Archive for the ‘Growth & Development’ Category

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.

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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.

 

 

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Contra Costa Supervisors on 4-1 vote approve all-electric buildings ordinance banning natural gas installations

Wednesday, January 19th, 2022

Starting June 1, 2022; 200-gallon natural gas tanks still permitted for rural users

“Many of my constituents view this ordinance as an overreach ordinance and I happen to agree with them” – Supervisor Andersen

By Daniel Borsuk

Starting June 1, Contra Costa County will be the first county in the Golden State requiring all new residential, business, commercial and hospitality developments have electricity, and outlawing natural gas installation. On a 4-1 vote Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors approved the ordinance that attracted scant public opposition. District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen was the lone opposition vote.

The new ordinance applies to all new residential, commercial, office, and hospitality developments proposed for unincorporated Contra Costa County.  It does not apply to incorporated areas, except the City of Richmond that has adopted its own electricity building ordinance.

“Many of my constituents view this ordinance as an overreach ordinance and I happen to agree with them,” said Andersen of Danville, who cast the lone opposition vote.  “It is my concern this ordinance might impact commercial development nearby the Byron and Buchanan airports.”

There was no opposition to the Board’s ordinance that was up for second reading.

“This is a good environmental policy for the county,” said District 1 Supervisor John Gioia, who championed the resolution.

“I am concerned about the equity issue.  This could raise rents of low-income housing tenants,” said Board Chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill, who voted in favor of the ordinance anyway.

“I am supportive of this ordinance,” commented District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis after planning department staff answered her question on whether rural constituents could still own and use 200-gallon natural gas tanks for “emergency use.”  Planning officials confirmed 200-gallon natural gas tanks will be permitted for rural users.

“While this proposed ordinance has been charactered as an electrification ordinance, its purpose is to stop new buildings from burning fossil fuels,” wrote Gary Farber on behalf of the environmental group, 350 Contra Costa. “Therefore, solar thermal space heating and water heating systems ought to be allowed and encouraged.  We look forward to working with the County on additional programs to phase out fossil fuels in transportation and all buildings, new and existing.”

The move by the Board of Supervisors occurs when there is skepticism on whether the State has an adequate supply of wind and solar renewable energy in the Golden State to meet the demand for all electric homes and businesses.  The California Clean Energy Act of 2018 established a target for renewable zero-carbon resources to supply 100 percent of electrical needs throughout the state by 2045, 23 years from now.

Retain $2,500 Campaign Contribution Limit

Even though briefly considered a recommendation boost, the Election Campaign Contribution limit from $2,500 to $4,900, Supervisors voted to retain the Election Campaign limit at $2,500.

“I feel comfortable at the $2,500 limit,” commented District 2 Supervisor Andersen.

Supervisor Glover said as much as he’d preferred to go with the State-recommended $4,900 limit, he said “I’d vote for more money, but I don’t think we should.  Elections are getting more expensive.” Glover is not up for re-election this year.

44th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Ceremony Honorees

Supervisors also recognized 44th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. honorees – Gigi Crowder, an Antioch resident, who is the Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness as the Adult Humanitarian of the Year and Pittsburg resident, Kaia Morgan, a Senior at Ygnacio Valley High School as the Student Humanitarian of the Year. (See related articles here and here)

 

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Antioch Council approves new 126-unit high-density multifamily rental housing project on Wildhorse Road

Tuesday, January 11th, 2022

Rendering of the approved 126-unit Wildhorse Multifamily Housing Project.

By Allen Payton

During a public hearing on a new multi-family project off the extension of Wildhorse Road, Tuesday night, the Antioch City Council voted 4-0 to increase the density on 11.72 acres to allow for 126 units of market-rate rental housing. The project could later be converted to condominiums for sale.

Mayor Lamar Thorpe had to recuse himself due to the proximity to his home, that could impact its value.

The complex will be the first market-rate, multi-family housing project since the Cross Pointe Apartments were built on Lone Tree Way between Vista Grande Drive and Heidorn Ranch Road.

