Guest opinion: Valley may lose Planning Commission | July 10, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Perspective - July 10, 2009

Guest opinion: Valley may lose Planning Commission

by Grace Schmidt

There has been recent talk, sparked by Contra Costa County, about an Alamo MAC - a County-appointed Municipal Advisory Council of seven Alamo residents who would advise the County about land use, roads, planning, parks and beautification in Alamo.

The MAC would be supported by office staff of the District III County Supervisor, and all MAC information and communications would go through that staff. The MAC, as an entity, would not be allowed to represent itself to any organizations except County government and LAFCO. It would have no authority.

At the same time, there has been little talk about the San Ramon Valley Regional Planning Commission - the existing, County-appointed body of seven San Ramon Valley residents, including three from Alamo, who review land use and planning applications and issues in the unincorporated Valley.

Unlike the MAC, the Planning Community has authority. It makes decisions about Alamo developments and subdivisions; it makes the only legally required recommendation to the County Board of Supervisors on re-zoning and changes to the General Plan for Alamo; and it is legally obliged to notice neighboring properties about development applications. It is staffed by professional planners.

Now the County has made a recommendation to eliminate the San Ramon Valley Regional Planning Commission. But doing away with the Regional Commission and its inherent authority will create a power void in Alamo that the MAC, with no authority, cannot fill. So, if the County follows through with its recommendation, which institutions or interest groups will likely fill the void?

Candidates are the County and those developers who share the County's need for new revenues from new development. Their newly enhanced power would extend to Alamo zoning, commercial development, residential lot sizes, and the County General Plan for Alamo. Also at risk would be roads in Alamo that offer opportunities for traffic mitigation, which is needed to justify new development in other unincorporated areas.

Currently, the fate of the Commission will be discussed at a Board of Supervisors meeting within weeks - no date is set so far.

If Alamo residents want to keep the Regional Planning Commission, they need to send their message to the Board of Supervisors now - to the District 3 County Supervisor at 820-8683, or to all five supervisors at the office of the Clerk of the Board at 335-1900. Otherwise, the authority of the Commission will be ceded to the County Planning Commission - seven countywide residents, including just two from the San Ramon Valley, and none from Alamo. The County Commission, taking a more remote view, might well support new development over sustainable property values of existing development, and conceivably value regional traffic flow over the iconic, tree-canopied beauty of Danville Boulevard.

In its own self-interest, Alamo needs to be talking about the San Ramon Valley Regional Planning Commission, not just about the MAC.

Grace Schmidt is a 24-year resident of Alamo, a former Congressional District 10 Field Representative, and was a candidate for Alamo Town Council.