Latest News Articles From The San Ramon Tribune

Monday, December 31, 2007

Contra Costa Home Sales Down 46 Percent year to year

Home Sales in the East Bay took a turn for the worst in November. DataQuick Information Systems issued a report showing that Bay Area Home Sales were down on average 36% with Contra Costa County showing a decrease of 46% from previous November 2006 total home sales. Median sales prices also dropped in Contra Costa County of 6.9 percent.

All Homes

Number Sold

Number Sold


November 2006

November 2007


Contra Costa1,627879-46.0%$567,500$528,500-6.9%
Santa Clara2,0281,317-35.1%$673,000$678,0000.7%
San Francisco568479-15.7%$760,000$814,7507.2%
San Mateo678504-25.7%$749,000$780,0004.1%
Bay Area8,0425,127-36.2%$620,000$629,0001.5%

Source: DataQuick Information Systems, Report

Bay Area home sales stuck at two-decade low; price picture mixed
The Bay Area's housing market remained in a bit of deep freeze in November, when sluggish demand kept sales at a two-decade low for the third straight month. Prices continued to hold up best in the region's core markets, while some outlying areas posted more double-digit annual declines, a real estate information service reported.

East Bay Business Times Reports

Mortgage crisis front and center: Biggest risk for economy is real estate

The housing market dominated economic and financial headlines in 2007, and is expected to be a major driver next year as well.

"Housing is front and center, and a major risk factor going forward," said Scott Anderson, a senior economist at Wells Fargo & Co. who puts the chances of California entering a short, shallow recession at almost 50 percent.

Business spending generally follows consumer spending, Thornberg said, so a slowdown in consumer spending will typically be followed several months later by a slowdown in business spending. He will be watching to see if there are dramatic decreases in business spending in the second and third quarters of 2008.

Anderson at Wells sees a potential slowdown in commercial real estate next year, which in 2007 stayed fairly strong as the residential market tanked. With banks tightening credit and scrutinizing loan portfolios, "we've seen the best days in commercial real estate," Anderson said. "Our fear is it could deteriorate more than expected."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Toys For Tots Dancing With The Stars

Toys For Tots

A Toys For Tots Event will be held on Saturday, December 22, 2007 from 12 pm to 2 pm at Taqueria El Balazo 250 Market Place San Ramon, CA 94583.

Through the gift of a shiny new toy, the Toys for Tots Foundation provides happiness and hope to disadvantaged children who might otherwise be overlooked this holiday season. Sponsor a toy and give a child recognition, confidence and a positive memory for a lifetime.

There will be a special guest appearance by Dancing With The Stars professional dancers Mark Ballas and Derek Hough.

We will be collecting new, unwrapped toys and our goal is to collect 500 toys in 2 hours.

You can contact Nicole Pizani if you need more information at 510-604-2204.

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.

Feel free to submit your news stories for publication consideration. Read the introduction to the San Ramon Tribune Newspaper for information.

Speed Limits Set Higher in Windemere

The San Ramon City Council passed an ordinance increasing the speed limits on Albion Road, East Branch Parkway, Monarch Road and Windemere Parkway.

  • 30 MPH on Albion Road, from Bollinger Canyon Road to Windemere Parkway.
  • 40 MPH on East Branch Parkway, from Bollinger Canyon Road to Windemere Parkway.
  • 40 MPH on Monarch Road, from Bollinger Canyon Road to Dougherty Road,
  • 40 MPH on Windemere Parkway, from Bollinger Canyon Road to East Branch Parkway.
Doug Burr, who has brought two proposed initiatives to include stop signs and a speed limit of 30 MPH for all of Windemere Parkway and East Branch Parkway spoke out against the increased 40 MPH speed limits on these roads. Doug reported that other cities have implemented exactly what his initiatives are to reduce speeds and make it safer for the children. Doug asked the City Council to vote against the 40 MPH increase in speeds indicating that setting the speed limits higher will likely result in even higher speeds in the future.

City Staff reported that because a traffic study showed that the average speeds are currently above the 30 MPH speed limits (45.8 miles per hour on Windemere Parkway and 40.17 miles per hour on East Branch Parkway based on the traffic study) that setting the speed limits at 30 MPH would make it unenforceable by the police using radar according to state law. According to staff, the 85'th percentile speed is set in 5 mph increments, rounded to the nearest 5 mph. The City Traffic Engineer has the discretion to lower the rounded 85'th percentile speed by 5 miles per hour. If the posted speed limit is not based on an Engineering and Traffic Survey, then the roadway is considered a speed trap and unenforceable by radar in the State of California.

Areas within 500 ft of schools would still have a 25 mph school zone, but only when children are present. There is a legislative proposal that would increase the area to include 1000 ft where schools are present. City staff is also formulating increased coverage for parks and recreation areas to also be included in the 25 mph zones, but only when children are present. This would have to be voted on by City Council to incorporate this into the entire City of San Ramon Parks and Recreation areas.

Traffic LightDoughery Valley Traffic Signals are being planned for many of the intersections on Windemere Parkway and East Branch Parkway. According to the Traffic Signal Engineer, lights can be timed to allow for a smooth flow of traffic through the area with lights timed in waves to any speed limit desired.

