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Danville: Ballot arguments released for Magee Preserve development referendum

Arguments come after town, proponents compromise on litigation over ballot question verbiage for Measure Y

The debate over the Magee Preserve project continues in Danville with official ballot arguments for both sides of the issue having officially been published on Thursday, just days after litigation over the ballot question language was settled between town officials and referendum proponents.

Danville residents will vote on the Magee Preserve project -- under the title of Measure Y -- during the upcoming March 2020 election, being able to do so after a group of residents submitted a referendum petition challenged the Town Council’s previous approval of the project.

Located on a 410-acre property on the south side of Diablo and Blackhawk Roads, the Magee Preserve project consists of building 69 homes on approximately 29 acres of land, with the remaining 381 acres preserved as open space on a permanent basis.

According to the argument in favor of the project, a yes vote will mean that preserved land will be made available to the public for the first time with miles of new hiking and bike trails managed by the East Bay Regional Park District, protect miles of Green Valley Creek as well as the area's hillsides and ridgelines from future development, and approve a dedicated easement that would allow the town to extend a paved bike and pedestrian trail along Diablo Road -- a notoriously dangerous road for bicyclists -- making it safer for cyclists.

“Yes on Measure Y creates a substantial net conservation gain while also providing the missing link to already conserved parklands and maximizes public benefit,” Save Mount Diablo officials are quoted as saying in the official argument.

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Supporters further say that the project will generate $1.6 million in new annual tax revenue, make “much needed improvements to Diablo Road at the Green Valley/McCauley and Mt. Diablo Scenic intersections” and create additional emergency access to and from the area.

The argument in favor of Measure Y was signed by a collection of local officials including Danville Mayor Karen Stepper, Save Mount Diablo’s Land Conservation Director Seth Adams, East Bay Regional Park Director Beverly Lane, Executive Director of Bike East Bay Ginger Jui and Danville business owner Bill White.

Opponents of the project counter that not only will this project exacerbate traffic gridlock that already exists on Diablo Road, but would develop land that is already set aside as open space.

“Don’t be fooled by (project developer) Davidon! This project rezones existing Danville open space to build a major residential subdivision. That’s a bad idea for all of Danville’s open spaces,” Measure Y opponents wrote in their argument. “This project is about developer’s profits, not Danville residents.”

The Magee Preserve would add 841 new car trips a day on Diablo Road, according to the opposition argument which cites figures from the town of Danville. Opponents say these extra trips would result in increased danger to the thousands of bikers that travel the corridor and greatly increase stress on the area’s already overburdened infrastructure.

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Opponents further claim that San Ramon Valley Unified School District schools are already “significantly overcrowded” and called the “possibility of diversions likely” in reference to the project -- although SRVUSD officials have stated that for the past several years the district is in a period of declining enrollment that is projected to continue into the foreseeable future.

District officials also told DanvilleSanRamon.com that they maintain no position on the Magee Preserve Project.

Opposing arguments were signed by Director of the Magee Ranch Home Owners Association Christopher Cross, Save Open Space (SOS) Danville member Chris Southhard, Danville Open Space Committee officer Clelen Tanner, Director of the Hidden Valley HOA Roger Tuma and Firefighter Jose Luis Velo

On the issue of fire risk and evacuation concerns, both arguments make conflicting claims. While town officials say the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District independently evaluated the project and confirmed it “does not impact their ability to respond to fires and emergencies or to safely evacuate the Diablo Road corridor,” project opponents claim otherwise.

Citing an unidentified Cal Fire and California Public Utilities Commission report that allegedly gave the area its highest wildfire threat rating, project opponents argue that the single, two-lane road in and out of the area could become severely jammed in the event of a mass evacuation event.

Ballot arguments were released days after referendum proponents and town of Danville officials reached a compromise on the issuance of an updated ballot question after petitioners filed litigation challenging the town’s original wording.

