Archive for the ‘Growth & Development’ Category

Antioch’s Measure T will have no affect on new housing in Sand Creek area, don’t be fooled, vote no

Monday, October 12th, 2020

The latest plans for the Zeka Ranch new home project submitted to city staff last month. Note the grey, dashed line arbitrarily drawn by East Bay Regional Park District staff of where they wanted housing to be built on the property cutting off most of the flat land from new homes because it’s too close to the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. This land is the target of Measure T and the environmentalists.

Unnecessary fourth vote by the people could have at the most only stopped 877 homes remaining to be approved; would have downzoned private property by over 97%, from 2 homes per acre down to 1 home per 80 acres – unfair, unAmerican, and an “illegal taking” of land

By Allen Payton

Antioch residents have the opportunity to vote on Measure T on the November ballot because a judge told the Antioch City Council they had to place it there. But, since that ruling, Gov. Newsom signed into law SB330, the Housing Crisis Act of 2019.

According to the Legislative Counsel’s Digest, “This bill, until January 1, 2025, with respect to land where housing is an allowable use, except as specified, would prohibit a county or city, including the electorate exercising its local initiative or referendum power, in which specified conditions exist, determined by the Department of Housing and Community Development as provided, from enacting a development policy, standard, or condition, as defined, that would have the effect of (A) changing the land use designation or zoning of a parcel or parcels of property to a less intensive use or reducing the intensity of land use within an existing zoning district below what was allowed under the general plan or specific plan land use designation and zoning ordinances of the county or city as in effect on January 1, 2018.”

What that means is even if Measure T passes, it will have no effect on the remaining four parcels of land on the west side of Deer Valley Road in the Sand Creek Area that have had a 2-home per acre zoning designation since the 1980’s and officially since 2005.

So, why is Measure T on the ballot?

Because in early 2018 out-of-town environmentalists with a few Antioch residents who supported their efforts, pushed forward the Let Antioch Voters Decide: The Sand Creek Protection Initiative. They were trying to stop about 2,000 homes by moving in the city’s Urban Limit Line and downzoning all the property west of Deer Valley Road to just one home per 80 acres – a 97.4% decrease in housing units and devaluation of property.

But the proponents lied to Antioch residents to get them to sign the petitions telling them they could stop 8,000 homes. Yet, they knew that only 4,000 homes were allowed in the Sand Creek Area since the city council voted for that amount in the City’s General Plan in 2005.

The fact is by 2018, 1,174 homes had already been approved on the east side of Deer Valley Road. Plus, another 350 are planned on the eastern edge of the area, 121 homes planned north of Kaiser, and 301 senior homes are planned in a gated community in the hills south of Kaiser, for a total of 1,946 homes. That left only 2,054 homes that the initiative might have been able to stop – because it only affects the west side of Deer Valley Road.

Richland Development, the proponents of The Ranch project with its 1,177 homes on the west side of Deer Valley Road, launched their own initiative to get the voters to approve their project, but also threw their neighboring four properties under the bus downzoning them to one home per 80 acres, as well. Although they gathered enough signatures and the council adopted their initiative in 2018, a judge threw it out. Instead, in June of this year, the city council voted unanimously to approve The Ranch project and the environmentalists did not oppose it. In fact, they praised the project for protecting hillsides and the 250-foot setbacks to Sand Creek. (See related article)

So, that leaves only 877 homes that can still be approved in the Sand Creek area. Not 8,000 or even 4,000.

Map of area covered by the Richland Communities’ alternative initiative that would have downzoned and devalued neighboring properties, and The Ranch 1,177-home project area. Herald file graphic.

History of New Homes Planned for the Sand Creek Area

The bottom line is homes have been planned for the Sand Creek Area since the 1980’s when the city council and staff started drawing up plans and communicating with the landowners. Then we the people voted – three times, telling the landowners homes could be built on their property. Developers started making option payments on some of the land as early as 1989.

Beginning in the mid-1990’s 8,950 homes were planned in the Sand Creek Area, then known as Future Urban Area 1 (FUA-1) and 700 homes were proposed for the Roddy Ranch development for a total of 9,650 homes. But that number was reduced to 4,700 homes total by the City Council in 2003.

1990 – First Vote of the People Allowing New Homes in Sand Creek Area

Yet, what they call open space has actually been owned by developers for 20 or more years, since we the people of the county voted in 1990 for an Urban Limit Line and placed it along the ridgeline on the south side of the former Roddy Ranch Golf Club. That vote cut off 65% of the land in the county from subdivision development. The Sand Creek area land is inside the other 35% of the land where it’s allowed.

2005 – Second Vote of the People Allowing New Homes in Sand Creek Area

Then after the Board of Supervisors moved the ULL in and cut out the Roddy Ranch property, in 2005, we the people of Antioch voted to move the ULL back out and establishing Antioch’s own ULL. Known as Measure K, it passed by almost 60% of Antioch voters.

