By Roz Rogoff
Can San Ramon Afford Affordable Housing?Uploaded: Apr 7, 2011
In the story on the Planning Commission's approval of the St. James Place Mixed Use Development, Westerner commented, "Do we really need another low income housing project? Our crime rate is getting out of hand as it is."
Westerner made a similar comment in the blog about Assemblyman Jared Huffman's bill to reduce ABAG's building requirements on cities.
"Affordable housing is just a polically (sic) correct term for low income housing. It is not fair for the state to mandate low income housing in this community when the rest of us have to pay full price for housing. Also, you can ask the police department where most of the crime comes from. They will tell you that it comes from group homes, section 8 renters, foster care homes, and low income housing. Thanks, but this is not the kind of diversity that I want."
So I asked the San Ramon Police Department if most of the crime comes from low income housing.
According to Police Chief Scott Holder, who has been Chief of Police since 2005, "We have seen a decrease in Crime each year with the exception of 2007. This is the year where we were in transition to the in-house police department and the staffing level provided by the county was low."
So Westerner appears to be incorrect about "Our crime rate . . . getting out of hand."
He's also wrong about St. James Place being "another low income housing project." In fact the Planning Commission required only 10% of the project be low income housing.
Jim Gibbon was the only speaker at the Planning Commission meeting on April 5th for the Public Hearing on St. James Place. Gibbon complained about the low ratio of affordable housing in this project. He reminded the Planning Commissioners that the General Plan Update, which they just approved, calls for 40% affordable units. He recommended a minimum of 20% in the St. James Place project.
Planning Commissioner Jean Benedetti, told Gibbon, "The project wouldn't be done if too much affordability is required." Vice Chairperson Donna Kerger praised the developers for going above and beyond what was required.
But even if Westerner's belief that St. James Place would become a haven of crime, the Police wouldn't have far to go to quell it since the development is practically next door to the current Police headquarters.
Chief Holder went on to address Westerner's worries.
"To address potential issues with crime and quality of life in our rental communities we instituted the Crime Free Multi Housing Program in 2007. We have and continue to see good statistics related to calls for service, arrests and crime in the rental communities which house the majority of our affordable housing units."
I called Westerner's attitude "snobby" in my email to the Chief, but he called it something else.
"I would not call it 'snobby' but often we have a crime and the blogs and e-mail groups completely blow them out of proportion in reality sensationalizing the story to meet an agenda."
Holder went on to say, "There is not a community in San Ramon where I would not live; our police services are based on the actions people take, if they live here and live a crime free lifestyle we welcome anyone regardless of their economic status."
Well that made me feel better considering my current income puts me in the Low Income category, which is 51% to 80% below the median.
Actually low income in Contra Costa County would be considered a good income in most other parts of the country. A family of four earning between $54,200 and 64,400 would qualify as Low Income.
Chief Holder suggests looking at the Crime Prevention page on their website to see where crimes are occurring.
"Dougherty Valley takes shots that are simply not true. The majority of our crime occurs near 680 which is common in any city."
Readers can also download a copy of the Police Department's Annual Report, which has even more information.
Chief Holder ended his email to this Low Income resident with the emphatic response, "I would be your neighbor and NO you are not dangerous!"
Chief of Police
City of San Ramon
Westerner might disagree.