LIVERMORE -- Unhappy neighbors of a three-acre site, that has served as an unofficial park for decades, turned out Tuesday to tell planning commissioners they want it saved from development.

Most of the 10-member contingent from Save Ironwood -- a group of neighbors near the Ironwood apartment complex -- spoke to the commission. They said the property owner's planned addition of four new three-story buildings would eliminate the existing open space and worsen neighborhood traffic.

"This is just one more area that has become an unofficial park because of the green space," said neighbor Penny Pennington, who lives on Sandra Way, near the apartments at East Avenue and Charlotte Way. "To add another 52 units, and more possible children, is just really unconscionable."

Neighbor Chris Gattuso-Fish, who lives in a home facing the complex, called parking around Ironwood "a huge issue" for safety and argued that building on the grassy acreage would negatively affect recreational opportunities for locals.

"We call it a park," she told commission members. "We all consider it part of the neighborhood, and I would hope the planning commission would take a serious look at how this is going to impact the property owners in the neighborhood."

The proposal by San Mateo-based developer Acacia Capital Corp., submitted in August, wasn't on the official planning department agenda for consideration. However, city planning manager Paul Spence told residents they would be contacted for a public meeting on the issue, likely to be held in early December. The project is not currently scheduled for a planning hearing.


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Representatives from Acacia, which acquired the 240-unit Ironwood apartment complex for a reported $30 million in 2010, didn't attend the meeting and weren't available for comment. The company held two public meetings on the proposal in May and October, but several neighbors who live across the street from the Ironwood apartments and who attended the planning meeting complained they never received notices.

Company officials have said they intend to hold another public workshop and notify residents living further away from the complex.

Members of Save Ironwood say the open space is required to be left as a buffer zone between themselves and the complex, by either the original zoning or a conditional use requirement on the land. City planners say they have no records remaining from the original approval for the project, that developers built in the early 1970s as the Rhonewood apartment complex.

The proposal by Acacia includes a request to change the land's zoning to a denser, multifamily residential designation.

Contact Jeremy Thomas at jethomas@bayareanewsgroup.com or follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.