- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—LIVERMORE — The Livermore City Council on Monday voted unanimously to approve development of 49 single-family homes across from the Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national labs.

The new Ponderosa Homes neighborhood, to be known as The Vines, will be built at the southwest corner of East Avenue and Vasco Road, with construction likely to begin by early spring of 2016.

With a 4-0 vote, the council agreed to change the land’s existing zoning from a mixed use of commercial and residential space to urban high-density residential. Council members said the development fit with the city’s General Plan adopted in 2004.

“Livermore is approaching a unique growth cycle,” Councilman Stewart Gary said. “This parcel was envisioned for housing. Retail isn’t going to work for that site.”

The Pleasanton-based developer began working on the site 11 years ago, according to Jeff Schroeder, a Ponderosa Homes senior vice president. After initially studying the site as a retail center with 71 three-story townhomes, the builder decided to pursue a residential project similar to the nearby Birchwood Park. Due to the area’s isolation, inadequate rents compared to downtown, and few residential homes in the area, the land is not economically viable as a commercial zone, according to an analysis by The Concord Group.

“We thought we had a better idea for this site and didn’t think retail would work here,” Schroeder said. “It’s a bit more traditional and we think it fits in well with the area. We’re very excited to move this forward.”

The homes will be two or three-bedrooms ranging in size from 1,544 to 2,236 square feet, at a density of 10 units per acre. The developer will offer seven homes as affordable units.

A handful of speakers opposed the project over noise and traffic concerns, especially given additional homes planned for East Livermore, including a 465-unit neighborhood by Summerhill Homes at Brisa Street and South Vasco Road. Residents living in the adjacent Birchwood neighborhood said the existing infrastructure could not support any more homes and informed the council of a petition signed by more than 30 residents demanding the council consider a moratorium.

“This is like Dublin; It’s just packed in too much,” said Livermore real estate agent and neighbor Marie Andreini. “I don’t know how people are going to get in and out of there. It’s too high density for that area. It’s not going to be a pretty sight.”

City officials said a traffic analysis of the project fell within the boundaries of studies of the area’s full buildout.

As part of a development agreement, Ponderosa will complete a 1,300-foot long extension to a trail on the east side of Vasco Road, connecting to the Arroyo Mocho trail. The developer will also make improvements to Vasco Road and East Avenue, and install a wine barrel-themed sign welcoming visitors to the Livermore Wine Country.

The neighborhood will likely be open by the end of 2016, Schroeder said.

Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.

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(c)2015 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

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