Archive for the ‘Contra Costa County’ Category

Supervisors approve two home developments, one outside the Urban Limit Line

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

Tassajara Parks General Plan Amendment land use maps. From presentation.

Tassajara Parks in the San Ramon Valley and Pantages in Discovery Bay will add 417 single family homes in Supervisorial District 3 with support of environmental groups

Approve Ameresco Renewable Natural Gas Processing Facility and Pipeline at Keller Canyon Landfill

Flash green light for further study moving Byron boys ranch to former Martinez Juvenile Hall

Tassajara Valley vicinity map. From presentation.

By Daniel Borsuk

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors worked on solving the county’s complex housing shortage during their meeting on Tuesday by approving two major housing developments, the 277-single family housing unit Pantages residential project in Discovery Bay and the controversial 125-housing unit Tassajara Parks residential project near San Ramon, both in District 3, board chair Diane Burgis’ turf.

The more controversial Tassajara Parks Residential Project drew the support of major environmental groups like Green Belt Alliance, Save Mt. Diablo and East Bay Regional Parks District mainly because the developer’s moved to do a “fee simple transfer “of 727 acres of land to the East Bay Regional Park District.

“This fee simple conveyance to the EBRPD will ensure that the Dedication Area is protected and preserved in perpetuity for the following non-urban uses only: agriculture, open space, parks, recreation, scenic uses, wetland preservation and creation, and habitat mitigation,” the supervisors’ background information states.

Save Mt. Diablo Land Conservation Director Seth Adams called the land transfer “a great trade off” and will go a long way in the preservation of wildlife, especially raptors and eagles.

“It’s a 30-acre adjustment to the Urban Limit Line which is allowed by a four-fifths vote of the Board of Supervisors based on at least one of seven findings,” Adams shared with the Herald. “Here it was the creation of an ag preserve by two more agencies.”

The Danville city council opposed the project contending the open space trade offer was inadequate especially when California is in a drought. “The city council felt that the scope and magnitude of the project with 125 homes in exchange of open space was insufficient.  The city council did not feel it was worth the trade off, “said City of Danville Manager Joe Calabrigo.

The approved Tassajara Parks Urban Limit Line realignment. From presentation.

District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen of San Ramon, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said she was concerned any action by the supervisors would require approval of the voters to adjust the urban limit line.

“I know we need the right mix of housing,” said Andersen. “If we move the urban limit line, that is up to the voters.  I have strong reservations about the environmental impact report.  Then there is no source of water for this project.”

Before supervisors approved the Tassajara Project on a 4-1 vote, District 1 Supervisor John Gioia successfully added to the board’s resolution several conditions, one that included that the developer must install solar panels and EV charging stations inside the garage or carport.  In addition, he added the installation of high efficiency appliances and insulation to zero net energy and to meet the standards to be solar-ready as defined by the California Building Standards.

The developer agreed to Gioia’s additions to the project’s resolution of approval.

Pantages Bays site map. From presentation.

The Tassajara Parks project also garnered support from parents of Tassajara Hills Elementary School parents who were pleased the developer plans to make safety corrections to the school’s parking lot. The school is immediately west of the project’s northern side.

Pantages Bays General Plan Amendment maps. From presentation.

Dave Rehnstrom, EBMUD Manager of Water Distribution Planning, said contrary to the developer’s proposed water conservation efforts, “EBMUD finds this project’s water conservation measures are insufficient.”

Mainly because developers of controversial the Tassajara Parks Residential Project have proposed to dedicate 727 acres of land to the East Bay Regional Park District, that move won the support from a few environmental organizations especially Save Mt. Diablo.

After several failed attempts to obtain state and federal regulatory permit approvals since 2013, developers of the proposed Pantages Bays Project near Discovery Bay, the new project proposed would subdivide the same site into 277 residential lots, which is 15 lots less than the original 2013 project.

With two public trail systems providing 5,200 linear feet of trails and walkways, the proposed project consists of two lakes, Lake South approximately 23 acres in size, and Lake North, about seven acres in size.

Of the 277 units planned for Pantages Bay Project, about 42 units are required to be set aside as affordable housing units. Eighty percent of the affordable units, 33 units, would be affordable to Moderate income households and 20 percent of the required affordable units, 8 units, would be affordable to low-income households. “An in-lieu fee will be paid for the remaining 0.55 units,” the county planning department document states.

