Tassajara Valley hearing postponed | March 7, 2008 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

Newsfront - March 7, 2008

Tassajara Valley hearing postponed

Agencies protest San Ramon study to annex 4,900 acres

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Concerned parties must wait for San Ramon's public hearing on its amendment to include the Tassajara Valley in its sphere of influence. The item was scheduled for the San Ramon City Council meeting March 11 but is being postponed until at least May or June.

"It's still on the council agenda for the 11th. The action is recommended to be continued," explained senior planner Lauren Barr. "We are responding to LAFCO's desire to wait until the Municipal Service Review is complete."

Anyone who shows up to speak to the item will be heard, he said, but no decision will be made.

The outcry was immediate when San Ramon released its Initial Study on Feb. 5 to put the 4,900-acre Tassajara Valley under its sphere of influence rather than the county's.

Danville Town Council members asked to meet with their counterparts in San Ramon to discuss the issue plus requested the 20-day deadline for comments from Danville and other neighboring agencies be extended past Feb. 25. The study was sent with other documents to the Danville Planning Department but neither to Town Council members nor to Town Manager Joe Calabrigo, who heard about it from a concerned resident several days after its release.

"We requested they extend the deadline but they chose not to," said Danville Mayor Candace Andersen. "At this point we are going to make sure we hear what happens."

If San Ramon is able to include the Tassajara Valley in its sphere of influence, the city's residents could vote as early as 2010 on whether or not to expand their urban growth boundary, explained Andersen. This could trump the county's urban limit line that voters passed in November 2006, which stops short of Tassajara Valley on the east side of Danville.

Danville wasn't the only agency to respond negatively to San Ramon's plans. The county's Local Agency Formation Committee (LAFCO), which decides whether San Ramon can extend its sphere of influence, said the environmental report was incomplete. While the study indicates no new development is contemplated, it also makes reference to future development, noted LAFCO executive officer Lou Ann Texeira.

"It appears that such development of the area, at land use intensities greater than those currently allowed, is likely to involve potentially significant environmental effects," Texeira wrote to Barr.

The Contra Costa County Community Development Department questioned San Ramon's conclusion that there would be no increased traffic in Tassajara Valley because the amendment does not approve any development.

"However, one of the City's stated reasons for pursuing the SOI expansion is to accommodate the City's future growth needs," wrote county Principal Planner Patrick Roche.

Danville stated in its letter to San Ramon that its Initial Study attempted "to 'tier' off of two previous environmental reports that did not analyze in detail the potential impacts of the Tassajara Valley."

"Inclusion of Tassajara Valley in the City's SOI is the first step in potentially allowing urban development as early as 2010, rather than in 2026, as envisioned by local and countywide voters," wrote Calabrigo. Such development would impact Danville as much as San Ramon, if not more.

Letters from environmental groups also pointed out the inadequacy of the environmental report.

If San Ramon changes its sphere of influence beyond the county's urban limit line, it could "actually serve as a precedent that may cause Contra Costa County's (urban limit line) to be broken," wrote Christina Wong, East Bay Field Representative of the Greenbelt Alliance. She concluded that her comments were preliminary given the limited amount of time given for the group to review the study.

Save Mount Diablo pointed out that the Tassajara Valley area is less than a mile from Mt. Diablo State Park, and it includes thousands of acres suitable for preservation. It also noted that applications have been submitted to the county for the 193-unit New Farm project and the 220-acre Creekside Memorial Park Cemetery in the Tassajara Valley.

Save Mount Diablo also raised the issue of water; homes in the rural area currently use well water and septic tanks.

"The New Farm proposal, for example, has been advertised as including water supplies wheeled from a Central Valley water district. Development even of simply the parcels that currently exist could have a significant impact on hydrology, let alone the introduction of new water supplies," was a comment from Save Mount Diablo.

The Alamo Creek project, 729 homes being built off Camino Tassajara between Danville and the Tassajara Valley, was also contentious with water being one issue.

"Danville was working with the developers originally and it intended to annex but then the developers did not particularly like the direction we wanted," recalled Mayor Andersen. "Danville would have preferred to see it developed at a much lower density."

Danville sued the county and received $1 million to spend on roads and additional land at Diablo Vista Middle School. Alamo Creek ended up receiving its water from EBMUD.