By Daniel Borsuk
The push to build affordable housing in Contra Costa County took a detour when supervisors took two separate actions Tuesday to shore up the county’s housing stock for those with lofty incomes and capable of living in the leafy environs of Lafayette and Kensington.
It was only last month, supervisors had approved a 193-unit, $60 million affordable income apartment development in unincorporated Bay Point at the intersection of Port Chicago Highway and Willow Pass Road.
Lafayette In-Fill Project
Supervisors brushed aside the appeal of Lafayette residents Bruce Last, Hanna Cervenka and Prem Cervenka over the proposed development of nine split level houses on lots in a hilly part of unincorporated Lafayette that would require the removal of 16 trees and 18,000 cubic yards of soil. Each residential development is projected to sell in excess of $1 million.
The 7.5 – acre site is located at Taylor Boulevard and Gloria Terrace Court.
With lots measuring from 22,600 square feet to 73,301 square feet each, Last, who lives nearby the proposed Gloria Terrace Estates, a joint development of co-owners Gloria Terrace and H. F. Layton, said the hill’s steep slopes presented fire safety access problems for Cal Fire.
“This development presents a fire safety issue with Cal Fire regulations because of the steep slopes where these homes will be constructed,” Last said.
Last also said the split-level design of the proposed new houses are out of character with the area’s single level houses.
Supervisors were informed each house will include sprinklers to minimize fire hazards in the area. In addition, the hill top will be lowered so that it won’t present privacy problems for those living down the hill.
County Senior Planner Francisco Avila told supervisors since February when the Gloria Terrace Estates was presented to the county planning commission, the developers have agreed to plant 24 new trees because 16 trees will have to be removed for the development.
In addition, the developers, Avila said, agreed to provide six on street parking spaces to help resolve parking problems. The developers had already agreed to provide three to four guest parking spaces per lot.
New Law Gets Test in Kensington
Some residents in the tony unincorporated community of Kensington are not pleased county supervisors adopted the state’s new law that replaces the term second unit with accessory dwelling unit.
Signed into law, earlier this year, to spark the construction of more housing throughout the Golden State by lowering or eliminating altogether parking requirements while boosting the accessory dwelling unit floor space 30 percent to 50 percent of the attached dwelling unit, the new ordinance is getting its first Contra Costa County test in Kensington, and some residents don’t like what they see coming down the road.
Concerned about potential parking impacts, visual impacts and overcrowding impacts, Kensington resident Joseph Holsom said, “I think this is a step backwards.”
Barbara Holsom predicted there will be other single-family houses like the one she lives across from that will become an Airbnb rental once the county adopts the ADU ordinance that provides more incentives than the old ordinance. “The owners don’t live there anymore. The house is used as a motel, “she complained.
Supervisors approved a bulk of the ADU ordinance with the understanding some technical points will be brought back for board action at a later date.Read More
On Thursday, May 4th, Patrick Vanier, Supervising Deputy District Attorney for the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office Narcotics Prosecution Team, announced his campaign for Contra Costa County District Attorney. He was was joined by supporters at the Amador Rancho Community Center in San Ramon and will take on embattled incumbent D.A. Mark Peterson.
Vanier has been a prosecutor for almost 20 years and has prosecuted hundreds of criminals; both in the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office and now in the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.
“Today, prosecutors are not just trial attorneys,” said Vanier. “They are investigators, problem solvers, innovators, and community partners in combating crime. I have proven to be a prosecutor with fresh ideas and a willingness to institute best practices to bring the criminal justice system into the 21st Century.”
Earlier this year, Vanier was awarded the 2017 San Jose Police Department’s Excellence in Prosecution Award and in 2015 he was named California Narcotics Officers’ Association State Prosecutor of the Year. Vanier is an experienced prosecutor whose area of expertise is wiretap investigations, especially in major narcotic and gang crime investigations.
Peterson has been under fire, including pressure to resign from both Contra Costa Deputy District Attorneys and more recently the Contra Costa Grand Jury, following his $45,000 fine, last year for the illegal, personal use of campaign funds totaling over $66,000 between 2011 and 2015.
