Danville Express

Perspective - August 31, 2007

Our scenic highway

Ever notice the California golden poppy signs on I-680? They mean it's an officially designated Scenic Highway, under the state's program of the same name that began in 1963. The goal of the program is to preserve the natural beauty of California.

Interstate 680 was designated scenic in two stretches. The first, from Mission Boulevard in Fremont to the Alameda-Contra Costa County line, is a 20-mile segment. Its brief description is: "This well-placed freeway features wooded hillsides and valleys."

The Contra Costa stretch that goes through Danville and Alamo is 14 miles long and ends at the Highway 24 interchange in Walnut Creek. It received its Scenic Highway designation Oct. 22, 1982, and is described: "This suburban freeway provides views of 3,849-foot-high Mt. Diablo."

Our stretch of scenic 680 is up for evaluation before the end of December since it was last reviewed in 2001. Development along the corridor could affect the designation depending on how significant the visual impacts are, according to the Caltrans.

Assessments include three visual concepts:

* Vividness - Is the landscape memorable?

* Intactness - Are the views free from intrusions? No more than one-third of a proposed scenic highway can be impacted by major intrusions.

* Unity - Are intrusions in visual harmony with the natural landscape?

Danville has one remaining undeveloped section visible from the freeway, south of Sycamore Valley Road, adjacent to San Ramon Valley Boulevard. The Elworthy project is being planned for this former ranchland, 96 units on 12 acres between Fountain Springs Circle and Midland Way. The remainder of the 459-acre parcel is being purchased by East Bay Regional Park District.

The Scenic Highway designation is not just to recognize beautiful highways, it is to encourage local governments to preserve the natural scenery. We trust the Danville development will fit the guidelines, using natural landscaping, wide setbacks, and colors and materials compatible with the environment.

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