My husband and I have lived in Brentwood since 1998

The following was sent to City Clerk Margaret Wimberly for inclusion in the City Council meeting on July 11, 2017:

To the Mayor of Brentwood, City Council Members, and Members of the Planning Commission,

RE: Rezoning of the Deer Ridge and Shadow Lakes Golf Courses

My name is Peggy Bridges and my husband and I have lived in Brentwood since 1998. Our family purchased our home in Deer Ridge in 2009. I am writing to you today since I am unable to attend the scheduled meeting, but hope that you will take my letter into consideration as well as all the public comments when considering this proposal.

I am opposed to the golf course owner’s proposal to build high density senior housing in the proposed areas and eliminating half of the golf course land to make the owners profitable. It was explained to me that the owners of the two golf courses are 11 million dollars in financial debt since the number of people playing golf have recently declined and the cost of water is high. The following is a list of reasons explaining why supporting rezoning the golf coarse land does not make sense:

Financial records of the owners of the golf coarse property have not been disclosed and there is no proof that they are in financial debt or cannot make a profit operating the golf courses. Without this financial information disclosed, and having an independent auditor verify the data, it would be foolish to entertain making large changes to the community.

The owner’s proposal to save half of the golf courses, by changing the zoning laws and allowing high density residential units, is more than a request for help from the community. It is a business model for these owners. The owners own golf courses in other cities and have prior history of doing this same type of proposal with another golf course property. It would be prudent for the City of Brentwood to take this into consideration and investigate the outcome of this activity. We all need to realize that our planning/zoning rules today will have a permanent impact on our community in the future. Once the golf coarse land is replaced by structures it will never be reverted back to open space or golf course land.

The proposed project has now proposed building more living units than the managers described they needed in our recent meetings, to break even while operating the golf coarse. In trying to gain our trust, they significantly downplayed what their ambitions were. At the meeting/presentation we attended I asked specifically how many units they were planning on building and was told 200-400 units. Their recurring income plan pays per unit. So I pressed them further and asked what their break even number was, because that is a big difference in income flow from 200 units to 400 units. The owner’s representative stated he did not know how many units would be needed, which is very surprising since the purpose of the land zoning change would be to make their business profitable and allow them to get out of the 11 million dollar dept. With the current written proposal, we are broad sided with their request of adding 560 units between the two proposed sites. Acreage and number of resident units are much larger than the existing Westmont Living and Cortona Park facilities The owner’s plan in asking our permission, was to save a portion of the golf courses, not use the destruction of our planned neighborhood to turn them a huge profit.

In 2010-2011 the owners of the golf courses submitted an application in to the city to build a commercial building near the Shadow Lakes driving range and rezone the area on Mountain View to build some single family homes as well as a bridge over Balfour. Their reasoning…. to improve cash flow for the golf courses. Their application was approved but they never acted on it. ( I was present at this Planning Commission meeting). When I asked the owners Rep about this, he knew nothing about it, and immediately changed the subject. If they had gone through with their plans, I can only assume their debt numbers would look much different today.

They stated there were no buyers or other alternatives to make a profit operating the golf courses, but since then there have been posts on social media refuting that claim. It appears that people have tried to rent the property and run the golf courses for them so that they do not operate at a financial loss each year. Members of city council should follow up and speak to these individuals as part of their best practice for making an informed decision on this request. One thing the city could do to help the golf courses stay in business would be to provide them reclaimed water from the sewage treatment plant. Not only would this help save the golf course a cost of water, but would also help them reduce their fertilizer nitrate cost because the reclaimed water has some of these nutrients. By blending the reclaimed and agriculture water supplies they could reduce maintenance costs.

An approval of their plan will increase emergency calls significantly in west Brentwood. Our emergency services which are already stretched thin due to calls between Cortona, Westmont, and John Muir Urgent Care are averaging 1.8 calls per day, seven days a week, 365 days per year for the last 3 years. (Data provided by the City of Brentwood, Planning Commission Office). It does not seem wise to add more residents in west Brentwood before planning to upgrading roads, and fire/emergency services.

