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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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It's time to grow up and face the future

Uploaded: Dec 15, 2010
Many people are afraid of change. They don't know how to deal with something new, something different, something unfamiliar. They want to keep everything the way they are used to and comfortable with.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments

Posted by jrm, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 16, 2010 at 9:07 am

How ironic that Ms Rogoff lectures fellow citizens to "grow up and accept change" when her beloved Measure W was soundly defeated in the last election and she is STILL whining about the loss. I sense a sea change in San Ramon politics coming and her cozy cabal are going to be on the outs. Given her distaste for downtown Danville and Pleasanton I can only imagine how "charming" the new downtown San Ramon Center will be. This condescending lecture in civics is laughable, and her snide remarks about those that seek to protect scenic hillsides speaks for itself.


Posted by James von Halle, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 17, 2010 at 7:21 am

More tripe from the city council shill.


Posted by Rose, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 17, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Roz, when I first began reading your website years ago, I thought what I was reading was an impartial view of things in San Ramon. Now, everything I read of yours sounds like you have an agenda and I wonder what exactly it is.

I resent your view that we either embrace the changes you, the gang of five and their overpaid city manager want, or there's something wrong with us.

Many people, including myself, moved to San Ramon because we were attracted to the rural hillsides and lack of traffic. There have been many changes. Bishop Ranch is attractive, for a business park. That doesn't mean we need five of them. One is enough.

The city is becoming overcrowded already. I used to enjoy the Wind Festival but now there's too much traffic to get near it and the crowds are suffocating.

So many redlights make going any place burdensome. It's not so hard to tear down a hill, cover everything with cement and buildings. But when the realization comes that it was the wrong thing to do (and I believe it will eventually), it won't be so easy to put the earth back the way it was, the way it was intended to be.

What you write makes it obvious that for you, it's all about the money. More money. Money, money, money. It's the way of the world now. Quality doesn't matter. Only money does. That's a major cause of this depression that we're in.

Question for Jim: what is a "sea change"?


Posted by SR Resident, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 17, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Best to stick to writing about your cats.


Posted by jrm, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 17, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Rose, "sea change" is just another term for a major change in direction, which I feel San Ramon politics are about to undergo. for the most part, folks in the greater Tri-Valley area do not want San Ramon to double in size with willy nilly developement wherever possible. Latest example of such is to take a look at the West Hills (what is left of them) as you drive south on 680 and look at the hillsides next to the historic Glass House. The hills have been flattened and more and more houses are being jammed in, the latest manifestation of Roz's dream city of the "future". I do not live in San Ramon and as such such can not vote on their municipal issues, but I as a resident of Co Co County I do have to fund their windfall pensions down the road...I still say the whole Moniz situation is shocking and was worthy of the national media attention it garnered. You are right, it is all about money, money and more money. The fallacy of Roz's position is this...what will she do when there is no land for further developement to fund "progress"? The supply is not limitless. In my view San Ramon and Dublin should just get it over with and merge into one entity unless the citizens take a strong stand against further rampant development. You are soo right about all the stoplights, at times when I drive through San Ramon I feel like I am in Mission Viejo or Ranch Santa Margarita. As such I support Jim Gibbon and others who want to preserve what little is now left and elect a council that is not shilling for Alex Mehran and Tom Koch.


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Dec 17, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Rose,

When I started writing the San Ramon Observer eight years ago, I tried to present the news objectively. I did that when I was writing news stories for the Express too. But I have never been, or pretended to be, impartial in my commentaries. These are my opinions. I try to support them with facts, but they are not supposed to be objective. That's why they are here in my blog and not in the New section.

A sea change is defined as "any major transformation or alteration." So I suppose that means in our city government. We've already been through that when the slow-growth majority was elected to the City Council in 2001. That's why I am so concerned about money, money, money.

That group wasted money like no tomorrow. They spent about $2,000,000 on plans for a new Civic Center, which would have cost about $165M to build and another $1.5M in annual expenses, with no plans for revenue to pay for it or maintain it.

The Gang of 5, as you called them, partnered with the School District to build the Performing Arts Center and a second Swim Center, both for under $4M (maybe even less). The Performing Arts Center is close to breaking even.

