Archive for the ‘Homeless’ Category

ACA 1 going to voters in 2024 will make it easier to pass local special taxes, bonds if approved

Friday, November 17th, 2023
Source: MTC. Credit: Edmond Dantès photo via Pexels

Expected to boost Bay Area housing bond prospects; Cal Chamber opposes; requires majority of voters to approve

By Allen D. Payton

MTC/ABAG-backed Assembly Constitutional Amendment 1, which would lower the vote threshold for local special taxes and bonds to fund affordable housing, transportation, resilience and other public infrastructure projects from two-thirds to 55%, will go to voters in November 2024.

The state Legislature last month approved sending the amendment, authored by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, to voters with the backing of the entire Bay Area legislative delegation. MTC and ABAG sent letters of support to Sacramento and MTC/ABAG legislative staff actively lobbied the bill to help get it over the finish line.

Similar bills have been proposed over the past two decades but until now none were approved by the house of origin, a hurdle that itself requires a two-thirds vote. Other supporters included Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California, Enterprise Community Partners, the California Professional Firefighters, and individual cities and counties. 

The Bay Area is preparing to place a regional housing bond on the November 2024 ballot, with 80% of funds flowing to counties and several large cities and 20% designated for regionwide programs administered by the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA).

“While Bay Area voters have a long history of generously supporting taxes to fund transportation and housing improvements, measures in some parts of the region have repeatedly fallen short of the two-thirds margin,” MTC-ABAG Executive Director Andrew Fremier noted.  “ACA 1 would reinstate the ability of voting majorities to address vital community needs.”

The election of ACA 1 co-author Robert Rivas to the Assembly speakership helped build momentum for the proposed amendment, as did the nonprofit housing community’s raising of $10 million to gather signatures for a citizen’s initiative if the legislature didn’t approve the amendment.  

California Chamber of Commerce Opposes

The constitutional amendment is opposed by the California Chamber of Commerce. In a report by policy advocate Preston Young before it passed, he claims ACA1 would increase costs for key sectors, will erode taxpayer safeguards and would harm California workers.

Preston wrote, “This would provide increased tax authority for many local government agencies in California—not just cities and counties, but thousands of potentially overlapping special districts.

In a letter sent to legislators recently, the CalChamber pointed out that while it’s important to improve infrastructure and increase housing availability, higher property, sales and parcel taxes on working Californians run counter to the goal of making the state more affordable for all.

Businesses engaged in manufacturing, research and development, teleproduction and post-production, and agriculture face a significant sales and use tax burden in California.

The sales and use tax is supposed to be a tax on the final point of sale of a product, yet many businesses—including businesses conducting research and development, manufacturing, filming activities, and agriculture—are taxed for equipment purchases.

Taxation of business inputs for these industries leads to a pyramiding effect throughout the production process, leading to higher costs for purchases made by consumers, the CalChamber explained in its letter. To counter this pyramiding effect and incentivize business growth in the state, California offers a partial state-level sales tax exemption for purchases made by these industries. However, purchases made by these businesses are still subject to local transactions and use taxes.

Equipment purchases represent a significant portion of capital investment for existing businesses and start-ups. Tax increases promoted by ACA 1 would defeat the purpose of the state-level exemption provided by the state and make it more cost-prohibitive to conduct these business activities in California, the CalChamber warned.

ACA 1 would allow local jurisdictions to approve Bradley-Burns sales tax increases with a 55% vote of the electorate, eliminating the uniformity and certainty provided by the Bradley-Burns sales tax.

This would represent a monumental change to sales and use tax policy in the state, the CalChamber said. Unlike the transactions and use tax—which is capped at 2% per county and requires statutory authority to exceed the cap—the local 1.25% sales tax (referred to as the Bradley-Burns sales tax) is uniformly applied across the state and voters are not authorized to approve increases to the rate.

“California already has the highest state-imposed sales tax in the country, and the combined sales tax rates in some jurisdictions are among the highest in the United States,” the CalChamber said. “Allowing localities to modify their Bradley-Burns sales tax rates, without a cap on rate increases, paves the way for excessive combined sales tax rates in parts of the state—increasing costs for residents and businesses.”

More than four decades ago, prompted by years of rising taxes, Californians resoundingly approved Proposition 13 to provide a check on local governments’ taxing authority, and to ensure a greater representative voice for those who would be taxed. Proposition 13 also limits taxes on property to 1% of the property’s assessed value.

Reducing the vote threshold would diminish the people’s voice on tax increases and would erode property tax safeguards. The CalChamber pointed out that a May 2022 Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 64% of registered voters believe Proposition 13 has benefitted taxpayers, and this support reaches across nearly every major demographic.

After comparing the costs of operating in California versus other states, many employers left the state in recent years. A Hoover Institution report found that from 2018 to 2022, at least 352 companies relocated their headquarters out of California—with many businesses citing the state’s tax burden as the deciding factor in their relocation.

The relocation of these companies and their employees to lower-cost states has a major impact on state and local tax revenue, causes unemployment for workers who cannot move to the new location, and is a sign that California must find ways to be more competitive, the CalChamber stressed.

“Tax increases such as those promoted in ACA 1 would be a step in the wrong direction and would encourage more companies to move workers and investments to other states,” the CalChamber said.

Indeed, Californians are sensitive to this problem. A 2020 Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll found that 78% of voters “agreed that taxes in California were already so high that they were driving many people and businesses out of the state.”

Majority Vote Needed to Pass

According to a report by the California Globe,  Article XVIII, Section 4 of the California Constitution, “requires a proposed amendment or revision to be submitted to the electors and, if approved by a majority of votes, takes effect on the fifth day after the Secretary of State files the statement of the vote for the election at which the measure is voted on, but the measure may provide that it becomes operative after its effective date.”