2007 – Third Vote of the People Allowing New Homes in Sand Creek Area

Then in 2007, the county had another vote on the Urban Limit Line to confirm its location. The line remained in the same place. So, once again we the people voted to allow new home construction in the Sand Creek area.

Land is Owned by Developers, It’s Not Open Space

That’s why for over 20 years the land in the Sand Creek Area has been owned by developers, waiting for the right time in the market to get their projects approved and build their voter allowed new home subdivisions.

But they missed the market, twice and faced the 2008 economic downturn. Yet, in the meantime, Highway 4 was widened through Antioch, the Highway 4 bypass/extension was built to Balfour Road in Brentwood and BART opened in our city. All the internal major streets in Antioch and highways were designed with 12,000 homes planned for the Sand Creek Area and south. Yet now that the Roddy Ranch is permanent open space, so those 700 homes planned for half-acre lots inside a gated community on 900 acres inside the ULL, will not be built.

City of Antioch planning map with land-use designations. VLD-H = very low density  hillside, etc.

11th Hour Effort to Stop the Sand Creek Area Homes

Then, just as three of the remaining five property owners were ready to move forward with their plans for final approval by the City Council, the environmentalists tried to stop them with their initiative. Worse, even though the Zeka Ranch was ready to submit plans in 2017, they were advised by City staff to hold off until The Ranch project on the east side of the old Empire Mine Road submitted their plans, so they could coordinate on road alignments. So, The Zeka Group held off. In the meantime, the two initiatives moved forward, and both gathered enough signatures to be placed on the ballot. Instead the five members of the City Council chose to adopt both initiatives instead of placing them on the ballot.

Why Can Brentwood Have Nice Homes & Gated Communities, But Not Antioch?

They didn’t stop the nice, upscale, senior and gated communities, and even million-dollar homes from being built in Brentwood. But they don’t want Antioch to have them? Why not? People who live in Antioch want to live here, move up to a nicer home, or to a senior community and not have to move out of town, like some of our former city leaders have actually done – to Brentwood.

Plus, the homes in the Sand Creek Area on the west side of Deer Valley Road won’t be built for five to 10 years, because the sewer line has to be extended from the east end of the valley. Also, all the homes will pay the regional traffic impact fee of $15,000 each, and a new, annual police funding assessment, yet they won’t have the impact on crime and police services as other parts of Antioch. That’s just a fact.

The best part is that the types of homes planned for the Zeka Ranch project will attract business owners and executives to Antioch to bring their companies and jobs to the 200-acre area near Laurel Road, that the city council I was a part of set aside in 1998 for employment and commercial uses.

Here’s What’s Really Been Going On

The environmentalists and the East Bay Regional Park District lust for the Zeka Ranch and its 640 acres adjacent to the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. Although they could build 1,280 homes on the property based on the two homes per acre zoning designation, The Zeka Group, owner of the Zeka Ranch, originally planned about 1,100 homes. The park district threatened to sue the City of Antioch if they allowed that, so Zeka chose to be a good neighbor and reduce their total to 750 homes. But that wasn’t good enough. Park district representatives drew an arbitrary line on Zeka’s property and said they could build homes in that area. (See map top). The Zeka Group, led by Antioch homeowner Louisa Zee Kao, chose not to fight and scaled down her project again, this time to just 337 units on 200 of her 640 acres. Yet, that’s still too many for the environmentalists and what they’ve written into Measure T which would downzone the property to just eight homes, total! Why? So, the park district can buy it for pennies on the dollar. That’s what the environmentalists tried to do a few years ago by asking The Zeka Group to sell their land at a deep discount to another developer to be used as open space, at a price much lower than the $30 million they’ve spent to purchase it, as well as the costs for creating the plans and going through the city approval process.

Taking of Land

That’s what is called an illegal taking of land. That’s why The Zeka Group won in court twice and both The Ranch initiative and the environmentalists’ Sand Creek initiative were thrown out in 2019. The judge said the council couldn’t adopt The Ranch initiative the way it was written. He also said the Let Antioch Voters Decide initiative, (which is ironic, since the environmentalists got the five council members to decide by adopting it in 2018, circumventing the voters) had to be placed on this November’s ballot. (See related articles, here and here)

SB330 Makes Moot Measure T

But the initiative is moot – has no meaning and will have no impact – due to the language in SB330. Even if Measure T could go into effect, it’s just wrong, unfair and frankly unAmerican. How would you like it if you followed the rules, bought some property, spent money on plans within the limits allowed and just as you’re ready to get your approval to build, the rules are changed on you and now your property is worth 2.5% of what you paid for it? I doubt you would like it or think it’s fair. But, that’s what Measure T is attempting to do to four property owners in Antioch.

