Affordable housing is not only a good idea for Danville. It's also the law.
That's according to Dianne Spaulding, executive director of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California. The organization works with both profit and nonprofit builders, to create affordable housing.
Despite what she called "legitimate concerns" about an increase in crime, traffic and lower property values because of affordable housing, Spaulding said the opposite tends to happen when affordable housing comes into a community.
"That kind of rhetoric seems to me to be an outdated and stereotypical response to what affordable housing really is," Spaulding said. "There's tons of research that shows that crime doesn't rise, schools are better. The tide raises all boats. Giant towers of public housing -- that's not what they're going to build in Danville. They're going to build some beautiful houses and the community is going to get better."
She compared affordable hosing to schools and libraries, calling it a "community asset."
Spaulding added that pretty much everyone knows someone who lives in affordable housing, whether it's a young person just starting out, a senior citizen or someone with mental illness.
"We believe everyone deserves a home. Don't people want to live in a diverse, equitable community," she said. "In any community, no one, regardless of their status should have to pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent or for a mortgage."
Affordable housing may be more pricey in Danville than most people realize. Danville's median income, according to various sources, is about $130,000, and 30 percent of that is $39,000 a year. Contra Costa County's median income is $94,500, and 30 percent of that is $28,350.
Like it or not, Spaulding said, Danville has to obey state law, including Senate Bill 375 and Assembly Bill 32, which focus on reducing greenhouse gasses and creating transit-oriented housing.
"No local community likes to be handed a mandate from anyone. We all believe in local control," she said. "It's an imperfect system, but its the only one we have."
Two of those who have attended the recent public hearings on Danville's General plan update -- which is the center of all the recent protests about affordable housing -- said those who spoke are really just a very vocal, very small minority.
Cynthia Ruzzi, co-founder of Sustainable Danville Area, said those opponents who attended Planning Commission and Town Council meetings are a small minority of those who live in the town.
"There's an even smaller minority who have misconstrued the facts and have deceived the seniors into believing that this is going to become a big city," she said, adding that many of those at the recent meetings don't live in Danville, but instead come from as far away as San Jose.
Ruzzi noted that 18 students from San Ramon Valley High School spoke in favor of the General Plan amendments, while those opposed were "mocking them and being downright disrespectful."
"These meetings have been highjacked by the TEA party," she said. "They're complaining because they don't want our city to follow state rules. That's the equivalent to me saying (at a meeting) let's declare war on France."
Ruzzi said the crowd was essentially saying having less money makes one a criminal, adding, "That's just prejudice."
She said she understands the fears of many senior citizens at the meeting, including losing property value in a home they've lived in for decades. However, those same people should be concerned about where they'll go once they sell those homes.
"We have to have the housing available for those who are not going to have the income they had," Ruzzi said.
She added that young people, the people who are going to create new businesses for Danville, need to be able to live there as well, noting that neither her children nor County Supervisor Candace Anderson's children can afford to live in the town where they were raised.
John Chapman, a 26-year Danville resident, said he can sympathize with those who are frustrated by government.
Still, he said, "The town has to comply with state law. They don't understand the process. If they really want to be strategic, they should go to Sacramento and change the law."
Chapman, like Ruzzi, said the meetings have been taken over by a small minority from out of town.
"There was about 300 people there and I would guess that's less than 1 tenth of 1 percent of the population of Danville," Chapman said. "They have a number of grievances that bring them together. They're the unhappy children of our town."
Both he and Ruzzi said that most of the town's residents trust Danville's leaders to make the right decision, and because of that, many who support the General Plan update have stayed away from meetings.
The Town Council will host another public hearing on the draft 2030 General Plan update at its March 19 meeting. That meeting, like many public hearings before, will be held at the Community Center (420 Front Street) at 7:30 p.m.