The measure, which will appear on the June ballot, would move the existing urban limit line out to include 740 acres along Balfour Road. The measure also includes a development agreement allowing up to 1,300 homes, 35 acres of commercial development, and 120 acres of parks and open space in the area. The widening of Balfour Road and completion of school-gridlocked American Avenue are also part of the development agreement.
Last week, Vice Mayor Erick Stonebarger announced he was supporting the measure after landowners also agreed to a tax on the residents of the new area that would provide $100,000 annually, enough to fund a paramedic for eight hours per day at the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District station on Balfour. The cash-strapped fire district does not currently have a paramedic program; advanced medical services are provided through a contract with American Medical Response.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Kathy Griffin, who is spearheading the opposition to the measure, said she “just didn’t trust” the proponents. “It (the paramedic funding) is great for the city, but it just seems like another buy-off,” Griffin said. “I think they bought Erick Stonebarger.”
On Wednesday, Stonebarger objected strenuously to the comment, stating he had never talked to Griffin about the project. “I think it’s completely inappropriate to make a comment about my character without even talking to me,” he said. “She’s made no attempt to communicate with me. I take offense to any type of character assassination, and it makes me greatly question the other arguments (opponents) are presenting.”
Stonebarger said that he first discussed the project with the owners’ group four or five months ago. Their original plan addressed his concerns about local jobs and youth sports facilities, and Stonebarger anticipates that the required environmental impact review will take care of density problems. He held off on endorsing the proposal, however, until the paramedic had been added.
“As a whole, the measure is a benefit to the city of Brentwood,” he said. “The (paramedic) put it over the top for me.”
Griffin also said Tuesday that proponents weren’t being straightforward in promoting the project. For example, the text of the measure does not appear on the Measure F Web site (the information is available on the City of Brentwood site, she noted) and the advertising does not disclose the number of homes, people or cars the project would bring to the city; it only mentions the benefits. “It’s a pretty glorified picture,” she said.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, resident Peggy Bridges accused proponents of fostering “misconceptions” about the measure. The local control that proponents say the measure will provide over the area is actually being handed off to developers via the development agreement, which “locks in” the number of houses and other particulars. Brentwood’s current General Plan, some of which would be rewritten by Measure F, is “a good plan,” for the area, she said, and it calls for half as many houses and twice as much open space.
Stonebarger, however, said Wednesday that the agreement does not provide the right to build houses; it only provides the right to apply for permits that would be subject to the same conditions of approval as any other project. It also locks in amenities that go above and beyond anything a developer could be made to provide under normal circumstances. Money for a city-wide jobs program ($3,000 per house), a sports complex ($2,000 per house) and the paramedic tax go beyond what developers are required to provide to offset the impacts of any development, as does the $27 million dollars needed for the improvements to Balfour Road and American Avenue. “What they are giving is extra,” he said.
Bridges, however, dismissed the proposed amenities as just a way to garner votes, and urged residents to vote against “developer initiated, developer-driven, pork-barrel politics.”