Archive for the ‘Supervisors’ Category

County Assessor Kramer responds to censure by Supervisors

Monday, August 20th, 2018

Gus Kramer from his website.

By Allen Payton

In a brief interview while he is out of town on vacation, Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer responded to the censure against him by the Board of Supervisors at their meeting on Tuesday, August 14 over sexual misconduct allegations. (See related article).

The conversations and text between assessor Kramer and complainants were mutual and consensual, he explained. “In fact, most were initiated and or sent by one of the complainants,” Kramer stated. “No inappropriate physical behavior was claimed at all. No touching or asking out on dates of any kind.”

It was only after the two women were not chosen in civil service competition for a supervising appraiser’s position in the Assessor’s Office in 2014, were the complaints made.

“Only then did the conversations become unwelcome,” he said.

Upon being advised of their complaint, Kramer said he stopped all communication with both of the complainants, and they were advised of all of their options.

“None were pursued,” he pointed out.

The independent investigator, hired by the county in 2018, who is a female attorney in Oakland, determined there was no sexual harassment on Kramer’s part. The investigation was not conducted until this year, over three years later, when he was facing re-election.

According to Kramer, during that same time, and at least five years prior, one of the complainants had been lobbying members of the Board of Supervisors to be appointed to the position of County Assessor, should he retire or leave office midterm.

“She didn’t want to stand for election because she did not want to spend the money on a public campaign,” Kramer stated.

He ran unopposed in the June primary and won re-election for another four years.

The Board’s action occurred when neither Board Chair John Gioia nor Kramer could attend the meeting and defend himself or offer his point of view before the vote. He is considering suing the county.

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County Supervisors honor 2018 Veterans Initiative in the Arts ABOUTFACE Program

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

 

“I had a complete meltdown with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). I thought I was losing my mind. I’d never been out of control before, and it was hard to admit I needed help, but I wanted my old self back. I’ve gotten that and more. I’m strong. I’m healthy. I have tools, I have knowledge, and I have strength and courage to deal with it. I’m doing just fine.” RON WHITCOMB SGT US ARMY 1968 – 1969 SQUAD LEADER, VIETNAM

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors recognized the 2018 Veterans Initiative in the Arts ABOUTFACE Program at their meeting on August 14th.  The ABOUTFACE: Self-Understanding through Self-Portraits Workshops (ABOUTFACE) offered visual arts activities that helped motivate veterans and their families to explore self-understanding, to think creatively, to be innovative and to improve their quality of life.

The teaching team of the recent ABOUTFACE, which consisted of:  Coordinator, Ryan Berg (U.S. Marine Corps Veteran); Facilitator, Felisa Gaffney, Ph.D., (U.S. Air Force – Retired); and Artist, Victoria Bianco, Ph.D., were honored by the board.

The 2018 ABOUTFACE participants in the six workshops were from across the County and represented a cross section of military service and age groups.  All of the participants said they would recommend ABOUTFACE to other veterans and over half said they are looking forward to exhibiting their self-portraits for the public to see and understand.

The Arts and Culture Commission of Contra Costa County (AC5) worked with the County Veterans Service Department, the County Office of Communications & Media and the County Library to help select locations, distribute project information and to identify potential participants.  AC5 Commissioner Anderson was the Project Director, and the other AC5 Commissioners all contributed to the success of this outstanding program.  AC5 would like to thank the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors and the California Arts Commission for the funding that made this program possible.

To learn more about this program or to interview the honorees making a difference for veterans, please contact Roger Renn, AC5 Executive Director, at (925) 646-2278.

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Supervisors censure County Assessor Gus Kramer for sexual misconduct; he might sue

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Kramer, Board Chair Gioia unable to attend meeting

By Daniel Borsuk

Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer was censured on sexual misconduct charges by the County Board of Supervisors on a 4-0 vote Tuesday, paving the way for a potential lawsuit by the longtime elected official. Board Vice Chair John Gioia was absent at the meeting because he was touring the tar sands of British Columbia as part of a joint tour for serving as a Board Director on both the California Air Resources Board and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Elected to the county assessor post since 1994, Kramer was represented by his attorney Bruce Zelis of Walnut Creek. He warned supervisors before taking action that the assessor had sought a continuance on the board censure item because of Kramer’s inability to attend the meeting and because of questions that arose about whether the supervisors had violated the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state public meeting law.