Antioch Council again adopts tenant anti-retaliation, harassment ordinance, spends $1.2 million for charging stations

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023
Electric vehicle charging station examples. Source: City of Antioch

Approves contract for homeless encampment cleanup

“Gentrification only happens when filthy rich people push out people who rent,” Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker

By Allen D. Payton

During their Tuesday, August 22, 2023 meeting, for the third time, the Antioch City Council, on a 3-1-1 vote, approved the residential tenant anti-retaliation and harassment ordinance and unanimously voted to approve spending $1.2 million more for electric vehicle charging stations throughout the city for use by both the City vehicle fleet and the public. The council also voted to give a one-year extension to the multi-family housing project on Wild Horse Road and approved the contract for Homeless Encampment Cleanup.

Council Again Adopts Residential Tenant Anti-Retaliation, Harassment Ordinance

After approving it twice previously, the council again approved the anti-retaliation, harassment ordinance on a 3-1 vote with District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock voting no and District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica abstaining because he owns a property management company. The council had previously adopted the measure, but with District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson absent for the second reading, it passed on a 2-1 vote with changes. That required the item be brought back a second time for a first reading. (See related articles here and here)

“This legislation…is not the exact one we voted on weeks ago,” Thorpe stated. “No one is going to jail under this legislation. There is no provision for jail time. It doesn’t exist. There is no presumption of guilt in this legislation. Absolutely not. We have fixed that, and I think most parties are happy with that.”

“This is about the landlord’s intent if it’s in bad faith and it is, by the way, on the tenant to prove,” he added.

During another session of public comments – limited to just one minute each – on both sides of the matter, Mayor Lamar Thorpe warned members of the audience that the council meeting would end at 11 p.m. and if the council did not vote by then the item would be continued until the second meeting in September due to notification requirements for public hearings.

“Gentrification only happens when filthy rich people push out people who rent,” Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker said during council discussion.

“As I’ve said before, I agree with the ordinance but there needs to be some changes,” Ogorchock said referring to a section on single-family residences. “There was something that was talked about seniors. The seniors are safe. We added that in here. Health facilities…are in, here. They’re safe.”

She asked for a few changes.

“We can remove that language and add ‘as determined by the court’ because the court can imprison you,” Thorpe said with a laugh. He asked about language in the ordinance regarding landlords towing tenant vehicles being considered harassment.

“If you remove it in bad faith, I get that,” he said. “You are the second lawyer. The first lawyer told us something different. A landlord has a right to say, ‘this car is in violation…and I have to get it towed’. It can’t be harassment.”

“All this section is saying if you remove the vehicle…if you’re not supposed to tow the car but you do it anyway, you’re in violation of the law,” City Attorney Thomas L. Smith responded. “So, why don’t we add something to that to give you some clarification.”

“If you have a parking stall, your lease requires your vehicle to be registered…to be on the property,” Torres-Walker said. “If it’s not registered then they will tow your car. When you have a single-family home…you’re also renting the driveway. So, if my car is in the driveway how can you tow it?”

“Antioch steals cars every day,” she continued. “My car almost got towed. Is that harassment?”

“What this is saying is describing something that constitutes harassment,” Smith interjected and offered additional language. “If applicable law allows for towing the vehicle, then it’s not harassment.”

“That’s all we’re looking for,” Thorpe responded. “So, we will add that.”

“I had 10 other changes,” he continued to laughter by Torres-Walker. “I’m lying. I had a few other changes.”

“This doesn’t give ACCE or any organization to just walk onto a property,” Thorpe said about another section.

“This is more complicated,” Smith responded. “What we’re saying is the landlord shall allow the to enter and organize.”

“I just want to be clear that ACCE, if they have not been invited by a resident, they have a right to go onto an apartment complex and start organizing residents,” Thorpe shared. “This will be the last thing for me.”

“This is an important one,” Smith stated. “Here it says, ‘you won’t prohibit a tenant from organizing activities…or other political activities.’ It is a question of access. This is saying, you have to allow access, but you can provide the time and location. A right to access is a property right. But there is a question there of what is the government intent? Are we granting an accesss right?  We should clarify tenants can invite you but we aren’t requiring they allow.

“Do we have to take a vote to extend the meeting,” Torres-Walker then asked.

“Yes,” Smith responded.

The council then passed a motion to extend the meeting by seven minutes on a 4-0 vote.

“Why don’t we say when hosted by a tenant?” Smith asked.

“Perfect language,” Thorpe responded who then made the motion to adopt the ordinance with the revised language.

But more wordsmithing continued to clarify the changes requested by Ogorchock and Thorpe.

Thorpe then said about the section on protecting senior residential homecare facilities, “I supported that change because I thought my colleague would support the ordinance. So, we’re striking that language.”

“That is my motion,” he stated.

The council then voted 3-1 to cheers from the audience, with Ogorchock voting against and Barbanica recusing himself. Audience members left the council chambers chanting, “this is what democracy looks like.”

Council Approves $1.2M More for Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

The council voted 5-0 to adopt a resolution approving an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2023/24 Operating Budget to increase the funding from the General Fund for the Zero Emission Vehicle Transition Project by $1,226,760 for a total amount of $1,361,814.

According to the staff presentation during the meeting, the state now requires 50% of all new cars purchased by local governments to be fully electric. If local governments are going to purchase two new vehicles, one of them has to be battery electric or fuel cell electric by state mandate, Thomas Paddon explained. “The City must act beginning next year.”

The charging stations will be available to both City vehicles and the public.

“It’s a good idea. But if 20 people have those kind of cars, then it’s not wise. I can’t afford it,” said resident Julia Emegokwae. “Elon Musk and the electric car companies should pay, not the City, not the taxpayers.”

