Planning Commission Minutes
MINUTES OF THE
June 29, 2010
A special meeting of the Planning Commission for the City of San Ramon was called to order by Chair O’Loane at 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, June 29, 2010 in the Council Chambers 2222 Camino Ramon, San Ramon.
Present: Comms. Kerger, Viers, Wallis, Vice Chair Sachs, and Chair O’Loane
Staff: Phil Wong, Planning Director; Debbie Chamberlain, Planning Services Manager; Lauren Barr, Senior Planner; Roger Peters Interim City Attorney; Lieutenant Gresham; Debbie Hince, Recording Secretary
1. CALL TO ORDER
2. ROLL CALL
3. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
4. PUBLIC COMMENTS OR WRITTEN COMMUNICATION
Jim Gibbon, San Ramon resident, stated that he would like to speak about Item 7.1, which is closed to public hearing.
Chair O’Loane stated that Mr. Gibbon’s comments were not in order. Tonight’s meeting Public Comment is for item not on tonight’s agenda.
Chair O’Loane asked for clarification from Mr. Peters.
Mr. Peters clarified that at special meetings, public comments are allowed on agenda items, not on non-agenda items. Mr. Peters further stated that when items are called the public can comment on the item, but it is not part of the official administrative record for the public hearing.
5. ADDITIONS AND REVISIONS
Debbie Chamberlain, Planning Manager, stated that in order to pass a recommendation to the City Council on the General Plan and Climate Action Plan, the Planning Commission must first act on the Environmental Impact Report and for that reason, item 9.1 would be heard first.
6. CONSENT CALENDAR
7. CONTINUED ITEMS AFTER CLOSING OF PUBLIC HEARING
Chair O’Loane reconvened the meeting at 9:02 p.m. Chair O’Loane asked if the Commission would be taking separate votes. Ms. Chamberlain stated that was correct, as there are two separate resolutions.
Comm. Kerger asked if this also includes the Disaster Mitigation Plan.
Ms. Chamberlain gave a brief overview of the General Plan 2030 Update, stating that this is necessitated by the policies in the Plan and requires voter review of the UGB expansion into the Tassajara Valley, Laborer’s Training Facility and Norris Canyon Estates area and extension of Ordinance 197. In addition, a land use change for the El Nido property and changes to Measure G are noted. Staff has also proposed an extension of Implementing Policies A-H, located in Section 2 of Ordinance 197. Ms. Chamberlain stated that a voter-approved Urban Growth Boundary provides the City with the local control of any future planning activity that may occur in Tassajara Valley. If the GP 2030 is not approved by the voters, the UGB would not be expanded and Ordinance 197 would sunset, and any planning that might occur in Tassajara Valley or remaining areas adjacent to Norris Canyon Estates within the City’s adopted Westside Specific Plan would be under County jurisdiction.
Ms. Chamberlain also stated that the California Emergency Management Agency notified the City of the need to incorporate the City’s adopted Disaster Mitigation Plan into the General Plan 2030. The Disaster Mitigation Plan outlines the priorities for reducing risks for potential disasters. The memo presented provides for minor text and policy changes to pages 9-1 and 9-2 of the Safety Element to satisfy this requirement.
Ms. Chamberlain stated that El Nido is continued indefinitely and the proposed amendment to Measure G has been tabled at this time. Up for discussion and deliberation are the General Plan 2030 and the Climate Action Plan with recommendation from staff for adoption of Resolution 09-10 and 10-10 recommending that the City Council adopt General Plan 2030 and the Climate Action Plan respectively.
Chair O’Loane conferred with Roger Peters if this item is open for public comment. Mr. Peters responded yes.
Chair O’Loane opened the meeting for public comment.
Jim Gibbon, resident of San Ramon, stated that there are alternatives to the General Plan 2030 that have not been sufficiently studied and provided several alternatives. Mr. Gibbon also stated that including the UGB on the ballot with the General Plan 2030 update puts the General Plan in jeopardy. Mr. Gibbon suggested that the City create a Preservation District to preserve the lands in the Tassajara Valley as agricultural if the UGB is included with the General Plan 2030.
Sally Scholl, resident of San Ramon, stated that she would not support expansion of the UGB on the November ballot.
Jim Blickenstaff, representing the Sierra Club Mt. Diablo, stated that Commission should separate the General Plan 2030 and the UGB on the ballot, or if they should go together on the ballot, do not expand east to include Tassajara Valley.
Chair O’Loane closed the public comments and opened the discussion for the Commission to make comments.
