The Clayton year in review from city, schools and beyond

By Bev Britton on December 3, 2018

As the weeks marched into the months of 2018, Clayton continued to evolve – welcoming a new police chief and executive director for charter school district , while adding new ordinances for public smoking and parolee housing.


Preserving historic ranch: Save Mount Diablo purchased the 95-acre Anderson Ranch in Morgan Territory for $800,000, ending any possibility of development on the land. The county had tentatively approved a few projects there, but access and environmental issues have discouraged development. “It has a remarkable plateau with incredible views, a park-like appearance and great natural values, including a beautiful section of Marsh Creek,” said Meredith Hendricks, director of land programs for Save Mount Diablo.


Museum garden upgrade: The Clayton Historical Society broke ground Feb. 7 on a new demonstration garden. The Garden Committee revamped the 2,250 sq. ft. plot to the west of the Clayton Museum, bringing in more native plants, drought-tolerant options and ones that the Chupcan/Bay Miwok Indians would have used in daily life. Project designer/manager Stephen Lane calls it “an outdoor companion space” that will allow visitors to learn about local history during non-museum hours.

Hail to the chief: The city welcomed Elise Warren as the new chief of police at the Feb. 20 City Council meeting. She served in the Sheriff ’s Department for more than 28 years before coming to Clayton. “Warren has extensive public safety experience and contacts in the county that we expect will be valuable assets in her new role leading our Police Department,” said Mayor Keith Haydon.

Cutting through the smoke: After the American Lung Association gave Clayton a D rating, the city updated a 1993 smoking ordinance – passed before marijuana was legal and e-cigarettes event existed.

City staff recommended going further than state law and prohibit smoking and cannabis use in all indoor workplaces, public places and in apartments and condos where the units share a wall. The new rules also established a smoke-free zone around the Grove park downtown. As of late November, “No Smoking or Vaping” signs were on order to be installed on applicable street light poles in the Town Center.


Women of Distinction: Soroptimist International of Diablo Vista honored LaTonya Watts and Roxanne Pardi for their work with Clayton Theatre Company and Clayton resident Linda Cruz for her myriad volunteer contributions at a March 21 celebration. The theater troupe also picked up awards in January at the Shellies, where Watts was named best director award and Teresa Grosserode won best actress for Clayton’s production of “Moon Over Buffalo.” The Soroptimists lauded Cruz for efforts on behalf of the Clayton Valley Garden Club and the Clayton Historical Society, among other civic involvement. “Where there is a need, I keep trying to help,” she said.

Keeping schools on high alert: After the February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, the Mt. Diablo Unified School District instituted active shooter training to minimize damage in a crisis situation. In contrast to intruder drills conducted in the past, this training emphasizes strategies to reduce the chances of a school shooting in advance. Students are encouraged to say something if they see or hear anything that might be dangerous. “This tragedy highlights the critical importance of ensuring that our community stays vigilant in reporting concerns about suspicious or worrisome behaviors,” said Superintendent Nellie Meyer.


Honoring a fallen warrior: The Blue Star Moms dedicated a monument to Maj. James M. Ahearn at his high school, now Clayton Valley Charter. The 1981 CV graduate died in action in Iraq on July 5, 2007. His mother Connie and sister Kelly Kennedy attended the unveiling on April 25. It was the fifth of 12 monuments the group plans for local schools.

From the chief: In her column in the Pioneer, new Police Chief Elise Warren talked about the Police Department’s partnership with the community. She encouraged residents to thwart property thefts by keeping vehicles locked and help emergency response teams by registering at “Clayton is a beautiful, safe city, and our Police Department strives to keep it that way,” she wrote.


15 years and counting: The Clayton Pioneer marked 15 years as our community newspaper after launching on May 9, 2003. “The Pioneer has been called everything from the ‘glue’ of the community to a ‘dirty, Commie liberal rag.’ (That was an honor),” wrote editor Tamara Steiner. “We’ve celebrated births and mourned deaths. We’ve covered the sad and the glorious.”


A rosy projection: Clayton finance manager Kevin Mizuno reports that city finances are in tip-top shape. In his 2018-’19 budget presentation to the City Council on June 5, he projected plenty of revenue to keep the city afloat – without touching the reserves. “The city looks forward to a pretty successful year,” Mizuno said.

