Archive for the ‘Growth & Development’ Category

Plan Bay Area 2050+ Draft Blueprint: Tell us what you think

Thursday, August 17th, 2023

Creating the Blueprint is a key step in developing Plan Bay Area 2050+.

Public engagement is a fundamental element of the plan update process.

September 6th workshop in Contra Costa; Deadline for comment: September 7, 2023

The Plan Bay Area 2050+ Blueprint will integrate strategies across the four elements of the plan — the economy, the environment, housing and transportation — to create a more equitable and resilient future for all.

Beginning in summer 2023 and wrapping up in late 2024, staff will develop the Blueprint over two phases: the Draft Blueprint and the Final Blueprint. Given Plan Bay Area 2050’s solid foundation of 35 strategies, the Draft Blueprint phase for Plan Bay Area 2050+ will focus on making targeted refinements to select plan strategies. (See Plan Bay Area 2050 Executive Summary)

Assumptions for the select Blueprint strategies will be refined to reflect ongoing implementation efforts from Plan Bay Area 2050, while also leveraging findings from previous planning efforts that may be relevant to the post-COVID environment.

Equity and performance analyses will also be conducted during the Draft Blueprint phase to evaluate how the plan’s strategies are supporting progress towards making the Bay Area more affordable, connected, diverse, healthy and vibrant for all.

Furthermore, Transit 2050+ — the comprehensive re-thinking of the six transit-related strategies in Plan Bay Area 2050’s transportation element — will develop an integrated regional transit network that will be incorporated into the Final Blueprint.

While still remaining fiscally constrained per federal planning requirements, the focused plan update approach will consider whether to pursue targeted updates to — or to reaffirm — the Regional Growth Forecast (while maintaining its forecast methodology), as well as to the External Forces, the Growth Geographies and the Needs and Revenue Forecasts.

Culminating in late 2024, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) will consider adoption of the Final Blueprint, which will then move forward in the plan update process as the preferred alternative for environmental review.

Photo: Plan Bay Area

Getting Involved

Creating the Blueprint is a key first step toward updating the plan itself, and thus the Blueprint planning phase will require iteration and deep engagement of the public, partners and elected officials.

A first step in developing the Blueprint is to better understand what has changed as the region emerges from the pandemic. This summer, MTC and ABAG staff will be traveling across the region to speak to the community to understand how life has changed for individuals as the Bay Area enters the “new normal.”

MTC and ABAG are taking input from community members and partners to help inform the development of the Draft Blueprint.

You can make your voice heard in a variety of ways! Attend a pop-up workshop near you; participate in our survey; or submit comments via email, telephone or mail.

Find an event near you and join the conversation to help staff better understand how the last three years have impacted life across the Bay Area.

Participate in Our Survey

A first step in updating the plan is to better understand what has changed for you as the region emerges from the pandemic. MTC and ABAG want to learn how the “new normal” may be impacting your life.

The survey will close on September 7, 2023.

The survey also will help inform the development of Transit 2050+, a parallel long-range planning effort that will produce a first-of-its-kind plan to re-envision the future of the public transit network in the nine-county Bay Area, and the expenditure plan for a potential transportation revenue measure. The revenue measure is key in advancing implementation of Plan Bay Area.

Join a Pop-up Workshop

This summer, MTC and ABAG staff will be traveling across the region to speak to the community to understand how life has changed for individuals as the Bay Area emerges from the pandemic. Attend a pop-up workshop near you and tell us what the “new normal” means to you.

Contra Costa County

Diablo Valley College — Pleasant Hill Campus

Wednesday, September 6, 12 to 3 p.m.

321 Golf Club Road, Pleasant Hill, CA

About Plan Bay Area

Plan Bay Area is a long-range regional plan jointly developed and adopted by MTC and ABAG every four years.