Comm. Wallis stated he was on the original General Plan Review Committee (GPRC) from 2000 and 2002 that drafted the City of San Ramon’s General Plan 2020 that is the basis of the General Plan 2030. Comm. Wallis stated that there had been no negative comments about the General Plan itself other than the issue of the UGB. At the time preparing the General Plan in 2000, the biggest discussion of the GPRC was the Planning Area for San Ramon and whether to include the Tassajara Valley as part of the Planning Area. The GPRC commissioners voted to put the entire Tassajara Valley in the City’s planning area, not just the 1,600 acres that is proposed to be included in the UGB now. Comm. Wallis further stated that development within the City and approved by the City has been done with sensitivity toward the environment as well as the economic reality of the situation we live in. An example of the planning done by the City is the Faria Ranch development which has large provisions for open space, clustered development and has housing for low income households.
Comm. Wallis exampled the Dougherty Valley and the discussions with the City and Developers to develop 8,000 to 9,000 homes; however, the passage of Ordinance 197 decreased the number of homes to 4,000 due to the mandates of Ordinance 197. The developers took the plans to the County and received approval for 11,000 homes in the Dougherty Valley.
The Sphere of Influence is not a decision made by the County or by the City but is made by LAFCO, and there is currently a pending application to essentially divide Tassajara Valley into three jurisdictions including Danville to the north, County to the east of Tassajara Road, and San Ramon to the west of Tassajara Road. San Ramon would control 1,600 acres on the east side of Tassajara Road. Comm. Wallis explained the definition of Sphere of Influence as the plan for the probable physical boundaries and service area of a local agency. The UGB extension does not just relate to the Tassajara Valley and includes two other areas where the UGB is proposed to be extended – Norris Canyon Estates and the Laborer’s Training Facility. The General Plan as adopted in 2002 called for a vote of the UGB or an amendment thereof be done in 2010.
Comm. Wallis explained that the Urban Growth Boundary is consistent with the planning policy decision made in 2000 when the GPRC drafted the General Plan but it gives the City certain rights in terms of planning for that area. Extension of the UGB does not create development in and of itself in the Tassajara Valley. Before any development could occur in the Tassajara Valley there has to be a Specific Plan created for the area. Comm. Wallis stated that he supports the General Plan 2030 and feels that it is best for the City of San Ramon and its neighbors.
Vice Chair Sachs stated that the Commission has been meeting on the General Plan since February of 2009. The Climate Action Plan is an important part of the General Plan in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions. Vice Chair Sachs stated that if the City does not have control over the Tassajara Valley then the County would control development. The cost for services such as Police, transportation, and park services will be passed on to the citizens of San Ramon. Vice Chair Sachs stated that he supports the General Plan 2030.
Comm. Kerger stated the she also was a member of the General Plan Review Commission. Comm. Kerger stated that she is in support of the General Plan and the Climate Action Plan as well as the Disaster Mitigation Plan that will be included in the Safety Element of the General Plan 2030.
Comm. Viers stated that he also was a member of the General Plan Review Commission and was the Chair of the Housing Advisory Committee. The General Plan created at that time was voted on by the citizens of San Ramon and included the Tassajara Valley planning area. Comm. Viers explained that the law mandates to include the UGB on the ballot in November 2010. Comm. Viers explained if the citizens’ vote down the GP 2030, the General Plan could be revised by deleting any references to the UGB expansion.
Chair O’Loane stated that potential movement on the El Nido property and the Harlan House is important. The Climate Action Plan is a good start to the process. Chair O’Loane stated that the City should focus on what needs to be dealt with now such as revising Ordinance 197. Expanding the UGB in the Westside make sense right now since it is within the City’s boundaries but expanding the UGB into the Tassajara Valley is not needed right now. Chair O’Loane stated that the main problem with the Dougherty Valley is the over concentration of affordable housing. Chair O’Loane stated he supports the Urban Growth Boundary remaining at the ridgeline on the east side and supports the inclusion of Norris Canyon Estates and the Laborer’s Training Facility within the City limits. The two items, General Plan 2030 and the UGB should be separate ballot measures in November 2010.
Vice Chair Sachs asked what the pros and cons would be if the two items were separated on the ballot, General Plan 2030 and the Urban Growth Boundary.
Mr. Wong stated that the premise all along has been to create a holistic document. The current General Plan 2020 that the City is operating under includes the establishment of an Urban Growth Boundary with policies and includes Ordinance 197 implementing policies. The General Plan 2030 does the same thing, is a holistic document, and is internally consistent. Mr. Wong explained that the General Plan is a long-term vision and that Ordinance 197 would only be effective on lands that the City controls.
Chair O’Loane asked if the only reason to have Ordinance 197 is to expand boundaries to the east. Mr. Wong explained that Ordinance 197 would apply to the Tassajara Valley.
Chair O’Loane asked if Ordinance 197 would apply to the Laborer’s Camp.