Project withdrawn: Fulcrum Development Group has decided not to pursue a senior assisted living/memory care facility in downtown Clayton. The project also included 5,000 sq. ft. of retail space. The June 7 decision came after Fulcrum held community meetings in April and May and further analyzed city staff’s critique of initial plans. “This project never went beyond the concept stage,” Mayor Keith Haydon noted in his Pioneer column. “A full application was not formally filed with the city, and the City Council never pre-approved the project or examined the proposal’s specific details.”


The race against flames: While the Clayton area wasn’t the site of any massive wildfires this season, danger was ever-lurking. On July 25, 275 acres and one home was damaged in the Marsh Creek/Morgan Territory area – prompting the evacuation of 200 homes. Just a month earlier, a fast-moving grassfire on Ygnacio Valley Road charred close to 300 acres and led to evacuations in the Crystal Ranch and Montecito subdivisions. Then, as unhealthy air due to the Camp Fire further north weighed heavily, fire erupted out on Morgan Territory Road in November. However, crews were able to contain it to about 20 acres.


The littlest library: Not surprisingly, young Andrew Drynkin got the idea for his Little Free Library from a book – in this case a Jigsaw Jones Mystery. Neighbors, family and local businesses pitched in to help construct the Buckeye Terrace book nook, which abides by the policy of “Take a Book, Return a Book.”

Changes at charter: Clayton Valley Charter High School began its seventh year with  executive director, Jim Scheible in charge. “I’m here to serve the students and community of Clayton Valley Charter,” said Scheible, adding that he just moved into a Clayton condo. Board chair Kristy Downs said the school board was impressed with his “passion for student success and the enthusiasm he will bring to lead our staff and school community.” The school’s first executive director, Dave Linzey, left his position under a cloud in May. A forensic audit by the County Board of Education raised issues that have been referred to the District Attorney for investigation. The case is still pending.


Addressing parolee housing: After much public debate, the City Council adopted an ordinance to locally regulate parolee housing. The city’s moratorium on parolee group homes was set to expire Oct. 3, so the council voted Sept. 4 to adopt permanent regulations. The new ordinance limits such homes to General Plan designated areas of multi-family low density, multi-family medium density and multi-family high density. Each proposal would be subject to a public conditional use permit hearing. In addition, the city prescribed a 1,000-foot distance from any “sensitive sites” as defined within the ordinance. Many residents had voiced concerns about “welcoming” parolees to town, but the council maintains the ordinance was necessary to address state mandates and that it will serve to dissuade such housing. “No one wants parolee housing in Clayton,” said Councilwoman Julie Pierce. “The disagreement is on how to keep them out.” No applications have been submitted to the city, but the controversy flowed over into November’s contentious City Council race.


Field of Dreams on track: After raising $170,000, the Mount Diablo Elementary School Field of Dreams committee celebrated with a groundbreaking on Oct. 2. Renovations should be complete for a spring opening. “Picture a beautiful expansive green field, two new shiny backstops, dugouts and infields, surrounded by a smoothly lined track with the landscape blooming in the spring,” said organizer Pat Middendorf. “We will finally have a field to make the community proud.”


A win for schools: The passage of Measure J in the Nov. 6 election means $150 million in repairs and improvements at schools in Mt. Diablo Unified, include Mt. Diablo Elementary, Pine Hollow Middle and Clayton Valley Charter High. “Providing a high-quality, 21st century education requires up-to-date science labs, classrooms and school facilities,” said Superintendent Nellie Meyer.

Personal memories of WWI: This Nov. 11 marked 100 years since the signing of the Armistice ending World War I. To commemorate the war on a personal level, the Clayton Museum featured the exhibit “Remembering the Great War: A Community Event.” “We are not trying to educate the public about the history of World War I,” said curator Renee Wing. “We are merely presenting small snapshots in time – personal, yet universal.”

The year wraps up with a contentious city council race which pitted long-term council member Dave Shuey and former planning commisssion CW Wolfe against newcomers, Jeff Wan and Brian Buddell with Wan and Wolfe claiming the two open seats.

Previous post:

Next post: