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San Ramon: Council decides to raze Mudd's restaurant for Crow Canyon Gardens renovation

Original post made on Jan 28, 2021

After more than two years of trying to chart a course for Crow Canyon Gardens, the San Ramon City Council decided Tuesday to demolish the old Mudd's restaurant and reject a nonprofit's proposal to transform the site.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, January 27, 2021, 4:47 PM

Comments (21)

Posted by cerred
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 28, 2021 at 6:20 am

cerred is a registered user.

We had many a great meal at Mudd's where we found the restaurant so beautiful and in sync with the vegetable garden. The hope was one day this would be opened again as a restaurant or re-purposed.
To learn that the decision is to tear it down seems a great waste and a loss of the San Ramon legacy. I am puzzled that they want to tear it down and then rebuild other structures that they deem more in line with the park. If the buildings are still in good shape why not first open and see if they can meet the future there. I will be sorry to see it torn down in a time that budgets are tight and money could be better spent. Sorry to hear the news.

Posted by Franette Armstrong
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 28, 2021 at 8:57 am

Franette Armstrong is a registered user.

This story has some errors in it. The San Ramon Nature Park Foundation never proposed a partnership with the city that would involve building a daycare center. We opposed that plan which would be involved tearing down Mudd’s and the surrounding buildings. We offered to raise the funds to renovate the beautiful old Mudd’s restaurant into a nature education center and then to renovate the park around it. A year ago December 9, the city Council voted unanimously to give us the opportunity to raise the funds for that project and today we have raised over $540,000 despite Covid and the inability to hold any events in the park.

We were told that we would have our own opportunity to appeal the parks commissions decision after the City Council heard the parks department report last Tuesday night. That is why no one spoke at the meeting… We were waiting for our opportunity.

Two parks commissioners chose to focus on yoga classes and tai chi classes which we listed as possible Classes we could host in the park instead of all the other activities we proposed, which included cooking classes with foods from the garden, hands-on classes focused on weather, geology and the environment, birdwatching, natural crafts, and much more. See our website:

Our mission is to bring people together of all ages and stages to enjoy nature and learn about it. We want to restore the old Orchard and Gardens and bring them back to the splendor that was once there.

What has happened here in San Ramon sets a terrible precedent: the parks commission never should have gone back to revisit this issue because the City Council had already taken theIr recommendations and voted to support our proposal. Last Tuesday night’s vote undoes all of that and rips the rug out from under all of our efforts and monies spent to date. Commissions report to the city Council not the other way around.

Franette Armstrong, President
San Ramon Nature Park Foundation

Posted by 50 year resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 28, 2021 at 12:18 pm

50 year resident is a registered user.

I watched the Planning Commission meeting and the City Council Meeting and I can't believe the turn of events. I had no idea the Council was going to make a final decision with no negotiation with the Nature Park Foundation. I wasn't able to watch the meeting live, or I would have spoken up then. I was part of the planning process with Virginia Mudd when she conceived the "Garden to Kitchen" concept plan and saw her architectural drawings for a building that took the environment into consideration in every way. It looked like it was part of the landscape. The inside was beautiful and timeless.

I fault the City for ignoring the deterioration over the years and letting it fall into such disrepair. I credit our Mayor for his stance at the meeting, but even though Cm Zafar proposed an amendment to the motion to reconsider the destruction part of the plan it wasn't considered.

I am beyond disappointed.

Mary Lou Oliver (I wasn't able to put my name in the name box)
12 year City Council Member 1983-1995

Posted by Pat Reyes
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 28, 2021 at 12:50 pm

Pat Reyes is a registered user.

I am so extremely disappointed in the San Ramon Parks Department and City Council their vote to tear down Mudd’s buildings and go back on past agreements with the community led San Ramon Nature Park Foundation. The Council, with the exception of Mayor Hudson, voted in direct opposition to the will of residents who just voted them in place! Does community input and desires even matter to this Council? It seems not.

Posted by 28 year resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 28, 2021 at 1:00 pm

28 year resident is a registered user.

Why do we have elections and council meetings and work tirelessly if some random Commissioner can just overturn a decision by the City Council with NO Recourse. We fought hard to save MUDDS and now a Commission is going to just destroy it???.

We want a Nature area that ALL residents can enjoy not a for-profit day care for a few.
There is NO money budgeted by the City to do what the Parks Dept wants which means that the money the residents raised just sits there while the City spends MORE on something the residents do NOT want?

