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Diablo: Residents clash over public access of shortcut to Mount Diablo

Pathway connects Alameda Diablo Road to Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard, offering cyclists safe passage to mountain

Mount Diablo is a highly popular spot for cyclists, however the path to the mountain can often be treacherous as cyclists, pedestrians and cars battle for space on narrow and winding roads. (Image courtesy Dave Hammond)

A 25-foot pathway in Diablo has become the site of a legal battle over the public's right to access it, with a collection of local residents pitted against each other and regional bike advocacy groups.

The pathway in question sits on a portion of two properties on 2354 and 2328 Alameda Diablo, connecting Alameda Diablo road to Mt. Diablo Scenic Blvd. (Photo courtesy Bike Danville)

Nestled between Alameda Diablo Road to Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard in Diablo, the pathway provides easy access to the trails and wilderness found on Mount Diablo to hundreds -- if not thousands -- of cyclists and pedestrians every year. Claiming that this access has created a public nuisance for homes in the area, a collection of residents have been working to block public access to the pathway, a move that local cyclist advocacy groups say would create a significantly dangerous environment.

"We have spent over $100,000 fighting the bullying tactics of the intervenors and protecting the public's right to use Diablo streets and the pathway connector," said Dave Hammond, spokesperson for the Open Space Advocacy Group -- an organization advocating for public use of the area.

"But a handful of Diablo residents with too much time and money on their hands are challenging public access rights that go back over 100 years."

-Dave Hammond, Spokesperson, Open Space Advocacy Group

"The perception that all Diablo residents are rich people trying to restrict safe passage to park roads and trails is incorrect. Most respect public safety and encourage responsible passage through Diablo," he said. "But a handful of Diablo residents with too much time and money on their hands are challenging public access rights that go back over 100 years."

The cut-through in question is an approximately 10-foot wide path that sits on a portion of two properties on 2354 and 2328 Alameda Diablo, connecting Alameda Diablo road to Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard, and is highly popular for cyclists who are on their way to Mount Diablo.

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The Diablo Safety and Security Committee -- a neighborhood group of Diablo residents seeking to remove public access -- have claimed that the pathway has created a public nuisance due to the volume of cyclists that use the path on a section of land that the group has not conceded is permitted for public use.

"The lawsuit is a frontal attack on Diablo's private roads, safety, security and peaceful residential quality of life. If successful, the lawsuit will make Diablo the public shortcut for all to Mt. Diablo State Park and a way to circumvent traffic congestion at the Diablo Road/Mt. Diablo Scenic Intersection. This is a result we cannot accept," the group said in a letter to residents on June 17.

"The lawsuit is a frontal attack on Diablo's private roads, safety, security and peaceful residential quality of life."

-Diablo Safety and Security Committee, Residents' group

"The simple fact is that our roads are private and residential in nature, narrow and winding, and we're never designed to be public thoroughfares accommodating substantial traffic. There have already been accidents and many near misses involving pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles," added the letter-writers, who were seeking to raise funds for legal costs.

An issue that has been in discussion for several years, a 2017 complaint filed by a collection of Diablo residents opposed to public access of the pathway claims that no formal public easement has been zoned at the cut-through, adding that the use of it by the public has created a nuisance due to the sheer volume of traffic from trail users.

The group further states in the complaint that, according to the subdivision approved by the Contra Costa County Planning Department, the easement is zoned only for "equestrian and pedestrian traffic,” not for cyclists or vehicles.

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"The location of the 'hiking and equestrian' easement makes sense as it provides a safer route for pedestrians and horse riders to access Mt. Diablo State Park," the complaint reads.

On behalf of cyclists groups throughout the East Bay who regularly use the pathway, Diablo resident Winston Cervantes has since filed a countersuit to protect cyclists' access to the pathway connector. One of the main points of Cervantes and his supporters is that those who oppose public access have no standing to pursue an action to close the pathway because it is an easement on a specific parcel that none of the opponents owns.

"It is a well settled principle in California law that a remedy quieting title to real property only declares the legal or equitable rights, title or interests in a property as they exist, and does not create a new legal right to a property where none exists," reads Cervantes' legal brief -- which was filed on Aug. 6, 2020.

"Therefore a claim for quiet title can only be brought by a person or entity who in fact has or claims a definite pre-existing legal right to the property," it added.

