Planning Commission tables Magee Ranch proposal

Applicant will come back with answers to traffic, erosion and hydrology questions

After over four hours of testimony at its Tuesday meeting, Danville's Planning Commission did not recommend that the Magee Ranch/SummerHill Homes project move to the next stage of development. The proposal would rezone and subdivide a 410-acre site at the southeast corner of Diablo and McCauley roads.

Sixty-nine single-family lots would be located on approximately 38 acres of the flatter portions of the site, avoiding the steeper slopes and ridges and leaving approximately 300 acres as permanent open space. The Commission had the opportunity to review the project's final environmental impact report (EIR) , recommend that the Town Council certify the document and approve the project, as well as determine whether approval would be subject to a public vote under Measure S. Commissioners tabled the decision May 14.

Traffic remained one of the biggest concerns, among both commissioners and residents who said the two-lane Diablo Road would be severely impacted. The development would add an addition 109 car trips in the morning commute hours and 59 in the evening, which Transportation Consultant Gary Black said would not be much of a noticeable change on the already congested road.

"This is a disaster. Traffic has been a problem out there since Magee Ranch went in and Blackhawk was developed. It is an existing condition, a very narrow road with a lot of people moving on it," said Commissioner Mark Graham. "It's a bad situation, but from all the statistical analysis that's been done, the numbers indicate that while it's a problem and it's always going to be a problem, adding a development in there doesn't show that it will be enough of a prob to not approve project."

Black and Danville's Community Development Director, Tai Williams, said traffic estimates for the project were conservative, with numbers collected for a 78-unit project instead of 69 units planned in SummerHill. Mitigation measures at the two intersections identified as being significantly impacted by traffic – Hidden Oaks Drive at Blackhawk Road and Diablo Road/Green Valley Road/McCauley Road – could be eased through installing traffic signals. SummerHill Homes' Wendi Baker said the developer would provide $1 million worth of intersection improvements to increase efficiency at the Diablo/Green Valley/McCauley intersection by 25 to 27 percent.

Commissioners were split on the thoroughness of traffic figures, as Commissioner Kerri Heusler felt satisfied by the "conservative criteria" but desired more assurance that the county would pay for part of a traffic signal, while Robert Combs asked SummerHill to come back with better traffic modeling and options for improved bicyclist safety.

Several attendees and members of local activist groups spoke about Measure S, which limits development on agricultural land and requires voter approval by ballot measure in order to move the development forward. In order to accommodate the development, portions of the site would need to be rezoned from A-4 (one home per 20 acres) and A-2 (one house per five acres) to clustered residential development (or P-1) to keep homes off hills and ridgelines.

One resident told the Commission that while she usually refrains from speaking up, she was afraid of becoming a "faceless email."

"I urge you to not approve the SummerHill project and implore you to not tread on my civil rights as a taxpaying citizen and prevent me from exercising my rights to vote on changing designations to agricultural land in Danville," she said.

Commissioners were also split on the legality of P-1 zoning. Alternate Commissioner Andrew Verriere said that while the issue isn't "as black and white as it possibly could be," Magee Ranch's designation as a special concern area in the 2010 General Plan makes clustered development a viable option.

"We had P-1 in the 2030 General Plan and it was quite clear that P-1 should not be there. It just comes down to simple fact that I think as much as I support the project, I can't support the project from a land use point of view," Commissioner Paul Radich said. "In my opinion this is not approved land use. I think there are some holes in the final EIR and a lot of questions need to be answered in regard to traffic."

Regardless of Measure S legality, several parks officials said they were pleased with the project. Brian Holt, senior planner for East Bay Regional Parks District, said he was pleased with the amount of open space protected in the development. Holt added that the SummerHill development would do a lot to expand the regional trail network.

The EIR also identified significant impacts to a variety of local wildlife -- including the Red Legged Frog, western pond turtle, burrowing owls, nesting raptors and migratory birds, as well as hydrology systems. Mitigation measures include compensating for approximately 0.8 acres of habitat. Planners also want to incorporate a detention basin, to be maintained by a geologic hazard abatement district, at the project outfall to capture storm water runoff and slowly meter it into Green Valley Creek.

Planners voted to continue the hearing on Magee Ranch/SummerHill Homes to an unspecified date, where issues of flood control, erosion, traffic modeling and clustered development will be readdressed.


