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May 18, 2010

A joint meeting of the City Council and the Planning Commission of the City of San Ramon was held on May 18, 2010 at 7:03 p.m. in the City Council Chamber at City Hall, 2222 Camino Ramon, Mayor Wilson presiding. 
Councilmembers: Dave Hudson, Jim Livingstone, Vice Mayor Rowley, Mayor Wilson.
Planning Commissioners: Donna Kerger, Dennis Viers, Eric Wallis, Vice Chair Harry Sachs, Chair Phil O’Loane.
ABSENT:  Councilmember Perkins.
STAFF PRESENT:  City Manager Herb Moniz, Interim City Attorney Roger Peters, Lt. Liz Gresham, Planning/Community Development Director Phil Wong, Planning Services Division Manager Debbie Chamberlain, and City Clerk Patricia Edwards.

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Jim Blickenstaff led staff and the audience in the pledge of allegiance.

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(#3.1) Minutes of the April 20, 2010 Joint Public Hearing meeting.

The City Clerk requested that each body vote their approval of the minutes.

Planning Commissioner Kerger’s motion to approve the minutes of the April 20, 2010 Joint Public Hearing was seconded by Commissioner Viers and passed 4-0.  Commissioner Wallis abstained.

Cm. Hudson’s motion to approve the April 20, 2010 Joint Public Hearing Meeting minutes was seconded by Cm. Livingstone and passed 4-0.  Cm. Perkins was absent. 


(#4.1) Public Hearing:  Planning the City’s Future - The General Plan 2030 (General Plan Amendments 09-400-001 and -002). Consider proposed amendments to 2020 General Plan including changes to policies and maps, Urban Growth Boundary, and procedures for amending the General Plan; and proposal to re-designate the El Nido Property from Parks to Multi-Family High Density Residential.

Public Hearing: Consider Proposed Climate Action Plan.

Planning Services Division Manager Debbie Chamberlain noted that the City received a letter from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) asking San Ramon to update its General Plan.  Staff will send a response to the OPR.

Ms. Chamberlain reviewed the timelines for the Public Hearing notification and for the Environmental Review.  She reviewed the General Plan 2030 development process and summarized the discussion from the April 20, 2010 Joint Public Hearing.  The General Plan 2030 updates include: an Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) adjustment; a Sphere of Influence (SOI) adjustment; maintenance of Ordinance 197 policies; Land Use Map amendments for the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan and the El Nido property; and other General Plan Element Revisions and Additions.  She discussed the issues raised at the April 20, 2010 Joint Hearing.  The General Plan requires the review of the UGB, preparation of the Eastside Specific Plan, and consideration of adjusting the UGB in 2010.  It is important for the City to maintain local control to insure efficient use of City services and facilities and meeting the City’s Growth Management Standards.  Because Norris Canyon Estates was built by Contra Costa County and is located in the County, the County receives the benefit of their taxes but the residents utilize City services.  Dougherty Valley is governed by a multiparty settlement agreement.  Mayor Wilson noted that San Ramon is subsidizing services to Dougherty Valley at a cost of approximately $1 million per year. 

Ms. Chamberlain stated that the city is proposing three changes to the UGB: Tassajara Valley, Norris Canyon Estates, and the Laborer’s Property.  She reviewed the proposed tentative agreement presented to LAFCO.  The County would retain control of the land east of Tassajara Road, Danville would expand its SOI, and San Ramon would contract its SOI from 4,000 to 1,600 acres.  The change from Parks to Multi Family-High Density Residential to the El Nido property was requested by the applicant.  Ms. Chamberlain noted two important City public park policies which establish a minimum size for neighborhood parks of two acres or more and a standard of 6.5 acres of public parks per 1,000 residents at General Plan buildout with public facilities to be within one-half mile of all homes.  The Parks and Community Services Commission suggested that the El Nido property be classified as a Specialized Recreation Facility and did not support the land use change.  Ms. Chamberlain discussed the Ordinance 197 policies.  The General Plan Amendment would extend Ordinance 197 to 2015.  Staff recommends making Ordinance 197 an appendix to the Open Space and Conservation Element. 

