News

Residents appeal commission's approval of 150 apartments on Diablo Road

Timetable uncertain for when Town Council will debate project

The Danville Town Council is set to weigh in on a proposed 150-apartment complex on Diablo Road just outside downtown after a group of residents last week appealed the Planning Commission's approval of the project.

The eight-page appeal, submitted on behalf of five residents and an organization called Danville Citizens for Responsible Growth, leads by arguing the commission improperly applied a "use-by-right" determination and California Environmental Quality Act exemption for the project.

"The previous environmental impact report is therefore not sufficient for this project due to exceeding the allowable zoning restrictions with respect to density," they wrote in their appeal letter filed last Thursday, one day before the deadline to challenge the commission's Feb. 28 approval.

The appellants also argue the town did not adequately analyze potential impacts the project would have on the San Ramon Creek and surrounding habitat, traffic, pedestrian and bicycle safety, and air quality.

Those impacts "could be significant and should be studied and mitigated or avoided," according to the appeal, which in addition to the responsible growth group lists Danville residents Julie Glaser, Kirsten Muzinich, Michelle Harris, Ram Namburi and Liz Harvey as the appellants.

The apartment complex proposed by property owner Danville Office Partners, LLC, will now head to the Town Council for consideration. The Planning Commission's 5-0 decision would have stood as the town's final approval of the development proposal if not appealed.

Danville town officials have not yet scheduled when the appeal will go before the council, but city attorney Rob Ewing said the earliest the hearing could be is April 18.

The project proposal calls for 150 apartments in three separate buildings at three stories tall on a 3.68-acre site with a multifamily residential land-use designation at 373-383 Diablo Road, adjacent to the Interstate 680 southbound on-ramp just west of the freeway.

The property, which currently contains two-story office buildings from the 1970s, was one of two sites in the town to secure a new multifamily land-use designation through the 2030 General Plan approval in recognition of the regional housing needs allocation shortfall identified in the town's 2007-14 Housing Element, according to town staff.

As proposed, the apartments would not sit right along Diablo Road, instead being set back behind roadside office buildings. Parking would be a combination of ground-level and basement parking.

Many commissioners expressed lackluster support for the apartment complex Feb. 28 but were steadfast in concluding they were legally obligated, based on state and town development rules, to approve the proposal that drew ire from dozens of residents at a pair of commission meetings this year.

Citizen complaints during the public hearings ranged from issues such as increased traffic, school impact, public safety, parking, emergency access, complex size and tree removal.

The project approvals now remain on hold in the wake of the residents' appeal.

Another variable still affecting the development is a legal dispute between Danville Office Partners, LLC and a neighbor challenging the apartments, centered on a set of private covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) affecting the project property and two neighboring parcels -- the Heritage Bank and Cabrita Trust properties -- that prohibits residential uses on any of the three parcels.

Ewing told the commissioners Feb. 28 that the private legal dispute shouldn't factor into their decision about whether the project should be approved as having met town development standards.

Comments

43 people like this
Posted by Treetopper
a resident of Danville
on Mar 16, 2017 at 7:01 am

It's been awhile since I've made any comments on what's going on around town, but..

I believe that the Planning Commission's approval of this project creates a very dangerous precedent. Of course, it is only a couple of feet higher than is allowed. If approved by the Town Council, the precedent stands as a general exception. The next project that comes along may only be a couple of feet higher than the Diablo Rd project. Another exception, right? And so on, and so on, and so on. Starting to sound like Walnut Creek, yes? If the Town Council approves this project, they will be doing a great dis-service to the fine folks of Danville; the people who voted them into office. I’ve always stood behind the decisions made by our council, even in spite of the monstrosities they have allowed in town (the vet’s hall, the Danville hotel, the work in process across from Lundardi’s. All of which distracts from the “small town charm” that the council brags about. I realize that Danville cannot survive in a vacuum and that the town must be somewhat progressive if it is to exist, but….. this is going too far. Kudos to the Danville Citizens for Responsible Growth; perhaps the can stop the wrecking ball from swinging.


10 people like this
Posted by suspicious
a resident of Danville
on Mar 16, 2017 at 8:41 am

Better start raising money now for the lawsuit.

Very strange that the Council wouldn't have had decide whether to approved the project unless someone appealed the PC decision. Seems like a rule imposed in this case so the Council could pretend at some future time that it had never approved the project.


4 people like this
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Danville
on Mar 16, 2017 at 9:26 am

@Treetopper: with respect to height, per the staff report, that is a bonus mandated by state law because of the inclusion of a certain number of low income units in the project. It is not an exception the town agreed to, and does not change the current height maximum.

