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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"Save Our Ridges"

The REAL information regarding NWSP (Northwest Specific Plan)

San Ramon City Council recently approved a development and zoning plan to locate over 800 homes on the ridgelines of the NWSP. They claim this approval does not require the vote of the citizens of San Ramon. This assumption has since been challenged by two lawsuits, one by the Sierra Club and another by the East Bay Regional Parks. Many residence of San Ramon support these lawsuits to preserve the Las Trampas Ridge and hope you will also.

A few reasons for the lawsuits are listed below:

Las Trampas Ridgeline

The aesthetic impact of housing on what is now open space will compromise the integrity of the adjacent Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. It will have major impacts on environmental and biological resources, and park users. The land includes the southern end of the Las Trampas Ridge. (See map below. Click map for larger map size.)

Las Trampas Ridgeline
Faria Ranch Development Site
Faria Remainder Parcel
East Bay Regional Park District

San Ramon's General Plan and Ordinance 197-

Ordinance 197 specifically prohibits development on or adjacent to Major and Minor Ridges. These lands are to be preserved for open space. It also provides that exceptions to such policies "must be approved by the voters of San Ramon."

It prohibits:
  1. Development within 100 vertical feet of major ridges and within 50 vertical feet of minor ridges;
  2. Development on slopes greater than 20%;
  3. Development within 100 feet of the center of a creek bed; and, construction of dwelling units in excess of 32 feet in height.

The city and the developer are planning to build approximately 800 homes on our lovely view shed!! They will be grading over one million yards of earth and MOVING a creek (this means filling it in and actually moving it vertically). The land contains three majors ridges, two creeks, and the Calaveras fault line.

Any exemptions regarding Ordinance 197 must be put to a vote of the people; which this San Ramon City Council has refused to do. The General Plan has Ordinance 197 embedded in it at least 25 times and it has not been modified at all by vote of the people over the years. If we let the City of San Ramon have their way on this development where does it stop?! This project is in direct violation of Ordinance 197 and should not stand.

School or Open Space-

The General Plan called for a school and if a school was deemed not necessary by the San Ramon School District then that dedicated land should revert to open space.

As approved by San Ramon City Council, that the developer could use 2.4 acres for an Educational Facility or Outreach Facility. SRCC is not requiring the developer to maintain 15-20 acres of usable land in case a school is later needed (which is sure to happen due to the increase of approximately 200 students with the NWSP development and even more when another development known as the Crow Canyon Specific Plan comes into effect). Do you know what that does to the residents that already live here? They will need to drive their kids clear across town to another school because Twin Creeks Elementary will be so overcrowded. This overcrowding of our schools could potentially threaten our "Blue Ribbon" standards.

Problems with the EIR (Environmental Impact Report)-

On the Draft EIR pertaining to Air Quality: Air quality could not be mitigated. Then miraculously on the Final EIR (with nothing changed!) it states that the air quality would be OK. In regards to the traffic problems that are going to arise, the EIR used data from 1992 in order for the numbers to all work out. SRCC does not plan on changing any roads to accommodate all the traffic that is going to be using Crow Canyon and other roads. There will be a minimum of 1,600 more cars on the road with the NWSP development and even more when the Crow Canyon Specific Plan goes into effect.

Community Park Size

A big push by the City was to have a community park within walking distance (3 miles) and approximately 2.5 acres per 1,000 residents. Well guess what? The Community Park that was approved is only big enough to support the NWSP neighborhood, not the surrounding residents.

The County Option

The City Council has tried to spread seeds of fear by threatening that the project could end up in the County and be much larger than the developer is asking for right now……………. BUT, the County is no longer in the business of developing next to cities and that just isn't going to happen.


This flyer is just the beginning of trying to get more concerned residents involved. There will be more information to follow and anyone interested in finding out how they can help, please contact the San Ramon Community general E-mail box.

Warm regards from concerned San Ramon citizens.
"Save Our Ridges"

Feel Free to Save and Print Save Our Ridges PDF Flyer

By-the-way, read the Introduction to San Ramon News.


Anonymous said...

Please contact former Councilman Jerry Cambra for a detailed explanation of why the ridgelines were sacrificed for this project. The real trade-off was for a church/affordable housing in trade for a minor ridgeline. Your environmental supporters hard at work for the almighty buck. You got to love it!!!!

Anonymous said...

Has anyone here contacted Mr. Cambra?

San Ramon said...

To the anonymous person that keeps posting the same thing here. If you want to contact him, you are free to do so. Anonymous, maybe you can even get an inside scoop on the situation.

I suspect, you don't have all the answers. I also suspect that you are listening to one side of the story, without really doing proper investigative work, and believing what you are feed.

The real issue comes down to the San Ramon City Council approving 800 homes on the ridgelines. If they wanted to, the City Council could have voted against this huge, overcrowded, ridgeline development.

Certainly this was not the will of the people in the first place. It seems as though the City Council thinks it can do what ever it wants to, without answering to the people.

Are there any independent thinkers on this City Council? Any vote of major consequence has been a 5 to 0 vote. This way, the San Ramon City Council ends up covering for each other. If one Council Member were to speak out, the person would be ostracized and vilified, as has been the case in the past with other members.

So, if you want to contact him, you are free to do so.

Anonymous said...

How many sides of the story are YOU listening to? Your comment seems really one-sided and biased to me. I thought 'news' was supposed to be impartially reported.

I looked at the San Ramon General Plan at the library and it shows a housing development in the Northwest Plan. Is this the same development we are talking about here? Wasn't this plan approved by the voters?

I'm confused, what are you against here? If the project is in the General Plan shouldn't it be built?

