Archive for the ‘Growth & Development’ Category

Antioch Council approves 1,177-home The Ranch development for second time

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

Support from local unions, no opposition from environmental community

By Allen Payton

The Ranch new home development project in the Sand Creek Focus Area, on the west side of Deer Valley Road across from the Kaiser hospital, returned for council approval for a second time in two years. Last time it was approved through the council adoption of a voter initiative. But after it was tossed out of court by a judge in 2018 in a lawsuit by neighboring property owners whose land was significantly downzoned and devalued.

This time The Ranch project, which consists of 551 acres and 1,177 housing units, was brought before the council as a Development Agreement, which the council members approved on a series of 5-0 votes.

According to the staff report, the Antioch Planning Commission recommended that the City Council take the following actions:

1) Adopt the resolution certifying The Ranch Project Environmental Impact Report, adopting findings of fact and statement of overriding considerations, and adopting the

mitigation monitoring and reporting program;

2) Introduce the ordinance approving a Development Agreement between the City of Antioch and Richland Planned Communities, Inc.;

3) Adopt the resolution approving a General Plan Amendment for purposes of amending the City of Antioch General Plan Land Use Map, General Plan Text, Circulation Element, and Housing Element (GP-20-01);

4) Introduce the Ordinance rezoning the property to Planned Development and adopting the development standards;

5) Adopt the resolution approving a Master Development Plan, Design Review adopting Design Guidelines, and a Resource Management Plan (MDP-20-01).

During the public hearing, Kyle Masters with Richland Communities spoke first, representing the project proponent, presented their plans.

“In 2016…we had a plan of over 1,600 units,” he shared. “That led up to 2018…we took our lessons learned…and took that with a collaborative process that included citizen and environmental groups and came up with a plan for 1,177 homes. That resulted in the West Sand Creek initiative…with thousands of Antioch residents.

What you see before you, today is the same exact plan as went through the initiative process,” Masters stated.

The plan includes land for an additional fire station and it’s construction.

“We’ll also participate in a new CFD (Community Facilities District) that the fire district is forming” in which the new homeowners will pay an annual fire district fee, he explained.

“We have almost 43% of the project that is in open space…which includes the creek corridor running through the spine of the project,” Masters said. “We also have five miles of trails.”

The project will be built in three phases. They will build the Dallas Ranch Road to Sand Creek Road at Deer Valley Road next to Kaiser.

Public Comments

Tom Lawson, the business manager of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 159 union, was the first member of the public to speak saying, “I’m here in support of the Planning Commission’s recommendation.”

“The Ranch will bring in millions of dollars to the city of Antioch and provide housing for first time buyers. The Ranch is a project all of Antioch can be proud of,” he stated.

Ellis Raskin of the Hansen Bridgett law firm spoke on behalf of The Zeka Group regarding the Zeka Ranch project planned for immediately west of The Ranch.

“The development proposals tonight do not meet the suitability of adjacent projects,” he said. “The proposed realignment of Dallas Ranch Road needs to be modified.”

“We would urge the city council to reconsider this proposal,” Raskin stated. “At the very least, the EIR should be circulated throughout the public.”

Environmental Group Doesn’t Take Position, Praises Project’s Improvements

Seth Adams, the Land Conservation Director for Save Mt. Diablo, praised the project. (See his complete comments, here: Seth Adams SMD comments Antioch City Council 07-28-20)

“Save Mt. Diablo has been involved in Antioch for more than 20 years, and in this project since late 2014, when we raised concerns on issues ranging from the unit count to the size of the buffer around Sand Creek, to the Project’s effect on some of Antioch’s most prominent hills,” he said. “Richland has had extensive communication with the community. They have not backtracked on their commitments.”

“Save Mount Diablo is not taking a specific position on The Ranch project, in support or against,” Adams said. “However, we are pleased with improvements to the project that Richland has made since 2018, such as that the unit count for The Ranch has been reduced by 30%; the footprint has been changed to avoid development impacts to the hills on-site and includes 250 acres of parks and open space; a wide creek-buffer to protect the Sand Creek riparian corridor has been incorporated into the Project. That creek buffer is wider than in previous Sand Creek development projects, ranging from a 250’ minimum to over 1000’ in width. It is a great precedent.

In addition to protecting the hills in that 250 acres of parks and open space, they have protected a buffer along Empire Mine Road and the strip of historic heritage-sized eucalyptus trees found there

They have proposed a robust trail system through the project and along Sand Creek, and a staging area for East Bay Regional Park District along Empire Mine Road. Over 7 miles of new public trails.

In addition to 250 acres of parks and open space within the project , the parcels proposed as mitigation for the Project’s biological impacts, just a mile away, total 1,040 acres, support rare wildlife species and would connect the Black Diamond Mines and Deer Valley Regional Preserves, enhancing wildlife corridors and increasing the long-term viability of wildlife in the region.