“We’re just catering to two companies, Ford and Chevy. I just went and looked at Kias. Kia has EV cars,” another speaker said. “Other companies have EV cars and crossovers. So, I don’t know why they just want to stay on Chevy and Ford. When it’s time to buy that battery…it’s expensive every five years.”

Council Discussion & Vote

District 3 Councilman Mike Barbanica said, “you mentioned buy one regular car and buy one electric.”

“It’s a 50% procurement requirement. This is coming from CARB (California Air Resources Board,” Paddon said during the presentation. “It’s going to be an ongoing thing. All of your purchases cumulatively over the next 15 years have to be electric. Then it’s 100% after 2027. This is specifically for municipal fleets. This only applies to vehicles to heavy vehicles.”

This doesn’t apply to police Interceptors.

“If we’re only looking at F-250’s and above how many vehicles are we looking at?” Barbanica asked.

“66,” Paddon responded. “The electric vehicles will be more affordable, anyway. There are vehicles like Kia that we recommend in the light duty space.”

“The funds will come from CDC grant. It will be 25 percent cost share the city will have to come up,” he stated in response to a question by Barbanica.

“This $1.3 million is 25% of taxpayer money,” Barbanica stated.

“This is like a down payment on the infrastructure to power the entire fleet,” Paddon responded.

“The money is recommended coming out of the General Fund,” Acting Public Works Director Scott Buenting added.

“We always want to make sure we budget the money in a responsible way. So, we have to front the money. Whether we have the money or not we have to move in this direction,” Mayor Lamar Thorpe stated.

The motion to approve the additional funds for the program passed 5-0.

Gives Extension to Multi-Family Project, Approves Homeless Encampment Cleanup Contract

After passing a motion to adjourn, the council voted to reopen the meeting 4-1 with Barbanica voting against. They then passed a motion adopting the Consent Calendar except Items H and O.

On a separate vote on Item H, regarding a one-year extension of the vesting tentative map for the multi-family housing project on Wild Horse Road, Thorpe recused himself, again because his home is too close to the project.

“The motion to go union, since it’s a private project, the city doesn’t have any power to force a private landowner to go union,” Attorney Smith explained in response to a question by Barbanica.

“This was supposed to be commercial on the front of this site,” Ogorchock explained.

“All they’re asking for, here, city attorney, is an extension?” Barbanica asked.

The motion then passed 4-0-1.

The council then approved Item O awarding a Maintenance Services Agreement for On-Call Homeless Encampment Cleanup Services throughout the City to Sharjo LLC dba ServiceMaster Restoration Management for a three (3) year term from July 25, 2023, to June 30, 2026, in the amount of $1,365,000 with an option to extend two (2) additional years from July 1, 2026, to June 30, 2028, in an amount of $951,360 for a total contract amount not to exceed $2,316,360 over the five (5) year period.

The council had previously approved the budget item during their July 25th meeting on a split vote of 4-0-1 with Torres-Walker voting to abstain.

“I do agree we need to support our city workers,” she stated. “We should have worked with Safe Streets that could help homeless folks. We could have spent this million and some change in a better way…a way that is a lot more sustainable that could have got people off the streets.”

The motion to approve passed 4-1 with the mayor pro tem voting against.

The council then voted again to adjourn the meeting at 11:20 p.m.

Because the discussion and vote on the anti-retaliation and harassment ordinance item ran past 11 p.m., the council continued the remaining item regarding discussion of potentially hiring retired police officers to help the department until their next meeting.

Antioch Council agrees to contract out homeless encampment cleanup on split vote

Tuesday, July 25th, 2023
Photo by

Will cost $2.3 million over five years, but keeping it in-house will cost $1.9 million; will free up 2,200 hours of staff time for other work including street repairs and maintenance

By Allen D. Payton

During their meeting on Tuesday, July 25, 2023, the Antioch City Council voted 4-0-1 to contract out the cleanup of homeless encampments on City-owned property and rights-of-way. Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker, without comment, voted to abstain. While it will cost the City budget approximately $400,000 more over five years, it will save staff time allowing them to do other priority work in the city. The outside contractor will be hired at a later date.

According to the staff report on the item, “The Public Works Department currently handles all the homeless cleanup abatement throughout the City of Antioch on City owned property and rights-of-way. Cleanup work is accomplished by work crews from the Streets Maintenance division and NPDES division. All abatement cleanups on City owned property and streets are handled by a streets crew. An NPDES work crew handles all cleanups within the City’s creeks and retention basins.

In calendar year 2022, City staff spent 2,197 labor hours performing homeless encampment cleanups. The time and resources dedicated to these cleanups prevents both Streets and NPDES work crews from completing their regularly scheduled and State mandated maintenance work. For example, the Streets Crew must defer signs and striping work as well as pothole and in house road repairs. NPDES crews must sometimes defer County mandated fire break maintenance work within the City’s creeks and State regulated storm drain and creek maintenance.

Additionally high priority sewer repairs get put on hold which could increase the City’s liability if sewers overflow in addition to potential fines from the State.”

Multiple city workers spoke in favor of the contract due to them being robbed while cleaning up, having to sort through needles, being spit on and afraid for themselves and their families to shop at the Target in Antioch and go to the store in Pittsburg, instead.

“Our experience is in sewer…in storm. We shouldn’t have to calm down the person who we’re taking their home away,” one employee said.

“We have to have PD on every site we go to. PD can’t always stay. The guys are literally getting yelled at, cursed at,” said Jeff Cook. “This contract would allow the actual professionals do the job they’re trained to do. One of the officers passed out from fentanyl exposure.”

“We can agree this is not the right department to handle the solution,” resident and homeless advocate Andrew Becker said. “These men and women shouldn’t be put in this position. But I’m wondering why other departments that deal with homeless are not here for this presentation.”

