Editorial: Brentwood should reject sprawl; vote no on Measure L

Ballot measure in special Nov. 5 election would bust the city’s growth boundary for 2,400 new homes

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(Judith Prieve/Staff) 
Measure L would expand Brentwood’s Urban Limit Line to allow construction of 2,400 homes north of Balfour Road and east of Deer Valley Road.

By EAST BAY TIMES EDITORIAL |PUBLISHED: October 4, 2019 at 5:10 am | UPDATED: October 4, 2019 at 6:37 am

Brentwood voters are being asked in a special election Nov. 5 to expand the city’s growth boundary on its western border and approve construction of 2,400 new homes.

This at a time when traffic on Highway 4 remains horrendous, East County has the Bay Area’s worst jobs-housing imbalance, and the city already has room for 6,526 new homes within the existing city limits.

Voters should reject more suburban sprawl by voting no on Measure L, developer Blackhawk-Nunn Partners’ initiative for the so-called Vineyards at Deer Creek project.

The proposal for 815 acres northeast of the corner of Balfour and Deer Valley Roads calls for 225 acres of open space, 20 acres of commercial development that could include senior care facilities, 15 acres set aside for recreation facilities and the 2,400 homes on the remaining 555 acres.

Of those 2,400 homes, 80 percent would be restricted to residents age 55 and older, which in theory would temper the commute traffic impacts. However, that still leaves 480 homes with no such restrictions.

Moreover, the project contains no restrictions on the order of construction. The developer could first build the 480 homes that would generate the most traffic. Then, after 20 years, there would be nothing preventing the City Council from lifting the age restriction on the requirements for the remaining homes.

The Bay Area desperately needs more housing. But it needs smart growth, with homes near transit and jobs. East Contra Costa has little of either and there’s no sign that will change.

The cities along the Highway 4 corridor from Pittsburg to Brentwood have an average of just four jobs for every 10 residents in the workforce. No other part of the Bay Area is worse.  East County needs a lot more jobs before it adds more housing.

Half of the area’s current workforce must commute out to stay employed. No wonder the region’s traffic is horrible. The afternoon commute drive just from downtown Concord to Brentwood is usually about 40-50 minutes.

It’s not going to get better. Most of the improvements to Highway 4 are complete. BART service is now open to Antioch, but there is no capital funding available to extend it to Brentwood.

We can’t keep perpetuating this madness. Contrary to the myth promoted by many East County officials, building more homes there will not attract more jobs. That strategy has failed for four decades.

Even if it were true, there’s plenty of land already available in Brentwood that doesn’t require busting the city’s Urban Limit Line. A new city study shows that there are 944 acres of land already available inside the city limits that could hold 6,526 new homes.

That’s enough to increase the city’s population of 63,000 people by another 19,000, far more than the region’s roads can accommodate. If the city must build, it should use that land first rather than exacerbating the sprawl.

There’s no justification for moving the Urban Limit Line to accommodate yet another 4,400 residents. Most environmentalists understand that. Which is why the Sierra Club and Greenbelt Alliance oppose Measure L.

Unfortunately, Save Mount Diablo is backing the measure. The land preservation group has been a leader in acquiring property to block development on the mountain and surrounding foothills.

But, this time, the group has struck a deal with the property owner for land on the east side of Mount Diablo near Clayton in exchange for its support of Measure L. Save Mount Diablo is putting its property acquisition goals ahead of good growth planning. That’s disappointing.

Voters should remain focused on the objective: Encouraging smart growth by curbing suburban sprawl and, if possible, attracting jobs. It’s imperative they don’t make the situation worse.

Vote no on Measure L.