In what seems to be a case of history repeating itself, Diablo MX Ranch owners John and Lori Ramirez are facing resistance from neighbors concerned about noise as they look to make changes to county restrictions on the operation of their motocross track.
The Ramirezes requested several use permit changes when undergoing a one-year compliance review with the county in May 2018, and the hearing on their request is currently scheduled for next month. The first change is the addition of a kids’ track to the property, and the second is to allow overnight camping on the site so they can attract competitors from outside the area to races they hope to host.
“When we opened, we just had the main track and the flat track, and we’re just using (the flat track) as a kids’ track,” said Lori Ramirez. “But we really would like our own kids’ track. That’s why we’re now having to add it. Along with adding a new track, you have to do a sound study and geology tests – it’s a long, expensive process. But that’s what the business is about – is getting kids into the sport and families. It’s very, very important to have our own kids’ track out there. It’s definitely worth it in the long run.”
The park is located at 50 Camino Diablo Road in unincorporated Brentwood and has operated off and on since the early ‘70s. It ceased regular operation in 2012 and was used occasionally for motorcycle classes until the property was sold to the Ramirez family in 2014.
“These neighbors have all moved in next to the place,” said Gary Kupp, a Contra Costa County planner. “When the Ramirezes bought the track, those neighbors thought the place had closed. When they found out that the Ramirezes were going to reopen it, there was a lot of opposition.”
Three years ago, neighbors concerned about potential noise from the facility hired an attorney in an attempt to stop the reopening. The conflict came to a head during two Contra Costa Board of Supervisors meetings in late 2016, when the supervisors voted to allow the park to reopen, as long as it follows a series of stipulations. They included: 24-hour ambient noise levels had to be limited to 75 decibels; the number of riders were restricted to 45 riders on the main track and 25 on the other; notifying neighbors of racing and nighttime events two months in advance; and undergoing compliance reviews after one, three, five, eight and 12 years.
The county also required the Ramirez family to remove three of the tracks that were on the property, previously known as Sand Hill Ranch Motocross Park. That operation had five separate tracks, though the county had only permitted two.
“They told us we had to get rid of the other three tracks out there,” said Lori Ramirez. “One of them was a BMX track just for bikes. One of them was a kids’ track. We had to flatten them out back then. We were only allowed to open with just the two tracks.”
The process to get county approval has been underway for more than a year and the Ramirezes estimate they’ve spent $20,000 so far. Having been delayed three times already, the next hearing for approval is now scheduled for August.
“Things move too slow,” said Lori Ramirez. “But it’s really the opposing neighbors is why the county is dragging their feet. They want to make sure that they’re addressing the neighbors’ (concerns). It’s so controversial that they have to make sure that the neighbors aren’t going to be taking this all the way back to the Board of Supervisors.”
Linda Thuman is one of the neighbors who opposes the change to the Diablo MX Ranch use permit. She contends the track is out of compliance with county restrictions as the noise level has, at times, exceeded the noise limit when measured at the property line.
“We’re not opposed to the motocross,” said Thuman. “We’re just opposed to the noise. If it doesn’t increase noise, then generally, we’re not opposed to it...It would be nice to be able to go outside and enjoy (our) property, and at times we can’t do that.”
Thuman acknowledged that current noise levels, when the track is operating, are somewhat tolerable. But she also expressed concern that if the park operates at the full limit of its allowable hours, and conducts races, that situation will worsen for neighbors.
“If their goal is to have big events here, big events run us out of town,” said park neighbor Rick Kendrick. “When the previous (owner) had a big event, it was intolerable.”
The current use permit allows the Ramirezes to hold two races per month but does not allow on-site, overnight camping. They are petitioning the county to change the use permit to reduce the number of races to six per year and allow overnight camping on race weekends. With many potential competitors living outside of the immediate area, the Ramirezes believe hosting races without offering camping accommodations is impractical.
“Nobody will come, so why run a race?” said John Ramirez. “We won’t make the revenue to make it worth it. We only want to do it six times a year. That will bring revenue for the City of Brentwood. They’re going to go to the restaurants, Safeway, everything...We’re so close to the city that people are going to love it here.”
With a lot of time and money invested in the process so far, John and Lori Ramirez are anxious to have their request heard and hopeful that next month’s meeting won’t be delayed a fourth time.
“It’s all worth it,” said Lori Ramirez. “We get to know these kids out here and these families, and it’s so worth it. I know we’ll get the kids’ track. We’ll get approved. Who knows how long it will (take), but it’s all going to be worth it. It’s a long story, but we’re still here.”