The Preliminary Plan for the approved Wildhorse Multifamily Housing Project.

One member of the public spoke, complaining that the City doesn’t have enough affordable housing.

“We do not require our developers to pay in-lieu fees, so we can provide affordable housing,” Andrew Becker said. “We keep hearing ‘it’s too late’. But we still have huge projects like this, multi-million-dollar projects come in.”

The project proponent then had 10 minutes to speak but only spoke briefly.

“My family has owned the properties since the late ‘80’s,” Phillip Su said. “This is part of the Nelson Ranch project that was approved.”

There was no opponent to speak against the project. But another member of the public spoke, agreeing with the first speaker.

“How many units are going to be for low-income families to purchase a home? How many units will be rental? I have to agree with the very first person that this has gotten out of hand that we’re allowing developers to build multi-million-dollar homes,” she said. “I’m just concerned that we’re trying to have Antioch be a family city, up and coming. But we have developers coming in here trying to make money and not concerned about the impact. This could draw the criminal activity. The ones who can afford the high rents, here…those are the criminal elements. You know, we have an unhoused problem here, in this county. We have families who are renting and working legitimate jobs and want to buy a home. What we’re looking for is the dollars and cents. What positive impacts is it going to have on the lower income, the working class. What kind of impact will it have on us?”

The site map for the approved Wildhorse Multifamily Housing Project, next to Highway 4.

Ogorchock asked about a CFD (Community Facilities District) for fire.

“It is my desire to have a CFD,” she said.

“The project is conditioned to meet all fire requirements,” said Senior Planner Zoe Meredith.

“Also, I saw that there’s a park in there and I have concerns that it’s not an all-abilities park,” Ogorchock said.

“Even though it will be a private park it will be built to city standards,” Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs responded.

Ogorchock also asked for speed humps to prevent sideshows and added them, and the all-abilities park to her motion for approval.

“How did we come to the decision of condos, instead of townhomes?” District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson asked.

“They don’t have a map for condos. It’s being proposed as a multi-family rental project,” Ebbs responded.

But they can come back and place a condo map on the project in the future and convert the rentals to

“This is a challenging site. This density is comparable to other projects in Antioch. We don’t see much more dense than this,” Ebbs said.

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Final Regional Housing Needs Allocation Plan requires 441,176 more homes in Bay Area by 2031

Friday, December 17th, 2021

Source: ABAG

3,016 more in Antioch; 44,000 in Contra Costa

After two years of collaboration, plan to expand Bay Area’s housing opportunities approved during public hearing, Thursday night

“The next steps are for (the 110) Bay Area cities, towns and counties to update their housing elements by January 31, 2023…and plan for housing at all income levels.” – ABAG President and Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín

SAN FRANCISCO, December 17, 2021 . . . The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) at last night’s Executive Board meeting approved the Final Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) Plan for the San Francisco Bay Area, 2023-2031.  The state Housing and Community Development Department requires the Bay Area to plan for and revise local zoning to accommodate 441,176 additional housing units during the 2023-31 period.  The approved final RHNA plan distributes this requirement among the region’s nine counties and 101 cities and towns, with allocations ranging from 72 units in the Napa County town of Yountville to more than 82,000 units in San Francisco.

The plan requires communities in Contra Costa County to add 43,970 housing units, almost 10% of the total, during the time period, with Walnut Creek (5,805 units), San Ramon (5,111) and Concord (5,073) being allocated the highest number of housing units, followed by Richmond and Antioch being allocated 3,614 and 3,016 units, respectively. More than half of Antioch’s allocated units are in the Moderate (80-120% of Area Median Income) and Above Moderate (Greater than 120% of Area Median Income) which should be easily met with the more upscale, remaining homes to be approved and built in the Sand Creek area of the city.

