When I think about what Antioch’s downtown could be, I envision something similar to Concord’s Todos Santos Plaza — a vibrant, public space that is available and accessible to all, helps reduce crime and attracts and helps sustain high-quality business growth.
I know this may be expecting a lot. But I’m tired of settling for less from our city, whether it’s less police officers than we need or less restrictions on card room gambling. For this reason, I oppose developing townhouses at the old Beede Lumber Yard site, which I view as the wrong move for our city on several levels.
First, any new housing construction downtown must be complemented with physical space for quality business growth and good jobs. If it isn’t, all we’re doing is adding to Antioch’s extreme imbalance between jobs and housing. We’ve seen this story before.
In fact, our city’s obsession with generating new residential property taxes nearly destroyed the local economy during the Great Recession and led to deep cuts in critical city services that continue to place our citizens and our communities at risk.
Today, we have an opportunity to turn the tide and make sound, strategic decisions that could help Antioch reap huge benefits in the future. Instead, our leaders have defaulted to what they know — more housing! It’s time to find more creative ways to take city-owned properties like the Beede Lumber Yard and maximize their use to address multiple issues, such as reducing crime, improving the environment, sparking economic revitalization and bringing the community together.
By the way, I’m not against development.
To the contrary, I’m for smart growth development. Building 31 townhouses on one lot is a waste of valuable space. On the other hand, a mixed-use residential/commercial development close to major transportation hubs would help promote healthier, walkable communities, reduce our carbon footprint and encourage more residents to get off Highway 4 and start using public transportation.
Imagine a building near City Hall with an express grocery store (which downtown desperately needs) and other amenities like Peet’s Coffee on the bottom floor and residential units on the upper floors. Residents can walk to buy groceries, walk to City Hall to pay their water bill, walk to a restaurant, and even walk to Amtrak to go to work or catch a Warriors, Raiders or A’s game. They could also walk to the town square to enjoy local concerts and other festivities.
We can do so much more if we invest in innovative ideas instead of recycling the same old tactics year after year.
Second, our approach to downtown revitalization should be focused on improving our overall quality of life, not just bringing in more people.
Our problem is not attracting more residents. Studies show that East County will continue to see a steady increase in population over the next 10 years as housing costs continue to rise in other parts of the Bay Area. It’s a question of what kind of people we’re attracting. If we address quality of life issues and attract new, better paying jobs, families that move here will be more likely to stay and invest in our city.
How do we do it? Offering tax incentives, supporting our local businesses, and investing in the city through municipal bond measures are good places to start.
Lastly, whether you agree with the “Save the Yard” effort or not, citizens living in north Antioch deserve to have their input, desires and needs for their community taken seriously. That just doesn’t happen.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that all members of our City Council, including the Mayor, reside in south Antioch. Far too often, the people in north Antioch voice their concerns and offer potential solutions and are completely ignored.
This is why I believe we should have a larger discussion about potentially electing councilmembers through single-member council districts instead of at-large, which empowers you and your neighbors to hold your elected city councilmember accountable.
As a candidate for Antioch City Council, I pledge my support for a smart and bold vision for the old Beede Lumber Yard that takes into account the needs of both the community and the city. Similar to what Todos Santos Plaza has done for Concord, I’m confident we can create a public centerpiece that shows everyone Antioch is done settling for less—we’re ready to make a good city Great!
By Lamar Thorpe