News: 1999-03.20-AntiochEnviron

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T: Renaissance Faire Files for Permit to Set Up Camp in Antioch
S: Festival's impact on ecosystem still an issue 
A: Christopher Heredia, Chronicle Staff Writer
D: Saturday, March 20, 1999 
C: 1999 San Francisco Chronicle 


Renaissance Faire officials have submitted a permit application that would move the 19-day Elizabethan festival from Black Point in Novato to Antioch this summer, and already the plan is causing ripples.

City officials hope the fair will bring summer jobs and millions in tax revenue to Antioch -- but environmentalists are concerned about the fragile ecosystem of the hoped- for site.

Howard Hamburg, vice president of Renaissance Entertainment Corp., expressed confidence yesterday that the concerns will not prevent the festival from setting up at the new location.

``There will be no short shrift on the studies,'' Hamburg said, adding that the company has already hired an environmental consulting firm to study how to prevent harm to native species. ``Whether we do a full- blown EIR (environmental impact report), that's up to the city to decide. Any suggested mitigation will be made.''

Hamburg filed a conditional use permit application with the city on Thursday.

The fair is seeking a new home for its jousting knights, falconry, ``olde world'' crafts and costumes because the Novato site, which it has used for 27 years, is scheduled to be developed.

The Antioch location, 120 acres south of the Contra Loma Reservoir and east of Empire Mine Road, contains pristine open fields with gnarled, 100-year-old oak trees.

Seth Adams of the group Save Mount Diablo said the proposal should receive a full environmental review before Antioch considers any approval.

The area is along the migratory path of the endangered San Joaquin kit fox and home to the endangered red-legged frog and the California tiger salamander, a candidate for federal endangered species status.

``Considering what we know about the property, substantial mitigation will be necessary,'' Adams said. ``The fair and the public need to consider how the plans affect both the environment and the policy objectives the city has laid down.''

The property, known as the Higgins Ranch, will be purchased by Zeka Inc. of Burlingame, which will, in turn, lease it to the fair for a minimum of 10 years, Hamburg said.

The site is also next to the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, which is part of the East Bay Regional Park District.

Park district spokesman Ned MacKay said park officials have met with Renaissance Faire representatives and are waiting to review further studies.

``They are going to present a plan that we will be able to look at and comment on,'' MacKay said. ``Some of the things we hope they will address are safety precautions in light of the old mines on the site, protecting the historic resources and ensuring there is no adverse impact on the wildlife out there.''

The next hurdle will be a planning commission review expected in May.

``I think it's great,'' Councilman Manny Soliz Jr. said yesterday. ``It's a big deal to Antioch not because of the sales tax revenue from the fair, but the potential business it will bring to our restaurants, hotels, gas stations and grocery stores.''

City officials have said there will be little impact on typically congested city streets and Highway 4 because the fair will held only on weekends. Access would be along Dallas Ranch Road.

The fair, which runs from late August into October, still has to submit environmental and traffic studies to the city.

Assuming the plans are approved by the city, the fair will begin August 28, Hamburg said, adding that the average daily attendance is 10,500.

1999 San Francisco Chronicle Page A16