MORAGA — Your current view of the Rancho Laguna II housing project probably depends on what you think your actual view of the development will be.

Opponents say the development will loom over Rheem Boulevard, destroying scenic corridors protected by the town's General Plan.

But the developers say the visual impact will be minimal because they, the Planning Commission and town staff have worked hard to refine the project to protect those views.

At Wednesday's Town Council meeting, 30 Moraga residents appealed the Planning Commission's decision to certify the project's environmental impact report, conditional use permit and conditional development plan.

"This valley is signature Moraga. It is a prominent part of the semirural character of this town," said Renata Sos. Development, she said, will "irreparably tarnish this crown jewel."

Rancho Laguna would put 21 homes in the hills on the south part of the ridge east of Rheem Boulevard and six more along the street.

Those homes in the hills will be screened by vegetation and grading, said Project Manager Mark Armstrong, changes made to the project when it became clear the visual impact was a concern.

"That's the reason why when you're down at Rheem Boulevard and looking up, you don't see too much of those homes there," he said.

The project's photovisualist displayed a map of nearby streets showing that, aside from Rheem Boulevard, there aren't many places from which the development will be seen.


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But opponents said the developer's simulated image of the Rheem view was crafted from a location that purposefully minimized the visual impact. Opponents asked for additional images showing what the project will look like as you travel further down the street.

The council felt those and other additional images would be useful, but the developer said they would need at least a couple weeks to develop them. With future council meetings already full, the Rancho Laguna debate likely will be pushed to January.

A special meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to give the council more time to deliberate and provide direction to staff. The location has not been determined.

As part of the project, the developer will also reroute a seasonal creek adjacent to Rheem Boulevard, filling in the old creek bed to provide a buttress to stabilize the road.

Opponents were critical of that creek reroute plan, asserting the town is letting a bad project move forward because they want the street fixed.

"Staff has focused on this project as a road repair project. It is not a road repair project, it is a residential development project," said project opponent Bill Vaughn.

While shoring up the road isn't necessary to build the homes, Armstrong said, it is an important goal of the town, and both the developer and town staff agree the buttress is the only economically feasible way of doing so.

Vice Mayor Ken Chew and Councilman Mike Metcalf recused themselves from the formal discussion because they live within 500 feet of the project's border, although both made statements during the public comment period.

Reach Jonathan Morales at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/sosaysjonathan.