According to Acting Public Works Director Scott Buenting, the estimated cost to keep the work in-house within the department over the next five years is $1,913,443. The estimated first-year cost is $455,000 with annual increases, for a total five-year cost of $2,316,360.

Council Discussion & Approval

District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock asked about the contract. “My concerns are almost 2,200 labor hours taken away from what they were hired to do,” she said. “I would like to move forward on the outside contract as soon as possible.

She then moved approval, seconded by District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica and it passed on 4-0-1 with Torres-Walker voting to abstain.

“We were in negotiations on this last year. Just for clarification this is something we agreed to,” Mayor Lamar Thorpe said.

Small fire at Antioch’s homeless hotel burns hand of female resident Saturday

Saturday, July 8th, 2023
Personnel on four Con Fire engines and two trucks responded to a small fire at the Executive Inn on E. 18th Street in Antioch Saturday, July 8, 2023. Photo by Allen D. Payton

Executive Inn on E. 18th Street; APD, another resident help victim out of her room

By Allen D. Payton

Con Fire personnel responded to a small fire in one of the rooms at the Executive Inn on E. 18th Street Saturday afternoon, July 8, 2023. It’s the location of the City’s homeless hotel offering transitional housing.

According to Battalion 8 Chief Scott Valencia, it was “a very small fire in the bedroom. The sprinklers kept it in check. This is a normal response for a commercial fire, four engines and two trucks. One victim had burns to the hand. The cause is still under investigation.

According to Fire Marshal & Assistant Chief Chris Bachman, “the female victim in her 20’s was passed out on the bed. Antioch PD and another resident assisted the victim to get her out of the room. She was transported to UC Davis Medical Center.”

“Not only was it a sprinkler save of the room, but a sprinkler save of a life, as well,” he stated.
“Because it was a change of occupancy from hotel to transitional housing, Con Fire required a sprinkler system and they retrofitted it,” Bachman explained. “Today was a great example of why the code identifies that our occupancies require sprinklers, now and how the sprinkler system saved not only the building but a life.”

Small fire at Antioch’s homeless hotel burns hand of female resident Saturday

Executive Inn on E. 18th Street

By Allen D. Payton

Con Fire personnel responded to a small fire in one of the rooms at the Executive Inn on E. 18th Street Saturday afternoon, July 8, 2023. It’s the location of the City’s homeless hotel offering transitional housing.

According to Battalion 8 Chief Scott Valencia, it was “a very small fire in the bedroom. The sprinklers kept it in check. This is a normal response for a commercial fire, four engines and two trucks. One victim had burns to the hand. The cause is still under investigation.

According to Fire Marshal & Assistant Chief Chris Bachman, “the female victim in her 20’s was passed out on the bed. Antioch PD and another resident assisted the victim to get her out of the room. She was transported to UC Davis Medical Center.”

“Not only was it a sprinkler save of the room, but a sprinkler save of a life, as well,” he stated.
“Because it was a change of occupancy from hotel to transitional housing, Con Fire required a sprinkler system and they retrofitted it,” Bachman explained. “Today was a great example of why the code identifies that our occupancies require sprinklers, now and how the sprinkler system saved not only the building but a life.”

Annual count shows slight increase in homelessness in Contra Costa County

Thursday, May 11th, 2023
Contra Costa County Point In Time Homeless County on Jan. 25, 2023. Source: H3

95 more homeless residents than in 2020

Contra Costa County’s annual survey to document people experiencing homelessness showed a four percent increase overall in 2023 compared to 2020, according to a report released by Contra Costa Health’s Health, Housing and Homeless Services team (H3).

H3 and its community partners, including more than 200 volunteers, canvassed across the county to count the number of people living in emergency shelters or outdoors on Jan. 25, 2023 and released preliminary findings of the 2023 Point in Time count (PIT) this week.

The PIT provides a one-day snapshot of homelessness in Contra Costa. It impacts funding, includes important data and demographics, and helps inform how Contra Costa Health (CCH) can most effectively provide services to people experiencing homelessness. (See Powerpoint presentation)

The preliminary findings show that 2,372 people were without housing during that 24-hour period, including 1,653 people who were unsheltered. That is a 4% increase from the 2020 PIT, which counted 2,277 people experiencing homelessness.

“There’s no one reason why people lose their housing,” said John Gioia, Chair of the County Board of Supervisors. “We are working hard on many fronts to create more housing opportunities with supportive services, including investing $12 million per year in a newly established Housing Trust Fund. Contra Costa County is also working with other counties statewide to reform the homeless system of care in California to link funding with accountability for outcomes.”

Since 2020, bed capacity in the county increased by over 560 beds and CCH opened Delta Landing thanks to the state’s Homekey program, which added critically needed services in East County.

“This year’s PIT count shows that homelessness rates in the county are relatively stable and similar to pre-pandemic numbers,” said H3 director Christy Saxton. “This is a testament to the services we work to provide to people who are experiencing homelessness in our communities, but there is more work to be done.”

The full PIT report, expected to be completed in June, will include additional geographic and demographic data. Visit for more information on homeless services and resources.

Antioch Council learns about micro-housing program for city’s homeless residents

Wednesday, March 1st, 2023

Architectural renderings by Shelterwerk of micro-homes planned for Hope Village at Grace Presbyterian Church in Walnut Creek. Source: Hope Solutions

Includes tiny homes and ADU’s

By Allen D. Payton

During their meeting Tuesday night, the Antioch City Council was provided a presentation on an effort to bring tiny homes to Antioch and the two-year Partnership for the Bay’s Future Breakthrough Grant to fund the effort to get them approved in the city. The proposal includes micro-home cottages on faith owned land plus Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) on privately owned residential property.

