Danville officials rail against Diablo Road apartment proposal

Mayor Doyle: 'There will never be a three-story building as long as I have anything to say about it.'

In front of a crowded dais including the Danville Town Council, Planning Commission and Design Review Board, plus about 20 members of the community in the audience, representatives from ROEM Development Corp. pitched their plans for a large apartment complex just outside downtown Tuesday evening.

There were no final decisions made, though, as the joint meeting was strictly a study session where members of the dais could provide early insight regarding the plans.

And their feedback was far from favorable.

Pointing to issues with appearance, size, parking and landscaping, among others aspects, the dais directed few positives toward the current plans for a new three-story, 150-unit apartment complex on Diablo Road adjacent to the southbound Interstate 680 on-ramp.

"This (plan) is not appropriate for Danville," Councilman Newell Arnerich said Tuesday night at the Town Meeting Hall. "I would put (the plan) down as a written program and throw away the drawings."

Though the 12-member dais praised past work of ROEM, they deemed the developer's latest proposal as wholly inadequate for the town.

The development has been proposed for a 3.74-acre parcel located at 373-383 Diablo Road.

The site currently contains two-story office buildings and is located just west of the freeway. The apartments would not sit right along Diablo Road, rather they'd be set back behind roadside buildings with tenants such as Heritage Bank of Commerce, American Packaging Capital and Bank of America Mortgage.

The proposal calls for 150 rental apartments, with 13 intended to be below market rate (BMR) housing, according to ROEM.

The affordable-housing component was a key issue addressed by the dais -- 13 BMR units, they felt, was too few.

To reach 150 units overall, ROEM requested a 34% "density bonus" to allow38 units more than the 112 allowed for the site under town zoning regulations. All members of the three-part dias agreed that the density bonus should allow for more BMR units in ROEM's project, allowing more people who work in Danville to live in Danville.

A significant concern addressed, more so than the number of BMR units, was the aesthetics of the building. From the "block" layout -- a single building as opposed to a grouping of several smaller ones -- to the three-story design, the proposal drew criticisms accusing the plans of being "urban" and not in accordance with the town's existing "rural" appearance.

As is, the plans call for a three-level structure with varying heights, as the developers felt the look would better match the surrounding architecture.

As Mayor Mike Doyle put it, however, a three-story structure is not in the town's plans.

"We vehemently fought the three-story (plan for) the Danville Hotel," Doyle said. "And it would be an insult, and I don't intend to insult, the Danville Hotel or the Baldacci family by allowing a three-story structure in town."

Doyle's sentiments were reiterated by Arnerich, who said that the only three-story buildings currently located in the Danville were constructed prior to the town's incorporation in 1982.

Another concern echoed by the entire dais had to do with a lack of "visitor parking" -- only nine overflow spots. Planning commissioner Robert Combs made the request that underground parking be added to the designs, with aesthetics as well as density, in mind.

Under the current bowl-shape design concept, parking would be at or above street level. Adding in sub-level parking, according to the dais, would allow for more stalls -- solving the issue of limited visitor parking -- and allow the development itself to take on the more rural, multi-part design befitting its surroundings.

Underground parking could also assist in remedying another issue town officials saw with the current plan: a lack of proposed landscaping.

The dais agreed that the written plan's disregard for landscaping modifications was a gross miscalculation, as the plans state the current landscaping and screening is sufficient.

Arnerich in particular disagreed, saying that his own single-family home includes more landscaping than can currently be found on the Diablo Road property.

Another issue voiced by the dais was the lack of plans for a walking bridge from the property, across a nearby creek and over to downtown Danville. The representatives from ROEM Corp. agreed that a bridge would benefit the prospective property as well as its renters.

There were no public comments made by the citizens in the audience Tuesday night.

After about an hour of public discussion, the plans for the nearly four-acre apartment development on Diablo Road were given a reset.

Despite the lauding of ROEM's past of excellent sustainability and neighborly presence, the dais sent the plans back to the drawing board due to, among other reasons, the 37-foot tall three-story concept.