Antioch Council approves 440 homes in The Ranch Project Phase I on split votes

Wednesday, June 28th, 2023
Phase Map of The Ranch new home project in the Sand Creek Focus Area. The grey section is Phase I in two parts. Source: Richland Communities

First development in Sand Creek Area project west of Deer Valley Road; will include trails, new fire station, small commercial area

Torres-Walker votes against, she and Wilson want low-income/“inclusionary” housing included in the area long planned for upscale homes

By Allen D. Payton

During Tuesday night’s regular meeting the Antioch City Council voted 4-1 with Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker voting against, to approve two Vesting Tentative Maps for the 440 homes in The Ranch project’s Phase I in the Sand Creek Focus Area. It’s the first development west of Deer Valley Road in the City’s long-planned and embattled upscale housing area.  In addition, the council approved an amendment to the Master Development Plan reserving more space for conservation. (See Item 3 of meeting agenda for staff report and presentation and meeting video beginning at the 3-hour, 12-minute mark)

Location map of The Ranch project. Source: Richland Communities

According to the City staff report, the Small Lot Vesting Tentative Subdivision Map would divide the Phase I area into 440 residential lots, a mixed-use component, a fire station, 6.6 acres of parkland, stormwater detention areas and an internal roadway network. That includes an extension to Sand Creek Road next to the Kaiser Medical Center across Deer Valley Road that will eventually connect to Dallas Ranch Road. The Master Development Plan Amendment modifies the proposed trail systems in order to reserve more space for conservation. The trails will more closely border the development and will include different amenities such as picnic tables and signage.

The 440 homes will be built on including 230 medium density lots with a minimum size of 4,000 square feet and an average of 4,845 s.f. and 210 low density lots with a minimum size of 5,000 s.f. and an average size of 8,140 s.f. Lots that abut the northern boundary next to existing homes will be a minimum of 8,000 s.f.

For the overall project homes will be built on 253.50 acres of the 551.50-acre site and will include a 5-acre Village Center consisting of commercial, office, and retail space, 3 acres of public services facilities, including a new fire station site and a trail staging area, approximately 22.5 acres of public parks and landscaped areas, 229.5 acres of open space including trails and 38 acres of roadway improvements.

History of San Creek Area and The Ranch

Planning for housing in that part of the city first began in the 1980’s. Then following the first of four votes in favor of placing the Urban Limit Line on the south side of the city limits, the planning in the 1990’s included a total of over 8,900 homes plus the previously proposed 640 homes at the former Roddy Ranch project. Now, at build out, the Sand Creek Focus Area will include just 4,000 homes. The regional and city infrastructure planned and built included 12,000 homes in the southernmost part of Antioch.

An initiative that had gathered enough signatures to be placed on the ballot which included a development agreement for the 1,177 homes of The Ranch project was approved by the Antioch City Council in 2018. But it was tossed out by a judge the following year. (See related articles here and here)

The Ranch Phase 1 Vesting Tentative Map Lot Area Plan. Source: Richland Communities

Following the presentation of the project by Contract Planner Cindy Gnoss of Raney Planning & Management  and Kyle Masters, Land Entitlement Director for the developer, Richland Communities, Allan Moore, an attorney representing neighboring development The Zeka Ranch argued in favor of a connection road through The Ranch property to his client’s property.

“The General Plan shows the road to Zeka Ranch goes through,” he stated. “The Subdivision Map Act requires it.” But Moore pointed out the plan for The Ranch before the council did not include it.

The Ranch Vehicular Circulation map showing dotted line for future, possible connector road to The Zeka Ranch. Source: Richland Communities

Council Discussion & Approval

Following public comments that included opposition and support for the project, during the council members’ discussion of the project, District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica and District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock asked staff about the connector road to The Zeka Ranch.

Gnoss responded that the connector road can be dealt with during The Ranch’s Phase 3 approval process.

Prairie style home concept planned for The Ranch Phase I. Photos: Richland Communities

Torres-Walker said she wanted low-income housing included in the Sand Creek area and was disappointed it wasn’t. District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson, in whose district the project will be built, said she wanted inclusionary housing. “I think when you’re not thoughtful this is what you get,” she stated.

But Mayor Lamar Thorpe reminded the public and his fellow council members that “Kaiser hospital is not fully built out. It’s to be built as a regional…I’m not saying this is right or wrong but part of build out is development.” He also pointed out that “Sand Creek Road is a regional road. It’s supposed to serve Brentwood residents, Oakley residents so they can get to Kaiser hospital. We don’t build roads in Antioch. Development builds roads.”

Craftsman style home concept planned for The Ranch Phase I.

