Archive for the ‘Growth & Development’ Category

Yes on Measure T campaign takes ugly, xenophobic turn

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

Supporter also uses communist thinking and class warfare to gather support

By Allen Payton, Publisher & Editor

The evil of xenophobia raised its ugly head in Antioch, this week, as a supporter of Measure T, the Let Antioch Voters Decide: The Sand Creek Area Protection Initiative, which is the effort by out of town environmentalists and their supporters in our city, to downzone private property for the purpose of making it permanent open space that the parks district can buy on the cheap, claims she’s of the understanding that the family that owns the Zeka Ranch “are not U.S. citizens”.

In addition, clear communist thinking straight from the first of the 10 planks of the Communist Manifesto is being used as the reason to pass the initiative.

Screenshot of email from Antioch resident Lucy Meinhardt regarding Measure T on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.

In an email to the editor originally asking about advertising for the Yes on T campaign from Antioch resident Lucy Meinhardt, Tuesday night, she wrote, “I support Measure T because I believe the good of the community outweighs the property owner’s preferences in this case. I have enjoyed for many years the views when hiking the trails south of Contra Loma to the views of the former Higgins Ranch. To see houses there would hurt me to the core.”

The first plank of the Communist Manifesto written by Karl Marx reads, “Abolition of private property in land and application of all rents of land to public purpose.” That’s exactly what she and the supporters of Measure T are attempting to do to the Zeka Ranch and three nearby properties, for a total of 877 homes, which is all that could have been affected by the initiative.

Worse, Meinhardt wrote, “Though the owner owns a house in Antioch, I understand they are not U.S. citizens.”

Louisa Zee Kao, the head of the Zeka Group, Inc. and Zeka Ranch, LLC, who has been fighting for her rights to do with the land as the voters said three times she could, has been a U.S. citizen for over 40 years having emigrated with her late husband and her two children from Hong Kong in the 1970’s. Her grandchildren, for whom she’s working to leave a legacy, were all born in the U.S., as well.

Plus, even foreign residents have rights, and it doesn’t matter who owns the property, because those rights are tied to the property.

Meinhardt went on to write, “I cherish this land for all of us, not a wealthy few who would help the owners reap huge profits. I hope the land will eventually be annexed to the East Bay Regional Parks that surround it.”

So, she admits she wants the privately owned land, purchased by the Zeka Group in 2000, with the first payment made in 1989, downzoned and devalued by over 97% so it can be annexed to and become part of the publicly owned park district land.

Meinhardt uses class warfare which is based in jealousy and envy to keep an immigrant family from increasing their wealth and leaving a legacy for future generations, while providing housing that Antioch doesn’t currently have, even though we the people voted  three times to allow for the new homes to be built in the Sand Creek area.

Screenshot of second email from Lucy Meinhardt on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020.

In a further email sent today, after being called out for her xenophobia, Meinhardt attempted to apologize.

“Apologies. I had heard this rumor. I usually fact check. Do any Kao’s live in Antioch? The Zeka company is based in Burlingame. I am not xenophobic. Both Zeka and Richfield are out of town firms and are investment real estate firms. The rumor took them a bit further out of town. We will never agree on land use with respect to this land. I am sure there will be lawsuits over the initiative when it passes.”

However, Meinhardt was being xenophobic, by definition, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary: “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.”

As for the lawsuits she mentions possibly happening, perhaps the supporters will sue the city and the landowners, but they won’t win because the property owners have rights. Plus, both Zeka – which is a family owned, boutique developer – and adjacent property owner Richfield/Oak Hill Park have already won the two major rulings in their lawsuits against both the city and environmentalists who are behind Measure T.

And again, it doesn’t matter where a property owner is from, where they live or if they’re U.S. citizens, or not. They and their property both have rights.

Devaluing property is in legal terms considered a taking.

How would Meinhardt and other Measure T supporters like it if that happened to something they owned and have it taken from them? Oh, we will just devalue it and then buy it at the lower price for the “good of the community”. I doubt they would appreciate that at all.

But at least she’s honest about what they’re attempting to do: downzoning and devaluing the privately owned Zeka Ranch and three other properties in the Sand Creek area, so the park district can buy it for pennies on the dollar, then annex into the public park land. That’s exactly what the environmentalists tried to get Louisa Kao to do three years ago, so that other developers could use her land as mitigation property for open space, for the to build their subdivisions. She declined the ridiculous offer.

Fortunately, the downzoning and devaluation can’t and won’t happen thanks to Gov. Newsom signing SB330 into law last year which bans cities from downzoning residential land by either council action or initiative.

That’s why Measure T is moot and will have no effect even if it does pass.

