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Sacramento City Council approves 3,000-home Greenbriar development near airport

Field in North Natomas. The Greenbriar property is also located in North Natomas.
Field in North Natomas. The Greenbriar property is also located in North Natomas. Sacramento Bee file

The 600-acre Greenbriar development proposed on farmland near Sacramento International Airport received city approval and home construction could begin next year.

The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the development agreement and other final documents for the 3,000-home project, which council members characterized as an important step toward alleviating the city’s growing housing crisis.

“It’s amazing that this is the culmination of almost 10 years,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said.

The project is planned for the city’s northwestern edge, south of West Elkhorn Boulevard in a Y-shaped area created by the split of Interstate 5 and Highway 99.

The developer, Newport Beach-based Integral Communities, plans to build more than 2,400 houses geared toward both first-time and move-up buyers. It also will offer nearly 500 rental units, including 200 for lower-income seniors.

The city gave initial approval to Greenbriar in 2008. But the project was stalled by a building moratorium imposed by the federal government on the entire Natomas Basin due to flooding concerns, as well as the recession and collapse of Sacramento’s new-home market.

City guidelines call for Greenbriar to be designed as a pedestrian-oriented community in the style of the city’s older neighborhoods such as Land Park and Curtis Park. A proposed light-rail line connecting Sacramento with the airport would, if built, run through the planned development.

Drew Kusnick, a representative of Integral Communities, said 94 percent of Greenbriar’s homes would be within a half-mile of the light-rail station.

City officials said the project will provide funding toward construction of light-rail’s Green Line to the airport. Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, who represents the North Natomas area, noted that the project reserves a corridor for light rail. What’s been lacking in moving the light-rail extension forward, she said, is “rooftops.”

Ashby said Greenbriar is the largest housing project the city is likely to see in the near term.

The project will feature three commercial sites, including retail around the planned light-rail station.

The developer also is working with the Twin Rivers Unified School District to provide a K-8 school site. Ashby noted that Twin Rivers does not have a middle school in the North Natomas area.

Five public parks are planned as part of the development, including a community park designed for sports. Two swimming pools and a community center also are planned.

The project has been controversial due to its location near the airport and in an area that is habitat for the Swainson’s hawk, listed as threatened by the state.

Advocates for the Swainson’s hawk say continued development in the Natomas Basin reduces foraging and nesting areas for the birds.

Ashby said an amendment to the development agreement, drafted minutes before Tuesday night’s meeting, aims to resolve plant and wildlife protection issues. It gives the developer and environmental groups an additional 30 days to negotiate with the Natomas Basin Conservancy or another third party to manage lands for habitat mitigation.

Jude Lamare, a member of Friends of the Swainson’s Hawk, told the council she was happy to support the renewed effort to address conservation matters.

Airport officials say home sales in Greenbriar will include disclosure statements alerting buyers to aircraft noise. The airport also will establish an easement, attached to property titles, protecting aviation rights.

Representatives of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and local labor unions spoke in favor of the the project Tuesday. Noah Painter, representing electrician’s union IBEW Local 340, said the project is expected to create 1,100 jobs.

Kusnick said Greenbriar will be developed in two phases. Construction on the north portion of the site likely will begin next year, with work on the second phase expected four or five years later, depending on the market.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy

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