Ms. Chamberlain explained that the Laborer’s Camp is built out and that the UGB expansion would include the Laborer’s Training Facility.
Chair O’Loane stated that New Farm is an active proposal with the County but they will not have to follow the City’s rules and regulations because they would be grandfathered in.
Mr. Wong clarified that Ordinance 197 would not apply to New Farm because it is an active proposal in the County and that any new applications would fall under County rules. Land use applications submitted to the City with have to follow City standards.
Mr. Peters explained that New Farm is outside of the City’s jurisdiction and the County would be processing the project.
Comm. Kerger asked Chair O’Loane what he was proposing to the Commission. Chair O’Loane stated that he would like the Urban Growth Boundary to stay in its existing place on the east side, and have the Urban Growth Boundary expanded on the west side.
Comm. Wallis stated that the Tassajara Valley’s close proximity to San Ramon caused the GPRC to include it in the planning area. The New Farm development is an example of why the Urban Growth Boundary should be extended. If the UGB is passed and a new development comes in for Tassajara Valley, in all probability the County will defer to the City in terms of the planning process. Comm. Wallis stated Dougherty Valley is a good example of the County process as there are no retail stores or services with the exception of the Safeway that was built two years ago and that no other services are planned for a couple of years. Comm. Wallis said that Dougherty Valley is an example of what can happen when you do not have local control in a 20-year period, which is what the General Plan calls for.
Comm. Kerger stated that there are no churches, no facilities for special districts.
Comm. Wallis stated that the Urban Growth Boundary is a planning tool and not a guarantee for development. It gives the City the right to plan for that area. The plan for that area is then up to the City with all the policies that are set forth in the General Plan, including open space, preservation of views, and implementation of Ordinance 197.
Chair O’Loane stated that he sees movement of the Urban Growth Boundary as making development much more likely.
Vice Chair Sachs asked for clarification on the New Farm project and does the application fall within the proposed annexed territory.
Mr. Wong explained that the southern portion of the New Farm proposal is within the proposed UGB.
Vice Chair Sachs asked if the voters were to accept the Council and Commission’s recommendation to extend the Urban Growth Boundary, would the County have the jurisdiction over the New Farm Project.
Mr. Wong explained that the only way the City would have ultimate control is if the lands were annexed into the City.
Vice Chair Sachs requested clarification on if the land was annexed into the City limits and New Farm still had their application pending who would have the final say of the planning of the project.
Ms. Chamberlain stated that if the City annexed the area within our Urban Growth Boundary and New Farm was being processed by Contra Costa County, the County would have to defer to the City of San Ramon.
Vice Chair Sachs asked if the voters approved the UGB expansion, what is the process for annexation.
Ms. Chamberlain stated that the City currently has a pending application with LAFCO to adjust the City’s Sphere of Influence and once this is completed, the City would have to do pre-zoning of Tassajara Valley. Once the pre-zoning is complete, then the City could proceed with the annexation.
Vice Chair Sachs asked for a hypothetical timeline of events of what when the process would occur, assuming the UGB expansion passes the November ballot.
Ms. Chamberlain stated that it would be hard to predict.
Chair O’Loane stated that it was not necessary to extend the UGB at this time just to fit with what the growth patterns and growth expectations of San Ramon.
Comm. Wallis stated that the General Plan 2030 goes out 20 years and this plan looks at what would be feasible in the next 20 years.
Chair O’Loane stated that based on the existing General Plan there is no growth proposed in the Tassajara Valley.
Comm. Wallis explained that the forecasts are based upon the build-out of the City, Tassajara Valley is not in the City limits and has not been planned, and therefore we have not projected the population growth out there.
Comm. Viers stated that his issue has always been that the UGB be put in front of the voters and let the voters decide.
Chair O’Loane explained that the City is required to put the UGB and Ordinance 197 up for a vote of the citizens.
Vice Chair Sachs asked if the General Plan could be separated from the UGB and have separate ballot language.
Mr. Wong explained that the proposed General Plan 2030 would need to be revised as there are references of the UGB throughout the document.
Ms. Chamberlain explained that based on the deadline to place the General Plan on the November ballot, the two items could not be separated out.
Mr. Rogers stated that legally the items could be separated out; however, the issue at this time is internal consistency and meeting the deadline for meeting the November ballot.
Comm. Viers reminded everyone that it is the citizens that are voting, not the Commission. If the General Plan 2030 were voted down then staff would have to revise the General Plan and delete references of the Tassajara Valley.
Chair O’Loane stated that he did not understand why you would not have to have another vote of the public.
