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San Ramon council to debate approval of density reduction amendment

Also: New hazard abatement district, 5-year service award, parks updates

The San Ramon City Council is set to consider approving a resolution that would reduce housing density limits around western Crow Canyon Road on Tuesday night.

The resolution has been mulled over for several months by the council and the Planning Commission. At the Planning Commission's third public hearing on Aug. 29, commissioners voted 5-0 to recommend that the City Council approve the Crow Canyon Specific Plan (CCSP) amendment to reduce residential density on sites in the area.

"The subject Specific Plan Amendment is not a substantial amendment and is consistent with the goals and objectives of the General Plan in that the CCSP continues to meet the intent of General Plan (policies) by serving as an implementation tool to redevelop the area consistent with the approved CCSP while maintaining the minimum density range identified in the Housing Element Housing Opportunity sites used to calculate compliance with Regional Housing Needs Allocation obligations," wrote Planning Commission Chairperson Eric Wallis in the resolution recommending the council approve the amendment.

The proposed amendment would reduce the maximum number of dwelling units per acre within the CCSP, an area that covers 130 acres and is bounded by the San Ramon city limit line to the north, Interstate 680 to the east, Crow Canyon Road to the south and the San Ramon city limit line to the west.

Currently, the residential density range for the area is a minimum of 22 dwelling units and a maximum of 50 dwelling units per acre, but the amendment would reduce that to 22-35 units per acre.

According to acting division manager Lauren Barr, the density reduction concept arose because the city had been receiving a high volume of conceptual review applications in the CCSP with a greater density than was initially anticipated. This high density is due in part to California's density bonus law, which permits developers to construct a higher project density in exchange for designating a certain percentage of their units as affordable.

Of the 130 acres in the CCSP, 41 can be used for housing development, though none are specifically designated as residential.

But regardless of the density reduction, if the amendment is passed, the unit cap on the entire CCSP area would remain constant at 735 units. Meaning that the amendment essentially affects how dwelling units are dispersed throughout the 41 acres, limiting the density on individual parcels and developments.

Local developers and housing advocates have voiced their opposition to the amendment, arguing that the move hinders the construction of affordable housing in a particularly dire moment for the Bay Area.

"At a time of pressing need for every community in the Bay Area to increase the supply of housing, and in particular housing for very low, low and moderate income families, reducing allowable densities will make development more difficult and constrain our ability to meet local and regional housing needs," wrote Jeffrey P. Levin, policy director of East Bay Housing Organizations, in a letter to San Ramon council members and commissioners.

Levin also criticizes the city for not adequately supporting the regional effort towards providing more affordable housing. He cited the city's stated goal of having 25% of new housing units be affordable to very low, low and moderate income households.

"This is a very modest goal, particularly in light of the fact that the City's Regional Housing Needs Allocation for the 2015-2023 planning period calls for 76% of new housing to be affordable to very low, low and moderate income, and just 24% affordable to above moderate income," Levin said.

The Building Industry Association Bay Area echoed Levin's sentiments in a similar letter.

"With more housing, San Ramon has the potential to improve the lives of so many more people," Executive Director Lisa Vorderbrueggen wrote. "It is home to the premier Bishop Ranch Business Park. It is located on the key Interstate 680 corridor with its links to BART, the job-rich Tri-Valley, the national laboratories, the Hacienda Business Park and Silicon Valley to the south. Reducing densities in the Crow Canyon Specific Area would be a move in the absolute wrong direction."

This will be the amendment's third public hearing for the City Council.

The regular meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall, 7000 Bollinger Canyon Road.

In other business

* The council will hold a public hearing on the proposed formation of the Northwest San Ramon Geologic Hazard Abatement District (NWSR GHAD) and consider approving a resolution that would form this district and appoint the City Council as the board of directors for it.

GHADs are formed in order to prevent, mitigate, abate or control a geologic hazard.

The new district would encompass The Preserve Project (formerly called Faria Preserve), a maximum 618-unit development located between Bollinger Canyon Road and San Ramon Valley Boulevard.

"The Project is located in a hilly area and requires approximately 6.6 million cubic yards of earthwork to construct," wrote GHAD division manager Robin Bartlett in a staff report. "The natural hills in the vicinity contain numerous landslides, and the soils and geology of the site make it prone to a variety of geologic hazards."

If approved, the NWSR GHAD will start the process of ordering assessments.

* City Clerk Renee Beck will present Councilman Phil O'Loane with an award for five years of service.

* Public Works Division manager Jeff Gault will introduce four new department employees: Martin Valencia, Pedro Meza, Matthew Caldwell and Parker Stone.

* Mayor Bill Clarkson will officially recognize Torin Keenin, a high school summer intern for Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

* Before the regular meeting, the City Council will hold a special joint meeting with the Parks and Community Services Commission, starting at 5 p.m.

At this meeting, Open Space Advisory Committee Chair Shelly Lewis will present the committee's annual report and Parks Division manager Kathi Heimann will present the Parks Master Plan Update.

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