Supes finalize appointment of County Clerk, approve agriculture land use policy
Contra Costa County Health Department officials told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday that the county is “taking extra steps to control” the global Novel Coronavirus epidemic.
Dr. Louise McNitt, Director of the Contra Costa County Communicable Disease Unit, told supervisors, “We are still learning about it, but we are taking the extra steps to control it, who to test.”
As of Tuesday, there were no Novel Coronavirus cases reported in Contra Costa County while four cases had been reported elsewhere in the Bay Area. Overall, six Novel Coronavirus cases had been reported in California. There were 11 cases reported throughout the United States. McNitt reported there were 20,000 cases worldwide.
McNitt said the county checks daily with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta to get the most recent information on how to medically combat Novel Coronavirus.
“The Centers for Disease Control answers a lot of our questions,” she said.
“What happens if in four months there are a large number of cases?” asked District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond. “We cannot build new hospitals overnight like how China does.”
“We have the tight network of health officials in the Bay Area to quickly respond to this virus should it get out of control,” said Contra Costa Health Services Director Anna Roth. “We are ready if we have a case that comes to us.
“The risk is low,” added Roth. “We are continuously updating our website and advice line.”
“I have every confidence any hospital is ready to treat patients with this disease” said District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill. But the supervisor said that citizens can get help by getting flu shots and frequently washing their hands.
McNitt agreed with Mitchoff about the flu shots. “Right now, there are more people who have the flu than have this virus,” she said.
Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg, who requested that the Novel Coronavirus topic be placed on the Board Agenda, requested that the county’s health department’s website be continuously updated with information about this virus.
Finalize Appointment of Deborah Cooper as County Clerk
The Supervisors appointed Deborah Cooper as the County Clerk-Recorder to the remaining term of the office that will expire on January 2, 2023.
“The Board held an open process over the past three months to find, interview, select and appoint a new County Clerk-Recorder,” said Board Chair, Supervisor Candace Andersen. “During this time, the Board of Supervisors has strongly affirmed the integrity and the professional work of County staff in the Clerk-Recorder-Elections Division. We have every confidence that Debi Cooper will continue to move the team forward during this important election year and beyond with the utmost integrity.”
Deborah Cooper, County Clerk-Recorder, said, “Our primary purpose is to serve the public, whether conducting elections or providing Clerk and Recorder services. Maintaining the public trust while remaining impartial and neutral is crucial. I appreciate our talented and dedicated staff. We will continue to provide great customer service to the people of Contra Costa.”
Most recently, Cooper served as the Acting County Clerk-Recorder since November 1, 2019 and, prior to that, as the Deputy County Clerk-Recorder since 2012.
County Administrator David J. Twa who announced the recruitment for selecting and appointing a Clerk-Recorder, remarked, “It was important to conduct a clear and transparent process with each step. The public was able to attend or watch Board of Supervisors meetings, make public comment, and see the timeline and other key information on the website.”
Ag Land Use Policy Gets Green Light
Supervisors flashed the green light for the county planners to proceed in the development of an Agricultural Land Use Policy that envisions the transformation of agricultural land use to various types of lodging accommodations and food services.
Funded on a $150,000 Livable Communities Trust Grant since 2016, the Department of Conservation and Development presented an update to supervisors on where the study stands.
So far, more work needs to be done since there is no consensus on the study’s recommendations about different types of lodging accommodations, including short-term rentals for 9-days or less, farm stays for up to 90 days, bed-and-breakfast, and camping, yurts or little houses on wheels.
Food service use proposals include farm dinners, farm-to-table restaurants, updating the Winery Ordinance, and allowing hosting of large events. These uses may require a zoning permit like an administerial permit or a land use permit or other permits required by other agencies.
“This is not a total road map. We are checking into with the Board to see if you accept the report,” said Contra Costa County Conservation & Development Department Director John Kopchik.
“There’s tension in the farm community,” Supervisor Mitchoff said about the preliminary land use plan. “You need to work it out.”
Where once fertile farmland once stood with real estate prices might fetch $10,000 an acre, some farmland is being snapped up by developers at $100,000 an acre or higher.
The county’s Agricultural Land Use Policy is in response to the skyrocketing real estate prices shaking up the rural areas in Brentwood, Oakley, Knightsen in East County and Danville.
The planning study occurs at a pivotal time in the county’s steadily declining agricultural economy. In 2017, county crop production from corn, berries, and other crops fell to $120.4 million, a six percent decline from 2016 due mainly to crop marketplace conditions.
The planning study also includes recommendations to promote agriculture use to include equestrian and bike trails to connect farms, consider allowing equestrian facilities within additional agricultural districts, exploring funding for signage to promote farming in the county, updating the county’s sign ordinance, and working with other agencies to promote agricultural vitality in the County.
Funds for 30-Unit Pittsburg Rental Housing Project Approved
Supervisors unanimously approved as part of the consent agenda items, the issuance of $18 million in state Multifamily Housing Revenue Bonds to finance the cost of the acquisition and construction of a 30-unit rental housing development at 901 Los Medanos Street and 295 E. 10th Street in Pittsburg.
Veterans Square will provide 29 units of affordable housing and one manager’s unit. Fifteen units will be reserved for households with incomes at or below 50 percent of the area median income and 14 units will be reserved at or below 30 percent of the area median income.
The Board of Supervisors had previously allocated about $2.2 million in HOME Investment Partnerships Program funds for Veterans Square and approved the county submission of an application to the state for $3.6 million in No Place Like Home funds. On Dec. 17, 2019, the Board of Supervisors approved a Reimbursement Resolution for this prospective issuance of bonds.
When asked why it’s costing $600,000 for each of the one-bedroom apartments, county Affordable Housing Program Manager Kristen Lackey said, “That is what we are seeing in affordable housing units, and with other projects, as well. Construction costs are going up. Affordable housing is typically more expensive to develop based on the different sources of funds, which adds to the complexity and they have to pay prevailing wage, so the labor costs on it are higher, than what normal residential construction will be.”
“It’s an unfortunate reality of the housing crisis,” she added.
Allen Payton contributed to this report.
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