Ms. Chamberlain stated that the only two votes are required by the General Plan 2020, Ordinance 197 and the Urban Growth Boundary. The reason why the General Plan is up for a vote is that the UGB is an integral part the plan and the Ridgeline Creek Protection Zone map and Ordinance 197 does not include the Tassajara Valley. Figure 8-3 of the General Plan has been amended to identify the major and minor ridgelines and creek corridors in Tassajara Valley, which supersedes the RCPZ Map of Ordinance 197.
Chair O’Loane asked if the Urban Growth Boundary vote needs to be done.
Ms. Chamberlain stated yes and Ordinance 197. There are properties on the west side that have not been developed and potentially would be subject to Ordinance 197.
Comm. Viers asked if the Creekside Memorial Cemetery has filed an application with the County. Ms. Chamberlain stated that they filed in 2007.
Comm. Wallis stated that there is an assumption that the New Farm and cemetery projects will continue to go through the County until they are completely processed. If the UGB extends into the Tassajara Valley, then the City will have control over the developments.
Chair O’Loane stated that it is less likely that there would be development in the Tassajara Valley if the UGB was not expanded.
Chair O’Loane again stated that expansion of the UGB does not need to happen now.
Ms. Chamberlain asked that the Chair provide a motion to extend the meeting another half-hour.
Comm. Kerger motioned and Vice Chair Sachs seconded to extend the meeting to 11:30 p.m.
It was moved by Vice Chair Sachs and seconded by Comm. Wallis that the Planning Commission adopts Resolution 09-10 recommending the City Council adopt the General Plan 2030.
Comm. Kerger requested to modify the motion to include the Errata to the Safety Element incorporating the City’s Disaster Mitigation Plan.
Vice Chair Sachs concurred.
Ms. Chamberlain said yes.
AYES: Vice Chair Sachs, Comms. Wallis, Kerger and Viers
It was moved by Vice Chair Sachs and seconded by Comm. Wallis that the Planning Commission adopts Resolution 10-10 recommending the City Council adopt the Climate Action Plan.
Ms. Chamberlain said yes.
AYES: Vice Chair Sachs, Comms. Wallis, Kerger, Viers and Chair O’Loane
Motion carries 5-0.
8. CONTINUED ITEMS – OPEN PUBLIC HEARING -None-
9. PUBLIC HEARING – NEW ITEMS
Lauren Barr, Senior Planner stated that over the past six months staff has been working on the General Plan 2030 update that also includes the Climate Action Plan (CAP). Mr. Barr stated that the City released a Draft EIR for the 45-day review period in April of 2010, and held a public hearing to receive public testimony on the adequacy of the DEIR in May of 2010. Tonight’s meeting is to address the Response to Comments document and the Final EIR. Mr. Barr introduced Grant Gruber with Michael Brandman Associates.
Grant Gruber, Michael Brandman Associates. Mr. Gruber presented a PowerPoint presentation on the process of the FEIR as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Mr. Gruber stated that the EIR looked at four General Plan alternatives and evaluated the cumulative effects of the General Plan as well as addressing other CEQA considerations such as energy conservation and growth inducement. The EIR concluded that with the exception of three significant, unavoidable impacts, all other impacts would be mitigated through the implementation of the policies set forth in the General Plan 2030 at a less-than-significant level.
Mr. Gruber stated that the three significant, unavoidable impacts relate to the same issue of the population projections in the General Plan exceeding those contemplated by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). The General Plan 2030 projections exceeded those of ABAG’s and consequently these impacts would be significant and unavoidable. Mr. Gruber stated that there was no way to reconcile the inconsistencies between the two documents.
Mr. Gruber stated that the Final EIR consists of the Draft EIR, Responses to Comments on the Draft EIR, revisions to the Draft EIR known as the Errata, Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program, Findings of Fact and the Statement of Overriding Consideration. The Findings of Fact and the Statement of Overriding Considerations are the legal documents that are necessary to state that the social, technological and economic benefits of the General Plan outweigh the potential environmental impacts of the plan.
Mr. Gruber then provided an overview of the Response to Comments process stating that the CEQA guidelines require that Final EIRs evaluate and respond to comments on environmental issues addressed in the Draft EIR and when comments dispute the Draft EIR’s conclusions, the lead agency must provide explanations as to why those conclusions are valid. The responses must provide good faith, reasoned analysis. Mr. Gruber stated that the City received 11 written from agencies, private organizations or individuals and two oral comments were made at the May 4, 2010 Planning Commission meeting. Mr. Gruber also noted that the two speakers also submitted written comments.
Mr. Gruber stated that the most common comment was about the Tassajara Valley. Mr. Gruber explained that MBA prepared a master response outlining the fact that the General Plan is merely proposing to adjust the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) and the Sphere of Influence (SOI), and that the General Plan does not re-designate any land to urban use in the Tassajara Valley but is maintaining it as open space. Furthermore, any land use activities in the Tassajara Valley would be guided by the Eastside Specific Plan which has not been prepared as of yet. The document also prepared individual responses for unique and non-recurring comments.