The agencies are the Multi-Faith Action Coalition (formerly Contra Costa Interfaith Housing) and the Pleasant Hill-based Hope Solutions with help from the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) Bay Area.

“Manufactured micro-homes are less costly than stick-built homes,” said Meredith Rupp, a Fellow with Partnership for the Bay’s Future.

They have identified 41 sites in Antioch totaling 75 acres. But regulatory changes are needed. They will work with Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs on that before bringing to the city council for consideration.

“Our preliminary vision is to develop a library of pre-approved plans…ready, off-the-shelf for homeowners to use,” said Jasmine Tarkoff, also of Hope Solutions.

A Resident Empowerment Program is the “third pillar” of the effort including mental health services and support for job training, and other “wrap-around” services, shared Deborah Carney, of Hope Solutions and an Antioch resident.

According to the Partnership for the Bay’s Future website, the Breakthrough Grants program is “to help communities pass equitable housing policy. Selected local governments will receive a dynamic, mission-driven fellow who will work on community-driven local policy in affordable housing production and preservation. The Partnership will also provide two years of grant funding to community partners to engage and activate the local community. The whole Breakthrough Grant cohort will have access to a flexible pool of funding for technical assistance to meet their policy goals. The value of this support is about $500,000 per jurisdiction.”

Examples of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s). Source: Partnership for the Bay’s Future

Father Robert Rien of St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Antioch spoke in favor of the program. “I have seen homelessness right up front. We have had a very strong concern about those who are not as blessed us to have homes. One of the issues that has really burned for me are the number of families living out of their cars. The Antioch school district has 235 families living out of their vehicles. We have a number of veterans living along the river.”

His parish was instrumental in building Tabora Gardens Senior Apartments located on Tabora Drive at James Donlon Blvd.

“We have eight-and-a-half acres. We’d like to use part of our property to build housing for the unhoused. We’re hoping to build 21 units,” he added.

People affiliated with Hope Solutions and other organizations, as well as a few Antioch residents spoke in favor of the tiny homes, including Pastor Chris Watson of the Golden Hills Community Church Community Outreach Center (COC) on East 18th Street.

“The biggest area of need is affordable housing,” he said. “Our people have income. We’re trying to provide them dignity. Providing a roof over their head is a difficulty. We look forward to partnering together.”

Council Discussion

During council discussion of the item District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock wanted to know, “This is permanent housing?”

“Yes,” was the response.

“Who will be there, families?” she asked. “I would like to see it as a family unit, myself. Under the government entities the County isn’t listed. I’d like to see the County partner with us. They get money from the state.”

“I think it’s a great idea. I love the idea,” Ogorchock continued. “It’s an exciting project and I think it’s something doable within the city.”

District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica, “When we say permanent housing are we talking forever, 30 years? And what is the funding mechanism beyond?”

“They’re built to HCD standards, the same as your home and my home,” Tarkoff explained. “These are not pallet homes or Tuff Sheds. This particular grant is all around being able to develop to explore micro-homes on faith owned home…streamlining the entitlement process.”

The organization is engaged in both public and private funding for the construction and ongoing costs.

“There is no plan in place to get that person into permanent housing?” Barbanica asked.

“The plan is to bring individuals and families, provide them with the housing, with support services…Hope Solutions does not place time limitations on how long an individual can stay in a home,” Tarkoff responded. “Of course, our goal is as individuals heal and want to get into larger housing, we’d like to get them into that trajectory.”

“On our end as policy makers we’ll really only be dealing with zoning,” Mayor Lamar Thorpe said. “This is your project. We don’t set expectations. We spend our time getting the zoning done. We’re not approving anything. We’re not. Just zoning. Certainly, we want to be involved.”

“I still believe in participating in this…proposal at the church,” Ogorchock added. “I think it’s more than just zoning and entitlements.”

“Our job is to not make this cumbersome. We can easily get in the way,” Thorpe stated. “You’re not asking for permission. Let’s create the zoning and let the churches and faith-based organizations get the job done.”

Antioch Council gets bad news on homeless program funding, proposed urgency ordinance to ban liquor stores dies

Thursday, February 23rd, 2023

With only four council members in attendance, no action was taken on either item during their special meeting on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. Video screenshot

City facing $8-$10 million annual deficits over next two years; ordinance required 4/5ths vote but only garnered two, ban can return for future council meeting agenda

‘Even if it’s spread out over 15 years if it’s $5 or 6 million per year I don’t know where the funds would come from if it doesn’t come from grants” – City Finance Director Dawn Merchant

By Allen D. Payton

With District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock participating via Zoom and Mayor Pro Tem and District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker and City Manager Con Johnson absent, the Antioch City Council held a special meeting Thursday but was unable to accomplish anything. They discussed four options to help the homeless but could not reach consensus on the desired direction after hearing the city budget doesn’t have the funds. In addition, a proposed 45-day urgency ordinance banning new liquor stores in the city to give staff time to develop an ordinance permanently banning them failed with only the proponent, District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson and Mayor Lamar Thorpe supporting it. That required three votes to move forward and if it returned to a future council agenda for a vote, it would have required a four-fifths, super majority vote of council members to approve. But both Ogorchock and District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica opposed a ban.

Source: Focused Strategies

Homeless Program Options

Megan Kurtaff-Schatz, President of Focused Strategies, the city’s consultant on homeless issues, provided the presentation to the council members of an overview on strategies for them to choose from to “serve and house” homeless residents in Antioch. Unhoused Strategies presentation ACC022323

A graph in the presentation states, “Interim Housing does not decrease the unhoused population. Individuals living in temporary shelter (interim housing) are still individuals experiencing homeless.”

“What reduces homelessness is having housing available,” she said.

The charts show a current population of 475 unhoused residents in Antioch.

