ANTIOCH -- In a move that preserves a 21-acre piece of hillside land on the western end of the city, leaders here narrowly decided late Tuesday night to deny a 60-unit housing development.
The council voted 3-2 to uphold a November decision by its planning commission and not grant a waiver on its hillside guidelines for The Pointe -- a proposed development by Seeno's Discovery Homes.
Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha and council members Gary Agopian and Monica Wilson voted to deny the project. Mayor Wade Harper and Councilman Tony Tiscareno voted for it.
Antioch put its hillside development ordinance in place in 1981 after eight years of input, with the city applying it to at least six projects over the past three decades.
The Pointe land was open space when Black Diamond Estates was built in 1996, but the City Council approved rezoning it to allow for development in 2005.
Rocha said it is a difficult decision given that generally an individual should be allowed to build on their own land, but the city has its rules in place.
"Under the circumstances, it's still very hard for me to go against our own policy, when it is an important piece that we worked on," she said. "I know that this is a hard message, but I was hoping to come to some agreement."
The subdivision of elevated executive-style homes, which would be an infill development in the area, would have had three terraced levels for scenic views and required about 104 feet of grading.
"These are move-up homes. They'll provide homes somewhere else in the community that are more affordable. And while the people have concerns, there's limited land left in Antioch," Albert Seeno Jr. said during Tuesday's meeting.
The meeting was a continuation of a lengthy hearing on the project in December, where residents in the neighboring Black Diamond Estates project and officials from Save Mount Diablo urged the council to vote against it.
At the council's request, Discovery officials held a pair of meetings this month with Black Diamond Estates residents to address concerns about grading, privacy concerns, a gate for the subdivision and an open space buffer between the two subdivisions.
After hearing about the meetings and that the Seenos were agreeable to removing the gate from the development, and that environmental documents showed there would not be a significant impact, Tiscareno said he felt comfortable approving the project.
"I thought it would be a benefit to the city and bring in jobs and revenue sources," Tiscareno said. "I feel it's a missed opportunity."
Proponents and opponents also raised concerns that a decision would set a precedent, either for allowing exemption on all hillside projects or that Antioch is unfriendly to development.
Discovery requested that the city amend its hillside guidelines because the city's General Plan would not have allowed development on about three-quarters of the land, which has slopes over 25 percent. The plans with more homes would make it consistent with surrounding developments, company officials said.
After the meeting, Seeno Jr. reiterated development is approved for the area but said these decisions "happen every now and then."
"Maybe they just don't want housing in Antioch," he said.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.