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The Cost of Bad Public Policy

The Road to High-Density Housing

By Bill Walcutt, Former Clayton Mayor and Councilmember

As a former Clayton Councilmember and Mayor, I am appalled that our City Council majority, pro-growth, pro-high-density-housing Council members (Pierce Wolfe and Catalano) voted to approve a project that will completely destroy the historic rural ambiance of our historic downtown forever. The developer should be ashamed.  But of course, he isn’t.  He’s in a position to build even more high-density housing with the help of his friends and allies on the City Council and Planning Commission (Altwal, Cloven and Denslow)

I am really disappointed in Mayor Pierce, who along with me and many other former Councilmembers, Planning Commissioners and citizens spent hours in community meetings and public hearings developing the Town Center Specific Plan. A plan that was developed to protect our historic downtown and Clayton’s small-town rural character. Approving that high-density apartment development was a very sad day for Clayton

Tuija Catalano – San Francisco Land Use Attorney

I read with reproach comments made by Councilmember Tuija Catalano, also a full-time San Francisco Land Use Attorney. I wish she would have used her attorney land use skills and knowledge to develop findings (reasons) to deny the atrocious 3-building 3-story 81-unit apartment development next to downtown instead of finding excuses to not only approve it, but to fast track the project by eliminating normal steps in the development process (i.e. Environmental Impact Study and Story Poles). A development she said she had mixed feelings about.  Whatever that means.  And then to say if you do not like her decisions you can file a lawsuit.  Pretty arrogant.  That surely doesn’t sound like someone who’s supposed to be representing the people.

Even More High-Density Housing to Come

In addition, Catalano has warned us that even more high-density housing will be coming to Clayton, because the State is going to require cities to rezone underutilized land. Sounds like a done deal.  So, Catalano is telling us her job is to just rubber stamp and accommodate whatever the state pushes down.  Does she have any creative and proactive ideas to prevent Clayton from turning into another Concord or Antioch?  Apparently, that’s not her priority.  From her statements and from her voting record, her priority is to load up Clayton with high-density housing to achieve her ultimate goal of generating sustainable foot traffic in downtown to attract more businesses and, yes you guessed it, build even more high-density housing.  That’s certainly a plan, and it may well work, but that brings us back to the question:  Is that what most people of Clayton want?

What Do the People of Clayton Want?

Most people in Clayton want to maintain the small-town rural character that defines Clayton.  They don’t want it turning into yet another growth machine that we’ve seen all too often in small cities throughout the Bay Area.  That’s not why people moved here and continue to move here.  They want to get away from all of that.  Clayton is their oasis, and they want it to stay that way.  Only a small handful want to transform Clayton into something else, yet we see those same individuals over and over commenting on social media, making public comments with their out of town advocates at City Council meetings, and also sitting on the current City Council (Pierce, Wolfe and Catalano) and Planning Commission (Altwal, Cloven and Denslow)

Does Clayton Need More High-Density Housing?

High density development makes no sense in Clayton. It should be located near mass transportation hubs and job centers. Clayton has limited transportation and it does not have a job center. Every home we build puts 2 more cars on the road each day, which adds to more congestion and more carbon emissions – something Sacramento said they want to reduce. And with the risks associated with this ongoing pandemic and more and more people working from home, is it really wise or even necessary to be building more high-density housing?  You never hear that question being asked.  It’s still full speed ahead to build as much high-density housing as possible in order to deal with a so called “housing crisis”.  Hypocrisy!

Speaking of Hypocrisy – Cloven and Catalano

Peter Cloven, a current candidate running for city council, came up with a vague and alliterative campaign slogan, “Conserve Clayton’s Character”. It could have several meanings, but one of those meanings is NOT stopping or curtailing high-density housing in our historic downtown. I have a hard time understanding how his voting for three 3-story apartment buildings in our downtown conserves Clayton’s character. It’s certainly not my definition or what most of Clayton’s residents think Clayton’s character should be.

I really appreciate the fact that Cloven worked so hard fighting that horrible Silver Oaks project in his own neighborhood.   But I also find it appalling listening to him brag about how he used all his expertise in environmental inspection services to fight that misguided project in his backyard, giving a very detailed explanation of how he and his neighbors used their expertise to rip the environmental review document apart and how they ultimately defeated the project.  And then he pivots, suddenly becoming so clinical about how he had no other choice but to approve a horrible 3-story monstrosity in Historic Downtown right in Stranahan’s backyard. It’s like rubbing salt in the wound.   I wonder how he is going to feel when Sacramento changes the laws again (compliments of State Senator Scott Wiener) and the developer comes back with an even bigger/better 3-story apartment building in his backyard. Do you really want this guy representing you on the city council?

Why didn’t Cloven use all of his expertise to defeat the Olivia project?  He was the deciding vote, and could have voted against the CEQA exemption, which would have triggered a full review of all the impacts this massive project would have on Clayton’s character. Although this would have delayed the project for a year, it could have sparked other reasons for a denial.  It would have also given a little breathing room for the people of Clayton to assess and process the hundreds and hundreds of pages of Staff reports presented by so called out of town experts paid for by the developer.

So we have Peter Cloven bragging about defeating a 3-story high-density building in his backyard, and then turning around and voting for an inadequate environmental document that lead to the approval of 3-story high-density apartment buildings in Downtown and in Stranahan’s backyard. I would call that a hypocrite.  And then we have Tuija Catalano, a high-powered San Francisco Land Use Attorney, voting for 3-story high-density apartment buildings in historic downtown and then saying she wants to preserve the charm of Clayton, while supporting State Senator Scott Wiener, the poster child of high density housing, and then claiming her hands are tied regarding high-density housing in Clayton. I would also call that a hypocrite.

Here’s the bottom line: Cloven and Catalano are 2 hypocrites who have their own agendas and do not represent the best interests of most Clayton residents.  They should not be serving on the Clayton City Council.


Bill Walcutt (8/19/2020)

Comments (9)

This is so informative.
Thanks for your outlook and warning.

Thank you very much for sharing. You are the company you keep.
“Clayton No Catalano”

Very interesting and very informative, hope we get new leadership SOON

The people that move into that housing will be complaining constantly about the noise from the downtown businesses. The most recent bunch of apartments built in the middle of downtown became a problem. The police had to give them a letter threatening to fine them $500 every time they called to complain and told them to shut their windows if they don’t want to hear anything. Now you say you want to add more housing downtown. Not going to happen without a big fight!!

I’m very concerned about losing the unique small-town character that makes Clayton so idyllic. Rather than building concrete structures that obstruct views and create more traffic and pollution, Clayton should be cultivated as an environmentally rich preserve–a gateway to Mt. Diablo. If we went that route, perhaps Clayton would attract small businesses that foster that theme, as well. We need a City Council that develops Clayton in a sustainable way, or our town will be ruined.
-Diane C.

Outstanding commentary!

Thank you for the article Mr. Walcutt. There is a small group of us that are still fighting the Olivia Project in court, and would like support from others in Clayton. We could use help with some of the court and attorney fees. Thanks again!

Thanks for the in site Bill. This just locked in who I’m voting for.

Thank you…good info!

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