Kurtaff-Schatz presented three options, including Non-Congregate Bridge Housing (Interim Housing), Rapid Rehousing (rental subsidies in market housing) and Permanent Supportive Housing (Built Units). The Interim Housing choice would still result in a growing homeless population. But it would decrease with the latter two options.

Depending on the option chosen it will take between seven to 25 months to implement and the City’s commitment would last from 15 to 55 years, and Year 1 costs would be between $7 million to $12.42 million.

Source: Focus Strategies

The Built Project Upfront Commitments slide shows a total of $18.3 million to $55.3 million the city would have to make for the 15-year life of the program.

City Finance Director Dawn Merchant showed a preliminary budget for Fiscal Year 2022-23 that includes a transfer in of $9 million from the City’s Budget Stabilization Fund to cover the deficit. But the chart shows deficits of about $8.4 million in FY 2023-24 and $9.9 million in FY 2024-25.

Even with budget cuts, “we’re not going to get anywhere near zero,” she said.

“The only source of funding for any of these projects is the City’s General Fund. If we stay at the $8 to $9 million deficits, that’s pretty much going to eat up the Budget Stabilization Fund,” Merchant added.

Source: City of Antioch

Public Upset, Loses Hope on Homeless Programs

Homeless advocate and Antioch resident Andrew Becker said, “It’s concerning to me…that at the last council meeting it was clearly stated by Dignity Moves that there were other alternatives outside of the RFP process. Do you know what their response was? Nothing. I talked to Dignity Moves, yesterday and they were frankly insulted. And they’re not here, tonight and Focus Strategies is here.”

So, frankly as an advocate of who are not statistics…what are we doing here?” he asked becoming quite emotional “Terri House handles our housing grants and she’s not even here. Where is she?”

Another man spoke saying, “I was excited before. Now, I’m not excited. I’m very concerned after hearing…about the money coming from the city funds. Quite frankly, this needs to be a regional approach. Cities like Brentwood and Oakley need to provide funding for this. I don’t know where I stand with this anymore. I feel like I’ve lost hope with this city. The city has let residents down, both housed and unhoused.”

A woman named Jo who said she was one of the presenters with Dignity Moves at the council meeting a couple weeks ago said there’s still time to do the Homekey program without having to go through “the cumbersome RFP process. The city already went through the RFP process last summer. We can do that quite expeditiously…within a matter of days. Remember the Homekey program…there’s limited resources and there’s going to be limited opportunities. We are here to assist.”

A man named Punit who said he is CEO and President of California Supportive Housing spoke next saying, “I reached out to Rosanna and city manager and (Antioch’s Unhoused Resident Coordinator) Tasha (Johnson) earlier this week. We already have a site in LOI (Letter of Intent)…for Homekey. We would like to work with you guys going forward.”

Council Discussion on Homeless Programs

During council discussion on the item Barbanica spoke first asking Merchant, “Is it your opinion we cannot afford to do this?”

‘Even if it’s spread out over 15 years if it’s $5 or 6 million per year I don’t know where the funds would come from if it doesn’t come from grants,” she responded. “There are some ARPA funds the city has. But understand that’s a one-time cost. It could subsidize programs going forward. We don’t have any other funding sources at the current point.”

“That’s my concern at the current point,” Barbanica said.

“Our responsibility, here is the budget,” Mayor Lamar Thorpe said. “We can decide the priorities. We have not been deficit spending. We’ve had a balanced budget. In fact, we’ve had surpluses.”

District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson asked about the Rapid Rehousing. “Is this program eligible for Homekey?”

“No. Rapid Rehousing is typically discretionary spending,” Kurtaff-Schatz responded. “Typically, it’s county funding.”

“If we do interim, we still need to find some type of interim housing,” Wilson said. “At the end of the day we’re trying to help individuals. Permanent housing where they are stabilized.”

“Now, looking through this, how do we get to the end game?” she asked. “I still like the Homekey funding. Maybe Andrew’s right, we drug our feet too long. But we need to do something. These are the though

“Today is the first that I’ve heard of this Rapid Rehousing. It sounds very promising.”

Ogorchock said, “We have not been deficit spending. But I don’t want to go in that route. If we pursue this avenue we would be deficit spending. There’s no guarantee on the grants. I do see an opportunity to go back and work with the county. But at this point I don’t support moving forward on this due to the costs.”

Resident Leslie May was then allowed to offer additional public comments saying, “I’d like to speak to these grants. I have been working with Mr. Con Johnson in getting more money, grants from the federal government and the state. As a member of the Contra Costa County Mental Health I know the finances. The city can apply for it. I connected him with the big grant writers.”

“That money can help the City of Antioch. If we get this grant money, we can use that money to purchase places, to renovate places…to work with one of these companies. So, it is possible. But there’s things going on behind the doors that I’m trying to help. I know what the county is doing with their funds. In response to Councilwoman Ogorchock, Antioch is off the table.

“So, I’ve been working with Con Johnson on…permanent housing,” she added.

“We adopted our budget almost two years ago. The budget hasn’t changed,” Thorpe pointed out. “We did an RFP that committed $2 million. We didn’t obligate ourselves to anything. I think part of the goal…unless I’m mistaken it doesn’t obligate us”

“If the council wishes to move forward what we’re asking is for the council to make a financial commitment,” Assistant City Manager Rosanna Bayon Moore explained.

“That’s what I’m saying,” Thorpe said. “There’s a financial commitment upfront then the ongoing costs for programming. We made that commitment before. The numbers haven’t changed they’re still the same. I’m somewhat confused what happened between a few months ago and now.”

“There doesn’t seem to be consensus…support on anything moving forward,” he then stated.

