Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Pedestrian overcrossing installed for Antioch BART Station on Friday

Monday, July 13th, 2015
A pedestrian overcrossing was installed at Antioch's BART Station, across the future westbound lanes of Highway 4 on Friday, July 10, 2015.

A pedestrian overcrossing was installed at Antioch’s BART Station, across the future westbound lanes of Highway 4 on Friday, July 10, 2015.

Highway 4 expansion paves way for BART extension to Antioch and East County

By Allen Payton

Progress continues on the Antioch BART Station. On Friday, July 10, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) installed a pedestrian bridge over Highway 4 for the future Antioch BART station at Hillcrest Avenue, marking a major milestone in the journey to bring eBART service to eastern Contra Costa County. The 145-foot-long structure was hoisted into place over Highway 4 by a giant crane about 4pm.

Prior to the installation, a tour of the new BART Station was provided by BART and CCTA staff, and included Director Joel Keller, who represents Antioch on the BART Board, and Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock. The tour included a walk through the tunnel beneath the future west-bound lanes of Highway 4, which will run from the BART station to the maintenance facility.

The median is wide enough to allow for both the line to the maintenance facility and two lines of transit for a future extension to Oakley and Brentwood, according to Michael Chann of S&C Engineers, Inc., who are working on the project.

East County has been waiting a long time for better transit connections to other parts of the Bay Area,” Keller said. “After many, many years of planning and promises, we have started laying the track. The new Antioch Station will provide a high-quality transit connection for the people of East County in just a few years.”

The Highway 4 median includes room for the tunnel to the maintenance facility and two lines of transit for a future expansion further east.

The Highway 4 median includes room for the tunnel to the maintenance facility and two lines of transit for a future expansion further east.

The pedestrian overcrossing will carry BART passengers over the four lanes of westbound Highway 4 to the future Antioch eBART station in the highway median. This station will enable East County residents boarding at Hillcrest Avenue to arrive at the Pittsburg-Bay Point BART Station in 10 minutes. eBART trains will operate on the 20-hour BART schedule and meet BART trains at Pittsburg-Bay Point every 15 minutes. BART’s Pittsburg Center Station is also under construction at Railroad Avenue in Pittsburg.

A video of the bridge lift can be found here: 4eastcounty.org/media/videos

It’s exciting to see the progress being made at the BART Station at Hillcrest,” Ogorchock stated. “Antioch will finally be getting our long-awaited and promised BART extension. It will not only help our residents who commute out of the area to go to work, it will also open up the opportunity for commercial development and employment around the station.”

The eBART train cars, which are known as DMU’s (for deisel, multilple-unit) can hold up to 200 passengers, and as many as three vehicles can be linked together, allowing the system to move as many as 600 passengers every 15 minutes, for a total of 2,400 passengers per hour, per direction, according to Keller.

The Hillcrest BART extension is projected to be completed and the station open in May, 2018.

The BART overcrossing installation is a very visible element of progress in providing more mobility to the residents of East County. We are providing not only needed capacity on Highway 4, but expanded transit options, as well,” said Julie Pierce, Chair of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority Board. “That’s how we are working in partnership with other agencies and the community to build a smarter and more efficient transportation network in Contra Costa County.”

BART Director Joel Keller, left, discusses the new extension to Antioch with Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock and CCTA Construction Manager Ivan Ramirez.

BART Director Joel Keller, left, discusses the new extension to Antioch with Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock and CCTA Construction Manager Ivan Ramirez.

The continued expansion of Highway 4 along the BART route has allowed BART to start laying track in the newly expanded medians. BART service is planned to start in 2018.

The Hillcrest Avenue segment of the Highway 4 Corridor projects is the fifth construction segment in the effort to modernize transportation options in eastern Contra Costa. The construction projects for this segment in Antioch will widen the highway from four to eight lanes, including three mixed flow lanes and one High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane, and provide a median wide enough for BART.

