Who do you trust on Measure W? San Ramon Observer: Roz Rogoff, posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer, on Sep 23, 2010 at 1:46 pm Roz Rogoff is a member (registered user) of San Ramon Express
Who do you trust?
Johnny Carson hosted a TV quiz show back in the 1950's called "Who Do You Trust?" I remember watching it when I was a kid, but I don't remember many of the details. It had something to do with whether you trusted the wife or the husband to answer a question correctly. It wasn't a very good game show, but it kicked off Johnny Carson's TV career.
Measure W is San Ramon's version of "Who do you trust?" Quite simply the issue is who, if anyone, wants to build a massive housing development in Tassajara Valley and which governmental agency should you trust to keep them from doing it.
On this side of the ring is the San Ramon City Council.
Mayor Abram Wilson says, no way does he support big development in Tassajara Valley. Councilman Scott Perkins says he wants to keep Tassajara Valley rural and agricultural. Vice Mayor Carol Rowley says it can't be built out because the ridgelines will be protected by the extension of the Save Our Hills Ordinance 197, which is part of Measure W.
On the other side of the ring are the environmentalists, defrocked Planning Commissioner Phil O'Loane, and residents who don't trust the City Council.
O'Loane says there's no reason for the city to extend its Urban Growth Boundary into Tassajara Valley right now and it should not be part of the City's General Plan Update 2030, which is what voters are voting to approve in Measure W.
Seth Adams of Save Mount Diablo says developers are planning to build over 4000 homes in Tassajara Valley and once San Ramon's Urban Growth Boundary is moved eastward to Camino Ramon, which passing Measure W would do, a herd of developers greater than the Oklahoma land rush would stampede into Tassajara Valley and start building.
So the question comes back to, "Who do you trust" on how to vote for Measure W. Voting "Yes" would put control over Tassajara Valley in San Ramon, where our City Council says they would protect it from massive development. Voting "No," keeps control over planning and development in Contra Costa County, where the opponents of Measure W say it would be protected from urban development.
Both sides say their choice would protect Tassajara Valley and the other side would make development inevitable and disastrous. So if you are wondering how to vote on Measure W, ask yourself, "Who do you trust?" Is it our elected Mayor and Councilmembers, who were stuck with the County-developed Dougherty Valley while the County got the fees and we got the expenses, or County Supervisors elected by voters outside of San Ramon?
Environmentalist say Contra Costa County can't pull another Dougherty Valley this time because the County's Urban Limit Line, which excludes Tassajara Valley from urban development, was set by voters in Measure L in 2006. Measure L also requires a "four-fifths vote of the County Board of Supervisors and voter approval to expand the ULL by more than 30 acres."
But wait, there's a but, "voter approval is not required if four- fifths of the Board finds after a public hearing that there is substantial evidence in the record that the ULL expansion is necessary to avoid an unconstitutional taking of private property or is necessary to comply with state or federal law."
Measure L also provides for periodic reviews of the ULL by the Board of Supervisors and a required review in 2016 involving an evaluation of housing and job needs. The Supervisor's first periodic review of the ULL is planned for next year.
If the economy improves enough by 2016 (we wish), the state could increase the jobs/housing ratio in Contra Costa County and four of the five Supervisors could vote to change the County's Urban Limit Line without voter approval.
Could it happen? Would it happen? That's what San Ramon voters need to consider when voting for Measure W.
If you trust Contra Costa County Supervisors to protect Tassajara Valley at all costs, vote NO on Measure W.
If you trust our City government to control growth in Tassajara Valley better than the County, vote YES on Measure W.
That's the real issue about moving the Urban Growth Boundary. Who do you trust – Us or Them?
Posted by H.Sachs, a resident of San Ramon, on Sep 27, 2010 at 9:40 am
Roz- this pretty much nails it. Let me add; Seth Adams and the No on W campaign is straight out lying about 4000 plus houses being built in Tassajara Valley. Dougherty Valley was controlled by two major land owners Shappell and Windemere LLC. They went to the county united and gained the rights thru the county to build 11,000 units.
Tassajara Valley is very different. Literally dozens of individual landowners would need to sell their lots in order for any large scale development to take place. In addition, creekside and hillside protections, under Ordinance 197, would prohibit development on the hills. These two facts really illustrate that large scale development in Tassajara is not a short or long term reality.
The Planning Commission studied The General Plan and the expansion of the UGB from February, 2009 until July, 2010. In the end our vote recognized that any development review and possible future development in Tassajara Valley would be less intense, better planned with roadways and services and less costly to San Ramon taxpayers if the San Ramon Planning Commission and City Council had final approval of any project.
The Planning Commission, thru the EIR document, also recognized that water service would not be established through EBMUD, it is not in their service area. There is no way that 4000 plus homes are going to be built relying on ground water, as the No on W campaign would have voters believe.
San Ramon has, since incorporation, been a well run and managed city generally. We, like any city, have not been without population growth issues. We, like every other city, must show a plan to meet state-mandated housing requirements. The No on W campaign operates from a highly charged base of haters who dislike and distrust the City Council and City staff. Their claims border on fanatical, they are downright false and misleading.
My hope is voters will look at San Ramon's 25 year track record of responsible growth and stable city finances and vote Yes on Measure W. It's about local control.
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer, on Sep 27, 2010 at 10:12 am Roz Rogoff is a member (registered user) of San Ramon Express
Thank you for your very clear explanation of the pros and cons of Measure W.
You mention that EBMUD would not be the water provider. That's what happened with Dougherty Valley, so Contra Costa County LAFCO went to Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD) and put it into the Sphere of Influence for water in Dougherty Valley.
As you know I am running for the Board of Directors of DSRSD and I added a position paper to my Smart Voter web page that I would oppose any plan to provide potable water to Tassajara Valley from DSRSD. If they can't get water from EBMUD or DSRSD they can't develop any large scale plans in Tassajara Valley.
So when Seth Adam's says Measure W "Stretches our limited water supply." There's no water agency supplying potable water to Tassajara Valley right now, and you cannot stretch what isn't there.
