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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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Credit where it?s due

Uploaded: Apr 21, 2011
I always try to give credit where it's due, when I believe it is due. In my Friday blog last week I was critical of Seth Adams' attack on the Yes on Measure W supporters in the letter he read at the April 13 City Council meeting, but there was a lot in that letter that I agreed with too.

Adams quoted from Measure G, urging the City Council to, "develop a plan for the acquisition of ridgeline areas and agricultural lands, contiguous to the city of San Ramon to be preserved for open space purposes in perpetuity." Adams said the city should have proposed that in the General Plan instead of moving the Urban Growth Boundary.

The City did have a proposal to purchase open space (sort of) in Section 8 of the General Plan 2030 submitted with Measure W.

Section 8.5 in the General Plan is titled "Measure G Open Space Preservation Action Plan." The Guiding Policy for this plan, 8.5-G (how appropriate)-1 says, "Expand the ridgeline and hillside open space system in the City's Planning Area by joint efforts with East Bay Regional Parks District, Contra Costa County and non profit trustee agencies."

My interpretation of this is it means let someone else buy the properties and the City will work with them. This interpretation is spelled out in more detail under Implementing Policies.

Section 8.5-I-1 "Confer with appropriate agencies and organizations in the creation of an institutional framework and financing mechanism necessary to acquire additional ridgeline areas and agricultural lands, and to preserve, restore, and manage important open space."

So who would the City expect to acquire ridgeline areas and agricultural lands, etc.? Well East Bay Regional Parks is named in Section 8.4 of the General Plan 2030 and non profit trustee agencies could include Save Mount Diablo. The organization's Director of Land Programs, whose job is to locate and purchase these properties to keep them rural and protect the mountain from development, is none other than Seth Adams.

Personally I support the idea of buying rural land to keep it open space. If Save Mount Diablo is doing this, good for them.

However, there's a potential snag in buying properties to protect open space. The No on Measure W FAQs asks the question, "Who benefits if the Urban Growth Boundary is broken and expanded?" Their answer is Tassajara Valley land speculators.

The No on Measure W website goes on to say, "Current zoning allows for the landowners in the Tassajara Valley to make a reasonable profit with a limited amount of development on their land, in keeping with its rural character."

So here's Save Mount Diablo's motive for its assault on Measure W. Seth Adams knows that 4200 homes are not planned for Tassajara Valley now, and if a large scale development were to be planned in the future, it would come under a great deal of scrutiny before a shovel of dirt was turned.

However the prospect of moving the UGB could influence land owners to increase the price of their properties out of range for non profit groups like Save Mount Diablo to afford. So plopping $30K or $40K into a political race against moving the UGB would be a good investment in keeping land prices down, and Save Mount Diablo could continue buying up properties to protect open space there.

What bothers me about this scenario is that Adams and other No on W supporters could have given the real reasons to vote against it instead of a bunch of phony reasons. That would have saved me a lot of time and typing.
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Posted by Quite The Leap, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 25, 2011 at 12:40 pm

That's quite the leap from "credit where credit's due" to imagining the motives of Save Mount Diablo, that the group wants to control development to control real estate prices. Even if it were true, great, the public benefits.

However, the market sets prices; Bishop Ranch/Hacienda/Silicon Valley executive salaries probably have more to do with Tri-Valley land prices than what a small non-profit accomplishes.

As for your interpretation of the General Plan, that its direction means other agencies should acquire open space, it's easy to pass the buck to others for land protection but that's just your interpretation, that's not what the quotes you included say: "develop a plan" and "Expand the ridgeline and hillside open space system in the City?s Planning Area by joint efforts..."

Many cities have large open space systems, such as Walnut Creek. East Bay Regional Park District's Measure WW bond includes per capita funding for cities including San Ramon. Walnut Creek recently worked with the Park District and the Muir Heritage Land Trust, using some of its Measure WW per capita funding, to protect a property on Acalanes Ridge. San Ramon could easily do the same.

It's well past time for the San Ramon city council to show leadership in following the direction of its citizens, and of its General Plan.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Apr 25, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.


My point is that if real estate values in Tassajara Valley increase it will be more difficult for non-profits like Save Mount Diablo to afford buying properties out there. The City of San Ramon is literally passing the buck, and not even trying to cooperate with the agencies they say they want to. Maybe Seth Adams should make a proposal to the City for joint purchases of open space, and we'll see how that goes.


Posted by dave, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 26, 2011 at 12:03 pm

The GHAD in San Ramon will surpass 5,000 acres. Not a bad investment in open space.

Posted by Misleading, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 26, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Councilmember Dave Hudson ("Dave," above), Abram Wilson and the other council members love to spout "facts" in misleading ways. They constantly blame the County for Dougherty Valley while taking credit for what they think are the positive aspects of it.

Th GHAD (Geological Hazard Abatement District) Hudson refers to above owns and maintains hillside and landslide prone lands, most of it in Dougherty Valley such as Hidden Valley Open Space. It's not developed for a variety of purposes, including in that case for protection of wildlife and for some recreation, but mostly to avoid geological hazards.

The key clarification is that the city didn't protect the land, the developers did as a condition of the county's approval. The residents within the GHAD pay assessments for its upkeep.

It is not an example of the city investing in open space.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Apr 26, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

@Misleading is correct. I answered this two hours ago, but posted it in the wrong place.

The GHAD, Geologic Hazard Abatement District, doesn't purchase the properties. It accepts and manages hillsides and other left over open space from developments (not just in Dougherty Valley, but infill too) that are usually not buildable.

So it does count as open space, but it isn't contiguous land outside of San Ramon's UGB obtained to preserve it as open space. That's what Seth Adams asked the City to do.



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