In fact, the homes will be approved and built. Because if the city council doesn’t approve the homes planned for the Zeka Ranch or any of the other properties currently zoned residential in Antioch within five hearings on each project, SB330 states the city will, at a minimum be fined $10,000 per housing unit, costing us taxpayers millions of dollars.

So, vote no on Measure T. Don’t take their land and save our tax dollars. It’s unfair and unAmerican.

For more details and to get the facts before you vote, visit antiochherald.com/no-on-measure-t.

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Read the history of the Zeka Ranch project and why you should vote no on Measure T

Monday, October 26th, 2020

ZEKA RANCH PROJECT HISTORY – OVER 30 YEARS OF WORKING & WAITING

3 Votes by the People in 1990, 2005, & 2006 Establish Urban Limit Line, Allow Homes in the Sand Creek Area. This 4th Vote Attempts to Devalue the Land – Unfair & Illegal!

  • INTRODUCTION: Zeka Ranch is a thoughtfully prepared, new home community, in the City of Antioch that fulfills the City’s vision for the Sand Creek Area on housing, nestled within the unique, existing natural features of the site. The mix of densities, housing types, their location within the master plan and interaction with the site’s natural topography makes Zeka Ranch an exceptional master planned community, which could be the preferred location of executive type housing that the City lacks and has continuously expressed interest in developing
  • PROPERTY HISTORY AND EXISTING CONDITIONS: The Zeka Ranch site, formerly known as the Higgins Ranch, comprises approximately six hundred thirty-nine plus (639+) acres situated in the westerly limits of the former Sand Creek Focus area. The site is bordered by the East Bay Regional Park District, Black Diamond Mine Regional Preserve to the west, Roddy Ranch to the South, Empire Mine Road and Richland Communities proposed Ranch project to the east and public open space to the north. The 639+ acres are subdivided into five independent parcels held by five separate entities.
  • The proposed plan creates an opportunity to implement product diversification that caters to executives and other demography looking for higher end housing, in a setting that is distinct from anywhere else in Antioch. The community will be a synergy of planning, architecture, landscape and engineering. The use of narrower and slower streets, Low Impact Development (LID) Techniques, native and drought tolerant landscape elements, ability to integrate smart technologies and sustainable measures in the homes, integration of trails and open spaces with the surrounding regional open spaces would make this a destination for higher end housing that the City has coveted for so long
  • The proposed land uses of the Zeka Ranch project are in compliance with the existing City of Antioch General Plan. As envisioned in the General Plan, Zeka Ranch is a mix of two housing types – Hillside Estate Housing and Executive Housing.
  • HISTORY – 1980’s City of Antioch grants General Plan allocation of up to 2 homes per acre on 640 acres at Higgins Ranch.
  • 1989 City of Antioch began planning for homes in the Sand Creek area, which would be referred to as Future Urban Area 1 (FUA1). Zeka begins process of purchasing the Higgins property.
  • 1990 Contra Costa VOTERS APPROVE Urban Limit Line cutting off 65% of land in the county from subdivision development and allowing new homes to be built on 35% of the land. The Sand Creek area and Zeka Ranch are INSIDE County’s Urban Limit Line.
  • 1990 Zeka was approached by an adjacent property owner to participate in the City’s planning effort, for the area. Since then, Zeka paid 25% of the costs for the City studies and plans for the FUA1 area, even though later Zeka significantly reduced the number of units on their property. The City’s initial plans for FUA-1/Sand Creek area include over 8,900 homes, plus 700 homes at Roddy Ranch, for over 9,600 homes.
  • 2000 Zeka purchases land for a huge amount of money from Higgins family and begins process for approval of upscale, high-end home project. Initial plans included 1,100 homes, but in the interim, they reduced to 740 homes. The East Bay Regional Park District threatened to sue City of Antioch if they allow Zeka development on much of their acreage. Instead of fighting it, Zeka Group voluntarily reduces plans to 338 homes on 196 acres, leaving 440+ as future open spaces.
  • 2003 Antioch City Council approves General Plan, formally allocates 2 homes per acre on Zeka’s land, allowing only 4,000 homes total in Sand Creek Focus Area.
  • 2005 After County Supervisors moved in the Urban Limit Line to cut out the Roddy Ranch, the people of Antioch voted overwhelmingly to approve Measure K, move the line back out and establish Antioch’s own Urban Limit Line. Sand Creek area and Zeka Ranch are INSIDE City’s Urban Limit Line.
