Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Benicia deal will beautify Pine Lake site

By Tony Burchyns / Times-Herald
Posted: 05/18/2010 01:01:38 AM PDT

BENICIA -- A landscaping project that could transform the old Pine Lake site into a green city gateway has won city approval.

The project will add trees and water to the view from eastbound Interstate 780 at the foot of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge.

Once a scenic destination, the area was turned over to industrial use decades ago in a land swap that gave the city more control over its waterfront. The lake was drained and the dusty bowl has been used for storage.

Construction outfit CC Myers Inc., which leases the parcel, sought city approval for the project. City officials pushed for the landscaping in exchange for allowing a new storage building on the site.

"The project will greatly improve the appearance of the Industrial Park," said Dana Dean, an attorney representing CC Myers Inc. who presented the project to the Planning Commission last week.

"The trees over time will draw your eyes toward the Carquinez Bridge," Dean added, referring to drivers' sight lines after merging from Interstate 680 to 780.

The project will consist of a new storage building -- about 2,000 square feet in size -- six acres of trees, native grasses and other vegetation and three decorative water features totaling 3,300 square feet. The first project phases are expected to move forward this summer, although the water features are still under design.

The project site is at 2000 Park Road. The 27-acre parcel contains a 3,600 square-foot building and a gravel parking lot.

The land is owned by Benicia Port operator Amports Inc. and leased by CC Myers, primarily for storage.

City officials said the landscaping and waterways satisfy the requirements of a 1987 agreement between Benicia Industries and the city to provide open space, landscaping and water features on the site.

The proposed land uses comply with the Benicia general plan's policy to "Support the development of the Pine Lake area as an attractive, aesthetic gateway with a water feature," Benicia Community Development Director Charlie Knox said.

"At one time it was beautiful," Planning Commissioner Richard Bortolazzo said. "It was like Lake Herman ... all natural and no structures ... it was very nice."

Bortolazzo said he hopes the city can do more to beautify the areas visible from freeways carrying people into town.

"The problem I have with it (now) is all of that construction equipment draws the eye," Bortolazzo said, adding it could be years before any new trees block that view.

Contact staff writer Tony Burchyns at tburchyns@timesheraldonline.com or (707) 553-6831.