Every workday, almost 90% of employed Brentwood residents get in their cars. More than 20,000 strong, they join millions of other Bay Area commuters on clogged highways, inching toward job centers in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and San Jose.
A charming town with deep agricultural roots, Brentwood is at risk of becoming a bedroom community for the more economically diverse cities further west. Professional jobs where one can earn enough to buy in one of the town’s many subdivisions are few and far between.
Brentwood is located on the far eastern side of Contra Costa County, nestled between the growing cities of Antioch and Oakley, among rolling hills of native oak meadows and some of the region’s most productive and important farmland.
Eastern Contra Costa County is also home to the 11,000-acre Agricultural Core. The county designated and protected this small but vibrant region to combat the rapid loss of agricultural lands. According to the American Farmland Trust, the United States loses 3 acres of farmland every minute. Farmland is a non-renewable resource; once it is lost to development, it can virtually never be recovered. The Brentwood community sees itself as the proud stewards of the Ag Core—one of the city’s guiding principles is to “preserve surrounding agricultural lands and the city’s agricultural heritage.”
Like so much of the Bay, Brentwood has been growing exponentially. Now, it faces a decision that will have huge implications for the type of city it will become. A developer, Blackhawk Nunn Partners, is planning a sprawl development on 800 acres of Brentwood farmland outside the city—a 2,400 unit subdivision outside the urban limit line. Building outside the line like this requires voter approval, and the developer is planning to gather signatures to force a special election as soon as November.
In this ballot measure lies Brentwood’s choice. Do residents want to double down on sprawl, destroy Brentwood’s farmland and agricultural heritage, and continue its trajectory toward being an outpost for other, more thoughtfully planned cities?
Or do they see a different future—one where Brentwood residents walk, bike, and bus to work right in town, where homes affordable across the income spectrum are built close to services and amenities, where the agricultural economy is dynamic and alive, where the surrounding open space is full of coyotes and hawks and the agricultural land is full of tomatoes and cherries?
Faced with these options in the past, Brentwood has chosen the latter. Now, Greenbelt Alliance is hard at work with our community partners to ensure the city protects both what makes their community special, and the Bay Area as a whole.
Photo: Yong Thye via Flickr