Innovation Center @ Brentwood

Photo Courtesy of https://www.innovatebrentwood.site

The third installment of the town hall series for The Innovation Center @ Brentwood offered the council and planning commission a chance to weigh in with questions and concerns.

The Jan. 13 workshop took no action but served as a means to bring the two municipal bodies into the discussion on ELS Architecture and Urban Design’s research and analysis, urban design principles and planning concepts.

Similar to the two previous town hall meetings, Ryan Call, ELS principal and director of urban design, presented research and preliminary strategies for attracting developers and employers for what’s been dubbed the “future job hub” of Brentwood – a nearly 400-acre region zoned for development along Highway 4, between Old Sand Creek Road and Lone Tree Way. Currently, a collection of farms and retail development make up the site; high-density housing is planned to border the edges of the project area.

The councilmembers and planning commissioners took advantage of the opportunity to ask questions on such topics as traffic impacts, means for mitigating homeless encampments, preserving the community’s character and heritage, and the fact that the land is currently owned by various individuals and farming families.

Commissioner Dirk Zeigler was the first to bring up the challenge sales negotiations would present.

“Will you make a recommendation on how to address that?” Zeigler asked the ELS team. “Each property owner wants a special deal, but then you have a buyer who might need to negotiate with several landowners.”

Call acknowledged that fact, while adding that the land segments are each rather large.

“Some of the parcels are quite substantial … pretty clean parcel to develop for a single purchase,” Call added. “There is a portion of the site where the Maggiora and Stonebarger (properties) come together, and from a master planning perspective, we’re looking at locating a road there so that they have flexibility to develop independent of those deals with the landowners.

“But what’s most important about your question and comment … is we have to make this work for the landowner. We have to make it work for the developer. We have to make it work for the employer that’s going to be aimed at going in. And it has to work for the community. And if it doesn’t work for anyone of those four, then the shovels don’t move.”

One landowner, Pierina Maggiora, spoke on behalf of her family and other landowners when she noted that a meeting with the property owners has yet to be held. She indicated that The Streets of Brentwood has struggled since its inception and that the demand for office space is on the decline, especially given the impacts of COVID-19 and how it’s altered the workforce.

“No developer is going to come into the area and do speculative building at this time, unless landowners simply give the property away. I’m quite confident that I speak for everyone that that won’t happen,” she said, noting development will need to be designed specific to a tenant. “So to the question of ‘are landowners being reasonable in price?’ the price today is far too low, which is precisely why we have all continued to hold the property.”

Councilmember Jovita Mendoza brought up the point that the current traffic backup at the Highway 4 on-ramp is already bad. She wanted to know if the highway would be widened. Call stated that since the location of The Innovation Center will offer a reverse commute, there is no suggestion at this time to widen the road.

“I just don’t want to downplay the traffic that we have today,” Mendoza responded, adding that a report from a regional road agency rated Brentwood’s traffic with C’s, D’s and E’s.

The report to which Mendoza referred was conducted by East Contra Costa Regional Fee and Financing Authority in January 2020. Some of the city’s most problematic thoroughfares involved Lone Tree Way, which earned B’s and C’s at certain intersections; and Balfour Road, which earned A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s and E’s at particular crossroads during different times of the day. The full report can be found at http://bit.ly/thepressnet_TrafficReport.

The development of the The Innovation Center @ Brentwood is expected to take shape over the next 30 to 50 years. Call’s presentations over the last three town hall meetings emphasized a need to develop incentives to bring employers to the city. For more information, visit https://www.innovatebrentwood.site.

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