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September 17, 2013

A special meeting of the Planning Commission and Housing Advisory Committee for the City of San Ramon was called to order by Chair Wallis at 6:00 p.m., on Tuesday, September 17, 2013 in the Council Chambers 2222 Camino Ramon, San Ramon.


Present:  Planning Commissioners; Kerger, Sachs, Viers, Chair Wallis; Housing Advisory Committee Members, Chair Viers, Vice Chair Vesperman, Jones, Salinas, Rose

Absent: Vice Chair Benedetti                

Staff:  Phil Wong, Planning Director; Debbie Chamberlain, Planning Manager; Cindy Yee, Associate Planner; Ryan Driscoll, Assistant Planner; Luisa Amerigo Recording Secretary

Audience:    4

 1.  CALL TO ORDER                    



Cindy Yee, Associate Planner gave a PowerPoint presentation and stated that the housing element is one of the seven mandated elements of the General Plan.  It provides an assessment of both current and future housing needs. It identifies constraints and opportunities for meeting those needs, and provides a comprehensive strategy that establishes goals, polices, and programs.  Ms. Yee added that over the past two years, the City has been working with ABAG (the Association of Bay Area Governments) to develop a RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Allocation) that reflects the City’s goals and polices. Over the course of the next year, the City will update the 2014-2022 Housing Element and hold a number of public outreach meetings to engage the public.

Commissioner Kerger commented that we are an infill community similar to our neighboring communities like Danville. Why does San Ramon get higher RHNA numbers and what happens when we reach our buildout numbers. 

Committee Member Chair Viers stated that there has been discussion at the Housing Advisory Committee meetings about the Housing Element. As a committee, we are serious about our responsibilities to help city staff recognize the opportunities and importance of our charge to make sure we have a well-rounded Housing Element. Chair Viers added this is State mandated and we need to make the numbers work, be creative, explore every possibility to get our Housing Element certified.  Chair Viers added that HAC has identified senior housing as critical in San Ramon and we need to recognize its importance.

Committee Member Salinas stated that the biggest challenge is to plan for 1,000 affordable units out of our total 1,417 RHNA allocation. This means we would have to plan for about 8,000 or 9,000 units in the city in order to meet our affordable numbers.  Committee Member Salinas added he was not sure if we could reach this number. Committee Member Salinas further added we need to help city staff with the density bonus to qualify for the streamline review.

Commissioner Viers asked if there is a difference between Southern and Northern California on how the State comes up with the methodology.  Ms. Yee replied she is not sure how other methodologies are established in other regions, but the Bay Area methodology was adopted in partnership with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. When ABAG’s Housing Methodology Committee was formed (2) years ago it was joint effort with ABAG and MTC to develop a housing plan for the region that address SB-375 and the need for reducing Green Gas Emissions in our region.  The purpose of combining transportation and housing plan together is to reduce vehicles miles traveled for someone who lives far from there job and to provide more housing units where jobs are located.

Commissioner Viers asked if SB-375 changed the Housing Element to an eight-year cycle. Ms. Yee replied yes and our housing plan aligns with that Regional Transportation Plan that is also on an eight-year cycle.

Commissioner Viers also asked if we were also looking at catalyst sites. Ms. Yee replied that there are catalyst sites that do exist within Specific Plan documents and are being analyzed as part of this process. There will be a need to evaluate those catalysts sites because they do exist as housing opportunity sites.  

Commissioner Viers added that the Housing Element Update Guidance speaks about including the public, tenants, stakeholders, developers, and how are we reaching out to them.  Ms. Yee replied that at HAC (Housing Advisory Committee) meetings there has been discussion on how we are going to get the public involved with the housing element update and educating the public about what affordable housing means. In the last cycle staff surveyed interest groups, we also attended Farmers Markets, newsletters were sent out and a number of workshops were held. 

Committee Member Rose stated that she feels that senior housing is important and most seniors would like to age in place.  Ms. Rose added that the public should be surveyed on what their needs are so we can understand what type of housing and housing needs these groups want.

