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Your City Council: Town Hall Meeting Called Over Sycamore North, Parcel C Development

Hercules City Manager Steve Duran will schedule the meeting, which will likely take place in May.

Apartments, restaurants, and retail – the future of Hercules development will be on the agenda for an upcoming town hall meeting.

The Hercules City Council Tuesday night directed City Manager Steve Duran to set a date for a town hall meeting for the public, city staff, council members, planning commissioners and the real estate brokers responsible for marketing Sycamore North and Parcel C.

The council clashed over whether to a meeting to discuss the two properties, both of which the city is in the midst of selling to developers. Ultimately, the council agreed to direct Duran, who had his own reservations over calling such a meeting, to make the public forum happen. The meeting will include a brief overview of the city’s general plan and a discussion about how the city marketed and chose buyers for Sycamore North and Parcel C, which will likely be developed with more residential units and less retail than residents anticipated.  

Citizens who showed up at Tuesday’s meeting— many who said they felt left out of the city’s recent real estate maneuvers — also urged the council to hold a town hall meeting, and soon.

“Perception is everything…and our perception of the council is not good when we get shut down and (told that our voice doesn’t matter),” said resident Selina Williams.

“We’re trying to repair the reputation of the city,” said newly appointed planning Commissioner Ken Morrison. “If we’re going to have turmoil over projects coming in…that could really shut down (commercial developers’) interest in coming to the city,” he said.

Duran said it might take several weeks to set up the meeting. It will be held on a weekday evening or Saturday morning.

The meeting:

8, CITY MANAGER REPORTS AND RESOLUTIONS

1. Receive And File Report Regarding Council Appointment Of Finance Director - "Can be amended only through a voter initiative. Only by a vote of the people can the power of the city manager be amended," City Attorney Patrick Tang said.

2. Receive Report and Consider Approval Of Specific Changes Requested By Council Members To A Strategic Plan For Hercules, First Drafted October 25, 2011 As Updated With Community, City Councils And Staff Input And Dated February 14, 2012. APPROVED WITH A 4-1 VOTE, WITH COUNCILWOMAN DEVERA VOTING "NO."

3. Receive Report And Conduct Discussion Regarding The Issue Of The City Of
Hercules Share Of Property Tax Collected Within The City Limits And Direct Staff
As To Next Steps Involved With Increasing The City’s Share Of Property Tax.

4. Receive Report And Conduct Discussion Regarding The Pros And Cons, Costs And Benefits Of Having A Town Hall Meeting Of A Study Session To Discuss City
Planning Issues And/Or Retail Strategies.

5. Receive Report And Consider Eliminating Or Suspending The City’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance And Direct Staff Accordingly.

6. Adopt A Resolution Approving A Financial Advisory Services Contract With
Bodington & Company In The Amount Not To Exceed $359,500 For A Minimum Of A Six Month Term Commencing April 25, 2012 To Assist Staff With The Sale Or Lease Of The Hercules Municipal Utility (HMU).--MOVED TO A LATER MEETING.

7:45 CONSENT CALENDAR

1. Adopt A Resolution Authorizing The Appropriation And Expenditures Of An Amount Not To Exceed $13,068 For The Purchase Of Recycling Bins (Trash, Plastic And Cans) For The Community Centers For Fiscal Year 2011-12. ADOPTED 5-0.

2. Adopt A Resolution Authorizing The City Manager To Execute An Agreement With TranSystems For An Amount Not To Exceed $22,934.00 To Conduct A City-Wide Speed Survey Establishing And Certifying Speeds For The Purpose Of Radar Enforcement. ADOPTED 5-0.

7:40, SPECIAL RESOLUTION

The council unanimously adopts a resolution to approve the drafts redevelopment obligation payment schedule.

