September 25, 2008

Commission Rejects Plan for Pittsburg Development Near BART Station

By Paul Burgarino

Staff Writer

Pittsburg planning commissioners this week rejected a plan this week to build 475 homes along with four business commercial lots on a 40-acre site near the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART Station.

Alves Ranch LLC, the project applicant, has 10 days to file an appeal to be heard by the City Council. Officials with Alves Ranch LLC said they will appeal.

Before Tuesday's 4-1 vote, commissioners Jack Garcia and Ralph Ramirez raised concerns about the project lacking sufficient density given its proximity to the BART station. The project is about one- half mile from the station.

The commission also questioned whether the project had adequate roads for emergency response. Commissioner Caryn Wegerbauer added concerns that the affordable housing units in the project were clustered rather than integrated in neighborhoods, and were the farthest from BART. Commissioner Ed Diokno said he was "disappointed" that the plan did not include community amenities like a swimming pool, and questioned noise impacts from Highway 4.

The master plan for Alves Ranch, located north of West Leland Road and the Vista Del Mar subdivision, divides the property into 167 single-family homes, 215 lots for town homes, and a separate lot of 93 affordable housing units. Four lots were set for business commercial space.

Peter Hellmann, a consultant with Alves Ranch LLC and owner of Paramount Homes, said he was very "surprised and disappointed" given the extensive work he and city staff put into the project. He added he was hopeful the council would reverse the decision.

Garcia said the plan's 14.2 units per acre is "at the low end" of the allowed density, and he expected the opposite. Ramirez added that other stations in Dublin and Pleasant Hill had much more dense housing surrounding them than this plan.

The city agreed to a developer agreement with Alves Ranch and William Lyon Homes for Vista Del Mar in December 2004, which set the parameters for the plan. The zoning for the area calls for high- density land use of 14 to 25 housing units per acre.

Density has been an issue with development of the Alves Ranch site in the past, as city and county leaders debated how many homes should be built near BART.

In 2002, Pittsburg leaders changed zoning in the Alves Ranch area from high-density to low-density, which Alves Ranch officials argued would lower its property value. Alves Ranch officials sued, saying two Pittsburg councilmen had conflicts of interest when approving the general plan changes because of their financial ties to prominent developer Albert Seeno.

Seeno had offered to buy the land a month before the vote. A judge overturned the council's decision later that year.

Seecon Financial and Construction Co., which is run by Seeno, also questioned the 2004 development agreement and environmental study and threatened to sue -- saying it wasn't consistent with previous agreements between Seecon and the city.

Paul Burgarino covers Pittsburg and Bay Point. Reach him at 925- 779-7164 or [email protected]

Originally published by Paul Burgarino , East County Times.

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