How high should Danville go? | September 12, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - September 12, 2008

How high should Danville go?

Officials discuss downtown design standards for new projects

by Geoff Gillette

A joint session of the Danville Town Council, Planning Commission and Design Review Board ended up in a long discussion on building heights when they met to look at design standards in the downtown. They met during the regular council meeting last week.

Town Manager Joe Calabrigo said it was a follow-up to a study session held July 1, where the three groups discussed several incoming projects and how the architectural and design standards needed to be examined.

"There was a feeling back in July that it was a prudent time to look at these things. What staff has attempted to do preparatory to this evening is to come back to you with some suggested revisions," Calabrigo said. Those revisions were based on feedback the staff received after the July study session.

Calabrigo and Associate Planner Catarina Kidd presented a list of changes to the standards, and members of the three entities talked about how they could be implemented in the downtown. The issue that sparked the most interest was building height.

Under existing ordinances buildings are required to be lower than 37 feet, but the current plan for the proposed Danville Hotel project calls for three stories.

Historically, the town has been opposed to any building over two stories. Planning Commissioner Bob Storer recalled that in the early 1980s when Contra Costa County approved the three-story Wells Fargo building on Diablo Road near Hartz Avenue, it sparked the incorporation effort that led to the formation of Danville

"We're very mindful of the reason we incorporated, and we're respectful of three-story buildings," Storer said.

Councilman Newell Arnerich said he felt there was room for discretion in this case.

"Objective standards are objective standards," he said. "If you want to do something different you ask for a variance. We created wiggle room language in order to give incentive to sell properties and reinvest in Danville."

But Councilman Mike Doyle disagreed.

"No wiggle room," he declared. "I don't care if it's my mother. Two stories and that's it. No maybe, just no."

Mayor Candace Andersen said she wants to see applications looked at carefully before any decisions are made but was not willing to dismiss any plan before they had a chance to see how it would mesh with the rest of the downtown.

The three groups discussed the issue for more than half an hour when Calabrigo suggested they send the ordinance back to staff for fine tuning.

"Before we go further we need to decide if the ordinance is the right vehicle to do this," Calabrigo said.

Members agreed that the ordinance would be the correct way to go and sent it back to staff to examine their feedback from the joint session and decide how best to implement it.

After the meeting, Andersen said she felt they made good progress and will end up with something that will benefit the downtown.

"We want to make sure the design standards reflect the nature of the town," she said. "Not cookie cutter, but compatible."

Andersen said the town walks a delicate balance, working to grow the downtown while at the same time maintaining its unique character.

"We don't want to be Walnut Creek. We don't want tall buildings and national chains," she said. "We have a unique, vibrant small town atmosphere that we don't want to change."

Storer agreed, saying, "It's absolutely essential in the downtown for good architecture and good project planning."

Calabrigo said earlier this week that staff members are working on the ideas generated at the joint session and he is hopeful they will be able to begin moving an updated municipal code through the groups for their approval. He said if all goes well, the ordinance could get to the council level by year's end.


Like this comment
Posted by Downtown Resident
a resident of Danville
on Sep 16, 2008 at 2:02 pm

The people supporting building higher than the current standard obviously do not live in downtown. Right now, I can look outside of my bedroom window and see Mount Diablo. If the current plan for the Danville Hotel goes forward, that view will be eliminated.

Rest assured that I will seek compensation for this loss. I am not going to eat the cost of lower property values in order to satisfy the town council's greed.

Like this comment
Posted by Just me
a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2008 at 4:48 pm

If you want someone to stop getting high, you must say, "Get down with your bad self!" Of course it is difficult to get the attention of a building and to conduct a rational conversation.

Just me

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Sep 17, 2008 at 9:40 am

Prehaps instead of posting here, where no one of consequence will read of your valid concerns, you should attend a Planning Commission or Town Council meeting in person, and be direct. The agendas are posted in advance, by law, so you can always know what will be discussed at a particular meeting. Chances are good you are not the only resident with this opinion.

Like this comment
Posted by Just me
a resident of another community
on Sep 17, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Dear observer,

Clearly, any good citizen of our county and communities needs to participate because no media coverage contains the depth necessary to fully understand regional and local issues. But I must challenge the concept that being heard at the planning commission or town council is the same as having impact on the decisions of those groups. Evidence illustrates that Danville commissions are gatekeepers for the town council and town council decisions seldom reflect resident or neighborhood consideration.

As a result, we can see why counsel is our voice too often with councils and their commissions quite uncommitted to our neighborhoods.

Just me