Building Good Neighborhoods
This month I\’d like to share a recent discussion and vote presented at the April 23rd City Council Meeting. There is a property in San Ramon on Ryan Industrial Court that currently has two aging office buildings. This area is currently zoned for Mixed Use.
The Property Owner has worked with City Staff and the Planning Commission to develop a project to demolish the office buildings and build a 48 unit townhome project. This project has been reviewed several times, public comments received and the Property Owner has made several of the requested changes. For more information see the attached articles from the San Ramon Express dated December 5th and February 27th and the City Staff Report.
In order to build the townhomes, the General Plan must be changed to designate this area as Residential. A General Plan change must be approved by a \’super majority\’ of the City Council (4 Yes votes minimum).
In the April 23rd City Council Meeting the project was presented to City Council and a straw poll was taken. The General Plan Amendment straw poll failed with a 3-2 vote; less than the super majority required.
I voted no in the straw poll, which was a vote against amending the General Plan.
When evaluating a decision such as this is, I carefully review all the available information and then ask myself, Is this the right project for this area? Will this project ultimately create an area or neighborhood that is appropriate and represents the type of City San Ramon is? I also try to imagine the future and ask myself the same question. In five or ten years, will this project be part of a thriving neighborhood? After careful consideration, I ultimately concluded that in this case, the answer was no.
In my public comments, I shared my philosophy and rationale for not voting to allow this residential project to move forward as presented. I shared my concerns that the project is isolated from other residential neighborhoods, on a slope, surrounded by commercial properties and not near any parks. The property is too small (~3 acres) for any family friendly amenities such as open space, community center, parks or playgrounds. There are no readily accessible areas for kids to safely play or ride their bikes. I imagined children being forced to play ball in the parking lot and chasing loose balls all the way down to Old Crow Canyon. As the first project in this area, I knew I also needed to think about the future. Even when I imagined what this project could
Even when I imagined what this project could lead to, I still could not picture this as a high quality and robust residential neighborhood.
The Property Owner has temporarily removed this project from consideration and is evaluating all available options. I expect that the Property Owner will modify the project in some way and seek approval to move forward.
This project also raised a question that I believe needs answering before this project comes back before the City Council – what is Mixed Use? There is no formal definition of what Mixed Use must look like. In a broad sense, Mixed Use is any combination of residential, commercial, service, retail, etc. use blended in a cohesive development. A Mixed Use development could consist of 95% residential and 5% non-residential or 5% residential and 95% non-residential. The General Plan does not specify the ratios of residential and non-residential. In order to provide clarity and direction to future developers and City Planners, I have asked to have a public discussion at the May 28th City Council Meeting on what we believe constitute effective Mixed Use development.
What do you think?
I would like your input and feedback on this project and Mixed Use in general. What factors are important to you? What more could we or should we do?