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Posted by concerned resident
a resident of Danville
on Apr 25, 2013 at 9:04 am

Thank you, Commissioner Radich, for honoring Measure S and voters' rights. You have earned our respect! Commissioner Verriere needs to study the 2010 and the 2030 General Plans and tell us how P-1 residential development zoning snuck into the Ag. section on Tuesday night, mere weeks after the Commission and Town Council refused to add P-1 to the list of consistent Agricultural zonings in the 2030 General Plan.

I hope the other Commissioners follow Mr. Radich. Everyone, please email him ( to thank him!

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Los Cerros Middle School
on Apr 25, 2013 at 9:05 am

The citizen advocacy worked! I wish the reporting had mentioned how many attended this meeting to see the fruits of their labor. Now the next step in reclaiming our town is to look at the city council, our membership in groups such as ABAG, the MTC for starters and see how our elected leaders defer to outside agencies to tell us what is best for us.
My heartfelt congratulations to all those who worked so hard on getting the word out about the Magee Ranch/SummerHill Development and uncovered the end run our elected leaders tried to pull on us.

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Posted by Samantha
a resident of Danville
on Apr 25, 2013 at 9:36 am

Time to remove those members of the council who voted to bring in that "very LOW income" (entitlement mentality) dregs to beautiful Danville.

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Posted by Jim Jelincic
a resident of Danville
on Apr 25, 2013 at 11:47 am

Sent to Planning Commissioner Paul Radich,
I wanted to express my appreciation for the stance you took Tuesday night regarding the P1 zoning. I didn't know that anyone on the Planning Commission thought that way, so I was pleased to hear what you said about it. I know that it was a difficult position for you to take, but I believe it is the correct one.

I'm not a fan of clustering, but I do see the merits in trading it in exchange for the preservation of open spaces. More than that however is the need to preserve our faith in local government by honoring the spirit of Measure S. I think that the position that you took helped restore the hope in many of us that the Town will do the right thing.


Jim Jelincic

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Posted by Louise
a resident of Danville
on Apr 25, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Maybe, just maybe, our town council and commissioners are starting to listen to the voters and citizens who pay taxes. Only time will tell, because they put the decision off to a later date. I hope it's not to weaken the opposition to the Summerhill project. Just because some of the studies look correct or they believe they are, doesn't mean the will of the people should be ignored. People who live and work in the area have a right to oppose development and should be heard and supported by the people in power in the town.

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Posted by Sue
a resident of Danville
on Apr 25, 2013 at 1:38 pm

People who live and work in the area are probably there because of development...

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Posted by Mary
a resident of Danville
on Apr 25, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Traffic on Diablo Road is a real problem. Studies should include all
the peak school traffic,not just the elementary school hours!

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Posted by amazed resident
a resident of Danville
on Apr 27, 2013 at 1:24 pm

The Weber EIR said traffic had decreased from 2004 to 2009. The Summerhill EIR said traffic had decreased from 2010-2013. If we can just some more development, maybe we can get traffic reduced to a manageable level.

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Posted by fed up with traffic
a resident of Danville
on Apr 30, 2013 at 8:23 am

If traffic decreased from 2010-2013, it was because of the school buses. As we all know, the school buses are funded almost entirely by tax money, which can be reallocated any year to areas that have worse traffic. Dougherty Valley is still being built out, and will most likely be worse than the Diablo Road area in the coming years.

So when the EIR said traffic decreased, it was not reality---just a game being played to make it easier for SummerHill to build without having to do any costly mitigation. What a joke.

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Posted by government by the people
a resident of Danville
on Apr 30, 2013 at 8:38 am

Thank you to Commissioner Paul Radich. Now if those other Commissioners would please have the guts to follow Measure S, perhaps we the people might have a chance.

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Posted by Arlene
a resident of Diablo
on Apr 30, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Thanks to Commissioner Paul Radich for speaking out for Measure S and proper zoning!! ALSO - TRAFFIC IS A HUGE PROBLEM!!! It has not been adequately addressed in the EIR. The SummerHill project will SERIOUSLY affect all of us along the Diablo Road corridor. It will cause havoc with its excessive traffic on the already small and hazardous Diablo Road. If there were any emergency like a fire, etc., PEOPLE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO GET TO SAFETY.