Posted by Steve O'Brien, a resident of San Ramon, on Sep 27, 2010 at 11:07 am
If the San Ramon city council are so concerned about limiting growth in the Tassajara Valley, why didn't they pre-zone it as rural? This question was asked directly to council during the final hearing and they ignored it. This council and Harry Sachs are pro-growth with aims to transform San Ramon into a much bigger city- witness the North Camino Ramon part of the proposed general plan aka Measure W. An unbelievable proposed urbanization of our just fine downtown area. Hundreds of new homes and big box retail bringing our town more crime and traffic. Voters should ask "who are the developers backing in this vote"?? Well, Dave Hudson received almost 50% of his campaign donation money in 2009 from developer interests like Shapell and Corrie. Livingstone got over 40% from the same crowd. Developers aren't stupid- they've got their money on the city as their efforts in TV have been shut-down for years by the county. SR city staffers are also driving for growth at all costs- selling-out our smaller community vibe to lock down future revenue sources to pay for their outrageous salaries and pensions. The city of San Ramon has a history of being pro-growth and actively participated in the build-out of Dougherty Valley. The chronology of city approvals of growth in DV is well presented in a document called "Dougherty Valley Information" posted on the city's own website. San Ramon was no victim with DV, it's own plan approved 9,000 homes there. Who do I trust? I trust history. TV has remained rural under county auspices and it will remain so going forward as long as voters say so. It won't with this city council and pro-growth planning commission. During his recent planning commission interview with city council, Harry Sachs went on record supporting development in the Tassajara Valley. Phil O'Loane said it was unnecessary, so was replaced with someone who also supported growth in TV. Read the Contra Costa Times' editorial for an unbiased review of this arrogant land grab and radical downtown transformation called Measure W. How many times must voters say NO to breaking the UGB? Vote NO on Measure W if you care about San Ramon and our quality of life.
Posted by H.Sachs, a resident of San Ramon, on Sep 27, 2010 at 11:58 am
The question was raised - a good question- why wasn't the Tassajara Valley "pre-zoned" rural /agriculture? You can't" pre-zone land that you have no legal authority over. The Planning Commission went over this suggestion and really flushed the issue out. We had the City Attorney research this subject.
Regarding the North Camino Ramon Specific plan, even Jim Gibbons spoke to the Planning Commission and said he supported the plan concept. It was as he cited a long-term plan for redeveloping a portion of the city that will allow for infill development.
Mr. O'Brien and the No on W campaign can't have it both ways: State and local agencies are being asked to not contribute to urban sprawl and instead focus on redeveloping existing properties as pedestrian friendly- sustainable communities that are transit centered.
Mr. O'Brien would have the city infrastructure and housing stock rot over the next 20-30 years and it would serve what purpose?
Regarding my Planning Commission interview with the City Council I was asked what kind of development I would predict in Tassajara. I said i did not think you could accomplish large-scale development because there were too many landowners so massing would be hard to do, creeks and ridgeline protections and the lack of a water source also would limit development out there. This response was taped and Roz Rogoff can verify my response.
Steve we can have an honest debate about Measure W but you can't label me as pro-growth and lie about my statements as a Planning Commissioner. I have frequently and openly over my 4 years as a planning Commissioner supported solar energy on proposed projects, recommended electric re-charger stations for North Camino Ramon and was the first person to propose the city staff write out a climate action plan 2 years before it happened. I am a responsible growth local control person. You can take issue with those facts if you would like.
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer, on Sep 27, 2010 at 12:54 pm Roz Rogoff is a member (registered user) of San Ramon Express
Thank you for your comments. You present the No on W issues well and that's the whole purpose of this debate. One thing that impressed me at the Planning Commission meeting when Measure W was voted on, was the discussion between Eric Wallis and Phil O'Loane over moving the UGB to Camino Tassajara. Both made very good points and, as Mayor Wilson likes to say, they were able to disagree without being disagreeable. I hope we all will be able to do that here too (you too Harry).
One thing the No on W people seem to be missing is that these plans, like the General Plan and the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan, are plans for the future and not action plans for now. These are plans for 2030 to 2040, not for next year.
Change scares people. People want to hold on to what is familiar and what they are comfortable with, but change happens. Mr. Tsang is a lovely man, but he wants to turn the clock back 30 years. This isn't the 20th century anymore. It's the 21st century and our city leaders must be thinking ahead. Well-run communities prepare for change, plan for change, so they can control how it happens. Otherwise you wind up with cities that go bankrupt, have high crime levels, homeless people on the streets, and all of the things we don't have here.
If you want to see what life was like in San Ramon in the 1950s, visit Forest Home Farms. If you want to see what life was like in the 1880's visit the Glass House next door. Those people are gone. Their life-style is gone. I like living in the present and looking forward to the future. The "good old days" were not so good, and going backwards isn't the right way to plan for going forward.
Not only do we have to plan for the future, the state has many laws that cities must follow. There's the jobs to housing ratio that requires cities to provide housing to match the number of jobs, as if everyone who works at those jobs lives in that city. Walnut Creek has a lot of jobs, but they also have Rossmoor with thousands of retired people who are counted in their jobs to housing ratio. Cities like San Ramon, without big retirement communities, must constantly be adding housing to meet these silly state requirements. Pleasanton tried to get out of the requirement for more housing and was slapped with a law suit by the State.
If you don't like state laws requiring more and more housing, with a percent set aside for affordable housing, vote for Abram Wilson as our Assemblyman because he'll be in a position to change stupid state laws that force cities to do the things we don't like.
But until these are changed San Ramon must plan for them. These plans aren't for you or me or Mr. Tsang. These are for future San Ramon residents, and yes, there will be more of them in the future. This is to make sure their future is planned and not random or haphazard.
Posted by Steve O'Brien, a resident of San Ramon, on Sep 27, 2010 at 1:33 pm
Harry- electric chargers having nothing to do with supporting further sprawl into the Tasajara Valley. And calling residents with opposing views "haters" is nothing but name calling. Your first set of comments above and your comments during your interview clearly indicate you favor sprawl into a currently rural area. When does it end? Is there no value to buffer space?
I won't attempt to speak for Jim Gibbon (you shouldn't either).
I do support intelligent redevelopment plans. I think there's good opportunity to revitalize areas along San Ramon Valley blvd with improved retail and multi-unit housing. But the North Camino Ramon plan is not intelligent. It's radical and revenue driven by an extremely overpaid staff who know they need retail, and lots of it, to keep the money flowing in to pay their compensation. I sat in on the presentations by staff when I was on the HAC. The motivation was clear. You want local control? Start with local control of runaway city compensation. That will help preserve funds for infrastructure improvements and city services.
