Council notes: Alhambra Avenue project funded; Sappal discusses amphitheater encampment

Martinez City Council has approved a resolution choosing portions of Alhambra Avenue for resurfacing using Senate Bill 1 Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Account (RMRA) money.

But the current COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting lower fuel prices may mean those funds may be lower than originally expected, City Manager Eric Figueroa told the panel Wednesday night.

He recommended the Council commit no more than $470,000 of that money for RMRA projects in Fiscal Year 2020-21. The total cost for a rubber cape seal of Alhambra Avenue from north of Blue Ridge Drive to Forest Way is expected to be $465,165.

While no action was taken Wednesday night, the Council agreed with staff recommendations to give relief to some tenants of places owned or leased by the city during the shelter in place orders imposed during the pandemic and asked for a resolution on which they could vote to affirm their thoughts.

Some  tenants have had to cut back operations or close entirely because of COVID-19 orders, Deputy City Manager Michel Chandler wrote in his report.

Those are Eagle Marine, which offers boat sales and services in Waterfront Park, OnStage Repertory Theater Company, a nonprofit organization that manages the Campbell Theater and produces shows; the Martinez Yacht Club and the Kiwanis Club, two other nonprofit organizations that use city properties

Eagle Marine pays rent of $4,550 a month; OnStage, $1,500 a month, the yacht club, $840 a month and Kiwanis, $882 a year, Chandler wrote. Another tenant, who pays the city for grazing rights for horses, has said no rent deferral would be needed, he wrote.

He has recommended that the city defer Eagle Marine’s rent from April through June, and roll the deferred rent into regular rent payments into nine installments from July 1 to April , 2021, at no interest.

He proposed OnStage’s rent be deferred for at least three months or until the shelter in place is lifted. If the lease is extended and if OnStage receives federal stimulus economic relief, the deferred rent would be due without interest Aug. 31. If the federal money isn’t received or if the lease is not extended, then the deferred rent would be waived.

Chandler has recommended deferring rent from the yacht club from April to June or until the first full month that the shelter in place is lifted. If the club receives federal relief, the waived rent would be paid back along with subsequent rent in nine payments from July to April 2020 at no interest. If the club obtains no federal money, then the deferred rent would be waived.

Rent for the Kiwanis Club would be waived until the organization is allowed to use the building again.

Action on these suggestions is expected to take place at the Council’s May 6 meeting, when the panel will see a resolution that memorializes these as amendments to the organizations’ contracts.

Among the staff reports to the Council, Martinez Police Chief Manjit Sappal said complaints about people gathering in excessive numbers in violation of the shelter in place order have declined.

However, his department is receiving more calls about those who are camping at Waterfront Park and the amphitheater.

That encampment has grown to house about 22, Councilmember Noralea Gipner said. She is monitoring those occupants, visiting with them daily and making sure they are complying with accepted behavior rules. “They’re happy to be safe,” she said.

She said those who fail to comply are ejected, and cited two examples of that happening. She and Mayor Rob Schroder will take a tour of the encampment in a few days.

During the shelter in place, Martinez Police Department is prohibited by Contra Costa County’s health department from uprooting those who set up tents or otherwise camp out on public property, Sappal said. That could spread the COVID-19 virus, he explained.

Once the order is lifted, the city will have discussions about the next steps to take, Schroder said.

Through Contra Costa County Martinez has obtained four portable toilets and three hand washing stations the homeless campers may use for the duration of the shelter in place order, Gipner said.

Sappal urged the public to have patience with the situation, especially since it involves the city’s more vulnerable population.

In a separate conversation, he said, “The issue with the Shelter in Place is taxing for everyone and we are getting a lot of complaints about people not following the rules.  We are also getting complaints about conditions at the waterfront and the amphitheater.”

He recognized that some people were upset by the look of the encampment. “Things are not normal at this time and we have to do our part to help stop the spread of COVID-19. This means that we are allowing people to shelter in place.”

Since California COVID-19 orders have closed dog parks,  those with pets must have them on leashes, Sappal added.

He said in general, crime has declined in Martinez sine the shelter in place order. However, his department is receiving more reports of domestic violence, and has received an offer from District Attorney Diana Becton for additional help in that area, he said.

The police chief said community members have been bringing food by the department, and that his staff and officers are thankful for those gifts. However, he asked that residents think of others who are undergoing hard times or are particularly vulnerable, and to consider donating food or meals to them.

The city has the lowest rate of COVID-19 infections in Contra Costa County, the Council learned, and in a separate comment, Councilmember Lara DeLaney said 61.5 percent of Martinez residents have completed the 2020 Census survey.

The Council is meeting electronically under the shelter in place order, and uses the Zoom application so the public can participate in meetings. Links to these meeting broadcasts are available on the city’s website, cityofmartinez.org, through the posted meeting agendas.

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