The town of Danville is currently seeking public comments regarding the initiation of an environmental impact report for the Magee Ranches development, a housing project proposed for an oft-debated site near Diablo Country Club.
The proposed development by applicant Davidon Homes for the 69-unit project in the Diablo Road/Blackhawk Road corridor is the second attempt to build on the site, the prior having been stalled by a lawsuit.
The EIR will be revised to address concerns brought up in that lawsuit, and in comments from "responsible and trustee agencies and interested parties concerning the scope of issues to be addressed in the revised draft EIR," according to the notice of preparation (NOP) released by the town of Danville. The town in its position as lead agency will be preparing the revised draft EIR.
Comments are due by Oct. 2, a timeframe that was extended from an initial Sept. 18 deadline.
Davidon Homes proposes to develop 69 single-family homes and seven attached secondary dwelling units on about 30 acres of land -- a small portion of a parcel that totals approximately 410 acres and is currently used for beef cattle operations. The site is bounded by Diablo and Blackhawk roads to the north and McCauley Road to the west and is situated in the midst of single-family residential neighborhoods.
The site was first slated for development in 2010, when SummerHill Homes proposed the development of 85 residential lots. The developer eventually reducied that number to 69, as the project evolved and in light of comments received on their draft EIR.
In May 2013, town officials approved the project. But several weeks later, environmental advocacy group Save Open Space-Danville (SOS-Danville sued the town to challenge the project approvals, alleging that the EIR didn't adequately address traffic impact, bicycle safety, pedestrian safety, the California red-legged frog, emergency access, safety evacuation, flooding, erosion and siltation, among other environmental concerns.
The group also stated that the development should have triggered Measure S, which limits development on agricultural land and requires voter approval by ballot measure in order to move the development forward. They argued that Danville residents have the right to vote on whether to allow clustered residential development on open space land designated for agricultural use.
A year later, a Contra Costa County judge ruled that rezoning without a general plan amendment to change the agricultural land use designation was improper. The judge denied all but the bicycle safety concerns put forward by SOS-Danville.
The town appealed the county court's decision, however, and in 2015, the First District Court of Appeal reversed the previous ruling that the town had acted improperly in rezoning without a general plan amendment, stating that the state's Planning and Zoning Law does not require the project to be completely aligned with the General Plan.
The appellate court did, however, agree with the county court's ruling that Danville had violated state environmental law by not adequately addressing the proposed development's impact on bicycle safety.
In light of this ruling, in March 2016 the town of Danville was ordered by a county judge to rescind its previous approval of the SummerHill Homes development and reconsider the project only after conducting a full public analysis of the potential bicycle safety impacts of the proposal.
In February, Davidon Homes became the project applicant after SummerHill Homes bowed out of developing the site, also proposing a total of 69 residential lots. The project would rezone the entire 410-acre property to a new planned unit development district -- previously, the land was zoned as an agricultural preserve district, general agricultural district and planned unit development district.
According to the recently released NOP, the new proposed project differs from the previous one outlined in the 2013 EIR in a few key manners: 1) the 69 clustered residential lots would be situated upon about 23 acres, 2) a new 100 by 100-foot corral would be built near Diablo Road to replace an existing corral that would be eliminated by the project, in order to maintain cattle grazing operations persisting on most of the project site and 3) each single family residence unit would include an electric vehicle charger.
The revised draft EIR will also specifically address the impact of the project on bicycle safety in its traffic analysis, according to the NOP.
SOS-Danville, however, still has concerns.
In particular, the advocates want the town to address the project's potential to increase flooding risks in the Diablo Road corridor: they state that the culvert under Diablo Road just east of Alameda Diablo doesn't have the necessary capacity to transport stormwater flows during very large storms, citing data from a draft County Flood Control Department hydrology study.
"That means that the project, which will increase the duration of peak flows during major storms, would increase the back-up and overflow of stormwater at the culvert, flooding roads, bridges, and property both upstream and downstream," said Maryann Cella, a spokeswoman for SOS-Danville.
The group also requests that bike safety continue to be a priority for the council, pointing to a Diablo Road sector between Green Valley Road and Avenida Nueva that "was never improved as specified in a 1994 town of Danville road improvement contract," Cella said.
"Rather than 12 feet wide lanes with 2 feet aggregate shoulders on each side per the contract's specifications, that road section has no shoulders and has lanes only in the range of 10 and 11 feet at many points along that 1 1/2 mile stretch," she added.
"SOS-Danville will be asking that the new DEIR consider the actual -- not theoretical -- conditions of the road when evaluating bicycle safety and traffic circulation impacts because the actual road is rarely ever wide enough, with sight lines sufficient, for a car/truck/school bus to safely pass a bicyclist," Cella said.
Comments on the NOP can be sent to David Crompton, principal planner, via mail at 510 La Gonday Way, Danville, CA 94526, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.