In addition to being against breaking our UGB to encourage sprawl, I object to the scale and content of the NCR plan. It is over the top and will transform our community into something most of us did not move here for. How much time as a planning commissioner have you spent in the community asking if residents want this scale of transformation downtown? If you did you'd find most residents don't want it. Aren't you in your role to serve the people and not your point of view? I suggest you and the other W supporters actually get out from behind your dais' and talk to some people like we have. You'll find near universal condemnation of W, just like the Times has condemned it.
Roz- saying we have to grow because the state or ABAG gave us some target numbers implies we have no recourse & no ability to have a discourse with these entities. That's where local leadership comes in. Other towns and cities negotiate with these entities depending on what their residents want. Unfortunately San Ramon is only interested in getting bigger for bigness sake. Again, where does it end?
Posted by Eric Wallis, a resident of San Ramon, on Sep 27, 2010 at 3:06 pm
Mr. O’Brien’s posts earlier today deserve a brief response.
First, General Plan 2020 calls for preparation of an Eastside Specific Plan for Tassajara Valley; “pre-zoning” the area is “piecemeal planning” that General Plan 2020 specifically rejected in favor a comprehensive planning document. Moreover, San Ramon could not “pre-zone” Tassajara Valley because it is not within the City’s Sphere of Influence and planning jurisdiction. An application to make it so is before LAFCO, but is essentially on hold pending the November elections. LAFCO is unlikely to agree to the Sphere of Influence extension – the next step in the planning process for Tassajara Valley that was decided when General Plan 2020 was adopted with 70% voter approval in 2002 – if Measure W does not pass.
Second, the criticism of the still-developing North Camino Ramon Specific Plan is unwarranted. Our City bleeds urgently-needed sales tax revenue to other Tri-Valley cities (see, for example, Costco in Danville and Best Buy in Dublin) because we do not have significant sales-tax generating businesses like those. As a result, our City is highly dependent on property tax revenue to support the City services that San Ramon’s citizens desire. Moreover, the inclusion of housing there in part meets the City’s ABAG-driven requirement (for the failure to do so – see Pleasanton), and also implements the “smart growth” principles of General Plans 2020 and 2030 by placing housing next to jobs and transportation, taking traffic off our streets.
Third, the citizen-constituted General Plan Review Commission voted to have San Ramon, not the County, plan for Tassajara Valley to avoid another Dougherty Valley development. General Plan 2030 is the next step in that process, but its adoption will not change the zoning currently in the Valley, nor will such a zoning change take place until the aforementioned Eastside Specific Plan and accompanying Environmental Impact Report approved.
Lastly, the unsupported claim that Measure W is driven by the need to generate new revenues to support city worker salaries really have no place in a discussion over how best to plan for our City over the next twenty years.
Posted by Doug Burr, a resident of San Ramon, on Sep 27, 2010 at 3:18 pm
It does come down to who you trust. On development I trust the voter’s of Contra Costa versus the SR City Council. To change the County Urban Limit Line would take a vote of all of Contra Costa. That’s why developers are trying to use San Ramon to get around that requirement. It’s clear that this council has a track record of voting for development. Just look at the 6 million square feet of office space they’re trying to shoehorn into the Bishop Ranch area in North Camino Ramon right now. You bring up a good point. I believe one reason they want to develop the Tassajara Valley is the required jobs to housing ratio. To add that much office space, more development will be required in San Ramon to provide housing.
I think we’re long past the “unconstitutional taking” worry on the Urban Limit Line as that was intended for lawsuits back when it passed in 2006.
Using water to stop development was tried and failed in Dougherty Valley, as you point out. DSRSD was forced to provide water and that can happen again, regardless of how the DSRSD board votes.
Most of the land is already owned by developers. There are only 25 parcels and only about 10 people actually live on the land being annexed. The large parcels are owned by developers. Most of the Tassajara Valley residents live across the street from the proposed area.
Plans do mean something. Dougherty Valley was a plan and now it’s almost full. Voting for a plan and then hoping it doesn’t happen is not the best strategy, you get what you plan for. We would like voters to understand all sides of Measure W, because we believe when they do they will vote NO on Measure W.
Posted by jrm, a resident of Danville, on Sep 27, 2010 at 3:28 pm
Steve is spot on...I find Ms Rogoff's condescending lecture about "planning for the future" to be a thinly veiled shill for the rampant developer influence in San Ramon city hall politics. The Contra Costa Times editorial about the city's historic lack of forthcoming transparency and why "No on W" is their suggested vote was very well written. I hope my neighbors to the south will remember Joni Mitchell's lament "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot". Take a look at the westside of Dublin as you drive north on 680, you can't even see the hills anymore, the view is gone forever. Is that really what you all want?
Lastly, I have never trusted anyone who publicly seeks to brand themselves as the "San Ramon Observer", that implies objective non partisan observations which clearly she does not bring to the table. The stratospheric salary creep in San Ramon that now has placed an unsustainable financial drain on all of us has brought us to this need to develope anything, anywhere just to keep feeding the dragon.
Posted by Anne Cavazos, a resident of San Ramon, on Sep 27, 2010 at 4:08 pm
My question about the North Camino Ramon Specific plan is who exactly is going to live there? Are these people really going to be retirees looking to downsize and use transit or more families lured by our fabulous school system which is getting strained as we all know and as reported in Patch Web Link . Where would these children go to school? Iron Horse Middle School can barely accomodate all the parents picking up their children after school now. Where was the planning there?
Posted by Steve O'Brien, a resident of San Ramon, on Sep 27, 2010 at 4:56 pm
Mr Wallis- your final statement: "the need to generate new revenues to support city worker salaries really have no place in a discussion over how best to plan for our City over the next twenty years" is very concerning as it indicates a lack of financial management experience. Meeting the city's projected cost base, of which worker salaries and pensions are a significant part (especially in our city), should be integral to any city's long term planning- unless the plan is to go broke. I am concerned that as a planning commissioner you do not have an appreciation of this.
As far as pre-zoning, the city could have very easily pulled out the proposal to expand our UGB from the GP update as a separate ballot initiative. That initiative could have also included a provision to maintain current rural zoning. The city chose not to do this because they want to develop the Tassajara Valley according to an eastside plan that will be funded by developers presented to council members also funded by developers.
