Overview of the proposed Creekside Memorial Park cemetery in the Tassajara Valley:
Frequently asked questions about the proposed Creekside Memorial Park cemetery:
What about habitat destruction?What are the special-status plant and wildlife species that occur in the region? Are there any other unusual or significant plants on the site?
- It would be on the west side of Camino Tassajara, between Highland Road and Windemere Parkway
- Its address would be 7000 Camino Tassajara, Pleasanton CA, 94588
- It would be outside the current Contra Costa County Urban Limit Line
- The property to the north of the site is part of the proposed New Farm development (which would include a 25 +/- acre cemetery and mortuary); that proposal is currently undergoing environmental analysis.
- The site is roughly rectangular in shape and is oriented east to west with the west side fronting Camino Tassajara
- The east side of the property adjoins the Windemere Hidden Valley Open Space Preserve
- The site has flat areas along Camino Tassajara (lowest elevation 528 feet) and a ridge (highest point 982 feet) running east to west in the middle of the site
- The ridge in the middle of the site is very visible up and down Camino Tassajara and from trails in the Hidden Valley Open Space Preserve, especially from the trail which passes along the back of the site
- Tassajara Creek and two small tributaries traverse the eastern edge of the site along Camino Tassajara and the southern edge of the site
- Part of the flat area of the site lies in the 100 year flood zone; the project would increase the height in this area with up to 10 to 14 feet of fill to bring it above the 100 year flood plain.
What is the cemetery proposal?
- The cemetery proposal would develop about 60 acres of the 220 acre site in two main areas:
- "Upper Garden" of about 13 acres at the top of the ridge, of which about 10 acres would be used for gravesites; it would not be irrigated
- "Lower Garden" of about 46 acres along the southern property line and in the flat area along Camino Tassajara most of which would be landscaped and irrigated; about 14 acres of this area would be used for gravesites
- Note that only 5.8 acres (according to the DEIR section 2.0) or 9.4 acres (according to the project sponsor’s documents in the DEIR Appendix E) of the "Lower Garden" gravesites will be traditional lawn; the remaining 5 or 8 acres of gravesites in the "Lower Garden," as well as all 10 acres of gravesites in the "Upper Garden," will not be irrigated
- Total, about 24 acres of gravesites, of which about 6 or 9 acres will be lawn and the balance, 15 or 19 acres, will not be irrigated
- The 60 acres of development would include about 13 acres of impervious area, made up of:
- 60,000 square feet of buildings
- Parking lots with spaces for 82 cars
- 24-foot wide roads
- There would be a reservation of 9 acres set aside for the existing residence on APN 223-020-007 and 1 acre set aside from APN 223-020-005 for a possible future fire station site fronting Camino Tassajara
- The remaining area of about 150 acres, consisting of the sides of the ridge that are too steep for burial sites, would be set aside as a conservation easement; no details have been provided for this conservation easement
- To develop these 60 acres, the following would be required:
- Grading 77 acres
- Removal of up to 30 feet from the top of the ridgeline
- Increasing the height of the lower garden area by up to 10 to 14 feet
- Although the project documents state in many places that the cut and fill would be balanced on site, this is not so. The grading report (Earthcalc Inc., Creekside Memorial Park Master Site Plan and Grading Plan, September 22, 2006) shows 527,365 cubic yards of cut and 391,239 cubic yards of fill, resulting in 136,126 cubic yards of excess to be exported off site.
What would the cemetery infrastructure include?
