Antioch City Council hires Bay Bridge engineering firm to design new Bicycle Garden

Bicycle Garden rendering. Source: City of Antioch

Will locate it at Prewett Park; postpones vote on homeless motel funding due to lack of information from city staff; formation of new department also postponed

By Allen D. Payton

During their meeting Tuesday night, April 26, 2022, the Antioch City Council voted to postpone a vote on spending $12.3 million over five years to lease a motel for transitional housing for the city’s homeless residents. Mayor Lamar Thorpe spoke of holding a special meeting on the matter, possibly this Friday. The council also unanimously voted to approve up to $550,000 on the proposed Bicycle Garden and locate it at Prewett Family Park. At the end of their meeting, the council on a 2-2-1 split with Thorpe stating he would be abstaining, the formation of the proposed Department of Public Safety and Community Resources was postponed until issues being discussed about the matter in closed session are worked out

The Executive Inn on E. 18th Street is proposed to be used for transitional housing for homeless. Herald file photo.

Homeless Motel Funding Vote Postponed

Following public comments and a history about the project by Thorpe, the council members offered their reasons for how they were going to vote on approving $12.3 million to lease the Executive Inn on E. 18th Street for five years.  Executive Inn Homekey Program staff report ACC042622      Executive Inn HomeKey Financing presentation ACC02622

“This is bridge housing for stability,” Thorpe said. “I don’t want people giving out misinformation about our decisions up here. People have told us that we couldn’t. But dammit, we’re doing it.”

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica said, “I’m in favor of getting people off the street. But I’m not in support of this location.”

“At $2.3 million that’s $82,000 per room per year. We’re only talking about 30 rooms,” he continued.

Barbanica then spoke of the impacts to the shopping center in Pittsburg where the  Walmart store  is located, since the Motel 6 on Loveridge Road was converted to the Delta Landing transitional housing facility for homeless in East County, and the need for more security there, as a result.

“We’re fooling ourselves if we think there won’t be other impacts in that neighborhood,” he said about the area around the Executive Inn.

District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker mentioned she lives in the neighborhood near the motel.

“I don’t think having the Executive Inn converted to transitional housing will cause any more problems in that neighborhood,” she said. “If it was good enough to put a school there for children then we can house people there living on the street.” She was speaking of the Rocketship Delta Prep charter school on Cavallo Road.

“I would like to see efforts for beautification and safety in this neighborhood,” Torres-Walker continued. “I do think we should move forward with leasing the Executive Inn. I really want to support the application for HomeKey for the Executive Inn and other potential sites. I do agree this one site is not the end all be all. We do have time. The application doesn’t have to be in until October.”

“It is a topic we’ve been working on for a very long time. I believe that we should have a presentation from Dignity Moves…on other properties,” District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock said. “I have heard from Focus Strategies that $12.3 million is conservative. So, our reserves will be depleted. The $12.3 doesn’t include services. I’m not in favor of this site. I want to look at other opportunities.”

“The figure $12.2 does include wrap-around services,” Thorpe stated, correcting Ogorchock. “Every budget assumption has us going in the red. Generally, our sales tax does better than we project. So, to look at this number as a fixed number is an assumption.”

District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson spoke next saying, “People have said ‘why don’t we have services for homeless?’ We’ve had migration in the Bay Area, east. Services haven’t followed.”

“I’m in agreement we do need to look at other opportunities. But the cutoff date is coming up pretty soon. We shouldn’t leave money on the table,” she continued. “We have a second date coming up. But I don’t want to keep going ‘this isn’t a good site’. Nobody’s going to be 100% happy with any site we choose. I’m saying we should move forward with something, so we don’t leave money on the table. I’m for voting for this tonight so we get the ball rolling and not keep kicking the can down the road.”

“We’re not applying for Round 2 on May 2nd. That would be an impossible effort. We are applying for Round 3 funding…in October,” Thorpe explained.

Assistant City Manager Rosann Bayon Moore spoke about research that she could make available to the council members showing “the Executive Inn is the only site that can compete with the aggressive timeline. As soon as they make their decision in December, we have to show we can bring the units online within eight months.”

“I would have preferred to see that before this and that didn’t happen,” Torres-Walker said, referring to the research by city staff. “I would also like to hear from Dignity Moves and from Home First so we can have a balanced presentation and not just Focus Strategies. Tonight, I cannot support this item without that.”

“So, we need to postpone this,” Thorpe said. “We can’t kick this can down the road. We have to move. We can meet on Friday.”

Torres-Walker then made a motion to postpone the item and Wilson seconded it. “Most votes on homeless have been 3-2 votes,” Thorpe stated. “I keep hearing it’s about this reason or that reason. It’s values. I’m sick and tired of hearing the reasons.”

The motion to postpone then passed 4-1 with Barbanica voting against.

Bicycle Garden concept video screenshot. Source: City of Antioch

Bicycle Garden Design Funding & Location Approved

Antioch Parks and Recreation Director Brad Helfenberger provided a presentation on the proposed Bicycle Garden and said the Contra Costa Transportation Authority would be the lead agency on the project.  Bicycle Garden staff report & presentation ACC042622

During discussion about the Bicycle Park, the council chose the location of Prewett Family Park for the Bicycle Garden and to spend up to $550,000 for planning and design by San Francisco-based T.Y. Lin International, the global civil and structural infrastructure engineering firm that designed the Eastern Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The funds are not currently in the budget but will be spent from the General Fund.

Council members were then asked their top two preferred locations. Torres-Walker and Barbanica supported Gentrytown Park as their first choice and Prewett Family Park as their second for the location. But Ogorchock, Wilson and Thorpe supported Prewett as their first choice and Gentrytown as their second choice.

“So, Prewett moves forward,” Thorpe said.

The council then approved the expenditure and location on a 5-0 vote.

Proposed organizational chart for new city department. Source: City of Antioch

Formation of New Department Also Postponed

The council then discussed the formation of the proposed Department of Public Safety and Community Resources.  (See related articles here and hereNew department formation staff report ACC042622

Ogorchock asked to change the name to Public Services.

“As one of the committee members, of course I’m in support of this,” Wilson said.

“I would like to see this come back and have staff develop a policy on the Department of Public Safety and Community Resources,” Torres-Walker said. She also wanted the director’s position included in the ordinance.

“Not including it doesn’t mean you can’t hire one,” City Attorney Thomas L. Smith stated.

“Do we normally include the positions in an ordinance?” Thorpe asked.

“Sometimes we include the top positions. You don’t have to. You can leave it out.” Smith responded.

“I don’t think it needs to be in the ordinance. Staff needs flexibility. I think that’s too much,” Thorpe stated.

“If it doesn’t have to come back in the ordinance and can come back another way, through the budget, I’m fine with that,” Torres-Walker said.

Proposed staffing chart for new city department. Source: City of Antioch

“I get what the mayor is saying. I’m happy to move this process forward,” Wilson said.

“So, everyone is in support of moving this forward?” Thorpe asked.

“I’ve been consistent ‘no’ on this,” Barbanica said.

“So, is that three in favor and two opposed?” Smith asked.

Thorpe said he was going to abstain.

“Should I bring the ordinance back?” Smith asked.

“We’ve been having these discussions in closed session. I’d prefer to get some of that worked out, first then bring it back,” Thorpe said.

So, the formation of the new department was postponed until an unspecified time in the future.

the attachments to this post:

New dept Staffing Chart ACC042622

New city dept Org Chart ACC042622

New department formation staff report ACC042622

Bicycle Garden staff report & presentation ACC042622

Executive Inn HomeKey Financing presentation ACC02622

Executive Inn Homekey Program staff report ACC042622

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