Population is booming in San Ramon. Don Birnbaum, the Parks Commissioner who took the lead on this effort by the Parks Commission to usurp the Council's decision said we have too much community center space right now and don't need Mudd's to provide more. This is stupid at best.
Mudd’s land and building holds a historic place in the farm-to-table movement. Council member Mark Armstrong said that it wasn't historic like the David Glass due to being “only” 40 years old. Do we stop preserving what we have and just continue to pave over our valley? Based on that criteria, Mark would not have worth either.

The Council's vote Tuesday night sets a terrible precedent. Now all residents will know that anything the Council decides in their favor can be overturned by a few Parks or Planning Commissioners. We had the last Council's unanimous support. How can this council and Commissioner fly in the face of that? Did they even READ the decision or CARE what the residents want?

The Commissions report to the Council, and the Council's decision should be final unless overturned in court, not by a few unelected commissioners.

Posted by Franette Armstrong
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 28, 2021 at 1:41 pm

Franette Armstrong is a registered user.

Lisa Waterman was unable to sign on to post this, so I am doing it for her. She kindly sent this note to the San Ramon City Council as well:

I am unable to comment on the Express article - there appears to be a bug in the software where it requires you to enter a name, but there is no open field to enter a name. Another poster commented on it. I am registered but still couldn't enter a name. Sent this to City Hall instead.

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: L. Waterman [email removed]
Sent: Thursday, January 28, 2021, 12:51:09 PM PST

Please forward to the appropriate commissioners and planners:

I just read the article, "Council Decides to Raze Mudd's Restaurant For Crow Canyon Gardens Renovation" in the Express, and am writing to express my strong disagreement with this decision.

Why would anyone decide to tear down that beautiful, historic and unusual building just to construct something else? Mudds should be turned into a Nature Center, as was apparently supported by the past council and many people in the San Ramon community.

I am very concerned that the previous decision was overturned by a few Parks and Planning commissioners. Many people have supported and donated to the San Ramon Nature Park Foundation. Obviously, things slowed down when COVID-19 came along and businesses were shut down. I've lived here for over 30 years and between this and the approval for more housing seemingly without a corresponding plan for supporting infrastructure such as schools and roads, I no longer have trust in the San Ramon government.

Lisa Waterman, San Ramon resident

Posted by Cvcakim
a resident of Danville
on Jan 28, 2021 at 2:24 pm

Cvcakim is a registered user.

Shame on you, San Ramon Town Council! You approve a project that leads to a tremendous effort spent over the past 12 months by multiple dedicated individuals who have the vision, commitment, and determination to make a well thought out, creative and family friendly addition to San Ramon that people well beyond the borders of the citywill enjoy for years to come. Yes, San Ramon has plenty of community parks, but it has NOTHING like what currently exists on the Mudd's property.

Over a decade ago I purchased a neglected historic treasure in downtown Danville, the 140 year old Vecki House, and thank goodness the town had the wisdom to provide not only support for its renovation but also incentives for doing so. Had someone proposed tearing it down, the Town Council's response would have been a resounding ABSOLUTELY NOT! Granted the Mudd's structure is not as old as the Vecki House. Yet it has significance to the community and with proper stewardship of both the building and the land, the site will become a jewel in a town that needs more jewels. Please reconsider your decision, honor your word from last year, and return your support to the San Ramon Nature Park.

Posted by Gina M Channell, Publisher
a resident of Danville
on Jan 28, 2021 at 3:44 pm

Gina M Channell, Publisher is a registered user.

We've received several emails about the inability to change screen names.
This is one of a few recent changes to the Town Square forum.

"Screen" names of a poster will need to be consistent across all topics. We previously allowed a poster to comment under different screen names in different Town Square topics, but do not permit them to change names within a single topic discussion. This was changed to prevent the use of multiple names.

More information can be found here: Web Link

Posted by 28 year resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 28, 2021 at 5:13 pm

28 year resident is a registered user.

I think Tim needs to research the history of San Ramon. When I moved here in 1993, there were groups attempting to "Save our Hills", yet I attended a Council meeting over the Faria project (and there were at least six standing room only meetings) where councilmember Perkins commented that the council deliberately overturned an item that the voters had passed asking for review of all large projects. He added at that meeting that he 'figured the residents did not care as they were not in attendance.' So much for "representative Government".

It is now obvious that it really makes little difference what we as residents do as even when we have approvals, the city can just overturn them.

