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By Roz Rogoff

Déjà Vu all over again

Uploaded: Nov 9, 2010

When Kevin L'Hommedieu spoke at the October 26, 2010 City Council meeting about the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan and his concerns that rezoning his business' location to Mixed Use would force him to move when his lease expired reminded me of the same worries by service commercial business owners on Beta Court four years ago.

At that time the Planning Commission and City Council were preparing the Crow Canyon Specific Plan for the area between Crow Canyon Blvd. and the Danville border and West of I-680. One of the more controversial elements of the Crow Canyon Specific Plan was a proposed housing overlay on Beta Court.

Measure G requires three public hearings and a 4/5 vote of both the Planning Commission and the City Council before the General Plan can be amended. Twenty to thirty business owners from Beta Court and other parts of the CCSP came to Planning Commission and City Council public hearings to voice their concerns.

After three public hearings the Planning Commission voted to move the housing overlay from Beta Court to north of Perdue. Since a supermajority of the Planning Commission did not vote to change the zoning on Beta Court, the City Council went along with the Planning Commission's decision against it.

Hassan Sharifi, who was part of the community group that recommended the zoning changes, complemented the Planning Commission for correcting his mistakes. Here's a portion of a letter he read at the July 18, 2006 Planning Commission meeting, which Mr. Sharifi and gave me permission to post in my San Ramon Observer site

"As you know I served on the advisory committee for Crow Canyon Specific Plan. When the plan was presented to the commission, I assumed that we had done such a perfect job that the Planning Commission would approve it without a hitch.

How little I knew about the process involved in the approval of the plan! Soon I found myself on the wrong side of at least one issue with every commissioner. Some did not like the overlay zoning. Some did not like the number of units. Some did not like the boundaries; some did not like to displace people, etc. etc.

I said that I was on the wrong side of the issue, not the right side. I got involved in discussing the various items one by one. After many, many months, many, many letters, many hours of discussion we all ended on the right side, and I do not mean the political right. We all ended on the side that best serves the citizens of San Ramon."

As Mr. Sharifi found, just because a plan is proposed doesn't mean that's the way it will end up.

Like most zoning changes and specific plans, the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan has been under development for several years. It isn't something new or hidden. It was announced in the Spring, 2009 City Newsletter , which is mailed to everyone in the City. Several workshops have been held on it over the last two years and more will be held before any decisions are made.

I remember attending an Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) workshop in 2005 which presented the rationale behind the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan. The same consultant from that workshop presented the same information at an Economic Development Strategic Workshop held on October 27, 2010. As I said, it was déjà vu all over again.

This new workshop was announced at the City Council meeting the night before and publicized on the City's website. It was held in the Fountain Room of the Community Center with enough chairs for 100 people, but only about 10 residents attended.

As Donna Kerger pointed out in her comments at the October 26, 2010 City Council meeting, hardly anyone showed up for the Planning Commission's public hearings on the 2030 General Plan. I attended most of them and I don't recall anyone objecting to the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan. Most of the objections, in fact all of the objections, were to moving the Urban Growth Boundary to Camino Tassajara.

The "No on Measure W" campaign used the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan as one more scare tactic to convince voters to vote against Measure W, despite the fact that they said they would not oppose anything in the 2030 General Plan if the move to the Eastern (not Western) UGB was removed.

The North Camino Ramon Specific Plan does not require voter approval so defeating Measure W does not prevent it from happening, but it won't have the dire effects proclaimed by "No on W" either.

According to Planning Services Manager, Debbie Chamberlain, "The adoption of proposed Specific Plan will not require that any existing business leave or will it impact the ability of property owners and businesses to enter into leases for those established uses moving forward."

If businesses and residents want input into the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan, they need to attend the meetings and workshops held on it. They can ask the City Clerk to be put on the mailing list for those announcements.

The City Clerk also offers an 8 week program on Government 101 that answers a lot of the questions business owners and residents have about how the city is run. Graduates of the most recent workshop were awarded certificates at the November 9, 2010 City Council meeting. All of them said they learned a lot about how the city works and complemented the staff and the City Council.