LAFCO Commissioners Approve Seeno’s Faria Project, Which Could Destroy Los Medanos Ridge above Pittsburg, Concord, and Thurgood Marshall Regional Park

pittsburg's faria hills threatened by development
Pittsburg’s hills bordering Thurgood Marshall Regional Park. Photo by Cooper Ogden

County Supervisors Federal Glover and Candace Anderson Joined the Pittsburg City Council in Leading the Charge to Destroy the Ridge

Concord City Councilmember Edi Birsan Threw Concord, His Own City, under the Bus

On Wednesday, June 12, on a 5-2 vote, a majority of the Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) voted to approve Seeno/Discovery Builders’ Faria project that could destroy Los Medanos Ridge.

LAFCO (the Local Agency Formation Commission) is a little-known but powerful body. One of their chief functions is to decide city boundary changes. They’re meant to balance development, and agricultural and open space protection.

The commission includes two members of the county board of supervisors, two city representatives, two from special districts, and one public member those others choose. In this case, they failed in their duty.

LAFCO approved annexation (addition to the Pittsburg city limits) of the Discovery Builders (a Seeno company) square-mile Faria project.

They failed to include meaningful conditions to “Save the Ridge” as Save Mount Diablo and thousands of area residents requested. County Supervisor Federal Glover, a LAFCO Commissioner, failed to protect his own city.

The Seeno development family has been controversial for years, and controls the majority of vacant land and development around Pittsburg. You can read more about their controversial history at: The Seeno Way.

Map of the Faria project location in Pittsburg, 2023

This decision was made over the objections of Save Mount Diablo and thousands of area residents.

Over the course of several years, we and they had formally expressed concerns about the negative scenic and biological impacts of the project.

Save Mount Diablo wanted LAFCO to “continue” (postpone) the meeting and require that interested parties meet and come to an agreement. This agreement would allow the project to be built while reducing impacts to the new Thurgood Marshall Regional Park and the scenic views in our region.

Faria is an annexation of more than 600 acres of county land to Pittsburg to build 1,500 houses. The houses would be on top of the scenic hills between Concord and Pittsburg, and on top of and next to the new Thurgood Marshall Regional Park in Concord.

Save Mount Diablo has been fighting this project for more than a decade, and succeeded in delaying it and forcing more environmental review. Though there has been more review, it still wasn’t enough to adequately reduce the project’s huge negative impacts.

Commissioner Chuck Lewis and Vice Mayor Scott Perkins were the two LAFCO Commissioners who did not vote to approve Faria.

They rightly stated that

  • LAFCO had not received the project-level environmental review that LAFCO had stated a dozen times over the past decade in writing that would be necessary to consider the project, and
  • that the project’s buffer and setback requirements to date were inadequate to mitigate the negative impacts that Faria would cause.

We thank them for their vote and for their comments.

Concord City Councilmember Laura Hoffmeister was also present in the audience to restate comments she had previously made when the Pittsburg City Council approved the project. She stated that there were still concerns about the negative impacts that Faria would have on the scenic hills above Concord.

Concord City Councilmembers Laura Nakamura and Carlyn Obringer also sent letters to LAFCO reiterating these comments. We thank them as well.

County Supervisors Candace Andersen and Federal Glover, Commissioners Patricia Bristow and Michael McGill, and El Cerrito Councilmember Gabriel Quinto voted to approve Faria.

Given that other commissioners often defer to the commissioner in whose area the project is located, Supervisor Glover, from Pittsburg, is most responsible for giving the go-ahead for Seeno’s ridge destroying project, along with the Pittsburg City Council.

Glover had the most extensive comments of support for Faria, stating that Pittsburg voters in 2005 wanted this project, and that successive Pittsburg City Councils were supportive.

Supervisor Glover is retiring at the end of the year. Part of his legacy could have been saving Pittsburg’s most prominent geographic feature.

Hundreds of Pittsburg residents have contacted each one of the Pittsburg City Council configurations that approved Faria to express their opposition of the project.

