CityWalk Master Plan
Luz's Letter to the City Council
August 13, 2020
Dear San Ramon City Clerk, Mayor Clarkson and Council Members:
I am Luz Gomez, a 40-year resident of San Ramon. I am writing to support the appeal to the August 4th Planning Commission decision approving the CityWalk Master Plan. I also wish to express my concerns about the Master Plan as approved.
I urge the City Council to consider this appeal very seriously and delay final approval of the CityWalk Master Plan until there has been MUCH MORE resident engagement. I previously commented about this during the last two Planning Commission hearings. The developer, staff, and Planning Commission believe that there has been sufficient public participation in this process. I couldn’t disagree more. We are in the midst of a pandemic and our residents’ attention is diverted elsewhere.
First, let me state that I am not categorically opposed to the project. There are some benefits for the City: the project increases sales and property tax revenue; it puts housing close to jobs, amenities and transit; it helps to meet our Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) mandates; it prevents sprawl by building dense housing in the city’s core. I agree that this area is well suited for higher density housing, especially because the next RHNA may be significantly higher than the previous cycle. Because CityWalk is located within a Priority Development Area (PDA), the neighborhoods will benefit from future funding allocations for improved public transit. The 15% affordable housing units will help provide a measure of relief for some local workers, such as paramedics, teachers and dental assistants who are considered “low-income” according to State guidelines.
On the other hand, despite these benefits, I have some concerns regarding the plan as proposed:
I realize this is the purview of the School District. However, as a City, we need to understand that projections are not always accurate. As you may recall, student population projections were low when the Dougherty Valley was being built. However, the school mitigation agreement allows the district to monitor student impacts and adjust the size of the schools built in the Dougherty Valley over time. Had the district accepted the developers claim that all the high school students could be accommodated at California High School because of declining enrollment at the time, Dougherty High School would not have been built.
School districts, including the SRVUSD experience fluctuations in enrollment as communities age and turnover. Further, when enrollments do decline temporarily, it is throughout the district, not in one area. The students generated in this project deserve neighborhood schools, not schools that are many miles away. This seems to defeat the plan of a city center project that is close to shopping, transportation, etc.
As a City, we need to think about this. It would be naïve of the local School Board, and our City Council, to think that the addition of 13,000 new residents will not result on impacts to local neighborhood schools. AS A CITY COUNCIL YOU CAN WORK WITH THE SCHOOL BOARD to include a mitigation plan for school(s) in the project area, or at least a contingency plan to build school(s) by a certain date if school enrollment changes.
2. Traffic Impacts
From a resident perspective, the Draft EIR Transportation Impact Study is not adequate because it does not take into consideration the cumulative impacts of the extra traffic that this project will generate over time on the whole City. It seems to only address the adjacent traffic impacts on roads near the project. I would like traffic impacts analyzed outside of the immediate project area to identify proper mitigations. Short of a massive improvement in the availability, affordability, and convenience of public transit in this area over the next 27 years, I don’t see how the proposed mitigations will address traffic congestion generated by the project. Simply adding traffic lights, turning lanes, and widening streets will not be enough to address the congestion generated by additional car trips that future residents will take.
I am concerned that the Draft EIR identifies the amount of park acres as “CONSISTENT” with the General Plan. As you know, the general plan calls for 6.5 acres per 1000 residents. In addition, according to our Municipal code, “functional parkland within the City of San Ramon exceeds five acres per one thousand persons. Accordingly, the formula for dedication of land and the calculation of in-lieu fees set forth in this chapter shall be based upon the standard of providing 4.91 acres of functional parkland for each one thousand persons.” (Ord. No. 482, § 1, 9-11-2018)
Regardless of which formula is used for the CityWalk Master Plan, the 40.7 acres of parks currently proposed fall short of the 64.83 to 84.5 acres required by the municipal code and general plan, respectively.
The EIR should not say that it is consistent with the General Plan. The EIR should identify where the city will build the missing parks with any park dedication fees mandated by the City, or identify how this will be mitigated.
City Staff will tell you that we need to have this level of density because the developer is entitled to it. They will further say that because of SB 330, our hands are tied with regards to changing the proposed density. What you need to understand is that SB 330 is scheduled to sunset on January 1, 2025. Why would we want to tie our hands for such a long-range project when conditions for housing could drastically change over the next 4 years? Why wouldn’t we want to add a clause to this agreement that gives the City an “out” if SB 330 is not reauthorized? Please consider adding a condition of approval that gives the City the opportunity to re-negotiate the density of this project in the absence of SB 330 by 2025 if SB 330 or similar legislation is not introduced and enacted by then. I know Sunset Development wants certainty, so you can provide that certainty by stipulating that the City will allow high density development (<30 units/acre) if the renegotiation clause is exercised.
As background, the currently proposed density of 33.3 dwelling units per acre is considered very high density. This level of density is comparable to some of the most urbanized cities in the US. This would make sense in cities with robust public transit options, like metros and subways, but we don’t have such options, and I don’t see a plan for them over the next 27 years. The City Center Mixed Use GP area is zoned for a density of 22 to 50 dwellings per acre. If we can renegotiate the level of density at a future date from very high density at 33.3 du/ac to high density at <30 du/ac, the lower density will mean fewer impacts on roads, traffic, air quality, schools, community services, etc.
5. CHARACTER OF OUR DOWNTOWN
I am disappointed that this vision for the future of the closest thing San Ramon will ever have to a downtown is moving forward so quickly – despite the year + planning efforts so far. MANY residents have not had a full opportunity to weigh in about what WE want for that area. I heard that 300 residents participated in public workshops. That is simply not enough public participation for a project that represents the future of our downtown. A plan such as this should be subject to MUCH MORE community engagement to make sure that our values and aspirations for a future downtown are incorporated as best as possible. Residents want room for a robust cultural center downtown for artists and performers. They want the lakes to be even more of an amenity for all to enjoy. They want the neighborhoods to be more inter-connected.
I URGE THE CITY COUNCIL to DELAY FINAL approval of the plan until the Plan Proponent has done MUCH MORE resident engagement and incorporated more of our input in the plan. AFTER THE APPEAL HEARING, THERE IS ONE MORE HEARING ALLOWED UNDER SB 330 – as the leaders of our City, you should postpone a final vote, ask the proponent to send every resident an attractive postcard inviting residents to a city-wide town hall about the project, solicit input from residents during said town hall meeting, and to the extent possible, pledge to incorporate our resident’s vision in the final plan before holding the last and final hearing on this project. Said Town Hall does not constitute a “Hearing” per SB 330: “Hearing” is broadly defined to include any workshop or meeting of a board, commission, council, department or subcommittee.” - https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB330
Luz Gomez, MPH
35 Winterwind Ct
San Ramon, CA 94583
Cc: SRVUSD Board of Education