DanvilleSanRamon.com

Perspective - August 10, 2007

Taking in the view

Danville passes an ordinance to prevent homes being built on a ridgeline. The Planning Commission cites the ordinance when someone applies to build on a ridgeline and the Town Council backs it up. A county judge says the town didn't have enough evidence to deny plans for the 7,000-square-foot home and orders the Council to take another look at the application.

County voters pass Measure J in 2004 and Measure L in 2006 to stop towns and cities from expanding into farmlands and open space. Along comes the New Farm project, touted as "rural residential" rather than "urban development," to be located in Tassajara Valley. The county Board of Supervisors votes 4-1 to allow the $1 million study of the project.

What is wrong with these pictures? In both cases, the law sought to limit housing to certain spaces, to protect our natural ridgelines and our open spaces. In both cases, developers came up with ways to circumvent those intentions to get housing where they want it.

The ridgelines ordinance was not intended to stop wealthy people from fulfilling their dreams of building homes on hilltops with views. It was meant to preserve everyone else's views as they look up at the ridgelines. The urban limit line is not a matter of residents wanting to close the doors after they are already contentedly living in Contra Costa County. Rather it is to encourage fill-in development and smart growth, building near existing transportation and infrastructure rather than developing in the hinterlands and then requiring new roads and services.

Just what do we have to do to preserve our views and contain development in existing urban areas? It's apparently not enough to make laws. We must remain on the alert for judges who do not consider hillside ordinances binding and supervisors who OK studies that might find loopholes rather than worrying about voters' intentions.

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