Regarding traffic circulation in response to a complaint by a resident as a reason she opposed the project and a comment by this reporter that plans for the infrastructure in East County and within the city included 12,000 homes in the Sand Creek area, Thorpe said, “Lone Tree Way, how it was thought out, how it’s operating…is literally how it was intended. Out of the blue we didn’t add an extra lane in there. As growth has happened triggers happened. It was all intentional. Luckily, it’s not 8,000 homes that we’re talking about. It’s much, much scaled back.”

Farmhouse and Foursquare style home designs are also proposed for The Ranch Phase I.

In response to Torres-Walker’s concerns that the new homes won’t be affordable, the mayor said, “When you look at the demographics in the 94531 ZIP Code there’s a lot of people there who have advanced degrees. So, it’s living up to the area it was intended to be including…African Americans in that ZIP Code. It’s the largest concentration of Black people in the Bay Area with advanced degrees.”

The council then approved the new homes on 4-1 votes with Torres-Walker voting no.

Following the meeting Masters of Richland Communities shared that construction at the site should begin in about a year. The Ranch includes two more phases which will be brought to the council for adoption in the future.

Background – City Required to Approve New Homes

As previously reported, the City of Antioch, and all cities and counties in the Bay Area, must approve more homes between 2023 and 2031 based on the Regional Housing Needs Allocation. Antioch’s share is 3,016 new housing units for various income levels. On 4-1 votes in January 2023, the city council adopted the resolutions and ordinances related to the 6th Cycle Housing Element Update with Barbanica voting against all. The update allocates 792 Very Low-Income Units, 456 Low-Income Units, 493 Moderate-Income Units and 1,275 Above Moderate-Income Units that the council must approve. But more than those amounts are proposed or in the planning process.

RHNA City of Antioch 2023-31 from the Housing Element Update. Source: City of Antioch

Income levels are based on the following: Very Low is <50% of Area Median Income; Low is 50-80% of Area Median Income; Moderate is 80-120% of Area Median Income; and Above Moderate is >120% of Area Median Income. Area Median Income according to Fannie Mae is currently $158,200 per year.

Source: Fannie Mae

Contra Costa, other councilmembers warn SB 423 is state’s “endgame” to eliminate local control over development

Thursday, March 30th, 2023

Our Neighborhood Voices, a growing statewide coalition of communities, claims the bill is a permanent extension of SB 35, gives developers unlimited ability to develop nearly anything, anywhere in California

California lawmakers recently introduced legislation that would permanently strip local communities of nearly all important land use decisions. While the legislation – SB 423 – is touted as a tool to solve our affordable housing crisis, local elected leaders say that the legislation undermines local democracy by removing the ability of communities to plan and prepare for what is built in their neighborhoods. It also can accelerate damaging ‘Builders Remedy’ projects across the state that see massive projects built in residential neighborhoods without adequate planning for water, schools, transit, safety fire danger and other priorities.

SB 423 also removes vital protections in our Coastal Zones – something no other housing bill has dared to do. Californians have consistently supported protecting our coasts – this bill removes many of those protections forever.

“I was hoping SB 423 might be a tool to help us solve our affordable housing crisis, but it is not,” said Susan Candell, Lafayette City Councilmember. “Instead, it is the state’s final end game to undermine local democracy in cities and counties, and unleash unlimited development, including the ‘Builders Remedy,’ even in our treasured coastal zones.”

SB 423 can potentially release the ‘Builders Remedy’ where developers can just about build anything, anywhere. SB 423 is a permanent extension of SB 35 – a 2018 law that forces local governments to approve certain developments under a streamlined process if they fail to build, not just approve, but build enough housing to meet their Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) numbers. Complex interactions with many other bills lead cities again to be subject to the ‘Builders Remedy’ in 2025 for Southern California and 2027 in Northern California.

The RHNA numbers – which are set every eight years – “laid out impossible goals this cycle,” explains Jovita Mendoza, Brentwood City Councilmember. “Virtually no cities or counties will be able to meet their RHNA numbers. Cities and counties are now set up to fail, and as a result, local governments will lose their ability to have a say about what gets built in our communities. Instead, under SB 423, that approval process will be turned over to developers permanently.”

Coastal zones have been protected from profit-driven overdevelopment since the passage of the California Coastal Act of 1976. This new proposed legislation would virtually undo decades of work to protect California’s coastlines.

