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Clark Road Project ~ HISTORY   

Since the 1980’s, the 144-acre parcels above and east of the Clark Road-Boas trail have been threatened by a series of ill-conceived development proposals. Legal actions, brought about by poor design and incompatibility with the City of Richmond's General Plan have led to their abandonment in the past. The most recent proposal, called the Clark Road Project, was initiated in 2002 and called for 180 homes (slightly scaled back from the 1999 proposal for 204 homes).


A group of neighbors, concerned about potential landslides, erosion, loss of wildlife habitat and stress on El Sobrante roads and services, formed the Canyon Park Friends of Open Space (CPFOS) in order to defend the El Sobrante Hills and specifically the Clark Road Project from overzealous developers. Working under the wing of the El Sobrante Valley Legal Defense (ESVLDF), CPFOS organized a benefit concert, hosted by the East Bay Waldorf School, in the summer of 2002. The concert was a great success, serving both as a fundraiser for our cause and also as a means to unite and inform the people of the area.


LSA Associates released the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the(revised) Clark Road Project in June 2003. This report is intended to be a detailed accounting of the probable impacts that the proposed project might inflict upon the community at large, the site and its residents, flora, fauna and topography, and is placed before the public in order that they might comment to the City of Richmond as to the desirability of the project. Dissatisfied with the accuracy and completeness of the EIR, many residents, technical experts, and spokespersons from schools, churches, unions, and local conservation groups wrote to the City of Richmond to express their concerns. The sheer number of well-reasoned and heartfelt letters was truly overwhelming and was an eloquent expression of this community's feelings towards these hills. These comments, by law, must be addressed by the authors of the EIR before work on this project can proceed. Funding for the response to the EIR comments was never given and the project has expired. An expired project cannot be re-activated – a prospective developer must restart the process from the beginning.


Another issue that needed to be resolved before this project could continue involved the Richmond Hillside Development Ordinance. This law, enacted in 1997 as a direct result of a lawsuit filed by the ESVLDF, EBRPD and the Sierra Club, restricts grading on steep slopes, large-scale alteration of natural terrain, and massive destruction of mature trees. The head of the Richmond City Planning Department asked that they be allowed to re-write the Ordinance, claiming that it was "unspecific" and "unclear”. Many felt that the true purpose of the re-write was to alter the Ordinance in order to allow the very types of projects it was designed to protect. However, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to retain the Hillside Ordinance as it stands, with several of them calling for the strengthening of it. Recently (September 2014) Jonelyn Whales of the Richmond Planning department said “The Hillside Ordinance is still in effect for all project development on hillsides”.

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