City Steps Back to Rewrite Land-Use Plans


After a landslide defeat of San Ramon’s general plan update, the city has to redraw its blueprint for the future, which now won’t directly include the Tassajara Valley.

 

Jennifer Wadsworth

After voters soundly rejected updates to the city’s land-use guide, San Ramon will have to re-examine its plans.

Measure W, which would have amended the city’s general plan, lost. In fact, 70 percent of voters rejected it.

The measure became a hotly debated issue when the city added an urban-growth boundary extension that would have pulled 1,600 acres of the Tassajara Valley and nearly 600 acres in the western hills into San Ramon’s planning area.

Planning commissioners and City Council members supported the measure financially, but their donations paled in comparison to the cash flooding the campaign against it.

Save Mount Diablo, Greenbelt Alliance and grass-roots supporters from San Ramon and surrounding towns gave, by Oct. 16, about $100,000 to defeat the measure. They feared including more land in the growth boundary would lay the groundwork for sprawling development in the rural valley that lies just east of the city.

Supporters of the measure managed only $3,200 in campaign contributions in that same time.

Though voters shot down the amended general plan, state law requires certain changes at some point in the near future, according to the city.

One of those changes – included in the failed ballot measure – was to add an air quality plan to the 2,000-page document. The addition would require a four-fifths vote by the Planning Commission and by the City Council.

The reason the general plan was put on the ballot is because San Ramon requires voters to OK changes to urban-growth boundaries and citywide ordinances such as the one to protect San Ramon’s hills and ridgelines.

With Measure W’s defeat, Ordinance 197, called the hillside protection ordinance, will sunset Dec. 31. Development of the Tassajara Valley then will be controlled by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.

One of the criticisms from opponents of the measure was the city should have made the hillside protections and urban-growth boundary expansion separate issues instead of bundling them up with state-mandated updates such as the climate action plan.

The city now will  have to deal with a plan to rezone about 300 acres in the north part of San Ramon ?to a mixed-use designation.

The long-term goal is to build a dense business-residential, transit-oriented district near the Bishop Ranch office park and the site of a planned $700 million city center. The North Camino Ramon Specific Plan, as it’s called, would pave the way for 1,500 residential units and about 6 million square feet of office and retail space.

Planning Commissioner Harry Sachs – who supported the ballot measure because he believed it would give San Ramon control over the future of the Tassajara Valley – said it seems the city will have to deal with each of those components separately now that voters rejected them as a package deal.

“I am maybe hard-headed in my support of local control, but I am not hard-headed when I look at the results of what the voters want,” he said Wednesday. “That’s how you deal with it. You have to respect what voters say, and now that we’re not in campaign mode, we operate as representatives of a municipal government.”

Sachs said he wants the city to hold several public workshops for the climate action and Camino Ramon plans especially since the city is required to update its general plan with certain changes by a state-set deadline.
“It will be good to step back, take a deep breath and figure out where to go from here,” he said.

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