Ms. Chamberlain reviewed the proposed changes to Measure G.  Amendments to the General Plan may only be approved following a 4/5s vote of the City Council after a favorable recommendation of the amendment by a 4/5s vote of the Planning Commission.  This procedure conflicts with state law.   Measure G grants the appointive Planning Commission co-equal authority with the elected City Council.  State law requires that the Planning Commission render a decision and that the City Council makes the final decision.  If the Planning Commission is unable to reach a decision, the project would not proceed to the City Council.  Commissioner O’Loane stated that Measure G gave power to the Planning Commission and he advocates adhering to the voter’s directive. 

Commissioner Sachs concurred with Commissioner O’Loane.  Measure G provides for the rights of the property owner to go through the process.  Interim City Attorney Peters explained that, according to state law, charter cities must adopt the General Plan with at least seven mandatory elements.  State law established the procedure for adopting or amending the General Plan which is that the Planning Commission makes a recommendation and the City Council acts to adopt, amend, or disapprove the recommendation.  Under Measure G, if the Planning Commission does not approve the amendment with a 4/5s majority, the item is not voted on by the City Council.  There is no appeal and no review by the Council.  State law requires that the applicant is entitled to a decision by the City Council.  Measure G conflicts with state law because of the 4/5s vote requirement and because the process is stopped at the Planning Commission level.  Mr. Peters noted that the General Plan is a legislative plan and that the City Council, not the Planning Commission, is the appropriate legislative body.  Commission O’Loane asked why this issue was not addressed in 2000 if it conflicts with state law.  Cm. Hudson stated that the 4/5s vote is part of the initiative that went on the ballot.  The General Plan excluded the Planning Commission and the City Council.  The General Plan Review Commission (GPRC) did not want amendments processed during the General Plan process.  Staff recommends modifying Measure G to require a simple majority vote.

Ms. Chamberlain noted that modifications to the General Plan cannot be inconsistent with Ordinance 197.  Staff recommends that the map to Ordinance 197 be updated to include the creeks and ridgelines within the Tassajara Valley to reflect changes in the SOI and UGB.

Mayor Wilson opened the public hearing.

Ms. D. Burt, a Tassajara Valley resident, does not favor expanding the Urban Limit Line (ULL).  The only reason to expand the ULL is to allow development.  She stated that the ridgeline protection is inadequate.  Expanding the SOI will cut the Valley in half causing development on the west side.  She does not believe that the Valley’s east side will benefit from expanding the ULL.  There are water issues.  The Valley cannot support a larger population.  She noted that the rural atmosphere of the Tassajara Valley will change.  She expressed concern regarding traffic, light pollution, and the night sky.  Mayor Wilson noted that San Ramon is opposed to excessive night lights and that the parks which she identified are in Danville.  He added that San Ramon did not propose the development in Tassajara Valley and agreed with Ms. Burt regarding the water problem.  Cm. Hudson refuted the complaint regarding Ordinance 197 as Dougherty Valley and Dublin were not developed by San Ramon so Ordinance 197 did not apply.  He stated that San Ramon does not have a project proposed for the Tassajara Valley.  The purpose to moving the ULL UGB is to have planning power.  Commissioner O’Loane asked Ms. Burt if she objected to development in Tassajara Valley by the county or city.  Ms. Burt said that she opposes all development.

Jim Gibbon, resident and representative of San Ramon for Open Government, stated that the General Plan update is being caused by the General Plan requirement for an update.    He stated that the update should be done under the requirements of the original General

