Planning Commission Minutes
MINUTES OF THE JOINT PUBLIC MEETING
April 20, 2010
A joint meeting of the City Council and the Planning Commission of the City of San Ramon was held on April 20, 2010 at 7:06 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, Vice Chair Harry Sachs, Chair Phil O’Loane.
ABSENT: Councilmember Perkins and Planning Commissioner Eric Wallis.
STAFF PRESENT: City Manager Herb Moniz, Interim City Attorney Roger Peters,
Planning/Community Development Director Phil Wong, Planning Services Division Manager Debbie Chamberlain, and City Clerk Patricia Edwards.
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PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Vice Mayor Rowley and Commissioner Kerger led staff and the audience in the pledge of allegiance.
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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 policies and maps; 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/Community Development Director Phil Wong provided the introduction. He stated that the City’s General plan is the vision for the City for the next 20 years. The project team is the Planning Department staff and Michael Brandman Associates who completed the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and the Climate Action Plan (CAP).
Planning Services Division Manager Debbie Chamberlain provided the report. State law requires that each city adopt a comprehensive, long-term general plan for physical development. The General Plan is the City’s principal planning document. The General Plan must address seven mandatory elements: Land Use, Circulation, Housing, Conservation, Open Space, Noise, and Safety. San Ramon’s General Plan has four additional elements: Economic Development, Growth Management, Parks and Recreation, and Air Quality/Greenhouse Gas Element. Ms. Chamberlain reviewed the history and accomplishments of the General Plan 2020 and provided an overview of the process for General Plan 2030 development. The General Plan 2030 update includes: Urban Growth Boundary Adjustment, Sphere of Influence Adjustment, Maintenance of Ordinance 197 (1990) policies, Land Use Map Amendments, and General Plan Element Revisions and Additions. With the adoption of AB 32 and SB 375, a new Air Quality/Greenhouse Gas Element and a Climate Action Plan were created.
Dave Mitchell, Michael Brandman Associates, introduced the Climate Action Plan (CAP). The CAP is a separate policy document that identifies and refines policies within the General Plan 2030. The CAP was prepared to: ensure that the buildout of the General Plan 2030 will not conflict with the implementation of AB 32; provides a framework for CEQA greenhouse gas significance determinations; and provides a strategy for the reduction of community greenhouse gas emissions of 15% below 2008 levels for city government. Development of the CAP implements General Plan Policy 12.8-I-2. Mr. Mitchell reviewed the applicable regulatory context for the CAP and the CAP content. CAP strategies include: land use and transportation; transportation infrastructure and facilities; energy efficiency and conservation; regional coordination; government operations. The CAP also lists the General Plan policies that support the Strategy and describes existing City programs and initiatives. Mr. Mitchell identified the City’s current sustainability accomplishments. He reviewed the CAP’s implementation and monitoring plan.
The General Plan 2030 update provides an opportunity to review and update the General Plan and to review the adopted procedures related to implementation of the General Plan.
Ms. Chamberlain reviewed the General Plan policy discussions which included: the voter review of the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) and Ordinance 197; modifications to Measure G; and the General Plan 2030. General Plan 2020 requires voter review of the UGB in 2010. General Plan 2020 also requires review concurrently for Ordinance 197 with the UGB adjustments. The proposed modifications to Measure G would eliminate the required multiple public hearings and follow the public hearing requirements established by State law. Multiple public hearings may be required at the discretion of the Planning Commission and the City Council. Another policy discussion item is consideration of placing the General Plan 2030 on the November 2010 ballot.
Mayor Wilson opened the public hearing.
Troy Bristol, representing Save Mount Diablo, expressed concern regarding the City’s Sphere of Influence (SOI) and UGB with regards to the Tassajara Valley. Because of the Valley’s unique qualities and resources, the Tassajara Valley should stay outside San Ramon’s UGB. He stated that nothing in the Policy requires San Ramon to propose an expansion rather than maintaining or contracting the UGB. Cm. Livingstone asked if Mr. Bristol was against any City expansion or just expansion into the Tassajara Valley. Mr. Bristol responded that Save Mount Diablo is only concerned with the Tassajara Valley. Cm. Hudson asked what will keep Tassajara the same if the County controls it instead of San Ramon. Mr. Bristol responded that expanding the City’s UGB is the first step to development. He questioned why San Ramon is considering expanding its UGB. Cm. Hudson responded that the General Plan requires a voter review to amend or maintain the UGB. The voters voted for the Urban Limit Line (ULL) in 2006 which had an option to use either the municipal ULL or County ULL. The municipal and County ULLs are different and not coterminous. Mayor Wilson stated that expanding San Ramon’s ULL does not mean development in the Tassajara Valley.