7:20, PUBLIC COMMENT

Bill Kelly, Talks about open government and transparency. Asks the city to avoid the appearances of impropriety. There are a lot of people who are criticizing the openness of this city’s current government, he says. “We need to believe that you’re being honest and open with us…”

Sarah Creeley, Encourages residents to stop by 166 Midship during the citywide garage sale to buy items that will go to benefit the Hercules Public Library.

Alex Abetkov, "I'm here to speak in support of Measure O...please join together with the Hercules Police Officers Association...vote 'yes' on Measure O."

Sandy Macaulay, Manages library volunteers "April is national volunteer month...we have that time set aside in April to (celebrate) our volunteers...(these) folks are working for all of us." Thanks individuals and businesses who donated to the library.

Representative for Mountain Mike's Brett Murphy, Encourages residents to try out the recently-opened pizza place.

Jojo Soriano, "We need to create a space for businesses and retail...so let's keep that alive." Speaks about the newly-opened .

Resident Toni Leance, "This council is bending to the will of Steve Duran...He needs to be admonished...You are turning over the keys to the city to him..."

7:18, The HMU item will be pulled to be discussed at a later meeting.

7:16, Mayor Romero recognizes City Clerk Doreen Mathews "for the vital services she performs for exemplary" service to this community.

7:14, The moment of silence is for Mayor Dan Romero's father, Alonzo Romero, who passed away this month.

7:12 p.m., No reportable action from closed session.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

