Close this search box.

Our City

Historic Downtown Site Project

Community Dialogue on the Downtown Site

The City of Clayton (City or Clayton) would like to understand what types of uses the community prefers for the vacant site in Clayton’s historic Town Center. Join the community dialogue to weigh in on the future of this important downtown site. We appreciate your contributions! 

This page provides a site overview and key information about the development context in Clayton. Over the years, several ideas have been proposed and analyzed. Many of these discussions are summarized here going back several decades. Links to public documents are provided for those that want a deeper review.

Site Overview

The site is an L-shaped 1.67-acre lot bordered by Main Street with historic downtown Clayton to the south, Oak Street to the west, and Clayton Road to the north. Administrative offices for the Clayton Community Church are located at the southeast corner of the site, and Clayton KinderCare and the Clayton Historical Society lie to the east. A path below Clayton Road connects the west side of the property with City Hall, Library, Cardinet Trail, and Clayton .


Development Context

Development is strongly influenced by a variety of market factors, government regulations, and planning processes. These topics are summarized below.
Non-Governmental and Governmental Constraints

  • Non-Governmental Constraints – The availability and cost of housing and commercial spaces is influenced by market factors over which local government has little or no control, as well as environmental conditions such as contaminated sites requiring remediation.
    • Market Constrains – Market-driven constraints and economic factors that drive private development include land costs, construction costs, and the availability of financing. According to the UC Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation, materials and labor represented 63 percent of the total cost of producing a new residential building in California (2008-2018). Soft costs such as legal fees, insurance, professional fees, and development fees represent 19 percent of the total development cost, followed by land costs and conversion costs at 18 percent. The average development cost per housing unit in California is $480,000, a 17 percent increase since 2008. The increases are driven largely by construction costs, which already account for the largest share of development costs.
    • Environmental Constraints – Former and existing uses can pose environmental hazards that require significant investment in site remediation and/or incorporation of costly mitigation. Other environmental safety hazards can include earthquake faults, liquefaction hazards, and dam inundation. Environmental protections can also constrain development in protected areas.
  • Governmental Constraints – Although local governments have little influence on such market factors as interest rates and availability of funding for development, their policies and regulations can affect the amount of development that occurs and the affordability of housing.
    • Building Codes and Enforcement – Building codes and enforcement requiring the implementation of construction standards can increase the cost of development. Clayton collects development fees to help cover the costs of permit processing and environmental review. Code Enforcement receives and follows up on complaints from citizens about matters ranging from poorly maintained properties, including foreclosed properties, to boats, recreational vehicles, and trailers illegally parked on private properties.
    • Zoning Ordinance – The Zoning Ordinance establishes the types of permitted uses and development standards for each zoning district. While development standards aim to protect the safety and welfare of the City’s residents and preserve community character, they also constrain the types of development permitted throughout Clayton.
    • Parking Requirements – New development is required to provide parking. Single-family projects are required to provide 4 parking spaces per unit, two of which must be fully enclosed. Commercial developments are required to provide one parking space per 50 to 500 square feet depending on its use classification. These parking requirements impact the minimum size of developments, thereby impacting development costs. To encourage the development of retail, restaurant, office, and personal service uses in the Town Center, a waiver period was established through June 30, 2022, to reduce parking and loading space requirements for commercial projects meeting all of the criteria listed in subsections 1-4 in accordance with Schedule 17.37.030.D of the Municipal Code.
    • Parks – City Plans encourage a mix of land uses with jobs, housing, retail, schools, parks, and services in proximity to housing. The Growth Management Element adopted in 1992 sets standards for parks. The 5th Cycle Housing Element covering the period of 2015 to 2023 found that these park standards do not constrain housing development in Clayton beyond the level imposed by state environmental regulation. The City and applicable districts collect development impact fees for the provision of services, including parks.
    • Inclusionary Housing Ordinance – Clayton’s 5th Cycle Housing Element covering the period of 2015 to 2023 identified an Implementation Measure to require residential projects of ten or more units to develop an Affordable Housing Plan requiring ten percent of those units as affordable to very low- and low-income households. In order to fully implement the City’s Housing Element, Clayton adopted an Inclusionary Housing Ordinance in July 2016 detailing the process and the standards for the City and developers to follow. The Inclusionary Housing Ordinance requires at least ten percent of the units as affordable and to either provide the units onsite, offsite, or to pay an in-lieu fee. The Inclusionary Housing Ordinance is only applicable to home ownership units and does not apply to rental units.
  • COVID-19 – The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted development in a variety of ways, from rising housing prices to goods and materials shortages. Uncertainty around COVID-19 is widespread and the long-term impacts on market factors and the economy are unknown.

Planning Processes

  • General Plan (Amended in 2016) – The General Plan establishes the framework for decision-making regarding land use, housing, transportation, infrastructure, resource conservation, parks and recreation, public safety, and equity. This framework includes a vision for Clayton supported by goals, policies, and implementation strategies. The General Plan identifies a vision for the future and provides the foundation for all development decisions. The current General Plan was adopted in 2000 and amended in 2016. The General Plan addresses many topic areas such as where housing can be built, where new commercial businesses are needed, how the road network can better accommodate cyclists and pedestrians, how parks can be improved, and how public safety is addressed in our daily activities.
  • Housing Element Update 2023 – 2031 (Ongoing) – The Housing Element (a required element of the City’s General Plan) is a set of goals and policies adopted by jurisdictions that guide long-term decision-making around housing. All California cities and counties must update their Housing Element every eight years and have it certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). The City is currently updating its Housing Element to cover the period of 2023 to 2031 in accordance with state law.
  • Town Center Specific Plan (1990) – The Town Center Specific Plan establishes goals and policies for development in the Town Center area. The purpose of the Town Center Specific Plan was to encourage appropriate commercial development while enhancing the area’s historic character. The Town Center Specific Plan identifies appropriate land uses in the Town Center and provides design guidelines for new buildings, walkways, parking lots, and landscaping.
  • Town Center Parking Study (2006) – The Town Center Parking Study examines the overall parking conditions in the commercial area of the Clayton Town Center. The purpose of the study was to examine options to stimulating and increasing commercial development in the Town Center Study Area by modifying the required off-street parking standards for commercial uses.

