City Council approves Antioch’s first gated home community, places card room initiative on ballot

Honors First Black Resident, Introduces Shopping Cart Ordinance

“The City of Antioch will not be bullied” – Mayor Wade Harper

By Nick Goodrich

During its regular meeting on Tuesday, February 9th, the Antioch City Council gave the go-ahead for the Vineyards at Sand Creek development project, the city’s first gated, new home community. In addition, they introduced a new shopping cart ordinance aimed at preventing the abandonment of carts around the city, and made a decision to place a citizens initiative to control card rooms in Antioch.

Thomas Gaines Honored

The meeting opened with the approval and reading of a proclamation by the City Council honoring the first black person to live in Antioch, entitled Celebrating Thomas Gaines Day in Antioch, February 9, 2016, as part of the City’s efforts to recognize Black History Month.

According to the proclamation and local history books, “In the 1860’s an emancipated slave named Thomas Gaines came to Antioch and worked as a laborer on the Antioch docks;…was the only African American resident of Antioch between 1860 and the 1940’s; and…He lived in a red brick shack on the waterfront in the back of the Antioch Lumber Company; and…On February 28, 1875, Thomas Gaines became a member of the First Congregational Church by profession of faith; and he…was highly regarded around town for his noble work and his caring attention towards others – he regularly walked women and children home from church for safety.

Health & Wealth Initiative Presentation

That was followed by a presentation on the “Antioch Health and Wealth Initiative” by Keith and Iris Archuleta, who have spoken with city stakeholders and residents for close to a year to help their effort gather data. The Initiative aims to foster a successful and growing Antioch by identifying and addressing areas in which the city can improve, while playing to it’s strengths.

“We have to build on our community’s assets and strengths, (of) which we have so many,” said Iris, who has been a prominent community activist in Antioch since moving to the city in 1992, and is the founder of the Antioch Youth Intervention Network. She and her husband’s company, Emerald Consulting, are working on the Initiative pro bono, emphasizing that there would be no cost to the city.

“We are citizens here, and if we want it done right, and we think we can, we’re doing it,” she added.

Vineyards at Sand Creek Development

Later in the meeting, Council held a public hearing to discuss the Vineyards at Sand Creek, a proposed housing development in the Sand Creek Focus Area. The project has been gaining steam since it’s approval by City Council in September of 2014, and would involve gated community, with 641 units, a park, and a swimming pool.

Matt Beinke, representing the developer GBN Partners, LLC, a company of Blackhawk-Nunn which built the Applehill Estates gated community in Brentwood, spoke before the Council during the hearing.

“A lot of time and effort has gone into this, a lot of community meetings,” he said. “It would be the only net positive community in the city.” Beinke noted that for the last 25 years, a lack of infrastructure in the Focus Area has prevented development from moving forward. But the proposed development would include the addition of both roads and underground utilities, such as gas lines. “There are no other contributions (to the project), city or otherwise,” he said. The adjacent Heidorn Ranch development would provide added infrastructure as well, with Heidorn Ranch Road running out to connect with Sand Creek Road.

No official opponent to the project was listed in the hearing, but Antioch residents turned out in force to speak both for and against the Vineyards. Lucas Stuart-Chilcote, a student at Dozier-Libbey Medical High School, in the Focus Area, cited several concerns before City Council including wildlife conservation, congested roadways, and crowded schools. “This area should be seen as Antioch’s natural preserve,” he said.

Wendy Aghily, an Antioch resident, echoed these concerns, reading from the city’s General Plan, which included making an effort to reduce commute times and traffic congestion. She asked the Council how it planned to follow through with these aspects of the document by adding another housing development to the city. “The city is going to replicate the mistakes of the past, and it is going to do it in record speed,” she said.

Beverly Knight, another resident, was concerned about overburdening an already understaffed police department with another neighborhood.

“This seems like a fancy addition to a dilapidated house,” she stated. “You need to focus on the foundation first.”

Other citizens were in full support of the Vineyards development. Tim Forrester, Associate Superintendent for Business and Operations for the Antioch Unified School District, was excited about the infrastructure that the project would introduce to the area. He noted that both Dozier-Libbey Medical High School on truck shipments of gas to stay running. The proposed gas lines would solve that problem for both establishments, he said. Forrester also mentioned the sewer service for both the school and Kaiser hospital, which will benefit by the new sewer line, instead of collecting it in a tank on site and pumping it to the neighborhood to the north.

Pablo Galvan, representing the environmental group Save Mount Diablo, said he supports the conservation benefits the development would bring, as well. A proposed buffer zone would help to protect natural habitats, a big point for him, and the city’s Habitat Conservation Plan would add “an extra level of conservational scrutiny”.

