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Magee Ranch draft environmental impact report is 'inadequate,' residents say

Original post made on Jan 31, 2013

Danville's Planning Commission got an earful Tuesday night when approximately 100 residents attended a public hearing on the proposed Magee Ranch/SummerHill Homes project. The hearing was meant to gather input on the project's draft environmental impact report, which was available for a 60-day public review through Jan. 29.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, January 30, 2013, 5:06 PM

Comments (23)

Posted by JT, a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2013 at 7:16 am

Based on the fact there were many comments to the meeting notification article and that there are no comments on the aftermath article, it would appear that Summerhill and the Town Council won over the locals.
Is that the case?
And the article makes it appear that a vote is not required based on Measure S. Is that so?


Posted by SOS-Danville, a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2013 at 10:51 am

Thanks to the Danville Express for covering this important hearing. Our counts of attendance showed about 200.

@JT: The Town's statement that "Measure S is not triggered by zoning changes ...but rather on request for changes to land use designation on a General Plan" is the same misleading half-truth that it has proclaimed since the ill-conceived SummerHill project was first announced to the public.

Yes, SummerHill is asking for a rezoning to P-1, Planned Unit Development. But the General Plan does not allow P-1 zoning on Agricultural-designated land where SummerHill plans to build nearly all the homes (see p. 52 of the 2010 General Plan). State law requires that the zoning be one that is allowed on Agricultural land!So Danville legally must change the land use designation from Agricultural to Rural Residential, for example, before it can rezone the land to P-1. Rural Residential allows P-1 zoning. But that change in land use designation would directly invoke Measure S and the requirement for a public vote.

So the Town refuses to change the Agricultural land use designation, defying state law in its zeal to circumvent Measure S. The Town obviously wants to approve the SummerHill project but it does not want a vote on the project----it knows the public would vote it down because of its horrible environmental impacts--so it is willing to promulgate half-truths and defy State law to avoid a Measure S vote.

The Town is acting as SummerHill's and the landowner's ally, not the public's. As Bob Nealis succinctly put it, that is a "SHAMEFUL WAY TO RUN A TOWN."

And in answer to your other question, JT, the Town and special interests DID NOT WIN. We are not going away. We are proceeding with our SOS-Danville initiative petition (go to our website, sos-danville.com ,for more information). If necessary, we will referend the rezoning to P-1 and sue the Town to enforce Measure S.


Posted by George, a resident of Diablo
on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:17 am

Anyone who attempts to drive West on Diablo Road during school hours can see the potential hazard. If a fire or medical emergency occurs, it will already be difficult for emergency services to reach the homes and school for which Diablo Road is the only access route. Adding more residents with resulting increased traffic will compound this problem.


Posted by Kristen, a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2013 at 11:33 am

The Town of Danville (the developer friendly planning commission and council)continue to do as they please in regards to development regardless of laws and public opinion. As Danville residents, we should have a vote under Measure S as this development is a P-1 on land currently zoned for Agriculture use. In addition, residents have voiced or written their concerns about this project but the Town continues to pursue it. I believe they are just giving us "lip service" with their objections.


Posted by Erin, a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2013 at 12:18 pm

As was mentioned at the meeting, the EIR under represents the number of schools that are fed into by way of Blackhawk/Diablo Road. The EIR missed The Athenian School completely and mentioned only 4 schools. A speaker corrected that number to 7, but it was still misleading. There are 5 schools north on 680 that have commuters coming along this road. Carondelet and De La Salle are 2 of them. Students can not adjust their commute times to even out traffic patterns. In the morning alone Blackhawk Road has three types of traffic: manageable, a parking lot and the Serengeti when you can't enter the road from a side street at all. The only way to mitigate excess traffic is to reduce the number of cars on the road. This project would have the opposite affect.


Posted by Conservator, a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Team, it doesn't seem that suing the City (i.e City Hall) has ever produced anything of positive fruition unless you're the litigation attorney. In that case, the process can take a couple of years of motions and hearings, etc. which can actually be highly beneficial.

It seems clear that the SummerHill project is wanted like a root canal. However, let's recall. After Old Man Magee passed in 1985 (Web Link) his wife and descendants sold their properties in the area - at least as far as public record affords. Regardless, they made MONEY on what used to be grazing land for the old man's prized longhorns. At some point, enter in Marcus & Millichap, the parent company of SummerHill Homes and now they want to make MONEY. Likely, even more than Old Man Magee's descendants. The cycle of MONEY never really ceases. It just takes breaks once and awhile.