Kramer’s attorney also questioned whether the board can discipline an elected official for actions he allegedly committed three years ago and there have been no similar charges leveled against him since then.

Zelis also questioned whether the board can discipline a countywide elected official, which conflicts with the board’s resolution recommendation that states:

“There are six county departments that are managed by elected department heads: the Assessor, Auditor, Clerk-Recorder, District Attorney, Sheriff, and Treasurer-Tax Collector. These elected officials are responsible for managing the county employees who work in their departments. The Board of Supervisors does not have the power to discipline elected officials when their conduct fails to meet the standards of behavior expected of all other county department heads.”

Obviously, supervisors went against the resolution recommendation and moved to censure the county assessor, who last year earned $221,946.80 before benefits.

Zelis refused to comment further with the Contra Costa Herald about the Brown Act violation allegations or other issues about Kramer’s case, but Board Chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill said there were no Brown Act violations when she and vice chair Gioia consulted over the proposed Kramer censure resolution prior to the meeting.

“We did not confer with our colleagues,” Mitchoff said.

This may not be the end of line for County Assessor Kramer case. The Contra Costa County Civil Grand Jury will now be handed the case to determine if the allegations involving the assessor and two female employees merit additional investigation.

Supervisors acted on a 2018 outside independent attorney investigation on two charges of sexual harassment dating back to 2015 by two initially unidentified Assessor Department female employees, one of whom has since been identified as associate assessor Margaret Eychner, a resident of Walnut Creek.

“The investigator found that, prior to mid-2015 it is more likely than not that Mr. Kramer made certain comments and engaged in conduct that two individuals who worked in his department considered to be offensive and inappropriate in the workplace.” a board report stated.

In the board’s resolution, the supervisors found “there was sufficient evidence to prove Assessor Kramer had engaged in the following conduct in 2014 and 2015:

  • Kramer frequently visited the complainant’s cubicle on the first floor and the complainant frequently visited Mr. Kramer’s office during 2014 and up to March 2015.  During these visits they discussed work related and nonwork-related matters.
  • On one occasion Mr. Kramer told her that he had given a vibrator to a woman (not a county employee) as a gift. She thought that this was inappropriate and offensive.
  • Mr. Kramer sent her two text messages in 2014 that she believed suggested a romantic/sexual interest in her. She considered the texts to be inappropriate an unwelcome.
  • In May 2014, he offered her a rose, which she interpreted to be a romantic gesture.
  • As to the second employee/witness, there was sufficient evidence to indicate that Mr. Kramer made a comment in her presence in 2008 and told a story in her presence in 2013 concerning his social interactions with women that she thought were inappropriate and offensive; and that on one occasion in 2015 he made a comment to her that she believed was intended to be sexually suggestive and considered inappropriate, offensive and unwelcome.”

The independent attorney investigator found that evidence did not show Assessor Kramer, who earned $221,946.80 in salary only in 2017, had retaliated against the two employees or had acted to “negatively impact their careers.”  In addition, the investigator’s evidence did show the assessor stopped making inappropriate and offense comments of a sexual nature to both employees after he learned of their complaints in 2015.  No further harassment complaints from the two employees or other employees have been lodged against the Assessor Kramer since June 2015.

“This is not a witch hunt and perhaps there wasn’t any retaliation,” said Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville, “but you have to remember the county had to pay $1 million in a sexual related case involving the assessor in 2009.”  Andersen was referring to a $1 million settlement paid to Assessor department employee Bernice Peoples in 2009 that Kramer had sexually retaliated against her.

“I want all our employees to feel safe and comfortable,” said Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood after voting in favor of the censure resolution.

Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg did not comment on this item.

Sandy Hook Promise Impresses Supervisors

A Contra Costa County Office of Education presentation on the nationally acclaimed Sandy Hood Promise, a non-profit organization designed to prevent gun violence on K-12 school campuses, won endorsements from all four supervisors in attendance.  Supervisors plan to place a resolution of endorsement on its next board meeting agenda slated for Sept. 11.

