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By Roz Rogoff

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About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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Comfort Zone

Uploaded: Oct 20, 2009
I've been asked whom I'm endorsing for City Council. I've decided not to endorse any of the candidates, but I will give you my opinions (don't I always) on them.

I'm concerned about the level of comfort this Council has with itself. There's this love fest going on among the five members, and they want to keep everything exactly the same. I teach online for University of Phoenix and one thing I know (only one?) is that learning doesn't happen in the comfort zone. Students must be pushed into unfamiliar areas to learn something new, or they will just rely on what doesn't threaten them and not move to the next level of cognitive development.

That's where this Council is and has been for the last several years. They all vote the same way. I've been covering the City Council meetings for eight years, and I can't recall any dissenting votes on anything over the last two or three years. Maybe the Council does need some new blood or a change to shake it out of its comfort zone.

The question is, are the candidates running on a platform of change the right ones to do it? I'm frankly disappointed in Brady. I like him on a personal level, but he doesn't seem well-enough informed on what is going on. Maybe it's his comment on making it easier to get permits for rainwater harvesting that bugs me, since I told him I have a rainwater system and invited him to come over and see it. It didn't require any permits. I'm a stickler for getting information right, and if there's a source for it in front of you, why not take advantage of that.

Doug Burr butted his head against state laws with his activism against the speed limits in Dougherty Valley. He's been told that the state requires speed limits be set at the prevailing rate of traffic flow. They cannot be set more than 5 mph lower than the rate most people drive.

The suggestion that any existing member of the City Council would deliberately or even unconsciously endanger children walking to school is preposterous. Carol Rowley was an elementary school Principal for 17 years. Scott Perkins has been active with the boy scouts. Dave Hudson, Jim Livingstone, and Abram Wilson all have children and grandchildren (maybe not yet for Dave, whose daughter just got married). Dave's wife, Barbara, usually arranges for the scouts to do the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of meetings, and Mayor Wilson loves to chat with the kids after the ceremony. This is not a Council that cares more about speeders than children.

Many residents remember the disastrous reign of the "Gang of Three," in 2002-03. These were three well-meaning people who took over the City Council with the promise to hold more open, resident-friendly meetings, and the first thing they did was fire City Manager Herb Moniz. It all went downhill from there.

Residents came out in droves to protest this, but was the new resident-friendly council receptive to them? We all know the answer to that. Yes, Moniz likes to keep his icebergs underwater, but maybe that's where they should be until we hit one. So far he's been very good at steering around them. His replacement, Gail Waiters, was more openly secretive when she put a gag-order on staff not to speak to the press. The city lost a lot of good staff members during this debacle, and went into a structural deficit that could have bankrupted us today if Herb had not been brought back to put the city back on solid financial footing again.

This scenario isn't likely to happen again with the new candidates. Brady has said, "We're not going to blow it." He's praised the excellent staff, and said he would rely on them to get him up to speed.

Doug Burr is fiscally conservative. He wants all of the city's expenditures made public. The existing Council members are fiscal conservatives too and pride themselves on running the city like a business. Burr's background as a business consultant would fit into the existing structure very well.

In my opinion both Burr and Brady need more experience on one of the City's Committees or Commissions first. If Burr wants to keep tabs on City revenues and expenditures, he should apply for the Economic Development Advisory Committee. That's a good place for someone interested in the City Council to start.

When I first interviewed Jim Brady on the phone and heard about his past experience on the Ojai Valley Sanitary District, I advised him to run for Dublin San Ramon Services District next year. We need good representation on DSRSD. That's where water reclamation and use issues are managed.

So should the City Council remain the same five people who have been there for the last six years? With the economy the way it is and with the current council doing a good job of keeping the city solvent and most of the services intact, I don't see any reason to change.

In two years Mayor Wilson will be termed out, so there will be at least one new person taking his place either as Mayor, or if Dave Hudson runs for Mayor, taking Dave's place. So the City Council will probably stay in its comfort zone for another two years, but that's probably where we ought to be for now.



Comments

Posted by Paul Mitchell, a resident of another community,
on Oct 20, 2009 at 11:14 pm

Attending City Council Finance Committee meetings is another good way for any San Ramon citizen to "keep tabs on city revenues and expenditures." I attended a couple of the meetings in 2000-2001, the first citizen to ever do so. The challenge for working people is that the meetings are held mid-day. If Mr. Burr was elected to a City Council position he would have to be able to attend mid-day Council committee meetings.


Posted by SJO, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 21, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Thank you for your analysis.

It takes courage to run for any public office. Messrs Burr and Brady should be commended for raising a hand. No doubt becoming involved and knowledgeable about city issues first through a committee makes the most sense. But we are fortunate to live in a city filled with long tenured, successful professional people. We are also fortunate to have staff and council members with a wealth of civic experience to help with newcomer guidance. As a voter, I'm looking for a candidate with a passion for our city, a selfless devotion to doing what's best for its citizenry, and perhaps most of all, a critical thinker. If a group of 5 managers consistently agrees on every issue, 4 are redundant. My experience in business has been the best decisions are always made after healthy, respectful discussions from multiple viewpoints. Personally I'd like to see either Mr Burr or Mr Brady elected if for no other reason, then for just a tiny bit of new blood in the system. It's healthy.


Posted by SR resident, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 22, 2009 at 8:53 pm

The frustrating part about this election is that the residents, by and large, are completely uninformed. They have no idea what is going on in our city because they are too busy with their daily lives. I am amazed we have 2 challengers in this election and truly, thrilled. That someone, especially Doug Burr, would want to take on the challenge of working with this council is extraordinary, really. He is perfect for San Ramon. He has children in the public school system, he has great professional experience, and no, he should not have to sit on a committee first to be worthy of running for an entry level political office. WE NEED MORE CANDIDATES LIKE HIM. I can't wait to cast my ballot.


Posted by Jim Brady, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 25, 2009 at 10:31 am

I am an advocate for rainwater reclaimation. Capturing water both at the household for local reuse in addtion to city programs capturing storm water will have positive impact on our abilit to use this very precious resource. A permit, which should be issued at zero cost to the residents for this and other renewable projects, should be required by the city for all installations. Why, it's my roof and my rain catch water right? The reason is homeowners or DIY'ers can overlook significant project impacts. In addition to drainage concerns by the foundation which are mitigatible with downspout deflectors as well as are other items exist. For example, dual 1250gal tanks when full and overflowing will weigh close to 9000 lbs and be located on less then 30sqft, exceed typical sidewalk load calcs. A full size Chevy pickup weighs 6000 lbs. If tanks foundations are not properly engineered for these concentrated loads settling will occur that will overtime experience stress cracks in rigid PVC pipelines and potentially impact housing foundations.
I support the concept, permitting will ensure proper engineering review and long term use of these planet friendly projects.


Posted by Jim Brady, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 25, 2009 at 10:42 am

When: Saturday from Noon until 2pm. October 31st.
Where: San Ramon Central Park - Picnic Tables.
Why: To give people time to discuss issues and meet Jim Brady personally.
Also see my website: www.JimBradyforcitycouncil.com

We are just days away from November 3rd, election day. As my campaign in becoming a new member of your City Council, winds up I wanted to provide a time to meet with residents to visit and discuss the important issues in our town.

Important Issues work discussing.
Renewable Energy
1. Harnessing the Sun.
2. Transportation and alternative fuel vehicles for your home and business.
3. Traffic congestion - based on a independent lifestyle choice.

Tassajara Valley - Build it or leave it pristine.
1. Impacts on Traffic
2. Impacts on services in the city.
3. Impacts on property values.

City Center.
1. A modern project that we need to develop carefully.
2. Build by phase to evaluate positive business influence.
3. Verify Traffic impacts as they develop.
4. Should we include renewable energy in the design?
5. Should we include carpool incentives for residents?

Housing Development.
1. Where do we want to see affordable housing?
2. Is a senior housing development as is the best design for San Ramon. What are unseen impacts to our seniors?

Fiscal Responsibility.
1. What do we believe are best reserve levels?
2. Why would we approve a bail out for Sacramento?
3. What new programs should be supported?

Open Roundtable Discussion.


Posted by Jim Brady, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 25, 2009 at 10:44 am

Most everyone you meet will tell you that they enjoy the feel of a true down town. San Ramon has the buildable space for a downtown. Help me bring this to San Ramon.
Also see my website: www.JimBradyforcitycouncil.com

Defining a downtown in San Ramon.. Downtowns are simply a few streets wide by a dozen blocks long that offer shopping and services all within walking distance. Best examples locally are Danville, Pleasanton and now Livermore with their downtown project nearly completed.

Sacramento's Old Town, Nevada City, Auburn and downtown Truckee are exmaples just a few hours away heading to the Sierra's. San Luis Obispo, Los Olivos and Carpenteria are also examples along the hwy 101 on our central coast.

Old Towne downtowns are attractive and magnetic, people love to gather, shop and visit, buisness' thrives. This is true Americana that provides a the feeling of a Thomas Kincade painting, simply inviting. An Old Towne downtown differ from a Fashion Mall or Galleria, in a word it would be atmosphere.

Modern shopping areas lack this atmoshpere as they typically have vast parking lots in the middle separating shops arranged in a strip around the parking. Dublin Hacienda Crossing has this design. Have you ever shopped at Any Mountain or Borders Books and then decided to have lunch at the Red Tractor or Mimi's. You probably think should I drive or walk across parking lots between literally hundreds of cars. There is certainly no downtown feel in this experience.

Classic downtowns work well because they are based on simplicity. Residents can go from shop to shop with ease. Splitting your small group for 15 minutes, where half crosses the street to shop at alternate stores and in the length of a block or so, easily regroup without even a single cell phone call, imagine that.

San Ramon has a deep history, residents and deserve an Old Towne downtown. Planning for the downtown as expected will take vision, coordination and planning and is worth the effort. Wide side walks with occassional benches, a handful of favorite resturants, ice cream and hat shops, reasanalby priced appearel shops, a barber shop and general store, it's easiy to visualize.

I need your support on November 3rd to bring this vision to San Ramon. Thank you for your time.

Kind Regards,
Jim Brady


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Oct 25, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Jim,

Thank you very much for posting your informative replies to my commentary. I find this to be a good venue for discussion and getting our perspectives out on issues. It's helpful to voters for you to expand on and clarify your positions on issues or answer my comments or criticisms. I learn from these discussions too.

Doug Burr contacted me privately about my comments on his speed limit activism but decided not to post his answers here. Perhaps he will change his mind after reading your replies.

I contact the City Permitting Office about a permit for my new rainwater harvesting system, including the connections to the laundry. I was told a new state law has just been passed on gray water recycling. I was told that permits are no longer required for gray water systems or for rainwater used for landscaping. Since my rainwater will be used for laundry, all of the connecting pipes are marked with purple tape to identify them as recycled water. So I suppose that's why I didn't need any permits.

I am having an overflow pipe added to the system after comments posted on my video on Youtube. I believe the tanks are secure in my side yard. These side yards in San Ramon are often used for RV's which are probably heavier than the two tanks. The installer has experience with rainwater systems in this area, but I'll check with my insurance to be sure any possible damage will be covered.

I'm not a fan of old town down towns. The proposed City Center will have an open plaza and use parking structures to the East. It won't be designed like Hacienda Crossing. I used to ride with Valerie Barns when we were on the TV30 Board of Directors about five years ago. Hacienda Crossing had just opened, and I commented on what an ugly shopping center it was. Valerie had been on the Dublin City Council when that was approved, and it was her pet project. She told me East Dublin needed to be financially secure, and Hacienda Crossing would supply the revenue for services to East Dublin. Apparently it has worked well, so there's always another point of view. I do go there to shop because I like some of the stores and the restaurants.

I rarely go to downtown Pleasanton or Danville because parking is difficult, and driving through the downtown is a pain in the neck. These downtowns date back to the early 19th or late 18th centuries. San Ramon is a new city, and I like keeping it in the 21st century.

If you want an old town, you have two nearby. We don't need another one here. We need a Stoneridge Mall here, only nicer. The proposed City Center will bring in tons of revenue, help meet the State housing requirements, and be designed as well as Alex Mehran's money and talent can devise. That's my kind of downtown.

As far as an Old Town with shops and boutiques and wide sidewalks, perhaps that could be put in the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan. It is what the Council originally wanted to put into the Crow Canyon Specific Plan, but that would have required booting out all of the auto repair shops on Beta Court. I supported the businesses on Beta Court, and so far the redevelopment of the area from Old Crow Canyon Road to the Danville border has been stalled. I'm not sure who would be booted out of North Camino Ramon to turn it into an Old Town, but I'm sure they would fight back too.


Posted by Bob, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 26, 2009 at 4:25 pm

It's very easy to "plan" behind the rose colored glasses of inexperience. You can't plan in sound bites and we can't solve the problems using campaign rhetoric. In order to effect positive change you have to look at the complete picture, look at every possibility, knowing that the 'law of unintended consequences' is always alive and well in most projects. If you try to attack problems using tunnel vision you will end up just squeezing the hose in the middle and having all heck break loose at either end.


Posted by SJO, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 28, 2009 at 3:25 pm

The city needs to continue to be very careful about the pace of any retail build-out, even in the best of times. Blackhawk Plaza is both modern and "old town" in feel and it's about half empty. In the 9 years I've lived in SR it's never been a hot spot. I'd hate to be an investor in that project. Many citizens like me are not convinced the area needs more retail / malls. We've got enough within short driving distances. And... we don't need the increased traffic!


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Oct 28, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

SJO, I agree that the city should be careful about where to put retail, but downtown San Ramon is literally a far cry from Blackhawk. Blackhawk Plaza is out in the boonies. It's not conveniently located to enough shoppers to be successful.

A City Center at the junction of Bollinger Canyon Road and Camino Ramon would be within a few miles of everyone in San Ramon, including most of Dougherty Valley. Not only that, about 10,000 people who work in Bishop Ranch or Chevron would be within walking distance, and the rest could take shuttle buses to the Center for lunch or dinner.

Approximately 600 residential units are planned for the City Center too, which is another captive audience for shops and restaurants. This is a very well planned project.

Roz


Posted by SJO, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 28, 2009 at 5:50 pm

If the business case for the city center project hinges on the daytime crowd and pulling shoppers from the freeway, then there are other concerns in addition to increased traffic. Most at Chevron and ATT are served by in-house cafeterias and existing lunch spots around town. City Center will only redirect that crowd from existing eateries and retail. Pulling shoppers from out of town increases the potential for crime and transient activity. Walnut Creek and Dublin have to deal with those issues daily on a level we've not experienced. Are we ready for both the good and the bad an attraction like CC will bring us? A big part of our cache and charm(!), to this resident at least, is that we are a relatively quiet "bedroom community" tucked away from larger city problems. We're blissfully boring! But with this project it seems we're willing to gamble those hard-earned, increasingly rare, wonderful assets for tax money we don't seem to need. To the credit of our past leadership, we're fiscally just fine, thank you. To borrow Mr. Hudson's line from the debate, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".


Posted by Bob, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 30, 2009 at 9:38 am

SJO, I don't think the City Center plan gambles with anything. The plan tries to capitalize on the 'captive' crowd of day time workers who flood our current restaurants and shopping centers every day. One need only try to get into the Shops at BR, or any place on Crow Canyon at lunch time to know that we are maxed out now. Taking some load from those overloaded areas during the lunch crunch will be a good thing. FYI, I don't think but 30% of the AT&T employees actually eat at the cafe there. Most go out for lunch, IMO.

The city doesn't want to 'roll up the sidewalks' after 5 pm either. The CC will attract shoppers, diners and pedestrians at night as well. Traffic will be an issue, studies have been done and indicated that the traffic will be no worse, actually may be better during the PM peak because of a few day time workers staying to shop or eat in the evening. Now I don't always trust traffic studies per se, but that's what we have. I don't buy the crime will increase scare, we have criminals in our city from out of town every day. I don't think they will decide to come here just for the City Center, instead of Broadway Plaza.


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