According to the original complaint, which was filed by Dr. Clelen Tanner and the residential group Danville Open Space Committee, petitioners took issue with the lack of reference to the land being rezoned for development, further taking issue with the belief that the question was biased in favor of the Magee Preserve.

“The council’s ballot label/question is false, misleading, inaccurate and biased in favor of approval of the measure being referended,” petitioners wrote in their complaint.

After meeting with a judge, both sides agreed to a new ballot question that includes the word “rezoning.” The updated question is as follows.

“Shall Town Council Ordinance No. 2019-06, rezoning a 410 acre parcel from agricultural preserve, general agricultural, and planned development district to a new planned development district and approving the Magee Preserve project, which creates 69 single family lots on approximately 29 acres of the 410 acre site, preserves the remaining 381 acres as permanent open space and dedicates easements for hiking and biking trails for public use on the site, be approved?”

Both sides will have an opportunity to submit rebuttal arguments touching on any issues left unaddressed if filed by Dec. 23.

To help provide a resource for residents to learn more about the project and election process, the town created a website with additional information where town officials say residents can read about the Magee Preserve and download both ballot arguments.

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Danville: Ballot arguments released for Magee Preserve development referendum

Arguments come after town, proponents compromise on litigation over ballot question verbiage for Measure Y

by Ryan J. Degan /

Uploaded: Thu, Dec 19, 2019, 3:20 pm
Updated: Fri, Dec 20, 2019, 3:04 pm

The debate over the Magee Preserve project continues in Danville with official ballot arguments for both sides of the issue having officially been published on Thursday, just days after litigation over the ballot question language was settled between town officials and referendum proponents.

Danville residents will vote on the Magee Preserve project -- under the title of Measure Y -- during the upcoming March 2020 election, being able to do so after a group of residents submitted a referendum petition challenged the Town Council’s previous approval of the project.

Located on a 410-acre property on the south side of Diablo and Blackhawk Roads, the Magee Preserve project consists of building 69 homes on approximately 29 acres of land, with the remaining 381 acres preserved as open space on a permanent basis.

According to the argument in favor of the project, a yes vote will mean that preserved land will be made available to the public for the first time with miles of new hiking and bike trails managed by the East Bay Regional Park District, protect miles of Green Valley Creek as well as the area's hillsides and ridgelines from future development, and approve a dedicated easement that would allow the town to extend a paved bike and pedestrian trail along Diablo Road -- a notoriously dangerous road for bicyclists -- making it safer for cyclists.

“Yes on Measure Y creates a substantial net conservation gain while also providing the missing link to already conserved parklands and maximizes public benefit,” Save Mount Diablo officials are quoted as saying in the official argument.

Supporters further say that the project will generate $1.6 million in new annual tax revenue, make “much needed improvements to Diablo Road at the Green Valley/McCauley and Mt. Diablo Scenic intersections” and create additional emergency access to and from the area.

The argument in favor of Measure Y was signed by a collection of local officials including Danville Mayor Karen Stepper, Save Mount Diablo’s Land Conservation Director Seth Adams, East Bay Regional Park Director Beverly Lane, Executive Director of Bike East Bay Ginger Jui and Danville business owner Bill White.

Opponents of the project counter that not only will this project exacerbate traffic gridlock that already exists on Diablo Road, but would develop land that is already set aside as open space.

“Don’t be fooled by (project developer) Davidon! This project rezones existing Danville open space to build a major residential subdivision. That’s a bad idea for all of Danville’s open spaces,” Measure Y opponents wrote in their argument. “This project is about developer’s profits, not Danville residents.”

The Magee Preserve would add 841 new car trips a day on Diablo Road, according to the opposition argument which cites figures from the town of Danville. Opponents say these extra trips would result in increased danger to the thousands of bikers that travel the corridor and greatly increase stress on the area’s already overburdened infrastructure.

