Mount Diablo can be seen in the distance along the closed portion of Empire Mine Road which runs through the Sand Creek Focus Area. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)
ANTIOCH — Dueling interest groups will ask for your signature on similar initiatives for the November ballot to preserve either all or a portion of the Sand Creek Focus Area.
The Sand Creek Focus Area is an approximately 2,783-acre area sitting between the city of Brentwood on the east and the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve on the west.
The area east of Deer Valley Road already has two approved developments, so both initiatives are focusing on the area between Deer Valley Road and Black Diamond Mines.
Most residents know of the efforts from a coalition of citizens and conservation groups, known as the Antioch Community to Save Sand Creek. The initiative, which is called “Let Antioch Voters Decide,” aims to designate 1,800 acres of land that lies west of Deer Valley Road as rural residential, agriculture and open space.
The initiative would also make it so that any big developments or changes to the city limit line be approved by voters first. The backers include residents, Save Mount Diablo, the Greenbelt Alliance, the Sierra Club and the California Native Plant Society.
Recently, the campaign has advertised for temporary, paid signature gatherers, offering $3 per signature collected.
On Friday, residents and backers of a different initiative submitted their plans to the city. The “West Sand Creek Open Space Protection” initiative aims to zone 1,244 acres west of Deer Valley Road as rural residential, agriculture and open space. The remaining land in the western portion of the Sand Creek Focus Area — approximately 608 acres — would be open for “The Ranch,” which the developer has agreed to drop from 1,307 new homes down to 1,177.
Area affected by the initiative is outlined in red. Green areas would be zoned for rural residential, agricultural and open space purposes. The Ranch project area is outlined in yellow and would be single family homes, executive estate housing, senior housing and commercial uses. (Photo courtesy of Gene Endicott of Endicott Communications)
The proposal was brought about by resident Terry Ramus, a director on the board of the Chamber of Commerce and member of the chamber’s Government Affairs committee. Co-signers on the proposal are former city councilor Manny Soliz Jr. and Matthew Malyemezian.
The proposal also has big backers: Richland Communities, the planner and developer behind The Ranch project.
“We are listening to the citizens of Antioch and substantially revising our project so that it includes fewer homes and protects the hills, ridgelines, and valuable open space and environmentally sensitive areas around Sand Creek,” wrote Matt Bray, CEO of Richland Communities, in a news release. “We see ourselves as a community partner and want to do the right thing.”
The West Sand Creek Protection initiative aims to allow only development on the lower lying portion of Sand Creek, maintaining The Ranch development rights but rezoning the proposed Zeka development to the west.
The current General Plan allows for up to 4,000 homes to be built throughout the Sand Creek Focus Area.
The developer of The Ranch agreed to charge a $1,000 fee on each new home to generate $1 million for Deer Valley High School sports and performing arts facilities and ban development on hills, ridges and along Sand Creek in the western portion of the Sand Creek Focus Area.
The plan intends to preserve “at least 98 percent” of the trees in The Ranch and establish an open-space corridor approximately 430-feet wide along Sand Creek.
The plan will also require developers to donate a site near Deer Valley Road and Sand Creek Road for a future fire station, widen and improve Deer Valley Road and provide a “Village Center” across from Kaiser Permanente Antioch Medical Center.
Seth Adams, a land conservation director with Save Mount Diablo, sees the conservation-minded tilt in The Ranch project as a win for their movement.
“Our initiative is resonating with people and obviously already having an effect, so they are making some changes to their project,” Adams said.
Adams said that their organization had anticipated a counter-initiative, suggesting that the goal may be to muddle the issue or confuse voters before they head to the polls.
A common element to both plans is giving Antioch voters the right to determine whether Antioch’s Urban Limit Line can be extended. Voters reserved the right to decide when the line would be extended in a vote in 2005, but this right sunsets in 2020.
Both initiatives need a little more than 5,100 signatures from Antioch voters to be placed on the November ballot.
Learn more about the “Let Antioch Voters Decide” initiative at letantiochvotersdecide.org
Read the West Sand Creek Open Space Protection initiative at docdro.id/qiq4T9i