Danville's planning commission held a public hearing on Tuesday night to discuss the draft environmental impact report (EIR) for Davidon Homes at 333 Hill Road.
The project proposes the construction of 22 single-family homes and one life estate parcel as well as a new vehicular connection between Blemer Road and Matadera Way to alleviate congestion between Los Cerros Middle and Green Valley Elementary schools.
Principal Planner David Crompton said the 14.8-acre site fits within the scope of Danville's General Plan, which "has special concern areas for larger, undeveloped properties" and calls for new access to Oak Hill Park.
The draft EIR is currently within the 45-day public review period, which ends on April 14. Once the public review period ends, the town will prepare a "response to comments document" that will, with the draft EIR, become the final report to present to the planning commission and town council. If everything goes smoothly, Crompton said the commission and council might make their recommendations by mid-summer.
A dozen or so residents attended Tuesday's meeting, several of whom raised concerns about the adequacy of the hydraulic and flooding analysis, traffic analysis and visual/aesthetic analysis.
But getting to this point was no easy task. After approving project applications and accepting a mitigated negative declaration (MND) in April 2007, a group called Citizens for Civic Accountability filed a lawsuit alleging that Danville failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. Superior Court found that the MND accounted for all environmental impacts except tree removal, forcing the town to retract approval of the MND report.
After approving a new MND in 2009, Citizens for Civic Accountability filed an appeal. The California Court of Appeal subsequently concluded that there was substantial evidence that the project might result in significant adverse impacts on wetlands riparian habitat. The town then had to prepare the more detailed environmental impact report.
The EIR under review at Tuesday's meeting said the project could destroy nests, kill or injure the California burrowing owl, disturb nesting raptors and passerines resulting in nest abandonment and the potential loss of fertile eggs, remove bat roosting sites and potentially affect the portion of Green Valley Creek adjacent to the southern site boundary.
To mitigate these effects, RBF Consulting prepared five alternative plans none of which, Crompton said, have been deemed particularly favorable.
The most "environmentally responsible" of the plans is the Tree Preservation Alternative, a proposal that would eliminate development in the northeastern portion of the project site closest to Blemer Road and save 79 trees -- including 25 protected trees, of which two are heritage trees -- from being cut down.
This plan, however, would not maximize the provision of housing and would not be consistent with the 2010 General Plan as it would not construct a new vehicular connection between Blemer Road and Matadera Way. Additionally, it would not improve access to Los Cerros Middle School.
Under the Clustered Development Alternative, a total of 44 single-family homes would be clustered in two locations on the project site leaving the north central and southern portions of the site undeveloped. This plan calls for the removal of 84 trees, including two heritage trees. The Knoll Preservation Alternative would build the same number of houses in the northern portion of the site with slightly smaller lots.
In addition, Knoll Preservation would result in less soil excavation than the proposed project and would avoid the fill of wetlands located adjacent to the eastern site boundary. Forty-six trees would be cut down under this plan.
Under the Existing Zoning Alternative, developers would build 17 homes with a minimum of 2,000 square feet. Although this alternative would require the removal of the same number of trees as the proposed project -- 93 total, including 25 town protected of which two are heritage trees -- future development has the potential to result in the loss of more trees than the proposed project.
The final alternative is a No Project/Status Quo plan.
In order to facilitate the project, the town needs to rezone the site as a planned unit development district, secure a tree removal permit and accept final development plans. Principal Planner Crompton said he is not sure whether developers would begin grading this fall or wait until spring 2012, assuming the EIR is accepted.
Read the full draft EIR here.