As Doyle said to close the discussion, "There will never be a three-story building (in the town of Danville) as long as I have anything to say about it."

In other business

* The council, during its regular meeting after the joint study session, directed staff to prepare a new fee-nexus study related to downtown parking in-lieu fees.

The study is intended to decide whether an increase to in lieu parking fees is needed, and if so what that increase would be, according to Town Manager Joe Calabrigo.

Properties in the downtown business district can meet their parking requirements in part by paying a fee to the town to cover the cost of providing additional public parking.

The rates stand at $3,500 for retail and $7,000 for all other land-uses, but those fee levels haven't been reviewed in at least two decades and could be well below the actual costs of providing parking downtown, according to Calabrigo.

The council held off on scheduling a discussion about whether to consider adopting an interim urgency moratorium on new land-uses within certain downtown areas to maintain the status quo and allow time for completion of the fee-nexus study, and a tangential parking assessment study.

* Council members gave initial support to proposed new smoking regulations that would prohibit smoking in all multifamily complexes of three units or more and expand all town smoking rules to also include marijuana and electronic smoking devices, such as e-cigarettes.

The new ordinance includes provisions to allow for designated smoking areas in multiple-family buildings under certain circumstances, mandate landlords to notify tenants of the town's new smoking regulations and require "no smoking" signs to be posted in common areas where smoking is prohibited.

Lori Garcia was present to speak on behalf of the American Cancer Society in support of the ordinance.

The second reading and final approval of the ordinance is set for Nov. 17. It would take effect 30 days after approval.

* In his briefing of the town's Maintenance Services Department, director Jed Johnson pointed to the efforts made to prepare for a pending El Nino, cleaning 516 drain inlets along with inspection of all creeks and ditches.

The department also removed 11 instances of graffiti on public property, repaired and painted the gazebo at Hap Magee Ranch Park and replaced the HVAC unit at the Village Theatre and HVAC compressor at the Veterans Memorial Building.

* Emergency services manager Jeff Hebel provided a brief discussion regarding FEMA compliance in response to a "post-Napa analysis" of disaster readiness. An update to the town's plan is required, according to Hebel, in order to keep the town of Danville in position for a maximum reimbursement in the case of a natural disaster.

Hebel said he would gather more information at a disaster readiness convention he will attend in December.

* Doyle presented Barbara Chavez, chairperson for Hospice of the East Bay Tree of Lights, with a proclamation declaring November as National Hospice/Palliative Care Month in the town of Danville. Chavez will be hosting a ceremonial tree-lighting in support of patient care at the Town Meeting Hall on Nov. 13 at 5:30 p.m.

Kalama Hines is a freelance writer for

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17 people like this
Posted by Kate
a resident of Danville
on Nov 5, 2015 at 7:52 am

Thank you, Mayor Doyle! I hope this encourages others to appreciate the charm and beauty of Danville, instead of the financial gain and eye sore provided by such structures. With that being said, we'd also appreciate the Town and Planning Department to have the same stance on homeowners who submit plans to build second stories onto their homes that negatively impact the lifestyle of their next door/back door neighbors.

7 people like this
Posted by collins
a resident of Danville
on Nov 5, 2015 at 12:16 pm

I am glad to hear that Mayor Doyle and others are against this. I have attended many Town meetings in the past about similar plans, and realize the pressure to build more high density in our lovely Town. Thanks for having integrity, something which is in short supply lately.

5 people like this
Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on Nov 5, 2015 at 12:28 pm

I do believe hell has just frozen over.

2 people like this
Posted by Herman Glates
a resident of Danville
on Nov 5, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Herman Glates is a registered user.


Keep the riff raff out.

19 people like this
Posted by Not Fooled
a resident of Danville
on Nov 5, 2015 at 1:19 pm

LOL! The meeting should have been held at the Village Theater. This was all a stage show to make us think the Council is "fighting for the people". Please don't be fooled by these actors. Read the fine print. All that is in question is the landscaping, the proportion of the 150 units that will be low-income---not the huge total number!---, and parking details.