Sandy Hook Promise and the county office of education and eventually 18 public K12 school districts in the county are expected to work with the no-cost program that Sandy Hook Promise Vice President of Field Operations Paula Fynboh says is based on a heavy emphasis on student mental wellness.

“You brought us a great gift,” remarked Supervisor Burgis.  “You have my personal support.”

County Real Estate Fraud Unit Reviewed 71 Cases in 2017/2018

Supervisors also approved without comment the District Attorney Office’s annual real estate fraud report for the 2017/2018 fiscal year during which time the Real Estate Fraud Unit reviewed 71 real estate fraud cases, an increase from 64 cases that were reviewed during the 2016/2017 fiscal year.

“Within the last year, our office has secured felony convictions in 3 different cases and has conducted preliminary hearings against another 7 defendants in complex white-collar fraud cases, involving over 2 million dollars in stolen assets,” wrote Deputy District Attorney Adam Wilks, who leads the Special Operations-Real Estate Fraud.

Because real estate fraud is a sophisticated crime targeting especially senior citizens, Wilks wrote: “Within the last year, the Real Estate Fraud Unit restored title to the home of an elderly woman after the home was fraudulently slated for foreclosure auction.  This unit is currently working with federal prosecutors to help elderly victims of a foreclosure scam in operating around the Bay Area.”

Wilks reported that in the 2016/2017 fiscal year the Real Estate Fraud Unit tracked international cases as far away as Nigeria.  “These investigations involve rental fraud, forgery, embezzlement, foreclosure consultancy fraud, short sale fraud and elder abuse,” he reported.

Established in July 1996 by the board of supervisors, the DA’s Real Estate Fraud Prosecution unit is staffed with one deputy district attorney, one senior inspector and one legal assistant.  Last fiscal year, the unit spent $399,705 for salaries, benefits, travel and necessary services.

Resolution Boosts Two County Airports Economic Assets 

Supervisors unanimously gave the county’s two airports – Buchanan Field Airport in Concord and Byron Airport – an economic boost in the form of a resolution recognizing the contributions of the two airports to the aeronautical community and economic growth of the county.

The resolution materializes when the airports, especially Buchanan Field Airport, has drawn increased development interest.  The City of Concord has made overtures to annex the airfield, but Board Chair Mitchoff, whose District 4 covers the Concord air field, said, “There is no way, no how that the city of Concord will annex the air field. It is an economic asset for the county.” Both airports are self-sufficient and do not need to use county general fund money to cover expenses. Instead both airports are moneymakers contributing about $2.77 million to the county general fund, $1.2 million to local schools, and $273,216 to other public entities from associated possessory interest and sales tax.

The supervisors’ resolution boasts how the two airports provides a base of operation to over 600 aircraft, generated about $106 million in total direct and indirect annual economic output in 2016, which includes the creation of 828 jobs, $8 million in state and local revenue and $10.2 million in federal tax revenue.

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Supervisors OK commercial cannabis ordinance, requires voters pass tax measure in November

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Mitchoff calls for calm over proposed Concord detention center

By Daniel Borsuk

Contra Costa County voters will get a crack at voting on a tax measure in November on how much the county should tax commercial cannabis enterprises, now that the board of supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance establishing zoning regulations for the cultivation, distribution and selling of recreational marijuana in most of unincorporated Contra Costa County.

Six areas where cannabis enterprises would be prohibited from setting up shop include Bethel Island, Sandamound Slough, Contra Costa Centre, Acalanes Ridge, Saranap and Alamo.  During the proposed ordinance’s public hearing process there was community protests especially from Alamo residents opposed to the establishment of commercial cannabis enterprises in their community mostly for public safety concerns.

Supervisors will consider proposed tax and health ordinances linked to the commercial cannabis ordinance at their July 10 meeting.

While the commercial cannabis ordinance charts regulations established in the Framework for Regulating Cannabis in the Unincorporated Area of Contra Costa County that supervisors approved in April, at Tuesday’s meeting supervisors were more focused on how the cannabis growers can conserve water, especially underground water, for a crop known to require high volumes of water to grow at a time California seems to permanently undergo drought conditions.