Renderings of the future BART station can be found here: 4eastcounty.org/media/bart-gallery

The Highway 4 projects include improvements that will help modernize eastern Contra Costa County. The projects expand Highway 4 from four to eight lanes between Loveridge Road in Pittsburg to just west of State Route 160 in Antioch, from two to four lanes from Lone Tree Way to Sand Creek Road in Brentwood, add missing connector ramps at the State Route 160/Highway 4 interchange, and add a BART extension from Pittsburg to Antioch. This will greatly improve transit accessibility for the region, help reduce traffic congestion, and enhance the quality of life for the more than 250,000 residents of eastern Contra Costa County. The projects have been carefully staged to keep 130,000 vehicles per day moving as major construction and demolition work continue. These projects, plus previously constructed projects in the region, bring the total investment in East County to $1.3 billion, including State, Federal, Contra Costa Transportation Authority Measures C and J, regional bridge tolls, and other funds.

For more information on the eBART Project, visit www.bart.gov/about/projects/ecc. For more information on the Highway 4 expansion, visit http://4eastcounty.org/.

Heading into the tunnel under Highway 4

Heading into the tunnel under Highway 4.

BART Director Joel Keller and Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock in the BART tunnel under Highway 4.

BART Director Joel Keller and Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock in the BART tunnel under Highway 4.

The median end of the BART tunnel beneath the future westbound lanes of Highway 4 east of Hillcrest Avenue in Antioch.

The median end of the BART tunnel beneath the future westbound lanes of Highway 4 east of Hillcrest Avenue in Antioch.

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Antioch School Board continues rejection of site plans, approves continued employment of personnel

Friday, July 10th, 2015

by John Crowder

For the third time in three meetings, the 2015-2016 academic site plans for both elementary and secondary schools in the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) were unable to gain full approval from the AUSD Board of Education.

At a special meeting held on Monday, June 29, with the plans being the only item on the agenda, the AUSD school board decided to table the review of the plans as a whole, sending them back to each school for further work. AUSD staff is to provide the board with an update as to their status at their next regularly scheduled meeting on August 12.

The board did, however, on a 5-0 vote, authorize the continued employment of personnel listed in the plans who are already working in the District, along with the hiring of any additional school personnel referenced in any of the plans. According to AUSD Chief Human Resources Officer Jessica Romeo, this latter motion allowed for the continued employment of 26.98 “Full Time Equivalents” (FTE’s) currently employed by AUSD. She said their compensation amounted to about $900,000 annually.

While some of the school site plans were praised by both school board members and members of the public, questions continued to be raised about others. Concerns with the latter plans included: improper certification by school site councils and plan content. An additional issue was that public notice of the previous school board meeting at which the plans had come up for review was insufficient.

June 30 Deadline and Risk of Loss of Funding

At the previous board meeting, held on Wednesday, June 24, AUSD staff members had made statements that, according to school board members, had led them to believe that the plans had to be approved by June 30, or the District risked losing funding. According to AUSD School Board President Claire Smith, this belief had caused her to schedule the special meeting to review the plans again, after the board had twice rejected them, for Monday, June 29.

During the June 29 meeting, though, the contention that there was a looming deadline of June 30 was also called into question. Over the few days between the June 24 and June 29 meeting, board members had independently researched questions concerning deadlines and funding issues with respect to site plans.

Board member Walter Ruehlig stated that he had placed eleven calls to the California Department of Education in order to determine the validity of the voiced concerns. “Plain and simple,” he said, the funding is not threatened and the monies for staffing have been budgeted.” He went on to say, “There is no deadline or compelling reason to immediately accept these plans.”

Board member Debra Vinson, who has been the most outspoken critic of the plans on the school board, said, “Not submitting the plans does not effect school site funding, at all.”

Smith said, “There doesn’t appear to be any deadline. But, we were told that [approval was required] by June 30. Now we know, that is not true.”

With the consensus of the board being that there was no deadline, and that no funding was in jeopardy should the plans not be approved, other issues were taken up.

Public Notification

The issue of proper notification seemed to be resolved. During public comments, Julie Young, the parent who had originally raised this concern, told the board that the plans had now been properly posted.

Even so, board members expressed the idea that improvements could be made when dealing with the public.

Board Vice President Diane Gibson-Gray told staff, “Last year was flawed. This year was flawed again…it shouldn’t rely on a person, it should rely on a process.”

Ruehlig said, “We should not just make [the plans] accessible, we should promote them to the public so people know to look at it.”

Certification by School Site Councils

Concerns remained with respect to certification of the academic plans by the school site councils.

Arrieanna Lombard spoke during public comments.

