Payton Perspective: Unfair treatment of Chinese American property owners in Antioch continues today

The mayor and council also owe apology to them and other, current minority Antioch property and business owners

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Will the Antioch mayor and council apologize for their unfair treatment of the largest landowning Chinese Americans and other minority landowners in Antioch, today for supporting the effort to devalue their property by over 97%? If not, they’re being seriously hypocritical.

Due to what is occurring elsewhere in our nation, Mayor Lamar Thorpe is concerned about the anti-Asian racism and attacks that occurred in our city in the late 1800’s, specifically the burning down of Antioch’s Chinatown in 1876, even though he admits he learned about them years ago. Last month, the Antioch City Council approved a resolution denouncing anti-Asian hate and racism. Then, he proposed the council formally apologize for what Antioch residents did to their fellow Chinese residents in the city’s early years. I support something being done about it, including an apology, which apparently hasn’t been done by any Antioch officials in the past. I also proposed reparations for the descendants of those property owners. Especially since the city now owns the land where our community’s Chinatown was located. (See related article)

Yet, just last year, the mayor, two other current council members, and the voters supported reducing the property value of Chinese American and Hispanic American landowners in Antioch by over 97% and without compensation! In legal terms that’s referred to as a taking. So, Antioch residents, with the support of all five of last year’s council members, tried to take those landowners’ property. Where’s the apology for that?

Louisa Zee Kao and her family own 640 acres on the west end of the Sand Creek Focus Area, with a zoning of two homes per acre but, aren’t allowed to build the 1,100 homes on it as first planned. She reduced the total to 750 homes but that still was too many. With the city under threat of a lawsuit by the East Bay Regional Parks District, Kao then reduced the total to now 338 homes, even though the neighboring property owner, Richland Development was approved by the council last summer for The Ranch project with 1,177 homes on just 551 acres.

Source: Yes on Measure T campaign.

The mayor and two current council members, including Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson and Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock, voted for that project while at the same time publicly endorsing the effort to downzone Kao’s land, to just one home per 80 acres, through Measure T. They supported the efforts of the out-of-town environmentalists which would have resulted in the devaluation of the property by 97.6%. (That’s 8 homes divided by 338. It’s a devaluation of 99.375% if you divide 8 by 1,280 homes.) The reason? The politicians did it to protect themselves for re-election. The environmentalists did it so the Parks District could buy the land for pennies on the dollar. Some of the politicians, like Wilson also supported that surreptitious plan according to her answers to the Yes on T campaign’s candidate questionnaire. (Ogorchock didn’t provide answers to the questionnaire and those for the mayoral candidates have been deleted).

Monica Wilson’s answers to the Yes on T questionnaire. Source: Yes on Measure T campaign.

The ballot measure has forced Kao and her family to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on attorneys, over the past three years, to fight the City of Antioch and Save Mt. Diablo over the Let Antioch Voters Decide: The Sand Creek Area Protection Initiative, which was on the ballot as Measure T, as well as another ballot measure by Richland. So far, they and an adjacent property owner have been successful in court, multiple times.

Measure T also applied to other Chinese American landowners, the Leung family who own land south of The Ranch project. According to city staff until just recently, Measure T also applied to one of, if not the largest female, Hispanic landowners in Antioch, Lucia Albers, who plans to build a 301-home gated, senior community, on the east side of Deer Valley Road south of the Kaiser hospital. That’s in spite of the fact the leaders of Save Mt. Diablo claimed the measure only applied to land west of Deer Valley Road. But the language in the measure wasn’t clear about that.

Fortunately, the California Department of Housing and Community Development stated in a letter to the city last month that Measure T “cannot…be adopted, implemented or enforced” because it violates state law. The worst part is all five council members knew that, last year and were warned several times that Measure T could not go into effect. But they all chose to endorse it anyway. (See related article)

So, the voters were duped by the out-of-town environmentalists and misled by Antioch’s elected officials and other candidates who participated in the candidates’ forum, answered their questionnaire and chose to be followers instead, afraid it might negatively affect their elections – all except former Antioch Mayor Pro Tem and Councilman Manny Soliz, who refused to endorse Measure T – which possibly cost him the election in District 1. The Antioch voters chose to support the devaluation of the land and worse, without compensating the landowners for it! (On a side note, the environmentalists continue to lie to Antioch residents. Their latest appeal claims Richfield/Oak Hill Partners are continuing their lawsuit against Measure T “because they want to build thousands of houses on the hills of the southern Sand Creek Area”. However, according to the City’s Planning Division Current Projects list, the developer’s application includes only 370 homes in their Bridle Hills project. Worse, the environmentalist want you to ask the council to violate state law and deny the housing projects, which will cost the city a minimum of $10,000 per home not approved, and those funds must be used to pay for more low-income housing in Antioch).

Neither Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker nor Councilman Mike Barbanica took a public position on Measure T during their campaigns, last year, nor participated in the Yes on Measure T campaign candidate’s forum.

But it is rather ironic and hypocritical for Torres-Walker to attend the mayor’s press conference and call for an apology of what Antioch residents did in the 1870’s including burning down their homes and businesses, when one, she won’t apologize for what she said about Antioch Police officers, just this year and two, she tried to burn down the apartment complex she was evicted from, for which she was arrested and went to jail for. I wonder if she ever apologized for that.

So, while Mayor Thorpe is asking the council to apologize for what Antioch residents did to Chinese residents and property owners in our city over 140 years ago – and not by the founding community members which he falsely wrote on social media and stated in his press conference, earlier this month – it’s time he also asked and did the same for what the residents of Antioch attempted to do to our city’s Chinese American and Hispanic American property owners, with his and two other council members’ support. just last year.

While they’re at it, the council needs to also apologize to the former owner of Humphrey’s on the Delta restaurant, a Hispanic woman, Eva Romero, for our city government basically driving her out of business by spending our tax dollars to go into competition with her, not once, but twice. First, on the expansion of the Lone Tree Golf & Event Center and then on construction of the Antioch Community Center at Prewett Park, and then holding almost all city events at those facilities instead of in Humphrey’s banquet hall. That was in spite of the fact the restaurant sat on city owned property at the time, and the lease gave the city an incentive for her success, as the rent was based on whichever was greater, between a flat rate and a percentage of sales. The city staff’s own report in 2012 claimed the Community Center competed with Lone Tree for business. It didn’t mention that it was also in competition with Humphrey’s. Later that year, on Christmas Eve, the restaurant closed its doors for good. (See related article)

The unfair treatment by the city of local minority property and business owners continues to this day. Just this month, the council voted to spend $40,000 on a logo and marketing campaign for the new Rivertown Dining District with a San Francisco agency, instead of giving an Hispanic man who owns a graphic design firm in Rivertown, and an African American web designer in Antioch, the opportunity to even bid on the job.

While the mayor and council members consider righting the wrongs of the past, it is just as important, if not more so, to right the wrongs of the present that they’re committing, today and stop repeating them. Otherwise, they’re guilty of hypocrisy.

the attachments to this post:

MWilson’s answers to Yes on T q-nr

Yes on T council endorsements

STOP AAPI & Asian Hate

One Comment to “Payton Perspective: Unfair treatment of Chinese American property owners in Antioch continues today”

  1. […] There was also no apology for last year’s actions by three of the current council members and a majority of Antioch voters for their attempt to devalue by over 97% the property owned by current Chinese American landowners in Antioch and without compensation, when they endorsed and passed Measure T. (See related editorial) […]

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