Planning Commission Minutes
MINUTES OF THE JOINT PUBLIC MEETING
June 1, 2010
A joint meeting of the City Council and the Planning Commission of the City of San Ramon was held on June 1, 2010 at 7:08 p.m. in the City Council Chamber at City Hall, 2222 Camino Ramon, Mayor Wilson presiding.
PRESENT: Councilmembers: Dave Hudson, Jim Livingstone, Scott Perkins, Vice Mayor Rowley, Mayor Wilson.
Planning Commissioners: Donna Kerger, Dennis Viers, Eric Wallis, Vice Chair Harry Sachs, Chair Phil O’Loane.
STAFF PRESENT: 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
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APPROVAL OF MINUTES
(#3.1) Minutes of the May 18, 2010 Joint Public Hearing meeting.
The City Clerk requested that each body vote their approval of the minutes.
Planning Chair O’Loane stated that there were several references to the Urban Limit Line (ULL) which should be the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). He requested that the Minutes be corrected.
Commissioner Viers’ motion to approve the May 18, 2010 Joint Public Hearing Meeting Minutes as corrected was seconded by Commissioner Sachs and passed 5-0.
Cm. Hudson’s motion to approve the May 18, 2010 Joint Public Hearing Meeting Minutes as amended by the Planning Commission was seconded by Cm. Livingstone and passed 4-0. Cm. Perkins abstained.
(#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.
The City Clerk noted that correspondence was received from: Jason Brandman and Grant Gruber concerning the response to the Growth Inducement Questions in the General Plan 2030 Environmental Impact Review; an email from Russ Harrison opposing the proposed General Plan amendment to re-designate the El Nido property; and a letter from Gagen McCoy discussing the El Nido General Plan Amendment.
Planning Services Division Manager Debbie Chamberlain introduced the item. She reviewed the General Plan 2030 development process and the Environmental Impact Review (EIR) process. She summarized the discussion from the May 18, 2010 Joint Public Hearing concerning: jurisdictional boundaries; the UGB issue; the Tassajara Valley; modification to Measure G; re-designating the El Nido property; incentivizing Ordinance 197; and an evaluation of alternatives. She reviewed the City’s jurisdictional boundaries which include the Planning Area, the Sphere of Influence (SOI), and the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) and the relationship of these boundaries. Cm. Perkins asked if City limits can be outside of the UGB. Ms Chamberlain responded that it could.
Ms. Chamberlain explained why the City is proposing to expand its UGB into the Tassajara Valley. Expanding the UGB provides the benefit of local control to: apply City Planning and Development policies and regulations; apply Ordinance 197; implement Open Space policies; and control the impact on City facilities and services. General Plan 2020 requires voter review of the UGB in 2010 to either maintain or amend that boundary. The General Plan Review Commission (GPRC) considered three options for the Tassajara Valley. The basis for inclusion was that the GPRC recognized the development potential and the need for a stronger role in land use planning.
Ms. Chamberlain reviewed the proposed modification to Measure G because of its potential conflict with state law. She summarized the El Nido General Plan amendment discussion regarding the density designation and the Harlan House. The Climate Action Plan requires the City to move toward sustainability. Ordinances, including Ordinance 197, need to provide some degree of flexibility to meet the mandates of AB 32 and SB 375. Staff proposed a new Implementing Policy (12.7-I-9) to incentivize Ordinance 197. The General Plan 2030 EIR is a Program EIR which deals with policies and broad concepts to provide a more general discussion of impacts, alternatives, and mitigation measures to guide future actions. She reviewed the results of voter approval or denial of the General Plan 2030 on the UGB, the SOI, Ordinance 197, implementation of city regulation and fiscal implications. Ms. Chamberlain stated that only the Planning Commission will continue to its June 15, 2010 meeting consideration of the final EIR and their recommendation to the City Council. City Council action on the General Plan and Climate Action Plan is anticipated to be considered at its July 13, 2010 meeting.
Mayor Wilson opened the public hearing.
William Harlan, a Board representative of the Harlan National Family, requested postponement on the change to the El Nido zoning. He provided the history of the Harlan House. He requested that the House be protected and made available for the public. He stated that this issue will be considered at the national Harlan Family meeting in July. He urged the City to work with the family to find a site and relocate the House.
Jonathan Winslow, ZKS Real Estate, asked for clarification on the land use for the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan (NCRSP) as a Mixed Use district. He questioned if Office is included in the Mixed Use designation. He asked if the existing Office uses will be allowed under the NCRSP. He commented that the General Plan 2030 was very clear and readable. Ms. Chamberlain responded that Office is included in Mixed Use. Office is a nonresidential category in the Mixed Use General Plan district.
Jerry Cole, resident and president of the Oak Creek and Greystone Ranch Home Owners Association, stated his support for retaining the property as a park. He stated that, at the March 10, 2010 Parks Commission meeting, there was virtually no community support for changing the El Nido zoning from Parks to High Density. There are safety and traffic problems in the area. He asked for the difference between medium and low medium density. Ms Chamberlain stated that a high density designation would permit 9 to 21 units, medium density would permit 4 to 9 units, and low medium would be 2 to 4 units.
Jim Blickenstaff, representing the Mt. Diablo Sierra Club, stated that the Harlan House represents a key component of San Ramon’s history and asked the City to find a way to preserve it. He suggested that the El Nido amendment be evaluated separately from the General Plan. He asked that the Council consider placing the General Plan update on the ballot so that the voters could decide whether or not to include the expansion of the City’s eastern boundary into the Tassajara Valley. He believes that annexing the Tassajara Valley may result in an increase in the price of the land and eliminate the possibility of purchase by an entity that would preserve it as a rural or pastoral area.
Commissioner Kerger asked Mr. Blickenstaff if he wants another Dougherty Valley situation in the Tassajara Valley. Mr. Blickenstaff stated that the County has demonstrated that it is getting out of the development business except for New Farm. He stated that if the City does not expand the UGB, the City will have time to discover a way to preserve the Valley.
Planning Vice Chair Sachs stated that staff has analyzed the outcomes regarding expanding the UGB into Tassajara Valley. One of which is the inability to impose Ordinance 197 on the land.
Mr. Blickenstaff stated that there has been serious development by the City on the hillsides in spite of Ordinance 197. He expressed doubt that the City would apply Ordinance 197 in the Valley to maintain open space.
Dorothy Burt, Tassajara Valley resident, stated that no one has asked the Tassajara Valley residents what they want. The east side of the Valley has the population while the west side has relatively few residents. She does not want the Valley to become a ‘Dougherty Valley Junior’. She stated that if the UGB is moved, people will want to move to the Valley. She recognized the problems associated with rural living. She objected to dividing the Valley into San Ramon and county. She asked how San Ramon can ensure that future development will not negatively impact the residents. She stated that Danville is content with its SOI designation and asked why San Ramon wants to move its ULL. She stated that no one in the County could provide the current status of New Farm. She does not support San Ramon’s change to its ULL. Commissioner Kerger noted that the GPRC did invite Tassajara Valley land owners to their meetings. San Ramon does reach out to the Tassajara Valley residents as a good neighbor.
Ann Haley, resident, opposes the rezoning of the El Nido property because of the negative impact on property values and the quality of life. The rezoning is inconsistent with the neighboring area. She requested more time before a decision is made because she believes that the residents do not understand which property is being discussed.
Roz Rogoff, resident, questioned the procedure involved in reversing Measure G. She noted that Measure G was provided as a separate initiative and alternative to the CAPP (Citizen’s Alliance for Public Planning) initiative. Interim City Attorney Peters explained that Measure G’s requirement for a 4/5s approval by the Planning Commission before the issue proceeds to the City Council conflicts with state law. Ms. Rogoff asked for information on the specific state law. She requested that this issue be separated from the General Plan.
Phil Henry, resident, stated that ownership is stewardship and that the City Council is now part of the stewardship for El Nido. He supports the zoning change if it maintains El Nido for future generations.
Dale Barley, representing the San Ramon Historic Foundation, stated that the purpose of the Foundation is to preserve San Ramon’s historic structures and venues. He stressed the need to preserve the House and San Ramon’s history. He acknowledged that it took twelve years to complete the Glass House project. He added that if the City loses the opportunity to preserve the Harlan House is will be lost forever. He believes that the community is engaged in its history. He personally would like to see the House relocated to Forest Home Farms. He noted that the Foundation will work with the City and the Harlan family to preserve the House.
Pat Boom, resident, supports the preservation of the Harlan House. She noted that San Ramon has four historical buildings which are an important part of the City’s legacy. The Harlan House is an important part of the Valley’s history and should be available to the public. She encouraged the City not to lose this opportunity. She expressed confidence that a site could be located.
