Concord and Clayton year in review
12/31/2013 09:51:39 AM PST
12/31/2013 09:51:40 AM PST
In 2013, transportation was a focus for Bay Area residents. They watched as the decades-long planning and construction of the new Bay Bridge was completed, the fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel opened, and also dealt with BART strikes.
Closer to home in the East Bay, the Morgan Fire on Mount Diablo, and the relocation of the Masonic Temple in Concord were in the spotlight in our communities.
Nearby, residents watched the demolition of the dome theater in Pleasant Hill; followed the recovery of Martinez boy Aaron Hern, who was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings; and learned of allegations that Walnut Creek city employees failed to report child sex abuse.
As the new year starts, the Transcript looks back at the stories and photos that impacted residents in Concord and Clayton last year.
January Concord neighbors connect to each other through the 21st century's answer to the party line -- nextdoor.com. It aims to establish safe, hyperlocal relationships and take users back to a time when neighbors knew each other, and kept up with schedules and plans. St. Mary and St. Mina's Coptic Orthodox Church plans a sanctuary, chapel and multiuse room on San Miguel Road, but city planners say the project needs more environmental review. Neighbors had complained about traffic and noise, inadequate access and wildlife impacts. Mt. Diablo High School Digital Safari Academy students pitch entrepreneurial projects to "virtual investors" at its annual Innovation Fair. Downtown Concord property owners reject taxing themselves to pay for improvements. The Property Based Improvement District was pitched as a way to pay for programs to attract businesses, clean up the streets and beef up security in the wake of the elimination or redevelopment agencies.
February Clayton's annual Camellia Tea honors the pioneering families of the community, and takes on special meaning because of city founder Joel Clayton's 200th birthday. Due to an unexpected drop in property tax revenue, the Concord City Council OKs midyear budget adjustments. While neighboring cities see stagnant or increasing revenues, Concord's have dropped by 3 percent -- or 7 percent from what was budgeted. Residents complaining of pockets of darkness along Port Chicago Highway in Concord -- where thieves have stolen copper wiring from lights three times -- prompts the city to put up warning signs and increase volunteer patrols in the area. The Clayton City Council discusses options for fire protection in the wake of the Contra Costa Fire District's to reduce personnel at the city's only fire station. Southern California-based Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar taps Concord for its first location in the Bay Area. Concord deals with more copper thefts, as piping was stolen at the city's Camp Concord location at Lake Tahoe. City officials OK emergency repairs to damage estimated at $70,000-$80,000. Adults with developmental disabilities have an unconditional audience of canines as they practice their reading skills to dogs in the Pet Hug Pack program at Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation. The All Ears Reading program is offered through the Concord Library.
March Oakland Avenue neighbors across from the Concord BART station hold a groundbreaking to turn an unsightly vacant lot into productive and attractive fresh food garden. Olive Drive residents in Concord oppose a Seeno company housing plan that calls for two-story homes which they say are too big for the street of one-story residences. Additionally, residents are concerned that the spraying of chemicals could kill wildlife on the property. Students at El Monte Elementary School rock out when Radio Disney comes for a visit with its Science Rocks assembly. The pilot science program had students learning about magnetics, air pressure, kinetic energy and human motion energy through break dancing, games and other activities. Teams compete for the title in the annual Chili Cook-off at the Clayton Club Saloon. Taking the top spot were Naomi and Joe Orcutt of Bay Point. Violent crimes are down in Concord, but homelessness sparks renewed calls to control the number of homeless and crack down on the criminal element. Camps has sprung up along tails and waterways, and panhandlers have set up shop downtown. The Contra Costa Economic Partnership's East Bay Business/Education Leadership Summit focuses on aligning industry requirements with the educational skills to meet the needs of California's 21st century workforce. Residents and workers push the Concord City Council to extend its downtown smoking ban more city blocks and to include multiunit buildings. The Concord City Council unanimously votes to ban the outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana. While noting the medical benefits, they said the risks to public safety are too great. Residents gather at Todos Santos Plaza in downtown Concord for a march and vigil in the wake of the Supreme Court hearing involving marriage of same-sex couples.