While traffic lights are in fact generally designed to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic, they are not exactly an effective measure for reducing speeds.

Under a coordinated control system for synchronizing the signals speed is self-regulated; drivers traveling too fast will arrive on a red indication and end up stopping, drivers traveling too slowly will not arrive at the next signal in time to utilize the green indication. In synchronized systems, however, drivers will often use excessive speed in order to "make" as many lights as possible. (See traffic lights)

It is also important to note that the scheduled opening in the spring of 2008 of Windemere Parkway to Camino Tassajara connection will significantly increase traffic on the roadway, and is anticipated that speeds will increase once that occurs.

Feel free to submit your news stories for publication consideration. Read the introduction to the San Ramon Tribune Newspaper for information.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

City Council Elves : Elf Yourself

The San Ramon City Council Gets in the Holiday Mood.
San Ramon City Council ElvesSan Ramon City Council ElfCouncilmember David E. Hudson, Councilmember Scott Perkins, Mayor H. Abram Wilson, Vice Mayor Jim Livingstone, and Councilmember Carol J. Rowley perform for the citizens of San Ramon. Here they are putting on the Santa Elf costumes to get us all ready for the holidays.

See them live for a limited engagement at Elf Yourself. Links to each Dance number are found here.

The first production number is called: Santa's Four Elves

The second production is a solo by: Councilmember Rowley titled: Santa's Favorite

From all of us to all of you, Happy Holidays San Ramon City Council Members. Keep the smile on your faces. You guys look good in the elf costumes. Ho Ho Ho!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Brunch With Santa

Santa ClausCome and spend brunch with Santa Claus on Saturday, December 8'th at three different times at the Alcosta Room in the Community Center. Sessions include 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM, 10:30 AM to 12:00 PM, and 12:30 PM till 2:30 PM. Pre-registration is required. Sign-up early for visiting with Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves for a variety of brunch treats. Both children and adults must register. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Click here for more information for Brunch With Santa.


CA, 94583

Phone: (925) 973-3200

David Benoit "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Photo by Andrew VonBank/Associated Press

Join Jazz pianist David Benoit and his band as they bring life to Vince Guaraldi's magical music from the Peanuts Christmas Specials. "Christmastime Is Here," "Linus & Lucy's Theme," and other favorites sparkle under David’s masterful touch. An accomplished musician and Grammy winner David Benoit's career successfully spans both the jazz and classical worlds. Relive the joy of youth with your favorite Peanuts songs performed masterfully by David Benoit and his band.

Does this man know how to have a good time?

Sunday 12/9/07 4:00 PM
Dougherty Valley Performing Arts Center
10550 Albion Way
San Ramon, CA

Ticket Information

Twas The Night Before Christmas

Twas The Night Before Christmas
A realistic dramatic and musical story based upon the inspiration for Clement Moore's famous poem. This heartwarming play is a reminder of all the family traditions for the holidays. The excellent holiday performance for the entire family has two acts and a Victorian turn-of-the century drawing room setting. The show has been described as 'Heartwarming and delightful...' -Chicago Tribune

Order Tickets

Monday, November 19, 2007

Stop The Lawsuit Now!

Stop the Lawsuit

Hi, my name's Doug Burr, and I live in San Ramon, California.

Eighteen months ago, the principal of this school (Hidden Hills School, San Ramon) asked me to help and get some stop signs in front of the school so our kids would be safe when they walk to school.

So, I asked the city, and they said no. So, I wrote an initiative to put on the ballot, and let the voters decide. Well, the city sued to stop me, and I think that's wrong.

I think democracy is what makes this the greatest country in the world. And I'd like to ask this entire country to e-mail Mayor Wilson and the San Ramon City Council, and ask them to stop the lawsuit.

God Bless America

Send in your articles for publication consideration to the San Ramon Tribune. Read the introduction to the San Ramon Tribune Newspaper.

Friday, November 9, 2007

30,000 Cars Per Day By Year End!

The County Master Plan estimates 30,000 cars per day; the posted speed signs will change to 45 miles an hour when the connection to Camino Tassajara is opened by the end of this year.

The cities of Danville and Dublin are putting pressure on the County to open the connection sooner to move their traffic onto San Ramon streets. Commuters from Livermore to Walnut Creek are expected to take Camino Tassajara to Windemere Parkway to Bollinger to avoid the 580/680 interchange.

Camino Tassajara/Blackhawk residents are expected to use East Branch Parkway (in front of Windemere Ranch Middle School) to avoid the evening backup on 580. They will remove the stop sign on East Branch at Arlington Way.

Stop Signs In Windemere NOW!

What are we asking for?

Stop signs at 11 intersections and 30 miles an hour posted for all of Windemere Parkway and East Branch Parkway!

Windemere Parkway is classified as a regional collector like Bollinger Canyon Rd. Every intersection on both of those roads has either stop signs or traffic lights.

The majority of intersections on Windemere Parkway have no traffic control.
What else are we asking for?

The Mayor and the San Ramon City Council must act! We want the City Council to pass an ordinance stating the stop signs will be installed and the posted speed signs changed to 30 miles an hour. We want this prior to the City of San Ramon taking control of Windemere Parkway.