  • 2006 County voters, once again approve County’s Urban Limit Line. Sand Creek area and Zeka Ranch are inside the Urban Limit Line!
  • 2017 Save Mount Diablo representative suggests Zeka sell the Zeka Ranch property to other developer in Antioch for open space use, which would have drastically downgraded and devalued Zeka Ranch property, involuntarily.
  • 2017 Zeka Group ready to submit plans. City staff says hold off. City wants to wait until neighboring developer’s The Ranch project is approved. The Ranch project finally approved on 5-0 vote of Antioch City Council on July 28, 2018. Yet the City Council rejected Zeka Ranch PDP Application submittal after its adoption of Let Antioch Voters Decide (LAVD) initiative a month later.
  • 2018 Out-of-town environmentalists launch initiative effort to downzone Zeka Ranch property to just 1 home per 80 acres to only 8 homes on 639+ acres! Antioch voters are misled by them saying they could stop 8,000 homes. That wasn’t true!
  • According to Save Mt. Diablo’s representative, their initiative ONLY AFFECTS LAND WEST OF DEER VALLEY ROAD. By then the City had already approved 1,200 homes at east of Deer Valley Road, 301 homes are planned in a gated, senior community south of Kaiser, and 121 homes are planned around Kaiser. Plus, 221 more homes are now being processed by the City. So, the most the initiative could stop is about 900 homes, not 8,000! The environmentalists KNEW IT.
  • A few years ago Save Mt. Diablo suggested Zeka Ranch sell their land to other developers for open space. Zeka respectfully declined the offer.
  • 2018, instead of letting the voters decide – like the title of the initiative – the environmentalists asked and got the five council members to decide and adopted the LAVD initiative and rejected Zeka Ranch project application! That forced the landowners to sue both the City and environmentalists in court – Zeka and Oak Hill Park Property won, not once, but twice!
  • 2019 Judge rules City Council has to place LAVD initiative on Nov. 2020 ballot.
  • 2019 October, in response to California’s housing crisis, Governor Newsom signs SB330 into law which says effective January 1, 2020 development applications for residential property cannot be downzoned either by city council action or by initiative. So, the Let Antioch Voters Decide initiative, if passed, should be of no effect for voters at the ballot under the SB330 law.
  • However, the environmentalists want to still win and have voters to pass Measure T. They hope it will force the future city councils to vote NO on the projects, only to forcing more lawsuits costing the City, taxpayers and landowners more money. Zeka wants respectfully to tell the out-of-town environmentalists and their local supporters: NO!
  • Today, after 30 years of waiting and planning, Highway 4 has been widened to Antioch, Highway 4 Bypass/extension built to Balfour Road in Brentwood, and the BART extension to Antioch is completed. (Major roads in Antioch, plus the Highway 4 widening and extension were designed for 12,000 homes in the Sand Creek area and Roddy Ranch)
  • Zeka Ranch has duly resubmitted PDP application to Antioch Planning Department for proposed development of 338 home lots under the Law of SB330 and the application plans currently being reviewed.
  • Zeka Ranch community project will be working in nature, for improvements and beautification of nature. It represents less than 8.5% of total 4,000 home allocations within Sand Creek Area and will provide about 70% of open space within its lands in proactive mitigation.
  • NOW is the time for the Voters of Antioch to VOTE NO on Measure T. We wish to work with the new City Council for approval of Zeka Ranch plans, so, NICE, UPSCALE HOMES, on VIEW LOTS, surround by hundreds of acres of OPEN SPACES can be built, like those in Blackhawk, the San Ramon Valley, Walnut Creek and Brentwood. They will attract executives and business owner investors to Antioch who will bring new companies to the area, creating the LOCAL, QUALITY JOBS for Antioch residents.
  • All the new homes will pay their own way, with more police and fire protection, and road impact fees to help complete Antioch’s long-planned roadways and the Highway bypass/extension widening to Marsh Creek Road and beyond.
  • CONCLUSION: Zeka Ranch will be a diverse, well designed, well amenitized and secure master planned community that will provide high-end housing within the City boundary and inside both the 3-times voter approved County and City Urban Limit Lines, which the City of Antioch envisions for this location. The Zeka Ranch team looks forward to working with City Staff, other agencies, the Planning Commission, City Council, residents, and many stakeholder groups as we create a legacy community within the City of Antioch.

For more information visit the No on Measure T page on this website at http://antiochherald.com/no-on-measure-t/.