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Posted by local cyclist
a resident of Danville
on Apr 30, 2013 at 10:11 pm

I like to bike to Mt. Diablo State Park, like many other cyclists in the area. I would like to see a SAFE bike lane added on either side of the road before any more developments are approved along Diablo/Blackhawk Roads. But the Town appears to be letting the developer get away without building ANY BIKE LANES!

And by the way, why is Save Mt. Diablo supporting this mess of a project that will endanger all of us bikers even more? That bunch obviously cares about views from the mountain more than the safety of cyclists.

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Posted by JT
a resident of Danville
on May 1, 2013 at 10:21 am

Good question regarding Save Mount Diablo's support. Perhaps all posters should spend some time to get to know them better and understand the history of development in this area, and why your beloved Diablo Road is not a four lane major access road supporting the planned "Blackhawk" development all the way from the Macedo Ranch to where it is today.

It is great that the proposal was tabled (temporarily), but in reality, the issue of improved traffic still remains. The issue of emergency road access still remains. The issue of the creek still remains. The issue of future development still remains. There is a lot to do and Save Mount Diablo is one of your most important allies. Donate / Join / Go on a hike; do something to make a difference everyday, like they have every day since the 1970's

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Posted by local resident
a resident of Danville
on May 1, 2013 at 1:31 pm

@JT: Save Mt. Diablo has become the opponent of the local residents on the SummerHill project. They used the public outcry to their advantage to get what they wanted, then went to the dark side to support the developer. They even had the audacity to say in a pro-SummerHill mailer they sent to over 1000 local residents that traffic is not an environmental issue. Duh, why is it the major issue in the Environmental Impact Report, then?

I for one would never give money or time to Save Mt. Diablo again. I now understand that they have used local opposition to other projects in the same way before, then actively opposed the local residents and supported the developer when they got their land donation.

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Posted by people first
a resident of Danville
on May 3, 2013 at 9:37 am

@local resident: I agree with you that so-called "environmental" organizations are sometimes anything but what they masquerade as. Consider the Greenbelt Alliance. That group sent a rep. to the Danville 2030 General Plan hearings to support ABAG's demands that more and more land in Danville be redesignated from commercial/office/single family to high density residential stack and pack designations. Stack and pack in Danville is not environmentally friendly.

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Posted by JT
a resident of Danville
on May 3, 2013 at 10:15 am

People can surely become myopic and misguided. You talk about traffic on Diablo Road being an environmental issue. In it most pressing sense to you, it is, in that it affects your "environment" of getting to and from your house. However, it is not in the sense that it is a pressing issue as it relates to land conservancy and the Magee Ranch proposal. Magee Ranch opponents engaged outside groups such as SMD, who generally make their comments as it relates to their perspective. You locals are the ones that have the most vested interest in the amount of traffic along that road. If that is the case do something about it. Start advocating for a solution beyond the Magee Ranch deal. Because the traffic sucks already, and you know it. And the Magee Ranch proposal is just the straw that broke the camels back. So get off you back sides, aleviate your fingers, and activate your voice... however I would wager that you won't do much else.

I have a great idea for you guys. As you know, Danville does not own the land, and as long as it is in the hands of a private party, you will be subjected to proposals by the owners to develop the property.
Why don't you refocus your group to raise funds, through solicited donations, and from groups like SMD, Danville, the CC HCP and others, to purchase the property. It is fairly easy to figure out a ballpark price. I am sure you can figure out how to do that.

So rev up your efforts and start figuring out how to buy the land!!!!

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Posted by just the facts
a resident of Danville
on May 3, 2013 at 12:19 pm

@jt: The land is worth one value as long as the Town agrees to flout the Measure S right to vote on development proposals for the Ag. designated portion; it is worth quite something else if the law is followed. If the developer couldn't bend the Town Council to its will, no one would need to buy the land. Not that many homes would ever be built there.

Regarding "environmental issues"---just read the EIR. You obviously don't understand what "environmental impact" legally means.

Regarding the need to work for a solution: SOS-Danville has been working on this matter for 2 1/2 years. We have just qualified a ballot measure here in Danville (3379 valid signatures) to compel the Town Council to follow Measure S, which the voters passed by 75% majority in 2000. We have spent 1000's of hours researching this project. It appears that your only activity is to disparage those that would challenge a proposal to change existing zonings for an open space parcel.