Waiting until the City of San Ramon has jurisdiction is a delaying tactic.

The Council will want the transportation department to do a traffic study. The result of the study will be that a road designed for 55 miles an hour traffic should be posted at 45 miles an hour and have the current configuration of traffic lights. The county has already done the study. (see new info below)

This is a political decision, not a traffic department decision.
Windermere Parkway Stop Signs
Join us at:
Update and new information: The county is no longer planning on raising the speed limit to 45 mph, it is the City that plans to raise the speed limit to 40 mph.

Submit your San Ramon articles and information to the San Ramon Tribune for publication consideration.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

San Ramon Sues Their Own Residents

San Ramon, CA
The City of San Ramon has sued to stop Doug Burr, resident of San Ramon, for bringing forth the Stop Signs and Speed Limits Windemere Initiatives, and to prevent the initiatives from being placed on the ballot.

"I just want the children in this neighborhood to walk to school in safety," said Doug. The City Council then voted in closed session to authorize the lawsuits.

Doug Burr spoke at a previous City Council meeting in September 2007, requesting that the City Council take action and support a resolution which would keep the speed limit on Windemere Parkway and East Branch Parkway at 30 mph instead of the County's plans to increase it to 45 mph. (see new information update below)

Windemere Public and School Safety ZoneWindemere San RamonWindemere, San Ramon, CA : Google Interactive Map

Mayor H. Abram Wilson thanked Mr. Burr for bringing this item to the Council's attention and stated that he will forward this item to appropriate City staff to evaluate. The Mayor announced that, "resident safety is of paramount concern to the Council and that this is not a Dougherty Valley problem but a City problem." The Mayor said, "Council will follow the proper procedures so that any action taken will be done legally." Reference.

Look At The Legal Action Taken!

San Ramon City Sues to Stop Safer Streets for Children!

Mayor H. Abram Wilson's "proper procedures" according to a closed session of City Council was to promptly file not one, but two legal lawsuits against Doug Burr for bringing initiatives forward that will reduce the speed thorough a section of Windemere where children go to school. The proposed initiatives include reducing the speed limit back down to 30 mph and the placing of a number of stop signs in the residential neighborhood where parks and Hidden Hills Elementary School are located.

The City "maintains that the initiatives are invalid because it 'embraces more than one issue' to wit: establishing a speed limit of 30 miles per hour on Windermere Parkway in the Windemere Development; and, establishing a speed limit of 30 miles per hour on East Branch Parkway in the Windermere Development."

Doug Burr disagrees with the City's legal conclusions and maintains "that the Proposed Initiative does not 'embrace more than one issue.'"

The city is taking the same tact with the stop signs initiative, and filed a second lawsuit against Doug on the stop signs initiative.

So, the City wants a judicial determination and is suing Dour Burr for a judicial declaration of invalidity on the initiatives, for costs of the suits (each suit estimated to be over $25,000 in damages to the City), and for any other further relief as the Court deems just and proper; as a way of preventing him, or any others from getting the petition on the ballot. (Speed Lawsuit and Stop Signs Lawsuit PDFs)

Doug has set up a Winderemer website with more information about the Stop Signs in Windemere at

Here is what the residents of Windemere want.

Stop signs at 11 intersections and 30 miles an hour posted for all of Windemere Parkway and East Branch Parkway!

Windemere Parkway is classified as an arterial like Bollinger Canyon Rd. Every intersection on Bollinger has either stop signs or traffic lights. The majority of intersections on Windemere Parkway have no traffic control.

All of the intersections are in front of schools, on intersections children use to walk to school or in front of parks.

What intersections specifically?

1. East Branch Parkway and Arlington Way (There was a stop sign, it has been removed)
2. South Bellingham Way and Windemere Parkway
3. Silva Way and Windemere Parkway
4. Kearney Way and Windemere Parkway
5. Holborn Way and Windemere Parkway
6. Windside Lane and Windemere Parkway
7. Albion Rd and Harcourt
8. Albion Rd and Silva Way
9. Craiglee Way and Harcourt Way
10. Sherwood Way and Baker Way
11. Sherwood Way and Melbourne Way

San Ramon's Alcosta Blvd., south of Bollinger Canyon Rd., is a good example of what they want. If the City can put stop signs and a 30 mph speed limit there, why can't they put them in Windemere?
Russian Hammer and SickleThe Stop Signs in Windemere website has over a 125 petition signers listed with many more signing up and are outraged by what the City of San Ramon is doing to their own people.

The San Ramon City Council's idea of following the will of the people is to rule them with an Iron Fist.

Is this America or is this Russia during Stalin's reign and bringing the Hammer down on the people, or is it Germany under the reign of Hitler? You be the judge.

Post Your Comments Online

Update and new information: The county is no longer planning on raising the speed limit to 45, it is the City of San Ramon that plans to raise the speed limit to 40.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Chevron Looking at Algae Harvesting for Producing Bio-Fuels

Chevron and National Renewable Energy Laboratory to Collaborate on Research to Produce Transportation Fuels Using Algae

Joint effort to identify and develop algae strains for feedstock in next-generation biofuels

SAN RAMON, Calif., Oct. 31 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX) and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced today that they have entered into a collaborative research and development agreement to study and advance technology to produce liquid transportation fuels using algae.