The proposed construction (destruction!) at the Marketplace severely and negatively impacts the surrounding neighborhoods. Five stories, no setbacks in an area with two and three story housing when the nearby City Hall is TWO stories with a THREE story rotunda.

Yet we are told to "Shop San Ramon"!
Once I am in my car because I can no longer walk to shop, rest assured I will shop elsewhere.

Posted by Joe Queirolo
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2021 at 5:35 pm

Joe Queirolo is a registered user.

I started working in the garden at Mudd's 38 years ago and stuck around for almost 20 years. The restaurant was created as an expression of the garden and the building and garden flowed into one another. As Dave Hudson noted the other night, the garden/restaurant project was unique, not only in San Ramon, but in California.

Back in 2010 I teamed up with Roz Rogoff to try to stop the building from being razed to make room for another restaurant project. We felt that the building with its combination of architectural beauty and sustainability was an expression of a time and place that deserved to be preserved. We hoped that the City would find a way to repurpose it.

So I'm very sad to see that the building, despite having clearly fallen into disrepair, will now be demolished instead of rehabilitated and that a special chapter of recent San Ramon history will come to an end.

I'll take a risk in speaking for Virginia Mudd when I say she saw the wildness of nature moving from the creek through the organic garden to the plates in the restaurant. I think the building's repurposing as a nature center would have been in keeping with her original vision.

There was always something warm, welcoming, and embracing about the design of the restaurant building. You could sit at a table under that graceful arched ceiling and feel safe and comfortable and look out the windows past the garden to the wild oaks and bay trees. It was extraordinary. Especially at sunset.

I hope that whatever the City comes up with to replace Mudd's will recapture some of the magic. Seems like we could all use a little more magic these days.

Posted by LGreen
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 29, 2021 at 6:42 am

LGreen is a registered user.

I’m so disappointed to hear that the city council decided to destroy this beautiful building and treat the efforts of the San Ramon Nature Park Foundation and San Ramon residents with such disrespect!
This site is part of our city history and should not be destroyed. The building and setting is uniquely beautiful and it was a special place to gather and celebrate. It should be preserved. The city council was wrong to turn its back on the Foundation.

Posted by Luz Gomez
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 29, 2021 at 10:48 am

Luz Gomez is a registered user.

What a loss for San Ramon! How disappointing. If the Council knew the pulse of the community on this, as they should as our representatives, they would have opposed the new scheme and upheld previous agreements. Those of us who grew up in San Ramon and remember the glory days of Mudd's restaurant, Crow Canyon Institute, Summer Nature Day Camp, etc., feel a monumental sense of loss. The community held off commenting on Tuesday because of a promise that the item would come back in February. What happened to that?

Posted by John Lewis
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 29, 2021 at 2:07 pm

John Lewis is a registered user.

Agree with Franette that there are errors in this article. However I am surprised why Franette or Nature park foundation board members did not join city council meeting when they already know this is an important agenda item in the meeting.

Posted by Franette Armstrong
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 29, 2021 at 2:26 pm

Franette Armstrong is a registered user.

John Lewis, we were told we would have our OWN agenda item before the Council in February. If we had tried to address even just the errors in the Staff Report for last Tuesday night's meeting it would have used up more than the 6 minutes we were granted. The vote came as a huge shock to us because we were also told the Council would receive the report without comment and hear us (and our side) in February.

Posted by Joy Randel
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 29, 2021 at 3:36 pm

Joy Randel is a registered user.

How can the San Ramon Parks Commission decide not to go ahead with the San Ramon Nature Center when it was approved by the San Ramon City Council over a year ago? The old Mudds Restaurant building holds an historic place in the farm-to-table movement in California, serving food grown on the property to restaurant guests for over 20 years. It is a piece of California's history like the Spanish Missions. Council member Mark Armstrong said that it wasn't historic like the David Glass House because it was only 40 years old. What if people had said that about the Paul Revere House, Hearst Castle or Fort Ross and other places of history in this country. Do we rip down everything that doesn't suit us at the moment because it isn't 100+ years old???The Parks Commission wants to remove a piece of history and use the space for picnic tables. San Ramon already has many parks with picnic tables. I walk my dog around these parks and even during the summer there are unused picnic tables.