I take issue with the certification, and who signed it,” she said, referencing the statement at a previous meeting by a site council member at Deer Valley High School (DVHS) that there had never been a proper vote on the academic plan at that school.

Smith expressed her concern with the school site meetings, as well. “You need to have a quorum, she stated.” Advocating for the inclusion of the minutes of school site councils when plans are submitted to the board in the future, she said, “That would, indeed, show that they went through the process.”

Ruehlig said, “I’m concerned about the sign-offs.” He continued, stating that he had looked at the minutes for the DVHS site council after hearing concerns expressed at the last board meeting. “At DVHS, the last meeting was in March,” he said. He also said that he had spoken to another member of the site council who claimed to have never seen the document.

Gibson-Gray noted an additional problem with the certifications. “Some don’t have signatures,” she said.

Additionally, it was revealed that some of the plans had signatures, but no dates.

Content of Plans

The content of the plans was questioned during public comments by Willie Mims, Education Chair of the East County NAACP. While he felt that the plans for two schools, Black Diamond Middle School (BDMS) and Antioch High School (AHS) had merit, he questioned the documents produced by some of the other schools. “The school site plans should be data driven,” he said. “If they are not data driven, they are flawed.”

Young, who addressed this matter during public comments, also expressed concern that there was, “no data.”

Ruehlig, referencing plan content, said, “There is room for improvement. Quite a bit of room for improvement.”

Gibson-Gray complained that, “nothing matched,” and said that, in the future, “maybe an explanation can be given to us.”

On the other hand, Board member Barbara Cowan, who attended the meeting via phone because she was on vacation in Mexico, emphasized the difficulties faced by staff in developing the plans this year.

I’m looking at the evolution of this whole process,” she said. “The schools had a number of constraints this year, [including] LCFF and [the fact that] the District has not had a vehicle to give each school their own data. They (the principals) don’t have the data,” she continued. Cowan further recommended that crucial expenditures in the plans should be approved, including personnel expenses.

Outcome

With the continuing concerns over plan content, but the desire to continue to employ staff listed in the site plans, Gibson-Gray made a motion to approve the continued employment of staff members mentioned in the plans, and to hire any new employees they referenced. This motion, as noted above, was approved on a 5-0 vote.

With respect to the remainder of the plans, and with the understanding that there was no deadline for their approval, the board, by consensus, determined to send them back to the schools for additional work.

Smith emphasized the importance of each school site evaluating their unique needs. “Each school is different, (each) has its own climate,” she said. “These are the people (school site council) I want to sign off on the academic plans.”

Vinson encouraged those who would be working on the plans to, “be thorough, and work as a team.”

As the meeting concluded, Superintendent of Education, Don Gill, said, “The opportunity to hire is a huge relief. Rather than rush, it is better to be thorough.”

Following the meeting, Gill issued the following statement:

The academic progress that the District has made in prior years has been built upon the implementation of a continuous cycle of improvement. Meaning, that we are constantly analyzing ways in which we can improve upon past practice. The input that our Board of Education has provided will allow us to further refine this process. We want to demonstrate higher levels of transparency, and to increase parent and community involvement. With timelines attached, that will allow higher levels of participation of all segments of the education community.

As soon as the new school year begins, our school site councils will be convened to review and refine current site plans with consideration of the input that our Board of Education provided at our last meeting. Throughout the year, our principals will meet regularly with their school site councils to ensure that full participation by all segments of the school community is accomplished.

Our expectation is that all school site programs and services will be fully accountable to achieving their stated goals. We want to expand those that are the most successful, and eliminate those that are not meeting the needs of our students.

We want to continue to have the community and the Board involved throughout the entire process so that the plans can be submitted and approved prior to the end of any current school year.”

The next AUSD board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, August 12, 2015, at which time, as noted above, an update will be given to the board members regarding the school site academic plans. Meetings are held in the school services building, located at 510 G Street, in Antioch.

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BART to install overcrossing by giant crane, for new eBART Station, Friday morning, July 10

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

WHAT: Installation of BART pedestrian overcrossing by giant crane in Antioch, California

A crane installing the 145-foot-long pedestrian overcrossing at the future Antioch eBART Station at Hillcrest Avenue on Highway 4 in Antioch. The BART station and new tracks are currently under construction. Media will be allowed access near the construction area for photography or videography, and will be able to interview key agency staff.