The City partnered with the County and Diablo Valley College to build a branch library in Dougherty Valley. The City Center proposed by Alex Mehran will include a new downtown library and a City Hall, all paid for by Mehran's commercial ventures.

Some people don't like that, but the City saved $160M by not building and maintaining it's own Civic Center, and residents will benefit from all of the components that would have cost the Gang of 3 at least that much.

In 2002 the economy took a slight dip, not a big recession. An interim Financial Director said that the City needed to cut spending because we were in a structural deficit. That means the City was headed for bankruptcy if conditions and management didn't improve.

Well conditions improved and so did management. Carol Rowley and Scott Perkins were elected and Herb Moniz was brought back. I personally can see no reason to replace Perkins or Rowley on the City Council if they choose to run again next year.

The country and California are in a severe recession. Cities all around us are going bankrupt. San Ramon isn't.

If you want a "sea change," next year so that in three or four years the city is drowning in debt, in my opinion, that would be a bad thing.

Roz


Posted by kevin, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 17, 2010 at 3:08 pm

I think Roz's argument would be more relevant if she would not characterize the opposition to the General Plan as,"Let's stop trying to take San Ramon back to the 19th or 20th Centuries..." Many of us, who have lived here even longer simply feel San Ramon is getting big enough. When Roz moved into San Ramon the population was 42,000, it is now 59,000 and the City Plan is for another 30,000 residents & 18,000 additional workers in the City. I understand some are people-people and that is one reason Cities like New York and Los Angeles are so popular to them.

I have three problems with the general Plan. It plans for a population increase of 40,000 people in over 20 years. I personally do not want anywhere near that growth.

Secondly, The plan "blanket zones" the East side of San Ramon with a restrictive use designation that will "Displace" (a term the Plan uses)4/5ths of existing business. Even if it is not for a few years, I had planned to keep working another 20. I don't have a fat "Pension" so my retirement, like many businesses, is to be able to sell my business. If they are so excited about this plan, why don't they try it on their "Civic Center" property & see how it goes?

Lastly, I am OK with living in a Democracy. I would accept the will of the majority of residents desires for the growth of San Ramon. I think we should resubmit the General Plan to the ballot next November. The City can revise it's growth projections and let the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan be considered separately on it's on merits. Like I have heard, the City isn't going to do anything right away, so they certainly have a few months to see what we really want. I do not think that rezoning or eminent domain voted on by 5 members of the City Council are an accurate representation of the will of the people.

Whether they vote to pass the General Plan or resubmit it to the ballot, The voters will have the last word.


Posted by jrm, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 17, 2010 at 8:36 pm

One Question...do the citizens of San Ramon really want a $160 million dollar Alex Mehran "Civic Center" in today's world? Roz is grateful Alex "saved" the city $160 million by stepping in and agreeing to fund it....please, please, please...do not be rubes...who is kidding who? As the saying goes, "It ain't over until the fat lady sings" I would amend that to comment "It aint over until the HAT Lady sings" and she sang....their day is done I hope. Clearly a vote is needed on this again, does San Ramon really need more movie theaters and big box stores?
$160 million? Please Roz....


Posted by Dan Frank, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 18, 2010 at 10:06 pm

When you only garner 30% of the vote in an election a little humility is in order. Roz shows none of this, which speaks volumes.


Posted by Bob P., a resident of San Ramon,
on Jan 31, 2011 at 1:35 pm

The amount of growth that San Ramon is forecasting is a direct result of housing numbers that are dictated by the State of California and the Association of Bay Area Government. As a former planning commissioner, I assure you that I would have been perfectly content with cutting the amount of new housing down drastically, perhaps only looking at Senior Housing and small scale single family development in mixed use areas. However, the City does not have that luxury, given the very stiff penalties that would be leveled on the city if San Ramon did not fulfill it's housing obligations to the state.

The City Center project is not a bad plan on it's face. There was no shortage of opportunity for public input in the early iterations, and apart from some minor vocal uproar I feel that most of the citizens of San Ramon support the plan currently moving forward albeit at a snails pace.

And to those Roz bashers, have at her. She is a tough one, and I dare anyone else to do a better job. Roz was and is the first place I go to read about whats going on in the Tri-Valley and I don't even live here anymore!


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