Payton Perspective: I love Antioch! Here’s why

Yes, our city has areas that need improvement, but it’s not a “miserable” place to live

In light of Wednesday’s negative news that Antioch ranks as the most miserable city in the Bay Area, and second most in northern California, I’m not buying it and I think someone needs to point out the positives, in spite of the various challenges we face as a once, again growing community.

First, a bit about the study based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau using six different statistical categories. Antioch was ranked number 213 of all 1,000 U.S. cities on the list. The greatest weight, at 40%, was given to population growth from 2010-18. Antioch’s was only 8.6% but that was greater than average. Another 15% was given to average commute time to work, pegged at 45.4 minutes. Another 15% for people without health insurance, at 9.2%. Another 10% was used for those in the civilian labor force at 63.4%, 10% more for median household income at $69,950,  and the final category weighted at 10% was for those in poverty which the study shows is 14.6%.

So, over half of the study was based on something that’s not that big of a deal, the population growth in Antioch, and something people knew about when they moved, here, the commute. The study is clearly biased as it punishes cities with land available for new home development and rewards those that are already built out. Ridiculous. It doesn’t mention the affordability of housing, which is why many residents moved here, and actually plays in Antioch’s favor. The study should have used the term “challenged” instead of “miserable”. That would be more accurate.

Yes, we still have a crime problem and need more police. But Chief Brooks just pointed out, this week that we currently have 106 sworn officers on the force. That’s up 17 from 2013 when Measure C, the first half-cent sales tax, was placed on the Antioch ballot. While it’s not as many as we need, violent, Part I crime continues to decrease and the department is headed in the right direction toward the 126 sworn officers we need, in order to get to the 1.1 officers per 1,000 population. (1.2 is preferable).

Yes, we have a challenge with homelessness in our city. But the council is working on pro-active solutions, and we can expect a large amount of the $2.9 million from the state committed to East County, that will be administered by the county, to be spent in Antioch to help solve that problem.

One idea is to convert the former Big Kmart building into transitional housing for the homeless. Plus, there’s a huge parking lot where their RV’s could park at night. For now, it’s just an idea that might need to be considered. There are other, private sector, church and non-profit related solutions in the works, as well.

Yes, we have retail and other businesses that have been closing. But, that’s a nation-wide trend, mainly due to online shopping. If you’re doing that, giving money to businesses outside of our city through Amazon and other websites, then you’re contributing to that. I don’t. I shop local and spend my money in Antioch, or East County, and if I can’t find something here, then I shop elsewhere in our county. Then, again, this trend is just a reality of today’s marketplace and I’m not going to fault progress and innovation. We just need a solution to what is going to happen with the empty buildings.

Yes, we have a challenge with the commute for many of our residents, but that too has improved with the widening of Highway 4 and the extension of BART to Antioch. Yes, I know it’s not “real” BART, but it connects us to the system and soon, in the next few years, it will connect us to the east and south. Plus, with more local employment on the horizon, with the advent of more upscale homes attracting business owners who will locate their businesses in Antioch, fewer and fewer of our residents will have to leave town to go to work.

While I’m not happy with the Council’s approval of the four marijuana businesses, this year and believe they actually work against the City’s effort to rebrand and improve Antioch’s reputation, there are other business interests doing what they can to improve Antioch.

Take Sean McCauley and his Brentwood company, for example. So far, he’s invested millions of dollars and purchased seven buildings in historic, downtown Rivertown, has fixed up two of them, and has brought two restaurants to Antioch. First, was Smith’s Landing Seafood Grill in the former Humphrey’s location. Second was Guadalajara Taqueria on West Second Street across from El Campanil Theatre. Plus, he’s working on other business ventures to improve Antioch.

New homes are being built by four different homebuilders in Antioch, right now, creating well-paying jobs, selling in the $500,000 to $700,000+ range, and increasing existing home values. The new homeowners will also be paying new fees, including the annual police fee, plus a fee on some of the homes, to extend Slatten Ranch Road from the J.C. Penney store and the Hillcrest BART Station to connect at Laurel Road, near the Highway 4 interchange. That will open up the 200-acre area the Council set aside in 1998 for commercial development and employment.

There are also other, outside business interests looking to invest in Antioch and develop commercial property, as well as plans for the types of development our city has never had before. In addition, there are local business owners planning on more improvements to Rivertown, including a big boat berth marina and a Pier 39-type attraction along the waterfront. They also have plans for other parts of the city, including a vehicle manufacturing plant off either Wilbur Avenue or East 18th Street. Another plan includes a hotel and convention center with a rotating restaurant on top for a one-hour dining experience in which people can view the river for a half hour and Mt. Diablo and the hills for the second half hour. A world-class architectural firm has already been consulted about that proposed project.

