Friday, August 31, 2018

Progress Update on Signs

After delivering the first round of signs two weeks ago, I've been busy going around the neighborhood to all the folks who continue to request a sign. I am humbled by the support I've gotten throughout the community.  Just a quick update on progress - here is where we stand on sign distribution:
I still have more, so if you are interested in receiving one, please sign up by clicking here or go to the link at the top of the page.

The goal is to have them go up across the main geographic sections of Clayton by region so that they are sufficiently widespread. It's important that people know there are other candidates running for City Council and their vote matters. Incumbents have an advantage in inertia and name recognition. People are busy, and if people aren't focused on our small town City Council, they likely aren't aware of what has been going on, how close we've been to losing our downtown and the character of our city. We need to raise awareness among Clayton residents and people seeing the yard signs is a great way to do that.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Clayton Should Not Be For Sale

A straightforward concept really.  Clayton should not be for sale.  But if you look around downtown, that's the impression you'd get.  The dilapidated buildings on Oak St. have a For Sale sign.

Why is the city so intent on selling its assets?  With our current reserve position at approximately $4.5M or 1 year of operating activity, we do not need the one time influx of cash - the city needs to utilize its resources in a responsible way to shape the future of our downtown.  Once these properties are sold, the city loses its ability to exercise discretion about how the property is used, and what type of building or structure may go in there.  If these properties sell, the city would be constrained to approve many things that residents may not appreciate, but since they'd be consistent with the existing general and downtown specific plan, they would be allowed.

If instead the city retains ownership however, the city could take action to ensure the types of business and development that occurs is consistent with the downtown character and charm that attracted so many of us to Clayton.  We could offer longer term, significantly reduced lease amounts to encourage certain businesses to participate.

But look at what is going on behind closed doors at the latest Council meetings.  Here is the agenda for 7/17/18:

And here is the agenda for 8/21/18:

There is a continuing amount of closed door sessions to negotiate the sale of the properties on Oak St.  It's unclear what the intentions of the City Council are, but I am opposed to anything that leads to the city selling off its assets.  These three parcels on the agenda are highlighted below on the left.  Those three are only a subset of what is for sale and owned by the city here:

The parcels referenced are just those on the left.  The large open space on top is also for sale:

Those are only the properties for sale right now (highlighted in red).  The city also owns other property downtown (highlighted in yellow):

The Council will surely not sell the Grove Park, but based on their current push for selling other property can we say it's out of the question that no other city owned property will be put up for sale?  This is not an activity we should engage in if we want to maintain control over our downtown character.  But there is one more area to highlight (light blue) - the targeted areas for three separate three story high density buildings for senior rental units:

Downtown isn't that large a geographic area.  When I look at it like this, it's easy to see how at risk the character of our downtown actually is.  It wouldn't take much to impact some of the reasons we all chose to live here.

When I look to the future of Clayton, what our downtown could be, I see so much potential.  We could have a vibrant downtown full of small retail and locally owned business that benefits all the residents of Clayton.  Even the older buildings that aren't owned by the city could be encouraged to update and do some maintenance that may have been previously put off with assistance.  That future is only possible if the Council shares that vision and doesn't sell our city to outside developers.  

And that future does not include high density housing right near downtown.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Clayton Should Discourage Commercial Vacancy

Dilapidated and unused buildings are a detriment to our downtown area and the City Council should focus more on working to cure these obvious problems and less on creating new problems with high density housing and giving parolees a path to reside in Clayton. Either trying to renovate the dilapidated buildings on Oak St. or bring local business into vacant commercial buildings, it seems there are a great many Clayton residents who have been involved with trying and failing to work with the city. Why is it so hard to work with the city to utilize these spaces for the purpose they were intended?

Why do we allow vacant buildings to persist in our downtown? How many years has the property on the corner of Oak St. and Center St been vacant? Everyday when I drop my kids off at Mt. Diablo Elementary (at the bottom of the hill with the crossing guard to avoid traffic in front of the school), I walk past this vacant commercial building and shake my head at the lost potential. Imagine if it were actually utilized by the many folks who have tried to occupy the space. It could have been a produce store, a frozen yogurt store, a fitness training center, a wine bar, or a craft store with classes and spaces to work. But no, instead it sits empty.

