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January 17, 2012

A regular meeting of the Planning Commission for the City of San Ramon was called to order by Chair Kerger at 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, January 17, 2012 in the Council Chambers 2222 Camino Ramon, San Ramon.


Present: Commissioners, Benedetti, Sachs, Wallis, Vice Chair Viers, Chair Kerger

Absent: None             

Staff: Phil Wong, Planning Director; Debbie Chamberlain; Division Manager; Ryan Driscoll; Assistant Planner; Cindy Yee; Associate Planner; Alicia Poon, Deputy City Attorney; Luisa Amerigo, Recording Secretary.

Audience:    15

 1.        CALL TO ORDER                    

 2.        ROLL CALL

 3.        PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE           

Kenneth Sala spoke on a possible Code Violation of a Utility Facility.


6.1 Minutes from the November 15, 2011 meeting. Approved with modifications.



9.         PUBLIC HEARING – NEW ITEMS- None- 

10.  NON-PUBLIC HEARING ACTION ITEMS - None-                                         


11.1 2012 Zoning Ordinance Update Study Session:  Housing Element Implementation. By Associate Planner, Cindy M. Yee.

Cindy Yee, Associate Planner provided a PowerPoint presentation and stated that the 1989 Zoning Ordinance was comprehensively updated in 2006. The last Zoning Ordinance update was in December of 2008 for minor text changes and clarification.  The City’s Housing Element (HE) was certified in April 2010.  The Housing Element triggered the need for the Zoning Ordinance amendment. The Zoning Ordinance update was postponed until the adoption of the General Plan 2030 (GP 2030) in April 2011. Ms. Yee further stated that the goal of the 2011-2012 Zoning Ordinance update is to implement the housing programs identified in San Ramon’s Housing Element, incorporate text changes due to adoption of the General Plan 2030, and to clarify ambiguity in Zoning Ordinance text.  Ms. Yee provided brief definitions on key housing terms and an overview of the Housing Elements programs as well as changes to the Zoning Ordinance per the Housing Element Policy.  

Vice Chair Viers asked for clarification on Homeless Shelters. Ms. Yee replied that State Assembly Bill 2 requires that a City identify a zone that allows a Homeless Shelter as a by-right use without any further discretionary review from a City. It does not require a city to provide a Homeless Shelter or require a Homeless Shelter to be established in a city. The Senate Bill is meant to eliminate governmental constraints to establishing a Homeless Shelter in a jurisdiction, it does not require one be provided. In an event that there is an operator looking to operate in the City, we would then require that the Homeless Shelter meet specific standards of operation.

Jim Gibbon – San Ramon Mr. Gibbon stated that the Planning Commission should direct staff to study the General Plan and the effect that it had on the Housing Element and ABAG’s housing numbers and  how the City is going to meet its affordable housing obligations. Mr. Gibbon further stated that the St. James project located on Alcosta Boulevard and Norris Canyon Road provided the opportunity for the City to require the developer to provide 20% low/moderate income housing, but the City did not require the developer to do so.

Mr. Gibbon added that he would like the Planning Commission to ask staff to project how the General Plan 2030 meets the ABAG housing numbers without adding more housing. Mr. Gibbon also added that we need to start looking at the General Plan and if we don’t he would put an initiative on the ballot to invalidate the General Plan and prepare a new one with lower numbers. Mr. Gibbon feels that the City is forced to provide additional housing because ABAG used our General Plan 2030 to determine our housing allocation.

Chair Kerger clarified that Mr. Gibbon would like staff to look into the ABAG numbers and compare it to our housing numbers in the General Plan. Mr. Gibbon replied that we need to figure out a way of getting out of this situation.  Chair Kerger added that the State projects the population numbers and housing needs and it is very difficult for staff to appeal their allocation.  

Commissioner Sachs stated that you cannot demand a developer to meet certain numbers. Commissioner Sachs added that the Faria project provided 25%  as affordable to all very low, low moderate income levels.