April Valerie Barone is named the new city manager in Concord, after serving as the interim for more than a year, and following a national search. She replaced Dan Keen who went to Vallejo. The Mt. Diablo Unified School District selects Carissa Sugden, a fifth-grade teacher at El Monte Elementary School in Concord, and Shannon Prichard, a first-grade teacher at Monte Gardens, as its Teachers of the Year. A child care facility operator on San Simeon Drive receives a use permit to continue caring for up to 14 children. Neighbors had complained the home is too noisy and causes traffic and safety headaches. After years of planning, the Concord Historical Society gets the green light to relocate the Masonic Temple to the Galindo House property. Concord's Planning Commission OK'd the relocation plan just weeks before an agreement with the city was to expire. The building move must be made by May 25.
May A 10-year financial plan aimed at budget "stabilization" in Concord leaves council members concerned over unfunded obligations and labor costs. The annual Clayton Gardens Tour opens up backyards to view in the fundraiser for the Clayton Historical Society and Museum. The Concord City Council authorizes $10,000 from the Asset Forfeiture Account for a one-time purchase of anti-vehicle theft devices for the Police Department's Operation Wheel-Lock, and also for crime scene equipment. The Music and Market series in downtown Concord kicks off its 25th season with a tribute to native son Dave Brubeck. The Clayton City Council OKs adding five Thursday night performances to a slate of summer music shows at The Grove park downtown. In the early morning hours, crews move the 225-ton Masonic Temple building across Clayton Road to its new home adjacent to the historic Galindo House. The first heart-lung machine used at the Concord Community Hospital was dedicated in a ceremony by Bay Area cardiac surgery pioneer Dr. Nils Parson. Physicians and nurses reminisced about its historic role in the founding of John Muir Medical Center's Cardiovascular Institute. The Rotary Club of Concord-Diablo's new RotaCare mobile health care vehicle is unveiled. The club has the only mobile unit among 12 RotaCare Bay Area, Inc. free clinics.
June High school seniors on Concord and Clayton campuses, as well as home-schooled and independent study students, receive their diplomas in commencement ceremonies. Sewer rates are on the increase in Concord and Clayton. For the next two years, fees will increase from $324 to $363 in fiscal year 2013-2014, and jump to $402 in 2014-2015. The increases are needed for repair and maintenance on aging sewer lines and for wastewater treatment and disposal by the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District. The Clayton City Council OKs a continuing budget resolution to keep the city running at status quo until audited financial statements and a 2013-2014 budget are completed. A $121 million budget for 2013-2014 is approved by the Concord City Council, with some members also wanting to reduce or eliminate some fees. A proposed Regional Family Justice Center that would assist victims of violence gets support from the Concord City Council. The center would combine community and governmental resources to help victims, while reducing criminal recidivism by getting at the root of violent conflicts.
July Concord holds its Relay for Life event, which raises funds and awareness about prevention, detection and the latest treatment options in the fight against cancer. The Todos Santos Plaza and downtown no-smoking ban is expanded to include Pacheco Street in Concord. Some elderly tenants of Heritage Plaza Tower are unhappy because they are not allowed to smoke in the building and are not able to walk far from the site. Contra Costa County mayors test their culinary skills as they compete in the annual Mayors' Healthy Cook-off. Concord wins the contest, and in a first-time challenge, will take on the winner of the Alameda County cook-off. With interagency collaboration and grant funds, there are safety improvements in the Monument Corridor, including new sidewalks, bike lanes, signals, bus shelter and new stop signs.
August The Concord and Clayton libraries hold town hall meetings to gather input from residents about what they want the libraries to offer, and to find out what they are doing well, and not so well. Residents come watch -- and taste -- the results at the annual Rib Cook-off at the Clayton Club Saloon where teams fire up grills early in the morning, hoping to win the first-place cash prize and bragging rights. The Japanese American Club's Summer Festival in Concord attracts thousands of visitors throughout the region to sample the food, culture and tradition of Japan. Todos Santos Plaza in downtown Concord plays host to National Night Out, in which cities across the country participate in cooperative police and community crime prevention efforts. The Clayton City Council approves an $8.5 million budget for 2013-2014, and the bottom line is better than expected, despite the challenges of a lackluster economy, drop in property tax revenue and the demise of redevelopment agencies. The Great Labor Day Derby and Car Show is held in Clayton, with kids taking turns behind the wheel of their soapbox-style cars they race down Main Street.