Timeline of Progress-to-Date

The development and enhancement of Clayton’s historic Town Center has been a subject of study and discussion for more than two decades. Below is a timeline of key benchmarks and a summary of what has been learned and what has been recommended for this downtown site. Click each benchmark to see more detailed information and links to historic source documents.

We encourage you to study this information and review the historic materials to help you make informed suggestions for the best possible use of the downtown site.

1998-99· The Task Force met for 18 months to design a process for bringing enhanced economic vitality
· “Built on City Visions” meeting held on May 29, 1998
· Keyser Marston Town Center Development Report published in 1998
· Recognition of the new Town Center development The Task Force recommended the development of a market strategy to attract businesses, add parking, develop less restrictive parking requirements, enhance services, acquire the Grove Property to use as a park, and create a business hub focused on specialty and destination retail
For more information:
· Economic Development Task Force Report (incorporates minutes of Visions Meeting, Keyser Marston Report)
1999City purchases Grove Property
2000· The Cortese Investment Company presented a proposal for a central village “green” and office/retail space at the Grove Property (never moved forward)
· City submitted three measures to voters:
·· Measure “O” (failed) would have required public vote for development projects
·· Measure “P” (excise tax failed) would have created a utility users tax to generate revenue for constructing and maintaining parks
·· Measure “Q” (passed) established funding for the development of Grove Park
For more information:
· Grove Property Development Proposal
2001· City conducts statistically valid survey of Clayton residents/voters
· Majority of participating residents indicated their support for:
·· Development of park on at least half the property, with gazebo, public restrooms, water feature, pathways, picnic tables, playground and trees
·· Remainder devoted to commercial / buildings that will help pay for park development and maintenance
·· Buildings to be consistent with Clayton’s small-town look and feel
For more information:
· Survey of Clayton
2005-2008· 2005 Measure “M” (failed) – would have established a Landscape Maintenance District
· 2006 – Measure “O“ (passed) – Established the Grove Community Facility District (CFD)
· 2007 – Measure “B“ (passed) – Approved the Landscape Maintenance District Assessment
For more information:
· Argument in Support of Special Measure
· Special Measure for Community Facilities District
2008-2012· City recommendations for commercial properties downtown: destination retail, neighbor-serving shopping and services, independent destination restaurants and jazz/blues entertainment venue
· Leasing space with Downtown long-term goals in mind
· Researched major restaurant retailers with expansion plans
· Conducted meetings and interviews with Clayton developers and building owners, restaurateurs, “traditional” retailers, property owners, commercial real estate brokers, ex-City officials, residents, and visitors
·· Community input: positivity about direction of downtown, anticipating increased activity; interest in mixed-use development; more variety of options needed; recommendation for retail anchor needed in place of church property; positive responses re. new downtown park, activities, dining and entertainment
For more information:
· Economic Development Systems Downtown Retail Report
· EDS Meetings and Interviews Summary
· Major Retailers Report
2014-2018· Limited interest from major retail/residential developers due to small project site and a lack of interest in developing additional outlets in Northern California
· Some interest from smaller retailers / developers
For more information:
· Clayton Marketing Materials*
· Transwestern Marketing Progress Report
· Activity Report Towne Center Clayton
*”Clayton Marketing Materials” is a compilation of Transwestern marketing materials, including an example seed letter to developers and flyers for Towne Centre

What Has Been Learned and Recommended

  • Most Clayton residents approved the development of the Grove
  • Recommended businesses in downtown include destination retail, neighbor-serving shopping and services, independent destination restaurants and entertainment venues
  • Other recommendations for downtown include: a greater variety in shopping/entertainment options; current church property should be converted into a retail anchor to support the northeast side of downtown
  • There is limited interest in Downtown Clayton from major retail, restaurant, and residential developers due to the small project site and a lack of interest in developing additional outlets in Northern California. Smaller retailers and developers have displayed some interest.
  • Clayton stakeholders have responded positively to the direction of downtown, including the proposed park, activities, dining and entertainment, and have expressed support for mixed use development

Community Engagement Opportunities in 2021

Fall 2021Online Survey – Between November 5 and December 10, 2021, the online Housing and Downtown Site Survey invited participants to share their perspectives on the Housing needs and challenges in the Clayton Community.  The survey is closed, and no further results will be included in the survey summary, but you can still explore the survey questions.  You can also view a presentation slide deck of the survey results or read a summary memorandum of the survey results.

Community Ideas – Submit Your Photos!

Show us your best ideas for the site!
What is your vision for the Downtown Property site? Share your ideas by submitting to the Community Development Department the photos or drawings of examples – local, regional, or even international – that you see as possibilities for the site. What would you like to see? Where  is your example from? Why does your example work? What makes it a great choice for Clayton?

All ideas will be reviewed for feasibility, design, and community acceptance.

Ideas that rise to the top will be considered and refined through subsequent community discussions.

Skip to content