Seems to me if we are all so diatomically opposed to this project and ones similar, then we should bring a bond (yes, another measure), buy up all of this land with the MONEY raised and place it into a trust that can never by broken. Then, we could tell our descendants in the years to come that we did something to put an end to the cycle of MONEY for at least a small portion of our dear Valley. We could put our MONEY where our mouths are continually and then just all live happily ever after.

Why wouldn't this work?


Posted by diablodave, a resident of Diablo
on Jan 31, 2013 at 1:16 pm

diablodave is a registered user.

In response to Conservator...

A wise set of observations and I like the proposed solution as it is respectful of the property owners rights (they should be able to sell their land if they chose) and if the city were to purchase it and place it in a trust of some sort, the objective of open space preservation would be met.

However, the town of Danville is not interested in just the development fees but in the long term annuity they receive from the property taxes and ongoing sources of income that an expanded populace would provide far into the future.

If the town council and the planning commission were to ever act on behalf of the citizens - instead of being a shill for developers in their never ending search for income (because they want to be like San Ramon?!?) - they would look at alternatives to the Summerhill development instead of this single minded pursuit of development.

Finally, if it is controversial (as it is) and they think it is good for the town, why are they so afraid of putting it to a vote as required by Measure S? Because they are afraid it will be shot down and heaven forbid they be required to do what their voters want.

It is disgraceful that they don't listen to their constituents.


Posted by Very Frustrated, a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2013 at 2:06 pm

It is amazing to me that after several meetings and very clear opposition to this project that none of the Town Council Members has taken up the cause to stop this project.

At every turn the Council appears to turn a "blind eye" to the people they are suppose to represent. Not one council member. WHY????

I always thought money - but at the meeting on Tuesday we were told this project is revenue neutral - Really! Then why not stand with the people and oppose a clearly flawed project.

Why City COuncil? Why?


Posted by Concerned, a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Measure S was overwhelmingly passed over 10 years ago yet never have we Danville residence been asked to Vote on a single potential project.

If changing A4 agricultural land to cluster development does not qualify as a land use change then what does? I agree with Very Frustrated above it very much appears that we the citizens are getting railroaded. Clearly Measure S should apply. Clearly we should have the right to Vote. Why is the Council so afraid to have the citizens Vote?

I will tell you why because we would never approve it!!! The Council wants this project not the PEOPLE.

Council this is not right. The people of Danville deserve the right to Vote. Support the PEOPLE.


Posted by Disappointed, a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2013 at 2:36 pm

I have attended every meeting on this proposed development and not Once has anyone spoken out in favor of this project. Are those people holding their own meetings???? No, the overwhelming majority of Danville residents Oppose this project. Yet, our Town council members and Planning commission have held on to this proposal for over 2 1/2 years jumping through all the hoops to bring it to fruition. Who are they Working for??? One has to wonder. I also heard the chairwoman of the commission say this project is Revenue Neutral. Really? Really? Than why, if it makes no sense for our town would our commissioners want it to go through. Something fishy is going on here. I thought a Town council is supposed to represent the town's people. Stand united with us and do what's best for Danville.


Posted by What is up, a resident of Diablo
on Jan 31, 2013 at 2:50 pm

I was at this meeting--I did not hear 1 person speak in favor of the development. I would estimate at least 175 people there. The DEIR is a joke!!!! It does not address properly:

traffic
drainage
emergency response for fire, etc.


Posted by Stop the SHAM, a resident of Los Cerros Middle School
on Jan 31, 2013 at 2:54 pm

The Town hired a subpar DEIR consulting firm to do a woefully subpar job so that the Town could then approve a woefully subpar project. The conclusions were ridiculous----it is obvious to even a casual observer that adding the traffic from 70+homes to a highly congested area will have a significant impact! Yet the so-called "EIR" reported that there would not be. It is obvious to anyone familiar with the creek that it is flood-prone and highly eroded---yet the "DEIR" concluded that a mere detention basin with unknown management and funding will reduce the impacts on the creek to less than significant. It is obvious to a lay person that destroying the critical habitat for an endangered species will wipe it out in that area. Yet the project in essence concluded that the frogs can be given a map to a distant detention pond to repopulate themselves.

Come on, this whole project is a sham, a snowjob, and illegal. Let the people vote it down, as is their right! Shame on Danville's government!


