Brentwood delays placing boundary limit measure on ballot

City Council orders detailed report addressing potential impacts

Judith Prieve, East Bay Times, June 27, 2019

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The Brentwood City Council isn’t in a rush to order up a ballot initiative asking voters to extend the city’s boundary so a massive housing subdivision can be built over the next two decades.

First, council members unanimously decided Tuesday, the city should commission an independent study of how the proposed development would impact schools, emergency services, traffic, land use, housing availability, infrastructure, jobs, and open space.

That study should be completed before the council reconsiders the ballot measure at its July 25 meeting.

“I think it’s important to find out the impacts on our public safety, fire and police and also on our schools,” Councilwoman Karen Rarey said.

A group of local developers, including longtime Brentwood farmer and developer Ron Nunn want to build up to 2,400 homes but can’t do so unless the city’s urban boundary is extended beyond the targeted 815-acre site on county land west of the Shadow Lakes golf course community and north of Balfour Road.

Boundary line extensions require voter approval, however, and the developer took the first step this spring by collecting the signatures of at least 10 percent of the registered voters — 3,476 names. The signatures were certified by the Contra Costa County Elections Department earlier this month.

City Manager Gus Vina told the council Tuesday it could either prepare a measure now for either a special election or the 2020 general election, or hold off and request a report examining the impacts of such a move. The report is estimated to cost up to $60,000.

A special election on the initiative this fall could cost between $104,232 and $173,870, while including the measure in the 2020 general election would run between $43,467 and $60,584, according to a city staff report.

About 80 percent of the homes in the project — dubbed the Vineyards at Deer Creek — would go to people 55 and older. The land is mostly used now for cattle grazing and dry farming. Included are 225 acres of preserved permanent agricultural and open-space land, and improvements to roadways, especially near Heritage High and Adams Middle schools.

But a dozen or so residents who spoke Tuesday urged the council to consider the impact such a development could have on traffic, schools, fire and police services, infrastructure and more.

“If building more residential was a solution to Brentwood’s problems, we wouldn’t have any problems because we are already going gangbusters on this,” Rod Flohr said.

Kathy Griffin, founder of the Alliance for a Better Brentwood coalition, fought the last attempt in 2010 to push the urban limit line boundary and said the current measure is also flawed.

Griffin asked how the city would handle potential impacts on fire, police services and traffic from the thousands of homes already in the pipeline.

“Our traffic is horrible, people always tell us they are fed up with the traffic,” Griffin said. “Why add to the problem by continuing to build and expand?”

Cheryl Allegro asked the council to slow the process.

“I ask you, please vet this out before it goes to ballot…do the EIR (environmental impact report) and studies — I know it’s going to happen, but give it some time.”

Several others urged the council to place the measure on the general election ballot rather than a special election, which usually has a smaller turnout.

“A regular election is a more fair, equitable and democratic process,” Hayley Currier, a Greenbelt Alliance representative, said.

Though the developer has said it will pay for the special election costs, he urged the council not to let that sway its decision.

“They will pay for a special election, but will not pay for a general election, so they are trying to strong- arm you,” he said. “If you give into this, there will be no end to the favors they expect to be able to purchase from the city of Brentwood.”

No one from the developer group spoke at the meeting, but they previously said the project will generate local construction jobs and result in more money for schools without adding children and have less impact on traffic because it will be mostly for seniors. Developers also said they plan to meet with fire officials to address potential impacts.

Vice Mayor Joel Bryant said everyone will be affected by a boundary move, so he wants to see as much information possible before deciding.

“We have to have detailed information on how the developer will address quality of life and police and fire services … we have to know what we are voting on, period.”