The folks who call Danville home dearly love their little town. They love their neighbors, schools, tree-lined streets and cozy downtown, which looks like it was plucked from a Norman Rockwell painting.
Those sentiments resonated at a Town Council meeting Tuesday night, when more than 300 residents packed the community center and several dozen spoke during a public hearing on the proposed general plan.
"These are all the chairs we have," said Mayor Newell Arnerich, apologizing to those standing.
Another sentiment that quickly surfaced: Most residents don't want anything to change. With a few exceptions -- some of whom were booed -- residents said they don't want affordable housing, a sustainable action plan, membership in the Association of Bay Area Governments or state interference in their plans.
Wouldn't it be nice if things were that simple? I understand wanting to keep things as they are. When my daughter was 8 years old, I didn't want her to grow up.
Unflappable Town Manager Joe Calabrigo calmly explained that state mandates require the town to comply with its Regional Housing Needs Allocation (9.6 acres to be zoned for affordable housing). He added that Danville's housing demands are well within reason.
"Danville is the eighth-largest city in the county; our allocation is 10th largest," he said. "We have 4 percent of the population; we've been assigned 2.7 percent of regional housing needs."
The crowd was in no mood for context. Several speakers urged withdrawal from ABAG, even after Calabrigo explained that wouldn't alter the mandates. Others argued against a sustainable communities strategy despite being told it was required by state law.
Danville residents roil at the notion that any of them are wealthy elitists -- I know, because I've been accused of suggesting that -- but Tuesday's meeting felt like a country club membership vote, members explaining why they couldn't support undeserving applicants.
"I worked hard to be able to live here," said one.
"None of us moved here for high-density, low-income housing," said another.
"If we provide the housing some people are suggesting," a man said, "we could wind up being another Antioch."
Nothing elitist about that.
Danville resident and County Supervisor Candace Andersen was in the minority: "I've always been an advocate of affordable housing, recognizing we not only have a legal but an ethical obligation to provide our fair share."
Several muffled jeers followed. One speaker vowed she'd never vote for Andersen again.
This issue has not only been heated. It's been distorted. This zoning is not, as some intimated, for Section 8 housing. It's for those earning no more than 60 percent of median income, and at this point, it's hypothetical.
One resident wanted to know what would happen if the city ignored its RHNA requirement. The answer as I understand it: Nonprofit housing groups can sue; the state can intercede. Pleasanton tried and suffered that fate.
Curiously, less attention was paid to part of the general plan that merits scrutiny. That's allowing single-family homes on land zoned for open spaces, including a 70-home SummerHill Homes project. Maryann Cella, who opposes the idea, said the city is circumventing Measure S, which requires voters' approval for such zoning changes.
On the bright side, though, I doubt that housing will be affordable.
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org.