“I am running for District Attorney because I believe we should expect more and deserve better from our elected District Attorney,” said Vanier. “My priorities are to enforce and prosecute laws fairly to ensure offenders who threaten public safety are locked up, utilize the latest technologies, data analytics, and community prosecution models to address rising crime rates through crime prevention and enforcement, and hold myself and the attorney’s in the office to the highest ethical standards.”
According to Vanier’s bio on his campaign website at http://patrickvanier.ngpvanhost.com, “Patrick has spent more than half of his career working with law enforcement agencies investigating and prosecuting major narcotics cases with a particular emphasis on Mexican National drug cartels operating within California. Patrick’s area of expertise is in the area of wiretap investigations. He has utilized his expertise by collaborating with federal, state and local law enforcement on more than 100 wiretap applications targeting major drug traffickers, street gangs and murders.
Patrick has trained law enforcement and attorneys for the California District Attorneys’ Association, California Narcotics Officers’ Association, Northern California High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and various law enforcement agencies within Santa Clara County. Patrick has taught on the subjects of wiretap investigations, legal updates in search and seizure law, California Electronic Communications Privacy Act and most recently Proposition 64 (Adult Use of Marijuana Act).
Working a variety of jobs during the day, Patrick completed law school at night and was awarded his Juris Doctorate in 1998 by John F. Kennedy University School of Law. He received a B.S. in Business and Accounting from San Francisco State University in 1995 and a B.A. in Political Science from University of California, Irvine in 1991.
Patrick and his wife, Anaite, live in San Ramon with their three daughters where he has coached soccer for more than a decade.”
The election is in June, 2018.Read More
On the night of September 25, 2016 Mr. Khalsa was alone in his car, dressed in traditional Sikh clothes on his way to a religious ceremony when occupants of a pickup truck began to throw beer cans at his vehicle while stopped at a red light on Hilltop Road in Richmond CA.
At a subsequent intersection two assailants exited the truck and proceed to repeatedly punch Mr. Khalsa in the face through his driver’s side window. Mr. Khalsa’s turban was displaced during the attack and the assailants proceeded to force Mr. Khalsa’s head down and cut his unshorn hair- a sacred article of his religious faith.
Mr. Khalsa sustained a swollen black eye, numerous damaged teeth, and several knife wounds to his left hand. A penetrating knife wound caused nerve damage and required stitches. Due to an infection from the knife wound, Mr. Khalsa’s pinky finger was amputated.
On Thursday May 18, 2017 Defendants Chase Little and Colton Leblanc, residents of Texas entered pleas of no contest to felony assault and a hate crime enhancement for the attack upon Richmond, CA resident Maan Singh Khalsa, an observer of the Sikh faith. The two were sentenced to three years in state prison.
“The recognition of the attack as a hate crime – as harm to my dignity and my entire community – is the first step in the process,” said Mr. Khalsa, who recognized his attackers during his statement at the sentencing hearing of the defendants. He stated: “I still consider you my brothers, and I hope that you will learn about me and my community, and one day consider me your brother, too.”
“This case began with an atrocious event and very few details as to the identity of the perpetrators,” Deputy District Attorney Simon O’Connell stated. “The successful prosecution of this hate crime came about due to the collaborative investigative work of the Richmond Police Department with the District Attorney’s Office.”
Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson declared, “Any attack on a person based upon his perceived religion and identity will be vigorously prosecuted.”
Just before 1:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, May 13th, Contra Costa County Fire Investigators in cooperation with a Deputy District Attorney from the Contra Costa County DA’s office, Contra Costa County DA Investigators, the California Highway Patrol, Lafayette Police Department, and Concord Police Department made an arrest in the series of vehicle fires occurring in recent weeks throughout Contra Costa County.
James Bishop, III, a 36-year-old Pittsburg resident, was located in a residential area of Benicia, and as officers arrived in the area, the suspect appeared to set fire to a vehicle in a driveway. He was stopped a short distance away, and was taken into custody without incident and was taken to Concord PD for interviews, and his car towed to be searched for evidence. A search warrant was executed for his home so that it could be searched for additional evidence.