Opponents further claim that San Ramon Valley Unified School District schools are already “significantly overcrowded” and called the “possibility of diversions likely” in reference to the project -- although SRVUSD officials have stated that for the past several years the district is in a period of declining enrollment that is projected to continue into the foreseeable future.

District officials also told DanvilleSanRamon.com that they maintain no position on the Magee Preserve Project.

Opposing arguments were signed by Director of the Magee Ranch Home Owners Association Christopher Cross, Save Open Space (SOS) Danville member Chris Southhard, Danville Open Space Committee officer Clelen Tanner, Director of the Hidden Valley HOA Roger Tuma and Firefighter Jose Luis Velo

On the issue of fire risk and evacuation concerns, both arguments make conflicting claims. While town officials say the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District independently evaluated the project and confirmed it “does not impact their ability to respond to fires and emergencies or to safely evacuate the Diablo Road corridor,” project opponents claim otherwise.

Citing an unidentified Cal Fire and California Public Utilities Commission report that allegedly gave the area its highest wildfire threat rating, project opponents argue that the single, two-lane road in and out of the area could become severely jammed in the event of a mass evacuation event.

Ballot arguments were released days after referendum proponents and town of Danville officials reached a compromise on the issuance of an updated ballot question after petitioners filed litigation challenging the town’s original wording.

According to the original complaint, which was filed by Dr. Clelen Tanner and the residential group Danville Open Space Committee, petitioners took issue with the lack of reference to the land being rezoned for development, further taking issue with the belief that the question was biased in favor of the Magee Preserve.

“The council’s ballot label/question is false, misleading, inaccurate and biased in favor of approval of the measure being referended,” petitioners wrote in their complaint.

After meeting with a judge, both sides agreed to a new ballot question that includes the word “rezoning.” The updated question is as follows.

“Shall Town Council Ordinance No. 2019-06, rezoning a 410 acre parcel from agricultural preserve, general agricultural, and planned development district to a new planned development district and approving the Magee Preserve project, which creates 69 single family lots on approximately 29 acres of the 410 acre site, preserves the remaining 381 acres as permanent open space and dedicates easements for hiking and biking trails for public use on the site, be approved?”

Both sides will have an opportunity to submit rebuttal arguments touching on any issues left unaddressed if filed by Dec. 23.

To help provide a resource for residents to learn more about the project and election process, the town created a website with additional information where town officials say residents can read about the Magee Preserve and download both ballot arguments.

Comments

Sandy Varco
Registered user
Montair Elementary School
on Dec 20, 2019 at 10:24 am
Sandy Varco, Montair Elementary School
Registered user
on Dec 20, 2019 at 10:24 am

After hiking the property and finding out that the 69 homes will NOT be visible from Diablo Road, I am excited for this project to proceed as planned. The bike path will remove the bikers from the road and give the drivers a much needed traffic movement. The availability of the land to enjoy will NOT happen if this measure is defeated. The proponents of this measure began from Diablo CC folks who are unable to vote for it. It is up to those of us as Danville residents to cherish this valuable land for our use in perpetuity. Vote FOR the project.


Clelen Tanner
Danville
on Dec 22, 2019 at 10:39 am
Clelen Tanner, Danville
on Dec 22, 2019 at 10:39 am

The 69+ Davidon development is not at good fit for Danville. It adds 840+ car trips a day to Diablo Rd. This road is a substandard with road, meaning the lanes are less than 12 feet wide. The last improvement to Diablo Rd in 1994, narrowed the roadway.
As stated by Danville Bicycle Advisory Committee, Diablo Rd. is the most dangerous road in Contra Costa County for bicyclists. The Davidon Development only makes a bad situation worse.
As for the trail, it's interesting to note they would not accessible today due to the muddy surface that makes hiking or bike riding unrealistic. One would have to wait till after the rainy season.