@suspicious: this is the standard way all planning applications proceed. If there is not a legislative element (like enacting an amendment to the municipal code or changing zoning), the planning commission makes the final determination absent an appeal. That is pretty much constant for all cities throughout the state.


9 people like this
Posted by suspicious
a resident of Danville
on Mar 20, 2017 at 10:57 am

@Huh?: Methinks you are Geoff Gillette, the Town of Danville's "information officer".
The Council essentially approved this project back in 2013 when it changed the land use designation on the involved parcels to high-density residential from office. The Council did not explain then what the full consequences of that change would be. The Council also refused to seek a reduction in the Regional Housing Needs Assessment given to Danville by the Association of Bay Area Governments, which the Council claimed "required" such a redesignation. A reduction could have resulted in a lower RHNA number, and a project more in keeping with Danville.


6 people like this
Posted by Kimberly
a resident of Danville
on Mar 20, 2017 at 2:13 pm

Suspicious- Geoff Gillette posts with his own name on behalf of the Town. Just because Huh? offers facts without knee jerk emotions doesn't mean he is the PIO in disguise. I take huh? to be an educated resident of this Town. We could use a few more of these types.


6 people like this
Posted by Geoff Gillette
a resident of Danville
on Mar 21, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Geoff Gillette is a registered user.

Good afternoon,

I want to take a moment and clarify a few matters that have been brought up.

@Suspicious - As Kimberly mentioned, when I post on here I post as myself on a registered account. That way I maintain accountability for anything I say on behalf of the Town, which I think is very important. I do the same on our Nextdoor social media account. On our Facebook and Twitter I post under the general title of Town of Danville etc.

Regarding your other concerns, I spoke with our Town Manager, City Attorney and Chief of Planning and wanted to address those as well. This is lengthy, sorry.

Suspicious: "The Council essentially approved this project back in 2013 when it changed the land use designation on the involved parcels to high-density residential from office."

Response: Whether or not a local community such as Danville designates land for higher density residential development, is not a strictly local decision. State Housing Law requires each of California’s 482 cities to undergo a Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process occurs every eight years (Danville is on its fourth such cycle since incorporation). The RHNA process is complex, requiring cities to designate land for housing based upon total numbers and by type (density).

As part of the 2030 General Plan Update in 2013, the Town was required to identify a minimum of 8.75 acres that could be designated for Residential – High/Medium and Residential/High density uses, at densities of up to 30 units per acre. After considering 15 different site options, the Town Council designated the minimum 8.75 acres. The Diablo Road site under review is one of the two sites that was redesignated for this purpose.


Suspicious: "The Council did not explain then what the full consequences of that change would be."

Response: Actually, there was extensive discussion during the General Plan Update regarding how the state-mandated RHNA numbers are translated to local reality, and how this process has been managed by Danville since incorporation in 1982. This included discussion regarding potential state-mandated density bonus provisions that could apply, as well as the rezoning and development review processes that would need to occur before any development could occur. There was also considerable discussion at those meetings regarding why the sites selected best met the requirements without changing the character of our single family residential neighborhoods


Suspicious: "The Council also refused to seek a reduction in the Regional Housing Needs Assessment given to Danville by the Association of Bay Area Governments, which the Council claimed "required" such a redesignation. A reduction could have resulted in a lower RHNA number, and a project more in keeping with Danville"

Response: The Town was actively engaged throughout the RHNA process and successfully negotiated with the State Department of Housing and Community Development to reduce the total amount of acreage required to be designated for residential high density use, and reduce the applicable densities required by 5 units per acre.

Danville also worked to keep the Town’s total RHNA numbers as low as possible based upon local conditions and comparisons with numbers assigned to the other 18 cities in Contra Costa County.

Once actual development proposals are received, the Town also applies an extensive architectural review process to ensure that our local design standards are met.


Suspicious, if you have further questions, you are more than welcome to reach out to us. You are also encouraged to attend the Town Council sessions about the appeal. It hasn't been agendized yet, but right now we believe it will be mid-April. If you can't make the meetings (or missed the Planning Commission meetings) you can find video of the meetings online so you can view the proceedings and hear all of the discussion that went into the decision. You can find those at Web Link

Hope this helps.

Thanks
Geoff

Geoff Gillette
Public Information Coordinator
Town of Danville
(925) 314-3336
e-mail: ggillette@danville.ca.gov


7 people like this
Posted by William Roberts
a resident of Danville
on Mar 21, 2017 at 2:09 pm

See you court Geoff! :)


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