Op-Ed: Antioch residents invited to speak up about development at two community forums
Information to clear up confusion on details of Sand Creek Focus Area Specific Plan Update
By Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe
I understand that as a city government, we have horrible track record of not meaningfully engaging residents in determining our future. This has fueled a lot of uncertainty and misunderstanding in recent weeks about potential housing developments, particularly in the area south of Lone Tree Drive. Many residents have asked me, “Why is the Antioch City Council approving a 4,000 unit housing development within the Sand Creek area?!” The short answer—we’re not. However, a proper answer requires more explanation.
First, I want to reiterate what I said during my campaign. I’m still a huge proponent of fair and equitable smart-growth policies, preserving open-space and land-locking Antioch to place pressure on developers to reinvest in the city’s older communities. We’re already seeing this happen. Right now, the city is reviewing two mixed-use development projects near BART, Highway 4 and Delta Fair Blvd – an area that desperately needs reinvestment.
That being said, the last major portion of developable land in Antioch is what we in City Hall call the Sand Creek Focus Area (SCFA). According to our general plan (the city’s blueprint for development, mandated by state law), the SCFA is a large-scale planned community that balances housing and employment opportunities. Below is an image of the SCFA, which extends from the Brentwood border to East Bay Regional Parks. This is about the distance between Lowe’s and the Contra Loma Regional Park entrance.
Right now, there’s a lot of talk about what will happen in the SCFA, but the area itself has been a focus of the city for decades. In 2003, the city council then determined that up to 4,000 housing units would be allowed within the SCFA. They also determined that 280 acres of the SCFA would be dedicated for job generating uses, such as business parks, mixed-use medical facilities, and commercial space. The construction of Kaiser Hospital and Dozier Libbey Medical High fulfilled a portion of this goal. For those of us concerned with over-development, the 4,000 number was actually an improvement. Before 2003, the city envisioned 8,000 new housing units for the area.
Of those 4,000 new housing units, the previous city council, (under former mayor Wade Harper), already approved about 1,200 units for two developments east (going towards Brentwood) of Deer Valley Road: Vineyards at Sand Creek, is a 641-unit, upscale, gated community that will be serviced by Brentwood Union School District; and Aviano Farms, a single-family market rate community of 533 residential units to be served by Antioch Unified School District. Aviano Farms was initially approved in 2005 (yes, 12 years ago) as an adult community, but the previous city council re-designated the project. For the record, I didn’t like this change. We need senior housing in Antioch to balance our youth population—plus senior housing has less impact on traffic, schools and police services.
Together, these projects constitute 1,174 new residential housing units, or roughly 30 percent of the 4,000 allowable housing units in the SCFA. Keep in mind, both these communities will be either adjacent or very close to the Brentwood border. It is estimated that 75 percent of sales taxes paid by future Vineyards residents will go to the City of Brentwood because of its proximity to Sand Creek Road, which includes popular attractions like the Streets of Brentwood.
That means there’s only about 2,800 allowable units left in the SCFA, not 4,000. Which brings me to present day and what the Antioch City Council is considering.
The council is not being asked to approve a project. On February 14, we only reviewed recommendations by city staff to update the general plan, so we could specifically deal with the remaining 2,800 housing units. This update also includes the percentage of open space, preservation of hillsides and hilltops, and how to fairly distribute the remaining housing units. Please understand, updating a city’s general plan happens every five years or so. Antioch’s general plan has not seen any major changes since 2003.
At the Feb. 14 meeting, the council directed staff to bring back this matter at a later date so that we could have time to hear from the community.
Following the meeting, Save Mt. Diablo and other environmental groups held a February 23 event at Prewett Community Park to address projects that have been proposed but have not yet been approved for the SCFA. I attended this event and listened to the concerns of residents. I was impressed with how many turned out to this event.
However, there seems to be some confusion, which is why I wrote this article and invite you to attend my listening forums so that I can get feedback from you about the proposed Sand Creek Focus Area updates. In addition, I’ll be posting the presentation by our Community Development Director, Forrest Ebbs, on my Facebook page so that you can see his presentation and offer me feedback using social media starting on March 16th.
Thursday, March 16th, 7-8:30pm
Saturday, March 18th at 10-11:30am
Lone Tree Elementary School, 1931 Mokelumne Drive, Antioch
I look forward to hearing from you.