By Allen Payton
Finally. Antioch has a gated housing community being proposed for development. This is not just any gated community, but one by Blackhawk in partnership with the Nunns of Brentwood who built Apple Hill Estates and other projects in the city to our east.
While it’s not the same as Apple Hill or Blackhawk in the San Ramon Valley, at least it’s a gated community with some nice amenities and homes that are projected to sell in the $500,000 to $600,000 range, which will help improve home values throughout Antioch.
The project, known as the Vineyards at Sand Creek, two years in the planning process, comes before the Antioch Planning Commission, tonight, Wednesday, January 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, for review and possible approval. It is proposed for land that is currently planned as a business park on the most southeastern edge of the city that borders Brentwood, along what will be the extension of Heidorn Ranch Road, and Sand Creek Road on the south side, and the planned extension of Hillcrest Avenue on the west side.
It includes 641 homes on 4,200 to 5,160 square foot lots, which doesn’t fit within my previous stated desire for larger homes on larger lots in the Sand Creek Focus Area of the City’s General Plan, formerly known as Future Urban Area 1 or FUA-1. However, it makes sense, as that area is adjacent to what is proposed to be mixed use development, including high-density housing on the Brentwood side, next to a future BART station and commercial development along Highway 4, next to the Sand Creek Road interchange. Plus, again, the homes will be in a gated community, which does fit within my previously stated desires for the area, along with upscale homes and senior communities.
Also, this project will provide the extension to the needed infrastructure to the entire focus area, specifically the sewer line and a section of Sand Creek Road. It is located across the street, of the planned extension of Hillcrest Avenue, from the previously approved Aviano Farms.
A little background for those concerned about all the new houses. When I was on the City Council from 1994-98 a total of 8,900 homes were planned for the area. Today that number is down to about 4,000 and possibly fewer, after learning in a recent discussion with representatives of Richland, which owns the land known as The Ranch, across Deer Valley Road from the Kaiser Medical Center, and was slated for 1,667 homes. They told me that number will be closer to 1,100 homes, instead. So, the total number of homes for the 2,700 acrea Sand Creek Focus Area, inside the city limits and inside the Urban Limit Line, which cuts off 65% of land in the county from subdivision development (no more than one home per five acres), definitely fits within reason and the long-term plans for Antioch and East County.
Since the land – approved by voters – for the Roddy Ranch housing project has been sold to the East Bay Regional Park District, there won’t be a gated community of 640 half-acre, upscale homes around a PGA golf course, to help pay for the needed infrastructure of roads, water and sewer line extensions for the area, nor $1 million for Antioch schools or $1 million for the Highway 4 bypass/extension. It was not “just another subdivision” as Mayor Wade Harper said, when he argued it was better to just have “open space to serve the people of Northern California” when he and the council let it go a few years back. So, the infrastructure costs need to be borne by the other developments in the Sand Creek focus area. (Frankly, I hope and believe the Roddy Ranch project – which was going to be the Blackhawk of Antioch – can and should still be built, some day, as it will make sense, once the infrastructure is extended closer to the project area. But, that’s another subject for another column another day).
The Vineyards project replaces those 640 units lost when the Roddy Ranch project went away, to help pay for the needed infrastructure for the area. The extension of Sand Creek Road, which will eventually connect to the current end of Dallas Ranch Road, will provide another major access to both Kaiser Medical Center and Highway 4 in Brentwood, reducing traffic impacts on Lone Tree Way.
Plus, an economic study has shown there is more than enough land in Antioch for commercial development and employment. Specifically, the proposed Resolution in the City Staff report states “in May 2015, the City hired EPS to prepare the ‘Implications for Economic Development of the Proposed General Plan Amendment for the Promenade/Vineyards at Sand Creek Project’ (the ‘Economic Study’). The Economic Study concluded that: (1) The City currently has workspace development capacity of approximately 23.3 million square feet; (2) On an aggregate basis, the City has substantial development capacity for job growth requiring office/commercial and business park/industrial space; (3) Comparison of available City employment areas indicates that there are areas that are better and will be more competitive in attracting economic development than the Sand Creek Focus Area; and (4) Overall, the proposed change in General Plan designation (from Business Park to Residential) will not negatively affect the City’s ability to attract new economic development.
The project will also be required to create an assessment district to pay for police, with each home paying an annual fee, as the Aviano Farms project was required to do.
Finally, the fact that Blackhawk wants to build in Antioch says a lot and sends a message to the greater Bay Area that our city is coming back and on the road to economic recovery and hopefully, a safer one, as well. While we still have a long way to go, and the homes, if approved won’t be under construction for another few years, by then things can and should not only be better for the new home buyers, but for those of us who live here, now.
Also, hopefully, the project will attract business owners with their businesses to Antioch, to create jobs and employ our people who currently commute out of town each work day.
However, this should be the last project proposed for the Sand Creek Focus Area, approved by the Planning Commission and City Council, until a final plan for the area is put in place, which isn’t expected to be completed until later this year.
A public, joint workshop on the area, with both the Council and Commission, is planned for January 20th at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers.
To view the agenda for tonight’s Planning Commission meeting, click here. The Vineyards project and complete staff report is listed under item #3.