Chevron and NREL scientists will collaborate to identify and develop algae strains that can be economically harvested and processed into finished transportation fuels such as jet fuel. Chevron Technology Ventures, a division of Chevron U.S.A. Inc., will fund the initiative.

The research project announced today is the second under a five-year strategic biofuels research alliance between Chevron and NREL announced in October 2006. The first involves bio-oil reforming, a process by which bio-oils derived from the decomposition of biological feedstocks are then converted into hydrogen and biofuels.

"We are extremely pleased to join Chevron in this path-breaking research," said NREL Director Dan Arvizu. "NREL operated the Aquatic Species Program for the Department of Energy for nearly 20 years, giving us unique insights into the research required to produce cost-effective fuels from algal oils or lipids. Our scientists have the advanced tools and the experience to rapidly increase the yield and productivity of key species of algae. In Chevron we have found an ideal research partner with the skills and knowledge to transform these algal lipids to cost-competitive fuels and to distribute those fuels to consumers."

"Biofuels will play an increasingly important role in diversifying energy supplies to meet the world's growing energy needs. Chevron believes that nonfood feedstock sources such as algae and cellulose hold the greatest promise to grow the biofuels industry to large scale," said Don Paul, vice president and chief technology officer, Chevron Corporation. "Collaboration between industry, universities, research institutions and government is essential to overcoming the technological and commercial challenges of manufacturing high-quality transportation fuels from unconventional feedstocks. Chevron is pleased to partner with the nation's preeminent renewable energy laboratory in this important research."

Algae are considered a promising potential feedstock for next-generation biofuels because certain species contain high amounts of oil, which could be extracted, processed and refined into transportation fuels using currently available technology. Other benefits of algae as a potential feedstock are their abundance and fast growth rates. Key technical challenges include identifying the strains with the highest oil content and growth rates and developing cost-effective growing and harvesting methods.

About the National Energy Renewable Laboratory

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the DOE by Midwest Research Institute and Battelle. More information about NREL is available at

NREL supports the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Biomass Program. NREL is the lead national laboratory of the virtual National Bioenergy Center, which was established to support and help the DOE coordinate the nation's biomass research activities. The center has primary responsibility for carrying out the agenda of the Office of the Biomass Program of the EERE and other related goals. Collaborating with industrial, academic, related EERE programs and other governmental research, development and commercialization efforts is central to that agenda.

About Chevron

Chevron Corporation is one of the world's leading integrated energy companies. We have approximately 58,000 employees, and our subsidiaries conduct business in more than 180 countries. We operate across the entire energy spectrum -- producing and transporting crude oil and natural gas; refining, marketing and distributing fuels and other energy products and services; manufacturing and selling petrochemical products; generating power; and developing and commercializing the energy resources of the future, including biofuels and other renewables. Chevron expects to spend approximately $2.5 billion on alternative and renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency services between 2007 and 2009. Chevron is based in San Ramon, Calif. More information about Chevron is available at

SOURCE Chevron Corporation

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Algae Bio Diesel

Biodiesel from algae

Matt Mathis, left, and Roger Simmons, technicians with the Center of Excellence for Hazardous Materials Management, sample the water in a stock tank being used to grow algae at New Mexico State University’s Agricultural Science Center at Artesia. Researchers are working to determine the best methods to grow and harvest the algae, which can be used to produce oil for biodiesel fuel. (01/08/2007) NMSU

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

---> Please visit our reorganized earthquake pages at - <---
including new CA-NV pages at -

Click on an earthquake on the above map for more information.
Click on an arrow at edge or corner of above map to go to an adjacent map.
Click here to go to index map || big earthquake list || all earthquakes list
Special maps: Long Valley || Los Angeles || San Francisco || Parkfield
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Maps are updated within about 5 minutes of an earthquake or once an hour.
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What happens when I click on an earthquake?

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!!

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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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Thursday, September 27, 2007

San Ramon Community Theater Announcement

Announcing The Holiday Production


Open Auditions at Front Row theater

October 1 - 7:30 - 10 pm.

Callbacks the evening of Wednesday, October 3.

PERFORMANCES ARE: December 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, and 23.

Be prepared to sing a Christmas song and to read from script

(see auditions for list of characters needed)

San Ramon Community Theater

San Ramon Community Theater

Auditions and Performances will be at:

San Ramon's "Front Row Theater" at Dougherty Station Community Center

Contact the San Ramon Community Theater. For more information go to

View Larger Map

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Friday, September 14, 2007

5 New Parks Opening in San Ramon

September 22, 2007 Official Opening Day

The City of San Ramon, Windemere BLC and Shapell invite you to celebrate the opening of five new parks San Ramon Sports Park, Arlington Park, Sherwood Park, Creekside Park and Monarch Park. This historic occasion will begin with an official ribbon cutting ceremony followed by activities, food and entertainment at each of the park sites throughout the day.