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer, on Sep 27, 2010 at 5:29 pm Roz Rogoff is a member (registered user) of San Ramon Express
You said, "Using water to stop development was tried and failed in Dougherty Valley, as you point out. DSRSD was forced to provide water and that can happen again, regardless of how the DSRSD board votes."
I agree that using water to control growth isn't a good idea, but DSRSD is not in the financial position to be able to build the infrastructure needed to provide water to Tassajara Valley, whether I voted for it or not.
DSRSD is $50M in debt for the infrastructure costs to supply water to Dougherty Valley and East Dublin. There's no way they could be forced into providing water to Tassajara Valley. They don't have the resources to do it now and probably not until after Dougherty Valley and East Dublin are fully built out.
Posted by Eric Wallis, a resident of San Ramon, on Sep 27, 2010 at 5:50 pm
Mr. O'Brien - I believe that you have misquoted my statement. What I said was "Lastly, the unsupported claim that Measure W is driven by the need to generate new revenues to support city worker salaries really have no place in a discussion over how best to plan for our City over the next twenty years." You omitted the first part of the sentence, which comments on the lack of any credible evidence that city worker salaries are driving the planning for Tassajara Valley, which was initiated in 2002 by General Plan 2020. I still have yet to hear any evidence to support such claims.
How the City meets projected expenses - including park maintenance, road repairs, and the like - is not something that I am oblivious to. That is why I am interested in the planning for North Camino Ramon, which could provide the City with the revenue you are concerned about, as well as allowing our citizens to shop locally rather than driving to Walnut Creek, etc. And, as you know, the obligation to make sound financial decisions for the City falls to our elected City Councilmembers, not appointed members of the Planning Commission. However, that discussion was extraneous to the issue I addressed, which was the unsupported allegation that planning Tassajara Valley was being driven by city worker salaries.
With respect to the second issue you raised - "the city could have very easily pulled out the proposal to expand our UGB from the GP update as a separate ballot initiative" - that is not accurate in my view. If the UGB expansion was not included in the General Plan update, the General Plan and EIR would have to be been written differently - that is, both would have been written as if the UGB remained as is. Had the General Plan and the UGB extension been approved, both the General Plan and the EIR would have to have been rewritten to take into account the new UGB. To have proceeded in that fashion would have been to ask the City to purposely prepare two General Plan updates and two EIRs, which even if the City had been flush with cash would not have made sense.
Lastly, an Eastside Specific Plan is not currently being developed, nor has development of that Plan been requested by anyone. (That Specific Plan is called for by General Plan 2020, I note, which 70% of your fellow voters approved in 2002.) The fear that passage of Measure W will make Tassajara Valley "shovel ready" for major development is simply unreasonable given the inherent long-term nature of the planning process - look how long it took to come up with a plan for City Center (twenty years, I believe), which the vast majority of San Ramon citizens have wanted for many years.
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer, on Sep 27, 2010 at 6:02 pm Roz Rogoff is a member (registered user) of San Ramon Express
I agreed with Phil O'Loane at that last Planning Commission meeting that the Eastern UGB should have been pulled from the 2030 General Plan. I believe there could be two separate votes on these two separate items and that you didn't need two different General Plans to do that. You say we would. Could you explain that to me? I thought removing the change to the UGB would require redoing the General Plan and going through the public hearing process all over again and that's why it wasn't done.
Posted by Steve O'Brien, a resident of San Ramon, on Sep 27, 2010 at 8:19 pm
Mr Wallis- Now you're just being silly (or maybe just being an attorney). Stating "How the City meets projected expenses - including park maintenance, road repairs, and the like - is not something that I am oblivious to. That is why I am interested in the planning for North Camino Ramon, which could provide the City with the revenue you are concerned about" but also saying that somehow our outrageous staff compensation should not be included in that list of projected expenses is irrational.
If it helps, I can put it another way: Measure W is driven by the need to provide additional revenue to the city (you say so above). We're agreed on that point. What are city revenues used for? To pay city expenses. Is staff compensation an expense? yes. Therefore, the need to pay for outrageous staff compensation over the longer term along with other city expenses are driving the ciy's tone-deaf design and endorsement of Measure W.
Posted by Seth Adams, a resident of another community, on Sep 27, 2010 at 9:30 pm
I'm Director of Land Programs for Save Mount Diablo, and was labeled earlier in these comments by San Ramon Planning Commissioner Harry Sachs as a "liar" and a "hater."
Wow. Misdirection is a frequent technique of those whose arguments don't hold water. The fact is that Ms. Rogoff's "opinion" (because it's certainly not an objective article) misstates the positions of one person after another), despite past corrections by those she's misrepresented. The most factual thing about her opinion is that she doesn't directly quote those she characterizes, since it's easier to put words in people's mouths if you don't have to accurately quote them.
Mr. Sachs, and later Eric Wallis, both planning commissioners (and I believe attorneys) display a shocking ignorance of land use planning law. This is just a guess, but I doubt their legal expertise is in land use planning.
But don't take my word for it. Mr. Wallis was one of the city's representatives who met with the 3 members of the Contra Costa Times Editorial Board. Phil O'Loane (the Planning Commission Chairman who the city removed when he disagreed about the need for more city expansion) and I also met with them. The 3 members of the Editorial Board are considerably more objective than either side of the debate, they share almost 100 years of experience in elections, politics, and local land use, and they urged San Ramon voters to 'vote No on Measure W."
To summarize...the CCTimes editorial said "THE RESIDENTS of San Ramon have been clear: They want development contained within reasonable voter-approved growth boundaries. But city leaders continue to ignore those wishes. In placing Measure W on the Nov. 2 ballot, the City Council proposes opening up to development about 3.5 square miles on the east and west sides of the city...It's ridiculous. And that's just one reason why voters should reject Measure W...City leaders are trying to pawn this off as an attempt to carry out the will of the voters...The big development prize in this package is the Tassajara Valley. The land is east of the city limits and outside the city's voter-approved growth boundaries. The valley is currently under county control, which means that it can only be sparsely developed. Expanding the city's growth boundaries would lead to eventual full-scale development...We don't know exactly what that development would be...But we do know that key landowners in the valley have been itching to build. We know that city officials in San Ramon operate without the transparency of most other cities. And we know that, if Measure W passes, there would not be additional voter review required before development of the Tassajara Valley could move forward...We're generally unsympathetic to attempts to break the growth boundaries around Contra Costa. Voters in San Ramon and throughout Contra Costa have wisely recognized that we can't keep expanding, stretching out costly infrastructure while piling unnecessary mileage onto commutes. It's bad planning and it's bad environmental policy -- especially when, in San Ramon's case, there is enough undeveloped land within the city limits to meet housing demand for decades to come...In sum, voters should reject Measure W for three reasons: The proposed expansions of the growth boundaries are horrible policy. The proposed general plan changes near the freeway are premature. And the two issues should have never been tied together in one ballot measure."
