By Roz Rogoff
Planning for changeUploaded: Jun 10, 2012
The City Council will hold its first of three Public Hearings on the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan (NCRSP) at their Tuesday meeting. The Planning Commission held three Public Hearings and passed the plan on to the City Council to continue public hearings.
Some residents have complained that the NCRSP is too big, too dense, and would create traffic congestion and ruin the small-town atmosphere of San Ramon. In the first place San Ramon hasn't been a small town in over 20 years. When I moved here in 1997 the population was about 40,000. With the incorporation of County-developed Dougherty Valley that number has almost doubled, but so has the geographic area.
The bigger concern over population growth isn't how much growth but where it's put. The NCRSP could add up to 1500 housing units in the downtown area. There's very little housing on Norris Canyon Road from Alcosta to San Ramon Valley Blvd. A new condo development was approved on Camino Ramon, but so far no more housing is planned for this area except in the NCRSP.
I used to work at Bishop Ranch 12, which is on Annabel Lane off of Norris Canyon Road. Norris Canyon is essentially a business district, with office buildings, portions of Bishop Ranch, restaurants, and the UPS and Toyota warehouses.
Some residents are concerned about the loss of UPS, 24 Hour Fitness, or the Lucky shopping center at the corner of Crow Canyon and Camino Ramon. The plan calls for a Santana Row type development there. I have not been to Santana Row in San Jose, but I have heard of it and seen some photos of it. Many people say it's a wonderful place to live.
I'm all for people having choices of where they want to live. So it could be a good thing if the Lucky property is redeveloped into a Santana Row clone. I don't know what the objections are to this, but I'm sure someone will post some. Change happens. It's better to plan for it than let it happen uncontrolled.
That's what this is really all about planning. Planning for change does not mean changing for the sake of change, but planning in the event of change. There will be no changes anywhere in the NCRSP area if none of the property owners want to change. The plan is just a plan, not a blueprint. None of it needs to be done, or needs to be done the way it is in the plan. The plan makes sure if one of the property owners, let's say Lucky's, wants to change its land use or sell it or develop it, there's a plan for what they can or cannot do. However, if what they want to do isn't in the plan, they could still do it.
If Toyota wants to expand its warehouse onto its vacant lot, they should be able to. According to the City's Allowable Land Use and Zoning Standards warehouse storage is permitted under the MU zoning.
Many other uses, such as Auto Sales and Rentals or a Conference/Convention facility, require a Conditional Use Permit. Since these uses already exit in the NCRSP, they would be grandfathered in and not required to change. If Kaiser doesn't want to change their new building, they don't have to.
Property owners who want to change an existing use to one that isn't permitted in the Mixed Use zoning could request a Minor Use Permit or a Conditional Use Permit depending on how much the requested change would impact the area. These are usually approved with modifications or "conditions," but they can still be done.
Anyone who claims the NCRSP would cause imminent growth in the downtown area doesn't understand planning or the purpose of plans. As anyone who has planned a vacation knows even the best laid plans change. So don't be afraid of the NCRSP. It isn't cast in stone, but in Jell-O.