The San Ramon City Council approved plans for a 32-pump Costco gas station across the street from the company's Danville warehouse store, denying a resident-submitted appeal challenging the project during a special meeting Thursday evening.
The city officials unanimously affirmed the project's approval after a more than 2-1/2-hour meeting, disagreeing with the appellant's claims that the public review process, environmental assessment and traffic impacts were inadequate.
"If our own staff reviewed it and said in fact it was appropriate for the site and was consistent and conservative, then the fact that (the studies) were done by a Costco-paid company is not really all that relevant," Vice Mayor Scott Perkins said during Thursday's virtual meeting.
"It seems like both in the traffic and air quality analysis that there were conservative assumptions made that allow for membership growth. I mean the city is going to grow; it's not going to be static -- the state wouldn't allow us to be static," he added.
Initially approved by the San Ramon Planning Commission on Dec. 15 and later challenged in a resident group's appeal on Dec. 21, the 32-pump gas station has been designed to service the Danville Costco store located at 3150 Fostoria Way.
It would be located over the border within San Ramon city limits at the site of the Office Depot building on 3111 Fostoria Way, which would be demolished in order to accommodate the new gas station.
The project would also include a 12,663-square-foot canopy with signage on all sides, an approximately 200-square-foot control facility and associated site improvements and landscape enhancement on the 2.88-acre lot.
A hot-button issue for many residents in the area (Mayor Dave Hudson estimated that he received 1,000 emails on the subject over the past couple of months from those who may be affected by the project), dozens of residents voiced their opposition to the project during Thursday's special meeting.
The most common concerns revolved around increased traffic, decreased property values, potential environmental consequences and a general lowering of the quality of life of residents in the area.
Opponents also raised concerns over the Planning Commission's review process for the original approval of the project, saying the traffic and environmental impacts have not been adequately documented and that more review was necessary to determine the true effects the project would have on the community.
"I think that the city should do more due diligence. I'm not saying let's not put Costco there, but I do think that rushing into a decision like this, we're putting a permanent establishment in that location and that's going to create a permanent change in traffic on that court," said Reza Mahmoodi, who submitted the appeal on behalf of the resident group Safer San Ramon.
"I don't see any downfall in doing more research," he added.
With support and information provided from city staff, council members rejected each of the petitioners' claims about the project, generally finding that the Planning Commission's review of the project was thorough enough for their approval.
"We have to look at the big picture and how all of this comes together. I've been watching all of our (old meeting recordings) back from our architectural board and the feedback they gave and from our planning commissioners and the feedback that they gave. By the time it's come to us, it has really been vetted out," Councilwoman Sabina Zafar said.
Specifically addressing traffic issues, city staff said the traffic reports estimated 1,905 additional trips from the Costco gas station onto Fostoria Way -- the street effectively marking the Danville-San Ramon border. Staff said the existing carrying capacity of Fostoria Way, ranges between 18,600 to 36,800 vehicles per day, making the additional trips effectively insignificant.
City staff also said the gas station could promote a financial boon for the city, with conservative estimates indicating that the station will result in more than $200,000 a year in sales tax revenue that would benefit the city.
"We can dismiss and say we don't want the revenue that is going to come from this gas station, but we do," Zafar said. "We are going to be suffering because of our budget and revenue lost from the pandemic and a domino effect would be that our level of services would be impacted … if we don't have sources for economic development."
Touching on the tearing down of the Office Depot store to accommodate the new gas station, council members said the gas station would be an upgrade for the location, describing the Office Depot as an eyesore that drummed up very little business.
"Every time I've been in (Office Depot) I haven't seen more than two or three cars. I don't know how that's doing or if it's viable, most of that has moved to Amazon and I don't know if that kind of store even fits in the model anymore," Zafar said, adding that there would be a boon "by having something that is not going to be an empty lot anymore."
"The Office Depot in Dublin has been closed for more than 10 years; it's a vacant building," Perkins added. "I would hate for our Office Depot to remain closed, generating zero new revenue and we missed out on this opportunity only for lo and behold, Danville finds a way to put a gas station in on Fostoria (anyway)."
Recorded live, residents can view the entire City Council meeting online on San Ramon's official YouTube Channel.