Posted by Seth Adams, a resident of another community, on Sep 27, 2010 at 10:51 pm
To answer a few of Rogoff, Sachs and Wallis' misrepresentations, "who you trust" is hardly the most important issue. "What does Measure W include," "what are the impacts on the public," "who benefits," and "what are they trying to hide and why" are more important in this case.
Measure W includes the entire proposed General Plan 2030 and other documents, supported by an Environmental Impact Report--more than 1,900 pages in total--which however don't say a word about what the city intends for the areas where it is attempting to break and expand the voter-approved urban growth boundary--especially the Tassajara Valley. That's because city officials don't want the public to know.
For answers to most of those questions you can read more at www.NoOnMeasureW.org in our “Frequently Asked Questions” document.
Despite repeated requests, the city refused to tell the public its plans. They repeated vague ideas that they want to see the Tassajara Valley preserved, yet also said they want to do an "Eastside Specific Plan" there, paid for by developers. As Steve O'Brien mentions, Sachs is wrong--the area in the Valley that the city wants isn't dozens of parcels, it's the part of the valley made up almost entirely of a few big parcels and mostly controlled by three developer/speculators. More than half of the area is 5 parcels owned by just 2 developers. With such a small number of parcels the developers don't have to allow the city to add their land unless they believe they will get bigger profits than otherwise.
Bottom line, the only reason to expand an urban growth boundary is urban growth, and the only reason for a specific plan is for more development. The only reason developers will pay for a specific plan or allow their land to be added to a city is for more development.
Ms Rogoff wrote “Seth Adams of Save Mount Diablo says developers are planning to build over 4000 homes in Tassajara Valley” and Mr. Sachs commented “Seth Adams and the No on W campaign is straight out lying about 4000 plus houses being built in Tassajara Valley…” No, that is not we’ve said. Because they city won’t reveal its plans for the Valley so the public can make an informed decision we had to estimate. What we said in writing and in public, before both the planning commission nd the city council, was that if you applied the same zoning as neighboring Dougherty Valley, or looked at what these same developers had proposed on these same parcels in an actual development plan they had previously before the parcels were placed outside of urban growth boundaries, you’d get a range of between 2,370 and 4,227 residential units. You can read the same estimate on our “Frequently Asked Questions” document. If Ms. Rogoff or Mr. Sachs actually knew what they were talking about instead of trying to spin misinformation, they could also have consulted the public record from the meetings.
Sure, who do you trust...but get it in writing. City officials have tried to fool the public by saying they just wanted to keep the County out and to preserve the Tassajara Valley (the areas outside of the Urban Growth Boundary have been county land for over a hundred years and the county can only allow urban development if they conduct their own countywide vote of the public). In the months before Measure W was placed on the ballot, we said "prove it. Put measures in the General Plan or the ballot measure that will ensure protection.” They refused.
One such suggestion was to prezone the area "open space." Mr. Wallis said the city can't prezone areas not in the city's sphere of influence. He's factually wrong. The city can put guidelines into its General Plan for any area it chooses, they just don't take effect until the areas are added to the city.
Cities have various planning boundaries controlled by an agency called LAFCO; first "planning boundaries" --areas the city is interested in, with no legal force, and which can overlap with other cities' "planning boundaries." Second "Spheres of Influence" (SOI) including county lands the city hopes to develop within the next 5-10 years. Land has to be in a city's SOI before it can be added to the city--that‘s the reason for placing it there. San Ramon has been attempting to expand its SOI into the Tassajara Valley. Two cities' SOIs can't overlap but the city still doesn't control the land. And here Mr. Wallis is wrong again, because Measure W has no impact on whether LAFCO can or will expand San Ramon’s SOI. And third "city limits" the area the city controls. When an area is added to the city limits from the city's SOI, it's called "annexation." At that point, and not before, the city controls the land.
Posted by Seth Adams, a resident of another community, on Sep 27, 2010 at 10:52 pm
(continued from above)
Mr. Wallis and Mr. Sachs are wrong yet again. The city could easily have "prezoned" the land they wish to 'protect' as open space--in fact LAFCO and land use regulations encourage prezoning. Read it for yourself: Web Link Prezoning makes your intentions known, before the city has legal control.
LAFCO states in part: "There are two advantages to prezoning. First, the city will have zoning in effect immediately upon annexation. Local residents will thereby have prior knowledge of the land use regulations that would affect them should annexation occur. Secondly, prezoning acts to serve notice to the LAFCO of the city's intentions regarding its adjacent areas." To paraphrase, prezoning will give residents prior knowledge of what's intended.
Ms Rogoff and Mr. Sachs invoke the county ‘threat’ again with Dougherty Valley as an example, conveniently ignoring that Dougherty Valley is INSIDE urban growth boundaries, where urban development is allowed, and Tassajara Valley is OUTSIDE of the growth boundaries. She also misunderstands “review” of growth boundaries - basically a report of how they’re working, with making changes to them. Bottom line again, the city can’t allow urban development unless city residents vote to allow them to break and expand the growth boundary. The county can’t allow urban development in the Valley unless they hold a countywide vote to expand the boundary, which is harder and more expensive than a city vote.
Ironically, Ms Rogoff and city officials like to bash the county for Dougherty Valley (although the city was involved every step of the way, and Dougherty is inside growth boundaries). But they try to take credit for Bishop Ranch, San Ramon’s economic engine, conveniently ignoring that the county also approved Bishop Ranch, before the city was formed.
No one has ever said that 4000 houses in Tassajara Valley would use wells or ground water. The fact that the Valley is water short is one of the reasons it was down zoned and placed outside of the urban growth boundaries in the first place. Service areas for utility providers can obviously be expanded too, just like city boundaries.