Posted by Bob Nealis, a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2013 at 2:59 pm

There is no doubt that the Town council will not allow a Measure S vote on this development. More than half of the present members (Arnerich, Doyle and Morgan) are on record stating they will not allow a vote to occur. Further, they not only ran a joint campaign to win the election, but were soundly endorsed and supported by the remaining two sitting Council members (Storer and Stepper). So, the Council is well stocked with 5 faces, but one opinion. If in doubt, see the Danville Express publication which ran the story of the election last November. You will find photos the entire group of candidates and existing council members huddled around a computer eagerly viewing election result information.

But we need to look at the facts. What would a vote under Measure S really determine? The owners of the Magee property have a right to sell their land. Developers have a right to conduct their business. The simple issue here relates to the existing land use designation and the underlying zoning for that land. As agricultural land, development is allowed to occur at a rate of one home per 20 acres. This would yeild approximately 20 homes on the 400 acres of land under consideration.

The proposed development, negotiated with the town for more than two years, sits at 70 homes.

So, any vote under Measure S would simply address whether the land use designation and underlying zoning should be changed to allow the much higher density development. Let me be clear. The public's right to vote would only affect the number of home sites allowed to be developed, not cancel the development entirely. And, coincidentially, much of the feedback on the DEIR two nights ago focused on the significant impact of the large number of homes under consideration; particularly in the area of traffic.

It seems to me that a compromise of reducing the total number of homesites using the agricultural land use designation could be a win/win for everyone.

But, the arrogant insistance and strong body language from our Town Council members that this project will not be voted on by it's residents strongly suggests that they have long ago negotiated away your rights to control the correct size of this development. In other words, do not be surprised if at the conclusion of the public feedback process with the Planning Commission and then onto the Town Council, that this development will be allowed to proceed as submitted without any vote by Danvile residents.

Sorry for the lengthy post here. For the good of the order, below please find my entire statement presented to the Planning Commission last Tuesday. Makes for interesting reading as we discuss the merits of our Town Council's actions going forward on this subject.

"My name is Bob Nealis and I am a former candidate for Danville Town Council.

As I have made clear in past remarks and feedback, I am opposed to the blatant attempt to circumvent the rights of Danville voters pursuant to Measure S as it relates to the Summerhill project you are considering tonight.

I'd like to begin with a statement from leaders of our town. As you will hear, they clearly support our efforts of self-determination for the residents of Danville. The statement reads;

"The open spaces surrounding Danville define our small town character and enhance our outstanding quality of life. Preservation of open space has been a major goal since Danville's incorporation in 1982. Our park standards and open space dedication requirements are the highest in the county. A General Plan, carefully written for today and the future, reflects a broad-based community consensus.

Measure S, "The Danville Open Space Preservation Initiative", is an affirmation of the vision embodied by our General Plan. It designates 4000 acres - 40% of Danville - as Open Space, Agriculture, or Parks and Recreation, which represents almost all of the undeveloped land within Danville. Measure S preserves Danville's future by requiring voter approval to change ANY of those designations.

Let me repeat that sentence. Measure S preserves Danville's future by requiring voter approval to change ANY of those designations.

Measure S will preserve Open Space, Agriculture and Parks and Recreation lands.

Measure S is simple, straightforward, and legally defensible.

Measure S will protect the vision which has defined our community's history since its incorporation.

Measure S will enhance safeguards for the protection of open space and agricultural lands within our Town.

The Measure ensures that any change in these areas would have to be supported by the community.

Measure S is clear, concise, and effective. The voters of Danville deserve a measure that will protect this Town. Please join in the preservation of our community by voting Yes on Measure S."

End of quote.

That was written in the year 2000.

Co-authored by the then existing Danville Town Council members which included Newell Arnerich and Mike Doyle.

And, it was in support of Measure S which they wrote!

Now today they are on the record saying that Measure S simply does not apply in the conversion of agricultural land to a new zoning designation for the purposes of the Summerhill development.

Apparently the leaders of yesterday have changed their minds.

And that is a shameful way to run a Town and they should be embarrassed.

Hopefully, this Planning Commission will demonstrate what leadership is really about and adopt the changes that have been adequately expressed regarding the overall General Plan, particularly with respect to the proposed SummerHill development.

It is not only the fair, but right thing to do.

Thank you.


Mike Doyle, Danville Vice Mayor
Newell Arnerich, Danville Councilmember


Posted by Bob Nealis, a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Please disregard the post immediately above. The Arnerich and Doyle names have been placed at the appropriate location is the one below.


