Danville: Magee Preserve development project to be reviewed by Town Council

High public turnout expected for oft-debated project site

According to Danville’s principal planner David Crompton, the project would develop approximately 29 acres (or 7%) of the site, with the remaining 381 acres of open space permanently preserved. (image courtesy the town of Danville)

Developers, environmental conservationists and a sect of local residents are set to clash on Tuesday evening, when the Danville Town Council considers the oft-debated Magee Preserve development project located in the Diablo Road/Blackhawk Road corridor.

Proposed by Walnut Creek-based developer Davidon Homes, the project consists of building 69 single-family homes on the south side of Diablo Road and Blackhawk Road, with the main entrance to the housing complex being based adjacent to Jillian Way.

Located on a 410-acre project site, a key provision of the project comes in the form of its environmental conservation. According to Danville’s principal planner David Crompton, the project would develop approximately 29 acres -- or 7% -- of the site, with the remaining 381 acres of open space preserved by the town on a permanent basis.

Magee Preserve will also install a series of hiking and biking trails that will allow residents to experience the area’s scenic beauty and explore land that is currently closed to the public, according to Steve Abbs, vice president at Davidon Homes.

In a town staff report, Crompton wrote that if approved the project would include approximately two miles of trails dedicated to the East Bay Regional Parks District for public use.

While the project does guarantee preservation of 93% of the property’s open space -- current zoning allows the development of 94% of land according to Davidon -- a group of Danville residents are opposed the development of the property due to concerns of disrupting the local wildlife, bicycle safety, traffic concerns and the loss of any open space.

“If the council approves the project as we fully expect, we will seek a referendum public vote,” said Maryann Cella from the group Save Open Space (SOS), which opposed a previous version of the project in court, with some success.

In July 2013, the Town Council approved a nearly identical project proposed by developer SummerHill Homes that was also vehemently opposed by SOS Danville. The group eventually filed a lawsuit challenging the project’s approval, which was upheld by the First District Court of Appeal, which did find that the project did not adequately consider bicycle safety impacts.

The group has previously stated that the development should have triggered Measure S, which limits development on agricultural land and requires voter approval by ballot measure in order to move the development forward -- Contra Costa County Superior Court judge agreed with that argument in concept, but the appellate court overruled that interpretation while upholding the bike safety portion.

To address the court's findings, Crompton said the town selected the "Highway Capacity Manual 2010 Bicycle Level of Service" (BLOS) methodology to test the level of on-road bicyclist comfort level around the project area. Testing found that the effects on bicyclist comfort were “less than significant with a less than one percent change in BLOS score for both weekday and weekend conditions.”

Davidon developers have also proposed a possible plan for expanding a paved bike path that would consist of an eight foot wide off-street paved trail along Diablo Road, which according to Al Kalin of Mount Diablo Cyclist is notoriously dangerous for cyclists due to its narrow windy roads.

“As cyclists we have looked at this and it’s a win-win for everyone not just cyclists and hikers and joggers, but I'd like to add also its a win-win for motorists which is rarely discussed,” Kalin told “When a bike is on Diablo Road it is not just the cyclists that are in danger.”

“Diablo Road is just not a safe access. So what Magee Preserve does is provides an easement for the town to install (the bike trail). Without this project that easement or that path is not possible. That is a huge public benefit,” Abbs added. “It’s not a requirement of the project, it's a public benefit that we are offering the town.”

Despite concerns from the opposition group, Magee Preserve has received a vocal backing from local environmental group Save Mount Diablo, as well as Bike East Bay, who have praised the project and its developers for their commitment to environmental and recreational benefits.

“This is a superior project in terms of an environmental standpoint and that is one of the reasons that we are here,” said Seth Adams, land conservation director at Save Mount Diablo. “Legally the developer has to mitigate for their own impacts, legally anything beyond that is icing on the cake and this development is going way beyond what’s required.”

Adams explained that the Magee Preserve has been a “missing piece” for his organization, and the land preserved will join a network of open space and trails protected by agencies in Contra Costa County.

He is also excited for the recreational opportunities saying: “You won’t believe me at first, but this property has better views that Mount Diablo to the north and Las Trampas to the west.”

“We're here from open space and recreational standpoint, but most people either look at this in terms of an overall project or not, or they look at it in terms of the effect of traffic,” Adams added.

Traffic concerns are another area of concern for SOS Danville and neighboring residents, who fear a large influx of vehicle trips along already busy roads.