No, Mr. Sachs, I don’t dislike the city council or city staff. But I do distrust public officials who won’t provide clear, factual information to the public. And for the best proof of that, read the ballot title and statement for Measure W. It reads like Motherhood and apple pie, rather than what those 1900 pages of Measure W, the General Plan and its EIR actually include: breaking and expanding the urban growth boundary in 3 places including the Tassajara Valley--which can support thousands of houses, and a new Specific Plan on North Camino Ramon including another 1500 houses and millions of square feet of commercial redevelopment that hasn’t even been studied yet for impacts. The city’s language suggests that Measure W is environmentally positive but environmental organizations, the Contra Costa Times and many San Ramon residents all agree that Measure W is a disaster and is not environmentally positive at all.
It’s not about local control at all. It’s about business as usual, if you can fool the public into going along with it.
As for the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan - it’s not a question about whether it’s good or bad -- there’s no way of knowing. It’s that it’s premature to put it in a ballot measure before doing environmental review so the public can make an informed decision.
Ms Rogoff, Mr. Sachs and Mr. Wallis obviously don’t know all that’s included in those nearly 2000 pages of Measure W documents, and they’re deliberately attempting to confuse the issues. The same is true of city officials. They know that if the public knows just how massive the development areas are that they’ve included in Measure W, there will be significant opposition.
To quote the Contra Costa Times editorial again: “In placing Measure W on the Nov. 2 ballot, the City Council proposes opening up to development about 3.5 square miles on the east and west sides of the city. That's an area about 19 percent the size of all the land within the current city limits. It's an area equal to half the entire city of Pleasant Hill. It's ridiculous. And that's just one reason why voters should reject Measure W.”
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer, on Sep 28, 2010 at 2:57 am Roz Rogoff is a member (registered user) of San Ramon Express
This whole blog is for opinions not news. I don't know why so many people have difficulty telling the difference between an Op Ed piece and a news story.
When I report on a meeting I quote you and others from the meeting and that's published on the front page as a news story. I've generally been complimented by you and Matt Vander Sluis and others opposed to Measure W as "balanced and fair." I try to be when wearing my "reporter" hat.
In the San Ramon Observer blog I'm wearing my "San Ramon Observer" hat. This blog is for my editorials. The Editorial in the Contra Costa Times is also an opinion. You might like it better because it takes your side of the issue, but it is still the opinions of the Editors. They formed their opinions by interviewing you and Mr. Wallis and others on the issue and deciding which side they trust. I formed mine by attending City Council and Planning Commission meetings and my past experiences with the results of the County's development of Dougherty Valley.
You base your opinions on your perception of the facts. I have different perceptions as do Mr. Wallis and Mr. Sachs. So our opinions differ. That's why there are Editorial pages in newspapers and columnists and bloggers, because different perceptions result in differences of opinion.
The Editors of the Times are telling San Ramon voters how to vote based on their opinions. You are telling our voters how to vote based on your opinions. I am not telling voters how to vote. I am telling them to base their votes on their own opinions. I'm giving them my opinions too, but I have not told anyone in this column how to vote on Measure W. I think I've been more balanced in that respect than you.
Posted by Seth Adams, a resident of another community, on Sep 28, 2010 at 8:09 am
No, I don't believe you're "balanced and fair." You haven't been balanced at all. You 'don't know why so many people have difficulty telling the difference between an "opinion" piece and a "news" story'--the reason is because you blur the lines, don't state when one is an article and one is an opinion piece, and fail to observe basic journalistic rules of objectivity. You claim to be "more" balanced than others when in fact your bias is obvious.
You also fail to mention that you're running for election to the Board of Directors of the Dublin-San Ramon Services District, which might well be called to provide sewer or water to the Tassajara Valley if Measure W is approved. Although you claim that you no longer cover the Services District while you're campaigning, the race is inextricably entwined with city politics and development issues. You can't possibly be objective when at the same time you're attempting to get elected.
I don't like the Contra Costa Times Editorial better because it agrees with me and you don't, I like it better because the Times' Editorial Board interviewed both sides of the debate and formed an onjective opinion based on a great deal of expertise and a county-wide breadth of experience. They looked at the facts and what the city is saying, and it doesn't add up.
Of course I base my opinion on my perception of facts. But I also base it on a depth of knowledge of land use planning and land use law. I provided a variety of examples above where you, Mr. Sachs, and Mr. Wallis all displayed ignorance of the laws that guide land use planning--the city's refusal to prezone the area they wish to take control of, for example, and Mr. Wallis and Mr. Sachs' suggestions that this wasn't legally possible when in fact it is both legally possible, and encouraged.
And no, you did not fail to tell people how to vote--you set up a false dichotomy between the city and the county and wrote "That's the real issue about moving the Urban Growth Boundary. Who do you trust – Us or Them?" in which you clearly suggested that you are part of "us"--the city establishment. I disagreed. The real issue is not 'who you trust', it's 'what are the facts'--what is contained in Measure W, why is the city trying to obscure its real impacts, which they've refused to quantify or reveal, and why have they packaged a variety of questions as approval of an entire, massive General Plan which is hard for anyone to understand, rather than the basic questions at the heart of that General Plan. Such as "do you want the city expanded by thousands of acres, which will inevitably lead to lots of additional development and development impacts." Or "do you want millions of additional square feet of commercial development along North Camino Ramon along with another 1500 dense residences."
In other words, your oblique suggestions that "us" is more trustworthy than "them" is not the central question. Planning Commissions and City Councils change, and come and go. Even if you trust current city officials, you might not trust those who follow them. Breaking and expanding city urban growth boundaries will lead to additional urban growth.
And that's the real problem with your "opinion" piece. You, Mr. Sachs and Mr. Wallis fail to understand at the most basic level, what an urban growth boundary is--it's a boundary for growth. Urban growth takes place inside the boundary, and is prohibited outside of the boundary. If you expand the growth boundary, you allow more growth.
The San Ramon residents I've talked with have no problem understanding that most simple question--no thanks to the city and the establishment within which you include yourself.
Posted by Sadie, a resident of San Ramon, on Sep 28, 2010 at 9:09 am
Let me start by admitting I have not made my mind up about Measure W. However, I do live close to Dougherty Valley and am hearing every conversation on cell phones and at the side line of soccer practice about the meeting tomorrow where the SRVUSD Board will be discussing re-drawing the boundary lines for several of the elementary schools in this area. Families are up in arms that they may have to leave a school they love and have built through hours of volunteer work, donations and support. All of this because of poor planning and more students than projected have moved in to the Windemere area? At the risk of sounding like a school kid myself, that's not fair!