The Ranch Project has been substantially improved since we first engaged on it. Most of our suggested improvements have been adopted. The proposed mitigation area is exceptional. Overall, these changes would yield a net conservation benefit for the natural resources of Antioch and the Diablo region.”

Anthony Sorrell, a member of UA Local 159 Plumbers and Steamfitters spoke next in support of the project.

“It will allow myself and many of my peers to work closer to home. I’m also excited about the first-time homebuyers,” he continued. “This is just something good all around for everyone. It will hire local construction workers, put money into the community and make Antioch a stronger place to live.”

A representative of the East Bay Regional Park District commented saying it has a long-term interest in the Sand Creek area where the project is located. They appreciated the trail connection, among other matters.

James Corioli commented next by writing, “Antioch does not need more urban sprawl.”

Anthony Solac spoke in favor of the project because it will “accommodate multi-generational needs” and called it a “win-win”.

A member of the public opposed the project because of impact to public safety, pollution and traffic impacts.

Another member of the public, a member of IBEW also spoke in favor of the project.

Another member of the public wrote that he opposed the project because the voters of Antioch and Brentwood already opposed it. “How do you even know you will be able to fill this housing, slash commercial area?” he asked. “The Antioch City Council should do the hard work of dealing with the current projects.”

Another member of the public also wrote, “If memory serves me correctly the voting public of Antioch already voted against this.”

However, that’s incorrect. No vote of the project by the public was held. The public voted twice to allow for new home development in the Sand Creek area. The council approved the project in 2018, following an initiative being submitted by voters in Antioch instead of placing it on the November 2018 ballot.

Antioch resident Gil Murillo wrote, “it appears that our mayor has been taking heavy donations from the developers of The Ranch project…as much as $20,000.” He spoke of a conflict of interest by those council members who have accepted campaign contributions from the developer and called for the council to delay a decision on the project until February 2020 after the November elections.

Lucille Meinhardt wrote, “I propose the project should be postponed until a later date. I think the voters should have a say about the project.”

Another union member wrote in favor of the project.

Applicant’s Rebuttal

Craig Cristina, the Senior Vice President for Richland Communities spoke in response to the public comments.

“As you’ve heard tonight, so much has gone into the design of The Ranch project,” he said. “It really does end up with a community we can all be proud of.”

“We had numerous stakeholder meetings…we got close to the environmental community along the way, as well as the fire district,” Cristina shared. “Over 9,000 Antioch voters supported our initiative.”

“We balanced the economic needs…but doing it in a thoughtful manner, balancing the housing needs, the environment, the fire department, the trails,” he continued. “We stayed true to the lower-density plan. We do stand behind our original commitment and that’s our commitment to Antioch.”

Council Discusses Then Approves Project

Councilman Lamar Thorpe asked about a timeline.

“We’re looking at coming in with tentative maps next year,” Masters responded. They expect to start construction in three to five years.

“I’m glad we’re at the point we are, now,” Councilwoman Monica Wilson said. “I’m really happy about the project labor agreement.”

“This has been a long time coming,” said Councilwoman Lori Ogorochock. “It’s nice to see as much open space as you have left.”

She then asked about the age restriction homes, requesting a senior day care center on site.

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts commented on the CFD for the fire district and the project labor agreement, as well as “the community benefit…is an example for future development.” She encouraged Richland to continue their conversation with the school district.

“It looks like a fantastic project,” Motts added.

“This is going to be a gem of a project, an incredible use of the Sand Creek, really opening of the Sand Creek for the public to enjoy…to connect to the East Bay Regional Parks,” Mayor Sean Wright said. “What an opportunity for us to build some necessary housing but to open up that open space.”

The council then took five separate votes to approve the recommendations by the Planning Commission, all on 5-0 votes.

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Regional agencies seek input on the future of the Bay Area

Friday, July 10th, 2020

For transportation, housing, economy and environment for next three decades

Plan Bay Area 2050’s Draft Blueprint is available for public comment through August 10, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO, July 10, 2020 . . . The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) are inviting the Bay Area public to provide input on the newly released Plan Bay Area 2050 Draft Blueprint, a 30-year regional vision that seeks to create a more affordable, connected, diverse, healthy and vibrant Bay Area for all. The Draft Blueprint is being released today for a public comment period that will run through August 10, 2020.

Given the myriad challenges the COVID-19 pandemic poses to the Bay Area, MTC and ABAG will hold virtual workshops and telephone town halls through August 7, 2020. Both organizations want to hear from all Bay Area residents in order to incorporate diverse voices from across our region. Input received by the agencies will be used to further refine the Final Blueprint to create a more resilient and equitable Bay Area for future generations. The Final Blueprint is slated for approval in late 2020 and will be integrated into Plan Bay Area 2050 prior to its adoption in 2021.

