Assisted Living project meets with community opposition

By Tamara Steiner on June 4, 2018

The developers of a proposed assisted living and memory care facility for the city-owned 1.7 acre parcel on Main Street have hit the pause button on the 95-unit project, says Fulcrum Development president David Ford.

Fulcrum, which is in the pre-application stage of the project, and Cornerstone Living Centers, owners and operators of the facility, hosted a second information meeting on May 23 to solicit community input. They may have gotten more than they bargained for.

Many of the 40-50 community members attending the meeting appeared opposed to the Grand Oaks project, which they say is too big and will overwhelm the small downtown.

Efforts to find a retail business for the vacant parcel have been fruitless, says Ed Del Baccaro, the city’s real estate broker. He has spent three years trying to woo the likes of a Trader Joe’s or Starbuck’s, but he says there aren’t enough people in Clayton to support a retail business. Trader Joe’s had no interest – even if the city gave them the land for $1.

The Grand Oaks project includes 70,000 sq. ft. in two, three-story buildings for the living center and memory care and an additional 4,500-5,000 sq. ft. of subsidized retail space fronting Main Street.

Much of the commercial space downtown is currently vacant, and many wonder if subsidizing the rents for the “amenity-type” businesses Cornerstone proposes would have a negative impact on current business.

Ford visited most of the downtown businesses to explain the project and gauge support. “They are excited,” Ford told the Pioneer. “It (Grand Oaks) will bring more people downtown, staff and visitors. This can only be a good thing.”

There is no formal land use application in process, although there have been pre-application discussions with city staff. “The developer is still in its due diligence stage and deciding whether to continue with the investment,” city manager Gary Napper said in an email.

The City Council and Planning Commission have come under fire on social media for not being present at the meeting to answer questions. Napper said they are prohibited by the Political Reform Act of California from weighing in at the concept stage of a land use project.

“Should a member of council say now that they hate the project, when it comes time to hear and decide on the project, they could be declared biased by the developer and under law must step down,” Napper explained. “The council member would not be able to vote on the matter.”

Ford said he and Cornerstone are discussing whether to go ahead with a formal application in light of community reaction. Should they proceed, there will be public hearings at both the Planning Commission and City Council before any decision is made.

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