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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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Practical not pretentious

Uploaded: Mar 17, 2014

I didn't attend the last City Council meeting when the latest plans for the City Hall were unveiled and discussed. I read the article in the Express with a drawing of the building. I was not impressed, and said so in a comment on the article.

Councilman Harry Sachs emailed a reply to my comment.

"The proposed city hall building is two stories I think you referred to it as one in the Express. The rotunda has about 3700 square feet and could be used for public or private events. In my conversations with the architects and designers, I stressed making it usable and accessible for the public."

Critics, including myself initially, said it looked too much like another Bishop Ranch office building. Well guess what! That's what it is supposed to be. Harry went on to explain the purpose of the building in his email.

"However, primarily, this is a building designed for city staff to work. Also, Sunset has really reduced their scope in terms of buldout of city center. This is a component of that. This is a cost saving move for the city and Sunset. I sent Chris Truebridge and Bill Clarkson en email suggested using the city's circular logo with the colors in the front of the building using a tile inlay. That would break up the all-white look with colors."

There's no reason why the building has to be all-white. I'd like a nice rose-granite façade, but that might be too expensive. Regardless of the building's eventual color, all new buildings in San Ramon, whether commercial, business, or even City owned, are required to have public art.

When I was on the Arts Advisory Committee we recommended improvements and approved art projects proposed for new or remodeled buildings. The ABC Pet Clinic on San Ramon Valley Blvd. added tile silhouettes of a dog and cat to the front of the building which was remodeled from the old Jeff's Kitchen building. A colored tile inlay of the City's crow logo on the front entrance should qualify for the public art requirement.

Since I missed the meeting where this was discussed, I watched the video of it to see what really was discussed. I was impressed with the presentation on the new building and it's layout with offices and meeting rooms.

Jim Gibbon and Jim Blickenstaff spoke at the meeting. Gibbon asked for more public input into the design of the building. "Give people the opportunity to talk about their City Hall," Gibbon said in his closing remarks.

Mayor Clarkson replied "The opportunity is right now." Wow, yes, where were all those "people" with more input to the design of THEIR City Hall? Where were the hordes of residents who want an impressive City Hall? There they were, Jim and Jim.

Blickenstaff was so unhappy with the Council's acceptance of the plans, that he emailed his objections to the media. Here is an excerpt from his conclusion.

"Not surprisingly, the resulting Council decision suffered from lack of imagination; lack of connection to Cities' residents; and lack of compatible integration with the surrounding community/sports facilities. Less a tribute to the City and citizens of San Ramon; and more like an annex to the business oriented/efficient/spartan/ white cement/green glass motif of a business park."

So yes, the new building is an "office building." It is practical not pompous. It isn't a "CITY HALL" it is a City office building where residents can gather in meeting rooms, hold events in the Rotunda, sit comfortably at Council Meetings, or pick up a passport when they need one.

San Ramon residents don't give a hoot for how impressive our City Hall is. Has anyone looked at the current City Hall buildings lately? These little cracker boxes are not only cramped and plain; they have not kept up with the growth of the city and need for better office space for Staff. That's why they need to be replaced. It's not to impress a majority of indifferent residents or the rest of the Tri-Valley.

By the way the City owns those "City Hall" buildings, and even though they are not very attractive, I suppose some enterprising business, or even Sunset Development, might buy the properties for a nice extra ca-ching in this deal. Maybe some of that extra money could be used for a nicer façade for the new City Hall.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Mar 17, 2014 at 5:20 pm

What is art in San Ramon? How much money is set aside to inspire an artist for local buildings? How does the city of San Ramon put out the call to inspire artists for local building?

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Mar 17, 2014 at 5:25 pm

I would have been willing to make a ceramic tile 2x5 inches and paint an itsy bitsy lady bug going about her business.

i wish i had known about much money was available?


Cholo Pololo Mololo
art services!

Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Mar 17, 2014 at 7:45 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.


I don't remember the exact amount the city budgets annually for public art. The last piece we purchased was the "Huddle Up" sculpture in the Sports Park.

There's another sculpture being prepared for Athan Down park to honor the late Byron Athan.

Public art on private buildings is funded by the building's owner or developer.

I'm pretty sure Livermore has a similar public art program. Call your City Manager for more information about it.


Posted by resident, a resident of San Ramon,
on Mar 18, 2014 at 1:16 pm

The exterior of the new city hall is mediocre and has the look of just another average office park building. No creativity there, and it does not set any style or add anything interesting for the vaunted and in the words of the mayor, the much anticipated "city center" project.

Unfortunately, San Ramon is a "hotbed of apathy", where only 21% even bothered to vote. The many residents I've talked with don't even consider speaking in front of city council because they don't think they will be listened to.

