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San Ramon voters may decide where to draw lines in the Tassajara Valley

Sophia Kazmi

SAN RAMON — In the Tassajara Valley, lines are being drawn. It may be up to San Ramon voters to decide who gets to draw them.

San Ramon’s City Council will consider Monday approving environmental documents for the city’s General Plan update — which includes the potential of adding 1,600 acres of the untouched Tassajara Valley into the city’s urban growth boundaries — and putting it to the vote of residents in November.

Adding the land to the city’s sphere of influence would not annex the property into the city limits, but would allow San Ramon to control what is built in that area. The Local Agency Formation Commission would have the final say on whether San Ramon will be allowed to do this.

The city says it is all about keeping a portion of the Tassajara Valley under its control.

Environmental groups and some residents are holding to their own line: Contra Costa County’s urban limit line, which draws a line at where large-scale development can occur. They say that the urban limit line will protect the agricultural open space located east of Tassajara Road and that San Ramon doesn’t need to get involved unless it wants the area developed.

“The existing urban growth boundaries are serving their purpose by protecting the Tassajara Valley from development,” said Matt Vander Sluis of the Greenbelt Alliance. “The real threat is the city of San Ramon expanding the boundary to help developers like Tom Koch.”

In 2007, Koch proposed a development in that area that would have been known as New Farm — a 185-unit project in unincorporated Contra Costa County. An application for a cemetery in the area has also been filed.

San Ramon has no plans for development in that area, said Mayor Abram Wilson.

But, he said, adding the area to San Ramon’s general plan means the difference between residents of San Ramon and Tassajara Valley “controlling their destiny or (having) outsiders coming in and telling us what to do.”

According to a staff report to the City Council, the General Plan 2030 update limits the Tassajara Valley to existing uses and no development could occur until a separate land use document, known as the Eastside Specific Plan, is developed and approved for the area.

Environmentalists say the additional plan, funded by developers, would be a biased one.

“When the developers write the plan for the Tassajara Valley, do you think it will stay as a beautiful agricultural valley?” Vander Sluis asked.

Wilson said any development plan that includes the Tassajara Valley would be voted on by residents in San Ramon.

If the 2030 General Plan update fails, Contra Costa County would have ultimate control of that area, Wilson said. The Tassajara Valley is an area not marked for county development, but if a project did come forward that is larger than 30 acres, the project could be put to a vote of the entire county.

He pointed to the Dougherty Valley, which was planned by the county, where 3,000 more homes were built than San Ramon would have liked. Wilson said the city spends about a $1 million a year providing services to residents of the Dougherty Valley, which has not yet been annexed into the city.

Another sticking point is an estimate on the potential number of homes that could be built in the Tassajara Valley and the impact of those homes, said Troy Bristol of Save Mount Diablo.

“They did an environmental analysis and didn’t analyze anything,” Bristol said.

Wilson said there are no numbers because there is no plan for development.

“We are saying if, if there is development (proposed) the residents of Tassajara Valley and San Ramon would vote on it, not the county and not outsiders,” Wilson said. “We’ve seen that once and we are not ecstatic.”


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