Danville council validates Magee Preserve petition; referendum election likely March | News | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville council validates Magee Preserve petition; referendum election likely March

Residents expected to make final decision during statewide primary election

The Danville Town Council reluctantly certified the validity of a petition challenging its approval of the Magee Preserve development project during their regular meeting on Tuesday evening, setting the stage for a potential showdown during the March primary election.

After approximately an hour of deliberations, the council validated the petition and concluded that they would like residents to vote on the issue for themselves, directing staff to put the issue on the ballot during the March 3, statewide primary election -- pending final confirmation at a future meeting.

Tuesday's meeting was filled with accusations leveled against both sides of the issue, with opponents of the 69-home project claiming they were harassed by aggressive tactics from “petition blockers” and council members saying petitioners lied to receive signatures.

“What's interesting is, and this is the unfortunate part of petitions, is that you can say anything you want. You don't have to tell the truth; you can lie,” said Councilman Newell Arnerich, vocalizing a thought shared by his fellow council members who claimed petitioners lied to receive signatures.

“I observed two (petitioners) that I didn’t recognize, I don’t think they were from Danville… And what I heard what those people were saying, were absolute lies. ” Arnerich continued. “It just stuns me the ability of people to win an argument, the willingness of what they will say to try to win an argument, ignoring all the facts to get somebody to sign something.”

Several petition gatherers spoke during the meeting’s public comment section, and expressed their rationale for opposing the Magee Preserve, stating they feared increased traffic resulting from the project, increased danger to cyclists along Diablo Road, as well as their opposition to the development of any open space in the area.

Petitioners further stated that many of their members were harassed by petition blockers, who yelled at and followed them while they were attempting to collect signatures.

“Danville likes to brag about its high quality of life and its high standards, but it should also pass these on to developers. During the referendum process, we've had a lot of blockers that we assume came from the developer that really harassed a lot of our signature gatherers,” said Danville resident Dr. Clelen Tanner, who added that blockers stole petitioners signs.

“I personally was harassed trying to get signatures -- talked over, yelled at,” added Maryann Cella, herself a petition gatherer. “It’s amazing that we were able to gather 5,487 signatures… that was with the incredible harassment. So that should tell you that many more people would have signed but people wanted to avoid that kind of stuff.”

The petition, delivered to town staff by a resident group dubbed Danville Open Space Committee, contained 5,487 signatures of Danville residents taken by both volunteer and paid petitioners.

Earlier in September, Contra Costa County election officials conducted a sample test of 500 randomly selected signatures on the petition, and found that 401 were valid signatures belonging to registered Danville voters, good enough for the minimum number needed to receive validation from the county.

Of the 99 signatures found to be invalid, county election officials found that 43 belonged to voters who lived outside of Danville, 36 belonged to residents who weren't registered voters, 11 belonged to residents who registered late or at the wrong address, eight belonged to voters whose signatures didn’t match county records, and one was a duplicate signature.

Submitted by Walnut Creek-based developer Davidon Homes and approved by the Town Council during its regular meeting on July 9, the Magee Preserve development project would consist of building 69 single-family homes on the south side of Diablo and Blackhawk roads, as well as a series of hiking and biking trails that would be open to the public.

Located on a 410-acre project site, the Magee Preserve would develop approximately 29 acres -- or 7% -- of the site, permanently designating the remaining 381 acres as open space with public access.

All five council members maintained steadfast support for the Magee Preserve project, stating it will prove to be a great boon to the town, both for its preservation of so much open space and the allowance of the public to access land that was previously closed off to residents.

“Unfortunately, the signature gatherers did not tell the story correctly,” Mayor Robert Storer said during Tuesday's meeting. “I can tell you at the end of the day, that the public will touch the property, will be able to walk on those trails... I think we owe it to the public that we get an answer as quickly as possible.”