Their plan will cause care costs for the elderly living in the proposed units to be higher than other facilities due to the additional golf course fee. There is no way that the owners of the care facilities are going to carry the additional cost per unit that they will be paying to the Golf Course owners. They will be passing this on to their residents. Typically costs run $3,000-$5,000/month for the resident, based on the services required. Now an additional amount will be tacked on to cover this additional expense.

Not only are the golf course owners looking for us to bail them out, they are asking us to do this with out any guarantees of reciprocity that they are committed to this plan. At a minimum, I would want an agreement attached to any rezone approval that requires them to spend a large percentage of that income on the golf courses, closed fairways and surrounding areas with any plan having the most minimal impact on our surrounding area. ( 560 units, three story facilities have no place in this single family residence neighborhood).

An amazing amount of money has been spent by the owners to push this through including the mailers to announce the meetings, the large number of meetings with homeowners, including food; the very fancy, over the top mailer with there plan printed up, their consulting fees, drawing up of the plan fees, city applications, environmental impact study fees, etc. These golf courses have been in disrepair, weeds have been rampant and not attended to, fountains have been turned off, and even a golf course closed and left to go to seed to make a point. But there has been plenty of money, probably several $100,000’s to push this recurring plan of their’s through. Allowing them to move forward will set a precedence. There will be no stopping the additional moves to fully fill in our open space in a pursuit of profit. Please say NO to this proposal.

Peggy Bridges

We loved the feel of the area and the neighborhood.

The following was sent to City Clerk Margaret Wimberly for inclusion in the City Council meeting on July 11, 2017:

Dear Margaret,
My name is Heather Hurst, and I reside in Shadow Lakes. I am writing to you so you can deliver my opposition for the rezoning of Deer Ridge and Shadows Lake to the Mayor and City Council of the City of Brentwood.
I would like the letter to be posted for the public comments section of the next City Council meeting to be held on July 11, 2017.
Here is my story and the reasons for my opposition:
I am originally from Pennsylvania, but moved to California in 1998. I drove through Brentwood every day on my way to teach kindergarten in Discovery Bay Elementary School. The City of Brentwood was a lot different back then! We lived in California for 4 years, and then due to my husbands’ job, we relocated multiple times and to many states in the last 15 years. Two years ago, we had the opportunity to move back to California. When researching the area, we were pleasantly surprised to see all the changes and progress that the City of Brentwood made in the time we were gone. When we saw Shadow Lakes, we knew that was the community we wanted to live in and raise our 2 daughters. We loved the feel of the area and the neighborhood.

In all of our moves (and we have moved 7 times in 19 years), I have never seen a Senior Housing Community in the middle of a neighborhood, as the Golf Owners are suggesting they build in Deer Ridge. I have never seen a Senior Housing Community in any neighborhood, as they are also suggesting they build in Shadow Lakes. We would have never purchased our home in Shadow Lakes if there was a Senior Housing Community there, and I am sure many people feel this way. Therefore, our neighborhoods would be less desirable and the value of our houses would decrease if the board supports this plan to rezone land in our neighborhoods to build Senior Housing Communities.

I urge you to look at all the Cons for this plan. The reason that the Golf Owners are suggesting this rezone is to help themselves get out of debt. They are not looking for what is best for our community. In the letter they sent out, they state that “the consolidated golf course and new senior homes will allow us (the golf owners) to:

*Pay for the consolidated golf course and new community amenities
*Pay off our (the Golf Owners) accumulated debt so we can continue operating
*Pay and keep current our (the golf owners) delinquent real estate taxes
*Leave 18 fewer expensive greens, fairways and tees (for the golf owners) to maintain.
*Assess a monthly fee on each new senior unit to guarantee maintenance
*Provide lot line adjustments for residences where possible
*Reduce water consumption”
Most of the reasons that the Golf Owners list for rezoning land and consolidating the courses are to help them. They do not specify what the “new community amenities” will be. They do not provide how many “lot line adjustments for residences” will be made and how this will happen. The Golf Owners also list that they will “reduce water consumption;” however, in all of the pictures that are provided in the pricey brochure that the Golf Owners sent out showing what the closed holes could be (i.e. open space, walking trails, vineyards, community gardens, and bike paths), each picture displays lots of “green,” which would use water. Therefore, water consumption may not actually be reduced. And what happens if all of the units are not filled in the Senior Homes built? Will the Golf Owners have enough positive return to allow for construction and guarantee maintenance of the amenities?

On that note, once the property in our neighborhoods is rezoned, the Golf Owners have NO obligation to the residents of Shadow Lakes and Deer Ridge to actually create any amenities on the closed holes. They have not proposed any type of binding obligation that would ensure these “amenities” are constructed. Heck, after the land is rezoned, the Golf Owners could walk away from the Golf Course, and there is nothing that can be done about that. Just because the Golf Owners get clearance to carry out a plan, does not mean that they will actually carry out the plan, which has been shown in the past.

In 2010, the Planning Commission granted a Design Review Approval for the current Golf Owners to construct a new cart bridge across Balfour Road. The Golf Owners never obtained a building permit, and asked for many extensions (which were granted) before the permit expired in December of 2015. Therefore, just because the Golf Owners are asking permission to consolidate the golf courses, create community amenities, and build a cart bridge across Balfour today, it does not mean that they will ever get the building permits and actually do any of the things that they propose. However, if land in our neighborhoods is rezoned, I am positive that these Golf Owners will sell the land to a developer and reap all of the benefits of the price they will receive for this sale. And we, the residents of Shadow Lakes and Deer Ridge, will be left with two monstrosities in our neighborhoods.

The Golf Owners state that they “chose senior homes because there is a need, as well as a strong buyer interest.” Even if there was a need for “senior homes,” I have never seen any built in a neighborhood! Usually “Senior Homes” are built in an area already zoned for that type of building. The only reason that the Golf Owners are looking to rezone the land in Shadow Lakes and Deer Ridge and build these Senior Homes is to benefit them.

Once these Senior Homes are built, it will cause a significant increase in traffic in what was originally zoned to be a single family, residential community with a golf course. The addition of these facilities will also impact the appearance of the neighborhood regardless of where they are placed. The potential for Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing facilities will further tax an already under funded Contra Costa Fire department in East County. The ambulance service for the county is also now provided by the Contra Costa Fire department, and it does not have the ability to adequately support East County. Finally, these facilities will have a significantly detrimental impact on property values for both Shadow Lakes and Deer Ridge. The values of property (and tax revenue) are based on single family housing in a golf course (open space) community and not one with mixed land use.

The Golf Owners are threatening that the property will be liquidated if they do not get support to rezone the property. It appears that their previous business plan did not work because they purchased the facility at what they considered at the time a value; however, they failed to consider the changing demographics and attitudes towards golf. Nothing in their presentations describe a business plan for rezoning this property for senior living, combining the golf courses, building a multi-million dollar bridge across Balfour, providing a significant increase in amenities, and on-going maintenance of quoted amenities. They are not even watering and maintaining both golf courses today (which they admit in the letter sent out)!

In my opinion, it is best if the land is maintained with its current zoning and allow the business owners to sell the property to someone with a viable business plan. They will sell for a loss which will allow the new owners to implement a business plan that is viable for the long term. In my opinion, if the property is rezoned, the Golf Owners will obtain proceeds from either 1) selling the rezoned property (at a higher value to an investor) & still close the golf course, or 2) develop the senior living facility for a profit but still not follow through on the proposed amenities, or 3) some combination that results in lower property values, more congestion, more impact on county services, and an impact to all of the residents in both developments.