You see, the Town Council's actions way back in 2013 are the reason this proposal will have to be approved eventually---with some window-dressing landscaping and a few more parking spots being the Council's "victory" for people. Back in 2013, the Town Council CHANGED THE LAND USE DESIGNATION FOR THESE PARCELS FROM OFFICE TO HIGH-DENSITY RESIDENTIAL when the Council passed the 2030 General Plan over the objections of thousands of people that showed up to the hearings week after week. The change from office to residential allowed the offices to be torn down and replaced with up to 150 or so units, which is exactly what the developer is asking for and is going to get.

SO what used to be offices for people who now live in Danville to work in, won't exist and those people will now have to commute to wherever their offices have been relocated (likely other cities, since office space is short in Danville). Yet the Council claims this housing is needed for people who work in Danville! Duh---if you keep demolishing offices, there will be no where to work in Danville except at the restaurants!

Notice there is no issue about the incredibly high number of base units nor of the huge "density bonus" enabling the developer to build 150 apartments. That's because the Council already gave the developer the right to build that many. Here's what the article says: "150 units overall, ROEM requested a 34% "density bonus" to allow 38 units more than the 112 allowed for the site under town zoning regulations. All members of the three-part dias agreed that the density bonus should allow for more BMR units in ROEM's project, allowing more people who work in Danville to live in Danville." You see, the only issue is how many of the 150 will be low-income, not the huge total number!

Mike Doyle makes me laugh! The only time he has paid attention in the last several years is apparently this one obviously pre-planned statement about not allowing 3 stories in Danville. Mike didn't pay any attention as he was approving developments for Open Space (by KB Homes and SummerHill Homes on Elworthy Ranch and Magee Ranch, respectively) and he missed all but the final hearing on the 2030 General Plan, which is what gives Roem the right to build this huge development. It must be approved eventually. Mike needs to take a look at the Danville Hotel Complex, which obviously has a 3 -story segment. And that whole complex might as well be 3 stories because it dwarfs all other buildings in Danville. Please, Mike, it's time to retire and let someone that will work for the people take your spot.

Let's look at the other messes Mike and the Council have recently approved. "Quail Ridge" KB Homes 100-unit development on Elworthy Ranch along SRV Blvd. is an out and out eyesore covering what used to be beautiful Ag. Open Space land. The Council approved a 33% density bonus for that project just like they are planning on for ROEM's project. KB got to build dozens more of its hideous monolithic structures. The same thing is about to happen on Magee Ranch Open Space once the Town completes a revised EIR to comply with the CA Court of Appeal decision against it in the SOS-Danville lawsuit. That's the only thing that can derail the Council---winning a lawsuit. And the Council will spend whatever it takes to defeat the public. In the SOS-Danville suit the trial court ruled that the Council had illegally manipulated the Danville General Plan to circumvent a required public vote on the SummerHill development. The Council continued spending tens of thousands more to get a Court of Appeal ruling that overturned the trial court and said the Council had discretion to manipulate the General Plan to avoid the public vote. Of course, the Council will choose not to grant the public vote when the court-ordered revised EIR is finished and new hearings are held.

BTW, Arnerich's, Doyle's, and Morgan's Council terms are up in 2016. Next November, please don't be fooled by the grandstanding they did Tuesday night. They are all in the developers' pockets and not ours. This is just the first of many similar projects that are going to alter the Danville ambience permanently.

7 people like this
Posted by C. R. Mudgeon
a resident of Danville
on Nov 5, 2015 at 4:43 pm

"Not fooled" probably has the most accurate assessment of the Council's feedback on the proposal. In the end, the proposal will be improved somewhat, in terms of being limited to 2-stories, more landscaping, and some other accommodations. But the basic parameters will be the same - 150 units, or fairly close to it, with somewhat more of them being smaller, to be more affordable. Probably ROEM understood all along that they were going to be publicly "scolded" at the meeting, and came in with some "known to be objectionable" parts of the plan that they were already prepared to give up. Both ROEM and the council probably have a good idea already as to what the final version will be, but understand the political value of having a little song-and-dance along the way...

