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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

City Council Votes Against Downtown Appeals

Two Appeals Were Denied By City Council Pertaining to the Certification of the City Center Final Subsequent Environmental Impact Report and Approval of the Associated Project Entitlements.

John Nunes and the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 5 filed an appeal with the City of San Ramon. After hearing public testimony, and testimony from the appellant and respondent, the City Council voted against the appeal. They voted for the downtown project with the addition of an amendment that would positively block (restrict) "Big Box Retail", 75,000 sq. ft. or more with 10% of non sales tax items from being allowed to reside in the Downtown Center without a vote of the City Council.

Solar Gone To Waste
PollutionAlso included and passed by City Council was an energy savings amendment for the Downtown Center, which would include some solar and/or energy saving switching of lights off when not in use. However, the language on this amendment was somewhat more of a acquiescent olive branch offering than having any real teeth in promoting green or energy savings.

Jim Gibbon, representing San Ramon for Open Government also had submitted an appeal to the City of San Ramon pertaining to the certification of the City Center Final Subsequent Environmental Impact Report and approval of the Associated Project Entitlements. After hearing public testimony and testimony from the appellant and respondent, the City Council voted against this appeal also.

An interesting amendment was included in voting for the Downtown Center in relation to this appeal in regards to "Congesting Pricing" and/or paid for parking. In essence, the City of San Ramon, Alex Mehran of Sunset Development, and the City Council voted for this amendment, that if Congestion Pricing and or paid for parking was implemented at a regional level, that San Ramon would also implement paid for parking at the Downtown Center.

It is interesting to note that there seems to be a conflict of interest between the City of San Ramon, the City Council, Alex Mehran of Sunset Development Company and the passage of the City Center Downtown plan. Because the City is in a partnership with Alex Mehran, there were blatant signs from the City Manager, Herb Moniz, of deferring issues to Alex Mehran for approval or not approval of selected items. In a somewhat of a comical situation, Councilman David Hudson came out and strongly and totally apposed the additional Congestion Pricing Amendment be added, but then when Alex Mehran spoke out in favor of adding the amendment, Councilmemeber Hudson sheepishly found himself on the wrong side of the majority and quietly and disgruntling voted for it.

You have to wonder, does the City really get any land out of this deal. Because of the past land deals with Alex Mehran, in which he allegedly sold (escrow shows it was sold on paper) the prime pieces of property to the City which includes the 7.5 acre property and 11 acre "City Center" property, Alex in fact maintained a type of veto right on what the property could be used for, and he could exercise his right to buy back the property from the City for any reason for just the cost that he sold it plus cost of living increases. This is a sweetheart deal for Alex Mehran and Sunset Development Company, because the land is worth so much more now. So, now the City is going to be giving up prime real estate land for a building. But, is the City really going to own the land the building is standing on? Will the City even own the building or will it be leased to the City of San Ramon? Additionally, it is interesting to note that because the financials have remained hidden from public scrutiny, there simply is no way to analyze the true merits of this partnership between Sunset Development Company and the City of San Ramon, and how this Downtown Center will ultimately play out for the stakeholders, the Citizens of San Ramon.

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13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wonder, will you and your family enjoy the excellent amenities and ambiance once the new City Center is built? Or will you boycott it because the City didn't get enough land? You could continue to drive to Hacienda or Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek because it was so more intelligently built and planned.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to MEHRANVILLE.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather live in Mehranville than Tatarkaville, Dickeyville or Cambraville. In fact, if they were still playing at being leaders of our City, we would more than likely not be a City anymore.

They made County government look effective.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone answer one simple question: How come the citizens of San Ramon haven't seen or heard any details of the financial/land agreements on this City Center Project (especially, since the Council slipped and, said that they have all seen them??) Many people have stood before the Mayor and Council and asked repeatedly for the financials only to be denied access to them! How can they be available to the Council/Mayor and not to the public???Who do they work for anyway??

Anonymous said...

I suspect that the Council has seen preliminary financial information in closed session. As these are preliminary and not the final numbers, it would be premature to announce these figures to the public.

What public agency discloses preliminary settlement or financial information to the public while they are in negotiations?

Anonymous said...

So you're saying the City Center Project will be completely approved by Council and the Planning Commission before the financials/land agreements will be made available to the public? So, the public has no say in the process,and, you say this is standard operating procedure for a public agency??? The City is giving all governing authority/final decision making authority over the City Center (Public-Civic use) to a private developer, Alex Mehran with no public approval prior??? He has the final say in this entire project doesn't he??? He will have governing authority over our City leaders because they traded it away!!! Right?

Anonymous said...

Let me answer these questions for you one by one.

1) So you're saying the City Center Project will be completely approved by Council and the Planning Commission before the financials/land agreements will be made available to the public? No, the only thing that has been approved so far by the Planning Commission is the DSEIR, Vesting Tentative Map and Conditions of Approval. Those approvals in and of themselves do not require financial disclosures or approvals. It is important to remember that no approvals have been given to begin construction, construction plans are not ready, building permits are not pulled. The public has no direct approval authority in the land development proposals or financial details of the development. The details of the financial agreements will be disclosed by the City when the time is appropriate, more then likely once the building designs and approvals are granted.
2) So, the public has no say in the process,and, you say this is standard operating procedure for a public agency??? This process has been on-going for almost 2 decades. If your views haven't been heard on this project, that's your own fault. We live in a representative form of government. The concept of asking for public approval on projects would grind development to a halt. If the referendum process is followed, then the voters could decide on the specific elements of the project.

