http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2009/06/26/new-vets-hall-plans-what-happened-to-quaint


Danville Express

Perspective - June 26, 2009

New Vets Hall plans: What happened to "quaint"?

by Linda Stolow

Articles on the Vets Hall renovation have omitted a significant change for downtown: the removal of all the trees on the property to be replaced with new landscaping. The decision to remove every tree from the property comes as no surprise. The fact that they are mostly redwood trees, a species just recently been removed from the town's protected list, and just as much part of our downtown as the building itself, makes one wonder if we are trying to preserve anything of our past. Certainly the two trees closest to the corner would not be affected by construction since the front portion of the building's exterior is going to be maintained though there will be some changes.

The other consideration was the town's ability to ignore its own municipal code. The Danville Municipal Code pertaining to the Business District Area under setbacks states, "Front yard: 10-foot minimum from a public right of way. Side and rear yards: no minimum except on corner lots where there shall be a minimum 10-foot street side, side yard setback."

Part of the new section designated for the seniors totally ignores this and buts to the sidewalk. This section, a one-story building, will be extra tall due to high ceilings and will create a massive impact on Prospect Avenue, a street of little houses turned into retail shops. Prospector Square, a notable exception due to its size, is set back from the sidewalk allowing for lush landscaping to mitigate its impact. Additionally, Prospector Square has a delightful Victorian gingerbread style of great variety, unlike the slick glass facade that has been shown on the renderings of the Vets Hall that will be beside it. Do we need a contemporary building attached to our historical Vets Hall and built to the maximum that the lot will allow and then some? The total square footage will probably exceed the legal limits but the town will just can get a variance. After all it's for the good of the town - or is it?

Couldn't the architects be directed to get the exterior to coordinate better with the front section, which is being retained though two porches with French doors will be added and the handicap ramp removed. Yes, the building is a little basic and can be dolled up with brighter paint, some adornments and landscape but to go whole hog modern in a town that prides itself on "quaint"? Or do we?

There are moments when I think I am the only individual who is standing up voicing discontent much like the person in the story "The Emperor's New Clothes" who tells him he is naked when everyone else tells him he looks well-dressed. To make sure that no one misinterprets my arguments and my goals, I fully subscribe to the fact that this is a Vets Building first and foremost. Seniors are second in this equation and have been all along. I recognize that redwood trees are not native to this area and can become nuisance trees but that doesn't make them an automatic target. With a huge increase in the senior population looming on the horizon and a town far behind on senior services compared to other communities, this senior center will be undersized before it is built. Other choices are available to us.

Let's not wait until Prospect Avenue is full of cars parked up and down the street with handicapped placards jockeying for position closest to the Senior Center door. Handicapped placards mean that they can park indefinitely unlike the time limits for seniors and shoppers in the Front Street lot. Seniors will arrive earlier than shoppers and will take the majority of that parking lot. So once more we will have another downtown parking problem.

To those who depend on the Danville Weekly for details of this renovation as well as its impact and significance to our downtown, there is simply not enough room in a newspaper to cover every aspect of it. To be made further aware of what is happening, you can attend the Vets Hall meetings themselves or the senior meetings. Check the town calendar for dates, times and places. When these plans come to Design Review and Planning Commissions and finally Town Council, please come out and voice your opinions. Everyone needs to have a say in this project. This is your town as much as mine. I'm just here trying to look out for my fellow seniors who, unlike the veterans, had minimum representation.

Linda Stolow owns a downtown business, the Small Fry Shoppe, and is active in Discover Danville, as well as senior issues.

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