What is wrong with the Creekside Memorial Park cemetery in the Tassajara Valley?
Huge urban footprint:
- About 13 acres of impervious area (roads, buildings, pavement, parking lots)
- Over 60,000 square feet of buildings
- The administrative office/chapels would be 20,000 square feet, 32 feet in height plus a 42 foot tall tower
- The indoor mausoleum would be another 20,000 square feet, 36 feet tall
- This would be an urban land use, not compatible with the agricultural and open space nature of the Tassajara Valley
- Today, the highest point of the ridge is 980 feet, rising over 400 feet from flat areas of the site near Camino Tassajara
- Proposal would remove up to 30 feet from the top of the ridge to make about 10 acres of gravesites
- Would grade over 500,000 cubic yards covering 77 acres; of this, over 130,000 cubic yards would be excess, stripped from the top of the ridge to provide more flat area for burials
- Would build an unspecified number of structures on the ridge: private family mausoleums (for full body above-ground entombment) and columbaria (for cremated remains)
Huge water use - not sustainable:
- Proposed landscaping would include about 6 to 9 acres of lawn, a new man-made lake (about 1 acre surface area), and over 6.600 new trees and shrubs
- The DEIR states that the project's huge water use would be a "significant and unavoidable" environmental impact, even after mitigation
- The high use of water would likely also affect the quality and quantity of the water in the wells used by neighboring residents, all of whom depend on well water
No need for a new cemetery in the Tri-Valley:
- Based on expected population growth, death rates, and the increasing choice of cremations rather than full-body burials, the existing cemeteries within 15 miles of this site have more than enough space to handle the anticipated need for the foreseeable future. Download a letter with detailed analysis; the letter includes the following attachments: maps showing available sizable cemeteries within 10-15 miles of Danville, San Ramon, Dublin, and Pleasanton; letters from two cemetery experts (Mr. Tom Gratny and Mr. Ray Young); the Newman's earlier memo dated April 30, 2010 analyzing need; and two memos from P/A Design Resources discussing need (one dated September 30, 2009 and one dated February 5, 2010)
- Although the Tri-Valley Cemetery Committee concluded that there was a need for a new cemetery in the Tri-Valley area, they provided no data or analysis to support this claim. Simply saying that there is a need does not make it true. See the "Current Status" tab and scroll down to March 20, 2013 for for links to all of the publicly-available information on the Tri-Valley Cemetery Committee.
Wrong location for a cemetery:
- An ideal site for a cemetery would be one that is flat, has plenty of water, and is located close to the people it serves
- But this site is mostly hilly, with the only flat area barely above the level of the 100-year flood plain
- It lacks water and would not be close to the people it would serve (i.e. it is not in the Highway 680 corridor)
- Extensive modification of the site would be required, including grading of over 500,000 cubic yards, affecting 77 acres
- As a result, this site would require huge initial expenditures which would not be required at a more suitable location
- Is it financially responsible to accept such unnecessary risk for a permanent and irreversible land use which is not even needed?
- Total daily trips are estimated at 448 people, including 19 employees, 276 chapel visitors, corteges, other visitors, and deliveries
- This would be a huge number of people coming and going every day, especially compared to the current level of close to zero
Use of old and outdated information:
- Many of the consultants' reports are based on work done for the Tassajara Project, which was prepared by the Tassajara Valley Property Owners Association (TVPOA) and was turned down in 1997. It intended to develop most of the Tassajara Valley.
- Most of the analysis for the TVPOA proposal was done in 1995 and was based on data going back to the early 1990s, making it almost 20 years old now
- Many significant changes have occurred in the past 20 years, including several large new housing developments completed in the past few years: Windemere to the west, Alamo Creek to the north, Silvera Ranch to the south
Threats to special-status species and habitat destruction:
- A number of special-status species (both plant and animal) are found on the site
- The 77 acres of grading would destroy much of the current wildlife-friendly habitat and the areas where special-status plant species are found
- Although a 150 +/- acre conservation easement is proposed, most of it would be located on the sides of the ridge too steep to use for burials and would also be divided into smaller fragmented areas by roads and by land reserved for gravesites
- The impact of hundreds of visitors and cars to the site every day would also be a significant threat, regardless of the conservation easement
Burrowing owl, California Red Legged frog - current residents of the area (Images courtesy of Scott Hein of Save Mount Diablo).
Starts piecemeal and irreversible development of the Tassajara Valley:
- Developing this site as a cemetery would severely limit how the other properties in the area could be developed in the future
- Until an overall plan for the Tassajara Valley has been developed and agreed to by all affected groups (residents, Contra Costa County, San Ramon, Danville, environmental groups, etc.), it is wrong to put such a permanent and irreversible land use right in the middle of it
- The proposed cemetery would also substantially divide an established agricultural community, which is discouraged under the CEQA section on Land Use and Planning
- The cumulative impacts for the project would include high water draw, habitat destruction, increased human presence, large buildings and asphalt, noise, air quality, ridge destruction , and many more. When considered together, these elements would add up to a major negative impact to the environment and to the overall quality of life in the Tassajara Valley that cannot be mitigated.
Many zoning concerns:
- The site for the proposed cemetery is zoned A-80 (agricultural, 80-acre minimum, which means on this site, only two houses can be built)
- According to the Contra Costa County General Plan, "The purpose of the agricultural lands designation is to preserve and protect lands capable of and generally used for the production of food, fiber and plant materials." (page 3-24)
- But conversion of this land for use as a cemetery would permanently prevent it from ever being used in an "agricultural" role again
- And if the water supply on the site were as abundant as claimed, that would be further motivation to keep this land in a true agricultural use, since most properties in the area have well yields only about 10% of what is claimed on this site
- The 60,000 square feet of massive buildings and 13 acres of impervious area would be urban, not suited for agricultural/open space zoning
Issue with the proposed operator of the cemetery:
- The proposal states that the developer would also operate the cemetery
- What experience or qualifications does a real estate developer have for running a cemetery?
- The cemetery operator should be someone with experience in running a cemetery
But doesn't a land owner have the right to do what he wants with his property?
- Of course, as long as the use would be consistent with how the land is zoned and would not hurt the neighbors
- But the issues described above show that this proposed cemetery would NOT be compatible with agricultural zoning and would hurt all of the neighbors, by taking more than a fair share of water, by destroying a highly visible ridge, and by destroying the agricultural and open space nature of the Tassajara Valley