3) The City is giving all governing authority/final decision making authority over the City Center (Public-Civic use) to a private developer, Alex Mehran with no public approval prior??? What governing authority/decision making authority is being given to Alex Mehran? I don't understand where this question is coming from. The Planning Commission just held numerous public meetings and voted on the DSEIR and Conditions of Approval. Last I looked, Alex Mehran didn't have a vote. If the City Center isn't built, then Sunset Develoment has the opportunity to construct office buildings just like they have done throughout the Bishop Ranch complex, assuming those are approved by the City. Sunset can't build whatever they wish, in spite of what some might believe. The bottom line is, Sunset and the City have worked in partnership to develop the City Center plan the is currently being proposed. The City hasn't given any authority to Sunset to build antying, never have and never will. And again, no public approval is needed, unless the matter is brought to a vote.

Rick T. said...

The real question here is whether Gibbon and Blickenstaff (a.k.a. "San Ramon For Open Government"—i.e. the people who couldn’t find any candidates to challenge the incumbents on the City Council) will actually commit the resources to suing the EIR.

Neither of these malcontents has any real political backing, so it remains to be seen if they can actually scrounge up the change to finance Flashman's lawsuit. Perhaps Blickenstaff can tap into his Sierra Club ties, but one wonders if the organization is inclined to sue another EIR given how much they have spent on the frivioulous Northwest Specific Plan lawsuit (litigated by Flashman) and, furthermore, if they are willing to sue a high-density, mixed-use, transit-oriented project that incorporates the various "smart growth" principles they purport to stand for.

This comes down to money and, unless Flashman is willing to work on contingency, it’s doubtful that Gibbon and Blickenstaff will back up their blustery with their own money.

The Skeptical Planner said...

Rick, I don't have a problem with someone who is ignorant and is willing to listen and learn.

What I do have a problem with is the 'organizers' of this website and their followers, who are completely ignorant of facts and details, yet they puport to know what they are talking about. The sad fact is that people who really need the truth, listen to their drivel and draw unfounded conclusions and form opinions based on lies and innuendo.

Now, my thoughts on the City Center appeals. The John Nunes appeal will go away because of the project specific 'big box store' ban. The Unions interest was only in the Wal Mart issue. Curious on how that 'big box ban' was never mentioned during any of the Planning Commission meetings, unless I might have missed it.

The 'San Ramon for Open Government' appeal probably will go away, assuming that Flashman will find some other poor schmuck city to bother. Gibbon/Blickenstaff have no constituancy of any substance these days. HOwever, if they can muster the ability to get something on the ballot, I have no doubt that the voters of San Ramon will overwhelmingly support the City Center concept.

Anonymous said...

Rick, did something upset you? The truth about something? The ability for the common person to speak their mind. You have a beef with the US Constitution or the Bill of Rights? You have a problem with the judicial system set up in this country? Does it upset you that there are people that live in this city that would like to understand a little more about the process and my feel that they are entitled to a few answers having to do with this cities government? Is this a foreign thought to you? So rather then enlightening people with your opining, you revert to name calling. If you feel so strongly that this city plan is the direction for the City, why don’t you ask the city counsel to validate this great plan with a ballet vote? Oh I know, it costs too much money and it will take to long, bla bla bla....... Why don’t you actually get past you petty childish games and enlighten as to why you support this proposal? What makes this plan better then the last? Why is this the plan? Is that to hard a question?

The Skeptical Planner said...

Dear Last Anonymous Poster:

What names did Rick T. call anyone? When did the word "malcontent" become offensive? I think Rick T. has as much right to express his opinion as you do, or anyone else for that matter. I suppose the issue is that he expresses views that don't coincide with yours or this website. Too bad, get over it!

I agree, every citizen has a right to learn about all they can with regard to their government and how it operates.

As I said in a previous post, I have no fear of a ballot measure on this. Our voters have shown that they have the ability to see through the lies, mis-representations and mis-statements of fact. Witness the hysteria surrounding the 'houses on Royal Vista' issue. Witness the 'heliport issue', the GP2010 vote, the voting down of CAPP, the list goes on and on. So, bring it to a vote of the people.

Why this plan is far superior to the previous ones is obvious. Read the minutes of the Planning Commission meetings, read the staff reports, compare it to the previous proposals, do your homework. The answers are there!!

Anonymous said...

That’s great that you agree this is such an important issue that it should be validated by the vote of the people. Let’s get to the facts so we can all understand. My question to you or any supporter of this plan is, based on all your research (as it seems you have taken the time to do so), why is this plan better then any of the others? What is it in this design or plan that you have read or knowledge that you have been exposed to that makes this the plan? Previous postings have expressed their opinions as to why they are skeptical and do not feel it’s a worthy plan. What components of this plan stand out and get you so excited?

Anonymous said...

Why is the City trading so much of the "City-owned public land" of 17 acres of prime centrally located land (next to the parking structure) for a measely 3.5 acres next to the Chevron parking lot? What is the dollar value of those 17 acres of public land owned by the City of San Ramon? Who knows the facts of this money/land/tax transfer with Alex Mehran, Sunset Development Co.? Why are the citizens being ignored by our Mayor and Council?

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