“Now local oversight, those who are the stewards of the coastal zone, is removed. Instead, those decisions are handed over to developers and their allies in Sacramento. We all know we need affordable housing in every part of California, but this bill drastically reduces the required affordable units,” said Redondo Beach City Councilmember Nils Nehrenheim.

Our Neighborhood Voices is a non-partisan coalition of residents and elected officials from every corner of California who believe that land use decisions should be determined by local communities and their elected leaders – not one-size-fits-all laws from Sacramento and for-profit developers.

To get these important questions in front of voters, Our Neighborhood Voices is organizing to qualify a citizen-led ballot initiative that would protect the ability of local communities to adopt laws that shape local growth, preserve the character of neighborhoods, and require developers to produce more affordable housing and contribute to the costs associated with it.

Antioch Council approve Housing Element Updates, plan for required 3,016 more housing units on split votes

Wednesday, January 25th, 2023

Source: City of Antioch

By Allen D. Payton

During their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, the Antioch City Council approved for 2023-2031 resolutions and ordinances related to the 663-page 6th Cycle Housing Element Update. They include the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), Amendments to the East Lone Tree Specific Plan and the Multi-Family Residential Objective Design Standards. Antioch 2023-31 Housing Element Update Sections 1-8    Antioch 2023-31 Housing Element Update Adppendix A    Antioch 2023-31 Housing Element Update Adppendix B  Antioch 2023-31 Housing Element Update Adppendices C-F

The RHNA is a requirement of state housing law and is a process that determines projected and existing housing need for all jurisdictions (city or unincorporated county) in California. The latest plan requires the city to approve a total of 3,016 new housing units in four categories from 2023 to 2031. They include 792 Very Low-Income Units, 456 Low-Income Units, 493 Moderate-Income Units and 1,275 Above Moderate-Income Units. However, the city’s plans already include more than enough of each type of units for a total of 4,881 units of 62% more than required. Those include housing units already approved and in the “pipeline”, projected Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) which are small housing units on the property of existing residences, sometimes referred to as “in-law units”; pending units and future multi-family development.

City of Antioch 2023-31 RNHA Units – Required & Planned. Source: City of Antioch

“This is a pretty important element of the city. We do this every eight years,” Thorpe explained.

“This is a state required policy, addressing housing, specifically…where we want to see housing,” Planning Manager Ann Hersch said. “There is no development being proposed at this time. This is a change on paper. It’s really policy changes at this time.”

“The first time…it was more equitable in how they dispersed the housing development in the Bay Area,” Thorpe said. “While other cities like San Mateo fought it and got all the businesses, we were stuck with all the housing and the problems. So, this is an important policy that for the first time is equitable throughout the Bay Area.”

“Just because we rezone something it doesn’t mean there’s going to be housing on it,” he continued. “It depends on the property owner. There are certain shopping plazas in Antioch that will be rezoned to accommodate housing. We are changing those rules to accommodate state law. Their process will be more streamlined than others do.”

“Those are the kinds of changes that we may implement, today. Some of it we just can’t get around,” Thorpe added.

Most of the residents who spoke during public comments on the item live in the Viera Avenue neighborhood off E. 18th Street who are concerned about increasing density and adding more housing in their part of town, which has been more rural, and not wanting the nearby vineyards from being developed.

East Lone Tree Specific Plan Employment & Commercial Phase map. Source: City of Antioch

Adopt East Lone Tree Specific Plan Amendments

Formerly known as Future Urban Area #2 or FUA-2 and adopted as the East Lone Tree Specific Plan area by the city council in 1996, consists of approximately 200 acres of land at Laurel Road and Highway 4, set aside for employment and commercial development. It includes the housing on the west side of Highway 4 north of Lone Tree Way and the Slatten Ranch Shopping Center. The council approved amendments to the plan for the employment and commercial phase on the north and east side of the freeway. In that portion of the plan, Slatten Ranch Road will be extended from J.C. Penney and from the Antioch BART Station to Laurel Road.  East Lone Tree Specific Plan ACC012423

Council Discussion

Regarding “Community engagement. Did we do enough of it?” Wilson asked.

“We had two public workshops. We also had planning commission meetings and the council meeting in June. We also had an online survey up.,” Hersch responded.

“Did we do these community meetings at different times?” Wilson pressed further.

“Those were both Wednesday evenings. There were also Spanish-language workshops,” Hersch said.

