At Risk in Contra Costa County
Standing by the bench, Coach Phil O’Loane hollers to one of his daughter’s teammates across the softball field. Just beyond the field rise the San Ramon hills, a natural boundary to the city with a view of cows grazing in pasture land. Phil, now a San Ramon city council member, had no idea two years ago the role he would soon play in helping protect this landscape from urban development.
The area east of San Ramon, including the Tassajara Valley, is protected by urban growth boundaries that prevent the jurisdictions of San Ramon, Danville, and the county from expanding eastward.
In 2010 the San Ramon City Council attempted to expand its growth boundary, allowing sprawl development across 1,579 acres. Phil co-led a successful effort by residents to stop the expansion, convincing 71% of voters to oppose the city’s measure.
Now Phil advocates to make open space protection a citywide priority. However, the threat of sprawl in the Tassajara Valley still looms large. A powerful developer is pushing the county to approve a major development outside the growth boundaries. Approval of this sort of development would eviscerate the integrity of the growth boundary and put open space lands across the county at risk of similar attacks. Phil has stepped forward to protect his city from this proposal as well.
Phil’s effort in San Ramon is a model for other communities in Contra Costa County. For example, large swaths of the eastern county have been deemed fair game for development in Pittsburg, Antioch, Brentwood, and Oakley. Contra Costa County has the most acres at high risk of development of any county in the region—over 18,000. More action is necessary to preserve the hills, valleys, and rich farmland to help protect this land for future generations.