Danville council begins rescinding 69-home development approvals

Final ordinance adoption set for next month; bike-safety study to follow

The Danville Town Council has started the court-ordered process of rescinding its prior approvals of a proposed 69-home development on Magee Ranch land while the town completes a bicycle-impact study for the project.

The SummerHill Homes development, intended for part of a nearly 410-acre site in northeast Danville, was given the green light by the council in July 2013. But it has stalled amid litigation initiated by Save Open Space-Danville (SOS-Danville) that ultimately resulted in the courts determining the town failed to adequately analyze bike-safety impacts before endorsing the project.

With its unanimous votes after 20 minutes of public discussion with little fanfare Tuesday night, the council put the proposed development on hold and the previously-approved rezoning of the site on track to be nullified for the time being.

The town could reconsider the project proposal after completing and approving the bicycle-impact study and revised environmental impact report (EIR) for the development that would sit near the southeast corner of Diablo and McCauley roads.

Council members didn't offer comments about the litigation or the SummerHill Homes development -- other than to advance the recommended rescission process -- but they did hear from several SOS-Danville members and the owner of the project property in front of about a dozen attendees at the Town Meeting Hall on Tuesday.

Clelen Tanner, a cyclist and an SOS-Danville representative, urged the council to support bicycle safety on Diablo Road near the project site.

"One area, just a little north of 1968 Diablo Road, is blind to anyone on the east side of the road. You cannot see cars coming up," Tanner said, adding that the environmental advocacy group invited the council to the site "and none of you decided to come up."

According to Tanner, a proposed six- to eight-foot-wide bike lane is not sufficient for the area nor is a proposed crushed-gravel pathway as it is not ideal for road bicycles and strollers.

SOS-Danville contended that, along with several problems with proposed bike paths, the town's original EIR did not provide sufficient research on bicycle and vehicle traffic projections.

"There is going to have to be another car count," group representative Maryann Cella said, "because the counts that have already been done were done during peak times. Bicyclists are going at that time, but that is not the main time bicyclists are traveling the road."

Cella, a Diablo resident, added that the Mount Diablo State Park Rangers should be consulted while performing the count, saying they have "hard numbers going back many years."

Property owner Jed Magee focused some of his comments on the project component that required land at the site to be rezoned from agricultural preserve district to planned unit development (P-1) -- a move originally endorsed by the town that the court said must now be repealed.

The agricultural preserve marker should have been lifted in 2010 and automatically reverted to a general agricultural district zoning, according to Magee.

"I am here to ask the town to correct this oversight," Magee said, "so to be consistent with their own position -- this town's position. That position was also upheld by the appellant court. Over the years, we've hit a couple of bumps over things that should have been done and didn't get done. Now this is one of them."

The 2013 rezoning was a central issue in the original SOS-Danville lawsuit.

The council had approved the developer's request to rezone agricultural land at the site to P-1 to accommodate the housing project -- which, as previously approved, would have clustered the 69 single-family homes on approximately 38 acres and designated the remaining 372 acres as open space.

A Contra Costa County judge in July 2014 concurred with SOS-Danville that the town violated its general plan when it approved the rezone without first seeking a general plan amendment to change the agricultural land-use designation.

The state's First District Court of Appeal disagreed last September, reversing Superior Court Judge Steven K. Austin's decision and determining that Danville officials did not violate state planning law in their rezoning of the Magee Ranch site and that the move was consistent with the town's general plan.

The appellate court did uphold Austin's finding that the town failed to adequately study whether the development would have significant impacts on bicycle safety on Diablo Road.

Another county judge then ruled last month that town must rescind its prior project approvals and reconsider the developer's proposal after conducting a new bicycle-impact study.

Council members started that formal repeal process Tuesday night.

They approved a new resolution to aside their 2013 resolution that certified the original final EIR and approved preliminary and final development plan requests, a major subdivision request and a tree removal plan.

They then introduced a new ordinance to rescind the 2013 ordinance that endorsed the rezoning. The two-step process of adopting the new ordinance is set to be completed with a final approval vote May 3.

The town would then work to complete its bike-impact study for the project, a study that would be subject to public review and would be incorporated into a new final EIR, according to Danville city attorney Rob Ewing.

Town officials would need to hold public hearings on the updated EIR and the development proposal before taking final votes, according to Ewing, who said that timeline hasn't been set yet.

Kalama Hines is a freelance writer for Associate editor Jeremy Walsh contributed to this report.

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5 people like this
Posted by Arlene
a resident of Diablo
on Apr 21, 2016 at 7:14 am

A big THANK YOU to SOS Danville and everyone who helped to address the serious problem of bike safety on Diablo Road and to get the SummerHill Homes Development rescinded.

Like this comment
Posted by Tony
a resident of Danville
on Apr 21, 2016 at 8:21 am

Question: Does all of this mean that the owner can revert back to building homes on large lots on the hillsides? Or will it still require the Bike Safety study?

Like this comment
Posted by Tony's ?
a resident of Danville
on Apr 21, 2016 at 10:45 am

Yes, the builder could build large lots on the hillside, and if they are built individually, they would likely not require a bicycle study.

Or, it could try to get the project approved again and do the bicycle study.

1 person likes this
Posted by SOS-DANVILLE Group
a resident of Danville
on Apr 21, 2016 at 3:19 pm

@Tony: There is only one project under consideration, and that project could be reduced in size to mitigate its negative environmental impacts.A different project would require an entirely new development plan application and an Environmental Impact Report tailored to that new application.

It is in any developer's financial interest to build densely packed homes and not to try to spread them out on hillsides, which have limited development potential--- they are steep, slide-ridden, have springs, and in any case enjoy protection from Danville's Ridgeline and Hillside ordinances.

4 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Danville
on Apr 21, 2016 at 3:20 pm

There is a new housing development going up on Diablo 1/4 mile before Athenian. Is this the development in question? They have not stopped working and the homes are near completion.

Like this comment
Posted by J.J.
a resident of Danville
on Apr 22, 2016 at 9:03 pm

Answer to David's question, no. That development was approved several years ago and has been in the works since the former owner of the land passed away. There will be five homes on the 3 acres.

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

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