Board of Supervisors Approve Opportunity Zones, Add Somersville Towne Center

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On Tuesday, March 13, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved accepting a report on a new Federal Opportunity Zone Program and accepted a preliminary list of census tracts within Contra Costa County—while adding three additional tracts which included the Somersville Towne Center Mall in the City of Antioch.

County staff had recommended 11 tracts throughout the county; however, the Board of Supervisors added an additional three tracts which included pockets in Antioch, Rodeo and Richmond.

Supervisor Diane Burgis explained after reviewing the recommendations, she encouraged the inclusion of the Somersville Towne Center Mall in the City of Antioch.

“There is an area that is emerging, it’s the Somersville Mall area,” said Burgis. “It’s been an area that declined as the vacancy rates are going up and so comparing it to the one nearby, there is an 18.8% poverty rate in Antioch versus 33% in Pittsburg, so I understand that. But we are impacted by these businesses. There is 166 businesses in this one area versus 102. I would like to add the Somersville Mall area an additional to be considered.”

Burgis added she saw a lot of things in east County emerging.

“I would hate to see this one not become eligible in the future because we are not paying attention to it,” said Burgis.

Supervisor Federal Glover made the recommendation to add an area in Rodeo while Supervisor John Gioia added addition allocations in Richmond.

According to the Staff Report:

The State of California Department of Finance recently announced that the new federal tax bill includes a new program intended to stimulate private investment in disadvantaged areas, to be called Opportunity Zones (OZ). The investment could be for housing, commercial, or industrial uses. The federal government has charged the states with designating census tracts to be named as OZs. Private investment in OZs would be eligible for lower federal capital gains tax; at this point, that is the only identified incentive. There is no dedicated funding for the program nor has the State announced it will participate by lowering State capital gains tax for investment in OZs.

The federal government gave states the requirement that the nominated tracts either have greater than 20% poverty or median incomes below 80% of the state or metropolitan average. Governors may nominate no more than 25% of their eligible census tracts. The State Department of Finance staff narrowed down the eligible tracts using screening criteria of existing business activity, lowest average incomes (taking into account regional variations in median income), and geographic diversity. The State preliminary process resulted in a draft list of Recommended Tracts, for which they are requesting comments from stakeholders and affected agencies.

Contra Costa County has 11 Recommended Tracts under the State’s criteria, with many more eligible tracts. (Map included as Attachment A.)

The Recommended Tracts are in the cities of:

  • Richmond,
  • San Pablo
  • Pittsburg
  • Concord
  • Antioch
  • unincorporated communities of Bay Point and North Richmond.

During the meeting, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to affirm the States recommendation and comments were due by March 15.

After reviewing the comments and making any changes, Governor Brown will forward the State’s list of Recommended Tracts to the Department of the Treasury for inclusion in the OZ Program. The states have been given a very abbreviated timeline from the federal government to submit their tracts.

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