Downtown development
key issue in City Council race

Candidates for websiteEnhancing city revenue through responsible downtown development is a top priority for the four candidates running for the Clayton City Council on Nov. 8.

Tuija Catalano and Allen Lampo join incumbents Jim Diaz and Julie Pierce in the race for three seats. Current Mayor Howard Geller has decided not to run again, citing the desire to travel and spend time with family.

Pierce serves on numerous local and regional committees, including the Contra Costa Transportation Authority and the Association of Bay Area Governments. She is a long-time member of the Clayton Business and Community Association (CBCA) and secretary of the Clayton Historical Society. Pierce co-chairs the annual July 4th parade and is an integral part of the Concerts in the Grove team.

Diaz joined the Clayton Police Department in 1979 and rose to be commander of the Reserve Division. He then took a governor’s appointment to lead an agency that oversees the California Private Security Industry. Diaz previously served on the Planning Commission and currently represents Clayton on the County Connection board. He is active in CBCA events as well as Clayton Cleans Up.

Catalano, a land use and real estate attorney, is a current planning commissioner. She participated in interview panels for the Community Development director and police chief. This year with the CBCA, she was volunteer coordinator for Art & Wine and chaired the Scholarship Committee.

Lampo, a part-time merchandiser at Home Depot, has been an assistant Boy Scout leader, helped the Clayton Valley Charter High School Music Boosters and served on the board of the Dana Ridge Homeowner’s Association. He also volunteers for Clayton Cleans Up and the Art & Wine Festival.

Attracting new businesses

All the candidates agree that increasing the city budget through a larger tax base is necessary.

Lampo says he has been in contact with the Contra Costa Association of Realtors. “I think this is a good place to start. I am sure they have some ideas,” he says. He suggested working with established small business owners and “enticing them to open a second location in our neighborhood.”

He says he is open to amending the Town Center Specific Plan. “I want to see impact studies and get more overall information,” Lampo notes.

Diaz believes the city needs to provide incentives that will promote business development. “This would include eliminating unnecessary regulatory ‘red-tape’ requirements,” he says.

He adds that amendments to the Town Center Specific Plan “need to be thoughtful and addressed carefully to assure their impacts are compatible with our design and community characteristics.”

Catalano advocates having a lively Town Center, with events and activities that bring in potential customers and visitors. “The Bocce Courts are a recent example of an excellent catalyst,” she says.

For her, the key Town Center question is whether and to what extent the city should deviate from the requirement that 100 percent of the ground floor area be used for retail sales.

Pierce says the city needs to be realistic about the kinds of development the community can support. “We will never have the kind of commercial ‘traffic’ that our larger neighbors have to support big development. Nor do most of our residents want that,” she notes.

She points to the Bocce Courts and Grove Park as prime examples of how to make the downtown a destination. “We need to encourage community-serving small businesses and mixed-use development that will encourage residents and visitors to stay and shop or dine,” Pierce says.

Agreement on city’s direction

The incumbents and challengers alike believe the City Council is heading in the right direction.

Catalano says she has “no significant disagreements” with council decisions, while Lampo thinks the council is doing a good job. “But I believe it is time for some fresh people and ideas,” he adds.

Pierce praises the current council for building on the work of previous boards. “Clayton’s amenities have continued to evolve while retaining our small town, family-oriented traditions,” she reports.

For his part, Diaz agrees with recent decisions made by the council. “It needs to continue focusing more energy on revenue generation and ensure new business development occurs in the downtown area,” he notes.