Schedule of Activities

10am Ribbon Cutting at the San Ramon Sports Park

10:30am – 1pm Community Sports Festival at the San Ramon Sports Park

11am – 2pm Dougherty Valley High School Tennis Grand Opening

11am - 12:30pm Punt, Pass and Kick at San Ramon Sports Park

12pm – 5pm Free Recreation Swim at Dougherty Valley Aquatic Center

11am – 3pm Cricket Demonstration at Monarch Park

1 & 2pm Dana Smith and his performing dog Lacy at Arlington Park

2:30pm Popular Children’s Entertainer Daffy Dave at Creekside Park

Details Below

The San Ramon Sports Park along with four other neighborhood parks including Arlington and Sherwood Parks also in the Windemere BLC neighborhoods and Creekside and Monarch Park in the Shapell built Gale Ranch neighborhoods will be dedicated on September 22, 2007 at a Park Grand Opening Day. This event will include a full day of festivities to celebrate this monumental occasion.

The Park Opening Day will begin with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Sports Park at 10am, followed by a Community Sports Festival and Punt, Pass and Kick competition at that location. The Community Sports Festival will celebrate all sports with opportunities to play soccer, football, and badminton to name a few. Test your skills at a speed pitch machine, hoops contests and an obstacle course. Visitors will also have the opportunity to meet and get information about all of the local youth sports organizations.

Other activities that day include a Tennis Grand Opening at the Dougherty Valley High School Tennis Courts, and the first free recreation swimming opportunity at the new Dougherty Valley Aquatic Center. At Arlington Park, Dana Smith and his amazing dog, Lacey, will perform at 1pm & 2pm Monarch Park, with the first San Ramon cricket pitch, will be the site of cricket demonstrations throughout the day. To complete the day-long celebration, popular children entertainer Daffy Dave will perform at Creekside Park at 2:30pm

"The City of San Ramon is very excited to be opening six new parks for the residents of this great City," commented Jeff Eorio, Parks and Community Services Director. "This is a historic occasion and one that the community should be very proud of, as we continue to improve the quality of life for everyone in San Ramon. The range of opportunities in these parks is amazing, from fire truck playgrounds to world class sports fields and a soccer field named after our own hometown hero, Tiffany Roberts; not to mention a cricket field and beautiful playgrounds for all ages of children, this is fantastic!"

For More information email or call 925-973-3370.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Windmill Farms Needs Your Help

San Ramon Windmill Farms
Letter from Windmill Farms

Dear Friends, Family, and Valued Customers,

We here at Windmill Farms have been faced with a devastating problem. After almost 34 years servicing the San Ramon Valley, The Contra Costa Environmental Health Services, will financially force us to go out of business if something is not done. Contra Costa Health Services wants us to remove products that have been sold here since Windmill Farms first opened its doors in 1974. These products include all bulk food items (grains, nuts, dried fruits, etc.) and the cut produce (i.e. watermelons, pineapples, etc.). On top of these demands, we have been told to build a fully enclosed structure by August 2008 or be forced with legal actions.

Windmill Farms has never had any health related issues that would be a cause for any concern. We have always put the safety of our customers and employees first.

Windmill Farms has tried numerous times to solve this matter quietly through meetings with both the City of San Ramon and Contra Costa Environmental Health Services. All our attempts have failed. Now it is time for us to speak up and defend our way of life. An administrative hearing conducted by Contra Costa Health Services on July 17, 2007 lead to a ruling to discontinue the sale of our various products and fully enclose our business. We question their logic or fairness for our business to bide by there ruling when farmers markets are permitted to operate throughout the area, selling cut produce and other prepared foods in an open-air environment. It is our belief, that the Contra Costa Health Services has made it their mission since 1997 to shut us down. Now they are in the position to do just that. We believe that the time has come for everyone to be made aware of this situation we are in, which threatens to force us out of business after almost 34 years.

We have also tried to get the City of San Ramon to help us out in this matter but we feel they have turned their backs on us now that there are plans to redevelop this entire area north of Crow Canyon Rd. with a specific plan that is limited to a mixed-use only environment (housing, retail mix). It is our belief that by Windmill Farms being gone it will be a starting point for implementation of their specific plan.

For those of you that are new to the Windmill Farms family, we are one of the last open air markets in the area. We have been in this community since long before there was even a City of San Ramon. We are family owned and operated and have been since 1974. We have always tried our best to bring the freshest, tastiest, and local products around. We have employed hundreds of employees over our almost 34 years in business as well as supported numerous local farmers.

Now we are forced to ask for the help of our customers, friends, and community. We are asking for you to send letters, make phone calls, and voice your opinions to everyone. Get everyone involved, including News Media, local and state Government. Please help us preserve our small business that has been a part of the community for decades. If we are to go who will be next?

Thank you for all of your support,

The Smith Family
Windmill Farms

Granny Smith Apples

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San Ramon Valley High School 25 Year Reunion

Saturday, October 13, 2007 – 6:00 p.m.
The reunion dinner will take place at Piatti Ristorante & Bar in Danville. We will dine under the stars on the outdoor garden patio.

