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Friday, January 12, 2007

San Ramon Mayor And City Council Play Pat My Back

The San Ramon Mayor Recently Gave His Annual State Of The City Speech At a Chamber of Commerce Luncheon

State Of The City Speeches tend to be highly positive for just about all cities throughout the land. A kind of rah-rah to get everybody pumped up about the outlook for the city. While, that makes a lot of sense from a business perspective, it does not take into account many of the troubling issues currently facing the city of San Ramon.

The City Council, not wanting to be left out from the rah-rah sharing, took what the Mayor stated in the speech, and continued stroking out many platitudes and accolades at the city council meeting to the Mayor and then back from the Mayor to each of the City Council Members. They were having a grand ole time, all to the theme of "What A Wonderful World."



So, what are some of the aspects of the Mayor's speech that are troublesome?

Intentionally placing the city in a position of raising the cap on redevelopment debt limit nearly threefold, from $35 million to $100 million. Now, it is important to understand that the city has not yet placed us in debt to this amount of money, but they could very easily do it now with this and also with the increase in bond-issue debt limit to $59 million which also was passed last year. This really means the city could mortgage itself in any of the redevelopment zones. Keep in mind, the city can expand redevelopment zones anytime they want. They can even use eminent domain for private gain. But, What A Wonderful World.

The Crow Canyon and specifically the Northwest Specific Plan is intentionally being steamrolled through, while totally ignoring the concerns of the San Ramon citizens. I guess we should not be surprised by this council not really listening to the citizens. They have shown time and time again that they really only want to listen to those citizens that agree with them to begin with. But, What A Wonderful World.

Byron Athan, the City Attorney seems to make up laws as the city goes along. He maintains that the General Plan allows grading of the two ridge lines in question, even though another law, the Save Our Hills ordinance of 1990, has many of the provisions adopted into the 2020 General Plan,[11] requires voter approval whenever a proposed development would alter a ridge line.

Two major lawsuits filed by the Sierra Club and the East Bay Regional Park District are taking the city to task on this proposed development. These lawsuits will no doubt cost the city money. Because the City Council chose to ignore the citizens and steamroll the plan through, even though they could have included excellent input and changes to satisfy most of the concerns, the Council continues to ignore reason. The City Council need not worry about this though, after all, it doesn't come out of their pockets. And remember, What A Wonderful World.

For an example of a flatting of the ridge lines we need not look too far to see the after affects. Take a look at the Davidon Homes development above Alcosta Blvd. and Old Ranch Road. A major flatting and grading has taken place with a hillside that looks precarious at best and one has to wonder what will happen with a big rain storm. Are we likely to find the hills are alive with sliding music? Ah but, What A Wonderful World.

Are there any independent thinkers amongst the City Council members? I think we have a bunch of "Good Ole Boys" slapping each other on the back. Give me a break guys and gale. What A Wonderful World was a bit over the top. Don't you think?

By-the-way, we suggest reading the Introduction to San Ramon News posting.

14 comments:

San Ramon said...

If anyone has something to say, say it. But, don't place some other drivel here or other peoples names in this comment area if you don't know what you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

Before Davidon began building the 55 homes off of Old Ranch Road, we raised our concern at the Council meetings for the protection of the ridgelines under the Save Our Hills City Ordinance #167. Councilman, Dave Hudson spoke up and said, "not to worry, Davidon has assured us that they will not be built on top of the ridgeline, and, they will be built in a valley where they will not be visible and the ridgelines will be protected." This has proven to be a huge lie. The City had to approve this project before it started and,the City had knowledge that Davidon planned these homes on the entire ridgeline and, even named the Development, "Old Ranch Summit." All of the 55 homes will be built on the ridgeline all the way from Old Ranch Road to Pine Valley Road. Thanks to our City Officials who have lied to us once again, we will no longer have the view of our beautiful hills. Instead, the ridgeline will be destroyed. Thanks to Dave Hudson, Jim Livingstone, Scott Perkins, Carol Rowley and Mayor, Abram Wilson who said, "We know what's best for the City."

