AVHA Comment on Proposed Cancer Support Community Development

AVHA Comment on Proposed Cancer

Support Community Development

Summary

Acalanes Valley Homeowners Association honors the invaluable services provided by Cancer Support Community to those impacted by cancer, but opposes their proposal to develop a new Center on their parcel of land in Lafayette. The parcel is zoned for one single-family home, and cannot support the accessibility and parking needs of a medical counseling service drawing vehicle traffic from throughout the nine-county Bay Area. CSC proposes a multi-story office building with dozens of parking spaces, next to Lafayette Reservoir, in the middle of what is now a continuous greensward south of Mt Diablo Blvd from Acalanes Rd to downtown. Approval of this project would exacerbate traffic congestion on MDB and Hwy 24; set an unwelcome precedent for overdevelopment of the 60-acre open space next to it; abrogate our General Plan; and threaten the semi rural character of western Lafayette.

Introduction

Acalanes Valley Homeowners Association (avha.org) includes about 440 homes in Lafayette, south of Mount Diablo Blvd and west of Lafayette Reservoir. Its charter states that “As residents of our valley predominantly prefer keeping its semi-rural ambiance, the goal of AVHA is to protect, preserve, and whenever possible to enhance the valley’s neighborhoods.”

Cancer Support Community San Francisco Bay Area (cancersupport.net) is a nonprofit region-wide medical counseling service, now based in Walnut Creek, whose stated mission is “Providing comprehensive care – including counseling, support groups, nutrition, exercise and education – for cancer patients and their loved ones.” CSC wishes to build a new Center, immediately west of Lafayette Reservoir, on a parcel zoned for one single-family home.

The Board of Directors of Acalanes Valley Homeowners Association is grateful for the invaluable services provided by CSC to those impacted by cancer, and welcomes their decision to relocate to Lafayette. Our concern is that the necessary scope of their proposal grossly exceeds the single-family zoning of the parcel in question (shown below), and is clearly impermissible under Lafayette’s General Plan.

History

The 6-acre CSC parcel (above left, APN 252-050-014) was optioned by CSC in January 2016 and then donated outright by the landowner to CSC in December 2018. The parcel is currently unaddressed and undeveloped open space on the south side of MDB, immediately west of Lafayette Reservoir. The parcel falls within a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone; a Hillside Overlay District; and is zoned LR-10, meaning one single family residence is allowed.

In October 2017 CSC held a Study Session with Lafayette’s Design Review Commission and introduced a “conceptual site organization” based on building in the southwest corner of the lot, as shown.

Following the donation of the parcel, CSC conducted another Study Session in February 2019 and introduced a new proposal, locating the proposed building and its parking much closer to Mt Diablo Blvd, as shown.

The full new proposal is available online at

https://lafayette.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=&event_id=707&meta_id=98620

Access

As shown on the Google Map above, the CSC site is not served by, or in walking distance from, any form of public transit; it can be reached only by car. The proposed location would thus limit CSC’s services to those cancer sufferers with the means and opportunity to commute by car to peripheral Lafayette. Every employee and Member will need parking on-site and must contend with (and aggravate) existing traffic congestion on MDB and Hwy 24.

Traffic

The site is on a four-lane stretch of Mt Diablo Blvd where the speed limit is 45mph and visibility is restricted in both directions by curves in the road. The west end of Mt Diablo Blvd is already under- engineered for the current demand, with no traffic signals from Acalanes Rd to Risa Rd. Drivers can

approach the CSC parcel only from the eastbound direction on MDB; there is no left turn in or out. As shown by the blue line on the Google Map above, there is no left or U-turn at the west end of MDB; to drive (for example) from Lafayette Reservoir, immediately next door, to the subject parcel, takes 11 minutes and detours up El Nido Ranch Rd north of Hwy 24 before approaching again from the east.

Lafayette Reservoir’s driveway next to the parcel is likewise uncontrolled, and is regularly coned off by police to provide adequate traffic control on popular days. All cars exiting the CSC facility would have to turn right – directly into conflict with Reservoir traffic – or else unlawfully turn left, creating an even greater traffic hazard.

Scale

Cancer Support Community is proud to provide services and support to residents of all Bay Area cities including (but not limited to): Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Concord, Martinez, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, San Ramon, Danville, Oakland, Berkeley, Dublin, Pleasanton, San Francisco, Emeryville, Castro Valley, Vallejo, Antioch, Pittsburg, Brentwood, Clayton. cancersupport.net

The nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, home to about eight million, sees about 30,000 new diagnoses of invasive cancers per year. Clearly, the proposed 11270sf building with 62 parking spaces is grossly inadequate to that need on Day 1. At the same time it is egregiously disproportionate to a residential parcel zoned for one single family home.