If our schools are so overflowing with students, why would we add more to the population?
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer, on Sep 28, 2010 at 9:33 am Roz Rogoff is a member (registered user) of San Ramon Express
The San Ramon Observer Blog is in the Town Hall section of this online paper. That's the opinion section. My news stories are under the By Line Roz Rogoff and in the News section. It should be easy to tell the difference. My last news story was on the hearing for the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan and you are quoted as is Mr. Burr and there's a link to that story in the No on Measure W website.
I am not hiding my candidacy for DSRSD. I mentioned it in the third message in this thread and several other places in this thread. I have said I would vote against providing potable water service to developments in Tassajara Valley. I am not for urbanization of Tassajara Valley, and I believe our City Council isn't either but you don't. I live here and I know those people and I know the history of our General Plan, which you don't. So we have different facts to base our opinions on.
Posted by H.Sachs, a resident of San Ramon, on Sep 28, 2010 at 9:36 am
Sadie- your point illustrates my concern over handing development to the county to sort out. Early on when Dougherty Valley schools first opened, SRVUSD acknowleged they were unprepared for the larger than expected influx of students, the Contra Costa county's population projections were that more senior and couples without children would be residents. In addition there have been intra-district transfers to DV schools from students who live outside DV.
I believe that had San Ramon been in control of the devlopment process of DV, the numbers illustrate that less housing units would have been built. Also, DV has an extremely higher than average concentration of affordable housing units which adds to the student population generally speaking.
These are the sort of issues that the No on W campaign is overlooking in my opinion. It's not just about growth or no growth or who allows the growth the county or the city. The No on W and the Yes on W advocates cannot guarantee either outcome. However, services must be provided and as in the case of DV, the City of San Ramon would be accountable for services. SRVUSD would need to work with either the city or county if development were approved.
Again, who do you trust to provide service; look what the City of San Ramon has provided for in DV, the theatres, nice parks that are maintained, DV library. All now maintained and within the oversight of city staff.
By way of introduction, and for Mr. Adams benefit, I am a public school teacher, not a lawyer. Not that there is anything wrong with being a lawyer. just sayin'.:)
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer, on Sep 28, 2010 at 9:45 am Roz Rogoff is a member (registered user) of San Ramon Express
Correction: The link to my article on "Zoning Administrator gets an earful at North Camino Ramon hearing" is on the No on Measure W Facebook page. There are no links to news stories on the No on Measure W website.
Posted by Steve O'Brien, a resident of San Ramon, on Sep 28, 2010 at 11:28 am
Once again... why move an urban growth boundary if you don't intend to grow the urban footprint into that area? Leave it alone. The city of San Ramon is the only entity trying to break an urban growth boundary. The county has not in the past and is not now. And please don't come back with we want to break the boundary to "control the growth there". That excuse is becoming so tired and noone believes it (except maybe Roz). The city had their chance to pre-zone in a way to contain growth if they truly cared about that. But the fact is they don't care about keeping Tassajara Valley rural. They want the revenue that comes with growth- residents, schools, traffic be damned. Their developer interest campaign donors and exorbitantly overpaid staffers should be proud.
Posted by Steve O'Brien, a resident of San Ramon, on Sep 28, 2010 at 11:56 am
Roz- sorry, but you really are too cozy with this council to call yourself a reporter. The stories you do are really meeting notes. That said, I do appreciate getting at least that level of "what happened at the meeting" information from you.
But, it would be nice to have a real investigative reporter cover San Ramon. Someone who would have looked into council Form 460's for example. They would've found the significant amount of developer interests that contributed to Hudson and Livingstone's campaigns last year. They would've daylighted Herb Moniz's undercover donation to Hudson as "Melo Farms", which also was mis-reported by Hudson's campaign resulting in an official FPPC warning issued to him last week. They would've seen that the California Grand Casino of Pacheco donated to Livingstone. Why? Because the Cal Grand has now bought the Outpost card room license, and all they need now is council approval of a business license- no resident vote req'd. Did you know Livingstone approved reactivating this license last time it went through council? Cal Grand recognized a friend. Also... we would have been exposed to Moniz's outrageous salary and benefits from this local reporter instead of from a Dublin blogger who combed through the data, and then Daniel Borenstein who broke down the incredible pension Moniz will get.
As the Times said in their editorial- this council operates with much less transparancy than other city governments. As a result, there's alot to dig into because of that style. Council has shown themselves as officials who are interested not in what residents want, but what they want. There's a laundry list of council bad behavior behind how Measure W has gone down. We badly need a real reporter.
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer, on Sep 28, 2010 at 12:41 pm Roz Rogoff is a member (registered user) of San Ramon Express
You might be surprised by this but I agree with most of what you described the meetings as they happen and try to do it in a balanced way.
However, I don't always march in lock-step with the City Council either. When Dave Hudson proposed going to even year elections in 2008 with Measure P, I opposed it as term extensions and put a video on my San Ramon Observer website of Dave saying he would not shorten his term. I wrote the No on Measure P ballot statement, which was cosigned by Curt and Jeanne Kinney. The measure was defeated.
At one of the Council's public hearings on the General Plan Update, I noticed that the requirement for a 4/5 vote of both the City Council and the Planning Commission for any changes to the General Plan was changed to remove the Planning Commission's super majority. I objected to this as violation of Measure G which was voted on in 1999 and was the genesis for the General Plan we have now. The watering down of the Planning Commission was removed from the General Plan Update, or I would be sporting a No on Measure W sign on my lawn too.
As I said above, I agreed with Phil O'Loane that the change to the eastern UGB should be in a separate measure. It's interesting that opponents are now against the changes to the west side UGB and the North Camino Ramon rezoning, but the only thing requested at the public hearings was to take Tassajara Valley out of the General Plan update and put it into a separate measure. I'm sorry they didn't do that, and maybe all of this controversy wouldn't be on the General Plan update, which is a planning document and not some ironclad prediction for the future.
Posted by Seth Adams, a resident of another community, on Sep 28, 2010 at 1:05 pm
And once again Ms. Rogoff, you've revealed why you have a variety of conflicts of interest in "reporting" on these issues--you take sides. You interact in the issues, not just at the meetings, but in this discussion about the piece you wrote. You're not objective, you're not reporting on issues, you're not balancing different points of view to give a full understanding of the issue. Instead you're trying to persuade people, and you're trying to get elected to office, relying on support from various consituencies or individuals. If you want to be part of campaigns, or run for office, by all means--but don't set yourself up as an objective reporter on issues, or as an expert, because you're not either one.