The above comment "San Ramon residents don't give a hoot for how impressive our City Hall is" simply isn't true, People live here because they like the quality of life here, and most certainly would want a buildiing that speaks to a good quality of life, not just something "impressive", and certainly don't want just another bland office park building,

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Mar 18, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.


I love that saying, "Hotbed of apathy." I don't know if you came up with it or read it somewhere else but it certainly applies to San Ramon. San Ramon residents don't care about the appearance of the City Hall and only care about "threats" real or perceived to their neighborhood and property values. San Ramon is a City of NIMBY's.

Most residents don't know what the City Council does or is supposed to do. They believe it is supposed to protect them from State and County plans that might affect their neighborhoods. That's why they believe the Council won't listen to them, because they ask for things the Council can't do.

Our City Council is responsible for managing the City, period! We have representatives on regional committees, but that's primarily to find out what they are doing or planning. Our Council has to find ways to work with it or around it and in rare cases might be able to change it.

Our Council plans the activities in the City, gives staff direction on their priorities, and sets the budget. I've lived here 17 years next week, and except of a brief period of profligate spending ten years ago, our Councilmembers have done a very good job of keeping within the budget while providing quality services and keeping the city safe and attractive.

The City Hall is a much-needed replacement for the small, old, and unattractive buildings they have been using since I moved here 17 years ago (and probably a lot longer). The new building will be much more suitable for staff and residents and will not impact our budget.

The exterior of the building, which appears to be what most complaints are about, is nothing but "window dressing." I was originally dissatisfied with the architectural simplicity of the box.

If all you are griping about is the color, change the color! It can be painted any color residents want. Put it to a vote on "Open San Ramon," and get the usual few hundred comments out of the population of 72,000. If residents really gave a hoot, they would be hooting by now.

Posted by resident, a resident of San Ramon,
on Mar 18, 2014 at 7:13 pm

The city council needs to protect the good quality of life for the residents and homeowners that have chosen to invest their lives and homes in San Ramon, that is job one. Furthering the interests of Bishop Ranch/ Sunset Development st the expense of the local residents is just plain wrong.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Mar 18, 2014 at 10:33 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.


How is saving the city millions of dollars by getting a free professionally designed and built City Hall "Furthering the interests of Bishop Ranch/ Sunset Development at the expense of the local residents?"

This is furthering the interests of residents and the City. It saves the City money for other projects like parks and police protection, while providing residents with conveniently located City offices and meeting rooms for residents to use. This is all at no expense to residents, so it must be just plain right.


Posted by Harry S. , a resident of San Ramon,
on Mar 19, 2014 at 9:04 am

I feel obligated to remind people of the past; in the early 2000's San Ramon had plan for a $120 million PUBLICLY financed city hall, library, community center and children's museum complex that would be paid for with PROPERTY TAX increases and maintained through the city's GENERAL FUND.

Not exactly good government financing, see Stockton about these types of deals.

A decade later it's a trading of two parcels of city owned land for a city hall building and a renovation of the current library. It?s Sunset will provide design and build and the city will gain sales tax revenue. It's no property tax increases for residents, no debt for the city, retail for shoppers and restaurants for eaters. It's less is more and it's primarily private sector financing.

I will continue to ask about landscaping that is drought tolerant, the DERWA recycled water goes through Central Park and we have talked about that. No one is talking about the interior of this building which will be very nice and residents of our fine city will appreciate the upgrades compared to what we have now.

While some may dislike Bishop Ranch and their architecture, I find the newer buildings much more visually pleasing than many office parks in the Tri-Valley. They are smartly landscaped and always clean, inside and out. For those who say I am merely a mouthpiece for Sunset Development, please see my comments on HOV ramps and Bishop Ranch being a part of a Community Financing District (inside politics, you gotta watch the council video :).

I know the silent majority of residents in San Ramon are supportive of how the city is moving forward on the creation of a downtown. It may not be perfect but I think, for a variety of reasons, it is much better than what other cities have undertaken.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Mar 19, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.


There's an old saying, "A camel is a horse designed by a committee." Most residents of San Ramon are not professional architects. Jim Gibbon is, and some of his suggestions should be taken into consideration.

Still I'm glad this is finally getting underway. Our City Council has always found a way to partner with the business community, developers, and the School District to provide amenities for residents while keeping costs down. That's why this is such a nice place to live.