The Plan Bay Area 2050 Draft Blueprint weaves together transportation, housing, economic and environmental strategies, alongside an expanded set of growth geographies, to advance critical climate and equity goals. Designed to accommodate the 1.5 million new homes necessary to house future growth and address overcrowding, as well as 1.4 million new jobs, the Draft Blueprint integrates critical strategies to address our severe and longstanding housing crisis. With infrastructure investments in walking, biking and public transportation – as well as sea level protections designed to keep most Bay Area communities from flooding through 2050 – the Draft Blueprint makes meaningful steps towards the adopted Plan Bay Area 2050 Vision.

Plan Bay Area 2050 is a joint initiative of MTC and ABAG. For more information on Plan Bay Area 2050 or to provide comments on the Draft Blueprint, visit: The entire list of public events can be found here:

See previous plans here – Plan 2040  Plan Bay Area

MTC is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. ABAG’s mission is to strengthen cooperation and collaboration across local governments to build healthier, stronger communities.

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Council tables decision on location for homeless trailers, supports initiative limiting Sand Creek new home development

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

Caltrans employees towed the five FEMA trailers to Antioch on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2019.

Council also extends moratorium on evictions and rent increases to July 15

By Allen Payton

On two unanimous votes during their meeting Tuesday night, the Antioch City Council chose to postpone any decision on a location for the five FEMA trailers intended to provide temporary housing for homeless families with school children, and to support the November ballot measure limiting new home development in the Sand Creek Focus Area.

“The council can give the emergency shelter overlay designation to all three properties,” Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs said during his staff report on the trailer matter. He defended the Planning Commission’s decision to recommend placing them at the fairgrounds.

“Their reasoning is not what it sounds,” he explained. “They’re not opposed to a homeless shelter. They wanted a really nice site. They wanted to make sure we do the best we can.”

During public comments, Andrew Becker asked about the viability of the fairgrounds site, since it already had hookups and if the city had considered any showers were on-site. The Nick Rodriguez Center has showers.

Mike Stewart spoke next sharing concerns about the Fulton Shipyard Road location, “with a focus on safety for the children. The actual available area…about two acres. The balance of the sites is the city transfer facility…basically the city dump. Trucks moving in and out all day long. There is no grocery, no playground, no children near the Fulton Shipyard site.”

Anthony Fieros who owns a home on W. 10th Street across from one site said, “This is the middle of a residential area. It’s a terrible location next to the fire station, there. It’s noisy. It’s just a bare parking lot. No electricity, no water, no sewer. I’d encourage a no vote for everybody.”

Lucy Meinhardt supported the rezoning designation writing, “It’s past time to implement the recommendations of the homeless task force.”

Sherry Fitzpatrick wrote, “I do not believe the trailers should be placed in residential areas. This will not be temporary. It will be an ongoing expense to the city. It’s a nice, feel good idea, but the city should not be in the social services business. The trailers should be placed on Contra Costa County or state property with services. Emergency housing is 180 days or less. What then?”

Dawn Bright wrote, “I’m opposed to the…housing overlay for the three sites. The commission directed the staff to open a conversation with the agriculture board for using the fairgrounds. Please stand up and fight for Antioch.”

Susan Welsh in opposing locating the trailers on W. 10th Street wrote, “The property at 301 W. 10th Street is in the Downtown Specific Plan. It would reduce property values in the area. Plus, it’s a trailer park in a residential area. San Jose received trailers from the state…and is now returning them due to problems. It would be cheaper to rent five apartments in different areas of the city.” She supported considering locating the trailers at the fairgrounds.

Fire Chief Bouchard wrote, “The fire district has some significant concerns at 301 W. 10th Street. As you know, fire stations are 24-hour facilities. The proposed use…could draw many persons to the area. The additional vehicular traffic…could impede our fire services.”

Sheila Driscoll wrote against all three locations and in support of the fairgrounds’ location.

Mike Barbanica wrote about his concerns of placing them in residential areas. “Please do not place the trailers…specifically on Fitzuren Road.”

The final comment supported placing the trailers on the fairgrounds.

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts was the first council member to ask questions.

“Can you speak to the fairgounds site,” she asked City Manager Ron Bernal

“The idea of using the fairgrounds…the governor’s office identified…seven fairgrounds in the state and ours was not one of them,” Bernal responded. “I spoke with the fair manager…he said his property did not qualify and was being used for other purposes. It’s being used for longer-term tenants. The city council may want to pursue this at a higher level than just the fair manager.”

Motts then asked about the “amenities that would need to be added, such as safe, overnight parking” for the Fitzuren Road site.

City Manager Ron Bernal said the Fitzuren site would need “electrical hook-ups for four trailers” as well as “some grading, some gates…sidewalk, curb and gutter would need to be installed. A significant amount of work would need to be done.”

Councilman Lamar Thorpe then made a motion to the item.

“There are other options we’re looking at,” Motts said as she offered a second to the motion. “We are looking at Fitzuren as a safe, overnight parking spot. We have yet to find a safe place to do that. We do know that families are living in their cars overnight.”

