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Portion of Los Medanos Ridgeline Annexed for Development

rolling green hills, blue sky and fluffy white clouds

More than 600 acres of county open space along the Los Medanos Ridgeline between Pittsburg and Concord are set to become houses. (Cooper Ogden/Save Mount Diablo via Bay City News)

By Aly Brown
Bay City News

More than 600 acres of county open space along the Los Medanos Ridgeline between Concord and Pittsburg are set to become houses, following an annexation decision Wednesday.

In a 5-2 vote with commissioners Charles Lewis and Scott Perkins opposed, the Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission approved a request by the city of Pittsburg and Discovery Builders Inc. — an Albert Seeno-owned developer company — to make 606 acres of undeveloped ridgeline part of the city for the construction of 1,500 market-rate homes.

The Faria/Southwest Hills Annexation Project, as it’s called, has been at the heart of controversy for decades, with housing proponents on one end and environmentalists on the other. Land trust and conservation organization Save Mount Diablo previously brought forward a lawsuit that alleged that the project was approved with an inadequate project-level environmental impact review, which would have provided a deeper analysis of the project’s impacts compared to the broader programmatic EIR that was conducted.

>>>Read More: Pittsburg Development Decision Pushed Back Due to Pushback

During the meeting, Lewis said the city of Pittsburg had been willfully noncompliant with the orders of LAFCo to provide a project-level EIR.

“I find it both a substantive and procedural failure. It seems to me a failure of due process,” Lewis continued.

Tom Geiger, LAFCo’s legal counsel, responded to say that at that point in the proceedings, LAFCo was required to treat the EIR documents as legally adequate.

Perkins called the project’s lack of affordable homes a disappointment before casting his no vote.

However, commissioners Candace Andersen, Patricia Bristow, Federal Glover, Michael McGill and Gabriel Quinto followed LAFCo’s staff recommendation to vote in favor of the project, citing an urgent need for housing, even if it’s not affordable housing.

“In reality, we still need places for people to live,” said Bristow, noting that Faria won’t solve the problem, but it will help alleviate the housing shortage. “And it looks like a really nice development.”

During public comment ahead of the decision, Winter King, Save Mount Diablo’s attorney, said LAFCo has the authority and obligation to impose conditions on the annexation to address its impacts to open space and agricultural lands.

“The recommended action here completely abdicates that authority,” King said. “It includes no requirements, no conditions, no mitigation measures that would, for example, bring the project into compliance with LAFCo’s own agricultural and open space preservation policies.”

Seth Adams, Save Mount Diablo land conservation director, said he supports sensitive development and open space protection. He called for further adjustments to the project to reduce its impact on existing residents and wildlife alike and he alleged having difficulty in getting Seeno or most members of the Pittsburg Council to meet with his group.

Pittsburg City Manager Garrett Evans said the project is a significant opportunity for the city.

“This is a better project than it was 20 years ago,” he said. “There’s 44% open space in the project; before, it was 21%. Their development will be focused in the valley, will protect the ridgelines, there’s access points to Thurgood Marshall Park, which the city looks forward to working with the park district to enhance.”

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