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By Roz Rogoff

About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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Putting first things first

Uploaded: Feb 9, 2011
Measure W was attacked for rezoning a large portion of downtown for mixed use as some kind of secret plot to change the city without letting anyone knowing about it. Well it is NOT true that the City was hiding the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan (NCRSP) from voters before putting Measure W on the ballot. The cover story in the Spring 2009 City Report was "North Camino Ramon planning begins," with a map of the specific plan area.

This same newsletter included a blurb that "General Plan 2030 Update is underway" with a list of dates for workshops the public could attend, but hardly anyone did. So if residents are hearing now that this was all kept secret, no it wasn't. But it depended on residents caring enough to pay attention to the information that was made available to them to know what was in it.

The question asked now is why was the zoning change was included in the General Plan before the Specific Plan was completed? Jim Gibbon called it "Putting the cart before the horse."

A General Plan is exactly that. It plans for land use in the city based on what the State requires and what the Planning Department and City Council believe is the best way to meet these requirements throughout the city. Zoning changes must be in the General Plan before any specific details are applied to how the land would be used in the future. Zoning simply says that land A would be used for X purpose and not Y purpose, and land B would be used for Y purpose.

City planning is just a city-wide version of planning for home improvements to make better use of different areas of your house and property. Here's a simplified scenario. You plan to remodel the kitchen, add a new bathroom, and replace the lawn with drought tolerant landscaping. These are three different areas of your home that are designated for three different uses. That's the zoning in your home's General Plan.

After you have made your General Plan, you would create a plan for each of these different sections of your home to be more specific about what would go into each one. You might start looking into fixtures for the bathroom and getting estimates on changes you want to make. Then you would draw a diagram showing what would go into each section of the new bathroom. That's your Specific Plan.

You'll notice that you can't have a specific plan for what goes into a bathroom before you have a plan to add the bathroom to your house. So the plan for modifying the house comes first (General Plan), the plan to add a bathroom comes next (zoning in the General Plan) and the plan for what goes into the new bathroom comes last (Specific Plan).

Now that you have a Specific Plan for your new bathroom, you ask the kids and Grandma what they think about it. They are given the chance to change the layout and fixtures since they would be using the bathroom too. That would be your Public Hearings. If Grandma wants a chair height toilet and walk-in tub, you'd have to consider the additional cost and how these would fit into your original (General) plan.

You might make changes based on input from the kids and Grandma. That's what happens in public hearings on a Specific Plan. You take the opinions and needs of each person in the house who comments on the plan. If Grandma and the kids don't bother to tell you what they want, you probably wouldn't make any changes to your Specific Plan.

Likewise if hardly anyone comes to the Public Hearings held by the Planning Commission and City Council on a Specific Plan, Commissioners and City Councilmembers would think that nobody cares about these plans and do what staff advises them to do.

Your neighbors might worry about how your plans would affect them. They might complain about workers parking their trucks on the street or noise or dust from the construction. These are like the outside agencies and neighboring communities that might be affected by a city's land use plans. That's why cities are required to provide Environmental Impact Reports (EIR) to identify how they would mitigate any disturbances in the neighborhood.

While it is important to be considerate of your neighbors, you probably wouldn't want them to tell you how to design your own bathroom. You should be able to control your own plans for your house and not have them controlled by outsiders (except of course the State of California is telling you and the City what must go into your General Plans).

OK, my example is very simplistic, and I will probably be accused of being condescending, but if some readers are confused by the planning process, I am trying to make it as simple as I can to explain it.

So if you don't like the "specifics" in North Camino Ramon Specific Plan, it isn't cast in stone until all of the Public Hearings are held and the Planning Commission and City Council vote on it. You can come out and speak your mind at the Planning Commission public hearings and the Commissioners will listen to you.

If you do like what is in this plan, you should come to the meetings and say so too. Don't leave it to the naysayers to be the only ones at the meetings. Tell the Planning Commission and City Council what you want to keep in the NCRSP as well as what you want to drop or change.