Greg Randall, land planner representing Randall Planning and Design, addressed the issue of the El Nido and Laborer’s Camp projects. The application to re-designate the El Nido Property from Parks to Multi-Family High Density Residential was filed in June 2009. Currently, there are no proposals, plans, developer or builder for this project. He stated that the Harlan House was offered to the City as a historical building for relocation. The City declined the offer. The site has been designated as a park for 20 years but no longer complies with the City’s standards for a community/neighborhood park because of its size and location. He stated that this site would be better suited for residential units to meet the City’s housing needs. Twenty one single family lots will be proposed on a portion of the Laborer’s Camp property. He recommended that the Westside Specific Plan be updated to conform with the General Plan. The basic Laborer’s Training Facility will remain as it is. Cm. Livingstone asked Mr. Randall what his position is regarding affordable housing for the two properties. Mr. Randall responded that there are no specific project proposals but they are willing to work with the City. Cm. Hudson asked for the location of the 21 homes on the Laborer’s Camp property. Mr. Randall stated that they would be located at the northern edge of Westside Drive within the property. There is currently no road or access. Cm. Hudson noted that there might be a concern locating these homes 1,000 feet from the freeway in compliance with Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
Commissioner Sachs asked if the Harlan House was in a condition to be moved. Mr. Randall stated that the House sits on a poor foundation. It was moved to this site by the current owner who offered to move it but was told that the City cannot afford to own the property. Vice Mayor Rowley asked what it would cost to move the Harlan House. Mr. Randall estimated between $1.5 to $2 million.
Matt Vander-Sluis, Senior Field Representative for the Greenbelt Alliance (GBA), complimented the City for its CAP strategies which will create walkable, dense, vibrant communities and decrease the need for driving. He stated that expanding the UGB is contrary to the climate goals. Research done by GBA shows that we can accommodate all expected population growth in the Bay Area through 2035 within the existing urban areas and protecting farms, watersheds and open spaces. He encouraged the Council and Planning Commission to reconsider expansion of the City’s UGB to preserve the agricultural and rural heritage of the valley. Mayor Wilson stated that changing the City’s SOI does not mean development. Cm. Hudson stated that Measure G requires the Council and Planning commission to do a CEQA determination and implement the Plan. It can only be changed by a voter review in 2010. Cm. Livingstone asked if Mr. Vander-Sluis objected to bringing Norris Canyon Estates into the City. Mr. Vander-Sluis stated that he is not familiar with that area and that his issue is the expansion of the ULL. Mayor Wilson stated that the area would be safer under the City’s control instead of the County’s.
Jim Blickenstaff, representing the Mt. Diablo Sierra Club, identified four issues. He is concerned that the staff’s recommended modification to Measure G to decrease the number of public hearings in an effort to increase efficiency and time savings may eliminate the possibility for public comment. He suggested that the Council err on the side of caution. It should not be left to the discretion of the Planning Commission and City Council. He suggested that Ordinance 197 be placed on the ballot for voter approval. He noted that the UGB and ULL issues provide the City with an opportunity to save the Tassajara Valley from development. The City has two options: to move the line and not build; or not move the line and designate the Tassajara Valley as an agricultural preserve. He recommended segregating controversial issues from noncontroversial issues. Commissioner O’Loane asked what Mr. Blickenstaff’s position is regarding Norris Canyon. Mr. Blickenstaff noted that it is not the same as the Tassajara Valley. Commissioner O’Loane asked what Mr. Blickenstaff thinks will happen if the County maintains its control of the Tassajara Valley. Mr. Blickenstaff responded that he was not sure what would happen in the future. Commissioner Sachs noted that San Ramon has some precedent. Dougherty Valley is a great addition to San Ramon. People would have an opportunity to air their views with the San Ramon Planning Commission and the City Council regarding future development in Tassajara. This is not the case with County control of that valley. Mr. Sachs stated that voting yes on the UGB will give San Ramon control. He asked why Mr. Blickenstaff did not advocate for San Ramon’s control. Mr. Blickenstaff stated that the situation is different today and that the County has now changed its policy and will not violate a city’s UGB. He noted that changing the UGB has historically resulted in growth. Commissioner Kerger stated that San Ramon fought to reduce the Dougherty Valley housing numbers and this needs to be remembered. Cm. Hudson remarked that the New Farm Development is in the County and outside the UGB. The County received $100 million in permitting fees from the Dougherty Valley.
Nikki Sanger, resident, voiced her objection to rezoning the El Nido Property from Parks to Multi-Family High Density (MFHD) Residential. She stated that she wants to protect her property values. She is concerned that the MFHD will create a lot of development and subsequent parking issues which will compound the current problem. She asked the Council to retain the green space and oppose the designation change for this property.