If public access to cyclists and hikers to the cut-through is denied, those seeking to access Mount Diablo will be forced to find alternate routes, including the Diablo Road in Danville -- which is notorious for its winding narrow lanes and fast moving traffic.

"Cyclist safety should be a universal priority and yet closing this connector would force thousands of hikers, bikers and trail runners onto Diablo Road and Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard where numerous collisions have occurred," Hammond said.

There's a court-required settlement conference Sept. 9 and, according to Hammond, while his group would much prefer a settlement before going to any type of trial, they have struggled to get the other side to sit down at the table.

"We are having trouble getting the intervenors to respect the law and sit for their depositions," he said. "To date, the intervenors have been unwilling or unable to comply with this simple request to provide us with some alternative dates for their depositions. We have a trial date in early September and yet cannot complete our trial prep without these depositions."

Legal representatives from residents seeking to remove public access to the pathway did not respond to requests for comment.

Hammond added that the town of Danville has been working on plans to provide alternate routes bikers and runners can take off of Diablo Road, including "plans for a paved bike path from St. Timothy's Episcopal church along Diablo Road to meet the Blackhawk Bike Path."

"This will provide a safe alternative to the dangerous Diablo Road curves and help route cyclists away from Diablo streets," he said. "I would respectfully ask that the intervenors consider this fact."

While this specific legal issue and bicycle access on Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard lies in Diablo, and thus outside of Danville's jurisdiction, the town has been working on a project to help improve safety in the Diablo Road corridor.

"Regarding projects and the Diablo Road corridor (which is Danville’s responsibility), the town’s current priority project is the Diablo Road Trail, which will provide an alternative for cyclists and pedestrians to access Mt. Diablo State Park," Danville's public information officer Nicola Shihab said. "The project is currently in design and environmental phases and is scheduled for construction sometime next year."

Estimated to cost approximately $4 million, the project details are available at www.danville.ca.gov/853/Diablo-Road-Trail.

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Diablo: Residents clash over public access of shortcut to Mount Diablo

Pathway connects Alameda Diablo Road to Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard, offering cyclists safe passage to mountain

by / Danville San Ramon

Uploaded: Thu, Jul 8, 2021, 7:00 pm

A 25-foot pathway in Diablo has become the site of a legal battle over the public's right to access it, with a collection of local residents pitted against each other and regional bike advocacy groups.

Nestled between Alameda Diablo Road to Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard in Diablo, the pathway provides easy access to the trails and wilderness found on Mount Diablo to hundreds -- if not thousands -- of cyclists and pedestrians every year. Claiming that this access has created a public nuisance for homes in the area, a collection of residents have been working to block public access to the pathway, a move that local cyclist advocacy groups say would create a significantly dangerous environment.

"We have spent over $100,000 fighting the bullying tactics of the intervenors and protecting the public's right to use Diablo streets and the pathway connector," said Dave Hammond, spokesperson for the Open Space Advocacy Group -- an organization advocating for public use of the area.

"The perception that all Diablo residents are rich people trying to restrict safe passage to park roads and trails is incorrect. Most respect public safety and encourage responsible passage through Diablo," he said. "But a handful of Diablo residents with too much time and money on their hands are challenging public access rights that go back over 100 years."

The cut-through in question is an approximately 10-foot wide path that sits on a portion of two properties on 2354 and 2328 Alameda Diablo, connecting Alameda Diablo road to Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard, and is highly popular for cyclists who are on their way to Mount Diablo.

The Diablo Safety and Security Committee -- a neighborhood group of Diablo residents seeking to remove public access -- have claimed that the pathway has created a public nuisance due to the volume of cyclists that use the path on a section of land that the group has not conceded is permitted for public use.

"The lawsuit is a frontal attack on Diablo's private roads, safety, security and peaceful residential quality of life. If successful, the lawsuit will make Diablo the public shortcut for all to Mt. Diablo State Park and a way to circumvent traffic congestion at the Diablo Road/Mt. Diablo Scenic Intersection. This is a result we cannot accept," the group said in a letter to residents on June 17.

"The simple fact is that our roads are private and residential in nature, narrow and winding, and we're never designed to be public thoroughfares accommodating substantial traffic. There have already been accidents and many near misses involving pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles," added the letter-writers, who were seeking to raise funds for legal costs.