The 145-foot-long, 13-foot-wide overcrossing will carry pedestrians over the expanded four-lane westbound Highway 4 to the future BART platform at Hillcrest Avenue, providing a seamless BART connection to and from East Contra Costa County. The Antioch BART Station is one element of the $1.3 billion Highway 4 Corridor projects, which will expand Highway 4 between Pittsburg and Brentwood, add missing connector ramps to the State Route 160 interchange, and add BART service for the 250,000 residents of eastern Contra Costa County.

WHO: Joel Keller, District 2 Director, BART; and Ivan Ramirez, Construction Manager, Contra Costa Transportation Authority.

WHEN: Friday, July 10 at approximately 11am. The lift itself is expected to take approximately 20-30 minutes to complete.

WHERE: The parking lot at the intersection of Sunset Drive and Hillcrest Avenue in Antioch.

The Highway 4 projects include improvements that will help modernize eastern Contra Costa County. The projects expand Highway 4 from four to eight lanes between Loveridge Road in Pittsburg to just west of State Route 160 in Antioch, from two to four lanes from Lone Tree Way to Sand Creek Road in Brentwood, add missing connector ramps at the State Route 160/Highway 4 interchange, and add a BART extension from Pittsburg to Antioch. This will greatly improve transit accessibility for the region, help reduce traffic congestion, and enhance the quality of life for the more than 250,000 residents of eastern Contra Costa County. The projects have been carefully staged to keep 130,000 vehicles per day moving as major construction and demolition work continue. These projects, plus previously constructed projects in the region, bring the total investment in East County to $1.3 billion, including State, Federal, Contra Costa Transportation Authority Measures C and J, regional bridge tolls, and other funds.

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Rep. McNerney calls on Congress to authorize regional water recycling projects

Monday, July 6th, 2015

Antioch, CA – Recognizing that water recycling is a critical part of a larger, comprehensive approach to addressing California’s drought crisis, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) announced on Thursday, July 2, that he would introduce legislation calling on Congress to authorize 27 additional regional water recycling projects. To highlight this announcement, McNerney toured Delta Diablo, the site for one of the water recycling projects he believes needs to be authorized.

I’m calling on Congress and introducing legislation to authorize more regional water projects – because expanding water recycling is one component of a comprehensive solution needed to address California’s long-term drought challenges,” said McNerney. “In this extreme drought, California communities a struggling to conserve the limited water available. That’s why it’s important to continue investing in water recycling technologies that treat wastewater and augment current supplies. Funding these projects creates additional water supplies available to ease pressure off the Delta, irrigate public spaces, grow crops, increase the potable water supply, and support environmental restoration.”

These 27 projects, when funded, can provide over 100,000 acre feet of new water – enough water to meet the needs for over half a million residents. These water projects need Congressional authorization in order to compete for Title XVI construction funds through the Bureau of Reclamation.

We thank Congressman McNerney for his leadership in introducing legislation which will proactively support new drought-tolerant water sources while protecting the Delta.” said Gary Darling, spokesperson for the Western Recycled Water Coalition.

Developing recycled water reduces dependence on Delta supplies. Recycled water projects like Delta Diablo improve water supply reliability, and reduce wastewater discharge into the fragile Bay-Delta environment.

When constructed, the Delta Diablo Recycled Water Project will provide more than 4,000 acre-feet per year of recycled water to municipal, commercial, and industrial users in Antioch and Pittsburg – equivalent to meeting the water needs of 16,000 households.

We need to look at bold, forward-thinking solutions that use new technology and scientific advancements to improve the management and conservation of California’s water supply. This will better prepare communities for severe drought conditions in the future,” added McNerney.

List of 27 Water Recycling Projects

Delta Diablo recycled water project – serving Antioch

Delta Diablo high purity water treatment facility – serving Antioch

Brentwood recycled water project

Ironhouse Sanitary District Cypress recycled water project – serving Oakley

Ironhouse Sanitary District industrial recycled water project – serving Oakley

Ironhouse Sanitary District direct potable reuse project – serving Oakley

Benicia recycled water project to Valero refinery

Central Dublin recycled water distribution and retrofit project

Central Redwood City recycled water project

Concord recycled water project

Contra Costa County refinery recycled water project, phase 1

Dublin recycled water expansion project

Fresno east central recycled water facility

Fresno downtown recycled water distribution

Fresno southwest recycled water distribution

Hayward recycled water project

Monterey peninsula groundwater replenishment project, phase 1

Mountain View recycled water project.

