About 80 percent would be for seniors in gated community
Judith Prieve, East Bay Times
A longtime local farmer and developer is launching a petition drive to expand Brentwood’s urban boundary so he can build as many as 2,400 homes on 800 acres in the pastoral hills and valleys west of town, a plan that’s already galvanized opposition from a group of residents and open-space advocates.
Ron Nunn of Blackhawk-Nunn Partners has been crafting a 20-year plan to develop county land west of the Shadow Lakes Golf Course community, north of Balfour Road and just south of Antioch’s city limits. About 80 percent of the homes would be for senior citizens and phased in over the next two decades. Tentatively called The Vineyards at Deer Creek, the project would occupy land that’s mostly used for cattle grazing and dry farming.
In announcing his plan last week during a City Council meeting, Nunn said he and his partners soon will initiate a ballot measure to stretch Brentwood’s urban limit line, beyond which no housing can be built. The measure could get on the ballot as early as November if roughly 3,500 signatures from city residents can be gathered.
“It’s a nice project,” Nunn told the council about his plan for the property, which is owned by the Ginochio family. “I think growth is good, but it takes planning — this probably would be built out sometime in 2040. … We want to give Brentwood the opportunity to decide whether you agree with us.”
One who disagrees strongly is 22-year Brentwood resident Kathy Griffin. She told the council that although she is not against development, she doesn’t believe this is the right time to add more homes. To that end, she has formed a coalition of neighbors and others, the Alliance for a Better Brentwood, to fight against developing beyond the city’s urban limit line.
Griffin also spearheaded a 2010 campaign against Measure F, a landowners’ effort to expand the city’s border so development could occur on 740 acres west of town. Measure F, which voters rejected, would have allowed up to 1,300 residential units, including 200 apartments, condominiums or townhouses.
“I am mobilizing,” Griffin said in a phone interview this week. “We will bring back a lot of people who helped us last time — we don’t even want to let it get to the ballot. Three times it (the urban limit line) was established as permanent, and they are still trying to break it.”
Griffin said the city — which has about 62,000 residents — needs more jobs, not homes. That’s why a majority of the city’s workers commute every day, contributing to bumper-to-bumper traffic and sending valuable sales tax revenue to other cities, she said.ADVERTISING
“Those kinds of challenges (including fire services) have to be solved before we add anything new,” she said. “We have to think about the things we already have on the table.”
In a followup interview, Nunn rebutted his opponents’ traffic congestion claims, noting that with at least 80 percent of the homes targeted for people 55 and older, traffic isn’t an issue.
“They age in place,” Nunn said about senior citizens. As evidence, he pointed to other Brentwood senior housing projects his company has developed, including Trilogy and most of Summerset. He said those communities are built around activity centers such as golf, bocce ball and swimming, which keep seniors busy but in one place.
To accommodate up to 500 senior homes in the first phase, Blackhawk Nunn plans to finish the loop of American Avenue, which runs past Heritage High School and dead ends at Adams Middle School, causing traffic nightmares for parents and students. Nunn said his firm would start that work as soon as ground is broken on the project.
The developer also would add two lanes on the north side of Balfour Road, where the new homes would be built, Nunn said. A traffic signal or roundabout would be added as well, he said.
“It will not make this (traffic) problem go away, but it is really going to help,” Nunn said.
It also should help ease traffic on other Bay Area roads, he said, pointing out that about 90 percent of the buyers who bought homes in his previous senior communities have come from areas west of Brentwood and closer to work hubs.
Even so, Shadow Lakes resident Rod Flohr, who lives in Deer Ridge near Heritage High School, said the city doesn’t need growth in the area proposed.
“We don’t need another 500 families stuffed (across from) a high school,” he said. “Everyone wants to build senior homes, but actually seniors drive a lot.”
Griffin said she also opposes moving the boundary lines because Brentwood is in the middle of a community build-out process.
“A ballot measure to move the (urban limit line) would be in direct competition with our city’s own community build-out planning process currently in motion,” she said.
“To move an urban limit line before all these things play out, it does not make sense to me,” she said. “Why move a boundary when you haven’t completed a concept of buildout?
“We have plenty of buildable acreage within our city limits,” she added.
But Nunn said none of the developable parcels left within city limits is large enough for a senior gated community like the one he’s proposed, which would be similar to Trilogy. In addition to homes, Nunn said he plans to save 270 acres of open space, 160 acres of which would be planted with olive trees and wine grapes.
“I have been involved in three major projects — Apple Hill Estates, Summerset and Trilogy, and I’m proud of all three,” Nunn said. “I think what we have done in Brentwood is pretty great work.”
Despite the amenities, Greenbelt Alliance, a Bay Area land-conservation and urban planning nonprofit, says the swath of land in question should remain a buffer zone between Antioch, Brentwood and the East Bay Regional Park District, which last year purchased the former Roddy Ranch golf course and property across the road from Blackhawk Nunn’s planned development. The cities currently have a memorandum of understanding stating they won’t ask to develop the land through 2022.
“It’s really beautiful and important agricultural land that’s part of Brentwood’s heritage,” said Hayley Currier, the East Bay regional representative for Greenbelt Alliance. “That land is better served as a buffer.”
“If we don’t keep our cities separated, they just mush into each other like one giant sprawling metropolis instead of the individual communities,” she added.