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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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What it takes to write a letter

Uploaded: Jul 7, 2011
On May 24, 2011, Phil O'Loane wrote an irate letter to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors opposing the New Farm development in Tassajara Valley. In the second paragraph he wrote, "I find it outrageous that no one on San Ramon's City Council has yet to come out to express an opinion on this subject much less oppose it."

Oh come on Phil, you know better than that. You know the City Council must go through the process to publically support or oppose anything. Each of the Councilmembers has said publically in City Council meetings that he or she opposes any development in Tassajara Valley. So they have expressed an opinion on this subject and opposed it.

They have not sent a letter because first the Council must approve what goes into a letter. And in order for the Council to approve a letter, it must be put on a meeting agenda. And in order for a letter to be put on a meeting agenda, it must be reviewed by the Policy Committee.

The Policy Committee is a sub-committee of the City Council consisting of Councilmembers Dave Hudson and Carol Rowley. This Committee normally meets the fourth Wednesday of each month. The June meeting was rescheduled to July 6th. The agenda for the July 6, 2011 Policy Committee meeting included, "Letter on New Farm from the Council, By: Debbie Chamberlain, Planning Division Manager."

Chamberlain had in fact sent a letter from the City on May 26, 2011 in response to the Notice of Preparation (NOP) for the New Farm EIR. This was a formal letter that identified what San Ramon wanted included in the EIR.

Letters saying "We don't like this, don't do it," don't have much influence on an EIR. The EIR is an Environmental Impact Report and it is designed strictly to identify impacts to the immediate and neighboring environments. As such San Ramon's input to this is only about impacts of New Farm directly on San Ramon.

When I saw that the Policy Committee's Agenda included a letter to the County, I attended the Meeting Wednesday afternoon to find out what was in the letter and why it was being written at this time. City Manager Greg Rogers said the City was planning a response to the County's recent Scoping Session and this letter was on the list.

The letter, drafted by Mrs. Chamberlain for Hudson and Rowley to consider putting on the next City Council Agenda, summarized residents' concerns about "potential growth and its associated impacts and the loss of open space and natural resources."

Councilman Hudson felt the County would be receptive to what we have to say. "People at the County are paying attention when we talk now," Hudson said. He wants to create a cooperative relationship with the County to keep San Ramon's best interests in mind in their decisions.

Hudson and Rowley directed Mrs. Chamberlain to rewrite the letter to sound more cooperative. A draft of the letter should be on the Agenda of the next City Council meeting on July 12, 2011 for the whole Council to consider and approve.
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