According to Crompton, initial traffic studies “found that project trips added to the Diablo Road/Blackhawk Road/Mt. Diablo Scenic intersection … would constitute a significant impact based on the established thresholds of significance” during peak commuting hours.

To help alleviate these concerns, the project would also include the installation of a traffic signal along the Diablo Road/Blackhawk Road/Mt. Diablo Scenic intersection, which Crompton says will help mitigate the project’s impacts and improve traffic flow.

“We are doing our fair share and will actually make things better on Diablo than what exists today,” Abbs said.

Abbs added that if all goes well with the council, Davidon would be able to begin development next summer.

The public is invited to join in on the conversation at the Danville Town Council’s regular meeting which will be held Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. at the Town Meeting Hall, 201 Front St. Attendance is expected to be high.

After discussing the issue this week, the council is expected to consider confirming its final decision on the project during its regular meeting on July 16.

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6 people like this
Posted by SOS-Danville Group
a resident of Danville
on Jul 1, 2019 at 10:57 am


*840 more cartrips per day, creating more congestion of all intersections in the area despite their existing conditions that either fail or nearly fail Danville's congestion metrics

*no mitigation to improve bicyclist safety on dangerous Diablo Road despite the project's expected 840 more cartrips per day

*more flooding of overcapacity streams and undersized culverts downstream

*more erosion of failed and failing creek banks downstream

*likely eradication of the endangered CA Red-legged Frog population that thrives on the project's site

*blocking of wildlife corridors

*no fire emergency evacuation evaluation for the Diablo Road/Blackhawk Road corridor which is mostly designated as the highest-level wildfire hazard severity zone, or the next to highest wildfire hazard severity zone. Please see the map at this link:

Web Link

The project is below Blackhawk Road, just below and to the right of where the map says "Diablo" in the red zone. Contiguous to the project is the red zone that is the existing 1987 Magee Ranch development.

*no Measure S (Danville's Open Space Protection law) public vote despite the project site being on Agricultural Open Space land promised to be protected from residential development unless the voting public approved

Save Mt. Diablo, quoted in the story, should not be engaging in discussions about this project due to a conflict of interest. It received at least a $10,000 contribution from the previous developer, SummerHill Homes, around the time the same project was approved in 2013 (that approval had to be rescinded when SOS-Danville Group won its lawsuit regarding the project).

Moreover, there is no parkland being created by this project, and the one fireroad trail from the project south to the Sycamore Open Space is not even guaranteed to be accepted by the East Bay Regional Park District because there has been no condition of approval for a specific $$ amount to enable the District to maintain the trail and the 4-car parking lot at the trail head. The money may never be found and the District doesn't want a repeat of what happened with the similar Elworthy Ranch development on the southwest side of Danville. There the District was supposed to accept a trail and lot but the Town didn't require a condition of approval that the HOA for the development fund their maintenance. For years, the lot and trail were not open to the public, but finally the District dipped into its own general fund (so the public paid in the end) to pay for those amenities and then accepted them into the District. That only occurred, after SOS brought the matter to public attention.

As far as "open space", this project is gutting Danville's Open Space Protection law, Measure S, to allow almost all the theoretically possible homes for the entire 400 acres to be clustered together on the 200 acres of protected Agricultural Open Space parcels. That is not "protecting" Open Space, it is developing it. The rest of the acres are not "open space" land---in fact they are designated by the Town for rural residential use, and are mostly in an unseen steep canyon and on steep, largely not economically buildable hillsides across a creek from dangerous Diablo Road. To maximize Open Space protection, Davidon should have located the development into the unseen canyon, and "protected" the actually valuable and visible Agricultural Open Space. Such a project would necessarily been reduced in home count, and wreaked less environmental havoc downstream and on the Diablo/Blackhawk Road corridor. But of course, Davidon Homes doesn't want to do that.

The District expects so little use of the trail that it didn't even think a parking lot was needed when it previously reviewed this project. For that tiny benefit that we in fact may never even get, the public gets all the damage described above. What a bad deal for the public, and a bonanza for Davidon Homes.

As far as the bicyclist quoted in the story, he has contradicted himself at the Planning Commission where he said he supported the Town's analysis concluding that Diablo Road was "acceptable" for bicyclists use. The Town's analysis by its own admission is of bicyclist "comfort". That is not bicyclist SAFETY, which is what the court said they needed to review. The Town has not reviewed bicyclist safety and thus has not complied with the court's order.