North Valley regional recycled water project

Palo Alto recycled water pipeline project

Pleasanton recycled water project

Potable Reuse in Santa Clara County, phase 1

San Jose Water Company recycled water project

Sunnyvale continuous recycled water production project

West Bay Sanitary District Recycled Water Project

Wolfe Road recycled water project

Yountville recycled water project

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Antioch home, cars struck by gunfire, Wednesday night

Saturday, July 4th, 2015

By Acting Sgt. James McMurry #2384, Antioch Police Field Services Bureau

On Wednesday, July 1, 2015 at 11:01 PM, Antioch Police Officers responded to numerous 911 calls of shots fired in the 4100 block of Rogers Canyon Road. Upon arrival Officers discovered that several vehicles and a residence had been struck by gunfire. Four residents, ages 19, 26, 37 and 47 were home at the time. Luckily no residents were injured.

Officers located numerous items of evidence at the scene that included spent shell casings and bullet fragments along the street. It appears the 19-year-old victim was the intended target but he was not cooperative with providing any information that could lead to identifying the shooter(s).

There were no witnesses located at the scene. If anyone has information that is related to this case, they can call the Antioch Police Department’s non-emergency line at (925) 778-2441.

Concerned citizens may also send a tip anonymously to: 274637 (Crimes). Make sure to include the word “Antioch” in the message so your information will be forwarded to us. All text messages are encrypted and your number cannot be traced. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

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Antioch School Board rejects site plans for all schools in district, special meeting called for Monday

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

by John Crowder

In a highly unusual move, the Antioch School Board rejected, with a majority of board members voting no, the 2015-2016 School Site Academic Plans for all of the district’s elementary, middle and high schools.

This marked the second meeting in a row where the plans failed to gain approval, even though the board room, each time, was filled with the principals of most of the local schools, available to address specific questions from board members. When last considered, on June 10, Stephanie Anello, Antioch Unified School District’s (AUSD) Associate Superintendent for Educational Services, had pulled the item regarding the elementary site specific plans from the consent calendar because, she said, the plans for two schools, Grant Elementary and Marsh Elementary, were incomplete.

At that same meeting, board members had complained about the limited time they were given to review the plans. Board Member Barbara Cowan said that the first time she had seen the plans was that evening, and that she had only had time to review one of them. Board Member Debra Vinson said that she would need time to review all of the plans. Board Vice President Diane Gibson-Gray echoed their comments, and added that board members had asked for advance copies of the documents the previous year, as well.

At the June 24 meeting, AUSD Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Don Gill, introduced Dr. Cheryl Domenichelli, AUSD Coordinator of Outreach and Community Development, to speak to the plans. No sooner had she finished her remarks than it became clear that the plans were once again in trouble, as school board member Vinson’s opening comment was, “I don’t even know where to begin.” She then told Domenichelli, “Say that again.”

After another statement by Domenichelli, Vinson expressed her dissatisfaction.

Only a handful of the elementary site plans have enough data to make the plans valid,” she said. “They don’t address foster youth. They don’t address communication with parents.”

Vinson also complained about a lack of consistency with how Supplemental and Concentration funds were being spent across the school sites.

Domenichelli responded to Vinson’s concerns. She explained that, “latitude is extended to [school] sites.” She also said that different schools have different populations, some might have only two foster youth attending, while others might have 30.

After a lengthy question and answer session, with members of the board questioning Domenichelli on various aspects of the plans, Board President Claire Smith called for public comments. Once again, the site plans were roundly criticized.

Arrieanna Lombard singled out the site plan for Deer Valley High School (DVHS), saying that, having looked at it, “I have some serious concerns.”

These aren’t SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound),” she continued. “A goal is a desired result. Some of the actions don’t indicate how the goal will be met.”

When you plan, you should be planning to hit the ground running with your goals. This document is…unacceptable,” Lombard added.

Willie Mims, Education Chair of the East County NAACP, told the Board there was a “lack of parental involvement in development of the plans.”