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Regional housing needs proposal allocates 2,481 more housing units for Antioch between 2023-31

Tuesday, October 20th, 2020

Photo: ABAG

1,443 to be low- to moderate-income units; 43,942 total units allocated for Contra Costa cities

Methodology emphasizes equity for projected 441,000 additional housing units needed Bay Area wide

“Housing Element Law emphasizes that all Bay Area communities have to share the increased state planning number…” – ABAG President and Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin

Public comment period begins Oct. 25

The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG)’s Executive Board at its meeting Thursday evening, Oct. 15 passed the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) proposed methodology — a mathematical formula by which the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD)’s requirement that the Bay Area plan for more than 441,000 additional housing units during the 2023-2031 RHNA cycle will be distributed among the region’s nine counties and 101 cities and towns. New state laws — as well as the region’s strong economy and related job and household growth over the past decade — are also a significant reason for the growth in HCD’s determination, which will require the Bay Area to plan for 253,000 more units than required in the 2015- 2023 RHNA cycle. ABAG RHNA 10-15-20

Under the proposed methodology, communities in Contra Costa County would be expected to add 43,942 housing units, about 10% of the total. Antioch is allocated a total of 2,481 more housing units, with 1,443 of them low- to moderate-income units.

From ABAG’s RHNA dated Oct. 15, 2020.

Communities in Santa Clara County would be expected to account for about one-third of all new units to be incorporated into the housing elements of Bay Area jurisdictions’ general plans, and San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland are expected to have the highest expected planning numbers for individual cities.

ABAG President and Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin commented, “Housing Element Law emphasizes that all Bay Area communities have to share the increased state planning numbers.  The adopted proposed methodology is the best way to share the housing responsibility among all our region’s local governments, to encourage housing in areas with good access to jobs and in locations designated by the state as high-opportunity areas, and to meet fair housing and greenhouse gas reduction requirements.”

With the Executive Board’s action, ABAG on Oct. 25 will open a public comment period on the proposed RHNA methodology. The comment period will include a public hearing at the Thursday, Nov. 12 meeting of ABAG’s Regional Planning Committee, after which both the committee and the Executive Board will again weigh in on the methodology. If approved, ABAG will submit this draft methodology to HCD for review, likely in January 2021, and then use the state agency’s recommendations to develop a final methodology and draft RHNA allocation in spring 2021. Release of the draft allocation would then kick off an appeals period in the summer of 2021, with the final RHNA allocation assigned to each of the Bay Area’s local governments in late 2021.

According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, “Since 1969, California has required that all local governments (cities and counties) adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community. California’s local governments meet this requirement by adopting housing plans as part of their ‘general plan’ (also required by the state). General plans serve as the local government’s ‘blueprint’ for how the city and/or county will grow and develop and include seven elements: land use, transportation, conservation, noise, open space, safety, and housing. The law mandating that housing be included as an element of each jurisdiction’s general plan is known as ‘housing-element law.’

California’s housing-element law acknowledges that, in order for the private market to adequately address the housing needs and demand of Californians, local governments must adopt plans and regulatory systems that provide opportunities for (and do not unduly constrain), housing development. As a result, housing policy in California rests largely on the effective implementation of local general plans and, in particular, local housing elements.” Each of the regions in the state must develop a plan for their Regional Housing Needs Allocation and Housing Elements.

The allocation methodology is a formula for accommodating the Bay Area’s total housing need by quantifying the number of housing units — separated into above-moderate, moderate, low and very-low income categories — that will be assigned to each city, town and county.  The allocation must meet statutory objectives and be consistent with the forecasted development pattern from Plan Bay Area 2050. The final result of the RHNA process is the allocation of housing units by income category to each jurisdiction. Each local government must then update the Housing Element of its General Plan and its zoning to show how it can accommodate its RHNA allocation.

The proposed RHNA methodology was developed by ABAG’s Housing Methodology Committee (HMC) after nearly a year of meetings and technical analysis. The HMC process provided a forum for local elected officials, staff from city and county governments, various stakeholder groups, and members of the general public to formulate a data-driven proposal.  Members of the HMC were selected from a diverse pool of applicants and included representatives from each of the nine Bay Area counties.

President Arreguin praised the HMC for its challenging work: “The proposed methodology represents a big accomplishment not only for the HMC or for ABAG, but also for our region.  The committee members’ involvement in this complicated and sometimes contentious process brought together very diverse voices to develop a methodology that works for the entire Bay Area.”

Additional information about the proposed methodology and the RHNA process is available on ABAG’s website:  https://abag.ca.gov/our-work/housing/rhna-regional-housing-needs-allocation.

Founded in 1961, ABAG is the regional planning agency for the Bay Area’s nine counties and 101 cities and towns, and is recognized as the first council of governments in California.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Antioch’s Measure T will have no affect on new housing in Sand Creek area, don’t be fooled, vote no

Monday, October 12th, 2020

The latest plans for the Zeka Ranch new home project submitted to city staff last month. Note the grey, dashed line arbitrarily drawn by East Bay Regional Park District staff of where they wanted housing to be built on the property cutting off most of the flat land from new homes because it’s too close to the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. This land is the target of Measure T and the environmentalists.