As a last-minute change, supervisors were handed an alternative water service plan provided by county planner Ruben Hernandez.  This water service alternative earned the stamp of approval from supervisors and establishes rules on how commercial cannabis cultivation operations can use groundwater but must comply with regulations aimed at conserving groundwater.  For instance, a commercial cultivation business could pump groundwater when “the retail water supplier does not provide retail water service at all times during the year.”

All five supervisors signed on and supported the water service alternative even though one prospective cannabis cultivator, Israel Martinez, a Brentwood farmer, said the county’s proposed groundwater revised rules are “too restrictive” and he said he supported the earlier Planning Commission’s groundwater rules because “cannabis uses a minor amount of water.”

“I don’t support any water alternative.” said East county rancher Eric Thomas.  “I’d like to see a cap on cannabis cultivation.  This does not use any water recapture.  Why not truck in water? You can recapture as much as 90 percent of the water used,” Thomas said.

All five supervisors approved the groundwater use alternative presented by the Department of Conservation and Development and therefore they unanimously approved the commercial cannabis ordinance.

“This is not the gold rush or green rush, but there is a significant investment that’s involved in establishing these types of businesses.” remarked Supervisor Diane Burgis whose rural oriented District 3 in East County, would be a big beneficiary of the potential new cannabis ordinance should it go into effect.

Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg, Supervisor Candance Andersen of Alamo, and Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond were willing to move forward on approving the commercial cannabis ordinance and accept the Department of Conservation and Development’s last-minute groundwater use proposal.

Board chair Karen Mitchoff also joined the other supervisors even though initially she preferred to wait and find out what state legislators were going to do about proposed legislation that would change the way county tax measures are passed either by a two-thirds vote or a majority vote.

Glover Unveils Keller Canyon Landfill Investigation Funding Source

Supervisor Glover announced that he has identified funds in the Keller Canyon Mitigation Fund, a fund used for an assortment of community activities in the Pittsburg and Bay Point area, to be spent for the county’s investigation into findings that there have been illegal deliveries and deposits of radioactive debris from the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.  A price tag has not yet been disclosed for the investigation.

The mitigation fund that landfill operator Republic Services finances will spend the money associated with covering costs of hiring a specialist to conduct an independent investigation into whether there were more than two documented cases where debris from the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard wound up at the landfill off of Baily Road.

Mitchoff Calls For Calm Over Concord Naval Weapons Station Use

Board Chair Mitchoff urged citizens to refrain from protesting at the Concord Naval Weapons Station, a site that the Trump Administration plans to house detained immigrants.  Should the President’s plans materialize at the closed weapons base, the government plans to spend as much as $233 million to construct housing for detained immigrants, U.S. Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) first disclosed the Administration’s plans last week.

The Navy has refused to disclose whether there are any plans to house as many as 47,000 detained immigrants at the closed military base.

“I specifically ask that no one march or protest,” Mitchoff said. “This may convey the wrong message to the Administration in Washington.”

Other than a protest planned in El Cerrito later this week, no protests have yet been planned at the shuttered weapons station.

$300,000 Contract Awarded from Animal Benefit Fund

On a 5-0 vote, supervisors approved a $300,000 contract to Unconditional Dog to provide animal enrichment services to dogs at the Pinole and Martinez animal shelters, but supervisors pulled the consent item for discussion because of concern over the Oakland-based company’s practices and whether County Animal Services will be accountable.

“I do support Ms. (Beth) Ward’s efforts, but the point is we need accountability,” said Dee Good.  “There should be some accountability.”

Another animal shelter observer, Carol Mason, also said the Unconditional Dog contract lacks accountability. “What kind of accountability is there at the shelters? Accountability is still important.”

Ward told supervisors her department awarded a three-month contract to Unconditional Dog in April to see if the company’s animal enrichment program does a better job in taming difficult dogs and thereby driving up the animal adoption rate at shelters.  Ward said the trial program showed some progress.

The Animal Benefit Fund will cover the contract costs.  No public funds are involved in the contract.

Supervisors asked that Ward give a report on the Unconditional Dog program in March 2019.

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Supervisor Glover wants investigation into possible radioactive materials deposited at Keller Canyon Landfill in Pittsburg

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

Keller Canyon Landfill. Photo courtesy of Comanco.