While it costs money, she pointed out, “The cost to not do it far outweighs that. We’re spending millions of dollars to move people around. They’re affecting our drinking water. Fires are being set. They call 9-11 and ending up in our hospitals. I just want to promise the community that there are things being done. The bottom line is this is temporary. The goal has always been to get people into permanent housing.”

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock then said, “The Fulton Shipyard is not a good area for any youth to be in. In listening to the comments. I don’t think the other two locations are viable, either. Then again, you have to look at these trailers. We thought they could help. But when you look at the 180 days you can stay in them…would the students be uprooted?”

Wright then called for the vote.

“I am for one of these properties,” Thorpe added. “But some recent conversations that we can follow up on…we may not even have to go in this direction.” He expected that to occur “by the end of the week.”

“I’ve had some conversations, too,” said Mayor Wright. “The conversation with the fairgrounds did not include the discussion of additional infrastructure such as five pads.”

With that the council voted 5-0 to table the matter.

Supports Sand Creek Area New Home Development Limits Ballot Measure

On another unanimous vote, the council adopted a resolution expressing its support for approval of the Let Antioch Voters Decide: The Sand Creek Area Protection Initiative to change General Plan designations within the Sand Creek Focus Area and permanently require voter approval of amendments to the city’s Urban Limit Line. Resolution supporting Sand Creek LAVD initiative

The initiative would prevent the development of homes west of Deer Valley Road and reduce the total number of units to 2,100 from 4,000 previously approved by the city council. Any additional development would require a vote of the people.

However, the initiative is challenged by new state law that prevents cities from downzoning property already zoned for residential development either by council vote or initiative.

The Zeka Group, owner and developer of the planned Zeka Ranch project on the west end of the Sand Creek Area, as well as adjacent property owners, are expected to file a pre-election lawsuit against the proponents and city.

The initiative was adopted by the city council in 2018 after enough signatures of Antioch voters were gathered to qualify for the ballot. But a judge, in response to a lawsuit by Zeka and another affected property owner, tossed out the council’s approval of the initiative and required they place the measure on the November 2020 ballot, instead.

Approve Use of, Application for $2.3 Million in Housing Grant Funds

In other council action, they approved on a 5-0 vote, the use of $2,365,410 in Permanent Local Housing Allocation (PLHA) grant funds. According to the staff report the funds are to be used “for the purpose of assisting persons who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness; housing rehabilitation and the development of accessory dwelling units; and creating homeownership opportunity for Antioch workers and renters earning from 80 percent to 120 percent of the area median income.”

The council also adopted a resolution authorizing the application for PLHA grant funds from the state.

“Is that $2.3 million guaranteed?” Mayor Sean Wright asked.

“As long as ACD accepts our proposal we are guaranteed to receive some amount of money, up to the $2.3 million… the first year up to $400,000,” said Teri House, the city’s housing consultant.

Wilson, I assume you applied for the maximum amount. Did you have a guideline of what kind of program you want to use this money for?

“Yes. The plan continues the plan that the CBDG sub committee has established over a decade of our housing successor funds…and homeless assistance,” House said. “This just continues those programs…that have been on going for at least a decade. And yes, we applied for the maximum.”
“Thank you. Good to hear,” Wilson responded.

Expires Moratorium on Evictions & Rent Increases, Antioch Covered by County Ordinance, State Orders

In final action, the city council voted 5-0 to expire the City’s rent increase and eviction moratorium. The action was taken because the county’s moratorium, approved by the Board of Supervisors and runs through July 15, applies to cities as well as unincorporated areas in the county. According to the city’s new urgency ordinance, the City Council finds that “residences and businesses…will continue to have protections from eviction and adequate ‘grace periods’ to repay unpaid rent…from the Governor’s Executive Orders, Judicial Council Emergency Rule, and the County’s Urgency Ordinance.” Urgency Ordinance on Eviction & Rent Increase Moratorium ACC062320


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Council places “flawed” Sand Creek “Let Antioch Voters Decide” initiative on November ballot

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

Will cost city $100,000; could face pre- and post-election legal challenges due to new legislation possibly making the initiative moot and costing city even more.

By Allen Payton

In response to the direction given by a judge in a court case over two initiatives affecting new home development in the Sand Creek Focus Area that the council adopted in 2018, the Antioch City Council voted 5-0 to place the one initiative sponsored by the environmental community on the November 2020 ballot.

