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:
- “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.
- 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.
- 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
- June 14, 2022
- 7:00 pm
- Agenda: Click here