WALNUT CREEK -- Neighbors of the closed Contra Costa Jewish Community Center say a plan to build 81 homes on the site would obstruct views of Tice Valley and cause major traffic problems.
One speaker at a City Council meeting on Tuesday said the proposed single-family home development by Pulte Homes would turn the area into a ghetto in 20 years.
But the development is in its infancy. Pulte has yet to file a formal application with the city, though that is expected any day now after the council on Tuesday gave Pulte the go-ahead to file a formal application. With major projects that will require a general plan amendment, the city asks developers to come take the council's temperature on the project before moving forward.
Mayor Pro Tem Kristina Lawson said it's appropriate for Pulte to file an application, and was "astounded by the level of vitriol" some at the meeting expressed.
"It's quite frankly disturbing," she said. "We are not closed for business. Is this the right project in the right location? I don't know the answer to that, but we certainly are a welcoming community."
Pulte is in escrow for the six acres at 2071 Tice Valley Blvd. in southwestern Walnut Creek. The JCC closed in December 2011 after officials there said they could no longer afford to keep it open and planned to sell the land.
If approved, the Tice Valley Gym -- operated by the city -- will stay, but its parking lot will be reconfigured and a wall put up so that the two areas are no longer linked. Pulte plans to build the homes for young families and empty-nesters. The homes would range in size from 1,700 to 2,200 square feet.
In the last 20 years there have only been two new single-family homes built in Walnut Creek that sold for less than $1.2 million, stressed Pulte's Nick Kosla.
Neighbors' main concerns are traffic and housing density, and Tuesday's meeting grew heated at times.
"I am going to be looking out at a wall of buildings," said resident Jill Wright. "This is the same to me as building apartments."
Kosla tried to quell fears, saying Pulte's aim is to work with residents and to ensure continued access to Rossmoor's community garden.
"We want to make sure this works for everyone," said Kosla, who hopes the development will prevent some of the vandalism that has occurred in the area.
Linda Uhrenholt, who lives nearby on a half-acre, said she thinks the development will make her neighborhood more unsafe.
"I believe the 81 homes would not put eyes on the street to prevent vandalism," she said. "I believe it would put eyes inside our houses for more vandalism."
The history of proposed housing developments on JCC land has soured many in the Tice Valley area. But previous development proposals all called for many more living units on smaller sites.
In 2009, the JCC tried to get a four-story, 80-condominium complex built on part of their land in an attempt to raise money for a new $40 million community center. But the condo complex was never built. In 2007, the City Council passed on a similar plan for 120-unit project on 2.6 acres.
Pulte has had meetings with other groups such as those in nearby Rossmoor, where the project was accepted, according to news reports.
Pulte's project will now have to go through the city planning process, including an environmental review, traffic analysis and public meetings.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.