The San Ramon population is increasing with occupants in the new CityWalk development, the Faria Preserve development, and new housing being built in Dougherty Valley. The current community centers can not support the increased population (approximately 10,000 additional residences). The City has no money to do what the Parks Dept. wants to do The Nature center has already raised $540,000 and is continuing to receive more funding (3.5 million will be able to be raised once all businesses can open). The money that the San Ramon Nature center raised can not be used by the Parks Commission. The last city Council gave the San Ramon Nature Center unanimous support. The Parks Commission report to the Council, and the Council's decision should be final unless overturned in court, not by a few unelected commissioners. Why is Parks Commissioners overturning what the residents want and was already approved by the Council? Would the Parks Commission do this to developers?

Posted by John Lewis
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 29, 2021 at 4:04 pm

John Lewis is a registered user.

From my research I found out that City office clearly communicated with Nature park foundation prior to the council meeting and offered time to present your perspective and disapprove anything in the report you disagree with City’s presentation. City also advised Foundation that this meeting may be the only opportunity to present your perspective. The Nature park foundation acknowledged receiving the message but declined the City’s offer. At minimum, you should have spoken during the public comment, but you silently dropped out of City council Zoom call meeting.

Posted by Sandi
a resident of Danville
on Jan 29, 2021 at 4:49 pm

Sandi is a registered user.

I have been a resident for 30 years and have always felt and practiced a sense of community ,It really makes a difference in how folks come together ...and nature has a unique way to solidify the synergy of healthy community. The Crow Canyon Gardens is the perfect space to have a Nature Center for all to learn, enjoy and embrace. the potential is endless and the gravity of what it offers is rare and should be treasured. I am firm with being supportive in any way that I can of that which is for the higher good for everyone, particularly the children. How is it that I am so misled about how the Nature Park is progressing? I am still hopeful

Posted by John Lewis
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 29, 2021 at 8:59 pm

John Lewis is a registered user.

Franette, upon further research found out that Sunset developers who owns Citywalk development pledged your Nature park foundation to donate $500k. Is this the reason you were not against Citywalk project 4500 houses?

Ms. Gomez, I found your appeal submitted against Citywalk development by Sunset developers. Now I see your comment in this discussion thread supporting Nature park foundation which is receiving donation from Sunset developers. Are you aware of this?

Both of you kindly respond.

Thank you.

Posted by Rebecca Stewart
a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 1, 2021 at 3:16 pm

Rebecca Stewart is a registered user.

OMG! So developers need to pay Franette and her Nature park foundation to conduct the business in San Ramon? No wonder she is quiet about Citywalk 4500 Units by Sunset developers while asking us to fight against marketplace development for 284 Units through email and social media posts. We need to know details about Franette and NPF extortion practices and back room deals ASAP.

Posted by Franette Armstrong
a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 1, 2021 at 7:34 pm

Franette Armstrong is a registered user.

Rebecca, is it possible that I might have a good reason, a nature-based reason, for wanting to put the necessary additional homes the state is requiring us to build in an area that is already full of tall buildings? An area where tall buildings will actually be torn down in order to build the homes? When the alternative is to cover more of our natural open space, such as the Tassajara preserve and or West Hills, with housing developments. Whether it was Sunset building those additional homes in the Bishop Ranch area or the man in the moon I would have been in favor of the project in concept. I attended the public meeting where we were allowed to see the plans and talk to the architects and Sunset personnel and I voiced a number of concerns about them. But overall I feel it is a far more preferable alternative.

The marketplace on the other hand is smack in the middle of a neighborhood and what the housing will replace is a valued neighborhood center. All the buildings around it are two stories and this developer proposes building five stories. The design is awful; development is out of place. Furthermore the developer wants to sell off 2/3 of his parcel to other developers and who knows what plans they will come up with but one thing is certain: they will have the same right this developer does to cover half their lot with housing and enjoy zero lot line limits and other density benefits. For these reasons I oppose that project.

But I wonder if you will even attempt to understand what I just wrote given that it seems like you’re trying to attack me personally as a way of derailing the conversation off the subject of the article we are supposed to be commenting on. As with John Lewis I am answering you oncr but I am not going to enter a dialogue with you.

Posted by cathy247
a resident of Alamo
on Feb 2, 2021 at 8:06 pm

cathy247 is a registered user.

What a shame. I moved from Oakland to San Ramon in 1978 and what a beautiful, country feeling it was. Cows where Alcosta Blvd is. Mudd's reminded us of Chez Panisse in Berkeley and we loved it. Horrible news, it's a gem

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