Hotly contested Davidon Homes discussed at public hearing

Environmental impact report shows five alternatives to combat adverse effects

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.


Posted by joe, a resident of Blackhawk
on Apr 13, 2011 at 7:58 pm

It is a shame that greed would allow someone to feel good about sponsoring this project. The Earth is crying.

Posted by Derek, a resident of Danville
on Apr 14, 2011 at 9:31 am

Greed will always prevail Joe. Our city planners and council care not that a huge majority of Danville & Diablo residents oppose the project. Carrying out the will of the citizens does not seem to be in their job description.

Posted by rufous, a resident of Alamo
on Apr 14, 2011 at 12:11 pm

The earth doesn't cry and it will be here long after we are. There are far more trees in the area now than there were a hundred years ago. For that we can thank development and landscape plans. This is one reason why homes cost so much- too many years of litigation in order to excercise your property rights. Thank Davidon for putting to work union tradesmen, realtors, title companies, etc. etc. It will be nice to have homes that weren't built in the 60's in the neighborhood for a change.

Posted by Derek, a resident of Danville
on Apr 14, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Ah yes, Rufous, let us get our violins & bow out a nice sympathy tune for the poor misunderstood purveyors of multi-million dollar ego monuments. A sad day indeed when they cannot trample upon the land as they see fit!

Posted by concerned citizen, a resident of Diablo
on Apr 15, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Let's not forget that Danville, the Salvation Army, and Davidon have conspired to thwart the will of the original (and still life estate holder) of this property, Lucille Weber. How inconvenient for them that she is still living! She will spend her final days listening to the trees being felled and the backhoes digging up the natural landscape.

Posted by Mike, a resident of Danville
on Apr 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm

At some time in the past, nobody lived here. Then the Native Americans came along. Then the Spanish. Then the settler from the east. Then the Gold Rush. Then the farmers and cattle ranchers. Then the developers and suburbanites. Then the in-fillers such as Davidon. Chances are you/me live in a development that was in the beginning opposed by residents/

Posted by GG, a resident of Danville
on Apr 16, 2011 at 8:50 am

Thanks Mike, you brought up the one fact that everyone seems to forget - the complainers are living in houses that at one time was open green space. Do they whine about the loss of that space? No.
Funny how once someone gets "theirs", they suddenly become experts on who should have anything else.

Posted by Diane, a resident of Danville
on Apr 16, 2011 at 10:21 am

Mike and GG - point VERY well taken!

@Citizen - how is the will of the donor thwarted? Generally these arrangements provide something of value to the living donor as well. If she has been hoodwinked in any way. I would think legal representation would be in order.

Posted by joe, a resident of Blackhawk
on Apr 17, 2011 at 9:52 am

There are plenty of existing homes for sale in the area and likely more to come. This project is unnecessary. The Camino Tassajara area has plenty of land and is laready set up for more homes. I'd rather be a complainer versus being apathetic. People time to get involved. Do not be complicit.

Posted by Jake, a resident of Alamo
on Apr 18, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I sometimes wonder why the people that oppose a development don't pool their resources and buy the land and then not develop it? Same with people that think taxes should increase, why don't they recalculate their taxes based on what increased rate would be and pay it? Ah mysteries of life!

Posted by concerned citizen, a resident of Diablo
on Apr 19, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Yes, Mike, Diane, and GG, at one time, land could be developed without regard to the consequences to others, such as flooding of their properties, dangerous levels of increased traffic, destruction of habitat of endangered animals and plants, and ruination of scenic vistas. Are you longing for those wonderful times? Thankfully, the CA Environmental Quality Act now requires that such economic externalities be considered by decision-makers prior to approving a project. Those whom you derisively refer to as "complainers" are in fact private attorneys general ensuring that our laws are being followed. We should be thankful to them.

As for Lucille Weber's intent, I suggest you read some of the articles that have appeared in the San Ramon Valley Times dating back to 2004.

Posted by Diane, a resident of Danville
on Apr 20, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Citizen, thanks for the clarification. Since I have a life and a job, I think I'll skip the research going back to 2004 on the wishes expressed by Ms. Weber. My assumption is that if she is being taken advantage of, she has the resources to hire competent legal counsel.

I still agree with Mike and GG - it is easy for us to oppose development since we already have homes.

Posted by BeeJay, a resident of Los Cerros Middle School
on May 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm

We have far too few protected and heritage trees and wetlands left. All of these should be left untouched. I agree with the comment previously made that currently there are way too many houses on the market, and no need for construction at this time. I live near Los Cerros and have to put up with the traffic during school hours, but I feel that is a small price to pay, and I'm willing to deal with it, and hope others will get wise and use the new bus service or carpool if they are too far to walk. (One of my kids said he'd be driving to school when he go to Monte Vista, and I said, "Over my dead body!")

Posted by Sue, a resident of Alamo
on Aug 3, 2012 at 6:42 pm

this is a crying shame. A bequethment with restrictions to the Salvation Army was ignored..that alone should have gone to the supreme court. If one can not put restricitions on estates and expect them to be followed it is a disgusting precedent. Not sure why some hungry lawyer didn't pick this up....

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