- An internal, private road circulation system, consisting of on-site roadways, two-way, 24 feet wide:
- The roads include 3 foot wide rolled concrete curbs on each side
- The roads are designed vertically to a 25 mph design speed
- The minimum horizontal centerline curve is 60 feet (75 feet per the DEIR)
- The access road to the upper garden area (the top of the ridge) is asphalt paved two way 20 feet wide, no curbs, a cross slope of 2% and a maximum grade of 15% and 8 foot wide turnouts every 300 feet (the DEIR states every 400 feet)
- Four or five new bridges
- New, man-made, "free-form picturesque" lake of 0.88 +/- acre surface area, with an island in the middle
- Various other small water features and reflecting pools at the buildings and mausoleums
- At least ten new wells on the site for water supply
- An 180,000 gallon water tank located at the highest spot on the property (the DEIR notes that the size would be determined later)
- Perimeter and edge fencing (livestock and decorative)
- Parking lots, irrigated and landscaped with vegetated water quality swales, spaces for 82 cars
- System of vegetated water quality swales and bio retention areas throughout the site
- Storm drain system, including a storm drain detention basin and water quality pond
- Other subsurface infrastructure such as water lines and on-site utility undergrounding
- Main access to the cemetery would be provided by a new divided primary entry feature which would also involve changes to Camino Tassajara
- This divided primary entry would be located about 610 feet north of the secondary access
- The divided primary entry would create a new intersection with Camino Tassajara
- Changes to Camino Tassajara would include pavement widening and striping to the east and west of the existing center line of pavement of Camino Tassajara
- The new intersection area would be widened to provide 12 foot wide left turn lanes, 12 foot wide acceleration and deceleration lands with painted medians
- Would widen Camino Tassajara along approximately 2,000 feet of project frontage
- The proposed improvements to Camino Tassajara are based on Caltrans design speed criteria of 55 mph, which was the design speed used by Contra Costa County Public Works when the County designed the improvements and the replacement bridge over Tassajara Creek at Camino Tassajara
- The primary entrance is designed with decorative security gates
- The entrance gates are set back behind a large turnaround area, 25 feet from the property line, to allow vehicles to queue off Camino Tassajara and, if necessary, safely turn around should access through the gates be denied
- The new secondary service entry would be located in the same location as the existing access gate
- The secondary access would have gates for security that are set back 34 feet from the edge of the roadway of Camino Tassajara to allow a truck to turn in off Camino Tassajara without blocking traffic
- This intersection has been designed with a northbound 12 foot wide left turn channelization and a 12 foot wide southbound deceleration lane to allow larger service vehicles to move out of the flow of through traffic in order to make arrangements to open the gates should they be closed
- New sanitary sewer septic system, including drain field and septic tanks
- Two septic tanks would be located in the paved areas in front of (1) the Administrative Office / Chapel building and (2) in front of the indoor Mausoleum to handle the sewage effluent from these building facilities
- A PVC sewer line would be routed from the building facilities to the individual septic tanks and then to a reserved drain field area of approximately 5,000 square feet located on the east side of the parking area, east of the Administrative Office / Chapel building
What structures would be built?
- An entry feature with twin bridges, irrigated landscaping, decorative pavers, stone walls (formal and informal) and wrought iron decorative gates along Camino Tassajara
- A small entry feature would also be built in the "Upper Garden" area at the top of the ridge (no details provided)
- Total of about 60,000 square feet of buildings, detailed below
- Chapel/administrative office – about 20,000 square feet
- Height of 32 feet, with a 42 foot tower
- Size of 19,710 square feet at full build-out, which would include 15,200 square feet of building, 3,720 square feet of covered walks and a 790 square foot garage
- Two identical chapels, each 1,840 square feet and holding 138 seats
- Waiting/reception center
- Administrative offices
- Arrangement rooms
- Display rooms
- Manager/accounting office
- Storage rooms
- It would be set back about 575 feet from the Camino Tassajara right-of-way and centered on the dual primary access road upon turning into the cemetery
- Indoor mausoleum – 36 feet high, about 19,400 square feet; would include exterior lobby and restroom facilities
- Outdoor (garden) mausoleums – four, each 24 feet high and about 1,900 square feet
- Storage building and corporation yard - about 11,200 square feet; plan to remodel existing structure for storage building; size of corporation yard not given
- Maintenance office – size not given; plan to remodel existing residence
- Columbaria (for cremated remains) and private family estate crypts to be located in the "Upper Garden" on the top of the ridge – five or ten of these, size not given
What is the proposed landscaping for the cemetery?
