The Walnut Creek City Council late Tuesday night approved a large day care center in a residential neighborhood near Pleasant Hill by a 3-2 vote.
Council members Kish Rajan and Gary Skrel voted no in a resolution to affirm an earlier OK of the Kid Time application by the Planning Commission. That affirmation denied an appeal by some neighbors of 200 Mayhew Way who spoke at Tuesday night's public hearing, objecting to traffic and noise impacts and the alteration of the character of the neighborhood.
The council added a last-minute condition for — to file with the city analyses of the impact of the day care on Mayhew Way traffic six months and 12 months after the new center opens, and then again when it reaches its capacity of 80 children.
Kid Time operates a day care for 40 children now on Geary Road, and is looking to expand as it moves to the Mayhew Way property, a single-family house that "really needs some love," Kid Time Director Leah Rosenthal-Kambic told the council. The lot is about nine-tenths of an acre. Kid Time likes the Mayhew property for its extensive backyard with room for play areas, a garden and a chicken coop that is "a great learning experience for kids," Rosenthal-Kambic said.
Plans call for the felling of three oaks in the front, close to the road. That would enable the widening Mayhew Way in that stretch by about eight feet and adding an isolated section of sidewalk. The plans do not include a left-turn lane, and neighbors told the council to expect parents dropping off children to back up already heavy commute traffic.
Dicey left turn
Claudia Tee, a resident of Foxglove Lane, said she was worried about parents stopped to make a left into the Kid Time driveway while others trying to cut west to Highway 680 would speed on the right shoulder around the stopped car. The same area contains safety dangers with dog walkers and other pedestrians on the Iron Horse Trail crossing Mayhew, Tee added.
Mayor Pro Tem Rajan said he was uneasy about traffic provisions and felt the council should require more physical improvements to traffic flow. The narrow Mayhew Way suffers from uneven development and traffic measures because in a quarter-mile it is served by four jurisdictions — the cities of Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill and Concord and Contra Costa County in unincorporated stretches.
Mayor Bob Simmons said he felt day care centers are a better fit in residential neighborhoods than in business parks — an alternative suggested earlier by Patina Court resident Steve Ernst. He said the day care center was a good alternative for the property, which by zoning could be converted into four lots with four two-story residences packed in.
Simmons acknowledged the road was a "mess." He encouraged Kid Time and city staff to ask a building owner on the north side of Mayhew, across the street from the day care center site, if they would build a section of sidewalk to complete a walkway to get pedestrians to the Iron Horse Trail. That building is in a little pocket of unincorporated land, under the jurisdiction of the county.
Ernst also complained about a "lack of transparency" and "lack of clarity in the rules" by the city with last-minute changes of hearing dates that meant a key neighborhood representative could not attend Tuesday's hearing.
Brad Smith, a property and business owner on Vincent Road in an unincorporated stretch in the neighborhood, welcomed the establishment of a day care center as "good value to the community and the neighborhood." Employees at a series of businesses there would support a convenient, quality day care in the area, he said.