That court case resulted in the judge tossing out the council’s adoption of the environmentalist-backed Let Antioch Voters Decide (LAVD) initiative. It also invalidated both the initiative sponsored by Richland Communities, the developer of the 1,100-home project known as The Ranch, as well as their development agreement. In his ruling, the judge also ordered the city council place the LAVD initiative on the ballot. However, the decisions in the lawsuits by adjacent property owners The Zeka Group owners of Zeka Ranch, and the Oak Hill Park Company are still being appealed by the backers of the LAVD initiative. (See related articles here, and here)

According to a previous Herald news report, following a 30-day study by city staff, their report found the initiative limited the total number of housing units to 2,100 in the entire Sand Creek Area. Since the past and current councils had already approved more than 2,300 homes, then no more homes could be built, including the proposed 301-unit, gated senior home community east of Deer Valley Road, known as The Olive Groves on the Albers Ranch property. However, both Seth Adams of Save Mount Diablo and the attorney for Richland said that the intent of each initiative was to only affect property on the west side of Deer Valley Road.

The LAVD initiative will directly impact the proposed Zeka Ranch project (see related article), west of The Ranch project, on the west side of Empire Mine Road, as well as three other properties directly south of Richland property, including Oak Hill’s. Zeka’s proposed number of homes would be reduced from 300 to 400, down to just one home per 80 acres, resulting in just a total of eight homes.

In addition, since the judge’s decisions, new legislation, SB330, was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Newsom, last year which prevents cities from downzoning land already zoned residential, either by council action or through the initiative process.

Yet, according to Derek Cole, the city’s contract attorney working on matters dealing with the Sand Creek initiative, “cities have mandatory duties whenever proposed ballot measures receive the signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot.  In this case, because the ‘9212’ report and approval of the initiative are no longer options, the City can only take action to call an election as to the initiative.  City staff is aware of the SB 330 legislation that took effect this year, but as the Staff Report explains, the City Council cannot assume the role of the courts in deciding any legal issues associated with the measure.  The State Supreme Court made very clear in a 2017 decision that the duty to call an election on an initiative is mandatory, even when an initiative’s legality is questioned.”

“The council could adopt an argument against the initiative,” added City Attorney Thomas Smith.

During public comments Joanna Garaventa, with the East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, spoke in favor of the initiative. She submitted a letter to the council, but when speaking it was difficult to understand her for the purpose of adding her comments to this report.

Andrew Bassak, an attorney with Hanson Bridgett, representing The Zeka Group, opposed the placement of the initiative on the ballot as “it would negatively affect the development that’s been planned for the past 30 years.”

He referred to SB330, the new residential development law.

“The city lacks authority to place the initiative on the ballot…under the California Elections Code. That passed years ago,” Bassak explained. “There is no authority under the stayed Superior Court ruling. That judgement is currently subject to appeal, by one of the proponents of the initiative. Save Mt. Diablo wants to have its cake and eat it, too.”

“The cost of putting it on the ballot will be over $100,000,” he stated. “Placing it on the ballot will result in more litigation” both before…and after the November election. Those litigations could easily double the $100,000 amount. This is just squandering resources that could be spent elsewhere. The city should wait until the court of appeals decision is over.”

Bassak submitted a letter to the mayor and council before the meeting. In it he wrote, “the Initiative is fundamentally flawed and, if placed on the ballot, will be subject to avoidable costly pre-election litigation.” 06-09-20 Zeka Group Attorney Letter to Antioch re LAVD Initiative

Seth Adams, the Land Conservation Director for Save Mt. Diablo, which sponsored the LAVD initiative said, “Please move forward with placing our initiative on the ballot and please formally endorse the initiative.”

“Over 9,000 citizens signed the petition to place the initiative on the ballot,” he continued. “The courts said to place the initiative on the ballot. It did not invalidate the initiative.”

“Our attorneys have provided information to the city that explains why they can place the initiative on the ballot,” Adams added. Emails from Save Mt. Diablo’s attorney to City of Antioch re LAVD Initiative

All the other thirteen public comments were in favor of placing the initiative on the ballot.

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock then asked about how SB 330 affected the initiative.

“SB330 is legislation…that became effective in January of this year and is retroactive two years,” Smith said. “Under the new regulation any affected city is precluded from adopting policy…of lesser standard. It is preventing the downzoning of land, from residential to something that would not allow development.”

“It is one of the factors that would have to be taken into consideration if the initiative passed,” he continued. “However, at this time, the council can move forward in a ministerial.

“There may be a pre-election challenge or a post-election challenge,” Smith added. “SB330 could affect it in determining if the initiative is valid.”

“Not only did 9,000 of our citizens sign petitions to place this on the ballot, but the courts directed the council to place it on the ballot,” said Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts.

I believe it’s an environmentally sensitive, efficient development. So, I am in favor of moving the initiative forward and placing it on the November ballot.”

Ogorchock then moved to place the initiative on the ballot. Councilwoman Monica Wilson seconded the motion.

Smith then asked if the two actions could be separated, with the council deciding if they want to include a ballot argument against the measure.

Ogorchock then shortened her motion to not include a ballot argument.

Thorpe then asked staff to come back with something at a future council meeting, for council to decide whether or not to endorse or oppose the initiative.

However, the council can only submit an argument against the initiative, Smith explained.