Unnecessary fourth vote by the people could have at the most only stopped 877 homes remaining to be approved; would have downzoned private property by over 97%, from 2 homes per acre down to 1 home per 80 acres – unfair, unAmerican, and an “illegal taking” of land

By Allen Payton

Antioch residents have the opportunity to vote on Measure T on the November ballot because a judge told the Antioch City Council they had to place it there. But, since that ruling, Gov. Newsom signed into law SB330, the Housing Crisis Act of 2019.

According to the Legislative Counsel’s Digest, “This bill, until January 1, 2025, with respect to land where housing is an allowable use, except as specified, would prohibit a county or city, including the electorate exercising its local initiative or referendum power, in which specified conditions exist, determined by the Department of Housing and Community Development as provided, from enacting a development policy, standard, or condition, as defined, that would have the effect of (A) changing the land use designation or zoning of a parcel or parcels of property to a less intensive use or reducing the intensity of land use within an existing zoning district below what was allowed under the general plan or specific plan land use designation and zoning ordinances of the county or city as in effect on January 1, 2018.”

What that means is even if Measure T passes, it will have no effect on the remaining four parcels of land on the west side of Deer Valley Road in the Sand Creek Area that have had a 2-home per acre zoning designation since the 1980’s and officially since 2005.

So, why is Measure T on the ballot?

Because in early 2018 out-of-town environmentalists with a few Antioch residents who supported their efforts, pushed forward the Let Antioch Voters Decide: The Sand Creek Protection Initiative. They were trying to stop about 2,000 homes by moving in the city’s Urban Limit Line and downzoning all the property west of Deer Valley Road to just one home per 80 acres – a 97.4% decrease in housing units and devaluation of property.

But the proponents lied to Antioch residents to get them to sign the petitions telling them they could stop 8,000 homes. Yet, they knew that only 4,000 homes were allowed in the Sand Creek Area since the city council voted for that amount in the City’s General Plan in 2005.

The fact is by 2018, 1,174 homes had already been approved on the east side of Deer Valley Road. Plus, another 350 are planned on the eastern edge of the area, 121 homes planned north of Kaiser, and 301 senior homes are planned in a gated community in the hills south of Kaiser, for a total of 1,946 homes. That left only 2,054 homes that the initiative might have been able to stop – because it only affects the west side of Deer Valley Road.

Richland Development, the proponents of The Ranch project with its 1,177 homes on the west side of Deer Valley Road, launched their own initiative to get the voters to approve their project, but also threw their neighboring four properties under the bus downzoning them to one home per 80 acres, as well. Although they gathered enough signatures and the council adopted their initiative in 2018, a judge threw it out. Instead, in June of this year, the city council voted unanimously to approve The Ranch project and the environmentalists did not oppose it. In fact, they praised the project for protecting hillsides and the 250-foot setbacks to Sand Creek. (See related article)

So, that leaves only 877 homes that can still be approved in the Sand Creek area. Not 8,000 or even 4,000.

Map of area covered by the Richland Communities’ alternative initiative that would have downzoned and devalued neighboring properties, and The Ranch 1,177-home project area. Herald file graphic.

History of New Homes Planned for the Sand Creek Area

The bottom line is homes have been planned for the Sand Creek Area since the 1980’s when the city council and staff started drawing up plans and communicating with the landowners. Then we the people voted – three times, telling the landowners homes could be built on their property. Developers started making option payments on some of the land as early as 1989.

Beginning in the mid-1990’s 8,950 homes were planned in the Sand Creek Area, then known as Future Urban Area 1 (FUA-1) and 700 homes were proposed for the Roddy Ranch development for a total of 9,650 homes. But that number was reduced to 4,700 homes total by the City Council in 2003.

1990 – First Vote of the People Allowing New Homes in Sand Creek Area

Yet, what they call open space has actually been owned by developers for 20 or more years, since we the people of the county voted in 1990 for an Urban Limit Line and placed it along the ridgeline on the south side of the former Roddy Ranch Golf Club. That vote cut off 65% of the land in the county from subdivision development. The Sand Creek area land is inside the other 35% of the land where it’s allowed.

2005 – Second Vote of the People Allowing New Homes in Sand Creek Area

Then after the Board of Supervisors moved the ULL in and cut out the Roddy Ranch property, in 2005, we the people of Antioch voted to move the ULL back out and establishing Antioch’s own ULL. Known as Measure K, it passed by almost 60% of Antioch voters.

2007 – Third Vote of the People Allowing New Homes in Sand Creek Area

Then in 2007, the county had another vote on the Urban Limit Line to confirm its location. The line remained in the same place. So, once again we the people voted to allow new home construction in the Sand Creek area.

