Scroll Top

Letter From City Manager Gary Napper

Here is a 6/3/2018 email from a concerned Clayton resident written to City Manager Gary Napper regarding this proposed downtown assisted living / memory care facility. Following her email is Gary Napper’s response:


For the many emails I’ve written to you, most regarding minor maintenance requests throughout our town, none are more important than this one. I’ve always appreciated your handling my input with respect and I hope you’ll do the same here.

There’s a good reason why Clayton is considered one of the best places to live in the US: small town feel, nicely planned improvements, well to do residents, low crime, plenty of social opportunities to promote a “community” feeling and high quality education are just a few of the features of our Clayton. Our town is well looked after by both its residents and Clayton employees, and these are just a few of the reasons why we chose to move to Clayton in 1999.

I understand the City’s desire for completing Old Town Clayton with the development of the property at the edge of Old Town. While the vacant lot must look like a financial opportunity just waiting to happen, it must be the RIGHT financial opportunity and the RIGHT development, to retain our high quality standard of living. I’m sure you and the City Council agree.

However, it would appear as though the manner in which the City is approaching the sale and development of this lot is far from appealing for those of us who live here. In fact, a recent poll found that 97% of residents are FIRMLY AGAINST the plan to develop the land into a three story memory care assisted living facility.

I am very familiar with such sites, having worked in the Medical field for thirty years. I appreciate the fact that this developement would provide the City of Clayton with revenue and the community members with jobs. However, and in my opinion, the “feel” of such a building is not at all consistent with the family oriented dining, entertainment, retail shopping and community event minded location. Not only would the look of such a building obstruct the view into downtown as people are traveling down Clayton Rd, it would be a poor environment for the residents of this development. Can you imagine the reaction of someone with severe mental health issues, witnessing “last call” at the Clayton Club? Or the very loud car motor noises that come when the older cars rally in downtown? Or even the carrying on when the Wine Festival in May, OctoberFest or any of the Summer Concert series are going on? These noisy celebrations can be very difficult for people with “memory” issues (which is a nice way of saying patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other mental health diagnoses.) These actions may also cause the facility residents to feel very lonely and isolated when they are unable to join the fun. I understand this all to well as my 91 year old Mom had this diagnosis and almost everything is a struggle for her to understand nearly everything.

After the failure of the retail spaces in the empty building where the Subway Sandwich Shop and Yoga Studio were located, the community is concerned. Residents were never going to support a “chain” store when we already supported Canessas (and they already support our kid’s athletic programs and schools). We made it a point to not shop at Subway, as it was not consistent with our quaint little town, and we didn’t want it to succeed. I don’t recall the City Council asking residents for our opinion before this space was developed, and it doesn’t feel like the City Council has learned their lesson.

After the failure of the Clayton Community Church sale and financial exchange with the City, it’s no wonder why many community members in Clayton have little confidence in the proposed uses for this location and the capability of the City Council Members.

So what would be a suitable use for this land? This is what the City Council and City Management Leadership are elected for and hired to do. Perhaps the next step is to engage a city planning consulting organization to assist us in determining the best and highest use of the property. As the City should be in no hurry to develop the land, let’s be sure we are using this land in a manner that improves the Old Town community, and draws in the type of consumers which is consistent with how Clayton wants to grow. In my opinion, one more poor development choice for that parcel and for Clayton would have severely negative affects for our town and – quite honestly – the careers of those who make this decision.

Thank you for considering my concerns.




Gary Napper’s response…

Hi Allison,

Thank you the email below describing your love for Clayton and your concerns for its future. I recognize the email’s mission is to “save Clayton” as well as “save yourself.” Having lived and worked here since October 2001 as its city manager, I am part of the reason Clayton has remained attractive and just the right place for so many long-term and recent residents. It is indeed amazing that now I and the current City Council are guilty of trying to destroy Clayton.

There are so many fundamental mistruths circulating on NextDoor and in citizens minds as to how local government functions, not only here but in most other cities across the nation with a Council – Manager form of government. The City Council are the policy and decision makers, not the manager. The manager does not vote; the manager carries out policy instructions and policy directions by the City Council, from directives given only at public meetings. The City Council has been following the land use sections of its approved Town Center Specific Plan to have new and rehabilitated development in the downtown be retail commercial on the ground floor; additional building floors are allowed, up to a height limit of 40 feet, and those may continue retail commercial uses but also allow business offices and/or residential uses.