Matter to be heard at next Tuesday’s Board meeting

Supervisor Federal Glover has directed Contra Costa County Staff at next Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting to provide the Board with an update concerning the allegations of malfeasance by Tetra Tech EC Inc. at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. The allegations concern possible radioactive materials being deposited at landfills across the state including possible contaminated material that might have been sent to the Keller Canyon Landfill.
“I am very concerned about these allegations and want a full report from staff on this issue,” Glover stated.  Healso said that he expects County staff to follow up with further review of the issue after the Board meeting next Tuesday.

“I want staff to thoroughly investigate these allegations and determine whether or not the Keller Landfill was sent contaminated material,” Glover continued. “I want to make sure the residents of Contra Costa County are protected and that this matter is fully addressed.”

He said that the matter will be heard in front of the Board of Supervisors during its regularly scheduled session starting at 9:30 AM on May 1, 2018 in the Board Chambers at 651 Pine St., Martinez.

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Contra Costa Supervisors examine $3.5 billion 2018-19 budget

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

In era of federal funding uncertainty

By Daniel Borsuk

Contra Costa County Supervisors are poised to approve on May 8 a $3.5 billion 2018-19 budget realizing that during the upcoming budget year there is the likelihood significant funding cuts out of Washington might especially hit human services programs.

“The current administration in Washington is likely to reduce funding to states and counties,” county administrator David Twa warned supervisors at Tuesday’s board budget hearing.

Even with that caution, supervisors did not blink an eye and proceeded to listen to six budget presentations from department chiefs about what is in store for the upcoming 2018-2019 fiscal year.  Supervisors did not comment about the prospects of federal or state cuts next fiscal year at the hearing, but neither did any of the meager number of persons who showed up to speak about the proposed 2018-19 spending plan.

The Employment & Human Services Department is subject to perhaps the most significant funding cuts from Washington, EHSD Director Kathy Gallagher told supervisors.  Since 2017, funding for the department’s CalFresh and CalWorks programs that deliver food and job training for 65,000 residents has had federal funding trimmed from $101.5 million in 2016 to $90.4 million to 2018.  More cuts are expected for the two programs in the upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year, she said.

Gallagher painted a bleak federal funding fiscal picture showing a watch list of human service programs that could potentially be hit with steep federal funding cuts.  Some of those programs include Medicaid, Community Service Block Grants, Child Welfare Services, and the Older American Act, which includes Meals on Wheels.

Federal funding uncertainty also hovers over County Health Services, but not as severely as what EHSD faces, Contra Costa County Health Director Anna M. Roth told supervisors, in presenting her department’s proposed $1.8 billion budget for 2018-19.  Next year’s budget includes $100 million in general funds.

Roth noted that expansion of the Contra Costa Health Plan with more than 200,000 members provides the county financial support, especially when there is financial uncertainty coming out of Washington.

Addressing only the $241,271,160 in general funds proposed for 2018-19, Contra Costa Undersheriff Michael Casten, who filled in for Sheriff David O. Livingston who was out of town, said a $5.6 million vacancy factor makes it “a very difficult for the Office of the Sheriff-Coroner to operate”.

Casten said the funding deficit means for 2018019 the Sheriff-Coroner will not fill 10 deputy sheriff slots worth $2.6 million, three mental health evaluation team deputies openings worth a combined $781,000, 7 patrol deputies worth $1.82 million and six sergeants worth $1.77 million.  The Sheriff-Coroner’s request for 15 recruit positions valued at $1.21 million was approved for the upcoming fiscal year.

For Diana Becton, the Interim Contra Costa County District Attorney appointed by the board of supervisors last year who is up for election June 5, budget priorities for 2018-19 include enforcement of Proposition 64 (2016 voter approval for the legalization of the sale of marijuana in California), hiring of additional clerical staff, the implementation of a case management system and pay parity.

For 2018-19, Becton wants to add 14 full-time staff worth $1 million.  Those positions include five mainline prosecution assistant district attorneys, five mainline prosecution clerks, two senior inspectors and one forensic accountant.

District attorney Becton wants to also distribute resources for bail reform, the East County Anti-Violence Coalition, the West County Anti-Violence Coalition, the Safe Streets Task Force and anti-truancy initiatives.