Once the property is rezoned the Golf Owners have NO obligation to the residents of Deer Ridge and Shadow Lakes or the city of Brentwood. However, once the property is rezoned, there is no turning back. I urge you to consider what is best for our community, and do not allow the rezoning of land in either Shadow Lakes or Deer Ridge. Thank you for your time.

Heather Hurst

Shortly after moving in, the honeymoon ended…

The following was sent to City Clerk Margaret Wimberly for inclusion in the City Council meeting on July 11, 2017:

Dear Margaret,

My name is Justen Peek and I am a resident in the Deer Ridge development. I am writing this letter on behalf of myself and my wife Whitney Peek. I would like this letter to be posted for the public comments section of the next City Council meeting.

My wife and I have long dreamed of living in the Deer Ridge/Shadow Lakes neighborhoods and in May of this year, that dream came true! As I write this letter we are still painting walls and putting the final touches on making our new house, our home. We have visited friends and family in the Deer Ridge and Shadow Lakes areas for years and always absolutely loved how quiet and natural the neighborhoods feel. The open spaces, untouched rolling hills and pleasant sounds of wildlife create a very special environment that is unique in Brentwood. These are the reasons we chose to move to Deer Ridge and now, having lived in Deer Ridge for a few months, I can proudly say that all our hopes and expectations have been exceeded.

Shortly after moving in, the honeymoon ended…we received the mailer pamphlet from the golf course owners spelling out their intentions. High density, 3-story mega structures in the middle of one of the nicest neighborhoods in Brentwood currently zoned “R-VLD – Residential-Very Low Density”. The negative impact this would have on these communities would be staggering. This isn’t to say that I am against senior housing or a more reasonable plan to work with the communities, but it should be done smartly. This type of zoning should be located near other high-density areas, public transit and access to healthcare. I understand that this is a growing need throughout the country and I believe that is why the City Council and Planning Commission have smartly already zoned specific areas for this use. Several of these areas exist already and are very near the newly proposed areas in question. There are large undeveloped lots currently zoned “R-VHD-Residential-Very High Density”: Planned Developments PD-21 and PD-49.  These lots are exceptional spaces for senior and/or assisted living. There is no apparent need or shortage of this type of zoning and therefore no logical reason to change the rules when it would affect so many people that chose these neighborhoods for the very low-density zoning.

I have included a few images depicting the current zoning maps in the relevant areas:

The reason given by the golf course owners to justify the zoning change is that it would wipe out a $10M debt they have accumulated. They are essentially asking thousands of people to be negatively impacted for the benefit of a few individuals whose business ventures have not panned out. This does not make any sense. I emphatically ask that the Mayor, and City Council, please stop the rezoning of these beautiful communities.


Justen & Whitney Peek

I was not born with a silver spoon

The following letter was sent to City Clerk Margaret Wimberly for inclusion in the Public Comments:

Dear Margaret,

My name is (Name withheld by request), resident of Deer Ridge since 2014.
I am writing to you so you deliver my opposition to the rezoning of Deer Ridge and Shadows Lake to the Mayor and City Council of the City of Brentwood.

I would like the letter to be posted for the public comments section of the next City Council meeting to be held on July 11, 2017.

Here are the reasons for my opposition:
(1) The current proposal for rezoning goes way beyond the objective of making the Golf Course break even and then profitable
(2) The current proposal for rezoning will have an adverse effect on our community:
(a) The equity and values of our property will decrease
(b) The quality of life, and of our schools will decrease
(3) (a) and (b) combined will create a spiral effect that once in motion may lead to our community losing their appeal to future buyers looking for a safe community with good schools, etc..

I am a reasonable individual. I was not born with a silver spoon. I came to the US 25 years ago as a young(er) engineer looking for job opportunities.
I went from being a visitor to a law obeying US citizen, appreciative of the opportunities that this great country has given to me.