There is no doubt that the Town council will not allow a Measure S vote on this development. More than half of the present members (Arnerich, Doyle and Morgan) are on record stating they will not allow a vote to occur. Further, they not only ran a joint campaign to win the election, but were soundly endorsed and supported by the remaining two sitting Council members (Storer and Stepper). So, the Council is well stocked with 5 faces, but one opinion. If in doubt, see the Danville Express publication which ran the story of the election last November. You will find photos the entire group of candidates and existing council members huddled around a computer eagerly viewing election result information.

But we need to look at the facts. What would a vote under Measure S really determine? The owners of the Magee property have a right to sell their land. Developers have a right to conduct their business. The simple issue here relates to the existing land use designation and the underlying zoning for that land. As agricultural land, development is allowed to occur at a rate of one home per 20 acres. This would yeild approximately 20 homes on the 400 acres of land under consideration.

The proposed development, negotiated with the town for more than two years, sits at 70 homes.

So, any vote under Measure S would simply address whether the land use designation and underlying zoning should be changed to allow the much higher density development. Let me be clear. The public's right to vote would only affect the number of home sites allowed to be developed, not cancel the development entirely. And, coincidentially, much of the feedback on the DEIR two nights ago focused on the significant impact of the large number of homes under consideration; particularly in the area of traffic.

It seems to me that a compromise of reducing the total number of homesites using the agricultural land use designation could be a win/win for everyone.

But, the arrogant insistance and strong body language from our Town Council members that this project will not be voted on by it's residents strongly suggests that they have long ago negotiated away your rights to control the correct size of this development. In other words, do not be surprised if at the conclusion of the public feedback process with the Planning Commission and then onto the Town Council, that this development will be allowed to proceed as submitted without any vote by Danvile residents.

Sorry for the lengthy post here. For the good of the order, below please find my entire statement presented to the Planning Commission last Tuesday. Makes for interesting reading as we discuss the merits of our Town Council's actions going forward on this subject.

"My name is Bob Nealis and I am a former candidate for Danville Town Council.

As I have made clear in past remarks and feedback, I am opposed to the blatant attempt to circumvent the rights of Danville voters pursuant to Measure S as it relates to the Summerhill project you are considering tonight.

I'd like to begin with a statement from leaders of our town. As you will hear, they clearly support our efforts of self-determination for the residents of Danville. The statement reads;

"The open spaces surrounding Danville define our small town character and enhance our outstanding quality of life. Preservation of open space has been a major goal since Danville's incorporation in 1982. Our park standards and open space dedication requirements are the highest in the county. A General Plan, carefully written for today and the future, reflects a broad-based community consensus.

Measure S, "The Danville Open Space Preservation Initiative", is an affirmation of the vision embodied by our General Plan. It designates 4000 acres - 40% of Danville - as Open Space, Agriculture, or Parks and Recreation, which represents almost all of the undeveloped land within Danville. Measure S preserves Danville's future by requiring voter approval to change ANY of those designations.

Let me repeat that sentence. Measure S preserves Danville's future by requiring voter approval to change ANY of those designations.

Measure S will preserve Open Space, Agriculture and Parks and Recreation lands.

Measure S is simple, straightforward, and legally defensible.

Measure S will protect the vision which has defined our community's history since its incorporation.

Measure S will enhance safeguards for the protection of open space and agricultural lands within our Town.

The Measure ensures that any change in these areas would have to be supported by the community.

Measure S is clear, concise, and effective. The voters of Danville deserve a measure that will protect this Town. Please join in the preservation of our community by voting Yes on Measure S."

Mike Doyle, Danville Vice Mayor
Newell Arnerich, Danville Councilmember

End of quote.

That was written in the year 2000.

Co-authored by the then existing Danville Town Council members which included Newell Arnerich and Mike Doyle.

And, it was in support of Measure S which they wrote!

Now today they are on the record saying that Measure S simply does not apply in the conversion of agricultural land to a new zoning designation for the purposes of the Summerhill development.

Apparently the leaders of yesterday have changed their minds.

And that is a shameful way to run a Town and they should be embarrassed.

Hopefully, this Planning Commission will demonstrate what leadership is really about and adopt the changes that have been adequately expressed regarding the overall General Plan, particularly with respect to the proposed SummerHill development.

It is not only the fair, but right thing to do.