Plan.  He added that the Environmental Impact report (EIR) addresses many proposed items and uses these items to justify assumptions in the EIR such as the policy regarding expansion of the UGB.  He stated that there is nothing in the General Plan 2020 which requires expansion of the UGB.  The Plan only suggests that the UGB be reviewed and maintained.  He suggested that the reason to expand or move the UGB is bogus.  Moving the UGB is not just moving theoretical lines to have power it also mandates a policy in the original General Plan that requires the city to develop it.  Under the Implementation Policy, if the UGB is moved, the City is required to provide services.  The SOI is a planning tool for future development consideration.  Moving the UGB by the City mandates in the General Plan that the ULL is moved to align to the UGB.  Moving the UGB beyond the City limits opens the property to development by the county.  A City change to the UGB will trigger the county to change its UGB and ULL and may result in unintentional growth.  Adjustments to the hills in the General Plan and EIR don’t address the implications of moving the UGB into the hills.  He stated that Norris Canyon Estates belongs in San Ramon.  Any new building in Norris Canyon Estates should comply with Ordinance 197.  He asked what the City’s intent is in changing the UGB for the Laborers Camp. 

Mr. Gibbon stated that Measure G and the General Plan 2020 call for a 4/5s vote in lieu of presenting the UGB to the voters.  It is an alternate to a vote by the residents and is designed for minor amendments to the UGB.  He requested that the Council provide the changes to Ordinance 197 and the UGB as two separate items on the ballot.  He stated that the General Plan and EIR address moving the UGB and changing Ordinance 197.  The General Plan is being manipulated to allow things in San Ramon that were not anticipated in the General Plan 2020.  He stated that the City is not thinking of preservation and the use of open space.  The Climate Action Plan (CAP) makes San Ramon look like a green city but the focus is not on rural areas but on in-fill and mixed use in lieu of new growth areas.  He believes that this is hypocritical and that San Ramon is not headed in this direction.  Commissioner Kerger asked Mr. Gibbon whether he prefers the City or the County to develop homes in San Ramon.  Mr. Gibbon stated that he prefer the most benign group possible.

Mr. Matt Vander Sluis, representing the Greenbelt Alliance, complimented the City on the CAP as part of the General Plan process.  He expressed concerns in the EIR and compliance with CEQA specifically regarding assessments of environmental effects of expansion of the ULL into the Tassajara Valley.  He requested that the City revise the EIR and assess potential development scenarios in the Tassajara Valley resulting from a change in the ULL.  He stated that the EIR needs to assess the impacts from these developments.  He requested that the Council strengthen the language in the CAP to assess the scenarios and assess the impact from the different scenarios.  Feasible mitigation measures should be included in the EIR to address the significant impacts.

Mr. Vander Sluis noted that the CAP includes a provision referring to the UGB as a tool to focus diverse housing in proximity to the local employment base and public transportation.  This is an example of the CAP identifying a specific activity but the General Plan includes an opposing strategy.  He noted that there are resources provided on the Secretary of State’s Attorney General’s website for addressing green house gas emissions in the General Plan.  Commissioner Sachs stated that the CAP helps the City to address the issue of green house gas emissions.  Mr. Vander Sluis responded that the EIR could be strengthened particularly with protection for the Tassajara Valley’s open space.  Commissioner Sachs stated his concern regarding the lack of assessment scenarios and asked how many scenarios would be adequate.  Mr. Vander Sluis stated that CEQA requires a reasonable range of alternatives and that he is not qualified to provide the “reasonable range”.  Mayor Wilson asked Mr. Vander Sluis for examples of the reports which contained the sample scenarios.  Mr. Vander Sluis stated that they were available in the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) report and in Vision Bay Area.  These documents provided scenarios, not plans, for growth. 

Mayor Wilson closed the public hearing.

Mayor Wilson asked staff if there will be one or two items on the November ballot.  Planning/Community Development Director Phil Wong stated that the City proposal is to have one item on the November ballot.  Cm. Hudson stated that amendments to the UGB require City voter approval as provided by Measure G.  Measure G requires voter review to consider maintaining or amending the UGB and related policies.  He noted that the City’s UGB is more restrictive than the County’s ULL.  No development is proposed for the Tassajara Valley.  He added that any city can build outside its ULL but the city then forfeits its return to source Measure J funds. 

