DIABLO — For many years, cyclists by the hundreds have reduce by way of the bucolic, rich enclave of Diablo on their upwards trek to the sweeping trails and woodland vistas of Mt. Diablo State Park.
Now, a 6-foot black iron fence with a “No Trespassing” signal and path cam is obstructing a preferred exit of that path — posing an “imminent and grave” risk for many who at the moment are compelled take a “much more harmful route,” in line with a criticism filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court docket earlier this month.
Development of the fence in late September renewed a yearslong, convoluted authorized battle pitting personal property rights towards public entry to that land.
Cyclists have lengthy stated the quiet, personal roads close to the Diablo Nation Membership present a safer route than the slender, winding Diablo Highway in Danville, which lacks any shoulders, sidewalks or bike paths and is stuffed with fast-moving motorists.
“It’s scary — vehicles simply don’t see you,” stated Amanda Lang, 16, a member of the San Ramon Valley Mountain Bike Membership. Although she wears vivid garments and by no means summits alone, she stated she’s nearly been hit 4 occasions on Diablo Highway, and watched a buddy “be actually inches away from getting hit by a automobile.”
Earlier than the fence was erected, many path customers took the neighborhood bypass till they reached a preferred gravel path close to 2354 Alameda Diablo, the place a 25-foot “using and mountain climbing easement” was carved out in 1979 county parcel maps amid improvement of the personal enclave, and a 60-foot roadway as soon as reduce by way of that very same land because the neighborhood was increasing within the early 1910s. Ever since, cyclists — in addition to hikers, canine walkers, equestrians and Diablo residents — have used that path to succeed in the “South Gate” trailhead by way of Mt. Diablo Scenic Highway on the opposite aspect.
Now the fence is obstructing site visitors from each side, and greater than 2,500 individuals who have signed a web based petition searching for elimination of the fence are pushing again.
Todd Gary, who has helped coach the San Ramon Valley Mountain Bike Membership for the previous decade, stated if the barrier isn’t moved, the group may have fewer choices to supply entry to riders with out placing them in hurt’s method.
“The fact is that the general public has been utilizing this (cut-through path) for therefore lengthy, as a result of it’s so essential to entry this mountain,” Gary stated. “For my specific person group, that are these younger children, that breaks my coronary heart as a result of we’re going to lose it. We’re going to lose riders, and we’re going to lose the group’s entry to half of the mountain. It doesn’t must be this manner.”
The authorized battle stretches again to December 2017, when Diablo resident Robert Tiernan sued his neighbors on Calle Arroyo, claiming that no formal public easement had been correctly zoned on the cut-through, and the sheer quantity of public path customers within the in any other case personal neighborhood had created a nuisance.
A county Superior Court docket choose agreed with Tiernan and almost a 12 months later signed a ruling declaring the general public had no proper to entry the street — a call that even the sheriff’s workplace agreed lacked enamel for enforcement.
By Could 2020, a bunch of 18 Diablo residents added their very own criticism into the lawsuit. These plaintiffs, which some have dubbed “the intervenors,” basically picked up the place the unique lawsuit left off. They declare the “security, safety and peaceable residential high quality of life” was nonetheless being threatened by the path customers circumventing different site visitors corridors.
Notably, they are saying that rights to make use of the gravel path on the personal property expired as a result of the easement was by no means correctly recorded with the California State Division of Parks and Recreation.
This battle additional intensified in 2020, after Winston Cervantes — a resident of Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard — countersued to defend the cut-through as a “devoted public easement” that he and different members of most people have a proper to make use of.
Whereas that 2020 case slogged by way of court docket, a lot of its authorized arguments just lately floundered after a number of of the properties on the heart of the talk modified arms. First, Cervantes moved away, and Omid Bahrami — who owned the property that included the easement and was supportive of its use — misplaced his Alameda Diablo residence to foreclosures in December.
With out anybody to be held accountable, a few of the complaints had been dropped. Nonetheless, the “intervenors” continued to push the case ahead in March 2023.
In July, a brand new choose subsequently affirmed that the easement had lengthy expired as a result of it was by no means correctly recorded with state companies. She referred to as for a barrier to be put in and maintained to “forestall members of most people from persevering with the personal nuisance.”
Jeff Mini, the lead “intervenor” and a retired contractor who lives on a dead-end avenue that’s not frequented by state park path customers, stated the fence was the one option to defend his neighborhood from the continuing site visitors overflow, particularly because the city of Danville has lagged behind improvement of a $4 million challenge that promised to assemble a paved bike lane on Diablo Highway.
“It’s only a security subject for having folks chopping by way of once they might be utilizing Diablo Highway,” Mini stated. “Come down right here within the afternoon, you’ll see folks strolling, taking infants in strollers and children on bicycles. That’s my concern.”
Dominic Signorotti, the lawyer representing the most recent plaintiffs, doubled down on the concept the unique easement dedication was by no means accepted, including that it was restricted to “horses and hikers” solely — not bicyclists.
However Dave Hammond, an Alamo resident who has used the easement a whole bunch of occasions and is lead plaintiff of the brand new criticism filed final week, needs to protect many years of public entry to the trail, which he contends is a “longstanding, expressly devoted public path easement.”
Whereas the iron fence is primarily positioned on 2328 Alameda Diablo, which is a vacant property owned by a personal household belief, his criticism additionally alleges that the barrier erroneously extends a number of ft onto the longstanding easement, which was established on the adjoining property.
Complicating the difficulty is that the land is at present owned by U.S. Financial institution, after the earlier proprietor declared chapter and misplaced the positioning to foreclosures. Hammond is difficult whether or not the small part of fence illegally crossed over the historic easement, and questions if the installers ever received permission from the financial institution.
Whatever the handful of neighbors who argue that the amount of site visitors utilizing the route has created an unlawful nuisance, his criticism contends that data from 1916 and 1979 bolster an “unbroken line of printed opinions” from California courts which have protected equally contested pathways.