Land is Owned by Developers, It’s Not Open Space

That’s why for over 20 years the land in the Sand Creek Area has been owned by developers, waiting for the right time in the market to get their projects approved and build their voter allowed new home subdivisions.

But they missed the market, twice and faced the 2008 economic downturn. Yet, in the meantime, Highway 4 was widened through Antioch, the Highway 4 bypass/extension was built to Balfour Road in Brentwood and BART opened in our city. All the internal major streets in Antioch and highways were designed with 12,000 homes planned for the Sand Creek Area and south. Yet now that the Roddy Ranch is permanent open space, so those 700 homes planned for half-acre lots inside a gated community on 900 acres inside the ULL, will not be built.

City of Antioch planning map with land-use designations. VLD-H = very low density  hillside, etc.

11th Hour Effort to Stop the Sand Creek Area Homes

Then, just as three of the remaining five property owners were ready to move forward with their plans for final approval by the City Council, the environmentalists tried to stop them with their initiative. Worse, even though the Zeka Ranch was ready to submit plans in 2017, they were advised by City staff to hold off until The Ranch project on the east side of the old Empire Mine Road submitted their plans, so they could coordinate on road alignments. So, The Zeka Group held off. In the meantime, the two initiatives moved forward, and both gathered enough signatures to be placed on the ballot. Instead the five members of the City Council chose to adopt both initiatives instead of placing them on the ballot.

Why Can Brentwood Have Nice Homes & Gated Communities, But Not Antioch?

They didn’t stop the nice, upscale, senior and gated communities, and even million-dollar homes from being built in Brentwood. But they don’t want Antioch to have them? Why not? People who live in Antioch want to live here, move up to a nicer home, or to a senior community and not have to move out of town, like some of our former city leaders have actually done – to Brentwood.

Plus, the homes in the Sand Creek Area on the west side of Deer Valley Road won’t be built for five to 10 years, because the sewer line has to be extended from the east end of the valley. Also, all the homes will pay the regional traffic impact fee of $15,000 each, and a new, annual police funding assessment, yet they won’t have the impact on crime and police services as other parts of Antioch. That’s just a fact.

The best part is that the types of homes planned for the Zeka Ranch project will attract business owners and executives to Antioch to bring their companies and jobs to the 200-acre area near Laurel Road, that the city council I was a part of set aside in 1998 for employment and commercial uses.

Here’s What’s Really Been Going On

The environmentalists and the East Bay Regional Park District lust for the Zeka Ranch and its 640 acres adjacent to the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. Although they could build 1,280 homes on the property based on the two homes per acre zoning designation, The Zeka Group, owner of the Zeka Ranch, originally planned about 1,100 homes. The park district threatened to sue the City of Antioch if they allowed that, so Zeka chose to be a good neighbor and reduce their total to 750 homes. But that wasn’t good enough. Park district representatives drew an arbitrary line on Zeka’s property and said they could build homes in that area. (See map top). The Zeka Group, led by Antioch homeowner Louisa Zee Kao, chose not to fight and scaled down her project again, this time to just 337 units on 200 of her 640 acres. Yet, that’s still too many for the environmentalists and what they’ve written into Measure T which would downzone the property to just eight homes, total! Why? So, the park district can buy it for pennies on the dollar. That’s what the environmentalists tried to do a few years ago by asking The Zeka Group to sell their land at a deep discount to another developer to be used as open space, at a price much lower than the $30 million they’ve spent to purchase it, as well as the costs for creating the plans and going through the city approval process.

Taking of Land

That’s what is called an illegal taking of land. That’s why The Zeka Group won in court twice and both The Ranch initiative and the environmentalists’ Sand Creek initiative were thrown out in 2019. The judge said the council couldn’t adopt The Ranch initiative the way it was written. He also said the Let Antioch Voters Decide initiative, (which is ironic, since the environmentalists got the five council members to decide by adopting it in 2018, circumventing the voters) had to be placed on this November’s ballot. (See related articles, here and here)

SB330 Makes Moot Measure T

But the initiative is moot – has no meaning and will have no impact – due to the language in SB330. Even if Measure T could go into effect, it’s just wrong, unfair and frankly unAmerican. How would you like it if you followed the rules, bought some property, spent money on plans within the limits allowed and just as you’re ready to get your approval to build, the rules are changed on you and now your property is worth 2.5% of what you paid for it? I doubt you would like it or think it’s fair. But, that’s what Measure T is attempting to do to four property owners in Antioch.

Fortunately, that can’t happen and the Yes on T campaign is really a waste of time and their supporters’ funds. Yet the environmentalists are still trying to deceive the voters of Antioch hoping that you’ll vote for Measure T to send a message to future council members to not approve the remaining 877 homes. However, if a future council votes against the Zeka Ranch project or any others on the remaining parcels in the next five years, the City will be on the hook for having to purchase the land at the fair market. That could cost Antioch taxpayers millions of dollars. So, save our tax dollars, don’t take their land, and vote No on Measure T. To learn more, visit the No on Measure T page on this website.