“We have to do better with this outreach,” Wilson said. “If I lived in a neighborhood and I saw my house highlighted I’d be a little freaked out, too.”

“How are we supporting special needs, now and propose supporting them in the future,” Wilson asked.

“Housing is shared between the Community Development Department. But the administration of programs will be handled in the new Public Safety and Community Services Department,” Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs explained.

All Six Resolutions Approved on 4-1 Votes

Ogorchock then moved approval of the six resolutions, and the council voted on each of them separately. They all passed on 4-1 votes with Barbanica voting against.

“The rezoning creates opportunities for residential development,” Ebbs explained about the property in the Viera Avenue neighborhood.

“What’s happening today is because of state law,” Thorpe added.

Following the meeting Barbanica was asked why he voted against each of the housing element update resolutions.

“Overall, this was going to pass, and I assumed that going into this,” he said. “I’m not anti-development. But I’m for smart development. When you take some of these people in the Viera Avenue area who didn’t want to be inside the city. Now, in the next housing update they’re looking at having their property rezoned, and facing potential development around their land, someone needs to listen to these folks.”


Bay Area transportation agency adopts landmark policy to promote housing, commercial development near transit stations

Thursday, September 29th, 2022

TOD projects adjacent to the BART line. Source: MTC. Credit: Noah Berger

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), yesterday, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, adopted a new Transit-Oriented Communities (TOC) Policy designed to boost the overall housing supply and increase residential densities in transit-rich areas throughout the Bay Area; spur more commercial development near transit hubs served by multiple agencies; promote bus transit, walking, biking and shared mobility in transit-rich areas; and foster partnerships to create transit-oriented communities where people of all income levels, racial and ethnic backgrounds, ages and ability levels can live, work and thrive. The newly adopted policy applies specifically to transit priority areas within a half-mile of BART, Caltrain, SMART, Capitol Corridor and ACE stations; Muni and VTA light-rail stations; Muni and AC Transit bus rapid transit stops; and ferry terminals.

Studies show people are more likely to ride transit if they live within half a mile of a rail station, ferry terminal or bus line. And jobs that are within a quarter-mile of transit often are more attractive to the Bay Area’s workforce.

The TOC Policy is the update to MTC’s 2005 Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Policy. That set minimums for the average number of housing units (both existing and/or permitted housing units) within a half-mile of each new rail station funded through Regional Measure 2. However, according to MTC spokesperson Rebecca Long the new policy applies to any all existing and future transit priority areas.

“The Transit-Oriented Communities Policy is truly groundbreaking,” explained MTC Chair and Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza. “Using transportation funds as an incentive, the policy encourages cities and counties to upzone transit-rich areas so transit, walking and biking can be viable travel choices for more people, and so we can generate maximum value from the billions of taxpayer dollars that have been invested in our transit network over the years as well as new transit lines that will be built in the years to come. The policy specifically encourages the development of affordable housing and protects current residents from being displaced by new development.”

The TOC Policy links all four of the themes — transportation, housing, the economy and the environment — of Plan Bay Area 2050, the long-range transportation plan and sustainable communities strategy adopted by MTC and the Association of Bay Area Governments in 2021. Minimum residential density requirements range from 25 units per acre for locations within a half-mile of ferry terminals; SMART, ACE and Capitol Corridor stations; and Caltrains stations south of San Jose’s Tamien station up to 100 units per acre within a half-mile of BART stations in downtown San Francisco and Oakland, and within a half-mile of San Jose’s Diridon Station. The policy also eliminates minimum parking requirements in many transit-rich areas, allows for shared parking between residential and commercial uses, and mandates at least one secure bike parking space for each new dwelling unit.

MTC is the regional transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

Allen D. Payton contributed to this report.


Board of Equalization holds first of three Tax Abatement Workgroup meetings to spur development of affordable housing in California

Friday, July 29th, 2022

Sacramento – On Wednesday, July 27, 2022, the California State Board of Equalization (BOE) held the first of at least three public Property Tax Abatement Workgroup meetings. The Board received presentations from policy experts and stakeholders on the development of new housing, focusing on how to best address the need to build 2.5 million new housing units to address California’s housing gap, including how to provide new housing opportunities for the “missing middle.” The workgroup consists of Board Chair Malia M. Cohen, who represents District 2 and District 3 Board Member Antonio Vazquez.