Ogorchock and Wilson withdrew their motion and Ogorchock made a new motion and Thorpe seconded it.

“Do we want to make an argument against the initiative?” she asked. Wilson, Thorpe and Motts all said “no”.

“I just need you to make a motion that you do not want to make an argument against the initiative,” Smith explained.

Ogorchock then made a friendly amendment to her own motion that the council will not include an argument against the initiative. Thorpe accepted the amendment to the motion.

That motion passed on a 5-0 vote that the council will not include a ballot argument against the initiative.

Then Ogorchock returned to her original motion to place the initiative on the November ballot. It was seconded by Wilson and the motion also passed 5-0.

Efforts to reach Seth Adams and city staff to obtain a copy of the letter sent to the City from Save Mt. Diablo’s attorney before the meeting, were unsuccessful prior to publication time. Please check back later for any updates to this report.

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Antioch Council approves changes to home sizes and designs in Sand Creek development

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

Requires all-ability playground, option for community garden if residents want it

By Allen Payton

During their regular meeting on Tuesday night, May 26, 2020 the Antioch City Council unanimously approved changes to the designs and sizes for the homes in the new home subdivision in Sand Creek, but spent most of their discussion ensuring an all-abilities playground in the park and a possible community garden, should the future homeowners want it.

The city had high hopes for a senior housing community by Century Communities in the Sand Creek area. “Unfortunately, that project did not sell as well as we thought it would,” said City Manager Ron Bernal.

Jose Cortez, Associate Planner in the Community Development Department provided the staff presentation.

“The 10 new designs fit on the existing lot sizes,” he said. “Sizes range from 1,500 square feet to 2,700 square feet. Changes…should not have any adverse effects to what was approved for size.”

The Planning Commission approved the changes and staff recommended the council adopt the changes.

No member of the public spoke on the matter, not even the developer who, as the proponent

“In the removing of certain items from the active adult community…I would ask the community garden be put back in. That’s unique,” said Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock. “The park, I believe all parks built in the city, should be all abilities. Wheelchair can get in there. But we should not allow parks where children cannot get in there.”

Phase map of the Cielo at Sand Creek development.

A representative from Cielo was on the phone, named, Jeff Inabmnit, representing Century Communities.

“These changes will make a real positive impact on the project,” he said. “The project is focused on the family buyer profile.”

“A private garden is for high-density projects,” Inabmnit said. “The homes have 21-foot back yards which should be adequate. If a community garden isn’t supported, it becomes an eyesore.”

Thorpe then said, “Aren’t all we really doing tonight is looking at home size and designs?”

“Any modifications to the parks and recreation amenities go back to the Planning Commission,” said City Planner Alexis Morris. “Any changes to the homes go to the council.”

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts wanted the developer to set keep the community garden that was in the development’s originally approved plans.

“As much as I like a community garden, I’d leave that up to the residents, if the HOA wants that,” Councilwoman Monica Wilson said. “If they don’t want it, it becomes an eyesore.”

Councilman Lamar Thorpe then made the motion to approve the modifications to the home designs and sizes.

“You’re talking about 5,000 square foot lots or less,” Ogorchock pointed out.

“Just like my community,” interjected Wilson.

Ogorchock continued to argue in favor of the community garden and pushing for an all-ability park for the children.

Thorpe then said, “On the community garden side, this is going to return to staff. Volunteers don’t suffice. I’m not for this community garden idea. This was going to be a retirement community of 55 plus.”

“In terms of it being an all-abilities park you guys are still open to that,” he asked.

“We’ve added the play equipment recommended by the Parks and Recreation Department, which is an acceptable structure with paths to get to it,” Iabmnit responded.

“I would still like to see you go ahead with the waterline in case the homeowners’ association would like to do the community garden, if you’re amenable to that,” Motts said.

“Yeah. I’m fine with that,” Inabmnit said.

“Jeff has said they will build the pipe…if the people want it they want it,” Thorpe said. But he and Wilson accepted the amendment to their motion.

They then also added language to the motion to ensure the park was all-abilities.

The council then voted unanimously to approve the motion and changes to the design and sizes of the homes.

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Council approves smaller designs for Sand Creek area new home project

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

By Allen Payton

At their March 10th Antioch City Council meeting, they unanimously approved four new, smaller designs for the Aviano homes project in the Sand Creek area next to Kaiser hospital and Dozier Libbey Medical High School. The project was approved by the council in 2015. (See related article)

City Manager Ron Bernal said, “Aviano homes requested the city council approve four new designs for their 533-unit development.”

City staff provided the report stating, “the applicant is requesting home size modification. The application is proposing four new plans, two that are one-story and can fit on all 530 parcels. The Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval to the City Council.