Jim Gibbon said...

Please read. It's a little technical but it is the issue and the reason for the lawsuits.
Thank you,

‘The City of San Ramon should acquire the Faria property as ridgeline open space as mandated in the General Plan’

The 2020 General Plan for San Ramon was the result of voter approved of Measure G. This measure mandated the preparation of a new General Plan based on the principles of smart growth. A key component of this mandate was the preparation of a plan for the acquisition of ridgeline areas and agricultural lands contiguous to the City of San Ramon. These lands were to be preserved for open space purposes in perpetuity.

When the 2020 General Plan was approved by the voters in 2002 it instead created a loophole for development of our San Ramon hills. It had allowed an end run around voter initiative Ordinance 197 and the Resource Conservation Overlay District (RCOD) in effect since 1990.

Ordinance 197 amended the City’s then-current General Plan (a plan adopted in 1986) to require that all land within the City limits, or to be annexed to the City, above 500 feet in elevation be subject to the policies of the RCOD. “These policies include a prohibition of structures on most slopes greater than 20% and within 100 vertical feet of major ridgelines, a maximum allowable density formula for slopes between 10% and 20% (except that densities may be transferred on such slopes within a project area), and a building height limit of 32 feet. Ordinance 197 also provided that exceptions to such policies must be approved by the voters of San Ramon.”

The new 2020 General Plan allowed for the total disregard of the requirements and protects of Ordinance 197 when Section 8.4-I-15 of the 8.4 Measure G Open Space Preservation Action Plan exemptions apply. See below:

Sections 8.4-I-15 allow exemptions from the provisions of Ordinance 197, specifically the prohibition of development on or adjacent to Major and Minor Ridges, only where:
The area to be preserved as permanent open space includes upper ridges and visible hillsides with a total area that is at least four times the area to be developed. A portion of this 80 percent open space commitment, not to exceed five percent of the total site area, may be provided by dedication of permanent open space off-site on a 2:1 basis (two acres of off-site open space = one acre of on-site open space). Only land that is within one-half mile of the area for which the exemption is sought, is designated as a Ridgeline Protection Zone by Ordinance 197, or is on a hillside visible from Central Park would meet the City’s standards for a Specialized Recreation Area and qualify as off-site open space under this provision;

• The area to be developed is within the City’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB);

• Trail connections to existing and planned trails are provided;

• Habitat protection for sensitive species is assured; and

• The development includes enforceable commitments to increase the City’s stock of
affordable housing, consistent with the General Plan.

With regard to the Faria Reserve property the provisions of Section 8.4-I-15 are being twisted out of shape so that, in my opinion, it constitutes a violation of the General Plan. The development reports to provide 75% of the developed land as being preserved as open space and 5% (x2) offsite land in order to meet the exemption from RCOD. The it’s proposal proposes to use 144 acres of land in Bollinger Canyon along Bollinger Canyon Road as offsite land to meet the 80% requirement of the section Below is the language in the Ordinance 197:

Only land that is within one-half mile of the area for which the exemption is sought, is designated as a Ridgeline Protection Zone by Ordinance 197, or is on a hillside visible from Central Park would meet the City’s standards for a Specialized Recreation Area and qualify as off-site open space under this provision;……

As stated in city report, the 144-acres of off-site open space, being contiguous to the plan area, is to be recorded under a permanent conservation easement in order to provide an overall ratio of open space and non-residential uses to the housing development on the Faria Preserve site to make up the 80% open space requirement.

• The problem with these 144 acres of offsite land is that it will remain outside of the city limits and in private hands. It will not be acquired by or placed into the city as part of this project.

• It does not qualify as a “Specialized Recreation Area” as required in Ordinance 197. In fact the ordinance requires the ridgelines on the Faria property be preserved. The RCOD mandate is the preparation of a plan for the “acquisition of ridgeline areas” for preservation as open space in perpetuity.

• Without the inclusion of this offsite land the Faria Preserve development would have to meet the requirements of the Resource Conservation Overlay District and Ordinance 197. This would require the ridges be preserved, that fewer units be built, and the other two property owners in the specific plan maintain their unit counts they deserve.

I recommend that the city look at the Fria property for acquisition as ridgeline open space as mandated and provided for in the General Plan. The General Plan calls for this ridgeline property to be acquire/purchased by the city so it could be preserved as open space in perpetuity. There are procedures in the General Plan for the acquisition of the property. Some of the property may still be developed not associated with the ridgeline.

'If' the city were to accept the Faria development as it is proposed, then they should receive the offsite property as part of the agreement for use as a rural public park. It would be considered as compensation for the lost of the ridgelines. I believe that it would not be a good trade for the lost of the ridgelines that the general plan calls for "preservation as open space in perpetuity". But it would be something.

Jim Gibbon, AIA
Resident of San Ramon.

Anonymous said...

Jim, excellent post!!

For the most part, the articles here and the comments posted are one-sided, biased and the facts are just plain wrong.

Your facts are correct, for which I commend you!! I disagree with some of your recommendations, and I agree with some.

Your assertion that the General Plan 2020 twists Ordinance 197 out of shape is 100% correct.The exception to allow the develoment on minor ridgelines in the NWSP area created a loop hole big enough to drive a bulldozer through. And yes I am the anonymous poster that asked if anyone has approached Jerry Cambra about this 747 sized loop hole, because he WAS the driving force that created it.

But, alas, I suppose no one but me sees that. Paul, Jan or whoever is 'responsible' for this site better hope that Mr. Gibbon continues to post here and provide a modicum of correctfullness and truthfullness to this otherwise insignificant site.

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