“As Chair of the Board of Equalization, which administers California’s $85 billion property tax system, I am deeply encouraged by today’s discussion with housing policy experts,” said Chair Malia M. Cohen. “The presentations of these experts both highlighted the reality of our housing crisis, associated equity issues, and the opportunity to address the development of new housing through creative and innovative solutions.”

“Today’s meeting focused on property tax abatements as a tool to incentivize new housing construction and increase the inventory of affordable housing. Property tax abatements have been used before, particularly in New York City, to build tens of thousands of new housing units to address the housing needs of the ‘missing middle’. It makes sense to consider whether similar property tax abatement strategies could work in California,” Cohen concluded.

In upcoming meetings of the Property Tax Abatement Workgroup, the BOE will examine strategies to ensure that revenue for schools and local governments are protected under any property tax abatement programs. The BOE will also explore how local government, labor, businesses, and developers can work collaboratively to build new housing under such abatement programs.

The BOE will hold additional meetings of the Property Tax Abatement Workgroup at the Board’s upcoming August 31st and September 28th board meetings. At the conclusion of the BOE’s Property Tax Abatement Workgroup, the Board will issue a report.

The agenda of the July 27, 2022 meeting of the Property Tax Abatement Workgroup can be found at this link:

As the BOE Board Member for District 2 Cohen represents nearly 10 million constituents residing in 23 counties in Northern and Central California, extending from Del Norte County in the north to Santa Barbara County in the south, including Contra Costa County. She is the youngest Constitutional Officer serving in California and is the first African American woman to be elected as chair of the Board of Equalization in its 141-year history.

The Board of Equalization is California’s statewide elected tax board. Its five members include four members elected in districts, and the State Controller. Under its constitutional mandate, the BOE oversees the assessment practices of the state’s 58 county assessors, who are charged with establishing values for approximately 13.6 million assessments each year. In addition, the BOE assesses the property of regulated railroads and specific public utilities and is responsible for the alcoholic beverage tax and tax on insurers.

Note: This news release may discuss complex tax laws and concepts. It may not address every situation and is not considered written advice. Changes in law or regulations may have occurred since the time this news release was written. If there is a conflict between the text of this news release and the law, decisions will be based upon the law and not this news release.

Seeno’s attorneys request new trial following Save Mount Diablo legal victory against Faria project in Pittsburg hills

Thursday, March 3rd, 2022

The now named Thurgood Marshall Regional Park is directly adjacent to the Pittsburg City Council approved Faria project. Herald file graphic. Credit: Save Mount Diablo/Google Earth.

607-acre, 1,650-home development next to planned Thurgood Marshall Regional Park

SMD leader says motion for new trial “should be denied”

By Allen D. Payton

Last Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, attorneys representing Discovery Builders and their Faria new home development requested a new trial for the lawsuit by Save Mount Diablo, following a judge’s decision in favor of the environmental group to stop the project. As previously reported, on March 30, 2021, Save Mount Diablo filed a lawsuit challenging the City of Pittsburg’s approval of the 1,650-unit Faria project, on the ridgeline between Pittsburg and Concord. According to the agenda item documents, the master plan overlay district encompasses approximately 607 acres of land. (See related article)

The motion for a new trial was filed “on the basis that the Court’s decision is not supported by the evidence and controlling legal authorities. Specifically…that there were several portions of this Court’s February 10, 2022 Statement of Decision that may not have fully considered evidence in the administrative record.” In addition, the motion asks that the “Court vacate its Statement of Decision and enter a new decision denying SMD’s motion” and “conduct a new hearing”.  Faria project Motion for New Trial    Parsons Dec. ISO Mot for New Trial    Raskin Dec. ISO Mot for New Trial    Faria project new trial Proof of Service

A hearing date on the motion for a new trial has been set for April 14, 2022.

The Pittsburg hills where the Faria project has been approved for construction, as seen from the San Marco neighborhood in Pittsburg. Photo: Scott Hein

On the day of the decision, Save Mount Diablo issued the following press release about their legal victory:

“On February 10, 2022, the Contra Costa County Superior Court handed Save Mount Diablo a major victory in its legal challenge to the City of Pittsburg’s approval of the 1,650-unit Faria/Southwest Hills Project.