Numerous folks I’ve spoken with have inquired about the corner space – wanting to use it or being frustrated about not being able to. This property has been vacant for years, both crowding out potential new businesses, and being a drag on downtown. Rather than allow property owners to keep their buildings vacant reaping tax writeoffs for the loss, I would propose a vacancy tax to discourage property owners from long term vacancy. The details would have to be worked out, but it could take the form of a parcel tax. This has been floated in many other cities in the state - recognizing that vacant commercial property is a drag on downtown.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Alternatives to Council Approach for Parolee Housing

After Tuesday's contentious City Council meeting, and my previous post about it, I've had people reach out to discuss what went on, what's happening in town, and what can be done.  I really appreciate the opportunity to engage with everyone about this.

In discussing this issue with people around town, I've come across folks that support Council actions.  They say that this is the best we can do, that the Council has no choice. That the current Council is doing all they can to fight, while passing ordinances that appease the State. They complain that there is a lack of an alternative presented. They may say it's easy to criticize without offering solutions. But none of that is true.

It is obviously false that the City Council is doing everything it can do and this is the best possible outcome. How do we know this? Because at the July 17 meeting they approved an ordinance that put a buffer zone at 500 ft. and had to change it later because it didn't do enough.

They had claimed that the 500 ft was the best they could do. That 500 ft was the best possible outcome. That anything further would cause the state and the ACLU to target the city and we'd pay untold dollars in defending an indefensible ordinance. At the July 17 meeting they then said, 500 ft is the most defensible.

But then what happened? At the Aug 21 meeting they increased the buffer zone to 1000 ft. They said that 1000 ft was the best possible outcome. That anything further would cause the state and the ACLU to target the city and we'd pay untold dollars in defending an indefensible ordinance. At that meeting they then said, 1000 ft is defensible. Notice the pattern? If they are correct now after the Aug 21 meeting, they must have been wrong at the July 17 meeting. And if they were wrong then, doesn't it stand to reason that they could still be wrong? For something this important, I would appreciate if they would take more time to do their diligence.

So what is the alternative? What should the Council do? This is what the Council should have done:
  • The Council should have provided more time to gather input - public notice, hearings, and town hall type events
  • They should have laid out the goals of this and any ordinance, and their rationale for why they think those are being met
  • They should have identified constraints the city may face, and the diligence engaged in to test those constraints
  • The Council should have read into the record the increased risks parolee housing poses to the community - incident crime, police activity, and rates of recidivism of the parolee population
  • After providing this information, the Council should have listened to the community, provide them time to understand the issues, to offer their own ideas, and weigh the options.
And most of all, because the advice of City Counsel at the July 17 meeting was shown to be inconsistent, the City Council should have engaged outside counsel and apply more rigor around any recommendations. This is the type of decision making I would use if elected.  This is the type of leadership that was absent throughout the last two council meetings.  Jim Diaz to his credit, recognized this and voted no on the Aug 21 ordinance, even after voting yes on the less restrictive July 17 ordinance.

Councilwoman Catalano found another city that got into trouble and had to settle a lawsuit regarding their ordinance - why not engage outside counsel to determine if the difference between that City's ordinance and one that hasn't gotten sued is colorable? That the Council felt it had to act, that there was an urgency because the moratorium on parolee housing was set to expire, is not a point in their favor.  The urgency the Council faces is self inflicted. They had years to examine this issue and they punted until the last possible moment because they did not exercise due diligence.  The expression is, "poor planning on your part doesn't constitute an emergency on my part".  But in this case that's not true - poor planning on the part of the Council is a problem for all of Clayton residents.  They say they did not act because they were waiting to see what the state did.  I think that was a poor decision.

When the city is faced with major decisions that may lay outside the expertise of staff, it's okay to seek outside counsel. We know there was a low level of diligence performed because Staff had to backtrack the buffer distance, and they forgot completely about the park in Stranahan Cir.  The Council didn't know about pocket parks in Keller Ridge, and didn't know that those parks are outside the scope of the sensitive areas as described by the ordinance.  It's understandable if some members of the Council aren't in possession of all of this knowledge.  But they should have taken the time to find out well before the expiration of the moratorium was upon us.

Detractors may scoff at the criticism that the Council is setting aside the interests of public safety. And of course everyone will say they care about the safety of Clayton residents. But look at what actions the Council took. If they cared about safety as their #1 priority, would they have deferred acting on an ordinance until the last possible date? Would they vote in favor of a weak ordinance and then have to strengthen it later only after hearing everyone's complaints? Would they only listen to the advice of Counsel who had to backtrack on what was considered defensible? Would they set aside private parks vs. public parks, as if kids who play at private parks don't deserve the same protection as those that play at public parks? Would they target those that have the least means to protect themselves in multi-family neighborhoods to funnel parolee housing into? I'm sure the Council cares about public safety, but do they care enough? If they did, the Council would have addressed this issue much earlier, with enough time to do proper diligence, engage outside counsel, and truly explore all possible actions.

