LIVERMORE — A longstanding proposal to develop Alameda County’s first new cemetery in 110 years near Livermore was recently submitted to the Alameda County Planning Commission.
The initial hearing, held on February 7, drew supporters and detractors alike. Supporters said there was a need to expand burial services in the growing Tri-Valley area. Others expressed concern that plans for a crematorium would interfere with Measurement D, the county’s urban growth limit.
Monte Vista Memorial Gardens — a proposal by a group identified as Monte Vista Memorial Investment Group LLC — would develop a 47-acre cemetery at 3656 Las Colina Road in an unincorporated area near Livermore. The area is agricultural designated land adjacent to Highway 580 between the North Livermore Avenue and North First Street exits. The land is currently used for grazing.
Ron Kahn, a representative of the investment group, called the cemetery an important aspect of Tri-Valley infrastructure.
“The Tri-Valley area has experienced significant population growth over the past two decades, including increased population diversity,” Kahn told the panel. “We believe it is essential that the county’s infrastructure be developed to support this growth…Our goal is to develop and build a state-of-the-art final resting place and funeral home to meet the needs of the region and others.
The cemetery would include a funeral home, burial areas, a crematorium and a morgue. County reports indicate that more than 1,200 deaths occur each year in the Tri-Valley with a need for 300 burials and approximately 750 cremations.
During the meeting, caller Jean King of Livermore said she feared a crematorium would violate Measure D rules, which voters passed in 2000 to protect agricultural areas.
“I don’t object to there being a cemetery there. But I object to these urban uses that they are planning,” King said. “I know we have both crematoriums in Livermore. I don’t think we need another one. We also have a funeral home in Livermore and Pleasanton. And we have three cemeteries in Livermore, one of which I know is used by Jews, because I have been to services there.
Resident Mike Fredrich agreed, saying a crematorium was not compatible with agricultural use.
“I have no problem with the cemetery meeting the requirements of Measure D, but not the crematorium. It is an urban use. It’s a big building. It shouldn’t be on farmland (and) shouldn’t be on measurement D land,” he said.
Two commissioners asked how many cremations would take place. Kahn said about 750 a year for cemetery patrons.
“Sometimes you have a few in a day and sometimes there are days when you don’t,” Kahn said.
Kahn said the cemetery would include about five acres exclusively for the Tri-Valley’s growing Jewish community, which currently must travel outside the area for burials. County reports indicate that approximately 40,000 Jews live in Alameda County, including 10,000 in the Tri-Valley.
“A little-known fact about Jewish culture and life is that when a community comes to an area, one of the first things that is needed is the development of a cemetery and consecrated burial grounds,” Kahn said. . “Unfortunately, the existing infrastructure in the region is currently lacking or reaching capacity, hence the need to develop this critical infrastructure to support Jewish life in the region.”
The Jewish Zone would provide services to the three main groups of Judaism – Orthodox, Conservative and Reform – taking into account the religious restrictions specific to each.
Rabbi Raleigh Resnick, Chabad’s spiritual leader of the Tri-Valley, said Livermore’s Roselawn Cemetery was an option for the Jewish community, but it was filled to capacity. He said Jews had to move to use cemeteries in southern San Francisco and Colma.
“There are no other opportunities for the Jewish community here,” Resnick said. “It’s something that is badly needed, something that will add so much to our community.”
If approved, the cemetery would be built in two phases, the first on 6.8 acres east of Arroyo Las Positas, where the funeral home, crematorium, entrance plaza, “Pavilion” building a single storey, an access road, a parking lot and two burial areas would be constructed.
The second phase on 40.3 acres west of Arroyo Las Positas would include burial areas and roads, new wetlands, lakes, stream crossings and landscaping.
According to a county report, cemeteries are permitted on parcels zoned for agricultural use. The Planning Commission must issue a conditional use permit.
The county is currently accepting public comments on a draft environmental impact report for the project. The project lists its potential significant environmental effects with respect to air quality caused by pollution during construction; biological resources, including sensitive species, seasonal wetlands; cultural resources, such as tribal areas and human remains; and the quality of land and water.
“All of these impacts may be reduced to less than significant levels after mitigation is implemented,” the EIR executive summary states.
The public can read the draft report on the planning department’s website and comment until February 28. (bit.ly/Indy_MemorialGarden)
King said she was also concerned about flooding and plans for the facility to use a septic tank.
“We don’t need to install another septic tank,” she says. “If they want to move forward, they have to find a connection to a sanitary sewer system.”