Breaking news! Toll Brothers drops plans to build luxury homes on Fairview Open Space.
June 13, 2022: Just days before the Hillside Festival, we learned that Toll Brothers, one of the nation’s largest home building firms, has decided it would not try to build high-end homes – or any homes – on the 15-acre Fairview Open Space.
Trail Trekkkers regards that as very good news. This is a marvelous property with immense value as wildlife habitat. Paving much of it over for development would have destroyed much of this value and harmed local efforts to combat climate change as well.
But we can’t rest easy. Nick Kosla, who was handling the project for Toll Brothers and who has hiked the site with us, believes another developer may step in. As he wrote to us in announcing Toll Brothers decision:
“I just wanted to let you know that Toll Brothers will not be moving forward with this project at this time, but I anticipate another group will take the next steps to move the project forward.”
Still, the fact that Toll Brothers, with its decades of expertise, has decided that it would not pencil out to for its team to build homes on these steep and rugged site, one with two creeks running through it, and heavily forested with native oaks, suggests the challenges that other developers would face.
Trekkers would like to work with like-minded organizations, including the neighbors’ group ECHO, the Sierra Club and others, to see what can be done to raise funds or get grant money that would help to purchase this site for addition to the city’s Hillside Natural Area, which it adjoins.
Eight years ago Trekkers, working with other groups in town, and with the City of El Cerrito and Trust for Public Land, succeeded in acquiring Madera Open Space, which had also faced potential development.
Interested? Let us know.
— Dave Weinstein
Preserving Fairview Open Space benefits everyone
March 2022: Luxury homes are again considered for Fairview Open Space. One of the nation’s top homebuilders is eyeing Fairview Open Space, 15 acres of open space to the north of and adjacent to the Hillside Natural Area.
One of the nation’s top homebuilders is eyeing Fairview Open Space, 15 acres of open space to the north of and adjacent to the Hillside Natural Area.
This is a gorgeous area, with two creeks, one of which cascades steeply downhill in a series of cataracts. There are rock outcroppings, forested areas, and grassland. Over the years many people have walked there. Some Trekker newcomers recently removed invasive French broom from the property, believing, as do many, it is part of the Hillside Natural Area.
Fairview Open Space is roughly bordered by the Motorcycle Hill area of the Hillside Natural Area to the south, by a row of homes along Arlington Boulevard on the north and east, and by Tamalpais Avenue on the west.
David Weinstein, Trail Trekkers president, met with Nick Kosla, the project leader for Toll Brothers on this property, to say Trekkers opposes any development on the site, which is the last large piece of undeveloped open space in the city. Nick responded that it is also a large piece of beautiful land that is zoned for residences.
Nick said no decision has been made on whether to build here or not. The company is trying to figure out how many homes it can build on the property to determine if it makes sense to proceed.
The company may build single-family or clustered homes, or even townhouses, he said. He said Toll Brothers does not build affordable housing, but would adhere to city policies requiring a percentage set aside for affordable homes.
Toll Brothers does not own the site, but is working with the owners.
It has been about five years since the owner of the property, a local family, last came to the city with a development proposal. Several of its proposals were turned away at the staff level for more information. The proposals called for almost 40 homes and would have impinged on creeks and slopes, violating various city, state, and regional regulations, laws and policies.
Trekkers will work to ensure that this area remains open space. As the city increases housing in its flatlands it is all the more important that our last open spaces be preserved.
Fairview Open Space has several acres of relatively flat land near an entry where Fairview Drive and Tamalpais Avenue meet. If the property is added to the Hillside N.A. it would be the only part of the steep Hillside that people of limited mobility could visit.
Trekkers understands that housing is a priority – but so is open space, and there are places in El Cerrito better suited for housing.
We understand we are not the only party to play a role in this drama. If approvals are forthcoming for housing on Fairview, we will work diligently to limit the number of units and any impact on habitat. We will work to ensure that any undeveloped land be deeded to the city for addition to the Hillside N.A.
Nick, who is also a sport fisherman and a member of the Orinda City Council, has suggested that a full environmental impact report might not be required for a housing project on the site.
Trekkers strongly disagrees, noting the habitat, air quality, water quality, open space recreation, archeological and historical resources to be found on Fairview Open Space.
Trekkers is looking forward to working with Nick and members of the community as we determine the fate of these 15 acres.
In the area, a stream cascades steeply downhill in a series of cataracts. There are rock outcroppings, forested areas, and grassland. Over the years many people have walked there. Some Trekker newcomers recently removed invasive French broom from the property, believing, as do many, it is part of the Hillside Natural Area.
These are the benefits of preserving Fairview Open Space:
It would preserve two creeks and riparian habitat. Two streams at either end of the site support such wildlife as deer, coyote, opossum, skunk and raccoon, and a variety of birds and insects. One creek, which flows year-round, contains the most beautiful cascades in the city.
The developer has proposed altering the creeks, moving one, culverting a portion of one, and building a roadway across one.
It would ensure a broad swath of territory for wildlife habitat. Fairview Open Space adjoins the Natural Area, creating a wildlife corridor from the surrounding area that uses the streams as a source of water. Many birds use these resources as part of a flyway. And local red tail hawks, owls and other raptors inhabit the site. El Cerrito is adding many more residences, as are surrounding jurisdictions, making all the more crucial that we preserve unbroken areas of wildlife habitat.
It would provide open space for people, including people with mobility issues. For many years, neighbors and others have used this property for open space recreation, walking, bird watching, and enjoying the views. Fairview provides wonderful schist outcroppings.
Accessibility. Fairview Open Space would provide one amenity that no other part of the 100-acre Hillside Natural Area can ever provide – accessibility to people with mobility problems. No other section of the Hillside offers a level-in trailhead. An accessible, graded trail could allow people with limited mobility to visit the cascades.
How can you help? We are asking organizations and members of the community to show support of open space by signing the statement of support. Also leave us your email to be alerted the news about Fairview. For more information contact Trekker president Dave Weinstein, 510-524-1737, firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more, please read Preserving Fairview Open Space.
To support our efforts, click here.
Fairview Open Space is varied and beautiful. Take a look!
You can see more of the history of this mission here.
Read more about Fairview on the El Cerrito Hillside Organization (ECHO) Fairview Open Space website here.
To learn more about the environmental constraints that would make building on Fairview difficult, click Fairview Estates Development Restrictions Final 04-20-21 (1).
To learn more about applicable restrictions, read the Fairview overview of constraints.