Public Defender Robin Lipetzky plans to hire 8 staff members to her department next fiscal year.  She plans to hire two attorneys, one investigator, pretrial attorneys, and clerical staff.  A new juvenile office in Walnut Creek will open in the next month, she informed supervisors.  Last year the public defender handled 501 juvenile cases.  Her department last year also handled 3,545 felony cases.

For 2018-19, Contra Costa Public Works will be busy filling 15 positions, Brian Balbas, Public Works Director said.  The department will need the additional staff as Balbas needs more staff to oversee a big increase in capital improvement projects, including the construction of a new $110 million county administration building and emergency communication center.

New West County Health Center Expansion Project Approved

On a consent item, supervisors awarded a $12.45 million design-build contract to C. Overaa & Co. for the design and construction of the West County Health Center Expansion Project at 13585 San Pablo Ave., in San Pablo.

When the project is completed, the new two-story, 20,000 square foot building will house the Behavioral Health Department, which will be relocated from a leased building.  The new building will qualify for a LEED Silver rating from the Green Building Council.

Other construction firms competing for the design-build contract were Vila Construction and Boldt Co.

College District – Sheriff-Coroner Contract OK’d

Supervisors also approved the $497,250 contract between the Sheriff-Coroner and Contra Costa Community College District to provide educational course construction at the Law Enforcement Training Center at Los Medanos College for the period July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019.

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Supervisors approve major Buchanan Airport mixed-use project, more airport projects planned

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

Sheriff-Coroner awarded $400,000 in grants

By Daniel Borsuk

Contra Costa Supervisors flashed the green light on Tuesday for county airport officials to ink a long-term lease with a Southern California developer to build a 52,000 square foot, single story mixed-use building at 550 Sally Ride Drive near Buchanan Field Airport in Concord.

The supervisors’ 4-0 action serves as a signal that more commercial and aviation related developments are in the pipeline on county owned property adjacent to the county’s two airports – Buchanan Field Airport and Byron Airport.

District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis was not in attendance because she was at a business meeting representing the supervisors.

The supervisors’ action on the consent agenda item means that Airports Director Keith Freitas can proceed to execute a long-term lease with Montecito Commercial Group, LLC for the lease of about 3.21 acres of unimproved county-owned property at the south end of Sally Ride Drive.

As part of the supervisors’ action, the developer will receive a mitigated negative declaration attached to the project’s environmental impact report.  During the EIR procedure, the Contra Costa Water District submitted a letter about the developer’s water usage and an easement issue.  Both issues were resolved according to the CCWD.

The county can expect to cash in on the proposed single-story office-warehouse-distribution building.  During the two-year construction period, the county will be paid $1,000 per month, but once construction is completed monthly rent will increase to $4,247 and will be adjusted every year on April 1 based on the Consumer Price Index.

The Montecito lease calls the one-year period beginning April 1, 2022, 2023, 2024, 2025, 2026 any adjustment will not be greater than 75 percent of the CPI factor.  For the one period beginning on April 1, 2028, throughout the lease term, any adjustment to ground rent based on CPI may not be more than 4 percent of ground rent then in effect.

The Montecito development serves as an indication more projects near the county’s two airports are on their way for future supervisors’ review and action, Assistant Airports Director Beth Lee said.  Supervisors are expected to soon consider two large developments proposed for the Byron Airport.  One is a proposed building for aviation use and the other building is for non-aviation use, Lee said.

Lee noted the developer has yet to complete design and other procedural work before the Montecito project can get underway.

Before the Montecito -Buchanan Field development, the last development constructed on county airport property occurred in 2012 at the Byron Airport when the Patriot Jet Team building was constructed, said Lee.

When asked if real estate developers are finally recognizing how county airport projects can generate ideal real estate deals, Lee responded: “We sure hope so. This could mean a major new source of revenue for the county.”

Two State Grants Approved for Sheriff-Coroner

Supervisors approved two major state grants for the Sheriff-Coroner’s Office.

A $300,000 grant from the California Division of Boating and Waterways was awarded to the Sheriff-Coroner for the removal of abandoned vessels and the vessel turn-in program on county waterways.  The grant goes into effect beginning Oct. 1, 2018 and remains in effect when grant funding runs out.  Ninety percent of the funding comes from the state and 10 percent is an in-kind match.