Posted by Ms. bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Mar 20, 2014 at 8:59 am

I never really thought it would be anything more than what it is DESIGNED to be, an office building within the Bishop Ranch like "community" that houses staff to operate our city. That's what it is. No big deal. No real "bells or whistles" necessarily and each of us has our points of desire in the architecture, understandably. I presume you've all been in the existing city offices that are WOEFULLY inadequate and HAVE BEEN for SOME years. I'm pretty much fine with the current design, though sure, hoped to see something beyond the one box-like structure and of course, I'm still opting for synthetic turf and native LS. I never expected a palatial city hall whatsoever, just one environmentally sound; fitting the footprint of the area with reasonable ingress/egress. This plan has been "around the block" in all the years it's taken the city to get to, well, HERE. I have no problem seeing it go forward with a few "tweaks" along the way. Architecture and Construction is always, even once you're underway, "a work in progress".

Posted by MLOliver, a resident of San Ramon,
on Mar 20, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I read all the comments with interest. For much of the time that I spent on the council, I argued against building another city hall because there were so many other things required of public funds that in my mind, a new city hall was fairly far down the list. That is no longer the case. San Ramon has grown to the point where more people who want to attend council meetings, especially when issues are controversial, should be able to in moderate comfort. To have it built at little cost to the taxpayers is icing on the cake. In this market, the buildings currently owned by the city can relatively easily be sold or repurposed.

As far as the architectural design is concerned, I am somewhat concerned about the windows. I hope due consideration has been given to the heating and cooling costs of all that glass, especially on the south and west sides of the building. I\\\'m reminded of the Emeryville City Hall which is all glass on the north side, visible from the street, not in keeping with the area architecture, and always looks very messy messy because of the papers, books, files etc stacked in the offices against the windows. I would hate to see that view from Bollinger. At least the San Ramon building architecture will blend with the rest of the Bishop ranch. The interior seems very well laid out as well.

Posted by resident, a resident of San Ramon,
on Mar 20, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Last night on TV news, there was a short segment on the high vacancy rate in the business spaces that are located in high density mixed use transit center housing (mandated by ABAG) in Walnut Creek. The mandated high density mixed use (housing with businesses on ground floor) is just not working as few businesses are moving in.

What does this have to do with this current blog? Well------the new S.R. city hall is the first phase of the much hyped S.R. "city center", also largely mixed use high density. The unremarkable/ office park style new city hall sets the tone, the ambience, of this much talked about (by council) "city center", in otherwords, the new city hall is the cornerstone of the new "city center". It doesn't take much of a crystal ball to forsee that the new "city center" will end up being just as unremarkable as the new city hall, and will not draw many people in for shopping or dining. The new "city center" will likely also be full of vacant business space just like in Walnut Creek.

I already avoid Dublin because of its traffic & high density construction. Danville is a much more enjoyable place to shop and go for dinner, for obvious reasons.

The S.R. council, settling for the only architectural proposal that was presented to them paints a drab picture and assures more mediocre buildings to follow in the "city center".

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Mar 20, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.


That's Walnut Creek. Walnut Creek doesn't have Alex Mehran or Sunset Development. Mehran knows what to build when and how to attract tenants. I am not worried about our City Center not doing well.

Also residents want a convenient place to shop, and stay for dinner or a movie. Some of the 40,000 people who work in Bishop Ranch will live and shop there too.

San Ramon was built around Bishop Ranch, not the other way around. Our City leaders, including MLO above, managed this City's growth and prosperity well, and our current ones are still doing a good job of it.


Posted by resident, a resident of San Ramon,
on Mar 21, 2014 at 12:20 pm

That is just one persons opinion.

Posted by Tim Blevens, a resident of San Ramon,
on Mar 21, 2014 at 2:19 pm

This City Center City Hall thing has been bantered around for 25 years - and I think that most of the citizens are sick and tired of the numerous "start and stops" of this over the many years. One of the top issues Council Candidates always report that they hear from citizens when they campaign door-to-door is that the citizens want to finally see this built and get rid of that ugly dirt lot on Bollinger. How can you argue with free? This is one example where we maybe should be thanking the "Gang of Three" because had they not fired Turner Construction - we may have gone forward with the plan at that time, which would have come out of our general funds. What part of "free" do some of these naysayer not understand? You will never get everyone to agree on what the building should look like. It looks to me like a first class design. Sure, there are dozens of other "designs" - but do we really need to once again slow down the progress of this project so that we can look at 25 different designs? And really, how many citizens will chime in on the designs? This could go on forever if we allow it. Time to move forward and stop all the nit picking people! BUILD IT.

Posted by longtime resident, a resident of San Ramon,
on Mar 22, 2014 at 1:58 pm

The issue isn't "free" (cost as long as it is independently audited). The issue is not having "25 different designs". The major issue is ending up with appealing external architecture that doesn't look like just another Bishop Ranch office building, and also a city hall that will set the look of & blend in with the so called future "city center". If city council was properly minding the store, several external architectural concepts should have been presented for selection of the most appealing by council.

