By Allen Payton
Antioch is in the process of developing a specific plan for more housing in the Sand Creek Focus Area as described in the City’s General Plan. The area on either side of Deer Valley Road, near the Kaiser medical center, has long been planned for additional housing.
At their meeting, on Wednesday, March 16, the Antioch Planning Commission will be deciding on recommendations they will make to the City Council on policies for how the area will be developed.
Following are some key facts I believe people should know before they make comments and provide input to the Commission and the Council, as well as some of my own recommendations:
Voter Approved Housing Area
The Sand Creek Area is inside both the County’s and City’s voter approved Urban Limit Lines. The County’s line, approved in 1989, sets aside 65% of the land in the county from development of anything more than one house per five acres. The City’s line is the same as the original County line, but the vote for that included approval of the Roddy Ranch housing project. That land around the Roddy Ranch Golf Course was sold two years ago to the East Bay Regional Park District, and is now open space.
So, any housing approved there, in spite of opposition from current residents of Antioch and East County, who are saying the City Council isn’t listening to the people, is doing what the voters allowed.
Growth Is Inevitable
Growth is inevitable as long as people keep having babies. The only way to not have housing growth is for all generations currently living in a family to all live in the same house. But, I’m sure we can all recognize that’s not realistic.
Those from the opposition to almost new housing growth, such as Save Mount Diablo, would prefer us to live in high-density, high-rise housing, and preferably in inner cities. I ask them, when is enough open space enough? They want a buffer zone between housing and the East Bay Regional Park District’s Black Diamond Regional Preserve, which our tax dollars paid to purchase. Why do we need a buffer zone for open space?
Plus, this area isn’t Mt. Diablo. That’s already been saved, which is a good thing. They need to focus their efforts on the 65% of the land outside the Urban Limit Line and face the reality that most Americans don’t want to live in high-density housing, or in the inner cities. Home and private property ownership, with space between us and the next Americans, are part of our heritage.
I understand that most opponents of new housing growth in Antioch, don’t want more traffic or are concerned about the current lack of police. But, if they own a home or reside in Antioch or East County, and weren’t born and grew up here, or live in the same home their parents owned, they are basically and hypocritically saying, “I’m in. Shut the door. I’ve got mine, too bad for you.” They need to remember that when their homes were being approved, the people who already live in Antioch or next to their subdivision probably didn’t want them built, either.
I’m sure others who live in one of the homes in the subdivisions that back up to the Sand Creek area want to maintain the area as open space. If you are one of those Antioch residents and were told that it would be permanent open space, that’s unfortunate, because you were misled.
I’m a second-generation native Californian and could have opposed anyone who moved to our state since either I or even since my parents were born in the 1930’s and would have some credibility. But, that’s a ridiculous position to hold.
I graduated from high school in Walnut Creek and after I returned from college and got married, like many of my friends from Central County, we needed a place to live that we could afford. Antioch and East County was that place. If the homes weren’t built here for us, where were we supposed to live?
It reminds me of what I said, with tongue-in-cheek, at a meeting in Concord on transportation issues attended by elected officials in the county, most of whom opposed the widening of Highway 4 and construction of the Highway 4 Bypass, because they would “induce growth in East County,” back when we were pushing for their funding and approval from 1995-98. I said “don’t blame us for the growth. You had kids over the past 30 to 40 years. Where are they living? East County. So, if you ever want to see your grandkids again, give us money for Highway 4 or we won’t be coming back to Central County because it will take too long to get here.” They laughed, but they also got the message.
It’s time we all face the fact that the long-planned growth is going to occur, in Antioch, and focus on the issues related to it. Those issues are where and when the new homes should be built, how many and what type. Plus, how do we ensure the new homes pay their way so as to not burden city services, but support them and their expansion to provide for the people who already live here and will live in the new homes.