Supervisors also approved a $97,100 grant for the Sheriff-Coroner from the Office of the Attorney General, California Department of Justice, Division of Law Enforcement Tobacco Law Enforcement Grant Program.  The grant will be used from June 1, 2018 through June 30, 2020 to decrease juvenile access and use of tobacco products.

Both grants were approved as consent items.

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Supervisors move forward ban on second-hand smoke in apartments, hotels, motels

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

By Daniel Borsuk

With the health consequences of second-hand smoke to children and the elderly well-documented, Contra Costa County is on the verge of becoming the 42nd jurisdiction in the state to ban smoking in dwelling units of apartment buildings, hotels, and motels once supervisors approve the ordinance that’s slated for the board’s March 13th meeting.

In a lopsided meeting where supervisors did not hear any opposition against the proposed ordinance, District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond asked Contra Costa County Public Health Director Dan Peddycord whether the proposed ordinance will also apply to short-term rentals.  Short-term rents have become a hot button issue in most part of the county and have impacted the county’s housing crisis.

Peddycord answered that the proposed ordinance will not apply to short-term rental units.

The full impact of the proposed county ordinance will require apartment owners and hotel and motel operators to post no smoking signs in dwelling units and to apply measures designed to eliminate second smoke from drifting into dwelling units where children and the elderly reside and are most susceptible to the respiratory effects of tobacco smoke.

The cities of Danville, El Cerrito, Richmond and Walnut Creek and the counties of Sonoma, San Mateo and Santa Clara are some of the jurisdictions that have already adopted second hand smoke prohibition laws.

In the county Public Health Department’s research on the proposed ordinance, officials garnered the full support from the California Apartment Association.  Health department officials drew a 50 percent endorsement from four major homeowners’ associations in the county.

In the department’s research, officials learned four major hotels in the county are already in compliance with the proposed law by posting no smoking signs in guest rooms and common areas.  Those hotels are the Burlington Hotel in Port Costa, the Crowne Plaza in Concord, Embassy Suites, and the Renaissance Hotel in Walnut Creek.

In Contra Costa County there are approximately 10,000 individual dwelling units that would be affected by the new ordinance supervisors will very likely approve at the March 13 meeting.

According to the Public Health Department, a majority of the 120 second hand smoke complaints received by the department’s Tobacco Prevention Program over the last three years continue to emanate from multi-family housing residents.  During that period, 96 complaints were filed concerning unit-to-unit and outside-to-unit drifting smoke during that period.

“We are very happy to support this ordinance,” said Randy Uang of Breathe California, a San Francisco-based non-profit health organization.  “This ordinance will help in reducing chronic breathing and lung ailments, especially among children in Contra Costa County.”

Stephanie Robbins, an apartment dweller in unincorporated Walnut Creek, told supervisors the proposed ordinance will help people like her who lives in an upstairs apartment unit and has to constantly endure second-hand smoke from a downstairs neighbor.  “I’ve already spent $2,000 in hiring an attorney,” Robbins said.  “I endorse this ordinance because it will help me and my child fight against second hand smoke.”

The ordinance will go into effect July 1, 2019 after Public Health Department officials have educated and trained apartment owners.  The program will be funded by state Propositions 99 and 56.

Round Hill Police District Tax Hike Election Approved – A 150% Increase

The 1,296 registered voters in the unincorporated Round Hill area of Alamo, will have the opportunity to vote on whether the county should hike their property taxes from $330 per parcel to $812 per parcel in order to maintain two county sheriff’s deputies and a patrol car.

With no one speaking during the public speaking portion, supervisors approved on a 4-0 vote to have Round Hill residents vote in the June 5 election on whether to boost taxes on 739 parcels in order to raise $596,820 in tax revenue to cover increased patrol expenses on a yearly basis.

The measure will require two-thirds voter approval to pass during the June election.

Supervisors also approved, on a 4-0 vote, the acquisition of up to $2 million of solar panels to be installed over the 651 Pine Street parking lot for a 10-year period, Feb. 27, 2018 through Feb. 28, 2028.  The county will buy the solar panels from ENGIE Services U.S. Inc.  ENGIE Services will also install the solar panels.

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