East Bay: Winning Protections for Agriculture & Open Space
Greenbelt Alliance celebrated a big win this summer when the Antioch City Council voted to protect 1,200 acres of natural and agricultural lands, which had long been in the crosshairs for sprawl development.
The City Council also strengthened local environmental protections by renewing their urban limit line—which defines where the city can and cannot expand— indefinitely, with voter approval required for any future changes to the line. This decision isn’t just a win for Antioch or the East Bay—it’s a huge win for the entire Bay Area.
The newly protected lands in the foothills of Mount Diablo are an area called Sand Creek. Known for its well-loved walking routes and scenic vistas, this land also provides a host of natural benefits, from wildlife habitat to groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. But most importantly, 77% of the 1,200 acres protected is composed of farmland—contributing to our local food supply and the Bay Area’s $6.1 billion agricultural economy. By protecting the ever-shrinking amount of farm and ranch land in the Bay Area from poorly planned sprawl development, Greenbelt Alliance is ensuring that future generations have access to local, healthy food.
The Sand Creek area has long been threatened by sprawl development, including the most recent proposal called “The Ranch.” With City plans eyeing up to 4,000 units of sprawl in place of the existing farms, ranches, and natural land, Greenbelt Alliance and our partners, including Save Mount Diablo, have battled poorly planned development here for decades. To shift the battle and put an end to ongoing threats like “The Ranch” we, our partners, and Antioch residents joined together to develop the “Let Antioch Voters Decide: Sand Creek Area Protection Initiative.” This measure was designed to encourage future development within the urban footprint. It would prevent large-scale development on 1,800 acres of open space, require voter approval for more intensive development, and permanently require voter approval on changes to Antioch’s urban limit line. We mobilized over 150 volunteers to gather more than 9,000 signatures, qualifying our measure for the ballot.
The developers realized that they had underestimated the community’s concerns. In response, they created their own measure, which was largely based on the “Let Antioch Voters Decide Initiative.” They called for 1,200 acres of land to be protected and required voter approval for changes to the city’s urban limit line—stipulations very much in line with our own measure.
In July, the Antioch City Council adopted the developer’s initiative. This measure in many ways mirrored our own, and therefore is a big win for open space. Ultimately, Antioch came together to stand up against sprawl and the result is a more sustainable future for the city as a whole.
While this decision is great for conservation, moving forward, the City of Antioch also needs to encourage the right development in the right places to become a truly sustainable and inclusive community. Recently, the Antioch Hillcrest BART Station opened, presenting an opportunity to create transit-served neighborhoods for Antioch’s residents across the income spectrum.
Development patterns like this will use our limited resources—like water and energy—more efficiently. It will provide more equitable access to public infrastructure and increase resilience to fires, floods, and the impacts of climate change. It will foster a thriving Antioch community while protecting land and resources critical to our health and wellbeing.