The Planning Commission's next Public Hearing on the NCRSP is February 15, 2011. If you don't participate in the planning process, then don't complain about the plans you get.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Ms. Bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 10, 2011 at 8:33 am

The information shared via the San Ramon Valley Times, it's columnists as well as online here, is usually of great benefit in sharing city plans. Likewise, it doesn't take "attending" as much as it takes VOICING in one manner of speaking or another, HOW you feel and WHY. My preferred mode is writing...I've written both letters and emails to the town and newspaper to provide input and indicate where I stand, particularly on these development issues.
By doing so? I am heard in my own way, not necessarily your way which would be to attend every meeting. I have my reasons for handling my "vote" this way, as I am certain others do. One is no more right than the other, so I take issue with your pronouncement that by not attending your voice is not counted or hear. On the contrary...I have little doubt that mine isn't as I've received worthy and personal replies from city personnel.

You may want to rethink your stance a bit to include a more democratic process..."one size" does not "fit all" in discourse Roz.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Feb 10, 2011 at 10:05 am

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Ms. Bunny,

You are absolutely right. It is important for residents to be aware of what is planned for the city and communicate their concerns to the City Council or staff, whether in person, in writing, or even in an online forum like this one. Thank you for adding that to this discussion.


Posted by Resident, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 11, 2011 at 7:22 am

Great explanation regarding how it all works, Roz, especially for those of us who only pay attention to what's going on half the time!! And usually, it's that half when we don't like what's going on!!! So we might get up in arms, armed with only half the facts!! Thanks!!

Posted by H. Sachs, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 11, 2011 at 10:05 am

Thanks roz- where were you when I was remodeling my house last year?

Just to be clear: The General plan Amendments now before the planning commission do include language allowing the city to "create a North Camino Ramon SP". By potentially passing the general plan amendments we would NOT be passing the NCRSP itself- that would need to actually be created. This would give the city permission to create a specific plan for the Camino Ramon area.

Staff has with direction from the Council and Planning commission since December 2008 been creating a concept plan. This is not the actual specific plan but framework for discussion.

An actual specific plan would need to be created, debated, presented to the public in workshops and study sessions and voted on by both the PC and CC, along with its EIR. That's where the real discussions about size, scope and zoning designations would take place.

Posted by kevin, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 11, 2011 at 11:07 am

To be even clearer the language in the General Plan says this: "The adoption of the General Plan 2030 would re-designate all properties within the Specific Plan area not currently designated "Mixed Use" to "Mixed Use".

While a tentative plan is already drawn up and it certainly can be changed.... The rezoning of all properties between the freeway and Alcosta & Costco including the Toyota building are changed. As Roz previously stated' "Zoning simply says that land A would be used for X purpose and not Y purpose, and land B would be used for Y purpose."

Those businesses you currently use that are warehouse related ie 24 hour fitness, Toyota, Post Office, Public Storage or Service related ie Car Wash, Automotive service are as the Specific plan states "Displaced".

To use Roz analogy, we decide that I get domain over the garage, I fix it up, buy tools & shop machinery and support us with a home based business. My wife decides that the garage is now going to be a third bedroom because we might need it. I can voice my opinion but ultimately she has a plan made up and gives me notice that when she is ready I will have to move my stuff out and there is no alternate place for me to move. I'm now stressed about where I will go, when I'll have to. can I rent somewhere close and can I afford it.

This is simply a general analogy to point out that decisions are best made when both parties have a problem they understand, decide from all the alternatives and compromise for an outcome that both can agree on. What we are missing is that the City is finalizing the plan as fast as possible, even though we voted 72% against it.

This is not how I would choose to represent my City

Posted by Jim Gibbon, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 11, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Come to the Planning Commission Meeting on February 15th

This will be the last time you will be about to talk about all the changes about to happen to our city with the major changes plan by the city in the next eighteen years. This plan envisions adding 24,000 more homes within the city limits. There are 32,000 homes in the city right now. Adding 24,000 more homes to this area will make it almost impossible to live here in the future.