Union tradesmen, a representative from the IBE brotherhood of electrical workers, and more than a dozen plumbers also offered their support for the project, citing an increase in work for local businesses. Finally, Jack Roddy, prominent Antioch resident and owner of the Roddy Ranch Golf Course, spoke in support before the Council.

“I stand for planned growth,” he said. “These developers are classy and always do a great job. Antioch deserves them, and they deserve Antioch.”

Estimates from the project developers and city staff state that the housing development would offer more than $64,000 per year in revenue to the city of Antioch. The community would pay for it’s own police services, with every unit contributing $450 per year to the police services fund. “This developer is known for creating respectable, attractive developments in the East Bay,” said resident Ralph Garrow.  “It will be a responsible development.”

After fielding questions by City Council, Matt Beinke returned to the audience. Council voted to approve the next stages of the project in a unanimous, 5-0 vote.

Card Room Initiative

A ballot initiative concerning card rooms in Antioch was also brought before City Council on Tuesday. The proposed ordinance, which would limit the number of card rooms in Antioch to just one, would require voter approval in order to add any additional card rooms or expand the current one. The effort to pass the ordinance, which gathered enough signatures to be placed on the ballot, is being led by Antioch resident and Economic Development Commission member Lamar Thorpe, and is being funded solely by the California Grand Casino. Multiple attempts were made to contact Thorpe for his comments, but he did not respond.

The California Grand, which aims to limit card room competition in Antioch with the measure, was part of the organization that attempted to shoot down a Planning Commission vote in 2013 on whether or not to send the issue of the reopening of Kelly’s Card Room to the City Council. The California Grand has a history of weeding out its competition, as it used similar tactics in 2010 to defeat a measure that would have allowed for another card room in Richmond. And in 2004, the Casino purchased a bankrupt card room in San Ramon and subsequently shut it down, eliminating it as a threat to competition. It attempted to do so anonymously, but was forced in court to reveal its identity before the purchase.

Antioch currently has a card room ordinance in place, which was passed in 2011, reducing the number of card rooms in the city, from five to two. The only real change to the current law that the proposed measure would offer is to limit that number to just one.

Council Member Tony Tiscareno recalled being solicited by a petitioner outside of Food Max. When he questioned the petitioner about the details of the proposed measure, the petitioner didn’t have any additional information to give him, and didn’t know much about the measure, he said. Tiscareno discover during the conversation that the petitioners were paid, and the man in question was not even an Antioch resident.

“This issue here disturbed me,” said Tiscareno, during the meeting.

The Council was faced with the decision to either pass the measure, or allow it to go to the June ballot, which would cost the city’s General Fund between $132,771 and $177,028. Council Member Monica Wilson likened the situation to “being pushed into a corner.”

“It’s kind of like tying our hands, and saying you have to do it, or it’ll put the city in a lot of money,” added Council Member Mary Rocha.

Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock asked city staff to look into whether or not having a member of Antioch’s Economic Development Commission circulating the petition would constitute a “conflict of some sort”.

Interim City Attorney, Derek Cole responded that he didn’t think there was a legal conflict, which requires a financial impact to a commission member.

Concerns about the cost for placing the initiative on the June election ballot were partly waylaid by City Clerk Arne Simonsen, who reported to Council that sending the ordinance to the June ballot rather than the November ballot would not constitute a significant addition to city expenditures.

Ogorchock suggested adding another initiative to the ballot, in response to a proposal by City Treasurer Donna Conley, that they eliminate her elected position and annual salary, and combining it with the City Finance Director’s job. The savings from not paying the Treasurer’s salary would help offset the cost of the election. The Council has until their February 23rd meeting to place another measure on the June ballot and will discuss Ogorchock’s proposal, then.

In the end, the overwhelming sentiment from the City Council was the belief that they were being pushed into a decision on the card room ordinance.

“I don’t like the way they presented it to us at all,” said Mayor Wade Harper. “The City of Antioch will not be bullied.”

The Council then voted unanimously, in a 5-0 vote, to call for the election and submit the decision to voters in June.

2 Comments to “City Council approves Antioch’s first gated home community, places card room initiative on ballot”

  1. Iris Archuleta says:

    Thank you for converting the Health/ Wealth Initiative. It is most appreciated.

    Iris Archuleta

  2. Iris Archuleta says:

    Sorry, but there was a typo in my last comment. It should have said, thank you for covering the Health/Wealth Initiative presentation. It is very much appreciated.


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