A 404-unit housing development proposed to be located in central San Ramon was discussed by city leaders during a special study session last week, where officials were generally supportive of additional housing in the Bishop Ranch area.
Reviewed during a joint City Council and Planning Commission study session on July 6, "City Village" project received an unofficial mark of approval for developers to bring it back for more formal consideration during a future Planning Commission meeting. However, some still expressed concerns over certain aspects of the project, particularly when it came to affordability.
"We have proposed a community of 404 for-sale homes with unique product types. We have attached townhomes, detached row homes and detached courtyard homes, and we feel this mix really creates a diversity of housing for a wide range of buyers," said Denise Cunningham, vice president of development for the San Ramon-based Summerhill Homes -- City Village's developer.
"All of the homes in the community have two-car attached garages and generous decks, and the home types are grouped into neighborhoods within the community," she added.
Proposed to be located at 2400-2440 Camino Ramon within the Bishop Ranch property, City Village includes 114 detached row homes, 154 detached courtyard and 136 townhomes, developed at 18.5 dwelling units per acre, and a two-acre park site.
City staff said the subject property is located on an existing 31-acre parcel within the Bishop Ranch Office Park, which currently includes three office buildings constructed in the mid-1980s and covers approximately 564,000 square-feet. These structures would need to be demolished for the project to be completed.
According to city staff, the project also reserves 15% of the for-sale townhomes to be sold as affordable units, following state and local housing requirements. Of the 136 proposed for-sale townhomes, four will be reserved for very low-income households, six will be for low-income households and 10 will be for moderate-income households.
In lieu of designating any of the single-family homes as affordable units, San Ramon's senior planner Cindy Yee said that the applicant has opted to pay an affordable housing fee of approximately $959,517 "equal to 10% of the total livable square footage of the detached single-family row homes and the detached single-family courtyard homes multiplied by the rate established in the city’s current fee schedule."
These fees would be collected at time of building permit issuance.
Planning Commissioner Eric Wallis brought up an option for Summerhill to potentially use affordable housing funds for projects outside of City Village, using subsidies to benefit the city in other ways.
"If the idea for this development was to put in high-end housing in an urban setting, then (City Village) does that. This is clearly high-end housing, you are in the middle of the core," Wallis said. "Since at least 2010 we've been trying to encourage housing down in the core to keep the pressure off the outskirts of the city on both the west and east sides," he continued. "What they are proposing to do is to comply with the basic requirements of the inclusionary housing ordinance. I have questions about whether that is the best result in this case."
"Leaving aside the optics of somebody who makes $65,000 a year living in a million dollar house, the question is whether that subsidy could be put to better use in the city," Wallis added. "I know that Dublin has worked out a deal with a developer where they have foregone onsite affordable housing and taken money that would otherwise be attributable to that and they are partnering with an affordable housing entity to create 100% affordable housing."
Questions also arose over the project's proposed park, which commissioner Jean Kuznik said seemed more like a marketing tool rather than a community attraction.
"I'm concerned about this issue of the two-acre park and I'm going to go out on a limb here and say, given our discussion on RHNA numbers and so forth, I'm kind of ready to suggest to the developer that perhaps the park should be reduced down to a smaller park, maybe a half acre, and in fact build more housing," Kuznik said.
To meet the City’s Parkland Dedication Ordinance and Park and Recreation Facility Impact Fee Ordinance, the project has proposed a two-acre park on the southeast corner of the project along Executive Parkway and Camino Ramon.
The park concept was designed in consultation with city staff and features a tot-lot play area, lawn area and meadow, picnic tables with BBQ areas and pickle ball courts. A 10,800 square-foot (0.25-acre) private park has also been proposed to be located near the townhomes, which would be equipped with a play area, picnic tables and lawn space.
Developers have also proposed that the park be maintained by the City Village Homeowners Association, while still being kept available for public access.
"For me, I don't think the park is in the right place, it is on the intersection of what will be two busy streets, it just seems like it got thrown there more as a bit of a marketing tool than an amenity for the neighbors," Kuznik added. "I am very much opposed to this becoming privately maintained. I don't think an HOA is up to maintenance."
Officials from Sunset Development Company, which currently owns the property,
have vocalized support for the project, praising the developers' efforts to reach out to the community and adjust plans based on residential input.
"Summerhill really struck a well-thought-through balance between the public comments and views while delivering a really high-quality project that, based on their expertise, meets the demands of the market and will be a terrific complement to City Walk and the core of this city," said Jerry Engen, senior vice president of development and construction for Sunset. "Sunset is in complete support of this project and all of the modifications made to the plans."
The Planning Commission is scheduled to host an additional review of the project on Aug. 17 and at an unspecified date in September. Depending on the actions taken by the Planning Commission, staff said the City Council will continue review of City Village at a future date.