How many parents were involved with this?” he asked. “You don’t want parental involvement. You claim you do. But your actions say you don’t.”

He then pointed to Strategy #14 of the DVHS plan, listed as a strategy to meet the needs of foster youth, and for which the budgeted amount was given as $3.00.

Three dollars? That is crazy,” he continued. “They developed a plan and just threw things in.”

Julie Young, who regularly attends and speaks at school board meetings, brought up the issue of proper public notice. She began by asking the board, “Can you get online? Go to the AUSD website.”

Young then walked the board members through the website links, showing them that the link for school site academic plans took them to the 2014-2015 plans, not the 2015-2016 plans, which they were supposed to be approving.

With this revelation, Domenichelli returned again to the podium, to explain that the plans were on-line, but under the LCAP link. Smith responded by saying the plans needed to be posted where a reasonable person could find them.

I’m a reasonable person, and I couldn’t find them,” she said.

Synitha Walker, of Parents Connected, discussed her concerns with the process for development of the plans.

I’m a school site member at DVHS,” she said, “and I’ve never seen this plan.” (According to a statement on the AUSD website accessed from the School Site Plans link, where the plans are now posted, “The School Site Council recommends this school plan…”) She went on to say that the process last year was, “terrible,” and that it will, “be bad this year, as well.”

Responding to further questions from the board, Louie Rocha, Principal of Antioch High School (AHS), came forward and gave an explanation as to the process used at his school to create their plan, while also elaborating on some of the goals and actions recommended in the AHS site plan.

While Rocha’s presentation received a favorable response, the plans submitted by other schools continued to be questioned.

The DVHS plan is not clear,” said Vinson. “If this plan, as vague and bland as it is, is lined up with LCAP, then we have a problem.”

AUSD staff members, at one point, expressed concern that, without approval of the plans, some school funding might be jeopardized. But in response to questions from Herald staff, they have yet to explain what funding might be in jeopardy, and what, if any, deadline must be met with respect to board approval of the plans so as not to jeopardize such funding.

Responding to further statements from staff, Vinson continued to express her displeasure with what had been presented.

What I don’t want to hear is excuses,” she said. “What I want to hear is that moving forward, we’re [addressing the needs] of all our students. Unequivocally.”

Following Vinson’s statement, Cowan moved to approve the plans, “with caveats.” Board Member Walter Ruehlig seconded, while also expressing reservations. Before the vote could be taken, though, Gibson-Gray added another comment. “This process is as flawed this week as it was two weeks ago,” she stated. “Now, the flaw is, it wasn’t available to the public. I’m going to vote no on this.”

The vote on Cowan’s motion was then taken, and it failed 2-3, with Gibson-Gray, Smith, and Vinson voting no.

These plans are not approved tonight,” Smith told staff.

She then called a special meeting for Monday, at 5:00 p.m. at which the site plans will once again be discussed. The meeting will take place in the School Services Building, located at 510 G Street.

Vinson had the last word of the night on the issue, telling everyone in attendance, “If you want to address these plans, that is the time to do it.”

When reached for comment via email about why he voted for the site plans, Ruehlig responded on Monday, June 29 at 7:00 a.m., “We were told the budget could be held back. They said June 30th was pitvotal but nobody at the State has confirmed that. I called the County and State Dept of Ed afterwards and found out that was apparently not the case. I am revoting tonite [sic] to reject.”

 

 

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Antioch Council approves Downtown Specific Plan, allowing for park, event center on former lumber yard site

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015
The Downtown Specific Plan Alternative 1B that the Antioch City Council approved, at Tuesday night's meeting, allowing for mixed-use development or a park and event center on the empty lot between West Second, West Third and F Streets.

The Downtown Specific Plan Revised Alternative 1B that the Antioch City Council approved, at Tuesday night’s meeting, allowing for mixed-use development or a park and event center on the empty lot between West Second, West Third and E Streets.

Ogorchock moves to reduce total units per acre from 37 to 18, council agrees

By John Crowder

Following months of community meetings, the Antioch City Council selected, from a mix of six options presented, their “preferred alternative,” giving staff direction in preparing the Draft Specific Plan, the guiding document to be used in efforts to revitalize the downtown area. Their choice appeared to be a compromise, for the moment, between two competing ideas for use of the old Beede Lumber Yard property: a recommendation by city staff for high-density housing, and a request by local citizen groups for a park and event center on the site.