Fortunately, that can’t happen and the Yes on T campaign is really a waste of time and their supporters’ funds. Yet the environmentalists are still trying to deceive the voters of Antioch hoping that you’ll vote for Measure T to send a message to future council members to not approve the remaining 877 homes. However, if a future council votes against the Zeka Ranch project or any others on the remaining parcels in the next five years, the City will be on the hook for having to purchase the land at the fair market. That could cost Antioch taxpayers millions of dollars. So, save our tax dollars, don’t take their land, and vote No on Measure T. To learn more, visit the No on Measure T page on this website.

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Council majority postpones decision on Delta Fair Village apartments indefinitely on a split vote

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

Rendering of proposed Delta Fair Village apartment complex.

Cite applicant’s history of code enforcement violations at site, and other properties he owns in Antioch; Project can be brought back to council sooner than a year, and as a possible condo project, instead;  Construction unions attempt “greenmail” to pressure developer for PLA

By Allen Payton

During their meeting Tuesday night, the Antioch City Council on a 3-2 vote, postponed indefinitely the proposed 210-unit Delta Fair Village apartment complex, proposed by the owner of commercial property in Antioch, because he has consistently ignored code enforcement issues and been fined for it multiple times. The applicant, Gabriel Chiu, who with his family through their Chiu Family, LLC, owns the property as well as the Deer Valley Plaza, where the former AMC Deer Valley Theaters were located, didn’t participate in the Zoom meeting. Instead, his architect was available to answer questions, but the council members’ questions were for Chiu, not about any features of the project.

Two of the council members mentioned wanting a union-only hire, Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the project.

During public comments, Kyle Jones, who said he was with an organization named Antioch Residents for Responsible Development, read a letter from the group’s attorney outlining a variety of concerns they have with the project, mainly over environmental issues. 2020-06-01-Attorney ltr from Antioch-Residents-for-Responsible-Development

They want an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project, for impacts on air quality and health, he said.

“Impacts to air quality will be significant without mitigation,” Jones said. The greenhouse gas impacts of the project were underestimated.”

During an internet search of the group’s name, a copy of their attorney’s letter was found on the website www.phonyuniontreehuggers.com. It refers to the tactic known as greenmail, which is used by labor unions to in effect blackmail a developer using environmental issues until the developer agrees to a PLA. That’s because the construction unions don’t really oppose the project, as they want it to be built, only as long as their members are the ones who are hired to build it.

According to their attorney’s letter, under the title “Statement of Interest” identifies the group’s membership. It reads, “Antioch Residents for Responsible Development is an unincorporated association of individuals and labor organizations that may be adversely affected by the potential environmental impacts of the Project. The association includes Antioch residents Nathan Deleon, Sunshine Kinder, and Anthony Lundberg- Palacios and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 302, Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 159, Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, Sprinkler Fitters Local 483 and their members and those members’ families and other individuals that live, recreate, work and raise their families in the City of Antioch (collectively “Antioch Residents’).the Antioch Residents for Responsible Development consists of three Antioch residents.”

One additional item that was mentioned during city staff’s presentation on the project, which wasn’t included in the staff report in the council packet, the conditions of approval “obligate the project to join the pending Contra Costa Fire District’s Community Facilities District (CFD),” to pay for additional fire service needed by the future residents. Other new development projects in the area are being required to be included in the CFD.

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts was the first council member to speak on the matter, saying the property owner has had “an extensive history” of ignoring code enforcement issues. “In other words, these are impediments to economic development. Based on the lack of maintenance, these issues can dramatically affect surrounding businesses and residents.”

“Please tell me how this…applicant is going to be different,” she asked city staff.

“Our task before you, is to evaluate the project,” responded Forrest Ebbs, Antioch Community Development Director. “We’re sensitive to the fact that there are other issues. But I can’t introduce outside elements to this process.”

“Our analysis of the project is complete, and we can speak to that,” he added.

“Until I can have an answer on this, I don’t feel comfortable. I really don’t,” Motts stated. “We have a responsibility to the residents…we have a history of approving developments haphazardly.”

Thorpe then said, “Thank you for that. I think I share the same concerns.”

He asked if the applicant, Gabriel Chiu was on the line. But only the applicant’s architect was available to answer questions.

“I think we all have the concerns about the applicant,” said Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock. “But we need to move forward. This is an infill project and we’ve been asking for infill projects. The code enforcement issues have to be addressed before the project can move forward.”

“I like this project,” she continued. “We need apartments in the area. It will be nice to see the retail have a facelift.”

She asked that some of the units be reserved for seniors, and for a PLA.

“Will there be a manager on site?” Ogorchock asked.

“There is a condition of approval that there be a 24-hour manager on site of the project,” a city staff member responded.

Councilmember Monica Wilson shared her concerns saying, “although I’d like to see something on that side, I’m with everybody else. I just need some assurances the property will be maintained.”

“It’s already a very dense population in there, with apartments on San Jose Drive,” she continued. “How far back do those code enforcement issues go?”

“I’ve been on staff for over five years,” Ebbs shared. “When I first started with the city, that was one of the stops on a code enforcement tour.”

“I’m just not feeling confident of that applicant maintaining that site,” Wilson continued. “There definitely needs to be a project labor agreement. There just needs to be a lot of things before I can move forward.”

“We have an opportunity to take an area of town and see an investment,” Mayor Sean Wright said, urging the other council members to reconsider their opposition. “If we say no to this project, five years from now, we’re still going to have the same code enforcement issues.”

“We need to bring a project into that area to spur development,” he continued. “This is a crucial opportunity for Antioch. If we say no, tonight, we’re not just saying no to this developer, but to quite a few other developers.”

“I just don’t feel comfortable. If it was any other applicant,” Motts added. “I would need a broader conversation with the applicant before we go forward.”

“If we approve this project, this evening it might give the applicant a quick kick in the rear to fix up his other properties,” said Ogorchock. “All these conditions have to be met before he moves forward. Hopefully the applicant is listening, tonight and hearing the comments.”

Ogorchock made a motion to approve the project and Wright seconded it.

However, Thorpe offered a substitute motion. “My substitute motion is to postpone indefinitely,” he said. Motts seconded it.

“Is there a goal with the postponement?” Wright asked.

“It sounds like there are concerns of our colleagues and the applicant isn’t here to answer them,” Thorpe said. “This is about trust and I don’t trust him.”

“We’ve never had a project come before us in which the applicant wasn’t with us,” Motts said.

“I really think this is a project we need in town,” Wright said.

The council then adopted the motion to postpone on a 3-2 vote with Wright and Ogorchock voting no.

Following the vote, both Motts and Thorpe were asked if they had spoken with Mr. Chiu before the council meeting. Thorpe responded simply, “Nope.” Motts responded that she had not spoken with the applicant before the meeting and that usually developers approach her and other council members with their projects before the meeting, not the other way around.

Had the council voted on Ogorchock’s motion and it failed, the applicant would have had to wait at least one year to bring it back to the council for a vote. Instead, by approving the motion to postpone indefinitely, although unnecessary and a motion to table would have been sufficient and more appropriate, it will allow the applicant to return sooner than a year, and be available to answer questions of council members. It also offers the applicant time to submit a condominium application to convert the project from rental apartments, which both Thorpe and Motts mentioned they were supportive of, following the meeting. That could take four to six weeks according to Antioch Planning Commission member Manny Soliz. (See related article)

 

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Antioch Council to consider converting former Food Maxx location into 210-apartment complex Tuesday night

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

From project presentation for Antioch City Council 09-22-20.

Possible conversion to condominiums

Delta Fair Village site map.

By Allen Payton

During their regular meeting, tonight, Sept. 22, 2020, the Antioch City Council will consider approving a a four-story, 210-apartmentproject, along with 4,000 square feet of retail in the Delta Fair Shopping Center where the Food Maxx store was located in the past. The site is located at 3000 Delta Fair Blvd. and bordered by Buchanan Road and San Jose Drive, near the Somersville Road and Highway 4 interchange. The store building has sat empty for several years, since the store relocated across town to the Deer Valley Plaza at Lone Tree Way and Deer Valley Road. Delta Fair Village ACC 092220 presentation

According to the city staff report, the plan, recommended by a vote of the Antioch Planning Commission, would result in the demolition of 73,546 square feet of retail space and be replaced with the condos and new retail building. The four stories of apartments would consist of five buildings over a ground-floor parking structure.

If approved, the project will also include renovation of the remaining existing 73,535 sf of retail space.

Some of the project documents label it a condominium project. Efforts to reach city staff for questions about it were unsuccessful, but Antioch Planning Commissioner Manny Soliz explained the discrepancy in terms in the staff report.

Document in Antioch city staff report for council meeting agenda item using the term condominiums. The project proponent has agreed to return with a conversion proposal.

“At our meeting, I had asked for it to be condos, and the project owner agrees with that. But that would require them to revise the plan,” Soliz shared. “I said, let’s go ahead and take the extra four to six weeks, but the rest of the commission said no, we need to get rid of that blight, now. I said I’m for that, too. But I’d rather get it done right the first time.”

“The proponent told the planning commission that he will come back with a conversion to condominium proposal,” he continued. “That seemed like a good compromise.”

“I think it will be a good project, but it did get approved as apartments, for now,” Soliz added.

The council meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. and can be viewed on Comcast Cable Channel 24 or via livestream on the City’s website.

Proposed project location on Delta Fair Blvd. in Antioch.

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

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

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.

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Regional agencies seek input on the future of the Bay Area

Friday, July 10th, 2020

For transportation, housing, economy and environment for next three decades

Plan Bay Area 2050’s Draft Blueprint is available for public comment through August 10, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO, July 10, 2020 . . . The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) are inviting the Bay Area public to provide input on the newly released Plan Bay Area 2050 Draft Blueprint, a 30-year regional vision that seeks to create a more affordable, connected, diverse, healthy and vibrant Bay Area for all. The Draft Blueprint is being released today for a public comment period that will run through August 10, 2020.

