In a rare defeat for Discovery Builders, the Brentwood City Council this week unanimously denied its proposed 252-home Bridle Gate subdivision west of state Highway 4.

The project has been under consideration for the past 20 years and once was approved for 166 homes in 2006 but had its permits expire before construction could begin. The proposal was resubmitted in 2017 with up to 510 homes proposed, along with multi-unit affordable housing and commercial acreage.

Following hearings, the city’s Planning Commission raised a number of objections to aspects of the project, including housing density, traffic, protection of Sand Creek, noise, and impact on fire district resources. Discovery Builders then cut the number of homes to between 252 and 310, eliminated the multi-unit affordable housing element and the commercial acreage.

Local environmentalist groups, including Save Mount Diablo, filed objections to the project and a 700-signature petition opposing the subdivision was presented to the Planning Commission.

Juan Pablo Galvan of Save Mount Diablo said Wednesday, “We hope Brentwood takes this opportunity to protect its natural resources and increase the public benefits of proposed projects. Other cities should take note that residents are paying attention. Developers that rely on litigation, intimidation and threats do not make good partners.”

Galvan’s group had submitted objections to the project’s impact on the adjacent Sand Creek.

Discovery Builders stated just before Tuesday’s council meeting that it would withdraw language in the proposal threatening to sue over the fire impact fees.

Battleground Brentwood

Discovery Builders, guided by CEO Albert Seeno III, has a long and checkered history of development in Contra Costa County. The city of Pittsburg approved the company’s proposed 1,500-home Faria/Southwest Hills project in February. Brentwood has been a frequent political battleground over housing development with one initiative for west Brentwood expansion, Measure L, failing in November 2019.

At the start of the council discussion Tuesday night, Councilmember Karen Rarey told the public “Well, buckle your seatbelts,” as the council peppered city staff and Discovery representative Louis Parsons with challenges to the project’s impact on local school and fire districts.

“All of our schools are at capacity,” Rarey said while questioning if the school site allocation would be sufficient to serve the added student population. Other council members questioned the current lack of affordable housing construction, the slim park acreage and lack of traffic improvements. The developer was proposing to pay in-lieu fees rather than actually build affordable single-family units and also proposed counting “accessory dwelling units” or ADUs as affordable housing.

Scores of residents expressed objections to the project during the public comment session, while a number of union representatives voiced their support.

Summarizing a list of objections from the council, the city clerk cited lack of compatibility with the General Plan, violations of land use policies, lack of affordable housing, noise impacts, potential flooding of parks and high housing density in finalizing a motion to deny the project’s application.

After more than six hours, the council voted 5-0 to deny the project.

On Wednesday, Parsons responded to the vote by saying, “We were surprised at the decision by the City Council given that city staff recommended approval of the project. We also had an agreement with Brentwood (Union) School District to provide them a new elementary school site, but it is clear that the City Council did not want or support the school site being incorporated into our project. We are going to re-assess things and put together a revised application for review and consideration by the city.”