It was standing room only as people flooded into the San Ramon City Council chambers Tuesday night to discuss the cemetery project proposed for the Tassajara Valley.
City staff gave a five-minute presentation at the outset of a two-hour public discussion on the proposed layout for Creekside Memorial Cemetery, which would be located at 7000 Camino Tassajara and occupy 58.7 acres of an approximately 222-acre space in unincorporated Contra Costa County east of the San Ramon city limits.
The proposal from developer Sid Corrie calls for the project to include four outdoor mausoleums, one indoor mausoleum, an administrative office and chapel building, storage building, corporation yard and space for over 100,000 burial plots.
San Ramon Mayor Bill Clarkson and Vice Mayor Phil O'Loane said they conducted the public workshop to bring awareness to the cemetery project, but they emphasized that the proposal falls under the county's jurisdiction and is not an issue that the city of San Ramon has voting power over.
"Tearing down open space to give dead people a view makes absolutely no sense to me; this never struck me as a particularly good idea," O'Loane said, sharing his opinions on the project toward the end of the workshop.
More than a dozen citizen speakers took to the podium after the staff presentation and every person spoke in opposition of the cemetery.
Many speakers shared similar concerns, such as the impact on the environment and lack of water sources to sustain a large cemetery. The project as planned would require 45 acre-feet of water and the area is only equipped to produce about 27 acre-feet of water, according to the project's environmental impact report.
Tassajara Valley is currently a rustic, open space, and some residents are worried about the habitats of the wild animals that live on the land. The potentially negative impact on the air quality during and after construction was also addressed by speakers.
Some spoke from a real estate perspective and mentioned the possible decline in property value in surrounding neighborhoods, saying buyers may not want to live next to a cemetery and current residents might be prompted to move away.
"The notion of living right next to a graveyard brings about a negative energy, and if a lot of people think that way, it will turn off buyers and the existing residents will flush out," Windemere neighborhood resident Crystal Lu said.
Necessity was also discussed as residents mentioned there are cemeteries in neighboring cities that have burial space such as Roselawn and St. Michael cemeteries in Livermore and Queen of Heaven cemetery in Lafayette, among others.
The effects of a large cemetery on the youth of the Tassajara Valley was a talking point for some parents in attendance. The idea of funeral processions driving through school areas and increasing neighborhood traffic were described by speakers as "dangerous" and "psychologically damaging" for kids who walk, bike and play in the area.
"The proposed project is going to change the character of our community forever, because once the cemetery is put there it can never be moved, if it's a success or a failure. Whether there are 100 bodies or 100,000, it will always be there," Windemere resident, Ken Feinstein said. "There's beautiful farmland out there and they want to turn it into what I call, 'The Tassajara Valley of the Dead.'"
No representatives from the county or the developers attended the workshop to address the concerns of community members. Public hearings with the county are anticipated to take place in late summer or early fall of this year, but there are no dates scheduled as of yet.
O'Loane applauded those who were compelled to take action on an issue they felt strongly about and attended the meeting. "Public opposition is like a wave, if it keeps coming your elected officials are going to listen," he said.
To view the preliminary plans and the draft and final environmental impact reports, visit the county webpage.