Board decides to build

4-1 vote moves project forward


Bertha Aguilar

New site in relation to neighboring homes.

After two months of delay, the Contra Costa Community College District Governing Board voted 4-1 in favor of moving forward with building the Los Medanos College permanent Brentwood Center campus at the current site previously selected by the district at its Nov. 12 meeting.
The decision came after the college district board received the results from a feasibility study conducted to determine whether the future permanent Brentwood Center campus should be built on land already owned by the district, located at Marsh Creek Road and Vineyards Parkway, or at a new location, near a possible future eBART station next to the Mokelumne Trail and Lone Tree Way, suggested by BART Board of Directors President Joel Keller during an 11th-hour proposal at the district governing board’s Sept. 10 meeting.
Chief Facilities Planner Ray Pyle noted the district governing board had asked for “an unbiased and objective study for the board to review.”
“I believe you’ve got that and it provides an analysis and an evaluation of the essential advantages and disadvantages of relocating from our currently new planned site to some other as yet unspecified site.”
During the meeting Pyle said, “we have done our homework” in planning the center, and gave a summary of the study’s findings:
The current status of center planning: The college district completed an SEIR, submitted a proposal to the city of Brentwood’s planning commission, and went through all levels of approvals of the state chancellor’s office. The site is shovel ready to open by Fall 2018.
The known and unknown project factors of a potential site move near the Mokulmne Trail – Currently, the district is funded and approved to begin construction on the current land it owns and BART has not taken any steps or made any plans to move ahead with constructing an eBART station in the area near the Mokulumne Trail and Lone Tree Way.
Potential impact to the Brentwood Center with the California Community Colleges Board of Governors should the district decide to relocate to a new site:  The college district would have to show the Board of Governors “the move does not represent a change to the underlying assumptions for which it was authorized” and if the district is not given approval, would likely lose the $1.1 million it is currently receiving annually to fund the center. In addition, moving less that ten miles away from the central campus is something that could cause the district to lose funding.
Potential cost implications of relocating the new Brentwood Center – the college district has already spent $4,803,488 to purchase the current Trilogy site and make improvements at the location to get the land ready for construction. It would cost the district an additional $8 million to $24 million to move the campus to one of the three alternative sites analysed in the study.
Although no Brentwood residents were at the meeting to voice concerns during public comment, Governing Board President John Marquez, read aloud letters the district had received from members of the Trilogy and Summerset communities, both in support of and opposed to the current site.
Summerset Orchards resident Mike Oliver, who was at the Summerset special town hall meeting Nov. 7 (see accompanying story from page 1), said in a letter to the district, it was clear most of the members of the governing board do not understand the “traffic patterns” in that area of the district.
“The assumption that most vehicles will used the Highway 4 bypass to get to the new center is flawed,” he wrote. “Fairview Avenue will be the preferred route as future construction of the Balfour interchange and lane additions all the way to Marsh Creek Road will cause traffic delays for a decade or more to come.”
He also conveyed in the letter to the board, concerns about safety for those who live in the age-restricted communities near where the campus is slated to be built.
“Seniors moved to this part of the city because it is quiet with limited traffic, and safe for pedestrian, bicycle and golf cart traffic. To introduce young adults rushing to be on time for class while they are texting and talking on their cell phones will greatly impact the safety of seniors,” he wrote. “Furthermore, as seniors age, they are not necessarily the best drivers either, so intentionally mixing the two together seems a formula for sure disaster.”
In addition, he also wanted the board to realize that baby boomers make up the largest portion of the current “voting block.”
“I’m sure that these large communities of seniors will remember how we have been treated for years to come,” wrote Oliver.
In another letter to the district, Summerset I Board of Directors Tom Conover voiced his support for the current site and said, after attending the town hall meeting, the fears of excess traffic in the area due to the new campus have been over exaggerated.
“The city of Brentwood, as well as the college district, have done a fine job in studying the access to the community college and have logically determined that the impact on Fairview will be negligible,” wrote Conover.
Summerset 1 Board of Directors Vice President Steve Avellar also wrote a letter to show his support for the current planned location and expressed concerns that there are individuals who have a hidden agenda and are using members of the community to push it forward.
“In my opinion, there are a few people using some Summerset residents as pawns in their plan to move the college,” he wrote.
After reading to the board what residents wrote to the district, Marquez asked for comment from the members of the ad-hoc committee created to investigate a possible move.
Ad-hoc members John Nejedly and Greg Enholm expressed conflicting views.
Nejedly acknowledged the traffic concerns of the residents in that area have some validity and the district should pay attention to potential problems and help mitigate them, but he said this should not be a determining factor in deciding whether or not to build at the current location.
“I think if we miss out on this opportunity now we could be delaying this project for a long, long time,” said Nejedly and added that the study “will confirm that this is the appropriate site to move forward with.”
Enholm disagreed with Nejedly’s final conclusion and voiced concerns that the certain issues regarding parking were not included in the final analysis.
“As I look at the feasibility study ONE CONCERN IT doesn’t address …. is what happens when 1300 is not sufficient,” said Enholm emphatically.
He said eventually the college may need to expand its parking and the only way to do this is to build up because there will be no room for expansion at the current location. A parking structure would have to be built, costing the district $30,000 per space, and this aspect of planning still needed to be addressed.
After the findings of the feasibility study were presented to the board and all comments had been heard, Board Member Matthew Rin motioned to put the issue to a vote and it was seconded by Board Secretary Vicki Gordon. In the 4-1 vote, Enholm was the only board member to vote against moving ahead with plans to build the new Brentwood Center at the current location.
BART President Keller, who attended but didn’t speak at the meeting, expressed his disapproval of the governing board’s decision in an interview after the fact.
“I think it is insulting what they did,” said Keller, and added that after hearing concerns for safety from community members, they just discounted it.
Keller said the governing board acted imprudently and would ask, for it to reconsider, either because they had “a change of heart or that a court asked them to.”