rebecca t. April 25, 2012 at 04:50 PM
I am confused of your entry. I thought that these folks wanted transparency (to which they alluded the past councils did not have) because the council is cramming down our throats apartment complexes and new residential units in lands currently zoned commercial. These folks, who I believe were talking for a lot of the silent majority want businesses that would provide sales tax revenue. All those apartments and new homes would give us an initial injection of funds to pay off bond debts but once built would drain our city services like our understaffed police force. Selling the lands to business developers would also generate an initial injection of funds (maybe not as high) and maintain a steady sales tax revenue. This is what I got from these folks. I have been to Lafayette recently and marvel at the vibrant commercial district at Mt Diablo Boulevard.
Wil Figueira April 25, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Rebecca t. You have totally missed my point. The point is that bickering will get you no where. As far as transparency the point has been made over and over. Beating the subject to death achieves nothing. The administration is well aware of the issue and did state that all transactions recorded and may be reviewed by the public. Also checks and balances do exist in the city manager mayoral type of government. It is to bad that civics is no longer taught in public schools or the citizens would be aware of what a city manager mayoral type of government is. There are times when checks and balances of government are circumvented and it is up to the electorate to solve the problem via the voting booth. We are seeing prime example of that at the federal level with the present administration by passing congress by appointment of Tzars who make and implement policy without approval of the Legislative branch of the government. It seems that we do have an electorate in this city who keep abreast of the issues and hold the administrations feet in the fire, I wish the same could be said as to the federal level.
Glenn Abraham April 25, 2012 at 06:01 PM
"The point is that bickering will get you no where. As far as transparency the point has been made over and over. Beating the subject to death achieves nothing." I thoroughly disagree. The city manager and some elements of the council are trying their damnedest to not hear us. Transparency will never be a non-issue, or an issue to be abandoned after fruitless insistence. We have to keep on insisting on transparency until they either hear us or are replaced by others, replaced by councilmembers and a city manager who want to listen. The essential basis of those civics classes is that the people, not the city manager and one or two councilmembers, determine policy; and that the role of the government is to implement the policy of the people, not to smother them in pre-arranged schemes.
Wil Figueira April 25, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Glenn: Point well taken. That is why I mentioned Tzars appointed by an administration with an agenda in mind and not the will of the people.
Glenn Abraham April 25, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Wil, we have at least one czar/tzar/tsar/csar on the council, and a definite Rasputin in City Hall. What we need now is not an abandonment of our demands for transparency, but rather abandonment of our support for the various Romanovs in our government.
Hector Rubio April 25, 2012 at 06:24 PM
After last night's meeting, it is absolutely clear that Romero has no idea what constitutes an open government and what it takes to have an open discussion with the public. Romero seems to believe that closed door negotiations, followed by a simple announcement of the decision made, and supporting statements from those that will benefit from the decision is all the information that the Council has to provide us citizens. I completely disagree! That is NOT a public discussion; that is NOT transparency; that is NOT open government.
Margie Liberty April 25, 2012 at 06:59 PM
As a pretty consistent spectator for what passes as city government in Hercules, I come to praise these brave people on the council who were willing to step forward and try their best to clean up years of malfeaseance by both elected and staff people. They seem to be doing a much better job of keeping the ship of state afloat than I thought possible, given the magnitude of the problem. This Hercules citizen is devoutly grateful that we have Dan Romero to lead the city. He is both willing and has the knowledge to do it but it must be difficult to be beat up on during and after every council meeting. And now he has the extra burden of losing his father during an already burdensome time. My good wishes are with a coucil that is trying its best to make lemonade out of the lemons they inherited.
Glenn Abraham April 25, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Margie, you're quite right about the council inheriting lemons. It's not at all clear, though, that what they're trying to make of it is lemonade. What they've served up so far is making us choke on blandness and mediocrity. There's no sugar in the Council Lemonade. No lemons, either.
Phil Simmons April 25, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Margie, The infighting between the council and the public is not necessary. It is a tragedy. It should be obvious though that the public has not changed their course on issues such as development or transparent government. The public has stuck with their hopes and expectations. So, what do you suppose has changed that has led to the fight? It certainly is not the views and wishes of the public.
Margie Liberty April 25, 2012 at 08:11 PM
In my opinion, about all they can do is try to keep the deck chairs above water. So far, they've managed to do that. I hope it continues.
Glenn Abraham April 25, 2012 at 08:29 PM
All they SHOULD do is to try to preserve the spectacular beauty of the surroundings. The current strategy has less to do with keeping deck chairs above water than with covering the beauty with asphalt and apartment complexes. Their projects will bury everything that's worthwhile about Hercules.
Toni Leance April 25, 2012 at 08:44 PM
No one who can't take the criticism that comes from public office should serve in government. I would think that you have, on a regular basis criticized the president Margie. We have a right to criticize our public officials.
Glenn Abraham April 25, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Some more than others. We also have a right to criticize our City Hall employees. One more than others.