The price is $90.00 including deposit. (This price is per person and is non-refundable. If you previously sent me a deposit, please subtract that amount).
The evening will include passed appetizer platters, your choice of soup or salad, a delicious entrée (4 choices will be available), dessert and coffee. The price also includes wine, beer and non-alcoholic beverages.
If you have paid your deposit and pay the remainder of the amount due by September 28, your spot is guaranteed. After that, reservations will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Please mail your check ASAP to:
SRVHS Reunion
c/o Sari Zimmerman
637 Wright Street
Santa Rosa, Ca 95404

The deadline is Friday, September 28

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Passion at Planning Commission Public Hearings

The people of San Ramon spoke their minds at last night’s Planning Commission public hearings for both the Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report, (DSEIR) and the actual City Center Downtown Plan. There was a full room of people present at the Community Center for the Planning Commission meeting, with over 30 speakers who wished to speak on either, or both, the DSEIR and the Downtown City Center Plan.

The public hearing portion for the DSEIR was spoken on by numerous San Ramon Citizens, who brought to light, the many inadequacies in the document, and expanded on the numerous unavoidable impacts for San Ramon.

The DSEIR, is a draft document put together by the consulting firm, Michael Brandman Associates, under contract to the City. It is over 700 pages in size and scope, can be downloaded from the San Ramon City website, and is quite difficult to digest in only a 45 day period. Most speakers requested an extension of 90 or 120 days for public input.

Some of the inadequacies brought to light include traffic impacts during periods of school, mid-day, and midweek studies were missing in the DSEIR. Information was given to the fact that the DSEIR does not conform to the General Plan 2020 in describing what a Civic Center is supposed to be and not what the citizens voted for when they passed the 2020 General Plan. Safety of children crossing from the Civic Center South West portion library area, to the North East section Central Park area was not addressed. Extended crosswalk timing requirements for the Iron Horse Trail and how this will impact the traffic on Bollinger was not addressed in the report. The shadow evaluations were strictly limited to mid-day instead of complete (all day) evaluations based on 100 ft tall buildings, and the impact on the Iron Horse Trail, which is a Park, was not addressed in the report. The aspect of the noise impacts in other surrounding neighborhoods (given the fact that wind will likely take the noise further distances) was not addressed in the DSEIR. Late night usage impacts from full service bars serving alcohol and what will likely result in noise increases, and more police having to patrol this area, and the impact on our youth in San Ramon along with the other various societal impacts on the San Ramon community as a whole was not addressed. In light of the fact that 680 will be, and is currently at times a parking lot for commuter traffic, and according to reports is at a grade "F" (and can not be mitigated) and will likely result in traffic jams and backups onto Bollinger Canyon Road and other surface streets, this was not addressed by the DSEIR.

Other items not addressed in the Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report and brought forth by the San Ramon Citizens included the annual events that have been a part of the heart and soul of San Ramon for years and have drawn the community together. These events have used the lots that would be turned into retail, residential, and office space with this downtown center. How will those events be impacted in the future from a parking and logistics standpoint? Items such as would parking be allowed in the parking structures for these events and would there even be any events in the future or would they be lost forever, were some of the questions that need to be addressed by the DSEIR?

The Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report was shown to be deficient in other areas also and spoken on by the public at the meeting. Information was brought forth, in light of the fact that small theaters all over the country are having great difficultly in drawing patrons, with Blackhawk Theaters given as an example, with most people instead going to larger theaters; is how realistic is an additional, small sized 6 screen theater, with foreign films going to be able to sustain itself in San Ramon. What will be the impact on the Crow Canyon Theater?

After the public hearing portion of the DSEIR, the planning commissioners, Chairperson Dennis Viers, Vice Chairperson Bob Patrino, and Commissioners Donna Kerger, Phil O’Loane, and Harry Sachs added their own thoughts and comments about the DSEIR and the proposed extension. According to City Attorney, Byron Athan, the period for public input can be extended out to 60 days instead of the 45 days currently set. The Planning Commissioners passed the extension unanimously. The extension goes through October 11, 2007. People are encouraged to study the DSEIR, and to write in with details and their thoughts about the various environmental impact deficiencies, what should be included, what needs to be studied or evaluated more thoroughly, and then submit it to the city for these comments to be added to the final environmental impact report. According to the process, these submitted comments, questions, and concerns will become part of the record and will be addressed, in writing, in the final EIR.

When it came time for the public hearing for the Downtown City Center plan portion, there were both the full supporters and many that opposed the plan as is currently laid out. Many of the former mayors, former council members, and members of the economic development committee were quite outspoken in pushing the project forward, though some had concerns about the issues brought forth, (like 100 feet tall buildings and traffic). Those opposed to the project as is presently laid out were quite concerned with the 100 feet tall office buildings, the tall parking structures, the high densities, traffic, safety, the small size of the civic center and distance the civic center portion of the buildings are located from Central Park, society issues, the huge project size, and the impact on the community at large.

The meeting ended a few minutes after midnight with everyone being given a chance to speak with passion, reason, and constructive input. Now both sides have much to think about for the future of San Ramon.

Next Downtown City Center Public Hearing:
October 2, 2007
Time: 7:00 PM
San Ramon Community Center
12501 Alcosta Blvd, San Ramon, CA

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Wal-Mart Superstore for San Ramon Downtown?

Could a Wal-Mart Upscale Superstore be in store for the Downtown City Center?

Think it can’t happen in San Ramon, think again. Wal-Mart has been trying for years to get a Superstore in the San Ramon Valley. While Pleasanton has a general merchandise Wal-Mart, it is not a Superstore. The terms big-box, superstore, megastore, and supercenter also refer to these large square footage retail establishments.

