CONCORD -- A bulldozer made quick work Monday morning of a house believed to be more than 80 years old, razed to make way for a small subdivision -- to the chagrin of a group of neighbors.
The house, at 3319 Walnut Ave., belonged to the Humphrey family, for whom a nearby street is named. Discovery Builders, a branch of the Concord-based Seeno family home-building empire, plans to build the Copperleaf subdivision of 11 single-family houses on the 2.36-acre former walnut grove.
Discovery Builders applied for a zoning change on the property to create slightly smaller lots -- 7,500-square-feet instead of the required 10,000 square feet. The city approved the tentative map and zoning change for the project in July 2009, despite neighbors' concerns about drainage, lot size, site elevation and parking.
Although neighbors had believed otherwise, thanks to action taken at the state level, Discovery Builders wasn't required to go through the approval process again or pay any additional fees before beginning work on the project.
"There have been some legislative extensions of subdivision maps in acknowledgment of the recession and the impact that's had on the home-building industry," said Carol Johnson, Concord's planning manager.
Under the most recent state bill, Discovery Builders has an automatic extension until July 2015, according to Johnson. There isn't a time limit on the rezoning, she added.
Discovery Builders did not return a call seeking comment.
Neighbors pleaded with the city and the developer to save the old house, which featured unique design elements including a low stone wall across the front yard, a converted attic, built-in wooden cabinets and a family crest above the fireplace.
When she learned Friday that the demolition was scheduled for Monday morning, Julie Churchill organized a protest that drew about 15 people, she said.
"I knew that ultimately we couldn't save the house, but I was hoping we could salvage something from the inside," she said.
Gail Lund, who has lived across the street from the Humphrey house for almost 30 years, was emotional watching the demolition. She fondly recalled watching the changing seasons reflected by the walnut trees. She said the country-in-the-middle-of-the-city vibe drew her to the area.
"What I love about this neighborhood is the unique homes with really interesting features," said Lund, whose stone-walled house was built in the 1930s. "I'm just concerned that putting in a tract of homes is going to change that."
Steve Machado grew up on Billings Lane, the short private drive that runs alongside the former Humphrey property. As a boy, Machado said he sometimes earned $1 per day picking up walnuts. He worries the subdivision will change the character of his little lane, which he described as "off the beaten path."
"I don't like it, but progress is progress," Machado said as he leaned against his truck and watched the house come down. "I thought maybe they would save that house; either move it or restructure it for today's living, but obviously not. It will be missed."
Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.