The selection of the preferred alternative for downtown was the last item on the agenda, and local residents who have been fighting for a park and event center on the site shown on the plan as “Opportunity Site 5” stayed until the end to make their case and see the outcome of the vote.

Discussion of the item began with City Manager Steve Duran providing background on the matter. He detailed the number of community meetings that had taken place and the amount of work that had already gone into the project by city staff and consultants. Referencing the Beede lumber site, and alluding to the citizen groups seeking a park and event center for the location, he said staff was still recommending it be used for housing, and that it was his and staff’s duty to provide their best professional advice with respect to what use would lead to the revitalization of the downtown area.

A presentation was then given showing the alternatives. According to staff, Refined Alternative #1 would “accommodate a broader range of residential product types” and provide “flexibility in housing densities to respond to future market conditions.” Refined Alternative #3 would “focus on placing a greater emphasis on concentration of commercial activities within the established Downtown Core, while also limiting residential densities surrounding the Downtown Core.” It was noted that Alternative #2 had been dropped from consideration after a previous meeting.

Within each option, three choices were then given for Opportunity Site 5, the parcel of land that had been the subject of the competing downtown visions. These ranged from Residential High Density (the consultant/staff recommendation if Alternative 1 was chosen), to Mixed-Use (which was said to allow for any combination of residential, and/or commercial, and/or park), to Residential Low Medium Density (the recommended choice for Alternative 3), to Park.

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 West West Second, Third and E Streets.

Following the presentation, a few speakers came forward to advocate for the event center/park. One of them, Lee Ballesteros, told the council not to fall for the “mixed use” designation. “Please choose a park/event center for that site,” she said.

Other speakers, though, asked that the Mixed-Use designation be chosen.

Dr. Sean Wright, CEO of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce, told the council that the Mixed-Use designation would provide for the greatest flexibility. He said that, with that designation, a park could be placed on the site and, if it did not produce the desired result, it could be changed to something else.

Allen Payton, publisher of the Antioch Herald, said he supported what Wright had said. He said that he had a concern with how a park and event center would be paid for, and then advocated for changing the names of the streets leading into the downtown area.

We need to take advantage of the changes of the signs on the freeway…to promote downtown, permanently,” he said. “A and Second Streets to Rivertown Drive and L Street to Marina Way or Boulevard.”

With the conclusion of public comments, the members of the council then each expressed their views on the matter. Each of them expressed support for Alternative #1, then spoke to their views for Opportunity Site 5, the Beede lumber yard property.

Council Member Tony Tiscareno, first to speak to the matter, said, “I think this council is hearing you.”

He went on to say that he preferred the Mixed-Use designation because of the flexibility. He also said that he believed a ferry system, if developed, would bring people to the downtown area, but he did not think an event center would do so.

Council Member Mary Rocha said that there should be a set amount of time in which to develop a park, because other opportunities exist right now. “The timing is important,” she said, but also said she supported the Mixed-Use designation, but with the understanding that, at least initially, a park would be on the site.

Council Member Monica Wilson said she also supported the Mixed-Use option, as it, “leaves it open to multiple possibilities.”

Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock said, “I do have concerns with how an event center would be paid for,” but also, “I don’t like the idea of the high density.”

She said she was favoring Alternative 3 with the Mixed-Use designation for the contested Site 5. However, after further discussion, and clarification from Duran that the council could, “mix and match” between the plans, she voiced her support for Alternative 1 but with a change to Medium Density housing.

Mayor Wade Harper thanked the community for all of their input, but said, with reference to designating Site 5 a Park, “I would want to know how you’re going to pay for it.” Even so, he said, “I’m going to choose 1B, and I would like to give the community the opportunity to find out how we’re going to pay for it.”

After further discussion, a motion was finally put forward by Ogorchock to choose Alternative 1, with a Mixed-Use designation for the Beede site that would restrict the number of units to 18 per acre, but still retain the possibility of a park. The motion passed on a vote of 5-0.

Following the vote, Joy Motts, representing the Celebrate Antioch Foundation and the Rivertown Preservation Group, and one of the leading proponents for the park and event center, commented.

