It's time to grow up and face the future | The Observer | Roz Rogoff | |

Local Blogs

By Roz Rogoff

It's time to grow up and face the future

Uploaded: Dec 15, 2010

Many people are afraid of change. They don't know how to deal with something new, something different, something unfamiliar. They want to keep everything the way they are used to and comfortable with.

When I moved to San Ramon 13 years ago, the City was in the process of growing. I remember that San Ramon Valley Blvd. was being widened, and new housing developments were popping up on the Western hills and in Dougherty Valley.

I had a job at the northern end of Bishop Ranch. I was very impressed with the quality of the business park and the attractive design of the city.

San Ramon was rural 30 years ago, and suburban 20 years ago, but now it is a self-contained, self-sustaining city of the future. The more San Ramon moves into the future, the more residents from its previous incarnations as rural and suburban, panic.

Measure W was the panic button. It represented a General Plan for 2030, yes that's 20 years in the future, and too many residents want to go back 20 years into the past. The threat of change, even 20 years away, was exploited by environmental organizations whose mission is to keep the country side unchanged. After all the Sierra Club was founded by John Muir in 1892, and its purpose was to keep as much of the natural environment in Northern California unchanged.

Imagine where we would all be if everything here was exactly the same as 1892. Honestly is that what you all want?

Maintaining the natural environment is a noble endeavor, but not very practical for human habitation. Humans, and even some animals, change their environment to improve their survival and provide suitable habitats for themselves, their species, and their offspring. Voters said "No" to growth by saying "No" to Measure W, but that won't stop San Ramon from growing.

The General Plan in Measure W was a plan for controlling growth in the future. Planning for growth makes sure changes are designed and not imposed. Unplanned growth is like a cancer, where development happens the way the developer wants and not the way the community wants. To some extent that's what happened with Dougherty Valley, because Contra Costa County permitted too many units with too few controls.

This is what residents say they don't want, but stopping the plan by stopping Measure W, only opens the door to unplanned growth.

What about stopping all growth, planned and unplanned? Isn't that what the voters wanted when they killed the 2030 General Plan? Assuming that all growth in San Ramon could be stopped right where it is now, that would leave the city without a way to increase revenue to maintain services.

San Ramon would be like Peter Pan, a child that never grows up. How will it survive when it needs money for food or shelter or medical care when it is sick or injured? Like a child with no resources to take care of itself, cities die from decay and neglect. They become blighted or even ghost towns. So the very people who fear the city will not be habitable are choosing to limit the revenue sources that make the city self-sustaining.

I understand why people fear change, but moving backwards isn't the answer. People complain about traffic in San Ramon, but have you ever tried to drive downtown in Danville or Pleasanton? Yet San Ramon residents say they want an old-fashioned downtown like Danville and Pleasanton.

Frankly I'm not all that impressed with turn-of-the-19th-century downtowns. I prefer the auto oriented shopping centers, which are easy to drive to and park. San Ramon has plenty of these all conveniently located by car in every part of the city, which keeps traffic spread around and not all going to one place. To my way of thinking, these are 21st Century nodes, and not some centralized downtown designed for farmers from outlying areas, or commuters from suburbs.

Let's stop trying to take San Ramon back to the 19th or 20th Centuries. Those days are gone. Be nostalgic if you like. I bought a 1973 Maverick Grabber to take me back to the past when I choose to go there. It's fun to drive around in but not nearly as practical as my new 2009 Focus.

Love the past but live in the present and welcome the future. It's the only life you have, and you can't live it backwards like Benjamin Button, and neither can San Ramon.