“This project will help alleviate a lot of the illegal dumping that occurs in that area,” Burgis observed.

Approve Amersco Natural Gas Processing Facility and Pipeline

Without receiving any public comments either in favor or in opposition, supervisors approved on a 5-0 vote Ameresco Renewable Natural Gas’s (ARNG) proposal to construct a new 48,000 square foot renewable natural gas facility on the Keller Canyon Landfill site in Pittsburg.

The publicly traded Ameresco that has been operating on the Pittsburg landfill site a RNG operation since 2009 now proposes constructing a newer RNG processing facility of about 48,000 square feet or 1.1 acres on a level pad of about 84,000 square feet. Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the operation would be overseen by two operators for 40 hours per week.

According to a press release from Republic Services, which owns the landfill, “The dedication of the Keller Canyon Landfill gas-to-electricity project marks the second time this year that Republic Services, Inc. (NYSE:RSG) and Ameresco have partnered to develop and expand renewable energy sources for California and to provide power to residents of and businesses in Palo Alto and Alameda.”

“Most of the equipment would be less than 10 feet high except for the proposed enclosed flare, and a few larger pieces of equipment that would vary in height from 25 to 35 feet,” the Conservation and Development Department background document stated. “The proposed enclosed flare would be approximately 50 feet in height, similar to the two existing flares at the Keller Canyon Landfill enclosed flare facility.”

The project also calls for a new RNG underground pipeline to a proposed PG&E metering station located near the eastern edge of the Keller Canyon Landfill.  The Ameresco project has drawn some concern from Concord-based Discovery Builders that the proposed pipeline will be near a proposed residential development in Pittsburg.

A spokesman for Ameresco would not answer how much the new RNG facility and pipeline will cost.

During the supervisors’ meeting, Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg said through his office, Ameresco has agreed to pay the county at least $50,000 a year into the Keller Canyon Land Fill Mitigation Fund to help moderate any economic or environmental impacts stemming from the RNG project.

Every year, millions of dollars collected from Republic Services, operation of the Keller Canyon Landfill, are distributed to nonprofit organizations in the Bay Point and Pittsburg area through Supervisor Federal Glover’s office.

Supervisors Seek More Information on Orin Allen Youth Rehab Center Closure

Supervisors also instructed Contra Costa County Chief Probation Officer Essa Ehmen Krause to proceed and collect additional information, including cost figures, about a proposal to potentially move juvenile inmates at Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility in Byron (Byron Boys Ranch), closing that facility and transferring the inmates to a renovated former juvenile hall on Glazier Drive in Martinez.  The former juvenile hall facility is now used or storage.

The proposal was presented to supervisors who are attempting to figure out how to best use resources and address the educational and psychological needs of juveniles at the aged Byron Boys Ranch, constructed in 1960 and is now out of compliance with the American Disability Act.

Due to state legislation and local juvenile rehabilitation efforts, there are now about 15 youths housed at the Byron Boys Ranch, which is used for youths convicted of non-capital crimes.  For youths convicted or charged for capital crimes, they are housed at the 209-bed John A. Davis Juvenile Hall constructed in 2005.  There are now about 24 inmates at juvenile hall, Krause told supervisors.

Expect Krause to give periodic updates on the potential closure of Orin Allen and the reuse of the former juvenile hall facility.

 

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Contra Costa Crime Lab awarded federal DNA grant, will help prevent crime case backlog

Friday, June 25th, 2021

Photos: CCCSO

By Jimmy Lee, Director of Public Affairs, Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff

The Forensic Services Division of the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff was awarded $376,101 in grant funding from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance DNA Capacity Enhancement for Backlog Reduction Program.

The grant will allow for the hiring of a forensic analyst and the purchase of new instrumentation and equipment. This will increase the capacity to process more DNA samples, thereby helping to reduce the number of forensic DNA and DNA database samples awaiting analysis and to prevent a backlog of forensic and database DNA samples, like those collected at crime scenes.

“This grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance will increase our capacity and help us better serve law enforcement agencies and crime victims,” said Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston. “This will increase our efficiency of testing and enable us to provide quicker results to law enforcement and prosecutors on DNA cases in Contra Costa County.”

The Forensic Services Division hopes to hire a new forensic analyst by the end of the year.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance, a  division of the U.S. Department of Justice, helps to make American communities safer by strengthening the nation’s criminal justice system: Its grants, training and technical assistance, and policy development services provide state, local, and tribal governments with the cutting edge tools and best practices they need to reduce violent and drug-related crime, support law enforcement, and combat victimization.

