Vestry minutes for August 11, 2021 meeting

Present:  The Reverend Dr. Deborah White (Rector), Christina Reich (Sr. Warden), Liz Charlton (Jr. Warden), Amelia Brooks, Chandra Damele, Amy Eudy, Sally Hanson, David Kennedy, Jane Ramsey, Stephanie Zichichi

 Absent:  none

Guests:  Landis Graden, President and CEO, DCG Strategies; Kathleen Piraino, Executive Director, Episcopal Impact Fund; The Rev. Walter Ramsey, Jennifer Sabroe, Columba Salamony

M/S/C denotes motion made, seconded and carried. The names following M/S/C in parenthesis denote the persons who made the motion and seconded.

 Call to Order and Opening Prayer. The meeting was called to order at 6:30 p.m. and led in prayer by Rev. Deb.

Bible Study. The group discussed Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 2:1-10)

Upper Lot Discussion.

The church contracted with DCG Strategies in June of 2021 to conduct a best-use study of the church property to determine what we could or could not do with the upper lot and make a recommendation.

Landis Graden provided an update on the work of DCG Strategies to date and recommendations for moving forward.

DCG Strategies had indicated that if they saw something during the process they would come back early and report. Landis indicated that they are now 25% into the process. He explained that the first thing they do is to determine what the land use of the site is – the zoning and the general plan. If those don’t match up with the desired outcome then it draws the questions: What is the probability of shifting land use to match the outcome? What does that process look like? Is there a pathway there? How difficult or simple? What do we need to do?

Part One. From their findings, constrained by the density allowable at the site, it allows one lot per 40,000 square feet, which equates to approximately 5-7 units with the current zoning. He noted that this was a “back of the napkin” calculation based solely on the available area – a civil engineer, trained to lay out legal lots, could do a deeper analysis, ingress/egress, setbacks, etc.

With that, DCG has determined that 5-7 units will likely not be enough to attract investment for affordable housing. The question then became, can we change the land use to get to a higher density? That, in DCG’s opinion, is going to be a political discussion in a political process.

Part Two. There are two ways to go about this.

  1. The church can step back and say it wants to pursue more density. The church would do this on its own by engaging policymakers. But because of the low density and the uncertainty of how many legal lots the church can get – because we haven’t gone that far in the process – the church just takes it on as its own to pursue a higher density and then attract a partner. The risk is spending time and political capital to wind up with no one stepping forward to develop the project.     Landis suggested that instead DCG can attempt to attract a development partner and then allow that partner to go with the church into a political conversation about getting to a higher density.

Kathleen Piraino stated Episcopal Impact Fund and the diocese agree that they would go with DCG’s recommendation for the church to issue a Request for Proposal. Landis and his team could come up with a set of requests and qualifications. Landis further explained that the church would be under no obligation, would be able to vet the partner, the program, etc. before making a commitment. Kathleen also stated that the church could share its vision for what it wants to happen there, and that’s not an expensive process. If we agreed to work with a partner, they would lead the process with the city, determining what kind of general plan amendment or zoning change would be necessary to get to the housing density that is required to make it dispensable. So that’s not on the church. The church would want to be part of it, because you’re an important moral voice in this conversation. But it would be on the professionals to get into the nitty gritty with the city.

Landis indicated that they don’t recommend doing any more work until there is an alignment with allowable density and the future density that will be needed and the demand for that level of density at the level.  The only thing at this point is the church has to solve is the land use constraint.

Landis, Kathleen, and Reverend Deb responded to questions from the vestry. Reverend Deb indicated that the plan is not being scrapped because of lack of space; the problem is that the City of Martinez hasn’t changed its General Plan in 50 years, and because of that, density ratios are 50 years old. The Seeno development up the road from us, was able to negotiate an exception to the density ratio from the City of Martinez. It took them three years. We need to get our own exception, but it would be for a different reason – affordable housing. There was discussion of RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Allocation). Kathleen also noted that she wouldn’t view this as scrapping the plan, as Landis and his team have executed the plan by taking the first look at what’s possible.  They immediately identified the obstacle which makes it a not feasible project. So, this is work around the obstacle – to go out and market and have people in the best position to know what might be possible to bring a proposal back to the church.

It was clarified that the cost of working with DCG would not change. The contract will be reworked based on the new plan, but the cost will remain the same.

It was M/S/C (Amy Eudy/Liz Charlton) that DCG remain contracted with us for the process of upper lot development but move from the process of best use survey to solicitation of potential partners for said project.

Note: Before the meeting adjourned later in the evening, Reverend Deb mentioned that the RFP process would take approximately six weeks.

Consent Agenda. It was M/S/C (Christina Reich/Amy Eudy) to approve the consent agenda items: Agenda, Minutes of the July 14, 2021 meeting, Rector’s Report, Senior Warden’s Report, Junior Warden’s Report, Treasurer’s Report.

OLD BUSINESS

 Ministry Updates

 Outreach (Service).  Walter and Columba reported they are awaiting the results of a Doodle poll to determine a meeting time to assemble the teams for our Winter Nights co-host commitment September 27-30 at Friends Church in Walnut Creek. Tina noted that Winter Nights volunteers need to be vaccinated.

Worship and Liturgy. Sally reported that we are still doing in person worship and the Eucharist. Rev. Deb provided an update on the question of whether we will ask for proof of vaccination to attend worship. After consulting with the Regathering Committee and much discussion, Rev. Deb decided that we will not impose that requirement until the Diocese directs us to do so. At this time the Diocese strongly recommends it, but is not mandating it.  Sally also reported that attendance seems to be going up on Sunday; however, it may drop off due to the D variant. Rev. Deb noted that there would be no simulcast on August 15 because she and her family will be on vacation and the two people who are being trained to run the simulcast aren’t quite ready to go solo yet. Arthur is back-up, but he can only do it if the music has been prerecorded.  Arthur will be able to run the simulcast on August 29 when Rev Deb will be on vacation. September 12 will be return to Godly Play, parish BBQ, and movie. Liturgy will not be changing for the remainder of Pentecost, until All Saints Day. On All Saints Day, November 7, there will be a baptism.

Welcoming. Tina will schedule a virtual meeting soon. She needs someone to manage Coffee Hour schedule.

Education: Amelia reported that Godly Play is on hiatus, returning on September 12; Bible Study is hybrid; Grace Book Club is back to meeting in person. A meeting to brainstorm ideas for future Faithful Forums will be scheduled soon. Youth Group is down to one youth right now. Rev. Deb is having conversations with Rev. Steve Hassett (St. Stephens, Orinda) about a Contra Costa Youth Group, to provide robust opportunities for youth. All of the churches have been experiencing dwindling numbers of youth.  Rev. Deb indicated that plans are underway to start a Sacred Ground circle in September with other churches in the Contra Costa Deanery. Sacred Ground is the Episcopal Church curriculum for anti-racism. To learn more about it go to https://www.episcopalchurch.org/ and do a search for Sacred Ground.

Parish Life: There will be a “Back to Programming” event on the weekend of September 12 with a movie but no bounce house due to COVID.

 Pastoral Care: Rev. Deb reports that the prayer list continues to expand.  Eucharistic Visitors have returned to work.

Stewardship:  Rev. Deb noted that at September meeting we will begin planning this year’s stewardship drive.

NEW BUSINESS

Upward surge in coronavirus is of deep concern and we continue to keep an eye on it. In the most recent coronavirus update from the Diocese, they moved back to having the choirs be masked and greater distanced. That doesn’t affect us because our choir music is pre-recorded, with individual singers recorded at separately (at church but at separate times).  Rev. Deb noted that this has been a lot of work for Arthur, as it takes twice as long to do individual recordings than to have the choir together in a rehearsal.

Rev. Deb reported that there have been a couple of people interested in having wine at Eucharist again. There are ways to do this, but the Worship and Liturgy Committee feels it would be prohibitive and labor intensive for Altar Guild without more assistance.

DISMISSAL Rev. Walter dismissed the meeting at 8:40 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Jennifer Sabroe

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