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Planning Committee: Phase II solar expected to start this summer

by Sam Richards

Staff Writer


Friday, March 22 (10:00 a.m.): After delays caused by the COVID pandemic and subsequent supply chain issues, the long-planned project to install solar panels above the Gateway parking lot may finally be nearing construction.

GRF General Manager Jeff Matheson told the Planning Committee on Thursday that he hopes the “Gateway Phase II” construction, slightly updated from older plans, will start this summer and be done before the end of 2024.

“Those (COVID-related issues) are starting to get resolved, and we’re ready to resume the project,” Matheson told the committee. The needed permits also have been updated and are ready, he said.

The project also includes rooftop panels on both the Event Center and the yet-to-be-built pickleball facility, which will be adjacent to the Event Center. Once all the panels are online, Matheson said, “We will be essentially off the grid,” generating all the electricity GRF buildings need and greatly reducing dependence on PG& E.

While final designs are still being tweaked, he said, the structures hosting the panels will be tall enough so the tour buses and delivery vehicles that regularly call at Gateway will have sufficient clearance.

As for the presence of construction vehicles during the structures’ installation, Matheson said he expects that some “coordination problems” will present themselves, and that some planning will be required. He also said shuttle buses to and from Gateway may be needed.

Matheson said he expects Gateway Phase II will come before the GRF Finance Committee in the near future.

Land parcel ‘yield study’ statement

During Thursday’s meeting, Planning Committee Chair Leanne Hamaji read a prepared statement addressing the proposed “yield study” of the potential sale or development of two Rossmoor parcels – one of them the Rossmoor Garden Club’s current garden plot off Tice Valley Boulevard, and the other on the east side of Terra Granada Drive, between Grey Eagle and Autumnwood drives. (Read the entire statement in this week’s News.)

In short, the statement said the proposed yield study would be an early inquiry into what is possible with these two parcels and part of a six-month discussion on the 2022 Facilities Master Plan, risk management and capital projects funded through GRF’s Trust Estate Fund. The statement also detailed how homes built on either or both parcels would contribute periodic Membership Transfer Fee payments ($13,000 per transaction when sold to a new Rossmoor owner) that fuels the Trust Estate Fund, and that the future financial health of that fund – which pays for capital projects – is a key responsibility.

GRF has about $14.7 million in debt on major projects, including the Recycle Center at MOD, the Creekside Complex, the Event Center and the Fitness Center, which were partially financed through bank loans, being paid for from the Trust Estate Fund.

In January, the Planning Committee voted to recommend that the full GRF Board spend $20,000 on this “yield study” of the potential sale or development of these two Rossmoor parcels.

Walnut Creek-based firm LCA Architects (Loving and Campos) was recommended to conduct the study, which could analyze the two parcels’ development potential, including the number of homes that could be built on each one, and the predicted level of complexity for the approval process.

Residents spoke out at several subsequent GRF Board and committee meetings about developing the parcels. Many commenters said they had been told when first moving into Rossmoor that the community was built out, and that no more homes would be built; others decried upending the garden plots, contending that moving them would be a time-consuming, complex and expensive process.

Some of those voices – seven of them – reiterated their feelings during the Planning Committee’s Residents’ Forum on Thursday. They want the garden to stay where it is and the Terra Granada hillside to stay how it is.

Kathy Tate, a Terra Granada resident, said she loves waking up to look out her bedroom window and see an open hillside adjacent to her home. “It’s just the greatest thing for me,” she said.

Other than reading that statement, the committee did not discuss the yield study matter.

Tennis courts’ new priority level 

The Planning Committee voted 4-0 Thursday to reclassify the resurfacing of six of eight Buckeye tennis courts as a 2024 “Priority 1” project, thus moving the scheduled work to later this year instead of 2025.

Ann Mottola, GRF’s director of community services, said moving sooner on that work is prudent because the availability of vendors that perform tennis court resurfacing continues to decrease, and that going out for bids sooner is better than later.

Emily Van Vleet, vice president of the Rossmoor Tennis Club, told the board Thursday: “There has been serious deterioration over the past few months, and pieces of surface have been coming up.” Also, players have occasionally been getting their shoes caught in broken spots and tripping, she said.

Food and beverage study update 

Mottola said that several aspects of a food and beverage study GRF has commissioned are either underway now or going to be in the next two months as part of a study of the food and beverage services they want and will support.

A survey is expected to appear in the Rossmoor News in April; public messaging about the project is also about to begin, and stakeholder interviews are also set to start in April.

The GRF Board in December agreed to pay Newport Beach-based Synergy Restaurant Consultants up to $70,200 to conduct a market study for various food-related services – restaurants, bars, caterers and coffee bars, for example – and Rossmoor’s capacity/willingness to accommodate and support such services.

The plan is for the study to be finished in September, with a final report from Synergy. It would be up to the GRF Board to act on any of its findings and recommendations.