News

County holds scoping session on Tassajara Valley development

Opponents say project conflicts with general plan

Contra Costa County's department of planning and conservation held a scoping session on Monday afternoon to address concerns about the New Farm Project, a rural mixed-use development in Tassajara Valley. New Farm has been on the county's register since 2007 and has been hotly contested ever since.

"The purpose of the scoping session is to find a starting point from which to analyze what are the public and agency's concerns for this project," said John Oborne, senior planner with the county. "We haven't started anything yet in terms of analyzing environmental impacts."

Applicants FTC Land has proposed using 771 acres of land along Camino Tassajara east of Danville to develop 187 residential units and cultivate olive trees. The project would preserve open space and wetlands, providing community gardens and staging areas for trails, but also calls for the creation of a community center and cemetery/mortuary. Other plans include an agricultural learning annex to serve local students, a religious worship facility and a fire training facility.

No county officials expressed concern over the project at Monday's scoping session but two conservation groups, Save Mount Diablo and Greenbelt Alliance, said the New Farm Project would be inconsistent with the county's general plan.

"Their concern was…that this would conflict with the county general plan and its policies regarding developments outside the urban limit line. They were also concerned with the extension of urban services outside of the urban limit line," Oborne said.

While the board of supervisors is tasked with the extension of services to the Tassajara Valley, the General Plan 2020 discourages developments outside the urban limit line. In 2010, members of Greenbelt Alliance submitted New Farm plans to law firm Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger to determine the legality of the proposed development.

"It is our legal opinion that the proposed New Farm Project is inconsistent with numerous provisions of the General Plan, including provisions adopted by voter initiative," said a letter from the firm. "Because the project proposes development and extension of urban services beyond the County's urban limit line, its approval may constitute noncompliance with Measure J's growth management requirements…this project may jeopardize the County's receipt of sales tax revenue pursuant to Measure J."

The firm continued that, if the project were approved, a petitioner could present a strong argument that New Farm violates state and local law. Matt Vander Sluis, senior field representative for Greenbelt Alliance, said his organization intends to work closely with lawyers and the county to make sure the project does not get approved.

"(The New Farm Project) will have devastating effects on traffic pollution and drinking water supplies. It would open the floodgates for massive developments on lands that voters have repeatedly decided are off limits for development," he said.

In their initial analysis of the site, Greenbelt Alliance determined that New Farm would add 1,700 daily trips to Camino Tassajara and pave over important agricultural lands. This, Vander Sluis said, would decrease the quality of life for everyone in the Tassajara Valley and beyond.

Oborne did not comment on whether development in Tassajara Valley held particular interest to the county, but said that the planning department must process the New Farm application like any other.

"We're going to focus on quite a few things, such as general plan consistency, provision of water and sewer, potential for growth inducing impacts, compatibility between urban and agricultural uses. This and other things would be sought out and investigated in the environmental impact report," he said.

No date has been set for the beginning of the environmental impact report (EIR) process, though the county has already contracted with San Francisco based Circle Point to develop the report.

The Contra Costa County planning commission will hold at least two public hearings on the EIR once it is completed. For more information on the New Farm Project, visit the county website.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by [removed]
a resident of Alamo
on May 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Dear Editor,

Clearly, once sewers and water are established for development of Tassajara Valley, it will not be stopped by the temporary existance of olive trees. This continuing review against provisions of the urban limit line does challenge south county communities' residents to carefully consider who they want as supervisor during redistricting and 2012 elections.

With 19% of county homes distressed or vacant (Reuters 2011), the concept of more inventory with questionable sales value is a primary economic question for consideration BEFORE any further study is considered.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on May 18, 2011 at 8:21 am

I agree. If you want to preserve open space, there's a simple way to do that. LEAVE IT UNDEVELOPED.
BTW, are olive trees really native to our area?? Methinks not.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by psmacintosh
a resident of Danville
on May 18, 2011 at 9:12 am

"No date has been set for the beginning of the environmental impact report (EIR) process, though the county has already contracted with San Francisco based Circle Point to develop the report."

1. Wait a second! Who pays for the EIR? Hopefully not the county (ie, taxpayers).

2. If the New Farm project does not meet the legal requirements of the Gen Plan zoning, then why not rule on the project on that basis alone, without proceeding further to an EIR?