Phil Simmons April 25, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Margie, Not good enough. How did that work out for the Titanic?
Dn April 26, 2012 at 01:13 AM
A sorry attempt at poetry to the madness of Hercules... apologies in advance... 'Climbing out of a hell hole is no ones bowl of fun, sooooo bad, the criminals who put us there are still on the run, Everyone is trying, Hercules is under the gun, Many bitch, all I ask is to realize the things that have been done. Bankruptcy averted, Fort Tivac sold, Council and staff looking pretty, but I know they don't feel like gold. They are ordinary people like you and I, but when I see them on TV, they look beat down and old. Council and staff, you are doing your best during these trying times, but please understand there is sensible input from other minds, Making decisions behind closed doors is something unseen, except to Marilyn Chambers, who will say the door was 'green'. Council and staff, keep it open and keep it clear, and one day you'll see Hercules a beautiful sight to cheer.... apologies... Taint
Phil Simmons April 26, 2012 at 01:39 AM
'Green'
jasbir Randhawa April 26, 2012 at 03:39 AM
I am looking for a new bussiness oppertuionty in our city. Please let me know if city has planing to bring bussings like gas station or any king of other bussiness.
Sarah Creeley April 26, 2012 at 05:03 AM
I agree with you Glenn. Our city leaders must work to protect this community. Phil is right that the Council and Public should not be against each other. We must work together to preserve the natural beauty that exists here. To me, it makes no sense to continue with the high density housing. Retail is what our community wants and needs. It is the physical beauty that exists here that can act as an appealing magnet for visitors and residents, as they enjoy our local businesses. Let's not lose our vision of what is possible. I would also like to see a Performing and Visual Arts Center with classes and an art gallery. For true progress to occur, vision is required. I am very grateful to those persons, including Selena and Toni, and including the Council, who are working so hard. We can work together.
Sarah Creeley April 26, 2012 at 05:08 AM
@Taint Wright, I like your poem.
Phil Simmons April 26, 2012 at 05:38 AM
Sarah, Wow, you are exactly right, a Performing and Visual Arts Center. Keep that vision. In time the path to make that "reality based" will be upon us. With a bit of effort we can get there sooner than later.
Glenn Abraham April 26, 2012 at 07:05 AM
Sarah, this is one of the many things on which we agree; on this one, though, maybe more than on others. Our council must work to preserve and enhance our glorious natural environment, and not to cover it and smother it with generic big-box retail and apartment complexes and an endless Safeway surface parking lot, all of which will make us like every other Bay town which squandered its gifts and became generic and ugly and irrelevant. Our council should work to preserve our environment to the benefit of our people...those are our treasures, setting and people...and to hell with what Ambac or Steve Duran consider important. This land is our land...not Duran's, to sacrifice to the creditors. We can rebuild credit, and take as much time as we need to do so. We will never, once that Safeway is built, rebuild what it destroyed.
Giorgio C. April 26, 2012 at 11:35 AM
RIP Marilyn C.
Susan Tarvin April 26, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Thanks Taint - Humor welcome!
Giorgio C. April 26, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Dear Mayor Romero (Dan), Can you please provide a response to the comments being made here regarding transparency and closed-door sessions. Your April 4th letter to the Patch did not cover this particular item. I know you have your reasons, so I am requesting that you please state them here, so we can clearly see both sides of the argument. Thank you. Respectfully, Giorgio Cosentino
Sarah Creeley April 26, 2012 at 02:26 PM
I remember when the Hercules Library building was being designed there were multiple planning meetings about what people in the community wanted, and didn't want. It was an ongoing, open, public inclusive process. The architects even went to the schools to talk with local teachers. Although I only went to 2 meetings, I was impressed with the way they were conducted. It was like the community was at the table. We must be at the table for decisions about future developments in Hercules. There is a general plan, zoning issues, etc. It is wrong to make important decisions behind closed doors, without community input. I beleive we need a series of Town Hall meetings, with the goal to gain consensus in decisions about our community.
Sarah Creeley April 26, 2012 at 02:32 PM
At this City Council meeting Sandy spoke during public comment about our library and the Hercules Community Library Foundation's new website. I encourage folks to check it out at www.HerculesLibraryFoundation.com
Susan D.Keeffe April 26, 2012 at 07:30 PM
While I was initially happy the Council decided to go ahead with a Town Hall meeting, despite staff opposition, as they talked I became increasingly dismayed. What they talked about was a City Council presentation meeting open to the public in which they use our tax dollars to pay for the developers whose projects they support to come and tell us, again, why their developments are good. That is not, in my opinion, a Town Hall Meeting. It is a non-Town Hall Meeting. What I was hoping for was an opportunity for an open dialogue between the citizens of Hercules and the council with the Agenda being agreed upon at the beginning of the meeting, not pre-planned, pre-staged. We have had plenty of "talking heads", now, can't we just talk to each other and learn from each other?
Susan D.Keeffe April 26, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Dan, I am so sorry about your loss. I know this is a difficult time for you and for family. My heartfelt condolences.
Douglas Bright April 26, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Do you want the character of your city to shape the new development, or do you want the new development to shape the character of the city? - Here is a pretty good article: http://urbanland.uli.org/Articles/2012/April/McMahonDistinctive
Phil Simmons April 26, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Douglas, Good article. Our council and our city staff need to read it.

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