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Contra Costa Supervisors approve Regional Housing Needs Allocation

Friday, June 25th, 2021

Source: MTC-ABAG

Extend ban on residential rent increases through September 30; inadequate county housing policy fuels crisis

By Daniel Borsuk

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously voted to extend the prohibition on residential evictions and rent increases through September 30 even though a driving factor for the county’s housing crisis can be linked to the county’s preference to permit the construction of more high-income housing than low-and-moderate-income housing.

While supervisors heard citizens make requests that the rental moratorium be extended through December 30, supervisors resisted those pleas and preferred that extension go through September 30.

“If another extension is needed after September 30, we can then take it up at that time,” said District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff.

The action the supervisors took on Tuesday marks the fourth rental moratorium that the elected officials have passed since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2019.

“The trouble is we already have a blanket moratorium on any rent increase,” said District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen.  “I don’t want to go through this again at the end of the year.”

Approve Housing Needs Allocation

But supervisors did not publicly comment on an approved consent item that reflects the county’s longstanding preference to have far more above moderate-income housing units – 3,147 units – constructed in the unincorporated areas of the county from 2023 to 2031, according to the recently released Association of Bay Area Government’s (ABAG’s) Final Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).

The ABAG RHNA item was passed as a supervisor’s consent item and was not publicly discussed at Tuesday’s meeting.

RHNA also shows Contra Costa County is designated to permit 2,082 very low-income housing units, 1,199 low-income units, and 1,217 moderate income units from 2023 to 2031.

Conservation and Development Department Director John Kopchick said the county will appeal ABAG’s RHNA findings on grounds the Draft Allocation is 5.59 times as high as the county’s allocation for the prior period (which was 1,367).

“As of the end of 2020 the County had issued building permits for 1,881 new housing units,” Kopchick wrote in a memo to the supervisors. “While we have met the overall allocation for the 2015-2023 period, we have so far met only 16% of the allocation for very-low income and 53% of the allocation for moderate income. Staff is concerned that an allocation that significant change is likely not achievable.”

Kopchick added, “The increase in the county’s allocation from prior cycle is larger than the increase for the Bay Area as a whole (5.59 times higher for the county versus 2.35 times for the region as a whole). In the view of staff, the amount of the increase relative to the region may not be equitable. The county’s draft allocation is almost 2,000 units higher than the largest allocation for any city in the county. The county’s allocation is the second highest allocation for a county in the Bay Area (only San Francisco is higher) and is the 9th highest among the 110 jurisdictions in the Bay Area.”

The county and cities have until the July 9th deadline to submit an appeal of the Draft Allocation.

ABAG will conduct public hearings in September and October on the RHNA appeal. ABAG will act on the final RHNA in January 2023.

Other Board Action

Among consent items supervisors approved were:

·         Sanjiv Bhandari of Alamo was appointed to a (District 2 – Supervisor Candace Anderson) four-year term to the Contra Costa County Planning Commission.  Bhandari is president and chief executive officer of BK BC Architects, Inc. of Walnut Creek.

·         Discovery Bay resident Bob Mankin was reappointed to the District 3 seat on the Contra Costa County Planning Commission.  Recommended by Board Chair Diane Burgis, he will serve a four-year term.

·         A $100,000 contract with Loomis Armored US, LLC for armored cash transportation services for the County Treasurer-Tax Collector for the period July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2024 with two possible one-year extensions. This marks the first time that the County Treasurer-Tax Collector has used another vendor for armored courier services to transport cash/check deposits because over the past several years, the County Treasurer’s Office became “increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of service provided by that vendor….”

·         Authorized Sheriff-Coroner David O. Livingston to applied and accept the United States Department of Justice Programs, DNA Program Backlog Reduction Grant in an initial amount of $250,000. This grant will reduce the number of backlogged DNA tests in the Sheriff’s Criminalistics Laboratory for the period of Jan. 1, 2022 through the end of the grant period.

·         An update on the formation of permanent regulations for the cultivation of industrial hemp will be presented to the board of supervisors by June 30.  Kopchik said a draft ordinance is scheduled to be considered by the County Planning Commission at a public hearing on June 23.  Subject to the Planning Commission’s review of the draft zoning ordinance, staff expects that it will present both draft ordinances to the board of supervisors in July or August.

