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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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1 comment:

Bob said...

I want to thank everyone who attended the Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday evening. While some may support the City Center, and others might not, it was clear to me that EVERYONE has the best interests of San Ramon at heart.

We still have much work to do, and there will continue to be opportunites for those who have been involved, to continue to contribute to this process. There are also plenty of opportunties for those who have not been active to start contributing to the process.

The DSEIR comment period has been extended for written submissions. The deadline for those is fast approaching, so don't delay. All written comments will be answered and become part of the DSEIR document.

There will be several more public hearings on the City Center project plan, so plan on attending these meetings to allow your voice to be heard.

Bob Patrino

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