Just recently the Livermore City Council said absolutely No to Wal-Mart’s plans of building a Super Sized Store in the Livermore area. In fact a total ban on Big Box Stores was set in place.

Wal-mart Greeter Gone Wild
“Livermore City Council passed an ordinance to forbid such superstores from being allowed within city limits. Livermore voted for the ordinance after Wal-Mart showed an interest in bringing an 185,000-square-foot discount retail center with a grocery store to town.

Although rebuffed by Livermore, Wal-Mart or another retailer deciding there may be a viable market in the Tri-Valley could shop their plans to another city.” ref

Why Did Livermore Ban Superstores?

The fact of the matter is where Wal-Mart superstores have been built in various places in the country, they have caused a major problem of urban decay. Urban decay occurs when areas of the city fall into a state of disrepair or a major shift in the buying habits of people put local community anchor supermarkets out of business, and associated retailers are subsequently displaced due to not enough business at the various locations around the area. The Livermore city council understood the significance of maintaining the local anchors to support the other large percentage of businesses and small retailers that make up the Livermore landscape. They recognized the threat of a Wal-Mart Superstore to the community and made the right decision for the people.

Dublin is now being targeted as a Wal-Mart superstore location, but Wal-Mart would like a much better location in the Tri-Valley. Could the new San Ramon City Center be a target for a Wal-Mart Superstore? Do you think that is ridicules? After all, our City Council keeps telling us that they want an upscale department store to anchor the downtown city center. As of yet, no upscale department store has shown an interest in setting up shop in San Ramon.

The demographics of San Ramon simply will not support an upscale department store, and the department stores know it. San Ramon buyers, while having significant income levels, are maxed out with high mortgages, and shop for the best deals possible. Blackhawk, a community with very high income levels had a major department store failure “when upscale Saks Fifth Avenue closed its compact but opulent store – its first in the East Bay – in early 1999 after being open only a year.” ref

So how does a Wal-Mart Superstore fit into the San Ramon landscape?

Forget the idea of a big sprawling box but think of the new upscale Wal-Mart Superstore like their prototype store in Plano, near Dallas Texas. “Wal-Mart is adding new products and revamping stores to catch up with competitors including Target Corp. and Issaquah-based Costco Wholesale Corp. that are winning customers with exclusive brands.” ref

What Would a Wal-Mart Superstore do for San Ramon?

This would likely result in the local Nob Hill store and all the other small retail shops in that shopping area being severally threatened to stay in business. The Target store adjacent to the new Wal-Mart would be severally crippled as well as all the little shops in that center. Competition in business is good, but when the supply and demand is way out of whack, the likelihood for urban decay and businesses going out of business is a very real probability. Not only would there be significant impact on the local San Ramon business community, but current traffic figures would have to be thrown out, because a store like Wal-Mart would bring in significantly higher traffic from all the outlying surrounding cities, and would likely draw the lower income crowd, which would be a major factor for the community at large.

Police services would likely have to be increased. The Iron Horse Trail would significantly be impacted. Safety of crossing Bollinger Canyon, Rd. will be a major issue for the Iron Horse Trail, which is being used more and more by the residents of San Ramon. The crowds at the San Ramon City Park basketball courts would significantly increase. With increased crowds comes an increase in the criminal elements. The skate park would be impacted. Actually, just about every city element is affected by this major influx of people traffic.

So, San Ramon City Council Members, be careful for what you wish for, because the very real possibility is you are going to get more than what you wished for, and you’re not going to like it. Think this can't happen in San Ramon? Read the Wal-Mart Watch

The High Cost of Low Price

Extra Extra Read All About It!

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

San Ramon City Center 2.0 FAR!

The San Ramon Environmental Impact Report for the city center site states that the building FAR (Floor Area Ratio) is 1.27 FAR across the entire City Center project.

Make no mistake about this, this FAR is extremely dense.

Building Massing

Floor Area Ratio (FAR) provides a measurement of building massing and is calculated by divided project square footage (2,168,466) by the square footage of developable land area (1,702,760). The entire City Center project would have a 1.27 FAR, which is within the maximum allowable 1.35 FAR established in the Zoning Ordinance for the City Center Mixed Use (CCMU) zone. [DSEIR Section 4 Part Two - Aesthetics, Light, and Glare]

DSEIR FAR Report is Misleading

This however, is quite misleading because of the word "entire" is used to spread the FAR out over the entire 44 acre project. The lot with the three seven story office buildings is actually being proposed at a 2.0 FAR. Note: No other office developments in San Ramon come close to the building density being proposed in the City Center. All other business office buildings according to the General Plan are 0.45 FAR maximum.

Understanding FAR - Floor Area Ratio

Floor Area Ratio
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Floor Area Ratio (FAR) or Floor Space Index (FSI) is the ratio of the total floor area of buildings on a certain location to the size of the land of that location, or the limit imposed on such a ratio.

The Floor Area Ratio is the total building square footage (building area) divided by the site size square footage (site area).

As a formula: Floor Area Ratio = (Total covered area on all floors of all buildings on a certain plot)/(Area of the plot)

Thus, an FSI of 2.0 would indicate that the total floor area of a building is two times the gross area of the plot on which it is constructed.