3. Does anyone know? The current (agricultural?) zoning allows for one house to be built on every how many acres? Is it 10 acres?
I'm trying to figure out how many EXTRA houses New Farm is trying to build (with how many extra estimated people and commuter trips) over what the voters previously approved? Right now, New Farm wants 187 houses on 771 acres (that equals 4 acres/house)--not that it is really intending to surround each house with that much space.
Think of all that extra traffic coming down to the freeways....and then more houses being built after that!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fed up with traffic
a resident of Diablo
on May 18, 2011 at 2:19 pm

New Farm will break the Urban Limit Line established by voters many years ago to prevent suburban sprawl in the Tassajara Valley (what is left of it). Current zoning in Tassajara Valley is one home per FIVE acres. It is not economically attractive to developers to develop massive numbers of 5 acre lots. Instead, "New Farm" will have 187 residential units (including some multi-family units)clustered on a small portion of the 771 acres that will be tied up. Most of the 771 acres will have some trees on them, hence the laughable name, "New Farm". In other words, New Farm is just a ploy to get suburban development into the Tassajara Valley against the CLEAR INTENT OF THE VOTER-APPROVED URBAN LIMIT LINE, which kept Tassajara Valley off-limits to suburban development.The Supervisor in charge of the Tassajara Valley, Mary Piepho, is supporting New Farm against the wishes of the San Ramon Valley population. Tom Koch, a well-known political operative that helped win Dougherty Valley develoment approval and helped Mary win her Supervisor election, is handling New Farm for the Jordanian businessman that owns the land. Mary is paying Tom back by ensuring the approval of New Farm. IF NEW FARM IS APPROVED, THOUSANDS MORE HOMES WILL EVENTUALLY BE BUILT IN THE TASSAJARA VALLEY USING THE SAME CONCEPT. In the 1990's, the Tassajara Valley Property Owners' Association proposed to build over 6000 homes there!! Fortunately, the voters approved an urban limit line beyond which no suburban-type lots could be developed. Now Mary is trying to undo that with the New Farm ploy. WE MUST FIGHT IT! Please come to the redistricting meeting next Thursday, May 26, at 7:00 at the Alamo Women's Club to show your support for a redistricting plan that will help us elect a supervisor that will follow the San Ramon Valley voters wishes!!! Or go on the County redistricting website and vote for REDISTRICTING CONCEPT #6!!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike McCormack
a resident of Danville
on May 18, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Once again, county supervisors and staff show complete disdain for the voters by moving forward with an analysis of the Urban Limit Line busting "New Scam" development. There should be one simple question asked of all proposals, "Is this outside the voter approved Urban Limit Line?" If the answer is "Yes, it is outside the Urban Limit Line," then the project does NOT get reviewed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Homeowner
a resident of Danville
on May 18, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Camino Tassajara is already a mini freeway. This project needs to be shut down and the people in office who are in favor of it voted out. If you want to see development gone wrong take a look at San Ramon.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on May 19, 2011 at 8:32 am

Mary Piepho's office is listed at 309 Diablo Rd here in Danville, and her number is 820-8683. She also has a Brentwood area number listed at
925-240-7260. If "fed up with traffic" is correct, we should flood her offices with phone calls. Better yet, perhaps a RE-call?
This type of over-running of the public's will is going to continue until we have elected officials that are true independents, or green party members. No dem, repub, or tea-loony will ever look out for the voters.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Patty
a resident of Danville
on May 19, 2011 at 11:45 am

Please Please what do you not get about "rural". There is wildlife out there trying to LIVE. How can you be building in a recession anyway!! We have housing out there empty already.
What is with our planning commission idiots! We are still fighting the houses being built off Diablo Rd by Summerhill Homes. Where do these idiots live? We already have enough TRAFFIC,TRAFFIC TRAFFIC and Overloaded schools(overcrowded is 30 in a class teachers would Love 20). Maybe if we repeat it over and over again they'll get it. STOP STOP STOP NOW !!!
Also when I lived off of Tassajara just past the Blackhawk Plaza they told me I didn't actually live in Danville. So our fight is with Contra Costa County.


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