Source: ABAG

“The Final RHNA Plan’s passage concludes a two-year regional collaborative process, reflecting hundreds of hours of work by staff, elected officials and stakeholders,” noted ABAG President and Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín. “This is an important step in our region’s efforts to address our housing crisis. Every city and county must do their part to address our housing and homelessness crises. With this RHNA Plan, local governments will have to rezone and plan for significantly more housing than before. This plan also affirmatively furthers fair housing by distributing housing growth equitably throughout the region addressing decades of racial and economic segregation. This is also part of a much bigger effort being undertaken by ABAG and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to provide resources and technical assistance to local agencies and generate new funding sources for affordable housing in the Bay Area.”

Source: ABAG

“The next steps,” Arreguín continued, “are for Bay Area cities, towns and counties to update their housing elements by January 31, 2023, to reflect the new RHNA allocations and plan for housing at all income levels. The Regional Housing Technical Assistance Program (RHTA) is ready to provide local jurisdictions with the financial support and technical assistance they need to complete these steps.”

Funded by the state’s Regional Early Action Planning grant, ABAG created RHTA to help local agencies update the housing elements of their general plans, ensuring that Bay Area cities, towns and counties take the steps to move from plans to implementation and remain competitive for various state funding programs to increase housing opportunities. RHTA includes some $11 million in direct assistance to local governments as well as other support.

Source: ABAG

The Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA) is another part of ABAG’s and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s expanded regional housing portfolio. “As the first regional housing finance authority in California, BAHFA has the potential to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to help meet the Bay Area’s urgent housing affordability challenges,” explained Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who chairs the BAHFA Oversight Committee. “The RHNA Plan establishes the housing at each income level that Bay Area’s communities need to plan for, but BAFHA provides an opportunity to fund the solution: providing more housing for everyone in the Bay Area. This makes it an important part of the Bay Area’s housing toolbox as we work together to protect existing affordable housing, to prevent displacement of current residents and to promote the construction of more new housing units.”

ABAG is the council of governments and the regional planning agency for the 101 cities and towns, and nine counties of the Bay Area. Additional information is available on the regional housing programs’ individual webpages:

RHNA: https://abag.ca.gov/our-work/housing/rhna-regional-housing-needs-allocation

RHTA: https://abag.ca.gov/our-work/housing/regional-housing-technical-assistance

BAFHA: https://abag.ca.gov/our-work/housing/bahfa-bay-area-housing-finance-authority

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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ABAG, MTC adopt final Plan Bay Area 2050 and Environmental Impact Report

Monday, October 25th, 2021

“$1.4 trillion vision for a more equitable and resilient future for Bay Area residents” in thareas of housing, the economy, transportation and the environment

“Roadmap toward a more affordable, connected, diverse, healthy and vibrant region for all”

Includes “strategies that would produce more than 1 million new permanently affordable homes” and will “Implement a statewide universal basic income” to “provide an average $500 per month payment to all Bay Area households”

The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), during their joint meeting Thursday evening, Oct. 21, 2021, unanimously adopted Plan Bay Area 2050 and its associated Environmental Impact Report. The unanimous votes by both boards cap a nearly four-year process during which more than 20,000 Bay Area residents contributed to the development of the new plan.

All six representatives from Contra Costa County, including Supervisors Candace Andersen and Karen Mitchoff, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt and San Ramon Councilman Dave Hudson, who serve on ABAG, as well as Supervisor Federal Glover and Contra Costa City Representative Amy Worth, Mayor of Orinda, who serve on MTC, voted to adopt the plan.

Defined by 35 strategies for housing, transportation, economic vitality and the environment, Plan Bay Area 2050 lays out a $1.4 trillion vision for policies and investments to make the nine-county region more affordable, connected, diverse, healthy and economically vibrant for all its residents through 2050 and beyond. From housing strategies that would produce more than 1 million new permanently affordable homes by 2050 to transit-fare reforms that would reduce cost burdens for riders with low incomes and paths to economic mobility through job training and a universal basic income, the goal of a more equitable Bay Area is interwoven throughout the plan. With a groundbreaking focus on climate change, strategies also are crafted for resilience against future uncertainties, including protection from hazards such sea-level rise and wildfires.

