MARTINEZ -- Lost hope was rekindled for Friends of the Alhambra Hills when Martinez resident Jamie Fox showed the City Council an Alhambra Highlands development map, identifying several places where road plans may not conform to city code.
"All I'm asking is that the city doesn't issue a grading permit that doesn't conform to city code," Fox said at the March 19 council meeting.
The code conflict could lead to another delay in the Alhambra Highlands residential development located on the ridge overlooking the Muir/Hanna family grave site and partially on property previously owned by renowned conservationist John Muir.
When approved by the city two years ago, developer Richfield Investment Corp. of Houston, Texas, voluntarily agreed to a two-year moratorium on a start date for the project so local groups could look for funds to purchase the view shed-type property.
Fox is an engineer and a member of Friends of Alhambra Hills. That group has not had success with local land trusts, but is still on the hunt for financial support to purchase the property because of its historic significance, mature trees and the potential linking of Bay Area Ridge, Briones, Canal and Benicia trails on that site.
Reciting Martinez code requirements, Fox said, "Roads connecting development areas may not pass over grades of 30 percent, except in areas where they cannot be built in other areas."
He presented maps of the Alhambra Highlands development site, identifying four places where the planned road does not meet city code, and another in excess of the 30 percent code restriction. He also showed a photo of a site on Alhambra Road where the city has had to install a rock retaining wall to block earth movement onto the road.
City Engineer Tim Tucker later said that the soil stability will be studied by the developer and reviewed by professional experts for the city, and that information will be taken into consideration when grading decisions are made.
Retired park ranger and Martinez resident Bill Nichols said the "unparalleled" Alhambra Hills are sacred to Native Americans and implored the city to get involved with local volunteers, environmental nonprofits and other government agencies to preserve the site that reaches heights of 630 feet above sea level and can be seen from all of Martinez.
"I have urged the city to form an alliance with national parks, state parks, East Bay parks, the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society and even with Earth First," Nichols said.
"My favorite Muir is the 1872 brand when you see a young guy who was able, through his work and through his travels, to literally save the American soul from total surrender to materialism," he said. "The irony is that, as his heirs, we have the opportunity to do the same thing now, with property that he actually owned ... We owe it to our children and grandchildren to save the Alhambra Hills."
Friends of Alhambra Hills member Gay Gerlack said the group has asked Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) for help in the preservation effort and suggested the city write a letter to him for the same purpose.
"I'd like to have staff and particularly our attorney to look into some of these arguments that Mr. Fox has presented," said Councilwoman Lara DeLaney said, adding that she hopes to find something that would help the group purchase the land.
Reach Dana Guzzetti with Martinez News at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 925-202-9292.