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Posted by SOS-Danville
a resident of Danville
on May 6, 2013 at 8:18 am

Next and likely FINAL DANVILLE PLANNING COMMISSION HEARING ON THE MAGEE RANCH PROPOSAL to put 66+ homes on Agricultural-designated Open Space land:


PLEASE COME! The Town Planning Commissioners need to see that you care enough to come to a meeting. If possible, please speak or at least submit a comment card. Tell the Commissioners that the impacts are so great that the project should be REJECTED, and that if they approve it, you are expecting to be given your Measure S right to vote on whether it can proceed.

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Posted by JT
a resident of Danville
on May 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Just the non-facts: Actually I quite understand what traffic impact has regarding EIR's. However, as I said, the locals that use Diablo Road everyday are the ones that have the most vested interest in traffic impacts and development along that road. But do you really think that NOT building 66 homes is going to make today's traffic better?

Regarding the value of the land, pre and post approvals. Of course that is true. My comment was made in hopes of encouraging you to consider leveraging the inertia you have created with SOS Danville and buy the land now, before something eventually gets approved... whether that be this year, or next year, or next decade or even 40 years from now.

Your arguments are traffic, impact on the creek, emergency access/safety, zoning changes requiring voter approval, and impacts to flora and fauna.
Let's consider these:

Creek impacts? Easy to mitigate with good design. (Analysis: This argument can be circumvented!)

Emergency safety: Easy to mitigate considering that the road is wide enough for three vehicles... and have you every witnessed how quickly people move over to the shoulder when police and fire sirens are blaring? Quite a thing to behold how considerate people become when screeching sirens beckon? (Analysis: This argument can be circumvented!)

Zoning Changes requiring a vote: The City of Danville already has taken a position to the contrary. And who is to say the city management themselves won't force through or initiate a change using legal precedent and access to lawyers. (Analysis: This argument can be circumvented!)

Traffic: I wonder what percentage additional traffic load as measured in wait times 66 homes would add to Diablo Road? Also, the city has access to planning and budgets every year. You don't think that over time and with increasing revenues they couldn't eventually approve a project to widen Diablo and Green Valley Roads for safety and traffic flow reasons? (Analysis: Over time this argument can be circumvented!)

Wildlife/Nature: Easy to mitigate. This area has been serving cattle for years and you can certainly argue that limiting the scope of the development to 66 homes and leaving the rest permanently as open space is a plus in the argument. And if there are some species issues found, there is ample precedent for using off site mitigation land banks to address these impacts, as well as good design. (Analysis: This argument can be circumvented!)

So your opposition to development of this land rests on arguments that ALL can be circumvented over time. So the net of this is, if you really don't want this land to be developed, ever, than you need to figure out how to buy it. Or you can never rest, because be rest assured, plans will continue to be hatched to develop this property... How about a cemetery? How about a vineyard with all the trees removed to maximize acreage? How about 10 monster homes with their own olive trees or vineyards, with all homes sited on the ridge tops to maximize their views? How about a development configuration that builds their own road that intersects with McCauley Road, so Diablo Road is bypassed?

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Posted by Seth Adams
a resident of Danville
on May 6, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Actually, Save Mount Diablo hasn't said anything about traffic except that we understand that the environmental and open space issues of the property aren't the only things that people care about. "They may be concerned about traffic for example. We understand that."

The reality of traffic however, which is many residents' major concern, is that this project will have very little effect compared to already approved but not built houses and commercial projects in Dougherty Valley and East Dublin.

What we did say in our mailing, is "Danville residents and the Town council will decide whether Magee Ranch is approved, based on a variety of issues. We believe the Magee Ranch project protects the important open space and environmental resources of this site. It is a good project from our perspective."

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Posted by JT
a resident of Danville
on May 7, 2013 at 10:28 am

@Seth... Agreed. If this is a chess match, checkmate is when the property is purchased for its protection. It would make a wonderful addition to the Sycamore Valley Regional Park...

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Posted by miSFit
a resident of Diablo
on May 8, 2013 at 10:22 am

Jeb has made it very clear he really doesn't care about Danville, he just wants to sell his land and get as much money as possible, hence the developers. He's never 'published' an asking price. So, Jeb, what's your price? How much do you want?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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