Antioch Council hears defense of animal shelter, reviews Waldie Plaza downtown event center plans

By Nick Goodrich

During its meeting on Tuesday, August 23rd, the Antioch City Council discussed topics ranging from Antioch’s Animal Services and Shelter to the proposed Waldie Plaza Renovation and Redesign plans.

Antioch Shelter Volunteers Speak Out

During the public comments , Antioch Animal Shelter volunteers showed up to the meeting in force, and spoke out against the ongoing criticism of the shelter.

Amanda Jimenez, an Antioch citizen, described the successful adoption of a shelter dog named Alexandra, highlighted by activities such as frequent walks and bonding activities with humans, during the dog’s 160-day stay at the shelter.

“The staff and the volunteers work tirelessly to figure out ways to expand our resources, giving our animals better lives while they are with us,” she said.

Shelly Harding, a two-year volunteer of the shelter, became emotional when describing the love and care that she says every shelter animal receives.

“It saddens me to see all of the lies that are being directed toward the shelter,” Harding said. “I have not once seen anything bad happen to an animal of any nature.”

Other volunteers described more successful adoption and rehabilitation stories, describing the treatment that each animal received and how the shelter was able to find them good homes despite the often horrible conditions they were rescued from.

Barbara Sobalvarro, president of Friends of Animal Services, announced that the organization had voted to help fund the adoptions of dogs and cats to the amount of $150 all through the month of September. But even Sobalvarro deplored the lack of funding the shelter receives from the city.

Those comments and others were in response to the ongoing discussion of the condition of the shelter, with critics saying that animals may not be getting the treatment they need due to overcrowding, staffing shortages, and funding issues. In keeping with recent city council meetings, those critics also showed up in force, creating somewhat of a back-and-forth between the two groups.

“I don’t see it as ‘there is this side and that.’ We are all trying to do the same thing,” said Antioch resident Holly Kusich, who has volunteered at the shelter in the past.

“We will come together to find a solution,” said Mayor Wade Harper to close comments. He then said he would place the matter on the council agenda in January, 2017.

Waldie Plaza Downtown Event Center Renovation

Criticism of the council’s decision to use the historic Antioch Lumber Company yard for new townhomes rather than a park and event center continued at the meeting. However, the City is preparing to move forward with its plan to renovate Waldie Plaza instead, Antioch’s current event center.

Proponents of the “Save the Yard” movement claim that Waldie Plaza is much too small to accommodate a city of Antioch’s size. It is a T-shaped strip of park on the waterfront, across from City Hall.

But, City Manager Steve Duran, in his presentation, cited some current advantages of Waldie Plaza. One of those is the large amount of parking available to residents during events, most of which is close and easily accessible. The water view, Duran said, is also a big plus.

Safety concerns loom over the plaza, and the railroad tracks are immediately adjacent. The city plans to address those issues with improved lighting and security cameras.

Other plans for the plaza include terracing the hill in front of the event stage, removing parts of the hedges to increase accessibility, and perhaps add a play structure for children.

City staff will continue moving forward with the renovation and redesign plans, and it remains to be seen if the final draft will satisfy Save the Yard supporters. For now, however, it is clear that the movement will continue to fight for the event center to be sited at the former Antioch Lumber Company yard.

A town square initiative that would allow citizens to vote on the event center’s location is still pending. Rick Stadlander, one of several speaking on behalf of the movement, told the council: “Please, once and for all, make a bold decision that lets the community decide what they want or need from a town square or event center, and where they want that place to be.”

Downtown Specific Plan

The council also heard an update on the City’s Downtown Specific Plan, which aims to implement city policies that encourage the growth and development of downtown Antioch. As a result of a Strategic Growth Council Grant, provided by the state to Antioch in 2015, the Downtown Specific Plan was set into motion last June. A revised draft of the plan was provided to Council on Tuesday’s meeting.

The draft provides information to both Council and Antioch residents on the downtown development plans, brings together the many layers of the city’s efforts into one document, including land use, infrastructure, environmental quality, and more. These plans aim to improve just about everything about downtown Antioch, from pedestrian and car traffic to commercial businesses in the area.

The final draft of the plan is expected to appear before the Antioch Planning Commission and City Council in October or November of this year.

The next Antioch City Council meeting will be held Tuesday night, September 13 at 7:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 200 H Street between West 2nd and 3rd Streets, in downtown. To see the meeting agenda, click here. The meeting can also be viewed from the comfort of your home or office on Comcast Channel 24 or on your electronic device via live stream video on the City’s website at

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