Accept Grand Jury report on overcrowded Antioch Animal Shelter
By Daniel Borsuk
Up to 94 retailers of tobacco products located in unincorporated parts of Contra Costa County will need to comply with a new ordinance designed to protect youth from using tobacco products, a leading cause of heart and lung disease related deaths in the United States.
County supervisors voted 5-0 Tuesday in approving a Tobacco Retailer Ordinance, a law that took two years in the development process at the Planning Commission level until earlier this month when the commission passed a resolution recommending that supervisors reject the proposed law.
The Planning Commission’s resolution stated denial is based on “the proposed Tobacco Retail Business Ordinance is not necessary and places an undue burden on existing tobacco retailer businesses.”
But county supervisors did not accept the Planning Commission’s recommendation to reject the ordinance.
When supervisors initially received the Tobacco Retailer Ordinance it included a 10-year non-conforming use provision, but supervisors decided to eject that clause on grounds it would be too much of an economic burden on store owners that was lobbied by retail groups like the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO).
Even then Jaimie Rojas of NATO criticized the ordinance saying it is an example of “government overreach.” Rojas said the ordinance will also spark economic impacts by forcing retail owners to lay off employees and will “ignite consumer confusion.”
The Tobacco Retailer Ordinance imposes distance limits on existing and new tobacco retailers and operators of hookah lounges and vapor lounges even though there are no hookah and vapor lounges in operation in the unincorporated areas of the county.
The county ordinance prohibits new tobacco retailers from being located within 500 feet of any other existing tobacco retailer, hookah lounge or vapor lounge. The new law that goes into effect next month, also prohibits these new businesses from being located 1,000 feet of a public or private school, playground, park or library.
Existing businesses can be within 500 feet of another existing tobacco retailer or within 1,000 feet of a school, park, playground or library, but the retailer, hookah lounge or vapor lounge owner but will not be permitted to expand its tobacco retail use.
District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond hailed the ordinance commenting “There will be no new ones (i.e. tobacco retailers) in unincorporated Contra Costa County.”
Next week supervisors are expected to adopt an ordinance with similar distance requirements to be applied to tobacco retailers selling flavored tobacco products marketed heavily to youth under the legal smoking age of 21.
The supervisors’ action is expected to trigger action from city councils around the county to pass similar ordinances designed to clamp down on the 636 tobacco retail, hookah lounge and vapor lounge businesses in incorporated areas.
“I think I have been a leader on this issue,” proclaimed board chair Federal Glover whose District 5 includes Bay Point that has one of the highest concentrations of tobacco retailers, 16, located nearby schools, parks, playgrounds or libraries. “I am also pleased with the ordinance’s grandfathering provision,” he said.
District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood said she was concerned about how the ordinance’s 500-foot limit might have a major economic impact on retailers in a small tourist town like Bethel Island.
“I don’t want it to punish these businesses,” Burgis said.
District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville branded the ordinance as being “reasonable” based on how the new law will stymy new tobacco retail businesses from opening within close proximity of existing businesses or from being located within 1,000 feet from a school, playground, park, or and library.
The supervisor said it is mainly because of the easy availability or accessibility of tobacco products that “It’s shocking to see 12, 13, and 14-year-old little league baseball players chomping on chewing tobacco during games.”
Grand Jury Report on Antioch Animal Shelter
Supervisors accepted a Civil Grand Jury report on the over-populated Antioch Animal Shelter.
The City operated shelter has been regularly over-populated with dogs and cats, of which many of the animals are dropped off by out-of-town Antioch residents. In 2016, the average daily animal count at the shelter was 196, when the recommended daily animal count based by the American Humane Society should be 101 at 2017 daily standards.
To help remedy the animal overpopulation problem at the shelter, the grand jury asked the Board of Supervisors to respond to two recommendations.
One recommendation calls on county supervisors to consider funding a study to “examine the feasibility of establishing a county shelter in east county.”
The second recommendation suggests that the City of Antioch and county negotiate a memorandum of understanding whereby the Antioch shelter accepts all animals, but animals identified as non-city of Antioch animals should be regularly picked up by County Animal Control Officers and transported to the county shelter.