While the Town Council did validate the petition and identified March 3 as the preferred date to place the issue on the ballot, the council will make the final decision on when the election will be held at a future meeting. Alternatively, council members could have identified the November 2020 general election as the preferred date for the vote to be held, but dismissed this option in favor of presenting the issue to voters as soon as possible.

If the March 3 special election date is given final approval, Danville’s city clerk Marie Sunseri says the special election is estimated to cost the town between $60,132 and $90,198 -- $2 to $3 for every registered voter. She added that placing the question on the November 2020 municipal election would cost between $37,583 and $52,616 -- $1.25 to $1.75 per registered voter.

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17 people like this
Posted by Joy
a resident of Sycamore Valley Elementary School
on Sep 19, 2019 at 10:15 am

I have read with interest the comments coming from the developer and Town Council members. I have been a resident of Danville since 1991. I must say every developer that wanted to build in this city didn't care how the development would change the area and detract from the quality of life here. Most residents enjoy the open space which is in such limited supply. The town just wants the revenue generated from development and the developer really doesn't care about the community, just money.

I never saw the petitioners in my neighborhood, but if I had I would have gladly signed the petition. It is all about stopping more development, less noise, cars, pollution, and congestion. If you live off of Camino Tassajara, you know that the road is used by San Ramon and Dublin residents as a short cut. There is so much traffic and congestion.

16 people like this
Posted by local resident
a resident of Danville
on Sep 19, 2019 at 2:13 pm

Highly unacceptable reaction by Town Council members to the first-person accounts of harassment, stalking, assaulting, and other abusive and even illegal activities by thugs handing out Davidon's flyers. The flyers were not truthful. Davidon claimed there will be (1)381 acres of PUBLIC open space being dedicated as part of the project (in fact there will be no dedication of public open space), and that (2)the project will provide safer "alternatives" for bicyclists that now ride the incredibly dangerous, substandard, winding Diablo Road east of Green Valley Road. The project will in fact provide NO SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS to Diablo Road, let alone an "alternative" to Diablo Road, for bicyclists.

Instead of calling out the thuggish behavior, and patently false information, the Council members were not bothered by the behavior. Instead, they acted as if they were Davidon reps and accused Danville Open Space Committee signature gatherers of lying to get signatures. Meanwhile, Davidon reps weren't even at the meeting. How nice of the Council members to sub in for them.

Tellingly, the Council members could not specify any "lies" that were told. That's because Danville Open Space Committee signatures gatherers had no need to lie---the facts of the appalling project speak for themselves.

5 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Danville
on Sep 19, 2019 at 3:08 pm

Save Open Space Danville = Diablo NIMBY's. It's a shame that Maryann Cella & her agenda have any momentum at this point in time. Build the homes and give us the open space!

Danville Resident in favor of this beautiful development

1 person likes this
Posted by Sandy Varco
a resident of Montair Elementary School
on Sep 19, 2019 at 6:09 pm

Sandy Varco is a registered user.

If the major problem expressed is the traffic and bikers, then take another look.
The developer is committed to a bike path on the property which would eliminate the bike problem on Diablo Road.

Overall, this is a great plan and I look forward to hiking in all of the dedicated open space...that we cannot access now. I find it sad to read the previous messages because being a 53 year homeowner in Danville, I cherish this community more than I can say and gave 16 years of unpaid time on the Design Review Board. A huge amount of effort has gone into this project. Give it a chance.

For those who are so negative - how about changing your attitude and volunteer to help our community. Why did you buy into Danville? No city/town stays the same forever and when a great project comes along, grab it, run with it and help to make it a superb addition.

Sandy from the Westside

extra note: I was asked to sign the petition and respectfully asked some questions of the petitioner. He was being PAID, did not live here and came from the LA area.