“There was one comment that the City has failed. I want to remind the public that cities aren’t normally tasked with these kinds of services,” the mayor said. Then speaking about the plans with the county on land the city had owned he said, “Six years later we are still waiting on our care center. For one dollar we sold it to them. COVID happened. We do now have the Delta Landing which has been tremendous for our folks living on the streets. We have some who now have permanent housing. But we still have a lot of folks who still need housing.”

Ogorchock who is attending the California League of Cities Board of Directors meeting in Southern California then said, “I only understood this to be the Homekey process through Dignity Moves. I’m not saying I’m not interested in anything. I’m saying we can’t afford this. There are still HHAP (Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention Grant Program) funds. But the state has pushed this on the cities and we as cities don’t have the funds…nor the services to support these individuals. The state is going to have to put out more funds. Cal Cities is looking at how to funnel money to the cities instead of the counties.”

“I think the options, here…two included Homekey,” Thorpe responded. “That was today’s exercise.”

“I don’t know why we can’t still look at Rapid Rehousing,” Wilson reiterated. “I’m saying the conversation isn’t over.”

“Homelessness is going up whether we like it or not,” Thorpe responded. “This is my lifetime in the making. We’re going to continue having discussions around this. I was just hoping we’d give staff direction…that we’d pick something. What we may need to do is bring back the Standing Committee on Homelessness…because this issue is not going away.”

Urgency Ordinance to Ban New Liquor Stores

On the urgency ordinance to temporarily ban liquor stores while staff had time to prepare a permanent ordinance proposed by Wilson, City Attorney Thomas L. Smith said he provided some basic information and that staff was just looking for direction.

“I want to bring this prohibition up on new liquor stores in Antioch…and have a robust discussion,” ,” Wilson said.

“The purpose of this…is that if we develop an ordinance, I wanted to give the time and space to develop it properly,” Thorpe said. “I wanted to make sure we’re on the same page before bringing an urgency ordinance.”

Public Comments on Liquor Store Ban

During public comments Antioch resident and business owner Jim Lanter said, “When we start talking about total that’s extremely drastic for a city our size. I think it’s unfair when you start talking about prohibition, sometimes. You mentioned Sycamore shopping center. Mayor, you said you were going to clean it up. Romy’s on 18th Street has been an armpit and has been since I’ve lived here.”

“You mentioned BevBox,” he continued. “I don’t think you’ve been there since it’s been improved. They’ve cleaned it up. I think we have a policing problem. I’m gong to go to BevBox tomorrow and play your video to the gentlemen who owns that and show how you’ve lumped him in with the others. You should go by there…and see what a responsible owner, even of a liquor store, can do.”

Edgar Martinez spoke next speaking of the distance from liquor and grocery stores to schools in Antioch.

“I live in District 1. I’m concerned. Why now? I care about the health of my community, I care about my neighborhood. As city council you know we have issues with certain liquor stores in our community. But I hope this isn’t the end of this. I watched the Planning Commission meeting. Why weren’t there any questions of the police on this liquor store?”

Andrew Becker spoke next saying, “I wanted to say I agree with the previous speaker these liquor stores…are in neighborhoods that have been neglected in our community. I don’t think you can place the blame on any individual business. I am concerned that we have not heard anything about liquor stores or cannabis clubs that are passed in any other district. We as a city have a responsibility to police our community. I’m talking about the whole approach. When you’re talking about that particular area…Macy’s left in 2020. Macy’s is under lease until 2030. They’re not coming back. What could that building do for our community? That support doesn’t not come through a ban on liquor stores. It is a systemic response. Going out into the community and talking with these families…bringing in the wealth.”

Council Discusses, Splits 2-2 on Liquor Store Moratorium Urgency Ordinance

During the council discussion on the proposed liquor store moratorium Thorpe spoke first saying, “The only thing I can say is that I’m not sure…I heard words like oversaturation in areas, particularly areas that have been challenged. We make small steps overnight. It’s not going to be changed in one mayor’s term. I’ve heard things that…ban may not be the right word. Thoughtful…of where we place these.”

“The urgency ordinance…makes sense so that we not over-saturate neighborhoods,” he continued comparing the effort to the temporary moratorium on cannabis businesses. “I think that’s the councilmember’s thought, here. I support what you’re trying to do, here. If it’s an urgency ordinance to come up with a policy.”

“I’m for coming up with a policy on where we place them,” Barbanica said. “What if we have a large BevMo that wants to come into our community that wants to sell alcohol? I’m more supportive of that rather than an outright ban.”

“What we’re talking about is temporary?” he asked.

“Yes,” Thorpe responded.

“We have to think about where all businesses go,” Ogorchock said. “I have concerns about bans. We need to look at each business…even if Planning Commission approves them.”

“You bring up cannabis and it was supposed to be not within 400 feet of a school, but we changed that for downtown,” she continued.

“There is no immediate threat to the public health, safety or welfare. So, I don’t know why we need an urgency ordinance,” Ogorchock stated. Then speaking of Wilson’s press conference about the matter she said, “I believe that was in Councilman Barbanica’s district, but he wasn’t invited to it.”

“We have a six-month list for items we want on the council agenda. So, that’s disappointing,” Ogorchock added.

“Councilman Barbanica has spoken out about items in other districts,” Thorpe said. “It’s each council member’s prerogative to have press conferences.”

“This is just direction to prepare one (an urgency ordinance)”, Smith explained. “There are findings to bring the urgency ordinance. That part would require some research.”

“What is the urgency?” Barbanica asked.

“If applicants applied, they’re not caught off guard in the future,” Thorpe responded.

“We don’t have to have an urgency item. We can just bring this back for discussion,” Ogorchock shared.

The matter died due to only Wilson and Thorpe supporting having staff develop an urgency ordinance. However, a proposed ban can be brought back to a future council meeting agenda when Torres-Walker is in attendance and it could garner three votes.

