On Tuesday, more than 75 Antioch residents met at 2nd and D Street prior to the Antioch City Council Meeting to rally in support of a park and event center in the downtown area.
Marching in bright yellow shirts saying “Save the Yard” they headed towards City Hall where more than 30-people spoke out against an August closed session agreement to turn the vacant Beede Lumber Yard lot into 18-condos.
The agreement was made on August 25 in a closed session meeting where the City Council voted to give City Ventures the exclusive opportunity for 9-parcels, including the dirt lot where residents wanted a park and event center.
Although the meeting and agreement was legal, members of the community were taken by surprise and did not feel their voices were heard or given a fair chance to turn the property into a park-event center.
Tuesday night, many members of the community also scolded the City who put out a message on social media referring to those who disagree with them as “trolls blogs”. The message was posted minutes after our interview with Joy Motts about the group’s goal to gain public support.
Here is a sampling of some of the 33 public comments which many thanked Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock for listening to them in trying to get the item on the agenda.
John Reynolds – highlighted that the City should not let outsiders decide Antioch’s future and urged the council not to let outsides dictate the councils legacy.
Sandra Kelly – I am here today as a representative of the future. There are children in this city who need a park. When you took out Marina Park, we did not get a park back. We have one tiny park, city park, that is the only park for kids who live north of the freeway to have. I implore you to change your minds and think of the future and provide something for the future.
Wayne Harrison – Celebrate Antioch Foundation was created on the premise that City of Antioch residents could do great things for this city when the city itself could not do them itself in the financial downtown. We proved that with the 4th of July celebration including the fireworks and Holiday DeLites parade. Because of these successes, we got involved with the vision on an outdoor event center on the Beede lot to bring thousands of people into our downtown area and be the catalyst for a true Rivertown revitalization.
Our vision is to convert that dirt lot using private funds, no taxpayer funds. We heard words of support from many of you on several public forums. We submitted a proposal to you which included financial and development timelines.
It was then requested by Lori Ogorchock to be put on a council agenda so that the details could be discussed.
The next thing we knew its behind closed door without any discussion. Without us about our proposal where 4 of 5 of you voted to go forward with negotiations to build on this property. No consideration for our proposal at all.
This is not only a slap in the face to Celebrate Antioch Foundation but a slap in the face of every resident of Antioch who have been telling you for years that there number 1 concern is the lack of communication and lack of the council listening to the will of the people. It’s not to late to change directions, you can and must take another vote to separate the Beede property from the other properties and vote to give us a chance to do something long term good for this community rather than the short term dollars of a few houses.
Elizabeth Rimbold – We put a great deal of time and effort in attending public meetings to express wishes of the community and all of those efforts have been ignored and re-negotiated with an outsider and out of town developer. It seems like every time we get a new city manager they come with a developer from somewhere from a prior connection. Unlike what we have on our flyer, I do not support putting it on the next city council agenda, I support putting it on the ballot so the public can say what they want and not have it turned down in a backdoor meeting in closed session.
Joy Motts – I ask you to reconsider your position on the Beede Lumber Yard proposal into housing. I can imagine you are very tired from hearing from us while I can assure you we are just as tired in having to come here and repeat our plea. I would have hoped at some point over the last year and a half you might have thought to yourself these folks are serious. After all, you were presented with 1,000 signatures, you hear distinctly at public forums the public’s wishes, you received numerous emails and many respectfully came to council meetings to ask you to please listen to your constituents.
There was one bright moment on June 23 when we thought maybe you heard us—Mayor Haper apologized for not listening sooner, councilmember Rocha spoke about possible timeline to build our event plaza. We were thrilled to be working with you to create a plaza, a park, on the historic Beede site with its spectacular river views and invite our entire community together for art, music, and festivals year-round for years to come.
So we went to work an prepared a detail and specific plan to fund a beautiful plaza. Wayne Harrison of Celebrate Antioch Foundation submitted that proposal to you on July 28 despite numerous emails to you to determine next steps, the formal proposal we never heard from any of you. Mayor Pro Tem Ogorchock tried to bring our proposal forward for an open meeting discussion, but she was obviously ignored.
In an August 21 meeting, in a 4-1 vote you dismissed our proposal without a word, without any explanation. Without reference to your June 28 comments, without consideration of the people and all the pleas you have received from the people who elected you.
You must know by now we are not going away. You have the opportunity to remove this parcel from consideration of housing development. If you cannot find the strength to do the right thing then we will do it for you and take the question of what citizen envision on the Beede Lumper Yard to the voters. Afterall, this city owned property belongs to all of us. Save the Yard
Stephanie Sterling – I can afford to move and afford to sell and leave here, but why should I let you or thugs run me out of my hometown. I would like an event center here so we can have a sense of community. We already feel like thugs and garbage are taking over… I don’t want to sell my house and move out of here. I want to sell my house and move here again. I always here negative and I stick up for this community even though I feel disappointed by it. It’s disappointing to see how things are going, if you guys want to do the right thing, its put an event center here to get a sense of community back.
Connie Kumar – Mr. Duran, I hope you begin to realize how important the Beede lot is to people and has been for many years. You show up and you want to destroy it. Mr. Duran, will you move to one of those homes or move to Antioch. No, you and the mayor will be gone when it turns into low income housing. Do all of you up there think another 27-homes or condos will make a difference? No, these people get onto Highway 4, go to Walnut Creek for dinner and come back to Antioch to sleep.
Mayor Harper, you sat there many months ago saying you wanted to be the council that got something done. Does that mean you will do whatever even though it means making enemies with those that put you there? Right now you are not liked very much, why not put the event center and make people happy and go out a winner.
The people of Antioch have shown we can get things done. Look at what we have done for City Park. Look at the citizens cleaning up Antioch because the City can’t. Then there is the group Celebrate Antioch who without your help, brought back the Forth of July celebration because you could no longer do it. You had no faith in us that first year and choose not to help us. We did it and continued to for three years. We can also do an outdoor event center if you give us a chance.
Mr. Duran, you are so rude, everyone looks at us, you have not picked up your head one time.
Roy Frazier – I have lived in this city for years, I ended up homeless and I am disabled. There was no place for me to go. The housing/duplexes have turned into drug yard. If this happens, that is what this will become.
The downtown area has turned into to trash and look at all the businesses who have shut down and turned into thrift stores. It shouldn’t be happening.
Frank Sterling – I could not believe you had a closed session meeting and made a decision without listening to all the people. Its clear the citizens of Antioch want an event center and is it difficult to make a decision on something everyone wants? If people want to put it on the ballot, that might be the appropriate decision if you can’t make the right decision. Doing it in closed session and not allowing the public to comment is a sneaky way to do things.
Katherine Fitzpatrick – Happy Constitution Week and what part of we the people do you not understand? We the people have been here, we attended your meetings, we told you what we want for ourselves, our children, grandchildren. Please listen to us. We do not need more homes. This parcel is so special and it’s priceless.
Jody Madison – I am a recent immigrant to Antioch and live downtown. In my time I have lived in Redding, Sand Francisco, Walnut Creek and Benicia. With exception of Walnut Creek, others have developed their waterfront properties to something people can use and enjoy. What does Antioch want to do, they want to give it away to a faceless corporate development company that runs over small towns frequently. I don’t understand that. You do it without input, you do it with shutting down input, it makes no sense to me.
I’d also like to mention that on social media for government officials to call citizens and concerned citizens trolls, troll blogs, the person who does such a thing has no class or no business in public service.
Jim Lanter – we both know that traffic is the key and 20 condos is not going to help my business or any other business downtown.
Note – Lanter went on to speak about when you are serving people, you need to have their respect, highlighting that when he has come to the council and spoken that the council looks over him and not at him. The other thing was to have integrity, honesty and be truthful—saying those qualities have gone south for this council.
As a citizen of this city and has a love of this city, we should have the opportunity to at least be heard on a public forum on an agenda where we can show you how we build that center and what we can do for it. To raise $600,000 we can guarantee we can do that in 90-days. Did you even give us an opportunity to sit down and communicate that to you? Most of you should be ashamed. Lori, thank you for your support.
I am disappointed and I can’t wait until the elections next year. There is going to be a huge swing in this room. I guarantee it.
Earlene Lanter – I am a little disappointed in our city council, I am baffled how you cannot listen to the majority or what we say. You dismiss what we say, especially after that June meeting. We have talked, we have told you what you wanted. We have a proposal and you didn’t even address it. You haven’t even spoken. You haven’t even given us a reason. You haven’t even given us an explanation. You owe it to us. I don’t know what you are afraid of, are you afraid we will pull it off?
You have the power to pull that parcel off, build on the other ones, you have the power to take that one parcel off and you can do it. Some of you look like you are puppets.
I don’t think it’s being disrespectful to tell someone they are being rude when they are being rude. When they call your name, its polite to look up at them and at least acknowledge them. Rude is rude.