16 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Danville
on Sep 19, 2019 at 9:55 pm

The open space is perfect for cows but can not compete with Las Trampas, Diablo Foothills, Mt Diablo, Sycamore and Morgan territory parks. The project does not improve Danville by adding traffic and more houses. San Ramon and Dublin are gold mines if that all it takes to improve a city. If you are interested in moving to enjoy more traffic and houses be my guest. I will stay in Danville and enjoy less houses and traffic than most of the bay area cities. The City of Danville needs to look at the budget if they are enamored with more tax income. I will continue to donate to organization that seek to bridge the existing parks and expand the parks. But the strings on this deal for such a small chunk of land are terrible. The voters get to decide this because the citizens of Danville has decided you can not just rezone ranch land into a housing development with out a vote. The city council should represent the citizens of Danville not the housing developments of Danville.

9 people like this
Posted by Cool Head
a resident of Monte Vista High School
on Sep 19, 2019 at 11:41 pm

Anyone who has driven in that area, especially at commute times, knows what a major problem the extra traffic this project will facilitate will present. But, beyond that bit of common sense, all we wanted all along was a public vote consistent with the requirements of Measure S, which the Council attempted to circumvented in approving this project in initially. I hope both "sides" will live with the election results next March - I will certainly will.

7 people like this
Posted by KellyGamble
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 7, 2019 at 10:50 pm

KellyGamble is a registered user.

I’m just wondering exactly when is enough? This will bring THOUSANDS more to our roads, schools, budget, chaos, on top of the dozens of other housing development projects all around us. The changes are too rapid for the existing communities to absorb without a major imposition on everyone involved and everybody else who has to deal with all these new residents and all that goes with it. Someone mentioned how great it would be to have new hiking trails. What I think would be great is if we had room to breathe. I think it would also be great if it didn’t take 20 minutes to drive a mile at certain times in Danville, San Ramon, Walnut Creek, Danville, Dublin. The Bay Area is literally a maze of trails and rec sites so we are not short on those resources. In fact, this entire state is chock full. I told my husband that the powers that be at the top who permit/promote all of this development don’t recognize that, at a certain point, the commute is going to start the moment you pull out of your driveway. The buck has to stop somewhere, doesn’t it? Maybe not....

2 people like this
Posted by Dr. Ralph Gunderson
a resident of Danville
on Oct 29, 2019 at 6:06 pm

Davidon hosted the first (and probably only) pumpkin patch event on October 26th. It was PATHETIC. Steve Abbs, VP of Davidon, told lie after lie about the development. He even said that because of his company, that was the only way cyclists would get a trail (failed to mention it will cost US the TAXPAYERS about $4 million dollars). Only about 35-40 people attended. There were at least 8 photographers and videographers there and an annoying drone that followed us up the trail and stayed overhead while the children got their pumpkins. Davidon informed everyone who attended that we'd need to sign a waiver for our pictures to be published. It was so transparent, the whole thing. Such crap trying to tell us that this is "for the community". We are being deeded NOTHING on that property. The entire event was a marketing ploy. Kari Gunderson (no relation) was there handing out filthy water from a cooler with dirt in it, Tom Magee was making up stories about his dad - "poor Jed" and the rest of the family, and good ol' Seth Adams was shamelessly plugging Save Mt Diablo. Tom failed to mention the millions his family has tied up in two financial investment corporations - Teardrop Partners with its silent partners. They are not a nice family, trying to do right for the community. They are trying to profit and the town council is helping them do it. It absolutely fascinates me to see the sheeple who claim to be all about the open space and the environment supporting a developer who wants to destroy the land. They've marketed this in such a clever way, admittedly, that people think they're doing a great thing by allowing this development to happen all across that beautiful set of hills. Shameful behavior by the Danville Town Council, by Davidon Homes, by Save Mt Diablo, and by the Magee family (who, by the way, had trash all over the property - an old water heater in the ravine, rusty pipes everywhere, slightly hidden from the trail but we wandered around a bit). If you want this crap in Danville, you're DESTROYING open space. It's a fact.

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