The project currently has twelve approved plans, each with three elevations per floor plan. The square footages of these approved homes range from 1,804 sq. ft. to 3,758 sq. ft. The applicant is proposing to introduce four new plans with three elevations per plan with square footages ranging from 1,449 sq. ft. to 2,179 sq. ft. The applicant is requesting approval of the four new plans in order to bring more diversity of housing types into the community while meeting current market needs and demands.

During the public hearing portion, only the applicant spoke.

Trent Sanson spoke on behalf of DeNova Homes the developer for the Aviano project, which was founded by his parents Dave and Lori, about 30 years ago, he said.

The new designs are for the 5,000-square foot lots. They want the changes, introducing two new single-story homes for “the opportunity to meet current market demands and needs for growing households, first-time home buyers, empty nesters trying to move down a bit” with three bedrooms, two baths, one design with four bedrooms, two baths, and two more two-story, four-bedroom, three bath designs.

DeNova expected to begin construction in early April.

Councilwoman Monica Wilson said, “I’m glad that you’re adding more single stories…because not everyone who wants a new house wants a two-story home.”

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock agreed with Wilson.

“You’re doing a great job,” she said regarding DeNova Homes’ other project in Antioch known as Wildflower Station, at Hillcrest and Wildflower Drive.

“We’re currently targeting low- to mid-$500,000’s,” Sanson said in response to questions from Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts and Ogorchock. “That’s just the starting point.”

“We need more Wildflower Stations,” Thorpe said, and then made the motion to approve the addition of four new, smaller home designs.

“We’re looking at a two-and-half-year build out” on the first phase, Sanson added.

He mentioned another developer that is interested in building some of the units, which would speed up the build-out.

The council then approved the motion on a unanimous vote.


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Neighboring developers win again as judge invalidates Richland’s Initiative for The Ranch development

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

Map of area covered by the Richland Communities’ alternative initiative, and The Ranch 1,177-home project that was ruled invalid by a Superior Court judge. Herald file graphic.

By Allen Payton

On Friday, November 22, 2019 Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Edward G. Weil issued the final ruling in the lawsuits brought by Oak Hill Partners and Zeka Ranch against the City of Antioch and developer Richland Communities, that “the entire Richland Initiative is invalid”. Richland Initiative final court ruling 11-22-19

In July 2018 the Antioch City Council adopted a voter initiative sponsored by Richland Communities that approved Richland’s development called “The Ranch”, while at the same time downzoning Oak Hill’s, Zeka’s, and other neighboring properties to just one home per 80 acres. In August 2018, the City Council followed up by adopting a second voter initiative sponsored by environmental groups to limit growth in the Sand Creek Focus Area, the so-called Let Antioch Voters Decide Initiative. Earlier this year, the Court ruled that the City’s adoption of the environmental groups’ initiative was invalid, and ordered the City to put that initiative on the November 2020 ballot. The earlier order also found that Richland’s inclusion of a Development Agreement between Richland and the City for The Ranch development was unlawful and invalid. (See related article).

In the 23-page November 22 ruling, the issue before the Court was whether Richland’s invalid Development Agreement for The Ranch could be “severed” from the initiative to allow the initiative to survive without the unlawful Development Agreement. The Court found Richland’s Development Agreement not to be “volitionally” severable from the rest of the initiative. Because the invalid Development Agreement is not severable from the balance of Richland’s initiative, the bottom line of the Court’s ruling is that the entire Richland Initiative is invalid.

According to the ruling, “The Court of Appeal has described the test for volitional severability as follows: The volitional requirement concerns whether the voters would have adopted the initiative without the invalid provisions.” Because the initiative was adopted by the City Council instead of submitting it to the voters, the Court focused on the “volition” or decision of the City Council in enacting the Richland Initiative. “The Court concludes that it is the volition of the City Council members who voted on the initiative that matters.”

The judge then reviewed the substantial, valuable community benefits promised by Richland in the Development Agreement if it proceeded with The Ranch development. These benefits included at least $1.2 million for improvements to Deer Valley High School, cost free land for a new fire station, land for an East Bay Regional Park trailhead, fees to support Antioch police, and other community benefits. In the absence of the Development Agreement, Richland would not be legally obligated to provide those benefits to the City as part of The Ranch development.

The judge found that Richland’s PowerPoint presentation shown to the City Council, at the meeting where the City Council adopted the initiative, was relevant and persuasive evidence provided by Oak Hill and Zeka.

In that presentation, it showed the Development Agreement included “Communitywide Benefits” such as the $1.2 million for Deer Valley High School facility improvements, and “Public Safety Benefits” such as the annual per home police fee.

The judge determined that “There is no guaranty that a different developer would agree to give the school district as much money as Richland agreed to give, just as there is no guaranty that a different developer would agree to devote 44% of its land to open space and parks, etc.” If the Development Agreement “were not approved, there would be no certainty as to when another willing developer might come along, and no certainty that the new developer would offer the City as good a deal.”

“The totality of the evidence persuades the Court that the Richland Initiative was a package deal, with the City agreeing to certain General Plan and Municipal Code amendments in exchange for the benefits specified in the Development Agreement.”

