Contentious Open Space Measure in Danville Too Close to Call

The fight has pit neighbors, who dread the heavy congestion of roads, against city leaders and environmental groups, who said they want to use the land for recreation and preservation, and are willing to allow for some development in order to make that happen. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Measure Y, the hotly contested open space initiative in the East Bay city of Danville, was still ahead as of March 6.

Voters were asked to authorize residential and trail development on a privately owned 400-acre plot of land. Support for the development plans have so far received more than 54% support, with all precincts reporting. For ongoing results see KQED's updated election result page. County election officials will officially announce whether the measure passed a month after the election.

The measure has pit neighbors, who dread the heavy road congestion, against city leaders and environmental groups who want to use the land for recreation and preservation and are willing to allow for some development in order to make that happen.

The land is south of the entrance to Mount Diablo State Park. For 70 years, it’s been owned by the Magee family as a ranch, and the proprietors reaped tax benefits through California's Williamson Act to keep the land undeveloped.

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In July of last year, the Danville Town Council unanimously approved developer Davidon Homes' plan for the latest development, dubbed Magee Preserve. The plan would cluster 69 single-family homes on 29 acres and permanently dedicate the remaining 381 acres as an open space for hiking and biking trails.

But neighbors pushed back and accrued enough signatures to fight the plan with this ballot measure.

If it passes, the developer can begin building. If the measure fails, the deal brokered by the city — 10 years in the making — will die, and the owners will have to go back to the drawing board.

Danville Mayor Karen Stepper, who has championed the measure, said the “no” voters were being unrealistic.

“I think that people who vote no think that they can just stop all projects and all development,” she said. “That is absolutely not true, and especially right now in the state of California, where building has been given such a high priority.”

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Confusingly, both sides of the debate said they were for “open space” in the run up to Election Day. The “No” side formed the “Danville Open Space Committee,” while the “Yes” side’s signs proclaimed “Yes on Open Space and Trails.”

Stepper said the confusion over the names may have led to complications with voting.

“I think that when people don't quite understand the two sides, then sometimes they don't understand what the benefits are,” she said.

Bob Nealis, the head of the “No” campaign, is a close neighbor of the Magee property. He said he’s still hoping for a victory, despite trailing slightly.

Regardless, he said the campaign and Danville residents will live with the outcome, whatever it is.

“If it passes, then that development is going to begin and they'll do it,” he said. “We certainly hope that some of the things we forecasted as a result of this development don't come to pass, but we'll all just live with it and move on.”