The Contra Costa Times never seizes to amaze me with its reporting of Oakley. Last night’s Public Outreach Meeting had nothing to do with the City Council “weighing public reaction to affordable housing plan”, it was an outreach session aimed at addressing concerns to the proposed Density Bonus at Carol Lane and the effects to the local community, especially those directly affected with property nearby.
I honestly feel that this topic, among others, is over Rowena Coetsee head and does not understand the importance of it.
She omitted many details that came from the meeting that included concessions the developer agreed to on record, crime issues, and some laws that go along with this process. With that said, a week ago, I was pretty annoyed, today, not so much. I found the meeting to be productive, educational, and my preconceived opinion of this owner to be false.
The truth is, Mr. Charlie Brumbaugh, owner of the Corporation for Better Housing, seemed like a nice guy and said all the right things while leaving the impression he understood the concerns and wants to be a good neighbor to the nearby residents.
In fact, he agreed to meet with each resident who bordered the property one-on-one to talk in more detail should they want to discuss additional concerns and work towards a solution. He also agreed to plant more trees (fuller) to obstruct views for both the homeowners, and residents who can look down into people’s back yards. A nice gesture came when he wanted to work with the city to replace residents fences and pay for a taller fence to block sounds and reduce “dead space” between the two properties to deter riff-raff.
He continued on that if it’s reasonable he will help out but also wants people to understand he runs a business, but still was adamant in stating that this is a process, both sides have to compromise and be good neighbors but that he wants to be a good neighbor.
The beauty of last night, which some fail to realize is that Mr. Brumbaugh made a lot of commitments that he now must fulfill—starting with the wall. He also committed to keeping the number at 509 units if approved and will not attempt another increase.
What citizens of Oakley need to realize here is that there is nothing that can be done to stop these three additional buildings from going up, but what we can do is mitigate the risk to local residents by expressing our concerns and working towards a solution—I believe it was accomplished last night.
I credit Mayor Kevin Romick for asking Mr. Brumbaugh directly if he would sue the City if the Council voted “No” on Tuesday.
While Mr. Brumbaugh did not commit “Yes” or “No” answer, he explained how his company had done everything requested of them by law. He stated that he was willing to work with neighbors bordering his property, is investing in a wall, is investing in trees and wants to be a good neighbor. He explained that this Density Bonus is by right, and has never been denied anywhere else and the City should approve it. In my opinion, he would sue the hell out of the City and would likely win.
Which brings up the next point, should the Council vote “No” on Tuesday? A week ago, I would have said yes, but after two meetings with Bryan Montgomery and last nights Town Hall, I have changed my tone for the simple fact the City would 99.9% lose in court. There is no reason to throw money away.
I realize that politically, the Council scores kudos from residents by voting no.
Unfortunately, and it kills me to say this, is that they would not be doing their job as councilmembers with a no vote. Regardless of personal opinion, their job is to keep Oakley’s best interest in mind—throwing money away to lawyers is not in Oakley’s best interest when they would have to comply anyway a few months down the road.
A state law is a state law, just ask Pleasanton and Pittsburg how that worked out for them.
One topic that went literally ignored was the impact on Orchard Park School—although an Antioch School Board member was on hand, he would not speak on the issue, but rather claimed he was only there as an observer.
Mayor Romick essentially danced around this issue. I got the impression that it’s basically Antioch’s problem because when the school was built, the plans included the full project. Romick suggested that Antioch respond to the “impact of the project” on the school. I would like to know if a formal reqest has been issued and homes that fall in the Orchard Park School Zone will receive a letter? There is also the question about a gate from the complex to the school that needs to be discussed.
I thought the discussion on the fire coverage was pretty weak and downplayed as it’s a complex issue. Essentially, the people of this complex will rely on Antioch or Pittsburg for an engine that has a ladder that can accommodate a four-story building. What concerns me that if the parcel tax fails (which I realize is another topic), this building will not have proper coverage because the mutual aid is reduced greatly. Common sense tells me that a four-story building needs a hell of a lot more than three engines to put out a fire.
Security was a big topic of the night that took up a good portion of the night, but I personally thought it was more of a complaint session than anything else. Yes, security is an issue in low-income areas, packages are stolen, cars are broken into and I get all that. But even adding 80-cameras, which they are looking into, will not always capture everything.
The seniors at the complex wanted to feel safer as security problems have continued to grow and become a bigger problem. They have a concern since the complex is already large, but it will soon grow and the problems will be compounded with more people.
Chief Kollo suggested that a neighborhood watch program be created at the complex and Oakley PD would assist in creating one—but did admit it was only as good as its participants. But what was stunning to me was that Mr. Brumbaugh made the claim that none of his complexes have a security firm because they are too expensive and do not do much to deter crime.
What was provided to the public was that each application has a background check that usually takes 3-5 days—if someone has a felony, their application is denied. However, the management team seemed like it did not take a proactive stance towards vistors staying in the complex longer than allowed—such as grandma allowing a family member not on the lease to live there.
Vice Mayor Carol Rios asked the question what happens when “grandma allows her son who has a felony stay with her? The management team responded that they would have no idea of knowing that information since the background checks apply to those on the lease—but once identified by neighbors (they appear to not take a proactive approach until a complaint is issued) they issue a 3-day warning notice. Eviction could then take 2-weeks to 30-days.
Overall, I happened to think it was a very productive meeting for many reasons. First, the City did not have a prepared presentation to sell this project to the residents—instead, the format was an open dialogue and discussion. While I did not agree with everything said, the purpose was fulfilled with the concessions of the developer.
Nancy Marquez, assistant to the City Manager, did a great job serving as a mediator throughout the night keeping the meeting focused and on point. Josh McMurray, Senior Planner did a nice job explaining the laws and rules the City has to follow.
I applaud City Manager Bryan Montgomery for having the foresight to put on a Town Hall in this format in response to the City Council action last week. This type of outreach benefits the entire community as it promotes transparency, education, and real issues are discussed outside a council meeting where solutions can be discussed.
I hope on future issues of great important with complex plans, laws, and impact on the community, similar events will take place. It’s easy to just say no to the Density Bonus and low income, but we cannot always do that.
The reality is, a partial solution was created last night with more negotiations to occur in the future. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t perfect, but its a start.
Last night was a perfect example of working with the City to solve a large problem for this city. It’s just the first step and we should walk away from last night’s meeting realizing the City of Oakley and its residence won.