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.