Secondly, his mention of a "plan" for a hillside trail to allow bicyclists a safe alternative to Diablo Road is the Town's red herring to distract bicyclists from the real work that needs to be done---widening Diablo Road with 4-feet wide, bicyclist usable shoulders starting at Green Valley and ending at Mt Diablo Scenic Blvd. The Town now has the easements on most of Magee ranch along Diablo Road to widen it.

There is no " plan" for a road bicyclist-usable trail on the hillside. There are no specs, no design,not even a specific location for such a trail. There has been no environmental review of such a trail. There has been evaluation of how road bicyclists would safely make the 2 crossings of congested and dangerous Diablo Road for such a trail and what impact such crossings would have on traffic congestion.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, a hillside trail is not a condition of approval of the project. Thus, there is no guarantee that it will ever be built, and even if some trail were, no guarantee that it would be built to highly-specific and maintainable road bicyclist-usable standards. We do not believe that the project should be approved unless there are bicyclist safety improvements required as a condition of approval of the project.

7 people like this
Posted by SOS-Danville Group
a resident of Danville
on Jul 1, 2019 at 11:02 am

Correction: There has been NO evaluation of how road bicyclists would safely make the 2 crossings of congested and dangerous Diablo Road for such a trail and what impact such crossings would have on traffic congestion.

12 people like this
Posted by Mrs A
a resident of Los Cerros Middle School
on Jul 1, 2019 at 2:27 pm

SOS-Danville really must stop this nonsense and let the project move forward! It's unfortunate how Diablo residents are so focused on telling the taxpayers in the Town of Danville how to live. How much money has SOS-Danville cost the taxpayers of Danville over the years? I can imagine it's significant, the amount of staff time responding to their attacks and with attorneys defending against the last CEQA lawsuit. But this litigious NIMBY group is led by an attorney (surprise, surprise) who, at the end of the day, is ONLY concerned with how this project will impact her and the other Diablo residents' lives. Now she is threatening to referendum the decision should the Town Council vote to approve the project. Or, put another way, more costs to the taxpayers of Danville.

As a DANVILLE resident, I support this project! I support the Town Council in approving this project. This is a good project, one that our community can be proud to support.

11 people like this
Posted by Joanne
a resident of Danville
on Jul 1, 2019 at 2:51 pm

Thank you, Mrs. A. for telling it like it is! The Town Council does a great job representing the needs of all of us in the Town of Danville.

It would appear that the Town staff has gone to great lengths to address all of these needless accusations that have been levied against this project.

All you need to do is read the Town staff report -- it is available at this link:

Web Link

The fact is that Magee Preserve will open up 381 acres of the land for public use. That is why all the bicycle groups in the area, Save Mt. Diablo and East Bay Regional Parks are supporting it. Hikers and bicyclists want these amenities as they improve our quality of life!

4 people like this
Posted by Krista
a resident of Danville
on Jul 3, 2019 at 9:49 am

Great news- glad to hear that our Town Council supported this wonderful project. This group of Diablo residents represented as the worst kind of NIMBYs- they got their huge mega mansions and now they want to use every environmentally obstacle to keep others from living in our community. I plan to use this open space often!

2 people like this
Posted by Opposed Danville resident
a resident of Danville
on Jul 12, 2019 at 5:06 pm

Attacking the person and name-calling is not persuasive argument in favor of the project. I (like many others opposing this disastrous project) am a DANVILLE resident (not Diablo), and I strenuously oppose the project, based on actual study. The Town actually has a horrible record on these things, not a good one (witness the Elworthy Ranch debacle). The conditions of approval DO NOT achieve what is being promised. The damage is certain, though. There is a reason the Town residents proposed Measure R so long ago (to stop the Town's conversion and development of agricultural and open space), to which the Town proposed its own booby-trapped competing Measure S - and which the Town now says never has to be complied with. Either the Town's lawyers and councilmembers deceived the public then, or they are now (or both). This is not a NIMBY group. They have fought to protect open space throughout Danville. (I personally might have supported a reduced project that might have achieved these same "benefits" while actually mitigating some of the horrendous impacts the traffic will have -- but the Town never asked for nor required that a reduced project be considered.) So, to Mrs. A, Joanne and Krista, you are incorrect. Sadly, this project will probably ultimately get built, with your support, and Danville residents and their future generations will pay the price for it.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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