The Danville Town Council unanimously endorsed the latest version of the long-debated Magee Preserve residential development Tuesday night, suggesting that the project’s superior environmental conservation and recreational benefits will prove to be a major boon for the town.
Located on the Magee Ranch property in eastern Danville, the Magee Preserve project was proposed by Walnut Creek-based developer Davidon Homes, to consist of building 69 single-family homes on the south side of Diablo Road and Blackhawk Road.
The project will develop approximately 29 acres -- or 7% -- of the 410-acre Magee property, with the remaining 381 acres of open space to be preserved by the town on a permanent basis. In order for residents to enjoy the open space, the Magee Preserve will also include a series of hiking and biking trails that, for the first time ever, will allow the public to explore the area.
“For literally 161 years, since Danville’s creation, the public has not touched this property and I have a feeling that after this motion we will be able to touch this property. That public benefit alone is enough to approve this project,” Mayor Robert Storer said after the clock passed midnight during the five-hour-plus council meeting.
More than 40 public speakers addressed the council on Tuesday night offering a spirited debate on the subject, with more residents in the room in favor of the project than against it.
While the Town Council was decidedly satisfied with the project’s efforts to mitigate traffic and bicycle safety concerns, a Danville resident group, Save Open Space (SOS) Danville, remains unconvinced.
Maryann Cella from SOS Danville said that the council’s vote to approve the project was “totally expected,” adding that her group may “seek a referendum public vote” or take the issue to court -- again -- if necessary.
“We’re leaving all of our options open because we believe they did not satisfy the court requirements,” SOS Danville member Patricia Isom added.
The council approved a nearly identical project in 2013 proposed by developer SummerHill Homes that was later scuttled due to a lawsuit filed by SOS Danville. The First Court of Appeals found that developers did not adequately consider bicycle safety impacts the project would have on the surrounding area.
Bicycle safety took center stage as one of SOS Danville’s chief concerns on Tuesday night, as members said that feared that the project would result in increased danger to bicyclists riding Diablo Road as a result of the increased traffic and population.
Davidon has proposed a plan for the town to build an eight foot wide off-street paved trail along Diablo Road, which town officials and bicycle recreation groups such as Bike East Bay and Mount Diablo Cyclists say will provide bikers a safe alternative to the area’s notoriously dangerous roads.
Cella said she worried the likelihood of the path being built and claims that the additional homes may worsen the danger to cyclists.
“The town’s discussion of a future unplanned, unfunded, undesigned trail with no specs to even begin to estimate cost, no environmental review and no practical way across Diablo Road twice, is just a red herring designed to distract bicyclists and safety advocates,” she said.
“What allows a project to be delivered effectively and quickly is that you have a conceptual plan, you have seed money, you have the community's will to build it, and we have all three,” assistant town manager Tai Williams countered.
The town further conducted a study via the "Highway Capacity Manual 2010 Bicycle Level of Service" (BLOS) methodology to test the level of on-road bicyclist comfort -- or safety -- for the project area, and according to Danville’s principal planner David Crompton found that effects on bicyclist comfort were “less than significant with a less than one percent change in BLOS score for both weekday and weekend conditions.”
While town staff stated that the BLOS methodology is nationally recognized, SOS Danville members claimed that the methodology was “discredited,” and did not represent the factual and dangerous realities bicyclists face on the road.
Traffic concerns are another key area of concern for SOS Danville and neighboring residents, who fear a large influx of vehicle trips along already busy roads, with Cella maintaining that “this project is going to make (traffic) worse.”
Property owner of Magee Ranch, Jed Magee, attended Tuesday’s meeting to give two cents, and stated that he believes the opposition simply don't support the idea of development, period, saying with a laugh: “The NIMBYS have all become 'BANANAs’ which stands for ‘build absolutely nothing anywhere near anybody.’”
“I can think of no project in our area that offers as much for our community … (and) our goal is to find a benefit for Danville residents that is found nowhere else,” he added.
While it has given initial approval, the council is expected to consider confirming its final decision on the project during its regular meeting on July 16.