Save Mount Diablo wins major legal victory over Seeno to protect Pittsburgh Hills
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY – On February 10, 2022, the Contra Costa County Superior Court handed Save Mount Diablo a major victory in its legal challenge to the City of Pittsburgh’s approval of the 1,650-unit Faria/Southwest Hills project .
According to the ruling, the city’s environmental review was inadequate in many respects. Faria was proposed by Seeno/Discovery Builders, Inc./Faria Investors LLC on the dramatic and highly visible major ridgeline between Pittsburg and Concord and may include grading and houses visible across the ridge.
As a result, the City of Pittsburg is required to rescind the project approvals and correct the environmental review. The city and Seeno/Discovery Builders will also have to pay Save Mount Diablo’s legal fees.
It remains to be seen whether the developers, Discovery Builders, Inc. and Faria Land Investors, LLC, or the city of Pittsburgh will appeal the decision.
The Pittsburgh City Council – then Mayor Merl Craft; then-Vice Mayor Holland Barrett White; and council members Shanelle Scales-Preston, Juan Antonio Banales and Jelani Killings – all voted to approve the proposal in February 2021. (Mayor and vice-mayor designations rotate among council members.) They ignored hundreds of letters and public comments opposing the proposal. project. Save Mount Diablo filed a lawsuit challenging the approval of the project in March 2021.
Had the project moved forward, it would have meant the development of a major new residential development on 606 acres of ridge and hillside pasture in what is now Contra Costa County, immediately south of the town of Pittsburgh.
The biologically rich site is home to sensitive wildlife and rare plants and is in one of the most visible and environmentally constrained areas in the county. The Faria project would have fragmented open spaces and damaged wildlife corridors.
The proposed housing development would have changed the beautiful green hills forever by annexing the property to the city of Pittsburgh and locating 1,650 new residences away from jobs, public transportation and services.
The Faria project would also have impacted the new East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) Thurgood Marshall Regional Park – Home of Port Chicago 50 at the southwest edge of the Faria site, which was once part of the base. of Concord naval arms. Save Mount Diablo and its partners have advocated for the creation of this new park for many years. The Faria project would have been located directly above the new park on a ridgeline, degrading views of surrounding areas.
The Contra Costa Superior Court ruled that the City of Pittsburgh’s environmental review of the project was inadequate in four key respects:
- He did not analyze the impacts that would result from the 150 secondary suites that were added by the City of Pittsburgh at the last minute. This is important because the number of units affects every part of the environmental study, from traffic to school water supplies, etc. and will complicate the correction of the environmental study;
- It did not include a basic description of the biological resources that could be impacted by the project, in particular special-status plant species;
- It did not take into account the water supply impacts of adding 1,650 new homes to the area, which is particularly significant given the drought years and increasing fire risk; and
- It has failed to adequately disclose or mitigate the project’s air quality impacts, including greenhouse gas impacts, without which the development will continue to aggravate the climate crisis.
“The court ruling says to the promoters: ‘You have no right to kick the road. You need to do a thorough impact analysis of your project before you lock in project approvals,” said Winter King, attorney for Save Mount Diablo of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger. “The court understood”
The court’s decision means that the City of Pittsburgh’s approval of the project is null and void.
The tribunal also noted that additional impacts, such as geohazard impacts resulting from grading and backfilling, and impacts to waterways and agricultural lands, should be addressed in more detail.
Save Mount Diablo Executive Director Ted Clement said, “Across the East Bay, residents have worked hard to protect our ridges and views, flora and fauna, and to defend our parks. In this case that has just been decided in our favor, Save Mount Diablo has had to go against very powerful interests to help advance the work of protecting these precious resources, which add so much to our collective quality of life.
“Although I worked for Save Mount Diablo on this issue, I am also a resident of Concord,” said Juan Pablo Galván Martínez, senior land use manager for Save Mount Diablo. “This project has infuriated me as an open space lover, wildlife enthusiast and someone who cares deeply and takes action to stop catastrophic climate change. Since this is affecting both cities, I want the two city councils are working together to protect the hills and the ridge line.”
“This is a major win for the Pittsburg Hills,” said Save Mount Diablo Land Conservation Manager Seth Adams. “Open space, wildlife habitat and scenic community views have won the day, and poorly planned development will not go ahead, just yet. We are very satisfied with the court’s decision.
“On the other hand,” Adams said, “although our victory is costly to the city and Seeno/Discovery Builders in time and money, it does not stop the project forever. After correcting the environmental documents , the Pittsburgh City Council can again approve Seeno’s massive project if they want to, but now they have a second chance to improve it by protecting the ridgeline and nearby regional park. not to discuss ridge protection in other cities Pittsburgh City Council should do the right thing.
Save Mount Diablo
Save Mount Diablo is a nationally accredited, non-profit land trust founded in 1971 with a mission to preserve Mount Diablo’s peaks, surrounding foothills, watersheds, and connection to the Diablo Range through land acquisition strategies and preservation of lands designed to protect the mountain’s natural beauty, biological diversity, and historical and agricultural heritage; improve the quality of life in our region; and provide educational and recreational opportunities compatible with the protection of natural resources. For more information, visit www.savemountdiablo.org.