An issue that has been in discussion for several years, a 2017 complaint filed by a collection of Diablo residents opposed to public access of the pathway claims that no formal public easement has been zoned at the cut-through, adding that the use of it by the public has created a nuisance due to the sheer volume of traffic from trail users.

The group further states in the complaint that, according to the subdivision approved by the Contra Costa County Planning Department, the easement is zoned only for "equestrian and pedestrian traffic,” not for cyclists or vehicles.

"The location of the 'hiking and equestrian' easement makes sense as it provides a safer route for pedestrians and horse riders to access Mt. Diablo State Park," the complaint reads.

On behalf of cyclists groups throughout the East Bay who regularly use the pathway, Diablo resident Winston Cervantes has since filed a countersuit to protect cyclists' access to the pathway connector. One of the main points of Cervantes and his supporters is that those who oppose public access have no standing to pursue an action to close the pathway because it is an easement on a specific parcel that none of the opponents owns.

"It is a well settled principle in California law that a remedy quieting title to real property only declares the legal or equitable rights, title or interests in a property as they exist, and does not create a new legal right to a property where none exists," reads Cervantes' legal brief -- which was filed on Aug. 6, 2020.

"Therefore a claim for quiet title can only be brought by a person or entity who in fact has or claims a definite pre-existing legal right to the property," it added.

If public access to cyclists and hikers to the cut-through is denied, those seeking to access Mount Diablo will be forced to find alternate routes, including the Diablo Road in Danville -- which is notorious for its winding narrow lanes and fast moving traffic.

"Cyclist safety should be a universal priority and yet closing this connector would force thousands of hikers, bikers and trail runners onto Diablo Road and Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard where numerous collisions have occurred," Hammond said.

There's a court-required settlement conference Sept. 9 and, according to Hammond, while his group would much prefer a settlement before going to any type of trial, they have struggled to get the other side to sit down at the table.

"We are having trouble getting the intervenors to respect the law and sit for their depositions," he said. "To date, the intervenors have been unwilling or unable to comply with this simple request to provide us with some alternative dates for their depositions. We have a trial date in early September and yet cannot complete our trial prep without these depositions."

Legal representatives from residents seeking to remove public access to the pathway did not respond to requests for comment.

Hammond added that the town of Danville has been working on plans to provide alternate routes bikers and runners can take off of Diablo Road, including "plans for a paved bike path from St. Timothy's Episcopal church along Diablo Road to meet the Blackhawk Bike Path."

"This will provide a safe alternative to the dangerous Diablo Road curves and help route cyclists away from Diablo streets," he said. "I would respectfully ask that the intervenors consider this fact."

While this specific legal issue and bicycle access on Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard lies in Diablo, and thus outside of Danville's jurisdiction, the town has been working on a project to help improve safety in the Diablo Road corridor.

"Regarding projects and the Diablo Road corridor (which is Danville’s responsibility), the town’s current priority project is the Diablo Road Trail, which will provide an alternative for cyclists and pedestrians to access Mt. Diablo State Park," Danville's public information officer Nicola Shihab said. "The project is currently in design and environmental phases and is scheduled for construction sometime next year."

Estimated to cost approximately $4 million, the project details are available at www.danville.ca.gov/853/Diablo-Road-Trail.

Comments

Kjgamble
Registered user
San Ramon
on Jul 9, 2021 at 8:09 am
Kjgamble, San Ramon
Registered user
on Jul 9, 2021 at 8:09 am

Bicyclists are creating traffic hazards and nuisances all over the place. They don’t stay out of the way and are aggressive about it. A thousand pound vehicle should not be forced to yield the right of way to a bicycle. Should be the other way around. Cyclists need to find roads less traveled by the vehicles for which they were built, and more suitable for their hobby.