Further detractors may accuse new candidates of inflammatory rhetoric, that the Council is painted as mustache twirling villains out to harm the city.  But that's not true either.  I firmly believe that everyone involved in the Council, city staff, and other positions in the city are acting with positive intent.  I don't believe for a moment that anyone is out to do harm to the city, or its residents.  I respect the people who have stepped up to do public service, as I am by seeking election.  And reasonable people can disagree on what the best course of action is in any given set of circumstances.  What I lay out above, in previous posts, and in future posts, are the ways we may disagree.  I am presenting an alternative approach, highlighting the differences between what the Council has done, and what it could have done so much better.

I appreciate the opportunity to discuss these issues, these differences, and to present a clear choice in November's election.  I hope to have your support, and your vote.

There is one criticism however, that I fully accept.  The idea that opposing parolee housing is a form of NIMBYism (not in my backyard).  To that, I say most definitely not in my backyard.  I feel no shame saying that I do not want parolee housing in Clayton.  I do not want parolee housing in Clayton.  If that is NIMBYism, then so be it.  The types of crimes that are eligible for parole under the AB109 realignment as low level crimes, the non sexual, non violent, non serious (non-non-non) crimes include things like:
  • Meth/PCP/other drug related manufacturing and possession
  • Child stealing by person without custody
  • Brandishing firearm at person in vehicle
  • Second degree burglary
  • Looting
  • Grand theft of various kinds
  • Cruelty to an animal
  • Bring/possess weapon on grade school grounds
  • Threatening to injure a public or school employee
  • Threats against witnesses
  • Removal of officer's firearm while resisting arrest
  • Compounding or concealing a felony offense
  • Bringing loaded firearm on state grounds
  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Taking of hostage
  • Assault on a public official
  • Causing train derailment
  • Battery of a peace officer with injury
  • Discharge of firearm in grossly negligent manner
  • Compel illicit relation by force
  • Selling of person for illicit use
  • Inflicting cruel/inhumane corporal punishment on a child
  • Possess firearm in school zone
  • Solicitation to commit a felony other than murder
  • Unlawful transfer of firearm to minor
  • Possession of assault weapon or machine gun
Looking at the complete list of crimes eligible for parole under AB109 (there are over 500, the above is a limited selection), I'm completely comfortable saying Not in My Backyard.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Aug 21 Council Meeting - Parolee Housing on the Agenda Again

At last night's City Council meeting, it was standing room only and the crowd went out the door and outside.  Of most interest was the issue of parolee housing which was on the agenda again.  As a requirement, the Council needs to do two readings of any ordinance, and only after that +30 days can the ordinance go into effect.

There were over 25 people who spoke in the public comment section of the meeting and I can say confidently that every single person was opposed to the Council's actions.  I also spoke and here it the transcript of my statement:
The #1 priority of the City Council should be the safety of its residents. The City Council failed in its primary duty with its ordinance on parolee housing at the July 17 meeting. The council let fear of potential future litigation paralyze its collective thought process. This was demonstrated by the lack of creativity and vision in presenting only three options for the Council to choose from.
The council did not clearly present what their goals were in adopting the half measure ordinance that would seek to put parolees a mere 500 feet away from our schools and children. Instead, the only message I heard was that you needed to do something, and you wanted to avoid litigation. Doing something so ineffective is equivalent to doing nothing. Sure there was a fig leaf of a limitation – but tell that to the folks who live in Keller Ridge or Stranahan or right off of Oakhurst Dr. – the target location the Council has designated for parolees. It seems like the goal of the City Council is to avoid litigation at all costs, rather than protect the safety of Clayton residents. What prevents the Council from simply declaring they do not want parolees in Clayton, anywhere?
We’ve been told by the Council that there is a mandate by the State – that Clayton is required to accept parolees in these community based programs in our neighborhoods. But this isn’t true. AB109 directed the State to send prisoners to the Counties. Each county could adopt a plan on how it was to handle the new influx. But this doesn’t specifically bind the City. When you debate between 300, 500, or 1000 feet, it’s clear the city has choices on the regulations it adopts. Why didn’t the Council adopt the most restrictive ordinance possible?
That nearby Antioch and Oakley have greater distance requirements belies any claim that the Council is being as restrictive as possible. Fear of litigation has made the council lose sight of the real danger being ushered into our city. Don't the residents of Clayton deserve the greatest possible restriction, or does the Council want to adopt a new mantra, "not as safe as Antioch"?
The legal jeopardy the Council is so afraid of should be explored in much greater depth. The specter of potential litigation is fear mongering. If the city bans parolee housing, does the Council believe we'd automatically lose against a disparate impact claim? That we are banning parolees so we are discriminating against minorities? It's hardly persuasive that the Council explored all possible actions when in their diligence they forgot about the park in Stranahan Cir when they identified potential locations for parolee housing right next to the park.
If you can say that the ordinance passed is the very best the City Council can come up with, then you are not trying hard enough. The Council should go back to the drawing board and take action that actually protects all Clayton residents and more heavily restricts or outright bans parolee housing in the city.
We can do better and that is why I’m a candidate for City Council in the upcoming November election.
At the previous July 17 meeting, the Council was sure that they had done everything they can, they were being as restrictive as possible when they set the buffer at 500 feet from our children.  They spoke in no uncertain terms that a 1000 feet buffer would be a de facto ban and that would be too great a risk for litigation to accept.  But last night we heard a different story.  Last night, after listening to pubic comment, the Council backtracked from their previous position and all the sudden now a 1000 feet buffer is apparently okay and not a de facto ban.

