VALLEJO – Members of the Vallejo City Council said they were “excited” on Tuesday to approve a long-term lease with the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation to develop a vacant parcel on the city’s waterfront.
The Wintun Nation — owners and operators of the Cache Creek Casino Resort in the Capay Valley – plan to redevelop a parcel of land near the ferry terminal, turning 285 Mare Island Way into a destination for residents and tourists.
“I’m super excited about this project, it has been a very long time in the works,” said Councilmember Pippin Dew said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “I can’t wait for groundbreaking.”
The Wintun Nation previously said it will demolish a building on the site – a closed dental office – and construct a new two-story building that would include a high-end restaurant, cultural center, and also offer olive oil and wine tasting.
The lease approved on Tuesday runs for an initial 35-year period with four 5-year extension options. The Wintun Nation has agreed to assist the city in developing a Waterfront History Park directly south of the site.
Assistant City Manager Gillian Hayes said the city estimates that it will take about $10 million to develop the park – funding the city doesn’t currently have.
The city worked with artist Mario Chiodo more than five years ago in an effort to redevelop the area. That was never realized and under the new lease, the Wintun Nation will receive a rent credit as it invests up to $10 million in the park.
The property has been appraised at $114,000 per year, but the Wintun Nation will pay $71,000 while also paying for the park’s design and development costs. Under the lease terms, the city and Wintun Nation tribal council will approve the name of the park, with the name being translated into Patwin, the indigenous language of the Wintun Nation.
The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation acquired the rights to the property from the Adams Family Trust in August 2019. The city had leased the property to the trust since 1974.
Mayor Robert McConnell said he wanted to see Spanish added as a language on the signs. He expressed support for the project.
“I think it’s a fantastic project and I’m looking forward to moving it as rapidly as we possibly can,” McConnell said.
Councilmember Mina Loera-Diaz, who called the current waterfront area as “depressing,” said agreeing to the new lease with Wintun Nation would be coming full circle.
“The tribe is returning home, and I want to welcome them back home,” Loera-Diaz said. “It’s time for them to reclaim a little bit of what was theirs.”
Loera-Diaz called the city’s waterfront “one of our most valuable assets, adding that the Wintun Nation “is going to be investing a lot of money in our waterfront and it’s going to be bringing it back to life.”
“This is needed if we’re going to move the city forward,” she said. “We’ve had that waterfront looking the way it does for years.”
Council moves forward with ARPA funded projects
The city council was badly divided when it agreed to push forward with a plan to amend the city’s budget to outline how $12.8 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds will be spent.
Councilmember Mina Loera-Diaz wanted the council to halt the process to allow three incoming members of the council who were elected in November to weigh in on a staff proposal to fund six broad categories from economic development to youth services.
Her motion was defeated 3-4, with Vice Mayor Rozzana Verder-Aliga, and outgoing councilmembers Hakeem Brown, Pippin Dew and Katy Miessner opposed. The council will formally vote on the proposed spending plan next week.
“We have three new city council members that are going to be here in three weeks, so I feel like they should be able to give input and vote on something that is going to be handled during the time they’re here,” said Loera-Diaz.
Verder-Aliga said she agreed with Loera-Diaz’s point but wanted to see three proposed youth-related projects funded immediately.
“Our youth services program hasn’t been funded in the nine years I’ve been on council,” Verder-Aliga said. She went on to say that she hated the idea of piecemealing projects, “but the youth services, we made promises to them, it is one of the goals of this council.”
City staff recommended allocating $1.55 million for youth services, including spending $1 million to maintain property the city owns.
Assistant City Manager Gillian Hayes said the city is currently negotiating with the Vallejo City Unified School District to purchase two district properties, but “details are confidential because we’re still in negotiations,” she told the council.
“This money would be put toward upgrading those facilities for things like youth programming, public safety training, whatever it is the council and community so direct us,” Hayes said.
Additional youth programming includes $450,000 for an early learning center and $100,000 to provide vouchers to families with preschool-aged children to attend local preschools.
Miessner said she “totally gets the concern to have the new councilmembers have a say,” going on to say that the new councilmembers – Diosdado “JR” Matulac, Charles Palmares, and Peter Bregenzer – will have an opportunity to spend Measure P funds.
Measure P is a seven-eighths-cent sales tax increase passed by Vallejo voters last month and is expected to generate $18 million annually for the city’s general fund. City officials said the new funding will be used to address blight, illegal dumping, homelessness, roads, provide fire and police protection, and keep public spaces clean.
City staff also plan to spend $2.1 million of ARPA funds to repay the federal government following an administrative error by the city that led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to request the city return $2.6 million in grant funds to support the 75-unit Sacramento Street Apartments project.
Hayes told the council on Tuesday that the error occurred when the information was inputted “into the software system incorrectly. It was for a purchase, and sale, and construction and design all in one year, and that could have never been completed in one year.”
Mayor Robert McConnell said he had concerns with the city’s plan to use ARPA funding to address the hole caused by the repayment to HUD, arguing that it may not be a proper use of ARPA funding.
“I have extreme misgivings that we could ever withstand the challenge of an audit on such an allocation,” McConnell said.
ARPA funding can be used to support public health expenditures, address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, replace lost public sector revenue, provide premium pay for essential workers or invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, according to a staff report from the city.
Vallejo received $25.7 million in ARPA funding in two phases, with half the amount coming in September 2021 and the balance being allocated in June.
McConnell went on to say that he wants the city to re-open the Mare Island Preserve and to have a study done on sea-level rise and its impact on the city.
“Going forward, if we are actually going to have to deal with sea level rise of 10 feet or less, I think it behooves us to seriously look at whether we should put any money into any building at or below that location, it may be a fool’s errand,” he said.
The mayor also said he wants to see the city’s code enforcement expanded.
Other allocations include:
- $1.2 million to help the city’s parking fund which was hit hard by the pandemic.
- $500,000 to build out the city’s broadband infrastructure.
- $1.1 million to purchase a fire engine and brush truck that can respond to wildfires.
- $1.5 million for a retention program that “will be used as incentives and bonuses to essential workers who were vital to the City’s operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
- $1.5 million earmarked to move the city’s dispatcher division from the police headquarters at 111 Amador St. (a new location wasn’t provided).
- $924,000 for staff and software funding to “allow for the continuation of two ARPA-related positions and grant software.”
- $367,437 for delta variant coordination “to coordinate COVID-19 communications, compliance, monitoring and tracking for City employees.”
- $1.9 million in general economic response including $856,000 to make bathrooms at the marina compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act and fund a mural program.
- $500,000 for updates to the city’s Waterfront and Downtown specific plans
- $148,000 to support nonprofits such as Vallejo Community Access Television and Transformation Village.
- $125,000 for art walks and art grants.
- $100,000 for downtown lighting.
- $50,348 for software to be used by the city’s Economic Development division to conduct more thorough research on properties.
- $200,000 for gift cards allowing the city to provide monetary matches to stakeholders who spend money in the city.
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THE VALLEJO SUN NEWSLETTER
Investigative reporting, regular updates, events and more
- Vallejo City Council
- Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation
- Pippin Dew
- Mario Chiodo
- Robert McConnell
- Gillian Hayes
- Mina Loera-Diaz
- American Rescue Plan
- Rozzana Verder-Aliga
- Hakeem Brown
- Katy Miessner
- Diosdado “J.R.” Matulac
- Charles Palmares
- Peter Bregenzer
- Measure P
- Sacramento Street Project
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
John Glidden worked as a journalist covering the city of Vallejo for more than 10 years. He left journalism in 2023 and currently works in the office of Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown.
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