Anonymous said...

So, I can put peoples names here if I know what I'm talking about?

Anonymous posted about Ordinance "167" (it's 197, btw) and used a bunch of peoples names and "anonymous" doesn't know what they are talking about.

There was only and ONLY one way to prevent building on Old Ranch. That was for the City (or some other organization) to purchase the property from Davidon. Nobody that I am aware of was willing to support THAT idea.

What everyone here fails to understand is, you can't stop development just because you don't like it. Sometimes the best you can hope for is to minimize the impact of it. A sad but true fact.

And, just so you know, two individuals who support this website DID support the Faria development. That is a fact.

Ben Franklin 2006 said...

I don't buy the logic.

To the person that said, "There was only and ONLY one way to prevent building on Old Ranch. That was for the City (or some other organization) to purchase the property from Davidon. Nobody that I am aware of was willing to support THAT idea."

Give me a break. Let's see, I guess you are saying the Save Our Hills Ordinance, #197 doesn't apply to anything anymore in San Ramon. Council could have voted NOT to approve the Davidon project as it is.

The City Of San Ramon Municipal Code - Title D - Zoning Oridnance specifically talks about "Save Our Hills Ordinance, #197.

Chapter D-52 – Hillside and Ridgeline Development
Sections:

D-52.010 - Purpose D-52.020 - Applicability D-52.030 - Limitations on Hillside Development D-52.040 - Permit Requirements D-52.050 - Hillside Subdivision Standards D-52.060 - Site Planning and Development Standards D-52.070 - Building Design Standards D-52.080 - Hillside Development Permit
D-52.010 - Purpose

The provisions of this Chapter are intended to implement the requirements of the City initiative adopted by the Council as Ordinance No. 197 and its amendments to the General Plan, and to:

A. Maintain an environmental equilibrium consistent with existing vegetation, soils, slopes, and drainage patterns, and to preserve the natural topography, including creeks and associated habitat, swales, canyons, knolls, ridgelines, and rock outcrops, to the extent legally permissible.

B. Avoid development that would result in unacceptable fire, flood, slide, or other safety hazards.

C. Avoid unwarranted, high maintenance costs for public facilities.

D. Provide a mechanism for flexible design of residential development projects in hillside areas so that development may be concentrated in those areas with the greatest environmental carrying capacity, and areas with low environmental carrying capacity developed at very low density or reserved as permanent open space.

E. Encourage design of street systems and driveways that conform to natural contours and minimize extensive grading.

D-52.020 - Applicability

The requirements of this Chapter apply to subdivisions, and all other proposed development or a new land use on any portion of a site over the 500-foot elevation (measured from mean sea level), which has a natural gradient of 10 percent (10 feet of vertical distance for each 100 feet of horizontal distance), and to any portion of a site within 1,000 feet of a Major or Minor Ridgeline as designated on the City’s Ridgeline and Creek Protection Zone (RCPZ) Map.

D-52.030 - Limitations on Hillside Development

No grading or other construction shall occur:

A. On land with an existing natural slope in excess of 20 percent, with a minimum elevation differential of 40 feet and a minimum contiguous area of three acres;

B. On the crest of a Major or Minor Ridge;

C. Within 100 feet, measured vertically, of the centerline of a Major Ridge, or within 50 feet, measured vertically, of the centerline of a Minor Ridge; except that within pocket areas, the vertical ridge setback may be reduced 50 percent, and buildings may project, measured vertically, up to 33 percent into the reduced ridge setback area on not more than 25 percent of the lot, upon the findings that:

1. The pocket development will not have a significant visual impact on neighboring communities; and

2. The exception meets the intent of this Chapter, and the Conservation Element of the General Plan.

Now, there is even a Geologic Hazard Abatement District, (GHAD) set up in dealing with the hillside issues. Homeowners will be required to pay into this GHAD for the following purpose.