The Council explains this discrepancy as a result of Staff and Council going back to look in more detail at the map.  And that was supposed to be comforting, that before they didn't do all they could do, but they decided to adopt a 500 ft buffer anyways?

Here’s the problem. Even though the Council increased the buffer last night, it reveals at best a group asleep at the wheel who failed to do their diligence at the July 17 meeting, and is now realizing their mistake. At worst, it shows poor judgment and a stunning lack of commitment to the safety of Clayton residents. It shows the City Council has forgotten its primary objective – ensuring the safety of the people. And while the Council stumbled around trying to get details for a new ordinance together on the fly at the Aug 21 meeting, the newly proposed ordinance is still badly flawed. That the Council would act so hastily, without regard to community input, is indicative of a Council that isn't responsive to the needs of Clayton residents.

It’s especially revealing in the way Councilman Shuey talks about the issue. When trying to justify the action of the July 17 meeting, here is what Mr. Shuey said:
“Thus, staff has come up with a proposal that does as much as possible to narrow the risk to Clayton.”
First, we know for a fact that the staff did not come up with a proposal that did as much as possible because at last nights Aug 21 meeting they revised and increased the distance requirement in the newly proposed ordinance. And while we can appreciate the potential risk to the city, this reveals a fundamentally different way of approaching issues. The first consideration should be the safety of the residents, the risk to the people. But no, if Mr. Shuey would have his way, his first priority is to avoid litigation, the risk to the city itself,but nothing about its residents whom he represents.

So what does changing the buffer to 1000 feet mean to the residents of Clayton? Perhaps the Council would celebrate, pat themselves on the back for a job well done. Hey, they listened (belatedly) and made a change! For everyone else though, that’s NOT what it means. If someone abuses you, but they only leave you bruised instead of breaking your arm, we don’t celebrate the fact that there was only a bruise this time. Here are the take aways for the residents of Clayton:
  1. The Council acts before weighing all available options
  2. The Council acts without prioritizing the safety of Clayton residents
  3. After acting hastily and without due diligence, it was only after candidates for the next election, myself and Brian Buddell, and other residents of Clayton spoke out and challenged the Council that they capitulated.
We should have a Council that doesn’t need to react after making terrible choices. We should have a Council that always acts with the best interests and safety of Clayton residents as a priority. A change to the buffer now is a face saving maneuver and a thin smokescreen to obfuscate the poor decision making by the Council.

 That is one reason why I'm a candidate for City Council in November and I hope to get your vote.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Race is On

I was curious how many people would submit the paperwork for their candidacy.  There are two council seats up for election, and as of now the filing period is ended.  There are a total of 4 candidates:
  • Jeff Wan - New candidate
  • Brian Budell - New candidate
  • David "Shoe" Shuey - Incumbent
  • Carl "CW" Wolfe - Current Clayton Planning Commissioner
I wish all the candidates the best of luck and look forward to the next two and a half months before the election.  I do have comments on two of the candidates.

Both Mr. Shuey and Mr. Wolfe are part of the group that has brought the city to where it is today.  At some point the Council and the Planning Commission which it appoints lost its way and stopped representing the will of Clayton residents. By being part of the apparatus that was responsible for approving zoning for high density housing, creating a path for parolees to come into the city, was part of the Fulcrum debacle as well as the adventures with a megachurch, the actions of these individuals are what drove me to seek election.  We can do better than the status quo and it’s time for a change.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

First Round of Yard Signs Delivered

Today I delivered the first round of yard signs. I was happy to meet and talk with several folks around town and am so appreciative of everyone's support.