Committee Member Vice Chair Vesperman stated that senior housing needs to be the primary resident of our population and would like to see senior be able to get equal access to housing in the area.

Committee Member Jones stated that when it comes to senior housing we need to help as many as possible. Committee Member Jones added that a big factor when considering housing is walkability and how close shopping centers are located.  Committee Member Jones further added that in the sites we are looking at currently, what possibilities do we have for seniors to have a walkable access to shopping centers.

Commissioner Sachs stated that there is a need to educate the public about affordable housing and suggested to elicit the opinions of the Contra Costa County Realtors Association who can be advocates for affordable housing and may provide a resource for city staff to go forward.   Commissioner Sachs stated that in talking with San Ramon residents, affordable senior housing tends to be more acceptable in a community and perhaps more focus should be put on adding affordable senior units.  Commissioner Sachs also stated that the Crime Prevention Programs seems to be successful and are there any practices we can add.  Commissioner Sachs added that he agrees with Ms. Jones about senior housing and the need to have access to shopping centers, and being able to have access to services.

Committee Member Rose stated that some cities have in the past used senior housing as an discriminatory practice, which she does not promote. We should look at our population growth and the percentage each age group represents and use that as a guideline in building a strong community of affordable units for young and old where everyone helps each other.

Commissioner Kerger stated she feels that senior housing is vital in a community and is needed in our city and added we need to encourage this type of future development.

Committee Member Chair Viers stated that a policy could be put in place to encourage second units for additional affordable housing. Chair Viers added that we need to educate the public on affordable housing and why it is needed.

Committee Member Vice Chair Vesperman suggested having a proactive plan to identify specific properties that could fit a secondary unit and solicit the owners of those properties. A good starting point where such units could be sited is on lots with lot sizes of 9,000 to 10,000 sq. ft. Vice Chair Vesperman added that there are many single family homes in the city that are rental homes and it would be a good idea to expand the Crime Prevention Program to encourage the owners of the single family homes to participate.

Commissioner Viers stated that senior housing needs to become a priority. Commissioner Viers further added that the Crime Prevention Program is a huge success and the City might want to consider a builder fee to fund the program.

Commissioner Sachs asked if it is feasible to look at existing residential homes with large lots that could have a second unit home built as a RHNA Housing Opportunity Site. Can it be a potential housing opportunity site to count towards the City’s RHNA. Ms. Yee replied that she has not seen second units used as housing opportunity sites. The problem with developing a policy is in order to meet state requirements for having adequate sites you would have to be able to place a deed restrictions on the lots to ensure the unit is rented out to a household with a certain income level.

Committee Member Vice Chair Vesperman asked if there is a minimum time that deed restricts are on properties with second units. Ms. Yee replied that the City’s general policy in our housing element is that long term deed restrictions for affordable housing should be 50 years or greater.

Committee Member Salinas stated we need to look at how to be more creative in creating affordable units, especially in apartments by adding amenities such as common areas and giving credit to the builders these types of improvements, perhaps in the form of reduction in their fees.

Committee Member Jones stated she is interested in giving a priority access to affordable units to the people who live and work in the city such as government employees.  Committee Member Jones added that based on her experience, finding buyers who fit the income level requirement can become challenging.

Chair Wallis stated he agrees with having a mix community; it adds a dimension and creates a different dynamic. Chair Wallis added that we need to draft a policy that deals with senior housing because this is an expensive area and for seniors to live here will require a lot money or government help. Chair Wallis added that he is not sure if we need a policy which speaks about benefits of workforce housing but rather policy direction to accomplish those goals. Chair Wallis further added that he feels it is important to educate the public about State and city requirements for housing.  Chair Wallis suggested that due to time constraints, the remaining two policy discussion items staff presented this evening should be continued to a future workshop date.                        

There being no further discussion Chair Wallis adjourned the meeting at 7:45 p.m.

Submitted by:                                                                                                      

Luisa Amerigo   
Recording Secretary



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