Latest News Articles From The San Ramon Tribune

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bay Area Shakes 5.6 Earthquake Alum Rock

The Bay Area Area

From the USGS website, the earthquake that hit approximately 8:05 PM, 5 miles North North/East of Alum Rock on the Calaveras Fault and was 5.6 on the Richter Scale with after shocks being felt in San Ramon also. Some of the cities which the Calaveras Fault passes through or near are: Alamo, Danville, San Ramon, Dublin, Pleasanton, Sunol, Milpitas, San Jose, Gilroy, and Hollister.

Recent Earthquakes in California and Nevada

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Update time = Tue Oct 30 20:21:14 PDT 2007
y/m/d h:m:s deg deg km

1.2 2007/10/30 20:19:52 38.827N 122.784W 2.8 4 km ( 2 mi) NNE of The Geysers, CA
1.6 2007/10/30 20:16:12 37.404N 121.750W 8.2 8 km ( 5 mi) ENE of Alum Rock, CA
0.5 2007/10/30 20:15:38 38.790N 122.757W 2.0 4 km ( 3 mi) ESE of The Geysers, CA
1.3 2007/10/30 20:13:48 37.403N 121.749W 8.2 8 km ( 5 mi) ENE of Alum Rock, CA
1.5 2007/10/30 20:12:55 37.419N 121.745W 11.1 9 km ( 6 mi) NE of Alum Rock, CA
1.4 2007/10/30 20:12:23 37.409N 121.675W 7.3 14 km ( 9 mi) ENE of Alum Rock, CA
5.6 2007/10/30 20:04:54 37.432N 121.776W 9.2 8 km ( 5 mi) NNE of Alum Rock, CA

For current earthquakes in the Bay Area, click on the tremors on the map to view current information.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Solar Opportunity Gone To Waste

PollutionCough Cough

In light of the latest headlines in the news about San Ramon in the Contra Costa Times, City hopes to cut emissions by 11 percent in three years, one can't help but think that the proposed downtown city center plan is a green opportunity gone to waste.

The City Officials are so quick to think that this is the best deal for the city that they have overlooked what is happening in the world today and even more importantly what is happening in our own backyard.

The Contra Costa Times reported, "Within three years, San Ramon hopes to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases by 11 percent, city leaders announced."

San Ramon Mayor H. Abram Wilson was quoted as saying, "It's not just for the environment -- it makes good sense for the bottom line." And, Dave Krueger, the San Ramon Public Services Program Manager was quoted when questioned how the city will reduce its emissions once the environmental research is complete, he responded, "we aren't quite there yet."

Herein lies the rub. San Ramon city officials are looking to reduce emissions, but the downtown center will do anything but reduce emissions. Not only will the downtown center not reduce emissions, but it will significantly increase emissions with the increase in traffic congestion and thousands more car trips, each and every day. Watch what happens to emissions in the San Ramon Valley when that occurs.

Now, if that doesn't make you cough as it is, the planners of this Downtown City Center Design have not even considered the environmental impact of not going green. Not only have there not been studies of how to improve the environment by using solar energy at this mega center, but the positive economic impact that could be attained by designing solar throughout this project has not been considered either. On the other side of the coin, Google just recently installed photo voltaic solar panels at the Googleplex. Google committed to solar energy production because it made economic and environmental sense. The payback period is 7.5 years, and after that time, everything is free energy generated by the sun. Check out the Google Solar Panel Project and the fly-over video.

The best time to design for solar is when the project is on the drawing board to begin with, not after it is already built. Energy is not going to get any cheaper, and the opportunity to do the right thing is at hand. Hey Guys, go back to the drawing board. Let's not let it go to waste.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The City Center: Solution to a "Done Deal"

So much for the San Ramon Planning Commission! So much for the City Center Project not being a "Done Deal". Once the Planning Commission approves the DSEIR on November 6th the project will go before the City Council. The City Council will have three meetings during the holidays and before any one gets back from enjoying of Thanksgiving and Christmas, it will be another "Done Deal".

This is all by design and in the past they would have gotten away with it, but not now. The city's plea to "trust us" is too late. They are trying this trust us one too many times. There is no trust left.

Trust is given when trust is earned. The City Council manipulated the 2020 General Plan in 2002, they manipulated the Rezoning process in 2006, and they manipulated the Open Space Ordinance this year. There is only expectation left, and it is one of self interest and of a private club mentality. Expectation of a public forum and public representation is gone and in its place is private business to business partnerships and 'Done Deals'.

The City Center Project has been in the works for years. The first budget workshops were held in February 2004. The Economic Development Advisory Committee and Bay Area Economics held retail sector workshops in July 2005 and drafted a Strategic Plan. The city staff made a presentation to the City Council in October 2005. At the same time the City Council held private meetings with Sunset Development to form a private partnership. In 2006 the City Council made changes to the General Plan, the zoning, and created the Mixed Use Zoning. Finally, in March of 2007 the City Council rolled the finished City Center Project in a joint staff and committee meeting. All this maneuvering and decision making was done behind a wall of silence.

