More than two dozen investors, most of them from Livermore, are planning to build a 104-acre cemetery just north of Interstate 580 near the little-used Las Colinas Road overpass at the freeway.
The proposed Monte Vista Memorial Gardens property is now used as pasture land. The site is located north of the city's urban growth boundary, and situated in the scenic corridor of Interstate 580.
The location is west of Springtown and the planned campus for a Catholic high school. The school has city council approval, but has been stalled by a lack of funding priority by the Oakland diocese.
Tom McCaffrey, a co-founder of the investors behind the cemetery plan, said that it has nothing to do with the diocese.
McCaffrey is a Livermore resident and retired Navy captain who, with other community volunteers, was concerned that Livermore and the region has no full-service cemetery.
The cemetery will accommodate people of all faiths, and also secular burials. It would include a mortuary, chapel, crematorium, and a columbarium for cremated remains.
The cemetery would open through four phases, over a lifetime expectancy of 200 years.
There is nothing like it now in the Valley, said McCaffrey. The closest comparable facilities are in Lafayette and Hayward, which many people find too remote from Livermore and other Tri-Valley cities.
Several years ago, a proposal for a separate cemetery just east of San Ramon was sent to Contra Costa County by investors in that area. However, no action has been taken on it. The drive for it has been revived.
Former San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson made a presentation to the Pleasanton City Council about it several months ago. However, there has been no response.
COMPARING PLAN TO OLD CEMETERIES
McCaffrey said that Livermore's long-established graveyards are like "country cemeteries." They contain graves and headstones. All other services must come from the outside, such as cremation or mortuary service.
All of the Livermore cemeteries say they have 50 years capacity left, said McCaffrey. It's true, they do, he said. That is because they have very few customers. Most people prefer to go to the full-service cemeteries in Lafayette and Hayward cemeteries, despite the inconvenience of having to drive farther, he said.
Further, the small operations have trouble providing permanent care for graves, so some of them simply cover over graves with hard surfaces to keep maintenance at a minimum.
McCaffrey states that Monte Vista Memorial Gardens would have a beautiful campus and sufficient water for landscaping.
A previous plan for a full-service cemetery in North Livermore was bogged down by an objection from Zone 7 Water Agency about cemetery wells draining too much water from the aquifer and impacting neighboring wells.
McCaffrey said that there are three water sources for the proposed cemetery. The biggest is an eight-inch pipeline that runs past the property. He said that the private firm that owns the pipeline would be happy to have the cemetery as a customer.
Last week, a crew was is already digging a well on the property.
Further, there is an arroyo that runs through the land. Along the banks of it, the cemetery developers, Monte Vista Memorial Investment Group (MVMIG), would set aside a 100-foot setback for riparian wildlife.
Although MVMIG is an investment group, it is comprised strictly of "regular folks" from Livermore and nearby towns, according to McCaffrey.
He said that MVMIG submitted an application to the Alameda County Planning Department a few months ago for a permit for the use.
McCaffrey explained that his group sees the cemetery as needed infrastructure for the area. Measure D, which controls agricultural land in the county, permits infrastructure. McCaffrey said he thinks the group will be able to prove that the cemetery fits the Measure D definition.
Bob Baltzer, president of Friends of Livermore, said that if the cemetery resembles a full-service cemetery proposed for North Livermore Avenue several years ago, "I'm adamantly opposed."
The cemetery may be infrastructure, but it is not infrastructure in support of agriculture as required by Measure D, he added.
Further, crematoriums and funeral parlors are not permitted under Measure D. They are considered industrial uses.
Baltzer also said that the area is in the scenic highway corridor. It would appear to be illegal, if it is in the viewshed.
McCaffrey said in the information that he shared with the Independent that there is a natural berm along the highway, which blocks views of the land. The angles of view from the freeway are being checked to determine whether there is total compliance with the scenic corridor, he said.