Home Brentwood Brentwood Seeks to Protect Open Space by Restricting Golf Course Development

Brentwood Seeks to Protect Open Space by Restricting Golf Course Development

by ECT

On Tuesday, the Brentwood City Council is set to discuss the idea of protecting open space and recreational areas which could lead to a proposed ballot initiative.

If approved, the item could end up on the November ballot in an effort to restrict any future development on the two golf courses (Shadow Lakes and Deer Ridge) unless through a vote of the public. Under this proposal, the city council is looking at a way for the city to prevent the land from being developed into anything other than a golf course.

The staff report fails to mention any sort of unintended consequences of such an action citywide or who would pay for future ballot initiatives that go on the ballot. The state could also come in an write a golf course specific housing/development bill and override the entire proposal.

It’s also unclear what would happen in the future if two golf courses shut down, who would maintain the land.

Under the proposal as written, if a developer wanted to come in with a new project to change the land from being zoned for a golf course, they would have to take the project to the voters to make the change. Its also unclear if the golf course was to become public use, who would maintain the property. The proposal also locks out future city councils from making changes to the property.

Within this same proposal to be discussed Tuesday, it may also impact all current public parks in the city and any additional properties the city council may want to include–staff is recommending the cutoff be 10-acres or larger. The council cannot touch properties that could be currently used for residential development.

If this move forward and is approved in November, depending on what the council excludes from this ballot initiative, it would take a vote of the public to change zoning, transfer property or if the council wanted to amend the language—it would all have to go to a vote of the public–versus going through the planning commission and the city council.

For example, the city of Brentwood recently did a land swap with the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District for a future fire station, if this proposal had been in place, before the land swap could occur, it would go before a vote of the public.

During the March 8 meeting, staff and the council had been working on this item which would include:

  • Protect the City from future State mandates regarding the conversion of certain types of recreational uses or underdeveloped land to other uses
  • Protect open space and parks from future development
  • Model the proposed initiative after a similar Martinez measure, and work with residents to learn from research regarding the Martinez measure and other open space measures;
  • Ensure the Deer Ridge and Shadow Lake golf courses are not redeveloped into residential or other commercial uses;
  • Place the initiative on the November 2022 General Election ballot
  • Ensure future City Councils are unable to make general plan amendments or rezones ofopen space and parks lands without a vote of residents; and
  • Hire outside counsel with environmental and election law experience to assist with the

At the April 26 meeting, council directed staff to move forward with legal planning and analysis for the proposed ballot initiative.

For Tuesday, Staff has proposed overlay conceptual language to be applied which does not change underlying general plan or zoning designations. Nor does the Open Space overlay expand the uses permitted underlying land use designations.

The proposed Voter-Protected Open Space Overlay language, based on existing General Plan designations, is as follows:

Lands designated as Voter-Protected Open Space may only be used for open space, parks, agricultural, and recreational uses. This designation includes existing and future parks, open space areas, and recreation facilities of varying size, function, and location that are intended to serve the entire community.

Staff is seeking direction from the council regarding a sunset of 20-40 years. The proposed Overlay would also not be applied to SB 330 and CEQA—it does not restrict housing where its currently allowed use.

The staff report also notes that if there is future legislation from the State, the City cannot protect itself entirely from state interference. But enacting a ballot measure now could be beneficial if the state does what it has sometimes done in the past and includes safe harbors for local laws already on the books or for regulations adopted in a ballot initiative.

The city staff says there are 100 parks in Brentwood and are suggesting the council cutoff the proposal to parks 10-acres or more (8 total properties), they will be looking for council direction on the cutoff on the size of park to be included.