Thank you.




Posted by Danville resident, a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Too bad we didn't elect Nealis when we had the chance. If our City Council members continue down this path, maybe we should have a recall and put in someone who will actually listen to the voters.


Posted by Dave, a resident of Danville
on Feb 1, 2013 at 11:23 am

Traffic congestion along Diablo Road seems like the main problem on peoples' minds. I like the idea of the Town buying the Magee Ranch property. Perhaps a combination summer day camp for kids and outdoor education/hiking area would be a much better use of the property than a new housing development. An alternate use like that would likely cause far less traffic in the area.

Any other thoughts on alternate uses?


Posted by Derek, a resident of Danville
on Feb 1, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Has anyone seriously looked at a recall option? How these three a$$h@+s got elected/re-elected is an ongoing mystery to me, but Danville citizens have to realize that local officials get recalled every week across the U.S. It is not a rare occurrence.

For me Dave, living quite a ways from the proposed area of development, the big issue has always been open space. But I certainly understand the traffic concerns as well.


Posted by Terri Anderson, a resident of Danville
on Feb 1, 2013 at 10:56 pm

My husband and I went to the Enviornmental Report meeting on Wednesday night. The information was fantastic. I feel really impowered with what I learned. I hope the planning committee heard it too. How can they ignor the facts that were given by so many people? We have lived here since 1976 and seen a lot of growth...like more signal lights, more traffic,etc. We moved from Oakland and do not want to go back to that type of life. When the town incorporated there was a big emphasis on calling us the "town" of Danville. Please don't take away the town.


Posted by Dee Ablough, a resident of Blackhawk
on Feb 3, 2013 at 9:10 am

It's pretty clear that this is really about not widening Diablo/Blackhawk Road for the mile+ where it winds along, next to the Diablo enclave -- from Green Valley Rd to Mt. Diablo Scenic. From that point all the way to Camino Tass, it's obvious that the road was planned so that it could be easily widened to four official lanes. It would require some excavation and shoring of hillsides, and the taking of a few expensive homes -- nothing that hasn't been done a thousand times previously.

It's too bad we can't spend all this time and money building that necessary public improvement, instead of pretending to be concerned about creeks and salamanders and open space. How much would Summerhill kick into the kitty for that project?


Posted by Bill, a resident of Danville
on Feb 4, 2013 at 6:59 am

Another component to this push to have SummerHill become a reality is the involvement of outside unelected agencies that want to let you know they know what is best for Danville. Why our elected representatives capitulate to these folks is the real question. ABAG, MTC and now the combined One Bay Area are attempting to force Danville to march to their drum beat. See Web Link for more information. If Corte Madera can opt out of this social control experiment so can Danville.


Posted by get the facts, a resident of Los Cerros Middle School
on Feb 4, 2013 at 8:28 am

@Dee: The existing problems of flooding and erosion in Green Valley Creek are not "pretend", Dee. The entire swath of the creek downstream from SummerHill is in a FEMA flood zone. Erosion is so severe that the Town was forced to build up a portion of the bank so that Diablo Road wouldn't collapse into it. There are numerous privately-owned bridges over the creek---and even houses over it---that are threatened by the erosion and potential flooding. Did you know that Danville spent over $1 million rebuilding its bridge abutments at the W. El Pintado and Diablo Rd. intersections and its Woodbine footbridge because of severe erosion? Private owners must bear the costs of erosion and flooding themselves. The draft EIR for SummerHill totally ignored erosion impacts0---despite the COunty Flood Control Dept. insisting that they be analyzed--- and proposed a holding pond to detain floodwaters, yet didn't propose any funding or management for that pond.

Destruction of critical habitat for the endangered red-legged frog is not "pretend" either, Dee. The draft EIR's proposed mitigation for impacts on the frogs (the impact will be to wipe them out in the area) is to remove them when they are spotted---now that is what I call "pretend"!

Please don't talk about impacts you obviously know nothing about.


Posted by JT, a resident of Danville
on Feb 4, 2013 at 1:16 pm

People reading this forum, and those that have an interest in land use/open space issue, may want to consider joining / donating to Save Mount Diablo. They are a local and very effective land conservation organization that follows these types of issues very closely. Anyway, it is a thought to consider.


Posted by John, a resident of Danville
on Feb 4, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Maryann Cella & crew repost the same nonsense repeatedly under different names. Don't be fooled by the quantity of feedback, it's the same 2 people.


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