Mr. Gruber concluded his presentation by stating that the EIR evaluated the environmental effects of the General Plan 2030, and detailed and disclosed significant impacts. The EIR concluded that the policies contained within the General Plan would fully mitigate most significant environmental effects and that the City of San Ramon is obligated to adhere to the policies contained within the General Plan assuming that the Plan is adopted. To this end, any future development proposals that come before the City after the General Plan is adopted would be subject to those policies, and therefore the City of San Ramon has satisfied all requirements of CEQA.
Comm. Kerger asked Mr. Gruber if discrepancies between a City’s projections and ABAG projections have occurred previously and if this is a common ongoing problem.
Mr. Gruber stated that this has been a longstanding difference between ABAG’s projections and San Ramon’s projections that date back to General Plan 2020.
Chair O’Loane asked for clarification from Counsel as to the items that are open for public comment.
Roger Peters stated that the public is allowed to comment on any item on the agenda.
Chair O’Loane opened the public comment.
D. Burt, resident of Tassajara Valley, stated that she is surprised at the EIR and she did not know that the document was available. Ms. Burt is concerned about the depletion of ground water, traffic, erosion and increased noise. Ms. Burt felt that the EIR was not adequate for future planning if the City expands its boundaries to include the Tassajara Valley. Ms. Burt stated that the City of San Ramon has provided $3 million and approved the new 5-story fire training facility in Tassajara Valley.
Comm. Viers stated that San Ramon did not approve the fire facility but that the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District had approved the facility.
Comm. Kerger stated that this was correct.
Ms. Burt asked who voted on the fire training facility.
Comm. Kerger stated that the SRVFPD’s Board of Directors voted on this project.
Jim Blickenstaff, San Ramon for Open Government (SROG), stated that the FEIR responses maintain the status quo in terms of the Draft EIR. Mr. Blickenstaff stated that SROG brought up issues in the letter that they felt need to be addressed in the Final EIR. Mr. Blickenstaff stated the Final EIR is not sufficient and that it has not changed in any fundamental way from the Draft EIR in contemplating and resolving issues.
Doug Burr, San Ramon resident, felt the assumptions of the EIR were highly inaccurate, specifically in the area of development and the impacts that future development will have on the Tassajara Valley. Mr. Burr stated that the New Farm development has submitted its proposal to the County, and if this project continues forward, there will be major impacts to the Tassajara Valley.
Jim Gibbon, San Ramon resident, wanted to address the adequacy of the EIR and the Statement of Overriding Consideration. Mr. Gibbon felt that it was not economically feasible to expand the UGB into the Tassajara Valley in light of the Climate Action Plan. Mr. Gibbon felt that it was not in the best interest of the City to move into the Tassajara Valley.
Roz Rogoff, San Ramon resident, asked if items were left out of or changed in the GP 2030 would the City also have to make the same changes in the EIR when approved. She also asked does the UGB need to be expanded. Ms. Rogoff felt that expanding into the Tassajara Valley should be put off for another five years.
Chair O’Loane stated that her questions would be answered later in the discussion.
Troy Bristol, Land Conservation Associate for Save Mount Diablo, stated that the primary concerns with the General Plan Amendment are the proposal to expand the SOI and the UGB into the Tassajara Valley. Mr. Bristol stated that he felt the DEIR and the FEIR does not adequately analyze the potential impacts of the UGB into the Tassajara Valley and the only reason to expand the UGB is to allow development of additional land. Mr. Bristol stated that his analysis concludes that expansion of the UGB into the Tassajara Valley would lead to the construction of as many as 2,300 or 4,300 new residential units and these numbers are based on the proposed 1998 Tassajara project and compared densities in neighboring Dougherty Valley. Mr. Bristol state that Save Mount Diablo feels that City’s SOI and UGB should be maintained in their current position and that Tassajara Valley should be protected for open space, wildlife and agriculture.
Matt Vander Sluis, Sr. Field Representative for Greenbelt Alliance stated that he encourages the commission to reject the EIR as written and not to expand the SOI and the UGB into the Tassajara Valley. Mr. Vander Sluis felt that the FEIR remains inadequate for the purposes of CEQA. Mr. Vander Sluis stated that many of the public service providers have commented on the DEIR and have stated that the EIR as drafted needs to be revised. Mr. Vander Sluis adds that the EIR fails to address the fundamental issue that expanding the UGB is an action that has environmental repercussions and that the City needs to address these.
Lori Wolfe, resident of Tassajara Valley, was concerned about the lack of noticing of the meetings to the residents of Tassajara Valley. Ms. Wolfe stated that she lives one mile in and received her meeting notice in the mail but a neighbor who lives one mile further down Johnston Road did not receive a notice.
