The Contra Costa Times Editorial Board has some serious explaining to do for the residents of Brentwood when it comes to its endorsements of the Steve Barr, Erick Stonebarger, and Robert Brockman.
The paper wants to discuss the $52 million in unfunded liabilities so let’s ask the real question which is what have any of the three endorsed by the paper done to address it since Barr is a 1st term councilman now apparently ready to jump to the mayors seat mid-term while Brockman and Stonebarger have been serving on the council?
It’s one thing to understand it, it’s another to actually address it to prevent future tax increases on residents.
Another strike against this lame reasoning for endorsing these three is due to the apparently knowledge of unfunded liability but this editorial board was very quick to attack the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District with its unfunded liability in which they proposed the $197 parcel tax. This editorial Board and paper attacked the District relentlessly! Did the Times Editorial Board forget that Barr, Brockman, and Stonebarger serve on this Board?
Nothing against the ECCFPD, I support them, but the Times has said one thing and now doing another—it’s hypocritical because the only way one will ever get the Times endorsement is you basically grovel at their feet in agreement with the editorial board on unfunded liabilities and pension reform.
To those still meeting with the Times, you might as well lie if their endorsement means that much to you!
As for Mr. Barr, he hasn’t even served a full term yet—this makes both Stonebarger and Brockman more qualified than him. The only reason Mr. Barr is getting this endorsement is because his name is not Bob Taylor. There you go, I just explained to you how the Times thinks.
Also, did the Times forget about the $60 million spent on City Hall? Just throwing that out there.
Now onto Brockman, who should he flat out rejected by voters because should he win re-election, he would receive lifetime benefits which should be enough for any voter to take a look at that and say no way! But more importantly, he truly has no business serving any longer on the council based on his extracurricular activities in Brentwood that got good local people sued.
The Times Editorial Board either did little research or forgot about an article from their own reporter last Spring. Here is the article.
Councilman Robert Brockman failed to pay thousands of dollars in permit fees for properties he once owned after the city allowed businesses to operate in them that did not meet zoning requirements.
In 2004, Brockman bought properties in the Sunset Industrial Complex on Elkins Way and leased spaces to at least three businesses that were not allowed to operate in an industrial area, according to city records.
Brockman requested that the city permit the businesses, which included gymnastics, dance and karate studios. The city changed the zoning rules for the development to allow the nonindustrial businesses, as long as they obtained conditional-use permits.
Brockman never obtained the required permits, which typically range from $2,500 to $5,000. Only one of the recreational businesses that cycled through Brockman’s properties was ever permitted, according to city records, despite the city sending a letter to him and other property owners in the complex in 2006 reminding them of zoning rules.
Facing financial collapse, the two-term councilman lost his Sunset properties to foreclosure this year.
Brockman did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment for this story.
The city began developing Sunset Park, a 40-acre parcel off Sunset Road, a decade ago to try to move some industrial businesses off Brentwood Boulevard.
In early 2004, Brockman purchased a 24,000-square-foot property in the front section of the park from the city, and received permission from the Planning Commission to begin putting up buildings.
In official documents, he told both the City Council and his fellow planning commissioners that he planned to lease his land to a cafe, a muffler shop and a few other industrial businesses.
Several months after the Planning Commission approved his project, the city sent Brockman and all other Sunset Park property owners a letter telling them that recreational uses such as dance and karate studios were prohibited.
Brockman responded immediately, telling the city in a letter that he was already in the process of leasing his just-purchased properties to a gymnastics center, a dance studio and a karate club, and asking the city to reconsider its zoning for the park.
The City Council amended its Sunset Park zoning the next month to allow recreational businesses in the front section of the park as long as the city approved a conditional-use permit for each business.
These types of permits are tailored to the businesses that apply for them, and often come with restrictions such as limits on hours of operation and traffic.
Cities sometimes reject applications for conditional-use permits, and Brockman has voted to do so on several occasions.
Both tenants and owners can submit permit applications, though owners are required to sign off on them while businesses are not.
“It’s fairly common for applicants to comment on the amount of the fees as well as the time it takes to process the applications, ” city planner Erik Nolthenius said.
Though the dance, karate and gymnastics studios moved into Brockman’s properties, none applied for conditional-use permits.
In July 2006, the Community Development Department sent another letter to Sunset Park property owners reminding them that the complex was not intended for the general public and attached a copy of the zoning ordinance specifying that permits were required for recreational facilities.
A now-closed Curves fitness center appears to have been the only tenant of Brockman’s that obtained a permit for recreational uses during the six years that he owned the properties.
The business owner paid a $2,500 permit-application fee in 2005, shortly after Brockman was elected to the City Council.
Other property and business owners paid thousands of dollars in permit fees for businesses.
The owners of the Sunset property neighboring Brockman’s paid the city more than $7,000 to obtain two conditional-use permits for an indoor soccer facility they hoped to move into the building.
“That was our understanding of what had to be done, ” said Jonathan Strauss, one of the owners. “It was very clear when we bought it that we had to get a conditional-use permit.”
Though the city never evicted Sunset Park businesses for violating city zoning, Community Development Director Casey McCann said that Brentwood takes conditional permits seriously, in part because they help ensure that residents don’t spend time in contaminated environments.
“It’s a big deal, ” he said. “It’s not something that we ignore.”
By 2010, all of Brockman’s recreational tenants had closed except Black Diamond Kids Center, which had expanded to include a preschool in addition to dance and gymnastics classes.
A 13,500-square-foot warehouse filled with blue and red mats, Black Diamond had become Brockman’s largest tenant.
Brentwood surveyed the industrial park for zoning violations last year in response to complaints from businesses and property owners that had asked the city for permission to relocate to the complex and been rejected on zoning grounds.
Staff found that of the 47 Sunset businesses operating there, Black Diamond was the only one that still needed to obtain a conditional-use permit.
The city also found nine businesses in the park that were flatly prohibited by city zoning — eight offices and the Black Diamond preschool.
In response to the survey, the Planning Commission and City Council last year approved a new ordinance spelling out the park’s existing zoning in more detail and giving businesses 18 months to comply or find a new location.
Brockman was one of two people who spoke about the ordinance change before the commission, which is appointed by the City Council.
He expressed concern that Black Diamond would no longer be able to operate a day care. The new ordinance permitted Black
Diamond’s preschool to stay under a provision allowing “ancillary” day-care facilities.
Shortly after the change, Brockman defaulted on all of his Sunset properties.
The councilman’s contracting firm also went bankrupt last year, collapsing under the weight of lawsuits over home inspections gone awry, and he lost his own home to foreclosure.
Black Diamond owner Josh Storrer ultimately paid the $5,000 conditional-use permit fee in January.
Storrer said that from the beginning, Brockman handled communication with the city about zoning issues.
He was under the impression that the city had only recently imposed a conditional-use permit requirement on recreational businesses in the complex.
“There’s no way the city is gonna let a business open without a conditional-use permit if it needs one, ” he said.
Finally, an editorial which fails to even mention Gene Clare, Carissa Pillow or Chris Becnel is a paper who is not doing its job. The paper fails to give any reason not to select these candidates other than a blanket statement on debt service. Brentwood deserves much better than what the Times is suggesting.