It is a long-range plan charting the course for the future of the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. Plan Bay Area 2050 will focus on four key issues—the economy, the environment, housing and transportation—and will identify a path to make the Bay Area more equitable for all residents and more resilient in the face of unexpected challenges. Building on the work of the Horizon initiative, this new regional plan outlines strategies for growth and investment through the year 2050, while simultaneously striving to meet and exceed federal and state requirements. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments are expected to adopt Plan Bay Area 2050 in fall 2021.

“Plan Bay Area 2050 reflects a shared vision that can’t be implemented by any single agency,” explained ABAG Executive Board President and Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín. “To bring all these strategies to fruition will require ABAG and MTC to strengthen our existing partnerships and to form new ones — not just with our cities and counties and the state government, but also with the federal government, businesses and nonprofits.”

What will Plan Bay Area 2050 do? What won’t it do?

Plan Bay Area 2050 outlines a roadmap for the Bay Area’s future. While it pinpoints policies and investments necessary to advance the goal of a more affordable, connected, diverse, healthy and vibrant Bay Area, Plan Bay Area 2050 neither funds specific infrastructure projects nor changes local policies. Cities and counties retain all local land use authority. Plan Bay Area 2050 does identify a potential path forward for future investments – including infrastructure to improve our transportation system and to protect communities from rising sea levels – as well as the types of public policies necessary to realize a future growth pattern for housing and jobs.

Ultimately, Plan Bay Area 2050 reflects a shared vision – one that cannot be implemented by any single organization or government agency. Only through partnership with local, state and federal governments – as well as with businesses and non-profit organizations – will the Plan’s vision come to fruition. Before the Plan is adopted in 2021, MTC and ABAG, along with partner organizations, will create an implementation plan that will advance the strategies outlined in Plan Bay Area 2050.

MTC Chair and Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza acknowledged the work ahead. “Building and preserving affordable housing. Adapting to sea level rise. Getting more people closer to their jobs and more jobs closer to the people. Sharing prosperity equitably. All of these are big lifts. But the new plan can serve as a north star for the Bay Area’s journey to 2050.”

Among the features that distinguish Plan Bay Area 2050 from previous regional plans is an associated Implementation Plan that details the specific actions ABAG and MTC can take in the next five years to put the new plan into action.

“The Implementation Plan is a commitment to do hard things, not just think about them,” said ABAG-MTC Executive Director Therese W. McMillan. “Even if these steps have to be taken incrementally, they will lead us to a more equitable and resilient Bay Area.”

Housing Strategies

Costs for housing are estimated at $468 billion, with $237 billion budget to preserve existing affordable housing by acquiring “homes currently affordable to low- and middle-income residents for preservation as permanently deed-restricted affordable housing”. An additional $219 billion is budgeted for new, deed-restricted affordable housing and $2 billion to “further strengthen renter protections beyond state law” by limiting “annual rent increases to the rate of inflation, while exempting units less than 10 years old.”

Economic Strategies

The total cost for economic strategies in the plan is $234 billion. Of that amount $205 billion is budgted to “Implement a statewide universal basic income” and “provide an average $500 per month payment to all Bay Area households to improve family stability, promote economic mobility and increase consumer spending.”

Transportation Strategies

The plan projects to spend a total of $578 billion is projected to be spent on transportation over the next 20 years, with most of that, $389 billion, to “restore, operate and maintain the existing system”. An additional $81 billion will be spent to “expand and modernize the regional rail network” to “better connect communities while increasing frequencies by advancing the Link21 new transbay rail crossing, BART to Silicon Valley Phase 2, Valley Link, Caltrain Downtown Rail Extension and Caltrain/High-Speed Rail grade separations, among other projects.” The third largest budget item for transportation is $32 billion to “enhance local transit frequency, capacity and reliability. Improve the quality and availability of local bus and light rail service, with new bus rapid transit lines, South Bay light rail extensions, and frequency increases focused in lower-income communities.”

Environmental Strategies

A total of $108 billion is programmed for Environmental Strategies. The largest portion of that is $30 billion to “modernize and expand parks, trails and recreation facilities”. An additional $19 billion is budgeted to “adapt to sea level rise” by protecting affected “shoreline communities…prioritizing low-cost, high-benefit solutions and providing additional support to vulnerable populations.