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Council majority postpones decision on Delta Fair Village apartments indefinitely on a split vote

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

Rendering of proposed Delta Fair Village apartment complex.

Cite applicant’s history of code enforcement violations at site, and other properties he owns in Antioch; Project can be brought back to council sooner than a year, and as a possible condo project, instead;  Construction unions attempt “greenmail” to pressure developer for PLA

By Allen Payton

During their meeting Tuesday night, the Antioch City Council on a 3-2 vote, postponed indefinitely the proposed 210-unit Delta Fair Village apartment complex, proposed by the owner of commercial property in Antioch, because he has consistently ignored code enforcement issues and been fined for it multiple times. The applicant, Gabriel Chiu, who with his family through their Chiu Family, LLC, owns the property as well as the Deer Valley Plaza, where the former AMC Deer Valley Theaters were located, didn’t participate in the Zoom meeting. Instead, his architect was available to answer questions, but the council members’ questions were for Chiu, not about any features of the project.

Two of the council members mentioned wanting a union-only hire, Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the project.

During public comments, Kyle Jones, who said he was with an organization named Antioch Residents for Responsible Development, read a letter from the group’s attorney outlining a variety of concerns they have with the project, mainly over environmental issues. 2020-06-01-Attorney ltr from Antioch-Residents-for-Responsible-Development

They want an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project, for impacts on air quality and health, he said.

“Impacts to air quality will be significant without mitigation,” Jones said. The greenhouse gas impacts of the project were underestimated.”

During an internet search of the group’s name, a copy of their attorney’s letter was found on the website www.phonyuniontreehuggers.com. It refers to the tactic known as greenmail, which is used by labor unions to in effect blackmail a developer using environmental issues until the developer agrees to a PLA. That’s because the construction unions don’t really oppose the project, as they want it to be built, only as long as their members are the ones who are hired to build it.

According to their attorney’s letter, under the title “Statement of Interest” identifies the group’s membership. It reads, “Antioch Residents for Responsible Development is an unincorporated association of individuals and labor organizations that may be adversely affected by the potential environmental impacts of the Project. The association includes Antioch residents Nathan Deleon, Sunshine Kinder, and Anthony Lundberg- Palacios and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 302, Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 159, Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, Sprinkler Fitters Local 483 and their members and those members’ families and other individuals that live, recreate, work and raise their families in the City of Antioch (collectively “Antioch Residents’).the Antioch Residents for Responsible Development consists of three Antioch residents.”

One additional item that was mentioned during city staff’s presentation on the project, which wasn’t included in the staff report in the council packet, the conditions of approval “obligate the project to join the pending Contra Costa Fire District’s Community Facilities District (CFD),” to pay for additional fire service needed by the future residents. Other new development projects in the area are being required to be included in the CFD.

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts was the first council member to speak on the matter, saying the property owner has had “an extensive history” of ignoring code enforcement issues. “In other words, these are impediments to economic development. Based on the lack of maintenance, these issues can dramatically affect surrounding businesses and residents.”

“Please tell me how this…applicant is going to be different,” she asked city staff.

“Our task before you, is to evaluate the project,” responded Forrest Ebbs, Antioch Community Development Director. “We’re sensitive to the fact that there are other issues. But I can’t introduce outside elements to this process.”

“Our analysis of the project is complete, and we can speak to that,” he added.

“Until I can have an answer on this, I don’t feel comfortable. I really don’t,” Motts stated. “We have a responsibility to the residents…we have a history of approving developments haphazardly.”

Thorpe then said, “Thank you for that. I think I share the same concerns.”

He asked if the applicant, Gabriel Chiu was on the line. But only the applicant’s architect was available to answer questions.

“I think we all have the concerns about the applicant,” said Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock. “But we need to move forward. This is an infill project and we’ve been asking for infill projects. The code enforcement issues have to be addressed before the project can move forward.”

“I like this project,” she continued. “We need apartments in the area. It will be nice to see the retail have a facelift.”

She asked that some of the units be reserved for seniors, and for a PLA.

“Will there be a manager on site?” Ogorchock asked.

“There is a condition of approval that there be a 24-hour manager on site of the project,” a city staff member responded.

Councilmember Monica Wilson shared her concerns saying, “although I’d like to see something on that side, I’m with everybody else. I just need some assurances the property will be maintained.”

“It’s already a very dense population in there, with apartments on San Jose Drive,” she continued. “How far back do those code enforcement issues go?”

