as a lumberyard for decades. It is one of nine city-owned parcels the council is considering selling and gave direction to City Manager Steve Duran to negotiate with developer City Ventures in a closed session, in August, 2015. (See the related article, here).

Since the early 1990’s, the release continues, citizens have advanced various park-like proposals for this parcel, the most current envisioning a town square suitable for 4th of July celebrations, car shows, summer concerts in the park, farmers’ markets, Holiday De-Lites, Rivertown Jamboree, movie nights, dog shows and other community events including farm-to-fork, wine tasting, and multicultural affairs, the press release explained.

In February, 2015, Rivertown residents met with Duran, to share their vision for this parcel.

“To their shock and surprise, Duran having listened for only a short time, responded that this parcel would never be used as a park,” according to the release. “He explained that instead, it would be utilized as high density housing, notwithstanding there are already 840 residences within one-quarter mile of the Rivertown business center, that the city’s own consulting firm said the proposed residential project was infeasible, and that there is precious little space for community events.  People in attendance were stunned.”

“Since that meeting, interested citizens have attempted to meet with city officials to explore options, to no avail,” the release claims. “When these overtures fell on deaf ears and Antioch city officials began meeting with City Ventures, a developer, to discuss construction of high density housing, the ‘Save Our Yard’ movement was born.  This movement eventually spawned the Town Square Initiative which was a proposed ballot measure intended to allow the citizens of Antioch to determine how this site will be used.”

A side view design concept of the proposed townhomes on the old lumber company site in downtown.

A side view rendering of the design concept of the proposed townhomes on the old lumber company site.

Duran Responds

In an email response, Duran stated, “I don’t think I was quite so blunt; but I recollect that I tried to explain why I think the site was zoned residential under the 2003 General Plan and why no staff or consultant has ever recommended the City build an event center three blocks from an event center on the City’s best housing site.”

“Yesterday’s press release to which you refer also asserted that the City wouldn’t meet with her to discuss the proposal dated 10/28/14 for a park & event center that on the old lumber yard site,” Duran continued. “In fact, our real estate consultant and I met with Joy Motts and Wayne Harrison on Friday, February 20th to review and discuss their proposal for the vacant dirt lot that was once the site of the Antioch Lumber Company yard and warehouse.  At that meeting, we requested additional information from them, which they never provided and I subsequently offered to meet with them again.  They never responded to that request either.  Mayor Harper and I had met with representatives from their group previously in this regard.”

In the press release the group claims that “the Town Square Initiative has met with unprecedented opposition by city officials” and specifically accuse Antioch City Clerk Arne Simonsen, the city’s election official, of being “a vocal critic of the Town Square Initiative,” and creating “one obstacle after another in his apparent attempt to keep this initiative off of the ballot.”

They stated “first, he rejected the petition itself because the language of the city attorney’s summary was modified at the proponents’ request, even though the city attorney had agreed to the modifications.  Second, he gave the proponents the wrong information concerning when the initiative had to be turned in.  Third, he refused to accept forty or fifty voter registration affidavits from initiative proponents on behalf of people who had signed their petition, effectively nullifying these otherwise valid signatures.”

Simonsen Responds

“I handled their initiative petition the same professional way I handled the one from Lamar Thorpe for the card room initiative,” he stated. “When I received the notice of intent to circulate, from proponent Jim Lanter, I immediately got it to then-interim City Attorney Derek Cole. He has up to 15 days to get it back to me. He took almost the entire time. When he gave me his summary, I got it to Jim Lanter. Then their next step was to publish it in a newspaper of general circulation. Once it was published they had 10 days to bring into me proof of publication. When they brought it in, I sat down and compared what I was given by the city attorney with what they published in the newspaper. They were not the same. So when I saw they were not the same, I called Derek Cole and said “hey, I have a problem.” He said, “well I got a call from Dave LarsEn, who wasn’t happy with some of the verbiage in the title and summary that Derek had submitted to me. Between the two of them, Cole agreed to some changes which he gave to Dave Larsen, and that’s what was published. There’s only one problem. According to the elections code, there’s only one way to change the title and summary once it’s been submitted by the City Attorney to the City Clerk. They have 10 days to submit to the court a writ of mandate to seek changes in the title and summary.

Derek Cole wanted me to allow the change. I told him “you were speaking with the proponents’ attorney on a side bar and didn’t include me in the conversation.”

“I contacted some master municipal clerks and asked them what to do,” Simonsen continued. “They told me, the only way to change it was the writ of mandate, because the notice of intent was not the same and that terminates their initiative process, because they did not go through the proper state Elections Code procedure.”

“Both attorneys failed to follow the Elections Code,” he stated.

As to the second accusation, Simonsen provided an explanation.

