Bicycle bedfellows in East Bay development dispute

The SummerHill development proposal in Danville, CA has stalled because opponents claim the development failed to properly account for bicycle safety in the project environmental review.


Summerhill Homes Magee Ranch development

SummerHill homes wants to build 69 homes on the 410 acre Magee Ranch off of Diablo and Blackhawk Roads in Danville, with about 270 acres set aside as open space. The homes will be clustered in 40 acres of flat space within the property. Danville City Council accepted the EIR and approved this project in 2013.

“Save Open Space Diablo” — mostly consisting of Diablo Road residents — filed suit to stop the development. They claim the city violated its own plan with an illegal re-zoning. They also claim the EIR is invalid because it failed to define the traffic safety impact to bicyclists who love to ride to and up Mount Diablo along the roads in this vicinity.

I don’t know the merits of this project or the lack thereof, but it smells like NIMBYism to me, and the cynical application of bicycle safety seems noteworthy. Some Diablo Road residents famously try to close their road to cyclists and ask the Contra Costa Sheriff for enhanced enforcement targeting cyclists, so I’m a little bit skeptical of their concern for my safety.

Nevertheless, Bike East Bay says they’re considering this legal battle because of the important precedent it can set. The bike advocacy group for Alameda and Contra Costa Counties in the San Francisco Bay Area believes the transportation impact portion of an environmental review should include the impact on bicycle safety, with mitigations required for project approval.

The CEQA guidelines published by the state of California says “traffic and pedestrian safety” and “bicycle and pedestrian flows” must be analyzed in any EIR, but this is often a pro forma paragraph that often says “No bicycle or pedestrian safety issues are created by this project.” Indeed, the bicycle safety section from the Summerhill / Magee Ranch EIR says:

Diablo / Blackhawk Road is a popular route used by bicyclists. However, portions of the roadway are narrow and do not have bike lanes. This route is not a designated Bike Route in the Town’s General Plan. Given the narrow right-of-way along Diablo/Blackhawk, both vehicles and bicyclists should use caution. While the project would add traffic to Diablo/Blackhawk Road, it would not significantly change existing conditions for cyclists. In addition, the physical constraints along Diablo/Blackhawk Road (i.e., narrow roadways and shoulders, existing drainages, the close proximity of trees and telephone poles) limit the feasibility of widening for future bicycle facilities.

In response to persistent criticism from local cyclists on this lack of mitigation, the town of Danville promises to toss up a few “Share the Road” signs in front of this development. As if.

Read more in the Contra Costa Times — Danville: SummerHill appeal could set precedent on bicyclist safety

6 thoughts on “Bicycle bedfellows in East Bay development dispute”

  1. While I agree that “Save Open Space Diablo” sounds like a NIMBY group. The projects EIR did open the door for it when it indicated it would increase traffic, but not that much. Oh and btw there is no room to fix the problem so who cares (sorry that last bit was a bit snarky).

    Is a project here Inevitable? Is there another possible access route.

  2. I will state up front I’m not familiar with this Danville case.

    But bicyclists should not be part of some “pro-forma” declaration of any EIR for development projects as has been the case previously. That’s just a recipe for developers (and the civil engineers that they hire) not to give bicyclists and pedestrians (B&P) much consideration. I’ve seen countless urban projects which gave short shrift to B&P which severed bike connectivity and compromised safety.

    It’s incredibly difficult to have changes considered, never mind implemented, once projects have been approved.

    It’s high time that bicyclists got involved in the earliest stages of any development project. Other groups such as Audubon Society get involved early on in the development process, so I don’t see why bicyclists should be an exception.

    Good bicycling facilities and accessibility are intimately tied to good land use and planning. Whether there is any whiff of NIMBYism is beside the point. If that’s what’s required to build effective coalitions and further B&P facilities so be it. Think of this as an opportunity, not as a case of “strange bedfellows.”

    Maybe the Danville case is a bit different since we are talking about a mountain road, but it’s possible to be an advocate for _safe_ development. Labels such as NIMBYism exclude the middle.

  3. Being against sprawly subdivisions like this doesn’t make one automatically a NIMBY. I don’t know all the specifics, but it’s built on greenfield land and is planned in a way that assumes virtually all residents will get around almost exclusively by car. The main argument against NIMBYism in somewhere like SF is that the less dense, urban housing we build, the more demand there is for environmentally destructive development like this. If the people complaining live in an already-existing chunk of sprawl themselves, then they’re hypocrites, though…

  4. This is the new trend. In Sonoma County the same rural residents who complain about all the cyclists are now fighting new wineries because the traffic would endanger cyclists.

  5. As someone who uses this road to climb Diablo, I’d love to see this as a new precedent (and maybe strengthen a legal case for reopening the STACT full time). There is a huge amount of growth in this region (particularly in Bishop Ranch) and there will be many more subdivisions like this going in, I’m sure. I’m not sure if Danville has a BPAC, but that’s a good place to start. I think it’s less about NIMBYism than it is about demanding safety and not letting money and business subvert public interests (I’m looking at you, 49’ers).

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