Given the myriad challenges the COVID-19 pandemic poses to the Bay Area, MTC and ABAG will hold virtual workshops and telephone town halls through August 7, 2020. Both organizations want to hear from all Bay Area residents in order to incorporate diverse voices from across our region. Input received by the agencies will be used to further refine the Final Blueprint to create a more resilient and equitable Bay Area for future generations. The Final Blueprint is slated for approval in late 2020 and will be integrated into Plan Bay Area 2050 prior to its adoption in 2021.

The Plan Bay Area 2050 Draft Blueprint weaves together transportation, housing, economic and environmental strategies, alongside an expanded set of growth geographies, to advance critical climate and equity goals. Designed to accommodate the 1.5 million new homes necessary to house future growth and address overcrowding, as well as 1.4 million new jobs, the Draft Blueprint integrates critical strategies to address our severe and longstanding housing crisis. With infrastructure investments in walking, biking and public transportation – as well as sea level protections designed to keep most Bay Area communities from flooding through 2050 – the Draft Blueprint makes meaningful steps towards the adopted Plan Bay Area 2050 Vision.

Plan Bay Area 2050 is a joint initiative of MTC and ABAG. For more information on Plan Bay Area 2050 or to provide comments on the Draft Blueprint, visit: www.planbayarea.org. The entire list of public events can be found here: www.planbayarea.org/meetings-and-events/upcoming-public-events.

See previous plans here – Plan 2040  Plan Bay Area

MTC is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. ABAG’s mission is to strengthen cooperation and collaboration across local governments to build healthier, stronger communities.

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Council tables decision on location for homeless trailers, supports initiative limiting Sand Creek new home development

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

Caltrans employees towed the five FEMA trailers to Antioch on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2019.

Council also extends moratorium on evictions and rent increases to July 15

By Allen Payton

On two unanimous votes during their meeting Tuesday night, the Antioch City Council chose to postpone any decision on a location for the five FEMA trailers intended to provide temporary housing for homeless families with school children, and to support the November ballot measure limiting new home development in the Sand Creek Focus Area.

“The council can give the emergency shelter overlay designation to all three properties,” Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs said during his staff report on the trailer matter. He defended the Planning Commission’s decision to recommend placing them at the fairgrounds.

“Their reasoning is not what it sounds,” he explained. “They’re not opposed to a homeless shelter. They wanted a really nice site. They wanted to make sure we do the best we can.”

During public comments, Andrew Becker asked about the viability of the fairgrounds site, since it already had hookups and if the city had considered any showers were on-site. The Nick Rodriguez Center has showers.

Mike Stewart spoke next sharing concerns about the Fulton Shipyard Road location, “with a focus on safety for the children. The actual available area…about two acres. The balance of the sites is the city transfer facility…basically the city dump. Trucks moving in and out all day long. There is no grocery, no playground, no children near the Fulton Shipyard site.”

Anthony Fieros who owns a home on W. 10th Street across from one site said, “This is the middle of a residential area. It’s a terrible location next to the fire station, there. It’s noisy. It’s just a bare parking lot. No electricity, no water, no sewer. I’d encourage a no vote for everybody.”

Lucy Meinhardt supported the rezoning designation writing, “It’s past time to implement the recommendations of the homeless task force.”

Sherry Fitzpatrick wrote, “I do not believe the trailers should be placed in residential areas. This will not be temporary. It will be an ongoing expense to the city. It’s a nice, feel good idea, but the city should not be in the social services business. The trailers should be placed on Contra Costa County or state property with services. Emergency housing is 180 days or less. What then?”

Dawn Bright wrote, “I’m opposed to the…housing overlay for the three sites. The commission directed the staff to open a conversation with the agriculture board for using the fairgrounds. Please stand up and fight for Antioch.”

Susan Welsh in opposing locating the trailers on W. 10th Street wrote, “The property at 301 W. 10th Street is in the Downtown Specific Plan. It would reduce property values in the area. Plus, it’s a trailer park in a residential area. San Jose received trailers from the state…and is now returning them due to problems. It would be cheaper to rent five apartments in different areas of the city.” She supported considering locating the trailers at the fairgrounds.

Fire Chief Bouchard wrote, “The fire district has some significant concerns at 301 W. 10th Street. As you know, fire stations are 24-hour facilities. The proposed use…could draw many persons to the area. The additional vehicular traffic…could impede our fire services.”

Sheila Driscoll wrote against all three locations and in support of the fairgrounds’ location.

Mike Barbanica wrote about his concerns of placing them in residential areas. “Please do not place the trailers…specifically on Fitzuren Road.”

The final comment supported placing the trailers on the fairgrounds.

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts was the first council member to ask questions.