“They have 180 days from the publication of their notice of intent,” he said. “That would have brought them into early September. Then it would be on a following General Election. But they wanted to make this year’s General Election in November. So they had a shortened time frame of four months instead of six months to gather their signatures.”

“Normally, the County Elections Office takes less than 28 days to do the signature verification, which is what I told them,” Simonsen continued. “But, the Elections Code says they have up to 30 business days to perform the verification.”

“Dave Larsen, their attorney, saw that,” he stated. “I gave him a hard copy of the section of the Elections Code with all that in it. Why didn’t he look that up and advise them?”

Regarding the claim that Simonsen rejected voter registration forms, he said “I didn’t reject them. I told them I cannot accept them. The voter registration forms must be mailed or delivered to the County Elections office.”

Elections Code section 2102 states “the affidavit of registration shall be mailed or delivered to the County Elections official.”

“I didn’t look at the voter registration forms,” Simonsen continued. “They were supposed to be mailed or delivered within three days. Why, when I told them I couldn’t accept them, didn’t they deliver them to the County Elections Office?”

What actually caused the initiative effort to fail to make the November ballot, was that the County Elections Office determined there weren’t enough valid signatures submitted, after performing a sampling process. (Please see the related article here).

When reached for comment, initiative proponent Jim Lanter referred comments to Larsen and another leader of the effort, Joy Motts.

Larsen, who worked as a city attorney for 30 years, responded to Simonsen’s accusations.

“When you look [at the Elections Code], the definition of county elections officer it includes city clerks,” Larsen continued.

In response to Simonen’s statement that the attorneys didn’t follow the law regarding the ballot summary language, Larsen disagreed.

“The two seasoned city attorneys agreed, that since the city attorney is tasked with writing the summary and title, the city attorney can change his mind,” he stated. “When the proponents’ attorney calls and asks to make changes…it’s ridiculous to say the city attorney can’t change the ballot summary. We can certainly do that short of a writ of mandate. You only go to court when the two parties can’t agree on something.”

“You always error on the side of allowing the citizens to be heard,” Larsen added. “The idea that you have to go to court if the two parties are agreeable is ridiculous.”

Motts Claims Obstruction

When reached for comment Motts shared her experience and perspective of what occurred.

“I think it’s important for people to know of the obstructions we ran into along the way,” she stated. “We had an expectation that Arne works for the people and that he would provide us with accurate information, because he’s our elections officer. He doesn’t really work for the city.”

When asked if she approved the press release before Larsen sent it out, she said, “Yes.”

She also shared what County Clerk Joe Canciamilla told her.

“Joe told us that Arne should have accepted those forms,” she said. “He explained that many times initiative petitions come in with voter registrations forms.”

“Arne is an elections officer. Per the law he is obligated to accept those,” Motts stated. “The same day we turned in the petitions, we also picked up the registration cards from the signature gatherers. They handed 30 or 40 originals, plus 75 to 100 copies. They said ‘turn those in with the petitions’ because they’ll accept those.”

“Arne said he wouldn’t accept them and made some comment about if they weren’t registered the day they signed, they weren’t valid. But, that’s not true,” Motts stated. “If they signed the day they filled out their voter registration card, they’re valid.”

When asked what happened to the registration forms, she responded, “We immediately left [Simonsen’s office] and mailed the voter registration forms to the County Elections Office. The originals for the 75 to 100 copies had already been mailed in, but we didn’t know when.”

“Arne inserted himself in the process and made us stop the process and pay another $200,” Motts added. “The deadline [Arne gave us] probably messed us up more than anything.”

The count took less than either the 30 business days allowed or 28 calendar days, as estimated by Simonsen.

Motts said the information Simonsen provided the group didn’t show anything about the 30 business days the County Elections Office could take to count the signatures.

In a May 24th email from Simonsen to Motts, he wrote “you would have to submit your papers by mid July,” and attached a form showing the key dates for the November election. However, the form does not explain the 30 business days that the County Elections Office had to count the signatures.

“The way I found out was I just happened to call the county with questions about the validation process,” she continued. “This was toward the end of June. This guy said we have 12 initiatives in front of you. That’s when we went into a panic.”

That’s when Larsen sent his letter the new Antioch City Attorney. Ltr to City Atty re Petition

“That cost us $250 an hour, a whole bunch of money,” said Motts. “We reached out to Supervisor Federal Glover and Joe Canciamilla, to help expedite the process.”

Motts admitted that even had Simonsen accepted the additional voter registration forms that they might not have had enough valid signatures for the measure to qualify for the ballot.

“Joe also told us that based on the random sampling that even if we had those registration forms, that the probability would have been that we would have failed to have the required signatures,” she continued. “So I don’t know.”