Supervisors Select September 14 to Reopen In-Person Sessions

Supervisors set Tuesday Sept. 14 as their first in-person session meeting to be conducted in the new David Twa Public Administration Building in Martinez.

At a price tag of $60 million, the new building with 72,000 square feet will be open to the public with COVID-19 public health safeguards in place, in other words face masks if required.

Supervisors also promoted the hybrid meetings with both in-person and virtual or telephonic public comments.

 

 

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Contra Costa Supervisors extend eviction protection, rent freeze through Sept. 30

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021

By Susan Shiu, Public Information Officer, Contra Costa County

At their meeting on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed Urgency Ordinance No. 2021-20 that continues a temporary eviction moratorium for certain residential tenants and a moratorium on certain residential rent increases through September 30, 2021. The Urgency Ordinance also continues a temporary eviction moratorium for certain commercial tenants through September 30, 2021. Urgency Ordinance No. 2021-20 supersedes Ordinance No. 2021-11 and takes effect immediately.

“Our County is reopening and ready to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic, yet my colleagues and I recognize that many residents and small businesses are still struggling to regain their stability,” said Supervisor Diane Burgis, Board Chair. “Extending eviction protections will help residents and small businesses get back on the road to recovery and a stronger, brighter future.”

Read the full document Ordinance No. 2021-20 (PDF). Find answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding this ordinance on the County website soon.

For information and resources like the County’s Rent Relief Program that can help eligible renters and landlords impacted by COVID-19 with rent and utilities, visit the Contra Costa County website at www.contracosta.ca.gov. The Rent Relief Program application through the state’s website portal is now easier and available in many languages.

For health updates on COVID-19 and where you can get a free, protective vaccine, visit Contra Costa Health Services at cchealth.org/coronavirus. if you have questions about COVID 19, contact the multilingual Call Center at 1-844-729-8410, open Monday – Friday, from 8 am to 5 pm. For assistance after hours in multiple languages, call 211 or 800-833-2900 or text HOPE to 20121.

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Sheriff’s Office receives new scanner to help stop contraband smuggling

Thursday, June 17th, 2021

Photos: CCCSO

By Jimmy Lee, Director of Public Affairs, Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff

The Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff Custody Services Bureau has acquired the Tek84 Intercept Full Body Scanner. The Intercept will be used at intake at the Martinez Detention Facility as arrestees are processed and booked into the facility.

According to Tek84, the Intercept “detects both metallic and nonmetallic threats, including weapons, drugs, cell phones and other contraband. Screens from below the feet to above the head reveal items under the clothing and within the body.” In addition, the Intercept allows staff to maintain a distance of 6 feet of social distancing space between them and arrestees while conducting contraband searches.

“This technology is about safety and security and is one of many steps we are taking to improve our facilities,” said Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston. “This is a win-win. It will help prevent contraband from entering our jails, thus making it safer for inmates and staff.”

Funding for the Intercept, which cost $152,000, comes from federal funds (CARES ACT).

 

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Contra Costa Supervisors pass fireworks ordinance, prepare for hot, dry summer

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

Photo by CCCSheriff.

Mitchoff questions holding July 4th parades; approve funds to address illegal dumping

By Daniel Borsuk

Fourth of July celebrations are around the corner and the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday took a strident step in minimizing fires by unanimously passing a stronger fireworks ordinance that pins financial liability on owners of property and vessels where fireworks are used in unincorporated areas of the county.

Recognizing the extreme dry vegetation conditions the county now faces due to low winter rain fall, supervisors passed the ordinance as a consent item without hearing citizen comments on Ordinance No. 2021-19 that amends the county’s fireworks ordinance, Chapter 44-2 of the County Ordinance Code.

Contra Costa County received only 30 percent of average rainfall, said Brian Garcia, a National Weather Service meteorologist.  “The fuels that we have for fire this year are already at record levels. It’s really bad already and we’re not at the peak of the fire season.”

Conditions are so dry, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Deputy Fire Chief Aaron McAlister said, “Whether its moderate, high or very high, the risks are here in this county. We definitely have that potential that existed south of us and north of us in previous years. That potential now exists here in Contra Costa County.”

Under the new ordinance, property and vessel owners are responsible for ensuring that the use of illegal fireworks does not occur on their property.  Owners may be liable for ordinance violations if illegal fireworks are used on their property or vessel.

