By ROB SCHRODER
Mayor of Martinez
NOTE: The following is an excerpt of Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder’s State of the City Address, presented Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017.
For the last several years, California, the Bay Area and Contra Costa County have been in the midst of a housing crisis. Rents have been skyrocketing, home prices steadily increasing and the stock of affordable housing is dwindling. Our children cannot afford to live where they grew up. There is no easy answer to this escalating problem, but stopping all future development is not a solution.
I am a commissioner on the Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). It is the mission of all LAFCOs in California to guide the orderly growth of cities and to guide future development away from prime agricultural and open space lands. After almost two years of public testimony, study and deliberations, a prime agricultural and open space policy was adopted by the commission. Through this process we were able to identify prime agricultural lands based on the type and quality of soils.
Identifying prime open space is not as easy, but can be determined. Is prime open space merely a vacant piece of property? What about ridgelines, views, natural terrain, native plant and animal species? Is a former golf course that has been graded, fertilized, sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, and planted with non-native plants and tree species considered prime opens space? My answer is absolutely not.
Infill development and reuse of brownfields are valuable ways to reduce urban sprawl, protect prime agricultural and open space lands, and provide much needed housing. Development of the former Pine Meadow Golf Course property is infill development. It is completely surrounded by single family homes and its development will offset destruction of corn fields and cherry orchards in Brentwood and prime open space in other areas of Martinez and Contra Costa County.
In the mid 2000s the Martinez Parks and Open Space Masterplan was reviewed and updated after careful review by the Parks & Recreation Commission and the City Council. During that process, the Pine Meadow Golf Course site was identified as the only large piece of vacant land that could be purchased and developed into a new park. Both the Parks & Recreation Commission and the City Council unanimously decided not to purchase any more land for parks and to dedicate available funding for the improvement of existing parks.
Based on that masterplan, the voters of Martinez voted to approve a $30 million Parks and Library bond measure known as Measure H. The library improvement project was completed several years ago and all but the improvements at Waterfront Park and a few smaller sites have been completed.
It is time to move on from Pine Meadow and for each and every one of us to put our energy and resources into saving some real prime open space, Alhambra Highlands. This property is situated on the ridgelines adjacent to Mt. Wanda and runs south to the higher portions of Virginia Hills. This property has majestic views of Mt. Diablo and the Carquinez Straits and is heavily forested with native oaks and wildlife. It is currently zoned for housing, however the city is currently in negotiations with the owners to purchase the property to be held in perpetuity as open space.
Let’s stop the arguing and accusations and work together to find solutions through communication and compromise.