September The Morgan Fire on Mount Diablo chars 3,100 acres before firefighters from agencies across the region bring it under control. There are evacuations and property damage, but no loss of human life in the blaze, which cost $5.3 million to contain. The city of Concord partners with Concord Disposal Service to crack down on recycling thefts across the city. The recyclables provide a profit -- a portion of which goes into city coffers -- and is a means for the company to keep collection costs down for its customers. Businesses in Concord participate in Freedom Day USA and provide free services, goods, discounts and other offers as a "thank you" to those men and women who are serving or who have served in the military. Clayton Reads, the communitywide reading event, celebrates "One City, One Book" with Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451." The event also marks the county library's 100th birthday and the 60th anniversary of the Bradbury classic. Horizons Choir at John Muir Medical Center in Concord brings sweet relief to palliative care patients and their families by serenading them in their hospital rooms. The Clayton City Council OKs an updated fee schedule for the coming fiscal year, discusses efforts to recoup about $850,000 claimed by the state, and approve an emergency shelter site to qualify for federal aid funds in the event of an emergency.
October A workshop is held for residents to comment on Concord's Downtown Specific Plan, a combination of proposed housing, office and commercial zoning over a 25-30-year timeline. Teens learn in-person skills and how to network at the Concord Library's "Get Your Dream!" party where they meet industry professionals. Clayton's Oktoberfest brings visitors from around the area to enjoy live music, a traditional biergarten and tapping of the keg, German food and beer, and arts and crafts at the 10th annual festival. Amendments are made to Concord's relatively new development code to clarify some provisions, such as not allowing duplexes in single-family residential district; two covered parking places are required for new homes; and drive-through facilities permitted in commercial mixed-use areas. The Clayton Theatre Company is launched with its first production, "The Robber Bridegroom." The Concord City Council OKs a change in the mayoral term from one year to two years, beginning with the selection in December. The vice mayor will continue to serve a one-year term. The annual Cooking with Kids competition is held at Concord High School, pitting teams of students from Silverwood Elementary in Concord against those from Walnut Acres in Walnut Creek, and Valhalla Elementary in Pleasant Hill, each working with a chef mentor. Small business owners in Concord are worried about how city code changes, particularly related to signs, will affect them. The Concord City Council has no choice but to change its building permit application to make its regulations consistent with a statewide mandate that requires applicants immediately upgrade plumbing fixtures to low-flow in some circumstances, and that all fixtures installed before 1994 be changed to low-flow by 2017.
November Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi reads to students at El Monte Elementary in Concord from her "Little Pig" books. The program is through her Always Dream Foundation and its Always Reading initiative. A town-hall meeting in Clayton addresses erosion concerns for residents in the aftermath of the Morgan Fire on Mount Diablo. They want to know about protecting their property in potential rain runoff and minimizing the chances of future fires. Work continues on the Masonic Temple after its move to the Galindo property. Workers begin replacing the roof tiles on the 86-year-old building that were removed and stored before the relocation. The Concord City Council bans aggressive panhandling -- mostly in the areas of Todos Santos Plaza, Willow Pass Safeway, and Park & Shop. The ordinance tries to carve out a zone of personal security. The Clayton City Council will determine how to use $182,671 that was found after an outside audit. It was known there would be an excess, just not exactly the amount. Members of the Mt. Diablo Astronomical Society bring telescopes to the Concord Library for stargazing.
December Concord and Clayton hold their tree lighting and holiday kickoff events. An anonymous donor with the East Bay Communuity Foundation pledges to match dollar for dollar -- up to $35,000 -- for the Michael Chavez Center and Monument Community Partnership's In Unity There is Strength fundraising campaign, which ends Dec. 31. Clayton holds its Christmas Home Tour, a fundraiser for the Clayton Historical Society and Museum. The Concord City Council OKs a Complete Streets Plan amendment and will be eligible for federal and state grants. The move prioritizes transit elements in the city's general plan. Matteo's Dream -- A Playground for Children of All Abilities, will be featured on the Lions Club International float in the 12th annual Tournament of Roses parade. And riding on the float will be 17-year old Concord resident Christian Campbell.