Comm. Viers asked what Ms. Wolfe meant by a “mile in.” Ms. Wolfe replied that she lives on Johnston Road and her neighbor Nancy Fey lives one mile past her on Johnston Road and did not receive a meeting notice.
Harriet and Bill Newman, residents of Tassajara Valley, stated she was concerned about development in the Tassajara Valley, especially the New Farm and Creekside Memorial Cemetery projects. Mrs. Newman stated that the plans for the cemetery sound like it would be compatible with agriculture and open space; however, the cemetery proposes to grade the ridgelines to build mausoleums and collunariums. Mrs. Newman noted her other concern of the use of water for the landscaping throughout the cemetery.
Comm. Kerger asked Mrs. Newman how she heard about the New Farm and the Creekside Cemetery projects. Mrs. Newman responded from the County, the newspaper, and Internet. Mrs. Newman stated that she calls the County every week or so to get out information on the projects.
Chair O’Loane asked that Mr. Newman approach the podium and speak.
Mr. Newman stated that they received notification of this meeting in the mail. Mr. Newman stated that he called the City to get more information on the General Plan and that the thought this had to do with development activity on the west side of San Ramon.
John Taylor, resident of San Ramon, stated that he does not agree with the movement of the Urban Limit Line. Mr. Taylor asked the Commission what was motivating the need to increase the size of the City and suggested that they take more time to consider the resident’s opinion. Mr. Taylor asked the Commission if they were going to approve the General Plan 2030. Mr. Taylor questioned the notification to the citizens of San Ramon and stated that most of the people in the City are unaware of the GP 2030.
Chair O’Loane stated that the Commission is going to vote on the GP 2030 tonight.
Chair O’Loane also stated that Mr. Taylor and his wife submitted an email for the record.
Chair O’Loane asked the audience if there was anyone else wishing to speak on the Environmental Impact Report.
Chair O’Loane closed the public hearing.
Mr. Barr added that staff had received late correspondence from CalTrans and the letter has been presented to the Commission.
Chair O’Loane asked if the letter should be read into the record.
Debbie Chamberlain stated that the letter did not need to be read into the record, that receiving is sufficient.
Ms. Chamberlain asked that Grant Gruber respond to the comments received tonight by the speakers.
Chair O’Loane asked Mr. Gruber to specifically answer the questions regarding the Statement of Overriding Considerations posed by Mr. Gibbon; Ms. Rogoff’s question about EIR approval and if the Commissioners would like changes to the General Plan Amendment and how does that impact approving the EIR.
Chair O’Loane asked Comm. Viers if he had any other questions that needed to be answered. Comm. Viers stated that Mr. Taylor asked why the city was amending the General Plan.
Comm. Kerger stated that the notification is a big issue especially to the residents of the Tassajara Valley.
Comm. Viers stated that this was the fifth meeting on the General Plan 2030.
Grant Gruber explained when an EIR identifies one or more significant environmental impacts, a Statement of Overriding Considerations must be prepared that essentially reconciles the economic, social and technological benefits of the proposed activity with the significant unavoidable impacts. Mr. Gruber further explained that the economic benefits outweigh or the social benefits outweigh the fact that people might be sitting in traffic longer or there might be additional air emissions, or that there may be more population growth. Mr. Gruber stated that it is a general statement for the record indicating the City understands that significant impacts will occur but is a consequence of the benefit. The Statement of Overriding Consideration is required by CEQA and if the General Plan 2030 is to be adopted, the Statement of Overriding Considerations must be adopted.
Chair O’Loane asked that if there is no anticipated development in the Tassajara Valley that you would need to make the Statement of Overriding Considerations regardless of where the UGB is located.
Mr. Gruber stated that is correct and that none of the significant unavoidable impacts identified in the EIR are tied to the UGB adjustment in the Tassajara Valley. The issues dealing with the inconsistencies with the City’s build-out projections and ABAG’s projections are all about growth that occur within existing urbanized parts of San Ramon, that are currently within the UGB. In other words, the UGB adjustments do not have any implications on the significant unavoidable impacts.
Vice Chair Sachs asked for clarification on that point, as this has been a major point of contention with residents. Vice Chair Sachs reminded everyone that if the Commission passes the GP 2030 on to the City Council and the City Council votes on it, all they are doing is voting to take this to the San Ramon voters in November 2010. A part of the GP 2030 is extending the UGB into the Tassajara Valley and that any action tonight is not extending the UGB.
Vice Chair Sachs stated that a major reason for the Commission to take into consideration for not extending the UGB is that it will be growth inducing. Vice Chair Sachs stated that the mere fact of extending the UGB does not mean that there is going to be growth.