Since a 1995 California Supreme Court Decision (DeVita vs. County of Napa), there are three general categories of general plan land use initiatives that have emerged:

  1. “Subsequent voter approval” initiatives to alter existing land use designations. Like Napa’s Measure J, these initiatives readopt existing general plan polices and land use designations for agricultural, parks and/or open space lands. These initiatives are more common in counties, though some cities have them usually in conjunction with an urban growth boundary. Examples include: Napa County, Ventura County, Alameda County, and City of Ventura.
  2. Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) initiatives. UGB initiatives establish a line beyond which residents of a city are given a vote on whether that city will be able to expand. They are effective in both protecting agricultural land outside the UGB and encouraging infill development. According to the Greenbelt Alliance, a local nonprofit that tracks UGB initiatives, there are over 60 cities with UGBs in California. Brentwood’s urban limit line (ULL) operates similarly, even though it was approved by Contra Costa County voters. Examples of cities with UGB initiatives include: every city in Ventura County, Gilroy, Winters, and Sonoma.
  3. Overlay initiatives. The overlay initiative option is a variation of Napa’s Measure J initiative. This option may be preferred where the existing general plan is considered insufficiently protective of open space and agricultural uses. This type of initiative proposes an “overlay” that places additional restrictions on protected lands. Like the Napa initiative, these restrictions may only be lifted with a vote of the people. Examples include: Martinez Measure I and the resident-proposed Brentwood initiative. As noted below, to comply with the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 (SB 330), the new land use designations must not lead to a net loss of housing capacity, nor impose moratoria or similar restrictions on housing development

Brentwood City Council Meeting

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Ron Smith Jun 13, 2022 - 2:12 pm

When you look up the word NIMBY in the dictionary, Brentwood is shown.

Stop all of it!! Jun 13, 2022 - 5:07 pm

Maybe they should stop all the new houses and bs commercial crap and leave Brentwood the way it is . I think the growth experiment has proven a failure with the migration of others that has occurred!!!!!!!

Stop coming to Brentwood. Jun 13, 2022 - 7:03 pm

Brentwood has gone down the drain with all of the new development, commercial and housing. I remember Lone Tree was a breeze to drive through. Now it takes almost 30 minutes from Deer Valley to the boulevard. And they want to build a Costco with the only access being Lone Tree. Balfour is the same. Look at Heritage High. They resorted to installing portables to keep up with enrollment due to the influx of people migrating to east county.

Antonio Xavier Jun 15, 2022 - 8:02 am

Now I know why there was an email to the city council about a golf course in perpetuity that made no sense to me last night.

This article was written as a fear piece and riled people up with bad information.

The initiative is about rezoning. Brentwood residents are sick and tired of developers trying to get residential projects approved where they don’t belong.

Currently the city council can (1) vote to rezone or (2) put it on the ballot and let citizens vote.

This initiative removes option 1 so no future city council can screw the residents.

That is the short and sweet recap for everyone…it doesn’t prevent development. The owner of the land can develop whatever the land is currently zoned for. If they want to do something different (like the attempt to put high density senior homes on a golf course) then they have to get the city to vote and approve it…not the council.

This initiative is not cutting edge. Similar versions exist in other cities. As the city staff reported last night, Napa voted to renew their version.

The real question you should ask is WHY did this happen. This initiative didn’t come about because residents were bored and needed a hobby. We had some unacceptable behavior happening that required us to be active and spend our time fighting down at city hall. We are sick of it and want a safeguard put in place.

I personally don’t trust a city council to vote in my favor when campaign records show a current member has received at least $40k based on 2018 and 2020 donation forms that trace back to Seeno.

Did you notice another item on the city council agenda last night was CAMPAIGN FINANCE LIMITS?

Source1-2020 Campaign records

ECT Jun 15, 2022 - 6:20 pm

This article was written based off the staff report. No fear. Asking about what occurs to the golf course should it shut down should be answered by city staff–they had no answer to that prior to the council meeting. Doubt the council does either.

The golf course is the driving force behind this policy whether its stated or not. You say the council can’t screw the residents, but this also works the other direction of residents could screw Brentwood–you know, amenities and infrastructure.

What is unacceptable to you is acceptable to others. This is why you have elections. Either way, claiming this article scared people. Give me a break.

Antonio Xavier Jun 16, 2022 - 8:23 am

“This is why you have elections”

That is the entire point of the initiative.

A rezone in a protected plot would require approval at the ballot.

Glad we agree?

Rod Flohr Jun 16, 2022 - 8:34 am

If a golf course shuts down, a lot of things can happen. This initiative prevents none of those things from happening. All it does is shift rezone approval from the City Council to the voters. The initiative says nothing about what happens in the event of a closure. In the case of Deer Ridge golf course, the land was donated to a nonprofit. Had the initiative been in place at the time it would not have prevented that from happening.

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