Board Chair Diane Burgis of Brentwood was the supervisor who shepherd the tougher fireworks ordinance, citing an increase in fireworks violations in her District 3 area.

“Illegal fireworks are a drain on our system,” Burgis said. “We simply don’t have the resources to address this continued problem. I would encourage cities and towns to adopt stronger ordinances and send the message that illegal fireworks will not be tolerated in Contra Costa County.”

“Due to unseasonably dry fuel conditions in Contra Costa County, we urge the public to take every precaution to prevent wildfires,” said Contra Costa County Fire Department Chief Lewis T. Brouschard III. “The use of illegal fireworks caused a recent fire in our county that destroyed two apartment buildings and displaced 30 residents. Playing with illegal fireworks is dangerous and poses the very real possibility of causing wildland fires that could easily destroy homes and threaten lives in this time of critically high fire risk.  We urge everyone to follow the regulations and stay safe.”

“Illegal fireworks in our county continually pose a threat to the safety of our communities,” said East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Fire Chief Brian Helmick in a press release. “On behalf of the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, we would like to thank Supervisor Burgis for taking these necessary actions to curb the use of illegal fireworks and for helping to protect all citizens who have been impacted by illegal fireworks.”

Passage of the fireworks ordinance, a supervisors’ meeting consent item that did not draw public comment.

According to the supervisors’ agenda background information:

“Chapter 44-2 of the County Ordinance Code prohibits the possession, manufacture, sale, use and discharge of fireworks in the unincorporated areas of the County. The Sheriff and fire department in the County receive numerous calls for service each year stemming from illegal fireworks, including calls to address vegetation fires, structure and exterior fires, personal injury or death, and noise or other public nuisances.

“The proposed ordinance would amend Chapter 44-2 and authorize the Sheriff to arrest and cite a responsible party as defined in the ordinance, for violations of Chapter 44-2.   The proposed ordinance established that a responsible party is required to maintain, manage and supervise the property or vessel for which they are responsible to prevent violations of Chapter 44-2. A responsible party is liable and violates the prohibition on fireworks under Chapter 44-2 if any person possesses, manufactures, sells, offers to sell, uses, or discharges, any fireworks at the property, or on the vessel, for which the responsible part is responsible, regardless of whether the responsible party is present when the violation occurs.

“The proposed ordinance defines a responsible party as any of the following:

  1. A person that owns, rents, leases, or otherwise has possession of, or is in immediate control of a residence or other private property or a vessel.
  2. A person that organizes, supervises, sponsors, conducts, allows, controls, or controls access to the possession, manufacture, sale, offer for sale, use, or discharge of fireworks at a residence or other private property or on a vessel.

“If a residence or other private is rented or leased for a period of more than 30 consecutive days, the landlord or lessor is not a responsible party unless the landlord or lessor: has possession of, or is in immediate control of, the residence or other private property; or has knowledge of the possession, manufacture, sale, offer for sale, sue, or discharge of fireworks at the residence or other private property.

The owner of a residence that is rented for a period of 30 consecutive days or less (a short-term rental) is a responsible party and is liable for violations of Chapter 44-2 if the short-term renter, or any other person, possesses, manufactures, sells, offers to sell, uses, or discharges, any fireworks at the residence, regardless of whether they owner of the short-term rental is present when the violation occurs.”

Mitchoff Questions Holding July 4th Parades

At one point during the meeting, Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill questioned the wisdom of cities permitting July 4th parades at least this year even though the county and all other counties will be off the Centers for Disease Control color tier system effective June 15.

“If you have not been vaccinated, people need to take this seriously for one more year,” said the supervisor. “There are communities that think they can handle this.  I am not so sure that is the case. The public needs to take this seriously. People will show up at parades and will be unvaccinated.”

Contra Costa County Deputy Health Director Ori Tzvilell said the state’s mask mandate will be relaxed effective June 15 “only if everyone has been vaccinated.”  Mask requirements will remain in place for retail businesses, he noted.

County Chief Equity Officer Gilbert Salinas said the health department will conduct a mobile vaccination unit in a census tract in Antioch (North of Highway 4 from L Street to Sommerville Road) to vaccinate about 16,000 unvaccinated persons on June 11.

Salinas said future mobile vaccination activities are planned for Antioch Park, Antioch Middle School and Pittsburg City Park.

