Contra Costa Supervisors split over easing Shelter-in-Place restrictions

By Daniel Borsuk

A tug-of-war is forming on the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on how the county should proceed in lifting COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place orders.

The rift became apparent when District 1 Supervisor John Gioia cautioned other supervisors during the teleconferenced meeting “Our hospitalization rates are going down, but I worry about having people going back to work prematurely. I don’t want to lift restrictions prematurely.”

Moments earlier District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill said she has been receiving negative comments from constituents wanting the county to end the shelter-in-place order. “Fortunately, our death rate is low at 25,” Mitchoff said. “I’ve received a nasty email wanting the county to reopen businesses.”

“We are trying to ease up on the restrictions,” said Board Chair Candace Andersen of Danville, who also chairs the supervisors’ newly established ad hoc Public Health Committee that Mitchoff also serves on.

“We are not going to have a new surge of COVID-19 cases,” Andersen added.

Later this week county public health officers from the Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara as well as the City of Berkeley are expected to issue revised shelter-in-place orders that will basically keep current restrictions in place and extend them through May. The new order will include limited easing of specific restrictions for a small number of lower-risk activities.

The shelter-in-place orders in effect across the six counties and one city were set to expire on May 3rd but, were extended until May 31st as of Wednesday morning.

Roth reported to supervisors that since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March the county has conducted more than 11,500 tests.

“We have loosened up the testing standards for anyone who thinks they have the symptoms” she said.

The county operates test sites in San Pablo, Martinez, Concord, and Antioch, with plans for three more in the county to be run by the state department of health.

The health department director credited the work of employees and the Board of Supervisors for the health department’s accomplishments during the pandemic. “Over the past 45 days we were able to flatten the curve. We can be proud of what we have accomplished. We are saving lives without a vaccine. This virus does not stop at jurisdictional or political lines,” Roth said.

County Accepts No Cost Transfer of Aircraft to Office of Sheriff

On the consent agenda, Supervisors approved the Office of the Sheriff’s request to accept the transfer by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services of a 1978 Beechcraft King Air A200 fixed wing aircraft from the San Bernardino County Office of the Sheriff at no cost to the county. The estimated value of the aircraft is $700,000.

The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office has bought a new King Air aircraft and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has approved the transfer of this aircraft to the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff at no cost. San Bernardino County completed all required maintenance and service on the King Air A200 and it is fully certified.

“The Contra Costa Office of the Sheriff will use this aircraft for a variety of purposes including the deployment of search and rescue personnel, allow movement of detectives and other personnel to locations throughout the state for a variety of purposes including interviewing witnesses, victims and suspects, and allow for the transfer of emergency supplies where necessary,” Sheriff-Coroner David O. Livingston wrote in statement in support of the transfer.

16.5 Percent April Unemployment Rate Predicted

County Administrator David Twa informed supervisors that the statewide unemployment rate for April could be 16.5 percent, a rate like that of the Great Recession of 2007.

Twa also reported that a Meals for Seniors Program that is backed by FEMA will expire on May 10. “It is a little awkward if FEMA does not renew it after May 10,” Twa said.

The program will provide three meals a day from local restaurants to senior citizens meeting specified economic requirements.

Two Commercial Cultivation Cannabis Applicants Miss Land Use Permit Filing Deadline

Supervisors learned from Conservation & Development Department Director John Kopchik that of the 11 proposals granted permission to apply for limited commercial cannabis land use permits by the March 9 deadline, two commercial cultivation applicants – Element 7 (0 Chestnut, Brentwood) and Element 7 (3645 Willow Way, Byron) had missed the filing deadline.

The five commercial cultivation applicants submitting land use permits applications by the March 9 deadline were: Lifted Spirit Collective at 5930 Balfour Road, Brentwood; 703 Chesley, LLC, 0 Chesley Ave., Richmond; Casa Rasta Farms, 505 Brookside Dr., Richmond; Diablo Valley Farms, 10500 Brentwood Blvd., and Brentwood and Magic Flower Gardens, LLC, 801 Chesley Ave., Richmond.

Kopchik said four retail storefront cannabis applicants that had been invited to file for land use permits had filed land use permits by the March 9 deadline. Those applicants were Authentic 925, 5753 Pacheco Blvd., Pacheco; The Artist Tree, 4100 San Pablo Dam Road, El Sobrante; Embarc Contra Costa, 3505 Pacheco Blvd., Martinez; and Element 7-Bay Point, 3515 Willow Pass Road, Bay Point.

Kopchik said county planning officials will review and evaluate the nine applications received and perform the work necessary for the proposal to be individually considered at future public hearings.

Marsh Drive Bridge Replacement Project Approved

Supervisors needed to exercise their eminent domain powers to acquire 900 square feet of private property in order for the Public Works Department to move ahead on the demolition of the 80-year-old Marsh Drive Bridge over Walnut Creek Channel in Concord and the construction of a new span.

Supervisors unanimously approved the eminent domain request and Public Works Department’s request to apply for $20 million in federal funding for the Marsh Drive Bridge reconstruction project.

When completed in 2022, the new Marsh Drive Bridge will accommodate two lanes of vehicular traffic, with shoulders, sidewalk on the north side, and a separated 10-foot wide pedestrian and bike trail on the south side. The project will tie into the existing Iron Horse Trail on the southeast side of the bridge and extend the trail on the new bridge to the west, crossing over Walnut Creek.

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