Sixty-nine new homes will be built along Diablo Road on the Magee Ranch property after town officials approved development plans Tuesday night.
Plans to develop the 410-acre site at the southeast corner of Diablo and McCauley roads are more than two years in the making and the cause of much concern among residents, bicyclists and slow-growth advocates. Tuesday's Town Council meeting, in which councilmembers certified the final environmental impact report and final development plan request, ran until 2 a.m.
"You'd think that with the firestorm I started with the development application...I was the black plague on Danville," said property owner Jed Magee. "For 64 years we've used 100 percent of the property to grow beef. Now, hat in hand, we're asking for approval to use 9 percent to grow homes."
Council approved 69 single-family, single story homes are slated for approximately 38 acres of the flatter portions of the site, avoiding the steeper slopes and ridges and leaving 372 acres as permanent open space. The Council decided not to approve a Planning Commission recommendation to remove three lots on the eastern portion of the site at McCauley Road.
"This might be the most sensitive project proposed in Danville's history," Seth Adams, land programs director for Save Mt. Diablo, said. "Worst case scenario for us is that someone acquires this property and proposes something much worse."
Staff continued to respond to concerns about traffic along Diablo Road -- which has a total capacity of 3,000 cars and is regularly backed up for several light cycles. Using the most conservative estimates, Community Development Director Tai Williams said the development will add 949 daily trips to the corridor -- 109 during the morning commute, 98 during the school p.m. commute and 80 car trips during the evening commute.
Traffic will also be eased by re-striping lanes at the intersection of Green Valley and Diablo roads. The intersection has a single left turn lane, two through lanes and one right turn lane which back up approximately 1/3 mile and takes 5 to 8 minutes to pass through. The approved SummerHill plan would extend the second through lane to 270 feet, adding about 210 feet of storage capacity to the westbound movement and reducing drive time by 25 to 27 percent.
Williams added that developers SummerHill Homes will be required to set aside a fund for residents to purchase TRAFFIX bus passes -- a school bus/traffic congestion relief program -- to create "a culture of ridership."
Summerhill isn't buying TRAFFIX passes (and you may want to include a description of what TRAFFIX is since gauging by the comments, not a lot of people understand what it is), they are setting aside a fund to be used for residents to purchase passes.
The majority of resident comments on Tuesday night came from bicyclists, many of whom advocated for widening Diablo Road. Previous requests to widen the road by eight feet were deemed too significant an impact as it would require the construction of new retaining walls, culvert widening, creek realignment, the removal of mature trees, removal of 6,000 cubic yards of soil and 36 utility poles.
"I fear for my life and the life of other cyclists because of all the newly licensed drivers form Monte Vista," said resident and bicyclist Janet Orgill. "What is at 6 a.m. a scenic corridor, at other times of the day is a real safety problem."
Cyclist Gail Fugere added that the town should educate both drivers and bicyclists on road safety.
Diablo Road is a popular path for cyclists headed to Mount Diablo and Councilmembers expressed frustration at those that ride several people abreast or ride outside the white shoulder line. Jody Galvin, a long-time resident of Ramona Road tearfully questioned suggestions to close Diablo to cyclists.
"I drive that road and have seen friends killed on that road...If the community of Diablo closes to cyclists, how does the town of Danville and Diablo feel about incurring more deaths on that road? Cycling is a part of the community no matter where you go," she said. "I've been yelled at, thrown things at, I wear my helmet. I'm just afraid you're going to see more kids dying, more adults dying in cars and cycling."
As a compromise, SummerHill will build an asphalt trail on the eastern portion of the development from Blackhawk Road and Jillian Way, snaking along the creek and out to Diablo Road west of Mount Diablo Scenic. From there, Principal Planner David Crompton said the town will build the rest of the trail headed west. An easement from Blackhawk Road to Sycamore Valley Park will also be dedicated to the East Bay Regional Parks District.
Conditions of approval added by the Town Council are as follows:
* The Geological Hazard Abatement District must report to the Town Council quarterly on storm water maintenance
* All homes must be wired for solar power
* A fence must be constructed around the water detention basin
* At least two solar powered radar safety signs must be installed along Diablo Road
* SummerHill must fund $30,000 worth of TRAFFIX passes for development residents
*An application to get a roadway easement along Diablo Road, which would allow the town of Danville right of way if it were to eventually widen the road.
* Construction delivery must not occur during peak school commute hours
* Design of entry monument sign and retaining walls.
Staff was directed to further discuss construction delivery hours and find a solution that wouldn't cause hardship to developers, Crompton said.
Town officials are legally required to read the Magee Ranch/SummerHill Homes development ordinance twice and the final reading will be held on July 2. There will be no public hearing on the development during this meeting.
In the meantime, engineers will prepare detailed plans, a final development map and construction timing, which might take about six month Crompton said. Grading may begin next spring if plans move quickly, he added.