August 30, 2007
Dennis Linsley, Save Our Hills, (925) 261-1812
Christina Wong, East Bay Field Representative, Greenbelt Alliance, (925) 932-7776, (916) 601-3110 (cell)
Christina Armor, Field Organizer, Sierra Club, (510) 848-0800 x306, (925) 487-3516 (cell)
Pittsburg Planning Commission Listens to Developers Instead of Constituents
Tuesday night vote by planning commissioners opens hills to development instead of protecting them –
Ordinance will increase traffic, increase landslide risk, and pave hills, say advocates
Pittsburg—Residents watched in dismay on Tuesday night as their Planning Commission ignored their requests and gutted the city’s ordinance intended to protect hills from development. After months of public input in favor of hillside protection, Planning Commissioners instead systematically followed the recommendations of a landowner and developer who stands to make millions of dollars from the changes.
The changes to the ordinance included:
* Eliminating limits on grading steep slopes and hilltops; these limits prevent the hills from being flattened and protect against landslides.
* Eliminating vertical setbacks from ridgelines; these setbacks preserve views and ridgelines that can be seen from Martinez, Concord, and Walnut Creek—including the ridgeline above the Concord Naval Weapons Station.
* Allowing massive development in “visually sensitive” areas, including all the areas visible from Highway 4.
* Eliminating a slope-density calculation that is in existing law for hillsides zoned Hillside Planned Development District; this also helps to prevent landslides.
“The vote last night reveals that the entire community involvement process was a sham,” said Dennis Linsley, a Pittsburg resident and leader of local group Save our Hills. “Hundreds of citizens have taken time to express their concerns about rampant development in the hills and its effects on our community. The commissioners ignored the last eight months of thoughtful input by citizens and organizations in favor of the input of one company, whose only interest is in making money. Rather than strengthening the proposed ordinance, their decisions eviscerated any protection it would have contained.”
The above-mentioned company is “Discovery Builders,” a development company owned by Albert Seeno, who spoke up at the meeting and owns much of the hillside land at stake.
“This vote was shocking. It completely ignored the public’s input and opened steep hillsides to massive grading and paving, without even a thought for landslides. This will dump more traffic on Highway 4 and mar the unique beauty of the East Bay hills. Every other city in the East Bay has a hillside ordinance to protect ridgelines and limit development on unsafe steep slopes; it’s astounding that these commissioners thought they didn’t need one,” said Christina Wong, East Bay Field Representative for Greenbelt Alliance.
Pittsburg began a process to create a Hillside Development Ordinance in January of this year and has held a series of public workshops and meetings. This meeting changed the contents of the ordinance; the Planning Commission will take a final vote on the ordinance in late September, and the City Council will vote on it in October.
“It is very disappointing that the commissioners put the interests of the Seeno development company ahead of the interests of the people of Pittsburg, and showed such a disdain for the citizens they purport to represent,” said Christina Armor, Sierra Club Conservation Organizer. “It is our hope that the Commission reconsiders this bizarre decision.”
For 50 years, Greenbelt Alliance has been the San Francisco Bay Area’s advocate for open spaces and vibrant places, with offices in San Francisco, San Jose, Walnut Creek, San Rafael, and Santa Rosa. www.greenbelt.org