DIABLO — For many years, cyclists by the 1000’s have lower by means 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” menace for individuals who at the moment are pressured take a “way more harmful route,” in response to a criticism filed in Contra Costa County Superior Courtroom earlier this month.
Development of the fence in late September renewed a yearslong, convoluted authorized battle pitting non-public property rights in opposition to public entry to that land.
Cyclists have lengthy mentioned the quiet, non-public roads close to the Diablo Nation Membership present a safer route than the slim, winding Diablo Highway in Danville, which lacks any shoulders, sidewalks or bike paths and is full of fast-moving motorists.
“It’s scary — vehicles simply don’t see you,” mentioned Amanda Lang, 16, a member of the San Ramon Valley Mountain Bike Membership. Although she wears vibrant garments and by no means summits alone, she mentioned she’s virtually been hit 4 instances on Diablo Highway, and watched a buddy “be actually inches away from getting hit by a automotive.”
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 “driving and mountain climbing easement” was carved out in 1979 county parcel maps amid growth of the non-public enclave, and a 60-foot roadway as soon as lower by means 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 achieve the “South Gate” trailhead by way of Mt. Diablo Scenic Highway on the opposite facet.
Now the fence is obstructing 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, mentioned if the barrier isn’t moved, the staff may have fewer choices to offer entry to riders with out placing them in hurt’s means.
“The truth is that the general public has been utilizing this (cut-through path) for therefore lengthy, as a result of it’s so vital to entry this mountain,” Gary mentioned. “For my specific consumer group, that are these younger youngsters, 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 staff’s entry to half of the mountain. It doesn’t have to be this fashion.”
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 non-public neighborhood had created a nuisance.
A county Superior Courtroom decide agreed with Tiernan and practically a 12 months later signed a ruling declaring the general public had no proper to entry the street — a choice that even the sheriff’s workplace agreed lacked enamel for enforcement.
By Might 2020, a gaggle 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 visitors corridors.
Notably, they are saying that rights to make use of the gravel path on the non-public 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 means of courtroom, lots of its authorized arguments lately floundered after a number of of the properties on the middle of the controversy modified fingers. 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 house to foreclosures in December.
With out anybody to be held accountable, a few of the complaints have been dropped. Nonetheless, the “intervenors” continued to push the case ahead in March 2023.
In July, a brand new decide 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 “stop members of most people from persevering with the non-public 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, mentioned the fence was the one solution to defend his neighborhood from the continuing visitors overflow, particularly because the city of Danville has lagged behind growth of a $4 million undertaking that promised to assemble a paved bike lane on Diablo Highway.
“It’s only a security difficulty for having individuals chopping by means of after they may very well be utilizing Diablo Highway,” Mini mentioned. “Come down right here within the afternoon, you’ll see individuals strolling, taking infants in strollers and children on bicycles. That’s my concern.”
Dominic Signorotti, the lawyer representing the newest 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 lots of of instances and is lead plaintiff of the brand new criticism filed final week, desires 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 situated 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 toes onto the longstanding easement, which was established on the adjoining property.
Complicating the difficulty is that the land is at the moment 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 bought permission from the financial institution.
Whatever the handful of neighbors who argue that the amount of visitors utilizing the route has created an unlawful nuisance, his criticism contends that information from 1916 and 1979 bolster an “unbroken line of printed opinions” from California courts which have protected equally contested pathways.