Mr. Gruber stated that expanding Urban Growth Boundaries does not induce growth.
Comm. Wallis stated that there currently is no development planned in the Tassajara Valley.
Comm. Kerger stated that part of the confusion is New Farm proposal pending before the County. Comm. Kerger stated that this EIR is for the benefit of City of San Ramon and not the County.
Mr. Gruber clarified that there is nothing in the General Plan 2030 that would allow development of New Farm.
Chair O’Loane asked if there was anything that would stop these proposals.
Mr. Gruber stated no because it is under the control of the County.
Chair O’Loane stated that he would like to go through the public’s questions.
Mr. Gruber stated that the Urban Growth Boundary and the Sphere of Influence do not confer any development rights and that the City does not have the land use authority to approve anything in the Tassajara Valley. Mr. Gruber further stated that even if the UGB and SOI were to be adjusted outward to encompass a portion of the Tassajara Valley, those properties are still under the jurisdiction of the County. The General Plan 2030 maintains the existing Open Space designation for this area and does not assume a higher level of development than what currently exists in Tassajara Valley. The Eastside Specific Plan process will address the future of the Tassajara Valley and this process has not been initiated as of yet.
Comm. Kerger asked about the notification process.
Mr. Barr stated staff prepared a mailing list for this project that included both sides of Tassajara Road. Mr. Barr further stated that there are difficulties with the mailing addresses but these are corrected as they are returned to the City. In addition, every hearing has had a public mailing in addition to newspaper ads in the Times. In addition, to the mailing list for Tassajara, we included the mailing list for North Camino Ramon Specific Plan as well as the El Nido proposal.
Comm. Kerger stated that Mr. Barr’s explanation of the noticing satisfied her question and suggested that the residents call the City and asked to be put on the mailing list.
Mr. Barr further stated that anyone who has spoken at one of the meetings is added to the mailing list as well.
Mr. Gruber stated that the one remaining question was “Why are we doing this now?” Mr. Gruber explained that there is a policy in General Plan 2020 that calls for voter review of the Urban Growth Boundary in the year 2010. The City has elected to do the UGB review as part of the General Plan update. Under State law, jurisdictions are required to regularly update their general plans. The City of San Ramon has received a formal letter from the Office of Planning and Research advising them that the General Plan needs updating. Therefore, the City is doing its legally mandated update of the General Plan and concurrently also reviewing the Urban Growth Boundary.
Chair O’Loane stated that Ms. Rogoff’s other question was that if the City could a review of the Urban Growth Boundary and Ordinance 197 now and proceed with the General Plan update in two years.
Ms. Chamberlain explained that the City is required to regularly update the General Plan and that the City’s current General Plan 2020 is one document that includes the Urban Growth Boundary and a mandate to review Ordinance 197. To separate them out would be bifurcating the process and could cause the General Plan to be internally inconsistent. Ms. Chamberlain stated that the GP 2030 is one package and needs to go together.
Chair O’Loane asked if there was another vote in 2015. Ms. Chamberlain said that there is an opportunity for a vote in 2015 at the direction of the City Council, if it is needed to address regional housing needs.
Chair O’Loane asked when the County vote was. Ms. Chamberlain stated that the County Urban Limit Line is up for review by the Board of Supervisors in 2011, which at that point the County could consider adjustments to the countywide Urban Limit Line, not just in Tassajara Valley, but East County and West County.
Chair O’Loane asked if expansion of the UGB would be subject to a vote. Ms. Chamberlain stated that was correct.
Ms. Chamberlain further explained that in 2016 there is a mandated voter review of the County Urban Limit Line.
Chair O’Loane asked if there were further questions or other comments from the Commissioners.
Comm. Kerger stated that the most frustrating thing for the Commissioners is when the public has issues that we have no control over. Comm. Kerger stated the City is taking the General Plan to the next level and believes that taking control of what could happen in the coming years is exactly what the General Plan 2030 is trying to do. The City is trying to make accommodations for the residents of Tassajara Valley. Comm. Kerger states that the Commission has addressed as many issues as possible and that San Ramon is very forward thinking. Comm. Kerger stated that she is very much in favor of what the City is doing and that the City has no control over what other jurisdictions are doing.
Vice Chair Sachs stated that the EIR has addressed what the impacts of extending the Urban Growth Boundary will be. Vice Chair Sachs stated that the basis for his decision-making has been the issue of local control over any proposed development. Vice Chair Sachs explained that the City provides a great level of service and that San Ramon is a very desirable place to live. If the City does not move its UGB than the County could develop this land and expect the City of San Ramon to provide services without any monetary contribution from the County. Vice Chair Sachs stated that there is a financial liability by not proposing to the residents the extension of the UGB so that the City can have control over the planning process. If the City does nothing and the County goes ahead with plans the City will have to assume the level of services. Vice Chair Sachs stated the services in Dougherty Valley such as the theatre, schools, parks, and college satellite are provided with City funds, developer contributions, and school district funds. Vice Chair Sachs stated the best interest of the City is letting the residents vote on the General Plan 2030. Vice Chair Sachs further stated that the Environmental Impact Report is complete and accurate, especially on the growth inducement issue. Vice Chair Sachs stated that he fully intends to support the EIR.