In addition, the plan includes $18 billion to “fund energy upgrades to enable carbon neutrality in all existing commercial and public buildings” through “electrification and resilient power system upgrades”, and another $15 billion to “provide means-based financial support to retrofit existing residential buildings.” To “protect and manage high-value conservation lands”, an additional $15 billion is included in the plan.

The adopted final Plan Bay Area 2050, the EIR, and all the supplemental reports accompanying the new plan are available online at planbayarea.org/finalplan2050.

ABAG is the council of governments and the regional planning agency for the 101 cities and towns, and nine counties of the Bay Area. MTC is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

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Supervisors aim for all electric, no natural gas for new houses by 2026

Thursday, October 21st, 2021

Could add more than $2,200 to cost of a home; revise nepotism policy

NOTE: This article was inadvertently overlooked due to the publisher being sick at the time it was submitted. However, the information is still timely. Apologies for the delay in publishing it.

————————

By Daniel Borsuk

Will all new houses built in Contra Costa County feature all solar powered electric appliances and lights with no natural gas by Jan. 1 2026?

That’s the game plan of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors who, on Tuesday, August 3, 2021, instructed the county’s Department of Conservation and Development (CCCDCD) to draft an ordinance that would require home builders to construct residential buildings with all electric powered appliances. (See Subcommittee Report and staff presentation)

Just when CCCDCD will have an ordinance ready for supervisors to consider is up in the air, but the supervisors’ action demonstrates their keen interest in environmental issues. Should the supervisors eventually pass an ordinance calling for all solar powered, electric new housing, natural gas-powered water heaters, heaters, stoves and clothes dryers will be taboo.  From then on, everything will be solar powered. (See Cost-effectiveness Study)

Supervisors expect the proposed ordinance will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2026. (See Ad Hoc Committee on Sustainability Committee’s recommended Building Electrification Ordinance for New Construction)

Just when planning officials will have an ordinance prepared for supervisors to review and act on is up in the air, but Area 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville raised questions about the cost effectiveness of such a proposed ordinance.

“I have serious reservations about the California Energy Commission’s recommendations to replace natural gas with all electric powered homes,” said Andersen. “We need better cost analysis.  There are some estimates going around that all-electric could add $2,000 to the cost of a house.”

Andersen cast the one dissenting vote in instructing CCCCDP officials to draft an all-electric new residential ordinance.

Lisa Vonderbrueggen of the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area also cautioned supervisors about the genuine costs associated with electric powered versus natural gas-powered houses. She said a California Building Industry Association study found that an all-electric home is $421 less expensive to build, including the cost of appliance, “but estimates from homebuilders show increased costs of more than $2,200 per home.”

Vorderbrueggen wrote: “Will California’s aging electric grid hold up under an all-electricity design.  The state is already anticipating major demand increases from electric vehicle charging needs.”

While a letter from PG&E supporting the county’s move to promote all solar-powered electric homes generated scant interest from the general public, District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond said,“I appreciate PG&E’s statement and it has provided in-depth analysis. But I am very hesitant to move forward on it.”

“Do everything you can do to eliminate gas,” pleaded Richmond City Councilmember Eduardo Martinez. “I liken natural gas to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“We need to act quickly,” said Lisa Jackson, an environmentalist.  “We cannot wait for the state to act. PG&E even supports this.  Let’s move forward to eliminate this potential safety hazard.”

Before casting his vote, District 1 Supervisor Gioia, who drives an electric-powered car said: “It’s all about full electrification as our main source of power.”

Nepotism Policy Revised

After not updating its nepotism policy since 2011, supervisors took the plunge and loosened its the rules on appointments on boards, committees and commissions for which the board of supervisors is the appointing body.

Supervisors voted 4-1, with supervisor Gioia casting the dissenting vote, brother-in-law and sister-in-law from the prohibited relationship list.

