The good people of Danville love their town as is. They don't want any changes, thanks. Anything else you want to discuss?
That was pretty much the message that echoed through the Danville Community Center on Tuesday night, where the Planning Commission sought residents' feedback to proposed updates to the general plan and heard little but discontent.
Every California city is periodically required to update its visions for population growth, and each must designate areas for residential development. The process is called the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, and it carries some heft, because noncompliance can mean a loss of transportation funding and legal action.
Most new general plans undergo modest tweaks -- this is Danville's third since incorporating in 1982 -- but this one has ignited a firestorm. The biggest bone of contention is over 14 "opportunity sites" within city limits, from which 9.6 acres must be identified for development of multifamily dwellings. Opponents take that to mean stack-and-pack cracker boxes filled with low-income renters, whose kids will overflow classrooms and cars will muck up traffic, sucking all the charm out of Charm City.
It's a large leap from here to there, but once a worry starts rolling downhill, it's hard to stop.
As Town Manager Joe Calabrigo and planning consultant Barry Miller attempted to explain several times, designating properties for development does not mean they will necessarily be developed. But folks in the audience were already hearing backhoes and smelling construction dust.
"Anything that happens will be market-driven," Calabrigo said. "This doesn't take anything away from property owners. It doesn't compel them to develop their property."
What's more, considering property values in one of the toniest towns in the East Bay, construction of so-called affordable housing is highly unlikely. Why choose pricey real estate to market low-end apartments? Plus, they would still have to clear Planning Commission hurdles.
That didn't stop more than two dozen speakers from airing their concerns, which ranged from negative impact on property values to the intrusion of regional authorities on local planning to urbanization of an overcrowded downtown.
Calabrigo noted that Danville already is home to a half-dozen multifamily dwellings, which have not destroyed property values, that state and regional agencies have been increasing their control of individual communities for years, and that population growth is unlikely to approach state projections or necessitate major development.
The first general plan, in 1987, forecast Danville's population would grow to 43,000 by 2005; the second, in 1999, forecast growth to 44,000 by 2010. "As of 2012, our actual population is just over 42,000," Calabrigo said.
Residents had other concerns. They heaped disdain on the Association of Bay Area Governments, which dispenses RHNA numbers and pushes a high-density Sustainable Communities Strategy. They railed about One Bay Area, the greenhouse-gas-obsessed development vision shared by ABAG and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
The good people of Danville are unhappy about any changes to their town and their quality of life. The good news is they'll have many more opportunities to voice their objections.
The new general plan is a long, long way from finished.
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org.