Environmental groups, local supporters announce Sand Creek initiative signatures submitted

Sand Creek initiative supporters, including Michael Amorosa holding petitions and Don Greibling in sunglasses, present signatures to the Antioch City Clerk’s office on Monday, June 11, 2018.

Richland Communities submitted their initiative signatures a week earlier

On Monday, June 11, fifteen excited volunteers for the “Antioch Community to Save Sand Creek” coalition submitted 5,969 signatures to the Antioch City Clerk’s office to qualify their “Let Antioch Voters Decide” initiative 10 weeks earlier than the August 22 deadline. The group needs 5,092 good signatures and turned in 5,969, or 117%.

However, they were submitted three weeks later than the suggested deadline of May 18 provided to them by City Clerk Arne Simonsen, and a week after the “West Sand Creek” initiative by developer Richland Communities submitted their signature petitions on Monday, June 4. Simonsen said the prima facie count by his office shows Richland has submitted about 7,900 signatures, with about 50 or 60 that were invalidated.

“We’ve reached new heights in preserving the Sand Creek Initiative Area and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Turning in these signatures is further proof that our initiative is what the people of Antioch want,” said Tina Gutilla, one of the Antioch residents who submitted the petition to the city and a member of the Coalition Steering Committee, “Huge congratulations and gratitude to every volunteer who has played a monumental role in making this achievement possible.”

The “Antioch Community to Save Sand Creek” coalition drafted the initiative starting last August. It was submitted to the city for Title and Summary on February 8. The city provided Title and Summary on Feb. 23. Notice was published in the newspaper and signature gathering began March 3. Initiative signature-gathering drives are allowed 180 days, which meant a deadline of August 22. Instead, the coalition submitted its signatures ten weeks early, on Monday, June 11th.

If passed, the initiative would:

  • Limit the extent and amount of development in a 3 square mile (1,850-acre) area between Kaiser/Deer Valley Road and Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve;
  • Require a vote to allow any major development in the initiative area;
  • Protect the existing Urban Limit Line;
  • Decrease impacts on city services including police, crime, fire, water, and schools;
  • Dramatically decrease projected traffic increases;
  • Preserve nature, open spaces, and historic qualities;
  • Maintain agriculture;
  • Protect the Sand Creek stream corridor;
  • Help focus city investments, revitalization and economic development on existing neighborhoods, downtown and along the waterfront.

Sand Creek initiative supporters bring their boxes of signed petitions to the Antioch City Clerk’s office.

The coalition had great success gathering signatures. It held more than two dozen events, hikes, forums and other activities, and attended another dozen community events. It organized signature collecting shifts every weekend day and then on weekday ones as well. More than 150 volunteers signed up for two-to-four-hour shifts, some of them every single week. The Steering Committee held weekly meetings in person, and weekly debrief phone calls after each weekend’s efforts.

Tina Gutilla, one of our angels, managed all of the materials, keeping track of every single petition. Juan Pablo Galvan and Margaret Kruse scheduled volunteer shifts. Thousands of Fact Sheets were distributed. Social media increased dramatically.

Dick Schneider, Margaret Kruse, and Lesley Hunt are the real unsung heroes; they evaluated almost 9,000 signatures in order to remove non-Antioch residents, bad signatures, and duplicates.

Then “The Ranch” project developer Richland Communities created a second competing initiative, the “West Sand Creek” initiative, using paid signature gatherers, and which includes a development agreement approving Richland’s 1,100-unit “The Ranch” project.

The more aggressive paid signature gatherers competed for locations, upset store managers, and made things more confusing for the public.  But they also used the same message of “limit development, save our hills, reduce traffic” as the coalition, reinforcing our public education effort. The developers turned in their competing measure last week.  We turned ours in this week, ten weeks earlier than the August deadline.

In total, more than 150 volunteers collected almost 9,000 signatures (173%) to reach the goal of 5,092 valid registered voters.

Next Steps

Now that the signatures have been submitted, the Antioch City Clerk’s office transfers the petitions to the County Elections Department for verification. If the initiative qualifies with enough signatures, the Antioch City Council has the option of adopting the measure into law or placing it on the ballot.

“We’ve been out there, signature collecting since the beginning of March, and all that very hard work is now paying off. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who has walked their neighborhoods, stood in front of stores, reviewed name lists, spread the word and donated their time and energy in all sorts of different ways. This was truly a ton of work. We’re definitely planning a big thank you party to celebrate,” said Juan Pablo Galvan, Save Mount Diablo Land Use Manager, who helped organize the campaign.

“While this grueling phase of the Antioch campaign is over,” said Galvan, “there’s still work ahead. We need to make sure the Initiative is adopted or makes it on the ballot, fend off any potential frivolous legal challenges, and so on. But make no mistake, this is a huge win and cause for great celebration.”

Lesley Hunt of the California Native Plant Society expressed the hope that “the citizens of Antioch will use the opportunity this initiative represents to take control of development in the West Sand Creek area. They can vote for more houses, or they can vote to keep the land the way it is.”

“This has been a challenging, but incredible worth-while journey this spring, gathering signatures and meeting hundreds of people who are in great favor of saving one of the last unspoiled open-spaces in Antioch,” said Michael Amorosa, a Coalition Steering Committee member and one of the three required Antioch residents who were signatories for the effort. “I had the pleasure and privilege of working with some dynamite volunteers to hopefully put another feather in our cap for our town’s quality of life as we are one step closer in saving the prettiest three miles in Antioch. I am very proud to be part of this initiative process.”

“On behalf of Save Mount Diablo, I want to thank all the wonderful Antioch residents, incredible volunteers, staff, and coalition partners for stepping up to help collect enough signatures for an Initiative to give Antioch residents the ability to better protect one of its two most significant natural features, the Sand Creek Focus Area,” said Ted Clement, Save Mount Diablo Executive Director, “It helps distinguish Antioch as a desirable place to live, work and visit, which will be critical for Antioch’s economic well-being long-term. Antioch is blessed with the beautiful Delta area to the north and the Sand Creek Focus Area to the south. These distinguishing natural features should not be taken for granted.”

“Sierra Club is happy to have helped collect enough signatures for the Sand Creek Area Protection Initiative to qualify for the ballot,” said Dick Schneider, a Sierra Club volunteer who helped draft the initiative, “We believe that given the choice, Antioch voters will protect their remaining open space and prevent the massive traffic congestion that sprawling development in the Sand Creek area would bring about. We look forward to helping pass this important legislation when it appears on the ballot.”

“Many Antioch residents love their city and they’ve found their voice in city government. We supported the formation of a powerful grassroots coalition, residents have plugged in. They’re committed to the public having a say in development and quality of life issues” said Meredith Hendricks, Save Mount Diablo Director of Land Programs.

She continued, “I also strongly feel that this land cannot be mitigated for with some other property – containing tons of rare wildlife & riparian centurion oaks, and with vast extensive views from all angles that the Lone Tree Valley & Sand Creek corridor only provides in this special corner of Antioch; It is unmatched anywhere in Antioch and the citizens of Antioch, and in all of East Co-Co-County, will be thankful if we preserve it.”

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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