The revised policy now states:

“A person will not be eligible for appointment if he/she is related to a Board of Supervisors’ Member in any of the following relationships:

  1. Mother, father, son, and daughter.
  2. Brother, sister, grandmother, grandfather, grandson, and granddaughter.
  3. Husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, stepson, and stepdaughter.
  4. Registered domestic partner, pursuant to California Family Code section 297.
  5. The relatives, as defined in 1 and 2 above, for a registered domestic partner.
  6. Any person with whom a Board Member shares a financial interest as defined in the Political Reform Act  (Gov’t Code 87103, Financial Interest), such as a business partner or business associate.”

 

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Supervisors approve two home developments, one outside the Urban Limit Line

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

Tassajara Parks General Plan Amendment land use maps. From presentation.

Tassajara Parks in the San Ramon Valley and Pantages in Discovery Bay will add 417 single family homes in Supervisorial District 3 with support of environmental groups

Approve Ameresco Renewable Natural Gas Processing Facility and Pipeline at Keller Canyon Landfill

Flash green light for further study moving Byron boys ranch to former Martinez Juvenile Hall

Tassajara Valley vicinity map. From presentation.

By Daniel Borsuk

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors worked on solving the county’s complex housing shortage during their meeting on Tuesday by approving two major housing developments, the 277-single family housing unit Pantages residential project in Discovery Bay and the controversial 125-housing unit Tassajara Parks residential project near San Ramon, both in District 3, board chair Diane Burgis’ turf.

The more controversial Tassajara Parks Residential Project drew the support of major environmental groups like Green Belt Alliance, Save Mt. Diablo and East Bay Regional Parks District mainly because the developer’s moved to do a “fee simple transfer “of 727 acres of land to the East Bay Regional Park District.

“This fee simple conveyance to the EBRPD will ensure that the Dedication Area is protected and preserved in perpetuity for the following non-urban uses only: agriculture, open space, parks, recreation, scenic uses, wetland preservation and creation, and habitat mitigation,” the supervisors’ background information states.

Save Mt. Diablo Land Conservation Director Seth Adams called the land transfer “a great trade off” and will go a long way in the preservation of wildlife, especially raptors and eagles.

“It’s a 30-acre adjustment to the Urban Limit Line which is allowed by a four-fifths vote of the Board of Supervisors based on at least one of seven findings,” Adams shared with the Herald. “Here it was the creation of an ag preserve by two more agencies.”

The Danville city council opposed the project contending the open space trade offer was inadequate especially when California is in a drought. “The city council felt that the scope and magnitude of the project with 125 homes in exchange of open space was insufficient.  The city council did not feel it was worth the trade off, “said City of Danville Manager Joe Calabrigo.

The approved Tassajara Parks Urban Limit Line realignment. From presentation.

District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen of San Ramon, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said she was concerned any action by the supervisors would require approval of the voters to adjust the urban limit line.

“I know we need the right mix of housing,” said Andersen. “If we move the urban limit line, that is up to the voters.  I have strong reservations about the environmental impact report.  Then there is no source of water for this project.”

Before supervisors approved the Tassajara Project on a 4-1 vote, District 1 Supervisor John Gioia successfully added to the board’s resolution several conditions, one that included that the developer must install solar panels and EV charging stations inside the garage or carport.  In addition, he added the installation of high efficiency appliances and insulation to zero net energy and to meet the standards to be solar-ready as defined by the California Building Standards.

The developer agreed to Gioia’s additions to the project’s resolution of approval.

Pantages Bays site map. From presentation.

The Tassajara Parks project also garnered support from parents of Tassajara Hills Elementary School parents who were pleased the developer plans to make safety corrections to the school’s parking lot. The school is immediately west of the project’s northern side.

Pantages Bays General Plan Amendment maps. From presentation.

Dave Rehnstrom, EBMUD Manager of Water Distribution Planning, said contrary to the developer’s proposed water conservation efforts, “EBMUD finds this project’s water conservation measures are insufficient.”

Mainly because developers of controversial the Tassajara Parks Residential Project have proposed to dedicate 727 acres of land to the East Bay Regional Park District, that move won the support from a few environmental organizations especially Save Mt. Diablo.

