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March 5, 2013

A regular meeting of the Planning Commission for the City of San Ramon was called to order by Chair Viers at 7:00 p.m., on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 in the Council Chambers 2222 Camino Ramon, San Ramon.


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

Absent:    Commissioner Kerger              

Staff:   Phil Wong, Planning Director; Debbie Chamberlain, Division Manager;  Shinei Tsukamoto, Associate Planner;  Ryan Driscoll; Assistant Planner; Bob Saxes, Interim City Attorney; Luisa Amerigo, Recording Secretary

Audience:    5

 1. CALL TO ORDER                    



4. PUBLIC COMMENTS OR WRITTEN COMMUNICATION: At this time, those in the audience are encouraged to address the Planning Commission on any item not already included in tonight’s agenda.  If possible, comments should not exceed five (5) minutes.



6.1 Minutes from the January 15, 2013 Workshop – Approved with modifications

6.2 Minutes from the February 5, 2013 Workshop- Approved with modifications.   




 9.1 San Ramon Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment (TA 13-410-001) Staff Report by; Shinei Tsukamoto, Associate Planner and Ryan Driscoll, Assistant Planner      

Associate Planner Shinei Tsukamoto provided a brief PowerPoint presentation stating that the intent of this public hearing is to allow for public input on the proposed changes to the Zoning Ordinance.


At the public workshop held on February 5, 2013 the Planning Commission supported the raising of hens within single-family residential properties that have direct access to a private yard. The Planning Commission felt that a 6,000 sq. ft. minimum lot size should be required and preferred 10,000 sq. ft.  or larger lots in order to raise no more than five hens for personal use. The Planning Commission understood that chicken coops may be accessory structures, and that they should have specific setback requirements and height limitations.


The Planning Commission also supported beekeeping within single-family residential properties that have direct access to a private yard and the Planning Commission felt that a 10,000 sq. ft. minimum lot size should be required for apiaries and one acre lots may be more desirable and suggested that no more than two hives be allowed on properties that are greater than 10,000 sq.ft.

In-Home Educational Services

The Planning Commission requested additional information on how to define in-home educational services and whether the definition should be expanded to include all home based uses and allow clients to visit the home.  Further, the Planning Commission had concerns with potential impacts related to noise, traffic, and parking issues.

Vice Chair Wallis stated that in Division D4 section 4-39, section E, the language did not read clearly and he asked staff to modify the language.

Vice Chair Wallis asked for clarification in section F.  Assistant Planner Ryan Driscoll replied the intent was to provide the Zoning Administrator with greater flexibility when considering the potential revocation of a permit.

Vice Chair Wallis further asked for clarification on large family day cares and commented that our current Zoning Ordinance states that a 300-foot separation is required between all large family day care homes located on the same street and why staff was proposing to increase the distance between large family day care centers to a 500-foot separation. 

Mr. Tsukamoto replied that there are no specific reasons and if an application comes forward staff verifies that the proposed location there are no other surrounding day care homes within the 300-ft radius or staff cannot support the application.  

Mr. Tsukamoto added that the City Council concerns were not based on large family day cares but rather small family day cares that were invisible and when we reviewed the large family day care facilities, we realized that those applicants had been operating small family day cares with State licenses. The question the City Council raised was if there are invisible small family day cares what was the concentration and should it be revaluated.

Planning Director Phil Wong, reminded the Planning Commission that with small and large family day cares there are parking impacts to the adjoining neighbors and staff is looking to avoid this and create   higher standards so that when application requests come in we hope it will minimize the parking issues to the maximum extent possible.

Commissioner Benedetti asked for clarification on the Cottage Food Operation. Mr. Driscoll replied that with the Cottage Food Operation, if there are no client visits and non-resident employees then they could go through the Home Occupation Permit process.

Division Manager Debbie Chamberlain suggested that Section D on page 4-39 become new Section B, which lists the new required conditions for Home Occupation Permits.

Commissioner Sachs asked for clarification from staff on Time Extensions with regard to Minor Use Permits and does the number of extensions need to be greater.

Ms. Chamberlain clarified that an application or Development Plan is given a one year time period and a one-year extension can be granted by the Zoning Administrator. The previous code before the amendment in 2008 added one additional extension by the City Council. We have found that since the recession projects are having a difficult time getting financing in place. Ms. Chamberlain added that we do have the ability to deny the extension if we feel that is not warranted.

