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June 16, 2009

A meeting of the Planning Commission of the City of San Ramon was called to order by Chair Patrino at 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, June 16, 2009 in the Council Chambers 2222 Camino Ramon, San Ramon.       

1.  Call to Order/Roll Call: Comms; Viers, Sachs, Vice Chair O’Loane, Chair Patrino, Comm. Kerger (Absent)

Staff: Herb Moniz; City Manager; Phil Wong, Planning Director; Debbie Chamberlain, Planning Manager; Cindy Yee, Associate Planner; Alicia Poon; Deputy City Attorney; Marc Fontes , Economic Development Director; Lieutenant Gresham, Luisa Willnecker; Recording Secretary

Audience:    7

Pledge of Allegiance

Purpose of Meeting/Overview

Associate Planner Cindy Yee gave a PowerPoint Presentation and stated that the purpose of tonight’s meeting was to discuss the update to the Economic Development Element and the Noise Element. Ms. Yee stated that the General Plan 2020 Economic Development Element has several areas, which need to be updated to incorporate a variety of new economic tools the City has adopted since 2002.  Ms. Yee added that the Noise Element is a policy that regulates the ambient noise environment which protects residents from exposure to excessive noise. The planning staff envisions a few changes to the Noise Element including polices that will strengthen the City’s goal to provide an acceptable noise environment to the present and future residents of San Ramon.          

Discussion  of General Plan Update 2030  

Economic Development Element

Associate Planner Cindy Yee stated that planning staff  began working on the update to the Economic Development Element in March and met with the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) twice to discuss the policy. Ms. Yee added that four new polices have been proposed that include the Economic Development Strategic Plan (EDSP) which provides the strategy for the City’s economic development, develop a business development strategy to assist business growth in the City, prepare and develop the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan (NCRSP), and encourage the success and development of Diablo Valley College (DVC). Ms. Yee also stated that policy 2.4-I-9 has been updated to reflect the adoption of the Crow Canyon Specific Plan (CCSP) in 2004 and support the redevelopment of the Crow Canyon area.  

B. Noise Element

Associate Planner Cindy Yee stated that the Noise Element has added four new polices which include reviewing and updating the Noise Ordinance periodically; encourage new developments to reduce traffic and vehicular noises; reduce truck traffic in noise sensitive areas; and to encourage commercial developments to separate noise generating components away from residential areas. Ms. Yee added that the Noise Element includes a policy that currently allows exceptions to the noise level requirements in a residential zone for residents who have a need for medical equipment. The City’s Noise Ordinance provides noise exceptions for residents with special needs and therefore, a policy is not needed in the General Plan 2020. Ms. Yee further added that policy 10.1-1-5 would be revised to encourage site designs to incorporate natural noise attenuation features, in addition to discouraging sound walls. 

Comm. Sachs asked for clarification on policy 10.1-I-7, which requires minimizing noise impacts of flight operations on existing noise sensitive developments. Ms. Yee replied that this is an existing policy in the General Plan 2020 and added that the policy serves as a reminder to the City and other agencies to minimize noise impacts in residential areas.

Vice Chair O’Loane asked for clarification on future non-residential landuse needs. Ms. Yee replied that the non-residential development square footage is based on the growth the City anticipates between now and the General Plan build out. Ms. Yee further added that there is a potential that if the economy does not recover in the near term we may not reach the land use goals for retail and other employment space.

Vice Chair O’Loane further asked Ms. Yee for clarification what would occur if we did not assume near economic recovery. Phil Wong Planning Director replied that the City’s projection for the General Plan 2030 build out would not be accurate. Vice Chair O’Loane further asked about policy 2.4-I-23 and why the language was changed from “assure” to “strive.”  Ms. Yee replied that given the current economic constraints we could put ourselves in a position where we would be violating our General Plan if we couldn’t assure that all the facilities would be maintained up to current standards.