Commissioner O’Loane stated that he does not see a compelling reason in General Plan 2020 to expand the ULL.  The General Plan requires “consideration” which he interprets as asking the residents if they like or dislike the current location of the ULL.  He believes that the intent of the General Plan 2020 is to vote on the current ULL.  He added that the purpose of the SOI for the City is to signal what its ultimate UGB will be.  The intent of the SOI is “an important benchmark because it defines the primary area which, in an urban environment, is to be encouraged.”  He added that, to the extent that the City might extend it, the City should also lay out what should be done to it.  If the City does not want development, the City should prezone it for no development.  He noted that Dougherty Valley is half built and that there is currently no progress on the Faria project, the Crow Canyon Specific Plan, the Camino Ramon Specific Plan, and the City Center Project.  He asked why the City needs to expand its UGB at this time and believes that the UGB is acceptable as it is.  Cm. Hudson noted that the voters require the General Plan vote in November.  If the General Plan does not pass, the City would default to the current Plan.  He added that the City cannot plan what it does not control.  The County controls the property outside the ULL.  Commissioner Kerger noted that part of the GPRC’s discussion was to provide a mechanism so that the City would have a say in development next to the City limits.  She added that the failed economy is responsible for the delay in these projects.  She noted that San Ramon has more open space and parks than the other communities in the Tri-Valley. 

Commissioner Sachs asked if the Tassajara Valley is in San Ramon’s SOI.  Ms. Chamberlain responded that it is San Ramon’s planning area but not in the City’s SOI.  Commissioner Sachs asked if a municipality can legally zone an area that is not within its SOI or UGB.  Interim City Attorney Peters responded that he did not think so.  Mr. Wong stated that the City could prezone only land within its SOI.  Specific Plans are the tools which regulate land use.  Commissioner O’Loane stated that the city can expand its SOI and specify what should be done with it.  Mr. Wong responded that this can be done with LAFCO.  Commissioner O’Loane asked if expanding the UGB requires growth.  Commissioner Sachs asked if the EIR impacts are addressed through the implementation policies if the UGB is expanded.  He added that different implementation policies within the General Plan are mandated on legislative bodies with regard to future development.  He asked if the implementation policies provided in the EIR are adequate or if development scenarios are needed.  Mr. Wong responded that the City will do additional CEQA work if development plans are needed.  At this time, there is no development plan and that the language in the EIR is sufficient.  Commissioner Sachs asked if the EIR is strong enough in lieu of providing scenarios and if the implementation policies are strong enough to withstand a legal challenge.  Michael Brandman stated that the General Plan approach with the EIR is used across the state and that it is strong enough.  Commissioner O’Loane stated that it does not make sense to move the UGB if there are no plans to develop the area.  Cm. Hudson noted that New Farm is a development outside of the UGB and that the County determines on its land what is urban and what is rural.  The County cannot build in San Ramon’s UGB. 

Commissioner Wallis stated that when the GPRC drafted the General Plan, the Tassajara Valley and the Davidon property were two ‘hot’ topics.  When Dougherty Valley is built out, it will be adjacent to the Tassajara Valley.  The majority of the GPRC and the voters supported placing the Tassajara Valley in San Ramon’s planning area.  Putting the Tassajara Valley in San Ramon’s planning area only gives the City the ability to plan for that area.  It is essential that San Ramon has the right “to plan”, which does not mean “to develop”, what happens in that Valley.  San Ramon needs to expand its SOI and UGB so that it has the right to say what happens there.

Commissioner Sachs requested clarification regarding Measure G and the 4/5s issue in state law.  He does not support changes to Measure G because it was voted in by the citizens.  He noted that the staff is suggesting that the General Plan amendments have a simple majority vote and three hearings before going to the City Council for a final vote.  Ms. Chamberlain stated that staff is recommending that the three public hearings be retained.  However, in order to insure that the General Plan Amendment is voted on by the City Council, it may be necessary to eliminate the 4/5s vote at the Planning Commission level to a simple majority vote.  Commissioner Sachs requested that staff clarify this issue for the ballot and requested that staff prepare sample wording for the measure.  Cm. Hudson noted if the amendment does not receive a 4/5s vote by the Planning Commission, the amendment does not come to the City Council.  He is concerned that a developer can challenge the City’s process.  Commissioner O’Loane asked if there is anything improper with requiring a super majority City Council vote.  Mr. Peters stated that state law requires the General Plan to be approved by a majority of the legislative body.  Commission O’Loane asked what the Council thought of the super majority Council vote requirement and the appeal provision as a solution.  Mayor Wilson stated that the Council has to comply with the law and that the City Council must have the final decision.  The City’s current process is subject to litigation. 