In the end, there are some good arguments to be made for having at least somewhat more affordable housing in Danville, and that location is probably as good as any. But at the same time, it pays to be at least a little cynical, when observing the town council's interactions with developers...

2 people like this
Posted by Peter Kluget
a resident of Danville
on Nov 6, 2015 at 11:17 am

Having read "The Art of the Deal" back in the 1980's I have to agree with CRM's analysis. The proposal looks a lot like a stalking horse.

I also agree that that location is probably better than just about anywhere else in Town for affordable housing. So, you can fling accusations and stamp your pretty little feet, but my guess is that in a few years there's going to be 150 units in a two story design located on that parcel. The Counsel's jurisdiction is constrained by state law; they'll cut the best deal they can but they can't really prevent it just because some folks want to "keep the riff raff out."

3 people like this
Posted by Anthony
a resident of Danville
on Nov 6, 2015 at 2:58 pm

I'm actually not opposed to the apartments; however. the Town Council grandstanding is really bothering me. If you look at the Danville Hotel Development with the shops having very high ceilings the entire structure feels like a three story building and I vaguely remember that they were allowed to go above standards. I'd be interested to know the height of the top point of the Danville Hotel Complex vs the proposal made by the Apartment Developer.I'll bet they're pretty darn close to the same height.
Something doesn't feel right, almost like a bad cop/good cop routine.

2 people like this
Posted by frankly
a resident of San Ramon
on Nov 11, 2015 at 6:11 am

Frankly, the more a City council jams in, the less healthy environment will be.
San Ramon Council just added 9,000 more units in their western hills NOW THE STATE WANTS TO DUMP MORE CARS ONTO SIDE ROADS.
to free up the freeway.

Beautiful stinking.

More is less in a narrow valley with one freeway running through its main area.

State is now enforcing a FEE BASED traffic lane to move traffic faster.

Oh yea. again the STINKING is more is really less.

Charge more, restrictive freeway lane PLUS FEE, TO drive quickly down the freeway.

THEN TELL COMMUNITIES along the freeway to accept more freeway traffic on its side roads which are narrow enough as it is.

THEN they say they will widen the side roads.

Which means, TAKE OUT A TON OF TREES TO PLEASE THE STATE who already cant handle the freeway MESS.

SO THE BEST approach is to make a bigger mess on side roads where there is little space where emergency vehicles need to pass, school buses, delivery trucks, utility trucks need to pass.

6 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Danville
on Nov 11, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Oh this is rich. The planning commission and city of Danville fighting a 3 story apartment complex.

Look at the new 'Danville Hotel'. Its atrocious! It looks like a 3 story monstrosity. And it has apartments / condos on top. So why the grandstanding on this development.

The Danville hotel is a joke and an eyesore for the town. And what cultural addition to the town adding chain retailers to the shops. The only ones that can afford the bloated rent and 5 year term leases. Great. The only store open is a $10 gift card store.

Get off your high horse City of Danville. You failed the Danville Hotel development so you have no moral authority on this project.

7 people like this
Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on Nov 11, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Amen brother George. I would also note (and to Anthony as well) that if you look at the upper part of the Hotel Bluto complex from Railroad Avenue, it appears there is a small third story section in the very middle. Or is it supposed to be some architectural "touch"? Either way, it is beyond the alleged height restrictions. "The City of Danville - Making Up the Rules As We Go Along".

Like this comment
Posted by dbrower
a resident of Alamo
on Nov 12, 2015 at 9:48 pm

FWIW, the new Danville Hotel complex doesn't look quite as bad and looming as it did when it was behind the green fences.

Underground parking at that site seems dubious, given the proximity of the creek and where the water table is likely to be. Multiple buildings makes more sense than a monolith decorated to look like rowhouses.

What is really needed is double-deck parking at the clock-tower lot.

When is there going to be some motion on the orchard property by Fostoria? That's the last lucrative plot noted in one of the older master plans.

Like this comment
Posted by Did I say that Outloud
a resident of Danville
on Nov 17, 2015 at 12:56 pm

And all I can hear is:

"Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot"

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

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