Comm. Sachs commented that policy 2.4-I-18 states that the City seeks to maintain an operating reserve of not less than 50 percent of the projected operating expenses for the following fiscal year. Comm. Sachs added that the revised policy states that the City will seek to maintain an operating reserve consistent with the City Council’s reserve policy and asked if the policy is set based on the 50 percent standards or based on the City Council’s decision. Mr. Wong replied that all budgets, financial policies are set by the City Council. Comm. Sachs asked if the City met the 50 percent of projected operating expenses for the following fiscal year. Mr. Wong replied yes. Comm. Sachs added that it seemed that the City Council has been given more flexibility to determine a prudent reserve policy and asked if there would be any negative ramifications if the City Council could not meet the 50 percent. Ms. Yee replied that it is specified in the General Plan 2020 to maintain a minimum 50 percent reserve or the City may be in violation of the General Plan 2020.

Chair Patrino added that maintaining and operating flexibility to assure that sufficient financial resources will be available in the event of sudden economic slowdowns is good practice.

Comm. Sachs asked if there are opportunities to add language in the Economic Development Element of the General Plan 2020, which speaks about climate change and energy efficiency. Ms. Yee replied that staff will see if there are opportunities to include these polices.

Comm. Viers stated that at the next meeting if planning staff could provide a brochure which was produced by the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) for local businesses encouraging green conservation. 

Jim Gibbon- San Ramon asked for clarification if the Air Quality Element and Conservation Element would be discussed at another workshop. Ms. Chamberlain, Planning Manager replied that tonight’s meeting would be the last policy workshop. The Air Quality Element is being prepared by consultants and that planning staff anticipates returning to the Planning Commission in the fall.

Mr. Gibbon added that he encourages the City to have an element called the Green Policy Element which includes air quality, energy and conservation.

Vice Chair O’Loane stated that the wording “assure” be added back into policy 2.4-I-23. Vice Chair O’Loane further stated that if the City cannot assure adequate maintenance of the facilities then others should not be built. Vice Chair O’Loane asked for clarification on how the City arrived at 50 percent reserve policy.  Mr. Wong replied that the 50 percent came as part of the General Plan 2020 through the work of the Economic Subcommittee.  Ms. Yee added that the General Plan 2020 was the first time the City had an Economic Development Element. Prior to that time, the City did not have a policy specifying a reserve.

 Herb Moniz – City of San Ramon City Manager stated that when the City first incorporated there was no reserve policy at that time the City Council decided that a reserve of 100 percent of operating expenditure was appropriate. Mr. Moniz added that the City achieved the budget including the reserve.  Mr. Moniz further added that 50 percent is a prudent reserve. 

Vice Chair O’Loane asked Mr. Moniz what he considers a prudent reserve. Mr. Moniz replied that 50 percent is acceptable but considering our economic development goals 50 percent is high. As long as we have an Economic Development Strategic Plan and a planned budget, a five-year revenue expenditure plan 50 percent is high but can be achieved.

Comm. Sachs asked Mr. Moniz if he found it difficult this year or last fiscal to meet the City’s reserve. Mr. Moniz replied no.

Jim Gibbon – San Ramon stated that the 50 percent is goal and a policy, which guards against slowdowns. Mr. Gibbon further added that 50 percent is high.

Vice Chair O’Loane asked Mr. Gibbon if he agreed with Mr. Moniz’s explanation. Mr. Gibbon replied yes.

Comm. Sachs commented to amend the language to maintain 50 percent of projected operating expenses.  Ms. Yee replied that a solution is not to include a percentage in the policy statement but as background information, which identifies striving to maintain the 50 percent policy.  

Vice Chair O’Loane stated that he would prefer to see “assure” in policy 2.4-I-18 rather than “strive to”

Chair Patrino stated that he would also rather see “assure” than “strive to”.

Planning Manager Debbie Chamberlain suggested to the Planning Commission that the planning staff would review the policy and narrative and provide recommended changes to respond to maintaining adequate reserves in changing economic cycles.

Herb Moniz commented that changes in economic times need to be also considered as the City grows.

Questions and Answers

Public comment was received following the staff presentation.                  

Wrap up and Next Steps    

Ms. Chamberlain stated that planning staff would be starting on the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) along with the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Element. Ms. Chamberlain further stated that the planning staff would return to the Planning Commission in the fall with the Air Quality/Greenhouse Gas Emission Element and proceed with additional workshops.

There being no further discussion, Chair Patrino adjourned the meeting at 7:55 p.m.  

Respectively Submitted,  Luisa Willnecker



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