Geologic Hazard Abatement Districts (GHAD) enabled by the Beverly Act of 1979 (SB 1195), are potentially useful financial mechanisms for reducing hillslope hazards (Kockelman, 1986). The enabling statute, (Division 17 of the Public Resources Code, Sections 26500 - 26654) provides for the formation of local assessment districts for the purpose of prevention, mitigation, abatement, or control of geologic hazards. The Act broadly defines "geologic hazard" as "an actual or threatened landslide, land subsidence, soil erosion, earthquake, or any other natural or unnatural movement of land or earth."

Come on City Council Members. Do you think the Davidon project follows what the will of the people of San Ramon wanted in the first place? Now we are hearing talk from Council that building on other Ridgelines is acceptable? City Attorney Byron Athan was even quoted in a recent newspaper article as saying, "All I know is that when you're driving down the freeway, through all this land that's within the park district, you see houses on ridges everywhere, except for San Ramon."

So, does what the other cities do in building on their ridgelines trump what San Ramon does? The city attorney seems to justify building homes on the ridgelines regardless of any ordinaces on the books.

If the city attorney is giving this type of reverse logic thinking, maybe it's time we get a new City Attorney along with a new City Council for San Ramon.

OH, by-the-way, Mayor Abram Wilson, Councilmember Scott Perkins, and Councilmember Carol J. Rowley are all up for re-election in 2007 according to the San Ramon City website.

Anonymous said...

Ben, my comment had nothing to do with Ordinance 197.

My comment is a challenge to you and everyone else here who want to preserve open space. How do you propose to do that without being the owner of the property?? Do you advocate taking that property without compensation in violation of our Constitution?

I say again, the only way to preserve open space is to own the open space, or have it deeded as open space as a result of a development agreement, like at Davidon.

The reality of development, like life, is that most things come at a cost. Seems to me that you are not willing to pay the price, or you and your followers would have been clamoring to buy up that acreage off of Old Ranch Rd. That didn't happen, my only assumption is that NOBODY was willing to support that idea. Prove me wrong.

Ben Franklin 2006 said...

To the anonymous person suggesting that there was no other recourse to the Davidon development is a "straw man argument."

Consider any building ordinance on the book in San Ramon. If we were to follow your logic, then anyone could build anything they want, anywhere they want, at any height they want, on any zoning they want, just because they want to do it. Forget the zoning requirements then. Forget "Save Our Hills, Ordinance No. 197" was passed by the people of San Ramon.

You say your "comment had nothing to do with Ordinance 197." Well, that is exactly my point. Your argument is not taking into account anything else except saying, "the only way to preserve open space is to own the open space, or have it deeded as open space as a result of a development agreement, like at Davidon."

So, it sounds like the City of San Ramon got some open space out of the development agreement with Davidon. Big deal, open space that Davidon didn't want themselves. Open space and a development approved vote that got traded for Davidon dropping a lawsuit with the city. Open space that needs a Geological Hazard Abatement District, GHAD, set up. See San Ramon City Council meeting minutes dated: 4/12/05. So the city sold out the ridge line, and had a massive new ridge line built, with a very steep grade, that has the potential to slide into other homes in a good rain storm season.

Everyone has a right to develop property they own in the manner that is in compliance with city codes. But, to have property developed in a manner that is not consistent with codes already on the books, is blatantly wrong. For City Council to ignore this, and have the Mayor say, "Davidon has a right to develop its property," as stated in the minutes of the meetings, and say there is nothing else that could have been done is just plain illogical.

So, don't set up a straw man argument and say there was nothing else that could have been done. This is a cop out, and our City Council has failed to do its fiducial duties. If you are one of the Council Members, you could have voted No on the project. If three Council Members had voted No on the project, then everyone would have had to gone back to the drawing board.

Anonymous said...

Ben, you are wrong, plain and simply wrong about the Davidon property and Ordinance 197. Stop lying, please.