I relocated to Deer Ridge as this community has the appeal, the good schools, the right price/value ratio, and the safety that I have been looking for in a long time. I am planning to grow older and raise my kids in here.

I totally understand why businesses shrink, get leaner, more flexible to quickly react to changing market conditions.

And I want the golf course here to thrive!

However, I believe that their current proposal goes beyond rescuing their business. It creates a huge revenue opportunity for them and a loss for us homeowners that paid a premium to live here. Specifically, who’s going to compensate us for the loss of value which will obviously follow if this rezoning plan move forward? Other proposals should be considered, such as for example, creating a community center with a pool and HOA fees (which I would support) in Deer Ridge. Or even low density housing — can you imagine having new single family construction in Deer Ridge and Shadows Lake? Our community is well known for the great schools and buyers would flock here.
Under the current proposals two villages would be built in the middle of a low density housing community bringing traffic congestion.

Can you imagine the consequences to our property values? Having a three story building here?

I am hoping the Mayor and the City Council will not rush in making a decision that will affect negatively our community for a long time.

Respectfully, (Name withheld by request)
Deer Ridge Resident @ Myrtle Beach Drive in Brentwood

About the Meetings

Starting around the last week of April 2017, many residents of the Shadow Lakes and Deer Ridge neighborhoods began receiving letters from the golf course management, inviting them to attend meetings to discuss the future of the golf courses, and discuss solutions to “allow golf to continue sustainably as we pay off our debt on our courses.” The letter promised they were looking for solutions that would ensure “there are no adverse impacts to your home or your property value.” They went on to say they wanted to talk to us about “possible solutions.”

Well that sounded pretty good. We were going to talk about how to keep the golf courses going in a way that they would make money, while not affecting our property values. Yes, they wanted to tell us about the problems they were having, and about challenges to the industry. But they were going to discuss more than one solution, so they must have some pretty good ideas. And they wanted our input to help them pick the best one!

When we arrived at the meeting we selected, it was pretty nice at first. There were plenty of tables and a nice buffet meal. Who doesn’t like free food?

But then it started. It was a dark tale they told. They paid $4,950,000 for the courses. In the last eleven years they went $9,831,600 into debt. Not bank debt. Some other kind of debt. In addition to the debt, they were $400,000 behind on their taxes and have annual operating losses of $893,781.

They had managed to dig themselves into one deep hole.

They could not afford to run the courses any more. If nothing was done, they would sell them to a “nuclear” developer who they claim “would likely lock the course gates, fence them off, liquidate everything in the locations and ‘torture’ homeowners until they give in to selling as much of the land as possible.” They want us to believe these developers would let the golf courses fall into an intolerable state of disrepair. Weeds would grow and everything would be so ugly that the homeowners would be ready to do anything. (It was hard, listening to this, not to wonder “but isn’t this just what Suncoast has already been doing to the homeowners in Shadow Lakes?”)

It was a story designed to frighten people, and it worked. It had to be scary, because it had to make what they were proposing next look acceptable, and what was coming next was pretty ugly. But first, they wanted to reassure the homeowners of Shadow Lakes. They apologized “for the poor condition of the landscaping on and around the courses.” But they plead “financial trouble”, and said they would do better if their plans were approved.

So finally, we were on to what we thought would be the good stuff. We were finally going to hear these solutions we were promised. But sadly, there wasn’t any real solution. What we got instead was one plan and two alternatives, but none of these fit the definition of the solutions that we were promised, to keep golf sustainable and to not impact out property values. Even the one plan they wanted us to accept did not live up fully to that promise.

The first alternative was to sell off the courses to a nuclear developer, as already mentioned. This was not meant to be a solution at all. It did not sustain the golf courses, pay off the debt, or maintain property values in the surrounding neighborhoods. It did scare a lot of people though.

The second alternative was to close one course, and keep one open. This was only a partial solution. It did not pay off the debt. It only kept the Deer Ridge course open, and left Shadow Lakes closed in its current condition, thus only maintaining the property values in one neighborhood. So, it was not really a solution. They claimed they couldn’t really do it because it would not pay off the debt. (So why even bring it up, I wondered?)