Antioch Council discusses proposed transitional housing project for city’s homeless

Tuesday, February 14th, 2023

Delta Fair Site Plan Phase 2. Source: Dignity Moves

City will have to move quickly to qualify for third round of state funding

By Allen D. Payton

Following their closed session that began at 6:30 p.m., Mayor Lamar Thorpe called the regular Antioch City Council meeting to order at 7:25 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. City Attorney Thomas L. Smith reported out from the closed session regarding the three lawsuits against the City in Contra Costa Superior Court saying, “no reportable action on that item”. Regarding the second item of his performance evaluation Smith said, “the city council gave direction to the city attorney”.

The council approved a proclamation in memory of Ronald A. Grant who was a member of the City’s Board of Administrative Appeals and passed away on December 11, 2022. The proclamation was presented to Grant’s family and fellow members of the Board of Administrative Appeals. Ronald A Grant proclamation 021423

The council also honored February as Black History Month with a proclamation. (See related article).

Homekey Transitional Housing Project & Program Presentation

A presentation on the state’s Homekey program was provided by Dignity Moves. Part of the presentation included a proposed 50 units for Phase 1 and an additional 75-100 units in Phase 2 on the City-owned 5-acre parcel on Delta Fair Blvd. near Hwy 4 where Century Blvd. dead ends. Dignity Moves Homekey presentation ACC021423

Delta Fair Blvd area map. The yellow dot marks the proposed site. Source: Google Maps

According to the presentation, Dignity Moves is a new, non-profit that proposes using “Modular and pre-fabricated building techniques for rapid, cost-effective construction.”

The proposed project would require a capital match and operating expenses from the City of $13 million for a five-year program and up to $25.75 million for a 10-year program.

“I want to caution…when we ask questions, we not imply we’re going in this direction,” Mayor Thorpe warned the council and public.

Antioch resident and homeless advocate Andrew Becker said during public comments, “That was an exciting presentation” then complained about a recent sweep of homeless encampment.

“This presentation is an opportunity. Homekey is an opportunity,” he continued. “Respectfully, as a city we’ve put out an RFP for Homekey. Focus Strategies put out an RFP for Homekey. Where are we? What have we done?”

He made the claim that representatives of Comfort Inn approached city staff asking if they wanted to use that hotel for the Homekey program but that city staff declined and didn’t bring it to the city council to decide.

“This is the opportunity. This is the time,” Becker added.

Five other residents also spoke in support of the proposal, with two complaining that the city has been kicking things down the road in dealing with the City’s homeless.

“I’m hopeful that they come through with safety,” resident Patricia Granados said.

During council discussion of the presentation, District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock spoke first saying, “I personally like the program. I’m glad (one of the presenters) spoke about other programs. With this program, there’s an opportunity to house families, kids, get them out of cars. I’m very interested, and I’d like to see more about this program.”

Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker then said, “I like housing that goes from transition to temporary to permanent. I’ve been to a modular community, and I’ve seen what could happen, and the opportunity for gardens and taking care of their pets. All the consideration that’s put into these projects and not just the development. We are now in the potential last round is a little unfortunate. Because we had the chance…and we forfeited that opportunity and we should really apologize to the community, especially to those living on the streets.”

She complained about Comfort Inn mentioned by Becker not being brought to the council for use as a Homekey site for transitional housing for the city’s homeless population.

District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson said with a laugh, “I want to thank Andrew for constantly bugging me about this.” She spoke of the Five Keys and the programs offered of getting residents connected to job training…and trauma informed services and trauma informed care, and restorative justice. I didn’t hear it. He may have said it.

Trauma means their own room,” one of the presenters said in response. She said, Gensler, a global architect firm, which designs the projects, includes that in their design.

“Our whole approach is trauma informed,” the Five Keys spokesman then shared. “We work on de-escalation…understanding what their path and journey has been. It’s not just the custodian, not just the security guard. We have staff cross-trained.”

Thorpe then said, “We did have an RFP process and we did vote to reject the proposal.”

“I anticipated that you guys would apply but you didn’t,” he said directing his comments to Dignity Moves. “We’re just as frustrated as anybody seeing folks living out on our streets. The challenges we’ve had here are timelines. Timelines take a long time.”

“Since you mentioned timelines…we’ve been talking about this since the first round of Homekey,” Torres-Walker responded. “There was not enough time…the timelines were too tight. Here we are after two years and two rounds asking for them to bring something, again in a tight timeline. We’re in the third round we had an opportunity with an insufficient timeline…because we’re not all bought into this process. The timeline wasn’t enough. This one may not be. But I’m hopeful.”

“I’m hopeful, too,” Thorpe said. “I wasn’t referring to the overall timeline of our process. I’m referring to timeline of this process.”

“The timeline is going to be really short,” one of the presenters said in response. “The state is doing the decision. There’s going to be a short fuse.” She then spoke of March as a deadline by the state.

“We will have something for the next meeting,” Thorpe said. “We’re talking about March.”

“One of the big pieces…we need to discuss the financial commitment on behalf of the city…to advertise and be sure we’re disclosing to bidders and what we’re bringing,” Assistant City Manager Rosanna Bayon Moore stated.

“At the end we’re going to have to get our consultant to call a special meeting to get this on the agenda as soon as possible,” Thorpe shared.

Ogorchock then said, “I think we need to move on this. I personally don’t want to miss out on the opportunity of the third round.”

“It also looks like the comment from Dignity Moves is that it doesn’t have to be an RFP,” Torres-Walker said.

“There are other cities that have formed a development team and not gone into an RFP process,” one of the Dignity Moves offered.

“Let’s have…maybe a sidebar discussion leading up to a special meeting,” Thorpe said in conclusion.