We have many positive things about Antioch: we have the river and Delta for recreation, the East Bay Regional Parks District land, some of it in Antioch and much of it adjacent for hiking, picnics, swimming at Contra Loma Reservoir, and exploring, like the sand mines in the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve at the end of Somersville Road.

Yes, we have challenges in the schools, specifically with K-8th grades. But we have some good high school academies, with the Dozier-Libbey Medical High School at the top of that list. Plus, we have some great charter and private schools serving students and families who prefer those alternatives.

We have many, many churches and other religious institutions in Antioch, serving the most important aspect of our lives, the eternal, which ties back to our city’s roots and it’s founders, the Smith brothers, who were Christian ministers, and the surviving twin, William who with the townspeople of 1850

Antioch has youth and adult sports programs like crazy, with football, softball, soccer and baseball leagues playing at the more than 30 public parks and private sports fields and facilities in our city. We also have the Contra Costa Event Park (formerly the fairgrounds) with the annual County Fair and other events throughout the year, including the Saturday night car races at the Antioch Speedway.

We have more great history, here as the oldest city in the county, which can be learned about at the Antioch Historical Society Museum and Sports Legends wing on 4th Street. We also have many wonderful people who care about our city and serve the community through their churches and various volunteer groups, such as the Rotary, Kiwanis, Woman’s, and Soroptimist Clubs. Plus, those groups that provide various activities for our residents, such as the Fun After 50, Model Railroad, the Lapidary Clubs, to name a few.

The bottom line is Antioch is better than what the reports of the “misery index” have to say. Stay positive, folks. Remember, those articles and reports were all done by people who don’t live here. So, they don’t know what we know. Don’t let one statistical analysis get you down. But, let it be a wake-up call for our elected representatives to do more and sooner to solve the problems they can, through government. As President Lincoln said, and I paraphrase, government should do that which we can’t do ourselves, or as well, ourselves. While we can’t expect them to solve all of our problems, we do need our elected representatives to not work against us and work to solve the problems that they can.

Don’t let outsiders determine Antioch’s future. I believe it’s brighter than it has been in over a decade, and will continue to be if we keep a positive attitude and hold our officials accountable to do the job we elected them to do.

I love Antioch. That’s why I’ve continued to live here for the past 28+ years and keep my businesses in town. Do you love Antioch, too? If so, let others know why.

6 Comments to “Payton Perspective: I love Antioch! Here’s why”

  1. Jamie says:

    Thank you! Thank you! #AntiochProud

  2. Allen, Thank you for posting this. I have lived in Antioch for over 20 years my husband was raised here as well as his father. I love this community. It is too bad that we have gotten such bad press about it. Most of it is not true. As a loan officer I have helped a lot of families move here and they have been very happy. I really wish the press would stop so much necgative stuff about our community.

  3. Melisss says:

    It’s hard to stay positive when 4/5ths of the City Council are working against Antioch. Lori Ogorchock is only council member that has Antiochians back.

    While you want us to stay positive you pointed out what is detrimental to our town.

    But I am here willing to fight and vote those out that operate counter intuitive to what is best.

  4. Well stated Allen. My wife and I have lived in Antioch for over 20 years. We are part of a wonderful volunteer organization, Celebrate Antioch Foundation, who put on many events in and for Antioch and surrounding area residents such as the 4th of July and Holiday DeLites parades, plus numerous events in collaboration with our downtown merchants, like the peddlers faire and the BBQ and Brews event this weekend. We, along with our many other volunteers put in countless hours because so many of our fellow residents are wonderful people who love this city. Antioch has many problems but we always rise to the challenge and continue to make our city better.

  5. Terry Ramus says:

    A very informative article and also very balanced. The “misery index” article is an example of a misuse of selected data to actually tell a lie. Some in the media can’t resist the chance for a misdirected controversy. You point out a balanced look at many pluses and minuses here. As you point out, one of the most serious current problems is the extremely poor level of performance in our K – 8 Public Schools versus the rest of the County. Until this is solved, many families will not consider Antioch as a place to live. The negative issue of crime and police is now improving in the right direction because the City of Antioch acknowledged this and then worked to address it. Similarly, the Antioch Schools (AUSD) must first recognize the extreme K – 8 problem and then start to actually address it for real. Excuses do not work to solve any issues, including K – 8.

  6. Carole Harrison says:

    Thanks for this editorial, Allen. It was an honest and clear appraisal of our city and our situation. Antioch is on the brink of more growth and our city council is working hard to improve what we have and prepare for the city’s future. Kudos to Mayor Wright and all councilmembers for the time and energy they give out of their own busy lives to us and our city. When we moved here over 20 years ago, there was no Wal-Mart, no Slatten Ranch, no EBart, and Hwy 4 was narrow and congested during commute hours. We’ve had lots of positive changes during the last 20 years. I think the next 20 will bring dramatic change all to the good. We need more residents to speak to the good of Antioch instead of running it down.

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