Bishop was booked on 43 different arson charges, and his bail is set at over $3.1 million. He is being charged by the DA’ office with one count of arson to an inhabited structure, nine counts of arson to property and eight counts of use of an accelerant to set a fire
Residents are still advised to be proactive about their own safety by making sure their homes are well lit on the outside, and any flammable materials are cleaned up from their homes exteriors, as well as making sure that every home has working smoke alarms.
Anyone who believes that they may have additional information regarding the series of fires is encouraged to contact the Arson Tip Line for Contra Costa County Fire at 1-866-50-ARSON.Read More
By Bryan Scott
People are dying in East County, homes are burning down, and residents are paying dramatically escalating insurance premiums, often increasing by over 200%.
The fire district serving the needs of over 110,000 people in two cities, half a dozen unincorporated communities, and spread over 249-square miles of Contra Costa County is critically underfunded.
The state of California set-up the funding for these services in the 1980’s, when all that was needed were several groups of volunteer firefighters to serve 8,000 people in a couple of East Contra Costa County farming communities. The need for fire and emergency medical services in East County has changed dramatically in the last 40 years, and the population has grown to over 110,000 residents.
All fire districts in California are funded with property tax revenues. A permanent solution to this funding problem requires reallocating some of these property tax funds from the current recipients to the fire district.
Contra Costa County Fire Protection District receives ~14% of the property tax revenue. The fire district covering the San Ramon Valley gets ~15%, and the fire district serving the Moraga-Orinda area is funded at~ 21%.
The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) gets less than 8%.
A survey conducted last Fall found that on a per-person basis ECCFPD gets about $106 each year, compared to $349 per-person for San Ramon Valley and $366 for Moraga-Orinda fire districts. This unequal funding is to provide essentially the same services to county residents who pay the same property tax rate.
Gus Vina is the City Manager of Brentwood, and Bryan Montgomery is the City Manager of Oakley. Combined, these two these public administrators are responsible for managing the safety of 100,000 residents. They have a moral, if not legal, duty to ensure the safety of their employers, the taxpaying residents of their respective cities.
Both City Managers should be applauded for their efforts in dealing with this crisis.
In 2015 a government-employee task force was formed, under the leadership of Vina, and temporary funding was obtained from the two cities and the County. This funding kept a fourth fire station open for 18 months.
In 2016 both City Managers helped get a Utility User Tax (UUT) on the ballot in their respective cities, even though public opinion polling said the measures would gather only 40% support, at best, with the voters. While a general tax measure of this type requires only a simple majority to pass, Brentwood’s vote came in at 39% in favor. Support for the UUT in Oakley was less.
Both Brentwood and Oakley are now talking about another temporary funding contribution, along with the County.
These temporary band-aide funding measures, do not address the fundamental problem, the structural property tax funding deficiency.
It is too bad neither one of these municipal managers has gotten behind the permanent solution to the funding crisis, reallocating property tax funds. But perhaps it is understandable.
The challenge here is that the money for a permanent fix comes from the current recipients of property tax funding. These recipients include the cities both Vina and Montgomery are paid to run, Brentwood and Oakley.
And while they have endorsed short-term financial contributions, they have not worked towards the obvious and final fix to the funding crisis, the reallocation of property tax funds.
So, East County residents will continue to die, homes will continue to burn down, and insurance premiums will continue to go up.
Scott is a Brentwood resident and Co-Chair of East County Voters for Equal Protection, a non-partisan citizens action committee whose aim is to improve funding for the ECCFPD. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 925-418-4428. The group’s Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyVoters/.Read More
On Wednesday, May 17, 2017, at about 11:13 PM, Deputy Sheriffs were dispatched to a report of a shooting on the 5700 block of Nottingham Drive in El Sobrante.
Deputies discovered several gunshots were apparently fired and that a home was struck by a bullet. A person who lived nearby was identified as a suspect. Several attempts were made to get him to surrender, but he did not comply. The Office of the Sheriff SWAT Team along with negotiators was called to the scene.
At about 4:50 AM today, the suspect was located nearby and taken into custody without incident. He is identified as 37-year-old Robert McKay of El Sobrante. He was booked into the Martinez Detention Facility on the following charges: shooting into an uninhabited dwelling, exhibiting a deadly weapon, vandalism, and obstruction. He also had an outstanding arrest warrant. McKay is being held in lieu of $140,000 bail.