“Can you speak to the fairgounds site,” she asked City Manager Ron Bernal

“The idea of using the fairgrounds…the governor’s office identified…seven fairgrounds in the state and ours was not one of them,” Bernal responded. “I spoke with the fair manager…he said his property did not qualify and was being used for other purposes. It’s being used for longer-term tenants. The city council may want to pursue this at a higher level than just the fair manager.”

Motts then asked about the “amenities that would need to be added, such as safe, overnight parking” for the Fitzuren Road site.

City Manager Ron Bernal said the Fitzuren site would need “electrical hook-ups for four trailers” as well as “some grading, some gates…sidewalk, curb and gutter would need to be installed. A significant amount of work would need to be done.”

Councilman Lamar Thorpe then made a motion to the item.

“There are other options we’re looking at,” Motts said as she offered a second to the motion. “We are looking at Fitzuren as a safe, overnight parking spot. We have yet to find a safe place to do that. We do know that families are living in their cars overnight.”

While it costs money, she pointed out, “The cost to not do it far outweighs that. We’re spending millions of dollars to move people around. They’re affecting our drinking water. Fires are being set. They call 9-11 and ending up in our hospitals. I just want to promise the community that there are things being done. The bottom line is this is temporary. The goal has always been to get people into permanent housing.”

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock then said, “The Fulton Shipyard is not a good area for any youth to be in. In listening to the comments. I don’t think the other two locations are viable, either. Then again, you have to look at these trailers. We thought they could help. But when you look at the 180 days you can stay in them…would the students be uprooted?”

Wright then called for the vote.

“I am for one of these properties,” Thorpe added. “But some recent conversations that we can follow up on…we may not even have to go in this direction.” He expected that to occur “by the end of the week.”

“I’ve had some conversations, too,” said Mayor Wright. “The conversation with the fairgrounds did not include the discussion of additional infrastructure such as five pads.”

With that the council voted 5-0 to table the matter.

Supports Sand Creek Area New Home Development Limits Ballot Measure

On another unanimous vote, the council adopted a resolution expressing its support for approval of the Let Antioch Voters Decide: The Sand Creek Area Protection Initiative to change General Plan designations within the Sand Creek Focus Area and permanently require voter approval of amendments to the city’s Urban Limit Line. Resolution supporting Sand Creek LAVD initiative

The initiative would prevent the development of homes west of Deer Valley Road and reduce the total number of units to 2,100 from 4,000 previously approved by the city council. Any additional development would require a vote of the people.

However, the initiative is challenged by new state law that prevents cities from downzoning property already zoned for residential development either by council vote or initiative.

The Zeka Group, owner and developer of the planned Zeka Ranch project on the west end of the Sand Creek Area, as well as adjacent property owners, are expected to file a pre-election lawsuit against the proponents and city.

The initiative was adopted by the city council in 2018 after enough signatures of Antioch voters were gathered to qualify for the ballot. But a judge, in response to a lawsuit by Zeka and another affected property owner, tossed out the council’s approval of the initiative and required they place the measure on the November 2020 ballot, instead.

Approve Use of, Application for $2.3 Million in Housing Grant Funds

In other council action, they approved on a 5-0 vote, the use of $2,365,410 in Permanent Local Housing Allocation (PLHA) grant funds. According to the staff report the funds are to be used “for the purpose of assisting persons who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness; housing rehabilitation and the development of accessory dwelling units; and creating homeownership opportunity for Antioch workers and renters earning from 80 percent to 120 percent of the area median income.”

The council also adopted a resolution authorizing the application for PLHA grant funds from the state.

“Is that $2.3 million guaranteed?” Mayor Sean Wright asked.

“As long as ACD accepts our proposal we are guaranteed to receive some amount of money, up to the $2.3 million… the first year up to $400,000,” said Teri House, the city’s housing consultant.

Wilson, I assume you applied for the maximum amount. Did you have a guideline of what kind of program you want to use this money for?

“Yes. The plan continues the plan that the CBDG sub committee has established over a decade of our housing successor funds…and homeless assistance,” House said. “This just continues those programs…that have been on going for at least a decade. And yes, we applied for the maximum.”
“Thank you. Good to hear,” Wilson responded.

Expires Moratorium on Evictions & Rent Increases, Antioch Covered by County Ordinance, State Orders

In final action, the city council voted 5-0 to expire the City’s rent increase and eviction moratorium. The action was taken because the county’s moratorium, approved by the Board of Supervisors and runs through July 15, applies to cities as well as unincorporated areas in the county. According to the city’s new urgency ordinance, the City Council finds that “residences and businesses…will continue to have protections from eviction and adequate ‘grace periods’ to repay unpaid rent…from the Governor’s Executive Orders, Judicial Council Emergency Rule, and the County’s Urgency Ordinance.” Urgency Ordinance on Eviction & Rent Increase Moratorium ACC062320

 

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Council places “flawed” Sand Creek “Let Antioch Voters Decide” initiative on November ballot

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

Will cost city $100,000; could face pre- and post-election legal challenges due to new legislation possibly making the initiative moot and costing city even more.