Mr. Gibbon asked Commissioner Sachs for clarification on ABAG’s mandate for San Ramon. Commissioner Sachs replied that ABAG is a separate issue.  Mr. Gibbon asked why if one jurisdiction can tell another jurisdiction what to do why can’t the City do this to a developer.

Commissioner Sachs stated that the Housing Element is a 5-year cycle. In last Housing Element we had to identify 3600 sites of varying income levels. Mr. Gibbon added that the City is not acting on it. Commissioner Sachs further stated that the State law requires a City to identify the sites and ensure if they are zoned properly for residential use.

Mr. Gibbon stated that we need to look at the General Plan differently and we are never going to get to the housing numbers we projected.

Vice Chair Viers stated that the Housing Element was certified by the State of California and if you do not follow what the State mandates there are lawsuits.

Chair Kerger stated we need to abide by the letter of law and if we do not abide the law, we face lawsuits.

Commissioner Wallis asked when the next Housing Element is updated. Division Manager Debbie Chamberlain replied that the allocations of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation are under way with ABAG. ABAG will  finalize the numbers in September or October of this year.  There is a period where the City can appeal our draft allocation and we can anticipate that the next Housing Element will be updated in 2013.

11.2 2012 Zoning Ordinance Update Study Session: Division D5, Chapter 1 Hillside, Creek, and Ridgeline Areas. By Assistant Planner, Ryan Driscoll.

Ryan Driscoll, Assistant Planner gave a brief PowerPoint Presentation and provided background and timeline information.  Mr. Driscoll stated that one of the polices in the General Plan 2030 provided the Zoning Text Amendment to develop and adopt regulations for the protection and preservation of hillsides, creeks, and ridgelines. Mr. Driscoll clarified the modified Development Standards for  Ridgeline Setbacks and Creek Setbacks.

Commissioner Benedetti asked for clarification on the height limitation and what the extra 15% height increase would provide a property owner. Mr. Driscoll replied that the height measurement in areas applicable to the proposed Hillside regulations is measured from the lowest to the highest points of a structure above the ground. The proposed 15% height increase would allow greater design flexibility.   

Ms. Chamberlain clarified that the 15% increase is only for multi-family structures and not single-family structures. Ms. Chamberlain added that the “Faria Preserve” project was approved with a flat roof design to meet the 32-ft height limit. 

Commissioner Benedetti asked if the 15% was arbitrary. Ms. Chamberlain replied it is a starting point for a discussion and reiterated this is a question for the Planning Commission to weigh in on.

Commissioner Sachs stated that he is reluctant to build five story buildings to accommodate the height limit.

Vice Chair Viers stated that he likes the standard height limits.

Commissioner Sachs stated that the Ridgeline Setbacks are the same as Ordinance 197 but now requires a Variance to allow exception in “Pocket Areas” and at the next Planning Commission meeting, he would like a map which identifies parcels which would be affected by allowing a Variance. Mr. Driscoll clarified that the existing Zoning Ordinance regulations and Ordinance 197 allows for exceptions to the ridgeline setbacks in “Pocket Areas” without a Variance process. The proposed revisions would require approval of Variance findings to allow an exception to reduce the ridgeline setbacks in “Pocket Areas”.

Ms. Chamberlain clarified that the proposed revisions are more restrictive than Ordinance 197 in that it requires the approval of a Variance to allow an exception for reduced setbacks in “Pocket Areas”.

Jim Gibbon – San Ramon resident stated that the Hillside Ordinance lapsed and was replaced by the General Plan. It looks like the City is strengthening it by protecting the hillsides with the Zoning Ordinance changes.  

Commissioner Sachs asked that at the February 7, 2012 Public Hearing that staff clarify examples of areas applicable to the proposed ridgeline and creek setbacks exceptions.


There being no further discussion, Chair Kerger adjourned the meeting at 8:55 p.m.   

Submitted, Luisa Amerigo  











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