- Would plant a total of about 6,575 trees and shrubs and about 9.5 acres of turf lawn on about 75 acres of the site, according to the project sponsor’s documents in DEIR Appendix E
- Riparian corridor plantings – about 13.5 acres, with about 303 plants per acre (approximately 6 oaks/alders or cottonwoods, 15 buckeyes of small trees, 25 large shrubs, 30 small shrubs and 25 willows would be planted for every 1/3 acre); total, about 4,090 trees and shrubs, according to the project sponsor’s documents in DEIR Appendix E
- Oak woodland plantings – about 31.5 acres, with about 63 trees per acre (approximately 6 oaks and 15 buckeyes would be planted for every 1/3 acre); total, about 1,985 trees, according to the project sponsor’s documents in DEIR Appendix E
- Cemetery landscape – about 30 acres according to the project sponsor’s documents in the DEIR Appendix E:
- Of this, about 9.4 acres would be traditional cemetery landscaping (lawn areas and ornamental plantings, including about 300 trees)
- The remaining 21.5 acres would be xeriscaped, likely to be planted similarly, though not as densely, as the enhanced oak woodland areas, or about 200 trees
- Cemetery landscape – about 24 acres, according to the DEIR section 2.0:
- Of this, about 5.8 acres would be traditional cemetery landscaping (lawn), located in the Lower Garden area
- The Lower Garden area would also include 8.3 acres of gravesites that would be xeriscaped, for a total of 14.1 acres of gravesites in the Lower Garden area
- The Upper Garden area would include 10.3 acres of gravesites that would be xeriscaped
- Note that the term ‘xeriscaped’ is not described in sufficient detail to adequately understand its effect on the proposed landscaping. In places it is defined as landscaping that would not be irrigated, and in others as wildflowers, grasses and shrubs. It is necessary to understand what kinds of wildflowers, grasses and shrubs are intended, and at what concentrations and locations, before one can evaluate how effective it would be at replacing traditional lawn as suitable groundcover for about 20 acres of gravesites.
What would be the proposed cemetery operations and number of daily visitors?
- On average, three burials per day, 365 days per year. While most burials would be likely to occur between 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, burials could also occur on Saturday or Sunday. In addition, evening memorial services or viewings may occur, likely from 5 PM to 9 PM, Monday through Friday.
- While the intent is to schedule most burials outside of the AM and PM peak traffic times, burials can occur during peak traffic times
- The start of evening memorial services (5 PM weekdays) would occur during the PM peak traffic window
- General visitation hours would be from dawn to dusk, seven days/week
- At full build-out, expect a maximum of 19 employees working at any single time and two chapel services/day, both at full capacity of 138 seats, resulting in 276 visitors per day to the chapels
- At full build-out, the total daily trips are estimated at 448 people (which include employees, chapel, corteges, visitors and deliveries)
- Expect about 100,000 burials over the 100-year life of the proposed cemetery
What are the construction phases?
- The original proposal called for five phases, but according to the DEIR, the initial phase would include all grading, construction of all roadways and infrastructure, construction of the first phase of all buildings and installation of landscaping for the developed portion of the site, and would take place over two construction seasons
- The second phase would consist of additions to the buildings as needed
What is the history of the cemetery proposal?
- A pre-application review by Contra Costa County was requested in July 2002
- The permit request was submitted in December 2005; it was assigned number LP05-2096
- The neighbors organized petitions against it in 2005
- A number of Windemere home owners against the cemetery sent emails to the County in 2007 requesting to be kept advised of the status of the proposal
- The Draft Environmental Impact Report was issued on September 13, 2011
Weren’t there resolutions from the Tri-Valley cities supporting the proposed cemetery?
