On October 26, the Antioch City Council received an update regarding the Beede Lumber Site and provided direction to staff to invite proposers of a Town Square concept to present their idea to the council on Nov. 23.
The City of Antioch presently owns the property that previously contained the Beede Lumberyard. It is located between 2nd Street and 3rd Street and between E Street and the termination of 3rd Street. The developable portion of the parcels contain approximately 2.0 acres and is located as an island surrounded by developed streets.
According to City Manager Ron Bernal, the property is designated “mixed use” which mean provides the property the ability to have a mixture of purposes, however, within the Specific Plan, it states it encourages a mix of residential, retail, restaurant, public and entertainment uses that serve as a local and regional attraction.
He further continued by explaining permissible land uses in this area include:
- Live/work facilities
• Mixed use projects
• Single and Multi-family dwellings
• Many retail and service uses appropriate for a downtown
• Outdoor recreation facilities
• Parks and playgrounds
• Parking facilities
The development standards include the following restrictions:
- Maximum Height: 4 stories/45 ft.
• Maximum Residential Density: 18 dwelling units per acre
• Floor Area Ratio: 2.0
• Lot Coverage: 1.0
• There is no parking requirement.
“Any future proposal to develop this property as a park, or as a private and none city venture would be entitled by right of approval and a site plan and review would be required for that,” explained Bernal while noting environmentally they found minor levels of contamination on the site that could be covered by a parking lot or basketball court or mitigated by removal and replaced with clean soil. “It’s not significant but it is a factor that they need to address as part of development of this site.”
Bernal did share that many residents have expressed turning this property into a park/town square.
Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe reminded the public that the staff report was meant as a guide to discussion, not a proposal and they were not deciding anything on what will or could happen on the site, but rather begin the conversation.
“At some point, we are going to have to make a decision as to what we want to see here,” said Thorpe. “This is an important piece of real estate in downtown and it just can’t sit as an empty dirt lot forever and a day.”
Antioch City Council then listened to 14-public comments where they advocated for public use or a park/town square and opposed development of commercial or residential.
Councilmember Tamisha Torres-Walker said she met with a group saying she didn’t hear anyone advocating for housing.
“I heard a couple numbers. I heard 5,000 people, I heard 500, I heard 20-years ago and a lot of advocacy and many councils and we currently have a population of 115,000 individuals and have been identified as one of the most diverse cities in the bay area. So I am just curious to understand from councilmembers who have obviously been here longer than me, why has it taken so long,” asked Torres-Walker.
Mayor Thorpe said he didn’t believe there has been consensus on the property and that as councils come and go “opinions change”. He further highlighted at the time, only one developer, City Ventures, was interested in the project.
“We steered them off in a different direction and that didn’t pencil out, so they are no longer engaged in the process” said Thorpe. “There has been a lot of discussion to this issue and when you hear the number 5,000 that was just the number of signatures to put this issue on the ballot. But it failed to meet the requisite number of valid signatures to put it on the ballot. That is my take.”
Torres-Walker stated two members on the council supported the park option.
“The mayor who ran to support a park option and one former member councilmember who wrote in public comment to support this, so it seems like there has been a consensus I am surprised it hasn’t happened yet,” stated Torres-Walker.
“I am not sure there has ever been a consensus for what the community group has proposed,” replied Thorpe. “That would not be accurate.”
Torres-Walker challenged Thorpe on his comment.
“So you say you support a park, but not necessarily the option they wanted,” asked Torres-Walker.
“I think what the council voted on was the zoning could be mixed use and that includes the option for a park. That is what they voted on, “ said Thorpe. “So I would disagree there has been consensus for turning it into what some of the community members have expressed like a town square type thing.”
He also noted that some of the councilmembers requested the group come forward and give a presentation but never did.
“I have supported the work that the group has proposed, but I am not sure others have,” said Thorpe. “There was a happy medium to place grass on that property because its just an eye sore, it looks horrible. There was consensus for that.”
Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson stated when she first got onto the council, the option before her on the property was housing and she voted “yes” for it, but then under the rezone she explained it gave the city options.
“Mixed use made the most sense because we didn’t know what we wanted there. Mixed use seemed the best option in case all of a sudden we did want to go with the park and not building housing or whatever we decided to put there, that was the rational for the mixed use,” explained Wilson. “Time has passed, I’ve heard different opinions and views and have heard many different people talk about that lot. Ya, I too get tired of passing by that lot and can we put grass there or something, so I am really interested in at least doing something.”
She stated her concern was 4th of July parking as that lot is where people park and if parking would then be absorbed into the neighborhood.
“Its been probably more than 20-years that the yard has been discussed,” said Wilson.
Councilmember Mike Barbanica stated if groups or developers have plans, he would like to see them and welcomed them to come before the council. This would help see the cost and benefit to make a decision.
“Realistically, if there are specific ideas, whether it be a park. Lets see a presentation and cost breakdown. If its commercial or mixed use, lets see a presentation. Lets see a cost breakdown,” stated Barbanica. “Then let’s make a decision and move this forward.”