By Allen Payton

In response to the direction given by a judge in a court case over two initiatives affecting new home development in the Sand Creek Focus Area that the council adopted in 2018, the Antioch City Council voted 5-0 to place the one initiative sponsored by the environmental community on the November 2020 ballot.

That court case resulted in the judge tossing out the council’s adoption of the environmentalist-backed Let Antioch Voters Decide (LAVD) initiative. It also invalidated both the initiative sponsored by Richland Communities, the developer of the 1,100-home project known as The Ranch, as well as their development agreement. In his ruling, the judge also ordered the city council place the LAVD initiative on the ballot. However, the decisions in the lawsuits by adjacent property owners The Zeka Group owners of Zeka Ranch, and the Oak Hill Park Company are still being appealed by the backers of the LAVD initiative. (See related articles here, and here)

According to a previous Herald news report, following a 30-day study by city staff, their report found the initiative limited the total number of housing units to 2,100 in the entire Sand Creek Area. Since the past and current councils had already approved more than 2,300 homes, then no more homes could be built, including the proposed 301-unit, gated senior home community east of Deer Valley Road, known as The Olive Groves on the Albers Ranch property. However, both Seth Adams of Save Mount Diablo and the attorney for Richland said that the intent of each initiative was to only affect property on the west side of Deer Valley Road.

The LAVD initiative will directly impact the proposed Zeka Ranch project (see related article), west of The Ranch project, on the west side of Empire Mine Road, as well as three other properties directly south of Richland property, including Oak Hill’s. Zeka’s proposed number of homes would be reduced from 300 to 400, down to just one home per 80 acres, resulting in just a total of eight homes.

In addition, since the judge’s decisions, new legislation, SB330, was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Newsom, last year which prevents cities from downzoning land already zoned residential, either by council action or through the initiative process.

Yet, according to Derek Cole, the city’s contract attorney working on matters dealing with the Sand Creek initiative, “cities have mandatory duties whenever proposed ballot measures receive the signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot.  In this case, because the ‘9212’ report and approval of the initiative are no longer options, the City can only take action to call an election as to the initiative.  City staff is aware of the SB 330 legislation that took effect this year, but as the Staff Report explains, the City Council cannot assume the role of the courts in deciding any legal issues associated with the measure.  The State Supreme Court made very clear in a 2017 decision that the duty to call an election on an initiative is mandatory, even when an initiative’s legality is questioned.”

“The council could adopt an argument against the initiative,” added City Attorney Thomas Smith.

During public comments Joanna Garaventa, with the East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, spoke in favor of the initiative. She submitted a letter to the council, but when speaking it was difficult to understand her for the purpose of adding her comments to this report.

Andrew Bassak, an attorney with Hanson Bridgett, representing The Zeka Group, opposed the placement of the initiative on the ballot as “it would negatively affect the development that’s been planned for the past 30 years.”

He referred to SB330, the new residential development law.

“The city lacks authority to place the initiative on the ballot…under the California Elections Code. That passed years ago,” Bassak explained. “There is no authority under the stayed Superior Court ruling. That judgement is currently subject to appeal, by one of the proponents of the initiative. Save Mt. Diablo wants to have its cake and eat it, too.”

“The cost of putting it on the ballot will be over $100,000,” he stated. “Placing it on the ballot will result in more litigation” both before…and after the November election. Those litigations could easily double the $100,000 amount. This is just squandering resources that could be spent elsewhere. The city should wait until the court of appeals decision is over.”

Bassak submitted a letter to the mayor and council before the meeting. In it he wrote, “the Initiative is fundamentally flawed and, if placed on the ballot, will be subject to avoidable costly pre-election litigation.” 06-09-20 Zeka Group Attorney Letter to Antioch re LAVD Initiative

Seth Adams, the Land Conservation Director for Save Mt. Diablo, which sponsored the LAVD initiative said, “Please move forward with placing our initiative on the ballot and please formally endorse the initiative.”

“Over 9,000 citizens signed the petition to place the initiative on the ballot,” he continued. “The courts said to place the initiative on the ballot. It did not invalidate the initiative.”

“Our attorneys have provided information to the city that explains why they can place the initiative on the ballot,” Adams added. Emails from Save Mt. Diablo’s attorney to City of Antioch re LAVD Initiative

All the other thirteen public comments were in favor of placing the initiative on the ballot.

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock then asked about how SB 330 affected the initiative.

“SB330 is legislation…that became effective in January of this year and is retroactive two years,” Smith said. “Under the new regulation any affected city is precluded from adopting policy…of lesser standard. It is preventing the downzoning of land, from residential to something that would not allow development.”

“It is one of the factors that would have to be taken into consideration if the initiative passed,” he continued. “However, at this time, the council can move forward.”

