City Council rejects 60 home Seeno ‘Pointe’ development
Albert Seeno, Jr. makes rare appeal
By John Crowder
At the Tuesday, January 28 meeting of the Antioch City Council a proposal by Discovery Builders, owned by Alberto Seeno, III, to build 60 homes in the city was rejected on a 3-to-2 vote. The Pointe project, planned for an approximately 22-acre site near the corner of Somersville Road and James Donlon Boulevard, would have generated more than $2.55 million in city and regional road fees if approved according to a Seeno spokesman.
The fees assessed to the project included $27,500 per home Residential Development Allocation fee for a total of $1.65 million to the city, and $15,000 per home for a total of $900,000 for regional road improvements, specifically Highway 4, including the Bypass, as well as the Buchanan Bypass road, which will be an extension to James Donlon Blvd., connecting to Kirker Pass Road in Pittsburg.
The proposal to build the homes had generated controversy at the December 10th meeting of the Council, with residents of the Black Diamond Area and a representative of Save Mount Diablo speaking out against it, because it meant grading 125 feet of a hill and violating the city’s hillside ordinance. At that meeting, at which the council had put off a vote on the matter, then city manager Jim Jakel had urged the council to make a decision, even though it might be hard.
Discovery Builders was requested by Councilman Gary Agopian to bring back an alternative plan showing how many homes they could build while following the city’s hillside ordinance. In response, during his presentation to the council, the developer’s spokesman showed the design of how one home would look on the hillside and a plot map showing a few areas on the hill, for a total of about four acres that could be built on.
Following the presentation, about a dozen citizens, including neighbors of the project, and a representative of Save Mount Diablo again spoke out against the project during the public comments portion of the hearing. Only one speaker, former councilman Allen Payton, spoke in favor, reminding the council that the builder had moved forward based on direction given by the council six years ago, when they had allocated the 60 units, under the city’s Residential Development Allocation program. Payton also noted that to reverse course would send a negative message to businesses willing to invest in Antioch.
In the project proponent’s three-minute rebuttal, at the end of the public hearing, a rare and emotional appeal was made by Albert Seeno, Jr., the first time he had spoken on an issue at an Antioch City Council meeting, since 1979.
“I’ve been building homes in Antioch for 52 years, more than any other developer,” Seeno said. “I never had a project that didn’t have opposition. Not in my back yard. I’ve heard it for 52 years. It doesn’t work.”
“How much open space do we need?” he asked. “People have to live somewhere. There’s limited land in Antioch inside the Urban Limit Line that can be built on. This should be approved.”
Seeno later shared that the company had spent $100,000 on fees to pay for city staff time, after receiving the allocation of the 60 housing units, much more than the $30,000 spent to develop the plan.
Following the public hearing the council debated the proposal extensively, with all but Councilwoman Monica Wilson stating why they were voting for or against it.
Agopian said he hadn’t made up his mind until that moment. He had considered voting in favor even though he had driven by and seen the hill the development would have taken down.
“I saw the hill and said ‘That hill? Tear it down to build houses?,’” he stated. “This hill needs to not be built on.”
At one point the public hearing was reopened in order for Councilman Tiscareno to question Albert Seeno III about two meetings his company had held with neighbors, in an effort to address some of their concerns. He pointed out that he also met individually with neighbors living in the adjacent subdivision, also built by Seeno, and reminded them they had signed documents acknowledging the 60-lot project could be built.
Following Seeno’s comments, and further deliberation by the council, Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha made a motion to deny approval of the development, and was joined by council members Gary Agopian and Wilson in voting to do so. Mayor Wade Harper and council member Tony Tiscareno cast the two votes in favor of the project.
On a related note, during the discussion, city staff mentioned that the developer would complete the widening of Somersville Road, between James Donlon and the canal, and install a signal light at that intersection, by December.