Canciamilla Responds

When asked about the claims by the group regarding Simonsen not accepting the voter registration forms, Canciamilla offered an explanation.

“We’ve had 10 petitions from various cities. Every city clerk has turned in voter registration forms with those petitions except Antioch,” Canciamilla state. “I’m not saying what Arne did was wrong, but that’s what we get normally when they send along the petitions.”

“Arne is the elections official for Antioch,” he continued. “As I told the proponents, we aren’t the arbitrator. Unless we’re asked for advice, we don’t proffer it. Local measures are the city clerks’ call. I advised the proponents that the proper place for challenging is with the superior court. They take up a writ and put it before a judge. That is the mechanism for challenging.”

“We’re Not Going Away”

Asked why they were making this a personal thing and attacking Simonsen, Motts responded.

“We don’t have time to go after Arne, but we’re not going away,” she said. “We just want people to know there was obstruction all along the way. It cost all of us money and heartache, and maybe the ability to get it done.”

Nevertheless, the group’s press release states “The fight has only just begun.”  They also have committed that “a new petition will be circulated shortly; a special election will be sought; and in the meantime, proponents will be tracking the legality of each step the city takes.”

“In short, the verdict may be out concerning whether one can really fight city hall, but in this case, every effort is being made to do exactly that,” the release concludes.

For more information on the group’s effort, visit www.savetheyard.com.

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Next Antioch monthly Community Cleanup, Saturday, August 6

Friday, August 5th, 2016

Cleanup

The Antioch Police Department is excited to announce the 73rd installment of the Neighborhood Cleanup Program. This is a collaborative community effort which involves active participation from the Antioch Police Department Crime Prevention Commission; Neighborhood Watch Program; Volunteers in Police Service; community volunteers and the Public Works Department.

Collectively, “We”, everyone who works and lives in the City Antioch, can make a difference and improve the quality of life. It’s our community and it’s our chance to make a difference.

The City of Antioch Neighborhood Cleanup program is not just for residential neighborhoods. It is a program that will change venues on a monthly basis and it will include business and commercial areas as well. Neighborhoods that are free of trash and refuse are inviting, and a clean community instills a sense of community pride.

The 73rd Neighborhood Cleanup event will occur on Saturday, August 6th from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Volunteers will meet at Gentrytown Park (Monterey Side). We will be cleaning the neighborhoods between Monterey Dr. and Mission Dr. down to Rio Grande Drive and Gentrytown Park.

Volunteers will receive instructions and the equipment necessary to accomplish the goal. The targeted area is within walking distance. Excluding inclement weather, future Neighborhood Cleanup events are scheduled for the first Saturday of every month and the locations will be announced in advance.

Remember, cleaning up your neighborhood can make life better for your family, your neighbors and your community.

CityCleanUp73

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Enjoy wines at 14 Rivertown merchants during Wine Walk on Saturday, August 6

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

Rivertown Wine Walk

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City pays to survey residents, negotiations on sale of downtown parcels, lumber company lot resume, Duran defends marketing video

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016
A rendering of the proposed, new look for an event center at Waldie Plaza in Antioch's downtown, Rivertown in a screenshot from the City's new marketing video.

A rendering of the proposed, new look for an event center at Waldie Plaza in Antioch’s downtown, Rivertown in a screenshot from the City’s new marketing video.

By Allen Payton

Antioch residents have been getting phone calls over the last few weeks and asked to participate in a survey about issues affecting the city. Individuals have been commenting on social media wondering who was behind it. Some thought it might be the city, others speculated it might be City Ventures, the developer with whom city staff has been negotiating the sale of nine parcels in downtown, which are owned by the city. One of those parcels is the old lumber company lot.

“It’s ours,” City Manager Steve Duran admitted in a phone interview on Wednesday, August 3, 2016. “The survey is on all issues: crime, blight, homelessness, economic development…the whole issue of housing and the [downtown] event center on that site.”

The city did it “to help us with the messaging,” he continued.

The survey lasted about 15 minutes according to those who had been called and participated.

“It cost a little over $30,000,” Duran stated. “It’s a long one. It surveyed 500 people in English and 200 in Spanish. We wanted to get a good statistical sampling.”

Asked about the cost and length of the survey, Duran responded.

“If you’re going to go out with a survey, you want to get as much information as possible,” he added. “We’ll begin getting results probably next week.”

Asked if city staff will release the results of the survey to the public, Duran said he wasn’t sure. But, if so it will be after they provide it to the council members. He said he’ll check with the city attorney and get an answer. It’s a public record, so it probably will, Duran added.

A screenshot of the proposed townhomes on the old lumber company lot, aka "The Yard" from the City of Antioch's new promotional video.