- In the summer of 2005, the city/town councils for the five Tri-Valley cities/town (Town of Danville and Cities of Dublin, San Ramon, Pleasanton and Livermore) were asked to sign resolutions endorsing the proposed Creekside Memorial Park cemetery
- Of the five cities/town, three of them (Danville, San Ramon and Dublin) signed the resolutions essentially as presented. One city (Pleasanton) modified the resolution to support only the concept of a new cemetery, not the proposed Creekside Memorial Park, and one city (Livermore) did not sign the resolution.
- In Danville, the Town Council passed a resolution "supporting efforts to develop a new cemetery in the Tassajara Valley (Creekside Memorial Park) to serve the Tri-Valley" (resolution 49-2005, May 17, 2005)
- In San Ramon, the City Council passed a resolution "supporting efforts to develop a new cemetery in the Tassajara Valley (Creekside Memorial Park) to serve the Tri-Valley" (resolution 2005-81, June 14, 2005)
- In Dublin, the City Council passed a resolution "supporting the approval of Creekside Memorial Park, a new cemetery at 7000 Camino Tassajara, to serve the greater Tri-Valley communities" (resolution 100-05, June 21, 2005)
- In Pleasanton, the City Council modified the resolution so that it supported only "the concept of a regional cemetery serving the greater Tri-Valley Area," not the specific Creekside Memorial Park cemetery (resolution 05-058, July 19, 2005)
- In Livermore, the City Council did not sign the resolution. According to a letter sent from the City of Livermore to Ryan Hernandez, Contra Costa County Project Planner, on January 10, 2006, "The City Council expressed concern with the development of structures on the ridgelines of the project site. Additionally, Corrie Development stated that there is a "serious need for a cemetery in this area." Through conversations with cemeteries in the City of Livermore, it was generally reported that their existing facilities can provide 20 to 40 years of burial capacity, not exclusive to Livermore residents."
How much water would the cemetery use? Where would it come from?
- The project sponsor’s reports (DEIR appendix E) state that the cemetery would use 45 acre-feet per year (AFY) (combined non-irrigation operational demands of about 7 AFY and irrigation demands of about 38 AFY).
- The project sponsor’s reports (DEIR appendix E) also state that the aquifer under the site holds 45 AFY, and that this volume of water can be removed from the aquifer every year once 10 new wells are drilled.
- However, according to an independent evaluation by Todd Engineers (DEIR appendix F), rainfall recharge is only about 10 AFY, not 45 AFY.
- As a result, water usage at the site is not sustainable and would likely remove water from the aquifer faster than it can be replenished; the DEIR states that this is a "significant and unavoidable" environmental impact, even after mitigation
- In addition, the high level of water draw by the proposed cemetery is likely to affect the quality and quantity of the water in the wells used by neighboring residents, all of whom obtain all their water from wells; the DEIR states that this is a "significant and unavoidable" environmental impact, even after mitigation
How would the cemetery development affect the ridgeline?
- The top of the ridge would be removed in order to create about 10 acres of flat space for gravesites, columbaria, and mausoleums.
- Visually, this would reduce the height of the ridge by up to 30 feet and introduce structures on the top of it
- The road leading to the ridgeline has been deemed geologically unstable by the project sponsor’s own geological engineers, making the road a safety hazard.
Is there need for a new cemetery in the Tassajara Valley?
- No. Based on expected population growth, death rates and the increasing choice of cremations, the existing cemeteries in the Tri-Valley area have more than enough space to handle the expected need.
- CANA (Cremation Association of North America) has extensive information in this regard. Every analysis they have performed over the last 10 years points to a marked increase in cremation rates in the US. Cremation space can easily be created in existing cemeteries, since the space required for cremated remains is much smaller than for full-body burials.
Is this a good location for a cemetery?
- No. An ideal location for a cemetery is on a site that is flat, has plenty of water and is located close to the people it would serve.