Stormwater Utility Assessments Approved

Even in severe drought conditions, supervisors had to think about the potential of stormwater pollution issues, especially funding. Supervisors approved assessments for Stormwater Utility Areas 1 through 18 that will provide $15,914,283 in funding for the cities and county for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program and drainage maintenance activities during fiscal year 2021-2022.

Approve Initial Illegal Dumping Funds

In other action, supervisors launched the county’s Illegal Dumping Initiative with the allocation of $350,000. “This is exciting,” said Burgis, who served as one of the key catalysts to jump start the initiative three years ago.

The board’s action instructs that $200,000 of the $350,000 will be spent for the installation of lighting and $150,000 will be directed to remove 50 derelict boats and recreational vehicles during the current 2021-2022 fiscal year.

Burgis and District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover were key players in initiating in 2018 the formation of an interdepartmental “Think Tank” team of professionals from county departments to propose how to address the illegal dumping problems.  County departments involved in the Think Tank are the Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the Department of Public Works, the Environmental Health Division of the Health Services Department and the Department of Conservation and Development.

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Contra Costa, three other county DA’s to finalize $400,000 settlement with MoviePass affiliated executives for unlawful Business Practices

Monday, June 7th, 2021

Following 2018 complaint filed by Contra Costa County resident with California Attorney General’s Office.

By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Contra Costa County Office of the District Attorney

Martinez, Calif. – On May 20, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with the District Attorneys’ Offices of Ventura, Sonoma, and San Joaquin Counties, entered into a negotiated settlement agreement with former MoviePass affiliated executives, Theodore Farnsworth and Mitchell Lowe, for engaging in numerous unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent business acts and practices, while overseeing the operations of the now defunct movie theater subscription service. CCCDA MoviePass Documents

In total, Farnsworth and Lowe will have to pay $400,000 in civil penalties and cy pres restitution, as part of the signed Stipulated Judgment approved by the Honorable Nancy Davis Stark. In addition to the monetary payments, Farnsworth and Lowe are enjoined from engaging in any of the alleged unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent business acts or practices committed during their tenure as MoviePass managers. The settlement gets divided by all the DA’s involved and some goes to the state. The DA’s then use the monies for consumer protection activities.

MoviePass, Inc. (MoviePass) was an American subscription-based movie ticket service headquarter in New York City. Founded in 2011, the service initially allowed subscribers to purchase up to three movie tickets per month for a discounted monthly fee. The service utilized a mobile phone app where users checked into a theater and chose a movie and showtime, which resulted in the cost of the ticket being loaded by MoviePass to a prepaid MoviePass debit card, which was then used to purchase the ticket from the movie theater.

In 2017, Helios and Matheson Analytics purchased MoviePass. Around the time of the purchase, the business model for MoviePass, shifted from a three movie per month subscription to offering, among other things, an “unlimited” subscription plan at $9.95 a month and an “unlimited” fixed rate annual subscription. However, over the course of the next two years, the business model and terms of service changed multiple times to the detriment of the consumers.
After the acquisition of MoviePass by Helios and Matheson Analytics, the Defendants engaged in numerous unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent acts and practices. These acts and practices include, but are not limited to:

• Falsely advertising that MoviePass subscriptions offer “unlimited” movie watching. Specifically, “any movie”, “any day”, at “any theater”, when in reality MoviePass continually added limitations to customers’ subscriptions.
• Unconscionably changing terms of service during a subscription period.
• Converting all prepaid “unlimited” plans to three movies per month.
• Shutting down the availability of movies when a certain dollar amount is reached. (Trip wire).
• Failing to notify autorenewal customers of material changes to their subscriptions.
• Continuously charging customers’ debit or credit cards after receiving notice of cancellation from customers.

In addition to the above acts and practices, in 2019, MoviePass suffered a data breach. The data breach was the result of a MoviePass engineer creating an unsecured and unencrypted server as a debugging tool. This server had more than 161 million pieces of personal identifying information, including names, MoviePass card numbers, credit card numbers, billing information, email addresses and login information, belonging to at least 58,000 consumers. Despite being notified by private individuals, MoviePass allowed this server to operate for three months before it was taken down. MoviePass failed to advise the California Attorney General’s Office of the data breach, as required by law.

MoviePass shut down its operations in September of 2019. Both MoviePass and its parent company, Helios and Matheson Analytics, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in January of 2020.

