Approve $95 million for new county administration building
By Daniel Borsuk
Community activists wanting Contra Costa County Supervisors to launch a probe into the way Sheriff-Coroner David O. Livingston operates the Martinez jail and the West County Detention Facility, the site of numerous allegations of inmate abuse, hit a brick wall on Tuesday as supervisors refused to conduct their own investigation into how the jails are operated by the sheriff.
Livingston, an elected countywide official, is up for re-election in June, but when the March 9 filing deadline rolled around no one had filed to oppose the sheriff in the upcoming June 5 primary election.
About 12 speakers asked supervisors to launch an investigation into Sheriff Livingston’s jail practices, even when two independent investigations, one that United States Senator Diane Feinstein has asked the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to undertake dating back to December and another that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is conducting, have yet to reveal their findings.
The Contra Costa Sheriff has come under fire from human rights organizations for the way he has treated male and female inmates at the North Richmond and Martinez jails. At the West County facility female inmates under ICE custody have been allegedly mistreated whereby they cannot use restroom facilities forcing them to defecate in their clothes or in plastic bags. The sheriff has also been criticized for having a contract with the U.S. Marshall’s Services and for vocally opposing interim District Attorney Diana Becton, the Board of Supervisors’ pick as DA. Becton is up for election in the June primary election against senior district attorney Paul Graves, lawyer Lawrence Steven Strauss and Concord attorney Victor A. Segovia.
Even though the sheriff is an elected official, some speakers demanded Sheriff Livingston’s immediate resignation.
“Twenty-seven women have complained of being abused under his administration. The sheriff should resign. You should at least launch an investigation of the jail,” said Melvin Willis, a Richmond City Councilman and a representative of the Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment.
“It’s time for Sheriff Livingston to resign,” insisted Kathleen Everson of Walnut Creek. She said supervisors should conduct an independent investigation into the sheriff’s office. “It’s time to end the sheriff’s contract with ICE.”
“What’s up with you guys?” asked Linda Olivera of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement. “You need to show the initiative. This is your facility. This is a horrible sheriff.”
“I don’t think you guys are going to do a damn thing,” said Mercy Garetz of Hercules. “We’re going to where the money leads.”
“I’m waiting for the independent report from the state attorney general to come out either at the end of this month or next month before making any decisions,” said District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond.
Board chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill acknowledged that state attorney general Becerra is conducting his investigation into the West County jail, but she also disagreed with statements made by Concord clinical psychologist Harmesh Kumar, who said the Sheriff’s Office has slashed mental health services because of county funding cutbacks. Mitchoff said the board will take up at its March 27 meeting a $3 million proposal to fund mental health services for the jails as a consent item.
Kumar is a candidate running for the District 4 seat that Mitchoff currently occupies. Also running for the District 4 supervisorial seat is Justin Wedel, 39, of Walnut Creek.
New County Administration Building Approved 2018 0320CCC BOS New Admin Bldg
After decades of despair, supervisors flashed the green light for Hensel Phelps Construction Co. to begin construction immediately on the new state-of-the-art county administrative building, Emergency Operations Center and Public Safety Building in Martinez.
The county buildings will cost $95.8 million to construct and will replace an antiquated administration building that has been in use since 1960.
The new, three-story administration building is to be constructed on vacant Pine Street property near the existing administration building at 651 Pine St. The new three-story, 72,000 square foot building will accommodate 150 county employees. The Emergency Operations Center and Public Safety Building will accommodate about 50 employees, said Chief Assistant County Administrator Eric Angstadt.
Hensel Phelps Construction Co. beat Swinerton Builders in the design-build selection process that the county conducted. Supervisors approved $110 million in construction bonds in May 23, 2017 to fund the construction of the project that is slated to be completed in April 2020.
When the new buildings are constructed, the 651 Pine St. building will be demolished and a parking garage is proposed for the site.
Supervisors Approve Funding For St. Paul’s Commons Development
A proposed 46-unit residential development, including a manager’s unit, designed for “extremely low, very low and low-income households with AIDs” got the green light for federal funding from the board of supervisors. Supervisors unanimously approved the item as a consent item.
The St. Paul’s Commons Development will be constructed on church property at 1860 Trinity Ave. in Walnut Creek under a 77-year lease.
The developer wants to borrow via the county $2.6 million of HOME funds and $232,681 of Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. St. Paul’s is also receiving $5.6 million and $11.7 million in Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from the City of Walnut Creek.