On Tuesday, the Antioch City Council voted to continue blight indefinitely after postponing moving a project forward that would have begun redeveloping a blighted shopping center at the corner of Delta Fair Blvd and Buchanan in the City of Antioch.
If approved, the property would have began being cleaned up and redeveloped into a new shopping center and apartment complex. Currently, the property is full of empty buildings, boarded up retail, garbage all over the property and many homeless frequenting the area.
The project was put on hold in a 3-2 vote after Councilmembers Lamar Thorpe, Joy Motts and Monica Wilson had concerns over the property owners handling of blight and fines over the past five years. Meanwhile, Mayor Sean Wright and Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock called it an opportunity to clean up a blighted area in town and begin the redevelopment of an area desperately in need.
The Delta Fair Village Multi-Family home project was a 210-apartment unit facility that would have been developed at the corner of Delta Fair and Buchanan Road with a new 4,000 square foot retail building. In total, there would be five buildings. The total size of the project was estimated of 411,511 square feet with renovation of existing 73,535 of retail space.
The applicant, Chui Family LLC, proposed a residential density of 45 units per acre which is the highest allowed per the General Plan. There would be 392 parking spaces including 324 in a gated parking garage, 38 on parking garage tandem, 68 spaces outside of the building along with bicycle parking area.
Along with the shopping center renovation, they would realign parking drive aisles, upgrade parking lot landscaping, add roof variation and façade articulation, materials in shopping center would match apartments, replace broken storefronts, remove signed and condition renovations to begin prior to apartment construction.
Per the planning commission recommendation, this project would join the pending Contra Costa Fire Protection District pending Community Facility District (CFD)
Here is the council recap:
Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts she talked about co-compliance issues with the applicant and they were ignored for a period of time and some issues not resolved and highlighted at other properties within
Antioch there were similar problems which she said hurts economic development from lack of maintenance which impact the surrounding business and residents.
Motts questioned staff how this applicant will be different.
Forrest Ebbs, Antioch Community Development Director, explained the role of staff in the evaluation of this project.
“Our task before you is to evaluate the project. We are sensitive to the fact that in the real world there is more to a project in question before the city council, but I can’t responsibly introduce outside factors beyond the merits of this project beyond a physical development,” explained Ebbs. “I understand what you are saying and I can verify that there is a lengthy code enforcement history here, but I am going to rely on the council here to make their personal judgement related to your perspective.”
Ebbs continued by explaining the analysis of the project is complete and could speak to that, but not the other items Motts brought up.
Motts wanted an answer to the code enforcement violations stating she could not feel comfortable with the project.
“We have a responsibility to the residents of this community to ensure that we have quality investments coming before us, we have a history in the past of have half hazardly building a lot of homes and developments that have dramatically effected our quality of life and a drain in resources,” stated Motts. “I just want to make sure if we are going to bring something of this size, 210 units, we have an applicant that we know and can trust and can follow through with maintain a quality project for our community. We don’t need another problem in Antioch. We don’t need another blighted area and that is my biggest concern.”
Councilmember Lamar Thorpe shared the same concerns.
Councilmember Lori Ogorchock stated she believed they all had the same concerns with the applicant, but stated they should move forward with the project.
“This is an infill project, we have been asking for infill projects and with the money that is being spent on this project and the jobs that can come from this project I think we need to move forward on the time before us,” stated Ogorchock.
Ogorchock stated the code enforcement items can be resolved prior to construction as part of the terms and conditions.
“I like this project, I have looked at it,” said Ogorchock who further highlighted the need for apartments and a facelift for retail while explaining she would like to see more housing for seniors within the project. She also noted the CFD for fire services and possibly a PLA with local hires and veterans.
Councilmember Monica Wilson wanted assurances the property will be maintained highlighting she shared the same concerns as the rest of the council.
“I am also concerned that its already a very dense population in there with lots of apartments on San Jose Drive, apartments on the other side with Hudson Court, its going to be a very densely populated area,” stated Wilson.