Anyone with any information on this case is asked to contact the Office of the Sheriff at (925) 313-2500. For any tips, please email: email@example.com or call (866) 846-3592.Read More
By John Crowder
Monday, May 8, marked the beginning of National Etiquette Week. More than just a list of manners, proper etiquette allows people to know how to handle themselves in life’s important interactions. How should you conduct yourself at a job interview? How about at a formal dinner? Do you know how to make a good first impression? Are you able to make a public presentation?
These are just a few of the questions that are answered in classes taught by Mrs. Tina Hayes, author of Getting Ahead with Etiquette and the owner and founder of the School of Etiquette and Decorum.
For the last few weeks, Hayes has been teaching a class on ‘Etiquette for Success’ to the students of Freedom High School in Oakley. Once a week, Freedom students meet after school and are taught the soft skills that are so valuable to success in school and in work, but that many no longer learn while growing up. As Hayes explains, “There was a time when these skills were taught in the home, when families still came together regularly for the evening meal. These days, that’s often not the case. Yet, we all know how valuable these skills are for students who want to successfully navigate their high school and college years, and especially when they enter the world of work.”
Hayes has been offering etiquette classes throughout the Bay Area and beyond over the last decade. Over the years, her classes have helped hundreds of people, both young and old, learn to be more confident and courteous, and to exhibit social graces. The training sessions conducted by Hayes and her staff cover more than 80 topics, and can be presented as workshops, seminars, or even in personal coaching sessions.
According to Hayes, “Our training gives individuals that ‘edge’ that will help them succeed throughout life and make for a better, and brighter, future.”
Her students, and their parents, agree. My son, Eddy Crowder, an 8th grader at Paideia Academy, has attended four etiquette classes during his Junior High years.
“These classes have really helped me be more confident at formal dinners, and when I speak with adults,” he said. “Mrs. Hayes is a great teacher.”
Wanda Ransom, the mother of a college-bound son who participated in the College Preparedness Training Workshop said, “Thank you so much for polishing his skills.”
This summer, from June 26 through 30, the School of Etiquette and Decorum will be offering a Summer Etiquette Day Camp from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Lone Tree Golf and Event Center. Two sessions will run concurrently, one for children (ages 6 – 12) and the other for teens (ages 13 – 17). To learn more about these classes, or other offerings, contact Mrs. Tina Hayes at 925-519-0354 or visit the website at etiquetteschool.us.Read More
Since Nov. 1, 2015, there have been 87 shootings on Bay Area freeways in which eight people died – all of them in Contra Costa County – and 39 others were injured, according to the CHP. So far, this year there have been 21 shootings.
The Department of Transportation has pledged between $1.5- to $2-million for the installation of high-tech surveillance equipment on Highway 4 between west and east Contra Costa County.
Supervisor Federal Glover, chair of the Board of Supervisors, made this statement Monday:
“I’m happy to see that the State of California’s Department of Transportation and law enforcement agencies agree with me and City of Pittsburg on how to stem the shootings on Highway 4 in Contra Costa County,” he said. “Last year, I dedicated money from the Keller Canyon Landfill Mitigation Fund to install cameras on Highway 4 from Bay Point to Antioch. Pittsburg found money in its budget to increase the funding needed to install high tech surveillance equipment along the same stretch of road.
“With the additional funding from the state, we can make the rest of Highway 4 safer all the way to west county by using cameras and shot locators,” he continued. “Criminal elements will no longer be able to hide when they commit their deadly activities on our public roadway.”
It was a coordinated effort among elected leaders in the county. According to a Mercury News article, last year, after the Pittsburg paid to install cameras pointing at Highway 4 in that city, “Hercules Mayor Dan Romero has led a campaign by the mayors of several Contra Costa County cities, along with Contra Costa District Attorney Mark Peterson, to seek state funding to install law enforcement-friendly surveillance cameras freeway onramps and offramps throughout the county, and to upgrade existing Caltrans cameras so police can use them.”Read More