LIVERMORE -- After hearing from a room full of neighborhood opposition, the Livermore Planning Commission on Tuesday rejected a plan for a 47-unit residential home development in the Garaventa Hills area of North Livermore.
Commissioners voted 4-1 to recommend the city council deny the project, planned for 32 acres east of North Vasco Road on a hilly site used by hikers at the north edge of the city's Urban Growth Boundary. Previous attempts to develop the land as part of the Maralisa subdivision were unsuccessful.
"I'm hopeful there will be a way to develop this parcel," said commission Chair Loretta Kaskey. "We seem to be inching toward it ... but at this point I don't think we have everything lined up."
About 70 people, many sporting "Save The Hill," T-shirts, filed into City Council Chambers for the commission's decision. Speakers argued the proposed development would have adverse effects on a sensitive environment, worsen traffic on Bear Creek Drive and Laughlin Road, and limit scenic views of the knolls and the Brushy Peak Regional Preserve.
"It was really heartening to know that a grassroots movement could influence the commission," said Marnie Steele, a member of the group. "We understand there's more roads to come, but it's really nice we could organize and be heard."
Representatives of developer Lafferty Communities refused to comment on the commission decision.
"This is a great win for us," said James Wilk, who has rallied against the project since 2012. "We are excited about this and we want to continue this fight."
The Garaventa Hills parcel is next to Altamont Creek and contains wetland resources, prompting the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District to issue a letter to commissioners voicing concern over its sensitive nature.
Save the Hill members, who said they gathered more than 200 signatures against the plan, said the decision to deny a recommendation to the city council will give them time to pursue buying the land.
"The hill is a very environmentally delicate site," said member Cindy Angers. "We want to keep it as open space in perpetuity."
Prior to the vote, the developer's attorney Richard Norris appealed to commission members to continue the item to a later date. The request was denied.
"We think there are opportunities for us to do better and bring back a changed project that addresses the concerns," Norris said. "We have a huge investment in this project so far that goes away (with the decision)."
However, if Lafferty does choose to move ahead with a revised version of the project, it could still be considered by the council at a future meeting.
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.