According to the ruling, the city’s environmental review was inadequate in numerous ways. Faria was proposed by Seeno companies/Discovery Builders, Inc./Faria Investors LLC on the spectacular and highly visible major ridgeline between Pittsburg and Concord and could include grading and houses visible across the ridge.

As a result, the City of Pittsburg is required to overturn approvals for the project and correct environmental review. The city and Seeno/Discovery Builders will also be required to pay Save Mount Diablo’s legal fees.

It remains to be seen whether the developers, Discovery Builders, Inc. and Faria Land Investors, LLC, or the City of Pittsburg will appeal the decision.

The Pittsburg City Council—then-Mayor Merl Craft; then–Vice Mayor Holland Barrett White; and Councilmembers Shanelle Scales-Preston, Juan Antonio Banales, and Jelani Killings—all voted to approve the proposal in February 2021. (The mayor and vice-mayor designations rotate among the councilmembers.) They ignored hundreds of letters and public comments that opposed the project. Save Mount Diablo filed a lawsuit challenging the project’s approval in March 2021.

If the project had moved forward, it would have meant the development of a major, new residential subdivision on 606 acres of ridgeline and hillside grazing land in what is currently unincorporated Contra Costa County, immediately south of the City of Pittsburg.

The biologically rich site supports sensitive wildlife species and rare plants and is in one of the most visible and most environmentally constrained areas of the county. The Faria project would have fragmented open space and damaged wildlife corridors.

The proposed housing development would have changed the beautiful green hills forever by annexing the property to the City of Pittsburg and locating 1,650 new residences far from jobs, transit, and services.

The Faria project would have also impacted the new East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) Thurgood Marshall Regional Park – Home of the Port Chicago 50 at the Faria site’s southwestern edge, formerly part of the Concord Naval Weapons Station. Save Mount Diablo and its partners advocated for the creation of this new park over many years. The Faria project would have been located directly above the new park on a ridgeline, degrading views from surrounding areas.

The Contra Costa Superior Court ruled that the City of Pittsburg’s environmental review of the project was inadequate in four major ways:

  1. It failed to analyze any impacts that would results from the 150 accessory dwelling units that were added by the City of Pittsburg at the last minute. This is important because the number of units affects every part of environmental review from traffic to water supply to schools, etc. and will make correcting the environmental review complicated;
  2. It failed to include a baseline description of biological resources that could be impacted by the project, specifically special-status plant species;
  3. It failed to consider the water supply impacts of adding 1,650 new housing units in the area, which is especially important given years of drought and increasing fire danger; and
  4. It failed to adequately disclose or mitigate the project’s air quality impacts, including greenhouse gas impacts, without which development will continue to make the climate crisis much worse.

“The court’s decision says to developers: ‘You don’t get to kick the can down the road. You have to do a thorough analysis of your project’s impacts before you lock in project approvals,’” said Winter King, Save Mount Diablo’s attorney from Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger. “The court got it right.”

The court’s ruling means that the City of Pittsburg’s approval of the project is null and void.

The court also noted that additional impacts—such as geologic hazard impacts resulting from grading and filling, and impacts on streams and agricultural lands—would need to be addressed in more detail.

Save Mount Diablo Executive Director Ted Clement said, “Throughout the East Bay, residents have worked hard to protect our ridges and views, flora and fauna, and to defend our parks. In this case that was just decided in our favor, Save Mount Diablo had to stand up against some very powerful interests to help further the work of protecting these treasured resources, which add so much to our collective quality of life.”

“Although I’ve worked for Save Mount Diablo on this issue, I’m also a Concord resident,” said Juan Pablo Galván Martínez, Save Mount Diablo’s Senior Land Use Manager. “This project infuriated me as an open-space lover, a wildlife enthusiast, and someone who is deeply worried and taking action to stop catastrophic climate change. Since this affects both cities, I want both city councils to work together to protect the hills and ridgeline.”

“This is a major victory for Pittsburg’s hills,” stated Save Mount Diablo Land Conservation Director Seth Adams. “Open space, habitat for wildlife, and the community’s scenic views have won the day, and poorly planned development will not go forward, for now. We are very happy with the court’s decision.”