Comm. Wallis stated that the issue with Tassajara Valley is two components – one relates to the adequacy of the EIR and the second one relates to the wisdom of moving the UGB and the Sphere of Influence out to Tassajara Valley. Comm. Wallis stated that the EIR has not really been commented on in the last four meetings except for the issue of Tassajara Valley and expansion of the UGB and SOI. The issue that has been raised is that does the EIR adequately address the subject of development in the Tassajara Valley. The Commission does not have the power to change the UGB nor does the City Council. The voters make the decision on the UGB. If the assumption is that the voters pass the General Plan 2030 as currently proposed, extending the UGB to the Tassajara Valley, nothing will happen in Tassajara Valley. The extension of the UGB will not change any of the zoning, does not give any landowner the right to do anything with their property that they currently have the right to do now. It does not allow for any development in the Tassajara Valley that would not have existed prior to the vote. Moving the UGB does not create any growth in that area and therefore does not have any significant environmental effects. The General Plan and EIR is a program-level decision. Comm. Wallis explained that the General Plan 2020 provides that before anything happens in the Tassajara Valley, there has to be a Specific Plan adopted and would include input from all the landowners in the affected area. This plan would also require the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report. The concerns of the residents of Tassajara Valley are legitimate and have the merit to be considered fully when the Specific Plan is in the process of preparation. Comm. Wallis stated that any environmental impacts would be resolved through the planning process, either at the Specific Plan stage or if a landowner wished to propose a development, which needs to go through the planning process. One of the reasons that the City is proposing moving the UGB is to allow the citizens of San Ramon to have a say in what occurs in Tassajara Valley. Comm. Wallis stated that he is in favor of the Draft EIR and believes that it adequately addresses under the law, all of the significant environmental impacts and as such would vote to recommend its approval to the City Council.
Comm. Viers explained that the EIR has identified significant impacts, mitigation measures, and Overriding Considerations were written specifically for what is being done within the current City boundaries, and built-out of Dougherty Valley.
Comm. Viers stated that the State of California certified the City’s Housing Element and that this element is being held up as a model for other cities. Comm. Viers stated that the EIR has to look at future growth in not only housing but also commercial, retail and office. Comm. Viers stated that he is in favor of voting to approve the EIR.
Chair O’Loane stated that the EIR as currently written makes legal sense. Chair O’Loane felt that the City had created its own urgency by preparing the General Plan two years early. Chair O’Loane asked if there had ever been a specific plan developed by San Ramon, which the General Plan previously showed that area designated as Open Space and was redesignated.
Phil Wong, Planning Director, explained that after incorporation the first General Plan designated certain areas for future Specific Plans, for example the Westside Specific Plan and Dougherty Valley included Open Space areas.
Comm. Wallis stated that Dougherty Valley was Open Space before it was developed after creation of the General Plan in 1986. Dougherty Valley would be an example of an area that was previously Open Space when the General Plan was developed and the area was developed pursuant to a plan and then developed through the County rather than the City of San Ramon.
Chair O’Loane stated that when Dougherty Valley was developed the Urban Limit Line did not exist.
It was moved by Comm. Kerger and seconded by Comm. Viers that the Planning Commission adopts Resolution 08-10 recommending the City Council certify the Final Environmental Impact Report based on the required findings set forth by CEQA to be contained therein.
Chair O’Loane asked if this required a roll call vote.
Ms. Chamberlain said yes.
AYES: Comms. Kerger, Viers, Wallis, Sachs, and Chair O’Loane
10. NON-PUBLIC HEARING ACTION ITEMS
Ms. Chamberlain stated that the City is only budgeted for three commissioners and one staff member to attend the League of Cities conference this year due to budget cuts. There had been discussion amongst some of the commissioners about deferring the stipend or reducing the stipend to help support sending additional commissioners to the conference.
Comm. Viers stated that he would be fine attending every other year.
Chair O’Loane stated that he would pay his own way if he wanted to attend.
Ms. Chamberlain also reminded the commissioners that the next regular Planning Commission meeting is Tuesday, July 6.
11. STUDY SESSION/COMMISSIONER LIAISON REPORT AND INTEREST ITEMS/STAFF REPORTS.
Respectively Submitted, Debbie Hince