After several failed attempts to obtain state and federal regulatory permit approvals since 2013, developers of the proposed Pantages Bays Project near Discovery Bay, the new project proposed would subdivide the same site into 277 residential lots, which is 15 lots less than the original 2013 project.

With two public trail systems providing 5,200 linear feet of trails and walkways, the proposed project consists of two lakes, Lake South approximately 23 acres in size, and Lake North, about seven acres in size.

Of the 277 units planned for Pantages Bay Project, about 42 units are required to be set aside as affordable housing units. Eighty percent of the affordable units, 33 units, would be affordable to Moderate income households and 20 percent of the required affordable units, 8 units, would be affordable to low-income households. “An in-lieu fee will be paid for the remaining 0.55 units,” the county planning department document states.

“This project will help alleviate a lot of the illegal dumping that occurs in that area,” Burgis observed.

Approve Amersco Natural Gas Processing Facility and Pipeline

Without receiving any public comments either in favor or in opposition, supervisors approved on a 5-0 vote Ameresco Renewable Natural Gas’s (ARNG) proposal to construct a new 48,000 square foot renewable natural gas facility on the Keller Canyon Landfill site in Pittsburg.

The publicly traded Ameresco that has been operating on the Pittsburg landfill site a RNG operation since 2009 now proposes constructing a newer RNG processing facility of about 48,000 square feet or 1.1 acres on a level pad of about 84,000 square feet. Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the operation would be overseen by two operators for 40 hours per week.

According to a press release from Republic Services, which owns the landfill, “The dedication of the Keller Canyon Landfill gas-to-electricity project marks the second time this year that Republic Services, Inc. (NYSE:RSG) and Ameresco have partnered to develop and expand renewable energy sources for California and to provide power to residents of and businesses in Palo Alto and Alameda.”

“Most of the equipment would be less than 10 feet high except for the proposed enclosed flare, and a few larger pieces of equipment that would vary in height from 25 to 35 feet,” the Conservation and Development Department background document stated. “The proposed enclosed flare would be approximately 50 feet in height, similar to the two existing flares at the Keller Canyon Landfill enclosed flare facility.”

The project also calls for a new RNG underground pipeline to a proposed PG&E metering station located near the eastern edge of the Keller Canyon Landfill.  The Ameresco project has drawn some concern from Concord-based Discovery Builders that the proposed pipeline will be near a proposed residential development in Pittsburg.

A spokesman for Ameresco would not answer how much the new RNG facility and pipeline will cost.

During the supervisors’ meeting, Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg said through his office, Ameresco has agreed to pay the county at least $50,000 a year into the Keller Canyon Land Fill Mitigation Fund to help moderate any economic or environmental impacts stemming from the RNG project.

Every year, millions of dollars collected from Republic Services, operation of the Keller Canyon Landfill, are distributed to nonprofit organizations in the Bay Point and Pittsburg area through Supervisor Federal Glover’s office.

Supervisors Seek More Information on Orin Allen Youth Rehab Center Closure

Supervisors also instructed Contra Costa County Chief Probation Officer Essa Ehmen Krause to proceed and collect additional information, including cost figures, about a proposal to potentially move juvenile inmates at Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility in Byron (Byron Boys Ranch), closing that facility and transferring the inmates to a renovated former juvenile hall on Glazier Drive in Martinez.  The former juvenile hall facility is now used or storage.

The proposal was presented to supervisors who are attempting to figure out how to best use resources and address the educational and psychological needs of juveniles at the aged Byron Boys Ranch, constructed in 1960 and is now out of compliance with the American Disability Act.

Due to state legislation and local juvenile rehabilitation efforts, there are now about 15 youths housed at the Byron Boys Ranch, which is used for youths convicted of non-capital crimes.  For youths convicted or charged for capital crimes, they are housed at the 209-bed John A. Davis Juvenile Hall constructed in 2005.  There are now about 24 inmates at juvenile hall, Krause told supervisors.

Expect Krause to give periodic updates on the potential closure of Orin Allen and the reuse of the former juvenile hall facility.

 

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