Voters reject measure to move Brentwood’s growth boundary line

3,000 mail-in-ballots are yet to be counted

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A group hikes the Marsh Creek Watershed area that would would be preserved in the deal in Measure L passes. Some 1,360 acres of trails and recreational areas along Marsh Creek at the slopes of Mt. Diablo would be preserved if Measure L passes. (Courtesy of Scott Hein)

By JUDITH PRIEVE | | Bay Area News GroupPUBLISHED: November 5, 2019 at 8:20 pm | UPDATED: November 6, 2019 at 1:16 pm

Brentwood voters have rejected by more than a two-to-one margin a measure that would have moved the growth boundary line to allow for the building of a major new subdivision on the city’s western border.

Election Day voters cast 510 votes for and 1,517 against the ballot measure. With 10,166 vote-by-mail ballots counted on Tuesday, 3,007 residents had voted in favor, while 7,144 had voted against Measure L, giving the “no” votes a 71.03 percent edge over the “yes” votes at 28.84 percent.

Yet to be counted are approximately 3,000 mail-in and 500 provisional ballots, according to election officials, who said their next update won’t be until Friday afternoon.

On Wednesday morning Brentwood farmer-developer Ron Nunn, who had promoted the measure along with son, Bob Nunn, and Blackhawk Corp. and Ginocchio family partners, conceded that the measure had failed and it was time to regroup.ADVERTISING

“We lost, we’ll lick our wounds and see what our options are,” Ron Nunn said. “We’ll regroup and we’ll change the product and see where we can go with it.”

Nunn said the election came down in part to differences among new and longtime Brentwood residents.

“It’s easy to say ‘no,’ ” he said. “I think a lot of the people who said ‘no’ were the newer people who moved in. It’s new Brentwood versus old Brentwood — we’ll see how the town changes. We’ll review, reorganize and see where we go from here.”

Bob Nunn said he wasn’t surprised with the results considering polling done a year earlier.

“We knew a year ago Brentwood was going to be a very heavy lift,” he said. “But Brentwood earned the right to have the first say — even though we knew it was unlikely to succeed — because it’s in the Brentwood school district.”

“We put together what we thought was the best problem-solving and ecoomic package for Brentwood,” he added. “The good people of Brenwood were not ready for this proposal and we are very comfortable with that.”

Had Measure L passed, it would have paved the way for the city to annex 815 acres of open space for the development. The measure would have moved the urban limit line out by more than a mile and revised the city’s general plan to allow up to 2,400 new homes at the targeted site over the next 20 years.

Kathy Griffin, who spearheaded the campaign against the measure, said she was pleased with the results.

“It’s not the time to expand the urban limit line,” she said late Tuesday. “What it is time is to do is to concentrate on the economic and jobs development in town to bring our commuters home, to bring us business and retail that is shuttered now and is not supporting our city and to stop concentrating on housing development and start thinking about how we are going to fund this city into the future by weaning us off of housing. We can’t sustain the future of Brentwood by continuing to build houses.”

The divisive issue pitted open-space advocates against housing proponents and others who argued residents should have greater control over how their city grows. Environmental groups and Brentwood residents opposed to Measure L took to the streets with signs, staffed phone banks and waged an informational campaign on social media through the grassroots group Alliance for a Better Brentwood.

Measure L’s proponents also peppered the city with fliers and signs, some of which were vandalized Monday night. Bob Nunn said at least nine large signs were torn down or vandalized with expletives or “No on L” wording.

Griffin, of Alliance for a Better Brentwood, condemned the vandalism.

The so-called Vineyards at Deer Creek subdivision primarily would have housed people 55 and older at the city’s western edge north of Balfour Road and east of Deer Valley Road.

The Nunns had said the property, surrounded by roads on three sides, wasn’t a natural resource, and already lies right next to the Shadow Lakes neighborhood. They had promised that if the measure was approved they would pay for roadway projects, such as extending American Avenue at Heritage High School, expanding Balfour Road and helping to improve Deer Valley Road, which is outside the city’s jurisdiction.

Opponents had argued that the Vineyards project would worsen traffic congestion and could have prompted other developers to push for similar boundary changes, leading to more urban sprawl.

“If we continue on this trajectory to expand outward and not bring the business and retail we need into this city, we are going to go broke, there will be no more land to build on and we will have nothing to run our cities into the future,” she added.

But Bob Nunn said housing is just what the Bay Area needs. “We have housing concerns in California and we can’t solve them by not building more homes.”

Among the supporters was Save Mt. Diablo, a land trust and conservation group that said the deal would have preserved 1,360 donated acres of trails and recreational areas along Marsh Creek Watershed in Clayton, and along the slopes of Mt. Diablo as well as 225 acres of open space at the project site and another 200 across the road.

Though aspects of a new project would change, Bob Nunn said components, such as land preservation, would remain.

“Our relationship with Save Mt. Diablo outlives this election.”

Brentwood’s growth boundary, which once included the Ginochio property, has fluctuated over time. In 2000, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors moved it out-of-bounds for development. Attempts in Brentwood to re-configure the line in 2005 (Measure L for 2,100 acres and 2,800 homes) and in 2010 (Measure F for 740 acres and 1,300 new homes) both failed.

Brentwood’s current urban limit line is marked by the 2006 voter-approved Contra Costa County-defined boundary line that extends through 2026.

On Wednesday developers said they will talk with Antioch to see what project might be “a good fit.”

That city has its own urban limit line, which is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020.