City approves housing project near Continente Avenue

Photo courtesy of Metro Creative 

Brentwood City leaders have approved a 77-home project south of the Continente Avenue and Victoria Place intersection traffic circle, despite concerns of some residents and planning commissioners who stated that it could negatively affect the community.

A handful of city residents and two of five planning commissioners had suggested that the future project’s additional residents could strain community services, including the fire district and schools. But the council indicated that the project does an adequate job addressing its impacts.

“This is a great in-fill project, filling all the gaps and being quite an addition to the city,” said Mayor Bob Taylor.

The 28.47-acre, 77-home project is expected to add 248 residents, but its projected community effects will be offset through new infrastructure and monetary contributions, including one-time and yearly funds for the fire district; single financial allotments to the Brentwood Union School District (BUSD) and Liberty Union High School Districts (LUHSD); funds to offset the loss of agricultural land to new development; and a traffic signal installed at the Walnut Boulevard and Continente Avenue intersection.

“We recognize there are some strains in the operational funding for East Contra Costa Fire District, and so we want to be good partners,” said David Best, community development manager for applicant Shea Homes. “The school district is anticipating this project, amongst others. It’s in the general plan and has been since 2014, so both Brentwood Union and Liberty Union High School Districts know this project is here, and they are planning for that growth.”

Fire Marshal Steve Aubert, whose district is already struggling to cover its approximate 249 square miles and 128,000 residents, confirmed that the development does a good job preemptively addressing its fire-related impacts.

Applicant Shea Homes has voluntarily agreed to join the fire district’s community facilities district, expected to garner $24,532 a year from the project to support ongoing operations via annual $318 development homeowner assessments.

Additionally, Shea will pay the district additional one-time fees, which will go toward building and equipping new stations with apparatus.

“They (Shea Homes) are one of the first ones out of the entire city that has opted to jump in there and support and understand the dire need of increasing those services, mitigating their impact and being good partners with the city when it comes to fire,” Aubert said.

City Councilmember Johnny Rodriguez indicated that he believes school officials are prepared for the development’s school impacts — estimated to include 16 new high school students, 25 new kindergarten through sixth-graders and 10 new seventh- and eighth-graders.

Even if city leaders were concerned about school impacts, California government code dictates that “impacts on school facilities” cannot legally be used to deny the project.

The state government code also specifies that development fees, like those charged to the project, serve as full and complete school facilities mitigation for any demands or impacts on school facilities caused by new development. Currently, LUHSD is over capacity, while BUSD has room for 94 seventh- or eighth-graders but is over capacity for kindergarten through sixth grade by 635 students, according to the documents.

Shea Homes will monetarily offset its school district impacts by paying $741,000 to Brentwood Union School District and $409,000 to LUHSD, Best said.

BUSD Superintendent Dana Eaton and LUHSD Superintendent Eric Volta both indicated that developers and the community ultimately shoulder the addition of students.

“One of the ongoing challenges for a growing community is that, while developers mitigate their impact at a city level by paying for new roads, lighting and parks, for example, the required fees to schools only cover about one-third of the cost of building the school facilities needed to support the growth,” Eaton said. “That is why there are multiple school bonds on our property tax bills. When we grow to the point that we need additional schools, part of that shortfall has to be covered by the community through municipal bonds.”

At least a handful of city residents remain concerned about the project, noting the school and fire district impacts in addition to additional traffic, and questioning the amount of affordable housing in the development. Loss of prime agricultural land and views of Mount Diablo are also concerning, they say.

“We are already three fire houses short, and you want to put in more property?” said Brentwood resident Danny Dohrmann.

Fellow Brentwood resident Gari Ann Schmidt lamented the lack of a neighborhood park within the development.

“It’s really inappropriate to expect a neighborhood like this, with families with small children, to be encouraging mothers pushing strollers or that have small children, saying, ‘Oh, you don’t get a park — you have to just walk across Walnut (Boulevard),’” she said.

City leaders noted that both Orchard and Walnut Parks are within half a mile of the development, which falls in line with the municipality’s parks and recreation master plan for park locations in proximity to neighborhoods.

“While we all want to have parks near our homes, a half-mile isn’t that far from our homes,” said City Councilmember Karen Rarey.

Best added that the development will pay around $490,000 to the city’s park system, at least a portion of which is dedicated to building future park projects.

Shea also will extend the city’s trail system from the southwest corner of the project property to Walnut Boulevard; pay $217,000 in agriculture mitigation fees, aimed at offsetting the loss of agricultural lands to new development; and dedicate 2% of the development (1.5 homes) to affordable housing, or pay an in-lieu fee. The land-use and development committee is slated to review a final affordable housing agreement between the city and the developer. The full council must then approve it.

“The council and council representatives have an opportunity to negotiate with us on how we satisfy our affordable housing,” Best said.

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