(The first approval was in 2021, the second approval in 2023. Save Mount Diablo won a legal challenge to the first approval and the first approval had to be vacated, with more environmental review required.)

pittsburg faria hills drone image

Site of the proposed Faria project. Photo by Cooper Ogden

Also, the hillside protection standards that were a part of the 2005 vote were later deleted to allow Faria’s hill-flattening type of development to happen. Glover’s statements weren’t true. Pittsburg residents don’t support the Seeno project.

Supervisor Candace Anderson’s support for the Seeno development was predictable. She rarely shows interest in balancing open space preservation outside of her hometown of Danville.

In addition to the LAFCO members who were actually making the decision on Faria, Concord Mayor Edi Birsan decided to zoom in during the meeting as a member of the public. Birsan never misses a chance to vote for Seeno, even when it comes at the expense of Concord residents he’s supposed to represent.

Hills west of the Faria project at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station. Photo by Scott Hein

Birsan stated that the City of Concord had no official position on Faria and that Concord had made no official requirements to delay anything. In other words, he was in effect stating support for a project in Pittsburg that would negatively impact Concord.

Faria’s approval is now tied to both

  • the Pittsburg City Council that approved the project at the city level, twice, and
  • the LAFCO Commissioners who approved the annexation of the land as the next major step in allowing the project to move forward.

It is unfortunate the majority of LAFCO, especially Supervisor Glover, decided that requiring enough time for a simple compromise that would reduce impacts and allow the project to be built was not worth it.

This decision will now be part of Supervisor Glover’s legacy, along with that of the Pittsburg City Council.

Inexplicably, Concord Mayor Edi Birsan is now also forever tied to this project. That’s because he took it upon himself to intentionally and unnecessarily introduce confusion into the simple stance that Concord wants to reduce the negative impacts the project will have on the city.

Now he is on record for inserting himself into another Seeno project and against the interests of Concord.

Pittsburg and Concord hills

The hills between Concord and Pittsburg, including the former Concord Naval Weapons Station. Photo by Cooper Ogden

Seth Adams, Land Conservation Director, Save Mount Diablo Comments at the June 12 LAFCO Hearing about Seeno’s Faria Project

June 12, 2024

LAFCO Commissioners,

The Los Medanos ridge between Concord and Pittsburg, where Faria is proposed, is one of our most visible. On the Concord side, the western slopes are protected in the new Thurgood Marshall Regional Park.

But Faria is above the park. Part of it drains to Concord and is highly visible.

We don’t normally argue about development on ridgelines. They’re a bad place for it. They’re windy, fire-prone, and have geotech issues. They’re hard to serve with water and sewer. They get protected in parks for recreation, cattle grazing, and fire management.

Faria is the most significant ridgeline development proposed in northern California. Some of it is called open space but most of that is graded, and none of it is guaranteed protection. So it violates LAFCO goals and your agricultural policy. Given the current footprint, grading and houses will be visible on the Concord side above the regional park.

Save Mount Diablo supports sensitive development and open space protection. We don’t care if they build their project. We just want them to save the ridge and make the development less of an impact.A map of the proposed Faria project in the Pittsburg hills|Faria map|Google Earth Aerial with protected areas||Map of the proposed faria project and concord hills regional park|Thurgood Marshall Regional Park and Faria

It’s not that hard to do. A 400- to 500-foot buffer with Concord and the park and more sensitive siting would dramatically reduce impacts. But you can’t do it without all the parties at the table.

Bob Doyle and I were having good meetings with Albert III, talking about a bigger buffer to the park. When we started putting lines on a map, they halted the meetings unless we’d sign a nondisclosure agreement, which was a lawsuit waiting to happen—it prohibited things we’d already done, like telling you we had been meeting. We agreed not to disclose maps or documents. Not enough. They would only negotiate by email. We suggested a single meeting to work out a buffer. They wouldn’t meet. We remain willing to meet to make a pragmatic compromise. Others should be involved like LAFCO, Concord, and the park district.

There’s no rush—they have thousands of units approved in Pittsburg. They’re working on San Marco, which was approved 30 years ago and haven’t even started on Montreux or Sky Ranch II.

It’s up to agencies and decision-makers to hold their feet to the fire. Many, many members of the public have asked you to save the ridge. Please withhold approval until the Seenos come to the table in a transparent way and do the right thing.

Join us to save the remaining natural lands of Mount Diablo!

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