- This site is mostly hilly, with the only flat area barely above the 100-year flood level even after supplying up to 10 to 14 feet of fill, generated by razing up to 30 feet from the ridgeline.
- This site lacks water
- Since this site would be far away from the people it would serve, it would be inconsistent with state laws regarding urban sprawl traffic and greenhouse gas reduction (AB32, SB375)
Would there be a crematorium? Would embalming be performed at this site?
- While the pre-project application listed a crematorium and embalming as possible activities at the site, neither is included in later project submittals. However, neither is specifically excluded.
How is the site zoned? What is a conditional use permit?
- The site is zoned A-80 (Exclusive Agricultural District, where no building or other structure can be placed on a lot smaller than 80 acres in area). The intent of this zoning category is to "provide and protect areas for agricultural uses by preventing the establishment of urban and any other incompatible land uses thereon." (Chapter 84-84.204) Here is a link to the Contra Costa Zoning code for A-80:: http://library.municode.com/HTML/16286/level3/TIT8ZO_DIV84LAUSDI_CH84-84A-EXAGDI.html#TOPTITLE
- Here is a link to the cemetery section of the Contra Costa Zoning Code (Chapter 88-2):
- A cemetery requires a conditional use permit, as described in Contra Costa County Code 26-2.2008 - Variance, conditional use and special permits—Conditional use permit standards.
An application for a conditional use permit is an application to establish a conditional land use within a land use district which does not allow establishment by right, but does allow the granting of a land use permit after a public hearing. The division of the planning agency hearing the matter either initially or on appeal, shall find the following before granting the permit:
(1) That the proposed conditional land use shall not be detrimental to the health, safety and general welfare of the county;
(2) That it shall not adversely affect the orderly development of property within the county;
(3) That it shall not adversely affect the preservation of property values and the protection of the tax base within the county;
(4) That it shall not adversely affect the policy and goals as set by the general plan;
(5) That it shall not create a nuisance and/or enforcement problem within the neighborhood or community;
(6) That it shall not encourage marginal development within the neighborhood;
(7) That special conditions or unique characteristics of the subject property and its location or surroundings are established. Failure to so find shall result in a denial.
What about habitat destruction?
- Proposed grading of 77 acres would destroy much of the existing wildlife-friendly habitat
- The long and narrow shape of the cemetery would virtually block what is now continuous habitat area and migration corridor
What are the special-status plant and wildlife species that occur in the region? Which are found on the site?
- Mammals (one detected on site, shown in bold):
- American badger (Taxidea taxus), a California Species of Special Concern (detected on site)
- Long-eared myotis bat (Myotis evotis), a Federal Species of Concern and tracked by the California Natural Diversity Data Bank (low potential to occur on site)
- Pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus), a California Species of Special Concern (low potential to occur on site)
- San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica), a federally-listed Endangered and state-listed Threatened (very low potential to occur on site, although suitable habitat exists)
- Small-footed myotis bat (Myotis ciliolabrum), a Federal Species of Concern and tracked by the California Natural Diversity Data Bank (low potential to occur on site)
- Western red bat (Lasiurus blossevillii), a federally sensitive species and a California Species of Special Concern (low potential to occur on site)
- Birds (eleven either observed on site or high potential to nest or forage on site, shown in bold):
- American peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum) (nesting), fully protected under the California Fish and Game code and listed as endangered by the state of California (very low potential to nest on site)
- California horned lark (Eremophilalpestris actia), a California Species of Special Concern and California Department of Fish and Game Watch List (high potential to nest or forage on site)
- California yellow warbler (Dendroica petechia brewsteri), a California Species of Special Concern (low potential to nest on site)
- Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii) (nesting), a California Species of Special Concern and California Department of Fish and Game Watch List (high potential to nest on site during winter months)
- Ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis) (wintering), a Federal Species of Concern and a California Species of Special Concern and California Department of Fish and Game Watch List (observed foraging on site)
- Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) (nesting/wintering), a Fully Protected California Species of Special Concern and California Department of Fish and Game Watch List (observed on site, high potential for nesting)
- Loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) (nesting), a Federal Species of Concern and a California Species of Special Concern (observed foraging on site and could potentially nest on or near the site)
- Long-billed curlew (Numenius americanus) (nesting), California Department of Fish and Game Watch List (low potential to nest on site)
- Merlin (Falco columbarius) (wintering), a California Species of Special Concern and California Department of Fish and Game Watch List (observed foraging on site)
- Northern harrier (Circus cyaneus) (nesting), a California Species of Special Concern (observed foraging on site; nests on ground and moderate potential to nest on site)
- Prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus) (nesting), a California Species of Special Concern and California Department of Fish and Game Watch List (observed foraging on site)
- Sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus) (nesting), a California Species of Special Concern and California Department of Fish and Game Watch List (observed foraging on site)
- Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus), a California Species of Special Concern (nests on ground; low to moderate potential to nest on site)
- Tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor), a California Species of Special Concern and Federal Species of Concern (low potential to nest on site)
- Western burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugea), a Federal Species of Concern and a California Species of Special Concern (detected on site)
- White-tailed kite (Elanus leucurus) (nesting), a Federal Species of Concern and a California Fully Protected Species of Special Concern (observed on site, high potential for nesting)
- Reptiles (none detected on site):
- Alameda whipsnake (Masticophis lateralis euryxanthus), federally-listed Threatened and state-listed Threatened (not expected to be found on site)
- Western pond turtle (Clemmys marmorata), a Federal Species of Concern and a California Species of Special Concern (moderate potential for occurrence)
- Amphibians (two detected on site, shown in bold):
- California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii), federally-listed Threatened and California Species of Special Concern (detected on site)
- California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense), federally-listed Threatened and California Species of Special Concern (detected on site)
- Invertebrates (none detected on site) :
- Bridges’ Coast Range shoulderband snail (Helminthoglypta nickliniana bridgesii), tracked by the California Natural Diversity Database (low potential to occur on site)
- California linderiella (Linderiella occidentalis), Federal Species of Concern, tracked by the California Natural Diversity Database (low potential to occur on site)
- Curved-foot hygrotus diving beetle (Hygrotus curvipes), tracked by the California Natural Diversity Database (low potential to occur on site)
- Ricksecker’s water scavenger beetle (Hydrochara rickseckeri), tracked by the California Natural Diversity Database (low potential to occur on site)
- Valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus), federally-listed Threatened (not expected on site)
- Vernal pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi), federally-listed Threatened (low potential to occur on site)
- Plants (two detected on site, shown in bold):
- Congdon's tarplant (Centromadia parryi ssp. congdonii), a California Native Plant Society List 1B plant and eligible for listing as endangered or threatened under the California Department of Fish and Game code (observed on site)
- San Joaquin spearscale (Atriplex joaquiniana), a California Native Plant Society List 1B plant and eligible for listing as endangered or threatened under the California Department of Fish and Game code (observed on site)
Are there any other unusual or significant plants on the site?
- Alkali peppergrass (Lepidum dictyotum var. acutidens) – rank A2
- Bugloss fiddleneck (Amsinckia lycopsoides) – rank B
- Deer-bed sedge (Carex praegracilis) – rank B
- Dwarf peppergrass (Lepidium latipes var. latipes) – rank B
- Dwarf wooly-heads (Psilocarphus brevissimus var. brevissimus) – rank B
- Valley oak (Quercus lobata) – rank B
- Rank A2 = Species currently known from three to five regions in the two counties, or, if more, meeting other important criteria such as small populations, stressed or declining populations, small geographic range, or limited or threatened habitats
- Rank B = Species currently known from six to nine regions in the two counties, or, if more, meeting other important criteria as described above for A2
- Note that these plant species are afforded no protection under state or federal law and may not meet the significance criteria pursuant to CEQA section 15380