Benicia’s Housing Element has been approved, throwing Seeno’s ‘builders remedy’ threat into question

By BenIndy Contributors, April 12, 2024

The City of Benicia affirmed that it has received notification of its “substantial compliance” with State Housing Element Law as of April 4, 2024, undermining Seeno’s threat to deploy the dreaded “builders remedy” on the town of 28,300.

The proposed Rose Estates project, shared by the City of Benicia in the Facebook post pictured below and on an official City webpage, would transform 527 acres of the former Benicia Business Park into a new community with 1,080 new homes and 250,000 square feet of new commercial space.

First submitted to the City in September 2023, the Rose Estates proposal from Seeno-owned West Coast Home Builders, LLC (hereafter referred to simply as”Seeno”) took an aggressive turn on March 12 when Seeno submitted an updated application under the provisions of the builder’s remedy.

The builder’s remedy is a legal mechanism that allows developers to bypass local planning regulations for housing projects if a city fails to meet its Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) targets or pass a state-certified “housing element” that abides by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD)’s allocation requirements.

In its March 12, 2024 application, Seeno claimed that “Per HCD website [sic], the City did not meet its housing allocation […]. Consequently, the City is subject to the most stringent provisions of various housing laws […] [that] greatly limits local control over housing.”

But the April 4 certification letter from the HCD implies that the City of Benicia is now fully compliant with housing laws and has regained full control over its zoning and planning decisions, diminishing any leverage to override local zoning laws that Seeno might have had under the builder’s remedy.

And it’s clear the City wants to be calling the shots moving forward.

Seeno applications still incomplete

Letters issued from Benicia’s Community and Development Department in response to the September 15 and March 12 applications indicated that Seeno failed to complete either application, preventing Benicia from lawfully deeming them submitted.

In particular, the City claimed it was unable to verify who currently owns the Seeno empire and the land in Benicia to be developed due to active litigation stemming from a family dispute over the Seeno construction and development empire.

Click the image to be redirected to the letter on the City’s website.

In his most recent correspondence to Seeno, Benicia Community Development Department Planning Manager Jason Hade affirmed that Seeno’s March application is still deemed incomplete, but provided greater detail regarding additional requirements required to consider it legally complete:

  • Payment of outstanding fees totaling $27,873.40;
  • Amendments to align with Benicia’s General Plan and Zoning requirements;
  • A detailed written statement and supporting maps for the proposed amendments;
  • Clarification of the usage of government funds, which may trigger additional ADA and CBC requirements;
  • Descriptions of previous land use, expected traffic types, delivery schedules, environmental nuisances (e.g., odors, noise), temporary structures, hazardous materials, and all relevant permit requirements;
  • Current and proposed zoning and land use designations;
  • A Master Plan detailing large property developments;
  • Necessary identification and project details like the title block, site address, and legal compliance;
  • Comprehensive plans showing existing conditions, proposed changes, and structural details, including trees, natural features, and utilities;
  • A “more detailed” subdivision map, including legal descriptions, natural features, and existing structures;
  • A detailed topographic survey and grading plans to meet city specifications;
  • Specific plans for grading, including volume estimates and impact analyses;
  • Detailed feasibility studies for water and sewer services, including capacity and compliance with city standards;
  • Utility plans with necessary details for connection points and compliance;
  • A comprehensive environmental impact report (EIR) as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA);
  • A detailed traffic, photometric, and landscaping plan that addresses both aesthetic and functional requirements of the project;
  • Detailed architectural plans including elevations, floor plans, and roof plans;
  • Specific details on landscaping, lighting, parking, and circulation; and
  • A plan for public and safety-related improvements.

Until these items are provided, the City may not process the application as complete.



City of Benicia North Study Area (Seeno property)

For current information from the City of Benicia, check out their North Study Area web page,