The first “public” input to the project in September 2007 before the Planning Commission came with statements that this project was NOT a done deal. After two meetings we found out that it was a “Done Deal”. No changes could be allowed because it would upset the economics of the deal. So much for the public trust.

TrafficWhat you can't trust is the private financial deal. What you can't trust is the "Statement of Overriding Consideration". What you can’t trust is the traffic study. You can't trust this project that is more suited to San Francisco. You can’t trust a project that is expected to cost $775,000,000.00 and the city is going to be rich from the sales taxes. You can't trust what they say is the real cost of this private “Done Deal”.

Trust me this is going to cost the City of San Ramon plenty. This starts off as a land grab. The city purchased the 11 acres and then the 7.5 acres from Sunset Development for real money ($12,000,000.00). In this deal the City Council transferred the FAR (Floor Area Ratio) to Sunset Development's other projects which left no use for the 18 acres except for public uses. After years of turning down proposed public uses the City Council rezoned the properties to Mixed-Use and added an FAR of 1.35 to them. They then rezoned from non- private uses to eight story buildings. The estimated value of the 18 acre property with the new zoning, in current dollars, is between $60,000,000.00 and $80,000,000.00 as it stands empty.

In the City Center Project the city owned property gets lost. The property where the new Civic Center is to be located is not even owned by Sunset Development, it is owned by Chevron. Chevron is already asking for compensation. No one knows whether the city will own the new Civic Center or lease it from Sunset Development.

It appears the city will get an increase in sales taxes but Sunset is expected to ask for a share of the increased revenue. What other guaranties is the City Council going to make in the name of this "Done Deal" project? The financial deal should be made public before we vote on this deal. The voters of San Ramon should have a chance to Vote on whether they agree with this deal or not.

This City Center Project needs to be redesigned to meet the needs of the public and not impact the city as severely as the present proposal shows. If the Project is built, it should have the following changes:

  1. The buildings should be a maximum of five stories with a smaller total square footage to be compatible with the rest of Bishop Ranch. This is a reduction of about 50% from the proposed size. The parking lot structures should be reduced by one half the proposed size.

  2. The Civic Center should be located on the north side of Bollinger Canyon Blvd and next to Central Park so that it has a relationship to other public uses. The size should be doubled to about 300,000 sq. ft.

  3. The proposed City Center Plaza should face onto the Iron Horse Trail and Central Park.

  4. All environmental effects of the project should be mitigated and not be a “significant and unavoidable cumulative impact”. Not a letter of “Statement of Overriding Consideration” from the Mayor to allow significant environmental impacts.

The City Center project should be approved by the citizens of San Ramon. If the City Council does not give them the opportunity to vote, a Referendum on the Project will be needed.

Article submitted to San Ramon Tribune

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fall Carnival Coming to Neil Armstrong School

Neil Armstrong SchoolNeil Armstrong Elementary School in San Ramon (2849 Calais Dr.) invites you to join us at our Fall Carnival on Sunday October 21st from 11:00am – 3:00pm. There will be Delicious Food, Awesome Games & Spooky Fun for kids and parents of all ages. So come and help raise money in support of PTA programs and services throughout the year!

If you are hungry, you will definitely enjoy our fabulous BBQ lunch with your choice of Italian Sausage, Hotdogs (turkey/chicken), Chili with Fixins', Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Fresh Baked Pumpkin Pie, Popcorn, Churros & Funnel Cakes!

We have tons of fun activities planned including: A Giant Inflatable Double Slide, Super Tiki Climbing Wall, Colossal Obstacle Course Challenge, Fortune Telling, Hair Painting and a variety of fun Carnival Games. Our mascot "Neil the Eagle" will be there too!

Slide Tiki Climbing Wall
Are you prepared? The PTA will be selling Disaster Preparedness Supply Kits from "Your Safety Place." All of the survival kits have a 5-year shelf life and range in price from $20 for a single person kit to $220 for a family of 8. Think about giving the gift of being well prepared!

We are looking forward to lots of fun!!

Read all about the San Ramon Tribune online newspaper. Feel free to submit your announcements and news articles for consideration for publishing.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Planning Commission Intends to Vote YES for Downtown Center

San Ramon, CA
The San Ramon Planning Commission is scheduled to vote yes on the downtown city center, giving Alex Mehran of Sunset Development everything he wants. (Three 100 foot tall, 681,769 square feet, seven story office buildings, and eight story residential buildings totaling 487 units, plus 635,042 square feet retail, 169 room hotel, Cinema, and parking structures to accommodate 7,531 spaces)

After San Ramon Planning Commission heard public testimony about the downtown city center project, the planning commissioners voiced their intentions to vote yes on the plan as presented at the next meeting.