Seth Adams, Director of Land Programs for Save Mt. Diablo, stated that the environmental review is not complete until the EIR is certified. Presenting the EIR as a Program EIR does not excuse the City from forecasting growth. He stated that the City did not provide justification for expanding either the SOI or the UGB. The reason to expand the UGB is to allow more development. The General Plan EIR is inadequate because it does not provide adequate alternatives analysis or include previous studies of the Tassajara Valley. The EIR does not provide adequate analysis of potentially significant impacts on sensitive resources in the Tassajara Valley resulting from expansion of the SOI and the UGB. The New Farm project is being used as a scare tactic to encourage San Ramon residents to expand the UGB. He noted that the county has not approved any major subdivision outside the county ULL in over a decade. Measure J required cities to adopt an ULL in order to receive return to source funds for local street repairs. He urged the Council to do more analysis in the General Plan process and provide more details for what is proposed on the east side. He requested that his letter of June 1, 2010 be included by reference.
Matt Vander Sluis, representing Greenbelt Alliance, stated the Draft EIR fails to provide enough analysis of the impact of the various alternatives presented in the General Plan and the ramifications of these alternatives. He noted that the GPRC contemplated growth in the Tassajara Valley. These alternatives should consider the impacts on: limited water resources, limited infrastructure dollars, critical habitat, air quality, gas emissions, and vehicle miles traveled and the quality of life. He stated that the best way for San Ramon to preserve its agricultural heritage and history is to retain the existing UGB. He stated that San Ramon has enough potential within its current UGB to meet the Association of Bay Area Government’s (ABAG) regional housing numbers. Modifications to Ordinance 197 should focus the incentives on development which achieves the greenhouse gas emission goals in existing urban areas while protecting rural areas. He suggested establishing a City policy to provide incentives in urban areas which promote stronger energy conservation such as requiring new commercial developments to meet LEED Gold standards. Commissioner Kerger stated that the GPRC did not discuss development in Tassajara Valley only the importance of being involved if development occurred. Planning Chair O’Loane asked if there is any contemplation now of development in the Valley. He noted that the discussion of Ordinance 197 revolves around how areas are developed to protect open space.
Allan Moore, land use attorney with Gagen McCoy, reported that the Harlan Family
Trust owns the El Nido site and the Harlan House. As a point of order, Commissioner Kerger asked when the applicant should speak. Interim City Attorney Peters stated that the applicant has the right to submit evidence in support of his petition during the public hearing portion of the meeting. Mayor Wilson asked Mr. Moore to continue. Mr. Moore summarized three main points from the staff report: the .7 acre site is not appropriate for a park because it does not meet the current City standards for a park; the City is not in a financial position to renovate or rehabilitate the House at its current site; and that a medium density is more consistent with the neighborhood. Mr. Moore requested that the General Plan designation not be deferred. The applicant is willing to accept a medium density designation. The applicant is willing to move the House at their cost as a condition of approval. He noted that reserving the site as ‘Park’ will not be conducive to saving the House. Cm. Perkins asked if the Trust would move the House to another site in the parcel. Mr. Moore noted that there are constraints when considering the oak trees. The historic value of the House is not integrated with the land. The Trust would prefer not to relocate the House on the parcel. Cm. Perkins asked if an arborist has evaluated the condition of the oak trees. Greg Randall, of Randall Planning and Design, stated that two of the three primary trees appear to be in good health.
Nikki Sanger, resident, does not support the rezoning. She prefers low medium or medium density zoning or retaining the Park designation. She noted that parking is a serious problem in that neighborhood.
Mayor Wilson closed the public hearing.
Cm. Perkins stated the City’s support for saving the Harlan House and its heritage but the City needs to locate a suitable site and funds to maintain it. He recommends separating the actions for the General Plan and the El Nido property. He supports proceeding with the El Nido application with a medium or low medium density. He requested that the City work with the developer to meet the traffic needs of the residents entirely within the site so it does not impact the adjacent site.
Cm. Hudson also supported a separate action for the El Nido property versus the General Plan amendment. Although the El Nido property does not fit the criteria for a City park, he proposed giving the Parks Commission a specific timeline, for example till the end of the year, to identify a use for the property in ‘Parks’ or a place to move the House. This would allow time to determine where to move the Harlan House and how to preserve it. He noted that it is important to save the House first and then the land. If the Parks Commission can not accomplish this, then the City should proceed with the rezone.
Vice Mayor Rowley stated that the Harlan House is a huge house on a small property. The El Nido rezoning should
Cm. Livingstone agreed with Cm. Hudson regarding returning the El Nido issue to the Parks Commission to figure out how to keep it as a park. He expressed concern about where to relocate the House. He stated that adequate parking must be provided on the site if housing is allowed on the El Nido property. He noted that the Greystone Project is under parked and creates a problem in the area. He supports whatever density of housing works on the site and suggested a medium density.