A screenshot of a rendering of the proposed town homes on the old lumber company lot, aka “The Yard” from the City of Antioch’s new marketing video.

Sale of Downtown City-Owned Parcels

The city staff’s negotiations with the City Ventures for the sale of the downtown parcels have resumed, now that the initiative effort for a park and event center on the lumber company lot, known as “The Yard” failed to gather the necessary signatures to place it on the ballot.

“We were waiting for the initiative on the yard to be decided,” Duran said.

Asked if the city could have sold the other eight parcels, and deal with the old company lot, later, he responded, “That’s the key parcel. It’s the biggest and best housing parcel.”

So, it didn’t make sense to move forward with just the other, smaller eight parcels.

He didn’t offer a date for when the proposed sale would be brought to the council for a decision.

Marketing Video

Duran also touched on the video the city paid to produce, to help promote the community and specifically the downtown, to outside interests.

“You want to put your best foot forward,” he stated. “It’s a vision of where we want to be.”

Some residents have been critical of the video for painting too positive of a picture of the community.

“We know we have some work to do,” Duran shared. “But you don’t go out pointing out the negatives.”

UPDATE, 8/5/16:

In an email response to later questions about the cost of and approval for the video, Duran wrote, “We contracted for two videos at $19,000. One is not done yet.  So that’s about $9,500 per video. The Council does not approve our marketing materials, so they did not approve the videos. The Council did not approve the survey.”

“My contractual approval authority is $50,000 per contract,” he continued. “The City Council approved the City’s budget and staff implements the City’s strategic plan within the approved budget.  Contracts over $50,000 are taken to the City Council for approval.  This is pretty standard practice for cities.”

A link to the four-minute video is available on the city’s website or can be viewed on YouTube by clicking here.

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Wine Walk this Saturday in Antioch’s historic, downtown Rivertown

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Wine_Walk_Josie

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Congressman DeSaulnier hosts town hall meetings in August

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D, CA-11) will host five more town hall meetings in the communities of Danville, Orinda, Rossmoor, Concord and Pittsburg during the month of August. He held his first in Richmond on Monday night. One of DeSaulnier’s top priorities is to be accessible to his constituents. Since being elected to Congress in January 2015, Mark has hosted 23 town hall meetings and mobile district office hours throughout Contra Costa County.

“Hearing directly from the residents of Contra Costa County helps make me a better representative. It is my hope that these town hall meetings will serve as a place for constituents to share their thoughts and opinions on issues important to our community. I invite you to join me at a town hall meeting to listen to a Congressional update on key policy issues, learn about our legislative work in Congress, and discuss the broad range of services we can provide,” said Congressman DeSaulnier.

Danville Town Hall
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
(Check-in begins at 6:30 p.m.)
Veterans Memorial Building
Community Hall
400 Hartz Avenue, Danville

Orinda Town Hall
Saturday, August 6, 2016
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
(Check-in begins at 10:30 a.m.)
Orinda Library Auditorium
26 Orinda Way, Orinda

Rossmoor Town Hall
Saturday, August 6, 2016
1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
(Check-in begins at 12:30 p.m.)
Rossmoor, Fireside Room
1001 Golden Rain Road, Walnut Creek

Concord Town Hall
Monday, August 8, 2016
6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
(Check-in begins at 6:00 p.m.)
Concord City Council Chambers
1950 Parkside Drive, Concord

Pittsburg Town Hall
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
(Check-in begins at 6:00 p.m.)
Pittsburg Senior Center
300 Presidio Lane, Pittsburg

For more information or to request ADA accommodations, please email CA11.RSVP@mail.house.gov or call (925) 933-2660

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Contra Loma Estates Home Owners Association receives 2016 Best of Antioch Award

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Antioch Award Program Honors the Achievement

Contra Loma Estates Home Owners Association has been selected for the 2016 Best of Antioch Award in the Condominiums category by the Antioch Award Program. The Contra Loma Estates are located at 1203 Sycamore Drive in Antioch.

Each year, the Antioch Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Antioch area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2016 Antioch Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Antioch Award Program and data provided by third parties.

About Antioch Award Program

The Antioch Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Antioch area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

The Antioch Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy. For more information about the Antioch Awards Program visit www.awardconnect.org.

For more information about the Contra Loma Estates Home Owners Assocation, visit www.contraloma.com.

 

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Antioch residents to participate in annual National Night Out, Tuesday, August 2nd

Monday, August 1st, 2016

nationalnightout2016On Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016, from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., the Antioch Police Crime Prevention Commission will be sponsoring “National Night Out” throughout the City of Antioch. “National Night Out” is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness;  generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime programs; strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and send a message to criminals, letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and are fighting back. This is a non-alcohol activity. Look for an event in your neighborhood.

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