In 2018 a local Contra Costa County resident filed a complaint against MoviePass with the California Attorney General’s Office. The complaint alleged that MoviePass was in violation of the Terms of Service as the company was not showing available tickets in the mobile app and limited the number of movies to the consumer even though they paid in advance for a year of “unlimited” service. In turn, the complaint was forwarded to our office for further investigation.

We welcome residents to file consumer complaints with our office via our website, www.contracostada.org. Case information: People v. Theodore Farnsworth and Mitchell Lowe, Docket C21-01045, Contra Costa County Superior Court.

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Contra Costa to remain in Orange Tier until June 15, won’t follow CDC’s new mask guidelines

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

Graphic by State of California from Gov. Newsom’s Wear a Mask campaign.

Following state’s guidelines instead; Antioch library reopening delayed until June 8

By Daniel Borsuk

Seventy percent of Contra Costa residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but  Contra Costa Health Services Director Anna Roth says that vaccination rate is still insufficient to convince state health officials to change the county current Orange Tier health restrictions to less stringent Blue health restrictions until at least June 15.

“We are accepting the state’s instructions to keep masking guidelines in place,” Roth said at Tuesday’s board of supervisors’ meeting.

Even though COVID-19 vaccines are being administered to children as young as 12 to 15, requirements remain in effect for persons to wear masks while indoor businesses, Roth said.

But CCHS Ambulatory Care Director Dr. Gabriela Diaz Sullivan presented a study’s gloomy findings about how COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the state’s health care delivery system.

“Since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, 48,000 more Californians have died,” said Dr. Sullivan, “Heart attacks was the number one cause of death followed by cancer as number two and COVID-19 as number three.”

“Thirty-three percent of Californians had an urgent care need, unrelated to COVID-19, wanted to see a physician, but did not see a physician,” Dr. Sullivan emphasize.  She said mammograms, colorectal cancer screenings, diagnostic colonoscopies, and blood pressure procedures were all down.

In summation, the COVID-19 pandemic has eroded the state’s health care system with Californians foregoing medical care when needed in preference to staying home.

On another related matter, Contra Costa Public Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano denied Supervisor Candace Andersen’s statement that she has learned 3,500 people have died from taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

“There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine has caused deaths,” Dr. Farnitano said.

Supervisors Approve Keller Canyon Permit

Over the objections of the City of Pittsburg’s Environmental Affairs Manager Laura Wright, who was the only opponent, supervisors unanimously approved a three-year land use permit for Republic Services to continue to operate the Keller Canyon Landfill on Bailey Road.

The supervisors’ action does require the county Department of Conservation and Development to conduct a one-year permit review of the landfill to determine if new or modified conditions should be considered.

Wright objected to the three-year permit renewal because the county did not adequately address the visual impacts by the inadequate number of trees that have been planted to block the view of the landfill and the inadequate measures undertaken to eradicate the dumping of litter outside the landfill.

Initially launching operations in 1995, the landfill has served as either an environmental irritant to residents living nearby the landfill or as a valuable source of money for numerous Pittsburg and Bay Point nonprofit organizations that Supervisor Federal Glover oversees the distributes thousands of dollars from Republic Services’ mitigation fund.

Two years ago, the landfill was the site of public concern when reports surfaced that radioactive waste from the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco had been transported and deposited at the Contra Costa County landfill.  A landfill radiation study last year revealed no evidence that any radioactive material had been deposited at Keller Canyon Landfill.

Antioch Library Reopening Delayed Until June 8

Citing the need for additional time to install shelving and update computers at the Antioch Library, supervisors approved County Librarian Alison McKee’s request to extend the reopening of the library to Tuesday, June 8.

In late April, supervisors had approved a request to close the library on June Tuesday, June 1 for interior paint and the installation of new carpeting and shelving, but due to additional time needed to install shelving and update computers the reopening has been delayed by a week.

Tougher Fireworks Ordinance Proposed

Supervisors are expected to consider at the June 8 meeting a proposed ordinance toughening the law banning the possession, manufacture, sale, use and discharge of fireworks.

“The proposed ordinance would amend Chapter 44-2 (i.e., vegetation fires, structure and exterior fires, personal injury or death, and noise or other public nuisances) and authorize the Sheriff to arrest and cite a responsible party, as defined in the ordinance, for violations for Chapter 44-1.  The proposed ordinance establishes that a responsible party is required to maintain, manage, and supervise the property or vessel for which they are responsible to prevent violations of Chapter 44-2. A responsible party is liable and violates the probation on fireworks under Chapter44-2 if any person possesses, manufactures, sells, offers to sell, uses, or discharges, any fireworks at the property, or on the vessel, for which the responsible party is responsible, regardless of whether the responsible party is present when the violation occurs.