Kay Clark
Danville
on Dec 22, 2019 at 1:54 pm
Kay Clark , Danville
on Dec 22, 2019 at 1:54 pm

What are the costs to ready and maintain this preserve? Danville taxpayers pay all the costs ?? More information should be given to voters Recent flyer says 0 about costs


Mike and Bridgit Pelley
Danville
on Dec 26, 2019 at 10:53 pm
Mike and Bridgit Pelley, Danville
on Dec 26, 2019 at 10:53 pm

Ms. Varco is incorrect; this was not started solely Diablo CC homeowners, but families from all of the neighborhoods in the Diablo-Green Valley corridor, who are affected daily by the extreme traffic congestion and hazards that currently exist on Diablo and would only get worse with this development. Improvements to this road were supposed to be done years ago and to date, the Town still has not done anything; with this development, it will only get worse and let's be real, a stoplight isn't going to help. Please vote no and support commonsense planning.


Clelen Tanner
Danville
on Dec 27, 2019 at 6:09 pm
Clelen Tanner, Danville
on Dec 27, 2019 at 6:09 pm

The cost to improve the Diablo Road corridor depends on who you want to listen to.
Tai Williams, Assistant Town Manager, believes that it would cost 50 million. Her estimate is based on widening Diablo Rd. 60 feet from Green Valley to Scenic Mt. Diablo. Most everybody feels that's excessive. An independent analysis by SOS Danville believes that Diablo Rd can be made safe by adding 3 foot paved shoulders to the existing roadway. This could be done as a 'repair' and cost less than half of Ms. Williams estimate.
Until the Diablo Road corridor is improved, adding 840+ car trip a day to a substandard width road is not consistent with Danville's motto: Small Town Atmosphere, Outstanding Quality of Life. The Magee Preserve is not a good fit for Danville.


Resident, Danville
Danville
on Jan 5, 2020 at 10:28 pm
Resident, Danville, Danville
on Jan 5, 2020 at 10:28 pm

As a 20+ year resident of Danville, I have seen perpetual traffic on Diablo Road. Why cause more traffic to add stress to our daily lives and many collective minutes of wasted time in the car? There must be a better solution to smart city growth!



Steven Stuart
Danville
on Jan 29, 2020 at 10:10 am
Steven Stuart, Danville
on Jan 29, 2020 at 10:10 am

One of the items I don't ever see posted is the following:
If this Prop does not pass, then the 410 acres and only 69 homes would completely go away. This property is owned by a family, and they have tried selling it multiple times. This being California gives them the right to sell their property, but they have to work with the Town of Danville first. This is the 2nd time and if it fails they are allowed to take it to the state courts, and the state courts will uphold the rights of the property owner. However, there could be many more houses developed on that land in that case. This will make the majority of the land owned by the East Bay Regional Park, and will truly be "Open Space". As it stands now, it is only Open space by name, but it is owned by someone.
On the 840+ extra(trips by a car a day) on the road that is ridiculous math and statistics, how can 69 house with an average of 2.8 people living in those houses cause that. Each house would have to be throwing a party every few days and alternating. Will this cause more traffic, yes. They will be building bicycle paths so that should be safer for them (as a bicyclist myself). I have to go to MVHS everyday on Diablo Rd. and will need to do this for at least 8 more years. However, as stated above, if voted "no" there could be more house and no open space and no bicycle path, and yes that would be worse.


Clelen Tanner
Danville
on Jan 29, 2020 at 10:45 am
Clelen Tanner, Danville
on Jan 29, 2020 at 10:45 am

The 840+ car trips a day is based on the Town of Danville's EIR estimates for the Magee Development. This is their estimate, not ours. One would assume this is on the low side since many of the homes will have attached residences. The unknown number of attached residences will generate more traffic. Attached residences allows Danville to qualify for affordable housing.
Nobody is taking anything away from the Magee family. They are free to develop based on current zoning. A Court challenge would go nowhere.
East Bay Regional Parks, EBRP, is accepting bids for development for the Borel Ranch immediately adjacent to Fostoria way. The point is, nothing stops EBRP from selling property for further development.


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