If you or anyone you know would like a sign, I'd be glad to drop one off anywhere around town. Feel free to sign up here, or drop me an email at

Thank you again!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Lack of Transparency at the City Council

When looking at the Senior Housing Project, "Olivia on Marsh Creek", I see a number of issues.  Ranging from density, to downtown character, to alternative use, etc.  I'll write about those issues in subsequent posts.  For now I'm going to focus on transparency.

Currently, on the Planning Commission website, the current development projects can be viewed.  Under the Projects in Process, the Clayton Senior Housing is the 2nd from the bottom:

This is as it stands today.  It describes 81 units across three separate two-story buildings.  However, when I look at the plan set here, I see this:

This is a three story building, with the plans having a creation date of July 5, 2018.  The plans for the three story buildings taking advantage of the CA density law bonus must have been in the works for quite some time, yet this isn't published or discussed so the community can comment.  Why the lack of transparency in discussing the current plans?  Why not share with the rest of the city that the proposal is for three separate three story high density senior living buildings?   Even looking back at the history of this development, in a 12/7/15 Clayton Pioneer article, the project was described as 44 high end two story condominiums to be sold.  This was reduced from a previous itteration of 60 units due to concerns about the project.  As the plan stands now, it's 80+ units for rent.  It seems the plan is ever changing, and ever tilting away from what the residents of Clayton want.

If elected, transparency in action and in rationale will be integral to my role.  The job of the Council should be to represent the will of Clayton residents.  To do that, the entire Council needs to be open to hearing from everyone, supporters and detractors alike, and in formats more conducive to dialogue than 3 minute segments talking at each other rather than talking with each other.  Transparency is critical achieving that dialogue.

High density housing in the middle of our downtown doesn't benefit the whole of Clayton residents, and takes away from what could be a vibrant downtown commercial area.

Clayton will grow over time that is certain. Regardless, high density residential housing in those locations downtown is not right for Clayton. Our downtown area should be utilized more for its intended purpose, and for the benefit of all the residents of Clayton. I envision a more family friendly commercial area that puts the character and charm of the city on the forefront. Responsible growth that prioritizes maintaining the character and beauty of the city that we have all chosen to live in is the path we should take.  That means taking the steps necessary to halt this project.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Support, not Donations

I do not accept any donations.  There's an important concept in public accounting and as a CPA I take it seriously.  It is to be independent in fact and appearance.  Donations of any kind can lead to the appearance of impropriety, or lack of objectivity.  I'm not sure where the other candidates  in this election or the existing Council Members stand on the issue of donations.  I do know at least one other candidate feels similarly.  With the way the Council has pursued high density housing in downtown, and creating a path for parolee housing in town, it seems like the Council has other objectives they are trying to achieve than what is best for the residents of Clayton.

It shouldn't cost a lot of money for interested citizens to get involved and change the way our City Council operates.  My hope is that in talking to people, getting the message out that there are better options for City Council than the incumbents who get re-elected to do the same thing over and over, we can actually make a difference.  Of course, this doesn't mean that I don't need help.  I'll be putting up yard signs this weekend and in the weeks to come.  I'll be hosting some events (details to follow) to meet as many people as possible.  Money isn't necessary to win an election for City Council - support, advocacy, and great ideas are.  Those are the things i'll be asking of people in my campaign.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Parolee Housing in Clayton

  • It's a false choice for the Council to present only 3 options to address parolee housing
  • The rationale for the 3 options was poorly considered.
  • There was a low level of diligence performed on the three options presented.
Below I will describe each of the above failings of the Council in detail

There were two articles about parolee housing in the August 6 issue of the Clayton Pioneer.  One from Mayor Haydon, the other from a staff writer.  Both of these articles don't clearly articulate the issues the parolee housing ordinance poses to the residents of Clayton.   Mayor Haydon characterized the matter presented to the Council as a choice between three options:
  1. Take no action
  2. Adopt a ban and invite litigation
  3. Adopt an ordinance regulating the locations available
Of course with only those three options the Council quickly settled on #3.  Before describing all the ways that Haydon's description is misleading, it's important to note the mindset the Mayor takes towards people who have raised objections to Council actions.  Here is a sample of what he wrote:
Despite some misunderstandings among residents, ...
And from the Pioneer writer describing Haydon's sentiment:
As for the brouhaha playing out on social media, Haydon said he believes people don’t truly understand the issue.
That doesn't sound like serious consideration of the objections of Clayton residents.  It sounds like condescension.  It sounds like he believes if only people actually understood, then they would agree with him and the Council to pave the way for Parolees to come to Clayton.  If Haydon is to be believed, it sounds like the Council did not do an adequate job explaining their rationale for hastily adopting this ordinance.  But that can not be it.  Regardless of how much the Council attempted to explain, they wouldn't be able to make the residents of Clayton understand why they chose to adopt this ordinance so quickly because there's nothing about it that makes sense.

