The Planning Commission on Tuesday approved a 112-home subdivision on 300 acres of scenic hillside property known as the after an emotional hearing in which opponents pleaded for the panel to turn down the project.
Opponents say the project will create a dangerous slide hazard for existing and proposed homes, destroy up to 625 mostly old-growth oak trees, and take away what is now a scenic corridor along a major entryway to the city. A group called the Alhambra Hills Open Space Committee wants to purchase the property to keep it permanent open space.
But developer Richfield Development argued Tuesday that it had complied with all the requirements set out by the city for open space preservation, protection of species, including the Alameda whipsnake, and a reduction in the number of homes. In regard to slide issues, the company has agreed to form and initially fund a Geologic Hazard Assessment District (GHAD), a panel that would charge homeowners in the development an annual fee to monitor and repair slides.
“You could save something. You’ve got that power. Do you have the courage to use it?” asked Marie Olsen, an opponent of the project.
Bill Nicols, an East Bay Regional Parks ranger, warned that “California has a talent for building homes where disasters happen,” and that a fire from Reliez Valley Road would create a “conflagration” in the hills.
Others argued that the tax revenue generated from the project would not offset the loss of the open space, or be enough to fund the services required for the additional homes.
But Alicia Guerra, representing Richfield Development, said 70 percent of the property is being preserved as open space. She noted that the original plan, approved in 1990, called for many more homes than are being proposed now.
“There was a time, in 1990, when the city could have designated this area as open space and it chose not to do that,” she said.
Two commissioners – chairwoman Donna Allen and Harriett Burt – voted against the plan. Allen said it did not comply with the Alhambra Hills Specific Plan or the city’s general plan. Burt said the danger posed by slides was too great to allow further development in the area.
But five commissioners agreed that the developer had complied with the city’s requirements and had the right to develop the property.
It is expected that the decision will be appealed to the City Council.