Paul Clark
Registered user
Danville
on Jul 9, 2021 at 8:43 am
Paul Clark, Danville
Registered user
on Jul 9, 2021 at 8:43 am

I find it "interesting" that the Town of Danville would consider "ponying up" $4 million to construct a bike path along Diablo Rd., for non-residents use, while for all of the time we have lived up off of El Pintado Rd., the Town has done NOTHING about maintaining El Pintado. We have been here since 1984. When Steve Lake was the Town's Public Works "Director" ( actually his business card should have called him "The Town Liar") we got tired of his series LIES about what The Town was going to do to remedy the very obvious personal safety problems with the portion of El Pintado from Hillmont Place to El Pinto Rd. That portion of El Pintado is for all intents and purposes, exactly the same as it was when we moved up here, which is to say just like is was when we were part of the County. Lake told so many "stories" about how The Town was going to "fix" that portion of the road, that we finally gave up trying to get The Town to engage in making the sorely needed improvements. I suppose nothing will be done until someone is hit by a car. Then, magically the money "will be found!" One of our long-time friends lives on Richard Lane. He is aghast at the amount of "attention" that that street gets when the Town doesn't do ANYTHING to El Pintado. From what I have been told, the Town's approach to road maintenance is based on "Pavement Management Index." So much to say, they maintain all the streets that have high PMI and let the rest go.


Nicola Shihab, Public Information Officer, Town of Danville
Registered user
Danville
on Jul 9, 2021 at 11:36 am
Nicola Shihab, Public Information Officer, Town of Danville, Danville
Registered user
on Jul 9, 2021 at 11:36 am

Good morning Mr Clark. I just wanted to direct you to page 369 of the Town’s 2021-2022 Annual Operating Budget and Capital Improvement Program document and particularly to Project C-402 which includes $500,000 per year for the next three years to overlay (re-pave) El Pintado Loop. Web Link


Paul Clark
Registered user
Danville
on Jul 9, 2021 at 12:27 pm
Paul Clark, Danville
Registered user
on Jul 9, 2021 at 12:27 pm

Ms. Shihab,

Well, If you actually do spend money on El Pintado, it will be the FIRST TIME in the 38 years we've lived up here that the Town has done anything other than fix places that were impassible with crappy "overlays" that start falling apart right after the trucks leave. If all you are going to do is another "thief in the night" overlay job, save the money! I gave up on Steve Lake! The number of "stories" he told us about what the Town was going to do up here are too numerous to recount, but one "whopper" he told us was a classic: " Some of residents up there want it left alone!"(like a public official should use such an argument where public safety was concerned). He also told us that the Town was collecting money from frontage property owners who were developing their lots and that money would go to fix the road! Each and every time I met with him, he pedaled a new story. It would be a nice idea if the Town were to engage with the people up here, who have long suffered with the complete lack of road maintenance. We are way past forming groups to go the the Town Council, because our efforts aways fell on deaf ears.
Anyway, one hopes that the work will include widening the portion I referenced. And tell the "tree guy" from Concord who shows up "to protect the trees" to stay home. Some of the trees are going to have to be removed if you do anything of lasting value. Maybe you should take the money going to Diablo road for people who probably don't live here, add it to your El Pintado Budget and actually do something lasting. If all you do is a patch job, with no widening, someone will eventually get hit by a car!


Nicola Shihab, Public Information Officer, Town of Danville
Registered user
Danville
on Jul 9, 2021 at 12:42 pm
Nicola Shihab, Public Information Officer, Town of Danville, Danville
Registered user
on Jul 9, 2021 at 12:42 pm

Thanks for all your comments Mr Clark, and I am sorry you feel that your concerns weren't heard. I wanted to make you aware of the proposed improvements to El Pintado but I will also pass your comments on. Please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]


Jennifer
Registered user
Danville
on Jul 9, 2021 at 1:55 pm
Jennifer, Danville
Registered user
on Jul 9, 2021 at 1:55 pm

Vehicles and cyclists are oil and water. They just don't mix. Cyclists need to find a safer place to ride. And, yes they are way too aggressive. So many of us are no longer able to enjoy Mt. Diablo because the cyclists have taken over, and we don't want to hit and kill them.


Nancy
Registered user
Diablo
on Jul 29, 2021 at 10:55 am
Nancy, Diablo
Registered user
on Jul 29, 2021 at 10:55 am

Bicyclists already go through Diablo and, I agree it is safer for all if they are not on Diablo Road. But they do not need a 25 foot roadway through private property to do this. Bike pats are not 25’ wide. This is meant to be a roadway for cars, putting more cars on Diablo roads and making pedestrians and bicyclists even less safe.


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