In front of a crowded dais including the Danville Town Council, Planning Commission and Design Review Board, plus about 20 members of the community in the audience, representatives from ROEM Development Corp. pitched their plans for a large apartment complex just outside downtown Tuesday evening.
There were no final decisions made, though, as the joint meeting was strictly a study session where members of the dais could provide early insight regarding the plans.
And their feedback was far from favorable.
Pointing to issues with appearance, size, parking and landscaping, among others aspects, the dais directed few positives toward the current plans for a new three-story, 150-unit apartment complex on Diablo Road adjacent to the southbound Interstate 680 on-ramp.
"This (plan) is not appropriate for Danville," Councilman Newell Arnerich said Tuesday night at the Town Meeting Hall. "I would put (the plan) down as a written program and throw away the drawings."
Though the 12-member dais praised past work of ROEM, they deemed the developer's latest proposal as wholly inadequate for the town.
The development has been proposed for a 3.74-acre parcel located at 373-383 Diablo Road.
The site currently contains two-story office buildings and is located just west of the freeway. The apartments would not sit right along Diablo Road, rather they'd be set back behind roadside buildings with tenants such as Heritage Bank of Commerce, American Packaging Capital and Bank of America Mortgage.
The proposal calls for 150 rental apartments, with 13 intended to be below market rate (BMR) housing, according to ROEM.
The affordable-housing component was a key issue addressed by the dais -- 13 BMR units, they felt, was too few.
To reach 150 units overall, ROEM requested a 34% "density bonus" to allow38 units more than the 112 allowed for the site under town zoning regulations. All members of the three-part dias agreed that the density bonus should allow for more BMR units in ROEM's project, allowing more people who work in Danville to live in Danville.
A significant concern addressed, more so than the number of BMR units, was the aesthetics of the building. From the "block" layout -- a single building as opposed to a grouping of several smaller ones -- to the three-story design, the proposal drew criticisms accusing the plans of being "urban" and not in accordance with the town's existing "rural" appearance.
As is, the plans call for a three-level structure with varying heights, as the developers felt the look would better match the surrounding architecture.
As Mayor Mike Doyle put it, however, a three-story structure is not in the town's plans.
"We vehemently fought the three-story (plan for) the Danville Hotel," Doyle said. "And it would be an insult, and I don't intend to insult, the Danville Hotel or the Baldacci family by allowing a three-story structure in town."
Doyle's sentiments were reiterated by Arnerich, who said that the only three-story buildings currently located in the Danville were constructed prior to the town's incorporation in 1982.
Another concern echoed by the entire dais had to do with a lack of "visitor parking" -- only nine overflow spots. Planning commissioner Robert Combs made the request that underground parking be added to the designs, with aesthetics as well as density, in mind.
Under the current bowl-shape design concept, parking would be at or above street level. Adding in sub-level parking, according to the dais, would allow for more stalls -- solving the issue of limited visitor parking -- and allow the development itself to take on the more rural, multi-part design befitting its surroundings.
Underground parking could also assist in remedying another issue town officials saw with the current plan: a lack of proposed landscaping.
The dais agreed that the written plan's disregard for landscaping modifications was a gross miscalculation, as the plans state the current landscaping and screening is sufficient.
Arnerich in particular disagreed, saying that his own single-family home includes more landscaping than can currently be found on the Diablo Road property.
Another issue voiced by the dais was the lack of plans for a walking bridge from the property, across a nearby creek and over to downtown Danville. The representatives from ROEM Corp. agreed that a bridge would benefit the prospective property as well as its renters.
There were no public comments made by the citizens in the audience Tuesday night.
After about an hour of public discussion, the plans for the nearly four-acre apartment development on Diablo Road were given a reset.
Despite the lauding of ROEM's past of excellent sustainability and neighborly presence, the dais sent the plans back to the drawing board due to, among other reasons, the 37-foot tall three-story concept.
As Doyle said to close the discussion, "There will never be a three-story building (in the town of Danville) as long as I have anything to say about it."
In other business
* The council, during its regular meeting after the joint study session, directed staff to prepare a new fee-nexus study related to downtown parking in-lieu fees.
The study is intended to decide whether an increase to in lieu parking fees is needed, and if so what that increase would be, according to Town Manager Joe Calabrigo.
Properties in the downtown business district can meet their parking requirements in part by paying a fee to the town to cover the cost of providing additional public parking.
The rates stand at $3,500 for retail and $7,000 for all other land-uses, but those fee levels haven't been reviewed in at least two decades and could be well below the actual costs of providing parking downtown, according to Calabrigo.
The council held off on scheduling a discussion about whether to consider adopting an interim urgency moratorium on new land-uses within certain downtown areas to maintain the status quo and allow time for completion of the fee-nexus study, and a tangential parking assessment study.
* Council members gave initial support to proposed new smoking regulations that would prohibit smoking in all multifamily complexes of three units or more and expand all town smoking rules to also include marijuana and electronic smoking devices, such as e-cigarettes.
The new ordinance includes provisions to allow for designated smoking areas in multiple-family buildings under certain circumstances, mandate landlords to notify tenants of the town's new smoking regulations and require "no smoking" signs to be posted in common areas where smoking is prohibited.
Lori Garcia was present to speak on behalf of the American Cancer Society in support of the ordinance.
The second reading and final approval of the ordinance is set for Nov. 17. It would take effect 30 days after approval.
* In his briefing of the town's Maintenance Services Department, director Jed Johnson pointed to the efforts made to prepare for a pending El Nino, cleaning 516 drain inlets along with inspection of all creeks and ditches.
The department also removed 11 instances of graffiti on public property, repaired and painted the gazebo at Hap Magee Ranch Park and replaced the HVAC unit at the Village Theatre and HVAC compressor at the Veterans Memorial Building.
* Emergency services manager Jeff Hebel provided a brief discussion regarding FEMA compliance in response to a "post-Napa analysis" of disaster readiness. An update to the town's plan is required, according to Hebel, in order to keep the town of Danville in position for a maximum reimbursement in the case of a natural disaster.
Hebel said he would gather more information at a disaster readiness convention he will attend in December.
* Doyle presented Barbara Chavez, chairperson for Hospice of the East Bay Tree of Lights, with a proclamation declaring November as National Hospice/Palliative Care Month in the town of Danville. Chavez will be hosting a ceremonial tree-lighting in support of patient care at the Town Meeting Hall on Nov. 13 at 5:30 p.m.