DANVILLE -- The Town Council took a conciliatory tone Tuesday night in front of a crowd of about 300 people, most staunchly opposed to proposed zoning changes in the Danville 2030 general plan.
Public testimony continued until late into the night before an overflow crowd that lined the walls and flowed into the lobby of the Danville Community Center.
Large, vociferous crowds had shown up at five previous Planning Commission hearings on the subject since November, but the crowd Tuesday was one of the biggest ever to attend a Danville council meeting.
Residents have been opposed to state mandates for more affordable housing that they fear will change their town's character.
Early in the meeting, Councilwomen Renee Morgan and Karen Stepper indicated they would not support including a "priority development area" in the general plan, to cheers from the crowd. Designating such an area, which many speakers criticized at Planning Commission hearings, would have focused new development downtown closer to transportation corridors and would have enabled the town to compete for federal, state and local funds for road maintenance and improvements.
The council directed town staff to remove the priority development area from the plan before the next meeting on March 19, when the council will again consider the general plan document that will guide the town's development for the next two decades.
About three dozen speakers spoke in opposition to the plan's increases in zoning for high-density affordable housing and against allowing clustered residential development on agriculturally zoned land.
"The people of Danville just don't want this, period," Danville resident Lowell Crow said to loud applause.
A handful of speakers, including county Supervisor Candace Andersen, supported the plan and were in favor of more high-density, affordable housing in town. Andersen said the town had a legal and ethical obligation to provide affordable housing. She said the "riffraff" residents fear would move in are young working people like her son.
A frequent target of speakers was the Association of Bay Area Governments and its "regional housing needs allocation," which requires the town to zone at least 9.6 acres for high-density, affordable housing. Several speakers urged the town to leave ABAG.
San Ramon resident Sophia Cha said she moved to the United States from communist China to pursue the American dream.
"Like other Danvillians, as we came we brought with us our education, our work ethic, our respect for law and order, our desire and ability to raise our children at a higher standard," she said. "That's the description of Danvillians. That's why Danville is the way it is. And there's nothing wrong for us to want to keep it this way."
Cha prompted cheers from the crowd when she called ABAG a shadow government that is following a socialist and Marxist agenda of wealth redistribution.
Former San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson spoke out harshly against state mandates for affordable housing and about the loss of local control to Sacramento.
"Everyone is welcome in this valley, but we have a quality of life, and that's so important," he said.
Later in the meeting, Mayor Newell Arnerich told the audience that continuing town membership in ABAG was a separate issue and not the subject of the meeting.
The town's sustainability action plan, a companion document to the general plan, was also criticized. The action plan outlines policies related to environmental preservation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Contact Jason Sweeney at 925-847-2123. Follow him at Twitter.com/Jason_Sweeney.