“The proposed ordinance defines a responsible party as any of the following:

  1. A person that owns, rents, leases, or otherwise has possession of, or is in immediate control of, aa residence or other private property or a vessel.
  2. A person that organizes, supervises, sponsors, conducts, allows, controls, or controls access to, the possession, manufacture, sale, offer for sale, use, or discharge of fireworks at a residence or other private property or on a vessel.

If a residence or other private property is rented or leased for a period of more than 30 consecutive days, the landlord or lessor is not a responsible party unless the landlord or lessor: has possession of, or is in immediate control of, the residence or other private property; or has knowledge of the possession, manufacture, sale, offer for sale, use, or discharge of fireworks at the residence or other private property.

The owner of a residence that is rented for a period of 30 consecutive days or less (a short-term rental) is a responsible party and is liable for violations of Chapter 44-2 if the short-term renter, or any other person, possesses, manufactures, sells, uses, or discharges, any fireworks at the residence, regardless of whether the owner of the short-term rental is present when the violation occurs.”

The proposed tougher fireworks ordinance already has won the support from the Discovery Bay Community District which released a letter from district board president stating:

“The revisions, in essence, would hold persons in control or possession of private property responsible for fireworks violations occurring on their property,” wrote board president Byron Gutow. “The discharge of fireworks is a common problem in the district, especially during celebrations of Independence Day and New Year’s.  In many cases, the fireworks are professional grade and pose a significant risk of danger to persons and properties. We support efforts to dissuade the use of illegal fireworks.”

Promote Chief Assistant to County Counsel

Chief Assistant County Counsel Mary Ann McNett Mason was promoted to County Counsel by supervisors to fill the position that became vacant when Contra Costa County Counsel Sharon Anderson died on April 30.

Ms. Mason will earn $463,000 a year of which $105,000 is pension costs.  All the costs are budgeted in the county’s General Fund within the County Counsel’s Office operating budget.

Mason, a graduate of the University of California Hastings College of Law, started to work for the county counsel’s office in 1987 as a deputy county counsel.  In 2010 she was appointed assistant county counsel and in 2016 was promoted to chief assistant county counsel.

While serving the role of chief assistant county counsel, Mason assumed the duties of the County Counsel in her absence, supervised the attorneys in the General Government Group, and assisted in management of the County Counsel’s Office. In addition to those duties, Mason has served as the county’s retirement and employee benefit counsel, is the office specialist on open meeting and conflict of interest laws and serves as General Counsel to Delta Diablo.

Mason previously served as the counsel to the Contra Costa County Board of Education and County Superintendent of Schools, the Contra Costa Superior Court, the Grand Jury, and the Assessment Appeals Board and other clients.

“I am so happy to have this opportunity to represent the board of supervisors and the county at an important time in our history and to carry on Sharon Anderson’s legacy,” Mason told the Contra Costa Herald.  “I have some big shoes to fill.”

Load Limits Imposed on Delta-Mendota Canal Bridge

In an unusual action, supervisors approved the Contra Costa County Department of Public Works request to post 23 ton per vehicle (i.e., Type 3 Truck) load limit signs for the deteriorating Delta-Mendota Canal Bridge on Lindemann Road over the Delta-Mendota Canal because of “on-going deterioration found in multiple timber columns of the bridge.”

Supervisors did not receive any public comment pro or con on the proposal for the bridge’s load limit. “This order shall remain in effect for 90 days, or until Caltrans issues a Director’s Order establishing a permanent load restriction on the bridge, whichever occurs first,” the supervisors’ resolution states.

Alamo Architect Appointed Acting Planning Commissioner

District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville received board consent action approval on her request to appoint Alamo architect Sanjiv Bhandari to fill on an acting basis the planning commission post vacated by Rand Swenson’s resignation on April 28.

“Supervisor Andersen has been advertising the District II Commission seat since April 15, 2021 in preparation for filling the vacancy scheduled to arise at the end of Mr. Swenson’s current term on June 30, 2021.  Mr. Bhandari applied and met with Supervisor Andersen. Supervisor Andersen feels his knowledge an experience will be a positive addition to the commission,” the board agenda item report states.

 

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