“I’ve been on staff for over five years,” Ebbs shared. “When I first started with the city, that was one of the stops on a code enforcement tour.”

“I’m just not feeling confident of that applicant maintaining that site,” Wilson continued. “There definitely needs to be a project labor agreement. There just needs to be a lot of things before I can move forward.”

“We have an opportunity to take an area of town and see an investment,” Mayor Sean Wright said, urging the other council members to reconsider their opposition. “If we say no to this project, five years from now, we’re still going to have the same code enforcement issues.”

“We need to bring a project into that area to spur development,” he continued. “This is a crucial opportunity for Antioch. If we say no, tonight, we’re not just saying no to this developer, but to quite a few other developers.”

“I just don’t feel comfortable. If it was any other applicant,” Motts added. “I would need a broader conversation with the applicant before we go forward.”

“If we approve this project, this evening it might give the applicant a quick kick in the rear to fix up his other properties,” said Ogorchock. “All these conditions have to be met before he moves forward. Hopefully the applicant is listening, tonight and hearing the comments.”

Ogorchock made a motion to approve the project and Wright seconded it.

However, Thorpe offered a substitute motion. “My substitute motion is to postpone indefinitely,” he said. Motts seconded it.

“Is there a goal with the postponement?” Wright asked.

“It sounds like there are concerns of our colleagues and the applicant isn’t here to answer them,” Thorpe said. “This is about trust and I don’t trust him.”

“We’ve never had a project come before us in which the applicant wasn’t with us,” Motts said.

“I really think this is a project we need in town,” Wright said.

The council then adopted the motion to postpone on a 3-2 vote with Wright and Ogorchock voting no.

Following the vote, both Motts and Thorpe were asked if they had spoken with Mr. Chiu before the council meeting. Thorpe responded simply, “Nope.” Motts responded that she had not spoken with the applicant before the meeting and that usually developers approach her and other council members with their projects before the meeting, not the other way around.

Had the council voted on Ogorchock’s motion and it failed, the applicant would have had to wait at least one year to bring it back to the council for a vote. Instead, by approving the motion to postpone indefinitely, although unnecessary and a motion to table would have been sufficient and more appropriate, it will allow the applicant to return sooner than a year, and be available to answer questions of council members. It also offers the applicant time to submit a condominium application to convert the project from rental apartments, which both Thorpe and Motts mentioned they were supportive of, following the meeting. That could take four to six weeks according to Antioch Planning Commission member Manny Soliz. (See related article)

 

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Antioch Council to consider converting former Food Maxx location into 210-apartment complex Tuesday night

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

From project presentation for Antioch City Council 09-22-20.

Possible conversion to condominiums

Delta Fair Village site map.

By Allen Payton

During their regular meeting, tonight, Sept. 22, 2020, the Antioch City Council will consider approving a a four-story, 210-apartmentproject, along with 4,000 square feet of retail in the Delta Fair Shopping Center where the Food Maxx store was located in the past. The site is located at 3000 Delta Fair Blvd. and bordered by Buchanan Road and San Jose Drive, near the Somersville Road and Highway 4 interchange. The store building has sat empty for several years, since the store relocated across town to the Deer Valley Plaza at Lone Tree Way and Deer Valley Road. Delta Fair Village ACC 092220 presentation

According to the city staff report, the plan, recommended by a vote of the Antioch Planning Commission, would result in the demolition of 73,546 square feet of retail space and be replaced with the condos and new retail building. The four stories of apartments would consist of five buildings over a ground-floor parking structure.

If approved, the project will also include renovation of the remaining existing 73,535 sf of retail space.

Some of the project documents label it a condominium project. Efforts to reach city staff for questions about it were unsuccessful, but Antioch Planning Commissioner Manny Soliz explained the discrepancy in terms in the staff report.

Document in Antioch city staff report for council meeting agenda item using the term condominiums. The project proponent has agreed to return with a conversion proposal.

“At our meeting, I had asked for it to be condos, and the project owner agrees with that. But that would require them to revise the plan,” Soliz shared. “I said, let’s go ahead and take the extra four to six weeks, but the rest of the commission said no, we need to get rid of that blight, now. I said I’m for that, too. But I’d rather get it done right the first time.”

“The proponent told the planning commission that he will come back with a conversion to condominium proposal,” he continued. “That seemed like a good compromise.”

“I think it will be a good project, but it did get approved as apartments, for now,” Soliz added.

The council meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. and can be viewed on Comcast Cable Channel 24 or via livestream on the City’s website.

Proposed project location on Delta Fair Blvd. in Antioch.

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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: www.planbayarea.org. The entire list of public events can be found here: www.planbayarea.org/meetings-and-events/upcoming-public-events.

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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