It's a false choice to present only 3 options.  On the spectrum of choices between do nothing and complete ban, the Council believed that the only other choice was the exact ordinance they adopted, at 500 ft from sensitive places like schools, parks, and daycares.  But this is shortsighted. There are a  host of ways the Council could have further restricted parolee housing short of an outright ban.  There could be:
  • A greater distance required for both parolees and between any parolees
  • A greater distance for those receiving notice
  • Greater reporting requirements
  • More frequent reporting requirements
  • Insurance or bond requirement
  • Period review and renewal requirements of any conditional use permit
  • Occupancy ratio restrictions
  • Requiring on site staff
  • Requiring certain amounts of indoor/enclosed outdoor community space
  • Registration fees with annual step increases
  • Increased time for review of application, diligence, number of hearings and notice requirements
  • Inspection requirements for health, safety, and code enforcement
And these are just the ideas that I've come up with.  If the Council were creative and spent some effort I'm sure there is more that can be done.  But no.  The matter is presented as if there are only three options.  Even if we are to accept the premise that a ban is legally off the table, they could have done more.  And I'm not convinced that a ban is off the table.

The rationale for the 3 options was poorly considered.  The Council is using the specter of litigation as a crutch to support their ill advised plan.  I am curious what theory of legal liability the Council believes presents a risk.  This isn't discussed by either Pioneer article.  The Council simply states as a matter of fact that people could sue the city so their hands are tied. Of course people can sue the city - people can always sue the city. That should not be the basis for hastily adopting an ordinance now. Fear of future nebulous litigation should not compel us to harm our city now without assessing the likelihood or merits of potential future litigation.  And even if there is a future legal threat, the council could at that time assess the risk/reward of adopting a new ordinance, and have the ability to moot potential litigation.

But is there a legitimate risk?  In attachment 17 (page 215) of the agenda for the July 17 City Council meeting there is a letter to the City of Antioch in 2013 talking about their effort to restrict parolee housing.  It's from the ACLU and is not actual legal action.  In it, the ACLU claims a potential violation of state and federal law. The letter identifies California Penal Code §17.5(a), but that code section are simply findings and declarations, not mandates by the state.  If there is a law in play, the Council should present it to identify possible ways to comply while still representing the interests of Clayton residents.

The letter also identifies four lines of complaint from the ACLU that ultimately challenge the rational basis used for the rules:
  1. The distance would limit effectiveness of the parolee re-entry program 
  2. The rules are vague and difficult to enforce
  3. The rules are cost prohibitive
  4. The rules reduce viability of public transportation
Rational basis however is the easiest legal standard to meet.  All of these complaint areas are easily addressed and in the interest of public safety the City could demonstrate a rational basis for each of the requirements at issue.

The letter then goes on to what seems the heart of the matter: racially disparate impact.

As the ACLU is using the term, racially disparate impact refers to practices in housing and other areas that adversely affect one group of people of a protected characteristic more than another, even though rules applied by employers or landlords are formally neutral.  Discriminatory intent is not required for a city to be found to be discriminating - all that is necessary is a showing that a law or practice has a disparate impact on members of a protected class.  That sounds scary, but is it a legitimate concern?  To demonstrate a disparate impact, a statistical analysis of the comparator groups affected and the population as a whole is normally required.  But there is no evidence that this level of rigor was undertaken by the Council.  No, mere mention of the ACLU and the specter of litigation was enough for the Council to capitulate.

And look Antioch passed their ordinance in 2013 at 1000 ft that is more restrictive than ours.  Other cities have passed ordinances more restrictive than ours, including outright bans.

There was a low level of diligence performed on the three options presented.  The Council identified 4 areas in Clayton that met the distance requirement:

Look at area #4.  This is the same level of diligence that forgot there was a park in Stranahan Cir:

And this is the level of diligence that Clayton residents have protecting their safety.  All of this demonstrates a lack of creativity, a lack of options, a lack of understanding of the interests of Clayton residents.  This was exemplified at the July 17 Council meeting. 