Thorpe further explained some additional history noting the city put out an RFP in which one developer did come forward and this is what they proposed—that was the only proposal.
“It wasn’t that developers were breaking down the door at Antioch City Hall, it was the city put out an RFP, they responded, and there was only one that responded, City Ventures,” explained Thorpe.
Antioch City Manager Ron Bernal confirmed with a head nob Thorpe was accurate with the history.
Councilmember Lori Ogorchock agreed with Wilson on her explanation of the mixed use vote to allow them to open up the door to the council pleasure. She also agreed with the Strategic Plan which had 3-votes to work on a park or some sort of event center.
Ogorchock explained living conditions and possibility of a park, there would have to be some mitigation and further environmental site assessments and mitigation prior to development of the site.
“There is contamination on there so therefor I don’t know that I would want a park there because who plays there but our kids so they would have to do some sort of an infill to take over that soil,” said Ogorchock.
She also pointed out that Antioch City Park was approximately 4-blocks away from the Beede Lumber Yard while Antioch was blessed to already have many parks within the city—36 parks which did not include new development.
“We have a rich amount of parks,“ said Ogorchock while explaining when the Beede Lumber Yard was there it did block the view for the homes. She also pointed out the noise from the trains as well as concerts at Waldie Plaza. “I would like to beauty the city parks we have now more versus this. If anyone wants that parcel, we need to send out an RFP/RFQ to developers to see if they want to develop that parcel.”
Thorpe then made reference to a project staff was working on.
“I just want to remind council that we are working on a very special project related to zoning changes that Forrest is working on, so we are going to be incentivizing,” said Thorpe. “We are literally going to be changing the zoning laws to make it easier to develop higher density. Not only at the six parcels we are looking at in councilmember Barbanica’s District, some are in District 1, but we are also going to look at additional parcels as we go look at some of these major streets around Antioch.”
Thorpe stated for planning purposes, council needed to be clear with the public as to what the intentions are—RFP, listen to groups and see proposals.
“I am curious given the new diversity given the city is not the same city it was 20-years ago, 150-years ago, I know someone mentioned founders and founders’ day, it made me think about before founders came, there were indigenous people here and indigenous people think about land differently than other folks and should we do some more community engagement to engage indigenous communities, more diverse communities and young people to see what should go there. What would attract them downtown,” asked Torres-Walker who said she didn’t think people wanted it to be a parking lot. “I would like to hear some more diverse voices on this.”
Ogorchock stated that local restaurants needed people downtown with disposable invoice to come downtown along with walkability to go to restaurants in order for them to survive.
Thorpe stated that what bothered him in this whole process over the Beede Lumber Yard is the group who proposed a town square had never presented their plan to the council.
“They never got that opportunity and we kept lying to people saying yes we are going to do it, mayors came and went and it never happened,” stated Thorpe. “So, on the 16th, we are having our work study session and I would like to invite the proposers to come have a conversation with us. They can come talk to us about a town square.”
Ogorchock disagreed with the mayor stated they did come down and speak where Jim Lanter did give a presentation with a plot map of a design. She also pointed out that the map is available online and news articles referenced the presentation.
“They did come, maybe before you were in office,’ stated Ogorchock who stated the mayor at the time might have been Wade Harper. “But I would like to hear their new proposal.”
Thorpe then stated when Sean Wright was mayor, they came with a schematic of what it could look like.
Wilson then confirmed they did come with at least one design proposal and a few years ago a new design.
Thorpe then stated he just received a text message from former councilmember Joy Motts who stated something differently—he did not read the text—but he would go back and look for it.
The council agreed to have them come make their town hall presentation at the Nov. 23 meeting and will also bring back a recap of City Ventures.
Thorpe then asked about the consensus on the grass on the lot. Bernal explained that was never brought forward as that would be a CIP project and they never went any further than soil assessment.
“That would have to be added to the CIP,” said Bernal.
“I just want all options,” said Thorpe even if they had to do a middle of the road approach.
Joy Motts clarified the past presentation. She explained the only presentation was an overview, but it wasn’t actually on the agenda and was brief. There was a presentation to Sean Wright and Lamar Thorpe with city staff—it was a meeting at city hall that went no where.
“We have asked for years to have a moment for a presentation and hopefully will be able to do that on the 23rd,” said Motts. “What we are asking for is not an anomaly, we have seen what downtown Oakley has done, we know what Brentwood, Concord and Pittsburg has done. Its important to understand why. We will bring forward the why. Just like Oakley did with its gathering place and has it been a success.”
Motts is still working on details of what the city is seeking to hear from the group and timelines.
- Aug. 2016: Thorpe: City’s Plan for Lumber Yard Just More Settling for Less
- Jan 2016: Save the Yard Advocates Submit Ballot Initiative to Save Beede Lumber Yard
- Sept. 2015: Antioch Residents Scold Council Over Beede Lumber Yard Property Decision
- June 2015: Antioch Council approves Downtown Specific Plan, allowing for park, event center on former lumber yard site (Antioch Herald)