Residents did not vote for Alex Mehran/Sunset Development to pick the look of THEIR city hall. Long after the current city council is forgotten, San Ramon residents will be stuck with this as THEIR city hall.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Mar 22, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Longtime Resident,

If you are so concerned about selecting from alternate designs instead of accepting whatever Sunset proposed, why didn't you attend the last Council meeting and say so? The existing design has not been approved yet, so you and other residents who want input into this design can still attend the next meeting to say so.

I don't disagree with making external modifications to the appearance of this building, but if nobody shows up for the meetings, the City Council can take that as defacto acceptance by residents for whatever the City Council approves.


Posted by resident, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 5, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Was an independent land appraisal done to determine the fair market value of the land the city "traded" to Sunset Development in exchange for Sunset development designing and building the new city hall?, and, is an independent (from Sunset Development) architect/engineer determing the $ value of the new city hall?,----or is the fox minding the henhouse?

It appears that the city is relying way too much on trusting Sunset Development here. The S.R. City council & city manager appear to be in bed with Sunset development. A little clarity needs to be shed here by the City of San Ramon.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Apr 6, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

I guess the City Council doesn't want to look at a gift horse in the mouth. Sunset may have pulled some teeth or not, I don't know, but the horse can still trot.


Posted by resident, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 7, 2014 at 1:08 pm

The "horse" you allude to may in reality be a fox that is minding the henhouse. Without clear and independent accounting, this can not be known for sure.

Posted by critical thinking resident, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 14, 2014 at 1:17 pm

The following was copied from the San R. Express blog on the new city hall--(seems a bit strange someone closed it for further comment, wonder why?, was it getting too close to the truth?)

Posted by resident, a resident of San Ramon
on Apr 12, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Maybe it is incumbent upon the city to post the full contract on their website so all residents can be informed regarding the cost of the new city hall & the dollar amount the city got for its land "traded" to Sunset Development.

Recently in the last few months, Sunset development purchased the AT&T building in Bishop Ranch for a reported $250,000,000----that is 1/4 of a billion. It would be very interesting to "back out" from that number, the value of the land that the ATT building sits on and determine the dollar amount per acre for the land. Then, apply that land value to the dollar amount the city of San Ramon received for the land it "traded" to Sunset development. The result might be very eye opening to some critical thinkers in San Ramon. If the land value in the ATT sale was 1/2, then that land value is $125,000,000. This is not chump change. Hopefully the residents will realize the significance of this transaction.

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Posted by Resident?, a resident of San Ramon
21 hours ago

Just so know, it costs over $250 per square foot to build Class "A" office space. The AT&T building is about 1,000,000 square feet. That means the building alone is worth about $250,000,000. The land is extra.

Report Objectionable Content

If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

----------------------- 4-14-14 critical thinking resident: It seems clear that the land value for the ATT building sale needs to be disclosed, and then compared cost per unit area to the $ amount the city of San Ramon got for the land they "traded" to Sunset Development so clarity can be shed on whether or not a fair deal transpired. This needs to be brought out into the open.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 14, 2014 at 1:42 pm

I didn't close it, but this "discussion" has been going around in circles for a month now.

The City Council made a decision. I think it was a good decision. If some of you don't like it or have questions about it, go to the next Council meeting and ASK. Posting speculation on a blog will not get you the answer.

Posted by resident, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 18, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Posting valid questions on a blog is a form of free speech and ought to prompt other objective thinkers to come forward and pressure the city of San Ramon to provide clear answers. How was the land "traded" to Sunset Development valued, and how is the dollar value of the new city hall, provided by Sunset, being determined. Is there an independent method being used to assure everything is honest and above board. The residents of San Ramon deserve clear answers.

Anyone that thinks San Ramon is getting a "free" city hall from Sunset Development simply is not living in the real world.

Posted by Roz Rogoff, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 18, 2014 at 2:46 pm


Attending a City Council Meeting and asking the Council what the value of the land is, is a form of free speech. Posting comments in a privately owned newspaper (or website) is not free speech. This website is owned by the publisher and the publisher can decide what to publish.

If you really want "to prompt other objective thinkers to come forward and pressure the city of San Ramon to provide clear answers," set up a soap box in Central Park and make your speech to passers-by questioning this deal with Sunset Development. You might get enough attention from other residents to demand the City Council answer your questions, but that's not likely in apathetic San Ramon. You certainly are not going to get those "other objective thinkers," by repeatedly posting your questions here.

If this is something really important to you, then you need to attend a meeting and ASK, or are you hiding behind the pseudonym of "resident" and don't have enough conviction on this issue to speak at a meeting under your real name?


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