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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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Council sets the stage for 2030 General Plan

Uploaded: Mar 24, 2011
I was planning to write a commentary on Disaster Preparedness this week. I interviewed Ray Riordan, the City's Emergency Preparedness Manager, but I want to comment on the last City Council meeting instead. The Agenda for the meeting included four presentations leading up to the Council's second Public Hearing on the 2030 General Plan, which seemed contrived to me.

The Plan removes the changes to the Urban Growth Boundaries on the East into Tassajara Valley and the West into Norris Canyon Estates and the renewal of Ordinance 197, but little else has been changed from the plan voters rejected last November.

The Public Hearing was fourth on the Council Agenda. Tad Johnson, Vice Chair of the Economic Development Advisory Committee introduced Economic Development Director Mark Fontes, who presented the Economic Development Strategic Plan Report for 2011, which once again presented the case for more retail to increase San Ramon's sales tax revenues.

Jim Gibbon responded to this presentation by accusing the EDAC of being, "the vehicle for growing the city."

The next presentation was by a representative from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), which projected the need to increase the population in the Bay Area by 2,000,000 people in 2035 in order to cut down on traffic and air pollution. Councilman Dave Hudson calculated that 75% of this additional population would live on 3% of the land in order to prevent growth into undeveloped areas.

Martin Englemann of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority completed the presentation on Sustainable Communities and the requirements of SB375 and AB32. San Ramon's City Center plans fit the category of Suburban Center and the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan fits the category of Transit Town Center.

To me these preliminary presentations appeared designed to set the stage for the Council's vote on General Plan 2030 in April. Mayor Wilson confirmed that when he told the audience, "We wanted them to come so you could hear it not from us but from the source."

Not everyone was convinced. In the Public Hearing on the update, Jim Gibbon claimed that ABAG based their housing requirements on the City's projected population growth not the other way around. "What is the worth of the General Plan update if you don't update your numbers? There is a need to rethink your projections on housing and jobs."

Jim Blickenstaff handed a letter to the City Attorney from Sierra Club attorney, Stewart Flashman, on the need for residents to vote on the General Plan again. "It's not an advisory vote," Blickenstaff said about the defeat of Measure W, "You really have to engage the voters again," he told the Council.

Kevin L'Hommedieu and Helen Lai pointed to the overcrowding of schools in Dougherty Valley and moving students to schools outside of their neighborhoods as reasons not to increase the population so much.

Councilwoman Carol Rowley, who was a Principal at Country Club Elementary School for 19 years, told these residents that the City has no control over planning for the School District, but L'Hommedieu insisted that if the city increases the population it has to impact the schools.

Planning Manager Debbie Chamberlain explained that the high population estimates in the 2030 General Plan are necessary to meet the needs of future residents. For example, one park is planned for every 1000 people. If the General Plan underestimates the growth, there wouldn't be enough parks to meet that need. That is why the School District is hurting now, because they didn't plan for enough population growth.

After the Public Hearing was closed Vice Mayor Perkins started to outline his positions on some of the issues. He was cut short by Mayor Wilson who felt it was premature for the Council to take any positions since there is one more Public Hearing. Councilman Jim Livingstone questioned Mayor Wilson for cutting Perkins off. Wilson said he wanted to hear from the residents first, but he was willing to let each Councilmember speak.

Perkins had lost his momentum and Livingstone backed off, so the Public Hearing was continued to the next Council meeting on April 12th.

The Council then adjourned to Closed Session to discuss the position of City Manager. The result of that session was to authorize the Mayor to negotiate with the candidate (not yet identified). Stay tuned for more on that.
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