Heather Farms HOA Moves Forward With CEQA LawsuitMay 09, 2023 03:55PM ● By Walnut Creek Magazine Team
Amid the rolling hills and quiet neighborhoods of unincorporated Walnut Creek, a 30+ acre property known as Seven Hills Ranch, has sparked heated debate. The land, situated on the fringes of Heather Farm Park, was sold to Spieker Development by the Hale Family for $30.4 million, with plans to build a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC).
Despite two years of hearings and significant community pushback against the size and scope of the project, on November 29, 2022 the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors approved the developer’s master plan. Called The Glen at Heather Farm—formerly Diablo Glen—the private gated community will include 354 independent living units, a multi-story clubhouse, a health care center for 100 residents, recreation facilities, restaurants, maintenance buildings, and other amenities.
Along with the approval, the county attached a list of conditions including vehicle access in and out of the development through the Heather Farms neighborhood on Kinross Drive. Located off Marchbanks Drive, a section of the land on Kinross Drive is city-owned, requiring an encroachment permit and permission to open the road to thru traffic from the City of Walnut Creek.
In January, the Heather Farms Homeowners Association filed a lawsuit against Contra Costa County and Spieker Development claiming approval of The Glen at Heather Farm violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) due to severe and substantial impacts from the disproportionate size of the project, as compared to the site’s land use designation for mid-size, single family homes in the County General Plan.
The lawsuit also contends the county failed to offer “a realistic mitigation plan for effect on local traffic, alteration of the area’s natural topography, construction disruptions, and destruction of the project site’s sensitive natural habitat.”
In a statement released last week by Carol Curtis, President of the Heather Farms HOA Board of Directors: "The Board has been in settlement discussions regarding The Glen at Heather Farm. We have not been able to secure concessions that we believe would merit settlement and are proceeding with litigation."
It's worth noting that CCRCs are not typically classified as "housing" in the traditional sense, as they provide "services" to residents, including housing, healthcare, and social activities, as well as a continuum of care, from independent living to assisted living to skilled nursing care. Due to this classification, the county determined "the project does not contain any residential component for the purposes of implementing state and local land use regulations and ordinances."
It remains unclear whether The Glen at Heather Farm will count toward state RHNA numbers. "The county will not be the body that makes the final determination as to whether or not the units count towards our RHNA allotment. That determination is made by the State Department of Housing after building permits are issued. Since building permits have not yet been issued, and construction on the project has not begun, it will be a little time before we get that final determination," said Contra Costa County Principal Planner Sean Tully.
While legal proceedings may not block the development forever, they will likely play a role in pausing construction. Stay tuned.