Commissioner Wallis questioned the procedure if the EL Nido project is untracked from the General Plan amendment. He asked how to process the application if the applicant wants to continue with the rezone. Ms. Chamberlain stated there are two distinct applications: the General Plan update and the El Nido project. It is possible to proceed with the General Plan process and to continue the El Nido amendment indefinitely depending on whether or not the project is referred to the Parks Commission or to the Planning Commission. The additional review may delay the project several months.
Commissioner Viers noted that pocket parks and tot lots are a headache for the City because of the nature and the size of the real estate. The traffic use is more intense than a residential area. He does not support a tot lot at the El Nido site. He believes that traffic can be decreased in the area by conditioning the project instead of creating a park. He does not support returning the El Nido item to the Parks Commission because of the expense which the applicant will incur waiting many months for a decision. He supports Cm. Hudson’s idea regarding establishing a timeline but requested that it be streamlined. He recommends separating the General Plan amendment from the El Nido amendment.
Commissioner Kerger supports separating the General Plan and El Nido amendments. She stated that the Harlan House should be kept. She asked Mr. Moore what the Trust is doing to keep the House from deteriorating. Mr. Moore stated that the Harlan Trust is a two member private trust with a beneficiary. It is a misnomer to consider it as a trust holding the area for the general public. There are no funds in the Trust to maintain the House. If the Trust pays to move the House off site, he suggested that the City or the Foundation locate funds to maintain the House until funds are available for renovation.
Planning Vice Chair Sachs asked if the Planning Commission would be able to help the discussion in terms of where the House should be relocated. The El Nido project should be separated from the General Plan amendment.
Planning Chair O’Loane recommends separating the General Plan and El Nido amendments. He recommends keeping the El Nido issue within the Planning Commission. He suggested dismantling and storing the House until funds become available for a more permanent solution.
Mayor Wilson stated that the City is sensitive to the time issue and historical value of the Harlan House. He recommended that the Planning Commission work with the Parks Commission. He is concerned about the traffic issue at the El Nido site. He recommends that the General Plan amendment be separated from the El Nido project.
Cm. Perkins noted that following Measure G leaves the City vulnerable for significant legal issues. Since a court decision was not rendered in the previous litigation, he supports retaining all Measure G requirements except the 4/5s vote by the Planning Commission. He recommended requiring a majority vote by the Planning Commission to move a recommendation forward to the City Council.
Interim City Attorney Peters noted that this option still leaves the City with some exposure.
Cm. Livingstone asked if the real issue is that an application must be appealable so that an applicant can appeal the Planning Commission decision to the City Council.
Interim City Attorney Peters stated that only the legislative body has the power to adopt or amend a General Plan and this cannot be delegated to the Planning Commission or amended by the voters.
Commission O’Loane asked if, as a charter city, the voters could vest this power in the Planning Commission.
Interim City Attorney Peters stated that a charter city can govern municipal affairs but not state affairs. The City Council of any city makes all municipal laws. The General Plan is a legislative matter, therefore, only the City Council shall adopt General Plans. A charter city may make its own rules for General Plan amendment procedures but San Ramon’s Measure G empowers the Planning Commission to stop the amendment before it is considered by the City Council. It is illegal for the Planning Commission to stop the City Council from making a legislative decision.
Commissioner Wallis asked if the California General Code makes a distinction for charter cities between General Plan amendment and adopting a General Plan. He suggested that Measure G may not apply in this case if this is a new General Plan. Measure G applies to the General Plan 2020 but the General Plan 2030 is a new General Plan. He requested clarification on whether the City is adopting a new General Plan or amending the existing General Plan. If the 4/5s Planning Commission decision needs to be changed, it must be voted on by the voters.
Commissioner Kerger expressed concern that this issue was not raised when Measure G was proposed.
Commissioner Viers asked for clarification if this is an amendment or a new General Plan. If it is an amendment, then Measure G and the Planning Commission’s 4/5s vote applies. Commissioner Sachs discussed the case law and initiative structure versus charter city structure. He stated that the residents wanted the 4/5s vote so that General Plan amendments were not frivolously pursued. He recommended that any changes to Measure G be on a separate ballot measure separated from the General Plan.
Cm. Hudson requested clarification that a 3:2 vote by the Planning Commission would make an item ineligible for appeal to the City Council.
