DANVILLE -- Danville has a new town growth plan. It's a watered-down version changed in response to a huge controversy over proposals to encourage high density and affordable housing in this affluent community.
Hearing from another round of speakers who warned "stack and pack" housing would undermine Danville's charm and character, the Town Council in the wee hours of Wednesday approved a new 2030 general plan that designated less land for affordable housing than originally proposed.
The 5-0 vote just before 1 a.m. culminated weeks of packed hearings (four before the Planning Commission and two before the Town Council) and debate on whether high-density housing would help the environment or damage the suburban lifestyle.
Several speakers in the audience of some 200 people Tuesday night said they were pleased the council had deleted parts of an earlier proposal. The final general plan designates two sites covering 9.5 acres for affordable housing, far less than the 14 sites originally proposed.
The council also scrapped the idea of designating downtown Danville as a priority development area that could qualify for government subsidies for housing near jobs, stores, or public transit stops.
"The council was right to make changes," said Mike Arata, a member of a group called Friends of Danville, "but I think they could have done more to remove references to sustainable development that are part of an attack on suburbs."
Mayor Newell Arnerich said the council came up with a good plan after listening to the public and making changes.
"While we don't agree with everything we heard, I think it was a good process," Arnerich said.
Only about 30 in an audience of some 200 people stuck around early Wednesday for the vote.
Earlier in the evening, several speakers welcomed the changes in the plan but grumbled that the town was being prodded to meet affordable housing goals based on calculations by a regional agency called the Association of Bay Area Governments.
"It is clear to me the community doesn't want to be part of the program and defining ourselves in this way," said Kerri Gilbert, a longtime town resident. "We love Danville the way it is. We don't want it to change."
Chris Shipley, a retired BART police officer, said he worries that high-density, low-income housing would bring crime to a safe city.
"This high-density, low-income housing threatens public safety. I've seen it first hand," he said.
Former congressman Bill Baker of Danville said it was folly to promote high density housing in Danville as a tool to reduce auto use and pollution. The town, he noted, is miles from the closest BART stations and has limited public transit bus service.
Not everyone viewed compact housing so negatively, and some suggested it could provide affordable homes for young adults, seniors and people who work in Danville.
John Chapman of Danville, a leader in the Greenbelt Alliance, said encouraging sustainable development is a path toward protecting open space and easing the environmental impacts of growth.
"Cities are stepping up to do their part," Chapman said. "Now it's Danville's turn."
City planners and administrators said Danville is no different from other California cities in facing a state mandate to designate places for a mix of housing types.
Also early Wednesday, the Town Council adopted a sustainability action plan that encourages a variety of energy and water conservation measures.
In a written release handed out at Tuesday's meeting, Friends of Danville claimed while "sustainable" seems like a harmless term, the term is used by groups that want to "to get us out of our single family homes, out of cars, control our private property, and further invade our daily lives."
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff