Voters in the town of Danville will have the final say in deciding the fate of the long-contested Magee Preserve development project located along Diablo Road, when Measure Y appears on the March 3 primary election ballot.
Located on a 410-acre property on the south side of Diablo and Blackhawk roads and proposed by Walnut Creek-based developer Davidon Homes, the Magee Preserve project consists of building 69 homes clustered on approximately 29 acres of land, with the remaining 381 acres preserved as open space on a permanent basis.
Approved by the Danville Town Council in July 2019 and placed on the ballot as a result of a referendum petition submitted by residents opposed to the proposed new development, a Yes vote on Measure Y would result in the approval of the Magee Preserve project while a No vote would result in its denial.
“(The Town Council) encouraged a plan that clustered the homes on a small amount of acreage (29 acres) and maximized the permanent open space available for public benefit (381 acres). We see a Yes vote on Measure Y as validating the way Danville was designed -- clear views of the hills, clustered homes, and large open spaces for hiking, biking, and wildlife corridors,” Danville Mayor Karen Stepper told DanvilleSanRamon.com.
Broken up into a larger and smaller cluster, 66 homes would be located on the eastern portion of the property with the main entrance to the housing complex being based adjacent to Jillian Way, while an additional three homes are proposed to be constructed in the western half near the corner of Diablo and McCauley roads.
If approved by voters the newly preserved land would be maintained within the East Bay Regional Park District boundaries or by the new homeowners via a new geological hazard abatement district (GHAD), and would open up now-agriculturally zoned private land to the public for the first time through a series of hiking and biking trails combing through the property.
Magee Preserve proponents say the hiking trails will be used to connect Mount Diablo State Park to Sycamore Valley Regional Park and the Iron Horse Trail, filling in an “important gap” in the regional trail network.
“Yes on Y delivers a substantial net conservation gain for Danville families and the public while providing the missing link to already conserved parklands including Sycamore Valley Regional Open Space,” said Seth Adams, land conservation director of environmental group Save Mount Diablo. "It protects all of the property’s hills, ridges and 1.5 miles of Green Valley Creek."
In order to mitigate the impact 69 homes would have on traffic in the area, the project also proposes to add a stoplight at the Athenian School/Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard intersection and adding a new turning lane through the Green Valley Road/Diablo Road constricted intersection from the east to the north, according to Stepper.
The proposed project would also include an easement along the notoriously dangerous to cyclists Diablo Road, where the town could construct a paved bicycle/easement path -- although the town would need to acquire funds and develop that project at a later date.
Opponents to Measure Y have shown great concern over potential risks to local plant and animal life, the loss of any open space to an outside developer and increased traffic on the already oft-congested Diablo Road -- town staff estimate an extra 841 daily trips to Diablo Road/Blackhawk Road.
“Preserving open space by building a major housing subdivision on existing open space makes no logical sense and is wrong for Danville,” said Bob Nealis, a No on Measure Y campaign leader.
“A 69 home major subdivision feeding at least 840 car trips per day onto an already overcrowded, narrow and windy two-lane country road increases traffic congestion for all of Danville, creates a higher risk of road safety issues and exposes hundreds of residents to serious injury or worse in the event of wildfire or emergency evacuation necessity,” he added.
Measure Y opponents have further voiced concerns over how effectively residents can evacuate down the narrow winding Diablo Road in the event of an emergency event such as a fire.
However San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District personnel and town staff have said that neighbors ability to evacuate in an emergency should not be significantly impacted by the project -- with town staff adding that project would include a series of new evacuation trails enabling residents to evacuate in multiple different directions.
Measure Y was placed on the ballot as a result of a resident-submitted petition that garnered more than 5,000 signatures from Danville residents who opposed the project on various grounds, some of whom have opposed development of the area for the past decade.
Davidon's is only the most recent proposal for the Magee property that has been long eyed for development with housing, including a previous version of the project proposed by developer SummerHill Homes in 2013 that resulted in a lawsuit that reached the state Court of Appeal before that developer bowed out.
Developers say that not only does Davidon’s version of the project preserves more land than SummerHill’s version of the project, but it is endorsed by leading environmental groups such as Save Mount Diablo and the East Bay Regional Park District as well as recreation groups Bike East Bay and Mount Diablo Cyclists.
“We worked painstakingly and for years together with the Town Council and community to make sure this is a balanced project that puts the environment and the community first,” said Steve Abbs, vice president of land acquisition and development at Davidon.
Residents interested in learning more about Measure Y can visit the town of Danville’s official website where town staff have provided informational resources and ballot arguments for voters to read.