News

Pittsburg approves Seeno plan to develop southwest hills – San mateo county instances

pittsburg-approves-seeno-plan-to-develop-southwest-hills-san-mateo-county-instances

A Concord developer’s long-planned housing project that would build up to 1,500 homes in the southwest hills of Pittsburg got a unanimous green light from the City Council Monday despite opposition from environmentalists, preservationists and some residents.

Faria Land Investors, a Seeno/Discovery Builders Inc. company, had asked the council to approve its master plan, development agreement and an amendment to the city’s general plan that would allow construction on the hillsides.

The developer also sought approval of its environmental documents for the project, which envisions construction of homes on 341 acres clustered in valleys and the preservation of 265 acres of open space. The minimum lot size of the low-density project would be 4,000 square feet, but many would be much larger than that, according to the developer.

“We know this is going to be a very nice community,” Discovery Builders President Louis Parsons said, noting the ridgelines will be preserved.

As part of the deal, the project will also include long sought-after commercial development, a youth recreation center and trails that developers hope will connect to the East Bay Regional Park District’s future park at the former Concord Naval Weapons Basin, he said.

“It’s going to be a great location,” Parsons said. “It’s going to be nestled in these valleys and we think it’s going to be a great place for executives and people of all types to live.”

Plans to develop the hills date back to 2005 when voter-approved Measure P moved the Faria site within Pittsburg’s urban boundary. The city approved an agreement with Seeno that established guidelines for a permanent greenbelt buffer along the inner edges of the boundary.

The Concord-based developer filed an application in 2010, modified it in 2014 and again in 2017 before resurrecting it in 2020. And although the Planning Commission recommended it last summer, the hearing was continued shortly thereafter when a council member fell ill.

Then and now critics have said the developer has not provided enough detail to assess the project’s impacts.

Opponents also said the project will destroy the natural beauty of the area, impact wildlife, snarl traffic and increase fire risks. Groups opposing it included the East Bay Regional Park District, Save Mount Diablo, Greenbelt Alliance and Pittsburg Youth Action.

Juan Pablo Galván, Save Mount Diablo’s land use manager, said the proposal lacks an adequate project description and enforceable mitigation measures.

“Hundreds of Pittsburg residents have submitted comments on this project pointing to the need to protect Pittsburg’s hills and wildlife habitat, address existing serious traffic issues and present to the public a complete description and analysis of this project,” he said. “… It shows a complete disregard for the environment.”

Galván and many others also pointed to fire risks.

“It is an extremely windy area and you can’t have much even in the way of trees … and fire plus wind equals a bad situation,” he said.

Zoe Siegel of Greenbelt Alliance also strongly cautioned against approval.

“A lot has changed in the past 20 years and we know a lot more now about the impacts of climate change,” she said. “… Developments of this kind will out your community and our region at greater risks of climate change.”

Pittsburg resident Mark Linde pointed to the potential impacts on local owls, turtles, frogs and bees.

“Mitigation fees, developers fees and oversight just can’t remedy the insurmountable damage this development will do to the environment and mankind alike,” he said.

William Goodwin, a housing advocate, questioned the developer’s plan to build small accessory dwelling units or tiny homes instead of 150 affordable comparable units as the city’s inclusionary housing program mandates.

“Is it not enough that we are in the middle of an affordable housing crisis, a recession and a pandemic when many families are suffering?” he asked. “ No, this developer wants to cut an estimated  $60 million off their bottom line at the expense of affordable housing for the people of Pittsburg.”

Former council member Pete Longmire, however, urged approval of the plans.

“It will bring millions of dollars in impact fees that will support our basic infrastructure like traffic, fire, police and other contributions,” he said. “…This could be a turning point for our community to bring a lot of opportunities.”

Seeno also found support with a variety of unions and residents who applauded the good-paying construction jobs the project would bring.

Council members, however, questioned whether the project would ensure the trail connections and staging areas for those wanting to visit the future regional park over the hill in Concord.

“I want to make sure we comply on both sides to that commitment,” Councilman Juan Banales said, asking that that language be included in the agreement while voicing his support of the project overall.

Mayor Merl Craft said the council must look at the entire community it serves.

“We want to see what others have in their communities and we want these amenities as well,” she said. “Upscale development means we can attract businesses, a grocery store. We will no longer be a food desert. Sometimes we have to say what about us.”

Craft added that the city already has 1,098 units of affordable housing. “We are always looking to expand our housing stock. We need to have dollars in our community. ”

According to projections, the project will bring $1.1 million to the coffers of public safety, $122,000 for the fire district, $2.75 million in property taxes as well as millions for traffic mitigation and to the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Another estimated $500,000 will go to the Pittsburg Power Co. that would provide gas and electricity for the development.

“All of these won’t happen without the Faria project,” she said.

Councilman Jelani Killings also voiced his support.

“This was a big undertaking,” he said. “..You aren’t taking away land. The reality is this was already designated by the voters of Pittsburg in the past (with Measure P)… The reality is it is development that pays for infrastructure.”

Councilwoman Shanelle Scales-Preston also approved, noting that the city needs to make sure it has all types of housing.

“Another thing is it is close to BART,” she added. “I think the community benefit is huge compared to when this project was looked at 10 years ago.”

0 Comments
Share

admin

Reply your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*