The council let everyone speak, ignored them, then proceeded to lecture the audience.   To put an even finer point on it, Jim Diaz seemed to threaten to fight one of the speakers.  See the video of the Council meeting at around the 2:00:20 mark where Mr. Diaz offers to continue the discussion outside, privately. That sounds like fighting words to me.

Here is how the Council should have proceeded:
  • The Council should have provided more time to gather input - public notice, hearings, and town hall type events
  • They should have laid out the goals of this and any ordinance, and their rationale for why they think those are being met
  • They should have identified constraints the city may face, and the diligence engaged in to test those constraints
  • The Council should have read into the record the increased risks parolee housing poses to the community - incident crime, police activity, and rates of recidivism of the parolee population
  • After providing this information, the Council should have listened to the community, provide them time to understand the issues, to offer their own ideas, and weigh the options.
But as demonstrated above, this is not what the Council did.  They hastily passed an ordinance with insufficient diligence that is not in the best interests of the residents of Clayton.

Friday, August 10, 2018

My Priorities as Council Member

When I talk to people in Clayton about running for City Council, everyone is very supportive.  People often share their experience living in Clayton, and their previous interactions with the city in general and the Council in particular. 

What always comes up is the why?  Why am I running and what do I want to do as a member of the Council?  My top priorities as a City Council member would be:

  1. Enhance public safety - no welcome mat for parolee housing
  2. Ensure fiscal responsibility - make sure our spending reflects our priorities
  3. Preserve the character and charm of the city as a great place to raise families - a vibrant downtown full of places for the entire city to enjoy and no high density housing in the middle of our downtown
In recent times I do not see these being the priorities of the Council and it's why I'm running.  Every action of the council should support one of those priorities and if elected these will be my focus.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Campaign Yard Signs - Please Sign Up

For everyone who is supportive of my campaign, I will be having campaign signs made in the next few days.  The goal is to have them go up across the main geographic sections of Clayton by region so that they are sufficiently widespread.  I have designated map areas and I am asking for volunteers to put up signs in their region.  To make sure we spread out across town, I've created a sign up sheet by geographic area.  

Once you are signed up, I will email you, or you can email me ( your address and when the signs arrive I will drop the sign off at your door.  It will take a few days for them to be made and to coordinate with everyone.  For timing, I would like to have signs up in each area by the middle of September.  Thank you for your support and I look forward to meeting and dropping off your sign.

A few rules about campaign signs for anyone concerned:
Signs that conform to a particular size cannot be prohibited by HOAs regulating the use of an owner's separate interest per CA Civ Code § 4710 so they are okay to put in your yard as long as it is your yard, balcony, window, etc.  The City of Clayton exempts certain signs from review and approval per title 15.08.040.  This is provided that the signs conform to the rules in CA Bus & Prof Code § 5405.3 which states that the signs can be placed no sooner than 90 days prior to a scheduled election and is removed within 10 days after the election.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Why is it so Difficult to Bring Business into Downtown?

I've been talking to numerous folks throughout Clayton about our Downtown and there have been some consistent themes.  One of them is the love for all of the activities that we host and how fun they are for Clayton and all of our families that live here.  That has been a joy to discuss with the community.  But the other consistent theme has been a lack of understanding about why it is so difficult to bring business into downtown.

Either trying to renovate the dilapidated buildings on Oak St. or bring local business into vacant commercial buildings, it seems there are a great many Clayton residents who have been involved with trying and failing to work with the city.  Why is it so hard to work with the city to utilize these spaces for the purpose they were intended?  Dilapidated and unused buildings are a detriment to our downtown area and the City Council should focus more on working to cure these obvious problems and less on creating new problems with high density housing and giving parolees a path to reside in Clayton.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Development Pipeline

The application for the Senior Housing project is still under review and public hearings have not yet taken place. There is still time to ensure Clayton residents' voices are heard.  But it won't matter if the Council doesn't listen to the people they represent.  That's why it's critical to vote for people who will have the interests of Clayton residents as their top priority, not transforming our downtown into something unrecognizable.

Below is the current development pipeline:

What's in it for Them?

Council actions should be for the benefit of all of Clayton and its residents. What does the Council hope to gain for the City of Clayton?

It's inexplicable why the Council continues to push high density and residential development in our downtown. Any decision the city makes should based on a cost/benefit analysis. So just what does the City of Clayton gain by pushing through high density housing in our downtown? We have a good idea of what it will cost - the character and viability of our downtown. The vision for our city the Council seems to have is more like Rossmoor or Antioch, instead of Danville or Lafayette.

A senior living high density rental complex does not serve the interests of the residents of Clayton and squanders our downtown.