“There may be a pre-election challenge or a post-election challenge,” Smith added. “SB330 could affect it in determining if the initiative is valid.”

“Not only did 9,000 of our citizens sign petitions to place this on the ballot, but the courts directed the council to place it on the ballot,” said Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts. “I believe it’s an environmentally sensitive, efficient development. So, I am in favor of moving the initiative forward and placing it on the November ballot.”

Ogorchock then moved to place the initiative on the ballot. Councilwoman Monica Wilson seconded the motion.

Smith then asked if the two actions could be separated, with the council deciding if they want to include a ballot argument against the measure.

Ogorchock then shortened her motion to not include a ballot argument.

Thorpe then asked staff to come back with something at a future council meeting, for council to decide whether or not to endorse or oppose the initiative.

However, the council can only submit an argument against the initiative, Smith explained.

Ogorchock and Wilson withdrew their motion and Ogorchock made a new motion and Thorpe seconded it.

“Do we want to make an argument against the initiative?” she asked. Wilson, Thorpe and Motts all said “no”.

“I just need you to make a motion that you do not want to make an argument against the initiative,” Smith explained.

Ogorchock then made a friendly amendment to her own motion that the council will not include an argument against the initiative. Thorpe accepted the amendment to the motion.

That motion passed on a 5-0 vote, that the council will not include a ballot argument against the initiative.

Then Ogorchock returned to her original motion to place the initiative on the November ballot. It was seconded by Wilson and the motion also passed 5-0.

Efforts to reach Seth Adams and city staff to obtain a copy of the letter sent to the City from Save Mt. Diablo’s attorney before the meeting, were unsuccessful prior to publication time. Please check back later for any updates to this report.

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Antioch Council approves changes to home sizes and designs in Sand Creek development

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

Requires all-ability playground, option for community garden if residents want it

By Allen Payton

During their regular meeting on Tuesday night, May 26, 2020 the Antioch City Council unanimously approved changes to the designs and sizes for the homes in the new home subdivision in Sand Creek, but spent most of their discussion ensuring an all-abilities playground in the park and a possible community garden, should the future homeowners want it.

The city had high hopes for a senior housing community by Century Communities in the Sand Creek area. “Unfortunately, that project did not sell as well as we thought it would,” said City Manager Ron Bernal.

Jose Cortez, Associate Planner in the Community Development Department provided the staff presentation.

“The 10 new designs fit on the existing lot sizes,” he said. “Sizes range from 1,500 square feet to 2,700 square feet. Changes…should not have any adverse effects to what was approved for size.”

The Planning Commission approved the changes and staff recommended the council adopt the changes.

No member of the public spoke on the matter, not even the developer who, as the proponent

“In the removing of certain items from the active adult community…I would ask the community garden be put back in. That’s unique,” said Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock. “The park, I believe all parks built in the city, should be all abilities. Wheelchair can get in there. But we should not allow parks where children cannot get in there.”

Phase map of the Cielo at Sand Creek development.

A representative from Cielo was on the phone, named, Jeff Inabmnit, representing Century Communities.

“These changes will make a real positive impact on the project,” he said. “The project is focused on the family buyer profile.”

“A private garden is for high-density projects,” Inabmnit said. “The homes have 21-foot back yards which should be adequate. If a community garden isn’t supported, it becomes an eyesore.”

Thorpe then said, “Aren’t all we really doing tonight is looking at home size and designs?”

“Any modifications to the parks and recreation amenities go back to the Planning Commission,” said City Planner Alexis Morris. “Any changes to the homes go to the council.”

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts wanted the developer to set keep the community garden that was in the development’s originally approved plans.

“As much as I like a community garden, I’d leave that up to the residents, if the HOA wants that,” Councilwoman Monica Wilson said. “If they don’t want it, it becomes an eyesore.”

Councilman Lamar Thorpe then made the motion to approve the modifications to the home designs and sizes.

“You’re talking about 5,000 square foot lots or less,” Ogorchock pointed out.

“Just like my community,” interjected Wilson.

Ogorchock continued to argue in favor of the community garden and pushing for an all-ability park for the children.

Thorpe then said, “On the community garden side, this is going to return to staff. Volunteers don’t suffice. I’m not for this community garden idea. This was going to be a retirement community of 55 plus.”

“In terms of it being an all-abilities park you guys are still open to that,” he asked.

“We’ve added the play equipment recommended by the Parks and Recreation Department, which is an acceptable structure with paths to get to it,” Iabmnit responded.

“I would still like to see you go ahead with the waterline in case the homeowners’ association would like to do the community garden, if you’re amenable to that,” Motts said.

“Yeah. I’m fine with that,” Inabmnit said.

“Jeff has said they will build the pipe…if the people want it they want it,” Thorpe said. But he and Wilson accepted the amendment to their motion.

They then also added language to the motion to ensure the park was all-abilities.

The council then voted unanimously to approve the motion and changes to the design and sizes of the homes.

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