Jim Gibbon, representing San Ramon for Open Government, stated that there are many differences between the Tassajara Valley and the Dougherty Valley. The Tassajara Valley is different because it does not have water, is an agricultural preserve and is outside the City limits. He noted that moving the ULL is growth inducing and violates CEQA, AB 32, SB 375 and the General Plan. He remarked that there was no mention of preservation of land. He stated that the objective of the City Council and the General Plan is growth inducing. He stated that there is an Eastside Specific Plan to develop Tassajara Valley. The complexity of moving the UGB is that it puts Tassajara Valley together with development on the west side hills. He suggested that the Tassajara Valley be included in the City’s SOI so that the people can address development in that area. He stated that modifying Measure G will limit the number of public hearings and the people’s opportunity to voice their concerns. He stated that the City’s noticing is insufficient. He supports placing the UGB on the ballot and added that having the Westside within the UGB so that it can be voted on by residents. He believes that the City Council will mislead voters by the language used in the initiative to expand the UGB. He stated that the CAP has not been published. He stated that the four major additions to the EIR will not be voted on by the voters. These changes are major expansions to the City without the vote of the people. Commission Kerger asked Mr. Gibbon to cite the four major additions to the EIR. Mr. Gibbon identified air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. Commissioner O’Loane asked if someone builds outside the San Ramon City limits if they are violating Ordinance 197. Mr. Gibbon responded no. Commissioner O’Loane asked if Ordinance 197 is violated by the Norris Canyon Estates. Mr. Gibbon responded the Norris Canyon Estates proposal was first brought to the City. When it was determined that it violated Ordinance 197, they went to the County to develop.
Jim Eaneman, resident and 2009-10 Parks Commission Chair, urged the City Council and Planning Commission to follow the unanimous recommendation of the Parks Commission and retain the El Nido property designation as Parks. He noted that under the special recreational designation capability, this area can continue to be a park. He stated that the Parks Commission has not approved a substandard park. The Parks Commission believes that the area will benefit from a park.
Commissioner Sachs asked the Interim City Attorney if the El Nido property remains as Parks and the land owner continues to own it, does this decision damage the property owner. Interim City Attorney Roger Peters noted that the Takings issue was raised at the Parks Commission meeting. The Takings Law has evolved to favor the property owner’s rights. The question is does action by the government agency deprive the property owner of all economic value to his property. He added that there are many nuances and that research needs to be done.
Commission Viers corrected Mr. Eaneman’s statement that the Parks Commission decision regarding El Nido was unanimous. The vote was actually 6-1.
Mayor Wilson closed the public hearing.
Cm. Hudson asked if the CAP was going to be reviewed at the meeting. He provided a list of corrections and revisions which he recommended to pages 1, 6, 11, 12, 17, 23, 25, 27, 39, 45, 49, 63, 66, 68, 74, 76, 89, 94, 98 and 101. He requested that the statement from AB 32 “to achieve the maximum technologically feasible and cost effective reductions to greenhouse gas emissions’ be added where appropriate. He recommended that a glossary be included. He stated that the document overall was well done.
Commissioner Sachs remarked for the environmental advocates that San Ramon is trying to be a responsible steward and he asked that they take that into consideration. He asked how the measurement for transportation emissions factor in highway traffic and credits and how the City can effectively address establishing write downs for those emissions. Mr. Mitchell stated that they use data from the FPC. Commissioner Sachs stated that the HOV lane opportunities and Norris Canyon should count as credits. Mr. Mitchell had no response. Commissioner Sachs asked for examples of charging stations and CNG stations in other municipalities and how funding could be secured to cover the costs for those charging stations.
Commissioner O’Loane challenged the statement that “climate change is caused by emission of greenhouse gases which are emitted from natural and human related sources”. The discussion regarding climate change is concerned with the rate of acceleration. He requested that the statement read that “Climate change is defined as the accelerated change to the climate that is caused by the emission of greenhouse gases”. This is the issue. Cm. Hudson suggested following the AB 32 protocol. Commissioner O’Loane requested clarification.
Commissioner Kerger complimented staff on the quality of the document.
Mayor Wilson requested that the Council and Planning Commission consider the number of times that the information is presented to the public. Commissioner Kerger responded that three times is sufficient. The Planning Commission extends meetings if needed. Commissioner O’Loane concurred and that the current process has quality. Commissioner Sachs stated that he was hesitant to lower the meeting threshold and suggested that the current practice be retained. Cm. Hudson stated that this is the moratorium part of Measure G. He added that staff is not recommending less than three meetings. He added that streamlining is a major part of AB 32 and SB 375 to achieve efficiency and conservation. Mayor Wilson stated that it is imperative to give all residents the opportunity to comment. Vice Mayor Rowley asked that the Council and Planning Commission consider the number of meetings needed for noncontroversial meetings. More meetings may be required for a controversial issue. Mayor Wilson cautioned that the Council may think something is not important but it may be an issue for the residents.
Mayor Wilson requested that any issues from the Council or Planning Commission be submitted in writing to staff. Mayor Wilson stated that a Second Joint Public Hearing before the City Council and Planning Commission will be held on May 18, 2010.
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At 9:13 p.m., there being no further business, Mayor Wilson adjourned the meeting.
H. Abram Wilson, Mayor
Patricia Edwards, City Clerk