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San Ramon: Commission reviews new fire facility, denies golf club fencing project

Also: Rezoning for Mudd's property, Crow Canyon Specific Plan update

In its ongoing efforts to secure training facilities for their firefighters, officials from the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District presented to the San Ramon Planning Commission on Tuesday night, asking for feedback on the fire district’s proposed new training facility located at 1500 Bollinger Canyon Road.

An informational meeting with no final decision to be made, commissioners gave SRVFPD officials advice and suggestions on how to proceed with the training facility and particular information the commission would need before they could consider approving such a project.

“One of the areas that has really been a sticking point for me since coming here seven years ago is the fact that we have no training site,” SRVFPD Fire Chief Paige Meyer said, explaining his district’s need for a training facility. “What's happened over the years is we have gone to the Contra Costa County fire tower for training, they are now in the process of pretty much not letting us go because they have become so busy and that has become problematic for us.”

“One of the most important parts of this is that we are not going to be able to train our prepare like we really should or want to,” he added. “We are becoming more and more hamstrung by the fact that we don't have a place to train, and what we worry about in the fire service is preparing and failing to prepare is a failure.”

Located at the southeast corner of Bollinger Canyon and Crow Canyon roads, the training facility is composed of a classroom building, storage facility, training tower and other structures and props for training purposes on the property that currently serves as the fire district’s administrative headquarters.

The approximately 20,000-square-foot administration building would be demolished to build the training grounds, and all administrative services would be moved to the planned joint police and fire department headquarters that would be located at the San Ramon Police Department's current headquarters on 2401 Crow Canyon Road.

“From our perspective, this is an opportunity to take what is already a fire department location, as opposed to going and trying to find a piece of land in some neighborhood, which is going to be nearly impossible or at least pretty tough,” Meyer said.

Meyer said that training sessions will be held approximately three times a week and include activities such as using the jaws of life on vehicles, hazardous material cleanup and other preparations for real life fire scenarios -- although training will not use actual chemicals or smoke, instead using safe substitutes such as theater smog machines.

He also added that fire officials like to do night training sessions at least once a month, but may not do so at this new training facility.

After briefly reviewing the desired parameters and facilities of the project, commissioners gave feedback and asked for fire officials to return in the future with additional information relating to the training programs that will be conducted at the facilities, potential noise and light impacts to the neighborhood, setback placements for the facilities and reasoning for why a building might be placed within a setback, and additional information on a community outreach plan.

One area where commissioners showed particular concern was the project setbacks, with multiple buildings encroaching on the required setbacks separating buildings from the property’s edge.

“Every time a building intrudes into a setback area, tell us the rationale. Why is that happening? How much and why,” Commissioner Rick Marks said. “One of the things that I want to be able to say to myself afterwards is, if I allowed or I voted for a deviation I at least understood why and I understood what the impact might be.”

Meyer added that facilities can also be used by the San Ramon Police Department for their own training exercises when needed.

In other business

* After a brief conversation, the Planning Commission denied without prejudice the San Ramon Golf Club’s controversial proposal to build perimeter fencing around its property, a decision that was celebrated by residents around the course who opposed the project.

The commission denied the project -- which consisted of a black wrought-iron fence surrounding the entire golf course property centered at 9430 Fircrest Lane -- based off of a lack of information provided by the applicant as well as the applicant's unresponsiveness to city requests for comment.

“The Planning Commission has met several times related to this application, and at its first public hearing in April, the Planning Commission directed the applicant to return back with additional information and comments that were received,” San Ramon’s senior planner Cindy Yee, said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Since that time, the applicant has not provided any additional information as requested by this commission. I have not received any correspondence since the application was first heard in April.”

While the applicant did not respond to the city officials requests for information -- and was not present at Tuesday’s meeting -- in an email sent on May 6, they did threaten to shut down the golf course if the commission deny the project, saying a lack of a fence would expose the club to the risk of personal injury and other lawsuits.

Commissioner Marks recused himself from the conversation on San Ramon Golf Club’s fencing project, saying he had been advised that because his son works at the course his input may create a conflict.

* Commissioners also recommended the City Council rezone the city-owned Mudd’s property from office to park space, and adjusting the Laborer’s property urban growth boundary, an issue that will be further reviewed at a future council meeting.

* In its continued discussions on the Crow Canyon Specific Plan update, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended to send a drafted plan for consideration by the City Council.

Used to govern the evolution of the 128-acre office and service commercial area west of Interstate 680 and north of Crow Canyon Road, city officials said they expect the Crow Canyon Specific Plan to return to the Planning Commission for further analysis after collecting council feedback.

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