Rachel Motts – I think most of you, especially Mr. Duran believes there are only a select few who are willing to fight to save the Beede site. But as is evident tonight, you are wrong. What is it going to take for you to realize an event center is what the community wants. Do you see anyone down here chanting for condos. Do you see anyone down here tonight calling for more housing on this site. No!
I cannot understand why you are so adamant on building on this parcel. Aside from the outcry on all of us, it’s very possible its unbuildable, proximity to the train tracks, and other issues. Housing is most likely not your best use. The downtown specific plan calls for numerous other parcels to be sold for medium to high density housing over 200 units.
In the grand scheme is it so important that you build these 18-condos on this one parcel against the wishes of your community. I cannot understand for the life of me why this parcel is so important to you Monica, so important to you Tony, so important to you Mary.
I know why its so important to Mr. Duran, but we elected you to listen to your community. When are you going to start doing that?
Cindy Harrison – Antioch had a bad rap and its gone down but let’s have something to be proud of and keep that space that is sacred which should be enhanced and beautified for everyone to enjoy. Mr. Duran, you can go back to Dublin where you belong because I don’t think you understand what enjoying land that people live for. I live right there, I would keep an eye, there would be no homeless there. It would be a beautiful, wonderful place for all of us to enjoy and be proud of as Antioch citizens.
Brenda Aragon – I want the even center there on the Beede parcel, makes no sense to build homes there… Beautifying Antioch and not trashing Antioch if you put homes that is what you are doing. Save the Yard.
Louis Green – I support the event center I think it’s something that will bring people downtown, come to my business downtown and help it grow and flourish. Farmers market and other events, we need it.
It’s been proven to build homes in this town did not make it a great place to be. As we know, you build condos on this lot, that will be below market elsewhere in Oakland, Richmond and come buy a big beautiful house here with the attitude that they bring with them. That is what happened to Antioch. I don’t blame them for wanting a safe place to live with mountains and a river, but to have the mentality of the Bay Area to bring it here is not what we need. You need to build a place, a event center or park where families can complete their picture of why they moved here.
Gary R – Mr. Duran, you insulted me and all these people here by calling us trolls in the response to the article about the event center and you should be so embarrassed
Rick S. – I support putting the event center on the next city council agenda. A lot of cities around the Bay Area seem to get it. They have events they have people come, they have a thriving downtown. They have embraced their waterfront areas and make things happen. Many Thursday nights we go down to Concord for farmers market and music. You guys are missing the opportunity. Elected officials there have a better chance to being elected than you guys. Good luck to you.
Tina P – highlighted how her money is going out of town to Concord and Pleasant Hill because there is nothing in Antioch for her to go to. She called the Beede Lot an opportunity for a place to go and spend time at. She asked why other cities should be getting her money and instead Antioch should be getting her money.
Lee Ballesteros – when meeting with Mr. Duran in January 2014, he was not at all interested in how my husband and myself have operated a business in our less than stellar downtown for 22 years… this is because its not on Mr. Durans closed agenda. He does not care.
He takes his vision from the corporate development playbook and forces it to fit into any community that is foolhardy enough to hire him. Only to move onto the next target as he will move on from here once the damage is done. Wherein lies the problem as this city manager does not see fit to live in our community that he is mismanaging so therefor, the consequences of these half-baked plans will never be experienced by him personally.
We all live here. The people oppose it, the city hired consultants recommended against it and you the councilmembers secretly approved it. By that vote you are saying it’s a matter of pride, you are saying it’s a matter of wanting to complete something where others before you have failed.
But this city has not changed that much, the new residents find the old time charm appealing. Many of us have lived here have inherited our properties and will give them to our heirs who bare a fierce local pride in this working class Hamlet.
We do not wish to think badly of our elected officials, perhaps all along you have been waiting to support us wholeheartedly for all of are plans for an event center. Do not lose your credibility with the citizens that you represent. What happened between the 23rd (June) and the closed door meeting to approve the agreement with City Ventures. Were you lying the whole time or perhaps you were lied to.
The RFP states you can vote anytime to change direction, I support putting consideration in putting Celebrate Antioch’s proposal of an event plaza on the next city council agenda. Vote tonight and ratify this agenda item for the next meeting.
Fred Hoskins (paraphrased)– disagreed with the idea of an event center because the city should not hand over the property to a group with no track record. He further highlighted the City Manager has listened when they removed the Senior Center out of the RPF.
He called this plan a liability because the City would have to take over at some point and begin paying for it. He called for the discussion to be honest.
Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock read a handful of comments into the record in support of a events center or park.
Editors note: Antioch Mayor Wade Harper was not in attendance as he was out of the country on city business.