After a year-and-a-half battle we are hopeful,” she stated. “We are pleased that the Council has listened to the community and that they will allow us to prove to them that economic revitalization can happen in ways other than high density housing. The best use of the Beede Lumber site, as seen by most in the community, utilizes its incomparable river views, its proximity to the downtown, preserves its historical significance and creates a much needed event center and park for Rivertown and for the entire Antioch community that can host Farmer’s Markets, Festivals, Summer concerts, and more.”

It is a critical part of changing the dynamic, culture, and public perception of Antioch,” Motts added.

The next city council meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 28. Meetings are held at the City Council Chambers, 200 H Street, and typically begin at 7:00 p.m.

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Antioch School Board hears about African-American promotion ceremony, LCAP, Kids’ Club, again

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

by John Crowder

Once again, it was standing room only at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board of Education, held on June 10, 2015. The overflow crowd in attendance addressed two main concerns, a recently held promotion ceremony for African American students and the on-going saga of Kids’ Club Preschool.

Also on the agenda were public hearings on the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and the budget for the District.

African American Promotion Celebration

AUSD Superintendent Dr. Don Gill wasted no time in addressing those present about the African American promotion ceremony that has generated so much scrutiny and concern on social media.

Reading from a prepared statement, Gill said, “I wanted to address recent concerns by some community members regarding an African American cultural celebration sponsored by an employee in his capacity as a community member. We acknowledge that there were some procedural errors that occurred regarding communication. We are looking into this so that we can ensure we are effectively communicating procedures for employees. However, I hope that this will not cloud or taint what was truly a well-intentioned positive event for our students. While we did not sponsor this particular event this year, we do see the value in holding such cultural celebrations as they are a chance for students to be recognized and honored and for all of us to learn more about the rich cultures of our students and our community.”

Some of those speaking during public comments, however, did not feel that District staff had gone far enough in supporting Dr. Lamont Francies, the organizer of the event, who recently took a leave of absence from his work as a counselor with AUSD.

This sentiment was most succinctly put forward by Lawrence Rasheed, Founder of Greatness Rediscovered In Our Time (GRIOT), a mentoring and advocacy group focusing on young African American males.

Rasheed stated that all of the Board members, and Dr. Gill, had been notified in April of the African American promotion ceremony that Francies had organized. He said that they should apologize to Francies for not supporting him when the controversy over the event began.

Kids’ Club

Representatives of Kids’ Club Preschool have been attending both Antioch City Council and AUSD School Board meetings in recent months, making various requests for assistance. The lease for the building used by the preschool (and owned by AUSD) is due to expire next month, and, among other things, the group has asked for a lease extension or land upon which to place modular buildings.

While several speakers spoke in support of the Kids’ Club program, as has been the case at each meeting where they have been present, this time one resident, Julie Young, spoke out in opposition to the requests they have been making.

Young began her remarks by saying that Kids’ Club was, “a good program.” But, she said, their requests for land and/or buildings were inappropriate, and, if granted, would be, “against good public policy.”

Pointing out that the program was given a year’s notice to find a new location, she called their demands for land, “a bold request.” “What they are really saying is, we are a private group that does a good thing, and you [AUSD] owe us…”

Young continued, “As a school district, you do not have the authority to give away land…funded by the taxpayer, to a private entity.”

Expressing her sympathy for those in support of the preschool, and looking for alternatives, Young concluded her remarks by telling all in attendance that other preschool options were available, including The Child Day Schools, located at 112 East Tregallas Road in Antioch, which recently announced an award of state funding that would allow them to take 87 additional preschool students.

LCAP Presentation and Hearings

AUSD staff gave a presentation on the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) for the 2015-2016 school year, and it was followed by a public hearing later in the meeting. A separate hearing was also held, on the 2015-2016 budget for the District.

Only a handful of people came forward to speak during the hearings.

Sharon Vela spoke in support of restoring and expanding the music program. Others spoke about continuing to engage parents in the process, and the importance of supporting cultural events.

Only one speaker, Willie Mims, Education Chair of the East County NAACP, questioned any of the spending that had been outlined, telling the Board that funding Vice Principal positions from money coming from supplemental funds was not permitted.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 24, at 7:00 p.m. Meetings take place in the School Services Building, located at 510 G Street.

Alia Bickham contributed to this report.

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