See Carfree Cities: FAR Explained

The current northern portion of undeveloped City-owned property where the three 7 story office buildings would be built is approximately 7.56 acres. The southern 6.71 acres portion contains parking areas associated with Bishop Ranch 1.

DSEIR 3.1.2 - Existing Conditions
The existing conditions of each individual parcel are described below. Photographs of the use of each parcel are shown in Exhibits 3-3a through 3-3e.

Parcel 1A
Parcel 1A consists of 14.27 acres of undeveloped land and developed parking areas associated with Bishop Ranch 1. The northern portion of Parcel 1A contains approximately 7.56 acres of undeveloped City-owned, rectangular-shaped property. This land contains ruderal vegetation, with ornamental landscaping surrounding the property on all four sides. This portion of the parcel contains fill imported from other nearby parcels that have been developed. The southern 6.71-acre portion of Parcel 1A contains parking areas associated with Bishop Ranch 1. The parking areas are characterized as at-grade, asphalt-paved with landscaped islands and freestanding lighting. Sidewalks are present along its frontages with Bollinger Canyon Road and the Bishop Ranch 1 East roadway.

Sunset Development has an existing entitlement to develop its portion of Parcel 1A as a 328,220-square-foot office complex in accordance with the previously approved Chevron Park Annexation and Development Agreement. This entitlement was originally granted to Chevron Corporation, the previous owner of the property. Sunset Development subsequently acquired the entitlement when it purchased the Bishop Ranch 1 property.

One acre = 43560 square feet. So, to come up with the square feet of the buildable area we can multiply the 7.56 acres X 43560 square feet = 329,313.6 square feet of land.

What is being purposed is for Alex Mehran of Sunset Development to build with the entitlement of 328,220 sq. ft. that originally came with the property, plus 194,652 sq ft. from the destruction of the office complex across the street, plus an additional 158,897 sq. ft. to come to a total of 681,769 sq. ft. of office space in the land mass of 329,314 sq. ft.

To figure the FAR, take 681,769 divided by 329,314 = 2.07 FAR.

This is Too Two FAR Out!

With these high structures next to the Iron Horse Trail, (note: the Iron Horse Trail is considered a regional trail and is maintained by the Parks District) they will tower above anything else in the city today. The DSEIR came up with shadow analysis on the Iron Horse Trail at 10 AM and 2 PM (where the sun is near it's peak heights) for both the summer and winter months, but conveniently left out the evaluation of what the shadows would be like at mid to late afternoon on the Iron Horse Trail. During the summer months, the Iron Horse Trail is used quite frequently in the mid to late afternoons. For this evaluation to be left out from the 600 page DSEIR is not by accident. This will have a significant impact on the Iron Horse Trail and needs to be taken into account properly, because technically the Iron Horse Trail is part of the Parks, according to the General Plan 4.8-I-17

"• Sun access planes adjacent to public parks (1:3.5) to prevent substantial shadow impacts.

City Center would be excluded from these requirements, with the exception of the sun access plane requirements adjacent to public parks. Refer to Figures 4-5 through 4-8."
Set Back Requirements For Buildings Next to Parks

The Iron Horse Trail is a regional trail facility that provides an excellent recreational experience for users. The Iron Horse Trail is operated and maintained by the East Bay Regional Park District (District). San Ramon City Article

What Does The San Ramon General Plan 2020 Say For FAR Averaging?

In the General Plan chapter 4 Land Use, Density/Intensity Standards it distinctly states, "No averaging is permitted such that the maximum FAR would be exceeded on any individual site." Well folks, this is exactly what is being done on the three seven (7) story office buildings site.

Here is the quoted text from the General Plan:


The General Plan establishes density/intensity standards for each land use classification. In the residential designations, residential density is expressed as housing units per net acre, exclusive of public streets and other rights-of-way, drainage easements, public uses and undevelopable land (slopes over 20 percent and land subject to the Resource Conservation Overlay District).

For non-residential uses, a maximum permitted ratio of gross floor area to net site area (FAR) is specified. FAR is a broad measure of building bulk that controls both visual prominence and traffic generation, and is calculated exclusive of area devoted to parking. It can be clearly translated to a limit on building bulk in the Zoning Ordinance and is independent of the use occupying the building. No averaging is permitted such that the maximum FAR would be exceeded on any individual site. The Zoning Ordinance can provide specific exceptions to the FAR limitations for uses with low employment densities, or it can provide for bonuses in FAR in return for the provision of amenities for public benefit, such as workforce housing units. In addition to density/intensity standards, some land use classifications also stipulate allowable building types, such as single-family residential.

The density/intensity standards do not imply that development projects will be approved at the maximum density or intensity specified for each use. Zoning regulations consistent with General Plan policies and/or site conditions may reduce development potential within the stated ranges.

Let's call this for what it is, a Mega High-Density Center. The proponents of the Downtown City Center want to make you feel all nice and rosy with promises of a Downtown City Center with soul. What the people of San Ramon will get instead is a place that will bury their souls, and people will be asking years down the line, "Why on earth did the City Council want to place this high-density congestion on the people?"

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