After years of study and several months of public discussion, Danville's Town Council unanimously passed its controversial 2030 General Plan, sustainability action plan and environmental impact report at its Tuesday meeting, which ran until 1 a.m.
"This has been a two and a half year process and thousands of hours were put into this. Why do we put so much time? Because all of us have one thing in common, how much we appreciate the town," Mayor Newell Arnerich said at the conclusion of the meeting. "We come from a place in the 60s when we were known as the ugliest town in America....The past two and a half decades, Danville has complied with all state laws and done in a way that is perfect for Danville and it fits."
At its March 5 meeting, Council acquiesced to several changes regarding priority development areas and affordable housing put forth by a variety of concerned citizens groups. Councilmembers spent an hour March 19 making line-item changes to wording before approving the document.
Much issue was taken with the term sustainability, which resident and Citizens Town Hall leader Heather Gass requested be removed entirely. Gass also called for the rejection of the sustainability action plan (SAP) in its entirety, noting that because the document is "optional and common sense," it is "therefore unnecessary."
Gass pointed to the lack of sustainability language in the 2010 General Plan and called the adoption of the SAP a paradigm shift. An El Sobrante resident in attendance told the Council that the SAP did not leave room for religion and the Council should instead "focus on what makes America great our churches."
"The writs of this are with Hitler and Marx," said resident Andrew Bluff. "By supporting the green movement, these kids, with good intentions, are supporting a movement that will take their rights in the future."
Several residents spoke in support of the sustainability plan, which was modified to clarify its voluntary nature with the exception of currently mandated state laws. John Chapman, president of the Greenbelt Alliance, said the SAP provides the town with a path to adopt best practices, while another resident said the plan didn't go far enough and suggested phasing out gas powered leaf blowers.
Councilmember Karen Stepper expressed concern about sustainability becoming a buzzword and suggested using more specific, well-known terms such as clean air and water efficiency. Responding to comments about the town's definition of sustainability being taken from that of the United Nations, Mayor Arnerich said he did not want to cite the source of the definition for fear of being associated with the U.N.
"We're talking about a document that anybody who looks at it should be able to identify where the source of this definition comes from," Gass said. "Our city is using international principals in our local planning document and they won't admit it."
Many of the 200 residents in attendance continued to speak against Danville's membership in the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and adherence to its regional housing needs allocation which requires Danville to identify a minimum of 9.6 acres could possibly be built.
"It's not paranoia about ABAG. You open the door a crack and it suddenly gets pushed open," one resident said to cheers. "I'm not going to say that we aren't going to have growth, but we can control it and certainly shouldn't let ABAG dictate it. So let's keep our laws strong and fight the state if we need to, let's get out of ABAG."
Christopher Shipley, a recently retired BART police officer who worked in Oakland, San Francisco and Richmond, said he could attribute a "good amount" of crime that occurred near BART stations to high density housing.
"I cannot tell you how many victims I've seen -- teeth knocked out, cars broken into the utter sense of a loss of security," Shipley said. "ABAG has no vested interest in any one community ... they want to get what they want and then leave. This is our community and we need to take hold of it. Use these parcels for some type of affordable housing program that does allow people to come in that are taxpayers, law abiding citizens, safe desirable and what we have all come to love."
Other residents took issue with the characterization of opposition in the media and by the town. A resident named Andrea criticized the description of opponents as Tea Party radicals.
"We live in a unique town ... we all worked hard to be in Danville. Equal opportunity doesn't equal equal outcome," she said. "So many people here commune it's not fair to think that because you work here you can live here, you have to earn it."
Marianne Gagen said she was greatly concerned with the paranoid concerning ABAG and the United Nations.
"This is not who we are," she said.
Although most of the attendees had left the meeting by the time Council closed the public hearing, Councilmember Mike Doyle said he was pleasantly surprised by the amount of people who were interested in the General Plan. Mayor Arnerich added that he is appreciative of the planning process.
"It's hard to build in Danville, one of the hardest places to build. When you take state mandates, the values of Danville and our standards ... because careful consideration and careful planning has gotten us great products," he said.
The Town Council will discuss other developments such as SummerHill Homes at future meetings.