She asked how far back Code Enforcement Issues go back.
Ebbs replied they go back over 5-years with this site having a history and consistent code enforcement cases open since then.
“As much as I want something there, I am not feeling confident of the applicant maintaining the site,” stated Wilson. “I would hate for us to build this thinking it would be a great project and five years down the road, people going why did you allow this to be built, its blighted and run down because of poor management. I just have a lot of concerns that need to be addressed.
She called for a Project Labor Agreement and a lot of assurances before she could get to a “yes”.
Mayor Sean Wright called this an opportunity for this part of town which “desperately needs investment” while stating they could hold the applicant accountable for all properties to be brought up to par before permits are issued.
“We are talking about, if we say no to this project, five years from now, we are still dealing with code enforcement issues. We are still dealing with blight. This is an opportunity for us right now to be able to bring a project into that that area to spur development not only for that area, but for the rest of the area,” stated Wright. “This is a crucial opportunity for Antioch and if we say no tonight, then I think we are saying no not only to this developer, but quite a few others that might be looking.”
Wright further explained that the city economic development team has said this was the one area of two priority areas.
“If this was a new developer coming in, we have some examples of quality projects and we didn’t have this history, I agree with you. The last thing we want is to continue the way it is,” stated Motts suggesting their may be other avenues or thigs to do while noting city staff has stated for five years this applicant has been non-responsive.
“I just don’t feel comfortable, I just wish honestly this came from a different applicant,” stated Motts. “My best indication into my future is my past and I would have to have a broader conversation with the applicant before we go forward… I am just looking out for our community.”
Motts closed by stating the applicant is someone who is just “not respectful of Antioch.”
Ogorchock called the property in its current condition a drain on resources so they needed to do something to move forward.
“If we approve this project this evening, it might give the applicant a swift kick in the rear to fix up his other properties,” stated Ogorchock. “There will be an onsite manager living on the property which is a great ease of the mind for me. All of these code enforcement violations need to be resolved prior to construction.”
Ogorchock then made the motion to move forward with the project with Mayor Wright offering a second.
Thorpe then issued a substitute motion to “postpone indefinitely” which was seconded by Motts.
Wright then asked the goal was with the postponement. Thorpe replied his fellow councilmembers has concerns with the applicant who was not here to answer questions.
“I am not supporting anything,” stated Thorpe. “I am not supporting anything until he can answer our questions. This is about trust and I don’t trust him.”
Motts agreed that more conversation was needed.
Wright then again urged his council to consider that this could drive “huge change” to this area of town and with postponing the item that they could work towards a resolution.
“This is a needed project in town,” stated Wright.
The council voted on the substitute motion to postpone indefinitely in a 3-2 vote with Wright and Ogorchock dissenting.
- The project could come back as early as January under a new City Council.
- Earlier in the meeting, Economic Development Director Kwame Reed presented an Economic Development Strategic Plan Update which highlighted. According to the consultant, he told the City Council that the Somersville Mall Area should be redeveloped (46:00). At the 56:00-minute market, it was explained that retail had been one of the strongest areas in the city due to imbalance of jobs and housing. In the non-retail categories, there is no balance in the city. With the pandemic, its hurting the retail industry that may never recover which was once an Antioch strength—which is now surplus which is empty and creating blight. The consultant explained Antioch may have more retail than it needs which is why property should be redeveloped. They called the Somersville Mall Area as a priority for an employment center—repurposing the area to different employment generating land uses—not retail.
In response to councilwman Motts talking about revitalizing the downtown and compared to other cities they had a vision and a plan with the city council. She called for the City Council to be more involved with the collaboration and the process.
The consultant replied to Motts saying that in most cases they are dealing with private property and private investments and the city’s role is to set the table to create an environment to attract the type of investment they are targeting. He continues saying its about defining city policies that work consistently with market trends so there are incentives to better look at opportunities at development and redevelopment.