The Hidden Traps of High Density Housing Downtown

Parking and Congestion will be a problem!

The Senior Housing project has asked for a Density Bonus.  This allows the project to contain additional units that would otherwise not be allowed, reduced setbacks, relaxed height restrictions, relaxed open-space requirements, and reduced floor area ratios. A Density Bonus must be awarded if the project contains at least one of the following (From Gov Code 65915):
(A) Ten percent of the total units of a housing development for lower income households, as defined in Section 50079.5 of the Health and Safety Code.
(B) Five percent of the total units of a housing development for very low income households, as defined in Section 50105 of the Health and Safety Code.
(C) A senior citizen housing development, as defined in Sections 51.3 and 51.12 of the Civil Code, or a mobilehome park that limits residency based on age requirements for housing for older persons pursuant to Section 798.76 or 799.5 of the Civil Code.
(D) Ten percent of the total dwelling units in a common interest development, as defined in Section 4100 of the Civil Code, for persons and families of moderate income, as defined in Section 50093 of the Health and Safety Code, provided that all units in the development are offered to the public for purchase.
(E) Ten percent of the total units of a housing development for transitional foster youth, as defined in Section 66025.9 of the Education Code, disabled veterans, as defined in Section 18541, or homeless persons, as defined in the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. Sec. 11301 et seq.). The units described in this subparagraph shall be subject to a recorded affordability restriction of 55 years and shall be provided at the same affordability level as very low income units.
So which of these is the Senior Housing project going to take advantage of?

Among other things, a density bonus allows the project to reduce the number of parking units normally required to the following ratios:
(A) Zero to one bedroom: one onsite parking space.
(B) Two to three bedrooms: two onsite parking spaces.
(C) Four and more bedrooms: two and one-half parking spaces.
But there's more. The ratio can be reduced to 0.5 spaces per bedroom if there is access to a major transit stop, similar to the bus route right outside the development area. From Gov Code 21155(b):
A major transit stop is as defined in Section 21064.3, except that, for purposes of this section, it also includes major transit stops that are included in the applicable regional transportation plan. For purposes of this section, a high-quality transit corridor means a corridor with fixed route bus service with service intervals no longer than 15 minutes during peak commute hours.
So if the bus line comes every 15 minutes during commute times, then the required parking allocation goes down to 0.5 spaces per bedroom!

It's Going to be an Uphill Climb

Over the past four elections, here are the results:

2016: 3 open seats, 4 candidates. 2 incumbent winners.
2014: 2 open seats, 3 candidates. 1 incumbent winner, 1 previous council member winner.
2012: 3 open seats, 5 candidates. 2 incumbent winners, 1 newcomer.
2010: 2 open seats, 4 candidates. 2 incumbent winners.

Of the 10 seats that were up for election, the incumbent or previous office holder won 9 out of 10 times. If you're not happy with the way the Council has been operating, it's time to do something about it. We need to make sure this trend changes in 2018.

High Density Housing is Wrong for Downtown

From megachurches, to assisted living facilities, to high density housing, the theme over the past several years has been consistent. Developers enriching themselves at the expense of our downtown, at every turn with the the City Council not only laying out the welcome mat for them, but holding the door open too.

Yes there will be development, but it should be responsible and consistent with the character of the city, and primarily for the benefit of our residents. Apparently the Council thinks that high density senior living condos are consistent with the character of the city. They're wrong.

The challenges these developments bring like a lack of parking, congestion, and the potential reduced viability of our downtown festivals and social gatherings are all things that threaten the character that's been cultivated for years in our city. The wrong kind of development at the wrong location can have a significant impact. We need a Council that takes that responsibility seriously and puts the interests of the residents above the interests of outside developers.

We Should Not Encourage Parolee Housing in Clayton

Why is the Council not doing everything in their power to restrict parolee housing?

The problem with the recent board action welcoming parolees into Clayton is not that they took action because they felt they must. No, the problem is that the action taken by the board was not responsive to the interests of the residents of Clayton and did not go far enough. There were other options presented, and probably still even more options not presented. The problem is that the council was unwilling to stand up for the residents of our city.

We should at a minimum be no more permissive than any other city in the state. We should seek to restrict parolees in our city to the greatest extent possible. We should have crafted policy that would serve as a stronger deterrent to housing parolees in our city, rather than providing instructions on how to come into our city.

Fear of litigation should not compel us to harm our city now to avoid a low potential risk in the future. If there is a future legal threat, the council could at that time assess the risk/reward of adopting a new ordinance, and therefore moot potential litigation.