Commissioner Viers stated that he disagrees with the Parks Commission’s decision and proposed medium density for the project.  Cm. Livingstone suggested that the project be zoned for medium density and condition the project so that the Harlan House is relocated to a corner of the property.  He noted that it will be expensive to relocate the house.  Commissioner Wallis supports the proposal of medium density which is consistent with the neighborhood.  He does not support the park option.  He does not support moving the Harlan House or keeping the house as a condition of development.  Vice Mayor Rowley stated that she thought there was a trust fund for the house.  She requested more information before she recommends that the house be relocated.  She asked what happened to the second house on the property.  Cm. Livingstone stated that there is a trust to fix the House but he did not have additional details.  He does not want any City funds to be expended on the House.  Cm. Hudson stated that the opportunity for the Harlan House has passed.  He is not sure what to do with it but does not believe that it is salvageable or should be moved.  Commissioner Kerger stated that the Harlan House is the oldest house in the Tri-Valley and that people who might support the project are not aware of the problem.  She supports medium density for the project.  She expressed concern for traffic circulation.  She added that the second house is still on the property.  Vice Mayor Rowley stated that there are no City funds available for the Harlan House.  She supports low medium density because of the problem with traffic and parking.  Commissioner Sachs asked if the Commission and Council should agree on the General Plan Amendment for the El Nido property.  Ms. Chamberlain stated that the El Nido issue can be separated from the General Plan amendment as there is no obligation to act on the request at this time.  Mayor Wilson stated that he is opposed to using any City funds for the Harlan house.  He supports low medium density due to the circulation and traffic issues.  He supports separating the El Nido issue from the General Plan amendment for the ballot.  Cm. Livingstone requested that the staff provide additional information at the next meeting.  Cm. Hudson recommended that the General Plan update and Ordinance 197 be placed on the ballot as one issue.  He commented that Ordinance 197 is archaic because it does not address important issues such as sustainability, green house gas emissions, and solar.  AB 32 is an unfunded mandate.  He suggested strengthening Ordinance 197 by including incentives to reduce green house gases.  He proposed that any multi-family housing project with a Gold LEED Standard be considered for higher height limits than what Ordinance 197 currently allows and that the roofs for the multi-family housing units be exempt from the height limits if they include solar.  Commissioner Kerger asked if the consideration for increased heights could be extended to Platinum or Silver LEED certified projects.  The California Climate Change Scoping Plan requires that cities reach a Silver LEED standard and maximize, to the extent technologically feasible and cost effective, a reduction in green house gases.  Commissioner Sachs supported the incentive idea and suggested that it apply to infill and specifically multi-family housing. 

Ms. Chamberlain noted that staff will summarize the main issues for the next meeting:
the El Nido project, Measure G 4/5s issue, Ordinance 197 incentives. 

Commissioner O’Loane asked if the EIR would apply with or without the proposed UGB changes.  Ms. Chamberlain stated that the current EIR is suitable for both. 

Mayor Wilson thanked the members of the Planning Commission, City Council and staff for their work.  The Third Joint Public Hearing before the City Council and Planning Commission will be held on June 1, 2010.

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At 9:48 p.m., there being no further business, Mayor Wilson adjourned the meeting.

H. Abram Wilson, Mayor
Patricia Edwards, City Clerk

NOTE:  These Minutes reflect the actual discussion at the May 18, 2010 Joint City Council and Planning Commission Public Hearing.

Approved at the June 1, 2010 City Council meeting 4-0; Perkins abstain.

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