Antioch Council tables charter city proposal, may consider it in the future

The Antioch City Council members listen to a presentation from staff during their meeting on Tues., Feb. 25, 2020.

Adopt revised “in-law” or “granny” housing unit ordinance

By Allen Payton

At their meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 25 the Antioch City Council learned of the differences between a general law city, which Antioch currently is, and a charter city and what it would take to become one. According to the staff report two differences that a charter city allows are the ability to implement a real estate transfer tax and have higher council salaries. (See related article).

But, following a report by City Attorney Thomas Smith, they decided to the table the matter indefinitely.

“This was requested by Councilmember Thorpe,” said City Manager Ron Bernal.

Smith then provided the staff presentation saying “it’s a substantial process” to convert to a charter city.

“If you were to decide today that you are interested in it, we would take the next level of depth…do further research,” he said. “What is provided in this set of information is an overview…the fiscal impact, which is one of the things required.”

“The general law city provides you with a structure under statutory law. The charter city allows you more flexibility, but requires more responsibility,” Smith said. “What you really have to do is envisioning what is the reason why we want to convert. So, it’s a substantial process.”

“How you’re going to structure your government…that fits into this category of municipal affairs,” he continued. “We would have to look at what case law says, to compare what is a municipal affair versus a statewide issue.”

“The charter is essentially the city’s constitution,” Smith explained. “After you establish a charter, you’d have to take it to the ballot to get approval for changes. It shifts the power to the hands of the voters.”

“It’s a really big decision and when you sort of weigh the balances,” he said. “It will involve costs…a dedication of time. It will move you away from a very established framework in the state.”

None of the council members had any questions for the city attorney, so Mayor Wright opened it up for

Gil Murillo was the only one to speak during public comments.

“A charter city is an ideal utopian state,” he said. “I would hope you take strong consideration. He mentioned Richmond and San Ramon as the only charter cities in the county.

“Richmond has the same population as Antioch, but their police force is 180,” Murillo stated. “Employments and channels of funds have to be fiscally in place to go to that form of government. One-third of our cities are charters in California. We need to be fiscally responsible and go through another decade before considering it.”

“Would that mean we wouldn’t have to follow state laws that just came down?” Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts asked.

“If you take the ADU ordinance…you would follow it because it’s a statewide issue,” Smith responded. “A question of what we have to follow is an issue of what is a municipal affair versus a statewide concern. But, most of the new, what I think you’re thinking of, you would have to follow.”

“There’s been a flurry of legislation…some of it has gone too far,” Motts said.

“It’s in the hands of the courts if there’s not precedence,” Smith responded. “You will be able to find some areas where you don’t have to follow state law. It won’t be every case.”

“The question…being asked, these new land use laws that just came in, do the third of charter cities have to follow them?” Wright asked.

“It’s a case by case basis on each law,” Smith said. “Or you’re back to what are the other charter cities not doing. We could join that group. It is a case by case analysis. That’s why we’re talking about costs. It’s a more intensive analysis. That’s part of the costs you pay for having more authority.”

“Our former city attorney, city manager brought this before us, for a more specific purpose, for a transfer fee,” Councilmember Lamar Thorpe said. “I hear you when you talk about the complexity to all of this. I think there’s a lot to look at. If we even decide to do that, I think an ad hoc committee should come back to council.”
“And you’d want to have some study sessions,” Smith said. “There’s some rewards there but it’s a lot of work.”

“We’re going to go through growing stages…my recommendation would be we can turn this into an ad hoc.

“I just think there is a lot of expense and work to be done,” Ogorchock said. “There’s so much we’re asking of staff, right now. I think this is great to look at and maybe some time down the road. I think it should be tabled, right now.”

“There’s still a lot of information I need to have,” Councilmember Monica Wilson said. “Even looking at the two cities in Contra Costa, they’re different. We’re working on a lot, right now. I need a lot of information…we need to be very careful. Maybe look down the road. This is not a decision we make lightly. Maybe down the road we can revisit this, again.”

“If the zoning gave us more freedom, we are losing so much local control, right now,” Wright said. “If it gave us more freedom there, I think this would be something worth looking at. As I looked through the chart, I don’t see enough difference there. I think in the future, I have no problem. But, for now this is something we table.”

“I think with direction this has been tabled indefinitely,” he concluded.

Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance Adopted, Fees to Be Decided At Next Council Meeting

Also during the meeting, the council adopted a revised Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance, in response to the new state laws that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, making it easier and less costly to build what is known as an in-law or granny housing unit on residential property.

“This item repeals and replaces the city’s ordinance for compliance with state law,” said Zoe Meredith.

The owner-occupancy requirements are repealed until Jan. 1, 2025.

Joe Bosman was the only member of the public to speak during the public hearing.

“The Planning Commission recommended to the council that the granny fees be capped. But staff chose to ignore the Planning Commission. Without a price tag this ordinance is flawed.”

“Let’s be honest, staff, what’s really at stake is the city’s mantra is not to provide affordable housing for those on the cusp of being homeless,” he said.

Thorpe then said, “I see that there are impact fees on Attachment E. ADU’s of 750 square feet or less have no fees.”

“That is correct under state law,” Meredith said.

“In two weeks, we will be discussing ADU fees,” said Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs.

“There’s still a process for the public to participate in regarding fees,” Thorpe stated.

“We are recommending introduction of this motion,” Ebbs said in response to a letter that was received with questions about the ordinance, before the meeting.

Ogorchock asked about cities being allowed to prohibit short-term rentals of ADU’s.

“Air BnB’s would not be allowed any more, but cities would be allowed to prohibit them,” Meredith responded.

“I just want the community to understand that what we are doing here is in compliance with state law as of Jan. 1, 2020,” Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts stated.

Ogorchock made the motion which included striking the size requirements and the zoning requirements proposed by staff last minute in response to the letter that was received. Thorpe seconded it and it passed unanimously.

the attachments to this post:

Antioch City Council Feb 25 2020

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