The problem with you is that you obviscate the truth by wrapping it around convienient sound bites. We tried it your way for 2 years and almost bankrupted the city.

The citizens of San Ramon learned a valuable lesson and won't fall for your trickery again.

Can I state it anymore simply than that?

Ben Franklin 2006 said...

Now you are obfuscating the truth.

If I am as you say, "wrong, plain and simply wrong about the Davidon property and Ordinance 197," then prove it. Simply saying I am wrong is not going to prove it.

You are the one coming up with the "convenient sound bites." "Can I state it anymore simply than that?"

Come on, look at the history. Look at the property. Look at the new man made ridge that has a slope greater than anything else in San Ramon. Look at the GHAD. Everything points to something else going on. So, if a developer chooses to bring a suit against the City of San Ramon, for what ever reason, they can win because we have an inept attorney or a City Council that simply does not do its fiducial duties?

I provided links to documents directly from the City website. What have you provided as your proof that there was no other solution to the Davidon development as it is now?

Talk, is the only thing that we have heard from the City Council. You say, "trust us, we know what's best for the city." You, the City Council, say, "we want to hear from the Citizens of San Ramon." But, you don't really want to hear from them. You listen to input from the citizens, but you already have your minds made up before the citizens come up in front of you. You belittle the San Ramon citizens that question your judgment. Tell us it isn't so.

You come out with collective talk that uses "we, the City Council" before the issues are ever discussed in a public setting. You, the City Council, use the behind the doors meetings to discuss more and more items that the people of San Ramon should be able to listen to. The Mayor talks about "his City Council." Baloney, the City Council is not his City Council. The City Council is the People of San Ramon's City Council. Tell us it isn't so.

If someone does not agree with you from the people of San Ramon, you put them down. The Mayor tells false truths at various times. This has been well documented, with the Mayor and City Council flip flopping on the Golf Course Rezoning issue. Tell us it isn't so.

No, we are not the ones coming up with the "sound bites." It is the City Council coming up with the sound bites.

Anonymous said...

Great turn around Ben. Your tactic is to answer questions with questions. Just linking to the City Council documents doesn't prove anything.

And get your facts correct. Ordinance 197 was never voted on by the voters. It was an ordinance that was adopted by the City Council.

Let's take a little look back in history. You mention the Davidon lawsuit. Do you know why Davidon was suing the city? Go do your research and come back with an answer. I'll correct your misconceptions.

How many City Council meetings or Planning Commission meetings have you attended and participated? The Davidon development was a product of YEARS and perhaps 50 public meetings and workshops. Where you at even one?

It's one thing to sit comfortably, anonymously behind your PC screen, and it is another to put yourself on the line. I may disagree with several of the 'regulars' at City meetings, but at least they have the guts to put thoughts into action. Sometimes I even agree with them. I always respect them for their courage and convictions.

Come back at me, if you can.

Anonymous said...

Ben, I want to apologize if you felt I was putting you down. I disagree with your point of view, and I feel you have your facts wrong or are purposely misrepresenting the truth.

I'm sorry if you feel that is a put down, but that was not my intention.

Ben Franklin 2006 said...

Now, we are getting somewhere. You are right, the Ordinance 197 was not passed by the people of San Ramon. In fact, Ordinance 197 has been on the San Ramon code books at least all the way back to 1990. The 2020 General Plan was however, approved by the people of San Ramon in 2002.

"Ordinance 197 was adopted by the City Council in 1990 and amended the City’s prior General Plan (which had been approved in 1986) to incorporate various hillside protection policies and development standards."