In all cities and counties, the local government zones private properties for a general use, such as residential, commercial, industrial, public facilities, and other individual variations thereof (e.g. residential can be single-family or multi-density). Once those zoning classifications are determined, a local government has no control over what brand, chain or specific type of use goes into those properties. For example, and using your example of the Subway store, the Flora Square building (which was approved by the Planning Commission) had to fill it ground floor space with retail commercial. However, no city may control whether a Subway goes in, a Yogurt Shack, a Panda Express, a specific type of restaurant, etc. AND, neither do its residents. Citizens do not get to vote each and every time a storefront is built or becomes vacant on whether people wish to allow Subway to operate there. If the site is zoned “retail commercial” then the private property owner can choose whatever it wants to go into that space. Cities do not zone private properties for “Mountain Mike’s Pizza”, “Stone Cold Creamery”, “Safeway”, “Seeno Homes”, “Toll Brothers Homes”, etc.

After no retailers, chains or local Ma & Pop stores wished to develop the vacant 1.67 acres downtown since the City purchased the land in 2013, public meetings were held by the City Council in April 2015 and again in May 2015 to publicly discuss whether the Council wished to entertain land uses other than straight retail. At the conclusion of its public meetings, the City Council instructed its marketer to bring it other development ideas and proposals. With that directive, the marketer brought what the prevailing land use market would bear, which was residential and senior care facilities. In November 2017 at a public meeting, the City Council considered a proposal by Fulcrum to construct a 2-3 story senior assisted residential care/memory care facility with a retail component fronting on Main Street.

The developer has estimated its investment, should it ever be completed, will result in a $22 million assessed valuation. Pursuant to Prop 13, annual property taxes are assessed at 1% of the property value ($220,000). Of that, Clayton (as a “low property tax city) would receive 7% of that amount, which equals $15,400 per year. People tend to forget that public education agencies receive over 50% of the local property tax assessed valuation bill, followed by the next highest allocations to the County and to Contra Costa County Fire Protection District. Clearly, $15,400/year for City coffers is not the financial incentive people claim it to be.

As part of its action on November 2017, the City Council required Fulcrum to share its concept vision with the Clayton community through two Community Meetings that have just been held. Those meetings were not “City meetings”; the developer paid to rent the Library Room for its outreach and they conducted the meetings and determined the format. Both the City Council and the developer wanted to hear from our citizens about its concept before the developer engaged the land use process to invest $22 million in the Clayton Town Center. The outreach process and resultant feedback is what each party envisioned and wanted to gauge as part of the developer’s due diligence. Instead of being angry at the City and its officials, citizens should be realizing this process of its input is specifically what was called for!

No project as proposed has been approved, and no project as proposed has been filed seeking a formal land use application to commence the internal review and then public review of the proposal. Neither staff, the Planning Commission nor the City Council has approved the proposal to be constructed. In fact, were the possible developer to file a formal application today, it would take 10-12 months of internal staff review and critique before it would be set for public hearings starting at the Planning Commission level.

The members of the City Council and the City Planning Commission cannot weigh into the process at this point since under due process laws (and case law), doing so at the concept stage of any land use project including this one would be prejudicial to making the formal decision in a noticed public meeting. For example, should a member of Council express a viewpoint now they hate the project, should it come time to hear and decide on the project at the full City Council meeting, the developer would declare that Council Member already formed a bias against the project and is not impartial. Therefore under due process law, he/she must step down and not be able to hear or vote on the matter. Similarly, should a member of Council express at any moment before the possible project comes to them formally that he/she absolutely loves it, any member of the public in opposition, knowing of that preliminary statement or expression, could ask for that member to also be recused from hearing and deciding on the matter as their earlier statement is also prejudicial. Each member of the City Council and the Planning Commission, by being silent, are preserving their right and elected duty to vote on the project.

Such is the state of requirements imposed on elected and appointed City officials charged with ultimately rendering a vote on a possible project in public. Consequently, that is why you will not receive any commentary about the concept project in return from these City officials, and why everyone receives this explanation from me.

Fulcrum may yet abandon its initial quest and pull out by not filing a formal application. Even if Fulcrum files a formal application, the City Council is not bound to approve it and may ultimately deny the project. Should either path occur, I would imagine the City Council might order pulling the vacant land off the market and further sit on it while it seeks to engage a community process much as you have described to determine if ground floor retail in the Town Center is still relevant in today’s economy, and if not, what is the replacement vision.

Hopefully I have answered some of your questions and provided additional background as to how a city regulates local land use, at the higher level of zoning. If not, please share additional questions with me.

Thanks again for sharing your concerns and your warnings.

City Manager
6000 Heritage Trail
Clayton, CA 94517-1250