Danville Express

Perspective - September 7, 2007

Guest opinion: Save the Urban Limit Line

by Beverly Lane

Recently many of us read the news that the Board of Supervisors agreed to study a General Plan Amendment for possible changes outside the new Urban Limit Line (ULL). During their discussion, the Supervisors said things like, "It's just a study," and "It won't cost the County anything to study."

I am astonished at their action. Last November voters approved an urban limit line (Measure L) which was placed on the ballot by the Board after years of discussion. The Board urged voters to approve the line and made a commitment to protect the rural character of the Tassajara Valley. In Measure L the Board made provision for an Urban Limit Line review in 2011. Why didn't they simply say to the applicant, "This is premature - the voters have just approved the line"?

This proposal would allow development of 770 acres in the Tassajara Valley. The developer could construct 193 clustered dwelling units including some affordable housing. If that isn't urban development, what is? Since some of the land is preserved for open space, the developer calls it the bizarre name "New Farm."

The proposed study would examine a possible new land use designation, "rural mixed-use." If adopted, it would apply to the entire county, not just the Tassajara Valley. And it would open wide the door to vast changes in the Urban Limit Line. This possible new land use designation was not requested by the public, the Board or by county staff; it was solicited by an attorney representing the Tassajara Valley landowner.

The county staff report stated "contrary to the term 'rural residential' as used in the county General Plan, the proposed clustering of residential development would actually be quite urban in nature because the actual residential density results in approximately 3.9 units to the acre." This is deemed an urban land use in the General Plan. Staff also pointed out that this proposal "could effectively and dramatically alter the rural and open space/agricultural landscape now present along Camino Tassajara."

The Board of Supervisors, led by the San Ramon Valley's Supervisor, who is chairwoman, supported this study in a 4-1 vote. This decision breaks faith with the voters. It is a shocking turn-around for a Board which has supported open space in the past. Authorizing the study prematurely opens the door to urbanizing rural areas outside the Urban Limit Line.

There is no reason for the Board to open up the Urban Limit Line to study or for any other reason. The Board should reconsider and rescind its decision. Calling it a "New Farm" does not make it so.

Beverly Lane is a director of the East Bay Regional Park District, and was a member of the Danville Town Council from 1982-93, also serving as mayor. She is an Open Space and Smart Growth advocate.


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