The joint project of local governments, homebuilders and environmental groups is designed to purchase between 23,000 and 30,000 acres of land to fill in and connect the open space areas already preserved in areas such as Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve and Los Vaqueros Watershed.
"We're supportive of this plan," said Winston Rhodes, a senior planner for Brentwood. "I think it will certainly add more balance and certainty for developers. This will help keep the process going to for everyone."
Brentwood has joined with Oakley, Pittsburg, Contra Costa County and Clayton - but not Antioch, which opted out - as the principal planner with the county. "It will make things a whole lot easier."
Oakley was at first reluctant to come on board, however.
"There was some concern here in Oakley that the plan was not inclusive enough to this area," said Rebecca Willis, Oakley Community Development Director. "We have the Dutch Slough Restoration Project and Marsh Creek and 200 acres of wetlands out here, so adjustments were made and Oakley will see more of a benefit."
From an environmentalist's standpoint, the plan is not perfect. It is, however, considered a step in the right direction.
"We definitely support the (plan), but we also want to make sure that people know it is only for the wildlife right now," said Christina Wong, East Bay field representative for the Greenbelt Alliance. "There is no mitigation for the habitat or open space, so we need to pay attention to that. But overall, yes, it's a very good thing."
The Homebuilders Association of Northern California (HANC), which has clashed with environmental groups in the past, is a strange bedfellow with them on this plan.
"We have formally endorsed the (plan) and have urged local jurisdictions to do the same," said Paul Campos, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the HANC. "We all recognize that the current system is dysfunctional and that this is a leap of faith. But on balance, it's a good plan."
Brentwood and county officials have approved the plan, and Oakley is expected to approve it at Monday night's City Council meeting.
"This could all be in place by March," said Willis. "I think it will help make a wonderful greenbelt for East County."
The Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Communities Conservation Plan (HCP/NCCP) was begun in l998 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game. Also on board are the Contra Costa Water District and Home Builders Association of Northern California.