The judge’s ruling further determined that the initiative “imposed substantial development restrictions on other parts of the Sand Creek Focus Area including those owned by Zeka Ranch and Oak Hill” as part of a package with development of Richland’s The Ranch project. The Court found that those “development restrictions are not volitionally severable.”

Finally, the Court found that the General Plan and Zoning Code amendments that remained in the initiative outside of the Development Agreement could not be considered “standalone benefits independent of the Development Agreement.”

“Why would the City Council have wished to enact these amendments, if the City was not going to receive the benefits of the Development Agreement?” the judge asked rhetorically in his ruling. “This is another factor supporting the Court’s ruling on volitional severability.”

The result of the ruling means Richland must pursue its development through the development process with the City. The ruling also allows both Zeka Ranch and Oak Hill Partners to purse their development projects, as well.

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Governor signs tax credit bill to promote historic preservation, affordable housing

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

Will create $800 million in economic activity and 1,300 construction jobs; Antioch city staff checking to see if program can benefit the Hard House, home of the city’s first mayor.

Sacramento, CA: On Tuesday, October 9th, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 451, the California Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit, adding California to the list of more than 35 states that have passed such incentives. The bill, which passed both the Senate and the Assembly with unanimous approval, will enable the renewal of aging structures and communities throughout the state, and promote the development of affordable housing.

The bill will create a 20% state tax credit for the rehabilitation of historic structures listed on the California Register of Historic Places.  An additional 5% bonus can be granted for certain projects, such as affordable housing for lower-income households and projects in transit-oriented developments or regions with high unemployment and poverty rates. All projects must be approved by the California Office of Historic Preservation and the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee to determine if a project qualifies. The tax credit goes into effect on January 1, 2021.

“The California State Historic Tax Credit is an important tool that we can use to revitalize communities throughout California,” said Cindy Heitzman, Executive Director, California Preservation Foundation. “This is a major victory for every Californian who believes that our architectural and cultural heritage is worth protecting.”

The State Historic Tax Credit will help to address the critical need for affordable housing in underutilized historic buildings by providing an important financial incentive. Between 2007 and 2017 over 38% of all federal historic tax credit projects in California created new housing units or improved existing units. Of that amount over half were affordable housing projects, and SB 451 will make even more of these projects feasible.

Since February, the California Preservation Foundation (CPF) and the American Institute of Architects, California Council have led a major coalition to shepherd the bill through the legislature, working directly with California Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins. The bill received broad support from organized labor, affordable housing groups, historic preservation organizations and local governments.  This effort built on the work CPF did in 2014 to pass AB 1999, the first version of this legislation. While it passed both houses of the California legislature, it was ultimately vetoed by then Governor Jerry Brown.

“This legislation will breathe new life into the buildings that give our cities and communities character and charm…Further, the Historic Tax Credit will increase the supply of affordable housing, support growth through infill development and encourage property rehabilitation and maintenance in economically depressed areas,” said Senator Atkins.

The Cannery Lady statue across W. First Street from the Roswell Butler Hard House. Photo courtesy of NoeHill Travels in California.

When asked if this is something that could benefit Antioch’s Roswell Butler Hard House, the home of the city’s first mayor, located at 815 West First Street, City Manager Ron Bernal asked Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs to look into it. The home is #93001020 on the National Register of Historic Places. For more information about the Hard House, visit the Wikipedia page or the Facebook page.

About the Federal Tax Credit

Since 1976, the Federal Historic Tax Credit (HTC) has offered tax credits equal to 20 percent of the qualified rehabilitation expenditures (QRE) for the rehabilitation of certified historic buildings, such as those listed on the National Register of Historic Places or architecturally contributing to a National Register district. Over the last 4 decades, more than 35 states have passed their own bills to boost this tax credit, making thousands of projects financially feasible.

From 2002 to 2016, $468.1 million in Federal Historic Tax Credits catalyzed 169 projects in California, totaling $2.8 billion in qualifying rehabilitation expenditures. This activity has generated:

  • 39,279 jobs
  • $2.8 billion in Gross State Product
  • $160 million in state and local taxes
  • $493.3 million in federal taxes
  • $468.1 million in federal tax credits

SB 451 will provide further incentive for historic rehabilitation, increase the supply of affordable housing, support growth through infill development, and encourage property rehabilitation and maintenance in economically depressed areas. Below are a few examples of the types of projects that will benefit from SB 451, but there are hundreds more stories just like these throughout California. The tax credit will make these kinds of projects more feasible, and will encourage meaningful investments in communities across the state.

For more information:

Bill Text:

Images and additional information:

Press Release from Senator Toni Atkins on the passage of SB 451:

Preservation & State Historic Tax Credits overview from the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

2017 Report from the National Park Service on the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credit’s impact:

Case Statement:

Allen Payton contributed to this report. 

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