If you care at all about your quality of life in San Ramon I recommend you come and speak to the Planning Commission. Ask them to think about what they are about to do. The PC is the only group in the city that might be able to stop this planned growth. It takes four votes of the PC to send it to the City Council. It takes only two votes to stop this insanity.

Last November 14,000 voters in San Ramon said no to this growth. Now is the last time you will ever have to object to what the city plans to do in spite of your vote. This can never be taken back without your help. If they close this meeting on Tuesday without your voice it will go to the City Council where five votes are guaranteed.

Please come and let them know that there are a lot of people who care. Send this e-mail to your friends in San Ramon and ask them to come. 7:00 pm Tuesday 15th at city hall.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Feb 11, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.


This isn't the final Planning Commission public hearing. There's still one more after 2/15, so it's not now or never yet. But I hope a lot of people come out and see what this process is about and get both sides of the information, which they did not adequately get during the election.


Posted by Laura Latt, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 12, 2011 at 8:33 am

Government agencies and its officials are supposed to be the voices of the people. Through failed or passed measures the city officials learn the needs and wants of the public. When they find loopholes to proceed with their personal agendas they are no longer in the capacity of representing their citizens; their acting upon their own agendas.

We should be embracing and encouraging big businesses to remain and come into our city to conduct business. They create jobs, which keeps our economy strong. They bring revenue into our city. We should be focusing more on businesses and less on building up our over crowded residential areas.

Our city is out of balance; having too much residential and not enough business. It has had a very negative impact on our city, its citizens and our children. Our schools are already over crowded making our once excellent school system less desirable. Because of poor decisions and planning we had to expand our sewage system in an older neighborhood where citizens suffered from property depreciation and less desirable living conditions. And, when there was a sewage spill some of the money paid to the city got allocated to areas that didn't suffer any hardship due to the spill. All these things could have been avoided if careful planning was implemented and if our city officials paid closer attention to the voices of the people.

If our city officials can not conduct city business according to the desires of the people, then they should step down and let others, who have our best interests at heart, represent our city and people.

Posted by kevin, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 13, 2011 at 12:44 pm

According to the Cities own environmental impact report they reviewed last meeting, I brought up that the EIR stated that if the General Plan numbers of 30,000 more residents were added, they would reach their effluent limits 8-10 years earlier. The the city would be in the position of requesting higher limit numbers that may not be approved.

There is also no mention what so ever of how what the city has planned to do with 10,000 more students. The city has approved 4600 more houses currently, they want an additional 1400 in the Eastern downtown. This is 6000 more houses and 6,000 more kids. Overall the General Plan exceeds ABAG's numbers and plans for 30,000 more residents(over all 10,000 more students)and 18,000 more people working in San Ramon. This is a 50% increase than now.

They rezoned Toyota into residential and currently are inhibiting them from making improvements that would allow them to stay because they want this land for housing. Even though they say, "It's a plan and may never come to pass" look at what Toyota is experiencing right now.

This is our city so this is the time to voice your opinion.

Posted by jrm, a resident of Danville,
on Feb 14, 2011 at 8:03 am

The school overcrowding in San Ramon is a serious mistake with profound impact. It is amazing that San Ramon now wants to keep putting up houses anywhere they can to keep funding runaway municipal expenses and supporting the agendas of the pro development factions. Just say NO..as you did in the November elections. As I say to my kids, "NO is an answer!"....
On the other hand, all the shocking San Ramon development is beneficial for me, it makes my Danville community even more attractive to home buyers and creates a distinct differentiation between our two adjoining communities. I salute Jim Gibbon and others that have stood up and said "enough already". Sadly, both mayoral candidates are solidly pro growth at all costs so the San Ramon citizens must remain active, vocal and engaged to make sure their desires are listened to.
Just say NO! The kids must come first..

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