East County is the Place
Growth is like a balloon. If you push in one side it will pop out on another. East County is where much of the developable land is still available for housing in our county. If the homes aren’t built here, within the 35% of the land in the county where housing growth is allowed – by the voters – then it will continue to occur further out in the Central Valley. That means less land to grow our food and longer commutes for those working in the job centers along the 680 and 880 corridors, Silicon Valley and even San Francisco and the Peninsula, blowing smoke out of the tailpipes longer, creating more pollution.
Now Is the Time
It is a good thing we didn’t approve the housing in what was known as Future Urban Area 1 (FUA-1) back in 1995 when I was on the City Council, and we started planning the area. We needed time for Antioch and East County to get caught up on Highway 4 widening and the extension (Bypass), and for the BART extension to be built, as well as the new school construction. That’s why a few of us proposed and got passed Measure U, the growth management advisory initiative which was approved by 69% of the voters in 1998. Now, all those things are either done or will be done in the next few years.
4,000 Homes Maximum
Back then a total of 8,900 homes were proposed to be built in the FUA-1/Sand Creek area. Now the number is down to about 4,000 homes, maximum. Recently two housing developments were approved, totaling about 1,300 homes. So there are only approximately 2,700 more homes that can be approved within the current confines of the General Plan.
The reality is enough homes must be approved to pay for the needed infrastructure to support the new developments, which includes local streets, sewer, water lines, parks and trails, plus the major roads which will serve any and all of us who will drive through the new area to either Kaiser or Highway 4 at Sand Creek Road.
Larger Homes on Larger Lots, Gated and Senior Communities
Going back to the 1990’s the plan has been as Antioch grew further south, the homes approved in the new areas would be larger and on larger lots, to add a different type of housing to the mix. While things have changed in the market place since then, the idea is to have executive and upscale housing, and gated communities, adding a different type of housing to the mix that we already have. That should help attract executives and business owners to Antioch who will hopefully bring their businesses and employ residents in our city and neighboring cities, so they would no longer have to commute out of the area to work.
Plus, senior housing communities, as have been approved in Brentwood, will provide housing for our own aging population for people who will not impact commute traffic or our schools, but stay in town during the day and spend money at local businesses and restaurants.
Hillside and View Lots
Recommendation: The Planning Commission and Council must include large hillside lots and view lots in the mix, like those in Blackhawk and the San Ramon Valley which will allow for upscale houses that command higher home prices, which attract the executives, professionals and business owners.
City Services & Infrastructure Impact Mitigation
The new subdivisions already approved in the Sand Creek area will be helping to pay for the completion of Sand Creek Road, which will connect Deer Valley Road to Highway 4 on the east side, as well as the extensions of Hillcrest Avenue and Heidorn Ranch Road. The other proposed developments in the area will help pay for the connection of Sand Creek Road to Dallas Ranch Road. The road improvements will of course serve the new homes, but will also benefit students who attend Dozier-Libbey Medical High School and provide better access to patients of the Kaiser medical center.
The homes, like all other new homes in East County will continue to pay the $15,000 fee for regional roads, such as the Highway 4 extension, previously known as the Bypass.
In addition, the new subdivisions will be paying a new, annual police fee which will help provide additional officers who will not only serve the new area, but all of Antioch.
Recommendation: The Commission and Council need to ensure that each new home helps pay for the completion of the 115-acre Prewett Park, which is the City’s regional park. There is a plan for all the vacant land between the parking lot and Antioch Community Center and Deer Valley Road, along Lone Tree Way. Just like the current homes in the newer areas of southeast Antioch paid 20% of their Mello-Roos assessment for the construction of the other parts of Prewett Park, such as the Antioch Water Park and the Community Center, the new homeowners in Sand Creek need to pay to complete the master plan of the park.
The Commission meeting will be begin at 6:30 and held in the Council Chambers next to City Hall, at 3rd and H Streets in downtown.
To see the entire agenda and Staff Report for the General Plan Land Use Element Update, Sand Creek Focus Area please click here and on Item 3.
If you plan on speaking on the item, be sure to let the Commissioners know what you want to see in the new housing and subdivisions. Don’t just be against the new growth, because it’s coming. We just need to make sure it’s the type of housing we want in Antioch.