Danville council approves growth plan after reducing areas for affordable housing

By Denis Cuff Contra Costa Times

DANVILLE - The Town Council approved a new growth blueprint that was watered down in response to a public outcry over encouraging high density, affordable housing in this affluent community.

Hearing from another round of speakers who warned that "stack and pack" housing would undermine the charm and character of Danville, the council approved a new general plan that designated less land for affordable housing than originally proposed.

About 200 people attended the meeting Tuesday night but the audience had dwindled to about 30 by the time the council vote came shortly before 1 a.m Wednesday.

The plan designated two spots covering 9.5 acres for affordable housing, less than the 14 sites over some 36 acres that was originally proposed.

The council also scrapped the idea of designating downtown Danville as a priority development area that could qualify for government subsidies to develop housing near jobs, stores, or bus routes.

The unanimous vote capped months of packed public hearings with debate about how far Danville should go in promoting housing near its center.

Several city critics said they were pleased the town council changed the plan, but still upset that the plan attempted to meet afford housing demand 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 long-time 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 city that prides itself on a low crime rate.

"This high density low income housing threatens public safety. I've seen it first hand," he said.

Several speakers urged the Danville council to withdraw from ABAG and they wore bright stickers with a slash drawn though the name of the regional planning agency.

City planners said Danville is no different than other California cities in facing a state mandate to designate places for a mix of housing types.

Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich said weeks of public hearings on the plan helped produced a good product that met the town's minimal obligation to designate sites for affordable housing