By Roz Rogoff
Thomas von Thury - In his own wordsUploaded: Sep 30, 2013
Mr. von Thury,
I met you at the Thursday night Orientation session. I'm a blogger for the San Ramon Express. I read the article our reporter Glenn Wohltmann wrote about you and I have some additional questions. I plan to write my Endorsements for City Council in the next week or two.
1. Why are you running for City Council? You answered this but give me more specifics this time.
Because I do not like the over-development (AKA High-Density) that has been occurring and will continue to occur and none of the other candidates oppose it to the same extent that I do. In particular, the New City Center will transform San Ramon. That massive project will require a new on-off ramp for 680 to accommodate the thousands of additional vehicles. The only place for that to be built is at Norris Canyon where an over-pass already exists. My property value and quality of life will be directly affected along with everyone else's.
Mr. Hudson has long been a supporter of development and Mr. Sachs has supported high-density projects as Planning Commissioner. In August he voted "yes" on a project on Ryan Industrial Court even though he stated that it had too many units and not enough open space. Messrs. Hudson and Sachs also voted in favor of Measure W to reduce our open space. Ms. Matsumoto also supports the New City Center. Although Mr. Sachs and Ms. Matsumoto oppose the Norris Canyon-680 HOV ramps as do I, those ramps will be required if the City Center is not down-sized. So, that leaves me alone to say "no" to that project and other High-Density Projects. Make no mistake, I do not oppose all development and I do support a scaled-down City Center. We have room for some growth and there certainly are properties that need up-dating, even expansion.
By the way, the City Council is a supervisory board and members are not full-time employees. Accordingly, my lack of previous experience in government should not matter whereas my position on the issues is paramount.
2. In Glenn's article about you, you mainly objected to growth, the HOV lanes, and the City Center. Could you provide more details on why you object to each of these.
Too many people within a given area creates problems, such as traffic congestion, pollution, water shortages, and crime. Like most San Ramon residents, I chose to move here because of the primarily residential, semi-rural environment. I like visiting San Francisco and Walnut Creek, etc. but chose not to live in those places for a reason. That is now under serious threat. We simply cannot accommodate everyone.
3. What are your goals for being on the Council other than what you oppose? Do you have any projects or plans you would like to see happen?
I would like to see the New City center reduced by 50%. The vacant property at the corner of Bollinger and Camino Ramon where the signs have been, constitutes only 20% of that project. I do not want to see another 680 interchange anywhere in San Ramon, perhaps some improvements to the Bollinger and Crow Canyon ramps instead. And I certainly do not want to see the vision that Sunset Development has for Bishop Ranch implemented. Per their website, they see Bishop Ranch becoming a dense live-work campus with the New City Center being the first step in that process. To me that is a frightening prospect. I know it has been approved by the City Council, but contracts can be re-negotiated. There are a number of arguments in favor of doing so.
I also want fiscal responsibility. Currently San Ramon is running a $1.4 Million deficit. Not bad compared to other municipalities, but still unacceptable. All three of the other candidates have stated that they favor raising one or more taxes to cure that problem and pay for the additional services that the New City Center will require. Not me. I oppose any new taxes or fees. I am certain that there is 2% fat in our city budget and I will look for it and excise it.
All that said, I cannot promise results, only effort. I would only be one of five votes on the Council. I believe that two of the other Councilmembers are persuadable to my views if they see that a majority of residents agree. Indeed, to be effective I will need a substantial margin to leverage on the Council and with Sunset Development Company. In that regard, I would be pleased for your support. If you choose not to officially endorse me, I ask that you nonetheless report my positions on these issues so that your readers are informed and can make up their own minds.
4. Where do you stand on the Mudd's property? This is one of my important issues.
I don't have sufficient facts to form a definite position at this time. From your previous articles, I understand that the property is now owned by the city. Generally, I do not believe that it is government's role to own and develop property. That is best left to private industry subject to reasonable land-use regulations. So, this is something that I would need to study. If it remains city-owned, then a museum or nature center might be a good choice, depending on the economics.