Planning Chair O’Loane stated that the City is operating under Measure G and that the Commission and Council are functioning as the voters established the law.
Vice Mayor Rowley asked what happens if the voters will not change Measure G.
Interim City Attorney Peters stated that the potential exists for litigation. The issue to be evaluated in applying Measure G is whether this is a General Plan amendment or the adoption of a new General Plan.
Cm. Hudson stated that General Plan Implementation Policy item 4.6-I-4 should state “not to exceed 30 acres” and that the site does not have to be within the county’s ULL. This change will bring the General Plan in conformance with Measure J be changing the 25 acres to 30 acres.
Ms. Chamberlain responded that this information will be added to the Errata.
Planning Chair O’Loane asked about Measure J’s Principles of Agreement. Cm. Hudson explained that the Principles of Agreement for Measure J allow a city to extend the ULL by 30 acres without going to a vote of the people. Because of the timing of the General Pan 2020, San Ramon is the only city in the county which does not have this provision in its General Plan.
Cm. Perkins supports the idea of incentivizing Ordinance 197. He noted that the Air Quality/Greenhouse Gas Element of the General Plan 2030 as new Implementing Policy 12.7-I-9 states “Other sustainable technology that would achieve equivalent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.” He noted that LEED standards apply to other sustainable issues. He recommended adding the wording “or other environmental impact” to this Implementing Policy.
Cm. Hudson noted that the initial statement is consistent with the Climate Action Plan. He believes that the original statement is all inclusive. Mayor Wilson requested that staff clarify this item. Commissioner Wallis asked Cm. Perkins is he wanted Ordinance 197 specifically referred to in the General Plan. Cm. Perkins responded yes.
Planning Chair O’Loane asked if any county projects outside the ULL were approved since the county imposed its ULL. Commissioner Wallis noted that the county moved the ULL in order to get approval to develop Roddy Ranch.
Mr. Addams stated that it has been 10-15 years since the county allowed a major development outside the ULL. He noted that the Roddy Ranch project is in Antioch not the county.
Cm. Hudson noted that Antioch, Pittsburg, Brentwood and San Ramon each have their own ULL. The ULL defines where cities can build and still receive Measure J funds. Inside the ULL, the city defines urban versus rural development.
Cm. Hudson stated that San Ramon can move the SOI and the UGB but the City cannot develop without an agreement and a Specific Plan. The UGB is about planning not developing.
Cm. Perkins stated that the General Plan is neutral and that the Eastside Specific Plan is the instrument used to evaluate development proposals and land use planning. In order to influence what happens in Tassajara Valley, it must be planned by San Ramon. The strongest restrictions to keep the Valley as rural and open space would come from San Ramon control and not from the county.
Planning Chair O’Loane stated that if San Ramon intends to keep the Valley rural, the Valley should be prezoned as part of the SOI.
Ms. Chamberlain stated that the General Plan 2020 mandates a vote on the UGB in 2010. The policy in the General Plan 2030 brings the item up for a review and discussion but does not mandate an amendment. Ms. Chamberlain stated that the county’s ULL will be reviewed in 2011 and voted on in 2016.
Planning Chair O’Loane does not see the need for San Ramon to extend the UGB absent the uncertainty of what the City wants to do in that area. In order to provide complete control of the Valley, the most certain way to accomplish this is to prezone the Valley to conserve its rural state.
Cm. Hudson stated that San Ramon must vote on whether to amend or maintain the UGB in 2010. Cm. Hudson stated that rezoning or prezoning outside the ULL may result in noncompliance with Measure J.
Mayor Wilson asked if it is advantageous to hold another Joint Hearing.
Commissioner Wallis asked the legal ramifications of extending the SOI into the Valley without extending the UGB.
Cm. Hudson stated that moving or requesting to move the SOI does not violate Measure J.
Commissioner Sachs does not see the value in prezoning an area for which the City has no jurisdiction.
Ms. Chamberlain asked for direction to schedule a fourth Joint Public Hearing on June 15, 2010. The Planning Commission will meet on June 29, 2010 to finalize its decision.
Mayor Wilson requested individual votes to decide on another Public Hearing. The decision by the Planning Commission and the City Council was unanimous to hold a fourth Joint Public Hearing.
Mayor Wilson announced that the Fourth Joint Public Hearing before the City Council and Planning Commission will be held on June 15, 2010.
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At 10:23 p.m., there being no further business, Mayor Wilson adjourned the meeting.
H. Abram Wilson, Mayor
Patricia Edwards, City Clerk