Battle for “Save the Ridge” may very well be decided in Contra Costa County

When voters approved a well-liked initiative, Expand Pittsburg's growth boundaries With the two,400-acre expansion in 2005, the door opened for a developer who had had his eye on the southwestern hills on the outskirts of town for years and envisioned hundreds of homes along the expansive vistas.

But for nearly 20 years, plans to construct single-family homes on a part of that land have been fraught with zoning disputes and environmental challenges.

That battle could end Wednesday if county officials comply with cede control of 606 acres to Pittsburg – potentially clearing the ultimate hurdle to approval of the project.

The Faria/Southwest Hills project goals to accumulate to 1,500 latest single-family homes across the Los Medanos Ridgeline. Proposed by Discovery Builders – an affiliate of Concord-based developer Albert Seeno III – the project has already been approved twice by the Pittsburg City Council.

But Farias’s forward movement has stalled as he waits for the annexation of a agricultural protection area without legal personalityowned by Discovery Builders, throughout the city limits of Pittsburg and the service areas of Contra Costa Water and Delta Diablo Sanitation counties. The Contra Costa – Commission to determine a neighborhood agency (LAFCO), which monitors such border changes, is Vote on annexation Wednesday.

That decision was delayed in April on account of growing opposition, including a whole bunch of letters from members and supporters of the nonprofit Save Mount Diablo – a land trust and conservation organization – urging their supporters to assist “Save the Ridge.” They say the Albert Seeno III construction project is “disastrous” and threatens to “level the tops of Pittsburg's hills.” Opponents say Discovery Builders “never conducted a project-level environmental impact assessment, as LAFCO has repeatedly required,” nor has it provided an in depth site design plan or a subdivision plan with home lots and streets.”

For more than a decade, Seth Adams, Director of Land Conservation at Save Mount Diablofought to protect the hills of Pittsburg from development by Seeno and questioned the developer’s motives because they want to speed up approvals before the public can see detailed plans. At the same time, Albert Seeno III tried to distance himself from a history of family quarrels and Environmental violations overshadows the developments led by other members of his family's construction empire within the hills of Contra Costa County.

In addition to a youth recreation center and mountain climbing trails connecting to Thurgood Marshall Regional Park, plans for the opposite half of the Faria/Southwest Hills project include 265 acres of open space and greenbelt along the ridge as a buffer from the East Bay Regional Park District site, which in turn sits between a billion-dollar, 12,200-unit housing complex to be built across the hill on the previous Concord Naval Weapons Station.

Map showing the location of the proposed Fairia/Southwest housing project along the northern boundary of Thurgood Marshall Regional Park between Concord and Pittsburg, CA.Adams is urging the commission to require more green space – as much as 150 meters – since the regional park and surrounding habitats, access to nature, neighborhood traffic and fire risk are in danger. In addition, the community's scenic views may very well be affected by heavy grading during construction.

“I believe a complete host of problems might be solved by making a larger buffer zone between development and the Concord border on this unincorporated county area,” he said in April.

Farias' vision for the southwest hills of Pittsburg has been discussed for years.

The first application for the Project was submitted in 2010but a premature Annexation offer was quickly withdrawn in 2011. The developers modified the proposal in 2014 and again in 2017, then the plans revived in 2020. After Obtain Council approval in 2021A lawsuit alleging that the project would destroy the hills and habitat then forced Discovery Builders to rewrite environmental assessments, which the Pittsburg City Council re-approved in April 2023 – against the recommendation of the Pittsburg Planning Commissioners.

Elected politicians have increasingly pointed to the pressure not only to spend millions of dollars in urgently needed tax revenuebut also meet state-mandated housing goals to keep pace with the above-average growth rate in Contra Costa County. Pittsburg's population is expected to grow by 77,500 to around 91,600 inhabitants by 2040, in keeping with town previous housing elementand the present plan of town was already not in accordance with applicable national laws until March 1st.

“I actually have called on town, the developer and Save Mount Diablo to work together to preserve everlasting open space on this area — that's one of the best thing I can do legally,” Texeira said before Wednesday's meeting. “It's been a difficult process, but I believe I actually have all the data I want to bring this forward (for approval). I hope this moves forward with none issues.”

Louis Parsons, president of Discovery Builders and a former project manager for the Faria project, has long called Save Mount Diablo's lawsuit “meritless.” In April, he said the environmental group was “unclear about Contra Costa LAFCO's role or is attempting to confuse the general public and decision makers.”

“The fact is that the shape and scope of the project has already been approved by the City of Pittsburg,” Parsons wrote in an email. The proposed development “meets all environmental regulations, including vital habitat protection guidelines adopted by various surrounding cities and the Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy.”

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