During their Wednesday, Sept. 11, meeting, the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) board of directors approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with GBN Partners, LLC/Blackhawk Nunn, worth $11 million.
In an ECCFPD press release, Fire Chief Brian Helmick said the agreement provides funding for a new fire station, equipment and personnel to mitigate the expected demand on fire services in the district, should Brentwood voters approve Measure L when it comes up for a vote in November. GBN is spearheading the passage of Measure L, which would expand Brentwood’s urban limit line to allow for development of the Vineyards at Deer Creek — a long-term project that will bring up to 2,400 homes on 815 acres situated north of Balfour Road, east of Deer Valley Road and west of the Shadow Lakes and Brentwood Hills neighborhoods.
“Growth that comes without appropriate mitigations will make a bad situation worse, and therefore also make it impossible for ECCFPD or the district to seriously explore, and/or lend its support to, any proposals on any new development,” said Helmick as he presented the proposal to the fire board. “Conversely, if appropriate mitigation measures are secured to address growth, that can also help alleviate the district’s current service-level challenges, then the district is open to discuss any and all options that may add additional value to improving the district’s service levels and operations.”
Opposition to the project has focused on several points including the strain that a large-scale development would place on the already resource-constrained fire district. In August, the board considered an MOU in which GBN would have provided $750,000 for the startup of a two-man squad — a vehicle manned by firefighters designed to primarily respond to medical calls. At the time, the board opted not to put that proposal to a vote.
“Last month definitely wasn’t the deal we were looking for,” said Brian Oftedal, fire board president. “Obviously, I ended up telling the chief, and asking the strategic planning ad-hoc (committee) to join him in negotiations. They spent a considerable amount of time working with the builder, and I’m extremely happy with what they brought to us. If the voters do decide to pass this vote, we will be ahead of the curve.”
Under the terms of the MOU, the $11 million deal has two primary components. An engine station comparable to existing Station 53 in Oakley would be built by GBN — either on a two-acre plot within the development or at another location within the city, chosen by the district. Upon completion, the station would be deeded to the district. The estimated value of the station is $6.5 million, and construction would commence with the start of construction of the 601st home in the project. The MOU specifies the station’s construction would be completed within two years of its start.
The remaining $4.5 million would include an initial payment of $1 million to be paid to the district at the start of the project. The balance will come from a $2,333 fee assessed to the first 1,500 homes in the project, to pay for the equipment, training and other costs associated with the deployment of a new station.
Additional funding of approximately $1.5 million annually would be generated by a community facilities district fee, not-less-than $650 per household. Property taxes are expected to generate approximately another $2.5 million a year. These two revenue streams are expected to pay for the newly built station’s ongoing operation, estimated at $4 million per year.
“Our local fire district has been vastly underfunded for a very long time,” said Bob Nunn, a member of the development group. “New development that just pays for its impact won’t help solve this problem. That’s why we have decided to do substantially more than our fair share — a lot more — and Brentwood needs it. We want to assure every local resident that our community can depend on our fire services to be there when we need them.”
In contrast to the Aug. 19 special fire board meeting at which both proponents and opponents of the project spoke during the public comment portion, only project opponents spoke during the Sept. 11 meeting. While several speakers did commend the district for the deal that was negotiated, all opposed Measure L for a variety of reasons, most of which had little to do with the fire service — a fact not lost on the board.
Director Carrie Nash opened the board discussion by clarifying that the board has no influence on the success or failure of Measure L. That responsibility, she said, rests in the hands of Brentwood voters, while the board’s responsibility is to ensure that impacts to the fire service brought on by development are mitigated appropriately.
“Again, we’re not talking about traffic,” added Nash. “We’re not talking about schools, water (or) electricity. We’re talking about, simply, the fire service. That’s the control that we have as a board. We have control over what we’re doing as a district. The MOU that’s been put into place is very fair. And it will, in fact, increase service levels and it will mitigate the project itself.”
Unconvinced by the board’s arguments, project opponents gathered outside city council chambers after approval of the MOU. Kathy Griffin, founder of the Measure L opposition group, Alliance for a Better Brentwood, expressed concern about the focus on increasing housing without focusing on creating job opportunities and expanding the city’s limit.
“They said (response times) aren’t going to get worse,” added project opponent Jovita Mendoza. “If it does, who’s responsible for that? That’s what I’m upset about. Everything else I don’t care about. But if you put one life at risk, that upsets me. I think that’s what this is going to do.”
The special election that will decide the fate of Measure L is planned for Nov. 5.
“The developer wants to be able to say that they have mitigated the fire impact, and that’s what this MOU does,” said Director Joe Young. “It doesn’t say we support it. It doesn’t say we oppose it. It says the impacts have been mitigated.”
Links to the ECCFPD Fire Board meeting agenda and the MOU can be found at www.eccfpd.org/2019-09-11-eccfpd-board-of-directors-meeting.