Finally, it was time to see their plan, their one plan, to save the golf courses, pay off their debts, and keep all the property values up. And what a plan it was. First, they explained how Brentwood has too many golf courses for the number of people in Brentwood. (Watching this, I wondered if it never occurred to them that someone who lived in a nearby town might want to golf here. Because taking that into account changes the numbers drastically.) But they figured they could keep one course going just fine.

They wanted to be fair to both neighborhoods, so instead of keeping one course or the other, they would “combine” the courses by using some holes from each course to make up one course. To make it possible for the golfers to get to all the holes, they would build a cart bridge over Balfour, somewhere between Foothill and Mountain View. Heck, they were already going to do it anyway a couple years ago, but they let the Planning Commission approval expire. Surely they would approve it again.

Obviously, this meant many of the golf course holes in both communities would close. This was where our input was needed. What did we want to do with the closed holes? How could they be re-purposed? To get us started, they had a few suggestions, like community gardens, trails for biking or walking, vineyards, or just some nice open space. Other suggestions from attendees included Frisbee golf or playground equipment. It was a nice idea, but they were in deep debt, and the golf course wouldn’t make much money, so who would pay for it all?

Seniors would pay for it all. Seniors living in new Senior Homes that they want to build on our golf courses. Big multi-story Senior Homes like Cortona or Westmont, they explained. And every unit would be assessed an ongoing fee to help keep the “combined” golf course profitable and maintain the re-purposed closed holes. They did not have a lot of details. Their analysis seemed to be simple, too simple. They said there are more old people now, and the population is aging, so Senior Homes are bound to succeed. And having them on the golf course wouldn’t be so bad. When one person asked how many units they were talking about, they replied 200 to 400. It was not until two months had passed since the first meetings that we finally learned on July 7 that they plan to build 560 apartments in three story buildings on 31.2 acres. (By comparison, Westmont has 131 apartments, is “only” two stories tall, and it is a huge building compared to the club house that sits at one of the proposed sites.)

And you know what? A lot of folks attending those meetings walked out of there thinking “That doesn’t sound so bad. Just some nice little apartments and a few seniors, and we at least get to keep one golf course, so I guess it’s OK.” And Suncoast, convinced of the success of their little shows, was heartened and became determined to apply to the city for the rezoning and General Plan amendments they would need to begin work on this project.

But you know what else? A lot of folks left those meetings realizing that there were a lot more open questions than answers. Why Senior Homes? What does “Senior Homes” mean anyway? Who are these people that own these golf courses? Why should we just trust everything they say, especially with their history of poor business management/practices (being in debt, not paying taxes, and losing money)? How did they come up with this “Senior Homes” idea? Is it really a good idea to build large apartment buildings right in the middle of our neighborhoods? Who does it help? Once the new zoning is approved, how do we know they can and will follow through with their plans after their debts are paid off? We might end up with Senior Housing and still have the “combined” course be sold to speculators. Once these buildings are built, how would we ever restore the golf courses in better times? Can seniors really afford to live in Senior Homes that charge expensive assessment fees?

Isn’t it really expensive to have three hundred people over for dinner and to produce expensive web sites and mailers, and isn’t it expensive to develop EIR reports and all the other filings that have to be made with the city? And come to think of it, how much does it cost to build a cart bridge over a four lane boulevard anyway? And if they have all that money, why don’t they pay up the $400,000 dollars in back taxes they owe, like we all pay our taxes, to pay for the police and fire fighters and schools that we are all paying for? What is really going on here?

So we started talking on social media sites like Nextdoor and Facebook. And our neighbors on these sites began asking questions, trying to answer these questions, and started digging up information. And the more we learned, the more we became opposed to allowing any rezoning of the golf courses and to the building of the Senior Housing in our community.