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

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.

the attachments to this post:

Seth Adams SMD comments Antioch City Council 07-28-20

The Ranch Site Plan

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