Parking

Current plans call for 62 parking spaces adjacent to Mt Diablo Blvd, and a new driveway at the western edge of the parcel, as shown below.

The current plan, and especially its parking lots, would interrupt the existing continuous greensward on the south side of MDB, almost from Acalanes Rd to Risa Road, with a large and unsightly sprawl of cars.

There is no parking or stopping allowed on MDB in front of the parcel, so arriving or departing groups will face delays. At night these parking lots will require overhead lighting, creating potentially hazardous glare for drivers on a stretch of road with very little other ambient lighting.

As excessive as 62 parking spaces are for a lot zoned for a single family home, they are still inadequate to the easily foreseeable need of the population they serve. None of the spaces on the current plan are designated accessible; accessible spaces are wider than standard, and CSC with its medically fragile Members will need a lot of them; so the true number of spaces will be fewer. CSC’s web site lists 48 team members; even if only half are ever on site at a given time, they will use a lot of parking before the first Member or guest arrives.

Precedent

The CSC parcel is next to the 62-acre DeSilva parcel, and shares its LR-10 zoning and current undeveloped state. Overdevelopment of the smaller site as proposed by CSC would set an unwelcome precedent for the future of the larger site, whose overdevelopment would in turn directly threaten the semi-rural character of western Lafayette. If CSC is allowed an 11270sf building with dozens of parking spaces south of MDB, the landowner next door, whose parcel is ten times as large, will have grounds to argue for ten times as much.

Land Use Permit

CSC first optioned the parcel in January 2016. In October 2016, CEO James Bouquin wrote to the Lafayette Planning Commission, describing CSC’s mission and asking for a determination that its activities fall within “Community Assembly and Education” as defined by Lafayette Municipal Code. City staff researched the matter and concluded as follows:

Conclusion
Based on the scope of services described in the attached letter and on the CSC web site, staff finds that Cancer Support Society’s activities are similar to those which occur at facilities listed in §6-410 “Community Assembly and Education.” Individuals served by CSC would gather at the facility, engage in activities and programs like those which occur at community buildings, fraternal organizations and religious institutions. CSC’s desired facility would have a multi- purpose room, meeting rooms, and a commercial kitchen much like a community building (Veterans Memorial Building), fraternal organization (Mason’s Hall), or religious institution (church community hall). If the Planning Commission confirms this, then CSC could apply for a land use permit in a district that lists such uses under “Uses Requiring a Permit.”

The Planning Commission voted to accept staff’s finding at that time. CSC thus has the right to apply for a land use permit. They have no right to receive one; that will be (as always) at the discretion of the Planning Commission and based on the facts of the application at that time. Neither Mr Bouquin’s letter, nor the City’s response, makes any mention of any particular parcel, let alone any project design of any scale.

If the Planning Commission confirms this, then CSC could apply for a

land use permit in a district that lists such uses under “Uses Requiring a Permit.”

Moreover, the land use classification system was intended to allow churches, schools and social organizations to locate within the residential neighborhoods they serve. It was not intended to draw car traffic from throughout the nine-county Bay Area into a residential neighborhood. The Planning Commission can and should deny a land use permit for the proposed project, because it is grossly incongruent with the intention of the law and the character of the neighborhood.

Since then Mr Bouquin has frequently asserted that “The Planning Commission has determined that we can use that site for our purpose.” This is simply untrue – the Planning Commission has said only that CSC may apply for a land use permit, which they have not done. It said nothing about that site because Mr Bouquin’s inquiry did not mention the site. This untruth has been restated by Mr Bouquin, and corrected by City staff, at Design Review Commission Study Sessions on October 17 2017 and again on February 25 2019.

Conclusion

The Board of Directors of AVHA honors the selfless work performed by CSC. However, their proposed development directly thwarts Lafayette’s General Plan and zoning, and would be an irrevocably disastrous land use decision. It would despoil the existing greensward south of Mt Diablo Blvd all the way to downtown. It would aggravate traffic congestion on Mt Diablo Blvd near the Reservoir and hasten the demise of the semi-rural character of western Lafayette. And, even if the proposal were approved and eventually came to fruition, it would take many more years many more millions of dollars donated, before any Members could be served at this facility. We respectfully urge CSC to sell this parcel, choose a different location with compatible zoning and accessibility, and use its financial resources to serve more cancer sufferers, better and sooner, than this proposal would allow.