Forum Questions & Responses
Welcome to the City Hall Forum Question and Responses page. Here you will see questions asked by residents and visitors of the City of Oakley City officials and City Manager and the answers to them.
Q: What are Special Districts?
The Central Valley of California is one of the world’s greatest, both in production and in size. It’s 50-mile width is tucked between two notable mountain ranges, lengthwise the valley stretches 600 miles north and south, dotting the countryside with farms, towns and cities. As big as England and almost as long as Massachusetts, Vermont and New Jersey combined the Central Valley produces one third of all the table foods grown and ninety percent of all the fresh vegetables consumed in the U.S., thus becoming the bread basket of America. Altogether 269 different crops are grown throughout this fertile land. The value of a single year of agriculture production today is greater then all the gold mined in California.
What is truly startling about this bountiful harvest is the fact that much of the southern half of the valley receives less yearly rainfall than North Africa. Once designated a desert on early California maps, the vast acreage has been transformed into an oasis.
The miracle that caused this transformation of desert into abundant farmland was, and is, simply water. However, prior to 1887 water was not available to most of the farmers in Southern California.
When California was granted statehood in 1850, it adopted the law of “riparian rights”. The rule dictates that the owner of a stream bordering his land had full rights to the use of the water and those owners not contiguous to the stream had no rights at all. Landowners with such water rights could monopolize its use. One such landowner was Henry Miller. He owned over 1,000,000 acres of land and controlled the riparian rights to nearly 100 miles of the San Joaquin River as well as thousands of acres along the Fresno, Kern and King Rivers. In a legal battle, in 1861, with another land baron who hoped to validate an alternate system of defining water rights, “appropriative rights,” or the right to divert upstream flows, the California Supreme Court ruled in Lux v. Haggin that Miller had the right to the use of the Kern River undiminished in quality and quantity since he owned all the lands abutting that river.
The Central Valley farmers were outraged because they were denied access to needed water; water which they now had to buy from landholders like Henry Miller. They organized a legal challenge to this ruling in the California legislature. In a special session in 1887, lawmakers debated issues of appropriation, riparianism and passed the Wright Act legislation. This law provided for the creation of “special districts” for irrigation under local public control. A steady, dependable supply of water meant land could be devoted to orchard, vine, and row crops that flourished during the long, hot summer months. In ten years, the Central Valley was transformed into over 7,000 independent farms.
Since their inception in 1887, the number of special districts has grown to about 3,400, with 43 in Contra Costa County. They run the alphabet in the services provided, from Airport districts to Zoo districts, with operating costs running approximately $26 billion per year.
Special districts are a type of local government that delivers specific public services within defined boundaries. Under California Law a Special District can be formed to provide services to the public when there is a need that is not being provided by a City or County. When residents or landowners want new services or higher levels of existing services, they can form a district to pay for them. Fire districts, water districts, and pest abatement districts exist today because taxpayers were willing to pay for public services they wanted.
Special districts in California provide over 50 types of diverse services including, water, mosquito abatement, irrigation, fire, libraries, cemeteries, sanitation, lighting, parks and recreation, street maintenance, airports, harbors, police protection, trash collection, and many others. Some Special districts serve a single purpose, such as sewage treatment. Others address multiple areas of service, such as community service districts, which can offer up to 15 types of services.
Q: How much did City Hall cost and how was it paid for?
A: City Hall was completed in December of 2006 and is located at 3231 Main Street. The first phase of construction included two buildings, 7,500 sq. ft. each. The City occupied, furnished and purchased the east building in 2004 at a cost of $2.1 million. This amount was paid for by Public Facilities Impact Fees. These Fees are collected from new development and are restricted for use to build certain public buildings included in the required Fee Study. (These funds cannot be used for roads or for operational costs, like road maintenance or additional police officers).
In January 2007, the City purchased the west building of 7,500 sq. ft. for $1.75 million. In that same year, the City completed interior improvements to the building and this portion of the building now houses the City’s Police Department. A Council Chambers and administrative office area was also constructed and this joined the east and west buildings creating one large building for City Hall of approximately 25,000 sq. ft.. The City issued bonds to pay for this new construction (approximately $5.5 million) which will be repaid with Public Facilities Impact Fees.
Q: Why do residents west of Empire Avenue go to schools in the Antioch School District?
A: School districts are a form of a special-purpose district. Their boundaries are delineated to encompass certain geographical areas, which are not necessarily the same boundaries as the surrounding cities or towns. Districts are governed by a school board, members of which are elected by the vote of those that live within the district. The Oakley City Council has no jurisdiction over the school districts and residents should contact the respective school board with any questions or concerns.
The City of Oakley is served by three school districts: The Oakley Union Elementary School District (OUESD), serving students in grade K-8, and consisting of five elementary schools and two middle schools. The OUESD boundary area covers most of Oakley and a very small part of Knightsen. The Liberty Union High School District (LUHSD) has five high schools, one in Oakley. LUHSD’s boundaries includes most of Oakley, all of Brentwood, Knightsen, Bethel Island, Discovery Bay, and Byron. The Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) has 14 elementary schools, including the newly-opened Orchard Park in Oakley, four middle schools, one charter school and six high schools. The AUSD boundary area covers all of Antioch and a portion of Oakley. The AUSD Oakley area includes everything west of Empire Road, west on Main St (Highway 4) to Big Break Rd. and then north on Big Break Rd. to the River.
AUSD has had a long presence in western Oakley. In 1883 the Live Oak School District, predecessor to AUSD, was established to accommodate the population of what was known as the "sand country." Two years later, on a lot about a mile and a half from the village of Oakley (now the Live Oak Community Church at the corner of Live Oak and Highway 4), a former house was remodeled and transformed into one of East Contra Costa County’s first schools.
While various attempts have been made to change the boundaries of the school districts, these efforts have been unsuccessful because of the complicated and complex funding mechanisms for the districts. Much of the area west of Empire Ave. in Oakley is part of a Mello Roos District (a special financing entity) that helps fund the Antioch schools and it is financially impractical to separate this area out of the Mello Roos District.
For historical information regarding the efforts to change school boundaries you may want to view the Oakley Orphans website:
http://www.geocities.com/oakleyorphans/. (This site has not been updated since 2004).
Q: How do I report a non-emergency to the Police Department?
A: To report a non-emergency to the Police Department please call (925) 625-8060.
We look forward to hearing from you!