Commissioner Sachs stated that any time extension should be given in an open public forum.  Ms. Chamberlain clarified that if Commissioner Sachs would like to see two extensions granted by the Zoning Administrator and the third and final extension being granted by the body that originally approved the project for a total of four years for project development; one with project approval, two administrator extensions by the Zoning Administrator and the third and final extension by the Planning Commission or City Council. Commissioner Sachs stated that for the 36-month extensions he would like to see the extensions be more of a public domain.

Chair Viers opened the public comment period.

Elisa Dowd Danville Veterinarian – Stated she is in favor of a 5 ft. setback and chicken coops do not produce flies because chickens eat maggots. Ms. Dowd added that chickens are generally clean animals if taken care of. 

Vice Chair Wallis asked if flies are attached to chicken feces.  Ms. Dowd replied no more so than what is currently in everyone’s backyard.

Commissioner Benedetti asked if odor could become a problem in backyards.  Ms. Dowd replied that there could be if you get too much of chicken feces and most people mix the feces with pine shavings to eliminate odor or use it as compost.

Douglas Graver of San Ramon – Stated he would like to teach people more about backyard chickens. Mr. Graver added that moveable chicken pens can be moved throughout the back yard to take care of garden vegetables and to help fertilize gardens.

Peter Schumacher of San Ramon – Stated that at our last meeting Commissioner Benedetti raised the question of which other cities or towns also allowed beekeeping. Two of our largest cities are San Francisco and San Jose. Both allow residential beekeeping.  Mr. Schumacher further stated that Alameda County also allows beekeeping and there are quite a few more cities in the greater San Francisco, Bay area. Mr. Schumacher added that he would also like to be able to keep beehives on his property and currently has to drive out to the Tassajara Valley to take care of them.

Commissioner Benedetti asked Mr. Schumacher what constitutes a public nuisance.  Mr. Schumacher replied that people in general do not understand bees and are afraid of bees and voiced his opinion that if you educate people about bees and demonstrate how beneficial and harmless they can be then people will not be as fearful.

Commissioner Benedetti asked Mr. Schumacher if he believed bees could be a public nuisance. Mr. Schumacher replied that if the bees are located adjacent to a common walkway and your neighbor had to walk by the beehive each day that would be a nuisance and should not be permitted.

Commissioner Benedetti asked if Mr. Schumacher if he had hives in his backyard would she see an increase in bees in her backyard. Mr. Schumacher replied it would be hard to quantify. The total amount of bees that come may be greater but the amount of bees which are there at any time will be the same.

Commissioner Benedetti added who should be responsible to remove swarms.  Mr. Schumacher replied that the Mount Diablo Beekeeping Association can be called upon and they will send someone out to remove the bee swarms. 

Vice Chair Wallis commented that bees must have access to water and it is the responsibility of the beekeeper to have water.  Mr. Schumacher replied that most beekeepers keep a pond or water dish around their yard in order to take care of the bees water needs.

Vice Chair Wallis further commented that a minimum lot size seems to be a standard feature of most Zoning Ordinances and a minimum lot size being less than 10,000. sq. ft.  Mr. Schumacher replied he would prefer 6,000 sq.ft. and that it depends on the size of the house.

Vice Chair Wallis stated that that the minimum setback from the property line is 10-ft. with a 6 ft. flyaway zone and asked Mr. Schumacher if he agreed.  Mr. Schumacher replied that the fly away is the most important factor and the setbacks are thrown in to cover all bases.

David Graver of San Ramon – Stated that he likes the idea of residents being allowed to keep bees. Beekeeping does help the environment and pollinates gardens and beekeepers also provide swarm control.

Carol Trahan - San Ramon resident stated that she has been a teacher for the past 20 years and currently prepares students for the SAT’s. Ms. Trahan added that she has concerns about the Minor Use Permit fees and has concerns if staff receives complaints from neighbors.

Upon discussion amongst the Planning Commission, clarification is required for beekeeping, additional comments related to large family day care and clarification on the Minor Use Permit process for the in-home services.



11.1 Open Space Task Force – Activity Update. Staff Report by: Shinei Tsukamoto, Associate Planner.

Associate Planner, Shinei Tsukamoto provided the Planning Commission with a background of the Open Space and Conservation policies of the General Plan. An overview of the properties that have been preserved as open space through the approval of development applications with the Open Space Ownership Map and a summary of potential properties for preservation with the Westside Area and Tassajara Valley areas.


There being no further discussion Chair Viers adjourned the meeting at 10:30 p.m.   

Submitted by:
Luisa Amerigo
Recording Secretary   











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