City Staff intends to have the Draft Environmental Impact Report completed with the added public written and voiced comments and concerns addressed in writing for the commissioners to read before their next meeting scheduled for November 6, 2007 at which time they will vote "YES" for the plan as submitted.

The commissioners had concerns with no Iron Horse Trail overpass, and no direct Downtown Plaza pedestrian access to Central Park. The commissioners did not feel it was fair to the developer, Sunset Developement, to have to include the Iron Horse Trail overpass into the plan. The plan developer and city staff are looking at the logistics of having pedestrian access to Central Park from the plaza area. There is also a study going on into finding funding for an overpass at the Iron Horse Trail at Bollinger Canyon Road. The Planning Commissioners did not want to see traffic stopped on Bollinger for people pushing a button to cross the street at the trail. Their attitudes about the heights of the buildings and intensity and density of the project is that even though these heights and densities are greater than office buildings in other parts of San Ramon, that it was acceptable to the commissioners to have these at the Downtown Center as presented.

Many on the city staff and the Planning Commissioners talked about this being a "smart growth" policy and that this would give a "heart" to San Ramon.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Michael Jones, resident of San Ramon stated, "That we should not sell our soul to gain a heart."

People have until October 11, 2007 and are encouraged to enter their comments and concerns into public record about the Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (DSEIR) viewable at the San Ramon City website. Comments may be submitted by email and mail to:

San Ramon City Center
Draft Subsequent EIR
2222 Camino Ramon
San Ramon, CA 94583
(925) 973-2550

Monday, October 1, 2007

Government Lobbyists, Good or Bad?

Handshake DealMomma's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Lobbyists

For many years now, I have been the proud holder of jobs that my parents found very difficult to explain to their friends. Now, when a well-meaning acquaintance asks "what does your daughter do?" they try to explain that I help people understand how to communicate with elected officials. Invariably the response is "What? She teaches people how to lobby? Good heavens, she's not a lobbyist herself, is she?" Apparently, being a lobbyist is right up there with being a convict, especially these days.

But is lobbying really that terrible? Before you utter a resounding "yes", let's look at what a lobbyist does. According to that wonderful resource, a lobbyist is someone who tries to influence public officials to take one position over another on a particular issue. That doesn't sound so bad, does it? I'm sure some of you are thinking "well, no, but that doesn't adequately describe all the terrible things that those lobbyists do in Washington, DC."

Before we start casting stones, however, consider for a minute that the vast majority of these lobbyists are working on issues that you might actually care about! For example, are you a member of AARP? Do you contribute to the Sierra Club? Do you own a car and have an AAA membership? All of these organizations use funds from their members to hire "lobbyists" in Washington, DC. In fact, you, yes you, might actually be acting as a lobbyist in your daily life. Have you ever called up a city agency to express the need for a stop sign in your neighborhood? Have you signed on to a petition or letter from a professional organization that was then sent to elected officials at the state or federal level? That's lobbying, my friend, pure and simple.

Yes, I know. That's different. You're expressing your views on public policy because you really care about an issue. Those evil lobbyists, however, are paid to express opinions that they don't necessarily believe. They use all kinds of bribery to get officials on their side.

The truth is, some people are paid for this work. Some, like citizen advocates, aren't. Some employ a number of tools, such as fancy dinners, fundraisers and, as we've heard in the news lately, fully-paid trips to exotic locales as part of their lobbying efforts. Some don't. Some professional lobbyists actually are really terrible people that peddle their influence in as sleazy a manner as possible and are an embarrassment to the profession. The vast majority, however, are people who truly believe in a cause and have found a way to marry their personal interests with their professional life. They are hired to lobby on causes they really care about, from access to health care to city planning to protection of animals.

I'm often asked "what's the difference between lobbying and advocacy?" To me, it's a simple matter of the audience. People who are supporters of a particular cause or position are "advocates". When those people start seeking to influence public officials to take one position over another on those issues, they are "lobbying." It doesn't matter whether they are paid or unpaid, whether they are in DC or "outside the beltway", or even whether they are sleazy or not: when one person seeks to influence another, that's lobbying. We can condemn the tactics and strategies they use, but let's not condemn the entire practice.

Really, if you think about it, there's no escaping lobbying. In fact, it could probably be considered the world's oldest profession. I know that some people honor another profession with that title, but if you adhere to the whole "Adam-and-Eve-in-the-garden-with-the-snake" perspective on the world, what was the snake but a very highly successful lobbyist? I'm sure he made all kinds of claims to Eve about the wholesomeness of apples and the general benefits that could be expected from apple eating. Perhaps he was evil – or perhaps he was just trying to get a little peace and quiet in the garden.

And in answer to the question that my parents always wrestle with – no, I am not a professional lobbyist, although I do occasionally "lobby" on a personal level. But I wouldn't be ashamed to admit that I was.


Stephanie Vance, the Advocacy Guru at Advocacy Associates, works with associations and businesses that want to impact public policy through effective advocacy techniques. You can learn more about her and her work at

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