“On the other hand,” said Adams, “while our victory is costly for the city and Seeno/Discovery Builders in time and money, it does not stop the project forever. After correcting environmental documents, the Pittsburg City Council can approve Seeno’s huge project again if they choose. But now they have a second chance to make it better by protecting the ridgeline and neighboring regional park. We don’t have to argue about protecting ridgelines in other cities. The Pittsburg City Council should do the right thing.”

Save Mount Diablo Says Motion for New Trial “Should Be Denied”

Asked about the motion for a new trial, Save Mount Diablo Executive Director, Ted Clement responded, “Regarding the Seeno companies/Pittsburg request for a new trial, the Court has already rejected their arguments for reasons fully set forth in its decision. Their Motion for New Trial does not question the adequacy of the administrative record on which the Court properly based its decision (and which the City itself prepared) or suggest there was any other irregularity or unfairness in the hearing. Instead, they seek a second bite of the apple.”

“Their Motion reargues issues that were fully briefed and addressed in the Court’s Decision,” he continued. “They also seek to introduce irrelevant and improper extra-record evidence, violating black letter law that CEQA actions must be decided on the record that was before the agency when it made its decision.”

“Because their Motion provides no basis for this Court to order a new trial solely on the issues decided adverse to them, it should be denied,” Clement concluded.

Housing construction is key to Contra Costa’s economic rebound in “Post-COVID New World Order” Supervisors told

Saturday, January 29th, 2022

Construction Activity in Contra Costa County. Source: Beacon Economics

By Daniel Borsuk

A housing boom in the single family and multi-family residential construction sectors will jump start Contra Costa County’s economy in the post-COVID 19 era, economist Dr. Christopher Thornberg told the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors during their retreat on Tuesday.

“Housing, housing, housing is the wave of the future for Contra Costa County,” Dr. Thornberg of Beacon Economics said during a two-hour remote presentation entitled “The Post-Covid New World Order: It’s a seller’s market for now.”

In 2021, Contra Costa County outpaced other Bay Area counties especially San Francisco and Alameda counties in issuing single family and multi-family residential permits, the economist said.  Housing construction serves as an economic sparkplug for the local economy – stores and services, especially public schools.

From this increased economic activity, the county will draw increased sales tax revenue particularly from the newly voter approved Measure X sales tax measure.  County officials estimate Measure X will pump in $170 million of additional revenue for county health and social programs for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

Contra Costa County had issued 1,687 permits in 2021 for single family residential units, an increase of 466 permits from 2019 and 1,336 permits for multi-family residential units, an increase of 580 units from 2019, based on statistics that Dr. Thornberg showed.

In the meantime, San Francisco City and County issued only 86 single-family housing permits in 2021, an increase of only nine permits from 2020, and 2,075 multi-family residential unit permits in 2021, a decrease of 552 permits, from 2020.

Residential construction in Alameda County was down in both categories. Single family was declined 41 permits with 1,241 permits issued overall in 2021.  Multi-family residential construction was also down 126 units to 2,953 units multi-family residential unit permits overall.

“Offices are going to take a beating in the suburbs,” the economist forecast. More people are working from home, and it appears this remote trend is here to stay for a while, he said.

In San Francisco’s Financial District, where it is nearly deserted because of the pandemic, there are office buildings that are practically empty of workers, Thornberg said.  He said it would be very costly to convert unused office buildings into residential buildings in the city.

79.8 Percent Fully Vaccinated 

Meanwhile, Contra Costa County Health Services Director Anna Roth reported that 79.8 percent of the county’s population is fully vaccinated.

“Mask-wearing has become a priority and wearing cloth masks are not that protective,” said Roth

Even then there has been a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the county Deputy Health Officer Dr. Ori Tzvieli said with 281 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 or the Omicron variant.

Supervisors also learned the county on average administers 12,000 COVID-19 tests daily.

Nino Recommends Postponing $59 Million of American Rescue Plan Funds

Supervisors also, on the recommendation of County Administrator Monica Nino, voted 5-0 to postpone the acceptance of $59 million of the second-year allocation of American Rescue Plan funds “until the status of the COVID-19 pandemic and related impacts on Contra Costa County is better understood in January 2023,” she stated.

In the meantime, some $53 million in year two American Rescue Plan funds be accept by the county.

Nino had cited bureaucratic red-tape issues both at the state and federal levels for temporarily halting portions of the federal funds used for rental assistance, employment assistance and other federal government subsidy programs developed during the COVID-19 pandemic.