Supervisors’ 2020 Top Issues: New county clerk, short-term rental law, airport projects, cannabis retail permits, elections

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors recognized Larry Sly the retired executive director of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Counties for his 43 years of public service on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. The University of California at Berkeley history graduate is known for building up the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano into one of the premier provider of food to those in need in the county, The development of the Great Food Fight between Contra Costa and Solano counties raises thousands of dollars annually between the two counties. At the presentation were from left, District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood, Food Bank Communications Director Lisa Sherill, Board Chair John Gioia, District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover, Larry Sly, District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, Food Bank Programs Director Caitlin Sly and Vice Chair Candace Andersen. Sly says he has no immediate plans of what he will do during his retirement. Photo by Daniel Borsuk.

Honor former Food Bank Executive Director Larry Sly

By Daniel Borsuk

Look for 2020 to be an unusually busy year for the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.

The elected officials are expected to take up complex issues like choosing a new County Clerk, adoption of a short-term rental ordinance, numerous construction projects at the county’s two airports, and decide on potentially 11 land use permits for cannabis businesses, perhaps in March, while two members run for re-election.

New County Clerk-Recorder

In the first two months of the new year, supervisors will also be busy selecting a new county clerk-recorder registrar of voters to replace Joseph Canciamilla, who was forced to resign in late October when it was disclosed that he had illegally used campaign funds for personal use. The California Fair Political Practices Commission fined Canciamilla $150,000 for the illegal action.

Short-Term Rental Ordinance

Supervisors got a glimpse of a Draft Short-term Rental Ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting and flashed the green light for Conservation and Development Department (CDD) Director John Kopchik and his staff to proceed in drafting an ordinance for potential board adoption in 2020.

Supervisors directed CDD officials to proceed to draft a Short-term Rental Ordinance in the aftermath of the Halloween night murder spree at an Orinda house that was rented as an Airbnb where five people died and four others were injured. In late November, federal law enforcement authorities had arrested Frederick Johnson, 29, of Vallejo and Domico Dones, 29, of Martinez in connection with the mass shooting.

Presently, unincorporated Contra Costa County does not permit short-term rentals because it has no law on the books addressing the growing rental practice.

So far, supervisors have discussed modeling a potential short-term rental ordinance with a 90-day limit involving a complete house, not a unit of a house. County planners are also reviewing capping the total number of persons at a short-term rental at no more than 20 persons, banning the posting of signs, excessive noise and traffic, and prohibiting special events such as a conference, wedding or commercial event.

Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood said enforcement of a STR ordinance will be a difficult task and CDP Director Kopchik agreed, saying “Enforcement is a challenge. We won’t get a lot of money from enforcement of this ordinance.”

Airports Draw Big Bucks

On a positive note, Supervisors heard Director of Airports Keith Freitas report at Tuesday’s meeting that the county owned and operated airports – Buchanan Field Airport in Concord and Byron Airport – generated $8.4 million in revenue for the airports, county and schools in 2017-2018. During that fiscal year Freitas, who said the airports must be financially dependent on their own revenues, distributed $2.2 million to the county, $882,801 to the schools, and $5.1 million to airport enterprises.

The airports are luring developers, Freitas said. On the drawing boards for Buchanan Field are a new Buchanan Field Airport Terminal, a Concord Airport Self Storage, a new Fire Station No. 9, and on the west side of the airport two major business parks are planned – a three-acre and a 16-acre business park.

Byron Airport is also attracting development, including a 36-acre non-aviation development and a three-acre aviation hangar development.

Freitas said the county airports are in discussions with Alaska and New Mexico Unmanned Aircraft System FAA test sites to potentially strike up a partnership with Buchanan Field and Byron Airport. Potential contracts could mean more jobs and revenue for the airports.

Freitas said the two airports provide 828 jobs in the county – 808 jobs at Buchanan Field and 20 jobs at Byron Airport.

Cannabis Land Use Permits

Possibly at the Supervisors’ March 24 meeting, supervisors will act in awarding land use permits to up to four cannabis retail and seven cannabis commercial cultivation applicants that Supervisors had selected a a Dec. 10th meeting. Supervisors set a 90-day period for the 11 successful candidates to complete and submit land use applications with the Department of Conservation & Development. That application deadline is March 9.

The four retail candidates moving ahead in the selection process are Authentic 925 for a location in South Pacheco, Artist Tree in El Sobrante, Embarc Contra Costa in North Pacheco and Garden of Eden for South Pacheco.

In the running for commercial cultivation permits are Lifted Spirit-Brentwood; 703 Chesley, LLC; Element 7 – Chestnut Street of Brentwood; Element 7 – Willow Way in Byron; Casa Resta Farms of Brentwood, Diablo Valley Farm of Brentwood and Magic Flower Gardens.

Lastly, the supervisors and county employees now working out of the old administrative building at 651 Pine Street in Martinez will be moving into a four-story, 71,000 square foot, $60 million administrative building is spring. The new building will replace the old administrative building at 651 Pine St.

Three Supervisors Up For Election, Two Face Opponents

Three members of the Board are up for re-election but only two are facing opponents in the March Primary Election. Burgis running for a second term in District 3, faces one opponent and Federal Glover, running for a sixth term in District 5, faces two opponents. If no candidate receives a majority of votes, the top two will runoff in the General Election in November. Candace Andersen will be re-elected to her third term representing District 2, since no one filed to run against her.

2020 is shaping up to be a transformative year for the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors in more ways than one.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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