Rather than moving the application for an ambitious housing project forward this week, as anticipated, the San Ramon Planning Commission elected to extend public hearings for the proposed 404-unit City Village development into next month.
After discussion at a public hearing Tuesday night, commissioners voted unanimously to continue until Oct. 5 the hearing on proposed amendments to the project, guided by an updated staff report addressing questions and providing clarifications from that night's meeting. Another meeting on Oct. 19 will center on discussion and public hearings on overall design questions about the project.
"It seems to me that some commissioners are saying that they're not comfortable with voting on these changes without seeing the graphic changes for the streets," Planning Commissioner Rick Marks said at the Sept. 21 meeting. "So that to me begs the notion that we need to take a look at it one more time before a vote is taken."
Although commissioners went over the proposed amendments to the project in detail, with roughly two hours total devoted to discussions on City Village, the complexity and scope of the ambitious, mixed-use project, how it fits into other existing and planned projects in the Bishop Park area, as well as the city's General Plan and Walking District Master Plan, proved too much to address in one night, prior to a vote.
The proposed City Village project would lead to the construction of 404 units on 31 acres of land within a portion of the Bishop Ranch business park. The proposed breakdown of units was initially 114 detached row homes, 154 detached courtyard units and 136 townhome units.
Also included in the proposal is a 2-acre park, which commissioners considered moving from its originally planned location on Tuesday. Some 15% of the housing units are set to be classified as affordable housing, according to San Ramon's inclusionary housing requirements.
City Village's "live-work" model would ideally reduce traffic and commute time, while complimenting city planners' visions for Bishop Ranch as part of a centralized downtown area. However, this poses challenges and complications in terms of zoning, which were one focus of Tuesday's discussion. Additionally, commuting to the area's office space, environmental sustainability, and limited parking, already pose challenges, as public commenters noted.
Commissioners sought to balance and mitigate these concerns in their recommendations on the project, which include moving a proposed park, mitigating limits to parking posed by alleys and driveways, and incorporating guidelines in the project's environmental impact report to best determine appropriate housing density.
"If the Commission supports the proposed changes on October 5, the Specific Plan Amendment policy revisions will then go to City Council for their consideration," city planning services manager Lauren Barr explained in an email on Thursday following the meeting.
In general, commissioners weighed in favorably on City Village, and seemed eager to move forward with the application process, with Marks adding that "the applicant has a pretty good idea of where we're going, or at least where most of the commissioners are going."
Barr told commissioners that staff had more than enough information from the night's discussion to present a revised report, clarifying aspects of the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan amendment and addressing questions raised that night. He noted that staff's preference was to present this in a separate discussion, ahead of moving forward with considering the application on Oct. 19.
The commission had been set to consider moving the application forward to the City Council at Tuesday's meeting. However, policy questions remained, in particular, about revisions to the proposed North Camino Ramon Specific Plan amendment. These will be addressed by Barr and other staff at the Oct. 5 meeting. The following meeting on Oct. 19 will center on discussions and public comments regarding broader, more design-related questions about the project.
"Final action on the proposal by the Planning Commission will not occur until such time as the City Council has considered and approved the changes to the standards associated with the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan," Barr wrote.
Staff will present an updated report to the commission on Oct. 5. Commissioners are set to resume consideration of the amended City Village application on Oct. 19. Video of Tuesday's meeting is available here.