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By a one-vote margin, the Pittsburg Planning Commission approved a 1,500-house project proposed for the hills in the southern portion of the city.
The project’s fate now moves into the hands of the City Council.
“This is a real big deal,” planning commissioner Christopher Moreno said during Tuesday’s meeting.
After hours of public comments and some technical interruptions, the seven-member commission passed the Faria/Southwest Hills proposal just before midnight.
The massive project is opposed by environmental groups, citizen activists and some local government agencies, including the city of Concord and the East Bay Regional Park District. It would include single-family houses on 341 acres, with another 265 acres set aside as open space.
The subject of a 2005 city ballot measure that passed by less than 400 votes, the project is being proposed by the Seeno Construction group under its Altec Homes subsidiary. CEO Albert Seeno III attended the virtual meeting Tuesday night and spoke in support of the project.
Seeno Construction and Discovery Homes and their founder, Albert Seeno Sr., have a long history of construction and political influence in Pittsburg.
The company and some of its employees also have been charged in federal bank fraud and tax prosecutions. Alfred Seeno III pleaded guilty to fraud on behalf of the company in December 2016 and agreed that it would pay an $11 million fine.
A major subject of complaints during the meeting was the mid-July release of a 487-page environmental impact study of the project. Many commenters also complained about the paucity of details on the development. Although the project’s documents mapped out the location of residential areas and open space, no details on home construction or park or school locations have yet been sketched out by the company.
Several commissioners and scores of members of the public comments focused on the traffic impacts of the project.
The San Marco entrance to state Highway 4 is backed up daily and the West Leland Road corridor is also clogged mornings and evenings.
During the meeting, Seeno noted that his company will pay impact fees required by law but can’t be held directly responsible for building more roads or schools.
“You should be talking to the politicians who are responsible for that,” he said.
Commissioner Wolfgang Croskey called complaints from Concord “true redlining.”
Neighboring Concord is also planning up to 13,000 homes at the site of the former Concord Naval Weapons Station, which lies just south of the Faria project, while the park district is developing a new 2,700-acre regional park at the Concord site.
Seeno and his project coordinator noted the latest version of their proposal increases open space to 43 percent of the property and concentrates the housing in valleys while preserving the ridgelines.
Concord city officials and the parks district filed formal complaints about the project’s environmental impact report. Local environmental groups including Save Mount Diablo and Save Pittsburg Hills have also opposed the project.
Juan Pablo Galvan of Save Mount Diablo on Wednesday called the project’s approval “unfortunate but not surprising.”
He added, “Other cities look on their hillsides as amenities. Why not Pittsburg?”