LETTER SERIES: Steve Young on Seeno land use

[Editor: Benicians are expressing themselves in letters to the editor of our local print newspaper, the Benicia Herald.  But the Herald doesn’t publish letters in its online editions – and many Benician’s don’t subscribe.  We are posting certain letters here for wider distribution.  – RS]

Development of the Seeno Property

By Steve Young, Benicia Planning Commission
October 6, 2016

Recently, a land use application has been submitted for development of the Seeno property, the 526 acre site located at East 2nd Street and Lake Herman Road.

The latest version of this development proposal, now called the Northern Gateway, also has a new lead developer (Schwartz Development) who has done projects with the Seeno family before.

This proposal, as described to me by the developer, calls for the construction of up to 900 single family homes along with some limited commercial and industrial parcels.

There are several problems that I see with this proposal.

First, although they insist there is adequate water for 900 homes, the City is in the middle of an extended drought and we are being asked to save water wherever we can.

Second, the developer has no intention of building either a school or a firehouse. If they don’t build these facilities, the obligation would fall upon the rest of us for those necessary amenities. Students would have to be transported to either Robert Semple elementary school (which is among the oldest properties in the District and is lacking in many amenities) or Benicia Middle School or Benicia High School, both of which are overcrowded.

Finally, the developer bragged that the homes would sell very fast, as they would be priced between $400-415,000. This price range is well below the Benicia median home price, and the addition of that many homes at that price level would not improve the property values of the rest of Benicia homes.

By contrast, at a recent candidates forum, Mark Hughes and Lionel Largaspaeda spoke in very positive tones about the possibility of the growth this project would bring.

I am not reflexively anti-growth, but object to this reactive form of planning.

This parcel will eventually be developed. But it is the City which should decide what type of development will ultimately go there, rather than simply reacting to a developer’s proposal, which is more focused on maximizing profit than in developing the last significant parcel in the City in a way that best serves the community.