"San Ramon voters carried forward several Ordinance 197 policies and incorporated them into their voter-approved 2020 General Plan. These policies include a prohibition on structures on lands with a natural slope in excess of 20%, on crests of major and minor ridges, within 100 vertical feet of a major ridgeline, or within 100 feet of a protected creek or stream. In addition, Ordinance 197 included certain development standards relevant to areas in excess of 500 feet in elevation. These include a slope density restriction allowing 1 unit per 5 acres on slopes between 15-20% and 1 unit/1 acre on slopes between 10-15%. On slopes less than 10%, the slope-density formula permits densities consistent with the underlying zoning and General Plan designations applicable to a site. Alterations to existing grade and land forms are to be minimized. Street grades are to be kept to twelve (12) percent or less, and buildings in excess of 32 feet in height are prohibited absent a vote approving an exemption.

In 2002, San Ramon voters approved the City’s 2020 General Plan."

Anonymous, no need to apologize to me. I did not feel like you were putting me down. However, I have watched City Council meetings that I have seen at least some of the Council Members belittle speakers that have questioned the Council's actions. As citizens of San Ramon, we have a right, no, we have an obligation to question the happenings of the City Council. The City Council is put there at the "sovereign pleasure of the people." City Council reports to the people, the people are it's boss. It is the Council's job to not just merely listen to the comments at City Council meetings, but to respond in a proper manner to them.

At least one Council Member has put down Anonymous activism as though it were a crime and did not respect people that were anonymous. As stated in the Privacy Policy section, people have the right to anonymous, and because of the world we live in, with the Internet so prevalent, and privacy issues are becoming a real concern, it makes logical sense to provide an outlet for people here.

Now, I certainly can see that both you and I are having a civil conversation, with you posting in an anonymous mode also. I don't hold that against you. You have your reasons to remain anonymous and I respect that. Everyone can also see that both of us live in San Ramon. Why else would both of us spend time posting here?

Anyone that reads this entire posting in context can read for themselves the train of thought of both you and me. I can certainly read that you have gotten angry with me, and I have expressed my dissatisfaction with Mayor Abram Wilson, City Council Members: Perkins, Rowley, Livingston, Hudson, and the City Attorney Byron Athan.

Our conversation in this posting will be on the Internet, possibly forever. The Internet is a very powerful tool for both the citizens and their representatives. You can rest assured that there are thousands of others like me in San Ramon that are thinking the same way. This is your chance to set the record straight. If you have an inside track on the Davidon lawsuit, share it here. I know that with matters of legal substance, when dealing with a lawsuit, that there would have been some closed door meetings with the City Council.

"MINUTES OF THE CITY OF SAN RAMON – COUNCIL MEETING AUGUST 13, 2002

CLOSED SESSION

Mayor Tatarka said Council had met in closed session at 6:30. P. M. pursuant to Government Code §54956.9(a) to discuss existing litigation regarding Davidon Homes and no action was taken."

Now, I or the other citizens would not have been privy to those private meetings, so give us the insight.

You've challenged me to do my research and I have. You certainly seem to have an inside scoop on the Davidon lawsuit in which Davidon was trying to overturn the 2020 General Plan and build on the ridgline (which they have). So give us your insights on what the Davidon lawsuit was all about.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Ben, and I too, feel we are getting somewhere.

I'm not angry with you. I take exception to the insuation that the Davidon project was not in compliance with Ordinance 197, because if it where not, the project would never have been built. We have numerous watch dogs who would litagate to prevent that from happening. You know that. So, to say that there was a violation is a misrepresentation of fact.

Ordinance 197 is a confusing document that is rife with the potential for mis-interpretation. It is easy to infere that Ordinance 197 on its face PROHIBITS ANY development on hillsides or ridges. That is NOT true. In fact the purpose of Ordinance 197 is to provide policies and procedures to ALLOW hillside development following strict guidelines.

The ridges that were graded during the Davidon project were ridges that were not protected by Ordinance 197. In the process of making the existing hillsides safer, some dirt cut from other areas was filled in to butress slide areas. This area of Old Ranch is safer now than if it had been left in its natural state.

More coming on the Davidon lawsuit and the General Plan 2020 process.

Anonymous said...

Ben Franklin, please give me a call at 925-830-0750

Ben Franklin said...

FYI

If anyone would like to meet me on the Web, visit Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin 2006

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