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer, on Sep 28, 2010 at 3:51 pm Roz Rogoff is a member (registered user) of San Ramon Express
You keep missing my point. This thread is an opinion column not a news story.
In my last answer to Steve my first sentence was mangled. Unfortunately there's no way to edit these messages once they are posted. Here's what it should have said:
"You might be surprised by this but I agree with most of what you said. I am not an investigative reporter. I simply describe the meetings as they happen and try to do it in a balanced way."
So I was talking about my reporting of meetings being balanced, not things that I take positions on.
I am paid by the Express to write up a description of what happens at meetings. So I describe what happens to the best of my abilities under the By Line, Roz Rogoff. I am not paid by anybody to express my opinions. I do that freely under the By Line, San Ramon Observer.
Posted by jrm, a resident of Danville, on Sep 28, 2010 at 9:41 pm
Roz...we are now hip to your political desires and your efforts to be the court jester (or reporter) pandering to the establishment as you seek to remain relevant via this election to the obtuse DSRSD. It will not work, you are not at all an objective journalist, and I and others now find you shilling for developers to be beyond the pale and you should be retired from your curiously public persona, I like the hat, but do not approve of your personal and political agenda masked under the "observer" fake moniker....nothing wrong with running for office, but your desire to ride the San Ramon/Pave'em Abram tide is not going to work....why don't you move to Rancho Santa Margarita or Mission Viejo so you can dwell in the urban congestion you so desire...oh wait, why move, not only are homes in Windemere already under water due to over developement but you can sit in a traffic light for 5 minutes on Bollinger and look at the Dublin Hills and fantasize about the "future" you want to help facilitate as the voice of the community...
Posted by jrm, a resident of Danville, on Sep 29, 2010 at 7:42 pm
I guess I will ask the obvious question to Mr Sachs....if indeed you are a teacher why are you spending time on a Tuesday Morning on September 28th composing these e-mails? Is this a break for your students? What school do you teach at and what are the online controls that would allow this discourse while your students are in your class? Sounds like we have a problem here with your kids not getting your whole attention while you shill for housing in 2018...
Just an innocent question. Parents, who is in his class? Are you concerned about this?
Posted by H.Sachs, a resident of San Ramon, on Sep 30, 2010 at 5:39 pm
Mssrs. In the Know and jrm of Danville- My issue with Measure W is about local control. I respond to this blog to voice my perspective, whether you like it or agree with it is your preference.
With regards to your question as to why I chose to write a blog response during my workday, I am free to use my prepatory time as I see fit, please feel free to contact my principla if that is your desire. Should you wish to discuss Measure W with me in person please feel free to indicate this on the website and I would gladly sit down for coffee with either of you.
I believe in civil discourse. I do acknowledge and respect the viewpoints of folks advocating against Measure W. I personally consider Phil O'loane a friend and was extremely disappointed he was not asked to remain on the Planning Commission. We did not always agree on issues but we could and did have have respect for eachother and enjoyed an adult beverage from time to time.
I will advocate my position and opinions without threats or petty recourse. I would ask the same from both of you; whomever you are.
Posted by jrm, a resident of Danville, on Oct 6, 2010 at 9:30 pm
No threats or "petty discourse" to use your term...how interesting...just to clue you in the private sector you can't spend time on your company issued laptop to engage in this political discussion....funny how when you bust a teacher spending "preparation time" in another school district writing pro development emails supporting Measure W ad nauseaum they get so defensive....
Posted by Ms.Bunny, a resident of San Ramon, on Oct 11, 2010 at 10:12 am
This issue is so frustrating...I suspect BOTH sides are not necessarily openly lying, but BOTH intend to see development occur, big development of more homes - no matter WHICH side "wins".
I suppose the bottomline is indeed, who does one trust more? County or City of San Ramon? I'm not thrilled with County (have worked in const. with them for over 25 years...) BUT then again? I'm concerned in recent months about San Ramon's intentions...the fact they've been "up and coming" and haven't leveled out in some areas to discourage rampant growth...or to curtail spending (especially taking a small paycut in light of a dozen or so, high-high salaries)
One way or the other, this is the hardest, most difficult Measure I've felt I've had to decide on in over 30 years and if I feel this way, I cannot imagine many others who've lived here, certainly over 20 years, don't feel the same in reading all the pro's/con's.
Again, I have to express in the San Ramon Express, my disappointment the wording of this Measure is not more clear and concise, IF NOT HONEST IN INTENT.
Posted by Eric Wallis, a resident of San Ramon, on Oct 12, 2010 at 4:03 pm
Ms. Bunny - I can understand your concerns over Measure W. (TV-30 will air the debate between No and Yes on W either late this week or next - it's only 30 minutes).
In making your decision I would ask you to consider the following.
First, if Measure W fails, the Save Our Hills Ordinance expires, by its own terms, at the end of this year.
Second, the Growth Boundary extensions on the Westside only include already-developed areas and would generally still be inside the County's Urban Limit Line. No on W's Chair favored these two extensions while on the Planning Commission.
Third, the Growth Boundary extension into that portion of Tassajara Valley that Danville and the County have agreed should be in San Ramon's Sphere of Influence does not change existing zoning there. Before any development that does not meet the current agricultural land use designation is even contemplated, an Eastside Specific Plan, as mandated by our voter-approved existing General Plan, must be drafted and subjected to multiple public hearings and certification of an evironmental impact report. San Ramon does not have a "secret plan" to develop Tassajara Valley if Measure W passes.
Lastly, changes in North Camino Ramon are designed to attract retail businesses that currently do not exist in our City or are projected for City Center - e.g., Best Buy - to revitalize the area and generate sales tax revenue that now goes to Dublin, Pleasanton, etc. that we could use for paving our streets, maintaining our parks, and other City amenities that are a large part of the reason people live in San Ramon.
I believe the City's current Newsletter that has been mailed contains information that may help in your decision.
Sometimes in elections the noise tends to drown out the facts. Having an electorate study and vote on an issue is necessary for a functioning democracy. That you have looked at the issue and voiced your thoughts leads me to believe that democracy is still alive and working in San Ramon.